How do you wrap up a season of television of absolutely epic proportions? You put everything—and I do mean everything—on the line. Team Free Will’s name has never meant more than it does in this week’s episode of Supernatural: Inherit the Earth.

BEWARE: Spoilers ahead for a subtly socially distanced episode.

The world is empty; no one anywhere. Baby pulls up into an empty intersection where Jack (Alexander Calvert) and Sam (Jared Padalecki) wait for Dean (Jensen Ackles). They all agree about what they’ve seen: every animal, every bird, every person is gone. When Jack asks where Castiel is, Dean’s face falls. He’s still wearing the jacket stained with Castiel’s handprint. He explains how Castiel summoned The Empty: to stop Billie, to save Dean. Everyone takes a moment to digest the news.

The Winchesters in an empty world

They go into a bar where music still plays and a beer tap is running. The TV shows an empty football field and the score of a game only partly played. Jack waits outside, sitting on the edge of a planter, trying to come to terms with Castiel’s death. When he gets up, we see that the plants have withered . . . and each planter he passes withers as he walks by. He goes into the bar where Dean has poured himself a beer. Sam blames himself for the world being empty; he’s the one who resisted Chuck’s plotline. He insists it’s time to give up. After all, what do they have left to fight Chuck with?

Hours later, in front of a massive office building, Sam and Dean wait for Chuck. When he appears, they surrender: We’ll give you the ending you want, they say, but you have to restore everyone and everything—especially Castiel. Chuck (Rob Benedict) tells them it’s too late, but he’s going to enjoy the new story: The Winchesters alone on a planet empty because they denied him.

Sam, Dean, and Jack rattle around the empty bunker. Dean’s apparently drinking away the misery. Jack realizes that he’s feeling a presence in the world. The boys get into Baby and follow his sensation.

Dean grabs onto hope in the shape of a shaggy dog he names Miracle | The CW

At a roadside stop, Dean discovers a lonely dog, immediately names it Miracle, and brings it out to show Sam. He puts the sweet pup into the car, obviously already in love, and then watches it evaporate. Chuck stands in the distance, waves, and disappears. Dean’s face hardens. Chuck’s new plan is to torture them.

Celestial players

Hours later, still following Jack’s sensation, they pull up to a church. Inside, candles are lit and open books are strewn everywhere. Michael the archangel (Jake Abel), in the guise of the Winchesters’ half-brother Adam, appears. He tells them that he’s avoided using his powers to hide from Chuck; he assumes that Chuck is angry that he aided Sam and Dean. He tells them that Adam, with whom he shared a physical vessel, is gone, disappeared by Chuck when Chuck disappeared everyone else. He then says he’s been spending his time learning about humanity, and that his campaign to burnish Chuck’s image was successful. “Daddy’s boy,” Dean says disdainfully. But not anymore; Michael tells them he’s ready to do whatever the Winchesters need.

Back at the bunker, they ask Michael to try to read Chuck’s death book. He tries but fails to open it.

Sam and Dean wait for Chuck’s next move | The CW

Despondent, Sam and Dean wait for Chuck’s next move. That’s when Dean’s phone rings. It’s Castiel. He says he’s hurt and needs to get into the bunker. Dean rushes to the bunker door and opens it, only to find Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) there. Chuck’s pulled Lucifer from The Empty to retrieve his death book. Because only Death can read the book, Lucifer produces a captive reaper. The cosmic rule is that after Death dies, the next reaper to die assumes the mantle of Death, so Lucifer has brought Betty the reaper along to hurry-up the process. He kills her and she rises, Death’s ring on her hand and Death’s scythe by her side. Betty demands they hand over Chuck’s death book. They leave her in the dungeon archive to get on with the reading.

Celestial family is no better than an earthly one

Jack and Lucifer wait for the boys in the library. Michael comes in (where has he been, exactly?) and they have some bitter family banter. Sam and Dean join them, and Death follows. She’s read the book. When she starts sharing what she found, Lucifer kills her and grabs the book. After all, his job was to retrieve it. He knocks Sam and Dean back; he repels Michael. He invites Jack to join him and Chuck on their side. Jack watches Lucifer make his argument and suddenly, obviously, looks physically uncomfortable. Michael appears behind Lucifer and stabs him with an archangel blade. Lucifer drops Chuck’s death book. His mouth and eyes flare with blazing light. Jack steps closer and pants, sweating. Lucifer disappears and the book falls to the floor. Michal thanks Sam and Dean for the blade.

Dean sizes up Michael | The CW

In the kitchen, Dean thanks Michael for being there. He says that Chuck knows something is up; Chuck wouldn’t take the chance of showing up himself. Michael is clearly sad that Chuck didn’t reach out to him to help him. When Dean asks if that’s what he wanted, Michael says no; Dean looks skeptical. He tells Michael that now that the book is open, Sam is going to try to decipher some of the symbols and figure out the endgame.

Summoning Chuck

Later, in the library, Jack, Dean, and Michael are researching. Sam comes in with word that there’s a spell that has to be done at a particular place at a particular angle from the sun that will summon Chuck and finish him. They go to the location in question. Sam and Dean prepare the spell in three bowls. Sam drops a match into the concoction. Three columns of fiery light burst from the bowls and shoot into the sky, then flash out.

And there’s Chuck, right on cue. He sweeps Sam, Dean and Jack aside like swatting flies. He thanks Michael for the heads-up about the Winchesters’ plan. Michael says he’s always known it was his destiny to serve, but Chuck says it’s too little too late and kills Michael.

Chuck dismisses Michael’s loyalty | The CW

Sam and Dean recover and get up. Chuck’s clearly bored with playing with them; he’s canceling their show. If that’s the end, Sam decides to take a swing at Chuck just for good measure. In return, Chuck uses his power to slowly kill Sam and Dean. But just as he’s about to snap them out of existence, he decides it’ll be more fun to physically grind them to pulp before inflicting the final blow. So he starts just beating them to hell. And with every punch they take, every kick Chuck inflicts, every bone he breaks, they fall but they get up again. No matter how hard or how much he hits them, they rise. He tells them to give it up, but they won’t. He actually begs them. Finally, Sam helps Dean get to his feet and they both smile. Why? Sam says, “Because you lose.”

Chuck meets his fate

Chuck turns to find Jack behind him. He tries to snap Jack out of existence, but nothing happens. Jack approaches him, puts his hands on either side of Chuck’s face and absorbs all of Chuck’s power. Chuck falls to the ground. His eyes glowing golden, Jack snaps and heals the Winchesters of all the damage that Chuck has inflicted.

Sam picks up the book. Chuck asks what they did. Dean says, “We won.” Sam throws the book down at Chuck. It’s unreadable; after all, only Death can read it. Dean explains their actual plan.

Once they realized that Michael would do anything to be Chuck’s favorite again, they fed him a story about a spell, about capturing and destroying Chuck—which they knew Michael would use to get into Chuck’s good graces again. All the work that they did, charging Jack up, turned him into a cosmic bomb. Once he went off in The Empty, he became a sort of power vacuum, absorbing energy everywhere, recharging him like a battery. When Lucifer showed up, it was clear they could use all of his power and Michael’s—especially as they fought—to charge Jack up to take on Chuck. And when Chuck appeared up on the beach, he released God power as he first killed Michael and then beat up the Winchesters. That gave Jack what he needed to absorb all of Chuck’s energy.

“This,” Chuck says, “is why you’re my favorites.” He never saw this coming: to die at the hands of Sam Winchester, of Dean Winchester, the ultimate killer. Dean tells him, “That’s not who I am.” (And that’s a victory for Castiel who, in “Despair,” showed Dean himself in a way no one ever had before. It’s a victory for Dean because it changes everything for him. The ultimate character growth!) Jack confirms that Chuck’s power won’t return ever again because it’s not his power any more. They leave a human Chuck, doomed to live a human life, on the beach, begging for the attention he has always so desperately wanted.

Even winners get bloodied along the way | The CW

Jack saves the world

Back in town, Dean says to Jack, “All right, kid. You really think you can pull this off?” Jack smiles, closes his eyes, and we watch as people slowly reappear in cities and towns all over the world. Suddenly Sam, Dean and Jack are surrounded by people, Miracle comes bounding across the street, the sun is shining. The world is restored, and it feels like a gift. “Way to go!” says Dean, absolutely delighted. Sam asks if Jack is the new . . . being in charge. Dean says it doesn’t matter; the world is back online. Sam asks about Amara; Jack says she’s with him, in harmony. Dean assumes Jack will come back to the bunker with them, go home, hang out. Jack and Sam exchange glances; Sam knows that’s not going to happen.

Jack has to say it explicitly to Dean, though. He explains he’s already home—he’s everywhere. He really is the new God. Dean, facing another loss, tries to sort of guilt Jack, saying it’s a helluva time to bail, people have questions. But Jack’s got a new self-possession; Dean doesn’t shake him. He talks about people finding their own answers, being at their best when they need to be. Jack says he learned that from the Winchesters and from Castiel. He says goodbye, turns, and disappears in gentle, white light.

Writing their own story

Back in the bunker, Sam and Dean share a beer. Now that Chuck’s gone, they can write their own story–“Finally free,” says Dean–and they head out to find it.

The camera focuses in on the names and initials carved into the library table. There, we see not only Sam, Dean, and their mother’s initials, but Castiel and Jack’s names as well. As “Running on Empty” plays, a montage rolls by of scenes from the last 15 seasons, including guest stars and returning regular characters.

Not quite the ending

It’s not quite the ending for the Winchester boys, though this episode certainly felt like both a season and a series finale. We’ve still got one more episode in the Winchester story. The showrunners have said in interviews that the very last episode will be more of an old-school story—just Sam and Dean saving people, hunting things, the family business.

I’ve been trying to decide why, as good as “Inherit the Earth” is, it felt less than completely satisfying. I suspect it’s because with an exception at the very end, there’s no moment that belongs just to Sam and Dean. There’s so much story to wrap up that it’s all plot-plot-plot. This week’s episode could have been told over several episodes rather than just one. There’s been little time to digest Castiel’s death. The true moments of character development happen by themselves and pretty quickly: Dean seeing himself as more than a killer, Jack owning his new power. Sam doesn’t get a moment for himself. It makes me wonder if, in the next episode, we’ll see him get his final catharsis or a reunion with Eileen (a story still unfinished; when last we didn’t see her, she had been vanished by Chuck mid-text message).

“Inherit the Earth” has left me wanting more which, I suppose, is what good television is supposed to do. At the same time, there was too much packed into this one episode to give the viewer time to breathe and feel everything that it had to give. So we’ll see what next week brings.

Supernatural in the media

TV Guide: It’s Winchester Week (TV Guide has put together a great tribute to the series, with interviews and behind-the-scenes articles; it’s hella fun.

Entertainment Weekly: Supernatural boss says series finale is ‘more of an old-school episode’

TV Insider: 15 days of Supernatural

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