This review contains spoilers.
9.23 Do You Believe In Miracles?
Well, that was… unsurprising.
Do You Believe In Miracles? was not a bad season finale. It’s just that it felt like it was missing those jaw-dropping plot twists, shocking cliffhangers, and high tension that’s been the stuff of most of Supernatural finales. In fact, last week’s episode felt like much more of a season finale, while this episode, though it had some truly moving moments, honestly felt like it wasn’t doing anything much more exciting than setting up next season.
That makes sense, though, because according to showrunner Jeremy Carver, season ten is going to be the final act in the three-season story arc he planned when he took over in early season eight, where everything from the past two seasons comes to fruition. Accordingly, this finale is full of parallels to season two – four, which naturally makes it feel like it’s setting up season ten just like the first four seasons set up the fifth season and its climax of Swan Song.
This episode plunges directly into the scene last episode had left off with: Dean had just attacked and wounded Gadriel, who fled as Sam and Dean restrained a feral-looking Dean. Fearing the effects of the Mark of Cain, Sam and Cas lock Dean up to detox in a scene that’s extremely reminiscent of Sam detoxing from demon blood in Bobby’s panic room at the end of season four. While Sam and Cas debate what to do, Dean wastes no time summoning Crowley, who doesn’t even need to make a deal to let Dean out – as we’ll discover later, he’s clearly invested in Dean giving in to the urge to use the Blade and to the darkness within.
Meanwhile, Sam and Cas track down an escaped Gadriel and come up with a plan to infiltrate Heaven, destroy the Angel Tablet, and take away Metatron’s God-like powers. The two angels sneak in using a tried-and-true pop culture reference (because Cas is really good at those now): Castiel masquerades as Gadriel’s prisoner, which goes really well until they get to Heaven and, tragically close to their goal, end up imprisoned.
This unfortunate turn of events, however, allows Gadriel’s arc to come to a culmination – and what a satisfying one it is. This entire season, Gadriel has been searching for redemption for his actions, and in his final act, he finds it. Seeing that he and Castiel have no way out of their predicament, he sacrifices himself, going out in a literal blaze of glory that blows open their cells and frees Castiel to complete their mission- – but not before making a truly moving, impassioned speech about his motivations. If Gadriel had to die, this was one of the most brilliant ways to send him off, gracefully allowing him to find the redemption he seeks on his way out. His death also matters, not only freeing Castiel but also convincing Hannah of the honesty of their motivations.
In the meantime, Metatron continues to pen his story; disguising himself as a downtrodden human named “Marv,” he goes down to earth to perform miracles and collect worshippers – and take advantage of social media to go viral. That makes it pretty easy for Dean and Crowley to track him, which Crowley following Dean around like a lost puppy while really, he’s carefully keeping tabs on Dean’s slow descent into darkness (symbolized by his refusal to eat a burger, of course). While that’s been happening, Sam seems to have had a sudden change of heart, deciding that Dean is in fact their best shot at Metatron, whatever the consequences. In true Winchester fashion, of course, Dean doesn’t accept his brother’s help, going to deal with Metatron alone.
Dean confronts Metatron, all right, but the confrontation doesn’t go as planned. In short: Metatron beats the shit out of Dean (somehow it’s always Dean that gets beaten bloody on this show. Jensen must be so sick of the prosthetics). Meanwhile, in Heaven, Castiel’s frantically scrambling to destroy the angel tablet and give Dean a chance, but not fast enough…in a highly dramatic scene, as a bloody, beaten Dean summons the Blade to his hand in a last effort to go out fighting, Metatron sinks his angel blade into Dean’s heart. In a beautifully tragic scene, the Righteous Man finally falls, losing his life just as he’s been losing his humanity, all in trying to do the right thing.
To add to the heartbreak, Sam runs in just in time to watch his brother be fatally wounded – just like, in All Hell Breaks Loose, Dean found Sam only in time to see him sink lifelessly to the ground. What ensues is one of the most heartbreaking and touching moments of the episode, because no finale would be complete without a brotherly moment.
It’s all the more heartbreaking not just because Sam is losing Dean, but because of all the things Sam’s said this season. In attempting to mend their relationship and move it out of its uncomfortable co-dependency, Sam’s told Dean that he’d let him die without saving him – and now, as Dean’s dying in his arms, bloody and resigned, Sam’s doubtless remembering those very words, and how true Dean believes them to be. And on Dean’s side, despite all the hardship and pain their relationship has been through recently, despite Dean’s resigned readiness to die (almost reminiscent of Sam’s readiness to die at the beginning of this season, which makes the story come full circle), he strives for that last heartfelt moment of connection with his brother, saying “I’m proud of us” as he dies. Sam’s grief is agonizing to watch – you know how sometimes something hurts so much that you start laughing hysterically in pain because you’re so grief-stricken that your brain has stopped being able to properly process events and respond to them? Yeah, that’s what it looks like – bravo to both Jensen and Jared for their acting choices.
Back at the bunker, Sam lays Dean’s dead body out on his bed and quickly downs some strong alcohol – another scene that is, yet again, reminiscent of Dean sitting by Sam’s dead body for days in All Hell Breaks Loose.
In the meantime, in Heaven, Castiel succeeds in finding and destroying the tablet – mere moments too late to save Dean. Pillaging through Metatron’s office, Castiel discovers the tablet symbolically hidden in Metatron’s typewriter – i.e. where he’s been writing the story that’s been dictating events in the past few episodes. Breaking the tablet is written as a perfect piece of symbolism: Castiel destroying Metatron’s power to alter reality and therefore to pen his story, and in the process, ripping up the story as he’s done before. In another brilliant turn of events, Castiel uses Metatron’s very talent for storytelling against him, broadcasting his motivations to all the angels and rewriting the story yet again. Except that, this time, he’s a little too late to completely change the ending and save Dean.
Dean, as it turns out, though, isn’t dead. Not quite. He’s worse. In fact, as Crowley appears by Dean’s lifeless body, it becomes clear that it’s been Crowley’s plan all along that Dean take on the Mark and eventually lose himself to it – and that’s why he’s been watching Dean so carefully all episode. Clearly Crowley’s burgeoning humanity is making him feel some guilt, however, as he insists “I never died” to a Dean who, in the last few seconds of the episode, opens his eyes – his demon black eyes.
Forgive me if my mouth didn’t drop open in surprise. This was one plot twist that the fandom almost unanimously guessed weeks ago, pretty much when Dean got the Mark. The only doubt was whether the writers would actually follow through, and now it seems like they have – which means that I take back some of the things I said about Crowley being useless this season. Clearly, he’s had an agenda that’s finally become clear (I’m still mad about Abaddon’s death, though. I’d have enjoyed season Dean as a demon under her tutelage).
Still, as unsurprising as this turn of events is, it sets up a storyline with so much potential, and all I can do is pray to Metatron that this possibility doesn’t get squandered like that of Purgatory or of Abaddon. Of course, Dean’s not going to stay a demon forever, especially not since we know that a demon can be cured. However, Dean’s not just any demon, but a Knight of Hell like Cain, and one of the most disappointing things Supernatural could do is to resolve this storyline in the premiere of next season.
In fact, if a good portion of next season deals with demon Dean and trying to cure him, what a storyline that would be – full of Sam and Castiel fighting for Dean’s humanity as Dean struggles with being his own worst nightmare. There are so many questions to ask and answer: Cain seemed to still have some part of his humanity despite being a demon – will Dean hang on to his? How much of his personality will he retain? How much of his feelings for Sam and Castiel? Will he enjoy pain and torture like demons normally do, or will he, like Cain, be aloof and withdrawn?
It’s the perfect set-up: at the end of the second act, which is normally the darkest part before the dawn, Dean’s a demon, his humanity lost, while Sam and Cas believe him dead. And yet, just as Swan Song followed the darkness of Lucifer Rising, the finale of season ten will follow Do You Believe In Miracles? I mentioned in my last review that I’m pretty sure that Team Free Will is going to save each other with the power of love, and I still stand by that: just like, in Swan Song, they ripped up the rules and saved the world with the power of love, so they will again. Only instead of cramming it into this season finale, they’ll have all of next season to cover both the darkness and the dawn.
If I had any doubts about it, this episode overwhelmingly got rid of them.
First, there’s Sam, who’s obviously feeling like he’s got a lot to make up for: he’s spent this season telling Dean he wouldn’t save him if he were dying. Now that he’s actually faced with Dean’s death, the story beautifully comes full-circle as Sam sets out to show that he does care about Dean. He summons Crowley, looking both determined and angry (and as Crowley well knows, a determined and angry Winchester is a scary thing), and seems like he’s decided the whole demon deal thing is so seven seasons ago. He’s all set to manipulate, blackmail, and torture Crowley into bringing his brother back –and will probably fight like Hell to save his soul.
There’s also Cas. In a very interesting scene, Metatron insists that Castiel has done everything for Dean Winchester rather than Heaven. Metatron may be a bit of an unreliable narrator, but this is one subject he does seem to understand: he’s been writing a story about “love, heartache, and… love,” and that story has gotten where Metatron needed it to go precisely because Castiel gave up an entire army for “one man.” This episode has been about setting a trap for Dean and killing him to hurt Cas, and it worked because Castiel has the weakness of being “in love.” So if this scene isn’t a canonical confirmation that Castiel’s pretty damn in love with Dean “humanity” Winchester, I don’t know what is. And if you needed any more evidence, the absolutely perfect look of heartbreak Misha Collins manages to conjure up when Cas finds out Dean is dead about does it. All of which is pretty hope-inducing, because Cain himself was saved from the mark of Cain by the love of Colette. Foreshadowing? One can hope.
Supernatural is a dangerous show to predict –but this one time, I feel more than an inkling of certainty about it. I guess I won’t know if I’m right for months, but for once, I’m certain enough about what I expect that I can survive them – though I by no means discourage speculation.
Read Anastasia’s review of the previous episode, Stairway To Heaven, here.
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