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Recap to this point of post-Lucifer Nick’s revenge storyline for his wife and son. Which has not gone quite in the direction he or anyone else in the story expected, even if some of it was quite predictable to the audience.
We also get a quick recap of Dean’s caging Michael last episode and Death’s revelation that there is now only one way Dean can stop Michael from using him to destroy the world.
Cut to Now and Nick torturing a CRD who used to run with Abraxas. He infodumps that he found out from another demon he killed (he has an angel blade) that Abraxas had been captured and imprisoned by a Hunter. He wants the Hunter’s name.
The CRD wants to make a deal, but Nick won’t deal. After some false bravado, she gives up a location. The Hunter is in Hibbing. You know … Donna’s neck of the woods.
For a moment, it looks as though Nick will spare her (even though we know he won’t). Then he stabs her in the eye. There’s screaming offscreen and black goo.
Cue title cards.
Cut to someone researching angels in the Bunker library. My personal favorite is Maria Prophetissima Historia Achengeli (The History of Archangels by the Highest Prophet Mary), right between Engineering Chemistry and something in Greek.
It’s Dean. He takes the book and also a power sander, some welder’s goggles and such, and wraps them all in a duffel bag. He’s not sneaking out the door (he goes to see Sam, next), but he is sneaking that stuff out the door, if that makes sense.
Sam is in the main part of the library, looking through The Book of Jubilees for stuff about angels. He asks offhandedly how Dean is feeling and Dean shrugs it off.
Sam reassures Dean that they will find something to deep-six Michael permanently. Dean doesn’t look reassured. Sam then suggests Dean dive in along with him, but then Dean drops a little grenade on him. Dean says he wants to go off on a road trip, by himself, to see Mary at Donna’s cabin. Sam, trying mightily not to give Dean all kinds of side-eye, especially after Dean firmly turns down his offer to come with, says sure. When Dean hugs Sam from behind and tells him “Take care,” you can see all the red flags popping up and all the red lights and klaxons going off inside Sam’s head. As well they should. This is Not A Good Sign.
So, of course, as soon as Dean leaves, Sam calls Mary. Mary says Dean cast it as a “supply run,” but she’s fine with any excuse. Seems Bobby has taken off for a bit, unable to deal with having his son’s death dredged up again by the djinn hunt a few episodes ago. Mary is cleaning guns while she talks, indicating she is downplaying this and giving a signal example of where her eldest got it from.
Mary tries to reassure Sam that maybe Dean just needs his space. Sam appears to agree, even as he’s wandering into the room where Dean was and seeing that two books are missing – the aforementioned two about archangels and engineering.
Dean is in Hibbing, eating burgers with Donna and asking about Jody and the Wayward Sisters. Donna gives him a brief overview (Alex just killed two Vetala on a hunt), but she’s not fooled. She knows something’s up. She wades her way through a little flurry of questions from Dean about her life to try to figure out what Dean is doing there.
Dean is a little horrified when Donna explains that Sam has been oversharing (jeez, Sam, will you ever learn?) about Dean’s having been possessed by Michael – twice – and now doing a time-share/solitary thing with said archangel in his own head. He takes it pretty well, though – “What, does he got a freakin’ newsletter?!”
Dean shrugs off all the concern and then gives Donna a big hug. She looks concerned when he’s not looking. He looks unutterably sad, but pastes on a big smile as soon as he pulls back.
Off he goes to Donna’s cabin, where he hears shooting. It turns out to be Mary engaged in shooting practice.
Mary hugs him, all smiles, and Dean asks if he can stay a few days. Mary says sure, Bobby’s out on the road, maybe Sam can come by? Dean demurs, saying he’s “greedy” and just wants his mom to himself. He also claims to be “hangry” from being on the road (despite having just seen Donna and done synchronized burger-eating with her) and asks Mary to make him the one thing she’s actually good at cooking – Winchester Surprise.
Mary is a little surprised and horrified that Dean remembered she ever served it to him and John. Apparently, it’s so greasy that it’s a “heart attack on a plate.” Dean says sure, but it’s very tasty. So, she drives off into town to get the ingredients, calling out as she goes that yes, she will get pie (she almost takes a hedge out with that big pickup as she leaves the driveway).
But despite his loved ones’ concern, Dean is extra good at being sneaky. So, as soon as Mary leaves, Dean’s eyes fall on the barn nearby. And that is not a coincidence. He quickly goes to the trunk, gets out his duffle bag, and heads to the barn.
Inside, he sees two posters of half-naked cowboys and makes a comment about how consistent Donna’s taste in men is, with totally unconscious irony (really, those two should just bang like bunnies, already). As soon as he’s in the door, he gets a migraine attack from Michael beating on the Cage and screaming (I guess they must have done a bunch of takes with Ackles in costume to use over the next few episodes).
After he recovers, he notices an old 8-track tape and puts in a little The Guess Who (“No Time Left for You”). Frankly, I’m amazed that 8-tracks still play. Those things used to wear out like crazy.
We then get a montage of Dean welding, putting together … something shady. Rumor has it on Twitter that Ackles learned some welding just for this scene because of course he did.
A kid named Joe working at the store helps Mary put groceries in her car. He comments that she doesn’t normally buy food: “You usually only pick up whiskey, pumpkins and crossword puzzles.”
“Well,” Mary snarks, “Crosswords usually get better with whiskey.”
I legit laughed, though it would be nice if we saw some of Dean’s cooking skills again.
Later, poor Joe gets accosted by Nick, acting shady in a creepy, blue child molester’s van. Nick asks Joe where he can find Mary’s house, but Joe senses the danger vibes rolling of Nick and plays dumb. Then he makes a phone call.
Later that night, Nick gets stopped by a cop – Donna. She’s been looking for him.
Donna apparently doesn’t know who Nick is (though she does do a fingerprint check on him using a handy-dandy scanner), so I guess Sam’s newsletter could be more informative. She does know he was looking for Mary and that Nick’s van is stolen.
Unfortunately, the script calls for Donna to act stupid (and Nick to have a paper clip that gets him out of cuffs) and turn her back on him. There’s a fight after she gets the ID. She appears to get the upper hand, but then Nick uses her own taser on her. Ugh. At least she’s not dead.
Mary arrives at the house after dark, despite having left the store while it was daylight. Um … okay. Anyhoo, Dean comes out of the barn and acts casual when Mary questions why he was out there. He takes two bags from her and they go inside.
Dean says he has a surprise for her. He has set the table and suggests that maybe “two terrible cooks” can make something for dinner. This strikes me as downplaying his own skills considerably. So, guess who’s bringing out the Winchester Surprise casserole in the kitchen while Mary is out of sight on the stairs, talking to Sam, who fills her in on the missing books and other stuff from the Bunker?
Mary says she doesn’t know what’s going on, “but something is going on.” Sam wants to come right away, but she asks him to give her some time to talk to Dean. Sam says sure and as he hangs up, we see he’s in a car, speeding toward Hibbing. Ah, Winchester Secreth and Lieth. Where would this show’s plot be without ’em?
At dinner, Dean tells Mary (who isn’t hiding her concern very well) a story about how he and Sam tried to recreate Winchester Surprise on a hot plate in a motel room, with horrific results that freaked John out. Mary has an epiphany (which she expresses out loud) about how much of her sons’ lives she missed and how much their childhoods sucked after her death. Dean tries to fake sunny after that, but it’s hard and he chokes a little on the facade. He still manages to get across that he’s glad she’s back and alive, warts and all.
Mary tries to get Dean to open up, but Dean just says, “Everybody keeps asking me how I am. And how I am is I don’t want to talk about it. Please.” He doesn’t say it in a rude way, but it’s pretty final.
Later, Mary sneaks back down the stairs and past a snoring Dean on the pull-out couch. Out to the barn she goes, where she discovers an odd framework and the plans Dean is using. What she finds horrifies her. But when she leaves the barn, she immediately runs into Nick, who kidnaps her. Y’know, I like Mary, but I swear this show has her get kidnapped more times than Timmy on Lassie. It’s a bit embarrassing for an older female Hunter who’s supposedly one of the best there ever was.
Meanwhile, Dean is getting a call that wakes him up. Then he gets another call from another phone (this bit of continuity confused me). It’s from Donna, who just woke up in her cruiser from her tasing. Even though she doesn’t know who Nick is, she knows his name.
Dean rushes outside, gun first, and hears a sound. He spins around to find Sam. So much for Sam hanging back and letting their mother handle things. Sam has some explaining to do before Dean, methinks. But first, Dean explains that Mary is missing.
In his creepy candy van, Nick infodumps to Mary how he used demons to track her down. The demons are terrified of Mary and her sons, so they’ve taken to being anywhere the Winchesters are not. He also says he knows that Mary had an encounter with the demon that killed his family, Abraxas, after Abraxas and his partner (whom Nick killed in the teaser) killed most of a Girl Scout troup. Mary saved the lone survivor from Abraxas.
Mary says Nick could have just asked her, but he says she would have lied, anyway. She says she killed Abraxas and he says she just lied to him (though personally, I’d have lied to him, too, so I can’t fault here there). So, she admits what she actually did was trap him in an Enochian Puzzle Box when it appeared she was losing the battle. And yes, she knows where the box is.
So, Mary has Nick drive to her version of John’s Storage Locker, which is in Grand Rapids (Donna later claims it’s about half an hour away from Hibbing). The security guard is curious as they drive in.
Meanwhile, Donna shows up at the cabin to tell them she has an APB out on Nick that said he and Mary just arrived at Mary’s Storage Locker. She apologizes to Dean for letting Nick get the drop on her. Dean tells her it wasn’t her fault. Sam admits it was his (technically, didn’t Nick bail on the Bunker on Castiel’s watch? Albeit while Castiel was trying to juggle a bunch of stuff with Jack?). Anyhoo, Dean doesn’t look too thrilled with Sam, but they’re too busy going off to Grand Rapids to get into it.
Nick shoves Mary inside the locker and has her guide him around. She steps over a trip wire with a shotgun. Unfortunately, he notices it. She says the box is in the nearby lockers with sigils all over them. She won’t open them, so Nick starts doing it himself with a hammer. The very first one has a pickled head in a jar in it, the second a creepy doll in plastic. Mary looks unrepentant at Nick’s disgust.
The third one has the curse box. Nick wants Mary to open it, but she says it won’t do any good. A demon needs a host to talk with humans. Obviously, it can’t be Nick and it can’t be her because she has an anti-demon tat. Nick says ominously, “So, we’ll improvise.”
Meanwhile, Donna is racing, Code 2 (lights), with Brothers right behind her in a thunderstorm. Inside the Impala (Dean driving), Sam prods Dean into a rant about Nick (“He’s not a project; he’s not a freakin’ puppy!”) and how much Nick’s being possessed by Lucifer for so many years messed him up.
Sam tries the “That could have been me” defense (pretty sure Dean remembers just fine how you choked him half to death and ran off with Ruby, Sam). Dean is not impressed. Among the many anvils raining down about Dean’s own storyline with Michael, Dean yells that Sam has to learn when to let people go “when they’re past saving.”
In the storage locker, Nick has caught and tied up the poor security guard on top of a devil’s trap. Mary claims she doesn’t know how to open the curse box and Nick says, “I don’t like you.” She tries to jump him, but it doesn’t go well. She’s forced to watch as Nick can’t make out the puzzle, so he uses a drill on the box. Eventually, the box breaks, releasing the demon, which enters the poor security guard.
Abraxas immediately recognizes Mary, but doesn’t recognize Nick. At least at first. When he realizes who Nick is, he’s surprised Lucifer doesn’t have Nick “on lockdown” and isn’t especially upset to hear the Devil is dead.
However, Abraxas won’t say why he killed Nick’s family until Nick tortures Mary to death in front of him. Nick, being pretty far gone at this point, is about to do it when the Brothers and Donna come in.
Dean goes to untie Mary’s hands, but Sam isn’t quick enough to stop Nick from grabbing an angel blade, like a moron, and breaking the devil’s trap (after Nick has no good answer for why he kidnapped Mary and such).
The demon freed, he does what demons do. He breaks free of the chair, TKs everyone to the floor and monologues. His reason for killing Nick’s family? The really, really, really obvious one – Lucifer ordered it done to soften Nick up to say yes. Abraxas claims that Nick was a nobody, just a name in the phone book. We know for a fact from season 12 that there was more than that (since almost no human besides a Campbell can house Lucifer), but I guess that’s the best we’ll get now.
Why? Because after Dean starts saying the Rituale Romanum (and gets slammed into a shelf for his trouble), Nick just walks up behind the underwhelming Abraxas and stabs him to death. Inside his poor, innocent, terrified host.
Afterward, Nick gets a little wild-eyed as Mary and Sam close in on him, so Donna shoots him in the kneecap after Nick takes a swipe at Mary. Mary punches his lights out.
Donna drags a limping, handcuffed Nick out to her patrol car (better get his paper clip, this time, hon), while Sam follows. Dean takes Mary aside and asks her if she’s okay. She says yes, but, using her Mom Voice, tells Dean that he needs to talk to her and Sam about his science project in the barn, or she will tell Sam herself.
Sam asks Donna to let him talk to Nick. When he asks Nick why he did what he did, Nick says it was for revenge and insists Sam would have done the same thing. Sam doesn’t have a terribly good answer to that, except to tell Nick that he’s sorry he couldn’t help him. Nick is insulted, saying he never needed to be “fixed because I was never broken.” Sam begs to differ. He tells Nick that Nick hurt a lot of people and will see their faces every night for the rest of his life (from some bitter personal experience). “You can burn,” Sam concludes.
Back at Donna’s she shed, Dean shows Sam what he has wrought in the course of a stolen afternoon. He calls it a “Ma’lak Box” and it’s no coincidence that it looks like a coffin. He says it can contain anything, “even an archangel … especially an archangel.”
Sam is surprised, not because he’s never heard of one (he has), but because supposedly, no one could make it. Well, Dean figured it out.
Sam is horrified by Dean’s plan to be “buried alive.” Dean says that, no, he has to take it further than that. He’s going to take a boat way out into the Pacific and gets dumped off into the deep, inside the box.
Sam protests that there has to be another way. Dean tells him that if Michael gets out, the world is toast, and confesses that he can already feel the door inside his head giving way. After some bugging from Sam, he mentions Billie’s “visit” and says she gave him the “recipe” for the box.
Kinda making the same mistake Nick called him out on (making someone else’s tragedy about him), Sam is most upset about Dean saying goodbye to Mary and Donna, but not him. Oh, Sam. Some days, there just are not enough facepalms for you.
Evoking the time Sam motivated him to kill Death (and how well that didn’t work out), Dean says he was afraid Sam would talk him out of it and he refuses to be talked out of it this time. He says that Sam can either let him do this alone or help him. Sam, very quietly and very reluctantly, agrees to help.
Ratings in the overnights (the finals aren’t out yet) for the episode were steady at 0.4/2 and 1.41 million, which tied the show for second in demo (with Arrow, Riverdale and Roswell) and brought it in second for audience this week.
Usually, after a powerhouse episode like last week’s, Supernatural does a bit of a crash-and-burn, especially coming back from Christmas hellatus. But this one was reasonably good. Not on the level of last week’s (the direction was meh and Perez still struggles with basis stuff like continuity issues), but a reasonable coda that explained what Death told Dean, and how he responded.
It was also Deancentric and Dean-heavy, which was surprising after the workout Jensen Ackles got last week. I guess, now, learning how to weld is taking it easy in the acting department for him. Speaking of that montage to The Guess Who, that is never going to get old. Dayum, son.
And my biggest problem with his interactions with Mary were that they were too short. I mean, we finally see them hang out for the first time since he was inside her head in season 12, and then she gets kidnapped. Not that I’m overly thrilled with how they have Mighty Hunter Mary get her ass kicked all the time by gormless dudebros. That storyline can fade away as of now.
There was also some less-than-stellar worldbuilding with the demons. Abraxas was underwhelming (I did feel sorry for his very unwilling host; that was quite cruel of Nick), though his partner in the teaser was interesting. However, she wasn’t written or portrayed very canonically. She’s dressed in the teaser like a CRD, in the little black dress, and is eager to make a deal with Nick, but she’s a BED (her eyes are black). Also, CRDs didn’t used to hang out with BEDs. Is this a hint that Hell has gone to, uh, Hell in a handbasket and is completely chaotic and leaderless now? Or did Davy Perez just fumble CRD canon, big time?
I can’t say I was hugely impressed by how Nick’s Roaring Rampage of Revenge saga concluded. I will readily admit that I was (apparently one of the few fans) hoping to see Nick again since the season five premiere and was perky about the idea of finding out what happened to his wife and baby. Too bad the show went the easiest, cheapest, and most linear route possible with that.
It’s not just that it was freakin’ obvious to anyone Not Named Nick that if a demon had killed his family, Lucifer ordered it. I mean, duh. Nick spent years being ridden by Lucifer and was well aware of what Lucifer was capable of, how much control he had over Hell (think about it – Lucifer got Lilith to commit suicide-by-Sam while he was still in the Cage).
Why Nick even needed to ask Abraxas about the demon’s motivations, let alone put everyone in the room in danger and even be willing to kill Mary, just to get a text from Captain Obvious, I don’t know, but it made him look stupid. Nor did the offhand “Your name was in the phone book” comment explain how Nick was chosen if he wasn’t a Campbell. Which, apparently, he’s not. Like, really? Why does that even need to be a loose end at this point?
Part of the problem was that the Show of Nick’s motivations (that he was a gullible, damaged moron) was belied by the Show of Nick’s increasingly sociopathic plotting and killing spree, not to mention the epic amount of Plot Armor that got him from the Bunker all the way to Mary’s Storage Locker before being brought down by a shot to the knee from Donna. And don’t even get me started on how he was willing to kill everyone in his path, basically for jollies, but just stuck Donna back in her cruiser while she was out. I mean, I love Donna and I’m glad she didn’t die (especially at Nick’s hands), but that could have been plotted better.
Speaking of better plotting, what was up with the two cell phones and Dean waking up to find Mary gone and Donna calling him? That whole sequence was a hot mess.
The other part of the problem was that, instead of filling out Nick as a tragically damaged character who stumbled into a revenge spree after being frozen in time as a vessel for years, they gave him some weird dark side from Lucifer that turned him into a serial killer. A very enthusiastic, albeit slightly guilt-ridden, serial killer.
Regarding the question of whether Nick was a serial killer or a spree killer, serial killers have “cooling off” periods. While Nick was on his rampage, he did seem to take an awfully time at it and confessed he liked killing. So, it’s probable he’s currently a mix (having killed more than three people, already), but would evolve into a full-fledged serial killer if left unchecked.
Now, I get that the Anvils of Parallel Analogies have been falling thick and hard all season regarding Nick and Dean. And, at least in theory, I don’t have a problem with the probability that they are setting up a post-Michael storyline for Dean, already, after this one (which probably won’t resolve until the end of the season).
But there was no need to make Nick so one-dimensional and unsympathetic. Nick began as a sad sack. Having him kill his way through a bunch of Hell’s Not-So-Finest to find his wife and son’s killer – or better yet, through a bunch of scumbag humans and find out the killer was human – would have introduced some moral grayness to his quest that would have compelled at least Sam (Dean has been a little distracted all season) to examine how he has justified killing people like the possessed nurse he drained of her demonized blood near the end of season four, over the years. I mean, where’s that fine line?
I could even sorta, kinda handwave the neighbor due to Nick’s grief. But once he got to the cop and realized the cop had been possessed, and he killed him anyway, he was pretty much off the trail in terms of being sympathetic. Fine line? Try a canyon with Nick sailing over it without even looking down. And having him kill people who weren’t any threat to him at all, let alone possessed, was just gratuitous character assassination.
The writing seemed to want to make him a parallel of the Winchesters (Sam’s trying to explain himself to Dean in the car, for example). And he’d somehow picked up some things from them, even tracking demons, while remaining dangerously naive in other areas. But in order for it to work, he needed to be, well, less of a whiny, bloodthirsty git. And also, it didn’t make a whole lot of sense for Nick to be like that when Sam wasn’t, even though he, too, had been possessed by Lucifer and, technically, for a lot longer. Yeah, Sam failed Nick this season, but the writing made us so not care.
It didn’t help that Pellegrino’s version of Nick wasn’t terribly different from his version of depowered Lucifer last season (or even earlier). Nick wasn’t originally like Lucifer, but now he’s practically indistinguishable from him in mannerisms? How does that work? Look at Dean and Michael – they are radically different. All Ackles has to do is blink or smile, and you know which one he’s playing, even if the way he carries himself hasn’t already given it away.
Now, Pellegrino is a fine actor, and quite capable of doing distinctly different characters – just look at him on The Closer. And as I said above, Nick was originally a distinct character from Lucifer, even with just a few minutes of screentime. So, did someone tell him to play Nick that way and if so, why? And, please Chuck, don’t let it be because Lucifer never died or is returning or yaddayaddayadda, because please, no, to bringing that played-out character back.
Since Nick isn’t dead, I have a sneaking suspicion he might end up the one in that coffin, harboring Michael. And he might even like that. Because that’s the one part of the parallels between him and Dean that really worked.
Nick misses being an archangel’s vessel. Really, really misses it. He misses the power-by-association, the way Lucifer apparently tapped into his dark side (even though, previously, vessels were supposed to be just along for the ride and lending their bodies to the angel) and gave him the freedom to indulge it. He’s completely lost without his former master. Really makes you wonder what kind of fantasies Lucifer stuck him in over the years.
And the thing is, this isn’t all that unusual for a person, in a way. An angel’s vessel is effectively immortal as long as the angel inhabits him or her. They don’t age or suffer from physical harm. I’ve seen a lot of arguing against this point, but it’s true. It was true for Nick when he was possessed and for Sam. And now it’s true for Dean. You can’t kill a vessel unless you kill the inhabiting angel or force that angel to leave. And both are mighty hard to do.
Why does this work for Dean as a tragic storyline when it didn’t, particularly, for Sam, let alone Jack? Well, most of the time, when we think of immortality, we have a very limited view of it. It basically boils down to not ever having to face death. People then subconsciously pack in a lot of conditions they assume would go along with that, such as eternal youth and perfect health (and, of course, you’re totally hot). That’s the big appeal of the sexy type of vampire, after all.
While there certainly have been stories that explored what it felt to be immortal (usually just for centuries), it’s actually pretty hard to conceive of how it would feel to have everyone you know die, then their descendants, and your culture, then your species, and then even the entire natural world as you recognize it.
I mean, think about it – billions of years from now, if Dean’s plan goes through – the oceans will boil away and the Sun will gobble up the Earth, and that coffin will pop out like a grape. Dean and Michael will still be alive inside it. It sounds like a horrible fate when you put it that way.
But most people (at least on this show), faced with the immediate thought of living a few extra years without ageing or getting sick, are only thinking about not ever having to worry about dying. Not about how human (or sane) they’d be a few billion years from now. It’s just an inconceivable thought to them. Just look at someone like Rowena.
So, you look at someone who makes a demon deal, or says yes to an angel, or turns into a monster, or becomes a witch and steals other people’s souls to stay young, and someone like Nick is the norm on the show for human beings. That’s the kind of person who would say yes to being a vessel and wouldn’t put up a whole lot of resistance.
Even Sam, who quickly found reasons to have big issues with having said yes, was all for it before he did. Remember that when Sam put this same dilemma to Dean near the end of season five, and twisted Dean’s arm to go along with it, they still had other options, especially if neither said yes.
But Sam was sure he could control Lucifer (and look how that turned out). There was a part of Sam that wanted to be Lucifer’s vessel. Whether due to his demon blood programming or his daddy issues or just because Sam can be mighty pig-headed and prideful all on his own, sometimes, he actually saw that as something he’d be okay with. And we even saw Lucifer allow Sam to indulge some revenge fantasies on the demons who had manipulated Sam’s life, which Sam, to his shame got pleasure from. There was a part of Sam that craved the sensation of power, even if it was an illusion, at least for him.
Conceivably, Dean could still fly with Michael’s wings, and use an archangel blade and smite and use TK, just as we saw him do when he was in the driver’s seat in the season finale. It was made clear then that a vessel can use the powers of the angel or archangel inside him or her. It’s just that the angel is usually the one in control of the vessel’s body. But when the vessel is in control, they both can use the angel’s powers.
It’s that “both” that’s the problem. If Dean were to use any active powers (and even if he sustained a mortal injury that required a lot of healing), he’d be making a crack in the door that holds Michael. This is a clever way for the show to have Dean “be” an archangel, but still be active on hunts and not a total deus ex machina. For example, this week, Dean was using the Rituale Romanum (which hopefully would have saved the poor host) rather than smiting or TK. He’s accessed those powers before and could probably still use them, but the use would almost certainly let Michael out.
And that’s the difference with this storyline. This has never been a power trip for Dean; it’s been an ongoing nightmare. Dean is not okay with any of this. Dean said yes to Michael under extreme duress, not pride or craving power. He used Michael’s power to save his family. He locked Michael inside his mind to protect the world, not to exploit Michael’s power. He doesn’t want to lock himself into a coffin with Michael and get tossed into the ocean, even if all Michael ended up doing (admittedly, it’s unlikely) was stick him back behind that bar in a weird version of Heaven and not torture him for the next few billion years out of sheer rage (more likely).
And it’s not because he’s suicidal, as Sam accuses him of being, because it’s not suicide at all. It’s something far, far worse. It’s compulsory immortality. It’s living forever with his very worst enemy, inside a tiny box. Billions of years – and then the Sun pops you out of the disintegrating Earth like Dark Phoenix.
The one character who’s been hoping for an early, bloody exit all along is now staring down the barrel of possibly surviving the end of the universe, either by locking himself inside a tiny box and waiting it out for a few billion years, or stalling until the world-busting monster inside his head breaks out, takes over, and ends the world right now. It’s a horrible choice, but it’s Dean, so of course he’s going inside the box. It’s why Death trusted him enough to give him that book.
And because it’s Dean, because he’s not expendable (even in an in-verse, non-meta sense, and not that Jensen Ackles leaving the show would kill it at this point), because everything goes a bit haywire even when he’s gone in Purgatory for a year, the storyline will either break him out of that box or not put him in it, in the first place.
Remember the other parallel with Nick’s storyline – curse boxes are really strong, but they are intended to keep powerful things in. It’s not nearly as difficult to break those poisonous things inside them back out. That’s why Dean is having the coffin taken out and dumped in the ocean in the first place. He wants to take away any possible temptation, especially from Sam (who has an absolutely horrendous track record on this score).
Finally, there was Sam. Though not in this episode a whole lot, Sam got to deal with the consequences of his juggling too many balls this season and they were pretty major. Somewhat in Sam’s defense, Nick actually bailed when Castiel was there, but Sam had also left Castiel with a lot on his plate. Sam didn’t delegate as well as he could have in his first real leadership role and Nick was that one dropped ball that turned into a festering problem. That killed people.
Dean did not screw around in pointing this out to Sam. Nor did he hold back later on when Sam regressed a bit and whined that Dean was going to leave without saying goodbye (well … Dean did hug him). Sam came perilously close to reprising his mean-spirited speech from the end of “The Purge” in season nine. But a lot of water, and a dead Death or two, has gone under the bridge since then and Dean wasn’t cowed this time.
Dean didn’t bother to point out that Sam’s view of him as a selfish, suicide-obsessed madman who had to be watched like a hawk to keep him from harming himself was unfair (though it was and Sam was quickly forced to back down from that position. This time). He just cut to the chase – that he knew for a fact, thanks to Billie, that there was only one way he could keep Michael from escaping his control and using him to destroy the world. That he couldn’t afford to indulge Sam’s attempts to sabotage him with the world literally hanging in the balance. Yes, his sanity was involved, but it was about so, so much more than that.
So, Sam was, finally, forced to admit a part of his codependency he had always put on Dean and, eventually, agree to help. We’ll see how that all pans out this week, or for the rest of the season if the Nepotism Duo don’t manage to bring it all to a terribly messy and cliched conclusion on Thursday.
The Kripke Years
The Gamble Years
The Carver Years
The Dabb Years