Oh man, talk about a middle-aged woman having an ugly cry…

I’m stunned, but probably not in the way most of the SPN Family are.  When I interviewed Andrew Dabb at Comic Con in July 2019, he already knew what the ending was.  He pitched it to Jared and Jensen, and was now breaking the waters with the media.  He joked that about 30 percent would like the ending.  Knowing how controversial Dabb’s scripts are most of the time, part of me was thinking he was dead on. 

I’m floored to say that I ended up being one of those 30 percent (if it’s that low).  I never thought that would happen.  I loved “Carry On.”  The last few days I’ve watched it numerous times, so many thoughts racing in my head that once I committed it to paper, I had one long ass review done.  So, the choice was I could ask you all to grab some coffee and dig in for the long haul, or just break it up into two parts so you all can digest it a bit more.  I opted for the latter.  

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In terms of a finale, this wasn't quite “Swan Song.”  The script was very basic, but it did all it needed to do. What knocked the episode into the stratosphere was a collective effort.  Outstanding acting, directing, cinematography, score, music, editing…in other words everything else.  The visual storytelling (show, don’t tell) is perhaps the best in the series.  The emotional scenes are stronger than any other.  Everyone must have been fueled with pure emotion when they put “Carry On” together and it showed.  As a fan, I am so grateful. 

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Bottom line, this was a series finale.  It was tasked with one main purpose, wrap up the Sam and Dean Winchester story.  “Inherit the Earth” took care of season fifteen, so this episode started with the “What happens next?”  The rest of their lives it seems, even if one was cut tragically short.  Family has always been the primary theme in this show above all else.  That is exactly what they sold here in the most spectacular way.   

Brothers in Arms

These mist covered mountains
Are a home now for me
But my home was the lowlands
And always will be
Someday you'll return to
Your valleys and your farms
And you'll no longer burn to be
Brothers in arms

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I know the ideal ending of many fans was brothers riding out their time on earth together, much like the opening montage.  Saving people, hunting things, the family business, with a little fun in between.  Now they even have a dog!  Welcome to the team Miracle.  However, the writing on the wall has been there for most of the series.  That was never going to happen.  One or both were destined to meet an early demise.  It’s part of the life they lived.  The question asked here was if one brother dies and one brother lives, how will the other carry on?  Turns out, with family in their heart.

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Dean’s demise was a painful reminder about of the fragility of human life.  No matter what happens, anyone can be there one moment and gone the next.  Sam and Dean have benefitted from some very good luck through the series, but perhaps with Chuck gone and Jack vowing no interference, his death was that borrowed time coming to an end.  That’s why I’m not stunned or outraged that a piece of rebar through the back took our hero out.  It really doesn’t matter how it happened.  What is true is he died exactly the way he wanted, saving two kids and going out swinging while killing some vamps.  It was a hero’s ending. 

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Through these fields of destruction
Baptism of fire
I've watched all your suffering
As a battle raged high
And though they did hurt me so bad
In the fear and alarm
You did not desert me
My brothers in arms

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Dean’s death was more bittersweet than tragic.  No, it wasn’t a quick death, but it gave Dean that precious time to say goodbye to Sam and prepare Sam for a life without him.  At first viewing I thought Dean’s death scene was too long and bloated, but as I watched it a few times after (okay, many), I realized it was perfect.  He knew he was dying, but he had to give Sam time to let it sink in.  Most of all, he needed Sam’s acceptance or he couldn’t go in peace.  He stayed strong, hopeful, and accepting, doing everything he could to soften the blow for Sam in the short time he had left. 

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Sam: I can't do this alone.
Dean: Yes you can.
Sam: Yeah, well, I don't want to.

This dialogue was one of the many callbacks in this episode to prior moments in the series.  Here, it’s the Pilot in reverse and we have come full circle.  Another big call out, the closeups of Sam and Dean during this scene, a la the trademark visual storytelling used by the legendary late director Kim Manners.  Just looking at the expression on Sam’s face as it slowly turned from triumph to “I can fix this” to panic that something isn’t right to outright tearful acceptance that this is finally the moment he has to say goodbye, its tragically gorgeous.  I’ve used the terms Winchester ballet before, but this time seemed greater than that.  I have no words to describe it actually.   

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It had to take every ounce of strength for Sam to tell Dean it would be okay and he could go now.  It went against every fiber in his being, but he did it out of pure love for his brother.  Then there's Dean's tearful relief to get that blessing, which added another crushing blow to the whole scenario.  There were so many gentle nuances that sold this scene.  This was easily one of Jared and Jensen’s best performances, if not the best.  I can only imagine how emotionally wrecked they were after filming this, which no doubt required multiple takes.  I’m emotionally wrecked each time I watch it, which turns out to be more times than a fan girl probably should. 

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So many different worlds
So many different suns
And we have just one world
But we live in different ones

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This is the first time we have seen either of these guys on the funeral pyre.  Sure they’ve died before, but they’ve never been salted and burned.  A salt and burn makes a death final, so the reality of this hit me pretty quick.  The visual storytelling thrived in this montage with no words, just a heartbroken Sam and Miracle standing by the pyre, Sam fumbling with the lighter as if he could still fix this, but then accepting that would go against Dean’s wishes as he throws it into the pile.  My heart turned sour in the overhead shot, knowing that was Dean was under that shroud this time, the acceptance by both Sam and the audience that this death was going to stick.   How would Sam go on?  How would we all?  The way the entire sequence was shot coupled with this gorgeous haunting song added immensely to the gravity of the situation. 

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Sam’s heartbreaking grief over Dean’s death was so much more crushing this time. He’s been here before, but there would be no miracle.  Despite his overwhelming heartache, he had to go on.  He had to “Always Keep Fighting.”  He promised.  He still got up in the morning, he still fixed breakfast (achingly for one instead of two), and when the call came, he went on a hunt, despite every bit of him wishing he was with Dean.  He did all that out of love for his brother. 

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Now the sun's gone to hell
And the moon's riding high
Let me bid you farewell
Every man has to die
But it's written in the starlight
And every line in your palm
We are fools to make war
On our brothers in arms

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Did I ever mention that Dire Straits’ “Brother in Arms” is one of my favorite songs?  A beautiful, haunting ballad that perfectly closes out the Sam and Dean Winchester story.  I will never listen to it the same way again.  It means so much more now.     

Carry On Wayward Son

Once I rose above the noise and confusion
Just to get a glimpse beyond this illusion
I was soaring ever higher
But I flew too high
Though my eyes could see, I still was a blind man
Though my mind could think, I still was a mad man
I hear the voices when I'm dreaming
I can hear them say
Carry on, my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more

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“Carry On Wayward Son” is about legacy and family, two crucial themes of this show.  It’s the song that kicked off every season ender in the series before now for a reason.  It’s because the fight wasn’t over.  The fight started long before Sam and Dean were born, and it still carries on when they are gone. 

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Sam had to accept the task of being the one to continue the Winchester family legacy.  Eventually he married Eileen.  Yes, it was her, why else would they have setup their romance otherwise?  That woman on the porch was Eileen shaped.  As a result another Dean Winchester was born.  The next generation. 

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Masquerading as a man with a reason
My charade is the event of the season
And if I claim to be a wise man, well
It surely means that I don't know
On a stormy sea of moving emotion
Tossed about, I'm like a ship on the ocean
I set a course for winds of fortune
But I hear the voices say
Carry on my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry no more, no

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The flashbacks of Sam raising his son Dean just made the tears worse.  Sam looked happy.  He was always smiling and looked so proud of his son.  The one time he wasn’t smiling was when young Dean wasn’t around, when he took the tarp off Baby in the garage, a nice contrast to grieving Dean in season six’s “Exile on Main Street.”  Talk about letting the visuals tell the story (yes I looked past the bad wig).  Sam climbed into Baby, took off his glasses and slowly clutched the wheel, as if he was channelling Dean in Heaven at that very moment.  Baby was his closest connection to his brother and naturally he got emotional.  He should have.  His expression seemed like a promise that he would be with Dean eventually.  As for now, he wasn’t finished yet. 

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Carry on, you will always remember
Carry on, nothing equals the splendor
Now your life's no longer empty
Surely heaven waits for you
Carry on, my wayward son
There'll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don't you cry, don't you cry no more

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Sam’s death scene as an old man was a crucial yet gorgeous piece of this story.  It was an overwhelming visual of the show’s primary theme, family is all that matters.  His son was by his side, offering the same permission that Sam gave Dean some 40 to 50 years earlier.  I adored how Sam teared up and smiled, knowing his work was officially done and he could go in peace.  It wasn’t just his son though offering the blessing.  Behind him was the wall of pictures of his family - John, Mary, Bobby, Dean, and Dean II.  They were all there with him as he crossed onto the other side, all the people that mattered the most. 

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One More Ugly Cry Coming

What can be said about Sam and Dean’s reunion in Heaven?  Again, not many words, but the sheer beauty of the landscape surrounding them, the peaceful serenity of the surroundings, and the relief that after everything they have been through, they are finally together.   They didn’t need a teary or overly emotional reunion, they shed enough tears when they parted.  It’s all over.  They are in their happy place.  And it’s a beautiful place.   There is peace now that they’re done. 

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I cannot say enough about how special it is for a TV show to take precious time during a series  finale to thank the fans for making all of this possible.  I don’t think that’s ever been done before.  Jared and Jensen have always been best friends to the fandom and their words meant the world to me, as did the entire crew joining them on that bridge to say goodbye.  I swear I teared up worse during that moment than anything.  I’ve grown to adore and love everyone who has given their hearts and minds to this show over the last 15 years.  Thanks so much for the memories and I wish you all well in your futures. 

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(Coming up in part II, I dig into the show's history a bit to prove why this was the best possible ending, plus you get my final grade!)

Screencaps provided by the most awesome Raloria.   She had her work cut out for her this week!