Hope that this is a bit more 'on time' for you after the lateness of the Ramble for 10.15, The Things They Carried. I may even get to post on Wednesday night next week; yesterday was the hubs' birthday and I really couldn't bring myself to pick Dean Winchester over him, you understand.
So, let's Ramble, shall we?
First, let me say that overall, I enjoyed this episode. There were some key points that really stuck out for me (confession anyone?), but I have to make a brief observation before I get into discussing the benefits of watching the Winchesters in the morning. And this is truly an observation at this point, not completely a complaint. I feel it's a bit too soon to officially complain because we still have 7 more episodes to go and a lot can happen in 7 episodes.
There are too many storylines.
Now, I can see where that could be advantageous from a plot perspective -- if -- all of the storylines somehow manage to converge into one spectacular reveal in the season finale that has us cursing the hiatus as we wait to see what is in store for us in Season (holy cow) 11. For example, if Crowley's unwillingness to kill the Winchesters somehow leads to the downfall of his power in Hell in a (some might say) tragic twist of fate, or if the fact that his mother is now 'hunting' the Men of Letters to avenge her lost witchy life somehow turns up a solution to the Mark of Cain that the boys hadn't found, or perhaps uncovers a solution to Castiel's borrowed grace...I don't know. It would have to really be one of those Oh my God I did NOT see that coming moments for me to not ultimately lodge a complaint (so to speak).
So, I'm waiting them out. Because what I care about is the Mark and brothers storyline. I get that they can't spend 23 episodes focusing on that in a believable fashion, but going about it the way they are now runs the risk of (once again) dropping story threads and just letting them trail off into the dust until they're frayed and forgotten. Like a leaderless Heaven. Or Castiel's ticking clock on life. Right now, I trust that they'll grab them up and the reform the rope and the reason we're focusing on Rowena and Crowley so much lately is because they are somehow going to be key to the structure of the Jenga tower that is Season 10.
Not that I didn't find some of the Rowena vs Olivette parts of this episode to be entertaining. Of course, the whole thing was set up for that reveal that the Men of Letters wiped out the Grand Coven of witches (which, duh, obviously...though I never thought of it *shifty-eyes*), but there were some quirky exchanges and events that got my lips tipping upward in okay, I suppose I'm not all together bored with this scene intrigue. I had thought Rowena committed some kind of heinous sin against witch law to get her banished, but it seems that it was simply a power struggle. After all, she apparently slept with a Muggle and her son was (Hermione, forgive me) a Mudblood. If that wasn't bad enough, she dared challenge the black cats and broom sticks stereotype to try for some real power. For shame.
Her solution to her problem was very Buffy: The Vampire Slayer of her. *approves and is amused* I wouldn't be surprised if we see Olivette again. After all, Willow brought Amy back at one point when another witch was needed, right? Hey, if the trope ain't broke, don't fix it.
The ghost story was...eh. The manner in which the ghost killed was horrific. I had to look away from the image of the dead priest, and I can watch The Walking Dead without flinching (well, mostly...sometimes I need my Pillow of Protection). But the overall story was...only okay, IMO. Maybe I'm just too cynical, but from the moment we saw Isabelle's first flashback to when she was all, paint me like one of your French girls, Jack, I figured she was the ghost. The room where she sat for the painting and Pierro's clothes were way old school, so when they did that whole, Florence, Italy, 1520 reveal I was like, okay, yep, figured that. I will say that I did suspect the other Nun (did we ever get her name? I was calling her CSI: Nun because she was all about the M.O. and motive...I'll just stick with that.) at first because she was sooooo sympathetic to Isabelle -- practically encouraging her to spill her pain as though living vicariously through her story -- and she was very calm when speaking with the "Agents," but I'm glad I was wrong about her, for a number of reasons.
I like that it wasn't as easy as burning the journal to get rid of Isabelle, and seriously? The concept around what held her spirit in the world put a whole different spin on 'finger painting.' I did feel a bit sad for Isabelle, though. She was burned at the stake, accused of witchcraft (hey! -- tenuous link to other storyline we were watching!) because of the heinous way she dispatched Pierro and his lover (and was it me or was that sex scene one of the raciest we've seen since the Sam + new!Ruby years??). So, the fact that to save Dean and stop Isabelle from killing meant that her spirit also had to burn made me wince a bit inside for her. I mean...yeah, she caused the deaths of innocents. And the horrified reaction of the woman who scissor-stabbed her own husband while possessed by Isabelle alone should have made me want her 86'd, but...I still felt a bit of sorrow for her.
She'd been poisoned by her obsession and it burned her body and soul.
As per usual, my favorite thing about the episode was the underlying brother story -- the backside of the hunt, if you will. One of the things that I appreciate about our show is how it consistently tries to tell two stories in one when it comes to the brothers. Sometimes not so well and sometimes rather anvil-like, but still. There is the hunt, and then the heart. I typically like the heart story best, as I did with this one. With the hunt aspect, Sam has once more narrowed his obsessive focus on his quest: save Dean. Anything else that is not that is just an irritant, even if it is their job. Meanwhile, Dean wants to keep his eye on the ball, not the Mark. Focus on the job so he doesn't have to think about anything else. Focus on something he knows he's good at, something that makes a difference in the world, something that offers him the opportunity to balance his ledger a bit with more good than bad. While Sam's pouting about hacking the vic's cell phone, Dean's basically like, don't harsh my squee, man.
And really? When have either of them ever been wrong when they've suspected a hunt? No matter whose hunt-radar is squealing, they are always right, regardless of the other brother's protestations. So, you know Sam knew this was a hunt the whole time, he just didn't want to shift his focus from his primary objective. Initially. As per usual with our favorite little brother, though, once he's in, he's all in. And he's once more clear-headed and thinking 'big picture' about the whole thing -- enough so that he was able to disregard Dean's order to burn the journal and discover what was really tying Isabelle to this particular spiritual plane. Although, I do have to question Sam's ability to read the journal. I figured it was written in Italian, being that Isabelle was from Florence. The only thing that would make sense is if it was written in Latin, but...1520 seems pretty late for her to be writing in Latin. *hand-waves*
I love the consistency of Sam's focus on Dean, especially at the end with his rah-rah speech. As I mentioned in the Ramble for last week's episode, the last time Dean made peace with his fate -- Season 3, when he sold his soul in exchange for Sam's life -- he also feared dying. In fact, the only time he hasn't said he was afraid of dying was the time he actually did die. And back in Season 3 Sam was wholly focused on finding a way, on saving his brother. He failed then, and it has to have haunted him every day since. He needs it to be different this time (and honestly, so do we). Therefore, his words to Dean felt so very him and also so very tragically mired in history, I had to rub my heart.
"Don't go making peace with that, Dean. There has to be a way. We will find a way. It's what we do. So believe in that."
I'm generalizing, I know, but I think that the reason Sam is able to believe and Dean doubts it is that when it's been Sam in this situation (with the exception of the Cage), a way has been found. It's been through sacrifice and perceived betrayal, yes, but Sam has been saved. When Dean's been in this situation...he's been torn up by Hellhounds and spent 40 years on the rack. So, I can see why each of them are where they are when it comes to saving Dean from the effects of the Mark.
The layers we saw of Dean in this episode reminded me that even when we're watching a MotW story, we are treated to a depth in a character very few others have matched (at least for me). He covers his vulnerability up with sarcasm and lasciviousness, but the sad-eyed blink in which we can see his heart, his fear, his broken and damaged soul is enough to forgive him the cracks about a 'hot nun' or channeling Garfield the Cat in the confessional (...the sex, the lasagna...). That is why I am glad I was wrong about CSI: Nun because Dean really wanted to know how she could make a choice that changed her life -- let go of one life to embrace another so completely. The look of recognition and pain in his eyes as she told him that her life had become too painful and that her hopelessness drove her to find something larger than herself to focus on hit me in the gut.
Of course he would shake that off so that he could fool himself into thinking that Sam didn't hear any of it -- protecting himself with that veneer of the ambivalent jerk who cares nothing about all of this love and betrayal and confession crap and is exactly the person the ghost might go after. He can exude this false bravado that he has no problem painting a target on his back because either he's confident in Sam's hunting abilities or he doesn't care if he ends up gutting himself with a candlestick...but it's clearly a lie. And the moment he exhales in that confessional, thinking about the priest's suggestion to do some soul searching, the truth is exposed inside the safety of that dark booth where no one can see him, fear for him, judge him. He can open his heart to a stranger he feels no obligation to and what he exposes is something we all knew to be true, but weren't sure if he realized it for himself.
"What if I said I didn't want to die...yet? I wasn't ready. [...] I thought the work I do is all there was to me. Turn the key in the ignition and haul ass until I run out of gas. [...] Recent events made me think I might be closer than I really thought. There's things, people, feelings...I want to experience differently than I have before. Or maybe even for the first time."
His eyes are so sad in that moment, there was such a truth and a vulnerability there, I felt myself nodding. When Sam was called to confess during the Trials, his words were so raw and sincere and heartbreaking...I was afraid when Dean started the whole confession scene with awkward comments about 'Gina' and too many women his intense discomfort at exposing any vulnerability or his pain from feeling betrayed and abandoned by the Being who was -- at least according to faith and scripture -- supposed to preserve and protect him would just turn the whole moment into a joke. So seeing his honesty gave me hope for where they'll ultimately take this character.
The priest's reply that learning there's more to the universe than your tiny world being frightening really resonated with me...and is something I would dearly love others in my life to appreciate. Dean's statement about God struck me on multiple levels, though: "I believe there is a God, but I am not sure he still believes in us."
I have found myself contemplating that very thing at trying times in my life. But aside from the personal resonance, I started to wonder where these little treads might be taking us for Dean's story. IF he is able to be rid of the Mark...what kind of different choices might he make? How would he choose to live if not keeping his eye on the ball and focusing on the job, peddle to the metal? And will his statement about God perhaps every come into play with the angel thread they've seemingly dropped? We all know in the Supernatural 'verse, God's pretty much left the building...will he return, I wonder?
I like Dean being saved by Sam in this one; I think they do a fair amount of trade-offs on who saves whose ass, but Dean's belief system was questioned and he was the one to head to the confessional and put himself up as a possible target, so it bookended that nicely. And I also appreciated the fact that Sam was driving at the end, Dean even wincing a bit from the after-effects of having a super-strong vengeful spirit pin him to the wall by his throat while trying to gut him. Regular people don't just bounce away from that like Tigger. I appreciated the small amount of visual consequences they bore from their battle.
Once again, I missed the previews, but I'm actually okay with that because it was fun going into this one a bit blind. Okay, lists!
- "One expects to suffer in Hell." But, dude, even demons have their limits.
- "Without me, sunshine, you wouldn't exist." And therein lies the crux of all my current familial angst.
- Sam's pout-turned-bitchface: "Probably full of nude selfies."
- Agents Allman and Betts. Followed very closely by Sam accidentally calling Dean by the wrong alias. Ha!
- Dean's awkward do I bow? do I nod? maneuver when he and CSI: Nun paused in front of the altar.
- "I'm sure it's a different question."
- "She married Jesus."
- The notice for the next sermon on the church marque: "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" -- The Hollies and Jesus (EFW, I totally thought of you!)
- "How long has it been since my last confession?" "You've never been to confession." "That's too long."
- Crowley's smug: "The storm before the storm." and "You kids have fun now." dismissive comments to his mother and her nemesis.
- The fact that even I had to smirk at Olivette's look of horror when Rowena revealed that her son was the King of Hell. "Total Cinderella story, I'd say."
- Learning that the MoL's basically erased the Grand Coven. Good on ya, fellas.
- "Hiya, Father." "Pardon me?" "Pardon you? I thought it was the other way around."
- Dean's whole confession -- the way his mercurial eyes shifted and we could see the second he registered the opportunity he had to truly open up. And the way he held his mouth in between bouts of honesty -- did you notice that? How his lips were almost-but-not-quite pursed so that it looked like he couldn't decide if he needed to speak or simply exhale. I liked how that gave the whole scene a sense of breathlessness.
- "As a spiritual person, I've accepted many planes of existence." I like that. I may have to have that as a motto. Well, one of them. I have a lot of mottos.
- The looks of wait, what on the boys' faces as they take in the news that CSI: Nun deals with ghosts on a regular basis.
- Dean's desperate call out to his brother to burn the journal when it was clear he was losing the battle with possessed CSI: Nun.
- Rowena's solution for her nemesis. Poor Olivette. Despite all her rage, she's still just a rat in a cage. (Oh, come on, I had to).
- Sam driving. Dean wincing.
- Dean's camouflaged 'thanks' to Sam for not listening to him and therefore saving his life.
- Sam revealing that he knows Dean is doing the same thing CSI: Nun said she was doing -- hiding his pain by taking on a mission.
- Sam making Dean agree that they will find a way, even though Dean's mental *gulp* was plain as day.
- The back-and-forth shifting between the Rowena story and the boys' story. Starting to feel like (once again) we need a score card to keep track of the various threads going on in this season.
- Sam suddenly able to read Italian. Or, conversely, a young girl's diary from the 16th century being written in Latin. Neither really worked for me.
- Anyone else starting to think that Crowley's reticence to kill the Winchesters has less to do with affection and more to do with him running a really long, really evil con? I find myself hoping so. It would help serve the "did not see that coming" wish for the end of the season.
- Do we know where Castiel actually went? Last we saw him was prior to the hiatus when Sam said that Dean was in trouble. We don't know what the angel is off doing at the moment, do we? I'm hoping he's discovering how to survive with borrowed grace or digging (literally) information out of Metatron.