Richard Speight Jr. breaks out his ‘Supernatural’ Gods and Monsters and Dean’s back

We were late this week with Lynn’s Supernatural review recap thesis due to a family tragedy, but here it is just in time for tonight’s ‘The Scar’ episode.

After a season premiere that kicked up conflicting emotions for me, the second episode of Season 14 of Supernatural was a different kind of episode – but once again, it kicked up some conflicting emotions. I had a lot of anticipation for this one because I enjoy Richard Speight’s directing and always look forward to hearing his thoughtful take on how he brought a script to life. On the other hand, my track record with enjoying the episodes from these particular writers is spotty. So I guess I went into this with conflicting emotions!

Speight is proficient at juggling the back and forth story lines that Supernatural sometimes serves up, and he did an admirable job here, but I tend to get whiplash if we’re bouncing back and forth between too many stories no matter how proficient the directing is. That was the case here to some extent, though Speight managed to keep the transitions smooth enough that I didn’t feel too jarred. Because there are so many story lines going on, I’ll touch on each scene briefly here, but with the through line of what worked and what didn’t in each one.

I pay more attention to the “Then” montage than ever before these days, because it usually gives a clue to what will be foregrounded in the episode, or at the very least what they don’t trust us to remember (of course we all do) or what they think a viewer who has somehow avoided seeing Supernatural for 14 years would need to know to just step right in and pick it up (totally and completely impossible at this point, give it up, Show!)  The “Then” this week features the final showdown with Lucifer and the moment of Dean’s possession, and a reminder of Jack’s trauma and his hatred of both Michael and Lucifer. With that frame set, we enter the episode through Michael and what he’s up to now – no disposable characters or case of the week for the beginning minutes.

The opening scene is visually striking and sets the tone for who Michael is and how we should feel about him. Speight likes to set up close up shots that are like works of art and emotionally evocative – this time it’s done in flashes, like there’s a thunderstorm outside, and the fact that you only get glimpses adds to the feeling of trepidation. A flash of heavy chains, broken statues, a church organ covered in cobwebs, light filtered through age-dimmed stained glass windows. A church defiled. The last close-up shot is of blood slowly dripping from the cut throat of a restrained man, leaning over a chalice that’s  slowly filling as he’s drained. The musical score is full of foreboding, fear mirrored on the faces of the chained up people waiting their turn. (The slow drip of blood will be a recurring image in this episode).

It was a strong opening, and a fitting frame for Michael, still dressed impeccably and as implacable as he was last week (though he has donned an imposing leather apron because clearly he loves his nice suits staying impeccable). It makes him look like a butcher, the leather and straps both terrifying and (perhaps because this is Jensen Ackles) also an oddly sexualized image. Michael seems to pull for objectification, a fact not lost on fandom.

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Caps by kayb625

Michael heals the vampire’s slit throat and adds a pinch of archangel grace to the blood.

Michael: A little of this, a little of that…

He then grabs the vampire’s head and forcefully makes him drink. When the vampire acquiesces, Michael does nothing to reduce the erotic vibe of the scene by crooning, “Yes, good boy” as the bound vampire follows his orders.

Unfortunately for the compliant vamp, no sooner has he done so than he burns out and dies, much to the other vampires’ horror.

Michael remains unemotional.

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Michael: Huh. Too much that…

It’s our first glimpse of Michael having a sense of humor, albeit a twisted dark one. Ackles did flesh out the character a bit more in this episode, which at first threw me a bit. Last week he was so unemotional he was almost flat, disturbingly so. This week, he showed some humor and some other emotional notes, including pride and a sadistic enjoyment from wielding his power over others. I felt like that was consistent with Christian Keyes’ portrayal of Michael, but it was more personality than Michael showed last week.

There’s another visually effective shot of the dead vampire’s feet dragging across the floor as Michael pulls him over to a pile of other dead vampires; the camera pulls out to show just how many, with lots of impact.

Michael flips the curved blade he’s holding, cocky.

Michael: All right, who’s next?

I might have needed a cold drink at that moment. There’s something hot about the cocky expression and the facile skill with which he flips that blade. Actually the same thing happens when Ackles flips his mic onstage with equal agility, which he has a habit of doing quite often. But I digress.

Now that we know what Michael is up to, it’s back to the bunker. There are so many people in the bunker that these scenes feel frenetic to me, though once again Speight keeps the continuity intact. Mary and Bobby are noting angels’ propensity for lying when Cas walks in (though he tends to agree). Sam is researching, which I always enjoy, and he still has that grief beard of course so he looks amazing doing it. He also has a lead on Michael in Duluth, of all places, so Sam, Mary and Bobby prepare to set out immediately. (Can I say that I really appreciate that they’re giving this search for Dean some urgency for a change? Too often the characters are supposed to be frantically looking for someone and yet they waste a lot of time bantering or doing something else or simply not moving as fast as I’m quite sure they would under those circumstances!)

Sam, still in leader mode and rocking it, tells Cas he can’t come along, since Michael will sense his angelic presence (better canon compliance than last week when Cas couldn’t sense any demons in a room full of them…). Cas isn’t thrilled about having to babysit Jack and Nick, but he gets it – Jack is lost, Nick is a mess. Sam gets to show his empathic side, which I’m really glad Show keeps remembering this season, saying that it’s not Nick’s fault, he deserves a chance. Oh Sam, I love that side of you that can put others first, even when Nick looks like the guy who traumatized you so horribly.

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First Cas wanders in to find Mary and Bobby dissing angels, then Jack walks in when everyone is talking about Lucifer.

Jack: Talking about my dad again?

(That’s what happens when a ton of people all live in the bunker, Show! People keep overhearing conversations!)

Jack is also okay with staying behind, mostly because he’s still beating himself up for “sucking last time”. Poor Jack, he’s so determined to do better.

Sam (cocking his gun): Let’s move.

Sam Effing Winchester? Present.

So we’ve caught up with Michael and with Sam, Cas and company. Now we jump to story arc number three, which is Nick. Speight starts out with a similar shot to last week’s, Nick still sitting in the middle of his bed staring at the wall, which seems really sad. Poor guy must really be in bad shape if all he can do is just sit there.

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The composition of the shot frames him as trapped, but it also feels like there’s some foreboding there. Nick is tortured by flashbacks of what Lucifer did. Castiel, having clearly listened to Sam’s plea for pity, puts his own feelings aside and brings Nick some food.

This scene between Mark Pellegrino and Misha Collins is masterfully acted and directed. Collins lets you feel Castiel’s discomfort around Lucifer’s former vessel, and Pellegrino portrays Nick as a man who doesn’t keep his feelings bottled up and speaks his mind.

Nick: I’m not him, Castiel. You can’t even look at me…

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(Side note: Fans who are wiser than me have pointed out that when Castiel looked at Lucifer, he should have seen his true form, not his vessel. It makes sense that Sam is really thrown by having to look at the same face as Lucifer had, but it doesn’t really make sense that Cas feels the same way.)

Anyway. Despite that, Misha makes Castiel’s feelings believable. It clearly is uncomfortable for him to interact with Nick, yet he gently tries to answer Nick’s anguished question of why he would have let Lucifer possess him, explaining that he was in a lot of pain because his family was murdered. In a flashback, Nick remembers his family and their horrific death, exclaiming “Ohmygod, who could do that? That was a monster – and Lucifer found me and made me a monster too!”

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Nick is not one of the characters that I care about much in a show that’s too crowded with characters right now, but Mark Pellegrino did an incredible job of showing Nick’s anguish. My chest was tight just listening to his pain; Pellegrino is another actor who can allow himself to be very vulnerable in portraying grief the way it sounds in real life. It’s not pretty or sanitized; it comes out in whimpers and howls and sounds that seem inhuman but are the most human of all noises, and we all instinctively recognize them. Whatever he channeled to get to that place, the loss and grief came through loud and clear. And it hurt. Kudos to Pellegrino and to Speight for the way this scene played. Also? Ouch.

Back to Sam, Mary and Bobby, who are visiting the morgue in Duluth to examine the bodies of the people who were found dead.

Bobby asks the coroner about the ETA or the TOD of the DOA and she reacts like she has no idea what he’s talking about but seriously? Even I know what those particular acronyms mean and what he’s asking.

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Minor quibble, and Sam looks amazing in his FBI suit with that grief beard, and he gets to be smart!Sam and figure out the bodies are vampires and the girl who visited them is one too. Love me some smart Sam.

Back to Cas and Jack at the bunker. There’s a beautiful shot of Jack sitting in the MoL library studying the lore on how quickly Archangel grace replenishes. Speight knows how to set up a shot to take advantage of the beauty of the MoL set, and I appreciate it. Misha and Alex Calvert hit all the right notes in this scene, as Cas tries to help Jack get past grieving over what is lost and instead focus on the future.

When Jack protests that Cas doesn’t understand (a recurring accusation in this episode), Cas protests that yes, he actually does.

Cas: Yes I do understand, a little. In the fall, I lost everything. I felt helpless, useless.

If anyone understands Jack, Castiel certainly should relate to at least some of his experience. I think both Cas and Sam have found ways to empathize with Jack’s experience, if only he could feel that.

Jack: What did you have left?

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Cas: I had Sam and Dean. But I had something else extremely important – I had myself. Just the basic me.

He goes on to say that Sam and Dean weren’t born with all the expertise they have, that they’ve been at this since they were children. That it takes patience, persistence, and those are skills too. That the past is not as important as the future. It’s a beautiful little speech, and Misha makes it a heartfelt one. It rings true in the show, but it immediately evoked so much of what the fandom and the cast are all about too – it’s the show’s mantra of “Always keep fighting” that has spread right into the real world. It’s what Family Don’t End With Blood is all about and why the cast all wrote chapters in it. So those lines really got to me, maybe more than they would have otherwise.

I love Speight’s use of these beautiful close-up shots, because the actors on this show are skilled enough to say so much with their expressions; Richard uses that very effectively.

We switch again, back to Michael. In a tux. As in, Jensen in a tux. Adjusting his tie in the mirror. Close up shot of Michael adjusting his cuffs, and why should that be so hot?

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I was so distracted by what Ackles looks like in a tux (and that invitation to objectify that I mentioned) that I got caught off guard by what happened next – Michael’s reflection in the mirror is suddenly not Michael, but Dean! I gasped out loud and threw my hand over my mouth, instantly overwhelmed with unexpected emotion. I realize Dean hasn’t been gone long, but I think the anticipation of Dean being gone and the intense way I missed him the entire first episode had an impact. So seeing him suddenly make an appearance made me very emotional!

Dean grits out a demand, his face contorted with both effort and anger.

Dean: GET. OUT. You…can’t…

Michael: (smashes the mirror, then nearly smiles, utterly unconcerned) Oh but I can. I own you, so hang on and enjoy the ride.

He smirks, the bastard. And the glimpse of Dean is over.

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I sat there overwhelmed for at least another minute or two, rather shocked by my own emotional reaction to seeing the character I’ve been missing so much even for a short glimpse.  This was a brilliant scene, the glass breaking to distort the reflection perfectly as Michael lashes out and pushes Dean down. It also worked as a call back to the Samifer mirror scene, and I love when Show remembers and celebrates its own history.

The next jump was to another Supernatural scene flowing into an advertisement for the Halloween movie, but this time it wasn’t a spoiler – it was a scene that had already aired. Better job, network!

After the commercial break, we’re back to Nick and Castiel. Once again, Pellegrino and Collins knocked it out of the park. Now that he’s remembered the tragedy of his family, Nick has tapped into not just agony but anger. He starts ranting and Cas reaches out to touch his shoulder to console him, and Nick just snaps – he extends his hand and goes to snap his fingers, as though he’s expecting that to destroy the angel. Castiel, shocked, jumps back, putting both hands up in a gesture of harmlessness. Misha let us see every bit of Castiel’s confusion and apprehension here, not knowing if he’s seeing a piece of Lucifer coming through or what just happened.

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Nick, meanwhile, doesn’t seem to know he did it. Cas tries to read his mind to make sure there isn’t some of Lucifer left in Nick, but the results seem a little unclear.

Cas: Lucifer may have inflicted more damage that we expected.

Me: What does that mean?? Sounds ominous…

Back to Sam and company looking for the vampire girl who escaped Michael. They find her apartment and when she tries to escape out the window, Sam Effing Winchester kicks in the damn door and bursts in wielding his gun and damn, is it hot in here?

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I’m not sure if I was supposed to feel this way, but I felt bad for the vampire girl, who says she’s never killed anyone and drinks animal blood. Bobby threatens to kill her anyway, and she pleads for her life and offers to tell them where Michael is.

Back to Michael in that tux, now entertaining a beautiful woman. The two are flirty, and we see another side of Michael we’ve never seen before. He’s charming, debonair, on the outside at least quite the gentleman.

Melanie: (grinning as Michael pours her some wine) Mmm, elegant. But then, so are you…

Speight films this with close-ups of their hands as the wine is poured, adding to the tension of the scene and evoking the almost disembodied nature of Michael’s physicality and emotionality. He’s acting, faking it, but she’s totally taken in (understandably…)

Michael says Duluth is nothing like where he’s from, windswept, barren, bodies lying around…

Melanie: (giggling and still flirty) You’re so funny, what a nice surprise meeting you.

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Melanie is clearly a unique person, because if a guy calmly told me there are lots of dead bodies lying around where he’s from, I’d be out that door so fast even an archangel might not be able to catch me!

Andrea Drepaul plays Melanie with charm as she matches Michael parry for parry, mistakenly thinking she has the upper hand and is the real monster in this room. Michael insinuates that he knows exactly why she was all alone in the bar (he does), and she laughs again.

Melanie: Oh Michael, I am so not that girl.

Michael: Oh but you really are, aren’t you?

Melanie: (giggling again) You’re terrible!

She looks up at him flirtatious, puts her hands on his shoulders and leans in close, coquettish.

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Michael: You have no idea.

Melanie shows her werewolf teeth, and Michael shows his true strength, letting her know that she didn’t choose him – he chose her. He effortlessly picks her up by the throat and lifts her off the ground, then unceremoniously tosses her across the room. He calmly walks over and stands above her, sipping his wine and cooly giving her an order.

Michael: Now summon your master.

I want Dean back so bad I can taste it, but I have to admit, Michael being all ordering everyone around while looking like that is pretty incendiary. Speight filmed this scene from interesting angles to evoke the power differential, and Drepaul did a great job of creating a character who you felt you knew a little bit even in the few minutes she had onscreen. (And yes, I kinda felt bad for her as she was manipulated and then tossed around like that)

Back to Cas and Nick, and another person telling Castiel that he doesn’t understand. Once again, Cas proves that he has a unique perspective – this time because he’s also an angel possessing someone, just as Lucifer was. Nick reacts to this information with shock and then with anger, which seems to be bubbling out of him almost constantly at this point. Nick has a mean streak, and it’s starting to make my blood run cold.

Cas: Yes, I do understand. Because I am occupying someone else’s body.

Nick: Occupying? A cleaned up way of saying steal.

And that’s not all he has to say. Even after Cas explains that yes, Jimmy Novak wanted this and agreed to this, and that Jimmy is now dead, Nick is unforgiving.

Nick: Castiel, you’re just a stone cold body snatcher, no different than Lucifer.

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He says it with such derision, such contempt, that you can tell it hits Cas hard. Kudos to Misha for letting some of that emotion show and to Speight for directing it that way. It’s not often we get some insight into what Castiel feels about his own journey, especially since Jimmy Novak, so this was an important scene. It’s also not often that anyone confronts him or any other angel about what possession really entails or its consequences.

Cas: In all my thousands of years, what happened to Jimmy Novak and his family, it’s my greatest regret.

Ouch. And kudos.

Meanwhile, while Melanie sits silently and looking none too happy, Michael gets to meet with her master – the werewolf pack leader. This is the scene Jensen talked about, saying he was struggling a bit to figure out how to play Michael opposite an actor who was making similar choices (Ben Wilkinson), and how much Richard Speight’s direction helped him. It’s a great scene, two powerful Alpha males facing off, all genteel nice suits and expensive liquor as they parry back and forth and negotiate a nefarious (for humanity) plan.

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Michael again has more personality here than he did last week, but he’s also got a coldness to him that is so un-Dean-like. Dean runs hot, all his emotions strong even when he’s not showing them. Michael runs cold, smug and self assured even as he’s negotiating with the pack leader.

The pack leader mentions God and Michael snickers.

Michael: God who? God’s on permanent vacation, gone fishin’. So I’m in charge.

I guess no Rob Benedict any time soon then? Darn.

Michael lays out a little more of his motivations in this scene, saying that he wants to work with the werewolf pack leader because he respects him – they kill but not for sport or trophy like humans. (Which actually made a lot of sense)

Michael and the pack leader share a vision of a world where those pesky humans are subjugated, good for either food or labor but not much else. The typical dystopian future power-hungry dictator scenario, in other words. Michael does make you feel like he might be able to pull it off though.

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Next we’re back to Jack, who has escaped Castiel’s attempts at babysitting and gone to visit his mother’s parents, the Klines.  (Do not leave your toddler with Cas, just saying – both his charges ended up escaping his watch).

Give Alex Calvert all the kudos for the touching scene of Jack meeting the only thing he has left of his mother in this world – her parents. From the moment they open the door, Jack is almost physically in anguish, his emotions are so strong.

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His mother is so important to Jack, the only parent who ever conveyed love or hope to him. That makes her death before he was even born all the more tragic, and Jack clearly longs for her. It must be overwhelming to meet her parents, and to bond with them over missing her. It broke my heart that they don’t even know their daughter is dead, and Jack isn’t able to tell them.

Mrs. Kline: (awed) We have a grandson…

That they don’t know he’s sitting right in front of them is absolutely heartbreaking.

Jack relates to them the important things that Kelly taught him, including the conviction that he’s in charge of his own fate and can be who he chooses to be. He’s clinging to that now, in the midst of his struggle to figure out just who and what that is.

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I’m a little surprised that the Klines were pretty much the perfect parents, because I wasn’t all that taken with Kelly, especially in the beginning. I do think she loved Jack, and that’s what came through to him, but she’s certainly different than I might have expected from these two parents.

Scene switch, back to the vampire girl. Turns out Sam and company did spare her, so phew. Michael, on the other hand, is not so forgiving. He appears in her kitchen, dapper hat back in place, and lets her know that he let her escape. It was his plan all along. And here we get a hint about Michael’s other plans.

Michael: Rule Number One, you can’t have a trap without bait. And Rule Number Two, once that trap has been sprung, you don’t need the bait anymore.

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He kills her without a trace of emotion, but what’s really ominous about his words don’t come clear until the end of the episode.

Back to the bunker, and Cas confronts Jack about going AWOL on his babysitting night. Jack protests that the Klines are the only real family he has left. Castiel clearly wants to remind Jack that “family don’t end with blood”, but he’s getting a lot better at this human interaction thing, so he forces himself not to go there and to listen instead. Jack is so earnest and there’s real joy on his face when he tells Cas that they thought he looked like his mother – he’s so desperate to identify with her, with something good in one of his parents at least. Castiel responds that what he did came from a place of kindness and that there are worse ways to be human than to be kind (which sounded so very Misha it threw me out of the story for a moment, but not really in a bad way).

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The end of their conversation is not so touching, however. When Jack finds out that Sam and the hunters may have found Michael, he just wants to know that they’re going to kill him.

Jack: Michael has to be stopped. Dean doesn’t matter. If he can’t be saved, Michael has to be stopped.

Castiel: (looking shocked) And if Dean dies too?

Jack: Then Dean dies.

Cas is now looking devastated, even moreso when Jack adds “Do you think he would want it any other way?”

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Castiel knows the answer is no; but that has never been an answer the others can accept.

Misha and Alex again were awesome in this scene, and Richard Speight’s direction kept the emotional focus right where it needed to be. The framing of the wide shot puts Jack and Cas on opposite sides of this issue, and the use of close up shots of both their faces, with their expressions conveying so much, was really effective in making the entire conversation impactful. Sometimes I’m just in awe of the fact that we got so lucky with this cast – and with cast-turned-directors!

Finally we get to the wrap ups of the other two story arcs that have been traversing this episode. Nick visits his old neighbor Artie. At first it seems like a friendly visit, but Nick’s barely repressed rage is bubbling hot under the surface of tea and pleasantries. He becomes increasingly agitated as Artie refuses to add any additional information, claiming he at first thought he saw a man outside Nick’s house and then realized he was mistaken. Pellegrino is terrifying here, clearly on the verge of becoming unhinged. There’s an amazing shot of Nick pulling back the curtain on the window that Artie was looking out of that night, Artie framed within and every single thing about the shot so menacing, like a Hitchcock shot. We finally learn the truth about what happened that night, to our horror – whoever killed Nick’s wife and baby smashed their skulls, over and over, with a hammer.

That line plays out with all the gravity it should, and I think I had my hand over my mouth again for an entirely different reason. Nick finally snaps, choking Artie and yelling “I deserve justice!”

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Cut to Sam, Bobby and Mary following the vamp girl’s directions to the now abandoned church. We get a beautiful flashlight-lit scene, and then the newly enhanced werewolves crash through the windows. The hunters soon realize that none of the usual lore is helpful, because nothing seems to stop these werewolves except decapitation.

Bobby: (deadpans) Well, that worked.

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There’s a fight, and the hunters finally prevail.

Then it’s silent as they catch their breath, trying to figure out what the hell is going on and realizing just how screwed they really are.

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It’s silent for a second.

Then the doors to the church slam open (Sam flinches, in a brilliant move by either Jared or Richard or both) and there stands Michael.

He walks in slowly, raises his hand like he’s going to smite them once and for all, and then he staggers and instead braces himself against a support pillar. Slowly, clearly struggling, he takes off that hat as he sinks to the floor – and I think we all knew. Sam too, I think, or at least he’s hoping beyond hope.

“Sammy, it’s me.”

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Me: OMG! It’s Dean. IT’S DEAN!

Sam approaches cautiously, crouches down to where Dean has collapsed, tentatively touches his brother.

Sam: Is it really you?

Dean: Yeah, it’s really me.

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And because this is Sam and Dean, Sam doesn’t ask again – he asks what’s most important.

Sam: Are you okay?

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Also because they’re brothers, Dean is immediately back to being an exasperated big brother.

Dean: No, I’m not okay!

Sam points out that Dean somehow got Michael to leave, but Dean shakes his head.

Dean: No, I…I didn’t. He just left.

Sam: Why?

Dean looks up, and we can see how confused and worried he is.

Dean: I don’t know.

Sam: (gives him a look, i.e. wordless Winchester communication)

Dean: I don’t know!

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Me: THAT’S MY SAM AND DEAN!!!!!!!!!!

I was relieved, yes. But I didn’t expect it to go like this! I was a wee bit spoiled for Dean most likely being back by the end of this episode, so I did believe it was Dean right away, but my twitter feed immediately started blowing up with “It’s a trick, it’s not Dean!”   Just because it’s Dean, though, doesn’t mean it’s not a trick. I mean, of course it’s a trick – why else would Michael lure them all there to the church, send Dean in and then depart (or hide out in the back of Dean’s brain or whatever it is he’s doing)?   Is Michael’s plan to toss a monkey wrench into Sam’s effective leadership and the smooth running machine the hunters have going by returning Dean to the mix? Will there be a shared leadership or will that cause conflict between the brothers? Will the other hunters trust him to really BE Dean? And will their mistrust be well placed if he’s some sort of sleeper agent embedded with the hunters? How smart is this Michael guy anyway??

We end with Nick, standing in Artie’s house and regarding himself in the mirror. He’s bloody, looks almost in shock. And he’s holding a hammer.

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What the hell? Did he snap? Is he part Nick and part Lucifer? Or was Nick a bad guy all along and doesn’t remember that it was he who hammered his family to death? I don’t know! I honestly wasn’t expecting a Nick twist, nor am I sure I wanted one.

We end with a close up shot of the bloody hammer, another beautiful Speight shot, and the ominous horrible sound of blood dripping – from Artie’s lifeless body. It’s a fitting call back to Nick’s baby’s crib, the blood dripping down the sides and falling to the floor.

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The title ‘Gods and Monsters’ becomes a clearer commentary by the time the episode ends. Michael wryly notes that God is nowhere to be found, so he’s stepping in to fill the power void. In a way, that makes God himself monstrous, to leave the universe on its own to be conquered – to leave a void that allows monsters to become gods. Lucifer, Michael, Amara, Eve, the Leviathans….there have been so many. The episode also leaves open the question of what makes a being a monster – Nick is now human, but his actions certainly make him monstrous. Jack struggles with the “monstrous” side of himself, and yet he seems more human than most non-hybrid people right about now. Dean may still have some of the monstrous in him; Sam has been in those shoes too. It will be interesting to see how that theme continues to play out this season.

So that’s where we are. This was a compelling episode, with great performances and directing. The Nick scenes were some of the strongest, but here are those mixed feelings again. I don’t watch this show for the emotional journeys of the other characters. I can appreciate how well they were done. The Nick story arc left me feeling more like I’d just watched a really well done horror movie – but not an episode of my favorite show in the history of the world. I’m sure they’ll wind this story arc back into the main one, but I never feel 100% satisfied when there are multiple stories going and I don’t get enough of the ones I care about the most. In a weird way, the Michael scenes were the same. Very well done, great performances, compelling scenes. But not entirely the show I fell in love with and crave 42 minutes of every week.

It was a satisfying episode for Cas and Jack’s story arcs, with great performances and lots of emotional insight into both characters. But there wasn’t much Sam (unlike last week) and there wasn’t much Dean. It’s a testament to how much I miss them when they’re not there that I had such a strong emotional reaction to Dean’s brief reappearance in the mirror. The last minute or so, when it was finally Sam and Dean again, were a tremendous relief, but also oddly anti-climactic. I was hoping for a dramatic nail-biting oh-so-very-satisfying Sam saves Dean, to be honest. If we can’t have that, could we not have allotted more than one minute for the big reunion and the question of where it will take our heroes now?  The will-they-get-Dean-back was the big question of the start of the season, and it ended (seemingly) rather abruptly. Mary didn’t even get a chance to say a word or react at all to her own son being suddenly apparently saved. I loved Sam’s reaction but there wasn’t much time devoted to it and I definitely was left wanting MORE.

I know, I know, we’ll get it. Next episode. At least I hope we will. But there have been a few spoilery interviews recently that seem to imply that we might not get as much of the ‘Dean copes with the trauma of possession’ aftermath exploration as I was led to believe at Comic Con. I was looking forward to that as a perfect way of both having Dean back and continuing the dramatic impact of Michael’s possession. Did Michael even kill any humans while he was possessing Dean? Believe me, I’m all for Dean being back, but I was looking forward to Jensen having the opportunity to dig his teeth into some real emotional work for Dean in the aftermath, and maybe Sam continuing the emotional work he began in Season 13 dealing with his Lucifer trauma too.

Not sure where we’re going from here. Will Nick eventually be a host for Michael? If Michael isn’t the “big bad” of the season, who is? We really don’t need multiple bad guys, Show – or endless numbers of story arcs either. Just give me the show I signed up for! Meanwhile, what I care most about is what’s going to happen now that Dean is most likely that “bait” that Michael referenced earlier. And once the bait isn’t needed anymore…..

I had quibbles, but the bottom line is, I ended this episode worried. Worried for the fate of the fictional characters I care about – and that’s the best evidence of all that this show is still bringing it for me, despite those quibbles. So kudos to Richard Speight Jr. for the direction and the best cast ever for those amazing performances that keep me watching week after week.