Matt Cohen Directs A Noteworthy ‘Supernatural’ Gimme Shelter 15.15

Supernatural gimme shelter1515 review winchesters separate images

This was a noteworthy “Supernatural” episode for a number of reasons.

A) There are now only five episodes of “Supernatural” left, so EVERY episode is noteworthy.

B) This is Matt Cohen’s first time directing an episode of the show that has impacted his life so much (he played young John Winchester and the archangel Michael on the show), and

C) This is Davy Perez’s last episode of Supernatural. Davy is one of my favorite writers, and the only writer to contribute a chapter to There’ll Be Peace When You Are Done, so he has a special place in my heart. I’m genuinely sad that I won’t hear his words from Sam or Dean or Cas ever again.

I knew these last episodes would be emotionally fraught for me, but I’m not sure I could have anticipated just what that would mean. I didn’t know that there would be an incredible media blitz around the show’s end run, which has been both heady and wonderful and also made the sadness of losing the show somehow even more poignant. It IS this special, and some of us have known that for a very long time. Now it seems like the rest of the world has caught up, only for the show to be ending. I’m thrilled that Rolling Stone and Glamour and CNN and so many other publications are covering the show now, but I’m also a little bit like, where were you a decade ago?

All that is to say that I’m going into these last episodes with a lot of mixed feelings. I desperately want to just cherish and enjoy every minute of what we have left, and at the same time, I desperately want these last episodes to be GOOD. There’s no time left to waste time, and it’s a lot harder to hand wave and say well that one wasn’t my favorite, but maybe the next one will be. That’s a lot of pressure to put on the little show – or, more accurately, that’s a lot of pressure to put on myself and my own expectations. The show is filmed and done and it is what it is, and I’m very aware of that. Now it’s on all of us to draw from it what we can – but damn it, I really hope it’s going to go out in a way that everyone can be proud of!

I did like quite a bit of this episode, which had some of Davy’s beautiful emotionally genuine dialogue and which showcased Matt as a director who knows how to get the best performances from his cast – maybe especially because he knows them and they trust him. There were some scenes that were incredibly beautiful, which is something that I think we saw more often in the early seasons, and something that made me fall in love with it. There were some scenes that made me tear up unexpectedly because they just rang true, and in each case the actor inhabiting the character was clearly feeling that too.

Like the best “Supernatural” episodes, there was a fair amount of humor, and Cohen managed to mix that in organically with the grab-the-tissues scenes and the scary/gory/horror movie vibe that is also quintessential Supernatural. I also felt like the episode moved the story ahead, with some reveals and some hints of what’s to come next, so that was satisfying.

15.15 sexy  matt coehn director supernatural gimme shelter

This was a Cas and Jack heavy episode, and I thought both of their story lines worked well – and that both Misha Collins and Alex Calvert nailed their characters’ emotional journeys perfectly. The confrontation between Dean and Amara also was outstanding, with Jensen and Emily Swallow making me believe every second of it. The fact that I haven’t mentioned Sam yet is my biggest problem with the episode – I don’t have a very good idea of where Sam’s head (or heart) is at right now during the events of this episode, and I want to!  Especially now, with five episodes to go, I need to know exactly what’s up with the Winchesters every step of the way.

I just finished my customary rewatch, and here are the things I liked and the couple of things I questioned. The opening scene delighted me more than usual, not because of anything that happened, but because I found myself asking out loud, ‘wait, is that Dr. Sexy MD???’

It was. Both Steve Bacic (the pastor) and Nicole Munoz (playing the pastor’s daughter) have been on the show before, so it was nice to see them back. I saw a post shared by my friend Amy Hutton about meeting Steve at an Aussie con. He did a double take when she asked him to sign a photo of the Impala. When she informed him, “But you’re Dr. Sexy MD – you’re iconic!” he was dumbfounded, since he had no idea. He told her how great the guys were and how much fun he’d had doing the episode – and that she’d made his day!

“Supernatural” really does cast the best people.

15.15 bts dr sexy Steve Bacic with Nicole Munoz for Gimme Shelter
Source: Nicole Munoz Twitter

Anyway, in that opening scene we meet the still-quite-attractive Pastor and his daughter Sylvia, who run Patchworks faith based community center. The young people working there balk at serving a homeless woman, but the Pastor encourages them to have compassion. Later, when one of the young people leaves, he’s lured into an alley by someone calling his name, trips on a stuffed bear who creepily calls him by name too and then is dragged off. Nice job with the scary, Matt Cohen!

Back at the bunker, Sam is researching and finds what he at first thinks might be a case – the missing young man from Patchworks – then decides probably not. Dean counters with a road trip  idea – Sam and Dean and Baby driving to Atlantic City, where there’s a Keno tournament and a mysterious blackout, so … Darkness, anyone? Sam is skeptical.

Dean: Chuck said Amara loves Keno.

Sam: I thought he was joking.

Dean: He’s not that funny.  So…. Road trip?

15.15 road trip for Dean Sam Winchester Gimme Shelter
15.15 sam dean beg castiel to join them SPN

Cas wants to join them, rightly pointing out how powerful Amara is, but Dean says someone has to keep an eye on Jack (who is very interested in the case that’s still on Sam’s open laptop and wants to work it.)

Jack looks hopefully at Cas. Cas looks hopefully at Sam.

Cas: Sam?

Sam: Dean’s not wrong. Maybe you can help.

They encourage him to go off and “Highway to Heaven” the case. Cas looks put upon as Sam and Dean leave, while Jack is excited.

Jack: Can we wear matching ties?

Cas: (longsuffering fatherly sigh)  Sure. You look good in blue.

15.15 Castiel looking down at jack begging to wear matching suits SPN
15.15 begs castiel to wear matching blue

I laughed out loud; Alex and Misha are gold together, and put upon Castiel is one of my favorite flavors. They meet up with the local sheriff in the alley where the kid was taken, as Agents Swift and Lovato. The sheriff comments that Jack looks “younger than Baby Yoda”, which was a great call out in an episode that had Emily Swallow (the Armorer in The Mandalorian) as a guest star.

Jack: I just graduated from CSI!

Even though sometimes I think Jack, as a powerful Nephilim, shouldn’t still be as innocent and naïve as he is, I can’t help but enjoy it anyway. Alex is just so good at playing Jack that way!

We learn that “LIAR” was carved into the guy (Conor)’s body. The Sheriff shows them a photo of the stuffed bear with the speaker in it, and Jack brightens.

Marvelous Marvin the talking bear holiday kids SPN 1515

Jack: Marvelous Marvin the talking teddy! I have one!

Sheriff: (incredulous)

Jack: Uh…for my stepson…Ronald…

I laughed again. Priceless, Alex, priceless.

Sam and Dean, meanwhile, are on a roadtrip. Talk about quintessential “Supernatural!” Cas calls and gives them an update on the case. Sam’s concerned about Jack, Dean gives Cas the advice to split up and send Jack in to ‘drink the kool aid’ while Castiel ‘flashes the badge’.

Cas: How’s the search going?

Dean: Dandy, talk to you later.

He hangs up abruptly, not wanting to talk about it. Sam broaches the topic again, though, pointing out that they’re setting up Amara to kill her, something that he seems to suspect Dean has complicated feelings about (presumably thanks to their past….whatever that was…)

Dean: We’re not the ones pulling the trigger. We knew there’d be a catch. At least this time it’s not you and me.

That’s true – for the Winchesters, that’s definitely a bright side.

Back on the case, Jack signs up for a social media account to try to get more info on Conor, as father figure Sam has modeled for him. Parent or guardian permission is required, he says, and Cas sighs again and gives it, adding that he tried social media once but there were “too many cats”.  I mean, he’s not entirely wrong. 

Cas and Jack decide the case may be demonic, so head to the crossroads to summon a demon. As you do. Which gives director Matt a chance to craft a gorgeous scene.

15.15 Crossroads demon Zack shows up with Jack and Castiel SPN

The crossroads demon Zach shows up, channeling Crowley because, he says, “Zach has style.” I miss Crowley. We all miss Crowley.  I like Zach though. He informs them that the shop is closed, no more deals, since Rowena has a hard “people end up where they belong” philosophy. You go, Rowena! I miss her too.

Zach is curious about what Castiel and Jack are doing with this small-time mystery case.

Zach: Are angels solving people crimes now?

He also tells them that it’s not a demon, just humans.

Cas: Sometimes humans can be the worst kind of monster.

A “Supernatural” lesson from way back.

Jack, discouraged, says he guesses they should give up and go back to the bunker and just wait for Sam and Dean, but Castiel squares his shoulders and says no, that they can help. The smile on Jack’s face is adorable, and not lost on Cas, I don’t think. Seriously, Cas and Jack in this episode are all kinds of awwww.

Back at the community center, another worker (Valerie) steals money from the donations box and is quickly taken down by someone in a very scary clown-like mask, and damn, you got me again, Matt. Scary!

Poor Valerie ends up tied to a chair with a Saw-like contraption ready to chop off her fingers one at a time, with a countdown in between. That is true horror movie stuff, which Perez loves and which invariably makes me a little nauseous. 

15.15 Valerie fingers in chopping blade concoction SPN

Cas and Jack follow Dean’s advice on how to work the case, so Jack goes to join up with Patchwork.

Jack: Where can I find the Kool Aid?

They let him sign up anyway – Alex Calvert posted his application, with ‘gender’ marked with M then crossed out to be N. I love the little touches!

Patwork religion sign up sheet with jacks name SPN 1515

As we’ll see, I also love the themes of this episode, and that fit right in.

Cas meets with Dr. Sexy – I mean, the pastor – while he blesses some guy. I always think, isn’t it funny that he has no idea there’s an actual angel standing behind him?

Jack chats with the evasive pastor’s daughter (we should have known something was up when she was so evasive), who has history with Conor, as in they dated but it was really more like they watched old movies together. Hmm.  Jack confides that he lost someone too, his mom, and we find out that Sylvia also lost her mother, so now it’s just her and pastor dad (who is apparently a better pastor than he is a father). Hmm again.

Jack: I have more dads than most and I always feel like I’m letting all of them down.

Awww Jack. The theme of parenthood of “Supernatural” Season 15 continues strongly in this episode.

The pastor chats with Castiel, explaining that his wife was more ‘hardcore’ religious and that the church was different when she was running it. She chalked everything up to “God’s will”, including the illness that killed her, but the pastor now runs a faith based organization that welcomes everyone of all faiths and backgrounds – including Conor, who was a gay man.

Cas: I doubt everyone was happy about that change.

15.15 dr sexy pastor talking to castiel gods will

He’s right, of course, and the pastor agrees, but says that doesn’t matter. A saint is a sinner who keeps on trying, he says.

I like the whole underlying message that the pastor is putting out, and also the more subtle message that you can be a good person who cares about doing the right thing and still neglect your own daughter and not recognize her pain until it’s too late.

With Jack accepted by the group, he takes part in a group service.

Jack: (with his signature move) Hello.

Jack with signature hello to church group SPN 1515

The pastor asks him to talk about ‘his journey’. Jack falters, seemingly unwilling to do so, so Castiel, who has been listening on the outside of the circle, steps in and offers to take his place.

This was a beautiful scene and made me tear up by the end. Davy Perez summed up Castiel’s journey and Misha did a beautiful job of telling his story and letting us see just how much Castiel has grown over his time with the Winchesters, and with Jack.

Castiel:  I know what blind faith is. I used to follow orders without question, and I did some pretty terrible things. I would never look beyond the plan. Then, of course, when it all came crashing down, I found myself lost. I didn’t know what my purpose was anymore. Then, one day, something changed, something amazing. I guess, I found a family. And I became a father.

He looks at Jack, their eyes locking.

Cas: And in that, I rediscovered my faith. I rediscovered who I am.

Me: Tissues!

I think I was extra emotional knowing that Castiel’s journey will end soon – it felt like a wrap up speech, like something you hear when a show is ending, which of course this one is.

Later that day, Jack asks the pastor how he was able to bring people together with very different ideas about religion.

Pastor: I tell them to leave that at the door. I always say each of us are God’s hands, a finger for him to use.

Me: Finger?? Uh oh. (Pieces clicking into place…)

Just then the television in the room switches over to poor Valerie, who has lost most of her fingers at this point. Cas and Jack think that leads to Rudy, the guy who left the organization a little while ago, and break down his door (poor Jack – why couldn’t Cas do it, since he has his powers back? No clue why it was so difficult). Anyway, it’s not Rudy – he’s cuffed to a bed and dead for a long time, the word “LUST” painted in blood on the wall above him.

15.15 Dead cult body with LUST painted in blood over him

Meanwhile, Sylvia (spoiler alert, it IS her) attacks her friend who’s trivializing everything by posting it on social media, accusing her of never being a true believer and stabbing her. The pastor discovers the injured woman and goes after Sylvia, finding her with poor mostly fingerless Valerie in the basement store room. He says he just wants to help his daughter, but she holds a knife to his throat, making him finally have to listen to her pain over losing her mother and her anger that he changed everything about what was her mother’s church.

Sylvia: These people don’t worship God, they worship you!

15.15 Sylvia holding knife to preacher dad throat SPN

Jack tries to intervene, but Sylvia lashes out at him too, stabbing him.

Sylvia: You’re just a scared little boy trying to make your daddies happy.

Maybe I’ve been watching too much of Eric Kripke’s other show, “The Boys,” but this episode had a lot of pointed things to say about our current culture and some of its problems. The message that hating and stigmatizing others who don’t worship the same (or look the same, or have the same socioeconomic privilege, etc) can be hurtful, is a real-life relevant one.

Much like “The Boys” doesn’t keep things black and white, this episode is nuanced in its ultimate message – the pastor was a good man trying to do good things, but he got so caught up in that, he ended up hurting his own daughter. Her rage at him and her anguish at losing her mother was clearly part of her motivation, striking out at anyone who seemed to go against her mother’s way of doing things, desperate to keep her mother’s memory alive, a loss she’s never been helped to deal with.  There are even some pointed stabs at celebrity and social media, also ala “The Boys.”

Castiel saves the day, putting Sylvia to sleep and breaking Valerie out of the torture contraption like a badass, healing her severed fingers. The pastor looks up in astonishment, asking “What are you?”

Castiel 15.15 healing pastor saying not a good angel SPN
15.15 Pastor asking Castiel if he is angel for healing him

Castiel admits he’s an angel, but laments “not a very good one.”

I think the pastor and Valerie would disagree with him about that. He promises he’s going to help his daughter, understanding that he should have been there for her. She gets in the car to go to the police station, and we see that Zach the crossroads demon is the driver. Nobody else notices. Hmm. I wonder if that will be significant later.

On the way back to the bunker, Cas asks Jack why he was so reluctant to talk about his journey, telling him that he doesn’t have to shoulder the burden alone, and he finally opens up.

Jack: Yes, I do. I’ve been lying to you. I’m going to die when I kill Chuck and Amara. Billie’s spell will turn me into a bomb.

Misha Collins did some A+ acting in that scene, Castiel’s face going through overwhelming emotions of shock, then disbelief, then horror in the space of a minute (Cas definitely would have driven off the road a few times there).

Castiel Misha Collins shock disbelief then horror over Jack SPN truth

Jack: Don’t tell Sam and Dean, they won’t understand. I know this is the only way they’ll ever forgive me.

Cas: (distraught) No! I watched you die once, I won’t do it again!

Castiel to Jack I watched you die once I wont do it again SPN
Jack begging Castiel not to tell Sam Dean SPN

Jack: It’s not your choice.

That scene really got to me. I felt Castiel’s anguish, his anticipatory grief at the potential loss of his son – and I felt Jack’s anguish too, how much he desperately wants to make up for what happened with Mary, how desperately he – like all children – wants the love and admiration of his parents. All three of them. Alex Calvert and Misha Collins broke my heart in this scene – and made me care about the outcome for these characters even more. Apparently director Matt and Misha weren’t entirely on the same page about some of the emotional scenes (I’m guessing this one) and had to come to a compromise, but if this is it, I’d say it came out perfectly.

While Cas and Jack are solving that case and getting very real with each other, the Winchesters stop at a gas station, where the cast and crew were greeted with a rare Vancouver snow squall and apparently filming had to pause because Jensen Ackles got a snowflake caught in his ridiculous eyelashes and it was so distracting that nobody could act, too busy staring. This from Emily Swallow is the most believable thing I’ve ever heard.

Dean is not eating gas station snacks, holding out for the AC all you can eat buffets, telling Sam he has “a process.”

Sam: (checking his phone) Oooh. Can your process last for six hours? There’s an accident on 76.

Sam Winchester on six hours on I 76 for Amara SPN 1515

(To someone in Pennsylvania, that rang so true – because there is ALWAYS an accident on I 76!)

Dean: Damn it!

Sam: Pork rinds?

Dean: Pork rinds.

It was a nice moment, something we guess plays out at gas stations all over the country with the Winchesters. They’re interrupted by the sudden appearance of Amara, who says she found them easily because she could smell Dean from two states over.

Amara: You have a distinctive musk.

Shades of Richard Speight, Jr. emceeing a con and advising us all to “blame it on the musk” when Jared and Jensen come onstage.

Amara wants Pennsylvania pierogies, apparently having a lot in common with Original Death, and off they go to a local diner. Sam and Dean try to convince Amara to help them, Sam pointing out he knows (from being in Chuck’s head) that Chuck asked her for help and she refused.

Amara: That’s not the same as betraying him.

I had to laugh (inappropriately) when Sam and Dean said “I get that he’s your brother…” because come on, they are the poster children for loyalty to your sibling, after all!

Amara insists that nobody understands them but each other, which again, is 100% the Winchesters.

15.15 Sam Dean Winchester with Amara at diner

Eventually Sam and Dean give up and leave. Dean starts the car, then turns off the engine and tells Sam to wait in the car and goes back inside.

This, to me, seems like the stupidest idea ever – and not one that Sam would go along with like oh okay sure, no worries, I’ll just sit here while you go in and meet with this all powerful being who used to have a thing for you.

15.15 Sam watching Dean go into diner for Amara SPN

Dean confronts Amara about why she brought back Mary, what she wanted to teach him.

Amara: I wanted you to see that Mary was just a person, that the myth of a better life if she’d lived was just that. I wanted you to see that the real complicated Mary was better, because she was real. So that you could accept your life.

Dean tears up a little, asks her what the second reason is.

Amara: I thought having her back would release you, put the fire out, your anger. I failed at that.

Dean is upset, but he’s also enraged, and Jensen conveys both of these feelings vividly.

Dean: You’re damn right. Look at you. Just another cosmic dick, rigging the game. I’m not angry – I’m furious. All my life I’ve been a hamster in a wheel, stuck in the story. And you’re doing nothing to stop it. You think he gives a rat’s ass about you? Who’s living in a dream world?

Amara looks taken aback, and maybe a little scared. (If Dean Winchester was sitting across from me that angry, I’d be scared too!)

Amara asks if she can trust him, though.

Dean: I would never hurt you.

He says it evenly, chin set – and it’s not a lie, really. He won’t be the one who delivers the blow, or at least that’s what he believes. But it’s not the truth either. Ackles makes it absolutely chilling.

This was a great scene, but there’s no reason Sam couldn’t have been there or that Dean wouldn’t have wanted him there. Mary was Sam’s mother too. I get that Amara brought her back initially for Dean, but in reality it had just as much impact on Sam, inevitably. So why did Sam have to stay in the car? I’m especially sad because this was Perez’s last episode, so it was his last chance to write for Sam Winchester, and we got very little. Still sad about it.

I didn’t find Amara’s revelation that earth shattering. We already knew that Dean has come to terms with who he is and with his life; he’s not struggling for purpose or clarification, or doubting his identity. He said that last season, that he’s good with who he is, and he’s good with who Sam is. With who they are. We didn’t know that Amara deliberately wanted to shatter Dean’s childhood idolization of his mother (which, ouch) but we knew that it happened anyway; Dean’s tearful heartbreaking speech to Mary inside her head made that crystal clear. 

I know Jensen had to struggle with the ‘why’ of  Mary coming back for Dean as well as for himself as the person portraying Dean, so it’s nice to have the specific acknowledgment I guess, but it didn’t strike me as any sort of big reveal. It was largely Jensen and Emily’s acting that made the scene impactful.

There’s been much discussion of Dean’s “anger issues” this season, which never rang true for me. Is he angry? Hell yeah, he’s angry. Who the hell wouldn’t be angry in his situation? And here he owns that anger, refusing to disavow it and in fact saying he’s not just angry, he’s furious. His anger here is justified – anger is just an indication that we feel wronged, and he has been. It’s always a question of what we do with that anger (and who we take it out on) that can be okay or not okay, but the emotion itself can be a strong motivator, as it is here.

The last scene hit hard too. Back at the bunker, in the middle of the night, Dean struggles with insomnia, seeking refuge in a bottle. Castiel walks by, headed out, and Dean stops him. They each give an update, Cas saying they solved the case, Dean saying Amara is probably on board.

Dean: Where are you going?

Cas: I’m going to look for another way. I have to.

Dean immediately knows there’s something very wrong.

Cas: Dean, in case something goes wrong and I don’t make it back, there’s something you and Sam need to know.

Dean looks as stricken as we all feel, knowing what’s probably coming.

Other than the notable lack of Sam (Jared Padalecki), this was a good solid episode, deftly directed by Matt Cohen, well written by Davy Perez, and well-acted by all the actors. Although I enjoyed and appreciated it, it’s left me kinda sad as I write this, knowing this is the only time Matt will direct and the last time Davy will write an episode of my favorite show.

misha collins jared padalecki and jensen ackles responding to final SPN season

Five more “Supernatural” episodes to go… And I’m still not ready.