The Official Supernatural: “Bloodlines” (9.20) Retro Recap and Review

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According to recent reports from Vancouver, the cast returned to work the first week of August (about two weeks late). Jensen Ackles also explained in a recent virtual “fan experience” through Creation Con that the writing for the last two episodes has been tweaked to reflect recent events (i.e., the Coronavirus pandemic). With these writers, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. He also said that 15.19 will be a season finale, while 15.20 is more like a series finale (and expressed sadness on Instagram when he got the final script, which said “The End” instead of the usual “To Be Continued”). In an already truncated final season, that likely means we’ll get stuck with some filler clips episode as the last one. Yay.

The show is returning October 8 and the series finale will be November 19. Yes, it’s back on Thursdays. I should be able to bring in the newest season 15 recap and review the following Thursday.

There are some new trailers out for the last episodes. Finally.

If you’re enjoying these articles and reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat and I’ve got a house full of fosters right now. My kitty Goose is doing much better, thank you (she’s acting as if nothing happened now), but I’ve still got that bill, so every little bit helps.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: No recap.

We start in Chicago, IL (no, literally, that’s where they filmed this episode) in a square that’s lit up like a crown jewel. A young, well-dressed African American couple are entering a tony restaurant called Il Secundo with jazzy music on the soundtrack (“Somehow” by the group Caught a Ghost). Inside, couples are sitting and chatting. The woman of the couple (her name is Tamara, but I never heard it once in this episode) talks about what a nice restaurant and calls her date “Ross.” Should I be concerned for her welfare that he doesn’t name-drop her right off, too?

Anyhoo, he’s acting a bit shady (in an “I’m about to propose to you in some particularly embarrassing fashion” way) and quickly leaves the table when he sees someone across the room. This turns out to be the maitre d’, but when Ross goes up to him to ask him to put an engagement ring in his date’s wine, the maitre d’ quickly ditches him when two white guys – one in a suit and one clearly a bodyguard – come in and goes to hang out with them. Ross is quite startled and calls him out on it. The bodyguard says something nasty, but Ross is too thrown by the monstrous reflection he sees of the bodyguard in a mirror to respond and lets it go.

The maitre d’ takes the two white guys down a hallway to a vault door with an electronic lock. It opens onto another, secret bar (if they’re keeping it a secret, why bother to have mirrors in the main restaurant that show the bodyguard’s a monster to any human patron? That’s dumb). There are a lot of jump-cuts in this scene that are intended to be jazzy and just come off as annoying.

Inside, the guy in the suit greets a young, blonde woman and exchanges air kisses. She says she liked him “better as a blonde” and walks away. So, the guy changes his appearance. He walks past one woman with cat-like eyes and a young vampire at a table, feeding on his willing date, and so on. He ends up at the bar, where the blonde woman is working, and asks her if she likes him better this way.

A dark-haired guy named Julian, who identifies himself as a werewolf when he says he’d loved to “eat Taylor Swift’s heart,” comes up behind him and tries to roust him from the bar. They trade insults that explicitly identify each other as a shapeshifter and a werewolf (you know, in case we the audience were too slow to catch that) and then blows. Julian ends up walking away, but claiming he will be back, or something.

Then someone with metal claws cuts a transformer somewhere in the building and the lights go out. The blonde flicks a snake tongue, tasting the air (for the attacker? I dunno). Then said attacker comes in and starts slaughtering everyone in the dark.

Cut to Ross … Ennis … whatever the hell his name is (Tamara is calling him Ennis now) on the steps outside. She’s confused that he wanted to leave so abruptly. He just says the restaurant wasn’t their scene (making the whole monster thing a very, very clumsy racial metaphor on the level of EVOL Racist Killer Monster Truck in season one’s “Route 666”), so he takes her over to a ferry stop. He starts talking about how they met in grade school on the ferry. She can tell he’s gearing up to ask her to marry him and starts to smile.

Then the shapeshifter dude from the bar comes staggering out, holding his bloody entrails. He collapses at Ennis’ feet as Ennis yells at his date to call 911. The shapeshifter keeps saying “David … I’m sorry … I didn’t have any choice.”

At that moment, the guy with the metal claws grabs Ennis’ date for some random reason (I guess because he sees her on the phone and assumes she’s calling 911) and slams her into a corrugated metal door. She slides down it, dead. Yes, that’s right – this is a show where even guest characters take a licking and keep on ticking, but not this girl. She’s got the fortitude of a hummingbird, poor thing, plus a fatal case of girlfriend fridging.

The guy with the metal claws throws Ennis around a bit for no reason (by which I mean that he doesn’t bother to kill him, too, which makes no sense), then grabs the shapeshifter and stabs him in the heart just to make sure. Then he runs off. Ennis runs to his girlfriend and weeps over her dead body. I check the time. 37 minutes to go. Yikes.

Cue title cards.

Cut to North Chicago University. A gray-haired professor gets called out by, I guess, his grad student, who is filing something (in this day and age? Really?) and thought he was off on a weekend trip with his wife. He makes some excuses and goes into “his” office.

Once inside, he shuts off his phone buzzing with a call (why do people never mute their phones when they are obviously sneaking around on shows?). Then he goes to the computer. Plugging in a thumb drive, he sits on the desk and answers the call – after changing into a much-younger man with none of the bloody shedding you would expect from a shapeshifter, just like the one in the teaser (major retcon fail here). It turns out he is stealing the professor’s math test in order to sell it to other students. Yay.

Outside, he’s coming down the steps when he gets a call from a woman named Margo who is apparently his sister and calls him David. Oh, I see. This is David.

She says that their brother, “Sal,” has died. The audio on this call is very awkwardly edited, with the actor playing David almost talking over the “sister’s” lines in response before they’re even said.

Cut to a police station where Ennis is answering questions from an asshole detective because reasons, I guess. Ennis gets mad at the guy basically calling him a liar (instead of, you know, just taking his statement like a professional). The detective apparently thinks this is okay because he had some kind of beef with Ennis’ father, who had been a police officer and is supposedly dead. Wow, this whole scene has not aged well, has it?

The detective claims to be Ennis’ friend and to have looked after him since his father, who was a mentor to said detective, died. Ennis insists that he saw what he saw and what he saw was a faceless monster with claws.

Two FBI agents walk in on the “interview,” showing their badges and saying they’re going to talk to Ennis. They are, of course, Sam and Dean, so when the detective protests the intrusion, nobody in this audience is liable to care what he thinks.

Dean [showing the detective the door]: Listen, uh, Detective, your, uh, perp fits a certain profile. Now, I could go into detail, but I’m not going to.

Dean slaps the guy on the shoulder, walks back into the room with an eye-roll, and closes the door in his face. Thank God for Dean.

Sam leans forward and gets right down to business asking Ennis about last night. Ennis petulantly asks if they’re going to call him “crazy,” too. (He has a tendency to chew all scenery in sight, plus a disconcerting way of overenunciating, perhaps because the actor, Lucien Leon Laviscount, is British and struggling with his American accent in this episode.)

Dean: Try us.

As Dean walks forward, the scene dissolves to Ennis telling them about what happened. He insists that what he saw was a monster (while brushing aside Sam’s commiseration over the death of his girlfriend). Dean tells him, “I don’t know what to tell ya, kid, but there’s no such thing as monsters.” Sam looks conflicted as Dean says this, but he still gets up and follows him out.

Cut to the detective meeting with Margo. She’s a nasty blonde in a severe black pantsuit with some serious bling half-covering her deep decolletage. She is asking him about whether or not the “ghouls” are ready to ally with them.

The detective says that with her father incapacitated and her brother Sam dead, the other families “have concerns.” She tells him to tell the ghouls and the djinn and whoever that she’s the one in charge now. They’re interrupted by David coming down the stairs. Margo is surprised David came home and the detective tenders his not-very-sincere condolences to David for their brother’s loss (seems Sal was Doomed Teaser Shifter).

When David asks what happened, Margo blames it on Julian, the werewolf from Il Secundo, claiming that he must have come back after his dust-up with Sal and killed everyone just to get to Sal. She says he carved Sal’s heart out, then stalks off.

David goes after her into a room where two men in leather jackets (like the bodyguard in the teaser, who ended up with his throat cut during the attack at the bar) are making up a small arsenal. She smiles nastily when she overhears the detective asking David to “talk some sense into her, because I sure can’t.”

When David, in a loud and rather condescending tone, asks her what she’s doing, she says that the family is “going to war.” She tells him that if he has a problem with it, he can talk to their father.

Daddy Dearest is upstairs, in bed, in a coma. Margo comments from the doorway that David has been away three years when David marvels uneasily at how much worse their father looks than the last time they saw each other.

Right outside the room, on the landing (is … that the same interior set as last week? Or is it Bobby’s old second story set?), brother and sister proceed to have a pretty loud fight about whether or not the werewolves were really responsible for their brother’s death. As it turns out, Margo (who claims to have a witness to the attack – she probably means Ennis by way of his detective “friend”) doesn’t really care because she sees this as a chance to get out from under the thumb of the werewolf family. Well, alrighty-then.

She leaves her brother with a parting shot – his ex, a werewolf named Violet, is about to get married, as part of a merger with a New York werewolf clan. She tells him that he “got out” because he wanted to be human and always “had a soft spot for them.” So, maybe he should stay out.

I am struck by how hard the show tried to cast actors who look like brother and sister, while completely forgetting that they’re shapeshifters and could look any way they like. They could even resemble actors with talent.

Inside an ornate Italianate pile, Julian is talking to an older djinn about whether or not the shapeshifter family will make a move. The djinn warns him not to understimate Margo. The aforementioned Violet comes in, saying she needs to have a conversation with him. When he tries to brush her off with that “man talk” nonsense that was dated even when Sean Connery was doing it in the 1960s, she insists.

They go out into the hallway. I see this episode is going to have a lot of should-be-private conversations out in the hallway where lots of people can hear. Also, where the hell are all the servants? The last staff we saw was that blonde at the bar.

Violet gets straight to the point and brings up Sal’s murder. Julian, to her surprise (but not ours), already knows. She asks why he’s talking to the djinn and he says he needs muscle against Margo because she assumes he killed Sal and he’s not interested in letting her think differently. Besides, the shapeshifters have been “chipping away at our territory” and acting insolent for years. When she begs to differ, he shoves her up against a wall and threatens her. She gets all weepy.

I will discuss this a good bit further in the review, but I just want to pause here to note that I really hate the misogynistic WB/CW trope of the forceful Alpha Male who is abusive, but is there to make all the teenage fangirls cream over a bad boy. It is precisely why I didn’t watch either The Vampire Diaries or The Originals for very long. This destructive, mean-spirited trope needed to be retired about twenty years ago. Ain’t no Spikes in this lot.

Cut to Ennis getting off a subway (with The Black Keys’ “Little Black Submarines” on the soundtrack), still in his suit from the night before. Apparently, his girlfriend didn’t have any family or friends or even a boss, because nobody is trying to contact him about her death. Also, he apparently has no job to go to because nothing ever gets mentioned.

He enters a house that appears to belong to him. It’s an older house but in decent shape. He opens a closet and then a trunk and then he takes out a photo of … his dad in police uniform. Well, I did not see that coming. I expected him to be moping over photos of his girlfriend.

So, then, he gets down further to what he was really looking for (past a lockpick of some type), which was his dad’s revolver, but he’s surprised to find, in a hidden compartment in the case, silver bullets. With crosses etched on them.

Cut to the crime scene, which Ennis is watching from a balcony above, now dressed in some kind of green hipster’s jacket and hoodie. We get a black-and-white recap of his girlfriend’s ridiculous fridging because I guess the writers assumed we weren’t paying attention during the teaser. But hey, at least he finally remembered her.

He turns back from the balcony and uses the lockpick to gain access to the club. He finds his way into the restaurant with a flashlight and then somehow into the monster speakeasy he previously didn’t know anything about (big old plothole there). It’s dark and everything is smashed up. It’s also not locked the way it previously was. One table has a big slash on it. There’s also a big pool of blood.

Suddenly, the lights go on and he acts surprised by this totally foreseeable event. As he ducks down behind the bar, gun drawn, the maitre d’ comes in, wheeling a bucket. The maitre d’ somehow sniffs him out. Rattled when the maitre d’ leans across the bar, Ennis jumps up and yells that he’s a cop. The maitre d’, showing vampire teeth, says, “I don’t think so.” He grabs him as Ennis shoots him several times to no effect.

Good thing there’s someone there with a machete to whack off the guy’s head from behind. That would be Dean, with Sam beside him, gun out. Cue a Bill-and-Ted-style rock guitar riff.

Dean [to Sam]: I think he looks better with a little off the top. [to Ennis] If you wanna run, now’s the time.

Ennis, shocked but full of bravado, insists on staying. So, Dean tells Sam they “should give him The Talk.” So, Sam does.

Sam: My name is Sam Winchester. That’s my brother Dean. We kill vampires. And werewolves and demons and … basically, we chase down evil and we cut its head off.

Ennis jumps right on this and calls them “monster cops” (Dean corrects him with “Hunters”) and then gets straight to the point: What killed his girlfriend?

Dean says they’re working on figuring that out. It might be a new MOTW or it could be “Freddy Krueger.” Ennis then asks about the bodyguard he saw reflected with a monster face in the mirror. Sam says it was probably a Wraith and that monsters can look human except in reflected surfaces or sometimes cameras. Ennis asks if beheading works for all monsters and Sam hedges, saying silver bullets sometimes work, too. Oh, Ennis, you have no idea.

Dean, meanwhile, is looking through the cupboards over the bar for some reason. He finds a blood bag and bags of meat, one of them a heart labeled “Susan.” The casual way Dean says it is about the only time Jensen Ackles is ever able to inject some Mark of Cain weirdness into any of this episode. And he had to work hard at it.

The Brothers come to the conclusion that Sal wasn’t human (though they’re puzzled by the monster gang war aspect) and decide to check out the body. Ennis insists on coming with them, even though that’s a really stupid thing to do. He goes off on a rant about his life is already ruined.

Sam tries to talk him down, saying they have a lot in common (boy, do they ever – like the exact same fridged girlfriend motive), but warns Ennis that being a Hunter is “messed up.” Ennis, being not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, won’t listen. The Brothers leave and the camera focuses briefly on Ennis’ face twitching.

Cut to an overhead Chicago subway (the L?) and then inside Ennis’ house, where he is finally looking at a picture of his poor girlfriend. He’s also doing some belated research on Sal (on the family’s company website) and fingering a silver bullet.

There’s a knock on the door. Let me guess – Asshole Detective? Yep. Got ‘er in one. He wants to talk more about the “thing” Ennis saw the night before. Ennis points out that AD’s previous theory was that it was a human being, some “gangbanger.” AD pretty much invites himself in (and what’s with these camera angles where a character practically walks into the camera before stopping or there’s a dissolve?).

AD keeps asking questions Ennis already answered the night before (and misses an obvious reference to Ennis’ deceased dad coming home from work later on), so Ennis checks him out on his camera phone and sees mirror eyes. He lures AD into the bedroom where he finds his gun.

Tossing a jacket at him to distract him, he points the gun at him and yells that it has a silver bullet in it and he’s not “Freddie Costa” (AD now has a name). The camera passes behind Ennis and when it comes back out, AD has changed into David Lassiter (half a head taller, but in the same suit which, somehow, still fits). David starts begging for his life, basically, by giving up his name and saying he’s a shapeshifter. Ennis is confused.

David: I’m a shapeshifter.

Ennis: You’re a what?!

David: We shift our shape. It’s kinda all there in the name.

David admits that he’s trying to find out who killed his brother. He faked being the detective because, well, that’s his main talent. Poor David then gets saddled with some ugly infodump as he fills poor, clueless Ennis in on what’s really going on in Chicago (because, when he says, “out there,” he obviously isn’t talking about Abaddon or Metatron, or any of the larger mytharc, of which he has no idea, himself).

He says the city is run by five families, has been for a while, and they’re all monsters. The werewolves run the Gold Coast, the djinn the South Side and … well … you get the picture. Despite owning the police and all being rich and powerful One Percenters (and having criminal counterparts on both American coasts), the monster families keep a low profile and their victims to a minimum because reasons. If they go to war, humans and monsters would die. So, kinda like every other part of the country, then.

While talking, David picks up Ennis’ coat and notes that the slashes from his girlfriend’s killer have silver in them. Julian, being a werewolf, can’t abide silver and even David admits that it’s burning his hands. So, Julian couldn’t be the killer. He then tosses the coat at Ennis, who somehow doesn’t fire his gun while startled and falls back into the closet. By the time he gets back up and rushes outside, he can’t see David (probably because David is hiding in plain sight as a shapeshifter).

Annoyed, Ennis comes back into his room and sits down at his computer. Clicking out of the page about Sal Lassiter, he starts searching for Julian Duval. Later that night, he goes sneaking around Julian’s castle and spots Sam and Dean infodumping in the street to each other about Julian, while sitting on the Impala.

We see Violet come out the door while a guard stands outside. She calls out the guard as David in disguise (she’s right). He’s surprised she noticed. She’s like, You’re not that clever, dude.

She asks where the real guard is. David says he’s locked in a closet. He says his brother’s dead. She says she knows and she’s sorry, but her brother didn’t do that. David says he knows that, but she has to talk to her brother and get him to stand down. She’s like, yeah, right, like anyone will listen to him. David’s “just a runaway and I’m just a bitch” (’cause she’s a werewolf, a female dog, geddit?). David asks what happened to her and why she didn’t meet him at the station at midnight, as they’d originally planned some years ago. She looks down, ashamed. He’s all whiny and full of manpain, while crying.

Fortunately, this irritating scene full of mounting cliches is interrupted by the claws dude from the teaser. He unexpectedly jumps from the balcony and knocks David down. David tells Violet to run (she’s already beating feet) as his attacker slashes at him. Um … she’s a werewolf. Why doesn’t she just transform and go after the guy? Surely, she and David together could take him on.

Claws Guy jumps up to go after her and David jumps up to go after him. Predictably, David gets knocked down again and is about to lose his heart (with silver claws slowly going into his chest), when a shot from Ennis startles Sam and Dean, and drives off the attacker. As David gets up, we hear a scream from Violet and David goes running after her and Claws Guy.

Sam and Dean then show up right after Ennis in the clearing. An alarm rings somewhere and Dean says the most sensible thing in the episode when he points out it is time to bail.

Out on the street (or a street, since I’m pretty sure they all drove off together at high speed), the Brothers, Ennis and David get out to rehash the show’s basic premise that we already heard a scene or two before. Poor Dean gets stuck with the infodumping this time. He calls it “Godfather with fangs.” I’ll bet that was Andrew Dabb’s pitch, too.

As thunder rumbles and it starts to rain, David gets off his cell phone, saying Violet won’t/can’t pick up hers (well, duh, she just got kidnapped). He has to admit that Violet is a werewolf, causing Dean and Ennis to say, sarcastically and in unison, “Awesome.”

Ennis points out that they can trace Violet’s phone if it’s still on (you know, something the Brothers do all the time). Sam allows that’s a good idea, but David doesn’t want to give up the number because he wants to come with them. Even though the Brothers could probably take the phone away from him, Dean just shrugs at Ennis’ objections (which are rather lame, anyway) that David is a shapeshifter and says that “sometimes, you gotta work with the bad guys to get to the worse guys” (Ennis, honey, you have no idea). When David acts offended, Dean says he couldn’t care less (the audience couldn’t care less, either – shut up and get in the car, David).

Somewhere in a generic warehouse, Violet’s phone is buzzing in her coat nearby as she slowly wakes to discover she’s chained (probably iron or silver) to some kind of pillar. Woefully and rather briefly, she tries to break free (that’s not happening), then looks over at an illuminated bulletin board full of photos of a cute baby.

Claw Guy is right beside her in a nearby convenient shadow. He starts talking, saying he’s not a “freak” or a “monster” like her. He pulls back his hood and pulls off a balaclava. He’s wearing dark glasses (infrared goggles?), which he also pulls off, stating that he’s “just a man … with some fun little toys.” He also has a Freddy Krueger-style glove tipped with silver razors. Violet looks constipated.

Later that night, the Impala pulls up next to a building with what look like Dorian columns. So, I guess she’s actually in the cellar of a museum, or something. David belatedly tries to apologize and commiserate over Ennis’ loss (across the top of the Impala, no less). Ennis brushes it off at first, but then, when David whines that he “lost someone, too,” commiserates enough with David to tell him that his brother’s last words were: “David, I’m sorry. I didn’t have a choice.” Nothing is said about how Violet is about to get fridged, too, just like Ennis’ poor girlfriend who has no family or friends asking about her death.

Dean mercifully breaks up this mangst fest by telling them that they can “kiss and make up later. We got work to do.” Yes, Dabb actually puts that into the script. They all go inside.

Inside, Violet is getting kinda tortured by Claw Guy. He proceeds to infodump that his young son was murdered by a monster (at least, he believes it was that and not the animal attack it was chalked up to be by law enforcement). He now blames all monsters.

Violet tries to point out that her brother and Sal “hated each other” and wouldn’t kill children, anyway. He doesn’t care because 1. she’s a monster, too, and 2. she’ll be dead by morning, anyway. She’ll be found “in pieces” all over town and it will start a monster war. When Violet points out that innocent human babies will be killed, too, he looks uncertain for a moment. But then he hears a noise upstairs. Putting his goggles back on, he leaves her there.

Inside some steam tunnels, Dean pauses to break the gang up into two teams. He’ll go with David and Ennis with Sam. Dean calls David “Romeo” and David snarks back, calling him “Buffy.” It’s not too bright, all things considered, but David doesn’t have what you’d call a whole lot of common sense.

Case in point, when Dean goes in with his pistol and flashlight, David (who’s wielding a shotgun), doesn’t keep up with him for some reason. So, when he spots Claw Guy’s shadow, he heads after him alone. Predictably, he gets ambushed, captured, and chained up next to Violet. Good going, there, David. Dean, backtracking, finds he’s disappeared.

Claw Guy comes in, having beaten David, and starts threatening the two of them, prompting each to try to protect the other. I might have cared if David weren’t so annoying and I hadn’t met Violet a grand total of two scenes before her ending up in this predicament. It doesn’t help that she’s got all the personality of a drenched Cocker Spaniel. I’ll admit that’s not fair to Spaniels, who are quite lively dogs with a lot of personality and energy, but it’s the image I keep getting whenever she’s onscreen.

When Claw Guy starts torturing David by sticking his claws inside his chest again (how is that not immediately fatal?), Violet finally loses her shit, wolfs out, busts her chains, and attacks Claw Guy. Her slow-motion flying leap is hilariously bad. I remember laughing even the first time I saw this.

She slashes him up good and is about to eat his heart out (literally) when David manages to bust his ropes and drag her off the guy. Because reasons, I guess. They hug as Claw Guy slowly gets up, his face all slashed.

Sam, Dean and Ennis arrive at that moment on a platform above them. Dean asks, “What’d we miss?” in a rather warning tone (not much, Dean, not much). Claw Guy looks up at Ennis, recognizes him and apologizes for killing his girlfriend, as Sam and Dean exchange looks. Then he backtracks, saying “she was in the way” and that David and Violet are “monsters.”

Ennis shoots him, anyway, saying “I only see one monster here.” Even Ennis looks a little shocked, afterward, by what he’s done.

The next day, David and Violet are taking a walk on a path near her family’s McMansion. He tells her about Sal’s last words and wonders out loud why his brother was sorry. He says Sal never did anything to him, so what was he sorry about and why did he have no choice?

As Violet looks shady as hell, she has a flashback to the night she didn’t meet David at the bus station. Well … she was on her way when she had an encounter with Sal. Sal tells her that mixing the bloodlines is bad and that if she runs off with David, there will be a war and a lot of people (well, monsters) will die. So, we’ve got an interracial persecuted couple metaphor for two rich white characters, when the show actually has/had two characters of color in a relationship? That’s … embarrassing, CW.

Sal then threatens her life if she leaves with David. As he leaves, she tells him that she loves David. He says, “I wish that mattered.” Welp, any reason left for me to care about Sal biting it in the teaser had now evaporated.

In the present, an oblivious David is still eulogizing his brother when he asks her what Sal meant. She lies and says she has no idea, really. As she turns to leave, David gets pissy and basically calls her a coward. She turns back briefly to kiss him passionately, enough to draw blood with her fangs. Then she leaves. David looks confused as she goes. Well, dude, you did get an answer, but maybe she needed to draw you a map, or something.

Back in his mansion, David is by his father’s bedside when Daddy Dearest wakes up. Daddy whispers the obvious, that David’s sister “wants war,” and then tells David he has to stop her.

Later, David lays Claw Guy’s glove on the table in front of Margo, as two henchmen watch. David says Sal’s killer was just a “messed-up guy.”

Unimpressed, she still wants war, but David then drops another bombshell. He’s coming back to the family. As the two henchmen exchange a smug glance, Margo realizes they’d rather follow him and OhmyGodcouldthisspinoffbeanymoresexist? Margo’s pissed. Even though I don’t care a hoot about her, I can’t blame her. I’d be pissed, too. Besides, where’s that monster families war this episode teased for forty minutes?

Margo musters a fake smile and says, “I’ve waited a long time to hear you say that.” But as David exchanges bro-hugs with the two henchmen and the detective (who has appeared out of nowhere), and Margo moves in for her own hug, we see her smile drop as soon as he can’t see her face.

The Impala pulls up to Ennis’ house. Sam asks, “You live here alone?” in a disbelieving tone. Sam, come on. You and your brother live in a ginormous bunker underground. The house ain’t that big.

We finally get a little more info on Ennis. He says that his sister lives on the other side of Chicago. His mother is “out of the picture” and his father died.

Meanwhile, Dean is getting an urgent call. It’s from Castiel who has a lead on Metatron. When Sam protests that Chicago is full of monsters to hunt, Dean points out they have bigger fish to fry. Sam turns to Ennis and rather weakly tells him they’ll be in touch and insists they will send him some other Hunters to help. Sam gets kinda emotional unsuccessfully trying to talk Ennis out of getting into Hunting.

Ennis tells him he’ll be fine. Of course he won’t be. He’s like a babe in the Hunter woods. But never have I been so relieved to see the Brothers ride out of town and an episode, ’cause that means this one is about to end.

As they leave, Ennis watches them from the street (hey, at least Dabb didn’t try to give him his own Impala). Then we get a voiceover over a montage as he says he couldn’t just let things go. He has to follow that rabbit hole.

Loading up his dad’s gun, he goes back down to Claw Guy’s lair and then he checks out the death of Claw Guy’s son (the fact that Claw Guy’s story puts paid to the whole idea that the monster families are discrete about their activities and choices in victims is never, ever brought up, not even in his scenes with Violet and David). He fingers his fiancee’s ring.

As he does so, he gets a call. It’s from an Unknown Caller who tells him, “What are you doing? If you start hunting, the monsters will kill you!” As the caller hangs up, Ennis says, “Dad?” in astonishment. Guess Dad didn’t die a long time ago, after all.

Credits

Ratings rose a bit to 1.0/3 in the A18-49 demo and dipped a bit in audience to 2.03 million. You’d have thought that would have been enough to greenlight the show (The Originals only got a 0.8/3 and 1.77 million as the lead-in for that night), but Bloodlines never went to series. I’m guessing that’s because the critics’ reviews were mainly polite, but lukewarm, while fan ratings (such as on IMdB) were generally scathing.

Review: This episode made me miss Metatron. I was so bored at times that I kept ditching on the recap to go read snarky reviews about it, instead. They were much more fun. Rewatching it wasn’t as bad as I’d dreaded it would be, but that doesn’t mean it was a wonderful experience, either.

“Bloodlines” is a stupid episode and it would have been a terrible series. As one of the reviewers said at the time it came out, they’d really rather see a series about those two older Hunters who kept coming in and saving Ennis from his own stupidity. What were their names? Oh, yeah – Sam and Dean Winchester. The only time the episode is remotely interesting is when they’re onscreen. Unfortunately, they’re not onscreen very much.

Also, if you were wondering how the Brothers were reacting to last week’s events involving the Mark of Cain, that doesn’t get mentioned at all in “Bloodlines.” It exists kinda in its own universe. I liked the idea someone suggested (at the time) that this was really an alternate universe Sam and Dean wandered into (or this was an alternate Sam and Dean) because that means this universe just got smote by Chuck. Though I do feel bad for that version of Sam and Dean.

Partly due to this being filmed on location in Chicago, which probably seemed like a good idea at the time, there’s a glossiness to the cinematography in this one that might have worked with a better script (Andrew Dabb, probably working from a corporate checklist), better direction (Robert Singer, directing on autopilot), better acting from the guest cast, better title … I dunno. But here, it only highlights how bad those things are. Yes, even the title.

Not a single one of the guest characters (who would have been the main characters in the spinoff) lands. Not one. Ennis is an idiot and overreacts to everything, plus he later shoots a human being without an ounce of remorse. I get that the guy killed his girlfriend, but that is a serious line to cross, killing a human. I mean, it’s one that the man Ennis killed crossed, so why is it okay for Ennis to blow right over that one as if it’s not there? What’s to root for in that?

The monster family premise is flat-out stupid and none of the monster characters is remotely sympathetic. David is set up as a sympathetic monster, but the show completely undermines him right off the bat by introducing him as a slacker who has no problem stealing tests and selling them to the highest bidder. You could argue that Nathaniel Buzolic as David is somewhat more engaging than Ennis. But much of that has to do with his getting snarkier lines as the Cute White Male Lead and Laviscount being saddled with a boring and humorless Angry Black Guy stereotype.

David does not improve on further acquaintance and has zero buddy chemistry with Ennis. However you feel about the Supernatural pilot, it set up its premise quickly and efficiently with no fuss or muss – and the chemistry between Sam and Dean was undeniable from the outset. There’s none of that here between Ennis and David, and certainly none between David and Violet. Without that, there’s little reason to keep watching this as a series.

I get that Sam and Dean are grifters, but they are also doing that because they are poor and live hand-to-mouth. David does it because he’s a privileged twit and he’s bored. Hardly the same thing and I recall being very dismayed that Andrew Dabb (yes, the showrunner currently running the show into the ground) thought that it was. It looks as though Ennis and David are supposed to be the Sam and Dean analogues of the show, but neither of them seems capable of finding a moral compass with both hands.

Every single one of the other characters is a snarling, one-dimensional, unpleasant mobster cliché (except the shady detective cliché and the dippy soap opera star-crossed girlfriend cliché). Their menace and power are completely undercut by the fact that Dean talked Death out of wiping their city off the map four seasons earlier and neither of them so much as mentioned these monster families.

There is no mention, either, of the season six storyline in which almost all of the remaining Alphas (with the exception of the Vampire Alpha, who made it all the way to season 12), who basically functioned for the monsters like the pagan gods with humans, were killed off. Nothing about Eve.

These five families seem blissfully unaware of anything that looks like a larger cosmic conflict than their petty urban turf wars. The stakes in this proposed spin-off are depressingly low. It’s as if the pilot for Game of Thrones had introduced the White Walkers very briefly in the teaser and then simply ignored that existential threat for the rest of the show in favor of the One Percenter shenanigans in King’s Landing.

These monsters are spoiled, sheltered, posturing nobodies who think they’re somebody and have no idea that however they act, they are all Purgatory-bound. Why would I want to watch a show about them? Yeah, it’s also a big plothole that Sam and Dean have never heard of these families, and are willing to leave Ennis to take care of them. But at the same time, the Brothers’ cosmic dance card is pretty full and the monster families of Chicago are not anywhere near the top of their list in important things to resolve (as the call Dean gets in the coda makes clear).

And what’s really bizarre? These bozos have never heard of Sam and Dean. We had an entire freakin’ low-life family of vampires last week who had heard of Sam and Dean. Sam and Dean are famous in the monster world. So, why haven’t the high-and-mighty monsters of Chicago ever heard of them?

A big problem here is that, as in “Bitten,” the episode heavily focuses on guest stars who are not actually the center of the episode’s story. It’s still about Sam and Dean on a hunt. It’s just from the perspective of the episode’s side characters.

This could be a brilliant premise and way to look at Sam and Dean (and hunting monsters) from a different angle. The problem is that the writers never seem to understand that that’s what they’re doing. They always act as though the story is really about the side character, when the central conflict actually still remains firmly with Sam and Dean.

This is probably the main reason why all the monster family politics comes off as boring and irrelevant. All that soap opera might have ended up being important if this pilot had ever gone to series, but it had no bearing on the story in the episode itself. All it did was function as a giant, convoluted red herring to hide the lame “twist” that the MOTW was just a messed-up human Hunter, who was promptly dispatched by other human Hunters, with no necessary involvement by the monsters themselves besides playing Damsels in Distress. So, of course the audience felt bored and cheated by what was going on. The monster families had no reason to be there. A lot of screentime was wasted on characters with no purpose in the episode itself.

It doesn’t help that other retcons shift the episode loose from the mothership’s worldbuilding moorings. The idea that shapeshifters can now just change in a flash without having to shed their skin in a bloody and painful transformation may seem minor, but it quickly turns the entire concept ridiculous in a way the original version never was. The bloody transformation idea showed that shapeshifters could grow or shed mass within a certain limit. The show didn’t have to say what that limit was, since it was made reasonably clear from those transformations without any unnecessary dialogue infodump. It also grounded the talent shapeshifters had in a gritty, painful reality the audience could buy into (and that’s probably why the show went back to it after this).

The way shapeshifters change in this show cuts loose from all that bloody, concrete reality and that one retcon creates a cascade of ridiculous and unfortunate implications. For example, when David shifts shape from the detective to himself, his suit doesn’t change, even though he’s taller. His tie is still at the same level with his belt. He looks a lot like his sister, when there is no reason for them to look alike, especially after three years (and why do all of these monsters have to be white?).

And there is no apparent expenditure of effort or tradeoff in the shifting. It turns the concept from one of the better MOTWs in the show into something cheap and stupid. These characters never appear to be monsters, just young and pretty actors wearing weird prosthetics.

Andrew Dabb was definitely not the writer to pull this one off. He actually gave an interview to TV Guide right before the episode came out, where he claimed this spinoff would fix Supernatural‘s “woman problem.”

It is highly debatable whether Supernatural has any worse of a woman problem than any other show on TV, let alone the CW (no bastion of feminism, no matter how much its leadership may delude themselves on that score). But I will say that fixing whatever this problem may be is not ever going to entail fridging a girlfriend in the teaser, a hot minute after we meet her (did we even get her name onscreen before she died?), let alone having one of the (only) two regular female characters be a bitchy, castrating blonde and the other a wimpy princess type. I don’t know what the hell kinda feminism Dabb thinks he’s peddling here, but I sure don’t recognize it.

The “diversity,” such as it is, is pathetic. Aside from Ennis and his girlfriend (who doesn’t survive the teaser), there are no major onscreen characters of color. Also, it’s strongly implied that Ennis is working class (i.e., one step above the ‘hood and not very smart or well-educated). Let’s just say that the way all the rich, white monster characters treat him with condescension has not aged any better than whatever the hell The Vampire Diaries was doing with/to Bonnie when it constantly reduced a powerful woman of color from a family of powerful women of color to an isolated handmaid for the white female lead (https://blackgirlnerds.com/vampire-diaries-wronged-bonnie-bennett/). I don’t even want to think about how that would have played out over the course of a series.

Then we’ve got the female characters. Such as they were. Ennis’ girlfriend (whom I frankly found a lot more interesting in her two seconds onscreen than Ennis in the entire episode) died in the teaser. I cringed hard that she was the one who barely made it through a few minutes of screentime, while the men in the story spent the entire fourth act rescuing the pure white monster girl (Melissa Roxburgh, struggling to channel Lillian Gish, though she did better as Lila Taylor in season seven’s “Time After Time”). What the hell kind of diversity is that, Dabb?

Margo barely appeared beyond the first act and was mainly there to be bitchy. It was never sufficiently explained why it was so bad for her to be acting Head of her family or even why shapeshifters would have a fixed gender, let alone patriarchal gender roles. With that little anti-trans poison note (which also has not aged well in 2020), it’s no real surprise “Bloodlines” had no discernible GLBT characters. Considering this was the season where Crowley and Dean began their version of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance,” that is a major oversight.

Then there’s Violet, bless her heart. The girl has the personality of a wet blanket. She seems to exist solely to give Dabb an excuse to call female characters “bitch” a whole lot and to show a female character being regularly abused as part of the plot. The really sad thing is that this is a character who is a werewolf, which means she has superstrength and other superpowers. So, why the hell is this girl so weak? How could the show make a female werewolf a damsel in distress, especially after last week’s vampire matriarch?

It’s pathetic that we arrived in 2014 with a backdoor pilot that claimed to celebrate diversity but couldn’t even even achieve gender parity. There should have been a female detective to match the male detective. Ennis’ girlfriend shouldn’t have died, bringing in another human character (who would also be a woman of color). There should have been more female side characters than just that one bartender. Somebody should have had another sister to balance out Sal. Hell, why are the only two women isolated in two different families so that we can be guaranteed never to have even a hint of a Bechdel Test because they aren’t even likely to interact with each other, let alone while talking about anything but one of their obnoxious male relatives?

The thing is that the title of the episode (and what would have been the series) is an unfortunate dead giveaway of which sources Dabb was ripping off. Bloodlines was an offshoot of the Vampire: The Masquerade (1991) rpg game back in the 90s with a similar premise, also the TV show Kindred: The Embraced (1996), which came out (briefly) around the same time (there’s even a major vampire character named Julian in the series). It’s also quite obvious that the writers were trying to do some kind of mashup of Supernatural with The Originals, with the latter heavily favored in influence.

I’m still fairly baffled by just how much the CW execs have hated and failed to understand Supernatural as a show (and I don’t just mean the Dawn Ostroff period). Sure, The Vampire Diaries was very popular for its first few seasons, but as a water cooler show, it faded hard after about season five and I don’t see much evidence that it’s found an afterlife (sorry) of great note in syndication or streaming.

The Originals, which got paired with Supernatural, dropped early and pretty consistently rated below Supernatural during season nine. Without being propped up by the CW (obviously as a way to continue the popularity of the mothership show), I doubt it would have seen much more than a season, so I’m confused why the CW would want this kind of mashup when the romanticized vampire trend was already on the way out.

I still fail to see why they greenlit Legacies over Wayward Sisters. I’m guessing it had something to do with the Wayward Sisters deal falling apart behind the scenes and the CW still having some kind of deal with Julie Plec. Legacies felt very slapped-together-at-the-last-minute (what is even going on with the creepy relationship between Super White Mary Sue and her Giles-like mentor? I mean, I loved Giles on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but come on, that was two decades ago), whereas this piece of dreck was crafted with loving and misguided care.

I said “writers” because it was fairly obvious that Dabb didn’t come up with this idea all by himself. I imagine a room full of straight, white, male CW and WB executives (living in a privileged bubble in Hollywood) getting themselves all hot over this idea. Convincing themselves that it was such a great way of freshening up the Supernatural franchise and bringing in a newer, younger, hipper, more woke audience (which just goes to show they were completely blind to The Vampire Diaries‘ and The Originals‘ own vast problems with misogyny and problematic treatment of people of color). I think they made a classic mistake here in trying to do that while utterly failing to hook the show’s already-established audience. I’d think the whole point of doing a spin-off was to keep and build on as much of that established audience as possible. I guess not.

Rewatching this, I realized that the network, even after Dawn Ostroff left, has really just been doing retreads of old WB subplots (star-crossed lovers who are star-crossed because they’re wimpy morons, sympathetic monsters, abusive Alpha Males, Evil Older Characters who do things that are perfectly okay for younger characters to do, creepy older British mentors for teenaged girls with superpowers, that sort of thing). There’s even a reference in the episode to Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, with no sense of what made that show unique.

But Buffy was a long time ago. Rich, privileged white girls who are the Chosen One are no longer innovative TV. And there aren’t any Buffy-like female characters in this spin-off, anyway.

Anyhoo, this one and the events within it were dropped like a hot rock after “Bloodlines” aired and wasn’t picked up. So, I think we can now chalk it up to just another of Chuck’s failed drafts.

Next week: King of the Damned: Sam and Dean are torn between helping Castiel with his rebellion and following a hot new lead on Abaddon.

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


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The Official Supernatural: “Alex Annie Alexis Ann” (9.19) Retro Recap and Review

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According to recent reports from Vancouver, the cast returned to work the first week of August (about two weeks late) . Jensen Ackles also explained in a recent virtual “fan experience” through Creation Con that the writing for the last two episodes has been tweaked to reflect recent events (i.e., the Coronavirus pandemic). With these writers, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. He also said that 15.19 will be a season finale, while 15.20 is more like a series finale (and expressed sadness on Instagram when he got the final script, which said “The End” instead of the usual “To Be Continued”). In an already truncated final season, that likely means we’ll get stuck with some filler clips episode as the last one. Yay.

The show is returning October 8 and the series finale will be November 19. Yes, it’s back on Thursdays. If I manage to stay on track, I should be able to post the season nine finale retro review right after the show comes back on Sunday, then bring in the newest season five recap and review the following Thursday.

There are some new trailers out for the last episodes. Finally.

If you’re enjoying these articles and reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat and I’ve got a house full of fosters right now. My kitty Goose is doing much better, thank you (she’s acting as if nothing happened now), but I’ve still got that bill, so every little bit helps.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Recap of how to kill vampires, with a Dean voiceover, and one about Jody that specifies how her zombie son ate her husband, and then she found religion and hunting monsters.

Cut to Now where a Sioux Falls cop is wrestling a young woman down the halls of Jody’s precinct. He puts her in a holding cell, but as he sits down in exhaustion, he gets a call over the radio. Despite her pleas that he not leave her there alone (and it’s against rules for him to do so), he takes the call. She looks scared.

Time passes and as it gets dark, she hears a noise outside her cell. A young man in a tan jacket appears outside. She knows him. His name is Cody. When she asks how he found her, he scoffs. Seems she ran away while the rest of the family was “off on a hunt” and he came to fetch her before she could get the two of them in trouble. When she says he can’t get to her in the cell, he shows her the keys and opens the door as she backs away.

It turns out that Cody faked the call the officer got, then attacked him when he arrived. He says “he barely saw me coming” as he shows vampire teeth. When he tells that her that “we will always find you,” he never sees Jody coming when she beheads him from behind with a fire axe. Go Jody.

Cue title cards.

Cut to a daytime exterior shot of a Sioux Falls sheriff’s car and the precinct’s parking lot as the Impala arrives in the rain. Jody is waiting for them as they get out. Smiles of greeting all around and a reference to her last case with them, when she got stabbed in the shoulder by a crazy goddess (“Only aches when it rains”).

When she asks them how they’re doing, they answer almost simultaneously.

Dean: Peachy.

Sam: Touch and go.

Jody: I know the feeling.

She quickly gets down to business. Opening her cruiser trunk, she shows them the bisected body of the “young man” (now revealed to be a vampire). Sam checks for the teeth and comfirms it.

Dean: I dunno, Sammy. Looks like Jody might not need our help, anymore.

Sam: Ah, they grow up too fast.

Dean: Don’t they?

Jody smiles at the compliment, but explains that there are a few extra wrinkles in this case and those she does need help with. She explains about the girl who was brought in during the teaser and that she overheard the conversation with Doomed Teaser Vampire, how the others he was with were coming after her, too. Also, the girl (a Jane Doe) had a one-way ticket out of O’Neill, Nebraska. And is practically feral.

The Brothers explain that the girl is probably running from a nest of vampires. Then they have to explain to Jody what a nest is. She’s a little horrified.

Inside, while the girl is handcuffed to a chair, Sam gives her a pretty rough check of her gums. She comes up human.

Recognizing what the check is for, she snarks that she doubts the Brothers are FBI and correctly guesses that they’re Hunters. After a dual brotherly double-take, Dean asks some equally uncomfortable questions about why the dead vampire was after her, who are the “others” coming and are they a nest? After suggesting that the first thing she should have done was thank Jody, he also notices a bite mark on her neck, which she tries to cover up, with an uneasy look.

Jody comes in with some new information. Outside the holding cell, they discuss it. They have an ID on the girl via DNA. Her name is Annie Jones and she was abducted from her grandmother (now deceased) near Kenosha, WI in 2006. Jody wonders if Annie was originally kidnapped by the vampires, but Dean thinks it’s more likely the vampires abducted her more recently – they don’t tend to keep human captives long. They either kill or turn them. Jody’s not so sure, pointing out that the exchange between Annie and the vampire seemed “familiar.”

Sam points out that Annie has a lot of old feeding scars on her neck. Dean says, so Sam thinks she was a blood slave for that long? Dean explains to Jody that they have seen humans kept by vampires as “pets,” fed on but not killed by the vampires. The humans become devoted to their masters (Jody calls it “Vampire Stockholm Syndrome”).

Dean: She’s protecting the nest.

The Brothers go in to talk to Annie (who insists her name is Alex) and try to break her conditioning, with Jody watching. Sam plays Good Cop, Dean Bad Cop. Annie says that she ran away because “it was time” to go off on her own. The Brothers note that’s not how this works. When Sam says the nest has her scent and points out that the vampires fed on her, Annie/Alex insists that feeding her “brothers” was her choice. They brought her food, so when they were unsuccessful in finding humans to feed on, she gave them her blood.

She tries to flash out in anger at Jody for killing Cody, but Dean coldly brings her back down off her high horse by saying that her choices brought her and Cody to this station, and got Cody killed. He asks her where the nest is, but she says that she can’t. She says that “Mama” will kill her now if she finds her. This upsets her.

Outside, Jody seems to be getting emotionally involved and Dean asks if she’s okay (she insists she is). She muses that it’s no wonder the girl didn’t thank her, since to her, the vampire was her brother, not a monster. She also wonders why they bothered to change her name to something so similar.

Sam does some research on O’Neill and comes up with an abandoned fire station and a few homes that might serve as a vampire nest. He and Dean can go check out it out quickly and easily. They ask Jody if she’s okay babysitting “Alex” and suggest she take her away from the station. Vampires, being natural trackers, already know the location in looking for her. Jody says she has “an old family cabin” in the woods near town. She can take Alex there. But she refuses Dean’s suggestion of backup. It turns out the officer from the teaser isn’t dead, but still has no idea what attacked him. Jody doesn’t want to have to give The Talk to half her police force, so she doesn’t bring the officer into the loop.

The Brothers tell her about the uses of dead man’s blood. Though she allows that would be a good thing to have, she feels sure (not sounding too sure) that the Brothers will have cleared out the nest and be back before any of that is necessary. Dean, holding a styrofoam cup of coffee, gives her a half-salute. The Brothers walk off to “Dean’s Dirty Organ” (been a while since they used that) and Jody’s bravado slipping after they leave.

Cut to the back bumper of an old pickup with Nebraska plates while nearby, a woman in a bus station uniform is closing up the station. She’s on her phone to someone who objected to her pulling a double shift. She points out her co-worker never showed up, so she had no choice.

As she walks to her car, a very redneck-y kind of dude walks up behind her. He fake-apologizes for startling her as she turns around, then asks her if she’s seen Alex. Identifying him as Connor and Alex as his sister, the bus station worker says that she hasn’t. As two more rednecks come up behind him, he reveals that he’s just toying with her. He knows she sold Alex the bus ticket she got out of O’Neill.

The woman not-quite confesses to it, while calling the family “weird.” But she gets scared when Connor tells her the co-worker who left her in the lurch told them she sold Alex the ticket. And he didn’t show up for work because they killed him afterward. That’s when she starts running. But a red-headed older woman pops up and laughs at the bus worker calling her family weird: “Oh, honey, you have no idea.” The bus worker screams as the older woman shows fangs.

Y’know, I’ve always really felt bad for this particular redshirt. All she did was help a girl out of what she (accurately) felt was a bad and abusive situation. And not only did she end up dead, but nobody even noticed. That’s harsh.

Also that night, Jody is pulling up in her cop car to the cabin with Alex. Jody smiles at Alex’s silence, saying the place is “nicer” on the inside. She has great memories of going there with her parents and then her – her smile fades as she remembers her husband and son. Alex notices the omission.

On the way in, Jody points out that they’re in the middle of the woods. Alex says she knows what that means – it’s pointless to run. She’s heard that one before, I guess.

Inside, as Jody is pulling groceries out of bags, Alex is putting up a front. She picks a crucifix off the wall and notes that it doesn’t actually work on vampires (Jody says that’s not why she has one). Then she starts picking through the family photos Jody has on the mantle. She asks about Jody’s family in a dismissive way, even when Jody says that they are dead. Jody points out that Alex could have asked a lot more politely.

Alex: How did they die?

Jody: Horribly.

Jody offers to make up a bed for Alex, knowing full well she didn’t sleep at the station the night before. Alex refuses and sits on the couch. Jody shrugs and goes back to unpacking groceries.

In O’Neill, the Brothers are entering a house at night, with flashlights (perhaps not the best time to hunt vampires, but okay). They find bedding, even though the house has been foreclosed on. Dean figures the vampires are squatting. Sam notices windows painted black. When they hear a noise, they go to investigate.

Out back, a redneck vampire is shoving a woman’s body into a wood chipper. Dean comes out, holding a machete, asking if the guy needs a hand (“Oh! I see you already have one!”). When the vamp shows teeth, Sam comes up behind him and smacks him over the head with the shovel. Not the sharpest fangs in the rack, these vampires.

The Brothers chain him up inside the house and interrogate him, mocking him for botching even a low-level job like hiding bodies. They’ve also found the IDs for the two dead bus station employees and ask why the nest targeted them. The vampire claims it was just “hunger.”

His eyes looking black, Dean strolls over to the vamp, grabs him by the hair, and reiterates his question. The vampire, being stupid, just laughs. Goodbye Stupid Redneck Vamp. It was real.

At the Sioux Falls station, it’s night-time as well. Poor Frank (Doomed Teaser Cop) is on duty when in comes the nest. And they can apparently smell Alex all over him.

Back in O’Neill, Dean finally gets the vampire to talk by obliquely mentioning Alex as a victim of the nest. The vamp calls her “Alexis” and boy, does he have some brewing resentment toward her. Sibling rivalry, amirite?

Sam gets a few questions in there, too, when the vampire mentions “Mama,” correctly guessing that she was the original vampire who turned the rest (Super-Wiki says her name is “Celia,” but there’s no dialogue to that effect in the episode). Their prisoner’s resentment of Alex stems from Mama’s refusal to turn Alex like the others. Mama was too sentimental about her, even though he warned her Alex would get them into trouble, even though Alex acted out. It seems Alex was getting increasingly upset about the way the vampires fed on humans.

Stupid Redneck Vampire: Like she’s better than us.

Dean: She is better than you, dumbass!

The vampire claims that Alex’s “teenage identity crisis” is just an act. He brags about how the nest stayed off Hunter radar for years (um, well, that’s because there are a lot of monsters out there). The nest used Alex as a lure to pull in victims, mostly predatory male drifters “no one would miss,” by having her pose as an innocent teenage runaway in seedy honkytonk bars.

We get a flashback to Alex in one such bar, being propositioned by a sleazy, middle-aged bearded dude. She smiles and then brings him back to her place. He asks her what her name is. She says it’s “Ann.”

Then, as the Brothers’ prisoner explains in voiceover that while hunts are fun, it’s much easier and safer to get “delivery,” the vampires attack the guy in the flashback after he asks her if she knows what he’s about to do to her (and she turns her back, replying “I know. Nothing”). As the guy is messily killed, Alex’s face is a mask covering some real conflict.

But in the present day, as Dean guesses that Alex was their “lure,” Alex’s “brother” is happy to paint a picture of her as a cold-blooded member of the pack. Sam realizes out loud that Jody is in danger.

Cut to Jody coming into the cabin with firewood. She can’t find Alex at first (and ignores her cell phone ringing on top of some packaged meat). But she eventually finds her asleep on a bed. She turns on the light and walks around the room, but Alex doesn’t wake. However, when she goes to put a blanket on the girl, Alex wakes up with a gasp, startling them both. Jody reassures her and then tells her she made her a sandwich out in the kitchen.

As she starts to leave, Alex asks about her grandmother. Jody gently tells her the bad news. Alex pretends that it doesn’t bother her, but as she lies back down, it’s clear she’s upset. Jody quietly closes the door as she goes out into the hallway (that hallway is mighty dark, gotta say).

Back in Nebraska, Dean can’t get hold of Jody and Sam is getting off the phone with the local police department. They’ve ID’d both bus station workers. The Brothers figure the vampires got the info about where Alex went from their victims.

Jody calls Dean and Dean warns her about what they’ve learned. Well, most of it. As he’s trying to warn her about Alex, Jody spots a truck pulling up outside and says the vampires are already there. She hangs up even as Dean says he and Sam are coming.

Dean tells Sam what’s going on and says he’ll meet him outside. Dean then goes back into the room where they have the vamp brother chained up and, with a snarl, beheads him.

At the cabin, Jody is grabbing a machete out of her duffle bag, but as she’s calling to Alex to warn her, Connor smashes through the window. Shoving a heavy dresser across the door, he grabs Alex, who screams and struggles. She’s dragged back through the window and out into the truck. Jody sees enough through the half-opened bedroom door to go running back outside through the front door. But she’s knocked down by a vamp brother who starts to rip her throat out. The others yell at him to hurry, so he stops and punches her unconcious instead. They all bail.

When Jody wakes up, it’s daylight and the Impala is rolling in. As they help her up, she tells them the vampires have Alex. Sam and Dean figure the vampires will go back to their Nebraskan nest – where they will find their brother headless. The Brothers decide to drive back there right away. Jody is determined to go with them. Even though she is hurt, she is determined to rescue Alex.

Dean warns her that Alex is a lure who has been “feeding” humans to the vampires: “She’s got more blood on her hands than most of the monsters we kill” and she’s been doing it for eight years, since she was a child. Sam agrees. He says that Alex is, at the very best, morally compromised. They can’t trust her not to turn on them for the nest.

Jody is horrified, asking if Alex “is on your list.” Sam hedges, but Dean just says, “Not yet.” Dean points out that “this is a clean-up mission, not a rescue.” The Brothers say that there are some hard moral truths one encounters in hunting and this is one of the more difficult ones. Sometimes, humans are the real monsters.

Sam wonders why Jody is so emotionally invested in a girl she barely knows. With an eye roll (as if they should be able to read her mind on her reasons), Jody strides off to the car, saying she’s coming with them. She also warns them that if they try to hurt Alex, they’ll have to go through her first.

Alex wakes up on a bed in a cellar, having been cold-cocked by Connor. Nearby, Mama is wondering if Connor said Alex struggled just as an excuse to knock her out. She mentions finding the vampire brother Dean killed (he gets a name now – Dale) and says that Alex has made quite a mess. Now they will have to move again. But even so, she’s indulgent of Alex and tells her that everything is right again now that Alex is back, even as Alex is trying to apologize.

Alex is surprised that Mama isn’t angry with her and doesn’t want to hurt her. Mama says she would never do that. Alex is her “sweet girl.” Mama, despite being a cold-blooded monster who doesn’t really understand why Alex would be afraid of her, or would run away because she had issues with the way the vampires murdered and ate humans like her, has real affection for Alex, a true mother-daughter bond. There is something deep going on here that is keeping Alex loyal and it’s not even all that twisted. Maybe there’s hope for this kid, yet.

Alex says she can’t be a lure, anymore. She feels too much guilt. She says she’d rather die.

Mama admits that it’s all her fault (truer words). She should have turned Alex years ago, but was too sentimental and couldn’t bring herself to do it (wait, what?). She figures if she turns Alex now, Alex will feel better about the vampire life and not want to leave. Okay. Um … okay.

In daylight, next to a frozen field and an abandoned tractor trailer and bus, the Brothers and Jody load up the Impala. Jody has done recon and seen the truck in the driveway of a nearby abandoned house. They’ll have to go in with a frontal assault. It’s a tough hunt, but as Sam says, they’ve faced much worse odds.

Dean reminds Jody that they are on a raid and will be cleaning out the nest. Alex has to be a secondary priority. Jody reluctantly agrees.

Inside the house, Mama is talking about how she was “selfish” not to turn Alex sooner. She wanted to watch her grow up. The feelings Alex is having are human ones. But if she turns Alex, all those feelings, all that pain, will go away. Alex is greatly tempted. We see her close her eyes and lean into her “mother”’s caress.

Outside, Jody and the Brothers are sneaking up through blinding snow to the back porch, carrying machetes. It’s a two-story wooden farmhouse, looks maybe a century old or so. They sneak in the back door, Dean first, then Jody, then Sam taking up the rear. Clearly, the Brothers are trying to protect Jody by putting her in the middle.

They don’t find anything downstairs, which is puzzling. Sam motions Jody to stay there, while they go upstairs. Using hand signals, the Brothers split up. Jody walks down the hallway and hears Alex moaning. Unfortunately, when she goes to the base of the stairs, the Brothers are outside contact. So, she goes downstairs alone.

Upstairs, Dean is finding nothing until he comes out on the landing (after hearing a loud noise out there) and finds Sam with Connor sticking a shotgun in his back. Connor orders Dean to drop his blade, which Dean, with a rather disgusted look at Sam, does. When Dean turns around, the other remaining vampire brother comes up behind him and cold-cocks him with a stick of wood.

Jody tries to sneak downstairs, but it doesn’t go very well for her, either. She finds Alex squirming on a bed. Her mouth is covered with vampire blood and her eyes are bloodshot. When Jody asks her what they did to her, she says she had no choice. At that moment, Mama comes up behind Jody and punches her out, saying “She chose me.”

Upstairs, Dean is unconscious on the floor, while Sam is duct-taped to a chair. Pointing his shotgun at Sam a lot (because Sam is trying to pull out of his bonds), Connor proceeds to monologue about how nasty it was to return home to a dead vampire brother. After ramming his gun into Sam’s stomach, he mentions knowing the two brothers are the Winchesters (surely, after having lost two vampire “brothers,” that should have been the entire nest’s signal to run like hell). Now he wants to know which of the Brothers killed Dale, while his idiot remaining brother giggles inanely.

Sam, to his credit, won’t rat out Dean. Not that it would save him, anyway. He’s definitely dinner at this point unless he gets loose or Dean wakes up.

Tossing the shotgun to the idiot (who holds it on Dean, but apparently hasn’t tied him up), Connor gets a bucket, saying they’re going to have to abandon this house. But first, they’re going to drain Sam of his blood as lunch for the road.

Downstairs, Mama is going through Jody’s things (including dead man’s blood and a kukri machete), while Jody is tied to the ceiling by her hands. She comments that Jody certainly came prepared. When Jody tries to whisper to Alex, Mama warns her not to bother her “girl.” Alex is “going through a process.”

Jody demands to know what Mama did to Alex. Mama says she fed Alex her own vampire blood. All it takes to complete this process is for Alex to feed. Going to Alex, Mama picks her up by the arm and leads her over to Jody. Alex can hear Jody’s heart beating, but pleads with Mama not to make her feed. She begs Mama to let Jody go and backs away toward the bed.

Mama notices that Jody has “made an impression on my girl.” While assuring Alex that once she is no longer human, Jody won’t matter to her, she figures that Jody is trying to fill some emotional hole in her life, that Jody is missing family. Jody thinks “that’s pretty rich” from a monster who stole Alex in the first place.

Mama grabs her by the throat (I guess she hit a nerve) and informs her that family is not just about blood. She has raised Alex as her own for nearly nine years. Jody tells her she knows what family love is about and it’s not turning Alex into a thing like her “the moment she becomes inconvenient.”

Angry, Mama shoves Jody and goes back to Alex. Slinging an arm around Alex’s shoulder, she tells her that “this Hunter Cop Bitch” is trying to get between them to save her own life and Alex shouldn’t believe anything she says. Casually, she goes and kicks Jody in the knee, breaking something, and says, “She ain’t your mother.”

Upstairs, Sam is losing blood into Mason jars pretty fast and losing consciousness. After tasting some of the blood, Connor tells his idiot brother to start draining Dean. Idiot Brother kicks Dean in the back (Dean grunts and one hand goes toward his chest, but his eyes stay closed), then gets a bucket. As he leans down to cut Dean, though, and grabs his hair, Dean’s eyes open (and they look black).

This happens very fast. Dean reaches up with the hand that slipped into his jacket and stabs Idiot Brother with a syringe of dead man’s blood. Connor, seeing what happened, comes after Dean as Dean gets up. Connor knocks him over a table.

Downstairs, Mama is getting ready to kill Jody, when Jody figures out (out loud) why she changed Annie’s name to Alex. At first, she thought it was shame, but vampires don’t have any. Her theory is that Mama once had a daughter named Alex. She admits that yes, she has a hole inside she’s been trying to fill by helping Alex. But so does Mama.

Uncertainly, Alex looks up at Mama and calls her name, and Mama can see her hold slipping on her “girl” as Jody says, “Guess it takes one to know one.”

Mama [looking straight at Alex]: That Alex? She died. A long time ago.

Jody: And it still hurts. You still feel it: the loss, the pain, like a stone in your gut. But it hurts just a little bit less whenever she’s near.

Mama turns around and says, “You bitch.” She starts beating on Jody’s face. Alex twitches when she does.

Upstairs, Connor picks up Dean’s dropped machete and goes after Dean with it. He gets Dean pinned against a wall as Dean tries to push the machete away from his throat. But then a funny thing happens – Dean has an epiphany that he has more strength than he thought. He’s able to push back on the machete (with a beast-like growl), kick Connor in the jewels, and flip their positions. Simply overpowering the vampire (which, as a human, he ought not to be able to do), he turns the blade and aims it at his enemy’s throat, then pauses to savor the moment.

Dean: Look at me! Look at me, BITCH!

The vampire, who has been trying to look away, finally rolls his eyes back down to look Dean in the eye. With another bestial Mark-ish growl, Dean shoves the machete crossways into the brick wall, straight through Connor’s neck. As the headless vampire drops and Dean’s face is covered with blood, the echoing haunting horn of the First Blade theme takes over the soundtrack.

Nearby, though half-conscious, Sam is clearly terrified … of his brother.

After a moment of savoring the kill a little too much, Dean remembers that Sam is bleeding and goes to help him, walking right past the incapacitated other brother, still twitching on the floor. Sam says Dean’s name and Dean says dismissively, “Yeah, I know: You wouldn’t have done the same for me.”

But Sam means that Jody is downstairs and likely in trouble.

And boy, is she ever. She’s got a face like hamburger and a seriously swollen eye. Mama has finally tired of beating on her, though. Releasing the chain holding Jody up (Jody falls to the floor with a groan), she tells Jody (“Lady Cop”) that whomever she lost, she will “see real soon.” She picks Jody up by the throat and starts to show her teeth, but just at that moment, she’s attacked from behind. By a shaking, jonesing Alex with a syringe of dead man’s blood.

Shocked, Mama turns around, already staggering from the effects (the veins on her face mirroring the blood on Jody’s), to see a woeful Alex still holding the syringe.

Mama: Alex. How could you? You were my girl!

Alex: I’m sorry, Mama.

Jody, meanwhile, has not been wasting time. Stumbling over to the table where Mama laid out her Hunter’s gear, she grabs the kukri and then Mama’s hair. Right before she swings, she tells Alex, “Don’t watch this, sweetheart.”

As a devastated Alex turns away from Mama’s accusing stare (just as she turned away from the men she lured into her nest), Jody beheads the nest’s matriarch just as Dean is leading Sam down the stairs. Dean looks shocked, Sam still pale and ropey. The scene ends on Alex’s grieving, conflicted face.

Afterward, Sam starts to compliment Dean, then admits he heard the “Look at me, bitch” line and thinks Dean enjoyed the kill a bit too much. Really, Sam? You address that, but ignore the part where your brother made it clear he still figured you didn’t give a damn about him? Way not to mend those bridges.

Anyhoo, Dean is dismissive of Sam’s concerns and reminds him that enjoying the job has never been a problem before. He’s not wrong, either, even if there most definitely something scary going on with him.

Jody comes limping out (how she can still walk after nearly a decade of the show doing her knees in is beyond me). First Sam and then Dean apologize to her for being “wrong about the girl.” Jody admits that they were, at least, correct about her being too emotionally involved and apologizes for that. She had buried her feelings about her dead family for years and this hunt brought them all back. That left her judgement “clouded.”

If you think about it, these are the only two humans in the world she can talk to about that. She certainly can’t tell poor Frank (whom the vampires beat up severely to get info about the cabin, but did leave alive). She talks about all the things she did to hide the pain and grief, such as work and religion and even “dating” (referencing her scary date with Crowley near the end of season eight).

She ends up thanking them, both for saving Alex and for curing her. The Brothers point out that she was the one who killed Alex’s sire and got the blood necessary for the cure. Dean ruefully notes (“from personal experience”) that the next few days are going to be “rough.” He asks if Jody wants them to stay, but she says she’s got this. Sam then asks her a tough question – after she’s cured, what happens to Alex?

Back inside the house, Jody goes to Alex’s room. Alex is having hot and cold flashes, and looks rough. She also refuses food, saying she’d only puke, but then thanks Jody, anyway, for the offer.

Alex admits that she agreed to get vamped because she didn’t want to disappoint Mama again. She also admits to being a lure. She starts to go into detail, but Jody (sitting down beside her) gently tells her that she already knows. Explanation is not necessary. She says that whatever Alex needs from her, she’s willing to give. Alex just lost everything, her entire family, her entire life, and “no one can understand that.”

Alex: You can.

Credits

Ratings rose again to 0.9/3 in the A18-49 demo and shot back up in audience to 2.10 million.

Review: Remember when Robert Berens could write a decent script? I know it’s been a while, but this episode is one of his earlier ones (his third) and definitely one of his good ones. The casting of the female characters helps a lot, but they wouldn’t have been able to do as much without so much to chew on.

This is how you write a feminist episode that works in a show with two male leads and doesn’t piss off the audience.

The main idea for “Alex Annie Alexis Ann” at first (this show being a horror western, after all) seems based on how Native Americans and Europeans used to kidnap each other’s children and raise them in their own culture, with mixed success. But it soon morphs more into a Face on the Milk Carton scenario and eventually settles on a sort of dysfunction family cult trope.

There are three major female guest characters (Jody, Alex and Mama) and one minor female guest character (the bus station clerk). There’s a third offscreen dead female character, Alex’s grandmother, who plays a pivotal role in the plot, via her absence. Alex is a teenage girl who has been kidnapped and raised by a family of monsters without having been turned (so she’s still human).

She starts out as that most unfortunate of TV cliches – the rebellious teenage runaway. But we begin to see more layers as the episode progresses, helped considerably by a sure-footed performance from Katherine Ramdeen and her excellent chemistry with the other female guest stars. Alex is a lost child, yes, and a lure, and a member of a monster family. But she is also a human being with human feelings, and the ability to feel human compassion and empathy. Her complex motivations are an integral part of the plot. Figuring out who she really is and what she truly stands for is a journey all of the characters end up taking, not just her.

Three mother figures (Jody, Mama and the bus station clerk) jockey for position in replacing Alex’s dead grandmother as a mother figure in her life. Mama (played by Ashley Crow with considerable gravitas and charisma) has the initial advantage. For one thing, she is a powerful, cunning and very old monster (the clothes on the male vampires, though redneck modern, imply something as far back as the Civil War, though Mama’s jewelry suggests the 1960s) with a nest of loyal vampires to back her up.

For another, she’s the one who stole Alex (when she was Annie), and has raised her with genuine love and affection. This kept Alex’s human side alive, which Mama obliquely acknowledges when she says she gave in to the temptation to keep Alex human so she could grow up. So, they have a strong mother-daughter bond that is only threatened by the fact that Alex can no longer deny her human nature or remain loyal to monsters who eat humans like her.

Due to the monster factor, the bus station clerk, unfortunately, has no chance (and I really was rooting for her to somehow escape her red shirt status, too). While she has no clue who and what she’s actually up against, she’s more than willing to sell or give Alex a bus ticket to get the hell out of Dodge away from her creepy “family.” The next and last we see of her, she’s just a hand sticking out of a wood chipper. Supernatural sure is a bleak universe when a Good Samaritan gets repaid for her kindness with such a cruel offscreen death.

Jody, though, has a good shot. Not only is she trained as a police officer, but she knows about the supernatural world. Most importantly perhaps, she has the Brothers Winchester on her speed dial. We already know about the central trauma that introduced her to that supernatural world and wrecked her family – that her son, who had recently died, was resurrected, turned zombie, and killed and ate his father (her husband) in season five’s “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.”

When Jody talks with the Brothers about all the many ways she tried to resolve or just bury this trauma, and even references accidentally dating Crowley last season, there’s a shared history on there that has been shown in different ways over the past four years. This is not some Hunter pal invented out of thin air who just pops up one episode. This is a character with a conflict in which the Brothers and the audience have a vested interest in helping her resolve it.

Jody even acknowledges this at the end of the episode. When Sam and Dean apologize for doubting her faith in Alex, Jody admits that her “faith” was an obsession with her own grief and easing it. She effectively apologizes for putting the whole team in danger, even as all three of them agree that the end result they managed to get was the best one.

One of the things I really like about this scene, and what leads up to it, is that even though there is a strong dichotomy between how the women handle things and how the men handle things in this episode, at no time does either brother suggest that Jody is doing what she’s doing because she’s a woman. The brothers act as though Jody’s grief is completely understandable and legitimate, and just her cross to bear. They have crosses of their own.

And Jody’s conflict lines up roughly with Alex’s own identity crisis. Just as Jody says that she and Mama have a hole in their hearts that Alex can at least partially fill and heal, Alex also has a hole that needs repair. She explicitly asks Jody at one point if her grandmother is still alive and looks disappointed (despite putting on a tough facade) when the answer is no. This is major foreshadowing for her decision to side with humans she barely knows later in the episode against her vampire “family.”

Granted, she wouldn’t have survived any other choice. Even if the show didn’t consider vampires part of the undead, none of this nest was likely to come out of this episode intact. Jody might have died, Sam, too. But Dean (yeah, I know, spoiler alert for next season) would, at worst, have come back with black eyes and taken them all out before going on his merry way. And that would have included a vamped Alex. As it is, he killed three of the four vampire brothers.

Part of what changes Alex’s mind, I think, is how the rest of her family treats her. The vampire “brothers” express barely contained resentment toward her for the fact that Mama won’t turn her and what that says about Mama’s preference for her. Even though she acts as a lure and allows them to feed on her when they are starving, they appear to have little respect for her and treat her with condescension, even contempt. One gets the impression that if Mama lost her head down the road, Alex’s “brothers” would waste little time devouring her.

But the other part seems more critical to her, even if it might seem small on the surface. Who calls Alex what says a lot about their relationship with her. Her original name was Annie. Mama calls her Alex, after a daughter who died “a long, long time ago.” Her brothers call her “Alexis.” She calls herself “Ann” when acting as a lure.

It’s Jody’s figuring out why Mama changed Annie’s name to Alex, and stating it out loud, that makes Alex realize that Jody cares about her over and above using her as a way to fill her own emptiness. Jody cares.

This is the engine that I think made the Wayward Sisters spinoff idea a strong one and that could still make it strong with some tweaking (please, you can keep Kaia, but get rid of that silly Dark Place subplot). A huge mistake the CW made was in trying to make a new show with literal Sam and Dean analogues, with vaguely Sam and Deanish conflicts, while completely missing what made the show itself unique.

The Wayward Sisters central conflict (two older Hunters filling their emptiness by taking in and raising kids orphaned by the supernatural world) fits easily within the Supernatural mythos without attempting to replace Sam and Dean. You shouldn’t be doing that in the first place. Sam and Dean are Sam and Dean. Let them keep their own story. Don’t diminish it by doing carbon copies. A spinoff should be a different story, but one that works in that universe.

The thing is that Sam and Dean are not privileged in human society. They were born into a working class family. They grew up poor and transient, in a broken household. They are drifters, grifters, serial killers, practitioners of black magic. Their world is one of working class struggle, of grinding poverty, of a hand-to-mouth existence. Just look at the site for the final battle in this episode (an abandoned farmhouse in the dead of winter) and what level of society all the characters in the episode move through.

In order for a spinoff to capture the same loyal audience the mothership has, it has to be a premise within the same worldview of desperate, cosmos-changing conflict brewing on the backroads of America, far from the usual and visible corridors of power. If you look at the episodes that hit with the audience, they fall into that premise – one big road trip through rural America with hardscrabble, down-and-out characters. If you look at the ones that don’t, they don’t.

So, you could create a spinoff pretty easily as long as it put those kinds of characters into that kind of world. In this case, you’ve got Jody, a female sheriff in a man’s profession with a tragic background in the supernatural, facing off with a group of murderous drifter monsters and choosing to assuage her pain by taking in orphans created by monster attacks. That fits. That the network chose not to pick it up, and instead went with a sexist show about pretty, cliched, rich monsters at a boarding school, tells you something about the network’s actual (lack of) commitment to a more diverse approach to American TV storytelling.

But the other thing that works with this episode is how it comments on Sam and Dean’s story, as well. This includes the mytharc. This is not just an MOTW starring Jody Mills and a random guest girl. It ties in directly with what is going on with Dean and how Sam, especially, is reacting to it.

Dean is pretty aggressive throughout the hunt and this even helps save the day. He argues that Alex cannot be trusted and may need to be killed as if she were a supernaturally flavored monster. While it’s a surprise that Sam so casually backs him up, that’s only because Sam has been second-guessing Dean since the Pilot even on cases where a monster was clearly dangerous.

But from a rational viewpoint, Sam should be backing Dean up on this. Both brothers have long and bitter experience with monsters who masquerade as innocents. The Brothers were likely thinking in this episode about Emily, a young girl they met in season seven’s “There Will Be Blood.” Emily had been kidnapped as a child by (or for) the Alpha Vampire, who used her as a pure source of blood when the Leviathans contaminated humans in ways that killed other monsters. The Brothers had given Emily Jody’s number to call for sanctuary, but Emily (still very childlike) burned it and went back to the Alpha Vampire. Like a child groomed by a pedophile, she had been brainwashed by the Alpha Vampire and saw him as her daddy.

They may even have been thinking of the two cute little monster boys who reminded them of themselves in season six’s “Mommy Dearest.” But of course, Jody was thinking of her zombie son, whom she lost twice, the second time after he ate his father and Sam shot him. This is probably why the Brothers were so relieved to be wrong – and why Jody was so rueful about admitting that no, they really weren’t.

How Dean’s aggression saves the day, however, is not how he’s ultimately wrong about Alex. That one is on Alex surprising everyone with her choosing to be human, even after she “agrees” to become a vampire. And Dean himself is happy to give Alex the vampire he himself went through so much agony to test. No, it’s in the scene where Dean takes out two vampires at once and starts to realize the power the Mark of Cain has unlocked inside him.

Dean starts the scene with cunning, under the impression that he can’t take the vampires head on due to their superior strength and speed. While it does appear that he is knocked out on the landing (love his exasperation with Sam for getting caught), it’s not clear how long he stays unconscious. He’s definitely conscious by the time Connor’s brother kicks him in the back. It’s subtle, but if you watch carefully, you can see how his hand drops inside his coat, right where the dead man’s blood syringe is that he will use in just a moment on Connor’s brother.

Also subtle, but less clear at the time, is that his eyes appear black when they first open (and when he’s interrogating Dale). I noted that this also happened in the second mirror scene in the last episode. There was considerable debate at the time this episode first came out over whether this was just a coincidental trick of the light or foreshadowing. Now, if you watch it in slow-motion, you can see the whites of his eyes, so it is a trick of the light. But in context with the overall storyline, I’d say it also has to be intentional foreshadowing.

The moment when Dean finds out he has superstrength, far above that of vampires, is a revelation for both him and the vampires. Dean has the epiphany when he realizes he is successfully holding Connor at arm’s length. Connor is shocked when Dean starts pushing back. Dean goes from surprise to determination to vengeful enjoyment. Connor goes from arrogance to surprise to horror, as he realizes he can’t stop Dean from turning the machete around in his grip and shoving it through his throat. Their roles switch and each gets to experience what the other side is like. Let’s just say Dean enjoys it more. In fact, he enjoys it so much that he almost forgets that his brother is bleeding out nearby. But not quite.

Sam’s reaction is one more missed opportunity to get through to Dean and the episode tragically contrasts it to how Jody responds to Alex. While Jody chooses to see beyond Alex’s hard and contradictory exterior, seeks to understand her and empathize with her, Sam ignores everything else he sees in what Dean does against the vampires and focuses on the idea that Dean might have “enjoyed” it too much. Dean bluntly points out that enjoying hunting monsters that eat people (and who were in the process of trying to eat them) is “not a crime.” It’s no big deal if the prey enjoys it when they are able to turn the tables on the predators.

Thus, Sam loses a chance to talk to Dean about the Mark and its increasing effect on him, and Dean learns that Sam is going to be judgmental about it, anyway. It’s almost as if the way Sam remembers the first few seasons is that Dean was always judgmental about Sam’s growing powers and Sam doesn’t remember the times Dean went to bat for him and protected him against others, including John, or forgave him for some pretty hard-to-forgive stuff. Could Sam’s selective amnesia really be that strong? Is it really that hard to follow his brother’s example?

Another factor is what makes the comparison to Jody and Alex so strong. There’s a major dichotomy between how the women in this episode interact, and the competitive and – dare I say it – bitchy way the men treat each other. Also, the way Sam (and others) reacts to Dean’s changes is in line with the way women with superpowers are often treated by loved ones in such fictional settings. In fact, we see this attitude aimed at Amara in season 11.

It’s not just that the men in a superpowered woman’s life are cynical and alarmed about her ability to wield these powers. They want them for themselves. For example, look at all the characters losing their tiny little minds over Daenerys having dragons in Game of Thrones and doing the same things with them that everyone else does without dragons – like sacking cities whenever bad people murder her friends. But if you’re cold-bloodedly manipulating men to do your bidding and getting them to do things like feed your husband to his dogs (like Sansa), that’s okay.

This is also an attitude demonstrated toward men who are deemed too young and/or too low-class to “deserve” such power (thus feminizing them as inferior). Kay does it to Arthur initially in the modern Arthurian classic novel, The Once and Future King, after Arthur first pulls Excalibur out of the stone (and remember that Dean has actually done that, albeit with the clever use of explosives). Kay recognizes the sword and tries to claim it as his own, but his father shames him into admitting the truth.

We also see the noble bad guy try to do this to William, the peasant protagonist in A Knight’s Tale (2001), to avoid meeting (and losing to) him in a tournament. The Black Prince cancels this out by pulling rank (he’s the son of the aged King Edward III and Regent of England for him at that time) and knighting William. Also, it’s his tournament.

This is the pattern you see in Sam and Castiel’s attitude toward Dean having the Mark of Cain. The fact that this trope is used may even explain why shipping Dean with Sam and Castiel is so popular – this is a trope we usually see in a female character. Therefore, the subtext almost codes Dean as female, even though he’s masculine in other ways (such as masking his emotional pain with violence and alcohol (https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-54088546)).

Sam and Castiel are both concerned about the changes in Dean (and yes, these changes have a very dark side to them, so that concern is justified), but there’s also an underlying jealousy and competitiveness to them. Like the vampire “brothers” in this episode, camaraderie and competitiveness mix explosively in the male members of Team Free Will.

Both Sam and Castiel later have brushes with taking on the Mark where they jump in head-first. They override Dean’s warnings and objections from personal experience as if they hadn’t even heard them. These two keep warning that Dean can’t handle the power of the Mark, even as they’re both positively drooling over the idea of having it themselves.

On the one hand, their experiences in the temptation of power with a dark side would, you’d think, make them experts. On the other hand, these two chuckleheads are poster children for People You Don’t Give Power To Because They’ll Just Abuse it. So, maybe they shouldn’t be giving advice about power after all, let alone getting all judge-y about Dean having some.

Next week: Bloodlines: The Brothers travel to Chicago to help a young man in a hunt against four monster families in the backdoor pilot that pretty much the entire audience hated. And I have to review it. [sigh] I’m breaking out the good whiskey for this one.

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


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The Official Supernatural: “Meta Fiction” (9.18) Retro Recap and Review

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The cast returned to work the first week of August (about two weeks late) and ended filming for good on September 10. Jensen Ackles also explained in a recent virtual “fan experience” through Creation Con that the writing for the last two episodes has been tweaked to reflect recent events (i.e., the Coronavirus pandemic). With these writers, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. He also said that 15.19 will be a season finale, while 15.20 is more like a series finale (and expressed sadness on Instagram when he got the final script, which said “The End” instead of the usual “To Be Continued”). In an already truncated final season, that likely means we’ll get stuck with some filler clips episode as the last one. Yay.

The show is returning October 8 and the series finale will be November 19. Yes, it’s back on Thursdays. If I manage to stay on track, I should be able to post the season nine finale retro review right after the show comes back on Sunday, then bring in the newest season five recap and review the following Thursday.

There are some new trailers out for the last episodes. Finally.

If you’re enjoying these articles and reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat and I’ve got a house full of fosters right now. My kitty Goose is doing much better, thank you (she’s acting as if nothing happened now), but I’ve still got that bill, so every little bit helps.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Recap of the Mark of Cain, Dean’s obsession with killing Abaddon, Metatron’s lame seduction of Gadriel, and Castiel’s journey to becoming some kind of Gandhi to the other angels (plus an aside about his running on borrowed grace, currently).

Cut to Now. We’re in a pretentious-looking study with lots of stained and lacquered wood, a fireplace, books (some of them Chuck’s series, including A Very Supernatural Christmas), Fanfare Rondeau by John-Joseph Mouret on vinyl (the former theme of Masterpiece Theater), and Metatron, drinking whiskey in a smoking jacket, typing on an old-style manual typewriter. Metatron stares straight into the camera and intones, “What makes a story work?” He then pompously talks about what special element could do that – is it plot or subplot? Text or subtext? Who gives it meaning? The author or the audience? Then he says he’s going to tell the viewer “a little story and let you decide.”

Cue title cards, but they’re blasted away by a blue background with clouds, white and glowing wings, a heavenly choir, and the title “Metatron.”

Cut to a shower head starting up. Dean is the one taking the shower and he’s got dark circles under his eyes. Afterward, he wipes steam off the bathroom mirror and then looks at the Mark on his arm.

Out in the Map Room, Sam is getting off the phone with someone named Carlos and thanking him. They are talking about “demon activity,” but when Dean enters the room, all dressed, Sam also mentions “people without souls, acting out.” Sam is putting post-it notes all over the map table for demonic incidents of note. Abaddon herself has disappeared.

When Dean rubs his right arm, Sam notices and asks if he’s okay. Dean shrugs off Sam’s concern and says everything is fine. Dean, too, starts making calls.

Cut to a grotty old warehouse that Castiel is walking through. He finds a door with bloody handprints on it and enters. Inside, he finds something that uncertainly whines like angel voice and a dead person lying against a wall. Turning around, he finds a bunch of other dead bodies and a strange, glowing symbol on the wall. That’s the source of the sound. The symbol pulsates and then fades. It was drawn in blood. Castiel takes a picture of it with his phone.

A woman with her face half-bloody (and apparently missing an eye) sneaks up behind him and tries to kill him with an angel sword. He easily disarms her and knocks her down. She immediately begs for her life.

Castiel tells her he won’t kill her. He asks her name (it’s Hannah) and then what happened in the room. They discuss the symbol. She doesn’t know what it is, but she heard (just like Castiel did) and followed the sound to its source. She is an angel, too. She found a bunch of other angels in vessels, who seemed friendly. But then the doors “slammed shut” and a strange angel appeared who told them he was “working for the new God.” Castiel correctly guesses this angel meant Metatron.

Anyhoo, some angels joined up, but Hannah and her friends refused. So now, Hannah is the only one left. Castiel commiserates with her.

After Castiel heals her, she realizes who he is. She wants to follow him, but he keeps saying he’s “no leader.” But he does swear to get revenge on Metatron, though he refuses to let her and whatever remaining friends she has help. I glance at my watch because this whole subplot has just been crawwwling along all season, hasn’t it?

Castiel asks her the angel’s name. Cut to his calling Sam and Dean, while walking into a rundown motel room, and Sam freaking out over the obvious – that the angel in question is Gadriel and he’s working for Metatron. Didn’t they … already know that?

Anyhoo, Dean correctly guesses that Metatron made Gadriel kill Kevin. Castiel confirms this is a good guess, pointing out that no Prophets have been activated since Kevin’s death. He indicates that Metatron turned them off at the source (something Metatron himself told Gadriel earlier in the season). Castiel sends them a photo of the symbol that was calling the angels and speculates that it is some kind of spell. He thinks this because it is an obvious lure for angels and was made with some strange ingredients. But he’s never heard of it before and Sam says he hasn’t, either. Dean doesn’t say anything, despite having a past history of a nearly-eidetic memory for symbols. I guess Thompson is going with the Dean Is Dumb trope here.

Castiel glances over at the motel room’s small fridge, which has an “Honor Bar” sign on it, and wonders what that means: “What’s honorable about a minibar in a motel room?”

When Dean replies, “Everything,” Castiel smiles fondly and asks how he is. A bit nonplussed, Dean says fine and asks how Castiel is. Castiel says he misses his wings. He doesn’t like “life on the road.”

Sam says he’s found a match to the symbol from the police record. It’s been seen at several crime scenes of multiple deaths. All of them are in Utah. Castiel says his site is, too. By tracking the sites, Castiel determines that Gadriel must be heading north in the state, either to Auburn or Ogden (have been to Ogden, but it was a long time ago). Dean says they’ll go to Ogden, so Castiel should cover Auburn. As he gets off the phone, Castiel notices the lights fritzing.

Back at the Bunker, Dean remembers that he and Sam once did a hunt in Ogden and know a local Hunter. They decide to contact him, to see if he can tell them anything.

Cut to a car with Colorado plates pulling up to a hemp shop. It’s Gadriel. In a hoody and leather jacket, he enters the shop, where a guy with long hair and his back to him is working in front of a ceiling-high rack of glass bongs. He asks about gryphon feathers (one of the ingredients Castiel named in the lure spell) and fairy bones, pick your realm. The long-haired guy, who also has a beard, asks him what kind of monster he’s hunting. Gadriel says, “Family.”

As Castiel is hefting his packed duffel bag and leaving the motel room, the lights fritz again, the TV turns on, and Casa Erotica 14 pops up. He tries to turn off the TV, but it won’t.

A young woman in a blonde wig, white button-down shirt, glasses, and very short black skirt says the usual words about needing Casa Erotica in her life. Inside the movie, there’s a knock on the door. When she goes to open it, it’s Gabriel with his pornstache. He looks right at the screen, pulls off his stache, and asks Castiel if he remembers him. When Castiel says that he does, Gabriel appears right behind him. When Castiel turns around, Gabriel says, “I need your help, Brother.”

Castiel correctly guesses that Gabriel faked his own death at Lucifer’s hands. Gabriel’s like, well, duh. He claims to have gone into hiding in Heaven until he was cast out with the other angels. But Metatron has sent angels after him, under the impression that Gabriel is strong enough to be a threat to him. Gabriel says he’s been using most of the extra power he has left to hide out inside porn (“Thaat came out wrong!”).

Gabriel identifies the angel lure as something called “Gabriel’s Horn,” a God weapon he never got around to using. It was intended to unite angels, but Metatron is using it to trap them. Castiel corrects him slightly – he says that Gadriel is actually doing that for Metatron. Gabriel is surprised Gadriel is even still around, let alone in play.

When Castiel asks him what he wants, Gabriel says he wants to kill Metatron.

In Ogden, the Brothers are pulling up to the shop of their Hunter friend at night. The OPEN sign is still out, which seems suspicious, since the shop itself is closed and dark. When the Brothers enter, Dean finds a box of spilled feathers behind the counter. Sam opens a closet door to find the dead shop owner hanging behind it like a suit of clothes, his eyes burned out. Welp, that’s one more Hunter we barely met before he bit it. There’s a cool and gruesome effect as Dean shines his flashlight briefly and directly into the burned-out eye holes.

Dean: We gotta find Gadriel before he lights the Bat Signal.

In his car on a rainy night, with Gabriel riding shotgun, Castiel tries to leave a message on one of Dean’s cell phones. Gabriel grabs the phone from him and leaves his own, colorful message. Referencing Jesus (“not the cat with the beard and sandals”) when saying he’s the one who “died for your sins,” he tells them he’s back and will be in touch, before hanging up.

Castiel asks Gabriel what he’s seen since he fell. Gabriel mentions the chaos that followed, as well as an awareness of the battle between Crowley and Abaddon. He says that most angels are “sheep” who have not taken well to the concept of Free Will. But he and Castiel are “rebels.” They’re different. Castiel insists he’s no leader (even when Gabriel snarks about his time as Godstiel). Gabriel says that’s okay. He’s decided he’s done running, and is going to step up and lead, as he was originally created to do.

After Gabriel looks out the rainy window and comments that they are low on gas, they stop at a Gas n’ Sip. But as they come inside, headlights flash as another car pulls up to the pumps. Gabriel instantly susses them out as other angels, “minions” of Metatron.

Meanwhile, still at night, Gadriel is coming down a firescape to his car. He sees Sam sneaking down an alleyway toward the car, but hides before Sam can see him. Sam pauses to leave a rather loud phone message for Castiel and Gadriel comes out to confront him, angel blade in hand. But as he does so, Dean says from above, “Hey, douchebag!” and drops a lighter on his position. A ring of holy fire blasts up around him. It was a trap.

Sam [smiling]: Remember me?

Inside the Gas n’ Sip, Gabriel says that they can’t keep the angels out and Castiel figures that means they’d better fight. Gabriel corrects him – he’ll hold them off so that Castiel can escape(excuse me, but didn’t we just see Gabriel fly out of the porn video into Castiel’s motel room? Why couldn’t he escape with Castiel?). Castiel, being another rebel, can take his place as leader of the rebellion. Castiel hugs him in a manly hug, but just as he’s turning to leave, he goes to put his angel blade in his coat and has a flashback to earlier when it was torn. It’s not now.

As Gabriel is urging him to leave, and the head angel (a blonde) is kicking in the glass door, Castiel asks him if any of their encounter was “real.” After some stalling, Gabriel realizes it’s not working when Castiel gently pushes his angel blade into his stomach and nothing happens. Snapping his fingers, Gabriel makes the angel minions disappear and asks what caught him out. Castiel tells him about the coat and Gabriel complains about “continuity errors.”

Castiel now figures that none of it was real. Gabriel says that “none of it was real, but all of it was true.” Castiel susses out that he’s no longer in the motel room, but before Gabriel snaps his fingers (saying “hear him out” about Metatron), Castiel asks if he’s real or if he’s dead. Gabriel waggles his eyebrows and snaps his fingers (Richard Speight Jr. has since confirmed that this was a hint that Gabriel was still alive).

After the snap, Castiel wakes up in Metatron’s study, tied to a chair and gagged, while Metatron types. The music is still playing. In fact, as Metatron stops, leans forward, and asks, “What makes a story work?” it turns out that this is the same scene as the teaser and that Metatron, far from addressing the audience, was actually addressing Castiel.

Inside a warehouse, Gadriel is tied to a chair and taunting Sam (saying that he’s been inside him and he “reeks of shame and weakness”). Sam asks him how long he’s been working for Metatron, gets frustrated, and punches him. Dean restrains Sam and gets him to go cool off.

In his study, Metatron says that he was going to tell Castiel a story using Gabriel in his role as the Trickster, but that it clearly failed due to a hole in Castiel’s coat (which he fingers before taking off Castiel’s gag). When he makes a Sherlock Holmes reference (the incident of the dog in the night-time, from “The Adventure of Silver Blaze”), he gets annoyed at Castiel’s blank look. So, he gives Castiel all the knowledge he has of all books, movies and TV shows he has ever read or watched in the past “few millennia” (guess Metatron’s not much for visual static art or music). He then comments that the universe is really made up of stories, not atoms, a reference that Castiel now does get (from the poem, “The Speed of Darkness,” by Muriel Rukeyser).

Metatron’s obsession is that in a story, “every Hero needs a Villain.” He fancies himself a Hero and he needs a Villain. He actually laughs when Castiel mistakenly believes at first that he is supposed to be the Hero of Metatron’s story, then nastily says through his teeth, “I’m the Hero.”

That Villain will be Castiel. Metatron instructed Gadriel to slaughter all of Hannah’s friends, but to leave one alive. That was to get Castiel to become her leader and the leader of the other surviving angels. He came up with the idea of faking Gabriel from the Winchester Gospel books (one of which he puts in the fire while he talks). He refers to them as pulp fiction, apparently unaware of who Chuck really is.

At the warehouse, Dean tells Sam to go cool off some more. It’s going to take a while to get Gadriel to talk. Remember that Dean was present at Gadriel’s exorcism (which Sam, obviously, doesn’t remember from that angle), so this isn’t his first “torturing Gadriel” rodeo.

Sam suggests calling in Crowley to “hack” Gadriel again, but Dean says he’s “in no mood to talk to that dickbag.” He says they need Castiel, but he can’t get hold of him and Castiel’s cell phone location says he’s in the same town as when they last talked to him. Dean sends Sam to go figure out what’s going on, while he deals with Gadriel.

After Sam leaves, Gadriel sneers that Dean must be the Good Cop to Sam’s Bad Cop. Dean corrects him. That’s not the game. Dean says he doesn’t care if Gadriel ends up dead because he’s going to take revenge for what Gadriel did to Sam and Kevin directly out of Gadriel’s miserable hide.

In his study, Metatron is telling Castiel both the price and the reward for his cooperation. Castiel will basically become a sort of angelic version of Gabriel’s Horn – a Judas Goat who will lure any angel who refuses to follow Metatron to their destruction. Castiel’s reward will be to be allowed to reenter Heaven (after a suitable time). When that reward doesn’t work, Metatron suggests that Castiel is running out of borrowed angel grace. If he follows Metatron, he can have all the grace that he wants and needs.

A woman in a black business suit and short skirt abruptly enters the room. She apologizes for interrupting, but says there is an emergency and it involves Gadriel.

In the warehouse, Gadriel is doing a lot of screaming as Dean slices him up slowly, grace leaking out as white light. Dean mocks Gadriel for allowing the “snake” (Lucifer) into the Garden and corrupting Humanity. When Gadriel tries to claim that he loves humans, Dean points out that he has “a funny way of showing it.” He says that as far as he’s concerned, Gadriel can say locked up forever in his chains, inside the sigil Dean drew underneath his chair, in the dark.

Gadriel then tries to switch tactics. He claims that Sam would not go the extra mile for Dean the way Dean would for Sam and that having been inside Sam, he would know. Dean insists otherwise (though this is no big revelation to him since Sam’s two big speeches episodes ago), then admits that Sam has already told him these things “and worse.” Gadriel says that Sam has always felt that way and that he’s right. Dean is “a coward … pathetic … bottom feeder” who is afraid to be alone.

Gadriel closes his eyes in anticipation as Dean loses control and goes to stab him. But Dean notices this and stops at the last second. As Gadriel, horrified, shouts at him to finish it, the tables turn and Dean realizes that Gadriel wants him to kill him. That’s what the goading was about. Imprisonment, considering Gadriel’s history, is his worst fear, not death.

Dean refuses to give him the satisfaction and tells him that he can “rot.” Then he walks out. Gadriel is left alone, looking woeful.

The Impala arrives at Castiel’s motel at night. Castiel’s room is #7. Sam gets out of the car and goes in cautiously, gun drawn, only to find research by Castiel on missing and dead angels all over the walls. Meanwhile, Dean enters a washroom in the warehouse. Leaving his angel blade in a nearby sink, he wipes the mirror in a repeat of the shower scene earlier and splashes water on his face. He looks almost as woeful as Gadriel. His eyes look black as he feels the Mark. Sam, meanwhile, is worried that Dean hasn’t answered his call.

In the motel room, Sam encounters Metatron, who says he has Castiel and wants Gadriel back. He tells Sam to bring Gadriel the next day, around six, or he will kill Castiel (this seems unlikely, considering his plans for Castiel, but Sam obviously doesn’t know that).

Sam [disbelieving]: An even trade.

Metatron [coldly]: I’m an entity of my word.

As we get a rising electronic soundtrack, heavy with angry brass and drums, Dean’s woefulness turns to determination and something a whole lot darker. Picking up the angel sword and spinning it in his hand, he leaves the washroom, ignoring another call from Sam.

Sam comes back, having called Dean a whole lot along the way, to find Gadriel’s chair empty. He starts calling Dean’s name and spots him slumped against a wall, his knuckles bloody. Rushing to Dean’s side, Sam asks, “Dean, are you okay?”

Dean: Yeah … you gotta stop asking me that.

Gadriel lies on his side nearby, but it turns out he’s not dead. Dean just beat him half to death. He says that Gadriel wouldn’t talk (which Sam already figured). He says (with a lost look) that Gadriel “wanted to die” and that he was willing to oblige, but barely stopped himself.

Sam tells him about Metatron’s deal. Incredulous, Dean points out that Metatron is not even remotely trustworthy, but that’s not Sam’s plan. He says that the meet is a time and place where they actually know Metatron will be. So, they bring Gadriel and set a trap for Metatron.

Cut to the Impala roaring down the road and then the next day, the Brothers are at the motel, waiting. Sam complains that Metatron is late. Dean says he might not show. At that moment, Metatron flies in (no wing noise) and says that he always intended to show up. He just was waiting for them to finish setting up their trap. He walks up to where he thinks it is (note that he doesn’t actually know) and asks if they’re ready.

Depressing, but predictable, I guess. I mean, it was Sam’s plan. And Robbie Thompson does love dumbing down the Brothers to make his guest characters look better.

Metatron goads an uncertain Dean into throwing down the lighter on the holy fire circle. But after some gurning and churning, he bursts out laughing and then blows out the fire. When the Brothers pull out their angel swords in a desperate attack, he turns angry (indicating they probably could kill him with one) and knocks them back against the Impala. He then signals to have a car pull up and goes to the Impala’s trunk. TK’ing open the trunk lid as if the warding were nothing, he also snaps off Gadriel’s cuffs as Gadriel sits up (yes, of course he was in the trunk). The look on Gadriel’s face is … interesting. Not as happy to see Metatron as you might think.

Two angels get out of the car with Castiel, who gets shoved over to the Brothers. When Dean asks Metatron why he’s doing what he’s doing, Metatron claims it’s “because I can.” He says he’s going to “enjoy” watching them futilely try to take him down, even with a Bunker full of “secrets.” He leaves Castiel with an oblique warning and a smug half-salute. When he flies off, rather than wings, you hear an odd humming sound and he apparently takes the others with him offscreen (we just see the reaction of TFW).

As night falls, Dean demands to know what the hell is going on. Castiel says that Metatron is “trying to play God.” Sam points out that Metatron just did a bunch of things that no angel should be able to do, even an archangel (though personally, I think the showy nature of those things indicates a certain insecurity in his power base). To all intents and purposes, Metatron currently is God. That’s what power the Angel Tablet is giving him (um … I guess? We haven’t heard about the thing since Gadriel stole it while killing Kevin, so how would we know yet what Metatron can do with it?).

When Dean says they still have to try, Sam tells him it’s not as easy as Return of the Jedi, where you sneak on board the Death Star and kill the Emperor. Castiel surprises Dean by understanding the reference and agreeing that they have to at least try. He does not, however, understand what Star Wars has to do with Heaven, which Sam ruefully allows is a media knowledge “half-way” for Castiel.

Dean asks Castiel if he’s okay. Castiel lies and says sure, but then turns it around and asks Dean if he’s okay. He says that Dean looks “different.” Dean brushes it off, but as he goes to pat Castiel on the shoulder (a literal brush-off), Castiel grabs his arm and pushes up his coat sleeve to look at the Mark.

It turns out that Castiel has not been back since before “First Born” (come to think of it, that’s true, isn’t it?), so he didn’t know Dean had taken on the Mark of Cain. He’s horrified. Dean’s “It’s a means to an end” does not mollify him, either. Dean exchanges a glance with Sam, who looks uncomfortable and in-the-middle.

Dean: Look, you find Heaven, drop a dime. Meantime, I got a Knight to kill.

Just another day at the Dean office, I guess. Saving the world one big brushfire at a time.

He goes to get in the car. As Sam tells Castiel, “Be safe out there,” Castiel warns him to “keep an eye” on Dean. Oh, sure, after a third of a season of ostentatiously not giving a damn, now everyone’s concerned. Bit late, you two.

All healed up from Dean’s torture, Gadriel is introduced into Metatron’s study by the short-skirted, cleavage-y MIFL angel who interrupted him before. She lets herself out.

Metatron [anxiously]: Is the door secure?

Gadriel: Yes. The way home is safe.

Metatron sighs in relief and thanks him. This is a weakness he didn’t want to show to the Brothers. Or Castiel. Clearly, Gadriel is deep in his confidence. Apparently.

With surface good humor (but an underlying anger that Metatron doesn’t notice), Gadriel asks how Metatron’s “play turned out.” Metatron muses that it went off-track a bit. He’ll just have to keep at it until he’s got everything in place. He says God’s problem was publishing his “first draft.”

Gadriel starts to leave, then pauses and turns back. He asks Metatron if Sam and Dean capturing him “was part of your plan.”

With a grin, Metatron allows that “that was a surprise … good characters … surprise you.” He says, “What writer doesn’t love a good twist?” But Metatron is fine with that because he knows “the ending.” And it doesn’t matter what else happens as long as he gets that ending and “everybody plays their part.”

With another insincere smile, Gadriel leaves. Metatron gets up to put on another record. This one is “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore)” by Frankie Valli (the original version of the song) from 1965.

In montage, we see the Brothers driving down the road at night and into a red sunrise, Dean at the wheel, Sam riding shotgun and giving worried glances at Dean, who keeps his eyes firmly on the road. Part of the montage involves Castiel ripping down a wall of research about his fellow angels and putting up the Gabriel’s Horn lure instead. As Metatron smugly types about this, indicating he predicted it (or at least thinks he made it happen), Castiel opens the door to find Hannah and a bunch of other mild-mannered angels waiting outside, smiling. Castiel looks conflicted.

At the very end, Metatron types “TO BE CONTINUED…” which is something Jensen Ackles recently said was at the end of every script except the series finale (which says, “THE END”). As he pulls the paper out of the typewriter, the song abruptly cuts off as the screen goes black.

Credits

The show dropped like a stone to a 0.7/3 in the A18-49 demo and in audience to 1.60 million. There are a few possible reasons here. One is that there was a short hellatus between this and the previous episode. Also, as I said in last week’s retro review, episode ratings tend to reflect the audience’s opinion of the previous episode, not the episode at hand (unless they leave en masse in the second half-hour).

Unfortunately, I’m not sure where to find the half-hours on this one, or even if they’re still available, let alone Live+ ratings, since TV by the Numbers has effectively shut down and other sites don’t really fill in that historical gap. Keep in mind, though, that ratings at the time don’t much reflect how beloved an episode is later. As is oft stated, the highest rating this show ever got was with the episode “Route 666” in season one.

Review: The song choice at the end of this episode is subtly apt, especially for this week (the show ended filming on September 10 and, like Jensen Ackles, I’m still floating down the River Denial.

Metatron is acting the way he is because he has no love, and is selfishly seeking it in all the most wrong and destructive ways possible. Gadriel has found himself going down a darker and and lonelier road in his desperate quest to redeem himself and become one with the angel flock again. Dean lacked love earlier this season and engaged in reckless, self-destructive acts because he felt no one cared what would happen to him, so no one else would be hurt. Now that those chickens are coming home to roost and his erstwhile loved ones have deigned to notice him again, he’s rejecting their smothering “love.” Sam and Castiel have had love thrust upon them, as it were, and petulantly refused it until now.

Love in this show can be a destructive thing, but the song implies that the lack of love can be far worse.

With a title like “Meta Fiction,” it was obvious that we were going to get one of Supernatural‘s dreaded “meta” episodes. Sometimes, those work. And sometimes, they don’t. In the case of this episode, there was a lot inside it that I liked on first watch, but I absolutely hated the frame story and how it cheapened the events in the episode itself. So, let’s dig in and bring the tea.

There’s something out there called the Turkey City Lexicon – A Primer for SF Workshops. Dating back to 1988, the Turkey City Lexicon is a (much more succinct) science fiction genre precursor to TV Tropes. If you’ve attended any genre workshops, become a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, or even just submitted a whole lot of science fiction, fantasy or horror stories to many professional markets, you have heard of the Turkey City Lexicon. It’s an invaluable (and brutally frank) collection of Golden and Silver Age genre cliches and how to avoid them.

If you’re a fiction writer, prepare to cringe hard because I can guarantee you’ve committed most of the storytelling sins in the Lexicon. I know I have. They’re listed for a reason.

It is, sadly, obvious that several writers for Supernatural, including the writer for this episode (Robbie Thompson) have never read the Turkey City Lexicon. They really, really should have.

The Author Insert isn’t in that one, but the White Room certainly is, as is the Dischism. And the Whistling Dog. And Idiot Plot. But mostly, the episode seems to be a combination of Kitchen-Sink Story with either Wiring Diagram Fiction or Dennis Hopper Syndrome. I’ll let y’all look those up.

Simply put, everything to do with Castiel in this episode is an overly elaborate plot to get Castiel to become a leader of the angels who won’t follow Metatron. Metatron is obsessed with the idea of having a Villain to fight and destroy (without actually giving that Villain any chance of winning, of course).

Now, obviously, Metatron is deluded in thinking he is the Hero. The new title card kinda gives that one away. But within the context of this episode, he literally cannot lose and it makes the episode itself frustrating and dull. The Angel Tablet (suddenly mentioned after being a non-entity macguffin for a third of the season) gives him every power he needs to win over and over and over again. And jeez, is that boring.

Sam and Dean are the actual Heroes of the show and they lose inside entire episodes all the time. They may have enough plot armor to survive those losses, but they still lose quite a bit. That Metatron doesn’t for 42 minutes straight makes him no Hero, to be sure, but it doesn’t make him much of a Villain, either.

It’s true that the seeds of Metatron’s downfall are sown right under his nose in “Meta Fiction.” When Gadriel realizes that Metatron predicted everything except his capture by the Winchesters, he has a wakeup call and is shaken out of his self-brainwashing, but Metatron does not notice. Metatron is not all-powerful, certainly not completely honest, and is in fact fallible. Gadriel had been too gullible and desperate for redemption to realize that before.

But the fact that this tiny flaw is about the only truly interesting thing about Metatron in this episode kinda tells you why he’s more irritating than scary the rest of the season. The smarmy bonhomie, dropping to a nasty, sinister tone whenever anyone crosses him or gets too close to one of his vulnerabilities … that just isn’t terribly interesting in terms of season-long villainy. Metatron is very one-note.

The other thing that Metatron either remains unaware of for the moment, or is too careless to care about, is the Mark of Cain. That’s gonna bite him in the butt, albeit we will cover that in due time. Something happens, during the time Dean beats Gadriel like a gong until he exhausts himself, that Thompson is unfortunately too lazy or unimaginative to show (or hey, maybe that scene just got cut for more Metatron blather or to generate false tension about whether or not Dean had killed Gadriel).

It’s critical because while Gadriel doesn’t tell Dean anything useful, Dean has actually managed to break him. He returns to Metatron a changed angel, whose eyes have been opened indeed. Sam and Dean have inadvertently (and under duress) introduced a sleeper agent into Metatron’s operation, a spy. There are some other possibilities for throwing a bomb into Metatron’s plans, in Dean’s actual Mark powers, but again, we shall cover those in a later episode.

I do think that Sam’s confrontation with Gadriel got short-circuited in favor of Dean’s confrontation with Gadriel. Yeah, technically, Dean had a lot more of a relationship with Gadriel, since he was the one who interacted with him while Sam was unaware Gadriel was inside him, who made a deal with him for a favor the show promptly forgot, who was forced to stand by helplessly while Gadriel murdered someone Dean had protected like a son, using Sam’s body to do it. So, that relationship was more fraught. But that possession was the entire source of tension between Sam and Dean all season and I don’t see how Thompson couldn’t have tried harder to get both Brothers some closure here. It felt very incomplete, how they did that one.

There’s nothing wrong per se with meta episodes and I’ve personally loved some of the show’s more experimental ones with genre and format (notably, season four’s beloved “Monster Movie” and Robbie Thompson’s own season seven “Time After Time”). But you have to be careful and controlled with them or they come off sounding like bad fanfic. This one … really treads the line. When I originally watched this, I got the impression that everything in it was just one big mind jam by Metatron, which rendered it all pointless. On rewatch, I see that’s not quite true, but it’s not far off, either.

A big problem is that if you use an Author Insert and identify too much with that character, there is a risk that the audience will identify you with that character, too. Everything that pisses them off about the show tends to get concentrated in that character or plot. And if you decide to create a spoofy kind of Author Insert that is a jerk, that’s really going to concentrate the dislike because you may subconsciously pull the same crap that the audience hates about your writing in the first place and create a character that embodies how much you can irritate them. It does not defuse the situation.

If you use that character to mock the audience, you are really getting into dangerous territory because the writers of a show can lose their audience just like that, for far less severe reasons. Unless you’re Mel Brooks, you’re not likely to get away with mocking your audience. Robbie Thompson is no Mel Brooks.

It is an unfortunate bad habit that dates back to show creator Eric Kripke with the Supernatural writers room that staff writers who were growing tired of the job tended to take it out on the audience. Apparently, it was our fault that the show’s demise didn’t happen to coincide with when said writers lost interest in writing for the show. I mean, there’s no shame to losing interest or simply running out of ideas – no writer is an inexhaustible font. But there’s no need to make everyone else around you miserable about it. Just don’t renew your contract when it comes up.

I mean, we’re pretty good about not watching anymore when we lose interest, thus putting you out of a job whether you’re ready or not.

Writers like Kripke, Edlund, Gamble, Glass and Thompson were by no means the first TV writers to get sick of their day jobs, or even to make fun of those day jobs, on the job. In fact, until the past ten years or so, it was a trendy auteur thing in genre TV for showrunners to act as though they were engaged in an arcane form of storytelling and the audience could either come along for the ride or just piss off.

In the age of social media, things like Joss Whedon’s pretentious and rather paternalistic pronouncement that he didn’t give the audience what they wanted, he gave them what they needed, have not aged well. And Benioff and Weiss’ claim that season eight of Game of Thrones was intended to be twist storytelling has definitely not aged well, despite being less than two years old at this point.

So, making Metatron his author avatar in the story and having him Evil Overlord Monologue dribble on about writing probably wasn’t Thompson’s smartest writing decision ever. The audience does not want to hear your thoughts regarding the mechanics of a good story via a character mouthpiece. They want you to tell them a good story. Save that self-indulgence for the DVDs, a workshop or a con, dude.

Thompson was about halfway through his tenure with the show at this point and there were already signs he was starting to lose interest in the franchise itself. He always seemed fairly disinterested in the original cast (one big no-no in writing spec scripts to break into a show is centering the script around your own guest character rather than the main characters; it also considerably ups the probability that said guest character will be a Sue). But to this point, he was often good at keeping it in check. With Metatron, he … doesn’t (and his next script was “Fan Fiction,” so things did not improve).

I think Thompson saw “Meta Fiction” as his version of Ben Edlund’s magnificent “The Man Who Would Be King” from season six. Don’t believe me? The script actually references that episode in this one when Metatron talks about how Castiel is old enough to remember when lungfish came out of the ocean (a scene from “The Man Who Would Be King”).

But Castiel is a lot more dynamic and popular than Metatron and Thompson is no more Ben Edlund than he is Mel Brooks. So, it falls as flat as Metatron is as a character. We get some tosh about how tough writing is, but we never get much along the lines of how Metatron ticks.

Even his plan comes off as flaky and ad hoc. What exactly is Metatron trying to accomplish here by literally playing God? Is he lonely? Does he long for companionship? Followers? Adulation? Angel batteries to power Heaven? What? We never find out. I mean, he already won about as much as he could at the end of season nine, so what the hell is he trying to do now that’s different from that? It just looks as though he’s become the angelic equivalent of pulling what’s left of the wings off his former brethren, which seems petty rather than terrifying.

What makes “The Man Who Would Be King” so brilliant is not just that it spells out Castiel’s motivation. It’s that it draws together many bits of disparate canon and retcon, some of which really didn’t hang together very well when introduced, and makes them – makes season six – into a coherent story that explains Castiel’s worldview and where he is coming from at that point in the show. It turns him into a Tragic Hero, Macbeth-style, for the entire season (a shame Gamble and Kripke then ruined all that with the next two episodes, but there you go). And then it showed most of it rather than telling. “Meta Fiction” doesn’t have any of that careful work, so it comes across as self-indulgent rather than clever or moving.

Especially frustrating is how this episode also focuses on Castiel, but it doesn’t really say anything new about him. He comes off as a defeated sad sack. At the beginning, he is resistant to becoming a leader for the lost angels because he is lost in ruminations and recriminations over his past failures. Let’s face it – he sucked at leading Heaven. Gabriel talks about what a rebel he is and he is that, however reflexively and instinctively. But that doesn’t mean he can lead worth beans.

The frame story with Metatron suffers from a complete lack of tension. Since Metatron has already gotten what he wanted and is now setting up a new plan out of sheer boredom, there’s no real urgency to what he’s doing. There might be urgency to the slowly dwindling group of angels in stopping him before they are completely gone, but Sam and Dean don’t feel much urgency in grappling with him and neither does the audience.

Okay, sure, Metatron lampshades that Castiel’s stolen grace won’t last forever, but we’re talking about angels, here. It could last him for thousands of years, the rest of the show, for all we know (or care). Big whoop.

Also, while I get in theory why Sam and Castiel are so concerned about Dean, their timing is exasperating. Sam, as I’ve been saying for a while, started off the season oblivious to the stress Dean was under (a situation Dean deliberately engineered at first, albeit under blackmail duress, it must be said), then got mad and punished his brother as much as he he could. Now that he’s finally decided he wants to be Dean’s brother again, his window of opportunity for getting through to Dean (or for Dean trusting him that much) has long since passed. And Sam is still … uh … figuring that out.

Castiel, meanwhile, has been MIA for something like seven episodes and, oh, yeah, was also mad at Dean over being kept out of the Bunker thanks to Gadriel’s machinations (all the talk aside, nobody seemed actually interested in blaming Gadriel). His “I’m shocked, shocked to find that you took on the Mark of Cain, Dean!” act reminds me of John throwing a fit over finding out belatedly about Sam’s powers, only for Dean to point out that the Brothers had been chasing him (without success) all over the country all season one and had no opportunity to tell him earlier.

Both Castiel and Sam’s responses to the Mark look a whole lot less like genuine concern and a lot more like “Dean has a new shiny superpower. We wantsss it, my Precioussss!” Their joint track record on that score sucks out loud and does not come off as sincere.

Now, I get that what Dean did in taking on the Mark was reckless, but it sure as hell beat leaving it to Cain. Cain was a complete wild card and there was no guarantee he would come out of retirement, kill Abaddon, and then quietly go back into retirement. And once he killed Abaddon (who definitely needs to go), who could take him out if someone else didn’t take on the Mark?

Manipulated or not, Dean understood what he was doing when he took Cain’s offer. And each time the opportunity came up for Sam or Castiel to take it, they leaped on it like starving hyenas, totally ignoring Dean’s warnings. Someone had to take one for the team. Who else but the person who has always been a reliable mensch standing up for everyone else?

And yeah, Dean didn’t navigate the first half of season nine perfectly. He was, after all, dealing with the consequences of other people’s actions in addition to his own (Castiel’s becoming human and being partly responsible for the fall of his brethren certainly wasn’t Dean’s fault). It was like trying to juggle chainsaws that were on fire as people kept throwing them at him. Of course he dropped some.

Yet, when Dean needed help (and was still receptive to getting some), Sam and Castiel were too busy getting mad at him to step up for him the way he did for them in the past. Lord, there are times when I just want to take those two and smack their heads together like a couple of coconuts.

Tension-wise, the Metatron story is in complete contrast to the Mark of Cain story. It’s not just that Abaddon has a plan to take over Hell that clearly implies she would then use that as a jumping-off point to conquer other parts of the SPNverse (like, say, the earth). It’s also that Dean’s deteriorating mental state is accelerating.

At this point in the story, the audience doesn’t know what that means, but it’s becoming clearer that this story is not ending any time soon and that whatever happens when Dean snaps, it’s going to be quite exciting. Hence, there’s a huge amount of tension in this plot, even if its development remains a bit nebulous at this point (Mark of Cain is scary. Kill Abaddon is necessary, but will have consequences. Check).

All we really know about the Mark’s effect on Dean at this point is that, like Eartha Kitt (or Mazikeen), it makes him want to go to the devil. He’s damned tired of being pure.

But even so, it has its perks and I’m not just talking about the sight of shirtless (and implied naked) Dean near the beginning. Dean’s actions and expressions with the mirror in the shower scene are repeated in the episode for a reason. In that scene, Dean is not just physically naked. He’s emotionally and psychologically naked. And it’s quite scary.

In this episode, it becomes especially clear that Dean is falling apart. Oh, there were fault lines before, going all the way back to the show’s pilot. But in this episode, those lines crack open like a fractured egg and out of them shines a bright and uncontrolled madness.

These scenes where Dean’s inner stormy weather is exposed to the audience – his deep depression and growing dissociation from reality – are sharply contrasted even more than the episodes before “Meta Fiction” with the scenes where he hides all that from those around him. Even when Gadriel is (almost successfully) goading him into a killing rage, Dean wears a mask. It’s frayed and cracked and worn, but it’s in place. Even when Sam finds him later, having exhausted himself, and Dean asks him to please stop asking him if he’s all right (since he obviously is not), it’s in place. When Castiel finds out he took the Mark and bitches him out, it’s in place. But now, the audience definitely knows what’s underneath and we can see the fell light shining out through the cracks. It’s about to go down, my droogs.

This is obviously a form of Dark Phoenix storyline – straight-arrow workhorse of the team gains cosmic powers and does better than average in controlling them … for a while. But these are powers that have all the edges and it’s only a matter of time before this character goes supernova. In the meantime, though, we get to watch someone downtrodden get some power in the life and push back against all those who have controlled and bullied them. While getting out the popcorn and mojitos for that impending volcanic eruption. The suspense is terrible. I hope it’ll last.

Next week: Alex Annie Alexis Ann: Sheriff Jody Mills calls the Brothers in on a case involving a young woman on the run from a nest of vampires.

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


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The Official Supernatural: “Mother’s Little Helper” (9.17) Retro Recap and Review

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According to recent reports from Vancouver, the cast returned to work the first week of August (about two weeks late). Jensen Ackles also explained in a recent virtual “fan experience” through Creation Con that the writing for the last two episodes has been tweaked to reflect recent events (i.e., the Coronavirus pandemic). With these writers, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. He also said that 15.19 will be a season finale, while 15.20 is more like a series finale (and expressed sadness on Instagram when he got the final script, which said “The End” instead of the usual “To Be Continued”)). In an already truncated final season, that likely means we’ll get stuck with some filler clips episode as the last one. Yay.

The show is returning October 8 and the series finale will be November 19. Yes, it’s back on Thursdays. If I manage to stay on track, I should be able to post the season nine finale retro review right after the show comes back on Sunday, then bring in the newest season five recap and review the following Thursday.

There are some new trailers out for the last episodes. Finally.

If you’re enjoying these articles and reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat and I’ve got a house full of fosters right now. Plus, this review was delayed a bit by one of my kitties spending a very expensive day and a half at the kitty ER.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Recap of the intro of Henry Winchester, Josie Sands, the Men of Letters massacre, Abaddon’s rise, and Dean’s growing partnership with Crowley in all its thorny glory, culminating in last week’s discovery of the First Blade.

Cut to Now in Milton, IL. A schoolteacher pulls into a garage of a suburban home after a long day at work. While her husband watches golf on the TV and eats popcorn, she enters with a bouquet of flowers. When her husband asks her what’s for dinner, he’s disappointed to hear it’s meatloaf again. She’s disappointed to hear about his disappointment. Enough to knock his eye out and then beat him to death with a candlestick while clinically rattling off the various ingredients, ending with the words, “and lots of good things.” The camera pans away to the refrigerator, where her students’ drawings are carefully pinned up.

Cue title cards.

Dean is hitting the books (pretty literally) when Sam comes into the Library, carrying his travel rucksack. This is a mirror image of Dean going off on a hunt previously in the season, except that Dean has no interest in coming along on this hunt. Sam asks if Dean slept last night. Dean laconically says no, but when Sam tells him about Doomed Teaser Couple, Dean has no interest in why a first-grade teacher would “pound her husband into ground chuck,” either.

Dean: Well, maybe she snapped. Ankle-biters can do that to you.

Sam’s thinking possession and Dean thinks Sam should go do the hunt alone. Sam decides now is a good time to infodump-poke the bear by asking why Dean has become so “obsessed” about Abaddon since he killed Sinclair last episode. They’ve been researching for days with no luck. Maybe a hunt is a good anodyne for that.

Dean bluntly (and accurately) states that they “don’t have time” and he wants to end both Abaddon and Crowley with the First Blade as quickly as possible. He calls Sam’s idea of “being ‘obsessed’ doing my job.”

Sam: I get it. I’m just checking in.

Dean: I’m fine.

So, Sam leaves, rather reluctantly, while Dean rolls his eyes in an exasperated “please go away” look. Honestly, I don’t know what the hell Sam thinks he’s doing here, but the chickens sure are starting to come home to roost from his bitchiness earlier in the season. As soon as Sam leaves, Dean pulls out a nearly full bottle of whiskey and starts sucking it down.

Sam travels to Milton and quickly gets an in with the friendly and cooperative local sheriff. The man is puzzled about why Doomed Teaser Guy got his face smashed in by his wife. The marriage seemed fine, non-abusive, and the two of them were about as ordinary as can be. But when Sam and the sheriff go down to the cells to question her, they find she’s cut herself and covered the walls of her cell with bloody designs (and words like “shell” and “death”) – then hanged herself with a bedsheet. So, this schoolteacher won’t be telling anybody anything unless Sam can rig up a seance.

Sam asks the sheriff if she went anywhere unusual the day she killed her husband, but all the sheriff can think of is the grocery store. Sam calls Dean, who looks strung out and asks if the demon had perhaps “smoked out” before the schoolteacher hanged herself. Sam doesn’t think so. He had previously asked the sheriff about black eyes and sulfur, and looked for other demon signs like EMF, and there was nothing. Dean, distracted, suggests that Sam will figure it out. Sam says that if nothing comes up by morning, he’s coming back to the Bunker.

After he hangs up, Dean starts having flashbacks to Cain giving him the Mark, warning him about the hidden costs, and later of holding the First Blade. Dean comes out of his PTSD trance to find himself gripping the table with his left hand. He lets go and stares at his shaking hand as it if doesn’t belong to him. He starts to make a call, hangs up, and goes out.

Meanwhile, a young man named Billy is walking down the road, talking on his cell to his girlfriend and hitchhiking. It’s cold and it seems he just had a fight with his mother. After he hangs up, a van pulls up nearby. I guess this kid has never seen any horror movies about serial killers, because he runs up to it and catches a ride.

The man inside is a friendly, white-bearded elder the boy knows (a Mr. Richie), so he gets inside, even though the van is new to him. But once in, there’s a commotion (we only see the back of the van, which has the words “St. Bonaventure” on it) as the boy cries out and there’s a big flash of light with a rising whine.

Later, Billy comes into a diner where Sam is eating and talking to the waitress. Far from the obedient, mom-loving kid he was before, he now acts cold and lashes out at her attempts to scold him after he grabs food off a used plate and starts wolfing it down, as well as Sam’s attempts to back her up. When she suggests calling his mom, Billy stabs her in the hand with a knife. As he goes to stab her in the throat with a fork, Sam gets up and cold-cocks him.

The kid ends up in a cell, still glowering, along with three other perfectly ordinary town residents who are now acting in bizarre ways. One woman sits in her cell and hums. Another man has cut himself and smeared his cell with words like “ark,” “missing,” “attempt” and “suffer.” Another man just bangs his head bloody against the cell bars. They are all locals, with no other connections, and have been like this for days.

Now the sheriff is really freaked out and Sam has no answers. The sheriff does tell him about the kid being picked up as a hitchhiker (he heard it from the girlfriend). After the sheriff leaves the cell block, Sam surreptitiously uses some holy water on the kid, but all it does is piss him off.

Sam asks him, “What are you?” but Billy just replies, “Clear.” There’s no reason why he did the things he does. He does them “because I can.”

Later, Sam calls Dean while getting grocery store surveillance photos from the sheriff. Dean is in a bar, but lies about it. He also keeps taking his sweet time answering the phone. If Sam called me as many times as he calls Dean in this episode, I’d start ghosting him, too.

Sam is confused by how aggressive and “basic instinct” these people are. Dean compares it to being at at “Gold’s Gym” (ain’t that the truth), but Sam says they’re not on steroids. After following that train of thought down a rabbit hole of season six Sambot flashbacks, Sam wonders if they are lacking souls. They do act a bit like him when he was soulless … except for the part where they actually don’t.

As Dean (who ruefully admits that he has not forgotten about that year and a half or so Sam had no soul and turned into an even bigger douchebag than usual) points out, Sam was not out of control when he had no soul. Sam then suggests the everyone reacts differently to not having a soul. First of all, the fact that Sambot acted differently practically every episode was a major reason that storyline was such a raging dumpster fire of inconsistent canon in the first place. Second, if everyone who lacks a soul acts differently about it, how can you tell that they’ve lost theirs in the first place?

Dean suggests that a CRD may have made a deal with these people and yanked their souls. Sam, rather than stating the painfully obvious that Dean himself suffered through – that people who make deals have their bodies shredded and killed by Hell Hounds as their souls are removed – says that he doesn’t think so because they’re not getting any obvious advantage or benefit that seems unusual, like winning the lottery. He then says he really could use Dean’s help on this one.

Dean demurs, claiming that he’s “close” to finding Abaddon (at the bottom of that latest bottle of beer he’s drinking, no doubt) and leaves Sam hanging. A voice comes from behind Dean. It’s Crowley and Dean doesn’t even start.

Crowley: You’re lying to Sam like he’s your wife, which kinda makes me your mistress.

At the station in Milton, Sam is looking at photos of the schoolteacher getting out of a black van like the one that picked up Billy. He overhears an older woman with red hair trying to tell the deputy at the front desk that “the demons” are back and that “it’s starting all over again.” Sam comes up just as she’s getting irate with the condescending young man and asks her over to his desk. He gives her a cup of tea and asks her story.

The woman, Julia, immediately notices that Sam doesn’t think she’s “nuts on toast” like everyone else in town whenever she mentions “demons.” Sam calls himself “open-minded,” but it’s his shocked reaction to her mentioning the Men of Letters that convinces her he’s not mocking her.

Julia: You’re one of them aren’t you? The Men of Letters?

Julia tells him that two Men of Letters arrived in Milton in 1958, when the town (and she) was a very different place. She calls the two MoL “a lovely couple.” Cue a flashback.

Young Julia is a novitiate nun, polishing a collection plate. There’s a knock at the door and the Mother Superior tells her to answer it. When she does, she finds Henry Winchester (dressed as a priest) and Josie Sands (as a nun). Henry hands her a letter with a wax seal, saying they are from the Office of the Inquisition.

In the present, Dean is lining up some balls on a pool table and asking what Crowley wants. Crowley points out that Dean called him, not the other way round (so now we know which number Dean was calling in the previous scene). He also points out that the agreement was that Dean find Abaddon and unless she’s into “ten-cent wings, stale beer and the clap,” he’s not likely to find her here.

Dean tells him that he’s “on it,” then when Crowley pushes, tells him to “go to Hell.” Crowley ruefully admits that he can’t do that again quite yet. He continues to needle Dean, wondering, “just between us girls,” how it felt to hold the First Blade. Maybe it made Dean feel “powerful, virile … and afraid.” Dean looks surprised that Crowley guessed this, but doesn’t exactly deny it, either.

I rewatched this scene a few times because there was something about it I couldn’t quite put my finger on. There is, of course, the sexual banter on Crowley’s side and the way Dean is filmed is quite sexy in an old-style cowboy sort of way (like the moment when he goes over to get a pool cue). But then it occurred to me – Dean is playing pool. And whenever we see the Brothers onscreen playing pool, they are hustling someone. Their MO is to pretend to be an easy mark and then pool-shark their opponent. Note also that Dean didn’t start playing pool until Crowley showed up. So, just who is zooming who here?

In Milton, Julia is telling Sam about Henry and Josie’s visit. They, of course, didn’t use their real names. They were undercover. But she did hear their real names later, albeit just their first names. Sam admits to having known (of) them, but claims, “It’s complicated.” Julia just laughs. As an ex-nun, “complicated is my middle name.”

She explains that the reason for their arrival was that another nun, a Sister Mary Catherine, had committed two murders, then jumped from the bell tower. Julia says that when Henry and Josie arrived, she took them to the Mother Superior.

Cut to the Mother Superior looking through Henry and Josie’s paperwork with a cold eye. Another nun, Sister Agnes, stands by, smiling cheerfully. Henry tries to move the Mother Superior along in her decision by saying they have to report to the Vatican in the morning. Eventually, the Mother Superior hands their papers back to her cheerful assistant, who hands them back to Henry with the comment that the convent is now open to them. She assigns Julia to guide them.

Out in the hallway, Julia asks them how they want to get started. When Josie tells her she wants to start with the dead nun’s sleeping quarters, Julia looks to Henry for confirmation and he has to give it before Julia will budge. Josie is irritated at being treated as Henry’s subordinate. As Julia goes ahead of them, Josie hisses at Henry, “I hate nuns.” Seems she went to Catholic school and “I have a lot of pent-up anger.”

Henry, for his part, worries about going out on this “investigation” so close to their initiation. What if something happens and he leaves his wife Millie a widow and his son John and orphan? Josie says that they’d “be proud that you answered the call.” Henry starts to say that Josie doesn’t understand because she doesn’t have a family – oops. He does apologize and Josie brushes it off, but it’s hit home.

Inside the room, there is a bloody message on the wall that Julia says they couldn’t remove. Henry figures that confirms they’re dealing with demonic possession. Josie identifies the main symbol as “Pre-Enochian” and says it means “Knights of Hell.” That gets a reaction out of Henry, who calls it “trouble.”

In the present, Sam is shocked to hear this name in what, to this point, has been a fairly run-of-the-mill hunt.

Julia’s memories are rather limited because she was just a bystander. The nuns weren’t supposed to leave their rooms after ten o’clock, but when she heard footsteps out in the corridor, she went to investigate in her bedclothes. She saw Mother Superior, with black eyes, dragging a struggling woman up the stairs. When she ducked back into the hallway and turned around, she got cold-cocked by Mother Superior’s smiling assistant, Sister Agnes.

She woke up in a room, gagged and tied to a chair. Others were there, too, in the same state. A nun entered and grabbed a young woman. One by one, the others were dragged into another room, where Julia heard screaming and what sounded like an angel whine. She prayed to God, but the two people who actually showed up were Henry and Josie. Shouting dual exorcisms, they exorcised the two nuns there. The demons smoked out and the nuns fell down, apparently dead.

Unfortunately, when the Mother Superior entered, Henry’s exorcism didn’t work on her. She laughed and TK’d him into a wall, knocking him out, as Sister Agnes came in behind her. As Julia hid behind a screen, the Mother Superior interrogated Josie, under pain of torturing Henry. At first, the Mother Superior thought they were Hunters (Josie scoffed at that), but Josie then admitted that they were Men of Letters.

Some snark about misogyny and underestimating women followed, as Mother Superior’s possessing demon first decided to possess Henry. Josie persuaded her not to, offering herself, instead. Mother Superior guessed, correctly, that Josie was in love with Henry, though Henry “only” loved her as a sister.

Josie, apparently not understanding how demons worked, said she gave the demon “permission” to enter her. The demon laughed, identifying herself as Abaddon (yes, that Abaddon) and said that “Abaddon takes what she wants.” She then possessed Josie, the Mother Superior falling down dead like a puppet with her strings cut.

Sister Agnes wondered why Abaddon was going to “study the Men of Letters.” Abaddon said she was only going to do so “for a moment” before destroying them. She told her demon assistant to keep the home fires burning on their experiment and then told her to play dead. Abaddon went back to pretending to be Josie and tended to Henry, who woke up dazed. “Josie” told him they had defeated the demons.

When Sam asks Julia what Abaddon’s experiment was, she says she doesn’t know, but that it seems to be what is happening again now. She says that the convent was called St. Bonaventure and Sam recognizes it as the same name on the van the schoolteacher got out of in the CCTV footage. Julia says the convent has “been closed for years” and is on the edge of town.

Cut back to the bar, where Dean is back to drinking, an annoying Crowley tagging along. I can’t determine what the song is on the jukebox. Crowley complains that Dean is stalling and in denial about the “gift” he’s been given.

Dean: I’m a Hunter.

Crowley: Who’s a chip off the old Mark of Cain.

Dean [with intensity]: No. When I kill, I kill for a reason. I’m nothing like Cain.

Crowley begs to differ. He had a front row seat to Dean meeting Cain. He knows they are, in fact, very much alike. Sympatico, even.

Crowley: Nothing like Cain? What’s in that bottle? Delusion? I’m really starting to worry about you, Dean.

Dean: Yeah, well, why don’t you worry about yourself?

Crowley says he already does. They are “in this together,” so they have no choice but to work alongside each other. He then says he’s going off to take a leak, asking Dean if he wants to “cross streams” (not only is that a reference to Ghostbusters, but that’s a pretty R-rated gay proposition for the CW!).

After Crowley leaves, Dean has another flashback, this time to Sinclair putting the First Blade into his hand and telling him “Next time, it’ll be easier.”

As he comes out of the flashback, Dean glances over and sees a young man handling a rosary. Then the young man pulls out a hunting knife and heads toward the washroom. A Hunter. Dean gets an Oh, crap look on his face and goes after him. Oh, and the song on the jukebox is Linda Ronstadt’s “You’re No Good.”

Dean stops the kid at the washroom door and tries to talk him down. Dean identifies himself and asks if the kid has ever taken on a demon before (considering he’s “bringing a knife to a demon fight,” the obvious answer is no). He says that normally, he’d help him, but this is a different day (he doesn’t explain why). He also says that once the demon finished with the kid, he’d go after everyone he ever loved, even his “prom date.” Uncertain, the kid backs down and sheathes his knife: “I got a kid sister. She don’t deserve that.”

Dean asks his name and the kid says it’s Jake. Dean shakes his hand and sees him off. He looks conflicted as the kid leaves. Then he bangs on the door and tells Crowley it’s time to go.

Cut back to Milton, where Sam is pulling up to the convent in the dark, in the Impala. There’s a chain-link fence and a faded sign. Let’s just say that the nunnery has seen better days. But the van is there. Hmm.

Cut back to the bar, where Dean is waiting for Crowley outside. Dean points out that demons don’t pee and that the next time Crowley wants to shoot up, he should find a better lie. He asks why Crowley fell off the wagon so quickly. Crowley admits that “after very little soul-searching, I decided to embrace my addiction. What about you? It takes a junkie to know a junkie. You just want to touch that Precious again, don’t you?” (Yes, that’s a reference to Gollum and the One Ring from Lord of the Rings.)

Dean says that all he still wants is to “kill Abaddon.” Whatever the consequences, whatever happens with the First Blade, that’s his goal and he’s sticking to it. What he wants or fears is immaterial. So, Crowley says fine, “it’s a date.” Rolling his eyes, Dean leaves.

As Dean crosses the street, the young man comes up beside Crowley with black eyes. He admits he was sure for a moment that Dean had “made” him as possessed. Crowley admits that Dean is currently a bit distracted. When his demon lackey comments that Dean “saved” Crowley, Crowley rather proudly says that of course he did, “We’re besties,” and pronounces Dean “ready.” Okay, but ready for what?

Sam is entering the convent, which is covered in mold and random trash all over the place. He goes downstairs with a flashlight and the Spork at the ready. In the basement, he finds a line of five sealed jars, each containing a glowing soul. He’s attacked by the guy who was driving the van. It turns out he’s possessed when Sam whips around and stabs him with the Spork. The demon dies in an internal red glow.

Sam then gets punched into a wall of trash by the assistant nun from the flashbacks, Sister Agnes. Picking up the Spork, which got knocked out of Sam’s hand, she comments that “souls are a very precious and fragile thing. Break one of those [the jars] and them little buggers fly right back home.” As she casually kicks over the dead man’s corpse, she complains about how the “dirty work” for Abaddon Sam calls her out for doing has gotten “dirtier” over the years as people lost faith over “pervert” scandals in the Church. It used to be that the faithful would just come right in and it was like “fish in a barrel.” But hey, at least she can take Sam’s soul, so he’s helping the cause that way.

Sister Agnes sure likes to talk. She Evil Overlord Monologues about how Abaddon’s current plan is to create an entire army of loyal demons, rather than work hard to gain the loyalty of those wavering in Hell. She has “factories” all over the country of demons stealing souls and converting them into demons … somehow (the details aren’t clear). Sam stalls her long enough to recover to the point of slipping in a Rituale Romanum. Furious, she grabs him by the throat, but he also has it recorded on his phone. As he hits the button, he tosses the phone away. Crippled, the demon crawls after it and manages to smash it before it finishes. But in the process, she drops the Spork. Sam stabs her from behind with it, killing her. I guess she won’t be reporting back to Abaddon about this, then.

Sam goes over to the jars and opens them one by one. They then return to the surviving people in the cells, Billy first. He watches in astonishment as they go into the others in the cell block. Everyone looks dazed.

The next day, Sam asks Julia if he can ask her a question. She jokes that she doesn’t “date anyone under 65. Too much drama.” But she agrees to a question. He asks her why she didn’t “warn Henry about Abaddon.”

Julia looks pensive and guilty. With tears in her eyes and in a shaking voice, she admits that as a young novitiate, she just wanted to “help people,” but she had never been taught what it was like to confront “true evil,” or how to face it. In short, she was afraid.

In a flashback, we see Henry and “Josie” the following day, telling the staff not to tell anyone about what happened. Abaddon, inside Josie, specifically tells Julia to keep “quiet,” right in front of Henry. Frightened, Julia replies, “Of course.”

In the present, Julia says that she soon left the Order because she was so deeply “ashamed” of her cowardice. Sam gives her a kind of absolution by pointing out that this time, at least, she helped “save lives” and put a stop to at least this evil operation of Abaddon’s.

But as Sam gets in the Impala and drives away, a shaken Julia is caught up in a final flashback. Abaddon stares at her from the car passenger seat as Henry drives them away. Inside the car, an oblivious Henry is jubilant over the successful “investigation” and says he now realizes he was foolish to doubt the good in it. He asks “Josie” how she feels and she replies, “Me? Well, I feel like a whole new person.” Oof. Bit on-the-nose there, Show.

Sam arrives back at the Bunker to find Dean neck-deep again in research. Dean asks how the hunt went. Grabbing some files and sitting down at a nearby table with a beer, Sam admits that Dean was right – they need to find Abaddon and they need to do it “ASAP.” He tells Dean about the “mining souls” operation and what it’s for. The camera pulls back on them as Sam opens a file and a beer, and Dean looks taken aback for a moment, then gets back to work.

Credits

The show rose again to a 1.0/3 in the A18-49 demo and in audience to 2.25 million. Part of the rise was certainly due to the popularity of the previous episode, but some of it may also have been due to the publicity surrounding the identity of the director this week.

Review: Like “Blade Runners,” this episode is a case of good direction (Misha Collins, in his first stint behin the camera) improving a weak script. Collins has a lot of unsettlingly framed camera shots, shadows, and atmosphere that make the episode creepy even when it has no right to be.

Unfortunately, “Mother’s Little Helper” (from, of course, the classic Rolling Stones song about 1960s drug-addicted housewives) is much less memorable than “Blade Runners,” suffers mightily from prequelitis, has more than a whiff of sexism (despite several strong female characters in the story), and has been rendered a rather pointless cul de sac of mytharc in the grand scheme of things. Also, not to put too fine a point on it, but it’s on the cynical side and quite depressing. In short, it’s a fairly typical Adam Glass script.

I’m going to spoil things a bit for people and note that Abaddon’s grand plan for creating demon factories, a ridiculous retcon never fully explained, goes absolutely nowhere. It also makes no sense.

Even if it were better explained how and why demons could create demons so arbitrarily by stealing souls (why make crossroad deals in the first place if you can just steal the person’s soul and demonize it?), it wouldn’t explain why Abaddon would still need them. Sure, soul factories are a good idea in the pre-Apocalypse period (assuming Hell could get away with such a plan without Heaven or the Reapers noticing – an awfully big If), but by season nine, Abaddon was operating on an entirely different field where she was wooing pre-existing demons away from Crowley in a bid to become Queen of Hell – and doing so quite successfully, Sister Agnes’ jibes about “panty-waist demons” notwithstanding.

I suppose you could argue that she was still building a demon army in order to take over the earth in the wake of the angel fall and wars, but that seems like overkill. Why overachieve like that when she could gain what she wanted with the way Hell already was? Maybe that’s why this storyline was basically dropped after this episode. It all feels a bit too Pinky and the Brain.

The MOTW also founders on what was obvious already in season six – the idea that you can steal someone’s soul and they can still walk around as a living, breathing, thinking person is ridiculous in light of previous canon. Before that season, souls were always de facto presented as the ghost in the machine that animated a body. A body might falter on for a while with the soul moving around nearby as a fetch (as in the season two premiere, “In My Time of Dying”), but it could not function without a soul to power it. A body without a soul was an impossibility, a perpetual motion machine.

Then came season six. Even leaving aside the idea that soulessness was basically just a way for then-showrunner Sera Gamble to bring Sam back while simultaneously manufacturing more drama with Yet Another Sam Done Come Back Wrong plot (a graphic representation of Sam’s impenetrable plot armor, you could say), the writers could never quite settle on what soulessness turned Sam into. Practically every episode, he was doing something different. He was indifferent but passive. No, he was violent and aggressive. No, he was a super-horny sex machine. No, he was a callous psychopath. No, he was just inconsiderate and goofy.

When this episode tried to make out that different people had different personalities and reactions when they were soulless (how, when the soul is your personality?), I just laughed. Three seasons later and the show still didn’t know what the hell it was doing with this concept. I didn’t actually care about any of these random people who had lost their souls and then turned into assholes, but I did find it pretty bleak that even after they got their souls back, their lives were still destroyed. And what about the woman who killed herself? Where did her soul end up?

While I love, in theory, the idea of Henry Winchester and Josie Sands going off on a hunt together (sorry, investigation), this episode shows why prequels and flashback episodes don’t tend to be very good. Sure, this show has dealt a lot in flashbacks, sometimes very well (“A Very Supernatural Christmas,” for example), but the flashbacks practically take over the narrative in this one. Neither the flashback story, nor the two present day stories, do much to move the overall mytharc forward. Since this is a mytharc story masquerading initially as an MOTW (that conveniently and randomly turns out to be Very Connected to the Sam and Dean Story), that’s a problem.

Okay, so we find out how and why Josie got possessed by Abaddon. But it’s as though Glass tries to answer questions that didn’t really need to be answered, while leaving out answers that could have added to the tale. We do not, for example, ever learn what ultimately happened to Josie’s soul after Abaddon possessed her. That seems like a rather large omission in an episode that is obsessed with souls (to the point that much of the plot logic gets downright creaky).

Is Josie still trapped inside her own body at this point or was she killed off, say, when Abaddon had to smoke out at the end of season eight? Is she now in Heaven, due to her self-sacrifice, or Hell (because the morality of the SPNverse can be pitiless and arbitrary)? At least close her story out.

Similarly, while I found Dean’s story more interesting than Sam’s (because frankly, I wanted to know what was going on with Dean in the aftermath of his killing Sinclair), that story moved forward only a little bit. The one thing that seemed glaring, aside from Dean’s fears about being overcome by the Mark’s influence and becoming a monster, was the revelation that Crowley was indeed obsessed with Dean and Dean alone, to the point of “testing” Dean’s devotion in a totally pointless manner.

At the end, as he crows in triumph to an underling that Dean really does care about him (when the test shows no such thing), the fullness of Crowley’s self-delusion becomes apparent. Crowley has found a new addiction and its name is Dean Winchester. But that didn’t require a B-story to confirm after what was going on last week and there’s not much of an arc to Dean realizing he’s slowly losing control over himself (though the subtle way he and Crowley manipulate each other is still kinda fun to watch).

Even so, that subplot at least had smart people in it, even if they were lying to themselves. The human characters in the flashback story come off as stupid, including ones previously established as very sharp, indeed. Henry, for example, was introduced in “As Time Goes By” as able to think quickly enough on his feet to escape from Abaddon through a time tunnel over half a century long and trap her in it, too. In effect, despite having no way to kill her, he is able to take her out of action for that entire period of time.

Too bad, then, that he seems to have been clobbered by the Stupid Stick in “Mother’s Little Helper.” I get that the idea is to show us how Henry and Josie got to the point that they did in the “As Time Goes By” flashback, so that Henry has to be fooled by Abaddon up to that point. But this explanation as written and filmed feels unsatisfying. Prequelitis in action.

Then there’s Josie Sands. Up to this point, she has been portrayed as a valiant lone Woman of Letters who fought hard to become a member of this exclusively male club (still not sure why), only to be used as the possessed instrument of its destruction. The best motivation Glass can give her to stand still long enough to get possessed by Abaddon is that she is in luurrrve (as the Scots say) with Very Happily Married Henry and sacrifices herself on his behalf.

It’s as big a cliché as the stereotypically wiffy, Pre-Vatican II old school nuns who get possessed en masse by minions of Satan. Even Abaddon lampshades how stupid the whole idea is by explicitly pointing out to Josie that a demon doesn’t have to get permission from a host, so Josie’s “deal” is ultimately pointless. And don’t get me started on the whole “orphan” thing. Glass goes right down the rabbit hole of “Single career women in the 1950s were lonely and miserable and unfulfilled.” Barf.

The idea that Josie couldn’t be a complete woman without the (unrequited) love of a good man is dated and very messed up. In general, while the episode has several significant female characters in it, they are almost all pretty negative. The possessed nuns are EVOL. Julia is a coward. DTG schoolteacher and the diner waitress are non-entities. And Josie starts out sparky, but ends up a sacrificial victim who is completely erased from the story in the end. Maybe if Glass had actually bothered to spend a bit more time on the convent setting and dynamic, it might have worked. But instead, he tosses a lot of disparate elements into the pot and they don’t really gel.

Part of what makes the episode so depressing is how clearly outmatched Henry, Josie and Julia are in this story by Abaddon. I found Julia’s claim that no one taught her about “true evil” puzzling, since Pre-Vatican nuns got a real earful on how to deal with supernatural and especially demonic evil. Sure, she was young and vulnerable, and still would have been overwhelmed, but the concept shouldn’t have come completely out of the blue.

I guess Julia is supposed to be some sort of analogue for Sam and his waffling over hunting, but the analogy mostly made me wish he’d get off the pot already and make a decision. Further, what he learned about Abaddon didn’t really add to the hunt for her. This was all really old information and the Brothers already knew where she’d been all that time. She did pop out of their motel closet, after all.

But the way Abaddon is portrayed in this episode doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. She is portrayed as so overwhelmingly powerful that Julia’s entire life is blighted by their encounter, Josie is completely destroyed, and Henry is made a fool of. Yet, we already know that even though she is able to massacre the American Men of Letters, Henry will shortly after trap her and the Brothers will trap her yet again once she reaches the present time. And, of course, her power is nothing compared to Cain’s.

The thing is that what Abaddon really possesses is a clever and strategic mind, and an invulnerability that can only be outmatched by an archangel or a bearer of the Mark and the First Blade. But she can certainly be defeated by other means short of killing her outright. So, the tragic inevitability Glass was going for falls flat. Again, not a fan of prequels. If you already know how the story ends, it’s a bit hard to create a new one with surprises, but that has the same ending.

While I liked Julia (what’s with all the J names for women in this episode?), and Jenny O’Hara had good chemistry with Jared Padalecki, I couldn’t help thinking of Sam’s huge aversion to hanging out with Gertie in season three’s “Red Sky at Morning.” Sure, Gertie was hitting on him pretty heavily, but Sam in general seemed to have problems with the combination of her age and gender, as much as the sexual harassment. That Glass didn’t even seem to be aware of this made things a tad weird for me between Sam and Julia.

I also didn’t really think it was necessary for Sam to learn the lesson via Julia, especially at this point in the show, that he needed to pull on his Big Boy Pants, step up, and be counted or more people were going to die. Henry was his grandfather, too, who got killed by Abaddon right of him and Dean. At the very least, even if Sam hadn’t fully comprehended the threat Abaddon represented up until this point, he would have wanted revenge. Sam’s pretty copacetic with revenge as a motive.

While, as I said, it moved at a snail’s pace, I found what was going on between Dean and Crowley much more interesting. When Crowley was flirting with Dean, I kept thinking of the relationship between Jim Williams and Danny Hansford in the book (and film) Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Hansford was a young hustler who hooked up with historic preservationist Williams for a couple of years in Savannah, GA back in the late 1970s.

One day in May 1981, they had a fight and Williams shot Hansford (who was apparently prone to rages and may have been brandishing a gun). Since Williams (obviously) was gay, his claim of self-defense wasn’t taken very seriously. He eventually managed to get an acquittal after two guilty verdicts and a hung jury, then dropped dead a few months later in January 1990. The book’s author John Berendt speculated that part of the anger toward Williams in Savannah high society was due to the general view that Hansford was a very good time, but when he died age 21 at Williams’ hands, he was “a good time not yet had by all.”

It is quite obvious in “Mother’s Little Helper” that Crowley is into Dean and that Dean is aware of this. It is less obvious, but still pretty clear, that Dean is using this to manipulate Crowley and that Crowley is in massive denial about it. There’s this vibe between them of an older man enamoured with a much-younger man who is using him, even though the older man knows it (a bit like Toddy and Richard at the beginning of the comedy Victor/Victoria (1982)).

The bland and generic background music in this clip is much more intrusive than in the episode and sounds like incidental soundtrack music. However, Linda Ronstadt singing “You’re No Good” in the next Dean/Crowley scene after this? Thaaat’s on point.

When Dean is playing pool, I think he is also hustling Crowley and he’s very good at it. For all of Crowley’s denials, he needs Dean a lot more right now than Dean needs him. Abaddon would certainly be even more deadly to humanity if she were to successfully become the Queen of Hell. But if she did, while the Brothers would likely survive, Crowley would be toast.

Dean may (or may not) be aware that the young “Hunter” was possessed and in cahoots with Crowley, or that Crowley was running a game on him. If he’s not aware, it makes him look a bit dumb (or at least preoccupied, as Crowley puts it). But if he is aware, that’s pretty dark.

And the truth is, the way Jensen Ackles plays it, it’s not clear if Dean knows or not. The way he looks as that kid walks away … is he feeling guilty because he’s “protecting” a monster like Crowley from another Hunter (even though he’s not lying when he says the kid is totally overmatched)? Or is he feeling guilty because he knows it’s all a set-up and he’s letting an innocent host be used, and just walking away from it? He does, after all, admit to Crowley that he knew full well he was in the bathroom shooting up, so how deep does Dean see the layers in this one? When he says he’s “all in” and willing to do anything to kill Abaddon, he’s not kidding.

Next week: Meta Fiction: Metatron’s back and he’s busily stoking the fires of what’s left of the angel civil war. The question is “Why?”

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


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The Official Supernatural: “Blade Runners” (9.16) Retro Recap and Review

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According to recent reports from Vancouver, the cast returned to work the first week of August (about two weeks late). Jensen Ackles also explained in a recent virtual “fan experience” through Creation Con that the writing for the last two episodes has been tweaked to reflect recent events (i.e., the Coronavirus pandemic). With these writers, I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. He also said that 15.19 will be a season finale, while 15.20 is more like a series finale (and expressed sadness on Instagram when he got the final script, which said “The End” instead of the usual “To Be Continued”). In an already truncated final season, that likely means we’ll get stuck with some filler clips episode as the last one. Yay.

The show is returning October 8 and the series finale will be November 19. Yes, it’s back on Thursdays. If I manage to stay on track, I should be able to post the season nine finale retro review right after the show comes back on Sunday, then bring in the newest season five recap and review the following Thursday.

If you’re enjoying these articles and reviews, any contributions are welcome. Even in a pandemic, the kitties still gotta eat and I’ve got a house full of fosters right now.

Scroll down to find links to all of my recaps and reviews of all seasons up to this point.

Recap: Then recap of Henry Winchester, the Men of Letters, and Dean’s quest with Crowley to meet Cain and find the First Blade.

Cut to Now, where Sam is looking at an article online entitled “Cain and Abel: The First Brothers,” while Dean (in a plaid flannel shirt and jeans) leaves increasingly exasperated voicemails for Crowley. Sam points out that Crowley is “not a team player,” but Dean retorts that Crowley is every bit as invested in finding the First Blade as the Brothers are. He grumps that Crowley hasn’t said “peep” to him for weeks – well, nothing “coherent,” anyway. Dean plays a voicemail from Crowley in which Crowley is clearly drunk-dialing Dean. Sam, who has up to this point been suggesting that Dean might actually care too much about Crowley’s welfare, is a little shocked to see that it’s Dean who has that effect on Crowley, not the other way round.

Dean calls again. Cut to a garishly expensive hotel room, where Not Moose is leaving a message on Crowley’s neglected cell phone while a red-eyed and strung-out Crowley has sex with a possessed woman in fetching black lingerie. Her name is Lola. She is also shooting him up with human blood from an unwilling donor tied up in the closet. As she gets some more blood, the poor guy passes out, either near death or already dead. After Crowley shoots up, he asks her to go out for food, calling himself “ravenous,” and suggests she also find another “donor.”

She returns later with two pizzas, to find the guy in the closet now draped across a chair, dead. Crowley is watching Casablanca (the scene where Ilse tries to talk and then shoot the letters of transit out of Rick) and weeping in a very maudlin way. Lola smiles a mean smile as she observes his (apparent) weakness.

Cue title cards.

Cut to Lola in a warehouse, waiting for a “minion” of Abaddon (who is wearing a slacker white dude). She isn’t pleased that she isn’t speaking to Abaddon personally, but quickly realizes she’s stuck reporting by proxy, at least for now. She tells the minion (named Aldo) that she has Crowley wrapped around her finger, helpless on an orgy of sex, food and human blood. Aldo compliments her on this, smiling, but his smile fades when she mentions the voicemails Dean has been leaving, including one that mentions the First Blade. Uh-oh.

He tells her to keep on it. She agrees, but bluntly says that the next time, she expects to report to Abaddon directly. She knows that keeping Crowley like this is extremely risky and she expects to be well-compensated should she survive.

Cut to midnight at a crossroads, where the Brothers have drawn a large red devil’s trap with spray paint. Sam does the summoning spell and Snooki from Jersey Shore appears behind them in the trap, with glowing red eyes. She recognizes them, too, grumping “Winchesters!”

The Brothers are shocked that they recognize her host (some fans had a huge problem with this stunt-casting, but frankly, I think she does downright well compared to Paris Hilton in season five – that was terrible).

“Well, that explains a lot,” says Dean. But when Sam calls her “Snooki,” she chirps, “It’s Nicole now.” This was around the time that Snooki started going by her given name again.

Sam tells her they can “do this the Easy Way … or the Easier Way.” The latter involves torture with the Spork (and is Dean’s favorite). Either way, she’ll end up talking.

At first, she balks, saying that “What happens in Hell stays in Hell.” But when Sam goes after her face first, she immediately caves. She tells them that Crowley was last seen “in the Western Pacific” (remember that Cain said he tossed the First Blade into the deepest ocean he could find) and that Abaddon has been using this as her opportunity to take over Hell. I’ll bet she has, especially if she knows what Crowley is after. Snooki warns the Brothers that even Crowley’s most loyal demons are switching sides.

Snookie: Are we done here? I got a thing.

Instead, Dean nods to Sam, who starts reciting an exorcism on an irritated Snooki.

Back at the motel, Crowley is reading Little Women while waiting for Lola to come home. She arrives with tons of shopping (to cover the real reason she left) and a bag of human blood. “I just love what it does for you,” she purrs.

“Do you?” Crowley says, with a warning edge in his voice. Before she can register it, he waves a hand and TK’s her into the bedroom. She slides and collides with the bed. Crowley stalks in after her, snarling “Did you really think you could play me?”

At first, Lola tries to grovel, calling herself his “slave.” Crowley counters by calling her his “rodent.” A rat, in fact, who reported on him to Abaddon (something he confirmed with another demon while she was out). He says he could have helped her if she hadn’t betrayed him.

At this point, Lola makes a fatal mistake. Straightening up, she laughs at him and says, “You couldn’t help anyone.” Unsurprisingly, he pulls out an angel sword and stabs her to death. Then, to the opening strains of Velvet Underground’s “Heroin” (of course), he shoots up the human blood Lola brought him. Then he looks around at his dead donor and another man’s body (either a previous donor or the demon he got the info about Lola from), then at Lola’s dead host. At first he smiles, but when he looks in the mirror, the smile fades and he looks lost.

Back at the Bunker, Dean is entering the Library while Sam is looking at a site about the Mariana Trench. Sam says that since Cain said he threw the First Blade into “the deepest ocean,” that must mean the Mariana Trench. Dean agrees.

Sam then wonders if Crowley is just setting up a double cross and has no intention of bringing them the Blade. Dean points out that this theory “makes no sense.” This was Crowley’s plan in the first place and he needs them to kill Abaddon. Sam then says okay, but there’s nothing stopping “us” from killing Crowley, too, once they have the First Blade (who’s this “us,” Sam? Dean’s the one with the Mark). Dean agrees: “Nothing at all.”

At that moment, Dean gets a call and it’s from Crowley. He answers with “Did you find the First Blade, yet?” Gets right to the point, he does.

Crowley admits that he hasn’t, but that he needs “your help.” Cut to a shot of the Impala on the road in daylight and the exterior of a hotel, then of Crowley letting himself back into his suite, carrying a paper bag. He finds the Brothers waiting for him, Sam sitting in a chair and Dean leaning against a doorjam. Kicking the foot of one of the dead bodies still in the room, Dean says, “What is all this?” in a totally cold and cynical tone.

“Refreshments?” Crowley says, trying for some levity.

Sam gets up and grabs the bag from Crowley, opening it to find another blood bag, this one of AB negative blood. Sam asks if Crowley is “knocking over blood banks, now”?

As Dean pulls up a chair and shoves Crowley into it, Sam slaps some demon handcuffs on Crowley. Crowley, incredulous, asks if this is an intervention as the Brothers berate him for letting both them and his followers down.

Crowley: You don’t know what it’s like to be human! [realizing what he just said off Dean’s double-take] It’s your DNA. It’s my addiction. My cross. My burden!

Crowley complains that his addiction makes him “needy.” He needed Lola to feed it and she fed everything he told her to Abaddon. Sam, worried, asks if Crowley told her about the First Blade. Crowley admits that he’s not sure and both Brothers are like, Well, crap. Cat’s out of the bag. Dean figures that Abaddon must be hunting for the Blade now, too. Dean decides that it’s time to cut Crowley off and make him go “cold turkey.”

Cut back to the Dungeon in the Bunker, where Crowley is grumbing that the décor hasn’t changed. Sam is sitting nearby with a laptop and tells him to “focus.” He asks Crowley if he scanned the Mariana Trench for the Blade. Crowley says that he did, but it wasn’t there. It had already been found by “an unmanned sub,” then “stolen by a research assistant,” who apparently “sold it to Portuguese smugglers.” But said smugglers “lost it to Moroccan pirates in a poker game.” Sam is bemused by this elaborate chain of evidence, to which Crowley snarks, “Poor Moose. It’s always a little tricky keeping up, isn’t it?”

Crowley then proceeds to study Sam. When Sam, more than a little spooked, asks him what the hell he thinks he’s doing, Crowley claims that they “shared a mo” when Sam was “curing him” at the end of season eight and that they are now “bonded.”

Sam bluntly replies that Crowley is only still alive because he is useful in eliminating Abaddon, who is actually worse than Crowley. He then tells Crowley to tell him what happened after the pirates got hold of the Blade.

Cut to a park at night, where the Brothers are in their FBI suits, waiting for a contact Crowley told them about. Nearby, Crowley is trying to steal from a candy machine, which an embarrassed Sam confirms with Dean. Dean muses that Castiel at least was a “decent guy” as a human being. Who knew that a more-human Crowley would be “a douche version”?

Dean then gets up and tells Crowley in the loudest stage whisper ever, “You’re the King of Rotten! Act like it!” Crowley stops and walks away, looking chagrined.

Dean is skeptical that this contact with show up, but Sam says it’s their only lead. The contact, an Andre Develin, was the one who bought the First Blade from the pirates. He’s the only one who knows where it went next.

At that moment, Develin shows up, but his helpfulness ends at that point. He isn’t thrilled to hear that he is being rousted by the FBI and starts to leave.

Crowley, sitting on a park bench nearby, short-circuits the negotiations by vacating his current host and momentarily possessing Develin. Once he gets the info, he leaves and goes back to his usual host (which is a dead body since at least season six,when Bobby shot him, remember). The Brothers, though nonplussed, roll with it when Develin is only momentarily confused by the possession, brushes it off, and asks if he’s being detained. They say no, though Dean tells him that they’ll be “watching” him, to cover for the fact that they already have the info.

After Develin leaves, they turn to Crowley, who tells them the First Blade is at the National Institute of Antiquities in Kansas City, MO (apparently a reference to this book series from the 1990s). Cut to outside the Central Gallery and then to two security guards inside. They’re playing Gin when two columns of black smoke enter the room through the vents and possess them. As they are opening up the vault, a young woman enters the area, having brought them some food. Poor kid ends up getting her throat cut as collateral damage.

Cut to the next day, as the local police are photographing her body and those of the two guards. The detective, played by Da Vinci’s Inquest and Stargate: Atlantis vet Dean Marshall, tells the Brothers (still in their FBI suits) that the guards had been there for years and were reliable, but that the security footage shows them murdering the woman (a research assistant named Beth) after she “caught” them breaking into Vault #1. He then shows them footage of the guards methodically shooting each other in the heart (but not falling) after apparently finding nothing in the vault, then shooting out the camera.

Sam asks what was in Vault #1. The detective says that it was where they kept “new acquisitions” while they were being “vetted.” But nothing was stolen because “the vault’s been empty for weeks.”

He leaves and the Brothers have a quick and quiet conference. Dean notes that the First Blade (obviously being a new acquisition) was probably stored there initially, but where is it now? Sam notes the guards were obviously possessed and Dean says they probably returned to Abaddon after killing any human witnesses.

As the last body is wheeled away, the Brothers then talk to Dr. McElroy, the curator. She is an attractive cougar type who immediately starts flirting with Dean in a BDSM sort of way when Dean tries to go Bad Fed on her about all the laws she broke bringing the artifact into the U.S. At first nonplussed, Dean is soon intrigued and quickly gets into it.

Fortunately, on top of finding Dean attractive, Dr. McElroy is generally cooperative. She admits that her acquisition of the First Blade wasn’t entirely kosher. While it was clearly old (carbon dated to biblical times), she couldn’t get confirmation of whether it was what it was claimed to be (i.e., the biblical First Blade of Cain) and wasn’t likely to any time soon. So, she sold it to an anonymous buyer who had made an offer. The guards were never informed.

She balks a bit at giving them a name of the buyer. But Dean getting into the BDSM role play quickly loosens her resolve. She admits that the buyer never gave her a real name, just “Magnus.”

As she leaves, she gives Dean her card (actually snatching it out of Sam’s hand when Sam reaches for it). Dean keeps it.

Sam points out that “Albertus Magnus” was the name the Men of Letters used when they went “incognito.” Dean points out that all the Men of Letters are dead. Sam wonders if they’re not.

Back to the Dungeon the Brothers go, where they interrogate Crowley about any possible survivors of the MoL massacre in 1958 besides the two they knew about. Crowley whines that they wrecked his rule in the first place, so why should he help them? After some eye-rolling at this (because come on, Crowley, that’s self-absorbed even for you), the Brothers bring him upstairs to the Library, where he whines about the whiskey, peruses a vintage Busty Asian Beauties magazine, and generally acts like a jerk, while giving the Brothers a hard time about their intelligence.

But he does come up with one good idea – he suggests that they try looking for Men of Letters who were alive, but no longer in good standing, at the time of the massacre. The rumor he heard was that there was such a member at the time.

Dean looks around and finds a box of files called “Infamate et Obliterate” (Infamous and Obliterated, essentially, though Crowley translates it as “Dishonored and Forgotten”). After a few hours of research between them, Dean is the first to find someone – a Cuthbert Sinclair. He hands the file over so that Sam can read out Sinclair’s record, which included designing most of the Bunker’s warding. They infodump back and forth about how he become a “Master of Spells” immediately after his initiation, but that the other MoL quickly came to find his experiments “eccentric and irresponsible.” He was kicked out in April 1956, so he wasn’t killed in the massacre because he was no longer officially an MoL.

Crowley admits that he had heard about Sinclair’s expulsion, though not his name. He tried to track Sinclair down so that he could use him to get inside the Bunker, but when he takes the Brothers to the spot, there is nothing but an empty clearing. Crowley says he can’t “sense” anything there, so if Sinclair is in the clearing, “he’s warded up to the gills.” Sam points out that of course a spellmaster like Sinclair wouldn’t let himself be found by demons. When Crowley snarkily asks why Sam and Dean think he would be interested in them, Dean points out that they are “Legacies.” So, yeah, he would be.

Dean suggests they try talking to Sinclair, in case he’s watching. Sam and then Dean call out to him, San showing the Bunker key. A mystic door blows up out of nowhere. When the Brothers approach it, it sucks then inside.

They find themselves in a corridor of priceless paintings, while a chanteuse sings from a distant room. As they approach a polished wood stairwell, they are attacked by two vampires, a man and woman. They quickly dispatch them, Dean more easily than Sam. They hear clapping over an intercom and then a voice (Sinclair’s?) says, “Bravo! Well done!”

Cut to Sinclair putting some ice into his whiskey glass [gasps in horror] as he explains that the attack was a test and the vampires were from his “zoo” of monsters. Ice in whiskey and having a zoo of enslaved sentient creatures aren’t the only boundaries he likes to cross. He also makes snarky comments about the Men of Letters just being “librarians” who didn’t like his ideas of ridding the world entirely of monsters. He says that they preferred to watch and learn and let nature take its course.

When Dean notes that he’s awfully youthful for a guy who must be nearly a century old, Sinclair airily notes that nearly everything has a spell for it. The Brothers, of course, already know that spells for preventing or slowing ageing require another human’s life force to power them, just like the spells for necromancy.

The Brothers are sitting on his couch as he sits down across from them in a suit and a multi-colored bowtie. He laughs out loud in delight when they admit that they are both Legacies and Hunters. It turns out he knew Henry, claiming to have been his mentor and that Henry occasionally visited him, after his expulsion, in his invisible Fortress of Solitude (whoops, wrong franchise, sorry).

Dean brings up Abaddon, precipitating the rant about the MoL being do-nothing librarians. Sinclair says they could have taken care of that situation if they’d only listened to him. Dean says that she can be stopped now, but only with the First Blade, which they hear Sinclair now has.

After a moment of stillness, Sinclair notes that if they had “done your homework,” they would know that the First Blade is only of use to someone with the Mark of Cain. When Dean shows him that he has the Mark, Sinclair actually sits forward and, after another moment of stillness, asks how Dean got it.

Sam cuts short that particular line of questioning by pointing out that if Abaddon becomes Queen of Hell and consolidates her power, she will create “Hell on earth,” which Sam figures even Sinclair can’t avoid.

With a deceptively accommodating smile (everything with Sinclair seems to have at least two or three more underlying layers that are considerably darker than his cheery and friendly surface), Sinclair tells them that the First Blade is right behind them. And there it is – the weathered jawbone of an ass on a stand nearby, deceptively plain and unassuming. Elated, Dean tells Sinclair that if he wants to join the fight, this is a great start if he “loans” them the First Blade to kill Abaddon.

Sinclair thinks about it briefly, picks some snuff out of a dish, and says a spell as he blows the snuff in Sam’s face: “Abi ocules meis,” which basically translates to “Get out of my sight.” Startled, Sam vanishes in a puff of smoke, to Dean’s great consternation. He reappears outside, where Crowley is waiting, and tells him in shock that Sinclair has kidnapped Dean.

Inside, Dean demands to know what Sinclair did to his brother. Sinclair tells him that Sam is “fine.” All he did was “separate the ordinary from the extraordinary.” He had the First Blade and now he has the Mark of Cain. He wants to add Dean to his collection.

Oh, Sinclair does cloak it at first in velvet with the idea of Dean being his eternal, youthful “companion” (“When you were saying any of that, did it feel at all creepy?” says Dean), but when Dean resists, it quickly becomes clear that slavery is really on Sinclair’s mind.

Dean says he’ll just borrow the Blade and go. When Sinclair points out there are no doors or windows, Dean pulls out his machete and says he’ll figure it out. At that point, Sinclair says a spell in Chinese. This makes the machete glow red hot, forcing Dean to drop it. When he goes for his gun, Sinclair shows that he has palmed it. I presume that we are to imagine the rest of this conversation as Dean runs down the list of his usual weapons. As has been shown in canon many times before (except when the writers are lazy and write Dean as Plot Stupid), Dean always goes around heavily and multiply armed.

Anyhoo, it’s no big surprise that the next time we see Dean and Sinclair, Dean is chained to a pillar in the room.

Outside, Sam is opening up the trunk (and pulling the Spork out when Crowley tries to peer in too close). Crowley also tries to peer inside Sam’s head, pushing the “We’re best human blood mates” angle again and that he’s done quite a bit for Team Free Will of late. He could be useful.

Sam begs to differ, saying that because the place is warded, Crowley is even more useless than usual. Crowley finally manages to “buy” his way into the plan by pointing out that he does still have a set of extra hands. So, after much grousing and many insults, Sam discovers later that night that he needs a spell to enter the mansion, which has no “visible” entrances or exits. He will need some things that Crowley could teleport out to get, so Sam reluctantly allows him to tag along.

Inside Sinclair’s mansion, Dean is also trying to get inside Sinclair’s head by insulting him and basically calling him a coward. Sinclair appears to be indifferent to this tactic, at least so far. He is busy taking the First Blade off its pedestal and bringing it over to Dean, chained to his. Sinclair wants to give them both a test drive.

At first, Dean claims to have no interest in holding it, saying “Go to Hell.” Even after Sinclair points out that the First Blade is “the object of your quest” and that Henry would have been interested, Dean won’t take it. So, dropping his affable, eccentric demeanor into a much colder register, Sinclair grabs Dean’s hand and slaps the Blade into it.

The effect is immediate. There is a sizzling noise like frying meat and the ringing of some distant gong, as well as the beating of drums and a rising string section. Dean’s hand shakes and spasms on the Blade, the Mark glows red, and he seems torn between rapture and desperately trying to keep control, until he simply loses his grip on the Blade and drops it.

Rapturous that the effect was so strong, Sinclair picks up the Blade, crooning “Goood. Next time, it’ll be easier. You’ll get used to the feelings, even welcome them.” Dean stares at his shaking hand and looks lost.

Sinclair has a dream and it’s one in which he will use Dean and the First Blade as a weapon to rule the world. Unimpressed, Dean points out that Sinclair (whom he continues to call “Magnus”) can’t kill him because without him and the Mark, the Blade won’t work.

Sinclair’s response is really dark. He grabs Dean’s head and uses a spell to sap his will. Dean is momentarily rendered speechless and immobile, reft of will. Sinclair says that the more he uses the spell, the more easily he will be able to control Dean. I rather doubt that.

Outside, Sam has a bowl that he fills with stuff he then sets on fire while saying a spell in Latin. He tells Crowley to stay close and shut up. As Sam says the spell, the door appears. Sam tosses the bowl away (uh, how is he expecting to get back out without the spell?) and enters, with Crowley at his left shoulder. They find themselves inside the mansion.

Crowley jokes, “I love what he’s done with the place.” But as they’re walking, Sam hears footsteps and they duck into an alcove. Sinclair walks by, about to open a door with a key. But he pauses at the alcove to peer into it, having heard something. No one is there. When he turns back to the door he was going to open, Sam grabs him from behind and says, “Take me to my brother.”

Cut to Sam entering the room with his blade at Sinclair’s throat. When Dean, still chained to the pillar, sees Sam, he tries to warn him. Sam glances across the room and sees another Sinclair. The one he has a blade on changes form to a man in an old-style white shirt and waistcoat. Sam gets into a fight with the shapeshifter, but ends up winning. However, this has given the real Sinclair more than enough time to pull out Dean’s gun. Sam ends up tied to another pillar across the room from his brother.

Sinclair takes a bayonet off another stand and starts to Evil Overlord Monologue, mostly to Sam. He now realizes that Sam has value – but only as a way to force Dean to obey him: “Why should I knock myself out trying to sap your will [to Dean]? I think Sam here can get you to see things my way.” Here, he tacitly admits that the spell he just used on Dean took more effort than he made out in the previous scene, especially since Dean is already over it.

Dean [in a warning tone]: Magnus, I swear to God ….

But Sinclair doesn’t take the hint. He starts slicing Sam on the face, ignoring how Dean is jerking against his chains and growling in a really bestial manner. He tells Sam that he isn’t going to kill him, just make him “suffer unimaginably.”

As Dean is struggling and looking frustrated, Crowley quietly enters the room. He’s unseen by Sinclair, but Dean sees him. A moment later, Sinclair hears Dean’s chains drop to the floor and turns to see that Dean is gone. Immediately, he draws back the bayonet to behead Sam, but Dean comes up out of nowhere behind him with the First Blade, grabs his weapon arm, and beheads him with the Blade in one fell blow.

And that’s when things really start to get interesting.

Dean, after a deadly glare down at Sinclair’s bifurcated body, turns back with a slow, measuring look at Crowley (who has enough motherwit to look at least very wary, if not downright alarmed). Dean then turns back to the First Blade, which calls to him again with the same siren song as before. Dean’s lip curls into a snarl and he can’t hear Sam above the rising sound of war drums until Sam shouts at him to drop the Blade. Shocked out of his murderous trance, Dean does and looks at Sam, completely lost as if he just came out of a dream. Crowley observes all this closely.

The next morning (or whenever, since they could have stayed a while inside, recuperating and cleaning up the “zoo”), as TFW is walking through the brush back to the Impala, Crowley is bragging about how he saved the day while the Brothers got tied to posts (really rolling my eyes at this one, considering how he started the episode by nearly blowing the whole plan). This is cut short when they get back to the car and find it ransacked by Abaddon’s minions. The demons couldn’t find Sinclair’s mansion, or get into the Impala’s trunk, so they keyed a message into the driver’s side to Crowley, in Enochian: “Be Afraid. Your Queen.”

Dean realizes this means Abaddon is right behind them on the search for the Blade (though now they have it, that doesn’t matter so much). Unfortunately, Sam picks this moment to go totally Plot Stupid and remind Dean in a loud stage whisper that they don’t really need Crowley, anymore. Crowley (who obviously is not deaf) then TK’s them to the side of the Impala and takes the First Blade from Sam (who carried it out).

He tells them that even though he’s grateful to them for getting him clean and sober, he can’t trust them and obviously, they don’t trust him, either. After all, Dean is “quite the killing machine” and it “occurs” to Crowley that he is next on Dean’s hit list after Abaddon. Since Dean flat-out told him this at the end of “First Born,” that’s hardly a genius deduction. It’s just that Crowley is finally admitting it out loud, to himself and to the Brothers.

Crowley says he’ll keep the Blade safe until they find Abaddon and call him in. He then teleports away, leaving the Brothers frustrated and Dean mourning over the state of his car.

Credits

The show stayed at a 0.9/3 in the A18-49 demo and dropped in audience to 1.86 million. However, this appears to have been a holdover from how the audience had felt about the previous week’s episode (not great, obviously), since that would influence whether they showed up for a live viewing of this one. Word of mouth about “Blade Runners” turbo-charging the Mark of Cain storyline back up must have got around, since the audience for the episode after this one jumped nearly half a million.

Review: This is one of the best episodes of the season and, I’d dare say, of the entire show. A bold statement, I will grant you, considering the two writers involved were our very own Nepotism Duo, Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming. Then again, the greatest weaknesses in “Blade Runners” were largely in the script, starting with a clunky reference to the film, Blade Runner, that has nothing to do with the episode itself.

Notably, there are two unbelievable Dumb on Cue moments in which a character does/says something uncharacteristic to Crowley that causes Crowley to go off on them and move the plot along. The first is when Lola, mere seconds after begging for her life and only one scene after telling someone else that her boss is extremely dangerous, decides to turn on a dime and mock that same boss exactly in a way that would make him stab her immediately (and without her giving him any real info on what she told Abaddon).

I mean, knowing Crowley, he was going to stab her, anyway. It’s not really necessary to have her mock him except to save time in the script. As usual with these two, said script is overstuffed with plot, all the better for the Nepotism Duo to avoid plumbing any depths in the story.

The second is in the coda when Sam has a callback conversation with Dean (from earlier in the episode) about killing Crowley as soon as they get the First Blade, because then they’ll have no further use for him. The earlier conversation doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in the first place, seeing as how Crowley actually can and will be very useful to the Brothers until after Dean kills Abaddon (something he and Dean already established between them in “First Born” in an act of realpolitik). But Sam’s timing in bringing it up again – right in front of Crowley – is really dumb (and Sam is not dumb, certainly not like that).

Again, clearly, it was just a way to close out the episode and, I guess, give Crowley a win. Sam’s done some really dumb things in the past, but they didn’t involve turning on an ally, right in front of that ally, while having no clear advantage should the erstwhile ally object.

Now, one could definitely argue that Sam’s antipathy is fueled by a lot of unfinished business with Crowley of the ugly kind. Crowley murdered Sarah late in season eight to get at the Brothers. That’s a big one right there. But the script doesn’t explicitly mention this incident and that’s probably because the writers either forgot or simply never watched that episode (they are notorious for botching canon, even their own, even within the same episode).

Similarly, the episode doesn’t mention that Sam was once led astray by a demon “friend” (Ruby) in seasons three and four, and ended up strangling his brother in a bridal suite very much like the one where Crowley and Lola were hanging out (except more pastel). Well, not in the script, anyway. So, if you haven’t watched those seasons, or don’t remember them very well, you may be wondering why Sam is getting his knickers in such a bunch over working with Crowley, and if maybe this is a Benny situation all over again.

But if you do remember Ruby, Sam’s behavior does make a certain amount of sense from the perspective of his being wary of Dean being seduced the way he was seduced. Even if he was insistent on being the brother who sympathizes with monsters about three episodes ago, and even if it seems pretty clear that jealousy is part of Sam’s motivation here, he still has a good point.

Because Crowley is a monster. This episode makes no bones about that. The script may pass over it lightly, thanks to the idiotic way these two writers like to amp up monster and witch powers, then woobie them (they have zero interest in mere humans, probably because they can’t do subtle characterization worth a damn – just look at poor Lola, the high-priced demon call girl with a heart of lead who was little more than a plot device to explain where Crowley has been the past few episodes). But the direction and acting dive right into that subtext, adding layers Buckner and Ross-Leming probably never even considered, let alone noticed.

And the direction (by Serge Ladouceur) and acting (particularly Mark Sheppard and Kavan Smith as Sinclair) are where and why this episode shines. It’s also superbly edited (aside from some rather weird and experimental camera tricks that I’ll talk about later).

This was one reason I took a bit longer getting this review done this week. Not only did I rewatch the whole episode again before rewatching to recap it, but I kept stopping because there were so many Easter eggs and so much visual subtext that was not in the script, but that became important later in the show. One minor, but intriguing detail is that when Sinclair is slicing up Sam’s face near the end, Sam is positioned in front of a painting of Perseus slaying Medusa. This subtly foreshadows Sinclair’s own demise just seconds later.

Sam is not wrong that Crowley is especially obsessed with Dean to a dangerous extent and would love to corrupt him away from Sam’s side. It’s not exclusively obvious at this point. Crowley does try to shine Sam on this week, playing on their alleged connection via Sam’s attempt to cure Crowley using his purified blood at the end of last season. And it’s not automatically a given that Sam would say no. Sam has said yes to demonic darkness in the past (though in his case, it was female).

Plus, it’s actually a bit late in this particular season for the show to hand over whatever storyline Dean had developed to Sam. Having Sam make some kind of alliance with Crowley and “save” Dean by taking on the Mark himself would simply have been business as usual at this point in the show. They’d done it most recently in 8.14 (“Trial and Error”) with the Trials. So, when that didn’t happen, it was actually quite a shock. Was Dean going to be able to keep this storyline, after all?

Then there was Sinclair’s obsession with Dean. Unfortunately, as per these two writers’ usual shtick, the Brothers were unnecessarily dumbed down to make Sinclair look smarter. However, what wasn’t unbelievable was that Sinclair would get the drop on them, at least initially. He was almost a century old (at least), and had been studying and experimenting with high-level necromancy for most of that time.

He was also an almost-completely unknown element to the Brothers to that point, while he actually knew some things about where they would be coming from (since he’d known their grandfather). It made sense that they would be feeling their way through a minefield with him, even if the writing made Dean look a bit brash and boastful showing the Mark, and Sam a bit clueless thinking that he could team up with Dean on posession of the First Blade.

But Sinclair was also not especially good with people skills (obviously, since even the original Incel Men of Letters kicked him out). Initially, his complete obliviousness to other people’s boundaries and astonishing level of Empire-era white male privilege (the whole slavery thing with Dean and the rest of his “zoo” – yikes) bowled the Brothers over and took them by surprise. But it also created a blind spot where he blithely ignored the warning signs from Dean – or that Sam might not have come in alone with the cavalry – and believed he was in complete control right up until the final moment when Dean astonished him one last time.

And considering that until last week, Dean was quite hesitant to kill humans, even evil ones who were directly threatening him or a loved one, with the same savagery that he killed monsters, Sinclair might have been right. Before last week.

Kavan Smith, another Stargate: Atlantis alumnus who previously appeared as a DTG in season three’s “Time Is on My Side,” does a great job of conveying scholarly depth with no words in Sinclair. Those two momentary pauses when the Brothers are revealing that Dean has the Mark convey a brain where the wheels are spinning mighty fast, calculating the odds and new strategies with the introduction of these new variables. Sinclair is a chess master extraordinaire. Sadly, he’s also a psychopath with no empathy whatsoever for other people. To him, they are just objects for his collection, to be acquired or discarded.

The name Sinclair is obviously meant to invoke the Masonic inspiration for the Men of Letters. The St Clairs were the noble family who built Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland in the early 15th century. There is a legend that Henry St Clair was a secret Templar (very unlikely, since the St Clairs at the time of the Templar Trial made it pretty clear they had no real connections to the Order at all). Further, the legend claims that Henry St Clair made a voyage to North America in the late 14th century. Unfortunately for those who wish to believe this story, it is based on a hoax map that was created in the 16th century. The point is that “Sinclair” is a major name in the more legendary aspects of Masonic history. There is also a St Cuthbert’s masonic lodge in Yorkshire down in England.

The name Magnus has some connections to Arthurian legend (the 4th century Roman general Magnus Maximus was possibly one of the historical inspirations for the figure of King Arthur). In the episode, Dean insists on continuing to call Sinclair “Magnus” because he claims it’s simpler. But it’s also a handy mnemonic way to remember that Sinclair is not just some amiable old Man of Letters, but a deadly necromancer with unknown intentions. And that’s actually quite clever (it also seems to needle Sinclair).

On his part, Sinclair appears to perceive himself as a Merlin to Dean’s Arthur. Dean may be the only one besides his progenitor Cain who can wield Excali – sorry, the Mark of Cain and the First Blade – but Sinclair believes that he can manipulate Dean to the extent that he can use Dean as a living weapon against all enemies. It is not unlike what Crowley wants to do with Dean early in season ten. Everyone wants to manipulate the new young bearer of the Mark of Cain.

On rewatch, I think one of the most chilling moments in the episode is when Crowley walks back into his hotel suite with some purloined blood, only to find the Brothers sitting there deadpan, waiting for him, surrounded by the dead, rotting bodies of his victims. I mean, they didn’t even bother to clean up after him. They are already committed to taking down Abaddon, whatever it takes, because they already know the blood and chaos she could create would far outstrip any of the collateral damage from Crowley’s “excursions.” Even so, when Dean casually kicks the foot of one of Crowley’s blood donors and basically asks him, What the hell is this, then? it’s pretty cold-blooded.

And before anyone says that John or Bobby would never have done such a thing, those two probably did worse. Don’t forget that Crowley’s meat suit is dead because Bobby shot him in season six’s “Weekend at Bobby’s” just for kicks, while “negotiating” himself out of his contract with Crowley. Bobby did the same thing to Ruby’s first meat suit in season three – again, just because. A pointless ego thing to show the demon who was boss. Yep, Bobby was up for that kind of murder of a host, even after what he was forced to do to his wife.

I’m reminded of something a commenter said recently about how the show Lucifer covers the same material as Supernatural, but with a much lighter tone. Lucifer is Urban Fantasy. As this episode emphatically makes clear, Supernatural is a much darker animal. It is Horror (and yes, I still love Lucifer. I am enjoying season five as we speak).

It’s not just Crowley (to our surprise), but the main theme here, at least in the direction and acting, is addiction. Crowley, of course, is addicted to human blood. Sam, of course, was once addicted to demon blood. For both of them, the attraction is a vive la difference sort of thing that makes them feel powerful by feeling different.

Sinclair’s fatal flaw (as it was for the other Men of Letters, including the London chapter we meet later) is an addiction to magic and the easy use of spells for things it might have been best to do the hard, but more educational and ethical, way.

And Dean? Dean is a (not always) functional alcoholic who has smoked pot and dropped acid, and who casually abuses prescription medications. All of this is an extreme case of self-medicating for lifelong psychological and emotional trauma. While he’s been called out for his love of food and sex by other characters, I think those inclinations are actually reasonably healthy and something he can share with people (usually women) in a non-toxic way.

His bloodlust is a whole other ballgame. Dean’s addiction overshadows all the other addictions because it turns out that the Mark plus the Blade sparks the same blood madness in him that it did in Cain. And that, as Sinclair discovers to his great cost, is deadly.

When Crowley shoots up to Velvet Underground’s “Heroin,” the song choice is so perfect it’s almost a cliché. Crowley, even after Lola mocks him, even after the Brothers make him go cold turkey, continues to delude himself with the magic logic of the addict that he is the one in control of the situation, rather than flotsam and jetsam in the wake of the Brother’s plan, trying to come out on top of it all in the end. It’s not until the episode’s coda, when Sam’s comment to Dean (and Dean’s reaction) is like a cold bucket of water on his dreams of being part of TFW again, that Crowley is able to think with a clear head.

Crowley is hard to predict, not because his plan is so intricate, but because he barely has one. It’s more a case of hopes and dreams, really, rather than a blueprint. And we see a new plan start to develop in this episode, one that birthed itself in “First Born.”

The thing is that on top of making him maudlin, human blood makes Crowley crave love. As he wails in the season eight finale, “I deserve to be loved!” But does he? I mean, sure, in the abstract sense, everyone deserves love and it’s true that Crowley became the way he did, at least initially, due to an extreme lack of maternal affection (as we find out later).

But as this episode makes acutely clear, Crowley (much like Sinclair) is utterly lacking in empathy for others. He doesn’t care that he is murdering humans (or allowing them to be murdered) so that he can feel human emotions. Crowley wants all the benefits of these emotions, but he doesn’t want to do any of the emotional work of redemption. He’s a Taker.

But he may soon find he has no choice but to give a little, too. Crowley’s journey in this episode and beyond is extremely noirish. He sees himself as Kitty Collins to Dean’s the Swede in The Killers (1946) (or Ilsa to Dean’s Rick in Casablanca, per this episode, albeit some noir purists will argue vociferously that’s not a “real” noir flick). But in reality, he’s more like Walter Neff to Dean’s Phyllis Dietrichson in Double Indemnity (1944), especially after Walter tries to ditch Phyllis for her stepdaughter … Lola.

Even this early on, Dean cold-bloodedly manipulates Crowley in a way that Sam never could Ruby (such as when he shoves Crowley into a chair and tells him he’s going to quit cold turkey, and Crowley’s so distracted that Sam can easily slap the demon cuffs on him). Some fans have claimed that this episode “proves” that Crowley is not gay. You see the same thing with some Torchwood fans and Captain Jack – “pansexual,” “omnisexual,” everything but “gay,” and any sexual relationships he has with women (such as Gwen Sue), however tepid, trump similar relationships with men, however passionate.

Well, first of all, being bisexual is still part of the GLBT rainbow. Second, gay men can have occasional sexual encounters with women and still be primarily homosexual in their orientation. There’s this weird thing where some people will claim to have no problem with a character being something “different” (gay, a woman, a person of color, for example) in theory, and may even create imaginary ships for straight characters in their fanfic. But if a show actually “goes there,” it converts from a safe fantasy to “reality” within the show. And that’s very different because it has permanent consequences for the story and the characters.

So, a few things happen. For one thing, many fans simply blank that Crowley and Dean ever had a romantic relationship at all, even though it followed all the classic noir tropes of a doomed romance between a noir protagonist and a femme fatale. It actually happened.

From some who did notice, I’ve seen criticism that Crowley being gay is homophobic writing by the show. I disagree. A well-done gay character doesn’t have to a saint (and making them a saint doesn’t automatically make them well-done, either). They just have to be well-drawn, to have enough screentime to tell their story from their perspective, and to be a character where Being Gay isn’t everything about them (let alone, if they are evil, what makes them evil). Crowley is all of those things. He’s a complex, popular recurring character on the show and honestly, I found his twisted romance with Dean pretty fun to watch (wish I could say the same about Dean and Castiel the past few seasons).

The thing is that demons have been established almost from the start as gender-and-sexual-orientation-fluid. Regardless of how they may have been in life, they often are not strictly heterosexual in Hell. Just because “Lola,” for example, is in the body of a rogue Victoria’s Secret model, that doesn’t mean she was a woman in life or that her host is a prostitute. It’s a stolen body from an innocent woman who could have been a nun before her possession, for all we know (not that her being a sex worker would have made it okay, just that the persona we see is of the demon, not the host).

But also, even in season five, Crowley was presented as gay (remember “Lovers in league against Satan”? “Why’d you have to use tongue”?). As far as I can tell, what Lola mainly represents is these two writers not doing their homework on the character of Crowley.

While Crowley (being a demon and the King of Hell) obviously had no problem being “ministered” to by Lola, there is no on-screen evidence that he actively seeks out female attention. It’s not just that he’s a blatant misogynist (which he is) who uses and tosses women, especially, like Kleenex. It’s that even in this episode, he is much, much more obsessed with Dean (and Sam) than with Lola or any other woman, aside from the power trip they give him by calling him “My King!” a whole lot. I think the obsession is much more with Dean than Sam, but I’m not entirely convinced that Crowley is trying to cosy up to Sam solely to get to Dean.

On his side of the equation, Dean may have no self-esteem, but he knows full well he has a sexual allure (just look at his scene with the museum curator) and he can wield it like a weapon as adeptly as any film noir femme fatale. He knows he has a power over Crowley. After all the nasty things Crowley has done to the Brothers, I gotta say that it is deeply satisfying to watch Dean turn the tables like that.

I know Mark Sheppard wasn’t too happy with this storyline, or the later one with Rowena, but I think he did an excellent job with both. When Crowley was the “smartest” character in the room, I’m sure that was more fun to play, but it also made him a flat character with limited potential.

This storyline gave Crowley a much-needed pathos and growth for his character, and Sheppard, 30 years sober as of this year, invests a great amount of depth, of hard-earned gravitas, just in this episode alone. That moment when “Heroin” is playing and Crowley is staring into the mirror … yeah. As I said, it could have ended up a cliché, but the emotional honesty from Sheppard sells it all the way down the line.

Similarly, the moments when Dean holds the First Blade could have not worked in lesser hands. Okay, maybe Jensen Ackles curls his lip too much. Maybe those rising violins are a bit overboard. And that seasick telescoping effect the first time Dean holds the Blade is, admittedly, weird.

But it works. It all comes together in a whole that makes us understand the immense and disturbing, the primal influence of the First Blade on the bearer of the Mark. There is a reason why these scenes are some of the most recapped in the entire show.

And there is a reason why the lost look on Dean’s face as he comes out of it near the end, why he’s still rocky even in the coda when they find the car, is such a gut punch. The Mark is not good for Dean’s already-ropey sanity and this is the first time when the show makes that crystal clear. This is the first cosmic weapon that Dean can’t just pick up and then casually drop once he’s done with it. It resonates too well with his inner darkness. This is the episode where we start to see the payoff for this storyline (hell, the first time we get a payoff for any Dean mytharc storyline) and the cost Dean will end up paying on this “quest.”

What accentuates this tragedy is that this is the first episode in a while when Sam is acting as if he actually wants to be around Dean, to be his brother again. Sam starts out the episode apparently believing that he can just switch the brotherly camaraderie back on as if nothing has happened, as if he never said those ugly things to Dean just a few episodes ago. I guess Sam has decided it’s time to forgive Dean (or as much as he has been in the habit of doing so up to this point in the show).

But when they finally catch up with Crowley, Sam is in for a nasty surprise. And it gets even nastier when Sinclair casually discards him and kidnaps Dean. To his credit, Sam doesn’t hesitate to go in and rescue Dean (albeit this could fall under the practicality umbrella of needing to extract the bearer of the Mark and the First Blade, I don’t think Sam’s motivation is actually that cynical).

But Sam finds that the void he left in Dean’s life when he emotionally abandoned his brother is actually being filled – and not by benign influences. Sam also seems to be under the impression that the quest for the First Blade is something he can share in (or co-opt, the way he did the Trials). Again, this episode shows that’s not possible.

So, Sam is already a day late and a dollar short in his reconciliation with his brother. And he’s finding out that he’s going to have to work a lot harder this time to get one. Dean’s kinda busy with other stuff right now.

Next week: Mother’s Little Helper: After Dean is sidelined with the hangover from his encounter with the First Blade, Sam goes in solo to investigate some murders in a convent.

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15


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