Lynn and Kim talk Supernatural and its ‘Various and Sundry Villains’

I haven’t seen so much commentary on a Supernatural episode – and not just by the big outlets who routinely cover the show – in a long time. I’m talking fannish thinky thoughts – on Tumblr, on Twitter, on Facebook, even on LiveJournal! And that says something about ‘Various and Sundry Villains’ and the way Steve Yockey wrote the characters and the story arc this week. It was also the week to honor female directors and filmmakers, so having Amanda Tapping back to direct was wonderful – and she did an amazing job. Not only did the humor come through, but Tapping filmed the emotional scenes in a powerful way – often in ultra close ups, evoking the intimacy of the moment we were witnessing. (And also showing off our very beautiful cast…)

Ruth with director Amanda Tapping – tweet Ruth Connell

So here are my own thinky thoughts to add to the mix, and because everyone had something to say about this episode, here are some of Kim’s (my talented photographer friend) too. Amusingly, we agree passionately about some things and have a completely different take on others. But that’s how fandom should be! What we have in common is a deep love for this Show, which lets us disagree and still have lots in common.

Like most, I loved a lot about the episode, or at least I loved the overwhelming majority of the episode. The two very emotional scenes were award worthy, no question.  There were some times when the episode felt like a roller coaster though – or more accurately a Wild Mouse – because every so often it would lurch to a stop and leave me hanging onto the lap bar going wait, what? There was an unnevenness to it that was jarring at times, and that was confusing – perhaps because there was a TON happening. We’re back to multiple story lines, and that switch back and forth never sits entirely well with me. Every time I get deeply invested in what’s happening we switch to the other story line and I have a moment of irritation before I can make that mental switch too. It’s a common thing on Supernatural, but I don’t entirely enjoy it. My brain likes to go deep and then stay there, especially when my emotions are deeply engaged, as they were in much of this episode.

Kim is much more forgiving. At least she thinks she is…

Kim: Disclaimer:  I watch the Show to escape, to get lost in their world. I don’t analyze scenes, or lines, or arcs. I don’t overthink it. I don’t watch with a critical eye, passing judgment on directing choices, or writing choices, or the lack of any given character in any given episode. The absolute bottom line for me is this: It is not my story to tell, it is the writers story to tell, and the actors story to portray.

I, on the other hand, sometimes overthink pretty much EVERYTHING.

Some of my intermittent confusion may be because apparently there may have been some episode switching at this point of the season, or at least that’s the word on the street. Last week’s episode was maybe originally supposed to be this week’s episode – perhaps they moved it to keep the Wayward Sisters momentum going? I don’t know, but in some ways that makes sense, especially when we’re following Sam’s emotional journey. I loved that he expressed his feelings of doubt and helplessness in ‘Breakdown’, but it did sort of seem to come out of nowhere, which dilutes the impact a bit. Jared did such a great job that he carried it anyway, but I scratched my head a few times and so did many other fans. If ‘Breakdown’ had come after ‘Villains’ revelations, Sam’s mental state would have made a lot more sense.

Let’s talk about Sam’s arc in these two episodes, though, because that is hands down the most amazing part of both. Jared Padalecki is getting a chance to show us what’s been inside Sam for a long time, and he’s killing it – I hope he knows what a fantastic job he’s doing. I know he’s been eager to do that for some time, so I imagine it’s been just as rewarding for him to be able to gain insight into Sam as it has been for us as viewers. In this episode, he gets two glorious scenes to really “go there”. Which, for a psychologist like me, is tremendously fulfilling to really dig into.

I mean, look at him! Where are my tissues?

First is the scene in the car with Rowena, who I’ll talk more about later, because Yay, she’s back! Sam and Rowena have connected before, and you get the feeling that she has a special fondness for Sam that she maybe wishes she didn’t. Even when she’s scoffed and called him “Giant”, it’s been with some unintentional warmth. Like Crowley, she gives the boys nicknames that telegraph some affection for them. Sam, for his part, has always understood that Rowena is not one of the good guys or to be trusted – but this time, Rowena admits something that strikes a chord in Sam. Not of sympathy, but of empathy. Sam has been there too, right there standing in her shoes. He too has seen the true face of Lucifer and borne the true wrath of Lucifer. Despite the sassy quips and the artfully-messy-haired meatsuit Lucifer puts on, Sam and Rowena both know that is not truly Lucifer. They know what he’s capable of, and they have been the victims of that capability. And we all know that you don’t go through something like that and come out unscarred, emotionally and psychologically as well as physically. Both Sam and Rowena have alluded to the “things” that Lucifer did to them while they were helpless, and whatever those things were, they were clearly Trauma with a big T. They met all the criteria for the things that cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Sam and Rowena are dealing with the aftermath of that Trauma. Nightmares, hyper-vigilance, constantly looking over your shoulder, never feeling safe. Feeling like you’re back in that nightmare scenario in real life, so that there’s no real escape or refuge. A persistent sense of helplessness.

Rowena confides that Lucifer showed her his true face, and admits “I’m scared Sam. All the time.”

It’s clear just how much Sam relates to that as he says softly, “I’ve seen it too. It still keeps me up at night.”

Rowena: How do you deal with it?

Sam: I guess I don’t deal with it, not really. I pushed it down and the world kept almost ending…I don’t really talk about it, not even with Dean. I could, he’d listen… it’s not something I know how to share.

 

Oh Sam, you broke my heart there. And Rowena too, because she’s taking it all in and it’s just making her feel more desperate and more helpless.

Sam: Even if you do get your power back, it won’t matter. You won’t be able to change what happened, how helpless you feel. That feeling never goes away.

Rowena: (brokenly) Never?

Sam: Never.

 

Clearly it never has for Sam, so why would he be dealing with it well? He’s never taken the time to really process those feelings, he’s just coped by trying to swallow them and shove them down. Partly so he can keep doing what he does – saving people, hunting things. Partly because no one has ever told him that it’s okay to have those feelings. That’s what he tries to do for Rowena – validate the fear, the desperation, the sense of being damaged. Sam, despite his own ‘dark place’ and his own struggle, reaches out and gives that to Rowena. It was a tremendously unselfish and courageous thing to do, and you could see what it cost Sam to bring it up and put words to it. It’s never an easy thing; in fact, it’s the hardest thing in the world. But it’s the only way to start to heal.

 

Ruth Connell is a perfect scene partner for Jared in this scene, because I believe in Rowena’s pain and fear and helplessness as much as I believe in Sam’s. Even if she is ultimately trying to play the Winchesters (and she usually is), I have no doubt that her emotions were real. She is feeling all those things, and that’s why she’s willing to do just about anything to make them stop. Rowena has shared before that what she loathes more than anything is feeling helpless, and that is exactly where Lucifer has put her. I know it’s probably going to be a bad thing, but I couldn’t help but root for her to get out of that helplessness. Perhaps because she’s a woman, I don’t know, but seeing her regain her strength and sense of self and feeling of empowerment after what Lucifer did to her (and what life did to her early on)? It kinda felt good.

Kim: I believed Rowena’s fear, her pain. But as Sam opened up to her, as their conversation turned into more of a bonding moment between them, I couldn’t help but wonder if she was playing him.  It is Rowena.  I was waiting for some flick of the wrist, or snap of the fingers, or some sudden whispered words in Latin.  Ultimately, I don’t think she was manipulating him, I do think she was being honest and pure in that moment.  But then she pulled herself together and trapped Sam and Dean where they stood, and that’s the Rowena I know and love.

And to be brutally honest… I felt Sam’s words and behavior and demeanor were out of place. He has barely said two words about the whole Lucifer thing in the history of the show, and yet somehow now I’m supposed to believe he has struggled with it?  I mean, I get it, I do. But of all the times that he could have talked to Dean, or Cas, or Mary, or literally anyone else, he now suddenly feels comfortable talking to Rowena about it? Yeah yeah yeah, shared foxhole, I get it. But the scene felt like the writers were pandering to the fandom.  But, I’m here for the writers, so maybe the scene will have importance and relevance as this season goes forward.  One can only hope.

See above about possible episode order switching, but it’s true, it IS sort of unbelievable that Sam hasn’t talked about his trauma until now and then opens up to Rowena. But sometimes it’s easier to open up to someone you actually don’t know quite as well, who doesn’t expectations for you to live up to. That’s why therapy works.

The one thing that bothered me in all of this wonderful stuff is that Sam hasn’t opened up to Dean about what he’s feeling. I love that Yockey included the line ‘I could talk to Dean. He would listen.’ Because we know that he would. We know that Dean loves Sam more than life, and when he knows that Sam is suffering, he wants to make it better with every fiber of his being. Sam knows that too. That Yockey explicitly acknowledged this is so appreciated. Too often, we as fans make assumptions about what the characters are feeling, but we don’t get to SEE it and HEAR it. In this episode and to an extent in the last, we got that. And it felt like a precious gift, to be honest. I don’t just want action scenes (though sometimes they rock), I mostly want to know what Sam and Dean and Cas and Jack and the other main characters are FEELING. Sam has been traumatized by his experience with Lucifer for years and hasn’t had a chance to really talk about it – until now. Please, Show, don’t forget that next week and just let it drop?

I couldn’t fault Sam for letting Rowena get out of the car to “collect herself” or for giving her the spell from the grimoire, not really. It may be a mistake in the end, but it was coherent writing in this episode.

Kim agreed.

Kim: And thank Chuck for Sam’s heart. I don’t know why Rowena didn’t just throw out a spell and take the whole book… or at least take the page she needed. I don’t know why she chose to be vulnerable in front of Sam again. But I do know that I like that Sam still has that great big heart, full of compassion and sympathy and empathy. Kudos to him for giving Rowena the page that she needed.

The other scene that will make this episode one of my lasting favorites was the scene in the bunker kitchen near the end of the episode. I’ve said this repeatedly, and it’s one of the things that Season 13 will always be loved for – because this is Season 13, Sam and Dean have a conversation. AGAIN! This time it’s in their home, in their kitchen. The domesticity of that setting makes the emotional resonance of the scene even greater, as does the use of the family theme music. Every time I hear those first few familiar notes, I want to give Jay Gruska a big hug. (I co-wrote a chapter in the newly published Supernatural Psychology about how the music of Supernatural enhances the emotionality and characterization, and this was a great example).

I love that Sam has been thinking about what he said to Rowena – that he knows he could talk to Dean, that Dean would listen. So when Dean confronts him (gently, so gently) about the missing page in the Grimoire, Sam really does try to explain.

Sam: If Rowena does see Lucifer again, I hope she makes him suffer…

Dean: You gotta get out of this dark place, whatever’s going on in your head…

Sam: Honestly?

Dean: Yeah, how about honestly.

 

It is clearly so hard for Sam, after all this time. He must feel like every trauma survivor feels, that fear that everyone will be like, what, you haven’t gotten over that yet, it happened so long ago?! Cognitively, he knows that Dean gets it, that he won’t feel that way. But those fears aren’t exactly rational, so they don’t always respond well to what our brains know.  I think that’s why he confides in Dean about part of what he’s feeling, but he stops short of really laying it on the table about how terrified he is of Lucifer, and has been this whole time. I loved Sam Winchester so much in this scene – it’s not just his bravery in fighting monsters that is inspiring, it’s his bravery at times like this. It is so hard for him to not just shove his feelings down once more, even with Dean – but he tries so hard not to. And he succeeds, he tells Dean some real stuff, just not all of it. Eventually Sam stops himself.

Sam: I know what Rowena’s feeling…she’s not the only one who…

He pauses then, looking at Dean almost imploringly, but then he doesn’t go any farther about Lucifer specifically, finishing with “feels helpless.”

Dean knows too, and I think in that moment he genuinely wants Sam to open up to him, to show him Sam’s truth even if it will hurt them both.

Dean asks, so quietly, ‘What do you mean?’

 

But Sam can’t yet answer, not when it comes to what Lucifer did.

Sam: I had a plan…and it kept me from spinning off the rails…

That’s the truth, it’s just not the whole truth.

That scene, like the scene with Rowena, worked so well because Jared tapped into all the emotion he needed to and let us see very bit of it, and Jared’s scene partner was instrumental in making it work. Jensen showed us a Dean who was able to put aside his own not-always-functional coping strategies in order to try to give Sam what he needed. Dean shoves things down too, and then covers them over with snark and teasing and not taking serious things seriously because it’s too uncomfortable and feels too dangerous. He’s afraid, always, that Sam will fall apart – that the terrible things that he knows have been done to his little brother will take their toll and Sam won’t be okay once again. It’s happened before, and Dean was so desperate to fix Sam that he let Gadreel inside to do it, with horrific results. Dean too is struggling with his own helplessness, and yet he too is courageous and puts his own feelings aside for Sam. Thanks to the writing and to Ackles’ intimate understanding of both his character and Padalecki’s, he shows us a Dean who is almost muted in presentation, a striking contrast to Dean’s usual persona.

Sam needs him to listen; so he does. Even his body is quiet, and his eyes don’t leave Sam’s, calmly telegraphing acceptance as much as he can. He asks questions and they come out without a hint of judgment or defensiveness, just pure ‘help me understand, I want to.’ Dean could have been a therapist right there, with his open ended questions and his evident empathy.

He doesn’t try to offer Sam platitudes – he knows that won’t work. He doesn’t make up some bullshit reason why everything is gonna be okay and he doesn’t dispute Sam’s reasons for feeling as hopeless and afraid as he does. Instead Dean tries to get Sam to lean on him, to take some of Dean’s newly invigorated belief that things will eventually be okay. It’s not a false promise, it’s Dean needing to believe it and wanting to convey some of that hope to Sam.

Sam: Dean, we don’t have a plan, we don’t know what to do, so how…

Dean: I don’t know, but we will. You and me.

 

It’s indescribably tragic that Dean’s heartfelt reassurance doesn’t work. As a psychologist, I know what that feels like, to share the experience of someone who is hopeless and struggle to find a way to help them rediscover hope. I felt for Sam so much, and I felt for Dean so much too, as Sam gives it a “yeah” that neither of them believes and retreats while a despondent rendition of the Family Theme plays in the background and keeps my eyes wet.

Oh my god, this show. Sometimes it hurts unbearably to care about these characters so much and see them in such pain.

 

My one quibble with all this is that sometimes Show has trouble treating the brothers equally simultaneously. We’ve needed to hear about Sam’s pain for a long time, but I can’t forget that Dean has also been severely traumatized. He was tortured in hell for decades, and then tortured by his own capitulation into torturing others. Dean DOES have empathy for Sam, because he does get it. I’m not suggesting he should have responded to Sam with a callous “oh yeah I know what you mean, remember I’ve been tortured in hell too” because that would be the opposite of validating and Sam would never open up again. But I would have liked to see some acknowledgment myself that Dean has also been there. I know we saw him fall into hopelessness for a while this season too, but we didn’t get this – we didn’t get it explicitly tied to his own trauma history the way it surely must have been. And I want that!

Maybe in some subsequent Season 13 conversations??

Kim was equally emotional about this scene – I mean, who wasn’t?

Kim on “the BM Scene”: Holy cookies, Sam is in a bad place right now. Thank Chuck he finally opened up a little bit to Dean. If Sam had cried in that scene, well, I’d still be a blubbering mess myself and unable to write this review – so thank you for NOT crying, Sam. And thank Chuck for Big Brother Dean, for his way of reassuring his little brother, for his comforting words, for his neverending mission to protect Sammy.  I needed that scene. I needed Sam to open up, and I needed Dean to protect him. All is right again. The writers for sure got that right.

100% agree with you there, Kim.

Another little quibble, though not about those scenes that we both loved. I’ve said this before, but I feel like Supernatural would be unbelievably amazing to watch unspoiled – imagine how the scene in which Rowena steps back into the picture (literally) would have played if we all didn’t know she was coming back! I would have totally lost it if I’d believed she was dead, and then we’d have that soon-to-be-iconic moment when she saves the day and we see those pointy red boots and then hear the ‘Hello boys.’ I mean, can you imagine?

 

Ruth did a great job keeping mum about whether or not Rowena was truly dead for a long time, which I give her a lot of credit for, but then the Show spoiled itself before the episode could air. I am mystified about why this is seen as the best way to make the show great – surely one ‘tune in tonight and see X’ teaser doesn’t end up netting you as many fans as ‘wow Supernatural has amazing reveals’. Right?

So they spoiled the reveal and thus some of the impact of that scene, which is a shame because it was awesome. Amanda Tapping directed it perfectly (including the intended surprise reveal…) and Ruth Connell nailed every minute of it. It’s no secret that I love both Rowena and Ruth, so I was gleeful to have her back. Then when she was given an emotional arc too? Whoa. I’ve been longing for more insight into Rowena for a while, so it was wonderful to get some, even if it was intentionally confusing.

As is often the case with this episode, my glee came with some disappointment too. I’m not over the death of Crowley or the way he (or Mark Sheppard) exited, so part of me was very happy to have that acknowledged on the Show. I have long believed that Rowena and Fergus, despite their anger at each other that at times seemed like only hatred, was in fact covering up a love that was still there – and perhaps fueling a lot of that hatred. We got hints of that in the one phenomenal scene when Rowena admits that if she didn’t hate him, she might love him, and she can’t tolerate that vulnerability. And then we never got much more! When Crowley was killed off without us ever getting that, I was truly disappointed. So I was glad to see Rowena ask about her son and show her emotional reaction to finding out he was dead. Again, I don’t think it was all for show to manipulate the Winchesters by guilt tripping them. Connell shows us too much in her eyes, in her voice. She did love her son, I think – her only child. And she is grieving him, and angry about his loss too. Screw being a hero if it gets you killed – how often would real people want to say that? I’d rather have a living son than a dead hero.

 

On the other hand, I’m still bitter that we never got to see what could have been such a fascinating story arc play out between Rowena and Fergus/Crowley. I feel cheated out of that by Sheppard’s exit, and by the loss of a character who I cherished and who no one else can ever play. Don’t even try that, Show, I’m warning you.

I do like that Sam and Dean are now acknowledging Crowley’s sacrifice, saying he died to save them and telling Rowena she would have been proud of him. This episode was noteworthy for SAYING things that too often do not get said on Supernatural. That frustrates fans a great deal, so it was nice to have them right there said out loud and part of canon.

Kudos to Ruth for showing us so much of Rowena in this episode. I love the complexity of the character – she’s not good but she’s not entirely evil. She’s frightened and vulnerable and grieving but she’s also powerful and determined and in the end, victorious over the ones who tried to beat her down and destroy her. She’s emotional – she feels things I think deeply — but can be hard as nails, cold as she watches the sisters stab each other to death or walks away from Sam and Dean stuck to the sidewalk.

The witch sisters (Jordan Claire Robbins and Elise Gatien) were interesting, though sometimes caused me to headdesk. (Bludgeoning a guy in a parking lot is the best way not to attract attention? Hmm)

Kim: I thought they were great. I have no issue with the way they were written or acted.

(Yes, sometimes we do bicker like Sam and Dean, why do you ask?)

Anyway, another thing I’ve written about Season 13 as a change that I like a lot (and a return to the way the Show did things in earlier seasons) is the use of characters-of-the-week as nearly explicit parallels of Sam and Dean right down to the “I’m the big sister” comment about how older siblings are always supposed to know what to do but sometimes don’t – a foreshadowing of Dean in the ending scene with Sam. The parallel was clear here because they were sisters, and codependent sisters at that. We’re shown from the beginning scene that they are not the good guys at all, as they bludgeon a hapless love-bespelled guy to death in the middle of a parking lot, but they do have a familiar reason for at least a little of that violence – they just want to bring back their mother. Now that’s something a Winchester could relate to for sure, and Robbins and Gatien showed that bit of vulnerability. I’m not entirely sure what Show was trying to say, because I became momentarily sympathetic to the sisters as they grieved their mother, then veered quickly back to nope nope nope.  The ending was nevertheless shocking, as they’re forced to kill each other.

 

That was a potential tragedy that Supernatural teased might happen back in the day as they put Sam and Dean at each other’s throats. Would they (either as themselves or as Michael and Lucifer) eventually kill each other? It was tragic seeing it happen for the sisters even though they clearly couldn’t have been allowed to go their merry way. Maybe it’s just a reminder that being so close also carries with it vulnerabilities, because that has always been true for Sam and Dean.

The best Supernatural episodes are able to make both humor and serious emotionality work in the same episode, and this one did that. Most of the humor worked very well for me, with a few of those headdesk moments tossed in.

When I saw the preview, I wasn’t at all sure about this episode. It immediately brought back memories of what is, in my opinion, the worst Supernatural episode of all time – Season 7, Time For A Wedding. I hate that episode for its problematic messages and for what it did to the character of Becky, destroying what Eric Kripke originally wrote as an affectionate poke at fangirls. When this episode actually referenced Becky, half of me was like OMG the writers remember the show, and half of me was like oh no please don’t go there. The other negative association was to Dean under a love spell and lusting after poodles, so yeah, didn’t want to go there either.

Seriously, open your eyes lady, THIS is what you’d see!

It turned out that Ackles and Padalecki are such comic geniuses that they made what could have been an annoying premise into a feast of delightful gif fodder. Sam knows something is wrong with Dean immediately (when is he ever that carefree and happy?) and oh yeah, he’s bringing the grimoire to his “soulmate”. Sam grabs the keys, and bespelled Dean sucker punches him. Ouch.

She’s got a sister, Sammy…

 

Dean merrily brings the grimoire to the witch sisters and obediently closes his eyes for his reward kiss (which come with a bludgeoning instead of a kiss because the witch sisters are clearly insane). Though they do have good taste in cars, since they complain that Dean didn’t bring Baby. Here she comes to the rescue though, the Impala and Sam arriving just in time to save Dean from meeting a fate similar to the poor convenience store guy. But Dean isn’t exactly appreciative, and that means we get Sam tackling Dean and the boys wrestling on the hood of the Impala and me laughing my head off. The call back there was to the brothers’ wrestling on the bed in Tall Tales, and this was similarly priceless. You get the feeling that Jensen and Jared enjoyed every moment of filming that scene, letting their inner five year olds out to play with abandon. And guess what? I enjoyed it just as much!

 

Kim: Love Drunk Dean, that says it perfectly. Dean was Love Drunk. He was cute and silly and relaxed and adorable and his only care in the world was making those witchy girls happy. Some people may think Dean was “dumb” in these scenes, but I didn’t see it that way. I saw a Dean who wasn’t carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, and holy Chuck, that was refreshing.

Okay, I think we agree on this one. I give Dean a pass for being dumb when he’s under a spell, after all!

I also loved seeing protective Sam coming to Dean’s rescue when he was under the spell with a threatening “Leave him alone!”  And the fact that even under the spell, Dean wants to include Sam in the fun too, and is apologetic when he feels he has to knock Sam out, promising to come back with some ice. He’s still apologizing as they’re wrestling too. A spell that turned another guy into someone who could murder a friend can’t entirely break through Dean and Sam’s loyalty to each other.

Kim on Dean’s knock out of Sam: It was established in the pilot episode that Dean will always beat Sam in a fight. Sam wins rock-paper-scissors, Dean wins the brawl. Yes, there have been exceptions, such as when Sam was hyped up on demon blood and he kicked Dean’s ass – but, um, Demon Blood.  Plus, they are brothers! Do you think that Dean doesn’t know exactly how and where to hit Sam to knock him out? If anything, Sam should’ve seen it coming!

Oh, harsh. Poor Sammy. Not sure we can count on Dean always winning though – Sam isn’t that skinny 20 something kid anymore after all!

Anyway, the mixing up of a love spell played in part for comedy (the dark implications of which are obvious when you think of the Becky episode, which was more clearly about losing agency and being helpless and abused) with an episode that starts acknowledging  in a very serious way Sam’s and Rowena’s loss of agency and being helpless and being abused is an odd combination. But we’ve established that I’m a bit more critical…

In terms of humor, Jared and Jensen also shone as Rowena sticks their feet to the parking lot, as they go through all sorts of machinations to try to reach the hex bag. (Though why they didn’t think of taking off their jackets and using that to scoop it in is beyond just about everyone). Still, Ackles trying to launch himself and going nowhere was a treat. Was his “come on Sam, you’re like eight feet tall” an ad lib? Stay tuned.

 

The other comedic scene that I absolutely loved was thanks to scene stealer Angela Moore, as Brenda the store clerk. We all could relate to her as the nasty witch sisters treat her like crap, and then she shows her smarts by correctly assessing Dean and rewarding his willingness to give the witch sisters some payback. Even better, though, we all could relate to her as she leaned forward to admire the view as Dean walked away. I can’t thank you enough for this character, Steve Yockey, and I can’t say enough about how well Angela Moore brought her to life even in a few minutes! She may not have been portrayed as a fangirl, but we all felt like she was US anyway.

 

I also liked Rowena’s flirty little comment about fifth base, and Dean’s affronted reaction. Of course he immediately looks at Sam for validation – which gets him a priceless look in return.

I get the feeling Rowena knows things about that particular subject that even Sam and Dean don’t.

Not all the humor attempts worked though. Dean can reel off perfect Latin incantations and can’t read the title of a book in French? Really?? Even I can pronounce ‘jour et nuit’ and my French teacher in college did nothing but keep telling me to stop pronouncing French like it was Spanish. I’m not ever going to like the humor that tries to dumb the boys down, because it’s just not believable. Getting into a wrestling match on Baby when one of them is bespelled? Absolutely. Dean being anything but smart? Nope. (Though smarter people than us have pointed out that Dean may have done that on purpose to try to cheer Sam up – which also makes Steve Yockey alot smarter than us. Oops)

Dean’s smarts have returned by the end of the episode though, when he realizes that there’s a page missing from the book and knows Sam gave it to Rowena. So I felt a bit better. Also we did get Sam speaking French, which yum.

There was an unintentional (maybe?) humorous moment in the other story line too, when Lucifer says to Cas “let me tell you something about my dick…”  He absolutely pauses before he adds “brother” and I for real thought he was actually doing to tell Cas something about his dick for a few seconds. I don’t know if Pellegrino did that on purpose, but I know I wasn’t the only one who paused for a moment like What?? After all, Lucifer had just spent quite a while trading dick jabs with Dipper. Anyway, I did laugh at that little pause.

As sometimes happens when we get to the we-gotta-tie-this-up part of the episode, things unraveled a bit at the end. Rowena gets herself bested by zombie mom, and Sam and Dean arrive to save the day and then instead of shooting the witches, helpfully explain that their guns are loaded with witch killing bullets. I mean, what did you think would happen then, boys?? I’m getting a bit tired of Sam and Dean never being able to beat anyone at anything – okay, the witches are juiced up strong, but still – no wonder Sam is feeling so hopeless. When do we get to see smart badass Winchesters swooping in and saving the day? That’s what Sam needs, but it’s what I need too!

On this, Kim and I agreed.

Kim: The whole fight scene with Sam and Dean and the Witchy Sisters… yeah, ok, I get it. The Sisters are strong and semi-powerful, so yeah, I guess they can take on the Boys and win. But enough already. This season feels like the Boys have suddenly lost their skills, and I don’t like it. Give me my BadAss Boys again. I need them to save the day, not be saved.

Sammy! They’re weirdly strong…
No kidding…
Winchesters down!

The other story line we jumped back and forth to followed Castiel and Lucifer imprisoned by Asmodeus and taunted by a nasty guard who we knew was eventually going to meet a violent end. I’ve said before that I don’t think I can swallow a Lucifer redemption arc, which seems a little more doubtful now that Sam and Rowena are mentioning his true face and showing the very real results of his terrorizing and abusing them. So that’s good.

I liked that once again Yockey remembers his canon, as Cas refuses to share his grace, calling it cannibalism, and Lucifer fires back that he seems to remember someone snacking on angel grace in the past, so kudos to Show for remembering that bit of its history.

 

I’ve also said before that my favorite flavor of Cas is early seasons Cas, when he was a mysterious badass angel and his very presence inspired awe in the other characters – and a bit in the fandom too. There is still speculation that this is not exactly our Cas, that his experience in the Empty at the very least changed him and at the very most is a different Cas all together, but at any rate, we got some of that badass Cas back in this episode. Misha Collins did a wonderful job of showing us the change in Castiel and making it believable.

First we get smart Cas, as he taunts Lucifer into losing his temper and tapping into his own power in doing so. That smug little smile on Castiel’s face? Priceless. And the way he uses Lucifer’s genuine feeling for Jack to get him going? Smart!Cas is back!

Cas describes Jack as all the things that Lucifer probably does not want him to be, and Mark Pellegrino manages once again to make me feel a little sympathy for the devil even though I really really do not want to!

Cas: He’s thoughtful, emotional, remarkably intuitive… he loves movies; fantasy movies. Movies with heroes that crush villains.

Me: So Jack’s a Supernatural fan then?

I also had to talk to my television when Castiel tells Lucifer that Jack doesn’t even look like him, he looks like his mother.

Me: Nope, he actually looks just like you, Cas….Misha…

It’s the last straw when Castiel tells Lucifer that Jack would rather kill him than hug him, which sort of gave me a pang of ouch again before I remembered we were talking about Lucifer. Lucifer’s anger is the motivation for getting enough of his power back to break both he and Cas out of their cells.

 

We get more badass Cas as he and Lucifer break out and then fight their way through some of Asmodeus’ troops. Lucifer tries to cajole Castiel into sharing “some” of his grace, and of course then tries to take it by force, but Castiel really has changed, it seems. I jumped out of my seat when Cas whirled on Lucifer and stabbed him with an angel blade – I totally did not see that coming!

Cas: I trusted you, when we fought the Darkness…and then you betrayed us. Fool me once… [stab] This is me, learning from my mistakes.

Me: YES!!! About time!

Kim on Cas and Lucifer: I love every single aspect of their scenes. I love that Lucifer is virtually powerless, and completely unable to handle that fact.  I love that Cas finds some joy in Lucifer’s inability to comprehend his predicament. I really love that Cas is the one to figure out how to make Lucifer stronger; in a twisted way, the good guy planned and orchestrated their escape, even if it was carried out by the bad guy.  The scene in the cells gave me a glimpse of the Cas I fell in love with – smart and strong, a sense of purpose. And it was classic Lucifer – snarky and petulant and self-aggrandizing. I also absolutely, stand-up-and-cheer, loved the final moment between Cas and Lucifer. I love how it was written, acted, directed, and edited. I love that Cas has the emotional strength and the physical strength to do what it takes to get rid of Lucifer. I love that it appears as if Cas has stabbed and killed Lucifer. This whole scene is the kind of scene that makes me want more, keeps me coming back every week for 13 seasons.

 

I’d rather have badass Castiel than amusing Castiel most of the time, honestly. I’d like to think that the Show is getting back to the character’s roots, that maybe something of his experience in the Empty changed Castiel? And I loved that scene. I enjoy Collins and Pellegrino together, but I don’t think it makes sense for Cas to trust him. We are again spoiled a bit, knowing that Cas did not in fact kill Lucifer despite his red eyes flickering out, but I’m looking forward to seeing what this newly badass version of Castiel has planned. He was definitely upset when Lucifer kept talking about Mary being tortured, so my guess is he’s off to try to save her – and Jack is still out there too, trying to do the same thing.

Rowena gets the ending scene, as she performs the spell to unbind her magic and then turns her eyes upward in triumph – as they glow a brilliant blue.

Kudos to the special effects wizards for making those scenes not look cheesy like they might have. I love that Rowena is back and I can’t wait to see where Show takes her.

Kim: Holy purple magic. That’s it. That’s all I got. Just, holy wow. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what she did. I just don’t even know. And I cannot wait to find out.

 

I’ll give Kim the last word for this one.

Kim: And Rowena for the Win. She needs the Boys, and she knows it. So she saves them from the Witchy Sisters in her own style, with a somewhat sadistic spell, and I don’t even care that’s how it went down because the Boys were safe, and Rowena was safe, and everyone that should be dead was dead.

Kim has a way of summing things right up, doesn’t she? Stay tuned for next week when we’ll see if we agree on anything or watch an entirely different episode. Love ya, Kim!

Thanks to @kayb625 for the beautiful caps!

–Lynn

For more deep thoughts about Supernatural,

Check out our books at the top of the home page –

including Family Don’t End With Blood, with

chapters actually written by the actors!

 

 

 

 

 

ode @AngelaMoore111! C

 

 

16 thoughts on “Lynn and Kim talk Supernatural and its ‘Various and Sundry Villains’

  • Lynn, I was very happy to see that we might get a glimpse of Sam confronting the trauma he must’ve endured at the hands of Lucifer. Jared does a remarkable job of showing his absolute terror through his eyes at the thought of being at Lucifer’s mercy again–we saw it in season 11, of course, but in a couple of scenes in 12 for instance in “Who We Are” when the BMoL reveal that Lucifer is back. The look in Sam’s eyes when he sees the picture and then in the next episode when Sam calls Rowena’s phone and Lucifer answers.

    I don’t think that you were in Albuquerque in time to catch Mandy’s and my panel papers, but mine was all involving Sam’s trauma, so I was glad to see some attempt to face it a bit more explicitly this season.

    I also like what you have to say about Castiel and if you get to SWPACA in time this year, be sure to come to our panel this year as Mandy is presenting on Warrior Cas and I am looking at Cas in his human iterations..

  • Great review of a fantastic episode. Having met J2 in Orlando I have even more admiration for them. For the amount of hard work it takes to create my favorite show with my favorite characters.

    • Are we sure that is really Cas? He had a snark of the entity from the Empty. And that smile although a pleasure, seems out of character for our Cas. Maybe he has changed, maybe it is not him.

  • Of course Sam doesn’t want to talk about what happened to him, and hasn’t for years. If you say it out loud, it becomes more real. You can’t take the words back once they’re out there.

    Sam is able to talk vaguely with Rowena only because she’s only person he knows who shares the horror of seeing Lucifer unmasked. Sam says he knows Dean would listen, if he could find a way to talk about it–but Dean could never understand the way Rowena can. Rowena’s understanding is far from complete, but she’s the only person who shares even a portion of his experience.

    Yes, Dean was also tortured in Hell, and while that’s no small thing, he was never completely powerless or without hope the way Sam was. He had options. Very bad ones, but he still had choices and some agency—he chose to become a torturer himself to get relief from being tortured. He even admitted to getting perverse joy from it. Sam never had options. Not one. He was tortured by the devil himself—the original evil, the worst of the worst, the being whose face alone inspires terror–for the equivalent of more than 100 years. And he expected it to be for eternity. He was Lucifer’s only plaything in the cage: Utterly defenseless. Powerless. No breaks. No options. No escape. For eternity. Dean simply can’t empathize in the way Sam needs him to; there’s no way for anyone to. Telling him; having to confront that inability, would make Sam feel lonelier than ever.

    Sam also knows that even if he’s able to find the words, telling his big brother will only hurt him. It will torment Dean to know that there is absolutely nothing he can do to fix it. Better to keep everything bottled up so only one of them suffers. It’s likely he also doesn’t want Dean to look at him or treat him differently. That happens when you tell someone about traumatic experiences. They see you differently; treat you differently. Once the words are out there, there’s no going back. Holding it all in at least gives Sam a sense of control. He holds it together so he can get through the crisis of the day. The only way he can deal with it and stop the world from ending again and again is not to deal with it.

    One more bit: Sam’s will was never broken in Hell. Dean gave in and became the torturer. No judgment; who wouldn’t have? But Sam’s will never broke. His mind did; he split himself apart and disassociated, but he stayed defiant, even with no end in sight. And then had to put himself back together after all that trauma, and suffer through Hallucifer and not knowning what was real. And he’s still holding it together and hanging on. Sam Winchester is one badass survivor.

  • I think you guys are confused in just where Cas and Lucifer were in cells at. They were never in the AU when Asmodeous found them. He put them in the cells in the old asylum that Crowley was using as his upside on earth hell replacement since Crowley didn’t like being down there much according to Dean.

    • Oh and the troops that Cas and Lucifer defeat while escaping would be Asmodeous’ troops not Michael’s seeing as that Michael is still in the AU. If you listen to the last scenes with Cas and Michael, you can hear traffic and sirens which I am pretty sure do not exist in the AU thus another detail to prove they are on earth not the AU.

      • Are we sure that is really Cas? He had a snark of the entity from the Empty. And that smile although a pleasure, seems out of character for our Cas. Maybe he has changed, maybe it is not him. Has Michael broken through and somehow influenced Cas/

  • Sam has revealed parts of the effect of his trauma in Hell in other episodes(s 11? when he is back in the cage with Lucifer) and has the stones to not say YES. But his fear and review of his time with Lucifer is evident in the script. Mr. Padalecki is superb in these scenes and adds much depth to Sam.

  • Enjoyed your review. Check out a blog -devoted to supernatural for more reviews and comments. There was more thought and comment than you think regarding this episode.

  • I loved your analysis of the episode. I said some of the very same things, although in much shorter form, on Twitter. This episode is a great example of the true genius of the show. Rarely are secondary main characters all bad or good. Sometimes all good, Jodie Mills, but not all bad. Although Dick Roman was one. Fan favorites who start off bad usually are written later to show their humanity. But in regards to Sam and his feelings about Lucifer, it has always been apparent if you have watched his reaction anytime Lucifer may appear again, he is terrified until he takes control of his emotions. It is such great acting, subtle, but always the same response. The other great thing about the show is the growth and maturation of Sam and Dean’s relationship. It has changed in many ways, yet has never lost the initial premise. I think that it has so much to do with the relationship between Jared and Jensen. And the writing has become deeper and more emotional. What other show has ever started with this show’s type of premise and become the emotional touchstone for so many people. You expect it from This is Us. But not a show about two brothers who kill monsters. Sam has reached out emotionally before to characters you would not expect. Season 8 with Meg for example. Anyway I really loved your thoughtful analysis.

  • I follow the guy on ItsokaySammy on Tumblr. I love seeing the scenes from the episode. I wanted to write a review of the episode myself but i tend to suck at those. I end up summarizing everything without giving me opinion which means rewriting everything like twice ugh. Anyway great review and loved how in depth you went.

    • Check out a blogdevoted to supernatural on wordpress. Supernatural is the topic. No ads. No hype. Reviews and commentary.

  • Gees Lynn!! You are such a writer and so detailed in your analysis. I’ll be honest I had to skim and like reread this post a couple of times haha but loved it and agree with you on a lot of aspects of the episode

  • I remember, I think it was at the slumber party with Kim and Emily at DCcon that Kim explained why Brianna was delayed getting to Virginia. That yes, she was slated to appear in episode 12 but since she was there in Vancouver for the Wayward Sisters filming, they flopped the episode order with 11. So yeah, I think the “Sam Trauma” and drama would have worked better with the original episode order. I do agree that the writers seem to only be able to emphasize or acknowledge both of the brothers’ trauma at the same time. Either Dean is suffering for (many times treated as an after thought or comedically) which angers the Dean fans and prompt the Sam fans to scream that Sam is being forgotten. Or Sam’s suffering is being pushed to the fore overlooking the fact that both men have their own trauma and that it really doesn’t go away. When Sam’s drama is emphasized the Dean fans get up in arms. Its a vicious circle.

    • The cycle seems to keep us tuned in though. There has to be someone who can “carry on” when one Winchester is in the cycle, ergo the other brother, since their sphere is comprised of the two of them. I would wish that everyone had a go to person when life beats him/her down. Again,to keep fighting the good fight, one often needs a cheerleader to help the individual see the light and want to help him/herself. The writers do this for our Sam and Dean. Yes, Cas is there, but he is not human and despite his attempts, he is often baffled by human emotions. For those, who think one brother is favored over the other, be patient,” the wheel in the sky keeps on turning.”
      My question to Lynn is thus, is the Winchester saga now classified as an addiction if it interferes with daily activities?

  • I love this blog post, because I felt that wide range of emotion with it. Dean getting hexed was amusing in itself but to see Rowena truly scared was something else.

    I guess for me, I see Sam dealing with his fear in real time, Lucifer is out, again. Obviously the writers don’t want us to be flippant about, you know “ yeah, yeah, Sam will be fine”. When he is struggling with having to face the devil again.

    I was surprised to see Rowena scared to that extreme but that is consistent for her character and what she has been through, plus she is a control freak, and not having control would be terrifying for her. I am loving this season and that the writers get the characters.

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