Hello, boys, for the almost-last time.
After fifteen seasons on the air, we have finally reached the end of Supernatural. Allow me to grow nostalgic for a moment: the show began in 2005. I had just finished high school, and had moved into the dormitory at my university in an effort to demonstrate to my parents that I was a fully grown adult. It is not lost on me that Supernatural has been around for my entire adult life, and saying goodbye is more difficult than I had anticipated because it’s always been a constant for me. Breakup? Watch the Winchesters. Bad day at work? Watch the Winchesters. Feeling introverted and don’t want to go out? Watch the Winchesters.
Luckily we will have 327 episodes to watch over and over for the rest of our lives, so I guess the Winchesters will always be a constant.
So without further ado, let’s talk about the end of Supernatural.
THE ROAD SO FAR
It’s the Winchesters’ final ride and this time, they’re up against God.
MAJOR spoilers ahead.
Given that we are so close to the end, I am not going to do a full recap…but the briefest summary I can. At the end of last episode, after Castiel is taken by the Empty, Chuck decides to cosplay Thanos and disintegrates the entire world. Well, except for Sam, Dean, and Jack.
It’s all very I Am Legend meets Avengers: Endgame.
Michael, too, apparently has been spared by Chuck—but Adam was not spared by God—and in a showdown ten years later than expected, we finally get rid of Lucifer. For good.
Just…give me a minute to enjoy that.
Unfortunately, Michael isn’t as fully on the Winchesters’ side as he seems. But in a twist of fate, it still somehow turns out okay?
So, what do the Winchesters do when they have no one left to save but themselves? Apparently, the answer is: use God’s hubris against him and have Chuck beat up the Winchesters in the most heavy-handed metaphor to ever appear on the show, but it is really just a distraction so they can have Jack mystically whammy Chuck and suck up the power of God like he’s a Dyson vacuum cleaner, with, of course, the Winchesters narrating the events like it’s the end of a Scooby-Doo episode.
Yes, friends, BuckLemming broke the cardinal rule of good writing for the final time on Supernatural: show, don’t tell. But, this time, I’m not *that* mad at it—and I’ll tell you why.
The Death of the Author
When I was a young Collectress in graduate school, I read an essay by French literary critic Roland Barthes titled “The Death of the Author.” In it, he argued that:
The Author, when we believe in him, is always conceived as the past of his own book: the book and the author take their places of their own accord on the same line, cast as a before and an after: the Author is supposed to feed the book — that is, he pre-exists it, thinks, suffers, lives for it; he maintains with his work the same relation of antecedence a father maintains with his child. Quite the contrary, the modern writer (scriptor) is born simultaneously with his text; he is in no way supplied with a being which precedes or transcends his writing, he is in no way the subject of which his book is the predicate; there is no other time than that of the utterance, and every text is eternally written here and now.
The Author, as Barthes describes them, is a capricious creature, and is responsible for every aspect of their work, intentional or not. Reader response, subtextual analysis, or, heck, even just letting the work speak for itself isn’t an option in an Author-glorified culture. But, according to Barthes, the writing should never be about the Author, and the Author should never self-insert into their own creations. Barthes argues that a work is the culmination of a myriad sources of cultural inspiration, and there is no new idea put forth by any author that some other author hasn’t already done in some other way (there’s nothing new under the sun, eh?). Therefore, it is the reader who gets to decide the ultimate meeting of a text, because, as Barthes says, “the unity of a text is not in its origin, it is in its destination.” AKA the reader.
So what does this mean in Supernatural terms? Well, the show has gotten increasingly meta over the seasons; and, in fact, since Chuck has been revealed as God it’s become increasingly obvious that Chuck is a not-so-subtle stand-in for the writers of Supernatural. What started out as a clever way for the Authors to self-insert into the story became a metacritic’s daydream as Chuck became just as egotistical and spiteful as any writer who reads only the bad reviews on Goodreads. At its lowest, Chuck’s storyline was a pitifully sad satire of the way the fandom felt about [some of] the SPN writers: outdated, tired, and more than just a little bit ignorant of how the Winchesters & co. had grown and developed over the seasons.
So when Chuck tells the Winchesters, “I’m cancelling your show,” there is irony in knowing that 1) the real show is only ending because the principal cast decided that it was time and 2) in both fiction and reality, only the Winchesters can decide when the show is over. Here, at the end, it is apparent that the omniscient Author actually knows nothing about his leading protagonists, and it is poetic justice that Dean and Sam, who have outgrown Chuck’s limited narrative scope, leave him behind in the dust to be forgotten.
It is not only Chuck who is being left behind, but the Authors of Supernatural. After fifteen seasons, the characters have outgrown the creators, and someone in the writers’ room was wise enough to notice and to frame the entire final season around The Death of The Author, and in “Inherit The Earth,” all the shoddy pacing and cringey monologuing emphasizes that the Author’s time is over. Though Chuck is not literally dead, his influence and meddling is over, and like Roland Barthes stipulated, “we know that to restore to writing its future, we must reverse its myth: the birth of the reader must be ransomed by the death of the Author.”
By transferring Chuck’s powers to Jack—a character who quickly became a fan-favorite and, arguably, grew in importance throughout his tenure on the show because of his popularity—it is symbolic of this transfer of power from the Author to the Reader…err..viewer. Like Jack, we have spent years learning from the Winchesters and using their experience as framework for our own moral compasses. Now that Supernatural is ending, the power of what comes next is not in the hands of the Author, but in us, the fandom. (And we are a just, and loving, god.)
SO, We’ve Come To The End…
Chuck is gone. Hell is under control. What happens to the Winchesters now that they’ve saved the world (and themselves)? What do you do after you ride off into the sunset?
Sam says that it’s up to them to write their own stories now, and, if we think of everything that has been machinated by Chuck—and now we can chalk up OOC writing to Chuck’s shitty compositions—we can assume that whatever Sam and Dean do next, it’s going to be something that Chuck (and the Authors) never intended for them. This is their chance to embrace everything that has existed in between the lines for the last fifteen years and just be themselves. Not the vessels of archangels, or the messengers of God’s destruction: just Sam and Dean.
Will they stop saving people and hunting things? It’s doubtful, because it’s what they know and it’s a big part of who they are…but it is not all they are.
So maybe, just maybe, the boys will get to live the apple pie life after all.
The series finale of Supernatural airs this Thursday, November 19, and we will be tweeting our feelings over at @collectivenerds.
Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” http://www.tbook.constantvzw.org/wp-content/death_authorbarthes.pdf