We need your help!
Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon.
My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.
Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.
[sigh] I so hate Nepotism Duo scripts. Anyhoo, let’s get started.
Paint-by-numbers recap of the Nick storyline and Dean creating the Ma’lak Box to get locked inside out under the Pacific.
Cut to a box on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Inside is a terrified Dean, clawing and banging at the lid as it appears to bow in from the pressure. Then the light on his phone goes out as his battery dies.
Cue title cards.
Dean wakes up, very wide-eyed and gasping. It was a nightmare. Sam comes out of the bathroom, looking concerned and apologizing for having woken Dean up. Dean says Sam didn’t wake him up. As a scream from his nightmare echoes in his head, he glances over at the wall next to his bed. It is covered with bloody scratches. He glances down at his hand, the one he was using in his dream to bang at the Ma’lak Box lid. His fingernails are torn and bloody.
I gotta give this to Jensen Ackles in the dream scene and this one. He is not afraid to look unheroic. In the coffin dream, Dean is red-faced and ugly-crying. Even afterward, he looks shell-shocked. It isn’t pretty and I’m curious to see how many fans will actually recap it on social media. The teaser is a classic horror trope of being buried alive, plus an undersea theme common to submarine flicks and Ackles milks it like a doomed Alfred Hitchcock Presents protagonist.
Sam (unknowingly?) twists the knife a bit by pointing out that what Dean proposes to do is far worse than death – Michael will keep him alive in that box “forever” – so of course Dean must be terrified. Dean says yeah, but it’s not as though he’s got any other options. Sam says, well, unless they can find a way to get rid of Michael first. Dean asks Sam if he’s got any solutions for that. Sam doesn’t. Dean goes into the bathroom, looking a little disgusted with Sam.
Cut to a young woman in some factory setting. She is tied up and gagged. A stone-faced young man fills a tank with water, pours something into it (salt?), then dumps her in. He briefly drags her out to cut up her arms, then drowns her. Afterward, he hears voices speaking in what sounds like Enochian. This is an obvious rip-off of the film Frailty, one of inspirations Kripke has acknowledged for the show. Can’t say I loved the film and I’m not too impressed by the homage, either.
Lu – sorry, Nick wakes up in a hospital bed. I guess he’s there for his knee (which Donna shot out from under him last week). This show has such magical thinking with medical stuff (particularly this episode’s writers) that it’s hard to tell how seriously it chooses to take a particular injury in a recurring character.
Nick is being tormented by a very unprofessional cop who is his bodyguard. As I recall, this guy last played the corrupt sheriff in the season 10 episode when Dean killed all the Stynes. The guy promises him that he will spend the rest of his life in prison and Nick whines that the devil made him do it (no, he actually says that). Ugh.
Cut to the sneak peek, with Dean trying to keep Sam on track with supporting him. They are in some wet forest, investigating a case. I think. Sam is being pissy instead of supportive and guilt-tripping Dean. I really want to slap Sam hard here. He knows perfectly well how dangerous Michael is. Michael already promised him a few episodes that “the last thing you’ll see is this pret-ty smile” as he tore Sam apart. It’s flat-out irresponsible for Sam to recruit TFW 2.0 to sabotage Dean and it’s exactly what he did in season 10.
And guess what Sam does as soon as Dean leaves the car to go to … the bathroom? Again. Anyhoo, Sam calls Castiel and they whine to each other about how even Rowena can’t find anything in the Book of the Damned.
Cut to the stone-faced young man again, this time in a car in the rain. He’s stalking someone in an alleyway, a man this time. Cut to the man tied up and with duct tape over his face, getting dragged into another convenient factory setting and getting his throat cut. The psycho chants about executing “judgment” in the land of Egypt, cuts up the guy’s chest and intones, “I am the Lord.”
Jeez, Nep Duo, you can’t even do villains right. So dull. And kinda cringey.
Cut to the Impala driving back in the night and rain, pulling something. Dean is driving, despite Michael’s banging on the inside of the Cage.
Dean apologizes to Sam for not always being the greatest brother (really, show? Really?! Did we not get enough of this tripe in the first five seasons?). Sam says that Dean was the only person who was always there for him.
Dean says that sometimes, he sided with John just “to keep the peace,” but that there were times when he seemed to disappear out of Sam’s life. These were when he had somehow angered John and John would send him away (a reference to “Bad Boys,” I guess). Wow. As if John couldn’t look any worse.
This seems a tiiiiiny bit outside of canon as outlined in earlier seasons, but it’s nothing to what a wanker Sam is about not wanting to hear it because it sounds like a “deathbed apology.” Dean looks devastated.
I sure hope the rest of the season won’t have me wanting to punch Sam in the throat nearly every time he opens his mouth. That could be wearing.
Cut to Nick praying to Lucifer (the cop thinks he’s praying to God). He manages to get the drop on the cop while asking him for a pee break. Then he beats him to a pulp. I am so rolling my eyes at Nick Sue this season.
On top of everything else, Sam decides to check out a case. Dean’s hesitant, at first, because that’s not what the trip is about (I’m not even sure what the trip is about at this point – getting the box back to the Bunker? What, Nep Duo?). But then he figures, sure, why not? “One last case for the Winchester boys.”
Sam gets pissy about Dean constantly bringing up his imminent entombment and I actually said out loud, “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Sam!” It quite confused my 18-year-old cat, who is trying to get me to give him his dinner.
Anyhoo, Sam mentions the two victims. The woman did indeed drown in salt water. They both had Enochian carved into them.
The Brothers visit the brother of the second victim, pretending to be FBI. He’s played by the same actor because they were twins. In the interview, he says his brother came out first and always tried to be his big brother (Dean’s getting a headache from all the plot anvils). Sam tells him the “graffiti” was Enochian meaning “I am the Word” (ah, so not “I am the Lord”).
Turns out the victim knew another guy, Tony, who had a tattoo that says “The Word.” Gee, I wonder if that’s our killer. What linear writing.
Dean calls Castiel for research and Castiel blurts out that Sam told him everything. Sam looks uncomfortable as Dean gives him a dirty look – yeah, Sam, you are that family member nobody wants to tell anything because it’s just like announcing it on Facebook. But he does get out of Castiel that Tony was supposed to become a Prophet after Donatello.
As Dean speculates whether Donatello is now dead (because that’s the only way a new Prophet can be activated), we get a view of Donatello on a ventilator in a hospital bed, where he’s been ever since Castiel turned him catatonic last season.
Far too many commercials on this stupid CW app.
Dean calls Donatello’s doctor, posing as his nephew. Yep. Donatello’s still alive.
The Brothers now need to figure out how Tony got activated and why he is a-murdering innocent folk. The Brothers break into his house. They discover a room with walls covered in Enochian and containing photos of the dead victims. Sam reads some of the Enochian about Egyptians drowning in the Red Sea and “divine retribution” and killing of firstborns. Dean immediately makes the connection to the victims (the woman drowning in salt water like the Red Sea and the young man being the elder twin) and points to photos on the wall as possible future victims. Sam then susses out one that talks about fire coming out and consuming someone.
Cut to Tony pouring gasoline all over some poor dude while ranting about fire coming from God. He then backs away, pouring a line, and lights a match.
At that moment, the Brothers run in, guns drawn. Sam tackles Tony and starts to choke him out. Dean rescues the victim and tells him to run after cutting his bonds. The guy wastes no time obeying and quickly leaves the scene.
Dean actually has to yell at Sam to stop choking Tony and Sam lets him drop. But when Dean asks him if he’s Tony and Tony is unwise enough to challenge him, Dean punches him, hard.
Tony insists he’s doing the Lord’s will, but when the Brothers ask him what he’s hearing now, he realizes the voice has stopped. Sam says that’s because whoever he was hearing wasn’t God. Dean informs him that he killed three innocent people for nothing and punches him again.
After some flashbacks to the murders, Tony is in denial and tackles Dean for reasons not entirely clear, aside from getting Dean’s gun so he can shoot himself once Sam hauls him off Dean. The Brothers look upset for reasons not entirely clear, considering he was murdering people. So, what if he was a Prophet? He was still, as Dean put it, “a psycho.”
So, that happened.
Afterward, Sam is talking to Castiel on his cell phone while they are continuing to haul the Ma’lak Box back in the longest coffin trek since Woodrow Call hauled his best friend’s body back to Texas in Lonesome Dove. Sam is worried that with Tony dead, some new serial killer Prophet is now awakening somewhere else, ready to start the crazy all over again. It feels like the end of the episode, but according to the CW timer, we’re only a little bit over halfway. Oh, dear, Nep Duo. Come on.
Castiel makes a comment with no ironic intent whatsoever about how the new Prophet was “malformed” because the Natural Order has been upset. Sam says he doesn’t know how to keep the whole process from starting all over again. Dean just tells him, “You know how.”
Nick breaks into his old house, which looks pretty darned good for having been boarded up and left as-is, sheet-covered furniture and all (people don’t really do that in real life). He starts having flashbacks to Lucifer’s manipulations because everybody’s having flashbacks in this episode.
But then something rather interesting occurs. His breath fogs up and when he turns to a mirror, it fogs up, too. Thar be a ghost about. Doors bang and lights fritz and guess who appears? Nick’s wife, Sarah. You know, the ghost of the woman in whose name Nick murdered all those people.
As this is an episode where nobody’s motivations make a whole lot of sense, though, Nick immediately thinks she’s Lucifer pretending to be his wife (as happened right before he said yes at the beginning of season five). Needless to say she’s hurt and I’m confused as to why we went through this whole storyline this season about Nick avenging his wife and child when he doesn’t actually care, after all.
After the commercial break (yes, I’m quite salty about being stuck with this stupid CW app), Nick asks Sarah why she’s still there. She tells him the obvious – “unfinished business” regarding her murder and that of their baby.
Crying, Nick tells her he missed her and she calls him a liar. He insists he found justice for her, that he found her killer. Sarah calls him out on his motivation for that, too (by the way, she’s a mighty solid ghost, per previous Nep Duo ghost entries). She says she was there as a ghost the night he said yes to Lucifer. If he truly cares more for her, then let him “reject Lucifer” and choose her, releasing her from the earthly realm.
Alas, despite all his blubbering, Nick can’t and leaves the house with her shouting after him that he’s become Lucifer. Nick agrees and says he’s going to find the “darkest” place he can find, wherever Lucifer is. I’m sure you’re all shocked.
Cut to the Happy Daze nursing home (y’know, with these two so close to retirement age themselves, you’d think they’d finally lay off the ugly ageism. Guess not). The Brothers are there to pull the plug on Donatello and the doc is all for it. Holy Irresponsible Spreading of Wrong Medical Knowledge, Batman! Uh, no, you do not pull the plug on people in a “persistent vegetative state.” And no, you cannot have practically no brain activity while still mumbling in your sleep. Bad writers! Bad, bad, bad writers! [Whaps writers on the nose with a newspaper.]
So, Castiel happens to be there, playing a Doctor Novak. Castiel gets pissy with Dean, even after Dean tells him to stop it and that he’s already having a hard enough time. It turns out Donatello was mumbling the same words that Tony heard. Somehow, Tony heard Donatello trying to reorganize his brain. Or something. Me, I’m wondering why the hell Donatello was off his respirator long enough to have his eyes wide open and mumbling stuff. But massive continuity errors are cool, amirite?
So, after months of ignoring him, Castiel decides he’s going to heal Donatello. This confuses Donatello’s doc who was just about to take Donatello off the respirator as part of discontinuing his treatment – except we just saw a video of him doing just that and Donatello really clearly breathing on his own. Because breathing on your own is how you form words.
Anyhoo, after some more random bitchery aimed at Dean, Castiel decides to operate. The Brothers hang out in the waiting room, in comfy chairs.
Dean asks Sam if he’s all right. Sam, employing some more neutron-heavy plot anvils, talks about Donatello being trapped between life and death (except, not really, because Donatello no longer has a soul). When Dean shrugs this off, Sam snaps, “Easy for you to say.”
“No, it’s not, really,” Dean coldly replies. Rather than realizing it’s time to back way the hell off, Sam sees this as a weakness to exploit, but Dean just tells him, “Nothing’s changed.”
Dean then has a Michael attack right in front of Sam, but Sam doesn’t even appear to notice.
Inside Donatello’s room, Castiel is doing his glowy-hand thing. He tells the Brothers he’s “searching for something,” but doesn’t explain what except that his eyes glow when he finds “it.” And Donatello wakes up.
But it’s not clear whether or not the machines are just keeping him alive so Dean … uh … turns them off. Yeah, yeah, I know, but we’re just rolling with the stupid at this point.
So, at first, Donatello appears to fade out, but then he wakes up with a dramatic gasp (through the ventilator that nobody bothered to remove). And then they give him glasses that were put on his bedside table, even though he was in a coma and didn’t need them for months and months. The only staff that bother to come in after his machines got turned off is the rather confused doctor. Dean fairly loudly adjudges it “a miracle.”
Cut to Donatello eating jello or pudding or something, and wanting buffalo wings. Dean tells him to take it easy and get up to speed slowly. Donatello doesn’t remember anything about being possessed by the Demon Tablet, but Castiel quietly assures Dean that this is the “real” Donatello, albeit still without a soul. All the other canon and worldbuilding and lack of research these writers bad-touched all episode, but that they remembered.
Dean goes outside, to find Sam getting sloppy drunk by the Impala. I can already feel the urge rising to punch Sam in the throat. It doesn’t improve in this scene.
Sam proceeds to go on a (inaccurate) rant not much better than the one at the end of “The Purge.” Sam accuses Dean of “quitting” and wanting to kill himself. Um, no, Sam. You yourself admitted earlier in this episode that Dean is not going to die. Regardless of how all this pans out, as long as Michael is inside him, Dean will live forever. It’s the world that is on a deadman’s switch if Dean loses control.
Really, what Sam is pissed off about is not that Dean is dying because Dean isn’t and all of the solutions Sam claims they could find, they could find with Dean inside the Ma’lak Box. Because Dean and Michael would still be alive inside it a year, ten years, a thousand, a million, a billion years from now. Maybe not sane, but they’d be very much alive. So, Sam isn’t upset about Dean dying. He’s mad that Dean is breaking up the band.
Anyhoo, Sam starts slapping Dean in the chest and then punches him, declaring that “I believe in us!” which is new, considering Sam spent the whole first nine seasons of the show trying his level best to get away from Dean, and not really something I buy. Dean stops Sam from punching him, so Sam tries hugging it out. This apparently works, as Dean relents and says, sure, they’ll look for some solutions.
But Dean then pulls back and says when – sorry, if – they don’t, he’s going into that box and Sam is going to let him do it. As Castiel walks up, Sam agrees. Then again, Sam agreed last week, too.
Off they drive in the Impala. Sam doesn’t look quite as triumphant as you’d think. Maybe the reality of what he wants is finally coming home to him.
Ratings for the show remained steady in the demo at 0.4/2 and dropped a bit to 1.40 million. This tied it in the demo at second for the week and put it second in audience.
The show has also been renewed for a 15th season. No word yet on how long the season will be. Let the hopeful hater speculation that it will be the last begin in 3 … 2 … 1 ….
The preview for next week is here, as is a sneak peek. That’s the much-vaunted 300th ep, “Lebanon,” and yes, I will do a retro review of the 200th ep this week (“Fan Fiction” from season 10). After that, we’re going to have a brief Hellatus. I think it will just be a week, but don’t quote me on that.
My goodness, this one was just terrible. After the opening scene (which was a hoary idea even in the Victorian Era, and great mainly due to the Ackting and some nice CGI), things went downhill quickly. Linear plotting, inconsistent pacing, convenient coincidences, a very boring MOTW, plot holes large enough to drive that semi that totaled the Impala in “Devil’s Trap” through, lazy characterization, ageism, appalling and insensitive treatment of medical ethical dilemmas … jeez.
Okay, sure, Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming have written worse (like dog girls), but when that bar’s set so low it’s somewhere down with Dean’s nightmare in the Marianas Trench, that is not saying much. “At least they weren’t casually racist or misogynistic this week” is not a ringing endorsement of even a Nep Duo ep.
What the actual plan was for the Brothers regarding dragging the Ma’lak Box all over the countryside did not get much explanation. I guess they were heading west this week with the box to charter a boat? Yeah, that wasn’t explained very well.
Neither was the new Prophet’s motivation. The torture and death scenes came off as gratuitous, largely because the Tony character was written as such thin gruel. Aside from a few characteristics that sorta, kinda fit what Donatello was muttering, how did Tony choose his victims? Were they all people he knew? What did he even think he was trying to do? How did he justify it to himself? Why did he end up shooting himself (aside from the whole convenient writing thing) after Dean told him they were innocents?
Was it all part of some spell Donatello was muttering (and was it a leftover from the Demon Tablet)? Did Heaven have Donatello on speed dial (even though he’d apparently been activated by Amara, originally)? Or was Michael maybe trying to reach out through a Prophet to effect his escape? Obviously, Donatello’s mutterings will figure into something later in the season (that foreshadowing was neutron-star dense), but Tony’s entire character seemed random.
Speaking of random, again, with John obviously coming back next week (yeah, yeah, I know, spoilers), what the hell was up with Dean telling Sam that John would get angry with him and send him away for extended periods of time when they were kids? Especially in light of what happened in “Bad Boys,” that’s somehow even more horrifying than the hints that John smacked Dean around. It just seems so emotionally abusive.
It was therefore quite annoying for Sam to make the horrific and terrifying journey that Dean was trying to take All About Himself. And to have Castiel back him up with his own angel brand of pissiness just made me want to smack their heads together like a couple of coconuts. If would be one thing if they were only risking their own lives, but these two chuckleheads are ready to let the world burn just to keep Dean with them, being the wind beneath their wings until the day Michael manages to flip the switch. Which is cute and all, except not really. Actually, it’s quite horrifying.
This is a really, really, really important point that the show keeps obscuring by having Sam and Castiel throw the words “suicide” and “self-destructive” around. And I’m not just talking about the deeply offensive way the show continues to treat mental illness, when its leads have worked so hard to build a charity that includes a crisis hotline and is literally intended to help dismantle the toxic attitudes toward mental illness that the show’s writers too-often promote for giggles and drama plot coupons.
No, I’m talking about the part of the story where none of this involves Dean committing suicide. Dean is going to imprison himself before he loses control of that dark and genocidal archangel part of him. He is not going to die. He can’t die, actually, at least not right now. His choices boil down to: living forever inside a box with an angry archangel, but the world is safe, and living forever inside an angry archangel as he rips the world apart.
But either way, it’s living forever. It’s the world that’s in peril. From him. He’s got a gigaton thermonuclear bomb inside him and it’s ticking. And he can hear the clock.
They could, conceivably, stick Dean inside the Ma’lak Box now in a way that wouldn’t drive him completely insane (give him a Gameboy, or something), and then look for a solution. It’s not like Dean’s going to die. The Ma’lak Box could actually be a temporary solution, a sort of padded cell for Dean to stay until TFW: The Expansion Pack could figure things out.
But that doesn’t even come up because Sam and Castiel and even Mary (Jack was totally MIA this week) are so stuck on the idea that Dean musn’t go into the box, even though they could open the box back up at any time. Their intransigence just doesn’t make any sense except in terms of Sam freaking out at the idea that Dean might abandon him (as Dean hints in his conversation about John). It’s pretty gross that Dean has grown so much in this storyline, yet 36-year-old Sam is still acting like a pissy, willful, self-destructive adolescent. Grow his ass up, already, Show.
Finally, I guess I have to talk about whatever-the-hell-that-was with Nick, don’t I? I get that the show wants Nick to “choose” Lucifer (I keep hoping against hope that the show really isn’t going to bring Lucifer back, but maybe if they do, they’re planning to stick him in Nick and then stick Nick into the Ma’lak Box, with the idea that Nick won’t mind because he’ll be back with Lucifer. Which is all kinds of messed up and not in a good writing sort of way, either, but if it gets rid of Lucifer for good, I’m okay with that). What I don’t get is why they did it in a way that made his whole revenge quest for his wife and kid completely pointless. I mean, he killed a bunch of people in their names and then, when he encountered Sarah’s ghost (different actress, I think, and longer hair, and what’s with this show’s obsession with ghostly women in nightgowns?), he couldn’t even lie to her long enough to help set her free.
So, what was even the point of watching him do all that? Yes, I get that part of it was his discovering that he still missed Lucifer and that Lucifer fundamentally screwed him up. I get that. But there wasn’t even any sense of betrayal when the demon told him last week it was working for Lucifer when it killed his family. Not only did he not demonstrate any anger or guilt or pain over that, but the show didn’t even acknowledge that yeah, that would be a huge monkey wrench in his whole revenge plot.
Overall, that felt like a damp squib, a completely anticlimactic ending to a plot that took up far too much of this season as it was. I kept hoping his wife would rip him apart and then move on to the next world. Sadly, the Nep Duo aren’t good at writing ghosts, so she just flapped some doors around and chilled the air and screamed after him. Jeez, Nick, at least give Sam and Dean a call so they can release her.
The Kripke Years
The Gamble Years
The Carver Years
The Dabb Years