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MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for the series finale of Supernatural on The CW, called "Carry On."
A television era has officially come to a close with the series finale of Supernatural on The CW. Sam and Dean Winchester's 15 long years of saving people and hunting things together came to an end that was pretty definitive, and likely to be divisive. Picking up on where the penultimate episode left off with Jack as God and free will the name of the game, "Carry On" saw the brothers embark on what seemed like just another monster hunt, only to go wrong. By the end of the hour, Sam and Dean were both dead, and not in the cool Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid kind of way.
At the same time, "Carry On" wasn't an hour of doom and gloom, and the brothers got some great moments together before they were torn apart, and the separation wasn't forever. Throw in some fun callbacks and Easter eggs, and the emotional rollercoaster of the finale wasn't all about grief or sadness. So, now that "Carry On Wayward Son" has blasted over the Supernatural soundtrack one last time, it's time to look into whether or not Sam and Dean's endings were actually happy. Let's start with the glass-half-full outlook on the finale before getting a little gloomier!
It Was A Happy Ending
The episode opened to reveal that the boys weren't wasting their shot at free will given to them by Jack in the penultimate episode. They were living as normal and untroubled a life as we've ever seen from them while remaining hunters, and Dean even got a dog. Their first "case" of the episode took them to a pie festival, which was all but Dean's heaven on Earth and enabled Sam to fulfill a dream of his own by shoving pie in his brother's face. When a real case came along, they got to break out John's journal for some good old-fashioned sleuthing. What's not to love?
Admittedly, things took quite a downturn when their hunt for some vampires turned out to be more than they could handle and then walk off. They managed to defeat all the vamps and save some kids, but not before Dean slammed straight back onto a peg sticking out of a pillar for what turned out to be a mortal wound. Realizing that he wasn't going to survive, he asked Sam to stay with him and not try to bring him back again like they've done to disastrous results so many times before. Then Sam tearfully told him that it was okay to move on. And yes, Dean died, and it was very sad.
But Dean also went up to Heaven, and Jack's retooling of Heaven meant that it's no longer a place for reliving old memories, but is an open place where people who knew and loved each other could be together again. Bobby was there to greet Dean into the afterlife at Harvelle's Roadhouse, and he revealed that Rufus is around, John and Mary are together, and Castiel was part of making Heaven into what it is now. Time also moves differently in heaven, so Dean didn't even have to miss Sam too much. He got into the Heaven version of Baby and went for a drive, to the tune of "Carry On Wayward Son." There was well-deserved peace when he was done.
As for Sam, he still had to go through mourning Dean and find a way to move on. Supernatural didn't brush over Sam's pain, but it did reveal that Sam would recover enough to build a life. Over the years, Sam would have a son (of course named Dean) and presumably Eileen as his wife, although the episode didn't give a shot of her face. He raised young Dean and eventually died of old age before going to Heaven to reunite with his brother, at long last. Supernatural ended as it began: the story of two brothers together. On the other hand, though...
It Was An Unhappy Ending
If Supernatural is going to kill off a Winchester and keep them dead, it's never going to be hard to argue that it was unhappy. Dean's death was pretty sudden and unceremonious, and he somehow deduced very quickly that his wound was mortal and he was going to die, even if he would have just the right amount of time for a farewell speech to his brother. Seeing the legendary hunter of Dean Winchester go out because he hit something sticking out of a wall at the wrong angle is likely not how many viewers expected him to go, if at all.
Dean getting to experience Heaven without any responsibilities was all well and good, but Sam lived decades more after Dean's death, and he clearly never 100% recovered from the loss. The episode also did a lot of telling without showing, like with the mentions of John and Mary together, Rufus not being far off, Cas somehow helping Jack and presumably being out of The Empty, Sam marrying somebody who may or may not have been Eileen, Donna not even getting a voice cameo... there were just pieces missing. They boys did end the series together, but both very much dead.
As for how I see the ending of Supernatural, I'm part of both camps at this point.
It Was Fine
It's a rare series finale that can actually satisfy a whole fanbase, and I watch enough TV that I prepared myself going into "Carry On" to not get everything that I might have wanted. As somebody who decided following the penultimate episode that Supernatural shouldn't resurrect any major characters and deaths should have to stick after Jack granted free will, Dean dying and Sam building a life actually more or less fit with what I was expecting. The episode delivered a bittersweet end to a long and bloody story, I cried, and it was fine.
The facts that the Winchester brothers both ended up in Heaven and Castiel is somehow still around prove that there really was peace when they were done. I did have a bit of a scare when the opening montage wasn't accompanied by "Carry On Wayward Son" as per usual for a finale, but the Kansas tune eventually played, and Supernatural ticked a lot of the boxes that I needed ticked. Dean's death could have been more epic than a vamp hunt gone wrong, but I guess he needed to have enough life left in him for a long dying speech to Sam, and Jensen Ackles was able to sell it. He's sold worse over the years, and of course Dean would die to save a pair of kids.
As for all the missing faces, I have to cut Supernatural a lot of slack on this one. Had "Carry On" been filmed prior to the production shutdowns throughout the entertainment industry in the spring, I might have complaints that the show name-dropped a bunch of big characters but only brought back Bobby in the flesh and showed some photos of John and Mary.
Pandemic protocols meant that the finale was going to be short on familiar faces, and showrunner Andrew Dabb even confirmed weeks beforehand that neither Jeffrey Dean Morgan nor Samantha Smith were going to appear. I'm going to assume that Sam's wife was meant to be Eileen and that Shoshannah Stern would have reprised her role if not for COVID, and Cas not making an appearance really gives me the best of both worlds of what I wanted after his death.
I was on board for Supernatural sticking with his death because it needed to matter, but also for Supernatural bringing him back literally any way for the sake of a happy ending after he was dragged off to The Empty. Misha Collins didn't appear on screen and Dean didn't reunite with him, but there's no reason to think that the original Team Free Will won't be together again in Heaven... just off-screen. At this point, my biggest issue with the finale is probably the old-age makeup on Jared Padalecki. I was powering through up until the final scenes of Old Sam, but then it just got to be too much. It wasn't a perfect finale, but finales rarely are, and I can live with bittersweet.
Be sure to weigh in our poll as to whether you think Sam and Dean Winchester got a happy ending after 15 seasons of Supernatural! For some viewing options now that the long winding saga of Supernatural has come to an end, be sure to check out our 2020 fall TV premiere schedule and our 2021 winter and spring premiere guide.