Oh, to be a fly on the wall inside Supernatural writer Ben Edlund's brain. Last night's episode, "The End," perfectly encapsulated Edlund's warped sense of humor and strong sense of story. It also served as yet more proof that Supernatural has some of the best writers in the business.
Here cometh the Spoiler Zone, proceed with caution!
The multi-year peek into the future is becoming quite the hot thing to do in television; several shows, from Dollhouse to Desperate Housewives, have attempted it with varying success. "The End" was not only able to pull it off with few, if any, problems; it was also one of the series' better episodes -- and that's saying something (a TV.com score of 9.9 for the episode indicates several of you agree).
The ep begins with Dean -- still separated from Sam -- on his own and getting a little shut-eye in a roach motel in Kansas. When he wakes up, he's got more to think about than noshing on some continental breakfast: Dean has been zapped five years into the future by weirdo angel Zachariah, who serves as a Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in his attempt to persuade Dean to give up his skin for the archangel Michael to use in defeating Lucifer.
Of course, the future is hecka lame. Not only are there Croatoa Virus-infected zombie demons (from Season Two) running around and no sports or FM radio, but Sarah Palin is president (don't be mad, Repubs). There is one awesome catch, though, for those who love to write Wincest fan fiction. The episode also gave us not one, but two Deans: the Dean we know and future Dean (and Jensen Ackles pulls them both off very well), who is head of a survivor camp.
Future Dean is on his way to finish a major mission with help from the Colt, which finally returns. Using the mystical firearm, Future Dean is planning to kill Lucifer, which is a good thing. But of course there's also a bad thing: Sam, at some point, said yes to giving up his meat suit to the fallen angel, which means Sam's dead (or at least permanently borrowed), and that Satan is running around in his skin.
In his attempt to find a way back to his home time, Present Dean seeks out Future Castiel, who isn't exactly as angelic as we last saw him. Castiel has become mortal (with hilarious results), and spends his days smoking pot and hustling women into orgies -- fun!
But the episode comes to a head when Present Dean finally encounters LuSamfer, just in time to see him cram his boot into Future Dean's throat, killing him (not good). Dean is obviously horrified at seeing Satan incarnated in Sam's body -- so even with the Devil's "I'm the victim here" reasoning and gentlemanly charm, Dean tells him to cram it. The scene pits two strong characters against one another -- face-to-face, neither willing to budge -- and it's written superbly.
In the end, Dean knows what he has to do: give up his body to Michael. But he still won't do it, even though he knows what happens and his future self begs him to. Instead, Dean opts to reunite with Sam in the present and look for another way to kill Lucifer ... while also remaining human.
The brilliance of "The End" is the consistency of Dean and Ackles' ability to play two very believable versions of the same character. In the face of the end of the world, Edlund keeps Dean Winchester true to himself, almost to a fault. And that's Supernatural's strength.
Notes and thoughts on toilet-paper hoarding and other bits:
-- Great editing in this episode. Behind the scenes, we all know Jensen Ackles acted a large chunk of this episode against no one or a stand-in, but the Dean-on-Dean single-camera scenes looked fantastic (the two-shots were admirable as well).
-- Dean has one heck of a right hook. He can put down himself and a little girl with one clean shot!
-- Note to self: buy an all-white suit.
-- At this point, I'd be interested to hear everyone's take on Lucifer. Sure, he's the stuff of evil legend, but he makes some good points. Do you have any sympathy for the Devil?
-- I'm really liking Season Five so far.