Recap: Supernatural’s ‘Swan Song’

Because Supernatural has a unique Whedon connection in Angel’s Ben Edlund and is a genre favorite of many Whedon fans, we’ll begin covering the series as we do other Whedon-alumni involved projects like Mad Men, Dexter, and Caprica, to name a few.  We’ll also be posting some excellent episodic reviews penned by a talented writer in the Fall.  In a couple weeks she’ll have a wonderful season 5 recap for all to enjoy, but for now I thought I’d introduce you to gaelicspirit by posting her excellent recap of the S5 finale, “Swan Song.”  Enjoy! – MaidenGreen

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by: gaelicspirit

*has trembling hands, a lump in throat, and still-teary eyes*

I came in here to write and saw this in an email from a good friend and fellow fan who also lives here in Lawrence: “I feel like someone ran me over, wrung me out, tossed me in the dryer, stomped on my chest, and then tossed me off a ten story building. Good. Grief.”


This one is gonna be long, ya’ll. And there will be tears as I go.

I don’t think I’d been this worked up about an episode since the Season 2 premiere. There was so much riding on this. So much had been built up, cranked up, offered to us…  We’ve been led and teased, pushed and pulled…  Many have followed, some willingly, some begrudgingly. But here we all are. I sat down to watch, pillow pulled up against my chest even before The Vampire Diaries had ended because I just knew…I knew.

This was going to gut me. And so help me, I was going to enjoy it. I don’t want to think too long about what that says about me.

Even though I worked to be unspoiled, there were still comments dropped and insinuations made in conversation or by accident that had me 1) worrying for the fate of Cas or Bobby and 2) convinced that something awful was going to happen to the Impala. The only thing that kept me from worrying too much about the fact that the unspoken catch to Sam’s Big Idea meant that he would be going in the cage with Lucifer was the fact that we’ve been green-lit for a Season 6 and both actors have signed on to be a part of it.

Okay, folks, does Kripke know us or what? When he opened The Road So Far with Carry On My Wayward Son, I literally whooped. I’m talking hands in the air, face-splitting grin, yee-haw, whooping. My husband simply cocked an eyebrow at me and put on his Boze Earphones to block out all sound and leave me in peace with my heroes. The song took us through a recap of Season 5 and manMAN what a whirlwind this has been. This whole story. This whole journey.

When The Prophet Chuck’s voice came on, narrating as we saw a grainy, 60’s-era film of an engine being dropped into the chasse of a classic, American-built automobile, I took a breath, brain clicking. He talks about the Caprice rolling off the line on April 21, 1967, to great celebration. Then, three days later, another car is assembled and no one takes much notice. It’s our Impala.

And it turns out that this baby that we’ve lusted over (c’mon, like you haven’t), admired, mourned, cheered, written multitudes of fic about (the throaty roar of the engine, the familiar creak of the door hinges) is the most important object in this war.

My throat closed at those words, and it only got tighter from there.

The first owner was a Sal Moriarty. Which, I kinda had to grin at that name because whenever I hear Moriarty I think Sherlock Holmes. I have no idea if that has any meaning at all; I just thought I’d mention it. Sal drove around the country giving Bibles to the poor (with an Angel figurine hanging from the rear-view mirror) getting folks “right” for Judgment Day. Chuck’s voiceover mused that Sam and Dean don’t know that fact, but he was willing to bet if they did, they’d smile.

When Sal died, the Impala ended up in a used car lot in Lawrence, KS, where John ended up buying it on almost-but-not-quite-impulse. And that, Chuck says, is where our story begins.

I have to confess that in that moment, my heart cried. I really fell for the red herring bread crumbs that had been tossed our way that something horrible was going to happen to the Impala. I couldn’t exactly figure out what…I just…I was actually sadder at the thought of this episode ending with the Impala destroyed than I was with the thought of Bobby dead.

I know. What is wrong with me?

And we have Dean in the leather jacket, walking out to Sam sitting on the hood of the Impala. Dean. In the leather jacket. I don’t know if it’s because we haven’t seen it in so long or what, but good GOD he looked amazing. Just…kick me in the gut amazing. For a moment, all I could think was I’m not going to see him all summer…

*shakes self*

Anyway, Dean snags a beer from their beat up old green cooler, and Sam’s all, “What’s going on?” Dean tells him that he’s in with the whole “up with Satan.”

Sam: “You’re gonna let me say yes?”

Dean: “No. That’s the thing. It’s not on me to let you do anything. You’re an-overgrown-man. If this is what you want, I’ll back your play.”

There you have it, folks. The whole struggle at the beginning of the season, the time apart, the coming back together with the argument that Sam is his own person and Dean needs to start seeing him that way, comes full circle in this reluctant acceptance speech.

Sam: “That’s the last thing I thought you’d ever say.”

Dean: “It might be.”


Dean: “Not gonna lie to you. Goes against every fiber I got. Watchin’ out for you-it’s been my job. It’s who I am. But you’re not a kid anymore. I can’t keep treating you like one. Maybe I got to grow up a little, too.”

Oh, how I ached when he said that. There is nothing harder in life than letting go. I will stand by that statement. It’s my whole struggle with faith. To let go? To trust like that? To have that kind of faith? Takes an insurmountable kind of strength.

Dean: “I don’t know if we’ve got a snowballs chance-but if anyone can do it, it’s you.”

Those were exactly the words Sam needed to hear. You could see it crawl across his face-a surge of relief chased by fear. A kind of: This is what I said I wanted…his faith…did I know what I was asking for?

Sam tells his brother that he let him out; he has to be the one to put him back in. And it’s fitting. It’s full-circle. I didn’t WANT it to happen. I didn’t want to see Sam say yes and see him play Lucifer again. I didn’t want any of this, really. But only because I love these characters. As a story, it’s really fitting. The only thing that tripped me up was the stress from Season 4 that only the righteous man who started it could finish it.

I’m not sure if perhaps I missed something there, or if maybe it’s just not well and truly finished. Or if there was an interpretation of “finish” that I didn’t apply. I had been going with the theory that Dean was the righteous man who broke in Hell and broke the first seal, which meant that Dean was the only one to truly “finish it.” But perhaps finish it didn’t mean “kill Lucifer” or “stop Lucifer” or “keep Michael from fighting his brother” or any of those things. Perhaps “finish” simply meant “prevent the world from ending.”

Which…he did.

Just before we part from the brothers, the camera pulls up and we get a gorgeous long shot of the two of them leaning on the Impala as she sits midst the bodies of dozens and dozens of other cars in various stages of disrepair. It’s rather a gorgeous shot, that. And held some sweetness in it.

But, the next thing we see is a totally squick-inducing shot of a couple of demons hanging above a Devil’s Trap by their heels, their blood filling like…four gallon jugs. Gack. Apparently Bobby had known where some demons were holed up and Team Free Will kicked in the door and got all the “go juice Sammy can drink.”

Dean’s trying to be nonchalant as he talks with Bobby, acknowledging that no, he’s not okay, but that’s not really gonna chance anytime soon is it, so let’s figure out our next step. Bobby goes over some different locations with random omens and Detroit’s on the list. Dean’s like, that’s where he is. Bobby throws in the doubt card, but Dean’s sure.

A glance at Sam and the kid is NERVOUS. The air around him fairly shimmers from it. I think my gut tightened into a knot in that moment to add to the physical tension this episode worked up inside of me. In the Impala, Cas is asleep in the back, the boys in the front.

Sam comments that Angels don’t sleep. Well… we already knew Cas had been essentially humanized. However, Cas’ zzz’s give the boys a chance to talk some stuff out they hadn’t addressed yet.

Dean: “Sam, I got a bad feeling about this.”

This is truly the most classic Star Wars line ever. For me, it’s better than “May the Force Be With You.” Mainly because it is always such an understatement-but also because Han used it and he didn’t have the benefit of the Force.

Sam: “You’d be nuts to have a good feeling.”

Heh. Dean has big doubts about Detroit and thinks the Devil knows more than they think he knows. Sam says they just have to hope that he doesn’t know about the rings. Which…right then you knew he was going to. Dammit.

Sam: “On that note, there’s something I gotta talk to you about.”

For one split second, I thought he was going to bring up the amulet. I really, really thought that might come into play with this episode. I haven’t actually given up hope that it won’t in Season 6, but I’ll tell you about those thoughts later.

Sam: “This thing goes our way, and I triple Lindy (huh?) into that box, you know I’m not coming back.”

Dean: “Yeah, I’m aware.” Too, too calm, that reply.

Sam: “You gotta promise me something.”

Dean: “Anything.”

Gaelic: Oh, God…

Sam: “You gotta promise not to bring me back.”


Dean: “What? No, I didn’t sign up for that. Your Hell is going to make my tour look like Graceland.”

Sam says something about it being too risky, but my ears were ringing a bit with the implications and the repercussions and the memories.

Dean: “I’m not gonna let you rot in there.”

Sam: “You don’t have a choice.”

Dean: “You can’t ask me to do this.”

Sam: “I’m sorry, Dean. You have to.”

Oh, God. This hurt, ya’ll. Because you heard both sides with ringing clarity. Both of them had been where the other one now sat. Dean, facing Hell, asked Sam to live his life. Sam, facing his brother’s imminent demise having to promise to NOT do what he ultimately spent the whole time Dean was in Hell trying to do.

I’m not even going to worry about any of the inevitable thought lines out there that when Dean was in Hell, Sam was destroyed and he didn’t give up and he searched for a way to bring him back, but at the end of this episode we didn’t get the same indication from Dean. It’s a totally different situation in my mind, and so much has happened to the two of them between Dean’s death and Sam’s sacrifice…different times, different promises. That’s all.

Dean: “What am I supposed to do?”

This question was so weighted. It was the same one he asked of…God, or whoever was listening…as he sat with Sam’s dead body. Without Sam, without that job, without that purpose…he simply doesn’t know who he is, why he’s there. In his mind, in his heart, Dean is defined by what he thinks he can do for others, and without them-especially the one that has always counted the most-Dean is lost.

But Sam, God freakin’ bless him, knows this. He knows his brother better than anyone. And regardless of how absolutely terrified he has to be about what he’s about to do-not just say yes, but willingly fall into Hell-he knows he can’t just leave Dean to flounder lost and alone in the world. He knows that the only way he can be strong enough to do what he has to do is if he KNOWS Dean is in the world. And he also knows that in order for Dean to stay in the world, he has to give his brother a mission, an order…a promise.

Sam: “Find Lisa. Go live a normal, apple pie life. Promise me.”

Dean looks away and we see his profile, stoic, silent. *gut twists*

They’re in Detroit. Bobby (who was apparently following them in the Mystery Machine) spies two demons in an upper floor of a run-down looking apartment building above a Chinese Restaurant. Dean is NOT. HAPPY. As he strides past Bobby, declaring he knows the Devil is there, his face is so tense it looks like he’s going to break his jaw. His body language has me almost pulling away from him: Do not eff with me.

Bobby and Sam face each other and I felt tears build.

Bobby: “See you around, kid.”

Sam: “Yeah, see you around.”

They hug, and a tear fell. I didn’t even bother to wipe it away.

Bobby (voice thick with emotion and choked as he tries to be firm, tough): “You fight him tooth and nail. Keep swinging. Don’t give an inch.”

Sam: “Yes, sir.”

Bobby turns away and Sam faces Cas with a hand out to shake. Gives him the whole, “Take care of these guys, okay?”

Cas, ever blunt, but this time with sad eyes full of regret, says: “That’s not possible.”

Sam: “Then humor me.”

Cas: “Oh! I’m supposed to lie…uh, sure! They’ll be fine!”

Guh. Even Cas’ clueless honesty wasn’t enough to crack a smile for me. I was just…gutted. Dean is at the trunk, waiting. Sam moves back there, then looks up at his brother, asking if he minds not watching. After a moment, Sam slams the trunk lid down (and he’s presumably drank all four gallons of blood…gack) and he’s all, “Let’s do this thing!”

To continue, click the link to the remainder of this review in the Supernatural Forum.


Kristen, a freelance writer, has been a part of the Whedonverse Network since 2004 and Managing Editor since 2008.She has contributed news items as well as feature pieces reporting on and exploring the wide, wide world of Whedon and beyond.

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Kristen, a freelance writer, has been a part of the Whedonverse Network since 2004 and Managing Editor since 2008. She has contributed news items as well as feature pieces reporting on and exploring the wide, wide world of Whedon and beyond.

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