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Supernatural - Despair - Review

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  Supernatural, “Despair,” was well named. The episode was written by Robert Berens and was directed by Richard Speight, Jr. Naturally, the plan is a complete failure – as is the sad, limping end to this series. Dean (Jensen Ackles) gets to kill Death (Billie (Lisa Berry)) again. Bobby (Jim Beaver) and Charlie (Felicia Day) get to die again. And Sam (Jared Padalecki) gets to be leader of the Hunters again – albeit briefly. Inexplicably, with the world yet to be saved, they kill off 1/3 of Team Free Will as Castiel (Misha Collins) dies to save Dean. But more importantly, the writers throw a bone to the Destiel fans – that will no doubt not satisfy factions on either side of that divide. None of which take away from Collins’ bravura performance.

As the episode begins, Sam, Dean, and Cas rush to try to save Jack (Alexander Calvert) who is still about to explode, and is a lot more worried about hurting them than exploding. Billie arrives and is pissed that they’ve ruined the plan when they were so close. Dean and Sam tell her that the plan was doomed because Chuck knew all about it. Billie tells them that they can’t stop what’s happening to Jack, and she sends him to the Empty and lets him explode there. Rachel Miner is back as the Empty – Meg version – and she is NOT happy about the noise when Jack explodes!

Billie explains that killing Chuck (Rob Benedict) and Amara (Emily Swallow) would have been fatal, but the Empty is different. Strong enough to absorb the cosmic blast – and Empty of all real logic from the writer’s perspective to act as the perfect deus ex machina – ie course correct the plot. Billie warns them the Empty will be angry but can’t reach her – or them – on Earth unless summoned. Billie refuses to bring Jack back – IF he’s alive – until she gets what she came for – God’s death book. Sam confronts Billie about betraying them and plotting to restore all the deaths. Cas points out that she even lied to the Empty. Billie points out that she’s not negotiating, so if she wants Jack, she’ll give him the book. 

Sam brings her the book, and Billie smiles over the new ending. Dean keeps insisting that Billie keep up her end of the bargain. Meanwhile, Jack and the Empty have put themselves back together and Billie calls Jack back just in time. Billie is going to take Jack with her, but Dean cuts her with her Scythe and she drops God’s book and Jack and leaves before he can do more damage – though we see later that that alone was enough.

We get a great scene between the brothers as they can’t sleep and share a drink in the library. They quickly make up – Dean explains that he just couldn’t snap out of the killing rage to end Chuck. Sam points out that Dean has pulled him out of worse. Dean points out that they have no heavy hitters on their side. Sam says that they’ll figure it out… somehow.

Billie walks in her library and one of her Reapers (Max Boateng) tells her that he’s fixed the warding so the Empty can’t get back in. She tells him that the plan has changed – and she’s clearly furious. There’s also already something clearly wrong with where Dean wounded her.

We then pick up with Charlie and her girlfriend Stevie (Tori Katongo), who is making her eggs. It’s a nice, established domestic scene. Charlie proposes a date night to kill shifters. And then Stevie just disappears. Being a hunter, Charlie isn’t quite as freaked out as the rest of us would be. 

Sam and Dean show up at Charlie’s and she fills them in on Stevie. Charlie wonders why Stevie. And we should be wondering that immediately too. Of course, the order in which people disappear is never explained – and I’m not holding my breath. Sam and Dean explain about Death being their enemy and sending people back to other worlds – which no longer exist. So Stevie must have come from Apocalypse world – but why her so far in advance of the others. Charlie tells them she’d told herself not to fall in love again – I love Felicia Day! She asks if she and Stevie are just collateral damage to them. Bobby calls and another refuge has disappeared. Dean points out that everyone who’s been resurrected or come from another world are all on Billie’s list. Sam immediately thinks of Eileen (Shoshannah Stern).

Jack and Cas are waiting by the car because Dean and Sam didn’t want to overwhelm Charlie. Of course, she’s met them both, so this is simply a clunky excuse to have a nice Jack and Cas scene – their last. Cas checks in on Jack who’s been quiet. Jack confesses that he feels strange, but he’s not sure why. The plan, his destiny, is over. He wanted to make things right with his death, but now he doesn’t know why he’s there. Cas tells him that he never needed absolution from any of them. Cas tells him that they care about Jack because he’s him. Calvert is really good in this scene – he masters the one perfect tear as he confesses to Cas that he’s scared because he doesn’t have his power and he can’t protect them. Cas confesses that he’s scared too. 

Dean, Sam, Cas and Jack race through the night to try to save Eileen. Sam is frantically texting back and forth with her – until she suddenly stops answering. When they arrive, they find her bag and phone by her car. Eileen is gone. Sam forces himself to keep it together and this is Padalecki’s scene to shine in. The four split up. Jack and Sam take Eileen’s car to try to save the rest of the people on the list while Dean and Cas go back to the Bunker. Dean is determined to kill Billie – she’s left her blade behind. The brothers hug goodbye. 

Donna (Briana Buckmaster) has found them an abandoned silo to use to keep everyone safe. She and Bobby have put out calls to everyone. Sam tells her that he’s still working on the plan. Sam sees that Jack is stewing and gives him something else to do under the pretense of having to look up spells etc – he tells him to drive!

Dean and Cas arrive at the Bunker, Dean grabs the Scythe – with a little too much posturing – and the two get the key and open the door to Death’s library.

Sam and Jack arrive, and Jack goes to help set up the warding. Donna hugs Sam and tells him that she’s sorry about Eileen. She also tells him that Jodi and the girls and Garth and other hunters are all on high alert, ready to act when he needs them. Sam points out that they aren’t on Death’s list, so they should be fine. Charlie also shows up, saying she can’t let it happen to anyone else. 

Sam enters the silo, and Bobby tells him that he’s “the big man here.” Sam is the leader of the hunters. And Dean is relegated to mindless killer… again. When they introduced the Men of Letters, it was the perfect opportunity for the brothers to both be equal leaders in their strengths – Sam as head of the intellectual arm, and Dean the leader of the Hunters. The fact that Sam is now both makes no real sense to me. Bobby is worried about the bathroom situation, but Sam tells him that if Dean and Cas do their part, they should be there for long. 

As they are painting the warding, Jack stops to look at a plant. Donna comes over to tell him to make sure that he completes the warding he’s working on. After she leaves, he goes to touch the plant and it withers under his hand… Could Jack be the new Death? The new Amara? Are his powers simply coming back?

Meanwhile, Dean and Cas confront Billie. She greets them with the traditional, “hello, boys.” Dean tells her that he hadn’t tried to kill her before, but now that she’s started killing all his friends, that’s what he’s there for. She flings Dean across the room and grabs Cas by the throat, reminding him of the time he stabbed her in the back. Dean gets the Scythe and slams Billie up against the wall, holding it to her neck. He demands that she call it all off and stop killing his people. Billie laughs and tells him that he’s in the wrong place – she’s not doing it. It’s got to be Chuck.

Meanwhile, Sam’s spell lights up the warding, but it’s not working and all the hunters start going up in puffs of smoke, including Charlie and Billie – and then Donna!

Billie tells Dean that the little nick he gave her was fatal – and she shows him her very pussy wound! Billie only has one wish before she dies – she’d like to see Dean dead. She gets her Scythe back and chases Dean and Cas back into the Bunker. Billie goes after Dean’s heart. She tells him “it’s you Dean, it’s always been use.” He’s everything he lives to set right – he’s human disorder incarnate. It’s really just all over the top. But it is arguably Dean’s big heart that keeps him fighting. 

Dean and Cas make it into the dungeon/storeroom, and Cas cuts his hand to put a warding on the door. It gives Dean some release, but Billie immediately starts trying to break in. Cas hopes that they can wait her out, and if not, they’ll fight. Dean isn’t hopeful. He thinks they’ll lost because he’s lead them into a trap. Dean’s speech makes no sense. He starts by saying that it’s all because he couldn’t hurt Chuck. He was angry and he needed something to kill and that’s all he knows how to do. Really? How many times has he proven that that’s not who he is – and when Dean was still canon-Dean, he only killed those he believed to be monsters. And he’s just said this is his fault because he couldn’t kill Chuck. What?

Dean laments that they shouldn’t have left Sam and Jack and should be with them now. Everybody is going to die and he can’t stop it. They both realize that Billie is going to get through the door. She’ll kill Cas first and then Dean, so Dean apologizes to Cas. But Cas points out that she is afraid of one thing – and one thing that is strong enough to stop her. Cas finally tells Dean about the deal he made with the Empty to save Jack. And it does make logical sense that using that promise to save Dean would make Cas completely happy. While I’m going to criticize the nuts and bolts of this scene, there is nothing that can take away from the brilliance of Collins’ performance in this scene.

Here’s what I did like about this scene. First, Cas reveals to Dean what we’ve always known about Dean and that Dean could never see in himself. He tells Dean that Dean sees himself the way his enemies do – that he’s broken, a killer, Daddy’s little blunt instrument. He thinks that hate and anger drive him and that’s what he is, but it’s not. Cas knows that everything Dean has done has been out of love – he raised Sam, he fought for the whole world out of love and that is who he is. Cas tells Dean that he is the most caring, selfless, loving human being he will ever known. Knowing Dean has changed him. Because Dean cared, Cas cared – about Sam, Jack and the whole world. 

        Second, I loved the poetic closing of the circle when the last thing Dean is left with is the first thing of Cas that he found – his hand print on his left shoulder. But this time it is in blood – not seared by angel fire – more human than divine. And we could read that there is more divinity in true humanity. Third, Ackles is fantastic in this scene as he demonstrates what a truly generous actor does. He may seem not to display enough emotion for many, but what he’s doing is giving the camera no reason to cut away from Collins’ performance. He’s giving emotional support to Collins, but deliberately gauging his performance to emphasize Collins rather than try to steal any of the spotlight.

Now, I would prefer to read this as brotherly love from a canon perspective. From fan service, however, this scene was designed to throw the Destiel fans the very closest thing the writers could do. However, without Dean also committing to a sexual love for Cas, it’s always going to fall short for the Destiel fans – and thus please no one. So yes. Cas declares that the one thing he wants for true happiness is something he knows he can never have – Dean’s love in all senses of the word. Cas realizes that the happiness isn’t in the having, but in the being and saying it. Dean doesn’t get it. Dean gets that Cas is saying goodbye. Cas’s “I love you” clearly rings of more than brotherly love and it looks for all the world like he’s finally going to go in for that kiss – but at that moment the Empty and Billie both break in. Cas reaches out to Dean, looking like he’s going to pull him in… and pushes him aside. The Empty takes Cas and Billie.

Sam and Jack leave the silo. Jack looks shocked. Sam is frantically trying to Dean – or anyone on the phone. We see scene after scene of empty landscapes. Dean sits in the dungeon with his head in his hands, ignoring Sam’s calls.

So, with two episodes left to go, we would seem to be down to Dean, Sam, Jack – and no doubt Michael (Jake Abel) – and Chuck and possibly the Empty. Given that the last 2 episodes were filmed during Covid, it will be interesting to see how many of those we’ve lost we’ll see again due to the logistics of filming during Covid. This episode felt like an excuse to just take pieces off the board – and too soon for one of those pieces to be Castiel. I would echo the title with the despair I feel at this show coming to a satisfactory end at this point. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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