Supernatural: Despair
November 5, 2020 6:35 PM - Season 15, Episode 18 - Subscribe

With the plan in full motion, Sam, Dean, Castiel and Jack fight for the good of the common goal.
posted by oh yeah! (15 comments total)
OK, wow. These characters have died so many times that I have to keep reminding myself that at least some of these deaths we're seeing now are probably for-keeps. I'm assuming the people Chuck poofed away will be back, but Castiel's number was up and we probably won't see him again. I thought he'd be around to the very end. I didn't get what he meant when he said there was something he wanted but knew he could never have. I almost wondered if that line was one for the shippers! I never got the feeling Cas actually had romantic feelings for Dean, but I can't think of what else his great, unfulfilled want would have been.

This episode had some odd pacing. It definitely wasn't boring but it did feel extra-long somehow, as if they found another 10 or 15 minutes someplace. A couple of times my girlfriend and I actually thought it was over, but then we'd see there was a lot of episode left. We also questioned a couple of plot points. When Billie left her scythe in the bunker, why didn't she just come back and grab it? When Sam and Castiel were trapped by Billie, couldn't they have summoned the Empty somehow instead of Castiel sacrificing himself? These questions didn't kill the plot momentum for us, but they're things that make you go hmm.

I have a strong hunch OG Death will show up to replace Billie. I mean, somebody has to, and any new character they brought in now wouldn't have time to make much of an impression. Maybe he'd even make good on his line from way back when, about how someday he would reap God. I never got the feeling that Billie was more powerful than Chuck but OG Death seemed to think that he was, at least where reaping was concerned.

I'm starting to think we won't see Lucifer again, which surprises me. How does this show end without Lucifer playing a part?
posted by Ursula Hitler at 11:16 PM on November 5, 2020

Misha Collins basically confirmed it was for the shippers. And tbh, that part kinda ruined it for me. It felt queerbaity and, when Destiel shippers are making needless homophobia claims against Jensen Ackles because he doesn't like their ship, I don't think that behavior should be rewarded.

I liked Billie being proper villain. I thought Chuck going all Thanos was a little cheesy, but I still felt the impact. I still wish Wayward Sisters had been picked up.
posted by Ruki at 10:17 AM on November 6, 2020

Really?? Where did Collins say that? I believe it, but I wish they had set up Castiel's feelings a little clearer. I just never got a romantic vibe between them at all.

Well, the shippers must be in quite a state today!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 1:09 PM on November 6, 2020

Yes, they most certainly are, which is the only reason I checked in to see what the reaction was here

I stopped watching this years ago, but entirely against my will I've now seen the scene right before Cas dies, where he says stuff like "I care about you" and "I love you" to Dean

Personally my takeaway from that scene is that Jensen Ackles has absolutely no range for Dean anymore, he's just been doing the exact same three faces for years

Anyway I follow a lot of people on tumblr who used to be into SPN, and now aren't, but oh boy howdy are they into this, and gifs and memes are popping up like mushrooms after rain, and it's a mix of "giddy hysterics", "this might as well happen," "VINDICATION!", "ITS CANON NOW, " and angry resentment and "it's bury your gays", and also "Didn't Buffy/Angel do that same scene like a million years ago"

With occasional people reminiscing about ways destiel canon could have gone so much worse, like, "Cas gets put in a female vessel so it's hetero" and other horror scenarios they used to come up with

I never got the feeling Cas actually had romantic feelings for Dean,

For me, maybe romantic isn't quite the word for it, but I did get that feeling in .... season four, episode three or five or so. That far back. What Cas says in his death scene, "I cared about the world because I cared about you", is exactly what I saw in the narrative even then. So I do feel vindicated.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 2:10 PM on November 6, 2020 [4 favorites]

I never got sexay vibes between Dean and Castiel what with Dean being straight and Castiel being all business except for the occasional drug binge or whatever that episode was, but they are the best of friends, so I don't blame anyone for shipping there. And the end was a bit shippy, there.

Can't say I was expecting to enjoy an episode called "Despair," and sure 'nuff. Mostly what made me sad was all the old favorites disappearing, like Charlie and Donna (Donna! She never even died!), and they so obviously didn't or couldn't get Eileen back, sigh.

I'm assuming that given the pandemic and them having to cut down on all of the people, everyone's poofed for good? Sigh. That made me sadder than Castiel, actually.

I'm not super clear on the Chuck plot in this? He's supposedly disappearing everyone and not Billie now?
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:34 PM on November 6, 2020

I'm not super clear on the Chuck plot in this? He's supposedly disappearing everyone and not Billie now?

If I have one gripe about this episode it's that right after the whole climactic revelation that Billie was playing them, double-crossing them and making a power play the whole time, as soon as she's like "oh it's not me doing that" they all just immediately accepted it as true. I mean, she has some unspecified number of other Reaper minions, so it's not like she couldn't have sent them out to the do the job, one assumes?

I am definitely hoping we will see all these *poofed* people again. Donna and Bobby and Charlie all deserve better (especially Charlie, I'm still mad about the first time they offed her). Also, while I'm sure it was at least partly a pandemic-related writing decision, it felt very inspired-by-Infinity-War in execution, which made it feel (at least to me) kind of deliberately manipulative in ways I don't think the writers intended.

I have mixed feelings about the whole Cas confession thing. I do think it fit the character of Castiel, especially since the explanation for him continuously hanging around Sam & Dean like a stray puppy has always been a little weak without this layer of motivation. And it also fit Dean to have him just sort of sitting there doing confused-Keanu through the whole confession. I'm not personally invested in Destiel at all, but I know that there's a large and vocal community of shippers out there. And I know that there's been a lot of stuff in the show that over the years has gotten accusations of queerbaiting thrown its way by that community. On the one hand, it's nice (if honestly surprising) to throw all those devoted fans a bone. On the other hand, killing off Castiel seconds later doesn't exactly seem like a great way to handle all the folks mad about the years of queerbaiting. But hey, if on the whole those folks are happy about it, then cool, I'm happy for them.
posted by mstokes650 at 8:09 PM on November 6, 2020

Yeah, I never got the Dean/Cas vibe, I was more interested in Castiel as the slightly-uncanny almost-alien who was a frenemy to squishy mortals at best. But I think Rainbo Vagrant's got it right, "I cared about the world because I cared about you" feels true to where I've seen the character go. I feel for people who experienced it as twelve years of felony queerbaiting, that does not sound like a good time and I cannot imagine how weird this end was from that vantage point. (I did not notice at first Castiel's bloody handprint over the scar he left on Dean's arm. okay show, okay, simmer down.)

I've completely lost track of the plot at this point, I'm not even trying to figure out what part was whose plan or who lied about whatever, but I felt the desolation of where the story left the characters well enough. I'm more curious at this point where the story leaves Sam and Dean than whatever happens to Chuck, and I'm still not even sure what I want to see happen. They really want me to remember that Dean can't stand that he's never really controlled his own life, and putting him in either Heaven or the Empty from there seems like an odd way to resolve that. (Instinctively that still feels more like a thing that would be unbearable for Sam, but okay, maybe he's letting Dean have the first shot at an existential meltdown this time.)
posted by jameaterblues at 9:22 PM on November 7, 2020

I've never really understood the accusations of queerbaiting with this show, because (until Cas' confession the other night) there was never a single moment when these characters seemed like anything more than friends. Like, just because the idea of two platonic friend characters boning really turns you on, that doesn't mean a show is "baiting" you every time those characters behave in an affectionate but non-sexual way. Just because you go weak in the knees when Dean and Castiel call each other "family" again, that doesn't mean there's anything sexual about it for those characters. I am LGBT as fuck and if I saw gay subtext with Dean and Castiel I would've been 100% fine with that... but I never did. That's why I was so baffled by Castiel's declaration of some great unfulfilled want the other night, and why I thought it couldn't be that Cas had romantic feelings for Dean. I suspect that it was news to Collins to Ackles too, because they sure weren't playing things like there was some great, unspoken attraction there.

Now, if somebody was gonna accuse the show of queerbaiting with Dean and Crowley, I might have more sympathy for that. Their frenemy thing had an edge to it, and Crowley was always calling Dean "darling" and stuff. They had a long, twisted relationship and I can see how some people could feel teased by it. But with "Destiel" it struck me as one of those deal like Kirk and Spock or Sam and Frodo, where two guys in a story can't be close friends, they can't actually care about each other, without some people insisting it's gotta be a sex thing.

Personally my takeaway from that scene is that Jensen Ackles has absolutely no range for Dean anymore, he's just been doing the exact same three faces for years

Wow, I don't get that at all. I think Ackles is one of TV's most underrated leading men.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:21 AM on November 8, 2020 [2 favorites]

I am LGBT as fuck and if I saw gay subtext with Dean and Castiel I would've been 100% fine with that... but I never did. That's why I was so baffled by Castiel's declaration of some great unfulfilled want the other night, and why I thought it couldn't be that Cas had romantic feelings for Dean. I suspect that it was news to Collins to Ackles too, because they sure weren't playing things like there was some great, unspoken attraction there.

Right, exactly, same, like I obviously believe people who see it that way are telling the truth that they see it that way and they have every right to, but we are receiving things very differently. Which is fine and happens all the time! But the cognitive dissonance of Dean/Castiel as an obvious layup and the queerbaiting that implies presented as a statement of fact gets weird for me sometimes.
posted by jameaterblues at 3:36 PM on November 8, 2020

...That said, it doesn't sound that impossible to me that the writers, knowing perfectly well that Destiel is a thing and having a couple of episodes left to smoke whatever they've got, threw it in either as a winking it's-not-canon-but-we-see-you thing, or even an it's-canonish-but-it-doesn't-matter thing, that they had no intention of following up on or committing to. Which, look, I don't know about the intent, I'm not sure how much I care about the intent, but I can understand why even people who like the idea found this execution Not Great even if we're starting from different premises.
posted by jameaterblues at 6:26 PM on November 8, 2020

I just can't even with this episode. I mean, I have been watching this show for 15 years. I should have a genuine emotional response to the killing off of a beloved character. But my reaction while watching was more of a "huh. so that happened, I guess". And then I went online to all the tumblrs I lurk on, and the explosion of memes, and I just cackled like a hyena. As Gavia Baker-Whitelaw said in her Daily Dot article "On Thursday night, the CW network inserted a stick blender into the internet’s cranial cavity and flipped the switch. After 15 years on air, the TV show Supernatural finally made Destiel canon. In turn, this caused an avalanche of cathartic hysteria that (based on Twitter’s trending topics, at least) overshadowed President Donald Trump’s disastrous press conference and the news of Vladimir Putin’s impending retirement (which the Kremlin has since denied). Was tweeting about Supernatural a “good” use of anyone’s time? No. Never. But in an emotional sense… maybe yes? Our brains are mush. This is what we deserve."

I have no idea what to expect from the final two episodes. I'm fairly confident that I'm going to end up shaking my head and shrugging and laughing at myself for having stuck with this show for 15 fucking years. And then I'll go back and watch an older episode, like the musical, for closure.
posted by oh yeah! at 4:22 PM on November 9, 2020 [2 favorites]

. I think Ackles is one of TV's most underrated leading men.

I completely agree, actually, I think he's a master of the craft of emotion. I also think his craft has suffered and calcified over the years. I don't insist on that for this scene since I don't have the context, I made this observation years ago comparing earlier seasons to later ones. But in this particular scene with Cas he's doing the exact same Blue Steel face that's just his "listening" face that I've seen in gifsets for years, and it conveys basically no emotional information.

On the topic of writers, SPN gives its writers a lot more latitude than other shows do, and they exercise very distinct tones and focuses. The writer for this episode (Bobo Berens) is an openly gay man. He also has the most poetic voice of any of the writing team. (Supernatural Wiki should have a list of episodes he's written, you can look.)
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 5:39 PM on November 9, 2020

My kids have had a long-standing bet about whether Destiel would become canon and they were uncertain after this episode who had won. Does it count if Cas says something that implies romantic love but could also be interpreted differently? Does it count if Dean doesn't indicate he reciprocates? My daughter the Destiel shipper does feel like this episode made Destiel canon, but she wasn't fully satisfied with it because we didn't get a response from Dean. She's hoping he'll say in one of the remaining episodes that he loved Cas too.
posted by Redstart at 9:27 PM on November 11, 2020


Dean: Let's go reap a reaper.

Dean: Why does this sound like a goodbye?
Castiel: Because it is.

Sam: We'll regroup somehow.
Dean: [raises glass] Yeah, to somehow.


This was Richard Speight Jr.'s 11th and last episode as a director.

Sheriff Donna Hanscum's Ford truck has a Minnesota vanity license plate that reads "D-TRAIN".

At 9 minutes in, the name brand of the Kentucky bourbon that Dean slides over to Sam is Field's. The choice of Field's brand bourbon may be a nod to the season 5 finale location, a field, where Sam takes both Lucifer and Michael to a cage in hell. Originally Supernatural was slated to conclude with the season 5 finale.

When Castiel pushes Dean out of the Empty's way, there's a hand print on Dean's jacket similar to the scar on Dean's arm and shoulder when Castiel appeared for the first time on the show and pulled Dean out of Hell in "Lazarus Rising" (ep. 4.1).

When Jack tries to touch a flower, it wilts at his approach similar to what happened when Amara touched flowers in Alpha and Omega after mortally wounding Chuck.

Charlie has been dating Stevie, one of the hunters who aided the Winchesters in "The Rupture" (ep. 14.3).
posted by orange swan at 5:28 AM on June 18, 2022

Chuck disappearing everyone the Winchesters care about, one by one, despite their frantic efforts to save them, when their entire lives have been about saving people from supernatural forces, was diabolically cruel and vindictive. He knows where to stick the knife and how to twist it.

I simply do not buy Castiel's declaration of romantic love for Dean, and I'm super pissed at the writers for putting that in there. For me it's not canon but a stupid outtake that I refuse to accept as an actual part of the series. And I don't know why Castiel couldn't have whisked Dean away to a place Billie couldn't get at them, such as heaven or possibly hell, where Rowena might have been able to protect them. All they needed was to buy some time, because Billie was dying.
posted by orange swan at 5:34 AM on June 18, 2022

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