Supernatural – Season 14 Episode 20
Supernatural closes out its penultimate season with focus on the current Jack problem and the return of a familiar face.
I mentioned in my review of the previous episode that the attitude to what Jack had done felt out of character for the Winchesters and seemed to exist to manufacture the required drama to move the plot forward. This episode doubles down on this by having Castiel continue to berate Sam and Dean over what they had decided to do about Jack while Dean makes it abundantly clear that he actually wanted Jack dead but didn’t think it was possible. It’s a problematic starting point because it feels so painfully forced and it defines much of what follows.
Sam and Dean spend the early part of the episode hunting for Jack. This takes them to a facial recognition software developer where they plan to scour the globe for his face in order to track him down. It’s not outwardly a bad plan and allows for the episode’s most amusing moment. Jack being tricked into putting himself into the box made him feel isolated and betrayed. Since he is only a couple of years old he has trouble with the concept of deception and doesn’t see a positive side to it so he makes it so that nobody on Earth can lie. The scene where he witnesses several lies being told in different contexts is really effective in illustrating how rife dishonesty is among people. Some of these are clearly well intentioned such as telling a child that nothing will change when parents are divorced but the fact is that it is still a lie and Jack can’t understand why people wouldn’t tell the truth so makes it that nobody can lie any more.
Naturally this causes the entire world to go insane and this is best illustrated in an office environment where people typically pretend that they like those that they work with while resenting them. It’s hilarious to watch the mundane arguments come to blows as a quick and effective way to show just how important dishonesty can be when it comes to the stability of a group of people. This point is made before it is applied on a global scale and the entire world is tearing itself apart through rampant honesty. What starts as a funny joke about how lies keep an office running turns into a very serious global catastrophe. The only way something like that can be truly dealt with is through some form of a reset button which, funnily enough, is exactly what happens.
The return of Chuck aka God -hereafter referred to as Chuck- throws in pretty much infinite storytelling possibilities which could be a significant issue for the episode as Chuck can -and does- literally snap his fingers to fix any problem. The challenge comes from the fact that he refuses to because he takes credit for building the sandbox and then letting his creations play in it. Naturally this creates frustrations for those that live in the sandbox as they have to deal with all sorts of problems that Chuck arguably could be taking a more active role in managing. This episode actually becomes about his willingness to interfere more than it becomes about the threat that Jack represents.
In effect Chuck becomes the central antagonist while Jack is treated as a side problem that distracts Sam, Dean and Castiel from the real issue. Chuck shows up and talks about how much of a problem Jack is while making it their responsibility to solve. He creates a gun that can kill anything and says that one of them has to use it on Jack while accepting the consequence that it will kill whoever wields it as well. This is about as contrived as a “kill anything” weapon usually is but it turns out to be a deliberate ploy on Chuck’s part as he is more interested in creating entertainment for himself than anything else.
This episode doubles down on Chuck the writer as well as Chuck the observer. His conversation with Sam confirms this as he talks about this version of Sam and Dean being the most entertaining to him across the multiverse. For some reason he is most invested in their lives and experiences rather than the countless other versions in other universes that he has created. A red flag is raised early on when Chuck mentions that he has lost count of the number of realities that he created. It all points to him not really caring about the things he has created beyond.
All Jack is to Chuck is an obstacle for the Winchesters that provides him with entertainment. Predictably Dean takes it upon himself to stop Jack by wielding the “kill anything gun” and going to confront him. The setting of the showdown is very dramatic, well lit and appropriately tense because it is a father figure intending to kill the kid he raised. Chuck even shows up to bear witness and comments on how perfect it all is while also revealing that pretty much every terrible situation Sam and Dean have dealt with over the years has been carefully orchestrated by Chuck because he thought it would be fun to watch them suffer in various ways. To him it’s toying with his own creation for his own amusement but for everyone else it’s their lives that he’s messing with just to make entertainment.
Supernatural is known for meta storytelling and this is possibly the most meta thing the show has ever done. Having the whole thing be Chuck/God engineering various outlandish scenarios in order to make what amounts to “good television” for himself is a really interesting way to frame it. As I’ve said Chuck the writer is the focus here so this approach makes a lot of sense while also providing a powerful emotional reaction from Sam and Dean. One thing they both consistently hate is being pawns in someone else’s scheme as they very much like to take control of any given situation. Learning that they have never really had any free will and that every horrible thing they have ever experienced is for the amusement of their creator is the worst possible thing either of them can conceive of. It’s like “The French Mistake” taken to the highest possible level.
Dean expresses his disgust very clearly by pointing out that Chuck’s entertainment is their lives and wants no part of it. This will forever be known as the episode where Dean Winchester told God to go to Hell and the moment is every bit as satisfying as it needs to be. It comes after Sam and Dean collectively realise that Chuck doesn’t actually care about them or the world that they continually fight to save. Dean’s simple statement is him declaring that he refuses to accept his part in Chuck’s entertainment which is followed by Sam using the “kill anything gun” on him. It doesn’t kill either of them but it does wound them and is a clear symbol of defiance. In reality it’s unclear what they can do to prevent Chuck from controlling their lives but the intent remains powerful.
Chuck’s reaction is to cut his losses and end the story by starting the apocalypse. This features some deep cut callbacks escaping from Hell to terrorise the world again such as Bloody Mary and has them surrounded by zombies. Hell has literally broken loose and the world stands to be eaten alive by countless terrible things that can’t possibly be stopped. There’s an argument to be made for accepting being a pawn in Chuck’s game in order to maintain relative safety but neither of them had any idea that Chuck would react this way. Rob Benedict plays Chuck with a complete lack of empathy throughout this episode which makes him a really engaging antagonist as there’s a great deal of complexity from earlier appearances to fall back on. It looks as if God will be the central antagonist for the final season and that feels about right for this show as the stakes definitely can’t get any higher.
Jack takes something of a back seat role in this episode though still has plenty of strong material. His visit to his grandparents acts as a deliberate callback to the moment he killed Mary as he doesn’t get the result he was looking for and grows uncontrollably angry. The episode leaves the outcome of this a mystery for a while but strongly hints that he killed them. Following this is a compelling discussion with Cas that provides insight into his current mindset. He talks about wanting to be a good person and living up to the example Sam and Dean set for him but the loss of his soul means that he just feels empty. Notably he still has a vague understanding of right and wrong but it’s something he has to work at rather than coming naturally to him which is a loss that he’s aware of even if he feels nothing for it. It is eventually revealed that he didn’t kill his grandparents because he came to the realisation that it was the wrong thing to do but he’s still a danger to others because he doesn’t have that moral filter helping him come to the right decisions.
For this reason he is ready to accept death as he feels that it’s the only safe way to deal with him since he can’t be trusted to do the right thing all of the time. He’s too powerful to be kept in line so he willingly submits to Dean when the gun is pointed at him. It’s a tense moment as Dean going through with it isn’t impossible despite one of the consequences being his death as it’s far from permanent where he’s concerned. Ultimately Dean lets him live because he just can’t go through with it after all which is great as it reveals what we all knew anyway; Dean hasn’t written off Jack and didn’t mean it when saying that he wanted him dead. It all proves moot as Chuck kills him with a snap of his fingers proving once and for all that he was always in control and that free will is an illusion he concocted for his own amusement. There is hope as Billie wakes Jack up in The Empty looking to talk to him. Presumably she isn’t best pleased with Chuck and sees Jack as the best way to concoct some sort of defence. If God is the series endgame antagonist then the Winchesters will need all the help they can get.
A strong finale that wraps up the Jack storyline and sets things in motion for a game changing final season. Jack is largely pushed into the background for the purposes of this episode as it’s more about the threat that he represents rather than anything direct though removing everyone in the world’s ability to lie does create some amusement early on while highlighting how much perspective has been lost by Jack. Seeing the world descend into chaos through unchecked honesty is both amusing and horrifying in all the right ways. The return of Chuck also overpowers the narrative while setting up Jack as a significant enough threat to make him feel concerned. Chuck the writer is what the episode focuses on which becomes vitally important once it’s revealed that every horrible thing Sam and Dean have been through has been orchestrated by Chuck for his own amusement. It’s the most meta thing Supernatural has ever done and it raises the stakes significantly as free will itself has been an illusion. Dean’s response to this is to tell Chuck to go to Hell which makes him kickstart the Apocalypse by literally unleashing Hell on Earth. The stakes have never been higher which feels appropriate for the final season of this show. Having Sam and Dean combat the meta side of their show by having their existence be an elaborate series of manufactured circumstances is a great touch as it turns one of the show’s major draws into compelling storytelling.
Jack does receive some attention through the mystery over whether he repeated the mistake he made by killing Mary with his grandparents. The episode delays the reveal of this while allowing Jack to question where he fits into the world now that he doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong. He talks to Cas about the emptiness he feels and how aware he is of the loss but also how unaffected he is by it. This allows him to accept that Dean has to kill him because he understands the danger he represents and he knows that keeping him in line is impossible. Ultimately Dean decides to spare him clearly showing that he hasn’t written Jack off despite his passionate declarations to the contrary. Chuck doesn’t take kindly to defiance and kills him with a snap of his fingers proving once and for all that free will is an illusion. Jack wakes up in The Empty and sees Billie who wants to talk to him. The suggestion is that she isn’t happy with what Chuck is doing and wants to draft him to help her defy him. If God is to be the series endgame antagonist then the Winchesters will need all the help they can get
- the comedic interlude where nobody could lie
- focusing on Chuck the writer and heightening the tension along those lines
- Sam and Dean’s lives acting as entertainment for Chuck being the most meta thing the show has done
- Jack considering the loss of his morality and accepting his fate
- Dean telling God to go to Hell
- an excellent cliffhanger that sets God up as the antagonist for the final season
- Dean wanting Jack dead feeling forced
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User Review( votes)
Next season is the end of a very long run for Supernatural and it looks as if the writers are pulling out all the stops to make ending memorable. Having God be the central antagonist against the backdrop of Hell being let loose on Earth is about as epic as the stakes can get on this show which will definitely be hard to manage in a way that will be satisfying to audiences. Throughout the run of the series the writers have consistently managed to surprise me with left field twists that make great use of the characters involved so I have every confidence that the final season will continue to deliver.
With it being the final season I would expect a lot of nods to the long history that the series has with returning characters and callbacks to prior situations. We already got the suggestion of that in this episode with Bloody Mary being let out of Hell so the groundwork is firmly in place. It’s always possible for dead characters who had an impact on the Winchesters such as Jo or Beth to make a welcome return in some way as well. It certainly looks like Billie and Jack will play a significant role in what happens next season which may also allow for the return of other Angels. Supernatural has earned a send-off that offers appropriate fan service so I’m hopeful that the writers will take advantage of this.
As for how the series could conclude that’s a more difficult one. What does an ending for Sam and Dean look like? Death won’t cut it as it never keeps them down for long. To my mind the best ending for them is no ending at all. They could stop the current crisis and restore the world to something resembling normality before driving off into the sunset on their next Hunt. Perhaps it could end with all major threats being stopped so that the world isn’t in danger of ending any more but there are still plenty of ghosts, demons and other supernatural threats to deal with on a much smaller scale. Sam and Dean could end the series being content with what they do best. Of course the writers could deliver a completely insane ending such as one of them running Heaven and the other running Hell. Anything is possible on this show. Stay tuned to Kneel Before Blog for coverage of the final season of Supernatural later in the year.
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