The Morning After
So Jack is the new God. Raise your hand if you predicted that would happen. It was an obvious possibility, maybe even the most probable resolution to the standoff between the Winchesters and Chuck. I, for one, don’t mind it at all. I love Jack. He deserves the promotion. The poor kid has had a rather difficult childhood, what with losing his mother in childbirth, watching his father and his adopted fathers die multiple times, losing and regaining his soul, accidentally killing his adopted mother, causing or watching his uncles’ deaths, being tortured and the object of death threats from his grandfather, and dying and being brought back to life himself more than once! It’s been a busy three years for this celestial teenager! Jack is a Winchester, despite what Dean inexplicably said two weeks ago in “Unity”, and Sam, Dean and Castiel can be proud of the person Jack became. He’s a god with a soul. I wonder if that’s a first.
Sam and Dean also got their happy ending… at least for a while. There’s still one more week to go, and anything can happen. I won’t relax until I hear “Carry On Wayward Son” and see the boys driving Baby into the sunset (again). BUT so far, I got the happy ending I’ve been envisioning for forever. I was definitely in the minority, and I swayed off the narrow path to peace last week when they scared me into thinking the boys might deal away their lives and lose everything, but that was a momentarily “lapse in judgement” (as Michael said). For the most part, I’ve been loudly lobbying that the boys should and would win. “Inherit the Earth” delivered at least part of that happy ending because they’re alive and free of Chuck’s manipulations. Having his free will seems to mean everything to Dean (and maybe to Sam, but he’s been a little less vocal about it).
Since I love Jack and I couldn’t be happier with his fate, and I love happy endings and that’s exactly what I got, why am I feeling so ambivalent this morning after?
New Canon… ?
What on earth happened in that episode? After seeing flowers die, Sam and Dean intuitively figured out that Jack became a power vacuum? I’m going to spend way too much time on this but it bugs me.
Dean: Well, it turned him into sort of a power vacuum. He's been sucking up bits of power all over the place. So when the two heavyweights... Your boys... Showed up to duke it out, ohh. That charged him right up. See, we knew Michael would warn you and you'd show up here. And you did. And you killed your own son. And you beat the crap out of us. Releasing all kinds of power. God power. Jack absorbed it all. - It made him... - Well, it made him unstoppable.
So Adam’s rib + 2 archangels’ grace + physical violence = god level power??
I’m left trying to piece together conversations from the last two episodes to see if this makes any sense at all. In “Despair”, Castiel said that Jack had started a chain reaction. It was unclear to me if that meant the explosion was the end result of that chain reaction, or if the explosion was a component, i.e. a link, in that chain reaction, meaning there was still more to the Adam’s rib spell that Billie wasn’t telling them. After Jack survived the explosion, and after Billie read the new ending in Chuck’s book, she said Jack was “still useful’, so she clearly knew then that there was more to come but I don’t think she expected Jack’s power consumption would exponentially grow before the book revealed it to her. Certainly no one else knew.
So why would a few dead plants suggest this power theory to anyone? If Jack was sucking the life out of all living things, why weren’t Sam and Dean dying in the bunker? I could stretch a theory that Chuck made them immortal as punishment but then why didn’t the hunters in the silo turn into mummies in Jack’s presence? Only plants were affected? Was Jack a vegetarian?
Jack then consumed Lucifer and Michael’s power so he’s up by two, but Amara reminded us it took Chuck himself and four archangels to cage her so obviously the grace from two archangels isn’t enough to overpower God. Jack next added to his reservoir the god-level power Chuck momentarily released when he killed Michael. There’s some supercharged amps there but still not enough to match God/Amara together.
Then Sam and Dean purposely prolonged their beatings to get Chuck to expel more of his power. I’m having trouble understanding why a fist fight gave Jack enough of Chuck’s power to make Jack stronger than god. I completely accept that Chuck's hate during his beat down of the boys generated a lot of negative energy in an aura/empathic sense, but he was physically throwing punches not emitting power balls. Yet Jack was impervious to Chuck’s finger snap of death because Sam and Dean were able to get the crap beat out of them. Jack was now strong enough to suck the power right out of Chuck. Yeah, that’s a massive logic leap for me. Jack changed (following the thread we've tracked for a few weeks) for the better and I love the new Jack. Go team, I’m happy Jack won, but what??
Poof, Jack has enough power to restore the world. He’s with Amara now. They’re in harmony. So with all that power, he put things back the way they were? What about the paradise Jack as a fetus showed Castiel? What about the paradise Jack showed Kaia? Is a world where people have true free will enough to be a paradise? Dean didn’t answer this question when Castiel posed it in “Swan Song”,
You got what you asked for, Dean. No paradise. No hell. Just more of the Same. I mean it, Dean. What would you rather have? Peace or freedom?
but Dean chose freedom both then and now. Ten years later, Sam described the world they lived in:
…it's the ending where you're just like us and like all the other humans you forgot about. It's the ending where you grow old, you get sick, and you just die. And no one cares. And no one remembers you. You're just forgotten.
That doesn’t sound like paradise to me. Jack’s not going to be hands-on which means he isn’t going to interfere, but it means he’s also not going to help out.
Sam: What if we want to see you? You know, or have a beer or whatever?
Jack: I'm around. I'll be in every drop of falling rain, every speck of dust that the wind blows, and in the sand, in the rocks, and the sea.
Dean: It's a hell of a time to bail. You got a lot of people counting on you, people with questions. They're gonna need answers.
Jack: And those answers will be in each of them. Maybe not today, but... someday. People don't need to pray to me or to sacrifice to me. They just need to know that I'm already a part of them and to trust in that. I won't be hands on. Chuck put himself in the story. That was his mistake. But I learned from you and my mother and Castiel that... when people have to be their best... they can be. And that's what to believe in. Well... I'm really as close as this. Goodbye.
Sam: See ‘ya, Jack.
I’m really hoping we get to see more of Jack next week. That was the most sudden, most sterile goodbye ever. I’m guessing there wasn’t supposed to be any hugging and they were staying 6 feet apart because of Covid filming regulations, but geez! A few seconds of teary eyes wasn’t the emotional climax I expected! Jack is all wisdom and celestial talk now? See ya, kid didn’t move me to tears – or to anything else for that matter. I truly am going to excuse that presuming they had no choice.
We also said goodbye to Lucifer for the umpteenth time, and to his big bro Michael. Perhaps they were brought back together as an homage to the apocalypse showdown they never had in season 5. Finally, Luci and Mike got to fight – in what has to be the shortest heavyweight match in the history of forever.
Michael: Yeah, a bit winded. I haven't been in a battle like that for several centuries.
Uh, Mikey, you got knocked down once then you delivered the fatal blow! The whole battle lasted maybe 60 seconds! There was no tension or suspense; the whole thing was rather underwhelming, but I didn’t really need to see those two fight again so I’m good with it not taking up a bunch of script time! Then Michael got a death stare from his dear old dad because Chuck has a no-tolerance policy of betrayal. They hadn't seen each other in millennia and all that reunion gave him/us was more family betrayal and Michael's disappointment in his dad. Bye Mike!
We also said goodbye to Death, for the third time. What is with all these unknown reapers showing up for one scene a week? I guess they needed a reaper they hadn’t yet killed so s/he could be sacrificed and become the new Death, but the randomness of it really threw me out of the scene. Julian Richings and Lisa Berry are tough acts to follow… so this was a formidable challenge for any actor, but I just couldn’t buy into snarky Betty (and what was with the pleated skirt?? That wardrobe choice didn’t help!).
So I’m not caring about her at all, then she gets killed with the snap of Lucifer’s fingers! Archangels can kill Death now? I thought they were as or more powerful than God (because they would reap God). I’ve seen a fan theory that Luci was channeling god power when he killed Death. Maybe, but there was no evidence of that since Luci also used to snap fingers to reign terror. It would have been better for that to have been clear because otherwise it’s another logic leap to get from point A to point B.
The “climactic” goodbye was to Chuck as god. I put “climactic” in quotes because he was outsmarted by the Winchesters. He didn’t die a spectacular death or lose in a fight-to-the-finish. Rather, Sam and Dean saw through Michael’s deception, deciphered Jack’s condition and potential “usefulness”, devised a scheme to trick Chuck, then used themselves as diversions to get Chuck’s attention away from Jack. Sam and Dean trapped Chuck via a mind game they played on him. They saved the world again but instead of Sam throwing himself into Hell, or sacrificing himself to blood trials; instead of Dean going with Death to the Empty, exploding himself with a soul bomb, or trapping himself in the living hell of a Ma’lak box for all time - they thought their way out of this one.
Jack may have had the power but he would never have been able to pull this off without Sam and Dean’s save-the-world strategies, courage and experience. This ending was 15 years in the making. Every defeat they suffered, every lesson they taught Jack, every “we’ll find another way” desperate move they played to buy themselves more time, got them to the end of Chuck’s book.
The boys let Chuck live. Just as he originally spared their lives so he could watch them drown in guilt and loneliness, they spared his life to force him to live the life of a lowly human. The compassion that Castiel saw in Dean, and that we’ve been tracking through several recent stories, foreshadowed that Sam, Dean and Jack would choose to not kill their enemy. Were they being as cruel to him as he was being to them, or were they truly showing mercy to a “monster” who no longer posed a threat? Once Jack confirmed Chuck couldn’t retaliate because it was “no longer his power” to reclaim, Sam gave him a tongue lashing rather than a physical beating or a mortal wound. A show that has been about death more often than not, ended non-violently. Even the song, “Get Together” is a call for peace, harmony and love, acknowledging our mortality in the eyes of a divinity:
Love is but a song to sing
Fear's the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing
And you may not know why
Some may come and some may go
We shall surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment's sunlight
Fading in the grass
If you hear the song I sing
You will understand (listen!)
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It's there at your command
Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
This song was released in 1967, a decade that was marked by war and civil unrest in the US, countered with hippie power and universal love – a throwback to Adam and Serafina's beads and flower power in "Unity".
Things could have gone very differently in this episode. Seven minutes into the story, the boys offered themselves to Chuck in a plea to get him to back down. He could have accepted their deal, eventually killing them in an ostentatious, vindictive strike, which would have been the final power surge Jack needed to overthrow Chuck. That plot may have been more dramatic than the peaceful solution we saw, but my heart has always told me that it would have been irresponsible for them to have killed Sam and Dean after 15 years. Too many people have drawn their identities, their moral compasses and their emotional strength from this show and these boys. I didn’t want it all to be a “dream” and I would have been catatonic had it all been in vain.
Instead, the show concluded that character growth, i.e. maturing as human beings, means replacing violence with compassion, rage with quiet thought, and power trips with humility. The boys won, quietly.
Sam: It's pretty quiet.
Dean: Mm-hmm. To everyone that we lost along the way.
The means by which they won were nebulous at best, or fabricated wand waving at worst, but at least we weren’t left bereft with grief. I’m disappointed the episode wasn’t flawless, suspenseful, emotional and satisfying but I honestly don’t know how much of that was the writers versus circumstances. Some of both I suspect.
I didn’t love “Inherit the Earth” the first two times I watched it, but I didn't hate it either. Mostly I was left feeling empty. It did everything I wanted it to do, so I wanted to love it. It saved Sam, Dean and Jack and gave us a happy ending. It just felt like it had to work so hard to get there, just like I was working so hard to be happy about it. Jared, Jensen, Alex, Rob, Jake and Mark also seemed to have to work so hard to deliver emotion that wasn’t in the script - or in the circumstances of the filming.
Notice the placement of the actors in each scene. They are almost always several feet apart, with the guest actors even further away from Jared and Jensen. Rob was in fields and across parking lots; Mark and Jake were across tables and down church aisles. That isolation doesn’t exactly lend itself to emotionally intense interactions. I believe the drone and street scenes of deserted public places were actual shots from the pandemic quarantine months, which added to the feeling of emptiness. It was all done very subtly by director John Showalter, but the Covid restrictions prevented the bonding that we are so used to seeing on this show.
Storywise, Dean’s few moment of hope and happiness - finding a dog he named “Miracle” and getting a phone call from Castiel - were coldly snatched from him. Again, hope for life turned to death. Even Jack’s ultimate victory, with him glowing white with a smile on his face, ended with him saying goodbye and walking away without a hug! I didn’t want to lose Jack at the one moment they could celebrate together! All we got was a three minute musical interlude of happiness before the episode turned sad again!
Most of the show’s images, conversations and music (which was excellent by the way) were about sadness, loneliness, betrayal and “surrendering”; never triumph or the bonding that is the hallmark of this show. There was no hugging and very little touching. People were physically distant in addition to emotionally distant, which made the episode feel distant. Maybe the episode was trying to convey despair, and only the last few minutes were meant to be hopeful. Maybe the happiness is being reserved for next week. It’s hard to love a happy ending when 95% of the episode is sad.
Chuck: You know, eternal suffering sounds good on paper, but as a viewing experience, it's just kind of... eh.
A perfect meta commentary on my reaction to the show! The few truly genuine, organic happy moments I felt weren’t until the very end:
You know, with Chuck not writing our story anymore, we get to write our own. You know, just you and me going wherever the story takes us. Just us. Finally free.
That was Jensen and Jared talking as much (or more so) than Dean talking to Sam. They are free to chase the next adventure down their individual roads. They were also physically closer in that scene than in any other.. and all felt right with the world for a moment. Then the shot of the new names carved into the table - their legacy and the legacy of Supernatural. That was honest, true emotion. The montage at the end of the story also made me so very proud of them and this show. Seeing everything they’ve gone through, and all the people along the way that they and we have loved dearly, I’m glad they got their happy ending, no matter how difficult it was to deliver.
Sure, I would have preferred a much stronger ending to Chuck’s story, but I never liked what they did with him after season 11. Given that “the monster at the end of this book” was crafted to be Chuck, at least they didn’t kill god. Sam and Dean defeated the ultimate monster, freed humanity and replaced “a cruel, cruel, capricious god” with a sweet, loving, naïve, innocent soul – and they are alive to enjoy their victory – at least until next week.
So my final opinion? On my third viewing of the show, I ignored all the questions (ahem, plot holes and logic leaps) of how they got to the end, and just reveled in the joy of Jack being god and the boys being together on the road. “Running on Empty” got to me. That’s how the episode felt, the boys must feel and we all feel these days. Maybe it was the perfect ending after all.
Jake Abel tweeted this picture of his signed, final script on Supernatural. If that doesn't bring you to tears, I don't know what will.
I raised many questions, and the episodes raised even more, so please share your thoughts below!
Catch up on Nightsky's "Threads" reviews! Links can be found on her writer's page.
I'm extremely grateful to Forever Dreaming for getting their transcripts posted so fast!
Thank you for Superwiki for the image of Jack (until WFB's screencaps are available).