Supernatural – Season 15 Episode 17
Supernatural puts things in motion ahead of the end of the series with a quest to find the final ingredient to make Jack powerful enough to take on God and character interactions focused on what connects as well as divides them.
With so few episodes left it’s time for serious attention to be given to the main plot of the final season. Everything about this episode is in service of preparing for that end and the writers deliver the predicted curveball that all but negates the plan that was the only way to defeat God. It’s standard practice on Supernatural for Sam and Dean to spend a period of time gathering resources and preparing to put a plan in motion that would solve their current problem only to have it fall apart on them with a reveal that there’s more going on than they considered. We all knew it was coming so it was up to the writers to make sure it made sense when it did while also raising the stakes in a satisfying way.
In a lot of ways this episode feels like a season finale, or at least the penultimate episode that leads into the season finale. All of the characters involved are firmly on task in their own ways and there’s an undercurrent of finality to everything the episode showcases. It’s a structurally interesting episode with the major players receiving their own title card to indicate that what is to follow is all about them. It divides the episode neatly into chapters that then connect at the end. This structure highlights how important a role those named have to play in what follows while also drawing attention to how disconnected Sam and Dean are following the events of the previous episode.
The rift between Sam and Dean is very significant in this episode as they are divided when trying to deal with the biggest threat they have ever faced. All of their successes have been because they are united in their efforts to win and their failures come when they aren’t on the same page so they are not ideally placed to face the current crisis. Sam is attempting to be the voice of reason but Dean isn’t prepared to hear it because his vendetta against God has completely consumed him. Learning that he has never had free will is something he hasn’t been able to accept as Dean is someone who felt that what he did was under his control. Unfortunately he hasn’t managed to deal with it in a productive way and has resigned himself to doing whatever it takes to escape being under the control of a higher being even if that costs him everything he cares about.
His early argument with Sam around what needs to be done is emotionally charged in all the right ways. Dean has convinced himself that Jack is a necessary sacrifice to put an end to them being pawns in a story and is making every effort to emotionally distance himself from what that means even to the extent to tell Sam that Jack isn’t family. He admits that he cares for him but has convinced himself to not consider him part of the family. There’s ample evidence to suggest that Dean and Jack’s relationship is a father/son one so it’s very clear that he’s convincing himself that isn’t the case in order to go through with what he feels needs to be done. He also repeats that Jack is willing to make the sacrifice as if that makes a difference to the situation. Sam points out that Dean is blindly following this plan and that sacrificing family isn’t what they do but Dean isn’t prepared to hear it due to his current mindset. Of course Jack walks in right at the moment Dean declares that he doesn’t consider him family which makes their road trip more awkward.
Dean and Jack’s interactions in this episode are really interesting as Jack barely reacts to anything Dean says. In his mind he knows what he has to do and has accepted that his sacrifice means that the world will get to continue free of God’s influence. To him that’s worth everything he has to endure though the impact Dean’s words have on him aren’t fully explored. This works really well as it adds to Jack’s sense of numbness around the whole situation. When he had no soul he was incapable of feeling and now he has to actively suppress them in order to continue. Suppressing those feelings is likely why he refuses to indulge Dean with the conversations that Dean feels they need to have. Doing so would open the floodgates and hamper his ability to carry on with the task at hand. It’s likely there will be further fallout from Dean’s hurtful statements that will be explored in the coming episodes but for now Jack is forcing himself to compartmentalise for the good of the world.
Their quest that takes them to Adam (Alessandro Juliani); God’s first Human creation and his Angel girlfriend Serafina (Carmen Moore) gives an intense episode some levity while still being firmly attached to the ongoing plot. Adam is characterised as a hedonist who has devoted his eternal existence to putting an end to God for his own reasons. He is doing so in conjunction with Billie and plays his part in supplying Jack the necessary power boost to bring him up to the level needed to destroy God. It is reiterated that doing so will mean Jack’s death and Adam’s rib becomes the final piece of the puzzle in building Jack up to that level. It all falls so neatly into place that there has to be something else behind this and if Dean was in his right mind then he would be able to see that but one of the biggest obstacles at this point is Dean’s stubborn insistence on the current plan being the only way to win. The test Adam puts Jack through designed to test his understanding of what has been touched by God is intriguing and gets away from the idea of there being a singular artefact that will solve all the problems -even though Adam’s rib amounts to that- by highlighting that God created the world so everything in it is significant in the sense that it has been touched by him on some level. In this case it’s not framed through the concept of being grateful for what he supplied as one of the major themes of the season has ben control. God created everything in the world so has control over everything in the world. Knowing that is important and that’s why Adam makes sure Jack is aware. This particular plot drags more than the others and could have got to the point more succinctly while devoting more time to the Jack/Dean dynamic.
Sam’s individual story takes him to Death’s library where he finds The Empty (played by Meg 2.0 actor Rachel Miner). He learns that God’s death will mean that everyone and everything will return to where they’re supposed to be which means that all Angels will go back to Heaven, Demons to Hell and anyone from an alternate universe will return to their home universe. Unfortunately for those from the alternate universe there isn’t anywhere to go back to so they’ll instantly die. This is more than enough to convince Sam that the current approach is the wrong one because the cost is too great. Once again Dean is incapable of seeing that due to his obsession with ending God. He declares that he will trade everything if it means defeating God and living the rest of their lives free of his influence but he’s so blinded by that obsession that he refuses to accept what will be lost in order to achieve this. Dean trying to force Sam to get out of his way at gunpoint is a particularly powerful act because things have never gotten to the stage where Dean threatens Sam in such a way. Sam is doing everything he can to understand where Dean is coming from but also stands his ground because he feels that he’s right to put a stop to what is about to happen.
Another thing Sam learns is that Billie is manipulating events to suit her because she wants to take God’s place. As mentioned above, the cost of Billie getting what she wants is significant and stands a chance of putting them in an even worse position than they are now. The true extent of Billie’s plan is unknown at this time but the fact that it has The Empty concerned strongly suggests that there is a larger threat to worry about. If this is to be the case then having God actually turn out to be the preamble to the real threat would be an unexpected twist even though it was clear there would be a lot more to the situation than has been revealed up to this point because nothing in this show ever turns out the way anyone intended.
The most interesting aspect of the episode for me was how God and Amara bounced off one another. Their conversations were focused on the contrast between what they represent. God is light and creation where Amara is darkness and destruction. There’s much more to it than that but those are where the lines are drawn. There’s another contrast between what they represent and how they behave. God’s role as the light would suggest that he should be more optimistic and compassionate but it’s Amara who embodies those traits. She has spent a lot of time exploring the world she was locked away from for so long and has gained an appreciation for it; an appreciation she encourages her brother to share. God can’t see the world and everything in it as anything more than a plaything to amuse him which means he can never truly appreciate what he has created. Amara wants to find a balance that allows everything to peacefully exist where God wants to hit the reset button and create something new. It’s a classic case of not learning anything and proceeding on a wrong-headed assumption. God thinks that constantly creating something new will allow him to fix the mistakes he made with the previous creation but since he doesn’t understand what he thinks of as mistakes there’s no way he can correct him so there’s an endless cycle of infinite universes created that he isn’t happy with. God is driven by his need for entertainment and when things don’t play out the way he wants them to he destroys the reality and moves on without realising that the chaos of choice is what makes his creations interesting. He thinks himself so far above his creations where Amara sees them as something to be enjoyed and celebrated.
It’s a perspective God isn’t willing to even consider because of his arrogance but the way Amara presents the argument is compelling. They are both on the same level as far as beings go which means that there a real honesty to their interactions. Amara tells it exactly as she sees it and doesn’t pander to him in any way because she doesn’t have to. God does attempt to manipulate her into doing what he wants because his go to reaction to any situation is to manipulate it but Amara knows him too well and for most of the episode she doesn’t fall for any of his attempts to drag her into his mindset. She is the one being who can stand up to him and she isn’t shy about doing so.
The end of the episode turns that on its head as the broader picture starts to become clearer. God reveals that Billie coming after him was part of his plan all along as he used his command of time and space to push events in a particular direction. It was all in service of lining things up so that Amara would come around to his way of thinking. Before this point she was proceeding on the assumption that Dean wanted to work with her to bring down her brother when in actual fact he was planning to betray her and kill her. God makes her aware of this and it puts a huge dent in Amara’s confidence because she failed to see it coming and put her trust in Dean while he set her up for her demise. Emily Swallow plays the reaction to learning this perfectly; Amara goes from being confident and in control to lost and betrayed seamlessly thanks to the performance and it adds so much emotional heft to the moment. At this point she gives up and merges with God in order for him to have the power he needs to do what he wants. Dean’s betrayal makes her feel that it’s the only solution which means she has played into her brother’s hands just as he expected.
As the episode ends, God coming to the realisation that he’s never going to get what he wants out of this final world so he looks to be starting down the path of ending it and starting again. Obviously this won’t happen because there are three episodes remaining but the fact that God no longer has any interest in Sam, Dean, Castiel and the world in general ramps up the tension massively as the only potential advantage has been ripped away. His lack of concern over Jack being on the brink of exploding is alarming as well because it all but confirms everything that was done to prepare for this was futile though the one advantage is that Sam and Dean are united again after a tearful exchange that gets them back on the same page so victory isn’t impossible.
An excellent episode that moves the main plot forward in exciting and unexpected ways, has excellent and relevant characterisation and really intense emotional heft. Dividing the episode neatly into chapters highlights the importance of the component parts before the converge at the end of the episode and shows how the pieces fit together. The Sam and Dean rift is played really well with a real focus on how divided they are at this point which tells the audience that they are entirely on the wrong track as decisions made when they’re not on the same page never work out. Dean’s obsession with killing God has clouded his judgement and he has found a way to convince himself of things that aren’t true such as not considering Jack family. This is backed up excellently with Jack compartmentalising how this will be making him feel as everything he does is in service of the sacrifice he’s convinced he has to make. The visit to Adam adds some levity to the episode while keeping it relevant to the plot even if this aspect does drag a bit and lacks focus on the Dean/Jack dynamic. Sam learning that Billie plans to take over and the cost of her getting what she wants upends the plan in unexpected ways and motivates Sam to get Dean on side because the cost of following through with the current plan is too high. This all works really well and raises the stakes appropriately.
For me the most interesting aspect of the episode was the God/Amara dynamic. They way the bounce off each other is really compelling with them being of equal standing as far as power level goes. The contrast between how they behave and what they represent is compelling as well with Amara having come to appreciate what the world has to offer while God sees it as something that contributes to his entertainment. For the longest time she doesn’t respond to his attempts to manipulate her and isn’t shy about doing so. When she learns that Dean has been lying to her that mindset changes and she plays into her brother’s hands just as he predicted. Emily Swallow plays this transition perfectly and there’s a real sense that the game has changed completely when God makes it clear that he has no further interest in this world. There is still hope as there’s a tearful Sam/Dean exchange that gets them back on the same page but things certainly seem to be at their lowest point.
- the Sam and Dean rift feeding perfectly into the overall plot
- Dean clearly silencing his conscience and trying to convince himself that what he is going along with is the right thing to do
- the meaningful Dean and Jack exchange
- Jack compartmentalising his feelings so that he can go through with what he feels he has to do
- Adam adding some relevant levity to the episode
- Sam gaining information that turns the plan on its head
- Amara and God’s interactions
- Emily Swallow playing the transition from confident to lost and betrayed perfectly
- God’s shift in mindset changing the stakes considerably
- the Adam section dragging the episode down a little and pulling focus from the Dean/Jack relationship
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