Sticking Together or Stronger Alone? Supernatural’s Angel Heart
I knew that streak of “OMG fandom all agrees about the awesomeness of this episode” wouldn’t last forever, so it wasn’t that shocking that this week’s episode split fandom down the middle once again. Half of my social media compatriots loved it and half hated it – or at least one line of it. I admit that particular line caused me to go “Huh?” – actually out loud, while scratching my head – which isn’t the reaction they were probably going for. I had to make a little cognitive detour to figure out what the hell it meant, or at least to come to my own way of making sense of it, which threw me out of the story for a minute, but then I found my way back in. Other than that glitch, and putting it aside for the moment, the rest of the episode was solid and touching, even if it didn’t quite leave me breathless or scrambling for tissues.
This was the first episode in which I found myself really liking the character of Claire. Kathryn Newton has done a credible job playing her throughout, but she was written to be annoying and that’s how she came off. This episode gave us a more mature Claire, some of her defenses partially dismantled as she searches for her mother. No coincidence that it’s her 18th birthday. Sometimes reaching that ‘legal adult’ status just brings up all the losses of childhood and makes us want to be parented all over again. I could understand Claire’s determination to figure out what happened to her mother. To find her, or at least to make sense of her abandonment. To make the chaos of her life somehow have meaning. I think Dean can relate to that need, which plays into what he says to her later.
I also liked her self sufficiency, which was new in this episode. In previous episodes, Claire was written as the teenager who made foolish decisions and then paid for them, and Cas and Sam and Dean as the older wiser men who tried to rescue her. Claire in this episode has grown up quite a bit; she may still be foolish sometimes, but it’s a foolishness borne of desperation – something the Winchesters and Castiel are intimately familiar with.
Maybe that’s why Sam and Dean don’t try to talk her out of it this time. Instead, they put their mentoring skills to good use, teaching her the practical skills of credit card fraud and carrying a gun. My knee jerk reaction at first was what the hell are you doing, boys? (Perhaps a bit stuck in my own mom role for a minute there). But Claire is eighteen, and these are the Winchesters. They’re not there to be parental role models; they carried guns long before they were eighteen and knew how to use them. (As Cas points out, the Winchesters were troubled teens too). Of course they would try to give Claire the tools she needs if she’s determined to start hunting. Because, really, that’s what she’s doing, isn’t it?
What a relief that the Winchesters treated Claire with respect, something the CW promo didn’t. Something about the scariest thing in the world being a teenage girl? Seriously? Have you looked at the stats of who’s watching your show recently? Enough with the dismissal of ‘hysterical females’ already.
She also got to be the one to take out the bad guy, so yay.
I particularly enjoyed Sam’s interactions with Claire. Sam is such an empathic man, able to tune in to other people and know what they need. He knows how to talk to someone so that they can hear him, with patience and with respect. Claire responded to his honesty and to the fact that he talked to her like she was an adult with a brain, not like a child. When he confided that his mother died when he was a baby, Claire’s reaction was honest in response, and you could see her re-shifting her own understanding of the Winchesters – and of her own past. She showed some real emotion, and they connected on a different level because of it. The way Sam respected her allowed Claire to start dropping some of her defenses – people don’t let go of them until they feel safe, and why would they? (I was also squeeing because yay, once again we get some Sam pov!)
Cas is less on board with the whole helping-Claire-be-a-hunter thing. Poor Cas, I really feel for him in confused pseudo parent mode. He has zero experience with being any sort of father figure – hell, he doesn’t even have that much experience being human – and yet he clearly feels responsible for her plight and wants to make amends and give Claire what she needs.
He even drags Dean to “Hot Topical” to buy a grumpy cat birthday present, handing it over with a mix of sheepishness and naked hope. Kinda glad that Claire kept it (along with Tamiel’s blade, of course).
(Side note: What the hell is with the blatant product placement on Show suddenly? Clearly the Warner Bros/Hot Topic partnership is working out swimmingly for both of them, but it’s so not-SPN. Apparently Hot Topic immediately sold out of that particular item. And the next day Hot Topic tweeted about coming out with a #HotTopical shirt. Supernatural is clearly the best thing ever to happen to Hot Topic!)
I enjoyed Dean and Claire’s weird little mini golf outing, where it was unclear who was the youngest and Jensen and Kathryn both got a chance to show off their comedic chops (and their real-life putting talent). Any opportunity to see Dean Winchester take a break and do something fun is a win in my book, and this was a nice break from the constant tension of the last few episodes.
Though I won’t be able to tolerate it for more than one episode, Show. Get the hell on with it!
Dean also takes the opportunity to try to convince Claire that Castiel is not the bad guy she (understandably) thinks he is. He tells her that her father sacrificed himself, his vessel, so that Cas could ‘save the world’.
That was the part where I looked a bit gobsmacked and went “HUH?”
Apparently it was scripted to say “Cas was able to HELP save the world” and it got changed in performance – which is a pretty damn big change. I wouldn’t have reacted with “Huh” if the word ‘help’ had remained. Cas absolutely was able to help save the world, no question. But he certainly didn’t save it by himself – and Dean Winchester certainly knows that. I could never believe for even a second that Dean Winchester has forgotten what Sam did on what was probably the worst day of Dean’s life, in Swan Song. Not for a SECOND. It’s inconceivable. None of us will ever forget that.
So there must be another explanation. Clearly Dean has an agenda here – he’s trying to convince Claire that Cas is one of the good guys. What better way to do that than to convince her that Castiel – and her father – are heroes. That’s the Dean Winchester definition of a hero, saving the world (literally), so that’s what he goes with. Claire is on a quest to make meaning of her losses, and of her father’s sacrifice. What Dean tells her goes a long way toward helping her make that developmental leap, and he knows it will. Claire, much like Dean himself, has had to deal with too much loss and trauma early on, so I think Dean really wants to help her cope. If he exaggerates a bit, it’s for a good reason. That was my way of making sense of that line, in the moment.
Someone more creative than me hypothesized that maybe Dean was thinking about how Cas saved Sam from being killed by demon!Dean too. That sort of qualifies as ‘saving the world’ since there pretty much is no world for Dean without Sam in it. *sniffles*
Either way, I don’t think the line changed canon, and it certainly didn’t change the way Dean thinks of his brother’s world-saving sacrifice. Or the way I do.
That wasn’t the only interesting line, though it was the most controversial. There seemed to be a lot of dialogue in this episode that foreshadows what’s to come, especially Sam’s comment that “death doesn’t always mean goodbye.”
I mean, sure, we’re Supernatural fans, we know that. But OMG I can’t go through another season finale like watching Dean be run through by Metatron. I nearly passed out I cried so hard. What are you going to put us through this time, Show???
There was also Sam and Dean’s separate (and disparate) advice to Cas about whether he should leave Claire alone. Dean, sounding like he’s done a 180 from his whole “we’re stronger together” conviction, keeps talking about how it can be good to “go it alone”. I think Dean fundamentally believes what he said before about being stronger together, but I also think he’s scared. He’s terrified that sooner or later Cain’s prediction will come true, and he’ll kill Cas and his brother. No wonder he keeps thinking about going it alone.
I’m always intrigued by Sam and Cas getting to spend some time together. (So is William Shatner, who tweeted writer Robbie Thompson to ask when we’ll be getting some Sastiel to ship….I’ll never get over the fact that Captain Kirk watches our Show and likes to tweet shipping questions every now and then. Robbie asked what he wanted in return. I think he should have said Bill on SPN, of course. I mean, duh!) Anyway, Sam also does a 180 — from the entire Season 9. He keeps talking about how family should stick together, and I keep loving to hear it.
Sam: Here’s all I know. Going it alone, that’s no way to live. You being there for her, even if she thinks she doesn’t want you to be there for her, that’s good for both of you.
Switch the pronouns and Sam is also talking about him and Dean.
Poor Cas is just confused. Unsurprisingly! Don’t ask the Winchesters for advice right now unless you want to try to sort out conflicting messages.
This episode also saw the return of Amelia. No, not THAT Amelia, thankfully. The other Amelia (why, with all the names in the world, does Show have to use this one repeatedly??) Amelia Novak, except she looks completely different thanks to re-casting, which is confusing.
It bothered me that the story we were told about Amelia is that she abandoned her daughter to go “find herself”, which never made any sense at all. Finally we get to discover the real story, along with Claire. Amelia didn’t abandon her daughter – she left her safely with her grandmother while she went to look for Jimmy, only to be taken by a Grigori sort-of-angel and held for two years while he slowly drained her soul and kept her in a hallucinatory coma where she keeps seeing (and then losing) Jimmy. Heartbreaking!
Amelia is probably not the only one to have had a dream that starts out like that, right?
For a few minutes there, I thought that we were actually going to get a happily-ever-after reunion for Claire and her mother, and that would be the characters’ exit. But no, instead we got one of those mother/daughter death scenes that never fail to rip me apart emotionally. I was so not prepared for that!
This one wasn’t as devastating as Jo and Ellen, since I didn’t know or care about Amelia or even Claire in the same way, and certainly not as traumatizing as the one that really did me in, when Buffy’s mom died (I still can’t think about it and have NEVER rewatched that episode, though it is beyond brilliant). But it still caught me off guard and hurt. Kathryn Newton did a wonderful job of conveying Claire’s shock and grief as she gathered her mother’s lifeless body into her arms. Ouch. That hurt, Robbie Thompson.
The death seemed shocking in its harshness, but I think we were supposed to conclude that Amelia was beyond saving. Tamiel said as much, and Cas was unable to heal her. I somehow missed that in the first watching, so I was hit hard by her sudden death, but it makes more sense with that information. Still, ouch.
I liked that they sent Claire to Jody – though I would have liked it better if Kim Rhodes had actually been in the episode! Claire is another strong woman pushed toward hunting by too much tragedy in her life, just like Alex, so this made sense. Hey, Sheriff Donna and Charlie can come hang out too, and we’ll have ourselves a kickass spinoff!
Because it’s SPN, we also got Sam tied to a chair – but this time, we got smart!Sam escaping and then looking really hot stalking the Grigori with both an angel blade and his gun. Yum.
Of course, we also got Sam knocked out, because….well, Show doesn’t really need a reason actually. It’s just one of those things that happens about every other Wednesday. Good thing he has lots of hair to cushion all those head traumas.
We also got Dean in that jacket. I don’t know what it is about that jacket and those jeans, but I think Dean should keep wearing them. Like all the time.
As we came to the end of the episode, I loved that Dean reiterated the real life theme of Always Keep Fighting, once again tying the messages of the Show to the messages that the actors are conveying in ‘real life’.
Dean: I’ll keep fighting. I’ll keep swinging til there’s nothing left.
He will, too. We know he will. And it’s what Jared and Jensen are encouraging the SPNFamily to do with their represent campaign as well.
Jimmy and Amelia got their happy ending in Heaven, and Cas got a hug from Claire, so things weren’t all doom and gloom – that’s about as happy an ending as you get with Supernatural. I wasn’t invested in Jimmy and Amelia to the point of needing to grab for the tissues, but I was relieved to see Amelia find some peace after all she’s been through. Misha and Leisha Hailey did an excellent job of letting us see Jimmy and Amelia’s love, both for each other and for their daughter.
So, all in all, a solid episode. This episode was a detour from the main arc, though, and now I’m impatient to get back to dealing with what’s really going on this season – the Mark. Dean seems to be holding himself in check, but just barely. The way he went off on that guy in the bar was chilling. Not that it was that different than normal Dean-trying-to-get-information-from-a-dick mode, but there was a lack of hesitation that made it more ominous. I think Sam and Cas ‘benched’ him because they know that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can sense the violence simmering just beneath the surface, and every time Dean alludes to someone being ‘stronger on their own’ I worry more. Time to show us some of that violence, Show – make me terrified, come on! (I know, that sounds very wrong, doesn’t it?)
What are you planning, Dean? Something well intentioned and probably misguided, I’m sure.
What are Sam and Cas planning in return?
Only three episodes left! Stocking up on tissues now.
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Fan Phenomena: Supernatural, with chapters written
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