Supernatural Returns with a Bang! But The Devil’s In The Details
Wow. Supernatural came back from Hellatus with a vengeance, didn’t it? There’s always a special energy for the season premiere and finale episodes, of course, but the mid season premiere is also hotly anticipated by a fandom who has been starved for Show for months. This episode, by Andrew Dabb, came crashing into my living room like a bulldozer, and didn’t let up throughout the entire 42 minutes. In fact, so much happened that my head was spinning by the time we were halfway through – some of it awesome and some of it gutting.
In other words, Supernatural.
The Road So Far was definitely part of the awesome. Both the appropriate song choice and the montage, which amped my excitement up even further. Good job, Show!
The weird little Christmas clip that was part of the preview turned out to be Rowena’s dream, which didn’t make it any less delicious. Crowley – and Mark Sheppard – in a onesie gleeful about getting a Sam Pop Funko doll was something I never expected and didn’t know I wanted so badly. It takes a talented actor to pull off both the King of Hell and a grown man in a onesie.
Mark Pellgrino as Lucifer as Bad Santa was equally delicious. This is perhaps not what every actor dreams of, but I will forever see Lucifer as Mark no matter how many other films or television series cast someone else to play him. The mix of horrible and scary and endearing and amusing that he brings to the role is perfect – I was grinning even though I had no doubt that things were going to go badly for poor ‘little’ Crowley.
Typical of Supernatural, the ridiculous dream sequence doesn’t come without some poignancy, though. Crowley’s plaintive “but I was a good boy” as Lucifer runs him through seems as much about Rowena’s maternal guilt as anything to do with Christmas gifts; Rowena’s ambivalence about motherhood and her son are clear in her long suffering demeanor and her attempts to still say sort of the ‘right thing’ to Fergus.
Of course, she doesn’t spare much angst once he’s dead, immediately focused on the object of her adulation. Oh Rowena. Did you really think this would end well?
I guess we could ask the same question of Sam, who starts out the episode where we left him – trapped in the Cage with Lucifer.
Sam: So are you gonna jump my bones?
Sam, while he looks terrified, is effing amazing in this episode. He starts off defiant, and while Lucifer tempts him and taunts him and is pretty damn convincing at times with his arguments designed to guilt Sam into being a ‘hero’ and making the ultimate sacrifice, Sam does not waver. Let’s think about that for a minute. Sam is being tempted by the Devil himself – and he does not waver.
Instead, he counts on what the Winchesters have always counted on – his brother. Family. Friends. The people who Sam knows care about him. That’s the point of the Show, and the reason it’s stayed relevant and powerful for eleven seasons. Sure, there have been times all of them doubted each other, but in the end that’s what it comes down to and they come through. For each other.
Sam: You’ll taunt me, and you’ll torture me, and I’ll say no. And eventually, sooner than you think, my brother’s gonna walk through that door and kick your ass.
Lucifer, incredulous: Dean? You’re betting on Dean?
Sam: I always have.
Sam’s faith in his brother made me tear up at that moment, both with love for the brave and beautiful Sam Winchester and for the love the brothers have for each other, having been to hell and back. Literally.
Lucifer tries, throughout the episode, to convince Sam otherwise. He reminds Sam that he could inflict the worst pain imaginable (and kudos to Jared here, because he lets us see Sam’s terror clearly, but also the steely resolution in his eyes as he steps up to the plate and keeps saying no). Kudos to Mark also, because he makes Lucifer both terrifying and seductive. And most confusing of all, there are times when the Devil sounds like he’s really making sense. Sam watches and listens with (beautifully) furrowed brow, taking it all in.
Lucifer shows him the Sam of the past, and unspoiled me starts screaming OMG IS IT…IS IT??? It was. Colin Ford, who personifies young Sam like no one else, is back on my television set giving me a delicious glimpse of teenage Sam being dorky and geeky and brilliant – and making out with a young woman who has excellent taste in men. Well, boys.
It’s creepy how Lucifer wants to play Peeping Tom, but what he actually says starts to sound like some strange bits of meta creeping into the narrative.
Lucifer: I thought I had daddy issues…
He also takes Sam back to Stull Cemetery, where one of my favorite episodes of all time went down. It’s a good ploy, reminding Sam of that time he made the ultimate sacrifice and saved the world. Reminding us of it too. As much as that episode gutted me, it showed us all just how much guts Sam Winchester has, and just how much the brothers love each other.
Where are my tissues?
At Stull Cemetery, the weird meta-ness of the episode cranks up a few more notches as Lucifer comments on the scene from the past that he and Sam are watching.
Lucifer: Assbutt…I still don’t get that.
I’m not sure what to make of the Devil as a stand in for fandom, but Lucifer starts commenting on Sam Winchester’s hero’s journey and it sounds like some of the fascinating fan-penned meta out there. Especially when we unexpectedly switch scenes and I’m once again shouting OMG IS IT… but this time with a groan at the end.
Amelia! (Nothing against the actress at all, btw) But I never thought I’d see my least favorite story line ever again, and I was immediately shaking my head.
Weirdly, Lucifer continued to be the voice of fandom in a totally disturbing way.
Lucifer: This is the worst thing you’ve ever done.
Me: Absolutely! Oh shit, I’m agreeing with the Devil.
Lucifer: You didn’t bother trying to find your brother.
Me: Yes! Oh….crap.
Even the Devil himself didn’t like that storyline. Lucifer goes on to taunt Sam about letting Dean talk him out of closing the gates of hell, accusing him of being unable to stand the thought of losing Dean because of his Amelia-and-dog-induced guilt. Here I’m relieved to realize that the Devil and I are in disagreement. Phew!
He goes down the route Zachariah also tried repeatedly with his speech about irrational erotic psychotic codependence, trying to convince Sam that the Winchesters’ penchant for saving each other at all costs is making him unable to be the ‘hero’ that Lucifer would like him to be, aka the guy who says Yes and lets Lucifer do what he wants.
Meanwhile, Castiel….and Dean…
Dean has been trying to call Sam without success.
Dean: (forcefully) Call me. NOW.
Me: I get all tingly when you take control like that.
Anyway, Dean’s attempts to call his brother treat us to a little glimpse of the Winchesters’ daily lives ala ‘Baby’ that I’m always thrilled to have. It’s Dean’s voice on Sam’s voicemail message, letting everyone know Sam is waxing….”like, everything” until we hear Sam’s exasperated “Dean!”. It says a lot about both of them that Sam kept that as his voicemail message.
He also tries to call Crowley, again without success. And again with an amusing voicemail message.
Then he starts puking his guts up, and goddamn it Jensen Ackles, you did that so realistically it made me start to get queasy. Ewww.
Luckily, Cas shows up to diagnose Dean after a few awkward examination techniques, giving fans a nice dose of Cas and Dean hurt/comfort (and Cas offering to take Dean’s temperature with his index finger…) as fic and gif fodder.
He then pronounces the diagnosis: smiting sickness.
I burst into laughter, which I’m going to hope was what Show was going for. Meanwhile, Dean expressed my incredulity.
Dean: That’s a thing?
Apparently. Cas bundles Dean back into the Impala and sends him on his way, while Cas goes in to see if Amara was indeed smitten. (Not with Dean, though she seems to be that too, but by the angels). Cas encounters another nerdy angel, Ambriel, whose snarkiness and taste in glasses I appreciate. She’s a bit afraid of Castiel, which clearly hurts him.
Cas: I never wanted to be hated by my own kind.
Ouch. Oh Cas. He seems so lost here, and Misha plays that well. I felt for him, for his uncertainty as to the part he’s supposed to be playing and his frustration at being helpless so often.
I was thinking about that on a character level and a larger Show canon level, when Ambriel suddenly started speaking meta-esque too.
Ambriel: We’re both expendable. You help, but Sam and Dean Winchester are the real heroes. So maybe we’re not super important, but we do the job.
Ouch. Again, I felt for Cas, but her words also echoed some of the conversation in fandom about Castiel and his role in canon. Show has struggled some with how to incorporate Cas into the story line at times, which has frustrated fans of all proclivities. Certainly there have been times when Cas fans have asked ‘Where’s the angel?’ and wondered about his role.
I didn’t get a chance to think about all this weird meta-ness too long, because poor Ambriel predictably gets consumed by Amara (who then pulls herself back together in an amazing scene where the darkness seeps back into her and brightens the rest of the world – kudos, VFX team!)
Then she turns her nefarious attention on Cas, first insulting and taunting him (interesting parallel – it’s what Lucifer is also doing to Sam).
Amara: You reek of fear and self loathing. She’s right, you are expendable. My brother always had horrible taste in men.
Not sure what she’s trying to say about God and his tastes, but Amara certainly cuts Cas right to the heart. Once again, I feel for him, can feel his struggle.
She then pronounces him not even important enough to kill or consume and sends him on his way with a message for the Winchesters and Crowley and Lucifer. That part made no sense at all to me, except that it was a handy dandy way to get Cas into hell and back in the thick of things quickly. But really? “I Am Coming” carved into Castiel’s chest? Why?
Hey, I won’t complain too much. It got fandom a shot of Misha with his shirt ripped open. And it got us a wonderful behind the scenes shot with Misha acting out what seems to be quite another interpretation of “I am coming”. Have I mentioned that I love this cast?
Anyway, what’s up with Amara staggering and looking ill once she sends Cas away?? Clearly that was significant, but I have no clue what it means. Was she weakened by the smiting after all? Or did taking Ambriel’s grace do something to her? Or sending Cas away?
So what has Dean been doing all this time, other than puking his guts up in a disturbingly convincing way? While Cas goes to check on Amara, Dean heads back to the bunker to check on Sam. This gives us a wonderful shot of the bunker, which I always appreciate. It also gives us Dean storming into the bunker yelling “SAM! SAMMEH!!!!” which made me very happy.
Sidenote: Ruth Connell and friends held a watch party for the West coast airing of the show, and at this point she and Alaina and Kim and Kathryn and Lisa took a little video of them all imitating Dean yelling for his brother, which is hysterical.
I love that so many of the actors who have guest starred on Supernatural have become friends, and that they’re all excited enough about the Show to get together to watch the current episode. SPN Family, you guys.
— Kathryn Newton (@KathrynLNewton) January 21, 2016
Anyway, Crowley finally calls Dean back (he comes up as 666 on Dean’s phone, which I thought was adorable).
Dean: (immediately) Where’s Sam?
Crowley: There’s been a slight hiccup. Your brother’s in hell. With Lucifer.
Holy crap, the look on Dean’s face as he realizes that Sam is back in the Cage with Lucifer? It killed me. You killed me, Ackles. Not for the first time.
We then took a station break (those of us watching live) and the most weirdly meta thing happened, which is clearly the theme of this episode. The CW ran a commercial for Coke which featured – wait for it – two brothers. The big brother teasing the little brother unmercifully – until someone else teases him. And then he went all Dean Winchester on the other guys, who turned tail and ran, and then gave Sammy – err, the little brother – back the coke. Before tipping it up to spill on his now smiling and adoring face. All to the song that always reminds me of the Winchesters, “Hey Brother.”
Did the Coke marketing team get together and say “What will work perfectly to sell to the giant passionate Supernatural audience?” and then come up with this. If so? Good job, Coke!
Back to the Show.
Dean has not been back to hell since he was stuck there for all those many many years, tortured and eventually broken and forced to torture himself. There cannot be anywhere that he is more terrified to go. And yet, he doesn’t hesitate for an instant. Sam is in trouble; Dean walks back into hell.
He does so after singing the most unlikely password (are there gifs of Dean singsonging Doo dah Doo dah yet?) and then who lets him in but Billie the reaper!
I was very happy to see the awesome Lisa Berry again, with her sassiness intact as she meets the other Winchester. I was also very happy to know that Sam told Dean all about his encounter with Billie.
Then we get treated to a gorgeous scene of Dean descending into hell, with some amazing set dec and cinematography. Nicely done, Show.
Crowley meets Dean in the hallway, and as always Jensen and Mark bring a lot of chemistry to their scenes.
Crowley: Don’t worry about Sam.
Dean: Oh, I’m sorry. Have you met me?
I burst into laughter despite the seriousness of the situation, because that line was just so perfect. And a bit meta too.
Crowley and Dean trap Rowena with the witch catcher – more about Crowley and Rowena later, because that was a pivotal and painful part of this episode. Cas joins them and delivers his odd message from Amara (which seems to perplex Dean and Crowley almost as much as it perplexed me), and Rowena begins the incantation that will send Lucifer back and put Sam out of danger.
Meanwhile, back in the Cage, Lucifer is pulling out all the stops to convince Sam to say yes.
This is the way my Tumblr queue saw it:
Lucifer: (spends entire episode telling Sam to stop caring more about Dean than the rest of the world and that they have to stop choosing each other and that he’s the only way to stop the Darkness)
Lucifer: So what do you say, Sam? Last chance. Make the right choice!
Sam: I choose….Dean.
Lucifer: OMFG. I hate Winchesters!
Sam, god bless him, is still saying no. Jared was amazing in this scene – in all the scenes with Mark Pellegrino – but especially in this final showdown. Sam goes toe to toe with the Devil once again, and refuses to give in.
Sam: You are done. It’s over. My answer is no… This is about me. I have faith in my friends. I have faith in my family. I’m ready to die and I’m ready to watch people I love die. But I’m not ready to be your bitch.
I think the entire fandom was on their feet and cheering for Sam Winchester at that moment. I know I was. You think he’s not a hero, Lucifer? Think again.
Predictably, that pisses Lucifer off and all his “I’m not going to torture you” promises dissolve as he starts in on Sam. The second his screams are heard, Dean turns on his heel and races to his brother, Cas close behind. Then it’s all of them in the Cage against Lucifer.
Lucifer to Dean: Scared?
Dean: Not even a little.
Big damn heroes. It’s not that he isn’t scared – that they all aren’t scared – it’s that they’re going to do whatever it takes anyway. As Sam told Sully, the absence of fear is not what makes a hero.
“Welcome to the party,” grins Lucifer, and his sense of humor stays intact as he has them fight to the accompaniment of “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel” and I swear, only Mark Pellegrino could pull that off and make it seem not silly but actually right in character.
Dean clutches a bleeding Sam protectively, cradling his head and reassuring him that they don’t have to win, just hang on for a little while. I’m in my happy place because protective big brother and requisite hair stroking.
Lucifer plays one last card and threatens to kill Dean unless Sam says yes, but Cas jumps in and puts a crimp in that plan. Lucifer then turns to overpowering Castiel, just as Rowena is finally successful, and poof, Lucifer is gone. Or is he???
Crowley kicks the Winchesters and Castiel out of hell, and we end with Crowley and Rowena.
Ruth Connell told us all at Jaxcon that this was a pivotal episode for her, and that the writers actually gave Rowena some backstory that was very close to what she had composed for herself, in order to inhabit the character. But I was not prepared for how emotional the scenes with her and Mark Sheppard were, not even a little.
Crowley is relishing his control over Rowena. But what does he have her do? Not something horrible or humiliating (not really). Instead, he has her massaging his temples, and I can’t help but think he’s getting what he has always craved from his mother. Affection, physical touch, the sort of soothing that he needed but didn’t get from her. Finally he can, but how heartbreaking is that? Because he’s forcing her to do it. Already I was tearful. And then he asks her the question that you just KNOW he asks himself every single day.
“Why don’t you love me?”
And oh god, Rowena tells him. Tells him how when she looks at him, she sees the woman she used to be before magic. The tanner’s daughter, pathetic and smelling of death. That she gave birth to him only to have the man who had said he loved her walk away and go back to his wealthy wife, leaving her half dead on a straw mat with an infant to take care of. She swore then she’d never be weak again.
Then Ruth Connell delivers the line that breaks me – and Crowley.
“I hate you because if I didn’t, I would love you. But love, love is weakness. And I’ll never be weak again.”
Ohgod. There are tears in her eyes. And in his. And in mine.
I’m in awe of how Ruth and Mark played that scene, and how much it gutted me.
Then Cas is there, except it isn’t Cas at all. It’s Lucifer.
Castiel, demoralized and convinced that he’s expendable and impotent, feared by his fellow angels and just a tool for the Winchesters, said yes. Oh Cas. Always such good intentions and such bad outcomes.
Misha channels his inner Mark Pellegrino, and Casifer first nearly kisses a still-smitten Rowena and then unceremoniously snaps her neck. I was already so emotional over the Crowley and Rowena moments that I had to grab for the tissues while simultaneously screaming
Please don’t let Rowena be gone, Show! I adore Ruth Connell and her portrayal, and there’s so much potential in that character, especially now that we know a bit of her backstory. ARGH.
(Misha played that so well, btw – that little smirk before he kills her, just chilling).
I emailed Ruth shortly after, and I think my email even was in all caps. I just – NO!
So, I guess I really liked the episode. Obviously. I hated that part of the ending, but I’m hanging onto hope that it’s not over for Rowena. The acting, across the board, was …. Seriously, I run out of adjectives to describe the level of acting that goes on in Supernatural. Every single person brought their A game and made me believe what was happening, brought an emotional impact that left me shaking.
What did you think?
Is it next Wednesday yet??????
Stay tuned for another Jaxcon post – and some amazing drool-worthy photos from our talented photographer @MamaPrior!
Big thanks to our new collaborator @Kayb625 for the beautiful caps!
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