Welcome back to Supernatural: End of the Road, our weekly review of the final episodes of the CW’s Supernatural. Check out my prior reviews of “Last Holiday”, “Gimme Shelter”, and “Drag Me Away (From You)”, and a season fifteen recap here.
Following the drabness that was last week’s episode, “Unity” came up strong by comparison, though still filled with plotholes you could drive a truck through. At least this one had themes! Let’s recap this fourth-to-last episode.
“Unity” opens with Team Freewill discussing and/or arguing whether Jack really has to die to kill Chuck and Amara. Sam and Cas are firmly against such a thing, while Dean and Jack are totally down to re-hash season 11. Clearly Sam and Cas value audience satisfaction. Dean tells Sam that Jack can die because Jack isn’t a main character – I MEAN, I mean, Jack is not “family” like Sam or Cas. And every Destiel shipper in the world suddenly sat up in unison.
Jack accidentally overhears Dean (yikes!), and the two leave to head to the final step in Billie’s plan to make Jack a bomb. Sam and Cas stay behind to “find another way.” Before Dean leaves, he meets with Amara, who serendipitously shows up at the bunker to move the plot along. Amara promises to work with the boys to help trap Chuck.
The next part of the episode follows Amara. At the beginning, the screen displays the name AMARA in white letters on black. This roadsign structure continues throughout the episode to no effect, as discussed later. Amara meets with Chuck, who also serendipitously appears to move the plot along, and she tries to convince him not to destroy the last world. Chuck declines because Earth reminds him of his failures. Amara declares that Chuck is the true bad guy, and then transports them into a trap where Chuck is bound.
As a fun sidenote, both Amara and Chuck are dressed like lesbians I would definitely date!
Next, we get Dean and Jack in a car driving to the last stop on Billie’s questline. This section is also marked with the name DEAN in white letters on a black screen. In the car, Jack acknowledges that he is not a main character like Sam or Cas, and so he has the ability to choose to die. Before this conversation can continue, they arrive as an East Meets West store, where they meet Adam – the first man – and an angel he’s been living with. Adam shows Jack their rad crystal collection and instructs Jack to choose ONE. Jack, much like myself, instead chooses all of the crystals. Honestly this is the most relatable Jack has ever been to me.
Choosing all the crystals ends up being meaningful, and Adam hands over one of his ribs, which will allow Jack to go super saiyan on Chuck and Amara. If this all seems too easy, don’t worry – it is!
Dean and Jack return to their heart-to-heart on the car ride back. They discuss the meaning of freedom, hammering home one of the series’ main themes, and Dean says he’s never truly been free because of Chuck. Dean thanks Jack for his upcoming sacrifice to ensure the human race is finally free. It’s actually pretty touching.
The writers then send Dean a text message (THAT IS LITERALLY NEVER EXPLAINED) which tells Dean it is “time” for Jack to absorb the rib of Adam and become a bomb – even though they are still in the car, not in the bunker, and have no confirmation that we know of that Amara and Chuck are in the trap. Jack absorbs the rib and gets all disco-eyes on us.
Next, the screen tells us it’s time for Sam’s story. Sam and Cas are in the bunker trying to “find another way” and all. They share some meaningless dialogue wherein Sam says he wishes he could just speak to Billie to figure out what her plan is (because he would totally trust her if she explained it?). And by the power of serendipity, Sam remembers that one time a side character mentioned that the Key to Death’s Library was somewhere in the bunker!! Ooh! Spooky!! Sam and Cas go to look for the Key, since then maybe Sam can find Billie and talk to her. Apparently having failed to do any sort of inventory of the objects in the bunker’s storage room for the last 8-ish years, the two have to rifle through boxes looking for the item.
Perhaps the funniest part of this episode was that, when they started this search, I said out loud to my Mango White Claw: “I bet it’s gonna have a big-ass skull on it.” AND THEN IT DID!
Not only does the Key itself have skull details, but the box it is in literally has a giant red skull on the front. And the box isn’t even locked. Like, who let the props department do this??
Sam manages to burn hella screen time going into Death’s library. He encounters the Empty, who has the book of God’s death. Sam lies to the Empty to get the book, and the Empty, now apparently brain dead, believes Sam. But before giving it over, we are treated to some high-quality Jared Padalecki pretending to be choked – hand on his chest and all!
Finally, our plotlines converge at the Bunker. Dean attempts to take Jack, who is slowly becoming a bomb, to the room where Chuck and Amara are trapped. Sam and Cas try to stop him, and Sam reveals that Billie is tricking them – if they kill God and Amara, Billie will become the new God, and she will return everyone “where they belong.” Sam explains the people from other universes will be sent back to worlds that don’t exist, that humans that previously were resurrected will die again, and that angels and demons will return to their respective planes of existence. This is actually a pretty neat threat and a good story point, so kudos to the Supernatural team for this one.
Interestingly, Dean still rejects Sam’s plea and tries to proceed to kill Chuck and Amara, and even points a gun at Sam in the process. Dean gives some very meta dialogue about freedom. Sam twitches his way through a heartwarming speech about teamwork and trust.
Meanwhile, in the trap, Chuck sows doubt in Amara’s mind about Dean’s intentions. Chuck reveals to Amara that the Winchester’s plan is to kill both of them. Amara, also apparently brain dead this episode, believes Chuck and is deeply hurt (?) by Dean’s betrayal (?). Because of all her female feelings, Amara, the ancient force of darkness that created the entire universe as we know it, is so upset that Dean doesn’t love her that she agrees to join forces with Chuck and ruin everything. Chuck absorbs her, and the two break out of the trap.
In the final scene, Chuck/Amara confront Team Freewill and berates them for not following his story. Apparently, Dean not shooting Sam was off-script. God also notes that Cas is the only version of Castiel that did not listen to orders after saving Dean. God then declares that he is destroying the world, there’s nothing they can do about it, and that Jack will die. God disappears and the episode ends on a zoom-in to Jack’s eyes as he gets ready to blow!
There are so many plotholes in the episode, and they are like BIG holes you could drive a truck through. First, who sent that text message to Dean when he was in the car with Jack? The cliffhanger of this episode required Jack to be super saiyan too early, which required Jack to absorb Adam’s rib before encountering Sam. So, he had to absorb it in the car. Who in the world texted Dean to say it was “time” for that to happen? It wasn’t Sam or Cas – did Amara shoot him a message? It’s an important point that I noticed immediately, and distracted me from the episode.
Second, since when is Jack not their family? Dean declares that Jack is not family like Sam and Cas. But HUGE portions of this show, since the time of Jack’s birth, have been dedicated to establishing that he is their surrogate son. Indeed, Dean’s and Castiel’s relationship suffered hugely after Jack’s death, just like how parents suffer when a child is lost. Dean even had a touching character moment with Jack just a few episodes ago in “Last Holiday.” I think this is a clear retcon.
Third, Dean isn’t even a LITTLE BIT bothered by the idea that Death will return all angels to heaven, which includes his “best friend” Castiel? Every time Dean has been permanently separated from Cas, Dean Winchester has spiraled into depression. The best moment of acting on this show to date was Dean in Purgatory praying to Cas when he thought Cas was lost. They have a profound connection!! The threat of losing Cas would absolutely make Dean hesitate.
Alright, the Key to Death’s Library is a literal Chekhov’s gun, I get it. Why didn’t Billie ever take it, when she was at the bunker? How have these boys not done an inventory list of the shit in their basement? Why didn’t the Men of Letters before them do that? This was all too easy, and too difficult to explain logically, for my liking.
Penultimately, what is the lore on God’s omniscient status? We are told repeatedly by God that he is omniscient and controls everything; however, we get three references in this episode to things he didn’t plan – Amara and Dean having a “thing,” Dean not shooting Sam, and Cas not obeying. I’m not sure if this is an attempt to foreshadow, or if this is the writers running into the conundrum of introducing an omniscient being as a character in a story with a plot. I suppose it remains to be seen.
And finally: what is with the idiot vortex this episode? Why are these characters who are normally so savvy suddenly so stupid? First the Empty *trusts* Sam Winchester, then Amara believes God, her brother, who locked her away before and lied to her before, and then Dean is so short-sighted in his quest for “freedom”? If your plot only works when there’s at least one idiot in each scene, you’ve done something wrong. I believe they call it being “contrived.”
Analysis: Bad Implications
It’s no secret that Supernatural has a bad history with female characters. From the fundamental fridging of Mary Winchester and Jessica, to the copy+paste Dean personality for Jo, to the killing of Charlie and Eileen, there are not a lot of well-written female characters on this show. Heck, there aren’t that many female characters in general. So when the Darkness took on the form of a female – a sexy, seductive, provocative woman – I was more than a little concerned.
This episode hammers home an exceptionally bad implication: women are illogical because of their emotions. Amara, an all-powerful ancient cosmic being, is devastated by the news that a human man does not love her. Really? This is sexism 101, people! And if you question whether it is sexism I ask you this: if God had a brother, would the same thing have happened? (Hint: the answer is NO!)
The sexism is compounded by the lack of foundation for this relationship. I previously complained about the relationship between Dean and Amara being an informed attribute, and that criticism is only highlighted by this misogyny. The text of this show has not supported that Dean and Amara have a deep connection or trust between them. Now, if Dean had betrayed Cas, or vice versa, that would shake those characters to their core – because Cas and Dean have a true love relationship.
Analysis: Episode Structure
Two brief notes on episode structure. First, the roadsigning or signposting – labeling different sections of the episode with character names – was pointless. It’s not a bad idea in itself; it highlights a point-of-view story. Anyone familiar with my Game of Thrones coverage knows I’m a sucker for point-of-view. But this labeling in a visual medium is only effective when the stories intertwine a lot more. Imagine if “Unity” didn’t have those labels. Nothing would change, right? Your understanding of the story wouldn’t be different. So it was dramatic and all, but not well done.
Second, and this is a positive, I really liked the Adam’s rib subplot. Initially I thought it was something that was too easy that was going to solve their God/Amara problems. But since it didn’t work, it instead supports the general structure of this story, which is the characters fighting through repeated failure. I was tricked for a while, though! So that was effective.
The theme of this episode was, appropriately, one of the series-long themes: the meaning of freedom. While this will have to be dissected in full after the series wraps, one thing made clear in this episode is Dean’s very short-sighted obsession with freedom. I get it, Dean doesn’t want to be a hamster on a wheel: but once he heard from Sam that killing this God would just result in a new God, and continue that cycle, Dean logically should have stopped. So why didn’t he?
Dean is expressing an obsession bordering on fetishization of “freedom.” The problem is, of course, that “freedom” is a vacuous concept until it is put into practice. The freedom coin is double-sided: you have the freedom to travel anywhere and hunt monsters, but you’re trapped doing that your whole life, for example. With every expression of freedom, there is also something that binds you. Nowadays the boys have the Bunker, which provides them security and freedom from danger; but it also grounds them in a specific area and binds them to a home. Certainly a freedom from God would produce a similar loss in freedom – a loss in security, or just the cosmic loss of the universe’s oldest being, or who knows what else.
Dean’s continued obsession with freedom becomes less and less tangible as the episodes go on. What does it mean exactly, to not be a hamster on a wheel? What does ultimate “freedom” look like? How is it any different than what Dean already has – how is it any more valuable? I think these are fundamental questions the show as a whole is asking, and that we may be able to answer after the finale.
For all my complaining, I did enjoy this episode, and I actually watched it twice. But I can’t in good conscious give a strong rating to an episode that relied so heavily on the idiot vortex. So I’ll got with 6 – it did a lot of good, but also bad. It’s almost like light and dark are unified…
Join me next week for the next installment of Supernatural: End of the Road.
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