THEN: Ghost/spirits/whatever, blah blah blah. The only thing of note here is that they choose to remind us that Sam is fated to kill Rowena. But I'm sure that doesn't mean anything. There are tons of reasons to include this. Tons.
NOW: We're still in Whatever-this-place-is-called, Kansas. Ghosts/spirits/whatever are still flinging themselves against the barrier. Sam's still in charge of the hunter troops. Expanded Team Free Will is back in the graveyard and they've got a plan that Rowena insists will work. It's a powerful spell that will "patch those holes up" in time for tea. (Rowena is back in a dramatic gown today, but I don't like the casual jacket she's wearing with it.) All she needs is a ghost-free space, which happens to be the mausoleum the gang found in 15.01. No one's thrilled about that. We also see the opening to Hell itself, which is a giant hole in the ground. It doesn't seem to give anyone PTSD, though.
The gang salts the perimeter of the mausoleum while Rowena mixes up her spell, and right away something evil starts banging on the doors. She recites something not-English, her eyes glow purple, and we see the battered barrier glowing purple as well. But then she looks disturbed and the purple glow fades and she gets more and more upset and then collapses. "We're all going to die!" she says.
Rowena asks for a drink and then has to clarify that she means "a real drink," and we have a cute wordless conversation where Sam requests Dean's flask, Dean says what, MY flask, Sam says yes, asshole, and Dean says sigh, okay. It's precious.
It is, unfortunately, impossible to screencap, but I'm sure someone will GIF it. In the meanwhile, let's enjoy concerned Winchesters.
Rowena says the spell can't work because the spirits are too wild, too desperate, too angry, and too numerous. No magic on earth can stop "those walls" from falling. Within hours. (Did we really explain the walls? I guess it's the walls between earth and Hell? And why plural?) Dean decides they're going to keep fighting as long as they can. He tells Rowena to make more of those soul collectors, but she says it's pointless. Probably because Sam's wearing the orange jacket, so she doesn't see any reason to prolong the agony. She says she may have been able to shore up the wall if she'd gotten there sooner, but now the wall is too damaged for her to save.
Belphagar leaves, ignoring Dean's "where the Hell are you going!" and Cas goes after him. Dean continues yelling that they're not going to give up, that's not who they are, and Sam silences him with a single hand motion because he knows how I feel about him being Chiefly. Sam crouches next to Rowena and puts a concerned hand on her shoulder and asks if she needs anything because he knows I also love him being soft and concerned.
Who DOESN'T know?
Hey, if you don't want to read some serious Sam fangirling, you're in the wrong place. You should realize this by now.
Belphagar and Cas are out in the cemetery, where no one is bothering them even though something was knocking pretty vigorously on the mausoleum door. Belphagar wanted to look at the giant hole into Hell. "Where it all began."
Meanwhile, Dean's loading up. He's not just going to wait for the world to end, he's going out fighting.
He's angry and backlit, and I love both of those things.
Sam sits next to him and they have a lovely dark conversation where Sam says he's out of ideas but acts like he thinks there still must be something they can do, and Dean says Chuck's "sloppy-ass ghostpocalypse" isn't going to be the last word and acts like he thinks there's nothing they can do but die fighting. And Rowena just sits sad and quiet and alone, paging through the Book of the Damned. I do like that she kept it and uses it in front of the Winchesters. But she says she hasn't found anything useful.
Back outside, Belphagor says the opening in the ground isn't a door or a gate, it's a tear. And he has a plan. "Lilith's Crook" is a horn that Lilith used to control her demons - it can corral all demons and bring them back home. (BTW, nobody reacts to the name Lilith either. It's like seasons three through five never happened.) It's in Lilith's chamber, which is unsealed now that every door in Hell is open. If Belphagor uses it in Hell, all the demons and spirits will be sucked into Hell, and then Rowena can close the door once they're not pushing against it.
Rowena confirms that she has "a spell of my own devising" that she could use to close the door. Well, she said earlier that there were any number of spells she could have tried earlier, so surely this is one of those spells. It's a healing spell - if the opening is a wound, not a door, this will allow it to heal and close up. Sounds reasonable.
It will require perfect timing, and she'll need some strangely easy-to-obtain ingredients (which seems to be a theme this season, doesn't it). And an assistant. "Dibs on Samuel. You're as close to a seasoned witch as we've got in this lot." (!!!)
She also needs someone to hang out at the edge of the hole and toss the figurative "bomb." And it will be dangerous, so Dean naturally decides that's his job. Belphagor drafts Cas to go with him, since he'll need help getting past all the pissed-off demons and ghosts who will be down there. "Yeah, Cas will go," Dean says coldly. "You've been to Hell before." Well, I mean, everyone in this room has been to Hell before (assuming we count Rowena's visit to Limbo as Hell), so. Cas glares at Dean, clearly thinking yes, I harrowed Hell to raise you, and I regret it every day.
Cold and yet HOT.
Hospital. Ketch wakes up just in time to get killed by the demon Ardat, who astutely notes that he's protecting his friends and won't give them up. There's your redemption arc, Arthur Ketch. I hope you enjoyed it. Moving on. (Also, doesn't Ardat look like a cross between Joanna Gaines and Meghan Markle?)
Cemetery. Belphagor asks Cas how he's going to get out of Hell before Rowena seals it up, and makes sure Cas realizes that his buddies don't care that he might not make it out. Cas pushes Belphagor into the hole and jumps in after him.
Mausoleum. A hunter shows up with supplies and Sam gives her directions on what to do "if this goes sideways," even though those directions should probably be "kiss your ass goodbye." Dean gets a text from "Ketch" and responds by laying out their plan and providing their location. Uh oh.
Hell. It's actually mostly empty. Belphagor claims he made Cas come because he just wanted company, and he wants to become best buds with Cas, having wormed his way into the Winchester's hearts. "Sam and Dean are just using you," Cas says. "Don't mistake that for caring about you, because I can assure you, they don't." OH, CAS, YOU WOULD KNOW, WOULDN'T YOU. Cas reminds Belphagor that he's an abomination, and then opens the door to Lilith's chamber, which is being looted by another demon. Belphagor's friendly with the guy, but Cas kills him. Awkward.
The crook is in a box marked up with Enochian symbols, which apparently couldn't be read by any residents of Hell other than Lilith. (Well, we can assume the residents of the cage could read it, but.) Good thing Cas is here! So convenient. The markings are actually a song of praise to Lucifer. Cas reads it, but nothing happens, and Belphagor says "They're verses, Cas. I think they need to be sung." We don't have to listen to Cas sing the whole thing, but we do get Belphagor mocking his angelic voice.
The demon then tells Cas to make his escape, which kind of surprises me - I was sure this set-up wasn't meant to end with Cas surviving. Cas tentatively holds the horn out to Belphagor, but then is flung across the room by none other than Ardat. She expositions for us that Lilith's Crook would have allowed Belphagor to rule Hell. She begins to smack Belphagor down, but Cas attacks, and holds her off long enough for Belphagor to stab her with his angel blade.
Cas asks him if it's true he wants to rule Hell, and he's all, no, I want to rule EVERYTHING. He'll suck the power of all of the souls into him, and he'll become a God. "I don't think so," says Cas, and runs toward him. But Belphagor blows the horn, and the ghosts/spirits/whatevers start flowing back into Hell, and into Belphagor.
Cemetery. Dean approaches the hole and wonders where Ketch is.
Mausoleum. Sam is anxious, and wants to be outside, fighting. Rowena makes him read the book as she prepares the spell. (What is he reading? He's not reading aloud. What's the point? Is he memorizing it?) When they hear Belphagor blow the horn, Rowena announces "it's time." She and Sam hold hands (d'aw) and recite the spell. I guess he was memorizing it after all. The spell bowl begins to glow purple, as does the "bomb" I didn't even realize Dean was holding. Dean tosses it into the hole without even wondering if Cas will make it out. So I guess he's still mad at Cas, if you were wondering.
Hell. Cas finally makes his way to Belphagor and tackles him, stopping the horn. As Cas punches the demon, his sunglasses fall off, and he looks up at Cas with his burned-out eyes and pleads for him to stop. "It's me, Jack." Gotta say, Alex does a good job here of playing someone trying to sound like Jack and not quite succeeding. I was afraid Cas would fall for it, but he doesn't. In fact, this inspires him to do the glowy hand thing and burn Belphagor - and Jack's corpse - to a crisp. Too bad you didn't wait until he sucked up all the souls, Cas.
Topside. Sam calls Dean and learns that something doesn't feel right, and the crack is closing up. Meanwhile, Rowena picks up a knife and plunges it into her own shoulder. As Sam watches in horror, she reaches in and pulls out "my last resurrection sachet - won't need that where I'm going." She tells him the Lilith's Crook plan may have been his only shot, but she still has an option. Because magic can contain anything. Even Hell, as long as she's willing to pay the price.
Horrified/confused Sam. Mmmmm.
She tells him "death is an infinite vessel" but he doesn't get it yet. All she needs for this spell are two ingredients. Sam's all, you have them here? Why didn't you tell us? "Because, dear, the first ingredient is my own still-coursing blood, and the last is my final breath." She'll absorb all the spirits and then throw herself Hell (!!!) and then, when her body eventually rots and the spirits are released, they'll be back in Hell. (So I guess she has to toss the wound-healing spell in there too, somehow, but that's just details.) Sam tries to stop her with the Single Upraised Finger of Reason, but not only does she ignore that finger, she tells Sam he has to be the one to kill her. Y'all, I always love the Single Upraised Finger of Reason.
I would obey this finger.
Topside. Cas made it out of the Hell. Wow, I was worried there for a minute.
Mausoleum. Rowena insists Sam has to be the one to kill her, because the spell requires her "real, permanent demise," and Sam's the only one who can do that. It's in the books. "You know what?" says Sam "Screw the books." YES SAM.
Topside. Cas tells Dean he killed Belphagor and the crook was destroyed.
Mausoleum. Sam tries to take the knife from Rowena, but she holds it against her body. "I don't care about anything enough to take my own life. Not you, your brother, not even the world. But I believe in prophecy, I believe in magic, and everything we need to end this is right in our hands." I don't know, Rowena. Those books you're so insistent on believing? They've been known to change. Sam rests the knife against her but he's still fighting it, even though she's shouting "kill me, Samuel!"
Then she clamps a hand on his shoulder and says "I know we've gotten quite fond of each other, haven't we? But will you let the world die? Let your brother die? Just so I can live?" Oh, well, that was the right thing to say, wasn't it? (Also, can we just appreciate Rowena admitting she's quite fond of Sam?)
Topside: Dean yells at Cas. "This was our only shot! What the hell were you thinking?" I like that Dean doesn't even consider that Cas may have had a very good reason for killing a demon.
Mausoleum. Sam says a shaky little "no" and I think he's saying no, I'm not going to kill you but I am so wrong, because he goes in for what looks like a hug but he's actually plunging the knife into her abdomen. He holds her close as he stabs her and then pulls back to look in horror at what he's done. Rowena PUTS HER HAND ON HIS FACE AND SAYS "THAT'S MY BOY" AND SHE'S NOT DEAD YET BUT I AM. Then she pushes the blade in further, because apparently Sam didn't do it hard enough, which brings up an interesting question - what if Sam's stab wasn't fatal? Does any of this still count?
Topside. As Rowena walks to the Hell hole, all of the spirits are seen flowing into her wound. I want Sam to hug her again, without a knife (OMG IMAGINE IF SAM HAD TO ACTUALLY PUSH HER INTO THE HOLE) but instead they hang back. She turns and says "goodbye boys," just like her son did, stands at the edge, and then dramatically falls into the hole just before it closes. Sad MacLeod music! (which I rather like)
Aftermath! Sam's sitting sadly on his bed. Dean comes in wearing a single layer, and it's a henley, and Sam's entire shirt is unbuttoned, so thank you baby Jesus for this bit of comfort we surely need after all that hurt. He asks how Sam is holding up, and Sam doesn't answer that question. He just wipes his eyes and makes a how do you think noise and asks if there's any word from Stevie, who I guess is one of the other hunters. Yeah, and the word is that the town is good, but Ketch is dead. "Bad. Probably demon."
We did it though, man. It's over. God threw one last apocalypse at us, and we beat it.
What you did. Rowena. You didn't have a choice.
Oh, Sam! His soft sad little "yep," his reaction to Ketch, the way his little face scrunches up when Dean says Rowena's name... And Dean's trying to hard to be supportive.
Aftermath part 2. Dean's drinking whiskey when Cas comes in and asks how Sam is. Dean's very short with him, and asks why he didn't just follow the plan. Because sure, Belphagor was going to suck up all the power of every soul in Hell and become the worst Big Bad ever, but Dean thinks they just would have figured that out afterward. And Dean has a point, but I don't know if it's the one he thinks he has. Cas didn't know Rowena had a self-sacrificial Plan B in mind. The only information he had was that if Belphegor didn't trap all the spirits in Hell, they'd end up destroying the world. And he killed Belphegor anyway. So yeah, Dean's mad because Rowena is dead, but the issue IMHO isn't that Cas's actions forced Rowena to take extreme measures, it's that they would have destroyed the world had she not been able to do that.
The plan changed, Dean. Something went wrong. You know this. Something always goes wrong.
Yeah, why does that something always seem to be you?
You used to trust me, give me the benefit of the doubt. Now you can barely look at me. My powers are failing and I've tried to talk to you over and over and you just don't want to hear it. You don't care. I'm dead to you. You still blame me for Mary. I don't think there's anything left to say.
Where you going?
Jack's dead. Chuck's gone. You and Sam have each other. I think it's time for me to move on.
Sad Winchester music!
Oh. Wow. That was really cold, Dean. Now you're not trying to be supportive at all.
But we get your angry face, which I adore.
So! There's a lot packed into this episode, isn't there? So many deaths. I was surprised that both Belphegor and Ardat bit it, since I presumed one or both of them would be Big Bads this year. Are we down to just Chuck, then? There's also whatever Billie is cooking up with dead Jack; I guess that could be badness. Ketch is gone, which I'm honestly fine with. The only bad thing about Cas walking out is that it means we're going to have a separate Cas plot again, which I'm not thrilled about. And Rowena. I mean, I love her and will miss her, but I should be gutted, and I'm not. Is it because I know we're saying goodbye to all of them soon anyway? Is it because I've decided this is going to happen? Maybe.
But that's so many deaths for one episode. Is this the endgame? Just killing every supporting character we can think of?
And let me just point out that if any of this plot feels familiar - Rowena recognizes Sam as a witch and has him do a spell, secretly comes up with a world-saving spell that requires her death, and forces Sam to fulfill his prophecy by stabbing her, no matter how hard he protests - if any of this feels the slightest bit familiar, could it be because I ALREADY WROTE IT? Maybe.
(Waves to Robert Berens, who surely reads my LJ.)
Anyway. No spoilers in the comments, please.