I don't think we've ever had such a bipolar season of Supernatural before, where the first half and the second half were so utterly dissonant in terms of quality and likability. Typically, the entire season is either generally good or generally not-so-good, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't have my concerns that Season 8 was going to be one of those not-so-good ones when it originally kicked off. However, Season GR8 ultimately lived up to the moniker and the best part about it was that no one even had to die. Except Naomi—and we all kind of figured that one was an inevitability, so it doesn't even really count.
In short: That. Was. Badass.
"Sacrifice" also felt refreshingly new, despite being Supernatural's EIGHTH season finale. Again, this largely hinges on the delightful decision not to turn the finale into a bloodbath for once, but credit must also be given to the decision not to flake at the opportunity to thrust Sam and Dean into a brave new world that, for once, isn't in another dimension or plane or wherever we decided Heaven and Hell actually, physically are. Supernatural always cleverly played with current events in the real world by giving them supernatural origins on the show, like the Croatoan-laced swine flu vaccine and the demon-fueled natural disasters, but with the exception of "The End" back in season 5, the writers always stopped short of definitively changing the face of the world the Winchesters exist in, and even in "The End," it was just a one-off alternate future that ultimately never came to be. I don't know if the hesitation was due to a fear of removing the show too far from it's comfort zone or the fact that maybe the idea of completely altering the "real world" of the series just never occurred to anyone before, but after spending the previous two seasons debating whether or not Supernatural had any creativity left, anything new to show us, the decision to send what appeared to be most, if not all, of Heaven's angel population down to Earth in an awesome (biblical awesome, not teenager-with-stunted-vocabulary awesome) display of terrible-beautiful shooting stars was the sort of thrilling cliffhanger that has me eager to start in on season 9 because I'm sincerely excited-- not because I'm a creature of habit.
By ending almost every preceding season finale with some variation of a heroic death, Supernatural took a lot of the oomph out of "heroic death." OH NO, SAM/DEAD DIED AND NOW WE HAVE TO WAIT FIVE MONTHS TO SEE IF HE COMES BACK! It's hard to get terribly excited when you pretty much know for a fact that the token dead one will be back within the first fifteen minutes of the next season premiere. The whole tired gimmick became a sort of joke, even on the show. When Dean burst in just as Sam was about to cure Crowley for good and told him to stop because if he finished the trial, he'd die, Sam said, "So?" I'm sure it was meant to be a big, heartfelt moment in the Winchester bromance, indicative of just how little Sam cares about his own life these days and I'm not completely soulless enough to have not felt a small pang for my Sammich there, but in a twisted, sardonic way...it was also kind of bitterly funny. "So?" is sad because Sam has literally zero sense of self-worth, but "So?" is also funny because even if Sam had died, there would have been absolutely no question of his return.
So Boogertron screwed everyone over-- saw that coming, but didn't see it coming in quite such a spectacular fashion. The problem that has plagued Supernatural since the apocalypse-that-wasn't is the idea that every season's big bad needs to be a worse villain than Lucifer was, which is kind of hard when you're trying to out-evil "the source of all evil." Eve was just a waste. The Leviathan were scary, but I think they were ultimately put down before their real potential was reached (which kind of goes back to that whole "being afraid to change the world" thing.) "God" Castiel could have been a lot of fun and led to some interesting stories, but again, that whole possible storyline was put to rest before the Winchesters vs. Castiel potential ever really took off. Crowley's ruthlessness was a welcome change of pace for Hell's top salesman, but at the end of the day, he was still Crowley, and all things considered, once Sam and Dean knew how to cure a demon, everything fell perfectly into place, you know, until they just stopped.
Metatron's apparent place as the Winchesters' level 9 boss works because even though we all pretty much saw his double cross coming, the motivations that move him are vastly different from those of his predecessors-- aside from the revenge aspect-- in that yes, he wants to punish the archangels for driving him away from Heaven after God went MIA, but he also sincerely believes, on some crazypants level, that he's doing everyone a favor. If the angels are forced to live as humans, they'll eventually realize why the humans are so freaking awesome, and by removing the meddlesome angels from the game, Boogertron has also, in his eyes, fulfilled God's command that we hairless apes are "protected."
I'm not saying that Metatron is a "better" villain than Lucifer because that's a pretty relative assessment to begin with but he's different, and being handed Diet Coke after Diet Coke (of evil) for quite awhile now, Metatron is like the Fanta of evil. He doesn't think he's evil. Some could even argue that he's not evil (just misunderstood)-- but he definitely hails from the same parent brand.
Like we figured, the "trials" that Metatron sent Castiel on weren't trials at all, but rather the components of a spell that enabled Booger to take away his fellow angels' grace and send them plummeting down to Earth. Among those in the newly humanized ranks was Castiel, who Metatron implored to go get married and have babies and "when you die and come to Heaven, find me and tell me your story," because it wouldn't be Supernatural if we didn't take a beautiful sentiment, like storytelling, and make it creepy.
Back on Earth, all the bells and whistles that we didn't know the Batcave came with started blaring as the angels fell and even though Dean talked Sam out of finishing the Hell trials, Sam still wasn't looking so hot, which is one of the points at the top of my Season 9 wishlist/questions/concerns, along with:
-- What happens to Crowley if the cure isn't completed? Will the effects eventually fade and he'll go back to dick-mode? Will he continue as a demon, but as a "nice" demon? I'm actually not thrilled with either option and I kind of wish we could have had the best of both worlds, where Sam cures him anyway and then miraculously doesn't die.
-- How does abandoning the trials affect Sam? I'm glad it wasn't something as simple as saying, "I quit" and then having all the glowy-action just go away, but if we're still tripping over furniture and coughing up blood by next winter hiatus it's gonna be annoying. WITH THAT SAID, don't just handwave the negative effects of quitting when we return, Supernatural, like you tend to handwave all the other negative effects of anything that threatens to last more than two episodes. (Remember Dean's obvious Purgatory PTSD that just randomly went away? REMEMBER THAT?)
-- How about we bring Sheriff Mills back for more than a five-minute almost-death scene this time? (She did survive that, right? RIGHT?)
-- Keep Boogertron kooky and insane.
-- If we could just have a few nods to the terrific tripping trainwreck that Human Castiel was in "The End," that would be great.
"Sacrifice" wasn't a flawless finale—I kind of take issue with Dean's "I didn't mean all that crap about not trusting you" monologue because, eh, he's seemed pretty freaking sincere about it the past several seasons, which is totally fine, but let's not conveniently forget about it just because Sam was about to nobly kill himself... again. It's not fair to Dean to cheapen his sincerity and in some cases, totally justified anger/hurt. And it's not fair to Sam to basically reduce his anger/hurt to an overreaction. However, that being my only major complaint with the episode, I'd say "Sacrifice" was pretty close to perfect. It's definitely the best finale we've had since "Swan Song"—unless you didn't like "Swan Song," in which case, feel free to substitute your own favorite. "No Rest for the Wicked," perhaps? Also a solid choice.
– Dumb Winchester Sighting: AGAIN with the unsupervised demon hostage. C'mon, guys, this is like Hunting 101!
– "BITING? SERIOUSLY?"
– "Do you really think it's wise to be drinking on the job?" "What show have you been watching?"
– The Batcave survived the whole season! I got nervous when all the alarms started going off. #SaveTheBatcave
– Do you think Naomi is really dead?
– Sam torched Abaddon's meatsuit, so I guess that means a new face in Season 9? BUT, BUT I LIKE ALAINA HUFFMAN!
– Speaking of people I like, MVP for "Sacrifice" is totes Mark Sheppard. His seamless transition from irate, sassy Crowley to guilt-stricken, almost-human Crowley who just wanted to be loved earned a few appreciative rewinds from me because it was so good that I had to watch it like eight more times.
– What are your hopes/wants/theories about Season 9?
– Supernatural is moving to Tuesdays at 9pm in the fall. Thoughts?
– It's been fun, lovelies! Thanks for reading/commenting/putting up with my sad crush on Jared Padalecki's hair. See you in the fall! <3