Season 8 of Supernatural began with a straightforward mission for the Winchesters: close the gates of Hell forever. In the 22 episodes leading up to “Sacrifice” we’ve seen Sam undertake two risky trials that have pushed him to the verge of death. At the very least, killing a hellhound and rescuing an innocent soul from Hell have made Sam completely miserable heading into the third trial, which as we learned two episodes ago, is curing a demon. I came into tonight’s finale expecting to see the season-long arc of closing the gates of Hell resolved one way or another. Would the writers actually do it? Close off Hell and seal up the show’s primary antagonists? It was risky move that could potentially breathe new life into the show, much like Lex Luthor’s departure from Smallville paved the way for three stellar final seasons. I thought Sam and Dean would succeed in their mission. I’m sure other fans thought Hell would remain open for business. Those fans were right and I’m fine with that decision. More demons? Sounds good. What didn’t sit right with me was the last-minute shift of focus toward the conflict in Heaven as Metatron cast out every angel but himself. Our cliffhanger was the admittedly badass visual of angels falling helplessly to Earth, which sets up an intriguing ninth season. And while I agree that building intrigue toward what comes next is part of crafting a good cliffhanger, the other part is resolving everything that led up that moment in a way that respects and acknowledges the 23-hour investment fans made in your story.
“Sacrifice” got half the equation right – I’m curious about Season 9. But Season 8’s primary storyline ended with a whimper. I wouldn’t bring this up if Metatron, the angel trials and Castiel’s quest to right his wrongs in Heaven had been given equal weight during the preceding 22 episodes. But those storylines were shoehorned in at the very end as a means of planting some (rushed) seeds for next season. The storyline we cared so much about (and one of the show’s best arcs in years) ended with Sam simply walking away because Dean couldn’t bear to lose his brother. Crowley was a whimpering mess inside the church. Kevin was holed up in the Men of Letters hideout. Abaddon was looking for a new host. Dean was watching the angels with Sam, who looked even nearer to death than before. How did the conclusion of this year’s arc change our characters? Sam is distraught over the number of times he’s failed his brother, which nicely wraps up the subplot involving Benny that developed this season. Dean is arguably the same person he was when he emerged from Purgatory. The final moments of “Sacrifice” once again showed his love for Sam, but if there’s one thing we know about Supernatural, it’s that Sam and Dean love each other to a fault. Dean balked at the finish line after a season’s worth of can-do attitude toward sealing off Hell, and that surprised me. Sam is obviously his weakness but let’s not forget that Dean allowed Sam to jump in the pit when he was possessed by Lucifer in Kripke’s intended series finale. The show was supposed to end with Dean sacrificing Sam in order to save billions of people! Think about that for a second. Now, three seasons later, Dean has the chance to stick it to demons one final time and he passes to save Sam’s life. Call it regression for Dean’s character or call it Supernatural being true to its roots. I just find it interesting.
This episode started off in a scary place. Crowley had Sheriff Jody Mills in his clutches and was going to kill her unless the Winchesters surrendered the demon tablet. Sam and Dean relent and we’re left to assume that Jody survived (thanks for stopping by, sheriff!). Part of me wondered when the tablet swap went down why Crowley didn’t just kill the brothers and take both the tablets. I concluded he let them live for the same reason he didn’t kill all of Sam and Dean’s “saves” within minutes of each other – begrudging respect. Whatever the reason, Crowley gets cuffed and has to endure eight hours of injections with “Moose” while Dean runs off to help Castiel, who’s scrambling to finish the angel trials after Naomi and her cronies kidnap Metatron. It’s just too bad Castiel once again went down the wrong path as Metatron’s nefarious plan to cast the angels out of Heaven is revealed. I never trusted Metatron (see last week’s recap for the proof) but I’m still curious about his motivation here. I understand that he was pissed at the angels for betraying him and wanted to punish them. Kicking them out Heaven accomplishes that. But now that’s he alone in Heaven, does he want to become God, or does he hope God will return now that he’s the only angel left? Given the devastation he told Naomi he felt after God left, I’m guessing it’s the latter. But then that gets into the question of why God left in the first place. With Castiel being promoted to a series regular next season, I’m hoping we’ll finally get some definitive answers about God as the conflict in Heaven moves to the forefront.
Season 8 returned Supernatural to its former glory days, no doubt about it. I would rank this season as the third best behind Seasons 4 and 5. Benny was a welcome addition to the show’s mythology and Naomi proved ambiguous enough to hold my interest. Amelia was an afterthought but who expected anything different? Romantic relationships are not important on this show; we all know that. So I was fine with Sam’s love interest being nothing more than a temporary wedge between him and Dean when the season started. She served her purpose. Kevin grew as a fun supporting character although he tended to mope a lot near the end of the season. His attitude was understandable but morose characters are hard to endure for anything longer than a few scenes, which thankfully is all we got from Kevin. This season’s MVP for me was Crowley, if for no other reason than his outstanding performance in the finale. Those scenes where he came unhinged and started losing his accent had me riveted. It was some of the best acting this show’s ever seen. Props to Mark Sheppard for turning the King of Hell into a sympathetic character after spending several seasons making him the ultimate Supernatural baddie. Given the ending of “Sacrifice” I’m guessing Season 9 will be about Castiel’s journey to get the angels back into Heaven. I have no doubt Sam will heal within the first four episodes and be hunting again. The writers can’t keep the Winchesters off the road for long. Closing the gates of Hell will be a distant memory, unfortunately.
But we’ll always have Season 8, and by any metric you use, these 23 episodes of Supernatural were something special.
Lines of the week
Castiel: “There was one female but I don’t think she was female.”
Abaddon: "Hello boys."
Crowley: "That's my line."