Last night, The CW gifted us with a full night of Supernatural. While it was promoted as a cohesive season finale, the two episodes were independent stories and both packed one hell of a punch. The first was a punch to the stomach, one of those knock-the-wind-out-of-you jabs, and the second was just a career ending KO blow to the jaw. Suffice to say, right now the SPN Family is in the corner of the ring beaten and bloody. Oh and so are our boys. What I’m here to talk about is part one of the finale, episode 22, “Who We Are”. This episode was quite the emotional rollercoaster. I was admittedly a wreck, crying like a baby watching my (our) boys face painful personal truths head on.
What continuously blows my mind about Supernatural is that even after all this time, nearly 275 episodes, is how I can still be amazed, mystified, and captivated by the actions of Sam and Dean. Just when I think their development has plateaued we uncover a new uncharted layer of the character that draws me even closer and makes me love them (and the series as a whole) even more. “Who We Are” was a masterclass in character development and insight in the truth of a character. Both Sam and Dean experienced moments where they needed to face the facts of their lives, to accept who they are and use it to grow.
Sam Winchester, the Boy King, the ex blood junkie, the little brother, bears an eternal guilt. Over and over again we have seen Sam struggle with his self-hatred for the role that destiny had chosen for him. Through no fault of his own (more on THAT later) he set in motion near about everything that has happened in this vast story. This weighs on Sam, deeply, though for the last couple of years, this struggle was pushed to the back burner. But every once in awhile there would be red flags, small moments that spoke volumes to this self disgrace. Episode 22, brought this major defect into the spotlight and in turn allowed Sam Winchester to shine like never before.
The episode began in the bunker with the boys and Lady Bitch– I mean Bevell, slowly suffocating to death over the course of 2 days. In an attempt to escape, Sam and Dean start hacking away at a concrete wall but make very little headway. On the brink of losing all hope, as oxygen dwindles, Sam and Dean sit side by side and reflect on the past year and have an unforgettable heart to heart. “How did this happen?” Sam asks. And with that question they both take a moment to open up, with each confession paving the way for growth later on in the episode. I have to praise Robert Berens who wrote this episode, because the progression of Sam and Dean’s development within this hour is exceptional – sowing the seeds in the scene in the bunker and then the full on blossom that occurs later, ex-cep-tion-al, Mr. Berens.
Dean: You know it wasn’t long ago I thought we had it made. We saved the world. Cass back, Mom back. I mean it wasn’t perfect but still we had ‘em. Now…
Sam: Now they’re all gone. Mom, what they did to her. I just fell for their company line. Man I, I saw what they were doing and thought: hunters on that scale working together, how much good we could do. Once I was in I just followed ‘cause it was easy, easier–
Dean: Easier than what?
Sam: Easier than leading.
Both Sam and Dean’s sentiments echo throughout the remainder of the episode, first seen through Sam’s aforementioned spotlight moment. With the British MOL mayhem reaching its apex, The Winchesters gather a rag tag group of hunters to take them down. In the living room of Jody’s house, Sam is given the floor to explain what’s going on and why they’ve all been summoned. Sam is given the opportunity to right this wrong and he seizes it. No more following. No more standing behind his big brother or allowing his eternal guilt, that everything is his fault, to hold him back. Everything about this moment, or rather this scene as a whole is layered in the history of Sam and Dean as brothers, as hunters, and as heroes. Most of this I attribute to Jared Padalecki’s nuances that he has perfected portraying Sam Winchester for all these years. He makes micro expressions and actions that add so much depth to the scene, speaking volumes to the state of Sam’s mind in the moment.
As I sit here and type this I am watching this scene over and over again and am just blown away by Jared. “You sure about this?” Dean asks, with Sam/Jared replying with a bated breath, tightening his posture, truly relaying a feeling of anxiety and uncertainty. “You gonna tell us what we’re doing here or what?” Walt asks Sam and Dean. Shoulders still tense, Sam/Jared’s eyes zig zag, processing what the best response is. He instinctively looks to Dean in a way a child looks to a parent for reassurance (more on THAT later), “My brother and I…” he stammers then pauses. It’s a moment of realization that is underlined by Jared’s portrayal. He takes a deep breath and in that moment we know exactly what he’s thinking – “I can’t anchor myself to my big brother, this is my responsibility, I have to take the reigns here. No more following.” Sam explains the situation to the hunters, even admitting his part in their destruction. in a complete over-analysis of this situation: can you imagine Sam’s pain and self-hate, having to admit (though once again it really isn’t his fault) that he set all of these horrific events in motion – especially to Walt and Roy, who KILLED HIM for doing that exact same thing 5 years earlier. Can someone give my sweet Sammy a hug?
Sam preaches to these hunters and you know what? HE NAILED IT. I felt like a proud mama bear, I nearly stood up and cheered. And so did Dean. Sam ends his speech saying “I want you to follow me” and Dean looks up to him with sheer genuine pride in his little brother, nay, his SON (but more on THAT later).
We go in fast and hard. We fight. And we beat them down until they give up. Or until they’re dead…We will win. We will take down the bad guys because that is what we do. They’re scared of us. Yeah. Good. They should be.
I loved this scene so much I want to scream it from the rooftops. Sam gave a kick ass Braveheart speech and made not only Dean (and myself) proud, but he was proud of himself; something that has never happened before. I love Sam Winchester so much, I’m so proud. Is it weird how genuinely proud of a fictional character I am?
Even with his newfound leadership role, Sam still wants his brother to come along, even with a busted up knee. Dean taking the bench for this raid wasn’t just him not being able to pull it off or that he needed to help his mother, it was him cutting the cord, if you will. Dean believes in Sam, and to prove it he lets Sam fly solo on this battle. Sam responds with disbelief, pride in himself but also a hint of anxiety (which made it all the more real) (once again, Jared, you sir, are an expert at your craft). Dean truly plays the father role in this episode (which culminates LATER) and it left my heart so full of warmth.
The pride, the respect, the slight unease of letting his child go. It’s all there. In the end though, Dean wholeheartedly believes in Sammy. And that hug. That. Hug. I’m not even going to make a joke about someone cutting onions – I’M AN EMOTIONAL WRECK and I don’t care who knows it. These two. These. Two. They have my heart forever. Don’t even get me started on the weight of “Bitch…Jerk” DON’T EVEN. Can someone throw me a raft? This pool of my own tears is drowning me.
So now onto THAT. The that being Dean’s grand admission to not only his mother but to himself. Grand honestly feels like an understatement, though. It was monumental, impactful (on the story and viewers), poignant and downright painful. In an attempt to reverse Mary’s brainwashing, Lady Bevell sends Dean into Mary’s subconscious using a machine and tranquilizer (couldn’t African Dream Root have done the trick?). He arrives in his childhood home in Lawrence – a point in time reminiscent of Dean’s last foray in the past when he wuved hugs. There Dean attempts to wake his mother but trying to simply snap her back to reality by saying her name is not enough. I really didn’t expect for this episode to be so heavy and emotionally drowning but damn was it ever.
Before I get into it, let me just get the high praise out of the way. Prepare yourself, caps are nigh. JENSEN ACKLES IS A GIFT. IT’S REALLY TOO BAD THE EMMYS IS SO EXCLUSIVE BECAUSE THE CW, MORE IMPORTANTLY JENSEN ROSS ACKLES DESERVES MORE RECOGNITION FOR HIS STELLAR WORK AS DEAN WINCHESTER. Ok, back to your regularly scheduled review…
Dean, unable to wake her takes a moment to watch his mother within this “memory”.
“I hate you” he says bluntly.
Can a single line be a plot twist? I was so stunned by this line, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief. But then it sunk in, and I found myself cheering on Dean as he continued his hate filled rant. The gears began turning for Dean once he allowed himself to “hate” her. As I said before in regards to Jared’s performance allowing us to know what is going on in the mind of his character, here, Jensen Ackles worked through his lines as if if he was a battered, silenced victim finally given the chance to voice his pain.
You lied to me. I was a kid. You promised you’d keep me safe and then you make a deal with Azazel. Yeah, it saved Dad’s life but I’ll tell you something else that happened…Because on November 2nd, 1983 old yellow eyes came waltzing into Sammy’s room because of your deal. You left us. Alone. Dad was just a shell. His perfect life, gone. Our perfect mom, the perfect family was gone. And I- I had to be more than just a brother. I had to be a father. I had to be a mother. To keep him safe. And that wasn’t fair. And I couldn’t do it. And you wanna know what that was like? They killed the girl that he loved. He got possessed by Lucifer. They tortured him in Hell. And he lost his soul. His soul. All because of you. All of it was because of you.
I hate you. I hate you. And I love you. ‘Cause I can’t help it. You’re my mom. And i understand…’cause I have made deals to save the ones I love, more than once. I forgive you. I forgive you. For all of it. Everything. On the other side of this, we can start over, okay? You, me, Sam, we can get it right this time. But I need you to fight…I need you to look at me mom. I need you to really look at me and see me. Mom I need you to see me. Please.
In 264 episodes, this monologue takes the cake. Wow, just wow. Transcribing it I found myself so taken by the words, finding new meaning in Dean’s speech. What struck me most, or should I say, what broke my heart into a billion little pieces, was how in Dean’s most honest, soul baring declaration, in his one time only let-it-all-out, no holds barred rant, he STILL made it all about Sam.
Let that settle in.
Sam’s trauma is more important than his own. Dean loves and cares about Sam but moreover feels wholly responsible for standing by Sam’s side, even in this moment of absolute truth. Harkening back to the sheer pride in Dean’s eyes as Sam led the charge, here Dean finally, after all these years, asserted his true role in Sam’s life, a role we as viewers have seen clear as day since day one. Thanks to John’s foul parenting and Mary’s abandonment (yes I am calling it abandonment and not death, fight me), Dean became Sam’s everything. Over the years we’ve seen Dean break down to Sam, over his inner struggles with the hunting life, with his past, but we have never seen him break down to someone else ABOUT Sam. In this moment, Mary finally gave Dean something he always needed; a mother to hear him cry. She provided him with a open space to let all his anger and frustration and pain to be let out without judgement, something all mothers should provide for their child.
“…That wasn’t fair. And I couldn’t do it.”
Dean finally got to release his feeling of failure, of guilt for not being a good parent. He realized it wasn’t on him, that all of the awful stuff that happened to Sam wasn’t his fault. The hellish chain of events always leads back to Mary. And with this realization, Dean can finally breathe. The outpouring of emotion in this scene was breathtaking, painful but also invigorating. This breakthrough for Dean Winchester (and his relationship with both Sam and Mary) paves the way for new avenues of development in season 13 and I am just beaming with anticipation for what is to come next season for both our boys.
Supernatural never fails to excite, entice, intrigue, perplex and keep me tuned in for years and years and years and years. I could never find the right words to describe just how much I love this show, but I’ll just say this: Thank you Sam and Dean, Jared and Jensen, Robert Singer and Andrew Dabb and anyone and everyone involved in this show. Thank you.
….Yeah, Episode 23 was cra-zy, I’m not even gonna get into it. Maybe later. RIP Castiel. But we all know he isn’t dead. This is Supernatural, no one really dies. Except Charlie.
Wait, I have some more thoughts….
- I loved Sam and Dean talking about “how they thought this would end” because it’s almost verbatim what Jared and Jensen say at cons about how it should end
- Jared looks like a sculpted God in a V-neck. More of this in season 13, please and thank you @TheCW
- Don’t mind me, just sobbing in the corner over Sam Winchester (see below for gif that has caused me endless pain and suffering.)
- Jared Padalecki: keeper and breaker of my heart
- I’m still salty about Eileen
- For real though, this episode was FANTASTIC
- I could go on for days and days about how I loved this moment and the importance of this moment. Jody is the female Bobby, she’s what Ellen was to these boys, maybe more than what she was.