Category Archives: Live Recaps

The Official Supernatural: “Proverbs 17:3” (15.05) 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 48 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 15 after this one for the final (15th) season that started on October 10. That’s 64 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 the season so far, beginning with a quickie two-shot of Sam’s dream about killing Dean that was probably as long as the showrunners originally wanted it to be, ending with Castiel flouncing offstage for a few episodes.

Cut to Now. Three young women, all blonde and all affluent, are sitting inside a large tent. For some bizarre reason, they are dressed like a bunch of aged-out Girl Scouts on safari (one wears a floppy hat that’s shaped like a pith helmet), even though the caption reads that they are in Black Forest, Colorado. They are celebrating 11 years of annual camping trips and that this is their last one, since they are graduating from college and about to go their separate ways. Two of them (the two who keep sniping at each other) have jobs. The third, named Ashley, was only able to manage driving Uber, as some direct result of her getting a Philosophy degree. I shall check my snark on some white dudebro in Hollywood writing condescendingly about educational and financial decisions young women make. Suffice it to say that it’s not a good look for TV writers.

Anyhoo, after sampling some of her friends’ spiced rum, Ashley hears a rustling of bushes in the forest, but she’s the only one alarmed by it. The friend who mocked her degree before goes outside to get more rum. But a moment later, she screams and there’s a rushing noise on the soundtrack. Pith Helmet Girl calls her name (Julie), but there’s no answer. Against Ashley’s wordless protest, PHG goes to the tent flap to zip it closed. But she’s yanked out, with a scream, before she can. Ashley belts out her own scream.

Cue title cards.

Cut to the Bunker, where Sam is walking around with a saltgun and looking in bemusement at the number of unanswered texts he’s sent to Castiel (calling him ‘Cass’). Dean come in from a supply run having made a wonderful discovery – ghost pepper jerky. It only takes a few chews (and some barely suppressed amusement from Sam, who did try to warn him) before Dean realizes his horrible mistake. In the meantime (while Dean’s eyes are watering, and he’s gagging and sucking down water), Sam confirms that the three victims for their new hunt (with the Doomed Teaser Gals) has gone up to five. So, there are new victims out in them thar Colorado woods.

After Dean dashes off to the bathroom to throw up, we cut to a view of the Bunker corridors and then to Sam in a white suit (i.e., Samifer) sitting at the table in the Library. Dean, wearing his season five blue jacket, comes up behind him with the Colt. Saying “Please forgive me” (to which Samifer smiles coldly), Dean cocks the gun and shoots his brother in the back of the head. But Samifer quickly heals ( Dean should have known from season five, already) and lifts his head. Saying “Did you really think that would work? Poor, faithful Dean, we both knew it had to end this way,” he makes Dean spontaneously combust, while basking in the flames.

This turns out to be another nightmare, from which Sam wakes up in the Impala. Dean is driving (they’re on their way to Colorado). Dean asks him to tell him about it, but Sam demurs. Yes, Sam is still lying to Dean about his dreams.

They arrive in daylight and it turns out Dean has a different idea than their usual FBI suits – Fish and Wildlife, with some very old IDs for Ford and Hamill. The sheriff thinks Dean looks old for his ID (which is eye-rolling, since Jared Padalecki has changed much more significantly as he’s aged than Jensen Ackles, albeit Ackles’ voice has “aged” much more). She’s played by the same actress who played Tara the Hunter in season nine’s “First Born,” so I guess that’s final confirmation of Tara’s death. That sucks. I liked Tara. Always kinda hoped she’d somehow managed to survive. And I just retro-reviewed that episode, so it’s still fresh.

The sheriff tells them she thinks it’s a person, not an animal, who’s actually done the attacks because it ate the hearts of the two dead girls (we never find out anything about the other two dead people who were supposedly part of the body count). There’s only one survivor so far – Ashley from the teaser.

Her full name is Ashley Munroe and she’s still in the hospital, with a huge scratch down one side of her face, when the Brothers interview her. Sam asks her if she remembers anything. She has a flashback to running through the woods, being chased by a guy in red flannel, but is too afraid to speak in front of the male nurse. Sam has the nurse talk to him outside, while Dean interviews her alone.

Dean reassures her that “whatever you saw, we’ll believe you.” After a rather short amount of time, she admits that she was attacked by a man, but that this man was a “monster” with big teeth and claws (another flashback) that gave her the scratch and warned her to keep quiet. She begs him for protection. Dean confirms this monster as a werewolf and tells her that monsters are real. Holding her hand, he gives her The Talk and reassures her that everything will be all right. I am more confused by why he’s not checking her for bites with silver.

Dean and Sam consult in the hallway, where Dean fills Sam in. He also has a name – Andy May. Sam points out that it wasn’t a full moon (oh, Show, you decided to remember that bit of lore after ignoring it for so long?). Dean says Andy could be a Pureblood (and ergo, could turn at any time). Sam goes to get the address. Dean turns and looks through the window into Ashley’s room, where she looks terrified and cries to herself.

The Brothers roll up to a rustic cabin in the woods, in broad daylight, still dressed like Duck Dynasty rejects. Sam says Andy lives there with his brother Josh. Oh, look, everybody – blatant MOTW parallels to our lead characters.

So, the guy in the button-down shirt who answers claims he’s not Andy, but that the guy in the pullover white sweater is. Not-Andy is taller and hostile, and keeps throwing the Winchesters shade (including making a snarky age joke about Dean’s ID). This must be Josh. Andy is overly solicitous and helpful, in stark contrast to his brother. Both of them react to Ashley’s photo on Sam’s phone (nice way of outing her to the monsters, Sam), which Dean watches closely. Sam tries to get them to write down their phone number on his notepad, using a silver pen, and Josh recoils. Not very subtle, these two.

After Josh abruptly ends the conversation and practically shuts the door in their faces, Dean suggests to Sam that they shoot both werewolves right then and there. It’s a thought, at that. Would be a shorter episode, anyway.

As the Winchesters go to the Impala and drive away, Josh nervously watches them go. He berates Andy for babbling (and letting Ashley go), but Andy points out they wouldn’t be in this predicament if Josh hadn’t killed the other two girls. Apparently, Josh has been spiraling since their dad (also a werewolf, it seems) died. Josh manages to turn this around on Andy by saying they have to kill Ashley, now.

Just a note – Josh is significantly taller than his brother. Also the older one. Apparently.

That night at the Sleepy Bear Inn, the Winchesters are letting Ashley (who has checked out of the hospital) into their room. Dean offers to let her sleep there for the night, while they take another room next door. Dean’s plan is to go back to the cabin and off the two werewolf brothers before they can get up to any more heart-eating shenanigans. Sam frets that the hunt has been too “easy” so far, which Dean shrugs off.

Ashley throws a spanner in the works, though, when she asks Dean to watch over her until she falls asleep. Dean looks surprised, even chagrined, by the request, but agrees.

Speaking of “easy,” the werewolf brothers are staking out the motel in their rusty pickup. Despite Andy’s pointing out that the Winchesters are there, too, Josh figures it’ll be a breeze to go in and kidnap Ashley.

In the motel room, Dean is having trouble staying awake. He comes out of the bathroom after splashing water on his face. Ashley is in bed, still fully dressed, sitting up. She just took some of the pills the hospital gave her, which Dean adjudges “the good stuff” (he would know).

Ashley asks him if he likes his job. Dean admits that he still does. Yes, there’s “a lot of bad,” but he still does some good. She asks him if ever wanted to be anything else. “Jimi Hendrix,” he jokes.

Ashley talks a bit about her life – graduating from college, the bit about how she and her friends went camping together since they were kids, how she doesn’t have a job or anything. Dean tries to reassure her – “You got time.”

Ashley then says something really strange (and yes, Dean does notice this). She says, “Wouldn’t it be great if everything was just planned out for you? If it was all just already decided?”

“No,” Dean replies as Ashley goes to sleep. “Not really.”

The camera swings portentously down to the alarm clock on the bedstand between their beds (which reads a quarter to twelve). Then, after changing to 1:20 am, it swings back to Dean on his bed, deeply asleep. Sam wakes him up (Dean comes awake, ready to fight) and it turns out Ashley is missing. When Sam came back from getting some food, he found her gone and the door wide open. Without trying to explain, Dean grabs his jacket and runs out the door. Sam follows.

At their house, the werewolf brothers have her in their cellar or shed or kitchen, or something, tied up and gagged, facing a large collection of badly maintained carpentry tools and some blood-streaked metal walls. Why they didn’t kill her at the motel (or, for that matter, Dean) is not explained in the fight they’re having over whether to kill her now. Josh is all hot to kill her – not just to eliminate a witness, but because being a werewolf is awesome. Josh is so high on the smell of his own werewolf farts that he completely spaces the part where his brother is the one talking sense.

Outside, the Winchesters are arriving unnoticed as Dean is insisting the werewolves couldn’t have possibly taken Ashley while he was asleep. Which, considering he is still breathing and in possession of his heart, is a decent point. The werewolf brothers don’t hear them arrive, which I’m willing to attribute to soundproofing going both ways in their abbatoir – until Ashley screams and the Winchesters kick down the door in response.

Andy and Josh hear that and flee the abbatoir, right before the Winchesters enter. Dean puts his gun away long enough to cut Ashley loose. He gets her up and heading out the door as Sam covers them. Alas, Sam’s coverage doesn’t help much. As they are exiting through the living room, the werewolf brothers come down from the ceiling and ambush them. Sam immediately loses his gun.

As Ashley cowers in a corner, Josh goes after Dean and Andy goes after Sam. Both Sam and Dean do pretty badly (unrealistically so) in the fight and even Dean using a dried-up set of deer antlers off the wall against Josh doesn’t go as planned. I recall showrunner Andrew Dabb saying in a recent interview that the Winchesters would have a harder time on hunts thanks to Chuck. Well, that idea sounds nice on paper, but sucks in the execution. All it adds up to here is a boring fight where the Brothers Winchester are losing to two low-rent werewolves for no damned good reason. It’s not even LOL!canon. It’s just lame.

Anyhoo, Andy ends up with Dean’s gun, starts to aim it at Sam, looks agonized, then shoots his brother just as Josh is about to bite Dean. While Sam tries to talk him down, he rants a bit about how Josh was his brother, but was “never going to stop,” that Josh “was a monster and I’m a monster, too.” Then he shoots himself. Bye, Captain Obvious.

The Brothers are seriously confused. Dean even comments, “Well, that was weird.”

As Ashley comes out of the corner, looking freaked out, Dean tries to take her elbow to guide her gently out of the room. Instead, out of nowhere, Ashley shrieks, “DON’T TOUCH ME!” swings around, trips, and lands on the dried-out old antlers, which are suddenly like tensile steel and razor sharp, and pierce her torso in several places. They also appear to kill her instantly.

Sam and Dean are even more confused (not horrified by her sudden death, just confused). After a few seconds, she suddenly revives and says, “Well, this is a bitch.” She sits up, still ‘wearing’ the antlers, and whines, “And I was doing so well, too!” Then she stands up and TK’s the rack out of her back.

Sam says, “What are you?” ‘Ashley’ responds by rolling her eyes up white and we’re treated to a flashback of Sam killing Lilith at the end of season four in “Lucifer Rising.” Dean then says her name.

It turns out that Lilith was dead and in the Empty when Chuck came and revived her. Her mission? To set up the parallel of the two brother werewolves killing each other, seduce Dean, and get the all-killing gun from them that Chuck gave Dean to kill Jack and with which Sam shot Chuck. Oh, and she’s not allowed to kill them.

Dean tells her that if Chuck wants the “Equalizer” back (Lilith insists she won’t call it that; I’m totally calling it that now, just for spite), he can come get it himself.

Sam pulls out the Sparkly Spork and Dean an angel blade, but they give her too much time to prepare. She TKs them back, knocking Sam out. Dean appears to panic over Lilith threatening Sam, so to distract her, he says he’ll take her to the Equalizer if she spares Sam.

We get a reiteration that she can’t kill either of them (Chuck has her on a tight leash), but she can make Dean wish he were dead, if he crosses her. Even so, she keeps batting her eyes at him and making come-ons that aren’t particularly reciprocated. In fact, her boast about seducing Dean is rather sad, considering Dean’s facial expressions in her direction while he thought she was alive and still Ashley ranged from pity to annoyance and back again. We know what Dean’s like when he’s attracted to a woman and that ain’t it. And despite his little shrug when she asks him about the possibility after her reveal, there’s no way he’s going to sleep with a demon when he, himself, is not a demon.

Left behind, Sam has a dream in which he is beaten in the Bunker by Demon!Dean (how I missed you, sir!) and then stabbed to death with the First Blade. Sadly, it doesn’t last long – the dream, I mean.

Sam wakes up abruptly, alone in the cabin. He finds the werewolves’ rusty old pickup, and chases after Dean and Lilith.

In the Impala on the way to the motel, Dean actively pumps Lilith for info. She spills even more than he wants to hear. It turns out that she picked poor Ashley because (said in a robotic voice as if quoting Chuck) “of the three potential vessels, she had the nicest hair” (they’re hosts, not vessels, you numpty writers). She died to let Lucifer out of the Cage, which was apparently her greatest wish, for reasons she never makes clear (I never really got what was in all that for her). Now she’s stuck working for Chuck (the “everything planned out for you” line was Chuck’s). She can’t hurt him, but she can hurt Dean.

She also mentions that Chuck has “a pervy, pervy obsession” with Dean. And that Chuck’s favorite story ending is Sam and Dean killing each other. She even lampshades that the two werewolf brothers were “foreshadowing” because it seems the writers think the audience is too stupid to have figured it out for ourselves.

Back at the motel room, Dean balks and says he forgot that the Equalizer isn’t there. I don’t quite understand why Lilith jumped through so many hoops to get back to the place she was just a few hours ago, foreshadowing or no foreshadowing with werewolves, when her main mission was to get the Equalizer. Why not just put Dean to sleep and then ransack the room?

Anyhoo, she starts TK-slashing him in various places to torture him into complying. It doesn’t work, but it gives Sam enough time to come in with a gun and shoot her in the head with a devil’s trap bullet. She is temporarily stuck and the Winchesters flee as soon as she demonstrates that she’s not completely powerless. Sam says he can just kill her again. Lilith begs to differ, saying she “let” Sam kill her before. Oh, honey. You are so dumb, Lilith.

Anyhoo, Dean quickly realizes that they need to get out because she is powerful enough to rid herself of the bullet. Unfortunately, they only get halfway across the parking lot before she does. She freezes them in place and teleports in front of them.

So, after some painfully obvious deduction that the Equalizer isn’t in the motel room, and making a rather large leap of logic that they wouldn’t leave it in the Bunker, she decides it’s in the Impala. And it is. It’s in the glove compartment box.

She melts it right in front of them, to their despair, and then leaves after some gloating that she will “see you soon.” But she doesn’t take the metal, which is, you know, probably still magical.

Back at the Bunker, Sam calls Castiel and tries to warn him about Chuck being back, but it goes to voicemail. Dean comes in with beers and they discuss this latest startling development.

Dean has been holding up well so far this season, but he’s now having a hard time processing that Chuck is back. He tells Sam what Lilith said about one of them killing the other (but not that Chuck is obsessed with Dean). Sam then admits that he’s having dreams about Chuck’s endings and Dean is a tad irritated Sam never mentioned that before. Sam claims he thought it was just PTSD. He thinks the effect has to do with the bullet wound. Maybe Sam is “in [Chuck’s] head.” Sam is all about the plans to use this to their advantage.

Dean, however, is in despair: “How the hell are we supposed to fight God?”

Credits

The show got another 0.3/2 and went back up to 1.30 million in audience.

The preview and synopsis for the next episode (“Golden Time”) is up, as is the one for this week, which is Deancentric and guest-stars Christian Kane. It appears the show will go on Christmas hiatus until January 16 after the December 12 episode (15.08 – “Our Father Who Aren’t in Heaven”), though there’s a rumor one might air on December 19. Even with only 20 episodes in the season, this means over half the season will air in the spring. I sure hope the pace picks up before Christmas hiatus, but with the Nepotism Duo writing the December 12th ep, we’ll be lucky if that one wants us to keep watching at all.

Review: Oh, hi, Dean. Nice to see you in the mytharc again.

It’s frustrating that the newest and (quite frankly) most intriguing part of the storyline by far this week is the part that isn’t lampshaded repeatedly with flashbacks, and on-the-nose dialogue and situations. For example, the episode’s writer, Steve Yockey, flat-out quoted the passage cited in the episode’s title, as if fans were incapable of looking it up for ourselves: “The crucible [is] for silver and the furnace [is] for gold, but the Lord tests the heart.” He’s also stated that this is his last episode for the show. Though I enjoyed some of his previous entries, most of this one was a half-cooked slog, so I’m not overly sorry to see him go.

So, we’ll see what actually happens with that one (very significant) bit, which is Lilith’s throwaway line about Chuck’s “pervy, pervy obsession with” Dean. She decidedly does not mean Sam. She has basically no time for Sam these days. In fact, it’s fairly dizzying whether she’s trying to seduce Dean because she’s actually really into Dean now or because Chuck told her to.

This opens an intriguing possibility (which Dean doesn’t see, at least not this week) that Dean might be able to manipulate Chuck. It sure seems more likely to succeed than Sam’s hair-brained idea that Chuck has no idea Sam is in his head, or that Sam could influence Chuck, or even get intel on him. Sam was dead wrong, for example, that Chuck had left the SPNverse building and I see no reason why he’d be right now. Sam’s track record with manipulating powerful beings is downright pitiful, even if the show did decide to leave out the bits of his killing Lilith in season four that included Ruby manipulating him into it.

I also thought it was interesting that while Lilith told Dean Chuck’s favorite ending was one brother killing the other, the emphasis in Sam’s dreams from Chuck was heavily on Sam killing Dean. Even the Demon!Dean sequence had a flavor of warning, of “You’d better kill Dean before he kills you.” It was also the only dream in which the killer brother had a legitimate beef with the other. What Sam did to Dean to “cure” him was nasty and remained largely unaddressed afterward.

But Dean has some high-level notches on his seduction belt and the way he messed with Lilith (in ways she didn’t always notice) this week indicates he hasn’t lost his touch. Chuck’s own sister Amara found Dean immensely more intriguing than her own brother in season 11 (I guess that’s why the show had to write her out in the second episode of this season, huh?). And, of course, there’s the forgotten actual, onscreen toxic romance between Dean and Crowley, in which Dean, like a classic film noir femme fatale, had Crowley twisted right around his finger for years. And everyone noticed, including Crowley, but Crowley couldn’t (or wouldn’t) do a thing about it. So, the idea that Dean could use Chuck’s obsession with him, against Chuck, is not at all far-fetched.

Though I was rolling my eyes pretty hard at the way the episode wanted us to believe that Dean was toxic for poor Ashley. There were some serious plotholes for that character (not least the timeline of when Lilith actually possessed her and how Lilith manipulated the werewolf brothers). But the big one was – since when is Dean the brother who is deadly for his female partners? Seems to me Sam’s the one with the track record in girlfriends who end up roadkill. Dean’s partners have an excellent survival rate and leave pretty satisfied. Not that Dean seemed very interested in sleeping with Ashley.

Woof. Speaking of, I’d forgotten what a prattling, overenunciating moron Lilith was. Sure, she’s an overpowered moron, but the show has gotten to the point where that kind of character no longer impresses. We (and the Brothers) have already encountered far too many other characters who make Lilith look like an insect.

And that’s a lot of the problem. She worked well in context – as the powerful herald to the Devil Himself. But she’s way outta context now. Lucifer himself has been diminished and killed off (though sure, he could still come back from the Empty, though I hope not). And now that she’s working for Chuck, she’s actually less threatening than before because she can’t actually kill Sam and Dean.

It doesn’t help that even now, we still don’t know whatever truly motivated her. Freeing Lucifer was a goal, not a motivation. What did she see in it for her, getting herself killed for the cause? Well, we never found out in “Lucifer Rising” and we didn’t find out this week, either.

She started out on the show as the Devil’s Bitch. Now she’s become his daddy’s bitch. But throughout, she has remained Some More-Powerful Male Character’s Bitch. Unlike Abaddon, who cheerfully caught up to speed after being in a timewarp for half a century and immediately decided to go for being Queen of Hell (because Abaddon began and ended awesomely evil), Lilith is now permanently out of touch and permanently stuck being some dudebro’s disposable right-hand henchwoman. That’s not scary. That’s just sad.

Also, would it kill the writers to remember their own damned canon that people possessed by demons are “hosts” not “vessels,” as Lilith calls the poor kid she’s possessing this week? The actress was actually decent, keeping a clear demarcation between Lilith and poor Ashley, but there wasn’t a whole lot of “there” there for her to work with. The show even seems to want us to forget about that whole “babies on the menu” thing from season four.

So, we see Lilith berating the Brothers for being dumb (because they didn’t – and couldn’t have – anticipate a dead enemy returning from a place dead enemies don’t return from), while doing Very Dumb Things. Yeah, she melts the Equalizer (I’m gonna use that just out of spite because the writers had her hating it), but then she leaves the puddle of metal behind. I mean, it’s not as though the Equalizer was much use to them, anyway, but they might also be able to do something with that puddle of metal (because hello, what is one of Dean’s skills? Metallurgy).

And I was rolling my eyes pretty hard when she was monologuing about all the terrible things she was going to do to them to get the Equalizer, all of two seconds after she admitted that Chuck wouldn’t let her do anything permanent to them, anyway. Plus, by admitting that Chuck brought her back and needed the gun, she ended up giving the Brothers all kinds of intel (including that Chuck was weaker than they previous thought), while getting from them a semi-useless powerful gun that she melted down and then still left in their possession.

Like I said, not very bright. I mean, obviously, she doesn’t really care about the mission in the first place, but she “cared” (i.e., was intimidated by Chuck) enough to agree to do it in the first place to stay out of the Empty. So, maybe do better at it?


One good thing to come out of this was confirmation that it wasn’t just coincidence last season, Chuck honing in on Dean like that. Lilith refers to Chuck’s “pervy, pervy obsession” with Dean. But it sure was a long, boring MOTW slog to get to that one critical scene, the only one that advanced the plot in any significant way. You need to up the pace a bit, Show, both within episodes and with your mytharc.

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: “Atomic Monsters” (15.04) 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 49 episodes left to finish for previous seasons, plus the 16 after this one for the final (15th) season that started on October 10. That’s 65 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: It’s a full moon over the Bunker, from which echoes gunfire. Inside, it’s down to emergency lighting and a man in a black suit is thrown into a wall at the T-junction of a corridor. His attacker, in stuttering stop-go slo-mo, comes into view. It’s Dean, bearded and looking even more like a survivalist than ever. Dean shoots the man, who then lights up from inside with dying demon light. Seems Dean and his Hunters have figured out how to make demon-killing bullets.

Dean kills some more demons (including multiples) in major badass fashion, steps over a bunch of dead comrades and demons, encounters a living comrade, and ends up in a room with another dying comrade. This one is Benny, but Benny appears to be … human? And beardless. Despite Dean’s reassurances that he will be fine, Benny knows the score. He says, “See you on the other side, brother,” and dies. Upset, Dean grabs a still-alive demon in the room and demands to know where “he” is. The demon tries it on with the snark, instead. Bad call. Dean shoots him in the head, lighting him up like a pinball machine.

Dean comes out into the library/map room to find Sam, all hopped up on demon blood and now superduperduper powerful (and even more irritating than last we saw this permutation of him in season four). Dean tries to talk Sam down as another Hunter tries to sneak up on Sam. But Sam senses the Hunter (even though this was not a talent any psykid ever had) and snaps his neck. Then, he snaps Dean’s and looks smug about it.

The scene jumbles and Sam wakes up in the Bunker. It turns out this was a nightmare (a longer version of the flash he had a couple of episodes ago when Castiel tried to heal his Chuck wound). He’s pretty upset about it.

Cue title cards.

Cut to Dean in the kitchen, quietly eating bacon (by this, I mean that his body language is very still and not just that he isn’t saying anything). Sam comes in, still at loose ends about his dream, but when Dean asks him if he’s okay, Sam brushes it off as just still being at loose ends about Rowena. Yep. He lies to Dean. I’m shocked, too.

Dean suggests Sam eat something, but Sam turns his nose up at Dean’s bacon, even when Dean tells him it’s the “veggie bacon you been asking for.” Okay, first of all, since when is Sam a vegetarian (some LOL!canon from episode writer Davy Perez there)? Second of all, Sam is a grown-ass man in his thirties. If he wants some “veggie bacon” to put in the fridge in Dean’s “Meat Man” kitchen, he can go do his own damned grocery shopping. Jesus, this show fails miserably at propping Sam up, sometimes, and just makes him look like a spoiled child.

On top of this, Dean has to try to buck Sam up, even as he confirms in the dialogue that Sam has been holing up in his room for days, letting Dean haul all the weight. Thanks, Sam.

Dean pulls up a hunt he’s researched and talks a reluctant Sam into going along, instead of Dean handling it himself or going with another Hunter. It’s a story in the Des Moines Herald, about a rash of cattle mutilations and one pretty blonde cheerleader who was “ripped to pieces,” in Beaverdale, Iowa. He also pranks Sam by getting him to eat the “veggie bacon” (yes, it’s really the real thing). The obvious intent is to cheer, or at least irritate, Sam out of his depressive navel-gazing. I mean, hey, it worked in season two.

In front of Beaverdale High School (in that annoying broad daylight that has become the hallmark of this final season), Sam is interviewing the principal, posing as an FBI agent in a suit. She tells him the victim, Susie, was pleasant and popular, involved with everything, with lots of friends and no enemies. When Sam asks about close friends, the principal directs him to a group led by a girl named “Veronica.” Yes, she really does. And really, Perez? It should have been “Heather.”

A middle-aged couple shows up, parents of a male student. The mother (a blonde – I swear they’re all blonde in this episode except for Veronica) is hot for the prayer service to be done and over with so they can get to the important stuff – the lacrosse game where her son is due to impress a visiting talent scout. Both the principal and Sam call Helicopter Mom out on her insensitivity, but that somehow doesn’t quite persuade her to stop being a complete twat. After the parents leave, the principal cynically comments that many of the parents at the high school are like HM.

Sam returns to the Impala, where Dean (also suited up) is eating a bag of chips. Dean’s time has been most productively spent at the morgue. He found a vampire fang and there were no defensive wounds on the victim, indicating she knew whoever killed her. When Sam points out that vampires don’t normally rip apart their victims, Dean says, “Apparently, this one does.”

We’re ten minutes in and all that’s really left to do is figure out who’s the vamp. We get a clue as a mascot in a Beaver suit rides by on a scooter. Dean smiles and comments that this is “awesome.”

Later that night, another blonde cheerleader is heading out to her car after practice, complaining about how “fake” Veronica is in her grief. She is then attacked, mid-scream, by something unseen.

The next day, the Brothers drive out to the woods, to the site where Susie’s body was found. The first thing they notice is that there is hardly any blood – the body was dumped. This is not the original kill site.

After Dean comments that the police are “freaked” by the case, Sam starts whinging about how people in the town are oblivious civilians, that Hunters like the Winchesters have to “carry the weight” of the truth about the world. Right away, Dean pulls out his flask of whiskey and starts drinking. Yeah, I’m hittin’ the hard nog just to get through Sam’s little rant, myself.

Sam gets a call from the principal about the kidnapped girl.

Cut to a guy putting his kids in the car to go camping. Out comes his wife with some motion sickness pills for one of the kids when they ride in a boat. It’s Becky Rosen, y’all, whom we have not seen since season seven. She seems happy in her life, but looking forward to having the house to herself for a few days while her family is off camping.

As the car drives away, Chuck appears on the other side of the street, waving creepily like Pennywise the Clown. Horrified, Becky starts to scamper back into the house, but Chuck runs after her and begs her to let him come in and talk. Rather reluctantly, she lets him in.

In the principal’s office, the principal is filling the Brothers in on the kidnapping of the second cheerleader, whose name is “Tori Taylor” (of course it is). Upon hearing that Tori is also a cheerleader, Dean comments that “someone has a fetish.” This gets the principal’s dander up because criminal profiling isn’t a thing in the SPNverse, anymore, I guess.

Back at Becky’s, Chuck notices a bunch of figures and such that seem related to the Winchester’s story (there are a lot of nice little visual Easter Eggs in this storyline thanks to Ackles’ direction, including a fabulous poster for “A Very Supernatural Christmas” and Funko Pop figurines of Sam, Dean and Castiel). Becky calls them her maquettes. She says that she is the “most successful” creator of “unofficial Supernatural merchandise” in the U.S. and possibly even the world.

She says she’s even continued writing her own fanfic (which Chuck disparages at every opportunity throughout the episode) of the Brothers doing ordinary things like laundry and talking. Chuck doesn’t think that’s very exciting, even after Becky tries to defend it as what fans “really” want to see instead of action, horror and drama.

Becky expresses regret for kidnapping and drugging Sam in “Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!” and says that she got a lot of therapy after that. She said she finally realized that she wasn’t in love with the real Sam, but his character. Somehow … that doesn’t sound better. It seems to diminish Sam, somehow, and make him not seem as good as the fantasy.

Anyhoo, Becky has a pretty good sideline business in her fan figurines and she wants to get back to it because she’s behind in her orders. So, she tells Chuck to get to the point or she’ll kick him out. Chuck admits that he “had a falling out” with Sam and Dean, leaving him now “low on resources,” and that when he went to his sister for help, she blew him off. Becky easily sees through this using of her as his last best resort tactic from him and that he wants her to “fluff” him. But she’s not interested. She has a good life and “I don’t need you.”

Chuck whines that that’s the problem. “No one” needs him and “I kinda hate me right now … I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel so lost.” When Becky, now feeling a bit sorry for him, asks him what makes him feel better, he says that “writing” and “creating” do (uh-oh), so she encourages him to do that.

On a stone picnic bench in front of the school, Dean is talking to the mascot, whose name is Toby. Dean is also still eating.

Sam walks up, acting skeptical about Dean befriending the mascot (yeah, Sam’s early-seasons social snobbery is on full display this week). Dean points out that Toby has a full scholarship to Iowa University and is very observant: “He knows a lot about cheerleaders. In a mostly non-creepy sort of way.”

Dean shares a valuable bit of information about the school hierarchy that Toby shared with him – Susie was the Alpha female among the cheerleaders, Tory her second-in-command. Who takes charge now they’re gone? Veronica, of course.

At that moment, Veronica is running the Susie shrine in the gym and talking to a young jock. His name is Billy and it turns out he was Susie’s boyfriend. Veronica puts the heavy moves on him, but Billy’s mom interrupts them. And guess who she is? That’s right. It’s HM.

After Billy leaves with HM, Veronica goes to the podium and starts practicing her eulogy for Susie in a totally fake way. The Brothers enter and Dean alerts her to their presence by sarcastically clapping at her delivery. But as they gear up to take her down with some dead man’s blood (Sam is hiding the ginormous syringe behind his back), Sam notices that she is wearing braces. She can’t “fang out” with those, so they quickly and quietly leave. Outside, Sam thinks up a new lead when he spots a CCTV camera outside the school. Um … wouldn’t they have thought of that right off?

Back at Billy’s house, HM is bitching at him that she had to come into the school to retrieve him. Boy, is she tightly wound. When Dad comes in, she insists he talk to Billy. Dad just says, “Listen to your mother.”

Billy turns and leaves, instead. Mom is irritated and stalks off, declaring that she needs wine (since it seems she’s an alcoholic on top of being a pretentious twat).

Dad starts washing his hands, which are bloody. The camera strolls out through the pristine hallways of the house to the attached garage. In it, kidnapped teen Tori is tied up, with bloody arms, gagged and blindfolded. She wakes up and starts screaming into her gag.

Back at Becky’s, Chuck discovers to his chagrin that Becky doesn’t have anything stronger than cranapple juice. He says that he used to be able “to see Sam and Dean inside my head … just ripe for the picking.” But he can’t do that, anymore (as he talks, he rubs his wound from the magic bullet). Becky guesses that this is because Chuck has lost his Prophet powers and he hedges a yes. What he’s really admitting to is that he’s no longer omniscient.

She suggests he write a different story with different characters. He says he doesn’t want to. He really likes writing about Sam and Dean. She says that he’s basically just stalling (awww, and all for NaNoWriMo, too). After she lectures him sternly about procrastination, Chuck gets a brainwave. To her dismay, he decides to indulge it then and there by sitting down at her laptop and starting a new story.

Back in Beaverdale, the principal is showing the Brothers the CCTV footage. Tori’s kidnapping is clearly shown, but her assailant is wearing a mask and drags her offscreen. However, immediately afterward, another car roars off past hers in the parking lot and Sam gets the license plate number.

Back at Billy’s, he’s having a fight with his parents, especially his mom. She lays this huge guilt trip on him about all the “sacrifices” they made for him, but her intensity remains unexplained. She just comes off as unhinged, hyper-controlling and annoying as hell. She even gets all weepy and leaves the room. Dad asks him what he wants. Billy angrily says that he doesn’t want “any of this” and never did.

The doorbell rings and it’s the Brothers. As they come in, the girl in the garage starts struggling again. Dad sends Billy upstairs. Sam and Dean accuse Dad of being the vampire, though they initially just accuse him of kidnapping the girls. Tori knocks something down in the garage and Sam goes to investigate, as Dean continues to interrogate Dad, pulling out a machete.

Sam unties the dazed girl, who is attached to a blood bag, and starts to pick her up. But Evil Bitch Mom shows up with a gun and forces them to come back inside the house. Boy, is Dean disappointed when it turns out Sam couldn’t even watch his own back, let alone Dean’s. Though he does ask how the girl is doing. Sam says, “Not good,” as he lays her on the couch.

Dad tries to talk Crazy Mom into letting him take the fall. After all, gunfire would bring down real law enforcement and then things would get ugly.

Back at Becky’s, Becky is reading what Chuck just wrote and is not impressed. She tries to pretend that she likes it, but Chuck sees through her act. She finally admit that the villains are boring and the story is “low stakes … no Classic Rock. Nobody even mentions Cas.” Not his best.

Chuck gets an ugly look on his face: “You want jeopardy? You want danger?” He evicts her from her chair and then starts writing again: “I’ll give you danger.”

The impasse at the ‘rents’ house is fairly brief, since Billy comes back downstairs. Staring at Dad, Dean floats the Brothers’ theory that Dad is the vampire. But Sam then guesses it’s actually Billy.

Billy admits that after he was turned into a vampire (it’s not made clear how or exactly when), he tried to make do with cows (hence the cattle mutilations). But as he was making out with Susie in his truck one night, he lost control. He ended up killing her. Dean then guesses that the parents chopped Susie up and dumped her body in the woods.

Dad starts burbling on about how Dean doesn’t understand their motives because he’s never had a child (oh, so much clueless irony) and Mom is all for murdering the Brothers and burying them out back, “under the peonies.” These two have totally lost the plot.

Fortunately, Billy gets them to stand down and points out that it’s not going to work. He loved Susie and he killed her, and he knows he will kill again: “I’m a monster.”

He tells his parents to take the girl to the hospital, to blame the attack and kidnapping on him. He then tells them he is going to “take a ride” with Sam and Dean. Turning to them, he says, “Isn’t that how this works?”

Cue a montage (to Radio Company’s “Sounds of Someday”) of Tori being carried off to the hospital, while the teary-eyed parents (who really should have been horribly offed) give the police Billy’s photo, and of Dean beheading Billy out in the woods, while a pensive Sam watches.

Back at Becky’s, Chuck has finished and he looks all post-coital about it. Oh, this can’t be good. Becky’s just read the new stuff and she hates it. She thinks it’s “dark … horrible … hopeless.” Chuck is fine with that. His perfect image for his story is of a tombstone with just one name – Winchester – on it.

Becky’s family arrives home in the middle of this. Right before her husband walks in, Becky tells Chuck to leave (because explaining what your creepy ex is doing alone in the house with you, while your husband and kids were off on vacation, would be very awkward). But Chuck, all smiling and satisfied, says he’s fine where he is. As Becky begs “please” in a whisper, in walks her husband. He has just enough time to look confused at Chuck’s presence and cheery, sarcastic wave, before Chuck snaps his fingers and makes him dissolve in dust. The kids are noisily coming in and Chuck snaps them out of existence, too. Becky reacts in visceral horror to the erasures of her family.

Chuck smugly tells her that her family is not “dead, just away.” Then he tells her he’s God. Becky doesn’t believe this at first, but then quickly devolves into anger and then begging for Chuck to “bring them back,” saying “You can’t do this!”

“Oh, Becky,” Chuck says, as he snaps her out of existence, too, “I can do anything. I’m a writer.”

In the final car scene, Sam’s takeaway from the hunt, and Billy’s mom and dad’s shitty parenting, is that he and Dean would have done the same thing for Jack ([facepalm] Oh, Sam, come on). Rather noncommittally, Dean agrees, but says that he wanted to get them out on a hunt so that they could show they still make a difference. Dean insists they’re “free” now Chuck is gone. He mentions Rowena and Mary among their losses, in addition to Jack, but not Castiel. Some fans got chapped about this, but remember that Castiel isn’t dead. And that Sam apparently does not know that Castiel has bailed on them. Therefore, Castiel doesn’t belong on that list of dead (mostly female) allies.

Whiny Sam still manages to make it All About himself, saying he’s not able to let any of his old trauma go. Hell, he still thinks about Jessica. I should have been like “awww,” but to be honest, this whole speech sounded a tad pathetic in a “Don’t use Billy’s ‘rents as moral examples, Sam” kind of way.

Meanwhile, now alone at Becky’s, Chuck is writing more story and sneering evilly, while Sam and Dean dolls bobblehead on the desk next to him, beside a model tree and on top of a devil’s trap.

Credits

The episode got a 0.3/2 and dropped to 1.10 million in audience. Kind of a shame for Jensen Ackles’ last episode, though the DVR ratings will probably go up considerably (they’re not out, yet).

The preview and synopsis for the next episode are up.

Review: I … don ‘t know how I feel about this episode. I disliked the script – as in, a whole lot. And it did nothing whatsoever to restore my confidence that the show’s current writers have a clue what they’re doing. But the direction? Well, the direction deserved a better script and in the places where director Jensen Ackles got to do his thing, it worked very well. Also, there was some really good acting.

But boy, that script. Yuck. Also, I have no idea why it’s called “Atomic Monsters.” No one else seems to know, either.

There’s a small scene in the middle that sums up my ambivalence. The Brothers are outside the car in that annoying s15 broad daylight, in suits, talking about the case. This quickly devolves into Sam complaining about how oblivious the civilians on the case are to all the supernatural horror around them. When Dean points out that Sam used to want to be just like them (Dean doesn’t say “social climbing” and “elitist,” but it’s true), Sam’s grousing turns bitter and he mopes about all that they’ve lost.

Meanwhile, Dean is mmm-hmming and pulling out his ubiquitous flask of booze for a few hefty swigs. And not once does Sam notice that his brother is hitting the bottle (and though he does notice Dean eating a lot, he doesn’t put two and two together and realize that Dean is eating a lot). It’s a nicely understated scene about how each brother is (not) coping, but I find myself wondering if all of the stuff about Dean’s nonverbal non-coping was in the direction because the rest of the script is all Tralalalala Puir Sammy and Sam’s own obliviousness to Dean’s drinking makes Sam look like a tool.

It doesn’t help that what Dean is eating in that first scene after the credits is Mary’s favorite food – bacon. There he is, quietly mourning his mother (all over again) by eating breakfast as if she were still there. Not only doesn’t Sam notice that, but he downmouths the very idea of eating bacon that isn’t the veggie burger kind (he even gags when he realizes it’s the real thing). Nor does he mention Mary, since he’s too wrapped up in bemoaning having to put Rowena down like Old Yeller last week and is still hung up on the death of Mary’s murderer, whom he still insists on seeing as a foster son. And what does Dean do? Try to cheer Sam up by turning it into a prank. And does Sam respond? Nope. His head is too far up his own ass even to notice what Dean is trying to do.

It’s not that Sam isn’t sad or depressed, but when the story puts him next to someone who is just as sad and depressed, yet not only is Dean getting out there and taking care of business, but he’s also getting out there and taking care of Sam’s business for him, while Sam stays in his room and mopes, it makes it hard for me to care about Sam’s epic manpain.

Probably the best scene is the opening teaser, which turns out to be Sam’s dream (and possible vision of another reality that Chuck created). But again, this points up the deficits of the script. Jensen Ackles has said he asked to expand what was originally on the page into an extended fight scene. I’m not gonna lie – that scene is a thing of violent, tragic beauty. It’s basically Dean in a last stand with his Hunter team, who are loyal to him and who include a dying Benny, against Sam and a bunch of smarmy demons. Ackles directs action very well and the show’s still got a good crew to back him up.

But it suffers from the same flaw that “The End” did back in season five. It pits a fascinatingly flawed and scarred EndTimes!Dean against a bland Superpowerful Sam. And that version of Sam makes drying paint look action-packed. Nickifer had a character arc, so he could stick around for a while (too long, imho, but he did have a point and was scary for a while). But Samifer is simply the end result of Sam saying yes and the closer Sam got to being Lucifer’s vessel, the less of a personality he had (and what he retained was really unpleasant). At the point Lucifer possesses him in these AUs, Sam “dies” permanently and ceases to exist. Samifer, being Dean’s bane, then kills Dean. Except as an endgame character, Samifer has no point. So, once he shows up, the clock starts running on the fun because the moment he snaps Dean’s neck, the moment’s over. Mixing it up by having him “still” be Sam, but hopped up on demon blood, doesn’t improve matters.

And yet, as Ackles’ account heavily implies, the entire simplistic point of this scene was to get to that moment.

Another nice Easter egg of the episode was the montage near the end where the Brothers dispatch the MOTW. I was not the least bit impressed by the shallow, rich parents (that pains me, because I like Duncan Fraser). They came off as shrill and obnoxious, having no rational backstory for their delusional obsession with killing to protect their son (was this a metaphor for young athletes who are rapists or murderers or what?). It felt like a lazy stab at the recent college admissions scandal, but instead, we got stuck with a paint-by-numbers hunt involving an upper-class school, with cheerleaders and jocks, and a lot of shallow misogyny. Poor Susie barely exists except as a victim for her sympathetic-monster boyfriend to accidentally rip apart and Tori is basically a Damsel in Distress/blood bag.

There was a possibility here to tell an elegiac story in memorial for Rowena that highlighted her growth from an uncaring to an obsessive to a grieving mother, who eventually grew into a heroic figure. The script could have made into a metaphor of comparison the parents and their misogynistic focus on literally using dead girls’ bodies to save their son and fuel his sports career. But I sense that kind of depth never once occurred to Perez and the others in the writers room. They were too busy with their obvious and self-congratulatory meta involving Chuck the Writer Stand-In being an Angry God.

It’s not even that the ‘rents’ sociopathic self-absorption is left to subtext or metaphor – the script doesn’t address it at all. When Daddy and Mommy Dearest were whining that only a parent could understand why they cut up an innocent girl to cover for their son, and kidnapped another innocent girl to feed him with her blood, I kept wondering why no one else suggested they try that line on with Susie or Tori’s parents. See how forgiving they’d be.

The son was sympathetic, if only because he met the minimum requirements of decent human behavior that his parents didn’t, by not running from or fighting his fate in the form of the Brothers Winchester. He went to his death, knowing it was the right thing. But with how clearly the script wants us to perceive Billy, it’s that much more frustrating how vague and unsatisfying the writing is for his parents. Are we supposed to see them as evil? If so, why aren’t they messily dead by the end of the episode? If the script wants us to see them as desperate and confused, why are they so damned unsympathetic?

Bleah.

But the montage of Dean beheading Billy to Radio Company‘s mournful and bluesy “Sounds of Someday” was surprisingly effective. For those who have been hiding under a rock, Radio Company is the pairing between Ackles and his friend Steve Carlson, and Ackles sings lead vocals on this song. All that said, this isn’t just product placement or substituting soundtrack music for a rock standard. The song actually works with the montage. There’s a bleak, 70s roadhouse sound to it, with vaguely apocalyptic lyrics that set a mood rather than narrate a story.

I have mixed feelings about the scenes between Becky and Chuck. As much as I love the acting between them (Emily Perkins really nails Becky’s hard-won Soccer Mom maturity, and then her fear and despair as Chuck rips the veil off the true state of her universe in an almost Lovecraftian way), I still hate, hate hate the idea of Chuck as God. The more we dig into this storyline, the more I dig my heels in to resist it.

In order for the Winchesters to have any chance to beat him, then God has to become … well … not really God, anymore. He can’t be omniscient because then he’d anticipate every single thing they ever did or thought, or ever could do or think. He can’t be omnipotent, because then there’d be no way to beat him. He can’t be omnipresent or omnitemporal because then he’d be everywhere and everywhen, and not allow this situation to occur in the first place because he would have seen it coming billions of years away.

So, if he’s none of those things, how can he be God? Okay, he created the SPNverse, but that just makes him a demiurge, not God with a capital G. And Amara can’t be God, either, because she’s not omniscient. I’m still hoping there will be some twist in all this – such as that the Chuck we’ve seen since last season’s finale is actually the Empty Entity (since his current nihilistic attitude reflects the persona of the Empty Entity much more than what we’ve seen of Chuck over the years), but it still begs the question of why the “real” Chuck didn’t foresee this.

I get the impression, thanks to their constant obsession with the Thanos storyline in the Marvel films (and Andrew Dabb’s background in comics), that the writers are under the delusion that movie Thanos is a good villain. Lordie, no. Enough about that damned finger snap.

Thanos is a one-note antagonist, about on the level with a natural disaster but somehow less compelling. That’s why he gets killed off so early in the latest film. Thanos is simply not that interesting, even including his creepy relationship with his forcibly adopted daughters. What is interesting is how various characters react to the destruction that one snap (and how Thanos got the stones to make it happen) causes. So, modeling Chuck (a character who, to this point, has actually been fairly mysterious if not the least bit ineffable) after Thanos is a major mistake.

The question arises, “Why all the puppet strings?” Why does Chuck need to write a story in order to manipulate the Winchesters into doing what he wants? I mean, I get why that would work with Sam. Sam’s entire story has been about how he rebelled against one script (the Family Business and John’s blue collar revenge quest), only to find his very rebellion was another, deeper script being written by demons at Lucifer’s behest.

And I also get why it would work with Castiel. Castiel, as an angel, basically didn’t have any Free Will during his first appearances and we discover later that every time in the past he’d gotten some, it was erased by more angelic programming. Chuck was usually the one who kept bringing him back, so the subsequent chaos he sowed had to be been part of Chuck’s plan.

As for Jack, Chuck admitted outright in last season’s finale that Jack’s conception and birth and supposedly chaotic rampage of childish power were nothing more than an assassination attempt on Dean. As soon as Dean threw down the Equalizer gun and refused to shoot Jack, Jack became surplus to requirements. With a snap of his fingers, Chuck smote him. Even after Sam shot Chuck in revenge and made him angry, Chuck still had more than enough power to open all the gates of Hell. Jack, far from how he’d been built up over two seasons, was never a threat to his grandfather.

But that’s the thing – Chuck can smite anyone. He should be able to pop up in the Bunker at any time and kill everyone there. I mean, look what he did to Becky and her family.

What was so chilling about the acting and direction of the rather simplistic scriptwriting for their scenes was how we saw that Becky had grown up and was now happy, only to have her creepy ex pop in after he’d ghosted her nearly a decade before. Then slowly, in an increasingly dark sequence that felt like a predator stalking an unsuspecting and totally helpless prey, we saw Becky’s dawning horror as she realized that not only was Chuck God, but he really was The Monster At The End Of This Book. And then he smote her (yeah, I know he claimed that he didn’t actually kill her and her family, but they sure aren’t in the story, anymore).

So, why, when it comes to the Winchesters, is he writing a story, instead? We had this self-indulgent bullshit in season nine with Metatron and it was pretty tedious. And yeah, having Chuck the Author Insert smiting Becky the Fandom Insert was pretty mean-spirited (also inaccurate, since Dabb & Co. don’t have jobs without an audience). Authors, just because you’re building the world and creating the characters, that does not make you God in the story. Resist the urge to self-insert like that.

But we’re stuck with that concept here and therefore, we must wrestle with it [downs more rum and eggnog]. Why is Chuck pulling a Bond Villain and writing a story about the Winchesters instead of just visiting the Bunker, a-smitin’ as he goes, like not-quite-Samifer in the episode’s teaser? If he’s that mad at them, why give them a chance to wriggle out of his trap and get him back? Didn’t he already learn from Sam shooting him last season?

See, that’s the thing – Sam and Castiel may have proven unable to break free from Chuck’s predestination all their existence, but this is categorically not true for Dean. Dean has broken free of Chuck’s story at least three times and the third time was the end of last season. There’s been a lot of fan focus on Sam shooting Chuck (which took Chuck by surprise), but this was something that occurred in the wake of Dean taking Chuck by surprise by refusing to shoot Jack, and Chuck flipping the table over it.

It wasn’t until Dean flatly rejected Chuck’s order to pick up the gun and shoot Jack that Chuck smote Jack himself. Yeah, Chuck threw a tantrum after Sam shot him, but Sam didn’t shoot Chuck until after Dean defied him and after Chuck smote Jack. The decision that kicked things off was Dean refusing to bow to Chuck’s story, to Chuck’s will, even after Chuck switched to bargaining and offered Mary back (and why did he even need to bargain with Dean when he could smite Jack himself at any time?).

So, even if Chuck writes another story, Dean is bound to disobey and change it at some point. Because that’s just how Dean rolls. And once Dean rolls that way, it allows other characters (like Sam) also to break free. Why is Chuck choosing, again, to go this route? Why not just smite Dean? Dean even asked him why he didn’t do that and Chuck only tossed him into a tombstone after Dean physically went after him. That’s what gave Sam the opening to pick up the gun and shoot Chuck.

The thing with Becky (and what’s so bleak about it) is that to her, of course, she was the Hero of the story. Chuck brutally disabused her of that notion and casually swept her off the board. After all, she knows his current plan and might warn Sam and Dean about it. But also, he did it just because he could. And that begs the biggest question – why can’t he just do that to Sam and 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

Season 15


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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.

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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 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


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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.

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: 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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