Carry On: A Supernatural Series Finale Review
Supernatural has finally come to an end. And I don’t know how I feel about that.
I started watching Supernatural in 2008, when it was airing season 4; my uncle told me that he found a hilarious fantasy horror show and let me borrow the dvd set for season 1. Within a week, I was asking him if he had any more seasons. Safe to say, I was caught up before season 4 finished airing.
Now, I’ve never really been a big fan of horror movies. I frankly don’t like getting scared, and so for the most part I avoid the genre. And while Supernatural definitely had some scares (especially in those first seasons), that wasn’t what I kept returning for every week. I found the characters of Sam and Dean Winchester compelling and entertaining. Before I got season 1 from my uncle, he told me to watch the episode Mystery Spot to get a feel for how hilarious the show could be (it turned out to be the second episode I would watch, since iTunes accidentally gave me Jus In Bello instead- I spent that whole episode waiting for Dean to start dying over and over again, as my uncle has spoiled). And from just that episode (well, those episodes), I was hooked.
Sam and Dean’s story, leading up into the Biblical apolcalyse, was more than entertaining. It was compelling. It was fresh. And Sam and Dean were characters worth following week to week. Even after the fifth season- which was originally supposed to be the ending- the show proved to be able to continue delivering great stories and characters. And I stuck with them through thick and very thin.
Sidebar: Having run for fifteen long seasons, the quality of the show has ebbed and flowed at times. Season 5, to me, remains one of the highest points, while season 6 is definitely the lowest (despite a few amazing episodes like Weekend At Bobby’s). But not matter where the story went, I never gave up on the boys. As long as Jensen and Jared came back to play Sam and Dean again, I was there to watch it.
Over the course of 15 years, Supernatural featured everything from urban legends and ghosts to angels and demons. Heck, it went full meta from time to time, finding ways to feature the fan community and even the show itself within the narrative. And they even did a crossover episode with Scooby-Doo (and as Chuck said, “The way I look at it, it’s not really ‘jumping the shark’ if you never come back down”). More than anything, though, this was a show about family. From the early days of two brothers looking for their father, to the later inclusion of characters like Bobby Singer or Jody Mills or Castiel or Jack, the Winchesters and their friends- through blood, gore, and laughs- taught us that “family don’t end with blood”. Family isn’t just the people you are related to, it is the people you care about, the ones you want to spend your time with, the ones you trust to have your back.
And family is something that this show has stood for. The cast treat each other like family, and the fan community treats itself like a family as well. The actors and crew have a great respect for the fans, acknowledging time and time again that without the fans, we wouldn’t be talking about the fifteenth season right now. Seriously, just go to a convention for this show and despite seeing posters featuring demons and vampires, all you’re going to hear all weekend is people coming together to celebrate this makeshift family (plus good music from Rob Benedict- a.k.a. Chuck-’s band and featuring many of the actors singing and performing and some of the silliest antics ever).
But all good things must come to an end. Endings were a hard thing for Supernatural- Sam and Dean themselves have died many, many times, and they’ve always found a way back. But that was the long lesson for these characters, one that may adversaries have tried to teach them. In the episode Mystery Spot, the Trickster (a personal favorite) tries to teach Sam that nothing good will ever come from the boys’ constant need to save the other one. And that’s been true; when Sam died the first time, Dean sacrificed his soul to bring him back, which damned him to Hell in season 3. When Castiel pulled Dean back out of Hell, he signalled the beginning of the apocalypse. And when Cas brought Sam back from Lucifer’s cage, he came back missing his soul. The boys have been broken and beaten more times than anyone can count, have gone through so much to keep on living and fighting. But even if they couldn’t seem to stay dead, we watched others around them fall. From their dad early on, to Bobby, to their mom after she was resurrected, the boys kept losing people along the way. And no matter how much fight they had in them, I always figured that when Sam and Dean finally go out, they were gonna end bloody.
Season 15, for me, was a bittersweet one. While I felt that the show had told about all of the stories it could tell (and honestly, maybe it had gone on a little too long), I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Sam and Dean. I mean, these characters have been a constant presence for nearly half of my life. They’d been a connection between myself and my uncle and my aunt (his sister), as we all loved watching the show and talking about it. We’ve gone to conventions together, had our pictures taken with some of the cast, sat through hours of panels with the actors listening to their stories. Supernatural wasn’t only about family- it was a family. And like any family you are close to, it was hard to say goodbye.
It was especially hard in the final three episodes. Season 15 on a whole was good- not the best, and not the worst. If anything, it just felt like a normal season of the show. It didn’t feel like it was building towards anything super climactic, even though they were preparing to fight God himself.
Sidebar: as a Christian, I can understand how some might feel with God being the villain of the series. But I’ve come to a sort of peace with this turn of events, because Chuck, to me, was never portraying the God of the Bible. Sure, Chuck had most of God’s power (I say most, because they had to give the character some weakness for Sam and Dean to be able to fight him, and the God of the Bible is perfect and has no weakness), but he was protrayed as an egotistical writer, a spoiled child maniac who could literally control the lives of the characters who were fighting him. To me, this was a god who had lost his love for his creation, who didn’t care and didn’t forgive. In fact, I don’t think the version of God we see in Supernatural ever sent Jesus to die on the cross for us, Jesus as a charactern never appears on the show. So, as a Christian, while I get the trepidation of God being an antagonist, I always viewed Chuck as a warped, loveless fictional character with the powers of God, and never something to be taken seriously as a true represenation of the Biblical God.
While I have thoroughly enjoyed all of the episodes of this season, at times it felt like we were counting down to the end of the series without getting closer to any sort of ending. After all, the latter half of season 5 felt properly grim given that they were inching closer to doomsday. More than anything, season 15 felt like they were telling a lot of the one-off stories they’d not been able to work in elsewhere in the series, with only occassional episodes tying back into the main narrative arc. Granted, that’s how most seasons of Supernatural go; after all, this show came from a bygone era of television, one before streaming services became, well, services. When Supernatural first hit the airwaves, Netflix was just a dvd mail service. Nowadays, many popular shows have only 8–10 episodes per season, but when Supernatural began, it was standard for television seasons to have 20–24 episodes, which included plenty of filler episodes to pack out the show between the bigger plot-driven episodes.
But season 15 it finally kicked into high gear in those final three episodes. In just the first two hours, we saw Death try to usurp God and lay to rest any who were not supposed to be alive (read: Sam, Dean, and just about everyone they’d ever saved), Castiel sacrfice himself to the Empty to save Dean and defeat Death (moments after confessing his love for Dean), Chuck “Thanos-snap” everyone out of existence (except for Sam, Dean, and Jack), Lucifer and Michael having one final showdown (and Michael, true to form, turning on Sam and Dean at the last minute), and Jack going full Avatar (Last Airbender, not blue people) to take away Chuck’s power and become the new “God” (something that Castiel once tried to do but failed miserably at… I think Jack will be better suited to the role). Whew.
I think it was a poingnant ending for the season to have Sam and Dean spare Chuck, letting him live powerless and into obscurity in his own creation. But that wasn’t the end.
We always knew it was going to end bloody. And it did, for Dean. In the end, it wasn’t one of the many apocalypses the boys thwarted. It wasn’t one of the big bads that got him. It was just another hunt. It sounds anticlimactic, but Dean affirms that we always knew he’d go out fighting a monster and saving lives. After all, that was the family business.
The final episode was, all-in-all, relatively low-key. We didn’t get the “Battle of Hogwarts” or all of the ships in the galaxy showing up to fight the Emperor and his fleet of Star Destroyers. In part, I think we owe that to the pandemic; filming on Supernatural was cut short when stay-at-home orders and quarantining began, and it was only within the last couple of months that they were able to get together to film the final two episodes. And despite one of those episodes featuring Sam and Dean and Jack on a lifeless Earth, it did feel, in a way, that we were missing some faces that ought to have been there in the end. I was personally hoping for Jody or the Trickster or even Crowley to make some kind of appearance (despite the latter two having been dead for a while on the series). And that might have been the plan, pre-COVID; Andrew Dabb, the current showrunner, said “unfortunately, because of COVID and some other things, doing a big supersized guest cast family reunion was just off the table.” But at least we know that they didn’t have to compromise the story that they wanted to tell.
And it is a story that we should have been all too prepared for. After all, every season of the show features the song “Carry On My Wayward Son,” which has become the show’s anthem. And the lyrics spelled out the ending that we got:
Now your life’s no longer empty
Surely heaven waits for you
Carry on, my wayward son
There’ll be peace when you are done
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more
And that’s exactly how this series ended. Sam lives a full life without Dean by his side, having a family, and dies an old man with his son by his side. Dean, meanwhile, arrives in Heaven to find that Jack remade Heaven into the place it should have been all along: everyone together and happy. He’s greeted by Bobby, who sitting outside of Jo and Ellen’s roadhouse, and we finally see that Dean is at peace. Almost. He doesn’t have Sam.
But with a promise from Bobby that time doesn’t work in Heaven like it does on Earth, and Baby (the Impala) showing up, Dean goes for a drive through the afterlife while listening to the aforementioned song. At the end of the song, we find that Sam has finally joined his brother. The end.
Admittedly, I didn’t have much of an emotional connection to this ending the first time I watched it. I let my expectactions, or lack-thereof, get in the way. Every time I’ve rewatched it, though, it gets me. Even writing about it now, my eyes are tearing up.
It’s been a long and trying road for the boys. But they are finally done, and they’re at peace.
Carry On may not have been the most bonmbastic episode of the series- in fact, I think that’s why the second to last episode was billed as season 15’s finale, and the final episode as the series finale- but damn it if they didn’t stick the landing.
Thinking back on how this show was supposed to have ended ten seasons ago, with Sam in Lucifer’s Cage and Dean trying to move on with a family, well, that just wouldn’t have been nearly as satisfying a conclusion as what this final episode gave us. Carry On turned out to be the bookend that this show needed. And we can all rest now.
I will always love Supernatural. Always. Like Harry Potter and Marvel movies, Supernatural is a part of me now. I’m sad that it’s over, but I’m damn grateful for what it gave us, both on screen every week, and for the fan community it created. Supernatural has meant so much to so many. The cast and crew has used this show as a platform for charity work and for helping others, and that will continue even now that the show is off the air.
And this show’s not really over. Not for me. Like any excellent story, it will always beg me to revisit it over and over again. In fact, I already have- I started rewatching season 4 the day after the finale aired. And I will undoubtedly continue to revisit the story and rediscover plot threads and piece together new meanings of previous scenes now that I know the ending; I’m sure there are a thousand more things I want to say about this show that didn’t come to mind while I was writing this. There will still be fan conventions to go to. And as for Jared and Jensen, well, they’ll never stop being Sam and Dean, even if they are playing Walker and Soldier Boy.
And who knows… maybe one day Sam and Dean will return. After all, the Winchester brothers have never let a little thing like death stop them from doing what they need to. Until then… rest well, boys. You’ve earned it.