I’m trying to gather my thoughts. They’ve apparently been scattered by a rock salt blast. It’s so good to have our boys back, and at the same time, so damn painful to watch this story unfold. I can’t look away and yet, I want to hide.
There were some great shots and camera angles in this episode. The boys looked… weary. Worn. Faded. Even before they used that grayish/blue light effect to indicate their ghostliness. Dean’s eyes were large, wounded, and soulful. Sam’s were shadowed and dark, and even when he was showing humor or worry, there was just enough stoicism, just enough evil, if you will, to turn his eyes cold.
It chilled me. Especially in that moment when time folded back to the Season 2 premiere and I remembered Sam’s eyes then. How innocent he had been. How much he’d needed his family, his brother, specifically. And now… well, now he doesn’t truly think he needs anyone, save maybe Ruby.
I took notes (I know, you’re shocked) and jotted down musings as I wrote, so I’ll pepper them throughout this. Hopefully I won’t come across as a raving lunatic.
The story starts at Bison Bud’s Bar where two pals are walking out talking the virtues of fantasy football (which I’ve never gotten) when they’re held up at gunpoint. A busboy taking out the trash accidentally startles the gunman and he shoots one of the men. The guy drops, but… no blood. He’s fine when he should be dead.
We go to our boys who are hunkered down at a diner, Dean beating on an uncooperative juke box (which just made me grin, because, oh, Dean…) Sam is on the phone. Turns out there’s a town in Wyoming where no one has died in a week and ½… uh, okay… only it’s weirder that that. Terminally ill cancer man walked out of hospice, dude got capped in a robbery and is fit as a fiddle.
Dean, with a mouthful of sandwich asks, “Capped in the ass?”
Heh. Um, no.
So, they toss around the idea of miracles, people making deals, the usual. Sam, though is ready to go check it out. He tells Dean to get his food to go, pausing when Dean suddenly doesn’t move. At first I thought he was just being stubborn—giving Sam a hard time. Then he looks up and the expression on his face made my heart drop.
“You sure you want me going with you? I mean, I don’t want to hold you back…” Aw, Dean. Ouch. For both of you. Sam does the whole “I’ve told you a hundred times I didn’t mean it, can we just get past this?” With a totally insincere shrug of I’m still hurting and won’t be able to move past it until I feel like I have you back again Dean drops the sandwich with a “Fine, we’re past it.”
I knew that they wouldn’t be able to pick up their rhythm again smoothly after the siren, but the synchronicity that made them so unique, made them so bonded is off. They are one beat behind each other and watched the whole rest of the episode waiting for the moment they would trip over each other and end up in a tangle of harsh words and hurt feelings.
Pretending to be bloggers, the interview the robbery victim, learning that not only is he grateful for his second chance, that he felt like angels were watching over him, but that he didn’t see anyone with black or red eyes and hadn’t been near a crossroads lately. In an interesting twist of the norm (showing us even more how their balance has shifted), we next see Dean sitting at the computer searching for clues while Sam returns after having interviewed cancer man.
Further discussion of why/how this is happening and come to the conclusion that Reapers are on strike. Sam suggests, very matter-of-factly, that they talk to Cole Griffith, a 12 year old who was the last to die in the town.
They head to the cemetery, putting up sigals and candles, apparently to bring Cole’s spirit back, and Dean brings up an interesting point that just makes my heart bleed for how he looks at the world and how much he’s struggling. If they do their job, people will die. “Gank a monster, torch a corpse” and he’s all over that, but these were good people.
Sam argues that there is a natural order to things and I think I beat Dean’s snort of derision by a heartbeat. He scoffs at his brother, saying they are the poster boys for skirting death. Sam claims that for them, the normal rules don’t apply. “I’m infected by demon blood, you’ve been to Hell.” Dean looks doubtful, knowing that any show of doubt will not go over well, but struggling to get on board with Sam’s seemingly double standard. Sam tosses him a “I know you want to be Joe Plummer, but you’re not.”
Which… y’know, I just find so interesting. How far they’ve come. When we first met them, it was Sam who wanted to be normal. I mean, he was infected with demon blood then, y’know? It’s not so much that as it is all the crap they’ve witness and experienced. Dean was all for ”saving people, hunting things” and now, he wants to resist the ideas that God has His eye on him, and that angels can affect the course of his life. Just… interesting.
They are caught at the grave by a stranger (mourner? Cemetery worker?) and start immediately scrambling to explain their actions as not devil worship. Dean looked helplessly at Sam. “I don’t have a good answer.” Sam tells the man they’re leaving, and a chill crept over me. “You’re not going anywhere ever again…Sam.” Eyes go all wicked and he looks at Dean and I curled in on myself. It’s Alistair. Who of course wasn’t crispied like Dean thought. Dammit.
Alistair flicks Dean and he flies like 20 feet through the air, slamming against a tombstone and falling to the ground, out cold. Alistair tries the same on Sam, but… nada. “You’re stronger, Sam,” he coos. And Sam, his expression absolutely mean (which in this case, I liked), says “You have no idea.” And in a wickedscarycool turn of events, Sam flicks the demon across the cemetery, reaching out to use the Force on him, but Alistair exits the “meat suit” he was wearing and runs away.
When we next see them, Dean is laying on the bed, an ice pack on his head. Sam walks in (from… where?) and asks how he is. Dean says he’s in pain and, “I think I have a concussion.” He declines aspirin, though, as Sam repeats that Alistair couldn’t fling him and ran away. Dean’s next line broke my heart because it shone a neon light on the crevasse between them.
“Do me a favor, Sam. I can’t stop you from keeping secrets. Just don’t treat me like an idiot.”
Sam shakes him off with his patent “I’m not keeping secrets” which is disappointing, really, because he could totally have used the moment to man up and accept that Dean was offering him an olive branch. Dean wants to be around his brother. To fight alongside him. To fight for him. He wants them to win. He knows things have changed and he missed the way they used to be. He’s never been shy about telling Sam that he wanted them to be a family. This whole thing started because Dean wanted Sam with him.
But, Sam’s a person, too. He has an identity. He has his own demons (so to speak) and his own battles, and Dean just gave him the perfect opportunity to say, “Yeah, okay. I’ll do my thing. We’ll agree to disagree.” And Sam didn’t. The only reason I can think is that their roles are so ingrained into them that he doesn’t know how to step away and be his own man next to Dean. It has to be subversive, secretive. I can kinda understand that. I have tried to carve out my own personality next to someone that outshined me. And the only time I felt I was successful was when she wasn’t around.
When Dean makes this plea, dudes, his eyes freakin’ KILLED me. Dead. They were so… open, so raw. They looked almost too big for his face in a way. I wanted to just rest my hand on his cheek in that moment and let him lean in.
Okay, so anyway, the story. Right. Sam says he heard from Bobby who did some digging and the short of it is, Reapers are being kidnapped because if you kill one under the solstice moon (which happens to be tomorrow) you get yourself a broken seal. Sam makes a comment that they could really use the angels about now, which, in retrospect is rather ironic. They discuss how they’re going to swoop in and save the friendly neighborhood Reaper.
Dean says they have to become ghosts.
“You do have a concussion.”
Dean fetches Pamela, who immediately starts tossing out the negativity to the extent that I saw a blinking arrow above her head reading “You’re it.” I had a bad feeling about her survival. She rails that she’s sick of being hauled back into their “angel/demon, soc/greaser world.” HA! Top points for the Outsiders reference, Pam. She continues to resist, saying that maneuvering on the astral plane is scary hard and they aren’t going to make it. Dean’s voice gets growly (and OMG, 100% pure sex, that) as he tells her they’re talking literally the End. Of. The. World. And they need her help.
When she asks how they’re going to save the reaper, Dean replies “with style and class.” Atta boy. Finally convinced, Pamela bids them lie down and close their eyes. She rambles some Latin stuff and then Dean sits up saying “nothing like shooting blanks.”
There’s a disorienting moment when Pamela doesn’t answer and Dean looks over to see Sam laying with his eyes closed on the other bed—and standing behind him grinning ruefully—while another ‘version’ of Dean lays next to ghost Dean on the bed.
“Oh, I’m so feeling up Demi Moore.”
HA! I love this guy. Pamela whispers in sleeping/dead Sam’s ear that he has a nice ass and Dean’s all “What did she say?”
We have one of two genuinely humorous moments here when the boys are walking away from the hotel and a jogger moves through them. Dean, ever the kid, sticks his arm inside of Sam’s chest.
“Am I making you uncomfortable?” (He totally reminded me of Johnny “Black Jack Sparrow” Depp with his delivery of that line.)
“Get out of me.” BWAH!
“You’re such a prude.” Double BWAH!
After finding nothing and considering hitting Victoria’s Secret and getting their peep on, Sam spies a kid in a window staring at them, which, I’m sorry, totally creeped me out. They realize it’s Cole Griffith and head into the house. Cole’s mother is in his room, crying, calling to him, saying she saw a picture frame fall and was sure it was him. A soccer ball starts spinning and then flies across the room. The mom runs out—through the boys—and the boys enter cautiously, Sam going all gentle-voiced saying that they meant no harm.
Cole is feisty, though. “Thanks, Haley Joel. I know I’m dead.”
We get the story of how Cole died—asthma attack—and that the Reaper came for him, but then the black smoke filled the room and Cole hid and when it was gone, so was the Reaper. This leads me to a question that didn’t get answered for me.
Was there anything significant about Cole specifically? Or was it just the timing of the fact that Lilith had reached that particular seal and needed Reapers to die at that particular time and randomly picked that town? It just seemed… I don’t know… weird.
Anyway, while Cole is talking, a light shoots in the room and he recognizes it as a Reaper, running away. Dean and Sam go after the Reaper only to be stopped in their tracks as a beautiful brunette steps toward them, greeting Dean by name. It’s Tessa.
“You don’t remember me?” she asks.
“If I had a nickel for every time I heard a girl say that…” (oh, Dean…)
Tessa steps forward and kisses Dean softly and he flashes through the events from IMTOD, breathing out her name as she steps back. Sam’s voice is hard. “You do know her?” When Dean reveals that he met her in the hospital after the accident, Sam sounds almost angry when he says “This is the Reaper who came after you.” If they weren’t there to save her, I felt like Sam would have wanted to attack her for daring to try to take Dean.
Oh, slight aside, I thought it was a really neat touch having the mom grab her purse and keys and leave the room while the three of them where talking to further emphasis the fact that they were ghosts. She paid them no attention.
Tessa doesn’t want to leave—she wants to put this town right and start taking souls again. They convince her to hold off until they could figure this out; she says that when she starts reaping again, she starting with the kid. Sam goes to find Cole, telling Dean he’ll say whatever he needs to. Sitting outside Cole’s closet, Sam is sympathetic, understanding, and a big fat liar. He tells Cole that if the boy helps them, he can stay in the house forever. He clenches his jaw as he says “I swear.”
While this is happening upstairs, Dean and Tessa have a little heart to heart. Dean’s her “one that got away.” Dean clears his throat and asks if he could share something with her. Then he proceeds to break my heart as he shoves words out through parted lips, his eyes tightening at the edges with misery his voice trembling slightly as he works to steady his breathing.
“After our experience… for that whole year I felt like I was missing something… like I had this hole in my gut. It was you. The pain of losing my father, and Sammy (aw, he said Sammy!!)… I wish I’d gone with you for good. Guess things are different now…”
I couldn't help but catch my breath at this--and not just because of the destroyed look on his face--but the ever-present idea that Dean would rather be dead. That he wouldn't mind dying. That he's going to go down swinging, but he's flat with the fact that it's going to end bloody. And that he doesn't think he'll be old. I can't help but think that if Sam were back with him, I mean REALLY with him, he might not hold this notions so casually. But even at the end he says that he thinks he'll be "there" where Cole is going sooner than he thinks. I know I've said before that it's not my story, and that I'm along for the ride, and I am... but if this is Kripke's way of foreshadowing my hero's eventual fate, my heart will be well and truly shattered.
Anyway, Dean does say that most of the angels he’s met have been “dicks with wings” which made me chuckle a bit at them mental image, but then I sobered as he continued with, “I’ve done things… horrible things… and someone up there decided to give me a second change…”
Tessa’s smirk instantly worried me. I didn’t want her to say what she eventually did. I didn’t want her to take his hope away. I didn’t want her to tarnish his fledgling faith. Because he has to be the moral compass now. He has to be the one to guide the two of them to the light because Sam has seriously lost his way…
Sam and Cole come back downstairs but before they can do much more than find out that the black smoke first showed up at the funeral home, the black smoke shows up there and takes Tessa. They decide that they have to learn some ghost tricks and Dean sneers “Oh, okay, I’ll meet you back at Mr. Miyagi’s.” Cole replies, “Who’s Mr. Miyagi?” The brother’s exchange a glance while I weep for the movie education of today’s youth.
In another truly humorous sequence, we see Cole trying to teach Dean how to move a wind spinner with his mind. Dean gets it to turn once and Cole scoffs, “Did you pull a muscle?” Making me chuckle again, Dean returns with, “All right, Yoda, let’s see what you’ve got.” Cole turns all the wind spinners, the swing and the chimes. “Dude! You are so Amityville!” He next teaches them how to hit. “Hit me as hard as you can.” Sam’s like, “I’m not gonna do Fight Club with a 12 year old.” Cole nails Sam, then splits. Dean grins, “You’ve gotta teach us that!”
While this was funny, I was still sad for them. Because they liked Cole. And Dean was right – if they did their job, Cole was the first to go. Not that the alternative was better, but still. I felt sorry for them.
The boys head to the funeral home and see that it’s marked with hyperglo sigils warding off… something. Tessa and an ancient Reaper are out cold in the center of a pentagram looking thing with some schmuck guarding them. Dean…phases over to him, nails him, phases back. Sam does the same and suddenly it’s ghost tag team.
Another schmuck traps them with an iron chain, which, as ghosts, they can’t cross. And then Alistair, in another meat suit, appears, cocking a rock salt filled shot gun. He shoots Dean first (OUCH!) and Dean brings himself back, obviously worse for the wear. Sam goes for Sam. Dean says, “you can shoot us all you want, but you can’t kill us.”
And suddenly I knew that Pam was going to die.
Alistair does some mumbo jumbo and kills the old Reaper with what looks like a scythe. As he grabs Tessa, Dean and Sam concentrate on the chandelier above them. Meanwhile, back at the hotel room, Pam is fighting a demon dude. She starts whispering the incantation in Sam’s ear while struggling. Everything kinda happens at once.
Dean/Sam drop the chandelier while Alistair is still Latinating. Tessa gets free and removes the iron chain. Pam is fighting the demon, he stabs her. Dean and Tessa phase out and appear outside, sans Sam. Sam sits up suddenly, throws demon against the wall and uses the Force to exorcise it (and this time without a tremble or a nosebleed… what’s he doing, taking demon-blood vitamins?? He’s freaky strong, guys.). Tessa asks where Sam is and Dean says he’ll find him, telling her to get out of there. Sam sees Pam’s wound isn’t bleeding and she tells him to make her a drink.
I wonder why he complied instead of insisting she wake up his brother. I mean, I know we needed a little extra time with Dean on the astral plain, but still. He doesn’t even say, “okay, I’ll get you the drink while you bring Dean back.” *frowns* Maybe that was too fangirly of me, but c’mon!
Dean is looking for Sam and runs into Alistair who taunts him with “You can’t run from me… I’m inside that angsty little noggin of yours.” Lightning hits from nowhere and Alistair is gone and Castiel is there. Cas is all ready to basically high-five Dean for a job well done. Dean and Sam saved a seal and they captured Alistair. Turns out that the script on the funeral home walls was actually angel-proofing and that’s why he recruited Dean and Sam to do this job. It hadn’t been Bobby on the phone to Sam earlier. It had been Castiel.
Dean is upset that the Reapers are going to go back to work now, that the people of the town would die. He asks Castiel to make an exception and Cas tosses back the whole “to everything there is a season.” Dean points out that they “made an exception for me.” And before fluttering off in that cool-ass sound of wings, Cas tells him that he’s different.
Before he goes back, Dean helps Tessa with Cole. Tessa points out that as long as he’s around, as long as his mother can feel him, she will be in pain. Dean chimes in that whatever is on the other side, it’s better than staying there. Because eventually his family will be gone and he’ll have no one. Cole agrees, is embraced by Tessa, and disappears. The moment he does that, the mom kinda gasps and stops crying.
Wow. I teared up. I’m kinda choked writing this. That is a pain I hope never to experience. Ever.
Tessa’s parting words haunt me still. She tells Dean to look out for himself. Telling him that he needs to stop lying to himself that the angels have something good planned, that they’re giving him a second change. She says, sadly, that there’s no such thing as miracles, then disappears.
I so want her to be wrong. But I fear that no matter what the outcome for Dean, it’s going to get so much worse before it gets better. And I think that while I believe Dean was given a second chance, it was for a purpose. I think the angels are using him. But they didn’t take away his free will. God blessed him with that long before this chain of events was set in motion. And I think that at the end of the day, it’s that free will—Dean’s free will—that will save them both.
Pamela finishes the incantation and Dean wakes with a gasp, trying to assimilate what he’s seeing as Pam’s wound starts to bleed profusely. She coughs that she told them she didn’t want anything to do with this. GUILT! She beckons Sam toward her and whispers in his ear that she “knows what you did to that demon… if you think you have good intentions, think again.”
Pam dies, Sam looks shell-shocked, Dean looks scared and confused, and I sat blinking at the TV.
You know how in roller coasters there is that long climb to the first huge drop, and just when you think you’re going to hit bottom, you swoop up again to have a loop and a dip and a loop and a dip and then another long climb before that final long plunge into a tunnel of darkness and then you reach the end, finally, safe and sound? I think we’re cresting that first hill with the end of this season and I expect we’re going to have to hang on tight through some serious loops until we slide through the tunnel of darkness into safety.
And I do believe that when we finally reach check mate in this saga, that our boys will be standing side by side. I believe it with all my heart. And that may not be the end of this season, now that we have a 5th Season. It may be some time yet. But characters like this don’t come along often enough to be squandered by mediocre storytelling. And this was a fabulous example of a damn good story.
The dedication to Kim Manners at the end was brief but heartfelt. I didn’t even know him and I’ll miss him.
Until next week. Slainte.