We start the “Then” flashback with scenes from “Croatoan,” the season two episode about a demonic virus, as well as stuff about the long-lost Colt, Zachariah threatening Dean to say yes to Michael and the brothers parting ways again. This sets us up for a lot of potential awesomeness, and thankfully, I’ll say at the beginning of the review, this episode doesn’t disappoint.

We find Dean and the Impala pulling in front of a hotel with a guy talking about God’s love and his plan for people. When the guy asks Dean if he’s thought about God’s plan for him, to which Dean replies, “Too freaking much pal,” and then walks into his obligatorily seedy hotel. The God Dude looks on after him in focus and thought…hhmm…that’s odd…wonder if that means anything…

Anyway, we then find Dean talking to Castiel…on a cell phone. That’s giggle-worthy right there. They’re talking about the Colt…you remember the Colt, right? Opened the gate to Hell, could kill anything, and was lost in season three? Yeah, thought you would. Well, while Castiel seems to think it’s still around, Dean wonders why demons would keep a gun that kills demons. Dean then finds it funny that Castiel has to use a cell phone, like “watching a Hell’s Angel ride a moped.”

Then comes one of the funniest lines I’ve ever heard in the show. While Dean is giggling to himself, Castiel flatly says, “This isn’t funny Dean. The voice says I’m almost out of minutes.” This was followed by me laughing so damned hard I not only scared my two cats, but I had to pause my DVR while wiping away the water from my eyes, it was soooooooo damned funny. Seriously, Misha Collins’ delivery of this line was spot-on perfect, and only the writing of Edlund and the acting of Collins have pulled off what otherwise might be a throwaway line done anywhere else so brilliantly.

Anyway, enough about that piece of awesomeness — and I’m still giggling about it as I write this — because there is much more to come. Dean thinks demons have melted the gun, while Cas has heard otherwise. When Cas asks Dean where he is, Dean tells him. However, when Cas tells Dean he’ll be there immediately, Dean tells him to hold on, he needs sleep, food, etc. When Dean asks him to pop in tomorrow morning, after agreeing, Dean hangs up, leaving Castiel to say, “I’ll just…wait here then…” lending Cas to stand patiently on the side of the road. Funny thing is, you totally believe Cas would just stand there for four hours, waiting.

Cut to later in the evening when we find Dean’s phone buzzing. Dean awakes, thinking it’s Cas, but it’s actually Sam. They then discuss Lucifer revealing that Sam is his vessel. While Sam is expecting a little panic, Dean says “I’m done with the Earth-shattering revelations at this point.” Which is kind of how I felt at the last episode, but I digress…Sam then tells Dean he wants back into the hunting game, of which Dean is immediately wary, and rightly so. While Sam wants redemption rather than revenge, Dean says it doesn’t matter what they do, they are the fire and oil of Armageddon because they need to stay away from each other. Dean thinks they’re weaker together because the enemy will use whatever they have, love, family, whatever, against them.

While Dean goes onto tell Sam they’re better apart, I know I don’t buy it. The thing is, I’m not sure Dean does either. When Dean is telling Sam this, and then subsequently hangs up on him, the face Dean is wearing is so pained and anguished that I have a hard time believing in the sincerity of his words. While I’m sure part of Dean thinks he’s doing the right thing, part of him, I think, wants to bring Sam back into the fold to protect him, and it’ll be interesting to see how these feelings Dean doesn’t fully want to handle — as Dean is oft to do — play out over this and future episodes, because for their own safety…heck, their own survival, they’ll have to be dealt with.

Anyway, we find Dean waking up the next morning…but things don’t look right in his hotel room. Not that it was really charming before, but now it’s a disaster. Dean, of course, looks confused as hell. Once he looks out the window, we see why…Kansas City is — where the hotel was — in ruins, wherein it was totally intact the night before. What the hell happened? We then find Dean wandering the wrecked city, and WOW did the production folks do a good job. I totally believe that this city has fallen apart, and the production staff did a great job putting such a horrid looking place together.

After Dean walks around a bit, looking around — with some great camera work showing someone/thing is also looking at him — Dean finds a little girl playing with…glass? Dean approaches her to see if she needs help. She bleeds a bit and then lashes out at him! EEP! She looked nasty! Dean punches her and knocks her out, then turns to see the word “Croatoa” spray painted on the wall. ACK! The demony Croatoa virus from season two!!

An aside for a moment. One of the things I love about this show is how EVERYTHING seems to fit together. How the test of a demonic virus three seasons ago comes back in full force, showing us more of the grand scheme and design this show has had from the beginning. I’ve been watching some season one episodes recently with a new fan, and in recently watching “Faith” I couldn’t help but go “OMG!” in my head several times due to the foreshadowing and clues they give as to things that would happen three or four seasons down the line. It’s this kind of cohesion, this kind of focus, that helps me come back week after week.

Anyway, Dean is shocked, and in a Hellboy-type moment simply says “Oh crap.” He’s then approached by several civilians, all of whom appear to be infected with the virus. A tense foot chase ensues wherein Dean runs like hellfire to avoid these “people.” Dean finds himself cornered when an Army Humvee approaches and begins laying waste to the infected populous. The soldiers then start playing “Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance)” by The Contours , a very surreal song to be playing at that moment, but it added an element surrealism to the scene which made it that much more awesome.

We come back to Dean crossing the fence to find a sign saying Kansas City was closed in 2014! Crap, more time travel! After hotwiring a car, Dean finds Zachariah in the passenger seat, talking about the Croatoan Pandemic, President Palin (WTF? IT IS ARMAGEDDON!), and no sports due to Congress banning group assemblies. When Dean asks how he was found, Zach tells him the angels have resorted to human informants. OMG, that God Dude outside Dean’s hotel! Great, now Dean is gonna have to hide from angels AND other humans. Things just keep getting more complicated…

Zachariah is going to keep him in 2014 for three days to show the consequences of him saying no to Michael. Awesome. We then find Dean at Bobby’s place, which is a wreck. We then find…a wheelchair with three bullet holes in the back? CRAP, Bobby CAN’T be dead…but the evidence points to it. Dean then finds Bobby’s diary in which he finds a picture of Dean, Bobby, Cas and others at Camp Chitaqua. Dean then proceeds to the camp, and sees his beloved Impala ruined! She’s overgrown with weeds and grass…and it’s so sad to see…then Dean gets knocked out…by DEAN?!

We come back to find Dean, being held captive by Dean…Future Dean, who looks like a real hardass…more than usual. Past Dean tries to convince Futur
e Dean that he’s actually him. When Dean asks him to tell him something only he/they would know. Past Dean then goes into how he tried a pair of panties on when he/they were nineteen…and how he/they kinda liked it. This convinces Future Dean of Past Dean’s validity.

Apparently the Croatoan virus hit two years ago (2012? Like the movie? Awesome!). Future Dean then tells Past Dean that Sam was lost in a heavy showdown in Detroit. Apparently Sam and Future Dean haven’t talked in five years, which shocks Past Dean, as it should. When Future Dean leaves Past Dean chained up (leaving Past Dean to essentially call himself a “dick,”), he escapes to find Chuck. Chuck talks about supplies and what not, when Past Dean gets attacked by a girl, Reesa, with a broken heart. Obviously a misunderstanding, right? Past Dean then finds Cas surrounded by very pretty ladies — all the girls in this camp are pretty…weird — giving what looks to be a sermon that leads…to an orgy? Wow, this isn’t the Cas we know…

Cas immediately sees Past Dean as being from the past, and immediately nails down that Zach did this to him. Sadly, Cas can’t “strap on his wings” and take him back. Cas, being “generally” stoned, replies “life” when Past Dean asks what happened to him. Sadly, Cas can’t send him back, so Past Dean is still stuck here for the moment. Then, Future Dean returns with his comrades, one of whom he shoots seemingly in cold blood in front of Past Dean. Future Dean explains that the guy got infected by “Croats” and didn’t want to trouble him with bad news. It’s a shame to see Future Dean having lost so much of his humanity.

I also noticed that, on Future Dean, he’s not wearing the silver ring Past Dean normally wears on his right hand…wonder what happened to it. Anyway, when Past Dean asks about the mission Future Dean went on, Future Dean shows him…the Colt! Yay! I was worried we had lost it forever, but here it is…in 2014…When Past Dean asks where it was, Future Dean replies, “Everywhere,” explaining it has been moved around a lot. Um…hello…Future Dean? Could you TELL PAST DEAN where it was so he could find it in 2009? Lost opportunity there, I think…

Future Dean has it in his head that he’s going to “kill the Devil” that night, while Past Dean looks fairly, and unsurprisingly skeptical. When then find both Dean’s in a meeting with Reesa and Castiel. Apparently Future Dean knows where Lucifer is, based on intel from a demon. Castiel subtly explains that Future Dean tortured the demon…something Past Dean has a big problem with, unsurprisingly so (since Dean torturing folks is what started this whole mess). Past Dean then wonders why Future Dean is taking him on the mission…and Future Dean wants him to see something…their brother, Sam. Apparently, Sam didn’t die in Detroit, he said the “big yes,” letting Lucifer in. Future Dean doesn’t even know why Sam accepted him, and Future Dean thinks Dean needs to see it so he can see how bad it is.

Then Future Dean tells Past Dean to say yes to Michael. Past Dean, of course thinks it’s crazy to say yes, but Future Dean is pretty insistent. When Past Dean asks Future Dean why he hasn’t said yes, Future Dean says he has until he’s blue in the face, and that the angels aren’t listening anymore. Crap, this doesn’t bode well for either brother…or the freaking future of humanity as a whole…then Future Dean then tells Past Dean that he was wrong to be so *censormode*y and self-confident. Dean, past or future, barely admits he’s wrong, so that’s pretty damned big.

Before they embark on the mission, Chuck tells Past Dean to “horde toilet paper, horde it like it’s gold, because it is.” I love how they slip in even more little bits of humor into an otherwise VERY dark and heavy episode like this. Castiel and Past Dean drive to their mission, and Castiel is…drugged on amphetamines?! Past Dean asks him what’s up, and Castiel says he’s gone mortal. It had something to do with the angels leaving, so Cas’ mojo drained away. Castiel seems pretty bitter about it, as he should. Now he feels hapless and hopeless, so he buries himself in decadence to get through it. It’s sad to see someone so mighty fall so far…

We then find our team at the Jackson County Sanitarium, wherein Future Dean assures his people that the enemy will never see them coming. Past Dean takes Future Dean aside and confronts him about lying to his people. Apparently Future Dean thinks the Croats cleared a path for them, and that it’s a trap. Future Dean also says Cas and the others are decoys, and that the Dean’s are going in the back. When Past Dean threatens to stop Future Dean’s machinations, Future Dean knocks him out!

Past Dean awakes to find the battle underway, and runs toward the building to find Future Dean pinned under a white-shoed foot…Sam/Lucifer (Samifer? Slucifer?) standing above him, only to break Future Dean’s neck a second later. Wholy crap that’s….just…wrong! Samifer seems honestly surprised to see Past Dean. When Now-The-Only-Alive Dean tells Samifer to kill him, Samifer says it would be redundant.

I have to give props for a couple of things here. First, the show’s presentation of Lucifer…instead of this megalomaniacal, horrible, nasty visage, we get calmness, peace, serenity, a belief in what he’s doing and a quiet sense of right and purpose. Lucifer is peaceful, relaxed, and dare I say it, convincing as Hell. I also think Jared deserves props for his acting here, because in this entire sequence, I didn’t see any of Sam in this performance, which was fantastic.

Samifer then asks, when Dean accuses him of deep-frying the planet, “Why would I want to destroy this stunning thing? Beautiful, in a trillion different ways. The last perfect handiwork of God.” Samifer then tells Dean about his fall from grace…about how he loved God more than anything…about how God created the “little hairless apes”, and then asked all his angels to bow down before man…to love them more than God. Lucifer couldn’t do it, saying “Father, I can’t. These human beings are flawed, murderous.” And for that, Lucifer says, God had Michael cast Lucifer into hell. He then asks if the punishment fits the crime, even if he was right…

Remember what I said about convincing as hell? By the end of this little speech, I was like “freaking humans, we DO suck.” Seriously, no lie, I was convinced, in a way and just for a moment, that Lucifer’s punishment didn’t fit his crime. It’s odd, how amazing writing and terrific acting can be so convincing, even when your heart and mind tell you otherwise. Just letting that doubt in for a moment is usually all it takes for an opinion to begin to change, and honestly, my opinion of Lucifer, on this show, changed a little.

Dean is unconvinced by this “Sympathy for the Devil” kind of thing (see what the show did there? Hah!). He thinks Lucifer is a *censormode*roach, an evil piece of crap, and the only difference is the size of Lucifer’s ego. While Dean tells Samifer that he’ll never stop hunting him, and that he’ll kill him, Samifer says that no matter whatever choices Dean makes, he’ll still end up there, in that garden, where he dies. When Samifer declares that he wins, Dean begins to cry silent, single tears. After Lucifer leaves, Zachariah appears to zap Dean back to 2009.

We then find them back in Dean’s original hotel room. The camera angles here are interesting. Closeups on Dean and
Zach’s faces, maybe to show their sincerity, I’m not sure, but it’s unsettling, and maybe that’s the point. When Zach tells Dean to say yes to Michael before billions die, Dean says “nah.” Dean learned a lesson in the future, but not the one Zach wanted to teach. When Zach says he’ll teach it again, because he has him now and…hah, we find Dean gone. Yay!

We then find Dean on the road next to Castiel, Cas saying “we had an appointment.” Dean then tells Cas to never change and then makes a phone call. We then find Dean waiting silently with the Impala while Sam pulls up! Dean greets him, then pulls out Ruby’s knife, to which Sam backs up a beat, looking nervous. Dean then flips it around, handle out, and gives it to Sam, breaking the tension a bit. Dean then apologizes, again.

Dean then says, “Maybe we are each other’s Achilles Heel…maybe they’ll find a way to use us against each other, I don’t know. I just know we’re all we’ve got. More than that, we keep each other human.” Amen, brother, amen, as that has several meanings, and it was perfectly said. When Sam asks what they do now, Dean says they make their own future.

Holy. Freaking. Crap. That episode was filled with so many pieces of awesomesauce I can barely list them all. This review might be too long already, but I honestly couldn’t shorten it without missing something too good to miss. Many questions come from this episode. Was that really 2014, or a big hallucination by Zach to get Dean to say yes? If Cas lost his mojo, why didn’t Lucifer lose his? I know they’re different calibers of angels, but still. Who the hell would elect a president Palin?

This episode might be one of the greatest in the series, and is definitely the greatest in this current season so far. Asking as many questions as it answers, “The End” is a perfect example of expert storytelling, woven together by fantastic writing, exceptional acting and a dedication to detail that, I feel, is unmatched in today’s current TV landscape. Yeah, I said it. While we’re only four episodes into the season, I can barely believe this show has already passed its own bar of awesomeness and set it even higher. Again. While I’d worry about other shows losing their momentum, I don’t see that being a problem here.

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