In the Supernatural season 8 finale, “Sacrifice”, written by showrunner Jeremy Carver, an intense tale of Heavenly vengeance seamlessly evolves the series’ mythology, as well as its character, proving that the show has, officially, returned to its former glory.

In order to get Crowley to stop killing their past rescues, Sam and Dean make a deal to hand over the demon tablet. When trickery comes in to play, Sam attempts to use the King of Hell to finish his Trials. Meanwhile, Castiel and Marv continue with their own Trials; that is, until Naomi catches Marv. With the gates to Heaven and Hell almost closed, revelations of vengeance force everyone to make new plans before it’s too late.

“Sacrifice” is not as much an action-packed thrill ride as it is a deeply rich and engaging exploration of the series mythology. The finale, which does continue to progress this season’s story, never really places its characters in a position where the obvious resolution to what’s occurring seems logical (or wanted). Instead, each character – from Sam to Naomi – are allowed to shine in their own moments, with dialogue, not action, used as the driving force.

As the episode begins to unfold, the true ramifications of anyone completing their intended quest begin to reveal themselves. Crowley, as a human, is an intriguing concept that should never occur – and it doesn’t. Though much of Sam’s back and forth with an emotive Crowley is, essentially, a pantomime of what will never be, it provided a wonderful foundation for Jared Padalecki, as well as Sam, to step out of the shadow of Dean (and Jensen Ackles) and show that this character is much more than the “aw shucks” guy.

Castiel, too, receives a twist to his intended Trials, thanks to Marv’s (Curtis Armstrong) intent on destroying those who ousted him, and both characters evolve in an interesting way because of it. Such twists, as with any finale tale, are expected; however, in this instance, viewers’ expectations can get the best of them.

In a sense, what transpires in the Supenatural season 8 finale (up until the end) isn’t as important – or as relevant – as the journey that each and every character goes on throughout. But because this show is as old as it is, with a fanbase as knowledgeable as they are, any attempt by the viewer to figure out what’s going to happen next can result in a nervous frustration which easily overshadows everything that this episode accomplishes with its characters.

The most important part of is finale is the ending, when the angels of Heaven fall to Earth. Not only is this one of the most beautifully crafted scenes the series has ever seen, but it’s made much more so by all of the wonderful exposition that came before it. In the many years that the series has been on the air, religions and monsters have been combined into an impressive, singular and surprising logical tale, and Lucifer and (maybe) God have, at times, appeared. Still, the inclusions of these two larger-than-life characters were nowhere near as impactful as the final moments of the Supernatural season 8 finale.

Those looking to find flaws in this season finale, it won’t be difficult. At times, the story at hand isn’t as important as its results. And yes, at times, twists are overused and feel a bit forced. But after everything that Supernatural has been through in previous years, and all the work it took it to bring it back to its former glory, there’s no doubt that a bit of heavy-handed, forceful storytelling was required. For those who are able to look past such things and at the characters’ journey – to hear the words crafted for them to say – the thought of Supernatural reaching season 10 with such earnest intentions is everything a fan of the series could hope for.

What happens in Supernatural season 9 is anyone’s guess. But because of what occurred in the finale, the series now has new elements to help it reach its (likely) end. With the lines of good and evil once again blurred, new relationships will have to be created, and help will be required from the most unlikely of people. And because, now, all of the angels have been cast out of Heaven, perhaps there’s an opening to receive some behind-the-scenes help from a familiar idjit who still happens to be there.

Supernatural season 9 premieres September/October on CW.