“Supernatural” returned from its very last mid-season hiatus with an episode that fans waited for with a wide range of emotions, which is probably going to be par for the course for the last eleven episodes of the series. I have mixed feelings every time an episode airs, because it’s one episode closer to the end, and because it’s one more chance to take the show somewhere I may not want to follow, knowing there’s no time for that to change anymore. This is not an easy thing, staying with a show you’ve loved for fifteen years to the bitter end! It feels like an emotional and psychological risk, which is something I’ve never experienced before with television.
I’m actually really looking forward to next week’s episode, which will be a ‘funny’ one – at least in parts. I feel like I need a break from all the angst and stress! To think, this used to be my stress reliever!
So, here are the things I liked and the things that didn’t work too well for me. It was a kickass ‘The Road So Far’. I watch those beginnings and am always in awe of just what a remarkable show this is. We also had an amazing Shaving People Punting Things video the week before, which made this next string of episodes look truly epic. I think sometimes those editors get the show better than anyone!
Anyway, the episode was split into two story lines, as it so often is. Sam and Eileen wake up tied to chairs, captured by Chuck. I’ve said before that I thought Chuck had a hand in manipulating Sam and Eileen and it turns out that yes, he put her in Sam’s path and made that spell fall out (that was obviously too much of a coincidence) and let Sam being a good person do the rest. What an awful thing for Eileen and Sam to find out. How do you have any hope of sorting out which of your feelings are real and which aren’t? Worse yet, did you really have agency (and the capacity for any kind of consent) when you acted on those feelings? Chuck really is a bad bad guy. I’m still confused as to why Sam looked so conflicted about his relationship with Eileen the entire time, though. Side effect of Chuck’s “nudges”? Was he somehow sensing the interference? We may never know.
Chuck’s explanation is particularly cruel.
Chuck: I couldn’t see you. I needed eyes and ears on the inside… well, eyes.
Ouch. If you wanted to turn Chuck into an irredeemable villain, Show, that’s a good way to do it. So vicious and pointed. Rob delivered it perfectly; I could appreciate that even as I literally cringed hearing it.
I love that Eileen shot back, “Screw you.”
Shoshannah Stern delivers the line with all the venom and badassery it warranted.
Yeah, screw you, Chuck! (But not you, Rob, I still adore you)
Meanwhile, Dean is worrying about not being able to reach Sam, not knowing that Sam and Eileen are captured. I also love that Eileen almost did screw Chuck over by managing to place a call to Dean (more badassery). I’m assuming her phone has a convert to text feature because Dean kept yelling “Eileen?” into the phone. Unfortunately, Chuck realizes and picks up.
Dean: Chuck, you dick!
Chuck: Bye, Dean.
Dean tracks Sam’s phone, and smart Winchesters make me happy. Cas is also doing something smart – making Leviathan bullets out of Borax.
Dean: We need to go!
Cas: To Purgatory.
Not what Dean meant; he’s understandably focused on saving Sam and Eileen. They argue, and Dean says he’s not leaving Sam, because he’s Dean.
Cas: Stop being so stupid!
I was taken aback by that. Castiel (Misha Collins) in this episode is written as had-it-up-to-here, bristling with anger and resentment. We don’t always see Castiel’s emotions come to the surface, but I think he’s every bit as angry as Dean has been, to the point where he’s harsh and sometimes cold. It’s not the “badass Cas” which we’ve seen before, it’s as though he’s so angry that he’s put up a wall.
The episode had a lot to say about anger, but not all of it was easy to decipher. We saw Dean’s anger come spilling out in his initial fight with Cas, in which he lashes out with some hurtful things. Everyone expresses anger differently, and in this episode we saw Castiel’s anger too. I think he walked out on that fight with Dean because it was just too painful, but it was also clearly because he was angry. Otherwise he would have picked up Sam’s phone calls. His response to anger is to withdraw and then to put up a cold shoulder and refuse to be reached, literally or figuratively. Maybe I can’t stop my psychologist brain from kicking in, but this is a familiar pattern. One person goes on the attack, spewing hurtful words, then the other withdraws and puts up a wall. Both are expressions of anger and intended to hurt. Often one of those people is very afraid of abandonment; in this case, that applies to both of them, so the withdrawal and stonewalling is an effective counterattack (that probably impact Dean’s later breakdown).
Cas points out that they have no way to kill Chuck and that going to Purgatory and doing the spell is the way they’ll save Sam – and the world.
Surprisingly, Dean goes along fairly quickly, which I didn’t expect. I had a little trouble with that instant capitulation, much like the scene in the tunnels in Season 13 when Dean tries to go after an in-peril Sam and Cas stops him. Dean seemed a little too easy to convince here too. However, Cas does have a point, so maybe Dean just reluctantly agreed. The pacing (or the editing?) was wonky in this episode, so perhaps some things that were meant to be conveyed just didn’t come through.
Back to the casino (isn’t it interesting that Chuck has taken up residence at a casino? He loves rolling the dice and playing the odds, especially when it’s with other people’s lives.)
Chuck does a lot of dialoguing in this episode, which Rob Benedict pulls off quite well. He decides to dig out the god bullet in Sam’s shoulder that he realizes is keeping him weak, but hesitates. (I at first thought it was because it would hurt Chuck too, because isn’t that exactly what we’ve been told in canon? But no, that’s apparently been discarded, because Chuck calmly plays guitar while Sam has a knife dug into him). For some reason, Sam thinks it would be a good idea to taunt God while he’s holding a knife to him, ridiculing Chuck for not being able to get his hands dirty.
Sam: You just like to watch.
Oooh, Sam. Good one. But still not sure it’s a great idea…
Eileen joins in and calls Chuck pathetic, which made me start yelling at my tv, stop it you two, why do you think taunting him is a great idea while you’re both tied to chairs and he’s God? Predictably, Chuck gets pissed and just makes Eileen do it. What did they think, their taunts were going to talk Chuck out of it??
[Also, am I the only one who started singing when at one point Chuck exclaimed, “Come on, Eileen!”]
Sam, even when being tortured, keeps reassuring Eileen, telling her “It’s okay, I know it’s not you.” This scene was one that did work for me; that really rang true for what Sam would do, even as Jared showed us his pain so vividly, and Shoshannah Stern did a fabulous job showing us Eileen’s agony at having to hurt someone she cares about. I’ve said before that Jared portrays Sam’s pain incredibly well — it feels so real that it actually hurts.
Meanwhile, Chuck plays guitar and looks like Rob Benedict. Eventually, he gets frustrated.
Chuck: How are you still like this? Defiant…
Then he figures it out – what’s apparently keeping Chuck weak and keeping him from being able to dig out the god wound is – Sam’s hope?
That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. Why would Sam holding out hope be keeping Chuck weak and the bond between them functioning? I had to do lots of mental gymnastics to make any sense out of that, and the only way it makes any sense at all is if Sam shot Chuck to create a connection they could use, and then when he gave up on that idea and didn’t want the connection anymore, it went away. That Sam had some sort of control over keeping the wound open and active because he was the shooter, despite, as Sergei said, “wounds want to heal.” But that was never established. (There are some truly superb mental gymnastics out there about Prometheus and hope keeping evil contained but hoo boy if I have to go that far out, Show is doing something wrong)
For whatever reason, Chuck believes it, and sets out to eradicate Sam’s hope. That was a process that many fans found very hard to watch, me included. Sam is the one who often carries the hope in the show, and it’s that hope that has inspired so many “Supernatural” fans, both in terms of Sam and in terms of Jared Padalecki’s “Always Keep Fighting” mantra in real life. To see it devastated was….. devastating.
Sam watched, helpless, as Chuck handed him a pocket watch and told him to dial into the future. At first what Chuck shows Sam is not so bad. Future Sam, Dean, Cas and Eileen ready to have a pizza and movie night in the bunker.
Then Jody calls – bloodied, hopeless. Overcome by too many monsters (this is a theme….)
Jody: She’s dead. Claire’s dead.
Most of us had seen that in the preview and assumed it was Claire, so it didn’t carry the emotional punch it might have, and nobody expected Kathryn Newton to come back, busy as she is, but Kim Rhodes gave it all the emotion that Jody would doubtless feel. It got to Sam, that’s for sure. Once again, Jared showed us all Sam’s pain, this time emotional.
Sam (watching): No….
I was happy to have Kim Rhodes back on my tv screen, and she showed us Jody’s hopelessness clearly.
The next future leap, as Sam turns the magic watch forward (interesting touch btw), shows Sam and Dean in the Impala, bloodied and fast careening toward the hopelessness Chuck is cultivating in Sam. Unable to save people, Castiel gone.
Dean: (sadly) The monsters are winning (this is a theme…)
By the time Sam turns the pocket watch to November 2021, Dean has lost hope.
Dean: It’s time. Time to stand down.
Cas apparently took on the Mark and went crazy and Dean had to lock him in the Malak box, and everyone they know is dead, and they can’t even save anyone anymore. Only Bobby and Jody are left, with a death wish since she lost Donna and the girls.
Dean: And since you lost Eileen? You too.
Sam: What happened to Butch and Sundance? What happened to goin’ out swinging?
Dean: We lost, brother.
That scene hurt, especially the reference to going out like Butch and Sundance, which for many years is how Jared and Jensen talked about the show possibly ending.
But, like Sam in the present, that scene also didn’t ring entirely true to me. So much of what the show has been about is not giving up. Is this really what would happen, or is Chuck just manipulating what Sam sees? I mean, he’s God, he can clearly do that if he wants to. Why would Sam believe that this is a true glimpse into a future that’s inevitable if they cage Chuck? Why would we as viewers believe it when the showrunner/writers in real life have repeatedly yelled “writers lie” and so has Chuck himself?? This is the epitome of an unreliable narrator, after all.
Sam protests to Chuck.
Sam: This is a lie! The Dean I know – the Dean who raised me – he’d never give up. No matter how bad things got.
I agree with Sam, Show. Also, that line made me tear up for real.
The last future scene is apparently the end for the Winchesters – the stop watch won’t go any further than December 9, 2022.
Sam tells a hopeless and drinking Dean that he’s going to take out that nest with or without him. And Dean, still being Dean, even as hopeless as he is, goes along.
Dean: Then I guess I don’t have a choice.
That kinda broke me a little. That even without any hope at all, Dean will not let his brother go it alone. That did ring true, and it made me tear up again.
Flash forward to that last day, Dean and Sam barricaded and trapped, bad guys approaching, and at first it does look like Butch and Sundance and I start to get very anxious. Their conversation goes like this:
We’re outnumbered…What else is new?…Like Butch and Sundance… At least we go out together…Go out swingin’.
But it turns out to be a perversion of what we expect (and an ending many people thought might be for real). In actuality, Sam and Dean have been turned into vampires and Bobby and Jody are the ones coming to kill them. Vamp Sam and Dean kill the other hunters with what looks like relish, and… wait a minute! So are we to believe they have turned evil? We know that doesn’t HAVE to happen to vampires. Vampires can be like Lenore or Benny and not kill humans. And anyway, the Winchesters know there’s a cure for vampirism, so huh?? That made me even more certain that what Chuck was showing Sam was not the truth.
I was in the middle of being confused about all that when Jody shoots Sam and Dean turns on her and… hisses? I couldn’t help it, I might have giggled. Those teeth and… maybe I was just on emotion overload at that point? The caps and memes of hissing Dean have been making me giggle all night (thank you, timeline). Did anyone check out what that looked like??
At first it made me laugh, but I don’t think they were intentionally playing it that way, and then that made me sad. Remember when Dean was turned before, how agonizing that was for him? How he fought so desperately against it and looked so agonized the whole time? That was dark and despairing and tragic and this was….not.
Anyway, Dean kills Jody with a bite (can’t wait to hear Kim Rhodes’ stories about that scene, knowing how hard it is for her to concentrate when Ackles is close by, let alone on top of her). Then Bobby kills Sam.
In the present, Chuck tries to reassure a shaken Sam, insisting he still cares about Sam and Dean. Sam’s bitch face in response is priceless.
Sam: I saw your endings. Cain and Abel.
Chuck insists there’s more to it. That the important thing to take from the glimpses of the future are the monsters (it’s a theme).
Chuck: Without me, the dark forces prevail. Everyone you love will die.
Has he convinced Sam??
Meanwhile, Dean and Cas are in Purgatory, which is alot brighter than it was so doesn’t look as scary or frankly as cool. Dean wants to split up, Cas says no, too dangerous – and again, surprisingly, Dean listens, just like that. Dean is usually the one calling the shots, but he doesn’t in this entire episode until the very end, and it’s jarring. Last time they were in Purgatory, it was Cas who split them up, but this time he says no. Anyway, they do a smart thing and stage a moment of cluelessness to trick a Leviathan into attacking.
Or do they?
He gives in mighty easily and offers to take them to the blossoms they need. Dean asks about Benny, and finds out that he’s dead. Killed by his own kind, who ripped him apart. I’m guessing Dean had a lot more reaction than the edited version of the scene let us see, because Benny was important to him, and returned to Purgatory so Dean could save Sam. The guilt Dean would feel knowing he was almost immediately killed… I bet Jensen showed us more than what we saw. Which would have been really helpful in explaining the absolute breakdown Dean has shortly thereafter.
Dean and Cas are still pissy with each other, both still angry and expressing that anger in their individual ways. Castiel says he still feels guilty, that it was his fault the Leviathans got out (and mentions in passing that Purgatory brings out or magnifies guilt). He says he’s sorry. Dean thinks he’s apologizing for killing their Mom, but Cas corrects him, saying sharply that he’s talking about Jack.
Cas: I’m talking about Jack. I already apologized to you (about your mother), but you couldn’t hear it. You were too angry.
Dean: You’re the one who left.
Cas: I left because you couldn’t forgive me and you couldn’t move on. I left, but you didn’t stop me.
In other words, they’re still at an impasse. Still both clearly angry. Still trying to hurt each other in their own way.
Castiel’s anger is understandable if you look at it as a mix of both guilt and hurt. He does regret the part he played in Jack killing Mary, by once again keeping something important from the Winchesters. (Though I did understand why he did it, out of fear of them abandoning him. So much of these characters revolve around that fear!) I think he does feel guilty about that, and I think Dean’s harsh words hurt him more because he was already feeling those things, so he withdrew. But Dean’s anger is also completely understandable.
When they had that fight, his mother – who he had longed for his entire life and only recently gotten back and forged some kind of relationship with – had been killed DAYS ago. His grief was raw and overwhelming, and it’s a normal human reaction to lash out in anger and try to place blame. We have a great need to try to make sense of overwhelming loss, and that’s part of the process. Did Castiel really feel that Dean should have been over it in two days? That makes no sense at all. Give Cas more credit than that. Dean has forgiven him countless times in the past; it’s not like Dean refuses to forgive, that’s not his nature at all. Cas knows this – has experienced this repeatedly. Why this time would he expect it to happen instantly?
Anyway, still both angry, they get to the field of blossoms, and apropros of the title, it’s a trap – an angel trap of some kind. Seems Eve and the Leviathans are still pissed at Castiel. I had to scratch my head multiple times at this point, because didn’t that Leviathan guy (Edgar?) say they didn’t respect Eve at all? Also, how did they possibly make up that trap and have that Leviathan follow them and set it up so quickly?? And wasn’t Dean the one who killed Eve? Why would she only want revenge on Castiel?
I don’t know. But the Leviathans knock Dean out, and when he wakes up, in a pretty cool crane shot ala Kim Manners, both Cas and the flowers (I guess?) are gone.
Luckily, they have conveniently just left Dean lying there unhurt for some inexplicable reason, even though we know that Leviathans love to eat people – and angels too, I think. Why would Eve want to talk to Castiel? Also, why is Purgatory now so empty? Wasn’t it a place where Dean had to fight tooth and nail all the time, constantly attacked by monsters? He was unconscious lying there and nothing bothered him? They literally only got attacked that one time the whole time they were there? Unless it was all a setup?
Anyway, Dean heads back to the portal, and then out of nowhere, he is suddenly overwhelmed with guilt and remorse, so much so that he has to lean against a tree. There was no lead up to this; a quick look at the watch still showed almost half an hour left, so there was no sense of desperation. No sense of “OMG where is Cas, I might have to leave him in Purgatory AGAIN and OMG I never even told him I forgive him!” which would have made the breakdown make sense. Dean wasn’t even at the portal yet, so for all he knew Castiel was sitting there waiting for him (which in fact he was).
I wasn’t feeling any sense of desperation, but Dean is suddenly desperate and sends a prayer to Cas, which quickly gets super emotional.
Dean: You’re my best friend, and I let you go. It was easier than admitting I was wrong.
He’s in tears suddenly as he says it. Overcome even more by guilt, he falls to his knees, confessing that he gets so angry and doesn’t know why, that it’s always been there and that he can’t stop it when it comes out.
Dean: I forgive you, of course, I forgive you. Cas, I’m so sorry.
I think it’s the first time that Dean has cried that I haven’t. I get that the goal was to write an emotional reconciliation scene, but that can’t be the goal without the set up that makes it make sense. I could go with it if Dean was faced with the near certainty of leaving Cas behind again, after already feeling guilty about leaving him the last time and compounded by the guilt of sending Benny back there to die. If it felt like Dean’s last chance to forgive Cas, in those last few moments, his desperation and tears might have worked a lot better.
I also didn’t quite know what to make of what Dean said. I could understand him apologizing for the hurtful things he said in their initial fight or for taking so long to forgive, but that wasn’t it. It seemed more like he was apologizing for his feelings, when they were understandable at the time. Like he was returning to his long standing tendency to take 110% of the blame for everything just so people he cares about won’t abandon him. Was this Dean overwhelmed by the ever present guilt and panic of a too often abandoned boy, faced with losing someone he cares about yet again? Castiel seeming to say that Dean should have stopped him from leaving would set off those fears even more – people with abandonment panic are easily convinced they’ve done something to deserve the abandonment, and then they frantically plead that that they’ll be better if the person comes back, and repeatedly say they’re sorry. This started to play weirdly like that.
I don’t know if that was the intention. But really, who wouldn’t be incredibly indescribably angry if they’d lived Dean Winchester’s life?? Who wouldn’t be out of control angry literally days after their mother was killed, after longing for her your entire life? Give Cas credit, writers, he has to understand that. Why would he expect Dean to forgive him 48 hours later?
Dean brushes his tears away and soldiers on.
Finally, with 3 minutes to spare (finally we get that urgency long after we needed it), Dean arrives at the portal and turns to find Cas there after all. His joy is genuine as he pulls Cas into a hug, and again I think of Dean’s deep abandonment issues and that panic he was in when he thought it was happening again.
Dean still feels driven to apologize even more (that abandonment panic again?), and I’m yelling OMG you have like one minute, stop trying to have a heart to heart right now and go through that about-to-close portal, you idiots!
Cas managed to both escape the Leviathans and to grab the needed blossom from somewhere, which makes me again question the whole thing seeming way too easy, and is that even Cas? He assures Dean that he heard his prayer.
Cas: You don’t have to say it.
That was a line written as an invitation to interpretation. Whether that worked or not, or how much that goal impacted the narrative’s coherence, is up in the air. There’s a beat that you can read meaning into if you want, and then they’re through.
Cas and Dean do the spell, Cas volunteering to take on the Mark because Dean already has. Once again, Dean capitulates oddly quickly. He’s just had a huge breakdown over how much he cares for Castiel, and then he doesn’t protest much when Cas agrees to take the Mark when we don’t really know what it will do to him?
Note: that means Sam or Dean will have to destroy the magic ball that they made in order to cage Chuck. They find Sam tied up in the casino, and Dean begins to cut him free when Chuck appears.
Chuck: Hi Dean.
Dean: punches him in the face.
Dean: I had to.
Chuck: punches him in the face.
Chuck: Me too.
Cas takes down a once again manipulated Eileen (urgh), and tosses Sam the magic ball.
Dean: Smash it! Now!
But Sam doesn’t. Looking anguished, he falls to his knees.
Sam: I can’t.
Dean: What did you do to him?!
It appears that Sam finally lost all hope, and now as a result, Chuck is free. This is a brilliant shot by Bob Singer, Jared showing us without words just how broken Sam is in this moment.
Chuck smashes the magic ball.
(My best explanation for why Chuck’s machinations worked is that Sam knew that Cas must have agreed to take the Mark when they came in to save him and Eileen, and so he realized that part of what he saw in the future really did come true, so that made him think that maybe it was all true. I say that because I had that reaction – and so did another friend. And thinking about what Castiel’s fate was in the future, when he took the Mark? Sam can’t allow that to happen. So he can’t do it.)
Chuck has his power back, it seems, which makes the whole god gun and god wound and Equalizer thing seem like a lot of plot time only to be resolved sort of easily. I mean, so much in this episode seemed way too easy, didn’t it? Considering the massive undertaking it would have been to trap Amara, was a simple spell with a blossom from Purgatory really going to contain God?? Just like that? I don’t know, it all seems off….
But that’s okay, because I loved the next scene. Chuck being back at full power should be scary as hell, but Dean Winchester is not scared. He gets right in Chuck’s face, saying he knows Chuck won’t kill them because that’s not the ending he wants.
Chuck confirms what we all thought, that Sam’s earlier visions were not the future, but memories of different Sam and Deans in different worlds. Who all killed each other.
Chuck: Just like you, they didn’t think they would do it either. But they did. And so will you.
(This makes no sense, btw, in the context of Chuck’s insistence that he cares about them).
Dean, a good half a foot taller than Chuck, towers over him. Unafraid.
Dean: No. Not this Sam. Not this Dean. We will never give you the ending that you want.
Sam looks on, hope sparking as he sees his brother still defiant.
Chuck: We’ll see.
Snap, he’s gone.
That is the Dean Winchester I know and love!
(Also, how did Rob Benedict survive that and not spontaneously combust??)
Sam looks so relieved to hear his big brother say that and to hear that he hasn’t given up hope like the Dean of that future vision.
Cut, back to the bunker, Eileen packing her gear and getting ready to leave. Sam says he wishes she would stay, but Eileen says that after all that happened, she doesn’t know what’s real anymore.
I can understand how she must feel, and how awful it must be to be used like that. Even though I think there’s genuine affection between her and Sam, they can’t know right now, and that’s awful.
He cups her face and kisses her, saying “I know that’s real.”
She nods and heads up the stairs.
It would have been a tender scene, and Shoshannah and Jared manage to convey some real affection. Except we know that Chuck has been manipulating both of them. How can either of them trust anything? I’m not sure Sam would kiss her when she has just said she doesn’t know what is real so she can’t do this. I know there were some shippers who were just happy to see it, but again it felt like the goal was to have the emotional moment just for that reason, without the set up that allowed it to make sense. There was also unbelievably dramatic (melodramatic) music that started playing as Eileen slowly walked up the stairs, which threw me totally out of the moment. Just let the emotion come through, Show, for godsakes! These actors can do that. Both Shoshannah and Jared showed us the characters’ conflicting emotions in this scene in a nuanced yet powerful way; they didn’t need the melodrama.
I am relieved that Eileen is still alive, though!
Sam joins Dean and Cas in the kitchen. He’s clearly feeling awful like he messed things up and let Dean and Cas down. Which broke my heart for him, because he was put in the terrible position of having to make a decision about what would be best for the entire universe based on things only he had seen. He was still clearly trying to do the right thing.
Sam: This was our chance to stop Chuck. But what Chuck showed me, what would happen if we trapped him… I believed him.
Dean does not hesitate.
Dean: That’s good enough for me.
I loved this scene and Dean’s resolute loyalty to his brother. There have been times in the show when Dean has not believed Sam – and those times have been incredibly painful for Sam. The look on his face when Dean instantly trusts him is priceless – and damn, Jared knows how to show it.
I’m not sure either of them should be believing Chuck at all, however. He had a clear agenda, everything he does is a manipulation. Why not this?
Sam: So, what now? If we can’t kill him, or trap him…
Dean: Well then, we’ll find another way.
Sam’s look is so relieved, and that touched me. Dean is not hopeless, not in this reality.
Cut to the Empty, and Jack. And Billie.
Billie: It’s time.
So here we are, headed into the final eleven episodes. I have to say, I would be on board for Dean and Sam fighting to not do what Chuck wants. To not become Cain and Abel like every other Sam and Dean in every other universe. Exercising the free will that even Chuck realizes they do have. That was teased way back in the middle of the series, that Sam and Dean would go toe to toe, and it never really happened as Sam and Dean. If that’s what the last part of the show will be, I’m down for it. This could be the biggest test of the brothers’ relationship of all.
On the other hand, while I enjoy Jack as a character, I’m not on board for this being the Jack-saves-us-all show. I’ll wait and see, but an ending where someone else swoops in and saves the day is not what I signed up for.
Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to next week’s episode if it allows me to laugh a little. I need it! With the image above, it should give a smile, at least for 1510 The Heroes.