Category Archives: Supernatural reviews

The Official Supernatural: “Carry On” (15.20 – Series Finale) Recap and Review

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

Recap: Pretty standard recap of Chuck’s defeat and Jack Sue’s ascendance, with a brief bit about Castiel’s death.

Cut to Now. Dean is waking up to his alarm at 8am (Why would he set his alarm now? Is that supposed to mean he’s sleeping better?). As he sits up, Miracle the dog runs into the room and jumps up on the bed. Dean cuddles him. Yep. They kept the dog. Frankly, this is the best part of the episode. It’s all downhill from here.

Sam is outside running on a walkway. Both scenes are scored to Van Morrison’s “Ordinary Life.” Instead of “Carry on, Wayward Son.” He comes in and is cooking eggs when Dean strolls into the kitchen, rubbing his eyes (Since when is Sam a good cook?). We then see Sam, shirtless after getting out of the shower, but we only see Dean in his jammies and bathrobe because reasons. If you’re not a Sam fan, don’t expect a lot of fanservice coming your way in “Carry On.”

Later, Sam neatly makes his bed, while Dean half-asses it. Dean washes the dishes (and sneaks the dog some scrambled eggs), while Sam reads a book and does laundry in a rather rickety old dryer. Dean cleans a saltgun, then checks his watch. It’s 10am. He’s in his laptop in the Library, Miracle beside him, as Sam strolls in. Sam sits down and checks out his own laptop, commenting that there’s nothing of their kind of job on social media. Dean doesn’t answer at first. He’s got something.

Cue title cards.

They arrive … at the 43rd Akron Pie Festival. Dean is near tears of joy. He gets six different kinds of pie as Sam sits and waits. Sam mopes about Castiel and Jack, but Dean says that the only way to honor their “sacrifice” is to continue on. But when he offers Sam some pie, Sam pushes it into his face and exclaims that he does feel better, after all. Behind them, a very familiar looking bystander (director Bob Singer doing a cameo) laughs.

At an upscale house, a generic white dude is checking the mail, while his sons play a board game in the living room. As Mom calls them up to bed, a shadow passes behind the front door and then the doorbell rings. Dad goes to answer it, but there’s no one there. Then he’s stabbed to death from behind as he turns back. Two men in skull masks enter the house.

Mom, horrified, turns to the boys and shouts, “Run!” They race upstairs and she after them, as the two men stalk up behind them. The mother shuts the boys in their bedroom, where they hide under a bed. She screams outside as one of the skullface attackers does something to her that makes her collapses to the floor. The kids, hiding under the bed, are dragged out from under it.

Cut to the next day, with Sam and Dean coming up to the house. They talk briefly to a young policewoman, who infodumps that the dad’s throat was ripped out and his body drained of blood (kind of hard to do that to an already-dead body). The kids are missing, but Mom is still alive, albeit with her tongue ripped out. She drew a picture of the skullfaced guys.

Exit Young Policewoman.

Dean says he recognizes the drawing and Sam agrees. Back at the Impala, which is parked under a tree, Dean pulls out John’s journal. It turns out that John once went on a hunt near Akron. It involved a drawing of the same skullface, the same parental murder MO and kids going missing. He was never able to track down either the kids or the cause. Dean is convinced it’s mimes. Sam says it’s more likely to be vampires.

Using the pattern, the Brothers figure that the next target will be a house outside Canton with young kids. Later that night, the skullfaced house invaders do, indeed, show up at such a house. But before they can ring the bell, Dean beheads one and Sam shoots the other twice (once in the skull) with bullets tipped with dead man’s blood.

Once the vamp wakes back up, he’s unmasked and Dean (who is mock-disappointed not to get mimes this time) starts interrogating him. I have a good laugh remembering that time episode writer (and, sadly, final showrunner) Andrew Dabb bragging that he always tried to find the motivations for their MOTWs, what things are like from their POV, because this vamp is stupid. And ridiculously cocky. Well, at least, until the Brothers point out that they have ways of making a beheading take a very long and painful time.

So, it turns out that these vamps have a ridiculous MO, with elements (like the tongue getting ripped out) that are never explained. They kidnap a couple of kids every few years (Cocky Vamp calls it a “harvest”), feed them up well for a while – and then kill and eat them. Lovely. We segue off his once-again-smug face to the Impala arriving outside a barn (I love how no farmers ever seem to notice that shenanigans are going on inside their barns in these episodes).

Sam wonders if it’s really the place.

Dean: Dark? Creepy? Something out of Wes Craven’s erotic fantasy? It’s 100% the place.

As they arm up, Dean wants to bring in some shuriken for once (instead of just the old machete standby), but Sam firmly nixes the idea. For some reason or other. I’d think that shuriken soaked in dead man’s blood would be – oh, I dunno – useful, maybe.

Into the barn they go. It’s wide open and kinda decrepit inside, with hay bales here and there. As the Brothers move through the barn, machetes at the ready, we see they’re stalked by two vampires in skull masks. They hear a noise coming from a door. Dean pulls it open and they find the kids inside a small closet.

Dean quickly and quietly instructs the boys to come out, but just as they’re turning around, they see four vampires blocking their original entrance. Dean tells the kids to run in the opposite direction as he and Sam turn to face the vamps.

The Brothers take the fight to the vamps (Dean calmly saying “Okay”). Sam gets first blood by beheading one vamp, but then gets tackled and knocked out by another one. Dean kills another vamp and disarms one, but then gets pinned down by the two survivors. A woman strolls in, wearing black leather. Dean recognizes her. We get a final “son of a bitch.”

We also get a quick flashback to Season 1’s “Dead Man’s Blood.” In case you (like probably most of us) forgot all about Jenny, she was the victim who got turned in the episode and escaped with the Vampire King’s mistress Kate at the end.

As the other vamps yank him to his feet, Dean starts a jocular conversation with Jenny to distract his enemies from noticing that Sam is waking up and going for his machete. Dean asks if Jenny’s “the Big Boss” now and she says, no, she “just called dibs.”

If you’re expecting any more explanation of where these vamps came from or what their deal is or how Jenny is involved with them or if this is even the entire nest, forget about it. Just as she shows teeth, Sam whacks her head off from behind. This precipitates another fight as Dean breaks free. Dean takes on the bigger one and Sam the smaller one, and Sam still gets his ass kicked hard before he manages to behead the vamp.

Dean is beating pretty hard on his opponent. He’s momentarily tossed across the room past a piece of rebar sticking out of a post for some totally random reason. When he charges back in, the big vamp manages to pick him up and run him across the room again, shoving him up against the rebar.

Some fans are griping that the complaints that Dean got shoved onto a nail are inaccurate because it was actually rebar. Folks, nails and rebar are both fasteners and the set design placed the rebar as if it were just a big nail (not least because rebar isn’t usually used in wood and doesn’t stick out at an angle like that). I’m guessing the logic went something like, “We need Dean to get impaled on a nail, but nails aren’t big enough, so let’s use rebar.” Also, rebar gets rusty pretty quickly, which is a real problem in preservation of things like historic concrete.

Short version: This is not the in-defense-of-stupid-writing hill you want to die on.

Dean is still trying to push the vamp off when Sam comes up behind the guy and beheads him, too, ending the fight. Yes, that’s right – Dean only gets to behead one of the four vampires.

It takes Sam a moment, in the middle of talking about finding the boys and getting them home, to realize that Dean is not coming off the post and that this is because Dean is stuck to it. Dean has to spell out for Sam, using small words uttered past a wall of pain, that he has a piece of rebar stuck through his back. Sam reaches behind Dean and his hand comes back with blood, but Dean won’t let Sam pull him off it because he figures he’d just die sooner.

Ah, Show, you never did bother to learn about anatomy. If this thing were going through Dean’s heart, he’d be dead, already. Ditto if it were going through his Aorta. It ain’t that small. So, just what part of Dean, dear Mr. Dabb, do you think it’s stuck into such that he can’t be pulled off it and rushed to a hospital? He could survive a sucking chest wound, so the lung (which is also back there) shouldn’t be it.

Sam starts to go get their med kit or call 9-11 or do something useful. Instead, he listens to Dean, who woozily begs him to stay with him and proceeds to give a Dying Swan speech. Sure. Listen to the guy going into decompensating hypovolemic shock about his medical care.

Dean tells Sam to take the kids and get away (not that there are any vamps left, as far as I can see). He tells Sam that “you knew it was always gonna end like this. It’s supposed to end like this. Saving People, Hunting Things,” as if he hasn’t been desperately avoiding that fate for years.

When Sam insists he will “find a way” to save Dean (like, I dunno, calling 9-11?), Dean insists that Sam not bring him back from the dead (“It always ends bad”), even though he’s not dead, yet. He then says he’s starting to fade out and “there are some things I need you to hear.” Oh, Dean, even as you’re dying, you have to prop up Saint Sammy.

Pulling his brother closer, Dean tells Sam that he’s “proud” of him (even though Sam was being a total brat to him just a few episodes ago). He starts blowing smoke up Sam’s ass about how Sam was always smarter and stronger than he was, and even stood up to John when they were kids. He recaps the moment in the Pilot when he went to find Sam at Stanford. He says that he “stood outside your dorm for hours” because he was afraid Sam would reject him and it had always been the two of them (well … except the two or four years Sam was at Stanford and the year Dean was in Purgatory, and … ah, never mind. This scene is clearly intended for the Bibros).

Sam starts ugly crying and begs Dean not to leave him. In a total reverse lift from the Pilot, he says, “I can’t do this without you,” Dean says, “Yes, you can,” and Sam replies, “Well, I don’t want to.” Ugh. Reading this script, you’d think this show only ever lasted one season because they sure harp on Season 1 a lot.

Dean then tells him that he’s not “leaving” him, that he will always be with him (he touches Sam’s chest). He even uses the phrase from Jared Padalecki’s mental health charity, “Always keep fighting.” He tells Sam he loves him. He figures he didn’t anticipate this being his last day, but, hey, who does? Then, as the pain starts to overcome him, he shakily begs Sam, “I need you to tell me it’s okay,” over and over again, until Sam tearfully takes his hand and does. Sam adds, “You can go now.”

Dean smiles and lets his hand fall to Sam’s. He says, very quietly, “Goodbye.” Then his hand drops as his head falls forward and he loses consciousness, a single man tear streaming down. The camera cuts to a wide shot of the inside of the barn as Sam really cuts loose with the ugly crying.

I’m wondering why Sam is crying, since now he’ll get a version of Dean who never embarrasses him, never talks back, never argues, because he’ll be imaginary. Wasn’t that always what Sam wanted?

Jensen Ackles does a fine job of acting this slow fade-out, to the point where you can even see Dean’s eyes glazing over and he’s starting to choke for air. And those seem like real tears coming from Padalecki. But damn, the writing in this scene is bad. And it goes on forever. This scene clocks in at seven minutes. That is too damned long, Show. Also, it occurs to me that this scene is written more like a breakup scene than a death scene, in which Dean wants to move on, but feels bad about leaving Sam behind. That dissonance undercuts the emotion rather a lot.

Cut to an external shot during the day, with Sam standing next to Dean’s funeral pyre, Miracle sitting beside him. Dean is wrapped in a shroud. After some hesitation, Sam tosses the lighter onto the pyre and we get an aerial shot as it quickly goes up in a fireball. It’s a whole other long montage, y’all, this time set to Dire Straits’ “Brothers in Arms.” It’s a good song (about a dying soldier on the battlefield during the Falklands War), but like a lot of good songs used to shore up weak writing on the show, it doesn’t save this scene, or this episode.

Cut to inside the Bunker. Sam is now waking up at the same time as Dean (8am), rather than earlier, as he was before. We see him in the kitchen, wearing Dean’s hoodie (I think it’s Dean’s, but Sam has worn similar ones before) and distractedly cooking scrambled eggs, then moping in the Library, staring at the carved initials on the table, while poor Miracle sits between his legs, desperately trying to signal that he needs to go out and pee.

Sam then visits Dean’s room and sits on the bed, apparently really seeing the room for the first time – the two beer bottles on a nearby table, two saltguns on the wall. He starts to cry, while petting Miracle, who moans sadly, missing Dean (who would have remembered to take him for a walk). Sam then notices a paper on Dean’s desk (some have said it was an application for a job as a cop, which seems bizarre, considering Dean didn’t like law enforcement). But it turns out he’s actually noticing Dean’s Other Other Phone buzzing in the desk drawer, amid a bunch of other phones.

When he answers the call, it turns out to be a cop down in Austin, TX, asking for an Agent Bon Jovi. He’s had some bodies turn up, sans hearts, and another cop named Donna Hanscum gave him this name and number (Oh, hey, good to know she got un-dusted, eh?). While struggling to keep it together, Sam says he’s coming down. We then see him pack up and leave with Miracle (There’s something sad about the way that poor dog has to struggle up the steps), but he turns the lights out on his way out. Seems he’s not coming back. I found this the saddest scene, as in real life, they’ve since torn down that set.

Cut back to the moment when Dean’s body went up in smoke. We see Dean arriving in a mountain clearing. He immediately realizes what’s happening and says, “Well, at least I made it to Heaven.” (Someone asked the very cogent question on Twitter of which Reaper would be willing to ferry Dean’s soul anywhere but The Empty after the events of 15.18.)

Dean hears a familiar voice behind him. It’s Bobby. And he’s sitting outside a roadside bar. It is, in fact, Harvelle’s Roadhouse without the Harvelles. Or Ash. Dean is confused. He doesn’t know what memory this is. He’s even more confused when Bobby tells him it’s not a memory at all. That’s because Dean thought Bobby was still locked up in heavenly jail by the angels – also, that’s how Memorex Heaven is set up.

Bobby proceeds to infodump that Jack showed up, busted him out of “lockup,” made Heaven one big continuous place where everyone is happy (Considering these are humans we’re talking about, I doubt it’s that simple), and “set some things right.” ‘Cause the silliness in this episode was not complete without some offscreen deus ex machina from Jack Sue.

Oh, and “Cas helped.” And that’s all they say about Castiel. Apparently, all of this (including John getting let into Heaven to be with Mary, despite being an abusive dad for 23 years, and Rufus shacking up with Aretha Franklin over the next hill) was to make Dean happy.

Bobby: It ain’t just Heaven, Dean. It’s the heaven you deserve. And we been waitin’ for ya.

Bobby pulls out two beers, hands one to Dean, and says, “It’s a big new world out there. You’ll see.”

After swigging the beer, Dean realizes it’s just like the first one he ever shared with his father, which was terrible beer, objectively speaking, but evokes a wonderful experience. Dean opines that Heaven is “almost perfect,” and Bobby tells him that Sam will “be along.” Bobby adds that “time works differently here.”

[screech!] Wait, what? Okay, besides the whole timey-wimey thing being a direct ripoff of Ben Sisko inside the Wormhole at the end of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, what happened to Dean wanting to move on? I mean, Dean stopped Sam from getting medical help, let alone anything involving black magic. He was clearly suicidal, which means he wanted to get out of life and leave Sam. So, why is he mooning over Sam now? That makes no sense.

Also, excuse me, but what about Miracle? Is he just chopped liver? Dean clearly loved that dog and it’s been heavily implied since “Dog Dean Afternoon” that at least some animals go to Heaven (okay, maybe not that pigeon).

Bobby asks Dean what he wants to do first. Glancing over, Dean sees the Impala (with its original KAZ 2Y5 plates) sitting nearby and says, “I think I’ll go for a drive.” As he starts her up, we finally get Kansas’ “Carry On, Wayward Son” and Dean comments that he “love[s] this song.”

As Dean revs off down dirt roads and plenty of scenery, we see Sam back on Earth with a young boy (helpfully labeled “Dean” on his toddler overalls). Miracle is now gone, with no explanation. Young Dean grows up with a totally normal life, playing catch with Dad while an off-focus, nameless, dark-haired Mom character in a dress watches from a picture perfect farm house. Because Eileen Who?

Later, we see Sam, now wearing glasses, helping Young Dean with homework. We see he has a photo shrine to his family in the living room. Still later (while Dean is still having fun driving around up in Heaven), we see a much-older Sam, with a really terrible Dollar Tree wig that looks like a Senior Citizen ferret, enter a garage where he keeps the Impala under a tarp. Looking depressed and arthritic, he gets in the driver’s seat, takes off his glasses, grips the wheel, and unhappily reminiscences.

Much later, we see Sam in a hospital bed at home (so, presumably on hospice) with a heart monitor. His son, now full grown and sporting an anti-possession tattoo on his arm, comes in.

Sam has a full beard, and looks old and decrepit. He’s wearing an oxygen cannula. His son tells him the same words he once told Dean, “It’s okay. You can go now.” Sam smiles at his son, and as a much slower tempo cover of “Carry On, Wayward Son” starts (not even remotely a fan), he clasps his son’s hand and dies. As his son cries, we pull back to see the photo shrine and two stained glass windows.

Cut to Heaven, where Dean is arriving on a bridge from his jaunt and a generic acoustic guitar version of “Carry On, Wayward Son” starts up. He’s wearing the black jacket and red plaid shirt that he wore in the Pilot. He gets out and goes to the railing, looking over the river with a wistful smile. Then he gets a look of recognition and smiles broadly. “Hey, Sammy,” he says and turns around. Sam is there, looking the way he does at the beginning of the episode, but wearing his clothes from the Pilot. They hug and look over the river.

Credits (for the showrunners)

We get a brief coda of Ackles and Padalecki in the same clothes on the bridge. They each thank the audience, then the camera pulls back to show Jim Beaver, Bob Singer, and the crew on either side of them.

More Credits (for everyone else)

Ratings for this new episode went up to 0.4 in the A18-49 demo and 0.5 in the A25-54 demo, as well as 0.2 in the A18-25 demo, and 1.38 million in audience. The retrospective leading into the show got 0.3 in the A18-49 demo, 0.4 in the A25-54 demo, 0.2 in the A18-25 demo and 1.195 million in audience. The series finale the highest audience for the show since 14.18.

Review: This is gonna be long – like, even-longer-than-my-”Swan Song”-review long. And if you loved the episode, you should probably stop here. Sorry in advance.

Okay, this episode was pretty bad. No, it wasn’t so bad that it makes me want to throw away my DVDs or not want go back and finish up the retro reviews (which is how I did feel about “Swan Song.” I hated that episode). I didn’t see it as homophobic or racist, as some disappointed fans have claimed, though there were some really questionable decisions regarding the (absent) female characters. So, it wasn’t a worst case scenario.

But Lord, it sure wasn’t good, either. I’m pretty sure that if the show had actually bothered to ask Dean fans what we wanted as a good ending for him, the collective answer to “Carry On” would have been along the lines of “Mmm, not this.”

The best I can say about “Carry On” is that it only really ended Sam’s story. For Dean, it was just another Thursday. The show basically wrote Sam out by detailing the entirety of the rest of his mortal existence. Dean, on the other hand, finally broke up with Sam (yay) and moved on to a higher plane. But then the show had him … drive around in a car in Heaven until Sam showed up. Really? What does that say about Dean that he had nothing better to do with his heavenly days but wait for Sam? He couldn’t have at least gone looking for Castiel?

That kind of passivity is totally OOC for Dean in recent years. We’ve seen that Dean gets up to lots of things when Sam’s not around. Hell, Dean downright blossomed as a person whenever Sam was absent. So, shoving him back into the eternal cubbyhole of brotherly codependency and holding Sam’s cape, while Sam went on to have a normal human life, was gross. In the end, the show insisted on going back to the obsolete idea that Sam was the only protagonist in the story and that everyone else (including Dean) existed just to get him further down the road. Wow. That’s really cynical.

And no, Show, it didn’t help that y’all made Sam look totally miserable the entire time he was having the apple pie life. How is that fair to his (nameless cipher of a) wife and son? He couldn’t even enjoy his life with them a little bit for their sake? Come on, what is wrong with y’all? I feel sorry for the writers’ families if this is truly how they perceive their loved ones. Holidays sure must be fun Chez Dabb, Kripke and Singer.

This looks like a pretty good spinoff idea to me

Now, on the plus side, that car ride concept was really vague. Bobby did say Dean could do whatever he wanted up there and it does seem that Heaven was restructured largely to make him happier (which, not-so-coincidentally, made a whole lot of other human souls in Heaven happier, too). Lots of things Dean could have been doing, while waiting for Sam to show up, for that inevitable spinoff the network still desperately wants. Singer and Dabb may have done their utmost to burn this all down as they went out the door, but they didn’t quite succeed (or maybe the network wouldn’t let them).

I think you could fit an entire series of any length in there about Dean and Castiel fixing up the SPNverse to make it a kinder and fairer place (make some arrangement with The Empty, break Benny out of Purgatory, give Kevin either a life or a free ride to Heaven, check up on Rowena, that sort of thing), so that Sam and his family and people like them could live a normal life, saf(er) from monsters. Throw in the Wayward Sisters as allies/weekly protags and for MOTWs to keep the budget reasonable. I would watch the shit outta that. In fact, if this were twenty years ago, I might have sat down and written the series, the way I wrote that Joe and Methos series after Highlander ended and Raven gravely disappointed me (and I liked Amanda, too) (https://thesnowleopard.net/arch2.html).

But this episode? Nah, I didn’t cry. I was too annoyed. It was self-indulgent and maudlin. And even with months and months for the showrunners to come with something good, it felt half-assed and slapped together, writing-wise.

A brief(ish) Master Class on endings

So, let’s carry on and carve up this turkey, and while we’re at it, let’s have ourselves a Master Class in how to end a story.

First of all, remember how Eric Kripke had his Author Insert character Chuck claim at the end of “Swan Song” that “endings are hard”? That’s a load of bollocks. Endings are not any harder than the rest of the story, if you have set that story up properly. Both “Swan Song” and “Carry On” weren’t good because the writers did not set them up properly. Not only were they not good endings, they weren’t even good episodes.

Lack of proper setup for the ending we got is the real reason why, for example, so many fans hate-hate-hated the endings for How I Met Your Mother and Game of Thrones. In How I Met Your Mother, the writers kind of resolved the central conflict of the title, but then made it utterly pointless by killing off the Mother and getting the male protagonist together with a regular female character they felt he had more chemistry with. If that’s not a big “screw you” to the entire premise of the story, I don’t know what is. It’s always a bad idea to make fans feel they’ve just wasted several years of their lives watching your show.

Of course fans felt they’d been served a bait-and-switch since that’s precisely what it was. They’d been baited with the idea they were watching a story about how the protagonist was going to meet The One, then the writers switched her out for a different character entirely.

I doubt there would have been too many objections to it turning out that Robin had been the Mother character all along, and that the audience was being shown that meeting and courtship without having realized it. That’s not a bait-and-switch. That’s a reveal. There is nothing wrong with a reveal, especially if the pairing was already popular. But, for whatever reason, the writers didn’t do that and they ended up ruining the entire series for a whole lot of fans.

The Game of Thrones showrunners managed to ruin its ending so badly that mainstream media gleefully reported on the backlash, at least one spinoff/prequel got scuppered, and the two of them went into hiding as their careers hit a massive iceberg. Now, Benioff and Weiss got their jobs thanks to blatant nepotism and White Guys Failing Upward Syndrome in the first place, so they may well have a comeback down the road. But it’s going to be a while.

So, what happened?

For a start, Benioff and Weiss badly misread the zeitgeist room. Turning a unique, heroic, popular, female lead character on a dime into a supervillain may have been sexist and misogynistic at even the very best of times, but if there were such a best time, #MeToo 2019 sure as hell wasn’t the year. It would be as if the Canadian dark fantasy show Lost Girl‘s showrunners had listened to the fans who whined that getting Bo together with Lauren as the Final Couple was too conventional and gotten her back together with Dyson, instead. Not sure where two women in a love triangle getting to run away together and live happily ever after is the conventional ending, but I’d like to live on that Planet Lesbos, please.

As far as Game of Thrones, apologists continue to maintain that the character who went nuts and burned a city always had the potential to go that way (partly because many of them were fans of her rival, who was a far more, uh, traditional Lady Macbeth type who got men to do her dirty work for her). Well, yeah, Daenerys had a dark side, but so did all the characters who survived the end. I mean, one of those survivors slaughtered an entire house and served its patriarch his own sons in a pie. Yet, they all got happy Disney endings they didn’t deserve.

Plus, the revolutionary message this character promoted that “Slavery is bad” got jettisoned in favor of yet another reactionary round of “Let’s put another ineffectual king on top for no good reason and have another civil war 15 years down the road about our choice because having a ruling queen is so much worse.” Benioff and Weiss didn’t help their cause by having pitched an alternate history series in which the Confederacy (and slavery in the United States) survived the Civil War, that HBO took its sweet time passing on. “Meet the New Boss, same as the Old Boss, and it’s that grand?” was not a well-received message in 2019. It’s aged even worse in 2020.

And it’s not as though it’s hard to figure out how to do an ending to either of these shows. In one, the protagonist meets Mother and we find out who she is. In the other, someone wins a throne. It’s not that hard.

Let’s look at an ending that did work (or that the fans did at least end up accepting and that didn’t ruin a franchise). Revenge was a nifty little serial on ABC about a young woman named Amanda (or was she?) whose childhood was utterly ruined when her father was arrested and sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit and she spent much of her adolescent years in a child’s psych prison (basically). It turned out her father David had crossed the patriarch of the most powerful family in the Hamptons by sleeping with his wife Victoria (who turned out to be the one responsible for getting Amanda sent off to the poorhouse and, if possible, was even more evil than her husband).

Amanda returned as a young woman, determined to have revenge (hence the title) on this family. In the process, she hooked up with a bunch of allies the family had also screwed over. She ingratiated herself into the family by dating the son and getting engaged to him (much to Mama Victoria’s impotent rage). She had a plan. The uncertainties lay in whether or not she’d be able to pull it off and whether or not she’d lose her soul (metaphorically, since this wasn’t fantasy) in the process. It’s no coincidence that the series finale is called “Two Graves.”

When it wasn’t clear if they would get a renewal after season three, the showrunners wisely decided to end with an absolutely brutal (but apparently final) ending. First of all, the patriarch managed to bribe his way into a prison escape (after having his crimes exposed and being handed a long sentence), only to be knifed and left dead on the road by a man who turned out to be Amanda’s long lost (and presumed dead) daddy. Meanwhile, Victoria murdered by poison a man with whom Amanda had fallen in love (I did say she was worse). Devastated by her lover’s death, Amanda managed to get Victoria committed to a private psychiatric facility, where no one believed her protestations of sanity – probably because vindictive Victoria was nuttier than a Christmas fruitcake.

It was bitter. It was apt. And frankly, it was just where Victoria should have ended up.

But then they got another season.

The show then reunited Amanda near the beginning of season four with her father in a troubled, but psychologically realistic reunion, broke Victoria out of her One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest accommodations after a few juicy episodes, set the three of them on a collision course – and, oh, yeah, revealed that Victoria’s troubled and angry daughter was actually David’s kid and Amanda’s half-sister. And they left the dead patriarch dead.

In the end, David ended up shooting Victoria stone dead when Victoria was about to shoot Amanda (who ultimately never killed anyone in the entire series, as she once bitterly pointed out to someone who got salty about her vigilante ways, in the midst of accepting her help). Amanda got married to her childhood love (the wedding allowing a logical gathering of the show’s surviving characters) and reconciled with her sister, after spending some final months with her father, who was dying of cancer. Storylines got wrapped up, questions were answered, emotional moments were properly milked, and characters got what they fully deserved.

Oh, and by the way? Both seasons three and four spent the entire season building up to those endings. Was the show overwrought? Yes. I mean, just look at all the ellipses in the above paragraphs – and I simplified a lot. Were the storylines pure nighttime soap? Quite frequently. But I can about guarantee you that if you got hooked on the show and wanted to see how it turned out, you wouldn’t be sorry.

Revenge is not unique in this respect. Breaking Bad, The Good Place, Battlestar Galactica (the remake), Defiance, Lost Girl, Smallville, Being Human (the U.S. Version), even Sons of Anarchy, all of these shows managed to stick a satisfying landing. It’s. Not. That. Hard.

Look, any of the cliffhanger endings for the first four seasons of Supernatural, as brutal as they were, would have been good endings in the “But what happens next?” sense. Ditto if the show had ended with 15.18. Sure, a lot of fans would have screamed about it for years (and can you blame them?), and it would have been bleak as hell, but it would have worked. These were episodes where central conflicts were resolved and important questions answered, even if the resolutions and answers were not happy ones. At the very least, how many fans really would have kept yelling that Dean was a homophobe if our last actual shot of him had been his ignoring Sam’s call, while weeping in despair over Castiel’s death?

On a happier note, Season 11’s ending with that London Men of Letters nonsense coda taken out would have worked fine. Just have Dean meet Sam and the rest of TFW at the bar or back at the Bunker, cue a bro-hug, and it would be all good. As for those screaming that Sam got mostly left out of the resolution of the s11 Amara plot, hey, Dean held Sam’s cape for most of Season 5, too. It’s not as though Sam has received no mytharc love in this show.

Like an hour-long music video, with commercials

So, what didn’t “Carry On” (or, for that matter, “Swan Song”) get right? I mean, aside from the fact that the writers set up this whole final confrontation with The Empty the past few episodes and then didn’t even mention her in the series finale? A major problem with both episodes is their basic structure. Whenever you think of “Carry On” (or “Swan Song”), tell me the words “really long montage” and/or “episode-long music video” never pop up.

Sure, earlier seasons had a lot of montages to Classic Rock, including “wasting” great songs on beginning recaps. And I’ve even complained in those early season reviews that there were times when the back-to-back songs from Kripke’s childhood mixtapes got a bit much. But as often as those montages could be overkill, they usually involved actual story, rather than a rushed plotline (Sam’s “happy life” after Dean, Dean driving the Impala through pretty, heavenly forests and mountains – it was pretty obvious which actor was having the most fun filming those scenes).

And it was quite annoying when the showrunners decided a while back that all that Classic Rock was no longer necessary on a weekly basis. In fact, the recent lack of Classic Rock was all the more glaring for what they shoved into “Inherit the Earth” and “Carry On,” especially when they replaced the original Kansas version of “Carry On, Wayward Son” with what some fans have called the “Evanescence version,” a horribly insipid cover that they used for the climax of the story in the fourth act for some unknown reason.

But “Carry On” and “Swan Song” were almost more montage than they were anything else. There is, for example, that self-indulgent montage about the history of the Impala at the beginning of “Swan Song” that is now somehow more infuriating for being smugly narrated by what we now know was a manipulative and uncaring God. I don’t have anything against learning more about the backstory of the Impala, but a long and boring montage at the beginning of what could have been the final episode of the series was not the time or way to deliver it.

Why is Heaven so dull?

Similarly, okay, the scenery was spectacular during Dean’s drive near the end of “Carry On,” but that whole scene felt completely out of place. It didn’t look anything like how we’d seen Heaven in past episodes (personally, I loved the nighttime nod to the cover of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” in the episode of the same name, much more interesting than the Heavenly Cubicals concept in later seasons). Dean made it pretty clear when he commented that it wasn’t a memory of his (when talking to Bobby), that he had no emotional connection to it.

So, why is this now part of his view of Heaven? Why are we having this montage set to scenery that has no emotional resonance or meaningful subtext for Dean and his life journey? What is the show trying to say about him in this scene? That he always loved to live his life on the backroads of British Columbia? As usual, the writers’ intent for Dean is left too murky and subject to interpretation, while theirs for Sam is banged home with no subtlety whatsoever.

I’ve heard that the bridge where he eventually stops and meets Sam is the same one where they encountered the Woman in White in the Pilot (or, at least, is supposed to represent it since that bridge was in California and the bridge at the end is in North Vancouver). This is backed up by the show dressing Sam and Dean in the same clothes in Heaven we saw them wearing in the Pilot. Why would Dean want to remember that in Heaven?!

I have no idea why the writers hate Dean so much, but I wish they’d stop

There’s a scene near the beginning of “Carry On” that sums up for me how disrespectful the showrunners (and too many of the writers) seem to be toward even one of their own leads, let alone the show’s recurring characters. It’s when Sam shoves the pie into Dean’s face, while showrunner (and director of the episode) Bob Singer giggles in the background. As with the driving montage, there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to it. Sure, Dean loves pie (and this may have been a prank Jared Padalecki played on Jensen Ackles, per pie pranks they both used to play on guest directors who were also actors on the show), but why is it in here? And why does Bob Singer have a cameo in it?

Later, in the middle of that interminable scene when Dean dies for the final(?) time, I was struck by how they had actually fridged one of their leads to motivate the other lead. Sure, they’d fridged Dean in the past to motivate Sam, but since this was the final time, it seemed especially aggravating. Once again, they had taken all the amazing character development and mythological significance they had built up for Dean for who now knows what reason just two episodes ago and ditched it in order for Dean to be, once again, All About Sam. Even in Heaven.

To this day, I still don’t know what hair the showrunners (except for Jeremy Carver) and some of the writers had across their asses about Dean and Jensen Ackles, but I wish they’d gotten over it. Or at least grown some professionalism. The writing inside the show was bad enough, but I can’t even with all the passive-aggressive snark they slung his way in interviews for 15 seasons. It was as if Wesley from “Wishful Thinking” had been running the show these past few years.

Let’s talk about representation

This is why I have such mixed feelings about calling the show “homophobic.” Over the years, Supernatural has actually had a lot of quite-good representation. For example, people complain about the lack of racial representation (please, as if this isn’t a problem endemic to the television and film industry), but I saw other shows copy the Agent Henriksen character for years after Supernatural wrote him out (after three seasons) and Sterling K. Brown, who played Gordon Walker, went on to win a well-deserved Emmy for his work on This Is Us. That tells you something about how far ahead of the curve the show already was on that score.

I will definitely agree that shows like Black Lightning and films like Black Panther (RIP Chadwick Boseman, who would have turned 44 today) are much better representation of African Americans than Supernatural ever could be, but they also came out over a decade after Gordon Walker and Henriksen were introduced as recurring and important antagonists on Supernatural. It was a very different television landscape in 2007.

Similarly, the show has had quite-broad representation of GLBT people. When I see complaints about the show’s alleged lack of representation, I see a lot of errors. For example, complaints very often get the number of GLBT in the show and their fates wrong (Alt-Charlie and her girlfriend were alive as of 15.19; Kaia is not dead and got back together with Claire after escaping the Bad Place; the two guys from “The Chitters” were still alive and together last time we saw them, ditto the two bow-hunters who got cupided at the end of season eight). Some are simply left out, either gatekept (I can’t even with those who claim Crowley wasn’t gay, or that he surely couldn’t have had that really obvious fling with Dean during their “Summer of Love”) or forgotten (remember Jenna from the Season 11 premiere? Nobody else does). And while I had a lot of problems with what happened to the Banes clan (notably, how two women of color got fridged to motivate a male family member), the gay kid was still the only survivor.

I’d also like to point out that all of the above did confessions of love and had active sex lives (including original Charlie, who lasted four seasons of alley-catting after other girls before being fridged for totally different reasons), but weren’t killed off right after them. The show also had Godstiel declaring in the Season 7 premiere that he didn’t give a hoot about sexual orientation (God is fine with gays, homophobic bigots not so much), Charlie briefly going to Heaven with her family in the Oz episode (being gay doesn’t condemn you to Hell), alt-Charlie having the same sexual orientation as her Earth Prime counterpart (that you’re born gay, that it’s not just a “lifestyle”), asexual and gender-swapping angels and demons and even monsters, references to gay marriage years before it was made legal, and major characters like Dean being pretty okay with all that.

So, we’re really talking about Castiel and Dean, and yes, there are major problems with those two characters and their respective fates. It’s just that they were hardly the only rainbow characters on the show and the show explicitly demonstrated tolerance toward GLBT when it wasn’t yet fashionable and other CW shows certainly weren’t doing it. Credit where credit is due.

I guess Dean and Castiel weren’t protagonists, after all

Let’s talk about Dean and Castiel. Someone rather bitterly (but not inaccurately) said on Twitter that if Dean had never come for Sam at Stanford, Sam would have gone on to become a lawyer, get married, have kids and a normal life, and Dean would have died by some monster, young and alone. Fifteen seasons later, Sam went on to get married, have kids and a normal life, and Dean died (relatively young) by some monster. Others noted (equally bitterly) that Castiel got killed off saving Dean, only for Dean to die pointlessly two episodes later.

So, I guess Death and the Natural Order won, after all. Somewhere in The Empty, Billie is having a good laugh at the Winchesters’ expense.

These two points have merit and there’s a reason for that. The fact that the showrunners catered to fans who wanted 15 versions of Season 1 was a huge part of the problem with the finale.

First, quite aside from whether or not Dean was gay, Dean was always That Character who was a wacky, unstable, somewhat-morally-gray foil for the Traditional Hero. Basically, the showrunners always saw Dean as the Sidekick and a Sidekick’s death is what he eventually got.

Sam then got the Hero’s ending where he retired and had a Life. Yes, he was reunited in Heaven with Dean (while Dean waited around for him), but that was just re-casting Dean in the Dead Girlfriend role. Instead of Jessica waiting for Sam in Heaven, it was Dean. Castiel, of course, got killed off because he was a bromance rival for Dean’s affections (remember how viciously jealous Sam was about Dean’s friendships with Benny and Crowley? Like that).

So, it made sense that fans got salty. I remember getting into the show back in Season 2, in large part because I liked Dean and was surprised the show hadn’t yet killed him off. I guess they were just taking their time.

I’m sure the writers didn’t consciously think it was anything personal, but when you had Kripke and Dabb (who were heavily influenced by Vertigo comics), and Singer and the Nepotism Duo (who were stuck back in 1990s genre writing, at best) at the helm, it’s probably not a surprise that in the end, they never broke that mold. Annoying that they ended up fluffing Sam like a Pan Am Airline pillow? Yes. Disappointing? Definitely. But not really surprising.

It’s still homophobia, even if you didn’t mean it

This is where you get the misogyny and homophobia. I’ve talked in the past about how male script writers, despite professing to despise romance, use its tropes all the time to avoid accusations that their male leads might be gay (for each other). We see this a lot with Sam and Dean in earlier seasons. Dean snarks about Sam engaging in “girly” pursuits like theater, while Sam appears to be more ostentatiously “liberal” and socially sensitive (Dean even ruefully admits this in “Scarecrow” very early on).

But we soon find that this is just a mask for both of them. Dean quickly begins to show both bohemian and egalitarian views. There’s the snark about Sam being like the “normal” daughter on The Munsters or Dean’s handing Kat the saltgun in “Asylum” simply because she knows how to handle a gun and her date doesn’t (it doesn’t matter to him that she’s a girl). Dean is the brother who is used to “validate” the existence and experiences of gay characters and couples in the story, who learns many lessons about tolerance over the course of 15 seasons. It’s also shown that his first love was biracial and we see him bond with both Gordon Walker and, eventually, Agent Henriksen.

In contrast, Sam is defined by his desperation to fit in to whitebread, straight, patriarchal Middle America. He is very conventional in a lot of ways and either ignores or even rejects opportunities to grow beyond that. He has a rigid law-and-order side where he pretty much has no use for the convicts in “Folsom Prison Blues” and couldn’t care less if the ghost kills them or not. He doesn’t react at all to gay characters because he never has close conversations with them and therefore, we never see any growth in that area. Similarly, he only dates white girls and there’s never even a hint that he’s attracted to any women of color. If anything, his irrational antipathy toward Billie is a tad problematic.

And Sam is always … uh … more traditional, shall we say, in how he interacts with female guest stars. It’s just kind of funny how the Sam-oriented female characters always fall into the Damsel in Distress (or Femme Fatale) mode, whereas Dean meets a much broader range of girls.

This leads us to the second point. From almost the very start, one of the showrunners’ favorite online gags was to have ordinary people mistake Sam and Dean for gay lovers, no matter how much they protested that they were brothers. This trope is fairly problematic in that even characters who fancy themselves “liberal” (such as the guy in the Christmas shop in “A Very Supernatural Christmas”) can’t seem to conceive of two straight guys traveling the country together, let alone demonstrating affection toward each other. Surely, they can’t be brothers. They must be gay.

While one could argue the writers were satirizing the tendency of some Americans (particularly on the West Coast) to mouth liberal values while having loads of unexamined conservative ones under the surface, I don’t think most of the writing was that deep. As in, I don’t think that was intentional satire so much as the writers’ unexamined cultural values oozing out as unintended subtext. Ben Edlund, lookin’ right at you.

It gets yet more more problematic in the Brothers’ varying reactions. After initially trying to correct people, Dean generally just rolls with it (in “Bugs,” for example), while Sam gets suuuuper uptight. Now, admittedly, the incest angle does make it squicky, but I don’t think that’s why the writers were making Sam clutch his manpearls over it.

Remember that Sam was always show creator Eric Kripke’s Author Insert and fictional alter ego. It seems pretty clear that while Kripke wanted everyone to see Sam as tolerant (because he’s supposed to represent Kripke’s own values and to make Kripke look good), he really didn’t want anyone to think Sam was gay. After a while (mercifully), they got tired of baiting the Wincest crowd and dialed it way back. That wasn’t until after Kripke left, though.

But the writers were not done with this. We also had the cracks about the Brothers’ looks – especially Dean’s – and some really rapey stuff aimed at Dean. I mean, after all the male monsters who sexually assaulted and/or tried to kill Dean, it’s a surprise he didn’t end up homophobic.

Yeah, we had some uncomfortable stuff for Sam about prison rape from Fauxifer in Seasons 6 and 7, but most of the rapey stuff (like the infected guy threatening Dean with a good time at the roadblock in “Croatoan”) was aimed at Dean. Male characters very, very frequently commented on Dean’s looks in a hostile and condescending way, while women complimented Sam’s. We even got a shirtless scene for Sam in “Carry On,” with none for Dean.

We did have scenes like Ted Raimi’s character Wesley in “Wishful Thinking” complaining (erroneously) that both Brothers’ good looks made life easier for them. But most of the time, the show commented positively about Sam’s looks (like all the drooling various women did over Sambot in Season 6), while Dean’s good looks were often played for laughs. He was too pretty, too … you know … metrosexual to be accorded respect as a “real” man. You had things like the “It’s like staring at the sun” line from “Tall Tales” on one end and on the other, you had the mean-spirited “Ken Doll” line from “How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters.”

Every time such a line popped up, I’d be reminded of how often the showrunners and writers looked like trolls coming out from under a bridge whenever they appeared at cons. Sure, they’re just ordinary-looking people, and they’re getting paid for their wordsmithing not their looks. Nothing wrong with that. But they’d show up at SDCC in faded t-shirts and old jeans, frequently looking like complete slobs.

Most of them didn’t even try to dress up for media appearances (only the women, funny that). They were like That Guy who shows up to your blind date wearing the same clothes he’s been gaming in for three days. You tried to dress up a bit because you wanted to impress this dudebro, but could he be bothered to impress you? Nope. He felt entitled to your presence and attention.

The Supernatural writers, especially post-Season 11, too often acted like that – entitled to our attention, not obligated to tell us a decent story, and frequently feminizing the entire audience as “irrational fangirls,” then being patronizing about it. Yet, they also spent 15 seasons collectively looks-shaming Jensen Ackles in a pretty homophobic way. There was a whole lotta problematical going on there. Too often, the writers came off like Black Pill Incels ranting in some obscure chatroom about “Chads” like Dean. Worse, yet, they spent a lot of time slutshaming Dean, simply for liking to interact with the women he had sex with, as real people who also liked sex.

It didn’t help that around Season 6, after Jensen Ackles answered a con question about ad libbing on the show, lead showrunner Bob Singer made a bitchy comment that all the lines belonged to the writers and there was hardly any ad libbing. Then, come to find out, the writers would actually write stuff in where they’d expect Ackles to ad lib. This was not the only time Singer would downmouth Ackles in interviews. I don’t know what Singer’s problem with Ackles was, but I wish he’d dealt with it better.

Chekhov’s Saltguns on Dean’s wall

The worst part of it was the pointlessness of Dean’s death. I’ve seen the fanon excuse that it was because Chuck wasn’t writing the script, anymore, so they no longer had plot armor. First of all, we saw Hunters on the show who hunted for decades without getting killed. Yeah, it would happen eventually, but Sam and Dean were experienced Hunters and those Juggalo vampires were lame. Also, I guess I’m glad we finally know Jenny’s toast, but I wanted to see Kate buy the farm, actually. That was an underwhelming and underdeveloped final MOTW. Dean deserved a better exit.

This “Oh, Sam and Dean couldn’t possibly last for long without Chuck’s help” excuse is nonsense. Nor is it a good excuse for Dean only managing to kill one vampire while Sam killed three (and didn’t end up impaled on some rebar). It’s long been canon that Dean is a better Hunter than Sam. That he’s got far more experience. Hell, right after his defeat, Chuck was the one who called Dean “The Ultimate Killer.” So, don’t sell me this nonsense, Show, that you killed Dean off like that because it was “realistic.” Talk about violating the precept of Chekhov’s Gun.

Second, Chuck already took away the Brothers’ plot armor several episodes ago. What they had while fighting him in the final third of season was the luck they got from Fortuna. It didn’t come from Chuck, therefore it wasn’t about to evaporate once Chuck got depowered (and why the hell would Jack decide to take away any plot armor Chuck gave to Sam and Dean, anyway? Aren’t we supposed to believe Jack loved and cared for them?). So, no, it doesn’t make any sense for Dean to just die like that.

There’s a writing principle I’ve talked before about called Chekhov’s Gun (Thanks to Mandi Gordon for reminding me). This was first introduced by Anton Chekhov, a late-19th century Russian playwright. It basically states that any elements introduced in a story should have a purpose, or they don’t belong in the story. Chekhov’s analogy was that if you had a rifle on the wall, it needed to be fired at some point in the story, preferably sooner than later.

As I’ve said in the past, the show had many, many Chekhov’s Guns for Dean that they never fired. In fact, it became almost a running gag for the writers to introduce stuff for Dean that would have been momentous for Sam, or indeed any other character, and then dismiss it as not important. For example, Dean has killed two versions of Death, the latest just two episodes before the end of the show. But basically nothing came of it. You risk disappointing your audience with that kind of nonsense.

Normally, the writers were much more assiduous about making sure all of Sam’s Chekhov’s Guns got fired off, but they even left some big ones lying around for him. Notably, they built up a romantic relationship with Eileen that went nowhere (pretty literally), to the point where we never even learned her ultimate fate. But they also carefully built up this idea of Sam as the Hunter King to the alternate universe Hunters, before simply ditching all that in the series finale when he retired.

Now again, as I said before, my problem with Dean’s dying was not his death per se as the pointlessness of it. Dean was loooooonnnnng overdue (since before his Mark of Cain storyline) to leave his mortal life behind, to change state and become a fully supernatural being. He kinda had to die a mortal death for that to occur.

If, for example, the show had bothered to remember that he had once been Death for a day and have him come back as the new Death (being the first “Reaper” to die since the previous Death did). I’d have been okay with that. In fact, that would have been a great way to resolve The Empty storyline (Dean agrees to help The Empty Entity go back to sleep) and get Castiel out of there. And it would have fired off the Chekhov’s Gun of Dean subplot interactions with Death all these years.

If, when Dean first arrived in Heaven, Bobby told him that Sam would be along presently, and was having the normal life he’s always wanted, but that Heaven needed Dean now to put some things right, I’d have been okay with that, too. That would have explained the timing of Dean’s death much better. Hell, it would have been really nice for the writers to remember that Dean was the Servant of Heaven, so of course Heaven was changed on his behalf.

But the show didn’t do any of that and it never intended to do that, as far as I can tell from the cast and showrunner interviews.

Instead, we had toxic codependency taken to cosmic levels. And this is coming from someone who didn’t need a stereotypically happy ending. I wanted a good ending, one that made sense. This is a horror show and there should have been a horror ending that showed something important and final (or at least cyclical) about the SPNverse.

Disappointed actors galore

One could argue that if Jensen Ackles was fine with all this nonsense, who are we the audience to judge? Well, for one thing, I can still love Jensen Ackles to bits and still say that something he said he loved that Dean did on the show didn’t work for me. For another thing, Ackles is on record as not liking the ending.

I won’t exaggerate what he said and claim that he hated it (his exact words were “I wasn’t feeling it”), but he says that he and Jared Padalecki were called to a meeting a year ago last summer with the writers where the writers pitched them the idea for this final episode and he did not like it. He claims that after a conversation with Eric Kripke, he reconciled himself to it, but since it’s doubtful he could have backed out of it or changed anything, I suppose it doesn’t matter whether he ever started to like it or not.

So, if they could even do that to one of their leads, I guess it’s no surprise what they did to other recurring characters (and I’m not just talking about Castiel). At least Castiel got a single mention, along with Jack. I mean, I couldn’t care less about Jack. His story seemed quite finally over at the end of 15.19, but he did get mentioned.

But for the rest, it was Oh, Yeah, Donna Told Me To Call and Eileen Who? (since 15.18). Okay, so Covid had hit by the time “Carry On” was filmed, but one single friggin’ line of dialogue from Sam, a conversation on the phone where we only got his side of it, hell, a text, even, and they could have had him go off with Eileen for the rest of their lives. It felt as though the show intentionally isolated Sam and Dean from everyone else in the final episode so they could once again become codependently focused on each other for the hot minute Dean got to enjoy having total Free Will (oh, we will get into that in just a bit) before he was fatally hung up on a nail – literally hung out to dry by the writers.

Also, what was with the total lack of guest stars not named Bobby Singer? Come on, Show, you do special effects all the time. You couldn’t have greenscreened some people into Heaven? Or had them on Zoom calls or speaking from off-camera? Or at least given them some shoutouts like Mary and John and Rufus, had a bit more expositional dialogue instead of the endless montages and forcing Ackles into an interminable death scene in which Dean spends the entire time blowing smoke up Sam’s ass? What happened to wrapping things up?

Saving People and Hunting Things? Not so much

It doesn’t help that the apparent original ending (bringing back a bunch of guest stars at the end to greet Dean in Heaven) was loaded with Unfortunate Implications. I mean, I actually quite liked the final coda, where the crew appeared with Ackles and Padalecki on the bridge. That was a nice shout-out to the real heroes of the show (it definitely wasn’t the showrunners and writers, most of the time).

But.

Consider the implications of such a scene. The entire point of Saving People and Hunting Things is improving people’s lives by saving innocents from predators. If they’re all in Heaven now, that means Sam and Dean failed because everyone they saved died before even Dean did. That’s depressing.

Even more depressing is what Sam did after Dean died. He retired. Not only did he retire, but he shut down the Bunker, locked it up, and took it away as a resource for other Hunters (I mean, did he even go to that hunt in Austin?). We don’t even know what happened to Dean’s dog.

This basically erases Dean’s legacy on the earth. So, what if Sam named his son Dean (Why couldn’t the kid have been a daughter?) and gave him an anti-possession tattoo? He essentially burned down the network he and his brother had built up and just … walked away. And ended up in a nasty old wig from Dollar Tree.

Padalecki has claimed that five years actually passed between Chuck’s defeat and Dean’s death. He also claimed that Eileen was the woman in the blurry background, that Sam married her (Then why didn’t she end up in Heaven with him? And what was she doing while Sam was still living in the Bunker with Dean?).

This just makes it all the more infuriating that the script and the direction didn’t bother to make these things clear. It would have been so easy to put up a damned title card that said “Five Years Later,” or to have some dialogue. Ugh. To think that of all the possible endings they wasted over a season showing and implying, that this would be the most tedious and least interesting. No wonder Becky was underwhelmed.

And then the fans weighed in

Since “Carry On” aired, the social media response, on both sides, has turned a bit … strange. Unsurprisingly, there were those who really loved it and those who really hated it and the former (predictably) got pretty defensive (and fan shaming) about it. That might be because this finale was very obviously aimed at the J1/Bibro/Bronly fans and only them, and they have been notorious from the early seasons for being the smug, gatekeeping, tosser True Fan types in the fandom. I always found the Kripke stans especially exhausting and if I never hear “This show should have ended with Season 5” again, it will be too damned soon.

So far, anyone in between furious and furiously defensive is being rather quiet. Unfortunately, some of the cast have taken the brunt of the fan rage so far. Aside from some snark about the rebar prop, Jensen Ackles has been dead silent, even while being called a homophobe left, right and center. Jim Beaver left Twitter completely after speaking up in defense of the writers.

Misha Collins got in trouble with the fandom (please leave poor Misha alone) for trying to say that there was no network conspiracy to bury Castiel as soon as he made his confession of love to Dean (which was probably true).

Andrew Dabb, having already embarrassed himself with the claim beforehand that probably only about 30% of the fandom would be happy with the ending (he may have been overly optimistic), posted some very strange tweets that may have been mocking the fandom, or may have been promoting his next project. Either seems equally tone-deaf and I know I won’t be checking it out. Several people suggested he learn to read a room.

When head showrunner Bob Singer said right before the finale came out that it would be quiet, with not a lot of FX, I thought, Uh-oh. That sounded like a self-indulgent, mostly-plot-free clips show. Sadly, I was not wrong.

The reaction, of course, began with 15.18 and the debate over whether it was a Bury Your Gays trope. I noted at the time that the trope didn’t really fit because Castiel’s final fate was really left up in the air. Alas, the most Castiel got this episode was a single line that implied (but didn’t actually confirm) that Jack had broken him out of The Empty. And it seems that it was pitched to Misha Collins as Bury Your Gays.

But it came across more as Disappear Your Gays, in which a character declares his/her love, then vanishes from the story, even when they don’t die. Dean did beg Chuck to bring Castiel back in “Inherit the Earth,” and smiled when he was told that the reformation of Heaven was partly Castiel’s gift to him, but Castiel himself? Nah.

Then there was the weird case of the Spanish dubbing that added in an “I love you” response from Dean. Yep, it got real strange. The thlot’s been a-pickenin’ with this one.

I gotta say that if you thought “Inherit the Earth” was a white-bread sausagefest, “Carry On” was so much worse in that category. In fact, if you think the salty IMdB reviews for “Inherit the Earth” were fun, you really should check out the ones for “Carry On” because they are glorious. My personal favorite is the one entitled “It’s bad y’all!!” where the reviewer declares, “Even with the bar on the goddamn ground, I didn’t expect the writers to tunnel under it like gophers.”

I get that, as Jared Padalecki explained, it was too onerous for some of the guest stars to come up and spend two weeks in quarantine, but some (such as Samantha Ferris and Chad Lindberg) were never even asked, not even before Covid hit. The Roadhouse just ain’t the Roadhouse without the people in it.

Did they really just say that suicide is painless?

But it’s not just that the women (especially the Wayward Sisters), the people of color (RIP Billie), the gays (hey, Castiel got a line, I guess), and those with physical disabilities (Eileen Who?) were written out. What was really problematic was taking a character who struggled with mental illness, with depression and suicidal ideation and substance abuse, for 15 seasons – and killing him off just as he had reached a point in his life where he was happy. The Supernatural writers literally gave us the message that the only way Dean could ever be happy was if he was dead, that Heaven was the only escape from despair, even as they had him pimp the mental health charity the leads had created.

What kind of message is that?

I suppose it’s most fitting that the show ended, not with what was on-screen, but with the fans taking center stage on social media and cyber-bitchslapping the hell out of the showrunners. But please, guys, leave the poor actors out of it.

Well, anyhoo, this isn’t really the end of the Supernatural experience for me, since I’ve got over 40 episodes left to review. Who knows? By the time I “catch up,” we may have some spinoff news to talk about.

So, let’s get back on the road and I’ll see all y’all next week.

Next week: Stairway to Heaven: Angels are suicide bombing other angels in Castiel’s name. When Sam and Dean investigate, it gets Dean into a whole lot of trouble.

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: “Inherit the Earth” (15.19) 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.

Tonight, the final episode of the show, “Carry On,” airs after a one-hour retrospective. Feel free to comment about the episode below as you watch it.

You can find a promo, photos and a synopsis here for 15.20. Maybe someone can make heads or tails of it.

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: Brief recap of the past two episodes. Cut to Now in Kyoto, New York City … and then they run of budget and we get British Columbia masquerading as Middle America – sorry, Hastings, MN. Sam and Jack are wandering around in a daze, looking at a wrecked car, as the Impala pulls up and Dean gets out. Boy, Dean sure made it there in record time.

When Dean gets out, Sam states the obvious: “Everyone’s gone.” Not just humans, either. There are still trees and other plants, but all the higher animals are gone, too. Sam asks Dean if he saw anyone else and Dean says no. Jack asks where Castiel is and Dean about breaks down right there. He explains what happened to Castiel in the last episode, that Billie was trying to kill them, and Castiel summoned the Empty to take her out, getting killed in the process.

Sam is in denial that everyone could possibly be gone, even though Dean tries to bring him down to earth. As Sam starts calling Jody and Garth, and getting voicemails, Dean goes to Jack and apologizes for not saving Castiel. We get a telescoping view out, up and away from the street until we can see the entire Earth in space, just sitting there.

Cue title cards.

While Jack waits outside, the Brothers enter Sammy’s Highway Cafe. Music (pretty sure it’s Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty”) is still playing, food on the shelves. There’s a soccer game on the TV, but no players on the field or fans in the stands. As Dean turns off a tap (astute regular commenter here, AlyCat 22, noticed that the beer was from Jensen Ackles’ brewery, FBBC, and is called “Ghost Ale”), Sam is starting to realize that yup, everyone on Earth appears to be gone for real.

Outside, Jack forlornly and pointlessly calls out to Castiel. As he heads inside, all the plants he passes by wither and die. Inside, Sam is tailspinning. He blames himself for everything because he was stubborn two episodes ago and just had to scupper the latest Get Chuck plan to save themselves and their un-dead friends. Now everyone on Earth is dead. Dean starts to contradict him, then just lets him roll on because, well, Sam’s not wrong about that. When Sam starts to throw in the towel, though, Jack protests that he can’t just give up.

Cut to an urban night scene outside a curious building that looks like a modern ziggurat. Sam and Dean are waiting for Chuck to show up. And, presumably because he’s bored and wants to gloat, he does.

The Brothers offer him a deal – they will kill each other, just as he wants, but he has to bring everyone back, first, including Castiel (this is Dean’s request) from The Empty. Chuck gives it a microsecond of thought, then says no. As much as he savors watching them “wave the white flag,” he likes this new story better. He gets to watch them and their “pet” Jack “rot” on an empty Earth, all because “you wouldn’t take a knee.” He looks at Sam (so does Dean) while saying this and Sam looks really uncomfortable.

Cut to Jack lying on his bed inside the Bunker. Sam is wandering down the hallways with a coffee cup. He finds Dean passed out on the floor, head on top of a bottle, in the Library, and wakes him up. Dean is mighty hungover.

Jack then looks puzzled and comes out in his pajamas. He says he “senses something.” After cracking a joke about how he senses that they need to get some aspirin, Dean asks how Jack can sense anything, when he’s “powered down.” Jack says he doesn’t know, but he knows there’s a “presence out there.”

They get in the Impala and go investigate at an abandoned gas station, the Top Buz: Route 66 (a rather obvious call-out to the original inspiration for Supernatural, 1960s road show Route 66).

Dean finds the “presence” first. It’s a dog, which Chuck “somehow missed.” Immediately calling it “Miracle,” Dean picks it up and brings it out to the car. Sam snarks about Dean actually liking dogs, now (Well, Sam did sleep through half of “Dog Dean Afternoon”). As Dean puts the dog in the backseat, he comments that it’s only been a few days since the “Rapture.” But then the dog dusts out and Dean looks up to see Chuck smugly watching him from a field before vanishing.

In the car that night, while Jack sleeps in the back, Dean is upset that they “couldn’t even save a friggin’ dog.” Glumly, Sam says the lack of people left to save may be the point. You can’t save people or hunt things if there are neither people nor things left to save and hunt, I guess.

They arrive at a church, still at night. Turns out the dog wasn’t the presence Jack sensed. That presence is in or near the church, as lightning and thunder flash all around. Jack states the obvious that they may be walking into a trap. They go in, anyway, because really, what else is there to do at this point?

They pass under a crucifix to find an empty church full of lit candles that haven’t burned down (remember that it’s been a few days) and open liturgical books strewn about.

“So, you survived,” someone says behind them, from the doorway they just entered. They turn around and Sam says, “Michael?”

Michael explains that he’s been hiding out inside this church (a St. Michael’s) since “the Rapture began.” He’s been avoiding using any powers that might attract his father’s attention. Sam asks him about Adam and he says Adam got raptured, too. Dean mourns that poor Adam “could never catch a break.” Michael asks how they survived and Dean says it’s because Chuck “has a sense of humor” and wanted to strand them “on an empty planet” for funsies.

They ask him what he’s doing there. He says, “I never spent much time on Earth.” He’s been reading up on what humans think (well, thought) of God. It turns out that after Chuck left Heaven, Michael was so sure his father would return that he got all the angels and prophets to “burnish” his father’s image as much as possible. So, believers loved God a whole lot, through many religions. Unfortunately, now that his father knows that he helped Sam and Dean, Chuck’s a bit pissed off at him. Dean points out that they did “reach out to him” again before it all went higgledy-piggledy. Jack asks how he feels about God now.

Michael loses some of his arrogance and his shoulders slump. Dean glances again at Sam.

Back in the Bunker, Sam shows Michael Billie’s God’s death book. Michael tries to read it, but he can’t even open it. He tries hard, though. He does make the book all glowy and stuff for a moment.

Sam and Dean sit down for a talk on the steps to the Library (going down to the bedrooms), Dean with a beer. Sam says they need to get God’s death book open, but they have no current options about how to do it. Dean says that means they’re “screwed.” Then he gets an odd call on his phone (well, any call on his phone would be odd). It’s from Castiel. When he answers it, Castiel’s voice sounds weary and hurt, saying he’s just outside.

Still holding the beer, Dean races up the steps to the outer door and opens it to find … Lucifer.

Dean can’t slam that door fast enough. The look on his face is hilarious.

Nevertheless, Lucifer is able to fly in and land on the floor below them before Dean can get the door shut. He explains (well, infodumps) that The Empty is very, very angry with Chuck, having gotten exploding Jack all over her and killed Billie and all. She resurrected him to go find God’s death book and read it for her. His plan is that he also brought back a Reaper with him (named Betty), who appears as a chained and gagged young woman. Lucifer kills her with his archangel blade. Being the next Reaper to die since Billie, she resurrects as Death, with both the scythe and the ring.

Dean moves forward cautiously to untie her gag. She rewards him by head-butting him. She then stands up and bursts her chains. Betty is just as sarcastic as Lucifer and demands the book from the Brothers in belittling terms. When they bring her to the Dungeon, where it is, she tells them reading it is “not a group project” and shuts the door in their faces.

Michael comes into the Library, where Lucifer is making a house of cards (cheating by TKing them together). Michael is not at all happy to see Lucifer, especially when Lucifer mocks him for getting no more love out of Chuck than anyone else ever did, for all his loyalty and devotion.

Their family spat is interrupted, however, by Betty, who calls all present “asshats,” then proceeds to read from the book. She doesn’t get very far, though, before Lucifer turns her to ashes from across the room. Bye, Betty. Note that the only way to kill Death is to use their scythe on them, but considering this episode is written by the same tedious incompetents who once claimed Lucifer was the oldest son of God, it’s probably just a big plothole.

Anyhoo, Lucifer TK’s the book to him and brags about how Chuck was the one who actually busted him out of The Empty. He’s also been souped up a bit, as he easily dodges Michael’s blasts and knocks him down with his own blast from across the room – after knocking Sam and Dean across the room, too.

Lucifer then turns to Jack and suggests he join the Chuck Team, since that’s the only way he will be leaving the Bunker alive. Jack winces in pain as Lucifer mocks him. Michael then sneaks up behind Lucifer and stabs him with his archangel blade, which the Brothers had snuck to him. Jack winces again and looks dizzy as Lucifer blasts white light out of his mouth and eyes, and then bursts into embers.

Later, Dean meets with Michael in the kitchen, gets a beer, and asks how he’s doing. Michael admits to being a bit “winded,” having not fought anyone in “several centuries” (Oh, so, now, they remember that Hell time is different from Earth time? What about “Taxi Driver,” then?). He’s also hurt that Chuck chose to resurrect Lucifer from The Empty rather than “reach out to” his eldest son.

Dean speculates that Chuck is so afraid of what the book contains that he sent someone else, rather than come in person. Michael says the book is useless without Death to read it, but Dean begs to differ, now that the book is open. He says that Sam thought he recognized some of the symbols in it, that they looked like Enochian, and is trying to decipher it using the Book of the Damned (Why not ask Dean, whom we know has been able to read the Book of the Damned when he had the Mark?).

Later, we see Dean getting drowsy over research in the library. Jack is sitting nearby, reading a book. Michael comes in and fake-casually asks if Sam has had any luck in deciphering Billie’s book. Sam walks in and says that he has been able to “piece together” a spell that can create “an unstoppable force.” But it has to be done in a specific spot at a specific time of day (Conveniently, this spot is in North America). Off they drive to that spot, a secluded beach along a peaceful lake.

Sam and Dean set up three bowls, while Jack and Michael watch. Then they light them up. The bowls shoot three blasts of white fire into the sky and then fly apart. Nothing else seems to happen.

Dean asks why it didn’t work and then Chuck shows up. Chuck blasts Sam and Dean one way, and Jack the other. It turns out Michael sold them out and warned Chuck about the spell. But Chuck is still mad about the time Michael “sided with the Winchesters.” Even as Michael begs for his life, Chuck blasts him into nothingness.

As the Brothers crawl to their feet, Chuck tells them he’s bored now and is “canceling your show.” Sam figures he might as well get a lick or two in as he goes and punches Chuck. It has little effect. Chuck makes the Brothers crumple with pain, but just as he’s about to snap them out of existence, he has a better idea. He’ll just beat them to death. And boy does this scene go on for a while. Neither of them will give up or stay down, even as Chuck keeps telling them to lie down, and breaks some bones and pulverizes their faces. They get up, even when they have to support each other.

Chuck is confused about why they’re smiling. Sam says it’s because “you lose.” Chuck turns around to see Jack standing there. When he approaches him and snaps his fingers, Jack is unaffected. Then Jack’s eyes glow. He grabs Chuck’s face and kinda … sucks out all his power, basically, while sad violins loudly play. Their faces glow and get veiny. Then Jack lets Chuck drop to the ground and turns to the Brothers, still glowing. He snaps his fingers and they’re instantly healed. They approach Jack and Chuck, and Sam picks up God’s death book.

On the ground, Chuck wonders what happened and Dean replies, “We won.”

Chuck’s confused. So, this is how it ends for him? Sam drops the book in front of him and says to look for himself. But when Chuck scrabbles through the pages, the pages are blank.

Dean and Sam take turns infodumping the plan they had. It turns out that after Chuck sent Lucifer, they realized that Michael was jealous and desperate to get back into Daddy’s graces. So, they set him up with a fake spell to lure Chuck there. The real plan was to get Jack, who had turned from a bomb into a divine power vacuum (Well, Adam and Serafina did say he would turn into a black hole), to suck up enough energy to be able to defeat Chuck.

Chuck desperately tries to claim this is why they’re his “favorites.” This is the first time he doesn’t know what comes next. Will they kill him now? He’s practically ecstatic about goading them into killing him, especially “Dean Winchester, the Ultimate Killer.”

With a mix of disgust and pity, Dean says, “Sorry, Chuck,” but as Chuck is cringing at the final blow, Dean and Sam both just walk away. Dean turns around to tell Chuck that that’s not who they are. They aren’t just killers. Sam quietly asks Jack if Chuck can ever get his power back. Jack says, “It’s not his power, anymore.”

Sam and Dean tell Chuck that his ending is to die like an ordinary human. He’ll “grow old, get sick, and die.” No one will remember him. They then get in the Impala and leave him there as he runs after them, begging and pleading.

After driving back into town, Dean has Jack bring everyone back to the tune of The Youngbloods’ cover of “Get Together” (1967) – oh, look, finally some Classic Rock. Well, we get a bunch of no-name redshirts and Miracle the dog back, anyway. Not anyone we know or care about (besides the dog). And no mention whatsoever of Castiel. Sam doesn’t call Eileen, alt-Bobby, alt-Charlie, Jody, Donna, Garth, or anyone else.

The Brothers have questions and Jack answers a few of them. For example, Amara is inside him and they are “in harmony” (Even saying that out loud sounds so misogynistic; what were these writers thinking?). He then blathers on about how he’s not coming back to the Bunker because he’s now “everywhere” and people are just going to have to find their own answers.

He’s basically going full-on animistic and “won’t be hands-on.” He’s not going to make the mistake Chuck made this season of putting himself “in the story.” Nope, he’s just going to make the mistake Chuck made the previous several thousand years of buggering off and abandoning everyone, leaving the bigger fish to bully and gobble up the smaller fish in some weird and desperate attempt to get God’s attention with each new apocalypse. And bail is precisely what Jack does, in a glow of light.

He claims to have learned from the Brothers, his mother (you know, the one he murdered by being born, with no mention of Mary) and Castiel (whom he couldn’t be arsed to rescue from The Empty) that “when people have to be their best, they can be.” Which just demonstrates that he didn’t learn a damned thing in the three seasons he was Cousin Olivering this show. Also, that has got to be the most inane inspirational slogan I have ever seen.

Ironically enough, despite all the “I’ll be around” rhetoric, when he walks off and disappears in a glow of light, it feels a lot like the show just killed him off permanently. This seems to be his final exit. Too bad there’s only one episode left. Gee, I wonder how the writers will cope without this convenient deus ex machina character.

Back at the Bunker, the Brothers mourn his loss over beers. I roll my eyes really hard. They get over it quick, though, as they realize they finally have their lives back for real. “Finally free,” Dean says. Sounds like a book about lion cubs who end up getting released into the wild and killed by poachers.

Well, it seems that even with all the tedious monologuing and backstabbing and plotholing, the Nepotism Duo just plain ran out of story (looks like this recap may be shorter than usual, too!), so Sam and Dean leave behind their carved-up table (their initials, their mother’s initials, and Castiel and Jack’s names) and go off on a two-minute road trip full of clips from the show to the tune (again) of Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty.” The clip show is more thematic (famous and not-so-famous scenes) than character-driven, with major recurring characters jostling for attention with barely-seen one-shots. That still doesn’t explain the extreme lack of Castiel in it. He only gets three brief shots. Jack (hell, Charlie, for that matter) gets more coverage. Frankly, they’ve done better mid-season recaps. The montage ends with Sam shutting the trunk on the Pilot episode.

Credits

Ratings for this new episode remained steady at a 0.3 in the A18-49 demo and a 0.4 in the A25-54 demo, but dropped slightly to a 0.1 in the A18-25 demo and 1.003 million in audience.

Review: “Ted Nugent called. He wants his shirt back.” That’s from Ocean’s 11, a film that was a lot better than “Inherit the Earth.”

Look, we knew it was the Nepotism Duo, so the odds were this wouldn’t be a very well-written episode. But still, damn, son. And after last week got my hopes up, too.

Sure, the Jack and Brothers-only stans were happy because they got an entire episode of those three characters (and they even ditched the “annoying” angel), but I don’t think a whole lot of other fans were. In fact, I kept seeing fans on Twitter who wondered if it was a fake happy ending engineered by Chuck and if next week would cast this episode in a whole other light. I suppose it’s possible (As infuriating as it would be that they wasted yet another hour on fake-out nonsense after poorly setting things up for the end of the series, it would be nice if this foolish episode weren’t real). But considering the show’s track record with these two writers, I doubt that will be the case.

Now, some have talked about the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on filming this season. However, this was, in fact, the first episode when that was an issue. They had only filmed one day before they had to stop production for several months. So, that probably influenced the idea of doing a pared-down cast and evacuating the Earth, as it were.

But alas, a completely depopulated Earth turned out to be rather less exciting than wet toilet paper drying in the sun (the writers even have Chuck admit that right before the climactic fight). There were ample opportunities to make the set pieces with no people, in situations where ordinarily there would be a ton of people, properly eerie, but those scenes didn’t creep me out at all. They just seemed to be there to pass the time and make a point.

“Inherit the Earth” was tedious, talky, flabby, self-indulgent and just a tiiiiiny bit condescending in spots. For all the pomp and circumstance about its being the “season finale” before the series finale, not much happened in it. At the end, I was like, “That’s it?” So, a typical Nepotism Duo episode.

It also sidelined Sam and Dean’s story in order to indulge Jack Sue’s dull, subtext-free-when-it-wasn’t-totally-inappropriate-subtext apotheosis plot. And after last week’s far-meatier Christological metaphors, too. Gee, it’s almost as though Buckner and Ross-Leming had no clue what they were doing when it came to writing about religion – oh, wait. They don’t.

The idea that Jack was just going to become an animistic god-in-everything after the show hammered away at Judeo-Christian mythos for 15 seasons was faintly condescending to much of the audience on a religious level. I mean, really, Show? You’re not going to do anything truly interesting with all that mythology and set-up at all? Bad enough what they did to and with pagan mythologies over the years, but this was their central belief system in the show. And look how they dumped on it.

There are a lot of rumors that Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles (especially Ackles) had grown disenchanted in recent years with the quality of writing on the show. “Inherit the Earth”’s damp squib of a payoff after 15 seasons is a pretty big hint why. The saddest thing is that these two writers are incompetent enough to think they actually did a good job.

But the wonky theology wasn’t a tenth as offensive as the dippy misogyny involved in fridging Yet Another Important Female Character (Amara) to prop up Jack Sue. I mean, they literally took away her voice and had Jack speak for her after she was transferred from her brother to Jack like a crown jewel. Or a piece of luggage. They basically turned her into Nefertiri (“I am Egypt!”) from The Ten Commandments.

I felt as though the show did a bait-and-switch with the audience along the lines of what the showrunners did near the end of Game of Thrones. To Benioff and Weiss (and perhaps George R.R. Martin), the idea of a woman ruling in her own right was so horrible that they had to demonize the only real candidate for that. In Supernatural, we get a lot of dithering and hand-waving about how Billie wasn’t worthy to become God (an attitude Sam himself admitted this week was a costly mistake on his part). We then have Amara disqualify herself from the competition, reducing herself to a princess whose nephew marries her in order to become King (I’m kinda hoping The Empty Entity steps up this week and eats Jack).

It seemed that the show promised us a story where an unjust and tyrannical monarchy would be overthrown by a revolution led by the Brothers Winchester, in favor of a kinder and more just world. Instead, we got a palace coup, nothing much changed, and the Brothers were sent off like good peasants with a crust of bread and a pat on the head. That is pretty messed up.

The idea of Jack being a hoover for divine energy was quite daft enough when Adam and Serafina explained it (and it was never explained why he would now be killing plants, but Sam and Dean were safe around him), but it must have been too difficult for the Nep Duo to grasp the implications. A black hole doesn’t release energy once it captures it. A living black hole Jack certainly isn’t likely to become a divine being due to sucking up energy. He’s liable to collapse into a highly unstable magical singularity.

But let’s be silly and assume that’s the case. In order to become more powerful than Chuck (who also had Amara inside him), Jack would actually need to suck up energy from a source outside the SPNverse. You see, Chuck created the SPNverse. Yeah, he used material from The Empty (according to him, anyway, in some now-long-forgotten canon), but the SPNverse is not more vast and powerful than he is. Jack could have hoovered up the entire SPNverse remaining and still not have been powerful enough to take on Chuck. That just made no sense.

While one could fanon that Jack killed the plants because he had sucked up enough Empty after exploding to defeat Chuck, there really wasn’t anything in his Empty scenes to indicate that. And the show banged home far more obvious points than that, while ignoring this one. After all, he lost a lot of energy exploding in The Empty and it doesn’t make a lot of sense that he would have sucked up any more Empty than he lost of himself afterward.

Equally stupid and lazy was having Sam and Dean infodump the plan they used to trick Chuck. I mentioned the Ocean’s 11 quote before because they do something fairly similar (at least, we get an explanatory flashback, though the protagonist does not let the antagonist in on the plan). But in that case, much of the film had already shown us the plan, just from an angle where it wasn’t initially clear.

In this case, after wasting most of a season not bothering to set anything up, this episode just winged it. And it was such a simple plan, too. It’s never explained why Chuck never saw it coming. Did Billie’s death change his ability to predict their behavior? He just seemed entirely in the dark about what the Brothers were doing, once she died. Except that he did do that trick with the dog, so he was watching them.

What similarly made no sense (and was probably a plothole) was how Lucifer could kill Death. Yes, okay, he can probably kill a Reaper that easily, but Death? Death requires some work and her scythe. Also, why make the new Death such a bitch? Why do these two writers write women so poorly when one of them is a woman? I mean, she was the only female character in the entire damned episode and she lasted all of a hot minute. And who is Death now? Seems to me the position is wiiiiide open.

It did not help that at the end, Jack brought the world back, but he made no effort whatsoever to improve it. Chuck created the SPNverse with loaded dice. Innocents die and go to Hell. Bad people go to Heaven if they donate enough money to causes archangels care about. If you get turned into a monster, you get stuck in Purgatory forever. Heaven is just an endlessly repeating mixtape of your greatest hits. Plus, Heaven is about to fall apart and crash down onto the Earth due to a lack of angels.

Yet, Jack had no interest in changing any of that. I mean, when Eileen dies, she’s still going to go back to Hell. Kevin is still condemned to being a wandering spirit. John, if he’s not already back in Hell, will likely end up back there, too, since he can’t go to Heaven. Either that, or he and Kevin deteriorate into mad and vengeful ghosts.

Even if Dean’s not going to ask about Castiel (surely, that would be a priority for Jack), Sam would have asked about Eileen. And the other worlds that got dusted. But nope. Even worse, Jack has now shown every ambitious would-be power broker the path to displacing him and becoming God in his place. I mean, it’s not as though he’s ever been the sharpest tool in the cosmic shed. The end of this episode is supposed to be happy, but it’s just such a hot mess.

Honestly, a lot of this could have been avoided if the writers had given more seriously thought years ago to whether making the Prophet Chuck be God (the ultimate Author Insert character) was a good idea. As I’ve said many times in the past, I thought it was a stupid, self-indulgent concept, a one-trick pony with too many Unfortunate Implications for the longer haul. And that’s precisely what happened.

I mean, what was even Chuck’s motivation this season? Hell, what was his motivation for bringing back Lucifer or Lilith, or for their serving him? Okay, sure, he wanted Sam and Dean to kill each other, but why? He never clarified why he loved that ending (aside from some blather about how it was emotionally cathartic), or when he settled on it.

The way that Chuck’s various drafts in the multiverse fit together, when each was formed, how they affected each other or even how they represented the progression of his writing ideas, these things were never even touched on, let alone explained. To make God a writer, hack or no, and make it work, required much better writing than was available from the writers room most of the time.

Unfortunately, the weakest link on Supernatural has often been whoever the writers and showrunners were at any given time. I don’t think it helped that Executive Producer Kim Manners died during Season 4 and his counterpart Bob Singer appears to be stuck back in the 1970s in terms of what kinds of storytelling he’ll tolerate (plus, he’s been clearly burned out on this show for years).

Stellar acting from most of the cast, and a consistently professional and creative crew on-set, often helped to paper this over, and raise pedestrian or even childish storytelling to a much higher level. Hopefully, that care will allow Supernatural’s legacy to remain golden for years to come, even if tonight’s series finale sucks mutant donkey balls. But all-too-frequently, LA let Vancouver down.

There were a lot of unanswered questions that just plain didn’t need to be left unanswered. How complete was the Rapture? Where did everyone go? Were people dusted earlier, like Becky, brought back?

The plot made it sound as though even Hell, Heaven and Purgatory were cleared out, but no one even mentioned those realms. Whatever happened to the fairy realm(s)? Was it destroyed along with the other non-Earth Prime worlds or did it, as the Leprechaun heavily implied in “Clap Your Hands If You Believe,” exist outside Chuck’s multiverse?

Why didn’t Sam immediately call Eileen? Why didn’t Dean ask Jack to bring Castiel back? What about The Empty, which is, you know, now even more pissed off than ever? An episode this late in the game should not have so many unanswered questions, especially since it appears they will now never be answered.

Next week: Carry On: It’s the last time in the saddle for Sam and Dean.

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: “Despair” (15.18) Recap and Review

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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.

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.

This week, the final episode of the show, “Carry On,” airs after a one-hour retrospective. Feel free to comment about the episode below as you watch it.

You can find a promo, photos and a synopsis here for 15.20. Maybe someone can make heads or tails of it.

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: Typica recap of the previous episode, with a focus on The Empty Entity’s deal with Billie and with Castiel, Chuck absorbing Amara, and Chuck being a dick.

Cut to a few seconds after Chuck disappeared and last week’s credits rolled. Sam is hauling Jack up to the Library (Oh, I see, now he wants to carry Jack). They set him in a chair. Dean is in a panic, with no idea what to do, and Sam is even more useless. Castiel keeps telling Jack to “breathe,” which is also unhelpful.

Jack says that he can’t stop the process (which, you know, is what Adam and Serafina already told him last week). He asks them to bring him outside. He will try to fly away as far as he can before he explodes. Castiel says no and Jack shouts at him that he doesn’t want to hurt him and the Brothers. Dean tries to think of one of Rowena’s spells. Surely, there’s something.

Billie appears at the other end of the room, seriously pissed, and says, “I think you’ve done enough.”

Dean flat-out tells her that Chuck saw her entire plan coming, but when Sam tries to back that up, by saying the plan was “doomed,” Billie looks straight at Sam and tells him he’s to blame for that. Well, somebody’s finally calling it as they see it.

Dean asks if Billie can do anything for Jack. She says she can do one thing. She TK’s his chair around, lifts his chin with one hand, and makes him vanish. Dean then gets shouty about what happened to Jack.

It turns out she sent him to The Empty. The Empty Entity is there on her throne, lazily commenting that he doesn’t look so good. After shivering and grunting and glowing, he blows up, to her horror.

Cue title cards.

In the Bunker, Billie explains that Jack is in The Empty. Since Chuck and Amara weren’t around, she needed someplace safe to send Jack that would absorb the explosion. The Empty, she says, is not as “strong” as either Chuck or Amara, but it is “vast.” Jack may or may not survive, ditto the Empty. But if the Empty does survive, it will be “pissed.” It already is angry with her, but fortunately, it can’t reach her here.

Sam unwisely decides to draw attention to himself and note that the Empty Entity can only come to earth if she’s “summoned.” Billie says that’s right, but then she focuses on Sam and says he has something of hers. Instead of being conciliatory, Sam stupidly thinks challenging Death is a good idea and pissily tells her he did it because she was going to “betray” them.

Billie shrugs and says sure, she was going to kill off everyone who was supposed to be dead, anyway, but that Sam doesn’t have any choice. Unless he gives her God’s death book, she’ll leave Jack in the Empty and “he won’t last long” there. Sam looks constipated. I’m kinda laughing at him here because Billie is really sick of his shit and so am I.

When Sam comes back in with the book, he tosses it on the map table rather than hand it to her, in a final bout of immature pique. Unimpressed, Billie picks it up. Dean wants her to bring Jack back right away, but she insists she has to read the end of the book, first, seeing as how the Brothers (well, Sam) have ruined the previous ending. What she sees, and her reaction, makes even Sam sit up and take notice at the change in demeanor and the tone of menace, but all she says out loud is “Interesting.”

In The Empty, Jack comes back into one piece. The Empty swirls around him and then reconstitutes herself. She is not happy because now he’s “made it loud.” But just as she’s about to put some major hurt on him, he disappears. Billie has called him back to the Bunker.

Billie then suddenly pulls a double-cross. She won’t let the rest of TFW near Jack because now she has a different use for him. But Dean surprises her by picking up her scythe and slashing her with it. White light spills out as she tosses him across the room, then flees by teleporting away, leaving the book and her scythe behind. Everyone then runs to Jack, Sam at the front of the herd. But it’s Castiel who comforts Jack, while Dean is picking himself up from across the room and Sam rushes to … open the book. But it’s stuck closed.

Nighttime outside the Bunker. Dean can’t sleep, so he’s nursing a bottle of whiskey in the Library. Sam comes in. He can’t sleep, either, so Dean slides the bottle over to him and Sam pours himself a dram. Dean apologizes for pulling a gun on Sam and explains that he was so tunnel-visioned about killing Chuck that he couldn’t stop himself. Sam points out that Dean did stop himself, though, that he was able to pull himself out of his killing trance as he has pulled Sam out of trances in the past.

It doesn’t occur to either of them that Dean was acting that way, perhaps, because he was being written that way, or that Sam was acting the way he was for the same reason. Or that now Sam has buggered up Billie’s plan, they have no more “heavy hitters on our side” Dean does actually point out the latter, but he’s a lot kinder than I would be and doesn’t blame Sam for it. Not even when Sam says they’ll think of “something,” which of course means Sam expects Dean to come up with it. Dean ruefully makes a toast to “something.” That finally shuts Sam up and they drink in silence.

Billie stalks into her Library. Seems The Empty Entity didn’t manage to kill all the Reapers. One survivor who is filing books, or something, tells her he’s reinforced the warding as ordered so that the Empty can’t get back in. He then asks her if “the plan has changed.” Looking back, while holding her shoulder in obvious pain, and looking mighty pissed off, Billie confirms this.

In a kitchen somewhere in Middle America, a young African American woman named Stevie is explaining how to cook scrambled eggs to alt-Charlie, who is (rather disrespectfully) ignoring said woman’s injunction against cleaning weapons at the breakfast table. Fortunately, Stevie isn’t standing for that, so Charlie has to put aside her kit in order to get breakfast, while babbling about their hunting some shapeshifters that night as a date. She is shocked to find that the eggs are really good, but in the middle of telling Stevie that she now has to make these eggs for Charlie for the rest of Charlie’s life (lovely), Stevie vanishes without a trace and her plate clatters on the floor. Shocked, Charlie calls out her name.

Cut to the outside of Stevie and alt-Charlie’s apartment house (which has the date 1928 on it). Inside, alt-Charlie is explaining to Sam and Dean how she met Stevie when Bobby asked her to help Stevie out on a djinn hunt. Turns out Stevie didn’t need the help. They bonded and hooked up. Now Charlie had no idea whom else to call but the Brothers. She doesn’t understand why this happened to Stevie and not her. Dean says they’re trying to figure that out. Sam asks her if she can think of anything that might identify the MOTW. In distress, Charlie says that she can’t.

Outside, Castiel is standing near the Impala, telling Jack that the Brothers didn’t want them to come in so they wouldn’t “overwhelm” their friend. Well, that’s one way of putting it. Castiel asks how he’s doing, saying that he’s been “quiet.” Jack asks how long he’s been waiting to “ask me that.” Castiel admits that he may not have wanted to “overwhelm” Jack, either.

Jack says that he’s not sure. He feels “strange,” but he’s not sure if it’s because of what happened to him or because his quest is now “over.” He doesn’t know what to do next, especially since dying was going to be the way he made things right.

Castiel proceeds to lie a rug that Jack never needed “absolution” from either him or Sam and Dean, that they weren’t using him as a weapon or for his powers. He claims that they only care about him for him. Excuse me while I snort at this porkie.

Jack admits that with all the heavy hitters who are angry with them, it scares him that he has no powers to defend TFW. He feels useless. Castiel admits he’s scared, too.

Inside, Dean is giving alt-Charlie the bad news about the angry heavy hitters. He and Sam admit that their biggest enemy now is Death and that she wants to send everyone from the alternate worlds back to their worlds – which no longer exist. When Dean says Stevie’s disappearance “fits a pattern,” Charlie starts to dither that she wasn’t going to fall in love again and the Brothers just consider her and Stevie “collateral damage,” and so on. As Sam is interrupted by a call from alt-Bobby, Dean apologizes to Charlie for what’s happening to her. When Sam gets off the phone, he has more bad news – alt-Bobby was on a hunt with a Hunter from Apocalypse World who just vanished. Says Charlie, “It’s spreading.”

Dean notes that everyone who came over from another world or who died and came back is now on Billie’s hit list. Sam belatedly realizes that includes Eileen. Charlie actually gives Sam her blessing to go rescue Eileen.

On the road (Dean driving, Castiel and Jack in the backseat), Sam is texting Eileen, who is confused. He’s telling her to just wait for him to get there when she goes silent. Dean notices Sam’s expression and speeds up. When they arrive at her home, they find Eileen’s car abandoned, with her phone lying nearby. It shows that she was texting him when she vanished in mid-word. Dean tries to comfort him, but Sam says he can’t “let go” or “I’ll lose my mind.”

Sam then goes into Hunter King mode and starts saying they need to get everyone in the above endangered categories together in one place, one central to where they all are, and then ward it with everything they have.

Dean says that’s fine, Sam should do that, but it won’t last forever. So, while they’re doing that, he’s going to go kill Billie. After the nonsense he pulled last week, Sam actually has the gall to protest, but Dean’s having none of it. They still have Billie’s scythe and it’s not as though it’s his first time killing Death. After Castiel volunteers to go with Dean, Dean hugs Sam and then heads to the car.

Dean: C’mon, Cas. Let’s go reap a Reaper.

As they drive off, Sam stands rigidly, tears running down his face. The next day, he’s talking to Donna (who has found a silo where everyone can hide out) on the phone, while gassing up and peering through the backseat of his ride (a nice old red car, a Mustang, I think) at Jack. Donna asks Sam if they have a plan. He says they’re “working on it.” He then asks Jack to drive, since he has to work on research along the way. They drive off.

In the Bunker, Dean is giving a plan to Castiel that he’s making up as he goes along. His plan is to enter Billie’s library with her scythe and “smoke her out” by wrecking it.

Donna meets Sam and Jack at the silo, where people are already arriving. Jack offers to set up the warding. Donna hugs Sam and says she’s “sorry about Eileen.” She says she’s alerted Garth, Jody and the Wayward Sisters, who are all ready to help. Sam figures that all of them and Donna are probably fine, since they haven’t died. But he could use Donna for backup. Donna also says that Bobby and his “crew” are inside, with more on the way. Alt-Charlie also drives up in a pickup, determined not to let the same thing that happened to Stevie happen to anyone else.

Inside, people are setting up lights and drawing sigils on the wall. Alt-Bobby blows smoke up Sam’s ass about how he’s the “big man around here.” Mmkay, Show. Sam admits he’s a bit in over his head, here. They’ve got every type of warding they know, and he has one of Rowena’s spells to supercharge it, but he doesn’t know if it will be enough. He just hopes Dean and Castiel will take care of the Billie situation quickly enough that it won’t matter.

Donna and Jack are painting sigils on the wall when Jack discovers he makes plants wither just by holding his hand over them. Yay. A shiny, pointless new power.

Dean and Castiel enter Death’s library. Dean has Billie’s scythe. With silent hand signals, they try to sneak up on Billie, Dean with the scythe and Castiel coming in sideways with an angel blade. But she sees them coming and says, “Hello, boys.” She susses out that the plan is to attack her with her own weapon, but she questions Dean’s aim, since he only nicked her last time. Dean says he wasn’t trying to kill her, then. She asks what has changed. He says that now she is killing people he cares about.

She TK’s him across the room and when Castiel goes after her, she easily grabs him by the throat and shoves him against a wall. She references, bitterly, the time he stabbed her in the back. Alas for her, this gives Dean time to come up and poke her in her wounded shoulder and then shove the scythe toward her throat. She grabs it (bleeding white light) and holds it off, just barely, teeth bared and pissed off. When Dean shouts at her to “stop killing my people!” she laughs at him and tells him he’s “in the wrong place.” Uh-oh. In fact, Billie has a pretty strong theory about the culprit – Chuck.

Cut back to the silo, where Sam is saying the super-charging spell. The sigils glow and at first, it appears to work. But then a little girl disappears. When her sister runs to her parents, all three dust at once. People start running and turning into dust. Among the last to go are alt-Charlie and alt-Bobby. But it gets worse when Donna starts to panic and also turns to dust. Sam and Jack are left alone in an empty silo full of the sound of silence and failure.

In Death’s library, Billie has another revelation for Dean. When he stabbed her before, despite it’s being just a nick, it was “fatal.” Now that she’s dying, she has only one wish left on her Bucket List – to kill Dean Winchester. She then manages to get the scythe away from Dean and knock him down. Wisely, Dean and Castiel run. But even as they go through the door to the Bunker, Death is stalking them and she has her scythe back.

In the silo, realization is setting in. When they leave, Sam starts calling Dean, but can’t get hold of him. Jack wonders if the only people they lost were inside the Bunker. Sam says he doesn’t know, but we then get some shots of empty playgrounds and roads. It appears that the entire planet is now deserted.

In the Bunker, Dean is panicking, but still trying to come up with a plan, while Castiel tries to be supportive. This is cut off by Dean doubling over in agony. Billie has appeared on the balcony above, using a withered crone hand to squeeze his heart from the inside. As she monologues, Castiel grabs Dean and hustles him deeper into the Bunker, trying to find a way to escape.

Billie: It’s you, Dean. It’s always been you. Death-defying, rule-breaking, you are everything I live to set right, to put down, to tame. You are Human Disorder Incarnate.

Castiel, reassuring Dean as they go, takes them down to the Dungeon and uses an angelic blood sigil on the door to block Billie out, at least temporarily. Billie slowly stalks them down the hallway, running her scythe along the walls, throwing out sparks, and monologuing. When she gets to the door, she starts banging on it slowly, like a gigantic drum, making the sigil glow red, but the sigil block has at least released her grip on Dean’s heart.

Castiel tries to be upbeat. Billie said she was dying. Maybe they can wait her out. And if she gets through, they’ll fight. “We’ll lose,” Dean says woefully. “I just led us into another trap.” Dean blames himself for the failure to kill Chuck, feeling he failed because he was “angry” and a killer, that killing is all he knows. The worst part is that the real MOTW “was Chuck all along.” TFW shouldn’t have split up. They should have stayed together. “Everybody’s gonna die and I can’t stop it.”

Dean: She’s gonna get through that door.

Castiel: I know.

Dean: And she’s gonna kill you. And then she’s gonna kill me. I’m sorry.

Castiel suddenly has an idea (though I’m pretty sure Dean’s not gonna like it. At all). He then tells Dean about his deal with the Empty Entity. He explains that he made it to save Jack and the price was his own life. The terms were that “when I experienced a moment of true happiness, the Empty would be summoned and it would take me forever.”

Dean: Why are you telling me this now?

Castiel: I always wondered, ever since I took that burden, that curse, I wondered what it could be, what … what my true happiness could even look like. I never found an answer because the one thing I want, it’s something I know I can’t have. But I think I know, I think I know now, happiness isn’t in the having. It’s in just being. It’s in just saying it.

Dean: What are you talking about, man?

Castiel: I know. I know how you see yourself, Dean. You see yourself the same way our enemies see you: You’re destructive and you’re angry and you’re broken. You’re Daddy’s Blunt Instrument. You think that hate and anger, that’s … that’s what drives you. That’s who you are. It’s not. And everyone who knows you sees it. Everything you have ever done, the good and the bad, you have done for love. You raised your little brother for love. You fought for this whole world for love. That is who you are! You’re the most caring man on earth. You are the most selfless, loving human being I will ever know. You know, ever since we met, ever since I pulled you out of Hell, knowing you has changed me. Because you cared, I cared. I cared about you. I cared about Sam. I cared about Jack. But I cared about the whole world because of you. You changed me, Dean!

By this time, Castiel is crying freely, but also smiling with joy. This is his moment of true happiness. Dean, also with tears in his eyes, very quietly asks, “Why does this sound like goodbye?”

Castiel replies, “Because it is. I love you!”

With increasingly desperation, Dean turns to see the Empty gurgle black goo out of the wall behind them and begs Castiel, “Don’t do this.”

“Goodbye, Dean,” Castiel says, as the door behind him splinters open. He grabs Dean by the shoulder and tosses him out of the way, into a corner, just as Billie enters the Dungeon. With the brand of Castiel’s hand once again on him (though now over his clothing), Dean watches, helpless, as the Empty takes a smiling Castiel and a startled Billie. He is left alone.

Afterward, Dean weeps, totally broken. Not even seeing Sam’s call on his phone motivates him to answer it. He just sits there and cries.

Credits

Ratings for this new episode rose again to a 0.3 in the A18-49 demo, a 0.4 in the A25-54 demo and a 0.2 in the A18-25 demo, and 1.024 million in audience.

Review: I’ve seen a lot of trash talked about “Despair,” and I’m not arguing it’s perfect (among other things, there’s a lot of set-up with redshirts we don’t have much emotional investment in during the first two acts and speaking of which, I couldn’t care less about any version of Charlie). But I am going to go to bat for it because I think this was possibly the best episode in the season and probably one of the greats for the series overall. Kind of a shame about the episode after this one, but there you go.

What I loved about this episode (and it really lived up to its name) is that it was all about consequences. Because of this, it was the culmination of different storylines where bad luck and bad decisions have now led to bad outcomes. It was Classical Tragedy. In Tragedy, catharsis (the release of emotions built up over the course of the story in the audience) is a big thing and this episode had a lot of catharsis, despite the sense of another shoe needing to drop with the Castiel storyline.

We always knew that in a good story, Castiel’s deal would not be forgotten. We always knew that at some point, should he be lucky enough to know true happiness, The Empty would take him. His story would not be complete without that cathartic moment. Sure, I’d like to see a final ending in the last episode where Dean returns the favor and gets him back out of The Empty, but it’s still a good ending, even if Castiel’s story stops here.

We saw a juxtaposition of Sam discovering that he could be looked up to by his Hunter crew all they wanted, but he still couldn’t protect them from Chuck, with Dean losing Castiel due to teaching Castiel a little too well about love and heroism, about what it truly meant to be human. In Sam’s case, his Hunter crew looked up to him because they expected him to protect them. It was a largely one-way dependent relationship where Sam played Big Kahuna Hunter King and got lots of ego-boo in exchange.

But he learned a harsh lesson about the limits of his power when Chuck simply snapped that crew away (an obvious ripoff of the Thanos “snap” storyline from the MCU movies, so they’ll probably all be back in an episode or two). For all his talk about saving everyone last week, Sam’s actions still led pretty directly to the same people dying this week – even worse, to the entire earth being emptied of higher animal life. “Saving” Jack had a very high price.

In contrast, Castiel sought to use his final moments to repair the seriously frayed relationship between him and Dean. Castiel had consistently chosen Jack and Jack’s welfare over Dean for years, to the point where I wasn’t too sure I wanted these two to stay as friends, let alone anything more. It was getting pretty neglectful and even abusive on Castiel’s side.

But Jack was largely absent this week (thank God) aside from the obligatory “Oh, look, he has a shiny new power in place of a personality” trope. Not even getting yelled at by The Empty Entity saved him from irrelevance. So, we were left, in the last act, with just Castiel and Dean.

Castiel had an epiphany about that relationship. He realized that forcing Dean to carry all the emotional weight for everyone else’s happiness was unfair, but that poor Dean could not truly receive the message that he was worthy of love, especially from one who had been giving him pretty much the opposite message for quite a while. What to do?

So, Castiel made it clear what his deal with the Empty entailed, what it meant when his confession of love summoned her. And this also made it possible for him to get through to Dean that when he said Dean had shown him how to love, by loving the entire world, he was being entirely sincere. By summoning the Empty through a moment of true happiness, Castiel was putting himself through the most accurate and unimpeachable lie detector test ever, right in front of Dean.

Now, the Christological elements in this were right off the scale. People were wondering if the show had finally made Destiel canon and here I was, wondering if anybody had noticed that they’d finally revealed their Jesus figure. In Judeo-Christian terms (which is the main system the show uses), the being who loves the world so much as to die for it is Jesus Christ (talking about mythology, here, not trying to proselytize). And by his sacrifice, Christ teaches everyone else how to love the world that much, too. Keep in mind that Castiel’s relationship with Dean began with resurrecting him from Hell after Dean died to save Sam from Sam’s Original Demon Blood Sin.

We also see the negative side of this in Billie’s monologue when she’s stalking them, when she refers to Dean as “Human Disorder Incarnate.” That pretty much sums up the demonic view of Jesus in the Bible and how his human enemies perceived him, as well. Jesus is Death’s conqueror, its annihilator, its eternal nemesis. Of course Death hates him.

The reason I think this works for me (as well as Dean killing Death – twice) is that, again, it’s an allegorical metaphor that evokes the emotional resonance of a deeper truth. Whereas, Jack and his shiny powers are just a convenient deus ex machina that incompetent writers use to get themselves out of a corner.

Now, as I said last week, I’m not very happy with the way the show has been killing off its most powerful female characters so that we could end up with a white-bread sausage fest next week, but it must be said that Lisa Berry knocked this one right out of the park. She brought all this subtlety of sheer rage and grief and disappointment and bitterness to Billie that certainly wasn’t there in the script. And right before she was about to have a baby, too. Give this woman an Emmy, already. Billie was scary.

And who wouldn’t be? Despite the show’s attempts to villainize her, she’s just an allegorical figure of a natural process. She’s necessary and the Brothers have been cheating her for a long, long time. Can we really consider her the villain of this story?

Let’s talk about Castiel’s death. There was a lot of talk online (whining might be the better word) that the fact that he died immediately after declaring his love for Dean Winchester not only was homophobic writing, but it meant that Dean Winchester, and even the actor who plays him (Jensen Ackles himself) was homophobic.

As an actual member of the LGBT community (Hint: I’m the B word), I’m gonna have to say “Oh, hell, no, Ghost Rider” to that one, especially the last conclusion. But let me explain.

First of all, while internalized homophobia is definitely a thing in the gay community and especially among closeted gays (lookin’ hard at you, Lindsey Graham), it’s more than a tiny bit questionable to call out a gay male writer as homophobic in his writing about two men. I’ll grant you that I haven’t loved a lot of what Robert Berens has done lately, but I’m reasonably confident that he knows a lot more about what gay men are like in their relationships than straight teenage girls who think they’re “woke” because they ship two men together.

There’s nothing woke about fetishizing gay people as your sexual fantasy. Just because what’s up on screen is not what you imagine two gay men must be like does not make that representation homophobic. Yaoi has about as much to do with actual gay experience as hurt/comfort does with hospice care or the meat grinder that is a city ER on a Saturday night during a full moon. Life is not fanfic.

This is especially important in talking about Supernatural versus other CW shows. While the CW has improved somewhat since the Dawn Ostroff era in terms of representation, there’s definitely something stale about how they go about it. It feels as though they just dusted off the WB playbook from the late 1990s and started re-doing their greatest hits.

Thus, you have women of color, but they’re young and pretty and have an older male mentor (because all the older women in the story are evil or dead). The balance of men versus women remains seriously lopsided and the women seem to be there mainly to provide relationship drama. Women with superpowers get held to much higher standards than their male counterparts and experience much harsher criticism from other characters in the story whenever they fail to meet utter perfection. You have lesbian and bisexual women in major roles, now, but they’re all young and pretty (that male gaze thing), and it’s funny how one woman in the couple always gets designated the Romantic Interest, and gets fridged, turned EVOL, or made irrelevant in some way. It all feels like something that seemed progressive in 1998. Not so much in 2020.

Supernatural never fit that mold and all attempts to make it do that came off as awkward. Contrary to what its critics claimed, this did not mean that it had no GLBT representation. Part of what makes the idea of Castiel having been fridged questionable is that his relationship did not fundamentally alter at that moment of confession, let alone reset when he said, “I love you.” There had never been anything secret about Castiel’s feelings about Dean toward Dean over the 12 years they’d known each other, any more than Dean and Crowley’s relationship (often elided by a lot of fans) between seasons had been “just” a friendship.

There was simply a difference in how Castiel and Dean expressed love for each other. Castiel said it (and so did others). Dean showed it. He trusted Castiel in Season 6 long after it was clear Castiel was lying to him. He refused to leave Purgatory without Castiel. When Castiel essentially forced him to leave without him, Dean developed guilt-driven hysterical amnesia about the event. And when Castiel was making his declaration in “Despair,” Dean was begging him, with tears in his eyes, not to do it and end up in the Empty. Dean. Loves. Castiel.

It’s not whether there is Destiel on the show. We’ve had this relationship for 12 years and the episode framed it as romantic by leading up to it with two, increasingly important relationships where Chuck dusted one of the couple. It’s how you choose to define it and interpret what you saw onscreen.

But Dean’s love for Castiel on the show was always framed as familial, brotherly, not romantic (though Castiel’s was certainly romantic on his side, just as Crowley’s had been, albeit with a noir twist). Now there’s a very logical, non-homophobic reason the show couldn’t have Dean be in love with another man. His most important relationship was never romantic. It was always brotherly. He always put Sam first and he made no bones about it.

But for Dean to fall in love with another man would not only be “cheating” on Sam (just as, say, Dean’s connection to Amara was framed), but it would imply that Dean’s love for Sam was romantic and sexual. And while the CW may be up for a gay male relationship, it’s definitely not up for one that’s first-degree incestuous (no matter how many jokes the Kripke Era made about it). This ain’t HBO.

Castiel recognized that Dean would always love Sam first and I think that was what he meant when he said he could never have what he truly wanted. What he truly wanted wasn’t just Dean’s love, but Dean’s exclusive love. And Dean’s love, as Castiel himself admits near the end of this episode, is universal. Hence why the title reflects what Dean feels right before the credits.

Next week: Inherit the Earth: On a deserted planet, Sam, Dean and Jack go up against Chuck one final time.

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: “Unity” (15.17) 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.

This week, the final episode of the show, “Carry On,” airs after a one-hour retrospective. Feel free to comment about the episode below as you watch it.

You can find a promo, photos and a synopsis here for 15.20. Maybe someone can make heads or tails of it.

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: Standard recap of the season up to this point. Cut to Now in Reykavik, Iceland. Amara is enjoying a nice hot spring bath, while reading a Japanese novel by Murakami, at night (it always seems to be night around her), when a sudden meteor shower and aurora catch her attention. Looking tense, she gets out and pulls on a robe. “Welcome home, Brother,” she mutters.

Cue title cards.

Cut to Sam in the Bunker talking to Castiel (outside in a sunny spot near some kind of industrial park). Castiel has been to the Basilica of Guadalupe to look for a spell that could, according to rumor, “wound God Himself.” Alas, it was only a rumor.

As Sam gets off the phone, Dean enters the Library and asks if he was just talking to Castiel. Sam is all pissy that Dean didn’t rush to tell him what Castiel told Dean. This entire plot irritates me immensely. If Castiel is now working with Sam to come up with an alternative to Billie and Jack’s plan, why didn’t he just tell Sam about it in the first place instead of telling Dean and then bailing? If I were Dean, I’d be mighty salty at these two using me as a go-between for a half-baked, last-minute search that probably won’t go anywhere. And indeed, Dean’s not too thrilled, especially by Sam acting like a twit for the billionth time in 15 seasons.

Dean points out that they don’t have any other alternatives if, you know, they want to save the world. Sam snottily whines that surely, Dean gets tired of “saying that” they don’t have any choice. I’m sure Dean does, but at the moment, they really don’t.

The argument is interrupted by a whoosh and a clatter in the Kitchen. They go down there to find Amara helping herself to a beer from the fridge. She tells them, “We should talk.”

Cut to the Brothers and Jack (you know, the fifth wheel this show seems determined to keep around) listening as Amara tells them Chuck is back on Earth Prime. Jack then says, “It’s time.”

Amara asks them what their plan is to “cage” her brother. Do they have four archangels? Dean says they have Jack and that he’s been getting stronger. Amara tells Jack that she regrets she didn’t get around to getting to know him better and suggests they do so afterward. Dean manages to keep a straight face through this. Jack looks dumb, but then mentions that he has one final ritual he needs to go through.

Later, Dean thanks Amara for helping. She says, “As I told you before, Dean, we will always find a way to help each other.” After she disappears, Dean looks guilty and upset.

Out in the Library, Jack guesses that Sam is “angry” or at least “disappointed” with him. Sam lies his ass off and says that of course he’s not. He does admit that he thinks what Jack is doing is wrong. Yay for respecting Jack’s choices, Sam.

It gets worse when Dean comes out into the Library and asks Jack if he’s ready. After Jack leaves to get his stuff, Sam starts tail-spinning. He refuses to come along, even though he and Castiel have no alternative plan, because suddenly, he thinks Billie’s plan is a wild goose chase. Really, Sam? You were fine with Jack eating human hearts and looking for Eden in some weird, abandoned church, but now you have a problem with this plan? Sam seems to think what is best for Jack is totally ignoring what Jack wants, refusing to support him in his final hours, and rendering his sacrifice meaningless.

The really sad thing is that it’s pretty obvious even this early in the episode that we are supposed to believe Sam is in the right – that we are supposed to forget that when Sam has gotten mulish like this in the past, he has released terrible evil (like Lucifer and the Darkness) on the world and caused untold death and destruction. In short, we are supposed to not notice that Sam not only is holding the Idiot Ball this episode, it’s practically glued to his hand for 42 solid minutes. Nope, the writers want us to believe that Dean is the problematical brother, instead. Sometimes, there just aren’t enough facepalms.

So, the Brothers have a spat where Sam talks about “fighting for Jack” (while being unwilling even to be with him in his worst moment) and how Jack is “family.” Dean has to speak the brutal truth: “Jack’s not family.” Sam bridles at this, but, well, Jack isn’t family. He’s just not. And he never has been, either. Every time he’s come close to being family, he’s found a way to screw them over and choose someone, or something (usually power) over them.

Jack pretty obviously overhears this as he comes back into the Library with his stuff. There’s an awkward moment and then Dean leaves with Jack. Note that the brother who’s saying Jack isn’t family is the one who’s willing to help him see this through. Let’s just let that little irony sink in. Sam talks a good game, but at the end of the day, I don’t see any emotional resonance in his claim to love Jack as a son. It always sounds hollow and that’s because we never see him putting in the work. The brother who does that is always Dean.

Cut to a pensive car ride at night, but Dean and Jack don’t speak to each other at all during it. Dean’s overheard statement just sits there between them.

Back at the Bunker, Castiel arrives (conveniently after causing a huge fight and rift between the Brothers at about the worst time possible) to find Sam hitting the lore books. He’s all happy that Sam is on board with trying to find another way to save the world that will also save Jack. Ugh. I can’t even with these two.

Meanwhile, Amara is sitting on a bench in a park in sunlight (oh, so, she can be out in daylight), holding a pink flower, when her brother shows up. We get a random title card that says “Amara” in white letters on a black background, for some unclear reason.

Chuck asks if she saw his meteor shower. Instead of saying yes, she calls him out on “ending worlds.” Now he’s after this one. Thing is, in order to “do a hard reset” and start a new universe after he ends Earth Prime, he needs Amara’s help. She flat-out refuses. He accuses the Winchesters of having gotten to her: “You and Dean have that whole weird thing.” Amara is surprised. She had thought it was part of his writing, but he vociferously denies it, calling it “gross.” Note that this relationship is the only thing in the entire show that we can be sure is not part of Chuck’s manipulations, so of course he’s going to have to try to break it down to nothing.

Amara claims that she’s on neither Dean nor Chuck’s side. She’s about preserving the world as it is. Setting the flower down on her bench, she has Chuck take a walk with her. Chuck does, but is restless. She notes that he “never slow[s] down.” He never takes a moment to enjoy his own creation (this is, by the way, a retcon on Season 11, when we did see that Chuck enjoyed nature).

They talk about his first tree (a fern, “I was obsessed with fractals”) and Amara calls Chuck out on wanting to “annihilate” the entire universe just because Sam and Dean won’t do what he wants. Chuck claims this isn’t so (when she’s obvious right). He says that everywhere he looks, he sees his failures and wants to start fresh. He’s especially upset at humans, whom he now claims to find “boring.”

Amara then asks about his “first children” (the Leviathan? Oops, no, she means the angels, since it seems we’ve forgotten the bit of canon that said Leviathan were created before angels). She snaps her fingers and Chuck is annoyed to find they’re in Heaven. A small group of angels we’ve never seen before shows up (where have they been?). One, Crystal, calls him, “The Truth, the Way and the Light.” Chuck likes it at first. But their fangirling over him quickly annoys him. He snaps his fingers and sends them “away.”

When he asks what the point was of bringing them in, Amara says that she wanted him “to feel their love, their perfect, angelic love.” Chuck blows a childish raspberry, then claims that in the end, “I always get what I want.”

“What about what I want?” Amara says. What she wants is “balance” between Light and Dark. She wants a stake in this one world, where creation and destruction balance each other out. But Chuck doesn’t want to share and, when she calls him a villain for it, brags, “Villains always get the best lines.” So, she snaps her fingers again and takes them to the Bunker. Where she traps him.

Furious, Chuck tells her she can’t trap him there forever. She says she doesn’t have to.

We now get a random title card for Dean. Dean and Jack are still on the road and it’s still night. Dean tries to talk to Jack about saying he wasn’t family, back in the Bunker. Jack just says that he understands and it’s okay. Dean still looks guilty.

Come daylight, they pull up in front of a tacky, Mexican-themed store called “Jim’s Gems.” As they get out, Dean asks Jack if he’s sure this is the place. Jack says, “Billie said, ‘This is where it ends.’”

As they walk up to the store, a man and a woman open it from inside and come out to greet him. The man smiles and calls Jack by name. He and the woman are dressed like hippies and are very excited to see Jack.

Inside the shop, Dean greets the man and calls him “Jim,” thinking he’s the proprietor. The man corrects him. He’s just a friend who Jim lets use the shop. He’s Adam. The Adam. And he’s been waiting 300,000 years to get back at Chuck. He and Eve figured they deserved to get kicked out of the Garden (God’s “first story”), but were less happy to watch Chuck get bored and move on to their children.

The woman, however, is not Eve (also, isn’t Eve in charge of Purgatory, seeing as how this season claimed she didn’t really die in Season 6, then promptly forgot about her?). She is an angel named Serafina. She and Adam are very lovey-dovey and she’s been keeping him alive all this time so they can kill God. Billie has been helping them.

Adam wants to take Jack into the back room for “a pop quiz. Can’t hand out the Spark of the Divine to just anyone.” Dean is hesitant, but Jack insists it’s okay. As they go back, Adam blowing smoke up Jack’s ass, Serafina tells Dean about having seen Jack in a mushroom dream in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Dean: So, you were tripping balls and you saw Jack?

Serafina talks about all the many coincidences that led to this moment, as if “it was meant to be.” In a story where Chuck is writing everyone’s decisions, that sounds a tad ominous.

In the back room, the “test” turns out to be determining, from a collection of rocks, which one holds the Spark of the Divine. Jack picks up a rock and says it’s this one. But then he says it’s all of the rocks. All of them hold something from their creator: “God is in everything.” Adam smiles and says, “Right on. Or at least, he should be.” Jack has passed the test.

Bringing Jack back out, Adam has Serafina stab him and rip out one of his ribs (then she heals him). Dean is a bit shocked by this, while Jack just stands there like a turnip. Adam says that everything may have the Spark of the Divine, but his rib has enough power to create – or to kill God.

Serafina, covered in Adam’s blood, blathers on about how this is Jack’s destiny and how preparing his mind and body, and restoring his soul, led him to this. I think I’m gonna hurl.

Adam tells Jack that consuming the rib “will start a chain reaction” that turns him into a “supernova” that will then “collapse into a living black hole” that will consume all divine energy in its vicinity, even Amara and Chuck. Yay.

Adam puts the rib into a baggie and hands it over. He warns that once the chain reaction starts, it can’t be stopped, so don’t use it until the time comes.

In the car that night, Dean is driving and Adam is holding the baggie, staring at it. Dean pulls over and apologizes to Jack for what he said before. He says that Jack deserves more support than that. Dean explains that when he found out about Chuck’s being an author, he no longer felt “free.” But now, he and Sam have a chance to be truly free. He thanks Jack for that.

Dean gets a text that “it’s time.” Jack takes out the rib and holds it in his hand. Then he dusts it (the way he did the snake last season, ’cause that’s totally reassuring) and his eyes glow briefly. Game Time.

Back in the Bunker, Sam seems oblivious to what is going on, so I guess he’s not the one who sent that text to Dean (Amara, maybe?). He’s still working on the books. And then we get a title card for him, as well (again, no idea why), as he tosses a book to the ground in frustration.

Castiel picks it up and puts it back on the table. Sam apologizes for the whatever-that-was and they commiserate on the sinking sensation that Dean may be right. Sam just can’t shake the feeling that something is off and wishes he could talk to Billie directly about (Really? Now? Not before whenever she was standing right in front of you, Sam?).

Castiel firmly nixes any summoning of Death or Sam killing himself to hang out with her. But Sam has another idea. Remember that key the Russian shaman Sergei wanted when he helped cure Jack last season? I know it was a while ago, but don’t worry, because Sam and Castiel happily infodump us up to speed. The key was to Death’s library and Sam wonders if they can 1. find it and 2. use it to sneak inside and read her books.

Cue a montage of the two of them hitting the books again. They find a lot of relics, but it’s not until Sam is messing about with the Holy Grail (yes, really) that Castiel finds a box with a death’s head on it and opens it to find the key in question.

There’s a helpful inscription on the box. When Sam reads it (his Latin pronunciation has not improved), the key glows and a glowing doorway appears in the wall, complete with a key hole. How convenient.

This is about where the episode turns seriously daft. Yes, that’s even taking into account the previous meeting with Stoner!Adam.

Castiel wants to come along, but Sam insists on going alone. He figures if Dean gets back before he does, Castiel will need to stall him. Castiel reassures Sam that he must be doing the Right Thing because reasons. Barf.

Sam steps inside Death’s Library. This is a recurring motif on the show of something that worked great with Dean, that the show insists on just handing to Sam with clumsy writing that cheapens it the second time round. Remember Sam’s romp through Purgatory in Season 8’s “Taxi Driver”? Like that.

Anyhoo, Sam arrives in the W section (convenient) and finds a lot of dead Reapers on the floor. He hears screaming and pleading down the shelves and then a death shriek. Instead of grabbing a book (as he originally intended) and bailing, he decides to check out what’s going on. I’m sure this will end well.

It turns out that the Empty Entity (in the persona of Meg) is sitting at a desk, interrogating Reapers about the location of Billie. When they don’t have the answer (and none of them does), she kills them.

Sam tries to sneak off, but the Empty senses him and snaps him into position in front of her. After calling him by name, she introduces herself when he incorrectly thinks she’s Meg and then monologues about wanting to find Billie. They had a deal. She was supposed to own the Empty, with no more Chuck interference, and Billie promised her she’d go back to sleep. But then Castiel showed up and sowed doubts in her mind about Billie’s reliability.

It turns out (according to the Empty, anyway) that Billie wants to become the new God and put everything back in its place, which includes worlds back in position, angels in Heaven, demons in Hell, and anyone who should be dead, dead. And, oh, yeah, the Empty Entity gets to go back to sleep.

Sam sees a book in front of her. When the Empty says he’s in God’s book, he realizes it’s the one he wants. He asks if she can read it. She says that only Death can do that. After some consideration, she figures that since Billie considered Sam important enough to keep him alive, maybe she’ll show up if the Empty tortures and kills him.

Though in agony, Sam can still lie. He claims that Billie sent him to get the book. When the Empty proves skeptical, he insists that Billie gave him the message to tell the Empty that she “honors her promises.” He persuades her to let him take the book after he tells her that Billie is on Earth (She can’t go there, she notes bitterly, unless she’s “summoned”), claiming that if she kills him, she’ll never go back to sleep. Reluctantly, the Empty lets him go, but I’m wondering if this conversation will come back to bite him in the ass. As Castiel found out the hard way, you don’t just lie to the Empty.

Sam returns from Death’s Library to find Castiel waiting anxiously. Castiel tells him “it’s time,” that Amara has Chuck trapped (so, I guess he sent the text to Dean). Sam then does a complete 180 from what he told the Empty and says they have to stop The Plan.

In another part of the Bunker, Chuck is growing impatient, so he starts manipulating his sister. She tries to tell him that they can still reconcile, but he tells her to shut up. He talks about Dean being “brought to the brink of doubt.” He also talks about “poor Sam, always gotta know everything.”

Outside, two storylines are colliding. Dean arrives, half-carrying Jack. Sam is trying to talk Dean out of it, saying that Death intends to become God. Castiel is shocked. Dean doesn’t care. As long as they take out Chuck (and save the world), it’s all good.

Sam then physically gets in Dean’s way and Dean gets furious. Well, think about it – Castiel just sent Dean a text saying it was time, Jack started the countdown, and now that they’ve come back, Sam is suddenly screwing everything up and endangering all existence. Dean ends up pulling a gun on Sam.

Chuck tells Amara, “This is my ending, my real ending.”

Chuck talks about “goading Death” and making outcomes go this way and that. When Amara protests that they’re only going to “cage” him, Chuck then drops the truth on her (but twisted, of course). He tells her that Dean lied to her. The plan is to kill both him and her, using Jack as a bomb. Yes, that’s right – Chuck always knew about the plan because even without his death book, he’s “omniscient.”

And he has an ace in the hole – Sam. Sam tries to disarm Dean, but Dean punches him into a wall. When Dean tries to get Jack down the hallway, Sam tries to tackle him and then tries to tell him that Billie will kill people they know and love (like Eileen). Dean says fine, as long as Chuck dies. He’d trade them all for that.

Sam then woefully asks Dean if he’d trade him, too, and when Dean says that he can’t be Chuck’s puppet forever, Sam plays on Dean’s brotherly love by going on about how Dean was always there for him. Kinda funny how Sam only remembers that when he wants something from his brother that his brother doesn’t want to give. At any rate, he gets Dean to put down his gun. Sam insists they’ll “find another way.”

Unfortunately, all of this whining and delaying gives Chuck time to get inside Amara’s head. After she starts crying at Dean’s betrayal, she agrees to merge with Chuck (“balance”), though it’s more as if he ends up eating her. One of his eyes briefly goes black as the other one glows.

It occurs to me that Sam and Chuck are a lot alike, especially in this scene. They both shamelessly use their sibling’s love for them to manipulate them into doing what they want instead of what’s necessarily a good idea. Too bad for Sam that he’s not a cosmic being because Chuck gets out and proceeds to mock the Brothers for not being quick enough to trap him. Thanks to Sam. Again.

Chuck gets mad and claims that he wanted them to … I dunno. The script gets really vague, here, since he clearly didn’t intend for them to succeed in killing him or stopping him from eating his sister (which means he can now just dust this world and create another). He complains that this version of Castiel is the only one that didn’t follow orders after dragging Dean out of Hell, and berates them all for being “stupid, stubborn, broken.” They’re the one story that never quite worked. Then he says, “I’m over it! I’m over you!”

Sam says, “Good” (Honestly, I don’t know why, since they just lost) and Dean says, “Screw you.” Chuck retorts that back at him. He doesn’t care, anymore, if the Brothers kill each other or not. He talks about throwing away broken toys and then welcomes them to watch Jack die (since Jack is about to go supernova). Then he vanishes as Jack collapses and TFW anxiously dotes on Jack.

Credits

Ratings for this new episode dropped to a 0.2/1 in the A18-49 demo and 0.1/2 in the A18-34 demo, while remaining steady at 0.3/1 in the A25-54 demo. They dropped to 908 thousand in audience.

Review: This was a terrible episode. Rushed pacing, wonky logic, manipulative and unearned emotional moments, and enough plotholes to drive about ten Impalas through. Also, I’m not sure if the irony of the title is truly unintentional.

Jack continues to underwhelm. It’s hilarious that the mytharc talks about his becoming a black hole for the divine, when he’s been a black hole for dramatic tension since his introduction as a zygote.

It’s not Alex Calvert’s fault (Okay, it was funny that someone commented on Twitter that it didn’t help that the show has him looking like a poster boy for the Aryan Youth League, but still). He was fun as Belphegor. But the thing is that Belphegor was an active character, with an agenda that he pursued. Sure, he was manipulative, but he had goals. He had a personality. Watching him wasn’t like watching paint dry.

Jack, on the other hand, is a blank slate, a passive vessel for whatever plan someone wants to execute using his Speshul Sparkly Gary Stu Ex Machina powers. He continues to be the worst possible thing a main character can be in this show – boring. And his arc is like plot kudzu, engulfing and cutting off far more interesting storylines, especially those of powerful female characters.

Speaking of which, poor Amara. She spent most of Season 11 colossally pissed off at her brother and in a very weird (and still largely unexplained) relationship with Dean Winchester. She reconciled with Chuck and then, somewhere between the end of Season 11 and when we see her again near the beginning of this season, she has become disenchanted with him. At the same time, she has grown to love his creation in inverse proportion to how much he has grown to hate it. This seems to be, at least in part, due to her strange (and still unexplained) connection to Dean Winchester.

On the one hand, it’s great to see that Amara has grown as a character (even as Chuck has degenerated into a big baby). On the other hand, there are multiple problems with how Amara’s growth has been handled and these problems also shine a light on issues involving Chuck’s characterization, too.

The biggest thing is that all that growth was infodumped in, rather than shown organically. And then, a hot minute after we were told about it, it (and Amara) got thrown under the Jacknatural bus.

We heard here and there (starting at the end of last season) that Amara had developed an interest in Keno. We saw that she was enjoying new experiences. We saw that she had calmed down a lot. We saw that she had grown disenchanted with her brother. But we weren’t shown any of that until it was all a fait accompli.

And in “Unity,” we saw her (after spending all of Season 11 trying to kill her brother) just give up and become just another jewel in his junk drawer. It. Made. No. Sense. I get that the show wanted to give each of its most powerful female characters (okay, I’m just speculating about The Empty, since 15.20 hasn’t aired, yet, but I’m assuming it’s about her. She’s the only remaining unresolved big mytharc) an episode each for her sendoff, but this still felt perfunctory, disrespectful, illogical, and more than a tiny bit sexist.

I got the sense the showrunners thought they were being respectful, but boy, did they miss the mark. This was a fierce character who took no shit in Season 11. Now she’s a passive, pacifist wimp who just gives in and lets herself be defeated. What the hell happened? Oh, that’s right – they never bothered to show us.

Similarly, with Chuck, we didn’t really find out why he was so angry and dissatisfied with his creations that he decided to destroy all his drafts. I get that he was feeling petulant, but there was never much cause given why he would do this after nearly 14 billion years. One reason I rolled my eyes so hard at Amara slapping at Dean for perceiving her as “just a woman” and Chuck as “a squirrely weirdo” two weeks ago is that the show itself failed to show either of them as anything else this season.

A signal example of this is her hurt at Dean’s “betrayal.” For one thing, how could she not know Dean was thinking that in the diner if she’s powerful enough to know what’s going on in another part of the Bunker? For another, why would she just believe her brother (who she knows is a practiced liar and manipulator)? Why not, I dunno, ask Dean about it?

Even more importantly, why does she care? The main thing I got from this shipwreck of a plot was that the whatever-it-was Dean had with her was about the only thing real in all of this because it was the only thing Chuck himself never wrote or planned (in fact, it disgusted him and he may even have been jealous of it). It existed independently of his entire creation and belonged to Amara and Dean alone.

So, you’d think that would be something we’d surely hear a lot about down the road, right? Alas, as of 15.19, it appears to have been completely spiked in favor of Jack’s storyline, kind of like what happened with alt-Michael last season. I just do not understand the incompetence of these writers, sometimes. How could they set all that up so carefully and then stick a wrench in the wheel like that? They teased it and teased it all year long and then, at the last minute, they did a bait-and-switch. Then they acted as though the audience was being unreasonable in getting salty about the lack of resolution.

This show, I swear, has always struggled with good endings. Always. Going all the way back to the Kripke Era. But all the things previous showrunners did wrong, the Dabb Era just seems to have doubled down on as if they actually thought they were good things to do. So frustrating.

Then there was Sam. Gonna be honest – I wanted to slap Sam really hard this week, even harder than last week. This is the second time this season Sam has scotched a plan at the absolute last minute, despite having nothing to replace it, simply because he didn’t like the projected results. As far as we can tell, the plan would have worked, mind you, but he didn’t want to sacrifice Jack, even though Sam has been plenty fine with sacrificing other people with whom he was probably a lot closer earlier in the show. It was selfish. It was foolish. And yeah, I get that it was kind of in-character for Sam to be like that, but I’d hoped he’d grown beyond it. But nope, Sam seems to have been handed the Idiot Ball for the rest of this show.

Also irritating was that in order to make Sam look right (in a way, of course, that was pro-Jack, because Heaven forbid we give up any opportunity to stroke Jack as a character and prop him up), the show had Sam babbling nonsense to Dean about Billie’s intentions. Now, first of all, as Dean himself pointed out, there was nothing particularly shocking about the consequences Sam was talking about. They did know they were making a deal with Death, after all.

Second, Sam’s entire thesis that Billie was EVOL was based on the idea that it was a bad thing he and Dean and their loved ones would now have the same status as everyone else, would no longer be special, and would have to deal with the consequences – in other words, they’d all be dead. It got downright bizarre when Sam was complaining that Billie would send people like alt-Bobby and alt-Charlie back to worlds that no longer existed (meaning they, too, would cease to exist), without seeing this as showing favoritism to such characters over the entire worlds that had been erased. Sam seemed to want to retire to a normal life with all his friends, rather than having Normal catch up to all of them all at once, even if the latter saved the world. Sam would rather see the entire world destroyed than make any sacrifice at this point. Ugh.

The especially bizarre part was that the show wanted us to believe that Dean was the one who was being unreasonable, just because The Plan was on a very short time frame and he was trying to get it done before Chuck and Amara found out or Jack blew up. Sam and Castiel sprang their Brand New Information on him at the last possible second, while having no plan to replace it.

People have claimed Dean acted out of character, but I don’t think so. Why would he believe Sam and Castiel, especially since he knew they opposed Billie’s plan and that Sam had already sabotaged a perfectly good plan less than half a season before? While some fans were talking about how this episode had a Rashomon-like structure (due to the random title cards), if it did, it was a failure. The Japanese film Rashomon (1950) was about different characters telling the same story from their own perspectives so that an investigator who could get to the truth of a crime. “Unity” was just your typical story structure where different scenes had different characters in them.

Sam’s delay was what screwed up the plan. What Chuck was expecting in that hallway, admittedly, was pretty fuzzy. It didn’t help that the writing degenerated into Chuck spouting the same old Evil Overlord slogans as before.

But two things were pretty clear. One was that he did not want to be trapped by his sister or black-holed by Jack, and that he was aware of what was going on out in the hallway and wanted to sabotage it. The other was that he expected to do so by getting one of the Brothers (most likely Dean) to kill the other. He was mighty disappointed when that didn’t happen.

So, the irony (perhaps unintentional on the writers’ part here) was that Sam was being manipulated by Chuck every bit as much as Dean was, if not more so because Dean would have gotten Chuck if Sam hadn’t interfered. And Sam never knew it.

Sam reminded me here of a character from Isaac Asimov’s book Second Foundation (1953). Arkady Darell appears in the second part. She seems like a bright and persuasive, strong-minded and highly independent young woman. It later becomes clear that she has been mind-controlled from birth to persuade everyone else in her society that the telepathic Second Foundation (which they had considered a major threat) doesn’t actually exist. Remember that Sam himself has also been manipulated from the age of six months old.

If I were Dean this week, I’ve have shot his bitchy ass.

Arguably the most irritating thing about the episode was how it reduced Castiel to a wallflower and made Dean the scapegoat for everyone else being stupid. Sam was a lot angrier with Dean, who was the one who actually told him about Billie’s plan (talk about shooting the messenger) than he was with Jack, who lied to everyone. At the same time, Sam wasn’t angry with Castiel for telling Dean, not him, but was actually happy to work with him behind Dean’s back to sabotage Billie’s plan.

Further, not only did Sam think it was a fine idea to sneak into Billie’s library to steal from her, but he also thought there’d be no consequences to lying to the Empty Entity, a character already mighty salty about everyone lying to her. This seemed like a continuation of Sam’s lifelong obliviousness to consequences (perhaps because Dean and John shielded him too much from supernatural realities when he was a kid).

Sam gives no consideration to the fact that in this episode, Amara and Billie will be salty with Dean, Adam and Serafina with Jack, and the Empty Entity with Castiel, for something he, Sam Winchester, did. He is getting other people in trouble, but since it’s not him experiencing the consequences, he continues skipping blithely along the banks of the River Denial. See what I mean about Sam having the Idiot Ball glued to his palms?

Let’s talk a bit about Adam (Oh, hi, there, Alessandro Juliani. Been a while since Battlestar Galactica) – and no, I don’t mean Sam and Dean’s younger half-brother. What was that little interlude all about? The show got seriously weird with that and not in a good way.

Okay, Adam’s a hippie and that’s cool, I guess. But his late introduction made unnecessary plotholes and possible retcons pop up like magic mushrooms. How does his angel girlfriend figure into the storyline of the angelic fall at the end of Season 8? Was getting kicked out of the Garden a metaphor for the exodus from Africa? Why does he look anatomically modern and so light-skinned if he’s 300,000 years old? For that matter, why did his first-born son look European? He mentions Eve. Is this the same Eve who is the Mother of Monsters in Purgatory? How did she become that Eve?

I also wasn’t quite sure how to perceive the tonal shifts in the scene. One minute, Adam and Serafina were totally fangirling Jack as a Savior figure. The next, in exactly the same “Farrr out, dude!” voice, Serafina was bloodily stabbing Adam to wrench out his rib and the two of them were making it very clear they had happily participated in a plan that was setting Jack up as a patsy to kill Chuck. And they were willing to tell him that to his face.

Also, that bit where Jack says the Spark of the Divine is in everything and Adam says that’s as it should be? That’s going to be relevant a couple of episodes down the road. Unfortunately.

Next week: Despair: Billie returns and she’s not happy with how The Plan turned out. Tragedy ensues.

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: “Drag Me Away (From You)” (15.16) 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.

This week, the final episode of the show, “Carry On,” airs after a one-hour retrospective. Feel free to comment about the episode below as you watch it.

You can find a promo, photos and a synopsis here for 15.20. Maybe someone can make heads or tails of it.

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: Recap of the efforts so far to take out Chuck, mostly of Dean being furious about being a puppet all his life. Cut to Now, where a man is pulling up outside a very seedy establishment called “Rooster’s Sunrise Motel.” On the soundtrack is “If I Didn’t Care,” sung by The Ink Spots in 1939. There is, by the way, a lovely duet version of this sung by Delysia Lafosse (Amy Adams) and her devoted friend and exasperated lover (one of three), Michael Pardue (Lee Pace), in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2009) that is very much part of the plot.

The man, balding and pensive, hesitates for a moment before going inside. The young girl at the desk identifies him as one Travis Johnson. Though he’s there past check-in time (10pm), she lets him in and mentions that he requested a specific room: 214. He calls it “Doctor’s orders.” She correctly guesses that he once stayed there, but he says it was “a long time ago.”

With a duffle bag in hand, he enters a hallway with a candy and a drinks machine behind him (these will show up later). As the music plays, he nervously goes to the room and puts in the key. But he has to steel himself to do it, first. Inside, he finds a standard Supernatural motel set, with a double bed, the usual spare furniture, and a décor of geometric red-and-gray circles and squares.

Putting the duffle bag on the bed, he opens it and takes out a bottle of cheap whiskey, from which he swigs large. As he sits on the bed, his phone buzzes. It’s a text from someone named Caitlin that says, “Travis, I’m worried. Why would you go back to that place?” Rather than answer it, he shuts it off and puts it on the bed beside him.

“Just one night,” he mutters to himself. “And then, it’s over.” Why do I think things are about to get more complicated than that? Maybe because this is a Supernatural MOTW ep teaser?

Clutching an ornate gold ring on a chain around his neck, he closes his eyes and shakes his head, telling himself in an unconvinced voice, “It wasn’t real. It was never real.” Too bad, for him, that doesn’t seem to be true as the closet door opens behind him. By itself.

A shadowy figure of a young boy with dark circles under his eyes comes out of the closet and into the light. “Do you remember me?” the boy asks the man. “I remember you.”

Shocked and horrified and babbling in denial that this can’t be real, Travis accidentally knocks over the bottle and breaks it as he falls to the floor and scrambles away from the apparition. Crouching down, the child thing picks up the broken bottle, leans over Travis, and says, “Boo.”

Cut to outside Room 214 as Travis screams and then death-gurgles.

Cue title cards.

Cut to the Impala at night. Dean is driving, while Sam rides shotgun. Dean asks how much longer they have for their trip and Sam says, “Seven hours.” Dean’s not thrilled. They both sound tired.

It turns out they are investigating Doomed Teaser Travis’ death. As far as they know, he “slit his throat with a whiskey bottle” (the audience, of course, suspects that’s not really true). Travis was an “old friend,” but Dean points out that they hadn’t seen him in a quarter of a century. He says they’ve “missed funerals” of much closer and more recent friends. Why are they checking this one out? Sam says it’s because they have little else to do, since Chuck is still distracted with wrecking worlds, Jack is back in his room, and Castiel just up and left (Dean looks guilty when Sam says this, so I guess he hasn’t told him whatever Castiel told him after the credits last week).

In fact, just as Sam is asking him if he knows why Castiel left, and Dean is playing dumb about it, Dean gets a text from Castiel, saying “Did you tell Sam, yet?” When Sam complains that Dean is texting and driving, Dean puts the phone away without telling him who it was from.

The following morning, they arrive at the motel. It doesn’t look any better during the day. Dean comments that “it looks smaller.”

Sam: Yeah, well, we’re bigger.

Each comments in his own way that neither ever had any intention of revisiting this part of their past. As they get out, they do so into a flashback to January 1993 (Dean’s birthday month, though that never gets mentioned). John has just dropped them off to go on a hunt and weeDean is complaining about having to hang back and babysit weeSam. After all, when he was Sam’s age (about ten, at this point), he was babysitting Sam.

WeeSam: Pretty sure that’s illegal.

Dean suggests they go practice shooting, but Sam just wants to go to the room. Dean notices Sam is hiding something and wrestles it away from him. It’s a book Sam stole from the last motel, The 1991 American College Guide. Dean scoffs at the possibility of Sam ever going to college, especially with their spotty educational record. Hunting is their life.

Dean gives him back the book and goes inside, leaving Sam standing there, looking woeful. Later, we see Sam staring at the same book, in a room with the same layout and décor as the infamous Room 214, before setting it down on the bed. He opens his duffle bag, revealing a pistol and a knife on top of a flannel shirt. Well, that sure just summed up the show’s look. He takes out the knife and handles it rather sadly, laying both it and the pistol next to the bed. This obviously isn’t the life he wants.

In the hallway, Dean is stealing from the vending machine by punching the order numbers a certain way and tapping on the side. He gets busted by a young girl in pigtails, but she’s just kidding. She wants him to teach her the trick.

She introduces him to her brother, Travis, who looks just like the ghost boy in the teaser. She says her name is Caitlin, the same as in the teaser text. So, she was Travis’ sister, not girlfriend or wife. Dean smiles and teaches her the trick. She and Dean bond over classic muscle cars, like the one he and Sam just arrived in. It turns out her and Travis’ mom works on the cleaning crew at the motel.

Cut to Now and a much-older Caitlin is sitting in a diner, lost in grieving, holding a cup of coffee. She comes alive when the Brothers enter the diner, getting up to hug first Dean and then Sam.

As they all sit down, Caitlin admits that she’s feeling guilty about her brother’s death. His life went downhill after Sam and Dean left, due to something that happened while they were there. He got into drugs and couldn’t stay employed. She urged him for a long time to get therapy. When he finally did, it helped at first. Unfortunately, his therapist had the idea that he should go back to the motel and “face his fears.” in Room 214. Obviously, that did not end well.

It turns out that Caitlin didn’t just call them for the funeral (which was last week). She thinks “she’s back.”

As we go into another flashback, we find out that whoever “she” was, she attacked Travis first. He was at the candy machine, trying to learn Dean’s trick. After some frustrating failure, he started to leave, but then the machine disgorged some candy. But when he went to get it, a grody old hand with a ring on one finger grabbed him through the slot and he saw a hideous face reflected in the plexiglass. He screamed for help, which brought Caitlin and Dean running, and the creature let him go. But he was too traumatized to tell them what happened, at least at first.

Inside the motel room, the Brothers are going over the case. Dean says there’s nothing in the coroner’s report to indicate anyone but Travis was in the room. Sam says he couldn’t find anything to indicate witchcraft, demonic possession, or anything else “that’s our kind of thing.” Dean suggests that maybe the “immersion therapy” Travis’ therapist suggested made him crack when he got to the room, but Caitlin insists her brother would not have killed himself.

Back in the flashback and in 214, Travis is freaking out and thinking they’ll believe he’s nuts, even as Caitlin tries to reassure him that she didn’t see anything there. Dean is getting off the phone with Bobby, who says that John is nowhere near a phone.

When Caitlin expresses surprise that Dean would call his father, Dean gives her and Travis The Talk and Sam backs him up. He asks Caitlin if anything weird has been happening in town. She and Travis take him and Sam to a nearby playground, where there is an impromptu shrine of Missing posters and flowers. Three kids their age have gone missing in the past few months, the latest the previous week. Dean stares at the posters as we cut back to Now.

Adult!Dean is skeptical that this is the same monster as 27 years ago. First of all, it only preyed on kids and Caitlin has to admit that no kids have recently gone missing in town. Second, Dean is certain he killed it all those years ago.

Caitlin complains that he’s “changed.” He was the one who believed Travis when they were kids. But Dean is convinced it can’t be the same monster now, even over Sam’s objections.

Cut to another flashback. The kids are in a storeroom, looking at newspapers for stories about the missing kids. They’ve got a town tourist map and are trying to triangulate (from where the kids went missing) where they might find the MOTW’s lair. The closest spot is an abandoned cannery.

Dean insists on going in alone. Sam says their dad wouldn’t like it. Dean points out that John isn’t there and would expect Dean to “take charge,” anyway.

Even though the other kids want to come along, Dean figures that since even Sam has never been on a hunt, they would be liabilities and in danger, so he leaves them behind. Caitlin shows up when he’s trying to pick the lock at the cannery, anyway. Despite her snarky distraction, he manages to pick the lock and goes in, telling her to stay behind him.

Back at the motel room, Sam is playing a word game with a box of letter dice, with Travis, and reassures him that Dean will kill the monster, “whatever it is.”

In the cannery, Caitlin is complaining that the abandoned building is “gross.” Dean points out she insisted on coming along. She picks at him, basically saying he’s scared (Who wouldn’t be?) and Dean claims he’s not.

Eventually, they find what looks like a pile of children’s clothing in a corner under a blanket. Dean finds a motel room key, but when he uncovers the rest of the pile, he recoils (we don’t see from what) and won’t let Caitlin see it. In fact, he pretends all he found was the motel room key (for #214). But he still hurries Caitlin out the door.

Back in the motel room, things are taking a turn for the bizarre, as Travis gets a message on the pad of paper he’s writing that says, “Sam kill you,” and Sam gets a similar one regarding Travis. The game pieces start to shake. They stop momentarily, only then to burst into the air as the lights go back.

Sam and Travis recoil in opposite directions, so Sam is on the opposite side of the room when the same moldy old witch from the candy machine appears behind Travis and grabs him. Sam calls out his name, just as Dean and Caitlin burst into the room.

When Dean goes to shoot the witch, she knocks the gun out of his hand. He then slashes at her with the knife, slicing off her fingers (which dissolve) and the ring on her hand. It lands underneath the bed, where we see it’s the same one that Travis was wearing on a chain in the teaser. Dean then stabs the witch in the gut. She screams an echoing cry and vanishes. The lights flicker back on.

Caitlin runs past a shocked Sam to Travis and hugs him. As Dean walks out of frame toward Sam, he reappears in frame in front of the candy machine as an adult. As he’s walking down the hallway, a figure runs behind him past the candy and coffee machines. Dean senses this and turns around.

At first, he thinks it’s Sam, then just his own imagination. But when he turns around with a shrug, he sees the figure at the end of the hallway and stops dead. The lights fritz and the figure moves down the hallway with inhuman, flickering speed. It’s weeDean, but a very dead-looking weeDean.

The figure says, “Hey, Dean,” in an angry, sinister voice. “I’ve been waiting for you.” Nodding at his knife, which he is holding, somehow, the figure tells him, “You know what you have to do.”

Dean tries to fight the hypnosis, but the figure tells him, “You failed,” with an evil smile. Dean is unable to stop himself trying to gut himself until Sam walks into the hallway unexpectedly. The figure vanishes and Dean realizes he’s not even holding a knife. When a bemused Sam asks him what he’s doing, Dean realizes that “Caitlin’s right.”

Later in a bar, Dean apologizes to Caitlin for not believing her earlier and feels bad about Travis’ death. Obviously, he didn’t kill the monster, after all, when they were kids. Caitlin admits that she didn’t have any proof before now and Sam points out that all of them had thought the monster was dead.

Either way, they now need to figure out what “she” is so they can kill her for real this time. Sam is going to hit the books. Caitlin points out one important detail about the monster – “she’s scary.” By this, Caitlin means that the MOTW is manipulative and likes to stalk her victims.

Dean mentions that “she” can also “look like other people.” She’s a mimic. More reluctantly, he admits something he didn’t tell anyone when he was a kid. What he found in the cannery was the monster’s nest and the missing children were there, dead.

As we get some quick and jagged flashbacks to what Dean actually saw back then, Caitlin realizes that’s what he was hiding from her. Sam asks why Dean never told him about it and Dean says it was because he hadn’t seen “anything like that before” and they were all kids his, Sam’s, Caitlin’s and Travis’ age. After he thought he’d killed the monster, he basically just wanted to forget all about it. So, he made a call to the police and walked away. This wasn’t very successful: “I had nightmares about it for the longest time.”

When Dean apologizes for not telling him, Sam magnaminously allows that they were kids and “we used to keep a lot of secrets from each other.” Dean looks sketchy at this, but as he’s walking away to get some food, he looks as though he’s rolling his eyes a bit at Sam’s hypocrisy.

In the motel restaurant, Dean is ordering for himself and trying to add in Sam’s “healthy” order with an unimpressed waitress. As she leaves to put the orders in, Dean gets an unexpected visitor. Billie pops up on the chair next to him.

She’s annoyed that Dean is wasting time on an MOTW case and she has bad news. She just watched Chuck burn an entire planet to ashes. Problem is, that was the last one save Earth Prime. He’ll be here soon and when he arrives, they won’t have much time to take him down. She says she’s visited Jack in the Bunker and given him the info about his final trial.

Dean lets on that he knows about the whole plan and asks how she got Jack on board. She says that she just told Jack “the truth.” She told Jack that Dean would never forgive him until he ended Chuck and “freed” Dean from the “hamster wheel” of having no choice in his life – and it’s true, isn’t it? Dean looks uncomfortable, which means she’s probably right.

In a motel bedroom (different from 214, as the circles-and-squares wallpaper is green, not red), Caitlin is asking Sam if he ever wanted a normal life. Sam responds by saying he’s sorry about Travis. He then discovers some info about Baba Yaga – she feeds on children and she has a ring that contains her “heart.” Sam wonders if the reason Dean defeated her the first time was because he separated her from her ring, not because he cut off her fingers or stabbed her.

Caitlin is shocked to realize the ring in the rather stylized illustration Sam found online looks just like a ring her mother gave to Travis after the “incident.” Her mother had found it in a vacuum cleaner and it was never claimed. The stone inside had been “busted up,” but Travis liked it and wore it on a chain around his neck: “It was his lucky charm.”

Well, not so much, I guess, considering how horrible his life turned out to be. Maybe the witch had been feeding on him all along. Caitlin says that Travis had the ring fixed a few weeks before his death.

She has some kind of realization. As Sam infodumps, oblivious, about the stone, she wanders off as if in a trance and he’s shocked to find she’s left the room. But it turns out she thinks she knows where the ring is. She goes to her car to look through Travis’ effects. But when she finds the chain, the ring itself is missing.

She’s bewildered – where did it go? When she closes her hatch, “Travis” appears next to her, holding the ring and asking if that’s what she’s looking for. She screams.

Back in the diner, Billie drops an important bit of information. She tells Dean that she isn’t in this part of Chuck’s death book, so this will be the last time Dean sees her before “the end” (Chuck’s arrival). She demands to know if Dean is still on board, even though the plan means Jack’s death and the betrayal of Amara. Though uncomfortable, Dean says he is.

She asks if Sam is, too, then is annoyed to realize Sam doesn’t know about the part where Jack dies. She tells Dean he needs to “get your house in order.” She hates “disorder” and “loose ends.” Dean says he’ll get Sam on board, too.

Dean returns to the room with food (it’s 219, by the way) to find Sam on the phone, frantically trying to find Caitlin. He found her car, but she wasn’t there, and she’s not answering her phone. Believing (accurately, of course) that Baba Yaga has kidnapped her, he quickly fills Dean in on what he and Caitlin found out.

Dean: Okay, so we track her down, junk her Precious, and it’s Game Over?

Sam says yeah. Dean asks where and Sam says she’ll have a nest, just like at the cannery, only all the recent attacks happened at the motel. So, it’s somewhere around here.

They split up to go looking (always smart – not). Sam goes down to the reception area and sees smoke coming out from a door behind the front desk. It turns out to be the receptionist getting high with a bong.

Dean, meanwhile, goes back to the hallway where the vending machine is and Baba Yaga nearly got him before. He notices and remembers the vending machine, this time. This is, by the way, the same hallway that contains Room 214. Someone is watching porn in Room 212, but when Dean reaches 214, the door suddenly opens (why the Brothers didn’t start the search in 214, when they already knew it was the problem child, I’m not sure).

Dean [pulling out his gun and cocking it]: I’ve seen this movie before.

As he warily enters the room, spidery music plays and the door slams behind him. He spins around, but when he turns back, he’s inside the old cannery. Confused, he crouches down and tries to figure out what’s going on. Then he goes down the stairs into the cannery proper.

As he’s prowling around, his breath comes out as fog. Eventually, he comes to the nest he saw when he was a kid. This time, when he pulls back the blanket, he sees weeSam dead and says his brother’s name out loud. As he staggers out into another corridor, he hears his name called. It’s “Travis” (the witch, of course), looking the same as when he went after Caitlin, dead and with his throat cut, but still standing.

Dean calls him out, saying he knows what the MOTW is now. When he points out that he’s “a little old for you,” Baba Yaga says that’s normally true, but “he” has been starving for so long that “he” will take anything and anyone. “Travis” attacks Dean, knocking him down. As the monster pins Dean, it flashes back and forth between Travis and the witch. Baba Yaga is so hyped up that she apparently can’t keep up the glamour completely.

During this attack, Sam is walking down the same hallway and goes right past 214. But he hears a faint sound of struggle and turns back. Inside, he finds Caitlin unconscious, face down on a bed, and Baba Yaga attacking Dean on the floor. Sam calls his name and attacks her, stabbing her in the back. It only annoys her and she flings Sam across the floor.

But this gives Dean the chance to grab the ring off her finger and kick her across the room. He then slams his gun butt down on the ring, just as Baba Yaga is getting up for another attack. The ring explodes in green fire and across the room, so does the witch. Caitlin wakes up just in time to watch the MOTW go up in flames.

Afterward, Caitlin thanks Dean on their way out of the motel. She asks Dean an odd question: “Were you scared?” Dean responds with honesty: “Always am.” Caitlin realizes how much he’s grown and matured, since his teenage self never would have admitted that.

Caitlin: You know what they say about getting older. You tell the truth more because the lies, they don’t make anything better.

Dean looks pensive as they hug goodbye and we segue back into one last weeChester flashback. WeeCaitlin is thanking weeDean for saving her brother. He gives her his number, in case anything weird every happens to her again, and she says she hopes she’ll never have to call it. She also says goodbye to weeSam (who is coming out to the lobby with his stuff) as she goes.

Right before John rolls up in the Impala, weeSam asks weeDean if he ever found the missing kids. WeeDean lies and says no. He figures they are just “gone.” When Sam asks what they will tell John, Dean says they’ll say that they “handled it.”

But before they go out, Dean has one more thing to tell Sam. He gives his blessing to Sam wanting to go to college, but wistfully adds, “We do make a good team, don’t we?” And weeSam agrees.

Cut to the present. The Brothers are driving home in the Impala, Dean driving. Sam is trying to call Castiel and Dean, looking uncomfortable, tells him to hang up. He fills Sam in on Billie’s diner visit, then also mentions Jack’s full role in the plan. He admits that Castiel told him before he left.

Sam is salty about it. He gets furious with Dean, while demonstrating precisely why Dean didn’t tell him, at first. Dean even says, “Because I know you couldn’t handle it!” when Sam asks why he didn’t tell him. He says that Sam has never been on board with Billie’s plan and has had all of these “ethical” questions about it (ethical questions, one might add, that are highly relative and that prioritize Sam’s needs and what Sam thinks should happen, rather than what other people want or what might be best for everyone).

After Dean says, “We don’t get a choice” and Sam yells a bit, Sam then just snaps, “Drive … just drive.”

Credits

Ratings for this new episode remained steady at a 0.3 in the A18-49 demo and dropped to 917 thousand in audience.

Review: My main objection to “Drag Me Away (From You)” is that it comes in so late. Really? Five episodes left and this is the third MOTW ep in a row? This couldn’t have aired earlier in the season in place of some of the truly forgettable dogs we had, instead?

Also, why a weeChesters ep so late in the game? It certainly hasn’t figured into the rest of the season, aside from Billie’s conversation with Dean, unless there is supposed to be something in here about things not being what they seemed and people trapped in fantasy worlds, that might explain the hot dumpster fire weirdness of episode 15.19 and isn’t just another take on “The Werther Project” from Season 10.

The episode also had some stale elements to it. It went largely the way other weeChester episodes have in the past and borrowed heavily from Season 1’s “Something Wicked,” right down to Dean’s guilt about an unfinished hunt when he was a child. The episode even obliquely references that episode when Dean mentions he was babysitting Sam at Sam’s age.

I couldn’t help thinking this was a golden opportunity to have guest kids who weren’t white and American. Maybe have them be illegal migrant farm workers, for example. Or give them a backstory where their mom was on the run from an abusive spouse. Something different from white, Middle American, small town kids.

It didn’t help that it was totally unnecessary for this near-immortal witch-ghost character (it’s actually quite common for witches to be inhuman and/or ghosts in British and mid-Atlantic lore) to be Baba Yaga. Pretty much nothing of the real Russian folklore about Baba Yaga was in here. Granted, my gold standard for a television version of Baba Yaga – from Lost Girl – is pretty high, but still. This was Baba Yaga in name, only.

I also can’t say I was thrilled by Sam’s reaction to Dean’s news about Jack. First of all, what happened to being magnanimous earlier in the episode? What happened to all that maturity, Sam? Did it evaporate again?

I kept thinking of that scene at the end of Season 1’s “Bloody Mary,” when Sam rather snottily tells his brother that he’s entitled to keep secrets, Even though, about two seconds later, he’s shocked to see an hallucination(?) of Jessica (whose murder he had dreams of, but whom he never warned), he doesn’t learn anything from it. He doesn’t open up to Dean.

And no offense, Sam, but that earlier “secret” of Dean having seen the pile of dead kids doesn’t count as one you needed to know. Sam always seems to feel entitled to keep secrets from Dean, but Dean can’t keep any secrets from Sam.

Second, Sam is furious with Dean for not telling him, but not with Jack for keeping everyone in the dark until the last possible moment when it was just about impossible for TFW to come up with another plan. Strictly speaking, Dean just found out. Why not get on Jack’s case for lying to them for so long – again? When does Sam intend to start having Jack face consequences for his actions?

And when Dean finally tells him about Jack’s real role in the plan, Sam doesn’t even take into consideration what Jack wants or how high the stakes are. It’s all about the happy ending Sam thinks he’s entitled to, which includes never facing up to the possibility that Jack may have to die, or that this might be the best thing for the SPNverse.

Possibly all this had something to do with the inexperience of the writer, Meghan Fitzmartin, whose only other credit on the show has been co-writing “Peace of Mind” (14.15).

This is Amyn Kaderali’s ninth time in the SPN director’s chair, though, and he delivers on some serious horror. Despite the clumsiness, in spots, of the writing, there was a lot to recommend in “Drag Me Away (From You).” This episode had a lot of genuinely unsettling atmosphere in it, especially in the scene where Dean finds the kids, while the witch attacks Travis and Sam. And pretty much everything in the cannery was creepy.

The witch’s attack on Adult!Dean in the hallway is also chilling. Even after 15 seasons, Jensen Ackles manages to convey the sense that Dean is in real danger, not just from the witch, but from his own guilt, his own secrets. Kaderali evokes in that ubiquitous candy machine the same kind of dread that It put into sewer holes. Every time the thing popped up, especially when someone noticed it, I thought, Oh, here we go now.

If the show had bothered to portray the ghost invasion in as creepy a manner as this episode, the first three episodes of this season would not have been so hideously dull. It’s nice to see that the show is still capable of scaring and unsettling us, this late in the game, of making us feel that Sam and Dean can be in real peril from such a mundane hunt. The way the witch stalked them and drew them in, one by one, evoked I Know What You Did Last Summer, where the characters didn’t have that kind of plot armor.

One thing the episode gets across really well is how depressing a life it is to grow up poor and transient like that. Not just poor, but dirt poor, hard-scrabble poor, drifter poor.

There’s a strong hint, when Caitlin talks about how her brother accidentally adopted Baba Yaga’s ring as his lucky charm, that his bad luck and dysfunction as an adult stemmed from her sucking off him all these years. But in this case, it’s almost a metaphor for how having a lousy start in life holds you down and back, as if there were an emotional vampire pressing you down into adulthood.

Addictions, chronic bad health, poor financial habits (assuming you manage to get any money to blow in the first place) all come into play. Since you didn’t start out with enough breaks in life, you just can’t seem to catch any later on, either. Makes me hope that Travis’ soul was able to travel on to Heaven, but it’s also possible that the witch trapped, ate and destroyed the souls of her victims.

Travis’ death could also be seen as a metaphor for the perils of ignoring reality. In Supernatural, the supernatural world is quite real. You ignore it at your peril. You can pretend all you want that the “sunlit world” (as Tales from the Darkside used to put it) is all there is, but that world is surrounded by the supernatural world that will happily eat you up whether you acknowledge (or are aware of) its existence or not. In that sense, Supernatural has always been very much a fairy tale, where the traveller would do well to arm up for any dangers lurking on the roadside when going through the woods.

Travis knew from childhood that the supernatural world was real and that it was ravenously dangerous. That’s what messed him up. But he let a clueless shrink persuade him otherwise – worse, to challenge that supernatural world in its own lair and then reject its very existence. That is like rejecting the existence of cars on a superhighway in the middle of rush hour. You’ll very quickly get squashed. Needless to say, it didn’t end well for Travis.

I was not too thrilled with how thin Caitlin’s characterization was. Yes, it was nice that she wasn’t automatically turned into a love interest (as would have happened in the earlier seasons) and that it was her brother rather than her husband or boyfriend. But she was basically there to be a cheering section, infodump some family business, and find something important before needing to be rescued. We never found out if she managed to break out of that cycle of poverty and dysfunction, about whether she was married, whether her mother was still alive, what kind of job she had, or what. The Brothers don’t even seem to have asked.

I also wasn’t overly thrilled with how she kept baiting Dean about being scared when they were teens inside the cannery. It was an extremely dangerous situation (as Dean had made abundantly clear back at the motel) and she had followed him against his express instructions that she stay behind with Sam and Travis because she had no hunting experience. Plus, the whole “Girl snarks at boy about being afraid” trope just needs to be burned down, never to be used again. It’s so freakin’ sexist, in both directions.

Speaking of the cannery scene, Dean’s PTSD really crops up here as we discover that one of his big nightmares was discovering a pile of dead kids his age in the witch’s nest. That’s got to have messed with his head, especially since he later hallucinates the scene with weeSam being the dead body in the nest.

The way Baba Yaga manipulates him later on is a lot like how she manipulates Travis in the teaser. She uses their childhood damage against them. It makes her seem especially evil, even though she is nothing on the scale of Chuck in terms of wrecking the Brothers’ lives or threat to the rest of the world. This image of an “adult” monster preying on young children (for however long; we never find out her backstory or if she was ever human), using their fears against them, has a strong emotional resonance that the Chuck apocalypse story lacks because the witch story is rooted in real childhood fears.

I’ve seen the kid actors for Dean and Sam come in for some criticism on social media, especially Paxton Singleton as weeDean. I rolled my eyes at that, particularly when the same fans held Brock Kelly up as a popular version of weeDean in Season 4’s “After School Special.” Since when? Poor Kelly got nailed left and right at the time for his portrayal in that episode.

Personally, I think both Singleton and Christian Michael Cooper (as weeSam) did just fine. And no, weeSam didn’t get that much to do in this episode, the way weeSam usually does in these flashback stories. That’s probably because this was somewhat of a retread of “Something Wicked,” which was Deancentric. Even so, we did get to find out something new about Sam, which was when he started thinking about going to college (it was pretty early) and what Dean’s reaction was to it.

Then there was Billie’s meeting with Dean. I wish I could say this led to something important for Dean, though I suppose it did (they just didn’t stick the landing afterward). But it’s quite interesting how Billie sees only Dean as the important one to deal with. He’s not just the point man in Team Free Will to her. Just as he was the leader on the hunt against Baba Yaga (both as a teen and as an adult), he’s the leader of TFW today and she doesn’t want to have to deal with anyone else. She feels it’s his responsibility to get everyone in line. We’ll see how well that all pans out.

Next week: Unity: Dean takes Jack on a final journey to complete his quest, while Sam and Castiel try to find another way to defeat Chuck.

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: “Gimme Shelter” (15.15) Recap and Review

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.

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.

Tonight (15.19 – “Inherit the Earth”) is the penultimate episode of the show. Showrunner Andrew Dabb has called it the “season finale” for Season 15 and next week’s the “series finale.” Reportedly, there will also be a retrospective episode first next week, so the last episode will actually air at 9pm then. This week will be the usual time slot. Feel free to comment about the episode below as you watch it.

You can find a promo, photos and a synopsis here for 15.16.

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: Pretty quick recap of the Jacknatural plot this season, but framed by the EVOL Chuck storyline and an oddly Deancentric spin to Billy’s plan and the Amara mytharc from Season 11.

Cut to Now in a soup kitchen, where two young women are discussing “God’s creatures” in the form of a very shabby older woman who is homeless and lacking in manners. One girl hides it better than the other, who is a bit of a princess type and gets a nebbishy young man named Connor to go roust the woman. But he’s accosted by the pastor in charge, a bearded man who cautions him to go in with kindness rather than judgment (if the pastor looks familiar, that’s because he played Dr. Sexy in Season 5’s “Changing Channels”).

So, Connor brings over some soup and gives it to the homeless woman, as the pastor smiles at the first girl, who is apparently his daughter (and played by the girl who let the clown into the house in the teaser to Season 2’s “Everybody Loves a Clown”). After some hesitation, she returns the smile.

Later that night, Connor is walking down a shabby street brightly lit by neon, when he is lured into a darker alleyway by an echo-y man’s voice calling his name and shouting for help. This being Supernatural, and this being an episode teaser, we all know this won’t end well for Connor. It doesn’t.

As he gets nervous and backs up, Connor trips over something. It’s a teddy bear and when he picks it up, it says, “Hey, Connor.” Then he’s lassoed from behind by the kind of noose that Animal Control uses on stray dogs, and dragged off the street into the shadows after apparently being choked to death.

Cue Title Cards.

In the Bunker, Dean is entering the Library and asking if Sam has “found anything.” Sam brings up Doomed Teaser Connor and his death in the alleyway. He asks if Dean has “anything” and this turns out to be looking for Amara. And Dean has something.

Seems Atlantic City just had a blackout (“darkness,” Dean lampshades) right before a Keno tournament there. Dean points out that Chuck once said Amara was fond of Keno.

Sam: I thought he was kidding.

Dean: He’s not that funny.

Sam thinks it’s “weak,” to which I roll my eyes. Dean points out that’s all they’ve got. I’d like to point out to Sam that his brother’s instincts have been very good on this sort of thing. Maybe, after 15 seasons, start trusting them?

Castiel shows up and asks what they’ve got going. As they pack up, they tell him to stay back at the Bunker and watch over Jack. Castiel points out that they are looking for Amara, a god-level being, and they intend to “lie to her face.” Sam says it’s probably nothing and Dean says if they do find Amara, “we used to have a thing,” which is an epic understatement. Besides (it’s not said out loud), it wouldn’t hurt to have a backup team in case things go south.

In the Library, Jack has found Sam’s research on Doomed Teaser Connor and asks about the hunt. Sam says it’s probably nothing and not to worry about it, that it’s probably “not our thing.” Dean contradicts Sam and suggests Castiel take Jack out to investigate it, just in case, and to get away from any flashbacks to “Mrs. Butters.” Castiel doesn’t recognize who she is, so I guess Jack will fill him in on the trip out.

Dean[about the case]: You can Highway to Heaven the bitch.

At the scene of the crime, Castiel and an enthusiastic Jack are interviewing a friendly, junoesque cop. I kinda like her. I guess we’ll never see her again.

Cop [to Jack]: You look greener than Baby Yoda.

Oh, if Jack were only as fun and well-written as Baby Yoda.

The veteran cop is unimpressed by Jack and bemused by the pair’s weird questions about black magic. But she does provide some important clues. Connor had “Liar” carved on his body. Also, all of his fingers had been chopped off and shoved down his throat, presumably pre-mortem. She also shows them a photo of the teddy bear. Jack cheerfully exclaims that the bear is “Marvelous Marvin” and he has one. Obviously, this does not impress the cop, even when Jack backpedals and claims he got the bear for his nonexistent nephew, Ronald.

The cop says there was a speaker inside the bear and one nearby inside a fake rock. She also shows them CCTV footage from across the street of a short, masked figure furtively dragging Connor off. Jack opines that this all sounds almost “demonic.” So, later that night, they go to a crossroads outside town. Castiel digs a hole and puts in a hoodoo CRD summoning box with his photo inside, while Jack looks Connor up online. Castiel opines that the internet has “so many cat photos … too many cats.” (There can never be too many cat photos, Cas.)

The CRD takes a while to show up and when he does, he claims that “the shop’s closed” in a British voice. When Jack calls him out on it, he claims his name is Zach and that he “has style.”

Jack gets straight to the point and asks why Connor was killed. Dropping the accent for an American one, Zach admits that he doesn’t know. It’s not related to demons. In fact, no CRDs have been making deals since Rowena banned them. Seems Rowena feels people should only go to Hell if they truly deserve it. Well, I can get behind that philosophy.

On the one hand, Zach admits that the lack of quotas is rather nice. On the other, it’s introduced an existential dilemma for the CRDs – what’s their function these days? He’s desperate to tag along on the hunt, especially since it involves angels and he’s fascinated by the idea of teaming up with one, but Castiel tells him to buzz off. Too bad. Zach’s kinda fun.

As they walk back to the car, Jack sadly says this isn’t their kind of case, so they might as well go back to the Bunker and wait for Sam and Dean to return. Castiel demurs. This may not be their kind of case, but there is something going on. He wants to investigate further.

Cut to nighttime at the soup kitchen, called the “Patchwork Community Center” (because of course it is). A rather rode-hard-and-put-away wet redheaded volunteer is closing up for the night. As she goes out, she furtively steals from the donations box.

Out in the parking lot, she hears her name being shouted by the same male voice that lured Connor. Wisely, she decides to make a call, instead (presumably to 911), but as she turns around, she encounters someone in a mask, who growls her name. She screams.

Cut to Castiel and Jack, in their car, in front of the soup kitchen. Castiel is on the phone to Dean, telling him about Rowena’s new “lockdown” of Hell. Dean approves. Sam asks about Jack and Castiel says he is “focused” (which Dean calls “good”). He tells them about Valerie’s disappearance.

Sam calls that “a lead.” Dean warns them to be careful of the “Hallelujah Types,” saying that while “most of them play it straight,” others think “the Feds are from the Deep State.” He suggests a “divide and conquer” strategy of sending Jack in undercover to see what he can find, while Castiel interviews them as a “Fed.” Castiel says okay and asks how the “search for Amara” is going. Dean abruptly replies, “Dandy!” and signs off, leaving an exasperated Castiel looking at his phone.

Back in the Impala, Sam wonders if this lead is really such a hot one. Their plan, such as it is, is to get Amara on board as their ally against her own brother, while simultaneously setting her up for her own death. Dean insists that that’s the price they have to pay to make Billie’s plan work, the “catch.” Dean is acutely aware that when you play a game with Death, someone’s going to die. At least this time, he figures it’s good that it’s not him and his brother.

I’m not a big fan of this development and not just because I actually quite liked Amara and her relationship with Dean, and it seems like a pretty nasty thing to do to her. Yeah, it’s somewhat in character for Dean to be so much in denial (at least on the surface) about his (mutual) feelings for Amara that he would act as if he’s okay with this plan.

But it is completely out of character for Sam to demonstrate any qualms whatsoever about throwing her under the plot bus. Sam’s extreme antipathy toward Amara in Season 11, his massive jealousy of his brother’s relationship with her, and his unshakeable conviction that said relationship was toxic (when it turns out it wasn’t), were precisely the reasons why Dean lied to him about his feelings for her in the first place. Now, we’re suddenly supposed to believe that Sam cares about what happens to her? Since when?

As Jack walks into the soup kitchen, the minister is having a short remembrance service for Connor. Jack introduces himself to the daughter (nearly flubbing it right off by playing Dean’s previous joke about his “drinking the Kool-Aid”). She is bored and not terribly impressed when Jack says he wants to sign up for the ministry.

Castiel comes in and they both nearly blow their cover by acknowledging each other. Castiel then zeroes in on the pastor, who is finishing up a shared private prayer with a parishioner. Castiel introduces himself as a Fed, then shocks the hell out of the pastor by telling him Valerie Jones has been kidnapped. Seems the guy didn’t know (or he’s a really good liar).

Cut to poor Ms. Jones. She wakes up tied to a chair in a nondescript room. Her left hand is stuck in some kind of sinister contraption and she’s gagged. When she looks over at the wall, she sees the word “GREED” painted in huge red letters on it. She looks around the room and jumps when she sees the mask that was on the person who knocked her out (it’s now on a rack next a TV). She starts screaming “Help!” into her gag.

The TV blinks on and the word “Thief,” in different caps, streams across it, over and over. We then find out what the contraption is when a plunger over one of her fingers is depressed by remote and a blade inside the contraption hacks off one of her fingers. Predictably, Valerie shrieks and wails in pain and fear. Get sticky fingers and you lose ’em, I guess.

On the screen, the number 03:00:00 pops up and a countdown begins. A red light blinking on a camera overhead shows that she’s being watched and possibly filmed.

Cut back to the soup kitchen, where Jack is filling out the form. Princess is commenting the daughter, Sylvia, that he’s cute (oh, please, Show) and Sylvia is sort of shrugging it off, while also checking Jack out. We also find out that the church used to hand out Bibles rather than food, and both girls show Jack how to be totally fake and smiling when handing it out when he brings up the form.

But when he asks about Connor, Sylvia gets upset and goes to sit down across the room. When Jack comes over and sits down near her, he admits that “I’m not very good at this.” She says he’s doing okay and starts to open up to him (though when she appears to brush away a tear, she’s not actually crying). She says that she and Connor once dated, a long time ago, which most consisted of watching old movies together. She says that “he was always there for me.”

Jack says, “I lost someone, too – my mother,” without mentioning that he’s the one who killed her. Sylvia confesses that her mother died three years ago. She lets out that the pastor (Pastor Joe) is her father and he’s “a better preacher than he is a dad.” When Jack admits that he has several “dads,” and that he feels he’s always “letting them down,” Sylvia calls him “sweet” and says she feels the same. She tells him, “Put your trust in God, not people.” O the irony.

Inside the office (in the background of a wooden sculpture of praying hands), Pastor Joe is telling Castiel that he feels the church is being “targeted.” Though he refuses to call it a “church,” saying that people bring “baggage” with that name. He prefers “faith-based community.” An ekklesia by any other name ….

When Castiel asks about anyone who might have “gone missing” recently, the pastor admits that his congregation is very transient. There was one guy, Brother Rudy, who’s been gone for a few weeks, but that’s because he had “parted ways” with the community, due to wanting to worship elsewhere. Uh-huh.

Sylvia comes in to ask her dad something and he rather bruskly tells her he’ll come out “in a minute.” She leaves, crestfallen. The pastor then asks Castiel if he has any children. Castiel just says, “It’s complicated.”

Pastor Joe talks about his dead wife, saying that she grew up in this church. They were much more hardcore back in the day. Everything was “God’s will.” Castiel mopily replies that “God just doesn’t care.”

A little taken aback, Pastor Joe says that he meant that people need to watch out for each other. He then goes on to say that after his wife died, he sold the church building and came here to practice a kinder and gentler form of worship, for people with different faiths and backgrounds. When Castiel asks him what he means by “backgrounds,” Joe reveals that Connor was gay. Ah, well, that would be why Connor and Sylvia weren’t dating, anymore.

Cut to Sam and Dean on the road. Sam is gassing up the car in the snow at a Gasn’Sip. Dean is refusing to eat until they reach the buffet in Atlantic City (assuming Dean’s theory on Amara doesn’t pan out and she’s not there). Alas, Sam puts a crimp in that plan when he checks his phone and discovers that there’s a pileup on the way there and they’ll be delayed six hours. They decide to go with Plan B (“pork rinds!), but Amara pops up right in front of Dean in a pink pantsuit and says, “I think we can do better than that.”

Amara greets Dean by name and asks if he missed her. When she also asks where they’re going, Dean readily admits they were trying to find her. When Sam asks how she found them, she says, “I smelled Dean from two states over.” To Dean: “You have a very distinctive musk.” Dean is flattered. She also says she heard Castiel’s angelic prayer.

While she’s happy to talk to them, she wants to have lunch with them, first – at Pavel’s Deli. She likes “new earthly experiences.” She’s “hungry,” as they are, and “I have never had a Pennsylvania pierogi.” So, off they go.

Back to the boring B (A?) story. Valerie is losing another finger as the timer comes up. Before it restarts, the screen reads, “Time is running out.”

As Castiel enters the soup kitchen, Pastor Joe is giving a short prayer/sermon as the others stand around him in a circle. This ceremony is intended to introduce Jack as their newest member. Jack is asked to “give testimony.” Jack is taken aback, so Castiel does it, instead.

He talks about how he always followed The Plan, doing “some pretty terrible things” in the cause of “blind faith.” When that “all came crashing down” (far more literally than anyone there besides Jack realizes), he felt “lost.” How he found himself again and “rediscovered” his faith was by finding a new family and becoming a father. He exchanges a look and smile with Jack while saying this.

Cut to Jack working at the soup kitchen later that day. Pastor Joe comes over to apologize for “putting him on the spot.” As he crosses the room to go do something else, the TV on the other side flicks on. It shows the counter from the scene with Valerie, then Valerie herself. She shrieks as she loses another finger. The words “You won’t save her” appear on the screen.

Jack rushes to turn the TV off as everyone there looks shocked. But it’s not until he pulls out what looks like a wireless connection that the image flicks off. Finally, something happened in this storyline to move it forward. Took long enough. The pastor has no idea who would do such a thing, but Castiel thinks he knows.

Cut to Pavel’s (it looks like nighttime, but this could just be Amara’s effect on the local environment), where Amara is eating pierogis while Dean tries to talk her into helping him and Sam take down Chuck. Amara demurs.

Even when Sam points out that he saw into Chuck’s memories that she refused to help him with the God Wound, and Dean talks about the other universes being “snuffed out” (which Amara can sense), Amara says that helping to destroy her brother is not at all the same as refusing to help him. Even after Dean tells her about the plan for Jack to grow powerful enough to kill Jack, she says no. She won’t “betray” her brother.

She goes on to explain (in a rather condescending manner) that when Dean looks at her, he sees “a woman,” and when he looks at her brother, he sees “a squirrely weirdo.” But she is not a woman and Chuck is not how he seems, either. These are just personae, masks, for two cosmic entities of inconceivable power. She says that she and Chuck are “the same … twins, Creation and Destruction, Light and Dark, balance.”

When Sam says that the “former Death” said that she was the oldest, she says that Death “told you what you needed to hear.” She claims that she and Chuck “came into existence together and when we split apart, all this was created.” Shocked, Sam realizes she means the Big Bang.

Dean sees another angle in this – that the moment they separated was the moment that Chuck betrayed Amara – and aggressively presses it. Somewhat reluctantly, Amara allows that she “may be a fool,” but that she feels her brother’s betrayal “hurt him deeply” and that betraying him would be “an agony” for her.

Amara: I’m sorry, Dean. I can’t help you.

Off the Brothers’ crestfallen look (well, actually, Dean looks pissed), we cut to a grotty door inside a grotty appartment. Jack awkwardly busts through it while Castiel stands behind him in the hallway (I guess it’s practice?). The two of them infodump that this is Brother Rudy’s apartment, that Pastor Joe was probably lying when he said they parted on good terms, and that Brother Rudy was good with electronics (while glancing over at a desktop computer that has been turned off). So, he’s their prime suspect.

At least, until they walk into the bedroom, and find him handcuffed to the bed and very, very dead. He’s been rotting for weeks, so who’s been sending the messages? Oh, and who painted the word “LUST” above the bed?

Outside Pavel’s, we get a look through the window at Amara, still at her table, receiving a folder (either another menu or the bill) from a waitress. Inside the Impala, Sam is saying philosophically “Well, maybe it’s for the better” (“best,” Sam. You use a superlative, not a comparative) while Dean is starting the car. He’s surprised when Dean turns the car off. Dean says he still has a question for Amara and goes back inside the diner.

Amara is surprised to see him (um … isn’t she practically omniscient?) and at first misinterprets his one-word question – “Why?” – to be another attempt to get her on board the Get Chuck train. But Dean actually wants to know why she brought his mother back. Was it some kind of lesson? If so, he’s confused about what that lesson was. He fills her in that it ended badly and that his mother is now, once again and for good, dead.

Dean [angrily]: So, what is it, exactly, that you wanted to show me? What was the point?!

Amara: I wanted two things for you, Dean. I wanted you to see that your mother was just a person, that the myth you held onto for so long of a better life, a life where she lived, was just that – a myth. I wanted you to see that the real, complicated Mary was better than your childhood dream because she was real, that Now is always better than Then, that you could finally start to accept your life.

Dean [calmer]: And the second thing?

Amara: I thought having her back would release you, put that fire out – your anger – but I guess we both know I failed at that.

Dean leans forward and says with great intensity, “You’re damned right.” Leaning back with a look of contempt, he adds, “Look at you, just another cosmic dick, rigging the game. You’re just like your brother.”

Amara tries to explain that it was “a gift,” not a “trial” or a lesson or a manipulation. Dean replies that he’s “not angry, Amara. I’m furious.” What infuriates him is that his life has not been his own and neither have been his choices. He’s been “a hamster in a wheel, stuck in a story,” and her brother is responsible. Worse, he’s not the only one. All of them, even Amara herself, have been dancing to Chuck’s tune. He calls out Amara’s conviction that somehow, deep down, Chuck loves her back: “Now who’s stuck in a dream world?”

Shaken by his fury, and the hard truths he’s serving up (albeit with some furtive glances around to avoid freaking out the rest of the diner), Amara asks, “Can I trust you?” Dean replies, fiercely and with great conviction, “I would never hurt you.”

Amara finally agrees to “think about” helping them.

Outside the soup kitchen (oh, sigh, this storyline is so dull), Sylvia is on the stoop, freaking out. Princess comes out to sit down beside her, so absorbed by her phone that she doesn’t notice Sylvia’s distress (Sylvia is crying for real, this time). Pastor Joe, Princess says, is “freaking out” about the vid of Valerie getting her fingers chopped off.

When Sylvia asks (with great interest) if her father called the police, Princess says that “the FBI guys” (Castiel and Jack) persuaded him not. But Princess ignored this injunction and posted about it online (“So many frowny faces”). Princess is so self-centered and attention-seeking that when she asks rhetorically, “Can you believe it?” she doesn’t notice Sylvia’s demeanor change.

Sylvia looks at her and pulls a big old kitchen knife out of nowhere. “I believe,” she says as she grabs Princess by the neck and stabs her in the abdomen. “You never did!” The shot closes on her look of fanatical determination as Princess screams in agony offscreen.

Cut to Pastor Joe telling a terrified Princess she’s going to be okay (yeah, not so much), since the ambulance is coming. The guy he was comforting earlier is holding her head (feet up, Show. Learn some damned first aid in that writers room). But when she says her attacker was Sylvia and that Sylvia is in the “storage room,” the pastor immediately ditches her to go running after Sylvia. Okay.

Castiel comes in through the gathering crowd and tells the other guy that he’s “got this” (he subsequently heals Princess offscreen). He sends Jack after Pastor Joe, who is busting into the storage room to find Valerie tied up. Yep, that’s right – Valerie was in the same building as everyone else (I found this twist a bit daft).

When the pastor goes to help Valerie, Sylvia grabs him from behind and puts the knife to his throat. Her beef with Daddy is two-fold. First, she says that he failed their mother (even though he points out that her mother was such a fanatic that she refused to get any medical attention and kept putting her trust in God instead of science). Second, she accuses him of creating a charismatic ministry of people who now put their faith in him, not God. Which is sort of true, but, ironically, probably a lot better than praying to Chuck, anyway.

Jack distracts her by coming in. She shoves her father aside and confronts him. When Jack says he just wants to help her, she says dismissively, “Everyone’s trying to help me.” She mocks his attempts to make his “fathers” happy, then stabs him. Obviously, that doesn’t go as planned as he doubles over, but then straightens up as the wound glows and heals.

Sylvia’s shocked, but that doesn’t stop her from attacking Castiel when he enters the store room. Castiel easily disarms her and, as Pastor Joe shouts at him not to hurt her, puts her to sleep. He then comes over to Valerie’s chair. After sending Jack to call the cops, he rips the unconscious Valerie’s bonds off and, right in front of Pastor Joe, heals her chopped off fingers. She wakes up and pulls her hand out of the Saw contraption, looking at it in wonder. Pastor Joe, in awe, asks, “What are you?”

The next day, Pastor Joe is still digesting that Castiel is an angel (“Not a very good one,” Castiel admits). As Sylvia is led past them to a police car, clutching a crucifix (yeah, that’s sure gonna do her good now), Pastor Joe wonders what will happen to his daughter. He’s still under the illusion that he has a say in it.

Castiel and Jack kindly don’t state the obvious (that she’ll probably spend the rest of her life in prison), but just in case this scene weren’t already loaded with enough overt irony, we see the cop about to drive her away is the CRD Zach from earlier in the episode. So, Pastor Joe’s stated mission of now concentrating on his daughter’s spiritual and mental welfare is likely to be in vain. She’s hellbound one way or another.

On the way home that night in a nice, but beat-up, old pickup, Castiel is driving and Jack is riding shotgun. Castiel tries to tell Jack that he saw how he stalled out at giving “testimony” back at the church and guesses what the problem is. He says that Jack doesn’t have to “shoulder your burden alone.”

Jack admits that he does. There’s something he didn’t tell TFW about Billie’s plan. He’s not just going to “kill God.” His journey is to become a bomb that kills both Chuck and Amara, and he “won’t survive.” Needless to say, Castiel is most distressed by this news, especially when Jack begs him not to tell Sam and Dean: “They wouldn’t understand.” Jack is convinced that his self-sacrifice is the only way that the Brothers will forgive him for what he did to Mary. Castiel refuses to make that promise and to go along with this plan, but Jack tells him gently, “It’s not your choice.”

Cut to the Bunker, where Dean, in his MoL bathrobe, is hunting down a half-full bottle of “Johnny Labinsky’s Kentucky Whiskey” in the Library and having a swig. He turns around as Castiel enters the Library. As they exchange intel on their respective cases, Dean asks where Jack is. Castiel says he’s in his room. They got in late and didn’t want to wake up anyone.

When Dean allows that he wasn’t asleep, anyway (that chronic insomnia), Castiel admits he’s off on another mission because the plan they have in place to get rid of Chuck isn’t a good one. When Dean asks why, we get Pensive!Cas and the screen goes dark.

Credits

Ratings for this new episode dipped slightly from those for the previous episode to 0.3 in the A18-49 demo (though they were 0.4 for A25-54 and 0.2 for A18-25) and 1.070 million.

Review: While, admittedly, I was greatly distracted by all the Election drama (I apologize), I stalled out on this one for a while because the hunt story with Castiel and Jack was so damned boring and derivative that I just couldn’t. The stuff between Dean and Amara was fine, but it took them forever to get there. And yes, there was some nice gore. But poor Matt Cohen really got stuck with a dog of a script from Davy Perez.

Let’s talk for a moment about the pastor’s daughter, Sylvia. While this storyline was a ripoff of Saw and Seven (never been a fan of either franchise and this isn’t even the show’s first go-round on the Seven Deadly Sins), it was also yet another Evangelical Christians Gone Homicidal plot. I think the show just went one too many times to that well. This plot felt really stale.

The whole Evangelicals Gone Homicidal thing is borderline-cliched about mental illness. The trope doesn’t really mean that the villain is mentally ill, though (when we call them “nuts”), as that they are irrational, self-centered and completely lacking in empathy.

I felt no sympathy whatsoever for this girl. Sylvia was a near-serial killer (not for lack of trying), judgmental of the sad, broken people who came to the soup kitchen, fanatical without having the least clue what Christianity or spirituality was really about, and just an all-round brat. And it was also a little too clear that she enjoyed, even savored, the suffering of her victims.

She even murdered/assaulted people she knew and supposedly cared about (like her gay ex, Connor) because they had disappointed her in some way. It didn’t really help that the script waited until nearly the end of the second act to give her some depth, but I don’t know that she would have come off as sympathetic even if the writers had begun sooner. She was a monster with a smiling, human face, as the show had Castiel and Jack pretty unsubtly bang home to each other after she was unmasked.

No, the people who came into the soup kitchen weren’t perfect, and Connor and Valerie definitely did some dumb things that (nearly, for Valerie) got them killed, but that was kind of the whole point of the ministry. I appreciate that her father felt guilty for not giving her enough hugs or whatever, but I suspect Sylvia was a lost cause for a long time. Her dead mother sounded quite scary if this was the influence she had on her daughter. There isn’t really a whole lot of difference between Sylvia and the fanatical parishioners in Season 5’s “99 Problems.” I didn’t care that she was Hellbound. She definitely deserved it.

There was also, alas, zero attempt to tie in Sylvia’s fanatical devotion to a fantasy Sky Daddy who was better than her real daddy with the cold, hard fact that the real God, in this episode, is currently mopping up universes and getting ready to destroy this one, too. With five episodes left, I think the show should have tried harder to tie the MOTW into the mytharc. Kind of a shame they wasted a good Rolling Stones song title on it, too (though there wasn’t any decent rock music in it, anyway).

So, yeah, that happened, albeit it mostly happened for the purpose of setting up Jack’s confession at the end of the episode to Castiel about the other half of Billie’s plan. I have to say I was more pleased that the show was finally acknowledging that a Jack Saves The Day – But For Realz This Time plot wasn’t going to work, than surprised that 1. there was an actual twist and 2. this was what it was. They sure telegraphed it, but hey, at least they remembered that they needed some twists before the end. I was getting bored.

I feel that the show really wants me to feel sad and distressed about Jack’s imminent sacrifice – and upset and mad at Dean for being so callous – but frankly, I don’t. Jack’s not wrong that at this point, he’s probably going to have to go out in a blaze of glory for TFW in order for Dean to forgive him and you know what? That’s on Jack. Jack has burned so many bridges with his “family” at this point, has so consistently chosen power over them, that he really does need to do something big in the time this show has left in order to prove that he’s not going to do it again.

I don’t just mean that Jack’s guilt (now that he has it again) is holding him back. Unlike on Lucifer, where everyone who does something meriting going to Hell actually feels some kind of latent guilt about it (even Cain isn’t allowed to be mortal again until he does), on Supernatural, you go to Hell for actions. You can even go to Hell if you don’t deserve it, if you make a deal (however selfless) with a CRD or are even just in the wrong place and the wrong time (Eileen and Kevin).

What I mean is that Jack can’t be part of the family until he feels an actual emotional connection to TFW, loyalty rather than guilt, real affection rather than emotional neediness, and a willingness to learn from his mistakes. Wanting to sacrifice himself for them is a start, I guess, but it feels a bit lazy. In a way, it’s easier to kill himself and leave behind the pieces he broke without having to clean them up. In order to be part of TFW, of that family, Jack has to build the relationship on his end. He has to work at it. No one else can do it for him.

I find Dean’s response the most natural and in-character of the remaining main characters. Castiel is clearly still brainwashed (Jack brainwashed both him and his own mother from the womb). And I don’t buy that Sam has actually forgiven Jack. In fact, I strongly suspect that Sam is doing his usual shtick of acting all calm and reasonable, and pretending he’s forgiven Jack, while having very little to do with him beyond shallow interactions. He did exactly the same thing with Mary. Perhaps it’s so important to Sam that Dean forgive Jack because he can’t do it, himself.

Now, I do think at some point, Dean should probably forgive Jack, but that’s Dean’s journey, not Jack’s. Unless we’re really coming out and saying that Dean is the literal Jesus Christ figure in the show (which makes Sylvia’s clutching a crucifix at the end triply ironic), Dean’s forgiveness of Jack would not give Jack true absolution. Only Jack truly repenting of his ways and actively choosing to change them would do that.

I was glad to see Amara reunite with Dean. I was rather less glad by how little we got of it, how long into the episode we had to wait for it to arrive, and that Dean was setting Amara up. I do sort of get that Dean is willing to betray Amara because he is upset with her due to how things went down with Mary, that he blames her somewhat for that. I don’t like it at all, but I kind of get it.

These two scenes in the diner demonstrated both how deep this show can get and how shallow and mechanical. So, it’s up in the air which one we will get in the past two episodes. In the first part, we get a speech from Amara in which she monologues about the cosmic nature of her relationship with her brother, in a way that, at the very best, flirts heavily with a retcon of Season 11. It’s redolent of self-indulgent, 1970s-comics metaphysics and the writers’ apparent conviction that the MCU movies were philosophically deep. Now, I’m not slamming the MCU movies. They worked emotionally for a lot of people with good reason. But My Dinner with Andre they’re not.

The second scene is a whole other ballgame. Dean is upset because he believes that Amara was just toying with him by giving him back his mother. But Amara makes it clear (and she’s a straight shooter, so this is likely honesty on her part) that she meant it as a gift.

She then mirrors back to him his own lifelong philosophy that reality is always better than fantasy, no matter how harsh the reality and how nice the fantasy. That philosophy has saved his life (and the universe) on more than one occasion (most openly in Season 2’s “What Is and What Could Never Be,” which is pretty implicitly referenced in this conversation). But she does so in a way that, far from his usual bitter assessment, this can be a way to move on to a better and happier life, rather than being stuck in a rut. That’s actually a pretty darned good life lesson.

It’s therefore extra significant that the two of them make it clear to each other that they would not ever hurt each other and so far, a few episodes down the road, that’s proven true. I so wish that Dean could just replace Chuck and run off with Amara at the end of this show, but I have a feeling Amara’s not going to make it to episode 15.20. The writers have tied her too tightly to her brother. Ah, well.

Next week: Drag Me Away (From You): The Brothers are called in by an old friend to deal with a case they thought they’d put to bed decades ago. This is the last weeChesters episode.

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: “Last Holiday” (15.14) 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.

This recap was a bit late (sorry), as I’m working on a Halloween Zoom talk about local ghost stories and legends in eastern North Carolina. It’s free and it will be October 25 at 7pm (EST), until 8:30pm. You can register beforehand (no obligation) here. I’m hoping to get the next recap and review up on time, but if not, we should get back on track after the talk.

You can find a promo, photos and a synopsis here for 15.15.

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: Fairly quick (less than a minute) recap, considering the show just came off a major and final hellatus, of Cuthbert Sinclair and Abaddon in Season 9 (and to think I just reviewed those episodes), and Jack’s boring “got his soul back” storyline from the previous ep.

Cut to Now in the Bunker, where Sam is doing research, Dean is cooking burgers (in an apron), and Jack is still sulking in his room. Sam snarks about the apron, though hey, at least, we get a reprise of Dean the Great Cook. Dean has come out of the kitchen to note that the Bunker seems to be on the fritz. The pilot light in the kitchen keeps going out, and he and Sam both notice that things keep switching on and off. Dean complains that the Bunker is supposed to be “state of the art,” though Sam snarks that yes, it was, “for the Fifties.”

While that’s true, the Bunker was shut down for over half a century and possesses lower transistor tech than we have today. Low tech tends to be more durable than high tech. Also, the Bunker is magical.

Anyhoo, at that moment (after Dean asks where Jack is and Sam says he’s in his room), the air goes down. This is right after the Brothers talk about how Castiel is looking for Amara for them and they’re probably going to kill her (this still seems like a stupid plan to me. Why not talk to her, first?). Dean decides they need to do something about the air. Well, yes, since otherwise, they’re going to suffocate. Sam wonders what they can do.

Dean: We fought the Devil, okay? I killed Hitler. I think we can handle some old pipes.

Cut to the Brothers coming down into a control room we’ve never seen before and apparently, they haven’t, either. Sam found it after some research. There is a large old-time, very-active-looking control panel. This is a pretty big retcon, I gotta say, that the Brothers never even looked at this room (which was so easy to find) when they were reconnoitering the Bunker. I mean, come on, Show.

Anyhoo, Sam says all the basic stuff like water and pipes should be controlled from that panel and maybe they should call in a plumber. Dean laughs this off and makes a Mario Brothers joke. Among other controls we don’t get a good look at, the control panel has two big buttons in the lower right-hand corner of the panel. One says “Standby” and the other “Reset.” The Standby button is glowing. The Reset button is not.

Out loud, Dean notes that whenever the porn on his laptop gets too many pop-ups, he just reboots. So, he hits the Reset button right as Sam is arguing that’s not a good idea. Now, obviously, since this is the episode’s teaser, it’s a bad idea, but the writing to this point doesn’t quite justify that. I mean, you’ve got a Reset button and the system is glitchy. Wouldn’t hitting it at least be an option?

Anyhoo, everything goes dark for a moment, but then it comes right back up and the glitches go away. Crowing “Victory!” in a bad Italian accent, Dean goes back upstairs to continue cooking burgers.

Later, we see Dean enter his room with a finished “Dean Deluxe” burger (which looks very tasty). Suddenly, he looks up offscreen and backs up. Cut to his bed, where a middle-aged, red-haired woman is folding his underwear, including a pair of Scooby-Doo-themed shorts. She says, “Oh! Hello, dear.” Dean bellows for Sam.

Cue title cards.

Cut to the Library, where the woman is commenting on all the dust and “filth,” and Dean is saying “Who the hell are you, lady?!” (she comments on his “language”). It takes this long for Sam to arrive from wherever he was and he’s quite startled to meet the woman, as well. He asks her name. She says her “true name is indecipherable in your tongue,” but says that “Mr. Ganem called me Mrs. Butters.”

Sam susses out that she’s not human based on the “our tongue” comment, though that’s pretty obvious at this point. She says that she’s a “wood nymph.” Dean’s reaction face is epic. When Dean asks, “Well, shouldn’t you be in the woods, nymphing?” she calls that “a young one’s game.” Also, she “lives here.”

When Sam suggests she’s a Lady of Letters, she calls herself a “helper.” She basically acted as a live-in maid and nanny for the Men of Letters, who needed, you know, a woman around the house. Even if she wasn’t human.

Dean sarcastically calls this “very progressive” (since it obviously isn’t), then tells her she can “just leave.” This prompts confusion and bewilderment from Mrs. Butters. As she said before, the Bunker is her home and Dean is basically kicking her out. After all, she’s served the Men of Letters “since before the War.”

Confused, Sam asks her what year she thinks it is and she replies in a small voice, “1958?”

Dean rather bruskly breaks the news to her that it’s actually 2020. When she asks where all the Men of Letters are (Mr. Akers and Mr. Markham, specifically), while gesturing at a photo of them on the wall, Dean says she is looking at the only two left. The others are dead. He explains that Abaddon killed them and that she was a demon. Though fluffy, Mrs. Butters is a quick study and realizes this is why the Men of Letters never came back.

In a warm-tones flashback, she explains that when they went to their ceremony (the swearing-in ceremony for Josie and Henry, where Abaddon used Josie to ambush and murder almost all of the chapter), they left Mrs. Butters behind to guard the Bunker. When they didn’t return, she put the Bunker (and herself) into Standby mode. When she hit the button, the lights went down and she turned into green smoke that was sucked up into the glowing symbols on the walls.

The Brothers try to explain that they didn’t realize she was there and that they have been dealing “with one apocalypse after another.” Mrs. Butters is very understanding. Her “boys” dealt with the same kind of schedule. She says that it must have been “an age” since the Brothers had “a home-cooked meal or a holiday.” She takes a step forward, wrinkles her nose, and comments that they haven’t washed their clothes in a while, either. Sam admits they’re not that kind of people.

Dean realizes that the Bunker has been “at half-power” the entire time they’ve been there. Mrs. Butters confirms this and, snapping her fingers, brings the place up to full power. Seems her magic is used to power the place to a higher level. The lights brighten (and turn on in the telescope alcove) and a red spot on the map starts to beep. Mrs. Butters explains that’s the “monster radar.” Pressing the red dot, she gives them the exact location of a nest of vampires 50 miles away from the Bunker. And by that, I mean she gives them the street address. She tells them if they hurry, they can clean out the entire nest and be back for dinner.

Dean is thrilled that they’ve finally caught a break, but as Mrs. Butters goes off to dust up the other room, Sam wonders if they can trust her. Dean points out that the Men of Letters would have needed a creature like her to take care of them and one way to find out is to check out the nest. If she’s telling them the truth, they can go from there.

Sam asks what happens if she isn’t and Dean prosaically says, “Then we deal with her.” Sam then asks, “What about Jack?” Oh, sigh, and things were going so well up to this point.

Cut to Jack, moping in his room. Dean knocks on the door. He tells him they’re going out for a while and gives him a heads-up about Mrs. Butters. He says she’s “probably harmless,” but in case she isn’t, to give them a call. He also says she’s baking “snickerdoodles.” Oooer. Jack just mopes, because that’s Jack for you these days.

In the car, Sam is still worrying away at whether or not Mrs. Butters can be trusted. Sam doesn’t seem to realize that Dean is trusting, but verifying, not just taking Mrs. Butters at face value. The discussion quickly turns to Whether Jack Is Okay because of course it does [sigh] after Dean points out that Mrs. Butters isn’t that big of a deal when they have “the Son of Satan living down the hall.”

Sam wonders if Jack is okay, what with Chuck “deleting worlds” and Amara in the wind. After admitting that Jack, is “a mess,” Dean says, “He’ll be fine. I mean, I’ve been through worse. Look at me – I’m the picture of health.”

Sam: Ignoring your trauma doesn’t make you healthy.

Dean [insincerely]: Sure, it does.

Boy, it’s been a while since Dean’s mental health issues have come up.

Anyhoo, they table the discussion for now.

Back at the Bunker, Jack is still moping, so Mrs. Butters knocks on his door with a sandwich. When he won’t answer, she says she’s leaving it by the door (now that Jack has his soul back, does he have regular human cycles or are we ignoring all that?).

Meanwhile, the vampire nest mentioned before turns out to be two bearded hicks watching an old vampire movie (not sure which one) on a TV in a shack, while sucking down blood from a local blood bank in their Big Swig mugs. Just as one vampire is musing why they don’t get to live in a mansion like the vampire in the film, Sam and Dean kick down the door. The two lowlife vamps helpfully whip around and thrust their heads forward, fangs bared. So, the Brothers simultaneously whack off their heads at one blow.

“Monster radar rules!” crows Dean.

The Brothers return to the Bunker to find it decorated for Christmas. There’s a giant tree in the library, with a train running around it. A big band version of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing!” is on the soundtrack (is that irony deliberate?). Mrs. Butters comes out, giggling, with a plate of cookies. Both Brothers are nonplussed at first, but Dean starts to get into it, while Sam looks constipated.

Dean: We are so keeping her!

Cut to Mrs. Butters giving Sam some pancakes and a pep talk the next morning about his rather dour look on the world. In comes Jack and suddenly, her mood changes. She immediately recognizes him as not-quite-human, saying “What. Are. You?” in a tense voice.

Dean comes in, wearing a purple nightshirt and hat. He’s very excited about it (it was a gift from Mrs. Butters) and thanks her. A horrified Sam gets an eyeful (seems Dean is not wearing underwear beneath the nightshirt when he lifts it up) and Dean somewhat defuses the situation by off-handedly vouching for Jack.

Mrs. Butters just-as-off-handedly acknowledges Dean’s thanks, while bristling at Jack. Eventually, she stands down and appears to accept him. Whipping up a smoothie out of nowhere, she gives it to him, even as he’s protesting that he’s not hungry. When Dean shows an interest in the smoothie, she gives him a tomato juice, instead, saying she’s “worried about your cholesterol.” Jack looks amused at Dean’s crestfallen reaction.

A buggy horn goes off overhead, and both Sam and Dean run to their rooms to get dressed. As they’re coming back out past the kitchen, Mrs. Butters hands them each a bag lunch (“no crusts”), tells Sam the monster is a Lamia and that’s she’s put “blessed knives in the trunk,” and tells him to tell Dean to use the Impala gently, since she just waxed it.

Jack wants to go along, but Sam tells him to stay behind and take it easy. They’ll be right back. After saying goodbye to Sam, Mrs. Butters turns back with an edged smile and says to Jack, “Well. What shall we do with you?” Jack smiles at her, not noticing the undertones. Later, she gets him to tell her about being Lucifer’s son, how TFW 2.0 are his only real family, and how he killed Mary in a fit of pique.

Mrs. Butters says, “We all do things, things we’re not proud of.” But she adds that life is full of “second chances,” then offers him another smoothie.

Cue an adorable montage to The Bus Boys’ “Cleanin’ Up the Town” (from Ghostbusters, of course) of the Brothers running off to a hunt (excitedly grabbing bag lunches from Mrs. Butters at the kitchen on the way out), busting down doors, and having holidays (Thanksgiving, Halloween, Fourth of July, and Sam’s birthday). In the last hunt, they blow the door to a shack open and Dean comes in with a rocket launcher, while Sam is hefting Mjolnir.

We come back out of the montage to Sam’s birthday. When Dean wonders if he can have some of the same Rice Krispies treats when he has a birthday, Mrs. Butters comments that she’s surprised that he would still want to celebrate his birthday (i.e., that he’s over 40), but then says she was just teasing and there is more for him in the kitchen.

I’m not sure why the writers continue with these stupid age jokes when they are literally old enough to know better. I get that they work for a network that caters to a young female demographic in an often problematical way that involves literally fetishizing young women, but come on.

Anyhoo, life goes on and Jack gets hooked on his smoothies. One night, he’s coming out with an empty glass when he finds Mrs. Butters in the library, furtively looking at a file in one of the cabinets while dusting. Looking pensive, she puts it back, then jumps and squeals when Jack calls her name. As she comes over, he asks her for another smoothie. Instead of just whipping one up, as she has before, she takes the empty glass and goes off to the kitchen to get him a refill.

This gives him a chance to look through the drawer she was looking in. He finds an old Manila envelope with a CLASSIFIED file inside. It includes her photo and an old film reel. He sneaks off down to the projection room and revs up the film (how he knows how to do this is glossed over).

The faded black-and-white film has an opening narration by Cuthbert Sinclair (whom we briefly met in “Blade Runners” when he tried to enslave Dean, the Mark of Cain, and the First Blade). He calls it File 5150. He then reveals that “Subject B, casually referred to as ‘Mrs. Butters,’” was “retrieved” by Man of Letters Henshaw from a Thule lab. So, it seems the Thule had originally enslaved her (she killed a battallion of 200 men before they could “restrain” her) and if she has been working with the Men of Letters since “before the War,” then the Men of the Letters and the Thule must have been fighting a shadow war with each other even before WWII.

Sinclair then goes on to theorize that even though wood nymphs are normally “docile, they react- violently when home or family are threatened.”

He then turns and we see he is in the dungeon. There is a hooded prisoner in a chair and standing behind the chair is Mrs. Butters, smiling inanely. He says he’s been doing “a series of experiments” (translation: magical torture) to convince Mrs. Butters to join the Men of Letters, “for safety and security.” Pulling off the prisoner’s hood, he reveals that the man in the chair is a Thule operative. Having already extracted all info possible out of the prisoner, Sinclair instructs Mrs. Butters to pull off his head. She does, with the same cheerful smile, then asks, “Would anyone like tea or cookies?”

Horrified, Jack exclaims, “Son of a bitch!”

Jack comes running out into the library shouting for Sam (why not Dean?). Mrs. Butters is there and says Sam will be out in a moment. He’s getting ready for a date with Eileen. Sam comes out in a rather old-style waistcoat and tie ensemble. He says he feels silly. Mrs. Butters assures him he looks great (well, yeah. For the 1950s). Though she would like to cut his hair (Sam demurs).

Dean comes out in his usual flannel, saying “Wow! Somebody’s shopping at Abercrombie and Bitch,” to which Mrs. Butters scolds him: “Language!”

Sam tells them that he’s going on a date with Eileen, who is in town. They are trying to rekindle things since their disastrous kidnapping by Chuck a few episodes ago. Dean figures Sam is going to get laid. Mrs. Butters whips up a bouquet of red roses for Sam and sends him off, though afterward, she scolds Dean for being so mean to Sam. Dean is not especially repentant. But he is happy when she tells him she fixed the TV in his room and runs off to check it out.

Instead of following Dean to talk to him, Jack decides to stalk Mrs. Butters, instead. Because that’s smart.

He follows her down into the storage room and dungeon, where he confronts her. Mrs. Butters, smiling, asks him how the film made him “feel.” Jack is thrown by this question, especially when she supplies an answer – that he “enjoyed” watching her kill the Thule.

Jack realizes that she set him up, that it was a test, and that she thinks he failed (her going off to the kitchen to make him a smoothie should have been his first clue). She says that if the Brothers knew how powerful he’s become, they’d be terrified of him and they should be, that maybe they keep Jack sequestered in the Bunker to keep him from murdering anyone else the way he did Mary.

Jack protests that he would never hurt Sam and Dean, but Mrs. Butters points out that he already has in the past – a whole lot. Then she TK’s him into a wall. Jack gets up and gets angry. He starts to power up, but his eye glow fritzes and fades. As Mrs. Butters slaps a pair of magical cuffs on him (not sure if they’re demon or angel or archangel, or what), she tells him that she used the smoothies to reduce his power. Now, he can’t do anything. Seems she learned a few things while dusting in the library. She pokes him in the chest and TK’s him again into the wall.

When Jack asks her why she’s doing this, she says, “To make the Bunker safe again. To kill all the monsters!”

I know the show wants us to side with Jack and see Mrs. Butters as dangerously out of control. But Mrs. Butters actually isn’t wrong. This scene is a classic case of When the Villain Has a Point.

The show seems to want us to believe that Jack has changed permanently for the good because he has his soul back. But Jack did plenty of horrible things when he had his soul (nor was he at all forgiving about, say, rescuing Dean after Dean said yes to alt-Michael to rectify Jack’s mistake, and save Sam and Jack from Jack’s father). and he intentionally lost his soul out of a desire to get his powers back. Thing is, every time Jack has had to choose between Sam and Dean, and getting his power back, he’s chosen power every time. So, I don’t think the writers did a convincing job of setting up the conflict here.

Dean comes out into the kitchen to see that Mrs. Butters has fixed him a grilled cheese sandwich. Just as Dean is happily digging into it, she tells him the food is to give him strength to go down to the dungeon and kill Jack. Then she hands him a brass dagger.

With a sad, longing look at the sandwich, Dean sets it aside, takes the dagger, and after a comment about how unfortunate it is that she turned “Nurse Ratched” on them, says they’ll go down to the dungeon, let Jack out, and “forget this ever happened.”

That gets him locked in the dungeon with Jack. Mrs. Butters insists that Dean has been “infected” by Jack, who is “just like his father … the Serpent in the Garden” (kind of ironic considering Jack was in the Garden just last episode). Sam returns from his date to find Mrs. Butters waiting for him. When he asks where the others are, she tells him that Jack has got inside Dean’s head, where the two of them are, and that he and she now have to go kill them. She calls him “the smart one” for figuring it out.

Sam says, sure, he’s just going to go to his room for his gun and meet her down there. Instead, he calls Dean from inside his room (apparently, there is cell phone reception in the dungeon, now). When Sam asks why Dean didn’t call him sooner, Dean says he didn’t want to bother him on his date: “It’s been a while for you, man” (truer words). Dean is oddly casual about the whole thing, as if it’s a minor inconvenience.

When Sam asks him for suggestions, Dean points out that Sam was going to research ways to stop Mrs. Butters if she turned evil and suggests shooting her. Sam protests that he’s been distracted by all the celebrations (they reminisce briefly over the fabulous omelette from Boxing Day). Dean suggests hitting the Standby button in the control room (which is actually quite a good idea) to shut her back down. Sam decides to try it.

Back in the dungeon, Jack suggests that he could use his powers to get them out of there, but Dean says the amount of power Jack would need to break out of the cuffs would alert Chuck to his presence (also, Jack’s powers have been reduced by all the smoothies, but it’s not clear if Dean knows about that, yet).

Jack starts panicking a little, saying he has a “mission.” When Dean tells him to calm down and turns away (trying to think), Jack quietly asks if Dean still thinks he’s a monster. Dean turns back to face Jack and lays it all out. He’s trying to forgive Jack, but it’s hard. On the other hand, he’s not “going to let some evil Mary Poppins take you out.”

Upstairs, Sam is edging through the library, gun in hand, calling for Mrs. Butters. When she appears, he does try to shoot her, but she stops him with TK and then TK’s him into a chair. She merrily tells how Sinclair “explained” the importance of the Bunker to her and since Sam is her “favorite,” she’s not going to give up on him … yet. She then proceeds to show him how Sinclair “explained” things to him – by ripping out his fingernails, one by one. Has that happened to Sam since Season 3’s “A Very Supernatural Christmas”? I think so, but can’t recall the other episode.

No matter what Sam tries to tell Mrs. Butters about Jack being “just a kid,” she insists that Jack is a monster who will kill them and she’s already lost her previous team to a monster. She’s not doing it again.

In the dungeon, Dean has an idea, but it involves some rather brutal methods (a very old piece of soundtrack plays over this – I think it’s “Lilith Unfair.” No, sorry, it’s “Old ‘Monster Movie’”). He’s going to use the brass knife to try to break the chain between the cuffs. Jack isn’t too sure it’s going to work and Dean is cheerily unreassuring about the whole thing. When he hits the cuffs with the knife, the magical blowback tosses Jack against a cabinet, smashing it. Dean says the cuffs aren’t coming off without a key, but he’s got another idea (especially since it seems Sam is delayed in showing up).

Dean lines Jack up in front of the door. “Now remember,” he says. “Pain is just weakness leaving the body. On three.” He hits the cuffs on the two count, of course. The resulting explosion blasts Jack right through the door. They’re free, at least for the moment.

Down to the control room they go, where Dean takes a hammer and hits the Reset button (wasn’t he going to hit the Standby button?). The red emergency lighting and klaxon come on. When Dean and Jack enter the library, they find Sam alone. The problem appears to be solved.

But it’s not. In the control room, the panel rattles and the sigils above the doors begin to glow an angry red. A steam pipe bursts. Through the steam Mrs. Butters materializes with glowing green eyes and walks back upstairs. There, she TK’s all three of TFW 2.0 (present) across the room and starts to scream at them that she’s not going to fail again. She especially directs her anger at Jack. She says about him that the reason she can’t go back to her forest is “because of things like that!”

Sam tries to talk her down, saying that Sinclair (“Mr. Cuthbert”) used and tortured her. But it’s Dean who gets through to her. He says that Jack “can save the world.” He points out that that’s always been “the mission.” Confused, Mrs. Butters stands down. The emergency lighting cuts out and everything in the Bunker goes back to normal.

Afterward, she heals Sam’s hand and apologizes to all three of them. Jack says it’s okay. When Sam and Dean note that Sinclair made her leave her forest, she gets all nostalgic about it. Jack then says, “It’s settled.” The next moment, we see her in travel clothes with a purse, as she’s going back home.

She warns them that without her magic, “the Bunker will revert to Standby mode.” Dean tries to make the best of it, talking about the big telescope in the alcove. She tells him it’s not a telescope. It’s an interdimensional geoscope (in other words, a scope that can look into other worlds in the Multiverse).

When Dean comments that he’s looked in it and not seen anything, Mrs. Butters says, “Ohh. Oh, that’s not good.” (Obviously, this is a reference to all the other worlds Chuck was destroying and indicates there was nothing to see in the scope because there are no more worlds left in the Multiverse.)

Jack gives her the photo of the Men of Letters that was on the wall. Before she leaves, she tells Dean to eat his vegetables, Sam to cut his hair, and Jack to go save the world. The she snaps her fingers and vanishes. Half the Bunker shuts down, including half the lights.

Later, while they are reading or doing research or something in the library, Sam tries to get Jack to open up. Jack admits that here he is, supposed to kill God, and he got taken down by a wood nymph. He’s not at all sure he is up to the job. Sam says that he has to because he’s “the only one who can.” (ugh)

Dean breaks up the mood by coming in with a cake, wearing his apron (which Sam continues to be salty about, for some unknown reason). It’s a birthday cake for Jack. Dean has decided that Mrs. Butters was right – even though they’re busy, they should still celebrate occasions. Dean admits that the cake doesn’t look perfect the way Mrs. Butters would have made it, but Jack is happy to see it, nonetheless. Dean lights a candle and puts it on the cake. Sam tells Jack to make a wish. Jack sits for a moment, thinking, then blows the candle out.

Credits

Ratings for this new episode rose from those for the previous episode to 0.4/3 in the A18-49 demo and 1.1 million.

Review: When I first saw the commentary about this episode on Twitter, I was sure I was going to hate it. It sounded quite bad and like an entire forty-some minutes of Jacknatural. After I saw it, though, my feelings became more … mixed. I still actively disliked the Jacknatural aspect, and there were some seriously problematical things, like the entire treatment of what was effectively the Brothers’ condoning their predecessors’ enslavement and torture of a sentient supernatural being.

And yet, the entire montage of Sam and Dean hunting and being ministered to by Mrs. Butters, to the tune of “Cleanin’ Up the Town” from Ghostbusters (a decent non-soundtrack song, for once), was magic. Dean’s enthusiasm over the whole idea of having endless birthdays and Christmas and Halloween was magic. I will probably end up rewatching this montage a good bit come Christmastime.

I actually liked Mrs. Butters and felt sorry for her, far more than Jack (in fact, I think she had some excellent points about Jack). And I know I wasn’t supposed to laugh at Dean beating the hell out of Jack to get them out of the dungeon, but I totally did and I’m not sorry. If that’s all Jack has to suffer from Mary’s loved ones for killing her, it’ll be the very, very least he deserves.

I am thoroughly over and stick-a-fork-in-me done with Jacknatural. Any bit of taking him down a peg introduces some welcome balance to the show that it really needs at this point.

The show has made it seem as though Jack getting his soul back should somehow alleviate what he did to Mary, but I don’t see how something that he was basically tricked into doing should be redemptive in any real way. Mary is no less dead and Jack, for all his guilt, hasn’t done much at all to make amends. There are only so many times you can apologize before you realize that “sorry” is just a word without actions to back it up. This is not Jack’s first “Ooh, I made a really cosmic boo-boo” rodeo and his learning curve is distressing flat throughout.

I also thought his unsympathetic reaction to the old film was un-reassuring. The monsters Mrs. Butters was helping Sam and Dean hunt may or may not have been worthy of killing, but we’ve seen that the Thule invariably are. Jack also didn’t pick up at all on the many hints Sinclair gave that he had tortured Mrs. Butters into serving the Men of Letters. In that moment, he had no compassion for her and hypocritically saw her as nothing more than a monster.

The weird thing is that for all the gaslighting of Dean in-story for not forgiving Jack ridiculously soon, Dean’s the only one of TFW who is acting in character. I don’t even know what the hell Castiel is supposed to be responding to, anymore (he lost most of his remaining personality when Jack brainwashed him from the womb in Season 12). But what about Sam? There’s sort-of, kind-of some supporting canon for Sam acting so academically about Mary’s death and Jack’s role in it. He did admit in the Pilot that he didn’t remember Mary, so he lacked the primal emotional connection to her that Dean had.

Later, we saw Sam react in a similarly muted way to John’s death. Those two had a lot of mixed feelings toward each other, so I guess that makes sense. Anyhoo, it’s canon that Dean reacted a lot more violently to John’s death than Sam did.

But then there’s the flip side of this coin. In the very same Pilot episode, Sam swore vengeance for his girlfriend Jessica’s death and went on a roaring rampage of revenge, as The Bride might have put it. Even five seasons later, when he find out a demon possessed his close friend and then murdered Jessica just to put him on that road, Sam thoroughly enjoyed gutting Brady like a fish. He went completely off the rails after Lilith and then Metatron killed Dean. He had an incandescent hatred for Crowley after Crowley murdered Sarah, one that combined with Sam’s irrational jealousy every time Dean forms strong relationships with other men, that ended up in a situation where Sam threatened the entire Multiverse.

Sam’s been a lot of things, but he ain’t Spock. Either he never did develop strong feelings for his mother, despite extensive attempts by the writers in the past few seasons to show them bonding, or he’s been brainwashed like Castiel, or he’s lying to Jack’s face about forgiving him and just using him to take out Chuck.

The episode dealt clumsily with the central idea of Mrs. Butters as an enslaved supernatural being who powered the Bunker to an extra level. It doesn’t help that the name pretty obviously (though anachronistically) evokes the brand name Mrs. Butterworth, a famous American syrup brand. Rumor has it that Mrs. Butterworth was originally inspired by Hattie McDaniel’s enslaved house servant and nanny in Gone with the Wind (1939), though the brand wasn’t introduced until 1961. Its packaging has recently been revamped after criticism that the original model evoked “mammy” stereotypes. I talked a bit about that stereotype (most famously illustrated by McDaniel’s role, albeit much older) in my review of season one’s “Home,” since Missouri definitely evoked it.

While Mrs. Butters has a British accent, and it’s implied that she was originally German (Hyacinth Bucket meets the hausfrau stereotype), her name seems a pretty obvious evocation of the above minstrel show trope, as well. Whatever “Last Holiday” was trying to say about slavery seems to get tangled up in a lot of white-washed, tone-deaf Lost Cause subtext as the Brothers and Jack proceed to enjoy Mrs. Butters’ ministrations without thinking too hard about what she gets out of it. It made me wonder what other dark secrets and beings might be involved in the Bunker’s foundations. Cuthbert Sinclair really was quite the bastard, wasn’t he?

The frequently perky tone didn’t necessarily help. For example, the only time Dean appeared to take Mrs. Butters seriously as a threat was near the end, when he finally got through to her by explaining Jack’s actual function with them. While the way Mrs. Butters then stood down may seem heartwarming on the surface, I was struck by the bleak (unintended?) subtext that only when Dean pointed out that Jack was a Men of Letters weapon (like her) did she back off.

Was it because she just didn’t buy that the Brothers considered Jack family, especially after what he’d done to their mother? Or was it because Dean was finally being honest when he made it clear that Jack was a weapon and that he and Sam knew exactly what they were doing in keeping him in the Bunker (as she implied when she locked Jack in the dungeon)? Had she previously been reacting to the underlying dishonesty?

By the way, if the name Henshaw sounds familiar, he’s the Man of Letters who wrote the report about the Hand of God in Season 11’s “The Vessel.” So, think of Jack as a sentient Hand of God. Then he doesn’t seem quite so special as he thinks.

It actually makes a lot of sense that Mrs. Butters would take special umbrage to Jack. It’s necessary to remind everyone here that Jack didn’t just kill Mary. He also killed his own mother by being born. Jack is a natural born matricide, twice over. That the show had Kelly gloss over this, even in Heaven (ugh, gag), and make it seem okay didn’t improve matters.

But Mrs. Butters is a maternal figure herself, nurturing full-grown men engaged in a very dangerous profession. She would relate to other maternal figures, the real mothers of these men, more than some other characters. And she would find matricide especially unforgivable. After all, it’s a direct threat to her, as well.

I didn’t notice until the rewatch that Dean did actually free her right away. It was off-hand and he was basically evicting her from her home of three-quarters of a century, but his very first thought was not to take advantage of her, as was the impression I got on first watch. After all, he had been tortured by Cuthbert Sinclair and nearly made his slave, too.

It wasn’t until she clearly showed her intent and desire to remain in the Bunker that Dean started to get into keeping her around. Keep in mind that Sam’s very first thought was to kill her, though he eventually warmed to her, as well, and we got to see a happier Sam for a while (sad we didn’t get to see Eileen this time, though).

Perhaps the biggest problem with the suspension of disbelief here is that the episode chose to introduce and write out a key element in the Bunker’s history inside a single episode. Mrs. Butters was a lot like that Hunter character the Brothers have supposedly known for decades (but never mentioned before) who pops up for a single episode, only to get killed off (usually after having turned evil, first). I think we might have felt the sense of betrayal a bit more when she turned on them if she had been introduced at least a few episodes earlier.

Alas, with introducing such a powerful figure, so intimately connected to the Bunker, this late in the game, retcons and other questions arose. For example, when Amara invaded the Bunker near the end of season 11 and burned out the sigils in the walls, why wasn’t Mrs. Butters awakened or even killed? What about when Dorothy brought the Witch into the Bunker? Was Mrs. Butters not there, yet? Why didn’t the Brothers ever notice the control room in their thorough search of the place? Did none of the Men of Letters notice that early on that Cuthbert Sinclair never seemed to age? Were the London Men of Letters ever aware of her existence? How long a timespan did this episode even cover?

Why introduce such a powerful character (she took down Jack) so late in the game and then write her out? Is not Earth Prime her home, her woods, writ large? Couldn’t the Brothers use her as an ally against Chuck, instead of the show writers’ usual simplistic obsession with a single solution (finding and neutralizing/recruiting Amara) that we already know won’t work in the breach? I know the Nazis were obsessed with nature, but is her grove even still standing? What happens if/when she finds out it’s not? Will she turn monstrous?

Why are we even still doing MOTWs at this late date? Are all of these elements in the last seven episodes going to figure in the finale? I hope so, but they need to hurry up with starting to tie them together.

Next week: Gimme Shelter: Castiel’s back and the Brothers going looking for Amara. I’m sure that will end well.

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: “King of the Damned” (9.21) 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 tonight and the series finale will be November 19. This will be my last retro recap and review of season 9 until after season 15 (and the show) ends on November 19. As I’ll be posting reviews of season 15 the following Thursday, that means I’ll post my recap and review of the series finale on Thanksgiving and get back to retro recaps/reviews (assuming y’all still care after the show ends) in early December.

There are some new trailers out for the last episodes. Finally. Also, there are a sneak peek and photos up for tonight and you can join a Zoom watch party with some of the cast at 7:30 PST (that’s 10:30 pm EST).

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: Pretty long (about two minutes) recap of the story so far, with mini-recaps of Metatron and Gadriel, Abaddon, the Mark of Cain, Castiel becoming a Judas Goat for the angels, and so on.

Cut to Scotland in 1723. A young man is getting ready for a voyage when there’s a huge flash of light and sound outside his hut. The door bursts open and in walks Abaddon. Predictably, the young man wants nothing to do with her, but she won’t be deterred. In fact, when his randy friend walks in and somehow thinks an orgy is about to begin, she TK’s him into a wall onto a hook, killing him. As the first young man crosses himself, she turns back to him, grabs his head, and starts chanting a spell (sounds like Urdu or something like it). There’s another flash of bright, white light.

Cue title cards.

Cut to a bar where a bunch of nerdy angels are sitting around, chatting over beers (yes, it’s come to this). One angel (played by Gordon Michael Woolvett, whose brother showed up in “Frontierland” in season six, of Andromeda fame) clumsily tries to ingratiate himself into a conversation at a table by claiming he’s been personally chosen for a mission by Metatron. When one of the angels (who had previously been leading the conversation) calls him out for being such a blabbermouth, he refuses to back down. But eventually, he gets no traction out of the conversation and wanders out into the alleyway, where he is accosted by two angels (after a suspicious-looking guy in a long jacket wanders by).

He ends up in a bare room, chained to a chair. The same angel from the bar comes in and starts interrogating him and he gives up the same story, rather defiantly. But he’s shocked and impressed when Castiel walks in.

Cut to a daytime scene. Sam and Dean are pulling up to a warehouse (Dean is wearing new jeans and a brand-new jacket, as if he’s dressing in his finest for a battle he doesn’t expect to win). They’re rather skeptical about the drab surroundings, but “he” told them to meet him there. When they knock on a side door, the same angel who was doing the interrogation in the previous scene opens it and says that “he” is expecting them. So, they come inside.

They’re impressed (though they try not to show it) by the way the angels have set up their war room. It’s almost like a police station, with one angel bringing another angel under guard past them as they come in. Benjamin escorts them up to an office overlooking the ready room, where Castiel is overlooking plans about finding Metatron (all this looks great, but we already know it’s just a cover for Castiel to sell out his brethren to Metatron). Castiel greets both brothers with warm hugs and gently dismisses their angel guard, whom he calls Benjamin.

As Benjamin stiffly leaves, Castiel tells them he’s just a bit formal (or he just plain doesn’t like Sam and Dean, more likely). Castiel fills them in on Bartholomew’s death and Malachi’s (offscreen) murder by Gadriel. Remember when Malachi was going to be a major antagonist? Yeah, not so much.

Castiel insists that he doesn’t want to be the angels’ “commander,” but their other leaders have died and they insisted on following him. He does not mention that Metatron is setting him up to lead his new flock to their destruction, though he does say he hopes to avoid another angel war by finding a “diplomatic” way of getting rid of Metatron. I’m sure he does hope for that, but he’s still currently acting as Metatron’s Judas Goat.

He tells them about the geek angel from before. He says the guy is from Metatron’s inner circle, but won’t talk. Castiel wonders if the Brothers (and by that, he means Dean) might … uh … persuade the prisoner to talk. He is, of course, referring to season four’s “On the Head of a Pin,” where Castiel basically bullied Dean into torturing his former torturer in Hell, Alastair, to devastating physical and psychological effect for Dean.

This time, though, after a hooded look, Dean says he has no problem whatsoever with a little bit of angel torturing. Sam is disconcerted.

Cut to the Humboldt Hotel in Cleveland, OH. Crowley is holding a conference of black-suited demons at night. He admits that yes, he left Hell in chaos for some time while he was away on vacation, but he’s back now and they’re going to help him whip things back into shape (i.e., beat Abaddon). But when he asks for a round of ayes of loyalty, there’s a deathly silence. In that silence, Abaddon walks into the room.

Crowley is, of course, terrified and covers it up by being furious. He snarls at his former minions, while they just cringe. Abaddon, meanwhile, mocks him.

Crowley [in a stage whisper to his minions]: You betrayed me! No one in the history of torture’s been tortured like the torture you’ll be tortured with!

Abaddon, in a black leather jacket and blue jeans, and carrying a nice 1950s cocktail with an olive, has a seat on a couch while she informs him that she’s been hearing rumors. For example, that he’s been working with the Winchesters, that he helped them get hold of the First Blade, and that one of them even has the Mark of Cain. At this point, Crowley notes that a bearer of the Mark can kill her with the First Blade.

Abaddon’s demeanor turns cold. While she admits this is true, she also notes that it’s also true of Crowley and that the Brothers will surely be targeting him next after her. Why not join up to destroy the Winchesters and the First Blade, then they can deal with each other?

Crowley, wisely, isn’t interested (since his only real play to get rid of Abaddon once and for all is the First Blade). He tells her the only event he’s going to be joining is singing at her death. And since she has “no hold” on him, he turns to leave.

At this moment, Abaddon snaps her fingers and shows her joker card. She the surviving young man from the teaser into the room. He is Crowley’s son, Gavin (whom we first met as a ghost in season six’s “Weekend at Bobby’s”). At first, Crowley insists that he and Gavin “loathe” each other and that he cares nothing for his son. But Abaddon calls Crowley’s bluff by making Gavin bleed from the eyes. When Gavin starts screaming and begging, Crowley blusters, but eventually, he caves.

Cut to Metatron’s spy, named Ezra, claiming he won’t crack, while Dean paces around him with an angel blade, just dying to slice him open and see the light pour out. Just as Dean is going in to get rough, Sam, shocked by his aggression, pulls him back and says that Ezra can’t tell them anything if he’s dead.

Sam then gets an idea and starts talking about how Ezra was probably too low in the organization, and too stupid, to get any responsibility. Watching Sam closely, Dean quickly realizes Sam is running a con on Ezra and plays along. They both insult Ezra until he gets mad and insists that he is very important to Metatron. The Brothers cleverly say that he probably hasn’t even been back to Heaven. Ezra then drops a huge truth bomb – not only has he been to Heaven, but, with all the gates closed, it’s through a portal. The angels here can’t sense it because Metatron makes it move around as he wills it.

After mocking Ezra for being a “fan” who knows all about Metatron, but has never met him, the Brothers get out of him that he auditioned for a “key post,” was rejected and sent back down to earth to serve in the “ground forces,” and that “hardly anyone” was chosen to be in The Squad. But Ezra doesn’t actually know what the job entailed since he never made it past the interview. Back out in the hallway, the Brothers go over their info and roll their eyes a bit at how dumb Ezra is.

Unfortunately, Ezra doesn’t have much longer to live, since an angel guard discovers him dead in his cell, having been stabbed to death by an angel blade.

Cut back to the hotel, where Gavin (looking a lot better and wiping residual blood off with a towel) insists in front of Abaddon that Crowley can’t be his father. His father was Fergus Macleod (“a simple tailor, a drunk, a monster”). And, of course, since Crowley is inside a host from this century, he doesn’t look the way he did in life. Crowley just says that much can change in 291 years.

Gavin is blown away by this casual admission that he’s in the future (though you’d think he’d have figured out something was up at some point). Crowley shows him a light bulb and Gavin’s first thought is whether or not you can “cook a pigeon on it.” Commenting on Gavin’s slowness to understand what’s going on, Abaddon TK’s open the balcony doors. Even more shocked, Gavin thinks they are “among the stars.” He asks if they’re in Heaven, and if Crowley and Abaddon are angels.

Crowley and Abaddon

[simultaneously]

: Wow.

Gavin then has to digest that his father sold his soul to a Crossroad Demon and went to Hell. He doesn’t take it well, saying he “can’t be consorting with demons.” Not even Crowley pointing out that he’s the King of Hell seems to get through.

Back at Castiel’s compound, the Brothers are insisting that Ezra was fine when they left him. Sam says he highly doubts Ezra could have killed himself without a weapon. Castiel agrees, saying that it was an angel kill.” Dean points out that Castiel may have (another) spy in his camp.

When Castiel ruefully admits he’d hoped this one cause would finally unite the surviving angels, Dean says, “See, that’s the problem. You want to believe everyone’s telling the truth. I believe everyone’s lying.” Off Castiel’s skeptical look, Dean adds, “It’s a gift.”

Dean gets up to go investigate the angel compound a bit more, to see who else is lying. As he heads out the door of the office, Castiel stops Sam to ask him a question – and it’s not about Dean having the Mark of Cain, which you’d think would be an obvious one. Castiel asks Sam what it was like to be possessed by Gadriel (which is insensitive, but, well, Castiel is an angel and he’s also always been socially obtuse, even for an angel, especially for one who was human at the beginning of this season). Sam is uneasy with the question, of course, since Gadriel used his body to murder Kevin about ten episodes earlier, something he lampshades to Castiel.

Castiel is more interested in what sense Sam got of Gadriel. Sam says that Gadriel didn’t so much possess him as that they were sharing the same body (um, okay). After some prodding, he admits that Gadriel didn’t come off as evil or malicious, but that he felt misunderstood. He says that obviously, this impression must have been wrong, since Gadriel then killed Kevin. As Sam leaves, Castiel looks sketchy. I see he’s about to do something stupid. Must be Thursday.

In the hotel, Gavin is pointing out that Crowley was a monstrous father: always drunk, beating his son, not allowing him to learn how to read, and that it’s ridiculous Crowley sold his own soul for three extra inches of dick. Crowley allows all of these things, but points out that he’s been dead and in Hell a long time, so he’s changed (the dialogue indicates Gavin took off on his doomed voyage immediately after burying his father, so “Fergus” died in 1723). He then uses his powers to give Gavin the ability to read.

At first, Gavin doesn’t clue in what’s going on, just picks up a newspaper and explains over the “Pirates” and the “Buccaneers” (two sports teams, obviously) having a fight. Then he gets it. He can now read. Crowley reiterates that this is one of the perks of having a father who is the King of Hell and we begin to see Gavin soften toward the idea.

He asks, if Crowley is the King of Hell, does that make him a prince (oh, honey, no, that’s a later and quite terrible storyline)? But a fly lands in the ointment when he starts talking about how much he’s finally going to get done when he goes back to his time and gets on board that ship. Crowley starts to tell him why that’s a problem, but instead decides it’s time to go back to dealing with Abaddon.

In a garden, Castiel is waiting for someone. Golly, I wonder who that could be? Could it be Gadriel? Got it in one. Gadriel shows up with the same angel who found Ezra dead (she’s actually with Castiel). Castiel thanks him for coming alone. Gadriel says that he’s seen Castiel “through Sam Winchester’s eyes” and that “he trusts you.” He says Castiel has “a reputation for honor.” Castiel is smart enough not to laugh at that one and just says that his reputation varies, depending on whom you ask.

He says that he says he understands that Gadriel feels “misunderstood.” Gadriel hotly retorts that he’s not the one responsible for what happened in The Garden. There is some back-and-forth, as Castiel tries to get Gadriel to see that he is backing the wrong horse and not finding his redemption with Metatron. Gadriel is stubborn about changing his allegiances again, even though Castiel admits that his own trust in Metatron is what led to the angels falling in the first place (Gadriel saw that as his chance for freedom and redemption, you see).

Suddenly, Gadriel calls out a warning as two angels run into the clearing to attack Castiel and his guard. Castiel kills his attacker. His guard gets killed and then he kills her killer (girlfriend didn’t even get any lines, jeez). When he looks around, Gadriel has disappeared. Was it a trap?

Back at the compound, Dean is sitting, staring blankly into space. He’s having more flashbacks to the first time Sinclair shoved the First Blade into his hands, then of killing Sinclair when he attacked Sam. As he stares at the Mark, he remembers Sam calling his name, telling him to drop the Blade. Then a phone rings and it turns into Sam clapping his hands, bringing him out of his trance and telling him to answer his cell phone. When he picks up, it’s Crowley. Dean tells him, “It’s about time!” as if he hadn’t just been in a fugue state.

Crowley tells him he’s found Abaddon (she, of course, is sitting right beside him, since it’s a trap). But before he leads the Brothers to her, he’s going to tell Dean where he can find the First Blade.

Cut to the Impala driving at night to a cemetery, where the Brothers dig up a coffin, only to find it contains a fresh(ish) corpse. Sam complains loudly about the smell, though Dean allows it’s a pretty good place to hide the Blade. But just as Dean is kneeling down to deep-dive in the guy’s guts for it, Sam hears a growl. It’s a Hell Hound. I love how Dean (who got dragged off to Hell at the end of season 3 by a Hell Hound and is still deathly afraid of them) is just like, “Run!” and bails first. Sam, a little slower on the count, runs after him as Dean makes a beeline for a nearby crypt with an iron gate. Dean busts through it and when Sam comes in after him, they quickly bar the gate. As the Hell Hound starts smacking against the iron, Dean calls Crowley.

Crowley is sitting in front of a fireplace across from Gavin (who is reading the newspaper, now that he can), while Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Turca” (Turkish March) is playing in the background. Crowley is bemused that the Hell Hound is still on duty, since she was supposed to be out “collecting” (boy, I’ll bet that one word sent a chill through Dean’s blood). Dean just says he’s putting Crowley “on speakerphone.” Crowley then calls to the Hell Hound (whose name is “Juliette”) in dulcet tones and tells her to “stand down.” She does with a whine. After hanging up the phone, Crowley and Gavin go back to reading the newspaper.

The Brothers return to the coffin. Pulling out a big knife, Dean cuts the sutures from the autopsy or embalming or whatever. But Sam, who is already having trouble not throwing up, insists on reaching in to grab it (it’s covered with grue when it comes back out) because he’s concerned Dean will Hulk out if he touches it. Or something. It’s pretty condescending and even Dean points that out.

Back at the hotel, Crowley is trying to persuade Gavin not to go back and board the ship. Gavin is indignant, but Crowley can’t tell him the truth, so Gavin slams a door in his face.

Crowley is distracted from his unexpected drama by a call from Dean, who’s driving the Impala, Sam riding shotgun. Calling Dean “Squirrel,” he says, “Hope you were nice to your father.” Dean is confused and quickly changes the subject (yeah, that one’s … fraught for Dean). Dean tells him he has the Blade. Crowley tells him he’s in Cleveland in the Humboldt Hotel (“Penthouse Suite, of course”). He says that when Dean arrives, “I’ll take you to Abaddon.”

Crowley: I’ll draw her out and then you can skewer the ignorant hag. [in a stage whisper to Abaddon off her look of discomfort] Selling it.

Crowley then tells him he’s going to “need to leave Poughkeepsie right away.” He uses the word twice, knowing full well (from when Dean sent him inside Sam’s head to roust Gadriel) that it’s Sam and Dean’s current word for “trouble.” Confused at first, Dean rolls with it and ends the call, but when Sam asks him if everything’s good, Dean just says, “Yeah.”

Though Abaddon doesn’t know about the safe word, she does shoot Crowley with a devil’s trap bullet (noting she learned it from Henry Winchester) to render him powerless. She claims that she likes “stiff odds” just fine, but Crowley with powers, the Brothers, and the First Blade all in the same place with her are a bit much. So, she’s leveling the playing field a bit (please, as if Abaddon ever played fair). Crowley falls back on a fainting couch with a bullet in his shoulder, realizing he now can’t do anything to stop her.

In an open alleyway, still on an overcast day, Gadriel is insisting to Castiel he had nothing to do with the ambush in the woods. He believes in prosecuting even war on honorable terms (this seems weird in light of some of the treacherous things Metatron had him do, like killing Kevin in the Bunker, but okay).

Castiel points out that Metatron is anything but honorable, hence why he used Gadriel’s negotiation to set up a double-cross. Gadriel protests that Castiel is asking him to turn on Metatron. Castiel disagrees. He knows he has a Metatron spy inside his own camp. He just wants Gadriel to act as one inside Metatron’s camp for him. As he leaves, he says, “Consider my offer.” Gadriel looks conflicted.

The Impala arrives outside the Humboldt Hotel in broad (though overcast) daylight. The Brothers get out, Sam holding the First Blade, wrapped in a leather wrap. Sam wants to just go inside and is confused when Dean suggests they do a reconnaissance first. Dean says Crowley told him “he saw some demons going down into the basement.” That might mean Abaddon knew Crowley was there.

We know this is a lie and Sam questions when Crowley said all that, but still, a little reconnaissance is actually a standard good idea. Dean tells him that Crowley told him about the demons on the phone. He “suggests” Sam look around the basement, while he reconnoiters the main floor. Sam looks uncomfortable as Dean grabs the First Blade from him, but doesn’t quite object as Dean stalks away.

Warily, Dean enters the Penthouse Suite, First Blade out and in hand. He sees Crowley sprawled on the couch, clutching his host’s wounded shoulder.

Crowley: Hallo, Dean. Love the crazed bloodlust in your eyes.

I’m not sure if this is sarcasm or misdirection aimed at Abaddon, or what. Dean doesn’t look especially crazy in this moment. In fact, he silently taps his shoulder where Crowley’s wound would be with the First Blade, mutely questioning what’s going on with that. Instead of answering directly, Crowley says, “Let’s not waste time. I’ll take you to Abaddon. It’s not far.” Then he cuts his eyes to Dean’s right. Dean turns into a demon’s attack and immediately stabs him with the Blade. The demon dies in a storm of red light.

Dean is clearly affected by the high of the kill, but he has no more than a second to enjoy it. He’s suddenly TK’d into a nearby painting on a wall. Abaddon comes in, gloating.

Abaddon: A boy and his Blade. And still, no match for the new Queen.

Meanwhile, Sam is down in the basement, finding it empty and quiet, and realizing he got played.

Upstairs, Abaddon chuckles malevolently as she tortures Dean.

Abaddon: So, first, you’ll die. Painfully. And then Crowley will watch his son die. Ditto. And then the King himself. And Blade destroyed. Well, it’s quite a To Do list!

But meanwhile, the Blade is calling its siren song to Dean. He starts to peel himself away from the wall, the Mark visibly glowing even through a layer of flannel and his leather jacket. We also see the same snarl as when he beheaded Sinclair. Then he actually slides back down from the wall.

Abaddon is not standing idle while he does. She lashes him again and again with TK, but he takes one stubborn step toward her and then another. And another. Abaddon’s TK is so powerful that it kicks up a big wind that actually rolls a lamp across Crowley, who’s a wide-eyed, but helpless, spectator to these events.

Dean keeps coming, but Abaddon is able to knock him off his feet with a particularly strong burst, and he ends up pinned back to the wall, with the Blade out of his hand, lying on the floor. Abaddon then starts Force-choking Dean, but Dean, through the pain, focuses on the First Blade. As he concentrates on it, it stirs and then suddenly flies into his hand (the fan wank in some quarters when this episode first came out, trying to discount how this was Dean showing an actual superpower – TK – was hilarious).

Suddenly, it’s as if Abaddon’s powers no longer have any effect on Dean. Remember in the coda to season three when Lilith tried to TK Sam after unsuccessfully white-lighting him and it no longer worked? It’s like that. Abaddon seems unable to believe it, or maybe it’s sheer desperation that keeps her going with the TK, but it gives Dean a clear shot to just walk up to her and stab her, even as she’s still trying to jazz-hand him.

Sam enters the room (blasted by wind) right as Dean starts that walk.

When Dean stabs Abaddon, she rises above him, howling in agony, as white light (not red) bursts out of her, through her eyes and mouth, even her skin, and the sound of lightning and thunder rolls continuously. Sam and Crowley have to look away, it’s so bright, but Dean stares straight up into it, silently echoing her howls, looking completely mad. There’s a reason “King of the Damned” is a fan favorite and this scene is one of the most screencapped and giffed of the entire show.

Then the light fades and she collapses to the ground. Dean then kneels down on top of her and begins beating on her dead body (Josie’s dead body) with the Blade in a frenzy of rage and hate. Shocked, Sam has to call several times to get Dean to stop. Breathing heavily, Dean looks up at him in a daze and then tosses the Blade away. Nearby, Crowley is looking pretty thrilled to have survived all this.

Afterward, while his son looks on from another room, Crowley gets a knife to dig the devil’s trap out of his shoulder himself and whining about it. Sam is nearby, wrapping the Blade back up. Sam tells Crowley he’s damned lucky they didn’t kill him, so shut up.

As Dean is walking back into the room from the washroom, having cleaned up with a blood towel in an echo of Gavin doing it earlier, Crowley “reminds” Sam that he tried to warn them it was a trap by using their safe word. This is, of course, the first time Sam’s heard of it. Crowley notices Sam’s confusion and Dean’s sketchy look, and chuckles: “I sense drama!”

Dean changes the subject to Gavin. He’s surprised Crowley even had a son. He asks how Gavin is doing, just as the bullet comes out. Crowley hedges.

Dean points out that Gavin needs to go back and Sam says they can bring him to the Bunker and try to reverse engineer the spell. Crowley protests that if he does go back, Gavin will die on that ship. The Brothers are not sympathetic and say the potential ripple effect is too great (apparently, they’re unaware that Bobby summoned Gavin’s ghost in season six). Crowley grumps that Gavin’s disappearance from history doesn’t affect anyone, since he went down with the ship, as it were, shortly afterward. We will, of course, find out otherwise a few seasons later and then there’s the whole plothole involving how Bobby was able to get out of his deal using Gavin, if Gavin is now in the future. Time travel. Such a headache.

Crowley asks to say goodbye to his son, even as he declares that he’ll be thrilled with the day he no longer has to feel human emotions. But when he goes into the bedroom with Gavin, he TK’s the doors closed and whisks Gavin away. Dean’s pissed.

In a field somewhere else, Gavin is finding out what happens to him in the past. He bitterly figures it’s par for the course with the way the rest of his life has gone. He’s not too sure if he can even make it in the 21st century, but Crowley tells him he’ll do fine as long as he avoids “cheap whiskey and cheap hookers.” He also warns him not to smoke. He tells his son that they won’t be seeing each other again and turns down a hug, but he does act “all fatherly” before he vanishes, leaving Gavin out standing in a field by himself.

Cut to an Impala chat at night (as Crowley said, “drama”). Dean tells Sam he didn’t tell him about Crowley’s warning because he knew that Sam would want to go in beside him and that wouldn’t have worked out too well (for Sam’s survival, though Dean doesn’t say that outright). Dean says that when he first touched the First Blade, he felt a “calm” and knew that he would take down Abaddon and anyone else who got in his way, that he would not be stopped.

Now Sam could respond a whole bunch of different constructive ways. Instead, he falls back on his usual default – jealous pissiness. Sam complains that Dean was trying to “protect” him (yes, it’s an actual complaint). Dean points out that they “couldn’t afford to screw this up.” If Abaddon had been able to get hold of Sam, she might have been able to negotiate an escape. Dean is pretty clearly referencing Sam getting himself caught by the vampire brothers two episodes ago and Sam doesn’t like it one bit.

Sam says that it’s great that Dean is deriving “calm” or whatever from the Blade, but he feels that it’s also doing something to Dean, changing him. Sam “suggests” that they take the Blade out somewhere and keep it safe, far away from Dean, until they need it again.

Dean just stares at the road and quietly (but firmly) says, “No.”

Credits

Ratings dropped again to 0.8/2 in the A18-49 demo and 1.59 million. This was probably thanks to the hangover from backdoor pilot “Bloodlines” and being dragged down a bit by The Originals’ pitiful lead-in.

Review: “King of the Damned” is an evocative title. It could apply to Crowley, Abaddon, or even Castiel. There’s certainly enough hubris to go round for everyone, including Sam and Dean and Gadriel. The road to Hell, as they say, is paved with lost teddy bea – sorry, I mean good intentions.

I’ve seen complaints, especially when this episode first came out, that Abaddon never got enough storyline, that she was introduced and then simply ditched (and that this is linked in some way to the show’s allegedly egregious misogyny that some Tumblrites love to harp on whenever they’re mad that their favorite fictional gay male ship hasn’t kissed, yet). I disagree. Sure, she could have stayed around a bit longer, but we’ve seen a lot of what happens when a villain overstays their welcome (Lucifer, anyone?). In order to keep her around much more, they’d have had to introduce some more dimensions than the straight-up queenly, dominatrix evil that made Abaddon so pure. It would have weakened her as a character and I can’t say I’d have wanted to see that. Abaddon stayed just long enough to make a huge impression and then flamed out in epic style.

The thing is that Abaddon was on the show for nearly a season and a half, had more episodes than Azazel, and was a major Big Bad since the end of last season. She had a complete arc where she was introduced as a fearsome enemy, scored some major points on the Brothers (killing their paternal grandfather), had some setbacks and wins, embarked on a campaign to oust Crowley and become Queen of Hell, and very nearly accomplished it in an audacious plan this week (involving time travel, no less) before being brought down by Dean, the Mark and the First Blade.

We also got two episodes that explained why she was the only surviving Knight of Hell (besides her leader and “creator” Cain), what she was doing for Lucifer in the 1950s, and how she came to possess her current host, Josie Sands (which explained a bit more about how she destroyed the American chapter of the Men of Letters). We even saw her interact with and possess female characters.

Could they have stretched out her arc a bit more with more personal backstory? Here and there. The big question remaining after this episode (never answered, unfortunately) was whether or not she was actually an ordinary demon (ex-human) pre-Knighthood or if she was some kind of converted fallen angel (an ex-Grigori, perhaps). If she’d never been human at all, that would explain why she died like an angel, blasting out white light, and not a demon (red lightning).

It would also explain her contempt for human emotion in this episode. Yes, demons often express contempt for living humans and the more positive human emotions (anger, hate, fear, jealousy, envy, malice? Those are okay), but there is always an undertone of shame and self-loathing. We see this from Crowley when Abaddon comments on Crowley’s emotional connection to his son (which she regards as a weakness), but not from Abaddon herself. There is no residue of humanity in her. The closest we get to it in this episode is her little moue of discomfort when Crowley refers to her as a “hag” in his phone call to Dean.

The closest we get to it ever is in “First Born” when she’s possessing the woman Cain loves and where she demonstrates what could be seen as jealousy about that relationship. But that could all be an act and her submissiveness (completely the opposite of the dominant way she acts in every other episode) is not at all explained (let alone poorly). That’s a flaw in an otherwise-classic episode (“First Born” not “King of the Damned”).

Now, Abaddon’s death is obviously sexual. From the way Dean stabs her in the belly, to the orgasmic tandem screaming, to the way she rubs her hands down his arms, even to the frenzied way he beats on her dead body afterward, this is clearly a sadomasochistic scene. But for those who complain about the rape-y aspects of it, HEL-lo, this was foreshadowed in the second episode of the season. Remember when Abaddon had Dean on his knees and was talking about demon-raping him? Well, she still has the apparent upper hand in “King of the Damned,” right up until the moment she doesn’t and can’t adjust or make a new plan in time. This was never going to end any other way.

The funny thing is that from what we know now, the very worst mistake Abaddon could have made was actually to kill Dean (as she intended) because he simply would have come back as a demon and far stronger than before. It indicates that while she knew a lot about the Mark and the Blade (which, it seems, she couldn’t wield despite being a Knight, since she wanted to destroy it), Cain hadn’t shared everything about the Mark with her.

But it’s still pretty badass to watch Dean fight back, find his inner strength (as he did a couple of episodes ago with that redneck vampire), and overcome her shiny superpowers. Not gonna lie, either, that one of the sweetest schadenfreude meta moments from when the episode first came out was when some fans of a certain persuasion were in deep, deep denial that Dean actually TK’d the Blade and was now, finally, indisputably “magical.”

Sam, it must be said, doesn’t respond at all well to this. He affects deep concern, but the raging envy and jealousy underneath poison and flatten it into an insincere mask. I do believe that Sam loves and is worried about Dean, but his own selfishness, his fear of becoming a fifth wheel (as he thought Dean was becoming in season 4), his negative emotions, and his inability (unwillingness?) to control them long enough to help his brother, obscure that love and concern, and make them ineffective in persuading Dean.

I’m not arguing that Dean is in his right mind, here. I think one of the biggest red flags is how Dean says that the First Blade makes him “calm,” when what we see on the outside is the complete opposite. Dean may feel calm, but all objective signs point to the First Blade infusing him with a sort of divine madness, a holy rage, that is terrifying to behold. It’s bit like the legendary Celtic hero Cú Chulainn. Or the Incredible Hulk. But whenever Dean starts to Hulk out, Sam (and Castiel) seems scared and determined to control Dean, even though Dean has never threatened Sam or done him harm during these rages.

In fact, Dean has Hulked out in response to Sam being threatened and when Dean says this week that he sent Sam down into the basement to get him out of harm’s way, he’s actually got a good point. It’s not just that Sam got himself captured (and the both of them nearly killed) two episodes ago by vampires. It’s also that they found out later Crowley was being blackmailed by Abaddon holding his son hostage, so of course this is a tactic she would use.

Dean may have been able to hold his own (mostly) in the seasons when Sam was gaining superpowers, but Sam is not in the same league now the shoe’s on the other foot. And Dean had a hard-enough time fighting Abaddon without Sam (and Sam’s safety) there as a distraction. So, yeah, the Crazy-on-Supernatural-Steroids brother actually has the better point here.

It also doesn’t help that every time Sam grabs the First Blade from Dean, he comes off far more like Gollum than Samwise. Sam wants that damned Mark for himself. It’s not that he thinks it’s bad. He just thinks it’s bad on Dean. When Dean shut Sam down at the end of the episode, frankly, I was like, “You go, Dean!”

As I’ve said before, this storyline may be leading Dean down a dark path, but it’s fun to watch. One of the best parts is seeing Dean stand up for himself and push back on all those head games his loved ones have played on him over the years. If I have one objection, it’s that this is tied (at least at this point in the story) to the idea that Dean is being corrupted. While the Mark is certainly driving him mad(der), he needs to keep going to get out the other side, not power down and go back to being everyone else’s doormat. This is probably why Season 9 is one of the grayest seasons in terms of morality. Everyone’s got some kind of corruption or penitence angle going on.

That, of course, is in play with Crowley. Crowley asserts up front that he hates having (positive) feelings toward his son. And yet, he leans into them pretty hard, to the point where he’s even able to sell to Gavin the idea of playing a demonic better version of the father he couldn’t be in life. One could argue that the show pushes the idea of Gavin being an ignorant hayseed too hard early in the episode (when Abaddon and Crowley are actually in agreement over something – that his son is an idiot – that’s pretty hard).

That said, Gavin really is an ignorant hayseed, not that this is his fault. Even if Crowley/Fergus hadn’t been a terrible father, as Crowley points out, most people in the world at that time were illiterate. This unquestionably was true of early 18th century Scotland, which was already experiencing a decline in economic and political fortunes after a century of their king also being England’s king (formalized by the Acts of Union in 1706 and 1707). Grab someone like that and throw him or her into the 21st century (I guess he made it to America, after all) and it makes sense he’d be all at sixes and sevens, and blithering like an idiot.

If anything, I think it was reckless of Abaddon to bring him to the 21st century. I assume she knew about the shipwreck and figured he (like the friend she killed) wouldn’t be missed by history. But we already know that’s not true and that it could have affected Abaddon’s chances in the present. It doesn’t pay to mess with time travel.

Then there’s Castiel. Castiel makes similar mistakes with Gadriel as Sam does with Dean, thus nearly shipwrecking his plan before it’s properly launched. Castiel wants to be conciliatory, but he just can’t stop poking at those sore spots about Gadriel’s failures in the Garden and his murder of their fellow angels. You’d think Castiel would at least be more understanding, considering the thousands of angels he’s slaughtered, not always with the best of intentions.

Instead, he keeps coming at Gadriel sideways and riling him up. If it weren’t for Metatron’s misstep in sending the other angel assassins, Gadriel might never have come back for the second meeting. Castiel got lucky with that. I don’t even like Gadriel and I get why he was pissed off at Castiel.

And what about Castiel’s attitude toward Dean? He’s so wrapped up in his new army (while failing to tell even the Brothers it’s all a sham) and his responsibilities that not only does he show no concern at all about Dean having the Mark, but he actively recruits Dean to torture his fellow angels. Is it bad? Is it good? Is it conditionally good for Dean to Hulk out and become a torturer? Does Castiel even remember what it was like for Dean the last time he asked this? Make up your mind, Cas.

Next week: Last Holiday: The show returns for its final 7 episodes of season 15 with … an MOTW involving a wood nymph inhabiting the Bunker. Okay.

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: “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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