Supernatural – Season 15 Episode 18
Supernatural gears up for the end with the prospect of losing everything close to the main characters and a complete absence of control.
The previous episode ended at a really low point for Sam, Dean, Castiel and Jack. God exponentially increased his power by absorbing Amara and Jack was on the brink of exploding. Such an ending unfortunately lends itself to a unsatisfying resolution because the alternative is that everyone dies which just isn’t ever going to happen. It is underwhelming that Billie whisks Jack off to The Empty so that he can safely explode and then be brought back as if nothing has ever happened but the whole point of this plot was for Sam and Dean to realise that they were playing into Billie’s hands and that her plan was never going to benefit them. The realisation that everything they’ve been working towards over the course of the recent episodes has ultimately been for nothing contributes to the sense of hopelessness that this episode is all about creating.
After confirming that Billie is not to be trusted and stopping her from taking Jack to use for her own purposes the focus of the episode splinters off into making things even worse for Team Free Will starting with Charlie’s new girlfriend disappearing suddenly right before her eyes. This matches the narrative that has recently become known of Billie sending everyone back to where they came from be that an alternate universe that no longer exists or return to wherever the ended up after they died. This accounts for a lot of the people Sam and Dean have saved and undoes a lot of the effort put in to save people. Perhaps more importantly is that many of these people are people that Sam and Dean care for deeply so there’s a profound personal loss attached to this.
This is reflected throughout the episode as people disappear. Early on their awareness of what will soon happen is a source of tension as there’s no telling when it will happen and who will be next. Charlie is the first representation of this and the loss of her girlfriend is used as a strong example of the collateral damage that awaits. Her resentment of them is entirely justified and the ticking clock that hangs over every side character the episode both features and references is done very effectively. The best example of this is Sam frantically texting Eileen as they race to meet her. The three dots on his phone screen as he awaits her reply brilliantly show the urgency of the overall situation and Sam’s fear of losing her. Jared Padalecki’s performance sells this and the dots disappearing from his screen all but confirming the worst was heartbreaking. Typically using texting as storytelling is very poorly done but this example is definitely an exception. Sam’s reaction when having what he feared confirmed was also very powerful and really highlighted the stakes.
The lack of control is the biggest threat in this episode as things are happening that no amount of determination can counter. People are literally evaporating at random and the fact that God is behind it means that Sam and Dean are powerless to stop it. At this point God is toying with them by taking everything the hold dear away from them for his own amusement and it’s only a matter of time before he turns his attention to them. God is very spiteful which amounts to his greatest weakness; wanting Sam and Dean to suffer before he finally ends them gives them time to fight back and come up with some sort of plan that he somehow hasn’t thought of. For now he’s stripping away their support system in order to make them feel isolated and powerless because seeing them broken is amusing to them. The fact that they fail to realise that and waste their energy on tracking Billie down is also part of that plan because it removes a powerful rival from consideration which also weakens Sam and Dean’s position. God doesn’t actively appear in the episode but his presence is felt which is threatening on its own. His ability to pull strings from afar with the implication that he is taking sadistic enjoyment from his actions is undoubtedly significant.
Sam gathering most of the people he cares about in one place is another form of doing exactly what God wants as it means he can remove all of the people at once right in front of him therefore intensifying the anguish associated with that loss. Despite his best efforts to protect everyone that has gathered in one place God effortlessly takes them from him and all he can do is stand impotently as he watches them vanish before his eyes. It’s incredibly sadistic and a valid reason for the disappearances to start off gradually before culminating in the mass evaporation. It’s somewhat on the nose for an innocent young child to be the first of the group to be claimed before the other dominoes start to fall but it’s also incredibly effective
The episode is full of strong emotional moments that continually build to a really poignant ending. Sam and Dean’s reconciliation where few words are exchanged in acknowledgement of everything that recently went wrong. It’s another strong showing of the relationship between the two brothers as Sam knows better than anyone Dean only needed to wake up to what was really going on and was unable to see beyond the red mist that descended when God threatened his free will. There’s an apology but it isn’t overblown as it’s well known what was really going on inside Dean’s head so not much needs to be said between them. They acknowledge what has happened and then move onto the next problem.
Jack and Castiel’s conversation that details how Jack feels following what recently happened to him. Up until this point he was content with the fact that he was fated to die for a greater cause but now there is nothing but uncertainty as he lacks purpose. Everything he worked towards and the sacrifices made in pursuit of that amounted to very little so Jack now feels directionless. Cas assures him that his existence was always more than enough for them and he shouldn’t feel beholden to prove his worth to anyone through his abilities or what he can represent. This reinforces Castiel’s parental connection to Jack and marks what could be the final guidance he’s able to impart to him.
Castiel and Dean’s final scene together is sure to be debated for a long time to come and rightly so because it’s impossible to quantify what the most appropriate ending for such a significant character could or should be. It has been known for a while now that The Empty would claim him when he was truly happy so it has been hanging over his head for a long time. What that moment will be has been a lingering question and it’s likely everyone had an idea in their head of what that might be. It takes the form of self sacrifice combined with a moment of self realisation. Billie represented a significant threat to Dean at that point because she had nothing holding her back since he was no longer part of her plan. The fact that she was also nearing her own end meant that there was nothing left to lose so Dean’s life was is real danger at that point with nothing to really hold her back. Castiel’s realisation coming at that very moment may be convenient but it doesn’t lessen the impact.
His final words amount to an intense appreciation of the influence Sam and Dean have had on him. His growth as a character from emotionless soldier to compassionate ally has been extensively detailed since his debut and his final words act as a strong summary of his recognition of how far he has come and the key influences in getting him there. He also tells Dean that he sees himself in a really harsh light and that everything he does whether that be good or bad is done out of love. One of Dean’s defining trait is that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to protect those he cares about regardless of how much that compromises him and that’s something to be celebrated. Castiel’s realisation is that existence is what he derives happiness from and the life he has built himself among the people he loves. Having that taken from him is the biggest loss he can imagine and unfortunately for him finally understanding that means that he has to lose it. It’s timed to coincide with a desperate situation but it also means that The Empty claiming him is meaningful because Billie can be claimed at the same time therefore saving Dean. Misha Collins’ performance is excellent as he delivers what amounts to his own eulogy and his end coming after such a profound realisation intensifies the tragedy of such a loss. It’s entirely possible that this isn’t actually the end for Cas as he can still return from The Empty but if this does happen to be the last we see of him then it’s a strong exit.
The episode ends with Sam and Dean at an even lower point than they were at the end of the previous one. They have now lost everything and everyone that could possibly support them. There’s a strong implication that the entire world has been emptied of people except from them so the resources at their disposal have dwindled to almost nothing. Michael and Adam are still out there to surely be deployed sometime in the next two episodes so there is still hope in that respect but for now things have never looked more bleak. Sam and Jack looking over the emptiness of the world coupled with Dean on the floor a broken man is a brutally poignant moment to end on.
An excellent episode filled with strong character moments that continues to increase the stakes in emotionally significant ways. The people closest to Sam and Dean gradually disappearing at the beginning of the episode and disappearing all at once at the end highlights the complete absence of control at this point. God is effectively used as a far away presence pulling the strings for his own amusement and reducing Sam and Dean’s resources to almost nothing. The loss of everyone close to them undoes a lot of the work they put into saving them as well as removing the support structure they have. It’s depicted in some really powerful ways with Charlie acting as an example of the impact these losses have on others as well as her own resentment of them for inviting this situation. Another great example is the incredibly tense text conversation Sam has with Eileen before she stops replying because she is gone. Jared Padalecki sells this and it’s one of the better examples of storytelling through text message. Sam having to watch everyone disappear at once as he can do nothing but stand impotently is also very effective especially after the effort that went into protecting them.
There are a lot of strong emotional moments within the episode such as Jack and Castiel’s final conversation where Jack outlines how useless he feels now that the plan he was gearing up to action has failed. He feels useless and wonders why he’s around but Castiel assures him that his existence is more than enough for them and there are no expectations attached to it. It’s a great reinforcement of the parental relationship that exists between them and amounts to what could be the final piece of guidance he is able to impart. Castiel’s long promised end arrives at a very convenient time but that doesn’t lessen the impact. It amounts to self sacrifice combined with a moment of self realisation. He realises that true happiness for him is derived from his existence and the life he has built around the people he loves. The tragedy comes from this realisation meaning that he has to lose it but he makes sure that before he is claimed by The Empty that he tells Dean exactly what he means to him and advised him to stop being so harsh on himself when everything he does is motivated by his love for others. Misha Collins’ performance is excellent and the scene is very well done. The episode ends with Sam and Dean reduced to having nothing with Dean a very broken man in the wake of losing Cas. It’s a brutally poignant moment to end on and signifies that the situation is at its most bleak.
- strong emotional moments throughout
- God as a distant presence manipulating the situation for his own sadistic pleasure
- constant tension associated with people disappearing at random
- the urgency of Sam’s text conversation with Eileen
- Jared Padalecki’s performance throughout
- the three dots disappearing indicating that Eileen is gone
- Jack and Castiel’s final conversation where Cas gives Jack a final piece of guidance
- Cas’ end doubling as self sacrifice and a moment of self realisation
- the tragedy of the realisation meaning that he now has to lose it
- Misha Collins’ powerful performance
- a brutally poignant ending
- some obvious plot contrivances
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