That was not what I was expecting. And that in and of itself is interesting, if you stop and think about it.
Over a decade ago now, I started watching this show about two brothers whose lives had been irreparably damaged by the violent murder of their mother and their father's search for meaning and vengeance. The thing that hooked me to this show wasn't the fact that the leads were seriously easy on the eyes or the sweet ride they drove around the country or the fact that they tried valiantly (and often succeeded) to scare the crap out of me. It was their relationship with each other, with their father. It was the fact that I found myself relating to Dean Winchester on a deeply personal level when the only two things we had in common were Lawrence, KS and being the oldest child.
The draw of family. The way Dean and Sam connected, fought, talked, didn't talk...the way they needed each other and couldn't stand each other and loved each other and survived for and because of each other. The way Dean's heart was broken and healed by his brother, the way Sam became who he was because of his brother, the way they both related individually and collectively to their father. This show was built on family. Not on mytharcs that you need a cypher to translate. Not on ghosts and vampires and angels and demons. But family.
So it's interesting to me that I found myself geared up for a big battle. A showdown of the century to take down the latest Mega Super Evil that the brothers encountered. And it's also interesting to me that my first reaction when that didn't happen was disappointment. But something occurred to me as I headed to my office to write this up. I'd seen two season finales tonight (our boys and The Flash--Mo Chuisle loooooves Barry Allen, I'm not even kidding) and in both, the theme of family hummed through the entire episode (there was another similar occurrence regarding family, but I won't spoil Flash in case there are viewers of that here as well).
Thinking about that put a whole different spin on my reaction to the end of this season. And a weight lifted. Because I love our show, you guys. I love these boys. And even when the writers seem like they have totally lost the plot, I can find enjoyment in gestures and expressions and lines of dialog. I couldn't figure out how to do that last week, but I got it back.
So, here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to briefly tell you what I feel didn't work and what I'm glad is over and then I'm going to focus on what I enjoyed and what has me speculative for next season and everything else will just sift through the sieve. Good? Okay.
In concept, turning Chuck into God was amusing and intriguing and had it simply been left with that enigmatic smile and finger snap in Swan Song I would have been okay. I would also have been okay if God had 'returned' in this season as more of a...a presence or a way of causing things to happen that left you thinking 'what if'. Turning Chuck into God--as wonderful as episode 20 really was--in the flesh ultimately didn't work for me. It turned the Most Powerful Being in the universe into an extra. We ended up with God being breakable (and if God can be damaged--albeit by his sister--what's that mean for the rest of us?!) and Lucifer being a petulant child, killed without much fanfare. It just felt like too much possible story shoved into to little realistic space.
I feel like the whole Amara storyline was relatively half-baked and they went through the season pulling plot points out of their...uh...hat. It's hard for me to believe that when they showed Amara's rapid aging process and the link between Amara and Dean that the writers planned for the end to be more of a happy sigh than a primal scream.
That being said, I can see an alternative view point as well. I ended up not liking the Amara storyline and the teasing underuse of Dean's connection to her (but that's hardly the end of the world--no pun intended--as I also didn't like the Amelia storyline and the half-assed explanation of Sam's connection to her...and we all survived) but I can also see where introducing a 'peer' of God's leveled the playing field a bit. In as much as this show has always been about family, it's also always been about the tenacity of the human spirit. Humanity overcoming adversity. The power of free will. Even way back in Season 4 we were discussing how God loved human kind more than the angels.
So what better thing for that 'verse than to humanize God? And, personally, I'm 1000% glad they left Jesus out of the storyline, because...well, reasons. Many of them. But by humanizing God as Chuck, having him live among us and experience life, having him mortally wounded by his sister in retribution for the pain he knowingly caused her, having him confess that he loved her and yet needed more than her, having him learn lessons in humility and apologize to Lucifer...I mean, what's more human than that? So while I didn't really like it...it still worked for this 'verse. It still spoke to the basic fundamental theme of our show. And I have to give them props for that.
But? I'm glad it's over. As Dean said, give me something (for them) to punch or kill and I'm good, but when you start messing with a dying sun...then your arc is a bit top-heavy.
The only other thing I would've liked done differently is the amount of focus we had on the brothers. As I said, they are what hooked me. Why I watch. Not the arc, not the other characters, not even the story. I want to see how they react to the story line, not how awesome the story line is. I felt that in this and the previous episode, there was a good deal of stuff happening around them and they didn't get a chance to really react to it. Their scenes often felt hurried. Placed out of obligation rather that purpose. The boys did well with the time they had, but I could almost visualize someone off camera spinning their finger in the air and encouraging them to pick up the pace.
Now, all that said, let's focus on the good stuff.
I liked how it started right where last week's left off. I liked how the 'team' stuck together--God, a battered angel, a witch, the demon formerly known as the King of Hell, and two humans. Add yourself a Hobbit and you'd have the Fellowship of the Souls. I liked how they didn't part ways even when Dean was zapped off to Amara. I liked Crowley leading them all to the bar (and I mean, The Lazy Shag... tell me that's not the perfect bar for Crowley to take them to) and everyone just...staying close. Nothing brings mortal enemies together like an Apocalypse.
I liked that Sam was the one to snap everyone out of their stupor. Dean might be Mr. Shoot First Ask Questions Later, but Sam doesn't know how to quit. I also liked how he seemed to have learned some of the hard lessons life has been trying to beat into him. When it became clear that Dean would have to die to save everyone, we didn't have that inevitable no, let's find another way, my brother must survive conversation that I think we would have had if the situations were reversed. Sam gets it (finally). He knew that this was bigger than him, bigger than them. This was bigger, even, than sacrificing himself to the Cage. This was more than life as they knew it, it was everything, the world, and he had risked it once to save his brother and unleashed The Darkness. He knew he couldn't do that again...and I think, more importantly, he knew that Dean didn't want him to. And he hated it, but...he was willing to do it. It was okay.
I think that after all this time, Sam was finally tired of fighting the tidal wave. He had an air of reluctant resignation boardering on acceptance about him.
I liked getting Cas back. Dean taking Cas with him on the beer run just so he could have time with his friend--I like how clear it was that Dean had missed Cas. I liked that he took the opportunity to tell Cas how important he was to them, how he was not just the best friend they ever had, he was their brother. I like how Cas didn't really know what to do with those words, in a way still reeling from having his vessel all to himself again. Most of all, though, I loved when Cas told Dean, "I could come with you," when it was clear Dean would have to face Amara alone. It reminded me of that scene from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Hermione realized that Harry learned he was a horcrux and had to go to the woods to face Voldemort alone. When she says, "I could go with you," I always tear up.
Oh, hush. Y'all knew I was a sap.
I liked the mini-ghost hunt at Waverley Hills, Dean mocking the 'magic word' until it saved their lives. It was interesting to me that they'd know about the place being filled with ghosts but have never gone there to do anything about it. I guess they felt that the ghosts weren't getting out and hurting people...and if anyone was dumb enough to wander in, well. It's interesting both that the humans were the only ones who were successful in the soul gathering -- and that Billie wasn't quite ready for there to be Nothing and tapped the veil to help them with a few hundred thousand souls.
That brings up some contemplation about souls in general and causes me to do yet another Show v Reality check in my head. I always felt that our souls are who we are. The compilation of emotion and memory and choices that create the essence of our selves. And to think about 100,000 selves being forced into a bomb bothered me a bit. I was glad for the end and God pulling them out of Dean (and presumably allowing them to move on from the veil...they'll never tell us, so that's what I've decided happened).
I'll list my other likes in my list below (it'll be long once again) and focus the last bit of the Ramble on my favorite scene, the scene that ended up surprising me, and contemplation for next season.
Favorite scene had to be in the graveyard. When Rowena first told Dean that he would have to be the bomb and Sam didn't utter a peep I protested. Out loud. At my TV. But then when we shifted to the scene where the boys are standing at Mary's grave, I felt a wee lump in my throat. Because, of course it was Mary's grave. Her death started all of this. Her death changed them--their lives, their selves, the way they saw the world. She was their angel and devil at once, inadvertently sending them down a path of pain and heroism and also saving them physically and emotionally.
Loved the whole scene with Sam struggling to keep his voice steady while emotion had him in a choke hold, telling Dean he didn't have to do this, needing to give his brother an out--not only because he doesn't want to lose Dean, but also because of Dean's confession that he couldn't kill Amara. Dean sliding the mask in place, the brave face, the this is my job, this is what we do stance. Neither of them wanted this. Both of them knew it was their only chance. The world's only chance.
Dean didn't volunteer. He wasn't selected because he was The Righteous Man. It wasn't a decade-in-the-making confirmation of his purpose and importance. But. It did tie in to the very first episode and Amara wrapping Dean up in the black smoke cloud. It did give some credence to Dean being connected to Amara. He was the only choice, the only one who could get close to her. And both brothers knew that. Accepted that. And as much as they may have wanted to, as much as their instincts screamed at them to, they didn't fight it this time.
The farewells were nicely done, especially Dean asking Cas to watch out for Sam. And Sam kissing his fingers and touching the headstone. And Dean handing the car keys to Sam. It wasn't to the caliber of No Rest For the Wicked's, "Take care of my wheels...remember what Dad taught you...remember what I taught you." It didn't hold a candle to Swan Song's, "I'm not gonna leave you, Sammy. I'm not gonna leave you." It wasn't even Do You Believe in Miracle's, "I'm proud of us." But I think the difference is that with each of those, it was just the boys. Just the brothers facing the impossible, the terrifying, the insurmountable, and not backing down. This time, well...there was an audience. A surprisingly sympathetic audience, but...others none-the-less.
And something Dean said to Cas about he and Sam sometimes forgetting about everyone else circles back to this scene. Because this time, it wasn't just about the brothers. This time, they'd all anteed up and lost something. Rowena with her almost-coven, Cas with the angels (and Lucifer), Crowley with the demons. They all had skin in the game. Some rather literally. And while Sam was losing his brother, they were all losing Dean. And whether they wanted to admit it outwardly or not, that mattered to them. To each of them, be it the loss of an ally, the loss of an adversary, or the loss of someone you don't know who you are without, they all had to deal. And I think watching Sam say goodbye to his brother was their way of doing that.
I did think they were going to short-change us a brother hug for a minute there, though. When Dean kinda fell into Sam and wrapped him up tight, I caught my breath. That moment was the closest I came to emoting. Maybe there have just been too many deaths, I don't know. But a genuine hug between those two? That'll get to me every time.
I was surprised that the 'showdown' with Amara went off the way it did. Actually I went from surprise to disappointment to resignation to acceptance to appreciation. I'll just focus on the last one. Subtly--almost too subtly, if you want my honest opinion--we've seen Amara appreciating the world. It wasn't just the Bird Woman who did it. Little things all along the way had been slipping beneath the cracks in her surface. Crowley may have tried to mind wash her as a youngster to use her for his own devices, but present day defeats history and she had been seeing beauty in nature and in people and in relationships. She had been seeing devotion from Dean and Sam rival manipulation from Rowena. She's been seeing sorrow at death and rejoicing at reunions and how hard humans fought to stay alive and stay together.
When she saw her brother, she was hurt. It wasn't anger we saw lashing out at Chuck, it was pain. So, it should come as no surprise that Dean--who had never wanted to kill her in the first place, and for all his willingness to die with Sam or for Sam...didn't actually really want to die (even though his funeral would have been friggin' awesome)--would be able to find the words to get to her, make her listen. Dean, whose life has been filled with more than his share of fights, who understands better than most what kind of hell family can put you through, and how its not possible to truly hate someone without first loving them. Dean, who might actually have loved her a little bit himself.
And while it felt a bit like we'd strapped on all our armor just as someone told us they'd called off the war, having Amara choose forgiveness over revenge...choose family fit the constant, underlying theme of our show. Having God and Amara fade out, and travel in a double-helix of power upward (presumably to Heaven) is a much more preferable way to end this arc and segue into S12 than having them destroy each other so that we have a balance of power with no God. In my opinion at least.
So...speculation. I'm not sure what I think about London Lady. MoL or not that was kind of an "oh, by the way," if I ever saw one. She should have been introduced in the previous episode to help set the stage better. And honestly, I'm ashamed of myself for not guessing that what Amara would give Dean as a 'thank you' for saving her in more ways than one would be his mother. She knows his pain. She knows his longing. And while personally I would have loved to have seen John return, JDM is a bit busy being all evil on The Walking Dead. And Mary just...makes sense. Plus it ties in nicely to the boys standing at her grave earlier.
We end with them separated, Sam thinking that Dean died to save the world and he wasn't there, London Lady firing her weapon--unclear if she actually shoots Sam, though--and Dean in BFE with no cell signal facing his mother...who is in her Death Nighty and looks exactly as she did when he was four years old. We still have Rowena and Crowley in the mix (somewhere) and Cas is back to being Cas (even though he was banished from the bunker by London Lady). God has returned to Heaven (it would seem) and brought his sister with him...and I have absolutely no idea where they're going to go with this. Should be interesting to say the least.
So, final lists for S11?
- Carry On Wayward Son opening. Because.
- Dean limping. I love it when they actually act like getting thrown into metal walls hurts a bit.
- Dean's face when Cas says that Lucifer is gone.
- Dean pulling his gun out like a boss when Rowena enters the factory.
- "So that was a gun in your pocket." HA! Yeah, 'cause I don't think he was happy to see you.
- "I didn't know dog's had breakfast." "Uh, Cas is back."
- The fact that "How are we supposed to fix the friggin' sun" is actually a legitimate question in their world.
- London Lady's Wall of Winchester. I want one.
- "Now's kinda all we got." I want that on a bumper sticker. Or a stickie note. Or white board.
- Dean giving Cas props for the choice he made with Lucifer.
- "Sometimes me and Sam have so much going on that we forget about everyone else."
- "You're always there, y'know? You're the best friend we've ever had. You're our brother, Cas. I want you to know that." And that means you're family...and we know what family means to the Winchesters. So.
- The close-up shots of Dean and Cas inside the Impala. That was interesting. I mean, I'm always up for seeing Dean close, but...it was unusual framing for the shots, I thought.
- Chuck revealing that The Darkness's weakness is light and Crowley's sardonic, "He tells us now."
- Plan B: Soul Bomb. Oddly, not the name of a shot.
- "Desperate and stupid is pretty much all we've got right now, so." No joke, I literally had Dean saying the same bit of dialog in my WIP fic. Which I will now revise because no one will believe me.
- Dean impersonating Rowena with a (terrible) Irish (not Scottish, Irish) accent. Sam just looking at him like, really?
- "Let's give the 'magic word' a shot because we're six!"
- "You finish up; I'll go piss them off." Wait, what? How is this a plan! Boys.
- Their twin expressions of relieved surprise when the magic word saves their asses.
- Crowley's grin when Billie says 'hey' to him...followed closely by the look both Dean and Rowena give Crowley. Love it.
- "You want souls? Call a Reaper."
- Bird Lady to Amara: "I like your dress. Pretty fancy for the park, but at least you made an effort." HA! Something about that just tickled me.
- "You know family. Even when you hate them, you still love them." Ain't that the truth.
- The Brother theme. Because.
- The whole conversation in the graveyard.
- Sam kissing his fingers and touching the top of the gravestone.
- "I could go with you." *sniff*
- Dean saying he wants a big funeral, open bar, Savage cover band, and Gary Busey reading the eulogy and Sam replying with a tight, choked, "Done."
- D: "No chick flick moments." S: "You love chick flicks." D: "Yeah, I do." **WORLDS TIGHTEST HUG**
- The Lazy Shag bar. Come on, now.
- "One little apocalypse and they shut up shop. Quitters."
- "No matter how bad it got, we always made it right, because we're family. I need him; he needs me. And when everything goes to crap, that's all you've got: family."
- Lazy dialog at the end scene with Amara. Even accepting that there wasn't going to be a fight and that family would win out, lines like having Amara say, "I wish that we could be family again," just...nah.
- The whole sun coming out, "earth will be fine because you're here" quick wrap up with the Amara/God storyline so that they could set up for next season. That was just so...I mean, that's all? The whole season of The Darkness Is Coming! She Can't Be Defeated! Run For Your Lives! And she dissolves with a beatific smile on her face and Earth's okay now? That just felt like someone said, c'mon, this thing is done, let's get it wrapped up and move on.
- Introducing London MoL Lady with no previous build up.
- I maybe kinda wanted Dean to say 'bye' to Crowley, too.
- Where is exactly is Dean anyway?
- Is Mary real? Human and alive again? Is she aged to now or is she as she appeared, the age she would have been when she died? Is she going to simply be back in their lives, helping them hunt? Or is she going to have to be something they deal with that wrecks them further?
- Who is London Lady? Is she going to bring Sam to London with her before Dean gets back to the bunker? Will they spend the first part of the season separated? Will Dean have to get on a plane to get to London and save Sam?
- Did she shoot Sam? I'm going to say no...that's kind of the oldest cliffhanger trick in the book.
- Will God be in Heaven? Will the angels behave now? Is Cas forgiven and allowed back in?
- Where is Cas? Did London Lady send him to Missouri or Timbuktu?
- Will Crowley rule Hell now that Lucifer is gone and everyone agrees that balance is a good thing?
- Will God finally rescue Michael (aka Adam) from the Cage, since he's back?
- Did I see something about the show being on a different night? Is it at the same time?
I'm still working on a new SPN story--the story itself isn't complicated, it's just life, y'know? The hubs, Mo Chuisle, and I are moving to a different house this weekend, so once things settle down from that, I'll be able to focus on it and if you're a fic reader and you choose to indulge, I'd love to hear from you. Otherwise, I'm currently planning to continue these next Season...but that will truly just depend on life. Hope to see you there.
Have a happy hiatus. Slainte!