Five years of Supernatural—the good, the bad, the ugly—and speculations on the sixth year. Abandon hope all ye who enter here…just kidding. *grin*
About a month ago, I was asked to write a Supernatural Season 5 recap by MaidenGreen (Swordstress for all of you who frequent supernatural.tv) as a lead-in to posting my episode reviews on Whedonage (http://www.whedonage.com/index.php) during Season 6. There are cast and crew on Supernatural that are connected with Joss Whedon projects…thus bridging the gap. I wanted to wait until she was able to post the write-ups on Whedonage before I put this here.
I jumped at the chance; these boys and this story has captivated my life and fueled my muse in ways I could never have anticipated five years ago. However, as I sat down to think through everything that happened in Season 5, I realized the crux of it was so much bigger than that. Taken as a whole, Season 5 really wasn’t that amazing. Certainly not my favorite (that spot is reserved for Season 2…so far).
But…when you look at it from the perspective of Kripke having a Five Year Plan, then Season 5 becomes rather fantastic. In an effort to make myself make sense, I’ve broken this up into three sections:
The Plan: Set-up
The Plan: Unveiled
Season 6 Speculations
I hope you enjoy this little trip down memory lane. And, as always, I welcome and covet your input and feedback. I know I won’t hit everything, and these write-ups are just the journey as I see it. I don’t declare it, or anything else I write pertaining to this show, as The Way It Is.
Unless, of course, it’s the way it is. *grin*
The Plan: Set-up
By the time we reached the end of Season 5, the concepts of Heaven and Hell, God and the Devil, angels and demons were commonplace. Something we all just accepted. Something the guys just accepted. But that wasn’t always the case, specifically for Dean. Though his comfort when he was very young came in the form of his mother’s assurance that “angels are watching over you,” we learned that even those words were tainted.
And there was good reason for Dean to doubt.
This journey began, as we fans all know, with Dean Winchester, a twenty-six year old, blue-collar kid from Kansas who’d spent his life as a modern-day warrior following in his father’s Marine-influenced footsteps hunting evil, climbing through the window of his kid brother Sam’s Stanford-based apartment building in search of his family. Their father, John Winchester, had taken off—this time for longer than Dean was comfortable with—and Dean didn’t want to be alone anymore. Not only that, he was worried about what John had gotten himself into, and because it was Dad, and that word held weight greater than he could carry on his own, Dean went after Sam to help in the search.
John often operated (we discovered throughout Season 1) on a need to know basis. And apparently he’d decided that the fact that he’d gotten a lead on the demon—Azazel, the demon that’d killed Mary, his wife and Dean’s mother—was not something Dean needed to know. In fact, he’d kept both boys in the dark about a good many things as they grew up, which is interesting considering the life he’d forced them to lead.
Ah, well…hindsight and all that.
Dean had been conditioned by this father from age four to have One Job: watch out for Sam. The time away from his brother—by Sam’s choice, not Dean’s—ran sideways across everything Dean used for balance and stability in his life. There was no sense of burden from the older brother when the two reunited. It was as if he was whole again. Looking back, it’s easy to peer through the filters of knowledge and see that connection, but I think even at the onset of the story—before we knew all that we know now—a distinct sense of relief wrapped around Dean when Sam was with him.
Sam, though, had been conditioned by something else entirely—something no one knew about until several years later. Not even Sam.
While Dean’s path had been dictated by a human influence, Sam’s had been manipulated by a secret, supernatural one—Azazel, the Yellow-Eyed Demon, working on behalf of his boss: Lucifer. Sam rebelled against the militant, dictated life set forth out of perceived necessity by his father and worked to break free of John’s control as soon as he was able. He had no way of knowing that he—and a slew of other people—might have been safer had he just stayed in the “family business.”
The layers of Sam’s story—and by association, his brother—are quite complex in their reveal, but if laid out chronologically, I think they make sense. Let’s see if I’m right.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a deal was made.
Mary and John
Mary Campbell wasn’t just a young girl growing up in the small, college town of Lawrence, KS. Mary’s father was a hunter of all things evil and her mother was familiar with and comfortable in the life of a hunter. Mary grew up knowing about rock salt and sigils, charms that warded off evil, exorcisms, and how to protect herself.
Mary fell in love with a young Marine named John Winchester—who also lived in Lawrence, KS, it seems. Location, location, location. We don’t find out how they met, but later on in the Five Year Plan, we are given insight that these two were fated to meet. Talk about a match made in Heaven.
We also don’t know much about John’s family, just a quick toss-off comment about being a mechanic from a family of mechanics. He was a Corporeal in the Marines, served in Vietnam, came home to be a mechanic once more. Through a quick conversation, we find out that John has been wooing Mary for years—and for years her father has disapproved of him. John thinks it’s because Mr. Campbell looks down on him for being a mechanic, but Mary knows that it’s simply the fact that John isn’t a hunter.
When John returned from Vietnam, he decided to ask Mary to marry him; of course, her father didn’t approve. And of course she rebelled and snuck out of the house to be with him. John was a sweet kid. Not innocent—he was a Marine, after all—but good-hearted, kind, gentle. Not the man we grew to know and, albeit reluctantly for some, love.
Just before he asked Mary to be his wife, he went to a used car lot in Lawrence, KS, and with the subtle encouragement of a strange and random—though intriguingly dressed—drifter, he purchased a fated car: a 1967 Chevy Impala. This car, it seems, became the most powerful object in the entire story. I think that’s rather amazing. Through the years, there was The Colt, a demon-killing knife, an amulet, and a journal that were among critical-to-the-outcome-of-the-story objects. But in the end, it was a classic car that helped to save us all.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in the universe, a demon was at work.
This demon, Azazel, had been searching for qualified child-bearers that would be willing to make a deal with him in exchange for something they thought was precious at the time, never knowing that what he would be taking from them ten years down the road as trade-off for the ‘favor’ he did today would be more than they’d ever willingly sacrifice. His plan was initially to build an Army of Special Kids (powers ranging from telekinesis, to mind control, to touch-of-death, to inhuman strength, to precognition). I got a little lost on what exactly the Special Kids Army would ultimately do for Azazel, but then, it’s a little reassuring that demonic schemes don’t quite make perfect sense to me.
Azazel was also tasked by Lucifer with summoning Lilith—the first demon. It would ultimately fall on her to break the 66 Seals. These Seals were not, in fact, a show at Sea World, but a series of locks that held Lucifer trapped inside a cage in Hell. Lilith would also, in due course, be the water that broke the rock that is the Winchester brothers. More on that later.
Back in 1973 Kansas, Azazel is running amuck in Lawrence making deals and Mary and her father decide to investigate. Unfortunately, this gives Azazel wind of Mary—who, as we eventually discover, was destined to be the mother of two brothers: one whose soul breaks in Hell and starts the ruckus, and one who causes Lucifer to rise.
Mary’s sons, we find out, are the epicenter of a cosmic battle between good and evil. Everything in the first four Seasons of the show is a set up (it seems) for both the reveal of the boys’ destiny in Season 5, and the ensuing Apocalypse this reveal brings about. But…we’ll get to that. Anyway, it seems that no one had told Azazel about these particular brothers, so he bounces with demonic glee from innocent to innocent throughout the years, making deals and gathering souls. And then he sees Mary Campbell.
Here’s where the chronological explanation gets a skosh tricky. I’ll get into the details of how in a bit, but suffice it to say that at the beginning of Season 4, angels are introduced into the canon of the story, and through this insertion of angels, a whole new level of storytelling becomes possible: time travel.
Castiel, the warrior angel charged with storming the gates of Hell and saving Dean Winchester, decides in Season 4 to transport Dean back to 1973 Lawrence, KS, with cryptic instructions to “stop it.” It’s one of those things that only in retrospect do we realize that the “it” was Sam causing Lucifer to rise, not Dean saving his family from the inevitable destructive path Mary’s deal takes them on and sparing Dean and his brother from a lifetime of pain.
Anyway, back to our chronological storytelling, Azazel is intent on scoring a deal with Mary—he knows she will give birth to one of the Special Kids. However, Dean-from-2009 is there in 1973 via Angel Transport, carrying with him the one weapon that could end all of this before it even starts: a Colt made by Samuel Colt himself specifically to kill demons. The journey of that particular weapon and its connection to the Winchesters, my friends, is another story for a different time.
As per usual when there are good intentions, one thing leads to another and in one horrible night, Azazel possesses Mary’s father, kills Mary’s mother, and break’s her fiancé’s neck in front of her. Knowing her possessed father is mortally wounded, and with John lying dead in her arms, Mary has absolutely nothing left. She makes a deal with Azazel that in ten years she will allow him to do something unspecified—and uninterrupted—if he will save John, now.
Dean is forced to witness this—to see that not only do deals with devils apparently run in the family, but through the magic of time travel, he was actually part of the catalyst that sent Azazel on this Campbell-killing rampage. Nothing like a supernatural Being wielding phenomenal cosmic power to help heap more guilt on your shoulders.
So, having lost her entire family except John, Mary apparently figures out a story clever enough to convince her poor, befuddled, brought-back-from-the-dead-fiancé that everything is still Very Normal. John and Mary get married and move to a little house in Lawrence and try to live happily ever after.
But things never really work out that way, do they? The time travel plot device is employed again in Season 5—and this time Sam gets to go along for the ride—because the boys have to stop a rogue angel from pulling a Terminator and killing Mary before Sam can ever be born.
It’s 1978, and John and Mary are doing the best they can. John’s working as a mechanic, Mary’s…hiding her hunter past from her husband. The John we see in 1978 still has that sweet persona. But you see the iron will inside. You see the core that dragged him through life after the pinnacle of tragedy struck him. What doesn’t click (at least for me) is this version of Mary. Watching 1978 Mary-Who-Hides-Her-Hunter-Past, we’re left to wonder how she allowed a demon to completely shatter their lives in 1983, ten years after she made the deal with Azazel to bring John back.
But, that can be explained because writing fiction is fun!
And just so you know? I say that with complete sincerity. I’ve defined my own storytelling world by this credo: I’m a writer; I give the truth scope. Bonus points for you if you can identify that quote. So, while some plot choices weren’t necessarily ones I would have made or I need further explanation for me to be truly satisfied, this Five Year Plan has been a freakin’ amazing ride and I haven’t regretted one single hour I’ve spent on it. Okay, where was I?
Oh, right. There’s something about Mary.
In their efforts to save Sam from being killed before he was born, the brothers reveal their true identities to their young mother and, desperate to make a difference, to ease their pain, and to stop the madness that has wrapped around them all of their lives, they beg her to leave John—to just walk away before any of this can start.
But it’s too late, you see, because she’s already pregnant with Dean. It makes me wonder—in a very choose your own adventure way—what could have happened with destiny and the Great Cosmic Scheme if she’d left John anyway. Raised Dean on her own. Never married again. She’d still have made that deal with Azazel. He’d still have come to her in 1983. I wonder how different Dean’s story would have been if Mary had just walked away. But she didn’t.
And in another Moment Designed To Test The Strength Of Dean’s Soul, during the aftermath of a bloody battle, the Archangel Michael takes over John’s body. It’s the repercussions of a battle with angels where Sam lies (temporarily) dead on the floor and Mary is unconscious next to him and it’s Dean facing his young father (who is really Michael) hearing that everything in his life has literally happened for one reason and he has no choice in the matter.
To which, our boy essentially says a big eff you very much, but that comes a bit later.
The key to this moment in the chronological retelling of the story is that Michael wipes John and Mary’s memories. To what extent? We’re not sure. We see Mary later, belly swollen, looking with bemused peace at an angel figurine above his crib as she whispers to her unborn son that “angels are watching over you.”
It’s never really clear (at least to me) if Michael’s Memory Wipe erased her memories of being a hunter, or just the moments John and Mary encountered their grown-up sons and were forced to fight a rogue angel. But I do wonder how thorough of a job Michael did. For a couple of reasons: John’s personality and Mary’s preparation.
We see, courtesy of a brief but memorable stint to Heaven’s Waiting Room (from Season 5), that their marriage wasn’t all lollipops and candy canes. Not that any marriage is. Losing Mary devastated John, this much we know for sure. It changed him completely. But before that fateful night in 1983, they weren’t living a fairytale. There were fights and struggles. We saw one of Dean’s memories from when Sam was very young—younger than six months at least—where Mary was arguing with John over the phone and John hadn’t been home—and apparently wasn’t coming back soon.
Little Dean left his PB&J at the kitchen table and went to give his mother a hug, promising that he would never leave her, insinuating that this happened more than once—enough so that it triggered a four-year-old’s protective instinct. So, their marriage wasn’t perfect. And part of me wonders how much cosmic influence was to blame for that. Because the John we saw in the ‘70’s and the John we met in 2005 were two very different men. The loss of the love of his life and years fighting a war with no front against a seemingly insurmountable enemy could have easily been blamed for that, but there were indications that his restless personality affected his family long before Azazel came to call.
November 11, 1983. A pivotal day in Kripke’s Five-Year Plan.
Kripke grounded the Winchester family in Lawrence, KS because (it seems) of Stull Cemetery. As a resident of Lawrence, the lore surrounding Stull as one of the Seven Gateways to Hell is one that I know is brought out to play around Halloween every year. Here is a link with an article and an older pic of the actual cemetery: http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Legend-of-Stull-Cemetery.
It seems Kripke had designs on that Midwest local as the place for the ultimate show-down in Season 5 even as he pinned Mary Winchester’s body to the ceiling above the crib of her six-month old son, Sam.
The day Azazel came to collect on the ten-year deal he’d struck with Mary in exchange for John’s life was shown to us in the Pilot episode of Season 1 and set the path for how we thought about Mary: angelic, beautiful, shocked, shaken, protective, pinned, burned. Comparing that Mary with the Mary Campbell the magic of storytelling introduced us to back in 1973, there’s a bit of a head-tilt involved.
And one possible explanation for the fact that she wasn’t prepared for the demon to return (laying down salt lines around the house, putting protection charms on her children, painting sigils under the carpet, what have you) and was caught so completely by surprise when she found him in Sam’s room—standing over Sam’s bed and dripping demonic blood into baby Sam’s mouth—was that Michael’s Memory Wipe affected her hunter background memories as well.
As one who had been brought up as a hunter, Mary couldn’t have thought that the demon wouldn’t come back. So, I say Michael erased those hunter memories and help to set everything up for the journey the Winchester brothers were apparently destined to make.
Mary’s death, in such a horrendous and unnatural manner, set John on the path of a life as a hunter of the supernatural and he took his sons with him. We have clues as to what their childhood was like: Dean caring for Sam in the manner of a parent, John gone for long periods of time, boys learning to fire a broad spectrum of weapons from a very young age, finding out that the monster under the bed is real and that there is no such thing as make-believe (unless you’re talking about unicorns), hiding from Social Services, moving from town to town and school to school, their only home being the Impala….
We pick up the journey in 2005 with Dean asking Sam to help him find John. Sadly, Sam has to survive the violent (and disturbingly familiar) death of his girlfriend and almost-fiancé, Jessica Moore, before he agrees to go back on the road. But agree he does and it’s a journey that in this world changes the course of humanity. Little hints along the way at the innocent beginning—such as Sam’s painful nightmare/visions of death and Dean’s being told he was saved because he has an important job to do, and it isn’t finished—tease us with a there’s more to these two than meets the eye impression.
And it’s not 100% clear (to me) which brother is Kripke’s true hero. The focus fluctuates from one to the other over the five year span as events unfold and they are asked to handle news of varying importance, passing test after test, surviving the only way they know how. It’s not clear until the end, that is. And I’ll get to that.
In Season 1, John finds The Colt, aka The Gun That Can Kill Anything (except when it can’t), and there is a plan to use it to kill Azazel, aka The demon, but as all plans seem destined to, it goes sideways and John ends up getting possessed by Azazel and torturing Dean to the point of near-death. It’s the first of the family possessions, but not the last. In fact, the only one to not be possessed by the end of The Five Year Plan is Dean, which is a clue in and of itself as to the outcome and purpose of The Five Year Plan. Sam is able to use The Colt to break Azazel’s hold on John and save his brother, but demons are tenacious little devils and crush the Impala with a semi-truck on the way to the hospital. End Season 1.
Season 2 begins with Dean clinging to life, being pursued in ghost-form by a reaper, while his brother tries desperately to piece together his family and his father makes a deal with Azazel—the same demon that he’s been after for over twenty years and vowed to kill—in exchange for Dean’s life.
Let’s take a moment to reflect on the significance of what John did for his son. The love he had for him. He may not have been able to show it throughout the years—and I contend that grief and war could easily turn very natural parental fears into orders and instructions rather than comfort and guidance. But when Dean’s life hung in the balance, John made a deal with the one thing he’d been hunting for over twenty years—the very object of his intense hate—just to save his son’s life.
We’re given a cryptic exchange between John and Azazel about Sam: John ‘knows’ about Sam, has for some time, but he hasn’t said anything to his boys. It’s unclear to me—even in retrospect—if this ‘knowledge’ was simply that Sam was one of the Special Kids, or if John actually knew about his sons ultimate destinies.
It wouldn’t be surprising…after all, before the boys were born, John had been possessed by an Archangel. It’s conceivable that Michael planted some knowledge even as he performed the Angelic Memory Wipe. It’s also possible that John traded his life for Dean’s (with or without regard to the crippling guilt he would force his son to live through) because he knew about Sam’s ultimate destiny and he knew that the only one that would be able to save Sam—and therefore the world—was Dean. So…he had to save Dean no matter what the cost. There was no other choice for John, as a hunter or a father.
That’s pure speculation on my part, though, because we get nothing else from John except another cryptic message to Dean.
John tells Dean, for what appears to be the first time in Dean’s memory, that he’s proud of him. He tells him to watch out for Sam, to take care of him—as he’s always done. And then he says that Dean has to save Sam, because if he doesn’t, he’ll have to kill him. Once again, for Dean it comes back to his One Job. Only…with a rather horrifyingly morbid twist.
This message that was given to Dean, just moments before John surrenders to Azazel and goes to Hell, eats away at Dean, wearing him down inside and slowly destroying any confidence he’d been able to construct over the years. Dean has (in my opinion) always defined his worth by what he was able to do for others, who he was able to be for others. Having John make this sacrifice for him had Dean feeling unworthy of much else for several seasons to come.
John’s death dictates the journey of Season 2, sending Dean into a tailspin of simmering rage alternating with survivor’s guilt, and twisting Sam up until he doesn’t truly know if he should move forward or step back. Meanwhile, Sam’s nightmare-death-visions get worse and they encounter more Special Kids along the way. We also find out that there is a Demonic Virus dubbed the Croatoan virus that turns people into violent, mindless zombie extra’s from 28 Days Later. It’s spread through blood contact—and Sam is immune.
Very Big Deal, that virus, in the scheme of Kripke’s Five Year Plan.
Azazel collects his Special Kids at an abandoned location in Cold Oak, MN—snapping them up and transporting them as if on a demonic tractor beam—for a fight to the death. He wants to see who the last one standing will be. Because that person will have a duel responsibility: first, to open a Gate to Hell and release a ton of demons into the world, and second, to have enough power to kill Lilith and cause Lucifer to rise…. Though, I’m not entirely sure if Azazel knew about the second part.
And I also don’t know if any of the other Special Kids aside from Sam were immune to the Croatoan virus.
In another moment that could have brought The Five Year Plan to a halt had Dean made a different choice, Sam is killed by another of the Special Kids, dying quite literally in Dean’s arms. Dean’s heartbroken cry of what am I supposed to do as he sits vigil by his younger brother’s body will not soon leave my mind.
He’d failed in his One Job. Who was he if not Sam’s protector?
Unable to bear the grief of losing his brother in such a way, Dean does the only thing he can think of: he makes a deal for Sam’s life. Just as his father did, just as his mother did. (Though, to be fair, he didn’t know about his mother’s choice at the time he bargained with the Crossroads Demon.) Once Sam is brought back to life, Dean is able to use The Colt to finally put an end to Azazel and reap vengeance on the destroyer of his family, ending Season 2.
But it isn’t the end of their demonic troubles. Not by a long shot.
Dean’s granted one year before the Hellhounds come for his soul, and though we traverse a multitude of emotions throughout Season 3, following Dean through the stages of grief and Sam through resistance and denial, when the year is up, the brothers aren’t able to find an escape clause.
One thing had changed, though: Sam no longer had painful nightmare/death visions. His own death—and subsequent quick trip to Heaven, we later learn—seemingly burned them out of him. Which is good, because Sam has a whole ‘nother destiny to worry about.
In a highly-charged, heartbreaking scene, the boys have to tell each other goodbye just before Hellhounds show up to literally—and I do mean literally—rip Dean to shreds. When Sam brokenly repeats Dean’s own what am I supposed to do question, Dean tells him to, “Keep fighting. Take care of my wheels. Remember what Dad taught you... And remember what I taught you.”
Dean’s tour in Hell is felt across the void and we later learn two things pivotal to The Five Year Plan:
1) In Season 4 it’s revealed that there is a prophecy stating that a righteous man would be broken in Hell and that would break the first Seal. The four months on Earth Dean spent in Hell was actually 40 years for Dean. He spent 30 of those years being tortured by a demon named Alistair. The demon sliced and carved until there was nothing left of Dean. Every day. And then Dean was brought back, whole, so the torture could start again. An endless loop of fear and pain and suffering. Even the most stalwart of heroes can only take so much. And as far as Dean knew, this was his forever. This was his existence. And yet he resisted. Telling Alistair to stick it. For thirty of his forty years.
But then, he broke. And he climbed down off the rack and joined the ranks of the torturers in an effort to end his pain. Sadly, that's when his true pain began. Because he remembered what he did to other souls—some like him, perhaps, some truly evil, some having simply made enough mistakes in their lives to be in Hell. But all people once. And Dean took them apart, the hero inside of him dying slowly.
The moment Dean climbed off the torture rack, the first Seal was broken and the quest to free Lucifer from his cage began. Additionally, a behind-the-scenes battle in Heaven commenced. Castiel, a warrior angel, was sent to lay siege to Hell and physically drag Dean out of there, body and soul. He did, and while some factions in Heaven rejoiced because a plan to trigger Armageddon had been set in motion (and therefore pave the way for Heaven on Earth, supposedly), other angels, like Castiel, started to wake up to the magnificence that is the human spirit.
2) Sam was wholly and utterly lost without his brother. Dean’s parting words to him to “keep fighting” were catalyst to the unspooling of Sam’s thread. Desperation finds a comfortable home inside of grief, and has the uncanny ability to cause riots in the minds of the sane. Had Dean not given his life for Sam, had he not died in such a horrendous, painful way, and had he not charged Sam with the promise to “keep fighting”…things may have gone very differently for Sam.
As it was, Sam fell in league with a manipulative demon, Ruby, and found that he had a weakness for demon blood, and the power it gave him (the path for this addiction perhaps laid bare when Azazal visited his room when he was six months old). In a hesitant, not-quite-complete confession, Sam tells Dean what happened to him while Dean was in Hell. That he was near-suicidal with his need to get Dean back; that he even tried to work out a deal with a Crossroads Demon to simply trade places with Dean, but that none of it worked (because the demons had Dean right where they wanted him).
Of course, Sam’s confession left out the part about him drinking demon blood to enhance his powers and that fact that he could exorcise demons with his mind. That was a bit beyond the Special Kid Army power that Azazal triggered. Dean had to find out about that change in his brother all on his own and seeing what Sam was capable of, that it was a power Dean compartmentalized as one used by those things he hunted, not his little brother, chipped away at the trust Dean had in Sam.
Sam’s powers are a mystery that carried over beyond The Five Year Plan: were they triggered by Azazel’s blood? Were they brought on by the drinking of demon blood? Or were they a result of his ultimate destiny: to be Lucifer’s vessel? Were Sam’s powers simply and utterly Sam?
Inquiring minds want to know.
Season 4 took us on a journey of heartbreak and disillusionment. We saw the boys we love torn apart by forces both inside and outside of them. We saw Sam fall farther away and Dean be slammed over and over with a truth he wasn’t equipped to deal with. He didn’t want to believe in God or angels, but an Angel Of The Lord (Castiel) ‘pulled him from perdition’ and threatened to throw Dean back in if he didn’t wise up and obey.
It was soon obvious that was an empty threat from Castiel in particular; while the angels may have thought at first that the righteous man the prophecy spoke of was John, they were wrong. Either John wasn’t righteous, or he never broke. Either way, John didn’t start the countdown to Lucifer’s freedom and Armageddon.
Dean carried that guilt, the weight of that burden and knowledge with him as he was denied time to heal from his ordeal and his nightmares and as he was forced to face the real-life, very much now Hell his younger brother was living. Sam, destroyed by the loss of his brother and already too-far gone down the slippery slope of addiction when Dean was returned, was deceived by a vixen of a demon and despite Dean’s best efforts (the Panic Room anyone?) ended up beating the crap out of his brother and walking away from him.
Sam chose a demon’s modified truth over his brother’s faith and that moment had echoing repercussions throughout Season 5.
Both brothers said things they ultimately regretted (as we all do when we’re hurt, angry, confused), but the worst of Season 4’s fallout was that Dean no longer trusted Sam. And that distrust cut Sam off from his anchor to good and set him adrift in a sea of demonic grabby hands all ready to take hold of the charge they’d been tasked with manipulating since before he was born.
Sam, mistakenly thinking that killing Lilith would end all of this and have the nice by-product of achieving retribution for Dean’s death, torques up on demonic power to the point his eyes slip black. He does kill Lilith. But he also causes Lucifer to rise.
The saving grace at the end of Season 4 is that just before Hell breaks loose, Dean realizes that there’s really only one thing that matters in this entire struggle with angels and demons, Heaven and Hell. It’s the same thing that has always mattered. His One Job: Sam.
He manages to get to Sam just as Sam is rocked by the realization of what he’s done and what’s been done to him. Together, they kill the demon, Ruby, that manipulated Sam and are there, blindly holding on to each other with a tenuous grasp, as Lucifer bursts free of Hell.
The Plan: Unveiled
Season 5 is a fight. The whole damn time.
Lucifer rises and very soon after takes over a human vessel using the whole sympathy for the devil trick. He finds a man who is grieving the violent loss of his wife and child and uses that weakness to play up the whole if God loved you, why would He allow something like this to happen angle. He convinces the man, Nick, that he, Lucifer, has been misunderstood all these many years, and in a heart-sickeningly easy manipulation of fact, gains access to Nick’s body.
It’s not his chosen, vessel, though. It’s not the vessel Lucifer was meant to have.
I am your density…I mean, your Destiny
Following the reveals in Season 5, the story doesn’t really begin with the Impala, as Chuck The Prophet-Who-Might-Be-God claimed in his finale narrative. It began with God (ironically enough) and His creation of the angels. Michael and Lucifer were angelic brothers. Lucifer, the Morning Star, the brightest and most beautiful of the Archangels, fell—reasons to be debated ad nauseam—and Hell and The Devil were created, as was a cosmic rift between Michael and Lucifer that echoed through humanity. Beginning with Cain and Abel—if this blood lineage is one of the plot devises you choose to buy into—the brotherly destiny travels through the millennia until Dean and Sam Winchester are born.
Early on in Season 5, when their bond of trust is still very sketchy (they even spend time apart with Sam thinking he’ll “quit hunting”) and both are still wounded from what transpired in the moments leading up to Lucifer’s rise from his cage in Hell, the brothers find out what all the fuss has been about: they are the predestined human vessels for the Archangels Michael and Lucifer. They are to be the human embodiment of the fight of Armageddon.
That is the reason for their parent’s pain and death. That is the reason for all they’ve been forced to survive.
Because they were protected (in Season 4) by Enochian symbols (or angel language) carved into their ribcage by Castiel, they can’t be tracked by angel or demon. They have to be found through alternative means. Lucifer visits Sam in a dream. Michael tells Dean via his father during a trip back in time. Sam, his fate having been sealed ten years before he was born, was to be Lucifer’s human vessel. The Special Kid powers, the demonic blood addition, the ability to exorcise demons with his mind…it all added up to being the one human that could harness Lucifer without an early expiration date. Dean, the elder brother, the obedient soldier, was to be Michael’s vessel.
All of the there’s more to these two than meets the eye insinuations, all of the soul manipulation by demons (striking deals and killing loved ones) and angels (maneuvering moments to pair up John and Mary in the first place), all of the wearing down and wrenching apart of these two heroes over the last four Seasons was to set them up for this earth-shattering revelation that they receive separately, but end up fighting jointly.
They will have to give the angels permission to take over their bodies (angels, apparently, can’t just invade and displace a human spirit without permission as demons can), and once that is done, Michael and Lucifer will bring an end to the Apocalypse with the battle of Armageddon, destroying most of the human population in their individual efforts for domination. The vessels will basically be destroyed—unless something special is done (as in the case of Michael’s temporary possession of John in 1978), when an angel leaves the human body, the human spirit is annihilated and only a shell remains.
Upon finding this out, Sam and Dean are, quite simply, Not Pleased. And as the human heroes we’ve come to know and love, they fight this seemingly inevitable destiny tooth and nail.
In an effort to convince Dean that saying ‘yes’ to Michael’s possession is the only recourse to stopping the Apocalypse, the angels employ the nifty trick of fictional story telling (aka time travel) and beam Dean to 2014 showing him how the Croatoan virus was engaged and wiped out most of the human population and that Sam said ‘yes’ to Lucifer in Detroit and is now walking around on Earth destroying people on a whim.
This plan totally backfires on the angels; the end result is not that Dean is convinced he needs to give in and say ‘yes.’ It’s that he needs to find his brother, keep him close, and jointly bring the fight to the angels. Dean continues to fight the future and Sam continues to deny the Devil.
They endure the arrival of the Four Horsemen.
WAR infiltrates a small town and coyly turns the townsfolk on each other—slipping them a mental Mickey and making them believe they are killing demons when…the only demon in town, is WAR. “People don’t need a reason to kill each other. Have you seen the Irish? They’re all…Irish.” The defeat of War (and the subsequent retrieval of his ring) showed the weary fighters that the human race has the capacity to be evil to one another. But…we also have the capacity to be good. That’s the thing that saves humanity in this fight: that we can care for each other like no other being created.
Next up is Famine, and Sam’s use of the Force is what saves the day there. Though, it’s Famine that nearly breaks Dean. Rather than what you might think—taking away all of the means of sustenance—Famine amps up what you are most hungry for in any given moment. Food, sex, things are the most prevalent. The lust to fill this suddenly cavernous empty space is what kills us.
Famine triggers Sam’s bloodlust, though he does try to fight it, and Dean is confronted once more by the fact that his little brother isn’t really the same little brother he raised. There comes a time in every sibling's life when they have to force themselves to see their fellow sibs as a person in and of their own right and not as a playmate, childhood friend, partner in crime, or responsibility. This moment is never easy—especially when you have supernatural forces at work.
Sam uses his powers for good this time, but seeing it still breaks something inside of Dean. Not only that, but Dean is seemingly unaffected by the hunger everyone else—including Castiel—falls victim to. We learn, though, that it isn’t that Dean isn’t affected, it’s that he feels empty inside. His tour in Hell and the subsequent reveals about his destiny left him burned-out.
He had nothing left to be hungry for, really. Famine taunts Dean with, “I can see how broken you are…you can’t win and you know it… you just keep fighting… keep going through the motions… you’re not hungry, Dean, because inside you’re already dead…” How horrible to hear that the secret fear that you’d been hollowed out by Hell and life was actually true.
If anyone needed healing, reassurance, or the safety net of another’s arms at the end of this Season, it was Dean.
As the Season continued, friends died (Jo and Ellen, Gabriel), friends were crippled (Bobby), friends lost hope (Castiel).
Sam kept his eyes on the prize; his fall from grace (so to speak) in Season 4 gave him a fire and a purpose in Season 5 that we hadn’t really seen in this character before. He was winded and beaten, sure, but as The Plan was Unveiled in Season 5, Sam was never broken. He was never defeated. If anything, Sam grew stronger as a man.
However, as the battles waged on, Dean’s soul crinkled around the edges. He came this close to cashing it in and saying ‘yes’ to Michael. Castiel, not-quite a fallen angel, but cut off from Heaven for choosing to stand on the side of humanity, gave in to his anger and beat Dean bloody for even thinking about saying yes.
It was painful to watch.
The thing that saved Dean from making this choice wasn’t fear of another Angel-powered Smackdown; it was his brother’s faith. Sam looking up to him as the hero he is, the hero he’s always been. The righteous man whom the angels laid waste to Hell to rescue. The firewall standing between Sam and true darkness. Sam pulled his brother back from the edge not because he needed Dean to save him in return, but because Dean was his big brother. End of story.
And it was that show of faith that gave Dean the surge of strength he needed to go the distance. The world continued to crumble around them. They made plans and the plans were dashed by forces more powerful than the paltry band of resistance fighters, otherwise known as Team Free Will: One ex-blood junkie. One drop-out with $6 to his name. And Mr. Comatose over there.
At one point, another of the Archangel brotherhood, Gabriel, reveals to them that if they are able to gather all four of the Horseman’s rings, they can use the rings to open the cage in Hell that Lucifer was trapped inside for so long, and put the Devil back in. They have two of the rings; all that is left is PESTILENCE and DEATH. The individual battles with these two Horsemen is shoved into the last three episodes of Season 5 because after a year of fighting and struggling and coming to terms with prophetic revelations and the Apocalypse, time is running out. Pestilence nearly kills them; Castiel saves the day. And Death…well, Dean is the brother selected to face down Death. And it’s a confrontation I won’t soon forget.
When the only allies they have left is an angel who has lost his connection to Heaven (and with that his powers), and a grizzled hunter who’d been paralyzed in a desperate act to save Dean’s life, they concoct a crazy plan to trap Lucifer once more in that cage in Hell.
Only, the catch is…he’ll be inside Sam at the time.
In Chicago, IL, in a pizzeria filled with dead people, Dean sits at a table across from Death, has a bite of pizza pie, and makes a promise he never intends to keep in exchange for Death’s ring. Death isn’t too happy that Lucifer has him collared and controlled. He feels he’s above all this—he is, after all, one of the only truly inevitable things. He makes Dean promise to allow Sam to go through with the crazy Trap The Devil plan. Knowing that he can’t cheat Death, and knowing there is no other way to get this ring, Dean promises.
Once more the brothers face one of them going to Hell for the sake of the other. But not just the other—this time, he will also save the world. Quite a sacrifice, that.
And with this crazy Trap The Devil Plan, Kripke’s Five Year Plan comes full circle.
Kripke always claimed Supernatural was a show about family, but I think it was more than that. It’s a show about humanity—the power of the human spirit. It’s a show about how we fall and we fail and the heroic aspect in that is that each time we rise again. Over and over. We are screwed up beyond measure, but we never quit. Perhaps we want to, perhaps we mean to, but along the way we’ve gathered people who won’t let us. Who remind us who we are. With a word or an action, or sometimes simply by being there.
Their crazy Trap The Devil Plan works…sort of.
Sam says ‘yes’ and Lucifer takes him over…but as everyone feared, Sam isn’t strong enough to gain control. Not at first. Not before Lucifer plays a bit with Sam’s psyche and reveals all of the demons that had been put in place to herd Sam to this moment in his life. Teachers, prom dates, friends…people Sam had liked, trusted. Demons, all of them. Pushing, manipulating, shifting situations and choices, until ultimately Sam was standing in an abandoned apartment building above a Chinese restaurant in Detroit, MI, his brother by his side, and he was allowing Lucifer to take over his body.
Using Sam’s body, Lucifer killed every last one of those demons…as a gift to Sam.
Tell me that doesn’t mess you up a little.
Oh—I guess I forgot to mention Adam in all of this. Mostly because I’d like to erase him from the Five Year Plan. But…ultimately, to tell this story of Kripke’s, I can’t. So here’s the nutshell. John Winchester (gorgeous, rough-edged hunk of an older man that he was) wasn’t celibate. He sought comfort in the arms of the occasional woman. This is not a big deal; the man was a widower. And he had a stressful job.
However, at one point, one slipped past the goalie and Adam was born. John did everything in his power to keep Adam away from the life he’d thrust upon his other two sons. He was trying to protect Adam as he’d failed to protect Dean and Sam. We all want to make things better the second time around.
Unfortunately, it didn’t matter in the end. In Season 4, a ghoul killed Adam and his mother—before the boys even found out about him. In fact, they first met ghoul!Adam, not their real brother. The angels, frustrated that Dean continued to resist Michael’s call, resurrected Adam—literally from ashes—and he became Michael’s “back-up” vessel.
So, two things there: first, use of Adam as a vessel illustrates the distinct possibility that Michael’s angelic lineage was through John’s blood line (since Michael was able to possess John and John’s son—not Mary’s—was slated as a “back-up vessel”), meaning Lucifer’s was likely through Mary. To me, this makes the fact that Mary came from a family of hunters a bit more interesting. This is just my speculation, however. The show never came right out and said Mary’s bloodline was from Lucifer.
Second (and more importantly for me) if Michael could have a back-up vessel, why put Dean through all of this?? *grumbles* That’s a piece of Kripke’s Five Year Plan that still doesn’t sit quite right with me. But I’ll overlook it because of all of the other awesomeness.
Namely, Dean’s One Job.
My contention is that from Dean’s point of view, nothing was ever as important as watching out for his brother. No destiny, no Bigger Picture, not even the fate of the world. And because he followed through with that One Job, Dean illustrated his heroism. From a bigger perspective, one might say Dean’s true purpose in the Five Year Plan was to exemplify all the best of humanity: our strength, our compassion, and ultimately, our free will. This is the reason I say that the fact that Dean was never possessed is a clue as to the outcome and purpose of the Five Year Plan.
But Dean would never see it that way. He’d always been Sam’s protector. He’d lived his life watching out for his brother. He lost his way when he wasn’t able to recognize Sam anymore. He’d been angry and rebelled and turned away. But he came back to center, and that center was Sam.
And Sam was right. When push came to shove, Dean made the right choice to be there for his brother. When Sam showed Dean that he still believed in him—simply because Dean is his big brother—it restored Dean’s faith in not only himself, but in Sam as well.
Lucifer used Sam’s body to take him to Stull Cemetery, just outside of Lawrence, KS, where it all began. Location, location, location. There he faced off with his older brother, Michael (ironically in the form of Sam’s younger brother, Adam) preparing for the throw-down of the millennia.
And who should pull up to interrupt this epic battle but Dean Winchester, a blue-collar kid from Kansas who’d spent his life as a modern-day warrior following in his father’s Marine-influenced footsteps hunting evil.
There are more casualties before the war is over. Team Free Will suffers insurmountable losses. But Dean only focuses on his One Job: watching out for Sam. Using Sam’s fists, Lucifer beats Dean bloody. He breaks Dean physically, delivering blows that if not for angelic intervention Dean would likely have not survived. But Dean doesn’t raise a hand in defense. He doesn’t once strike back. He simply watches out for Sammy.
"Sammy…it’s okay. I’m here. I’m not gonna leave you. I’m not gonna leave you.”
It’s through this faith in his brother that the human hero sets the stage for both the Impala’s role as the Most Important Object in this fight and allows Sam to fulfill his true destiny: defeating Lucifer. Dean basically gives Sam the strength he needs to wrestle control of his body away from Satan (yowza!). Too broken to do anything but watch his brother make the ultimate sacrifice—the sacrifice Sam was willing to make, the sacrifice he chose to make, the sacrifice he wanted to make—Dean is forced to simply watch as Sam falls back into Hell, taking Lucifer with him.
Unfortunately, he also takes Adam/Michael with him, but we’ll deal with that in Season 6 speculations.
Dean is left to try to put the remaining pieces of his life back together—without his brother. He was the one soldier in this war that had always been human—never possessed, never a power (that they exposed) beyond faith, beyond the strength of his own spirit. In the end, while Sam’s sacrifice came at a great loss to his brother, Dean followed through with John’s final order: save Sam.
A promise to “keep fighting” almost destroyed a life. The Five Year Plan ends with a promise “to live”….
As for who was Kripke’s real hero? I saw they both were, in different ways. Dean isn’t Dean without Sam and Sam isn’t Sam without Dean. You could no more say that one or the other individually saved the world, stopped Armageddon, than you could claim that Luke would have become a Jedi had Han not shot Vader’s Tie-Fighter off of his back during the Trench Run. What? Oh, just go with it.
They were both tested, their wills pushed and bruised and pulled. They both had to choose. And in the end, they chose each other.
So, when stripped of all its fantastical elements of angels and demons, destiny and free will, Kripke’s Five Year Plan was (for me) about two things: family and the human spirit. All of the rest was just the bells and whistles that brought the point home.
You are never as real as you are when you’re with your family (be they blood or beyond), and the flawed perfection of humanity is a wonder to behold.
Continued with Season 5 Characters and Season 6 Speculations here: http://gaelicspirit.livejournal.com/85125.html