Dean is transported five years into the future in order to see what the end of the world would be like if he refuses permission to give his consent to become Michael’s vessel, showing us a dark, bleak world where the demonic virus (last seen in the second season episode “Croatoan”) has been spreading like wildfire, destroying most of humanity by making them into demonic zombies. Dean meets his future self, a colder and hardened version of himself, as he is a “fearless leader” of a resistance group and intends on hunting down and killing Lucifer (who is now in possession of Sam’s body) by the Colt, which he retrieves after five years of searching.
Dean discovers more about this bleak future and what had failed based on events in the present day, and while Zachariah had planned on giving Dean this future so he would agree to become Michael’s vessel, Dean instead, after returning back to present time, refuses to agree to anything and plans on creating his own future, his own destiny. He then contacts Sam and allows him to hunt beside him again.
The Inevitable Future...Or Is It?
One of the most interesting questions I’ve come across is whether this future Dean was thrust in was the possible future that could happen if certain events don’t pan out as planned, or if it was constructed solely by Zachariah only to get Dean to agree to his terms about accepting his role as being a vessel for an archangel to defeat Lucifer.
There are clues that this future was all fabricated, at least a bit, for what could happen if there wasn’t any agreement to consenting. Starting from Zachariah mentioning what the world would be like if Dean doesn’t accept his calling, and then future!Dean tells our Dean that if he had a chance to have a do-over he would say “yes” in a heartbeat. Which totally isn’t Dean Winchester we know, even if this possible future might have undergone some pretty difficult stuff that changed him fundamentally. He would never have agreed to give consent to become a willing human vessel to a powerful archangel that may very well destroy him. Which looking back at the episode now, even when future!Dean says that they would never say yes anyway, because it’s not them, might be that key point where it could go either way. Either a possible or fabricated future for Dean to consider the possibility that if agreeing of consenting none of this would ever happen.
But it’s the ending that really makes the strongest case in that scenario, when Zachariah is more smug and pleased with himself at making Dean see just a horrific ending of the world that, of course he would have to agree to such a deal right? Well, he wasn’t banking on Dean learning another lesson that wasn’t his intentions, and when he got confused and infuriated when Dean, once again, refused he said something along the lines of “then I’ll have to show you again!” Proving that it’s highly possible this future was wholly constructed by him.
I wouldn’t put it passed him to do something like that. The angels are quite sneaky and manipulative to get things working the way they want it to (altering Dean’s message to Sam in the fourth season finale, for example).
Other clues, which were pointed out to me the other night by alexwhitman25, were some of the things future!Castiel mentions about being part of a “better club” after revealing that he’s now human because of the angels abandoning them, leaving him powerless. Now, this can be taken two different ways: one way is Castiel looking back on everything and just be homesick and realizing that Heaven and his brothers were no longer with them, there was no chance of him returning to his home (which has been made clear that he doesn’t want to become human; he may love humankind because they are his Father’s creations, but he doesn’t want to become one and dislikes being hunted by his own kin based on his decision of disobedience). Thus, his comment is merely based on bitterness and cynicism because he is powerless and helpless without Heaven’s interference, and has nothing else to fight for anymore now the end is finally there. The other way of looking at that is that Zachariah created this version of Castiel based off that decision of joining the humans and reminiscing over how amazing Heaven had seemed before and possibly regretting his decision in the first place, and really giving his own personal twist on how he views Castiel now that he's joined Dean and disobeyed orders.
I’m heading more towards the former because, constructed or not, this is precisely how a broken Castiel would be. Cynical, loss of faith and hope and bitter about not having his family and the only home he’s ever known to look forward to again. It’s so utterly sad.
Either way one looks at this, the future featured in this episode is dark and dreary, with no sense of hope or faith in anything other than waiting for the end to come.
Dean Winchester: Present vs. Future
First of all, Jensen Ackles deserves all the recognition from this episode alone for being able to capture both future and present Dean in such distinctive yet subtle ways, making them the same yet exactly the opposite of each other. From the voice and how he walked and those little glances, yeah. I loved seeing him playing two versions of Dean, the one we know and the cynical more sociopath-like one, and I’d like to observe the latter because while he’s a cold hard asshole, it’s understandable given his experiences in this probably future.
War changes people, and while the Winchesters have endured so much over the course of their lives, having the end of the world over your shoulders is an entirely different ballgame. We learn that this future version of Dean underwent incredible changes and went from supernatural hunter to fearless leader of the human resistance in those five years. Went total John Connor mode, however this is more like a harder more pessimistic version than anything we’ve seen him being. Even our present day Dean was shocked to learn what his future self has been doing, and what has changed in all of that time. He was shocked when he saw his future self shooting a man in cold blood, realizing that he was going to sacrifice his friends to the hounds just to save the world, which is something our Dean would never, ever consider doing. Not ever.
But again, war changes a man, and especially living for five years underneath the destruction of humanity by the freaking Apocalypse, demons roaming the Earth and a demonic virus taking out humanity one by one; having that constant fear and worry that your friends might not be your allies for very long. It adds to the stress, it adds to making tough calls underneath that pressure and choosing one alternative over another.
Think along the lines of the atmospheres of Battlestar Galactica and Terminator for a moment, how terrible their lives are in a post-apocalyptic world, the sacrifices a leader must make for the survival of the human race. Future!Dean was making choices and decisions for the larger picture, of killing Lucifer and to save the world before it’s too late, which might have started off simple enough. Worrying about the welfare of those that have survived and rounding up all what he could, saving those he could. But something happened between those five years that hardened him, his heart went cold and black, and he lost a sense of himself. He lost all of humanity and was going on pure instinct: revenge, killing Lucifer, no matter what the cost. Having little regard for anything and anyone. Even resorting to his torture methods that he learned from Alastair in Hell, only to gain what he needed to end everything. That’s the scariest bit of all.
He wasn’t Dean Winchester anymore; he had become someone else entirely. Something changed and snapped inside of him, and he lost himself along the way. And that’s what eventually got him killed.
Thankfully this is a future that can be prevented and now that Dean saw this he can make damn sure it doesn’t ever happen, hence him returning more aware after witnessing what he did. I think it’s seeing what you could become so you can make a difference in your own future is worth it, and while that is not the lesson that Zachariah had wanted him to learn, it was enough for Dean to make that decision himself.
Sam and Dean: "We Make Our Own Future"
I admit, I do think it’s too early for Sam and Dean to rejoin each other’s presence again since there is still some growth period for them to do to become individuals than the codependency issue returns, but I do like that Dean initiated it by calling up his brother after getting the information earlier in the episode of him being Lucifer’s true vessel and what he witnessed in the future, it seemed natural to contact his brother and not let such a thing happen. I doubt they’ll be the same – they aren’t going back to “hey it’s all good” because it still isn’t between them, but it’s more of staying together because it’s what they do. It’s who they are, as a family they will never abandon each other.
It also makes it better when Sam says, “I won’t let you down” because it means that they’re still on the not trusting department. Sam still has to prove himself that he won’t go haywire or lose control when demons are around and give into temptation. Dean still distrusts Sam, and Sam of himself too, but I think with understanding this episode it’s better for them to stick together in times of the Apocalypse.
So, in your face to all those that were bitching about the brothers being apart, as if there’s anything anyone should have learned about this show by now is that they are never apart for long, even if they are on separate ends.
There’s also the motto of the show: “we make our own future.” This is what Dean tells Sam in the very end, realizing and acknowledging that the future shouldn’t be written in stone and that nobody, no angel or demon or whatever else supernatural, can tell them how to live their lives and what their futures will be like. They are human, they make their own decisions, their own choices, and they will choose their own path towards their own future. Together.
Supernatural has always been about the resilience and the perseverance of humanity, and in the future we saw nearly everyone had lost their sense of humanity; lost the sense of reason, of hope. We don’t want to see that. Instead, Dean takes that further leap by allowing Sam back in the game because together, as a family, they keep each other sane, they keep each other human. He saw what he might become without contact with his brother for five years, he saw what he might become if there’s nobody else to rely on aside from Castiel and Bobby, saw what life would be like without his other half, his brother. He doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want to lose touch with his humanity. Despite all they’ve been through and are still going through now, family is all they have.
Choices, decisions, humanity and family – these are the important factors in Supernatural, and I love the direction they are heading with it.
Memorable Moments of the Episode
++ "THE VOICE SAYS I'M ALMOST OUT OF MINUTES!" SO ADORABLE LOLING FOREVER! BESTEST CASTIEL LINE EVER!
++ How dedicated is Castiel to Dean? I mean really, I absolutely love their growing friendship without a doubt but the fact that Castiel was going to stand there at the side of the road for four hours while Dean got his shuteye is just...omg, so much devotion. I adore how human Castiel is becoming, still alien to our world of course, but the fact that he’s on a CELL PHONE is just too much to handle. Adorable.
++ I will also say that Castiel saving Dean in the end from Zachariah? The “we had an appointment” line? So much love.
++ "NEVER CHANGE!" ♥ ♥ ♥ LOOKIT THEIR AFFECTION LOOKS TO ONE ANOTHER! OTP 4EVAH PPLS! I AGREE WITH DEAN, NEVER CHANGE CASTIEL BB, NEVER EVER CHANGE. ♥
++ But...WHERE'S MY DEAN/CASTIEL HUG?!?!?! KRIPKE THIS IS A FANSERVICEY SEASON YOU'RE PROVIDING US, SO YOU BETTER GIVE US A DEAN/CAS HUG OR ELSE!!!
++ Fast-forward to the year 2014. Let me just say I adored with what they did with the look of everything in this future, they destroyed everything, making it so completely dark and dreary and deserted. Lacking of any human life whatsoever. When Dean was walking amongst the cars along the street I couldn’t help but think of Resident Evil (which is precisely what they were aiming for I think, with the zombies being infected by the virus, definitely paralleling right there) and of course having CROATOAN marked on the walls, making it obvious what had happened. LOVED THE SCENE WITH DEAN RUNNING FROM THE DEMONIC ZOMBIES! It was an amazing scene. IT IS THE MOTHERFUCKING ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE!
++ Military men in uniform in their hummer, blasting out rock music and shooting down the zombies = love. I’m betting the future Dean taught them this.
++ So Dean Winchester = John Connor, amirite?
++ Dean. Pink satin panties. 'Nuff said. ;D
++ I am loving the hunt for the Colt – I’ve been wondering about the Colt for some time now, and I’m happy that they are revisiting that. Which may confirm that the Colt can also kill angels, which Castiel doesn't seem too pleased with this hunt for killing Lucifer (still thinking it's a foolish idea), but I love it. They are off to hunt for the Colt!
++ OMG BOBBY IS DEAD! AND THE IMPALA IS DEAD TOO! OH NOES!
++ “Get cleaned up for the orgy.” Forever laughing at this, and Dean’s double take and utter confusion over this version of Castiel was perfection, just saying.
++ Stoned, broken and faithless and hopeless Castiel makes me sad. But I loved that even while stoned he was able to figure out immediately that present day Dean isn’t the Dean from that future, which makes my heart warm a bit because of course Castiel would know the differences between the two Deans. Even his line later with the “What? I like past you” is evident of this.
++ Seeing Castiel smiling and laughing – that was pure Misha right there.
++ So, with paralleling things here, not only is Dean Winchester kinda like John Connor, but he’s also the way too fucked up version of Kara Thrace during her darkened days while Castiel is the stoned hippie version of Gaius Baltar and his lovecult? That’s…kind of awesome, in a twisted sense. Although I think that future!Dean has a bit of Admiral Cain in him too, just for the sake of how hardened and stone cold he’s become.
++ CASTIEL PART OF THE RESISTANCE AND HANDLING A GUN = UBER HAWT. He may be broken and I love our adorkable angel as we have him now, but goddamn Misha makes it look hot.\
++ CHUCK IS LOVE! :DDDDD
++ I have to mention this: people calling Dean "fearless leader"? Parallel connection to Jake from Animorphs, amirite?
++ I love the idea of him being the leader of a resistance, and the realistic situations of them running low on food and Chuck making a big deal about toilet paper. Shortage of toilet paper, and saying to present!Dean that he should stock up on it because in that future, it's consider a precious commodity. I like that. Hell, I kinda expected Samuel T. Anders to just come rolling up with his resistance and joining Dean in the fight, with rations and anti-radiation meds and all of that.
(now I'm having a thing where Sam and Kara and Helo joining up with future!Dean, hell perhaps some Kara/future!Dean action or something....OKAY ENOUGH PLOTBUNNIES!)
++ I LOVED SAMUCIFER! I don’t get why people are saying the white suit was ugly (I mean okay, wearing all white after Labor Day not exactly the best of fashion choices), but being a fallen angel it would make sense that he would wear something so suave. It fit perfectly for his character. I just loved how he played the sympathetic card, yet again. I am enjoying this representation of Lucifer – I should create a meta just for him, because I find his theories and viewpoints on humanity very interesting (and very Cylon-ish).
++ Jensen deserves a damn Emmy for his performance in this episode. Seriously.
++ Zachariah is a dickhead, as always, but I enjoy what the actor brings to the table. His presence is always so entertaining and I think he makes for a great antagonist.
++ APPARENTLY I MISSED THIS, BUT SARAH FUCKING PALIN IS THE MAIN REASON WHY WE WOULD HAVE AN APOCALYPSE! LOL SHOW, LOL! (SCARY BECAUSE IT MIGHT AS WELL BE TRUE. D:)
Overall: I loved this episode. Loved, absolutely and positively loved. It went above and beyond my expectations and for them to create a future episode in a post-apocalyptic world, where everyone is so different and cynical and changed so fundamentally? The darker the atmosphere, the continuity with the Croatoan virus, the Colt, Sam as Lucifer, future!Dean being a dick and present!Dean calling out on that, stoned!Castiel is so broken, present!Castiel still adorable and squishable, and Sam and Dean coming back together but still not as whole? Everything this episode provided was perfect. Plus, I love post-apocalyptic futures and having human resistances and Dean being the leader of such a resistance? Awesomeness. I'm so glad this does not happen, because our boys will find a way around having that future ever happen. Just, so much love for this episode. Seriously.
Somehow this is turning out to be an amazing season, y/y?
In other fandom news, I kinda missed Dollhouse last night due to oversleeping after taking an extended nap, but will be watching shortly. I've heard things about it and I'll reserve myself from commenting about it all until I've seen the episode fully. But I do have words to discuss with fandom, that's all. Also SGU premiered and while I didn't watch (never watching that, it makes me facepalm whenever I see preview for it), I'm still maintaining the opinion that they are trying wayyy too hard in taking themselves too seriously. You'll never be BSG, SGU, so stop trying to act like it. I will say it'll be fun watching it fail.
Interesting fact though: Zac Efron is a Stargate fan. THE BOY IS SO GEEKY I SWEAR IT'S ALMOST UNBELIEVABLE. BUT IT'S ALSO HOT.