I have, in the past, been accused (either lovingly or derisively so) of being terminally positive when it comes to our Show. Which I take both as a compliment and exception to. I mean, yes, I tend to head for the sunny side of the street -- I like seeing the good in things -- but I believe I've also made more than a half-way decent attempt to call a spade a spade when they've lost the plot, gone off the map, or made me hand wave and tilt my head so much I look like a 19th century corseted woman with the vapors.
So, when I say I enjoyed this episode -- even with the Rowena scenes -- you know it's genuine. *smiles*
I'm going to work from what I'd consider the top of the Triangle of Like down -- the bottom being the OMG I loved that level. Let's start with Rowena (though my automatic lip-snarl when it comes to Metatron makes his story a fierce contender for top of the Triangle of Like...as it is, he barely deserves a passing mention). Thus far this season when the scene shifted away from the boys to the Hellish Queen Mother I would sigh and allow my attention to waver a bit. But in Inside Man, her story (finally) started to converge with the brothers' story. AND I loved how her continuously duplicitous nature pushed her son over the edge of choosing a side. It's ironic, isn't it, that Crowley once bellowed the demand to Dean to choose a side when he wasn't really able to do so himself until he had a heart-to-heart with Dean about family?
But the thing that I find the most compelling about her story right now is the way she reacted to the news that Dean bore the Mark of Cain. She barely flinched. It was more of a relief, it seemed, to have a viable reason for her blood-sigil spell not working on Dean. She simply shrugged and said that it was just a curse -- the first curse, sure, but still just a curse. And it could be removed. But, her initial catalyst for figuring out how to get rid of the Mark was to kill Dean and remove his influence from Crowley's life. But now that Crowley has kicked her out of Hell (and how's that gonna look on her resume, huh? "Kicked out of Hell by son."), will she no longer care about eliminating Dean? Or will she now care MORE about it? We've already seen that she's a pretty firm believer in the healing powers of revenge...she's now got an axe to grind against both Dean for "poisoning" Crowley against her and Crowley for kicking her out.
I think it would be rather compelling if the solution to the Mark of Cain came from the mother of the King of Hell. After all, the curse originated from the former ruler of Hell. And we've already established that Metatron is a lying liar who lies. Actually, I can't decide if he's lying about lying about knowing anything about the Mark, or if he's telling the truth about lying about knowing anything about the Mark. O_o
Either way, I've currently more trust in the King of Hell than the Scribe of God. And if that's not sideways, I don't know what is.
Moving down the triangle (it's a pretty short, fat triangle), is the whole secretive Mission: Impossible efforts between Cas and Sam. Cas' sweet-faced expressions of worry when it came to Dean's situation juxtaposed to his hard-eyed determination when confronted with Metatron were satisfying to see. I loved, too, how quickly they were able to shift to a Plan B when boy-Hannah denied Castiel entrance into Heaven. I was a little worried about the seance scene since the last time one was attempted involving Cas, the medium's eyes were burned out, but doing so with the mind-reading atheist was nicely effective. I applauded their double-cross of Metatron when he confessed to lying about the "river ending at the source" (or was he??). I toooootally did not see the whole grace-theft coming. That was awesome. And now, it seems, that Metatron is no longer a viable contender for providing a solution to the Mark, but if he can help get Cas' grace back, as Darth Vader might say, "He may yet be of some use to us." I want Cas to be whole and healthy and grace-filled.
Down further still was Bobby. I miss that character. I miss his orneriness and how he provided stability to both boys in a way their own father hadn't been able to. I miss the way he'd knock their heads together and provide some wisdom -- often at the same time. I loved his private Heaven, feet up, sippin' whiskey, listening to Kenny Rogers, reading about Tori Spelling (I forgot he always had a thing for her). I loved that he was ready to step away from that in a heartbeat if it meant helping his boys. I loved his craftiness of instigating a soul revolt of the 'S' portion of Heavenly doors. And I loved his scenes with Cas -- his exasperation and understanding wrapped up in one grumpy frown. The letter he wrote Sam, though, was perfection. Sam needed that. Needed to hear that Bobby was proud of him, that he understood what he was doing, but also that he needed to stop this behind-Dean's-back crap before it got out of hand. I love that Bobby knows Dean so well that he can advise Sam in how to find his balance once more.
I only wish we knew what happened to him when those angels wandered into his Heaven -- will he be put into Heaven's jail? Kicked out completely?? And will they tie up that thread at some point or will we just have to torturously wonder as to his ultimate fate? *yipe*
That brings me to our favorite little brother. I have to say, I am loving Sam this season. I've always been a 'Dean-girl' but have also claimed from the start that Dean wouldn't be the Dean I love were it not for Sam (and then Dean had to go and echo that with his there ain't no me if there ain't no you plea). I love how his story is focused on saving his brother while also showing him different aspects of himself and his personality that he hasn't taken time to explore in a long while (being distracted as he was by nearly dying from the Trials and being possessed by an angel). I love absorbing his devotion and his tenacity and the way he wholly believes in certain people but isn't afraid to get his hands dirty. And I love, too, the vulnerability and loneliness he exposes when confronted with the near-impossibility of his quest.
The absolute panic on his face shifting to a helpless, empathetic pain when he was woken by Dean's frightened cry and then stood in witness to his brother's torment in the nightmare made me rub my heart. The fic-writer in me wanted him to go wake Dean and offer him words of comfort, but I understood why he didn't. Especially when Dean acted like nothing happened the next morning. Sam knows his brother well enough that if he were to call attention to the pain Dean was in, it would make Dean uncomfortable, withdrawn, and in all probability a bit surly in an effort to keep Sam from getting too close. It would be Dean's dual protection mode: protect himself from the pain of recognized vulnerability and protect Sam from whatever he might be capable of.
I love that Sam was not giving up on finding a way to save his brother -- to the point of doing a little bad for the sake of a bigger good. And most of all, I loved the look of longing -- for answers, for stability, for his brother to be okay, for Bobby to be back, for all of it together -- that crossed his face as he read Bobby's letter. *rubs heart*
And finally, the base of the triangle: Dean. I am really enjoying the complexity of his storyline right now. I love how at first we were like, wait, that's it? when he was de-demonized so early in the season, but then realized that his being a demon was just the tip of the iceberg. It's the continuing story of Dean's humanity that is driving him -- it's always been about his humanity, I now realize. For so long, it was the fact that he was the only one who'd maintained his humanity as a state of being when others were possessed or had powers or what have you. And now, it's about maintaining his humanity as a state of mind in the wake of death and demon-ization.
The beginning with his nightmare (and seriously, folks, the little h/c junkie inside me was doing backflips in my belly...how many times have I/we written a scene like that???) with that tormented voice crying out in both pain and fear, calling for Sam in the same way he did when trapped on the meat hooks in Hell, just...the whole way the Mark is torturing him at a level he refuses to outwardly recognize for the subconscious worry of giving it too much power is completely captivating to me. He fights to maintain a composed, 'regular Dean' facade -- giving his brother a hard time, looking for hunts, noshing on some (awesome looking) nachos, hustling pool -- while inside he's fighting a constant, exhausting battle.
Last week, we heard his confession that he wasn't ready to die. Having already died and having seen the worst side of himself (as a demon), he's finding himself wanting to explore the possibility of a life beyond the hunt. Beyond day after day of wading hip-deep in death and dying and killing and darkness. So now he's faced with overwhelming internal confrontation of his declaration that he is going to fight the Mark until he can't anymore and then he'll give in warring with his true desire to be the hero Rowena pinned him as, be the good guy, and live a life he's never before really considered a possibility. The way he forced himself to not kill the college kids that Rowena had put under an attack spell, and the way he sat down, like a battle-weary soldier, to talk with Crowley, just showcased the ever-present, ongoing fight that is tormenting his spirit and compelling his brother to find a way -- any way -- to save him.
I loved what he said about family so much I want to make it a Facebook status. In fact, I still may. It's what has defined this show, these brothers, from the start. It poetically echoed Bobby's words (and of course Dean would have no way of knowing how poignant that would be in that moment), and it showed that the Dean that cared nothing about people and life and the impacts of his actions when he was a demon is not the true Dean. Not even close.
"Family don't end in blood, but it doesn't start there, either. Family cares about you. Not what you can do for them. Family is there. Through the good, bad, all of it. They've got your back even when it hurts. That's family."
I have many things to include in my lists; I would love to know your lists as well. But first as a quickie note: it looks like we're skipping next week (April 8th) and returning the following Wednesday (April 15th). Mark your calendars.
- Sam instantly on alert, gun in hand, roaming the hallway the second Dean's cry of pain and fear wakes him. Aside: it made me wonder a bit how much of a subconscious mental shift they had to make when they moved to the bunker and picked separate rooms. Spending so many years sharing hotel rooms, getting used to the sound of each other's sleep, it had to have been difficult at first to learn how to sleep again.
- The sound of Dean's voice -- the fear and pain and panic captured in the tone -- when he cried out, "SAM!"
- Pretty much the whole nightmare. I know! I know, but I can't help it. SEEING the Mark affect him like that, even through a rough nightmare, is so much more satisfying than just hearing that it is affecting him.
- Dean in that red shirt. I think I need to say that one again. Dean. In that red shirt. *bites lip*
- The Winchesters having a Snow Day.
- "I say we get drunk and shoot crap." "We do that every day." Aside: really? They get drunk every day? Hmmm....
- "I trust you. Make good choices." Well, someone's seen Pitch Perfect.
- "Stay outta my room." And Dean subsequently disobeying and setting up every annoying brother booby trap in Sam's room as soon as Sam left.
- Cas' worried expression when Sam says that Dean is getting worse and they have to do something because nothing else is working.
- "Please stop talking."
- Product placement in Hell. Microsoft must be so proud.
- Dean being on a first name basis with the local bartender. To me, that means they've been in one place long enough to know the locals. They've sorta put down roots.
- The way Dean messed up his hair to look wasted in order to hustle the 'Abercrombie reject' college kids. Seriously, folks. That was one of those OMG I loved that bottom of the triangle moments.
- "I'll break it down." "Dude, Dude, Dude. Chill." "I'm helping!"
- "I'm an angel." "You can't be!" "Why not?" "Because I'm an atheist." "Not anymore" (Bonus points for Sam's little smirk.)
- Metatron being referred to as both a Hobbit and a Fraggle in one episode.
- Dean hustling pool again. I mean, we know they did it because they told us, but I think this might be one of the few (if not only) times where we've gotten to actually watch him in action, going from the soused sucker losing every shot to the cool, controlled master who doesn't even give the other guy a moment to take a breath.
- Bobby's hat. *rubs heart*
- Rowena using Crowley's greeting with the college boys.
- The startled reaction from Dean when he catches a glimpse of the (real or imagined?) flash of black demon eyes in the mirror.
- "You remember when this job was just chopping up some fang & tossing back a cold one?" "I miss that." Yeah. Me too, actually.
- Bobby referring to himself as Steve McQueen. I <3 Steve McQueen and The Great Escape was one of his best movies.
- "Did I say nice girl? I meant evil skank." "You say that like it's an insult."
- Dean's fight -- both physical and internal -- with the cursed college boys, followed by Rowena challenging the hero in him: save them, or kill her.
- "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in." Nice Godfather shout-out, Bobby.
- "Balls!" Because of the reason.
- Crowley's blase, "Rough date, mother?"
- "He's Bobby. He can handle anything."
- The fact that I thought when Dean said, "We gonna do this," to Crowley we were going to see a fight and we ended up seeing two guys having a heart-to-heart over drinks.
- Door #42. Oh, how I love clever writers. Thank you, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, for providing us with the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, The Universe, and Everything.
- "Welcome to the party." I wish wish wish Bobby would have channeled Die Hard's John McClain and added a 'pal' at the end of that line. *smiles*
- The irony of Crowley calling Dean out for being a lying liar who lies.
- Crowley's umbrella drink.
- "I'm playing Dr. Phil to the King of Hell. Never saw that coming." "Maybe we're getting old." "Never saw that coming, either."
- The whole speech about family (see above).
- "You're gonna be my punching bag."
- Sam and Cas turning the leverage tables on Metatron and their smug expressions when they threw his own smarmy words back in his face.
- "I'm choosing me." Never thought I'd say it, but good for you, Crowley.
- "I'm bloody CROWLEY! The King of Hell! I do what I want when I want!" And apparently, what he wants is to not kill our boys at the moment, so I'm okay with that. Even if he's more of a pet at the moment than a scary demon.
- Sam reading Bobby's letter. And everything the letter said. In particular: "You're a good man, Sam Winchester. One of the best. I'm proud of you." And, "Kick it in the ass." *sniff*
- Anyone else think this episode's "THEN" was waaaay too long? I mean, if you have to show that much of the previous episodes for people to get where we are in the story, maybe your overall plotting could use a bit of tightening up, yeah? And what was with all the close-ups of Rowena's face? That was...awkward. Unless they are subliminally telling us that she is the key to all of this. *shrug*
- The angels not letting Cas into Heaven at all. I mean, sure I get that they don't want him to break out Metatron, but not to let him in at all? *frowns*
- Dean not giving the college kid's watch back. Yes, it's consistent with the hustles he would have run in the past, and yes, the kid didn't have to bet it in the first place, but it made me sad that they added that bit about it having been a gift from his dad and Dean didn't need the watch. Oh, well, at least he saved the kid's life in the end. That's worth more than a watch.
- The fact that Metatron lied about the "River will end at the source" line. Or at least claimed that he did. Hrm.
- Sam getting the jump on the one angel protecting the Door to Heaven, and then having enough time for them to de-grace Metatron when before, four angels emerged from the woodwork (literally) to stop Cas from going topside.
- Not knowing Bobby's fate when the angels came into his private Heaven. *worried*
- All right, show of hands, who thinks Metatron is lying about not knowing anything concerning the Mark? I mean, really? He wrote down everything God said from the beginning of time. Was he really making that river line up?
- I've really gotta wonder if they are going to have to bring Lucifer into this whole thing at some point. I think it would be an excellent cliffhanger if Rowena decided that she was going to figure out how to remove the curse just so she could kill Dean and get revenge on her betrayer of a son, and the solution she discovers somehow triggers bringing Lucifer from the cage -- potentially leaving us with a de-Marked Dean (who would then be once more fully human and vulnerable) and Lucifer (and possibly Michael) running amuck as the S11 arc. I've kind of given up on the idea that they'll ever go back to the "simple" saving people, hunting things days of yore.
- More of a hopefully musing than a burning question, but, I wonder if Sam will tell Dean what he and Cas did and show him the letter. One would think that at some point -- if the roadtrip to get Cas' grace back is successful -- he'll have to, right?
Hope to hear from you!