Supernatural starts us on an exciting journey to the Season 12 finale in “Who We Are.” The British Men of Letters have been unmasked as homicidal control freaks with impeccable manners. Ketch has sent Mary out to assassinate American hunters, while Sam and Dean are trapped in the bunker with Lady Toni. “Who We Are” was directed by John Showalter and written by Robert Berens, both Supernatural veterans who know the characters and the series well.
Blaze of Glory
Despite the shortage of oxygen in the bunker, Sam and Dean keep Toni alive after she tells them she’s the only one who can deprogram their mother. Sam recommends they try the research a route for an escape, involving the blood of virgins, until Toni realizes that Ketch has put the bunker on some kind of magical lockdown. When magic fails, Dean suggests the “straight Shawshank” approach of sledgehammering through the wall of the bunker, though it doesn’t take long before it becomes apparent that they’ll run out of air before they hit dirt.
When Sam asks his brother if this was how he pictured their end, Dean responds, “I always thought we’d go out Butch and Sundance-style.” They may not be facing the Bolivian army, but they decide that if this could be the end, they’re going to go out in a blaze of glory with the grenade launcher that Dean has been so desperate to use all season. Toni tells them that they’re “action-movie loving, cheeseburger-eating, moronic American lunatics,” but with a well-placed “Yipee-ki-yay, mother-f—,” Dean manages to free them. Have we finally gotten used to her character, or have director John Showalter and writer Robert Berens finally taken Lady Toni beyond a cartoon villain just in time for Elizabeth Blackmore’s last episode?
When all of this happens before the first commercial break, we know we’re in for an interesting ride. Rather than drawing out an escape that the audience knows is bound to happen, the writers use this moment to remind us just who Sam and Dean are. They are hunters, legacies, and brothers to the end. They aren’t afraid to make the ultimate sacrifice whether it’s to save the world, their family, or each other because that’s who they are. They kill the monsters, battle the bad guys, and save the world.
Hunting and Gathering
We’re reminded that the Winchesters aren’t the only badass American hunters when Sheriff Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes) manages to interrupt Mary Winchester’s assassination tour.
Sam decides that it’s time for him to lead, calling in some other American hunters. We get a callback to the Season 5 episode “Dark Side of the Moon” (one of our all-time favorites) when Walt and Roy show up.
Roy: “We haven’t seen you guys since—”
Dean: “—since you killed us. No hard feelings.”
Bringing Walt (Nels Lennarson) and Roy (Kerry van der Griend) back was a great move that shows how well Supernatural knows its audience. Showrunner Andrew Dabb co-wrote “Dark Side of the Moon,” making this blast from the past even more fun.
Sam explains to the hunters who gather at Jody’s house that the Brits don’t really want a world without monsters, but a world they can control. Sam wants to take the fight to them: “Look, they’re well trained and well armed. Some of us might not make it back. But we will win. We will take down the bad guys because that’s what we do.”
As we saw in Season 11, the Winchesters sometimes face failure in the season’s penultimate episode, providing an opportunity for redemption in the final episode. In Season 12, we get a much more satisfying result because Sam manages to take down the bad guys, though only he, Jody, and Walt survive the assault.
Of course, there’s still a whole host of British Men of Letters living on the other side of the pond. Perhaps this assault will teach the Brits what Crowley learned long ago about not underestimating the Winchesters—though it’s possible Sam and Dean may eventually need their help, or their technology, to defeat Lucifer. Let’s just hope they grabbed all that supernatural tech before they destroyed the compound.
Season 12 has been a return to the world of hunting, building on the early seasons of Supernatural. Viewers initially learned of the hunting community through John’s journal, the roadhouse, Bobby’s hunter network, and good and bad experiences with other hunters on the road. Unlike the hunters in “Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox,” not everyone is excited to hear about how Sam was possessed by Lucifer and how many times Dean has died. The return of Walt and Roy is a reminder that not all hunters have always been fans of the Winchesters. Yet they all come together to do the right thing, even when it requires sacrifice.
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary
Dean didn’t join Sam in the attack; instead, he chose to stay back and try to help his mother. It turns out that Lady Toni doesn’t believe Mary can be deprogrammed after all:
“The Mary that you know—the good Mary— she’s hiding behind impenetrable psychic walls. And I’m afraid these walls can’t be torn down with grenades. Your mother can’t be saved.”
Dean won’t take no for an answer, so they head back to the bunker. Toni uses a hypnotic agent laced with a potent sedative to enhance the psychic link she creates between Dean and Mary with electrodes.
Dean finds himself in Mary’s mind, back at their own house in Lawrence, in a scene reminiscent of that in “Dark Side of the Moon.” He sees baby Sam and finds Mary focused on making lunch for young Dean, doing everything she can to ignore her grown son’s psychic intrusion. Mary tells young Dean: “I only want good things for you, Dean. I’ll never let anything bad happen to you.”
Watching the moment of motherly assurance causes a reaction in Dean. He tells his mother, “I hate you. You lied to me. I was a kid. You promised you’d keep me safe and then you make a deal with Azazel.” Dean describes being put in the impossible position of trying to protect his brother, and failing:
“And you want to know what that was like? They killed the girl that he loved. He got possessed by Lucifer. They tortured him in Hell. And he lost his soul. His soul. All because of you. All of it was because of you.”
Mary continues to try to ignore Dean, but it’s clear his words are having an impact.
“I hate you. I hate you. And I love you, ’cause I can’t … I can’t help it. You’re my mom. And I understand, because I have made deals to save the ones I love more than once. I forgive you. I forgive you, for all of it. Everything.”
Dean implores his mother to fight, and she finally looks at him. In that moment Dean is ripped away, waking to find that Ketch has tracked Mary to the bunker and killed Toni. After a brutal fight between Ketch and Dean, Mary wakes and shoots Ketch.
Ketch: “I knew you were a killer. You both are.”
Dean: “You’re right.”
This amazing moment between Dean and Mary helps explain why the series used brainwashing with Mary. That doesn’t change how poorly explained the brainwashing trope was in “There’s Something About Mary,” nor how inadequately it was integrated into the very end of the series. Dean revealing the resentment he feels, both to himself and his mother, by way of a shared memory creates emotional gravitas that elevates the episode, even the season to some degree, in an unexpected way. This scene is the best moment in “Who We Are,” and one of the most intensely emotional dialogues in Season 12.
This season we’ve learned that Mary Winchester is no saint. It’s not clear what the audience expected with her return, but the series gave us something few would have predicted. It’s been hard to sympathize with Mary since her return because of the choices she’s been making—spending time away from her sons, secretly joining the Men of Letters, and sleeping with Ketch. Dead, Mary carries a mythical status, but alive, she has to answer for her actions. In “Who We Are,” we begin to have some sympathy for the weight Mary must be carrying, knowing how the lives of her family were irrevocably changed because of her decision.
The story of Dean’s anger and Mary’s guilt connects to the series narrative of Sam’s suffering despite all of Dean’s sacrifices to protect his brother. The themes of sacrifice, family, and free will reverberate throughout “Who We Are.” We can’t help but hear Chuck’s words from “Swan Song”:
“So, what’s it all add up to? It’s hard to say. But me, I’d say this was a test … for Sam and Dean. And I think they did all right. Up against good, evil, angels, devils, destiny, and God himself, they made their own choice. They chose family. And, well … isn’t that kinda the whole point?”
“Who We Are” Review
Writer Berens has crafted an episode that seamlessly weaves together several elements from Season 12—hunting culture, Mary’s return, and the British Men of Letters. His script gives Jared Padalecki (Sam), Jensen Ackles (Dean), and Samantha Smith (Mary) an opportunity to showcase their impressive acting skills. Director Showalter contrasts the explosive action of the assault on the British Men of Letters with the quiet intensity in the scenes between Sam and Mary. “Who We Are” exemplified much of what we love about Supernatural—the triumph of good over evil, exciting action sequences, and the importance of family. It’s a great way to head into the final episode of Season 12.