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Thank you, thank you, thank you Robert Berens!  I just can’t say that enough.  I was left so speechless and emotionally drained after “Who We Are” that when I tackled the idea of a review, I just wanted to repeat “Thank You” a thousand times.  Sure it would have been redundant to say the least, but wouldn’t it have gotten the message across?  :). Don’t worry, I came up with some real words.  Way too many probably.  
 
It wasn’t just Robert Berens delivering the goods.  This was an all out effort where everyone got to shine.  The directing by John Showalter was a season best, so was the acting, probably because the actors were finally given some superior material to work with, the editing wasn’t choppy and annoying, the stunt coordination was amazing, and even the score was memorable (save for an interesting choice or two).  All in all, I finally have one episode in season twelve that I can get excited about.  A review where I can actually dig into character intricacies and layers!  It’s an SPN reviewer’s dream.  “Who We Are” will be my season twelve classic for years to come.  My only one.  
 
Honestly, I was ready to give it all up after “There’s Something About Mary.”  I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to do a review for these finale episodes.  After all, season twelve has been a bitter disappointment.  But as I sat there on the couch gobsmacked with tears rolling down my face after watching this masterpiece from Bobo, I wondered if part of my deep emotional reaction was due to the mere fact that my show was back.  It was like sharing a big hug with an old friend that hasn’t been around forever and that you missed terribly.  That closing shot of the Winchester group hug wasn’t just a reconciliation of the Winchesters.  It was a reconciliation of the whole SPN Family.  Sure, by next episode things would be off the rails again, but we had this moment together and it was beautiful.  Heck, it was freaking group therapy. 
 
This review is just for 12.22.  I have other thoughts about 12.23 (both good and bad) that I will share at another time. I honestly don’t want those thoughts to step on the beauty of this episode.  I’ve even sent the Red Headed Monster to a Wine and Cheese festival.  Trust me, the monster is in freaking bliss right now.   So grab a cup of coffee, sit back, and let’s dig in.  
 
Butch and Sundance Ride Again
 
 SPN 0293
 
Anyone remember back in season seven, when Robert Singer said the season would feel like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid?  Considering how much I love that movie, I was really excited.  Guess what never materialized in that season?  I can’t recall any moment that came remotely close to that Butch and Sundance story…until now.  I think Robert Berens noticed that  never came to be either and took advantage of his golden opportunity.  
 
Butch and Sundance wasn’t just about the bravado and action.  Just like the better “Supernatural” episodes, they had an emotional side too.  They used their brains to overcome a problem, used humor to get through tough situations, used their stunning good looks to sway the audience and never lost that fighting spirit, even when the end was nigh.  But yes, there was also the fast pacing and nail biting action.  All that happened in these mere 42 minutes.  
 
It all started from the word go with that opening sequence in the bunker.  Sam, Dean and Toni start in research mode, doing what they do best, and it’s time for the creative solution.  They’ve gone ghetto with their rituals before, so why not try a purification ritual?  (My all time favorite embellished ritual BTW is Dean getting a blessing for a shinto knife with bottled spring water and a busboy that speaks Japanese in the back of a Japanese restaurant.)  Sure the ritual failed thanks to a “mystical dampener” (we must learn more about these), but at least Sam and Dean are virgins again.  Who’s taking bets on who will lose their virginity first and how long it will take?  Sam better not go three seasons before getting laid again.  
 
Anyway, in a brisk pace they move to plan B, aka this episode’s equivalent of blowing up the train safe with too much dynamite.  Dean takes a swing at the concrete wall with the axe and notices the debris flying in his face.  “Goggles?” Sam asks.  “Goggles,” Dean confirms.  It’s those little touches that make a scene so much better.  Then we get to see Sam and Dean get sweaty (just for some eye candy), “Shawshanking this bitch.”  Ultimately, the failure of breaking through the wall (like Butch and Sundance’s first attempt at blowing the safe) sets up the parallels with the movie’s closing scene.  They’re cornered, they’re defeated, they feel their lives slipping away…and now its time to regroup and reflect on the dwindling options.  Thanks to the brilliance of John Showalter, the shot of the two exhausted boys sitting side by side on the ground matched the film perfectly.  
 
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The conversation will be iconic for years.  Just the two guys, facing a horrible end, trying to make sense of it all.  How did they get there?  It seems that saving the world just isn’t enough.  Their pondering of what happened with the British Men of Letters put the entire arc in a better perspective for me (still not ideal but better).  I can see the attraction of being part of a well organized network that seemed committed to the same cause, killing monsters.  The BMOL made it look easy…easier.  After all the hard work and terrible peril to get nowhere and see loved ones die, who wouldn’t be attracted to that?  That whole train of thought had Sam tapping into his past flirtations as a leader.  He was always destined for this, even if it was to lead a demon army instead of a hunters network.  This was a breakthrough for Sam, and one that would pay off in spades by the end.   
 
Dean had his breakthrough moment too, and it was freaking awesome!   After all, they aren’t supposed to die like this.  They’re supposed to go out in that Blaze of Glory.  When Dean got that look, that grin of inspiration, I got freaking excited.  Now on top of him channeling Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy, we got John McClain from Die Hard.  Something very, very cool is about to happen.  These are the Winchesters I know and love!  
 
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I couldn’t stop rewinding and rewatch this part again and again. The grenade launcher!  Both Sam and Dean are smiling ear to ear over something they know is really dumb.  Dean even got to use the Die Hard line.  He got to be the hero in the knick of time, right when the air was running out.  Sure he took out his knee in the process, but that’s what lunatics do in desperate situations, right?  It also provided the perfect reason for the boys to split up later.  I adore this logical, organic to the story plotting!  
 
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Saving Their Family
 
Once they were free, it was time to save their family.  Not just Mary, but Garth and Jody, aka their extended family as well.  Sam has decided to take charge because he’s had enough of being targeted because he can’t be controlled.  That reminded me of something from a while ago.  Remember this?  
 
EH023
 
Remember that starry eyed Sam, the one who saw the bunker and this whole new world opened up for him?  The research, the concept of an organized society, the sharing of knowledge to fight evil, everything?  Remember when Dean mentioned the very next episode the idea of Sam settling down and running the Men of Letters?  This is the Sam in action I’ve been waiting for.  This is the vision that was abandoned instead of developed.  Sam wanting to lead again didn’t come out of left field.  He was born to do this.  We’ve just been dying waiting for him to take the initiative.  
 
We know hunting isn't just about killing. It's about doing what's right, even when it's hard. So we go by our gut, right? We play by our own rules. And that scares them, that's why they want us dead, because we're the one thing they can't control.
 
Sure, the speech was a little hokey (it was the score more than the words that made it so), but what he said delivered the perfect message.  Their purpose is to rid the world of monsters.  Turns out, those monsters just aren’t the supernatural kind.  It’s also those that abuse power to decide who lives and who dies and threatens your family. That’s evil too.  
 
Dean and Sam may have taken separate paths, but they were of equal importance.  They had to save their families.  Dean dealt with the immediate family where Sam took the extended one.  I smiled when Roy and Walt were invited to the raid.  What happened to them has been brought up quite a few times on this site over the years.  Some fans have waited a long time for resolution on that.  Roy and Walt were very surprised to see them, but the Winchesters had moved past that.  They had more important matters and needed all the help they could get.  It’s a perfect parallel with Mary.  Even when your family members do terrible things, you still look out for them.  It’s the right thing to do.  It’s what heroes do.  
 
Dean: You come back.
Sam: Promise.
Dean: Bitch.
Sam: Jerk.
 
I definitely let out a little yelp after that exchange.  Was it fan pandering?  Probably.  But seeing Sam and Dean have those heartfelt conversations again followed by the hug, then capping it all with that infamous line the goes all the way to the pilot, it was so damned refreshing.  It was like my inner fan girl woke up from a horrible season long nap.  
 
12.22 1228 goodbye hug dean
 
What made that scene more emotional wasn’t just Sam and Dean.  Other lives were impacted by this raid as well, which is why Jody and Alex’s farewell to each other woven into Sam and Dean’s was so poignant.  These hunters weren’t just protecting themselves, they were protecting their families.  That really raised the stakes of the mission.  Failure is not an option.  I’ll admit it, a few tears slipped by when Alex told Jody to “Kick it in the Ass.”  I’ll never tire of that line, nor will I ever not feel the void left by Kim Manners.  This story is an homage to him, to all the people that once touched this show and made it great and are now gone.   
 
Storming the Castle
 
Was the raid a little easy?  Sure, but it was fun to watch because those BMOL got what was coming to them.   The quick success of the raid also follows continuity.  The BMOL were ill prepared against the vampires in “The Raid” and since we know that they have plenty of hubris, they once again miscalculated the power of their enemy, those dumb, vile, American hunters (their words, not mine).  They once again overlooked the possibility that an uprising would happen and would prey on their weaknesses in combat.  That’s what dumb villains do, and trust me, these were dumb villains.  They only survived the vamp raid because of Sam.  Yeah, it’s contrived, but dammit, in this case it’s consistency with what was already presented about this bunch.  This is what happens when you have Sam F***ing Winchester on your side.  They aren’t the “Losechesters” (ducks flying objects).  
 
It’s not just Sam though who was bad ass.  When Jody plugged Dr. Hess right in between the eyes, I was fist pumping all over the room.  I even fist pumped at the cat.  Definitely the most satisfying kill of the season, perhaps out of many seasons.  Jody must never, ever die.  Hear me show?  
 
SPN 1767
 
This effort does raise a possibility, one that’s been a long time in the making.  Can the American hunters ever organize?  Can Sam start up the American Men of Letters again and act as a resource for hunters, the leader of a network?  I hope that they’re working toward that eventual goal by the end of the series.  There’s way too much potential in that storyline and Sam’s the perfect man for the job.  Because he’s not a lose- yeah, I’ll stop.  
 
Where It All Started
 
I hate you... You lied to me. I was a kid. You promised you'd keep me safe, and then you make a deal with Azazel. Yeah, it saved Dad's life, but I'll tell you something else that happened, because on November 2, 1983 old Yellow-Eyes came waltzing into Sammy's room because of your deal. You left us. Alone. Because Dad was just a shell. His perfect wife, gone. Our perfect Mom, the perfect family, it was gone. And I-I had to be more than just a brother. I had to be a father, and I had to be a mother. To keep him safe. And that wasn't fair. 
 
SPN 1312
 
Dean’s speech was a long time coming and I’m sure he rehearsed in his head a thousand times on those long, lonely nights on the road with Sam sleeping next to him.  I’m sure he never thought he’d get the chance to say it.  We know from past episodes it all started with Mary’s deal.  As he so aptly said, it busted apart their family.  It broke John.  It forced him to be a brother, mother, and father to Sam.  But I didn’t realize how much of that anger was also his disappointment in himself for what he thinks is failing in that situation.  
 
And I couldn't do it. And you wanna know what that was like? They killed the girl that he loved, he got possessed by Lucifer. They tortured him in Hell and he lost his soul. His soul. All because of you. All of it was because of you... I hate you.
 
In the end, it wasn’t what Mary did to him that caused him hurt.  It was what Mary did to Sam.  That made him angry, yet he could still relate because he couldn’t protect Sam either.  
 
SPN 1384
 
I hate you, and I love you. 'Cause I can't-I can't help it, you're my Mom. And I understand. Because I have made deals to save the ones I love, more than once. I forgive you. I forgive you. For all of it. Everything. On the other side of this, we can start over, okay? You, me, Sam. We can get it right this time. But I need you to fight, right now. I need you to fight. I need-I need you to look at me, I need you to really look at me and see me. Mom, I need you to see me. Please.
 
For him to say this now, the Dean and Mary story comes full circle and this ends up being a series long major breakthrough for him.   I’ve been waiting for eight seasons for Dean to finally get to tell Mary how he felt (ever since “In The Beginning”), to get that closure from all the pain and resentment he’s felt his whole life, and these words couldn’t have been more perfect.  Only that vulnerable four year old boy inside knew how to get through to his mother.  The one that remembered her goodness and love, the person she truly is, despite all the pain that followed. 
 
One of the comments I’ve read a lot since the episode aired was, “Why didn’t Sam get to have a conversation with Mary like Dean did?”  Dean’s adventure into Mary’s mind explains why.  Mary and Sam didn’t have that bond and given how young Sam was when Mary died, they shouldn’t.  Only Dean knew how to get through.  He and Mary have that likeness and bond that only they share.  That doesn’t mean Sam doesn’t have a relationship with his mother, but it’s different. But…there’s a payoff coming!  
 
A Family Healed
 
Suddenly, Mary’s season long arc makes a ton of sense.  She was staying away out of guilt over what she did to Dean and Sam, but especially Sam.  Hunting was the distraction and considering Sam, Dean and John all have used that fallback, how could she not go there?  That doesn't mean I’ll enjoy watching this season any more, but that's water under the bridge.   Today, it's all about healing and letting go.  
 
Mary: It's not okay. Since I've been back, I know I've been distant. Cold even. Leaving you, working with them. I was trying to make things right, just from a distance. Because, being here with you, was too hard. Seeing what I'd done, to you and to Sam. I-
Dean: Mom, what you did. The deal. Everything that's happened since has made us who we are, we kick ass. We save the world.
Mary: And Sam? I'm scared, what if he can't forgive me.
Sam: Mom. You don't have to be scared of me.
 
Sam pulls Mary in with those wide open arms and then Dean.  The visual is very symbolic, and in one picture captures the whole Winchester story that’s been twelve seasons in the making.  Mary’s deal, Dean's protection, Sam triumphs over it all.  He couldn't have been who he's become without those two people in his arms.  Dean isn't who he is without his brother and Mom.  And Mary, despite her tragic deal, has given this world two heroes that have saved the world more than once.  As Dean so aptly put it, "We kick ass."  Tomorrow is a new adventure, but for now it's a family united, a family bonded, aka the driving theme of the entire.  It’s all depicted in a hug.  It’s all about family.  It's who we are.
 
12.22 2738 hug
 
Yep, I'm a blubbering mess.  I didn't think I could feel this way again.  "Supernatural" just continues to surprise me.  
 
Other Thoughts
 
Jody F***ing Mills
 
It’s official, I like it when it’s just Jody and Alex together.  Claire just throws that perfect balance between the two of them off.  It’s awesome that Mary’s plan to kill Jody gets derailed because Alex came home in the knick of time.  But Alex gave credit where it was due, Jody took her out.  Did they both freak?  No, they just restrained Mary and waited for the boys to arrive.  Jody also knows how to get together a network of hunters too.  Can they just make her the new Bobby already?  
 
Final BMOL Thoughts
 
I felt somewhat sad for Lady Toni in that she didn’t get to see her son again, but at least she went out doing the right thing.  That’s more than what can be said for the others.  Overall though, I’m not that choked up.  She worked for an evil organization and she knew it.  She was annoying for the most part and would have stabbed Sam and Dean in the back if she could of.  This is what happens to those that tap dance along the line of "the greater good.”  Heck, “the greater good” has even burned Sam and Dean a few times.  At least she got the “Supernatural” redemption treatment, which is die with dignity.   
 
The final fight scene in the bunker cemented just how much Dean and Mary are alike.  They’re both killers and proud of it.  Even with a wounded leg and groggy, Dean still managed to get in a few brutal hits on Ketch and I loved it.  The stunt choreography on this fight was top notch.  Sure we knew Mary was going to come along and shoot Ketch, but in the meantime, we were having too much fun watching Dean buy time by fighting back and not making it easy for Ketch.  Again, classic Dean Winchester.  He wasn’t going down without a fight.  Butch and Sundance all the way.  
 
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 SPN 1533
 
As for Mr. Ketch, he obviously didn't understand the power of the family bond, which makes him a very disappointing goon in the end.  To think that Mary would choose him over her own son!  I had bigger hopes for his character than being a mindless attack dog but having said that, I'm glad he's gone.  
 
No doubt we haven’t seen the last of the BMOL. There’s a whole team with some leader or leaders on the other side of the pond that are probably pissed.  Let’s hope they stay away for a while though.  They were getting on my last raw nerve.  
 
Overall Grade, an A.  I struggled between an A and a A+, but this one wasn’t quite in the class of “Baby.”  Still, it might end up that way in time. That’s the only A awarded by me this season (no, don’t expect one for 12.23).  This will be #1 on my “Rank ‘Em in Five Minutes” list for season 12.  Thank you Bobo.  
 
So, any thoughts?  Take your time, I threw a lot at you.