Review of Episode 8×23: “Sacrifice”
I gasped out loud when the Impala got smashed at the end of Season One. I cried during the Season Two closer, as John Winchester emerged from the gates of Hell and helped his boys defeat their life-long nemesis. I covered my eyes as Dean was mauled to death, left my jaw on the floor as Lucifer rose, clutched at my heart as Sam fell into the depths of Hell. Thanks in part to the ever-looming threat of cancellation, Supernatural has learned how to consistently deliver finales that twist our emotions, challenge our minds, and make us oh-so-desperate to know what will happen next. So, how did the Season Eight Finale, “Sacrifice,” measure up against such stiff competition? Let’s have a look:
Dean: Started off too mean for my tastes. Dean quickly earned a frowny face from me when he began enumerating all the things Sam should ask forgiveness for during confession. We’ve rarely seen such nastiness from Dean, not to mention such blatant disregard for Sam’s feelings. It was played half-jokingly, but there was real malice behind it, and that wasn’t lost on Sam. There was another scene like this in “Fallen Idols,” where Dean was on the phone with Bobby, unapologetically blaming Sam for the Apocalypse. Then, as now, I was jarred by how out-of-character this attitude is, coming from a guy who used to spend all of his energy trying to get Sam to stop blaming himself for Jessica’s death. The Dean I know would not want to pile extra guilt on Sam, because Sam already does that to himself.
My frowny face got even frownier as Dean implied that Sam could not be trusted to complete the demon-curing ritual on his own. Note to the writers: a Dean who is nasty and condescending to his little brother is not a Dean at all. It’s just some other guy played by Jensen Ackles.
Fortunately, things improved after takeoff. There were some tender words with Cass, a funny moment with two gay guys in the bar, and then, lo and behold, we got our Brother Moment:
When Dean said to Cass, “Take me to him,” my stomach did that fluttery thing it only does when Dean is in full protective big brother mode. This is the guy I fell in love with waaaaaaay back in Season One. Not the guy who makes nasty jokes about Sam needing a babysitter, but the guy who tells Sam, “I picked you. I killed Benny to save YOU. I’d rather let demons roam the earth than lose YOU.” I loved what Dean said about how they now know enough to turn the tides, I loved how he helped Sam let go of the trials. I love how even after eight seasons, Dean’s deep-down, number one priority is still keeping his little brother alive.
I may have started the ep a little frowny, but by the end I was grinning so hard I almost sprained my face.
Sam: The fact that he was totally willing to die for the cause – not at all surprising. He threw himself into Hell to save the world once – no reason to think he wouldn’t be willing to do it again. What WAS surprising, though, was Sam’s total lack of self-esteem and self-worth. When Dean said, “Finishing the last task will kill you,” Sam’s response was simply, “So?” Like, who cares, right? Shocking to see such a naked self-hatred from someone who has often seemed, at least to me, to have a bit of arrogance. And, although I’ll never condone the “Sam didn’t look for Dean” storyline, Sam’s heartbreak over letting Dean down still rang true. After all, Sam did fail to stop Dean’s death in Season Three, and Sam’s efforts to rescue Dean from The Pit also fell flat, leaving an angel to do the job instead. Sam’s jealously of Castiel is something that’s probably been simmering under the surface since way back in Season Four. Cass did what Sam has repeatedly failed to do – save Dean.
Here, finally, Sam thought he had an opportunity to make up for those failures. He thought locking demon-kind away forever would be the greatest gift he could give to Dean. Fortunately, big brother showed up in time to set him straight. 🙂 It’s always been “family first, job second” for Dean, and the best thing Sam could ever do for his brother is STAY ALIVE.
After a somewhat muddled and uneven storyline for these two brothers, “Sacrifice” has finally put them back on the right track.
Crowley: When he bit Sam, I totally freaked, ‘cause I thought it would somehow de-purify Sam’s blood. Fortunately, it was only a cry for help – and even more fortunately, the person who heard it didn’t give a flying crap about rescuing Crowley. And, although the writers once again failed to have Sam follow the established procedure for curing a demon (the guy in the video was asking QUESTIONS every time he injected the blood – not just walking away!), it was riveting to watch Crowley’s slow transformation. I loved his moment of confusion, his eventual repentance. I truly believed a demon was turning back into a human before my very peepers. Amazing performance by Mark, there, and Jared, too.
Kevin: Kudos to Kev for managing to decipher just enough of the Angel Tablet to confirm that Naomi might be telling the actual truth. By this point, he is totally rocking the prophet thing. It hurts, though, to see how gloomy and downtrodden this once-vibrant young student has become. And what REALLY squashed my poor old heart: apparently, Crowley was telling the truth about Tiger Mommy’s demise. That sound you’re hearing right now isn’t thunder – it’s me growling at the writers.
Sheriff Mills: Confusing haircut aside, once I realized who was sitting at the table with Crowley, my heart began to nosedive. Isn’t it bad enough that we lost Sarah and that kid from “Wendigo”? We couldn’t lose Sheriff Mills, too! And because Supernatural is totally willing to kill off beloved characters without even blinking, I had no idea whether Jody would survive the first five minutes of this episode. Even after all this time, the relief is still palpable. Sheriff Mills lives on! Woo hoo! 🙂 🙂
Abaddon: All hail the King – and for her, that isn’t Crowley. Naturally, one of Lucifer’s Knights isn’t going to take too kindly to the demon who overthrew him. Next time Crowley dials demon 9-1-1, he should probably think about who might be eavesdropping on the line. 🙂
Naomi: She told the truth to Dean and Castiel. She welcomed Cass back to Heaven. She saved Sam’s life. I believe all of it was sincere, but it was the kind of sincere that only comes with the knowledge that time is short. She knew Metatron was probably going to kill her. Therefore, she repented, the same way a condemned murderer might pray for forgiveness on his way to the gallows. Too little, too late? Maybe, but nonetheless it was an achingly good performance by the actress.
Castiel: Wanting to clean up his own mess, willing to face Heaven’s judgment – even if it means death – and, above all, committed to helping Dean when he needs it most. The Cass we know and love from the top of his head to the tips of his pretty wings was out in full force in this ep. I don’t blame him for not believing Naomi’s warnings – basically every word she ever said to him in the past was crawling with deception. And yet, Cass didn’t hesitate when Dean asked to be taken to Sam. I didn’t think it was possible, but my love for Castiel actually expanded in this episode. You could now fit about six full-grown elephants into the space occupied by my Cass Adoration (previously it was four). And apparently, I’m not the only one with a soft spot for our favorite wing-boy – although Metatron stole Castiel’s Grace, I did not see this as an act of intentional cruelty. It was almost more like Metatron was doing Castiel a favor – sparing him the painful fall from Heaven, making it possible for Cass to one day return to Heaven, and, above all, turning Castiel into what he’s been slowly becoming all along: a flesh and blood human.
Metatron: I swear, I just got done saying that he was on the up-and-up, and he turns around and proves me wrong! Not just a little bit wrong, either – very, VERY wrong. I should have listened to that uneasy voice in the back of my head when Metatron enlisted Cass to help kill an innocent creature. I should have known then that Metatron was up to something nefarious. The cool thing about being wrong, though, is that I got to be surprised. I always get a shiver when the angelic little boy gets a murderous gleam in his eye, or the sword-wielding, muscle-bound hero doesn’t end up saving the day after all. Predictability is a snorefest. Twists make for awesome television. I loved the twist of Metatron having very different intentions than he led everyone to believe, and I really loved that even after we found out what he was up to, I still found him to be likeable. His motives were understandable and his anger was just. Top it off with the fact that he seemed genuinely fond of Castiel, and you have a complex, shades-of-grey character I can’t wait to meet again.
Special FX: There’s really only one thing to talk about, isn’t there? The image of thousands of angels plummeting toward Earth like shooting stars, their bodies and wings burning up in the atmosphere. It was the very definition of unforgettable. The show probably blew its whole budget for the episode on that one scene, and it was TOTALLY WORTH IT. I gasped aloud at the sight, thinking it was the best effect I’d ever seen, movies included. Even now, three months later, I still feel that way. Major props to the FX team. Major, major props.
Last Licks: It was a season of kick-a$$ mythology, but less-than-excellent character writing. Carver proved himself more than capable of handling Supernatural’s plotlines, bringing in new concepts like the Men of Letters, while keeping our old favorites, the demons and angels, front and center. At times, the brothers were OOC. Other times, they were spot on. When all the stars were in the right places and Jupiter was lined up with Mars, we got the kind of amazing episodes we haven’t seen since Kripke left. I remember a stretch of at least four or five episodes in a row that were just completely awesome. This gives me hope – bundles and bundles of hope. We know Carver can deliver angels and demons. We know he can deliver effects. The question is, did he learn from what worked and what didn’t in terms of Sam and Dean’s relationship? I’m hoping the answer is a big, water-bloated “yes.”
“Sacrifice” may not have been the most nail-gnawing finale we’ve ever seen, but as far as the cliffhanger part goes, it absolutely made the grade. Everything about this finale made me want to find out what will happen next – Will the angels have any powers on Earth? What will they do down here? What will Castiel do, now that he’s human? Will he even have any memory of his life as an angel? What happens to the vessel, Jimmy, now that Cass is fully flesh and blood? And what about poor Crowley, who’s been left in limbo, mere inches from becoming human again? Can someone else finish the ritual for Sam, or would that be too risky?
Those are the questions that have been nibbling at me all summer. Those, and one other minor issue: What about SAM??? He was going to die if he didn’t finish the tasks, right? And he was going to die if he DID finish them – so what’s going to happen to him? How can he possibly live, if he’s damned either way?
I know I’ll be tuning in to find out. Even though we’re on a new night (TUESDAYS, 9/8c) my schedule will always make room for Supernatural. I have faith in you, Jeremy Carver, so don’t let us down! And don’t you dare kill Sammy!!