Category Archives: Television

The Official Supernatural: “The Rupture” (15.03) Live Recap Thread


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It’s been a tough summer, so I’m way behind on my recaps and reviews. As of this review, I now have 50 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 17 after this one for the final (15th) season that started on October 10. That’s 69 total by next April. I currently have 151 coffees at $3 each on Ko-Fi (many thanks to those who have contributed so far!). If I get 300 coffees total, I will commit to doing one recap/review per week (retro or Season 15). If I get 400 coffees, I will commit to two. If I get 500 coffees, three reviews. If I get 600 coffees, four reviews. If I get 700 coffees, five reviews per week.

Other that that, any and all contributions are welcome! You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. 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.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Boring recap with boring soundtrack music of the boring ghost apocalypse so far.

Cut to Now and two Hunters watching anxiously from a suburban street as the angry ghosts try Belphegor’s failing barrier. Meanwhile, TFW (consisting of Dean, Sam, Castiel, Belphegor and – most importantly – Rowena) is heading back out to the crypt where everyone got trapped at the beginning of the season. Which would be a nice bit of continuity, if Berens doesn’t promptly demonstrate he didn’t read the previous two episode scripts closely (if at all) when he has Sam say he sent some Hunters here and there and such to man the fort while they help Rowena strengthen the barrier.

Yeah. See, here’s the thing. You know what-all Dean’s been doing so far this season? Organizing the Hunters. Getting them to the town, setting up patrols, going out on patrols, checking up on missing Hunters who didn’t check in, getting attacked by errant ghosts. Know what Sam’s been doing? Well, pretty much everything but interact with the Hunters. That’s what Dean has been doing and since the Hunters have been mostly offscreen, that’s what Dean has been, too.

But nope. Not only does Berens just casually yank even that subplot away from Dean and hand it to Sam, giftwrapped, but we will see it used as a club against Dean in this very episode. It’s just … well, it’s substandard writing.

So, anyhoo, Rowena is all brimming with confidence about the spell, until she sets it up and it starts to work … until that moment when it totally doesn’t. Rowena falls down as the barrier continues to weaken and declares that they’re all screwed.

Cue title cards.

So, Sam is all solicitous to Rowena (and since when, Show? Even as late as last season, she was trying to kill him. Then there was that time a few seasons ago when he kidnapped her and held her prisoner as his pet witch). When Rowena insists she needs “a real drink,” Sam glares at Dean until Dean gives up his flask of booze. Because of course Berens wants to remind us that Dean is a drunk. I mean, yes, he is, but what’s the point in this exchange except to make him look bad?

Rowena says that the ghosts are too angry and too strong to be controlled. She might have been able to do something if she’d arrived earlier, but now it’s too late and they’re all gonna die when the barrier falls, in a matter of hours. When Dean suggests more crystals like the one she used last episode, Rowena says it would be “like tossing mousetraps at the Great Plague.”

Belphegor leaves, against Dean’s objections, and Castiel follows him out. Dean is angry, insisting there is still something they can do. Sam ostentatiously puts a hand out to forestall Dean’s anger. I roll my eyes.

Outside, Belphegor turns out to have a plan. He goes out to the rift where the CGI souls are exiting Hell (remember how all the doors of Hell opened? All of them? Not just this rift? Well, now it’s just this rift). He and Castiel look at it.

Dean is weaponing up and Sam tries to calm him down. Or something. Dean is angry with Chuck, but he’s determined not to let God win this time.

Back inside, Belphegor lays out his plan. It turns out that one way Lilith the demon (remember her? Seasons three and four?) had to control her demons was something called “Lilith’s Crook” (it will also be interchangeably called a “horn” because that’s what it really is, but hey, consistency’s for losers, amirite?). It was a weapon she could use to recall any and all of her demons (or any denizens of Hell). She never actually used it, and Crowley had other means to control his subjects (whom he hardly ever saw because he didn’t hang out in Hell much), but it’s still down there. They can use it to suck all the souls back inside.

Rowena, meanwhile, has invented a spell on the fly to heal the rift. The ingredients are simple, including lavender and an owl’s skull, among other things (“RIP Hedwig,” says Dean). She also needs an assistant and asks Sam to fill in. She claims he is basically a witch anyway (which is an extremely long callback to Ruby’s teachings to Sam, which he promptly forgot for seasons and seasons, but which Berens makes sound as though he’s awesome and special. Gag).

And, of course, there’s the job of being the “fulcrum” outside, unprotected, getting ready to toss the physical part of the spell into the rift to close it. Guess who gets volunteered? Yup. Dean.

Belphegor asks who is going to come with him as “protection.” Dean volunteers Castiel and points out that Castiel has been down there before (when he pulled Dean out of Hell beginning of season four, but we also know he was down there with Crowley in season six and then there was that time when the whole gang visited the Cage-Adjacent). Castiel isn’t thrilled by Dean’s offhand manner, and there’s a distinct chill between the two of them, but he can’t argue with Dean’s logic and goes along with it.

In a hospital fairly far away, Ketch wakes up in a bed. A nurse is talking to him as he tries to check himself out. Unfortunately for the nurse, when the doctor walks in, she’s possessed by a demon – Ardat. She TK-snaps the nurse’s neck.

She is not happy with Ketch, having hired him to find and kill Belphegor. Knowing this, he attacks her first. But she’s a demon and he’s weakened by his wounds. Also, he doesn’t have his usual toolkit ready at hand (it’s in the closet). Even though he does manage to kick her out into the hallway long enough to grab an angel blade, she overpowers him. She demands that he give up TFW and Belphegor, but he refuses. So, she rips out his heart and smiles. Death by Underwhelming Guest Demon. Bye, Ketch.

Back in the graveyard, as they head toward the rift, Belphegor points out to Castiel that if the rift closes, the angel will likely be stuck in Hell. Castiel says he’ll figure it out. But he looks doubtful as Belphegor points out further that no one in the rest of TFW looked very upset about his job.

A lot of fans zeroed in on Dean in this respect, but Sam and Rowena didn’t exactly step up and object, either. It’s all hands on deck and the odds of any of them making it out are pretty low at this point. I mean, Dean’s basically got the job of hanging out at the top of the rift, lobbing in a live grenade that could go off at any time.

But Castiel listens to this moldy old divisive demon dreck because the writing demands he hold the Idiot Ball this week, all episode, and Belphegor is basically telling him what he wants to hear.

When Castiel asks how to get down to Hell through the rift, Bephegor says he doesn’t know. So, Castiel shoves him in and jumps in after him.

The female Hunter from the teaser comes into the crypt with Rowena’s ingredients. I get that sneaking in past the ghosts would make one edgy and crabby, but it’s not a particularly good introduction for her to snipe at Rowena for being “rude” and downmouth TFW’s world-saving plan.

Especially stupid is the way she takes orders from Sam as her boss, when that hasn’t been Sam’s role this season. It’s been Dean’s.

At that moment, Dean gets a text from Ketch’s phone. It is, of course, Ardat, fishing for info and smiling evilly over a dead Ketch as she does so.

Castiel and Belphegor have found some stairs in Hell and descend them to a hallway full of monkish decor on their way to a large set of doors. Belphegor says he thinks Sam and Dean are starting to like him. Castiel begs to differ, but when Belphegor goads him a bit, he confesses that his big beef is that Belphegor is wearing Jack and that to Castiel, Belphegor is “an abomination” because “Jack was like a son to me.” Um … Castiel, honey, Jack was the abomination. Bephegor’s just a demon, doing what demons do.

So, they enter the room, which is being ransacked by another demon, who knows and is friendly with Belphegor. Castiel shoves him up against a wall and confirms with Belphegor that the new guy doesn’t have the Horn/Crook/whatever. So, he stabs the new demon.

Yeah. That’s a major problem with the past three episodes. Lots of one-shot characters with maybe two lines who suck up all the air time and get no development.

Anyhoo, Castiel and Belphegor locate the box, but it’s locked. The spell to open it is on the box, but it’s in Enochian. However, when Castiel reads it out loud, nothing happens. Belphegor tells him he has to sing it. Turns out Belphegor had a reason for bringing Castiel, after all.

Topside, Dean is getting into position behind a tombstone next to the rift. While wondering where Ketch is, and why everyone else is delaying, he pulls out a gigantic hex bag.

Things are going a bit pear-shaped elsewhere. Down in Hell, Ardat shows up just as Castiel gets the box open and knocks him out. Despite her monologuing about how she knew Belphegor would make a play for the crook/horn, or whatever the script is calling it at any given moment, and that he wants to rule Hell, she is strong enough to kick Belphegor and Castiel’s asses. At least, until Belphegor stabs her from behind. As Belphegor puts it, “Blah, blah, blah, she always was a talker.”

So, in an entirely predictable face-heel turn, Belphegor admits that he pulled a double-cross. The horn (it’s a ram’s horn) is a “siphon” (yet another freakin’ word for this thing). Belphegor intends to eat all the souls and become a sort of god. Well, we know how that all went with Godstiel in season seven, but if there’s one thing consistent about this show, it’s that Demons Are Definitely Stupid.

Belphegor starts blowing the horn and Castiel finds himself blasted back by a great wind. Upstairs, Sam is fretting about not being out where the action is, but gets his butt in gear when he hears the horn. He and Rowena start saying a spell in Latin to close the rift. Outside, by the rift, Dean sees ghosts being sucked back in. When the hex bag glows pink in his hand, he edges out from behind the tombstone and carefully tosses it into the rift.

Things then go exceedingly sideways and unfortunately, Castiel is the direct reason for it. In the worst possible bit of timing, he manages to tackle Belphegor, break the horn, and then smite the demon. There’s a moment when Belphegor tries to pretend that he’s Jack to get Castiel to stop, but remember, folks – Jack is in the Empty. He was never in Hell.

Castiel then proceeds to smite Belphegor into a charred corpse. The last time we saw this kind of overkill was when Jack killed Nick – you know, right before he also killed Mary. Not a good sign. Castiel looks devastated afterward, but it’s not clear whether he’s still just wallowing in grief over Jack or realizes how badly he’s screwed up now.

But Rowena, up top, knows. As Dean and Sam talk on the phone about the rift closing, but something being wrong, Rowena carves out her last “resurrection sachet.” When Sam notices what she’s doing, she explains that “magic can do anything” (but girl, you just said half an episode ago that it couldn’t – oh, never mind). She spouts some daft nonsense about how, if she dies, she can use her body to absorb the souls and take them back down to Hell. Or something. But she has to die for the spell to work and it seems, she has to do it permanently. And Sam has to kill her. She says it’s her prophecy.

As Rowena talks him into stabbing her (and she twists the knife), Castiel crawls out of the rift behind Dean and fills him in on why the plan down south went FUBAR. Dean isn’t thrilled, to say the least.

So, after she’s stabbed, Rowena starts walking slowly out of the crypt to the rift, sucking in souls through her wound as she goes. Once she’s done, she says, “Goodbye, boys!” and does an elegant swan song into the rift to a cheesy Irish flute. The rift closes behind her.

Afterward at the Bunker, Sam feels bad and Dean tries to cheer him up. Dean has been busy, making sure that the town stuff was wrapped up and confirms Ketch’s death. So, I guess that means Sam has been spending the commercial break wallowing. Super. Dean says it’s over and they’ve averted this last apocalypse. He tells Sam he “didn’t have a choice” about killing Rowena.

Out in the Library, Dean is drinking when Castiel shows up. Castiel says he’s sorry about Rowena. Dean gets mad at him and points out that Castiel’s response to Belphegor’s sudden and inevitable betrayal nearly got everyone killed. Rather than admit that he might have made the wrong decision, Castiel doubles down.

Castiel: The plan changed. Something went wrong. Something always goes wrong.

Dean: Yeah, why does that something always seem to be you?

I know I’m supposed to be all shocked and outraged at what Dean says (the scene’s writing and direction are certainly manipulative in that direction), but … well … he’s not wrong. When Castiel whines that his angelic powers are failing, that Dean no longer trusts him, won’t listen to him, and “no longer cares” about him, how is Dean supposed to respond?

It’s not as though Dean is anything but straightforward about why he’s angry – Castiel didn’t “stick to the plan” and now Rowena’s dead. What is incorrect in that statement? Dean’s not angry at Castiel for lacking sparkly powers. He’s angry with him for making lots of stupid decisions in a short amount of time that are getting people killed. Dean may have had, at best, an uneasy respect for Rowena, but Mary just died under similar circumstances. Of course he made that connection.

So, this being episode three of the season, rather than employing any self-examination, Castiel pisses off to wherever to do his own navel-gazing thing, whether or not Dean wants/needs him around or not. Only, this time, he tries to guilt-trip Dean into it being Dean driving him away, even though what Dean is actually doing is calling Castiel out on his poor decisions (Dean even asks Castiel where he’s going when Castiel leaves). Oh, Cas, bless your entitled, angelic little heart.

Credits

The show got a 0.3/2 and 1.24 million in audience, which was up from last week.

The preview and sneak peek for the next episode (an MOTW that is Jensen Ackles’ last directorial turn at bat for the show) are up.

Review: I have three major beefs with this episode. First, did Berens even read the first two scripts? I mean, it’s the conclusion of a three-parter, not an MOTW. So, why do we suddenly have Hunters kissing Sam’s ass and why have basically all the redshirts we would have missed if we blinked in the past two episodes been replaced by a woman we’ve never even seen before? Why is she all hero worshipping Sam when the only people who did that were the ones from the alt-SPNverse who got killed by alt-Michael last season?

Even more importantly, why was she ignoring Dean in favor of Sam when Dean was the one organizing all the Hunters earlier this season (you know, in the past two episodes of which this is the conclusion in the arc)? Does she not recognize her own boss? Why end this three-episode arc with the implication that Sam will lead Hunters? He mostly hangs out with Rowena for the episode inside a crypt and spent the previous two episodes moping over his new mytharc and trying to herd civilians away from the ghost danger zone (to which they were attracted like iron fillings-loaded lemmings).

This leads me to my second beef. Where the hell is Dean’s storyline this season? Show, it is the final season. Don’t think you can just ghost Dean and expect fans not to notice. They already have and boy, are some of them pissed.

The really sad thing is that Dean was actually doing quite a bit this episode, while Sam did hardly anything (even when he stabbed Rowena, she practically yanked the knife into herself with his hand on the blade). Yet, who got the play-by-play and inane in-show fan-cheering? Sam.

Who got a few perfunctory scenes that failed to acknowledge the bald truth of the situation that if Dean had died or otherwise been unable to throw the Big Honking Hex Bag into the Big Honking CGI Rocky Vulva, it wouldn’t have mattered what Sam or Rowena or Castiel or Belphegor did (well … aside from Belphegor wanting to be a ghost god). He was the link the ghosts should have been attacking. But there was no recognition in the story of that at all.

I need to see some actual Dean content this season or I’m just gonna start mentally checking out, right along with the asshole writers.

Then there is Sam. And there is Rowena. And since when are these two besties? Literally the last time we saw these two together last season, she was trying to murder him. Now, suddenly, he’s her apprentice? Say, what the hell?

And how gross is it, not only to fridge a female character to motivate a male character, but to have her get him to fridge her, with her friggin’ permission? Ew. Poor woman got fridged to service the manpain of both Sam and Castiel, neither of whom deserved that sacrifice.

Don’t get me started on the long, random stumble out to the rift, as she’s bleeding to death, to some really cheesy soundtrack music. Writers, this is a horror show on the CW, not an opera.

I’m pretty sure Bobo Berens has forgotten all about this, but when she got Sam to stab her by asking if he would let Dean die to save her (and he then got all stabbity), I immediately thought of Sam (in season 10) kidnapping Rowena, chaining her in a cellar, and forcing her to help him in his plan to take the Mark of Cain off Dean’s arm. Not only did we get Sam forcing Rowena’s cooperation and trying to kill Crowley (a plan that backfired disastrously on him when he only succeeded in burning off Crowley’s partial human cure instead), but he did it all behind Dean’s back and without Dean’s consent. And he ignored major red flags that it would cause a huge apocalypse (which it did), not because he wanted to save Dean, but because he wanted to keep Dean stuck to his side.

But now this season seems determined to skip over those pesky Jeremy Carver seasons where Sam was a dickhead (but at least made sense as a character and had actual growth) to return a fantasy version of season four (a version where Sam wasn’t turning into a major dickhead – sorry, going darkside). Except that now, all that effusive Tell from other characters about how awesome and important Sam is, is not just undercut by his ugly actions. It’s now backed up only by empty hot air as Sam sits around on his ass most of the time, fretting about joining Dean, who is largely offscreen and actually taking care of business. It doesn’t do either character any favors to have Sam’s storyline be all rapturous Tell and Dean’s all understated, perfunctory Show.

There were also ginormous plotholes. Most notably, if the ghosts were being sucked back inside, wasn’t Kevin sucked in, too? Why didn’t anybody worry about that? All those ghost and townspeople characters introduced and dropped the past two episodes? Yeah, don’t expect any closure on any redshirts. We’re too busy fridging Rowena and Ketch here. And don’t get me started on how cheap and unscary everything looks in bright sunlight rather than at night, as it should have been. We already did that rant last week.

Speaking of Ketch, I felt a bit bad about his death – until I remembered that he was the one who murdered Eileen using a dog whistle and an invisible Hell Hound. The Show wanted us to feel sorry for Ketch, but it also spent so much time keeping his motivations under wraps (to keep us guessing) that his 11th hour heroic heel-face turn came literally out of nowhere in terms of writing and foreshadowing.

It was therefore difficult not to notice the clumsy plotting where it was necessary to remove allies from the Brothers so that they wouldn’t proceed immediately in going after Chuck. So, the writers killed off Ketch, Rowena and Belphegor, had Castiel (once again, it’s like clockwork, I swear) go off in a multi-episode solo snit, and had the apocalypse apparently averted (however clumsily) so that the Brothers could go off on a few more last MOTW episodes.

Castiel really got on my last nerve this week. Look, the events leading up to (let alone immediately following) Mary’s death last season happened maybe a week ago in in-show time. Dean and Sam just barely burned their mother’s body, just barely watched Chuck kill her murderer, and have been fighting for their lives ever since.

Castiel wants to wallow incessantly in his grief over Jack, even to the point of buggering up TFW’s strategy to the point that Rowena had to sacrifice herself. Castiel. Got. Rowena. Killed. That’s what’s really fueling Dean’s anger this week. Yet, at the same time, he wants Dean to just “get over” Mary’s death in record time so that he can still hang out in the Bunker with the Winchesters and pretend he’s not a complete fuck-up.

I mean, yeah, all of TFW are powerful outcasts of some sort, but only one of them has been getting the others killed through sheer stupidity of late. It’s amazing how many female characters “misogynistic” Dean interacts with and who go on to have long, extended arcs on the show. And it’s funny how quickly similar female characters get killed off when they interact with “woke” Castiel and Sam.

The thing is that yes, Dean was cold when he “volunteered” Castiel to go down to Hell with Belphegor. But Dean was right (albeit succinct in the explanation) – as an angel who had been to the Pit before, Castiel was the best candidate to go, succeed and survive. And it’s not as though Dean was sitting pretty while Castiel did that. He had arguably the most important and dangerous job of them all.

Further, as Dean made painfully clear in the episode’s coda, everyone on TFW knew perfectly well that Belphegor was going to turn on them at some point (if anything, Dean telegraphed that a little too clearly to Belphegor). That’s why he sent Castiel as Belphegor’s minder. Not because he didn’t care or trust Castiel, but because he did trust Castiel.

And instead, Castiel let Belphegor into his head. Instead, he overkilled Belphegor in a way disturbingly reminiscent of how Jack killed Nick last season – right before he murdered Mary. Why? Because he wanted to believe what Belphegor said about Sam and Dean – especially Dean.

If Castiel can project his own anger and self-loathing onto Dean, then he won’t have to carry it, anymore. If he can blame Dean for not trusting him, he doesn’t have to blame himself for being untrustworthy. He doesn’t have to face that fact that he let a second-rate demon get into his head and get the drop on him, and that because of that, someone else died.

Now if the writing in the show were willing to acknowledge that this one is on Castiel and that he has to own up to it before he can move past it (“The Man Who Would Be King” in season six fairly leaps to mind as an excellent example), I’d be okay with this storyline. I mean, I wish the show weren’t wasting so much time in its final shortened season with stereotypically bitchy high school melodrama, but I’d appreciate the honesty of Castiel’s mistakes and see how they could lead to growth for the character.

But instead, Berens writes it like a teen girl BFF breakup and blames it on Dean. This blatant tongue bath for Destiel fans made that small part of the audience happy-sad, but it ruined Castiel as a character for large sections of the rest of the audience. You can’t prop up a character like that and not do some permanent damage to how the audience views them. “Ruined” is what Berens did to Castiel.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


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The Official Supernatural: “Raising Hell” (15.02) Live Recap Thread


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

It’s been a tough summer, so I’m way behind on my recaps and reviews. As of this review, I now have 51 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 18 after this one for the final (15th) season that started on October 10. That’s 70 total by next April. I currently have 151 coffees at $3 each on Ko-Fi (many thanks to those who have contributed so far!). If I get 300 coffees total, I will commit to doing one recap/review per week (retro or Season 15). If I get 400 coffees, I will commit to two. If I get 500 coffees, three reviews. If I get 600 coffees, four reviews. If I get 700 coffees, five reviews per week.

Other that that, any and all contributions are welcome! You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. 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.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Recap of events up to this point. No rock music this time to distract from the stupidity.

Cut to Now in Harlan, KS, where a soccer mom is sneaking back into town to get her daughter’s asthma meds (why didn’t she grab them when she evacuated?) after dark. This woman is so dumb that when her very tall neighbor pops up in his bathrobe, she starts babbling small talk about her daughter’s spelling bee instead of being alarmed. It’s only when he walks toward her, never speaking, that she gets confused. By then, it’s too late. He stabs her to death.

Then he collapses as a ghost dusts out of him. The one looks like an Old West sheriff. In a Southern accent, he spells out the word “disembowel,” which is what he just did to the woman.

Cue title cards.

Back at the makeshift shelter in the local high school, Castiel is telling Sam that Doomed Teaser Soccer Mom (named “Nan”) is missing. Sam asks a nearby Hunter who has come in to help them with this latest apocalypse to go find out what’s happening with that. Then Sam gets up to make the least inspired speech ever to the restless townspeople, who all have questions he can’t answer. And why is Sam suddenly so socially awkward?

Meanwhile, Dean is being far more effective, patrolling the border of the town with Belphegor. Dean questions again why Belphegor is helping TFW and Belphegor says he just wants to put Hell back the way it was.

Their conversation is interrupted by a ghost trying the barrier. Dean comments that means it’s holding and Belphegor points out that won’t last. Dean shoots the ghost and it’s the one from the teaser. Belphegor identifies him as Frances Tumblety, AKA Jack the Ripper. Aside from the fact that Tumblety is one of the less credible candidates for Jack, he also was the son of Irish immigrants and grew up in Upstate New York. Bottom line? He would not sound Southern. But sure, Show, let’s just handwave that and make the quintessential British serial killer an American gentleman from the South. Why not?

Cut to daytime at the school auditorium, with three more moronic civilians deciding to sneak in and find DTSM. And sneak in they do, this time in broad daylight. [facepalm]

Meanwhile, Jack (the Ripper) is having a meeting with some seriously solid-looking and unscary ghosts. There’s a brief opportunity (when a ghost looks out an upstairs window when viewed from the street) to show her fading out from it. But aside from a brief shot of someone flickering down the staircase (in about the least scary way possible), these ghosts look like the living, but in stage makeup. Yay.

JacktR’s master plan? To break out of the barrier and engage in more murderous shenanigans. Just … you know … worldwide. In other words, he doesn’t really have a plan aside from breaking out. Strike Two and a whiff at making a situation, that should have been terrifying, even remotely chill-inducing.

As they sneak in, the village idiots hear the Hunters they evaded shooting at some ghosts. Then they encounter some more ghosts. They are shocked and scared, but it’s a little late. Especially since they don’t then do anything intelligent. Like run.

Back at the school, Sam and Castiel are arguing about what to tell the townspeople. Sam insists they can’t tell them anything about what’s really happening because the civilians are “barely holding it together.” Hmm, not so much, Sam. I see no evidence of that. If anything, they’re in a quite-cheerful-and-ridiculously-dangerous denial bubble that needed popping last week.

Rowena arrives in the middle of this: “Am I interrupting something juicy?”

So, the plan they want help from her about is to get her to create another crystal like the soul bomb they were going to use on Amara back in season 11. Rowena isn’t so sure she can pull that off a second time (also, was it really necessary to give Rowena a Dumb on Cue moment where Sam tells her that ghosts are souls, when she knew that in season 11?).

The conversation is interrupted by my favorite remaining Redshirt Hunter left alive popping up and saying they’ve got a problem. She then, alas, promptly disappears from the episode, but hey, at least the actress gets paid more for having a line than not. And we now have confirmation the character survived Rowena!Michael’s rampage last season.

Sam comes rushing out to the barrier, where Dean and Belphegor are looking at DTSM’s husband and their neighbor, who got ambushed by ghosts in the previous scene. Despite their obviously being possessed, Sam tries to reason with them and Dean gets smacked with a plot anvil to say, “They’re possessed!” when they start bleeding black goo tears.

JacktR appears out of nowhere. He demands that TFW let him and the other ghosts out, or he’ll kill the civilians. The possessing ghosts start ripping into the guts of the possessed people. Rather than having Sam and Dean solve this one the way they usually one (a saltgun charge to the chest), this is a moment for Ketch to make a grand entrance with a fancy new gun that shoots iron flakes that de-possess people. ‘Cause why use something that’s worked for 14 seasons when you can just make up something complicated and new?

Anyhoo, the gun works and all three ghosts flee while the civilians collapse. We never find out if they survived or not. In fact, they are not mentioned again.

FYI, if you’re not a fan of Ketch popping in like this, don’t worry. This is almost the last time he’ll get to be smart in the episode.

While explaining all this backstory (and that he “liberated” the gun from the LoL), Ketch flirts with Rowena (who, if you’ll recall, he once tortured and got a life-preserving spell from in exchange for her freedom). Despite their ugly history, she’s into it. Oh, boy. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

Hurrying on, Belphegor comes in and introduces himself, and the Brothers explain that Chuck killed Jack (not the Ripper). Everyone besides Belphegor looks far more downcast than pretty much anyone in the room besides Sam likely would truly feel. Then Ketch admits with some chagrin that he’s there to assassinate Belphegor on behalf of a demon named Ardat (in real-world mythology, an Ancient Sumerian demon who may be another name for Lilith, so she probably knew Belphegor when they were human). Because the show just barely remembered that demons got kicked out of Hell, too, but not that most of these ghosts would also be demons by now.

Somewhere in Nevada, Amara is having a massage when she’s startled by her brother Chuck (who smites her masseuse and replaces her). She’s not thrilled to see Chuck. After Chuck starts babbling about how great the Game of Thrones ending was (please tell that was sarcasm, Show), she cuts him short and demands to know why he’s bothering her when they agreed “to give each other space.”

At the school, yet another idiot civilian is whinging to Castiel about the missing people and saying that TFW promised to keep them safe. Well, yeah, but not from your own stupidity, dude. The angelic eyeroll Castiel makes as he walks away is pretty epic, old school Castiel.

Meanwhile, Dean is grumbling in surprise to Rowena over the list of ingredients for the soul catcher (that’s what he ends up calling it). This confuses me. Wouldn’t Dean already have a good idea what the ingredients were from the last time Rowena made one?

Rowena asks him about Ketch (yep, they’re going down that rabbit hole). Dean tells her to keep her eyes on the apocalypse and find someone less creepy than Ketch to bed. He doesn’t mention the whole “Ketch banged my mom” thing, but you could say that’s in character.

As Dean goes off to do something alone in a room, Castiel comes in and they have A Talk. Castiel apologizes about not warning Dean and Sam about Jack Sue going off the rails before he murdered Mary. Dean tells him to stop.

Dean, as it turns out, is having a much worse existential crisis than “just” losing his mother or being mad at Castiel about it. He argues that it’s now clear that Chuck engineered everything about their lives, that Free Will is an illusion, and that they never had any choice. They were always just “rats in a maze.”

Castiel disagrees. Even though he’s angry at Chuck for killing Jack Sue. He insists that there is something still real: “We are.”

A lot of Destielers think this means the show finally made Destiel “real.” Except, not really. At no point in the conversation are Castiel and Dean talking about their friendship, relationship, bond, whatever you call it. You need some kind of anchor for the subtext and it’s just not there.

It’s clear that Castiel means that the “rats” are real, even if Chuck manipulated them six ways to Sunday, not that he and Dean have a true gay love that can pierce the bonds of death or the Fourth Wall. I’m not saying the show has never “gone there” (boy, did it ever go there in “Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets”), just that this is not one of those times.

Cut to night outside. Dean is patrolling with Ketch (why is Sam not doing any patrolling? Or, for that matter, Castiel?). Dean gives Ketch an ugly iron necklace to prevent possession. They talk some more about Chuck (whom Ketch always thought was “theoretical, more rumor than fact”) and then Ketch asks about Rowena. Oh, God, really, Show?

Fortunately, Dean gets a text alert that two Hunters have disappeared on patrol. So, they investigate a creepy warehouse (and don’t find the Hunters). Dean’s breath mists up. First Ketch and then Dean get knocked about by Lizzie Borden. But she’s called off by another ghost. Who turns out to be Ghost!Kevin.

Kevin is friendly and reasonably sane. He tells Dean he was going to contact them sooner, but he “just got here.” He breaks the bad news to Dean that Chuck sent him to Hell after promising to take him to Heaven – for reasons that remain entirely murky for the rest of the episode. The general theory in-show seems to be that Chuck did it for kicks. Kevin also warns them that he can feel the ghost warding fading. We never do find out what happened to those Hunters.

It turns out that because Chuck himself cast Kevin down, he has some scary rep with the ghosts that allows him some control. Dean suggests Kevin go undercover for them and Kevin smiles.

Back at Amara’s … hotel room? … Chuck has ordered a burger and is watching TV, but gets restless when it doesn’t arrive right away. Surely, he could just make his own waitstaff and his own burger.

Amara is trying to ignore him by doing yoga as he babbles on about being “on an extended break from my omniscient benevolence.” He wants the two of them to leave the world behind, even go to another dimension. Amara says no, that she has no interest in spending any time with him.

After some confusion, she realizes that he needs her for the first time ever (and he calls her his “big sis”). She touches his shoulder and sees the wound Sam shot him with. She realizes he’s “not at full strength” and is “afraid.” Chuck doesn’t look thrilled at her epiphany.

So, the next day, Sam and Dean are out patrolling again. Oh, hey, Sam does do that. As Sam dithers about the drawbacks of having Kevin go undercover, Dean points out their options are limited.

Sam snaps at Belphegor when the demon appears behind them, and complains that the warding is fading. When Dean tells the demon to charge it back up, Belphegor says that’s not possible with this kind of spell. Also, when Dean tells him they’re going to send Kevin up to Heaven afterward, Belphegor says that’s not possible. Once you go to Hell, you go to Hell. John and Bobby (Dean doesn’t mention himself) were exceptions that Chuck made himself. No one but Chuck can make exceptions.

Meanwhile, Chuck is exposing his wound, which is a twin to Sam’s, and touches it. He winces and in Harlan, so does Sam. Dean notices and doesn’t believe Sam’s protests that it’s “getting better.”

Back at the suburban house, JacktR is getting the other ghosts to try to break through the barrier as it weakens. Kevin ghosts in at that point. Kevin challenges JacktR, but it doesn’t go well. It turns out JacktR isn’t very impressed by Kevin and he knows Kevin was a Prophet who worked with the Winchesters. Kevin ends up their prisoner.

Back at the school, Rowena is cooking things up for her spell, and talking about right-brain vs. left-brain with Ketch. They flirt heavily (with some pretty bad double entendre dialogue nobody needed to hear and some terrible Bow Chicka Wow Wow soundtrack music). Ketch even finds a shortcut in her research that really turns Rowena on (and will be the last time in the episode that he’s smart).

Fortunately for the audience, Dean calls at that moment, pretty literally cock-blocking this interaction.

Cut to Rowena trotting down the street with a bag. For some reason (plot stupidity, it seems), she crosses through the barrier as a shortcut. JacktR shows up, and tells her to go tell Sam and Dean that he has Kevin and is willing to trade. Or something. It turns out he has a history with Rowena and that she barely survived their “relationship” a century and a half ago. Ketch shows up and tells Rowena to run, then shoots JacktR. But JacktR appears behind him and knocks him out as Rowena runs away.

So, Rowena gets to the Brothers and tells them the news. They show up at the house where the ghosts are holed up. JacktR starts “eating” Kevin in front of Sam and Dean to force them to comply with his demands, but it’s a trap. Rowena comes in with Castiel, and the soul catcher and gets most of the ghosts (but not Jack and three others). Rowena admits afterward that this crystal is less powerful than the last one and can only catch some ghosts at a time (why not use the original one?).

Back behind the barrier, Dean and Belphegor are talking about how its fading. Ketch shows up from inside the barrier, apparently okay. Dean shoots through the barrier at the ghosts, hitting some of them. Rowena and Castiel show up, and Rowena enters the barrier to suck up more ghosts. Ketch is standing beside her. It works … until Ketch backhands Rowena and grabs the crystal. He’s possessed by JacktR. The three other ghosts who escaped the house with him also show up, but they just stand there, grinning.

Unfortunately for Ketch!JacktR, he indulges in a bit of monologuing about how the crystal gives him the power to blow out the barrier. And gloating when Dean’s saltgun runs out. But Dean then just pulls out his pistol and shoots Ketch in the shoulder, twice. The crystal flies out of Ketch’s hand and Dean catches it. As JacktR morphs out of a collapsing Ketch, Dean hands the crystal to Rowena, who uses the crystal on the angry ghosts, with special venom reserved for JacktR.

We get little chance for suspense about whether Ketch is really dead. After the commercial break, he’s on a stretcher, going away in an ambulance as Dean sort-of (but not really) apologizes for shooting him with iron bullets. Ketch says, well, Dean killed him once, already, and he must have been “itching to do it again.” Except that Dean didn’t kill Ketch last time. That was Mary.

Castiel tries to heal Ketch’s wound, but worriedly admits to Sam afterward that he can’t. Sam shrugs it off as everyone being tired.

Ketch and Rowena share a lingering look as he’s put in the ambulance. Then she and Dean share a look. Yeah, we really didn’t need that subplot.

In the coda, Sam tells Dean that Kevin wants to leave the barrier. Kevin says he’d rather take his chances going crazy in the world than go back to Hell. It turns out that Belphegor can make a small hole in the barrier (but he can’t power it back up? Okay). Kevin says goodbye to the Brothers and says, “Love you guys.” Then he goes out through the hole and disappears. Belphegor, by the way, is inside the barrier with the Brothers when Kevin leaves. Wouldn’t he, too, be stuck inside it?

Cut to Amara, who has power-suited up and is heading out. She says she’s willing to co-exist with Chuck, just not in the same part of the multiverse. She’s guessed that he is way powered down (only able to “do a few parlor tricks”) and can’t leave the Earth without her help. She says she’s changed, but he hasn’t. She’s ditching him and gloats a bit that she’s now sealing him away as he once did her. She tells him he’s “got what you always wanted – you’re on your own.” And she leaves.

Back at the barrier, ghost fireballs are bombarding it. It’s weakening. Everyone, including Sam, looks at Dean and says they have to stop the ghosts from getting out. Dean’s like, “How?!”

Credits

The show got a 0.3/2 and 1.16 million in audience. Yes, that is another series low in audience, but the show still tied with Arrow for second place in demo and came in third in audience behind The Flash and Batwoman. I think it was one of only three CW shows last week to top a million. ‘Cause that’s how the CW rolls these days.

The preview for next week is up.

Review: Lord, was that one sure daft. I mean, it passed the time well enough, I guess, but it was frequently stupid. And busy. This writing duo has surely written worse, but then, we are talking about the same duo that thought a story involving a black woman in a dog collar, who was literally a dog and whose master was white, would somehow not be problematical at all. And then we had last week’s episode. So, that bar was already Limbo-low.

The episode had plotholes and changed-up canon galore, and an awful lot of characters on both sides of the story acting stupid just to move things along. Others were simply dropped with no resolution to their subplot, such as DTSM’s husband (who may or may not now be dead) and daughter (who may or may not now be an orphan, but is certainly now motherless since TFW found her mother’s body offscreen), or the two Hunters who disappeared through a plothole in a warehouse, never to be heard from again.

Then there was that moment when Ketch accused Dean of killing him once, already. While Dean has certainly tried, multiple times, to kill Ketch, it was Dean’s mother Mary who actually succeeded. And while I don’t mind Rowena getting her freak on however she wants, having her hook up with the male GOTW every time, just because, is kinda gross and demeaning for her character. What, it’s okay to trash Dean for hooking up with random women (which he hardly does anymore, anyway), but when Rowena does it, she gets a fandom High Five? Really?

Not to mention that Rowena’s being into Ketch after his torturing her in their last encounter isn’t kinky. It’s just nasty. We already know what Ketch torturing a woman he’s attracted to looks like and we saw Mary trying to shoot herself to get out of the situation. Oh, hell, no. Rowena deserves better. And, as Dean pointed out, higher standards.

I’m not entirely sure where the show is going with all these guest stars. There’s a distinct possibility that Rowena will check out of Hotel Winchester permanently next episode. But whether we’ve seen the last of Ketch (who is still alive, though with a wound Castiel can’t heal) and Kevin (who is a ghost, but still “alive” as a character in the story) is unclear. And I don’t think it’s unclear for the sake of suspense. I think it’s unclear for the same reason we never found out what happened to most of the redshirt characters this week – lazy and sloppy writing. The calling card of the Nepotism Duo who wrote this episode, but also business as usual for the writers room under their questionable leadership.

There are two fan misconceptions that have come out of this episode. I mentioned the first one, already – that when Castiel said that “we” were “real” to Dean’s “rats in a maze” speech, there’s no actual indication that he was talking about his relationship with Dean. He just meant that Free Will was a real thing for Chuck’s creatures, even if Chuck has manipulated them a lot and frequently acted as a puppet master.

I can’t say that I’ve been impressed by what we’ve got of either Dean or Castiel so far this season, let alone of them together. Mostly, they grump at each other about Jack. Dean saves the day (after all the guest star grandstanding this week and obsession with Sam’s new Speshul Storyline, ruthlessly save the day is precisely what Dean did). Castiel tries to heal people and can’t (or hovers over Rowena’s shoulder for some reason). I sure hope things pick up for both of them or this is gonna be a very long season.

The other misconception is about Sam’s wound. I see a lot of spec that Sam will get special, even godlike, superpowers from his connection to Chuck. While I wouldn’t put anything past these writers, that’s not how the connection has been set up so far. Chuck said last season about his weapon that whatever was visited on the person shot by the gun would also be visited on the shooter. Dean suggested the example that if the person shot died, so would the shooter, and Chuck confirmed this.

The thing is that in order for Sam to gain powers from Chuck, there would need to be a transfer of power. But in Chuck’s explanation, that’s not the case. Instead, it’s a transfer and sharing of damage from the gun. It’s more like sympathetic magic (sticking a pin in an object to cause harm to a person the object represents) than the vampiric power transfer of power this fan theory assumes.

While Chuck is definitely getting weaker, that doesn’t mean Sam is getting stronger. There’s no evidence that Sam is becoming, let alone replacing, Chuck, just that he is sharing Chuck’s growing pain and weakness.

This brings up a rather disturbing idea – is Chuck dying? If so, will the balance between Light and Dark be disrupted, destroying the SPNverse? Did Sam’s impulsive stupidity just doom the world (wouldn’t be the first time).

Is this what may bring Amara back to help TFW? She still doesn’t appear to care much about humans if her verbal shrug after Chuck smote her masseuse for kicks is any indication. So, I guess worrying about humanity still isn’t her thing. Then again, this version of Amara doesn’t seem to care about anything except hedonism and has totally forgotten about her bond with Dean Winchester. So, it’s hard to tell whether we’ve seen the last of her or she’s just going through an ennui phase.

Speaking of Chuck and Amara, their pettiness makes them too human and not godlike enough in this episode. I’m not talking about a conscious choice to make them petty (Greek gods were petty, too), but that they are portrayed thinking and caring about things that they shouldn’t and wouldn’t care about.

For example, why is Chuck complaining about not getting food when he doesn’t need to eat and could conjure up anything he wants, including the waitstaff? I can sort of see Amara liking massages, but what is the attraction for her in meditation? And why is she so slow to notice her brother’s condition when they are permanently and psychically linked (“Yin and Yang,” as Amara puts it)? Why is she unaware that Chuck opened Hell?

And what does Chuck know? When he touches his wound, there is no indication in the story that he is aware that Sam can feel it, too, or where Sam is, or how the whole ghost army situation is going. Is he just not following his own story, anymore, even as he’s in the middle of it?

This seems like the usual thing the show does at this time of the season. At the end of the previous season, they introduce a Big Bad that turns out to be a little bit too Big and Bad. So, they have to rein in said BB for that character to last (and the Brothers to survive) until the end of the season. So, the show has elected to limit God. That doesn’t mean the way they’re writing this storyline makes much sense.

This is also a reason why the ghosts are such a dud as a mytharc storyline. As I noted last week, they are pretty much the opposite of ethereal and that makes them not-scary. SPN ghosts are noted for being crazy violent (literally), but that also means they are effectively mindless.

Having ghosts plotting and coming up with nefarious plans is a bit like writing zombie as actual characters who can think and pick locks. The whole point of Romeroesque zombies as something different from other revenants like vampires is that they can’t think. Similarly, the Supernatural version of ghosts can’t, either. And yet, here we are, with ghosts plotting to take over the world, and it’s as boring as salt-less oatmeal.

And that doesn’t mean the show can escape those limitations for this type of MOTW so easily, or without unfortunate implications for the story. The writing for Jack the Ripper, for example, is bog-standard awful. Not only did they pick an historical suspect who was American, but they then cast an actor who didn’t look or sound anything like how that candidate did in real life.

Nor does he act like Jack the Ripper in his kill pattern (except that he’s about as thunderously stupid in his Evil Overlord planning as you would expect for the ghost of a maniac killer who escaped capture largely due to police incompetence). In the teaser, he disembowels a woman. But that is the very least of what the real Jack the Ripper did.

He was a sexual sadist who butchered his female victims in highly sexual ways. His last known victim, Mary Jane Kelly, was the youngest and reputedly the prettiest of the women. The killer left her sprawled in a sexualized position, carved to pieces, with no face. None of that vicious vibe appears in the teaser for this episode, let alone later on.

Apparently, portraying a young black woman in a master-slave position with a white man, complete with dog collar, is A-okay for these writers. But portraying an attack by Jack the Ripper with anything approaching historical accuracy is a CW bridge too far. Well, don’t pick Jack the Ripper as your EVOL spokesghost, then.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


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The Official Supernatural: “Back and To the Future” (15.01 – Season Premiere) Live Recap Thread


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It’s been a tough summer, so I’m way behind on my recaps and reviews. As of this review, I now have 52 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 19 after this one for the final (15th) season that starts on October 10. That’s 71 total by next April. I currently have 149 coffees at $3 each on Ko-Fi (many thanks to those who have contributed so far!). If I get 300 coffees total, I will commit to doing one recap/review per week (retro or Season 15). If I get 400 coffees, I will commit to two. If I get 500 coffees, three reviews. If I get 600 coffees, four reviews. If I get 700 coffees, five reviews per week.

Other that that, any and all contributions are welcome! You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. 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.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Really long recap (nearly two minutes) of random (maybe) stuff from previous seasons and one for last season that includes Dean-Michael and Mary’s death for a hot minute. We also get a quick bit of EVOL!Kaia fighting, but not Jody or Donna, or any other Wayward Sister we might care about. But it mostly lingers on the Jacknatural plot. For a painfully prolonged time. It’s all set to Bob Seger’s “The Famous Final Scene.”

Cut to Now as the song continues in the middle of the night Chuck either suddenly created out of a bright, sunny afternoon or time traveled TFW into. The camera pulls back from Jack’s face with its burned-out eye sockets to the fight going on around him. Sam, Dean and Castiel are defending themselves from a horde of zombies. Whenever they stab or smite them, the spirits inside the bodies flame red and flare out in a new special effect that … well … doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Are they being destroyed? Shouldn’t they all be demons by now? Ah, Dabb, you and your LOL!Canon.

Eventually, TFW are able to grab Jack’s body (because, as Game of Thrones demonstrated in season eight, the smartest thing to do in a fight with zombies is to grab a recently dead body and go hide out with some other dead bodies) and retreat to a nearby mausoleum.

Cue title cards of some sort of hurricane bullet wound. Or something.

So, they’re in the crypt, trying to figure out how to get out. Well … the Brothers are trying to figure out how to get out. Castiel is moping over Jack’s dead, eyeless body, ’cause that’s useful.

After circling round and not finding a way out (aside from a window that’s way too close to the zombie-laden Forest Lawn they just escaped, the Brothers return to Jack’s body and mope briefly over it, too.

“He didn’t deserve this,” Dean says, before moving on to figuring out how not to join him. Mmm, yeah, he really did, Dean, but okay. Sam asks Castiel if he can heal Jack (from a Chuck smiting? Don’t think so, Sam).

Dean tries to figure out this new version of zombies while facing the prospect of starving to death (they’d actually die of thirst, first). Sam and Castiel both speculate that the zombies are Hell souls who leaped into any body they could find.

This … quite irritates me. For one thing, a graveyard like that isn’t going to have a whole lot of bodies left because bodies decompose relatively quickly in relation to how quickly your average cemetery in a small town fills up. For another, all souls that go to Hell turn into demons (per Ruby, who was a lying demon, yes, but was never proven wrong on that one) and they do it pretty quickly.

So, the evil ghosts the Brothers have vanquished actually ought to be demons by now, not ordinary ghosts. Or superghosts. Or whatever the hell Dabb is trying to make them out to be now.

But hey. Why should the showrunner pay any attention to his show’s own canon, amirite?

Anyhoo, Dean grumbles that he never trusted Chuck. This is true. Maybe everyone else should have listened to him about that.

Meanwhile, Sam has found an area of the wall near the floor that has the sound of running water in some kind of French drain pipe (in a crypt?). So, they start breaking up the wall and the brick behind it to see if they can crawl out (while Castiel just stands there).

Alas, the zombies have somehow figured out this route first and crawled in because … well, who the hell even knows? What did you have in mind, here, Dabb?

Castiel finally steps in and brains the zombie (which causes the skeletal spirit inside to ghost out), but it appears whatever barrier kept the souls out has been broken. Jack suddenly stands up behind them. Only, it’s not Jack. It’s a demon using his meatsuit.

The demon introduces itself as Belphegor, then checks out their gear to find some sunglasses to cover Jack’s burned-out eyes. At this point, Castiel grabs Belphegor, shoves him against the wall, and demands – at angel-sword-point – that he vacate Jack’s body.

Belphegor’s counter is that he can help them escape the crypt. That’s a pretty good counter. Dean pulls Castiel off, saying they need all the help they can get (and if the demon doesn’t help, they’ll just kill him). Sam, for once, backs Dean up.

Sam starts to introduce himself and Dean, but Belphegor cuts them off. He knows they’re the Winchesters and he knows what that means. He immediately assumes Dean was the one who opened all of Hell and is surprised when Castiel sets him straight that it was actually Chuck (while Dean looks nonplussed and Sam confirms Castiel’s claim with grim look).

Belphegor explains that he’s not a CRD or a BED (in mythology, he’s a Prince of Hell, but the show already killed them off so … not in this story?). He’s just an ordinary demon Joe who likes being in Hell, tormenting souls. He wants to get back to business as usual, which means he’s on the Winchesters’ side, at least for now.

Sam asks if Belphegor can “fix this” (meaning: Put all the zombies back). The demon says he can’t, but that he can get them out of the crypt. Dean asks how. Belphegor gets together some grave dirt and angel blood (from a reluctant Castiel) and then claps his bloodied/dirty hands together. The incessant growling of the zombies outside stops, as if cut off. When TFW go outside, they find bodies everywhere.

Castiel says the ghosts must have all died – I mean, again. Belphegor corrects him on that. He just blasted them out of the bodies. Dean asks, Where are they now?

Cut to two girls (one black and one white – this is very relevant) playing dress-up in the white girl’s bedroom (except that later, we will see pictures on the wall of the black girl, so I guess it’s her house?), while Extreme Music’s “Gimme What I Want” plays.

It’s not actually a bad song, but I get the impression the show is using it here to emphasize the girls immaturity and innocence. Dabb writes them as stereotypical pre-teens (giggling, big smiles and talking in popular catchphrases), but the actresses look quite a bit older. Which just underscores how poorly he writes women.

Anyhoo, we get a few lines about how the white girl’s mom is buying her lots of stuff out of guilt over divorcing her dad/step-dad. As the black girl turns back to the mirror, Bloody Mary (who had previous stuck her hand out of a mirror the white girl turned away from) starts to mimic her. First, she makes the girl’s reflection’s eyes bleed, then the girl’s eyes. But then, as the girl turns around, she pulls the skin off her own face as she screams and that’s not part of the whole Bloody Mary thing, so LOL!Canon strikes again.

Also, yep, the Person of Color dies first and worst. Thanks so much for grinding that old horror-movie cliche in a little more, Dabb.

Upon seeing her friend drop dead, White Girl turns to flee, but sees Bloody Mary blocking her path. She lets out a hearty horror-movie scream.

Cut to the Impala, still in Chuck’s imposed night. Castiel and Belphegor are in the backseat, which is mighty uncomfortable for the angel. Belphegor is saying he looks good with the glasses, but demons whose vessels have burned-out eyes can’t see (per the waitress demon in season four’s premiere, “Lazarus Rising”).

Sam is looking online for any sign of the “ghosts” and can’t find any (wouldn’t people also be confused by day suddenly turning to night?). Belphegor says the “souls” will resurface eventually, as they have to go somewhere. He can contain them, though, in a mile-wide radius near the cemetery (but doesn’t this conversation imply they blasted all over the world – oh, never mind). He just needs to use a spell. When asked how many souls there are in Hell, he says 2-3 billion. Um, really? If there were that many in Hell, then why did Crowley believe in season six that the tens of millions of monster souls in Purgatory would ever help him against Raphael?

Castiel points out that this circle would encompass the nearby town of Harlan, KS, so now TFW has to go back in and get everyone out (assuming they’re not already dead or possessed by ghosts).

They see a car up ahead. It’s deserted, with blood on the windshield and the radio playing “Too Good to Be True” by Lon Rodgers and the Soul Blenders. Dean immediately recognizes this as the MO of a Woman in White. Sam confirms that there is more than one Woman in White type of ghost in the SPNverse when he guesses this might be their Woman in White. At that point, Dean realizes that all the souls they ever vanquished are back out of Hell and roaming the earth.

Cut to a viciously disrupted birthday party (it’s heavily implied that there were child casualties). There are only two survivors – a woman and her daughter. The woman, who is happily quite resourceful, carries her child out to the garage. But a ghost clown chasing them has put the whole house on supernatural lockdown and they can’t get out. The woman calls out to a man outside, walking his dog, but he doesn’t hear her. She and her daughter hide as the ghost (of John Wayne Gacy from “Lebanon” last season) stalks through the garage, looking for them and cackling.

Cut to daytime, with the Brothers arriving in the Impala in town. Sam gets out to convince the sheriff that he has to evacuate the town (some barmy lie about a benzene pipeline outside town that “sprung a leak”). Sam and Dean are wearing FBI jackets.

Meanwhile, Dean tries to detail Castiel out to the job of getting Belphegor his ingredients, but Castiel can’t even angel-up enough to look at Belphegor and gets out of the car. Hey, remember when Dean was reaaaallly upset about Jack murdering his mom and Castiel wanted him to get over it in a hot minute? Yeah.

So, in the car, Belphegor is saying he’s been downstairs since he died and that the last time he was topside, people were very ugly and they “worshiped a giant penis” (the expressions from Jensen Ackles to stay in character – and likely to keep from laughing – are priceless). This is a reference to Belphegor’s real-world mythology as the god Baal-Peor in Ancient Canaanite religion. He was worshiped by the Moabites in the form of a stone penis. Really. It’s all in Belphegor’s pretty-short Wikipedia page, which is probably the only research Dabb did on the subject.

In the show, this version has a wee crush on Dean. Dean mostly shrugs this off and gets out of the demon that there are only two key ingredients to his spell – rock salt and a human heart. So, basically Ruby’s spell from season three’s “Jus in Bello,” but missing the “kills all demons” part.

Meanwhile, Sam and Castiel have convinced the sheriff to evacuate the town and they are going into houses to get people out. Castiel happens to enter the one with the two girls (Bloody Mary is still there in the mirrors and looking smug). Sam goes into the one where the woman is still hiding with her daughter in the garage from Gacy Clown.

Rather than let her mom get her down from the high shelf they were hiding behind, Sam stupidly puts down his saltgun and gets her down himself. Then he starts reassuring her while still not picking up the gun. This, unsurprisingly, results in GC appearing behind him and slashing him.

Fortunately, Castiel shows up and blasts the ghost with rock salt. Then he heals Sam of the ghost’s slash wound. They then have a conversation about Sam’s ricochet wound from shooting Chuck, right in front of the mom and daughter, while the clown ghost is still in the vicinity. As you do.

Castiel tries to heal the bullet wound, but instead gets a vision of Sam apparently possessed by Lucifer in the Bunker while it’s on lockdown and possibly a shot of Dean collapsing as if dead, while we hear him say, “Sammy, please.”

Castiel then says there’s an “energy” in the wound that he has never, ever, pinky-swear felt before. I roll my eyes, because did we really need a final round of Sam Done Come Back Wrong? Really, Show? That’s the best you can do with this character in his final season?

Meanwhile, Dean is getting off the phone with Rowena (“Get your exquisite ass over here” he tells her after being told off for saying only “Get your ass over here”) and handing Belphegor his salt. Belphegor then admits that he’s a major fan (and he does use that word) of the torturer Dean was in Hell, that what Dean did there was “art.” He just didn’t want to say that in front of the rest of TFW.

Whoo, does that make Dean uncomfortable. But when Dean asks Belphegor what it was like when Hell burst open, he is shocked to hear that every door opened up and confirms that this included the Cage. Michael hadn’t left the Cage when Belphegor was cast out (up?), but if he were to do that, well ….

Meanwhile, the sheriff is finishing up clearing the town out and gets killed in a parking lot right after talking to Sam, by the Woman in White (not played by Sarah Shahi this time). Conveniently (and uncharacteristically), she leaves the heart, which means Belphegor can now use it for his spell without too much guilt for TFW. The Woman in White shows up and hits Dean after saying “I remember you. You took me home.” Nooooo, Dabb, honey. That was Sam. She also slashes Belphegor because that’s now a thing ghosts can do to demons, I guess.

Sam and Castiel are leaving the house as GC watches them from the garage. The little girl decides to wander over to a pond and stare into it until Bloody Mary shows up because … plot reasons. Mom gets grabbed as she tries to get her daughter away. Meanwhile, Sam is up against GC and Castiel against Lizzie Borden for some random reason. There’s also some other random tall dude. Actually, Castiel does most of the vanquishing and Sam accidentally shoots him with rock salt at one point (to Castiel’s annoyance). But Sam does get to shoot Bloody Mary, and save Mom and her stupid daughter. So, there’s that.

This is interspersed with Belphegor doing the spell in Latin (a bit mangled in pronunciation): “Animae infernorum, spiritus abyssi surrecti defigo, vos intra confinia, vinciamini,” which basically means, “Spirits of Hell, resurrected spirits of the abyss, I enchant/strike [you] dumb; within this boundary, I confine you.”

A large, glowing red line spreads out around the town. Sam and Castiel see it and Sam realizes it’s the spell. He and Castiel, along with the mom and daughter, start running. Funnily enough, instead of doing their usual thing of teleporting, the spirits … run after them. In broad daylight. Really.

So, the humans make it through the boundary (after Sam first tries to hold off the ghosts with an empty saltgun). GC howls in rage and Sam tells to clown to “shut up.”

Afterward, as they get dropped off in a nearby town, Mom and Daughter thank TFW, who tell them it might be best if they don’t tell anybody about all this. I concur.

Dean asks Castiel if he’s okay. Castiel says yes, but before he can go into any detail (warming up more than he has recently toward Dean), Dean says that’s good and coldly turns his back on him. Just in case we weren’t sure what this was supposed to mean, Belphegor casually rimshots it as an intentional snub. Castiel rebuffs Belphegor’s offer to cry on his shoulder.

At the very end, Sam says they’re on a deadline. What happens when the real FBI shows up? Dean gets Sam to show him his wound and cleans it (distracting him with a knock-knock joke, just as when they were kids). Because surely, after an angel couldn’t do anything, a little alcohol will do the trick. He notes there’s no exit wound. Well, yeah, but it wasn’t a gun that, strictly speaking, fired bullets, anyway.

Sam brings up Chuck saying it was “the end” in last season’s finale. Dean says they were just “rats in a maze” all along, with no meaningful choice. Sam says they saved people, but Dean asks what is the point, when Chuck will just throw another apocalypse at them? Sam, though, thinks that Chuck is gone (um … because why, now?), that Chuck has given up on this story and moved on to another one. So, if they can beat this apocalypse, maybe it will be the last one.

As they turn back to the trunk (in a mirror of the end of the Pilot), Dean says, “Well, you know what that means.”

Sam: We got work to do.

As Sam reaches up to close the trunk, we get an actual flashback to his doing it in the Pilot.

Credits.

The show came back slightly higher in demo (0.4/2) than the season 14 finale (0.3/2) and slightly lower (1.23 million vs. 1.30 million) in audience. What that probably means is that it skewed a bit younger this week than in last season’s finale. This put it in fourth place for the week on the network (including against brand-new show Batwoman). I haven’t seen DVR numbers yet for the show.

For comparison, Supernatural‘s lead-out Legacies came back with an unimpressive 0.3/3 and 0.80 million, which put Legacies third-from-last for the week, only ahead of Friday shows Charmed and Dynasty. Sure, CW. Tell us again how Legacies and Charmed were such better ideas than that Wayward Sisters spin-off.

The preview for next week is up.

Review: Well. That happened.

For those of you hoping the showrunners would clean up their act this final season, it was a nice thought. Let’s put it that way.

This episode had some nice ideas and clip-clopped along at enough of a rate that it might even have been scary in an old-school, fairly simplistic-but-eerie way, if both the writer and director hadn’t been phoning it all in. Not a good sign of things to come when both showrunners are so mentally checked out in the very first episode of their last season.

It was a typical Dabb script – shallow, insipid and chaotic, yet painfully linear, loaded with walking cliches in place of characters, random plot holes, poor or nonexistent foreshadowing, and many unnecessary errors in canon.

Singer’s direction was obvious and plodding, taking the cheapest, easiest and least imaginative approach to the script. I got some amusement out of the traditional Belphegor being an example of laziness and sloth in Reformation era demonology. What a perfect metaphor for the current showrunners and their bad attitude. It’s possible this was Dabb’s sly dig at critical fans, but with everything else in the episode being banged home with verbal rimshots, I doubt he had anything so subtle in mind.

A major example in the episode itself is the central MOTW – the ghosts. There’s a moment at the climax that highlights the errors in a glaring way. That’s when Sam and Castiel, and their two civilian charges are running from the ghosts who are … running after them. Say, what?

Now, sure, in the beginning of the episode, the ghosts are lumbering after TFW, but that’s because they are inside dead meatsuits. Why they are inside dead meatsuits isn’t entirely clear. Is that something Chuck just randomly made up?

Okay, fine, but how is that satisfying storytelling? Just because a monster mash-up sounds cool on paper, that doesn’t mean it’s gonna work out onscreen (it sure didn’t here). And if it’s not satisfying storytelling, why would Chuck do it in the first place? Just because he’s God, that doesn’t mean his behavior has no limits or pattern. He likes good stories. Even if he is (as I continue to suspect) actually the Empty Entity, he’s still gotta act in character and doing so means “writing” a good puppet show.

The thing that Dabb forgets, over and over, in this episode is that a big part of what made classic ghosts like Bloody Mary and the Woman in White so frightening was how the limits of their urban legend backstories actually made them more dangerous, not less. It made their behavior unsettling and unpredictable, even once you figured out their pattern.

When they would hit such a limit in their parameters, they’d bounce off in some random direction and come at you sideways, or from behind. Sure, the pattern would be obvious after their attack, but by then, someone would usually be dead. Their backstories gave them a mystery, a mystique, that made them truly frightening. Take away their traditional limits and they become generic monsters, and much, much less scary.

The thing that Singer forgets is that ghosts are scary because they operate in the dark, in shadows (where you can’t really see them or what they’re doing), and because they no longer move or act like human beings. They flicker and teleport. They appear and disappear at random. They twist and distort. They flow like liquid, blow like gas. They appear in multiple forms. They are lethally ethereal.

What they are not is a group of live human actors in dress-up, running after Our Heroes across an open street, in broad daylight, on a bright and sunny day. If you’re gonna go with that setting, do some friggin’ shadow people flickering along the house walls and doors, instead. That would be scary.

At the climactic point in the episode, the ghosts have been kicked out of their bodies and are, again, just ghosts. There is simply no reason for ghosts to run. In point of fact, we never see them run in other episodes (except for the justly forgotten “Of Grave Importance,” where they even forget they can pass through walls and floors and ceilings). There is nothing scary about ghosts running like living people.

Speaking of which, why are they still just ghosts? They should long since have been demonized by now. Yet, we only meet one demon – Belphegor. And the way Belphegor talks about being in Hell, it appears the show has, once again, forgotten all about the canon established in season-freakin’-four that Hell time moves much faster than earth time – in the same scene where Belphegor is referencing Dean’s 40 years in Hell, no less.

Or, that there shouldn’t be that many souls left in Hell, demonized or not, after Amara’s eating rampage. Or, if there were lots more than that before she chowed down on them, why was Crowley so hot to get a mere 20-30 million monster souls from Purgatory in season six?

One could argue that some of this retconning is just reinterpreting canon, rather than changing it up. And I’d be fine with that if the replacement canon were better, or at least took the story in intriguing new directions, but it’s not and it doesn’t. It’s just lazy.

There is no reason, for example, for the Woman in White to claim that Dean took her home. That’s as dumb as the Nepotism Duo claiming that Lucifer was the oldest archangel. The Pilot’s climax makes it obvious this was Sam’s plan (to the point that Dean complains afterward about Sam driving the car into the house). Sam even says what he’s about to do to Constance (the Pilot’s Woman in White) right before he does it. And Dean is treated by both of them as little more than an afterthought, even though he “shot Casper in the face, you freak,” as Sam so memorably puts it.

Further, while I can see a fandemon like Belphegor believing that Dean was behind opening the gates of Hell, it makes no sense from a story point of view. Aside from Dean, only a few angels and demons even know that Dean was the First Seal. That leaves Sam and Castiel duking it out for the top spot of Number One Public Champ in Starting Apocalypses.

I find it curious that these two “accomplishments” (one minor, one highly negative) are incorrectly attributed to Dean, while Sam gets the limpest, lamest version of Speshul Sauce Sammy subplot yet. He’s got VISIONS FROM GOD, Y’ALL. Though it would be more accurate to say that Castiel’s attempt to heal his wound meant the wound sparked visions in Castiel because Sam acts completely unaware of them when interacting with Dean later on. But the upshot is that once again, we have something SPECIAL about Sam that really has nothing to do with Sam and doesn’t grow his personality in any significant way.

Not helping is the constant handholding and training wheels that the episode gives Sam. Sam is a grown-ass adult and experienced Hunter of no small renown, yet he’s presented here as barely able to carry a saltgun by the correct end. Castiel has to rescue him almost incessantly from his own stupidity and the big, mean ghosts Sam has been fighting his entire life. I mean, I get that clowns scare him, but come on. He acts dumb even before he tangles with Gacy Clown.

Granted, everyone in that climactic ghost chase scene (especially that little girl) is hit by so many plot stupid anvils that it’s a wonder they won’t have concussions for the rest of the season. The little girl was so dumb, I kept expecting her to be possessed by a ghost. Hell, somebody should have been possessed by a ghost in all the shenanigans.

Castiel, I wanted to smack with a rotten mackerel for much of the episode. He’s been acting pissy toward Dean for a while, for various plot reasons (for a start, he was mad at Dean last season for saying yes to Michael, even though Castiel had said yes to Lucifer under not-dissimilar conditions). His latest thing was being upset that Dean wasn’t properly “mourning” Jack, but as Dean put it in the episode, Jack was dead and they had an apocalypse to survive.

Castiel seems to have had a change of heart after seeing the vision of Sam apparently murdering Dean. I think. Unlike everything else in the episode, including Dean’s stinging rejection of Castiel’s proffered olive branch (complete with verbal rimshot from Belphegor, standing nearby), it wasn’t made REALLY OBVIOUS. Yet, Castiel did act distinctly warmer toward Dean in the episode’s coda and it did follow directly on his vision of Dean’s death at Sam’s hands in some probably-near future.

[Update: According to an interview today (10/17) with Andrew Dabb (though keep in mind that interviews are never canon and the writers frequently lie or fudge what actually appears on the show, all the time), Sam was the one who had the vision, not Castiel, and Castiel didn’t actually see anything. I don’t know what to tell y’all about that, since Sam didn’t react to the vision (aside from looking in pain) and Castiel did. If Dabb and Singer really did intend to convey that it was Sam’s vision and not Castiel’s, then they did a piss-poor job of it.]

Alas, Dean wasn’t feeling the reconciliation. Well, that might have something to do with Castiel’s little meltdown in the middle of the episode. Castiel wasn’t happy at all with Dean’s being willing to work with a demon inside Jack’s meatsuit and was pretty nasty about it. Yet, he was all about Dean insta-forgiving Jack for murdering Mary and just moving on from his own mother’s (second) death. Keep in mind that only occurred days ago in the story’s timeline.

From Dean’s POV, that’s going to look an awful lot like Castiel feeling “bad” about Mary, but not really. In wallowing in his own grief and anger over Jack’s death, Castiel made it abundantly clear that his love and grief over Mary was all pretty academic, and that he wasn’t willing to respect Dean’s grief in the way he expected Dean to respect his own (in the middle of an all-hands-on-deck emergency, no less). And that’s gonna make Dean pretty salty.

Well, I left Belphegor for last. I’m not really sure what to think of him. I liked him okay initially, though I found Alex Calvert’s performance a little rough. He did improve a bit on rewatch, though, and it’s common for fan favorites to have rocky starts in their first episode.

I currently have two problems with him. One is that his powers and skills were a little bit too convenient for the needs of TFW and the story. That Sued him up a bit, even allowing for the probability that he is playing TFW (Dean even acknowledged this likelihood while accepting his help). The other is that I don’t see much reason to get used to him as a character, since I doubt he’ll last long. The show seems obsessed with bring Jack Sue back, with all that entails, so that makes Belphegor just a placeholder character who keeps Alex Calvert onscreen and Calvert fans happy for now. Ah, well.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


Like this column? You can help keep it going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee.


Supernatural: Season 15


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

It’s been a tough summer, so I’m way behind on my recaps and reviews. As of this review, I now have 51 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 20 for the final (15th) season that starts on October 10. That’s 71 total by next April. I currently have 149 coffees at $3 each on Ko-Fi (many thanks to those who have contributed so far!). If I get 300 coffees total, I will commit to doing one recap/review per week (retro or Season 15). If I get 400 coffees, I will commit to two. If I get 500 coffees, three reviews. If I get 600 coffees, four reviews. If I get 700 coffees, five reviews per week.

Other that that, any and all contributions are welcome! You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. 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.

Here are all my live recaps and reviews in one, handy-dandy spot, for Season 15.


The Official Supernatural: “Back and To the Future” (15.01-Season Premiere) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Raising Hell” (15.02) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “The Rupture” (15.03) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Atomic Monsters” (15.04) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Proverbs 17:3” (15.05) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Golden Time” (15.06) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Last Call” (15.07) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Untitled” (15.08) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Untitled” (15.09) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Untitled” (15.10) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Untitled” (15.11) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Untitled” (15.12) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Untitled” (15.13) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Untitled” (15.14) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Untitled” (15.15) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Untitled” (15.16) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Untitled” (15.17) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Untitled” (15.18) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Untitled” (15.19) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Untitled” (15.20 – Series Finale) Live Recap Thread


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


Like this column? You can help keep it going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee.


Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.12: Sharp Teeth


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

It’s been a tough summer, so I’m way behind on my recaps and reviews. As of this review, I now have 52 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 20 for the final (15th) season that starts on October 10. That’s 72 total by next April. I currently have 144 coffees at $3 each on Ko-Fi. If I get 300 coffees total, I will commit to doing one recap/review per week (retro or Season 15). If I get 400 coffees, I will commit to two. If I get 500 coffees, three reviews. If I get 600 coffees, four reviews. If I get 700 coffees, five reviews per week.

Other that that, any and all contributions are welcome! You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. 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.

Scroll down past this review to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.


[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]


Tagline: Garth comes back (stop groaning out there in the Peanut Gallery) and he has a Big Secret that could tear the Brothers apart. Oh, whatever could it be?

Recap: Recap of why Sam is mad at Dean about Kevin’s death and then of the last episode, where Dean got the Mark of Cain. We also get a quick recap of Garth and his greatest hits (which mostly remind me why I did not miss him at all) and his mysterious disappearance during season eight.

Cut to Now in Grantsburg, WI. It’s dark and there’s an old farmhouse and barn. We hear cows inside the barn making an ungodly noise. The farmer comes running out with his shotgun and chases a man who exits the barn in a hurry. The man runs through the woods behind the barn, the farmer in hot pursuit and firing, and then out into a road where he gets hit by a car. We see the man’s face as he lies unconscious in the road. It’s Garth.

Cue title cards.

Cut to Grantsburg Memorial Hospital. Sam enters in his FBI suit in the afternoon a few days later, asking about a John Doe (Garth, obviously). The receptionist/nurse (I swear Adam Glass has no clue there’s a difference, or that they don’t just let you walk in off the street and interrogate patients) comments that Garth is “popular.” Sam is confused.

He’s less confused when he walks in on someone in denim and plaid civilian clothes, whipping out a syringe in Garth’s room – it’s Dean. They confront each other over Garth’s unconscious body. Dean is still looking rough (though it appears he has showered, albeit still not shaved). Sam is pissy. Dean asks Sam where he’s coming from and Sam says a hunt in New Mexico. Dean allows that’s a mighty long drive, but that he’s got things in hand, so Sam doesn’t need to work this one.

Sam asks if Dean has talked to Garth, yet. Dean admits he hasn’t, since Garth has been drugged up since he got there. Yeah, pain killers aren’t what you put someone with a head injury on, but the medical lunacy gets even worse when Dean pulls out his ginormous syringe of adrenaline (worthy of the late Hunter S. Thompson) and Sam thinks it’s a better (and safer, I kid you not) idea to slap Garth awake. Really.

So, Garth wakes right up (which, again, is not how head injuries or being drugged to your eyeballs works, but I guess Glass has never heard of Narcan), screaming.

By the way, Garth is handcuffed to the bed rail because, according to Dean, he “killed a cow.” Sam did not know this. So much for Mr. Research.

As Sam uncuffs Garth, Dean asks Garth where he’s been the past six months and why he killed a cow. Garth claims he was on a hunt, but when Dean presses for details, Garth suddenly gets ill and rushes into the bathroom. This turns out to be a ruse so he can escape out the window (since when do hospital rooms have windows?).

In the time leading up to their realizing he has left (Sam notices the silence first), the Brothers bring each other up to date. Sam tells Dean about Gadriel’s lingering grace and Dean gives Sam the CliffsNotes about getting the Mark from Cain in order to kill Abaddon – Sam starts to tune out everything else when he hears Dean was working with Crowley.

So, after Garth escapes and they find he stole a car (pretty much naked), and Dean admits he didn’t “test” Garth because Garth was still unconscious, Sam visits the farmer who was shooting at Garth in the teaser. Turns out Garth has already killed a goat and some chickens. He ripped their organs out.

Sam calls Dean, who is holding a photo from the CCTV camera (which clearly shows far too much of a fleeing Garth getting into a car with a clearly marked license plate). Dean claims he got nothing from the CCTV and says that “Garth is a Hunter. If he wants stay gone, he’ll stay gone.”

He then rounds an ambulance and sees Sam on the phone, pissed off that Dean lied to him. Dean says he doesn’t think they should hunt together, that it isn’t safe (it sure wasn’t for Tara). Sam says fine, but they should clear up this situation with Garth first. Reluctantly, Dean agrees.

They track Garth (easily) to a motel nearby and burst in on him. At first, he tries to snow them again, but Dean picks up a bra and asks where “the girl” is. They start going through the motel room and initially come up with nothing. Then a young woman in a sweater and skirt ensemble comes out with werewolf teeth and attacks Sam from the closet just behind him that he did not check. Dean goes to shoot her, but Garth knocks down his arm, yelling at him not to hurt her. Sam, meanwhile, yanks out a silver blade and slashes her with it (she basically manages to slash herself).

Garth then tries to calm everyone down, even as Dean is pointing out that she’s a werewolf, by admitting he is, too. Um, okay.

Afterward, Garth introduces them to her as his girlfriend Bess. Then he introduces Dean and Sam to her in the most condescending and deeply inaccurate terms possible. Ugh. I so did not miss him.

Anyhoo, it turns out that Garth has been missing because he got bitten during a fight with a werewolf in Maine six months ago. He didn’t call the Brothers because he figured he had “messed up” and it was his problem to deal with. He was going to kill himself when Bess found him (she says she smelled him, but it’s never explained how she smelled him all the way from freakin’ Wisconsin) and convinced him not to. Now they’re married and Bess’ pack has accepted him. She is a second-generation werewolf, born to werewolf parents. They don’t eat humans and Garth only eats animal hearts because he is a first-gen werewolf and can’t totally control himself.

At that point, Dean says they need to talk to Garth – without Bess. Garth claims he’s checked out the pack and they’re as advertised. The Brothers can take his word for it. Dean points out that Garth already lied to them once, so “that ship has sailed.” They’re going to need more proof. Garth then suggests that Dean come “pray with us.” Oh, joy. Now we’re going to get Glass’ interpretation of Heartland Christianity.

So, Dean goes to the house, while Sam is off to meet with the town sheriff. As Dean walks up, they’re singing “Bringing in the Sheaves” because of course they are. The woman who greets him at the door calls herself Bess’ step-mother. Her name is Joy. She and Dean have a rather snarky exchange about Dean carrying silver and I don’t trust her syrupy sweet demeanor.

Dean gets introduced around by Garth to his in-laws, including Bess’ dad and Joy’s two redneck nephews Frick and Frack (sorry, Russ and Joba). Dean takes it all in with a grim and guarded expression, ignoring Garth’s attempts to lighten the mood. He does not shake the hand Dad-in-Law Reverend Jim offers to him. When Dad-in-Law suggests Dean eat dinner with them (“break bread with us”), Dean asks in honest confusion, “Why would I do that?”

At dinner, everyone is eating raw meat except for Dean, whose steak is cooked. Dean’s not eating, grossed out by the bloody chowing down around him. When Dean asks whether they’re going to say some kind of grace before eating, Dad-in-Law smarmily informs him they’re “more spiritual than religious” and references “the American Indians” as inspiration for the family’s belief system, “that nature and man are one.” Oh, how culturally exploitative of you, Rev. Maybe that would fly in California, but I don’t think that would go down too well in the Heartland, writers.

Dean then notices that everyone is wearing a silver bullet around their necks and asks why werewolves would do that. Garth tries to correct him that it’s “lycanthropes,” but Dad-in-Law rather sharply tells him that Dean “is entitled to his opinion.” Bess says the bullet is to remind them that their lives could be cut short at any time, that they aren’t immortal or invincible. And yes, it burns.

Dad-in-Law explains that Bess was born a werewolf (he was bitten) and soon after, a Hunter killed his werewolf wife, her mother. He decided not to seek revenge so that he could live to raise Bess. Soon after, he met Joy and Joy is all “Oh, pshaw.” It also turns out that she is a fourth-generation werewolf.

Meanwhile, Sam is interviewing the sheriff, who claims that the Reverend and his family are “clean as a whistle.” Sam subtly asks about “X-Files-y stuff,” but gets nothing on the sheriff’s radar.

Back at the house, Dean is being cornered at the fridge by the two cousins. They act all creepy with Dean, who gets a little feral, himself. Garth breaks it up by coming in and asking to talk to Dean alone. But it seems Garth still does not know how to read a room. He’s there to yell at Dean for being untrusting. Dean points out that Garth is being terribly naive not to look under the surface of what’s going on. Regardless of how it all turns out (and since there’s always a third act twist coming in an MOTW, you just know Dean will be right), Dean has an in-universe point. Hunters regularly check under the societal rug for monsters and usually find some. Garth is being willfully blind.

When Dean rounds on Garth and calls him out for going radio silence while guarding Kevin, Garth gets back on his high horse about how everyone was better off left in the dark … well, until he mentions Kevin and from the look on Dean’s face, he realizes something is terribly wrong. Dean confirms that Kevin is dead and immediately takes the blame, but Garth is shocked to the core. His actions had unforeseen consequences after all.

The Brothers regroup later that night. Sam wants to drink the Kool-Aid, too, and believe in “friendly monsters,” but Dean is still suspicious. Then Sam gets a call from the sheriff to come meet him. They get out there and find a very dead and mangled deer (lots of not-quite-off-stage animal abuse in this one that’s played casually, almost for laughs). As the Brothers check it out, the sheriff grows some claws and dime-store teeth (the kind that make it almost impossible for an actor to talk and emote without looking and sounding like an idiot). He pulls a gun on them, just as Dean realizes the deer is still warm, which means the sheriff killed it himself.

The sheriff appears to have the drop on them, but Dean is hiding a knife behind his back. A silver knife. As soon as the sheriff levels his gun at them, Dean (with amazing reflexes) throws the knife and kills the sheriff with a blade to the heart before he can get off a shot. This makes me kinda wonder why Sam didn’t do his own surreptitious tests on the sheriff during their interview, after calling Dean out (rightly) on not doing them on Garth at the hospital. He is, after all, in a town with werewolves. Everyone’s potentially a monster. That lapse nearly gets him and Dean killed.

Sam searches the body and finds a silver bullet, which Dean mentions is part of Dad-in-Law’s family shtick. Sam then finds the word “Ragnarok” (the pagan Norse end of the world myth, which Dean actually recognizes). Whatever is going on, it’s not nearly as benign as advertised so far.

The Brothers argue over whether to investigate more or just start killing. Dean temporarily agrees to go with the former. He suggests they “grab Garth” and get some answers. He says he’ll go “check out the church.” I’m sure this will end well.

Dean arrives there at night and lets himself in (possibly by picking the lock). As he looks around what seems like a perfectly ordinary church with a flashlight, Sam is picking the lock to Garth’s motel room and finding the place ransacked.

Dean soon finds an odd book containing a flyleaf with early medieval Celtic designs. Inside, it’s a book on Norse mythology (with Celtic designs? Okay) and Dean tags one word at the bottom of a page – Ragnarok.

So, Dean decides to do research on the word right there in the church office (as you do). In an even more brilliant move, Sam calls Dean from the motel room and tells him Garth and Bess are missing. Dean reports on the internet research he did – how the great wolf Fenris kills Odin at the end of Norse days. There are apocalyptic cults that worship the wolf god and call themselves the Maw of Fenris. Sam then says, oh, yay, a cult for werewolves.

Dean has an even more sinister revelation. The cultists in question don’t just see this as mythology, but as “an action plan: human extinction, total and complete werewolf domination” (what the werewolves would eat if humans were extinct is not clear). Not sure how nobody else stumbled across this on the internet when Dean found it just using a word and the idea of werewolves, but okay.

Dean figures it’s time for Reverend Jim to go down with the ship and Sam agrees. Sam asks if Dean needs any help with it. Dean says no. He’s “got this.” He tells Sam to go find Garth and Bess, instead.

Well, in a manner of speaking, Sam gets right on that. As soon as he gets off the phone and comes back out into the hall, he’s cold-cocked by Frick and Frack, the Werewolf Cousins. Ah, Sam. You and your third-act concussions ….

Dad-in-Law arrives at the church unexpectedly. He smells Dean and hears his heartbeat, but Dean still has the drop on him. When the Rev notes that Dean’s heart rate is a little up, Dean coolly says, “Nothing wrong with a little fear.” Not sure that’s really fear, but moving on.

Anyhoo, Dean decides to ask some questions first and shoot later, as it happens. It turns out that Dad-in-Law is aware of the book and the Fenris cult, and that it was once part of his church, but insists he “eradicated it” after he became the pastor. He is therefore willing to let Dean look at his bullet (which, to Dean’s surprise, does not have “Ragnarok” on it), but is shocked to hear that not only did the sheriff try to kill Sam and Dean, but that his bullet did have the word on it. Dad-in-Law is even more shocked to hear that his daughter and son-in-law are missing.

Dean bursts out of the church, trying to call Sam, and roars off in the Impala.

Cut to a barn, where Garth is waking up, chained to a ladder. Bess is chained to the wheel of a nearby wagon. Frick and Frack come in, dragging an unconscious Sam, and chain him to some more farm equipment.

Mother-in-Law comes in and slaps Bess when Bess pleadingly calls her “Mom,” then proceeds to Evil Overlord Monologue. Seems Joy’s little brother got killed by a Hunter last year and she’s tired of her husband preaching peace. As far as she’s concerned, Bess isn’t really her daughter (even though she raised the girl as her own), and she wants to go back to the old ways of trying to rule the world. Because they’ve been so bang-up successful to this point, you know. So, she’s going to … ah … do that by killing Bess and Garth (whom she blames for bringing Hunters to their doorstep, even though it seems that Hunters have been picking at the edges of the cult for decades) and then Sam, framing Sam for the murder. This will inevitably lead to Dad-in-Law freaking out and declaring war on the humans.

Someone pointed out elsewhere that the fact that born werewolves can control themselves, but choose not to, is actually worse than if they don’t have self-control because then it’s a choice to do evil. Joy plays into this by being a total bigot – not just against full humans, but against bitten wolves like Garth and Dad-in-Law and even first-generation born werewolves like Bess. It’s wacky, but sadly, people that bigoted do exist in this world and they are not werewolves.

Dean only tangentially comes up in her rant (her plans for him are pretty vague), which is rather unfortunate for her. Outside, Dean is picking off Frick. Easily.

Dean comes in, gun raised and aimed, just as she’s about to hurt Sam bad for kicking her gun out of her hand and Garth is fruitlessly wolfing out in his own bonds. Joy (busy gloating over how she’s going to stage her own stepdaughter’s murder) doesn’t realize Dean’s there until he’s jumped by Frack, from the hayloft. There’s a brief struggle and then Dean pulls out a silver blade and knifes Frack. Bye, Frack.

She just finished ranting about how her line will die with her (it’s never explained why she never had a child of her own). Yet, Joy doesn’t seem all that broken up over her nephew Frack’s death right in front of her, even after realizing that Frick must be dead, too, because Dean masked his scent by wearing Frick’s coat.

Dean: Oh, I’m full of surprises.
Joy [in a weirdly sultry tone]: As am I!

She goes for her gun and Dean goes for his. As confident as Joy is in her werewolf speed, Dean is faster and shoots her through the heart. With a surprised look, she falls over, stone dead. Thank God. She was really annoying.

The next day, back at the house, as Dean watches from nearby, Sam hugs Garth and tells him to “be good.”

Sam leaves and Garth comes over to talk to Dean. Bess is in the kitchen with her father (so Dean didn’t kill him). Dean says Dad-in-Law is “a good man … considering,” and asks how he’s taking the whole My wife went psycho and tried to kill my daughter deal. Garth says he’ll get over it eventually, but it’s going to take a while.

Garth mopes about deserting Kevin. Dean insists on taking all of the blame for Kevin’s death on himself. Garth doesn’t quite buy that, but sees that arguing with Dean isn’t going to help, so he lets it go.

Garth still wants to redeem himself by hunting with the Brothers. Dean says no. He thinks Garth should retire for good and stay with his new family (note that Sam’s the one who will later drag Garth back into the fight). Dean hugs Garth. Bye, Garth, for several seasons.

The final scene is a daylight Impala scene. Sam gets out and Dean does, too, to talk about the night he left two episodes ago. Dean says his head wasn’t right after Kevin’s death and he’s still not sure what was going on with him, but he’s sorry he took off like that. Sam is still sore (“something’s broken here”), even though Dean apologizes. Dean says he now realizes that it’s better when they hunt together.

Sam agrees, but is still pissed off about the whole Trialberculosis and Gadreel thing. He doesn’t think he can “trust” Dean. Dean says okay, but “we’re family.”

Sam then says that “everything that has ever gone wrong between is because we’re family.” (With the implication that this is all Dean’s fault. Boy, will that come back to bite Sam in the ass next season.) So, they can hunt together or they can be Brothers, but they can’t be both. Those are his terms. Dean looks lost as Sam walks away.

Credits

Review: Woof. Well, this one was a bit of a dog, wasn’t it? If it hadn’t come immediately after “First Born,” and been our first glimpse at the sequel to those events – the first glimpse at Dean’s New World Order, as it were – “Sharp Teeth” would have been completely forgettable. It was quite the letdown from “First Born” and was pretty confusing at the time. Had even a big storyline like the Mark just been dropped like every other dropped plot for Dean? Well, that’s an Adam Glass script for you. Continuity-shmontinuity.

It’s not just the combination of arguably the least successful recurring MOTW on the show (werewolves, ugh) with one of its dodgier recurring characters (who may or may not be a fan favorite, but he sure gets on the nerves of some fans, including Yours Truly), Garth. It’s not the bog-standard silly nonsense about “Ragnarok.” It’s not even that this is the first episode in which we see Sam act like an utter shithead toward his brother in the wake of Dean’s disappearance, or that Sam’s bitchy speech at the end is the most memorable thing about the episode.

No, it’s that it made no sense on first watch because it was impossible to tell where the show was going with where they’d just been. If anything, “Sharp Teeth” has improved a bit on rewatch after knowing how this all turned out. Only now can we see that the hints about something being “off” with Dean and his sudden strength and speed were actual foreshadowing, rather than the usual inconsistent writing for the Brothers in MOTW eps (that dinner scene with the werewolves sure looks different with who’s dangerous and who’s not). But boy, did the episode writing bury that lead.

Now, I get that Sam has a legitimate reason for being angry with Dean – at least on paper. If, say, this were a series where the POV had been a female lead and we saw from her viewpoint how secretive Dean was being with her, how he’d tricked her into letting an angel inside her to heal her, it wouldn’t be that hard to write her as sympathetic. But the show doesn’t write this episode (or this season) from Sam’s POV, not at all. In fact, in the previous episode, we saw what Dean did, from Dean’s POV, and we can’t now unsee that or see it completely the way Sam does.

Even worse, Sam shows zero real interest in what Dean was up to in the two weeks they were separated. They meet by accident over Garth’s bedside. Even after Sam spots the Mark and asks about it, and Dean gives him the CliffsNotes of what happened with Cain, Sam shows no particular interest in following up for more details. Not only is that lousy hunting technique, but it’s also pretty unloving. Even if you leave out the final speech in the coda, Sam is a total asshole toward Dean much of the time.

Sam digs himself in even deeper by whinging the entire episode about how Dean wants to kill Garth because he thinks Garth is a monster and that maybe Dean thought Sam was a monster when he had Gadriel inside him (or should have thought that, because a lot of this “new” brotherly loathing is projection). Never mind that Dean has a chance to kill Dad-in-Law and ends up saving the good guys, in large part, by not doing so.

Even when Dean absolves Garth at the end of the episode of guilt for Kevin’s death, and tells him to go retire and make little werewolf babies with his fiancee, Sam is not willing to let it go. That’s because Sam is actually making Garth’s situation all about himself, which is pretty much what he’s always done when it came to “sympathetic” monsters.

Now again, one could argue that it’s only been two weeks and that Sam is still struggling with the fact that he is now completely human (something he doesn’t really feel like sharing with Dean). But the episode also shows that Sam is more than a little freaked out by Dean’s quick and brutal reflexes (even more than when he came back from Purgatory), and how Dean single-handedly takes out the bad werewolf nest with almost no help from Sam. When Dean kept saying “I’ve got this,” he wasn’t kidding.

Sam does not respond well to that. He demands that Dean be completely tolerant of anything monstrous in Garth (and, by extension, Sam), but won’t give Dean even the smallest bit of such tolerance when Dean does potentially monstrous things that scare him. Sam is afraid of Dean, so it’s “Burn the Witch.” He’s not even willing to bring it out in the open, how he’s freaked out by the (literal) marks of Dean’s recent adventure with Cain the Father of Murder, or that he’s insanely jealous that Dean went on that adventure with Crowley. So, he lets it fester, instead.

This makes Sam something that rhymes with “hypocrite.”

And then there’s Garth. Wow, as if he couldn’t be any more obnoxious. He’s basically an ersatz version of Bobby, right down to co-opting Bobby’s catchphrases. This isn’t necessarily a major problem (though it is a bit disrespectful), but when he tries to talk down to the Brothers, that crosses a line.

The fact that only Dean calls him on it is troubling because Garth doesn’t have even a reasonable fraction of the knowledge and experience Bobby had or, for that matter, what either of the Brothers has. So, his trying to act like a mentor toward them, or mediator for them, particularly when it’s uninvited, starts to become a safety issue after a while. He simply should not be talking down to two experienced Hunters like Sam and Dean (especially Dean because ye gods, man, he’s been in the game for over three decades at this point in the show). They do know better than he does. They are legendary for a reason and it’s not because the show is giving them the plot coupons writers like Adam Glass and Robbie Thompson drop in the laps of their newbie favorites like Garth or Krissy or Charlie.

About the only good thing “Sharp Teeth” does with Garth’s character is force him to come down off his smug cross and use the wood to come to terms with the fact that he is still an amateur. First, his getting bitten is something he admits was his own fault. He got cocky in his “optimistic” worldview and he got bitten. That was when he made his second mistake, which was that he disappeared on the Brothers instead of telling them what happened. Which led to his third mistake, which was bailing on Kevin at a critical moment.

Now, the Brothers are kind about these major blunders and forgive Garth at the end. After all, both of them are floating in a lot of self-imposed guilt, themselves, about Kevin. But while Garth isn’t directly (or even indirectly) responsible for Kevin’s death, his blunders did lead directly to a lot of pain for poor Kevin that could have been avoided and certainly left him less safe in the long run.

The stuff with Garth becoming a werewolf family man, though, is icky. The whole werewolf family thing is a hot mess of new canon that syncs poorly with the old canon. Just consider, for a moment, how this generational purity angle is never followed through when it comes to vampires (who are walking dead), or skinwalkers. And it’s only shakily followed with shapeshifters.

Not helping are Glass’ clumsy attempts to paste an anti-prejudice metaphor over the situation. The idea of monsters as metaphors for gay people or people of color, while it’s been done before and with success, is fraught with problems on Supernatural. Here, it’s more of a metaphor for pedophiles or serial killers and that’s a whole other ballpark.

On the show, all Eve-born monsters (as opposed to angels or demons) and even pagan gods share an important characteristic – they’re predators. There is nothing benign whatsoever about their natural state because in their natural state, they eat human beings. Worse, in their natural state, they feel entitled to prey on humans, whenever they bother to think about the morality of it at all. Therefore, anything humans do to kill these monsters can be construed as self-defense.

Now, sure, some of the monsters, including in this episode, just want to live peaceably alongside humans (so, sort of like humanoid wolves or lions). But ultimately, it’s the humans’ choice whether or not to go along with that because if the monsters “lose control” or actually choose to kill again, it’s humans who will be doing the dying, at least until some Hunters like Sam and Dean show up. Wolves and lions eat other creatures as their primary fare, not humans, and are more sinned against than sinners. That’s really not the case with werewolves, who are literally humans in wolf’s clothing.

The show has always cast Dean as the prejudiced hard-ass who needs to learn a lesson in tolerance, while Sam lays out whatever is the current Hollywood Liberal Straight White Dude line on the subject is, even though Dean actually leans a lot more left in his views than Sam. Dean’s first girlfriend, for example, was biracial, while Sam is quite robustly pro-law enforcement and didn’t give a hoot about the prisoners in lockup during the season two episode “Folsom Prison Blues.”

Curiously, what this has ended up doing is show Dean as the more tolerant one. In many episodes, Dean encounters some new situation that forces him to re-examine his belief system, his values, his prejudices, whereas Sam rarely gets the same shakedown. Instead, you get Sam smugly spouting lessons in tolerance that, in the breach, he doesn’t always follow through on because they’ve never been tested. I don’t think that’s what the episode intended with his speech at the end, but I do think that’s why it sounded like something he would say and do, even as he came off sounding like an intolerant jackass.

I don’t think that Glass really had this subtext in mind, but it’s funny how this blonde, perky, creepy Midwestern clan is engaging in a racist, genocidal religion under the guise of mainstream Protestantism that looks an awful lot like the Nordic nature pseudo-religion the Nazis engaged in under the same cover. Not that I am arguing that modern Nordic paganism is fake or any more inherently racist than any mainstream religion like Christianity, just that there are currently alt-Right Nazi-inspired movements in it that are threatening to take it over and those movements look like the one in this episode.

That may be why the whole “We follow the religion of the American Indians” thing sounds so appropriative and false. Even if Native Americans all had the same religious beliefs (which, of course, they do not), that’s not at all what even the “nice” whitebread werewolves believe in. Dean does make a snarky comment (“Look how that turned out for [the Native Americans]”), but I think that’s in large part because he recognizes how fake the whole thing is. It’s just a cover for genocide.

There was even a last-ditch Nazi resistance plan toward the end of WWII called “Werwolf,” a creature with which Hitler and others in the Nazi leadership identified strongly. Like Garth and Bess and her dad, a lot of Germans ignored the dark cost and concentrated on the bright, shiny, warm and fuzzy of family and fatherland.

Dean gets berated for not trusting Garth’s adopted family of “lycanthropes.” Yet, why should Dean trust even Garth when even Garth lies to Dean and Sam almost nonstop in this episode? While it does turn out that he is basically engaging in wishful thinking of his usual type (taken to a rather frantic extreme), Garth could be brainwashed or even have fully gone over to the monster side for all the Brothers know initially. He wouldn’t be the first Hunter to look too deeply into the abyss.

So, while Sam has a point in theory about trusting Garth long enough to figure out what’s going on, with the way things pan out, this turns out to be a reckless plan indeed. If Dean hadn’t take the Mark just the episode before, the body count among the good guys may have been a lot higher, and it may well have included Sam and Garth and Bess.

Next time: The Purge: The Brothers encounter Sheriff Donna Hanscum, while investigating shenanigans at a weight loss spa. And Sam overshares something with Dean.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.11: First Born


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It’s been a tough summer, so I’m way behind on my recaps and reviews. As of this review, I have 53 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 20 for the final (15th) season that starts on October 10. That’s 73 total by next April. I currently have 144 coffees at $3 each on Ko-Fi. If I get 300 coffees total, I will commit to doing one recap/review per week (retro or Season 15). If I get 400 coffees, I will commit to two. If I get 500 coffees, three reviews. If I get 600 coffees, four reviews. If I get 700 coffees, five reviews per week.

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My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. 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.

Scroll down past this review to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.


[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]


Tagline: Dean is sidetracked from his revenge quest for Kevin’s death by Crowley asking him to hunt down a weapon that can potentially kill Abaddon. Meanwhile, Sam talks a reluctant Castiel into a reckless plan to track down Gadriel.

Recap: Pretty standard recap to this point of the season so far, with extra Sam whining and blaming himself for Kevin’s death, while somehow still managing to push it all off onto Dean.

Cut to Jasper Springs, MS in 1863, at night. A man in a Confederate uniform is riding hard toward a cabin. There’s a huge windstorm going on. He dismounts and rushes inside. Two other Confederate soldiers at an inner door of the cabin stand up and grab their rifles.

The man tells the other two, “He’s coming!” then adds that “the Knight must be protected!” The cabin shakes around them from the wind.

Suddenly, the two men at the inner door spot something that makes their eyes go black – they’re demons. They grab their rifles. The rider turns around, only to be lifted off his feet, one-handed, by a tall, bearded newcomer in civilian clothes who smites him with glowing red fire. He snaps the demon’s host’s neck to boot, before dropping the body.

The other two demons fire their rifles, but though he’s knocked back slightly by the bullets, the man is otherwise completely unhurt. With a low growl, he approaches them.

The scene cuts to outside the cabin. Red glow and the screams of dying men blast through the windows. Cut back inside to the demons dropping dead to the floor and the newcomer stepping over them toward the inner door. He pulls out an ancient knife that looks like the jawbone of an ass.

Cue title cards.

Cut to Dean at the bar where we previously saw Metatron waiting for Gadriel. Dean has tracked Gadriel here. This is pretty clever of him, actually, since Gadriel left no known signs of his destination after vacating Sam, but he has apparently lost the angel’s scent.

He looks really rough compared even to how we saw him at the end of last episode (and he wasn’t looking too good in “Road Trip,” either). He’s rocking some serious scruff. Despite the fact it’s also pretty clear he hasn’t showered in a while, he looks ridiculously hot. You’re probably wondering how Jensen Ackles could possibly look better than he usually does. Just trust me on this: He looks even better rode hard and put away wet.

The camera slides past a suspicious-looking guy in a dirty baseball cap and a rather muscular waitress who is exchanging a smile with Dean as she passes behind him with a tray (guess she approves of the scruff). Dean turns back, to his surprise and annoyance, to find Crowley sitting beside him.

Crowley tells him that Gadriel is long gone and the waitress a walking STD. The (ex)King of Hell shrugs it off when Dean goes for Ruby’s Spork and reminds Crowley that the last time they saw each other, Dean promised to kill him. Crowley instead goes into salesman mode, babbling on about a weapon that could kill Abaddon – the First Blade. Crowley really does lack the gift of fear, doesn’t he?

Dean: You wanna hunt … with me?
Crowley: I do love a good buddy comedy.

As Crowley blathers out a story about his henchdemon Smitty, who was tracking a protege of Abaddon, who claimed to know about the Blade, but then got grabbed by John, a weary Dean puts the Spork back in his coat (because even he’s not so feral as to kill a demon right in front of a bar full of civilians) and pulls out John’s journal. He knows this is gonna take a while and that Crowley will be spinning him some long, apparently random yarn in order to try to manipulate him into doing Crowley’s bidding. Dean knows Crowley well at this point. Crowley has, after all, spent quite some time in Dean’s dungeon and the trunk of Dean’s car.

Dean is very subdued compared to even last episode as he pulls out John’s journal (yes, he does have it in his coat) and finds the entry. As he does so, Crowley turns his head to his left and drops the cheerful act, indicating he sees something there that worries him or that he doesn’t want Dean to notice.

Dean finds the entry, but says that it only confirms what Crowley said before. Crowley notices some numbers on the side of the entry and asks about their significance. At first, Dean just grumps, “None of your business,” but then he reluctantly admits they’re numbers for John’s Magic Storage Locker, which we haven’t seen in a while. When Crowley asks Dean what the ‘T’ beside the numbers means, Dean claims he doesn’t know. Well, maybe he does and maybe he doesn’t.

Crowley gets impatient and “suggests” they go to the storage locker. When Dean asks how he’s supposed to know this isn’t a trap, Crowley just says he doesn’t and that’s why it’s fun. Then he leaves. With a rather disgusted sigh at himself, Dean does, too. They are followed by none other than the guy in the greasy baseball cap who is, you guessed it, possessed by a BED.

Cut to Castiel in the Bunker, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and looking disappointed, as Sam comes back from a supply run. Castiel admits to Sam that while he can “taste every molecule” of the sandwich as an angel, he enjoyed the taste more (it was less overwhelming) as a mortal human.

It turns out he has been giving Sam regular healings in stages. They’re almost done, but when he does this one, he stops, puzzled. When Sam asks him what’s up, Castiel pretends it’s “nothing.”

Sam: You’re a terrible liar.
Castiel [indignantly]: That is not true! I once deceived and betrayed both you and your brother.

Sam gets Castiel back on track from his flight of literalism and asks him, “What’s wrong?”

Rather hesitantly, Castiel admits that there is still something “resonating,” something “angelic,” inside Sam’s body. Three guess where that came from. Castiel’s first thought is to call Dean and ask him for advice. Notice how, even when Dean is gone, and has been for a while, he’s still TFW’s de facto leader.

Sam’s still mad at Dean, though, and doesn’t want to bring him in from the cold. Sam insists that Dean decided to leave, so he can stay gone (if Sam knew what Dean was currently doing, of course, and with whom, he’d be on that phone so fast, Castiel’s head would spin, but he doesn’t and hubris is the ultimate engine of Classic Tragedy, anyway). Wiser than Sam, Castiel has obvious misgivings, but doesn’t push it for the moment.

What Dean is currently doing is bringing Crowley into John’s storage locker, hooded and bounded by anti-demon sigils on the floor. Crowley snarks once Dean takes the hood off, but pushes too far when he talks about being Dean’s family. Slamming him into a shelf, Dean tells him coldly, “We’re pretty friggin’ far from family,” before going into the back for John’s files.

There, he discovers an account of John’s side of what happened to “Smitty.” John and another Hunter, named Tara (the T in the journal), exorcised Smitty. There’s a black-and-white photo of Tara, whom Dean says he doesn’t recognize. Though Tara is clearly attractive, Dean makes no comment about it or reacts in any way. She’s just a lead and as they head out, he says they’ll go find out if she’s still alive.

Back at the Bunker, Castiel has found an account in Enochian that says that angels leave behind a kind of “fingerprint” that contains grace. He then pulls up a paper called “On the Inner Workings of Angels” by James Haggerty. This is a Robbie Thompson Easter egg – Haggerty was the surviving Man of Letters from the flashbacks in “Slumber Party,” also written by Thompson, from earlier in the season.

Castiel says the paper devised a method of using grace extracted from a former vessel (with a specially designed and scary-looking hypodermic needle) to track angels. Thing is, they were never able to find a “guinea pig” to test it. Sam says they have one now. He’s all for tracking down Gadriel and killing him.

A much-older Tara is running a pawn shop. Dean and Crowley come in. She immediately pegs Crowley as a demon and assumes Dean is possessed, too. Seems she has a trick knee, since an injury in 1992, that alerts her of a demon’s presence. She’s confused, though, when she splashes Dean in the face with holy water and nothing happens. When Dean mentions he’s John’s son, she betrays knowledge of his and Sam’s existence when she asks which son he is and comments, “Well, didn’t you grow up pretty.” She asks if he’s still in the “Family Business” and Dean replies, “Born and raised.”

Dean explains that he’s working with Crowley (Crowley unhelpfully supplies the info that he’s the King of Hell and they are “besties,” which Dean firmly denies). Tara isn’t much impressed, even when Dean says he’s looking for the First Blade (turns out John was, too, for a while), until Dean tells her that a surviving Knight of Hell has popped up: Abaddon.

Cut to Tara showing Dean her journal. She and John didn’t believe Smitty, so they exorcised the demon with extreme prejudice. Then they “had a lovely weekend together.” Boy, does that bit of TMI get Dean’s startled attention. Tara also admits that she looked for the First Blade for a long time, which is how she wrecked her knee. All she found was a tracking spell, but she’s missing one important ingredient, Essence of Kraken.

Crowley insists that he can get them Essence of Kraken immediately. After Dean reluctantly vouches for him, Tara even-more-reluctantly, breaks the devil’s trap to let him go get it.

In the minute or so that Crowley is gone, Tara points out that buddying up with the King of Hell is a bad idea. Dean allows this, but desperate times: “Abaddon? Way worse.” He assures her that he will take care of Crowley in due time. When Tara points out that his father used the same tone when he said he’d call her again, Dean looks nonplussed. She has, after all, been hitting on him from the get-go.

Crowley pops back in with the final ingredient and then watches in rapt fascination as the two Hunters mix up the spell in a bowl. They then pour it on an old-timey-looking map of the United States and Dean sets it on fire (this is basically the same type of location spell as the one Ruby used in season four to locate Dean in “On the Head of a Pin”). Once the fire dies down, it leaves the state of Missouri, with a glowing ember in the middle. The Blade will be there.

Crowley [to Tara]: Care to join us?
Tara [nodding at Dean]: Him? Any time. You? Never.

Dean thanks her and Tara wishes him good luck, adding (with a pat on the shoulder) “You’re gonna need it.”

Off to Missouri the Impala roars. Dean and Crowley arrive on a misty, overcast day at a remote farmhouse. When they get out, Crowley insists he feels “something dark.”

Dean [sardonically]: What, darker than you?

Crowley nods in the direction of a man approaching them past an old-style beehive. He’s wearing a full beekeeper’s suit. But Crowley insists the man is “not a beekeeper. He’s the Father of Murder.” With a little prompting from Dean, Crowley clarifies that he means Cain.

Shivering melodramatically, Crowley insists they need to leave. But as he turns, Cain appears behind them, telling Crowley he’s not going anywhere and calling him by name.

Cut to a really nice stained glass window of a beehive inside Cain’s house. His living room, to be exact. Dean and Crowley are sitting on the couch. Crowley is all fidgety. After some hedging from the wiley demon, Dean quickly dopes out that Crowley hasn’t abandoned him simply because he can’t teleport out. Seems Cain has a way of preventing Crowley from leaving. As he gets up to case the room, Dean racks Crowley for more info on Cain. Seems that Cain, after killing his brother Abel (yes, he really did that), became a demon and “killed thousands.” Crowley calls him “The best at being bad,” but then he suddenly disappeared and everyone “hoped” he was dead.

Cain comes in with a tray of tea and honey. Dean, who has been looking at a live display of a hive in glass in the room, stands up with a very intent stare at Cain. Cain rhapsodizes a bit about bees, “noble creatures,” how they’re dying out (and that their disappearance will also kill off humanity – bit of an exaggeration, there, Robbie), and the greatness of honey.

Crowley’s hand shakes as he takes his tea cup, pinky up. Dean watches this intently and then takes his own cup. They all sit down.

Cain: So, What are the King of Hell and a Winchester doing at my house?
Dean: You know who we are?
Cain: I’m retired. I’m not dead.

Cain then demands (politely but firmly) to know why they are looking for him and how they found him. When Crowley starts in with his usual bullshit, Cain literally shushes him so that Crowley can’t speak. Impressed, Dean asks Cain to teach him that spell.

Cain repeats his question to Dean. Actually, come to think of it, it was really aimed at Dean the first time. Dean takes a breath and gives the spiel: He and Crowley weren’t looking for Cain. They were looking for the First Blade (hence, allegedly, why Crowley was so upset that they found Cain, instead) that the “archangels used to kill the Knights of Hell.” A Knight of Hell is on the loose, Abaddon, and Dean wants to kill her. Dean does not miss how Cain’s hand tightens into a fist at that name. Or the elaborately carved ring on Cain’s finger.

Dean allows that he and Crowley understand that Cain is retired. They just want the Blade so they can go kill Abaddon.

When Cain asks if anyone else knows they’re there, Dean says, “No.”

Cut to Tara. Yeah, this is gonna be bad. She’s coming out of her storeroom in the back when her trick knee nearly brings her down. And in comes the dude with the baseball cap, from the diner at the beginning. Warned by her knee, Tara pulls out a shotgun (salt gun?) and shoots him. But her demon trap is useless after she shot it to let Crowley out, so will a shotgun blast to the face be enough?

Back at Cain’s, the Father of Murder is ready to see his guests out. Dean demurs, insisting on leaving with the Blade. Cain comments on Dean’s bravery and that his (no doubt considerable) reputation precedes him. Brushing off the rather sarcastic flattery, Dean says he’s not leaving. Abaddon is a threat and he’s taking her out. Why should Cain care if Dean has the Blade or not?

Cain says that if Crowley could talk, he’d tell him that Cain was the one who “trained” the Knights of Hell and built that entire organization. Dean is irritated that Crowley kept this information from him. Cain then adds something no one else but Abaddon has known – the archangels didn’t kill the Knights. Cain himself did. When Dean asks why, Cain says he’s going into town and doesn’t expect them to be there when he comes back. “Goodbye, Dean Winchester, never return,” he says on his way out.

As they leave the farmhouse, Crowley says it’s best if they get gone. Dean says no. They’ll just wait until Cain leaves, then come back and case the house for the First Blade (“and take what’s ours”). Ah, Dean. Bless yer larcenous little heart.

Back at the Bunker (sigh, this B story again), Castiel is trying to figure out Sam’s current headspace. He asks why Sam didn’t go through with the Trials. He points out that Sam and Dean chose each other at the end of them. That’s why Sam didn’t go through with the final Trial (curing a demon, namely Crowley).

Sam admits this, but then claims that with Dean gone, it’s all now on him. He’s going to find Gadriel and “settle” his “debts.” Sam wants to expiate his own guilt with a reckless experiment involving a ginormous old-timey hypodermic needle. Don’t get too excited, though. Sam’s gonna find a way to blame this all on Dean, because Sam is still a big man baby at this point in the show. Crowley’s got nothing on him in the melodrama department.

Cut back to Dean and Crowley (the far, far more interesting A story) sneaking back into Cain’s house.

Crowley: This is, by far, the dumbest idea you’ve ever had!
Dean: Yeah, well, it’s early.

I legit laughed out loud at that little exchange.

They start looking around. Crowley wants to bail, but Dean tells him to “sack up and start looking.” As Crowley goes into another room, Dean sees a very old sepia photo (a daguerrotype, maybe? Doesn’t look like an ambrotype or tintype) on the mantle of a dark-haired woman. The name “Colette” is written across the bottom. Staring at the woman’s ring, Dean has a flashback to Cain twisting his own ring, which is similar. Yes, Dean is a very observant person.

Cut to greasy Baseball Cap Demon Dude rolling up in a car near Cain’s house. He’s sporting a massive shotgun wound to the face (well … as massive as the show could get away with on network TV) and telling someone on the other end of his cell phone call to “send everybody.” So, I guess Tara didn’t make it. That sucks.

Cut back to Sam and Castiel (ugh, now?). Castiel is inserting the ginormous hypo and extracting glowing grace from Sam’s neck. It really hurts and causes a lot of flashbacks to late season eight and early season nine.

Worried, Castiel removes the hypo and explains that Sam’s body is “regressing” to its condition before Gadriel’s possession. Which, as you all may recall, was not good. Sam asks if Castiel has enough grace, yet, for the finding spell. Castiel says no, so Sam tells him to keep … sticking.

Back at the house, Dean shows Crowley the photo. Crowley comments that the woman is “plain,” but doesn’t otherwise see the significance. Dean spells it out for him – she and Cain are wearing similar rings, wedding rings. Dean figures Cain “went off the reservation” those many years ago because he fell in love and got married.

When they try to leave, though, the doors are locked and Cain pops up, none too thrilled (Crowley hands him the photo, lying that he thinks Colette is “lovely”). Even so, he has a not-quite-reluctant admiration for Dean’s obstinacy and keeps commenting on Dean’s “bravery.” There’s something going on here between these two that’s a bit more complicated than Cain wanting to pull a Garbo.

This exchange is interrupted by Baseball Cap Guy revealing his presence outside, now that he’s got some reinforcements. He claims he tortured Tara into giving up Cain’s location by skinning her alive. This may … or may not … be true, since Tara struck me as quite resourceful, broken devil’s trap in her shop or not, and Baseball Cap Guy ain’t the sharpest tool in the Evil Dead shed. But either way, we haven’t seen her since this episode, so let’s roll with “She’s dead.”

To back up the idea that BCG is a definitely stupid, his “offer” to Cain is that he’ll leave him alone as long as Cain gives up “The Winchester” and Crowley. I don’t think anybody here quite understands what Cain is capable of, yet. But they, and we, are about to find out.

Dean starts barricading the doors, asking Cain if whatever he used to lock them can hold. Cain shrugs and says, “For a while,” but he’s more irritated that Dean and Crowley have accidentally brought demonic company to his doorstep.

“Boo-hoo,” Dean snaps back and Cain comments once again, almost admiringly, on Dean’s bravery. Honestly? I don’t think Dean cares at this point.

Cain, setting down his groceries, says he’s happy to cook them dinner if they “survive.” He’s about to disappear again, so he’s feeling magnanimous.

Back at the Bunker [sigh], Castiel tries to talk Sam out of trying to get him to shove the hypo in more and says “Winchesters” (in this case, Sam) are “pig-headed.” Cas, just pull the damned glowing needle out, already.

Sam deliriously mopes about Kevin, so Castiel reluctantly sticks the needle in further and Sam screams.

Back at Cain’s, Dean has barricaded the house and orders a compliant Crowley to go hang out in the living room. In the kitchen, Cain is sedately husking corn (like the bees, a nod to the myth, where Cain was a farmer and Abel was a hunter) for his dinner. Dean gets pretty sarcastic about this and says it’s not like Cain to run from a fight.

Cain: Since when does the Great Dean Winchester ask for help? Well, that doesn’t sound like the man I’ve read about on demon bathroom walls. Maybe you’ve lost a step. Let’s find out.

He snaps his fingers and the back door opens, pushing aside Dean’s fridge barricade as if it’s nothing. Two demons enter the kitchen, one of them Tara’s killer, BCG himself. He’s with a blonde woman in a jeans jacket and jeans. As a nonplussed Dean whips out the Sparkly Spork o’ Doom, a Neanderthal-looking demon (played by Jensen Ackles’ stunt double Todd Scott) in jeans and a plaid shirt smashes through the glass doors between the dining room and the kitchen. He spars with Dean before knocking him onto Cain’s table. Dean rolls across it right into a fight with Tara’s killer, whom he quickly dispatches after a few blocks and swings. So much for moving up the ranks for that one. Tara is quickly avenged.

Neanderthal Guy and Blonde Girl grab Dean from each side, kick his feet out from under him, and fling him onto the table. Cain calmly proceeds with making dinner, saying “You’re doing great” to Dean.

Dean manages to kick BG across the room and spars some more with NG, beating the crap out of him and knocking him down. He turns to see BG confronting him with the Spork. Grabbing a dish towel (yes, a dish towel), Dean uses it as a sling, as she charges, to grab her around the neck. He tosses her into the fridge and a cabinet.

NG gets up, briefly. Dean kicks him in the gut and brains him with a pan. NG grabs a knife from a block on the counter as he crawls to his feet, and Dean and BG scuffle off-screen (this is seen over Cain’s shoulder as he watches Dean with masked, but keen, interest). NG turns around to see Dean with BG in a headlock. Glaring at NG over her shoulder, Dean stabs her in the gut with the Spork. Two down.

In the living room (the bees have been safely packed away), the front door opens, thanks to Cain. A young, athletic-looking demon enters. Crowley is unimpressed at first, but gets a roundhouse kick to the head that knocks him down. Putting up a hand as if to surrender, he says, “You’re good … but I’m Crowley!” He stabs the demon to death with an angel blade.

Crowley then watches as Dean engages with NG, the one surviving demon. NG is proving very tough, which translates to Todd Scott getting some fun onscreen time playing his own character for once. At one point, the demon throws Dean, sliding, across the room, into the oven (one story has it that Ackles did this stunt several times; the first few takes, he bounced up, insisting he was fine, but he started to get up a bit more slowly after that). Dean gets up, looking pissed and winded, but as they engage again, he’s able to get the kitchen knife out of NG’s hand. Then he’s able to fling him down onto the table and stab him in the throat, right in front of Cain. The face he lifts toward Cain over the dying demon is shadowy with pure rage and killing lust.

Cain drinks a beer, considering, as Dean contemptuously yanks out the Spork and rolls the host’s dead body off the table. It’s a brief reminder that behind every redshirt BED with no lines, there’s a complete horror story about some poor human who got possessed and then dead.

Dean [pissed]: So, what was this supposed to be – some kind of test?
Cain: I felt connected to you from the very beginning. Kindred spirits, if you will. You and I are very much alike.

That admission is huge from such an ancient and powerful being, but Cain says it calmly, almost with satisfaction. I’ll bet he hasn’t felt this intrigued since he lost Colette.

Dean is unimpressed. “Yeah,” he retorts. “Except I didn’t kill my brother.”

“No,” Cain admits. “You saved yours. Why?”

Dean: Because you never give up on family. Ever.
Cain: Where’s your brother now, then?

Nice burn, considering the hows and whys behind Dean’s current hunt.

Dean’s suicidally defiant shell finally begins to crack in confusion. He realizes he is in some kind of deep water he’s never swum before. Hate, hostility, contempt he’s used to, especially from demons. Not respect and understanding. And not from this very unexpected source. Floundering, he backs away from the implicit offer of kinship and demands the First Blade again.

Cain gets up, looking disappointed, and turns away as he admits that he doesn’t have the Blade, anymore.

Back at the Bunker, Sam has a big old nosebleed. Glancing ruefully over at his pb&j sandwich, Castiel realizes what he needs to do. With a bit of warning to a semi-conscious Sam, he pulls out the needle. Then he heals him completely.

Sam wakes up upset. Castiel says they’ve got some grace, but it may not be enough. Either way, thanks to Castiel’s final healing, Sam now has no more grace inside him. Castiel says that being human has taught him about more than sandwiches. Now he can relate to Sam and other humans with actual empathy. He knows how they feel and hurting Sam to extract grace felt wrong.

Castiel: The only person who has screwed things up more consistently than you is me.

Castiel says that he understands Sam’s guilt now. Before he’d been human, he would have just “kept going … because the ends justify the means.” But if “angels can change, maybe Winchesters can, too.”

Or not.

Back at the house, Crowley is not responding well to the news that the Blade is gone. Why would the spell bring them here if it’s somewhere else?

Cain says that the Blade takes its power from him. He’s the source, so the spell led them to him. He rolls up his sleeve. There is a mark on his arm, like a stylized, Ancient Mesopotamian, raised tattoo in the shape of an ass’ jawbone. When Crowley genuflects at the sight, Dean is disgusted.

Dean: Really? Now?
Crowley: It’s the bloody Mark of Cain!
Cain: From Lucifer himself. The Mark and the Blade work together. Without the Mark, the Blade is useless. It’s just an old bone.
Crowley: Bone?
Dean: The jawbone of an animal. The jawbone you used to kill Abel. Because he was God’s favorite.
Cain: Abel wasn’t talking to God. He was talking to Lucifer. Lucifer was gonna make my brother into his pet. I couldn’t bear to watch him be corrupted, so I offered a deal: Abel’s soul in Heaven for my soul in Hell. Lucifer accepted, as long as I was the one who sent Abel to Heaven. So, I killed him. Became a soldier of Hell, a Knight.

Dean correctly guesses that Lucifer then made Cain create new Knights (though these, it seems, were notably weaker and did not bear the Mark). Cain confirms this guess. He says that he and his cadre of Knights wreaked destruction everywhere they went. Dean then also correctly guesses that this stopped when Cain met Colette (Ackles mispronounces her name as “Culotte”).

Looking bewildered, Cain says that Colette “forgave” him, knowing full well who and what he was. “She loved me unconditionally.” Well … she did have one condition. Crowley then guesses what her price was: “To stop.”

Cain explains that the other Knights took his retirement … poorly. They kidnapped Colette, so Cain took up the First Blade (“and it felt so good”) on the way to rescuing her and slaughtered them all. Except, as Dean notes, for Abaddon.

As Cain bares his teeth in barely suppressed rage (before looking down in apparent shame), we get another sepia-toned flashback that continues from the episode’s teaser. After killing the last demon soldier in the outer room, Cain enters the house’s bedroom. He finds Colette, but she is possessed by Abaddon. Gloating and acting like a jilted lover, Abaddon forces Colette’s neck in awful directions, causing her mortal injuries and making her scream in pain. When Cain, enraged, attacks her with the Blade, she smokes out just in time, leaving poor Colette to take the blow to her stomach. Devastated, Cain lowers her to the floor, apologizing and swearing retribution on her behalf. But Colette’s final wish as she dies is that he retire, instead. So, weeping, he does. “I buried her and I walked away.”

In the present, Dean points out that Abaddon is still killing people (he doesn’t mention that one of her victims was his own grandfather). It’s his mission to kill her. When Cain demurs and turns away, Dean grabs him and slams him against a wall, threatening him with the Spork. Unimpressed, Cain tells him, “You never give up on anything, do you?” and when Dean snaps back, “Never!” he’s shocked when Cain says, “Well, I do,” and uses Dean’s hand to shove the Spork into his own chest. As with Castiel when Dean first met him, the blade comes out with no blood and Cain is not at all hurt. What kind of demon is he?

Cain disappears, while more and more demons arrive, pounding on the windows and doors. Dean shouts after him, but it’s no use. Crowley says he’ll try to “stay as long as I can” and Dean is sarcastic in response. Not that Crowley can leave, anyway.

Cain has not gone far. He’s kneeling beside Colette’s grave (is this the same house? It’s much larger than the cabin in the flashback and is on more open ground. I guess he must have taken her home to bury her). He tells her that he’s tried to see himself the way she saw him, but he can’t. He knows she still watches him from Heaven, “but I need you to look away now.” Leaning down, he kisses the grave.

A moment later, he’s back in the house. Dean turns from the window to see him. Irritated, he demands, “The hell, man? You in or are you out?! I’m getting head spins!”

Cain then makes Dean a startling offer. He will give Dean the Mark, too, so that Dean can go use the First Blade to kill Abaddon.

Cain: The Mark can be transferred to someone who’s worthy.
Dean: You mean a killer like you?

No, Dean, I’m pretty sure that’s not exactly what Cain meant – that there is far, far more to being “worthy” of bearing the Mark of Cain – but Cain allows that’s at least part of it. “But you must know the Mark comes with a great burden. Some would call it a great cost.”

Dean: Yeah, well, spare me the warning label. You had me at “Kill the Bitch.”
Cain [grabbing Dean’s arm in a handshake]: Good luck, Dean. You’re gonna need it.
Dean: Yeah, well, I get that a lot. Let’s dance!

Cain grips Dean’s arm as the Mark bloodily transfers over to Dean. Dean nearly falls from the pain and Cain is also in agony, but neither one lets go until it’s done. Crowley calls Dean’s name and Dean quickly recovers, insisting he’s okay.

Cain then tells Dean that he threw the Blade “to the bottom of the deepest ocean” because otherwise, he’d never have been able to resist its power and it can’t be destroyed. He tells Dean to get the Blade and go kill Abaddon (to which Dean, obviously, agrees), but he has another condition. He also wants Dean to find him and kill him with the Blade. When Dean asks why, Cain just says, “For what I’m about to do” and he snaps his fingers.

The whammy on the doors and windows snaps off and the demons pour in. But before they can get near Dean and Crowley, Cain sends them both back to the Impala (either distracted or unable to see them, the demons run right past them into the house). The last we see of Cain is as he rolls up his sleeves (still bearing his own version of the Mark), surrounded by demons. The doors and windows are once again shut.

Outside, Crowley comments that the demons are trapped inside. As pink light and demon screams blast through the windows, Dean adds, “With him!” The two of them flee in the Impala.

Cut back to the Bunker, where Sam and Castiel are doing the Men of Letters finding spell with the angel grace. Unfortunately, there isn’t quite enough grace and the spell isn’t successful. Sam appears to take it well and hugs Castiel, which means he’s probably lying like a rug.

Castiel re-prioritizes things by reminding Sam that Metatron is the real Big Bad. He’s the one who ordered the hit on Kevin, so Castiel will go find him. He points out as he leaves that they need all the help they can get (i.e., Call Dean), but Sam just says, ambiguously, “We got this,” when they clearly don’t.

The Impala pulls up near a dock across a bay from a cityscape (which is probably the Downtown West Side of Vancouver in real life, but is some nameless city in the episode). Dean is driving, Crowley in Sam’s usual seat, riding shotgun.

In the scene in the house where Cain makes Dean stab him, Cain’s face is in normal lighting, while Dean’s (and even Crowley’s) is in a harsh, blue lighting that is sinister and almost deathly. That lighting continues in this coda scene, though there is now some faint normal lighting on Dean’s face that fights a losing battle with the blue. We saw a similar contrast in the coda in the last episode, with Dean in blue and Sam in orange, more natural-like lighting. Dean’s nature is changing.

In the coda, Crowley is saying that Cain was right – Dean is “worthy.” Dean isn’t impressed, not even when Crowley points out that “your problem, mate, is that nobody hates you more than you do. Believe me, I’ve tried.”

Dean cuts right to the chase. They need to find the First Blade. Crowley says Dean can’t search the ocean, but Crowley can (with all that salt? That’s gonna be tricky). But as the smarmy ex-King of Hell gets out of the car, self-satisfied with a plan in motion and a pawn on course, Dean closes his eyes, momentarily overwhelmed by the shame of how far down the supernatural rabbit hole he’s gone, and finally shows his cards. One of them, anyway.

You see, all episode, we know that Crowley has been playing Dean. And we also know that Dean probably knows that Crowley has been playing him, too. That’s always what Crowley does, or at least tries to do. Crowley plays games. He makes deals. He is the King of the Crossroads, after all. But Dean needed a way to kill Abaddon, so he took that carrot.

What we didn’t know, up until this moment, is that not only did Dean know Crowley was playing him, but he knew exactly what Crowley was doing and, a lot of the time, how Crowley was doing it. In point of fact, Dean has been playing Crowley as much, or even more, as Crowley has been playing him.

Dean tells Crowley that even as he was fighting for his life in Cain’s kitchen, he saw Crowley kill the demon in the living room and then stand by, watching Dean fight. He cites Crowley’s exaggerated fear, such as the quaking tea cup in Cain’s living room, as part of Crowley’s act. He guesses (correctly) that Crowley already knew the whole story about Cain and Abaddon and the First Blade when he first showed up in the diner to “recruit” Dean (something Cain himself pointed out back at the house while Crowley couldn’t talk). He even noticed that Crowley gave away their location so that Abaddon’s minions would track them to Cain’s house. He’s got the who, what, when, where and how figured out. He wants to know why.

Crowley admits that Cain would not have given up the Blade (and it’s not as though Crowley could have used it) to him. He needed someone … well … worthy. He needed Dean. And he also knew that he needed a way to prove Dean’s worth, quickly, to the Father of Murder: “You, plus demons, equals Fight Night.”

When Dean points out, almost plaintively, that Crowley and his plan got Tara killed, Crowley is dismissive. That’s just the price of business. You can’t make an egg without breaking omelettes.

Crowley then gets quite a shock when Dean punches him – and it really hurts. Hmm. Dean’s rage comes roaring out like a blowtorch: “After I kill Abaddon, you’re next!”

Crowley shows a strange vulnerability for the first time (“You don’t really mean that. We’re having too much fun!”). As Dean turns away in disgust, Crowley says they’re going to need more than the First Blade. They’ll need allies. When Dean just tells him, “Go find the Blade,” Crowley acts confused by Dean’s “drama” (he couldn’t care less about Tara) and vanishes.

Left alone, Dean looks down at his arm and pulls up his sleeve. The Mark is still there. And from the look on Dean’s face and sucked-in breath, it really hurts. The rather strange incidental music during his conversation with Crowley (a lone, sarcastic oboe) morphs into creepily ethereal xylophone-type chords, like ice cubes running down a fleshless spine. Something wicked this way comes.

Credits

Review: I’ll readily admit that I lingered a bit more on this one than I might on others. It’s an entertaining watch with a lot of subtextual meat on the bones, especially in the directing and acting. And it’s far more important to the overall series than you might think.

“First Born” is one of those episodes that didn’t seem terribly important at the time of its first release. Sure, it was fun and suspenseful, with muscular direction from veteran John Badham (his first go-round with the show, but by no means his first TV rodeo) of a reasonably tight script from Robbie Thompson. Timothy Omundson was a revelation as conflicted, but sympathetic, antihero Cain. Rachel Hayward as Tara was cynically entertaining for the thirty-some-odd seconds we got of her. Anna Galvin ably navigated the lines between Colette and Abaddon, also for a hot minute. Mark Sheppard got to have some serious fun delivering snarky lines like “You’re good, but I’m Crowley.”

Last, but definitely not least, Dean had one of his most iconic fights of the show, involving a vicious and exceedingly violent setpiece against three demons. Jensen Ackles has commented that this scene was especially difficult to shoot, since his stunt double, Todd Scott, was also playing a character and could not provide his usual backup.

But none of that was especially new. We’d seen Dean fight two demons quite ably right out of Purgatory in the season eight premiere. We’d seen him pick up potentially life-altering conditions and weapons that were dropped by the end of the episode or completely forgotten a few episodes later. The show’s had many memorable villains and antiheroes (though admittedly, Cain was way up there). And there wasn’t even any classic rock. Like, at all.

Still, I would argue that “First Born” is the most important MOTW episode in the entire show. Note that I didn’t say mytharc. I said MOTW. There are plenty of game-changing mytharc episodes, but while MOTWs may have sequels and follow-ups, they are notable for being self-contained. Things that happen to Sam and Dean inside an MOTW may continue an ongoing mytharc dynamic, but they do not change the entire dynamic between the Brothers themselves.

Yet, this is precisely what “First Born” does and so far (with only one season left), that shift has been permanent. This is the episode where Sam and Dean pass each other in opposite directions on the human/supernatural continuum. In this episode, Sam finally and fully becomes human, eight and a half seasons after beginning the show tainted by the supernatural. Dean, though he has always been a denizen of the supernatural world since age four, and has picked up and dropped many supernatural weapons and attributes over the years, has always been coded by the show itself as human.

In this episode, however, Sam has the final vestige of supernatural taint (in the form of residual grace from Gadriel) removed, while Dean receives the Mark of Cain, which will now taint him forever. Castiel doesn’t realize it when he says it, but this episode demonstrates that a Winchester can change — permanently.

It’s interesting that the show’s halfway point will now have been season eight’s watershed episode “As Time Goes By,” in which evil Knight of Hell Abaddon was first introduced — or “Trial and Error,” in terms of episode number for the entire show. We could acknowledge that extra half an episode to the true middle and pretend “Man’s Best Friend with Benefits” ever existed, but let’s not. What an irony that at the time, many fans believed that seasons seven, eight or nine were either the last seasons, or very close to the end.

Yet, even though these episodes are technically the halfway point, “First Born” is where we meet Abaddon’s creator (at least, as far as making her a Knight) and get a hint who will end up being her nemesis. If “As Time Goes By” (or “Trial and Error,” where Sam co-opts Dean’s attempt to take on the Hell Trials, with ultimately disastrous results that resonate still in “First Born”) is the literal halfway point, “First Born” is the thematic halfway point where Dean’s new mytharc starts to take off and pay off for real.

Dean is playing a very dangerous game here, as Tara warns him. He’s literally working with the devil he knows (or at least doesn’t hate quite as much) against the devil he doesn’t (or just hates a whole lot more). As his look of shame in the Impala indicates, Dean is well aware of this and as such, feels a lot of guilt over Tara’s death as one he “let” happen on his watch. He said about Kevin’s death last episode that he was “poison.” Now someone else has died.

What Dean doesn’t seem to understand is that he is playing the game at such a high level, with such major players, that even an experienced Hunter like Tara is in extreme danger working with him. That might be a surprise to the viewer, but only on first watch or if you’re not really paying attention.

Dean’s affect in this one is leaden, except in those moments when he is provoked into violence and his demeanor flashes over into sheer rage. If Sam is projecting his anger, Dean is internalizing all of his and it’s slowly killing him.

He looks deeply and severely depressed. He hasn’t shaved. It doesn’t look as though he’s showered or changed his clothes. He’s eating at the beginning of the episode, but it’s almost by rote. Kevin’s death hit him hard, but now that it’s sinking in, and he’s not getting the immediate satisfaction of finding Gadriel and “ending” him, the guilt and shame and pain and grief are getting worse, not better.

At first, it seems that Crowley’s mockery of him is correct, that Thompson is genuinely writing Dean as stupid (sadly, it wouldn’t be the first time). But it quickly becomes clear that the opposite is the case. Dean is playing Crowley even more than Crowley is playing him. Crowley is far more emotionally compromised than he thinks, certainly more emotionally compromised than Dean, who coldly manipulates him on the one hand while fielding Cain’s unexpected and almost fatherly interest on the other. The critical observation here is that while Dean may have no personal self-esteem and a whole lot of self-hatred, he is keenly aware of the transactional value of his body and soul, and sometimes even his knowledge and experience. We’ve seen him haggle like a horse trader over those.

So, are the decisions Dean is making reckless because he is depressed and suicidal, or is he, as always, running it close to the bleeding edge, using his own body as collateral for a goal he may not live to see? Both sound good.

Dean is almost literally sleeping with the enemy at this point. His speech to Sam at the end of last episode now sounds a bit like Bogart’s “Where I’m going, you can’t follow” speech at the end of Casablanca, except that Sam’s response is not nearly as positive and supportive as Ilsa’s. Dean doesn’t want Sam (or Castiel) involved in his plan because he’s going down a mighty dark path.

It’s also a path in which he is working with extremely powerful supernatural beings as an equal, or even leading them. Crowley wants to be his “bestie.” Cain calls him a “kindred spirit.” Abaddon’s demons refer to him as “The Winchester.” There’s also Sam, of course (as Castiel keeps pointing out in the B story), but Cain makes it pretty clear that Dean is the one demons are writing about on bathroom walls.

It’s not a real surprise that Dean isn’t impressed by all of this blatant attention, and is even a bit disgusted by most of it. He’s already seen the lifelong tongue bath Sam got from Lucifer and his minions, especially Ruby. He has no intention of letting Crowley snow him the same way and really, we’ve never seen Crowley really get the upper hand on Dean since the time he tricked Dean into working for him, under the impression that he controlled access to Sam’s soul in season six.

Further, Dean’s most recent experience with a Knight before Cain, Abaddon, was her sleazing over his looks and threatening to possess him, so you can’t really blame him for expecting more of the same from her former teacher. He’s quite shocked to discover that he and the Father of Murder share a bond and we see that he doesn’t know how to feel about that. We also see (though it won’t become clear until later) that Dean has finally bitten off more than he can chew and acquired a supernatural power (or array of powers) that he can’t just drop once he’s done with it.

Crowley insists he’s on top of things, and even seems to think so, but this episode demonstrates his blind spots – namely, his inability to understand selfless love. I know he has been turned partially human since the end of season eight, but that subplot doesn’t overtly crop up here. What we get instead is his casual misogyny (he struggles to grasp Dean’s immediate realization that Colette is the key to Cain’s psyche and couldn’t care less about Tara’s horrible offscreen demise), with the subtext that he really wants to replace Sam in Dean’s life … or even more.

This is the episode where it starts to become obvious that Crowley is gay for Dean and that Dean is starting to learn how to play on Crowley’s romantic obsession to get what he wants out of the (ex)King of Hell. It really amuses me that all the Dean-hating stans who claim Jensen Ackles is a homophobe and the show is queer-baiting, because Dean isn’t bi for his brother and has never kissed Castiel, completely missed his years-long, bitterly one-sided relationship with Crowley until recently. Y’all, this episode was way back in season nine. What took you so long?

Mark Sheppard has stated in the past that he didn’t like the “human blood” storyline. He liked it best when Crowley was “the smartest one in the room.” I don’t really think Crowley ever was the smartest character, but I also don’t think that was a good idea, anyway. It made Crowley boring and one-note. Crowley as a frenemy was better than as a Big Bad (he was severely underwhelming as a Big Bad), but in order to be a frenemy, he needed more depth than just to be the EVOL thorn in the Brothers’ sides. Otherwise, he’d just have been a male Ruby and that character went down like a lead balloon with the fandom. Sam and Dean are a lot of things, but stupid isn’t actually one of them.

Personally, I found Crowley’s obsession with Dean quite interesting and very noirish. Dean was Crowley’s weakness (even demons commented on this), a femme fatale to Crowley’s anti-hero, and likely the number one reason Crowley could never hold on to his crown for very long, even in season six. Yet, Dean never seemed to inspire Crowley to become a better person (not that Dean ever tried).

As a demon, I don’t think Crowley had the capacity to be a better person, even hopped up on human blood. In this episode, Crowley provides a strong contrast to Dean and Cain that highlights how Cain is more different than other demons than he is alike to them because Cain can love and love quite strongly. And that love is both deep and selfless. In addition, it is portrayed as more of a strength than a weakness. Cain is more like a human with superpowers than a demon. Demons do have emotions – we’ve seen this many times – but they are either negative emotions or twisted versions of what would normally be positive emotions.

I was rather less thrilled with the way both of the main onscreen female characters get fridged to motivate the men (the waitress and the female fighting demon are briefly entertaining, but they don’t even get any lines). Somewhat in defense of it, they are interesting characters in what little we see of them, but other than that, the episode is a bit of a sausage fest.

I also wasn’t hugely impressed by the way Abaddon was written while inside Colette. It wasn’t the actress’ fault (she juggled the two characters very well and distinctly, and was only playing what she was given in the writing). It’s just that after Abaddon’s being portrayed for a season as the baddest Alpha bitch who ever bitched, it was a little head-scratching for Thompson to give her this strange backstory where she was Cain’s vindictively Sub ex. That’s … not really how Abaddon was ever written, either before or after this episode, so I’m not very surprised the other writers never followed up on it.

Elsewhere, we get the not-so-hot B story of Castiel trying to talk Sam out of getting himself killed finding Gadriel. I get that this is supposed to be the mirror image of the despair that Dean feels when he decides working with Crowley is a grand idea, but it just plain doesn’t work. It’s all surface, no subtext (well … no appropriate subtext), with on-the-nose dialogue from Sam announcing over and over that he feels bad about Kevin and how Dean should just stay gone, and so on and so forth. Meanwhile, Castiel is saddled with equally on-the-nose dialogue in which he bemoans the suicidal tendencies of the Winchester clan, and finally just gives up and heals Sam to end the situation. Shakespeare it’s not.

I think this B story is intended to make Sam sympathetic, even as he is flailing around, declaring that he and Castiel can manage perfectly well on their own without Dean. Even if this were true (they’re pretty damned useless without Dean), it comes off as harsh in contrast to what Dean is getting himself into right in that moment. If Sam were there in that farmhouse, would Dean have said yes? Hard to say, but Sam’s obliviousness to the cost his brother is taking on right at the same time Sam is basically projecting all his guilt onto Dean is not flattering to Sam.

That telescope in the library is still really nice, though, so there’s that.

Next time: Sharp Teeth: Garth comes back (stop groaning out there in the Peanut Gallery) and he has a Big Secret that could tear the Brothers apart. Oh, whatever could it be?


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.10: Road Trip


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[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]


Tagline: Dean recruits TFW to get Sam out of his angel-possession in the wake of Kevin’s murder.

Recap: Medium-sized recap of Dean’s deal with Ezekiel/Gadriel (leaving out entirely the part where Dean promised Gadriel a favor, so don’t expect to see that brought up again. Ever) to save Sam from Trialberculosis, the whole Fallen Angels plot, Castiel regaining temporary angelhood via some stolen grace, and Gadriel killing Kevin last episode. We end on Dean’s plaintive “Kevin?” to Kevin’s dead body.

Cut to Now, where a stone-faced Dean is burning Kevin’s body … alone. Returning to the Bunker … alone, to find Kevin’s stuff and cell phone (with a wallpaper photo of himself and his mom on it) on the table where he left them. And having a massive nervous breakdown to Bob Seger’s “The Famous Final Scene” in which he tosses the cell phone and papers all over the place. And the lamp. And the chair. At the end, he looks completely lost and confused, as if he just came out of a fugue state – and devastated.

Cue season nine title cards with burning angel wings. Have a feeling those will be more-than-apt this week.

Cut to a rock star named Corey in a full-black shiny-leather suit walking down a hallway before a sold-out concert with his handler (this is where Amazon Prime’s thumbnail for this ep comes from and as you’ll see in a minute, it’s wildly misleading). She’s telling him his song lineup as he enters his dressing room. He’s supposed to keep it clean.

Gadriel is in there, still wearing Sam. When the rock star sees Gadriel, he sends the handler packing with a slurred “Bitch, did I stutter?” Charming.

Inside, Gadriel calls the angel wearing the rock star “Thaddeus” and Thaddeus recognizes Gadriel. No love lost there. Seems Thaddeus was one of Gadriel’s guards up in Heaven and enjoyed his job a wee bit too much. It even seems he tortured a close friend/lover of Gadriel named Abner.

Thaddeus is cocky and trash-talks a lot as he goes for his sword. Too bad Gadriel’s a lot smarter than Thaddeus gave him credit for and already found it in his guitar case. Thaddeus tries a last-minute heel-face turn and apology, but Gadriel kills him in the middle of begging for his life. Enjoys it, too.

Back at the Bunker, Dean is packing everything for all-out war when Castiel shows up. Being, as ever, a little slow on the subtext count, Castiel mistakes Dean’s smile (which has as many teeth as a Megalodon shark), and comment on Castiel’s reclamation of the trenchcoat, as warm and welcoming. Then he sees the smashed lamp and papers on the floor – and the absence of Kevin – and clues in that something is very wrong. Note that Dean didn’t clean any of that up.

Over a drink (when not?), Dean spills completely about his deal with Gadriel to heal Sam, and how it resulted in Kevin’s death. Unsurprisingly (in other news, the ocean is really wet), Dean blames himself completely, while wanting “Ezekiel” dead, deader, deadest. Castiel is sympathetic, but honestly? His response is a little too tepidly “I could have to you so” (since he never actually did) and therefore less-than-helpful.

Castiel does point out that if Dean kills “Ezekiel” (they don’t yet know Gadriel’s real name or backstory), he kills Sam. Dean allows that he knows that, but killing Sam is better than letting a possessing angel burn him out.

What little control Dean has over all that internal screaming starts to falter as he faces this hard reality. He starts to verbally flagellate himself, calling himself “stupid.” Castiel gets him to stop spiraling for the moment by pointing out that he was “stupid for the right reasons” (i.e., that he went with what limited options he had). This is actually pretty kind and it gives Castiel an idea – what if they could get inside Sam’s head and get to Sam directly? Then Sam could kick “Ezekiel” out.

Dean wonders how they could possibly do that with “Zeke” in charge. Castiel brings up Alfie (without mentioning that he’s the one who killed him) and what Alfie told him about “the demons” (i.e., Crowley) who were able to access his angelic programming. Oh, and guess who they currently have downstairs, chilling in the dungeon?

Dean and Castiel visit Crowley. They get straight to the point about what they want from him, in exchange for human blood (from Dean, to feed Crowley’s addiction), but that doesn’t mean they’re terribly forthcoming on anything else. Crowley has to guess from their ominous silences and the odd blurted-out statement from Castiel that Kevin is dead, Sam is in the wind, and a whole lot has been going on while he’s been stuck in the Hole (and he doesn’t even know yet that none of it has anything to do with Abaddon). As usual, he fields it all with a cocky smile as if he’s the smartest man in the room. But even though the script has Dean and Castiel act a bit plot-stupid just to get Crowley up to speed quickly, Crowley’s Smartest Demon shtick is already wearing a bit thin at this point in the show.

Case in point: When Crowley snarks that the reason Kevin is dead is because no mere human ever survives very long around Dean Winchester (and that he tried to warn Kevin to run), the pretty obvious subtext is that of late, the reason for that has been that Crowley’s the one who murders ’em. The pained scoff Dean makes indicates that even though the dart hits home emotionally because he’s so raw, intellectually he knows Crowley’s full of shit.

Even so, Dean’s patience is thin and he cuts the banter short, agreeing to a deal – Crowley can go on the road trip with them to find Sam, albeit in cuffs. But of course, “Zeke” has the Impala, so Dean has no car (um … what about the cars in the Bunker basement?). Fortunately, Castiel still has his wheels (a 1978 Lincoln Continental – a pimpmobile), which ran out of gas a few miles down the road. They head there with a gas can and as a suspicious looking woman and her dog watch from the sidewalk, they get in. Since the show is not subtle with its classic car/rock call-outs, they ride off to “The Royal Scene” by Dude Royal (thanks, Tunefind!), Dean driving, Castiel and Crowley bickering in the back. By the way, Crowley still has no idea that the angels have fallen or lost their wings, so he doesn’t understand why Castiel has a car. And neither Castiel nor Dean chooses to enlighten him.

Metatron is having a martini in a place where Gadriel’s former vessel is tending bar. The nameless vessel does a double-take when Gadriel walks in, wearing Sam, and Gadriel stares back at him uneasily. Metatron comments on how odd it is for an angel to encounter a “former vessel, like looking in a funhouse mirror.”

Gadriel gives him a bag containing the Angel and Demon tablets, and Metatron looks pleased. He claims that he gave Gadriel the assignment to kill Thaddeus because he knew Gadriel would enjoy it, so Gadriel doesn’t question it. Gadriel is more hesitant about having followed the order to kill Kevin. Metatron is all mellow as he says he turned off the mechanism in Heaven that creates Prophets, so no new ones with Kevin gone.

His mellowness evaporates when he finds out that Dean is still alive. Andrew Dabb wrote this script and his clumsy writing shows in this exchange. Upset, Gadriel rightly points out that Metatron never said anything about killing Dean. Metatron whines that “sometimes, you have to kill your darlings” and that Gadriel should have “shown some initiative” to prove he deserves to be Metatron’s second in command, but this makes Metatron look careless. The fact that Dean Winchester is still alive is clearly such a problem that it makes the other (quite large) things Gadriel has done already for Metatron pale in comparison. But if Metatron had wanted Dean dead that badly (and we’ll see later that he really did), he should have said so. There simply is never a good reason given in the story for why he was so coy and left it to chance like that, so it becomes a big plothole.

Needless to say after this display of ungrateful petulance from Metatron, Gadriel is not at all thrilled to hear he has to go kill someone else. But he’s already in too deep and he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed, either, so Metatron’s guilt trip works on him. He can’t course-correct now.

Back at the house where Castiel’s car broke down, the woman who saw TFW leave has predictably been possessed by a demon. We see her lift a bowl of dog blood (ugh, Show, what is it with you and killing off cute little dogs?) to make a call to Abaddon. Alas, she isn’t terribly observant, only saying that “Crowley is on the move” and not noting the demonic handcuffs that were under his coat or anything like that. Or that Dean and Castiel were with him.

In the foyer of a business called Waldroff Financial, Crowley is sitting on a bench between Dean and Castiel, and bickering with them. He tells them that he has a plant there named “Cecily” who is a demon. Also, the firm is a front for the NSA. Cecily uses their listening devices to find marks for the CRDs.

Cecily is willing to see only Crowley, who walks into her office (hiding his cuffs), while Dean and Castiel are forced to wait outside. In the office, Cecily demonstrates immediately that she recognizes both Dean and Castiel (which makes you wonder how safe it was for them to enter an NSA front). She considers Castiel “hot,” but only now he’s an angel again. Crowley is taken aback. Once again, he’s brought up short by how behind the eight-ball he is. She tells him about how Castiel stole new grace and angeled up again, aside from not having wings. She also claims that she’s not a fan of Abaddon, who doesn’t care about anything but fire and brimstone. Crowley seems to buy it, which is rather odd.

Outside, Castiel is trying to listen in, but the room is warded. Cecily is telling Crowley that she learned what she did from finding a satellite to “tune into angel radio.” Don’t worry – we won’t hear about any more of that after this.

After trying to talk her into breaking his cuffs off (she says only a key will make it happen), Crowley finally gets down to business and asks about the Impala’s location. He also finally figures out that she’s playing both sides. Chagrined, she admits it, but gives him the info, anyway.

Crowley comes back out to tell Dean and Castiel that the Impala ran a red light in Somerset, PA. Off they go as Gadriel arrives in that town to kill his next target. That man turns out to be the vessel for Gadriel’s old friend Abner. Abner is playing the father to Alexander’s family. The vessel wasn’t a good dad, so Abner is making up for that. When his vessel’s little daughter comes out, he introduces her to Gadriel as his old friend (apparently, Thaddeus’ insinuation was just a homophobic insult). Then he asks Gadriel to come back later after the daughter and her mother go out.

Later, they sit in the living room. Abner has changed. He used to be angry and “petulant,” but since falling to earth, he’s gotten over it. He clarifies that the amount of time he spent in Heavenly prison was seven centuries, which doesn’t jibe terribly well with the whole “Garden desertion” storyline, but I guess he was imprisoned a lot later than Gadriel. Or something. Dabb’s not good with timelines.

Abner tries to tell Gadriel that he can use being on earth for a new start and Gadriel appears to think about it. But when TFW arrive at the house later that night (Dean looking relieved and upset to see Baby again), they find Abner dead on the floor with his throat cut. So, Gadriel made his choice. Again.

Gadriel is in the kitchen, washing Abner’s blood off his hands, when he senses Dean behind him. Dean has an angel blade. Gadriel is arrogant enough to tell Dean that he shouldn’t have come after Gadriel spared him. Dean coldly tells him that he shouldn’t have expected to kill Dean’s friend and walk off inside Dean’s brother, and not expect Dean to come after him.

Gadriel TK’s Dean into a bookshelf, knocking him out, but of course it’s a trap. Castiel is standing on Gadriel’s other side. When Gadriel turns around, Castiel cold-cocks him.

Back at Cecily’s office, she is telling Abaddon about her talk with Crowley and spilling everything. Cecily unwisely admits that she is playing both sides, so Abaddon kills her with an angel blade. Dead dog, dead cheeky female ally. Sounds like a Dabb script.

Somewhere in an abandoned building, Gadriel wakes up, chained to a chair. He is defiant, at first, and claims he can rip Sam apart from the inside. He even claims he has Sam locked in a happy dream of being on a hunt with Dean. He suggests Dean can just end this by putting an angel blade through Sam’s heart. Instead, Dean calls Gadriel out on betraying him and Kevin (Gadriel looks ashamed), and has Crowley stick big needles in Sam’s head.

Dean watches for a while, but then has to leave. Castiel follows him out. Dean admits that he’s struggling with watching Crowley lobotomize his brother and begs Castiel to talk about anything else. Castiel gives him the short version of how he powered up again. Dean apologizes to Castiel for kicking him out of the Bunker. Castiel apologizes to Dean for believing Metatron. Dean asks if that means they’re “dumbasses.”

Castiel: I prefer the term “trusting.”

At that moment, Crowley calls them back in. He twirls a needle and a catatonic Gadriel starts speaking Enochian. He says his name. Castiel recognizes it and realizes that he didn’t recognize Gadriel before because Gadriel has been imprisoned “since the dawn of time” for “letting Lucifer into the Garden.” Dean guesses he means Adam and Eve (even though Eve in this story is the mother of monsters), but it’s more likely “Garden” means “Creation.” But who knows? It’s a mystery. And a Dabb script.

Castiel gets mad at Gadriel and shakes him, but Dean pulls him off. Twirling another needle, Crowley wakes up Gadriel, who is still defiant. He claims he can hide Sam from them for years, if necessary. Dean’s next idea is to have Castiel possess Sam, too, but Castiel can’t do it without permission. Crowley points out that demons don’t need permission. Crowley renegotiates for his freedom, so Dean has Castiel burn off Sam’s anti-possession tattoo. Dean threatens him and then Gadriel threatens him, but Crowley is cocky about his chances. He blows red smoke into Sam’s mouth after Dean gives him his and Sam’s secret “go word – Poughkeepsie.” Castiel asks Dean what will happen if the plan doesn’t work. “It’ll work,” Dean says, with more determination that he seems to feel.

Inside Sam’s head, Sam is in the Bunker, researching a case. “Dean” is in the kitchen, getting beer. Sam is shocked when Crowley shows up, even more so that Crowley knows the Winchester safe word. Crowley tells him he’s been possessed by an angel and that in possession, even though the angel has Sam locked away in his mind, he can remember everything. Sam then has a quick set of flashbacks that ends with killing Kevin.

Crowley tells Sam that he has to cast the angel out. Unfortunately, Gadriel (in the form of his first vessel, the bartender) shows up at that moment and proceeds to kick Crowley’s ass. But not until after a big rant about how he’s going to be the Hero who leads the angels back to Heaven and demons like Crowley will always be cowards. Crowley stands his ground and punches Gadriel to gives Sam time to get up to speed.

Sam interrupts Crowley’s ass-whupping by attacking Gadriel. There’s a fight that Gadriel at first appears to be winning (pointing out that Sam might die if he leaves), even as Crowley exhorts Sam to cast him out. Abruptly, Sam gets the upper hand by clobbering Gadriel with a statuette and gives him his marching orders. Gadriel is forced to leave in white, glowing smoke and returns to the bar where Metatron is waiting and his vessel works. His vessel gives verbal consent again and is repossessed as all the glass breaks in the bar. Metatron recovers from his surprise to ask, “Let me guess – Winchester trouble?”

Back at the monastery/warehouse/whatever-it-is, Crowley blasts out of Sam, as well, and back into his usual host body (which looks dead without him). Castiel and Dean fuss over Sam, prompting Crowley to snark that he’s “fine; thanks for asking.”

There are headlights outside as Abaddon and several demons show up in a fleet of black cars (why didn’t they just teleport?). Crowley tells the rest of TFW to run while he holds her off. Dean makes it clear he still doesn’t forgive Crowley and will kill him on sight should they meet again.

Crowley: Yes. I know. I love you, too.

Yes, he really did say that. Yes, we know now he really did mean it, even if Dean didn’t know (then) or care (pretty much ever).

When Abaddon shows up, Crowley plays on the hesitation of her minions to attack him on her orders. The results are mixed, with Abaddon coldly telling him that Hell doesn’t care what he thinks. They can duke it out for the throne, if he likes.

Crowley disagrees. He says it’s more like a campaign for “hearts and minds.” He figures that many demons followed Abaddon because their King was missing and she’s strong (“and immortal, for the moment”). But he also thinks she’s stupid and he has a feeling Hell won’t all go her way with him back on the board. He then snaps his fingers and disappears, leaving Abaddon highly annoyed.

On a misty dock, Castiel heals Sam’s surface wounds and tells him it will take some time, and stages of healings, to fix the rest of his internal “burns.” Dean, who has been standing nearby, then approaches Sam and lets him cut loose.

And, unfortunately, Sam does. He’s a big ball of pissy manpain about being “tricked” and having had his body used to kill Kevin, and how he was ready to die half a season ago. He shows no sense whatsoever of how Dean might be feeling (at the very least, he should notice that Dean had to burn Kevin’s body all alone).

So, he’s a little discomfited when Dean cuts his rant off at the knees and repeats Crowley’s words about how he (Dean) is responsible for Kevin’s death, that he’s toxic to those around him, that anyone who gets close to him dies and horribly. He’s going to hunt down Gadriel and kill him, but it’s better if he does it alone. All of Dean’s self-loathing pours out and it upsets Castiel, even if Sam is pretty stony about it all.

Sam tells him to go, but cryptically says that’s not why … why what? Why Dean is leaving? Why Sam is mad at him? Don’t expect an answer because once again, it’s a Dabb script and it’s just there so Sam can be an asshole as Dean walks away and drives off in the Impala in the rain.

Credits

Review: “Road Trip” was originally the spring premiere after the Christmas hellatus for season 9, following on the cliffhanger of the Christmas “midseason” finale. The writing is somewhat better for this episode than “Holy Terror,” but that’s admittedly a pretty low bar. It suffers from all the usual problems that are now front and center with Andrew Dabb (who wrote the episode) as showrunner and even at this point in the series, it was clear that Robert Singer was phoning it in as director. The kindest word you can give for either the script or the direction is “workmanlike.”

Character arcs within the episode are often poorly set up. Gadriel and Sam’s actions and dialogue in particular frequently make no sense. Metatron doesn’t seem to know what he wants, even as he’s laying out his big manifesto lines (he’s an awful Big Bad). And Dean and Castiel are handed the Idiot Ball a few times in a lazy attempt to get Crowley up to speed. Abaddon is also … not quite as scary-impressive as she usually is. “Perfunctory” is the word that comes to mind for her practically-a-cameo two scenes. The show almost forgot her the last several episodes in its obsessive focus on the fallen angels storyline, which rapidly went nowhere.

What saved this episode was the acting (particularly Jensen Ackles and Mark Sheppard) and what makes it still important is that it’s the prequel to the really major mytharc plot that is launched the following episode. But yeah, “First Born,” it’s not. The hand-off from one mytharc (Sam’s angel possession arc) to the next (Dean’s grief and revenge quest) is clumsy and incomplete. It is there, though, especially on second watch.

Speaking of second watching, it’s fairly easy to miss on first watch (while you’re trying to get the plot points, and chuckling at Crowley and Castiel’s mutual sniping) how close to the bleeding, screaming edge Dean is in “Road Trip.” Sure, there’s the obligatory breakdown to a mournful tune by Bob Seger, but that is actually the high point of Dean’s stability in this episode. At the end of his burst of rage, he looks lost and devastated. It’s a brief of moment of clarity before he disappears down a rabbit hole of corrosive self-recrimination that ends in his going off on his own to take (continuing) brutal revenge on Gadriel after Gadriel has been forced out of Sam.

Internalizing Crowley’s nasty jibe earlier in the episode about being responsible for Kevin’s death (because Hell forbid Crowley ever take any responsibility for his own horrible actions), Dean says he’s going off alone because he is “poison” to everyone (everyone human, anyway) around him. But there’s got to be the factor in there that at that moment, he really can’t bear to look at the face of the person who killed Kevin, even if that face is his brother’s and Sam wasn’t in the driver’s seat. He’d never admit. It’s doubtful he can even think it, consciously, but that’s how his PTSD-driven reliving of Kevin’s death would work.

I said before that I wasn’t thrilled by how the show fridged Kevin to motivate Dean – and I’m still not. But it’s mitigated somewhat by how, even though Kevin was translating the Tablets for the Winchester Brothers, he also had his own special destiny, and his own storyline, as a Prophet. And Dean’s role in that storyline, up to when Kevin died, was the same as his role in Sam’s mytharc plots – to be the wind beneath Kevin’s wings. He essentially stepped into Mama Tran’s shoes and took care of Kevin – cooking for him, cleaning up after him, tending to him when he was sick, protecting him. So, it makes sense that Kevin would grump and chafe at Dean’s “smothering” the way he did with his own mother, yet ultimately trust Dean so completely that he never saw Gadriel coming. The Bunker was safe because Dean was there – until the moment it wasn’t.

And it therefore also makes perfect sense that Dean would blame himself for Kevin’s death, even though it came out of left field and Dean already knew how long the odds were for Kevin’s long-term survival. In that sense, Dean as a character was about supporting Kevin’s story and not the other way round. It wasn’t until Kevin died that Dean was left floundering, grasped onto rescuing (or being forced to kill) Sam from Gadriel, and finally went after Gadriel for revenge. So, aside from the legit complaint that PoCs usually get stuck with supporting and guest roles, rather than lead roles even in their own stories, the story is pretty solid in not following the usual fridging cliches for those two.

Dean didn’t grieve for Kevin because Kevin’s death bruised his ego (as usually happens with fridging, where fridged characters are something that the Villain takes away from the Hero, rather than people in their own right). He grieved for Kevin because they had a friendship in which Dean was protecting Kevin. Because you grieve for someone close to you when they die, especially through violence and especially right in front of you while you can’t do anything about it.

The same cannot be said for Kevin and Sam. Sam expresses a lot of upset about having his body used by Gadriel to commit murder, but that’s about the extent of his giving any size of a rat’s ass about Kevin. In making it all about his own manpain over being “forced” to kill Kevin (even though no one – literally no one, not even Crowley – in Sam’s vicinity is blaming Sam for it), Sam shoves Kevin right out of the story of his own death. It becomes all about Sam, not all about Kevin, and it’s quite irritating.

It’s not really that big a surprise. Sam has never been especially close to Kevin. He did abandon him for a year between seasons seven and eight, after all. I think Sam’s ditching Kevin and his own brother to unknown fates so he could “retire” for a year made it pretty clear to Kevin that whenever push shoved, Sam would always rank his own needs over Kevin’s safety.

Part of the problem is how half-assed Dabb is about the question of how much Sam was aware all season. Up through last week, the assumption was that Sam was aware most of the time and that the only time we saw Gadriel fake being Sam was right before he knocked Dean out to go kill Kevin. But the way Dabb writes (and Singer directs) the montage of Sam remembering being possessed by Gadriel, it indicates he’s been off in Gadriel’s dream world this whole time, since the hospital in the season premiere.

That sounds overly complicated. We’re supposed to believe that Gadriel, an angel so out of the loop for so long that he should have almost no clue how to deal with humans aside from the memories he’s gotten from his two vessels, was able to mimic Sam so well as to fool Dean from the jump? I don’t buy that. And I don’t think it’s great storytelling to have had Sam so completely absent for nearly half a season, either.

Regardless, neither Sam being usually aware or Sam being off with the fairies for ten episodes justifies his pissiness at the end of this one. I get that he’s shell-shocked and trying to get up to speed (a bit like Crowley earlier on in the episode), but acting as though Dean set him up to be magically violated (in future episodes, there are even hints it was like rape) is right out of bounds. There isn’t any evidence that Sam suffered from Gadriel’s possession until he kicked him out. And I think Dean having to juggle everyone else’s needs for ten episodes, being forced to watch Kevin murdered by his own brother’s hand (if not by his own brother), and then having to chase Gadriel down and neutralize him/rescue Sam by forcing him out are way beyond sufficient punishment for having “tricked” Sam into saying yes to an angel to save his life.

Then there’s Crowley. I was a bit surprised to find that Crowley’s obsession with Dean caught fire this early. I mean, yeah, there’s next episode and yeah, he was always more focused on Dean than Sam (he’s in rare form this week ragging on Sam the “Big Baby”). But it was less clear earlier on, more like his usual banter, which was quite harsh in, say, season six. We even get a bit of this early in the episode, when Crowley claims that people die around Dean.

But that line is also an indication of the transitional nature of Crowley’s relationship with Dean in this episode (as is Crowley’s snark at Abaddon that she’s immortal but only for now). Crowley wants Dean to himself. Trying to call shotgun on their road trip (so he can sit beside Dean), bickering with Castiel, the jibe about Kevin (whom Crowley himself tried to kill, because Crowley wants Dean for himself), and covering TFW’s retreat (ostensibly just to bait Abaddon and sow dissension in her ranks, but there’s far more to it than that) all bring attention to his desire to be around Dean, to be respected (if not loved) by Dean, even when it’s not the smartest decision at that moment. But this is really the first time Crowley gets out on a limb for Dean. Yeah, he’s desperate to get out of that dungeon, but still.

And it’s not really unwise for Dean to let him go, either. Crowley being out there, giving Abaddon trouble, is a good thing for TFW right now. Hell being distracted by a demonic civil war means a Hell that’s not at full capacity to wreak destruction on earth – and we already have a taste of how destructive Abaddon is. If Crowley’s willing to do that, then it’s not necessary for now to neutralize him again. Cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war.

Now, I know that Mark Sheppard wasn’t thrilled by this new human blood storyline, as he felt it made Crowley weak. And it did. Dean became Crowley’s weakness. But I disagree that it was a bad storyline. Stuff that can be fun to act isn’t always good for the story. Crowley being a one-note villain who snarked at everyone and pretended to be the smartest person in the room (because he never actually could be within the context of the show) wasn’t good for the story. He was a weak villain on his own in season six and the story had to resort to his killing off (usually female) friends of the Brothers to stay a relevant threat.

That got old. If they wanted to keep him around, the writers had to do something different with him. This was it. And it worked because it gave him more dimensions and made him less predictable. It gave him growth (or decay, depending on your point of view). A Crowley who wasn’t always for Crowley, but who also had no idea about a healthy relationship or healthy boundaries, was a more interesting Crowley than the original version.

The irony here is that Crowley seems to believe that by helping Dean, he will win Dean’s trust and favor, if not yet his love and devotion. But Crowley has framed his help as a quid pro quo deal. The problem with quid pro quo deals is that they leave the relationship in the same position as before the deal – in this case, with Crowley still an enemy who murdered the Brothers’ friends, tortured Kevin, and once blackmailed Dean into working for him.

Crowley already negotiated the benefit he would get from the deal (his freedom) and it did not involve Dean liking or respecting him in any way. So, of course, Dean didn’t. He didn’t renege on any part of the deal (he did let Crowley go). Crowley had unrealistic expectations, whether because his mind was clouded by his human blood addiction from the Trials or because, as a demon, he’s just that narcissistic.

Technically, it’s canon (or it was while the archangels were in charge, Heaven had angels, and the Apocalypse hadn’t happened yet) that demons can only unleash their full powers with a deal. Azazel made this claim to Dean about Dean’s deal to save Sam in “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2” and Crowley posited it to Bobby in season five. But it doesn’t change the fact that Dean’s agreement with Crowley was still a deal, so from Dean’s point of view, no gratitude was expected or likely to be given. Dean can certainly be treacherous and cunning, especially if you back him into a corner, but he played it straight with Crowley this week, just as he played it straight with Gadriel for nine episodes. That’s why he’s pissed.

Finally, there was Castiel. I wish he’d had more to do before Dean went on walkabout, but I guess there was infodump to drop and mytharc to move forward. The demon crush thing was cute, but went nowhere due to her being killed off immediately after. I was hoping to see some exploring of Castiel’s human adventures with Dean, but even though Dean did explicitly ask Castiel to bring him up to speed, the writing itself didn’t dwell on it for very long. After that, Castiel mainly served as sidekick and Greek Chorus. I felt Dabb could have written him better, but hey, at least he was sympathetic in this episode.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.09: Holy Terror


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[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]


Tagline: Castiel is captured by one of the angel factions and tortured, while Kevin hits a major milestone in his translation of the Angel Tablet.


Recap: Quick recap of Metatron’s spell to cast all the angels out of Heaven, which includes taking Castiel’s grace and turning him human. We also get a quickie of Dean’s deal with “Ezekiel,” Kevin working on the Angel Tablet, and the boring plotting of the fallen angels to take over the earth and get back to Heaven. Or something.

This is a Nepotism Duo episode, so buckle up, because it’s gonna be a rough (and frequently tedious) ride.

Cut to Now. A bus load of Gospel singin’ girls from the Melody Ministry Glee Club roll up to a roadhouse full of bikers in Caribou, WY. When they enter, the bald leader of the bikers is upset, saying “You shouldn’t be here.”

“We have as much right to be here as you do … Brother,” the obnoxiously pert blonde leader of the glee club sneers back. Both sides are angels. Angel blades come out and there’s a big fight. The glee club wins, massacring everyone in the biker bar, then leaving, covered with blood and all perky. They sing, “I’m Gonna Let It Shine,” as their bus rolls out.

Cue title cards.

In the Impala at night, Dean is driving and asking Ezekiel about Sam’s condition. Ezekiel claims that Sam is better, despite the reveal last week by Vesta that he was barely alive without Ezekiel’s angelic support. Dean is losing confidence in Ezekiel’s weekly progress reports. Ezekiel is unhappy that they are investigating “angel business” (the Doomed Teaser Bikers), but Dean points out this is the Family Business. If they don’t investigate it, Sam will get suspicious.

Grumpy, Ezekiel goes back into dormancy with a flash of eye light. When Sam comes back out, he’s confused that they’re so much closer to their destination. He says he’s getting a lot of missing time lately. Dean, of course, tap-dances that Sam is still recovering from nearly dying at the beginning of the season. Sam doesn’t quite buy this, which, to be honest, kind of puzzles me. We know Dean is lying, but the Trialberculosis was supposed to be inevitably fatal. Why doesn’t Sam buy the idea that it’s going to take him a while (less than half a season so far) to recover?

Anyhoo, the Brothers arrive at the biker bar, dressed as FBI agents. They are surprised to find Castiel there, also dressed in a suit, among the real law enforcement officers. Castiel had heard the news and feels obligated to help. The Brothers think that’s a bad idea (for various reasons, not all of them questionable), but Castiel is just too happy to see Dean (sorry, Sam and Dean) again to notice their reservations. And Ezekiel waits until Castiel has walked off to give Dean an angelic version of Sam’s bitchface.

There is speculation that the angel hit was by Bartholomew (one of the leader)’s gang, but someone else could be involved.

Cut to a scruffy guy named Malachi meeting with Bartholomew’s obnoxious top aid in an empty parking lot. Malachi is not pleased to hear that Bart didn’t bother to show up. The glee club girl is with Malachi and the hit on the biker bar was a hit on Bartholomew’s gang.

Malachi says that Bartholomew will live to regret demonstrating disrespect by not showing up for the meet. He punctuates this by killing Bartholomew’s team with an angel sword.

At a local bar, the Brothers are hanging out with Castiel. Sam is happy to see Castiel, Dean apprehensive. Castiel tells the Brothers that April (the Reaper who tortured and stabbed him to death during the last Nepotism Duo entry) told him Bart’s plan was to gather together as many angels as he could, reverse Metatron’s spell, and go back to Heaven. This triggers a creepy mutual reverie between him and Dean about how “hot” April was. Because of course it does. These writers are so inappropriate.

As Castiel goes off to get more beers, Ezekiel pops up and chews Dean out for letting Castiel hang out with them. This time, Dean really pushes back and challenges the angel on why he has such a problem about Castiel being there. Ezekiel calls Castiel a “beacon” to other angels (despite now being human) and that when Ezekiel agreed to help Dean with Sam, he “chose sides.” This now makes him unpopular with “certain angels.”

Dean shrugs this off, saying that Castiel’s now hated by every angel, but he’s still in there, helping TFW. “So, what makes you so special?”

Castiel interrupts this by coming back with the beers. Ezekiel stiffly says he’s going to “get something from the car,” but he’s really fleeing outside for some air and to think. Too bad that as soon as he does, he encounters Metatron, who says Ezekiel is an angel, all right, but he’s not Ezekiel. Ezekiel looks pretty horrified.

In the bar, Castiel says he noticed that Sam looked uncomfortable and asks if Dean has told Sam why he made Castiel leave the Bunker. At this point, Dean (who clearly has been having reservations about trusting “Ezekiel”) comes clean to Castiel about the angel deal he made and the real reason he’s keeping Castiel at arm’s length.

Out in the alley, Metatron calls “Ezekiel” by his real name, Gadriel (no, I’m not using the show’s spelling, “Gadreel,” because that’s the only time it uses the Arabic spelling convention instead of the Hebrew and that’s dumb). Gadriel gets all tense when Metatron asks him why he’s pretending to be Ezekiel. Gadriel says it’s because Ezekiel was a “good and honorable” angel and Metatron immediately points out that’s the opposite of how Gadriel is perceived.

It turns out that Gadriel was deep inside a heavenly dungeon (and had been for a long time) when he was cast out onto earth with the other angels. Metatron twists the knife when he details Gadriel’s crime – he was supposed to guard the “Garden” (the earth) and not let “evil” (probably Lucifer) enter it, but he failed.

Gadriel looks really distressed, so it’s probably not good that Metatron tells him about his big plan to let a few angels back into Heaven (because Metatron is lonely alone up there) and he wants Gadriel to help him. Yeah. ‘Cause that worked out so well for Castiel.

Back at the Bunker, Sam (now back in the saddle) tells Dean that the biker gang were born again Christians and hooked up with Bartholomew’s group. There’s a new angel gang in town and they’re worse than Bart’s.

At a campfire at night, Malachi’s smug glee club lieutenant is recruiting new idiots for vessels. But as the bodiless angels mass above, she’s stabbed from behind, and the vessels all smote, by a sneak attack from Bartholomew’s forces.

Underneath a bridge in daytime, Metatron is bemoaning about having lived (i.e., hid) among humans for so long. Gadriel practically talks himself into following Metatron by calling Metatron the new God. Metatron only somewhat demurs.

Somewhere in a cabin, Castiel is kneeling down (and assuming other positions) to pray to someone unspecific for help. He gets no answers. Hours later, he has to give up.

When he goes to turn on the TV, he hears a voice from outside telling him to plug it in. When he opens the door, he finds a short, blonde woman in a Park Ranger outfit. She is an angel named Muriel. She heard his prayer. At first, when she recognizes him, she wants to turn away, but he manages to talk her back inside, pleading with her for information.

At the Bunker, Kevin has hit a dead end. He thinks there may not be any information about the spell Metatron used to clear out Heaven. Kevin runs across a section that Metatron appears to have hidden in an indecipherable code, even from Prophets.

When Sam comes back (from having been used as Gadriel’s vehicle to go talk to Metatron), Dean tells him about the campfire attack, which was in Utah. Dean also found a witness who saw the glee club angel and her bus leaving the biker bar.

At the motel, Muriel is skeptical about Castiel’s claim that Metatron set everything up for the angels’ fall and Castiel was an unwitting participant. Despite her caution, she’s surprisingly forthcoming with Malachi’s name, since both Malachi and Bartholomew are rounding up unaligned angels and torturing them into submission or killing them if they won’t. Too bad that in the middle of their chat, Malachi’s henchangels show up. They beat up both Castiel and Muriel, and bring them to Malachi’s dungeon, where Malachi tortures Castiel himself.

Malachi doesn’t believe Castiel when he says he has no useful intel, so he has him tortured some more, then has Muriel killed. Damn. Muriel’s about the only new character I liked in this mess. Figures these loser writers would kill her off.

Afterward, Malachi claims he’s just following Castiel’s “example” of killing other angels. One of the names of the angels he claims died in the Fall is Ezekiel. But Malachi, being an “anarchist,” is too stupid to see the wheels suddenly turning in Castiel’s head. He leaves him with the henchangel who killed Muriel.

However, when Castiel asks for “a quick death,” the henchangel instead wants him to contact Metatron in order to be raised back to Heaven.

Castiel appears to play along, totally channeling Dean Winchester at his wiliest. He gets himself unchained. It doesn’t really matter if this is just another form of torture because Castiel is playing the other angel and gets the drop on him. He then cuts the henchangel’s throat and steals his grace, before smiting him as his first re-angeled act.

Whistling “I’m Gonna Let It Shine,” Malachi comes downstairs to find all of his henchangels in the dungeon dead (and poor Muriel still a doornail).

Dean talks to Kevin in the Bunker, while looking for Sam. Kevin says Sam went out. Kevin comments that Sam has been “doing that a lot” and we see the wheels turning in Dean’s head as he wonders who is doing that, Sam or “Ezekiel”?

Dean then gets a call from Castiel, who tells him he’s escaped Malachi and angeled back up (however temporarily). He also outs “Ezekiel,” saying that he’s dead.

Dean comes up with a plan quickly, hitting a sleepy Kevin up for a spell that can suppress an angel long enough to talk to the vessel (and let the human expel the angel), but not telling Kevin what it’s for.

Meanwhile, Gadriel, unaware he’s been outed, is meeting again, in broad daylight, with Metatron. He agrees to be Metatron’s second in command. Metatron blows some sunshine up Gadriel’s ass and Gadriel tries to believe it. But he’s not too thrilled when Metatron gives him the name of an enemy who must die first as a test, a name on a piece of paper. Gadriel balks, but he does take the Post-It note and looks conflicted.

Back at the Bunker, Kevin has cobbled together a spell from the Angel Tablet and some research he dug up in the Men of Letters archives. Now they’ve been drawing angel suppression sigils all over the walls. When he asks Dean what’s going on, Dean says he can’t really tell him and to trust him. Kevin grumps that that always bites him in the ass (but, in all fairness, Kevin’s been very volatile and unhelpfully unpredictable in his reaction to negative news in the past).

Sam comes back and Dean asks him where he’s been. Sam says he was on a beer run.

Dean quickly uses one of the sigils (which does work because we see it smoke and burn) to suppress “Ezekiel,” then tries to fill Sam in on the deal he made and that Ezekiel lied to him. Sam gets mega-pissy about it and clocks Dean one, knocking him out. Then he goes out into the Library where he … smites Kevin in the middle of Kevin worrying that Dean is “off” somehow. Dean rushes in in the middle of it, but can’t stop Kevin dying. Gadriel slams him up against a post.

Gadriel then proceeds to monologue about how he overheard Dean and Kevin talking, then “altered the spell” (to do what, exactly, since it did do something?). He faked being Sam and says that Sam is gone. Rubbing salt in the wounds, he says Kevin would have died sooner than later, anyway, and drops the Post-It note Metatron gave him on Kevin’s chest. It has Kevin’s name on it. He also takes the Angel and Demon tablets. After a little hesitation, he leaves Dean behind, alive, to call Kevin’s name, mournfully. But Kevin, his eyes burned out, is quite dead.

Credits

Review: Some mytharc episodes remain relevant on rewatch years later because they have canon that’s still in active effect, or they introduced important recurring characters, or they had some great lines/storylines/characters that are memorable and beloved by fans.

Then there are episodes like “Holy Terror.” The only reason at this point to watch “Holy Terror,” really, is because it’s the episode that kills off Kevin Tran. Every angel character in it besides Castiel is dead and gone for seasons now. The whole storyline has been wrapped up and rendered pretty pointless, since the surviving angels returned to Heaven. The war between them over who got to go back to turned out to be mainly just a cruel and manipulative con by Metatron. Yeah, that’s a bit spoilery. Oh, well.

The Nepotism Duo (Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming) are in their usual smug, California liberal mode here, thinking they’re being so woke when they’re instead condescending, misogynistic and pretty borderline racist. Three female angel characters get fridged in this episode, three, and two of them we only met this one time. Granted, I only liked one of them (Muriel), but that’s part of the problem. Not only do these female characters exist solely to motivate male characters (Bartholomew, Malachi and Castiel, respectively), but two of them are so thoroughly obnoxious that I pretty much guarantee you won’t mind they die only a few minutes after they show up. And I’m sure y’all won’t be too surprised to hear that the only sympathetic (or even interesting) one was the one fridged to motivate Castiel – Muriel.

And then a fourth character gets fridged this week. It’s Kevin, of course, and he is killed off to motivate Dean. As if Dean needed any more motivation, but the idea is to send Dean off on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge:

Now I quite like Dean’s RRoRs, which are always full of “bloody satisfaction,” but I quite dislike when the show fridges women and people of color to put him in that mindset. This one is especially egregious because the intent is also to make Dean look bad.

The idea here (spelled out by Kevin’s claim that trusting Dean “always” backfires on him) is that Dean doesn’t protect Kevin sufficiently from “Ezekiel” and that’s why Kevin dies. The general idea in the first half of season nine is that the deal Dean makes with Ezekiel (i.e., Gadriel) is a bad one and poisonous to everyone around him. But that would only be true if Gadriel were an evil character.

Gadriel is a lot of things that aren’t so great (notably, gullible and selfish). But when he acts ashamed over his backstory and hesitates over killing Kevin, we realize that overall, his intentions are, if not strictly honorable (would he have ever left Sam willingly? One wonders), at least relatively benign toward Dean and Kevin up to that point. He really doesn’t want to kill Kevin and he ends up not killing Dean, even though that really would be the smart thing to do. It’s not as though Dean is just going to let this go.

Up to this episode, the worst thing Gadriel has been doing has been forcing Dean to force Castiel to stay away when Castiel really needs the protection of Dean and the Bunker the most. And Dean really has no choice in this matter. Granted, it sucks for Castiel, but then, if Castiel hadn’t been so gullible with Metatron, Gadriel would still be in prison and the other angels would also still be in Heaven. So, Castiel is not exactly innocent in this whole situation, just because he’s now human. Dean’s dealing with the situation Castiel dropped on him as best he can. But also, Dean’s decision isn’t bad in and of itself. When it turns bad is when Gadriel is corrupted by Metatron, which is not something Dean had any information to predict. That comes right out of left field for him.

Another thing that seems unfair about Kevin’s accusation is that, aside from the fact that he’s really not that good at protecting himself and being out on his own, Kevin himself is toxic to his loved ones. It’s not him, personally, but his role as a Prophet that kills his girlfriend and her roommate and his mother (at least, apparently she’s dead) and even the angels that were supposed to protect him on earth. Kevin is not safe to be around. He could only be protected by someone as high-level as the Brothers Winchester and even then, all three of them knew his lifespan wasn’t liable to be long. Yeah, they have him working for them, but they’d have taken him in, anyway, or found him a safe place to stay. They’ve done it for others.

Sam is practically nonexistent in this episode, even though Jared Padalecki is in more of it than Jensen Ackles. In fact, Sam is practically nonexistent for a lot of the story in the first half of the season. We’re supposed to be sympathetic toward his plight, but he comes off as so clueless about his condition, and not especially interested in exploring what’s going on, that it’s hard to sympathize with his over-the-top outrage when he finally finds out. Which, despite the initial tone of Gadriel’s fakeout near the end, does not actually occur this week.

The show wants to blame Dean because it Tells us that Sam would never, ever, ever want to be possessed by an angel, and that it’s a violation akin to rape (a topic on which these two writers are exceptionally tone-deaf, as the example of April the Reaper makes clear). Except that Sam never has any such traumatic experience to that effect. He remains oblivious for so long because it’s not an awful experience at all and Ezekiel does heal him up a fair bit. What Sam will end up feeling guilty about is his body being used as a tool in Kevin’s death and that’s not the same thing as rape. Especially when that “guilt” becomes just another way for Sam to blame Dean for not letting him go (ie., die) at the beginning of season nine.

Yes, from a philosophical point of view, Sam would hate the idea of being possessed by an angel again after the whole Samifer deal. Yes, Dean’s is a reckless act, with consequences. No, it’s not the smartest thing he’s ever done. But for much of the season, when Dean is scrambling to keep Gadriel happy and everyone else safe, he is out on a limb. But he’s also, when under duress, forced to do things he wouldn’t otherwise do because his loved ones are being held hostage.  It’s hard not to feel empathy for that. It’s harder to feel empathy for Sam acting as though he had a lobotomy half the time and being in LaLa Land.

I have to admit that Gadriel isn’t my favorite role for Jared Padalecki. While I’ve never been a huge fan of Tahmoh Penikett, I thought he did well in the role. Penikett played him with a sort of desperate earnestness. Padalecki somehow didn’t take that up. His version of Gadriel seemed stiff and prissy, instead, and I found that distracting.

Weirdly enough, I found him more convincing in Gadriel’s scenes with Metatron (who is a whole other kind of dumpster fire this season) than in his scenes with Dean. Go figure.

Finally, there’s Metatron. Oh, dear. When we first encountered him in “The Great Escapist” in season eight (Ben Edlund’s final episode for the show, at least so far), after a couple of mentions in previous episodes since season seven, he seemed like a puckish and spunky, if rather frail, old man. A bit like later Prophet Donatello, except that in Metatron’s case, it’s a mask, a con job, and not just because he’s an angel.

This does not make the desperate gullibility with which angels like Castiel and Gadriel choose to believe him look sympathetic. Their blindness is too willful, their excuses too ludicrous, the damage they cause in his name too great. True, Bartholomew and Malachi are no better, but the fact that the angels are willing to slaughter each other (and hapless humans) in their name, as much as in Metatron’s, simply because that would-be leader is an angel, doesn’t make any of the three choices look smart. And it’s not as though joining a faction increases your angelic lifespan.

Metatron is actually quite ambitious and vindictive. In fact, despite his professed love for their stories, he doesn’t really like humans and looks down on them. Nor does he give a hoot what his grand Bond villain schemes do to any part of the SPNverse, let alone Heaven and Earth, and certainly not what they do to individual angels and humans. When he orders the assassination of Kevin Tran, there’s nothing personal in it. He’s just tying up a loose end.

But once his plan exceeds his wildest dreams, he becomes even more ambitious. Initially, it appears he wanted revenge on the angels when he cast them out of Heaven. Now he wants their worship and adoration (having found revenge to be more empty than he’d anticipated). In this episode, he hesitates to aspire to wanting to be like God, but give him time. His ego can encompass that, too.

Fun Lines:

Kevin [to Dean] I always trust you. And I always end up screwed.

Dean: Oh, come on – always? Not always.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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The Official Supernatural: “Moriah” (14.20 – Season Finale) Live Recap Thread


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Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

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. 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.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Longish recap to “Carry On Wayward Son” that teases us with a bit of Dean!Michael before boring the crap out of us with how terrible the entire Jack storyline was.

Cut to Now and that cliffhanger some optimistic fans were all abuzz about last week, with Jack busting out of the Ma’lak Box. Yeah, about that. Jack whines that TFW lied to him, tosses them into some bookshelves (I really hate that he trashed their archive, but at least the library upstairs is intact), and … anticlimactically flies off.

Yeah. I know. That’s what you waited a week for. Sorry.

In the aftermath of getting themselves up and dusting themselves off, and handwaving why Jack was able to bust out of the unbustable box (I doubt we’ll get anything more satisfying than that), Dean recovers first. He says they need to find Jack fast before he hurts anyone (else) and gank him. As far as locating Jack, Sam says that praying’s out now, for obvious reasons (I dunno, Sam. Jack’s pretty gullible. He might actually fall for that one twice).

Castiel gets pissy and tries to pick a fight with Dean (the world is not Twitter, Cas), but Dean shuts him down cold. Dean gives Castiel some much-needed home truths about how he always thought raising Jack was too dangerous, but no one listened to him. How Castiel knew Jack had broke bad, but he chose to stay quiet because he wanted the fantasy of a happy family so badly. After the past two weeks, Dean doesn’t have to add, “And now Mom’s dead.”

Furious, but unable to come up with a blistering retort (I’m sure he’ll think of one a week from now), Castiel shoves past Dean and stalks out the door.

Sam is upset, but Dean points out to him that as much as they cared about Jack, he’s a monster now and he’s hurting people. They have to stop him. Yeah, Sam. Starting thinking like a Hero again, for once. Save some people. Hunt some things.

Where’s Jack? He’s in a crowded public place. People are sitting around having inane conversations, in which he detects (or thinks he does, anyway) a lot of lies. He gets the “brilliant’ idea of making everyone tell the truth. Because that’s bound to end well.

Meanwhile, Sam is following up (by phone) on Dean’s idea of recruiting Rowena for a locator spell. She thinks it’s “dangerous,” but she’s in.

Dressed as FBI agents, the Brothers enter a tech company for facial software. This somehow leads to Sam responding to Dean’s usual grumping about “nerds” that Dean is the biggest nerd of all and he even watches Jeopardy every night. Which, okay, cute, I guess, but it seems very out of place.

Dean then introduces himself to the receptionist and says he’s looking for “the Devil’s son.” So, I guess that anti-lying mojo is working on Dean now.

Dean scampers off to Sam, who is being puzzled by two coworkers admitting to each other that one is sleeping with the other one’s wife and the other one doesn’t care. Dean asks Sam who his favorite singer is (Sam always says Elvis, but Dean knows that’s a lie) and Sam is shocked when he’s forced to admit it.

At that moment, all Hell breaks loose in the office as various people start admitting their biggest grievances to each other. I kinda like the lady who’s going around, stealing staplers and gloating, “I’m the Stapler Queen!”

The Brothers quickly step into a conference room, where a TV announcer on the wall is reporting on Trump having just made a full and public confession about his tax records and connections to Russia. Also, seems he made a deal with Crowley. Oh, and her co-anchor confesses his love or her. Seems the spell in question is universal.

Now that he’s been forced to confess that his favorite singer is Celine Dion, Sam’s fully on board with tracking Jack down before he does any more damage.

Meanwhile, Castiel is in an alley, trying to talk to a demon about going to Hell and studying the Cage. The demon refuses, but a voice behind Castiel changes and ups the entire game. When he turns around, he sees Chuck. Chuck allows that TFW might just be boned.

Chuck says he came because of Castiel’s prayer (in the warehouse, when he found Joshua’s new version of the Amulet). And because Jack has become “a problem.” Because of course he did. [eyeroll]

Meanwhile, Jack is knocking on his grandmother’s door and barges his way in. He doesn’t notice the signals that she doesn’t want him around. He says he wants to talk more about Kelly. Well, he gets a lot more than he bargained for when his grandmother reveals she knows he lied to her before (karma sucks, doesn’t it, Jack?). She screams at him, demanding to know what he did to her daughter and is Kelly dead?

Jack, still having no learning curve, gets mad. His eyes glow yellow and he shouts, “STOP!” Because of course he does. Why would he accept any consequences for his own actions? He’s miserably failed at that so far.

Back at the tech office, Dean is discovering that the internet has gone awfully quiet, save for those folks admitting their lives aren’t nearly as neat as they claimed. Sam is using face recognition software to locate Jack. Out in the office, mayhem continues as Castiel and Chuck show up.

Chuck goes into a little rant about how people need to lie. “It keeps the peace.” He says he’s a writer and writers lie, so he should know. In case that sounds vaguely familiar, that’s this episode’s writer, Andrew Dabb, riffing on the late, great Ursula K. LeGuin (“a novelist’s business is lying“) and sucking hard at it.

Chuck and Castiel come in to a shocked Dean and Sam. Ignoring Dean’s questions at first, Chuck sits down with a guitar for a song. Dean, channeling half the audience (at least), grabs the guitar and smashes it, Pete Townshend-style, on the floor. When Dean gets in Chuck’s face, Chuck gets mad, but it doesn’t let him off the hook. In fact, it unites Sam and Castiel remarkably quickly at Dean’s back, especially once Chuck snaps them back to the Bunker.

Chuck starts burbling on about being a deus ex machina, but it falls on stony ground. Sam says he’s with Dean – he wants answers. And Castiel just looks pissed off. Yes, he looks like that a lot this episode.

Chuck is “charmingly” vague about questions where he’s been. When Dean asks him about Amara, he claims she was with him, at least most of the way, and is currently in Reno. No one believes him. Finally pinned down (or so it appears) on the question of why he’s here now, he says he only shows up for actual apocalypses, not ordinary stuff (like the Leviathans, or the “weak” LoL) and Jack is an apocalypse. For proof, Chuck waves a hand and we hear a lot of paranoid radio chatter from around the world.

By the way, we just saw Jack exit his grandmother’s house in a hurry, leaving the door wide open and Grandma nowhere to be seen.

Castiel asks if Chuck can fix it. Chuck says sure. He snaps his fingers and says, “Fixed … like it never happened.” Dean tests it by saying “Celine Dion rocks” and then assures everyone that yep, they can lie again. Back in the tech office, all is normal again, and a guy is ranting about someone stealing his yogurt while another guy is sitting at his own desk, eating said yogurt.

Chuck then fangirls Jack and his powers a bit (because of course he does). He then says Jack has to go, but Chuck can’t do it (for reasons), though the Brothers can. And he has just the thing. A silvery, rather creepy-looking pistol appears on the map table.

Chuck says the gun will kill anything. He says he’s thinking of calling it “The Equalizer” or “The Hammurabi.” The stony silence from the other side of the room deepens. Dean picks the gun up as Sam asks why Chuck didn’t bring it to them before. He says he just invented it, that’s why. Sam asks how do they know it will work? Chuck says of course it will work. He made it.

Dean says there are no bullets. Chuck technobabbles about “balance” in the universe and quantum bubbles and stuff. Sam (who is just so very done at this point with Chuck, after fangirling him for near a decade and a half) tells him to “get to the point.” Chuck says that whatever happens to the person/being you shoot, also happens to you. And since he can’t die without the entire Multiverse dying, he can’t use it on Jack.

Castiel asks why Chuck can’t just give Jack his soul back. Chuck claims it’s complicated, that souls are complicated. Castiel says, well, maybe they can just put Jack in the Cage until they find another solution (because I’m sure that would work as well as the Ma’lak Box).

Dean cuts him off by saying there’s no other way, while holding the gun. Castiel snarls that Billie said that Dean had to go in the Ma’lak Box, too, and look how that turned out. You know, I get that Dabb thinks he’s acknowledging that loose end here, but that somehow makes it worse that he knew perfectly well he was dropping that plot and chose to give us this load of horseshit, instead.

Also, we’re halfway through and so far, almost nothing has happened except a whole lot of infodump.

Chuck starts muttering angrily about how the previous Death was much more hands-off and Billie is too active for his tastes. That makes me just a little bit suspicious because why would he care?

Anyhoo, Dean tells Castiel to suck it up and deal or “walk away.” Castiel walks away. Meanwhile, Jack is walking down the street, remembering that he probably killed his grandmother.

In the next scene, Sam comes in on Dean drinking. Dean has already decided he will be the one to pull the trigger and die, along with Jack. Sam starts to whine that Jack is still saveable, that he did all those things because he didn’t have a soul. But Sam doesn’t seem to get that Jack can’t get that soul back, so that’s irrelevant. Really, how many people – how many women who are mothers to him – does Jack have to murder before Sam admits that maybe Jack needs to face some fucking consequences for once?

I mean, I really hate Sam in this scene. He is so casually misogynistic, so casually dismissive even of the death of his own mother, just so long as he can play Daddy to Jack. And on top of that, he’s busy guilt-tripping Dean about killing himself to kill Jack, because he’s “already lost too much.” Wow. Sam is breathtakingly selfish, isn’t he?

Anyhoo, Castiel has driven to some cemetery, where Jack flies in behind him. Castiel turns and hugs him. I am so very over Jack. Can’t he just go away forever now?

Back at the Bunker, Sam comes out into the Library to find Chuck playing with the archangel blade. Chuck asks Sam where he got it (as if Chuck wouldn’t know) and Sam just says, “Another world.” Sam asks Chuck about the other realities. Chuck says he’s “lost count … one’s in reverse. One’s in all-yellow. And one is just all squirrels.” So, all Deans, then?

Sam brings up that alt-Michael claimed Chuck made and discarded these worlds like “failed drafts.” Chuck claims that this Sam and Dean are the “most interesting” of all the Sams and Deans in the Multiverse.

Back to the cemetery, Jack is telling Castiel about his visit to his grandmother. He says she told him he killed Kelly, which he did. He says that used to bother him, but he doesn’t feel anything, anymore (except that both the script and the acting Show him feeling all sorts of things). We get the rest of the flashback, in which she saw his glowing eyes and exclaimed, “What are you?!” In the flashback, Jack has a moment of clarity and “runs away,” instead of hurting her. Castiel is all proud of him, because I guess the many other people Jack’s killed don’t matter.

In the Library, Sam asks if Chuck is watching them all the time and Chuck gets all creepy-nostalgic and says, “Yeah.” With a smile. Like his smile when Castiel stormed out. I don’t like that smile. Chuck says, “You’re my favorite show.”

Sam says that if he had Chuck’s power, he’d … well, what, Sam? Your track record with superpowers blows chunks, dude. Chuck says he can’t intervene. Only Sam and Dean can: “You’re my guys.”

Then he says something really humiliating for Sam, even as Sam guesses (but is it accurate?) that Chuck is afraid of Jack and knows where Jack is – he points out that Dean has already left to go kill Jack.

At the cemetery, Jack is still claiming that killing Mary was an accident. He claims to try to “do the right thing,” except for being “led astray” by Duma. He admits that whenever he tries to do things right, he screws up.

Castiel, like the kind of indulgent parent who needs a good talking-to from Supernanny, keeps saying that if only they could go away somewhere and “fix this.” This show has done such an excellent job of ruining Castiel this season, all in favor of blowing sunshine up Jack’s ass.

When Dean shows up with the gun, though, Jack tosses Castiel across the cemetery and kneels down so Dean can shoot him.

Castiel gets up and starts yelling at Dean, even as Sam is running through the cemetery, yelling at Dean (there doesn’t see to be any concern from either of them for Dean, just Jack), and Jack says, “I understand.”

Jack admits that he’s a “monster,” even as Chuck shows up and Sam realizes that Chuck is “enjoying this.”

But Dean hesitates and then, he tosses the gun aside.

At that moment, Chuck gets mad. It’s not how “the story” is supposed to go. This is a case of Abraham and Isaac, “of a father killing his son … it’s epic!” At that moment, Sam voices all of his growing misgivings throughout the episode about Chuck – “He’s been playing us, all our lives.”

Chuck: Dean, no offense, but your brother is stupid and crazy.

Castiel is pretty pissed (yes, I know, but he actually gets angrier in this scene), but it’s Dean who gets a really ugly look as he realizes he was being set up for assassination. That’s probably the most interesting part of the episode – that Chuck wanted Dean to die, but couldn’t – or wouldn’t – do it himself.

As he’s losing control over the situation, Chuck tries to bully-entice Dean into picking up the gun and shooting Jack by offering to bring Mary back and claiming that “the kid is still dangerous.”

Dean, realizing he’s been played, steps back from his greatest temptation, saying “No. My mom was my Hero. And I miss her. And I will miss her every second of my life. But she would not want this. And it’s not like you even really care.”

Dean gets a good rant going (why not? Everyone else got one this episode) about how Chuck has always known what was going on even back to the first apocalypse. He could always change it, but chose not to. Sam backs Dean up, though he does kinda step on Dean’s groove a bit.

But what happens next is interesting because Chuck basically ignores Sam and tries to shmooze Dean. It’s only when Dean tells him to go the Hell that Chuck decides he’s done. He snaps his fingers. And guess what? He’s totally capable of smiting Jack by remote. Easy as pie.

Dean tries to stop him, but gets knocked through a tombstone. Sam picks up the gun and shoots Chuck (the Dramatic Reenactment we get after commercial is embarrassingly cheesy), but it just bounces off Chuck and hits Sam in the shoulder like a real bullet.

Chuck: Fine. That the way you want it? Story’s over. Welcome to the end.

And Dean finds himself in the dark in the graveyard. It’s suddenly night. Sam and Castiel are still there. Sam’s still been shot, though he’s okay. Jack is dead, his eyes burned out of his head.

Dean says, confused, that Chuck said only the gun could kill Jack. “He’s a writer,” Castiel says, kneeling by Jack. “Writers lie.” Watch out for those anvils, kids. They’re heavy this week.

But alas, we’re not done with Jack Sue. To the tune of Motörhead’s “God Was Never on Your Side,” Jack wakes up in the Empty to meet the Empty Entity itself (which makes a benediction over him and chuckles) and Billie flying in for a chat. Because of course they do. [eyeroll]

Back on earth, the Brothers and Castiel witness souls blasting out of of glowing rifts in the ground. Castiel infodumps that they are souls from Hell. Shouldn’t they be demons, then? But instead, we have the Woman in White (from the Pilot) accosting a motorist, John Wayne Gacy’s ghost showing up at the door to a kid’s party (even though his thing was young gay boys), and Bloody Mary (also from season one) appearing in a mirror in the room of two young girls. Which, again, is nice and all, but the WiW and Mary really ought to be demons by now. Really.

Also, in the midst of exploding tombstones, zombies appear to menace the Brothers and Castiel. It’s all epically stupid as Castiel pulls out his angel blade and Dean grabs some iron from a rusty gate, handing some to Sam. All to Classic Rock we apparently couldn’t afford most of the season. The zombies converge on the three of them.

Credits.

Ratings for this week were pretty bad and didn’t experience the usual season finale bounce, with a 0.3/2 and 1.30 million. Even so, the show still far outstripped most of the other shows on the CW, which can’t even muster 1 million at this point.

No preview for next week, obviously, since that won’t be until October.

Review

Well, this was quite terrible, wasn’t it? Not to mention dull. There was a great deal of talking and very little action. One character (Rowena) was mentioned for a bit and then dropped. Another character who had been prominent the past few episodes (Fauxifer), and who should have been around, was simply forgotten. You may have noticed that almost everything (except for the office set) occurred in the Bunker or that graveyard. I guess Classic Rock and some zombie makeup’s too expensive to justify the cost of any decent fight choreography, or, hell, anything happening beyond a whole lot of infodumpy dialogue. Don’t bother to get excited about the biblical implications of the title, since they were spelled for all of a hot minute.

On Twitter, I compared it to a mess of moldy spaghetti tossed at the wall. They actually started the season with a good premise (Dean possessed by alt-Michael), but then floundered because they basically didn’t know what to do with it. I can pretty much guarantee you that if they flubbed the Michael storyline, the same writers will flub the EVOL!Chuck storyline because the problem will remain the same – the Big Bad is too Big and too Bad for Our Heroes to vanquish. It was actually easier with Michael because they had Dean and Dean was fighting from within, but nope. They went the very stupid Soulless!Jack route, instead.

Also, those who have been crowing about getting to see the same old MOTWs the Brothers had previously vanquished, again, think very hard about how well it’s gone of late with this current writing crew and old, iconic characters – very old and very iconic characters – that they brought back. For example, those who were looking forward to seeing Chuck again, just how happy are you today?

This show needs new showrunners and new writers, stat, but it’s probably not going to get any at this point in the game. And that’s too bad. The show deserved a better final season than it’s probably going to get. I really hope I’m wrong, but … well … it’s not as though this season finale was good. It also actually managed to make “Swan Song” look even worse. Didn’t think that was possible, but there you go.

But before we get into why, let me just put forward this spec. Let’s say that those of you who are thinking Chuck wasn’t really Chuck this episode (as opposed to written completely out of character, though both things can be simultaneously true) are correct. Who is this Chuck, then? Could it be he’s the Empty Entity? His characterization is more appropriate for that character, last we saw it, don’t you think?

But, you may ask, who was the being (beside Death) who greeted Jack in the Empty? Some have speculated that it was Gabriel, but I have another idea. What if it was Chuck?

This would explain a lot of things and might even make Jack less of a Gary Stu (since he’d be the first of TFW, such as he is, to arrive in the Empty, so Chuck and Billie are just taking what they can get). It would explain why “Chuck” was so much more nihilistic than before. Mind you, I think he always had that potential, and that’s why I hated the idea of his being God in the first place, but his demeanor and attitude toward the Brothers has either changed or he’s just being more honest. Or he’s not Chuck.

It explains why he would play mind games and try to get TFW to kill Jack when he could have done it at any time (you could argue that he killed Jack because Jack was the biggest threat to him, but if Jack were any kind of threat, Chuck wouldn’t have been able to smite him like that). It explains why he had a beef with Jack in the first place. There’s never been any indication Chuck gave a rat’s ass one way or the other about Jack, seeing as how he did nothing about his birth, the alternate universes, or any of that.

The Empty Entity, on the other hand, wanted Jack in the Empty just a few episodes ago. It explains why he was so moody (Chuck was a lot of things, previously, but moody was never one of them). It explains why he was so not-so-secretly sadistic (which we know the Empty Entity is). It even explains the nature of the new gun, the rant about “balance” (since when did Chuck care about that?), the strange absence of Amara, the changing Jack’s spell of compulsive honesty back to quotidian lying, and the sudden rage toward Billie and her “meddling.”

What it doesn’t explain is why Chuck (or “Chuck”) wanted Dean dead, too, because that was as cold-blooded an assassination attempt (of Dean) as this show has ever done. Or why Chuck didn’t just flat-out kill Dean when Dean refused, but had no problem killing Jack. And alas, even if the above theory is correct, that doesn’t mean the writers will do it any justice, whatsoever.

Which brings us back to the review.

There was some nice acting, especially from Jensen Ackles. And Jared Padalecki got something substantial to chew on with Sam’s growing realization that Chuck was a rotter. This particular journey actually fitted Sam best, since Sam is the brother who has had the most faith in God, has prayed to Him, and has had the most faith in Him. Dean has always been angry with God (and even began the series as a sort of atheistic pagan who didn’t believe in a universal deity, let alone a benevolent one). There’s more dramatic charge in Sam coming to this conclusion after a lifetime of belief and devotion, than Dean, since Dean’s already naturally inclined toward it. I mean, Dean was right all along about Chuck. Go figure.

Unfortunately, the acting can’t save the writing (or the direction). You’ll note that I didn’t mention Misha Collins or Alex Calvert. It’s not because they’re bad actors, but because they basically get nothing of substance to do here. As I said in the recap, Castiel spends most of the episode pissed off (usually at Dean) and poor Calvert is once again stuck with Telling the audience that Jack has no emotions (because he has no soul) while clearly Showing (due to the writing and probably the direction) that actually, Jack’s biggest problem is his emotions and his utter failure to control them without hurting someone. Over and over and over again.

I continue to believe that Jack is unsalvageable as a character. This episode just drove home why. So, no, I wasn’t thrilled to see his Speshul Sparkly Self waking up in the Empty and being visited by two Very Important People. I think he has just gone too far as a character, trampled too many moral lines, killed too many people, to come back from that.

Even Jack’s biggest stans implicitly acknowledge he has something he’s done to the main characters that may not be forgiveable when such fans try instead to transfer that moral charge onto blaming Dean (who is the current surviving victim of Jack’s rampage least likely to indulge him with a forgiveness he really doesn’t deserve). Somebody’s gotta pay, so if it’s not Jack, it’s got to be his “unreasonable” victim. Essentially, it’s just an extension of fans who bought the idea (put forward by Jack himself) that Mary caused her own death by making Jack mad (which, as I said a couple of weeks ago, is Abuser Logic).

Unfortunately, the show itself is at its most emotionally dishonest when having other characters deal with Jack (there’s also that bullshit “Writers lie” thing, but we’ll get to that in a minute). Dean’s character is the least muddy in his emotional arc, though we see his actions through a glass darkly and he has a last-minute change of heart that’s poorly mapped. Having Jack have a sudden and unlikely epiphany (after nearly fridging yet another biological mother figure) that he’s EVOL is, of course, emotionally manipulative, intended to woobie Jack, handwave Jack’s crimes (and they are crimes) to this point, and make Dean look like a big meanie. Again, Abuser Logic.

Less understandable are Sam’s (and especially Castiel’s) overly indulgent attitudes toward Jack, even to the point of ignoring the horrible things Jack has done, including to people they loved. It doesn’t help that the show has written Sam and Castiel for two years as invested in fostering Jack as much as for reasons of pride and ego as for altruism. But even that low bar doesn’t excuse their throwing over a 14-season and 10-season obsession (respectively) with Dean in favor of a character they’ve known for a hot minute, relatively speaking, and who is the son of their worst enemy. I don’t buy that and the show doesn’t even try to make it look plausible. Dabb & Co. just Cousin Oliver it all the way down the line.

So, let’s wrap up with that idiotic “Writers lie” theme. As I said before, it probably comes from a quote by Ursula K. Le Guin, “A novelist’s business is lying,” which this quite-thoughtful essay on her speculates comes originally from Picasso’s quote, “Art is a lie which makes us realize the truth.”

Now, Picasso was, by all accounts, a pompous asshole (and probably an emotional vampire), but he was a talented asshole and in this case, he’s quite right. Great writers don’t just lie to lie. They lie to get at important truths they might not otherwise be able to articulate. I’m going to quote myself from Twitter again (sorry), this time in response to Andrew Dabb’s nonsense about how “writers lie.”

Me: Bad writers lie. Average writers lie pretty. Good writers engage audiences with the truth. Great writers inspire others with the truth.

Also, in context, Le Guin isn’t just saying that writers (well, novelists) lie. She said it in her forward to The Left Hand of Darkness (not my favorite of her books, though I did love some of her others), in response to the idea that science fiction writers should write predictions of the future in their stories. Le Guin was saying that we writers actually are using science fiction to comment on our present. We’re not seers. Don’t put us on a pedestal. We can only present our own, personal truth.

Which is pretty much the opposite of writing a show where the God character is a douchey alter ego to the shallow and self-indulgent writers. That is a cheat, a mean spirited prank on the audience, and poor repayment for our support of the show. Don’t forget that these writers see us all as Becky Rosen.

See you next week with a retro review.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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The Official Supernatural: “Jack in the Box” (14.19) Live Recap Thread


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.

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. 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.

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Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Quick recap of what a raging dumpster fire of a storyline this whole Jack thing has been of late.

FYI, my part of the state is under a major tornado watch and we’ve had warnings for hours. So, if my power goes out, it goes out. Sorry.

Anyhoo, cut to Now and … hey, remember how there was a whole storyline involving the Hunters Sam organized and trained from the alt-SPNverse who got killed by Michael and then Jack killed him?

Yeah, well, the Bunker is now filled with beer-swilling Hunters whom we haven’t seen for weeks because reasons. Some of them are even survivors from the alt-SPNverse (though no alt-Charlie, because I guess she didn’t care about Mary). Who got massacred besides Maggie a few weeks ago? Who knows? Buck-Leming sure don’t remember.

Yep. It’s a Nepotism Duo episode. I’d better go get some booze.

It’s a Hunter’s wake for Mary. Remember that female Hunter from back when Jack was so sick, who I was hoping would survive? She’s there. Let’s hope these two louses don’t redshirt her.

Dean, Sam and Castiel come in, and Dean gives a speech thanking everyone for coming. As Sam broods beside him and Castiel looks mighty uncomfortable, Dean acknowledges that Mary knew and touched a lot more people than her immediate family, people who might want a space to grieve for her. He praises her Hunting skills while getting some chuckles for talking about her stubbornness and her inability to cook. He just about makes it through the speech without breaking down. Then he and Sam and everyone but Castiel toast her.

Jack, of course, is conspicuously absent. And unmentioned.

The gathering is abruptly and bloodily broken up when a hatchet sails through the air and lands in the head of one of the Hunters. The wielder turns out to be alt-Bobby, fashionably late, and the victim a Wraith-in-disguise with whom Bobby and Mary had tangled during their last Hunt. The body is unceremoniously dragged off while Bobby explains that the Wraith probably stopped by to gloat (and also to search for victims, I’ll bet. This could have been a good MOTW, but ah, well).

Castiel notes that Mary would have appreciated a monster showing up at her wake to get ganked. When Sam comes in, Bobby asks how he is. Sam says not so good. When Bobby asks how Dean is (as Dean comes in to pack up Mary’s photos and such from the wake), Sam says he’s not sure. Bobby says that maybe Dean is like him and doesn’t like to cry in public.

Sam asks Dean if they shouldn’t open a bottle of whiskey and “talk about Mom.” Dean just looks at him as if he’s got five heads and says, isn’t that what they’ve been doing? It’s always struck me how Sam is a bit cold and doesn’t deal with people well emotionally when they’re right in front him. He did a similar thing with John – basically fighting with him when John was alive and then getting all maudlin about him once he was gone. He was similarly arm’s-length with Mary. Even when they were hanging out, there was a part of Sam that seemed detached.

So, not a huge surprise that he’s now getting maudlin over her photos with Bobby, while Dean is nowhere to be seen.

Just as Bobby is starting to ask what Jack did, Dean walks in. Sam and Bobby invite Dean to have a drink when he says he needs one, but he says he needs to go do some stuff alone. Sam says they need to talk about Jack. Dean says they will – later. He leaves.

Bobby gets back on-topic. He says that he liked Jack and even fought with him, but if Jack has truly lost his soul, then he’s basically “Lucifer” now and there’s only one thing to do. “An unstoppable monster who don’t know right from wrong gets put down – or the closest we can get to it. And anybody who don’t know that needs to go back to school.”

Castiel objects, saying that Jack didn’t know any better, or intend to kill Mary, while Sam looks pensive, but Bobby’s not impressed. Neither am I, to be honest. Bobby’s right. Bobby leaves to go gather the mob with pitchforks. We may or may not see him again this week.

Cut to a random warehouse, where Jack is remembering his last conversation with Mary and how it turned out. Jack moans for her to come back, saying that he needs her there to tell him “what to do.”

Fauxifer shows up (because I’m sure we were all just gagging to see this character again). He starts nagging Jack that the Winchesters never loved him, but he is part of Jack’s “DNA” and in that sense, he’s “real” (I’m still suspicious that this is the real Lucifer, or maybe Michael, who is slowly taking Jack over from the inside). Anyhoo, despite his rather weak protests, Jack gives far too much credence to Fauxifer’s claims that his bio daddy loved him. Last time Jack talked to his bio daddy, Lucifer stole his grace and was standing by, smiling, while Jack was stabbing himself to death.

Then again, this entire “soulless” storyline where Jack doesn’t feel any emotions makes no damned sense when Jack obviously does feel emotions and lots of them. In fact, his anger and guilt are precisely what are making him so dangerously unstable at this point. Well, that, and his pride and arrogance.

Jack thinks he can go back to Sam and Dean, and explain to them that Mary’s murder was “an accident.” Fauxifer tells him that they “hate” him (which is about the only thing I agree with Fauxifer on, since Dean certainly does) and that “they don’t even want you as their pet, anymore.” Then he disappears.

Cut to a no-dialogue dramatic shot in the woods at night, of Dean sitting on a stump, sobbing uncontrollably. It’s great acting, but it only lasts 33 seconds, which ain’t long enough by any stretch to save this episode.

Also, I can’t help feeling a bit salty about the story Jensen Ackles told that he had to sit in the woods, freezing, for take after take, because the shot was “cinematic.” Everyone else get to film indoors, but not him. Gee, I wonder why he wants to quit, seeing as how the show has been pulling this crap on him from the beginning.

Anyhoo, this is a pretty important scene, however short. Fauxifer makes it sound as though the Winchesters are petty and sick of Jack, that they tossed him away like a broken toy as soon as he made an honest mistake.

But this scene shows the devastation Jack actually caused. That he took a mother away from her sons (after they’d lost her at a young age and gotten her back after many years). And now one of those sons is sitting on a stump in the middle of the friggin’ woods, crying inconsolably, wounded beyond measure by Jack’s actions.

Jack has wings. He could find Dean, talk to him alone, if he really wanted to make amends, but he’s not there. He was conspicuously absent at Mary’s wake and he’s conspicuously absent here.

Now we go up to Heaven, where Castiel is bugging Duma about where Naomi is. Um … last week, Castiel had to beg just to speak to Duma at the gate of Heaven. Now he can just walk in? These writers, I swear. Get yer canon straight, Nep Duo.

When pressed, Duma claims that Naomi screwed up by “allowing” the Empty Entity into Heaven, so the angels (well, Duma) locked her away. Now Duma is running Heaven because apparently, these same writers have forgotten that Duma got possessed by the Empty Entity during its time in Heaven. Also, the fact that Heaven can’t afford to lose any more angels because there are hardly any left is not mentioned. In fact, Heaven doesn’t see to be suffering any more power outages at all.

Oh, and according to Duma, there are no more archangels because apparently Buck-Leming even forgot about “our” Michael in the Cage.

These two writers give me such a headache.

Castiel beats around the bush a bit and then admits he’s trying to find Jack and that Jack has burned away all of his soul (remember when Jack’s soul and grace needed to exist in balance or he’d die?Yeah … the writers don’t).

Duma thinks this is ironic. Castiel keeps blabbing, admitting that Jack has fled the Winchesters, who are very, very angry with him (Duma notes that this is indeed something to fear), and that he’s become very powerful since killing alt-Michael, but that he needs “guidance.” Duma just walks away, saying “See what I can do.”

Castiel finally gets a look of dawning comprehension that maybe trusting Duma, of all people, with such information wasn’t the smartest choice he ever made.

In the Bunker, Sam is working on his computer when Dean comes in. Dean deflects any question about how he’s feeling. Sam mentions that “Bobby and his crew” are looking for Jack. He and Dean need to find Jack before –

“He kills them all?” Dean asks. Sam looks uncomfortable and says he doesn’t know.

Sam then says he’s been thinking about Mary (see? Arm’s length). He says that most people don’t know how the SPNverse works, that they have to operate on faith. He and Dean know how things really work, that God and angels are real, and so is Heaven.

Dean: God writes paperback books in his underwear, okay? And angels are dicks.

Sam persists, saying that at least he and Dean know Mary is “in a better place” with John.

Dean: Hmm. You know what else? There wasn’t even enough left of her to even try to bring her back.

Yeah, Dean’s not putting up with Sam’s “Try to Look on the Bright Side of Life” approach this week. Did the Nep Duo even notice this episode would be coming out on Maundy Thursday?

Still hanging out in the warehouse, Jack gets a visit from Duma (who somehow found him and was able to get there really quickly without wings. I’ll bet the Nep Duo just plain forgot). Duma is oily as salad dressing. Cleverly leaving out the fact that she refused to let Castiel bring Mary back to earth, she claims that Mary’s death wasn’t his fault. Her mask starts to slip when she goes off on a little rant about how everything was fine until God left and then it all fell apart. But Jack has a “glorious destiny” getting Heaven back on track. Sure. As a battery, maybe.

Jack, being Jack, is dumb enough to believe her.

The first visit on Duma’s intended itinerary is to visit a skeptic who writes atheistic tracts. Duma calls this heresy. Jack’s (truthful) claims that Heaven exists and Jack’s grandfather is God makes the guy laugh. Duma says he can save himself by writing a recantation of his works. The guy, of course, refuses and goes to call security.

At that point, Jack TKs the guy’s phone off the desk. Then he turns the guy into a pillar of salt. While smiling pleasantly. Duma, out of focus behind him, looks a bit uncomfortable, but no omelets without broken eggs, I guess.

Incidentally, for those of you still arguing whether Jack committed murder when he killed Mary, what he does to this guy is murder. And it’s his second. He tortured Nick to death, remember? And he enjoys it.

Castiel goes back to the Bunker and tells the Brothers about what Duma told him, how Heaven is going to help find Jack. Written like a complete moron, Castiel insists to the skeptical Brothers that Heaven is as worried about Jack as he is, but gets worried when Sam pulls up a news story about Doomed Previous Scene Skeptic. Castiel then hands off the Idiot Ball to Dean so that he can infodump for the audience about Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt. Other fans have already pointed out, repeatedly, that Dean mentions that story when first meeting God. So, yeah. Idiot Ball.

Castiel then claims that “no ordinary angel” could turn a human into a table condiment. Hmm, really? ‘Cause I seem to recall Balthazar using a proto-Hand of God to do just that to Raphael’s vessel in season six. But silly me – whyever would these two writers, who are being paid thousands and thousands of dollars to write this script and oversee the Writers Room, actually bother to watch their own show?

Sam moves on to another victim, this time a woman (a fake faith healer) who fell into a crack in the earth and was killed. If anyone’s keeping count, that’s now four murders on Jack’s roster and I’ll bet he enjoyed that one, too. Castiel identifies this one from the Book of Numbers.

Dean says, well, either Chuck’s back (which he doesn’t see happening) or it’s Jack.

Cut to Heaven, where Duma is dodging around Jack’s questions about how impressed and happy the Brothers will be (I just want to note that so far, Jack doesn’t seem to have mentioned Castiel even once – just Sam and Dean). Anyhoo, Duma has more ambitious plans. She wants Jack to make angels. She admits that Jack is not as powerful as God, in that he can’t just “make them out of thin air,” but he can “forge” them out of the souls of “predisposed” people. I’m guessing she means humans who were bred to be vessels. Damn, I miss Dean’s Michael storyline.

Jack thinks this is fine, still smiling. Duma takes him to God’s throne room, saying that his “grandfather” (Chuck) used to sit there and listen to people’s prayers. The Nep Duo apparently forgot that any angel can hear human prayers, from anywhere. Seems Jack can’t hear them unless he sits on Chuck’s throne and “concentrates.”

As he listens, he hears a prayer group full of potential victims – sorry, Christians – praying in thanksgiving to God. They all look perky and dumb. Because these writers despise Christians just as much as they do atheists. They’re equal opportunity in their smug contempt.

As they’re wrapping up, and the woman leading the group says that the Pastor is coming by, Jack flies in. Jack looks more and more insufferable. He starts in on a spiel about whether they were sincere in wanting to go to Heaven and become angels. The latter is actually heretical and the Nepotism Duo would have known that if they’d watched the priest’s speech to his dead colleague in “Houses of the Holy.” Oh, but I forgot – these two can’t be arsed to watch their own show, let alone pay any attention to other writers’ canon.

Anyhoo, the group all agree they’d love to see that, like a bunch of bobbleheads. Jack’s eyes then glow and thunder rumbles outside. Everybody looks confused more than scared and they gasp in awe when Jack shows his wings. When he tells them to “come with me to Heaven,” they’re all for it. Because they’re Plot Stupid.

The Pastor makes the mistake of walking in at that point and getting into an argument with Jack. Jack makes worms eat him from the inside, then takes the group to Heaven.

Oh, but I forgot – Jack’s just a poor, misunderstood woobie. [all the eyerolls]

The Pastor fortunately survives, but he’s in the hospital when the Brothers show up in their FBI suits. They get the whole story from him. He also says that Jack said “he was carrying out Heaven’s orders and that I wasn’t a believer.”

Castiel looks upset and when they come back out of the room, he quotes from the Bible about worms. Oh, and the Pastor didn’t survive, after all. After they leave, he gets eaten up by more worms.

Back at the Bunker, Dean says they only have one option. He shows Sam the Ma’lak Box. Dean says that Jack has to go in of his own free will, but they have to trick him. Sam has issues with “lying” to Jack, because I guess he’s okay with letting Jack fly around, murdering innocent people on Heaven’s orders. Oh, Sam, you never change.

Well, Dean’s not interested in listening to Sam’s nonsense this week. He tells Sam that he has to be the Judas Goat because he’s always stood up for Jack, but Sam has to be willing to do it. Dean’s not going to force him. After some intestinal discomfort, Sam agrees.

At the Heaven’s Gate playground, Castiel approaches an angel wearing a homeless black guy at night in the rain (sure are a lot more angels left than there used to be). Calling him Aramiel, Castiel says he needs to get into Heaven. Aramiel (shocker) tells him he’s banned again, then pulls out an angel blade.

Well, up in Heaven, Jack is turning humans into “angels” without a single issue about the fact that he’s basically doing the same thing to them that happened to him. Is what this is like how Lily Sunder used her soul? That’s not gonna work out too well and these people won’t last long. But then, who even knows if these writers remember all that complex stuff that was only a few episodes ago.

Aramiel shows up in the middle of the process, to the annoyance of Duma. She fakes enthusiasm when Aramiel is tossed aside and it turns out Castiel frog-marched him into Heaven. Jack is all smiley to see him after pretending he didn’t exist for most of the episode.

Castiel asks to see Duma outside. Like a moron, she goes. I’m sure this will end well. Out in the hallway (I really preferred the more naturalistic imagery of season five’s “Dark Side of the Moon”), Castiel admits that he forced Aramiel to tell him about Duma’s big plan to “solidify” her control over Heaven by using Jack. Castiel keeps going on about how Jack is just a child who needs guidance (I am so sick of this line and it makes Castiel look really stupid).

Duma goes off on her own megalomaniac rant about how she’s making Heaven great again. Then she makes a huge mistake – she threatens to end the heaven of Mary and John. When she asks what Castiel is going to do about it, he just stabs her.

Not that I’m going to miss Duma or anything (she was pretty bland), but isn’t Heaven already about to collapse onto earth with billions of souls due to a lack of angels? And if humans having their souls ignited into grace can become angels, why not use the billions of souls already in Heaven instead of looking on earth? God, this is all so very, very dumb.

Back at the Bunker, Sam is having doubts that “it” won’t work. “It” turns out to be praying to Jack. He prays some nonsense about how “bad things happen,” but the Brothers are willing to let bygones be bygones and please come back home.

Castiel is upset when Jack disappears from Heaven. Jack appears in the Bunker. Jack goes off on a fatuous speech about how he’s “helping Heaven purify the world.” About how he’s making new angels. He’s smugly proud of himself, but then declares that he missed Sam and Dean.

Dean is smiling, but it has an edge, while Sam warily paces behind him. Only Jack would be dumb enough not to notice that Dean wants to rip him to shreds (Castiel’s written like a complete moron this week, but even he would notice).

It’s all Dean can do not to rip Jack apart when Jack refers to Mary’s death as an “accident” and actually starts to veer into blaming her for her own murder. When they call him on it, he admits that no, it was him, but still tends to swerve into Blaming the Victim.
Jack is really hateable in this episode, looking smug and proud of himself, while claiming to feel regret for Mary’s death.

The Brothers spring their plan on him to go into the Ma’lak Box until they can fix his soul and dial down his powers. So he can’t hurt anyone (again, they don’t say, but it’s there). Dean lies to his face and so does Sam, about how the box is a temporary solution and they’ve got a more permanent one they can use why he goes into the box. When he asks how long it will be, Sam says, “Not too long.” The smile Dean gives Jack is just like Michael’s.

Well, Jack is dumb, so he gets in the box and lets them close the door. Dean does that and locks the locks. Remember that Dean made the box, so he’s the expert on it. Sam looks conflicted because yeah, Sam doesn’t really care that Jack’s a murderer of innocents.

As soon as he gets in, Jack has second thoughts and calls out to them outside the box because … well, it’s dumb. Afterward, they have that drink Sam talked about at the beginning of the episode and Sam feels bad. Dean tells him that they always knew “it was a long-shot with him.”

Inside the box, Jack starts to get upset, especially when Fauxifer appears to him and mocks him for being so dumb. It’s hard to tell through the colossally incompetent writing (Jack, for example, supposedly having no emotions while clearly operating on them), but it seems that if Jack’s subconscious were that smart, he’d never have been so dumb throughout this episode in the first place. So, I’m still leaning toward Fauxifer being real.

Castiel comes back, declaring that Jack is not really bad because Duma was manipulating him (conveniently leaving out the part where he killed her), and they have to find him. The Brothers tell him Jack is in the Ma’lak Box and they’re leaving him there.

Castiel gets mad because hey, only he gets to keep secrets and betray family (like Duma), amirite? While they bicker, Fauxifer gets Jack to bust his way out of the Ma’lak Box (because let’s just blow the shit out of even more canon). Jack blows up half the Bunker and as TFW rushes to the Dungeon, they find Jack, with glowing eyes, coming out of the smoke. Or maybe it’s Jack. Who even knows at this point?

Credits

Just FYI, since the Brothers are still here next week, you can expect this cliffhanger to get resolved as limply as the one where Jack “killed” Michael and re-upped his powers.

Ratings this week were down again (apparently, the general audience isn’t particularly wild about this storyline) to 0.3/2 and 1.28 million.

The promo, synopsis, photos and such are here.

Review

While watching “Jack in the Box,” I couldn’t help thinking that Padalecki, Ackles and Collins must have gotten this script not long before they called it quits – and wondering if this was the final straw for them. The writing’s that bad. If they looked at it and believed it wasn’t going to get any better (because they’d be stuck with these two incompetents for executive producers, not that Dabb’s much better), then that could have been it for them. If so, I’m sorry, but they may have a point because this episode was boring and incoherent in equal measure.

I really don’t want to watch this show if Jack is in it this year. I was already disenchanted with him weeks ago, but this was the final nail in the … uh … Ma’lak Box, as it were. Jack’s characterization was all over the place (ranging from devastated to smug), the Brothers were barely in the episode (especially egregious, since it should have been All About their grief, not woobying their mother’s murderer), and everyone got a turn at the Idiot Ball – except that Castiel got an extra few turns. At this point, I think Jack needs to fuck off back to the Land of Terrible Writing – sorry, the Empty – and never return.

I mean, it’s only one more season, so I can slog through it, but I’d really rather not do it that way. I’d like a good final season. I don’t see that happening as long as we’ve got Cousin Oliver/Scrappy-Doo around.

I’m reminded of a line from the movie Bull Durham, from a character who just came out of pitching a disaster of a baseball game: “It was like pouring gasoline on a fire!” That was this episode in a nutshell. I can’t even with Castiel, who was written like a complete moron and utter hypocrite. Not only does he slaughter yet another angel sibling (while babbling about the importance of family for how many episodes now?), but he lies about it to the Brothers and keeps insisting that they give Jack more and more rope. Boy, everybody forgot all about Jack wanting to kill Dean while Dean was possessed by Michael awful quick.

The writers have Sam, Dean and Castiel bicker over what is a really a pretty clear (though bleak) choice for no other reason than fake drama. What’s especially disturbing is how dismissive Sam and Castiel are of the murders Jack commits in this episode of innocent human beings. What happened to “saving people,” guys?

Castiel wants to believe that Jack would never have committed them if Duma hadn’t been manipulating him. But no one (as far as we know) was manipulating Jack when he murdered Nick and Mary, and the moment when he actually started to blame Mary for her own death, in front of her sons, was so very punchable. If Dean still had the Mark, Jack would have been nothing but a wet spot of blood on the floor after that, Nephilim powers or no.

Duma and her death represent two very unpleasant patterns in this storyline. First, there is the way Jack is treated and fawned over like spoiled royalty. Jack constantly puffing up over being Chuck’s “grandson” is especially ludicrous, considering Chuck made it clear in season 11 that he considers all of his creations his children – and that he prefers humans over angels. If anything, Jack is an extra step away from God, not toward. The funny thing is that this episode actually showed emphatically (again) that Jack is not God because he cannot create – he can only distort and destroy.

The overall effect makes me want someone to come in and knock him back down a peg, and I’d really prefer it be Dean. Too bad it didn’t take the first time, when Lucifer stole his powers. It’s infuriating to see almost everyone in-story blame Dean for not being “tolerant” when Jack is running around loose, murdering people and enjoying it. One of those victims was Dean’s mother. He has every right to be devastated, angry and vengeful. Just what show do these writers think they’re writing or some fans think they’re watching?

That’s a really frustrating part of this storyline. Jack supposedly was learning all these things about morality over the past two seasons and as soon as he “lost” his soul, he promptly forgot them all. His learning curve was completely erased. If Jack really can’t learn enough about being good to be able to navigate at least some way without a soul after two years, then he’s not really redeemable. And if he’s not redeemable, then Bobby and Dean are right – he’s gotta go.

The other pattern is disturbing in light of the justifications some fans want to give for Jack (vociferously, even). Jack is a cute little white boy who hurts people when he gets angry and then expects to be forgiven when he feels “sorry,” afterward. Sure, that’s not an abusive pattern, or anything.

His entire storyline has been propped up by discarded female characters. When they’re not being fridged to forward his storyline (like Kelly, Dagon, Maggie, Mary and Duma), they’re being threatened and diminished (like Kaia, Stacy and Rowena), or they’re being his mindless cheerleaders (like Duma and Mia Vallens). Dean gets blamed a lot for what happens to these characters, but it’s Jack who actually damages and discards them when he’s done with them. Some of these characters are Women of Color, too. Or LGBT.

I’m really tired of storylines where women only exist to prop up some boy.

And yet, there are fans who will excoriate the show (i.e., Dean) for being sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, even racist, while praising and defending Jack to the skies. I talked last week about the misogyny aimed at Mary as a character, how some fans (even female fans) were happy to blame her death on herself. This is a clear and unfortunate case of how invisible internalized misogyny can be, even among people who believe they are “woke.”

I sure hope the season finale (next week) doesn’t suck, but that hope may be forlorn. It’s not looking good. I’m almost glad the show was only 20 episodes this season.


The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14


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