Supernatural Asks The Big Questions in ‘All In The Family’
So much happened in this week’s episode, ‘All In The Family’ that it’s difficult to get it all down in a review that’s sandwiched between conventions. I just got back from the Ladies of SPN Con, where I met some wonderful actresses and some wonderful fellow fans, so my review is late – and most likely you’ve all read others while I was flying back and forth across the country. So I’ll make this one personal, and leave most of the deep theological ponderings to others. I watch this Show with a very personal lens – it’s the relationships that matter to me, more than anything else. Though of course the characters are embedded within a larger story, and it’s that story which shapes who they are.
We pick up where we left off (thank you for that, Show!) as Dean and Sam are reunited with Chuck and – predictably – don’t exactly say oh sure, you’ve been God all along, right. Instead, they’re skeptical, but their hunters’ skepticism is quickly erased by the sudden and unexpected (to me as well as the Winchesters) appearance of none other than Kevin Tran, looking as adorable as ever.
The veil has been good to him, it seems – or at least not terrible. I was so shocked to see Kevin that I dropped the remote I was holding and it fell right into the delicious dessert we were all eating. Oops.
Kevin gets a well-deserved upgrade, and I loved Jared and Jensen’s faces as Sam and Dean reacted to his ascent to Heaven – Kevin’s death was tremendously difficult for both of them, and they both felt guilty. I think Kevin being lifted from the veil lifted some of that burden from the Winchesters too.
Then we get a truly amazing scene. Sam, always the brother more drawn to religion, curious about God and angels and wanting to believe, is awestruck. Him talking to God – Chuck – sounded a lot like me talking to Jared and Jensen the first time I met them, so I had to laugh when Dean pointed out (in true brotherly fashion) that Sam was indeed babbling. Hey, I know the feeling.
This scene was brilliantly shot – and I don’t know if it was in the script or the director’s idea or if it was Jensen’s – but Dean curled up against the wall, sitting like a little boy who’s hurt and angry and doesn’t want to be at the big people’s table, worked immediately to set the scene. Dean’s emotions were there before he even started to speak, just in his body posture, just in the guarded look on his face.
The questions Dean asks, haltingly and prefaced by ‘no disrespect’, are the timeless questions of humanity, asked by every religion in some way and at some time.
“There’s so much crap…did you just tune it out? People prayed to you, built churches for you….and you did nothing.”
Chuck insists he had to back away, let his ‘baby’ find its own way instead of enabling. That he thought by doing that, things would get better.
The heartbreaking thing is, the Winchesters know more personally than perhaps anyone just how much they didn’t.
Dean: But it didn’t get better.
The first tears were brimming in Dean’s eyes almost as soon as this conversation/confrontation began. As they spilled over and ran down his cheeks, my heart was aching for him. I love this fictional character, I’m endlessly fascinated by him. By his bravery, his humanity, his flaws, his contradictions. And perhaps most of all by his emotionality. Dean Winchester feels so much; we see it in this scene.
The other side of the character’s emotionality is the willingness of the actor who portrays him to show it to us. Not with eyedrops and faked sadness, but by letting himself be Dean Winchester and feel the emotions that Dean would feel. That’s a courageous choice, and it makes all the difference. Everything about Dean’s crying – right down to his almost cluelessness about the fact that he was crying – rang 100% true. He was so caught up in what he was saying, the questions he’s begging for an answer to, that he doesn’t seem to even realize that tears are streaming down his face until he distractedly wipes them away. There’s no shame in his crying, no attempt to hide or stop. The pain Dean’s feeling is so real, there is no stopping it. And Jensen lets that happen.
Sam fell quiet when Dean started questioning Chuck, but he is still very much an integral part of this scene – there is never a scene with both Sam and Dean in it that isn’t about the two of them. Sam is clearly surprised – shocked maybe – by Dean’s emotionality. But he doesn’t deflect or try to minimize or tell his brother to ‘calm down’ or do any of those things that would invalidate Dean’s feelings and shame him. Instead, he listens. And Jared, who portrays Sam the same way that Jensen portrays Dean, lets us see Sam’s emotions too. His protectiveness of his brother, and his empathy. He sees what this is costing Dean, and he also sees that this is something Dean has to say.
Knowing some behind the scenes insights about this scene added to its intensity. Jensen talked about filming this scene at a convention shortly after, saying that he got unexpectedly emotional so he asked to do his coverage first. The scene was actually written as intended for Dean to be angry, but because the actors let their characters’ emotions come through organically, instead Dean became upset – and Jensen went with it.
Jensen (laughing): And then the waterworks continued – off camera!
Jared: I was like, wow, Jensen is really playing this up.
Except he wasn’t. That was Dean all the way. Dean, whose own father abandoned him, refusing to answer his desperate phone calls for help even when it might have been life or death for his sons. Dean, who lost his mother far too young and has experienced so much pain and death and loss ever since. Who has been abandoned and left on his own again and again. Chuck’s admission that he was around the whole time but chose not to help must have hit Dean where he’s most vulnerable – and Chuck, of course, knows it.
Chuck: Don’t confuse me with your Dad.
Ouch. But the thing is, Chuck? There are a helluva lot of similarities. This is Supernatural, after all. The show has always had daddy issues.
Daddy issues run through the parallel story line of this episode too, with Amara trying to convince Lucifer to ask for help from his father, aka God. I thought Misha did a fabulous job of portraying Lucifer in this episode – he has it down so well now that I can barely see Cas in there at all anymore. We start to see Lucifer a bit differently as he expresses his anger and hurt, his doubt that his father would even want to “rescue his screw-up of a son.”
And we see Chuck’s own ambivalence. He clearly doesn’t hate Lucifer, but he’s clearly hurt and angry too. He refers to Lucifer as his “greatest hope and disappointment”, setting Dean and Sam straight when they oversimplify Lucifer as simply a bad guy with an authoritarian “Thus spake the Lord” that leaves the Winchesters speechless.
I confess to being a bit confused about Amara, as I have been all season. She’s warded against God now? But I thought she was trying desperately to get him to come to her? She seems much more desperate at this point to get to Dean, using his bond with Cas to be able to appear to him and try to get him to come to her. I’m not entirely sure why she’s so fascinated with him – I mean, other than the obvious. I mean, I find Dean Winchester pretty damn fascinating too. And yes, he let her out. And he held the Mark. Clearly Dean is important in the scheme of things, but Amara’s interest seems…personal. Not that I blame her. Plus, we get this kind of close-up.
Anyway, one of the things that I love about this season is that Sam and Dean have finally learned that keeping things from each other never ends well. At least, they’ve learned it for the moment – until one of them becomes convinced that they need to keep something from the other for their “own good”. But for now, Dean tells Sam about his visions of Amara – there’s a theme of truth and honesty running through this season, and I like that it’s making the Winchesters stronger together. I loved that the Samulet reappeared, a symbol of their years together – though I confess I wish they hadn’t dropped it like a hot potato in the very next episode. Couldn’t we even have just a little “Wait, did you have this all along?” conversation?? Robbie Thompson, will we ever get those kind of moments again now that you’re leaving us??
The other two major players in this week’s episode were Metatron and the new prophet, Donatello. I adore Curtis and his portrayal of Metatron, and last week’s episode made us all reassess our opinion of the Scribe with Curtis’ emotional performance. This week, he takes it a step further. Seeing that Sam and Dean have met with Chuck (and I loved the way Metatron just clambered up onto the bar to watch the television hehe), Metatron calls them up to give them some important information.
[Why does Dean have Metatron’s number in his phone though? And why did he put it under ‘Scribe’ instead of ‘Douche’?]
That stricken look on Metatron’s face when he read the ending of Chuck’s revised autobiography in last week’s episode? Now we understand it. Because Chuck is planning to sacrifice himself to save his creation. To give Amara what she wants in the hopes that she’ll spare the rest.
Woah. Now that’s a revelation. And a theme of this Show from day one. Sacrifice.
Metatron also tells the truth, and eventually Sam and Dean believe him. And we understand a little more about Metatron, the angel and now the man. It’s true, he never used to give a damn. But things are different now.
Metatron: I was by his side from the beginning. If there’s something I can do to help save him, and his creation…
Not what I ever expected to hear from Metatron, but I think he means it.
Meanwhile, Kevin gone, Donatello becomes the next prophet (in the midst of the Amara fog which I also don’t really understand. Do people now just die outright when it hits them? That isn’t what happened the first few times though, right? Confused….) At any rate, Amara is upping her numbers game a bit. Thousands die this time, and Chuck isn’t willing to take the bait and save them.
Donatello is as mystified about being a prophet as Kevin was, and equally reluctant. The Winchesters don’t have much time for breaking it to the poor guy gently, and that made for some hysterical exchanges with Donatello locked in the back of the Impala. Also? I laughed out loud at:
Reluctant prophet: My name is Donatello.
Dean: Like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle?
Sam: [Epic bitchface at his brother’s cluelessness. So quintessentially Sam and Dean.]
I do have to say this episode jumped around a lot, and at times the dialogue didn’t entirely make sense. It was like bits were edited out and what was left didn’t 100% go together. Like:
Dean and Sam and Donatello come back to find Chuck watching curling (Oh Canada…).
Chuck: I’ve never seen so much porn in one sitting.
Dean (closes the laptop like it’s about to bite him).
But it was curling on the screen, not porn! Why so ginger, Dean?
Sometimes I love the small things in an episode though. Donatello on seeing Chuck exclaims “Oh my God!” and starts to stumble backwards. Sam is right behind him with a hand on his back, propelling him forward in exasperation. Jared did it seamlessly and it just said so much about the Winchesters and how hard it is to shock them at this point.
I love that the new prophet has been an atheist, and I love Chuck’s shrugged whatever to that news.
Chuck: I did include free will in the kit.
Yet another major theme of the Show touched on. This episode is head spinning in its tossing in references to so many of them!
I also love Chuck taking too long showers (and Dean yelling at him for it), chowing down messily on powdered donuts, liking bacon (to Dean’s absolute joy) and stealing Dean’s dead guy robe (to Dean’s absolute annoyance). He’s still clinging to being Chuck even as we know he’s God.
The last few scenes were pivotal, and once again, emotional. Dean confronts Chuck where he sits on a park bench, watching children playing, eating a box of popcorn. We were lucky enough to watch this scene being filmed, so I already knew what some of the dialogue would be, but seeing it onscreen in its final form is usually very different. This time, however, as I watched the filming, I already knew I was watching something very very powerful. Jensen and Rob were both incredible, every take nailing the confrontation, the restrained emotion they were both portraying. I watched Jensen as he stood behind the bench at the start of the scene, joking around and chatting and then falling into character, his expression and stance and even his mannerisms changing as he became Dean. The cautiousness with which he approaches Chuck, the hesitation with which he comes around the bench and finally sits down, spoke so much of what Dean was feeling.
Both actors spoke their lines softly as we watched, but their voices carried so much power. Dean trying to talk Chuck into stepping up, Chuck insisting that humans will step up if they need to. When Chuck drops the bombshell that Dean and Sam were chosen, long ago – that’s why he saved them – that they are the ones who will need to step up and (once again) save the world, the impact that has on Dean is staggering. He doesn’t want to believe it; he doesn’t want to be the ‘firewall’ between good and evil. He doesn’t believe he’s enough, not to do that.
The director, Tom Wright, came in and out of the shot to give direction from time to time; the actors clearly value his expertise and they all worked together seamlessly, like this cast and crew always seem to. A few behind the scenes tidbits – the sandbox you see in the scene was built by the Show (too bad they couldn’t leave it there, because it was pretty sweet!).
And the tree you see behind the sandbox is Kim Manners’ tree. Jensen came over between takes to tell us that and I got unexpectedly emotional.
They all still miss him so much. WE all miss him so much.
Another little tidbit – they were shooting in the woods, and there were tons of mosquitos everywhere! I was trying not to move or make a sound while the cameras were rolling, which is difficult when you’re standing on a carpet of fallen twigs and branches, so I didn’t want to keep swatting at mosquitos, but it was hard not to! Jensen, by the way, is capable of smashing a mosquito in the air with his hands between takes and then snapping right back into character. Or was that Dean??
They also shot the scene of Dean and Amara meeting up in the woods that day, so we saw a bit of that too. Even Dean Winchester had trouble not tripping on all the fallen branches on the ground, by the way! Emily Swallow was lovely to chat with, and I got a kick out of her walking around in her fuzzy boots and then slipping on the Amara shoes at the last second.
So Amara tries to talk Dean into merging with her, citing the “sensations that you arouse” which I have to say, I can’t really quibble with her there.
Or with her caressing of Dean’s face. Totally understandable.
Of course, she eventually senses that Dean’s loyalties lie elsewhere, and Dean’s attempt at keeping her busy is over.
Meanwhile, the unlikely trio of Sam and Metatron and Donatello are saving Lucifer, which is even MORE unlikely. I was struck, not for the first time, by Sam’s courage and willingness to put his own needs aside for the greater good. I mean, this is Lucifer – Sam was locked in the Cage with him, tortured by him, so traumatized that he was tormented by a psychological version of him for months and months. Now he is voluntarily risking his life to save him, so he can help defeat Amara (and presumably so they can save Cas too). Once again, I saw something I never thought I’d see – Sam supporting Lucifer as they make their escape.
And Metatron sacrificing himself so they can do it.
Metatron: I got this.
I actually screamed NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO when Amara obliterated him – I love the character and I love Curtis, and I don’t want anyone else I love leaving this Show!
Metatron pleads for her to spare the others, heroic in his last moments.
Sam speeds away, and it’s a treat seeing him drive Baby for a change – only to be stopped by an enraged Amara.
“You aren’t worth sparing,” she says, and then ZAP! The Impala lands in the bunker’s garage, safe and sound. Thanks to Chuck. Some prayers it seems he does answer.
Donatello: Where are we?
Sam: We’re home.
Remember when Sam struggled with whether he could see the bunker that way? It warmed my heart to hear him say it.
There’s an awkward family reunion between Lucifer and God, with both Misha and Rob doing an amazing job conveying all that emotion and tension with just the way they stared at each other.
Where are we going from here?? Honestly, my head was spinning by that point.
Dean and Sam put Donatello in a taxi, Dean advising him to take a spa day, “that or a pair of hookers” and we’re treated to yet another of Sam’s reproachful bitchfaces. I love it when they’re brothers, you know? I need that in my Show.
Dean once again tells Sam the truth about his confrontation with Amara – that she wants him to be a part of her. Sam’s reaction is all of our reactions, as he pulls back in distaste.
Dean: In other words, adios.
The brothers walk away, without an answer but full of determination. And I’m left wondering what the hell these next two episodes will bring. Where are we going, Show?? I honestly don’t know. And I guess that’s a good thing.
There was some clunky dialogue in this episode, a few times I shook my head at what was being said. Sam’s burning question for God is why planets are round?? Or….about ears?? Really? Sam, who we know is thoughtful and smart and burning with intellectual curiosity. That’s what he wants to know?
There were also, as often happens with these particular writers, multiple fan references. Whether they’re an intentional meta reference or not, I have no clue, but they’re striking just for their repetition. Dean accuses Chuck of wasting time going to fan conventions, Sam is referred to as a fanboy in his babbling adoration, Amara complains that her brother wanted a fan club. Make of it what you will, but it’s a recurring theme for Buckner and Ross-Leming episodes.
But all in all, the episode managed to accomplish a helluva lot in 42 minutes. In addition to touching on the major themes already mentioned, the theme of family — arguably what Supernatural is about more than anything else — played out in multiple ways. Dean and Sam’s brother bond was referenced explicitly by Chuck (and his own sibling bond with Amara) and was depicted throughout – kudos to the writers for making that seem genuine. God and Lucifer as disappointed father and “screw up” son. Dean (and Sam) and their troubled relationship with John. And finally, humanity’s sometimes troubled relationship with God, another father figure.
That’s alot of themes in one episode!
So here we go, into the final stretch. Are you ready for this week’s episode??
Big thanks to @kayb625 for the caps!
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