First I gotta say, Jensen Ackles is totally getting the hang of this directing thing. I actually forgot that he would have been directing himself during all of this, I was so caught up in the show. There were some intense scenes in this episode. What a pivotal story point to get to tell! *stands and applauds* Well done, Ackles. Well done.
I'm gonna start with the lists again because I have some thoughts to ramble about that some of you may not like so much. So, before you decide to either throw things at me or leave, how about I toss some bullet points your way. Then we can get down to business.
- Dean in red. I don't think I mentioned that last week (since he's wearing the same clothes in this episode) but I really like him in red. Sets off his eyes really well.
- In a similar vein, that moment Dean got free of the electrical room and rubbed his head, mussing his hair a bit. *bites lip* Don't judge me.
- "Doctor." "Father."
- The score at the beginning when Sam returns to the bunker with the blessed blood (that just so happens to be Dean's type). It was very Assassin's Creed-like, and I listen to a lot of Assassin's Creed music while writing. Bonus points for using the Brother's Theme while looking at family pics. Way to pluck the heart-strings, Show.
- "I hate shots." "I hate demons."
- The fact that the human blood injections actually caused Dean pain -- like more than emotional, weepy pain. Actual, barely-hanging-on, might-be-killing-him pain. Not just because I'm a bit of a sadist, but because he wasn't demonized the same way Crowley was - through years of hellish torment. It shouldn't have worked the same on him, and I was glad they showed a difference.
- Every scene between Dean and Sam in the dungeon with Sam stalwartly standing up to demon!Dean's hurtful, harsh words and injecting him with the blood and Dean roaring in pain and resisting. Those were really well done.
- Seeing what Sam was willing to do to find Dean. Now, it's not that I like what he was willing to do; I liked that we got to see it and formulate our own opinions about what that meant for Sam's character.
- "It's Hell. You wait. It's what you do."
- "Sometimes enough is whatever you have."
- "We don't get to quit in this family. This family is all we have ever had."
- "I did not see that coming."
- Dean having those family pics in his room so easily accessible, as though he looked at them every day when he needed a boost. (Though...I do question the half-eaten pie still there and not at all fuzzy with mold after four months....)
- The red light effect in the locked-down bunker.
- The cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game between Dean and Sam in the bunker. Very intense. I actually gasped and covered my mouth when Dean nearly hit Sam with the hammer. And the look in their eyes when Sam held the demon-killing knife to Dean's throat? *shivers*
- Dean's Jack Torrence-esque escape from the electrical room.
- The way Dean prowled the bunker in search of Sam. Everything about his body language said predator.
- "I see his point. Only humans can feel real joy, but also such profound pain. This is easier."
- The moment we saw Dean again. The way Jensen just...released the posture and slipped free of the expression in his eyes that said demon!Dean and let us see the uncertainty and wariness and tension that was our Dean. Extraordinary.
- "It's a long story. Crowley...stolen grace...there's a female in the car.... Another time."
- "I'm going to get my brother some cholesterol and then I'm gonna get drunk." (Hell, I may join him after this.)
- Cas stepping in at the crucial moment. Now...please don't get me wrong. I think that Sam saved his brother; he did all the legwork and heavy lifting. In actual fact...Cas saved Sam, if you think about it, not Dean. But there was this really big part of me that wanted it to be completely Sam who saved his brother. However, that said, it does link Cas back to the brothers which is what I've been saying I wanted all this time, so, yeah. Whatever. Carry on.
- The end of the episode. I'll go into that more later.
- The anvil-like foreshadowing of Cas reminding Sam that Dean still has the Mark. It felt a bit like the Show was waving its arms at us all, don't worry, guys, I know we cured Dean really fast, but there are still things wrong with him they'll have to figure out...don't get mad!!
- How'd Dean/Crowley know that Sam was the one to talk Lester into making that crossroads deal? I missed that.
- Am I the only one who was still watching Dean at the end all wary...waiting for a flash of black eyes or a devilish smile? As hard as it was to cure him, it almost seemed too easy at the same time. Just like I watched demon!Dean for a trace of humanity, I think I'll be watching Dean for a trace of demon for a bit.
- Crowley and Cas. The fact that these two haven't just ended each other before now is honestly very puzzling to me. And now Crowley has saved Cas because he needed Dean to not be a demonic menace out there. It's curious, isn't it? Or am I just trying to see plot layers where there is simply convenient storytelling tropes?
- Cas is full-on angel again, but it's with more borrowed grace, and we all know what happens with borrowed grace. What is this going to mean to him? The clock is reset, but ticking. How many of you think getting Cas' grace back is going to involve having to actually deal with Metatron? Yeah, me, too.
- Does Crowley maintain a bit of his humanity? His little daydreaming Dean + Crowley montage does not really scream King of Hell to me, no matter how many vile betrayers he offed.
- How, exactly, would they ever have known if the blood hadn't worked? What I mean is, they said that if the blessed blood didn't work, they'd have to kill Dean, but they simply kept injecting him over and over until he had track marks like a junkie and was human again. At what point would they have decided it wasn't working?
- What. The. Hell. was up with that end scene? Another red-headed demonic baddie?? Pinning victims to the ceiling? What, did the YED and Abbadon have a daughter?
The brothers, reunited. I read a quote on Goodreads once: "“It's a commonly expressed and rather nice, romantic notion that we are all sisters and brothers. Let's be real. Fact is, we might be better served to accept that we are all siblings. Siblings fight, pull each other's hair, steal stuff, and accuse each other indiscriminately. But siblings also know the undeniable fact that they are the same blood, share the same origins, and are family. Even when they hate each other. And that tends to put all things in perspective.” - Vera Nazarian
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I used to apply the dynamics between the Winchester brothers to myself and my siblings. Especially one particular sister, who has since written me off and no longer speaks to me. After awhile, though, things shifted with the brothers and I stopped being able to see the similarities between them and us and resigned myself to just watching the brothers for the sake of the story.
Tonight, I got a bit of that back. For example, Sam saying that this family is all we have ever had at first hit me as so hypocritical. I found myself almost physically resisting the fact that he said that line with such conviction. Really, Sam? REALLY? You who have walked away from your brother over and over again, who basically said flat-out that you weren't brothers last season, this is the argument you're going with? But then I thought about that sister who no longer speaks to me (the reasons are long and ridiculous and I won't bore you with them) and I realized that if she were ever to willingly reunite with me, it would be because she came to a similar realization.
And then I thought about what the last four(ish) months had to have been like for Sam. To start with, he was already regretting his stubborn stance at the end of last season. With his brother bleeding out in his arms, he said he'd lied about not being willing to save Dean. And then Dean goes and dies on him, which broke him in ways he hadn't truly anticipated. I mean, as far as Sam knew...this was dead dead. He's lived through Dean dying because of Hellhounds, but knew where he was going and why and from the moment he watched Dean be torn to shreds was formulating a plan to get him back. He's lived through Dean dying because of a time-loop, but he had the hope that stopping the time-loop stopped Dean from dying.
This death was terrifyingly final. And Sam was alone. And it wasn't at all what he'd claimed he wanted. It was painful and quiet and frightening and he was willing to make a deal to bring his big brother back because he just...couldn't move forward. He couldn't even try to move forward. Not without Dean. Nothing made sense for him without his brother in the world and he didn't know that until it was brought into stark reality for him.
But then, it wasn't just about Dean dying. Of course not. It had to be so much bigger than that.
Dean had to be missing and a demon and Sam pushed his moral compass to the absolute limits. Sure, he didn't mean to allow Lester to trade his soul, but...he knew that was a risk. And he took it anyway. And he ended up getting someone killed and their soul damned to Hell. But he did it because family is all he's ever had. And that truth hit him like a lightning strike the moment it was taken from him. And he had to get it back. He had to get Dean back. No matter what.
So, I got it. Eventually, I got it and I realized that it wasn't hypocritical of him to say that; it was a realization coming to life. And now? Sam has completely annihilated any claims to the contrary. He can no longer say he wouldn't do whatever it took to save Dean. Because he did. He has. Exact same circumstances, he did what Dean did to save his brother. And he did it because family is all they've ever had.
When things get back to whatever they now define as 'normal' I hope there is the opportunity to talk about that. Maybe not in a chick-flick moment, caring-sharing way, but somehow recognize the fact that Dean agreeing to have an angel possess Sam to save his life and Sam talking some dude into making a crossroads deal to find Dean...really not all that different. It all comes down to intent, boys.
As for demon!Dean's hurtful words and accusations? I know that they were like...80% demon-fueled, but part of me had to wonder to the truth of some of that. It was mean, cruel and not at all something Dean would have said to Sam without supernatural influence, but I could actually see where Dean would have honestly felt some of that. I thought back to that sister and how sometimes I miss her and sometimes I am angry with her and sometimes I just...quit her. She causes me pain and pain is really not fun, so maybe having her cut me out of her life is actually the best thing to happen to my life.
Dean's, Let me go live my life. I won't bother you. What do you care? comment is what first caught me. The first image of demon!Dean we saw was someone who really just wanted to be. He wasn't all innocently off in the countryside raising bees, sure, but it hurt to be human and he was tired of hurting. He just wanted to drink beer and have sex and eat chicken wings and not care about what happened to anyone. A-N-Y-O-N-E. Of course, from there, and due in part to Crowley's manipulation, Dean got a bit more dangerous and violent, but part of me wonders if Crowley had left him alone, how much trouble would demon!Dean actually have caused. He really just wanted to go live his (demonized) life.
His 'what do you care' question was, it felt, actually rather genuine. Sam put a lot of effort into conveying to Dean that they were basically business associates only, hunting together simply because there were so few hunters left. They were not brothers. That is what Dean carried with him right up until the moment of his death and one I lied apology wouldn't have erased that for him. I can see where Dean -- demon or not -- would have been confused as to why 'saving' him mattered at all to Sam.
The litany of purposefully hurtful words he tossed Sam's way, I could see kernels of truth in them. Especially what he said about John. I think there is pain in there about what John's choices did to their lives that Dean hasn't begun to tap, and probably never will while actually Dean. The thing he said about Sam's existence sucking the life out of Dean's life...painful, just painful, but also? I can see why he might think that. Since, really? Dean has had no life. And he lost any semblance of choice when he was four.
It's like the dark thoughts you never allow yourself to recognize you have...the flashes of frustration or selfishness that you feel and choose to ignore. The words that float to the surface in moments of anger or weariness or sadness. You don't truly mean them, but you're human and they appear and the feelings are there for just that second and then the good side of you or the kind side or whatever creates the light within you squashes them and it's as though they never were. That's what burbled out of demon!Dean.
And I think that's why it hurt Sam so much to hear them. Because he knew that on levels his brother would never acknowledge and probably didn't even truly recognize, Dean actually felt some of those things. That's why those scenes were so awesomely intense. Jensen and Jared really brought their A-games to that interaction because I found myself feeling for Sam and Dean...while Dean was a demon!
I wonder how much of his time as a demon Dean will retain. Because he really didn't want to be human again, and I think Cas was right: it was because it hurt too much. Dean -- our Dean -- is more often than not in constant, soul-weary pain. He carries everything inside of him and there's no one he thinks can help him bear the burden. He has no Samwise Gamgee to carry him; he is Samwise. And now that he's back in that space, if he also remembers everything he did as a demon? Good grief.
Not to mention he has to once more be human with the Mark and no Blade, and we all saw how great that went for him last season. Sam saved him, and I'm glad to have him back, but I've gotta wonder how glad Dean will be. He wanted to die, after all. He wanted to die rather than become what the Mark was turning him into. And not only did he NOT die, but he became the thing he feared most and he's gotta carry that around with him. This is big.
Dean being cured. I have to say I'm happy and suspicious at the same time. I want Dean back, but I'm honestly surprised that it happened so early in the season and that makes me wonder if there is going to be any latent demon-ness in him. Clearly we still have the Mark to contend with, but I don't think it will be possible for him to just be...fine. Just be Dean again after that. After dying and demonizing and going through the cure. I really hope we see the fall-out of all of this for him.
Cas being involved in Dean's being saved. Okay, I know. Cas is part of the tribe. His fate is tied to the Winchesters in more than one way. And Sam called him for help and we needed to get him connected to the boys again and all of that. I get it. It's cool, it is. I just wish he would have shown up after Sam had pushed enough blessed blood into Dean that he'd brought him back without Cas swooping in like a superhero and saving Sam from getting hammered. So to speak. Plus it's all really confusing that Crowley, in effect, saved Dean, too. Because he saved Cas, who saved Sam, who injected Dean for long enough that he came back. I know Crowley claimed he simply wanted Dean "taken care of" which could have meant killing him if the blood didn't work, but...after that mancrush montage, part of me doubts he ever really thought it wouldn't work.
Cas getting borrowed grace again. At this point? I think I'm just glad that he's not sickly and dying anymore. I don't know what it will end up meaning for him, though I'm pretty sure we'll have to see Metatron again...and probably Hannah. Speaking of, she doesn't have borrowed grace and is not sickly and dying...how is it that Adena chick was able to kick both their asses? Why wasn't Hannah able to fight back, use her angel powers a bit? For that matter, why were they driving around getting lost on maps she couldn't read? Why didn't she just zap them to the bunker? Is there a power loss there I am missing?
I will say, though, that I thought Cas' whole letting her down easy method was sweet, if a little awkward.
Crowley. I don't know. He's still the King of Hell, but is pining away for Dean? He's killing all those who betrayed him, but then has a demon who protests the demon killing and would rather set himself on fire than live in Crowley's Hell? He saves Cas (again)? I mean, WT...H?? We have angels killing out of vengeance, demons basically flagellating in protest of killing...black is white, up is down, dogs and cats are living together....
The ending. Okay, so here's the thing. I will admit I wanted a brotherly hug, or some relieved I missed you, man emotion from the brothers. It's my soft, fanfic-writer's heart rearing its head, there. However, I get that after all they've been through, it wasn't the right time for a Winchester hug and one perfect tear. Dean was still rattled and trying to figure out where he was, when he was, why he was, who he was. Sam was exhausted and had just spent hours trying to de-demonize his brother without getting his head smushed in. SO, yeah. I get it. And ending it with Dean and Cas connecting with Cas advising Dean to rest and heal was a nice way to bring Cas fully into the picture. I would have been totally okay with that after the emotional wringing out experienced watching the rest of the episode.
But then...that totally random shot of what will probably end up being The Big Bad?? What the hell was that? Is there some significance to Tulsa that I'm not remembering? The fact that she is a she and a ginger has me frowning and docking their originality points. But, the fact that her victims are pinned to the ceiling actually has me intrigued. We haven't seen that in awhile. So, while my interest may be minorly piqued at this point regarding the possible new Big Bad...I still really wish they'd ended on one or both of the brothers. It's a minor quibble in the midst of a fantastic episode, though, so I'm willing to shrug it off and see what else is in store for us with The Rest of the Story. ;)
Okay, I think that's it for now! Can't wait to see your thoughts and chat about this epi with you. Thanks for reading!