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Recap: Rather boring recap of Dean telling Chuck off, a largely context-free rehash of Kaia/Dark-Kaia (leaving out, for example, that the reason Dean was threatening Kaia with a gun was because she was being awfully casual in refusing to help rescue Mary), and Jack coming back from the Empty.
Cut to Four Weeks Ago, but it’s not on Earth. It’s like Earth, but it has two moons (in a configuration that looks astronomically dodgy and must be currently popular in Hollywood because it also appeared in episode 1.09 of Star Trek: Picard). Inside a large office building, in a store called Radio Shed, a young redhead is looking desultorily at electronics, while Louden Swain belts out “Pop Tart Heart” on one of the radios.
Also on the radio is a news broadcast in which we hear the Paris Accords are being renewed, Hillary Clinton is president, and all is pretty right with the world. Nearby, a young store clerk watches the young woman like a vulture, making her nervous. When she leaves the store, he sighs in disappointment. She was the only customer. Radio Shed is not doing well.
The door dings again (though there’s no sound of it opening) and the young man turns to see Chuck. He starts his sales pitch on Chuck, but Chuck’s not interested. Our renegade mad God approaches a wall of TVs with Radio Shed’s logo. He says he’s “looking for … an audience.” Raising his arms, he makes all of the TVs bring up a different image of a different, peaceful, natural world.
Chuck talks about how, “in the beginning,” it was just him and his sister, but that he grew bored. So, he “created the World.” He gestures. A view of Dean and Castiel in the Bunker kitchen appears. Sam enters the kitchen on the screen as Chuck rants and strolls to another TV. He then talks about how he “got the bug and decided to create other worlds.” He gestures again. Scenes from Sam’s God Wound dreams come up, showing Sam and Dean murdering each other, as well as the “future” Chuck showed Sam. Chuck calls all of them his “toys.”
Chuck: Dean says I’m not gonna get the ending I want. And I don’t know, maybe, I mean, that shouldn’t matter, right? I’ve gotten what I want from a hundred Sams and Deans. I can get what I want from a hundred more. And I don’t care. Those other toys, they don’t spark joy.
Yes, Chuck just went all Marie Kondo on the multiverse.
Anyhoo, it turns out Chuck is really upset about what Dean said and it’s harshing his apocalypse mellow. So, what he’s decided to do is end all of the other worlds and timelines he created, except for that one original, maddening, “challenging,” rebellious one that still intrigues him. He’s decided it’s time to cancel all the other “shows,” the other timelines, the “alternate realities, the subplots, the failed spin-offs.”
Cue title cards.
Cut to “Sioux Falls. Our World. Now.”
Jody is checking out a dead cow that she determines was probably not killed by supernatural means. She tells Alex (whom we get in voiceover when she calls on the phone) that the cow was “clubbed to death.” Alex has a vegan lasagna in the oven. Jody tells her to keep it warm.
After she hangs up, Jody turns around to see someone slip through the doorway into the darkened barn. Jody follows, gun and flashlight leveled. She calls out, but no one answers. But then she’s attacked and knocked out.
Cut to the Bunker kitchen, where the scene Chuck turned on in the teaser is ongoing. Sam is saying he doesn’t like this new plan about Jack. Apparently, after being all Team Jack last season and blaming Dean for not feeling the same, Sam suddenly has doubts about Jack’s stability after losing his soul and being in the Empty. Dean asks which thing Sam doesn’t like – that Jack made a deal with Billie or that she’s now got him “eating angel hearts.” Even Castiel allows that the latter is “disturbing,” though he still trusts Jack.
Sam continues to whine-infodump about things he frankly should have cared a lot more about last season, like Jack’s lack of a soul, and the Ma’lak Box failure, and how killing Chuck would destabilize the balance between Light and Dark that Chuck has with his sister Amara.
Dean says that it’s no surprise Billie “has Jack on a need-to-know basis.” All of the cosmic entities they’ve dealt with in the past have played their cards very close to the vest. But Dean feels that they can “trust” Billie, or at least that they can trust her to protect the Natural Order. She must have some kind of solid plan. And it’s not as though they have any other plays right now.
Meanwhile, Jack is touching the carving on the library table Mary made of her initials. Jack then enters his old room and is approached by an older woman who first appears in the mirror. She is a reaper named Merle and she’s there to keep him on-task. When he asks why she’s appeared to him now, she says that he prayed silently to Death, but Death is busy. So, Merle appeared in her place.
Jack says he’d called out to Death when the Grigori captured him, but she didn’t come. Merle says Death probably already knew that Castiel would rescue him. She reiterates the rules (and infodumps for the audience) that Jack is to continue to “lie low” and not use his powers for any reason. If he does, Chuck might sense him and find him (the implication being that Chuck would then send Jack back to the Empty and hunt down anyone who got him out of there in the first place).
Walking down the corridor past Jack’s room (pure coincidence, I’m sure), Sam overhears Jack’s side of the conversation and enters. Since Sam can’t see the reaper, Jack is fairly successful in claiming he wasn’t talking to anyone. Sam is fairly successful in claiming he only just wanted to “check in” on Jack. He tells Jack that they’re glad he’s back, but they could have helped him if he’d asked first (this sounds a bit less convincing after Sam was trash-talking Jack in the previous scene). Jack says he knows that and Sam leaves. Jack looks pensive.
In the library, Dean and Castiel are having a drink together (all that pissiness from Castiel earlier in the season is all bygones now Dean’s groveled sufficiently, I guess). Castiel is crowing over how he was right all along about Jack (because Jacks mother Kelly, whom Jack brainwashed from the womb, had “faith” in her son). This seems pretty damned insensitive, considering Jack murdered Dean’s mother not too long ago and that’s why they were fighting in the first place. Dean rather weakly smiles and says sure. It is mind-boggling how little co-writer of this script Robert Berens understands how this hypocrisy ruins his favorite character, Castiel, for a lot of fans.
Dean on the other hand, cares a lot more about getting revenge on Chuck, by ensuring he’s “killed by his own grandson” (again with that nonsense).
Dean’s phone rings. It’s Jody. She’s forced by an unknown person with gloves to tell Dean that she’s “in trouble” and will be killed if he doesn’t come quickly. Later, Sam and Dean arrive at the barn in broad daylight to find Jody tied up and gagged. As Dean keeps a lookout, Sam starts to untie Jody.
Jody suddenly calls out a warning and her attacker – who turns out to be Dark!Kaia (oh, look, a character I had no interest in seeing ever again) – starts beating up on both Brothers with her ridiculously florid and unrealistic fighting skills, while getting mad at Dean for breaking her spear and refusing to help her get back to the Bad Place.
Fortunately, that segue into Arrow territory is cut short by Jody getting free and smashing a chair across Dark!Kaia’s back. She recovers to find two guns in her face, courtesy of Sam and Dean.
Sam asks her why she’d even want to go back to the Bad Place. She infodumps (in halting Kirk-speak) that Kaia!Kaia isn’t actually dead, that “our” Kaia is the person in the Bad Place whom she is trying to protect and whom she needs to go back and save.
Get ready. This is stupid.
She claims that she was able to dreamwalk well enough to physically manifest back in the Bad Place (but not actually travel back there for real), pick up her doppelganger, carry her back to her own shelter, and heal her with a bunch of leaves. Or maybe she did all this before she arrived from her world, yet even though she was able to come through, she doesn’t now have the power to go back. It’s really not clear.
Why did she do all this? Because she felt bad for “killing” her doppelganger and hadn’t intended to murder her (she just, you know, intended to skewer Claire). Oh, and by the way, her world is ending and she can see it through “our” Kaia’s eyes (cue a scene of “our” Kaia eating lizard, while rocking and singing the nursery rhyme “Miss Mary Mack,” then going outside to watch a nighttime violent lightning storm). Long story short: “our” Kaia’s not dead, after all.
Told you it was stupid.
Well, Jody’s profoundly shocked by all this and now they have a reason not to kill Dark!Kaia, at least for the moment.
Back at the Bunker, Castiel is playing Connect-Four with Jack and losing miserably. He gets mad. The door to the Bunker opens. In come Sam and Jody. Jody and Castiel meet for the first time. Castiel asks what happened and Dean says, “Long story” as he brings in a bound Dark!Kaia, who greets a startled Jack.
With Dark!Kaia in earshot, TFW 2.0 has a quick conference on what to do. Jack can’t use his powers, so he’s “off-limits.” When Dark!Kaia tries to move things along by yelling that they’re “running out of time,” Dean sarcastically calls her “Not!Kaia” and basically tells her to stuff it. Ah, Dean. “Not!Kaia,” it is.
After they chain her to a table (Jody got a vote) with only a beauty magazine to pass the time (ooh, burn), everyone else hits the books. Even Jack volunteers to help. However, his one big contribution (an Italian witchcraft – Stregheria– recipe called La Piegatrice Mondiale – “the World Bender”) hits a huge snag. The one exotic ingredient, a Mandragora liver, is one the Brothers knows can’t be found. John killed the last one in Fargo and wrote about it in his journal. They send him to check on Jody and Castiel.
After he leaves (in a snit), they admit to each other that they don’t have any solution. If they had archangel grace, that would be one thing, but they don’t. I’m a little confused. Sam had angel grace after he was possessed by Gadriel. And Dean ought to have some lingering archangel grace after being possessed by alt-Michael. But nope. Those possibilities don’t get a mention. Hmm.
Sam does mention that they could use Jack’s Naphil grace, but Billy would certainly object.
Meanwhile, Jody is looking at ingredients, while Castiel is leaving increasingly frantic messages for Sergei. Why Castiel would think Sergei would take his calls I have no idea, but this feels like heavy-duty foreshadowing for something down the road. Just not in this episode.
Jody complains that they have to go “analog” on this one and actually read print books (O the horror). Why, that could take weeks or even months. Jody, I am embarrassed for you.
Castiel changes up the subject by asking her if she’s told Claire “our” Kaia might still be alive. Jody admits that she hasn’t. Claire has been searching since they got back from the Bad Place, hunting for Not!Kaia. In fact, she’s out of phone range in Yosemite, hunting down a false lead on that trail. Jody’s afraid to try to contact her because she’ not sure how Claire would react if they can’t recover “our” Kaia.
Jody gets down to some readin’, while Castiel leaves another message on Sergei’s phone, and Jack watches them from the shadows.
He then goes to visit Not!Kaia, who is frustrated and bored. Jack can’t get over how much she looks like her doppleganger. Not!Kaia truly sucks at diplomacy. She tries the same guilt-trip tactic on Jack that she tried on Dean last season to get him to help her. It’s more successful on Jack. Seems she saw Jack’s manipulation of “our” Kaia through her eyes.
She insists that “our” Kaia will die if they don’t go back. She admits that she “envied” her doppelganger (which is ironic, because “our” Kaia’s life sucked). She says, “Her world looked peaceful. This place is cold. I don’t understand it. I don’t know how to move through it. So, I just find empty spaces and I hide.”
She admits that she doesn’t belong here (which probably has something to do with the fact that she comes from another timeline). She manages to get close enough to grab Jack’s hands and beg him to “help us.” Hesitantly, Jack puts his fingertips to her temples and sees “our” Kaia stuck in the Bad Place.
Well, now, Jack’s on a mission. He comes tearing back out to the library, insisting TFW has to go rescue “our” Kaia, who is alive. To their horror, the Brothers realize that he figured this out by using his powers and that he intends to do so again to open a rift to the Bad Place.
It’s at this point that Jack’s Reaper guard makes herself visible and strolls in. After introducing herself, Merle openly admits to having slipped in by “piggybacking” on Jack. She derisively refers to Jack’s plan as “Winchester Dumb” while glaring at Dean.
Dean (quite rightly) takes umbrage to this. After all, he’s the one who has been arguing for following Billie’s plan. Also in his defense, as he himself pointed out earlier in the episode, the Winchesters are often forced to operate on incomplete information due to major players in the SPNverse being unwilling to share intel with them. It’s therefore on Billie and the Reapers that Dean wasn’t able to keep Jack (never the sharpest tool in the shed) from going full-on Overpowered Moron.
Jack, at first, is cowed when Merle tells Jack that if he tries anything, she will tattle to Death. But then he gets an idea and tells her to go ahead. While she’s away, he’ll open the rift and she’ll reap (ha, sorry) the consequences of not being able to stop him. She then says she’ll just stop him herself and Jack (apparently correctly) guesses she can’t do that.
Angry, Merle now judges this “Winchester Stupid.” Dean, who has been intently watching Jack make his play (while Sam glances from him to Jack and Merle), spots the unspoken “but.” Merle admits that she could bolster the warding Amara had “stripped” from the Bunker and that the Brothers had thought they’d reinstalled (if it was only partial, why’d she need to slip in with Jack – oh , never mind). But she can only do it temporarily and using some of Castiel’s power. However, with all that, she could make the warding so Chuck can’t see what Jack is doing.
So, they rig up a spell and Sam says some Latin, while Jody mixes some ingredients, and Dean and Castiel watch. There’s a cool effect where the sigils Amara depowered when she appeared in the Bunker in season 11 glow all over the stone walls and columns. But Merle’s not done. She then pulls out a big rock with a sigil on it and sticks it on a library table, while the Brothers gear up as Jack releases Not!Kaia.
There is a last-minute switch-up of plan. Jody is also gearing up when Castiel has a quiet chat with her. Castiel admits that he still feels bad that he was never able to make things right with Claire (well, wearing her dead dad and effectively making her an orphan after destroying her happy childhood would make that hard). He believes that if things go wrong in the Bad Place and Jody, her new mother figure, dies there with “our” Kaia, it would destroy Claire. After initially balking and spouting some weird pseudo-feminist dialogue, Jody reluctantly allows that Castiel has a point and agrees to stay behind with him and Jack.
The Brothers and Not!Kaia assemble behind Merle on one side of the rock, while Jack, Castiel and Jody assemble on the other. Dean tells Jack to do his stuff and Jack makes the rift. Not!Kaia goes through first, then Sam, then Dean.
They arrive at night. It’s raining and the wind is blowing pretty briskly. Dean asks Not!Kaia how it feels to be back home. Sensing the approaching disaster, she doesn’t answer and Dean grumbles, “Good talk!”
Sam asks where “our” Kaia is and Not!Kaia leads them through the dark and dreary woods. They suddenly are surrounded by a herd of bipedal monsters with glowing red eyes and screechy voices. Not!Kaia warns them that they don’t have a chance if they fight because there are too many. But then she realizes that the monsters don’t want to fight, anyway. They’re scared. They can sense that their world is ending. The monsters ultimately run away without hurting them.
They walk until they get near the drafty hut where Kaia is. Not!Kaia says it’s her home (really? After a lifetime on this world, she couldn’t have done better with the shelter construction skills?). Sam and then Dean call her name and “our” Kaia, hearing them, comes out, still munching on lizard and clutching a stone knife. When she sees Dean and Not!Kaia, he says, “Hey, kid” and approaches her. After a brief double-take, she runs to him and hugs him fiercely.
When she spots Not!Kaia, it’s not with love and affection, but Sam reassures her that Not!Kaia helped them find her. Despite the Brothers’ urging, Not!Kaia refuses to go with them. This is her world, she never should have left it, and she’s not the one who belongs in theirs. “Our” Kaia does. The Brothers and “our” Kaia run back to the rift, as a tidal wave of unreality rolls across the Bad Place world and Not!Kaia turns to face it. She closes her eyes and the screen goes dark.
In the Bunker, the Brothers and Kaia burst out of the rift. Jody stands up and immediately hugs Kaia, who at first looks startled and then sinks into it with a look of contentment.
Later, Jack greets Kaia, who has showered and changed into his clothes. He asks her how she survived all by herself (a telling question, when you consider Jack has always been treated like a prince, supported and waited on by others). Kaia says her (deceased?) mother used to sing a nursery rhyme to her called “Miss Mary Mack,” but when she sees Jack doesn’t understand, she just tells him, “Never mind.” So, Kaia’s version of “Hey, Jude,” then.
Jody comes out with her pack and Kaia asks her what she’ll do now. Jody invites her back to Sioux Falls. Plaintively, Kaia asks if Claire will be there and Jody replies, “She will be.” Kaia thanks the Brother wholeheartedly with a little bow and leaves with Jody.
As TFW turns back into the library, Merle appears and allows that if she cared even a little bit about Kaia, this would have been a victory. When asked if they’ve managed to keep things on the downlow, she points out that if Chuck had noticed, they’d all be dead by now.
About a second later, she gets a scythe through the back of her neck and crumbles into ash. The scythe is Death’s and Billie’s holding it. She looks pissed. “Hello, boys,” she says, as Sam jumps and Dean’s mouth drops open, but her glare is reserved for Jack.
“What the hell?!” Dean says. This earns him a level look from Death, but then she turns her attention back to Jack. Jack tries to pull his innocent routine with her, saying he tried to call her. As she stalks up to him (Sam and Dean fall away to let her through), she says that she killed Merle because Merle failed at her job and was a “weak link.” This new TFW is only as strong as their weakest links.
She says that she sees a bigger picture. What Jack did, to save one insignificant life from one dying world, was reckless at best. She informs them that not only the Bad Place is dying. All of them are except for this one.
Castiel realizes she means that Chuck is destroying the multiverse. Billie is like, well, duh. Sam tries to challenge her by demanding to know what is going on. Yes, Jack is intended to kill God, but what is the plan here?
Billie is less-than-impressed by Sam, but she does give up some info. She says that as a Reaper, she believed in the Rules. But after Castiel killed her and she became Death, she inherited Death’s library and discovered that even God has His own book.
Dean says, “So, God can die?” which Billie confirms and we get a flashback to Death telling Dean he will eventually reap God, near the end of season five. Castiel is confused – why would Chuck allow such a weakness, a “blueprint to his own death?”
Billie: He didn’t. The books write themselves.
Billie explains that after Chuck created the world, he felt compelled to keep on creating. But in order to do so, he had to build himself into the framework of his own creation, which also opened up the possibility of his own death. And no one can see their death books without Death’s permission, not even God.
Sam tries to steer things back to Jack’s task, asking if Jack is in Chuck’s book, but Billie has a twist aimed especially at Dean. She reminds him that she had told him that he and Sam still had work to do. They are in Chuck’s book, too: “You are the messengers of God’s destruction.”
Cut to Chuck on Earth 2, watching the destruction of entire worlds on various TV screens and eating junk food. As he gets up to leave, the young clerk from the beginning scrambles up from a pile of empty junk food boxes on the floor. He looks decidedly haggard. He asks in an echo of his old clerk voice if Chuck is finished. Chuck muses that no, some worlds can be ended immediately, but others take time. It will take him a while.
The clerk asks in a plaintive voice if Chuck will spare his world – will spare him. After all, he’s been “serving” Chuck for weeks. Smoothing the initial irritation from his face, Chuck turns back and touches the clerk’s face and the young man looks terrified, awestruck and even reassured. Chuck assures him that he’ll be fine, but as he leaves the store and goes on his way with a mean little smile, meteors come roaring down from the sky. One completely demolishes the store.
The show dipped again to a 0.2 and 0.976 million in audience.
The preview for the next episode, “Destiny’s Child” (15.13) is up. With the Coronavirus pandemic halting show production after the first day of filming the penultimate episode of the series, we’ll have another hellatus of unknown length following “Destiny’s Child.”
Review: I can’t decide if this episode has already aged well or poorly, in light of current events. Fiction’s having a tough time topping reality right now.
But at least we’re back on board with this being a horror show (apocalyptic horror has always been Supernatural‘s forte) rather than dark fantasy or urban fantasy or paranormal romance, or whatever the hell the writers thought they were doing post-season 11.
In season six, Ben Edlund wrote a very similar episode in function, “The Man Who Would Be King,” that became an instant classic. Alas, this is no Ben Edlund script, not even a minor one. Where “The Man Who Would Be King” magnificently tied up all the many loose and tangled ends of season six (only for the yarn ball to get handed right back to the kitten by ostensible showrunners Sera Gamble and Eric Kripke for the end of the season itself), “Galaxy Brain” feels a lot more like taking out the trash. Long after the trash got moldy and stinky, and the neighbors (i.e., the audience) started to complain.
While the idea of Chuck burning down the SPN multiverse is a deeply horrifying concept, it feels in this episode more like a peremptory attempt to wrap up a concept (the multiverse) that the audience didn’t love in the first place. When Chuck says his other tries at timelines didn’t “spark joy,” it’s entirely too on-the-nose for what the writers Berens and Glynn are trying to accomplish here. At least Kripke was a little bit subtle, when he killed off all the Psykids at the end of season two, that he was burning down a storyline (especially in the form of the Roadhouse) with which he’d grown bored and for which he had no good ending.
When the show first introduced the multiverse in season 12, the obvious inspiration was the way it was used by DC shows on the CW and the apparent agent of separation between the different universes was mainly the choices humans and other sentient beings made, resulting in branching timelines diverging at each choice. The clearest example of this was the alt-Michael timeline where Mary refused to say yes to Azazel, John remained dead, and Sam and Dean were never born. Even season six’s “The French Mistake” was presented as just a pocket universe created by Balthazar, whereas he created the entire alternate reality in “My Heart Will Go On” by “unsinking” the Titanic.
Now, the idea of the multivere was relatively problematical, since it effectively retconned much of seasons four and five, which had presented the SPNverse as a single timeline where everything was predestined and it was very, very difficult (even potentially disastrous) to change what was foretold (note how pissy the Fates got about the Titanic timeline). Call it a Calvinist sort of universe.
But what the writers came up with this season was worse. At first, it was just a muddle, where it seemed that Chuck was actively meddling in preexisting timelines, or at least observing their results, where Sam and Dean killed each other over and over and over again. Then, in this episode, we are Told that no, there is really only one “true” timeline that has existed since the beginning of the SPNverse and that these other timelines are, in fact, just inventions after the fact by Chuck to test out various theories and ideas. And now that he’s bored with them, he’s burning them all down at once.
This could have been an intriguing concept, along the lines of a classic Lovecraftian story like the film, In the Mouth of Madness. Unfortunately, the way it appears in the second half of the season (after the show wasted almost half a season on that stupid Sam’s God Wound plot that went nowhere and existed only to keep Chuck’s storyline down to a glacial pace), it looks like something the writers pulled out of their asses.
Sam and Dean weren’t anywhere near the Bunker in season five, so Dean couldn’t possibly be shooting white-suited Samifer in the back of the head in season 15? Chuck wrote it that way. Why the heck does a young woman (Kaia), living in our world, not only have a genetic doppelganger in a radically different world full of monsters, but that young doppelganger speaks unaccented English? Chuck wrote it that way. Hillary Clinton is president on an Earth that has two moons and a version of Radio Shack? Chuck wrote it that way. Every plothole is Chuck-ex-machinaed to the point where story stakes become meaningless and there’s no point to getting emotionally invested in a storyline when the rug could get yanked out from under the audience, for the plot lulz, at any time.
I noticed that, for all of the focus in the story on Jack, in the end, Billie was pretty clearly using him as a tool. She didn’t care about keeping him in the loop. She probably only answered Sam and Castiel’s questions because she did care about keeping Dean on board and up to speed.
The one truly intriguing thing in all of this is that Chuck is so very obsessed with Dean (the real one, not those pale copies) telling him to piss off a few episodes ago. This appears to be quite literally the only thing that has saved even the prime timeline in the SPNverse from immolation. Chuck … wants to beat Dean. Not Sam (he already managed that and it wasn’t even that hard). Dean. Dean the Firewall is keeping the cosmic fire from his own world. It makes you wonder how much Chuck knows, even if he can’t see inside his own book. Does he know that Dean and his brother are his bane?
While Dean was hardly the focus of the episode, it did at least back off the egregious trashing of his character all season. The episode revisited the “deal” Not!Kaia tried to force on Dean last season (I know! I was shocked, too!). It wrote him as unrepentant and snarky with her, instead of getting beaten down by the story for daring to slap down her nonsense attempts to project her own guilt onto others.
It also revisited his threatening “our” Kaia (albeit the flashback in the recap was waaaayyy outta context) in a way that was positive for him. And there was the above hint that he is the actual hidden WMD against Chuck. So, I remain in hope the show will remember once again that he’s one of the two main protagonists in this story.
Let’s talk about Kaia. I know I was supposed to feel bad about Not!Kaia dying, but I didn’t, particularly. It was pretty obvious they were just writing her out because the spin-off didn’t happen (at least, not when it did) and neither her character nor the Bad Place (which was a rather idiotic and simplistic concept – Monster World, basically) ever clicked with the audience.
Bringing back “our” Kaia was more interesting because she was dead, and her storyline was done and dusted. The closest thing she had to continued relevance was Claire’s (completely offscreen) quest for revenge on her and that was really a Not!Kaia plot. They resurrected her for some reason. Folks, methinks that Wayward Sisters spin-off is still gonna happen.
I’ve been a bit rough on Yadira Guevara-Prip in the past about her past less-than-amazing performance as either version of Kaia (especially when compared to, say, Isa Briones on Star Trek: Picard, who almost casually knocks it out of the park playing three very different characters), and I still wasn’t won over by her rather late-TOS-seasons-Kirkian delivery with plenty of periods in random places for Not!Kaia. But I do think she nailed “our” Kaia this time round. Or, at least, nailed it enough that I’d now be interested in watching that character in a Wayward Sisters spin-off. And she did pull off making the two versions of Kaia seem like two different people. That’s not a very easy task.
While I try to be honest so that when I say something positive, it’s clear I mean it, I also try not to be mean or cruel. And in the case of actors, I back off them a bit because their performances are so influenced, even controlled, by outside forces like writing and direction. If the writing ain’t there and the director wants you to play a character a certain way, there’s not much you can do about it, especially if you are an occasional guest star on a set and hoping to become a regular on a spin-off (or are already locked into a contract).
So, I found it interesting that the point where Guevara-Prip appeared to get her footing with Kaia was when the character began to move beyond the original concept of Angry Underprivileged Ethnic Girl (or Feral Other whom we see only from the outside, like Not!Kaia) to Cowardly Lion Who Longs To Be A Hero. The former is a cliche, not a very flattering one at that. The latter is more interesting and has movement. That also gives us a dimension and sympathetic angle that the flat AUEG stereotype lacks. We’ve all been afraid and we all know that trauma can make someone extra hesitant to engage their fear. It’s a journey from that to get to being a Hero.
There are two critical moments where she had to sell it – and did. The first is when Sam and Dean show up with Not!Kaia to save her. The previous relationship between “our” Kaia and Dean has not been a good one. She is acutely aware that her journey to this place included the moment when Dean forced her at gunpoint to join TFW in the mission to rescue his mother. Yet, when he greets her, she runs to him and hugs him, after a brief hesitation.
This is an important moment, for both Kaia and Dean. The show wanted us to dislike Dean for threatening Kaia, but that doesn’t mean the scene itself made her especially popular with the audience. She was acting in a very unsympathetic and unheroic manner at the time, by initially refusing to use her talent to help find Mary, and pretty cavalier in her attitude about it.
We then saw Kaia flip in the very next episode on behalf of a girl she’d just met, Claire. This set up a Hero’s Journey for Kaia to overcome her lifelong trauma about the Bad Place, but it was cut short by her apparent murder and tempered by the unbelievable rapidity of her and Claire’s romance (such as it was).
In this episode, we see that “our” Kaia has grown from being forced to confront her fears in the Bad Place. When she sees Dean show up to save her from certain doom, it is with the knowledge that Dean makes those kinds of sacrifices for family (he makes sacrifices for complete strangers, too, but Kaia wouldn’t know that). So, if he’s there, greeting her in a warm and friendly manner, not only is he and his brother her ticket home, but he is greeting her as family.
We see this progress further when they all return to the Bunker and Jody welcomes her with open arms. Kaia isn’t too sure of this at first (she barely knows Jody), but then tentatively hugs her and sinks, finally, into her arms, closing her eyes. Kaia hasn’t felt safe or had a family in a long time, but she has one now. The fact that the actress is able to sell this is what makes Kaia’s subsequent decision to go with Jody in the coda logical and satisfying.
Not!Kaia, on the other hand, remains unsympathetic and not at all heroic. She has all these mad, unrealistic, Sueish fighting skills, but she has no interest in using them for the benefit of others. She is blatantly, unapologetically selfish for no particular reason, which makes her motivation too simplistic to sustain interest over multiple episodes. Even when she tries to get help for”our” Kaia – her doppelganger whose life she stole and whom she abandoned back in her own world – she tries to blame her own bad deed on others.
If there’s one big problem I have with the Wayward Sisters concept, is that its backdoor pilot’s rough spots included some 1980s and 90s cliches that didn’t need to be in there. It’s 2020, so I’d like to think we’ve moved a bit beyond having an eclectic cast supporting a cute, young, blonde, asskicking lead (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) or Angry Ethnic Characters who are converted from enemies to allies, but still have emotional control issues that make them a bit childish (Worf from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, B’Elanna Torres from Star Trek: Voyager, and Teal’c from Stargate SG1).
Another concern, which the writers may or may not deal with, is that with no worlds left save Earth Prime, there’s no place for Kaia to dreamwalk or Jack to rip a rift to. So, that eliminates each character’s most distinctive and powerful magical ability.
At the end of the day, the Bad Place was not as interesting as the writers thought it would be. A world of monsters? Okay. And? That Sam and Dean spend their entire time there hunting and eating lizards, that Kaia gets up to nothing more exciting in her own time there, pretty much tells you how boring that concept actually is.
While I felt a bit sorry for the scared, red-eyed monsters they encountered there while rescuing Kaia, I actually felt more sympathy for Radio Shed Guy (who was just an innocent kid trying to pay the rent when his world was capriciously destroyed by forces well beyond his pay grade). In fact, it irritated me that the show implied the only way we could have a world where Hillary Clinton was President, and the world was going right, was a fake fantasy world that had two moons in the sky.
The episode titles have been their own special brand of bad this season. Last episode’s “The Gamblers” (evocative of the song used in season six’s “Weekend at Bobby’s” and of its writer, Kenny Rogers, who sadly passed away on March 20) was okay, but way too on the nose. This week’s evoked a meme from 2017 involving people taking an argument to absurd extremes (“galaxy brain“), in order to comment, I suppose, on Chuck’s extreme tantrum. Considering how tightly they’ve tied the character of Chuck to their own writing, though, I don’t think the writers quite understood how easily the title opened them up to mockery about the season’s writing.
The destruction of the various worlds (clearly, deconstructing the SPN multiverse is the task distracting Billie for most of the episode) raised some questions for me. What happened to the souls in these worlds? Did the angels and demons who died in those Heavens and Hells go to the Empty? Where did all the human souls go? How was Chuck able to create multiple versions of the archangels when he claimed in season 11 that he couldn’t easily resurrect either Gabriel (who, admittedly, wasn’t actually dead) or Raphael? Is there really no peace for the people of these other worlds, now that they are done?
Well. That’s grim.
The Kripke Years
The Gamble Years
The Carver Years
The Dabb Years