(This is a modified repost of an article written by Nate on his blog back in 2009.  It still raises some interesting questions!)

Looking back over the core Kripke years, one realizes that it wasn't just about the brothers, but 5 years also battling their arch nemesis.  An arch nemesis so fiendish, he continued to torment them for years after his death (not unlike the original Green Goblin and his son).  

Of course, because of the factors that go into making a show, there will arise some incongruities in long running arcs.  But that's no fun!  Instead, let's imagine that everything really was airtight and recreate what Azazel's full plan was from start to finish.

So apparently from Day 1 Azazel has wanted to free Satan.  To do so, he would need:

1) A righteous man to shed blood in hell.
2) Break 64 other seals.
3) Have a human would choose of their own free will to kill - with demonic power - the first born of Lucifer: Lilith.

3 would probably be the easiest to accomplish for Azazel.  Just give a child a taste of demonic power and then a reason to kill Lilith.  Letting them meet her for more than ten minutes should suffice.  However, it will be more effective if the child is "infected" young and grows up with the power in his bones.  But you know how spiritual bureaucracy is; he can't just walk into people's houses and feed blood to their kids.  Thus he spends several years (particular in the 70s) making deals with people to allow him to return at their child's 6-month birthday.

While working on this, Mr Yellow-Eyed also gathered a host of demons to follow his command.  An army of his own on earth would make step 2 considerably easier and it could distract the forces of heaven long enough for him to free the big bad himself.

Now let's fast forward to 2006.  John Winchester has sold his soul.  Some months later, Azazel begins gathering his "special kids" for a showdown to see who is the most powerful.  From the clues we have John's probably been in hell for 30-50 years (hell time), meaning Azazel is confident that John will break at any moment, accomplishing #1 and setting everything in motion.  So once he has determined which person is going to be accomplishing goal 3 (Jake in this case), Azazel has the guy open up the demon's gate to let out the army and get it started on goal #2.  However... the Winchesters have to go and screw everything up, toasting the Yellow-Eyed Demon.

Now what about Lilith?  If she agreed on the plan, was even willing to sacrifice herself to free Satan, why did she try to kill Sam so much in season 3?  After much study the answer appears to be: because the initial plan was scrapped.  At the end of season 2, John had escaped hell, meaning there's no righteous man down there to break the first seal.  So why not settle for good 'ole world domination as a consolation?  May as well get Sam & Dean out of the way too.  Yet what do we find at the end of the year?  Not only have the brothers' efforts to rescue Dean failed, but so did her effort to blow up Sam.  This gives Lilith 2 things she needs: A righteous man in hell (again) that can break the seal and confirmation that Sam really does have the mojo to kill her eventually.  As well as a hankering to do so.  Thus we come to season 4.  Lilith goes for the goal, and unknown to anyone, the angels only put up a token resistance because they're ready for the end-game as well.

Yet in the end, Azazel still won.

FAQ (that is, the most common questions I get related to this plan)

Why did the YED 'infect' so many kids in the first place?

Ever heard "don't put all your eggs in one basket"?  In the season 2 episode Hunted, we even have a hunter named Gordon running around, killing the special kids.  If the angels realized what the plan was, they might get their smite on as well.  It doesn't take a lot of foresight (only common sense) to realize this was a likely possibility (much less once Dean revealed that the angels were keeping watch) and that you might want some extra kids on hand just to avoid setbacks.

So why have the competition?  Why not use all the kids?

1st factor) Remember that Azazel isn't liked <em>by anyone</em>.  2nd factor) Recall that in season 4 we see that as Sam grows in power, he gains the ability to kill demons with his mind.  Now we don't know Azazel's power compared to Alastair or Lilith.  However if one human could eventually get the power to kill either of those two, then carting around a dozen or so of these brats (all of whom are longing to off the tyrant at the first opportunity) would probably end up with him nuked in short order.  1 person he can probably handle.  More than that poses an unacceptable risk.

Still, why have a competition at all?  Why not just pick a kid at random?

A common theme running throughout Supernatural is the intelligence of hunters (and humans in general).  Azazel himself explains that he wanted Sam on the road, gaining the training and smarts needed to lead the army of the damned.  Now keep in mind the worst case scenario of someone trying to stop his efforts (which did happen at the close of season 2) especially heavenly someones as Dean's time junket gave YED a clue that the angels would start fighting back at his plan.  Therefore if you need something important done - something that a lot of people are going to be trying to prevent - you'd want the smartest, strongest, most capable person pulling it off.  In this case, the competition was Azazel's method for determining which kid would be best able to handle letting the army out, then leading it to break the seals even against angel interference.

(these are the most common questions I've been asked offline, any others?)


# amyh 2013-09-05 07:34
I think Lilith tried to 'kill' Sam soo many times because 1) they already knew John wasn't the 'righteous' man and 2) they neeed Sam good and angry (Lucifer even said he wanted Sam angry).

And after Dean died Sam was basically consumed by anger and guilt and his need to revenge Dean. Ruby fed into it while putting a nice suger coating on it that he was saving people. Notice how in Remember what you did last summer she oh so briefly mentiined Lilith was planning an apocolypse. She didn't elaborate ...just planted the seed. And in Are you there, God, Its DW Bobby mentions that the Breaking of the seasls in one of the seals.

Ruby was telling Sam the truth an d it was one more reason Lilith had to die. But that reveal from Bobby solidified Sams trust inb Ruby.
# kaj 2013-09-07 02:30
I don't think John Winchester escaped Hell.

NO ONE can escape Hell other than Angel. But John was let go because Dean already sold his soul.

The demons can't break John, so they try their hand at Dean without knowing that the angles will lay a siege to free Dean later.

Having Dean in Hell is like killing two birds with one stone. Breaking a righteous man and pushing Sam (the strong candidate for Lucifer's vessel after proven by croatoan immunity) to use his demonic power.
Team Free Will
# Team Free Will 2013-09-07 08:28
John did escape Hell along with hundreds of demons. All of the ghosts and smoke we saw pouring out of the hell gate were escapees. Alaister would not have let John go because Dean had already sold his soul.
Nate Winchester
# Nate Winchester 2013-09-09 19:38
@sabbakk - My thoughts on that point is that Azazel was unaware of the vessel rules/connectio n. Heck, otherwise he probably would have made killing Dean a higher priority. Think about it, if he knew that Dean was another true vessel, would John be able to make any deal that was worth more than keeping the Micheal Sword dead?

Nah, I think the vessel rule was probably kept a very close secret by the archangels. Lucifer himself probably kept it too less any uppity demon got it in his head to try and stop the Lord of Hell's plans.
# E 2013-09-10 10:48
This in an interesting article and discussion, but there seems to be vital point that is missing here, namely the idea that Azazel was working alone, when in fact the plot for the apocalypse was far deeper and more complex than this one demon or his plans to raise Lucifer. Even though there were many "special" children Sam was the only "true" vessel for Lucifer as Dean was the only "true" vessel of Michael. Both the demons AND the angels WANTED the apocalypse to happen; they were actually working together in this, strangely untied in the similar goal of raising Lucifer so that he and Michael could fight. Michael has been free this whole time.. the problem was in releasing Lucifer, and to do that they needed Hell to cooperate with the plan, which they were more than happy to oblige thinking with their demon blood doctored host (cheating!) that they wouldn't loose.

The point of the entirety of the plan was not to pit the demons against the angels with one side trying to initiate the apocalypse while the other tried to stop it, but to pit Sam and Dean against each other; to separate them and make them vulnerable to saying 'yes' to their respective angelic and demonic hosts. The reason Azzazel didn't try harder to kill Dean is that they needed him as much as they needed Sam. Its the same reason the angels didn't try harder to kill Sam; it's pretty clear that an average angel could easily have gotten rid of Sam at any time if they had really been trying to stop the apocalypse. But they weren't because they WANTED it to happen, Zachariah even said "We like our odds" when Dean finally figured out that the angels and demons had been in cahoots all along. The whole point was to turn the brothers against each other, and it was working too, until Cas figured out what was really going on and became (as Naomi said so eloquently,) "the spanner in the works" by going against his programing to help Dean see the truth and try and put a stop to things.

The apocalypse was only going to happen if both Winchesters were involved, not Jake, Andy, Eva or even Adam would do. It always HAD to be Sam and Dean to replay the brother vs. brother of Lucifer and Michael and this was as much ordained by Heaven as by Hell. It was Heaven that mandated that Mary and John get together in the first place to create these two perfect vessels, so the machinations set up to manipulate history to get the Winchesters to where they were in season 5 were a product of both Heaven and Hell putting a complex plot into motion; just one side acting alone couldn't have done it, Heaven and Hell had to work together in this. And their reasoning? Each side was cocky enough to think that they'd win and they didn't care if the earth and everyone in it was killed in the process of their childish grudge match; hubris, an oft visited theme on this show is what was motivating Heaven and Hell. What is so wonderfully devious about the Heaven side of the plot is that they played the part of wanting to stop the apocalypse, of being 'in the right' to manipulate Dean's strong sense of right and wrong. There's been a lot of conversation about how much Sam was manipulated by various forces, and he was, but Dean was manipulated just as much; made to believe that he was acting as the "Righteous Man," working for good, only to find out that his role was a corrupt as his brothers because the Angels were just as bad, if not worse than the demons. Meanwhile the demons were manipulating Sam into thinking he was saving Dean and doing the 'right thing' by killing Lilith to STOP the apocalypse to get him to participate. Terrible manipulations all around.

What Heaven and Hell didn't count on though, was the Winchester's figuring things out and thwarting all of their carefully laid plans by choosing each other and to NOT FIGHT the manipulated battle that they had been groomed for since before birth. That was the beauty of Swan Song, and that's why the brothers are heroes. They choose each other instead of their 'destiny' and threw off the manipulation of Heaven and Hell to stop the entire plot in it's tracks. Whew, sorry, this ended up WAY longer than I was expecting. :P This rambled a bit, I hope I made sense!