Holy mother of Chuck!!  Now that’s how you end a season.  Leave the fans screaming their fool heads off for about four and a half months.  Mr. Carver, you’re pure evil.  sweetondean in her review actually stole my line, so I’ll just say that I hope Jeremy Carver loves fruit.  Cause he’s about to get a litany of fruit baskets.  

“Sacrifice” was given the task that every season finale must accept, carry the story forward until next season while reconciling it with the events of this season.  This is never an easy mission, which is why the season finale is always reserved for the showrunner.  The question is, how did Jeremy Carver do?  After pouring through the episode a few times, a phenomenal job I must say.     

Of course there’s unanswered questions lingering.  Every season leaves them.  However, this script cleanly brought together the main themes for the season and gave us a most satisfying push forward.  It also had all the emotional beats and story twists that keep fans buzzing for years.  Considering I went into this episode with a ton of questions and skepticisms, I can say all is forgiven.  I’m officially stoked.  

Us reviewers love to use the phrase “flawless” a lot, but we never really give context or definition.  For me, it’s being able to be engrossed in a story for an entire hour.  I never stop at any point to question why this bit doesn’t fit right with the mythology, why this action seems out of character, or just ask in general what the hell is happening.  I have to be laughing, crying, biting my nails, loving the dialogue and being left a wreck by the end of it.  That’s my flawless.  Jeremy Carver hit that mark with “Sacrifice.”  It’s so damn good to see yet another classic “Supernatural” episode tied to his name.  

When looking at the finer details of this script, it’s very complex in story and execution. “Sacrifice” is an ambitious piece of work, but unlike prior complex episodes earlier this season (you know which ones I’m talking about), it all blended seamlessly and moved from scene to scene at a engrossing pace.  There were also plenty of overlapping character interactions and story parallels that boosted the urgency of the events ten fold.  I’ll attempt in a review that’s not the size of a novel to capture these nuances (that’s a very tough task), but when looking at them closely, I can’t help but be in awe of all that we were given in just a mere 42 minutes.  

Sam and Dean

No doubt about it, Jeremy Carver gets these brothers.  They were at the one yard line with heavy hearts (yes Kevin, I love the sports metaphors myself), but ready to win this.  I yelped when I saw them in Bobby’s salvage yard with long faces over seeing the trashed Chevelle with the smashed window amidst the overgrown weeds.  I adore the tie in of the relevant past in these guys’ lives to the present.  Too often these stories try to forget the history.  Oh Bobby, we all miss you terribly.    

These trials have been exposing Sam to the core, forcing not only us but Dean to see all that pain and hurt he’s been internalizing ever since Dean’s return from Purgatory, and his whole life.  We saw his agony of living with the curse of demon blood  in “The Great Escapist.”  In this episode, other worlds of hurt surfaced, ones that we never imagined were digging into him so much.  

We finally got into Sam’s head about the whole not looking for Dean issue, among other things.  Inside the deep, painful remorse that’s been building, Sam piled that one error in judgement onto all his other past failures when it comes to Dean.  With his growing fragile state, everything that he’s buried all those years became a crushing weight, leaving him to question his worthiness.  It tore him up so bad, he was ready to die for it.  When Dean burst in the church to stop Sam, telling him that finishing the trials would kill him, Sam’s reaction stabbed us all in the heart.  “So?”  I’m still crying over that.  

Sam has always been good at swallowing pain.  Dean constantly sent reminders, both angrily and passively about the ways Sam has failed him, especially not looking for him that year they were apart.  Obviously that regret lingered with Sam, because he shared what happened with others, like Meg and Bobby, two people that have had quite an impact on Sam’s life (for different reasons).  Taking on the trials was Sam’s penance for all of those sins against Dean, and it all started with Sam doing what he often does, saving Dean’s life.  This time, he could make it right.  

Yet by the end, Sam was too overwhelmed by it all, and it was obvious he couldn’t do this alone. Come on, what part of you didn’t die over Sam’s line, “What happens when you've decided I can't be trusted again? I mean, who are you gonna turn to next time instead of me? Another angel, another vampire?”  Sam had been reduced to tears by then (and me as well), unable to handle the strain and pressure.  He just needed it all to be over.  In his extreme exhaustion and sickness, physical and emotional pain couldn’t be repressed or rationalized.  It hurt.  Everything hurt.  Of course Dean was the only one that could save him from all this.  As Dean said in the bar, “What show are you watching?”  

As for Dean, I’ve read some criticisms that he underplayed his unfair treatment of Sam.  For one, I don’t think any of Dean’s actions this season were unfair.  Dean’s devotion to Sam was never in question.  What Sam perceived to be disappointment, it was really just Dean projecting.  He has a history of doing that.  I remember when Sam accused Dean of only trusting himself in that episode I shall not name, Dean didn’t deny that either.  But was that right?  I think Dean knows their history.  Things go wrong.  It goes back to when Bobby asked Dean if he believed Sam was good in “Meet The New Boss.”  “Yeah. (he hesitates).  No. You wanna know why? because we never catch a break. So why would we this time? I just.. just this one thing. You know? but I'm not dumb. I'm not going to get my hopes up just to get kicked in the daddy-pills again.”

When Dean decided he would be the one to take on the trials, he knew that whenever they took on this kind of thing, one of them ended up dead.  He didn’t want to be right this time, but he was all too aware of their bad luck.  Of course he took care of Sam when he got sick.  Too many didn’t like that motherly side of Dean, but did you expect anything else from him?  He’s been taking care of Sam his whole life.  Sure, some of that comes from guilt, like the guilt he’s been carrying over the stunt he pulled in “Citizen Fang” with the text message about Amelia.  Part of me thinks that his speech to Sam in that church is his apology for that. It’s his blanket apology for everything, like the one he promised at the end of “And Then There Were None.”   “Don't you dare think that there is anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you! It has never been like that, ever! I need you to see that. I'm begging you.”

Dean believes in his brother.  Sam after all is the one that sees a way out from all this, the one who’s been carrying the hope for a better life that has eluded these two so far.  He already lost Sam once to great sacrifice in “Swan Song,” and he wasn’t about to go through that again.  He couldn’t bear the loss of Sam anymore than Sam could bear the thought of disappointing Dean again.  

For the record, that was not just a brotherly hug.  Sam collapsed into Dean’s arms and gripped him tight, hanging on for dear life.  What a beautiful symbol of their devotion to one another, and yes I’m thinking of that hokey tune, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” because it’s so damned true.  Sam was finally able to share all that burden and weight with someone else, the one person that matters.  Someone he knew would be strong enough for both of them when the final blow hit.  And it did, hard.  When that happened, Dean did the only thing he knew what to do.  He got Sam the hell out of there.  

On a side note, If you watch the ending scene very carefully, Sam was gasping for air and unable to breathe.  Among all that confusion of what was happening in the sky, he lost consciousness.  It wasn’t until the first angel hit the ground that Sam suddenly awoke, alarmed by what was happening.  You think that the angels falling to earth did something to heal Sam?  You think similar things will be happening to people all across the country where angels fell?  I think the timing of Sam’s collapse and the angels falling meant something, but we have several months to speculate that.    

Dean, Sam and Castiel

There were definite parallels between Sam and Castiel in this episode, with Dean in the middle trying to get them both through it.  For anyone that says that Dean didn’t have a role this season, being the guy in charge of maintaining the delicate balance between those fighting against Hell and those fighting against Heaven is pretty damned crucial.  

Both Sam and Castiel were on parallel missions, personally chasing a chance at redemption as well as destiny.  Castiel was far more vocal in his desperation though.  “I can’t fail Dean.  Not on this one.  I need your help.”  He’s so unsure and afraid of making the wrong choices again, and Dean is the one person he trusts the most to guide him.  Dean did have to step in a few times, reminding Castiel to talk to the cupid first before taking the bow, and hearing Naomi out when she revealed the info she learned from Metatron.  

Sam needed Dean too, but it’s always been part of Sam’s personality to put other’s needs in front of his own, much like when he left Amelia so she could be with Don.  Castiel was in need and he would be okay.  All he had to do was tell Dean that he needed him, and Dean would have stayed.  But after hearing Dean tell Castiel,  “If any needs a chaperone during the heavily lifting, it’s Sam,” he took that as Dean waiting for him to screw up.  His hurt after Dean left, even if it was his idea, was devastating to watch.  It’s Sam at a low, never feeling more alone.  

Just as Castiel didn’t want to fail this angel trial, Sam couldn’t fail his demon trial.  Both were under enormous pressure, and failure, no matter what the circumstances, was not an option.  With Castiel though, the stakes were much different.  He already knew that carrying out the angel trials would result in him being locked in Heaven forever, and he would likely die for his past acts.  “ET goes home,” was a great way to put it.  

What I love about Castiel’s act is sacrifice is a human trait.  He’s learned well from these Winchesters through the years, and it will very likely serve him well now that he’s been cast out of Heaven and fallen to Earth.  While most angels consider that punishment, I wonder if in Cass’ case that’s where true redemption lies.  As for Dean, his willingness to let Castiel carry out his sacrifice and not Sam proves right there that he couldn’t even put Castiel in front of Sam.  Maybe he found one sacrifice more worthy than another.  
 
Sam and Crowley

I haven’t raved about the acting on this show in a while.  It’s always so damn good, and the bar was set so high so long ago it can become quite routine to always watch them clear it.  But this material gave Jared Padalecki and Mark Sheppard stuff that sent that bar to the stratosphere.  Sam and Crowley were both on the emotional and physical brink, and both looked like they would break at any second.  They were so fragile, so vulnerable, and it exposed of part of them both we’ve never seen, especially Crowley.  When great material meets exceptional actors, mind blowing things happen.  I’ve watched their scenes over and over again, and I completely melt into a quivering puddle every time. 

Crowley naturally was cavalier at first, calling Sam “Moose” all the time.  Hours and several injections later, after Abaddon’s altercation, suddenly he was appealing for his need to be loved to Sam by referencing HBO programs.  I loved Sam’s stunned reaction, and I was howling.  The cure was working.  Then when Crowley reached his most vulnerable point, suddenly “Moose” became “Sam.”  The slow gradual transition of Crowley from smug demon to emotional, remorseful human was a stunner.  It’s something you never deemed possible, and oh did Mark Sheppard sell it.  

How fitting is it that Crowley reached out to Sam for advice on where to start seeking forgiveness.  Crowley’s always taken a fascination with Sam, far more than Dean.  Maybe because Sam has had similar internal struggles and carries the same blood.  In that church, they both asked the same questions. Where does one go to the path of righteousness?  How does one become clean after all the evil they’ve done?  When that single man tear streamed down Crowley’s face, suddenly I believed that anyone could be saved, even the King of Hell.  I wonder if at that point, Sam believed it too.  He seemed moved by Crowley’s words, offering up his own blood as the next step to be saved.  He was so weak and feverish he could barely administer the injection but Crowley didn’t even fight, exposing his neck so that a woozy Sam could stab him with the needle.  It’s stunning how gorgeous that scene is, and so unlikely given the acrimonious history between these two.    

Part of me really wishes that they carried on with curing Crowley, because then he would be human again, walking the earth among all those fallen angels.  Think about the possibilities that would create.  He’d be on an even playing field with Castiel.  Part of me wonders if Sam doesn’t go back in there and finish the job in the season nine premiere after seeing the angels fall.  Maybe he’ll die and go to Heaven.  Okay, I’m over-speculating now.   

Since I’m bringing up season nine, Abaddon got away.  Considering her complete dislike and disloyalty toward Crowley, and that fact that none of the other demons came to help him, something tells me the other demons will welcome a new leader with open arms.  A Knight of Hell is a hard pedigree to turn down.  What’s to become of Crowley?  Will he go back to being himself, or will Sam’s near curing change him?  He was actually feeling regret.  That’s hard to forget once it surfaces.  Will he have a new found appreciation and respect for “Moose,” his fox hole partner?  Will he band together with the Winchesters to take control of Hell again because as we learned before, it’s better to deal with the devil you know?  Given Crowley’s recent actions, I sincerely doubt the Sam and Dean will go there again.     

Kevin Tran

There was a big tie back from the season premiere to now with Kevin.  It all goes back to Sam’s talk: 

Kevin:  Ever since I realized I was a prophet... It's just hard to believe this is actually my life.
Sam:  Yeah. It sucks right now. I know that. Um, it might suck for a lot longer, but... trust me on this – it gets better.
Kevin:  You know I'm not gay, right?
Sam:  If we can do this, get the tablet, get you everything you need to close the gates of Hell, there's a world out there where nobody – not Crowley, no demon – is chasing you anymore.
Kevin:  I guess I just don't see how I get from here to there.
Sam:  I used to not be able to see it, either. But there is a way.

Dean’s been echoing these words as well for Kevin for most of the season.  The problem is, none of them wanted to realistically look at what would happen if the gates of Hell weren’t closed.  Dean promising Kevin could go back to be a “mathlete” was never realistic.  It’s possible Kevin always knew this, but held onto the hope that Sam and Dean were giving him to get through it all.  That way, when it all fell apart, he would have someone to blame.  

I’ve been waiting for someone all season to be brutally honest with this kid, and it’s oh so fitting that it was Castiel.  “Dean’s right, there is no out, only duty.  You are a prophet of the lord.  Always and forever.”  Of course Cass backpedals a bit after that, clarifying until he ceases to exist and another prophet takes his place, but I imagine that was Jeremy Carver thinking about all the fan complaints.  I’ll never tire of the dorkiness of the writers coming out through Cass.    

So, Kevin has gone through this entire ordeal only to find he’s never getting out.  It’s sad, but everyone had to know that’s what would happen.  Now that Sam and Dean have chosen not to close the gates of Hell, I can’t imagine he’ll take that very well, even if it saved Sam.  He’s in for good.  Will he join the Men of Letters team and accept his duty, or will he take the bitter drunk route?  I’ll accept either.  

There was an angel story too, right? 

When I start writing my season eight retrospective articles, I’m taking a good look at the way Naomi’s character was handled.  She seemed a bit all over the map, no?  This week, she was “Taxi Driver” Naomi, helpful and honest.  I find it fascinating that she never really had a diabolical plan.  She was just doing what she’s always done, and doing her best to keep order in Heaven when chaos ruled.  Her encounter with Metatron seemed to shake her to the core, triggering regret over forgetting that the main purpose of the angels was to protect God’s creation.  That includes humans.  What made her realize that?  Was it that she’s really cared all along, but lack of direction since God left ruined her purpose?  What was the sudden motivation to make things right?  Or was it another manipulation for Castiel?  She died at least in redemption, willing to help Castiel and Dean.  

I really felt for the cupid (who I found hilarious to be a woman bringing together two men).  She’s afraid to go home too.  She isn’t getting orders the way she used to, and everything was breaking down.  She was willing to give up her bow if it meant that Castiel could fix all that.  I’m not sure if Cass told her exactly what was happening, but I love that he gave her a glimmer of hope.  “Do you think you can fix that?” she asks.  “With time, yes,” answers Castiel.  Aww, I’ve always got a sweet spot for the optimist angel.   

As for Metatron, that whole plot was so well done!  I never saw it coming, and what’s great is no one did.  He blindsided the whole universe!  What’s the saying, the meek shall inherit the earth?  Well that applies to the universe.  So he was using Castiel for work a spell, not trials.  That’s quite a spell, casting out all the angels from Heaven and banishing them to earth.  Why do I think after all this time getting to know the angels that this is a just punishment?  Now that there are thousands of angels roaming the earth, will they end up protecting humans as was their mission or acting out against, like the archangels?  Oh man, October is so far away.  

Stray Thoughts

This was the best put together “Carry On Wayward Son” montage I’ve seen in years.  Perhaps since season one (my favorite).  Well done.  Season eight really had a lot to offer, no?  

I’m going on the record, Jody Mills better not be dead.  I swear, as much as you own me Mr. Carver, I will curse you with a thousand suns and moons if that ends up being the case.  Granted, I think she’s alive.  Otherwise, Sam and Dean would have been totally outraged over her death when they met up with Crowley in Bobby’s salvage yard.  But still, no more killing the good female characters show.  

I am in utter awe of the abandoned church that the crew built just for this episode, and the location. The surrounding river is just stunning.  This is a visual masterpiece!  Kudos to the location crew and the camera crew that made this possible.  

“It took me six months and a dead mom to translate a piece of the demon tablet.”  No!! Not Mrs. Tran!!!  Remember what I said about killing the strong women?  Sad, sad.  I refuse to believe she’s dead.  

I’m giving this final episode of season eight an A+.  Easily the best finale since “Swan Song,” and one of the best overall.  Everything put into this episode from every cast and crew member, not to mention the writer went beyond what anyone could hope for.  That’s two A+ grades in season eight (“The Great Escapist” getting the other), which are two more than season seven got.  

That’s a season!  We’ll have all summer to discuss our season nine wish list, but thanks to Mr. Carver, the sky is now the limit.