|Recommended:||HELL YES! (AGAIN)|
|CHUCK:||… endings are impossible. You try to tie up every loose end, but you never can. The fans are always gonna bitch, there’s always gonna be holes. And since it’s the ending, it’s all supposed to add up to something; I’m telling you, they’re a raging pain in the ass.|
Okay, I have no idea how I am going to form a coherent thought
just now. It seems impossible. I just watched 44 minutes of
blood-pumping, soul-searing, brain-wrenching awesome, and I am
all afluster. Rounding out what has been by far my favorite
season of Supernatural to date (a pretty nifty trick
for a show in its fifth year), “Swan Song” delivers a delirious
mélange of drama, comedy, angst, introspection, action,
suspense, self-reference and closure, along with not one, not
two, but three twist endings and some history
of American automotive engineering.
Minutes ago, my heart was pounding, now it is aching. I’m puzzled. I’m dazzled. I’m utterly dumbfounded. I can’t believe what just happened, and I can’t uncurl my toes.
I feel like I have been good and brain fucked.
All I can do here is to get right back to where we started from, take a deep breath, and dive in.
So… THE ROAD SO FAR. Usually, we have a little light (and occasionally annoying) THEN snippet at the beginning of an episode, clueing us in to what aspects of the story we might be henceforth facing. In the season finales, we get a more comprehensive version, set to the simply perfect piece of music: “Carry On Wayward Son” by 70’s progressive rock band Kansas. And it works even better here than it has in the previous season enders.
I got chills. Which, instead of multiplying, rapidly dissipated when the familiar voice of writer/prophet Chuck Shurley (Rob Benedict) started in with a history lesson over some color-leached footage of a car factory. So, this episode was going to be the backstory of… the Impala? Huh. An interesting way to round off a season, to be sure… but not necessarily a bad way. After all, that car -- dubbed “The Metallicar” -- is a character in its own right, and it has been the one constant in the Winchester boys’ mixed-up crazy lives. (And, actually, Benedict has an excellent voice for nostalgic narration--if Michael Moore ever gets laryngitis and needs a sub, here’s his guy.)
But then we cut to the boys, leaning against the car in question, beer bottles in hand. Dean has been convinced to let his brother do the dumb thing and allow Lucifer to take possession of his body, hoping that somehow he’ll be able to take Old Nick back to Hell. Dean goes on a bit about how he has to let Sam make his own choices, and I feel like we’ve had this speech before. The whole “You’re not a kid anymore, Sam, I’ve got to stop trying to protect you, but that’s my whole raison detre and I don’t know who I am without it, you complete me, yadda yadda yadda.” I’m not complaining, it was a tender, honest and kinda awkward moment between them as the End of Days approacheth… although the tinkling background piano music is… well, odd. It is very noticeable, and could easily be mistaken for a love theme; it would not have been out of place as a backdrop to some serious Buffy and Angel angsting, or as Bella’s Lullaby.
Anyway. The boys hit the road; the devil did not go down to Georgia but is instead in Detroit, and they’re off to try to trick him into heading back downstairs through a handy conduit that can be opened up by the rings so recently worn by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. (Okay, I should feel ridiculous writing that, but it makes perfect sense to me.) On the way, Dean is just so funny. Oh, that Dean! He is SO funny that I burst out into uncontrollable giggles at the most inappropriate time, just when everything was getting very serious. I laughed because of course Dean was only okay with Sam taking a dive to take out the Devil because he figured he’d find a way to bust him out. From Hell. When Sam tells him that he is emphatically not to even try, suddenly big brother is all up in arms, as though now this is an even worse plan than ever. I just love how sure Dean is that Sam’s trip to purgatory was bound to be merely temporary, that he could have somehow staged a prison break even more impressive than that of Michael Scofield. Now, this is not without some justification (after all, neither of them have actually stayed dead), but let’s not forget that Dean’s own visit down below was brought to an end only when he was brought out of despair by a bunch of renegade, genocidal angels.
Hubris, thy name is Dean Winchester. SO funny.
Dean finally promises to leave Sam be after the Fall, and before too long it’s time for some awkward goodbyes (Castiel’s is a classic: “Oh, I was supposed to lie.”) and thence to shame the Devil. Of course, it doesn’t quite work out as advertised, which we might have expected; it seemed unlikely that this reckless plan was going to succeed first time, since we were only 15 minutes in, and if Lucifer can be defeated so readily, then what has this whole season been for?
So now Sam has a Devil inside and Armageddon kicks in.
Dean is determined to Do Something, but Bobby and Cas are without hope, without ideas (except for getting drunk. Nice one, Cas!). Happily, Dean thinks to call Prophet of the Lord, Chuck (whom we have since visited with during another documentary interlude), who tells him where the Battle of the… well, Ever is going down. Peculiarly, in the Winchesters’ old hometown of Laurence, Kansas.
Back in the Sam-coated Satan part of the story, struggle for control of that much-coveted body (and I’m not just talking about its appeal for Lucifer—have you seen the Jared Padalecki appreciation websites? Terrifying) continues, with Lucifer trying to convince Sam that he’s better off Evil. In a scene ripped out of Mary Poppins and turned on its head, the dual personalities confront one another in a handily-placed mirror, Sam discovers that even more of the people in his life had been demon-spawn than just best-bud Brady from a couple of episodes back, and he looks like he might be falling a little under the sway of the Tempter’s convincing compassion.
So, to a cemetery. Sam and Dean have been marching toward this inevitable confrontation--certainly since last season, if not their first. Judgment Day is here (sans Skynet), when Lucifer and Michael must meet in gladiatorial combat, winner take all. This island Earth will be their battlefield, and everyone on it pawns in their supersized version of Civilization. But it is Sam and half-brother Adam who are in it at the very end (Michael having taking the littlest Winchester’s form, for all that we thought his lesser pedigree – and, probably, midichlorian count -- made him an unsuitable host), and as Lucifer and Michael square off from inside their vessels there’s a little childish backbiting at work. The fondly snarky byplay between these two eternal brothers is another reminder of what this season has really been about: the many layers of familial relationships that we cannot escape, from parental abandonment to filial disobedience, from fraternal disharmony to unconditional love. And just when they are getting ready to stop with the whining and do this thing, we hear a familiar roar of a familiar engine, and suddenly the forthcoming End of the World is put on hold as Dean enters the field.
Just why Lucifer and Michael would stop everything just to let Dean get close and hit them with his irreverent attitude is unclear; perhaps some residual innate respect of their big brother holds their vessels in check and the beings inhabiting them are unknowingly forced to go along. But now all three Winchester boys are present and accounted for, Sam as Satan, Adam as an angel, and Dean as kind of a dick. He’s great. Again! There he is, confronted with the possessed shells of his two brothers -- and we know that there is nothing more important to him than family -- going up against the mightiest warriors in Creation, and he just smirks at them, gives them sass, and gives it his all in trying to get through to the real boy inside Sam.
But it is not Dean who manages that. It’s the car. The Impala carries their lives, their memories, inside of her, and as we are treated to yet another series-long montage (Chuck had previously offered one up during one of his meta voice-overs), we see the Sam-light return to those lovely eyes. He pays the ultimate sacrifice and Saves the Day (hoorah!) which of course means the season is done (boo!)… except that Chuck keeps on talking and everyone who was dead isn’t anymore.
And… ooh! Other stuff! So much other stuff! Indeed, so very much other stuff that I am truly excited, and worried, and delighted, and fearful that the folks at the CW were kind enough to convince creator Eric Kripke to abandon his original five year plan and give Supernatural another season. Excited and delighted ‘cause, hey, another year of Jensen Ackles in jeans, leather and a muscle car is always call for celebration. But worried and fearful because, much as it pains me to say it, sometimes it’s good to go out on your own terms, with an objective achieved and a mission fulfilled. Always leave ‘em wanting more. (And then you can do a follow up season in comic books.)
But one thing that I no longer fear is that I will have to spend half my Supernatural viewing time shaking my head at the “acting” of Jared Padalecki. He doesn’t even need the air quotes now! I don’t know what it is, or when this happened: maybe he’s somehow gotten better at his job, maybe enough time has passed since his stint as Rory’s lackluster beau on my much-loved Gilmore Girls (yes, I love Gilmore Girls; my passions are many and varied) that I can take him seriously in this role just lately, but whatever it is, I am so into him right now. Sure, he still does that huffy short-breath thing; yes, his pauses are still often just a little too long; and yes, he still scrunches up his face like a tantruming three year old, but where once that all irked me no end, I’ve actually been finding it kind of endearing lately. Hmmm. Could I be falling in love with Jared Padalecki? Oh, dear. What will I tell Jeffrey Donovan?
Padalecki has been a most pleasant revelation for me this season, and his work in this episode is stellar. His shoulders-back, chest-out, bright-eyed stride when he is hopped up on demon blood; his turn as Satan, which is basically him playing the guy who had been playing Satan, and then the mirror scene, and then the return to control… well done, that man!
Ackles, meanwhile, continues remarkable, and Misha Collins as Castiel has been a constant (though far too sparingly-provided) treat. I’ve very much enjoyed Jim Beaver’s increased Bobby presence, and as for Rob Benedict’s Chuck… well, he’s no Zachary Levi’s Chuck, but he’s still been a great asset to the show. I do hope his apparent ability to Disapparate doesn’t mean what it seems maybe it might mean. ‘Cause that would be just a little too self-referential, even for Supernatural.
Yes, yes, writers are gods in their own little worlds, we know this, but… Oh, hey! Y’know what? Chuck can’t be God. Because remember how Dean’s man jewelry that Sam gave him when they were young turned out to be some big Almighty detector and Castiel took it with him on his Daddy hunt? Dean was definitely wearing it when they met up with Chuck, and it gave no sign that they were in the presence of divinity. So, that’s okay then. Except… wait. What exactly was the point of the whole magic amulet subplot thing from mid-season, in that case? Dammit. And here I thought every loose end had been tied neatly, even if a self-deprecating Chuck/Kripke suggested it might be otherwise.
Unless it’ll make a return next season? Ah, next season! I don’t know what it may hold, or where it can possibly go from here, but I do know this: I cannot wait! In just the last year, Supernatural has gone from cluttering up my DVR with episodes I’d get around to watching some day to being absolutely Must Watch Immediately awesomeness.
I hope to Chuck that it stays that way. And in the meantime, maybe I’ll just go pay a visit to some of those Jared Padalecki appreciation sites…
|The Pitch:||There is NOTHING like this anywhere!|
|Agents…:||Not this week.|
|Demon Count:||Dozens. The ones getting drained of their blood were the worst.|
|Old Friends and/or Enemies:||Poor lost brother Adam.|
|Dean’s pop culture references:||Star Wars (and even Lucifer gets in on that act), novelist and poet Charles Bukowski (which… huh? This is Dean talking, right?).|
|Castiel doesn’t understand Dean’s pop culture references:||Not pop culture, just human culture.|
|Awesome:||Nothing awesome here for the boys… except THIS EPISODE!|
|Dick:||Yep. From Lucifer.|
-- Rachel Hyland