The whole time I watched I had a...disjointed feeling. As if I were watching several different episode edited together. It wasn't that I didn't like where they took us, but the journey there was a bit rocky for me. The theme I filtered through it all was humanity. What does it mean to be human? But it didn't come out very clear...more like trying to see words inside a shaken snow globe.
Honestly, my favorite part was the final confrontation with Cole and the brothers. Setting up a new bad guy is always good, and I think I'm going to like watching Rowena witchify everyone with her Scottish accent, but the way the episode went about it was a bit too...scattered. Each of the different storylines felt thinly stacked upon each other, like baklava.
I'm going to do my lists first again before I ramble because often times that helps me frame up any uncertainty of opinion I might have. *ahem* Ready?
- Sam teasing Dean about his screen name on the dating app -- could that be more little brother?
- Sam's hair -- it's shrinking! I am loving it shorter. A LOT.
- The millisecond of heat in Dean's eyes (before it all when downhill) when Shaylene pulled of his shirt, leaving him standing in that black T-shirt. *UNF*
- The moment Dean turns around, asking, "Do you?" when Shaylene says she loves her job. That look said he was 100% done with her bullsh*t; she had no idea who she was dealing with. It was both dangerous and resigned.
- "Well, that just happened."
- Rowena. I don't share Dean's distaste for witches. I think they're interesting baddies -- complex and dangerous.
- The fact that there is a hex bag that can kill demons...where has that been for the last 10 years?
- The fact that they are once more reaching out to a "hunters network" -- I like the subtle reminders that they aren't truly alone in this.
- "Pal, we gotta work on your timing."
- The whole final confrontation with Cole from the fight were both Dean and Cole got bloody to Dean's (heartbreaking) speech -- special kudos to the moment Sam came out, saw Cole with a gun on his brother and went full-on protection mode and Dean called him off, both to protect Sam and to keep Cole alive. I loved how that whole moment showcased where they stand as brothers right now as well as how Dean thinks of himself as a person.
- The humanity coming out in the angels.
- Rowena being Crowley's mother.
- On the road with Hannah and Cas. I don't mean to disparage a fan favorite, but I don't really care about Cas' mission. I care about Cas with Sam and Dean. If he's with the boys, that matters to me. HE matters to me. Outside of that, I lose track of what they're even still doing and why. It was good that Castiel reminded us that they were trying to bring the angels back to Heaven because I had forgotten...though I'm not sure I know why I should care that the angels aren't in Heaven. Why can't they just stay? Is there a compelling reason that they all must be rounded up and returned? And while I appreciated that they were showing us the angels beginning to feel more human the longer they lived among us, the idea that they would be attracted to each other's human vessels in a sexual way is just...odd. To me. But you can ignore me.
- The braided together plot line(s). More on that later.
- While I like Rowena, I miss having baddies that were scary and deadly (like Azazel) or that I just outright hated (like Dick Roman). Baddies that you end up having a soft spot for (like Crowley) or who are too interesting to kill (like the Alpha vamp) are becoming a bit common place.
- How did Dean get that pic of him on the dating app? It wasn't a selfie, that's for sure. And while I'm on that topic, was anyone else surprised that a) he used his real name and b) that his name didn't send off warning bells to the demon pimp community?
- I am confused by Sam's statement that Raul was Raul. Have we ever seen a demon who did not possess a "meat suit"? I mean even Crowley isn't in his actual body. Either I've missed something over the years or that was new information.
- Where was Rowena been all this time? And why is she back in action now?
- How the heck did Cole track Dean and Sam down based on the information from one tortured demon? The boys didn't even know where they were going until they got there. *hand wave*
- Anyone else wonder if the unidentified "liver-eating monster" that was Cole's dad might come back around to haunt us?
But. The whole "Raul's Girls" thing was so loose it practically came untied. Apparently Raul was actually trying to get Crowley's attention/approval by operating in a creative manner to get recruits...turning human woman into prostitutes and forcing them to be paid in souls...but what did he have over these girls? If he was paid in souls, what did he pay the girls? Why did they stay and how did he "recruit" them in the first place? If he were bankrolling their habit or providing them protection/a place to stay, sure, but it seemed like all they did was fear him. And he clearly didn't screen the clients if one of his girls was able to get a Winchester on the hook. Lame, Raul.
So, we sorta got that Crowley didn't know about it when the demon who smoked out to avoid being killed by Rowena told him, but other than his being irritated, that was a big so what? Not sure what we were supposed to take from that, other than Crowley not being really on top of things in the underworld. The slacker.
I did find it to be a fresh approach to have the boys get a case -- having Dean be a 'mark' in this soul trafficking effort was original. And, man, I loved how everything about him changed when Shaylene told him she wanted her payment to be his soul. First, that she wanted payment at all came as a clear surprise to him (poor guy) but when she mentioned soul, his eyes emptied and his whole posture shifted. When she said she loved her job, his reply of, "Do you? Because it doesn't look like love to me," was perfect. The way he stared her down was just...this girl had NO idea who she was dealing with. I love, too, that when the demon came to get Dean's signature both boys were waiting for him.
Since Sam cured Dean, I've been really enjoying how they're acting like brothers again -- but then can so seamlessly shift into hunter mode. Sam giving Dean a hard time about detouring 8 hours to get laid, but being there to face down the demon as soon as Dean learned the truth of his tryst was pure Winchester.
I am really curious to know why a 300 year old witch, who was kicked out of the "grand coven of witches" despite being incredibly powerful, is back on the radar again. Where was she all this time? What's driving her -- need of a new coven? Is she running from a BIGGER bad or is she just...bored? She seemed to zero in on Raul's place -- the only thing I can think that drew her there (besides a healthy dislike of demons) was the girls and the possibility of a new coven. Because other than that...why just show up there when she clearly has expensive taste? Hopefully we find out more soon; it has the possibility of an interesting storyline and foe for the boys to contend with.
SO, the angels. The one thing I can truly appreciate about the story they've been telling us with Hannah and Cas is the way they've both taken on human traits and habits. Castiel clearly had that going for him already, but Hannah -- who was the angel's angel -- seemed to be slowly drawn in by the truest thing unique to humanity: feelings. Sensations, needs, desires, reactions...it was foreign to her and she started registering how powerful it could be. Love, hate, devotion, revulsion, guilt, hope, sorrow, joy...angels can't experience them, not as we do. And when she started to realize that she was trying to feel them, trying to test her angelic boundaries, it scared her.
I'm glad they draw her story to a peaceful close (though, Joe is one understanding husband) when they did before they ventured too much further down that angelic pairing road. When she stripped in front of Castiel -- seemingly unaware that it would affect him, though I suspect she did it specifically TO affect him -- and he looked both uncomfortable and attracted I just...yeah. That wasn't working for me, and I'm far from a prude.
It isn't that I didn't want Castiel with Hannah, it's that they were angels. There have to be some kind of rules in any world you dive into. A unique lore put in place for that world. If there aren't rules when it comes to supernatural or magical events, if anything is possible, it's just chaos and that isn't entertaining to anyone. When they were first introduced, the angels were arrogant warriors who saw themselves as superior to humans and were dangerous. Castiel was the one exception and that totally worked because he'd been "imprinted" by rescuing Dean. As the seasons went on, the angels have since evolved and while they still look down on humans, they're no longer warriors but...lost boys and girls. They are childlike, but still dangerous.
Having Castiel experience things from a more human perspective works because he's been living and working side-by-side humans for so long -- and has actually become human as Castiel. But to have Hannah just suddenly feel and act upon a very human emotion like desire...it was good, I thought, that they had her recognize what was happening to her and have her vacate her vessel. The only thing about that is Castiel being left alone (and clearly lonely). His looking up Jimmy Novak was a clear indication of that.
It puzzled me, though, that he looked surprised to see Jimmy listed as "Missing." I would have to go back and rewatch The Rapture but I was thinking that Jimmy gave himself over to Castiel totally to spare his daughter, meaning he basically ceased to exist. Since he didn't actually die the only thing his family could to was classify him as Missing. I figured Castiel was just feeling sentimental and lonely when he did that search and not actually thinking of returning Jimmy to his family as Hannah had returned Caroline. I think they need to reunite him with the brothers soon because having him out there on his own just...rounding up angels.... Not exactly a riveting story.
I'll close with my favorite aspect of the episode: Dean's confrontation with Cole. Now, even with hand-waving the fact that Cole was able to find the boys at all, there were a couple of things about his scenes that had me arching my brow, primarily that he accepted Dean saying his father was a monster so easily. Especially since Dean didn't know what kind of monster his father was. With that vendetta driving him for so long, it seemed strange that he would roll over on that so quickly. HOWEVER! That said, I think the real reason he didn't kill Dean wasn't because he was like, "Oh, my dad was a monster? My bad, you totally should have killed him." It was because of what Dean exposed about himself.
I loved that when they fought this time, they were more evenly matched. And can you imagine how confused poor Cole was after he'd done his demonic download only to find out that Dean wasn't a demon anymore? Talk about a roller-coaster ride. I loved that they showed their faces bruised and marked up (though, I think those cuts would have actually been bleeding) and that it was truly an effort for Dean to best Cole. I loved Sam showing up, seeing Cole holding the gun on Dean and that Dean knew right away Sam would put him down without a thought. I love how Dean had to call out twice to get Sam to lower his weapon and it was only when Cole turned back to Dean and Dean said, "We're just talking here," that Sam did so.
But mostly, I love what Dean revealed with his words to Cole. I know that later he told Sam that he was just saying what the guy needed to hear, and maybe he wanted to believe that, but in the moment, those words were real, raw, and the honesty in his eyes was breathtaking. If there is one thing that I will always admire about the way Jensen plays Dean, it's how he can convey entire paragraphs with a flinch of his eyes, a glance, a blink. He can say one thing with words and something else entirely in his eyes. It's a very subtle, nuanced performance and it draws you in before you realize what's happening to you.
Dean has been struggling since being cured, that much is certain. He's said he just wants to do good to make up for all the bad, that he wants to make sure the kills are done right. He has shown every sign that he wants to be brothers again, wants to get back to their normal. But until this moment, offering his Dean-version of an apology to this angry, hurt man, he's never shown how he truly sees himself. And it's a heartbreaking reflection. One that is going to take time -- so much time -- to reconstruct. If it can be at all.
And Sam's face...as he listened, as the words sank in. That guy's been wrung out over the years but I think seeing Dean peel back those layers for Cole showed Sam his job is far from done. He's got work to do to help kill a monster that isn't in any lore and won't be taken out by any silver bullets or blades. This is a monster that only hope and light and belief can destroy.
Dean's expression when he finally gets through to Cole really hit me. The way his eyes changed from a plea to regret to resignation to an offer. Especially when he talked about the people who loved him, that expression was mirrored in Sam's face as he listened.
Dean: "That was your story. I got one of those, too. Keeps us going. But it can blind us. Take us to dark places. Like places where I might beat the crap out of a good man for the fun of it. The people who love me pulled me back from that edge. Cole, once you give in to that darkness, it never goes away. Truth is...I'm passed saving. I know how my story ends. Edge of a blade or barrel of a gun."
They were able to save Cole from making a mistake and sent him on home, but those words -- knowing how his story ended -- they are going to haunt Sam until he finds out how to rewrite the ending of both of their stories.
SO, there you go. Not the most compelling episode from my point of view, but it did a great job setting up potential plot points and intriguing characters and most of all, it added another layer to the boys' connection and the way Dean is coping with what happened to him. As the Mark of Cain plotline continues to unfold, I think this mindset from Dean and worry from Sam will keep unspooling until we get to a core and see what's waiting for them.
Thank you all so much for reading and taking time to offer me your thoughts in reply. If you celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday in the States, I wish you a happy holiday and look forward, as always, to the next time we'll "see" each other.