'Supernatural' finale sets up Season 8 with Sam and Dean worlds apart

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supernatural-jensen-ackles-misha-collins-jared-padalecki-sandwiches.jpgWhen our favorite shows go off the air for the summer, it's like being caught in Limbo, counting down the months until we can see the characters make their next move. "Supernatural" gave that a more literal twist in Friday's Season 7 finale. Dean finally figured out how to kill Dick Roman, the head monster in charge -- but when Dick exploded, he took Dean and Castiel with him.

To Purgatory. Where monsters go when they die. To battle each other for all of eternity. It's not exactly a top 10 vacation spot.

Dean's already been to Hell, but Purgatory presents a whole new set of problems. He's in a different place, mentally, than he was when he went to Hell -- this season, we've seen a much more tired, broken-down incarnation of Dean, and his will to fight has been waning. Until this point, revenge has been a primary motivator for him. He's avenged his mother's death, his father's death, Sam's death(s), Bobby's. Without vengeance to seek, will he give up?

Purgatory could also be intriguing in that, as a professional monster-killer, there's a potential for Dean to run into some familiar faces... none of whom will be particularly welcoming, we suppose. We haven't heard word that "Supernatural" bosses are planning on bringing back any slain monsters, but we wouldn't put it past them.

We're glad that Dean is joined by Castiel in this new predicament. For one thing, it all but guarantees that Misha Collins will be returning for Season 8. He wasn't listed as a series regular on The CW's recent press release about Season 8, but with a new showrunner stepping in, it's possible that negotiations are ongoing. Either way, we're confident that he'll return at the very least as a guest star, which is always reassuring.

supernatural-jensen-ackles-jared-padalecki-sideburns-attack.jpgHaving been kicked into Purgatory, Castiel appears to have some of his faculties back -- at least, he didn't go prancing off into the forest to find out what kind of insects they have there. (Though we must say, crazy-Castiel did offer some delightful comedic relief amidst such a dark, slow-paced episode, and we'll miss him.) We can't say we appreciated him winging away from Dean in such a harrowing moment, but we'll wait and see how it all pans out before we pass judgement on that one.

Despite the fact that Castiel is (sort of) with him, fans of "Supernatural" know that Dean's priority has always been Sam -- sometimes to a fault. Castiel will be of only minimal comfort to Dean as long as Dean doesn't know Sam's safe.

Sam has a serious dilemma of his own, back on Earth. He's spent his entire life relying on Dean, whether he'd admit that or not. Without that support system, he's now "well and truly" on his own, as Crowley said. He's got to figure out where Dean is and try to save him -- but all the while, he's responsible for keeping the remaining Leviathans at bay and preventing them from forming another organized army. Dean, undoubtedly, would want Sam to focus on saving the world, but the Winchesters tend to favor family over all else.

So how will things pan out in Season 8?

Since Castiel still has some of his angel power in Purgatory, there's a chance he can save Dean, just as he saved Dean from Hell. If you ask us, though, we'd like to see Sam save Dean. He wasn't able to do it in Season 3, when Dean sold his soul, and Sam's efforts to redeem himself in Season 4 led him to some of his darkest moments and worst decisions ever. Hopefully, Season 8 will offer Sam a chance to be the hero. He promised to save his brother once. Better late than never.

In the meantime, Dean could stick around Purgatory for a while. This week, Jared Padalecki told us that he hopes to see the separation between Sam and Dean stick for longer than their usual one-episode breakups. "You'll see why tomorrow, but we're going to have a wonderful opportunity to see the brothers apart, and I hope, I hope, I hope we take advantage of it," he said in a video interview you can watch here. "You get to see Sam on his own and Dean on his own. I think that's awesome because you get to strengthen the characters, so when they do come back together they have something to share. I hope we do it."

There's no shortage of monsters for Dean to hunt in Purgatory while Sam fights the Leviathans solo, so as long as Castiel stays in Limbo with Dean, we could see them getting a few episodes out of that.

All in all, the finale held up as a strong conclusion to a rather mercurial season. In her swan song, departing showrunner Sera Gamble gave us all of the emotion, gore, sadness, and surprise that we've come to expect from her writing. It didn't quite compare to Sam jumping into hell or to the entire Winchester family being driven off the road by a demon driving a Mack truck, but it had its epic moments, and a cliffhanger that leaves a world of possibilities for Jeremy Carver to play with when he steps in and takes over.

The comments section below is all yours, "Supernatural" fans. Tell us what you loved and what you hated -- and whether you agree or disagree with our thoughts on the season-ender. The show returns this October to The CW on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. after "Arrow." (Yes, "Supernatural" seems to have risen from the Friday television graveyard to live on midweek. Fitting, no?)
Photo/Video credit: The CW