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My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.
Can’t load up Facebook, which is annoying. Let’s get started. I doubt I will get this done tonight, as today was a day, ending with trying to get home on a flat tire (in the pouring rain, of course) by pumping it up at various places on the way home. Gotta get in to the garage early tomorrow to get it patched up.
Anyhoo, rather standard recap of The Road So Far starting with a rather awesome Dean monologue out of nowhere:
I know what it’s like to see monsters. And I know that when they’re gone, they never really go away. But me and my brother, we’re the guys that stop the monsters. We’re the guys that scare them.
Cut to Now in Kansas City, MO, to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (never been a fan, especially of the Mel & Kim version that hits the British airwaves every December). Sounds like the Brenda Lee version.
It’s also the soundtrack on a particular floor of an office building, where everyone is being slaughtered by hyped-up werewolves. One of them then comes in to tell an elegantly dressed woman, whom he addresses as “Michael.” When he asks why Michael picked this floor, Michael just says, “I liked the view.”
Another werewolf brings in some recruits and among them is Garth. Michael recognizes him due to Dean’s memories and said he had been Dean’s friend. Garth says that’s all water under the bridge. He has a daughter now and he wants to be on “the right side” in the coming war. I’m rolling my eyes a bit, even if it’s a Garth-undercover-for-TFW thing, because the acting in this scene is pretty bad. I’m amazed any scenery was left unchewed, by anyone.
Cue title cards.
Jack is eating cereal (not the healthy kind, either) in the kitchen in the middle of the night when Castiel comes in and catches him. Jack asks Castiel not to rat him out to Sam about the cereal. Castiel asks why he’s up to so late and it comes out that Jack is still recovering from resurrecting. Castiel says that’s pretty normal (well … no, it’s really not, but it is for these guys). Castiel calls it “a rite of passage.”
Jack worries that his mother isn’t safe in Heaven from the Empty. Castiel calls Naomi “complicated,” but willing to fight to keep the souls in Heaven safe. Because that worked so well last week.
Jack also wonders why Castiel doesn’t want him to tell Sam and Dean about the deal he made. Castiel says he doesn’t want to burden them and also, he figures that with all the crap currently raining down on them, he won’t be giving himself permission to be happy any time soon.
It also turns out that Castiel stole the “secret decoder ring” from the cereal box.
Meanwhile, Sam is conversing with Garth, who is indeed spying for TFW. He says they want to “change” him by having him drink blood mixed with Michael’s grace. He claims he’ll be able to spit it out (don’t think grace works that way, Garth).
Garth has to hang up (and uses Bobby’s old “balls” line that I sure don’t miss as he goes in to get the change). Dean walks in just as Sam gets hung up on and reassures Sam that even though Sam was the one who recruited Garth for this mission, it won’t really be Sam’s fault if the mission goes sideways. Um, no, Dean. I’m with Sam. It will be his fault. But hey, maybe we’ll lose Garth this week. I’m okay with that. Early Christmas present.
TFW 2.0 gets a video call from Ketch, who boasts about liberating the egg they used on Lucifer two seasons ago from an Eastern European dealer, then having to mail it to the Bunker. It’s going to arrive, but a bit late.
Okay, so one new-used tire and a morning of Expensive Fun in the Rain with the Auto Shop later, let’s get back to this, in between bouts of math problems. Lots and lots of math. I have a Trigonometry final on Wednesday.
So, we have a new ragtime piano transition riff.
Back to Garth, with the other volunteer, who is all excited about his powerup. The head werewolf woman (who acts like a baddie extra in another CW show and that’s not a compliment) comes in and hands each of them a vial of glowing archangel grace. Garth tries to fake it, but when Michael walks in, he has to swallow. This ups his hearing, but what else has it done?
Michael is Evil Overlording about tracking down EVOL!Kaia and killing her, then getting the Spear (again, works for me! Not an EVOL!Kaia fan, either). This version of Michael probably won’t stick around long, but even so, I’m just not feelin’ her. I don’t think it’s the gender change because I actually miss Lanette Ware as Raphael and kinda liked her better than Demore Barnes (heresy, I know). I wish they could bring her back or that she’d at least stuck around a bit longer. Poor Raphael has gotten no mention-love since exiting at the end of season eight. Didn’t even have a counterpart in the alt-SPNverse.
But this version of Michael … I’m not even sure it’s the actress. Felisha Terrell is hitting all the notes she’s supposed to be hitting, at least on the surface. It’s just that Michael has never actually been a Dick Roman kind of villain, certainly not when Christian Keyes or Jensen Ackles was playing him. But this version is basically a female Dick Roman in a pantsuit and I’m very meh about that.
So, the other part of Michael’s plan (I’ll admit that it was such a lame retread that I ignored it at first) is to distribute upgraded monsters throughout Kansas City, and kill or turn the entire population on Michael’s signal. First of all, we know this never works because second of all, it’s been tried many, many times by villains on the show and it’s never worked. Like, ever.
The closest anyone ever got to doing this in such a short amount of time was in “Croatoan” back in season two and that was a small town in the middle of nowhere that had been cut off from the rest of the world. It just makes the SPNverse’s most powerful archangel look lame for even thinking up this plan. Especially with monsters that, for all of their upgraded powers, can be killed by a simple beheading.
So, Garth gets a call to TFW2.0 while they’re planning to go after the egg, which is stuck for the holidays in a postal depot (while this isn’t technically a Christmas-themed episode like “A Very Supernatural Christmas,” it is set right before or during Christmas). He warns them about the intended assassination of EVOL!Kaia. Sam is nonplussed.
And just like that, after almost half a season riding shotgun and being the wind beneath Sam’s wings, Dean just straightens up and takes over. It’s effortless and even a bit startling to everyone else how he does it, yet they fall right in behind him, anyway. Dean decides to split the team up – Sam and Jack will go get the box; Dean and Castiel will go hunt souped-up monsters and retrieve the Spear. Or at least prevent the monsters from taking it from EVOL!Kaia.
Off Dean and Castiel go in the Impala, on a road trip past those same sheep from that overhead shot that the show has been using for … what … 14 seasons now (it first showed up in season one or two)? When they arrive at what looks like a labyrinth of crushed trash, Castiel notes that the tape deck was broken (since when does Dean allow anything to stay broken on the Impala?), but Dean “didn’t complain once” about the lack of his favorite music.
Dean admits that he never realized before how horrible it must have been for Castiel and Sam, being possessed when they said yes to Lucifer. Dean hates that alt-Michael “tricked” him (I dunno, Dean. It’s not really a trick if it’s your only option left to save the world) and he won’t rest until he’s killed Michael, himself.
Back to Sam and Jack, who are breaking into the postal facility. Jack demonstrates a new skill – he can use a lockpick now.
Back to the trash labyrinth. Near the center of it, Dean and Castiel, who have armed up, enter a grotty old warehouse and then creep around a labyrinth of moldy boxes inside. Dean finds EVOL!Kaia’s camp in the middle, with an iron pot that’s still warm. As Castiel comes up to the same spot, they both hear a door slam to the outside.
Castiel is worried about the lack of monsters in the vicinity. Maybe they got E!K already? Dean thinks she’s “in hiding,” since she would have fought back and the camp is laid out neatly. But it begs the question of this being intel from inside Michael’s camp (and Michael has laid traps before), so what’s going on?
What’s going on is that when Sam and Jack leave the vicinity of the pilfered post office, with a strangely light box, Sam gets bonked on the head by one of Michael’s low-rent monsters, then sees Jack get kidnapped by two more of them (apparently, the extras budget was so low for this episode that despite Michael’s boasts of having upgraded thousands of monsters, we see the same four redshirts with bad teeth over and over again – lame). Then Michael shows up and melts the magic egg in front of Sam. While monologuing.
Ugh. Yeah, I don’t care if it’s the acting or the writing or what. I am officially over this version of Michael. Get a new meatsuit or something.
Oh, and then she knocks Sam out for real. Because Sam doesn’t already have stock in MRIs, already, or anything.
Back in the warehouse, Dean and Castiel are wondering what’s going on when they get a call from Garth. Nobody can get hold of Sam and Jack. As soon as Garth hangs up, he hears Michael fly in. Michael decides it’s time to…uh…talk with Garth. This won’t end well.
In the warehouse, Dean gets poked in the back by E!K. Some terrible sorcerer-in-a-Saturday-night-low-rent-Syfy-flick acting from her end ensues. Dean cuts it short by leaning into her Magic Spork and telling her to put up or shut up. He has family in danger and Michael’s about to murder thousands of people. Dean doesn’t have time to mess around with E!K and her stick. Either she can give up the spear or she can kill him.
Behind Dean, Castiel is making it pretty clear that if E!K takes Option #2, Castiel will kill her right afterward. Whoo, that glare could blister paint.
E!K decides to make a deal – she’ll give up the spear if they have Jack send her home. Dean lies and says that Jack can still do that, while Castiel looks surprised, and E!K buys it hook, line and sinker. At first, she wants guarantees, but Castiel points out that she’s not giving them guarantees, either. Clearly, she’s lying to them and has a new reason to go home. She admits as far as that she has her own people she wants to protect (presumably on the other side). I continue to fail to care about her storyline and look forward to its being wrapped up sooner than later.
Eventually, she gives up the spear, swearing she will kill Dean if he doesn’t bring it back. Ha, I say. Ha. Then she disappears.
Dean gets a call from Sam, in which Sam admits that Michael ambushed them and took Jack. This conversation is weirdly repeated before and after a commercial break, for reasons I don’t quite get. Sam drives off to Kansas City, as Dean says he and Castiel are coming to meet him. Castiel warns Sam not to go in alone. I’m sure we all know what Sam’s current plan is.
Meanwhile, Jack is being brought into Michael’s boudoir by the underwhelming low-rent werewolves who need to piss off back to Legacies. They leave. Michael, who is standing the near the window, turns round and proceeds to bore Jack and the audience half to death with endless monologuing about the Grand Low-Rent Werewolf Plan, how things went for Kansas City in the alt-SPNverse, how they’re kin because they’re powerful beings with no limits (assuming Jack will eventually get his powers back), how Jack is too young to understand time and on and on and on and blahblahblah.
I’m sorry. That was just so hideously dull. Where was I?
Oh, yeah. Jack says that “Sam and Dean and Castiel will come for me.” Michael shrugs this off, so I guess the Really Obvious Trap Michael set is just that. Michael leaves.
So, remember when Castiel told Sam to wait? Sam didn’t wait (oh, come on, you didn’t think he would, did you?), possibly because he can’t get hold of Garth. The first werewolf he bags on camera is the guy who bonked him on the head at the post office, after he sent off the recruit who came in with Garth to infiltrate a church service. The second one is that annoying woman who kept tandem chewing scenery with Michael earlier and gave Garth his dose of archangel grace. Yay, Sam. My hero. Two of the more irritating redshirts at almost one go.
Sam enters the office where Jack is tied up and cuts him loose. They hear footsteps and it’s Garth, apparently okay (but obviously not and Sam should have realized that). They get down to the parking garage with some rather ugly blue-silver Christmas trees.
As Sam and Jack come out of the elevator, Garth convulses. He still has his mind, but Michael is in it and has control over his body. Michael makes Garth wolf out, and attack and even flip Sam, but Sam is eventually able to choke Garth out. When Dean and Castiel arrive, they tie Garth up and dump him in the Impala’s trunk.
Castiel heals Jack, while Dean plays (badly) with the spear and TFW2.0 gets ready to take on Michael with the spear and an angel version of the demon cuffs, which may (but probably not) work on an archangel. Jack is apprehensive, seeing as how he was just kidnapped, like, an hour ago and they’re going right back up there. Sam and Castiel reminisce about the obvious signs that this is a trap (including the obvious lack of monster guards or Michael coming down to check up on Garth’s interrupted signal). Dean just smiles because yes, obviously, it’s a trap. Duh. Good to all be on the same page now.
Off they go into the trap, Dean in front, to the tune of Movement IV from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (that big choral moment all the car commercials use since Die Hard used it 30 years ago – damn, I feel old, now). Okay, I legit laughed out loud at that.
Upstairs, Michael is waiting impatiently and doesn’t look nearly as sure as the face the archangel shows to the world. But then Michael senses someone and says, “There he is.”
“He” apparently turns out to be Castiel, whom Michael beats to a bloody pulp before dragging him back to the room with the view. Sam and Jack show up, and get choked out.
This may (or may not) distract Michael as Dean attacks with the spear from a closet. Michael gets into a fight with Dean, and even manages to disarm him and choke him a bit, while monologuing that Dean’s initial “yes” was a “mistake” and that therefore, everything Michael now does is “all on you.” Which is creepy and rape-y and not actually true, but there you go. Sam gets the spear back to Dean and Dean is able to slash Michael.
“Trust me,” Dean says. “That’s gonna leave a scar.”
But then he hesitates (partly as Michael, or perhaps Michael’s vessel, looks afraid). We see the same double vision, some flashbacks to Dean as Michael, and then a really quick and weird one of Dean standing in a bar, playing bartender and looking confused. And then, the camera slides back to Dean’s face. It’s no longer Dean behind the face, though. It’s Michael.
Castiel senses it first (he should; according to canon, he should have seen Michael enter Dean’s body) and calls out to Dean. “Dean” then breaks the spear in half and turns around, eyes glowing.
By this time, it’s pretty obvious to all off TFW2.0 that Michael is back in the house. Unfortunately. And Michael is determined to rub it in.
Michael: When I gave up Dean, you didn’t think to question? To ask ‘Why’? Dean was … resisting me. He was too attached to you [cut to Sam], to all of you [wider shot of all three of them]. He wouldn’t stop … squirming. To get out, to get back. So, I left. [picks up a drink of whisky] But not without leaving the door open … just a crack.
Castiel: Why wait?
Michael: To break him. To crush and disappoint him so completely that this time, he’ll be nice and quiet for a change. Buried. And he is. He’s gone. [drinks down the whisky]
And now, I have a whole army out there, waiting, ready for my command. Ready … for this. [snaps fingers]
So, that’s it for new episodes for now, though the show returns on January 17 and we already have a promo, which gives away a pretty large spoiler about how this cliffhanger resolves. We can discuss it in the comments if you like, but I’ll try to keep the following review free of future spoilers. Or not.
The show exited 2018 with a 0.4/2 and 1.43 million. This put it below the DC shows this week, who had a big crossover event that netted all but Legends of Tomorrow, Riverdale and Black Lightning (which weren’t in the event) in the 0.7-0.8 range, but comfortably above other CW shows in audience, including Legends of Tomorrow, Riverdale and Black Lightning, with whom it tied in the demo. Honestly, even if it weren’t the only non-tie-in show on the network, with 13 and a half seasons of eagerly watched content across several streaming platforms, it would be ridiculously safe.
Review: This episode ended up being All About taking Michael down. In the process, it showed both the strengths and the weaknesses of the storyline and the character (at least, the alt-SPNverse version).
Jensen Ackles knocks it out of the park as Michael. The stillness, the coldness, the smugness and arrogance, the self-assuredness, all of these are the direct opposite of Dean’s fire and passion, his joie de vivre, his doubts and fears, his heroism; his ability to be humbled without breaking, to get back up no matter how many times he’s knocked down, to step back and let others take the stage; and his huge capacity for love.
Michael’s biggest strength as a personality is also his greatest weakness – he’s full of self-confidence, a born leader who’s sure he will always win. He’s also cocky, which gets him into trouble, over and over again, in this new alternate reality, especially when it comes to his chosen vessel, whom he does not know or understand at all.
I’ve probably said this in the past, but horror, of all the genres, is the one that most often uses monster metaphors for emotional states, for the human condition. In Sam’s case, Kripke was interested in the idea of Sam having superpowers and how it felt to be hunted for being the next step in human evolution. The audience, on the other hand, really latched onto Sam’s alienation from his family, of feeling that he had tainted blood, a tainted inheritance. Sam’s mixed feelings between settling down with a “normal” life and embracing the Family Business for good also showed the conflicts of growing out of adolescence into adulthood.
Dean central metaphors were clearer and brutally different. While there’s certainly a familial resonance, and he has grown beyond his being frozen into childhood parentification, the monster metaphor for Dean is mental illness. Always has been, probably always will be.
Some of the monsters are internal and some are external. Dean has a lot of rage due to seeing his family get torn apart, his mother burned to death, his father turning into an embittered person who had little time for his eldest, his brother growing into a puppet king of Hell. But in Dean’s case, as many of his demons are real, actual demons from Hell as they are bugs in his head. And Dean has grown very strong, madness and all, feeding on his own rage over the years, but also his great love. Dean has a powerful rage, but he has an even mightier heart.
Dean’s first two lines of monologue in this episode could as much be about his internal demons as his external ones: “I know what it’s like to see monsters. And I know that when they’re gone, they never really go away.” That line from “The Time Warp” in Rocky Horror Picture Show has frequently come to mind this season with regards to Dean’s journey – “Madness takes its toll.” It does indeed.
I’ll admit that when EVOL!Kaia was going on about how she’d kill Dean if he didn’t give her spear back in one piece, I had to laugh and thought of Dean’s line from season three’s “Malleus Maleficarum”: “You wanna kill me? Get in line, bitch!”
At the end, when Michael made his little speech about keeping Dean down – frankly, I think the show lost an opportunity not using The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb.” It was exactly that psychology – the evil, entitled, abusive ex. How dare Dean fight back? How dare he say no ever again after the one time he said yes? How dare he try to leave the relationship? Watch me use your own hands to murder everyone and everything you love, Dean. And it’ll be all your fault.
Possibly the most bizarre aspect of that dynamic this episode was when Michael tried to woo Jack with the idea of growing eternal with him, knowing full well the entire trap this episode was set up to ensnare Dean for eternity, the person Jack most looks up to and emulates. Is Michael really so detached from human emotion that he doesn’t think about the effect wearing Dean’s face for centuries would have on Jack? And that’s even assuming Jack has centuries left. There doesn’t ever appear to have been an archangel Naphil before and the regular angel variety don’t seem to live very long.
There’s a part of Michael that I think resents that Dean has feelings for anyone but the archangel he was bred to house for the next billion years or so. And Michael definitely has underestimated Dean. Without getting too far into that promo for next episode, I think it’s very interesting that Dean knew about the angel cuffs, but Michael didn’t. Didn’t even mention them, let alone take steps to destroy them.
It seems possible that just as Dean has been resisting Michael and forcing him to avoid doing certain things, even to make certain mistakes, he has also been able to hide things here and there from Michael. Michael isn’t nearly in control as much as he thinks – or, at least, as much as he claims. Michael has the tail of the tiger and the ride is rougher than he anticipated.
This is the tension that makes Ackles’ portrayal of Michael so damned fascinating (and why I hope the writers will resist the urge to let anyone but Dean off Michael in the end). It’s the tug of war between an archangel and his vessel. We got some of this with Sam and Lucifer, but by the time Sam said yes to Lucifer, he had been buttered up for a long time (even a lifetime) as special and wonderful by Lucifer’s demon minions. I think the hardest thing for Sam wasn’t become Lucifer’s vessel (as we see with Nick’s storyline, Lucifer makes a connection with his vessels that they miss if they survive his departure). I think the hardest was Sam rejecting Lucifer long enough for Lucifer to tire of his vessel (or see him as ruined enough) to abandon him for other victims, and then having to deal with not being the Special One, anymore. It’s taken a while for Sam to get used to, and learn to like, being “only” human.
But Dean was never seduced in this way. His was a very rough wooing, He was beaten down all his life, told he wasn’t special. And now, Michael wants Dean’s body (and Dean’s memories, which Michael perceives as part of Dean’s body and therefore Michael’s too) while locking Dean away, apparently now in some weird dream of being a bartender in a midnight bar. Of course Dean fights back. Why wouldn’t he? But to Michael, this is an affront, an insult, and he cracks down harshly.
But Michael’s hold over Dean is not nearly as secure as he boasts. If you woo Dean, he distrusts you. If you beat him, it just gets his blood up. He understands fighting very well.
So, Dean distracts Michael and prevents him from killing people Dean loves. Michael makes a lot of excuses, but this elaborate plan he lays out in this episode shows that he is less sure and confident than he makes out. Rather than a victim who is simply overwhelmed and turned into a puppet for Michael, Dean appears to be Michael’s match, even if he doesn’t really know it yet.
That, however, is precisely why Michael doesn’t work when played by other actors. Whenever someone else plays him, whether last season or even this episode, this critical tension is lost. Michael becomes nothing more than a generic villain, a petty tyrant in his own world turned freebooting pirate in this new one. His external plan – to get all humans turned into monsters, or make them into cattle for those monsters – has been tried before, more than once, and never succeeded. It’s nothing new and seems a bit lame for a being who is some 14 billion years old.
People talk about what a great villain Lucifer was and yes, before he was played out, he was. But that’s because Lucifer personally oversaw the destruction of Sam and Dean’s family. And Michael was Lucifer’s older brother. The problem is that this isn’t our Michael. It’s a Michael from an alternate timeline. He was our Michael up until the point Mary decided not to bring John back. And then he wasn’t. He was never the Michael who oversaw Dean’s birth and the destruction of Dean’s family. He’s just a would-be conqueror, trying to take advantage of a cosmic loophole.
Is this Michael not aware that Heaven is about to fall and render his conquest moot? Does he simply not care? Surely, he’s aware of the existence of the Empty Entity. All of these things seem like a larger story than Michael’s low-rent monster army.
Michael’s war for Dean’s body against Dean is interesting because it’s Dean. And it’s interesting because it’s a metaphor for Dean’s own battle with his madness, just as Demon!Dean and MoC!Dean was. The rest of TFW2.0 is now in a Saving Dean storyline and that’s what makes their part in it compelling. Michael separate from Dean? Not so much.
Finally, I’ve seen spec about how TFW2.0 will manage to kill Michael now. Well, they didn’t have either the egg or the spear when they killed Lucifer for real. But there is one way left. Alas, only Dean can do it (unless they bring out the other Michael from the Cage). Only an archangel can kill another archangel, with an archangel’s blade. If Dean could regain control of his body while Michael was still inside, he could stab himself with Michael’s blade. As we saw with Nick and Lucifer, it might not even kill him. Or maybe they could figure out a way to steal Michael’s grace (Michael knows how). But that all would depend on Dean and Dean being able to regain control of his body from Michael.