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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18 thoughts on “Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.10: Road Trip”

  1. So. I finally got around to watching the season 14 finale. I’d been putting it off, since I wasn’t too wowed with how things were going, but I figured it was time. I also watched episode 1 of season 4 the next day. Wow, what a contrast!

    I get the progression of Castiel going from proudly announcing himself as an Angel of the Lord, to his anger at Chuck.

    But how did we get from Chuck clearly wanting Dean alive, even to the point of resurrection, to Chuck wanting to kill Dean? I know Dean has been gradually metamorphising, like rock, over the past several seasons. Has he reached a point that Chuck, or whatever, sees him as a legitimate rival. Maybe watching him hold Michael in his mind scared Chuck (or whoever).

    Also, since he was clearly setting Dean up to be assassinated, why did he tell them how the gun worked? I really don’t think Dean halted in killing Jack because he had an issue with killing him. Dean didn’t want to play into Chuck’s plans for his own murder. Besides, in theory, Sam could have gotten ahold of it and shot Jack, though I admit that’s unlikely. But where would the assasination plan be if he did?

    If Chuck, or “Chuck” wanted Dean dead – and judging by his anger, it appears that he did, he was very clumsy about how he went about it.

    1. Those are good points. Unfortunately, since it’s a cliffhanger, and we really don’t know much at the moment about Chuck’s motives, or if Chuck is even Chuck, it’s hard to say what they really intended. But I’m inclined to think that the moment Chuck (with quotation marks or not) decided Dean was becoming too powerful and needed to go was when he watched Dean successfully persuade Amara to forgive her brother. Up to the point she escaped at the beginning of season 11, Amara was All About Chuck, even if it was negative. I think Chuck realized at some point in that climactic scene in the season 11 finale that he had been replaced in his sister’s affections, which would probably make him worry about being replaced in other ways. Dean being able to hold Michael (and Michael not being able to take Dean over a third time) would just have confirmed Dean’s growing power.

      But with Amara right there, Chuck couldn’t do anything about it. She would have stopped him. She was noticeably absent from the season 14 finale.

      One…rather wonders what really would have happened if Dean had detonated that soul bomb.

      Whether the writers do anything watchable with this is a whole other ballgame. Season 14 was a hot mess and they’re bringing Jack back. But it did seem pretty clear in the season 14 finale that Jack was not quite All That, and that Chuck was much more afraid of Dean. And who knows? Maybe with an ending looming and the idea that they won’t be doing any more stories with Sam and Dean, they might finally pull the trigger on that slow-burning fuse and apotheose Dean for good.

      1. Good point about Amara. Especially since her absence was painfully obvious. Maybe the writers were just lampshading it, but I figured that if Amara didn’t have a future part to play, they wouldn’t have mentioned her at all. It seems more their style.

        Anyway, if you go with Dean’s persuading Amara to forgive Chuck as a starting point of Chuck distrusting Dean, it presents some interesting points. It’s possible that Chuck realized that although Dean alone could not defeat him, Dean and Amara together could. It’s possible that when he went off with Amara, he was planning to imprison her again. Maybe in the Empty this time. I don’t recall the stated reason he locked her up the first time, but I always felt that jealousy of her power had something to do with it.

        In any case, it was Amara that rewarded Dean, not Chuck. Chuck just gave him more work to do.

        1. Quick spoiler alert–while the spoilers at SDCC were, on the whole, exceedingly underwhelming, one thing that popped up was the claim that Amara would be back. Of course, with the way things have been going of late, the writers could just make her All About Jack.

          Chuck claimed that every time he created something, Amara destroyed it out of jealousy. I…don’t think we ever really got Amara’s side of things and as we’ve known for a while, Chuck’s a pretty darned good liar.

          Yep, it was Amara who rewarded Dean and it was Chuck who ditched and left the world in Dean’s hands. Oh, sure, there was some vague handwaving about Sam and all the other Hunters and stuff, but Dean was the only one who was there when Amara and Chuck took off. So, basically, Dean got left in charge.

  2. Watching the end of Season 7 today on TNT.

    I got a question about Dick Roman (btw I thought the actor did a TREMENDOUS job, I loved the way he smiled without moving anything above his nose, really good acting): he gets stabbed with the Holy Femur of Sister Constant, and blows up. Does he end up back in Purgatory or does HE go to The Empty?

    Also, was the failure of the Amelia Arc solely because everybody hated that Sam betrayed Dean AND Kevin or was it that the two actors just did not ‘hit’ because I remember the FIRST scenes of the Pilot and I ‘loved’ Jess from the second she showed up, believed in her and Sam and was SORRY she died so horribly. So was it a failure of the PLOT or of the CASTING?

    I was not watching the show ‘live’ at the time so cannot distance my feelings from anything I read online when I was catching up on the show (FIRST episode I saw ‘live’ was Season 9 episode 1 — I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here — and boy it excited me!). I just did not like the actress. I saw her yelling at Sam about hitting the dog…like the dog did not run in front of his car, AND she did not know if Sam ‘might’ have been allergic to dogs, OR had family allergic to dogs, OR that truly his lifestyle did not allow for a pet. For all she knew he was about to ship out to Iraq or something. Just a thoroughly unlikeable introduction. So maybe it was the introduction? Anyway, I got the A) separation of Sam/Dean; B) bad casting; C) bitchy writing full of self-pity and lack of empathy. OH and Out Of Character reason for Sam to NOT take Kevin’s calls? If there was just some small reference to Sam having a nervous collapse after the end of Season 7 would ‘that’ have tied it up better?

    I just watched Amelia bitch Sam out and I ‘did’ not like her at all. I never got over that first meeting. I did not care about her problems, I mean ‘problems’ Sam should’ve told her about HIS problems.

    So what stood out most for you, Paula? It could’ve been a combination of all four BUT which one hit you in the face first?

    1. It was never made clear where Dick went after he died on earth. He certainly wasn’t in Purgatory. Consider it a dropped plot.

      As far as Amelia, the writing certainly had a lot, if not most, to do with it. Sure, Padalecki and Balaban didn’t have much chemistry, but Padalecki ended up marrying Ruby 2.0 (that’s a lot of chemistry) and most fans *hated* Ruby. In fact, they hated GC’s version more than KC’s. Sam not only abandoned Dean in Purgatory and Kevin to Crowley for Amelia, but he turned into a Jody (a guy who cheats with a serviceperson’s spouse while that person is away on duty).

      But I saw Balaban in almost the exact same type of role in Covert Affairs and that character was just as unpleasant. And Palicki not only managed to be charismatic and sympathetic as Jess (which, let’s face it, was otherwise a nothingburger of a role), but managed to be charismatic and sympathetic as Captain Mercer’s cheating ex and new first officer in The Orville. So, obviously, Palicki’s really good at making difficult characters sympathetic. So, I think it was a combination.

      Honestly, though, I didn’t dislike Amelia half as much in the first half of season eight as I disliked Sam.

      1. I checked out J Michael Straczynski and found out he was attributed to write 94 out of 122 episodes, so he did NOT write them all not did he claim to do so.

        Wonder how these rumors get started?

        Now I don’t doubt he was the person in absolute charge of The Bible for the show and made sure everything worked with everything else, and he did a terrific job of that.

        Adrienne Palicki also had a small part in the tv series From Dusk to Dawn as the wife of the ‘not insane’ brother and she was a crook and she did good with that. She was also one of the numerous assassins who went after John Wick in John Wick I and I can say she ‘really’ handled that physical role well.

        I appreciate that actress (but don’t like The Orville at all, I have tried 2-3 times now to get into it but I just can’t).

        1. As I recall, that particular rumor started with JMS back in the day.

          I really like The Orville, actually. I don’t recall her in From Dusk until Dawn, but then, I wasn’t able to watch past season two.

  3. OK, still watching TNT, 3-4 episodes daily.

    I started thinking about overarching ‘arcs’ of seasons.

    For instance, we were told in the beginning that Kripke had no plans at all for angels, that God was never going to be a character. That was the decision of the auteur. Got it.

    On another cable channel I am watching Babylon 5 and what is ‘really’ interesting to me was the ‘actual’ 5yr plan that J Michael Straczyinski had WHICH he kept to. AND that he wrote every script for the show. Now I really don’t believe he ‘could’ve’ done that, more likely to me he had people write episodes and he went over them to make sure they were doing what he wanted them to do and the writers all agreed to ghost-write. I don’t ‘know’ that this is true but I literally cannot see how he could’ve written every episode . Just can’t. BUT he did keep it to five years and bless him for that; he did ‘know’ his bible, his canon, and bless him for THAT. Things hang together.

    In the early years of Supernatural I think it was more a scattershot approach: like the psy-kids came and went; like the Roadhouse came and was then blown up. It appears Kripke just did not invest in STORYLINES HE HIMSELF THOUGHT UP. I think it was you Paula who said in Season 3 Sam ‘was’ supposed to save Dean by some ritual but the ritual turned him EVUL and then Dean would spend Season 4 trying to get Sam ‘back’ and Season 5 would end with Lucifer/Sam fighting Michael/Dean and then they both jump into the pit.

    Do you know how WAS Sam supposed to save Dean from his Deal? I can’t imagine the show if they never had angels (angel-dicks, but angels none-the-less) or Chuck the Prophet OR Chuck the God. Just can’t.

    I am about to begin Season 6 and I have given it a lot of thought: I liked Sera Gamble’s plotting. I ‘liked’ the sub-story of Soulless Sam and the shifty Campbells. I understood what Samuel was up to. He started out pretty ‘good’ imo but then Crowley kept upping the ante for him to get Mary back and he drifted worse and worse into Darkness. (The only reason I think he was in Hell in the first place was he had ‘unholy’ feelings towards his daughter; I could not understand him not caring anything about Deanna, who was WONDERFUL.)

    I liked the Leviathan plotting and I know everybody missed the Impala, but it made sense for somebody to point out about CC-TV all over the whole US of A, and then for them to hide baby. I have read stories in which there was a spell which made Impala invisible to cameras and if somebody had thought to put THAT in there it would’ve been wonderful, fixed that issue.

    I am not going to discuss later seasons because we have chewed that cud quite a bit; I enjoyed the Demon Dean build-up and the resolution; I liked Amara’s year. (It appears to me that Season 8 was actually AWFUL with the Amelia storyline and Sam’s Triberculosis but that season set up the next three and I appreciate it for that.)

    Do you know HOW Kripke was going to get Dean out of Hell? Was there any scuttlebutt in Canadian circles that you hung out with at the time? The ‘whole’ show would be so different if they had never introduced Castiel and the angels.

    1. I thought the point was that he was going to have Sam make some great heroic sacrifice to keep Dean from going to Hell in the first place, even if it made Sam go evil in the process.

      1. That’s what I heard as well; I just wonder what it was. They only had 16 episodes in that season; I don’t know if the writers’ strike began ‘before’ the season or ‘into’ the season. for instance I liked Time is on My Side and Long Distance Call but they were both MOTW episodes and could have in some way changed/rewritten to accomplish the Sam-Saves-Dean-but-Goes-EVIL story.

        I just can’t conceive what they were going for; probably shows you all why I am not a writer!

        1. The Writers Strike began in the middle of the season. As I recall, the last episode before the Strike was going to be “Mystery Spot,” but they thought “Jus in Bello” would make for a better season/series finale if it came to that.

          Kripke said afterward that the original season three ending plan was for Sam to go dark saving Dean from his deal (a heroic sacrifice, as Rebekah put it). So, Dean wasn’t going to die.

          However, as the Strike went on, Kripke realized that if the show came back, Dean *had* to fulfill the deal and go to Hell. The story wouldn’t work, otherwise. It then became necessary to figure out how to break Dean out of Hell, basically. Kripke eventually decided they did have to bring in angels, after all, but they would be “dicks.”

          JMS didn’t write every episode of Babylon 5. I think he did write every mytharc episode, though, so he wrote most of them. And he had to fit his five-year plan into four seasons, which made things very awkward when they got an unexpected season five renewal.

  4. I noticed Crowley’s ‘crush’ on Dean back in Season 8 when Crowley was trying to trick Kevin into getting him the Demon Tablet by having two demons appear to be Sam and Dean to worm the secret from Kevin and Crowley was ‘directing’ how they should behave and one of the ‘other’ minions told Crowley HE would make a terrific Dean.

    Crowley preened noticeably.

    I am still watching daily on TNT, and No Rest for the Wicked Was On and there was the scene in which the ‘demon-cop’ stopped Sam and Dean on their way to Lilith in Indiana and Dean killed him: they hit his body in the car and hid the car and I noticed a BIG number on the trunk of the car was 54. As in Car 54 Where Are You? the old tv show. Gave me a laugh in all the grim of Dean’s death.

    1. Huh. Had never noticed the Car 54 ref before. Thanks.

      I think Crowley has always demonstrated a preference for “Squirrel.” Remember their trek to grab Death’s ring near the end of season 5? But it goes up a few dozen notches in mid-season 9. It’s no longer just Crowley having fun with his favorite antagonists. Crowley becomes genuinely obsessed with Dean and that gets him into all kinds of hot water.

  5. It’s too bad you couldn’t make it to Portugal. But your paper sounds really interesting. I’d love it if you sent some excerpts my way.

  6. So I finally had the opportunity to sit and read this. Once again, thanks again for taking the time to do this.

    I remember reading some of the commentary that came out about the events of season 9 and the comparisons of Dean’s actions to setting Sam up for rape. That never really rang true.

    For one thing, when Sam took over the trials in season 8, he was very explicit in stating he was better qualified to do them because he wanted to live. So when it looked like Sam was going to die, Dean used whatever means necessary to see that he didn’t. But both of them, and Kevin, fell victim to unintended consequences.

    Or to use an analogy from my own profession: Its like a person who always tells their family that they want to be resuscitated no matter what; then when they go into cardiac arrest, they are resuscitated and placed on life support. And eventually, when they are able to comprehend what happened, are furious that they survived, especially since they can no longer walk.

    Of course, finding out your body was used to kill someone you know is pretty horrible, but it’s not like Sam has never murdered before.

    My theory is this. When Gadriel was healing Sam’s body, he was healing his soul as well, but the job was incomplete. Sam leaned towards selfish and arrogant in seasons 1-3, but he had plenty of good qualities too, which he began to willingly forgoe under Ruby’s influence. Then he went to Hell. Hell seems to pare you down to your worst qualities. In Dean’s case, his worst qualities (self recrimination, low self esteem, depression) are a lot more sympathetic than Sam’s. And season 6-8, Sam is truly horrible.

    But now, when he realized what Gadriel had done with his body, it horrifies him, and in typical Sam fashion, he makes it about himself and blames Dean. And in a few episodes he’ll reach his lowest point with regards to his treatment of Dean, but now he’ll have enough sense of right and wrong to eventually be sorry and start the long project of pulling himself out of his own ass. Something he’s currently still working on.

    I first noticed that Crowley had a crush on Dean, when they were driving together to go meet Cain for the first time. Dean seemed pretty oblivious at that point.

    1. Yeah, being brought back after a cardiac arrest is probably a better analogy. An awful lot of people in the medical field, and people who have already been brought back, sign up for a DNR because resuscitation is so unpleasant. And yes, it’s not as though Sam has never committed murder before.

      I kinda like the idea that Gadriel was also healing Sam’s soul at the time. Sam becomes more and more human from this time out, but that doesn’t mean he’s always a nice person. I think his real low point is torturing Dean out of being a demon in “Soul Survivor.”

      I think Dean’s darkest qualities are his propensity for extreme violence and his brutally black-and-white views of justice, sometimes. But we see him struggling with that even after Hell, whereas Sam gets stuck in a bunch of Professional Victim storylines after he comes back from the Cage where he doesn’t even get a chance to start wrestling with its effects until mid-season 9. And no, he’s not usually very sympathetic about it.

      While I’d agree that Dean isn’t really aware of Crowley’s crush just yet (not consciously, anyway), I’m not so convinced he remains unaware in “First Born.” But that’s a discussion for that episode.

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