For the last eleven years, Supernatural has been a staple of fantasy television. Every week, Sam and Dean Winchester fight monsters, angels, demons, and all manner of paranormal beings who may wish to do them harm. We’ve seen them search for their father, try to save Dean from hell, defeat Lucifer, and stave off hordes of fallen angels over the course of eleven seasons. Tonight, the show’s eleventh season comes to an end, and I couldn’t be more excited.

I’ve been a Supernatural fan for years, but the last several seasons have been fairly lackluster. For a long time, none of them reached the heights achieved by the first five seasons, which ended the story of Lucifer and the apocalypse that series creator Eric Kripke weaved during his tenure on the show. This year, though, they really kicked it up a notch, crafting a Biblical mythology worthy of Supernatural‘s original storyline.

As we look forward to tonight’s finale, and ahead towards next year’s twelfth(!) season, let’s take a look back at how we got here on The Road So Far.

The Mark of Cain (seasons 9-10)

In season nine, Dean took on the Mark of Cain, which he used to defeat Abaddon.

In the show’s eighth season, we were introduced to a new demon named Abaddon, one of the last two remaining Knights of Hell. By season nine, she had become one of the season’s central antagonists. Sam and Dean were determined to stop her, and the desperation to find a way to kill this seemingly unkillable evil drove Dean to find the other remaining Knight of Hell: Cain. Yes, that Cain. As in, Cain and Abel, the children of Adam and Eve. Cain, who had given up killing many centuries earlier after having been known as the father of murder for killing his brother, had a mark on him known as the Mark of Cain. This mark, when coupled with a weapon known as the First Blade that he had used to kill Abel, had the power to defeat Abaddon. Dean wanted that power, and he accepted the power to do so.

Through Cain, we also learned more of the backstory of God, Lucifer, and the Garden of Eden. It was assumed that Cain was jealous of Abel because Abel was God’s favorite, but Cain knew the truth: Abel was talking to Lucifer, not God. Cain wanted to save his brother, so he gave his soul to Lucifer to ensure that Abel, once Cain killed him, could go to heaven. Cain killing Abel set the stage for the apocalypse millennia later: the angels believed that either Sam or Dean, the descendants of Cain and Abel, would one day have to kill the other, just as either Michael or Lucifer would have to kill one another. Little did we know at the time, but while Lucifer himself had not been on the show since the fifth season, his influence with Cain would one day lead to his return.

The mark, of course, had a drawback, as anything in Supernatural does. Although Dean was able to kill Abaddon at the end of season nine, he had an insatiable bloodlust that began consuming him. After he was killed by the rogue angel Metatron at the end of season nine, Dean was reborn as a demon and spent the first several episodes of season ten as a demonic version of himself. He was cured and became a human once more, but the mark continued having a hold on him. Sam and Dean, with the help of the angel Castiel (Dean’s BFF) and their other friends and allies, desperately tried to find a way to rid Dean of the mark’s influence, but they couldn’t find one. In the end, Dean knew that there was only one person he could turn to.

Dean Winchester Kills Death (season 10)

Dean believed that there was only one thing he could do to rid himself of the mark’s influence: die. To do that, he summoned Death himself to kill him—but not even Death could kill Dean. The Mark of Cain was too powerful. It was the first curse, created by God himself, and Death did not have the power to destroy it. He could transfer it to someone else, but Dean was not willing to inflict the Mark of Cain to anyone else. He just wanted to get rid of it, but Death couldn’t do that. That’s when we learned what the Mark of Cain truly was.

Long before God created the universe, there was a primordial force known as the Darkness. It was an amoral force of natural that destroyed everything in its path. In order to create the universe, God had to lock the Darkness away. It was so powerful that God couldn’t do it alone. It took God and his archangels to do so. When the Darkness was sealed away, the mark became the lock to its cage, and that lock was given to God’s favorite, Lucifer. The mark began to corrupt Lucifer, heightening his resentment toward humanity and leading to the betrayal that caused God to lock Lucifer away in hell—but not before Lucifer passed the mark to Cain, of course. With that revelation, what began as a story to defeat Abaddon in season nine became a key part of the show’s overall mythology, linking the latter seasons together more closely with Eric Kripke’s original storyline.

Because Death couldn’t kill Dean, he gave him another option: Death could bring him to a remote planet, with no one else on it, where he could never harm anyone again. Dean agreed, but Death had a condition: Dean had to kill Sam, because Sam would never stop trying to save his brother and rid him of the mark, which Death could not allow to happen. Dean was ready to do so, believing that their sacrifice was worth preventing the Darkness from being unleashed on the world, but at the last minute he took Death’s scythe and turned it on Death himself, seemingly killing the horseman. At the same time, and from afar, a tepid ally of the Winchester’s named Rowena, a witch and the mother of Crowley, the king of hell, performed a spell from the Book of the Damned to remove the mark from Dean.

Dean was free of the Mark of Cain, but what Death predicted came to pass. In the final moments of season ten, the Darkness was freed and was unleashed on Earth.

God Has a Sister – and She’s Pissed (season 11)

The eleventh season picks up right where the tenth left off, with the Darkness being unleashed on the world. In those opening moments, Dean saw the Darkness, in the visage of a woman named Amara, in a vision. She saved him from the immediate effects of her arrival on Earth, because they are forever linked by the Mark of Cain and the actions he took that resulted in her freedom. Though she is on Earth, and though Dean can see her in the vision, in truth she was reborn as an infant, one who began aging rapidly. Crowley initially tried to claim the child and mold her into an ally, but she quickly asserted her own will and begins pursuing her own agenda: revenge against God.

Amara’s quest for revenge ended up having a decidedly personal twist: she was more than just a primordial force of nature. In truth, she’s God’s sister and has all the same powers that he does. But while God represents life and creation, Amara represents death and destruction. Her goal is to destroy God’s creation, because that will be the best revenge against God for what he did to her. Because she was locked away, the entire universe must be destroyed.

Once Amara was on Earth, Sam began praying to God to seek help in fighting the Darkness, as she represented a threat greater than any they had faced before. After years of praying to God for help, Sam finally heard back. He received a number of prayers and visions that he believed were from God, and they were all telling him one thing: free Lucifer from hell, because only Lucifer could help defeat Amara.

Lucifer Returns…

After Sam refused, Lucifer took Castiel as his vessel and returned to Earth to defeat Amara.

Dean, of course, was adamantly opposed to going to Lucifer for help, after all the trouble he had caused them and their family in the past. But Sam went anyway, with help from Crowley and Rowena, and was able to speak to Lucifer in the cage that held him in hell. Lucifer said he knew that the Darkness had descended upon Earth and that all of creation, including hell and his cage, would be destroyed if Amara had her way. Of course, Lucifer couldn’t just waltz out of his cage. He needed a vessel to be on Earth, and that’s where Sam came in: just like during the apocalypse, Sam was his one true vessel. All Sam had to do was agree to be the vessel, and together they could defeat Amara.

Sam wasn’t interested in that deal anymore than he was years earlier during the apocalypse. Lucifer tried his hardest to convince Sam otherwise, hoping to get him to see that being Lucifer’s vessel was for the greater good of the universe, but Sam knew he couldn’t trust Lucifer and that the prince of darkness would likely just try to restart the apocalypse once Amara was defeated. That’s when Lucifer revealed the truth: God was never speaking to Sam. It was Lucifer all along, whispering through a crack in the cage that formed when Amara was freed. Lucifer showed his true colors and locked Sam in the cage with him, and it wasn’t until Dean and Castiel arrived that Sam was saved. But Lucifer still needed a vessel, so Castiel agreed to let Lucifer use him so Lucifer could return to Earth.

Once freed, Lucifer began looking for ways to defeat Amara. He took his place as king of hell, deposing Crowley as a pretender, and sought out weapons known as the Hands of God, which were touched by the power of God himself. Finally, he returned to heaven for the first time in thousands of years in the hopes of rallying the angels behind him to defeat Amara. Sam and Dean were even willing to work with Lucifer, but only if he let Castiel go. Amara eventually captured Lucifer and tortured him, hoping to draw the reclusive God out of his solitude, and for a time, all hope seemed lost.

…and So Does God!

After being on the sidelines for years, God - who was the prophet Chuck all along - returned to help defeat Amara.

Though he had been on the sidelines for years, God was fully aware of everything that had happened. He finally showed himself and revealed that he had actually been Chuck, an author and prophet with whom Sam and Dean worked during the apocalypse, all along. It was a guise he took in order to be somewhat involved in the action, but still mostly distant. When God revealed himself to Sam and Dean, who of course had questions and resentment for why he never showed himself before, he did so intent on sacrificing himself to save his creation. He knew that Amara’s grudge was with him, so if he turned himself over to her and allowed himself to be locked away as she once was, then perhaps Amara would let his creation survive.

Sam and Dean didn’t believe that was a viable option. In being so connected to her, Dean knew that Amara wanted nothing more than to destroy her brother and his creation. There was no chance that she was going to do anything else. She had to be defeated. Sam and Dean even knew that they would need Lucifer in order to stop, but God refused. He wanted nothing more to do with Lucifer, not after everything they had done, but Sam and Dean put together a plan to rescue Lucifer anyway. With the help of a new prophet, Donatello, as well as Metatron, Sam rescued Lucifer from Amara while Dean distracted her. Metatron sacrificed himself so they could escape, but Amara caught up to them and nearly killed them. God intervened and zapped them away from Amara, coming face to face with Lucifer for the first time since Lucifer was banished to hell.

Celestial Team Up

Heaven, hell, and everything in between join forces with God in the hopes of defeating Amara.

God and Lucifer are the ultimate example of family disharmony, so it wasn’t the happiest of reunions. Lucifer hated God for what he saw as God’s betrayal; Lucifer was entrusted with the Mark of Cain, and the moment it began to corrupt him, God cast him away. God saw things differently, of course. Lucifer was always jealous of humanity and the mark made that even worse. Could God have really trusted Lucifer not to hurt humans? God felt he had no choice. But their father/son conversation did lead to an admission: God was so sorry for turning his back on Lucifer, his favorite son. In a way, that apology was all Lucifer really wanted. There’s no redemption for the devil, but he and God were able to come to an understanding, at least enough to join forces and defeat Amara.

With Lucifer on the team, God presented his new plan: no longer would he try to sacrifice himself, but instead they would try to lock Amara away again. She couldn’t be destroyed; destroying her would have disastrous consequences for the very fabric of reality. Sam even agreed to take on the Mark of Cain to keep Amara locked away, as Dean had been too influenced by it in the past to take it on again. Locking her away would also require a lot of firepower, only this time there was only one archangel left standing instead of four. That meant that angels and demons would have to combine their strength and join with Sam, Dean, God, Lucifer, Crowley, and even Rowena and other witches like her. A testy alliance, but one born out of the necessity of saving all of their lives.

Finally, the alliance between heaven and hell struck: Amara was lured to their location. First, Rowena used the power of magic to weaken Amara. Then the angels smited her, weakening her further, and the demons went on the attack. Gravely injured, Amara came face to face with God and told him how much she hated him for locking her away. Once she realized that God was planning to lock her away once again, Amara lashed out. She ripped Lucifer from Castiel’s body, leaving Lucifer’s fate unknown, and attacked God, weakening his power. She left him alive, but only so he could live long enough to watch her destroy all that he had created.

What happens next? Will Amara be defeated? Tune into the season finale of Supernatural tonight on The CW Network at 9pm!

Brandon Rhea
Brandon Rhea is Manager of Content Production at FANDOM. He's a huge fan of Star Wars, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, and Marvel. He's a Gryffindor whose Patronus is a cat.