WAR! What is it good for? Absolutely nothin’. Huh! Say it again…
Goodness these boys have untapped resources when it comes to twisting us up and leaving us in pieces. And meanwhile, we’re treated to a fantastically entertaining story.
Ya’ll… this episode rocked me. And I mean that in the holy-crap-that-was-unbelievable way as well as the I-can’t-believe-that-just-happened way.
Before I get to it, I wanted to say to anyone reading this review on LiveJournal (as opposed to SFO.com), the comments that are shared hold some of amazing thought processes and insight. For the premiere, I was beyond thrilled by what ya’ll brought to the table. Thank you for that!
Also? Through this fandom and the genre that is fanfic, I have been blessed with a number of wonderful friends. One such friend is visiting me this weekend from CA with her young daughter. We had to basically wear our girls out and get them to sleep before we were able to watch the boys, so I saw this episode after it actually aired and was able to cut out all the annoying CW commercials. Dude, if I could wait that long every week (not!) it would be worth it just to spare myself some Gossip Girl…
But let’s get on with it, shall we?
We get TWO classic rock songs in this episode, staring with Foreigner’s “Long, Long Way From Home” for the recap. And how fitting for the arch of this episode. Because for our boys, home is an enigma. I know this season is going to polarize many of the fandom, but I am really connecting with how things are playing out. The breadcrumbs they’re leaving us are going to lead to something Big.
We begin at the hospital and Bobby sitting in a blue robe staring out a window, trapped in a wheelchair. Sam is in the doorway, watching him with a melancholy look on his face. I was struck by how small Bobby appeared. Despite the boys’ visits, he’s become bitter and silent. Apparently hasn’t spoken in three days. Dean joins Sam at the doorway making quips as is his habit, but Sam says that they may have to wrap their heads around the possibility that Bobby might not just bounce back.
Dean swiftly changes the subject—apparently not ready to accept that fact—and shows Sam an x-ray of his chest with the Enochian symbols carved into his ribs. Very cool. Says Sam has one to match. And then… Cas calls Sam on his cell. Sorry, but I had to laugh at that. Angel on the cell. HA! ‘Course it’s because they’re hidden from all angels—including Cas.
Bobby wants him to get on with the healing, but Cas reveals that he can’t heal Bobby. He’s cut off from Heaven. He can do some things, but… he can’t help. Bobby is going to have to either live with life in a wheelchair, or heal. And I’m sorry, but I’m still not sure why Bobby can’t walk. I’ve only seen the premiere twice now, but I swear he stabbed himself in his abdomen. Could it be from blood loss? I wish they would have explained that better…
Anyway, even though Bobby’s talking now, he’s grumpy as hell and is demanding to know why Cas decided to grace them with his presence. And what follows is one of three fantastic scenes in this episode. Cas declares that he’s going to look for God.
“I’m gonna find God.”
The way he says it… it’s so calm. Puts a whole new spin on “finding Jesus.” Dean, however, reacts strongly to this. He’s not even sure if there IS a God. He’s sarcastic and snarky, saying that God’s sipping liquor out of coconuts, kicking back while everyone’s suffering. Tells Cas that God’s down in Mexico on a tortilla.
“He’s not on any flatbread…” Heh.
Cas shuts Dean up, however by stating that this isn’t a theological issue, it’s a strategic one. For Cas, philosophizing about the existence of God is pointless now. There are demons. There are angels. There is a God. Deal with it. He doesn’t have time for Dean’s doubt and comes at him with an impassioned reminder that he has killed two angels this week—his brothers—and has been turned out of Heaven, giving up everything… for Dean.
“I lost everything, for nothing, so keep your opinions to yourself.”
There is so much room in this argument to sink hooks into a statement and argue one way or the other, but his fervor quiets Dean enough for Bobby to step in and ask again what Cas was doing here. Cas says he’s looking for an amulet. Once that burns hot in God’s presence. Sam speaks up, “Kind of a God EMF?”
Bobby says that he doesn’t have anything like that. Cas says he knows, then looks pointedly at Dean. As realization crosses Dean’s face, I literally yelled out loud to my TV, “HOLY CRAP!” I never saw that coming. I love it when that happens! Okay, so two major things here—Bobby DID have the amulet at one time, but gave it to Sam to give to his father as a Christmas present. SO, John was to have been the original recipient of the God EMF amulet as well as the righteous man to have broken the first seal in Hell.
But he was neither. Both fell to Dean. I’m going to have to ponder the deeper meaning there for a bit because I know it’s gotta be there. If Kripke held on to the story behind the amulet all this time, there has to be a deeper meaning behind what was to have been John’s duty is now Dean’s. Plus, if I weren’t so tired, I’m sure I could find a connection between Dean being Michael’s sword and having the amulet. I’ll come back to that at some point—probably in the comments.
The other major thing… the look on Dean’s face. I was speaking to my friend about the draw of Jensen—how completely he embodies this character. How he is able to go from stone-face to destroyed with just a quicksilver flash of pain in his eyes. When his lips go from flat to pursed. Or when he squares up his jaw with a hard swallow. His expression in the moment he realized what Cas was asking for sucked the air from me.
You’ve got to be kidding me.
But… it’s mine.
Sammy gave it to me.
I’ve had it all this time.
It’s the only thing I have that’s from Sam.
I don’t want to let it go.
I have to let it go.
I love how Dean took it off, but withheld it momentarily with a, “Don’t lose it.” His muttered, “Now I feel naked” was adorable. I have a few friends that would feel the same way about a particular piece of jewelry. I’m that way with my wedding ring. When its meaning is more than its appearance. When it’s become a part of you. The shadows and planes of Dean’s face as he turned away had me rubbing my suddenly aching heart.
Still. HOLY. CRAP. I am still floored by that.
Cas is gone in a whisper of wings, which is apparently a skill he hasn’t lost from his Heavenly shunning. And moments later, it seems, Bobby gets a call from Rufus (hello, Captain Fuller!) who is calling him on a sat phone. Rufus is hauling a wounded kid behind a car, firing out at an unseen foe, yelling to Bobby that demons have taken over River Pass, CO. Doh!
The guys head out, and I thought it was nice that they could use actual shots of Vancouver to stand in for CO. Beautiful. They’re stopped by a collapsed bridge and my first thought was, “At least the Impala will be safe.” Turns out that sentiment was rather accurate… no one got out of this fight unscathed. Sam discovers that there’s no cell phone reception. And then… we get “Spirit in the Sky.” HA! I love that song. It always makes me think of Apollo 13, though.
So, we have the boys walking down the ruined street with overturned cars, guns out at the ready, checking for bodies. It’s very 28 Days Later. Reminded me a lot of when Cillian Murphy’s character first wakes and is walking around abandoned London and the car alarm scares the ever-lovin’ CRAP out of him. And me. Sam finds a radio on in a Caddy, turns it off. Dean walks past a sweet red Mustang and he and I whistle at the same time. I like Mustangs. As Ponyboy said in The Outsiders, “They’re tuff.”
My only quibble with this part was that I actually looked at the promo shots and there was an amazing one with Dean and Sam in T-shirts, holding guns, looking like they’d walked off the set of The Terminator and I fell a little bit more in love with Dean. And his arms. And they didn’t have that moment in the episode.
But I digress.
The surreal quality of the moment fades quickly when we see a baby stroller butt up against the wheel of a car with a hole in the windshield and blood everywhere. Chilling. Before they can do much more than exchange grim looks, Ellen Harvelle appears behind them. She tosses Holy Water at them, soaking Dean (who closes his eyes and pulls his lips in almost exactly the same as he did when Bobby greeted him after he climbed out of Hell).
After confirming that they are indeed them, she pulls them inside to safety, hugs Dean, then slaps him, then scolds him. She is friggin’ awesome, man. She reacts just the way a woman, a mother, would react. A very don’t you scare me like that again reaction. I loved it. She tells Dean to put her on speed dial, and knowing when he’s beat, Dean nods submissively with a, “Yes, ma’am.” Atta boy.
Ellen takes them into the basement of a church where a rag-tag band of survivors are holed up (including the token pregnant woman). Ellen reveals that she’s been hunting with Jo (interesting) and that there used to be 20 survivors and now there are about… oh, 10, maybe. Everyone else is dead or demonized. The boys want to get them out of there. They speak quickly about how—Sam suggests arming everyone. To which Dean isn’t so sure.
“You gonna arm up baby bump over here?”
Eventually, though, Dean agrees and they leave Ellen with the survivors to go get the guns, salt, etc. Dean wants Sam to stay, says he can do it on his own. Sam riles at this, saying that Dean just doesn’t want him around demons. Well, yeah, Sam. He doesn’t. But that sad part—the really, really sad part—is that Dean’s reticence to allow Sam to step out into danger used to be because he was protecting Sam… and now it’s because he doesn’t trust him.
But, really, under it all, the protection trigger is still there. He doesn’t trust that Sam won’t find a way to get his powers back, or get demon blood, or something to that effect. He’s afraid that will happen—because if it does, he’ll lose Sam. Maybe this time forever. He won’t be able to protect Sam from himself. He wasn’t able to do it before. That is a crapload of fear to be constantly carrying around. It’s a wonder Dean ever sleeps.
They split up, Sam snapping that they could at least be professionals about this, and Sam goes into a general store to get salt while Dean goes to get guns.
And you know, as I think about it, Sam’s “at least we can do this like professionals” remark was very telling. He’s struggling. Every minute. He’s in the background now—both figuratively and literally. Thinking back to the scene in Bobby’s hospital room, even. He was behind Dean, blurred out. This fight that they’re in now may be because of choices he made, but Dean’s the one center stage, a walking Excalibur. That has to be hard to swallow after harnessing so much power. After thinking he was doing it for the greater good. After having such good intentions. My heart aches for Sam.
Okay, back to the general store. As Sam’s getting salt, in walk two teenaged demons. Sam tries to get his shotgun quietly, but yeah, that didn’t work. So it’s hand-to-hand and Sam’s built up some skillz. He fights back and starts Latinating, then stabs one then the other with Ruby’s knife and they fall to the floor in a bloody mess.
Only—and I just realized this while reliving it in my head—there was no sparking, demon-dying, light show. I totally missed it the first time. And, apparently, so did Sam. Because he was so captured by the sight (and probably smell) of the “demon” blood on the floor and dripping from the knife. So much so that he caught a drop on his thumb and stared at it. So much so that when Dean burst in and found him, Sam looked guilt-ridden.
And Dean? Every ounce of thank God you’re okay or nice going that may have come out before was pulled in and locked tightly behind a stony expression. In that moment, I saw the ending to this episode. I saw what was inevitable. And for some reason, I understood it. I accepted it. But that expression, that detached regard for the kid he raised, gave me a familiar pit in my stomach.
Back at the church, it’s Shotgun 101. Ellen is showing “Roger” how to load a shotgun and he was failing. Horribly. Sam is with another group and Dean hands a weapon to a young twenty-something guy, asking him if he knew anything about weapons. The kid breaks down the gun in about 5 seconds and Dean presses his lips out thoughtfully saying, “Where’d you serve?”
I loved that.
Soldier Boy replies that he did two tours in Fullugia (Iraq?), then says, “Takes one to know one. Where’d you serve?”
Dean replies, totally straight-faced, “Hell.”
Soldier boy is like, yeah, I get that. But seriously, where.
Dean’s reply? “Hell.” Yeah, no battle ground like ground zero, pal.
In a (very brief) nice moment as the townsfolk are learning their weapons, Dean sees Sam sitting off to the side and goes over to drop down beside him with a very normal, very brotherly, “Hey.”
Sam is a bit like the old Sam as he laments having to slit the throats of teenagers because they were demons. Revisiting this scene in my head after knowing the end, I am gutted. Sam had to have been gutted. He killed two people—two kids. Not demons, kids. He simply wishes he could save some people again. Dean’s bitter, “You mean when you were all hopped up on demon blood” wasn’t quite fair, I thought. Sam saved people before the demon blood.
Maybe that’s all he was thinking. He just wanted to go back to a simpler time—saving people, hunting things. But Dean’s still raw over the actions of the last year and isn’t ready to give Sam a break, apparently. Because when Ellen wants to go out looking for Jo and Sam volunteers to go with, Dean wants him to stay back. Away. Safe.
Sam chafes again under this, angry at Dean’s assumption that he’ll go demon after everything that happened. “As if I haven’t learned my lesson…”
When Sam shoved Dean back against the wall, it was almost Force-enhanced. Dean flinches, but doesn’t retaliate. But the tension is knife-cutting thick.
And I don’t know what they’re doing with the lighting this season, but the way the shadows hit the guys’ faces is arresting.
Sam wins the argument and he and Ellen are heading down the street, Ellen wanting to know what gives. She wonders if a girl came between them. I had to laugh at the irony of that. Because, yeah, kinda. From a certain point of view. They see smoke from a chimney, duck and cover and Sam wonders aloud that demons don’t get cold (didn’t think about that!) and is wondering what they’re burning.
And then the most confusing fight ever. Seriously, this was a WTH?? Moment if there ever was one. Sam and Ellen are attacked by a townsfolk, Jo, and Rufus. Jo has black eyes, but calls Ellen a “black-eyed-bitch”… Ellen gets away, but Rufus clocks Sam a good one. This is what I mean by good storytelling. If you aren’t spoiled, stuff like this comes at you and you’re so tangled up in it you are dying to find your way free of the maze, but while you wander you pick up some juicy tid-bits that you can carry with you into subsequent mazes.
For a moment during the fight, I got worried about Dean—it was like Bizarro world and everything was backwards. Was he back in the church with the real demons??? But no… no, it was worse than that. Much, much worse. Sam is tied to a chair, facing off black-eyed Rufus and Jo… who are throwing holy water on him, pouring salt down his throat while he’s begging them to stop, please, stop. He’s under a Devil’s Trap. And Rufus and Jo look confused. Then… you see it from their POV… and SAM’S eyes are black.
Just before we cut back to Dean, we see a glimpse of “Roger” in the doorway, twisting his ring. Um… okay.
Back at the church, Ellen returns sans Sam and when Dean demands to know where he is, she shakes her head. Dean’s instinct is to head out after his brother. He grabs up his gun, heads for the door and stops. It’s as if an invisible hand wraps around him, squeezing his body in its fist. The decision to stay behind and protect the townsfolk—to make that decision—rather than go after Sam was excruciating. But it was the right thing to do. It didn’t matter what his heart screamed, what his soul demanded. He knew, in his head, that he had to protect the innocent people.
The greater good demands sacrifices that not everyone is strong enough to make. Prior to Sam’s choosing Ruby over Dean, before that fight, Dean would have left in a heartbeat to get Sam. Townsfolk be damned. They’d just figure out a way to save them together. But… it’s different now.
Ellen and Dean start to hash out what happened. Dean wants to call Bobby or Sam for help. The only two people he’s ever trusted. But they can’t do that, so they have to figure it out. Ellen lays the facts on the table and Dean’s eyes dart in thought. They start to ask the townsfolk about what happened before it was Demonville and they’re told about the river running polluted suddenly the same day a falling star was seen. Dean knows that’s important, but dismisses Soldier Boy’s alien reference with a, “This ain’t X-files, pal.” Heh.
And then Dean does my heart good. He gets up and pulls a Bible from the shelf, flipping to Revelations 8:10. The star, Wormwood, is a prelude to the Four Horseman. See, here I find this so interesting. Dean’s rant earlier to Cas about God, about if there even was a God… he’s neck-deep in God. The Bible may simply be a source for him—just like any other book that they use for research, as important as any book Bobby has. But Dean knew right where to look. I just… I find that really interesting with his character’s journey.
He’s always been a “believe what you see” kind of guy. Didn’t believe in angels until he met Cas. Doesn’t believe in God (yet). But now he’s stuck in a situation that is exactly opposite. He can’t believe what he sees. If he believes what he sees it could get him killed. What might that realization, the absorption of information mean for his relationship with his brother down the road?
Dean puts together the first of the Four Horseman is WAR (hence the name of the episode), and that he rode in on a red Mustang. Okay, I know he’s evil and all, but that? Is a little awesome. Soldier Boy is like, really? And Dean’s reply is predictably, “That’s how I’d role.”
So, they put together that there weren’t any demons. The townsfolk (and Sam, Rufus, Ellen, and Jo—because Dean hasn’t killed anyone) were just killing each other. For nothing.
Back at the… wherever Sam is, “Roger” has found his way in to the room where Sam’s tied up and is arrogantly confronting him about how he’s waiting to hook up with his sibs and they’re going to have a great time with the violent human race.
“People don’t need a reason to kill each other. Have you seen the Irish? They’re all… Irish.”
Guh. It’s true. We have the capacity to be so evil to one another. But… we also have the capacity to be so good. That’s the thing that has to save humanity in this fight. That we care for each other like no other being created. WAR continues that he’s simply removing inhibitions and tells Sam to, “Save your protests for your brother.”
He sees into Sam’s head and sees the bloodlust. The lust for power. Doesn’t matter what Sam thinks he wants to use the power for. “Good intentions, quick slide to Hell.”
It’s funny to me that the bad guy’s mocking is the thing that makes Sam get honest with himself. Not funny ‘ha ha.’ Interesting funny.
“Roger” fakes Sam hurting him, calls Jo and Rufus in and claims that Sam has said “they’re coming.” Why Jo and Rufus don’t question how and why the hell this guy is in with their allegedly demonic prisoner, I don’t know, but instead, Rufus punches Sam and knocks him out. “Roger” heads back to the church and says that the demons are coming for them. Dean’s all “slow your roll” and is trying to calm the now panicking people.
He’s suspicious of “Roger” and “Roger” picks up on that, twisting his ring and claiming that Dean and Ellen are demons. And the townsfolk—that they just armed, mind you—turn on them. And now everything happens very fast.
Dean and Ellen high-tail it out of there. Soldier Boy changes salt rounds for real rounds. Rufus and Jo booby-trap the house where they’re at with pipe bombs. People start running out of the church—with guns. After a bit of a fight, Dean and Ellen manage to convince Rufus and Jo that they’re not demons. Dean and Jo exchange awkward and hurried ‘hellos’ and then Dean (finally!) asks where Sam is, finds him, cuts him loose and they start practically tripping over each other’s words to make sure the other guy knows about WAR and the Great Demon Hallucination of River Park, CO.
Sam tells Dean that WAR is controlling the situation with his ring, so now, they know what they have to do. Rufus, Ellen and Jo work to save the townsfolk from themselves and keep them from firing on and killing each other while the guys find WAR and pin him up against his pretty red Mustang. Sam holds up Ruby’s knife (and I’m going to have to call it something else eventually since there’s no more Ruby) and WAR scoffs that it can’t kill him.
Sam’s all, “I know” and while Dean holds WAR’s hand down, Sam cuts off his finger and turns the ring loose. My friend quipped that it was a One Ring. Which was really funny later on. The hallucinations stop. Soldier Boy doesn’t kill Ellen. The red Mustang disappears along with Nine-Fingered “Roger.” The townsfolk look around at each other, baffled, scared, and destroyed.
They may have stopped him, but I think WAR won this round.
The boys are sitting at a picnic table—presumably outside River Park, since the Impala’s nearby and the bridge was out. Dean’s holding WAR’s ring and says solemnly, “So… pit stop to Mt. Doom?”
Sam starts to speak, and Dean tries to stop him with a “we don’t have to do this.” But they do have to. Dean can’t deny it anymore. He can’t stave off the inevitable with motion. No amount of pretending it’s all going to be okay is going to make it okay. They couldn’t keep going on like this. Sam couldn’t fight by his brother’s side, knowing Dean didn’t trust him, not knowing how to make it better between them. Dean couldn’t keep moving forward, all-go-no-quit and hoping that somehow something was going to ease and the rock in his chest was going to move and let him breathe again.
Sam’s speech was so open and honest…
“I know you don’t trust me… I don’t trust me either.” He says he wanted the blood, that his intentions were good, but he finally got it. Intentions didn’t matter. He “just missed the feeling. The problem isn’t the demon blood. The problem is me. How far I’ll go. There’s something in me that scares the hell out of me. I think I need to take a step back from hunting… I’m dangerous… I think we need to go our separate ways.”
Dean’s watching him the whole time and the look on his face isn’t sadness, it isn’t denial. It’s relief.
He agrees with Sam, which surprises his brother. Sam had expected a fight. As, I’m sure, did most of us fans. Because even a month ago, Dean wouldn’t have let him go. He would have made him stay, asked for time, said they’d figure it out. Give them a chance. The comparison between this moment and the moment in Season 2 when Dean comes clean about what John made him promise… it’s so heart-wrenching what their paths have led them to.
Dean says that he “spends more time worry about you than doing the job” and right now he can’t afford that. It’s not possible (in my mind) for them to go through everything they’ve been through, and not take a break from each other. Sometimes you have to lose something to know how much you need it. You have to see your life without your constant, without your balance—and you have to do it willingly. Not by death or denial. Not by disappearance or escape. By choice.
And then you have to come back together by choice. You have to see what would become of you if you didn’t have the other side of your coin.
The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. And our guys aren’t crazy.
Dean offers Sam the Impala, but Sam declines. That was huge. That was expected. With a sad, “Take care of yourself, Dean.” “You, too, Sammy.” Sam leaves. He gives a lingering look to the Impala after retrieving his bag, and then hitches a ride with a dude in a truck heading… who knows where.
Dean didn’t ask and Sam didn’t tell. *heart sick* But you know, we're not talking about two kids here. We're talking about a 27ish man who is MORE than capable of taking care of himself. It just a heart sick feeling to see the necessity of pain.
Dean is left alone at the picnic table, with WAR’s ring. And no amulet.
Every piece of “Sammy” is gone from Dean at the moment. And as much as that hurts, I can only think that it’s the one thing they need to get them back together. I have a ‘bet’ with a friend that trust won’t be found again until episode 6. I don’t know that from spoilers—I’m just thinking of timing. It’s going to take time for them to heal. To want to be around each other again.
I don't think that either of them is blameless in this ordeal -- and I don't think they think that either. Dean broke in Hell, and it ruined him. It changed him. He doesn't want to feel anymore. He's not looking for a life, he's looking for a way to end this. To save humanity. To stop it all. When is the last time we saw Dean truly enjoy something? And Sam... he made so many of his decisions like an addict. Justify, justify, justify. Even his demand that Cas heal Dean after Alistair tortured him was almost from a place of someone accustomed to wielding the kind of power that could be capable of something like that.
This story they're telling us isn't a "happy" pals on the road kicking ass story. It's a human story. And in human stories, emotions get the best of us and we have to wrestle them into submission to find our way clear of that coweb. Because sometimes you have to go against those emotions to make the "right" decisions. Or even to see what the right decision is.
And meanwhile, we have the small issue of Dean on the demon hit list, being Michael’s sword, having carried the God EMF—that his brother gave him—and trying to find a way to kill/stop Lucifer. Coupled with Sam’s search for some kind of salvation, some small measure of absolution. Some part of himself that he recognizes again.
There are so many possibilities. And the canvas is still very empty.
Thanks for reading – hope to see you next week!