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Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.
Recap: Rather perfunctory recap of the story so far to a quite-decent, hard-rocking, and sadly short-lived Classic Rock song, “Hard Times in the Land of Plenty” by Omar and the Howlers from 1987. They sound quite a bit like AC/DC.
Cut to Now. We’re back in the casino (if you were wondering what happened to the cocktail waitress from the teaser last episode, she is neither seen nor mentioned in this one, so I guess we can consider her a goner. And the bodies of the others are all cleared up).
Sam wakes up tied to a chair by zip-ties, opposite Eileen, also zip-tied to a chair (yeah, I know, hardly original). Chuck shows up to gloat. Why Sam was unconscious or why Chuck needs to zip-tie his victims to chairs when he could just make them sit there with the power of his mind is simply not explained.
What is (over)explained is why Eileen just popped back up in the storyline this season. Turns out Chuck manipulated her and Sam into getting together and bringing her back from the dead so that she could be Chuck’s eyes and ears in the Bunker. At least Eileen wasn’t in on it (she’s devastated), so there’s that, but it’s still a lame way to explain her return. I’ll bet Berens (who wrote this episode) thought he was being clever, too. As he does.
Also, why does God need to use a human as his eyes and ears in the Bunker? Hello? He’s omniscient.
Chuck Evil Overlord Monologues that he can’t go to any other timelines or worlds as long as he and Sam are tied together by the God Wound. So, he whips out a scalpel and says, “All good things come to an end.”
Cue title cards.
Dean and Castiel are in the Bunker getting ready to go to Purgatory. Dean is worrying about not being able to get hold of Sam and Eileen when Eileen manages to make a call on her phone while Chuck is distracted trying to cut the piece of himself out of Sam (and again, why did Chuck actually have to hear Dean’s voice answering before he noticed?). This act of subterfuge elicits Chuck rather reluctantly taking the call (after mocking Eileen for what was actually a pretty damned good idea) and talking to Dean briefly (“Hi Dean. Bye, Dean”). He then smashes the phone by throwing it across the room, ending the call.
But it’s not enough to keep Dean from tracking the phone to Milford, NE. Dean’s surprised to see Chuck’s in a casino. Castiel is growing impatient because they only have a few hours to go to Purgatory and get the Leviathan Flower (gee, this wouldn’t have been an issue if Sam and Eileen had refrained from going off on a hunt together in the middle of tracking down Michael and trying to persuade him to fight God).
Castiel yells at Dean and calls him “stupid.” He says they don’t have any weapons against Chuck they could use, so they have to go to Purgatory to get the last ingredient for Michael’s spell. He says that Chuck won’t kill Sam (neither of them mentions poor Eileen), even though Dean protests that Chuck will torture him, so Dean reluctantly agrees to go.
At this point, if I never hear the word “Destiel” again, it will be too damned soon. This “friendship” is ugly and toxic and abusive, and Castiel needs to piss off far, far away to be with characters he can’t beat up on. Dabb & Co. have done a pretty thorough job of ruining his character the past few years.
Back at the casino, Chuck is stalling. It seems he can’t actually cut into Sam because Plot Reasons (The Power of the Writer compels you!). It takes a while for Sam to notice. Once he does, he’s dumb enough to call Chuck out and mock him. Eileen gets in on it and calls Chuck “pathetic.”
That doesn’t go over too well. Chuck forces Eileen to cut into Sam instead. In the process, neither of them finds out why Chuck couldn’t cut into Sam.
In Purgatory, Dean and Castiel arrive at night. Dean checks his phone, which has a timer on it, and complains about Michael’s vagueness on what a Leviathan Blossom looks like (and the two of them talk about not ever seeing any flowers in Purgatory during their year there, so they are experts). He then mentions hoping to encounter Benny (who Dean figures probably rules Purgatory now) and suggests they split up to save time on the search.
Castiel takes great offense at this actually-pretty-sensible suggestion and says it’s too risky. Hey, remember when Castiel bailed on Dean as soon as they hit Purgatory the first time and Dean spent a year looking for him, mostly all by himself? Yeah, shut up, Cas.
By the way, they’re already being watched.
Back at the casino, we’re getting a very boring torture scene as Eileen is forced to stab Sam and poke around in his wound, while Chuck strums a guitar nearby. As Sam tries to reassure Eileen and makes really stupid, provoking remarks about how Chuck doesn’t actually know what he’s doing or looking for, Chuck gets frustrated. Putting the guitar aside, he stands up and yells, “Son of a bitch!” He finally lets Eileen stop carving and go wash up, then heals the wound to its previous state.
Chuck is frustrated that Sam is still “defiant” (well, it’s not as though he has any reason to be anything else). He decides that the reason Sam is able to “stop” him from probing the wound is “hope,” that Sam is convinced that Dean and Castiel will burst in and save him. “You still think you’re the Hero of this story. You still think you can win.”
Back in Purgatory, it’s still night, and Dean and Castiel are still being monstervisioned. They argue over whether or not they are going round in circles (the debate centers on the identity of a monster corpse, but surely, the glowing rift would be a clue). Then the monster decides to stalk them. It looks like a scruffy-looking dude until he shows Leviathan jaws and attacks.
Castiel TK’s the Leviathan across the clearing. This is a major retcon – it was a huge plot point in season seven that angels’ powers didn’t work on Leviathan. Watch the show, Berens. You get paid enough.
Anyhoo, it turns out to have been a trap when Dean sardonically allows that yeah, maybe it was a different corpse. Seems he was acting as bait. The intent was to attract, capture and interrogate a Leviathan. Dean quickly gets out of the monster that Leviathan Blossoms grow out of a dead Leviathan – but, the monster is quick to add as Dean makes a move to behead him, only after the corpse has been left to rot for months. Dean drags it to its feet and makes it go ahead of them.
Dean takes the opportunity to ask about Benny. The Leviathan claims that Benny was murdered by his own vampire kin, but sounds dodgy when it says it. In fact, everything this Leviathan says and does sounds dodgy, though Dean does look disappointed at the news. So was I. That’s a damned cheap way to kill an iconic and beloved character offscreen, Show.
Back to the casino, where Chuck is correcting Sam that no, he doesn’t really want to “win” and put Chuck away. Or, at least, he wouldn’t if he knew the stakes. Chuck claps his hands and Sam finds himself in the Bunker on April 17, 2020, at 12:01 PM (they do a typo where they call it “April 17th.” It should be either “April 17” or “the 17th of April”).
A future Sam and Eileen are sitting in the library. Eileen has found an article called “Mystery of Missing Florida Man Solved.” The lead she was following up turned out to be a man who was eaten by a gator.
Sam turns around to find Dean sitting behind him, also on a laptop, napping. When Sam suggests Dean go to bed if he’s tired, Dean insists he’s not sleepy. Castiel comes in with beers. Everything looks good. So far.
Dean suggests a Movie Night when Sam gets a call from Jody Mills and puts it on speaker phone. Cut to her in her car, wounded. It turns out she and Claire were out on a hunt against what was “supposed to be a little nest” of vampires. Well, it wasn’t and now Claire is dead. So much for Movie Night.
Sam wakes up back in the casino as if from a nightmare. Chuck now holds up a stop watch that can be set to tell the future, claiming that this is “only the beginning.”
Sam claims that nothing Chuck shows him will convince him to lose hope. I roll my eyes and remember all the other times Sam folded like a cheap suit. Chuck knows it, too. Remember that conversation in “The Monster at the End of This Book” about demon blood in season four?
Back to Purgatory, where Castiel commiserates with Dean about Benny’s alleged death, right behind the Leviathan who can hear every word. [sigh] Weren’t they being clever just five minutes ago? Castiel gets all pissy again about his previous non-apologies and his continued inability to apologize because he’d rather leave than face Dean’s anger. Charming.
Cut to another flashforward, this one from January 6, 2021, at 9:09 PM. Sam and Dean are driving past a bunch of fires at night, both of them looking battered. Dean is trying to cheer Sam up after a particularly bad fight and Sam isn’t having it (and what is up with Jared Padalecki’s acting in this one? There is a lot more huffing and puffing and shoulder/neck-rolling than usual. It’s distracting in a not-good way).
This time, the defeat was at the hands of werewolves, though it seems to have been more of a failure to save the werewolves’ victims. The main point brought up in this scene, though, is that Castiel is no longer with them and Dean doesn’t want to talk about it. Well, that and Dean’s statement: “They’re winning, Sam. The monsters are winning.”
Sitting in the back, a horrified Past!Sam is holding the watch, so I guess he’s bouncing back and forth on his own. I’m also guessing this is intended to be Sam’s version of “The End” from season five. Ugh.
In Purgatory, Dean and Castiel arrive with their unwilling guide on a plain or beach where a bunch of Leviathan skeletons (skeletons?! Since when does black oil have a skeleton?) with ugly-ass blooms growing from them lie. I’m curious to know about what kind of battle occurred here (or if maybe this was that time Dean and Castiel took on a bunch of Leviathans in front of the natural rift Dean used to escape in season eight), but that would actually be interesting, so the show’s not having it.
When Dean tells Castiel to go grab a blossom (since Dean has the shotgun full of Borax shells), Castiel gets trapped by an angel trap that’s drawn in plain sight on the ground (facepalm – yes, really, we get an overhead shot for emphasis). Dean draws down on the Leviathan, but as the Leviathan says that Eve (you know, who’s been dead for years) wants revenge on Castiel, of all characters, for killing her Alphas, and that “we” are going to bring Castiel to her, Dean and Castiel simultaneously realize there’s one behind Dean. Dean turn and kills one, but gets coldcocked by another that comes out of nowhere in the middle of open ground. He wakes up alone.
Hang on – what? The person Eve “had a beef” with was Dean, not Castiel. Dean’s the one who killed more than one Alpha and who killed her in season seven (Crowley’s autopsy of her later confirmed that she was quite dead). Plus, even if they didn’t want to just leave him there, the Leviathans would have been stupid not to kill him while he was unconscious.
Well … they didn’t. They even left him his shotgun full of shells that could do them harm. Though they did take all the Leviathan Blossoms, which I presume were bait for the trap.
Back to the boring flashforwards. This one is to November 3, 2021, at 11:42 AM (giving the times, which the titles do down to the second, seems pointless, but okay). Sam is loading up for a hunt and Dean’s really not into it. Dean points out that they just barely got back from a hunt, but Sam insists that if they don’t go out and hunt more vampires, the nest they’ve been following “will just move on.”
Dean says, “It doesn’t matter.” He says they need to “stand down.” They’ve lost “pretty much everyone we ever cared about.” Donna and the girls are dead, so is Eileen. Jody and alt-Bobby have death wishes (and so does Sam, Dean mournfully notes). Castiel went nuts from bearing the Mark of Cain and Dean had to bury him in a Ma’lak Box. They’re not even able to save victims, anymore, because there are so many monsters and most of the Hunters who are still alive have given up. You would think that Past!Sam would start to clue in at this point that maybe Chuck is telling him a fairy story (Chuck has certainly told fish stories in the past), since Dean’s not a quitter, but nope.
When Future!Sam asks, “Whatever happened to going down swinging?” Dean just says, “We lost. I’m done,” and leaves the room as Future!Sam calls after him. Past!Sam says out loud that it’s a lie and that he doesn’t believe Chuck, but it’s clear that he does.
Chuck pops up to gloat. Chuck claims he’s just showing Sam “the truth” and gifting him with some of his “omniscience.” Sam insists that Dean would never give up and Chuck argues that Dean would. In the process, Sam never notices that Chuck is claiming to be something (omniscient) that he admitted earlier in the episode he isn’t, or at least no longer is. If Chuck can’t see inside the Bunker without a spy, then he can’t see a “true” future, either. So, Sam never catches Chuck out in his lie.
Back in Purgatory, Dean is wandering around in the woods, looking panicked. He has reason to be. When he pulls out his phone to look at the timer, he has less than half an hour left (I couldn’t help thinking this was a subconscious tic with Berens: “I still have to figure out what to write for the next 17 minutes in the script”). What is he going to do?
Fortunately, Dean is more resourceful than his brother (yes, I said that out loud). He decides to pray to Castiel. Unfortunately, the speech consists of Dean apologizing to Castiel for being angry and letting him leave in a huff (because this is all somehow Dean’s fault). Dean proceeds to grovel and say he was wrong. He even gets choked up and cries on his knees. I think I’m gonna hurl. What’s especially depressing is the number of fans who thought this scene was wonderful and deeply moving, instead of emotionally manipulative writing that aids and abets abusive behavior from Castiel.
I did like, though, how Jensen then plays Dean going “okay,” then simply pulling himself together, standing up, and moving on. Thank God (so to speak) for at least one character in this script who doesn’t wallow.
Cut to another flashforward: November 3, 2021, at 12:26 PM. Dean is sitting in a chair in the Bunker and he is beyond done (interesting how, at no time in any of these flashforwards, does Chuck put Sam inside Dean’s head where Sam could see what his brother is thinking and feeling. I think the only time that ever happened was last season when Sam and Castiel were trying to break alt-Michael’s hold over Dean). Sam comes in and he’s geared up to hunt. He wants to make a suicidal run on a vampire nest, even if he has to do it alone. Dean has a good, solid drink of whiskey, comments that he doesn’t have a choice, and goes with him. There’s a confusing bit that seems to be at two different times, where we see Dean go off to get ready and then the two of them leave the Bunker later, with Future!Sam only then having some last-minute thoughts.
Chuck comments that Future!Dean should have trusted his gut, as Dean slams the door one final time. Past!Sam insists on using the watch, but it won’t go any further. Chuck suggests that’s because it’s as far as the watch goes – i.e., that Sam and Dean died in the nest hunt. Oh, and no, we’re not even going to get to see that because this is very much a bottle show episode.
Cut to Dean staggering through Purgatory, with less than three minutes left, to the rift. Imagine his surprise when he finds Castiel there, hiding behind a tree. They hug. Castiel says he went along with the Leviathan until he managed to get hold of one of the blossoms, started a fight, and escaped. His head is bloody. Dean congratulates him for getting the macguffin. Dean starts to grovel again, but Castiel beats him to the punch and says he heard his prayer. All is forgiven. Ugh.
Cut to a final flashforward on December 9, 2022, at 3:11 AM. Dean and Sam, looking shabby (well, it has been over a year), are holed up in a grotty apartment and barricading the door. Sam points out that they’re outnumbered, but Dean is committed to going down swinging, like Butch and Sundance. Confused, Past!Sam looks at the watch, which is still frozen at the previous date.
The killers Sam and Dean are expecting come up the stairs in two groups, one in SWAT-type gear and the other … consists of alt-Bobby and Jody. They are all heavily armed. Alt-Bobby asks Jody if she really wants to participate in this hunt, since it’s Sam and Dean.
What little mystery there is left resolves upstairs where we see Dean and Sam show vampire teeth. They’re a bit florid about it (rumor has it Ackles and Padalecki were so skeptical of Sam and Dean going out like this that they hammed it up like Christmas dinner).
The door busts open and the first two Hunters are easily taken out. Sam stabs his, while Dean throws the other one out the window. Jody comes in and shoots Sam with a dead man’s blood bullet, incapacitating him. Pissed, Dean flips her over onto a mattress and chews out her throat, killing her. He’s not in time, though, to stop alt-Bobby from beheading Sam.
Past!Sam wakes up back in the casino with a gasp. Chuck is still gloating (le sigh). Chuck claims that it makes him sad to see Sam and Dean go out like that and that they still matter to him. He still cares. Mmkay.
Sam asks about Eileen. Chuck says she’s fine, that he has her “powered down in a broom closet” (lovely, not misogynistic at all), and tells Sam not to change the subject. Sam points out that Chuck wants Dean and him to end up like Cain and Abel and kill each other. At first, Chuck tries to gaslight Sam by claiming that Sam doesn’t know what he saw of Chuck’s visions, then just goes straight to how isn’t that ending better than their turning into monsters and getting killed by their friends while the world ends flooded by hungry monsters (the world ends when they kill each other, anyway, so … no)?
Cut to the Bunker, where Dean and Castiel are making up the banishing spell against Chuck. Castiel says a spell in Enochian, then goes to cut his hand to take on the Mark that will imprison Chuck. Dean demurs, but Castiel says that Dean’s already had the Mark, so he can’t take it again (well, that’s what Chuck claimed, anyway). After he cuts his hand, a cloud rises up from the bowl with the spell contents to fill a glass sphere that Castiel holds over the bowl, turning it opaque. Castiel then says that as he has the Mark, he can’t break the sphere – Dean or Sam will have to do it – and then puts it in his own pocket, anyway.
Back in the casino, Sam’s starting to break, as we all knew he would. He tries to be defiant and says he and Dean will find a way to defeat Chuck. Chuck is too high on his own press to care, saying that there’s no way they can win, that Sam has no idea, still, how most of the SPNverse works (and whose fault is that, writers?).
Then he drives home his main point for showing Sam the “future,” which is that if they put him away as he did Amara, darkness will take over the world, in the form of monsters. The reason? Chuck won’t be there to keep the Natural Order going. Hmm, could’ve sworn Death was the one who maintained the Natural Order and the SPNverse has been doing okay without Chuck for quite some time, but okay.
This whole line of reasoning makes no sense to me. First of all, putting Amara away didn’t disrupt the balance of Light and Dark, but also, there is more to darkness in the SPNverse than monsters. In fact, the monsters are a fairly small part of it. What about the demons? What about Rowena as Queen of Hell? What about Garth and his family? Do they all break bad with Chuck locked away? For that matter, what happened to all the monsters in “Bloodlines” – you know, that craptastic would-be backdoor pilot Dabb came up with a few years back? We’re pretending that never happened, now?
Sometime later, Castiel walks into the casino with Dean. Dean finds Sam and starts to cut him loose. Dean then gets clobbered by a distressed Eileen, who is being puppeteered by Chuck, but Castiel tackles her. Dean gets up and encounters Chuck, whom Dean immediately punches. It doesn’t have much effect, but Dean says, “You know I had to.” Chuck shrugs this off with a “me, too” and knocks Dean across the room.
Sam gets his other arm free and Castiel, basically for reasons of Plot Stupidity, rolls the spell ball to him, with no idea what kind of state Sam might be in and having just seen that Chuck is using Eileen as a puppet.
So, Castiel has some real egg on his face when, instead of destroying it and imprisoning Chuck, Sam just drops the ball and lets it roll to Chuck’s foot. When Dean demands to know what Chuck did to him, Chuck smugly says that the “short version” is that Sam “lost hope” (which translates to “Got the Idiot Ball this episode”). Sam winces and Chuck acts out almost orgasmically as their bullet holes heal and he is freed of his tether to Sam. Dean shouts in horror as Chuck destroys the spell ball (shouldn’t anybody, even Chuck, destroying the spell ball imprison him?).
Dean, bitter and uncowed, gets up and asks what Chuck intends to do now, since obviously, he won’t be “dusting” the Brothers. Chuck sneers that maybe he will. Dean points out that won’t happen because Sam got inside Chuck’s “galaxy brain” and “got a look at your drafts.” Chuck insists that they were actually alternate timelines, that those versions of Sam and Dean thought they’d never end up killing each other as he wanted, but they did. But that completely negates what he just told Sam about how there was only one way things could go if he got locked away – oh, never mind. Canon-and-plot-logic-wise, this episode has long since turned into a raging dumpster fire in the middle of a Cat 5 hurricane, anyway.
As Sam cringes and looks totally cowed, Dean coldly stalks up to Chuck, looms over him, and tells him that things will be a tad different in this timeline: “No. Not this Sam. Not this Dean. So, you go back to Earth-2 and play with your other toys. ‘Cause we will never give you the ending that you want.”
Chuck looks Dean up and down and says, “We’ll see.” But he looks intimidated and rather than smite Dean, immediately vanishes.
This is by far the best part of a frustrating episode because the obvious subtext is that if the SPNverse can’t survive God being killed or imprisoned, then the clear solution is that Chuck needs to be replaced. I’m sure the show will try to tell us (at least for a while) that Jack Sue can replace Chuck, but there’s no way that could work. Jack is a gullible child who is easily fooled and throws tantrums in which he dusts even people he cares about. And that was before he lost his soul. If he took Chuck’s place, he would turn the SPNverse into an absolute nightmare reminiscent of Jerome Bixby’s “It’s a Good Life.”
Nah, my money’s on the person who has stood up to Chuck every time and told him to piss off this episode. You know, the one Chuck covertly fanboys and been trying to assassinate by proxy for at least half a season, but lacks the cosmic balls to do it directly.
Anyhoo, in the coda back at the Bunker, Eileen understandably wants to get the hell out of there, and put as much distance between her and the Winchesters as she can. Chuck has so thoroughly gaslit her that she has no idea what’s real or not, anymore. Even though Sam kisses her and insists that’s real, and they share a tender moment, she still bails. And I’m like, Girl, get out now while the goin’s still good.
After she leaves, Sam enters the kitchen, where Dean and Castiel are sitting, Dean drinking whiskey. Sam says that he still believes what Chuck showed him and Dean accepts that, though Castiel looks very skeptical. Dean and Castiel both figure Chuck will come back. Sam wonders what they can do to stop him if they can’t kill or trap him. Dean insists they will find another way.
Cut to Jack Sue in the Empty (a character I most certainly did not miss) being told by Billie, “It’s time.”
The show went up a little in its final January return to a 0.3/2 and 1.13 million in audience. Not the greatest ratings on the planet, but the sad thing is that they’re still better than the ratings for most of the other CW shows this season.
The preview for the next episode, “The Heroes’ Journey” (15.09) is up .
Review: Well … that happened. I guess we got some answers, but they were thin on the ground and much at the subtextual level, especially, was vague and contradictory. A lot doesn’t add up in this episode and it feels much more like lazy writing than foreshadowing of anything satisfying down the road. For example, it was obvious the only good plot reason for Sam to give up the ball was because the Mark would end up driving Castiel (Berens’ personal favorite character) nuts, sooner than later. But that’s a pretty lame reason in-story on balance with other things.
Poor Rob Benedict has been given the thankless task of trying to make Chuck work as a supervillain and Lord knows he’s trying. But every time Chuck starts gassing on about his “favorite show,” it makes it that much more embarrassingly obvious the writers of this one have mentally checked out of the story.
I’m not sure what was going on with Jared Padalecki (though this is, apparently, the episode he was filming when he got arrested for drunk and disorderly), but I found his acting really distracting in this episode. There was a lot of squirming and gurning and twitching that detracted from whatever performance he was trying to give. Since it was a Sam-heavy episode, that undercut my suspension of disbelief about the bigger plotholes and out-of-character moments. Admittedly, it didn’t help that the writing gave poor Sam the exact opposite response to seeing the future that “The End” allowed Dean, but still. Not his best week on set.
The basic structure was not unlike that for “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part I.” That episode has long lived in the shadow of its sequel, “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part II,” thanks to the consequences of the cliffhanger (Sam’s death in Dean’s arms) and Dean’s subsequent demon deal. There’s a good reason for that. In “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part I,” as you may recall, Sam is transported to a deserted Old West town where the surviving Psykids have been gathered for a Battle Royale situation. In the end, There Can Be Only One (and it won’t be Duncan Macleod).
The B story, in contradiction to how these things usually go, is the one where the characters in it are actually traveling to find Sam, rather than the case where the traveling/quest story is the A story and the bottle show story (Sam’s) is the B story. So, we have Dean trying to find and rescue Sam (as in this episode), while Sam is struggling to survive (not very successfully) and having Great Revelations in the Plot set before him with not much effort, like a banquet. Not a surprise, then, that “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part I,” aside from its cliffhanger (where the resolution of Dean’s quest meets up with the resolution of Sam’s), isn’t very memorable.
I suspect that “The Trap,” in which the writers once again demonstrate that they don’t understand why Purgatory was such a popular storyline, will prove equally forgettable because the future that Chuck shows Sam just isn’t very interesting. By far, the creepiest moment is when the watch stops and it’s ruined by obvious questions like “Why didn’t they just take the vampire cure?”
It was especially unfortunate that the show made no attempt to explore the sense of betrayal Sam must have felt after a lifetime of praying to God. That would actually have been interesting, but nope. The way Sam was written and acted, it was just another day at the office, getting tortured by a Big Bad with an overinflated ego.
If anything, I felt a lot sorrier for Eileen. Imagine growing up an orphan, becoming a Hunter, going to Hell even though you’re not evil, getting a lucky break and escaping, resurrecting, getting with a hot Hunter boyfriend … only to discover it’s all a manipulation to turn you into a honey trap to get said boyfriend away from his brother – since Chuck knows full well that Sam’s spine and moral center turn to sauerkraut whenever he’s not around Dean. That’s gotta suck for her, to find out that she was never anything more than the Girlfriend character, even in-verse.
The inevitable failure of Sam to stand up to Chuck (because, all the showrunners’ efforts aside, Sam’s self-absorption and inability to rise to the occasion without a ton of glorification are hard-baked into his character) is too well-telegraphed for there to be any tension there. Dean had the same temptation in “The End” and told Zachariah “no,” anyway, but Sam has never had that kind of inner strength to get up and spit what looks like inevitable and overwhelming defeat right in the eye.
In fact, Sam doesn’t even notice a really obvious flaw in Chuck’s manipulation – the “future” Chuck shows Sam does not extend past Sam’s own death as a vampire. But in that future, Dean survives, albeit as a vampire who has killed all his friends (there’s no way alt-Bobby could take on a pissed off and grieving Vamp!Dean and win). Yet, Sam demonstrates that he couldn’t care less about the brother he got vamped (Dean didn’t want to go on that hunt and warned Sam against it) past his own death. Charming.
I also was unsettled by the writers’ easy switch-up in morality from their usual “Monsters are people, too” shtick that they like to use to shame Dean for his “intolerance,” to this episode’s “No, if you get turned into monster, you might as well be dead.”
Sam also doesn’t pay very much attention to Chuck’s admissions of weakness and even cuts him off to mock him instead of exploring them some more. Admittedly, these weaknesses don’t make much sense in light of what we already know about Chuck, but that should have made them even bigger red flags for Sam that he could have used to resist and to use for a plan later on.
For example, why does Chuck, who is an omniscient being (you know, the SPNverse version of God), need a spy in the Bunker? Why can’t he use Sam or Castiel? I mean, I can kind of see Dean not being a useful spy, considering that Dean has proven to be resistant to Chuck in a lot of (vaguely defined, unfortunately) ways in the past. But Sam has a connection with Chuck in which he can see what Chuck is doing and some of Chuck’s memories. So, there’s really no logical reason Chuck can’t do the same with Sam, the way alt-Michael could with Dean while still hiding inside him last season.
Also, why use Eileen, especially since Chuck straight-up taps her deafness as a restriction he doesn’t like or want? Why not use one of the Wayward cast? What about her makes her his special puppet? The logic regarding what Chuck could and could not do, and why he was doing certain things, was flimsy and didn’t hold up to even moderate scrutiny. The show has used the “It’s because Chuck is a hack writer” one too many times to Chuck ex machina themselves out of corners they had no business writing themselves into in the first place. Bad writing is still bad writing.
I gotta say that I legit laughed when Chuck told Sam, “You still think you’re the Hero of this story.” Regardless of what Berens meant (and I’m sure he didn’t mean it the way it came out), Sam was not the actual Hero of this episode. He was the Damsel in Distress and a Soft Antagonist (because he was dumb enough to believe Chuck at the end and give up the weapon that could take him down) who needed to be rescued. By this, I mean that Sam was not able to free himself or oppose Chuck in any meaningful way alone, not the way Dean was able to force alt-Michael to go into hiding inside his head (all alone) or kill both a god and a former, very formidable friend and Hunter (again, all alone), or even basically rampage through Purgatory, looking for Castiel for a year (again, all alone – until he found himself a friend and ally who was so impressed by his badassery that they decided to join up). It wasn’t until Dean and Castiel showed up, and Dean faced off with Chuck, that the conflict really came to a head – of course, that was the end of the episode by then.
I don’t really expect to see much come out of this, since it’s a rather obvious cop-out (Dean does something badass; monsters flee) the writers have been using of late with no intention of following it up because somebody in the writers room/showrunning department really doesn’t like Dean being the Hero of the story. But I did find it interesting the way they filmed Dean’s confrontation with Chuck.
The director used the height differential between Jensen Ackles and Rob Benedict to interesting effect. Even though Chuck now appeared to have all the cards, having gotten loose of his tie from Sam (which turned out to be much ado about nothing for nine episodes), even though Benedict didn’t give any visible indication of Chuck backing down in his expression (which was a sneer), Chuck did back down. Instead of smiting Dean, he responded with a quiet but defiant “We’ll see” to Dean’s speech about how this version of Sam and Dean were not going to give Chuck what he wanted, before vanishing to a more amenable world. In other words, Brave Sir Chuck ran away.
There was even a callback to the late (again), not-lamented Lilith’s comment about Chuck’s “pervy obsession” with Dean in things like Chuck exclaiming “Son of a bitch!” (Dean’s classic tagline). It would be cool to read more into this obsession with Dean than the show’s already supplied, but as the time rapidly approaches to either fish or cut bait, the writers continue to dither about it and advance it at a glacial pace.
Another, pretty major flaw Sam fails to notice while his head is stuck up his own ass this week is that locking up either Chuck or Amara does not disrupt the balance of Light and Dark, as Chuck claims it does during his Magical Mystery Tour into the future. Locking up Amara did not disrupt the balance at all, therefore neither will locking up Chuck. Somewhat in Sam’s defense, it’s not entirely clear whether Sam the character in the show forgot this, or the writers did (or retconned it and expected us to forget).
The writers really seem to be struggling with writing a supervillain who is omnipotent and omniscient, so they keep giving Chuck odd limitations that he shouldn’t have. But either way, it makes Sam’s big decision to give up the spell Dean and Castiel damned near got killed making that much more slap-worthy.
It also makes Castiel’s snapping at Dean about Dean wanting to go rescue Sam and Eileen that much more irritating. In the end, the entire trip to Purgatory (which was suspiciously easy, anyway) was pointless, thanks to Sam deciding to lose hope or whatever the hell he thought he was doing. Especially bizarre was the off-screen (apparent) death of Benny and Eve’s resurrection.
So, Eve (who had a final death on earth in season seven and hasn’t been seen or heard from since) is back – and back in charge of Purgatory – but Benny is really dead-dead for real, honest-to-Chuck-pinky-swear, and this is just a throwaway line in the whole thing? Dean was the one who killed Eve, but Castiel’s the one she wants to punish? I can sort of see Castiel having no say in being led off after Dean got knocked out, but why didn’t the Leviathans at least finish Dean off while he was unconscious? And isn’t anybody in this entire scenario remotely suspicious of how conveniently timed Castiel’s escape was?
Will we ever hear about any of this again? Considering the entire trip was a red herring to keep Dean and Castiel from confronting Chuck until the very end, after Sam lost hope or whatever, I’m guessing we won’t.
The one thing from the Purgatory adventure we will probably hear about endlessly from now on is that truly nauseating “prayer” Dean made to Castiel. On the one hand, it was a pretty clever and quick way to find Castiel. On the other hand, Castiel’s smug and entitled response was yet another black mark on his side of the ledger. It never ceases to amaze me how writers like Robert Berens manage to wreck their favorite characters by propping them up like that.
The main point of contention here is not Dean’s anger, but what caused Dean’s anger – that Castiel has consistently chosen Jack Sue over Dean, to the point that Castiel made a deal with the Empty Entity he still hasn’t ‘fessed up about and tried to protect Jack after Jack murdered Dean’s mother. And it’s straight-up nonsensical to take the view that Castiel doesn’t have to apologize for anything because he, Dean and Sam are “parenting” Jack together, so they’re all always going to put Jack first. That is not the way co-parenting works. Co-parenting does not justify domestic violence.
Think of a real-life situation. A teenage male named Jack has just thrown a tantrum, murdered someone, then murdered his adopted paternal grandmother, who doted on him even over her own biological son, Dean, because she had a problem with the first murder. Mama Cas, who had adopted her troubled nephew Jack against her husband’s wishes, had previously seen her son kill a pet, but had hidden it from everyone because she didn’t want him to get into trouble. After he killed Grandma, Mama Cas was sad, but continued to protect Jack because she loved him so and hey, Grandma was only an in-law, anyway. Mama Cas still continued to protect Jack as he went on a killing spree, whacking anyone who got in his way. And after he got killed, Mama Cas grieved terribly and blamed her husband Dean for the death.
How would we feel about Mama Cas? We’d want Mama Cas to take a long walk off a short pier over a volcano, that’s what.
These are not small points of contention. Until Castiel chooses Dean over Jack Sue again, this bromance (let alone anything like a romance) ain’t happening. It’s mortally wounded by Castiel’s selfishness, treachery, abusiveness and entitlement. The writers can make Dean grovel and forgive Castiel as many times as they like, but it won’t change the fact that until Castiel changes, there ain’t no “there” there for Dean to forgive. It’s Castiel’s character conflict, not Dean’s, and only Castiel can resolve it by changing his ways.
These fatal writing flaws are not that uncommon. Remember soap opera superstar couple Luke and Laura from General Hospital in the 1980s? Even at the height of their popularity, there were still fans of the show who had issues with the Luke and Laura phenomenon. They, quite rightly, were saying “But he raped her. You can’t love someone you’re willing to rape. Rape is not a sign of love, quite the opposite.”
Similarly, Castiel has consistently chosen other people and his own “blood” family (the angels and Heaven) over Dean. Sure, from time to time, he puts Dean first, but it’s not at all something Dean can rely on and Castiel hasn’t done that at all for years. Since Jack Sue was written in, Castiel has very consistently chosen Jack over Dean every time, up to and including protecting Jack from Dean after Jack murdered Dean’s mother.
That’s not love. Or, to be more clear, that’s not love for Dean. Dean deserves better than someone who only occasionally has his back (that includes Sam, who can’t wait to hang out with anyone but Dean, unless Dean actually wants to go have a life of his own). Who is willing to choose anyone, even Dean’s own brother, over Dean. It’s disturbing that a bunch of straight teenage female fans think that’s a healthy portrayal of a gay couple. It’s even more disturbing that a gay male writer is willing to cater to them.
The Kripke Years
The Gamble Years
The Carver Years
The Dabb Years