Who We Are and All Along the Watchtower were excellent, both independent and united. Season twelve has had some decent episodes and has been sluggish about some key plots, no question. The payoff here makes the waiting worth it. Between character and story, 12.22 and 12.23 offer not only answers we’ve been looking for but new directions for season thirteen. Not to mention some shock and awe along the way, references to the long-gone past and foreshadowing to the future.
Be forewarned, this is a long review…
Brawns, Brains and Grenades
Initially, I was nervous about the approach the writers might take with the idea of the “trapped in the bunker for three days” storyline. Thankfully they opted for the fast-tracking time option, letting us see all the sensible options the boys tried and snarking that went along (and the debate about killing Toni, rightly so) while spending time focused on the good stuff. It did make getting out a simple endeavour, but it was drawn out by any means – and afforded a justifiable reason for Dean and Sam to be apart later during the BMoL slaughter.
Sam’s confession was interesting, that he didn’t want to lead. I’m still not 100% positive what this means except that they’ve been the senior hunters giving information, jobs, tips, etc. to other hunters and new hunters for a while now and he didn’t want to be responsible for the lives any more, which was where the BMoL system came into play. Plus, of course, the tech. Anyone have any thoughts on this, generally?
The confessional aside, I waited most of this time for it to occur to Dean that he had the grenade launcher in his car. It was worth the wait. Toni’s speech and the glee on Dean’s face as he finally got to shoot the “beautiful” weapon was perfect:
“I've had this thing for so long. Been waiting for the perfect moment to use it.”
And of course, when all is said and done: the Bunker still stands. This is both unexpected and appreciated. In lieu of the magnitude of losses that Sam and Dean just experienced, the fact that they will have a base of operations to return to and recuperate is a small but worthwhile victory.
Rally the Troops
Despite his desires to avoid the role, leadership was a position Sam was well suited for – not that this really comes as any true surprise. Kudos for Jared, playing the transition so well in the body language as well as the verbal cues. As Sam steps more wholly into leading his troops, so too does he straighten his spine, strengthen his voice and settle his nervous hands. Sam might be hesitant initially in his speech, but quickly takes ownership of the position and offers a solid uniting constitution, of sorts, for the gathered hunters to get behind. For someone who once wanted so fully to escape the hunter lifestyle, Sam has come full circle, to say the least:
“Um, so my -- my brother and I, we -- we, um [Sighs] No, you know what? I called you here because people um, our people, are being slaughtered. And we're next. The British Men of Letters, they came here because they thought they could do our job better than we could. And they hooked us with their flashy gear and their tech. Most of you had the good sense to turn 'em down.I didn't.They said they wanted the same thing we wanted, you know? A world free of monsters. That's not what they really wanted. They want control. They want to live in a world where they can sit in some office and decide who gets to live and who gets to die. And they've killed people. They've killed innocent people just because they got in the way. They think the ends justify the means. But we know better.
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, 'cause we're the one thing they can't control…I want you to follow me. Take the fight to them. To hit them before they hit us. We go in fast and hard and we fight and we beat them down until they give up or until they're dead. Look, they're well-trained and well-armed. Some of us might not make it back. But we will win. We will take down the bad guys because that's what we do. They're scared of us. Yeah. Good. They should be.”
Dean’s proud look as he watches his brother come into his own says it all, but if that wasn’t enough the decision to stay behind and not be there to oversee his brother let’s us know truly how far these two have come: absolute trust and true faith. As Dean will say later: “I have faith in us.” Here, it is demonstrated, and reciprocated when Sam says he’d rather have the broken Dean Winchester than ten healthy hunters any day of the week.
Farewell Men of Letters
Swift, smooth, effective and final. This is how hunters do it. The assault on the Men of Letters headquarters was nothing like I expected – and for that, I am glad. At first, I admit I was disappointed that Dean would be absent from the action, but ultimately that plot saw exceptional dividends. Sam, Jody and the team moved in without hesitation and without mercy. Certainly the security at the BMoL main location was laughable: let’s be honest and consider. All this effort of war by the hunters really took to take down this “all prevailing force” was for a police truck that battered through the chain link fence and the few guards on the outside had, evidently, the worst of Kevlar protection and aim among trained soldiers. Frankly, the BMoL are lucky that a group of supernatural didn’t band together, hire some human mercenaries and send them in (that’s assuming these guys even remembered to ward the place against supernatural creatures of course). Yes, it was a bit like pulling back the curtain to reveal the Great and Powerful Oz…not so powerful after all.
Ease of entry of aside, the tactical assault led by Sam was well executed nonetheless. The moments here, intercut with the quiet though no less impactful scenes of Dean and Mary, demonstrated the true nature of what it means to be hunters. They moved with ready, thoughtfulness and team mentality. Where the BMoL were caught unaware and scattering, the hunters were prepared regardless of the changing circumstances – because this is what they expect and this what hunters anticipate, the unknown. Finally, where the BMoL have demonstrated several times over their desire to scratch at one another and compete, hunters will work together to the same end, despite personal feelings. And work together they did, like a machine, rolling through and destroying everyone in their way, with very little words, largely instinct and experience.
The final exchange with Hess was long overdue. Incorrectly addressing Sam as “Dean” was a funny icebreaker, given the rising tension, and underscored just how screwed Hess really was. The conversation served a few purposes in reality: for one thing, revealing the part Crowley played in releasing Lucifer. Again. And, speaking of, Hess’ offer while trying to save her life. Sam – though the news was clearly a hard swallow - did not make another “deal with the devil” when Hess purposed the BMoL could help with the Lucifer/Nephilim issue. Lesson learned. Interestingly this moment was cut in with Dean’s speech to Mary about making deals to save the ones he loved. Supernatural so darkly poetic sometimes.
As Lady Toni remarked in the early minutes of the episode, our boys are “action movie loving…lunatics” and what would an action movie be without a huge explosion to obliterate the bad guys headquarters in the end? Nothing like a good explosion to say, you came, you tried and you lost.
Hate, Love & Forgiveness
The old expression is that love is blind. That is true, no matter if you mean two young teens in the blush of first time love or that of mother and son. The trouble is, at some point there is a moment and we realize this person, this perfect idol we’ve imagined is nothing like who we believed. And suddenly everything changes. Dean spent most of his life remembering a perfect mother: she cut the crusts off his sandwiches, baked pie and tucked him into bed. Later, he came to know the truth of who she was and somehow tucked that away against the image he held from when he was a young boy. Maybe because he didn’t know Mary as an adult, so he didn’t really have to reconcile the two ideas. And then Mary came back – and everything changed.
Mary, under the influence of Toni’s work, was cold and affectless. Samantha Smith delivered a grade-A performance as an amused sociopath, teasing her prey and watching the barbs land in Jody’s living room. We were privy to just the right amount of this version of Mary, as well as Dean’s observations of her – and Jody’s responsiveness to the entire situation. Dean was contemplative, almost disgusted by this version of his mother and the small touch from Jody was just enough, just right for their relationship and the circumstances at large.
Ultimately, the encounter between Dean and Mary in her fantasy world is one of the most emotionally significant and revealing exchanges we’ve witnessed in a long, long time. For Dean this was an almost violently revealing discovery that his mother was hiding in the fantasy world where he and Sam were young – pre-fire (or perhaps, the fire didn’t happen?). The house was exactly as it had been, down to the floral wallpaper in the kitchen. The hazy, dreamy lighting, blue shades on baby Sam, and white dress for the long-haired mother Mary of days-gone-by all make for a safe, happy fantasy world. Except for Dean.
“I hate you. 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 2nd, 1983, old Yellow Eyes came waltzing into Sammy’s room because of your deal. You left us. Alone. ‘Cause Dad was just a shell…And 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. 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…I hate you…And I love you…I can’t help it. You’re my mom. And I understand ‘cause I have made deals to save the ones I love more than once. I forgive you…For all of it. For everything…we can start over…Mom, I need you to see me. Please.”
For the first time we’ve heard Dean’s full acknowledgement of the role he played as a parent to Sam. This says so much, about how hurt he is and how angry he really is with Mary. How significantly he is feeling and has felt her loss. Of course in true Dean fashion he lists Sam’s injuries – though never his own – over the years that came from his parenting failure. Dean has idolized his mother and never been able to say aloud the damage that her one decision caused; now he can forgive it too.
Jensen delivered, no question. I don’t know about anyone else, but I cried along with him. Dean’s speech to Mary was incredible. There is no other word for it. It was powerful and passionate, true and heart wrenching.
Kill or Be Killed
What can I really say? I was not prepared for the mass slaughter of characters across these final episodes, really I was not. But some, I was I waiting for.
Toni earned her death, regardless of any attempted sympathy with the “see my son” she tried to garner in the end. Toni served her purpose in the end – mentioning the manual override, reversing Mary’s programming and that was that.
The battle of Ketch and Dean: love, love, love. The scenes in the bunker were overdue and we earned that payoff. Dean is jarred out of his psychic connection to a dead Toni and Ketch standing there, gleeful as ever with his pocket square. The fight was choreographed for full destruction and Ketch, never a fair fighter, was getting his ass kicked by a half-capacity (somewhat drugged by all likelihood) Dean Winchester. Yes, Dean could have won if Ketch hadn’t pulled the gun. But then, that’s what Mary is for, right? Throughout recent weeks I have speculated what they would do with Ketch in the end: would his affection for Mary get the better of him? In the end, yes. Since he came for her at the Bunker and couldn’t let her go, I will say that was his downfall. And in the end she pulls the trigger.
“I knew you were a killer. You both are.” “You’re right.”
Dean and Mary cleaning the bunker after Toni and Ketch give them a few moments to address, in person both what took place in her fantasy world and since she was revived. This is the conversation that is long overdue probably and though I appreciate some of what Mary delivers I am not fully onboard with the idea that she left to make up for what she did before…huh? Nevertheless, she delivers an apology and asks for forgiveness, which is what is needed across this family.
In the end the parallel effect continues. Dean tells Mary that her choices made them who they are and because of this they’ve saved the world. The first hand evidence of this truth is visible in the alternate reality, Castiel explaining it is a world where Sam and Dean were never born. The world where Mary and Lucifer are now trapped together. Ah, irony.
The final family embrace was a beautiful conclusion to this chapter in the Winchester family book of emotional turmoil. With so much between laid to rest, mother and sons had a true moment of perfect family love.
Old Frenemies and New Friends
While there were some deaths that weren’t unanticipated in these final hours of season twelve, one of the several that did catch me unawares by simply being unmentioned in recent weeks was Rowena. As a character, I’ve both enjoyed and disliked our red-headed witch, and in this instance I had to appreciate the flair and humour in the death scene. Nobody quite has the pizzazz of Lucifer when recounting a slaughter:
“If you’re looking for Rowena, she is presently indisposed. Which is a delicate way of saying, I stomped on her face till the white meat showed, and then set her on fire, just in case. Ah. Gingers. It was messy and screamy, but it had to be done, Sam.”
And then there is Crowley. Oh Crowley, another stylish ruler of Hell who definitely knows how to exit with a flair. Though not used to full effect this season in my opinion and I admit I did wonder what exactly the point of pinning Crowley’s hand with the knife in the Bunker was, and why that was supposed to hold him, but that aside everything about Crowley worked for me this time around. Last week’s “death” may have been for show, sneaking away in a rat but this time was no show. Instead Crowley, of all people, died a heroic death. This scene was clever, unpredicted and an appropriately classy death for our favourite King of Hell: on his own terms.
“It is personal. You humiliated me. I hate you. Deeply. Truly. I’m going to enjoy wiping that smug, self-satisfied look off your face. Personally…Bye boys.”
The tear in time was a sufficiently disturbing presentation. It was a great mix of purgatory and the post-apocalyptic feel of the 2014 Croatoan world Dean jumped into while maintaining it’s own unique feel, for example the flashing red lightening which was a great touch. This world opens a host of possibilities going into the next season, not only with both Lucifer and Mary still being alive and now trapped in this alt-world, but also since that tear was open for a substantial amount of time before and after Castiel discovered it and who knows what came through. New creatures, old characters – endless options. Theories?
Showdown, Reflections and Symmetry
The battle of Lucifer and the Winchesters: take two. Mark Pelligrino’s Lucifer never fails to deliver as both amusing and menacing. The power is never discredited by the behaviour which does not approach “silly”, instead choosing predatory and feline – though sometimes Lucifer is too impressed by himself for his own good. The moments before Sam and Dean lure Lucifer into the portal, choosing to “run away” is a great example (and scene).
The entire final showdown with Lucifer is perfectly delivered. The fighting is not overdone and the rise and fall in the action is ideal. Lucifer has been the unbeatable enemy and here he appears to be again – particularly the moment he reappears and kills Cas, both shocking and breathtaking. While Sam and Dean are reeling, maybe considering stepping back since they have nothing left in the arsenal Mary very unexpectedly steps up and executes the moments foreshadowed earlier: punches the Devil in the face. These brass knuckles have been a well-used tool of Mary’s choice through the season and here they serve her well. It became apparent what was going to happen, even before it did though that didn’t make Lucifer and Mary being trapped in alt-World any less of a “no!” moment on behalf of Sam and Dean, if nothing else. Yes, this end is almost too much to process at once.
The finale moments were poetic in a multitude of ways: the cinematography, the largely unspoken but deep emotion between characters, the incredible dichotomy of worlds. But what stands out most is the subtle but unmistakable references to two other key life events in Sam and Dean’s journey: the night Mary died in the nursery and the show down in Skull Cemetery during Swan Song.
Of the two, Mary and Kelly are strongly paralleled through the episode. Kelly leaves a video to her unborn child telling him about the angel watching over him, much like Mary did once upon a time. Similarly, Kelly gives birth in the stark white nightgown, eerily similar to the one Mary died in all those years ago. And of course, the final words of both women to their sons before they are gone is “I love you.” Maybe in another show these would be fore the sake of writers symmetry, but on Supernatural – I doubt it. Finally, there is the Nephilim himself. I’ll talk about him more down the line but for the moment let’s consider the brief (and creepy as hell) moment we spent with him: much like Azazel in Sam’s nursery on that night in November 1982, here we have Sam looking into a shadowed, smirking face – in a nursery, no less - and once again, yellow eyes. The symmetry is uncanny. Thoughts?
The Swan Song callback is much simpler and likely more for the sake of impact than plot, though I could be wrong. Once, many years ago, after a battle with Lucifer when Dean was again left with nothing he sank to his knees on the ground at the spot where the portal had closed and everyone was lost to him. Sound familiar? This time he has Sam, which is fundamentally different, but still a huge loss. An incredibly tragic moment, driving home the scale of the losses.
We are left with Dean on his knees at the body of Castiel, with the ultimate and chilling symbol of final death for an angel: the seared wing outline. Mary actually survived the season, granted in an alternate universe, but alive is alive. Lucifer too. Crowley offered himself as a sacrifice. Wow, what to even make of these things. And those are just the unexpected twists, nevermind the plots that remain from season twelve: the colt hasn’t been seen since we discussed maybe repairing it – let’s consider demons with horns and how helpful it might be – and of course, the elephant in the room that is Cas stabbing Billie to break the blood pact. Oh yeah, and that super creepy Nephilim. I vote: kill it.
As finales go, this certainly packed a punch. 9 out of 10 (I am deducting a point for killing Castiel).
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