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Whoo, we’re in season 14. A whole new season for the writers to screw up. So much fun.
Anyhoo, there’s a longish recap of the previous season to AC/DC’s “Shot Down in Flames.” This segues to Sam driving down the road in the Impala, listening to the song on the radio. He turns it off. It’s dark and he has a hiatus beard, but he’s not wearing sunglasses.
Cut to a guy waking up in the Middle East to the early call of the muezzin to dawn prayer (this is the scene from SDCC). It turns out to be the alarm on his cell phone. He gets up in his tiny efficiency apartment, lays out his rug, and starts the prayer (there are subtitles, for verses related to the strict monotheism of Islam). He kneels before an empty chair, but when he rises up, a man is sitting in it. A man dressed like a 1920s gangster and looking like Dean Winchester – alt-Michael. We’ll just go with “Michael” for now, ’cause I’m tired of using the dash all the time.
“Hello, Jamil,” Michael says, apparently in English.
The man – Jamil – is quite shocked and asks who he is. Michael recites a verse from the Quran (in Arabic, of course) about the angels Gabriel and Michael, and his eyes glow blue. Jamil guesses he’s God. “Close, but not quite,” Michael says in clipped tones, sounding vaguely irritated. Jamil then guesses Gabriel. A little more annoyed, Michael says, “The other one. The better one.” Finally, Jamil guesses Michael. “There you go,” Michael says.
Then they have a conversation in which Michael asks Jamil what he wants. Michael says he already knows what he wants, but he’s been going all over the world, asking all sorts of humans, what they want. Now he’s asking Jamil.
Jamil gives the usual response (“peace and love”). Michael smiles at this, but it’s not a nice smile. He points out that if Jamil believed in peace, he wouldn’t have abandoned his friends to death in Syria and if he believed in love, he wouldn’t have cheated on his wife, she wouldn’t have left him, and he wouldn’t be “living in this…rathole.” Furious and humiliated, Jamil attacks him from behind and Michael (eyes glowing again briefly) tosses him across the room without even looking. He calls Jamil “lost.”
Jamil, bloodied, asks, “What do you want?!”
Michael replies, “What I’ve always wanted – a better world.”
Cue pretty new title cards with glowing blue wings.
I have to say that Michael is a lot more interesting so far this season than he was last season and Jensen Ackles seems to be having a blast playing him. Michael’s body language is quite still compared to Dean’s. Alas, I have a feeling we won’t be seeing too much of this, partly to keep from ruining a good, scary villain and equally because the writers just aren’t up to it. But we’ll see.
Back at the Bunker, where Mary is talking with some dude who knows how to make magic bullets of all kinds and Maggie is still acting squeamish about treating bloody wounds (seriously, how did this girl survive the alt-SPNverse?), it seems that the people from the other universe are engaged in Hunting trips against monsters all over the U.S.
Sam comes in and infodumps with Mary about the current situation. It’s three weeks later, and Dean is still in the wind and possessed (obviously). Sam was following an angel sighting in Atlanta (which didn’t pan out). Castiel is in Detroit. Ketch is in London. Sam is getting discouraged (after only three weeks? Suck it up, Sam).
It’s funny that some fans have blamed Dean for saying yes to alt-Michael and making things “worse,” but he really didn’t. Lucifer was going to unmake the SPNverse within a week, starting with Sam and Jack. Three weeks later, Michael is still traveling around, doing research, and hasn’t done much damage so far. Dean sacrificed himself, fell on the possession grenade, to buy everyone else time and so far, it’s worked. The situation won’t last, of course, but he did buy them time.
Sam yawns and Mary is all solicitous (how much has she really been like this with Dean since she came back?). Somebody comes up and says there are some vamps prowling the highway, so Sam orders people out on a Hunt. He then sits down and Mary tells him he needs to sleep, blahblahblah. Sam then asks about Jack, which is an obvious segue.
Jack is getting his ass kicked, is what Jack is doing. It’s a boxing session with Bobby (let’s be frank – he may be from another timeline, but he’s basically Bobby), who is trying to teach Jack how to defend himself. Bobby quotes something about self-defense and Jack thinks it was from Ghandi. Yeah, he has a lot to learn.
Castiel is in a bar waiting for the latest Crowley-lite would-be King of Hell to show up. It’s so obviously a trap that I take some time out to do Other Things around the house and then come back. Yep, it turns out the entire bar is possessed. Not only should Castiel have seen that coming, but he should have literally seen that coming since we’ve known since season four that angels can see demons’ real faces. Ugh. Such lazy writing.
Next, we see Sister Jo leaving a church with money when she hears an angel fly in from behind her and Dean’s voice say, “Hey, Jo.”
Jo immediately thinks it’s Dean (even though she heard the wings) until she turns around and sees someone else inside Dean’s body. She then, horrified, identifies him correctly as an alt-verse Michael with her angel vision. I have to say that this is quite a beautiful and scary image, visually evocative of what kind of coldly inhuman character Michael is without dialogue. You wouldn’t expect mercy from such a creature. Hope they do it some more.
She asks him why Dean Winchester would ever say yes to him. He says, “Love,” which pretty much cinches the writers’ confirmation that Dean made this earth-shaking decision for the “right” reasons, despite the eventual consequences (“love” is always the right motivation on this show). She pretends to be sarcastic about this, but you can see she’s affected.
She then tries to run away and he warns her rather politely not to do that (even if he weren’t so powerful, he has wings and she does not). He then asks her what she wants. She says she wants human riches. He gets annoyed and tells her to stop lying. Apparently miffed because, in her mind, she really wasn’t, she says she’s telling the truth. He says that no, she likes to believe she is a “rebel” and materialistic, but what she really wants is to “belong.” She wants “love.” Michael finds this “very, very human and so disappointing.”
He says that he is well aware the angels are in dire condition in the SPNverse and thought he might “help,” but if they’re all like Jo, he doesn’t see the point. They’re not “worthy.”
I have to say that even allowing for the knowledge that these two are married with children, so it’s not all that surprising, the sexual chemistry between the actors in this scene is really distracting, since it’s fairly obvious the writers don’t intend for Jo to be (or fake being) sexual attracted to Michael the way she did for Lucifer.
Back at the Bunker, Sam is giving discouraged Jack a pep talk in his room. He reassures Jack that he will be able to move on without his powers and it will be okay. This is interrupted by Mary coming in and saying “He’s awake.” Jack still looks discouraged after Sam leaves.
Sam and Mary go to another room, but Mary won’t go in, saying she can’t look at whoever is in there. The person is sitting on a bed on top of a devil’s trap. It turns out to be Nick, very much alive, but still wounded (from the stabbing from DeanMichael that killed Lucifer inside him). He and Sam speculate that the archangel blade is engineered to kill the possessing archangel but leave the vessel alive. Well, that would be a whole lot different from pretty much any other angel blade. It also doesn’t explain why Gabriel’s vessel appears to be quite dead. This is fairly obvious foreshadowing for a possible way to rescue Dean (assuming they can find another archangel to stab Michael, or for Dean to regain control and stab himself), but I have a sneaking suspicion the Michael storyline will eventually end up with some Michael stuck in Heaven, powering it back up permanently. Then again, even Michael and Jo haven’t discussed that in detail and it doesn’t appear that Sam & Co. know about it.
I’ve seen unhappiness on Twitter about this storyline, but as I’ve said in the past, I’ve always thought it would be interesting to see Nick again (Crowley’s dialogue about boosting up Lucifer’s vessel is just vague enough that he could have resurrected Nick and just kept him comatose). The character has two pretty major reasons for PTSD (his wife and baby’s deaths, and what Lucifer did using his body) and isn’t played out the way Lucifer was. He was barely introduced before he said yes. There’s stuff to mine there. And I like Mark Pellegrino as much as the next fan. He’s a good actor who’s quite capable of mining it.
My main concern is that the writers are using this as a way of reintroducing Lucifer after a pause. If there’s one character I never, ever, ever want to see again at this point, it’s Lucifer.
Sam interviews Nick about what he remembers from Lucifer. Nick says that he remembers nothing useful about Dean’s whereabouts and all he knows about Michael’s plan is that he told Lucifer he wanted to do things right this time. Oh, yay. That doesn’t sound ominous, or anything.
Sam then gets a call from the demon who has kidnapped Castiel. The demon tells Sam that they need to talk or Castiel will die. So, Sam has to go take care of that.
It’s interesting that a lot of the chatter I’ve seen on social media talks about what a great leader Sam is now and how well he handles things in this episode in Dean’s absence. But I’m more struck by the differences and how much Sam is bogged down by housekeeping duties when he should be triaging the situation better.
Dean is by no means perfect (hell, that’s why he’s so fun to watch and relateable), but he is, as his own brother has stated many times (and been backed up by others) a genius of a true leader. In Sam’s place, Dean would be putting out some fires, too, it’s true, and he’d definitely be leading from the front. But he would also have a laser focus on the main goal – stopping Michael. He wouldn’t lose that focus, either.
Sam wants to find his brother, and I think he’s quite dedicated to that goal, but in the process of dealing with all the different pieces on the chessboard, he seems to have lost focus on the fact that there is a worldkilling archangel out there that needs to be dealt with three weeks ago. Instead of having every single person in the Bunker deal with the Michael problem, Sam is actually draining his resources by having people go out on minor hunts (and how alt-SPNverse humans would know how to navigate in the SPNverse is a big old plothole, anyway).
It’s almost as if a part of him is relying on Dean to somehow keep a rein on Michael from inside until Sam and his team find him (and there are some hints that may even be possible), but it’s shortsighted to do that. If Dean can’t stall or hold back Michael, then everyone else is completely on Michael’s disturbingly inhuman timetable and that’s not good.
If Dean is Julius Caesar, then Sam is Mark Antony.
Sam recruits a team consisting of himself, Mary, Bobby and Maggie (no, I have no idea why, either). Call them Team Free Will: The Expansion Pack. Jack wants to come, too, and Sam agrees over Bobby’s objections. Oh, come on, Bobby, you guys are already taking Maggie. How much worse could Jack be than her?
At the bar, the demon explains in excruciating detail to Castiel that he is bait so the demon can get something from Sam. Castiel does try to warn him that Sam won’t do a deal with him, but the demon has apparently not heard about all the CRD’s Sam has killed (this is a BED). In the previous scene, the demon had made a crack about Destiel being a thing and Castiel hadn’t exactly disagreed.
Castiel wonders what the demon really wants and, lo and behold (without mentioning the archangel’s name, unfortunately for Castiel), the demon has been visited by Michael and asked what he wanted. The demon now says he wants “everything.”
This brings up two interesting points – Michael apparently isn’t killing the people he visits, and he’s asking questions of more than humans and angels. The first is really important because while we know Michael doesn’t kill without reason, we’ve also seen that he has found a whole lot of reasons to kill. And it would be sensible to kill those he asks so they can’t rat on him to Sam or anyone else. It would also have been sensible (in the way Michael thinks) to kill both Sam and Jack in the church after stabbing Lucifer. But he didn’t do that, either. So, it makes one wonder how much real control he has over his vessel who, strictly speaking, only ever gave conditional consent. And is his control growing or receding?
The second point isn’t fully developed, yet. Let’s see where that goes.
Driving through the night, Bobby reassures Jack that the alt-SPNverse humans are still grateful for everyone he saved back in their ‘verse and that they still believe in him. Jack seems to perk up a little about this.
Sam is less sanguine about Mary’s pep talk in the Impala. He worries what Michael is doing to Dean, or if Michael has perhaps even burned Dean out and moved on to another vessel (he’s the Michael Sword, dummy; there aren’t any other vessels). Mary brings him up short, saying that Dean is out there “alone and scared.” She starts to choke up a bit as she says that she has to hope things will turn out okay and they’ll find Dean because she can’t afford to “drown in the bad.” This is actually a good scene between the two of them, and well-acted, showing their guilt and grief and concern without quite spelling it out ad nauseam. This mission is as much about redemption for them both as rescue.
They arrive that morning where Castiel is being held. Sam gives Mary the Spork before going into the bar, reasoning that they will search him. Indeed they do and Crowley-lite smarms all over him, trying to butter him up. Sam blows him off to check on Castiel, who says he’s okay.
Crowley-lite introduces himself as Kipling (“Kip for short”), as we get a bit of eye-rolling virtue signalling from Dabb. As Sam demands to know what he wants, Kip says he warned Sam to come alone. Other demons bring in Jack and Maggie, then beat them up a bit. Sam does his damnedest not to let on that the two genuinely competent Hunters remain in ambush.
So, Kip monologues a bit. We find out he’s been 600 years topside and has been a very naughty boy. He was an even naughtier boy in life during the 12th century, riding with Genghis Khan. He preens and brags and gets annoyed (though he never seems terribly dangerous) when Sam balks at doing a deal with him. Kip wants the “deal” Crowley had with the Winchesters (pretty hard to do that with Dean not there, Kip, just sayin’) and Sam says there was no deal. Kip says that Hell is in a bind, since it’s without a King for the first time in a very long time and he wants to be King. Sam says no. Then all (slowmo) Hell breaks loose.
Mary and Bobby burst in through the door. Bobby is shooting a machine gun. Mary has a pistol. She tosses the Spork to Sam, though she also has an angel blade, with which she dispatches a demon. Bobby gets some of the demons with his gun, but then gets it knocked out of his hands. Sam goes after Kip, but gets TKed into a wall. All this with that annoying “let’s slowmo this Kodak kill moment” stuff that’s so popular lately. Jack tells Maggie to stay under the table they just dived beneath and goes to help. This does not go well. He quickly gets punched out, though he does distract the demons kicking Bobby.
Mary gives Maggie an angel blade, then gets tackled by a demon in a female host. The demon starts choking her, but then gets stabbed by Maggie. As Mary and Maggie wrestle with some of the remaining demons, Sam gets the crap beaten out of him, but finally manages to stab Kip when Kip is distracted by admiring the Spork he’s holding.
It occurs to me that Dean probably could have cleaned up most of the bar all by himself, starting with Kip. This is a very choppy fight and Castiel keeps disappearing as he watches helplessly. Remember how well Cain was integrated into the fight Dean had with three demons? Yeah, not like that.
Anyhoo, once Sam stabs Kip, he yells at the other demons and they stop in shock. He tells them there won’t be any new King of Hell, ever, and come-at-me-bro-demon if any of them want to argue. Instead, they all smoke out.
Oh, and none of them ever finds out that Kip talked to Michael.
Back at the Bunker, a battered Castiel apologizes to a battered Sam. Sam says it’s no big deal. He would have tried the same thing, too, if he’d thought of it first. They infodump about Ketch in London (no mention of the LOL), looking for the egg that tossed Lucifer out of the POTUS, but not finding it.
Castiel then goes to give Jack a pep talk while Jack mopes about how he’s “useless.” Castiel thinks Jack’s grace should regenerate eventually (though can’t he still fly? Hello?), but Jack doesn’t know what to be without his powers.
Meanwhile, Mary and Bobby are enjoying a beer. Called that one last season.
Sam, back in his (Dean’s?) room, gets a call from a mysterious number. It’s Sister Jo, saying they need to talk. Guess she’s finally choosing sides.
Meanwhile, Michael has found someone “worth saving.” It’s a vampire. Remember that second point I talked about? Michael’s going with the monsters.
This wasn’t as bad as it sounded on Twitter. Sam actually made plenty of mistakes and he’s no Dean Winchester. And TFW:TEP is no TFW, either 1.0 or 2.0. That was more interesting to watch than the SuperSammy who has everything go his way crap that they’ve done in the past. Also, yay for Mary finally getting organic stuff to do besides run away from her sons.
And I like watching Michael, even if some of his characterization and motivation doesn’t work too well in light of last season (why would he focus on vampires now when he ignored them pretty literally to death in the alt-SPNverse?). He’s interesting to watch and quite scary (Ackles really knocks it out of the park). Also, powerful and deliberate enough not to rush his EVOL World Rebuilding Plan. After all, it took 13 billion years to work through the previous one. Too bad the show apparently cut down the little screentime he already had (his first scene was reportedly longer at SDCC, if the audio out there is any indication).
Dean’s absence is keenly felt in this one, though, especially in the fight scene. And I don’t particularly like the idea of using Michael vampires because the show has overdone that MOTW. I guess we’ll see.
Anyhoo, we’ll see what happens next week. Ratings were not wonderful (a 0.5/2 and 1.49 million, which tied it for second for the week with Riverdale and only 10 thousand behind in audience), but still good for the way the CW is shaping up so far this season. There’s a promo for 14.02 out here.