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Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 9.06: Heaven Can’t Wait

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My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

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

[spoilers ahoy for several seasons]

Tagline: Castiel is trying to fit into “normal” society as a newly minted human, with Dean’s help (yeah … I know), but this is complicated by the arrival of another fallen angel with a unique and deadly power. Meanwhile, Sam and Kevin try to get info about the Angel Tablet out of Crowley.

Recap: Recap of the season so far, with angels recruiting sleazy evangelicals to get hosts, Castiel becoming human, the resurrection and ascendance of Abaddon, Crowley being captured and turned partially human during the Trials in season eight, and Dean being forced by “Ezekiel” to make Castiel leave the Bunker, lest Castiel recognize him as an angel.

Cut to Rexford, Idaho at night. A man inside a shack is hanging up on a woman at a suicide hotline center. He goes to the drawer and gets out a gun. But when he sees a photo of a woman with a child on the mantel, he can’t do it. He puts down the gun.

He hears a noise and turns around. A shadowy man in a long coat, with a cross earring, enters the room. The first man thinks the hotline people sent him, but the second man only says, “You did.” He raises his hand over the other man’s head and a pink glow lights the first man’s face. As he screams, there’s an explosion and blood spatter covers the windows.

Cue burning angel wings season nine title cards.

Cut to daytime at a quickie mart (the Gas n’ Sip) where Castiel is working. He’s closely observing two dudebros making coffee, discussing sports, and high-fiving each other over tossing their coffee stirrers into the trash. He tries to imitate them. Predictably, this doesn’t go very well.

The newspaper delivery guy comes in and leaves, and then an attractive blonde woman who appears to be Castiel’s co-worker or supervisor comes in late (yes. the red lights frequently conspire against me, too). She appears to flirt with Castiel a bit (or at least, compliment him on his work ethic a whole lot) and Castiel is charmed.

After she goes into the back of the store, Castiel takes out the newspapers. The main headline shows a photo of Doomed Teaser Guy, who is “presumed dead” and is the fourth such disappearance that week. Hmm, could be a job for the Winchesters.

Cut to the Bunker, where Kevin the Prophet has had a breakthrough … of sorts. He’s trying to translate the Angel Tablet, but so far, he’s only been able to do so into an extinct language called “Elamite” (a pre-Alexandrian language “isolate” from southwestern Iran). And he’s only been able to determine one phrase, “falling angels.”

Dean is all “ugh” about having to read 24 volumes of an encyclopedia about dead languages, so guess how thrilled he is when Castiel calls him. Castiel is trying to fix a slushie machine, which is overflowing on him, when he calls, so he only gets out the basics before he hangs up. This is quite enough for Dean to pack up and head his way, acting shady with Sam about why Castiel left the Bunker in the first place and snarky with Kevin, who whines that Dean is “bailing on doing research.” Kevin, honey, that’s kinda your job, anyway.

At the quickie mart, Castiel is trying to hide from his boss that he’s basically homeless and not doing a very good job of it. Poor Castiel. He’s pretty awkward as a human, isn’t he? He’s going by the name of “Steve,” by the way.

She then appears to ask him over to her house for a date for the next night. Castiel says yes, but is rather confused by the request and goes back to trying to fix the HVAC in the ceiling.

Dean is on the scene, playing a cop and talking to the sheriff. The sheriff fills him in, first of all, that the “missing” people are all now confirmed dead. He tells him about DTG, who was chronically suicidal, a woman before him who had agoraphobia, and a married couple before that who were a slow-burning, acrimonious murder-suicide waiting to happen. All people who were very unhappy and had been for a long time.

After putting on some booties and gloves, Dean enters the house with the sheriff to find CSI people scraping a pink mist off of … well, everything. The sheriff says that if the tests come back like the previous crime scenes, it will turn out to be disintegrated human. Not just blood, but organs, skin, bone, even the clothes they were wearing. Neighbors were only able to report that they saw “a pink flash.” So, probably not suicide, unless these victims found the most novel way to check out, ever.

Dean calls the Bunker, where Sam tells him he and Kevin have nearly finished reading through the encyclopedia. Unfortunately, it didn’t tell them anything useful. Dean suggests they talk to Crowley (who is currently chained up in the dungeon), but not let him Hannibal Lecter them into any stupid deals.

Dean fills Sam in on the case, saying he has yet to find any EMF or sulfur, or anything else “normally” supernatural. Sam suggests spontaneous combustion, perhaps even the Nazi Thule, but Dean says the bodies were “vaporized” not burned.

Concerned, Sam suggests he should go out and back Dean up, but Dean quickly shuts that down, saying everything is fine. After he hangs up, he watches Castiel from the parking lot. He looks pensive.

Cut to a young girl walking out of a high school behind a bus. In tears, she tells a friend on the phone about how her dirtbag of a boyfriend just dumped her, publicly, in the cafeteria. At one point, she says, “I could just die!”

The shadowy man (no longer shadowy) from the teaser touches her shoulder, startling her, and says, “I can help with that.” As she screams, he raises his hand over her head and disintegrates her in a pink light.

Back at the quickie mart, Castiel is wishing a middle-aged woman luck on her lottery ticket with a little too much solicitude. He’s surprised and discomfited to see Dean next in line. Dean points out that Castiel called him.

Castiel insists that he is doing just fine as a “sales associate” at the quickie mart. He gets a little salty about Dean having asked him to leave the Bunker when Dean snarks a bit about his new job. Understandable, but Dean is also right that Castiel called him. There’s a Hunt afoot.

In the Bunker dungeon, Crowley is trying to deal. He claims he can read Elamite, but what’s in it for him? Sam tries to appeal to Crowley’s new-found humanity from his blessed blood cure at the end of season eight. Crowley’s not too impressed and snarks back at him.

Sam drops the compassionate act and cuts to the chase. He says that the only reason they’ve kept Crowley is alive is because Dean thought he might be “useful.” If that’s not going to be true, they might as well give him to Abaddon.

Pricked, Crowley asks for the paper with Kevin’s notes, but then he crumples it up and tosses in Sam’s face. So, Sam locks him up again and leaves.

At the quickie mart, Castiel is trying to explain to Dean how much more fulfilled he feels as a human sales associate than he was as a “failed” angel. Dean’s not buying it. When Castiel’s boss, Nora, tells him there’s a clean-up in the men’s room, she also mentions their “date” and Dean realizes Castiel is sweet on her. Dean snarks about his own propensity for strippers (since we’ve seen multiple times that he doesn’t actually pay to go with prostitutes), but seems to think it’s sweet.

Dean then gets a call and it’s about the Tragic High Schooler. He suggests Castiel come along. Castiel refuses at first, pointing out that he has no powers. Dean points out that he’s never had powers (oh, my, is this actual foreshadowing?) and calls Castiel a “Hunter-in-Training” when Castiel points out Dean is better qualified due to being a Hunter. Castiel then says that Dean said he “sucked” at Hunting the last time they went. Dean demurs, saying he said “there was room for improvement.”

The upshot is that Castiel agrees to go because his shift ends in five minutes and his date isn’t until seven, but first, he must clean the men’s room.

At the scene, Dean does a double-take at the pink mist on the bus and goes to interview the dead girl’s friend. Seems the friend was in the cafeteria when the incident occurred and found out when everyone rushed to look out the window.

It takes a little coaxing (and some odd attitude from her, considering it’s not actually a strange question from a cop) from Dean to get out of her that the girl had been upset over getting dumped and therefore, “bummed.”

Dean leaves her to go find Castiel, who has had a horrified revelation looking at the pink spatter and is bending over the Impala nearby, looking sick.

Castiel tells Dean he knows what happened. The killer was a type of angel called a Rit Zien (“hands of mercy” in Enochian). This is a type of battle medic angel that can heal other angels. But if the Rit Zien can’t heal, he/she will mercy kill.

Castiel notes that Rit Zien “hone in on pain” and speculates that this one is killing humans who are suffering now that he is stuck on Earth. When Dean points out that the teenage girl was only momentarily upset, Castiel replies that the Rit Zien can’t (or just doesn’t) differentiate between temporary and long-term suffering.

Dean says they have to take out the Rit Zien, to stop his killing spree.  Castiel says he can’t go along. Dean realizes Castiel is “scared” and also realizes that now Castiel is human, he feels helpless against the other angels. Dean gently tells Castiel to go on his date and live happily as a human. Castiel asks him to drive him back to the quickie mart because he doesn’t have a car.

At the Bunker, Crowley is starting to cave. He agrees to help, but he wants to make a call. To Abaddon in Hell. Sam and Kevin debate whether to allow it. Kevin’s against it, thinking Crowley will team up with Abaddon, but Sam thinks (probably correctly) that those two hate each other too much.

But first, they want to make sure Crowley can do what he claims he can do. They give him one paper of signs, which Crowley identifies as ingredients for a spell. He correctly identifies them as the ingredients for the spell Metatron used to cast the angels from Heaven. So, he’s legit. But he won’t go any further until he gets his phone call.

That night, Dean drives Castiel to his date with Nora. Dean insists Castiel prepare at least a little for it, getting him to lose his quickie mart vest and undo a few buttons on his white shirt. Dean then tells him to always open the car door for her, ask her a lot of questions (“because they like that”) and if the woman insists on going Dutch (i.e., paying her own way), “they’re lying.”

Dean then watches Castiel go up to the door (calling Castiel cutting a rose from her own bush a “nice touch”) and then drives away. But not before Baby is cut off by an old pickup truck pulling up and nearly backing into her.

This is an early Robert Berens script, his first. Unfortunately, it’s pretty obviously written by a guy and Berens writes Dean as more of a horndog than he normally is. It’s about to get worse.

Because once Castiel gets inside, he finds out Nora didn’t ask him out on a date. She asked him to babysit.

Now, single moms are usually pretty damned clear about whether they are asking a man to babysit or go on a date. Really. And Nora was not clear before. She made it sound like a date. A supposedly caring mother like Nora would not create such a misunderstanding and then leave her baby daughter with a guy she barely knows so she can go out with some other guy. It really undercuts Nora’s characterization so far and is a tiny bit misogynistic. Not cool, Berens. Not cool at all.

It doesn’t help that before she leaves, she tells him that the baby will sleep just fine, but then the baby starts crying. It’s not Baby’s fault – turns out she’s sick. Nora didn’t see that? Hmm.

Anyhoo, Castiel is able to calm the baby by rocking her and singing the theme to 80s show The Greatest American Hero (“Believe It Or Not”). Pretty cool, though also random. It’s never explained how pop culture- naive Castiel knew the song.

On the road, Dean gets a phone call and a very important bit of information from the sheriff – when they analyzed the DNA on the dead couple (the first victims), it turns out that they only found the wife’s DNA.

“The husband’s still out there,” Dean says, hanging up. He’s the vessel for the Rit Zien.

Back at the Bunker, Crowley demands that they use Kevin’s blood instead of Sam’s for the call, claiming that he’s already had Sam’s and wants to try something different. Kevin balks at first (because he still believes at this point that Crowley murdered his mother, on top of all the other horrid things Crowley did to him last season), but then abruptly agrees. Of course, this removes the concern about anyone realizing Sam has an angel inside him, which only Dean knows at this point.

However, when Crowley makes the call, he’s put on hold.

At the Sheriff’s Office, the sheriff explains that the husband was a religious nut who was obsessed with Buddy Boyle (the preacher in cahoots with a cadre of fallen angels this season), while his wife was “a hardcore atheist.” This pushed the marriage over the edge as her husband kept incessantly proselytizing her.

Dean gets a shock when he finds a photo of the couple in front of the husband’s truck, which is the same one that was blocking him when he was leaving Castiel off at Nora’s. He hurries back to the house.

Castiel commiserates with the baby on being a new human, but then realizes she’s feverish. He leaves a call on Nora’s cell phone before deciding he needs to take the baby to the hospital. But as he starts to leave, the Rit Zien shows up and blocks him from doing so.

Castiel calls the Rit Zien “Ephraim.” Ephraim is younger than Castiel and looked up to him in Heaven. But here on earth, Ephraim is obsessed with “cleansing” it of suffering – which means killing his way though the human population, basically. Castiel won’t let him pass to hurt the baby, but Ephraim says he’s actually there for Castiel.

In the Bunker, Sam is growing impatient, while Crowley is angry and humiliated at this obvious show of how much power he’s lost to Abaddon. He refuses to give up on his quest and, at the last minute, Abaddon calls back. We get a quick cut to her in an alleyway with a large knife and a very dead guy with a cut throat nearby (for the “call,” which requires blood in a chalice).

While talking to Ephraim, Castiel strips the thorns off the rose he picked before, cutting his hand and making a banishing sigil when Ephraim backs him up against a door. Ephraim goes on a big old rant about how earth is full of suffering and he has to stop it. When Castiel tries to tell him that earth is more complicated than Heaven, Ephraim says that Castiel is more in need of his services than he’d thought, that Castiel is hiding from giving aid to the other angels and that he’s had more failures than successes. It’s … well, it’s a rather tedious and disjointed rant, full of pride and madness.

Unfortunately, he catches Castiel in the middle of trying to slap the banishing sigil and tosses him across the room. Then continues to monologue. Ugh. Dean busts in with an angel blade, but gets slammed into a wall.

Abaddon’s conversation with Crowley is more fun. She horrifies him by telling him she managed to double his “projections” on souls reaped into Hell. How? She called in his CRD deals early. As far as she’s concerned, Crowley is just a “kennel dog” now, the “Winchester’s bitch.” She doesn’t care when Crowley tells her it will all “backfire” on her. She wants to watch it all burn.

Crowley abruptly ends the call by pushing the bowl away. Then he asks for the symbols, saying he keeps his bargains (implying that Abaddon doesn’t). When he reads out the spell and comes to the end, he brings up one big wrinkle – the spell is irreversible. They can’t put the angel genies back in the Heaven bottle.

At Nora’s house, Dean slowly comes to as Ephraim is getting ready to kill Castiel. Ephraim’s big beef with Castiel is that Castiel is choosing to be human, which means he must have already “given up.”

“You chose death,” Ephraim says, raising his glowing hand, just as a groggy Dean tosses the angel blade to Castiel, who stabs Ephraim, killing him. O the irony.

Afterward, Castiel apologizes to Nora for “overreacting” about her baby’s fever, that “a friend” (i.e., Dean) gave him a tip about using low-dose Acetominophen (um … you’d still need to go to the doctor or at least contact the parent about giving a baby drugs). Nora tells him the date didn’t work out, anyway, and that “the part that ‘overreacted’ is the part that makes you special.” Damn, Nora, you sure have a low opinion of men.

Castiel comes out to the Impala, looking sad. When Dean asks him where he wants to go, Castiel just looks even more morose and gets in the car. Dean looks taken aback.

Dean is upset when Sam calls him and tells him Metatron’s spell is irreversible. Surely, Crowley is lying. But Sam doesn’t think so. Yeah, that’s not depressing, or anything.

As he’s washing out the summoning bowl they used to call Abaddon, Sam realizes that one of the vials of Kevin’s blood is missing. Going down to the dungeon, he sees Crowley injecting himself with it. Crowley’s now hooked on human blood.

Dean takes Castiel back to the quickie mart. He apologizes for telling Castiel he had to leave the Bunker. Dean compliments him for “adapting” to human life.

Castiel thanks him, but worries about what Ephraim said about helping the angels. Rather than tell him the spell is irreversible (which is partly on Castiel for being fooled by Metatron last season), Dean spares him by saying that the angels aren’t his job to save, anymore. He’s human now. Dean and Sam will take care of it (the irony that Dean and Sam are human – okay, mostly – is glossed over a bit here).

Castiel goes into the quickie mart to open it up for the day. On the TV, an announcer is talking about the “meteor shower” that’s still puzzling everyone. Castiel looks sad and pensive as he stares out the window.


Review: I didn’t much care for this one when it first came out. I found it forgettable and mildly annoying. It’s a bit better on rewatch, especially knowing what came later in the season, but a lot of the same writing problems remain.

This was an early script by Robert Berens when he first came to the show (his first of three for the season) and that’s pretty obvious. While some of the plot points about the Rit Zien are intriguing (particularly the battlefield medic aspect), they are shallowly introduced in a perfunctory, paint-by-numbers manner and never mentioned on the show again.

That MOTW never quite comes alive, despite a relatively high body count (and some very creepy, if understated, kill scenes). It quickly becomes impossible to empathize, either with the angel or his inhabiting human, after it turns out he said yes to an angel who then used his body to murder his wife, an atheist whom he had been emotionally abusing with religious fundamentalist beliefs. Yikes, that’s bleak.

The main performance is a bit underwhelming, too, but Ashton Holmes doesn’t get anything to do but rant disjointedly on the same two or three themes, anyway. And he barely gets any scenes. Tough for an actor to stand out under such conditions.

The main focus of the A story, of course, is on Castiel and how he is adjusting to being a human. I found it dull on first watch and depressing on recap rebound. Castiel is clearly unhappy with being human (and let’s face it, what we see of his human life sucks spectacularly in a stereotypical Rust Belt way).

His central conflict is also weakened by his being fully human. A large part of Castiel’s character conflict stems from his attempts to balance his perceived (and enforced) responsibilities to his heavenly kin with his newly found obligations to humankind, as evinced by his devotion to one specific human – Dean. Making him fully human takes away a lot of that tension and having other angels want to kill him doesn’t bring the stakes back up.

The flipping of tables from Castiel being the supernatural creature to human Dean, to Castiel being the human in the relationship and Dean being the supernaturally influenced, not-so-human-now Hunter who has to save Castiel from supernatural threats has potential. But aside from a few sad-sack exchanges between Castiel and a guilt-ridden Dean, the episode doesn’t explore this at all. And experience with the rest of the season tells me this is about as much as we’ll get. They will pull the trigger on not-so-human Hunter Dean down the road, but Castiel won’t be the same human character he is in this episode by then. That renders a lot of this episode’s conflict moot.

I also didn’t like the way the episode used his new-found human status to woobie Castiel. It’s not just that the show has always pulled this emotional and metaphorical switcheroo when it comes to humans and the supernatural. The Tell is that being human is a great thing and humans are special snowflakes of the SPNverse. But it doesn’t match the Show that humans are basically cannon fodder and food sources for the larger supernatural side of things. Humans don’t rate highly on the SPNverse ladder at all.

So, any episode that praises a supernatural creature becoming human as an upgrade in SPNverse status is a bit of an eye-roller. It only works with a demon like Crowley, since demons and most monsters are ex-humans and therefore actually lower in status than living humans. For the rest, not so much.

About the only thing humans get to do is go to Heaven at the end of their lives – assuming their souls don’t get demonized, monsterized, angry-ghostized, or eaten, first – where they are warehoused for eternity in their nicest memories. It’s not nearly as bleak as The Good Place ‘verse at this point, but the show’s hardly the rousing hurrah for humanity it claims to be.

But the real problem is that the episode has Dean feeling guilty about pushing Castiel out of the Bunker (at “Ezekiel”‘s insistence) and kicks Dean in the head for it, when Castiel’s being human has nothing to do with Dean’s choices, good or bad. The episode even touches (pretty hard) on the fact that Castiel feels responsible for the angels falling because he is responsible. Or at least partially responsible. Metatron tricked him into helping to create the spell that threw all the angels (except for Metraton) out of Heaven. That’s why Castiel is human in the first place.

Castiel’s becoming human has nothing to do with Dean expelling him from the Bunker (a bit like God expelling Adam and Eve from Paradise, innit?). It has everything to do with Castiel’s poor choices (which Dean even warned Castiel not to make last season).

In addition, Castiel has spent the entire episode moping about how he can’t be around angels because he’s afraid of them now and he’s poison to them. And he has a point (which Dean knows full well is true). So far, every encounter he’s had with angels this season has gone horribly awry. Not only have (what, four, now?) angels tried to kill him since he turned human, but in the process, they have all ended up dead. And it’s not as though there are tons and tons of angels out there in the first place.

It doesn’t help that out of the four angels who’ve attacked Castiel to this point, he’s ended up killing three of them personally (Dean killed the two Reapers). Yes, it was self-defense, but still. Castiel helped create a situation that nearly destroyed his people and also led to his becoming human, but also resulted in it being dangerous, for him, to be around angels.

So, even if Dean thought he could persuade “Ezekiel” to relent and let Castiel back into the Bunker, he couldn’t guarantee Castiel’s safety around “Ezekiel.” And if he warned Castiel about “Ezekiel” on the lowdown, Castiel would feel too uncomfortable about being around another angel to stay. So, there was no way for Dean to get Castiel back to the Bunker and have everyone be/feel safe.

Also, while it definitely looked harsh to Castiel that Dean had cast him out (and it appeared in the story, at least on the surface, that Dean had chosen Sam over Castiel), the more complicated reality is that Castiel put himself into this position of great danger (and harmed his own people) by working with/being duped by Metatron. There is a further angelic irony coming down the road that partially exonerates Castiel, but we’ll leave that one for a near-future review.

This makes more understandable why some fans of Dean would argue that Berens at least started out bashing Dean a tad gratuitously to make Castiel look better. This becomes even clearer when we look at the character of Nora, who also gets thrown under the bus to make Castiel look … well, not so creepy, I guess.

Nora is a classic case of dudebro writing. In simplest terms, it’s how guys frequently write women because they’ve never been women and how women often write women when they’ve internalized misogyny so much in a male-dominated field that they pitch mainly to an audience of men.

Think of the second part of the film, Death Proof. Now, Death Proof has a whole lot of issues with the way the female characters are written (and Tarantino doesn’t write dialogue for women nearly as well as he and his fanboys think he does). The one that stuck out for me, though, was in the second part when the second group of women leave one of their buds (who is passed out drunk) alone with a creepy mechanic who clearly has unpleasant designs on her person.

One could certainly argue that groups of women abandon each other to worse fates all the time and that’s true. But when they do, it’s intentional. They know perfectly well what they’re doing. We women are taught from a young age to be acutely aware of sexual threat in our surroundings. This is because society (and I’m talking globally, here) has a gnarly way of always managing to blame us if we get attacked (amirite, girls?). Men aren’t aware in the same way because they aren’t raised with the idea that someday, they may just “tempt” some member of the opposite gender to rape them – and that it will be all their fault.

So, the reason that scene made me go “Nahhh” wasn’t because the other girls left her to go test the car. It was because they didn’t even give it much thought. A real group of women, written by a woman aiming at a female audience, would have given that decision some serious thought, with dialogue to match.

Nora is a similar “Nahh” character. Not only is she a single mother, but she’s an attractive woman, still relatively young. Further, she spends a lot of time complaining to Castiel about how men are constantly hitting on her and seeing her only for her looks, by way of talking about how he’s “different.” So, it’s not as though she’s unaware of sexual threat in her surroundings. Seems to me she’s very aware.

Such a character would therefore be very, very clear about her intentions and boundaries around men, especially regarding inviting them to her house at night. That goes double for asking them to babysit a baby and triple for the baby being a daughter (sadly, some pedophiles prefer little girls that little). If Nora were a loving and conscientious mother, which most signs in the episode point to her being, she would never ask a guy, employee or otherwise, to babysit for her and make it sound like a date. Yet, in the episode’s dialogue, she is very unclear. And that made me go “Nahhh.”

I mean, I get why Nora doesn’t want to ask Castiel out, regardless of how nice she really thinks he is. He works for her. Dating him is totally inappropriate, probably against company rules, and would be a pretty big power imbalance on her part, considering she could fire him if it ended badly.

Then again, that’s also a good reason why she shouldn’t have him babysit for her, either. He may well risk his job by refusing, especially with Castiel not understanding the gray areas of consent in human interactions. He’s used to situations where you follow orders or you end up a pile of cinders on the floor.

But instead, Berens plays this as Nora friendzoning Castiel (which is a pretty misogynistic view of poor Nora) and then segues into Dean allegedly giving Castiel condescendingly chauvinistic advice. Except that Dean’s advice is really just “Treat her like a lady” and giving Castiel basic guidelines to follow (Dean knows from the whorehouse visit in season five how clueless Castiel is about dating rules). Even allowing for the outtakes in which Jensen Ackles got quite dirty in a (successful) attempt to make Misha Collins laugh, Dean’s not demeaning Nora. The writing is, through the entire set-up and humiliating downbeat payoff for Castiel. But Dean, as a character, gets made the scapegoat for it.

So, yeah, Berens didn’t start out well in this department and fans did notice.

Finally, let’s wrap up with the B story about Sam and Kevin dealing with Crowley and Abaddon. Now, I get that they needed something to do. Sam certainly couldn’t be left without a story all episode. Even so, it felt stuffed into an A story that both lagged and felt underwritten.

It’s too bad because Crowley got some nice lines and there was quite the tense confrontation between him and Abaddon. They could have done an entire episode on this cat-and-mouse game.

It’s probable at this point in the show that only Crowley was in denial about how little power he had left and how Abaddon saw him as no competition at all. But he still needed the wake-up call. So to speak. Also, Abaddon crackled with menace in her every scene, including this one. No redemption storyline for that Evil Queen.

I’d forgotten how irritating Kevin’s Nervous Little Dog shtick could be. It’s kind of a shame they never let  him grow out of it, since Osric Chau could have done a lot more layers with the character. Ah, well.

Sam was a little confusing, albeit it was nice to see Smart!Sam, no chaser all episode. The resolution of this B plot was that Metatron’s spell was irreversible and then everybody just sort of moved on with that. But in light of the fact that Ezekiel was inside Sam, watching the whole time, can we be sure that was true? Unfortunately, we never found out because Berens completely ignored that bit of possible subtext. Sam was all Sam this week.

All in all, not the best freshman script ever on the show.

Fun lines:

Dean [to Sam about talking to Crowley]: Just be careful. Don’t fall for any of his “Quid pro quo” crap.

Dean: So, you went from heavenly battles to nuking taquitos.
Castiel: Nachos, too.

Sam [to Crowley]: Our last encounter with Abaddon, she was pretty terrifying. Scarier than you’ve been in years.

The Kripke Years

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The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

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The Dabb Years

Season 12

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Season 14

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

So, let’s kick off. We start with a Then recap of the storyline so far this season, with a focus on alt-Michael’s possession of Dean and Jack’s death/resurrection. We also get a brief recap of the Gadriel storyline from season nine.

Cut to Now.

We’re in Rocky’s Bar and the soundtrack is “Searchin’ for a Rainbow” by The Marshall Tucker Band. There’s a storm brewing outside and in comes a woman in a leather jacket with an umbrella.

It’s Pamela Barnes (wearing a t-shirt that says “To Hell and Back”), who’s been dead for ten seasons, so you already know something’s up.

It turns out she was out in the storm (which people are treating “like the End Times”) to buy limes so she and Dean can do shots of the House Special (“tequila shot and a beer”). Yes, Dean is there. He’s the bartender. And he owns the bar. Hence “Rocky’s,” as in “Rocky the Squirrel.” Yes, there are a lot of other Easter eggs in this scene that I am missing.

In conversation, they note that Sam and Castiel are doing a ghoul hunt in Wichita.

At that moment, a woman in a suit (like an angel) comes in from the rain, treating Pamela like the Help and making a snarky comment about the lack of customers (aside from one suspicious-looking drunk in a hoodie, passed out at the bar). She has papers for Dean to sign to sell the bar. Dean isn’t interested and, after offering her a drink (which she refuses), politely tells her to go away, saying the bar is the “nicest thing” he’s ever had and he’s not giving it up. The woman leaves in a huff.

Later, Pamela brings Dean a shot while he goes over the books (damn, she’s buff!). They talk about how Pamela has the latest in a series of dates. Pamela teases Dean that “you want what you can’t have” (her) and that he doesn’t really mind because “you don’t want me. You just like to flirt.”

When Pamela wonders why Dean isn’t willing to sell the bar when he’d get so much money for it, Dean says (looking and sounding an awful lot like Demon!Dean), “Sell? This bar? This is my dream.” And Pamela gets a funny little smile at that.

Later, Dean goes into a storeroom to get some beer when Pamela calls to him. The storm is still raging and the same song is still playing. As he comes out, Pamela tells him they’ve got “trouble.”

At that moment, the door busts in and an angry vampire who claims Dean and Sam took out his entire nest enters. The “drunk” on the bar turns out to be a fellow vamp. The latter attacks Dean. Dean drags him over the bar and stomps on him. Then he tosses a saltgun to Pamela, who shoots the second vamp while Dean pulls out a machete and beheads the first vamp. Then he beheads the second vamp.

Afterward, as she’s wiping blood off his face, Pamela comments that “the worst thing” about working at Rocky’s is having to deal with all the angry MOTWs who come looking for Dean and end up dead.

“Well, what can I say?” Dean says with a charming smile. “I’m famous.”

Cue title cards.

If the above sounded long, that’s because this is a very long scene, over six minutes long including the recap.

Cut to Dean’s eyes again, looking blank inside the office building from last episode. They glow Michael’s customary blue and then we have Michael again (Ackles is really good at those transitions). Having snapped his fingers, he is now back in his suit, albeit sans the coat. With a gesture, he causes manly cramps in TFW 2.0, making them sink to the floor in pain. Though the Evil Overlord Monologue may be equally painful, at least to them.

Michael snarks that hope is a funny thing, but they “never really had a chance.” He says he saw “everything” and we get blurry flashbacks to Dean watching Rowena fill in TFW 2.0 on Jack’s condition. He claims that his plan all along was to have them come there so he could get back his “perfect vessel” (AKA Dean Winchester) and EVOL!Kaia’s spork so he could destroy that.

As he monologues, Sam is pulling out a lighter and skidding it across the floor. Castiel attacks Michael to distract him (Michael easily tosses him aside after coldly saying “Don’t interrupt me”). This gives Sam time to light a holy oil Molotov Cocktail. It blows up in Michael’s face, though interestingly, it only affects him for a second or two (“our” Michael inside Adam was affected for several minutes and had to fly away to put himself out in “Swan Song”). But that’s enough for the double feint of Castiel coming back with the angel handcuffs and slapping them on Michael’s wrists. This little bit of choreography is a bit awkward, but hey, whatever works.

At first unimpressed, Michael says the cuffs can’t hold him. Well … they do. One could argue that this was part of Michael’s plan (kinda unlikely, since there’s no real advantage) or that Michael knew about the cuffs, but ignored them out of arrogance. Thing is, Michael is definitely arrogant, but he’s also very, very smart and he made plans for every other contingency TFW 2.0 brought to this point. And he got cuffed right in the middle of a speech where he unveiled his entire plan to trap TFW 2.0. So, I don’t think he knew about the cuffs.

The really interesting thing is – Dean did. So, whatever else Michael claims, his claim that he knows everything Dean knows must be a lie.

Sam tries to get through to Dean, but Michael just says, with fake courtesy, “Dean’s not home right now. Please leave a message.” I love this line. Oh, hell, I love half of Michael’s lines, anyway. Ackles just has so much fun delivering them.

We then hear police sirens and a helicopter, and Michael calmly reminds TFW 2.0 that he’s got monsters all over Kansas City, turning people. As Jack picks up their weapons and Sam locks the door to the room, Maggie calls Sam’s cell (yeah, I know. I just can’t with Maggie, either).

Maggie is freaking out. She’s driving a car full of Hunters whom she got together to deal with the monsters (per Sam’s instructions), but they’re overwhelmed. There are just too many calls and too many monsters turning too many people (instead of killing them).

She asks Sam where they are. Sam gives her the location and says they’ve got Michael (“Do you?” snarks Michael). He tells her not to worry about them, that they’ll figure things out. She and the other Hunters should go save as many people as they can.

Good idea, since those Hunters are all redshirts and would only end up dead around Michael, anyway.

Sam’s ad hoc plan is to bring Michael downstairs and stick him in the trunk with Garth, before driving away (I mean, what could wrong?). But this gets nixed when monsters start snarling outside the door, trying to beat it in. Castiel TK’s the doors shut, but that can’t last.

“I called them,” Michael says, with a fake-deprecating little shrug as TFW 2.0 rushes to reinforce the door. “It’s a party!” Did I mention how much I love Michael’s lines and Ackles’ delivery? Michael is such a bastard, but damn, is he funny.

Jack comments that none of them can fly (I guess Jack’s wings don’t work without his powers). “Well, one of us can,” Michael says cheerfully. Sam worries about getting “Dean” out of there. Of course, leaving without Dean, with Michael still inside him, would be disastrous. Assuming TFW 2.0 could even pull that off.

Sam gets a Hail Mary idea worthy of Dean. He calls Jessica, the Reaper, but gets a Reaper named Violet, instead. She politely explains that there is now more than one Reaper watching the Brothers. “It’s my shift. We have shifts now because you mess up so, so many things.”

Violet’s a keeper. Can she come back, show?

Sam wants Violet to fly them out of there. Violet points out that she can’t interfere, but she’s rooting for them.

Only Sam and Michael can see her. Michael analytically observes that “in my world, we locked Death away and enslaved the Reapers.”

“Lovely,” Violet replies, holding it together but clearly terrified of him (she swallows visibly). “Well, look at you now.”

Sam tries to persuade, claiming Death owes them a favor from “that Rowena thing,” but Violet isn’t impressed. It’s simply not within the rules or her powers. But then she shushes him as she appears to hear a voice. Then she agrees to his demand. Abruptly, TFW 2.0 and Michael are all transported to the Bunker.

To Sam’s query, she only admits that she’s not the one who did it. She then tells them, “Have fun” and with a last trade of bladed looks with Michael, she vanishes again.

They chain Michael to a post in the library. When Jack and Castiel wonder why he’s not in the dungeon, Sam points out that if the cuffs don’t hold Michael, the dungeon certainly won’t.

When Michael points out that he can hear them, they move away to whisper and he’s like, “Really?”

Sam tells the others that when Gadriel possessed him, the angel put him inside a dream world.  Crowley was able to bust in and show Sam how to cast Gadriel out. Alas, Crowley is dead (Michael would probably be above his pay grade, anyway).

Sam gets another call from Maggie, who is now at the office building. Sam explains that they’re now back at the Bunker and asks Maggie to pick up Garth and the Impala. Confused, Maggie tells Sam at the monsters have left the city and are heading west.

At this moment, Michael notes that the Bunker is points west of Kansas City. He’s calling the monsters to the Bunker.

Castiel takes Jack to batten down the hatches, while Michael calls cheerily unhelpful advice after them. Once alone with Sam, Michael insists nothing has changed. Either his monsters will break in or he’ll break loose and then “everybody dies.” And he will personally rip Sam apart, smiling a “pretty smile” that looks downright predatory.

Sam pulls out Lady Wonder Twat’s dreamtime rig from the best-forgotten LoL plot in season 12. He tells Castiel he’s going to go inside Dean’s head and try to wake him up so he can expel Michael the way Sam expelled Gadriel. Sam admits it’s not a very good plan (well, not least because once Michael’s out, he’s just going to find another vessel and start all over again), but they don’t have any others. By the way, the woman Michael possessed last episode is not mentioned this week.

We cut to a loop montage of Dean from the bar, running through the same scenarios with only slight variations. At the end, Dean looks up, confused, and almost remembers.

Jack gets first shift of guarding Michael, who proceeds to mess with his head. Michael completely shifts what he said before about wanting to recruit Jack as family and says he won’t ask again. I guess, now he has his “true” vessel back, he no longer cares.

Jack tells him that the Brothers will beat him. Michael snarks that Sam “is so far in over his head, he’s drowning” (true, but Sam has learned to swim before). With rather less conviction, he claims, “I’ve got Dean under control.”

Jack notes that “Dean is strong,” to which Michael retorts (again, protesting a bit too much), “He’s a gnat. I’m a god. Who would you bet on?” Michael insists that since he is “inside Dean’s head, I know everything.” But he didn’t know about the angel cuffs, now, did he?

Michael then does something vicious and almost gratuitous (though, considering much of his confidence about having Dean under control is likely bravado, he does need to divide and conquer). He shakes Jack’s faith in Dean by claiming that while Dean was devastated by Jack’s death, he was also relieved because Jack was just a burden to him, “a weak, helpless thing … a job, a job none of them wanted.” This is obvious bullshit, but Jack is young and naive (and vulnerable) enough to believe it.

Castiel walks in on the middle of this as Jack is rushing off, about in tears, and warns him that Michael is just trying to get under his skin.

Michael says he’s not lying and reminds them that he can still hear them.

Meanwhile, plucky Maggie is setting up a plucky roadblock of Hunters to keep the monsters away from the Bunker. I’m sure that will end well.

In the Bunker, on second shift, Castiel is now getting the patented Michael mindfuck treatment. After some insults aimed at how Castiel doesn’t measure up to his alt-version (who was such a panto villain that it’s kind of hard to take this bit of dialogue seriously), Michael asks why Castiel loves this world so much he’d die for it.

Castiel counters with his own question – why does Michael hate this world so much that he wants to destroy it?

Michael’s response is chilling: “Because I can.”

Michael explains that when he and his version of Lucifer fought in their world, they honestly believed the duel would bring back God, who would explain to them what the Plan had been all along and give meaning to their war. Instead, God never returned. There was no response to what they did, even after Michael killed Lucifer.

Michael now realizes (having access to Dean’s memories) that God – “Chuck” – never intended to return. Michael calls God a “writer” who created draft after draft. Michael believes that both his world and this one are “failed drafts,” that when God realized they were “flawed,” he simply moved on to a new draft.

Perhaps the most frightening part of this scene is the realization that Michael as played by Christian Keyes is a very different character than the version played by Jensen Ackles. This is not because of a lack of continuity in the acting or even writing, but because the character’s entire worldview was shaken and shattered, after some 14 billion years, once he entered his intended vessel and saw the truth (or, anyway, what he now feels is the truth) about Chuck’s involvement (and lack thereof) in the Amara saga. He saw that everything he had ever done for his father was pointless because Chuck would never return, never give him the answers he sought, never even love him as much as Lucifer.

In short, this ancient, subtle, dangerous being went insane. And became even more dangerous.

Ackles, here, has to evoke an entirely offscreen change in the character’s entire motivation and he gets it across very well. Michael’s mask of calm sarcasm slips and underneath, we see a volcanic rage to match Dean’s toward his own father. Michael says that his first thought was to outdo his father and become the new God. But then he changed his mind.

Now, he wants to burn it all down, world by world, timeline by timeline, until he can “catch up with the old man.” When Castiel asks what he intends to do then, Michael says, with bared teeth, “Even God can die.”

Meanwhile, Maggie and her merry band of hapless redshirts are failing miserably at even catching up with the monsters, let alone stopping them from reaching the Bunker. Also, her alleged right-hand man is looking mighty shady, especially after he disappeared into the bushes for a few minutes.

At the Bunker, Sam is still setting up the equipment for the dream machine. Jack tentatively suggests he could use his soul power to access his abilities to stop Michael somehow. Sam says Dean would never want to be freed through such a sacrifice.

Sam gets hooked up to the machines, as Castiel hooks up Michael (who says, “Cool science project!” and flirts with Castiel in a seriously creepy way). Michael then unsettles everyone even further  (if that’s possible) by claiming that out here, he may be chained up, but inside, he can do whatever he wants to them. Well, alrighty-then.

Sam goes in with Castiel and at first, they find … a dark, endless space. In fact, it looks just like the Empty set. I don’t know if that’s intentional subtext and foreshadowing or just a cheap budget, but yep, that’s what it looks like.

Sam is confused and has to confirm with Castiel where they are. Castiel has been inside Dean’s mind many times, but Sam never has. Sam then wonders where Dean is and Castiel replies, “Excellent question.” This confirms that this is not how Castiel normally found Dean’s mind in the past.

Castiel raises his hand, the center of which glows, and begins to search through Dean’s memories. There is a lot of screaming and, as Castiel notes, a lot of “trauma” and “scars.” Notable quotes that stand out are “We had a deal!” from the end of last season, Dream!Dean screaming “You’re gonna die! And this … this is what you’re gonna become!” from season three’s “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” and “Somebody help me!” from Dean suspended in Hell in the coda to season three finale “No Rest for the Wicked.”

Looking a little freaked out as he finally begins to process just how much trauma his brother’s been through over the years,  Sam acknowledges that “Dean’s been through a lot, but he’s strong!”

Gently correcting him, Castiel says that “You’ve both been through a lot and Dean is more than strong,” but what he’s really looking for is a way to follow a memory to where Michael has locked Dean away, “drowning.” In a cage, as it were. This means he has to scan through Dean’s worst memories, which isn’t exactly pleasant.

Sam then has a brainstorm (uh … as it were). Remembering Michael’s complaint from last episode that the reason he’d left in the first place was because Dean fought back so hard, Sam wonders if Michael isn’t actually torturing Dean, but doing the opposite. “Dean thrives on trauma.” (Well … I wouldn’t say “thrives,” personally, but it’s definitely his “normal.”)

Sam says that if he wanted to “distract” Dean, he’d do it another way. “Contentment,” Castiel guesses, correctly. So, Castiel starts looking through Dean’s good memories, not his bad ones. And yes, Dean has a few. “I think I’m adorable!” (from season three’s “Jus in Bello”), the “strippers” speech (from season four’s “Sex and Violence,” and it makes Sam a bit uncomfortable), the “posse magnet” speech (from season six’s “Frontierland”), and the “pie” complaint from season seven’s “The Girl Next Door.” Among others. Why, yes, I do watch this show a lot. Why do you ask?

Then they hit on Dean’s speech about not wanting to see the bar and Sam realizes it’s not a real memory. Dean has never owned a bar. This couldn’t have ever happened in real life. So, Castiel takes them there.

Sam opens his eyes to find himself and Castiel in the bar. Dean turns around and recognizes them, but doesn’t realize it’s not real. He offers them a beer (“Cosmic Cowboy IPA” is a beer sold by Ackles’ new brewery, The Family Business). Then Pamela strolls in and starts chit-chatting with them.

Castiel whispers (really, when are these guys gonna learn?) to Sam that Pamela is the psychic whose eyes he accidentally burned out. Sam retorts that she’s also been dead for years. Sam tries to tell Dean that this isn’t real and Castiel tells Pamela she’s a “complex manifestation of Dean’s memories designed to distract him” (I have a feeling she’s more than that, but we may be getting ahead of ourselves). Oh, and it’s still raining.

At that moment, the scene resets, with a very confused Sam and Castiel getting caught in the middle of Dean’s memory montage. When it comes back to the same setting, Dean and Pamela are in somewhat different positions.

When Dean echoes Sam’s question on what is going on, the montage kicks in again. Sam tries to explain that Dean is caught in a loop designed by Michael. This confuses Dean, who only remembers that “our” Michael is in the Cage and doesn’t seem to remember alt-Michael at all.

Pamela suggests that if this is all inside Dean’s head, he should be able to control everything, but turns into a joke. However, Sam accidentally creates a crack in Dean’s amnesia by reminding Dean that Castiel blinded Pamela (Castiel, uncomfortable, notes that it was an accident). When Dean looks at Pamela, he’s shocked to see she’s blind and has a flash of how it happened. Sam presses this advantage by reminding Dean she’s dead, too, which Dean also remembers (goodness, Ackles was a baby ten seasons ago!), as the music grinds to a halt. Pamela vanishes from the bar.

Dean is in denial, at first, though Castiel’s impassioned speech that this is just a dream and his loved ones in the real world need him shakes him more than a little. But it’s when Sam remembers “Poughkeepsie” that Dean is really shaken.

To refresh everyone’s memory, it’s the code word the Brothers had for “Drop everything and run.” It first popped up when Dean gave it to Crowley to tell Sam when Crowley went inside Sam’s head in “Road Trip” in season nine to get him to expel Gadriel.

When Dean, looking shocked, says, “What did you say?” Sam repeats it, looking triumphant. He’s hit the right button.

And indeed, he has. A montage of Michael memories, recent ones, ensues. Then Dean says, “I remember. I remember everything.”

The sound of clapping comes from the door. Guess who just walked in? Michael.

So, in case anyone was wondering why it was necessary to reduce the season to 20 episodes, this scene is probably a good hint. Ackles it playing two distinct characters for the price of one and remember how exhausting that was for him in season five’s “The End”? Yeah. But he pulls it off brilliantly here. This must have been quite the episode to film, especially on the road to recovering from the head cold/flu he had while filming the last episode. He’s in practically ever scene.

Dean tells Michael to get out of his head, but Michael tells Dean he doesn’t really want that. After all, Michael is Dean. He proceeds to mindfuck with Dean by mindfucking with Castiel and Sam right in front of him (sorry, but there’s not really a less profane way to put it). Michael, imitating Misha Collins pretty darned well, says that Dean only feels beholden to Castiel because Castiel “gripped you tight and raised you from Perdition.” Sadly, since then, Castiel’s been prone to making a lot of messy mistakes.

And as for Sam, well, Sam abandoned Dean with his dad and Dean, deep down, knows that Sam will always abandon him. It’s at this point that Dean starts to tell Michael to shut up.

I’ve seen some fans suggest that Dean doesn’t start protesting until Michael cracks on Sam because Dean doesn’t care as much about Castiel, but I don’t think it’s a Sam vs. Castiel thing. I think that for one thing, what Michael says about Castiel isn’t as on the mark as what he says about Sam.

Castiel makes mistakes, it’s true, but Dean has always still cared about him and it’s not because Castiel raised Dean from Hell (Dean even stabbed Castiel right after the angel uttered that first line in season four’s “Lazarus Rising”). Dean keeps Castiel around because Castiel is family. If there’s any darker motive, it’s also because Castiel is very useful to have around, an angel in Dean’s pocket, as it were. But an obligation? Not so much.

Sam, on the other hand, made a distressing habit of abandoning Dean, in many different ways, until very recently. The discomfort on Sam’s face is the Tell that Michael’s hit a sore nerve there. Dean loves Sam, anyway, which is why he comes to Sam’s defense. But it doesn’t make that one any less true.

The other thing is that this is part of a longish rant from Michael about how Dean feels, “deep down,” about the people he loves, in which Dean’s anger builds to boiling-over point. It’s much like the speech from Dream!Dean about John in “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” It’s not that Dean cares less about Michael insulting Castiel. It’s that the effect of Michael’s mean-spirited, gaslighting “truths” is cumulative and Dean gets really tired really fast of Michael “speaking” for him and damaging his relationships with those he loves. Remember that Michael keeps telling people that Dean’s big weakness is “love.”

Michael says, “You don’t need them. You don’t even like them. They’re not your family. They’re your responsibilities. They’re a weight around your neck. And deep down, you wanted – you were desperate – to get away from them. And that is why you said yes.”

Well, we know the last part, at least, is a lie, since Dean was pretty backed into a corner when he said yes and he did so, as Michael himself admits to Anael (Sister Jo) in the season premiere, for love.

But what is Michael’s end game, aside from Castiel’s dawning realization that he is stalling for time? Remember that Michael has said that he is angry with his father, God, for abandoning him. And though he chose to come over to this world, it’s true he is now a stranger in a strange land. He wanted love and he never got it. He was always passed over. But by Chuck, he is gonna keep the one thing/person he knows is his, by right and breeding and genetic engineering over billions of years. And that is his sword, Dean Winchester.

But why is Michael stalling? We cut to Jack, watching over everyone, as Maggie comes in with the other redshirt Hunters. She says the monsters are right behind her and everyone gears up for battle.

Inside Dean’s head, Sam posits that Michael needs his monsters to come and rescue him. Michael insists that’s not true, but Dean calls his bluff. Michael asks if that’s what Dean really wants and Dean says sure. Then Dean says Michael can’t do it. Castiel says that inside Dean’s mind, Michael is just a “mental projection” like the others.

Dean attacks first and gets smacked down. Sam and Castiel then get beaten up by moves Michael has pretty clearly picked up from Dean’s mind. In the Bunker, Michael is smiling. One big problem, of course, is that he can do more than one thing at once, be in more than one mind at once.

Sure enough, Maggie’s lieutenant turns out to have been monsterized while he went off into the woods. The other monsters bust in and Maggie’s redshirts are killed/beaten up in short order until only she is left conscious (did I not say that anywhere near Michael and they’d end up toast?). At that moment, Jack freaks out and uses his powers to disintegrate the monsters. But it takes a lot out of him because he tapped into his own soul.

Inside Dean’s mind, TFW 2.0 are still getting their asses kicked, unaware that Michael’s plan has suffered a setback outside. The only sign Michael gives that things are not going entirely his way is to warn them that even if they managed to “force” him out, he would destroy Dean in his wake, leaving “nothing but blood and bone.”

This would have been a problem, anyway, since they can’t afford to kick Michael out. He would be free. Dean then makes a split-second decision. Opening the storeroom door, he grabs Michael, who tosses him aside. But this is enough distraction for Sam to shove Michael inside, and for Sam and Castiel to slam it shut, before Dean comes up and shoves an icepick into the latch, creating a makeshift lock.

As Michael rages on the other side, Dean rather shakily assures Sam and Castiel, “It’ll hold – my mind, my rules. I got him. I’m the Cage.”

After everyone wakes up, Sam talks to Maggie, the redshirt exception who proves the rule. In an indication that at least some of the other Hunters survived, she tells Sam that “we” will clean up in the foyer. She also lets drop an interesting nugget of info – Michael’s monsters have all lost their focus and gone their separate ways. It appears that Michael no longer controls them.

Maggie also tells Sam about Jack using his powers and seems weirded out that he still can. Sam looks worried.

In the kitchen, Castiel is giving Jack a lecture on not using his powers, anymore. They burn off his soul and once it’s gone, it will be gone. Jack apologizes and Castiel softens his tone. He’s not mad. He’s worried. He knows what happens when someone doesn’t have a soul, anymore, and it’s not pretty. Jack utters the usual Famous Last Words: “It won’t happen again.”

Speaking of, Dean is in his room, telling the mirror, “It’s just you, it’s all you,” over and over again, as Michael rages against the door of the Cage inside Dean’s mind.

A voice calling his name startles him. He turns around to see Billie, holding a book. “So,” she says, “not all good news. I did say I’d see you again soon.”

When Dean grumps that she “could have knocked,” she says she figures Michael’s already giving him enough of a migraine.

Dean assures her that Michael is safely locked away, but she’s not buying it (well, she is Death). When Dean correctly guesses she was the one who brought TFW 2.0 to the Bunker, and teases, “You broke the rules,” Billie deadpans, “I took a calculated risk.”

But then she turns deadly serious (if that’s even possible). “I warned you,” she says. She told him not to travel between worlds, but he ignored her. Dean shrugs it off, saying that he had to rescue Jack and Mary, and the others they brought back.

A quick note: Normally, at least in the past, the show would have made this a rather vague “you” that referred, at the very least, to “Sam and Dean” or even to all of TFW, past and present. But this is not a plural “you.” This is most unambiguously a personal, singular “you.”

Billie does not appear to give a zombie rat’s ass that people like Kaia have been dreamwalking to other worlds for centuries, millennia or even tens of millennia. She shows no particular concern in this conversation even about Jack. She makes the warning (somewhat retroactively) specifically about Dean crossing over to an alternate reality. And only Dean.

But she doesn’t leave him, or us, in suspense as to why. First, she reminds him about his library full of possible (and probably past) deaths. Dean rather uncomfortably acknowledges he remembers it.

Billie tells him that an unsettling thing has now happened (she doesn’t specify about when the change occurred, just that it has). All of Dean’s death books now end the same way – with Michael escaping his mind, taking over, and using Dean’s body (and soul) to destroy the world. Well … all except one. Which she hands over.

Whatever Dean sees inside the book shocks him, because he says, “What am I supposed to do with this?”

“That’s up to you,” she says, and vanishes before he can ask any more questions.


Ratings for the episode came back with a 0.4/2 and 1.44 million viewers, which was pretty steady from the fall (also, SPN often starts out the spring with a dip and goes up a bit). This tied it for third in demo (after The Flash and Riverdale) and put it in fourth for audience (after The Flash, Roswell, and the 24th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards).

The preview is up and highlights continuity from this week. So, it may not be the MOTW the synopsis originally made it out to be. There’s also a preview up for the 300th episode (which will air on February 7 and yes, I will get a retro recap and review out of the 200th, “Fan Fiction,” before then).


My, that was a long recap, wasn’t it, my droogs? Well, some episodes have more narrative meat than others and this one was a doozy of a bistecca alla fiorentina. Also, it was a Deancentric episode, a very Deancentric episode, and I do so love the Deansanity.

One of the most frustrating parts of this show is how often it hasn’t respected its own canon, right from the very beginning with creator Eric “Why give a decent ending to my own stories when I can drop them and just go on to the next bright and shiny?” Kripke. But one of the cool things about the show is when a good writer comes in, ties together a bunch of old and dropped storylines, and makes new and satisfying canon with them.

“The Man Who Would Be King” from season six fairly leaps to mind. I’d almost call “Nihilism” a version of that, except that Dean doesn’t really need to explain himself and Michael doesn’t care what anybody else thinks of him – except for Dean, of course. But it did tie a lot of dropped plots (Dean has so, so many) together into a satisfying new direction for Dean.

Not so much on first watch, but on recap watch, I actually began to feel sorry for alt-Michael. He is undoubtedly an unapologetic villain of the first water. And I don’t see a happy ending for him at the end of the tunnel (that light’s probably a train) the way I could see for Amara if the showrunners had the guts to go there.

He is a world-busting threat. And by “world-busting,” I mean that he intends to burn down the entire Multiverse. He’d probably bad-touch the Empty if he could, just to get back at Daddy. It’s quite a to-do list, but he seems well up to the challenge. So, he’s got to be neutralized.

But in a weird way, Michael works as a god-like being with massive Daddy issues much better than Lucifer. No one has ever loved Michael best. Michael was never spoiled. Michael was always loyal. Michael loved God with all his being. And then God ditched him.

And the worst part? Michael didn’t even learn the truth from Chuck directly. He had to find out once he got inside Dean. The moment of his greatest triumph to this point was the moment he found it was all pointless, that Daddy had ghosted him. Of course he went insane. We weren’t really aware of that until now, but we sure know now. Michael is totally bonkers.

Of course, it doesn’t help (though it’s fun to watch) that Michael is, by a large margin, the least human-like of any of the angels, including the archangels. Michael has been inside Dean’s head for weeks, knows full well why Dean said yes, but still doesn’t understand the emotion of “love.”

He gets filial loyalty. But he can’t equate it to what Dean feels for his family, blood-related and otherwise. Even his conversation with Jack from last episode may have been just manipulation. Or it could have been as simple as missing being in his vessel. Either way, Michael didn’t seem very interested in Jack this week, except as another way to break Dean to his will.

Because, while Michael may not consciously understand love in the human sense, may openly mock it, he sure gets how it feels to not have it. He gets loneliness, envy, jealousy, romantic covetousness. Every conversation he had with or about Dean this week screamed, “Mine! MIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNNNEEEEE!!!!!” in its subtext. It was all about dividing Dean permanently from his family, not just to beat them and subdue Dean once and for all, but to make Dean Michael’s Precioussss forever and ever. And when a 14-billion-plus-year-old being like the Archangel Michael says “forever and ever,” he means it in cosmic terms.

According to all angel canon we know, therefore, this once again makes Dean immortal (as the showrunners only sorta, kinda admitted was true during the MoC storyline). Got an angel inside you, especially an archangel? You’re not dying any time soon. And by “any time soon,” we mean that baby black holes forming right now will age and die before you do. That the archangel is not currently in charge does not appear to change this canon in any way. And Dean won’t become technically mortal again until Michael’s outta there. I say “technically” because, as the end of this episode made clear, Dean’s too important to die any time soon, anyway. But more on that in a bit.

Michael’s insanity is probably why Billie warned Dean in the first place. It’s sort of Dean’s fault (albeit as an unfortunate byproduct of Chuck ditching Dean with basically Michael’s job), and alt-Michael happily took advantage of the entire situation, but if Dean had never said yes to alt-Michael, alt-Michael would never have found out why and how Chuck had abandoned him. Or at least, come up with a really devastating theory.

Does this theory hold water? Castiel protested that it didn’t, but from what we know of Chuck, yeah, it’s possible. Chuck’s a fan favorite, played by a fan favorite, and was originally introduced as a hapless nebbish Prophet being bullied by the angels. Rob Benedict was very good at playing Chuck as a slacker writer in way over his head. It’s hard to let go of that warm and cuddly identification with the character’s “humanity.”

But Benedict is also a good-enough actor to have shown us a darker side. Whenever anyone challenges Chuck on his “hands-off” strategy and calls him out for the deadbeat he is, Chuck starts to get pretty cold and nasty. And I think that’s when we start to see why Michael, Lucifer and Raphael were so messed up, and why Gabriel went into Witness Protection. Long story short, it’s doubtful Michael just happened to end up this way. His obsessive loyalty and sense of betrayal hint at what a tyrant Chuck may have been back in the day, before he decided to ride the pine and let Free Will go up to bat. Let’s not forget that Chuck’s next experiment after the archangels and locking his sister away was creating the Leviathans.

The show’s worldbuilding also has a pattern in which whoever/whatever is created first in a race of beings is by far the most powerful, the most unruly, and the most unpredictably dangerous. Michael, the Leviathans, Eve, Cain, even Dean all show this pattern. They’re experiments and experiments have a tendency to blow up in their creators’ faces. Chuck probably put a bit more splintery oomph into Michael than the other archangels and may well have preferred Lucifer because Lucifer couldn’t credibly displace Him or kill Him.

It’s probably not an exaggeration for Michael to say that he could replace God. Just in passing this week, he commented that he put Death’s entire administration under angelic control in his own timeline. We saw enough during the Apocalypse to indicate that was entirely possible. What is curious is how that compares to Dean.

Most of what Michael says about Dean, in particular, is airy bollocks. Sam and Castiel, for once, are smart enough to see through the MOTW’s claims (even if Jack is still young enough to get his head turned by them a bit) that Dean doesn’t love them and step up to the plate to save him. We even saw Sam squirm under all of the admiration from his new team, knowing perfectly well how many lessons he learned from Dean and how many times Dean came through for him when Sam was disappearing up his own ass or even abandoned Dean. I like this new, more mature, learned-my-lesson-on-that-score Sam.

Yeah, it would have been nice to see Dean get a chance to play Grumpy Old Hunter with the newbie Hunters, but one character can’t hog all the storylines and Dean is currently too much in god-mode to gear down to that kind of storyline very comfortably. The other Hunters respect Dean because Sam respects him, but to them, Dean is probably just Sam’s Scary Older Brother Who Holes Up In His Room All The Time And We’re All Okay With That. To them, Dean is borderline-MOTW. Very borderline.

Also, I got a bit of a giggle at Michael’s flirty jealousy of Castiel. Boy, that’s gotta be confusing for Castiel. I mean, Michael’s his big brother and all. But maybe angels work that out more easily.

Anyhoo, Sam and Castiel know Dean’s track record. They know he has always put others first, expanded their family, expanded TFW, in some surprising ways. And they know that as much as his own choices have led him to saying yes to Michael, there wouldn’t even be a world, several times over, without Dean Winchester’s unorthodox and ad hoc choices. This week, they chose to put their faith in Dean and Dean’s decisions.

That’s good because, as Billie made really clear in the coda, ten seasons after “On the Head of a Pin,” the SPNverse’s fate once again rests with Dean. Unless Dean can figure out how to make that one fate Billie gave him turn out right, the entire Multiverse is screwed and Dean will get a front-row seat to it. Michael claimed that Dean was a “gnat,” but Dean’s fate is now tied directly to that of the Multiverse. If that’s not a god-like power (or at least, responsibility), I don’t know what is.

The thing is that Dean appears to be in direct opposition to Michael. In power inside the narrative, all of Michael’s protestations aside, they are actually evenly matched and were at an impasse until the end of last week. Michael’s wiliness and billions of years of wisdom (“old age and treachery,” and all that) temporarily put him on top, and could again, but Dean’s relationships with his loved ones were what tipped the balance in his favor. Dean may have thought of locking Michael in the storeroom, but Sam was the one who shoved him in, Sam and Castiel slammed the door, and it was Castiel who noticed Michael was stalling in the first place. For Dean, love isn’t a weakness at all. It’s a significant advantage, one that Michael sought to neutralize by destroying TFW.

But why would these two be tied together like that? Well, remember what I said last episode about how in so many of the good stories, especially horror, the antagonist is a metaphor for the protagonist’s darkness? Just as with the Mark of Cain, alt-Michael is, metaphorically speaking, a dark aspect of Dean. But alt-Michael is an actual different character who wears Dean’s face and body. An actual alternate personality inside Dean’s head.

He also represents a somewhat different aspect than the MoC. The MoC represented Dean’s bloodlust and love of killing. Michael is a superpowered manifestation of Dean’s Daddy issues. He’s what Dean would be without TFW, without his family. He’s how Dean feels when his loved ones have let him down and abandoned him and stepped all over him and chosen others over him. He’s Dean when Dean’s ranting in season seven’s “How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters” about how being responsible for saving the world all the time sucks and he’s tired of taking away the SPNverse’s “belt and pins” so it won’t do itself in.

That’s why there’s such a resonance when Michael tells members of TFW that Dean finds them a burden and resents them for abandoning him, why they look so guilty even while Dean is pissed on their behalf. Like the shapeshifter in season one’s “Skin,” Michael identifies a leeeeetle too much with Dean’s dark side. Well, “our” Michael did a lot to create that dark side, so I guess that makes sense.

The whole idea of the new Cage was an interesting one. Michael created a part of Dean’s mind to lock him into (like a cage) and then Dean locked Michael inside that same part. Boy, that must have been a pretty strong cage in the first place. Tells you something about how strong Dean is, not just in containing Michael now, but in needing that kind of prison to be locked inside. And even then, Michael had to distract Dean to make it work. Of course I’m all perky to see how that turns out.

Lastly, there’s the question of … WHAT’S IN THE BOOK??!! What is the one thing Dean can do to stop Michael taking him over and destroying the world, Dark Phoenix style? Expulsion apparently isn’t a possibility, anymore.

Dean seemed to think it was far out, even for him. Billie was pretty deadpan about it, but there seemed to be a hint of “Yeah, I know this one’s weird, even for you, but hey, you’ve done pink satin panties, so I’m reasonably confident you’ll figure it out.” Gotta love how much snarky subtext Lisa Berry manages to fit into a stony look.

I suppose Dean could contact Chuck and/or Amara, somehow. But I think it’s too soon, still, after season 11 for these writers and there’s still too much story in play for this to be the last season without a whole lot of loose ends (even just one more season probably wouldn’t do it). And how would he even do it?

Recruiting the Empty, somehow, is a possibility and would certainly account for Dean’s WTF?! look, but they may be reserving the Empty for another season. We also still have Heaven’s imminent crash-and-burn in the background.

The most likely possibility seems to be a visit to the Cage and saying yes to “our” Michael there. Have them duke it out, or something. Or maybe chain alt-Michael to Heaven as a powerhouse. I suppose it’s possible Dean might find a way to talk Michael down, but after what he did with Amara, that seems redundant.

Anyhoo, we’ll know more next week.

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

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

Supernatural: Season 6

We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

In response to requests for updating the links for older reviews, I’ve set up a campaign on Ko-Fi. I am starting the year with some pretty large vet bills and really could use the help, but also, updating the links takes time and a bit of effort. This will be a progressive goal, where I will post links as I get funding (about every $50/5 links). 

No links fixed yet on this season.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Supernatural Fridays: Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.01 (Season Premiere): Exile on Main Street

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.02: Two and a Half Men

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.03: The Third Man

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.04: Weekend at Bobby’s

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.05: Live Free or Twihard

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.06: You Can’t Handle the Truth

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.07: Family Matters

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.08: All Dogs Go to Heaven

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.09: Clap Your Hands If You Believe

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.10: Caged Heat

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.11: Appointment in Samarra

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.12: Like a Virgin

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.13: Unforgiven

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.14: Mannequin 3: The Reckoning

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.15: The French Mistake

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.16: And Then There Were None

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.17: My Heart Will Go On

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.18: Frontierland

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.19: Mommy Dearest

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.20: The Man Who Would Be King

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.21: Let It Bleed

Recap and Review: Supernatural 6.22 (Season Finale): The Man Who Knew Too Much

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15

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

Supernatural: Season 5

We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

In response to requests for updating the links for older reviews, I’ve set up a campaign on Ko-Fi. I am starting the year with some pretty large vet bills and really could use the help, but also, updating the links takes time and a bit of effort. This will be a progressive goal, where I will post links as I get funding (about every $50/5 links). 

No links fixed yet on this season.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Review (and Recap): Supernatural 5.01 (Season Premiere): Sympathy for the Devil (my first-ever recap and review of the show)

Review (and Recap): Supernatural 5.02: Good God, Y’all!

Review (and Recap): Supernatural 5.03: Free to Be You and Me

Review (and Recap): Supernatural 5.04: The End

Review (and Recap): Supernatural 5.05: Fallen Idols

Review (and Recap): Supernatural 5.06: I Believe the Children Are Our Future

Review (and Recap): Supernatural 5.07: The Curious Case of Dean Winchester

Review (and Recap): Supernatural 5.08: Changing Channels

Review (and Recap): Supernatural 5.09: The Real Ghostbusters

Review (and Recap): Supernatural 5.10: Abandon All Hope

Recap and Review: Supernatural 5.11: Sam, Interrupted

Recap and Review: Supernatural 5.12: Swap Meat

Recap and Review: Supernatural 5.13: The Song Remains the Same

Recap and Review: Supernatural 5.14: My Bloody Valentine

Recap and Review: Supernatural 5.15: Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid

Recap and Review: Supernatural 5.16: Dark Side of the Moon

Recap and Review: Supernatural 5.17: 99 Problems

Recap and Review: Supernatural 5.18: Point of No Return (100th Episode)

Recap and Review: Supernatural 5.19: Hammer of the Gods

Recap and Review: Supernatural 5.20: The Devil You Know

Recap and Review: Supernatural 5.21: Two Minutes to Midnight

Recap and Review: Supernatural 5.22 (Season Finale): Swan Song

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15

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

Supernatural: Season 4

We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

In response to requests for updating the links for older reviews, I’ve set up a campaign on Ko-Fi. I am starting the year with some pretty large vet bills and really could use the help, but also, updating the links takes time and a bit of effort. This will be a progressive goal, where I will post links as I get funding (about every $50/5 links). 

No links fixed yet on this season.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.01 (Season Premiere): Lazarus Rising

Supernatural Fridays: Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.02: Are You There, God? It’s Me, Dean Winchester

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.03: In the Beginning

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.04: Metamorphosis

Retro Review (and Recap): Supernatural 4.05: Monster Movie (my first ever retro recap and review of the show)

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.06: Yellow Fever

Retro Review (and Recap): Supernatural 4.07: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.08: Wishful Thinking

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.09/10: I Know What You Did Last Summer/Heaven and Hell

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.11: Family Remains

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.12: Criss Angel Is a Douchebag

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.13: After School Special

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.14: Sex and Violence

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.15: Death Takes a Holiday

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.16: On the Head of a Pin

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.17: It’s a Terrible Life

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.18: The Monster at the End of This Book

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.19: Jump the Shark

Angels and Demons Week: Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.20: The Rapture

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.21: When the Levee Breaks

Retro Recap and Review: Supernatural 4.22 (Season Finale): Lucifer Rising

The Kripke Years

Season 1

Season 2

Season 3

Season 4

Season 5

The Gamble Years

Season 6 (with Kripke)

Season 7

The Carver Years

Season 8

Season 9

Season 10

Season 11

The Dabb Years

Season 12

Season 13

Season 14

Season 15

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

The Official Supernatural: “The Spear” (14.09 – Christmas Finale) Live Recap Thread

We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. I’m posting reviews here of North Carolina ghost story books, and notes about my research all month long on Patreon.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through Amazon and is on sale through this Friday. The print version is also up. If you buy the print version, you get a Kindle copy thrown in for free. I also get paid if you get it on Kindle Unlimited (for free), read the Kindle version, or lend it to a friend via the Kindle Owners Lending Library. Reviews also help with sales. Just FYI.

Can’t load up Facebook, which is annoying. Let’s get started. I doubt I will get this done tonight, as today was a day, ending with trying to get home on a flat tire (in the pouring rain, of course) by pumping it up at various places on the way home. Gotta get in to the garage early tomorrow to get it patched up.

Anyhoo, rather standard recap of The Road So Far starting with a rather awesome Dean monologue out of nowhere:

I know what it’s like to see monsters. And I know that when they’re gone, they never really go away. But me and my brother, we’re the guys that stop the monsters. We’re the guys that scare them.

Cut to Now in Kansas City, MO, to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (never been a fan, especially of the Mel & Kim version that hits the British airwaves every December). Sounds like the Brenda Lee version.

It’s also the soundtrack on a particular floor of an office building, where everyone is being slaughtered by hyped-up werewolves. One of them then comes in to tell an elegantly dressed woman, whom he addresses as “Michael.” When he asks why Michael picked this floor, Michael just says, “I liked the view.”

Another werewolf brings in some recruits and among them is Garth. Michael recognizes him due to Dean’s memories and said he had been Dean’s friend. Garth says that’s all water under the bridge. He has a daughter now and he wants to be on “the right side” in the coming war. I’m rolling my eyes a bit, even if it’s a Garth-undercover-for-TFW thing, because the acting in this scene is pretty bad. I’m amazed any scenery was left unchewed, by anyone.

Cue title cards.

Jack is eating cereal (not the healthy kind, either) in the kitchen in the middle of the night when Castiel comes in and catches him. Jack asks Castiel not to rat him out to Sam about the cereal. Castiel asks why he’s up to so late and it comes out that Jack is still recovering from resurrecting. Castiel says that’s pretty normal (well … no, it’s really not, but it is for these guys). Castiel calls it “a rite of passage.”

Jack worries that his mother isn’t safe in Heaven from the Empty. Castiel calls Naomi “complicated,” but willing to fight to keep the souls in Heaven safe. Because that worked so well last week.

Jack also wonders why Castiel doesn’t want him to tell Sam and Dean about the deal he made. Castiel says he doesn’t want to burden them and also, he figures that with all the crap currently raining down on them, he won’t be giving himself permission to be happy any time soon.

It also turns out that Castiel stole the “secret decoder ring” from the cereal box.

Meanwhile, Sam is conversing with Garth, who is indeed spying for TFW. He says they want to “change” him by having him drink blood mixed with Michael’s grace. He claims he’ll be able to spit it out (don’t think grace works that way, Garth).

Garth has to hang up (and uses Bobby’s old “balls” line that I sure don’t miss as he goes in to get the change). Dean walks in just as Sam gets hung up on and reassures Sam that even though Sam was the one who recruited Garth for this mission, it won’t really be Sam’s fault if the mission goes sideways. Um, no, Dean. I’m with Sam. It will be his fault. But hey, maybe we’ll lose Garth this week. I’m okay with that. Early Christmas present.

TFW 2.0 gets a video call from Ketch, who boasts about liberating the egg they used on Lucifer two seasons ago from an Eastern European dealer, then having to mail it to the Bunker. It’s going to arrive, but a bit late.

Okay, so one new-used tire and a morning of Expensive Fun in the Rain with the Auto Shop later, let’s get back to this, in between bouts of math problems. Lots and lots of math. I have a Trigonometry final on Wednesday.

So, we have a new ragtime piano transition riff.

Back to Garth, with the other volunteer, who is all excited about his powerup. The head werewolf woman (who acts like a baddie extra in another CW show and that’s not a compliment) comes in and hands each of them a vial of glowing archangel grace. Garth tries to fake it, but when Michael walks in, he has to swallow. This ups his hearing, but what else has it done?

Michael is Evil Overlording about tracking down EVOL!Kaia and killing her, then getting the Spear (again, works for me! Not an EVOL!Kaia fan, either). This version of Michael probably won’t stick around long, but even so, I’m just not feelin’ her. I don’t think it’s the gender change because I actually miss Lanette Ware as Raphael and kinda liked her better than Demore Barnes (heresy, I know). I wish they could bring her back or that she’d at least stuck around a bit longer. Poor Raphael has gotten no mention-love since exiting at the end of season eight. Didn’t even have a counterpart in the alt-SPNverse.

But this version of Michael … I’m not even sure it’s the actress. Felisha Terrell is hitting all the notes she’s supposed to be hitting, at least on the surface. It’s just that Michael has never actually been a Dick Roman kind of villain, certainly not when Christian Keyes or Jensen Ackles was playing him. But this version is basically a female Dick Roman in a pantsuit and I’m very meh about that.

So, the other part of Michael’s plan (I’ll admit that it was such a lame retread that I ignored it at first) is to distribute upgraded monsters throughout Kansas City, and kill or turn the entire population on Michael’s signal. First of all, we know this never works because second of all, it’s been tried many, many times by villains on the show and it’s never worked. Like, ever.

The closest anyone ever got to doing this in such a short amount of time was in “Croatoan” back in season two and that was a small town in the middle of nowhere that had been cut off from the rest of the world. It just makes the SPNverse’s most powerful archangel look lame for even thinking up this plan. Especially with monsters that, for all of their upgraded powers, can be killed by a simple beheading.

So, Garth gets a call to TFW2.0 while they’re planning to go after the egg, which is stuck for the holidays in a postal depot (while this isn’t technically a Christmas-themed episode like “A Very Supernatural Christmas,” it is set right before or during Christmas). He warns them about the intended assassination of EVOL!Kaia. Sam is nonplussed.

And just like that, after almost half a season riding shotgun and being the wind beneath Sam’s wings, Dean just straightens up and takes over. It’s effortless and even a bit startling to everyone else how he does it, yet they fall right in behind him, anyway. Dean decides to split the team up – Sam and Jack will go get the box; Dean and Castiel will go hunt souped-up monsters and retrieve the Spear. Or at least prevent the monsters from taking it from EVOL!Kaia.

Off Dean and Castiel go in the Impala, on a road trip past those same sheep from that overhead shot that the show has been using for … what … 14 seasons now (it first showed up in season one or two)? When they arrive at what looks like a labyrinth of crushed trash, Castiel notes that the tape deck was broken (since when does Dean allow anything to stay broken on the Impala?), but Dean “didn’t complain once” about the lack of his favorite music.

Dean admits that he never realized before how horrible it must have been for Castiel and Sam, being possessed when they said yes to Lucifer. Dean hates that alt-Michael “tricked” him (I dunno, Dean. It’s not really a trick if it’s your only option left to save the world) and he won’t rest until he’s killed Michael, himself.

Back to Sam and Jack, who are breaking into the postal facility. Jack demonstrates a new skill – he can use a lockpick now.

Back to the trash labyrinth. Near the center of it, Dean and Castiel, who have armed up, enter a grotty old warehouse and then creep around a labyrinth of moldy boxes inside. Dean finds EVOL!Kaia’s camp in the middle, with an iron pot that’s still warm. As Castiel comes up to the same spot, they both hear a door slam to the outside.

Castiel is worried about the lack of monsters in the vicinity. Maybe they got E!K already? Dean thinks she’s “in hiding,” since she would have fought back and the camp is laid out neatly. But it begs the question of this being intel from inside Michael’s camp (and Michael has laid traps before), so what’s going on?

What’s going on is that when Sam and Jack leave the vicinity of the pilfered post office, with a strangely light box, Sam gets bonked on the head by one of Michael’s low-rent monsters, then sees Jack get kidnapped by two more of them (apparently, the extras budget was so low for this episode that despite Michael’s boasts of having upgraded thousands of monsters, we see the same four redshirts with bad teeth over and over again – lame). Then Michael shows up and melts the magic egg in front of Sam. While monologuing.

Ugh. Yeah, I don’t care if it’s the acting or the writing or what. I am officially over this version of Michael. Get a new meatsuit or something.

Oh, and then she knocks Sam out for real. Because Sam doesn’t already have stock in MRIs, already, or anything.

Back in the warehouse, Dean and Castiel are wondering what’s going on when they get a call from Garth. Nobody can get hold of Sam and Jack. As soon as Garth hangs up, he hears Michael fly in. Michael decides it’s time to…uh…talk with Garth. This won’t end well.

In the warehouse, Dean gets poked in the back by E!K. Some terrible sorcerer-in-a-Saturday-night-low-rent-Syfy-flick acting from her end ensues. Dean cuts it short by leaning into her Magic Spork and telling her to put up or shut up. He has family in danger and Michael’s about to murder thousands of people. Dean doesn’t have time to mess around with E!K and her stick. Either she can give up the spear or she can kill him.

Behind Dean, Castiel is making it pretty clear that if E!K takes Option #2, Castiel will kill her right afterward. Whoo, that glare could blister paint.

E!K decides to make a deal – she’ll give up the spear if they have Jack send her home. Dean lies and says that Jack can still do that, while Castiel looks surprised, and E!K buys it hook, line and sinker. At first, she wants guarantees, but Castiel points out that she’s not giving them guarantees, either. Clearly, she’s lying to them and has a new reason to go home. She admits as far as that she has her own people she wants to protect (presumably on the other side). I continue to fail to care about her storyline and look forward to its being wrapped up sooner than later.

Eventually, she gives up the spear, swearing she will kill Dean if he doesn’t bring it back. Ha, I say. Ha. Then she disappears.

Dean gets a call from Sam, in which Sam admits that Michael ambushed them and took Jack. This conversation is weirdly repeated before and after a commercial break, for reasons I don’t quite get. Sam drives off to Kansas City, as Dean says he and Castiel are coming to meet him. Castiel warns Sam not to go in alone. I’m sure we all know what Sam’s current plan is.

Meanwhile, Jack is being brought into Michael’s boudoir by the underwhelming low-rent werewolves who need to piss off  back to Legacies. They leave. Michael, who is standing the near the window, turns round and proceeds to bore Jack and the audience half to death with endless monologuing about the Grand Low-Rent Werewolf Plan, how things went for Kansas City in the alt-SPNverse, how they’re kin because they’re powerful beings with no limits (assuming Jack will eventually get his powers back), how Jack is too young to understand time and on and on and on and blahblahblah.

I’m sorry. That was just so hideously dull. Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Jack says that “Sam and Dean and Castiel will come for me.” Michael shrugs this off, so I guess the Really Obvious Trap Michael set is just that. Michael leaves.

So, remember when Castiel told Sam to wait? Sam didn’t wait (oh, come on, you didn’t think he would, did you?), possibly because he can’t get hold of Garth. The first werewolf he bags on camera is the guy who bonked him on the head at the post office, after he sent off the recruit who came in with Garth to infiltrate a church service. The second one is that annoying woman who kept tandem chewing scenery with Michael earlier and gave Garth his dose of archangel grace. Yay, Sam. My hero. Two of the more irritating redshirts at almost one go.

Sam enters the office where Jack is tied up and cuts him loose.  They hear footsteps and it’s Garth, apparently okay (but obviously not and Sam should have realized that). They get down to the parking garage with some rather ugly blue-silver Christmas trees.

As Sam and Jack come out of the elevator, Garth convulses. He still has his mind, but Michael is in it and has control over his body. Michael makes Garth wolf out, and attack and even flip Sam, but Sam is eventually able to choke Garth out. When Dean and Castiel arrive, they tie Garth up and dump him in the Impala’s trunk.

Castiel heals Jack, while Dean plays (badly) with the spear and TFW2.0 gets ready to take on Michael with the spear and an angel version of the demon cuffs, which may (but probably not) work on an archangel.  Jack is apprehensive, seeing as how he was just kidnapped, like, an hour ago and they’re going right back up there. Sam and Castiel reminisce about the obvious signs that this is a trap (including the obvious lack of monster guards or Michael coming down to check up on Garth’s interrupted signal). Dean just smiles because yes, obviously, it’s a trap. Duh. Good to all be on the same page now.

Off they go into the trap, Dean in front, to the tune of Movement IV from Beethoven’s 9th Symphony (that big choral moment all the car commercials use since Die Hard used it 30 years ago – damn, I feel old, now). Okay, I legit laughed out loud at that.

Upstairs, Michael is waiting impatiently and doesn’t look nearly as sure as the face the archangel shows to the world. But then Michael senses someone and says, “There he is.”

“He” apparently turns out to be Castiel, whom Michael beats to a bloody pulp before dragging him back to the room with the view. Sam and Jack show up, and get choked out.

This may (or may not) distract Michael as Dean attacks with the spear from a closet. Michael gets into a fight with Dean, and even manages to disarm him and choke him a bit, while monologuing that Dean’s initial “yes” was a “mistake” and that therefore, everything Michael now does is “all on you.” Which is creepy and rape-y and not actually true, but there you go. Sam gets the spear back to Dean and Dean is able to slash Michael.

“Trust me,” Dean says. “That’s gonna leave a scar.”

But then he hesitates (partly as Michael, or perhaps Michael’s vessel, looks afraid). We see the same double vision, some flashbacks to Dean as Michael, and then a really quick and weird one of Dean standing in a bar, playing bartender and looking confused. And then, the camera slides back to Dean’s face. It’s no longer Dean behind the face, though. It’s Michael.

Castiel senses it first (he should; according to canon, he should have seen Michael enter Dean’s body) and calls out to Dean. “Dean” then breaks the spear in half and turns around, eyes glowing.

By this time, it’s pretty obvious to all off TFW2.0 that Michael is back in the house. Unfortunately. And Michael is determined to rub it in.

Michael: When I gave up Dean, you didn’t think to question? To ask ‘Why’? Dean was … resisting me. He was too attached to you [cut to Sam], to all of you [wider shot of all three of them]. He wouldn’t stop … squirming. To get out, to get back. So, I left. [picks up a drink of whisky] But not without leaving the door open … just a crack.

Castiel: Why wait?

Michael: To break him. To crush and disappoint him so completely that this time, he’ll be nice and quiet for a change. Buried. And he is. He’s gone. [drinks down the whisky]

And now, I have a whole army out there, waiting, ready for my command. Ready … for this. [snaps fingers]


So, that’s it for new episodes for now, though the show returns on January 17 and we already have a promo, which gives away a pretty large spoiler about how this cliffhanger resolves. We can discuss it in the comments if you like, but I’ll try to keep the following review free of future spoilers. Or not.

The show exited 2018 with a 0.4/2 and 1.43 million. This put it below the DC shows this week, who had a big crossover event that netted all but Legends of Tomorrow, Riverdale and Black Lightning (which weren’t in the event) in the 0.7-0.8 range, but comfortably above other CW shows in audience, including Legends of Tomorrow,  Riverdale and Black Lightning, with whom it tied in the demo. Honestly, even if it weren’t the only non-tie-in show on the network, with 13 and a half seasons of eagerly watched content across several streaming platforms, it would be ridiculously safe.

Review: This episode ended up being All About taking Michael down. In the process, it showed both the strengths and the weaknesses of the storyline and the character (at least, the alt-SPNverse version).

Jensen Ackles knocks it out of the park as Michael. The stillness, the coldness, the smugness and arrogance, the self-assuredness, all of these are the direct opposite of Dean’s fire and passion, his joie de vivre, his doubts and fears, his heroism; his ability to be humbled without breaking, to get back up no matter how many times he’s knocked down, to step back and let others take the stage; and his huge capacity for love.

Michael’s biggest strength as a personality is also his greatest weakness – he’s full of self-confidence, a born leader who’s sure he will always win. He’s also cocky, which gets him into trouble, over and over again, in this new alternate reality, especially when it comes to his chosen vessel, whom he does not know or understand at all.

I’ve probably said this in the past, but horror, of all the genres, is the one that most often uses monster metaphors for emotional states, for the human condition. In Sam’s case, Kripke was interested in the idea of Sam having superpowers and how it felt to be hunted for being the next step in human evolution. The audience, on the other hand, really latched onto Sam’s alienation from his family, of feeling that he had tainted blood, a tainted inheritance. Sam’s mixed feelings between settling down with a “normal” life and embracing the Family Business for good also showed the conflicts of growing out of adolescence into adulthood.

Dean central metaphors were clearer and brutally different. While there’s certainly a familial resonance, and he has grown beyond his being frozen into childhood parentification, the monster metaphor for Dean is mental illness. Always has been, probably always will be.

Some of the monsters are internal and some are external. Dean has a lot of rage due to seeing his family get torn apart, his mother burned to death, his father turning into an embittered person who had little time for his eldest, his brother growing into a puppet king of Hell. But in Dean’s case, as many of his demons are real, actual demons from Hell as they are bugs in his head. And Dean has grown very strong, madness and all, feeding on his own rage over the years, but also his great love. Dean has a powerful rage, but he has an even mightier heart.

Dean’s first two lines of monologue in this episode could as much be about his internal demons as his external ones: “I know what it’s like to see monsters. And I know that when they’re gone, they never really go away.” That line from “The Time Warp” in Rocky Horror Picture Show has frequently come to mind this season with regards to Dean’s journey – “Madness takes its toll.” It does indeed.

I’ll admit that when EVOL!Kaia was going on about how she’d kill Dean if he didn’t give her spear back in one piece, I had to laugh and thought of Dean’s line from season three’s “Malleus Maleficarum”: “You wanna kill me? Get in line, bitch!”

At the end, when Michael made his little speech about keeping Dean down – frankly, I think the show lost an opportunity not using The Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb.” It was exactly that psychology – the evil, entitled, abusive ex. How dare Dean fight back? How dare he say no ever again after the one time he said yes? How dare he try to leave the relationship? Watch me use your own hands to murder everyone and everything you love, Dean. And it’ll be all your fault.

Possibly the most bizarre aspect of that dynamic this episode was when Michael tried to woo Jack with the idea of growing eternal with him, knowing full well the entire trap this episode was set up to ensnare Dean for eternity, the person Jack most looks up to and emulates. Is Michael really so detached from human emotion that he doesn’t think about the effect wearing Dean’s face for centuries would have on Jack? And that’s even assuming Jack has centuries left. There doesn’t ever appear to have been an archangel Naphil before and the regular angel variety don’t seem to live very long.

There’s a part of Michael that I think resents that Dean has feelings for anyone but the archangel he was bred to house for the next billion years or so. And Michael definitely has underestimated Dean. Without getting too far into that promo for next episode, I think it’s very interesting that Dean knew about the angel cuffs, but Michael didn’t. Didn’t even mention them, let alone take steps to destroy them.

It seems possible that just as Dean has been resisting Michael and forcing him to avoid doing certain things, even to make certain mistakes, he has also been able to hide things here and there from Michael. Michael isn’t nearly in control as much as he thinks – or, at least, as much as he claims. Michael has the tail of the tiger and the ride is rougher than he anticipated.

This is the tension that makes Ackles’ portrayal of Michael so damned fascinating (and why I hope the writers will resist the urge to let anyone but Dean off Michael in the end). It’s the tug of war between an archangel and his vessel. We got some of this with Sam and Lucifer, but by the time Sam said yes to Lucifer, he had been buttered up for a long time (even a lifetime) as special and wonderful by Lucifer’s demon minions. I think the hardest thing for Sam wasn’t become Lucifer’s vessel (as we see with Nick’s storyline, Lucifer makes a connection with his vessels that they miss if they survive his departure). I think the hardest was Sam rejecting Lucifer long enough for Lucifer to tire of his vessel (or see him as ruined enough) to abandon him for other victims, and then having to deal with not being the Special One, anymore. It’s taken a while for Sam to get used to, and learn to like, being “only” human.

But Dean was never seduced in this way. His was a very rough wooing, He was beaten down all his life, told he wasn’t special. And now, Michael wants Dean’s body (and Dean’s memories, which Michael perceives as part of Dean’s body and therefore Michael’s too) while locking Dean away, apparently now in some weird dream of being a bartender in a midnight bar. Of course Dean fights back. Why wouldn’t he? But to Michael, this is an affront, an insult, and he cracks down harshly.

But Michael’s hold over Dean is not nearly as secure as he boasts. If you woo Dean, he distrusts you. If you beat him, it just gets his blood up. He understands fighting very well.

So, Dean distracts Michael and prevents him from killing people Dean loves. Michael makes a lot of excuses, but this elaborate plan he lays out in this episode shows that he is less sure and confident than he makes out. Rather than a victim who is simply overwhelmed and turned into a puppet for Michael, Dean appears to be Michael’s match, even if he doesn’t really know it yet.

That, however, is precisely why Michael doesn’t work when played by other actors. Whenever someone else plays him, whether last season or even this episode, this critical tension is lost. Michael becomes nothing more than a generic villain, a petty tyrant in his own world turned freebooting pirate in this new one. His external plan – to get all humans turned into monsters, or make them into cattle for those monsters – has been tried before, more than once, and never succeeded. It’s nothing new and seems a bit lame for a being who is some 14 billion years old.

People talk about what a great villain Lucifer was and yes, before he was played out, he was. But that’s because Lucifer personally oversaw the destruction of Sam and Dean’s family. And Michael was Lucifer’s older brother. The problem is that this isn’t our Michael. It’s a Michael from an alternate timeline. He was our Michael up until the point Mary decided not to bring John back. And then he wasn’t. He was never the Michael who oversaw Dean’s birth and the destruction of Dean’s family. He’s just a would-be conqueror, trying to take advantage of a cosmic loophole.

Is this Michael not aware that Heaven is about to fall and render his conquest moot? Does he simply not care? Surely, he’s aware of the existence of the Empty Entity. All of these things seem like a larger story than Michael’s low-rent monster army.

Michael’s war for Dean’s body against Dean is interesting because it’s Dean. And it’s interesting because it’s a metaphor for Dean’s own battle with his madness, just as Demon!Dean and MoC!Dean was. The rest of TFW2.0 is now in a Saving Dean storyline and that’s what makes their part in it compelling. Michael separate from Dean? Not so much.

Finally, I’ve seen spec about how TFW2.0 will manage to kill Michael now. Well, they didn’t have either the egg or the spear when they killed Lucifer for real. But there is one way left. Alas, only Dean can do it (unless they bring out the other Michael from the Cage). Only an archangel can kill another archangel, with an archangel’s blade. If Dean could regain control of his body while Michael was still inside, he could stab himself with Michael’s blade. As we saw with Nick and Lucifer, it might not even kill him. Or maybe they could figure out a way to steal Michael’s grace (Michael knows how). But that all would depend on Dean and Dean being able to regain control of his body from Michael.

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