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Supernatural - Carry On - Review

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  And so, after fifteen years, it ends, not with a bang, but with a whimper. While it could have been a much worse episode, the finale of Supernatural certainly did not live up to what the show was at its best. It wasn’t cringeworthy nor was it emotionally uplifting or stirring. It was meh. It was likely doomed not to please anyone with a show that has so many emotionally invested fans, so maybe meh is the best they could have hoped for, but it was hilarious – to me – to see Andrew Dabb declare that the writers went out on their own terms after so much fan service in this last season. My personal feeling is that the second last episode was a much better place to end if they truly wanted to give fans a gift to continue playing in the universe with fan works. Of course, this way there is no possibility of a reunion movie – unless they want to go the bad dream route…

Even though the episode was titled “Carry On,” or maybe because that was the title, I was shocked not to start with a Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son” montage. In the larger context, I didn’t feel like the title conveyed much except about Sam’s (Jared Padalecki) story. The episode was written by Andrew Dabb and directed by Robert Singer. The episode does begin with a “Then” to fill us in on the last episode and then we get “Now” set to “Ordinary Life” by Van Morrison. Dean (Jensen Ackles) is woken up by Miracle the dog, who he clearly did rescue, and Sam (Jared Padalecki) is out jogging. Sam makes breakfast – and has a shower with more fan service. Dean does the dishes with Miracle’s help, Sam does the laundry, Dean cleans the weapons…

Both go to work looking for hunts, but Dean is the one who finds something. Dean has found a pie fest! There is a shoutout to writer Andrew Dabb with a huge Dabb’s Pies truck. Dean grabs six pieces of different kinds of pies and joins Sam on a bench. He accuses him of having on the “Sad Sam” face. Sam explains that he’s not sad, he’s just missing Cas (Misha Collins) and Jack (Alexander Calvert) and wishing they were there too. Me too, Sam, me too. Dean admits he misses them too, but if they don’t go on living, all their sacrifice will be for nothing – rather heavy-handed foreshadowing… 

        Sam lightens the mood by shoving one of the pieces of pie into Dean’s face! Director Bob Singer is seen as an extra in the background giggling. And of course, Dean scrapes what he can off his face and eats it! Can’t let good pie go to waste, right?

And then the episode circles back to what would have been the introductory teaser as a family is ripped apart as the parents are killed and the kids taken prisoner by creepy mask wearing intruders… We get all the standards – Dad with a knife through his chest, Mom screaming, and kids ripped out from under the bed they’re hiding under. I did love that Dean and Sam’s final aliases are Singer and Kripke – a la Robert Singer and Eric Kripke.

The picture that the cop (Tina Grant) shows them that the Mom (Victoria Morgan) drew of the invaders is immediately recognized by Dean and Sam, and I loved that it sent them back to John’s Journal. At this point, I was thinking, ok. Cool. The last episode is just going to be a normal hunt, and I thought that would be a fun way to end it. John’s hunt was 1986 in Ohio (Kripke’s home state). Hilariously, Dean wants to declare the monsters… mimes! Is it the make up or tearing out the victims’ tongues?? Sam insists Vamps – and of course, Dean goes to Vamp-mimes, which totally tickles him and exasperates Sam. 

The two determine the next city to be hit is Canton and which family is likely to be targeted. And the house looks an awful lot like the house that the boys grew up in… Sam and Dean are waiting when the Vamps show up, cutting the head off of one and taking the other captive (Max Montesi) by shooting him with bullets soaked in deadman’s blood. They wake him up and question him about where the kids are. He’s not going to talk because the brothers are going to kill him regardless – his only choice is by machete – quick – or with a pen knife – nice and slow. Or a spoon if the kids are dead. He tells them that the kids aren’t dead. The steal the kids to keep them and raise them – for fast food.

They arrive at the vamp nest, and Dean wants to use the throwing stars and Sam nixes them. And here’s where the episode goes completely off the rails. Fifteen years and how many hunts later, and the brothers do NO reconnaissance???? They go in blind without trying to figure out how many vamps or their whereabouts? And of course, they are ambushed. I’m pretty sure that this is the same barn/set from “Heaven and Hell” – another call back maybe? The brothers find the kids – and it felt a lot like the beginning of “Faith” – another hunt that was almost a death sentence for Dean. 

Sam is knocked out and Dean is restrained by two of the vamps. They are joined by Jenny (Christine Chatelain), a vamp from their very first vamp hunt with John. She denies being the big boss, but called dibs… just as she’s about to bite Dean, Sam cuts her head off. The fight continues and Dean ends up skewered on a rebar sticking out of a post, while Sam finishes off the vamps. Also in an echo of “Faith,” Sam says lets get the kids and get out of here, and Dean tells him that he’s not going anywhere. 

Sam is determined to go for help, but Dean knows he’s dying. Really, if anyone on the planet could be sure about that it’s Sam and Dean having already died multiple times. I realize that this show left any vestiges of reality behind a long time ago, but basic anatomy would dictate that that bar must have entered a lung which would have made breathing and talking a lot more difficult. It’s also the perfect length not to be coming out the other side? So if it’s in his lung and not straight through sealing it, he should be coughing up blood…

This is third real “death scene” – complete with speech – for Dean, and for me, this is the weakest of the three. The first in season three’s “No Rest For the Wicked” is the best to my mind – the most emotional and heartfelt and Dean-like of the three. This one seemed to go on for too long and was too rambling. I suspect that that might have been because both Ackles and Padalecki thought if they went to the emotional well they’d drown in it given this is their last episode. It’s also been reported that Singer let them ad lib a lot of the scene – perhaps the filming went on too long as well. There’s certainly some continuity issues – there’s a tear on Dean’s face, his face is dry. There are lots of shoutouts back – Dean repeating the family mantra, Sam vowing to find another way. Sam echoes Dean’s words from the Pilot about not being able to do it without Dean and not wanting to. 

Sam and Miracle have a hunter’s funeral for Dean – we’ll assume that Covid prevented Dean from having the funeral he deserved. Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms” plays as Sam mourns, wandering around the Bunker. He’s interrupted by Dean’s Other, Other phone – and a call about a case in Austin – a nice nod to Padalecki’s new show that is set and filming in Austin. 

Dean meanwhile lands in Heaven. He’s greeted by Bobby (Jim Beaver), sitting outside Harvelle’s Roadhouse having a beer. Dean is working off old Heaven rules, thinking he’s reliving one of his “greatest hits” and wonders what memory it is. Bobby tells him it’s not a memory – “ya idjit” – and fills him on the fact that Jack and Cas have “fixed” Heaven, including letting Bobby out of lock up. The monkey sitting between them, was a prop that sat on the bar at Harvelle’s and has appeared throughout the series from time to time. Apparently, Robert Singer took it home after filming completed!

Bobby tells Dean that everyone he loves is close – including John and Mary. He pops open an El Sol – Dean’s favorite beer. And we find out it was the first beer he’d ever shared with his Dad. Dean remarks that Heaven is almost perfect, and Bobby tells him that “he’ll” be along soon – that is Sam. Bobby asks what Dean’s going to do – and Dean has his answer as soon as he sees Baby waiting for him in the parking lot – with the original plates. We do have to wonder what Dean really will do – is there hunting in this big new world? Are their people to save? Weren’t those the things that made Dean, Dean and happy? We do finally get Kansas and “Carry On Wayward Son.” 

The montage of Dean driving is interspersed with Sam’s life with his son, Dean. At some point he would appear to have gotten married and left the Bunker and hunting – though none of this is made clear. And why not make it clear that he married Eileen? Padalecki did a terrible “old man Sam.” Clearly, time in heaven moves at a different pace, and Dean simply drove while Sam lived. Padalecki’s death scene is better – the old make up was quite good in that scene. It would seem clear that Sam told his son all about his namesake as young Dean gives Sam the same permission to leave that Sam gave to Dean. We see that young Dean also has an anti-possession tattoo, but we aren’t apparently meant to infer that he hunts – it’s simply precautionary.

Dean stops on a bridge and gets out. It’s got to be the ugliest bridge in British Columbia. I like what they did with the final scene but really, they could have found a prettier venue. As Dean looks out at the river below, he senses when Sam joins him. Of course the two hug. Dean’s ready to show Sam the ropes of Heaven and the camera pulls back and we fade to black. We then join Ackles and Padalecki on the bridge for a thank you to the fans and pull back to see the entire cast. Robert Singer says “and cut” for the last time, and we’re done.

So, for me, the show went out with a whimper rather than a bang. Dean gets a pie fest and half a hunt with his brother, dying in large part because they went in more ill prepared than they did in the Pilot when they went after the Woman in White. Sam gets to live his normal life and the Men of Letters presumably just dies off? The Bunker is closed and forgotten? I definitely would have preferred the second last episode to be the end, giving us the latitude to muse about a better end for both characters. But that’s just my opinion. With such a passionate fandom, there’s no way everyone would have been satisfied. This was mostly the ending I’d anticipated – though I had worried it would be worse. Yes, people and characters can grow and change, but the problem with going through multiple showrunners is that the characters really lost clear delineation over the years. I’m not sad that the show is over. We certainly have a great library to re-read, but I’m pretty sure that I’ll be mainly re-watching the first five seasons…

        However, critics will criticize, but as a fan of the show, I too send my thanks and love to a wonderful cast and crew who worked hard for fifteen years (WOWZA!) on a show that touched so many hearts. Children grow up and leave the nest, but Supernatural will, no doubt, be the Christmas pudding we all come home for.

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