The Brothers Winchester have died more often than most main characters, so while it's disconcerting, it's not particularly unusual for them to die again in violent fashion. It does remind the audience that there are plenty of hunters with a bone to pick with the brothers, and it also serves the purpose of sending the boys to the Supernatural version of heaven.
I think a lot of those who criticize the depiction of religious concepts on Supernatural display an unfortunate level of insecurity in their own beliefs. Fiction doesn''t have to conform to any specific religious interpretation; it only has to be self-consistent. In terms of how God has been portrayed on the show, this is consistent.
Personally, I think itÃ¢â¬â¢s a bit of a lost opportunity. Why bring God into the equation, if youÃ¢â¬â¢re not going to pull that trigger? I have offered a scenario in the past in which God essentially tells Sam and Dean that the idea is for humanity to find its own path to salvation, along the lines of "God helps those who help themselves" but this is a bit of a cruel way to do it. Joshua tries to soften the blow, but this is not going to help their morale.
What was confirmed, in a sense, was the fact that God knew what was going to happen. That implies that letting the apocalypse play out as it has is part of his own plan. Some will take exception to that, even if the entire book of Revelation makes a point of the fact that the end of the world, with all of its suffering, pain, and fear, is supposed to be how it is all meant to happen. The only real spin that the writers put on it is the expectation placed on the Winchesters to figure out how to make it work out well.
This could make the "controlling the rings of the Four Horsemen" scenario more of a possibility, but with the resolution phase of the season upon us, there has to be more to it. The problem is that God was just about the only source of power strong enough to counter Lucifer. If God isnÃ¢'t going to offer up some kind of mystical superweapon for the Brothers Winchester to use, then what exactly are they supposed to do?
More importantly, is it going to be a satisfactory resolution not only to the season, but to the entire narrative arc of the past five years? A lot of fans would have been annoyed with a "deus ex machina" end to the story, but it would have been sensible given the nature of the story. According to nearly every interpretation of Revelation, Lucifer is meant to believe that he has the upper hand, and the unbelieving masses are meant to believe the same, until God comes along and delivers the knockout punch. So what could possibly replace that and make sense?
On the other hand, I suppose there's one reason to keep faith in the writers. The characters themselves are asking the very same questions. A great deal of the show, in terms of the brothers' versions of heaven, were in keeping with their established histories. All that being the case, the writers seem to be moving according to a solid plan. I've had reason to trust the writers this long, so I can continue to give them the benefit of the doubt.
This episode leaves Dean and Castiel at the end of their spiritual ropes, which is saying a lot, considering that Dean was on the brink and Castiel is an angel. What's surprising is Sam's reaction. While Dean and Castiel seem to have missed the part where God had granted the brothers salvation, saved them from Lucifer, and restored Castiel. Clearly, God has faith in them. This brings to mind the story of Job. Sam knows what he has done, and now he knows that when he dies for the final time, he will go to heaven. It would make sense, even in this situation, for Sam's faith to be bolstered. After all, Sam was always the brother with a more spiritual bent.
It's interesting, though, how the writers chose to depict heaven. It does adhere to a certain interpretation of heaven that I've heard on occasion, but it makes it far more isolating than one would expect. Interaction with loved ones is a rarity, and loved ones within your version of heaven are shades of memory, tailored to your desires. Compared to the torture in hell, it's definitely a better situation, but it's not the bliss that one would anticipate. Is this how it has always been? Or is it how things have been since the angels have taken control?
Then again, this is "Supernatural". Was anyone expecting this show's version of heaven to be unbridled joy?