“See you in five years, Dean.”
Summary: (Beware Spoilers.) Just after learning that Sam is Lucifer’s true vessel, Dean travels five years into the future (courtesy of the ever-meddlesome Zachariah). Earth is being overrun by the Croatoan virus, Dean’s future self is the ruthless leader of a shrinking band of survivors, and, sure enough, Lucifer is wearing Sam. Naturally, there are many discussions about what 2009-Dean can do to make 2014 a little less bleak…and thus Season 5 gets kicked off in style.
Why I love it: Two words: ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE. I just can’t resist one of those. Since Sam and Dean end up stopping the Apocalypse before it reaches the zombie outbreak stage, I’m so glad this episode happened to show us what it would have been like. Complete with ruined city landscapes and grim survivors carrying more weapons than the U.S. Army. I quite enjoy that sort of thing. Did I mention I’m a Walking Dead fan? Oh, and kudos to the writers for finally explaining what the episode “Croatoan” was all about…three seasons later. That’s some serious foreshadowing!
But the real point of “The End” is to show how all the main characters would have turned out, had they failed to stop the angels’ plot. Dean has become so bitter and demoralized that he’s willing to sacrifice his friends in order to get a slim chance of killing the Devil. Cas has turned human–and a depressed, perpetually-stoned, free-love-preaching human at that. Which is funny, until it’s sad. Bobby is implied to be dead, and Sam said “yes” to Lucifer for unknown reasons. Worst of all, the Impala has been wrecked and left to rust. But hey, at least Chuck hasn’t changed!
I’d also like to mention that Satan-Sam is both one of the creepier things to ever happen on this show, and some of the best acting Jared Padalecki has done. Everything about his facial expressions, the way he moves, and the way he pronounces certain words, is so profoundly not Sam that it’s eerie, even if you ignore the fact that he just snapped future-Dean’s neck with his foot. That white suit sure was classy, though.
I don’t think Season 5 (my favourite season so far) would have been nearly as good without this episode. It lends a sense of urgency to the Winchesters’ quest to stop the Apocalypse, and seeing how badly things could have turned out makes it even more satisfying when they succeed. Even at the end of…”The End,” Dean’s reunion with Sam and thank-you to Castiel (“Don’t ever change”) is especially heartwarming in light of the terrible alternate future. Hurray for friendship and brotherly love!