You know you’re watching a fantastic episode of The CW’s Supernatural when the end credits appear, and you are damp with tears, overwhelmed with irrational anger, and exhausted from the merciless beating your feels just endured.
Last week, the long-running sci-fi drama celebrated its milestone 300th episode by baptizing it in Jared Padalecki’s tears and Winchester feels. The much-hyped episode somehow outlived the monstrous hype by taking everything we love about Supernatural--the monster hunts, the broments, campy fight scenes--and masterfully mashing them into an hour of television that was both a love letter to the 299 episodes before it and legacy created by characters Sam and Dean Winchester and stars Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles.
Like Supernatural did in 2005, “Lebanon” starts with a quest for revenge: a local dealer of occult goods apparently murdered a friend of Sam and Dean’s. They arrive to avenge their friend and collect his ill-gotten wares. When Sam is nerdily talking about an exciting night of cataloguing, he realizes that the dealer possesses an enchanted pearl that “grants your heart’s desire.”
Thinking this could be the cure to ridding Dean of Michael who is imprisoned in his brain, Dean tries it. Since this is Supernatural and Dean Winchester has a reckless streak deeper than the Impala's hidden trunk compartment, and since he’s just a damaged little boy, his heart’s desire isn’t to be rid of of the hitchhiker in his noggin, but to see his parents reunited. Sidenote: I wondered what Sam would wish for, and could only come up with Michael safely out of Dean's head and dead, because Sam always does the righteous and selfeless thing, especially if Dean is involved. What do you think?
In a haze of red strobing light and shadows, an attacker descends on the bunker, easily mollywhopping a distracted Sam and Dean. The lights switch back on, revealing the whole and very much alive John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
“What happened to you?” John Winchester says to his boys, 16 years older than he remembers with gray hair, and ever more impossibly, laughlines.
It is one of the most loaded questions in television history.
This version of John is far softer, gooier and more open-minded than the gruff, hard-assed original John Winchester, who unspeakably punished Dean for “letting” Sam run away from his monster training as children and disowned his son for getting a full scholarship to one of the most prestigious schools in the country despite being dragged across it to Castiel knows how many schools in how many cities in how many states. Is it possible that Mary Winchester is the answer? Whatever the reason, I am lapping it up, because it's what Dean, and especially Sam, deserve.
Time is precious, and John wastes none of it apologizing to Sam. The scene in which Sam and John smooth over their tumultuous relationship is one of the hardest and proudest moments of the entire series. I discovered Supernatural more than 10 years ago when Jared Padalecki was still rocking awkward haircuts and still growing into that massive body, and it suddenly hits me how many decades Sam has struggled with his problematic relationsip with John and the devastating knowledge that he’d ordered Dean to kill him if he turned evil moments before he died. For series star Jared Padalecki, he began the show as a single 23-year-old. Now he’s married (to Supernatural star Geneiveve Padalecki) with three children, and he’s grown more as an actor than I could ever imagine. He was truly the scene-stealer of the entire night. Sam has been hovering hotly on the outskirts of major storylines for the last three seasons, and it almost felt like Padalecki was auditioning to reclaim his place as co-lead.
As Sam, Jared shakes and dimples and clenches his jaw to hold back to the emotion as he admits that it's been a lifetime since John died. “When I think about you--and I think about you a lot--I don’t think about our fights. I think about you on the floor of that hospital, and I think about how I never got to say goodbye,” Sam tearfully admits. “You did your best, dad. You fought for us, and you loved us. That’s enough.” At this point, I just have to turtle in my shirt, because this moment is beyond tears and is scorching every feels sensor I have in the best, most cathartic way possible.
If this feels too good to be true, then you're not surprised when crazy descends upon the town of Lebanon in the form of a freshly unkilled Zachariah (Kurt Fuller) and a rebooted, ruthless “I Gripped You Tight And Raised You From Perdition” Castiel. They come to right all of the wrongs the Winchesters have done to the timeline, and will smite anyone who gets in their way. It's a thrilling throwback to see Misha Collins' Castiel in his original trenchcoat and badassery, though I'll never get over angels fist-fighting.
Apparently, John Winchester wasn’t resurrected. A very much alive version from 2003 was pulled into 2019, and as a consequence, the history is rewriting itself. “Temporal Paradox,” Sam calls it like it makes sense. Five seasons of The Flash has taught me that timeline math hurts my brain and it’s better to just go with it, and accept the flimsy notion that if John disappears from 2003, Dean never pulls Sam from Stanford and continues to hunt alone; Jessica never dies; Sam becomes a kale-obsessed lawyer-douche who doesn’t have time for family (Is that a worse ending that ya know, going to hell with the Devil and the brother he hates? Or killing your monster niece? Or being tortured countless times by supernatural forces?); and some other family is cursed to save the world.
But of course, being the masochists they are and since Jeffrey Dean Morgan is due back another movie set in a day or two, they agree to continue to be the guys that saved the world to send John back but not until they finally have that family dinner. This is the first time in series history that the current Winchesters have shared a screen together, and the chemistry between them all is incendiary. The dinner scene is perfectly Winchester, a family cobbled together by bad food, alcohol and a visceral, pitbullish love that transcends time, death, heaven and hell.
The final goodbyes are some of the most gut-wrenchingly and exquisitely acted moments of the series.
Despite his gruffness, Morgan can swell the smallest of hearts with just a reverently uttered, “My girl.” Sam, who is rightfully destroyed, is crying so hard that we may have to start a Go Fund Me for a new tearducts.
Jensen Ackles, who is famous for his ability to send one perfect tear dribbling down those sculpted cheeks, his covered his tears as well. One of the cruelest call backs in an episode full of them, is Dean flinching at the sound of Sam smashing the pearl just as he did when Sam shot Madison in season 2's "Heart."
It’s darkly funny that the show that declared “no chick-flick moments” created a 300th episode containing almost nothing but.
“Lebanon” proves all of the things I’ve been saying the past few years as I’ve grown frustrated with the dwindling quality of the show: after 14 years, Supernatural can still be excellent. It skillfully weaves together the SPN staples: scares, balanced broments, humor, and action. It’s easily one of the best episodes last three seasons, and the shot of adrenaline the long-running series needs after recently being renewed for a 15th. As the old dog in The CW's yard, Supernatural doesn’t need to learn new tricks, it just needs to utilize the ones it does best.
What did you think of the 300th episode? Hit up the comments section below.
Small Screen Girl
I am an unabashed pop culture and TV-aholic with no plans to ever seek treatment. Explore this blog and see just how deep my obsession goes.