Supernatural turns eleven years old today, and with season twelve slated to begin next month, the series has yet to slow down – making it the longest running show in the history of The CW and The WB. Rather than making a list of our favorite moments from the show or posting a thousand pictures of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki (which you can find here), we’ve decided to celebrate by discussing the show’s greatest episode, and arguably the greatest episode of any series ever – “Swan Song.”
“Swan Song” is the fifth season finale of Supernatural and is the 104th episode of the series overall. When the episode aired way back in May of 2010, we had no idea that the series would still be prevalent today. Once Lucifer was set free from his cage in the season four finale, all hell literally broke loose, and the entirety of season five was geared toward an unforgettable showdown in what we thought was going to be the series finale. For better or worse (I can make arguments for both cases), Supernatural did not end on that night – but if it had, it would have been the perfect stopping place.
Allow me to paint the scene…
The episode begins with Dean Winchester agreeing to let Sam be the host for Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) so that he can jump into Lucifer’s cage and rid the world of the apocalypse, and with Sam making him promise that he won’t try to bring him back from Hell. Brb, crying.
Sorry, my emotions got the best of me. I’m better now. As I was saying, Dean agrees for Sam to become Lucifer’s host, and so Sam consumes gallons of demon blood, aiming to make himself strong enough to overpower the devil. The Winchester boys allow themselves to be captured by demons and brought to Lucifer, with Sam demonstrating his enhanced power by killing the demons in the room. Sam consents for Lucifer to possess his body, to which Lucifer agrees and allows him to use his power to try and regain control of his body. Sam fails, with Lucifer admitting that it only took a few seconds for him to overpower the younger Winchester – even with his enhanced power. Sam/Lucifer then disappears, leaving a crying Dean all alone. I’m not strong enough for this.
“Swan Song” cuts to Sam/Lucifer walking through a room full of people (that are visibly under Lucifer’s spell) and stopping in front of a mirror to have a heart to heart conversation. Padalecki is brilliant in this scene, playing Sam as the face in the mirror and Lucifer as the man in front of it. The two go back and forth, with Lucifer pointing out that the people trapped in the room are people from his past, claiming them to be members of Azazel’s gang who had been “jerking him around like a dog on a leash” to get him to this point in his life. Lucifer convinces Sam to blow off a little steam and together they kill the collection of people.
We learn through Castiel (Misha Collins) that there is no hope of stopping the on-coming apocalypse, no matter how persistent Dean is in trying. Dean learns where the final battle between Lucifer and Michael is taking place via a phone conversation with Chuck (who made a triumphant return in season eleven) and decides to go there to talk to Sam, though Castiel and Bobby (Jim Beaver) are against the idea. This brings us to one of the most heartbreaking moments of the episode:
Castiel: I just want you to understand, the only thing that you’re going to see out there… is Michael killing your brother.
Dean: (with tears in his eyes and a lump in his throat) Well then I ain’t gonna let him die alone.
Unfortunately for our feelings, however, this was not the only heartbreaking moment of “Swan Song.” Sam/Lucifer are seen in Stull Cemetery, the battlefield for his showdown with Michael, who now possesses the body of Adam Milligan, Sam and Dean’s half-brother. Both of the archangels admit to wishing they didn’t have to kill each other, with Lucifer attempting to turn Michael against their father and suggesting that they should just leave together because they are brothers (seasons four and five were incredible in drawing comparisons between the biblical characters and the Winchester brothers). Michael declines, however, stating that Lucifer only cares about himself and refuses to take blame for his selfish actions (again, the comparisons). The two of them prepare to fight, but they are interrupted by the roar of Baby’s engine.
Dean pops in a Def Leppard cassette tape and joins his brothers on the battlefield, bringing forth a gut-wrenching stretch of dread, beauty, and unfiltered emotion. Adam/Michael approaches Dean, presumably to kill him, only for Castiel to throw a Molotov cocktail of Holy Oil at him, causing him to catch on fire and temporarily vanish.
In a shocking sequence that destroys my soul, Lucifer snaps his fingers and causes Castiel to explode – then he snaps Bobby’s neck and kills him, leaving only himself and Dean on the battlefield.
Dean pleads with Sam to fight Lucifer as Sam/Lucifer beats the hell out of him – rendering him nearly unconscious. If you can watch this scene without tears in your eyes and a sick feeling in your stomach, you’re actually probably the real-life devil.
As Sam/Lucifer presses Dean against the Impala and prepares to deliver another blow, he catches a glimpse of a plastic army man in the ashtray of the Impala’s door – triggering memories of their childhood and the warm moments he’s had with Dean. With these things in mind, Sam is able to overpower Lucifer.
Sam then opens the cage with the Horsemen’s rings, when Michael suddenly returns, saying that he will not let it end the way Sam wants it to. Michael charges at him, but Sam, now in control, pulls Michael with him into the cage and the portal closes. Castiel reappears, telling Dean that he was resurrected by God and promoted. He then heals Dean and resurrects Bobby.
Dean leaves Bobby and has a conversation with Castiel about God and how he ended up with his brother in a hole. Castiel tells him that he got exactly what he asked for: No paradise, no Hell, just more of the same. Casitel questions if Dean would rather have peace or freedom, and then he vanishes back to Heaven without saying goodbye.
The episode comes to a close as Dean heads for Lisa’s house, where she gladly welcomes him in. Meanwhile, Chuck, who has been narrating the entire story while writing on his computer, smiles as he brings the story to an end, only to state that “nothing ever really ends, does it?”He then vanishes into thin air with a smile, wearing a white shirt instead of his usual drab clothes.
Outside of Lisa’s house, a streetlight goes out and Sam is shown standing beneath it, watching Dean through the window.
Though this episode was intended to be the series finale, due to the provided ratings and the actors being under contract for another year, Supernatural was renewed. There have been high and low points since, but as we continue into season twelve, it’s hard to imagine life without the Winchesters. Happy Anniversary, Supernatural!