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


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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: “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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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]


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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[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.


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


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


I’ll also be simul-recapping on Wayward Children.

So, let’s get started. Keeping my expectations low, since it’s the Nepotism Duo, we’ve got Colonel Sanders again, and the episode got a series low of 0.3/1 and 1.21 million. And yeah, Arrow did even worse, and it was Thanksgiving, and they were also up against football, but still. It’s not as though fandom is identifying this as a lost masterpiece, either.

Recap of Lucifer getting owned by Mary and alt-Michael, Asmodeus’ extremely tedious search for Jack, and Jack’s stupid decision at the end of last week.

Cut to Lucifer in prison, whinging a lot more (this time to alt-Michael) about Chuck. Turns out alt-Michael can interrogate Lucifer and also torture him. Which he does. Whatever. This show sure loves its torture scenes.

Cue title cards.

Cue the sneak peek, where Dean asks Sam about his search for Jack and Sam infodumps that Jack has vanished. Castiel comes in and says he must go find him and he’s got a contact to see if Jack has been captured by anyone naughty. When Dean offers to come along, Castiel basically admits his contact is an angel, so that’s a no-go. Dean then tells Castiel not to do anything stupid, which pretty much guarantees Castiel will end up doing something spectacularly stupid. It’s almost as if I’ve been watching this show for over a decade now.

In the midst of this, Dean decides to check out a case of witches being ritually murdered. Because reasons.

Cut to Asmodeus. All I can say is I hope this scene will be very short.

Anyhoo, Colonel Sanders is calling psychically to Jack, with no success. A demon interrupts him to say they can’t find Jack, either, and they have a “Hunter on the payroll” (really? Only one? The Nep Duo sure forget canon awful fast), who says the Brothers don’t have him, either. CS whines a bit about how Jack can hide when he has so much power (it’s because he’s a walking plot device, dummy). Lots of whining in this episode.

Cut to the alt-world, where alt-Michael is apparently dissatisfied with the barren rock he’s turned Earth into, even though that was the whole plan in the first place. Welp, color me confused on that one.

So, he interrogates Lucifer a bit about our “nicer” planet, which he wants to visit and rule (and, presumably, ruin, too) and then he calls in alt-Kevin (yes, Kevin’s alive in this reality). Kevin has found a spell in the Angel Tablets (there was only one Angel Tablet, you morons) to cross over to other realities, but it requires archangel grace. So, of course Michael takes some of Lucifer’s. Because that’s  a thing now.

Not at all impressed by alt-Michael so far and this entire alternate realities storyline continues to be a hot, hot mess.

Back to the Brothers (finally), who are on the dead witch case. Dean has already figured it’s not Hunters. Sam has found some CCTV footage near the time when the last witch was kidnapped and killed, and Dean spots someone on the monitor who looks familiar – it’s Ketch. With a beard.

CW, you need to just go away with these endless Riverdale ads. They actually make me want to watch that show even less.

While the Brothers argue (in broad daylight) over how Ketch can be alive and why he would be killing witches, they’re approached by a woman named Daniela, who is a witch and (obviously) knows who they are. Sam is actually handed the Idiot Ball long enough to ask how she knows. Sam, come on, really?

Anyhoo, she figures they may not like witches, but they do help people and boy, does she need help.

Back in Stupid Alt-World, Kevin is cooking up the crossover spell, while Lucifer and his guards look on. Lucifer actually tries to talk Kevin out of it by saying it’s evil. Alt-Kevin, to his credit, calls Lucifer out on the hypocrisy of that, but then kinda spoils it by saying alt-Michael will take him to “Paradise World.”

So, anyhoo, the spell works fine, but it only works for one person (as alt-Kevin tells alt-Michael after Lucifer breaks free and escapes through it). Alt-Michael tells Kevin to fix it. Also, Mary is apparently still trapped there. Yay.

Lucifer lands back in our world, but he’s mistaken for a crazy homeless person because he now has no powers.

If you think that’s excruciatingly lame, wait until you check out the next scene where Colonel Sanders is interrogating a motel clerk who had the misfortune of checking in the Brothers and Jack one day recently, then senses something. He says it’s not Jack, so it must be Lucifer’s return through the portal.

Lord, this episode is really quite bad.

Cut to a creepy house in the middle of the woods, a “safe house” where Daniela has taken the Brothers. She shows them scars and says she was caught by the “serial killer” who has been hunting witches. Sam gets her to identify Ketch as the one. She says she managed to get free and disable him temporarily with a spell.

Sam asks her what Ketch wanted. She says he’s looking for Rowena. Dean notes that Rowena is dead. Daniela agrees and says that’s what everyone is telling Ketch, hence the trail of bodies.

Daniela is fearful and says she wants to hide until it’s all over. Instead, Dean suggests they use her as bait.

Later that night, she’s sitting at a table, playing Tarot cards, when she hears a noise and then a smoke bomb crashes through the grate and she passes out. A figure in a gas mask bursts in and shoots up the place, but as he turns around, he gets dart-gunned by Dean. The Brothers come in from outside. As Sam helps Daniela out the door, Dean pulls off the intruder’s mask. Yup. It’s Ketch.

I don’t really see the point of having killed off a bunch of characters last season, only to bring them back. And I sure didn’t miss Ketch.

As Dean interrogates him, Ketch claims not to be Ketch. He doesn’t have his old tattoo and he claims he’d never get one. I roll my eyes pretty hard. Please tell me, Show, that you’re not going to dumb down the Brothers so much that they buy this even a little.

At least somewhat to their credit, they laugh outright at Ketch’s claim that his name is Alexander and they’ve mistaken him for his psycho brother Arthur (how this is supposed to explain his attempt on Daniela’s life I really don’t know).

Anyhoo, Ketch claims he chickened out of the LoL “initiation” and ran off to become a Hunter-for-hire. He’s just killing witches because they’re bad and doesn’t really have a good reason for looking up Rowena except that she’s a witch.

It’s like these two writers don’t even try, anymore. If they ever did.

So, Sam finds a paper trail that looks pretty convincing, but then, the Brothers have pretty convincing paper trails, too. Dean is unconvinced. The writers get in a little dig at the Brothers being *really* stupid by having Sam say they dumped the body rather than burned it (which would make it very hard for him to resurrect). They would never just dump the body. They *always* salt and burn.

Anyhoo, Dean is not buying it at all. I’m so proud of you, Dean.

Ketch continues to work on Sam, who is the one who is buying this a tiny bit. Sam says some nasty things about “Arthur,” which provokes “Alexander” to defend “Arthur.” Uh-huh. Sure, Ketch.

Via his Alexander persona, Ketch claims to “regret” some of what he did to the Winchester family. He’s lucky he’s talking to Sam. Dean wouldn’t care.

Meanwhile, Castiel is meeting with his contact, Duma, who predictably betrays him to the other angels. Seems they have this daft plan to capture Jack and force him to make new angels, since none have been made “since the dawn of time.” Yeah, let’s totally forget that bit where Castiel is only about half a billion years old.

Anyhoo, there’s a fight and it’s broken up by Lucifer. Lucifer does red-glowy eyes and the angels flee before they see that Lucifer doesn’t have his full powers.

After exchanging Cliff’s Notes on why each is not dead/in another dimension, Lucifer forestalls Castiel stabbing him by explaining that WE ARE ALL IN DANGER. AND IT’S NOT ME THIS TIME.

Over beers in a bar (I’m not kidding; that’s the least-daft thing about this whole episode), Lucifer explains that alt-Michael is much more powerful than his brother in this reality. Which makes no sense, but whatever. Lucifer wants Castiel to help him find Jack so they can form their own version of TFW and kick alt-Michael’s ass when he comes through the portal (which, if course, he will, because why waste any time on introducing him, otherwise?). Personally, I remain quite salty about what this show has done to this reality’s Michael, but there you go.

Castiel, to his credit, is totally unimpressed and pretty hung up on the part where Lucifer killed him the last time they met. They trade a few insults and Lucifer tries to schmooze Castiel. He keeps banging away at how God is not there.

Castiel insists he has to talk to Sam and Dean. Lucifer says they’d just put him back in the Cage. Castiel points out that’s exactly what he wants, too. Lucifer finally clues in that Castiel doesn’t know where Jack is.

Back at the Bunker, Dean gets a call from a contact he made (the motel manager whose clerk Asmodeus just wasted). He puts two-and-two together, especially since Asmodeus was stupid enough to show up personally at the motel, and comes up with Asmodeus looking for Jack.

Meanwhile, Sam is letting Ketch wander around the Bunker in manacles. Because Sam really is written that dumb this week.

Ketch keeps up with the charade. Dean doesn’t buy it. Ketch unwisely asks about Mary, but Dean refuses to give him any info.

He gets a call from Castiel, but Castiel is caught by Lucifer, who walks off with Castiel’s phone. Dean realizes something odd is going on and heads off with Sam to meet up with Castiel. Dean is unhappy about the idea of leaving Ketch locked up in the Bunker.

At the bar, Lucifer is having a hissy-fit once Castiel brings him up to speed. All he cares about is whether or not Jack is powerful, and he assumes that Jack tortured the Winchesters.

Before Castiel can set him straight, Asmodeus and his crew show up. Bleah. I am so over this guy. He just needs to die. Also, I really, really hate his henchdemons.

Lucifer insults Colonel Sanders. Asmodeus instead decides to defy Lucifer and does so successfully. I roll my eyes really hard.

The Brothers enter the bar, only to find it empty and dark. The bartender has been smoked by Asmodeus, so he can’t help.

Fortunately, Asmodeus has left behind his henchdemons to take out the Winchesters, so there’s a fight (where, it must be said because there’s an important plot point here, Dean does better than Sam). One demon is about to take out Sam when Ketch shows up and kills her, while Dean takes out his last demon.

Sam is actually dumb enough to ask how Ketch got out. Dean isn’t as dumb as Sam, though, and pulls a gun on Ketch, having finally found the evidence he needs to confirm it’s really him.

Ketch admits that the whole “twin brother” thing is just his cover. He’s on the run from the LoL as a deserter and works on the downlow as a sort of enforcer in the magical world. Sam asks how he’s alive and he says Rowena was captured by the LoL once and he helped her escape in exchange for her giving him the same charm she used to resurrect. After Dean tells him Lucifer killed her (and Ketch acts skeptical), he admits that he has to recharge the “device” and tries to snow Dean a bit, which Dean doesn’t buy.

Ketch: Did it ever occur to you, Dean, that I might actually be one of the good guys?

Dean: No. Not even once.

When Ketch realizes Dean is going to kill him – again – he throws down a smoke bomb and flees, but not before Dean gets a shot at him and wounds him.

Later, Dean gets a call from “Castiel,” who claims everything is fine on his end, now. But of course it’s Asmodeus. Asmodeus then monologues to Ketch (who is working for him) that he’s keeping Lucifer and Castiel on tap for now, and that he needs “that nephilim” if he’s going to beat alt-Michael. Ketch replies, “You really needn’t worry.” Yeah, this show really didn’t need this character back and it sure as hell doesn’t need Asmodeus. What a way to reduce the impact of the original YED.

Credits.


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Recap and Review: Supernatural 12.10: Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets


By Paula R. Stiles


[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]


Tagline: Castiel’s past comes back to haunt him in the form of a vengeful woman and the sinister angel comrade who made her that way.


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Recap: Quick recap of Dean’s early relationship with Castiel and the boring Lucifer “baby mama drama” (as Dean puts it in the following episode episode). Can Kelly Kline please ride off with her hellspawn pregnancy to the Island of Forgotten Guest Characters and Dropped Plots?

Cut to Now and a striking African American woman playing a video game at a bar. The bartender notes that she does this every night and it’s closing time. She ignores him. He also notes that she beats the game every night and doesn’t have to. She ignores him.

A redhead in an eyepatch shows up and is a total bitch to the first woman. She refuses to get out of her way. When the first woman uses angel powers on her, the redhead calls her “Benjamin” and is unaffected. A brief fight ensues (excuse me if I don’t buy that any ordinary human, using the power of her soul or not, would have much of a chance a chance against even a de-winged angel). Benjamin gets beaten and calls for help, with the redhead encouraging her to do. We see three other angels, one of them Castiel in the Bunker, hearing it. The redhead says, “I’ve waited so long” and then stabs Benjamin to death. White light comes out and the redhead leaves.

Title cards.

Cut to Dean looking at a board in the Bunker, trying to figure out where Lucifer’s boring baby mama scampered off to. Sam comes in with coffee. It turns out Castiel set up the board. Dean is not thrilled that Castiel lost Baby Mama Kelly and wonders how she could have gone to ground the way she did (seeing as how she’s carrying a creature that every angel can sense for hundreds of miles). Sam then changes the subject to whether or not Dean has heard from Mary. Dean says yeah, she’s hunting a shapeshifter in Atlanta. When Dean offered to help, she said no, she could handle it alone.

Dean wonders aloud if Mary is getting back into hunting too quickly. Sam brushes off Dean’s concerns, even though Sam isn’t actually the one keeping in touch with Mom (bit passive-aggressive, there, Sam). Sam also calls Dean out on not speaking to Castiel. Dean points out that Castiel did something the previous episode (killing Billie the Reaper) that is supposed to have “cosmic consequences” and avers that doesn’t sound like a good thing.

As Sam is hemming and hawing over that, Castiel comes in, snarks at Dean, and tells them about Doomed Teaser Angel, who was once a comrade. Sam volunteers to come help and when Castiel, still in sarcasm mode, asks if that means both of them, Dean rather reluctantly says he’ll come along. To prevent Castiel from doing anything else that’s “stupid.”

Dean drives, of course. In the car, Sam tries to engineer a detente, which is ignored by both Dean and Castiel. Sam then tries the guilt trip to paper things over. Castiel finally tells them a bit about Benjamin, that he would never have put his vessel, a devout woman he’d found in Madrid, in harm’s way. She was his “friend” on top of being his vessel. Dean riles Castiel up a bit by being sarcastic about how Benjamin probably wouldn’t have run off half-cocked the way Castiel did the week before.

At the scene of the teaser crime, we see a charcoal outline of broken wings on a wall and meet the bartender again. He is shellshocked. Castiel is rude to the guy. Dean sees the bartender out, while Sam asks Castiel if he’s okay. Castiel is upset. Meanwhile, Dean finds an angel blade, which Castiel realizes isn’t Benjamin’s.

In a motel room, the annoying (sorry, mysterious) redhead is lying on a bed, whispering a spell. She opens her eyes and says Castiel’s name. As she grabs her suitcoat and leaves, she kisses her fingertips and touches a sepia photo of a little girl.

Outside a diner, Castiel tells Sam and Dean that before he led his own battalion (except, um, wasn’t Anna actually his commander?), he served under another angel named Ishim. Ishim is inside the diner, but Castiel doesn’t want the Brothers to come in with him. Ishim doesn’t like humans. “Ishim,” by the way, is an entire class of angels (and their leader may be Azazel or Metatron) who are closer to humans than any other angels, but here it’s used as a name for a single angel.

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Dean’s like, pfft, no, to that, especially when Castiel gets snarky again. So, no surprise that shortly after Castiel comes in and greets two angels (Ishim and Mirabel, who still have their vessels from the old days), Dean comes in. Neither angel is happy to see Castiel, blaming him for the fall from Heaven and the deaths of many angels (Balthazar and Uriel get name-dropped).

Right before Sam counts down to Dean “storming in,” and Dean enters the diner (insisting on sitting between Sam and Castiel across from Ishim), Ishim and Mirabel say that they’ve lost two other angels besides Benjamin since the Fall, in the same way. Despite this, Ishim sends Mirabel out alone to check whether anyone besides the Brothers has showed up (because splitting up isn’t dumb, or anything).

Predictably, Mirabel is caught off-guard in the alley by the redhead and quickly dispatched. And neither of the angels inside notices, despite all the hand-wringing over Benjamin’s broadcast-by-angel-radio death and previous episodes of angels noticing when another angel died nearby (I mean, it’s pretty darned bright and loud). Okeydoke.

Ishim and Dean don’t like each other. I mean, they really, really don’t like each other. There’s a staring contest as Ishim dumps a metric ton of sugar in his coffee/tea (what’s that about?), on which Dean comments with a nasty smile. Ishim calls Dean and Sam “monkeys,” while Dean tells him to “go to Hell.” Good times.

After Ishim leaves to find Mirabel, the Brothers dress Castiel down on putting up with Ishim’s crap. Castiel storms off after Ishim, who is getting attacked in the alley by the redhead after finding Mirabel’s body. Ishim recognizes her and tries to smite her, but she laughs and says she’s no longer “powerless.” Well, neither are demons and they can get smited, so I don’t really see how that works, but okay.

She grabs Ishim around the throat, but Castiel comes out and slashes her in the side, knocking her down (Castiel also recognizes her in a brief flashback to Olden Tymes). When the Brothers back him up with guns, she insists that she has no desire to hurt humans and blasts out light from her raised palm. Mind you, the Brothers have plenty of time to shoot her while she’s doing this, but nope. Dean ends up temporarily blinded and Sam dazzled. But Sam is still able to get the license plate number of the white convertible in which she roars off (because that car’s not inconspicuous, or anything).

Later, at an old church, Castiel tends to a wounded and weakened Ishim. Ishim can’t heal himself. Castiel clues Sam in that he recognized the woman and Dean (who has already noticed this) insists Castiel tell them what happened. We then get a saturated-color flashback to Orono, Maine, 1901.

Ishim is leading the way to a house through the woods. Mirabel and Benjamin are there, as is Castiel inside a young white woman. Ishim tells them that one of their angel brothers is living in sin with a human wife, and that the two have a daughter, a naphil (the show uses the plural term “nephilim” because hey, why do research?). Ishim says the girl has “a human soul mixed with angelic grace,” which is very dangerous. Is this more dangerous than Dean having hundreds of thousands of souls inside him last season? Who knows?

Despite the fact that the angels can actually track Lucifer’s unborn naphil child because they can sense nephilim (mentioned early in the episode), the angels in this scene just take Ishim at his word that the girl inside the house is a naphil. Um … show? Wouldn’t they be able to sense if the girl’s a naphil or not for themselves?

As they stride up to the house, the two other angels who later die offscreen (a man and a woman) join them. Not sure why these two weren’t in on the conversation that required a round robin of infodump, but I guess roles with lines are too expensive.

A man and a woman come out. The woman is the redhead. She calls the man “Achamel.” He tells her to go back inside and whispers in her ear. Looking frightened, she obeys. Achamel, who looks like Jesus, comes down the steps to have it out with Ishim, who goes off on his patented “filthy animals” rant about humans. Achamel hints that Ishim is the one who has something to hide with a retort about “shame.” Meanwhile, Castiel and the others look on coldly.

Achamel further hints that Ishim is being dishonest, then attacks him. The others grab him and Castiel pronounces judgment on him. When Achamel hears the charge of fathering a naphil, he looks shocked, but Ishim grabs him by the throat so he can’t speak. The other angels, being dumb as a box of hair, don’t notice any of this unsettling subtext. Mirabel stabs Achamel, killing him.

Ishim then tells the others to get rid of the vessel’s body, while he goes into the house to deal with the wife and the naphil alone. You know – the superpowerful, potentially world-killing naphil. Inside, out of sight, the woman shouts to Ishim to stay away from her daughter and then the child screams.

As I said, angels are dumb as a box of hair.

Case in point: In the present, Castiel insists it was a just mission, even though there are red flags all over the story and the Brothers are thoroughly disgusted with him and Ishim. Ishim identifies the redhead as Lily Sunder (of the episode’s title) and says he spared her. Dean guesses the obvious, that she now seeks vengeance. Hmm.

Ishim says she was a professor in apocalyptic literature (in the grand scheme of things, this is probably the least-idiotic dumb thing in this episode, but that’s still pretty anachronistic, especially for a woman) and that she is fluent in Enochian. He says she must have made a pact with a demon to remain young and gain powers. Except, you know, the part where she has angelic not demonic powers.

Dean says he and Sam will go talk to her, since she allegedly has no wish to hurt humans. Castiel begs to differ, saying it will take all of them to defeat her (well, I don’t see why, but Castiel can get off on these ridiculous tangents). He also says he still has to heal Ishim’s wound.

Castiel also gets pissy when Sam suggests that Lily’s got some justification for being angry, what with having her entire family murdered in front of her. Castiel swings it way the other way and asks if Sam thinks he and all the other angels deserved to die for that. Sam hedges because, well, yeah, that’s how blood vengeance is supposed to go. Castiel puts Sam on the spot by asking him if he’d let it go were he in Lily Sunder’s place. The answer to that, of course, is “no.”

Dean cuts off the rest of the conversation by saying that he and Sam are going alone to talk to her and that’s that. Meanwhile, Lily Sunder, in her motel room, is healing her own wound with white light and looking stern. Or something.

While he waits for the Brothers to come back, Castiel talks to Ishim and then heals him. Ishim is still on his anti-human rant, saying that angels are supposed to stay away from humans because humans are far more of a threat to them than the other way round (think Lily and the Brothers might feel differently). Ishim also doesn’t much like the way he perceives Sam and Dean “bossing” Castiel around. Castiel insists that his friendship with “Sam and Dean” (we know he mostly means Dean) has made him “stronger” not weaker. He discovers that Ishim’s wound is more serious than he’d thought, so it really drains him when he heals Ishim.

At the motel, the Brothers arrive at Lily Sunder’s room. Sam says Lily’s car was a rental. They find her in the hallway (right after Dean admits they may have to kill her if she won’t stop going after angels). She has two angel swords now (even though she left one behind at the scene of Benjamin’s murder) and seems to think the Brothers couldn’t stop her from killing Castiel. Stop laughing in the back, there.

Sam tries to talk her down with the reasonable approach while Dean looks skeptical. She is also skeptical, since (shocker) it seems Ishim fibbed a little. And left some things out. Well, that is why they decided to go get her side of the story. Once she realizes they’ve been lied to and don’t want to hurt her unless they have to, she unbends and tells them more of the flashback story.

A brief conversation over a doll between Lily and Achamel (shortly before the angel posse shows up) confirms that he is not the father. So … who is? Is it, say, Ishim, maybe? The daughter’s name was May and we find out that what Achamel whispered was for Lily to take her and run.

Does Lily do this? Well, not right away. Inside the house, she starts dithering over which papers to take while reassuring her daughter everything is okay. This, of course, gives Ishim time to blast the door open and come inside.

It also makes Lily look very stupid. This makes me not very sympathetic to her bitterness in the present when she admits she summoned him in the first place as soon as she found the spell to do so. She says she was always fascinated with angels and thought Ishim was “perfect” when she first met him. She also says that her daughter “was human,” that she had her before she ever did the summoning, or met an angel. But in doing so, she admits that she intentionally endangered her daughter by summoning a supernatural being with a child in the house.

In the flashback, Ishim bitterly calls her out on using him to get his secrets “for your precious studies.” When he tells her that he had confided in her because he loved her, she claims he never did and was just obsessed with her. Because yelling at your creepy ex when he has all the cards and you need to get out of the house with your daughter always works well in Lifetime movies – oh, wait.

Anyhoo, he gets angry about Lily having summoned Achamel to protect her from him (Ishim sees it as throwing him over for Achamel, which is … kinda true, actually). He pins Lily to a column and kills her daughter right in front of her, calling her “powerless” to stop him.

So, huge plothole here. If Lily is an expert in Enochian and knows more about angels than angels know about angels, why couldn’t she just make an angel-banishing sigil and blast everyone away as Ishim was coming in the door? Hell, as soon as she saw the angels coming? Then take her daughter and run like hell? Achabel wouldn’t have died. Neither would May. At least not then. And we know the episode writer knows this is an out because it’s a major plot point in the climax of the story.

I hate these sorts of plotholes because they’re so hand-wavy and lazy. Kind of like the ongoing thing since season five (thanks to Kripke) that Lucifer can’t be killed. Even though we’ve seen two archangels bite the dust, and even God and his sister nearly flatlined last season. But nooooo, we’re stuck with Lucifer until the end of time.

Back in the present, the Brothers are freaked out by Lily’s story and Dean tries to get hold of Castiel. Who doesn’t answer because a rejuvenated Ishim has stolen his phone. It seems Ishim hasn’t felt this good in a long time and Castiel is temporarily drained. Uh-oh.

So, Sam stays to watch Lily while Dean goes to warn Castiel. I’m sure this will end well.

In her motel room, Sam asks Lily the obvious question of why she waited so long to go on her roaring rampage of revenge. She says she couldn’t find the angels while they still had wings (which seems iffy when she could hear them talk, but okay). But she doesn’t explain why it’s taken her over two years to find all of them since they fell. I had a bit of trouble with that.

Sam asks her about Ishim’s claim that she made a pact. She says that no, she uses Enochian magic, fueled by her soul. But it’s not finite. She will eventually end up with no soul. Sam says that yeah, he gets that. She admits that she used to dream about her daughter, but now she doesn’t dream at all, because losing her soul makes her more and more emotionally detached. Sam gets that, too.

She warns Sam that Ishim will kill Dean. She claims that Ishim is “a big man in Heaven” and can’t afford to see his sins brought to light. This makes no sense. If Ishim really is that important in Heaven, 1. why have we never heard of him during all the many plots involving that place and 2. why didn’t he and his brethren just go hide back there? After all, the angels were forcibly called back to Heaven not long after they were thrown down. Some went willingly, of course, but some were killed because they refused. So, why are Ishim and his lieutenants out wandering around on earth now? They’re not Grigori.

Anyhoo, she loses a bit more of my sympathy when she says she’s fine with the current situation. Once Ishim kills Dean, Sam will be fine with killing Ishim, so she gets what she wants, eventually, anyway.

Cut to Dean entering the church and finding a weakened Castiel. Castiel explains that he healed Ishim. Dean tells him (without looking around for Ishim first) that Lily’s daughter was human and that he thinks Ishim “is playing you.”

Up pops Ishim behind Dean. Nope. Sure wasn’t expecting that. [/sarcasm]

So, Castiel belatedly compares notes with Ishim, who lies like a rug. Dean snarks that Ishim lies a lot worse than Lily. Mutual manly bitchiness ensues. Ishim tries to separate Castiel from Dean by insulting Dean and asking Castiel why he lets Dean boss him around. Castiel’s finally not buying it, though, and bears down on the question – was May human or a naphil? Ishim admits the truth by refusing to answer the question straight. In other words, May was human.

The fight breaks out when Dean pulls out his angel blade and gets slammed into a wall. Castiel tries to attack Ishim, but gets his ass handed to him. As Ishim beats him up, he pours out his anger and jealousy and envy. Castiel was the one who got to go to Hell and raise the Righteous Man. Now Ishim is going to cut out Castiel’s “human weakness” with his angel sword, just as he cut out his own. And he goes straight for Dean. Ohhh, dear.

Fortunately, while Castiel is getting beaten to a pulp (albeit getting in a punch or headbutt or two), Dean is thinking quickly. He cuts his hand and makes a banishing sigil. When Ishim approaches, Dean warns him to stay back. But Ishim has Dean’s number. As a helpless, beaten Castiel watches, Ishim points out to Dean that he would survive being blasted away, but Castiel might not. Unwilling to put Castiel in mortal harm’s way, Dean very reluctantly drops his hand. Then, with a grim and fatalistic look, he grasps his angel sword as Ishim smirks and comes after him.

But Sam and Lily arrive with good timing. Lily calls Ishim off by shouting his name. He turns to confront her, sarcastically calling her “my love.” As Sam rushes to Dean, apologizing for bring Lily along (Dean quickly forgives him), Ishim and Lily fight. It’s a pretty good fight, but he’s much stronger than before and soon bests her.

The Brothers come in and distract him by slicing him on the limbs. Enraged, he tosses them into a corner, but this gives Lily time to pull off her eyepatch and do a white-light jazz hand. Her blind eye glows as she declares she will “never be powerless again.” She Tks him into a wall. He’s not impressed, pushing away from it and approaching her the way Dean did Abaddon when he killed her. Before he can strike, though, Castiel stabs him from behind. Afterward, Castiel sinks to his knees, telling her “You held him for long enough.”

We get an overhead shot of Lily staring down at dead Ishim and his broken wings. Sam wonders if that’s it and Dean asks Lily, far more pointedly, “Are you done?” When Lily hedges that she’s been seeking revenge for over a century, Dean, even more pointedly, tells her it’s over (i.e., that he won’t let her kill Castiel, too.).

At that point, Castiel intervenes. He apologizes to Lily and tells her that if she can’t let it go, he will wait for her to come and finish him down the road. She thanks him and then just leaves. Oookay.

Back at the Bunker, Dean gives Castiel a beer, telling him “You earned it.”

The Brothers go into a stereo, extremely cleaned-up paean to how nice Castiel has been to them over the years, leaving out all the times he’s turned on them, betrayed them, run off with the butterflies, or just plain made dumb decisions. And Dean admits he’s not angry so much as “worried” that Castiel’s killing of Billie will turn ugly, what with all the “cosmic consequences” deal.

Then we get a boring retread of the whole nephilim plotline, how Lucifer’s child is dangerous and scary beyond measure, and they may have to kill a kid (assuming they can kill the kid). Which is just eye-rolling post-Amara. A group drinking session ensues.

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Review: I mostly enjoyed this one, but my goodness, were there enough plotholes to drive that truck through, or what? Also, Castiel acted childish for most of the episode. I wanted to slap him half the time. And Ishim was remarkably transparent in his motivations. Not that Lily Sunder was any great shakes as an anti-heroine.

Still, Ishim was a great villain and foil to Dean, specifically, in the sense of Ian Tracey and Jensen Ackles having a crackling good time playing off each other as brittle antagonists. There was never going to be any peace between those two. Their instant and mutual hatred had too much destructive resonance. Lily’s revenge story was bland in comparison.

It’s no secret that I’m as big a fan of Ian Tracey as of Jensen Ackles, so imagine my delight in seeing him return to the show and get some meaty conflict and fight scenes with Ackles this time round. Tracey is A-list in Canada (and, to my mind, Canadian A-list, consisting mostly of seasoned character actors rather than “stars,” is generally much stronger than Hollywood A-list), so it’s a rare treat to see him, Ackles, and Misha Collins get face time. Padalecki got that chance last time (season seven’s “Adventures in Babysitting”), but Ackles didn’t and Tracey’s character had a much smaller role in that one. However much I liked Lee Chambers, they killed him off between episodes and brought back Lee’s annoying daughter Krissy. That gives you an idea how disposable a redshirt he was.

I was rather put out that they killed Tracey’s character off again this time and made him a one-shot, though at least he had a lot of fun and scenery to chew in this one. I was further put out because Ishim was actually a much more interesting character than the title character.

Lily Sunder is a blah Vengeful Sue character and I have no desire to see her again. She’s got about three settings – frightened and helpless, angry, and smug – with little connection between them and equally little emotional connection to the audience.

Also, she’s far too overpowered in her initial scenes versus the two angels we see her kill, making her subtext too much of a predator and not enough of an avenger, even once we find out the truth (all Tell, no Show). This put the sympathy on the angels (especially Benjamin) and it never really came back to Lily. I felt sorry for Achamel and certainly for May, but I never felt very sorry for Lily.

After all, this is a woman who intentionally summoned an extremely powerful and deadly being, which resulted in the death of her daughter. Even if she had done it before her daughter was ever born, it was a dumb thing to do. If Lily had summoned a demon or used the Necronomicon to call up Cthulhu, the audience would hardly be sympathetic to her. The show indicates that humans in the SPNverse are really dumb about the true nature of angels and think they are good (which is the intended way of making her sympathetic, despite her reckless stupidity), but the audience knows better at this point.

Plus, any professor of apocalyptic lit would know that it is incredibly dangerous to summon angels. In traditional Christian lore, demons are just fallen angels. Even they serve God. Christ allowed some control over demons by humans in order to exorcize them. But unfallen angels still serve God directly and represent manifestations of His power and glory. Not only are they much more powerful than demons, but their position in Creation compared to humans is very different. Summoning them can be perceived as directly interfering with God’s will, so while angel grimoires may be considered white magic, they are still very iffy in moral terms.

This leads directly into Ishim’s bigoted rants about humans and angels remaining separate, and his resentment of Dean and Sam giving Castiel orders. This makes perfect sense if you consider that for an angel, like a demon, summoning is a compulsion. It’s unclear how compelled angels feel to answer (it probably depends on the power of the summoner versus the power of the summoned), but Castiel and other angels have made it clear they find a direct summons by a human to be a peremptory and insolent command, and they don’t like it.

Episode writer Steve Yockey makes Ishim look like a jealous, bitter, racist ex, but in the rules of the show itself, Ishim’s will may have been abrogated by Lily in the initial summoning. It appears she may have compelled him to love her and serve her, which makes her all kinds of unsympathetic, dead daughter or no. Regardless of how much Ishim was (or felt) compelled to do her bidding early on, she is the one who created the instrument that murdered her daughter by twisting an angel in the first place.

While Yockey probably didn’t intend any of that subtext, it therefore makes some sense that Castiel has no sympathy for Lily until Ishim threatens to murder Dean right in front of him. Castiel isn’t just being dumb about the daughter not being a naphil or inhuman in his indifference to the child’s death. Lily’s daughter is innocent, but her loss is just punishment for Lily’s defiance of the Natural Order and implied abrogation of Ishim’s free will.

But Ishim misreads what’s going on between Castiel and Dean. Dean did not initiate the relationship with Castiel and Dean. Yes, Dean commands Castiel loyalty and obedience, but both he and Castiel perceive this as just, both because of their friendship and because Castiel participated in the destruction of Dean’s family. Castiel serves Dean entirely of his own free will and Dean respects those terms.

Dean is not a parallel for Lily (as the dialogue states); he’s a parallel for her daughter. Therefore, he is an innocent. When Castiel kills Ishim to save Dean, he is belatedly making up for failing to save May. And the audience is all for this, not just because of the emotional investment in the “profound bond” between Castiel and Dean, and not just because, as the Firewall, Dean may not only have the ability to exercise true free will and even change Natural Order, but may even embody the Natural Order. It’s because Dean in this story is truly innocent.

Ishim drastically misinterprets the relationship between Castiel and Dean, perceiving it in the same toxic way as his own relationship with Lily. Lily does, too, at first, but changes enough to end her vendetta with the death of Ishim (the angel who actually murdered her daughter) at Castiel’s hands. However dimly, Lily senses that if she went after Castiel, Dean (and Sam) would end her. She may not want to hurt humans and they may be willing to let bygones be bygones if she stops there, but they’ve killed humans who practice black magic before. And they are very good at it.

I will give Alicia Witt credit for not making her as irritating as I expected Lily to be, and her fight scenes looked pretty good. I’m not a fan of Witt’s sarcastic delivery, and the character itself had some issues, but Witt did okay with the role, aside from the above problems of lack of range.

I suppose, if the writers do insist on bringing Lily back, she could mellow into a sort of Rowena-like frenemy, but I’m not nearly as into watching Witt as I am Ruth Connell. Also, I don’t like how Lily cold-bloodedly killed the vessels of the angels she also slaughtered (who were misled, not evil) and shrugged off all the collateral damage as an okay consequence of becoming sociopathic through using her soul to fuel her angel-like powers (something I have suggested was possible since season six).

Yes, Ishim murdered her daughter, but she’s the one who chose revenge. And being fine with standing by while Ishim murders Dean, or murdering innocent angel vessels while insisting she doesn’t want to harm any humans, doesn’t jibe with her claim that she’s a vengeful heroine in her story. I also wasn’t impressed by her never once showing an ounce of guilt over her inadvertent role in her daughter’s death in, y’know, summoning her daughter’s eventual murderer in the first place out of little more than religious fanaticism and academic curiosity. And there’s no sense she ever had any feelings for Ishim aside from accomplishment at having summoned an angel, so one can kind of see why he felt rejected.

It doesn’t help that she comes off as a bit of a user, summoning another angel to help her with her first angel when he becomes a problem and getting that angel killed without much remorse on her part. Or that the show has her kill off the other two angels in female vessels so that we’re left with fewer female characters at the end (really, show, it’s not necessary to have only one significant female character at a time in an episode. We’re 51% of the population, not something exotic like dancing bears).

Plus, there’s the plothole that she apparently knows Enochian and all this stuff about angels that Ishim taught her but not the banishing spell that Dean tried to use and she could have used to save her daughter. Not the sharpest tool in the shed is Lily Sunder. Then again, the characters in general have been written all season unnecessarily as thick as posts, similarly to how characters are written on other CW shows. It seems the new writers think this is the way to do things now.

Castiel rhapsodizing about Benjamin and his loving relationship with his vessel (and our seeing yet another PoC angelic character bite the dust in as many weeks) doesn’t make Lily look very sympathetic, either. I wish TV writers could figure out how to write female guest characters more sympathetically, or at least not so much like bitches all the time, because ugh. And no, the “surprise twist” didn’t improve things on that front. In fact, it made things much more confusing. In the Devil’s Baby Mama storyline, it’s clearly stated that angels can sense the conception of a naphil. Yet, the twist is that Lily’s little girl is just an ordinary human. How could the angels outside the house not sense that? It’s a big old plothole that’s never explained.

I still think that Ishim with his dark, angelic obsession was far more intriguing than Lily (hell, Benjamin was far more intriguing than Lily and I was sorry to see him/her go). He would have made a fabulous recurring antagonist for Castiel over the course of a season or so. He was so obsessed and they had so much history, and the hate chemistry with Dean was fantastic. Maybe we could get a flashback or two in a future episode (no-no, don’t burst my bubble of denial).

Part of the intrigue was the way the writers straight-up gave us a parallel to Castiel’s relationship with Dean in Ishim with Lily, one that went horribly wrong. As I’ve said in the past, I think Destiel (in the sense of a relationship that uses romance tropes) is canon on the show, just as Dowley is canon. In addition, these relationships aren’t just one-shots and don’t just exist to add tension. They actually change the plot and characters over time.

Crowley’s jealousy of Dean’s relationships with other men (including not only Castiel, but brother Sam) is the core of his personal conflict with Team Free Will, just as his loneliness stems from the persistent emotional rejection by his mother Rowena (hmm, something Crowley kinda has in common with Dean this season). Meanwhile, in Castiel’s obsession lies the core of his faith in God and the reason why Chuck keeps favoring him and resurrecting him. Castiel is the Firewall’s literal wingman and bodyguard.

Are we going to see teenage kissing and holding hands? Hell, no. These characters are a grown human man with emotional walls like Ancient Troy and a half-billion-year-old seraph. Note that the relationship between Ishim and Lily didn’t involve any cute teen romance tropes, either (unless we’re talking about this commercial and campaign about the difference between Young Love and abuse, which gets quoted in the episode). In fact, the idea that Lily’s daughter was a naphil turned out to be a red herring deliberately engineered by Ishim so that he could take revenge on Lily by killing the girl, and use his angel comrades to help him do it.

The story of Ishim and Lily (and even Benjamin and his ancient unnamed vessel) once again raised the specter I have talked about in the past that angels are designed to be obsessive. It’s in their DNA, as it were. They were created (possibly by the archangels rather than Chuck directly, as hinted late last season) to worship their father in every way possible and to obey their angelic superiors without question (as I said, dumb as a box of hair). When an angel transfers this obsessive love to a human, it can be overwhelming, even terrifying, for the human. With the power balance between them so far out of whack, it can become abusive in a human heartbeat.

Up to this point, we hadn’t known of any other such relationships between a human and an angel (unless you count Dean and Anna, which ended very badly), so we had nothing to compare. Anna seemed relatively fine, albeit suspicious of Castiel, until she was captured and reprogrammed. So, we had no way of knowing if the circular pattern of Castiel obsessing over Dean, becoming enraged with Dean over the least disagreement or mistake, possibly harming or betraying Dean, and then feeling remorseful, was how things went with angels and humans. Well … apparently, that’s about as good as it gets.

Naturally, the slashiest and most parallel it gets is when Ishim cannily calls Dean’s bluff about the angel-banishing sigil and Dean chooses not to use it, knowing full well that doing so will probably get him killed. This is right after Ishim tells Castiel he’s going to murder Dean right in front of him to get rid of Castiel’s “human” taint the way he did his own (by murdering Lily’s daughter and incurring her hatred). It’s also right before he sarcastically calls Lily, upon her arrival with Sam as part of the cavalry, “my love.” The subtext of curdled romantic obsession isn’t exactly subtle.

Castiel returns the favor by stabbing Ishim from behind to save Dean the way he did Billie the Reaper last week to save Mary (which was also, in a weird way, to “save” Dean – from watching his mother get killed again). Castiel’s reaction is the opposite to Ishim’s in that Ishim murders Lily’s family, whereas Castiel kills other angels in his own family (literally backstabs them) to save Dean’s family. And Dean chooses to give up a spell that could save his own life, even though he’s quite angry with Castiel, because it could kill Castiel. If that’s not true love on this show, I don’t know what is.

An historical aside: There was unlikely to be such a thing as a professorship in Apocalyptic Literature in the late 19th century. It would be a professorship in Divinity or in History of Religions, and women were not getting those back then. No American woman even got a Bachelor’s degree in Divinity until 1878 and it seems pretty unlikely such a woman would be residing in Maine in 1901. In addition, no respectable Victorian Era woman, widowed or single, would be living alone with her daughter in a swanky mansion without any servants or companions, angel guardian dude or no.

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Fun lines:

Sam: So, what’s the plan?
Dean: Well, we knock on [Lily’s] door, ask her nicely not to kill any more angels.
Sam: And if she says no?
Dean: Well, we’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.

Ishim: I loved you.
Lily: You didn’t love me. You were obsessed with me. That isn’t love.

Ishim: [Lily]’s a liar.
Dean: Well, if she’s a liar, she’s pretty good at it. You, on the other hand, kinda suck.

Ishim: I used to envy you, Castiel. Can you believe that? You survived Hell. You were chosen by God. But now, look at you. You’re just sad and pathetically weak. So, now, I’m gonna help you. I’m gonna cure you of your human weakness, same way I cured my own. [pulls out his sword and goes after Dean]

Dean: [Ishim]’s dead. Are you done?
Lily: Revenge is all I’ve had for over a hundred years. It’s what I am.
Dean: Wrong answer. You’re done.


Next: Who We Are/All Along the Watchtower (season finale): British Men of Letters and Lucifer clash with Sam and Dean and Mary and Castiel. Hopefully, we end the season with a few less annoying antagonists.


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Supernatural: Why the British Men of Letters Just Don’t Work


By Paula R. Stiles


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This season of Supernatural has been like a slow trainwreck, with the tired old retread of Lucifer and his “baby mama drama” plot that both repeats last season’s much-better Amara storyline and retcons Lucifer’s redemption in it (plus, we’re now supposed to believe he’s the eldest because that’s not a total retcon of season five, or anything).

But we’ve also been subjected to one of the worst storylines of the entire show, a storyline that didn’t have to be bad, could even have been good, but was just plain awful. This storyline has done more to bring up old fault lines and prejudices that the current showrunners and head writers have previously demonstrated than anything since Sam had no soul.

In theory, the British Men of Letters (I call them the “LoL”) are a great idea. They’re a human group that could be either an ally or an enemy. They are affiliated with the Brothers by blood (according to Grandpa Winchester) and they are related to the Brothers’ current home, which Sam and Dean inherited through their heritage as Legacies. And they could have connections (as we have found) to preexisting recurring characters, King of Hell Crowley and his Scottish witch mother Rowena. Plus, they have sparkly toys.

Unfortunately, a good idea does not automatically equal great execution if the writing isn’t there – and this year, the writing just isn’t there. This storyline is a good example of flaws in the writing from all season long.

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Stereotypes Galore

So, how hideous are the jingoistic stereotypes in this storyline? Toni Bevell is a walking Posh Twat, an upperclass snob who looks down her nose at the Winchesters, criticizes their approach to hunting, and claims ownership over the entire United States (though, curiously, not Canada). Meanwhile, she engages in torture of people who haven’t done anything to her personally without an ounce of irony. Her (late) henchwoman, Ms Watt, is a butch stereotype straight out of the Amazon episode we all wish the show had never done. Mick Davies appears to have been inspired by the movie version of Oliver Twist (and, despite being identified as English, has an Irish nickname and is played by an Irish actor). Ketch seems to come from watching too much The Avengers. And Doctor Hess has already been compared to Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter. Unfavorably.

In light of the fact that all of these characters are stereotypes completely divorced from the writers’ actually knowing anybody from the UK (or anything first-hand about the British Isles), and that none of the actors is actually English (all the principles are Canadian or Irish), it’s not really a surprise that the LOL characters all sport some of the fakiest Received Pronunciation accents outside of BBC Radio and that there is no visible understanding among the writers that “British” and “English” are not interchangeable terms. This, predictably, has led to much mockery from across the Pond from the very beginning of this season.

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What’s my motivation?!

I haven’t seen this much chaos over character motivation since the botched job that was Soulless Sam in season six. At the end of last season, we were introduced briefly to Toni Bevell’s cute little moppet (about whom I did not care) before she showed up at the Bunker and shot Sam in a cliffhanger that made no fan anxious about Sam’s fate (we all knew he would live).

Jump to this season and you’d think Toni would be all about reclaiming the Bunker for the use of her people, but nope. She and Ms Watt relocated to some farmhouse with a spacious cellar to torture Sam, leaving the Bunker completely open and unprotected for Dean and Castiel to return and reoccupy. Never mind that we just found out last week that the LoL could have changed the locks at any time.

So, strike one on motivation making any sense.

Now, mind you, the world nearly ended last season and it was pretty obvious that was going on. In fact, it looked an awful lot as though Toni’s trip to the U.S. was motivated by this global calamity. But noooo. Toni is far more interested in asking Sam questions about how the “network” of American Hunters works, even as she claims to know everything about him.

Okay, so, if she already knows everything about him, why isn’t she asking pertinent questions about things she doesn’t know about, like why the sun almost went out? Why ask questions about stuff she should already know? Is this an epic botch of As You Know, Sam or a straight-up plothole?

So, strike two and boy, these LoL are starting to look dumb.

At some point, you would think the show might have addressed the elephant in the room: If the LoL are so knowledgeable and powerful, where the hell have they been through all the apocalypses of the past decade? Where do they get off judging the Brothers when they have apparently sat out the near-Heat Death of the entire universe? Guess what? The show doesn’t even take a swing at that ball. It just pretends the issue isn’t there.

Then we get to Mick Davies and his character arc about two-thirds of the way through. We find out that he was plucked off the streets (because apparently, the writers are under the impression that Victorian England is still a thing and street urchins still pick pockets) and sent to Kendricks Academy. There, he is subjected to a test where he is forced to kill his best friend. It is strongly implied that this is a rite of passage that every single one of the LoL goes through during school.

[screeeeeeeeeeeeech!] Say, what, now?!

Let’s parse this out. First, according to Toni Bevell, creepy Arthur Ketch is supposed to be the scariest of the LoL and uniquely psychopathic, which is why Mick called him in, in the first place. If all of the LoL are “blooded” by killing their best friends, how does that make Ketch unique in any way? I mean, think about that.

And if every LoL member goes through this rite of passage, why do the LoL staffers who are killed by the Alpha Vampire come across as so … soft? None of them acts like a person who has killed before. They’re just techie redshirts. In fact, Mick himself struggles with killing even a newly turned werewolf girl. Where is the inevitable moral hardening that would come from such a rite of passage? The only character who shows it is Ketch and maybe Ms Watt. Even Toni and Doctor Hess don’t come off as particularly good at killing.

Second, the one introductory scene we have of Toni indicates she is emotionally attached to her child, albeit via a nanny. Nary a hint that she may lose him someday. Hardly a set-up for this later “twist” that her child will eventually be forced to kill or be killed.

We also find out right away that she is upperclass nobility (by way of Downtown Abbey, no doubt). Mick and (it is strongly hinted) Ketch are orphans. It sorta, kinda makes sense that they could be subjected to tests where they have to kill each other as kids and not be missed by British child services (yes, Britain has them). Even if the idea of half of the recruits being forced to murder the other half makes no sense from a corporate investment point of view.

But what about Toni Bevell? She’s a titled lady. Her child is nobility. Are we honestly to believe that the English upper class would be okay with sending their children to a school where half of them will inevitably be murdered by the other half? I get that public schools in Britain are rough with the bullying, but come on. And how do they cover that up, exactly? These are not children no one will miss.

Also, it’s a tiny bit difficult to claim that your corporate mantra is protecting innocent humans from monsters when your organization kills more children than any monster in your territory and has a deal with the King of Hell not to interfere in demon deals. How, exactly, are you protecting humans, again?

Strike three.

Now that we’re back in the dugout, let’s address the LoL’s alleged motivation for coming to the U.S. Let’s point out very quickly that the idea that a small foreign group like the LoL, who have never been any kind of major players in previous apocalyptic events, could take over a huge territory like the United States with a population almost six times that of the UK, is ludicrous. So, the idea that this is even a realistic goal, let alone one they consider their right, is hilarious in all the wrong ways. Dabb, Singer, Buckner, and Ross-Leming, folks, please – the War of 1812 was a long time ago. Move on.

Anyhoo, the LoL blame the Winchesters for lots of crazy things having gone on the past few years, while they themselves have kept Britain locked down nice and tight. You know, aside from that Banshee in Ireland, Bela’s demon deal, the angels falling, and so on. A few of these things have been addressed (like Crowley having made a deal with Doctor Hess to stay out of Britain, which smelled a lot like a belated retcon to cover up a plothole pointed out by fans and roundly mocked). But for the most part, the LoL come off like unimpressive blowhards.

Even if that elephant about their absence at all the recent apocalypses didn’t keep coming back to haunt the writers, a few toys and riling up the Alpha Vampire haven’t exactly made the LoL look like the big threat the writers obviously wanted them to be. And that’s not even getting into the fact that there’s no reason for Hell to make a deal with the LoL in Britain because there’s no indication the LoL are any threat to Hell in the first place. I mean, what’s in it for Hell?

This also blows all of their precious pearl-clutching over all the black magic and shenanigans the Brothers have engaged in over the years right out of the water. If you’ve got a deal with the King of Hell himself, your entire organization is basically hellbound. One could argue that if it were just a case of Mick having second thoughts about bringing in Ketch and Doctor Hess pulling the strings, the hypocrisy might at least make a sort of cliched sense – the rank and file knoweth not what corruption the upper echelons are getting into (as hinted early on).

But bring in Toni and her snobbery about a moral high ground that doesn’t exist (the best part was her calling Ketch a “psychopath,” which was a classic case of Pot taking a meeting with Kettle) and it all falls apart. Toni and Ketch know perfectly well what’s going on and what’s their reaction? They’re competing over which one literally cuts the throat of the other to move up the ladder. There’s hypocrisy and then there’s “Why would you even believe that?” You end up with far too many mental and moral contortions.

Oh, but we’re not quite done with the tangled mess the show has made of the LoL’s motivations. On top of all that, Mary got brainwashed in the last episode. Now let me get this straight – the LoL have the capability of brainwashing even the most resistant subject, but we’re to believe they decided to go with the much more time-consuming and labor-intensive (and vulnerable to being exposed) method of raising kids in a negative kind of Hogwart’s and forcing them to kill each other, instead? And if they do have access to this brainwashing, why did Mick even have any doubts or second thoughts? Hell, why even bother to kill off the other Hunters when you can just capture them and do your own Telefon program on them?

It’s as if Dabb & Co. took every motivation for every major group antagonist on the show (i.e., brainwashing for angels, “blooding” for the Stynes), at least every recent group, and threw it at the wall to see what stuck for the LoL. And what we ended up with was a big, bloody, unsatisfying Rorschach inkblot.

hess

Gender stuff

I’m not one of those fans who go to extremes on the show’s approach to gender issues. I think Supernatural actually has made a concerted effort for years to bring in more female and PoC, and especially GLBT, characters (with mixed success). Is it the best at this? No. Is it the worst? Not even close.

But it does have its ups and downs, and some writers are better than others (unfortunately, this season is being run by some of the worst). I didn’t think Charlie’s character was one of its finer moments. Though her Checklist Sue character was beloved in some quarters of fandom, her appearances really began to tank in the ratings after “PacMan Fever.” Whether or not that had to do with her being a lesbian character written by a straight male and played by a straight woman as a tonedeaf Manic Pixie Dream Girl who spent all her time hanging out with two guys, I don’t know, but the ratings alone were a good enough reason to write her out. It’s a little hard to take seriously the wailing and gnashing of teeth on Tumblr about how she was a fan favorite who got fridged by the mean old TPTB when a significant portion of the audience that happily watched the episodes before and after her last episode didn’t bother to show up for her swan song, resulting in the lowest audience for an episode up to that time.

This wasn’t the case with Eileen, who was summarily killed off in the teaser of last week’s episode (Rowena also looks not long for this world). And there’s something really unpleasant going on this season with the LoL female characters versus other female characters. The LoL women, per above, were/are hugely unpleasant stereotypes, yet we’re still stuck with the two worst of them.

At the same time, they are partly responsible for the woobie-death of at least one well-liked female character (Eileen). This was on top of an MOTW episode the week before in which two female characters (one of them recurring) were fridged so that their Anakin Skywalker-like “talented” male relative could be turned to the Dark Side. On top of all that crap, those three were a family of PoCs.

I’ve often referred to Toni as a “Twat” (a popular expletive in the UK) in the past and that has not been accidental. The writers have acted precious about any bad fan reaction to Toni and Doctor Hess (and the unfortunate yoking of Mary’s already-struggling storyline to the LoL), as though this is an indication of fan sexism against women. God forbid we call a character how she’s (intentionally) being written.

And then the show turned around and had Ketch refer to Toni last week as “a bitch.” In an episode co-written by a woman. Hypocrisy, much?

The show has done this emotional bait-and-switch before and it’s not the first show to do it, either. But it was especially egregious this season, likely because Eileen was popular along the lines of Ellen and Jo (yet didn’t get anything as good as their send-off). But Toni is no Meg. Or Abaddon. So, it’s not working. People don’t want to savor Toni’s villainy. They just want her gone.

It didn’t help that the show tried to do “meet cute” in the middle of Sam’s torture earlier this season, having a “sexy” scene of Toni effectively mind-raping Sam by having him hallucinate being in bed with her. Women using magic to mind-rape men has an ugly history in recent genre shows, such as when Adalind in the show Grimm mind-raped three different male characters three different times and had two babies out of it, but ended up with the third victim (whom she had spent the first four seasons tormenting) in a One True Ship the last season and a half because of Baby Brain. I’m not kidding.

See? This show could still be so much worse.

Grimm and Once Upon a Time have both promoted the idea that having a baby can turn an Evil female character Good for basically no reason save hormones and Motherly Love, while other evil or morally gray characters are “punished” by infertility. If members of the latter group do redeem themselves, they have to do it the slow way via actual redemptive acts and character development. Hence, Toni’s moppet takes on a sinister connotation (and notice how there’s nary a hint that nasty, shriveled up old maid Doctor Hess could be redeemed). Fortunately, the writers seem to have had just enough motherwit (so far) to realize that didn’t fly with the fans and have kept her from meeting cute anymore with Sam.

To make matters worse, the writers are being totally hypocritical about their sexism. They write the Brothers as weak rather than trying to make Toni strong. Otherwise, she’d be no threat whatsoever. Mick, Ketch, and Hess are no great shakes as antagonists, either (though I’ll give extra points to the actors playing Mick and Ketch, both for actively connecting with the fandom and enthusiastically selling what thin gruel they got onscreen). But at least they aren’t dressed up in tight clothes and kitten heels, let alone played by an actress who shows no appreciable stage-fighting talent.

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I suppose we’ll never know if Elizabeth Blackmore could have been good in the role when the writing and costuming never gave her a chance. Toni Bevell is Bela Talbot all over again including every mistake made with the character (albeit Lauren Cohan had a lot of charisma in the role that justified her being poached by The Walking Dead later on). It’s as if they never learned a thing from either Bela or Ruby’s reception by the fandom.

I know a lot of people have had issues with Mary’s arc this season (some of them legit). But at least she dresses and acts like someone who can kill monsters and is good at it. And Samantha Smith brings a grim gravitas to the role. There’s none of that in Toni and she desperately needed that kind of legitimacy to make sense as a character.

We even got her kneeing Dean in the groin last week (signalling that she’s a badass dealing with his sexism). But 1. Dean is the one lead character who already has to field all the writers’ most sexist ideas about gender as if he were a female lead and 2. Dean wasn’t being sexist in that scene. So, that subtext wasn’t justified.

In fact, I can think of a lot of fans who would love to watch him beat Toni’s face to a bloody pulp (not just that one punch near the beginning of the season) and then shoot her. She has, after all, tortured his brother, brainwashed his mother, captured and tortured him, and aided in the murder of at least one good friend. And that’s all on top of her group’s ludicrous and arrogant attempted invasion of his native land, while bragging about how they’ll run things so much better in their fascist way. A male character like that would have been dead by the end of the second episode this season.

The only reason Dean hasn’t yet rearranged her face is that the writers won’t let him: “The male Hero musn’t hit a girl.” Which is ridiculous. Dean is a much darker character than that and his uncharacteristic reticence just makes her look weak (along with frustrating the fans who don’t like her).

It looks as though the show is going to pull a Stynes-style massacre on the LoL this week, probably courtesy of Lucifer. I sure hope so, though I’d prefer the Winchesters get the primary kills. On the one hand, I mourn the loss of what could have been a good storyline (especially Mick and Ketch). On the other hand, I am so sick of these losers that I just want them given their send-off to Hell, never to be mentioned again.

Maybe Lucifer, Kelly, and their hate child can join them in show obscurity.

spneileen


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The Official “The Memory Remains” (12.18) Live Recap Thread


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Starting now with a lame recap of Mary/Retch and the LoL last week.

Cut to Now in Tomahawk, Wisconsin. Four teens (three boys and a girl) are hanging out, drinking, around a fire. One boy and girl are engaging in annoyingly unapologetic PDA. One of the other boys, Daryn, wants to watch, but his friend just wants to go home. As he walks along the creepy trail in the woods, he sees a bag of money, with a green glowstick. When he picks it up, he finds it’s a trap and gets tied to a tree, then his head smashed in by a goat-headed dude, in front of his friend, who has heard his cries for help.

Dean leaves yet another voice message for Castiel, then sits down for a talk with Sam while cleaning the Colt. Sam gets a message from Mick (you know…dead Mick) about DTG and off they go. Back at the poorly-defended LoL bunker, Retch says the bait is set to some henchdicks who will probably not survive the ep.

The Brothers talk to an oddly disengaged sheriff, who tells them about DTG’s bad family life and how he must have run away, while working on his taxidermy project.

The Brothers then talk to DTG’s friend (cue sneak peek) who tells them about DTG getting killed by “Black Bill.” Later at a diner, Sam says it’s a local legend. Dean hits on the blonde waitress, who is into it, and clocks out for the night.

Meanwhile, DTG’s friend gets yelled at by his boss about slacking at work due to his buddy’s death, goes out to his truck afterward, and gets attacked/killed by Black Bill.

The next morning, Dean says goodbye to the waitress at the same diner and meets Sam there. Then he snags Sam’s breakfast. Clearly, Dean has had sex.

Sam thinks he’s on to the MOTW, that it’s a satyr. His graphic description of how satyrs eat their prey puts Dean off Sam’s breakfast. Sam says DTG’s friend’s mom says he never made it home the night before, ditto didn’t show up for his job. There’s an inspection going on at the plant, which is owned by the sheriff. It’s a meat-packing plant. Convenient. Oh, and the sheriff is there. Acting sketchy.

DTG-F wakes up inside a freezer, which is conveniently signed outside as having a coolant leak. Sam and Dean walk past, but can’t hear him over the compressor noise. He finds his friend, dead and frozen, then is stalked and presumably killed by the MOTW.

At the diner, Sam is pissy about what Dean eats. It turns out Dean cross-checked the other victims’ names. They were all employees at the plant. Sam has found out that the company used to own everything in town, but the sheriff has been selling everything off. The Brothers check out the house, but not before “Mick” texts them and Sam texts back.

Cut to the LoL invading the Bunker for a reconnaissance you’d think that idiot Toni would have already done. I hope Dean set rat traps. Retch is especially crabby about Mick giving the Brothers the Colt, which was, y’know, theirs in the first place. Lots of people who have no claim on that thing sure get pissy about having its owners get it back.

Meanwhile, the Brothers find the sheriff’s “murder room” in the basement and get the jump on him when he comes downstairs. It turns out the family got rich by keeping a “monster” under its house and feeding it. It’s Moloch. We have flashbacks to the murders. The sheriff says when he became family head, he tried to clean things up and kept Moloch locked away, hoping he would “starve to death.” Obviously, it didn’t work so well.

Moloch was in the sub-basement. Not any more. They hear a noise upstairs. Dean goes to investigate, leaving Sam to guard the sheriff. There’s a goat suit upstairs. As he checks it out, some kid knocks him over the bannister and Sam in the basement with the sheriff, leaving Dean unconscious.

The sheriff grabs a cleaver, but it’s to help. When they come out, Dean is missing. Sam tracks his cell phone.

At the Bunker, to the shittiest faux-60s Brit spy music ever, the LoL do a really poor job of casing the joint. They need to piss off back to Britain, already. Where they can preferably die of ennui and never be spoken of again. Then Retch finds that photo of Mary and Young Dean and becomes thoughtful.

So, the guy who attacked Dean and has him tied up in the cooler is the sheriff’s half-brother and the plant manager. And he’s a whiny, monologuing dickhead who thinks he can control Moloch. His version of the Family Business is opposite to Dean’s. Dean gets locked in with Moloch.

Meanwhile, the LoL leave…something. Dear God, they suck. Juxtaposing an actually-decent MOTW with their nonsense really shows it up.

Oh, and Dean gets loose in record time. Leaving him stuck with the Minotaur–sorry, Moloch–while Sam and the sheriff enter the plant and get stalked by Loser Half-Bro.

Oh, hey, a decent stalking sequence involving Dean. PleaselethimgetthekillshowPleaselethimgetthekillshow
Pleaselethimgetthekillshow. And Sam gets attacked by Redneck Man. Who gets the drop on his brother, then gets shot. Sorry, dude, but you were not the Hero.

ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME, SHOW? You have to give Sam the kill EVEN NOW? BOTH KILLS?

I am so done with the Dabb Era of this show.

So, Sam tries to hurt/comfort with Dean, which doesn’t help. The sheriff tells them they should go. It’s his family and his legacy–his mess to clean up.

Back at the Bunker, written plot-stupid so they are unaware of having been raided, Dean asks Sam what their legacy may be. Sam says that the people they saved will remember them, though that memory will fade, too. But that’s okay, since they “left the world a better place.” Dean wonders if the Bunker will go to some future Hunter and then carves his initials in the table. He has Sam do it, too.

Sam decides to call Retch, who bullshits them about Mick having returned to London and says they “report” to him, now. Oh, and he kept the photo of Mary, because surely, Dean won’t notice *that*. Idiot. Looking forward to his slow and painful demise.


I’ll also be simul-recapping on Wayward Children.


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