With all the trials and tribulations this season, the writers definitely had the odds stacked against them. The steady reduction in the budget over the years made it nearly impossible to stage a proper apocalypse, never mind one with a showdown between Michael the Archangel and Lucifer. One of the biggest disappointments of the season, at least for many, was the absence of scale. The story was intended to be epic, but the constraints made that nearly impossible.
Had the series not been designed from the beginning as more of a character-driven show, then the smaller scale would have killed the series in its tracks. As it stands, the show is defined by the depth of its treatment of the Brothers Winchester and their relationship. Sam and Dean have always been at the center of the storm, and this episode rightfully focuses on that bond.
Part of the âapocalypse problemâ, beyond the off-screen carnage, was the notion of the Winchester Gospels. Itâs a neat concept, and one that evokes a certain power. But how does that translate into something so profound that it lives up to the billing? What could possibly be done that earns a place in future religious canon?
It comes down to the underlying tenet that âGod helps those who help themselvesâ. As Castiel suggests at the end of the episode, itâs practically impossible to fathom the plans of God, yet itâs fairly clear that the outcome was as God intended. And in retrospect, the logic is right there, even if itâs hidden within the limited perspective of the Winchesters.
It wasnât that divine intervention wasnât possible. The end of the episode bears that out: Castiel was fully restored, Bobby was returned from the dead, Dean was healed, and Sam is apparently back from Hell, though his status is obviously unknown at this point. God rewarded the players as they would have wanted to be rewarded.
But so much of the season was all about how Sam and Dean were fighting to keep the angels and demons at bay until someone else could step in. And if the Brothers Winchester were symbolic of all of humanity, struggling with faith and good and evil within and without, then the solution had to come from them. It had to be a total commitment to resist, even when all hope was lost.
It seems pointless and cruel, but it is the reason why the notion of the Winchester Gospels now works. Not because it will depict some massive catastrophic struggle, but because it is the symbolic and real victory of humanity as Godâs chosen. Itâs a refutation of everything that caused Lucifer to rebel in the first place.
Lucifer rebelled because he couldnât wrap his head around the notion that a species with free will, capable of enormous weakness, was somehow favored above the angels. In that, he only went further than Michael and the others. If anything, Lucifer is more sympathetic, despite his evil, because he was honest in his actions. The rest of the angels rebel in their intentions, if not openly.
Yet in the end, it is Sam and Deanâs simple human bond that overcomes the power of Lucifer and Michael combined. Granted, the rings of the Horsemen opened the gate back to Luciferâs cage, but it all came down to Sam overcoming his darkest impulses and making the ultimate sacrifice. Not simply dying (thatâs old hat for the Winchesters), but risking eternal suffering.
Part of my appreciation for this episode is the coda, in which it is revealed that Chuck, supposedly a prophet, is actually God. In retrospect, this fits very well into the statements at the end of the Book of Revelation, in which it is said that there would be no further prophets until the return of Jesus. Chuck seems a bit ludicrous as the âsecond comingâ, but there have been enough twists on religious concepts that it doesnât really bother me at all.
Chuckâs true identity now makes it obvious that there was a guiding hand for the Brothers Winchester, and Chuck is the one that tells Dean where the final battle is and essentially reinforces the principle that the solution has to come from the brothers themselves. Where the angels see their blind obedience as superior, God champions humanityâs choice to do the right thing, even when it seems there will be no reward from a higher power. (And frankly, since Chuck was always something of an avatar for Eric Kripke, it makes sense for him to be the Creator, doesnât it?)
The episode is not perfect. The depictions of the massive loss of life in passing does not really bring home the scale and horror of the end of the world. Again, this is mostly due to budget constraints, and there wasnât much that could be done. Also, while not specifically tied to this episode, the decision to use Adam as a substitute for Dean feels like a cheat. If Dean could be replaced all this time, why would the angels have waited?
On the other hand, the story effectively hinged on Dean retaining his humanity, so that he could appeal to Samâs humanity as part of the final solution. He was the lynchpin to bring the entire cycle to its fitting conclusion, and he had to make the choice (as per Deathâs condition) to draw Sam out, knowing it would mean his brotherâs doom. If Dean had been possessed by Michael, that would not have been possible.
Also, if Dean was aware that Adam could be his substitute earlier in the story, then he wouldnât have had the crisis of faith that was necessary to push him from hopeless despair to the man capable of facing Death and strutting onto the (relocated) field of Armageddon to the tune of âRock of Agesâ. Dean had to feel the pressure and face the choice.
As promised, Eric Kripke brought his original intended story arc for âSupernaturalâ, as well as his tenure as showrunner, to a close with this concluding chapter. Chuckâs monologue and vanishing act was a nice touch, even if some of the commentary was a tad defensive. Itâs such a clean break that this episode feels like it could have been the series finale, had Sam never returned. As it is, it gives Sera Gamble and the sixth season a relatively clean slate going forward into the next era of the Winchester saga.