My emotions!! Even days later, they’re still reeling. One minute I’m satisfied and happy and content; the next, I’m a hot mess and all over the place with worry and dismay. Supernatural's season 12 finale, "All Along The Watchtower”, delivered on so many levels, but it also took so much away. Naturally, I’m trying to stabilize myself by analyzing all that’s happened and might happen next. It all comes down to the people we’ve lost and what little, if anything, we gained. This finale wasn’t about the story, it was about the characters. In truth, the only “story” told was the birth of the Nephilim and the introduction to the AU world. Everything else was solely character driven. We had our four mains, with two recurring characters appearing, and one honorable mention. I want to take a closer look at each of their roles and journeys in this episode, and what the possible outcomes for each of them may be.
I recently read how interesting and ominous it is that the finale ended in a room with Sam, a crib, and a yellow-eyed creature - an almost perfect mirror to how the whole show began. If this finale was meant to be a reset of some sort, then, in my opinion, it perfectly succeeded. We are starting over, in many respects, and have fully returned to our roots, but with everything still in our toolbox that we’ve learned, grown into, and accomplished over the past 12 years. In “Who We Are”, Sam finally took on a leadership role, something that’s been building up for a long time coming. He’s not just the little brother anymore, he’s the hunter he was always meant to be; the hunter he was born to be. He’s reached a new level of potential, and given the way the finale ended, it seems clear he will need his new status in order to carry on.
Nonetheless, during the finale, he fulfilled a role that we’ve all come to expect from him: He was the voice of reason and the brains of their hunt. He found the anomaly which led them to the Nephilim and logically decided to keep Crowley alive when the demon was seconds away from being knifed (thank you, Sam). By the end of the episode, he was the first to see and make contact with the Nephilim. Will this mean Sam will be more connected to the creature than anyone else? Jack smiled when he saw him, and my mind exploded with thoughts of all the possible reasons as to why. Was he smiling or smirking? Was it because it was Sam, of all people - the one true vessel to his father, Lucifer? Or was he just pleased someone was there? Will Jack parallel the ‘Sam’ that we had in the first seasons of the show? Given his new leadership and willingness to be a leader, I can’t help but think Sam will be particularly vital in the Nephilim’s life.
Focused, fueled, and trigger-happy, Dean, like Sam, also played his typical role in this episode. He was the one ready to kill anything in their path in order to achieve their goals, and was definitely the aggressor. He expressed adamant frustration with needing to find the Devil after having just dismantled the BMOL, angrily attacked Crowley, stabbed the demon with his blade leaving that unique weapon behind funnily enough, scorned Cas for his misgivings, and shot 100 rounds of angel-killing bullets straight into Lucifer. Basically, the usual, which is everything I already love about Dean. I wouldn’t have him any other way, and the same goes for Sam. Both brothers played their very well established roles perfectly in this finale.
What seemed most interesting, however, was that at no point were Sam or Dean ever in any real danger. Yes, they came face to face with the Devil, but seconds later, ran away to the portal (one of the funniest Princess Bride moments in the show, ever, btw). I was never truly worried about their lives or their fates, and I believe that’s because none of this was about them, per se. This episode was about everyone else around them. They all have stories to tell too and in order to re-focus attention on the brothers, those other stories need to be addressed. Undoubtedly, the absence of all those people will have a profound impact on both of them in ways that I can only hope does not lead to a deep depression.
Upon a few re-watches, it occurred to me that Castiel was far more central to the story than I originally realized. In fact, Castiel was the narrator of the whole finale. The episode began with an image of him on a lake shore and it ended with his death, at the same location. Afterward, there was a prologue of Sam discovering the fully grown Nephilim, which was necessary to establish the upcoming season. But, at that point, the episode had already ended. In essence, this was Cas’s story. Virtually every time he spoke, it was to give information or offer exposition to the audience. He explained child-rearing to Kelly, re-explained the “future” he saw, showed us and the brothers the portal, and described who Bobby was to Sam, Dean, and the audience. He was also the first to step through the portal, effectively introducing us to the AU world through his eyes. Everything new and unusual in the episode was told from Castiel’s perspective. He carried the audience through the story and took us on this journey with him, from start to finish. It was actually very touching and quite meaningful since this was, in fact, Castiel’s “Swan Song”.
That said, I do not believe his story is over, nor do I believe he will stay dead, but I do believe this represents a significant ending to a chapter in his life. If/when we see Cas again, I anticipate him to be much different. It is my hope that this death will serve as some much needed development for Castiel, whom is a character that has sadly grown quite stale in recent years. What we do know is that Cas had/has a special connection with the Nephilim. It is actually questionable whether or not Cas has been in full control of himself since he killed Dagon. When he healed Dean in the finale, there was a yellow glow through his fingers, not the typical blueish-white of angel grace. He also told Kelly, while she was struggling to build the crib, that he was very good at following instructions. Uhhh…… No, he’s not! He never was! That’s been the basis for his whole existence on the show, actually! Never once did he ever properly follow any orders or instructions that were ever given to him. It’s my honest opinion those words, among others, were chosen very carefully. Perhaps the powers the Nephilim gave will restore him in some way? There are a number of things to speculate on, but for now, I will simply say that this part of the story began and ended with Castiel.
He was the answer to all their problems. At first, it seemed like Crowley was fulfilling his typical role in this episode. Clawing his way out of a premature grave, we saw how desperate Crowley was to survive. Then, appearing before the Winchesters, he struck one final deal in exchange for their allegiance - to close the gates of hell, permanently. Crowley was living up to his reputation. Everything we’ve come to expect from the Demon King is what we saw. He gave an impassioned speech revealing how displeased he was with being King, something we knew for a long time thanks to his frequent expressions of sheer boredom. He also confessed his unwavering faith in the two brothers. His motives, at this time, seemed clear. He, as an Anti-Villain, was willing to work with the heroes of the story to ensure everyone’s continued survival. Everything was textbook accurate and on point. We’ve seen this many, many times before from Crowley. Midway through the episode, however, it all changed.
I remember looking at the clock and seeing the time read 8:44 p.m. A commercial had just come on. I told myself “Ok, we just need to get through the next 14 minutes. “Come on, Crowley, we can do this”. Yeah, well. It remains something of a mystery why Crowley showed up before the Winchesters when he did and offered to insert himself into the equation. He said he had a spell, an answer to their problems, a spell that would trap Lucifer and close the portal to the AU World. Unfortunately, the spell required a life, something Crowley kept secret until the end. For what it’s worth, none of this adds up to me. Who knew there was a spell that could close a portal to an AU world that had never existed before? And why would this demon so willingly sacrifice himself all of a sudden? The one thing I found comforting is knowing that Crowley seemed to die on his own terms. He made a choice, as out-of-character as it was, that enabled him to help Sam and Dean by making the ultimate sacrifice. His journey began as a demon, but it ended as family. And, now, it is over for good. Bye, boys.
Redeemed at last, and with her family once and for all. It took long enough, but I am finally on board with this character, and grateful she survived. Though, with all the deaths we were given, I must admit, I’m quite surprised. In all honesty, I’m not a fan of redemption stories. I’m not automatically against them, but I always find it such a waste to take a character down a certain path only to undo it all in the end. In this case, however, Mary’s journey was more about self-discovery than sheer redemption. She has finally come into her own, and for that, I have become quite accepting of her.
That said, her role in the finale was not central to the plot at all. She played no part in moving anything along, but did manage to get the Devil into the AU world at the end. This, of course, changed her own fate, but was necessary for the continuing story of Sam and Dean. It seems clear, with all the deaths and removal of characters that the endgame was to leave Sam and Dean in a world where they have no one -and everyone they did have is now in a place where the world does not have them. Mary’s role was to serve Sam and Dean’s story, which is appropriate for a supporting character. She played her part well and I have a hard time believing she won’t survive well into next season. Right now, she has Lucifer bearing down on her, but she is not alone. AU Bobby is there with her, plus every other hunter we’ve ever met, possibly. As well as an AU Cas. Point of interest, Crowley’s body was *not* on the ground where it should have been when she and Lucifer fell back through.
Our main and most worthy antagonist. Although we didn’t meet him until a few years into the show, Lucifer has been present from the very beginning. He may be in an AU world now, but I don’t believe we are done with him, nor do I believe we’ll ever be. The Nephilim is, after all, his son. While it still has yet to be determined whether or not Jack will be good or evil, or a fancy mixture of both, we can trust that Lucifer wants him for himself and that means a path of darkness.
Ironically, Lucifer, whom had killed our resident witch, spent most of the episode on a witch hunt himself. But, like so many other characters in the finale, failed at the end of his journey. He arrived at the lake house, but couldn’t get inside because of the warding. (Although, I am confused as to how, then, Castiel was able to venture in and out … more of the Nephilim’s influence, perhaps?) It always bemuses me, though, when Lucifer chooses not to kill people. You have to accept how much he enjoys the build up to death in order to not scream “plot flaw” every time he engages in a conversation with an adversary rather than just snap his fingers. He could’ve killed everyone at that lake house the moment he arrived and just waited for the child to be born. Instead, he chose the fun way and took a trip through the portal with Sam and Dean. Of course, now he’s stuck there, but like Mary, he’s not alone. He now has legions of angels walking the earth that will all want to kill him, not to mention there is another one of ‘him’ running around. It is highly unlikely the Lucifer of the AU world is still in the Cage. Regardless, there is now a version of earth with two devils, oh what fun this will be! There’s also a whole slew of demons, new and improved with horns included, that may or may not accept this new Lucifer. Will they blindly worship him? Will they see him as a challenge to the Lucifer who is already there? Will he even be able to control them? Lucifer’s life just got a whole lot more complicated. He’s also no longer the only Archangel standing. Michael, Raphael, and even Gabriel are quite possibly all there. Lucifer is going to be neck deep in problems and possibilities in that AU world, the least of which will be killing Mary.
Rowena (Honorable Mention)
Let me just say this: RUDE! It was flat out rude to not even invite the actress onto the episode for a final line or moment before what appeared to be her ultimate demise. An off-screen death is one of the most disrespectful ways for a character to go. We watch a show because we want to see these characters. Whether we like them or not, it’s the journey that matters, not the destination. But, with Rowena, all we were given was the destination, her final destination as it were, and that’s just not right. Sadly, the death seems rather permanent. The only thing to focus on, however, is the lock of hair Lucifer kept. It appears that was just meant to ensure the audience that the scorched corpse was indeed Rowena, but maybe there’s more to it. I can only hope there is a means for her to return or a significant series of flashbacks to honor the character and the fact that she was the longest running female on the show. Perhaps we’ll see an AU Rowena, one in which she succeeded with her Megacoven and is truly an all-powerful and domineering witch. Perhaps her role in the finale was to simply open the door for a variant Rowena to take her place. Nonetheless, it is noteworthy to say that her death, and Crowley’s, effectively ends that entire bloodline. All the “MacCleod’s” are gone now, since Gavin was removed earlier this season. What a shame.
Well, despite the fact that so many were killed, in truth, no one is truly gone - not with an alternate reality in our midst (confirmed deaths aside). Keeping in mind that with an AU world, we now have a Version 2.0 for technically every single character ever placed on the show, besides Sam and Dean. Did the writers truly kill off all these characters with the intention of introducing new versions of them? Personally, I hope not. I think it would be devastating to completely drop these characters in place of some new and foreign doppelgangers. Also, this is not just any random version of “Earth 2”. It is specifically one in which only Sam and Dean were never born. Supernatural is ‘Straight Outta Bedford Falls’ from It’s A Wonderful Life, now! We finally get to see what the world would be like without Sam and Dean in it. Castiel spoke of their necessity to Billie early in the season and Crowley echoed the same speech to Ramiel later on. Now, both of those characters are dead, but we get to see how very right they were. With an AU world, anything is possible. There are no strings, no rules. We can see alternate versions of anyone they want to show us, yet it’ll be important to keep in mind that our world is the only one of consequence. But, will the same be true for all our characters? What do you think?