The Morning After
Bottom Line: I loved “Last Call". It was Jeremy Adams' debut episode, after co-writing “Scoobynatural” in season 13 and becoming an official member of the Supernatural writing team. I had a chance to talk with Jeremy at 2019’s San Diego Comic-Con, and completely agree with all the rumors about him being one of the nicest guys on the planet! I couldn’t be happier for him.
For me, “Last Call” was classic Supernatural. It wasn't emotionally intense or a milestone in the series’ story, and it didn't have the perfect broment, but it had a lot of things I look for in Supernatural. Let me be more specific.
"Good Ol' Boys"
Despite the good story, great casting, outstanding set decoration, and some very welcome character developments, the thing I think every fan will remember about “Last Call” is the music. It was absolutely the highlight of the episode for me! That was the first thing I noted (and tweeted), just as “The House Rules” started to play. The song has been out since 2010 (from an album by the same name), but I didn’t know it was Christian Kane’s song until after the episode aired and fans starting sending me links to his YouTube video (don’t judge me! I’ve been busy with Supernatural!).
Consider me a new fan of Christian Kane, the musician! A long-time fan of him as an actor, who knew he was another one of those “no end to his talent” guys? It was fabulous having him as a guest star in Supernatural's last season! I think he played a very convincing ex-hunter, barkeep, old friend turned maniacal guy named Lee.
"The House Rules" was only the beginning of the music, though. When Dean got on stage at the prompting of his old friend, I didn’t know what to expect. There’s extensive conversation in the comments on Emberlast’s "Last Call" recap about Dean's singing ability. We all remember that DemonDean certainly could NOT sing, but there are a few examples of Dean being able to hold a tune. Still, I’ll admit I braced myself for some really awful off-key singing as the eldest Winchester tapped the mic. When Jensen starting singing instead of Dean, though, I woohoo’d! Let it rip, Ackles! I personally don’t care one bit whether Dean had ever been able to sing that well before! Jensen and Christian lit up the stage with “Good Ol’ Boys” and I want more!!
Music was one of the reasons I fell in love with Supernatural originally. Its music caught my attention as being a bold, unique differentiator to all the canned sound tracks and pop-blah music videos that had taken over television, so I was thrilled to have it be a focus again in the show. Surprisingly, it was country instead of classic rock but it worked! The episode may not have been a Supernatural musical, but for Jeremy’s right-out-of-the-box pitch, I salute the guts it took to give us a Jensen/Christian concert!
Welcome Back, Characters!
It was also SOOOOO refreshing to have a confident Castiel back! He was fierce, resourceful and decisive. Defeat wasn’t an option! Thank… well, whoever we’re supposed to thank these days! I was so tired of wimpy, doormat Cas who could never put two words together to explain himself or defend his reasoning. I was shocked when he threatened Sergei:
Cas: Let me rephrase. If you don't help me tonight, I will find you and burn you alive.
Sergei: My, how your negotiation skills have improved.
I was even more surprised when Cas hung up on Sergei, but then I was stunned when Cas resorted to threats against an innocent to get what he wanted. Would he have followed through? I doubt it but the bluff is what counted. Cas was acting like a powered-up angel again, too. It’s about time we saw our tree topper use his angel powers for something other than a painful, flickering light to heal someone.
Sam: Cas, are you sure about this?
Castiel: No, but I am sure I can't heal the wound. Maybe I can probe it.
Sam: Probe it?
Cas: Study it, see if it can lead us to Chuck.
Eileen: Is that dangerous?
Was that the smart thing to do? Well they don’t understand the nature of Sam’s wound so it was absolutely going to be risky for Sam, but they had to try something. Sitting around scanning the internet is a bit benign week after week.
Sergei: I like this you, Castiel. It's very Russian.
Me too. Keep it up, please.
Sam got the brunt end of Castiel’s attempted probe, but that led to Hurt!Sam, which is another plot point that gets my attention. Poor guy. We love to see him fighting for his life!
Before that, he was finally getting some quality time with a friend and potential love interest. Sam has been sweet on Eileen for a long time. They understand the life and each other. I’d love to see them together! Please don’t make her die again just because Sam likes her! It’s almost the end of the series. Give the guy a break!
Outside the bunker, it was a relief to have Dean reclaim his north star. Dean’s been wallowing in grief and despair for so long. It was all very justified and realistic, but boy, it was nice to see him “clear his head”!
Lee: Good or bad the world doesn't care. No one cares, Dean.
Dean: Well, I do.
Lee: I'm just you that woke up and saw that the world was broken.
Dean: Then you fix it! You don't walk away. You fight for it!
Lee: Why do you care so much, Dean?
Dean: Because someone has to.
That’s our hero!
Sadly, Dean had to lose a friend to be true to his principles. He doesn’t have many friends, and it’s disheartening that he (and Sam, Cas and their few hunter friends) keep ending up alone in their fight for what’s right. Did Dean have a choice in killing Lee? Lee crossed the line, and had proven that he wasn’t above using any means necessary, including murder, to pander to his own desires. The marid was dead, but what was to keep Lee from finding other means to “live the dream”? His murdering streak had gone on for longer than 14 years (assuming his last Texas hunt was soon after he worked with Dean in Arizona, when Sam was in college). He needed to be stopped. The choices that Lee made were a harsh reminder of how easy it would be to give up and give in. Sam, Dean and Cas pull each other back from the brink, though. They keep each other ‘human’.
Living the Dream, aka The End
Despite the tragedy of Lee being the murdering bad guy who had to be killed, his conversation with Dean filled me with hope.
Lee: Well, I did one more case after that, right around here, and I decided that wasn't the life for me anymore.I scrounged up what I could, and I bought this joint. Living the dream.
Dean: Let me ask you something. You ever regret it, walking away?
Lee: Not once.
Besides proving Lee’s lack of remorse for his murderous deeds (and probable intention of continuing as a serial killer), I heard foreshadowing in Dean’s question. Dean is considering owning a bar!
Behind-the-scenes pic from Jeremy Adams
When Michael fabricated Dean’s dream world for him, Dean owned and operated “Rocky’s” bar, but here in the real world is a hunter who retired and opened a bar! “Swayze’s” bore a striking resemblance to “Rocky’s”, complete with FBB product placement.
The friends even talked about the contrast of living the dream versus the way hunters usually expect their life to go:
Dean: Man, so I don't think I've seen you - since Sammy was in college.
Dean: I mean, hell, I thought you were...
Dean: Well, I mean, that's usually how this ends, isn't it?
What if instead of this bleak expectation of death at the hands of something supernatural, this episode foreshadowed a happy ending?
Sam: Dean, Chuck is weak. I think we can beat him. I think we can beat God.
Since Team Free Will has beaten every other big bad that has been thrown at them, I think we all expect that they will somehow prevail against Chuck. What if they don't die in the process, though? What if Sam gets to settle down with Eileen, and Dean gets to open a bar? What if Jeremy even updated Dean's dream: Dean gets to be a rock star in his own bar? I’m an eternal optimist, but I saw a happy ending being hinted at by “Last Call”.
God’s Not Even God
Dean: "We're owed. We deserve." Come on, man. You're not God. Hell, God's not even God.
Oh, please let it be so! When Dean said that phrase to Lee, it stood out to me as being odd – and important. What does it mean? Dean was frustrated with his current predicament and his disappointment in his old friend, and he is obviously still trying to reconcile that Chuck is manipulating people for nothing more than storytelling whims, but God isn’t God? Was this an attempt to distinguish Chuck from the Christian deity that Cas believed in and Sam prayed to all their lives? As you know, I’m completely opposed to turning Chuck into the ultimate monster that has to be defeated for humans to prevail. I don’t for a minute believe that Chuck is an imposter, but it would certainly be fantastic if that is the ultimate truth! Could I get so lucky as to have a happy ending that didn’t involve killing the one and true God? What’s your take on Dean’s statement?
Meta: The Writer
Besides great music, Jensen singing, a phenomenal guest star, the return of characters with purpose and confidence, and the hint of a happy ending, “Last Call” incorporated great meta humor!
Lee: Come on, boy. You can't just sit around lip-syncing "Eye of the Tiger" while no one's watching.
Ha!!! Jeremy took one of Jensen’s behind-the-scenes moments from set and imagined it as something Dean’s friends caught him doing to one of his favorite rock songs!
Dean also admitted one of the funniest, iconic moments from the series to his friend:
Ghost sickness. Man, it was no fun. Everything was scary. This cat jumped out at me, had me checking my pants. I’m not joking. It was awful, man!
Now we’re laughing all over again at a scene that is emblazoned in all our minds!
How about featuring “The Impalas” as the stage band at the bar? Each member of Supernatural’s crew band got a close up and a chance to play on television!
Behind-the-Scenes pic from Jeremy Adams
What an honor and appropriate homage to the band who has played at so many cast parties, and the crew members who have been so much a part of this show since the beginning!
Then there was that over-the-top sheriff! Let’s all encourage “Agent Dukes” (Dukes of Hazzard shout out) to go to LA ‘cause “he’s got the look!”
Last in my list of things I loved about “Last Call”, it included enough myth arc to move along the season’s primary plot line. First, Sergei brought up what might be a solution to their god problem.
You really have no idea about the treasures this place holds, do you? The Men of Letters, some time ago, procured a very important item - a black key, handle in the shape of a skeleton. It can open a door to Death's library.
Since Death once said he would reap God, Death’s library might have a book that details how God can (or will) be killed. That might be a handy bit of knowledge to have!
Sam’s Gunshot Wound
We also learned how Sam and God are connected.
Cas: When you shot God, it fired a piece of your soul. So there may be some of you inside Chuck.
Cas’ attempt to use Sam’s wound as a Google map to God’s location didn’t work out so well. What if there are deeper implications to their connection, though? If the soul is the essence and conscience of what we consider right and wrong, does this mean that a piece of Chuck’s self-absorbed god-complex is now in Sam, and conversely, a piece of Sam’s self-sacrificing hope and pursuit of goodness is now in Chuck?
Also, I have not liked how Sam has looked this entire season. He looks haggard and ill, much like he did at the end of season 8 when he was dying from the trials. Has anyone else noticed that he has looked sick? Now Cas' probe pushed Sam over the edge to the point of dying... again.
Sergei: Most wounds want to be healed, to be whole. But this, this wound is different. It goes down to his very soul. But also out into the world. From what I can tell, his soul, it's connected to something or someone somewhere. Except, as you probed deeper, you forced the soul to stretch from Sam's body to...
Sergei: I don't know. But now it's like a rubber band. If it is stretched too far, too long, pop, it snaps, and Sam dies.
Did Sergei actually heal Sam’s life force, or are we soon to learn that Sam is still in a race against time because his soul is fractured and "stretched"? Is Sam’s soul connection to God still draining the life out of him?
Hearts… and Blood
“Hearts” has been a rather obvious thread in season 15, most notably in physical and emotional deaths resulting from “ripping out hearts” (literally for characters and figuratively for fans). In Dean’s opening scene in “Last Call”, he off-handedly reminded us of this vivid imagery:
Anything? Crop circles? Body without a heart? Anything? Come on, Internet.
As this was the only mention of “heart” in the dialog (other than one use of “sweetheart” but that doesn’t really count), his gruesome search so early in the episode bridged the previous importance of ripping out hearts to whatever significance it may hold in the future.
Blood, on the other hand, continued to be a dominant theme in this episode. The magical creature that Lee held captive needed blood to survive, leading to numerous, powerful visuals of blood: draining from the poor girl who died from exsanguination, of Lee opening Dean’s IV line to coldly subject him to the same fate, of the blood dripping drop by drop into the black void of the cage while draining life from victims, and of the monster’s feeding frenzy to catch drops of his sacrificial life blood. Ironically, the word “blood” was never mentioned in dialog, which might be the first time a thread has been visual but not textual*. Blood was talked about, and the implications were clear, but the subject was assumed, not stated:
Lee: Now, takes a while to drain a man, but listen to me. Don't worry about it, all right? Don't worry because once you lose a couple of pints, you just fall asleep, and then it'll be over.
The intriguing question is, “Why is blood so important?” Sam’s gunshot wound is the focus this year, which isn’t, at least yet, tied to his literal blood - demon, human, Chuck-like or otherwise. Could the thread of blood be analogous to Sam’s “life blood”, i.e. his soul, draining out of him? Of course, the blood could be foreshadowing how someone dies at the end, but we’ll have to wait to see if that’s its intention. Perhaps the connection is blood-lines, as in father and sons.
Father and Sons
Once again this season, "Last Call" brought up the relationships between fathers and sons.
Lee: How's the old man?
Dean: He died. Yeah, 13 years ago. But, hey, he was doing what he loved the most - kicking ass and taking names.
Lee: Yeah. I'm sorry, man.
Dean: I appreciate that.
Lee: I always liked that crusty son of a bitch. You remember that time he caught us wasted on a Hunt? He was so mad, I thought he was gonna have an aneurysm.
Dean: Oh, man, but I tell you what. He always liked you. He always liked you. In fact, he said that he'd never seen anybody better in a fight, and that is high praise coming from my old man.
Lee: To John Winchester.
Why is the season talking about the habits, values, virtues and sins of fathers being passed down to their sons?
Lee: Remember that old song your dad used to play us before we'd go out on a Hunt?
Dean: Yeah. Yeah, he'd pop it in the tape deck, and say, "Listen up, boys. This is real music.”
Lee: He wasn't wrong.
It’s no secret that Dean adopted his love of rock music from his dad (among many other things), and music was a huge part of this episode, but the emphasis on John seemed specific. Yes, it provided a backstory for Lee and Dean’s relationship, so it is logical to give the history of a new “old” friend. Still, I can’t shake the feeling that these reminders of John are building up to him making make another appearance this year to end out the series. Wishful thinking, or are you seeing the writing on the wall too?
Goodbyes and Title Thread
There have been so many goodbyes already this season – to Kevin, Rowena, Ketch, and to Castiel, although that one seems to have been temporary. The end of friendships has also been repeatedly studied. “Last Call”, as the name implies, was yet another goodbye between old friends. Lee and Dean parted as enemies but they were once friends. It seems we’re being slowly and steadily prepared to say goodbye to some of our best friends in just 13 more episodes. I could be wrong. What do you think is the motivation behind the goodbyes?
I realize I haven’t critically analyzed “Last Call”. I haven’t closely studied its logic (like letting Sergei know the bunker’s location) or questioned potential plot holes (was it that easy to break a chair?). That’s because I enjoyed it too much. I loved watching it, plain and simple. It was fun and creative, giving us a moment of meta-Jensen (whether that was intended as such or not), and bringing back aspects of the show that I have missed for a long time. It was upbeat and hopeful (despite losing Lee). It wasn’t the most complex of stories, but hey, we’ve learned that sometimes still water runs deep when it comes to foreshadowing and the season’s messages. I’m happy now. I’ll take that any day.
*In earlier seasons, Wednesday and I both wrote “visual reviews” of episodes, documenting all the wonderful imagery that reinforced themes and threads. I don’t remember any instances of that imagery entirely replacing a thread’s usage in dialog, though. I’d love to be reminded of examples if you recall this storytelling technique being used before.
Transcript Quotes courtesy of Springfield! Springfield.
I'd love to hear your thoughts, below! Let the commenting and questioning begin!
Read more of Nightsky's "Threads" reviews! Links can be found on her writer's page.