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Recap: Standard recap of the mytharc so far, focusing heavily on Sam and Eileen, and Castiel’s recent vacation.
Cut to Now outside a very rural roadside bar in Texhoma, TX. A responsible young brunette (Angela) is trying to get her very drunk blonde friend (named Sally) to her car. Sally has to go barf, so her friend waits for her in the car, checking her messages. However, it’s not slatternly Sally who gets grabbed by the MOTW. It’s Angela. Sally turns around the find the entire car gone, along with poor Angela. Our only clue is Angela’s phone waving as she’s grabbed by someone (or something) in the backseat while Sally’s back is turned.
Angela wakes up in a cellar, tied to a chair with an IV tube running her blood to something scaly and blue in a very secure cage nearby. When Angela gets a glimpse of it, she screams.
Cue title cards.
Cut to Dean in his room in the Bunker, drinking heavily and looking through the news on his phone for a hunt. The news is remarkably quiet until he comes across an article with Angela’s photo and a headline that reads “MY FRIEND WAS RAPTURED WHILE I WAS DRUNK.” This piques Dean’s interest but good.
Dean appears, fully dressed, in the kitchen, where Sam and Eileen are all giggly, and making pancakes and bacon (despite Sam claiming to hate bacon a few episodes ago). Dean immediately susses out that they are hungover and, despite a subsequent brotherly conversation in the corridor outside about Sam leaving “a sock on the door” if he “gets lucky,” it seems fairly obvious that “hungover” is a euphemism for “got jiggy, already.”
Sam and Eileen both become concerned when Dean turns down an offer of free bacon and says he’s heading out for a drive. Sam follows him out into the hallway to ask what’s wrong. Dean says nothing is wrong, so Sam, rather reluctantly, tells him, “Call me if you need me.”
Dean [as he turns away and heads out]: Always do!
The funny thing is that Dean never does. He may need Sam emotionally, but he’s pretty self-sufficient on hunts like this. Yes, there are times when Sam has had to rescue him, too. Dean’s not invincible. But Dean doesn’t do calling for help. Especially when it’s pretty clear he needs to get out on the road and get the hell away from Sam for a while. Which happens, too. For some reason, Sam never understands why Dean has the same urges he gets to put some distance between them, from time to time.
As Sam comes back into the kitchen, Eileen asks what’s wrong. Sam says he’s not sure. Recently, Dean was very depressed about the revelations involving Chuck, to the point where Sam didn’t think he’d come out of it (it irritates me so, so very much that we saw almost none of this for Dean, yet we had Sam’s moping banged home for multiple episodes). So, surely, Dean coming out of his room and going out for a drive is good … right?
Oh, come on, Sam. You know better. Really, you do.
Outside the Texhoma police department, Dean (in FBI mufti) introduces himself to Sheriff Dillon, who is very photogenic and kinda dumb. The sheriff is convinced Angela Sully took herself off to Hollywood to become a star, as she has spoken of doing, even before her parents died a few years before. He says many kids do this and he himself lasted a full month there (“I coulda been the next Denzel”). Dean is a little nonplussed by this, especially when the sheriff says he’s photogenic enough for Hollywood himself (never mind he was only an AD in season two’s “Hollywood Babylon” and couldn’t act a single line in season six’s “The French Mistake”).
The sheriff does give Dean a lead, though – Sally. And her favorite hang-out, the bar we saw in the teaser – Swayze’s. So, that night, Dean heads out there in the Impala and his usual clothes. On the soundtrack is guest star Christian Kane’s “The House Rules,” and everything is an unsubtly affectionate homage to Patrick Swayze’s 1989 cult classic Road House. Dean is bemused by the combination of pickups and motorcycles parked outside.
Inside, Dean finds a wide variety of blue-collar cliches and encounters a flirty brunette barmaid who likes what she sees, but insists on Dean tossing his cell phone into the basket she’s carrying. Seems one of the house rules is No Cell Phones. He asks her about Sally Anderson. She assures him that Sally will be in; the night’s special is Two for Tuesday. She gives him a slap on the ass as she leaves that Dean rather appreciates.
As he turns around, he notices the singer on the bandstand (who is singing the soundtrack song). As the song ends, Dean recognizes him and mutters the name, “Lee Webb.” Lee, of course, is played by guest star Christian Kane, who is a major genre alumnus going back to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
As Lee comes off the stage to engage with a female admirer, Dean approaches him. At first, there’s a glinty-eyed stare-down, but it’s just a fake-out. They then break it simultaneously and bear-hug. They know each other from way back. Lee says he owns the bar. Dean says he’s on a hunt, which surprises Lee (who apparently thought Dean was retired). After the barmaid gets a name (Lorna), they all go off to get drunk together.
Back at the Bunker, Sam and Eileen are doing research in the library (for real, that’s not a euphemism) and it looks very boring. They start eye-sexing and Eileen suggests they “take a break … do something ‘fun.'”
Eileen clearly thinks sex would be “fun,” but just as Sam is about to kiss the girl, Castiel shows up. Castiel says he’s there to help and is surprised to see Eileen alive. He asks where Dean is and looks disappointed when Sam says Dean “went out for a drive.” Sam explains they’re looking for signs of where to find Chuck or Lilith (another surprise resurrection for Castiel to digest).
Castiel says that “angel radio has been silent for months,” but has another idea. Maybe they can track Chuck via the wound he shares with Sam and the piece of Sam that is in Chuck. Well, aside from that sounding incredibly dangerous, it’s not a bad idea, so of course, Castiel wants to dive right into checking it out.
At the bar, Dean and Lee are reminiscing while Lorna plays a keen audience (I can’t get over how much this scenario resembles Dean’s dream bar that Michael locked him in). Lee is upset to hear about John’s death. Dean says John “always liked you … he said he’d never seen anybody better in a fight,” which Dean calls “high praise from the Old Man.”
Dean admits he hasn’t seen Lee since Sam went off to college (so over 15 years), that he thought Lee had been dead a while: “That’s usually how this ends, isn’t it?”
In answer, Lee references their last case together – “that cult thing in Arizona.” He says he did one more case near Texhoma and then hung it up. He got some money together, bought the bar, and retired. Dean asks him if he regrets leaving Hunting and Lee replies, “Not once.”
Back at the Bunker, Castiel’s cockamamie idea is to “probe” Sam’s wound using angel light. Sam, wisely, is skeptical about this (Eileen even more so), but lets Castiel do it, anyway. Because what could possibly go horribly wrong, amirite?
Quite a bit, as it turns out. Sam gets slammed into the wall of the Infirmary (where they’ve been conducting this little experiment) and ends up on a bed in a coma. Well, that’s convenient. They now don’t have to haul the Moose off to a bed.
Castiel calls Dean’s cell phone, but that, of course, is in a basket at the bar in Texhoma. In a flip on last week, Castiel is stuck leaving a frantic message of his own, while Dean is having shots with Lee and Lorna. Dean and Lee are sharing a story about a night with twins – no, triplets – whom they “split up fair and square.” For some reason, there are people in the fandom who believe this is confirmation that Dean had a sexual relationship with Lee. Um … no. Because according to Lee, they had sex with the women separately. Mind you, Dean did have a sexual relationship (which involved at least one orgy with triplets) with Crowley when he was a demon. But there’s no evidence in this episode that he and Lee ever did. In fact, Lorna keeps making cow eyes at Dean and he seems nonplussed. Guess it’s been a while since he got laid.
Back at the Bunker, Castiel calls Sergei, the Russian “shaman” from last season who was both treacherous and fairly useless in helping Jack. Sergei tries to beg off, saying he’s taking a favorite niece shopping, but Castiel calls in his favor to him, and threatens to find him and burn him alive if he doesn’t help. Then Castiel hangs up on him and calls someone else, whom he also asks for a favor.
Back at the bar, Dean is telling Lee about the events of season four episode “Yellow Fever.” Then he gets to why he’s there. When he shows Lee Angela’s photo, Lee claims he doesn’t know her (even though we saw her at the bar in the teaser), but backtracks when Lorna identifies her easily.
Lee then asks Dean why he’s still doing these hunts. Hasn’t he “moved on to something bigger and better by now”? Dean hedges on responding to that, just saying that “bigger doesn’t always mean better.” That someone needs to “look out for the little guy” since “God sure isn’t.”
Lee comments that this philosophy is pretty “dark” and Dean admits that “it’s been a rough decade, man.” But for now, he just wants to get back to admiring the bar and doing a little partying. While, of course, continuing the hunt. Lee suggests that Dean deserves a “break” from Hunting.
Lee’s idea is doing karaoke to a song John always used to put in the tapedeck when they were all going out on a hunt: the theme song to The Dukes of Hazzard (quite the ironic tune for two stone cold killers to sing along to). Lee gets the band going and wants Dean to come up on stage and do the song as a duet with him.
At first, Dean is very shy and unsure. There’s some nice Impostor Syndrome acting from Jensen Ackles here. But once he starts to get into it, he really cuts loose and the two of them have a good time while the audience cheers them on.
At the end of the set, they hear a woman shouting for help and go to her rescue (pretty literally leap off the stage to her defense with the motto “Roadhouse Rules”). Two roughnecks are harassing a young drunk blonde girl and refuse to leave. So, Dean and Lee “help” them out via the window and the saloon doors. Then Dean turns around and realizes the young woman is Sally, Angela’s drunk best friend, and it’s back to work on the hunt.
Back at the Bunker, Castiel is letting Sergei in through the front door. Let me reiterate this – instead of meeting him somewhere neutral, putting a bag over his head, driving him back to the Bunker, and taking the bag off only once they reached the infirmary (you know, the sensible thing), Castiel gives this guy he doesn’t like or trust directions to the Bunker and then just lets him in the front door. He then lets him walk through to the infirmary, getting a good eyeful (with running admiring commentary) all the freakin’ way.
Oh, Cas. Bless yer heart.
In the infirmary, Eileen is, I swear to Chuck, literally reduced to mopping Sam’s manly, comatose brow and begging Sergei to save his life. Ugh.
Sergei opens up an old-style physician’s bag, pulls out a crystal (where the hell did these writers get their ideas about Siberian shamans?!), and waves it over Sam as it glows. He then announces that Sam is dying.
Back at Swayze’s, Lee is fixing the window with a power drill while Dean interviews Sally. Sally is actually sober now (sort of), so that helps. She recounts her theory about Angela being raptured and how she wasn’t because she wasn’t worthy (Sally’s pretty dumb).
Lee gets sarcastic with her about the car being “raptured,” too, and has a quiet talk with Dean. He suggests they work the hunt together and Dean is game. Dean asks where one might dump a car. Lee suggests the lake, but Lorna (in passing) says if she were getting rid of a car, she’d do it in the local scrapyard, Merle’s. Dean tells an obviously stalling Lee to check the lake while he checks the scrapyard.
Back at the Bunker, Sergei says that Sam’s wound goes down to his soul, which is attached to something far away. If you probe it too hard, Sam’s soul will stretch like a rubber band and snap, killing him (well, except that we’ve seen people survive having no soul before). Can he cure it? He says he can.
In the scrapyard the next day, Dean is using a photo of Angela’s car to find it. Just when he’s about to give up, he turns and sees it. It’s been stripped of its doors, with its tires and bumpers piled on the roof. After looking in through the driver’s side, he pops the trunk. There’s Angela. She’s been dead a while (Dean’s recoil indicates decomp has set in). Then he hears the click of a gun behind him.
Alas, it’s Lee. He’s a bad guy. And I was just starting to like him. He bemoans Dean’s stubbornness in continuing the hunt then knocks him out.
Back at the Bunker, Sergei is putting some kind of dark paste on Sam’s Chuck wound. After a moment or two, Sam starts to convulse and he has a lot of flashbacks to Amara’s conversation with Chuck about Chuck not being “at full strength.”
Meanwhile, Sergei is coolly admitting that he gave Sam something that will kill him rather than cure him. He tries to blackmail Castiel, even when Eileen shoves him up against a wall out in the corridor. He tell her and Castiel that unless they give him “Death’s key,” he’ll let Sam die. And if he dies, so does Sam.
Death’s key (Sergei is happy to infodump) is a black key in the shape of a skeleton that opens Death’s library. You know … the one where Billie and Dean had their Very Interesting Conversation last year, before the whole season went down the Jack Sue tubes.
But Castiel is not playing along with the whole Being Blackmailed plan Sergei’s got going. Castiel just quietly, but firmly, tells Sergei that’s not how things are gonna roll. As his counter, he pulls out his phone and shows Sergei a surveillance photo of his niece, clearly taken without her knowing. He mentions alt-Bobby by name (probably not a good idea, but I guess we needed that dialogue to know) and that Bobby will kill Sergei’s niece if he doesn’t cooperate. Hence his previous phone call to that mysterious person.
It’s a ruthless tactic, but boy, does it work (and Eileen’s smile hints she was in on it). Sergei is forced to go back to Sam, wave his hands over him, and speak some mumbo-jumbo that sort of sounds like Greek. Et voilà, Sam is suddenly better.
When Sergei asks if everything’s “good” between them, Castiel just says coldly, “For now.” As he leaves, Sergei declares his admiration for Castiel acting so “Russian.” But of course, someone like Sergei will be looking for future opportunities for revenge and to get that key. And Castiel knows it.
Meanwhile, Dean is waking up in the same cellar, tied to the same chair, as poor Angela did in the teaser. And he gets a glimpse of the same monster across from him. Lee calls out from the top of the stairs if Dean is awake and comes down to stand, then crouch, in front of him.
Dean tries to talk to him, saying this isn’t like him. Lee says that maybe that used to be true, but that hunt in Arizona messed him up a lot more than he let on. It seems that unspecified monster destroyed an entire family, including children, and Lee became convinced that Hunters like him and Dean could never win in the end. So, he decided to “have a little fun” while he could, instead.
It turns out that his last hunt nera Texhoma was when he caught the creature in the stall. He calls it a marid (a type of Islamic demon). If you keep it fed, it gives you “money … good health … everything you dreamed of.”
When Dean points out that the price is innocent lives, Lee brushes this off. No one, he declares, is ever truly innocent. The world is a bleak place and no one truly cares about anybody.
“Well, I do!” Dean retorts.
Again, Lee shrugs this off, saying that’s why Dean is stuck in that chair. He starts up Dean’s IV conveying blood to the marid‘s cage (the gravity is a bit iffy on that one) and tells him that “after a few pints,” he’ll stop caring and just nod off. He insists that wasn’t what he wanted, but after Sally walked into the bar the night before, he knew Dean would just keep digging. ‘Cause that’s just the way Dean is. But if it’s going to be one of them who’s left standing, it’s going to be Lee. After patting Dean on the back, Lee returns upstairs, even as Dean calls his name after him.
The monster appears (there’s a sea monkey/Dagon theme going with it) and starts sucking on the blood from the IV. Realizing he doesn’t have a whole lot of time, Dean desperately starts rocking the chair until it comes apart and he falls to the side. As the marid starts banging on its cell door, he works frantically on the ropes and the IV. He gets loose just as the lock goes on the door. I love the look of “Oh, come on” on his face as he notices that.
Cut to Lee upstairs (the cellar is under the bar, behind a door that says, “PRIVATE. WE DON’T CALL 911,” with a drawing of a pistol aimed at the words), cleaning up. He shrugs off with a rather sad look the monster’s grunts downstairs until he hears a particularly loud roar that makes him realize it’s broken loose. He pull out the pistol he pulled on Dean at the scrapyard and starts to approach the door cautiously.
Loud, hard footsteps come up the stairs and the door creaks open. A head gets tossed through. Let’s just say it’s not Dean’s.
Lee looks pretty surprised. The door opens further and in comes Dean. Boy, does he look pissed. “Sorry about your friend,” he says.
Lee’s like, yeah, and then starts shooting. Dean dives behind the bar, where he finds a shotgun. “God bless Texas!” he mutters as he racks it. He fires back, startling Lee and forcing him to take cover. They exchange gunfire and both run out of ammunition. Lee is further surprised when Dean calls this out and has apparently been able to keep count of Lee’s shots.
Dean stands up and Lee comes out from behind the wall, and they ditch their guns. Lee tries to go back to the bromance with a “Hardcore, Brother.” But Dean’s having none of it: “Don’t act like we’re still friends. I don’t know you.”
Lee begs to differ. He says they’re the same. He just figured out the world was “broken.” Dean says that when it’s broken, you fix it.
Lee then tries the tactic of suggesting they just pretend this never happened. Dean could walk away. With clear reluctance, Dean says he can’t do that. Even though he really doesn’t want to take his old friend down, “I kill monsters.”
Lee: Want a shot at the title?
Dean: Don’t mind if I do.
There follows a vicious roundhouse fight, started by Dean ripping the table between them to one side and going after Lee. They trade some serious body punches and at one point, Dean flips Lee under a table. Lee gets a chair across his back. Dean gets both a beer bottle and a pool cue across the head (though he partially blocks both). Lee tries to stab Dean with the broken cue, but Dean manages to grab it, turn it, and stab Lee up against a doorjam instead. Lee has one final time to be surprised.
Lee: Why do you care so much?
Dean: Because someone has to.
Lee then says he’s “glad” Dean was the Hunter who got him and asks Dean to pull the cue out. Dean does and Lee falls down dead. Dean looks upset.
Cut to Dean hurrying back into the Bunker and finding Castiel. He says he got Castiel’s message and asks if Sam is okay. Castiel says yes, looking away with discomfort on his face, and then walks out. I guess that’s why he doesn’t notice how beat up Dean is, or ask why. Dean looks exasperated.
Cut to Sam in the infirmary, with Eileen at his side, telling Dean about his flashbacks. He says he was “inside Chuck’s head,” that “Chuck is weak” and “I think we can beat God.” Dean looks skeptical, but doesn’t contradict him.
After its mini-hiatus, the show rose in the demo back to a 0.3/2, but dropped again to 1.06 million in audience. Still something of a miracle in a season full of CW shows with demos and audience numbers well south of 0.3 and 1 million.
The preview and synopsis for the next episode are up.
Review: Woof, this turned out to be a long review. Well, some episodes have more to chew on than others.
Gotta love Dean. Sam was so pissy about Dean having a Mental Health Day that Dean took it on the road and killed some things. Those things included an old (human) friend who broke bad. You could say that Dean’s original estimation that Lee had been dead for years was not too far off. The old Lee, the Hunter who was fighting evil rather than feeding it, had been gone a long time.
This episode seemed to me half a classic and half a clips show version of the current season. Considering other bona fide classic episodes in other seasons like “First Born” or “The Vessel” have similarly lame B plots that most viewers choose not to remember, I’m comfortable with labeling “Last Call” a classic, at least for now (if it’s still memorable to me next year, it becomes a permanent classic).
It’s interesting that the B-story was, in fact, intended to keep the mytharc going because all it ended up doing was spin wheels. Sam went into a coma, had some flashbacks to previous episodes (hence the clip show element) while an anxious Eileen mopped his brow and Castiel made some calls, then woke up, declaring Chuck had been weakened and they could beat him. This was treated like some great revelation and I suppose that it was … to Team Free Will. The audience has already known this for weeks.
While this plot literally centered on Sam (because it was All About Saving Sam), it was actually Castiel’s arc. Castiel managed to get revenge on Sergei the Russian “shaman” who pulled a fast one on him a while ago. This was satisfying to watch (even if I wasn’t gagging to see Sergei back and it was pretty dumb for Castiel to let him into the Bunker like that). I was less impressed by his whining and raging at Dean’s voicemail and then stomping off in a huff as soon as Dean did show up, without even asking what happened (I don’t think Dean ever did fill anyone in on nearly getting killed on his hunt, but then, nobody asked, either). That was pretty childish. Kinda creeps me out that some fans saw romantic chemistry in that scene.
I don’t actually mind Castiel reverting to more of his old Asshole Angel of the Lord self. That can be fun to watch. I do, however, think there should be consequences for it in his relationships with others, especially humans. By no stretch of the imagination am I rooting for he and Dean to get into a romantic relationship that looks mighty unhealthy, abusive and dysfunctional. Castiel has often treated Dean very poorly in the past, using his greater angel strength and abilities to impose his will and ignore Dean’s consent to a lot of things. So, I’m gonna nope out of wanting any Destiel this season.
Eileen … oh, Lord. I want to like the return of Eileen, but the poor kid has already been reduced to the role of Sam’s Special Girlfriend. All she got to do was stand around and look anxious (though some of that appears to have been an act to back up Castiel’s clever double-cross). She didn’t even get to figure anything out regarding Sam’s situation. And both she and Castiel basically ignored the fact that Dean was uncharacteristically missing for most of the episode.
Dean’s storyline, on the other hand, was both a callback to old school Supernatural MOTWs and also a possible call forward. Last episode, Sam had to get rescued by Dean. This episode, Dean was betrayed by an old friend, nearly died (even ended up tied to a chair like Sam), and rescued himself. In the process, he killed a god.
Considering the mytharc, this was rather significant.
Yes, the marid was a very minor god (it’s a kind of djinn or ifrit in Islamic folklore), but it was still a god. It had a worshiper who fed it sacrifices and in return, it gave that worshiper good fortune, basically. In Supernatural terms, that’s a god.
It’s also a not-so-subtle parallel to Chuck. Chuck has been manipulating Sam and Dean to do certain things and make certain decisions, to the point where it seemed that they had no Free Will left and could not possibly win. But not only was Dean able to fight and kill the marid (which was an exceedingly formidable creature), but he was able to counteract the advantage it gave to Lee and also kill him. Keep in mind that even after all these years, Lee was fighting for his life and liable to be almost as, if not more, formidable a fighter as he reputably had been back in the day. So, a wounded, blood-drained, exhausted Dean being able to take him is a significant thing.
To get an idea of what advantage the marid had given Lee (and how this paralleled things with Chuck), look at the “Roadhouse Rules” scene. A great many electrons have been killed in the rather silly debate over whether Dean and Lee having a double-date with triplets makes Dean bi (um … no?), and whether or not Dean can sing canonically, to the point where a whole lot of fans seem to have missed some really obvious subtext.
Now, one could argue that Dean not being able to sing has never really been canon. He’s always sung around Sam (who is no Pavarotti and Chuck forbid Dean ever show Sam up), or as a demon (when he was drunk and intentionally singing poorly to piss off his unwilling audience). Jensen Ackles is, himself, quite a good singer (as is Christian Kane, who plays Lee). So, Kripke script notes aside, it’s never been settled one way or the other, despite how some fans choose to see it.
But here’s the thing – all that is completely irrelevant. The scene isn’t there just to indulge Jensen Ackles (or show off guest-star Kane’s singing chops) and help him sell his new album, as some have ungraciously suggested. It has a purpose – quite a major one, in fact – of foreshadowing the nature of the MOTW and quite-probably the mytharc (since such unsubtle MOTWs are usually intended as foreshadowing for the mytharc). And within that context, it makes perfect sense.
You see, in exchange for all those hapless human sacrifices, the marid is giving Lee luck. And charisma. And an almost-fairy tale life. His bar is wildly successful and always full. When he gets up onstage, he sings perfectly and the barflies cheer him on with no irony whatsoever. The ladies love him and he wins all bar fights (hence the comparison to the loop fantasy alt-Michael stuck Dean in last season).
So, when he mentions the song from their youth and that Dean deserves “a break,” he is briefly sharing that luck with Dean. That’s why Dean can sing so successfully. That’s why everyone cheers him on. That’s why the moment is followed by a “Roadhouse Rules” moment of bouncing the bad guys out the door. It has diddly-squat to do with any inherent talents Dean has.
And that’s why the fact that even though Dean thoroughly enjoys that moment, he immediately switches back to Hunter mode when he sees Sally, is so remarkable. Because Lee may be doing him a favor, but it’s one with secret strings, strings that Lee has used quite successfully for years (even a decade or two) to distract everyone else, including the dopey sheriff. Lee is trying to distract Dean, employing all of the magical luck the marid gives him. Failing that, he then tries to kill him (twice).
And in the end, none of it works. Lee, on a much smaller scale, is manipulating Dean in a way Dean can’t consciously see, just like Chuck. And it doesn’t work. So, the question becomes, What does that say and mean about Chuck’s influence on Dean?
Now, there’s an obvious question of whether Chuck sent Dean on this hunt (perhaps to break his spirit) and, since he doesn’t want Dean dead except at Sam’s hands, gave him the luck necessary to survive and prevail over Lee and the marid. That’s certainly possible. One could even argue that preternaturally helpful and lustful Lorna the barmaid was Chuck in disguise (though that never panned out and she appears to have been just a helpful Conflict and Exposition Fairy in the end).
And one wonders about Chuck’s possible motivation for that. Was it really to break Dean’s spirit? If so, it failed miserably and may have a sowed a seed Chuck wouldn’t want sprouting inside Dean’s mind. How would sending Dean against Lee make him more likely to kill, or get killed by, Sam? Is Chuck actually using reverse psychology to get Dean to go up against him and take him down? Is Chuck even Chuck? It’s easy to raise this possibility as a way to dismiss how much Free Will Dean exercised in this episode, but actually exploring Chuck’s motivations for such a scenario, especially regarding Dean, turns out to be a real rabbit hole. Dean definitely did not choose the blue pill this time round.
However (slight spoiler for the next few episodes here), so far, even that possibility hasn’t come up. Chuck’s been really obvious in the way he’s manipulated Sam and other characters, but not a peep about Dean and Lee and the marid. So, it really makes you wonder. We live in a society (sorry, Lindsay Ellis’ very informative media takes from a film school perspective on YouTube are a hoot. I highly recommend them).
Speaking of Lindsay Ellis, in her hot take of the Game of Thrones series finale that I just linked to (yes, it’s worth that hour and ten minutes of your time – hell, I’ve rewatched it at least twice), she starts off talking about theories regarding the nature of power and corruption. She cites biographer Robert Caro’s analysis of Lord Acton’s famous maxim: “All power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Following his multivolume biography of Lyndon B. Johnson and his classic 1974 biography of urban power broker Robert Moses, The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (which, dammit, Lindsay, I did not need yet another book on my must read list), Caro suggests rather that:
What I believe is always true about power is that power always reveals. When you have enough power to do what you always wanted to do, you see what the guy always wanted to do [my bolding for emphasis].
Ellis then goes on, of course, to discuss how Game of Thrones addressed the concept of power in each of its characters, especially for season eight. She’s particularly scathing about season eight, which I think is deserved.
But a discussion of the nature of power is a pretty obvious one for a story whose basic plot is a bunch of One Percenters fighting so viciously and vociferously over a throne that they will kill each other, kill a bunch of innocents that they used as pawns, compromise all of their principles, and even ignore a potential apocalypse to attain their goal and then to keep it for however long they can. Power is the central theme for Game of Thrones.
Less obviously, power is also a central concept in Supernatural. The basic plot is one where human beings employ magic (usually black magic) to protect themselves and steal power from the greater beings of the universe – notably demons, angels and monsters (including pagan gods). The main plot revolves around a multigenerational use of necromancy and Faustian bargains by one family, for survival and revenge. And if there’s one thing necromancy and Faustian bargains have in common, it’s that they are all about the ultimate power – the power over life and death itself.
This explains why Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming’s OTT version of witches in later seasons doesn’t fit well with the rest of the show. Hunters already represent humans who practice magic to gain power, some with psychic powers, some not. Some are even monsters themselves. Witches were originally introduced with the idea that they fit in as civilians who practice black magic selfishly, for their own advancement – a subset of people who make deals with Crossroad Demons. But Lee is hardly the first or only Hunter to use magic for himself.
Where witches actually differ from Hunters in the show is that witches are urban or suburban and upper or at least upper-middle class, whereas Hunters are rural and blue collar, even straight-up poor and disenfranchised. Witches, at the end of the day, are hideous snobs.
Writers like Buckner and Ross-Leming, and Andrew Dabb, further put a moral spin on this (particularly against Dean) by presenting the witches (or, in the case of “Bloodlines,” rich, urban, One Percenter monster families) as more societally progressive than the blue collar Hunters like Dean in Flyover Country (who have actually be presented as societally progressive down-and-outers since the very start and are a hell of a lot more diverse than the witches).
This apparently tone-deaf attitude does make sense if you consider that Buckner and Ross-Leming’s idea of “progressive” was obsolete by the late-90s, at best, and that Dabb comes from writing comics, a genre that has long struggled with its own reactionary tendencies. It’s how Buckner and Ross-Leming can genuinely think a character set-up (a white warlock in a Southern city with a servile black female lover who also happens to be a dog) that would have been considered reactionary and offensive in 1850, let alone the 21st century, is more progressive than the marginal, impoverished, rural, blue collar, ethnically diverse culture Dean actually represents.
That right there, my droogs, is probably why “Bloodlines” went down in flames with the audience as a proposed spinoff pilot. The snobby, class-tone-deaf Downton Abbey With Vampires! attitude of other shows like the entire The Vampire Diaries franchise cannot, ever, be presented as good or root-able in the Supernatural franchise. This is simply due to fundamental audience investment in Hunter power dynamics and who’s the good guy underdog here. Mixing and matching these two incompatible views of how a supernatural society would work would not be acceptable even to the part of the audience that watches both (and yes, of course, there’s an overlap in fandom between the two).
So, of course, every single major character (and a lot of minor ones) has been tested in the crucible of power. They’ve all been given power and that has been used to reveal their true nature: When you have enough power to do what you always wanted to do, you see what the guy always wanted to do.
This theme is remarkably consistent throughout the entire series.
Here’s the other consistent theme. Every character in the series (even Death and now even God) has failed that test, has been corrupted by power, with only one exception: Dean Winchester.
Now, it’s not so much that Dean is a Reluctant Leader type along the lines of Jon Snow. Jon, bless his heart, was, in the end, just plain too incompetent to take up his Chosen One role (we’ll leave aside how Game of Thrones did all its female leaders dirty. That’s a depressing conversation for a whole other review). Dean is actually a natural leader and will step into any power vacuum to take over. He likes leading. It’s his natural default.
What Dean is reluctant to do is to see himself as somehow superior to others due to being a leader. The fact that he has power, even great power, never goes to his head. He is really consistent in perceiving himself as a servant leader. Hence all the Jesus parallels that I’ve talked about in the past: The last shall be the first and all that.
And that is why Dean is the only SPN character who can (and ever could) handle even absolute power without being corrupted. Unlike everyone else, Dean does not take power to heart. Even with the Mark, the most it did was drive him insane and then he tried to take himself off the board permanently to avoid harming anyone else. Dean at his lowest points is a Dean who stops fighting and stops caring (which every character around him has done at some point, but somehow with him, it’s catastrophic or something), not a Dean who uses power to screw over everyone else.
Every other character who goes dark, does so over power. Sam, Lucifer, Castiel, Jack, even the first Death and Billie while she was still a Reaper, all go power-mad. Amara, while her grudge against Chuck was just, threw a season-long tantrum against his innocent creations, while she herself has called out her brother’s arrogance.
For Dean, power is not an ego-boo thing. It’s just a tool to get stuff done. You give Dean power and then you see what Dean always wanted to do. And what Dean always wanted to do was … The Family Business. Just making the SPNverse a kinder, fairer place one hunt at a time. Imperfectly, of course, because paragons of virtue are boring to watch, but that’s always his true North.
There’s another important question (since Dean does mention Chuck being an asshole God to Lee, albeit very obliquely in a way that would be clear only to the audience) regarding Dean paralleling Chuck. When Lee repeatedly asks Dean why he still cares, why he still tries to save people, why he still hunts and fights and kills and … well … judges monsters, Dean replies, “Somebody has to.” The fact that he’s not God is not going to stop Dean from trying singlehandedly to make the SPNverse a better place, even if Chuck can’t be bothered. I mean, this is a character who was successful in using his mind as a cage for the most powerful archangel in the SPNverse. And yes, I know he had critical help from Sam and Castiel in creating that cage, but once alt-Michael was inside? That was all Dean.
Which makes you wonder if Dean might actually be a better God than Chuck and how long it’s going to be before that solution occurs to Dean. I’m not saying that Dean is arrogant enough to think he’s as big as God (because that’s so not Dean, even if it’s occurred to literally every other character who’s acquired that much power save maybe Amara and Death), but as a tactic? A way to defeat Chuck? Hell, yeah, Dean would step up.
I want to end with some stuff about Lee. Christian Kane deserves a shout-out for his performance. Yeah, he’s got decades of stagefighting experience. Yeah, he and Jensen Ackles are friends. Yeah, he could probably do growly, charismatic, blue collar dude in his sleep at this point. But there is a reason he’s been a fan favorite since Buffy the Vampire Slayer and he showed it in this episode.
The thing is that with his introduction and positioning in the episode, it’s pretty clear right off Lee is going to end up the antagonist. Lorna is a more puzzling character. If she doesn’t turn out to be Chuck in disguise, or manipulated by him down the road, I guess she was just there to be an Exposition Fairy and sexually harass Dean. But Lee? Not a lot of room for nuance in the plot twist of his Sudden Yet Inevitable Betrayal at the end of the second act.
Yet, Kane manages to introduce that ambiguity, not only by making Lee just so gosh-darned likeable, but also by giving us foreshadowing of his betrayal with some squirrely, paranoid subtext at the bar. Normally, Dean would notice (and subconsciously, he kinda does, since he keeps on with the hunt), but the magic of the marid was probably messing with his brain. So, you’re left guessing and hoping against hope that maybe Lee won’t be the bad guy, after all.
It takes the death of an innocent to show that he’s crossed a line. Dean finding Angela’s body is a bleak end to his search, but it also shows how and why Dean cannot simply walk away from what Lee had done after killing the marid. Lee targeted, not Sally who was a selfish, drunken idiot, but loyal, responsible Angela. And he probably targeted Angela because Angela was protecting Sally, watching over her. After taking out Angela, he could always get to Sally later, when it was much easier and there was no one left to care. In light of his speech about why Dean still cares, and his sticking Dean in the same chair as Angela just for caring, that is (as he himself had said earlier), “dark.” It’s also mighty cold. Lee had to go down.
Personally, I’d have liked to have seen more stories involving Dean and Lee. Ackles and Kane had great chemistry, and played off each other well, especially in their interplay of regretful-yet-resolved expressions in that tragic last scene. But alas, the structure of the story pretty much guaranteed that was never going to happen. RIP Lee.
The Kripke Years
The Gamble Years
The Carver Years
The Dabb Years