Supernatural Season 9 Finale Review: Paint it Blackby Clarissa / May 20, 2014
Supernatural has been a show with standout season finales. “All Hell Breaks Loose”, “Devil’s Trap”, “Lucifer Rising”, and “Swan Song” are among my favorite finales. They were fraught with emotion, they were often very action-packed and they moved along the mytharcs in a big way.
I’m of two minds about Jeremy Carver’s “Do You Believe in Miracles”. On the one hand, I appreciate the (tentative) mending of Sam and Dean’s bond after a season filled to the brim with their discord. That emotion was both good and genuine, particularly coming from Sam. On the other hand, I don’t believe that there was enough overall emotion, it wasn’t very action packed and, aside from Dean’s story, the rest of the mytharcs didn’t progress enough. I think the problem lay in the fact that this season had far too many disconnected and occasionally conflicting stories. Unlike in seasons past (including season 8) there was no one goal and the season suffered heavily for it. But that is a discussion for my season review roundtable that will be posted next week (stay tuned for more information on that). Instead, let’s focus on the finale.
The Door to Heaven
Once again, the episode was divided into two separate, though connected, storylines. Picking up where we left off, we saw Sam and Castiel trying to hold Dean back from truly killing Gadreel and they succeeded, locking him in the bunker dungeon until they could figure out how to handle him. But Dean is wily and he summoned Crowley to help him escape.
Meanwhile, Castiel and Sam realized that Gadreel had left the bunker (shocking, I know, after Dean’s “warm” welcome) and they managed to track him down. They returned to discover Dean was missing and Sam was distraught, but when Gadreel learned about the Mark of Cain and the First Blade he realized that Dean could be instrumental in killing Metatron.
Thus began the “borrowing” of many themes and even scenes from past finales. Gadreel and Castiel headed off to find the Angel Tablet and remove it from Metatron’s control, because it was giving him his enormous power. Getting rid of it would turn him into nothing more than any other regular angel. And off Sam went to find Dean (which played heavily into “Swan Song”, as we’ll soon see).
Gadreel and Castiel did find the door to Heaven and made it there, but they quickly realized their “Star Wars” wookie ruse was uncovered and they were promptly thrust into Heaven’s prison. But Gadreel was having none of it. He had spent thousands of years wasting away in a cell, thinking of nothing but his own redemption. And he realized that his own redemption was both important and unimportant in the grand scheme of things. In the end, his redemption was to die (yes, on Supernatural this is not a shocking concept, we know), and he gave up his grace so that Castiel could go free, thereby convincing Hannah that Cas was also a good guy. As Castiel tore up Metatron’s office looking for the Tablet, his new “God” was down on Earth trying to gather even more followers.
There’s a problem with Metatron that’s become abundantly clear as Supernatural has progressed this season: he’s not a good villain. He’s not scary or creepy like Lucifer or Azazel or Lilith were. He’s not even deliciously campy like Crowley is or Abaddon was. He’s more on the level of Dick Roman, but without the pure charisma that James Patrick Stewart brought to the role that managed to elevate Dick to something more than the way he was written. Metatron is….boring. And it’s not Curtis Armstrong’s fault, because he is great in the role. The problem is that Metatron doesn’t seem to represent anything more than a whiny angel who’s pissed at Daddy. And guess what? We got that already. And we got it better. I long for the days of angels like Zachariah or Gabriel or Anne or Raphael. Instead we get Metatron who is throwing a hissy fit because…why? I’m not certain.
When taking over Heaven was finally complete with the casting out of Castiel last week, Metatron set his sights on humans. Because apparently the guy just wants to be worshiped 24/7. And so he performed some miracles in front of humans and became their new Messiah. Why? Again, does it matter?
Doing What You Have to Do
The other main problem with Metatron became clear when Dean and Crowley caught on to Metatron’s rather public miracles and found out that Sam was on the case too. But before we get to that, let’s talk about how “Swan Song” came into play here. Sam is angry with Dean for what happened with Gadreel and the fact that Dean lied to him. For him, it seems, the biggest problem was the fact that Gadreel killed Kevin using Sam’s body (because, let’s be honest, Supernatural was never going to tackle issues like “Sam’s agency”). Which is still a valid complaint no matter how you slice it. But Sam realized that sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do in order to get the job done. And so while it’s clear that he did not approve of the path Dean was traveling down, he realized it was necessarily to kill Metatron, just like Dean accepted letting Sam jump into the pit in order to defeat Lucifer.
But Dean knocked out Sam and was prepared to go into this fight alone. And here’s the other big problem with Metatron: the lack of connection to the Winchesters. This was one of my biggest complaints about season 7 that ended up being (mostly) fixed in season 8: if the two main heroes of the story don’t have enough of a connection to the main villains, it’s hard to care about the story as a whole. When Dean faced off against Metatron he told him that he was doing it because Metatron had killed Kevin (a valid complaint and while I adore Kevin — because I do — it’s still hard to claim that his death, which came half way through the season, is enough to justify all of this today) and because Metatron had stolen Castiel’s grace (which, again, was a bad thing, but…). And…that’s it. That’s why Dean was pursuing him with such intensity (aside, of course, from the bloodlust caused by his current condition). While both of those reasons are justified, they lack the kind of overly personal connection to the Winchesters (the death of their mother, the search for their father, the quest to save Dean from his deal, the connection to Lucifer and Michael, and the need to close the Gates of Hell after everything demons had done to them) that has driven so many mytharcs throughout the history of Supernatural.
Fortunately, this is when the episode really started ramping up. Until that point I felt slightly underwhelmed, particularly as Metatron and his desire to become a Messiah story was given such a large focus in the episode. But here’s where things got interesting, because while I had anticipated Dean dying, I didn’t suspect that Metatron would be the one to kill him, and certainly not so “early on” in the episode (I thought it would happen in the last few moments).
But happen it did, as Metatron rammed Dean through with an angel blade only moments before Castiel managed to locate the Tablet up in Heaven and smash it. Cue a very good Winchester brother scene as Sam looked on, horrified, while Dean was slowly dying. He gathered up his brother (after Metatron split) and prepared to walk him right to a doctor who so clearly wouldn’t be able to save his life. And when Dean reminded Sam that he didn’t want to save his life, Sam threw all of that out the window by saying “I lied”. Jared Padalecki has been insisting for a while now that Sam’s speech at the end of “The Purge” was Sam lashing out at Dean and wanting to hurt him. And while I never believed Sam hated Dean enough to simply let him die (especially since a lot of scenes in episodes after that proved otherwise), the ghost of that pronouncement hanging over the brothers’ heads for half the season became a tedious and fracturous thing, so I’m glad that it was, to a large degree, disposed of in the finale.
But Dean, he just wanted to die rather than become something he couldn’t control. But before he did so he stopped his brother and basically reenacted “All Hell Breaks Loose”. This time, however, Dean managed the final words that Sam never got, telling his brother “I’m proud of us”. Supernatural hasn’t made me cry in a long time (not since Bobby’s death), but I admit I was choked up. It wasn’t the big brother reunion I had (naively) hoped for, but it was enough. The question is, will it stick?
A New Kind of Life
Up in Heaven, Metatron realized that Castiel had destroyed the Tablet he so desperately needed for his power and then (with some trickery from Cast) exposed his true intentions to the rest of the angels, resulting in his imprisonment (but not before he delivered the news that Dean had died….news that Castiel was understandably not happy to receive, although I admit I was surprised when Castiel didn’t reach out to Sam to see how he was dealing with Dean’s death). And while Hannah believes that Castiel is once again their leader, he insists that he simply wants to be an angel. The problem, of course, is this: the angels are too moronic to NOT have a leader. This has proven to be a problem time and again in recent seasons: beings that are thousands of years old still do not function well without a leader. Someone needs to lead the angels and at least teach them to lead themselves or we’ll be having angel in-fighting until the series finale of Supernatural. And it’s already becoming tiresome, so Castiel is going to have to step up, even to a degree, and get his house in order. Reluctant leader or not sometimes you have to do what you have to do. And it doesn’t have to be a bad thing for him. It doesn’t even have to be forever. But Castiel will have to do it. He helped circumvent the Apocalypse and started Heaven on this particular path. Now it’s time he does his duty to help fix it. And it doesn’t have to be like the times that he failed in the past because he knows better now.
Back in the bunker, we got the continuation of “All Hell Breaks Loose” as Sam laid out his brother, drank, and then realized he needed to do something to save him. Despite all of the warnings about not making deals to save each other, Sam was prepared to do something reckless as he went to summon Crowley. The truth is that a great deal of this season was more of a lesson for Sam than for Dean. Sam had every right to be upset at Dean for what Dean did to him and for what Gadreel did for him. But Sam also realized that he loved his brother and he wasn’t prepared to live without him. Dean’s realizations, on the other hand, will likely come next season.
Speaking of next season, Crowley got the big monologue at the end of this finale, explaining to Dean’s body that Sam was doing as was “expected”: summoning Crowley to make a deal. Because, Supernatural fans, that is where we will always end up. You can talk about “maturity” between the brothers until the cows come home, but there was no possible outcome to this episode where Sam wasn’t prepared to do something to bring Dean back. And Crowley was sentimental about it, not damning. Crowley knows the truth of the Winchesters because he is one of the few villains who has never underestimated them. But it turned out no deal was needed, because, as Crowley explained, there was one very important part of the Cain mythology that he had failed to tell Dean about: the Mark was not going to let Dean go. And in a move that surprised no one (and, yet, was still chilling), Dean opened his eyes. His black eyes. Because Dean is now a demon. While Crowley is clearly learning to integrate his semi-human side, it’s clear that he will relish his new friend and playmate: Demon Dean.
I want to make it clear that, despite my complaints, I didn’t hate this season finale of Supernatural. I was underwhelmed and I think it could have been much better, but I think most of my problems stem from my overall problems with the season, including poor pacing and uninteresting villains and too many separate storylines. Demon Dean opens up a lot of possibilities that, while not unfamiliar (considering how dark Sam and even Castiel have gotten in the past), are still going to be fun to explore. In many ways I’m happy to close the door on season 9 of Supernatural, which I feel was more about getting us to season 10 and the closure of Carver’s supposed three year arc than a season that will stand strongly on its own. In any event, I’m sure summer hiatus will be filled with much speculation as to how Dean will react now that he’s a demon and how Sam will feel about what’s happened to his brother. Will he and Castiel join forces to save Dean? Will Castiel (reluctantly) step into the role of leader? And will Crowley be happy with new Dean or will he come to realize that this version of Dean won’t be easy to control?
Supernatural has already been renewed for a 10th season and will return this fall on Tuesdays at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on The CW.
Check back on Tuesday, May 27 for my twice-yearly Supernatural roundtable review, wherein I and 8 other bloggers review the season as a whole. Until then, I welcome your own thoughts in the comments below. Was I being too hard on this finale or do you feel the same?