Okay, so the writers are not perfect. They could tighten up plots and clarify character motivation and pay a bit more attention to the history of their own show. But...that said, when they get things right, this show just purrs. Like the Impala on an open road. So much about this episode felt like a purr to me.
Not just this episode, honestly, but the season thus far. There are some secrets still out there--Dean's struggle with defining what it is he feels toward Amara, for example--but by and large, the Really Big Things are out in the open between the brothers and they are acting like...brothers. Bound by something bigger than family, more important than blood. They are bound by choice and circumstance and devotion. It steps into the spotlight to be catalogued and recognized in various ways.
It's an off-handed remark about making reservations for an "old-folks home," with an unspoken assumption that they'll still be side-by-side when they're seventy. It's a heart-to-heart at the edge of a freshly dug grave, with allowances made for aches too deep to be captured by words. It's repeated assertions that their lives wouldn't be livable without each other. And it's a no-look beer can toss.
I haven't liked Sam as much as I'm liking him this season since...well, Season 5, honestly. His devotion to Dean--declaring to Lucifer that Dean was going to kick his ass, telling the hunter Ailene that he wouldn't want to do this without his brother--has warmed my heart and drawn me closer to him. His restless sleep at the start of this episode was completely understandable, not only because he was in the cage with Lucifer, but also because he believed--he wanted to believe so badly--that God was speaking to him. That God actually had some skin in the game for once, and was helping them out.
Finding out that he'd been duped so maliciously and so completely had to be utterly demoralizing. It wasn't just the cage and the fight and saying no after the stroll down Bad Memory Lane...it was that he wanted to believe and was wrong. That has to tip his snowglobe in a serious way. And it's one of the reasons, I think, he's found his anchor in his belief in Dean. No matter what, Dean has forgiven him--as evidenced by their bro moment in the kitchen when Sam poignantly confessed to his guilt at not looking for Dean while he was in Purgatory--and has protected him (to their mutual detriment, at times).
Sam's recognition of this is his anchor into a belief that even if TPTB keep messing with them, they at least--and always--have each other. You can see him clinging to that as he tries to find balance again post-Lucifer encounter. Which makes me happy and worries me in equal measure. Because...what if. Y'know? How is it going to impact this balance, when he finds out that Castiel said yes--undermining every stance Sam took with one word--and that Lucifer is out in the world? What might happen to his anchor if this murky connection/attraction Dean has with Amara turns out to be something that sucks Dean under and sends him darkside...or worse?
Sam's walking a very thin line right now, and I don't know if he actually realizes it. Or...he's purposely not looking directly at that line because if he does, it'll eat him alive.
I try not to start these Rambles talking about Dean because I could spend hours on this character and I am trying to strike my own balance, but oh my gosh. This character owns me. I've been alternately intrigued and puzzled by this connection he has to Amara. I like that he doesn't get it -- can't define it. He doesn't want it to be attraction because he doesn't like what that says about him. She is The Darkness. She is The Monster that he is destined to destroy. And yet because of a choice he made years ago, she is bound to him and him to her. Their destinies are somehow intertwined, it seems.
And goodness, layer Mildred's "follow your heart" and "I know when someone is pining for someone else" comments on top of his already tangled up feelings (is it connection? is it attraction?) and Dean is a tortured mess inside.
It's unclear (to me) if what happens to Amara happens to Dean and visa versa when it comes to their existence, though I think that is somewhat unlikely. Because if it means that she dies if Dean is killed, I think she'd be keeping him as close as Voldemort kept Nagini. Plus, when she was nearly smited (smote?) and weakened, Dean would have felt that somehow. I think it's more the fact that they cannot--or will not--kill each other that is the big thing. And what does that mean for Dean, that he can't/won't kill The Monster that is threatening to destroy all life as we know it? That just goes against the very fabric of his being, the way he's defined himself, the truth he's had to cling to when every single rug he's every stood on in life has been yanked from beneath his feet.
I honestly thought that the Banshee was going to go after Sam--I never once believed it was going to be Mildred and her A-fib--because he was damaged by his misplaced trust in his visions and by Lucifer's taunts. But I should have realized that Sam is--and in a way has always been--stronger than Dean when it comes to the core of himself. The one thing about Dean (IMO) that has never changed is that his human soul is bright and purposeful, but his human resilience and resistance is fragile, broken, and breakable because of every punch life/the universe has thrown at him. I specify 'human' here because I don't feel the same way about Demon!Dean, but that's a whole different Ramble.
Dean is, in a word, vulnerable. More so than Sam because he constantly puts up such a wall of deflection and resistance, where Sam allows himself to be open, sharing his thoughts and heart with people like Charlie, like Ailene. Sam allows his emotions to strengthen him while Dean...Dean sees his emotions as a weakness.
Dean leaves you before you can leave him. He makes jokes so you don't see his fractures. He shoots first because asking questions opens wounds. In hindsight, it's clear that his uncertainty about Amara, his uncertainty about himself and the lingering effects of the Mark of Cain and his journey from death back to life, would make him a prime target for the Banshee. And it's also just as clear that he'd never realize that. He'd think he's got this, he's in control. Because it's the front he desperately needs everyone to see.
The moment he heard the screaming I thought, of course...of course it has to be him.
The only thing I'll fault this episode for is Sam not clueing in to the fact that Dean's explanation for why the Banshee zeroed in on him was practically anorexic. He heard the screams before she even showed up. He clutched his head in pain and fell to the floor before she even showed up. The vulnerability clearly didn't have to be physical: while the boys wouldn't have known about Mr. Lahey's depression causing him to be a target, they certainly knew about Arnold's heartbreak over his pending divorce. I wanted Sam to think that something hinky was up...that his brother's vulnerability was screaming for help, it's just a scream that Dean (ironically) could not hear.
But, then, all in good time, right? We found out that Sam did, in fact, tell Dean about Billie. And we also finally got the conversation about Purgatory that I've been dying to hear for a few years now. So, it's entirely possible that Sam will realize that Dean's in trouble and make the mental link to the Banshee attack when the next Big Thing hits. Discovering why Cas is acting a little 'off' for example. Especially considering who Dean actually confessed his connection confusion to.
Before I get to my lists, one last topic: Casifer (or is it Lustiel?). There were a few notable things for me from this episode: 1) Lucifer taking a moment to stop and smell the roses, enjoying earth, relishing the things he didn't realize he missed, giving his angelic brother a chance to choose sides before snap-smiting him...it's interesting to watch Lucifer do something other than terrorize a Winchester; 2) the fact that he can't just...hone in, or whatever, on Amara and has to tear up the bunker looking for ways to draw her out in the open...whether to fight her or to join her, I'm still not sure; 3) the way he could so expertly emulate Castiel's behavior to the point that Dean actually confessed his failure to kill Amara (though, he did actually try with the knife, so...).
That awesomely evil smile that graced the face we've come to know as Castiel had me very, very worried for Dean. I think he's going to become a pawn in a very dangerous game of chess quite soon.
Things I liked:
- The title: Into the Mystic, my 2nd favorite Van Morrison song
- The lore! The first SPN fanfic story I ever wrote (10 years ago...gah!) was about a Banshee. Loved the new MotW - even though, in typical Gaelic lore, Banshees aren't evil. I liked the twist, obviously.
- Mama Lahey referring to her hubs as "Mo Chuisle" when she first hugged him. Those of you who've known me for a bit know that my daughter's nickname is Mo Chuisle. That made me grin.
- Sam cleaning guns to combat insomnia. Because, sure.
- Dean in a robe. Just...Dean. Full stop.
- Having a case that was only 15 mins away from the bunker. First time in 11 seasons their travel time has actually made sense.
- "Lucifer ex Machina."
- The use of Johnny Mathis' song "Wonderful, Wonderful" -- although I will never not think of The X-Files episode, Home, when I hear that song. Do you blame me??
- Dean thinking the 'old-folks home' is awesome and suggesting they make a reservation, indicating he thinks they'll still be living together when they're old (even though Sam doubts they'll live that long...*sad face*)
- Dee Wallace as Mildred -- she will always and forever be Elliott's mom from E.T. to me -- and her awesomely unapologetic flirtation with Dean
- The whole Viagra thing -- from Dean's quip regarding Harold's theft to swiping a bottle himself when Sam wasn't looking.
- The bonding moment over the edge of a freshly dug grave, just before they torch the bones. How very Winchester of them.
- "You're the one that's always wanted to out Blaze of Glory-style. Preferably while the Bon Jovi song is playing."
- Pretty much everything about Ailene Lahey -- from the fact that she was played by a deaf actress to the fact that her character was rendered deaf by the scream of the Banshee that caused her parent's deaths. Up to and including the fact that she was a hunter, a MoL legacy, and, coupled with Mildred, saved the boys' asses when Dean was about to bash his own brains out from the pain of the Banshee's screams. Loved that she could read lips and that she and Mildred could both sign.
- Mildred and Ailene's side conversations about the boys. Ha!
- Banshee's needing to be killed by a golden blade. I wish I'd thought of that. I think I did something boring like...consecrated iron or some such.
- The whole blood sigil trap thing. That was cool, and, ultimately, uber-convenient.
- Dean having a thing for Blanche on The Golden Girls...and Sam having a thing for Sophia. And Sam's little grin when Dean revealed that little tid-bit.
- "I wouldn't do this without my brother. He's had my back every step of the way. Even when I let him down."
- Mildred's little one liners: "You gotta pay for the view." "It's almost as gorgeous as you are."
- "Your hand is still on my knee." "I could move it up."
- Dean grabbing his head and collapsing in pain--there is just something about him showing pain that goes right through me. Especially when he does his level-best to fulfill on his promise of protection. When suddenly the pain is his own, and he's brought down to his knees, it somehow hits harder.
- Sam going immediately to Dean and leaving the whole Banshee killing up to the women, who totally kick ass.
- "They look even cuter walking away."
- No-look beer can toss FTW!
- Sam: "I should have looked for you when you were in Purgatory. [...] I've never forgiven myself for that." Dean: "Well, I have. That's the past. What's done is done. All that matters now, all that's ever mattered, is that we're together." *Gaelic's heart thumps*
- Sam putting the brochure for the 'old folks home' in a box filled with keepsakes.
- Dean unable to sleep because he can't stop thinking about this whole thing with Amara (and how gorgeous he is...oh, wait...that's me).
- Sam not puzzling out further why Dean was vulnerable to attack.
- Also, how did a Banshee travel from County Cork, Ireland to Kansas, USA? Did it follow Ailene or did she follow it? That opening in Ireland was cool, but I wish they'd said something about how an Irish monster landed in the Midwest (or did they and I missed it?).
- The graphics for the Banshee itself were kinda low-tech, compared to some other things they've done (the Changelings come to mind). But, at least it was an actual monster-thing and not a personified monster like so many others, and...we're talking about an FX department that makes Hell look like the basement of a Medieval Castle, so...I cut them some slack.
- Still really want to know where Cas is. If he's inside his vessel still, or if he got booted to the ether when Lucifer took over.
- What's Lucifer's plan with Amara? And how is he going to use this newfound knowledge about Dean to get what he wants?