Supernatural 15×18 Recap (Sort Of): Let’s Talk About Free Will

Hello, friends. It’s been a while since I wrote about Supernatural…and I’m going to be honest…I was behind even before the pandemic put all our lives (and the show’s final season) on hold. I’m sure I’m not alone in stockpiling episodes of a favorite show so you have something to look forward to; in this godforsaken year (pun fully intended), we need all the good things we can get.

First things first, I need to get this out of my system:

At first I was like:

And then I was like:

And now, I’m like:

And if you don’t know what I’m talking about…SPOILERS AHEAD. Ye be warned.

So, over the past two days, I binged seven episodes of Supernatural, and my intent was to take notes and write an intelligent meta-narrative piece about the show’s final episodes and overall story arc/worldbuilding and how it could tie into its finale…but instead, over the 8-ish hours I spent catching up, I only wrote down one thing: free will—the only thing God can’t account for

It’s this thought that has stuck with me, not just during season 15, but throughout the show’s entire 300+ episode run. In season 5, we were introduced to “Team Free Will,” and while the moniker was mostly a joke at the time, it has endured and become a central theme to the Winchesters and their allies. And now that we are at the end, free will is more important than ever. In fact, I would argue that it is the Winchesters’ aggressive rejection of predestination that is fueling Chuck’s (aka God’s) anger toward them, and subsequently, the whole world.

Supernatural — “Despair” — Image Number: SN1518C_0181r.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Jensen Ackles as Dean and Jared Padalecki as Sam — Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

While I will not recap the entire episode, I will sum up with this: God is pissed, Billie/Death is pissed, and the Winchesters are doing what they do best and trying to save everyone (spoilers: they can’t).

We have seen over the past several episodes that the reason Chuck wishes to destroy the universe is because Sam and Dean will not finish his story the way he wants them to. And, as a writer, I can concede that it is very frustrating when your characters do not do what you want them to…but that is the very definition of free will.

Forgive me, I’m going to get biblical for a minute (thank you, 13 years of Christian education!).

Genesis 2:16-17 says:

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

This is one of the first things that the Bible has God saying to Adam and Eve after their creation, and in giving them the choice to “freely eat”, he is giving them free will. Included in that free will is the ability to make mistakes, which of course they do because they are human.

We see this play out on a nearly seasonal basis for Dean and Sam. They mess up, they fix it, and thereby save the world. Mix. Repeat. However, it seems that their constant world-saving isn’t the plan of the Divine Author—the irony is that it’s the Winchesters exercising the same free will He gave them that is the cause of his eternal frustration. It’s not lost on me that Chuck is nothing more than a writer who is so stuck on his story’s original ending, that he’s ignorant of the other story possibilities that come out during the writing process.

Supernatural — “Despair” — Image Number: SN1518C_0035r.jpg — Pictured: Felicia Day as Charlie — Photo: Bettina Strauss/The CW — © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

It’s also become increasingly apparent that since Chuck cannot anticipate the actions of the characters in this version of the story, that is how he is going to lose. That’s that thing about free will; being omniscient means that Chuck can see what all the characters might do, and manipulate the scenarios to his advantage, but he cannot with certainty say what they will do.

This also seems to be true about the writers of Supernatural itself. When Castiel was introduced twelve years ago, no one expected his surge of popularity, or the longevity of his character. And, certainly, no one writing the show back then expected that Castiel would fall in love with Dean, but, as we learned in this last week’s episode “Despair”, that’s exactly what happened.

Supernatural — “Despair” — Image Number: SN1518A_0461r.jpg — Pictured (L-R): Jensen Ackles as Dean, Alexander Calvert as Jack and Misha Collins as Castiel — Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW — © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

That’s the thing about writing. It can take you unexpected places, and the audience may pick up on subtextual cues that you didn’t consciously intend. It doesn’t make it less real, in fact, I would argue that it makes it more so because humans do not analyze every act, every word, they do or say before they do it. Castiel’s declaration—long overdue to many of us—is no less impactful because it shows the exercise of free will. Chuck didn’t intend for Castiel to care for Dean, and neither did the showrunners, but here we are (and, arguably, it’s one of the reasons the show has lasted so long and had such a dedicated fandom).

So, why now? If Castiel has been in love with Dean for so long, why wait until the last possible second to tell him?

[Insert snark here about the decade-long queerbaiting & the unwillingness of the showrunners to risk alienating any of their fanbase by making it too queer. Insert more snark about how the show rarely takes meaningful risks in terms of representation.]

All snarky comments aside, my interpretation of Castiel’s sacrifice is this: he’s speaking the love language that Dean understands. If Dean loves someone, what does he do? He sacrifices himself for them (literally and/or figuratively). We’ve seen Castiel sacrifice himself in the past, but it has been done for both Winchesters, or for Jack, or for the world, or any combination of those things. This time, it’s just for Dean. He’s saving only Dean, and he wants Dean to know that that is how much he means to him. He’s giving up the world and millennia of life for Dean. While Dean may still be trying to wrap his mind around the words “I love you”, that sacrifice? That is something he’s going to understand because he’s done it for Sam. It’s an act of pure love, and unless Dean is even more emotionally constipated than any of us guessed, he’s going to understand it.

Supernatural — “Despair” — Image Number: SN1518A_0661r.jpg — Pictured: Lisa Berry as Billie — Photo: Colin Bentley/The CW — © 2020 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

So, what does this mean for The End of Supenatural? There are only two episodes left, and, it’s truly the Winchesters v. the world…err…God, now. There’s no Cas, no army of hunters, no Death, and no one to help Sam, Dean, and Jack defeat the greatest power in the universe.

Here’s the thing about free will: Chuck can’t make the Winchesters do what he wants, and Castiel’s sacrifice? Something tells me that wasn’t in his plan. Castiel’s declaration was an act of love, an act of free will, and it might just be the catalyst to whatever the Winchesters need to do to save the world.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go drown my feels in wine and fluffy fanfic.

Until then, SPN Family.