Supernatural: "Swan Song"
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Supernatural: "Swan Song"

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Supernatural

"Swan Song"

Season 5, Episode 22

I have a sister who's three years younger than I am. We don't talk a whole lot these days--she's got a family and I've got my own life--and when we were kids, we were never hugely close. Still, we talked, and hung out from time to time, and there's a certain aspect of our relationship that will ever go away completely, no matter how much we grow apart. It's this: once, when I was 7 and she was 4, we were sitting at the edge of a lake, and she fell in. And I pulled her back out. Mom said I'd saved her life, and I suppose I had, even though the water wasn't very deep. Thing is, I may have been the reason she fell in to begin with. That's what siblings are, at their best and worst. We kind of want to murder each other, but we can never bear to let each other go completely.

Supernatural has done so much with Sam and Dean's connection that it's surprising the writers can still find ways to make it click even now. I mean, we get it, right. They're very close, they're the only ones they can count on, there's a lot of resentment between them, and Daddy issues, and so on. It can get old, occasionally, because it's like a button the show likes to press, to fill a scene or provide emotional content in an episode. See, the relationship is never really going to change. They'll talk about change, they'll express various revelations about who they are to each other, but the fundamental dynamic remains the same. That's realistic, sure, but it means that all these endless chats about who feels what often come across like so much padding.

Not always, though. "Swan Song" stuck with the show's strengths, focusing largely on the Winchesters, and making its central point in clear, accessible terms. I doubt anyone was hugely surprised when Satan Sam drew back from beating his brother to death, or when the real Sam regained control of his body just long enough to make the jump back into Hell, but surprise wasn't the concern here. Last season we had our shocking revelation. This season was all about the slow dreadful build to The End of All Things, and if that End wasn't quite as apocalyptic as it might have been, I would argue that spectacle was never the intention. All season long, the Armageddon has, cast mortality rate aside, been a mostly sidelined affair. We'd get hints, and obviously Lucifer was waiting to put on his Sam suit before unveiling the big guns, but I wanted something more epic. Well, that's not really Supernatural. After all, we've heard about a hunter community for years, but, apart from Bobby and a handful of guest stars, have the Winchesters ever seemed like a part of a larger team?

Some shows, you feel like there are a whole world of stories going on even when the camera isn't on them. Other shows it's like the whole world is the scene you're watching and only that scene, and the scene following it, and so on. Supernatural is the latter kind of show. That limits its appeal a little, and in a way, Sam, Cass, and Bobby's showdown with Satan Sam at Stull Cemetery is a disappointment. We waited a whole season for this, and what we get is the car saves the world?

Yeah, pretty much, a car and the bond it represents, and in the end, I'm okay with that. It worked. It wasn't mind-blowing, and a couple of brutal deaths (which were almost immediately reversed) aside, it wasn't really shocking. It reduced the conflict to a simple equation, a basic exchange with only one possible variable, and while there wasn't much doubt how that variable would go (one of the drawbacks of learning a show like this has been renewed another season is knowing that the world probably isn't going end in a season finale), I got the catharsis I wanted. Buffy pulled a similar stunt in one the later seasons, and in order to save the day, one character gives a big speech reminding another of their debt to each other. It's a nice moment in an uneven season, but I think this played better. Chuck's running commentary on the car let you know all you needed to know, and while it could've been cheesy--probably was a little cheesy--the rapid fire montage of Sam and Dean bonding moments was as eloquent as it needed to be.

I'm not a huge fan of the implication that Chuck, the prophet-writer who's been chronicling the Winchester's adventures, is actually God. It's too cutesy-meta (especially seeing as how showrunner Eric Kripke is leaving after this season), and winds up making the character less interesting. I missed seeing Crowley again, because we still don't know what was up with him, why he healed Bobby's legs, and whether or not he's given Bobby back his soul. Still, the thing about finales is, if they get the big stuff right, I can handle the minor flaws. I can see people complaining that the big confrontation wasn't very epic, but I appreciated its intimacy, and its starkness. This has been Supernatural's most ambitious season to date, and while the show didn't entirely capitalize on that ambition, it kept true to its core, and it didn't cheat. Can't wait for next year.

Stray Observations:

  • Mentioning how Dean rebuilt the Impala (keeping all the "flaws") was a nice way to acknowledge continuity without being hampered by it.
  • "Such anger, young Skywalker." 
  • Aaaand now I know what M. F. E. O. stands for. (Made For Each Other)
  • I'm not sure Def Leppard's "Rock Of Ages" would've been my pick for Last Song I'll Probably Ever Hear, but it's not bad.
  • "Sammy, it's okay, I'm here. I'm here. I'm not gonna leave you." That did me in, I'll admit it: that Dean wasn't even trying to win anymore, he just wanted to be there when his brother died.
  • "Ass-butt?"
  • All right: what the hell was up with that final shot? Sam's back... but that didn't look like regular Sam.