Tag Archives: television

Supernatural: Season 14


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Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. I’m posting reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my research all month long in October on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Here are all my live recaps and reviews in one, handy-dandy spot, for Season 14.


The Official Supernatural: “Stranger in a Strange Land” (14.01-Season Premiere) Live Recap Thread



Season 12

Season 13


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


Supernatural: Season 13


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. I’m posting reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my research all month long in October on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Here are all my live recaps and reviews in one, handy-dandy spot, for Season 13.


The Official “Lost and Found” (13.01 – Season Premiere) Live Recap Thread

The Official “The Rising Son” (13.02) Live Recap Thread

The Official “Patience” (13.03) Live Recap Thread

The Official “The Big Empty” (13.04) Live Recap Thread

The Official “Advanced Thanatology” (13.05) Live Recap Thread

The Official “Tombstone” (13.06) Live Recap Thread

The Official “War of the Worlds” (13.07) Live Recap Thread

The Official “The Scorpion and the Frog” (13.08) Live Recap Thread

The Official “The Bad Place” (13.09 – pre-Christmas finale) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Wayward Sisters” (13.10) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Breakdown” (13.11) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Various and Sundry Villains” (13.12) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Devil’s Bargain” (13.13) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Good Intentions” (13.14) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “A Most Holy Man” (13.15) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “ScoobyNatural” (13.16) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “The Thing” (13.17) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Bring ’em Back Alive” (13.18) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Funeralia” (13.19) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Unfinished Business” (13.20) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Beat the Devil” (13.21) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Exodus” (13.22) Live Recap Thread

The Official Supernatural: “Let the Good Times Roll” (13.23 – Season Finale) Live Recap Thread


Season 12

Season 14


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


The Official Supernatural: “Exodus” (13.22) Live Recap Thread


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. I’m posting reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my research all month long on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Okay [cracks knuckles]. Let’s blow through this one and get to the season premiere.

So, we start with an overly long and detailed recap (two minutes) of the season so far. And we come back to Now, which is Sam getting hugged by Mary, while Dean asks him how he got away. Sam admits that Lucifer brought him back.

Lucifer, of course, immediately starts humble-bragging about what a great guy he is and immediately sidles up to a confused Jack. This sparks an instant custody battle between Dean and Castiel on one side and Lucifer on the other (Sam is conspicuously silent). Jack loses it and flies off, leaving them all behind.

Cue title cards.

Gabriel goes after Jack, while Dean yells at Lucifer. Lucifer claims he’s an ally now and he’s even beaten Michael once (as if!). No one believes him. To “prove” his point, Lucifer lets Castiel slap some demonic cuffs on him. Lucifer also tells them that he left Rowena enough grace for about 31 hours left of rift-time. So, Sam sets a clock. Yay. Flash to Rowena at the Bunker, getting a migraine trying to keep the thing open.

Sam apologizes to Dean for bringing Lucifer along. Dean tells him it’s fine, since Dean thought he was dead and now he’s alive again. Dean hugs him. Then they discuss Lucifer and Sam insists he will take care of Lucifer. Dean looks skeptical. Well, we all know how that turned out.

Jack, exhausted from flying around, leans against a tree trunk and recaps his entire friggin’ biography, hitting mostly on the mistakes. Bored now.

As Castiel is dragging him past her, Lucifer unwisely decides to taunt Mary (because that went so well with Rowena). She punches him in the face. Her sons, coming in from stage left, express appreciation.

That appreciation turns a bit sour when she tells them she’s staying in the alt-SPNverse to save a bunch of people she hardly knows. Both brothers protest (especially Dean), but she seems adamant. Oh, Mary, you can be such a bitch, sometimes.

Sam decides to break the deadlock by suggesting they bring everyone back. I’m not quite sure why Mary was so concerned about supplies before, because it turns out there are only 25 people in the camp. Jeez, a couple of episodes ago, she was acting as though they had hundreds. If you’re wondering why the writing got so linear, especially in favor of making Sam look like a Big Damn Hero for not much effort, and why the pacing drags with so much filler, yep, this is a Nepotism Duo script.

Jack comes back, just as Lucifer is trying to manipulate Castiel. Castiel tries to dissuade Jack from having conversation with Lucifer. It doesn’t go particularly well. Jack insists on talking to Lucifer and Lucifer immediately turns on the charm. Jack’s first question is “Why does everyone hate you?”

Lucifer whines and downplays and blames humans, though he falters a bit when Jack brings up his own mother. Lucifer is awfully persuasive and manages to make it seem as though he is the victim. The monologue goes on long enough for me to say “Y’all aren’t Shakespeare, Buckner and Ross-Leming. Wrap it up.”

Sure enough, Jack decides to be persuades by Lucifer’s greasy buttering up. And then they all walk out to the rift because it’s not as though they’ve got two archangels and a naphil who could fly everyone to the rift, one by one, pretty much instantly. Oh, wait.

Gabriel is getting chased by a group of angels (speaking of characters with wings not using them). He warns everyone and the two groups face off. Then Lucifer wastes the angel squad because it turns out the demonic cuffs don’t work on him in the alt-SPNverse. For convenient plot reasons.

Man, I hate recapping Nepotism Duo episodes.

So, after that damp squib of a conflict, everyone arrives at alt-Bobby’s. Alt-Bobby remembers the Brothers, is strangely nice to them, and generally protests far too much that he’s not basically Bobby resurrected. Okeydoke.

We hear that Ketch and alt-Charlie have gone off to hunt down some angel squad that’s executing Resistance members. Any excuse that keeps any version of Charlie off my screen is fine by me.

Lucifer is still shmoozing Jack with his own, weird distorted version of family history and Jack’s illustrious family tree. He tries to get Gabriel to play along, but Gabriel calls him out on it and stalks off.

Unfortunately, we “get” to see Ketch and alt-Charlie’s raid, such as it is (she gets herself easily captured and Ketch, completely out of character, gives up his weapon and surrenders). Morticia Addams channels my feelings, both about Charlie and The Cat in the Hat: “Oh, no. She lives.”

Sam, Dean and Mary are engaged in a recruitment speech for bringing people back so they can get some lore and return to beat alt-Michael when alt-Bobby magically gets news that alt-Charlie and Ketch were captured. How this news got back, let alone so quickly, and why the two of them were out there on a raid alone in the first place are not questions that are about to be answered. So, we’ll move on. The important thing here is that while Ketch is getting the crap beaten out of him and alt-Charlie is looking upset while tied to a chair, the Brothers decide to go rescue them. Because clearly, they don’t already have enough on their plate and alt-Bobby’s crew are clueless. Gee, if only they had some people on their side with wings – oh, wait.

Now, keep in mind that this is the second-to-last episode of the season, and the show really doesn’t have room for extra storylines. So, of course, now is the perfect time to bring all the plot momentum to a screeching halt so that we can have Ketch and alt-Charlie meet…wait for it, now…the alt-SPNverse version of Castiel. You heard me. And how do you know he’s EVOL!Cas? Because Misha Collins uses a really bad German accent and sneers a lot.

That’s good, because back at base camp, Dean is having Our!Cas torture the guy who set up Ketch and alt-Charlie into giving up their location. We surely don’t want to be confused, or anything.

Gabriel and Lucifer are told (by Dean) to stay back at the camp in case any angels come by. Because I’m sure they wouldn’t be useful on this raid, or anything, what with having wings. Gabriel tells Lucifer some cold, hard truths about Jack, that “he’s a kid; he likes shiny objects and magic tricks,” but that he is also fundamentally different from Lucifer. Whether it’s his human blood or his human upbringing, Jack is probably already mostly beyond Lucifer’s corruptive influence.

Lucifer insists he’s changed. Gabriel mocks this, pointing out he’s known Lucifer since the world began. Lucifer doesn’t love or feel empathy for anyone. And Chuck didn’t lock him up because Chuck was mean, but because Chuck realized he was a cancer of evil that would spread. Gabriel says that Lucifer was jealous of humans because Chuck loved them more than he loved Lucifer. He says it’s too late for Lucifer to change and he walks away.

Back to the interrogation, in which EVOL!Cas goes on and on and on a lot more about what a stone-cold badass alt-Charlie is, while Felicia Day gives off waves of scared fluffy-bunny vibes. He then basically does the same thing Our!Cas did to the guy back at base camp until the lights go out, and alt-Charlie screams a whole lot.

Damn, if I weren’t recapping this, I’d totally be FFing this whole scene. Well, soldiering through….

So, as EVOL!Cas runs outside to something-something, Jack takes out the guards, while Mary and her sons burst in and kill all the angels guarding the prisoners. Because angels totally can’t fly, anymore – oh, wait. Dean helps Ketch, while Sam helps alt-Charlie. Sam hugs a startled alt-Charlie (who seems none the worse for wear from her torture) and Ketch snarks about Dean saving him instead of the other way round.

Outside, Our!Cas catches up with EVOL!Cas and, after some banter about how they’re the same, dispatches him with an angel blade. Which makes sense in an interdimensional Circle of Life sort of way. I guess.

Back at the camp, Bobby tells the Brothers that everyone voted to go with them (well, wouldn’t you?). Now, the problem is how to get them there. Gee, if only they had some people in their ranks who could fly – YES, I KNOW IT’S A PLOTHOLE, BUT AT LEAST ADDRESS IT, SHOW.

Dean spots a bus at the edge of camp. Even though they have just a few hours left, Dean has it running by daylight. Because of course he does. And they only have half an hour and a half left (based on Lucifer’s seriously inexact estimate), but they can totally drive there in time. What tunnel full of vampires? That was so last episode.

So, Jack decides to waste even more time saying he’s going to go kill alt-Michael and check that off his To Do list, first. Sam and Lucifer talk him out of it. Kid, when the Devil is giving you good advice, you’ve really been heading in the wrong direction.

We then get an extended montage of the caravan driving through the woods because I guess the Nepotism Duo couldn’t stretch the melodrama quite enough to fill the run time (they even waste time on an obnoxious “bitches” line from alt-Charlie before she goes through the rift. So much hate). In the Bunker, an exhausted Rowena is saying a spell that extends the time for the rift to last. People start heading through, though not the people she expects, at first.

Back in the alt-SPNverse, alt-Michael arrives unexpectedly (okay, maybe only because nobody mentioned he might be coming). His landing kills most of the remaining redshirts, including at least one who had lines earlier. Maggie has gone through and a lot of other people. Gabriel decides to stay behind because he’s tired of running and Sam has been pushing Lucifer back. Lucifer fights alt-Michael first and gets his ass kicked. Gabriel tries and gets stabbed to death (though whether this is any more real than last time? Who knows?). Dean is horrified when he sees Gabriel get stabbed, but Sam urges him to go through the rift.

Sam has hung back for a reason. As Lucifer tries to follow him, he shoves him back to the ground, saying “How’d you think this was gonna end?” And then he goes through the rift. Alt-Michael tries to rush after them, but (presumably, after Sam yelled at Rowena to close it on the other side), the rift evaporates. Lucifer is trapped on the other side with alt-Michael.

Welp, that was mighty cold of Sam and I don’t blame him a bit.

At the Bunker, it’s Miller Time, though Jack is sad about . Sam tells Rowena he owes her (and she insists she will “collect”). She regrets not being able to leave the rift open any longer, so I guess Sam didn’t warn her to close it.

Dean mopes to Sam and Castiel about Gabriel’s death. When Castiel asks Dean about Lucifer, Dean calmly replies, “Sam handled it.” Oooh. Ice cold. Not only did Sam intentionally ditch Lucifer on the other side, but he and Dean had planned it beforehand.

Alt-Bobby gives a speech (because we’re still short a few minutes of air time) about their fallen redshirt comrades (who apparently don’t merit names), and how they’re gonna get strong and go back to the alt-SPNverse and kick it in the ass. Then he proposes a toast to the Brothers Winchester.

Too bad that deadline’s about to be rushed. On the other side of the rift, Gabriel is still dead, but Lucifer is alive and telling alt-Michael all about the spell to go through the rift (isn’t it the same one alt-Michael got from Kevin? Pretty sure it is). They make a deal. Lucifer will get his son and alt-Michael will get “everything else.”

Credits

Of course, I’ve already recapped the season finale here.

Alas, this one took me a while (as I said, Nepotism Duo episodes are a bit of a slog), so I’ll have to tackle the season premiere tomorrow evening. I do have it, though, so that shouldn’t be a problem.


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


Review: Supernatural: “Let the Good Times Roll” (13.23 – Season Finale)


We need your help!

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

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle and are currently on sale through this Friday (May 18). The Kindle version is available through Amazon. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Just FYI.


[lots o’ spoilers ahead]


You can find the recap thread for the episode here.

So, it finally happened. Dean Winchester said yes to the Archangel Michael. Well, more accurately, he said yes to an alternate version of Michael from another timeline. Sort of. With conditions. Which alt-Michael totally ignored after agreeing to them. But more on that in a bit. As well as some (hopeful?) predictions for season 14.

There was a lot of crashing-and-burning in this episode, by several characters. The biggest, of course, was Lucifer, whose crash-and-burn couldn’t have been more literal after Dean stabbed him with an archangel blade in the middle of being mega-smote (we always knew Dean was tough, but jeez). Lucifer had been on an extended storyline the past two seasons (post his sorta-reconciliation with Big Daddy) of having his power reduced, being unable to kill either Sam or Dean, being downgraded almost to human, and fathering a Naphil child. The implication from various bits of dialogue between him and the Brothers was that Chuck wanted Lucifer to learn something about the humans he had always so despised.

Well, Lucifer didn’t learn a thing. Or if he did, he threw it all away at the end and chose power. Personally, I was okay with this because I didn’t care much for Lucifer’s redemption tour in the first place. The way he tried to discredit and gaslight Sam, a human being he had cold-bloodedly twisted and tried to destroy for his own purposes since before birth, was just nasty.

Sure, ideally, a character should be dynamic and change and grow, but some characters are defined by their inability to grow, their flat and static nature. If Lucifer, a 14-billion-year-old archangel, hadn’t learned to be selfless and loving by now, it realistically wasn’t going to happen in a few months or a few years, or even a few centuries. As an extremely powerful and protean creature who was older than this universe, Lucifer arguably could change if he wanted to, but he never wanted to. Whenever he claimed to be turning over a new leaf, he was so clearly lying that he could only have fooled someone as young and naïve as his own son, Jack.

It was time for him to go. Permanently.

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Jack, too, had a crash-and-burn, and he, too, fell due to hubris. But unlike his father, who was hubris embodied, Jack had good intentions and found his power a great burden. The road to Hell, as they say, is paved with good intentions. The more he tried to help people, the more he made mistakes that seemed to make things worse, at least to him.

In reality, it was more that the results were mixed. Jack was discovering that it’s much easier to break than to build and that raw power can only do so much, especially if one lacks wisdom. We saw Jack become more and more frustrated in the episode, culminating in his realization that everyone else was right about his bio daddy. Jack then made a critical error and lost all his raw Naphil power to Lucifer in one terrible, game-changing slash of an archangel blade.

But in the tossing back and forth of Jack’s power like a soccer ball, we got to see Lucifer and Jack’s responses to it, and they contrasted sharply. Whereas Lucifer became drunk with power, rose to a great height, and then crashed to his doom, Jack seemed relieved to be shorn of his power.

Jack then made the decision Lucifer should have made, which was to sacrifice himself out of love in hopes of saving Sam and the rest of the world. That he was saved at the last minute (since the writers clearly want to keep him as a regular now) doesn’t change the magnitude of his choice and sacrifice.

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I’m sure that the writers will waffle and drag out the question of whether or not Jack ever gets his power back, but the usual pattern for any recurring-character-not-named-Dean-Winchester (or Sam pre-season six) is that they are never as naturally powerful again as they were early on. They might get some temporary upgrades by stealing someone else’s power, but their own, personal power does not come back. And Dean’s gradual upgrades have been balanced with an expansion of the heavy burden of his Family Business.

I was relieved to see the writers didn’t go the cheap, Kripke-approved route of upgrading Sam for the umpteenth time. Jared Padalecki got some nice opportunities to act this season as Sam slowly (and finally) opened up about how much the mere existence of Lucifer topside again terrified him. Never mind that Sam and his own chronic battles with hubris were the reason for both of Lucifer’s escapes from the Cage. Sam still gets to be afraid of Lucifer and Padalecki ran with it.

Fortunately, the writers forced Sam to be fully human in his final confrontation with Lucifer. That somehow made Sam’s vindication when Lucifer turned out be – yup – evil, after all, that much sweeter.

Sam willingly chose to go with Jack (however impulsive the gesture) when Lucifer kidnapped his kid. Sam then faced off against his former torturer and lifelong nemesis without even the certainty that the immunity Chuck had given him and Dean against Lucifer was still in effect. That, my droogs, takes guts. Sam pretty literally had to face his (almost) worst fear, knowing full well that he didn’t have any power to oppose Lucifer, to save either himself or Jack.

Sam didn’t even think about finding a way to regain his old powers, perhaps knowing they were too corrupting to oppose Lucifer effectively. For once, Sam made it all about the person he was trying to save and not about himself, which actually made Dean’s penultimate insistence on Lucifer’s defeat being a group effort sound fair this time round. That was a huge step forward for Sam. After over a decade of self-absorption and self-pity, Sam became a truly self-sacrificial Hero.

Weirdly enough, not too many fans noticed.

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Dean also fell (both literally and figuratively) into darkness, but Dean’s fall was qualitatively different from that of Lucifer and Jack, which made it even more tragic, if not in the Classical Greek sense that was for Lucifer and Jack. Lucifer and Jack sinned through hubris, with different results. Lucifer flew to a great height and then crashed to earth. Jack was fooled, lost his temper, and lost his powers. Once humbled, he then chose to die for family – his adopted family, not his creepy bio-dad.

Dean’s fall was the saddest because it occurred without hubris. Dean, motivated by desperation and his chronic low self-esteem, finally embraced his destiny and his doom. Some fans fault Dean for this choice, as Dean’s choices always get picked apart and slammed by various quarters of fandom. This is likely fostered by the illusion that Dean had some better choice. Dean is a character who may rail against fate, but in the end, he always plays the hand he’s dealt, the best way he can. But the writers invariably give him the worst possible cards, which invariably forces him into some horrifically self-destructive choice he never in a billion years would have made on his own, if he had any better options.

Of course this is fun to watch, and makes for great drama, which is why the writers keep doing it, but come on, people. Give the guy a break because the writers never do. The only reason he said yes to alt-Michael was because there were no other options at that point except to wait to die along with the rest of the world, knowing Sam and Jack would die (mostly likely horribly) first.

Dean’s self-esteem is low, but it ain’t that low. If he could have found another way (as he did in the red-herring gas station scene early in the episode where he temporarily saved everyone from alt-Michael via a cunning plan and some holy fire), he’d have done so. Having Castiel stand by, wringing his hands over the decision (a one-angel Greek Chorus was basically all Misha Collins got to do this week), didn’t make that decision any less necessary. In the end, Dean made the best bargain he could. That Dean always puts others first, without thinking, is the true superpower he uses to save the world. But that doesn’t mean he loves making those choices. Or that they don’t hurt.

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Though there were a lot of directorial problems with that climactic fight with Lucifer (Bob Singer’s really losing his touch), Jensen Ackles’ acting wasn’t one of those problems. He acted the hell out of it all, from Dean’s bargaining with alt-Michael all the way up through his final scene as alt-Michael. There’s a reason why fans on social media have been screen-capping and giffing the hell out of Dean’s entrance as an archangel (sans the silly Ten Commandments-style music), alt-Michael’s takeover, and alt-Michael at the very end.

But in between the big moments, Ackles keeps it going. After Dean falls to the church floor, he immediately forces himself to get up, jaw set. If you look at Dean in the background as Sam and Jack are investigating to see if Lucifer is really dead, Dean’s shoulders are heaving and he is clearly in distress.

This leads directly into Dean’s valiant effort to make everything okay one last time for his family before he becomes locked in a deadly struggle for control with alt-Michael and has his body taken over. Even the lines of strain as he fights smooth out in that transitional moment when he straightens up, blank-faced, after losing this second, internal battle. This moment is one of the most heartbreaking in 13 seasons of a show that regularly deals in tragedy. Ackles’ portrayal of Dean being taken over by alt-Michael is chilling, a moment of true horror. Even without the gruesome, Leviathan-like sound effects.

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Some fans have asked why Dean didn’t have an exit plan for dealing with alt-Michael after dealing with Lucifer. There’s the point that Dean didn’t have any other “good” choices besides making a deal with alt-Michael at the moment he said yes. But also, if you watch, Dean is still clutching alt-Michael’s archangel blade the entire time after he kills Lucifer. The logical fallback plan would be to stab himself with the archangel blade once he knew Lucifer was truly dead. Since he had an archangel inside him, suicide ought to have done the trick. It takes an archangel to kill an archangel. Nobody said it couldn’t be the same archangel.

So, why didn’t Dean do this? Well, remember that Lucifer had just smote him. No, Lucifer didn’t get the chance to finish the job, but we saw Dean screaming in pain before he stabbed Lucifer, following Sam’s “Wind beneath My Wings” moment of tossing him the archangel blade. Lucifer scrambled his brains pretty good. Lucifer had also just been beating on him and Dean was dazed.

While it’s true that Dean had an archangel inside him, so he could take more damage than usual, he was up against a charged-up fellow archangel, and he was in the driver’s seat. Dean probably took more of a beating than alt-Michael did and was still dazed afterward. That, and reassuring Sam and Jack, distracted him from immediate suicide, and alt-Michael took advantage of that distraction.

But one might ask, why would alt-Michael need Dean to be distracted in the first place in order to take over? Isn’t the archangel, not his vessel, usually the one in charge? Well … not necessarily. And probably not in this case.

Here we are getting into projections and predictions for next season. It’s really important to remember that Dean’s “yes” was conditional, that the dire consequences of breaking deals has been reiterated time and again the past couple of seasons, and that alt-Michael himself used exactly the same words Dean did later in the same episode (“We had a deal!”) to protest Lucifer’s breaking of their pact. Shortly thereafter, Lucifer ended up karmic toast.

It’s not exactly rocket science to think that might be some foreshadowing for how things pan out for alt-Michael’s betrayal of Dean. These writers are not subtle. They also tend to leave big plotholes. We may never find out, for example, why alt-Michael was so enthusiastically determined to beat Dean to death when he already knew Dean was the Michael Sword. That seems counterintuitive, but never mind.

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So, what deal, exactly, did Dean make? It was pretty simple – he would let alt-Michael in and be his “sword” if, and only if, alt-Michael took an extreme backseat and let Dean be in charge. Alt-Michael might be able to advise, but Dean would make all of the decisions.

We know that Dean is under direct watch by a Reaper, Jessica. She can’t interfere, but she can report back to her boss that an interloper from another timeline is curb-stomping Billie’s (and Chuck’s) designated caretaker in this timeline and trying to take it over. We already know that Billie wants to “fix” that kind of bleed and is unlikely to take kindly to alt-Michael’s crossing over to conquer a world not his own.

We also know that Billie!Death firmly believes in honoring deals (on top of rigidly maintaining the Natural Order). She’d be the first to point out to alt-Michael that he had a deal with Dean and the deal means that as long as they share Dean’s body, Dean is the one in charge. It’s a way for the storyline to continue after Dean has regained control over his body, and possibly for Dean keeping alt-Michael as a prisoner inside. Dean could effectively continue being an archangel (the Michael Sword is sentient and runs the show), while being unable to manifest or use those powers most times because then he’d risk losing control to alt-Michael again.

What makes this storyline more possible is that there is the awkward wrinkle that Billie’s not liable to feel very kindly toward the refugees from alt-Michael’s timeline, either. Or Jack. So, that sets up a dilemma for Team Free Will and even Dean (as he fights back against alt-Michael’s possession), because they won’t be quite as eager to accept any help Billie offers – or even contact her – as they might, otherwise.

In addition, the presence of the refugees is likely to complicate any rescue efforts for Dean (and it’s really unlikely that Dean will not survive this storyline. Really). TFW 2.0 will be anxious to save Dean from alt-Michael and expel alt-Michael from Dean’s body without harming Dean (or, at least, I certainly hope they will, but more on that in a moment). The refugees who’ve already suffered under alt-Michael are going to be a lot more sanguine about Dean’s fate. As long as they can take out alt-Michael permanently, they’re liable to see Dean’s death as tragic, but necessary. He made a decision (however much under duress). He alone faces the consequences.

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This will set up direct conflicts between Sam and them, of course, but also Jack and them, and between Mary and alt-Bobby, between whom a romance of sorts has been brewing, especially in this episode. Even Rowena, seeking redemption, is going to want to help save Dean, but alt-Charlie? Not so much.

Let’s say the writers don’t take the obvious and stupid way out, that they really want to drag this storyline on a bit (which, Bob Singer’s past ohgodohgodohgoddeanhasamytharcstorykillitwithfire kneejerk reactions aside, they really should want to do rather than wrap it up quickly and scramble to fill up the rest of the season with … something). A Saving Dean storyline has plenty of inherent conflict. The people who can mostly likely deal with alt-Michael are going to be divided on at least three fronts (TFW 2.0, Billie and her Reapers, and the alt-SPNverse refugees), so there will be some natural infighting there.

Dean himself can be portrayed pretty easily (and inexpensively) in his interior struggle to regain control as trapped in a nightmare version of a concentration camp in the alt-SPNverse. Regardless of whatever happened to alt-Michael’s previous vessel, Christian Keyes could return and play alt-Michael inside Dean’s head, taunting and tormenting him (one possible reason Keyes has suddenly joined the Creation con circuit). That would leave Jensen Ackles off the hook for playing against himself all the time, while also giving him a chance to play alt-Michael in the external SPNverse scenes.

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Dean could, for example, initially “wake” in the season premiere in a grotty cell with his hands cuffed behind his back, dazed and trying to piece things together, while alt-Michael makes plots and comes into conflict with TFW. I’ve seen fans argue that alt-Michael would put Dean in a paradisiacal fantasy world, but that would probably be more expensive to film (when they’ve still got that alt-SPNverse set to use) and wouldn’t fit the horror theme of the show. It’s more likely alt-Michael will torture Dean, however much that might be stupid in light of its giving Dean a reason and a way to fight back. Alt-Michael is sufficiently arrogant that he’d go that route, anyway, so it’s at least in character.

Once Dean remembered what happened, he would have a dilemma – does he try to expel alt-Michael, only for alt-Michael to find another vessel (or return to his old one if the poor guy isn’t already dust) and continue with his plans for multiverse domination? Or does he try to regain control and hold alt-Michael prisoner inside his own body? Or is there a way to toss alt-Michael into the Cage (though that’s been damaged, so it might not work) or even kill him in a way that won’t kill Dean permanently?

Yes, killing himself to kill alt-Michael would certainly occur to Dean, but folks, the show is just not going to let Dean kill himself permanently. So, a Harvey (yep, that’s both a James Stewart/giant pooka/rabbit and a Farscape reference) storyline seems pretty likely after the first few episodes, or maybe even half a season, if we’re lucky.

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The thing I dearly hope will not occur, though, is the writers continuing with their gratuitous Dean abuse. I’m thinking of stuff like “Soul Survivor” in season ten, where we see Sam strap down a very psychotic, demonized Dean in a dungeon, drug him up with consecrated blood against his will, and force him into a semblance of what Sam feels is “appropriate” sanity – and this ugly assault is apparently rewarded and condoned by the writers (the Nepotism Duo in this case. Shocker) by the end of the episode. I’m also thinking of Dean’s lifelong struggle with suicidal ideation. Remember how he outright committed suicide early last season and no one, not even Death, was surprised?

Dean is a popular fantasy character who has struggled for 13 seasons with severe mental illness. Suicidal levels of depression and low self-esteem, occasional bouts of psychosis, alcoholism, self-medicating, self-harm, social and separation anxiety, a total inability to fit in with “normal” society, and (of course) rampant PTSD, he’s got ’em all. Many people in this world look at a fictional character like Dean, who feels their same pain and despair, and take hope from the way he keeps soldiering on and being a Hero, even when he stumbles, even when he just wants to lie down and die.

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But writing a character like that involves taking responsibility for the message one sends. Too often, the show has generated some pretty ugly subtext through the way characters treat Dean and take advantage of him. Just as the writers have not done a particularly stellar job of portraying Sam’s own issues (Sam’s mental illness and addiction storylines seem to exist, going all the way back to Kripke, solely to prop Sam up as the woobiest woobie Hero ever), the way they have portrayed the responses of people around Dean to his mental health issues has been … kinda gross.

This needs to change.

It’s not just that it’s problematical for your lead actors to have launched a mental health charity (Always Keep Fighting) while your show writers continue to treat mental illness as a character flaw when it comes to Dean (talk about undermining your cast).

It’s not even that some fans agree.

It’s bad enough to hear people refer to Dean’s sacrificial act in this episode as a mistake or a flaw, that Dean “gave in” and “let” alt-Michael trick him, that that’s just Dean. That he’s always looking for ways to be self-destructive and that this isn’t heroic at all. An act that would be seen in any other character as putting the needs of literally everyone else over their own selfish survival is perceived in Dean as just another Thursday. As weakness, as not fighting his own darkness hard enough. “Sloppy, needy Dean,” as a demon once put it.

What is worse is to do it now, in the middle of a national debate about suicide, especially in the wake of the recent suicides of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. Over and over, plaintively and sometimes angrily, friends and families of loved ones who have committed suicide, as well as survivors, point out that depression is not a mistake or a lack of moral character. It doesn’t make you weak if you feel despair and cannot see your way out of it.

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Supernatural desperately needs to change its tack on how the characters around Dean respond to his illness. It’s unrealistic for Dean to recover magically from something he’s suffered from all his life. That would be like expecting Tyrion on Game of Thrones to grow six feet tall.

But the writers can certainly change how they have characters respond to it and put Dean on a slow road to some kind of recovery. No more mean-spirited rants like Sam’s at the end of “Metamorphosis” or “The Purge.” No more of characters incessantly choosing anyone else over the needs of their own, clearly traumatized child standing right in front of them (Mary in season 12 and just a few episodes ago, lookin’ at you). No more “beating some sense” into Dean, or expressing how disappointed the character is in Dean for something that is really that character’s fault, the way Castiel has done over and over again.

Look, I get it. Trauma is drama and bad guys are gonna bad-guy. Angels and demons and monsters who resent Sam and Dean getting in the way of their smashing up the joint will always trash-talk the Brothers. No one expects either Lucifer or Michael (any version) to treat Dean (or Sam) well or do anything but tear away at his self-esteem. They’re the villains.

But it’s way past time for Sam and Mary and Castiel to stop disappearing up their own backsides whenever the black water threatens to pull Dean under. And while I appreciate that Jody wants to help and Claire thinks Dean is awesome, damage and all, it’s not helpful to keep ragging on Dean that he needs to treat himself better. He knows that. He just doesn’t have the first clue how to do it.

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Yes, it’s uncomfortable when someone you love seems locked in a death spiral, but the writers could be improving all of their recurring good-guy characters by having them stop projecting all their own crap onto Dean. Look at Jack – he doesn’t do that. He worships Dean. Yet, the show still managed to establish a relationship with interesting conflict between the two of them.

In fact, a Saving Dean storyline, where Dean is absent for a while (unlike Demon!Dean or MoC!Dean, who was basically just Dean with his anger and bloodlust externalized as a magical metaphor), could conceivably give the characters the story space needed to deal with that without trashing Dean even more. Ackles would still be in the story (he’s not going anywhere; he gets to play alt-Michael now), but Dean the character would be elsewhere, fighting a new battle. The other characters would get a chance to truly miss him and fight to get him back in a way that heals him rather than tears him down.

I think this is a really important thing for the writers to put at the top of their checklist this summer. This is a chance for them to change up a tangle of character arcs that has become toxic and unhealthy even to watch. It’s a way for them to truly represent and join the debate on mental illness (a debate in which their cast already has a voice) in a productive way. It’s time to grow up, Supernatural writers. Do it now.

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Fun lines:

Castiel [listening in on a pack of redneck werewolves]: They’re talking about whether Kylie Jenner would make a good mother. The consensus is “no.”
Dean: Yeah, well, that’s why I’m a  Khloé man.

Alt-Michael [being tortured by Jack]: Lucifer, we had a deal!

Lucifer [to everybody]: I’m not currently the bad guy here.

Lucifer [compelled by Jack to tell about Maggie’s murder]: She saw me when I was scouting out the Bunker. She saw me and she screamed. So, I crushed her skull with my bare hands. And it was warm and wet, and I liked it.

Alt-Michael: This is the end … of everything.
Dean: No. What if … what if you had your Sword?
Castiel: Dean, no!
Dean: I am your Sword, your perfect vessel. With me, you’d be stronger than you’ve ever been.
Alt-Michael: Oh, I know what you are.
Dean: If we work together, can we beat Lucifer?
Castiel: Dean!
Dean: Can we?
Alt-Michael: We have a chance.
Castiel: You can’t!
Dean [to Castiel]: Lucifer has Sam. He has Jack! Cas, I don’t have a choice! [to alt-Michael] If we do this, it’s a one-time deal. I’m in charge. You’re the engine, but I’m behind the wheel. Understand?

Jack [to Sam as he’s about to kill himself]: I love you. I love all of you.

Lucifer [to DeanMichael]: You let my brother in.
DeanMichael: Turns out we have something in common. We both want to gut your ass.

Dean [to alt-Michael inside him]: We had a deal!
Alt-Michael [to Dean after taking over]: Thanks for the suit.


Next: I’ll be finishing my live recap of “Funeralia” this week. I’ll try to catch up with the recaps of the rest of the season and do reviews over the rest of the summer.


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The Official Supernatural: “Funeralia” (13.19) Live Recap Thread


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. I’m posting reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my research all month long on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Yes, I know. This recap accidentally got released unfinished into the wild months ago and the season premiere is tonight. Well, I still don’t get the CW live, so I won’t be able to recap the season 14 premiere until tomorrow night. But I can recap the rest of season 13 (since I skipped to the season finale) while Hurricane – pardon me – Tropical Storm Michael bad-touches us here in the Carolinas all night long.

Recap of Rowena and the season so far, sort of. As ghost is my witness, I was surprised to look back and realize that I really did recap the previous episode wherein Colonel Sanders got roasted, ’cause it was that unmemorable.

Cut to Now. Rowena is in Portland, OR when she gets a call from the Brothers and Castiel, asking for help in finding Gabriel. Rowena is a bit distracted (and says so) by doing something she’s pretty sure the Brothers wouldn’t like if they found out about it. Sure enough, she hexes a snotty young woman (with the Latin words “Mors lumine” – “Death from light”) a moment or two later, causing her to burst, screaming, into flame.

Title cards.

Unfortunately for Rowena, as Dean (first over coffee and then the inevitable beer) is trying to brainstorm with Castiel ways to find Gabriel somewhere in the SPNverse without Rowena’s help (and really not liking Castiel’s idea of going to the angels), Sam finds an article about Rowena’s hit on the young woman.

Dean is furious all over again with Sam for giving Rowena the page from the Book of the Damned that freed her powers. Sam admits that it may have been a mistake, but it’s one he will make up for if necessary.

So, off the Brothers go to find Rowena and figure out what the heck is going on. And off Castiel goes to talk to the angels. Much against Dean’s advice, but with his reluctant blessing.

Castiel arrives at the playground/portal to Heaven and finds a very depressed (and trying very hard to get drunk) angel named Indra guarding it. Indra is so down that he can’t even maintain any real hostility toward Castiel and basically asks him to put an angel sword through him. Yikes. When Castiel asks why, Indra tells him to go ahead and have a look in Heaven.

Upstairs, Castiel finds some very empty hallways. Then he encounters Dumah (the angel who had previously tried to entrap him) and two other angels. While they watch him silently, he blurts out his situation and requests help.

Then some unnerving happens. The lights flicker and a sound like an engine faltering hums around them.  When the lights come back up, he asks Duma was just happened. And then she does something even more unnerving. She offers him a truce.

As the Brothers are driving down the road, Dean reminds Sam that while Rowena can be a lot of fun and a useful ally, she also has a very, very dark side. The unspoken addition to that is “just like us.” But the a fundamental difference quickly becomes apparent when Jessica (remember the red-headed Reaper Dean met the last time he killed himself?) appears in the backseat.

She disappears as Dean slams on the brakes, but reappears after he pulls off to the side of the road. At first, Dean doesn’t recognize her, but as they approach her, he realizes who she is.  She says she was assigned by Death Herself to watch them. She also points out something pretty relevant – Dean never told Sam about her.

Jessica has arrived to announce that Death has made available as a “resource” to them. It turns out Rowena is killing people before their time and her body count is up to four (I guess that means the Fates are definitely toast). This is the main difference between the Brothers (well…Dean) and Rowena. They help police the Natural Order and fix it. Well, they do say the best way to catch a thief is to recruit one.

Sam turns her down flat and Dean grumps at him about it. But don’t worry. She’s bound to return.

Meanwhile, Rowena is getting a phone call that she grumps a bit to her bodyguard, Bernard, about, while moping over a framed photo of a young boy. The call is from the Winchesters and she refuses to take it while insisting to Bernard that they won’t be able to stop her since is “capable of anything now.” Her eyes glow violet.

At the gallery, the Brothers are investigating Doomed Teaser Gal’s ash shadow, while Sam hacks into her emails to try to find some clue to Rowena’s motivation. He finds something-kind-of-sort-of useful. It turns out the victim was a CFO of a drug company that mislabeled drugs and killed people. The CFO got off on a technicality.

But why would Rowena have killed someone like that? Dean finds a clue when he notices a faint ash pile behind the CFO’s ashes – and Sam finds a handy-dandy fake-medieval illumination of a Reaper turning into ash.

Dean says he’s got an idea. This involves going outside and sensibly asking Jessica for help. She shows up and, indeed helpfully, infodumps for them (after throwing Sam some well-deserved shade for blowing her off earlier). It turns out Rowena is killing people before their time (but, presumably, only bad people like the CFO) and then killing their Reapers when the Reapers show up. Jessica then infodumps to Sam about how there’s a ripple effect if people die before their time and don’t do things they were supposed to do (Dean knows all of this from “Appointment in Samarra,” since it was the main point of the episode, but stands there and listens as if he’s never heard it before).

If the ripple effect becomes too large, the Reapers have to do a system reset, “like the Black Death. Or a midsized war.” Well, the Black Death was considerably worse than even either of the World Wars, but we’ll let that be. The point is that the consequences of letting Rowena continue to mess with the Natural Order are BAD.

In Heaven, Castiel is standing in an empty anteroom while Heaven powers up and down around him. As he waits…and waits…he gets bored and does bored human things (ah, Castiel, bless yer heart).

Finally, Dumah shows up with the other two angels. She says they’ll be happy help him once he brings Gabriel back to Heaven. Castiel reiterates that he doesn’t have Gabriel, that he’s asking for help in looking for him, and Dumah admits this is a problem. When Castiel starts to get irritated at the delay, someone shows up – someone Castiel (and we) thought long dead. Naomi. Heaven’s lead torturer.

Naomi, like the others, is uncharacteristically subdued and relatively non-hostile. She openly admits that they are not refusing help because they don’t want to help him, but because they can’t.

Back in the car, Sam is saying that Rowena’s intended victims are linked – they all worked for Pirodine, the corrupt pharmaceuticals company. There’s only one left alive – the CEO.

Jessica appears in the backseat again (freaking Dean out) and tells them that the CEO is already bound for Hell, but his death date has changed to right now.

In the CEO’s backyard, he’s bleeding to death from a stab wound from Bernard. Rowena leans over him and tells him he’s got some retribution coming, but that’s not why she’s there. As her eyes glow violet, she looks around and sees Bernard’s Reaper, whom she then torches along with Martin, with the Mors Lumine curse, after the Reaper refuses her demand to summon Death.

At the scene afterward, Jessica tells the Brothers the Reaper’s name was Martin. They get a call from Rowena, who agrees to a chat. As she hangs up and asks Bernard if he’s ready (he cracks his knuckles), the Brothers debate, not over whether it’s a trap (obviously, it is), but what to do about it.

In Heaven, Castiel is meeting with Naomi. It’s not quite as violent and coercive as the last time, so there’s an improvement. But it’s the same old Naomi when she admits they never saw “eye to eye” and Castiel gets pissed. He points out that she tortured him and forced him to kill Dean repeatedly. She also killed a lot of people. “An apology would go a long way,” he notes.

She acknowledges that one would, then doesn’t give it, anyway.

Instead, she gets right down to business, explaining that she didn’t die from Metatron’s drill, but she was badly hurt. She had some of her henchangels put out that she was dead so she could recover and “put my thoughts back in my skull.” She’s not quite back up to speed, but she’s come out of hiding because she has no choice.

She then asks Castiel what “powers” Heaven and he says “angels.” Naomi agrees and talks about each angel being “a walking talking battery.”

Umm…no, Dabb & Co.? Season six made it pretty clear that human (and former human) souls powered the various afterlife realms. That would include Heaven. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense for Castiel to power himself up with souls in the first place.

Anyhoo, Naomi says that there are only nine angels in Heaven (including her and Castiel) and perhaps one or two more down on Earth. She obliquely refers to Lucifer’s attempted reign as a failed plan by the other angels to bring in an archangel for more power (Castiel wouldn’t have known about that side plot). Then she tells Castiel that if the angels burn out (and it eventually will), Heaven will fall apart at the seams and unless over a hundred billion ghosts upon the world.

Now, it would probably be possible to recruit the human souls into saving their own home, but it doesn’t appear to occur to Castiel and it certainly doesn’t appear to Naomi. As subdued as she is, she’s as arrogant as ever. It’s also pretty hard to say how much she is exaggerating or prevaricating about the situation (we know for a fact she’s dancing around the whole Lucifer-in-Heaven thing from a few episodes back).

In a cocktail lounge, Rowena and Bernard meet with the Brothers. They warn her about pissing off Death (though they don’t mention the consequences thing) and she tells them she’s trying to bring back her son, Fergus (AKA  Crowley). The Brothers set her back on her heels with the info Jessica gave them that the only way she ever dies is at Sam’s hands. When Sam tries to put demonic bracelets on her, though, she turns out to be an astra projection (she and Bernard are actually across the room).

Rowena and Bernard then run out the door into a series of hotel rooms, the Brothers in hot pursuit with guns full of witch-killing bullets. Bernard waits in ambush and lets Sam through, but then knocks Dean down. A pretty kick-ass fight between Dean and Bernard ensues. It turns out that Bernard is not being controlled by Rowena. He just thinks she’s hot and likes the potloads of money she’s paying him. So, he’s a psychopath. There’s an amusing bit where the elevator dings, a young couple appear as the doors open, and then the couple just closes the door and goes to a different floor.

Sam catches up with Rowena out in the alleyway and tries to explain (lamely) about the whole ripple effect thing. Rowena just tells him to shoot her. Predictably, that doesn’t work out. When he finally gears himself up to shoot her, she has turned around and she stops the bullet. Then she appears behind him and speaks a spell to put him to sleep.

Upstairs, Jessica appears to Dean and tells him he has to hurry, but says she can’t help him with Bernard because “clean hands” (i.e., no interference). Dean finally chokes Bernard out. As Jessica comments that Bernard is/was “a highly trained operative” and is impressed that Dean got the better of him, Dean rushes out into the alleyway. But Sam is already gone.

Sam wakes up in a chair (yep, kidnapped and tied to a chair again). Rowena uses an elaborate spell to try to kill him, presumably one where it would be very difficult to bring him back, as Sam tries to talk her out of it. Billie (Death) finally appears.

After recognizing her from the season 11 finale, Rowena demands that Billie bring Fergus back or she’ll kill Sam, saying it’s her fault Fergus became Crowley. Billie tells her to go ahead: “I’m not saying any of us will like what happens next, but I don’t do blackmail.”

Rowena appears to start killing a freaked-out Sam again, but instead, turns on Billie a frustrated blast of violet light. It barely ruffles Billie’s hair. As Rowena collapses to the floor, sobbing, Billie tells her that she would have killed Sam once, but now she’s changed. Some things can’t be changed, though, or taken back, and one of those is Fergus/Crowley’s permanent death.

Rowena asks in a hopeful voice whether Death will kill her, at least, but Death says no. She tells Rowena that she already knows her fate (as opposed to Dean who, as he puts it, has “a whole shelf”).

At this point, Dean bursts in with Jessica, bloody and armed. He sees Billie, who greets him and then tells him, “See you soon.” She and Jessica vanish (though presumably, Jessica is still watching them).

At the Heaven gate in the playground, Naomi once again asks Castiel to find Gabriel and bring him back. Castiel insists they will find a way to fix Heaven, but Naomi is not sure it can be fixed. Everything has to end. Yeah, whatever, Naomi. The show’s not going anywhere for a while. Meanwhile, Heaven is closed for business. At least, as far as Castiel getting in. Pretty sure the Reapers are still going back and forth (oh, but wait, have we already forgotten that they’re angels, too, Dabb & Singer?).

In the last scene, Sam asks an exhausted Dean and Rowena if they’re okay. Rowena feels bad for trying to kill Sam. Sam calls her not actually doing it “progress.” Dean calls it a “miracle.” Rowena admits a lot of her Dark Phoenix power has drained, but it’s pointed out to her that she is still the most powerful witch in the world.

The Brothers then lay on her that Lucifer is back. Rowena is pretty upset, but admits that knowing Sam will be the one to kill her, not Lucifer, is rather comforting. Sam says she can change her fate (not really helping, Sam). Rowena wonders if she can be redeemed. She seems quite touched when Dean says he believes she can.

They then ask her for help in finding Gabriel. We end on her pensive face.

Credits.

Hey, did y’all know I have three new kitties from this past summer named Rowena, Pyewacket and Castiel? Castiel just got spayed and she’s currently running around with a Cone of Shame. She looks like Offred from The Handmaid’s Tale.

On to the next one [cracks knuckles]. Yes, I know y’all are watching the season premiere, but I can’t do that until tomorrow, so….


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The Official Supernatural: “ScoobyNatural” (13.16) Live Recap Thread


We need your help!

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

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

In case you’ve been under a rock all day, the show got renewed.

We begin with Dean getting tossed around a shop by a giant, possessed … uh … green dinosaur. Really. We know it’s possessed by something because its eyes keep glowing. Sam jumps into the fray and tackles the dino. As Sam pins it down, Dean pours holy oil on it, then yells at Sam to get out of the way as he tosses a lighter on it. The dinosaur thrashes around, burning, then explodes into a shower of green and white confetti. Just in case you were expecting this to be a serious episode.

As the Brothers get their breath back, the shopkeeper (named Alan) stands up from behind his counter and asks if it’s over. Sam says yes and apologizes for the mess, but Alan heads him off at the guilt pass.

Alan: You guys just took down an evil plushie that was trying to kill me. We’re all good!

Another guy comes in, whom Alan introduces as owning most of the real estate in the general area. The guy is suspicious of the Brothers, but this doesn’t stop Dean from taking Alan up on his offer to give them anything in his store. Dean chooses a large screen color TV, around which he creates a “Dean cave” back at the Bunker, while Sam tries to research how and by what an evil stuff dinosaur could have been possessed.

When Dean shows Sam the Dean Cave, Sam asks how Dean found the time to organize the room. Dean tells him that you just make time, which probably translates to Dean being totally sleepless and wired on something. But let’s not go down that rabbit hole.

When Dean hits the remote on the TV, something strange happens. The same violet light that appeared in the dinosaur’s eyes lights up the TV screen and then flashes out at the Brothers. They disappear …

… and reappear inside a cartoon.

After an initial mutual freak-out, Sam starts to dither a bit more on his own that maybe it’s a dream. Dean slaps him (leaving a literal, if temporary, handprint) and tells him to focus. Sam’s still stuck on whether they’re inside the TV or what. Dean says that maybe it’s an angel thing, or the Trickster.

Sam: But he’s dead.

Dean: Or … is he?

Obvious foreshadowing is obvious.

Dean quickly boils it down to: In order get out, they have to forge on, so when they discover the Impala right next to them (when Sam questions this, Dean suggests it’s because the keys are in his pocket), they get out on the road and drive to the tune of “Dean’s Dirty Organ.”

They soon arrive at a malt shop, which Sam is rather sarcastic about. Dean says they should just pull in, go inside, ask some questions, and get their bearings. But then they see a shocking sight. The Mystery Machine is parked outside. They are inside a Scooby-Doo cartoon.

Cue animated title cards with the title “Scoobynatural.”

[sigh] We’re gonna get a cartoon spin-off now, aren’t we?

The Brothers enter the malt shop and Dean immediately spots the Scooby Gang dancing, while Scooby himself is drinking a series of milkshakes. Dean fanboys, but Sam is more skeptical. Why would Dean care so much? Dean points out that they watched Scooby-Doo their entire childhood. He calls the Scooby Gang “our role models.”

Dean: Just think about it – we do the same thing. We go to spooky places. We solve mysteries. We fight ghosts.

When Sam points out that their ghosts are real and dangerous, and they don’t have a talking dog, Dean compares Castiel to one.

So, the Brothers introduce themselves to the Scooby Gang and try to get through to them that they’re famous. The Scooby Gang respond rather blankly to this, especially Daphne, who acts like a total airhead when Dean hits on her relentlessly right in front of Fred. Actually (spoiler alert), Daphne acts like a total airhead the entire episode and Dean hits on her relentlessly the whole time, and I can’t say I’m wowed by that dynamic at all, even if Dean is up front about his contempt for Fred.

So, the Scoobies are on a case. It seems Scooby-Doo just inherited a fortune from a mysterious Southern colonel (even in a cartoon episode, we just can’t escape the suckage that is Asmodeus). He saved the guy from drowning, but now the Colonel is dead and they’re off to visit his creepy old house. The Scooby Gang senses a mystery.

When Sam grumbles a bit too loudly about this, Dean pulls him aside for a much-needed attitude-adjustment chat. Sam complains that the cartoon world they’re in is so shallow that there isn’t even any print in the newspaper article about the Colonel’s death. Dean reminds him that the last time they ended up inside a TV (“Changing Channels”), they had to play along until they could get back out. So, he’s playing along. Sam reluctantly comes with as Dean easily weasels his way into riding with the Scoobies. But not before some road food involving Shaggy, Scooby – and Dean – eating their signature absolutely enormous sandwiches. Reportedly, this was Jensen Ackles’ favorite bit to voice in the episode.

Outside, Dean challenges Fred to a drag race, which (alas) the Mystery Machine easily wins when Fred beats Dean on the draw. Sam asks Dean why he hates Fred so much and Dean’s response boils down to “He’s perfect.” Oh, Dean.

Sam: Let it go, dude.

Dean [after a moment of apparent defeat]: NO.

At the creepy old mansion, Dean realizes they’re in the episode, “A Night of Fright Is No Delight.” This is a real episode, btw, from season one.

At the reading of the will (which is on a vinyl record), the Colonel tells his various heirs that each one will inherit a million dollars, but only if they can stay the night at his mansion. If any of them leaves, their share will go to the others who don’t. There’s one catch – the house is haunted. The startles Sam and frightens Scooby.

Sam complains that the conditions are ridiculous and can’t possibly be legal, causing Velma to tell him that ghosts don’t exist and these kinds of situations happen all the time. Sam starts to blurt out that sure, they happen inside a cartoon, but Dean stops him. Dean tells Sam that the Scooby Gang are “pure and good,” and the Brothers aren’t going to blow that for them by messing with their minds by telling them they’re inside a cartoon.

Sam grumbles that Dean just wants to get with Daphne. He has a point (Dean’s obsession with Daphne is pretty messed up), but so does Dean. There really isn’t any positive or beneficial point to destroying the Scooby Gang’s sense of their own reality, any more than Sam and Dean can just skip to the end of the story. After all the fantasy worlds they’ve been in, Sam should know that by now, but maybe Dean’s just more of a veteran of this multiple-worlds deal.

The lawyer, Cosgood, tells them he’ll be back in the morning and leaves with a creepy laugh. Dean tells Sam Cosgood is the bad guy of the episode. Sam rolls his eyes. If they watched Scooby-Doo their entire childhoods, shouldn’t Sam have a good chance of remembering this episode, too?

Anyhoo, one of the side characters (an heir) suggests they all turn in at 10pm, which gives Dean the chance to creep on Daphne some more. Sadly, she notes that “girls and boys don’t sleep together” and goes off to sleep with Velma. In the same bed. Oh, the possibilities. But since it’s written by two straight guys who totally didn’t see the #Metoo movement coming, that doesn’t go anywhere.

Dean and Sam have to sleep in the same room as Fred and Scooby (not sure where Shaggy is). As usual, Dean finds perks to their current situation. He loves wearing a nightshirt. Sam is in pajamas. So is Fred.

Meanwhile, the girls are talking about the Brothers. Daphne likes them and Velma thinks Dean is okay, but thinks Sam is an idiot for believing in ghosts. Daphne calls her on this, pointing out that Sam is just Velma’s type, and Velma blushes.

Meanwhile, what looks like a ghost is roaming the halls, cackling. One of the heirs is brushing his teeth when the lights flicker and his breath fogs up. He turns around to see the ghost, which goes after him with a knife while flaring pink light.

Meanwhile, Sam is complaining about Dean eating another sandwich while the others sleep. Dean uses his knowledge of the episode to note that in a minute or so, someone will go missing and “the Scoobies are gonna think that it’s a ghost. But really, it’s the lawyer, Cosgood Creeps, in disguise.” At that moment, they hear a scream. “Toldja,” Dean says.

Everyone runs toward the room from which emit the screams (note: The animation for this episode is better than the rather bare-bones animation of the original; Hanna-Barbera wasn’t known for sparing no expense). Inside the heir’s room, Daphne finds a body soaked in blood. Dean is confused, saying the “dummy bodies don’t show up until later,” but when Sam pulls off the blanket, the heir is really dead, stabbed to death. The Scooby Gang is shocked.

Fred utters the classic Scooby phrase: “Well, gang, it looks like we got another mystery on our hands.” The Brothers are flabbergasted at how cold-blooded the Scooby Gang is about the murder, as the Scoobies stroll off to look for clues, utterly unconcerned by what they’ve just seen.

Dean is confused, saying that nobody ever dies in Scooby-Doo. Sam worries that if the rules have changed so much that a character has died, they can, too. Dean is more worried about Scooby dying: “I’d take a bullet for that dog.”

In the drawing room, Shaggy and Scooby are frightened by the possibility that ghosts really exist, while Fred and Velma pooh-pooh the idea. But as Velma is taking a page from Sherlock Holmes, a creepy figure creeps past the window behind her. The Brothers get into position to ambush it as it opens the window, but Fred grabs it first, throwing it to the ground wrapped in a curtain. When Dean yanks off the curtain, it’s … Castiel.

Startled, the Brothers help him up and Dean introduces him to the Scooby-Gang. Shaggy and Scooby come right up to welcome him, prompting Castiel to note that Scooby talks. Apparently, the show writers forgot that Castiel can talk to animals and doesn’t find it strange in the least.

Dean asks Castiel how he got into the cartoon. There’s a flashback of Castiel returning from Syria with “fruit from the tree of life.” He recounts an amusing tale of killing most of the djinn who were guarding it, before striking up a bargain with the survivors and accidentally marrying their queen.

He entered the room where the cursed TV was, saw the Brothers starting their drag race with the Mystery Machine, saw pink and purple sparks, and was dragged into the cartoon. There’s previously been a creepy figure as the Impala roared away in the drag race. It turns out that was Castiel.

As the Brothers bring Castiel up to speed, Velma listens in, then mocks Sam for his belief in ghosts. Gotta say that even for simplistic cartoon characters, the Scooby Gang are annoyingly broad here, with the exception of Shaggy and Scooby, who are criminally underused so far. The voicework for them is great, though.

Suddenly, there’s a distant roar, the lights flicker, and the room turns cold, scaring Shaggy and Scooby. Cue a montage of lit lamps and flashlights, and ghost hands on window glass, as everyone investigates. The Brothers hear a side character getting sliced and diced inside a room, and investigate. But all the doors in the very long hallway slam shut and when Sam reaches for a doorknob, a ghostly hand slaps his flashlight aside.

Then the ghost makes its appearance. Shaggy and Scooby jump into each other’s and then Castiel’s arms. Fred tackles the ghost twice, which doesn’t help when the ghost disappears into the wall. The Brothers duck. There’s some discussion from Velma about how this couldn’t possibly be a ghost, then they all open the door to the room and find a side character ripped apart inside, with half of him tied to the ceiling. Dean nearly throws up. The Scooby Gang walks off, totally unfazed.

Sam asks Dean if the Scooby Gang is always this cold-blooded about dead bodies, but Dean is more concerned about the obvious signs of a real haunting. He thinks the cartoon itself is haunted.

Back downstairs, Fred’s plan is for everyone to split up and “go looking for clues.” The Brothers and Castiel think this is a terrible idea and Sam tries to tell the Scooby Gang that he and Dean can’t protect them if they do that. Velma calls Sam “chicken.”

They compromise on Dean going with Daphne (and, unwillingly, Fred), Velma off with Sam, and Castiel guarding Shaggy and Scooby. Up in the attic, Velma both insults and hits on Sam something heavy. Sam tries to give her The Talk, but Velma will have none of it, not even when they find a chest of possessed toys, covered with ectoplasm, that attack them and drive them out of the attic.

[will finish this tomorrow night]

[Back. Sorry, but I just got 12 trees from the Arbor Day Foundation and the only time I have to plant them as they merrily sprout from twigs is after I get home at dusk. It’s been kind of a busy week.]

Anyhoo, in the library, Dean is hitting on Daphne again and asking her what she likes in a man. She says the usual and then adds “an ascot,” which leaves Dean rather taken aback. Not lovin’ this subplot at all, but I do like when Dean notices a book standing out from the bookshelf (all the other books are painted on the background) and calls this to the attention of Daphne and Fred, who are dismissive about it, at least until a trapdoor appears underneath them and throws them down a long, twisty shaft to a cellar. There, in the dark, Dean thinks he’s talking to Daphne, but it turns out to be the ghost, who chases them.

But then, the ghost is also stalking Scooby, Shaggy and Castiel upstairs. And while I don’t mind at all that Castiel is in this story, why have Scooby and Shaggy been relegated to comic relief with Castiel when Scooby’s the actual star of the show? Why all the focus on Fred, Daphne and Velma, who are boring twits because they are the straight-man supporting characters? There’s not enough Scooby and Shaggy in this episode.

Scooby and Shaggy are frightened by the ghost and run from him. Castiel isn’t, at first, but when Scooby and Shaggy grab him, he’s suddenly telling them to run (cartoon logic, I tell ya).

Cue the classic Scooby-Doo theme song (finally), which involves lots of the old running-around gag (Scrappy-Doo even pops up during a run down the hallway through different doors, though the gag is mercifully brief), and Dean alternately protecting and hitting on a clueless Daphne. Think she’s more in danger from him than from the ghost, though she’s kinda into it toward the end of the montage.

The song ends with their boarding up all the doors and tumbling back into the drawing room. But the ghost busts through and tosses the Scooby Gang all over the place. Poor Shaggy even gets defenestrated, though Scooby goes after him and Castiel saves them both. Sam grabs some iron candlesticks, and he and Dean drive off the ghost.

Fred gets a bloody nose and Shaggy breaks his arm, which shocks the Scoobies to no end. Sam’s suggestion to Dean that they give the Scoobies The Talk backfires as the Scoobies totally freak out and turn on each other (Shaggy is especially bitter). Dean is forced to give them a rousing pep talk about how they are “heroes” and have beaten many a bad guy before. They can do this.

They’re game, but Velma points out that the Scoobies know nothing about real ghosts. Sam says that’s okay. And he and Dean show them the Impala’s trunk. Dean is a little horrified, saying giving salt guns and other such weapons to the Scoobies is a “Scooby-don’t.” But Fred finally wins Dean’s admiration when he says that “we have to do something” and that they can help.

Putting a hand on Fred’s shoulder and swearing for only the second time in the episode (at least in the cartoon world,” Dean says, “You’re fucking right you can.”

Cue Fred setting an elaborate, Goldbergian trap in the drawing room. The trap doesn’t quite work as planned. When Scooby, Shaggy and Castiel act as bait, they get the ghost after them, but accidentally get stuck in the trap. But Dean has a Plan B (“Fred’s plans never work”), which involves the ghost chasing the other Scoobies before being distracted by a book-pelting Scooby, who weighs the ghost down with some books and sends it down the trap door.

The ghost finds itself trapped inside a line of salt (there’s a neat effect of the barrier as it thrashes around inside it that the show usually can’t afford to do). After the Brothers and Castiel inform it that it’s trapped, it finally reveals its true form and identity. It’s a little boy. His soul was attached to a pocketknife, which the creepy neighbor guy of the pawn shop owner got hold of. The guy has been using it to force everyone in the area to sell their shops to him for cheap. That’s why he owns almost everything there. It’s why he compelled the ghost to attack Alan, the pawn shop owner, with the green Barney dinosaur plushie.

The ghost is happy to send them back to the real world after they promise to release it once they get there. But first, Dean asks a favor of it. The Scooby Gang is totally freaked out, so the ghost pretends to be Cosgood and the Scooby Gang reveal him. Castiel heals Shaggy on the sly, Velma acts all smug and then kisses Sam, and Dean says a goodbye to Daphne that she promptly forgets as she runs after Fred and the others leave. Then the ghost reappears, and the Brothers and Castiel are sent back to the real world.

At this point, even Sam is willing to admit that they just had a “cool” experience. Dean agrees, though much more enthusiastically, but quickly gets back down to business. He goes out and returns with a blowtorch and a sledgehammer. Smashing the TV, he finds the pocketknife. The little boy ghost reappears and asks if he will be with his beloved father now. The Brothers are gentle with him as Sam torches the pocketknife. The little boy’s ghost disappears in a puff of white light and smoke up to Heaven.

At the shop, Alan is about to sign away his business to Creepy Real Estate Guy (Jay). Fortunately, the Brothers show up with Castiel, Dean wearing an ascot. Sam and Castiel lay out the plan – he used the ghost to scare off all the local business people so he could buy up their property cheap. CREG tries to claim they can’t prove anything about a ghost. Sam agrees, which is why they hacked his accounts and found out he doesn’t pay his taxes.

As they watch him get put into the car, Sam realizes, “Velma was right. It was a shady real estate developer, after all.”

CREG [as he’s being put in the car]: It’s not fair! I’d have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those meddling kids! [since when are Dean and Sam still kids? Let alone Castiel?]

Dean: [gasp!] He said it! He said the line! [looks straight at the camera] Scooby-Dooby-Doooooooo! [Sam and Castiel walk away in disgust]

Castiel: Dean, you’re not a talking dog.

Credits are in a different font this week and there’s a new theme song.


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Whispers, Spoilers & Speculation Corner: 01/18/18


Happy New Year Everyone!


We need your help!

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

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The print version is also up, though the cover’s needing a little tweaking right now. I’ll be putting up corrections for the cover in the next day or so. Everything else looks good.

You can also check out my latest anthology story, “Light a Candle, Curse the Darkness,” in Arkham Detective Agency: A Lovecraftian-Noir Tribute to C.J. Henderson.

Heather will be on hiatus for a bit. We’ll let you know when she comes back.

You can access previous spoilers columns at Innsmouth Free Press here.


Supernatural (Thursday nights, 8pm, CW)
By Paula R. Stiles

Check out my Patreon page. Help me keep this column going, pay Heather, and help me do my Supernatural reviews.

My reviews of “The Big Empty” (13.04) and “Advanced Thanatology” (13.05) are now up. My review for “Tombstone” (13.06) will be up tonight. My live recap for episode 13.09 is also up.

The show is back tonight from Christmas hiatus at 8pm with the backdoor pilot “Wayward Sisters” (13.10). I will live-recap it tomorrow night here and on Wayward Children.

Season 13 titles so far: “Lost and Found” (13.01), synopsis and photos, promo, preview, sneak peeks, and Shaving People, Punting Things, as well as live recap and review; “The Rising Son” (13.02) synopsis and photos and promo; “Patience” (the first spinoff set-up episode) (13.03) synopsis; “The Big Empty” (13.04) synopsis, promo and official photos; “Advanced Thanatology” (13.05) synopsis, photos and promo; “Tombstone” (13.06) synopsis, promo and photos; “War of the Worlds” (13.07) synopsis photos, sneak peek and promo; “The Scorpion and the Frog” (13.08) synopsis, photos, promo and sneak peek; “The Bad Place” (13.09) (airing December 7) synopsis, photos, sneak peeks and promo; Christmas Break; “Wayward Sisters” (13.10, backdoor pilot for the spinoff, airs January 18), synopsis, photos, sneak peeks, featurette, interviews and promos, second promo and related tweets; “Breakdown” (13.11) synopsis and photos, this is supposed to be Donna-heavy; “Various & Sundry Villains” (13.12) (previously called “The Midnight Train” and originally, the title was “Stakes on a Train”) synopsis, Rowena returns; “Devil’s Bargain” (13.13), written by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, introducing Danneel Ackles as a faith healer named Sister Jo who is blackmailed by Lucifer, set photos here; “Only the Best Intentions” (13.14) Jack, alt-Michael, alt-Bobby and Mary all return; “A Most Holy Man” (13.15); “ScoobyNatural” (13.16, cartoon episode, appears in March), “The Thing” (13.17); “Bring ’em Back Alive” (13.18).

Rowena’s return has been confirmed and it sounds as though she won’t be dead, after all. The synopsis for 13.12 is up:

“Various & Sundry Villains” – (8:00-9:00 p.m. ET) (Content Rating TBD) (HDTV)

THE WITCH IS BACK – Dean (Jensen Ackles) falls victim to a couple of witches, sisters Jamie (guest star Jordan Clair Robbins) and Jennie Plum (guest star Elise Gatien), who manage to steal a powerful book of spells from the Winchester brothers. When Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean go after the book, they get help from a powerful and surprising ally when Rowena (guest star Ruth Connell), back from the dead, intervenes to assist them. Amanda Tapping directed the episode written by Steve Yockey (#1312). Original airdate 2/1/2018.

Episode 13.11 (“Breakdown”) has promotional photos up.

The “Wayward Sisters” (13.10) episode has three sneak peaks and a featurette out. Kim Rhodes also did a new interview with Variety.

The show is heading to Paleyfest for the first time in years. They’ll appear at 6:45pm on March 20.

The CW’s midseason promo is up. If you blink, you’ll miss Sam and Dean at 0:10-12.

Warner Bros has announced details about the upcoming Wayward Sisters spin-off. As we already know, it will star Kim Rhodes (Jody Mills) and the rumor that Briana Buckmaster (Donna Hanscum) is in it was confirmed. Also starring will be Kathryn Newton (Claire Novak) and Alex Jones (Katherine Ramdeen), as well as new character Patience Turner (played by Clark Backo). Another new character, Kaia (Yadira Guevar-Prip), has been added to the main cast list. Kaia’s “gift” will be the ability to spirit travel.

The spin-off premise and new characters has been introduced via several episodes in season 13. Patience will be introduced in “Patience” (13.03), which also brings back season one character Missouri Moseley (who is Patience’s estranged grandmother and from whom Patience has inherited her psychic gift). The actual backdoor pilot will be “Wayward Sisters” (13.10). Donna will also get a major episode in “Breakdown” (13.11).

Star Kim Rhodes told EW that there’s a good in-SPNverse reason why the show will be set in a single location (Sioux Falls) instead of moving around. Rhymes with “Hellmouth,” I’ll bet. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion it’s to do with the rip between universes in that crappy old boat from 12.09.

There’s a new promo out for the spin-off that’s Claire-centric.

Season 12 is out on Amazon.

The count for Supernatural calendars for 2018 is now five: a charity calendar called If I Could Tell You: The Women of Supernatural that is sadly no longer available, two large calendars out on July 1, one mini calendar on September 1, and a Creation Entertainment calendar that came out on December 1 (also no longer available).

The show is currently averaging a 0.6 in the demo, putting it second on the network and even with last season. Between this and the resurgence of Riverdale, the CW is the only broadcast network that has not dropped in average demo since last season.

The show had a repeat last week that came in at 0.2/1 in the demo (0.246 in the unrounded overnights) and 1.03 million in audience in the overnights. It was preempted by holiday programming during Christmas week.


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Review: Supernatural: “Advanced Thanatology” (13.05)


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[lots o’ spoilers ahead]


Imagine that you live like a mayfly, growing up in a violent life where people die young and nasty, repeatedly told you are nothing but a blunt tool in the service of other, better folk. Expecting to go out bloody and savage at a young age, unmourned, forgotten almost as soon as you die. Expecting … hoping at some point … that at least it won’t last forever and someday, very soon, you will find peace, even if it’s the peace of oblivion. You are surrounded by people who do all sorts of horrific things to live another day, but you? You’re ready to go pretty much any time.

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Now imagine that you are suddenly faced with being dragged, kicking and screaming, out of obscurity, held up into the light, made the light, the barrier, the firewall between Light and Dark, Firewall with a capital ‘F.’ And you start to realize, as you cheat – no, are cheated of – death over and over that your life may eventually end bloody, but it’s going to be a long time. Maybe even geologically speaking. Even to the point where you could outlive the angels, and certainly the demons, you previously thought immortal. That you are too important to die, that you have been given what you’ve seen so many others commit murder, betrayal and far worse to gain just a taste of.

And you even begin to suspect, after so many years of neglect and abuse, that the universe didn’t do this to hurt you. It did it out of love, this making you immortal. And not just immortal – eternal.

Imagine this new truth is dropped on you like a neutron bomb a moment after you thought you’d finally discovered the perfect way to commit suicide.

You wouldn’t feel blessed. You’d feel cursed. You’d feel like Dean Winchester near the end of this episode.

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I’m not sure yet if this is a top favorite, but I think I can consider “Advanced Thanatology” a favorite of the episodes so far this season and a genuinely entertaining, thought-provoking, re-watchable one. The episode does a very good job of staying on topic in terms of its central concept. There is Dean, who is profoundly, fundamentally, clinically depressed, trying to party his depression away. There is a young boy Dean tries to save who is snatched from life young and terrified. As in season one’s “Faith,” Dean tries to switch places with the boy, but is simply told that’s not the way things are. Dean’s life is important. The boy’s is just done. There is the loss of his devoted, down-to-earth mother (movingly played by Alisen Down, who was also in season eight’s “Trial and Error”). There is the sinister creepiness of the insane doctor, evoking pretty heavily both Dean’s fears about shrinks last week and the mad scientist doc of season one’s “Asylum.”

I think that’s what makes this central conflict so complex. It’s not just a case of a person who is not allowed to die, or who has become immortal and bored with it. It’s a case of someone who lives in a universe where life is short and hard, a prize taken away before anyone has had enough of it. This person assumes, especially since he is not important enough for second chances or extensions, that his life will be especially short and hard. As Dean puts it this week, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t matter.”

And then, like some lost scion of royalty in a fairy tale, this person is raised from the gutter of human life, by beings who represent eternal concepts, and given a place on Mount Olympus, in the ninth sphere of Paradise, the Empyrean, and told that he can’t die because he is far, far too important to die. Without him, the universe would be toast. And to emphasize this (perhaps just to placate him and give him motivation to continue on), they include his beloved brother in the blessing, a brother for whom he would (and has) died. And then they even bring back his best friend.

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This is not a curse, to be singled out, spotlighted, in such a way. It just feels like one to Dean Winchester. Since the climactic scene with Billie is from Dean’s POV, it does indeed seem as though she is cruel in dangling the possibility of death – of many deaths – in front of him, before snatching it away. It’s subtle, but if you mind the signs in the story, especially when Dean glances up after Billie mentions the “shelf” of his deaths (a clever and evocative image of a very esoteric concept), that entire library of Ws is devoted just to him. In addition, two of the “deaths” Billie mentions have already happened to him or been avoided, and the third is in the very next episode. It begs the question of whether, depending on Dean’s choices, any of these deaths will ever prove truly final.

One macabrely amusing moment is when Jessica the panicked red-headed Reaper enters the W archive and blurts out, “Dean Winchester is in the Veil!” Clearly, this is a DEFCON-1 moment for Reapers at this point. Dean has become such an accomplished shaman and psychopomp (not to mention slayer of Reapers and other angels) that not only does he treat his spirit walk as an ordinary event, but his mere presence in their realm terrifies Reapers. Hence the phrase, “advanced thanatology.” It’s also notable that we will soon see that there are people who dreamwalk between worlds pretty often, yet the only time Death gets concerned is when Dean Winchester does it.

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Back when I was about twenty, I read a book called Once a Warrior King by David Donovan. It’s a memoir by a young first lieutenant who served as an advisor in a remote part of Vietnam during the War. Through an unfortunate and unforeseeable sequence of events, Donovan abruptly found himself the highest political authority in that area, with the power of life and death over everyone there. People bowed to him, fought him, admired him and reviled him as if he were the most important person in that region. He discovered that unlike many of his comrades, his job involved as much the impossible task of helping the people he served and improving their lives in a war zone as it did blowing up the enemy.

Around the time I read the book, I was elected to the captain’s position on a college rescue squad that was the second busiest ambulance squad in the state. I found myself going to EMS meetings where I represented the emergency care options of 14,000 people in five towns, as well as transport for a regional neonatal care unit. ER directors twice my age, sometimes grudgingly, treated me as an equal. It was a shock to the system. As one alumnus member bluntly told me, I had wanted a grownup’s job, so it was time to grow up and do it.

A few years later, when I was in Peace Corps in Cameroon, one of my farmers came to me one day and asked if I would intercede for him in a local dispute to our village’s de facto “mayor,” as I was his “patron.” I agreed, though I didn’t think my influence would do much good. To my surprise, the mayor greeted me warmly and readily agreed to my farmer’s request. I had lived in Boubara for a year and a half at that point, and had somehow remained blissfully aware until then that not only was I fairly high up in the village, but I was apparently among the top four officials out of six thousand people.

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Were these revelations ego boosts? To a certain extent, though I always felt they were undeserved ones. The position atop a pyramid feels pretty precarious. As far as I was concerned, the position, not the person, was important. Leadership is ultimately about service. If you’re all about the gold crown, you’re missing the point.

These roles also came with huge responsibilities and major real-world consequences, for many people, if/when I screwed up – and I worried a lot about screwing up. I made fully as many enemies as I did friends, simply as a matter of course. They, too, came with the job. I’m sure not everyone I knew during that time think I served well. I’d like to think that some people did, though.

C.S. Lewis puts it brilliantly in his fifth Narnia book, The Horse and His Boy:

For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.

Dean has always been acutely aware of the rough side of this equation. He’s taken many blows and won many enemies in his determination to hold by his unique motto: “Saving people, Hunting things: The Family Business.” What he has not understood up to this point is why the fact he came up with that idea makes him more than a rather filthy-minded footsoldier in the endless war between Light and Dark.

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I think that Billie is trying to make a point. And as reluctant as he still is to acknowledge that, I think Dean is finally beginning to understand what she means, what Chuck meant, what Amara meant. Jensen Ackles does a really nice job with this as he deadpans a polite “Hmm” every so often as Billie drops bomb after mindblowing bomb of cosmic revelation about his position in the SPNverse. Dean no longer bows to Death. These two are now equals, bargaining with almost amiable hostility over the fate of a hundred souls. It’s even possible that Death now bows to Dean, or soon will.

I’ll admit it. I like Billie. I just thought her previous motivation made her look stupid and petty. So, I was happy to see her promotion rectified that. She’s a worthy successor to the previous Death.

Problem is, Dean is still human and that kind of thing will break your mind. He’s not all right at the end (“I’m pretty far from okay”), by any means, but he does now have the tools to keep going once he sees Castiel at the phone booth, an embodiment of at least one of his prayers answered against all odds. What shape he’ll be in for the rest of the season is a whole other story.

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Sam’s had a fair amount of growth in the past few seasons, so it’s interesting to see how he fields what is basically part two (after this week) of trying to talk his brother off the ledge. His performance on that score last week was less than edifying. Not only did he try to bully Dean into group therapy, but he did so on a highly risky case when the two of them needed to be at their most alert and clear-headed. That case turned out to involve an MOTW that has done Dean considerable psychological and social damage in the past. And on top of that, Sam insisted on bringing Jack along. Not his finest hour. This week, he seems to be trying reverse psychology by indulging all of Dean’s favorite quirks, including his paranoia about crazy shrinks, though Dean sees him coming a mile away.

The episode doesn’t spell it out, but it’s gotta hurt Sam’s heart just a little when he hears Dean parrot back to him the cruel speech he served Dean at the end of “The Purge” years ago, about how Dean thought he was doing good, helping, making a difference, but really wasn’t. We see Sam grimace when Dean echoes this speech, clearly having taken it to heart and been wounded near to death with the slow-acting poison of it.

Sam can try to make up for all this with two-word apologies like “I’m sorry” (season four) and “I lied” (season nine), or more elaborate groveling like his speech about trusting the LoL in the penultimate (I don’t care what J2 say about that word; I love using it – penultimate, penultimate, penultimate) episode of last season. It won’t change the fact that more often over the years, he has spoken venom and anger, sometimes even hate, and that his brother is more emotionally primed to register abuse, anyway.

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While the sequence of Sam pampering/kissing up to Dean is amusing (and Dean passed out on the floor with his tie on his head and a big, pink bra around his neck is a hoot), I’m not sure Sam even knows what to do to make it up to his brother, let alone help Dean heal and become well. It’s a long, uphill battle, to be sure, and it is by no means all Sam’s fault that Dean is this way. John (and Mary’s death, it must be said) had a big hand in it, as well as all the self-inflicted wounds Dean has incurred along the way. It’s certainly going to take a lot more than “bullets, bacon and booze,” even “a lot of booze,” for Dean to pull out of this flat spin.

Admittedly, Sam does have a point about Dean’s “bossiness.” For all his poor self-esteem, Dean has frequently stepped into the role of King with effortless grace and arrogance, literally as if he were born to it. This is played for laughs for a bit in this episode with lines like “What happened to you being nice to me?” and “You are forgiven.” And when Dean is well, relatively speaking, it’s a constitutional monarchy with all of TFW getting a say.

But when things get ugly, shit goes down, and Dean’s mental health goes to a dark, dark place, it becomes, as he himself puts it in season nine, “not a democracy. This is a dictatorship.” And that’s when Dean makes unilateral decisions, such as killing himself to make a spirit walk from which he does not intend to return, simply to rescue Sam from a few angry ghosts that the two of them could probably banish a different way. At those times, Dean’s recklessness (“insouciance” as 2014!Apocalypse Castiel once put it) tips over into self-destructive and suicidal behavior that needs, at the very least, a gentle restraining hand on the arm, as Jody did to Dean in “Patience.”

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Finally, this was a properly satisfying MOTW this week. I’m glad the show is once again remembering that it’s supposed to be horror, not paranormal romance. Yeah, it went off into mytharc in the third act, but the first two acts did have a real Hunt that was actively resolved.

That doctor was extremely creepy (notice how he simply tosses Sam aside and goes after Dean, his preferred type of victim?). As unsympathetic as I found Evan (Doomed Teaser Kid), who was composed of unadulterated idiot, I found his death properly chilling. In fact, all of the scenes in the haunted house (a series of sets the show has used many times before, with all sorts of different lighting) were straight-up horror, no chaser, and the twist of the angry, confused ghosts coming after the Brothers after the doc was ganked was disturbing, regardless of our knowing the Brothers would (somehow) get out of it alive.

Shawn’s fate was also horrific and sad. He and Evan didn’t intend to trespass on such deadly territory, but then, innocence and ignorance are not always an effective defense against the dark. His poor mother is left with her lifelong grief, (undeserved) guilt, lots of questions and a dead body, with “closure” being a mocking concept, all underscored by a classic Steppenwolf song about second chances. Shawn and Evan’s slightly wiser friend Mike will live on, also plagued with guilt he doesn’t deserve.
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The drill evokes trepanning (on top of lobotomy), a brutally ancient way to deal with both head trauma and depression. The plague masks were also a nice twist. The episode does mention their origin, though some more elaboration seems in order. The bird-like plague mask in the episode dates in design at least to the 17th century (medical historians consider it an early kind of HAZMAT suit), but was intended to deal with a much-older problem – the Black Death, which has tormented Eurasia and North Africa periodically since the 14th century. The Black Death had such a high body count and was so traumatic for the cultures who suffered under it that it contributes elements to most of our horror tales today.

The Black Death tended to kill off medical personnel from physicians to nuns and monks at a much higher rate than the population they treated, which was equally demoralizing for the healers and the patients. The masks were intended to protect physicians from the plague (though their historical efficacy is a matter of great debate), but they also tended to scare the hell out of the patients. It’s probably not much of a surprise that the horrific bird-demons of Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights bear a striking resemblance to these later plague masks.

In this MOTW’s case, the crazy doctor also appears to use the mask to highlight his evil intentions and hide his identity, much like the killers in slasher flicks like Friday the 13th, Halloween and My Bloody Valentine. It’s pretty effective in making what was once a human (and is still a human soul) seem eerily inhuman and alien. All in all, an effective recycling of concepts (like the house full of captive ghosts from season seven’s “Of Grave Importance” or the sinister ghost shrink from “Asylum”) from both greater and lesser episodes.


Next: Tombstone: A puzzling case with ties to the Old West gives Dean a chance to indulge his Inner Texas Ranger.


You can find my live recap of “Advanced Thanatology” here.


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Whispers, Spoilers & Speculation Corner: 01/08/18: The New Year’s Edition


Happy New Year Everyone!


We need your help!

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

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The print version is also up, though the cover’s needing a little tweaking right now. I’ll be putting up corrections for the cover in the next day or so. Everything else looks good.

You can also check out my latest anthology story, “Light a Candle, Curse the Darkness,” in Arkham Detective Agency: A Lovecraftian-Noir Tribute to C.J. Henderson.

Heather will be on hiatus for a bit. We’ll let you know when she comes back.

You can access previous spoilers columns at Innsmouth Free Press here.


Supernatural (Thursday nights, 8pm, CW)
By Paula R. Stiles

Apologies for the delay, but there was basically nothing on the spoilers chart to report until late this past week. Now, with the new year, we’re cranking things back up.

Check out my Patreon page. Help me keep this column going, pay Heather, and help me do my Supernatural reviews.

My reviews of “The Rising Son” (13.02) and “Patience” (13.03) are now up, with more to come. My live recap for episode 13.09 is also up.

The show will return from Christmas hiatus on January 18.

Season 13 titles so far: “Lost and Found” (13.01), synopsis and photos, promo, preview, sneak peeks, and Shaving People, Punting Things, as well as live recap and review; “The Rising Son” (13.02) synopsis and photos and promo; “Patience” (the first spinoff set-up episode) (13.03) synopsis; “The Big Empty” (13.04) synopsis, promo and official photos; “Advanced Thanatology” (13.05) synopsis, photos and promo; “Tombstone” (13.06) synopsis, promo and photos; “War of the Worlds” (13.07) synopsis photos, sneak peek and promo; “The Scorpion and the Frog” (13.08) synopsis, photos, promo and sneak peek; “The Bad Place” (13.09) (airing December 7) synopsis, photos, sneak peeks and promo; Christmas Break; “Wayward Sisters” (13.10, backdoor pilot for the spinoff, airs January 18), synopsis, photos, interviews and first promo, second promo and related tweets; “Breakdown” (13.11) synopsis, this is supposed to be Donna-heavy; “Various & Sundry Villains” (13.12) (previously called “The Midnight Train” and originally, the title was “Stakes on a Train”) Rowena returns; “Devil’s Bargain” (13.13), written by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, introducing Danneel Ackles as a faith healer named Sister Jo who is blackmailed by Lucifer, set photos here; “Only the Best Intentions” (13.14) Jack, alt-Michael, alt-Bobby and Mary all return; “A Most Holy Man” (13.15); “ScoobyNatural” (13.16, cartoon episode, appears in March), “The Thing” (13.17); “Bring ’em Back Alive” (13.18).

The debate about what Donna-centric episode 13.11 will be called and what it’s about has been resolved. The synopsis is up:

SUPERNATURAL
“Breakdown” – (8:00-9:00 p.m. ET) (Content Rating TBD) (HDTV)

TIME TO RETURN THE FAVOR – Donna (guest star Briana Buckmaster) calls Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) for help after her niece, Wendy (guest star Sarah Dugdale), goes missing. The three hunters discover Wendy was kidnapped by a man who sells human parts to monsters in a grotesque online auction and race to save her before it is too late. Amyn Kaderali directed the episode written by Davy Perez (#1311). Original airdate 1/25/2018.

Alexander Calvert gave an interview to Elle in which he talked about the fandom’s reaction to him, convention life, and the Instagram account he and his girlfriend have up for his very fluffy and adorable cat, The Lord Tyrion.

Set info is coming out about episode 13.14 (“Only the Best Intentions”), which began filming on January 2. Christian Keys (alt-Michael) tweeted a photo of himself with Calvert as they went back to filming in the new year (Calvert also tweeted about filming in a forest). This indicates alt-Michael and Jack will be in 13.14 and interacting in the same scene. It appears that alt-Bobby will also be in this episode, since Jim Beaver tweeted a first-look selfie the next day and mentioned filming with Samantha Smith (Mary) in mud (reportedly in Belcarra Park in Port Moody). She responded in the same thread by showing her alt-verse costume on the floor. Hmmm, could it be our alt-world cast are now in the SPNverse as of 13.14? Or in the Bad Place? Or do they get back in this episode, since there’s filming in the quarry that’s the alt-verse set this week?

Danneel and her husband will be opening up their new brewery, The Family Business, for … uh … business in Dripping Springs, TX on my birthday. And I’ll be stuck up here. Oh, well.

CW head Mark Pedowitz has re-upped his contract with the network. He also issued his annual “This show isn’t going anywhere until the leads hang it up” announcement. While he was cagey in a recent interview about making it official (because they’re not ready to announce show renewals), it’s highly doubtful the show won’t get a 14th season – and a full one, at that – unless Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles don’t want to return.

Supernatural alumnus Sterling K. Brown (Gordon Walker) won a Golden Globe award this week for best actor in his latest role in series This Is Us. He’d previously won an Emmy last fall for the same role.

Richard Speight Jr. has a new interview out about directing the show.

Warner Bros has announced details about the upcoming Wayward Sisters spin-off. As we already know, it will star Kim Rhodes (Jody Mills) and the rumor that Briana Buckmaster (Donna Hanscum) is in it was confirmed. Also starring will be Kathryn Newton (Claire Novak) and Alex Jones (Katherine Ramdeen), as well as new lead character Patience Turner (played by Clark Backo). Another new character, Kaia (Yadira Guevar-Prip), has been added to the main cast list. Kaia’s “gift” will be the ability to spirit travel.

The spin-off premise and new characters will be introduced via several episodes in season 13. Patience will be introduced in “Patience” (13.03), which also brings back season one character Missouri Moseley (who is Patience’s estranged grandmother and from whom Patience has inherited her psychic gift). The actual backdoor pilot will be “Wayward Sisters” (13.10).

Star Kim Rhodes told EW that there’s a good in-SPNverse reason why the show will be set in a single location (Sioux Falls) instead of moving around. Rhymes with “Hellmouth,” I’ll bet. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion it’s to do with the rip between universes in that crappy old boat from 12.09.

There’s a new promo out for the spin-off that’s Claire-centric.

Season 12 is out on Amazon.

The count for Supernatural calendars for 2018 is now five: a charity calendar called If I Could Tell You: The Women of Supernatural that is sadly no longer available, two large calendars out on July 1, one mini calendar on September 1, and a Creation Entertainment calendar that came out on December 1 (also no longer available).

The show is currently averaging a 0.6 in the demo, putting it second on the network and even with last season. Between this and the resurgence of Riverdale, the CW is the only broadcast network that has not dropped in average demo since last season.

The show had a repeat last week that came in at 0.2/1 in the demo (0.246 in the unrounded overnights) and 1.03 million in audience in the overnights. It was preempted by holiday programming during Christmas week.


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Review: Supernatural: “The Rising Son” (13.02)


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Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. Want more of my recaps and reviews? Check out The Supernatural Codex: Season 1, out on Kindle and in print.


[lots o’ spoilers ahead]


I have a confession to make – yes, I was very busy this past fall, but the main reason I have been putting off reviewing this episode is that it was boring. Very, very boring. And on top of the previous episode (the season premiere, no less), I just couldn’t hack rewatching boring one more time, at least for a while.

Well, I’ve rewatched it now, so let’s buckle down and get to it. I’d like to review everything for this season up to this point before the show returns on January 18.

This was not a good episode. If anything, it was worse than the previous week, a bit like the Nepotism Duo’s take on the same themes Dabb had introduced. Yikes.

The pacing dragged and there was an endless amount of infodumpy dialogue that damned near put me to sleep. When one of the most intriguing parts is a scene you never got to see (Dean hallucinating sheep on the road), there’s a problem.

As usual with these two writers, the episode was overstuffed with characters and ideas, none of them developed beyond the thinnest of surface levels. Questionable racial overtones popped up in the one loyal demon having an African American host and acting in a servile manner (as if the writers watched Get Out and completely missed the point of the film) toward the new YED, but also in giving alt-Michael an African-American vessel. I’m all for diversity, but someone clearly didn’t think through the Unfortunate Implications involved in that casting (coughJefferson and Sally Hemingscoughcough) or just plain forgot all about the Very Important Bloodlines storyline from the first five seasons. And I don’t mean that terrible backdoor pilot.

Someone in the comments here (I think it was Eva) suggested that alt-Michael is using one of alt-Raphael’s vessels, which would be cool, if true. I doubt these writers are that subtle, but it would be fun if alt-Michael isn’t really alt-Michael but alt-Raphael or even an angel who got souped up the way Godstiel did. That would actually make him look pretty clever and devious. This storyline desperately needs some kind of twist. After all, if alt-Michael is looking for archangel grace (oops, that’s a bit later on), why not hunt down alt-Gabriel or bring in alt-Raphael? Where are they?

I also was suspicious of Lucifer not recognizing alt-Michael (or the angel squad not recognizing Lucifer). Angels and archangels are supposed to be able to recognize each other, just as angels and demons can see true demon faces. Being in an alternate timeline shouldn’t change that. But the writing was so messy that it was really hard to tell if this was a red herring or just a plothole.

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I wanted to be impressed by alt-Michael, but something was off with him. Granted, the clumsy fist-fight between archangels didn’t help with either his or Lucifer’s gravitas. Who even thought that was a good idea? But I dunno. He just felt one-dimensional.

Speaking of archangels, what was up with Lucifer wandering around barren dunes with Mary in tow, complaining that she couldn’t keep up? He’s an angel. He still has wings. He can pick her up and fly all over the world multiple times in an eyeblink. I get that he was trying to stay under the radar a bit, but come on. Even that didn’t work out for him, or Mary.

I can’t even with what they did to poor Mary. She encounters a single human, who happens to be a male Hunter, who claims wimminfolk can’t be Hunters and he hasn’t seen a woman in who knows when. So, what does he immediately try to do? Rape her at gunpoint. And is she able to defend herself, this woman who was actually doing just fine on her own against all sorts of humans and creatures all last year? Nope. She needs Lucifer to come in and save the day by … punching the guy through the torso from behind. Eugh. I can’t believe this script was half-written by a woman.

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But hey, this is also a script that demands Dean get yet another kickass fight in which he senses the demon behind him, thrashes it good and hard, but can’t land the final blow, so he needs to get saved by Sam who … stabs the demon from behind. I sense a theme.

Look, I get it. Jared Padalecki is in his thirties now and has suffered some pretty brutal injuries on set over the years. I don’t blame him for wanting to dial it back on the stunts. But the way the writers are choosing to write around this is not cutting it. Sam needs to be doing his own stuff, not stealing Dean’s wins at the last minute. Not even Dean getting the next demon with the thrown angel sword made that less annoying. It’s bad writing. Give Sam fights (or other important work) Padalecki can do without hurting himself. Leave Dean’s fights alone.

There’s this general trend of obviousness and over-explaining in the episode of things that need a little mystery, while enormous plotholes are left alone, reminiscent of other winners from this duo like the best-forgotten Ghost!Bobby-centric episode, “Of Grave Importance.” For example, why are we suddenly shown a demon like Asmodeus teleporting away, when before, a demon would just walk out of frame or smoke off whenever other characters turned their backs? Why are we now shown archangels, who can fly at the speed of light (or faster), as slow-arcing fireballs, when showing the look on the face of a human, and putting the sound of wings on the soundtrack as an angel flew off, was effective enough?

What’s with the stupid fistfight between two beings who can incinerate half the planet between them? We suddenly have the budget to show angels flying and demons teleporting, but we don’t have any money left over for some decent FX and fight choreography between two archangels?

I suppose we have to talk about the new YED, AKA the latest attempt to spit on both Azazel and Crowley’s memories with the fans simultaneously. Even Dean calls Asmodeus Colonel Sanders a few episodes later, but the fandom was way ahead of him.

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Asmodeus (and, for that matter, Lucifer) is an obvious attempt to replace the departed Crowley. Now mind you, lots of characters have come and gone on this show. It is on its 13th season, after all. And I get that some sort of bad blood behind the scenes precipitated Crowley’s abrupt departure and Mark Sheppard’s absence from this past season’s gag reel. The character had been around a long time, probably well past his sell-by date. As I’d been telling people for years, he was as expendable as the rest of the supporting cast (except for Castiel because they already tried writing him out and it didn’t go well).

But the way they wrote him out and then completely ignored the character came off as simultaneously clumsy and mean-spirited. He had a lot of fans, Show. Respect that.

Adding to this, Asmodeus plain sucks as a character, let alone a major villain. He’s one-note and that one note grates. His powers don’t make sense. His motivation doesn’t make sense (I get he’s pretending to be Lucifer’s lackey to gain power and rule Hell, but why raise the Shedim?). And he lacks charm. Plus, constantly having him played by other actors reduces the audience investment in the main actor (Jeffrey Vincent Parise) and his performance. It’s a thankless task, poor guy.

The worst part is that if they hadn’t killed Crowley off, he’d be doing what Asmodeus is currently doing. Hell, he already did that poisonous father figure storyline twice – once with Kevin and once with Amara. Mark Sheppard even claimed at a con that Dabb had wanted to get rid of Crowley for a while, presumably because the character was played out, yet here we have a brand-new character and he’s got the same old tired storyline. He’s so freakin’ one-dimensional that he twirls (well … strokes) his mustache. I mean, come on.

Not to mention, what’s the deal with trying to spy on the Brothers by impersonating (not even possessing) other people? Why then leave just two demons from Central Casting to deal with the Brothers when it’s later shown he could just choke them out? Why would he even think Jack already had some kind of emotional connection to Team Free Will? It all makes him look weak and stupid, to the point where Sam has to be written like an idiot to build up this new baddie. Dean, at least, doesn’t trust the overly friendly bartender, even if he never finds out about her human doppleganger’s murder.

No wonder this new YED/Princes of Hell storyline doesn’t work (in stark contrast to the Knights of Hell/Mark of Cain plot, which did). The original YED, Azazel, was largely an unknown. He was creepy, unique, mysterious, fanatical. Even after we learned his agenda, we never learned much about him. He never lost his mystery.

The new YEDs are painfully overexplained, with too much Tell and not much Show. Why are we shown Asmodeus with shapeshifting powers and scars on his host body? Why would a demon even need shapeshifting powers when it can possess someone at will (so why cut the bartender’s throat or impersonate a Prophet when you can possess them?). How the hell does a creature consisting of black smoke manifest scars on the human it’s possessing? Speaking of which, why are the allegedly demonic Shedim solid monsters? Folks, that stuff belongs on the Makes No Sense shelf, not in an episode. It adds nothing to the show and contradicts previous canon.

And what’s the deal with the Shedim, who are about as scary as Care Bears? Why not – oh, I dunno – rewatch “Shadow” from season one and bring back the Daevas? They were scary. Ah, but that would involve having to set that very stupid scene in the middle of some random field in anything but broad, freakin’ daylight. Because nothing says “scary,” especially on this show, like making it look as though Keith Szarabajka’s about to race through the fields shouting, “If you dig it, they will come!”

Speaking of Szarabajka, while I’m thrilled to have him back (love me some 80s Equalizer nostalgia), what the hell was going on with Donatello? I can sort of see Dean not really reacting to Donatello’s revelation that Amara sucked out his soul a year past. As Sam points out to Jack, Dean’s not firing on all cylinders mentally right now. Already emotionally overloaded, he may just be rolling with the idea that if Donatello’s okay with his current situation, and isn’t hurting anyone (the Mr. Rogers reference), then that situation’s dealt with for the moment. Triage and all that.

Also, Dean is feeling lost after Chuck apparently ignored his prayer and has never felt comfortable with using his relationship with Amara, who is every bit as volatile and unpredictable as he is. He’s not likely to call on her if Chuck didn’t answer, even if it’s entirely possible she’d be more likely to show up.

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But what’s going on with Sam? Sam’s had no soul in the past. He knows what it’s like. It’s always bothered him, seeing other people without souls. Yet here he is, shrugging off Donatello’s lack of soul as if it’s not a big deal. What do they mostly talk about when Sam is fooled by the fake “Donatello” (Asmodeus in disguise)? Jack, of course. Yet, Sam never twigs that maybe this obsession with Jack and his burgeoning superpowers is just a tad odd for a man who has no one else to talk with about the fact that he’s missing his soul, especially the only two people who might be able to help him get it back (not like Amara would miss it).

It’s funny that I’ve been seeing all these complaints about Dean being “mean” and “whiny” and cruel to puir Jack, but nothing about how Sam is way too calm about all this. In fact, I’m not terribly surprised that Jack is choosing to look up to Dean. Dean’s the only one being honest with him. It’s also possible that Jack imprinted on Dean a bit via his imprinting on Castiel (who is obsessed with Dean). Weirdly enough, Jack may only really feel safe with Dean. Look at how Dean was the only one who noticed he was repeatedly stabbing himself. Jack is desperately seeking boundaries, control, over his powers (not really to expand them) and only Dean offers those boundaries.

Dean’s promise at the end of the episode probably was intended to be reassuring on some level. It was exactly the promise Dean was begging to exact from Sam and Castiel when he had the MoC. Jack may be in a similar position (losing control to darkness and not wanting to hurt innocents, but also unable to die), so Dean offers him the only reassurance he thinks would be helpful. If Jack does go dark (as he fears), Dean will be the one who takes care of it. If Jack doesn’t go dark, well, Dean’s not going to let anyone else kill Jack but himself. So, if Jack turns out to be good, Dean’s got his back.

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This is, of course, leaving aside all the stuff about how this is a perfectly natural reaction from Dean, and completely in character. Why wouldn’t Dean feel this way? From his perspective, Jack had a direct hand in Kelly and Castiel basically marching to their deaths (Jack may not have meant to, but they were definitely brainwashed to some extent). Jack also created the rift that took away or helped destroy Mary, Castiel and Crowley. Everything Dean has heard that’s remotely reliable indicates Jack will be a willing tool of his father, Lucifer, in wrecking the world (again), since that’s what he was created to be. Why wouldn’t Dean want to destroy Jack?

Dean’s grief-fueled madness, and Sam’s reaction to it, is also problematic for Sam’s characterization. Sam “reassures” Jack in an avuncular tone that Dean just has his wires crossed and doesn’t really want to kill Jack. Um … first of all, it’s painfully obvious that killing Jack is precisely what Dean does want to do, considering that’s the first action he goes for after his prayer to Chuck apparently fails. If Jack weren’t covered with thick plot armor – sorry, invulnerable to angel blades – he’d be dead, already.

Second, the way Sam frames it, in an almost jovial voice, makes it clear that if it comes down to Dean or Jack, Jack’s screwed as far as Sam is concerned. He won’t protect Jack if it really comes to it.

Now, Jack’s just a baby. How else can he be anything but freaked out by that lack of reassurance? No wonder he clings to Dean’s brutal honesty. At least, if he can win Dean’s affection and loyalty, he’ll know it’s real.

In fact, Sam sounds indistinguishable in his “concern” for Jack from Asmodeus or the angels. He only seems to want Jack around for Jack’s powers (showing a lot of rather creepy interest in them) and what those powers can do for him and Dean.

The thing is that Alexander Calvert (Jack) actually has a reasonably high amount of chemistry with both Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. Their characters’ adoption of Jack and attempts to raise Jack work because there’s actual affection there. That kind of chemistry doesn’t just happen, so I can see why the show would want to keep him around.

Alas, as a written character, Jack is a hot mess and he’s not fitting into the storyline at all well. He’s ridiculously overpowered and in his current state is an obvious deus ex machina. Adding to the suspension-of-disbelief carnage, convenient new powers pop up every week, aiding the writers a little too much in getting out of self-inflicted plot corners, to the point of making the situation a whole lot less scary than it could be. They need to power him down. They also need to play out this Lucifer baby-daddy-from-Hell storyline and move on.

The only actually interesting thing about the writing for this kid is that the Brothers are trying to raise him. Dean’s had parenting experience. Sam has almost none. So, it makes sense Sam is only able to relate to Jack as the young man he appears to be, whereas Dean understands better that Jack is just a baby. A super-powered baby, but still … just a child. Who needs a lot of guidance.

I can understand giving him a bit of power so he has enough plot armor to survive around the Brothers (unlike poor Kevin), but he’s got way too much right now and it kills the story tension. I mean, come on, that Impala ride to the rescue in Act Four was painfully slow. And I get that Jack is young, but the ruse to get him to let the Shedim out was so obvious it made him look stupid. Let’s stop doing that, Show.

One thing I will say is that the season began to improve considerably after this episode. “Rising Son” even looks a bit better in retrospect, mainly because some storylines that seemed to be going in a really annoying direction (and probably would have in earlier seasons) progressed or resolved better after this episode than I expected. But that doesn’t actually make it a good episode in its own right.

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Next: Patience: We probably didn’t need Missouri Moseley to return at this point. But she does, in an episode that introduces one of the last two main characters for the upcoming spin-off, Wayward Sisters.


You can find my live recap of “Rising Son” here.


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