After eight years and 172 episodes, Supernatural still knows exactly how to deliver a fantastic finale.
"Sacrifice" provided a gripping hour filled with laughs, heart, emotion, twists and a game-changing final moment that was as shocking as it was visually cool.
Even if there were problems throughout the season, aspects that might have felt at times contrived and episodes that weren't so stellar, all my gripes were blown right out the window while watching this episode. It felt like everyone - actors, writer, director, effects, and everything in between - brought their A-game to not only prove the series still has plenty of gas left in the Impala's tank, but the show still has so much more to give.
I know the promo had revealed that Crowley was the third trial, but it didn't detract from my elation when Dean clasped the handcuffs on the king of Hell while giving his smug demeanor the nice punch it deserved.
I had no idea what was going to happen once Sam actually completed the trial, if he could. That said, Mark Sheppard gave a brilliant performance as the slowly cured Crowley. He went from the malevolent demon willing to kill anyone in his way, to finally calling Sam by his real name and expressing a pleading humanized version of himself with HBO references while just wanting to be loved.
Sheppard really makes his character one you love to hate. Who else would have a Sir-Mix-A-Lot ringtone we can smile at one moment and then be pissed as he's about to kill Sheriff Jodi Mills rocking her new haircut? (She survived, right?)
It really looked like Sam would finally cure Crowley, but good old Abbadon returned for a possible regime change. Is that even possible? I half expected her to kill Crowley in his emotional and damaged state, but Sam was able to get rid of her. For now. Might she come back next season?
At the same time, Castiel was dealing with the Heaven trials. And while Metatron was quickly whisked away, Dean was able to fill in for the hilarious discovery of who cupid's bow was really for. Dean's face was priceless watching the two guys flirt with each other.
Yet the episode took no time to flip everything on its head when Naomi pleaded with Castiel about the truth and Metatron's deception. Turns out the trials weren't everything we thought them to be. Metraton wasn't closing the gates of Heaven and Sam curing Crowley would mean Sam's death.
It was wonderfully frustrating not knowing who to trust or what direction the show was going to take.
Although, it didn't take long to see Metatron's switch had flipped on his ultimate revenge journey. Not only did he kill Naomi (glad she was able to sort of repent at the end, but she won't be missed) but he turned Castiel human!
The whole transformation from reclusive scribe to conniving and powerful angel worked so much better because of actor Curtis Armstrong. He brought a real believability from helper and possible (villain? new enemy?) opponent for season nine.
How could you do that Metatron?
But Supernatural wouldn't be anything without those brotherly heart to hearts and this one was wracked with feeling: Sam admitted his ultimate sin was letting Dean down. Multiple times.
Jarred Padalecki's moment of Sam trying to prove to his brother he could be trusted and complete the task was heartfelt, and I actually believed in what he was saying. The tears, the pain and the glowing arms combined to make the heightened moment real right as the stakes of everything felt like they were about to burst.
Which made Dean's response - "Don't you dare think that there is anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you" - that much more powerful.
Both Jensen Ackles and Padalecki are still clearly invested in these characters and it was great to see that bond remain strong between the actors and the characters they've brought to life. This show works well with the Winchesters working together.
On top of that, Sam listened to Dean. He didn't complete the final task which could (could it?) have killed him. Even with the pain or whatever was still damaging Sam, Dean was able to carry him out of the church, brothers in arms. It was great to see them really on the same page, there for each other.
I was also glad that neither of them were killed, not because they really can be, but it's been done before.
Instead Supernatural had my jaw drop as Sam, Dean and the human Castiel staring up at the sky as angels came raining down like blazing shooting stars. Seeing those wings on fire was such a sight.
What does that even mean now? Are all angels banished from heaven? Can they ever be angels again? Is Metatron the only one in heaven now? What's going to happen to Crowley? Why do we have to wait so long for the show to return?
I've still got to pick my jaw up off the floor with those closing moments, after having been engrossed in the entire hour. Not only was it a wild ride that made nothing what it seemed and things less easy to predict, but like any great finale should be, it has me excited for when the show picks up again next fall. This is definitely an episode worth watching again and one fans will be talking about. The bar has certainly been set high.
Bravo, Supernatural. Way to close Supernatural season 8 with blazing, riveting and emotional-filled glory.
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.