"The characteristic of genuine heroism is its persistency. All men have wandering impulses, fits and starts of generosity. But when you have resolved to be great, abide by yourself, and do not weakly try to reconcile yourself with the world. The heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the heroic." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
I've always been a sucker for WWII stories. And time travel stories. So, you can imagine...time travel to WWII? I'm all in. This one turned out to be about so much more than merely a time travel jaunt. It was a mini-advance on the story-arc battlefront. And for that, I applaud our Show's writers. Whatever game they lost in Seasons 6-9 (ish), they have gained back this season. It's not quite as it was in the first five when everything was new and fresh and there hadn't been enough time to recycle storylines or reuse extras, only in different roles, and the idea of characters we loved dying was beyond us.
But that's okay. It's not supposed to be like that anymore. It can't be. We wouldn't want it to be.
Once more the title of the episode is an onion, layers of meaning unfolding before us as the story plays out. As we know all-too well, when an angel inhabits a human, that human is a 'vessel' (rather than a 'meatsuit' for the demons). And then there was the submarine, a sea-faring vessel carrying cargo of immense worth. And the rough-hewn wooden box bearing it's burden of power. So many pieces of the story played into the title and were interwoven with each other, the entire episode felt braided together.
Let's start with the obvious vessel: Castiel. I have to give Misha props. I said in a previous ramble where we first saw 'Casifer' that he was pretty incredible in the way he has played so many versions of Cas...but this takes it up to another level. This isn't Cas. This is...this is Satan wearing the face of Cas, pretending to be Cas...and selling it remarkably well. The Casifer in Hell was rather familiar. By that, I mean his inflections and mannerisms were very Lucifer--much more Mark Pellegrino than Misha Collins.
It was when he joined the boys, changing his voice to Cas' deeper pitch--like watching Bruce Wayne become Batman, only in Bizarro World--that the real magic happened. The way he watched the boys, taking in their visible concern for each other, assessing their weaknesses, the points of manipulation he could use, the strings he could pull, was both remarkable and chilling. The moment he revealed himself to Sam the look of shock in Sam's eyes was heartbreaking--though, to be honest? I thought Sam should have picked up on something hinky before then.
I think that was primarily because I knew it was Lucifer. When Casifer snapped derisively, "We'll double-down on what screwed us the first time. You're really bringing your A-Game today," I thought for sure Sam would suspect something. I mean, that did not sound like Cas at all. But...why would he automatically think, "Gee, my angel friend sure is acting weird...I bet he's possessed by the devil. Literally." He wouldn't. Because he's not a crazy person.
Still, I couldn't help but think that if Dean had been the one to hear that, he'd have noticed something off about that comment, asked Cas what the hell was wrong with him. But...he wasn't and Sam was understandably too focused on his brother being trapped inside a doomed sub back in 1943 to really pick up on the biting tone of a disgruntled angel. And it made it that much more impactful when Castiel fought his way to the surface--answering one of my 'burning questions': where is Cas?--and stopped Lucifer from killing Sam. Just as Sam once did to stop Lucifer from killing Dean.
For all the terror he brings about, when Lucifer is housed in a vessel, he's not as all-powerful as he'd like you to believe, if his 'host' can (with great effort) muscle him aside and exert their will, even if just for a crucial moment.
I loved that Sam recognized Cas--as we could recognize him--in those brief moments and that Cas refused to expel the visiting angel because he knew they needed him to save Dean, not kill Amara. I'm so glad the boys know now that Cas isn't Cas--and that both have (apparently) forgiven him for making such an ill-advised choice. At the end of it all, it wasn't a dammit, Cas, what the hell were you thinking reaction. It was a we hunt down Lucifer and save our friend reaction. As it should be.
Okay, so the brothers. Domestic life and coffee weaknesses aside, I have two frameable moments between those two. You know those moments that you would pause your TV on, or build a meme around, or just mentally recall without rewatching the whole episode? The first was the conversation about Dean being the one to go back in time. Dean's logic was sound: he can't kill Amara, Sam knows it, they can't risk both of them, so it makes sense that Dean be the one to retrieve the one thing they've found (so far) that might give Sam a fighting chance.
It makes sense, but...Sam's not ready to risk him. Not ready to risk losing him (again). Not ready to be without him like that. Dean saw that and wouldn't do this without his brother's blessing. And Sam recognized that fact. Recognized that Dean was acutally asking permission to do this. It wasn't a screw you, I'm doing this moment, as we've seen in the past. It was a please let me do this, Sam moment which has been all-too rare of late. Even Casifer saw the dynamic at work there.
The other was the moment at the end, on the ruined dock, Dean sitting with the now-dead hunk of the Arc of the Covenant held loosely in his grip, his eyes on the middle distance, Sam next to him in silent support. Offering a listening ear, not pushing when Dean's choked response and tear-balanced eyes told him not yet...I can't yet. I'm sure Sam was dying of curiosity--especially since the weapon Dean brought back was tapped of power and they were back to square one. But there was real pain in Dean's bearing, real fear in his eyes, and Sam hasn't spent a lifetime watching his brother not to know when he needs to step outside of that personal bubble and give it a beat.
I loved that Sam had (finally) shifted from trying to find Amara to looking for how to defeat her (think he read my Ramble last week? Kidding!). The moment we saw that the Nazi's were involved and the weapon was something called "The Hand of God" I immediately mentally jumped to Indiana Jones. I couldn't believe that Dean didn't make a crack about that when Sam was proposing the possibility of finding and using that weapon--but then he muttered, "Full-on Raiders," while on the sub, so all was forgiven.
I loved how Sam was concerned about Cas' well-being with that whole "Spell of Gathering" thing (aside: where the hell did Casifer get a brain for that spell? And a brain of what, exactly?). I love that he still believes in the good of everyone until they force him--usually under torture and via betrayal--to see the bad.
And I loved Delphin. I loved how she was a strong, beautiful, capable spy--a Woman of Letters--and was unafraid in the face of death. I loved her savvy and her determination and how she was so committed to keeping that weapon out of the hands of the Nazi's she warded herself using a blood spell. While it could be seen to some as hand-wavy, I love that she believed Dean was from the future because he basically invoked the power of the MoL's (and the whole reason they exist is because of the supernatural) but I laughed that she, like Dean and Sam initially, was willing to believe in demons and creatures of the night but instinctively declared angels to be impossible. Even as she held an object branded with the power of God in her grasp. Ah, humans.
I love that she was allowed to be the one to save Dean--save more than that...she saved the world, really, with her sacrifice and the sacrifice of all those men on the submarine. She took out the Nazi ship wielding that power, keeping the Arc piece from Hitler; I only wish she had truly been able to save the men on the sub. The French song, Non, Je Ne Regrette Rein (No, I regret nothing) was a perfect theme for this character:
No, nothing of nothing
No! I don't feel sorry about anything
Not the good things people have done to me
Not the bad things, it's all the same to me.
No, nothing of nothing
No! I don't feel sorry about anything
It's paid for, removed, forgotten,
I'm happy of the past
With my memories
I lit up the fire
My troubles, my pleasures
I don't need them anymore
Dean killed me so many times in this one, but most especially at the end. "I was just a witness." *rubs heart*
That ragged, helpless, No, that seemed to slip from him when he was pinned to the wall and Lucifer reached for the Arc piece tugged at my heart. Then the look of heartbreak and loss on his face, sitting on that pier, thinking about the choice Cas had made, how he hadn't known, how his friend is trapped in there with the devil as his brother once had been. Thinking about Delphin's bravery, the young sailor who kept guard, and the sailors who died in that sub, all while he's holding the Biblical weapon that is basically a paper weight now.
Thinking about how he tried to do something to stop this madness and ended up with his heart bruised and battered, no closer to a resolution than before he took the perilous journey. Thinking about how there are heroes--like Delphin, like his brother--who stand up against the darkness (be it god's sister or an immortal minion of the Fuhrer) and stare into it, unflinchingingly radiating light, while he stands aside, unable to do anything but watch.
Forgetting, of course, what he's done before, who he's saved before, how he's sacrificed before. Because for Dean, before doesn't matter. It's only now and the fight to come. If he can't make a difference in the fight, what good is he? Ironically, the best thing that could have happened to Dean in that moment was to learn the truth about Castiel. Because saving his friend gives him focus, a mission. He might not be able to kill Amara, but finding Lucifer and saving Cas...that he can do.
The lack of self-worth these brothers feel--most especially Dean, but to some degree, both of them--breaks my heart. They see themselves as expendable, tied to nothing and no one in this world except each other. Forgettable, working in the shadows, in secret, saving the world from dangers 90% of the population in this 'verse doesn't even believe exists. They've lived with different degrees of pain for so long it's become commonplace to them. They don't realize that what Emerson is true of them: The heroic cannot be the common, nor the common the heroic.
They are uncommon. But they don't see themselves as such. Especially Dean in this moment as he processes how he went back to do something. To effect some level of change in a situation he has thus far been powerless to impact. He is tangled up and twisted inside when it comes to this connection he has with the (latest) monster that can destroy the world and has to leave the killing up to his brother, whom he would die for (and without). And not only has the one thing he thought he could do--provide Sam with a weapon--failed, but he was forced to stand by and watch a hero sacrifice herself and sailors die willingly for the cause of keeping evil from winning.
This is definitely a low point for our boy. *wants to hug him and wrap him in a protective bubble*
The problem is...Casifer knows that Dean is the link to Amara--and now Sam knows he knows. Casifer is going to be looking to use that bit of knowledge to his benefit...and Sam is going to do everything in his power to stop him from being successful. And somehow, Crowley is going to break out of his kennel and collar and be part of all this mess. And I'll bet my socks he'll be on the boys' side until Lucifer is defeated. I can't help play through scenarios in my head as to how this might play out without being repetitive or (God forbid) cheesy. They have a lot going for them so far with a redeemable resolution; I am looking forward to seeing it all play out.
Liked: (Just a heads up, I liked a lot in this episode....)
- Dean's whole Captiain Jack Sparrow-esque Why is the rum gone? routine with the coffee. I loved that so much I want a meme/.gif of his expression when he registers even Sam's cup is devoid of the beverage. That was priceless.
- "How is this more important than our coffee situation?" I have been there, man. I. Have. Been. There.
- Dean drinking beer. S: "Dude, it's like...noon." D: "You drank all the coffee. What am I supposed to drink? Water?"
- The phrase, Your mission, should you choose to accept it....being included in the translated letter from Clifford Henshaw to Delphin. Nice touch, writers.
- S: "If James Cameron and his Avatar billions can't find it...." D: "Yeah, but we have something that James Cameron doesn't have."
- The way Casifer pitched his voice from Lucifer to Castiel when he answered Dean's call.
- "Maybe defeating Amara was a bit more of a team effort than I led people to believe." Uh, duh. Also? Totally perfect Mark P impression there.
- Dean calling a time travel mission a "milk run." I mean, seriously, dude. Dead is really dead this time, okay?
- D: "We can't risk us both. I'm the least valuable player. You both know that I can't kill Amara, so the least I can do is get the thing that we need so that you can!"
- S: "You want me to stay here and ride the pine while you and Cas go play Jules Verne?!" D: "Yes! No. Who?"
- Casifer's perfectly pitched and timed delivery of, "I won't let him out of my sight," to both sway and reassure Sam, recognizing Sam's fear/concern for Dean's safety and Dean's need for Sam's blessing."
- "Sam, let me do this."
- The sub -- that set was fantastic. I mean, it looked like a believable, movie-quality submarine.
- Casifer walking back into the bunker soaking wet.
- Dean using a quarter from 1996 to distract the sailor.
- Sam's open, innocent, trusting face when he promises Casifer that they will bring Dean back. *pets him*
- Dean dressed as a WWII sailor. DEAN. DRESSED. AS. A. SAILOR. *Gaelic down*
- The whole quick succession of Dean getting caught, captured, and searched. I mean, come on. How the heck was he expecting to blend in on a tiny little submarine using words like "hottie"? *shakes head*
- "Flash Gordon will remain under guard until we reach shore." Flash Gordon. Ha!
- Okay, how much did I love that Boston-like accent from the radar kid? THIS. MUCH. Don't ask me why. But the radar kid was my 2nd favorite sailor on that sub.
- The Guard Sailor (what was his name????) quizzing Dean on baseball stats and future Presidents to prove he's from the future.
- "End is nigh big."
- "But we all die? Just...trying to get your story clear." (bonus points for Dean's answering expression)
- Delphin telling Dean that no mortal can survive long with direct contact with the Hand of God. Raise your hand if you immediately thought of that purple stone of power thingy from Guardians of the Galaxy. *raises hand*
- "Full-on Raiders."
- Guard Sailor: "When do we win? I got a lot of friends and family on other ships in other branches. I want to know what their chances are." <3 x 10 D: "Years. 1945. You believe me?" GS: "I read a lot of Flash Gordon." <-- 1st favorite sailor right there
- Every sailor on that sub going quiet when the Captain calls for them to "rig for silent running" (plus also, I immediately thought of Mike and the Mechanics)
- Delphin willing to let Dean kill her to remove the warding she carved/branded into her own body, so that he could get the weapon off the sub and back to his own time
- Sam offering his own soul as a means to "power up" the Spell of Gathering
- "Maybe it's because you're like the girl who kept turning me down at the prom."
- Castiel fighting back. YAY!! Confetti! It's a parade!
- "If you want a friend of the Fuhrer to stay dead, burn the body." Good to know.
- Captain Dearborn not even considering giving Delphin up to the Germans -- their mission was to protect her. Full stop.
- Sam's first words to Dean when he lands back in the future being to warn him that Cas isn't Cas.
- Sam using his switchblade to cut his hand and paint a sigil while Casifer is busy throwing Dean around the room and pinning him to walls.
- Dean's helpless No...NO! when Casifer grabs the weapon...followed quickly by his utter relief when he realizes that Delphin used up the power to kill the Germans.
- The look of heartbreak on Dean's face after Sam banishes Casifer. That man does shattered so, so well.
- "We hunt Lucifer, trap the bastard, save Cas."
- Tears swimming in Dean's eyes as he recalls what transpired in that sub, and then as Sam told him that the German boat was basically a giant hole. She did that much. Atta girl, Delphin.
- Okay, so...they know that Cas can't "teleport" but they accept without question that he can travel through time? I get that we don't know much about angel powers and whatnot, but I'd think time travel took more oomph than mere geographical relocation.
- Dean plans on going back to a 1943 submarine at war...and doesn't think to maybe change his clothes into something less...21st century? I mean, milk run, sure, but come on. It's not like the Hand of God was going to have a big neon sign pointing to it. There was going to have to be some...blending involved.
- Okay, so...the piece of the Arc was a one-hitter. Does that mean all "hand of God" artifacts are out as weapons? Didn't Sam find more in his list of possible objects, or was that the only possibly reachable one?
- I'm pondering.... When Sam said that Cas may not come back willingly because he chose to let Lucifer in and Dean replied that he didn't believe that...was he talking about Cas not coming back willingly, or Cas choosing to let Lucifer in? My gut says former, but I had to pause and wonder about the latter.
- How long is Crowley going to allow himself to be kenneled? One has to think he had some allies in Hell. Or at some point Casifer is going to need him, and turn his back...which is never a good thing with Crowley.
Looks like we get one more episode next week (Feb 24th) and then a mini hellatus until March 23rd...which works out great for me as I'll be in California for work and then London for vacation between the 24th and the 23rd. Won't miss anything that way! Hooray!
Thanks for reading -- I look forward to any thoughts you'd like to share. Slainte!