Only on Supernatural could a double-edged sword have teeth on one side. This show is nothing if not an exercise in when strengths are also weaknesses. Like, there was a point when Supernatural’s predictable repetitions verged on maddening self-parody, but at this point, they feel almost comforting and cohesive? So Dean’s a demon now. In the past, I would have been bummed at this non-shocker because we’d already seen a soulless Sam and hell-bound Dean, but somehow, this twist felt less like a tired retread and more like a poetic parallel: The season began with Sam kept alive through angel magic and ended with Dean kept alive with demon magic. Nine seasons in, Supernatural must know by now that we know all its tricks, so it was risky to end it with such a full-on embrace of its demonic roots. But the instant Dean’s eyes popped open to reveal glossy black orbs, I got chills. Did you get chills? That’s the mark of a show that’s still got it, and this mark isn’t a puffy red sigil that makes us wanna murder. Yet.
Friends, “Do You Believe in Miracles” was undeniably the final episode of the season, but it just didn’t feel like a season finale (black eyeballs aside). At best it felt like a midseason finale, and that is probably the most damning criticism I can pay to a show that usually brings it in the season finale. This underwhelming feeling may be due to two things: an underbaked season-long mythology with no real buildup, and a Big Bad that was never very big or bad. Make no mistake, Metatron is a terrific character, but from his winking sense of humor to Curtis Armstrong’s casually ramshackle performance to the notable lack of apocalyptic intentions, Metatron never really registered as an entity to be taken down at all costs. Not like Abaddon, anyway, and she’d already been taken out a few episodes back. Even this episode seemed to recognize Metatron’s lameness, as he didn’t even merit an epic death. Nope, in the end he was just a sad man in a hobo outfit, frowning in a jail cell. Seemed about right. But hey, Crowley didn’t make for that great of a Big Bad either, and he’s still one of the show’s best characters, so Metatron’s in pretty good company there.
Last week I argued that, sure, this season may not have jelled the way it should have, and worse, it introduced sophisticated concepts only to back away immediately. But this was not a phoned-in season, at least not in the way a ninth season could have been. The “Do You Believe in Miracles” seemed to double-down on this sophisticated-concept-going-nowhere theme by making it all about the court of public opinion. In retrospect, A LOT of this season became about not what the characters did, necessarily, but how those things played out in the eyes of others. Most of the angel conflicts devolved into political faction-forming; Metatron’s dastardly plans really just involved winning over hearts and minds; Abaddon and Crowley’s turf war entailed a fair amount of campaigning amongst constituents; even Metatron’s ultimate undoing involved the classic no-no of speaking exposition near a live microphone. Honestly, a season of Supernatural all about how the world sees these creatures could have been so strong, but it felt like the show just couldn’t commit to telling a story that left the walls of its crummy motel rooms and mahogany soundstages. That being said, and I know this sounds condescending, but I mean it sincerely: points for effort.
Oh, should we talk about the particulars of “Do You Believe In Miracles”? Okay! Metatron went full-Jesus in this episode when he decided to dress up like a hobo and perform healing miracles on everyday citizens (with the hopes that they’d be filmed and go viral). Much like the chill messianic bro at the center of the New Testament, Metatron took a grassroots, word-of-mouth approach to spreading his gospel, and it worked like a charm. Unfortunately, since this was the season finale, he didn’t have much time to make this new plan come to fruition as Dean showed up with a certain toothy knife and a thirst for murder.
We’ve known for a while now that the First Blade would turn Dean’s brain into bad news, and I guess that’s what happened in this episode, but I frankly didn’t notice that much of a difference. Yes, he needed to be restrained from murdering Gadreel and he seemed grumpy when Sam and Castiel locked him in the Men of Letters filing-cabinet jail, but it honestly didn’t seem that serious to me. He escaped jail by conjuring Crowley (yay, demon conjuring!) and they took a road trip together (yay, Crowley road trips!). There was a nice moment where Crowley shamed Dean for only ordering a coffee at a restaurant, thus wasting the waitress’s time, but Dean wasn’t in the mood for nice moments; he had a Metatron to murder. Sam eventually intercepted the duo and Crowley took off with hurt feelings, but of course Dean pulled a classic Winchester move and knocked Sam unconscious for his own good before confronting Metatron. If we were playing Supernatural Bingo, the “one Winchester knocks the other unconscious for his own good” square would be the Free Space in the middle.
Meanwhile Gadreel had turned 100 percent good, obviously, because Tahmoh Penikett is not legally allowed to play evil characters. So he and Castiel role-played that Gadreel had captured him and they entered Metatron’s secret doorway to heaven, which was activated by a sigil drawn in a sandbox by an angel posing as a little girl. But Metatron’s agents in Heaven were waiting for the pair and immediately trapped them in jail. Little did they know that Gadreel was just waiting for an opportunity to go wild on everybody, so he made a True Believer speech and then suicide-bombed the jail apart, freeing Castiel. At that point, Metatron’s assistant lady seemed pretty convinced that Gadreel was being honest about Metatron’s ill intentions, and she helped Castiel regain Heaven’s office building (or whatever that was). There Castiel smashed that ancient tablet, which — as we’d learned suddenly and at the last minute — was the source of Metatron’s godlike powers. But guess what? It was all too late.
Down at the hobo camp, Dean had confronted Metatron, and they engaged in a Mortal Kombat–like showdown, if Mortal Kombat featured a grouchy hunk with a tooth sword and also a diminutive hobo who looked like Booger from Revenge of the Nerds. But since Metatron still had super strong powers, he beat Dean to within an inch of his life (seriously, Dean’s face looked VERY tenderized) and then STABBED HIM IN THE HEART with an angel blade. Sam got there just as Metatron disappeared, and then Dean died in his arms. Some human emotions were stirred in me, but I’m not going to lie, Winchesters don’t die on this show, so it was a hollow threat at best. Nice try, Supernatural. Still, though, brothers gonna cry over dead brothers, and that means we will, too.
Then came that part where Metatron revealed all his dastardly intentions (including winning over the human race and also probably murdering all the angels) while all the angels listened in over the intercom, so he was thrown in jail and Castiel became boss man. Not very shocking, but satisfying nonetheless. And it honestly didn’t matter because we were more worried about what would happen to Dean. Back at the Men of Letters bunker, Sam laid his increasingly decomposing brother down on the bed and attempted to conjure Crowley for help. But Crowley beat him to the punch and sat by Dean’s bedside, giving what felt like a genuinely empathetic speech to his friend, and it ended with a particularly good punch line: The Mark of Cain was a double-edged sword (that motif again!) in that yes, it corrupted his brain and made him a bad guy, but on the other hand, it would keep him alive in demon form, just as it had Cain. And that’s when Crowley laid the blade in Dean’s dead hand, and then Dean awoke.
Again, yes, it can be argued that Dean-as-demon is a retread of about a dozen previous Supernatural shockers. But sometimes an old flavor is the best flavor.
It’s been a real pleasure to close-read this season of Supernatural, which, despite its lack of cohesion or compelling Big Bad, was still, episode by episode, one of the best post-Kripke seasons to date. We spent a lot of time talking about what we could reasonably expect from a ninth season, and this one more than justified Supernatural’s continued existence. One man’s predictability is another man’s reliability, and that might be Supernatural’s enduring legacy. It was all over the place, it was predictable, but it was reliable.
Now please throw all the angels in a dumpster. Thank you for reading. Sign my yearbook?