The Official Supernatural: “Stairway to Heaven” (9.22) Recap and Review

Happy Advent, everyone!

We need your help!

You can still find my reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my folklore research on Patreon. Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

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 snarfly foster kittens with seasonal eye gunk 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: Longish recap of Dean killing Abaddon, the angel wars, the secret portal to Heaven, Castiel’s stolen grace, Tessa, and Metatron’s boring supervillain plan.

Cut to Now.

At an ice cream shop in Dixon, MO, a Karen (she doesn’t have an onscreen name, so she’s just a stereotype) is giving a deliberately long and fussy order to the long-suffering soda clerk, while shushing her son. Seems the kid has noticed a young girl at a table, eating a very large banana split sundae with great enjoyment. Karen decides to go over and snottily ask the girl where her parents are (as if that’s any of Karen’s business, but since when has that ever stopped a Karen?). The girl tells her to buzz off and says she’s an angel.

We realize she really is an angel when a man enters the shop, pulling out an angel blade, and the girl appears to recognize him. She tells the Karen to run (the Karen doesn’t, even when the girl flashes angel eyes at her). Cut to outside the ice cream shop as the girl screams. Light flares and blasts out the windows.

Cue whining angel title cards.

Cut to Sam sleeping with a gun under his pillow (since when?) and no covers. A loud guitar cue wakes him with a start and he points the gun in the direction of the music. It turns out to be coming from Dean’s phone and it was Dean’s way of waking him up.

Dean: Nice reflexes. Better hair.

Looking at his watch, Sam comments that they got home only “two hours ago,” that he could have shot Dean by mistake. He asks, “What’s wrong with you?” Hey, remember when Sam woke Dean up in “Phantom Hitchhiker” because he wasn’t sleeping at all? Turnabout’s fair play, dude.

Dean tells him he’s “not tired” and that “we got work to do.” He tosses Sam’s boots at him and walks out. Later, as Sam comes out, showered and dressed and with a cup of coffee, into the Library, Dean is already packing up. This includes the First Blade.

It turns out Castiel called Dean and told him “something was going down” in Missouri (probably what happened to the Doomed Teaser Kid Angel). He says that Castiel wouldn’t supply any details, just wanted them to meet him there, so they are. He’d probably help Castiel, anyway, but he neatly covers it with the practical reason that Castiel has an army of angels backing him up and they’re going to need all the reinforcements they can get against Metatron.

Despite the fact that they are up against Metatron, who still has wings and could appear anywhere at any time, especially in a case that involves Castiel, Sam whines that there’s no need to bring the First Blade because it’s not a “Big Boss fight.” Sam seems to think that whether or not to bring they First Blade anywhere, even though Dean’s the only one who can wield “the Hockey Stick That Can Kill Anything” (as Dean puts it), should be a joint decision. Because Sam should get a say in that, or something. Sam insists that it’s because he’s worried about the Blade’s effect on Dean (even as Dean is protesting that he’s “fine,” which he’s not, of course), but I don’t see a whole lot of caring from Sam toward his brother in this conversation. I do see a lot of manipulative and controlling guilt-tripping. After some token protest, Dean ostentatiously leaves it behind. Bet that will be a plot point later on.

The next day, at the teaser crime scene, the Brothers arrive in their FBI suits. They are surprised when the female cop managing access to the scene greets them with alias names (for female pop stars) and ushers them right in. It turns out Castiel is waiting inside. Knowing their MO for using such aliases, he’s already primed local law enforcement to expect them. He just got the genders kinda wrong.

He immediately shows them a body with burned-out eyes in a body bag. It’s the Karen (oh, her poor son. I hope he ran). He tells them there are six dead humans in all, with burned-out eyes. And one dead angel vessel. He knew the angel, whom he calls “a good soldier.” He knew this angel wanted to go to war against Metatron, but calls what he did (presumably a suicide bombing?) “abhorrent, even for him.” But which “him” does Castiel mean?

Cut to a possible candidate. It’s Metatron in his study in Heaven, posing in a replica of Castiel’s raincoat over his sweater in front of a mirror. There’s a knock on the door. He hastily pulls off the raincoat as he calls, “Just a second!”

A second later, Gadriel enters. When Metatron complains about his barging in like that, Gadriel points out that he did ask for “a second” and that’s what Gadriel gave him. Metatron grumps about the literal-mindedness of angels, as if he didn’t already know that was in their DNA. He is, after all, an angel, himself.

Gadriel wants to “talk about tonight.” When Metatron says it will be “fine,” Gadriel protests that they are “losing.” Castiel has more angels on his side than Metatron now. They may not be going after Metatron just yet, but they were able to capture Gadriel and stop Metatron from killing Castiel. He means the angels, but it’s TFW that actually captured him and interrogated his feathery ass.

Metatron insists that they had their shot with Operation Lee Harvey (subtle), but blowing it was worth preventing Gadriel’s death. He then turns things around on Gadriel and points out that he met with the “enemy” (Castiel). Gadriel protests that he’s still loyal to Heaven and Metatron. He listened, but he knows Castiel lied to him. With that reaffirmed, Metatron grumps about Castiel’s popularity, admitting that he’s “cute” and has a sort of “simple charm.”

Metatron [about Castiel]: He’s like a mentally deficient puppy. I’m lovable … and funny. [off Gadriel’s skeptical look] I made God laugh – twice!

Gadriel points out that it was Metatron’s idea for Castiel to form a loyal opposition and notes that they have to meet tonight with the leader of the only large independent faction of angels left, an angel named Tyrus. Metatron insists he’s “got a plan” and Gadriel, a little horrified, glances at the raincoat and says, “It’s not that. Is it?”

Cut to Castiel’s headquarters, where Castiel is entering with a box of files, Sam and Dean behind him. He’s greeted by Hannah (the survivor of the peaceable angels who previously asked to follow him). After being introduced to the Brothers, and admitting she’s heard many things about them (in a disapproving tone), she does her level best to ignore Sam and Dean, especially Dean, who is snarky in response and says that “Cas is a fan.” Another angel abruptly takes the box of files, which is evidence from the crime scene.

Hannah then tells Castiel something ominous – an angel named Josiah didn’t make “roll call” that morning (when Sam questions this, Castiel admits that “they like to hear me say their names” and Dean snarks that he knows women who like that, too). Hannah (and the other angels) has immediately jumped to the conclusion that Josiah killed Ezra (the talkative angel from Metatron’s camp who was murdered the previous episode and appears in the beginning recap) and was a Metatron spy in their camp.

As Hannah looks skeptical, Sam sits down at a computer to research Josiah’s movements by looking up the dead angel from MO (Castiel identifies him as “Sean Flynn from Omaha”) and Dean points out that since angels can no longer fly, they can be tracked like humans. Sam immediately finds that someone just used Sean’s credit card. But the other angel who took the box is a jump ahead of Sam. He’s somehow found CCTV footage of the angel confrontation in the ice cream shop.

It shows an Asian American guy doing a foodie selfie video at the ice cream shop right before the incident. When the other angel enters the shop, the person filming the foodie guy turns the video in the direction of the two angels. We see the man pull open his coat to show a bare chest with Enochian symbols carved on it (as in, into his flesh). He shouts, “I do this for Castiel!” right before he stabs himself in the middle of the symbols. A bright flash of light and the girl angel’s piercing scream end the video call. Cut to Castiel, who looks upset.

Dean immediately asks Castiel, “What the hell was that?” Castiel protests that he would never ask any other angel to suicide bomb “innocents” and them quietly says, “I’m gonna be sick.”

Sam asks why an angel would be using Castiel’s name under those circumstances. Hannah corrects Sam and has the other angel rewind. She recognizes the girl as an angel named Esther, who was in Metatron’s camp. Sam realizes it’s a hit on the girl angel.

Castiel says he doesn’t know what’s going on, but Dean is skeptical (Keep in mind that Castiel did kill everyone in a political campaign office when he was Godstiel and under the influence of the Leviathan, so it’s not that illogical for Dean to be skeptical that Castiel is not acting duplicitously in creating Manchurian Candidates out of his fellow angels). Even so, Castiel is upset that Dean wouldn’t believe him. And Dean brings up the whole Godstiel incident in rebuttal, especially acting pissed off that Castiel lied to him and Sam. Dean’s not wrong. Castiel may mean well now, but he has done things just like that in the past, or worse.

Sam thinks it’s bad to air these things out in front of a bewildered Hannah and Redshirt Research Angel, but, well, surely, they know everything Castiel did as Godstiel. It wasn’t exactly a secret in Heaven. Anyhoo, once they get into Castiel’s office and Sam tells Dean to “stow your baggage,” he discovers that yep, Castiel did something dumb again, just as Dean was saying.

Castiel knows the guy in the video. He was an angel named Oren who was on a shift at the hospital. It seems Castiel has angels from his army doing minor healings and other things that stay under the radar. Castiel admits that the little girl, and the angel inside, was probably “atomized” by the blast, since the spell focused its power on her. Yay.

Dean says he and Sam are going to investigate. Since Castiel asked them in and his Manson-Family-style groupies don’t trust the Winchesters, Castiel coming along would just be a liability. Castiel firmly insists on going to find out what Oren was up to. Dean says fine, but he sends Sam along to babysit. Sam is surprised and not too thrilled to hear this.

Later that night in a stolen car, Sam and Castiel grump about being reduced to sidekick status (one neither is used to). They both figure it’s the Mark’s influence on Dean and while Castiel admits that Dean is always “a little angry,” he just seems more so of late. He’s hurt that Dean would think he would have sent angels on suicide missions that killed innocents, which is kinda hilarious when he’s done far worse in the relatively recent past, while lying to Dean about it.

When he asks Sam if he believes him capable of such things, Sam rather uncomfortably lies and says, “no,” but then hedges a whole lot about how uncomfortable the whole angel army thing is making him. I’m trying to recall if Castiel has even mentioned that this is something Metatron set him up to do in the first place. It seems like an awfully important point that no one is talking about and if he’s lying about that, then yeah, Dean is totally justified in not trusting him.

It’s also pretty uncool that Castiel is leaving Dean alone with a bunch of angels Dean has already expressed unease about – and in a position where Dean has to interrogate them. Sure, Dean sent Sam with Castiel and sure, it was Dean’s plan to interrogate them. But Castiel is the one who called the Brothers in on the case in the first place and he decided to run off on a hunt against Dean’s expressed wishes.

So, during the car ride, while referencing rock stars and L. Ron Hubbard, Sam talks about how “faith” makes people do crazy and destructive things. When Castiel protests that he feels responsible for getting his “people home,” Sam continues this rant. Said rant strikes me as quite OOC for a guy who has cited his religious faith and belief in God more than once on the show.

But we’re not quite done with the OOCness for characters this week, not by a long shot. Metatron is at a bowling alley with Gadriel playing his bodyguard, trying to persuade the aforementioned Tyrus to come over to his side. Tyrus loves bowling. Turns out he also loves being independent. And he doesn’t want to go back to Heaven. Fair enough, so far. But then he goes off on this rant about how he doesn’t respect Metatron because Metatron is a “nerd” who is losing to Castiel. When Metatron has Gadriel pull out his angel sword as a not-so-subtle threat, Tyrus is unimpressed, saying that the other angels in his group will just end up going over to Castiel. But he’s willing to reconsider if Metatron wins a game of pins against him (Metatron loses).

Now, this is an also-not-so-subtle reference to Curtis Armstrong having a lead role in 1984 hit Revenge of the Nerds. But it makes no sense in context, especially when Metatron, humiliated, starts to leave after the game, just as a suicide bomber named Constantine shows up and blows up Tyrus (and, presumably, kills a bunch of human bystanders, too).

It’s not just that when Gadriel protects Metatron from the blast, that’s not necessary. Metatron still has his wings and could fly them both out of there quite easily. It’s not even that Tyrus doesn’t really want to go back to Heaven. It’s that Metatron is the character in this interaction who has all the cards. He rules and controls all access to Heaven. He has wings. He could probably kill Tyrus himself. He doesn’t even need Tyrus’ followers, so why is he there? It’s a major plothole that is only partially explained (and not very well) by the end of the episode.

Cut to Castiel and Sam, who are talking to a cocky store clerk who talked to Oren. He didn’t catch Oren’s license plate, but he did get an address Oren asked about. He acts surprised when they ask him to write it down. Why would he mention it in the first place if he didn’t think they’d want the info?

Cut back to Angel 1 Base, where Dean is interviewing one of Oren’s angel colleagues from the hospital. She is snotty toward him (I am starting to see a pattern here and it’s not a good one), even though she is officially under suspicion and whatever he reports back could get her executed. But sure, mouth off and say bigoted things like calling him an “ape.” From the very first, when she informs him that her name is too long and difficult for him to pronounce, so he can call her “Flagstaff” (Dean just responds with a noncommittal “copy”), she’s truculent and uncooperative for no reason that makes sense for the situation her character is in. This is, bizarrely enough, the second Karen (‘Princess’ might be a better name for this variation) character in the story after the one in the ice cream shop.

By the way, if Flagstaff’s actress Kaären de Zilva looks familiar to you, that’s because she’s a frequent flyer in Canadian productions . I remembered her from two different roles in Da Vinci’s Inquest (both with titles involving ducks, for some reason) and a recurring role on its sequel series Da Vinci’s City Hall. I know she’s got a lot more range than playing bitchy and stuck-up, which she could do in her sleep and is all that’s required of her here. Sadly, I think this was just a rent-paying role for her. It’s Flagstaff’s only episode.

After Princess (sorry, Flagstaff) keeps making syrupy endorsements for her suicide bomber bud, and Dean repeatedly asks her why this saint among angels became a suicide bomber, with no response, she goes off on a rant against Dean himself. It’s a patented Andrew Dabb “Dean’s an ape” rant (I don’t think the show ever quite realized how iffy using the word “ape” in relation to humans these days really was and it’s not aged well in the past six years). She insists she’s a “healer” (who, you know, happened to work with a dude who blew up himself, along with a bunch of innocents) and calls Dean a killer with “oceans of blood on your hands. I hate men like you!” (Um … since when are angels doing gender now?)

At this point, Dean’s had enough (Thank God. So had I). With a weary sigh, he suddenly changes demeanor. Flipping the table over, he knocks Flagstaff right to the floor, still in her chair, puts an angel blade to her throat, and says, “Honey, there ain’t no men like me.” Which is not even close to an exaggeration.

At this point, Flagstaff loses all her cockiness and gives up the names of two of Oren’s friends – Constantine and Tessa. Shocked, Dean double-checks she means Tessa the Reaper and Flagstaff acts surprised that he knows her. Makes you wonder why she didn’t just give him the names in the first place.

Cut back to daytime in Pray, MT, where Sam and Castiel are arriving outside what looks like an abandoned warehouse. But Castiel insists that it “radiates power” such as he has never sensed outside Heaven. When Sam goes to pick the lock, Castiel insists, “I got this” and tries to break down the door. But his angel strength isn’t working on it, for some reason. “I don’t got this,” he admits.

Cut to a production of Jesus Christ Superstar later that night (a Christological allusion I missed the last couple of times I watched this episode). Tessa is about to enter the theater when she’s accosted by Dean. He tells her he tracked her from the hospital via the GPS in the ambulance she stole. She asks him why he’s there – just a love for musical theater? He says he only likes Fiddler on the Roof. She tries to turn around and go inside, anyway, but he grabs her and slaps angel cuffs on her, then demands to know where Constantine is (Constantine is blowing up Tyrus at that moment).

At the warehouse, Castiel is showing Sam that the building is covered in Enochian warding. There’s also a riddle.

Castiel: Why is Six afraid of Seven? I assume it’s because Seven is a prime number. Prime numbers can be intimidating.

Sam: It’s because Seven ate Nine.

As soon as Sam says it, the door opens. Castiel compliments him and mentions the “Doors of Durin in Lord of the Rings.” Sam is surprised that Castiel knows about the Lord of the Rings trilogy (Remember that Metatron gave Castiel pop culture knowledge in a previous episode, but it seems the Brothers don’t know about that, uh, gift).

Sam then gets a call from Dean, who has arrived back at Angel HQ with Tessa. Tessa tries to shout into the phone that Dean is a “psycho” (pretty rich coming from a would-be suicide bomber). This concerns Sam. Meanwhile, inside Angel HQ, Flagstaff is being predictably useless and divisive by whining about how Dean was mean to her during her interrogation. Worse, the other angels are actually listening to her.

When Dean comes in with Tessa, they’re all shocked, but for precisely the wrong reasons, even when Tessa declares that there’s “no God – only Castiel.” When Dean shows them that Tessa carved a spell into her own chest, they (led by the wishy-washy Hannah) immediately jump to the conclusion that he wounded her instead of only cutting across the spell to “defuse” it. I mean, they’re angels, with angel eidetic memories, and they’ve seen the video of Oren in the ice cream shop. You’re telling me they wouldn’t be able to confirm with their own eyes (and angel senses) that Dean did exactly what he said he did? Gee, it’s almost as if these angels are more concerned about facing the consequences of their actions than with stopping their own from hurting humans, or each other.

I’ll admit that my recapping temporarily ground to a halt because I just couldn’t even with all the angelic stupidity and hypocrisy in this episode. Lots of incompetent writing all the way round. It makes me feel a little better, knowing none of these angels will still be alive after the next couple of seasons. It saddens me that, for the most part, we don’t get to see their collective demise.

Flagstaff, of course, is right there, hiding behind Hannah and another angel, and putting her oar in. Hannah insists that only Castiel can “punish” Tessa, speaking in exceedingly tepid and academic tones about how, yeah, what Tessa planned was “horrible,” but what can ya do? She claims that only Castiel is holding these disparate angels together (after billions of years of strict obedience, they’ve discovered that much Free Will in just a few months? Really?). Other angels come in from both ends of the corridor, menacingly, to back her up.

Seeing the writing on the wall, Dean gives up his angel blade and agrees to go in with Hannah and just “talk.” As he does, Hannah looks triumphant and smug. Too bad for her she doesn’t know Dean Winchester very well. Translation: Dean doesn’t need an angel blade. He probably brought the First Blade with him.

In Montana, Sam and Castiel are wandering through the big, moldy warehouse, with no clue where they’re going. Sam suggests they head back to Angel HQ, since Dean surely must be right about Tessa (Wait, did he just admit that his brother might be right about something?! Don’t worry – it’ll pass by the end of the episode). Castiel wants to go a little farther and gets ahead of Sam. Sam has spotted something on the wall and is reading it. It says, in red letters, “Only the Penitent shall pass.”

This is, of course, from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Sam even lampshades it for those of us who haven’t ever heard of Harrison Ford’s most famous and iconic role). Sam yells a warning at Castiel, just as two giant, razor-sharp, circular blades come out of the wall. Castiel ducks in time. They continue on.

Back at Angel HQ, Tessa is doing an excellent job of damaging Hannah’s inner peace. She declares that Castiel recruited her because he knew she was strong enough to make the hard decisions, unlike some people here (staring pointedly at Hannah). When Dean asks her, what about all the human innocents, Tessa says they’re collateral damage, necessary. Dean rather sadly tells her she’s wrong about that. When she goads Hannah some more, Hannah gets mad and goes after her, but Dean instead grabs Hannah and shoves her back out into the hallway.

All of the other angels have disappeared (production values, I guess). Hannah asks if Dean thinks Tessa is telling the truth. Dean says that Tessa thinks she is. With a rueful look, Hannah silently gives her consent to Dean to interrogate Tessa alone.

In the Montana warehouse, Sam and Castiel finally arrive at something interesting. It’s a door with a light on the other side that’s so bright it shines around the edges and through a window near the top. Castiel insists it’s “the door to Heaven.” He says that it’s “calling” him and rejoices in their new edge on Metatron. If they can control the door, they can “take the fight to him.”

Yep. They took that great and subtle title from that famous Led Zeppelin song and made it completely literal.

Sam warns Castiel to be careful, but all that happens once Castiel opens the door is that they find themselves inside what looks like a Party Town set for Heaven. There are regular balloons and blue mylar dolphin balloons and New Year’s Eve tinsel everywhere while a cover of Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek” plays on the soundtrack (Alastair was also singing this while Dean was torturing him in Season 4’s “On the Head of a Pin,” a much-better episode than “Stairway to Heaven”). I think it’s the Fred Astaire version from Top Hat (1935). Castiel is confused and even says, uncharacteristically, “What the hell…?”

Sam finds a card on a nearby table. It says, “Welcome to your personal heaven, Castiel. Good luck finding the real one.”

When Sam turns around, he’s startled to see a badly burned man, lying near the entrance, the two of them hadn’t noticed before. Castiel identifies him as the missing Josiah and says that he “reeks of holy oil.” Glancing above the doorway, Sam sees a contraption that dumped the holy oil on Josiah and then set it on fire. Sam comments that Josiah got “Home Alone’d.” Why would angels need to resort to such a trap? Castiel realizes that the entire setup was “a lie.”

Josiah wakes up suddenly. It turns out he’s not quite dead. He babbles about how Castiel was the one who supposed to be in his position (I think). He bemoans that after Ezra died (i.e., after he killed Ezra), Metatron told him that he could “come home,” which was his dearest wish. After all, he did turn traitor and murderer of his own brethren to win it.

But when Castiel offers to heal him, Josiah refuses, saying he “would rather die” than be beholden to Castiel. He goes off on a rant (There are a lot of character rants in this episode) about how Castiel thinks he’s doing good, but he’s really not. I roll my eyes hard. He claims that Castiel is no longer “one of us” and that when he looks into Castiel’s eyes, he longer can see “an angel staring back at me.” Having delivered that bitter, self-serving little pill, he dies.

Well, we finally got an angel-not-named-Metatron who didn’t think Castiel was All That. Too bad he was a minor villain and a moron, to boot. Made it pretty hard to take anything he said seriously.

Back at Angel HQ, Dean returns to the interrogation room to confront Tessa alone (No, she’s not singing “Cheek to Cheek”). Smirking, she asks where Hannah is. Dean says it’s just the two of them now.

He refers to their shared history. With a smile, Tessa acknowledges their “meet cute” moment when Dean was dying in the Season 2 premiere. Dean asks her again why she agreed to become a suicide bomber. When she mentions Castiel again, Dean goes deeper, asking what her motivations were for joining Castiel and becoming a suicide bomber. Dean claims that while he’s “been in bad shape, I have never been that low.”

Now this requires a bit of parsing. Dean is arguably the most suicidal recurring character in the show. There are times when it’s a constant battle for him to get out of bed. Near the end of Season 9 is not one of his better periods of mental stability.

But I think what Dabb is trying to say is that Dean has never thought taking innocents with him was acceptable just to end his own pain. And that’s a big line. What I don’t understand is why Tessa crossed it. The ensuing conversation doesn’t add much light to that motive.

Tessa says that she “couldn’t stand the screaming, anymore.” Those souls who were bound for Heaven are now instead trapped in the Veil. They are “confused” and in “pain,” a lot like Kevin and the other ghosts in “Captives” earlier this season. She wants, needs, to help them, but she can’t. It got to the point where she began to believe that a final death, oblivion for a Reaper, was preferable, since it was at least peaceful.

Dean asks why she didn’t just kill herself. She admits that she was “weak” until Castiel gave her a reason to die (If this sounds like a wee bit of foreshadowing for the other person in the room, well, you’re not wrong).

Dean opines that’s not the Castiel he knows. She disagrees. She points out that Castiel “raised an army” of angels without telling Dean. She also tells him that there are more suicide bombers “out there,” but when Dean asks for names, she refuses.

At that point, yup, Dean brings out the First Blade. Bizarrely enough, Tessa is actually shocked that he has taken on the Mark of Cain and asks, “Dean, what have you done?”

Dean: What I had to.

Tessa: Welcome to the club.

She grabs him by the shoulders and shoves herself up against the Blade. With a whispered “thank you,” she shoves it in deeper, and dies in a blast of white light and screaming. Dean is briefly dazzled by her death light, then, after she falls, we see him reluctantly ride a crest of a massive high (some nice acting from Ackles here).

Hannah and some other angels burst in to find Dean pretty literally red-handed. Startled out of his high, Dean gets a “Now, hold on a minute” look and puts up a warding hand.

In the next scene, he’s the one in cuffs, shackled to a chair with a piece of duct tape over his mouth and a bloody nose, looking disgusted. Castiel and Sam come in as Hannah is trying to explain that “he put up a fight.” Oh, hon, bless your heart. If he’d really done that, there wouldn’t have been any of you left.

Castiel tells her in a deadly voice, “Get out.” She and the others scurry off, sensing they have, um, crossed a big line.

As Sam goes to rip the duct tape (painfully) off Dean’s mouth and uncuff him, Castiel yells at him about killing Tessa and Sam berates him for bringing the First Blade. Gotta be honest – I had to stop the recap for a while because the way Castiel and Sam were acting was so mind-blowingly stupid and clearly a case of the writer having the characters act Dumb on Cue to further the plot.

Look at how the situation would have appeared to Sam and Castiel coming back into it. They know they left Dean alone with a bunch of angels who didn’t like him. They know said angels had at least one traitor (Josiah) in their ranks who killed at least one angel prisoner at Metatron’s behest, and that others have gone missing and turned up as suicide bombers. They know that Tessa turned up dead shortly after Dean outed her as a would-be suicide bomber and that he got the crap beaten out of him by the other angels.

Unlike the writer, they don’t know that Dean Winchester is a lead character on this show and that he has plot armor that means he’s unlikely to get killed permanently in this episode. As far as they know, he’s still human, with some augmented aggression, reflexes and maybe strength.

So, why are they automatically buying the angels’ side of the story? That makes no sense. I mean I get that Castiel feels some responsibility for his brethren’s plight (obviously), and that Sam is shocked about Tessa’s death, but Sam doesn’t even like or trust the other angels and he wasn’t that close to Tessa. It’s really out of character for Sam, especially.

Dean points out that Tessa stabbed herself. Rather than absorb this information, and try to figure out how it fits into the pieces he and Castiel found in Montana, Sam instead goes off on a controlling rant about how Dean brought the First Blade along against Sam’s express wishes. Never has Sam sounded more like Cuthbert Sinclair than in this moment. It’s not flattering.

Hannah injudiciously chooses said moment to interrupt and say that Castiel has a “call” from Metatron. Castiel comes out into the main area of Angel HQ to find Hannah has put Metatron up on a large desktop screen so everyone can hear what he has to say. Boy, these angels with no experience with or interest in Free Will sure are using it this episode.

Metatron, very predictably, is there to gloat (Metatron, alas, is very predictable). After engaging in a brief exchange of snark with Dean (which includes the usual obligatory Dabb insults to Dean’s intelligence and education), he then proceeds to unload his coup de grace on Castiel’s struggling campaign.

First, he sets up the worst frame job ever by claiming Castiel sent the suicide bomber who killed Tyrus. He also claims that Tyrus’ followers are now flocking to his side and that everything he did to cause the angels to fall was “necessary.” He did it to make them collectively stronger. And, oh, yeah, he digs the knife a bit that Castiel cares more about the Winchesters than his own angelic family.

When Castiel calls him out on his lies and Hannah whines a bit, Metatron catches Castiel in on one of his own. He lets everyone know that Castiel is only an angel again because he graced-up on another angel’s stolen grace. That’s his big play. Well, that and he offers the other angels re-entry into Heaven, no questions asked, but only if they act now. Then he peaces out.

After some pearl-clutching over how they’re only doing this because they’re now questioning if Castiel is still “angel” enough to lead them, Hannah and the others grab Dean and demand that Castiel prove himself by “punishing” Dean for killing Tessa (Hannah really throws Dean under the bus here, distancing herself from her own responsibility in the situation). I briefly entertain the wish that they’d actually tried to kill Dean, as this would undoubtedly have led to their mass demise not too long afterward. I especially would have liked to see Flagstaff go down bloody.

Sadly, Dabb’s just filling up screentime at this point. Castiel, after some woeful, conflicted gurning, refuses to do any such thing to his best friend. So, the angels take that as their excuse to bail. And bail they do, right back to Metatron.

What gets me about this plot point is that Metatron never needed to get Castiel to form an army or anything like that in the first place. He could have just offered the angels amnesty up front and most of them would have hurried right home. He even admits this in his speech when he allows that having Gadriel massacre Hannah’s group wasn’t his greatest decision as a leader ever.

So, in that light, it makes sense that they would go with Metatron. They’re sheep looking for a leader and he’s the only one with the key home. What doesn’t make sense is why they followed Castiel first, or why they all got massacred for refusing to follow Metatron beforehand. Honestly, it’s all pretty dumb.

Also, while I know poor Erica Carroll tried hard with this character, did anyone like Hannah? She constantly flip-flopped between professing great loyalty to Castiel and stabbing him in the back. And trust me on this – she only gets worse in Season 10.

Cut to Metatron’s office in Heaven. He’s coming in, while on a cell phone (really, Show? That’s cheap). He’s talking to Hannah, I guess, accepting her group’s undying loyalty and devotion. Gadriel is sitting in a chair, looking totally pissed off.

Remember Ezra’s “elite unit” info from a few episodes ago? Those were the suicide bombers. Gadriel recruited them, not realizing that Metatron intended to brainwash them into betraying and discrediting Castiel.

After imperiously telling Gadriel that that part of the plan was “none of your business,” Metatron then natters off on a tangent about how “that’s an old writer’s trick – flipping the script.” He Evil Overlords his entire plan (which we already knew about, actually, when he told Castiel). He built up Castiel as a major antagonist and then took him down. As far as I can tell, the whole point was to get the majority of the angels to come crawling back to Heaven and break the rest of their spirit. Okay. I guess.

Metatron then declares, “I am inevitable.” Which is about the moment we know for sure he’s doomed (A minor villain in Bond flick GoldenEye (1995), for example, declares “I am invincible!” right before he’s flash-frozen). Now this statement has been made famous by Avengers: Endgame (which Supernatural, Season 15, ripped off a whole lot). The film’s villain, Thanos, utters this line, believing he has achieved ultimate victory, right before his final defeat.

Curiously, though, “Stairway to Heaven” aired in 2014, five years before Endgame came out. And I don’t recall the original plot in the comics having Thanos utter that line (His motives for getting the stones are very, very different in the comics). So, it looks as though the film may actually have stolen it from this episode. Huh.

Standing up and looming over Metatron, with a look on his face as if he just encountered a really nasty smell, Gadriel then easily draws out the rest of Metatron’s rather silly plot by asking about Josiah. Metatron dismissively calls Josiah “a loose end.” He says with a naughty giggle that he did tell Josiah where to find the portal to Heaven, but then he moved it. Oops. His one regret is that Castiel didn’t fall victim to one of his booby traps.

Metatron: While everyone else is playing Checkers, I’m playing Monopoly. And I always build a hotel on Boardwalk. And I always win.

As Gadriel looks as though he’s about to throw up, Metatron sits down with a triumphant smile. If there’s one thing that’s the silliest in this pretty ludicrous script, it’s that Metatron, who just finished boasting about how he’s manipulated all the other angels into doing exactly what he wanted by staying several steps ahead of them, then lets Gadriel walk out that door. It is a classic Evil Overlord mistake that he doesn’t notice how much his right-hand angel wants to just puke on his shoes and then knife him in that moment. Sure, he probably can foresee that Gadriel’s about to betray him (as he foresaw Gadriel’s previous meeting with Castiel). But it’s still a rookie Evil Overlord mistake to let him try.

Cut to the Impala at night, in the rain, Dean driving, Sam on shotgun, Castiel in the back. We get a relative closeup of each one of them, starting with Sam’s epic bitchface, Castiel pensive and sad, and Dean looking as if he couldn’t possibly care less what Sam thinks. Right there with ya, Dean.

Back at the Bunker, Sam pushes this boundary right away by wanting to “talk about this” (translation: get Dean to apologize for bringing the First Blade along without Sam’s permission). Dean responds with one of my favorite Dean lines ever, especially with Ackles’ offhandedly snarky delivery, in which he makes it very clear he is not apologizing.

Dean: Yeah, I lied. But you were being an infant.

Now, I know Dean is already pretty bonkers at this point, as demonstrated by his next rant, where he gets angry and tells Sam theirs is no longer a partnership, but a “dictatorship,” until Dean is able to kill Metatron. But he’s not wrong, either. He’s not wrong that he’s the only one with the current means to kill Metatron and he’s not wrong that Sam was “being an infant” this episode.

Sam does not get to have mort-main control over Dean’s own Free Will. It’s morally questionable and that’s all there is to it. Sam doesn’t have to like it and Dean is certainly being scary, but neither is Dean wrong.

This is borne out by what each brother does next. While Sam stomps off in a snit (to his room, I guess), Dean comes into the Library and sits down across from Castiel, who looks woeful, to check on him. Dean asks him, “How long you got?” Castiel says he hopes it’s long enough to take down Metatron, but he’s less hopeful now they no longer have an army (which was totally useless, but there you go). Note that after hearing their friend is, essentially, dying, Sam goes off to sulk and Dean comes over to reassure him. You know, the crazy, “insensitive,” out-of-control brother.

When Dean tells Castiel that at least he has the Brothers Winchester, Castiel asks if Dean really believes he sent Tessa and the others out as suicide bombers. Now, remember that Tessa tried to sow doubt in Dean’s mind earlier about that. But just as the angels realized that Castiel cared more about the Winchesters (well … Dean) than them, so did Dean. Dean figures that if Castiel was willing to lose his army taking the high road on that score, he’s not the type to use his own brethren as suicide bombers like that.

Castiel wonders if the three of them will be enough. Dean says, “We always have been.” But it turns out they may not need to test that theory. As Sam, coming back into the Map Room, calls out a warning, Gadriel enters through … the back door? Seriously? He was there all along? How did he get back in? Yes, he was in the Bunker for a long time, but it’s supposed to be warded even against angels and the script gives no explanation about whether he copied the key or did a spell, or what. He pops up out of a literal plothole.

Anyhoo, Gadriel claims he’s there in peace. In response to Sam’s truculent, but on-point, question of how they can trust him, Gadriel says he can give them Metatron. Hmm, haven’t we heard this one before?

He appeals next to Castiel, revealing that the suicide bomber plan was Metatron’s. Then he more generally admits, “I’ve made mistakes.” Well, there’s an understatement, especially when he tries to argue the others have, too. Not a winning argument, there, Gadriel. Just saying.

He asks for a second chance. Dean, who appears to be considering his offer, glances at Sam, who gives him a half-hearted shrug. Slowly and cautiously, Dean steps down into the Map Room, approaches Gadriel, and holds out his hand. Looking relieved, Gadriel takes Dean’s hand.

But then Dean’s microexpression changes to one of cynicism and then pure rage as he whips out the First Blade in slowmo and rips a diagonal, glowing line across Gadriel’s torso. As Gadriel falls back against a pillar in horror and pain, Castiel and Sam have to restrain Dean from finishing the job, as Dean roars and puffs like a maddened and frustrated bull.

Credits

Ratings for this episode came in at 0.8/2 in the A18-49 demo and 1.74 million in audience.

Review: I didn’t retain a whole lot of memory of “Stairway to Heaven” before my rewatch, aside from the angels being annoying, Dean going after Gadriel (that “infant” line was also memorable), and Tessa’s death, which I didn’t like the first time. I didn’t like it the second time round, either.

Watching it in light of the series finale, I was surprised to see that Andrew Dabb (who wrote this episode) basically ripped off the end of Season 9 for Season 15, as well, without apparently understanding what made Season 9 popular (Hint: It was the Mark of Cain storyline and an amped-up dark Dean). We have a bored, tyrannical and capricious God character who also fancies himself a storyteller. We have the question of Predestination vs. Free Will. We have a lot of gaslighting and manipulation and handwaving of nonsense in the plot as “It was all a trick!” It’s basically the same old conflict all over again.

It also has many of the flaws in it that we’d see later on during Dabb’s showrunner tenure, not least the tendency to write an ending and then shoehorn everything toward that ending instead of building it up properly. We also got a lot of Dean-bashing in this episode, which, strangely enough, usually backfired because so many of the characters were flat stereotypes with poor motivations.

This episode is well-directed (by series regular Guy Norman Bee, whom I’ve always liked), so the pacing and production values are good. There is some original framing (particularly in contrast of character lighting and filming characters from weird angles like the ground) that increases the sense of paranoia and something’s-not-quite-right in the episode. There’s also some memorable acting from Jensen Ackles, as Dean begins to visibly decompensate. The reliably snarky Lindsey McKeon as Tessa tries hard, but it’s not a very good script and she doesn’t get a whole lot to work with. Unfortunately. I liked Tessa.

The writing doesn’t only suffer from major plotholes (like that ill-conceived decision to make Reapers into angels that the writers finally just dropped). Its subtext is also extremely chaotic. I often found following Metatron-centered episodes in Season 9 unnecessarily confusing with all the cross and double-cross and false flag crap, which was basically there just to mask underdeveloped plotting and characterization. It wasn’t satisfying.

A lot of fans blamed showrunner Jeremy Carver at the time, and he should take some licks for it, since he, at the least, allowed it to happen on his watch. But considering how badly the show went downhill in terms of mytharc after Carver left, I think it’s totally legit to call out future showrunner Andrew Dabb on trends and problems within his own episodes that would later pop up during his showrunner tenure.

The events of “Stairway to Heaven” make it pretty clear that the angels were tricked by a mean-spirited, cold-blooded plan by Metatron that brainwashed Castiel’s own troops into killing themselves, murdering innocent humans, and even assassinating Metatron’s own, most loyal forces, to “discredit” Castiel. Metatron’s motives are pretty thin and low stakes (for him). It’s not Metatron trying to win, let alone survive. It’s just Metatron being bored and messing around with pawns. He’s already won the most important battle and, without Sam and Dean (especially an amped-up Dean), neither Castiel nor any of the other angels would have a chance against him. If anything, angels, without their wings, are ridiculously depowered in this season and that hits a nadir this week.

Therefore, every time the angels in Castiel’s camp get mad at Dean or Castiel, or run off to become suicide bombers, or betray their own brethren so they can go to Heaven, they are (or should be) clearly in the wrong. And yet, Dabb can’t seem to resist casting Dean (and sometimes Castiel, when Dean’s not handy) as the bad guy. He has everyone question whether Dean is in control of his own bloodlust (because apparently, cold-bloodedly choosing to kill yourself, along with a bunch of innocents, because you’re too much of a coward to just off yourself, is so much better). This is a bizarre subtext take when Dean is (albeit struggling at it) maintaining control and doesn’t kill anyone this week (Reminder: Tessa killed herself).

Also, being in control in this context is vastly overrated, when Metatron is in clear control for most of the episode (especially after we get the reveal near the end). Yet, only Gadriel is the one who finally realizes that Metatron is the true villain here and then Dabb has him run afoul of Dean’s rage in the coda. So, Dean can’t catch a reputation break with Andrew Dabb even then.

I finally realized why later-season angels irritated me so much. They’re boring, yes, but they’re also cookie-cutter versions of the same one-or-two character types. Either they’re too robotic (and gullible) or they’re too human. Neither type is very mysterious or interesting (unlike Castiel or other memorable earlier angel characters like Uriel, Gabriel, Raphael, Balthazar and Naomi).

Take Hannah. She’s not very bright. A small houseplant could fool her. It irritated me a whole lot that both she and Tessa threw Dean under the bus with the other angels by pretending he had done things without their knowledge or consent that they’d given explicit consent to. This, of course, was Tessa’s last episode, but Hannah returned for a while and I think her wishy-washy, “both sides,” genteely racist characterization here damaged her reputation permanently with the audience.

There are others on the robotic side like her, but they’re barely in the story (one infodumping dude even wears a red shirt). She professes to be loyal to Castiel and willing to follow him everywhere, but “everywhere” doesn’t seem to include putting up with Castiel bringing the Winchester Brothers in to do an external inspection of the troops.

The Winchesters – Dean especially – are like Pinkerton detectives in a Dashiel Hammett story like “Red Harvest” (Love me some Continental Op), where nobody in the corrupt town is thrilled to see this canny investigator exposing their secrets and crimes. So, it makes some sense that the angels don’t welcome Dean with open arms.

The problem here is that the angels, especially in Hannah’s group, aren’t supposed to be that peculiarly human kind of corrupt, so it’s weird when they start hypocritically ranting at Dean or Castiel or whomever for crashing their nice little racket that isn’t supposed to be running in the first place. By the end of the episode, Hannah and the others were ready to bail on Castiel for very stupid reasons.

Similarly, while it’s obvious at this point he’s been having his suspicions of Metatron for a while, Gadriel has been mighty slow on the uptake for half a season. He seems to be seeing through Metatron now, finally, but he sure did a lot of damage in his boss’ name up to this point.

On the flip side, you have angels who are inexplicably too human. Angels don’t have gender, so why does Flagstaff sound like a Men’s Rights Advocate on 4chan’s idea of what a member of a Women’s Studies Program sounds like? Why is an angel like Tyrus going around calling other angels nerds (and why is he so careless that he doesn’t even show up to a meet with Metatron with a bodyguard, who would have stopped Constantine in his tracks)? Why is Metatron acting like the bullied kid in school looking for revenge when 1. he’s an angel and 2. he currently has all the power?

While I agree that “Stairway to Heaven” intends to show us that Dean is losing control and that the angels have a legitimate reason to fear him, I disagree that it was successful. In fact, I would call it a red herring that mutated horrendously due to the writer’s dislike of Dean as a character. Dean does not lose control in the episode until the very end – we know this because he didn’t kill any angels (Tessa committed suicide and effectively framed him for it), not even when they attacked him, bloodied his nose, and tied him to a chair. He could have, rather easily, massacred them all, but he didn’t. He didn’t even injure any of them.

Yes, the Mark of Cain has made him strong enough to match ten angels (without their wings) while holding back. And yes, he is struggling. That’s definitely true. But his motives and actions make more sense in this episode than pretty much anyone else’s. That also makes him the most sympathetic character because it’s easy to see where he’s coming from.

Dean is brought in, with Sam, by Castiel to help solve a mystery. Castiel then runs off to Montana on a mission he could (and should) have delegated to one of his troops. He leaves Dean alone with a bunch of angels who already don’t like humans and who know that he is there to find a killer among their own.

Even though they can’t kill him, Dean is in a vulnerable position with the other angels. They treat him with inexplicable disdain as if he’s Frankenstein’s Creature. I mean, they’re following Castiel, who has a much higher angelic body count than probably Dean’s entire lifelong body count, but Dean is the one who freaks them out? Like, what did you think you were doing there, Castiel?

So, when the angels are getting their knickers in a wad over what Dean’s doing, ultimately, he’s doing what he was asked to come in and do (and he does find and defuse one suicide bomber, which is more than anyone else accomplishes). Seems pretty unfair to blame him for … doing what he was asked to come in and do.

Not helping their case is how little the angels care about the fact that they had at least one traitor in their midst (Josiah) who was working for the enemy, or that at least three of their number (Oren, Tessa and Constantine) had been brainwashed into becoming suicide bombers who were murdering innocent humans (and, in Oren’s case, another angel on his side) as collateral damage. I rolled my eyes pretty hard when Flagstaff was going on and on about being a healer and helping humans, while covering for her angelic comrades who were murdering humans left and right. This indifference makes the angels look more petty and hypocritical than scared.

I mean, of course Dean is going to be pissed off that angels are going on rogue suicide missions that get humans killed. He’s human. Augmented human at this point, to be sure, but still human. He’s gonna side with his own people who are getting slaughtered in the crossfire of Yet Another Stupid Angel Conflict. Karen may have been a pushy bitch, but that didn’t merit a death sentence, any more than her son wanting a version of Angel Kid’s banana split or Selfie Dude wanting to take some foodie porn of his ice cream.

What’s especially bizarre is that the angels’ don’t-cross line is finding out that Castiel stole grace to re-angel up, enough that they were willing to abandon him en masse when he refused to kill (sorry, “punish”) Dean. They then went over to the angel who had vindictively kicked them all out of Heaven and taken away their wings. Because that makes sense.

This is why all the blatant cult parallels in the script fall apart for me. In the end, Castiel doesn’t really have that kind of control over his brethren. That’s just an illusion. And the brainwashed angels were brainwashed by Metatron, with Gadriel’s inadvertent help.

Another thing that didn’t make sense to me was Tessa’s characterization in this one. In fact, if she weren’t played by the same actress and didn’t have the same name, I’d question whether she was even the same character. The Tessa we saw in previous episodes was cold and detached and even arrogant. But she wasn’t fanatical and she didn’t hate Dean. She was dedicated to maintaining the Natural Order. Becoming a suicide bomber for a rebel angel is pretty much anything but that. The saltiest we saw her get with Dean was in Season 6, when she disliked having to babysit him for a day to teach him her boss’ lesson. It was a sad and underwhelming ending to a beloved character who had been around since Season 2. I read an interview with Taylor Cole once that said that around this time, the writers were having older characters come back, but only to kill them off. Yay. Screw you, Dabb.

Then there’s how this episode continued the retcon from earlier in the season of making Reapers angels. We can probably blame the incompetent Nepotism Duo for this one, but Dabb must have liked it because he went to town with it in this episode. It. Makes. No. Sense.

There is nothing in the lore prior to Season 9 that makes Reapers angels (even the execrable “Taxi Driver” from Season 8 was ambiguous about its changes). Death is, most explicitly, not an angel. Reapers have very different powers and nature to those of angels.

Yeah, I know this season also introduced (rather limply) the idea that there were “specialist” angels with their own powers, but even those angels shared basic powers and nature with other angels. Reapers don’t. They don’t have wings. They don’t possess people, prior to “Taxi Driver.” They don’t look like angels. They can’t be seen by humans unless they choose to. They have powers of illusion and even reality manipulation. They can stop time.

There is no logical reason, for example, why Tessa would happen to possess a vessel who looks just like the pretty illusion of her previous, incorporeal form that she used to comfort Dean in Season 2. Since Reapers don’t have wings, and Death is one of the most powerful beings in the SPNverse, there is no reason they would be blocked from bringing souls to Heaven. Nor is there any mention of what happens to souls going to Purgatory or Hell (I guess they still can?).

The show spent a lot of effort developing the idea of the Veil, but never quite committed to it. Eventually, they let it drop around the end of Season 11 (when a Reaper cleared it out at one blow). It was one of those hot messes of a major dropped plot in the later seasons, like how the lack of angels in Heaven threatened to make it fall apart and land in fiery pieces onto the Earth. That one went absolutely nowhere, despite multiple chances to resolve it. The Veil did, too, and Reapers were basically back to being just Reapers by Season 15.

I have to say that I found the casual way the script treated the morality of the suicide bombers very disturbing. Suicide bombing that doesn’t care about the collateral damage of innocents just seems to be one of those things that are bad, however you slice them. Like, oh, say, murdering babies (Anakin Skywalker, side-eyeing you forever). By making all of the suicide bombers white, the show seemed to want to avoid the taint of racism or Islamophobia (since many Americans see terrorists only as non-white, Muslim, or both). Unfortunately, they then cast a woman of color as their Fellow Traveler/Apologist character.

Worse, Kaären de Zilva is of Sri Lankan descent and that casting got used as some pretty questionable character subtext. Sri Lanka is a country with a major and problematical history of organized female suicide bombers called the Black Tigers, and this plotline was obviously inspired by them (the “elite unit” bit was a major clue). This puts a new spin on Flagstaff’s self-serving rant at Dean about hating “men like you” and it’s not a pleasant one.

It also makes little sense within the context of this story. Dean, far from being a soulless government operative, is an idiosyncratic freelancer from beyond the edges of respectable society, coming in at the behest of a friend – totally different dynamic, even without the original racial one. So, the show managed to whitewash this plot for the most part without removing any of the more problematical elements. That’s some feat, Dabb.

I got the impression that Dabb thought he was doing Jayne Cobb (“Let’s be bad guys!”) from Firefly, and Jayne’s rather rough-and-ready (and not too bright) approach to things, with Dean. But Dean has been coming off all season, at least internally, a lot more like River Tam. That’s a pretty fundamental lack of grasp with a character.

Now I said that Dean loses control near the end and this is true, but even then, his motives make more sense than anyone else’s. Sure, we the audience know that Gadriel is sincere … of course, we also knew he was sincere earlier in the season, too, and see how that turned out. He means well, but he does tend to be an unpredictably murderous, gullible flake.

But there is no way for TFW to know that he’s on the level. He has already betrayed them once in the worst possible way. It’s gonna take a whole lot more than popping up uninvited in the Bunker for a cup of tea to convince them that it’s safe enough to work with him again to let him back in.

The way Sam and Castiel respond sorta, kinda makes sense, but not in a way that makes them look very good. They’ve spent much of Season 9 blaming Dean for how things turned out with Gadriel and Castiel has also had a meeting with Gadriel pretty much behind Sam and Dean’s back. Sam, meanwhile, was possessed for half a season, so he missed a lot.

But they didn’t witness first-hand most of what Gadriel actually did. Dean, on the other hand, had a front row seat to the shitshow Gadriel put him through. He’s the one Gadriel strong-armed into kicking out Castiel while Castiel was lost and still human. He’s the one who got pinned to a wall and forced to watch while Gadriel used his brother’s body to murder Kevin. It is completely in character for him to attack Gadriel. Sure, the completely bonkers ferocity with which he does it is new, but he was bound to be pissed off.

Which leads us to whatever the hell Sam thinks he gets to do here, which looks an awful lot like what Magnus was trying to do to Dean, which was calling the shots while using Dean as his personal living weapon. Unfortunately, the episode’s writing never fully acknowledges that this is precisely what Sam is doing, so it sure as hell doesn’t have Sam recognize it. Sam seems to believe that the Mark of Cain is something that Dean can – and should – share with his brother, that Dean should be consulting with Sam about when and how to wield the First Blade, even letting Sam call the shots on that.

To quote a certain Amazon princess, “Where I’m from, that’s called slavery.”

Look, it’s totally legit for Sam to be freaked out by the changes going on inside his brother, the journey that Dean is on, and say so. I mean, Dean‘s freaked out. But there’s a difference between having healthy boundaries and trying to control the other person. A big difference. And Sam ain’t on the healthy boundaries side. The Mark is Dean’s cross to bear and the First Blade is Dean’s weapon to wield. There is no team involved. Dean is not Secretariat. He doesn’t need Sam to play jockey in order to be effective.

I think I’ve already said in past reviews that the Mark seems to have an effect on the people around the bearer of it and not just the bearer, that makes the bearer a victim of their manipulation and gaslighting (so perhaps this is another way for the Mark to isolate the bearer). We didn’t just see this with Dean. It was clear in what we saw of Cain’s story, too, and even what we heard about when Lucifer had it.

Its power appears to inspire envy and covetousness (despite its being a curse and a heavy one, at that), where others, in their desire to control it, seek to turn the bearer into a living weapon, enslaved to whoever can control the bearer. But Dean is not a living weapon. He is a person. And he deserves better from those who claim to love him.

Next week: Do You Believe in Miracles? (Season Finale): As Dean unravels, Sam and Castiel struggle to find a way to defeat Metatron. But a dark horse decision changes the entire game.

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

Like this column? You can help keep it going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee.

, or buying us a coffee.

16 thoughts on “The Official Supernatural: “Stairway to Heaven” (9.22) Recap and Review”

  1. I think part of the issue with the Angels On Earth storyline was you had SOME Angels that really liked being human (like Tyrus the Bowler or Ramiel the Fisherman — neither of whom had done anything except hijack a human body, which IS bad but they were not using that body to DO bad) and some like Bartholomew had ‘plans’ which were quite ugly.

    Oh I just realized Ramiel was a Prince of Hell, not an Angel. But it did seem that demons at a certain level (like Ramiel and Alastair) could take on and actually defeat angels. I wish they had just left Ramiel alone, he gave them chance after chance.

    So giving the Angels different ideas of surviving (like Gadreel’s friend who was in a family he loved) would’ve been interesting if they had just met more live-and-let-live-type of angels.

    I hated Tessa’s suicide. ALSO, the angels could have searched Dean’s mind for what happened rather than just demand his ‘punishment’ because ANYBODY could see Tessa had gone nuts from listening to the voices in the Veil.

    Also, just like Cupids were angels set for a different task (they do not APPEAR to be ‘Heaven’s Warriors’ to me) why not Reapers who were set aside in the beginning to facilitate Death’s tasks?

  2. Making reapers into angels was really stupid. Not only because they are nothing like angels, they also don’t answer to God/Chuck. They answer to Death. So unless Death is some sort of Archangel, it really doesn’t work. And Death as an entity, has never seemed much intimidated by Chuck. Even if Death is more of a person than an individual. Actually, I always took that as evidence that there is some unnamed entity higher than Chuck or Amara. Something that set up the position of Death and the manner in which it is filled. I’m sure it wasn’t Chuck’s idea. Or if it was his idea, and he only intended for humans, then that one got away from him.

    And now, a story. When I worked in Milwaukee, I had a patient one night, who refused to go to his room. He told us, “There’s a man in my room, and he’s going to kill me.” Well, we searched his room and the building in case of intruders, and found nothing. Except for anxiety, he gave no evidence of acute distress. Vitals were ok. By 3 AM, he was clearly very tired, so we convinced him to go to his room and lay down. Half an hour later, he coded. Only time I ever did CPR. He didn’t make it.

    A Reaper? Your guess is as good as mine.

    1. That…is creepy. Also, not the first time I’ve heard such a tale. Some people just know when they’re going to die and it can manifest in some really strange ways. Cats seem to keep the more malevolent forces away.

      I’m not sure if I’d want a sequel show to go higher/deeper than the Empty Entity, but I think exploring why Dean seems to be a judge of even God could be a fun lateral way to deal with it. Death may eventually reap God, but Dean has reaped Death. Twice.

      1. Yes. People in health care tend to gather stories like that. I’ve had a few odd experiences over the years which have left me with deep and unassailable belief in a spirit world. And the story I told is common enough to be a trope. I remember seeing a Twilight Zone episode when I was a kid that was eerily similarly to my real life experience.

        As far as a story about another higher or deeper entity, that just becomes impossible, because it opens the possibility for yet another, and another . . . Kind of like how one philosophical question begets another.

        Actually I sometimes wonder if a belief in God develops precisely because it creates a stopping point. You can just say “God did it” or “God said it” or whatever. Because turtles all the way down can be troubling – or fascinating. It might depend on your personality.

        Of course, I would watch any story that included Dean.

  3. You got it Aly, feral unleashed Dean is a sight worth paying admission for.
    They really didn’t show that enough and they whitewashed the massive misdemeanours of the other prominent characters to the point they looked more than a little hypocritical treating Dean as if he was and idiot ( more so than usual) or worse , a diseased killer puppy to wind up, point and go.
    The Angels? The started a bit dim, went through stupid to plain annoying and judgemental when indulging themselves in blasphemy taking innocent lives of humans against God’s direction. They should have gone home after season 5
    The only person this episode showing compassion was the one fast derailing . Dean showed kindness and support to Cass, he tried to understand and help Tessa. This was the same person who’s feelings, wishes and thoughts were disregarded all episode by his family, friends and former allies. Maybe the Mark was doing that, or enhancing it , but it’s not the first time Dean has been cast as the one out if sync, the problem child, only to be proved right later (remember Ruby?)
    Perhaps the thing the Mark showed Dean was a reflection of his own world at that time and proved to him the only way forward , the way to hang onto his own sense of self and be treated better, was for him to assert his wishes more forcefully, brooking no argument.

    1. One reason I loved “The Prisoner” was that we got unapologetically feral Dean for forty minutes. I kept thinking about Dean’s “I’ll come back with black eyes” comment whenever any of the angels (including Metatron) threatened or tried to kill Dean. I don’t think any of them could have taken him on in his demonic state.

      1. For so long Dean was bound to his familial duty and held back from following his own path by his love of his brother ( borne out on later seasons) Dean was also blind to the fact he was just an option in the lives of the people he was devoted to.
        As painful as the whole season was to watch in some respects seeing Dean at his lowest, the Mark of Cain gave Dean his first real taste of what freedom could be like. I think Dean found that so heady this was the point he realised the thing he truly wanted for himself was freedom, which is why in season 15 he was prepared to do whatever it took, having chased that dream so long.

        1. Yeah, one of the most frustrating parts of the series finale was that Dean finally got Sam to let him go, only to chain himself to some eternal car ride waiting for Sam to show up in Heaven. What the hell was Dabb even thinking with that?

          1. Honestly? I think Dabb copied and pasted many ideas from previous seasons trying to please people, which meant he didn’t even consider other options for Dean, even though there were possibilities Dabb stuck with one brother dies and the other has to go on format that became a recurring thing in the show. Recycling is his M.O.
            I understand that it was a “this is your finale, take it or leave it” scenario which left Jensen and Jared trying to make what they had work for us.

              1. Lexi did good as Miracle Winchester, leaving a lasting impression, she could probably put in guest appearances at conventions when they can resume!

                It was refreshing to see Dean so genuinely happy with his dog, somewhere to discharge all the love he has in him in a healthy way. A real high spot in the episode.

                1. It probably depends on how much money Creation would offer and how stressful it would be for her. I doubt they’d have her appear anything but Vancon, due to issues with bringing her across international borders, too.

              2. Ahh. Such a sweet rags to riches story for that dog. Have the shelters by you been much affected by Covid? My son just got a hefty raise, so he’s adopting a cat. (He’s wanted to for 2 years, but didn’t think he could afford it until now.) The attendant said they’ve never had so many animals. I’ve been going their off and on for 25 years, and it did seem pretty crowded.

                1. The shelters got clobbered. They shut them right down the end of March, then only had them available by appointment. We were getting a ton of desperate people even that early looking for homes for their fur babies. And then, when the shelters opened back up a few months later, there was a ton of pent-up fur babies dumped off. Even now, with the kitten season pretty much over, I’ve got some extra babies who are growing up before my eyes.

                  Glad “Miracle” got her furever home, too.

  4. I remember when the Show was talking up the fall of the Angels. The factions, confusion and search for vessels. And I remember thinking you all have bit off way more than you can chew. The idea was interesting but the execution, not so much. The angels angels for the most part were boring. Mind numbingly so. If the writers could have pulled off a Balthazar or Zachariah or Hell, even a Uriel… I loved Gadriel but hated Hannah and Naomi. It was a fairly uninteresting storyline to me. Show was bound and determined to ruin angels and demons and short of a few exceptions here and there, they succeeded.

    Poor Dean. Instead of understanding and support he was ridiculed and judged. Personally I loved all his angry, snarky remarks. I cheered each and every one of them. Take that Sam! Take that Cas! You tell them Dean! I wish they had let Dean go a bit more off the rails. Jensen would have rocked it even more than he already had. Sam and Cas commiseratied and tsk-tsked often over how Dean was getting worse but it was more tell not show. I wished they had unleashed more of the Ackting than they did.

    Is it my imagination or am I the only one that feels like when it came to these different variations of Dean that Show often held Dean/Jensen back. On a leash. Rarely letting him really go there. Example: I loved the scene where Sam and Cas had to hold the feral, snarling MOC driven Dean back from slaughtering Gadriel.

    1. I think he was definitely held back on a leash. Rather than have him outshine Sam, they held him back. They could have given Sam some growth, too, but for whatever reason, they just didn’t.

      I was disappointed with how they did the angels on earth. They were just so … dull.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *