In the fourth episode of the fifth season of Supernatural, Zachariah, impatient with Dean, sends Dean to the future to get a glimpse of what happens if he doesn’t give his consent to Michael. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
I did mention in the video for “The End” that this specific trope is used often in fiction and I don’t care. I love it, generally speaking, and the writers have so much fun with its use in this episode. Well, fun, and then PAINSTAKING EMOTIONAL TORMENT, because what would Supernatural even be at this point if they didn’t stomp all over our hearts? One of the things that struck me about this story was how well it conveyed the utter desperation of Zachariah at this point in time, though, and as much as I was super into all the emotional stuff between Dean and Future!Dean and Lucifer!Sam, I HAVE SO MUCH TO SAY ABOUT ZACHARIAH AND WHAT HE DID HERE.
Let’s start this off with a question to frame my thoughts: Is this the actual future? For a show that is rooted in the idea of consequence, I thought it was telling that we got to experience an entire episode about the consequence of Dean’s refusal to give his consent to Michael. Zachariah sends Dean to the year 2014, where 28 Days Later seems more prophetic than anything else. The worldbuilding here is two-fold: it’s massively physical, in terms of the geography, the rusting, the fenced-in cities, and the military force. On top of that, it’s emotional, particularly since it’s so specific to Dean.
I’ll address the latter point in a bit, but let’s start with how this show constructs a world ravaged by the Croatoan virus. Part of their worldbuilding comes from our knowledge of how the virus works, since we last saw it in season two. We know what it can do to people and we know how contagious it can be. So what happens if it’s unleashed upon the world? Where Dean lands in Kansas City is just a piece of what must have been a worldwide epidemic, but we can see the signs of misuses. Of abandonment. Of a nation that’s given up on so many things because they’ve got to focus their energy on surviving. When Dean encounters his first swarm of the infected, the whole sequence is filmed in sharp detail, awash in light, and yet it quickly becomes claustrophobic when he’s trapped. AND HOW ABOUT THAT SCENE WHERE “DO YOU LOVE ME” BY THE CONTOURS PLAYS OVER THE U.S. ARMY ANNIHILATING A PACK OF CROATOAN PEOPLE? Do you realize how utterly chilling that part is? It implies that the Army is so used to executing the infected en masse that they’ve got to make a joke about it. The music might also attract more to their location, but seriously, I couldn’t shake how surreal that was.
The world must be covered in fences. Chain link fences probably criss-cross the United States. Look at the way the folks at Camp Chitaqua live. They exist outside of what I imagine are military-led camps, and their position deep in the woods most likely give them privacy and the illusion of peace. Are there many infected outside of densely populated cities? I don’t imagine that’s the case, and the worldbuilding suggests I’m right.
And while I admit that in terms of color motifs and imagery that “The End” doesn’t exactly stray all that far from the trope, I actually think that might be the point. Once I started realizing how this journey to the future was uniquely traumatizing to Dean, I had to start questioning it. What’s one of the first things Dean finds that truly upsets him? Bobby’s wheelchair, riddled with gunshots. Then it’s the rusted and gutted Impala. Then it’s Chuck asâ€¦ nothing. He’s in charge of logistics, but it’s heavily suggested that he has no connection to the angels anymore or that they just aren’t using him as a prophet.
And then there is Castiel. It was a treat to watch Misha Collins do this, and Cas’s initial appearance was jarring and funny. In true Supernatural fashion, though, the show draws our gaze to the hilariously contradictory nature of something, AND THEN THEY REMIND US THAT NOTHING ABOUT IT IS FUNNY AT ALL. Look, Zachariah’s time travel event got Dean to appreciate that Castiel is inhuman. He got Dean to want Cas to never change. Seeing an angel not only stripped of grace but of everything that made him an angel is horrifying. It’s sad. And Dean is filled with an awkward sense of terror about the whole thing becauseâ€¦ well, doesn’t Cas become exactly what Dean wanted him to? Look no further than “Free to Be You and Me” for an example of that! Cas became a womanizing, alcohol-swilling, pill-popping man.
Of course, the two main things that this episode does for Dean is give him a future version of himself that is irreparably damaged and a chance to see what it will be like if Sam accepts Lucifer’s offer. Might be like. I’ll touch on that shortly. But both things are disturbing to Dean because they show him the ramifications of a choice. Future!Dean chose to put the mission before anything else. Future!Dean views other humans and friends as expendable. And Future!Dean has very little hope left in him. Sure, the state of the world has led him there, but that doesn’t make it any easier for Dean to comprehend all this.
Yet it’s meeting Lucifer!Sam that has the most profound affect on Dean, though not in the way Zachariah intended. Jared is SO GREAT here because we haven’t seen much of Lucifer’s mannerisms in this show, but he’s still able to make it seem like Lucifer is right there in front of us. It’s that whole thing Mark Pellegrino does to make Lucifer seem like the most genuinely concerned person in all of existence, you know? There’s a charm to the character, even if we’re always frightened by him, and Jared brings that out. AND THE WHITE SUIT. GAH. It’s a neat way to make us remember that Lucifer is an angel.
AND A NEAT WAY TO RUIN OUR LIVES. Despite seeing a future where his refusal to become a vessel is a horrible thing, Dean still says no. He says no, and the first thing he does when Castiel takes him away from Zachariah is to call Sam and accept him back. Gods, it’s such a meaningful scene because of that one line: They need to stay together to stay human. If there’s anything Dean wants to change, it’s Sam becoming Lucifer. I suspect that Dean could deal with the world falling apart as long as Sam was still by his side.
So: Was this all real? Is that the actual future if Dean doesn’t choose to accept Michael? Maybe, but I really like the idea that this was more likeâ€¦ I don’t know, an alternate universe. Or a fully constructed vision. We know the angels can do some ridiculous shit with their powers, but full on time travel to the future? The past, I can believe that. But why can’t they just constantly visit the future to figure out the endgame and find a weakness? That’s not that strong of a point, but I think it’s possible that this wasn’t actually the truth, per se. The entire experience seemed so perfectly crafted to change Dean’s mind, you know? And the angels aren’t exactly above lying! Either way, whatever this was doesn’t change how much I enjoyed it. Such a good episode!
The video for “The End” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– If you would like to support this website and keep Mark Does Stuff running, I’ve put up a detailed post explaining how you can!
– Please check out the MarkDoesStuff.com. All Mark Watches videos for past shows/season are now archived there!
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often.Â My next Double Feature will be Farscape.
– I will be at quite a few conventions and will be hosting events throughout the US, Canada, and Europe in 2014, so check my Tour Dates / Appearances page often to see if I’m coming to your city!
– Inspired by last year’s impromptu event in London, I am taking Mark in the Park on the road! You can see all currently planned dates and pitch your own city here.