That’s The Show I Love! Supernatural Gets Real with The Book of the Damned
I was so unspoiled for this week’s Supernatural episode, thanks to an insane few weeks at work, that I didn’t even know who had written it. About three minutes in, I was already pretty sure I knew. Thank you, Robbie Thompson, for an episode so good that even fans who are rarely in agreement are standing up and cheering. I don’t even know where to start. And that’s a good thing.
I guess I’ll start at the beginning, since the opening scene grabbed me immediately (partly because for a second I thought that Stephen Amell’s suggestion about an Arrow crossover had actually happened!) But no, it’s Charlie (clue number one that this is a Robbie episode). I have loved the character from her first introduction, so much that I’m only a little taken aback by her evolution from scared and geeky to scared and badass. And geeky. The evolution seems alarmingly quick from a viewer standpoint, but Charlie spent time in Oz kicking butt with Dorothy, and time passes differently there. Which is to say that her fighting skills are therefore believable. That little niggling taken care of, I’m free to just enjoy who Charlie is now and the meaning of that in a broader sense. She’s who Becky could have become if she wasn’t hijacked in Season 7 – she’s the fangirl who never apologized for her geek ways or her fannish enthusiasm, instead putting all that passion and knowledge to good use to become a heroine herself. She’s the fangirl who is every bit as smart and capable as the Winchesters, in her own way. And every bit as courageous. That’s a really important message, both for the Show and for a culture that struggles with depicting female characters who are real and human and yet able to be truly heroic. We don’t see it enough and we need to see it more.
By the way, the mysterious guys pursuing Charlie, with their threats delivered in such sultry southern accents, were immediately intriguing. Kudos to Jeff Branson, who played Jacob Styne with so much charisma and such a sense of danger. We didn’t even see that much of him, but I was sorry to see him go. (Or did he? Who knows, it’s Supernatural after all). I loved Charlie standing up to him, afraid but determined, and flinched when his bullet caught her. She learned a thing or two about being a hunter in Oz, though, if her minty fresh floss-stitched wound is any indication. I did wonder if she’d hit her head when she stayed in that phone booth chatting for so long though!
Felicia Day had this to say about Charlie’s motivation and determination in a BuddyTV interview:
Whether she’s overcoming her intimidation or her fear, she is motivated by doing the right thing and that’s what she admires about the guys. If you’ve never been part of a family and you find a little bit of a family to belong to, you’re going to fight for that experience because that’s what we are all looking for in this world– to belong.
So Charlie was awesome in this episode. So was Cas. And Charlie and Cas! There was a loud sound of collective squee across the fandom when those two iconic characters finally met – and neither the actors nor the script downplayed the significance of that meeting, which was much appreciated. Charlie didn’t hide her excitement, and Cas responded in kind.
Charlie was the fangirl in all of us for a few moments, unable to contain her fannish glee and affectionately punching Cas on the shoulder, and wanting to proclaim them besties.
(Apparently that punch was not scripted, and Jensen decided to make it a thing by doing the same to poor Misha when Dean joined the party. No wonder Cas looked so put upon by the second shoulder punch.)
As amused as I was by Charlie and Cas, I was also ridiculously amused by Cas and Metatron. OMG Curtis Armstrong, you knocked it out of the park in this episode! Thompson’s dialogue was perfect for Armstrong, and he made every line absolutely delicious. First his endless prattle in the car (and how nice was it to hear someone quibble with Alanis Morissette’s definition of ‘ironic’?) and Misha’s priceless rendition of Castiel’s exasperated bitchface.
I was squealing with glee even before Cas finally lost his patience and hauled off and smacked Metatron mid sentence. And the waffles? I didn’t know whether to be hungry or disgusted (until the whole lactose intolerance thing kicked in, which made it clearer). Collins and Armstrong were so good at playing the interaction between Cas and Metatron that I was as distracted as Cas was – which was of course exactly what Metatron intended. Metatron is just so good at it!
Props to Curtis and Misha for their comic timing and the way they played every second of their epic not-buddy roadtrip. Literally what’s meant by laugh out loud.
On the other hand, there was nothing funny about the way Cas responded to Metatron’s dismissal of the fact that he killed Dean. When Metatron wants to handwave that, seeing as Dean is “mostly okay” and wants to know why Cas can’t get over it, Cas gets deadly serious.
Did anyone else get goosebumps?
By the time they made it to the library and Cas lost his temper once again, trying to torture the location of his grace out of Metatron, I was too distracted by Metatron’s constant blathering to realize that of course Metatron had a back up plan and an ulterior motive. I loved Metatron’s confrontation of Castiel about what his mission was now. It’s like this episode refused to be silent about all the things that have been bothering me – what is Castiel’s identity now? Who is he? What is he? He clearly hit a nerve with those questions, since Cas responded with the classic defensive move of “Shut up!”
Castiel’s torture (ironically…) facilitated the blood sigils that left Cas writhing on the floor in pain while Metatron gleefully recovered the other object hidden in that library. The demon tablet!
Oh, Metatron’s evil grin as he leans over Cas, taunting him.
Much of the cast and Robbie Thompson live tweeted the west coast airing of the episode, which served to break the tension a little bit every now and then. Jared tried to be helpful in this particular scene, as poor Castiel is in pain and unable to get up.
And of course, after that, Misha (with a little help from Ruth Connell) had to get him back.
Meanwhile, Metatron has the demon tablet. I know I wasn’t the only one who screamed “Kevin!!” because Osric Chau immediately tweeted a rather forlorn sounding, “It’s a.. That’s.. That’s my thing” with a tearful emoji.
Tissues! This is the perfect opening to bring back Kevin, so I’m crossing my fingers that eventually that happens. If not this season, then next!
What a powerful scene for Castiel next, as he figures out the riddle and fumbles a copy of Don Quixote off the shelf to retrieve his grace just in time. Metatron flees – smarmy smile still in place – and BOOM! The return of BAMF!Cas, tattered wings raised in shadow behind him and blue eyes glowing. I think I jumped up and cheered, I was so excited to see Cas as Cas again. Collins did a great job of conveying that sense of power, and the whole scene was beautifully directed and filmed to evoke Castiel’s original entrance way back in Season 4. Are we excited enough yet??
I’m not completely sure why Cas didn’t go after Metatron, who was probably weighed down by his leg wound and that heavy tablet and the whole being human thing, but then again Metatron is a lot cagier than he likes to seem, so maybe he was long gone by the time the dust settled in the library.
That’s a lot to like in an episode. But there’s so much more! I haven’t even mentioned Sam and Dean, but that’s not because this episode wasn’t jam packed full of brotherly feels and insights and plot progression and twists and tangles. It was!
It was also full of the kind of gorgeous that makes my head swim when I’m watching Supernatural. Like Dean in a hoodie. DEAN IN A HOODIE, PEOPLE! To fandom, that equals Dean hurting and needing comfort, which is certainly true right now. He’s hurting and covering it up (hence the hoodie metaphor), trying so hard to be ‘normal’ so Sam doesn’t know how bad it is (which of course he totally does). Apparently Thompson was trying hard to give fandom a real gift, since he tweeted that Dean had been working out and that’s why he was in a hoodie and sweatpants. Nobody has dared to name the editor who decided that scene didn’t make the cut, because that person’s reputation is clearly on the line. Who cuts Dean working out??? It better be on the gag reel, that’s all I can say.
Anyway, Dean’s in a hoodie, but not only that – he’s being honest with Sam. Like, for real honest. What Show am I watching?? He tells Sam about Rowena being Crowley’s mother, and what she told him about the mark being a curse. And presumably he tells Sam even more that we don’t see, since he says something like ‘more about that later’. This episode has a lot to say about truth and openness and deceit and secrets, but this scene of genuine connection between the brothers was heartwarming, even if we all know it’s temporary.
We’re even treated to Dean in rare hopeful mode for a little while, when he thinks maybe they really can find a way to get the mark off his arm. In a scene that calls back to Season 1 so loudly I can still hear it, the boys take off in the Impala to the sound of Thin Lizzy’s ‘The Boys Are Back In Town’ and once again I’m jumping up and screaming at my television. It felt so old school, it was like a shot of adrenaline all through me – better than six cups of coffee!
And oh, Sam’s face, when he sees his brother singing along and smiling and being hopeful. It’s simultaneously so heartwarming my chest could barely contain the warmth and totally heartbreaking, because we already know it won’t last. But for a second there, I think I melted. Dean singing, grinning to pull Sam in, and Sam smiling back, so soft and fond. A reminder of the love and the bond between them that we could see all the time in those early seasons – that is one of the big reasons I fell in love with this show and these brothers. There it was, writ large as ever. Padalecki and Ackles can make you believe in the Winchesters and their love for each other all over again in a scene like that.
Thanks to whoever managed to get the rights and pay the bill to use that song – it was perfect. If you’ve been to a Supernatural convention, it probably struck an even deeper emotional chord, since that’s what Louden Swain often plays to bring Jared and Jensen onstage.
If I was already melty, Dean’s wistful vacation plans – for him and Sam – pushed me over the edge into puddle on the floor territory. All he wants is for them to go to a beach, something neither of them has ever done. (I admit this confused me for a minute, since Sam and Dean have been to the beach in approximately a thousand works of fanfiction.) But in canon, they never have. As always on Supernatural, that broke my heart for the brothers at the same time as I was smiling along with Dean’s “Sand between our toes, Sammy, sand between our toes.”
Why don’t you kill me, Robbie Thompson? Like that wasn’t emotional enough? You had to throw in a ‘Sammy’ too?
Once the boys meet up with Charlie and the book, things go downhill quickly, and the whole episode takes on a sense of urgency, the pace speeding up and my stomach tied in knots. The book itself is suitably creepy (I kept thinking eww, I wouldn’t want to touch that…) and Jensen portrayed Dean’s reaction to it in such a way that I realized what was happening to him slowly, just like the characters did. I don’t think many other actors could do justice to the demands of that scene, but that’s the beauty of having writers and actors who have worked together for a long time. Robbie knows exactly what Jensen and Jared and Misha and Curtis and Felicia can do. He gives them words and direction that challenge them as actors and they rise to the challenge every single effing time.
Watch the subtle changes on Dean’s face as the book begins to call out to him. And the utter astonishment and subsequent realization when it ends up in his hands and him halfway across the room. The directing and cinematography of that scene were perfect – the viewer was as shocked as the characters, and just as confused. Perfect! Robbie knew he could trust the actors and the crew to pull it off, and they did.
Later, when Sam is holding the book and Dean looks over, an entire conversation goes on between Sam and Dean without a word spoken between them. And yet we as viewers can read it as clearly as if there were five lines of dialogue. The book calls to Dean; Sam realizes, and makes an excuse to lock it away. Wordless conversations are of course iconic enough on this Show that they’re immortalized in meta episodes, but I will never EVER get tired of them. And these actors will always be able to do them justice.
Once again, Sam’s voice is the only thing that gets through to Dean. That’s been set up for two seasons now, and I hope it will play out as important in the finale. Dean, once again, is honest – he tells Sam it’s not good for him to hold the book, and when he realizes how evil the Styne family is, he knows that the kind of dark magic it would take to get rid of the mark is too dangerous to use. This is Dean in the position Sam was in at the end of Season 8. He’s willing to sacrifice himself to keep others safe – to keep Sam safe.
I imagine that took an incredible amount of willpower on Dean’s part, especially with the mark and the book trying to pull him in the opposite direction. This season is defining heroism in so many subtle ways, showing the courage it takes to resist the pull of something that’s beckoning but that you know will harm you or others. I can’t help but think of the #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign and the way the Show’s messages are dovetailing with that real life message. Sometimes this Show makes me so emotional, I can barely contain myself. Excuse me for a sec.
Not kidding, I had to take a break. How many tissues will this Show force me to go through between now and the season finale??
And this episode wasn’t done with the tissues either, not by a long shot.
The brothers get real once again.
Sam: I can’t lose you.
Sam: Yeah really.
Dean: You change your mind on that, ’cause that’s not what you said last time.
Me: OMG they’re talking about Season 9! They’re actually talking about it! Hand me the tissues!
I wanted to hug Robbie Thompson so badly at that moment, it’s definitely a good thing he wasn’t here to be bowled over by my enthusiasm. Season 9 stung so badly, and I’ve been so needing Show to GO THERE and it hasn’t. It felt so good just to get that little bit of conversation. To hear Sam say that to Dean, and Dean to hear him. To hear Dean own up to the hurt that’s still there, and Sam to hear him. I don’t need much, Show, just a little. To hear Sam say those words that echoed Dean’s from last season (and from both of them in early seasons) just felt so good, that reciprocity restoring the balance that Season 8 and 9 rocked.
Anyway, Dean leaves to take himself out of temptation, and that means we get something that I’ve been clamoring for – Sam POV!!!!! Sam’s conversation with Charlie felt almost shocking, because we so rarely get a glimpse into Sam’s head. I think I sat absolutely frozen, hanging on every word.
Sam: I guess I really understand now that… This is my life. I love it. But I can’t do it without my brother. I don’t want to do it without my brother. And if he’s gone, then I don’t…
His voice breaks, his eyes water. Mine do too. Then Charlie jumps in, expressing the empathy that all of fandom is feeling at that moment.
Charlie: I-I got it. I do.
I also love that her summary of what happened between the boys, the overt recognition that Sam said something intended to hurt Dean – which is what fandom has mostly been fanficcing all along. I also love that Charlie categorizes that as explicitly ‘brothers’. A reminder that they are brothers, and that brothers hurt each other – family hurts each other – but continue to love each other.
Meanwhile, at the convenience store where coincidentally Dean runs into the Stynes… we get treated to a scene that doesn’t inspire warmth at all – oh no, this scene inspired full on HOT LIKE BURNING OMG. First we get smart!Dean figuring out the guy behind the counter is the evil Mr. Styne (big clue there with the dead guy bleeding out on the floor, but whatever). And then we get Dean restrained by some other bad guy while Styne gets in his face and tries to intimidate him. Which results in a scene so hot, at least half of fandom ran straight to Tumblr to gif it and then rewatch it about twenty million times. I don’t even know what Ackles does to make Dean look like that, or why having Dean mouth off while he’s in an arm hold makes it a billion times hotter, but holy crap.
Dean shows his smarts again and overpowers the bad guys, but only after having to slide backwards across the floor on his ass while shooting his pistol and making that Dean-shooting-lip-pursing face that he does and holy crap, did I already say hot? More Tumblr gifs. And thank you, Serge and everyone else, for that perspective. Much appreciated.
Dean reloading his gun just about melted my entire television. I mean, seriously. And that’s not even a metaphor.
The showdown at the cabin gives Sam a chance to catch up to Charlie and Dean and Cas in terms of being totally badass. I was so busy watching how hot Sam looked when Styne got in his face and was holding him back and Sam just got out that big knife and let him have it (very VERY hot) that I didn’t realize he didn’t burn the actual book. Which gave me a wonderful moment of letting the reveal play out as an actual reveal later, so woohoo, I count that as a win! Distraction seemed to work as well on me throughout this episode as it worked for some of the characters.
Loved Styne’s ominous warning to Sam that his family will never stop looking for the book. “Silly boy.” Oh Sam. What have you done? (And wasn’t that some nice foreshadowing in the episode where Sam didn’t burn the sister’s journal and it ended up helping?)
It’s not in me not to love the lengths Sam is willing to go to in order to save his brother. It’s literally what made me fall in love with Supernatural. It simultaneously breaks my heart and makes it full to bursting. We’re finally seeing Sam go dark to save Dean. We’re seeing him lie and make bargains that are likely to backfire on him spectacularly – just like Dean did at the end of Season 8. This is the Sam I remember from Mystery Spot. This is the Sam I recognize. I’m so damn grateful to have him back.
If I was already emotionally overwrought, the last scene pushed me over the edge into outright sobbing. As soon as ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ began to play, I had to reach for the tissues. I immediately thought of Ash48’s brilliant fanvid about Sam set to that same classic Who song – she writes about that vid and some of her others in Fan Phenomena Supernatural. The lyrics fit so perfectly, Dean putting on a brave face and laughing over pizza, opening Sam’s beer and holding up his bottle, waiting for his brother to clink their beers together. Like always. Nothing like always. And Sam, caught up in a web of deception already, trying to smile through his guilt and fear.
It’s like the Last Supper, everyone feasting and nobody knowing the one most beloved will also be the betrayer. Sam and Cas are both lying to Dean.
“This is my cross to bear,” insists Dean.
It’s like the burnt up polaroid of Dean and Sam and Cas with Bobby and Ellen and Jo, just before three of them were claimed by death. I thought my heart was broken before, but that scene really did it.
Of course Sam goes to Rowena. I was spoiled for that little bit, but I think I would have expected it anyway. It makes sense; what else can he do? Big kudos to Ruth Connell for making that one little line so full of foreboding that it made me shiver. I can feel Sam’s desperation and I love him for it – and I’m so afraid.
But it’s a really good kind of afraid. It’s the awareness that the last five episodes are going to take us on a roller coaster ride that’s going to leave us breathless. Repeatedly. It’s the heady mix of anticipation and terror as we get closer to the finale – a feeling that’s intimately familiar to longtime Supernatural fans. We’ve been on this ride a long time. There have been twists and turns, and a few times when the whole thing nearly broke down and slowed to a crawl, or took a detour that made us wonder if we’d jumped the track and ended up on an entirely different ride, but it always started back up again. And now, after all this time, we’re careening down the track at breakneck speed, holding on for dear life, trusting that the people running this wild ride know just how fast we can survive going and just how deep those long downward spirals can be so we can still come out on the other side. Hang on, SPN Family! I think it will be worth it.
FYI, here’s that amazing fanvid to ‘Behind Blue Eyes’ by the incredibly talented Ash48. I like to think that she realized that song’s potential to describe Sam Winchester long ago and canon finally caught up.
And here’s a crack vid for 10.18 which left me rolling on the floor – clearly the person who made this shared a few of my sentiments…
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