'Supernatural's Two-Part Finale And The Structure Of A(n Un)Successful Season

'Supernatural's Two-Part Finale And The Structure Of A(n Un)Successful Season

There are two types of "Supernatural" finales, and "All Along The Watchtower" is neither.

When the CW announced that the season 12 finale of Supernatural would be a two-hour event, fans knew to expect some carnage. It's a staple of Supernatural finales at this point, and the show certainly didn't disappoint in that department. The final episode featured not one or two, but six recurring character deaths (seven, if you count Dr. Hess), contributing to the show's long-standing tradition of plot-twisting and controversial conclusions in more ways than one. Supernatural's season finales are practically famous for ending on game changers and cliffhangers, and this season's ending brought them not only in the form of Cas and Crowley's deaths, but in the introduction of parallel universes and the birth of a potential friend/foe as Lucifer's child finally makes an appearance in the last shot of the final episode. What separated this episode from past finales was not simply the fact that it was separated into two parts, but that it did not fit the formulaic structure that the majority of Supernatural's other finales have relied on.

Though Supernatural finales always go big in their final moments, those moments rarely come as a complete shock. Rather, Supernatural's most common, and often best, season finales deliver exactly what the rest of the season was trying to prevent. Season 3 is set on saving Dean, so its season finale kills him. Season 4 is set on preventing Lucifer from rising, so Lucifer does exactly that in the season's final moments. Season 8 is set on completing the trials to lock the gates of Hell, so the finale never lets Sam complete them. Season 9 is, once again, set on saving Dean, so Dean dies, once again. As predictable as you'd think this would make the show, the seasons that choose not to follow this formula often lack a satisfying ending to their over-arching plotline, mainly because the image that finishes off the finale tends to have little to do with the rest of plot and offers hardly any explanation or lasting impression on what came beforehand: the goal of the season is accomplished in the finale, but at an unforeseen cost.

Season 1's final episodes deliver the boys to their father, but its finale catches them in a car crash that nearly kills Dean and ultimately kills their father. The finale of Season 7 sees Dick Roman successfully killed, but Dean and Cas are sent to Purgatory in the process. Season 10 successfully removes the Mark from Dean, but releases the Darkness with it. The only season that benefits from this structure is Season 5, mainly because this type of finale lends itself more to endings than cliffhangers and Season 5 acts as an ending to the show's initial storyline.

Season 12's finale doesn't fit neatly into either of these categories, possibly because the season created so many plotlines to be resolved. There's the British Men of Letters plotline, Lucifer's child being born, Crowley trying to regain and maintain power over Lucifer, Mary's strained relationship with her sons, and Cas' internal struggle to find a home for himself despite Billie's warning that "cosmic consequences" were coming for him, all of which needed to be tied up in the last two episodes. In order to do that, the show splits its finale into two parts and addresses its plotlines separately. In effect, the finale's first part, "Who We Are," becomes a satisfying stand-alone conclusion to the Men of Letters plot and the Winchesters' character arcs so that "All Along The Watchtower" can focus on the plotlines that will continue into the next season, thus creating a final episode in which every plotline gets its own separate version of the Supernatural finale structure.

Crowley's plotline is the second type, as he gains control over Lucifer's life only by killing himself. The Lucifer plotline is the second type, as well, since the Winchesters cage him, but lose Mary in the process. Cas' plotline is the first type, since much of his arc this season has been concerned with Dean worrying over keeping him safe, but the finale ends both of their storylines with Cas' death. The decision to give each of these stories a separate ending within the show's final episode may have been a good one, had each of these endings been given the time to take hold and have a lasting effect, but each of these plotlines is closed in the last five minutes, leading to the major issue found in "All Along The Watchtower": the season's final moments provide none of the complexity, emotion, or focus that "Who We Are" promised.

This is seen most clearly in Cas' death scene. The entire season was spent looking back to the show's glory days, so it's fitting that Dean ends his season with Cas while Sam's final shot is with Lucifer's son, a character that, despite having been born in the final moments of the episode, already parallels Sam's arc from season 4 and 5 not only in his connection to Lucifer, but in that both characters are expected by the angels to bring destruction because of that connection. However, as emotional as Cas' death should be, the scene feels sudden, strange, and unfair to Cas' character. Ending Cas' season 12 storyline with his death before Cas has been able to finally address the line he walks between Heaven and Earth, a decision that might have been addressed after his first visit to Heaven in years had he not been stolen away by Kelly and Jack, does nothing for Cas' season 12 character arc. His death stops the action of his story while he is still living with the same uncertainty as he was in the beginning, especially since his death is preceded by him barging into the alternate universe Jack opened up and attacking Lucifer with a useless weapon without any apparent rhyme or reason. His character saw more development in the first half of the season in episodes like "Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets" and "Stuck in the Middle (With You)," yet the show chooses to ignore this, continuously bringing back the question of where "home" is for Cas despite ending these episodes with a blatant, resounding answer of "with Sam and Dean."

This odd stasis that Cas' death leaves his story in combines with the rushed attempt to tie up three storylines in last minutes of the finale and makes Cas' death feel more hollow than heartbreaking. On paper, Cas' final moments sound tragic. Between his "wing shot," which fans have wondered and worried about since the ashy imprints angels leave behind in death were first introduced in Season 4, and Dean falling to his knees beside him, shut down and barely aware of Sam running back into house and potential danger, the finale might have brought on a few tears if it had taken the time to both give Cas a satisfying reason for dying and give Sam and Dean the room to properly react. Instead, Cas' death is used for shock value. I'm sure it won't continue to remain as quick and pointless as it came across, considering Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins both commented on the lasting effect his death may have on both of their characters in Season 13 at Jus in Bello Con just after the episodes aired. But for the time being, the scene has been crafted in a way that only allows for shock.

Though Jensen definitely provides some heart to the scene, Andrew Dabb's writing and Bob Singer's direction leave Cas' death feeling empty. The camera barely shows Cas after he falls until the final wing shot, which should have been a poignant image and makes sense to hold off on, but with Singer's lock on the other actor's faces (either close-ups or low-angle shots looking up from around their waists) and the way the scene is forced to move on so quickly in order to deal with Lucifer's appearance and his and Mary's disappearance, what should be the season's gripping final moments almost seem to forget Cas until Dean falls beside him, manage to completely overshadow Crowley's death, which is a low blow considering Cas will be back while Crowley definitely won't be, and leave the season without the satisfying close that "Who We Are" originally offered. The season never actually feels like it delivers.

This inability to fully deliver in season finales has been an issue for Supernatural ever since two-part seasons were introduced to the show around season 6 and became a staple of the show in season 9. Mid-season finales after the show took to this type of season structure no longer marked a turn in the action in the same plotline, but the beginning of a different plotline, thus creating season finales that needed to integrate several plotlines into their big reveals and cliffhangers rather than just one. This constant mixing of plotlines that are irrelevant to one another combined with the show's continuous attempts to match the neat build and plotline that was the first five seasons has led to larger and larger plot points, each trying to cover the many, many bases that were created to cover the last larger-than-life plot point. Abaddon is introduced in season 8, Dean takes up the Mark to defeat Abaddon and becomes a demon in season 9, Dean loses control of the Mark and kills Death and releases God's sister in an attempt to rid himself of it in season 10, Lucifer is released to contain God's sister in season 11, and an alternate dimension is created by Lucifer's son and used to contain Lucifer in season 12. The stakes continue to get higher and higher as plotlines from the first half and second half of the season converge and suddenly the season finale must create a way to combine the wall in Sam's mind and the sudden appearance of the rest of the Campbells with Eve's rebirth, the war in Heaven, Crowley and Cas' partnership and the search for Purgatory, or reconcile the fall of the angels, the war in Heaven, and Gadreel's involvement with the Mark of Cain and Abaddon's plotline, or, in this case, address the British Men of Letters, Lucifer's escape, the child Lucifer created during his first escape of the season, Castiel's apparently impenetrable ties to Heaven, and Mary's relationship with her sons. At this point, it's almost a good thing that this season did nothing in terms of character development for Sam or Dean, or else this finale might have had more on its plate to shove into its final minutes.

I will say this for the end of season 12, though. This finale is absolutely cleaner than most of the show's other recent attempts, undoubtably due to the decision to spread itself between two episodes. "Who We Are" is one of the show's best episodes in a long while. Robert Berens is able to create some incredibly touching, heart-wrenching moments, especially between Sam and Dean and Dean and Mary (I got chills from Dean's first "I hate you"), and the writing is tight and well-paced. "All Along the Watchtower" may lack some of the power it was trying to channel, but it does introduce some really intriguing plotlines for season 13, especially in the introduction of alternate universes, through which old and new characters may (re)enter the canon. In the end, though, this awkward, fast-paced almost-closure to the season rests in an odd place between the two established types of Supernatural finales (a combination that only ever truly worked ten years ago, during season 2) and leaves an after-impression that is not so much disappointing as it is void of grip or emotion, especially in the afterglow of "Who We Are," and the time it gives its most important moments and characters to breathe, and the potential it represents that Supernatural should continue to strive toward.

Cover Image Credit: Supernatural

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Dear Shondaland, You Made A Mistake Because April Kepner Deserves Better

"April Kepner... you're not average"

I'll admit from the first time we were introduced to April in Season 6, I didn't like her so much. I mean we hated the "Mercy Westers" in the first place, so how could we see the potential in the annoying, know-it-all resident that was trying to compete with our beloved Lexie Grey.

But then, we saw her come face-to-face with a killer and thought maybe she had potential.

We then saw her surprise everyone when she proved to be the next trauma surgeon in the making and we were intrigued.

Notice how none of these stories had anything to do with Jackson Avery. Not that we didn't love her with Jackson, but for whatever reason you've chosen to end their very popular relationship. Suddenly, you think that April is not worth further exploration but you've forgotten one simple thing. We fell in love with her before "Japril" was ever in the picture.

We love her because her story was unlike the others and she had one of the best character developments on the show. She wasn't damaged like Meredith Grey or Alex Karev who have been on their journey to become all whole and healed, but she still had to fight hard to be taken seriously. Her story has so much potential for future development, but you've decided to throw it all away for "creative reasons."

I'm sorry, but there's nothing creative about doing the exact same thing you've done to all the other characters who have left the show. We've endured the loss of many beloved characters when you chose to write off George, Henry, Mark, and Lexie. We even took it when you did the unthinkable and wrote McDreamy out of the show - killing off one half of the leading couple. (WHO DOES THAT???)

But April Kepner? Are you kidding me?

She may no longer be with Jackson, but she was so much more than half of Japril. While most of us hate that Jackson and April are over, we probably could have dealt with it if April was still on the show. Now they're done and you think there aren't any more stories to tell about her character. Why? Because she'll just get in the way of Jackson and Maggie?

How could you not see that she was way more than Jackson's love interest?

She's so much more than you imagined her to be. April is the headstrong, talented trauma surgeon no one saw coming. The farmer's daughter started off an ugly duckling who became a soldier because she needed to be one and turned into one big beautiful swan who constantly has to fight for her coworkers and family to see her as such.

She's proven to be a soldier and swan on many occasions. Just take giving birth to her daughter in a storm on a kitchen table during an emergency c-section without any numbing or pain medication as an example. If she wasn't a soldier or a swan before, how could she not be after that?

Yet, you - the ones who created her - still see her as the ugly duckling of a character because she always had to take the backseat to everyone else's story and was never allowed to really be seen.

But we see her.

She's the youngest of her sisters who still think of her as the embarrassing little Ducky no matter how much she's grown.

This swan of a resident got fired for one mistake but came back fighting to prove she belongs. Not only did April Kepner belong there, but it was her talent, her kindness, her strength that made her Chief Resident. This simply wasn't enough for Dr. Bailey or her other residents so she fought harder.

She endured the pressure but always ended up being a joke to the others. When she was fired yet again, your girl came back a little shaken. She doubted herself, but how could she not when everyone was against her.

Despite everyone telling her she couldn't, she did rise and no one saw her coming because she remained in the background. She went off to Jordan broken and came back a pretty risky trauma surgeon.

We've watched for years as she was handed promising stories that we never got to see fully develop because she was in the background. We never got to see her rise. We get the beginning and the end, but hardly ever the middle.

I thought we were finally going to have an amazing story arc in season 11 when she loses Samuel, but what did we really get? Two or three episodes of her coming to terms with the loss of her baby and then April's disappearance from the show while she's grieving off screen so that Dr. Amelia Shepherd can shine her first season on the show. Where is April's life-changing surgeries? What does April get? She's background music.

Now what?

It's season 14 and we finally get the story we've been waiting 9 years for! We get Dark April and her crisis of faith. A story arc all Christians can appreciate. Here's the chance for real character development in the foreground, but wait...

Before her story is even wrapped up, you announce that this season will be her last. So we're forced to realize that the only reason we're getting this story now is that you're writing her off.

No matter how you end it, it's not going to do her story justice. If you kill her off to end her crisis of faith story, you're not reaching the many Christians who watch the show. If you have her leaving Seattle and taking Harriet with her, you didn't know April. If you have her leaving Seattle and abandoning Harriet, you really didn't know April. So anyway you choose to end her story, you lost out on one great character.

You messed up.

Both April Kepner and Sarah Drew deserved better.

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

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13 Albums Everyone Needs In Their Life

Whether you need music to be your therapist or music to study to, these are all go-to's.

Everyone loves music, right? It's fun, it's sad, it's happy, it's intense, it's poetic — sometimes all at the same time! I've always loved music, but recently, I've become really interested in albums as a whole rather than just individual songs. I'm particularly interested in albums that flow together if you listen to them straight through. Here are 13 that I think everyone needs to listen to.

1. 'Gone Now' - Bleachers

Gone Now is a little bit of fun, a little bit of dance, a little bit of sad, and a little bit of soul-searching. The songs all fit together really well and Jack Antonoff's voice is just so cool (plus, he's Taylor Swift's producer and he was the bassist in fun., so you know the music is going to be good). Need more convincing? I personally think that Bleachers sound like a kind of new version of David Bowie — there's definitely some 1980s thrown into the mix of their sound!

2. 'Hotel California' - The Eagles

Speaking of the '80s, The Eagles Hotel California album has to be pretty high up there for me in albums that I love to listen to. Maybe it's just the nostalgia I get listening to The Eagles because that's a lot of what my parents played in the car when I was a kid, but I really love jamming to these songs. Not to mention that the title song, "Hotel California," has one of the best guitar solos ever.

3. 'Cleopatra' - The Lumineers

It's rare that a group with such a good first album can produce a second album that's equally as good, but I'd like to argue that The Lumineers did more than that — they produced a second album that's better. In their true style, there's lots of guitar, lots of songs with that cool and artsy background noise, and a whole lot of feelings in the music. The album is a 10/10.

4. 'Strange Desire' - Bleachers

I've come back to Bleachers. This is actually their first album and one of the most emotionally heavy I've ever listened to despite the light, upbeat tone. The whole thing is about Jack Antonoff dealing with the feelings he got left with after getting into a car accident with his sister, who ended up dying as a result. The album might not make you sad, but it'll definitely make you think.

5. 'Dear Wormwood' - The Oh Hellos

The number of people who have never heard of The Oh Hellos is tragic. This brother-sister duo and their band are incredibly talented musicians and songwriters. All of their albums are amazing, but Dear Wormwood is better than anything else I've ever listened to. Each song flows into the next one, creating the idea of it being one continuous song. The songs themselves are based on the work of C.S. Lewis, which gives them a lot of added depth. I could honestly write pages upon pages about this one, so you should really just go look it up.

6. 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts' Club Band' - The Beatles

People have often called this "the album that changed music" and they're completely right about that. If you somehow haven't listened to this, you really ought to go and do that. Some of The Beatles' very best songs are on here! It's a little quirky, a little weird, and just the right amount of fun to make for a great listen.

7. 'Escape' - Journey

I mean, do I need to say anything more than the fact that "Don't Stop Believin'" came out on this album? But, if you need more convincing, this album was also home to "Who's Cryin' Now" and "Open Arms."

8. 'Songs About Jane' - Maroon 5

Songs About Jane is too good not to be on this list. It features childhood classics for college kids such as "She Will Be Loved" and "This Love," so you know it's clutch.

9. '25' - Adele

I'm a weirdo, I know, but I think that Adele's most recent album is her best on the whole. They all had some really great songs, but 25 has to be my favorite just because of how she's dealing with all of these really raw and painful memories. It definitely sounds more mature than her previous albums (which, I guess it's supposed to) and the whole tone is more about reflection than on actually being in the painful place.

10. 'Sigh No More' - Mumford and Sons

I like Sigh No More better than Babel, much to the chagrin of literally everyone I say this to, but I love the emotion of Sigh No More. It's a good balance of soft and angry, sad and scared. It touches love, loss, friendship, and existentialism all in a few short songs, so it's a bit of a rollercoaster, but it's worth it.

11. 'Scars and Stories' - The Fray

It's beautiful and sad, but mostly just beautifully sad. The Fray never fails to impress me with their albums, but this one really gets me. It's named perfectly and the songs are all so good.

12. 'Native' - OneRepublic

Disclaimer: I liked Native before it was cool, which is still a bragging point for me even though it's been like 8 years. In classic OneRepublic style, it's a really fun album that has some deeper stuff buried down under the great beat.

13. 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' - Simon and Garfunkel

I might be biased on this album because my favorite song even is Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, so there's that. But also the album is legitimately good. As per usual, the rainy day, melancholy songs (98% of everything they sing, tbh) are balanced out with a few really happy beats (that still have sad lyrics), which makes for a great listen, especially if it is a rainy day and you just need to snuggle into your bed with some good songs.

Cover Image Credit: Lily Snodgrass

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