'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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What YouTube Needs To Keep In Mind

Pointed lyrics are harmless in comparison to the showcasing of a suicide.

YouTube has changed over the past number of years. A website once used for watching cat videos and known for carrying trends such as the Harlem Shake, or moments such as "Charlie Bit My Finger" which are recognizable to anyone who had access to the Internet in 2009, has become a place where thousands on content creators seek the next big moment to bring millions of viewers to their comment, like, and subscribe buttons.

In my last article, I discussed Logan Paul's video from his trip in Japan. As the news has circulated its course and I dissected the event in-depth in my article, I will not talk about it here. However, since I wrote the article, YouTube released an open letter on Twitter in acknowledgment of Logan Paul's video.

The tweets, in short, are formal and brief, but get to the point: YouTube acknowledges that the video went against their rules, and adjustments are in the works in order to take precautions against an incident happening again. However, along with several issues involving the actual apology contained within the letter - while YouTube claims that it is "genuinely upset," there is no mention of the victim or his family - another comment was raised by Matthew Patrick of the Game Theorists in a recent video.

Patrick discusses the issue of what he refers to as the "Logan Loophole," and brings up how the algorithm organizing YouTube videos encourages the behavior displayed by both Logan and Jake Paul as a way to increase their views, and hints at what making headlines and trending videos will mean for their Internet future.

Personally, I do not know exactly how to fix the issue - in his video, Patrick suggests his own solutions - but instead I seek to draw attention to what the culture on YouTube encourages. Creators, instead of earning ad revenue and subscribers for their quality content that is entertaining, find that those such as Logan Paul make waves on YouTube for drawing attention to themselves.

As Patrick says, they create controversy in order to gain views. As the idea stands, it makes sense. Over the past year alone, songs mocking and calling out other creators swarmed the trending pages, such as Jake Paul's track "It's Everyday Bro," and the subsequent "It's Everynight Sis" by Ricegum and Logan's Paul's "The Second Verse." Pointed lyrics, while little more than a way to bring viewers to all involved channels and increase traffic to their videos, are harmless in comparison to the showcasing of a suicide.

The rapid escalation from point A to point B should be a concern for viewers and content creators alike. Content creators looking to create their own following will be drowned out for those who will go to any length to make headlines and achieve their next million subscribers, while viewers will have to sift through video upon video of diss tracks, risky thumbnails, and suggestive content before they can find anything tasteful that they want to watch. All the while, those such as Logan and Jake Paul continue to be a force to be reckoned with, their own followings growing exponentially by the day.

Dear YouTube, whatever your method of adjustment is, please do it well.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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5 Must Hear Albums From 2017

2017 was filled with good music, but for me these five albums stood out.

2017 was filled with really good music. The year saw some great emerging talent as well as some veterans returning to reinvigorate their genre. I am a lover and follower of music – strictly for entertainment, please don’t expect a full analysis of the albums I’m about to discuss – so I was very pleased by the releases in 2017. Here are the five albums that I felt were the best of 2017.

1. Kendrick Lamar - DAMN.

Artist: Kendrick Lamar

Album: Damn.

Release: April 14, 2017

Favorite Song: XXX, featuring U2

If you are a fan of Kendrick Lamar, you know he was severely snubbed at the Grammy awards when his album "Good Kid M. A. A. D City" lost to Macklemore’s "The Heist", for Best Rap Album. Kendrick should have won, hands down. This year he has been nominated for six Grammy awards with his album and singles from "Damn". His single "HUMBLE." set the tone for his album and the rest of his song did not disappoint. The album ran the gamut of topics; from politics to other rappers, and even love. Kendrick’s album is a robust telling of his life and unlike some other rappers, he is not afraid to incorporate politics into his music. Kendrick is certainly one of the best – if not the best – rappers of our generation.

2. Khalid - American Teen

Artist: Khalid

Album: American Teen

Release: March 3, 2017

Favorite Song: Cold Blooded

Khalid makes you wish you were a teenager again; so you won’t feel so out-of-sorts singing along to songs explicitly about being in high school. Thankfully Khalid is graduated now and his next album should be a little more relatable to a slightly older generation. Despite the homage to high school, his album was amazing. His songs perfectly sum up what it’s like to feel like you’re in love only to have that emotion ripped away from you. He is young but he understands the human condition and how to condense it into a three-minute song.

His song "Cold Blooded", my favorite from the album, describes what it’s like to love someone even when they’re not great for you – and how hard it is to deal with their insecurities. He has been nominated for five Grammy awards. One of those – Song of the Year – is for "1-800-273-8255", a song he collaborated on with Logic and Alessia Cara.

3. MUNA - About U

Artist: MUNA

Album: About U

Release: February 3, 2017

Favorite Song: Do U Love Me Now?

MUNA is a girl band comprised of three members: Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, and Naomi McPherson. They opened for Harry Styles on his first solo tour. Their music is probably best described as alternative-pop. The songs are lyrically brilliant and beautifully composed. The three members wanted to create songs that were relatable to the current societal climate. "Loudspeaker" is a strong tune that makes sure the audience knows MUNA isn’t apologizing for anything.

They’ll feel and act how they want. The song "So Special" discusses the consequences of slut shaming and the ridiculous standards we put on women to be “pure.” "I Know a Place" was played as a rallying cry after the terrorist attack in Orlando that killed many members of the LGBTQ community. MUNA is empathetic and unafraid to speak out against the political injustices of our time. I expect their next album to be just as relevant.

Side note: I got to meet this band when I attended a Harry Styles concert in October. They were extremely nice and humble and I am rooting for them.

4. Harry Styles - Harry Styles

Artist: Harry Styles

Album: Harry Styles

Release: May 12, 2017

Favorite Song: Ever Since New York

Harry Styles – yes, from One Direction – released his debut solo album in 2017 and it was really good. Styles went for a slightly different sound than what his fans had grown to expect. His self-titled album went across the board; it featured pop, rock, and even some country sounds. "Sign of the Times" his first single, was an alternative-rock anthem that sounded like it should have been played at a festival in the 70’s.

Styles really experimented with his sound and his creativity with his first album; like he was trying to test everything to see what stuck. For his sophomore album, I hope he nails down his sound and takes a few more risks lyrically.

5. SZA - CTRL

Artist: SZA

Album: Ctrl

Release: June 9, 2017

Favorite Song: Drew Barrymore

SZA, Solána Imani Rowe, is a talented singer and songwriter. Her album perfectly encapsulates what it is like to fall in and out of love in the current dating atmosphere. Ctrl garnered a lot of praise, along with a few Grammy nominations, after its release this past summer. "Love Galore" featuring Travis Scott, fit perfectly into the summer atmosphere and went platinum in the US.

Her album is vulnerable and enlightened; her song "Supermodel" discusses the artist’s insecurities. SZA is not afraid to be honest or controversial; "The Weekend" tells the story of sleeping with an already taken man. SZA has produced songs with Grammy winner Chance the Rapper and Grammy nominee, Kendrick Lamar.

Cover Image Credit: Malte Wingen

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