In the middle of fourth season, CW‘s enduring Supernaturalhad a daring episode that they titled “Jump the Shark”, dallying with a series-ruining concept but conveniently avoiding the idiom’s teeth. It actually worked… until sadly, the last episode of fifth season – originally slated to be the series’ finale – decided to try on Fonzie’s awkward swim trunks (not familiar with the “shark” term? Click here for enlightenment). From its anti-climactic rendering of the apocalypse to its pathetic representation of “God”, Supernatural‘s finale failed on almost every level, leaving me confused – should I be happy they decided on another season, giving time to rise above this limp swan song, or did the extension of the series actually cause the weak sauce? Either way, their version of “God” was as tired and eye-rolling as Alanis Morissette in Dogma.
As mentioned in our previous post, Supernatural had been dealing with an escalating, fascinating look at biblical components of demons, angels, apocalypse and God. Sadly, the culmination was anything but awe-inspiring.
Top 3 Reasons the Supernatural season finale fell short:
1. When Lucifer leaves his “weaker vessel” to inhabit Sam, the reverse happened; from an acting standpoint Mark Pelligrino was a stronger Lucifer than Jared Padalecki, so the devil lost his verve. The Ginormitron can play a competent bad boy, but Satan? Al Pacino he ain’t.
2. There was a fascinating symmetry between the two angel “brothers” – older Michael, younger Lucifer – and the two Winchester brothers (in regard to their dutiful/rebellious relationships with their father). This intriguing meta-commentary on brothers, sons and fathers, was evident but not capitalized on. If the apocalypse was going to be an anticlimactic, therapeutic chick flick moment, it could have been accomplished far better. In fact, having God show up – perhaps as actor Jeffry Dean Morgan, who played the Winchester boys’ late father in the show – could have punctuated the personal relationship of the brothers as a microcosm of life’s biggest struggle for meaning, identity, relationship and love with our Father in heaven.
3. Lastly, the (Spoiler Alert) revelation that hack writer/prophet Chuck is God incarnate was just sad. The gimpy, Joan Osborne “what if God was one of us” wishy-washy bus-riding god concept played itself out in the 90s; it’s a tired pop culture cliche that seems cheap, beneath the solid and increasingly interesting work series creator Eric Kripke gave us the last two seasons. It feels sloppy considering the episodes featuring the character before. I had no doubt Kripke’s representation of God would fall short of the real deal (hence prepared to give a lot of grace) but this was cheap storytelling even compared against other diluted depictions of our Maker.
The episode begins with Chuck narrating that “endings are hard… fans are always gonna bitch, there’s always going to be holes, and since it’s the ending its all supposed to add up to something…” as if the show is trying to set up a defense for any dissatisfaction with the ending. It doesn’t hold water, because the apocalypse winds up boiling down to a couple people arguing in a cemetery and then falling in a hole. (Author Kurt Vonnegut once claimed that all stories boil down to one plot – “man in a hole” – but he was being facetious.)
Also, since this isn’t the end of a series, but rather the end of a season, all you have to do is compare it with the other season endings; endings may be hard, Kripke, but the previous four were all better than this one. Even the teeth this “Swan Song” DID have – the death of beloved characters – are pulled minutes later when they’re brought back to life. Death has no sting, God has a muddled plan, and the best message we can pull is a vague notion that “family is important” which has literally been driven home (in an Impala) over five years of Supernatural television with more weight and worth.
I suspect a goodly portion of the ending’s weakness comes from the fact that Kripke and the actors caved to pressure and let CW milk the franchise for an additional season; I can’t help but wonder how “Swan Song” would have played if it were the show’s true finale. Still, the very reason I suspect it fell apart gives Supernatural’s crew space to salvage the series and give it a satisfactory sendoff. Hopefully the show will resurrect to its former glory, instead of meandering for another year like a zombie shadow of its previous self. Carry on, My Wayward Son has never been more poignant. Or necessary.