Though, I have to say, adding complexity to an already complex situation doesn’t always pay off the way you might want it to.
So, I know the fact that these rambles are written after one viewing, and without too much critical analysis/research, might lend one to believe I shoot a bit from the hip as I go (which, true), but I do work to keep the thread going through the season, and I seek to apply the themes I see repeated or significant to the moments we experience onscreen. Sometimes, though, it’s a bit more difficult than others. I’ll start with the constants I appreciated.
Like the brothers. I always appreciate the brothers. Their fight, their sacrifice, their drive, their loyalty, their heart, their willingness, their steadfastness…their bowed legs, green/hazel eyes, killer grins, jaw-flinches…. *ahem* Sorry.
Even if I don’t like some of the consistencies all the time – the roles that they play in each other lives – I appreciate that they’re constant in those roles. And I have enjoyed that there’s been little strife between them since they made the choice to do this thing together, turning their backs on the things that could have separated them. I have appreciated Sam’s focus and Dean’s care. I have appreciated that Sam is earning this and that Dean has a firm grip on his one job.
I had hoped, until this episode, that Dean would have a role to play with the Angle Tablet. I didn’t realize how much I’d hoped for it, though, until the Cas & Marv Plan started to play out. I will admit that it makes a poetic sort of sense – as Cas said, he broke Heaven, he started that mess, so just like with Sam needing to “fix” things by falling into the Cage after he helped Lucifer rise, Cas needs to “fix” things by shutting down Heaven.
However, even with that, I can’t help but reflect back on Cas himself telling Dean that he had to “fix” things since he was the righteous man, the only one who could, and he never got that chance. And even though the Angel trials were never Dean’s to begin with, I still feel a bit like something else has been taken from him.
Still. That’s not the story we’re being told; it does me no good to reflect on what we didn’t get and aren’t seeing. Not if I want the escape and enjoyment I so yearn for when I watch our show. So! I will focus on what is playing out for us and not what I would have liked to have seen. *nods decisively*
Dean has fully embraced this mission. He may have been relegated to the role of caretaker and watcher, but he’s playing the hell out of that role. He's taking the Tolkien-esque edict to carry Sam through the trials to the wall and he’s not flinching, not failing. Even if all they have to eat is Reeces Cups, beef jerky, and half-drunk beer, he’s giving it all to Sam – on a tray no less.
When he says he knows Sam is going to cross that finish line, there is not one trace of doubt in his voice, in his eyes, in the lines of his face. He believes this. He’s had to; it’s the only thing that’s kept him going as he's watching his brother weaken and falter and remains powerless to stop it. And what’s more? He’s proud. He’s proud of Sam, of what Sam’s enduring, of what he’s shouldering, and of why he’s doing it all. I so dig that about Dean.
This is all he has left, this mission. If they fail in this – if they don’t close the gates – not only will all that he’s survived and sacrificed, all he’s shoved down and put behind him, all he’s gone without be for nothing, but Sam won’t come out of it purified, healed, back to his old self. Dean has to believe that Sam has some kind of super-human ability to keep going and keep the promise he made to show Dean that surviving the trials is possible, that there’s light in all of this. If he doesn’t…he’s got nothing.
I thought it was interesting, though, how he showed his wounded feelings toward Cas. No one who’s been hurt really plays fair. Dean is the most human character on this show, and he plays that role superbly, right up to the unfairness of hurt feelings. He’s been hurt by so many close to him I’ve lost count, but when Cas hurts him, it seems to count double. Even more than if it’s Sam. When it’s his brother who hurts Dean, the hurt digs in and leaves scars, but Sam is blood. Like Bobby said, family is supposed to make you miserable. But Cas…well, Cas was chosen family. So when Dean’s hurt by Cas it’s compounded, and he always lashes out, double the amount of the hurt.
The last time he saw Cas, his friend beat him bloody, then healed him, then told him he wasn’t trusted, then disappeared. That had to leave Dean reeling a bit. The fact that Cas thought he was doing the right thing just…hurt me. Not only for Cas, but for Dean. Every time he’s hurt Dean, he’s done so because he thought he was doing the right thing and he’s not listened to Dean who has been – quite literally – the only voice of reason in Cas’ life since he pulled Dean from Hell. After awhile, that’s gotta wear on a guy.
Coupling all of that with the fact that Cas was healing slowly, Dean just tapped out. He couldn’t take on one more wounded family member; he had his hands full with Sam and right now everything he has left inside of him that still believes in anything is focused on Sam and these trials. He’s been through too much and lost too much and been tested too many times to have enough faith to believe in much else.
Sam telling Dean to give Cas a break simply because he’s Cas irritated me a bit. I mean, I got it – Sam sees a kindred spirit, a fellow wounded warrior, and knows that if Dean weren’t focused so completely on getting Sam through the trials that he wouldn’t have been so hard on Cas – knows that his brother needs this friend – but I still wanted him to hush.
Let Dean be mad for a bit. Sometimes being mad is the only way we can cope. And Dean needs a bit of coping room as he’s busy turning himself inside out for the sake of someone else’s health and safety.
Sam’s waning health has been done very well these past few episodes. I like that he was up-front with how he was feeling – body hurt, nauseous and starving at the same time, everything smelled like rotting meat. Sounded like me when I was pregnant. But I have to wonder how far are they going to take this; it’s clear they’re not going to have Metatron heal him, and Cas can’t, so it looks like it’s still a the only way out is through solution for him. He has to finish the trials, get purified, if he has any hope of healing.
I’m enjoying Sam’s research and reading binge through all the materials in the Batcave. This treasure trove of lore is probably one of my favorite things about this season – the possibilities they could mine with what the MoL’s have stored away. Add to that the fact that they have a dungeon – and Dean’s grin when they discover it -- and it just gets cooler and cooler. It played out for me that they’d start looking through the MoL records on demons and exorcisms, but I really didn’t call the twist that there would be a ritual that could cure a demon.
I thought it would be something, I don’t know, more…organic. But this is intriguing to me. Especially the part about purified blood. The priest purified his blood by going to confession, and while we know that the trials are purifying Sam’s blood, it doesn’t exactly make sense to me that they’d be able to use his blood during the trial. I would think they’d have to complete the trial for the whole purification thing to take hold. Which makes me think that there still could be a role for Dean to play in the final trial. (Hey, I always have hope.)
One thing, though…Abbadon as their practice demon? Really? Okay, so maybe it was a good idea in concept, but they were much too sloppy in the execution of the plan. One could argue a number of things – they didn’t think sewing her back together again would work so they didn’t paint a devil’s trap on the ground…or they just took for granted that the bullet would keep her trapped (in which case they should have put her hands far, far, far away from her AND not sewn on her feet). But the bottom line was that they totally screwed the pooch on that one, letting Abbadon get away. Still. That said? I kinda loved seeing her again. I liked her cool smoke trick when we met her several epis ago.
As I filter down through the emotion and reaction of this episode, two components settle to the bottom for me: Crowley’s attack on the boys, and the Cas & Merv Plan to shut down Heaven.
I’ll start with the angels.
I’ve already covered the whole “aw, man!” reaction to Cas being the one to start in on the trials, so let’s go to what the trials will do. Metatron sticks his head out from the rock he’s been hiding under for a millennium, sees Heaven is broken, thinks his dysfunctional family needs to be locked in a room together to hash it out so he picks the one warrior angel just desperate enough to “fix” things to be his Huckleberry. I know he said that the warring factions in Heaven would eventually spill down onto Earth, but is now the best time to take away all the angels from Earth? Are all of them (except Cas…right now at least) bad-ish?
His caution to Dean about choosing wisely and taking into consideration what the world would look like if they closed the gates seemed to make a lot of sense. His sudden push to close Heaven at the same time…doesn’t. Not really. I like Metatron and yet…I don’t know if I trust him completely. Call it a gut feeling, and I hope I’m wrong, but his plan seemed almost…selfish.
And if they close down Heaven and Hell…where will everyone go when they die? Purgatory? Because we’ve only talked about demons here…not vamps, werewolves, wendigo, shtriga, the whole alphabet of monsters out there. I honestly can’t decide if I’m intrigued by this turn of events or completely confused by it. Either way, I’m dying to know what happens, so there’s that at least.
Cas…this guy has just been through it this season. His Dean-focused grocery trip – complete with beef jerky, beer, Busty Asian Beauties, and pie (or at least an attempt for pie) – broke my heart a little, but his ramble to Metatron that he broke Heaven and tried to atone, tried penance, betrayed his friends to protect the angels secrets and has just failed…well, that broke it the rest of the way. He really has tried, but Dean’s right…he’s like a child. A child who doesn’t seem to be able to stop running out into traffic.
And I honestly don’t know if I feel like Cas decided shutting down Heaven was really a good idea, or if he was just swayed by a fellow angel and the idea of getting his family – his angelic family, I mean – back. It almost seemed like he was played, in a way, not that he knew this was the right choice, down in his gut. He’s just searching for something to “fix” things, and wants so badly to make things right between himself and all those he feels he’s wronged – Dean especially – I just think he was a bit…vulnerable.
Now, Crowley and the war he declared on our boys.
He’s bounced all around, hasn’t he? It’s hard to believe now, after tonight’s maneuver, that the boys ever worked with him. Or for him. Or however you want to look at it. Unfortunately, all their dealings with him left them exposed. The fact that Abbadon knew him as a ‘salesman’ worked perfectly. He knew what to say, how to say it, and how to twist the situation to either get what he wanted or save his own hide. And he sure knew how to hurt our boys.
As it was with What is and What Should Never Be, seeing all the good they’ve done, all the lives they’ve saved, unravel before their eyes…that’s probably the only way to truly get under their skin. To shake them to their core. Playing on their own motto, allowing them to try and then annihilating their chance at success and hope all in one swift blow. He’s playing psychological warfare and he has a friggin’ arsenal. Pretty clever using Chuck’s books, too, to pick apart those they saved, one-by-one.
Tommy from Wendigo was a pretty random choice, but I was okay with it (though, gah…gruesome death). Sarah, though…. Now, that one hurt. I liked Sarah. I liked her with Sam! And then to allow Sarah and Sam that moment where we learned that Sarah got married and had a daughter not yet one year old…and then to kill her. Oh, Show. You are cruel…cruel.
I get that they had to show how evil Crowley is and I get that they had to make it hurt for the boys – apparently especially for Sam as he’s the one who has to physically do the trials – but I honestly and truly didn’t like that. It's a rough way to tell a story, to create an impact, and after awhile the boys are just going to get numb to loss. Mary and John were bad enough. Jo, Ellen, Bobby...I mean, jeeze. Watching Sarah choke to death and being utterly helpless to stop it? That was as rough. I just have to wonder who's next on the death list?
*gasp* I just thought of something. Jodie Mills. They had BETTER not kill her off, too, or I will…I will…I will probably do nothing but type curses. With three exclamation points!!!
Crowley’s tried so many angles to get at them, to wear them down, to weaken them, and he finally found it, finally found the chink in their armor and is shoving in a double-edged sword. I was pretty impressed with his voice-over bad-guy speech. I thought that was a nice piece of writing and was artfully delivered. The fact that the hex bag was in the cell phone, I can’t even…. That was a gut-punch to us all.
And, in hindsight, we should have seen it, I think. After all, Crowley did say that the boys would try because they always try. And he was way too confident. I am always suspicious of a confident bad guy. He set that up from the start...though I'd love to know how he got to their phone. And when.
I think it’s funny that they had to wait until they got back to the Batcave to talk about if Sam was okay and have Dean talk about the fact that they stick to the plan. The MoL Bunker is in Kansas. Sarah died in Indianapolis, IN. Having driven between Lawrence, KS, and Indianapolis, IN, many many times over the past decade, I can tell you it’s an 8 hour drive on a good day. I can’t imagine them not discussing it at all during that time, can you? *laugh*
The thing I don’t really get, though, is…if they already know what the 3rd trial is, and they don’t need the tablet to complete it, why don’t they just give it to Crowley and continue on with the trials? It’s not like Crowley knows what the trial is or could translate it to find out. Not in time -- they're two trials in. He just knows that it has something to do with one of his Hellish things based on the previous two, so he’s being overly cautious and locking his demons in their rooms.
Shoot, they should just tell him they’ll give it to him, and only him, and then trap him and cure him. Done and done. *easy for you to say, Gaelic*
So…next week is it.
For Dean, the journey out of Purgatory, through PTSD, back to his brother and his life as a hunter, having a vampire friend, leaving his vampire friend, killing his vampire friend, stepping aside as his brother takes on the trials that could change not only their lives, purpose, and destiny but the future of the entire human race, stalwartly performing the one job his father had put on his shoulders as a child, carrying his brother through the test of their lives…will come to a close.
For Sam, the shift from a normal life with a woman he loves (and a dog), back into hunting, through dealing with the guilt of his actions and inactions, choosing once and for all to live the life of a hunter, finding focus and seeing his brother clearly (perhaps for one of the first times in his life), taking on the trials that will allow him to earn the sacrifices made for him and (hopefully) rid the world of an evil that has traumatized his entire family, and finally having the opportunity to cleanse himself of the demon blood he was poisoned with as a baby…will be realized.
One way or another, it’ll be over – this season, this journey, this saga. Their fight will continue, and we’ll be here to see what happens.
Because they’re our boys.
Things I loved:
- Dean wanting to get a ping-pong table for the Batcave
- The way Dean holds pain in his eyes, even as his face is cool and impassive (re: the “take your apology and cram it up your ass” scene)
- The fact that the case that led them to find the ‘cure film’ was #1138 (die-hard Star Wars fans will know this, but George Lucas’ first film, pre-Star Wars, was THX1138)
- Dean’s face when he tells the priest that there is no doubt in his mind that Sam’s gonna cross that finish line (or, you could change this to Dean’s face, full stop)
- Cas on the best grocery shopping trip ever
- This line: “I need pie.”
Things I liked:
- The fact that the MoL records room had demon files on Lizzie Bordon and Ichabod Crane
- Sam’s totally awkward, “Do we have a room 7B?” interruption of Dean and Cas’ pain-laced, angry, apologetic exchange
- The fact that the MoLs had classifications of ‘weird’ like the Fujita Scale
- This exchange: “…so, we have a dungeon.” “Finally!”
- Winchester Movie Night - complete with Jiffy Pop
- Metatron going by ‘Merv’ in public
- This line: “It worked! You owe me a beer.”
- Abbadon’s hand pulling a 'Thing' from the Adams' Family and removing the devil's trap bullet via her mouth – creepy, but clever
- Dean saying ‘kick it in the ass’ in his “we’ll figure this out” speech
- Okay, IF Chuck’s books were Crowley’s only source of information for finding out who the boys had saved (as he seemed to indicate), then once again, tsk, tsk writers. Jenny “Hearts In my Cupcakes” Klein was from Season 7’s Shut Up, Dr. Phil. NOT in the books. I can hand-wave with the best of them, and I can ease up on the nit-picking, too, but a few of these have piled up this season. I mean, crimeny, writers. There are about 47 bagillion places you can go to check your own canon. (Though, I will say, Dean's "You were a great gal, Jenny Klein," line was nice.)
- As the seasoned hunters we know they are, I'm disappointed that they were so sloppy with Abbadon. They should have put her hands much further away from her, at the very least. Which is probably the weirdest thing I've written all day.
- I think it’s interesting that an angel could complete the trials on the angel tablet. I guess we didn’t hear any limitations on the demon tablet, but I just find it…interesting. I wonder…if he’s successful, does that mean Cas will get sucked into Heaven with the rest of the angels? And has he thought of that? Of the fact that he’ll have to say goodbye to the boys for as long as Heaven is closed? And that the boys will have no chance of going there one day?
- I also think it’s interesting that there is only one Nephilim in existence. And that she was able to almost take down two other angels. Wonder if her human side gave her a strength advantage?
- Anyone else intrigued by the fact that Abbadon knew Crowley as a sales man and was outraged to find out he’s the King of Hell? Just me? Oh.
Thanks so much for reading and for taking time to share your thoughts with me. I know I haven’t replied to all of the comments from last week, but I will, I promise. Life has me a bit by the throat these days and there have been more than a few “barely keeping my head above water” moments. But having a weekly escape and seeing what you guys think is a great distraction, so I thank you for your time.
As it takes less time, I’m going to keep this ramble + lists – recap format for the finale next week as well. I’ll return the recap portion when I come back next season. Assuming ya’ll want me back next season, of course.