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Processing the Final Episode of Supernatural

Supernatural -- "Carry On" -- Image Number: SN1520C_0272r.jpg -- Pictured (L-R): Jared Padalecki as Sam and Jensen Ackles as Dean -- Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW -- © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Endings are hard. Ending a show that’s been running for 15 years in a way that satisfies everyone, or anyone, really, is harder. Doing that in the midst of a global pandemic is nearly impossible. But Supernatural tried. In some ways, the epic series managed to reach a fitting conclusion, and in others, it stumbled. I was left longing for a different version of this episode from a COVID-less world, but what we got well, it will do.

Spoiler warning from here on out for the last episode of Supernatural!

So, after last week wrapped up 15 years’ worth of myth, this week was about what happens after the big battles are done and there are still monsters out there to fight. Sam and Dean started the episode in a good routine in the bunker, complete with a dog. Of all the aspects of the episode, this one was honestly the hardest for me.

We’re so used to seeing the boys in mourning, and to see Sam and Dean blithely just … going through their days was disconcerting. I expected more melancholy, and I didn’t like that (due to COVID) the boys’ world felt weirdly empty. I wanted more mentions of other people and certainly more longing for the people they had lost. But instead, they were trying to live, to honor the people that made it possible for that and it showed growth that they did.

But they weren’t quite at peace, I guess. And what the show wanted to give Sam and Dean the peace when they were done that the song “Carry on Wayward Son” had always promised. That came in a very painful way. Sam and Dean faced down a gang of vampires in creepy clown masks (another obvious COVID-19 precaution) and although they won the fight and saved a pair of brothers, Dean … was killed.

Yes. Dean died on a random hunt and in a truly beautiful scene, he said goodbye to Sam, and made sure it was okay to go. It was such a hard scene to watch and process because, yes, we’ve seen Dean Winchester die a hundred times on this show, but this was final. Jensen Ackles acted the crap out of it, but I didn’t cry because I just couldn’t process … This was Dean’s real, final ending.

And I honestly wasn’t expecting that. After a decade and a half of “to be continued” I had expected the Winchesters to somehow keep going together. But I get it. Dean has always known that his ending was to go out saving people and hunting things. And he died at peace, knowing Sammy would be okay. He was never going to have a normal life (at least on this show, fanfic is different) and this, in this version of the story, was a fitting end to life on earth I guess.

And on this show, they’re lucky because death is not the end. Dean ended up in heaven. And thanks to Jack, it wasn’t the walled-off private memory worlds it was before, this was a new heaven where everyone was together. Bobby—the real Bobby—was there to greet Dean and tell him that everyone he loved was there, existing together in peace. And yes, that includes Castiel. Dean and Cas ended up together forever and that’s pretty awesome and beautiful and even though stupid COVID meant we didn’t see Cas, he was free and at peace too. It left their romance ambiguous on Dean’s side, but that’s where viewers can fill in the gaps and I’m fine with it.

This was Dean’s happy ending. It wasn’t to keep grinding and hunting on earth, it was to find peace and love and let go.

Sam Winchester got a different sort of ending. He married Eileen, though the show didn’t or couldn’t explicitly confirm that (again, fuck you, coronavirus). He had a kid. He named him Dean. He grew old and finally died when young Dean told him it was okay to go. And he met his brother in heaven.

This was tough for me too, because it was clunkily done, and I would have like to, you know, see people’s faces. Poor Jared Padalecki was given the world’s ugliest wig and terrible old-age makeup which was “Lucifer-Michael wire fight” or “Misha Collins does an accent for no reason” level of bad. But the idea was good, if not the full execution.

It was a real, definitive ending for everyone. It was a peaceful close to their story, their ultimate happy ending. I know a lot of fans hated it, because, well, no one wanted this story to end and a lot of us expected the Winchesters to drive into the sunset like they did last week. But this was about the after. This was the epilogue. It reminded me of the finale scenes of the Lord of the Rings, where Frodo leaves for the Grey Havens to find peace at last, and leaves that other Sam to live a full life.

There have been many episodes on Supernatural that were love letters to the fans, and I get that many fans were expecting that here even though COVID made getting the entire band back together impossible. But this was not a love letter, it was a gift of finality and peace to Sam and Dean Winchester, and a homage to who they have always been and how it all started.

There were many homages throughout the episode. Sam and Dean were agents Kripke and Singer, referencing show creator Eric Kripke and the constant co-showrunner, Robert Singer, who also directed the episode and made a cameo. Dean died telling Sam to “always keep fighting” in a nod to Jared Padalecki’s campaigns for mental health awareness. In their final moments in heaven, Sam and Dean wore the same costumes they had on in the pilot and the Impala even had her old license plate back.

And I loved all of that, if not the random vampire from season one showing up for no reason only to be killed. And I loved that the episode ended with a final thank you and goodbye from the boys.

But I’m also coping, as I think all the fans are right now, with a strange sudden void in my life. It’s over. There’s no more and that’s going to hurt no matter what. And this stupid pandemic robbed us of a better ending, and that massively sucks. But … the story is ours now. The creators did their best to honor the characters they were given stewardship over and now they are entirely in the hands of the fans.

Sam and Dean and Castiel and everyone may be at rest in heaven, but in our hearts, they will always carry on. They have a million adventures left ahead of them in our imaginations. Stories are immortal. And the more I think about it, the more I’m okay with how this one ended. But I’m excited to write my own ending now too. It will have a lot more kissing. And no wigs. Also less impalement.

But what it will have and what we will always have, no matter what is Castiel, Dean, and Sam Winchester right where they belong. With us.

(image: Photo: Robert Falconer/The CW)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.