The Morning After
I loved it. It was everything I hoped it would be, and more.
That’s it. That’s all.
Expecting me to say more about The Winchesters season 1 finale, “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye”? I’ll be happy to say more, but don’t blame me if tears well up in your eyes when I talk about how much it meant to me to see a coda for Supernatural’s last episode, “Carry On”.
Because I’m all kinds of emotional about seeing Dean Winchester again. The decades of pain and family devotion were there in his eyes. The defiant determination to do what is right no matter the cost was there in his smirk. The slight slur of his words that comes from growing up on the road was there in his speech. The strength of will that intuitively communicates that you’re safe because he’s around was there in his stance. His “rugged handsomeness” was all over his face – well, actually, all over everything about him.
And I’m all kinds of emotional about Bobby Singer being at Dean’s side again. “One last hunt,” he said, but after seeing them together, I know now there’s no way they won’t get together again somehow, sometime, in the years to come.
Bobby: We're not supposed to meddle with things, idjit.
Dean: You always said if I was gonna be stupid, I might as well be smart about it.
Bobby: Yeah, that does sound about like me. We're not even supposed to be here.
Dean: Come on, the letter was meant for him. I just, uh, you know, gave it a nudge.
Bobby: You keep an eye on things here. I'm gonna get the damn cavalry.
Dean: How you gonna do that?
Bobby: I got no freaking idea. One last hunt, huh?
Dean: One last hunt.
Jim Beaver and Jensen Ackles said goodbye to Supernatural fans on November 19, 2020, nearly 2.5 years ago, but it seems Jensen wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Dean.
Jim: We're not supposed to meddle with things, idjit.
Jensen: You always said if I was gonna be stupid, I might as well be smart about it.
Jim: Yeah, that does sound about like me. We're not even supposed to be here.
Jensen: I just, uh, you know, gave it a nudge.
Jim: One last hunt, huh?
Jensen: One last hunt.
And Baby, in all her sleek, black enamel and silver chrome glory, was given the honor of being the hero of the story.
John: How did you guys survive?
Dean: She kept Mary safe... me too.
Not only did Baby keep her Winchester family (from two worlds) safe once again, but she killed the Akrida queen!
Carlos: So any weapon not of this Earth can take out the Akrida.
Lata: Yes, which means ruggedly handsome over here can take out the queen.
Except it wasn’t Dean who killed the queen. It was Baby.
Mary: This car.
Lata: It's not of this Earth.
Millie: Detroit steel makes a hell of a weapon.
Ada: If the car takes out the Queen, the rest of the Akrida are dead.
Even more surprising, Baby became the fatal weapon with Mary behind the wheel, not Dean.
John: We all know you're the best Hunter that we have, just like we all know that whoever goes out there and faces Joan...
Mary: Is probably not coming back.
The first wave of attack from Samuel, Carlos and John bought them time but ultimately wouldn’t have resulted in a victory. It was Mary who took the suicide run at the queen. Can we all just pause a moment to recognize that Jensen let someone else drive Baby? He was serious about passing the torch to the next generation of hunters… and to share some of Supernatural’s legacy with women.
And Jack. He’d grown up since we last saw him. There was a calm authority in his voice and a serene patience in his face as he listened to his dad’s explanation of why he had to “bend” the rules one more time. The new god showed us both his wisdom and compassion. It was good to see him again.
The Title Thread – "Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye"
It turns out The Winchesters was an epic love story of John Winchester and Mary Campbell, but them coming together to hunt, and their journey to find themselves in the process, was the “B” plot all along. The real purpose of this story was to give Jensen, and us, a chance to say goodbye to Dean.
When Dean died in Supernatural, monsters took him away from us and Sam. It was a violent and emotional shock that left our hearts shattered. We saw Sam struggle to carry on with his life, and we saw the brothers reunited in Heaven, but after 15 years of riding shotgun with them, a few short minutes of “life goes on” didn’t give anyone enough time to say goodbye. It seems Dean, Jensen, and I’m guessing many more people in the Supernatural family, me included, needed more closure. This episode gave that to us. Jensen and Robbie Thompson, in their deep understanding and love for the Supernatural story, must have sensed, or even felt, the trauma that Dean’s sudden death inflicted on us all. The Winchesters was the epilog that showed us that Dean is still Dean, even in Heaven.
Give Them What They Want in a Way They Don’t Expect
So Dean went on one more road trip, this time to an alternate universe.
Dean: I'm a Hunter, just like you. But I'm not from this Earth. When I died, I made it to Heaven. And she was waiting for me. So I went for a drive, and then I took a little detour.
Lata: Through the multiverse.
We thought that maybe Dean was trying to rewrite his family history, but instead, he went looking for a world where events and fate had allowed his family to be happy.
Carlos: So what were you looking for?
Dean: I was looking for my family. See, I come from a long line of hunters. I guess I was hoping that somewhere out there was a Earth that had a version where my family had a shot at a happy ending.
We were right in guessing that Dean “nudged” his dad into hunting in order to defeat the Akrida, but he did it of his own volition. He wasn’t on a mission from Heaven, Jack, Castiel or anyone else who might have wanted to set things right after Chuck’s reign of destruction.
Dean: When I was driving, I caught wind of the Akrida. Turns out that they were one of Chuck's last creations.
Millie: Who's Chuck?
Dean: God. It's a long story, but, basically, he's a real dick. He left the Akrida behind to wipe out all of existence in case he failed. Well... he failed. Eventually the Akrida were going to make their way to my world, and I got family there, so I couldn't let that happen.
John: The letter, why did you—
Dean: I took my little detour. The rules were simple. Don't mess with anything. Well... I gave it a little nudge. Thought it might need a little help. Looks like it worked out pretty well. So now that the Akrida are gone, you all can choose your own destiny. You can write your own story.
Dean couldn’t abide being a puppet in Chuck’s play. Dean’s fate was never his own until he, Sam and Team Free Will 2.0 defeated the writer of their story and assumed control of their lives. But in death, Dean learned that their job wasn’t done. Chuck left behind an army of monsters to destroy everyone in the multiverse in his absence.
AkridaLata: The Akrida were made by an angry god. Anything ever bested him, he had us as a fail-safe. We were designed to wipe out all life in every universe. But the queen... she gave us meaning. We are freeing every world from the tyranny of mankind.
The Akrida were the epilog to Chuck’s story, to be delivered after all the credits had rolled in the brothers’ Supernatural saga. But Chuck underestimated the Winchesters once again. Dean being Dean, his response was to finish what he started.
Dean: I know, Jack.
Jack: When I restored things, I wanted mankind to make their own fate. That meant no interference from on high, anywhere... no exceptions.
Dean: I couldn't let our world get destroyed. Sam's still down there, okay? He deserves a good, long life. Hell, they all do. So, if you want to cast me out of Heaven... so be it.
Bobby: If we're taking a vote, I'd say you give the guy another chance.
Jack: There's always another case with you hunters... even in death. Well... if you're going to meddle in things, finish what you started. After this... it's time to get around to the... "there'll be peace when you are done"... part of the song.
Facing our Traumas and Shedding the Past
While this last hunt was Dean’s way to set things right once and for all, it was also a testament to Jensen’s need to finish what he started. Dean’s final fate was out of Jensen’s control. It was dictated by writers who called the shots on how and when Dean’s part of the story was over. So Jensen started his own production company, hired his own writers, and gave Dean one more hunt. Jensen put himself in the driver's seat to ensure no “interference from on high” could dictate how and when he said goodbye to Dean.
I’m eternally grateful to Jensen for giving Dean that closure because, it turns out, I needed that closure, too. He and Robbie gave me something I didn’t even know I needed or wanted, in a way I would never have suspected – another chapter in the Supernatural story and a chance to find peace now that they’re done.
Together, Jensen and Dean also gave peace to Dean’s dad, John Winchester.
Queen: Before I kill you, John, I want to give you some much-needed peace.
John learned that his dad didn’t abandon them, as John had assumed since childhood. Maybe because of this, or maybe because he had grown emotionally, he vowed to find a way to let go of his anger so it no longer controlled him.
John: I was lost. Now... I found where I belong.
Mary: Being a hunter?
John: But I can't be the best version of that until I face the anger inside of me. I don't know if it's through meditation or therapy or something, but I'm... I'm going to figure out a way to make sure it's not in the driver's seat.
Mary Campbell was also given peace. She’s taking the time to find a life outside of hunting, something that has caused her to be “lost” since she was a little girl.
I’ll spend several rewatches trying to absorb and reconcile the details of how Dean’s last hunt went down.
For example, Joan Hopkins wanted to save hunters so she decided to kill all of humanity?
Lata: The monster essence drove her mad.
Mary: She became so obsessed with making sure that hunters were protected, and she believed the only way to do that was to wipe out everyone who needed saving. With no way to kill her, hunters teamed up with the Men of Letters and banished her from our world.
I guess the monster essence really did drive her mad.
The Men of Letters sigil was really warding that kept the interdimensional portal from opening? That’s clever.
Henry's return in 1.07 "Reflections"
In this universe, Joan, not Abaddon, wiped out the Men of Letters, including Henry. This Henry never travelled into the future to meet his grandsons.
I'm also wondering how the portal opened up again to let Dean drive himself, Mary and Baby back from the “between worlds” place to John and Mary’s Earth. The Ostium and Dean’s journal opened the portal to bring Baby to our hunters the first time, at midnight. Then the queen opened the portal with her monster essence powers as her last act of defiance, casting Mary and Baby into the abyss. But how did Dean get everyone back?
Dean: I was stuck in the world between worlds, so I stayed close to that portal, and as soon as I saw baby come through, I hopped in and grabbed the wheel.
Did Jack open the portal the last time? Bobby said he was bringing in the cavalry. In old westerns, the cavalry showed up in the nick of time to save the hero when it looked like they would otherwise be lost, so was it Jack?
Lastly, Jack was mad at Dean for interfering in the fate of humanity, but Dean wasn’t really breaking the rules because the Akrida were remnants of Chuck’s reign and were already interfering from “on high.” Dean was just cleaning up what Chuck left behind.
I’m sure there are other mysteries that need to be examined. What was in Henry's letter? Has anyone transcribed it yet? What was the significance of the plentiful music in this episode? Jay Gruska, co-composer of all of Supernatural's soundtracks, came back to score this finale. Did Jack reload the Colt with monster killing bullets?
But there will be time to do all that. Right now, let’s take our cue from Lata and be in the moment to acknowledge whatever this episode gave us. Answers? Closure? A chance to see our Supernatural family again? A season’s myth arc finale? An end to the infinite number of crazy theories about what we were watching? Whatever it was for you, it was well done and a fascinating chapter in Supernatural’s story.
Getting to Know John, Mary, Carlos and Lata
I’ve talked about how much it meant to see Dean, Baby, Bobby and Jack again. To reunite with the characters who know everything we know about Sam and Dean’s story was a gift I didn’t expect so soon after Supernatural ended. But it was also fulfilling to see how much the monster club’s members had grown to be worthwhile players in Supernatural’s sandbox.
I particularly enjoyed Carlos' and John’s witty retorts.
Carlos: What if we could rewind the tape? Metaphysically speaking, if you know what I mean.
John: On behalf of everyone, I think I can assure you when I say that we do not know what you mean.
Carlos Okay, look--look, just bear with me one second. Now, was this idea inspired by a drսg trip I took a few years ago? Yes. Are we judging me for that right now?
Mary: If it can keep Ada's soul intact, absolutely not.
Queen: Carlos, you want to talk some sense into these two idiots? I mean, there's no amount of ghouls that you can kill that will fill that hole in your heart.
Carlos: Oh, I'm so sorry. Are you still talking?
Queen: You don't need my sales pitch, though, do you, honey? You're already a monster, John.
John: Hunters don't kneel.
John hadn’t yet met Dean, but that’s something Dean would have said: “Hunters don’t yield. They don’t take a knee. They don’t give up when there’s work to be done.”
Millie telling John to send a postcard from wherever he ends up meant something, too, knowing how far mother and son had come to heal their relationship.
Mother and son confronting each other in 1.01 "Pilot"
Lata and Ada working together to use witch’s earth magic to restore Ada’s soul was a triumph for them both, knowing how far they had come from their isolation as library and shop keepers. (Yes, I know. How did they even do that??)
Even Mary wore her hair straight and drove toward her future instead of grasping at a “normal” girl's life by curling her hair and whining about her fate. All six of them did a wonderful job of giving us a heartwarming close to season one of The Winchesters, and a possible tease to what may come later.
Did you notice the musical variations of the brother's theme, "Americana" playing behind the most emotional scenes? That music gets to me every time it plays. Besides that subliminal tug on our heartstrings, there were also several callbacks to epic phrases and tropes from Supernatural.
Ada: The Queen is about to sing her swan song.
Queen: Hello boys.
John: you never told us your name.
Dean: Hetfield... James Hetfield.
Yeah, I looked it up. Dean went out the way he lived, with rock star aliases. James Hetfield “is the lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist, co-founder and a main songwriter of heavy metal band Metallica.”1
The journal also came full circle, as the son becomes the father.
It makes sense that Dean kept a hunter’s journal, and would pass it along to his “dad” so it could also be John’s lifelong hunting guide. I wonder if Dean had an entry about the yellow eyed demon in there.
Dean: My dad... he kept a Hunter's journal, looked just like this. I lived my whole life by that damn thing. Well, this is my Hunter's journal. So if you're gonna stay in this game... This will help guide you through it.
Dean: I know you're thinking about quitting Hunting. Believe me, I understand. But you need to do me one favor. Keep an eye out for a yellow-eyed demon. And if you even catch a hint of that son of a bitch... I need you to use this.
If so, Mary will kill the demon before he can kill John, and she’ll never have to make a deal, doom Sam, get herself killed, or kick off the vicious cycle of deals and deaths that plagued the Winchester family to the Apocalypse and back.
Mary: Your family... did you ever find a version where they had a shot of a happy ending?
Dean: I think I did.
Thank you, Dean, for giving us a version where we, too, can also imagine a Winchester happy ending.
The Last Word
"Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye" gave us desperately needed reunions with Dean in that turtleneck, Bobby in his ballcap, Jack all in white... plus Dean's smile when he saw the Winchester clan alive... and so many other moments I'm anxious to freeze for all time. In the days ahead, we’ll all debate the lore and logic of The Winchesters Season 1 finale. I’ll probably write an analysis of the story's details, and Nate and Alice will take their own looks at how it all came together. We’ll discuss what worked well and what could have been improved.
That’s not what will stand out to me about this episode, though. For me, it was an emotional journey that helped me let go of the past and look toward the future. I’ve always felt that “Carry On” wasn’t the end of Supernatural because I refused to believe that Sam and Dean’s story ended with the monsters winning. But I can almost come to terms with that chapter now, knowing Dean got the last laugh. He beat the monsters (and Chuck) from Heaven, which means that anything is possible for him and Sam in the future. Yes, this chapter only included Dean and not Sam, but it made sense because of the exact moment in time it took place – when Dean was in Heaven waiting for Sam to live his life. So I’m content knowing that Dean is still protecting his little brother, and they’ll be reunited in Baby soon, when the time is right.
Mary: I was reading some of Hetfield's journal, and he was very specific on this issue. Driver picks the music, shotgun shuts their cake hole.
In the end, we heard Dean’s words from the driver’s seat, even if they were spoken by a hunter from a different generation and a different world. Robbie sent us a message, too.
John: I thought we agreed... no goodbyes.
Mary: This isn't goodbye.
For me, “Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye” was a message of hope to fans. It was Jensen saying he never said goodbye to Dean. It was Jack saying he can be found when the boys really need him. It was Bobby saying he’ll never give up on his boys.
John: For the first time... I'm running towards hope. Hmm. So, if we do this... if we win... if we save the world... Then you're free.
It's too soon to say if I feel free of the anguish of “Carry On”, but I do know that I feel better. For that, I say...
Thank you Robbie.
Thank you Jensen and Danneel.
Thank you Dean.
We don’t yet know if The Winchesters will get a second season, but this was a beautiful way to start dropping breadcrumbs along the path to Supernatural’s sequel, “Carrying On”.
Till the next time when Sam joins Dean, and the brothers can call Baby home again,
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Quotes courtesy of TV Show Transcripts. Images courtesy of The CW.