Supernatural: Swan Song
August 25, 2021 6:13 AM - Season 5, Episode 22 - Subscribe

With the Apocalypse looming, Sam and Dean come face to face with Lucifer and Michael.


Chuck: The Impala, of course, has all the things other cars have... and a few things they don't. But none of that stuff's important. This is the stuff that's important. The army man that Sam crammed in the ashtray – it's still stuck there. The Legos that Dean shoved into the vents – to this day, heat comes on and they can hear 'em rattle. These are the things that make the car theirs – really theirs. Even when Dean rebuilt her from the ground up, he made sure all these little things stayed, 'cause it's the blemishes that make her beautiful. The Devil doesn't know or care what kind of car the boys drive.

Dean: [to Sam] You're a grown – well, overgrown – man.

Sam: Take care of these guys, okay?
Castiel: That's not possible.
Sam: Then humour me.
Castiel: Oh. I was supposed to lie. Uh... Sure. They'll be fine. I...
Sam: Just... just... stop talking.

Castiel: It's starting.
Dean: Yeah, you think, genius?
Castiel: ...You don't have to be mean.
Dean: What do we do now?
Castiel: I suggest we imbibe copious quantities of alcohol.

Castiel: Hey, ass-butt.

Sam-Lucifer: Castiel. Did you just Molotov my brother, with holy fire?
Castiel: Uh, no.
Sam-Lucifer: No one dicks with Michael, but me. [snaps his fingers]
Castiel: [explodes in a rain of blood and chunks of flesh]


The "swan song" is a metaphorical phrase for a final gesture, effort, or performance given just before death or retirement. The phrase refers to an ancient belief that swans sing a beautiful song just before their death since they have been silent (or alternatively not so musical) for most of their lifetime. The belief, whose basis has been long debated, had become proverbial in ancient Greece by the 5th to 3rd centuries BC and was reiterated many times in later Western poetry and art. The phrase "swan song" in modern parlance refers to a final work or performance, or the ending of a story. Swan Song is also the name of the record label created by Led Zeppelin.

This episode was supposed to be the series finale. Eric Kripke initially planned for Supernatural to be five seasons long. Thus, the episode is named "Swan Song" with a voice-over and flashbacks. However, Sera Gamble, the new show-runner, took over from season six onwards, and the show lasted for ten more seasons.

When Lucifer is showing Sam all of the people in his life who were really agents of Azazel watching over him, he refers to Sam's prom date Rachel. In "What is and What Should Never Be" (ep. 2.20), Dean is said to have slept with Sam's prom date Rachel Nave on prom night in his Djinn-induced alternate reality life.

When Dean says to Sam, "You're a grown – well, overgrown – man", Jensen Ackles, messing around on set as the Supernatural actors tended to do, ad-libbed the word "overgrown" in an attempt to make Jared Padalecki laugh. The ad-lib made it into the final cut.

Stull Cemetery, where Dean found Lucifer and Michael, is an actual place about five miles west of Lawrence, KS. It has been rumoured that in the past black masses were performed in the chapel ruins and that on Halloween night, a demon or devil sits in a tree inside the cemetery and answers questions about one's future.

Sam, talking to Dean in the car, refers to jumping into the hole with Lucifer possessing him as a "Triple Lindy". This is a reference to the '80s hit film Back to School starring Rodney Dangerfield. The Triple Lindy is an "impossible" dive performed by the main character at a dive meet, which helps the team to win the meet, saving them from what would have otherwise been a crushing defeat.

Dean refers to Castiel as "Bukowski" after he suggests they consume copious amounts of alcohol and wait to die. Charles Bukowski was famous for writing novels and poetry dealing with alcoholism, death, and other depressing subjects.

When Dean, Bobby, and Castiel are watching the news footage reporting worldwide earthquakes, the first shot showing a freeway on-ramp and overpass collapsing with dozens of vehicles on it is actually a scene from the movie Dante's Peak.

In one of Chuck's voice-overs, he says the boys would "drive two days for a Jayhawks game". The Jayhawk is the mascot of the University of Kansas. The main campus is located in Lawrence, Kansas.

Lucifer misquotes the lyrics to the Charlie Daniels' song "Devil Went Down to Georgia" when he tells Sam, "a fiddle of gold against your soul says I'm better than you". The original line in the song is, "I'll bet a fiddle of gold against your soul 'cause I think I'm better than you."

Dean asks Castiel at one point when Armageddon will take place. Castiel says he doesn't know. Armageddon is not an event, but a place (the Apocalypse is an event). The English word armageddon comes from the Hebrew "Har Megiddo", meaning "Mount of Megiddo". It has been renamed Tel Meggido and is an important archeological site.

At a convention panel, Jensen Ackles said that when his real-life brother, Josh, watched the scene where Sam-Lucifer beats up Dean, he had to stand up and walk off his anger because all he could see was his little brother getting beat up and it made him upset.

Jensen Ackles has said he began to get emotional when filming the scene in the graveyard after Dean gets beaten up, because it was an intense scene, but the tears began to dissolve the glue of his prosthetic swollen eye. It made his eye burn really badly, but they still had filming to do, and he suffered through it.

At the end of the episode, Chuck disappears after typing "The End". This is a hint at his being more than a prophet.

Lucifer talks to Sam in the mirror after Sam says "yes", and Lucifer has taken possession. Lucifer tells Sam they're "MFEO". The acronym means "Made for Each Other".

Season 5 begins and ends with someone who loves Dean being possessed (Bobby in the premier episode, Sam in the finale), then attacking Dean and ultimately fighting through their possession and retaking control before the being who's taken them over can use their body to kill Dean. Apparently, love for Dean is stronger than possession.

"Abandon All Hope" (ep. 5.10) first aired on November 19, 2009. If you look at a calendar for 2010, six months from this episode is the third week of May (the week of May 17th). "Swan Song" aired on May 13, neatly within Lucifer's six-month projection.

The time of the fight, high noon (meaning 12 midday on the dot), has both literary and political significance. It is a variant of the phrase "high time" (which means none too soon if not overdue), usage of which began in the Middle Ages when "high" in that context meant "notable" or "important". "High Noon" is also the title of a western released around the start of the Cold War in 1952, about a decent man who makes the decision to stay and fight even though no one else will stand with him and it could mean his death. As it is used in modern jargon, "high noon" typically means the time when an important fight or showdown, either literal or metaphorical, is set to happen, even if it isn't actually happening at midday.

The meeting time of Michael and Lucifer is said to be high noon by Chuck (when telling Dean) but as Dean pulls up to Stull Cemetery in the Impala you can clearly see either a sunset or sunrise in the distance behind Michael and Lucifer (and also in subsequent scenes).

When Castiel, Bobby, and Dean are watching the news through the window of a store there is a sign on the window that says "Big Deals", a possible shout out to the many demon deals on the course of the show, especially the one Sam made in the previous scene with Lucifer.

At the point when Lucifer kills Bobby, Crowley owns his soul. Bobby probably went to Hell at least briefly after Lucifer killed him, which should have fulfilled Bobby's contract with Crowley. When Castiel brought him back, it should have been with a clean slate, given that deals specify that the bargainer's soul must go to hell, not that it has to stay there.

At the end Castiel says he is returning to heaven because with Michael in the cage there is chaos up there since no one is left in charge, to which Dean replies, "So you're the new sheriff in town, eh." However the Archangel Raphael is still alive, so it stands to reason he is in command of heaven now that Michael is in a cage in hell.

Dean and Sam are hoping that Lucifer is unaware that they have the rings that form the key to his cage but even if he missed that they had taken rings from War, Famine, and Pestilence, the fact that Chicago was not destroyed the way he ordered it to be would lead Lucifer to only one conclusion: Death had found a way to disobey him. Which would have lead him to at least suspect that Death might not have his ring anymore.
posted by orange swan (7 comments total)
I loved that little glimpse of what Sam and Dean do with their time off, of them going to rock concerts and football games and sitting quietly together and looking at the stars.

Does Lucifer possessing Sam mean that Nick gets his body back for the time being?

I don't think Jared Padalecki was able to play Lucifer well. He seemed just like a more dour Sam.

And now Dean's gone to Lisa for his only adult experience of living a normal life.

That's season five done, which means that at over three months in, we're just one-third of the way through the rewatch. My word, this show is a lot. But I'm game to carry on. Let's all get in the Impala and head off to see some more monsters and get some more pie!
posted by orange swan at 6:23 AM on August 25, 2021 [2 favorites]

When I was sampling the "best of" episodes in trying to figure out if I actually wanted to watch this show, this was one of those episodes that convinced me that this show could offer up something a little bit different, a little bit extra. I didn't matter if I didn't have the full backstory to who all the characters were or all the finite details of what was causing Armageddon. What came through was the love for its characters, the strength of its writing, its sense of empathy and love and humour and torment--all of the good stuff and the reasons why I'm able to skip over the annoying ticks this show has and enjoy the ride.
posted by sardonyx at 7:17 AM on August 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

At the point when Lucifer kills Bobby, Crowley owns his soul. Bobby probably went to Hell at least briefly after Lucifer killed him, which should have fulfilled Bobby's contract with Crowley.

Oh, hey, good point. And yeah, betting that they could surprise Lucifer by having the rings was kind of a longshot and they had no other ideas, but they probably should've guessed how absurdly long a longshot it was.

The argument in the cemetery really, really sounds like it was written for Lucifer/Sam and Michael/Dean (as I'm 99% sure was the original plan when this was going to be the series finale), and having Adam there instead doesn't quite translate as well. Then again, flipping on some cock rock and talking his relatives off the ledge was like 40% of Dean's life so far. (I've been to Stull Cemetery, a couple of years before this episode. The portal to Hell thing sort of started as a joke back in the 1970s but has Escalated, as these things do, and they understandably have come to hate tourists.)

Lucifer's weird obsession with Sam and making him happy is so warped. In the very first scene where Lucifer takes over JP recognizably plays him like Nick Pellegrino does, but after that it does kind of wander. The explanation of what's happening with Nick's body and or/soul between Detroit and [spoilers] is one of those things that you just cannot think about too long without losing your mind.

I'm on Team "Chuck was at some point at least a mostly real person" and it doesn't matter what I think, because retcon magic etc etc, but Dean was around Chuck a bunch of times without his necklace heating up, but eventually it will, which means either (1) Chuck wasn't sufficiently God at the time but he will be later, or (2) they're just wrong about how the necklace works, which in either case brings me back to my eternal question about Dean's necklace, which is who would create an amulet that heats up (sometimes?) when God is around and why.

There's plenty of stuff from later seasons I enjoy, but I have a ton of affection for this particular story and era of the show for what it is, and I've had a lot of fun revisiting it with all of you, so thanks to everyone and especially orange swan!
posted by jameaterblues at 10:50 AM on August 25, 2021 [1 favorite]

The reference to the Charlie Daniels' song "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" was fun for me. One day when I was five years old, I happened to catch the beginning of that song as it played on the old Panasonic radio/cassette player that always stood on an end table in the family room. (And yes, I just spent ten minutes tracking down a photo of the same model radio we had, though I didn't even remember what make it was.) That was the first time I ever paid any attention to anything on the radio, and I sat beside that radio and listened to the song until it was done, as though it was telling me a story. It must have been nearly thirty years before I ever heard that song again -- I think I looked it up on YouTube one day -- I never forgot it. It is a fun song, if not the most appropriate listening material for a 5-year-old.
posted by orange swan at 2:27 PM on August 25, 2021

I never liked the idea of Chuck being God, especially given the disconnect between his actions and demeanor and God's general indifference toward his creation. When this originally aired I thought he'd been assumed into Heaven alive, like Elijah or Enoch.
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:17 AM on August 26, 2021 [3 favorites]

(That said there is one appearance he makes as God that I did enjoy, but that's months from now.)
posted by Pope Guilty at 6:42 AM on August 26, 2021

I'd like to use the opening monologue of this episode to once more champion my personal headcanon, that it would've been so much better if the Impala was God in the style of Deism. (Also to highlight mordax's incredible follow-up comment about "And where you see only a pair of treadmarks burnt into the asphalt, that was where I carried you," which deserves all the favorites.) Chuck's talk about the Impala being "the most important object in the universe," its early history as a vehicle for delivering bibles (haha), that the Devil doesn't care what kind of car the boys drive, the fact that the car is the site for all of Sam and Dean's most difficult conversations about morality, ethics, and their own humanity. Everyone chooses to be just a bit better after spending time in the car with Sam and Dean.

jameaterblues makes a strong point about Dean's necklace never heating up in the presence of God candidates, which I suppose knocks the legs right out from under my theory. But the love letter this episode writes to the car is so sweet I can't let go of it. Especially because the Chuck reveal always felt wrong to me. I remember catching the implied hook at the end of this episode and disliking it intensely even then.

The end of season 5 is for me a major turning point in the series. The characters' story arcs never resonate as deeply again for me, and I really miss the loss of multi-season storylines. The first five seasons build such character lore that the later seasons trade on extensively but never build upon quite as well. Rewatching it this summer with y'all (well... significantly behind y'all) has shown a lot of the cracks that don't age very well, but man. Sam, Dean, and their family issues came for me at a very specific moment in my life, and I'll forgive this show a lot for the effectiveness of that sideswipe.
posted by lilac girl at 6:24 PM on September 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

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