I know, I hear a lot of you, why did it have to be this ending? There are many reasons and the blueprint has been there for years. After everything, this finale was really the best way to tie to whole story together and be true to the show’s canon. This episode was not going to resolve all the loose ends. There were just too many and its mind boggling to think anyone could wrap up much in 40 minutes when dealing with 326 episodes behind them. The only hope was to deliver something satisfying at a high level while staying true to the overall themes. So, was that accomplished?
(Miss part one of this review? Check it out here)
Why This Was the Best Possible Ending
I’ve heard the complaints, Dean deserved happiness too. Trust me when I say, he got it. All he ever wanted was for Sam to have a normal life. His entire life mission was to assure that. He also knew the life would get him. In my most recent reviews I pointed out how they were setting up an early demise for Dean. He was being consumed by the life. He drank too much. He was often angry and was in an all out rage during his showdown with Chuck. He was so out of it he pulled a gun on Sam! Luckily baby brother brought him out of that, saving him from himself time and time again, but it wouldn’t be enough for him to have thrived outside of the life. In a way, finally attending a pie festival was all he needed to check off all his life goal boxes.
Dean took on that role of protecting Sam proudly when he was only four years old! Remember season two’s “What is and What Should Never Be?” In his ideal world, Sam and Jessica were together and he went to law school. He couldn’t live with the thought of Sam being dead, thus triggering the demon deal in “All Hell Breaks Loose Part II” where he essentially sacrificed himself so Sam could live. Everything he did through most of the series was to protect Sam. He had an angel posses Sam in season nine so his brother could heal from his mortal wounds, knowing it went against Sam's wishes. Then he did the unthinkable, he said “Yes” to Michael in season 13’s “Let the Good Times Roll,” something he would have never done if Sam’s life wasn’t at stake.
At the same time, Dean only ever saw hunting as the life for himself. He tried family life with Ben and Lisa because Sam made him promise during “Swan Song,” but it didn’t work out. It never felt right to him. Or how about this crucial piece of dialogue season 8’s “Trial and Error?” (Which happens to be an Andrew Dabb script). He pretty much spelled out where he saw both of their futures.
Dean: Because of the three trials crap -- God's little obstacle course. We've been down roads like this before, man -- with Yellow-Eyes, Lucifer, Dick friggin' Roman. We both know where this ends -- one of us dies... Or worse.
Sam: So, what -- you just up and decided it's gonna be you?
Dean: I'm a grunt, Sam. You're not. You've always been the brains of this operation.
Dean: And you told me yourself that you see a way out. You see a light at the end of this ugly-ass tunnel. I don't. But I tell you what I do know -- it's that I'm gonna die with a gun in my hand. 'Cause that's what I have waiting for me -- that's all I have waiting for me. I want you to get out. I want you to have a life -- become a Man of Letters, whatever. You, with a wife and kids and -- and -- and grandkids, living till you're fat and bald and chugging Viagra -- that is my perfect ending, and it's the only one that I'm gonna get.
Then there’s this conversation he had with John in “Lebanon.”
John: Dean. I, uh -- I never meant for this.
Dean: Dad, we pulled you here.
John: No, son. My fight. It was supposed to end with me, with Yellow Eyes. But now you -- you are a grown man, and I am incredibly proud of you. I guess that I had hoped, eventually, you would... get yourself a normal life, a peaceful life, a family.
Dean: I have a family.
They established in the Pilot right away that all Sam ever wanted was a normal life. That was constantly reinforced through the series. There was season four’s “After School Special,” where young Sam talked to his teacher about not wanting to go into the family business. Even one of the more recent episodes, “Drag Me Away (From You),” reminded us of that desire. In season 8, after Dean was gone, Sam went after that normal life and enjoyed it, but was pulled back into hunting when Dean came back. When he had the chance to go back to Amelia and have that domestic life, he chose to stay with Dean because they still had more work to do. He stayed with Dean out of duty to his brother, but the hints, like him pursuing a relationship with Eileen, were always there that he wanted more.
There has also been mention through the series, like season 8’s “As Time Goes By,” about legacy. The Winchester family name was important and was meant to continue. There was Mary’s family, The Campbells, who were a hunting family. The tradition of hunting and saving people went too deep into the family blood. It would have been nice if both Sam and Dean could have children, but it was often foreshadowed that would be Sam’s destiny. It seems fitting that it would be Sam, since he was the one doomed from the start by Mary’s deal. He was the one that John and Dean fought so hard to protect. He was the one that ultimately could pull off that life because he was the one that desired it.
Even in “Carry On,” the first 15 minutes had very important clues as to what was going to happen. There was the pie festival scene. As cute as it was, they were setting it up to be Dean’s last hurrah. He did say it was his destiny. These words also foreshadowed what was coming, “That pain's not gonna go away. Right? But if we don't keep living, then all that sacrifice is gonna be for nothing.” Sam had no choice but to live his life the way he thought Dean, John, Mary, and all the others that mattered in his life wanted him to. He owed it to them for all their sacrifices.
Dean’s last heroic act was making sure Sam would get his normal life. He broke the cycle of the Winchesters cheating death, paying the ultimate sacrifice so Sam could move on. This whole saving each other started with season one’s “Faith,” and each rescue from the jaws of death proved to be more and more catastrophic to the natural order. They were always living on borrowed time. Dean knew that Sam would never have the life he wanted with him around. He finally did the right thing and let go and made Sam promise to let go as well. By doing that at the end they both found peace, just in different ways.
"Supernatural" also followed the paths of some other TV shows as well in its finale. Another show that I used to cover for our now defunct sister site TV For The Rest of Us was “Person of Interest.” In that series one of the main characters, John Reese, sacrificed himself in the finale to save the others. It was a very sad end for a character we knew and loved, but at the same time, it was the only end that he could have had. He was a soldier and any attempts at domestic life or happiness didn’t sit right with him. He was too beholden to duty, to protect others. It was ingrained in his being. His only option was to go out a hero. I very much equate Dean Winchester’s demise the same way. It’s not a sad end. It’s a hero’s end and heroes go out swinging.
Or, you can equate this ending with another big CW show, “The Vampire Diaries.” In their finale Stefan Salvatore sacrificed himself so brother Damon could live out his days with the love of his life, Elena, as a human again. It was tragically sad, but ultimately the brothers met again in the end in Heaven. The sacrifice was worth the cost. It’s an often done theme, but it’s still the same idea, in the end family is all that matters. That is worth the ultimate sacrifice. It just hurts like hell to see it, but that shows how much we care about these characters. The creators did their job well to evoke this kind of emotional investment.
Other Random Thoughts
There’s still so much to say that I haven’t covered. How about a few thoughts speed round style:
- I squealed when Miracle jumped into Dean’s arms in the beginning. I’ve always said those guys should have a dog and I was disappointed when it didn’t happen last week. I’m going to have to find the behind the scenes story of who that dog is.
- Shirtless Sam! How did I miss thee. As much as I loved seeing how ripped the boy still is after all these years (remember the first shirtless reveal in season one?), showing his trademark anti-possession tattoo was an important parallel. It’s the hunters badge of honor and now that tattoo is on the arm of Sam’s adult son. It was our message that he would be carrying on the legacy that his great grandfathers, grandfather, uncle, father and mother started before him. After all, evil is not gone in the world. It will always be there. I’m not sure if he’ll be carrying on that fight as a hunter, but he knows what’s out there. I’m just thrilled one of those names will still be Winchester.
- Their FBI alias were Singer and Kripke. Just perfect!
- Kim Manners' tree. Enough said. I got to see that tree while location touring once. I swear there’s a picture our touring group under that tree somewhere. I know Nightsky was there too! It’s grown since I last saw it.
- I loved seeing wisecracking Dean when he was captured by the vamps and Jenny walked in. It was a fun stall while waiting for Sam to pull himself together. It was classic Dean Winchester, which again enhanced the fact he went out on his terms.
- I’m assuming everyone noticed the easter egg that Sam was called to work a case in Austin, Texas. Think they’re plugging the new show (and his hometown) a bit much?
- So happy that Bobby was there to great Dean in Heaven. He should have been the one. Offering an El Sol in front of Harvelle’s Roadhouse, softening the blow that he may be there alone but not for long, sharing the news of the new Heaven, it perfectly reminds us of the special relationship Dean and Bobby had. I love how Dean’s tastes in beer have changed through the years. No more of that lawnmower crap.
- As I mentioned before, there were some nice parallels in this episode to prior episodes. Another one I hadn’t mentioned was Sam reaching behind Dean’s back and seeing the blood, much like what Dean did when Sam died in his arms in “All Hell Breaks Loose Part 1.” I’m a little freaked by the monkey statue from the Roadhouse returning though.
- Sam died with Dean’s watch on. Oh man, those tears are coming back again…
(Watch on Dean)
(Watch on elderly Sam)
Here are my fanwanks from this episode:
- Sam passed on the business to other hunters, offering the Men of Letters bunker as a headquarters. He offered some research support here and there. Did young Dean enter the family business? That’s what the sequels will cover, but I say yes. But he did it the smart way, more leadership behind the scenes, more embracing the Men of Letters part of the legacy, honoring his Dad’s wishes to stay alive and enjoy life.
- Jack restored Heaven by bringing back many or all angels from The Empty. Castiel just happened to be a lucky recipient!
- Castiel is running Heaven. Nuff said. He’s going to check in on Sam and Dean now and then.
More Thoughts About the End, Fan Girl Perspective
I do feel for those that were disappointed. So much energy is poured into fandom on a daily basis, and the build up to the end can inevitably be a massive letdown. There has been plenty of romantic notions about our heroes and it's often hard to separate the chemistry and camaraderie between the actors with the fact that this is a dark, tragic story of two brothers named Winchester. Together forever in Heaven was the best it was going to get because their life on earth was never meant to be peaceful.
I remember this same controversy happened after "Swan Song." There was a lot of nastiness online, which is a shame because everyone that worked on the episode poured their hearts into it, especially the guy who wrote it, Eric Kripke. That episode after all was his swan song as well. He was a bit thrown back by all the criticism and I felt really bad for him consider the episode was his masterpiece. Eventually it all blew over. "Carry On," much like "Swan Song" was an emotional sucker punch. Pain causes all sorts of emotions. It's going to hurt to watch this in the future. That means that everyone did their jobs. They made us care. That's a major testament to a show that's been on the air 15 years that they can do that. We aren't going to forget this. But yeah, for now, it's going to be a major bummer for many.
I never thought this finale would impact me the way it did. My emotional engagement in this show has been waning through the years. The plots were getting too mundane, too ludicrous and every week was a weaker version of something that had already been done. But I'm someone whose interest hinges on storylines, not just seeing the actors on my screen every week. Maybe that's why I'm able to embrace this ending. TV shows were not meant to last forever. The cast and crew needed the next phase, and we as fans should be very happy for them as they take on new adventures.
For me, this ending has changed the way I’ll watch the show from now on. When I saw that little toddler with “Dean” on his overalls in the arms of a smiling dad Sam, I busted out into tears. Full on ugly sobbing. Fine, I was already teary when Dean was happily riding in Baby in Heaven, but this is something I’ve always wanted to see for Sam because this was his dream. When I watch episodes in prior seasons, especially the early ones, my heart breaks over Sam’s story because he never got a fair shake in life. He felt cursed and many horrible things happened to him that were beyond his control, but he went through it all to protect others, despite his own hopes and dreams. Seeing this ending, knowing he comes out okay, knowing he creates a legacy, even with the heartbreak of losing Dean, it makes a huge difference to me.
I won’t be heartbroken for Dean either, knowing he went out heroically, the way he always wanted. That’s what made him so fun to watch. Everything was on his own terms. I’m comforted knowing he ended up at peace, in a Heaven that would make him happy. That’s all he ever wanted, spending eternity with his family. Even the ones that don’t end in blood.
I’m most stunned that Andrew Dabb finally setup the perfect sequel. The next generation of hunters. I want to see this next phase, the story of Dean Winchester II. There can be others, like the two boys in the beginning that suffered the deadly attack on their family by vamps. Whatever happened to Ben? How about Jack’s reset of the world ruined the memory wipe? There has to be others out there inspired by how they were saved by the Winchesters (not interested in seeing Krissy again though). As Bobby once said, you get started with hunting somehow.
I’m going to start looking for fan fics about this next chapter, or, I just might write my own. I had to put down my fan fiction writing to run this site twelve years ago. Maybe it’s time I start it back up again. But that’s just one way “Supernatural” has inspired fans to carry on its legacy. “Supernatural” has spurned imaginations and brought out the best in people through charity and fan support as well as opening up many outlets of creativity. We are all better for this experience. The focus now becomes how all WE carry on, the SPN Family. That part of our lives is not ending, and we need to rely on each other now more than ever. There’s still plenty of good to do in this world. I think that's what everyone needs to remember when feeling that outrage over this ending.
Overall grade, an A. The first 15 minutes of the episode take it away from an A+. Thank you Andrew Dabb, you delivered your absolute best for last. Thank you all SPN Family for this amazing ride. I’m going to find a corner and do so more weeping, then get back to work. I need to finish reviews on about 50 some episodes that I never wrote reviews for (like all of season nine), plus there will be plenty of SPN related news happening since this is a restless fandom. Our mission at the WFB isn’t over. Hopefully yours isn’t as well.
Screencaps provided by the most awesome Raloria. She had her work cut out for her this week!