After watching the previous week’s Supernatural episode at a Supernatural convention with some fellow fangirls, I missed this week’s entirely due to family obligations and watched it on the CW app on my phone a few days later once everyone had gone to bed. A very different experience, to say the least! That also meant I was somewhat spoiled thanks to a few twitter forays in the interim, which always makes my viewing experience muted. It’s hard to say how much more I would have liked this episode if I was 100% unspoiled, but I don’t think it would have been night and day.
The THEN segment was about ten minutes long, which usually means there’s going to be way too much going on in the upcoming episode. Uh oh.
But then I hear “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” one of my favorites, and there’s lots of pretty Christmas décor, so that’s nice….and then, in true Supernatural fashion, broken things and lots of blood and a hapless guy screaming “No please no!” One of the crazy-toothed werewolf guys (in a Santa hat) confronts him and grabs him by the throat. Cut to mistletoe above them, so werewolf guy leans in for a kiss – and snaps the guy’s neck. Ah, Supernatural.
I enjoyed that irreverent beginning – nice touches by writer Robert Berens.
Even if I hadn’t been spoiled, it wouldn’t have been a shock to see Michael in a new vessel in the next scene – this one a beautiful woman. Michael sure has good taste in vessels! I thought Felisha Terrell did a good job of channeling Michael’s low key but confident mannerisms. I was happy to see Melanie (Andrea Drepaul) return, and I was also spoiled for the return of D J Qualls as Garth, so no surprises yet for me.
Michael recognizes Garth too, since he was in Dean’s head. Garth says he’s still a friend to Dean, though he has a family now which means he has to be on the winning side. Hmmm. Not sure I believe you Garth, but hopefully Michael does.
After the opening wings, we return to the bunker. Jack eats cookie crisp cereal in the middle of the night and tells Castiel not to tell Dad – I mean, Sam — which I find endearing. Cas reassures Jack that of course he’s having trouble sleeping, since he was just brought back to life.
Cas: We’ve all been there. Sort of a rite of passage around here.
Me: He’s not wrong.
Sometimes watching a show that’s been on the air fourteen years is an unusual experience, because a lot of really odd things have happened to the main characters – repeatedly. I kinda like that they acknowledge it outright, so thanks for that Robert Berens.
Jack wants to know why Sam and Dean can’t know about the deal Cas made, but Cas says he doesn’t want them to have that burden. Besides, he reasons, this hunting life they live is a lot of things, but happy is rarely one of them, so maybe he’ll be safe for a long time.
Again, he’s not wrong.
Meanwhile, my suspicions about Garth are proved right – he’s checking in with Sam. Sam feels guilty already, worried that Garth will have to drink Michael’s super-charged blood since he’s undercover – and Sam’s the one who pulled him out of retirement. Dean does a little exposition to make sure viewers understand what’s going on (yes yes we’re following) and tries to reassure Sam, since they have some intel and possibly some weapons too.
Dean: I like our odds.
Me: Oh no, don’t say that, never say that…
I didn’t realize at the time that this was the only scene we’d get with just Sam and Dean, and it was a tiny one at that.
Sam and Dean join Cas and Jack for a skype call with Ketch, sounding very posh indeed, much to Jack’s amusement and Sam and Dean’s annoyance. He got the magic archangel-catching egg, then apparently dropped the egg, and… then put the egg in the mail. Priority mail though, so no worries. What could go wrong?
David Haydn-Jones is very good at comedy, and his apologetic shrug and “Sorry chaps” made me smile. So did Dean’s facepalm and exasperated expression, because Jensen Ackles is very good at comedy too. In fact, they all are, luckily for us.
Back at Michael headquarters overlooking the soon-to-be-doomed Kansas City, second-in-command Melanie reassures Garth that he can safely (sort of) drink the supercharged archangel blood potion, which of course he’s trying to avoid doing.
Melanie: Don’t worry, only about one in 7 volunteers explodes.
Garth tries not to swallow (snicker), but Michael makes sure he does. Garth seems okay, and he pointedly does not tell Sam what he’s done when he calls to report in. That can’t be good. Michael, Garth tells Sam, is after Dark Kaia, determined to destroy her spear, and he has an army of turned monsters ready to eat up Kansas City – on Christmas!
Dean: All nogged up, waiting for Santa – Merry Freakin’ Christmas!
Dean Winchester really does have a way with words.
For once, the Winchesters have a few aces up their sleeve – the egg, which they plan to steal from the postal facility where it got snagged (don’t you hate when that happens right at the holidays?), some bespelled cuffs that may hold Michael, and Kaia’s spear still in play too. Of course, just when the Winchesters think they have a few aces is when all hell tends to break loose.
Unfortunately, that means Sam and Dean splitting up, which always makes me unhappy and happens every other second on the show these days. Sam and Jack go to the post office and Dean and Cas head for the deserted warehouse to find the spear and Michael’s monsters.
Cas notes that Dean seems happy (which strikes me as not exactly the correct emotion, but this is Cas after all). Dean says he’s fired up, because when was the last time they had a no strings attached win?
Of course, Cas knows there are strings attached, so ouch.
Dean tells Cas something I’ve been really wanting him to say out loud, and especially to tell Sam – that he thought he understood what it meant to be possessed, but really he didn’t. He has always had sympathy for Sam, and in fact his hatred for Lucifer is fueled by his rage that the possession was agonizing for his brother, but he didn’t have empathy – because he didn’t know how devastating it is to be powerless against it, to have to watch your body do things you loathe, to be traumatized and used and entirely helpless and impotent. Now he does.
And now? All he wants is to kill Michael for that violation.
I’m glad Dean got to say that, and I was glad that he opened up to Sam in a previous episode and described what his own possession and violation was like, and Sam was clearly empathic and moved by it. But Sam also needs to hear that Dean understands now how unspeakably horrific Sam’s possession was. Cas was, of course, possessed too, but Sam’s experience and Castiel’s experience being possessed by Lucifer were very different. Cas has said that he was asleep most of the time, so while in retrospect he is, of course, feeling a similar sense of impotence and rage, it wasn’t the extended trauma that Sam’s possession was – or the constant being drowned and suffocated sensation that Dean’s was. I’m glad Dean told Cas, but please Show, can he tell his brother who really needs to hear it?
They find the warehouse empty, though it looks like Kaia has been there.
Meanwhile, Sam lets Jack try his hand at lock picking since he’s eager to prove himself and be useful. Jack is adorably proud of himself when he succeeds and gets a ‘nice work’ from Dad Sam. He even manages a “happy holidays” as they leave, as the place is amusingly and incongruously decorated for Christmas. Incongruous because there’s nothing light and cheery about this episode!
And then – here’s Michael!
Michael: Hey Sam, happy holidays.
(Michael is developing more and more personality as the season goes on, it seems).
He tosses Sam into a van (more concussion), but I love Sam’s bravery here as he rushes the archangel to try to save Jack even as he must know it’s fruitless and could be his own death sentence. I love me some fierce and fearless and protective Sam – but alas, Michael destroys the egg and knocks Sam out. One possible weapon gone.
Dean keeps calling Sam’s phone and getting no answer, and now he’s upset. (See, Dean? Stop splitting up, for godsakes!) Of course, Michael was in fact not fooled by Garth, and yes Dean, this is, in fact, a setup. Kaia is there in the warehouse though, and this time Dean asks her for the spear instead of trying to forcibly take it from her.
He tells her the truth, that Michael has his family, and he’s going to torture them just like he tortured Dean. Just like he tortured Kaia. And Dean can’t stand for that to happen.
Dean: So if you’re not going to give it to me, kill me.
I think he means it, and Cas looks ready to jump out of his skin, but Dean stands his ground, the tip of the spear at his chest. And Kaia agrees. She says that all she wants is to go back to the Bad Place. There are monsters here chasing her too, and at least there she understood how to deal with that. She wants Jack to send her back – because she too has people she is bound to protect.
Kaia hands Dean the spear….
Sam: He’s got Jack.
They all head to Kansas City, Sam from one direction and Dean and Cas from the other. (I’m not sure why they didn’t bring Kaia with them, since she’s got as much beef with Michael as they do. And why was Kaia not caught by Michael before now? Hmm). For that matter, why didn’t they call Mary and Bobby and whoever else for backup? They have all these AU hunters around, but they go after the Big Bad alone, just the four of them?
Cas says what Dean is clearly thinking too: Sam, don’t you go in there alone.
Me: Uh oh.
Meanwhile, Michael tells a bound Jack his plan, to turn all of Kansas City into his loyal monsters. When Jack says “I hate you,” Michael comes back with “Jack, we’re family, we’re the only kin each of us has left in this world.”
Interesting commentary on family, a core theme of this show.
Jack: You’re not family.
Michael is convinced, however, that in time – over eons – Jack’s loyalty to the Winchesters, to Cas, to humans, will fade. I’m not entirely sure why Michael wants to convince Jack to be on his side. I get that if Jack’s powers come back, he would be a threat, so Michael would want to either kill him or keep him close, but recruit him? Hmm.
Jack: Sam, Dean, and Castiel – they’ll come for me.
Michael just smiles.
Felisha makes it look very scary.
Outside, the turned vampire and werewolf prepare for the takeover, but they haven’t counted on Sam Winchester – who did not listen to Castiel’s very good advice and arrives well before Dean and Cas.
Whack, he beheads the vamp.
Love me some Sam Fucking Winchester!
He didn’t even stay out of the building, in fact – he goes right in and beheads Melanie in the elevator. RIP Melanie!
Sam frees Jack, and oh dear, that was way too easy!
Sure enough, Garth finds them and uh oh, that can’t be right, why is Garth still alive and kicking when we know that Michael caught him on the phone with Sam…. And it isn’t. Garth clearly tries to fight it, but he eventually succumbs to the monster potion he ingested and attacks them.
“He’s in my head, Sam, he won’t let me stop,” Garth sobs as he rushes Sam. “I’m sorry!”
Sam, because he’s Sam, tries to talk Garth out of it, and gets beat up in the process. Jack also leaps in and tries to help. Eventually Sam knocks Garth out, and they put him in the trunk just as Dean and Cas arrive.
Dean (sarcastic): Thanks for waiting for us.
Me: Yeah, Sam!
Dean’s feeling confident now because he has the spear – cue some Ackles improv juggling the spear in the parking lot where they meet up and almost whacking Sam in the head with it. (Stunt wizard Rob Hayter confirmed that was “all Jensen” – and that he’s a very quick study, but we already knew that, didn’t we?)
Meanwhile, Cas heals Jack (hey, some of his powers are back! I am forever confused as to whether Cas has powers or doesn’t, since it seems at the whim of whoever is writing the particular episode)
Dean: Impossible odds, feels like home.
Ode to Joy then starts to play because this is a) a Christmas themed episode and b) apparently an homage to “Die Hard.” The foursome walk slowly and dramatically across the parking lot ala “Reservoir Dogs”. I have to say, that didn’t entirely work for me. First, that dramatic slow-mo walk has already been used to good effect in the Tarantino-esque episode, and second, with the super dramatic music and the super dramatic slow-mo it was just….too dramatic! I couldn’t quite take it seriously, yet it felt like we were supposed to take it seriously. Maybe cool it on the film homage sequences, Show. Maybe it’s one of those things you can’t over use if you want it to be effective.
It also looked really odd to have Dean and Cas in the front instead of Sam and Dean, who are usually – pretty much always – the ones leading. Was that a ship offering? I honestly don’t know, but it struck me as odd and threw me out of that scene even more.
We’re now in the final five minutes and I know something dramatic is going to happen, but luckily I wasn’t sure exactly what that was going to be. They all know that Michael will be able to sense Castiel, and that’s what happens first, Cas going in ahead and trying to attack with what I’m assuming is an archangel blade? Misha Collins gets to do some fight scene sequences, trench coat flying as he spars with Michael. Michael, of course, beats the crap out of him, dragging him into the penthouse apartment that has a beautiful view of the impending havoc. Cas has had his share of being beaten and bloodied this season, that’s for sure.
Next, he dispatches Sam and Jack, though I am once again impressed with Sam Winchester’s bravery. Finally, Dean attacks with Kaia’s spear. Ackles is a lot more adept at wielding the spear now than he was in the garage, but Michael soon overpowers Dean, lifting him up off the ground and choking him.
Michael: I’m so glad you could make it tonight. I know you hate me, Dean, but just remember – you let me in. And now you get to see it, everything your mistake made possible. All the bloodshed, all the death, all on you.
Oh no, poor Dean, way to stoke his guilt!
But Michael didn’t count on Sam, who reaches the spear and calls out for his brother.
That means we get a lovely moment of Winchesters working in sync as Sam tosses the spear to Dean (I take these little moments when I can get them).
He grabs the spear and gashes Michael, then backs him up menacingly.
Dean hesitates, his time as Michael flashing before his eyes.
Then the new vessel falls over, and… Dean cracks the spear in two and slowly turns around, blue eyes glowing.
Michael (menacingly): Yeah.
Michael: When I gave up Dean, you didn’t think to question, to ask why?
All of fandom: YES WE DID, WE HAD A LOT OF THEORIES!
Michael: Dean was resisting me. He was too attached to you. To all of you. He wouldn’t stop squirming, to get out, to get back.
Unfortunately, as most of us suspected, Michael left a crack – a way to get back in.
Cas: Why wait?
Michael: To break him. To crush and disappoint him completely. So he’ll be nice and quiet this time. Buried. And he is. He’s gone.
Michael points out that he now has a whole army out there.
Michael: Ready. For this.
I wasn’t bowled over by the ending since it’s more or less what I expected. I figured that Michael left some sort of portal behind so he could both spy when he wanted to, and so he could get back in. I am a little confused about what Michael said though. What has he done to break and crush Dean in the time since he left? If he’d been in his head tormenting him more, or if we’d seen more aftermath of Dean’s possession trauma, that would have made more sense. After talking with the cast and the showrunner and writers at Comic-Con, I was very hopeful that we’d get to see a lot of the psychological effects of Dean’s possession and see him struggle with some PTSD. If he had, then what Michael said would make perfect sense – but we haven’t really seen that, much to my disappointment. There was that one scene where Dean opened up to Sam and told him what it was like, like being constantly drowned, but that was it. Other than that, Dean has seemed to be coping well enough – well enough that his own mother up and left because I’m assuming she didn’t think Dean was having any post-trauma issues.
So what is Michael referring to, that he thinks will keep Dean quiet this time? Is it just that Dean got his hopes up with finding some of the weapons that might have worked, only to be crushed? Was that supposed to crush him? Not the Dean Winchester I know, Michael!
It almost seems like a more horrible thing to do to Sam and Cas and Jack – they all thought they had Dean back for good and then whoosh, he was taken from them again. (They are clearly more trusting – or optimistic – than fandom).
Sam looks pretty devastated, and I appreciate Jared Padalecki’s acting here. I know Sam and Dean still care about each other, but I need to SEE it. They spend less time together this season onscreen, so their relationship doesn’t feel like the compelling emotional focus that drew me into the show and has kept me here for fourteen seasons. Sometimes it’s only one of the actors’ expressions that gives me a clue that the emotional focus that was always there still exists, even if it’s disappointingly under the surface some of the time.
I actually forgot that this was the mid-season finale until the very end – it didn’t feel like it, didn’t feel like there had been enough of a lead up to build the tension and angst and anticipation. I think that’s partly because it’s a shorter season, but mostly because a fair number of this season’s episodes haven’t hooked me in the way I’m accustomed to with this show. This was a solid episode with little canon fail and good acting all around, but it didn’t leave me holding my breath and exclaiming that I can’t stand to have to wait through the mid-season mini hellatus. I complain about that, but I secretly love it – and miss it.
The last scene was the strongest in the episode, partly because Jensen Ackles absolutely slayed as Michael. I almost wish they didn’t do the glowing blue eyes thing, because it is crystal clear the moment that Dean becomes Michael. We don’t need to see the glowy eyes. Ackles can change so many subtle nonverbal and verbal characteristics that you can SEE the transformation, which is truly incredible.
It looks like when we do come back from the break, Sam and Cas will be inside Dean’s head trying to rescue him. I don’t want to get too hopeful, but that sounds pretty intriguing, so I’m looking forward to that episode. (Also, I think I’ve read way too many interesting would-never-be-canon fan fics about what either Sam or Cas would find in Dean’s head, depending on what you ship or if you ship… it won’t be any of those, but I wonder what it will be!)
So, here’s a cautiously optimistic wish for the second half of Season 14 to hook me back in with those emotional arcs that have kept me watching for all these years. In order to do that, I need at least some focus on Sam and Dean’s relationship, because that has always been the heart of what the show is about. (Mr. Berens, I know you can do that, because you co-wrote one of my favorite episodes of all time, Red Meat). It’s fine to show me their relationships with others important to them too, but I need that central relationship between the brothers to anchor the show and make me care about what happens to the Winchesters, and by extension, to the others they care about. It’s that relationship that makes this show unique and compelling, and if I don’t get to see it at all, the emotional pull goes with it.
See you in the New Year for Supernatural 1410 on January 17, 2019!