There are a lot of ideas swirling around in Supernatural‘s return this week. Most of these ideas revolve around the show’s end, with Chuck showing Sam multiple endings to his and Dean’s journeys. Presumably, these are the same endings he came up with Becky not long ago. They’re not incredibly interesting, except in one area — instead of apocalyptic drama, Chuck’s endings are focused more on the personal losses Sam and Dean will have to face. Of course, the larger context is that if Chuck were to die, the balance in the world would turn chaotic, leaving the monsters to roam free.
Sam’s journey through time feels disjointed from earlier themes this season. The cold open for “Atomic Monsters” showed us a rugged Dean teamed up with Benny (Ty Olsen) — notable especially now that we’ve learned he died (again?) in purgatory — against a demon-blood obsessed Sam. The episode made it seem like this glimpse into the future was Sam’s visions returned, a possible future, but avoidable. In “The Trap,” Chuck explains those visions were memories of a different universe, planted in Sam’s mind to apparently break him. It’s not entirely clear what Chuck’s endgame is and with this episode’s clip show of multiple endings, it feels like not even the showrunners are sure. Chuck is angry because things aren’t exactly going his way anymore, sure, but his motivations continue to be murky beyond that.
This season’s best episode happened right before this midseason premiere. “Our Father, Who Aren’t in Heaven” finally brought back Adam, the third Winchester brother who’s been in Hell for 10 seasons as the vessel for the archangel Michael. Adam’s extensive stint in Hell became a popular in-joke throughout the fandom, so much so that any return for the character would feel a bit on the fan-service side.
However, thanks to Jake Abel’s dual performance as both Adam and Michael, two wholly different characters stuck inside the same body who have become intertwined completely, the return felt heavy and grounded, a prime example of a mistake Sam and Dean never bothered to fix. Adam’s understanding, but wholly unflinching anger toward the brothers, is a bittersweet reality for the Winchesters. Despite a couple of short, but genuine apologies from Sam and Dean, though, the Adam matter seems to be closed for now.
It shouldn’t be. Michael agrees to help the brothers deal with Chuck by opening a door to purgatory to get a Leviathan flower, which supposedly has the right magical properties to lock Chuck away similarly to when he locked Amara away. Perhaps we haven’t seen the last of Michael and Adam this season, but the midseason finale cliffhanger set up a wonderful confrontation between Sam, Eileen, and Chuck and Cas and Dean in purgatory. The follow-through in “The Trap” just doesn’t land.
If this season is about an end for Sam and Dean, doesn’t it have to be them reconciling their mistakes and successes, their codependency, their livelihood? Each ending that Chuck shows Sam involves death, just never theirs. Instead, it’s those closest to them. Bobby, Jody, Clair, and Donna. Not to mention the ones they’ve already lost. In each of these scenarios, one of the brothers always mentions that it’s their friends who have died, everyone they’ve ever been close to. The tone of voice implies an ownership of these people, a responsibility that perhaps the brothers should give up.
The only way to do so is to do something unexpected. The Team Free Will of season five worked because it went against the machinations of the universe. With Chuck unusually obsessed with the Winchester brothers, maybe the way to beat him is to make this a fight for everyone. Otherwise, all of Chuck’s endings will come true as long as everyone continues to fight as separate teams. As separate teams, Chuck has already convinced Sam to lose hope.
The path to regaining it should include a little redemption — for Adam, for Kevin, and any other time they’ve put each other before the world. Sam and Dean’s continued survival in those endings implies a sense of fault on their part for the threat the world’s currently under. Maybe that’s unfair. Even so, the brothers will always feel that guilt and Chuck knows it. Perhaps the key to beating Chuck is more about the healing they each need to do. Heal each other, save the world.