By Paula R. Stiles
[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]
Tagline: Castiel’s past comes back to haunt him in the form of a vengeful woman and the sinister angel comrade who made her that way.
Hi, guys. I’m trying to get back into these reviews and catch up with them to the present season. However, they take a lot of time to do right. If you’d like to see more of them, you can help out by buying me a coffee, or opting into my Patreon page, which includes perks.
Recap: Quick recap of Dean’s early relationship with Castiel and the boring Lucifer “baby mama drama” (as Dean puts it in the following episode episode). Can Kelly Kline please ride off with her hellspawn pregnancy to the Island of Forgotten Guest Characters and Dropped Plots?
Cut to Now and a striking African American woman playing a video game at a bar. The bartender notes that she does this every night and it’s closing time. She ignores him. He also notes that she beats the game every night and doesn’t have to. She ignores him.
A redhead in an eyepatch shows up and is a total bitch to the first woman. She refuses to get out of her way. When the first woman uses angel powers on her, the redhead calls her “Benjamin” and is unaffected. A brief fight ensues (excuse me if I don’t buy that any ordinary human, using the power of her soul or not, would have much of a chance a chance against even a de-winged angel). Benjamin gets beaten and calls for help, with the redhead encouraging her to do. We see three other angels, one of them Castiel in the Bunker, hearing it. The redhead says, “I’ve waited so long” and then stabs Benjamin to death. White light comes out and the redhead leaves.
Cut to Dean looking at a board in the Bunker, trying to figure out where Lucifer’s boring baby mama scampered off to. Sam comes in with coffee. It turns out Castiel set up the board. Dean is not thrilled that Castiel lost Baby Mama Kelly and wonders how she could have gone to ground the way she did (seeing as how she’s carrying a creature that every angel can sense for hundreds of miles). Sam then changes the subject to whether or not Dean has heard from Mary. Dean says yeah, she’s hunting a shapeshifter in Atlanta. When Dean offered to help, she said no, she could handle it alone.
Dean wonders aloud if Mary is getting back into hunting too quickly. Sam brushes off Dean’s concerns, even though Sam isn’t actually the one keeping in touch with Mom (bit passive-aggressive, there, Sam). Sam also calls Dean out on not speaking to Castiel. Dean points out that Castiel did something the previous episode (killing Billie the Reaper) that is supposed to have “cosmic consequences” and avers that doesn’t sound like a good thing.
As Sam is hemming and hawing over that, Castiel comes in, snarks at Dean, and tells them about Doomed Teaser Angel, who was once a comrade. Sam volunteers to come help and when Castiel, still in sarcasm mode, asks if that means both of them, Dean rather reluctantly says he’ll come along. To prevent Castiel from doing anything else that’s “stupid.”
Dean drives, of course. In the car, Sam tries to engineer a detente, which is ignored by both Dean and Castiel. Sam then tries the guilt trip to paper things over. Castiel finally tells them a bit about Benjamin, that he would never have put his vessel, a devout woman he’d found in Madrid, in harm’s way. She was his “friend” on top of being his vessel. Dean riles Castiel up a bit by being sarcastic about how Benjamin probably wouldn’t have run off half-cocked the way Castiel did the week before.
At the scene of the teaser crime, we see a charcoal outline of broken wings on a wall and meet the bartender again. He is shellshocked. Castiel is rude to the guy. Dean sees the bartender out, while Sam asks Castiel if he’s okay. Castiel is upset. Meanwhile, Dean finds an angel blade, which Castiel realizes isn’t Benjamin’s.
In a motel room, the annoying (sorry, mysterious) redhead is lying on a bed, whispering a spell. She opens her eyes and says Castiel’s name. As she grabs her suitcoat and leaves, she kisses her fingertips and touches a sepia photo of a little girl.
Outside a diner, Castiel tells Sam and Dean that before he led his own battalion (except, um, wasn’t Anna actually his commander?), he served under another angel named Ishim. Ishim is inside the diner, but Castiel doesn’t want the Brothers to come in with him. Ishim doesn’t like humans. “Ishim,” by the way, is an entire class of angels (and their leader may be Azazel or Metatron) who are closer to humans than any other angels, but here it’s used as a name for a single angel.
Dean’s like, pfft, no, to that, especially when Castiel gets snarky again. So, no surprise that shortly after Castiel comes in and greets two angels (Ishim and Mirabel, who still have their vessels from the old days), Dean comes in. Neither angel is happy to see Castiel, blaming him for the fall from Heaven and the deaths of many angels (Balthazar and Uriel get name-dropped).
Right before Sam counts down to Dean “storming in,” and Dean enters the diner (insisting on sitting between Sam and Castiel across from Ishim), Ishim and Mirabel say that they’ve lost two other angels besides Benjamin since the Fall, in the same way. Despite this, Ishim sends Mirabel out alone to check whether anyone besides the Brothers has showed up (because splitting up isn’t dumb, or anything).
Predictably, Mirabel is caught off-guard in the alley by the redhead and quickly dispatched. And neither of the angels inside notices, despite all the hand-wringing over Benjamin’s broadcast-by-angel-radio death and previous episodes of angels noticing when another angel died nearby (I mean, it’s pretty darned bright and loud). Okeydoke.
Ishim and Dean don’t like each other. I mean, they really, really don’t like each other. There’s a staring contest as Ishim dumps a metric ton of sugar in his coffee/tea (what’s that about?), on which Dean comments with a nasty smile. Ishim calls Dean and Sam “monkeys,” while Dean tells him to “go to Hell.” Good times.
After Ishim leaves to find Mirabel, the Brothers dress Castiel down on putting up with Ishim’s crap. Castiel storms off after Ishim, who is getting attacked in the alley by the redhead after finding Mirabel’s body. Ishim recognizes her and tries to smite her, but she laughs and says she’s no longer “powerless.” Well, neither are demons and they can get smited, so I don’t really see how that works, but okay.
She grabs Ishim around the throat, but Castiel comes out and slashes her in the side, knocking her down (Castiel also recognizes her in a brief flashback to Olden Tymes). When the Brothers back him up with guns, she insists that she has no desire to hurt humans and blasts out light from her raised palm. Mind you, the Brothers have plenty of time to shoot her while she’s doing this, but nope. Dean ends up temporarily blinded and Sam dazzled. But Sam is still able to get the license plate number of the white convertible in which she roars off (because that car’s not inconspicuous, or anything).
Later, at an old church, Castiel tends to a wounded and weakened Ishim. Ishim can’t heal himself. Castiel clues Sam in that he recognized the woman and Dean (who has already noticed this) insists Castiel tell them what happened. We then get a saturated-color flashback to Orono, Maine, 1901.
Ishim is leading the way to a house through the woods. Mirabel and Benjamin are there, as is Castiel inside a young white woman. Ishim tells them that one of their angel brothers is living in sin with a human wife, and that the two have a daughter, a naphil (the show uses the plural term “nephilim” because hey, why do research?). Ishim says the girl has “a human soul mixed with angelic grace,” which is very dangerous. Is this more dangerous than Dean having hundreds of thousands of souls inside him last season? Who knows?
Despite the fact that the angels can actually track Lucifer’s unborn naphil child because they can sense nephilim (mentioned early in the episode), the angels in this scene just take Ishim at his word that the girl inside the house is a naphil. Um … show? Wouldn’t they be able to sense if the girl’s a naphil or not for themselves?
As they stride up to the house, the two other angels who later die offscreen (a man and a woman) join them. Not sure why these two weren’t in on the conversation that required a round robin of infodump, but I guess roles with lines are too expensive.
A man and a woman come out. The woman is the redhead. She calls the man “Achamel.” He tells her to go back inside and whispers in her ear. Looking frightened, she obeys. Achamel, who looks like Jesus, comes down the steps to have it out with Ishim, who goes off on his patented “filthy animals” rant about humans. Achamel hints that Ishim is the one who has something to hide with a retort about “shame.” Meanwhile, Castiel and the others look on coldly.
Achamel further hints that Ishim is being dishonest, then attacks him. The others grab him and Castiel pronounces judgment on him. When Achamel hears the charge of fathering a naphil, he looks shocked, but Ishim grabs him by the throat so he can’t speak. The other angels, being dumb as a box of hair, don’t notice any of this unsettling subtext. Mirabel stabs Achamel, killing him.
Ishim then tells the others to get rid of the vessel’s body, while he goes into the house to deal with the wife and the naphil alone. You know – the superpowerful, potentially world-killing naphil. Inside, out of sight, the woman shouts to Ishim to stay away from her daughter and then the child screams.
As I said, angels are dumb as a box of hair.
Case in point: In the present, Castiel insists it was a just mission, even though there are red flags all over the story and the Brothers are thoroughly disgusted with him and Ishim. Ishim identifies the redhead as Lily Sunder (of the episode’s title) and says he spared her. Dean guesses the obvious, that she now seeks vengeance. Hmm.
Ishim says she was a professor in apocalyptic literature (in the grand scheme of things, this is probably the least-idiotic dumb thing in this episode, but that’s still pretty anachronistic, especially for a woman) and that she is fluent in Enochian. He says she must have made a pact with a demon to remain young and gain powers. Except, you know, the part where she has angelic not demonic powers.
Dean says he and Sam will go talk to her, since she allegedly has no wish to hurt humans. Castiel begs to differ, saying it will take all of them to defeat her (well, I don’t see why, but Castiel can get off on these ridiculous tangents). He also says he still has to heal Ishim’s wound.
Castiel also gets pissy when Sam suggests that Lily’s got some justification for being angry, what with having her entire family murdered in front of her. Castiel swings it way the other way and asks if Sam thinks he and all the other angels deserved to die for that. Sam hedges because, well, yeah, that’s how blood vengeance is supposed to go. Castiel puts Sam on the spot by asking him if he’d let it go were he in Lily Sunder’s place. The answer to that, of course, is “no.”
Dean cuts off the rest of the conversation by saying that he and Sam are going alone to talk to her and that’s that. Meanwhile, Lily Sunder, in her motel room, is healing her own wound with white light and looking stern. Or something.
While he waits for the Brothers to come back, Castiel talks to Ishim and then heals him. Ishim is still on his anti-human rant, saying that angels are supposed to stay away from humans because humans are far more of a threat to them than the other way round (think Lily and the Brothers might feel differently). Ishim also doesn’t much like the way he perceives Sam and Dean “bossing” Castiel around. Castiel insists that his friendship with “Sam and Dean” (we know he mostly means Dean) has made him “stronger” not weaker. He discovers that Ishim’s wound is more serious than he’d thought, so it really drains him when he heals Ishim.
At the motel, the Brothers arrive at Lily Sunder’s room. Sam says Lily’s car was a rental. They find her in the hallway (right after Dean admits they may have to kill her if she won’t stop going after angels). She has two angel swords now (even though she left one behind at the scene of Benjamin’s murder) and seems to think the Brothers couldn’t stop her from killing Castiel. Stop laughing in the back, there.
Sam tries to talk her down with the reasonable approach while Dean looks skeptical. She is also skeptical, since (shocker) it seems Ishim fibbed a little. And left some things out. Well, that is why they decided to go get her side of the story. Once she realizes they’ve been lied to and don’t want to hurt her unless they have to, she unbends and tells them more of the flashback story.
A brief conversation over a doll between Lily and Achamel (shortly before the angel posse shows up) confirms that he is not the father. So … who is? Is it, say, Ishim, maybe? The daughter’s name was May and we find out that what Achamel whispered was for Lily to take her and run.
Does Lily do this? Well, not right away. Inside the house, she starts dithering over which papers to take while reassuring her daughter everything is okay. This, of course, gives Ishim time to blast the door open and come inside.
It also makes Lily look very stupid. This makes me not very sympathetic to her bitterness in the present when she admits she summoned him in the first place as soon as she found the spell to do so. She says she was always fascinated with angels and thought Ishim was “perfect” when she first met him. She also says that her daughter “was human,” that she had her before she ever did the summoning, or met an angel. But in doing so, she admits that she intentionally endangered her daughter by summoning a supernatural being with a child in the house.
In the flashback, Ishim bitterly calls her out on using him to get his secrets “for your precious studies.” When he tells her that he had confided in her because he loved her, she claims he never did and was just obsessed with her. Because yelling at your creepy ex when he has all the cards and you need to get out of the house with your daughter always works well in Lifetime movies – oh, wait.
Anyhoo, he gets angry about Lily having summoned Achamel to protect her from him (Ishim sees it as throwing him over for Achamel, which is … kinda true, actually). He pins Lily to a column and kills her daughter right in front of her, calling her “powerless” to stop him.
So, huge plothole here. If Lily is an expert in Enochian and knows more about angels than angels know about angels, why couldn’t she just make an angel-banishing sigil and blast everyone away as Ishim was coming in the door? Hell, as soon as she saw the angels coming? Then take her daughter and run like hell? Achabel wouldn’t have died. Neither would May. At least not then. And we know the episode writer knows this is an out because it’s a major plot point in the climax of the story.
I hate these sorts of plotholes because they’re so hand-wavy and lazy. Kind of like the ongoing thing since season five (thanks to Kripke) that Lucifer can’t be killed. Even though we’ve seen two archangels bite the dust, and even God and his sister nearly flatlined last season. But nooooo, we’re stuck with Lucifer until the end of time.
Back in the present, the Brothers are freaked out by Lily’s story and Dean tries to get hold of Castiel. Who doesn’t answer because a rejuvenated Ishim has stolen his phone. It seems Ishim hasn’t felt this good in a long time and Castiel is temporarily drained. Uh-oh.
So, Sam stays to watch Lily while Dean goes to warn Castiel. I’m sure this will end well.
In her motel room, Sam asks Lily the obvious question of why she waited so long to go on her roaring rampage of revenge. She says she couldn’t find the angels while they still had wings (which seems iffy when she could hear them talk, but okay). But she doesn’t explain why it’s taken her over two years to find all of them since they fell. I had a bit of trouble with that.
Sam asks her about Ishim’s claim that she made a pact. She says that no, she uses Enochian magic, fueled by her soul. But it’s not finite. She will eventually end up with no soul. Sam says that yeah, he gets that. She admits that she used to dream about her daughter, but now she doesn’t dream at all, because losing her soul makes her more and more emotionally detached. Sam gets that, too.
She warns Sam that Ishim will kill Dean. She claims that Ishim is “a big man in Heaven” and can’t afford to see his sins brought to light. This makes no sense. If Ishim really is that important in Heaven, 1. why have we never heard of him during all the many plots involving that place and 2. why didn’t he and his brethren just go hide back there? After all, the angels were forcibly called back to Heaven not long after they were thrown down. Some went willingly, of course, but some were killed because they refused. So, why are Ishim and his lieutenants out wandering around on earth now? They’re not Grigori.
Anyhoo, she loses a bit more of my sympathy when she says she’s fine with the current situation. Once Ishim kills Dean, Sam will be fine with killing Ishim, so she gets what she wants, eventually, anyway.
Cut to Dean entering the church and finding a weakened Castiel. Castiel explains that he healed Ishim. Dean tells him (without looking around for Ishim first) that Lily’s daughter was human and that he thinks Ishim “is playing you.”
Up pops Ishim behind Dean. Nope. Sure wasn’t expecting that. [/sarcasm]
So, Castiel belatedly compares notes with Ishim, who lies like a rug. Dean snarks that Ishim lies a lot worse than Lily. Mutual manly bitchiness ensues. Ishim tries to separate Castiel from Dean by insulting Dean and asking Castiel why he lets Dean boss him around. Castiel’s finally not buying it, though, and bears down on the question – was May human or a naphil? Ishim admits the truth by refusing to answer the question straight. In other words, May was human.
The fight breaks out when Dean pulls out his angel blade and gets slammed into a wall. Castiel tries to attack Ishim, but gets his ass handed to him. As Ishim beats him up, he pours out his anger and jealousy and envy. Castiel was the one who got to go to Hell and raise the Righteous Man. Now Ishim is going to cut out Castiel’s “human weakness” with his angel sword, just as he cut out his own. And he goes straight for Dean. Ohhh, dear.
Fortunately, while Castiel is getting beaten to a pulp (albeit getting in a punch or headbutt or two), Dean is thinking quickly. He cuts his hand and makes a banishing sigil. When Ishim approaches, Dean warns him to stay back. But Ishim has Dean’s number. As a helpless, beaten Castiel watches, Ishim points out to Dean that he would survive being blasted away, but Castiel might not. Unwilling to put Castiel in mortal harm’s way, Dean very reluctantly drops his hand. Then, with a grim and fatalistic look, he grasps his angel sword as Ishim smirks and comes after him.
But Sam and Lily arrive with good timing. Lily calls Ishim off by shouting his name. He turns to confront her, sarcastically calling her “my love.” As Sam rushes to Dean, apologizing for bring Lily along (Dean quickly forgives him), Ishim and Lily fight. It’s a pretty good fight, but he’s much stronger than before and soon bests her.
The Brothers come in and distract him by slicing him on the limbs. Enraged, he tosses them into a corner, but this gives Lily time to pull off her eyepatch and do a white-light jazz hand. Her blind eye glows as she declares she will “never be powerless again.” She Tks him into a wall. He’s not impressed, pushing away from it and approaching her the way Dean did Abaddon when he killed her. Before he can strike, though, Castiel stabs him from behind. Afterward, Castiel sinks to his knees, telling her “You held him for long enough.”
We get an overhead shot of Lily staring down at dead Ishim and his broken wings. Sam wonders if that’s it and Dean asks Lily, far more pointedly, “Are you done?” When Lily hedges that she’s been seeking revenge for over a century, Dean, even more pointedly, tells her it’s over (i.e., that he won’t let her kill Castiel, too.).
At that point, Castiel intervenes. He apologizes to Lily and tells her that if she can’t let it go, he will wait for her to come and finish him down the road. She thanks him and then just leaves. Oookay.
Back at the Bunker, Dean gives Castiel a beer, telling him “You earned it.”
The Brothers go into a stereo, extremely cleaned-up paean to how nice Castiel has been to them over the years, leaving out all the times he’s turned on them, betrayed them, run off with the butterflies, or just plain made dumb decisions. And Dean admits he’s not angry so much as “worried” that Castiel’s killing of Billie will turn ugly, what with all the “cosmic consequences” deal.
Then we get a boring retread of the whole nephilim plotline, how Lucifer’s child is dangerous and scary beyond measure, and they may have to kill a kid (assuming they can kill the kid). Which is just eye-rolling post-Amara. A group drinking session ensues.
Review: I mostly enjoyed this one, but my goodness, were there enough plotholes to drive that truck through, or what? Also, Castiel acted childish for most of the episode. I wanted to slap him half the time. And Ishim was remarkably transparent in his motivations. Not that Lily Sunder was any great shakes as an anti-heroine.
Still, Ishim was a great villain and foil to Dean, specifically, in the sense of Ian Tracey and Jensen Ackles having a crackling good time playing off each other as brittle antagonists. There was never going to be any peace between those two. Their instant and mutual hatred had too much destructive resonance. Lily’s revenge story was bland in comparison.
It’s no secret that I’m as big a fan of Ian Tracey as of Jensen Ackles, so imagine my delight in seeing him return to the show and get some meaty conflict and fight scenes with Ackles this time round. Tracey is A-list in Canada (and, to my mind, Canadian A-list, consisting mostly of seasoned character actors rather than “stars,” is generally much stronger than Hollywood A-list), so it’s a rare treat to see him, Ackles, and Misha Collins get face time. Padalecki got that chance last time (season seven’s “Adventures in Babysitting”), but Ackles didn’t and Tracey’s character had a much smaller role in that one. However much I liked Lee Chambers, they killed him off between episodes and brought back Lee’s annoying daughter Krissy. That gives you an idea how disposable a redshirt he was.
I was rather put out that they killed Tracey’s character off again this time and made him a one-shot, though at least he had a lot of fun and scenery to chew in this one. I was further put out because Ishim was actually a much more interesting character than the title character.
Lily Sunder is a blah Vengeful Sue character and I have no desire to see her again. She’s got about three settings – frightened and helpless, angry, and smug – with little connection between them and equally little emotional connection to the audience.
Also, she’s far too overpowered in her initial scenes versus the two angels we see her kill, making her subtext too much of a predator and not enough of an avenger, even once we find out the truth (all Tell, no Show). This put the sympathy on the angels (especially Benjamin) and it never really came back to Lily. I felt sorry for Achamel and certainly for May, but I never felt very sorry for Lily.
After all, this is a woman who intentionally summoned an extremely powerful and deadly being, which resulted in the death of her daughter. Even if she had done it before her daughter was ever born, it was a dumb thing to do. If Lily had summoned a demon or used the Necronomicon to call up Cthulhu, the audience would hardly be sympathetic to her. The show indicates that humans in the SPNverse are really dumb about the true nature of angels and think they are good (which is the intended way of making her sympathetic, despite her reckless stupidity), but the audience knows better at this point.
Plus, any professor of apocalyptic lit would know that it is incredibly dangerous to summon angels. In traditional Christian lore, demons are just fallen angels. Even they serve God. Christ allowed some control over demons by humans in order to exorcize them. But unfallen angels still serve God directly and represent manifestations of His power and glory. Not only are they much more powerful than demons, but their position in Creation compared to humans is very different. Summoning them can be perceived as directly interfering with God’s will, so while angel grimoires may be considered white magic, they are still very iffy in moral terms.
This leads directly into Ishim’s bigoted rants about humans and angels remaining separate, and his resentment of Dean and Sam giving Castiel orders. This makes perfect sense if you consider that for an angel, like a demon, summoning is a compulsion. It’s unclear how compelled angels feel to answer (it probably depends on the power of the summoner versus the power of the summoned), but Castiel and other angels have made it clear they find a direct summons by a human to be a peremptory and insolent command, and they don’t like it.
Episode writer Steve Yockey makes Ishim look like a jealous, bitter, racist ex, but in the rules of the show itself, Ishim’s will may have been abrogated by Lily in the initial summoning. It appears she may have compelled him to love her and serve her, which makes her all kinds of unsympathetic, dead daughter or no. Regardless of how much Ishim was (or felt) compelled to do her bidding early on, she is the one who created the instrument that murdered her daughter by twisting an angel in the first place.
While Yockey probably didn’t intend any of that subtext, it therefore makes some sense that Castiel has no sympathy for Lily until Ishim threatens to murder Dean right in front of him. Castiel isn’t just being dumb about the daughter not being a naphil or inhuman in his indifference to the child’s death. Lily’s daughter is innocent, but her loss is just punishment for Lily’s defiance of the Natural Order and implied abrogation of Ishim’s free will.
But Ishim misreads what’s going on between Castiel and Dean. Dean did not initiate the relationship with Castiel and Dean. Yes, Dean commands Castiel loyalty and obedience, but both he and Castiel perceive this as just, both because of their friendship and because Castiel participated in the destruction of Dean’s family. Castiel serves Dean entirely of his own free will and Dean respects those terms.
Dean is not a parallel for Lily (as the dialogue states); he’s a parallel for her daughter. Therefore, he is an innocent. When Castiel kills Ishim to save Dean, he is belatedly making up for failing to save May. And the audience is all for this, not just because of the emotional investment in the “profound bond” between Castiel and Dean, and not just because, as the Firewall, Dean may not only have the ability to exercise true free will and even change Natural Order, but may even embody the Natural Order. It’s because Dean in this story is truly innocent.
Ishim drastically misinterprets the relationship between Castiel and Dean, perceiving it in the same toxic way as his own relationship with Lily. Lily does, too, at first, but changes enough to end her vendetta with the death of Ishim (the angel who actually murdered her daughter) at Castiel’s hands. However dimly, Lily senses that if she went after Castiel, Dean (and Sam) would end her. She may not want to hurt humans and they may be willing to let bygones be bygones if she stops there, but they’ve killed humans who practice black magic before. And they are very good at it.
I will give Alicia Witt credit for not making her as irritating as I expected Lily to be, and her fight scenes looked pretty good. I’m not a fan of Witt’s sarcastic delivery, and the character itself had some issues, but Witt did okay with the role, aside from the above problems of lack of range.
I suppose, if the writers do insist on bringing Lily back, she could mellow into a sort of Rowena-like frenemy, but I’m not nearly as into watching Witt as I am Ruth Connell. Also, I don’t like how Lily cold-bloodedly killed the vessels of the angels she also slaughtered (who were misled, not evil) and shrugged off all the collateral damage as an okay consequence of becoming sociopathic through using her soul to fuel her angel-like powers (something I have suggested was possible since season six).
Yes, Ishim murdered her daughter, but she’s the one who chose revenge. And being fine with standing by while Ishim murders Dean, or murdering innocent angel vessels while insisting she doesn’t want to harm any humans, doesn’t jibe with her claim that she’s a vengeful heroine in her story. I also wasn’t impressed by her never once showing an ounce of guilt over her inadvertent role in her daughter’s death in, y’know, summoning her daughter’s eventual murderer in the first place out of little more than religious fanaticism and academic curiosity. And there’s no sense she ever had any feelings for Ishim aside from accomplishment at having summoned an angel, so one can kind of see why he felt rejected.
It doesn’t help that she comes off as a bit of a user, summoning another angel to help her with her first angel when he becomes a problem and getting that angel killed without much remorse on her part. Or that the show has her kill off the other two angels in female vessels so that we’re left with fewer female characters at the end (really, show, it’s not necessary to have only one significant female character at a time in an episode. We’re 51% of the population, not something exotic like dancing bears).
Plus, there’s the plothole that she apparently knows Enochian and all this stuff about angels that Ishim taught her but not the banishing spell that Dean tried to use and she could have used to save her daughter. Not the sharpest tool in the shed is Lily Sunder. Then again, the characters in general have been written all season unnecessarily as thick as posts, similarly to how characters are written on other CW shows. It seems the new writers think this is the way to do things now.
Castiel rhapsodizing about Benjamin and his loving relationship with his vessel (and our seeing yet another PoC angelic character bite the dust in as many weeks) doesn’t make Lily look very sympathetic, either. I wish TV writers could figure out how to write female guest characters more sympathetically, or at least not so much like bitches all the time, because ugh. And no, the “surprise twist” didn’t improve things on that front. In fact, it made things much more confusing. In the Devil’s Baby Mama storyline, it’s clearly stated that angels can sense the conception of a naphil. Yet, the twist is that Lily’s little girl is just an ordinary human. How could the angels outside the house not sense that? It’s a big old plothole that’s never explained.
I still think that Ishim with his dark, angelic obsession was far more intriguing than Lily (hell, Benjamin was far more intriguing than Lily and I was sorry to see him/her go). He would have made a fabulous recurring antagonist for Castiel over the course of a season or so. He was so obsessed and they had so much history, and the hate chemistry with Dean was fantastic. Maybe we could get a flashback or two in a future episode (no-no, don’t burst my bubble of denial).
Part of the intrigue was the way the writers straight-up gave us a parallel to Castiel’s relationship with Dean in Ishim with Lily, one that went horribly wrong. As I’ve said in the past, I think Destiel (in the sense of a relationship that uses romance tropes) is canon on the show, just as Dowley is canon. In addition, these relationships aren’t just one-shots and don’t just exist to add tension. They actually change the plot and characters over time.
Crowley’s jealousy of Dean’s relationships with other men (including not only Castiel, but brother Sam) is the core of his personal conflict with Team Free Will, just as his loneliness stems from the persistent emotional rejection by his mother Rowena (hmm, something Crowley kinda has in common with Dean this season). Meanwhile, in Castiel’s obsession lies the core of his faith in God and the reason why Chuck keeps favoring him and resurrecting him. Castiel is the Firewall’s literal wingman and bodyguard.
Are we going to see teenage kissing and holding hands? Hell, no. These characters are a grown human man with emotional walls like Ancient Troy and a half-billion-year-old seraph. Note that the relationship between Ishim and Lily didn’t involve any cute teen romance tropes, either (unless we’re talking about this commercial and campaign about the difference between Young Love and abuse, which gets quoted in the episode). In fact, the idea that Lily’s daughter was a naphil turned out to be a red herring deliberately engineered by Ishim so that he could take revenge on Lily by killing the girl, and use his angel comrades to help him do it.
The story of Ishim and Lily (and even Benjamin and his ancient unnamed vessel) once again raised the specter I have talked about in the past that angels are designed to be obsessive. It’s in their DNA, as it were. They were created (possibly by the archangels rather than Chuck directly, as hinted late last season) to worship their father in every way possible and to obey their angelic superiors without question (as I said, dumb as a box of hair). When an angel transfers this obsessive love to a human, it can be overwhelming, even terrifying, for the human. With the power balance between them so far out of whack, it can become abusive in a human heartbeat.
Up to this point, we hadn’t known of any other such relationships between a human and an angel (unless you count Dean and Anna, which ended very badly), so we had nothing to compare. Anna seemed relatively fine, albeit suspicious of Castiel, until she was captured and reprogrammed. So, we had no way of knowing if the circular pattern of Castiel obsessing over Dean, becoming enraged with Dean over the least disagreement or mistake, possibly harming or betraying Dean, and then feeling remorseful, was how things went with angels and humans. Well … apparently, that’s about as good as it gets.
Naturally, the slashiest and most parallel it gets is when Ishim cannily calls Dean’s bluff about the angel-banishing sigil and Dean chooses not to use it, knowing full well that doing so will probably get him killed. This is right after Ishim tells Castiel he’s going to murder Dean right in front of him to get rid of Castiel’s “human” taint the way he did his own (by murdering Lily’s daughter and incurring her hatred). It’s also right before he sarcastically calls Lily, upon her arrival with Sam as part of the cavalry, “my love.” The subtext of curdled romantic obsession isn’t exactly subtle.
Castiel returns the favor by stabbing Ishim from behind to save Dean the way he did Billie the Reaper last week to save Mary (which was also, in a weird way, to “save” Dean – from watching his mother get killed again). Castiel’s reaction is the opposite to Ishim’s in that Ishim murders Lily’s family, whereas Castiel kills other angels in his own family (literally backstabs them) to save Dean’s family. And Dean chooses to give up a spell that could save his own life, even though he’s quite angry with Castiel, because it could kill Castiel. If that’s not true love on this show, I don’t know what is.
An historical aside: There was unlikely to be such a thing as a professorship in Apocalyptic Literature in the late 19th century. It would be a professorship in Divinity or in History of Religions, and women were not getting those back then. No American woman even got a Bachelor’s degree in Divinity until 1878 and it seems pretty unlikely such a woman would be residing in Maine in 1901. In addition, no respectable Victorian Era woman, widowed or single, would be living alone with her daughter in a swanky mansion without any servants or companions, angel guardian dude or no.
Sam: So, what’s the plan?
Dean: Well, we knock on [Lily’s] door, ask her nicely not to kill any more angels.
Sam: And if she says no?
Dean: Well, we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.
Ishim: I loved you.
Lily: You didn’t love me. You were obsessed with me. That isn’t love.
Ishim: [Lily]’s a liar.
Dean: Well, if she’s a liar, she’s pretty good at it. You, on the other hand, kinda suck.
Ishim: I used to envy you, Castiel. Can you believe that? You survived Hell. You were chosen by God. But now, look at you. You’re just sad and pathetically weak. So, now, I’m gonna help you. I’m gonna cure you of your human weakness, same way I cured my own. [pulls out his sword and goes after Dean]
Dean: [Ishim]’s dead. Are you done?
Lily: Revenge is all I’ve had for over a hundred years. It’s what I am.
Dean: Wrong answer. You’re done.
Next: Who We Are/All Along the Watchtower (season finale): British Men of Letters and Lucifer clash with Sam and Dean and Mary and Castiel. Hopefully, we end the season with a few less annoying antagonists.
If you like these reviews, please help continue the site by making a donation, buying me a coffee, or opting into my Patreon page. And, of course, (non-hostile) feedback is always welcome.