The Winchesters – Season 1 Episode 13
“Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye”
The Winchesters ends the season with the final battle against the Akrida and the answers to major questions posed throughout.
From the day this show was announced it was clear that there would be significant inconsistencies between what this show would be doing and the canon established by its parent show, Supernatural. in Supernatural, Mary was forced into the life of a Hunter by her family and John didn’t become one until after she died. The Men of Letters connection on the Winchester side of the family wasn’t established until much later and John had no idea that the supernatural was real until later in his life. Mary and John Hunting monsters together was never something that was part of the history of those characters so questions were rightly asked about how The Winchesters would tackle this. Jensen Ackles assured people that there was an awareness of this while developing the show and answers would be forthcoming. Now at the end of the season, the answers have been supplied and audiences can now decide whether those are satisfying.
I found myself conflicted by what this episode presented to me. As a Supernatural fan, I recognised the fanservice that was being offered and even found myself emotionally affected by it because of the particular heartstrings being tugged. Seeing Dean (Jensen Ackles), Bobby (Jim Beaver), Jack (Alexander Calvert) and Baby appear on screen was a definite highlight and having their inclusion be a meaningful part of the story prevented a descent into empty fanservice. They had to make sense in the context of the story being told and they definitely did.
The problem with their appearance -and in a lot of this episode in general- is that there’s far too much exposition. Dean shows up after rescuing Mary off-screen and explains everything. The cardinal storytelling rule of show not tell is repeatedly broken in this episode and it diminishes what is delivered. Dean comes from a point in the Supernatural finale after he died but before Sam joined him in heaven. The episode contains a sequence where Dean takes a long drive after ending up in Heaven and he explains that during that drive he visited other universes to see if he could find one where his family had a happy ending. On his travels, he became aware of the Akrida and couldn’t sit idly by as they threatened all of existence. He explains that the Akrida were Chuck/God’s final creation as a failsafe in case he failed to wipe out existence.
This fact positions The Winchesters as an extended epilogue of sorts to Supernatural. Dean has unfinished business in the wake of defeating God that sees him step in and finish the job of saving all of existence. He mentions that the Akrida would eventually make their way to his world and that’s something he can’t allow to happen so he takes steps in this one to ensure that the Akrida are destroyed. Dean’s intervention upsets Jack as one of the conditions of restoring everything was that Humanity gets to forge its own path without interference from on high. This is something that Dean has ignored under the justification of a final Hunt to ensure the safety of his world and, more importantly to him, his brother. Dean fully stands by his choices and clearly sees the Akrida as his responsibility as they are the last holdover from his battle with Chuck/God.
His actions also come with the notable advantage of giving this version of John and Mary the opportunity to be freed from the grim destiny they experienced in his world. They now have the chance to live a happy and safe life. The choice is theirs and their lives don’t have to play out in the way that Dean knows from his world. Before leaving, Dean gives Mary the colt -a weapon that can kill any Monster with a single shot- to use on the yellow-eyed Demon aka Azazel if she happens to encounter him. Azazel was the catalyst that started John down the path of vengeance while dragging his sons in tow so this warning gives Mary the chance to prevent that. He also gives John his journal and tells him that his father’s journal was an important guiding light in his life.
It’s an interesting gesture as the journal kept Dean safe and made sure he had the knowledge he needed to survive. In a way, it acted as a parental figure for him as it supplied guidance and advice. Dean gifting John the journal has him take on a parental role of sorts in John’s life and the contents of the journal will have the benefit of Dean’s perspective as well as the perspective of his father so the information contained within will be invaluable in helping John navigate the world of Hunting. It also mirrors Dean giving John the letter earlier in the episode and enhances the purpose of doing so. John is depicted as being lost and directionless in that scene before the letter gives him a direction and nudges him down the path that led him to this moment. It supports how Dean interprets the concept of interference. He specifically states that he was looking for a world where his family would have “a shot at a happy ending”. What he’s doing here is giving them the tools that will help them achieve that but he isn’t doing it for them because the whole point is giving people the chance to live their lives, something that can’t be done with the Akrida on the loose. It’s interfering without interfering, at least as far as Dean sees it.
Following this, Dean, Bobby, Jack and Baby disappear with the promise that the characters are now in control of their own fate. Added to that is the promise that this is Dean’s final Hunt. Jack poetically puts it as it being time to “get around to the “there’ll be peace when you are done” part of the song”. Dean’s fight is now over and he has to stand aside to allow the universe to unfold in its own way. It’s a satisfying ending for Dean as a character as it allows him to achieve closure on his trauma by helping to create a better life for a version of his family. He recognises the factors that made his life difficult and takes steps to pay that knowledge forward. That’s growth and a great conclusion for Dean Winchester.
Dean, Bobby, Jack and Baby leaving also acts as a promise that a potential second season of this show will get to play out on its own terms completely untethered by Supernatural canon. This is the same approach to rebooting that the JJ Abrams Star Trek movie employed with the previous continuity interfering with the new in order to get it started before standing aside. It’s a reasonable approach as it’s a reboot with a link to what came before that promises not to erase it. Anyone invested in the prior continuity can be secure in the knowledge that it still exists while the reboot is free to blaze its own trail. In some ways, it’s the perfect way to reboot but it can be limiting.
One of the major limitations is that it can be alienating to viewers entirely new to the property. In the case of this episode, I’m left wondering how this will play to those who never watched Supernatural. I’d be surprised if it made any sense as Dean never introduces himself as John and Mary’s son or even gives his real name though it can probably be inferred that he has a personal connection to them due to the way he talks when around them. Dean, Jack and Bobby’s conversation would be confusing to those who don’t understand the context of the discussion so this entire scene may be difficult for viewers who have only watched this show to follow completely. It’s a good example of fanservice because of how it relates to the plot that has been playing out over the season and it never overpowers the characters the show is actually about but it may be difficult to engage with if you haven’t seen Supernatural. It’s not a perspective I have so perhaps readers could supply theirs in the comments.
This is still John and Mary’s story and the episode never loses sight of that. Taking down the Akrida is something they have to do on their own and there’s a sense that the moment of truth is coming very early on. An early scene establishes that Mary doesn’t know what’s next for her in life and isn’t sure if college is the right path for her. Samuel confronts her about it and she dismisses it because she’s focused on the job that needs to be done before she figures out what to do next.
The future is everywhere in John and Mary’s story. There are overt references found in Dean’s appearance and more subtle or differently overt coverage elsewhere. The strongest example comes early on when John tells Mary that she should stay behind as he and the others distract the Akrida because it’s likely that they won’t be coming back and they should keep their best Hunter in reserve. It’s a practical strategy that isn’t motivated by anger or in any way attached to the suggested death wish that has been referenced in the past. He states that he’s running towards hope rather than danger for the first time which signifies growth for John. It’s a sign of John wanting a future where he makes choices for the right reasons rather than being consumed by his emotions. This is echoed later in the episode where he declares his intention to face his anger and not let it control him. It’s a choice he makes that is different from his counterpart in Dean’s universe and a sign of the possibility of a happy ending.
Joan Hopkins (Kelly Sullivan) is a cautionary tale of a future that every Hunter may face under particular circumstances. She talks about losing everyone and everything she cared about which warped her to the point that she sees Humanity as ungrateful as they waste the abundance of second chances provided to them by the sacrifices made by Hunters. The gratitude Hunters get is people continuing to hurt each other and destroying the planet which is an insult that undermines the sacrifices as far as Joan is concerned. This resulted in her believing that Monsters are right to try to wipe Humanity out and that the best way to protect Hunters is to wipe out everyone who needs saving.
Her perspective is understandable but obviously skewed by grief and ignores some very obvious facts. One of them is that Hunters are part of Humanity so wiping out Humanity also means wiping them out. She resolves that by only deeming those that join her worthy of survival. Anyone who isn’t with her is her enemy so she justifies her actions and her desired outcome in her own way. She offers Mary and John the opportunity to join her and attempts to help them see her point of view but they are obviously never going to agree to that so they are positioned neatly on opposite sides.
Joan is the Akrida Queen without being Akrida herself so retains her own identity while being in control of the enemy that has plagued the characters over the course of the season. Introducing her in this episode is a problem as there is a very short period of time to establish her in a meaningful and effective way. Unfortunately, most of her contribution amounts to clunky exposition in an episode that’s full of it. Joan fails to be engaging as an antagonist because she is introduced and dealt with in this episode despite being behind everything they have faced so far. I wonder if something happened behind the scenes that forced the replacement of Roxy’s role as the one in charge without any time to actually establish Joan as a character in her own right. The only solution, in that case, is a quick monologue to explain her motivation and establish her as a threat before quickly dealing with her. It’s very clumsy storytelling but also may have been the only option.
A persistent problem with this show has been in its storytelling. Things have been routinely established and resolved without taking the time to explore them. Many of them were interesting and had the potential to be explored but the time was never taken to do so. Joan is the latest example of that and the brevity of her inclusion makes it difficult to invest in the stakes because there is no time to digest anything associated with her. She doesn’t represent an interesting threat to John and Mary’s way of life because there is no opportunity for them to explore the idea that under the right circumstances, Joan could be their future. It’s a glaring missed opportunity that contributes to Joan being nothing more than a minor obstacle to be overcome. There is a brief attempt to forge a meaningful threat when Joan tries to use the insecurities of the characters against them but it doesn’t work and definitely qualifies as being too little too late. Joan’s lack of impact is supported by how unceremoniously she is defeated even if being run over by Baby was immensely satisfying from a fanservice point of view.
Telling rather than showing is rife in this episode in other ways. Carlos mentions using the Ostium to send the Akrida back to their own world but it happens off-screen which makes it a confusing plot point as it counts as a major resolution but it drifts by with no fanfare. It’s a confusing choice and undermines the threat of the Akrida if they can be dealt with so easily that a single line of dialogue is all that’s required to highlight that it happened. Similarly, Mary entered the portal after running Joan over and saw every possible version of herself but this was told to the audience rather than being shown which diminishes its impact. It stands out particularly as it inspires Mary to forge her own path so a major character decision is as a result of something that the viewer doesn’t see and is relegated to a very quick dialogue exchange.
The episode also doesn’t do much of note with the other characters. Lata is possessed by the Akrida but it has minor impact on her and is used to facilitate a later information dump, Carlos solely occupies the background and delivers the occasional line as a reminder that he’s there, Millie appears in the odd scene, Samuel has a brief disagreement with Mary about the future and Ada loses a piece of her soul which is set up as a major sacrifice only for it to be returned later in the episode with no difficulty. This sow has intermittently done good work with Lata and Carlos but a general lack of interest in characters outside of John and Mary has been a persistent issue since the first episode. The finale definitely has no interest in doing anything meaningful with them.
At the time of writing, the fate of this show is unknown. If this is to be the only season then viewing it as an extended epilogue to Supernatural means that it works from the point of view of Dean getting closure on his own past by helping guide a version of his parents to a happy ending. If it gets a second season then the first ends with John and Mary on the road pledging to work out what comes next for them together while the other characters are left behind. A second season could be structured like the early season of Supernatural with two characters on the road saving people and hunting things while dealing with different emotional issues. The prospect isn’t an unattractive one but risks becoming overly familiar despite the key difference of the central relationship being a romantic one rather than a sibling one. Another appealing aspect is that it’s untethered by Supernatural canon so can deliver different takes on characters and situations found in the parent show. It’s a new yet familiar world with plenty of potential for exploration.
A good finale that provides meaningful fan service while setting John and Mary on a compelling path to their future. Dean’s appearance and the explanations he provides position this show as an extended epilogue of sorts to Supernatural which is a good thing for fans of that show because his inclusion -along with Bobby, Jack and Baby- is meaningful. His motivation being securing the possibility of his family having a happy ending and the steps he takes to help them achieve that works well in context provided the viewer has knowledge of what came before. Dean handing over his journal to John is an interesting gesture as it puts him in a parental role of sorts as he offers guidance to this version of his father. Following this, Dean, Bobby, Jack and Baby disappear with the promise that the characters are now in control of their own fate. It’s a satisfying conclusion for Dean that shows growth for him. Dean, Bobby and Jack leaving also acts as a promise that a potential second season of this show will get to unfold on its own terms completely untethered by Supernatural canon. One of the major limitations is that it can be alienating to viewers entirely new to the property. Another issue is that all of this is exposition so the viewer is told rather than shown what the story is. This is still John and Mary’s story and the episode never loses sight of that. Taking down the Akrida is something they have to do on their own and there’s a sense that the moment of truth is coming very early on. The future is everywhere in John and Mary’s story. There are overt references found in Dean’s appearance and more subtle or differently overt coverage elsewhere. John’s practical strategy suggestion comes with the assurance that he isn’t motivated by anger and is running towards hope. It’s a sign of John wanting a future where he makes choices for the right reasons rather than being consumed by his emotions. This is echoed later in the episode where he declares his intention to face his anger and not let it control him.
Joan Hopkins is an underwhelming villain that is introduced far too late to be impactful. She could be a cautionary tale of a future every Hunter may face under particular circumstances but there is no time to actually explore that. Her motivation is explained to the viewer and understandable if obviously skewed. The clunky exposition adds to the difficulty engaging with Joan as a character. Joan is the latest example of things being established and resolved without taking the time to explore them. Her inclusion and backstory is a glaring missed opportunity. Telling rather than showing is rife in the episode in other ways such as Carlos mentioning that the Akrida have been sent back to their own world. It happens off-screen and undermines the threat they represent. Similarly, Mary entered the portal after running Joan over and saw every possible version of herself but this was told to the audience rather than being shown which diminishes its impact. It stands out particularly as it inspires Mary to forge her own path so a major character decision is as a result of something that the viewer doesn’t see and is relegated to a very quick dialogue exchange. The episode does little of note with the other characters also. If there is to be a second season then the setup lends itself to being very similar to early Supernatural in structure. It isn’t an unattractive prospect but risks becoming overly familiar. It’s a new yet familiar world with plenty of potential for exploration.
- meaningful fan service with the inclusion of Dean, Bobby, Jack and Baby
- Closure on Dean’s trauma as he helps a version of his family forge a path towards a happy ending
- The Winchesters as an extended Supernatural epilogue
- Dean acting as a parental figure of sorts when handing over the journal
- promising that a second season of the show can forge its own path untethered by Supernatural canon
- keeping the focus on John and Mary
- John’s growth in running towards hope rather than anger
- following up on this with his promise to figure out how to manage it
- ending the season with John and Mary pledging to figure out their next move together
- constantly telling rather than showing
- several exposition driven scenes
- Joan failing to be engaging as an antagonist
- no time taken to explore the ideas associated with her
- her unceremonious defeat
- not seeing Mary’s experience in the portal despite it being the motivation for an important life decision for her
- doing very little with characters that aren’t John and Mary
- potentially alienating viewers who have never seen Supernatural
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