Apologies for the lateness of this review. Work travel doesn't always allow me to stick to my preferred watching/rambling schedule, unfortunately. And just a note up-front: I can pretty much guarantee I won't be able to reply to comments before the next epi airs. But please don't let that stop you from sharing your thoughts; I always appreciate your time and comments, be they in agreement or not with my own.
The title of this one, Captives, was an obvious nod to the situation poor Mama Tran had found herself in. But I think it was more than that. When the episode opened on Dean lying on his bed, Billy Squier in his ears, I couldn't get over how lonely he looked. It struck me that in that moment he had no one to protect him, no one to defend him. He would never stop protecting Sam; it's part of who Dean is. But without Sam as his brother, Dean was as alone as I'd ever seen him. But then, at the end of the episode, when Sam walked away from Dean and marched into his bedroom, closing the door on any conversation or connection, my heart panged.
They are both so alone. Alone together in a massive, protected bunker. They are captives of their own faults and pride. Yes, pride, because there are so many things that need to be talked about, need to be clarified, need to be understood. And it seems that the only thing keeping them from discussing it...is pride. Sam started to open the door by declaring there was something broken between them, but then he stopped, his only words those of pain (both feeling it and causing it) and it's clear Dean doesn't know what he means and Sam's not talking.
And until he does, and until they are able to figure out a path through all of this pain they've been carrying around, they're going to be held captive - limited only to the short distance their chains of hurt and betrayal and disappointment allow them to move. Working as fellow hunters rather than the brothers they are keeps them from being free to live as they are meant to. They're suffocating.
It's hard to watch, to be honest. A commenter on last week's episode said she needed them to be okay because it was like an oasis in the midst of her own family drama. I couldn't agree more. This show is my escape, my refuge when the never ending drama of my real life starts to smother me. I actually enjoy being tense as I watch the show, but I want to be tense from an omg this is scary-slash-intense position, and not from a what heart-crushing words are going to be spoken from one brother to another this week position.
I'm all for a captivating storyline; intrigue caused by conflict can be a really compelling writing tool. But now, my intrigue has almost crested and is slipping into just fix this already territory. I really hope that Kevin's plea to the brothers simmers on the back burner and that, coupled with whatever outside catalyst is necessary, pushes them to reconcile, soon -- and for good this time. It is possible to be siblings who don't always agree but maintain a mutual respect and understanding without slipping into the lying-and-keeping-secrets territory (which they both have visited a time or two) that only engenders hurt and betrayal and disappointment.
I can hang on to this through the end of Season 9, but if we go into Season 10 with the brothers together yet at odds...well, in the immortal words of Prince Humperdink, I shall be very put out.
As far as Kevin and Mama Tran, I thought this was a sad, sweet semi-closing to their story (I mean, rarely is anything all the way over in SPN). I suspected since Crowley's tease earlier in the season that Mama Tran wasn't really dead; her circumstances, though, I didn't see coming. And Kevin, man, Dean was right in his broken-hearted apology. That kid gave everything and got nothing in return...not even Heaven. I can only hope they're able to fix the "Heaven's closed" situation soon to give him the peace that he deserves and prevent him from turning into an angry, bitter spirit. I mean, it even happened to Bobby. *sad face*
It does trigger a number of questions, though. Like...are ghost sightings on the rise? Are other hunters seeing results of Heaven being closed? Perhaps that is one of the storylines that will fold into this SPN spin-off, Tribes. I'm not sure; I haven't kept up with any of the news on that, aside from the fact that it exists. But it is intriguing. Think of the souls the boys are responsible for since the angels fell, let alone the number of vessels the angels created, kicking the souls to the curb. The world should be smog-thick with spirits.
I know I should be, but I can't quite get myself jazzed up for the angel-wars part of this season. Maybe now that Cas is taking more of lead role it will shift for me, but all this sub-factions thing with Bartholomew and Malachi and Metatron....*head spins* I can't tell who -- aside from Cas -- we're supposed to care about. So, I'm glad that if nothing else, we now have some skin in the game, if you will, by having Cas in a position to actually find Metatron.
As I see it, we have the following storylines going right now:
1) Abbadon vs Crowley (or, HellGate: Race for Demon Leadership)
2) Mark of Cain
3) Angels vs Angels vs Metatron (or, Heaven's Closed for Business)
4) Brother vs Brother
5) Finding/ending Gadreel (which may or may not be part of #3)
I am intrigued to see what will be resolved this season (pleaseohplease #4), what will morph this season, and what will totally take me off guard this season. I mean, they've done it a couple of times already in the first 14 episodes. The back 9 has a lot of potential to do the same.
How about some lists?
- Having "Lonely Is the Night" as Dean's brooding music.
- Dean's scruff. It speaks to his exhaustion, his loneliness, his complete inability to even care about something so inconsequential as shaving at this point.
- Bad-ass Cas when he took out Bartholomew.
- The way Dean bellowed Sam's name when he saw the ghost and the fact that Sam was out of his room and down the hall barely a heartbeat later.
- Dean's delivery of, "Yep. Bunker's haunted."
- Mama Tran taking over the hot-wiring of the storage room door and Sam simply side-stepping and allowing her to do it.
- Dean being the one knocked around and tied up, and Sam breaking in at the last minute to stop him from being killed. Nice change of pace.
- "Before I go, promise me something. Can you two...get over it? Just because you couldn't see me doesn't mean I couldn't see you. The drama, the fighting? It's stupid."
- Sam being the one to find Mama Tran, and the journey his expressions took every time she said, "you're going to bring me to my son." *rubs heart*
- Mama Tran knowing exactly which of Kevin's possessions his spirit would be tied to -- and the fact that it was his father's ring.
- The boys communing with a coffee maker to speak to Kevin.
- Dean's broken-hearted apology to Kevin for not having protected him. His whole body just screamed pain with those words, especially his eyes. Even though Kevin's frustration at not being able to break through manifested itself in snide words about Dean having a pity-party, Dean's remorse was genuine, his regret honest, and his self-loathing painful to see.
- Dean's grin and Sam's subsequent tolerant eye-roll when Dean accurately described the storage unit clerk's appearance.
- Agents Nicks and McVee. Heh.
- Okay, CW, stop using your magic, fix-all cream, will ya? Dean got a nasty cut on his forehead from getting jumped by Demon-Clerk, and had a decent-sized slice on his neck from the dude's knife...and then in the space of time it took them to drive from Wichita back to the bunker it all heals up? With not even a itsy-bitsy little scar? Kansas ain't that big. Give us some realism with the wounds, how 'bout?
- Mama Tran was held captive and tortured by Crowley and his hench-clerk for a year, and yet she still had her cute haircut, had a healthy weight, and was only a little grimy? I could have done with a bit more, I don't know, feral-ness, perhaps with her appearance after that long in those circumstances.
- The spirit-population explosion question from my overview above is probably my main one.
- When did Angels start using nicknames? I mean, Castiel has always used his 'brothers' full names until this episode when he called Bartholomew "Bart." I could attribute that to his having hung around Dean too long except that Bart called Castiel "Cas," too. That just caught my attention and I wondered if it was really the first time they'd done that, or if I just hadn't noticed before.
- What would possess Crowley to hide those two captives in Wichita? I mean...what is the deal with Kansas as a magnet for demonic activity?
- What was the song Dean was listening to at the very end when he put the headphones back on? Pretty sure it wasn't Billy Squier again, but I couldn't hear it over the noise around me.
Okay, I'm going to do a bit of summarizing in this recap, but I'm assuming by now ya'll have seen the epi or read your fill elsewhere. This is just to keep to pattern and work through some additional thoughts.
THEN is angels butchering angels, a reminder of who Bartholomew is, the mini-story of Kevin and Mama Tran, and Sam breaking Dean's heart by replying to Dean's, "If the situation were reversed, and I was dying, you'd do the same thing," with, "No, Dean. I wouldn't." *rubs heart*
NOW we get shots of an empty bunker (and seriously, that is one wicked-cool set). Empty kitchen with a drippy faucet and a flickering light, moving into an empty map-room with ghostie-breathing. Then we see Dean, lying stretched out on his bed, headphones on, staring at the ceiling, Lonely is the Night blaring in his ears. He looks like he's willing himself to mentally escape -- just hide inside the music and not think about what Sam said, or where they are in their non-relationship, or what this means for their future, or how he's supposed to keep moving forward with this weight on his heart.
Just then, the lights in his room flicker and EMF static comes across his headphones. His eyes widen and we cut to Sam in his room chilling out, and we hear Dean bellow, "SAM!" in a scared, get your ass over here right the hell now tone. Sam responds instantly, heading out of his room and calling for Dean, getting no response. He gets to Dean's room, but his brother's bed is empty. He starts to move through the bunker, grabbing a sword along the way, eyes flickering to all corners, trying to find whatever it was that caused Dean to sound like that, seeing the lights flickering, all that jazz.
A ghostie figure comes at him from behind and before it can touch Sam, Dean blasts it with rock salt from a sawed-off shotgun. Sam darts a look over his shoulder where Dean's standing on the balcony and Dean's like, "Yep. Bunker's haunted."
Later, in the kitchen, Sam's packing rock salt shells and Dean comes in, turning on a (fancy-schmancy) coffee maker. They discuss how the bunker is warded and sigiled (I don't know if that's a real word, but I'm using it) to the hilt, so no way anyone got in from the outside. It's someone who died there, but anyone from the MoL would have been too long ago...and wouldn't have waited this long. So it's a recent death. Meaning...Kevin. Dean does not want to believe this, but each time he denies the possibility that Kevin is haunting the bunker, the coffee maker "bings".
Sam: How can you be sure?
Dean: I burned his body myself. It's not him.
Sam: We cremated Bobby, too, and he came back.
Dean: It's not Kevin.
Coffee Maker: BING! BING! BING!
Sam (puzzled, toward coffee maker): Kevin?
A coffee cup shatters, making the brothers jerk back in reaction and making me jump so much people stared. *ahem*
Okay, I'm going to summarize the angel stuff all at once, though it happened peppered throughout the episode with the brother's mission. This in no way diminishes how impressive Castiel was in this episode, by the way. He may single-handedly get me invested in the angel war storyline. Basically, there have been additional sub-factions of angels, many of them peace-seeking. One of them was Rebecca's faction: The Penitents. They lived humbly among humans until Bartholomew and his minions killed them off. Only one remained once they got to Rebecca herself.
Cas, who is trying to find Metatron, ends up at Rebecca's vessel's funeral and Bart's minions find him, hauling him back to Bart -- who greets him with a hug (?!?!) and they reminisce a bit about fun times in the garrison until Cas finally calls Bart out for killing the angels he'd left under Bart's charge in angel jail. Bart says he was following orders (makes me wonder who gave those orders...Raphael? God?) because, hello, that's what angels do.
Bart tries to woo Cas to their side by showing him all the shiny toys he has to track and find Metatron, thanks to all the vessels he was able to snatch using Buddy Boyle's ministries as his net. Bart says that Cas is free to go whenever he wants, but it soon becomes clear that it's basically an obey-or-die situation. Bart brings in Rebecca's last follower and tells Cas he's going to torture him for information and then kill him. Cas, knowing that he's in an impossible situation (and knowing that he's done the torture-for-info thing himself) doesn't stop him from torturing the dude, but refuses to kill him. He's not that guy anymore.
Bart kills the angel and then turns on Cas...who is able to deflect the attack pretty damn smoothly. Cas starts to walk away, but Bart tries to stab him in the back. Literally. Cas channels his inner ninja and avoids the angel sword, killing Bart in the process. He then demands that Bart's minions let him go. He heads back to Rebecca's vessel's grave, apologizing to Rebecca for not being able to stop her from getting killed.
Several of Bart's followers show up, and say the want to follow Cas instead -- they weren't bad angels, they just didn't know there was another way after the fall. Cas' refusal to bend to Bart's demands showed them there was another way. So, now we have Cas and several followers out there looking for Metatron -- not sure if that means Cas now has access to Bart's toys or not, though. It would be great if he did. Because if Malachi finds Metatron first, things will just get uglier.
Anyway, back to the brothers.
Sam is communing with the coffee maker, but getting nothing. Dean comes in to take a shift. Kevin's new at this, so it will take him longer to break through. Dean takes a turn and Sam leaves the room. Dean calls to Kevin, but can't bring himself to talk to the coffee maker. So, he talks to the room, his shoulders bowed, his eyes sad.
Dean: I'm sorry. You did not choose this life. You busted your ass. You lost everything. Everyone you loved. And your reward? Getting killed. On my watch. If I...it was on me. It was my fault and there's nothing I can do to make that right and I am so sorry.
He covers his face, rubbing his eyes, trying to find some way to make his apology heard. As he's holding his head in one hand, the lights flicker and Sam comes in, having noticed the change. Just then, we see Kevin flickering in, muttering to himself that he didn't spent months trying to break through the veil only to get stuck listening to Dean Winchester have a self-pity session...he got enough of that while he was alive.
Ouch. I mean, I can get Kevin being frustrated with all of this and with the boys not being able to hear him and well, y'know, being dead and all, but I hate that the writers always have people in Dean's life mock and belittle him or his words when he's expressing real emotion. "Boo-hoo, Princess," "self-pity session," "you didn't save me for me".... It would be nice for him to get credit for apologizing and someone -- probably not Kevin, granted -- let him off the hook for things that happened beyond his control.
It seems Sam's given that pass quite frequently by others -- "I know it wasn't you," "you didn't have control," "you didn't mean it," "it wasn't your fault." I mean, Sam may not forgive himself, but others tell him it's okay to do so. That rarely, if ever, happens with Dean.
ANYWAY! Kevin's first big reveal is that Heaven is closed. Not cool. And things in the veil? Not great. Not great at all. His second big reveal is that his mom is alive -- a ghost named Candy told him -- and he wants the boys to find her. It's the least they can do, so they head to Wichita to try to help Candy break through the veil, since she only died a couple of weeks ago. They camp out under a railroad trestle with a radio and the coffee maker to help Candy communicate.
As the boys sit and wait, Dean drinks a beer and calls Crowley.
Sam: I think I felt a chill.
Dean: Yeah. That's 'cause it's cold.
Dean leaves a voicemail for Crowley to call him back.
Sam: Really, Dean? That's your 3rd unanswered voicemail. Ever think he's just not that into you?
Dean: He's our last confirmed link to Mrs. Tran. Yes, he is a flaming douche, but at least we know he's real which is more than we can say for this Candy-no-Show.
He goes to take another drink of his beer and seems surprised to find that it's empty. Just then the radio fuzzes and we hear a girl's voice calling "Hello?" The boys get Candy's story through the radio -- she'd been held in a small, cement room with a corrugated door. Two men would come in with food -- one of them clearly Crowley -- but then he stopped coming (because he got himself captured by the Winchesters) and the one left over was cruel and scarier than the other. Candy knew Linda was alive when she escaped, but Candy got killed before she could get further than the trestle.
Boys start searching for storage places in the area; Sam discovers that Candy was actually the "beloved" of a powerful politician. And Mama Tran is the mother of a powerful prophet. Curiouser and curiouser. Dean's talking this all out loud, trying to figure out what Crowley was doing with them. Sam is basically like, "duh, kill them," and Dean shakes his head, his expression thoughtful.
Dean: Maybe the other guy. But Crowley wanted the vics alive.
Sam: So, you want to give him a medal? He put them in there.
Dean (frustrated): I'm just talking it out. Working the case. Business like.
Aside: to me, it seems like whenever Dean shows any inclination of working with someone other than Sam -- especially when that 'someone' is monster material -- Sam gets incredibly pissy and doesn't think through the logic and the why's. Plus also, he seems to forget all about his dalliances with Ruby. I'm just thinking that figuring out why Crowley held those two could be pretty useful information in getting ahead of whatever Crowley had planned.
They walk into a storage unit place -- their second one, apparently, based on the fact that Dean guessed this clerk would look just like the last one -- and discover that a D. Webster rented out three units off in "Corridor Q" away from the other units.
Sam: D. Webster? As in Daniel Webster?
Dean: I know a lame Crowley joke when I see one.
The clerk, though, says that Webster also rented out another unit on the other side of the facility. Dean sends Sam to Corridor Q and follows the clerk to the other unit. Dean finds random tools, stuffed animals...and gets an iron bar (or bat or something) in the face, knocking him out completely. Sam? Finds Mrs.Tran. And unfortunately gets himself locked in.
The clerk is actually Crowley's minion, and when Dean comes to, hands tied behind his back, forehead bleeding, and a wicked headache by the look of his scrunched face, Demon!Clerk has a whole lot to say about how he's had to languish in this job not killing people. He does kill his look-alike fellow clerk to make a blood phone to call Crowley, but then Dean says the he and Crowley are pals and hung out just last month.
Which of course totally pisses off Demon!Clerk. He's ready to kill kill kill!
Meanwhile, Sam unties Mama Tran, who immediately asks about Kevin. As any good Mama would.
MT: You didn't bring Kevin along on this mission, right? You left him someplace safe?
Sam (gulping, looking pale): Of course.
MT: Good. Let's get this door open. Get the hell out and you'll bring me to my son.
Sam: Mrs. Tran....
He can't say the words and her face shows that she knows what he can't say, she knows that her son is dead and Sam looks gutted at her expression, at the fact that she knows, but all she does is repeat that he'll take her to her son. It's clearly been the mantra that has kept her alive all this time. She bellows, "FLASHLIGHT!" at Sam and starts to bypass the wires and hotwire the door.
In the other unit, Demon!Clerk is basically straddling Dean, and runs the knife along his jawline, cutting his neck just below his jaw line about three inches long as he rambles about it being finally his turn to kill something. Dean tenses as the demon raises his knife, and just then the door of the unit opens and Sam comes in all RAWR! and knocks the demon half-way to Sunday. Whew.
They tie the demon up and give Mama Tran the kill, standing aside and watching with satisfied expressions -- Dean's neck covered in blood -- as she gets her revenge.
Sam: We're saving you for someone else.
Sam: Much worse.
Mama Tran: die demon die!
The boys get back to the bunker and call out to Kevin -- Dean all healed up, like I said, which...whatever -- and tell him that they got her, she's alive and they wanted to give him a moment to...process.
Kevin: Does she know?
Mama Tran: Kevin?
The boys leave and my heart just *ker-blam*. I can't even.... The look of relief and regret on Kevin's face mixed with Mama Tran's happiness at seeing him again and her utter, complete devastation at his being a ghost. Speaking as a Mama myself, I can't imagine a worse pain than the loss of a child, and to see that lost child and not be able to touch them, hold them, hope for their future.... *clutches heart*
Dean shows Mama Tran all of Kevin's stuff still in the bunker and she finds his father's ring, knowing that if his spirit is tied to anything, it's that ring.
Dean: There's a lot we don't know about this Heaven stuff. There are risks to taking Kevin home with you. The longer a spirit is in the veil...it doesn't end up well.
Mama Tran: He's my son. It's my job to keep him safe for as long as I can.
Kevin tells the boys that she was held in a room and tortured for a year because of him. Now that he's found her, he's not letting her out of his sight. She's his responsibility.
Sam: You were ours. We failed you. I--
Kevin: Sam, I know that wasn't you. Go put a blade in that asshat who possessed you and we'll call it square.
Dean doesn't try to apologize again -- either he can't because of the audience, or he think it won't matter because he heard Kevin's disgruntled rant as he was phasing into view. But his face just...so many thoughts were captured in his eyes it was hard to pin down one emotion he was going through as he watched Kevin.
Kevin: Guys, thank you.
Dean: You can thank us when we get you to Heaven where you belong. Until then, enjoy the time with your mom. The uninterrupted, 24/7, no escape quality time.
Kevin (grins): Dick. (looks serious) Before i go, promise me something?
Sam: Of course, anything.
Kevin: Can you two...get over it? Dudes, just because you couldn't see me, doesn't mean I couldn't see you. The drama, the fighting? It's stupid.
Dean's. Face. Just...it was barely controlled emotion. Like if someone scratched the surface of his skin, the pain that would come flooding out would drown the world.
Kevin: My mom's taking home a ghost. You two. You're both still here.
Sam (agreeing so fast and with such a tremor in his voice it couldn't be anything but a lie): Of course. Promise.
Kevin and Mama Tran leave and Dean kinda follows them, eyes on them the whole time, as if afraid to look away. He turns back to Sam to say something, but Sam's already walking away, quickly so as to avoid any possible connection with Dean in this moment.
Dean (softly, sadly): Yeah, okay.
Sam goes to his room, Dean to his room. Dean puts his headphones back on and assumes the position, eyes on the ceiling, expression one of desperate escape. And they brood. Alone, together, held captive by stubbornness, pain, and history.
I didn't see previews, but I'm ready to see something shift out of this gear next episode. Bring it on, Show!
Thanks for reading, as always.