The ominously titled “Funeralia,” written by Steve Yockey and directed by (one of my favorite directors) Nina Lopez-Corrado, kept the momentum going as Supernatural nears the end of Season 13. I had a few quibbles with this episode, but there was quite a bit that I loved a lot.
This episode had only two story lines going, which made the back and forth feel less overwhelming than it sometimes does, and I appreciated that. It let the emotional impact of both story arcs come through much more clearly, and honestly, that’s usually my favorite thing about an episode of this show. Adventure is good, but I watch for the emotional resonance, for the characters who are so real that they feel things – and I can feel with them.
Story line number one was Castiel and the fate of Heaven and the Angels. I am not always very adept at following the angelic story lines because they seem to shift from time to time when I’m not paying enough attention (or maybe that’s why I don’t pay enough attention). In this episode, Naomi reminds Cas (who apparently already knew) that Heaven is powered by angels, and without angels, all the souls housed there will fall to earth as ghosts. Huh? Weren’t there whole seasons when no one – Cas included – was at all concerned about the angel population and everyone seemed very willing to lead armies against other angel factions and kill lots of angels? Was nobody worried about Heaven being out of power as a result?? There was a time when Metatron ejected all the angels from Heaven, so I’m not sure how it kept being powered up then (or maybe he left a few dozen up there?) I also didn’t think it was powered by angels in the first place – wasn’t it powered by souls? And that’s why everyone wanted them from Purgatory? And then there was also the reapers are actually angels thing, which nobody mentioned this time, but I think that went away rather quickly which is probably for the best.
At any rate, I was a bit confused by all that new information about Heaven. Angel and Heaven canon in this Show tend to be a bit flexible, which is not my favorite thing. I was also confused about why no one told Cas that Lucifer was actually in Heaven – and where is he, for that matter? Or Jo?
Those quibbles aside, Misha Collins and Amanda Tapping made the Heaven story line compelling anyway, because they were both so damn good.
After convincing Dean he needs to return to Heaven (and promising not to get dead again) Cas arrives at the sandbox determined to try to get back in. It’s a good thing nobody was around, I guess, because guy in a trenchcoat carrying a big knife in a playground definitely would attract some attention.
There he meets Indra, the angel assigned to guard the gates. Indra is surprisingly unconcerned about Castiel’s intentions and in fact just waves him on. When Cas questions him, it turns out that Indra is just trying to get drunk. He’s demoralized and hopeless and eventually says he wouldn’t care if Cas just killed him. Luc Roderique did a great job with this small but pivotal character – he sort of broke my heart with his hopelessness. As Cas leaves, Indra stays behind, sitting on a child-size spring horse holding his paper bagged liquor. It’s sad and pathetic and makes his parting words to Castiel full of foreboding: See for yourself.
Cas does. Heaven is noticeably empty, power fluctuating off and on, no Lucifer or Jo anywhere in sight. Dumah and a few other angels appear and Cas tells them Gabriel is back. This clearly interests them, and they go off to do something and leave him waiting. It’s not entirely clear to me why he had to wait so long, but it means we get a weird little montage of Cas impatiently waiting which is kinda cute, so again props to Collins for making things more interesting than they might have been.
When Dumah comes back, surprise – Naomi is with her! Well hello, Amanda Tapping!
I always found the character of Naomi intriguing, perhaps because of the way Tapping played her, and she’s still intriguing now. Also, love the new hair color, Naomi. Tapping and Collins play this reunion expertly, with the pent up emotion crackling between them. Their past is full of disagreement and violence, and neither one of them is backing down. Even when Castiel reminds her that ‘I’m sorry goes a long way’, Naomi just responds with ‘mm hmm’.
Which, gotta admit, I kinda loved.
Past issues aside, Naomi has something more important to tell Castiel. There are only eleven angels left. Eleven.
She’s talking genocide.
The horror of that is written all over Castiel’s face. He looks dumbstruck, in denial at first.
Cas: No, that’s not…that’s not…
Misha nailed that scene – you could see the moment the truth sinks in, how devastated Cas is. It’s part guilt, part survival instinct, part just the trauma of knowing that so many of your own family are dead. It’s the definition of horror. No matter how many differences Castiel has had with his own kind, they are just that – his own kind. If you were the last of your kind, how lonely would that be? No one who truly understood you or shared your past….no wonder he looks so stricken.
Their differences put aside in the face of impending extinction, Naomi tells Cas that she’s closing the gates of Heaven. Cas, ever the optimist, swears that they’ll find Gabriel and fix this.
Naomi: This may be one of those things that can’t be fixed, Castiel. Everything ends.
Cas: Everything ends…
Naomi returns to Heaven, and now the sandbox is just a sandbox. Cas bends down, picks up a handful of sand and lets it run through his fingers. The expression on his face is full of pain – and once again, all the kudos to Collins for making me feel it.
Everything ends….why is that giving me such goosebumps? It’s just…too true.
So despite the canon flexibility, Misha and Amanda and Luc made those scenes work.
The other story line belongs to the Winchesters, which of course makes me very happy indeed – and to Rowena, which just makes it all even better. We start out with Dean and Cas in the bunker’s kitchen over morning coffee, trying to figure out how the hell to find Lucifer or Gabriel or anyone, and pretty much failing to come up with much of anything. Without any other ideas, Cas decides to return to Heaven to see if there’s any help forthcoming from there. Dean doesn’t like it – since last time the angels tried to kill him – but Cas feels like he has to do it.
Cas: It would be a Hail Mary…. That’s a sports euphemism. Like slam dunk….or ball handler…
Dean: No, that’s not…
Ackles and Collins are good with the comedy, and I kept remembering that hysterical scene where Dean kept trying to get Sam to say “the ball washer”.
Sam: So the ball washer…
Dean: The what?
Sam: The ball washer…
Dean: The what?
I imagine Ackles and Collins had some fun with that line too. Gag reel, anyone?
Dean and Cas also rehash the Donatello thing, which I am also still upset about so I’m glad Dean hasn’t let it go either. Eventually Dean agrees to Castiel’s plan, adding a “just don’t get dead again.”
I swear that’s what I’d be saying to everyone I knew if I were in this show.
Their other possible source of help is Rowena, and they call her on the phone to try to convince her to help them. Rowena, meanwhile, is living it up at a swanky party, showing off Ruth Connell’s impressive dance skills with her bodyguard Bernard (pronounced BER-nard because Ruthie Connell…) played mostly silently and always imposingly by Jason William Day. Oh, and Rowena is also incinerating some big pharma executive who apparently got lots of people killed.
Rowena answers their call but can’t resist a pointed comment.
Rowena: After what you… SAM… did for me…
Dean is still not quite over the fact that Sam gave her that page of magic that’s allowed her to become so powerful, and he makes no secret of it. Poor Sam, he looks like he feels guilty enough already, Dean.
Rowena also can’t resist a little flirting with Cas, which gets him all kinds of flustered.
Rowena: The handsome angel….hello Tweety Pie…
Once they find out some of what Rowena is up to, Dean and Sam set out for where she is. Dean is still in I told you so mode, though he softens somewhat.
Dean: Look, I want the fun flirty Rowena who mostly helps us too.
But he rightly notes that’s not the one they might get. Sam reiterates that he’s committed to taking care of it – he clearly feels responsible for whatever Rowena is up to. As Rowena repeatedly doesn’t answer her phone, Jessica the Reaper (Kayla Stanton) abruptly appears in the back seat and scares the crap out of the boys. Dean slams on the brakes and the Impala skids half off the road and I bet Jensen Ackles had a lot of fun filming that scene.
Dean: (growls) What the hell?
Such a Dean thing to say and such a Dean way to say it.
Jessica the Reaper is a bit annoying with her very upbeat attitude, though she’s the first to say that it’s merely an affected thing, she’s still all about the death. Nevertheless, she keeps being annoyingly upbeat. She tells the brothers that she’s been assigned to keep tabs on them, and that she’s been watching them.
Sam: So you’ve seen…ummm…
Jessica: (looking way too happy about it) Oh, everything…
Sam: You mean like, everything everything?
She starts to make a comment about being “especially fond of Sam’s impressive…” and both we and Sam are quite certain for a moment that she’s talking about the size of what he’s packing. Possibly I’ve read too much fanfic, but clearly so has Steve Yockey. Turns out she’s just referring to his impressive extensive array of hair products, much to Sam’s relief. But the fact remains that she’s seen Sam and Dean do pretty much everything they’ve done in the past months and that means Jessica has been watching some pretty interesting Winchester-centric….err….stuff.
Side note: Dean keeps a three day old cheeseburger hidden in his room? That made a stab of pain go through me. Dean, the little kid who probably never had enough to eat when John was gone because he was giving his little brother what food they had, is hoarding food? Nice touch, Mr. Yockey, because that’s exactly the kind of psychological residue early deprivation leaves behind. Again, that’s the stuff of fanfic, so I’m always pleasantly surprised when it finds its way into canon. But as Sam says, “gross”.
Also, this is the second time we’ve had a Dean and tentacles mention, just saying. How often does Dean watch his classic tentacle porn video? Fanfic again, clearly. I’m pretty sure Jessica has enough fantasy fodder from all she’s seen to keep her going forever.
Sam and Dean arrive at the crime scene (which must have taken them a while to get to, but somehow the police are still there investigating). They look damn good in their long coats and suits, and they figure out that Rowena is killing bad big pharma people.
Somehow Sam also figures out that the other burnt mark on the floor is a dead reaper (from an old picture he once saw….I swear Sam, you are too brilliant to believe sometimes…)
They confront cheerful Jessica, and she admits that yes, that’s why Death is interested. Rowena is throwing off Fate and the natural order, like The Butterfly Effect.
Dean: Ashton’s second best movie…
(The first was totally Dude, Where’s My Car?)
Jessica says that it will cause a ripple effect that can only be set right by massive death and destruction, like a war or a plague. I’m a bit confused because that’s not exactly what canon said during the Titanic episode. Also, why do Sam and Dean not respond with “oh yeah this happened to us before, with Balthazar, and Fate intervened”, etc etc? And why would a whole lot of premature deaths fix a smaller number of premature deaths? I was left scratching my head a bit, but clearly they need to stop Rowena, that’s the bottom line, so I’ll just go along. Jessica also tells Sam that in every version of her death, he’s the one who kills Rowena.
Sam looks as upset about being the one who’s going to kill her as I am, btw.
Dean, on the other hand, looks sort of perversely proud that Death has a whole shelf of ways he could die.
Meanwhile, Rowena has a picture of a little boy and is talking about making things right, and I realize with an audible gasp that she’s going to try to get Fergus back. If I didn’t know that Mark Sheppard wasn’t returning, I would have gotten so damn excited by that – because I want it almost as much as Rowena does! It’s not going to happen, though, so instead, I just ended up clutching my heart and knowing it was going to get broken.
She kills the big pharma CEO and his reaper, but the reaper insists that Death will not negotiate with blackmailers.
Rowena: We’ll see.
Somewhere in here the Winchesters get rained on, which means we get wet Sam and Dean and mm mm mm.it’s a good look on them. As are most things.
Rowena agrees to meet with the brothers, and tells them that despite their accusations, she’s not “killing innocents” (which seems to be true). She also confides that she had an “unexpected reaction” to Crowley’s death.
Rowena: It’s my fault…I left him…
I LOVED this plot turn for Rowena, loved it. I have always thought that Rowena felt so much more for Fergus than she would let on, hinted at in that one scene where she’s under a spell and she tearfully admits that she has to hate him or she would love him. Ruth played the hell out of that scene and I believed it deeply – which made this episode very satisfying. She broke my heart in that scene, talking about her son. And as I suspected, she is determined to bring him back.
For some inexplicable reason, Dean tells Rowena that Sam will be the one to kill her – which you would think might make Rowena try to kill Sam, so what the hell, Dean? But instead, she just listens. Sam, for his part, looks very uncomfortable about that fact.
Sam: But not tonight.
He tries to cuff her, she uses her power to escape, and then we get an amazing Rob Hayter fight scene between Dean and Bernard. I don’t know if that was Jensen or his stand-in who got flipped and landed on their ass, but if it was Jensen, there are now an impressive number of gifs of that moment. And wardrobe needs to be commended for the jeans that Dean is wearing throughout that fight, just saying. The fight itself is epic, interrupted in the middle by Bernard finally speaking.
Dean: She’s controlling you.
Bernard: She’s powerful, she’s gorgeous, and she’s paying me a small fortune – she didn’t have to put a spell on me.
I kinda like Bernard.
At one point as the two go at it, the elevator doors open and a couple stares at the fight in progress, tacky elevator music playing in the background, before the doors close again.
Also in the midst of the epic fight scene, Reaper Jessica tells Dean he’s doing a good job but that he’d better hurry.
Dean: Little help would be nice.
Jessica: Can’t. Clean hands…
Me: lol again
Eventually Dean gets the upper hand and chokes Bernard into what I presume is unconsciousness. There’s no way Dean Winchester bloodied and bruised, determinedly choking some bad guy out, should be so hot, but there you go.
Jessica: He was a highly trained military operative, that’s impressive…
Dean: (interrupting her mid-compliment and running out the door): SAM!
Me: Yep, that’s my Show!
He finds Sam’s discarded gun, the expression on his face one of devastation.
Dean picks up Sam’s gun, then confronts Jessica angrily.
Dean: (yelling) Where the hell is my brother?
The look on Jessica’s face makes my breath catch – and Dean’s too.
Backtracking, where is Sam indeed? While Dean and Bernard are fighting, Sam runs after Rowena and orders her to stop in the alley. She does, and Sam points his gun at her.
Sam: I get what you’re trying to do for Crowley… but you have to stop.
Rowena: I can’t stop, Samuel. You’ll have to shoot me.
There are tears in Sam’s eyes as he struggles with that. He so clearly does not want to shoot her, and there’s a moment when he starts to lower the gun. Rowena starts to turn around, thinking that he can’t do it, and then – he DOES. He shoots her! I was shocked, and so was she. But to Sam’s amazement, Rowena turns the moment slow motion and holds up her hand to stop the bullet.
Rowena (sounding hurt): You did it, you shot me!
Sam wakes up tied to a chair by Rowena. She opens up about how much regret and guilt she has about abandoning her son, and how distracted her quest for power and magic has made her, taking everything she actually cared about away.
Rowena: Everything I did before…it meant nothing and took everything. Oscar…my son…I don’t know if I can be redeemed, but I have to try. And I do wish there was another way.
Sam pleads for his life, but Rowena keeps on.
Rowena: If you’re dead, I can’t be stopped…
She rips Sam’s shirt open, and oh hello Sam’s tattoo is back, and also this episode just keeps on giving with the visuals.
Sam again pleads with her, telling her she doesn’t have to do this, and Jared Padalecki shows us so much emotion in Sam in this scene – he’s terrified, and he’s also sad, because he gets it, he does.
Rowena: (demands) What have you done for your family? What wouldn’t you do for your family? I’m sorry, Sam.
And she’s right. Sam would do anything for Dean, and has. Dean has done the same. And she is sorry, I 100% believe that. But she also is desperate to get her son back. The whole situation was so heartbreaking, for both Sam and Rowena – and both Jared and Ruth really brought their A-plus game to it.
She finishes the spell and puts her hand on his chest, and the purple light arcs between them.
And then, there she is – Death herself. Billie. The awesome and amazing Lisa Berry.
I full out gasped again.
Rowena demands that Death bring back her son, and Death just says no. Just like that. No.
Rowena is immediately desperate – she’s close to losing it, you can tell. Ruth Connell was brilliant in this scene, making me feel every bit of Rowena’s agony and desperation.
Rowena: Then I’ll kill Sam Winchester!
Billie: Go ahead. I don’t think we’ll like what happens, but I don’t do blackmail.
Sam: I know how much you want your family back, but this is not you. Not anymore.
Rowena, at that moment, knows that it’s over. The full horror of never having her son back, never being able to make things right for him, hits her then, and Connell lets us see all of it. She whirls on Death, unleashes all her power, screaming “It’s not fair!!”
And then, failing, she collapses to the floor.
Death: You were never going to kill him. There was a time when you would have, but not now.
Rowena sobs on the floor, broken. Billie leans down and touches her cheek gently. Almost kindly.
Billie: Sometimes life is unfair, and sometimes we make mistakes. And some of these things can never be fixed, no matter how powerful you become. Some things just are, and everyone has to live with that.
Rowena looks up at her, so full of pain it made me start to tear up as she says almost hopefully: And now you’ll take me?
My god, Lisa, and Ruth absolutely killed me with this scene. Both of them played it so perfectly, just devastating me with the emotion of that moment, its complex mix of feelings. Kudos ladies, kudos.
I wondered for a moment if Death’s message was as much for Sam as it was for Rowena – the Winchesters have made their share of epic mistakes, and have tried to fix the unfairnesses of life more often than anyone, especially when it involves losing each other.
At that moment, Dean bursts through the door, yelling ‘Sam!’
Sam: (yells back) Dean!
Me: Yep, that’s my show.
Death: Hey Dean. See you again soon…
Dean: (silently) WTF?
Rowena collapses again, sobbing.
The ending scene was my favorite of the entire episode. Sam and Dean sit on the floor next to each other, drinking beers, Dean still bloodied and looking ridiculously hot anyway, Sam with his shirt still torn half open. Rowena sits across from them, makeup streaked down her face from her tears.
Sam, always the empathic one, asks both of them how they’re feeling.
Dean: Like I just got punched in the face. A lot.
Rowena: Like I just fought Death and lost.
She’s weakened, her power drained, perhaps permanently.
Rowena: Sam, what have I done?
Sam: You had a chance to kill me and you didn’t. I’d call that progress.
Dean: I’d call that a miracle.
And then a surprising thing happens. The Winchesters reassure her. That it wasn’t her fault, that Crowley made his choices. That every one of us has done something we have to live with.
Sam: And you know, what happened with Crowley, that wasn’t your fault.
Rowena (distraught): He never had a chance…
Dean: He made his choices, just like we all do. Look, every one of us has done something that we have to live with, that we’re trying to make up for. Every one of us.
God (Chuck) knows, that certainly applies to the Winchesters. They tell her that Lucifer is back and that it would be a step toward redemption if she helped them.
Rowena: You still think that’s possible?
Dean: Yeah, I do.
I should probably be protesting too many redemption arcs in this season, but this is one that I desperately want. I want it to be complex, and I want Rowena to struggle with it, and I want to see more of the complicated relationship she has especially with Sam, but this whole scene just made me happy.
The brothers expect Rowena to be panicked when they tell her about Lucifer, but she shakes her head.
Rowena: Lucifer isn’t the one who’s gonna kill me, is he?
Sam: You changed other people’s fates. Maybe we can change yours.
Oh god I hope so! I don’t know if my heart can take Sam Winchester killing Rowena – those two have such a complicated relationship and I’ve come to really love it. They’re enemies, but they have this big shared trauma in common and this terrible shared enemy who trumps everything else, so they also have empathy for each other. They don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, but there’s an undeniable bond there and a reluctant affection. I don’t want to see that extinguished, and I don’t want Ruth Connell gone from the show either. Oh god, something else to worry about as I chew my nails to the quick over these last four episodes!
Heaven canon flexibility aside, this was a solid episode with some things that I really loved – and emotional moments that I could really sink my teeth into. It was also deliciously filmed by Nina Lopez-Corrado, with some shots absolutely striking. The fight scene was one of them, with all the kudos to Rob Hayter, but there were others too. Dean bursting out into the alley and seeing Sam’s gun, shot from the perspective of the discarded gun. Sam helpless in the chair looking up at Rowena in power over him. Billie and Rowena connecting, the contrast between her very human anguish and Death’s serene focus absolutely chilling. Beautifully done. And the special effects by Adam Williams and company were also once again just right, fully integrated into the rest of the narrative.
The show itself wrapped this week, with the cast posting their goodbye-end-of-season or teaser-for-next-season selfies and Jared taking to Facebook live to bring fans “onto” the set and make all of us feel a part of what makes Supernatural so special. It was a generous thing to do, just to share the joy, and it eased the sting of knowing Hellatus is looming. But for now, I’m on pins and needles for this Thursday’s new episode! Bring it!