Episode 5.4

“The End” Review
By Amanda Rebholz

If you were given the chance to look five years into your future, what do you imagine you’d see? Do you believe that destiny is written in stone, or can it be changed? If you go by the history of “Supernatural”, destiny is something that proves inescapable to the characters in general; the brothers were doomed from the moment Mary made her deal with Azazel to save John Winchester’s life. John was living on borrowed time and Sam was promised to Azazel before he was even born; when Azazel came to collect, along with the other psychic children, Sam was meant to win the duel. When he died and Jake took up the mantle, Dean’s resurrection of Sam (which was entirely predicted; hence the Crossroads demon agreeing to make the deal in the first place) put the plan back in the originally-intended motion. Sam killed Jake, the gates of Hell were opened, and everything went as planned for the most part despite Azazel being killed. Dean went to Hell and broke where his father did not, and Lilith’s plan to break the Seals was kept in motion by the dark forces’ uncanny recurring ability to anticipate the Winchesters’ every move. If you subscribe to that theory, that all things were set in motion and everything happened as it was prophecized, then the idea of changing your destiny is futile and moot.

But take into account also the scene in the season four finale, when Chuck said “You aren’t supposed to be here; this isn’t the way this is supposed to happen!” and Castiel’s deadpan but resolute “We’re making it up as we go”, and that throws the entire theory into discussion.

The idea that the brothers are stronger without each other is one that I addressed in the last blog, but after the developments in this week’s episode I’m forced to reconsider some of my points. For one, I think it is beyond adorable that when Sam is afraid and unnerved, the first person he calls is, of course, still Dean. The expression on Dean’s face when he answers the phone and Sam is on the other end says it all; the relief, worry, and hesitation in Dean’s voice are all overshadowed by the forced attempt to play it cool when he hears from his brother and tries to tell him what he thinks Sam needs to hear. Sam is obviously scared and determined not to go darkside again; he reaches out to his brother only to be batted away by Dean telling him that they need to be apart to avoid causing any more damage to the situation than they already have. This is the first time we as an audience have seen DEAN be the one to push family away or refuse them; Dean usually is the one selling his soul or sacrificing himself to make his family happy. There is so much underlying strength in Dean in this entire episode, a streak of steel a mile wide that runs under his carefully-composed facade.

While watching this episode, I mentioned to my mother that the writers have really done such a service to the plotlines and the character development throughout the entire season, and this fifth season so far is honestly some of the best TV I’ve ever seen. We were joking about the quality and quantity of work that Jensen and Jared had done before ‘Supernatural’, and discussing how their acting has progressed since taking on the Winchester roles. In this episode especially, there is a range of emotion from both actors that is truly astounding. We’ve seen Dean Winchester at his worst and his best, but rarely have we ever witnessed him so unbelievably RAW. Only when he’s faced with himself and seeing what a cold-blooded, ruthless man he becomes in the future does Dean realize the consequences of his choices and mentality in the present. The emotional wringer he’s then put through is astonishing; in the forty or so minutes the episode runs, we are treated to seeing him both sarcastic and caustic, cynical and cold, heartbroken and dismayed, and in the end, forgiving and selfless. Jensen’s acting can in no way be accused of being two-dimensional; from the moment he opens his mouth or cuts his eyes, he owns the situation.

Likewise is the astounding performance from Jared Padalecki this episode; we are so used to seeing him as the tense, angst-ridden Sam that the cool confidence and gentle serenity of Lucifer in Sam’s skin is utterly unnerving. The first time we saw a complete flip-flop this way from the characters’ usual portrayal was when we saw Misha Collins play both Castiel and Jimmy Novak in “The Rapture” last season. When I watched Lucifer stroll through the garden of the sanitarium, touching rose blossoms and explaining to Dean why he was cast from Heaven, never for a minute did it cross my mind that he was Sam Winchester. There was none of the fragility in the eyes or the corners of the mouth that Sam has; there was none of the apologetic shoulder-shrugs as if little Sammy never got used to being well over six feet tall. Both actors have grown remarkably through the progression of this show and it is absolutely criminal that ‘Supernatural’ is not given its dues when the awards shows come around.

While Castiel’s transformation from Angel of the Lord to the stoned visionary who hosts orgies in his living room may have been a humorous angle for the show, it was also completely heartbreaking in its own way. The scene when Castiel is in the car with past-tense Dean, explaining to him how much it hurts to be a mortal now, and casually popping pills to keep himself sane, is absolutely gutwrenching. Castiel has taken on the role of friend and mentor with Dean, and Dean has come to respect the angel’s strength and unwavering loyalty. In the last episode, Dean encouraged Cas to hang onto his faith and not relinquish it, no matter how hopeless it seemed sometimes.

So in this episode, to see Castiel utterly devoid of optimism and thus throwing himself into a self-destructive spiral to numb the pain of existence… well, hell, I guess that officially means he turned into a Winchester at some point between now and 2014! Jokes aside, the fact that future-Dean had no qualms about sacrificing Castiel and lying to the angel’s face was frightening; when past-tense Dean finds out that he will revert to extreme torture, misleading his friends, using innocent people as bait, and killing people in cold blood, he begins to realize exactly how wrong his life could have been growing up if he hadn’t had his family there to keep him sane. His father laid down ground rules from the get-go, and while John may have done some amoral things in the name of good, he was known to be a righteous man as a whole; he was originally the one the prophecy was meant for. Dean was raised to be a righteous man as well, with a clear sense of right and wrong and the strong desire to help people. Everything that he and John and Sam ever did was done for love; love for the memory of Mary Winchester, love for each other, love for the people they were saving and for humanity as a whole.

Dean in particular has always been a character filled with love— for superficially pleasing things like women, cheeseburgers, pornography, and Magic Fingers, to more sentimental things like his necklace, his car, and his father’s jacket. But take away everything he loves (significantly, in the future, the amulet Sam gave him is nowhere to be seen, the Impala is not only wrecked but absolutely totaled and dismantled, and they are eating tasteless canned food and drinking hot beer), give him nothing but a bleak, hopeless future, and he would begin to put those skills to use. What good is honoring his dad’s legacy or trying to protect others when his father is dead and his brother has given himself over to Lucifer? And future-Dean is just as stubborn and bull-headed as the past-tense one was; when asked why Sam would sacrifice himself to Lucifer, future-Dean merely says “I wish I knew.” He knows damn well why; because as a family, the Winchesters thrive. They have each other’s backs and they, as Dean says in the final scene of the episode, keep each other human. Several times in past episodes Sam has pulled Dean back from the precipice of disaster, and Dean has always been there to save Sam (from everything but himself). While they may pull each other down and create a huge weak spot for each other, they are also a formidable force when united, and they know it.

So can their destiny be changed now that Dean knows what the future holds? Or are they doomed to eventually surrender their bodies over to higher powers and watch the world end as puppets in their own skin?

I believe that in ‘Supernatural’, destinies can be altered and prophecies are only as strong as the people who wrote them. And if those people thought Dean Winchester would lie down and let the Apocalypse rage around him without a fight, they weren’t counting on him having love on his side to help pick up the pieces and keep him going until the end of the world.