Sunday, 19 May 2013

Review: Supernatural season 8 finale: 8.23 "Sacrifice"


Oh Sam and Dean, how you can rip my heart out and in the same moment fill me with hope. I felt like I’d been waiting 4 seasons for that conversation. Through all the mistrust, the walking away, the fights, the angry words, I never once doubted that a powerful love was always there, but I still longed to hear them tell each other just how much they mean to each other…because they both needed to hear it…as did we.

But I’ve jumped ahead. You know, I think “Sacrifice” may be my favourite finale ever. I can’t remember ever being so completely surprised with where a finale took us. Not only that, the emotional ruin I was left in was a good one, one that filled me with optimism.


One of the wonderful things about “Supernatural” is that all the characters are so profoundly human, even the non-human ones. The same emotions that rule us, rule them, for good and bad. It means that we can connect like we do. It means that we can feel sympathy for characters like Crowley for instance, as he went through the changes being brought on by the demon cure, as he yelled out that he just wanted to be loved, as he asked Sam, no Moose, but Sam, where to start asking for forgiveness as he bared his neck for the final injection.

What an amazing performance. Mark Sheppard has always sunk his teeth right into Crowley and given that character and the scenery around him, a damn good chewing. But I would never in a million years have thought he could make me actually feel sad for Crowley, make me actually see that there was once another side to the demon, something long ago lost, but maybe still lying dormant deep within.

Having said that, part of the great joy of Crowley is that he’s an evil bastard! I’m assuming with the trials incomplete, he will go off and lick his wounds for a while (once he gets out of that chair) and then revert to his former glory and be back, black hearted and red-eyed as ever!


I think we pretty much all picked that Metatron was not what he seemed. Of course, I didn’t think he was a pissed-off whiney douchebag! Honestly, these angels and their temper tantrums! You were mean to me so I’m going to kick you all out, because I can! I’ll look forward to this one getting his comeuppance next season.

The aftermath of the spell masquerading as the angel trials was completely unexpected. Every single angel sent hurtling to earth in a spectacular, fiery pyrotechnic display. I totally did not see that coming!


And Castiel has lost his grace, because he was a dumbass…again! Oh Cass. You know, I’m just going to say it…Cass has broken heaven twice. Remember when he said this in “The Man Who Would Be King” ….”but I was so full of confidence, of mission. I see now that was arrogance...Hubris...” Um. What’s changed exactly. Yeah, I know his intentions are always good, but you would think after the whole Crowley/Leviathan thing, the angel would get a clue. Awww I feel mean. I'm just totally exasperated! At least he finally had the sense to ask Dean for his help…terrible timing and part of me was like, why the hell should he drop everything for you now? But then, this is Dean we’re talking about. For a moment I thought Dean was going to say screw you and for a moment I was like, what the hell is Dean thinking…but, it became pretty clear pretty quick that story wise, Dean needed to be in proximity of the angel tablet, because it was going to give him something imperative to do with Sam and the trials.


Now Cass is human or rather, a powered down angel. What exactly is that going to mean? Will the other angels know that he unintentionally assisted Metatron with following through on his evil master plan to take over Heaven and will they hunt Cass down because of it? I’m assuming that part of Cass’ redemption will be ousting Metatron and returning the angels to Heaven. I hope he gets the opportunity to do this, as he really needs a win! Maybe then, that will be the end of the angel storyline because the balance will finally be restored.

It did pop into my head, that they do have one powerful angel left that still has his mojo intact. Michael. Of course, getting him out of the cage without setting his brother free is probably something that would be impossible to achieve. But it’s food for thought. There may also be clues on the angel tablet, but surely Metatron would be all over that!

Ok, back to what I was saying earlier….


Oh Sam and Dean, how you can rip my heart out and in the same moment fill me with hope. I felt like I’d been waiting 4 seasons for that conversation. Through all the mistrust, the walking away, the fights, the angry words, I never once doubted that a powerful love was always there, but I still longed to hear them tell each other just how much they mean to each other…because they both needed to hear it…as did we.


As Sam poured his heart out to Dean I couldn’t help but see a little boy (in a very large body). One who always looked up to his older brother, one who had been… “Following you around my entire life. I mean, I've been looking up to you since I was four, Dean. Studying you, trying to be just like my big brother.” We know, because Sam told us, that he’s always felt like he wasn’t pure, we know because Sam told us, that he looked up to his brother, we know because Sam told us, that he always felt like a disappointment to his father, “You know what most dads are when their kids score a full ride? Proud. Most dads don't toss their kids out of the house.” But we didn’t know, at least not for sure, because Sam’s never told us quite so completely, how all of this affected him, how all of this undermined his confidence in himself and who he is or how it made him think Dean saw him.

Jeremy Carver told us that season 8 was all about perception and here, with Sam and Dean was the most important element of it. Two brothers so close that they can’t see each other. Two brothers misunderstanding each other at every turn and too bull-headed to talk about it…until at their weakest, most vulnerable moment, where they have no other way forward but to reach out.


Dean loves Sam fiercely; I’ve never doubted that for a moment. But it’s that powerful love that translates into powerful hurt. He is wounded as deeply as he loves. When the one person he loves the most lets him down, he lashes out with angry words. This is how he reacts. Dean is painfully human and tragically flawed. In this raw and gut-wrenching conversation between the Winchester brothers, Sam finally tells Dean how much those words cut him to the bone. Every time Sam has let Dean down, Dean has let him know in no uncertain terms and Sam has then attached all of that to all of his other insecurities, about not being pure, about not being good enough for his father, about not being the brother he thinks Dean wants. There Sam’s hurt festers, just like Dean’s hurt festers.

In season 4 things started to go pear-shaped for the Winchester brothers. Sam fell in with Ruby and lied about the demon blood. Dean lied about Hell. This is where all the big secrets really started. The brothers seemed to drift apart, come back together drift apart over and over. In season 5 they tried to make it work, but Dean couldn’t let go of what he saw as Sam’s betrayal – choosing a demon over his own brother. Then Dean realised that his brother was more important to him than anything, that they’re all they’ve got, but more than that, they “Keep each other human”. For a brief shining moment, it looked like maybe the brothers could find a way to be brothers again. At the very end, as they stood on the precipice of the apocalypse, they stood united. Then Sam threw himself in the pit and one brother was no more. In season 6 Sam had no soul. This wasn’t his fault and he shouldn’t be blamed for it and it’s hard to say that Sam should have told Dean something was wrong, even though he knew something was, because he didn’t have a soul, so why would he think to tell Dean? That one could go around and around and around! But Dean was deeply injured by Sam both physically through the vampire thing and emotionally through the vampire thing, which ended any chance of a relationship he might have had with Lisa and Ben. Maybe Dean shouldn’t have hung on to this hurt like he did, but it was pretty epic, it’d be hard to let go of something like that, who here is that perfect and Dean’s far from perfect. Season 7, it wasn’t so much that there was any specific angst between the brothers, it was just that it was all kind of gloomy and oppressive and they were so far away from where they once were, I wasn’t sure if what they once had was even retrievable. There was still the love, you could see it in little ways, or in epic ways as when Sam was on the verge of dying from sleep exhaustion…but…

I think one of the main issues was that neither task at hand in seasons 6 and 7 felt particularly personal in nature. They didn’t feel like it was life or death for the brothers. Season 6 even finished with a cliff-hanger that rested with another character, something I always saw as a colossal error.

Then in season 8, the lens was turned back on to the Winchesters; this was once again their story. It was rocky, but anything good is hard earned. As the season moved on, I started to see method to what initially appeared to be madness. These two had to get to a place where they wanted to be together, where they needed each other again and that wasn’t going to come easy. Nothing wonderful ever does. Everything needed to be stripped away before it could be rebuilt. Like starting from scratch.


I never had a problem with how season 8 started, because I trusted that the reason we were being forced to face such a confronting storyline would be made clear as time went on. The season finale gave me that reason and I don’t know that without the Sam not looking for Dean pain, we could have ended up where we did or if it would've felt so significant if we did - for me anyway.

We may never know exactly what brought Sam to the decision not to look for Dean, only that, as he said, he didn’t know Dean was alive and didn’t know where to look. I always chose to take Sam’s explanation on face value, assuming that Sam tried to move on with his life after a calamitous loss which made his world implode. But each time it was raised, Sam didn’t want to discuss it. When Dean first returned and asked about Amelia – “There was a girl”, Sam said, “There was. And then there wasn't. Any more questions.” But the defensive way he said any more questions, sounded more like, I’m not answering any more questions. When Meg asked Sam about not looking for Dean, Sam said nothing, when Bobby asked Sam about not looking for Dean, Sam said nothing. For me, this wasn’t Sam not being given the opportunity to talk about it, it was about Sam not wanting to talk about it, because it was written all over his face, he felt awful. If you feel shitty about something, generally speaking you don’t want to discuss it. In hindsight, I even think it was written all over his face in the first episode. He thought his brother was gone and it turns out he wasn’t… How horrible would that feel?


But through all the hurt and insecurities which erupted as anger and mistrust, the brothers still chose to put those things behind them, or at least on the backburner and stick together. As the personal nature of their quest turned very personal, they began to cling to each other. That old bond, that powerful love of theirs started to show itself again. Season 8 was the first time in a long time that I felt maybe the Winchester brothers would be okay…because though they’ve always stuck together in the past, even when they wanted to walk away from each other, this time around, they chose to stick together. The Universe (and Carver) threw roadblocks in their way, in the form of other people, in the form of other choices, but they still chose to move forward together, even at the loss of those other people in their lives. That was their first shaky step, and it grew from there.

So we find ourselves with the brothers face-to-face in a tiny, damp church. Sam is on the verge of death and a huge question hangs in the air… Why shouldn’t he die for the greater good…

“If you finish this trial, you’re dead Sam.”
“So.”

Once upon a time, I think Dean may have backed this play; he did at the end of season 5. But this is a man who has grown through epic loss and now knows there are some things more important than beating the bad guys and that something is Sam. The brothers, alive, together can do equal amounts of good as one dying for one cause. But beyond that, Dean needs Sam and he may not have told him that and he sometimes may have not shown him that, but he does and he always has and he needs his brother to understand…

I watched in awe as my boys stood face-to-face, anguish etched into their lovely features. Dean’s heart visibly breaking, Sam’s heart visibly broken. Years of sorrow rising to the surface and spewing out in pained and desperate words…

Sam:“You want to know what I confessed in there? What my greatest sin was? It was how many times I let you down. I can't do that again. What happens when you've decided I can't be trusted again? I mean, who are you gonna turn to next time instead of me? Another angel, another -- another vampire? Do you have any idea what it feels like to watch your brother just –“

Dean:“Hold on, hold on! You seriously think that? Because none of it -- none of it -- is true. Listen, man, I know we've had our disagreements, okay? Hell, I know I've said some junk that set you back on your heels. But, Sammy...come on. I killed Benny to save you. I'm willing to let this bastard and all the sons of bitches that killed mom walk because of you. Don't you dare think that there is anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you! It has never been like that, ever! I need you to see that. I'm begging you.”


It was a long time coming and when it happened, it felt so good.

Sam asked how he could stop, because it was inside him. He wasn't just talking about the trials... He was talking about everything. Then Dean wrapped his brother’s hand and pulled him into a hug and told him to let it go brother, let it all go. He wasn’t just talking about the trials... He was talking about the hurt and he wasn’t just talking to Sam, he was talking to himself.


And there they stood, two brothers, each other’s stone number one, finally being honest with each other. Together, because that’s where they want to be.

Yeah, I cried…I may or may not be crying now.

For a season where one of the main criticisms I saw was that Sam had no voice, I feel like I know Sam better than I ever have. I’ve seen him in a new light in season 8. Someone whose hope still burns like a tiny candle inside of him, someone who has learned from past mistakes, someone who has carried a torment deep down since he was a child, someone who yearns for his brother’s love just as much as his brother yearns for his. I see a strong man and yet so broken, so like Dean…

And for the first time, I feel like maybe Sam can be happy driving down crazy street next to his brother.

In the end, I saw the sacrifice as not Sam or Dean but what they will sacrifice for each other, the chance to put the creatures that destroyed their family behind locked gates forever, because if they did, it would destroy the only family they have left.


I said in my preview and to just about anyone who would listen, people on twitter, people at work, strangers walking past me on the street…all I wanted from this season finale was the brothers, alive, side by side, ready to face whatever new catastrophe befalls them …and I got that. There they were, just the two of them, huddled together, hanging on to each other, leaning against their home on four wheels as the sky fell around them. I owe Carver a damn fruit basket.


“Sacrifice” was beautiful written, with excellent pacing, breath taking performances from all concerned - once again, Jensen and Jared were riverting - visually STUNNING – those falling angels – absolutely surprising and set up a corker of a story for season 9, oh and no-one I really cared for died (sorry Naomi, you took too long to come good). We now have a plethora of characters to pepper through the Winchester’s lives and there was even visit to an old friend’s car-yard…Bobby was in this finale, even though he wasn’t. I thought that was a lovely touch.

When Jeremy Carver took over as show runner of “Supernatural”, he said that for him, he always saw the brothers and their relationship as the centre of this story. His past episodes have illustrated that again and again. I feel like JC lived up to his promise for season 8, allowing the brothers and their relationship to take centre stage once more.

As we roar towards the end of this beautiful journey (not the imminent end, I’m thinking another 2 years – season 10 or bust), season 8 and the road we took makes me feel like we may end this series where we started off…2 brothers, together, driving the back highways of America in a shiny black Chevy, saving people, hunting things, the family business. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted.

Okay, that’s me out for season 8. On a personal note, I want to thank everyone for the encouragement. It’s been my first full season writing for The Winchester Family Business and helping Alice and Ardeospina out with admin duties and I’ve had a blast. Occasionally I hit a rough patch, but it was always your enthusiasm and unbridled support for me that has made me pick myself up and plough on with my glass perpetually half full.


(Freckles!)

I’ll be seeing you through hellatus. We’ll get through this stupidly long break between seasons together, just like the Winchester finally are!

Thanks everyone!
-sweetondean

sweetondean is Chief Editor and a writer for The Winchester Family Business
For all the latest Supernatural info and article links, follow The Winchester Family Business on Twitter at @WinFamBusiness

4 comments:

  1. Love, love, LOVE your review. You couldnt have expressed it better and thank you for being a fan of Season 8. I think JC did a wonderful job as his first year as showrunner and then giving us with his writing talent possibly the best most emotional scene in SPN history...thanks to Jared and Jensen's incredibly moving performances. I loved every word of your review. 'Sacrifice' was the most perfect title for this season finale. Sam ready to sacrifice himself just so he wouldnt let his brother down again, and Dean sacrificing the world, so that he didn't lose Sam again. These 2 brothers, man, they just keep on sucking me into this world of theirs and then breaking my heart immediately after. I am so excited to see what S9 brings us. So many questions..it's gonna be a long summer.

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  2. Okay, that comment above was made by me. No idea where all those nutty numbers and letters came from. Yikes!

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  3. Haha! I was like, wow interesting user name! :P

    Thanks so much for your comment. I'm thinking season 8 may become my favourite season. I tend to gravitate towards the later seasons (4&5) even though I watched from day 1 and those early episodes are still wonderfully charming (and innocent!).

    The brothers rocked season 8 though and that's where my heart lies...

    I love it when I find fans who feel the same way, yay us!

    Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave me a note!

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  4. The Supernatural Season 7 is an American television series show that is on are hotly now. While investigating a number of murders, Dean as well as Sam learn how the Egyptain lord Osiris accounts for the killings. A lord with only revenge upon his thoughts, Osiris is actually putting arbitrary people upon trial for just about any mistakes they have made previously and after that promptly eliminating them in the event that they're discovered guilty. On sensing Dean's shame, Osiris places him upon trial along with Sam getting Dean's attorney.

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