Supernatural – Season 15 Episode 20
Supernatural ends its historic 15 year run with one last hunt and the end of the road for the Winchester brothers.
Endings are hard. Chuck/God said that in the season 5 finale “Swan Song” and he was completely right. Ending something that people have a strong connection to is no easy task because everyone connects to it in their own way meaning there’s no way to craft a conclusion that will please absolutely everyone. For Supernatural this is likely compounded by it being on the air for 15 years so has a weight of expectation that might be unequalled.
With the fight against God wrapped up in the previous episode it was unclear what the finale would actually be about. I speculated that it would follow the example of Arrow and use its final episode as something of an epilogue rather than concentrating on defeating some sort of world ending threat and that’s essentially what this episode is. It begins with a montage of Sam and Dean just living their lives as they go through their morning routine including making breakfast, making their beds -or not in the Dean’s case- and looking for any problems that they need to deal with. Instead of going on a hunt they take a trip to a pie festival which results in a self indulgent yet welcome “pie in the face” gag that serves as a great reminder of their brotherly connection with one final prank.
There were a lot of callbacks to the first season in the first section of the episode with John’s journal providing the information they need and the back to basics approach of the brothers going on a hunt with only each other for backup. The basic hunt is something the show never abandoned over the course of its long run and it would often be comforting to have a few episodes within a season where the ongoing arc takes a rest in favour of a more traditional outing. In many ways Supernatural is about the daily grind of life with the associated routines and mundanity. Despite Sam and especially Dean rejecting the notion of a normal life because of how uninteresting they think it is, their lives were actually as routine as it gets because they had hunting down to such a fine art that there would be distinct processes that they would follow depending what they were facing and there wouldn’t be much variation in how they went about dealing with whatever the problem happened to be.
In this case its Vampires though not Vampire Mimes to Dean’s disappointment. It’s notable that the case involves a family of four being torn apart by supernatural means and two brothers needing saved. It’s a deliberate callback to what defined their own childhoods while highlighting that events tend to repeat themselves with some variation here and there. No matter what Sam and Dean do there will always be monsters preying on the innocent. This reinforces the daily grind aspect of their lives and shows that they’re committed to doing what they can.
The final fight with the Vampires takes an unexpected turn when Dean is impaled on some rebar and fatally wounded. Sam doesn’t want to accept the inevitable and pledges to figure something out but Dean quickly accepts his fate and encourages Sam to do the same. What follows is a truly devastating scene where Dean fully opens up to Sam about how much his brother means to him, confesses how anxious he felt about approaching him in the first episode and reminds him that on some level they both knew that this is how it would end for him. It’s a genuinely beautiful goodbye with both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki delivering powerful performances as Dean succumbs to his wound. Dean using his final moments to be vulnerable and emotionally honest with Sam is very fitting as Dean is someone who wouldn’t typically be emotionally expressive because there was always time to do that later if necessary but now with no more time left he wants to make sure Sam knows exactly how much their time together meant to him.
There are going to be a lot of reactions to this death and many will consider it a let down because it was an inconsequential hunt and amounted to really bad luck on Dean’s part. They’ve survived worse, fought worse and the stakes have definitely been a lot higher so from that point of view I can understand why people would be disappointed that Dean Winchester’s death is bad luck when fighting an anonymous Vampire on a hunt they’ve done countless times. To me this is really fitting as death and loss are rarely the consequence of some epic event resulting in a heroic sacrifice. A lot of the time it comes out of nowhere and nobody is prepared for it. Sam and Dean were living their lives and something tragically unexpected happened. It’s random and human. This serves as a strong reminder that Sam and Dean are fundamentally normal human beings no matter what they have survived. It has to end sometime and for Dean it was an accident during their version of the day job.
This is probably why Sam had such a difficult time accepting it. They recently defeated God himself yet there’s nothing he can do about a piece of metal that impales his brother. Sam feels that something should have been possible and struggles with how comparatively inconsequential Dean’s death was. Neither of them are strangers to the heroic sacrifice in order to keep themselves or others alive. Dean made a deal with a Crossroads Demon to bring Sam back at the end of season 2, Sam agreed to be Lucifer’s vessel in order to trap him at the end of season 5 and so on. There are many examples of this happening throughout the run of the series and there did come a point where they both agreed they would stop sacrificing themselves to save the other because it typically results in untold misery for themselves and others. Ultimately Sam has to accept that this is the end of Dean’s mortal journey and that’s not an easy thing to do because saying goodbye to someone you love is a very difficult thing to do but at least he gets to say goodbye where many don’t get that chance.
A similar montage follows Dean’s death to highlight Sam’s loneliness. He makes breakfast and wanders around the Bunker but his heart isn’t in it any more. Sam has lost a big part of himself and his mindset has shifted completely to the point where he can’t continue as he did before. After receiving a call on “Dean’s ‘other other’ phone” he turns the lights out in the Bunker presumably never to return. A later montage shows him settling down, raising a child and living a full life. He unsurprisingly names his son Dean and breaks the Winchester tradition of less than ideal father figures by being the father to his son that John never was to him. Sam’s journey ends with him being better than the generations that preceded him and that makes for really significant growth.
Death isn’t the end for Dean. This is a show where Heaven unquestionably exists and that’s where he ends up. This doesn’t cheapen his last moments with Sam because Sam has no idea that he will see Dean again since Heaven was most recently a memory trap for those that end up there. People in Heaven relive their happiest memories but they never get to interact with them meaning they’re stuck in a repeating loop. This isn’t the case now as Jack fixed it to be a place where people could be happy and together. Bobby greets Dean and passes on this information while confirming that Jack brought Castiel back to help him with this. Now Heaven lives up to its name and becomes a true paradise for those who end up there. This signifies another major success for Sam and Dean as the choices they made resulted in this.
Now that Dean can do whatever he wants he decides to go for a drive that is intercut with Sam’s life right up to the point that he dies and joins Dean in Heaven to the tune of the show’s unofficial theme “Carry On My Wayward Son”. Despite being the third montage in the space of a single episode it doesn’t feel overblown because all three are distinct and highlight different emotions. The show ends as it began with the two brothers and celebrates the core relationship that drew many fans to it all those years ago. It’s a largely silent moment other than Dean saying “Hey Sammy” and Sam replying with “Dean” which felt right as there are no words that could truly convey the enormity of everything they’ve been through.
It wasn’t a perfect ending though I’m not sure what a perfect ending for this should would really look like. I mentioned lingering questions when I reviewed the previous episode and most of them go unanswered. Castiel doesn’t appear even though it’s mentioned that Jack brought him back which will certainly disappoint some. I’m fine with the ending we got for Castiel and knowing that he’s out there somewhere is certainly enough for me though it would have been good to see him again. It isn’t answered whether everyone God raptured were brought back though dialogue in the episode itself suggests that they were as Donna was mentioned. Nobody else was but losses were referenced. Of course that could be the countless other people lost along the way.
My assumption is that Jack brought everyone back that God had removed at that point which would include Eileen, Jodie, the alternate universe Charlie and Bobby among others but none of them appear so it’s left as an open question that is barely addressed. I’m not someone that needs to have every loose end tied up neatly because it can be good to have things to think about after a show reaches its conclusion but there are certain things that should have been addressed given the importance of them mere episodes ago. It would have also been nice to have more cameos though I suspect COVID made that nearly impossible but I don’t think it dragged the episode down much. For the most part I found it to be a satisfying conclusion that hit the right emotional beats.
A deeply emotional conclusion that provides a satisfying ending to such a long running show. Focusing the finale squarely on Sam and Dean as they live their lives following the defeat of God was a good decision and calling back to season 1 with a basic hunt including John’s journal was a really nice touch that highlights the routine that defined so much of the show. Dean’s death being the result of an accident during the Winchester version of the day job will disappoint many but feels fitting because death and loss can come out of nowhere during what otherwise seems like an ordinary day. Sam finds it tough to accept because he knows what they’ve been through and survived so can’t believe nothing can be done in this instance. The scene they share as Dean’s life ends is devastating and wonderfully acted. Sam becoming the father to his own son that John never could be for him breaks the tradition within his family and shows significant growth. Death isn’t the end for Dean, he ends up in a Heaven that Jack has turned into a place where people can be happy and together just as it should be. He decides to go for a drive that is intercut with Sam’s life ending in his death and reunion with Dean scored to “Carry On My Wayward Son”. It works really well and ends the show just as it began with the two brothers.
It’s not a perfect finale because it ignores most of the lingering questions unanswered in the previous episode. I’m not someone who needs everything wrapped up neatly but the importance of certain things mere episodes ago arguably required for them to be addressed. More cameos would have been good as well though COVID probably made that nearly impossible. Despite some minor issues I found it to be a satisfying conclusion that hit the right emotional beats.
- callbacks to season 1
- reminders that Sam and Dean have their version of a day job
- Dean’s death highlighting that loss and death can come out of nowhere during an otherwise normal day
- the emotionally devastating death scene
- Sam breaking the sorry tradition of Winchester fathers
- the change to Heaven acting as another example of the good Sam and Dean have done
- the montage of Dean driving as Sam lives his life scored to “Carry on My Wayward Son”
- the show ending as it began; with the two brothers
- lingering questions remaining unanswered
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User Review( votes)
Supernatural started in September 2005 when I was 17 and had just started university. I’m now 33 and in a full time job and a completely different person from the one who started watching this show. 15 years is definitely a long time and as the show neared its end I couldn’t help but think about how much I’ve been through in my life since I started watching the show. Through all the highs and lows over those years Supernatural was there and was always something I enjoyed watching. It entertained me, excited me, angered me, frustrated me, made me laugh, made me cry and acted as a comfort when things were at their worst while also being there while things were at their best. I’ve mentioned in previous wrap up commentary that entertainment media can become an important part of life for all the reasons I listed above and more. It’s important to recognise that especially when people might dismiss it as “just a TV show”. To me, Supernatural was and forever will be much more than that because for over half of my life it has been something I have set aside time to watch.
Amusingly I started watching the show because I found out that Jensen Ackles was in it. He was a regular on Smallville during its fourth season and I found him to be an engaging presence so I was interested to see what his next job would be like. I watched the pilot and was instantly invested in Sam and Dean as characters as well as the world that the show started to create. As the season went on I really appreciated all that they did with horror tropes and using them as a backdrop to further their commitment to character development. The idea of two brothers going from place to place to deal with supernatural threats that would terrify most people was appealing. The early setup of them essentially wandering into a horror movie with many of the associated character types already present and knowing exactly what to do felt fresh at the time. Sam and Dean had plenty of personality and their own baggage. Early on they nailed episodic storytelling with a loose arc connecting everything they did though the show was certainly a product of its time where serialisation was only starting to become more prominent. Supernatural never abandoned episodic storytelling with their standard model being an arc that would be abandoned periodically to go back to the formula.
A lot of TV shows have a formula that they stick to and Supernatural is no exception to that because it provides a workable framework to fit a story into. The show isn’t the formula though and neither are the lives of the characters. What makes life worth living is the experiences within that routine, the people encountered and the memories that are created through living life. To me this makes every episode of the show important because they provide a showcase for the characters while they work through their daily grind. Not every episode is good and not every season is good but the show ran for so long that it went through many peaks and troughs in its lifetime. Just when it seemed like it would be losing its way the writers would manage to breathe new life into it and remind the audience why the love the show so much.
It also became known for its various meta episodes where the writers would use magic or powerful beings as an excuse to do anything they wanted with nothing being off the table. This means there can be an episode where Sam and Dean find themselves moving through other types of TV shows, entering the real world where people think they’re the actors that pay them or even an animated crossover with Scooby Doo. They even encountered their adventures immortalised in novels that had a devoted following in the universe the show is set. It sounds ludicrous and shouldn’t work yet it does. It also doesn’t prevent high stakes and very real drama from taking place in other episodes. It was a show that could expertly juggle tone between episodes to provide a rich and varied experience that took itself seriously when necessary but knew when not to take itself too seriously as well. It wasn’t afraid to have fun and encouraged the audience to do the same.
I’ll really miss Supernatural now that it’s over and I’m very glad for everything the show has given me in its very long run. I’ve personally scored a few interviews with people who appeared in the show and I’m very grateful for them giving up their time to talk to me. Farrah Aviva (the Witch Danielle), David Haydn Jones (Mr. Ketch) and Ruth Connell (Rowena) were all great to talk to and such positive things to say about their time on the show. I’ll certainly miss the show as an occasional source for interviews. I’ll also miss it because the characters were great, the rich and well developed mythology was fascinating and the music was first rate. Thank you for entertaining me for nearly half of my life Supernatural. Now what?
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