Supernatural – Season 11 Episode 23
“Alpha and Omega”
The eleventh season of Supernatural comes to an end with the resolution of a desperate situation involving God dying slowly and the universe coming to an end thanks to Amara.
Arguably the previous episode had all of the ingredients for a suspenseful finale with an excellent cliffhanger setting things up for the next season. The question on my mind since everything seemed to be blown up to extreme levels last week was how it could possibly be resolved in a single episode.
A short answer to that question would be “unevenly”. This wasn’t a bad episode by any stretch but it also wasn’t a great one and I really got the impression that the writers had completely written themselves into a corner with all of this complex mythology around God – creator of everything and Amara – sister to creator of everything so weren’t really any organic ways to resolve that. Sam and Dean were never going to be a match for Amara on their own and even with the might of Heaven, Hell as well as powerful Witches at their side they still couldn’t beat her so where does that leave us? The only possible way out of this from an action point of view is pull something out of the ether that can solve the problem.
It turns out that Amara’s big weakness is light which makes sense considering she has been continually referred to as “The Darkness”. This was never brought up before because God wasn’t trying to kill her due to her representing one side of a necessary cosmic balance. We are reminded what a disruption of that balance means with the Sun growing dimmer as God’s gets closer to death. Sam’s idea involves rebalancing the scales by killing Amara which will reset both sides to zero. That doesn’t seem like a good idea as they are two sides of a necessary balance so surely both of them being gone is as bad, if not worse than both of them being gone? Thankfully Amara backs me up on that later.
Despite that the plan is to bombard Amara with enough light to hopefully kill her. This doesn’t involve getting every bulb in creation and shining them in her face naturally as that would be nowhere near enough. It involves harnessing the energy created by 10,000 suns going supernova which does seem a little above the pay grade of any of the characters. Cas points out that souls have a lot of power that equates to around 100 suns so all they need to do is harness enough of those to make up the power level that they need. There are a few ideas of how to do this such as going to Waverly Hills Sanatorium -a real “haunted” asylum- and scooping up the vast amount of Ghosts there while Cas asks in Heaven and Crowley sees what is lying around in Hell.
The only success is Sam and Dean’s mission but it doesn’t gather anywhere near what they need. Luckily Billie the Reaper is on hand to make up the difference. The temporary alliance makes sense from her perspective as living in reality means that she is interested in saving it. Her appearance is only to supply the souls before going on her way again but it feels largely pointless on the whole. At first I thought it was to foreshadow a death at the end of the episode but she literally only turns up to hint that she will see them soon before leaving again.
Seeing Sam and Dean on the Ghost hunt is a lot of fun. It really highlights how far they have come since the first season. Facing that many Ghosts in earlier episodes would have been a very difficult task but here they keep them at bay as if they’re swatting flies. Sure Sam finds himself in a choke hold because that’s practically his trademark but the point is that this isn’t a difficult job for them any more.
Dean is the one chosen to wield the bomb as he is the only one who can get close to Amara without being immediately destroyed because of the connection they share. It is made very clear that it’s a one way trip for him and he accepts it without argument. Sam doesn’t even try to object because he knows that he would never get close enough to her. This is a mission that only Dean can go on and everyone knows it. It is somewhat disappointing that this is all the pay-off we get for Dean’s connection with Amara considering how much focus it got across the season. I was expecting her to engineer her downfall in some way instead of it simply being a reason that only he could get close to her.
Sam and Dean’s visit to their mother’s grave is probably the best example of a “goodbye” between them that we’ve had. It was very sedate and filled with genuine affection. Not much needed to be said because both of them know exactly what the other is thinking. I was really impressed that such a moment was allowed to pass without overblown declarations of how much they mean to each other. Sometimes the quiet moments are the most powerful. Later when Sam thinks that Dean his dead Jared Padalecki delivers a really powerful facial performance as Sam tries to hold back his emotions until a more appropriate time.
Sam and Dean naturally tie into the overall theme of family that sits beneath the entire conflict between God and Amara. Strip out all of the universe ending power that is in play and what you have is a sister who is annoyed at her brother and wants to punish him. Further depth is added to this when Amara seems horrified that everything she touches dies and appears afraid when having a conversation with an old woman feeding pigeons. In terms of dialogue the scene is really clumsy in putting across that when it comes to family, love and hate are two sides of the same coin.
Amara clearly regrets what she did to her brother in the previous episode and wishes that she could take it back but also thinks that it’s too late to do so. The idea of simply apologising to her brother and trying to make it right that way doesn’t outwardly occur to her so she simply sits there waiting for the weight of her actions to crush her.
It takes Dean to convince her that it is a rift that can be healed. He gives a whole speech about family being all that you can count on when all else fails and there’s nothing that can’t be forgiven. This inspires Amara to open up to her brother and admit that she was jealous of him creating life because she felt that he was playing favourites and forgetting about her. All she ever wanted from him was for him to be his brother. God shares the sentiment and the rift between them is repaired. It’s a really simple resolution to the apocalyptic stakes on display and it feels somewhat refreshing. It would have been so easy for this episode to try and top the previous one in terms of scope and that likely wouldn’t have worked so making everything about the people involved was a smart choice. It keeps it grounded and reminds us that the characters are the greatest strength this show has. When you have a season finale that is resolved by two people settling their differences by talking that shows a remarkable amount of confidence.
Rob Benedict and Emily Swallow deliver an excellent performance in their scene together. There is pain in their voice but also affection and they both tow the line between the two wonderfully. Rob Benedict has created a truly sympathetic character with his portrayal of God and Emily Swallow has managed to make Amara a layered and interesting villain.
Outside of that it did feel as if the episode was spinning its wheels a bit. I kept waiting for something to happen but there were so many scenes of the characters sitting around and talking about nothing in particular. Rowena trying to flirt with God and them bonding over being parents was fine as moments go but it felt a little out of place.
I was a bit confused by the episode constantly cutting to a newly introduced character named Toni (Elizabeth Blackmore) who spends the bulk of her screen time travelling form England to America to confront Sam and Dean for some reason. It is revealed that she represents the London branch of the Men of Letters and wants to bring Sam and Dean in to face trial by the Men of Letters Council. The timing feels a little off for this considering the Sun was dimming and her priority should have been helping with that. Having her look completely unconcerned as she casually said goodbye to her son and went on her merry way was really confusing. How this will go next season I can’t even predict but I’m already annoyed by this character and the cliffhanger of her firing a bullet in Sam’s direction is completely robbed of any tension because we know that he won’t die.
The other cliffhanger is something I’m unsure about as well. As a thank you for helping her see sense, Amara gives Dean what he always wanted and either brings his mother, Mary Winchester (Samantha Smith) back to life or sends him to heaven to be with her. I’m unsure which it is but I’m leaning towards latter since Dean had no idea where he was and was lacking in phone reception. We’ll see next season what this turns out to be.
There are other unanswered questions such as what happened to Lucifer. Is he dead or simply free to return and do things another day? My guess would be the latter which is always an interesting prospect.
Season 11 ends on an unexpected note with the conflict between God and Amara being resolved peacefully. The overall theme of family is handled really well with the conflict resolution involving a fairly simple conversation between a brother and sister. Sam and Dean naturally tie into this since they are brothers and know what it’s like to be in conflict with one another. There are definitely good moments here but the episode does feel like it’s spinning its wheels a bit and, as such there really isn’t a lot to say. I found the cliffhangers to be really confusing and slightly weak but we’ll see what season 12 has in store.
In general, this season has been a really good one. Amara always seemed like a credible threat that grew as the season progressed. Her connection with Dean was well developed throughout but comes to a less than satisfying end. The return to more stand-alone adventures for much of the season also worked well without downplaying the urgency of the overall story. I would say that this season was very much a return to form for a show that is very long in the tooth at this point. How much longer will it last? I hope a long time.
There were a lot of great episodes this season but my personal favourites were “Baby“, “O Brother Where Art Thou“, “The Vessel“, “Safe House” and “Don’t Call Me Shurley“. All of those episodes told a really good story in a compelling way and drew on the mythology of the show that has been created to bring something that feels earned. In a sense Supernatural was celebrating its own existence by drawing on what had been previously established and after 11 seasons, it has definitely earned that right.