Mike check, one two — hello? Supernatural fandom, you alive? Yeah, us neither. Thursday’s episode of Supernatural was a real killer! (Get it, because — oh wait, spoiler alert…) If you’re still reeling from the emotional roller coaster that was Bobo Beren’s “The Rupture,” you are not alone! And if you have yet to indulge in the feels trip, you are welcome to keep reading, but fair warning — there’s some mega spoilers ahead.
The ghost hits just keep on coming as Sam, Dean, Cas, Rowena, and that pesky demon still wearing Jack to the prom Belphegor return to the scene of the crime, so to speak. The graveyard, still littered with the corpses that tried to kill them in the first episode, line their walk alongside the gaping chasm in the earth where ghosts continue to pour out every minute. It’s a cheery scene we find our heroes in, who cross to get to the mausoleum to execute their plan. (Those of us that are observant notice that the name on the mausoleum is Carver — Chuck’s pen name.)
Preparations begin, salt is spread, and Rowena stands in the center of the crypt with a golden bowl and begins to chant. Her goal is to create a soul bomb (reminiscent of the problem solver of the end of season 11), and as ghosts pound on the iron doors she tries, and tries, and tries — and fails. Not only that, she collapses as she witnesses a vision. “We’re all going to die!” she cries. (Well, duh Rowena, this is Supernatural after all!)
Unfortunately, the damage the ghosts have done to the barrier is just too strong, Rowena says, as she takes a swig of Dean’s hooch. (Girl, I feel you.) This setback only sets Dean further into soldier mode — get out into the battle field, take out as many as possible, and likely die trying — and he’s not quiet about it. Sam stops him with a hand, and he crouches by Rowena to offer her some comfort. Because even in the face of certain death, Sam is first and foremost empathetic.
Belphegor has gone outside. Castiel follows him, because that smart angel knows he’s up to something. Turns out the dude just wants to look at the hell mouth and confirm what he already knew — and formulate a plan.
Dean continues to gear up, and Sam joins him. Dean is freaking ready, and he’s freaking pissed. He calls Chuck a “glorified fanboy,” which, I’ll admit, made me squeal with delight. But there’s nothing funny about the way Dean is ready to charge into the face of the battle, knowing it’s suicidal, solely on the basis of believing that is how they will truly be “free.” I want to point out here that whilst many of us have had a long “hellatus” between this season and last, in the Supernatural timeline, only days (at most, a week) have passed since he lost Mary, his mother. This fact informs his rather limitless rage for the episode.
Castiel is finally able to get out of Belphegor what his plan is: they’re going to dive right into this “tear” that Chuck has created and break into Lilith’s stock room, within which contains a shepherd’s crook slash horn thingy. Whatever it is, it was used by her to command the ghost armies, and by extension, should be able to call back the spirits to hell. Rowena can then close the big gaping hole in the earth and voilà, problem solved. Belphegor requests a companion, and without a second thought, Dean volunteers Castiel. He straight up tells him in the most unfeeling fashion that he’s been to hell before, and while this is very likely a suicide mission, he should be the one to go. We are meant to be enraged at Dean, and read the tension (to put it mildly) between the two of them, as Castiel leaves to carry out his wishes.
In the hospital, Ketch wakes from his injuries and tries to make a hasty exit, only to be stopped by Ardat, the demon who was after Belphegor. He makes a valiant attempt at a fight but is quickly overpowered, and well, we see where this is going. But before, where Ketch has rolled over and given up information to save his own skin, here we see the culmination of the few years of character development we’ve witnessed. Facing certain death, he refuses to give up the location of the Winchesters, “Not at any price.”
So, Ardat rips his heart clean from his chest. Then, she uses his phone to text Dean, who gives up their location instantly.
Beside the pit, Castiel and Belphegor stand trying to decide how to get down. Belphegor, however, decides this is a great time to point out how Sam and Dean not only thoughtlessly offered up the angel like a lamb for the slaughter, they didn’t even say goodbye to him. Castiel clenches his teeth and doesn’t disagree — but then pushes Belphegor into the mouth of Hell without warning, which was, objectively, hilarious.
In the pit, it’s quiet. And while the banter between Bel and Cas is pretty fun (kudos to Alex Calvert for this role. He’s absolutely nailing it) Bel makes it clear that he really just wanted to get Castiel alone so they could become friends. “Sam and Dean are using you. Don’t mistake that for caring,” Castiel says with a scoff. Belphegor smirks at him, “Wow. You learn that the hard way?”
There’s possibly nothing that Bel could have said that could have struck a nerve with Castiel — or made the fandom cry out in a rage — more than that, especially coming out of Jack’s mouth.
They make their way into Lilith’s storage room and find a goofy demon named Malfayan looting the place. He recognizes Bel immediately, but Castiel (who is fresh out of patience) quickly dispatches him with his angel blade. The box that contains the horn lies untouched, mostly because, surprise surprise, to open it you need to read the incantation carved into the wood, and it’s written in Enochian, the language of the angels. So that little demon bastard knew a bit more than he was letting on. Oh, and the best part? It’s a song of praise that had to be sung. Rumor has it that somewhere there is video of Misha Collins singing it in full, and if anyone with access to that video is reading this, this is what I’d like for Festivus, please!
Having finished the song, the box opens revealing…well, I’d still call it a horn. The somber celebration is short lived as Castiel is thrown against the wall by Ardat, who has finally caught up with Belphegor. A fight ensues in which we learn Bel’s true goal — to rule Hell. Not surprisingly, Bel is quick to turn the angel blade on her, but it’s too late. Castiel demands to know Bel’s real intentions, which turns out, are way more ambitious than just a throne. He plans to use the horn to siphon all of those souls from hell straight into himself, effectively becoming a god. After all, he says, “I hear there’s an opening.” He puts his lips to the horn and blows, and Castiel is powerless to stop him as thousands of souls rush past him and into Belphegor.
Dean, crouching next to the tear, waiting to throw the bomb, hears the sound. It’s also heard in the mausoleum where Rowena and Sam join hands and begin their incantation to start to charge the bomb. It’s all working. Sam and Rowena smile at one another as they feel the magic begin to take hold, the tiny bag in Dean’s fist glows with power, and then all of the sudden, it stops. Sam’s confused, but somehow, Rowena isn’t?
And then we’re back in Hell where Castiel has charged at Belphegor and begins to punch his lights out. Crouching over him, the glasses are knocked off, and Bel pleads with Cas to stop, this time using Jack’s voice. A dirty, no good, cheap move, and Castiel gathers all of his (clearly waning) strength, his eyes glow blue, and he smites the heck out of that demon in his son’s body. This would feel like a win, except for the ragged sob that escapes Castiel when it’s all through.
Topside, Dean calls Sam to find out what’s up, only, he doesn’t know either. Then, Sam hears the sound of Rowena groaning as she carves into her own flesh, pulling the last resurrection satchel from her skin. Bel’s plan may have been the Winchester’s Hail Mary, but it wasn’t hers. “Magic can do anything. It can contain anything,” she says, but only if she will pay the price. Death is an infinite vessel, and they already have the two ingredients they need: the still coursing blood through her veins and her last breath. With terror, Sam realizes Rowena intends to sacrifice herself. More than that, she insists that he be the one take her life.
In the midst of all this, Castiel resurfaces to a bewildered Dean. He tells him that he killed Bel and that the horn is gone which, naturally, really pisses Dean off. It’s worth noting here that what was going on with Sam and Rowena and what was happening with Dean and Cas kept flashing back and forth, paralleling each other in storytelling sequence. It’s a brilliant bit of editing that had the effect of doubling down on the heartbreak.
Ruth Connell is so brilliant in her final scene of Supernatural, because she doesn’t allow Rowena to suddenly become something she hasn’t been. Sure, Rowena has affection for the Winchesters, but stronger than that is her belief in magic and prophecy. We already know she was prophesied to die at Sam’s hand, and she is steadfast and fierce to make sure that she leaves this world on her own terms, even if, in part, it’s predestined. Sam’s refusal and heartbreak has us all sobbing, and they share an intimate moment, a mutual fondness, something that should have never been but a bond forged in shared trauma and magic. But she reminds him: will he let the world die, his brother die, so that Rowena could live? Of course not. He stabs her, grasping her to his chest. He pulls away, and they’re both crying. She reaches out and touches his face, saying, “That’s my boy.”
Rowena’s sacrifice isn’t in vain. The souls run to her gaping wound, and she’s filled with them as she walks to the edge of the hell mouth. She’s resolute and a vision in pink as she turns to Team Free Will, who are speechless and shocked. “Goodbye boys,” she says, and swan dives into hell, the gap sealing behind her.
I can’t even begin to summarize in this article how much Rowena’s character meant in Supernatural and how brilliantly she was depicted by Ruth. I will say that this send off was beautiful, graceful, and powerful in a way that Rowena always was. Kudos to Bobo for handling the two deaths in this episode with such truth and honor to their characters.
Did I mention the episode isn’t even over yet? Oh boy, let’s keep going.
Finally back at the bunker, Dean checks on Sam, because he’s a good brother, but he’s distant in his body language. He’s trying to perk Sam up, reminding him that this is it; they won the apocalypse, but it’s like a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes. Sam is anything but excited. He manages a half grin, because he’s nothing if not self-sacrificing, but it’s clear to see the price the Winchesters have paid this time hardly feels worth the cost. Jared Padalecki continues his emotions from the last scene: a sort of resigned, empty feeling, and Rowena’s loss is like an empty chasm. And I just sit here and wish for the love of Chuck that Sammy will someday get to not kill a woman he’s close to. Just once!
Then, we arrive at our final scene. The entire episode’s worth of heartbreak seems to plateau here, with Cas finally confronting Dean in the quiet of the bunker. Cas bares himself emotionally to Dean, apologizing for a whole host of things that aren’t actually his fault, including the plan going awry, Rowena’s death, and then finally, Mary’s death. Bless his heart, he actually gives a little pause before mentioning Mama Winchester to see if Dean will change his stance. With a curt nod, we learn that no, Dean is still fully in “Cas is to blame for everything” camp, even going so far as to say, “Why does that something wrong always happen to be you?”
It’s as much sucker punch to the gut to Castiel as it is to the audience. This is the depth of Dean’s depression and existentialism. Last episode, in another soul baring conversation with Castiel, we learned that Dean doesn’t believe that any of this is “real” — that Chuck playing puppeteer with them all of these years has rendered every decision, every move he’s made, and dare I say, from the looks of things, even the relationships he’s built along the way completely meaningless.
But Cas knows better.
With an intimate knowledge of Chuck’s power, and having actually lived the transition from “Everything is God’s Plan” to “F-This. Team Free Will 4-Ever,” Castiel knows what is real and what isn’t. He’s also really, epically done with Dean’s crap. In a move that had me cheering through tears, Castiel starts to leave. Dean stops him, of course, but Castiel, before climbing up the bunker steps, puts it so simply, “Jack’s dead. Chuck’s gone. You and Sam have each other. Maybe it’s time for me to move on.”
And with that, we start what I’m hoping to be a tremendous shift in Dean’s character arc. Dean classically pushes at those he loves most, especially in times of pain and boy, is he really going through it right now. Maybe he’s convinced himself that none of this is real, and that none of this was his choice. But his best friend, the guy that never leaves him, the one that’s always got his and Sam’s backs turning on his heel and deciding he’s finally had enough? Well, as Cain once said, “Now that one — that I suspect would hurt something awful.” And it hurt in a very real way.
With only 17 episodes left in the season, we have a lot of emotional ground to cover, but I’m more confident than ever in the endgame plans for Supernatural. How did you feel about this emotional roller coaster of an episode? Sound off in the comments below!