Dean dislikes himself . . . sorta.
Back in December of 2006, the writers of Supernatural gave us a massive cliffhanger before the holiday hiatus. Dean was about to reveal to Sam what John’s last words were. Over the collective howl that came from fans for no big reveal, we all kind of forgot that the episode was about a demon virus that never really showed up again – until this episode.
The title of the episode comes from a song that was performed by The Doors and featured in the movie Apocalypse Now. Which is kind of fitting, because we’re about to see that in the world 5 years in the future, Sam has agreed to be Lucifer’s dress to the prom and Dean is holding together a ragtag group of survivalists in a apocalyptic nightmare. And I think that maybe Kurtz was close. Very close.
There is a certain symmetry in this episode. The series started 5 years ago, and here we get a glimpse into a future 5 years hence. And while there are lighter moments, this is the thing that the writers have been hinting at, and fans have been dreading. Dean verses Sam. Or possibly Sam’s meat suit with the devil inside. And then the reset button is flipped.
But back up to the very beginning. Dean is still doing his one man hunting act, and all he wants is 4 uninterrupted hours of sleep. No one else seems to want to give him a break though. Not Castiel (Who wants to meet up, but Dean says no dice.) Not Sam (Who wants to meet up, and wants Dean to take him back, but Dean says no dice.) and certainly not Zachariah (Who wants Dean and Michael to meet up, and wants to take Dean back to the future, Dean is able to say no dice to the Michael deal, but he can’t turn down Zachariah’s e-ticket ride to the future. And it has nothing to do with Zach’s smarmy used-car-salesman demeanor.).
In the future, Houston is trashed, Palin is president and Kansas City is a hot zone under quarantine with the Croatoan virus. Dean hangs around long enough to figure out that things are really bad, and then heads to Bobby’s to find out that things are really, really bad (a wheelchair riddled with bullets and a trashed out house). From Bobby’s journal he finds a photo of a possible training camp for hunters. (Camp Chitaqua, which is pronounced the same but spelled differently than Chautaqua, the adult Christian education summer camp movement popular in the 19th and 20th century.)
Dean breaks into the camp only to find the Impala trashed out (a sure sign of the apocalypse). Before he can snoop further, or even mourn for his baby, he’s knocked cold . . . by himself. Dean wakes up and is interrogated by himself. Past!Dean manages to convince Future!Dean that he’s the real deal. Then Future!Dean leaves his past self handcuffed and on the floor so that he can go on a mission to retrieve the colt. Past!Dean breaks free and goes exploring. He finds that Chuck is in charge of supplies like a survivalist Hurley from season 1 Lost, Future!Dean is still a horn dog, and that Castiel has lost his angel mojo due to the rest of the angels leaving Earth, spends his time hopped up on pain meds and started a tantric cult.
Future!Dean returns with the colt in time for Past!Dean to see him shoot an ally in the back of the head in cold blood. This is another nice call back to Croatoan, where Sam saw a vision of Dean shooting someone in the head in cold blood. Future!Dean explains that his now-dead comrade in arms had the croatoan virus, and was showing early signs of infection. Past!Dean surmises that Future!Dean has issues. Future!Dean tells his past self that they never reconnected with Sam. Then he begs Past!Dean to allow Michael in and not make the same mistakes. Then he insists that Past!Dean go with him to confront Lucifer, who is wearing Sam.
The two of them lead the rest of the Chitaqua hunters to confront Lucifer. Past!Dean surmises that his future self is letting the others go into an ambush so that he can kill Lucifer. But before he can say anything, Future!Dean knocks him out again. (Shouldn’t Future!Dean be worried about giving himself brain damage? After all, he’s only hurting himself.)
When Past!Dean comes around, he tracks himself into a cemetery, where Lucifer!Sam is just breaking the neck of his future self. (Side note here: Kripke’s influences are showing through in that Sam is wearing a white suit just like Lucifer in the Sandman spinoff graphic novel.) There is a confrontation where Dean tells Lucifer that he should kill him too because Dean won’t rest until he has hunted Lucifer down. Lucifer complements the world on how nice God made it and complains about how flawed people are.
Another fan pointed out, and I agree that the whole confrontation in the rose garden with all the red roses and Sam’s white suit kind of reminds me of a tellenovella. Particularly when Lucifer!Sam is walking away and Dean calls out to him. Which prompts Lucifer!Sam to look back over his shoulder. I could actually turn down the volume and just voice over “Enrique!” “Lucinda!” “Enriiiiiique!” “Luciiiinda!” through the whole thing and it wouldn’t feel out of place.
Just when things look bad, Zach pulls Dean back into the past. Dean once again refuses to be Michael’s meat suit. Before Zach can creatively rearrange Dean’s molecular structure once again, Castiel snatches Dean away.
After Dean’s experiences in the future, he calls Sam and agrees to start hunting with him. The two of them meet at a bridge that looks similar to where they said their goodbyes to John in Salvation (another nice callback).
The final scene of this episode is some lovely payoff for what has been an arduous three episode story arc for me. Sam had some atonement to do for his behavior last year. (I’m not talking about not trusting Dean. I’m not even talking about releasing Lucifer. I’m talking about where he killed the nurse to power his Lilith-killing special powers.) And while he’s atoning by setting things right, he’s been through a symbolic wearing of the hair shirt by being separated from Dean. Now that there has been some penance, I feel like I can root for Sam and even SamandDean again. Kudos to Ben Edlund for penning this story.