Tonight’s “Supernatural,” called “Swan Song,” could have been the series finale — indeed, with a bit of tweaking at the end, it would have made a fine one — but it’s not.
In the course of the episode, Castiel asks perhaps the hardest question one can pose to a soldier, “Which would you rather have, peace or freedom?”
Obviously, after victory, comes a welcome peace in the sense of a cessation of hostilities, but there’s also the peace of the morning-after battlefield, strewn with silent corpses, the stillness broken by the cry of crows, and the peace of the grave, broken by the rustle of dry leaves.
Freedom, on the other hand, is often hard and frequently messy. Freedom requires decisions, many of which don’t leave you feeling the least bit peaceful. But without freedom, humans would be little more than puppets, slaves or domesticated livestock.
And freedom is not free.
That’s the situation Sam and Dean find themselves facing, as their alternatives come down to allowing the Apocalypse to engulf the Earth in flames and blood or the brothers making ultimate sacrifices to prevent it.
They’re free to choose, but neither choice seems to offer even a smidgen of peace or happiness.
The episode begins with the story of the 1967 Impala herself, as told by the Prophet Chuck, who’s penning the final chapter in the “Supernatural” story.
She’s a classic muscle car, birthed on the GM assembly line in Janesville, Wisc. — itself already a casualty of economic upheaval and the lingering death of the great American road.
It’s no accident that “Supernatural” is a road show, with the Winchesters traveling the highways and byways of the land. It’s also no accident that Lucifer finally takes possession of Sam in Detroit, the tattered and bruised heart of that dream, where phrases like “apocalypse” and “end of the world” don’t always feel like mere metaphors.
(Speaking of metaphors, this episode is loaded with “Star Wars” references, from Dean calling Bobby “Yoda” to Dean saying “I got a bad feeling about this” to Lucifer calling Sam “Young Skywalker.” Meesa happy.)
Fortified with demon blood and a desperate plan, Sam, Dean, Bobby and Castiel head to Motor City. Along the way, Sam forces Dean to promise that, after Sam is in the pit, he finds Lisa and tries to live a normal, apple-pie life with her. We don’t hear his answer, but it’s assumed he agrees.
In Detroit, there are a lot of sad good-byes, then the boys try to execute Sam’s plan of leaping Lucifer into the abyss. Since Lucifer is hip to the scheme involving the Horsemen’s rings, it fails spectacularly, and Sam is left in the bodily backseat with Lucifer at the wheel.
(BTW, this is likely our last look at Lucifer’s rapidly decaying vessel, played by Mark Pellegrino, who also plays the mystical island guardian Jacob on “Lost.” He’s got to wonder what it is about his face that makes casting directors either see the Devil or a vaguely godlike figure — both of which have big sibling-rivalry issues.)
Sam/Lucifer vanishes, only to show up in a room with a mirror, having a conversation with themselves, in which Lucifer tries to convince Sam that he’s always been bad to the bone, and that Lucifer is his true family. To put a finer point on it, he allows Sam the opportunity to take bloody revenge on some folks from his past — and Sam takes it.
Then we get another bit with the Prophet Chuck that shows the boys on the road, living in the Impala, enjoying the freedom of the highway and each other’s company. Then Dean calls and brings him up to speed, which he already is, as he’s, like, a prophet.
Chuck also knows the location of the final battlefield — an old cemetery outside the boys’ hometown of Lawrence, Kansas, the burg where young John Winchester first purchased the Impala in a used-car lot (after she was owned by a man who distributed Bibles), on impulse and the advice of his own son, Dean (nice little flashback nod, there).
Speaking of Dean, he just can’t walk away, and he figures if Sam has to go, he won’t let him go alone.
Michael (using Adam as a vessel) and Lucifer meet, and there’s a lot of blah-blah about destiny and daddy issues and brother issues and orders and whatnot, before the roar of a big V-8 interrupts them, and Dean rolls onto the scene, blasting rock ‘n’ roll from the cassette player.
Also on hand are Castiel and Bobby. Castiel lobs a Molotov cocktail full of holy fire at Michael, temporarily flaming him out of existence. That pisses off Lucifer, who doesn’t care to have his parade rained on, and he blasts Castiel to bloody bits, spattering poor Bobby.
Then Lucifer turns on Dean and tosses him into the Impala’s windshield — ouch! — so Bobby pops a couple of rounds into him, which gets him his neck snapped for his troubles.
Lucifer commences beating the bejesus out of Dean, but then a bit of light glints off the Impala. Sam sees, tucked away in an ashtray, a little green toy soldier (and, I ask, why couldn’t it have been a “Star Wars” action figure?) and that sets off a flood of childhood memories and a trip through Sam’s various haircuts on the show (man, I do not miss those bangs).
Suddenly Sam is back in the driver’s seat, and he keeps the wheel long enough to invoke the rings and open up the gaping maw once again. Ticked that he’s going to miss his chance for the big fight, Michael grabs him, but Sam leaps anyway, taking them both into the pit.
Dean’s left, his nose broken, his eye swollen shut and his mouth full of blood, mourning over what used to be a big hole in the ground. But then Cas reappears, back in full possession of his angelic powers, which allows him to heal Dean at a touch. Dean asks, “Cas, are you God?” Cas takes the compliment, then just gives the Almighty the credit for his resurrection.
And for good measure, he brings Bobby back from the dead as well (one assumes, or at least hopes, with his soul restored to him).
We go back to Prophet Chuck, who rhapsodizes about the difficulty of writing endings, and how fans are never left happy (bet the “Lost” guys wish they had a way to insert a similar speech into their finale).
We’re back in the car with Dean and Cas, who plans to head back to Heaven and set things right. Dean is mighty angry at the Almighty about how things worked out, but Cas reminds him that he got what he asked for, “No paradise, no hell, just more of the same.” Then he asks the peace vs. freedom question and disappears.
With Chuck’s voiceover, Dean says farewell to Bobby “for a very long time.” Bobby will continue his life as a hunter, but Dean has a promise to fulfill, even though all he wants is either death or Sam returned to him.
He knocks on Lisa’s door and is told that it’s never too late to accept an invitation for a beer. She gathers him into her arms, which is probably the best medicine for poor, broken Dean at this point.
Chuck opines that this was all a test for the boys, and they did all right, that they “chose family.”
Then he says, “No doubt, endings are hard, but then again, nothing ever really ends,” and then fades away.
At the end, Dean is at the dinner table with Lisa and her (and probably his) son, affirming life and love and family.
But, outside, a streetlight fizzles out, and there’s Sam … or Lucifer … or Samifer … or Spectre Sam … or I don’t know, and he doesn’t
Bravo, Kripke & Co — sad, poignant, tragic, faintly hopeful and suitably vague and menacing at the end. It’s an elegant end to an incredibly ambitious and ultimately successful storyline, which, to me, ranks “Supernatural” among the very best of its genre, big screen or small. Anyone who just dismissed this as a little CW show has missed a helluva ride.
And it ain’t over yet.
See you down the road …