Supernatural Episode Reviews
Steve Yokey must be a huge fan of irony because for an episode called “Nihilism” it was far from without meaning. The mid season premier was very much a lesson in looking beneath the surface particularly for Dean Winchester, and fans of the show have spent the better part of their weekends following the air date searching for all the easter eggs hidden throughout Dean’s mind bar.
This was yet another strong episode from an already strong season, and one filled with emotional depth and intelligence. Steve Yokey is one of the better writers on the team for really exploring the characters deeper psychologies, and it always impresses me that after 14 years this show continues to tug on our heart strings and bring out the literary professors in its fans if the various analytical discussions online after this episode are anything to go by.
A long “THEN” sequence reminds us of the current predicament with Michael possessing Dean again and Jack keeping himself alive due to the power of his soul. It also reminds us of Sam’s last experience with possession when he was able to force out the angel Gadreel due to Crowley’s help and the Winchesters “drop everything and run” code word “Poughkeepsie”. This episode is all about freeing Dean from Michael’s clutches.
We are introduced to “Rocky’s bar” and in case anyone out there has been living under a rock “Rocky” is the name of the cartoon squirrel from “Rocky and Bullwinkle” which is a long running joke in Supernatural created by Crowley as nicknames for the Winchester brothers. Dean is of course the squirrel to Sam’s moose.
Rocky’s bar is Dean’s bar and we are in Dean’s head. Not only that but the production team had a field day filling the bar with various call backs, mementos and easter eggs that Dean’s subconscious has created in his safe space in his mind. At the end of this review I have written a list of all the items that I have spotted along with my own theories as to what they may mean and where they may be from. Please let me know your own thoughts and theories on these various items in the comments on this review!
Along with the mementos that make up Dean’s subconscious dreamscape, the biggest surprise of the episode is the return of Pamela Barnes, last seen alive in season 4 when she was killed by a demon. A fact we are heartbreakingly reminded of later in the episode. Pamela is an interesting choice of character for Dean to conjure up, as she is one of very few characters throughout the show who was able to see through Dean’s walls and bravado. He cannot lie to the beautiful psychic, and therefore to conjure her in his mind as his bar companion says a lot more about Dean’s subconscious than he would probably be willing to admit.
Pamela comes from a time in Dean’s life when he was just getting used to the idea of Angels existing. She was a conduit between him and Castiel in their first ever conversation, a hugely important moment considering Castiel is now one of the most important people in Dean’s life. Pamela wears a top that says “to hell and back” and a necklace with wings. Everything about her is a reference to Dean and Castiel’s first meeting after Cas rescued Dean from the pit. This is yet another thing in Dean’s subconscious that has interesting implications. It’s not quite as obviously on display as the moose on the wall, but it is there hidden in plain sight all around him.
Pamela in 14x10 wearing a “To Hell and Back” shirt and winged necklace
Following a dismissal of a mysterious woman in a business suit (who could easily be mistaken for an angel given the clothing choices and uptight demeanour) who wants to buy Dean’s bar, we get our first very important conversation of the episode.
“How come you always have a boyfriend?”
“How come you only want what you can’t have? Besides you don’t want me, you just like to flirt. I’m psychic so I kinda know.”
This short conversation has extremely important implications in that it is the first time the audience has been asked to consider what Dean actually does want. You may remember from the season premier that Michael was asking this question constantly of various characters. In fact the question has been asked so many times this season that it is arguably a season specific theme.
Why doesn’t Dean want the beautiful Pamela? Why has he conjured her up as unavailable in the first place? What is it he wants instead? These are all questions now being posed to the audience and kept unanswered. Though perhaps a good place to start searching for an answer is in the song that plays on repeat over the entire dream sequence. “Searching for a Rainbow” by the Marshall Tucker Band is a song specifically about a weary traveller who keeps moving in the hopes of finding a mystery lover at the end of the rainbow. Not exactly subtle, though surprising seeing as Supernatural continues to pump out the company line that romance isn’t welcome here. I guess that doesn’t stop Dean from subconsciously dreaming about finding love – though not with a beautiful woman apparently. No he just likes to flirt with them.
Whatever the meaning of all that, Dean’s dream bar comes across as utterly depressing. He is isolated with a raging storm outside and a bar that looks like it’s struggling to get any business. No matter how much Dean calls it “the dream” throughout the episode, I can’t help but feel like this isn’t Dean getting what he wants, but getting what he allows himself to have. It is mild contentment, rather than elated happiness. As if anyone needed to feel any more emotional for poor Dean Winchester.
Once out of Dean’s head, we cut back to Hitomi Plaza and Michael’s first order of business is to change out of “lumberjack chic”. Michael taunts the boys and you can tell that Jensen Ackles has got the hang of the character. He is delightful in this episode as the sassy and smug archangel who uses every manipulation trick in the book against the Winchester family.
Luckily thanks to Sam’s quick thinking with a Molotov cocktail (nice season 5 call back there) and Castiel being skilled with a pair of handcuffs (lol) they are able to trap Michael pretty quickly, and thanks to another hilariously quirky reaper called Violet (who was a bit of a scene stealer in my opinion) they made it back to the Bunker in one piece.
Michael continues sassing the boys as best he can whilst they try to figure out how to save Dean, and thanks to a monster army on its way to the bunker to rescue Michael, they don’t have much time. Ever the genius, Sam is able to come up with a way to enter Dean’s mind to get him to fight back. One of the things that I love lately is how often Sam is able to use his own traumatic experiences to get himself and his family out of other difficult situations. Since Lucifer died at the end of season 13, Sam has truly stepped up his game and is owning not only his trauma, but his position as a leader and guide for his family and the other hunters looking for his support. His possession by Gadreel in season 9 was something Sam struggled with for a long time and the fact he can use this now demonstrates his strength. Later in the episode Sam says that Dean “Thrives on trauma” but season 14 so far has made it very clear that Sam does too. Yet another heart breaking fact about the Winchesters that we fans have to face.
Following a visit back to Dean’s dream bar where we are shown how he is completely stuck in an endless loop of tequila shots, turning down sale offers, and vampire fights, back in the real world Michael digs his claws into Jack.
“I know how sad he was when you died. On the outside. On the inside, well, it’s not that he was happy, he just didn’t care. Because you’re not Sam, you’re not Cas. You’re a new burden that he was handed. You’re a weak helpless thing. You think that they care about you? Love you? You’re a job. A job none of them wanted.”
Michael plays on Dean’s own memories and guilt over his treatment of Jack whilst he was still grieving to really dig the knife in here. He is using fear and manipulation to cause doubt and anger, but thankfully Cas interrupts and warns Jack not to listen to anything Michael says.
Instead Cas sits down to have a talk with the archangel in one of several top moments from the episode.
“Look at you, playing nursemaid to a Nephilim. Nothing like the Castiel I knew, he never would have been so anaemic.”
“You’re confusing loyalty and compassion with weakness.”
“Tell me. Why do you love this world enough to risk your own life?”
“Tell me, why do you hate this world enough to burn it to the ground?”
I love this exchange because it is such a classic Castiel move to answer a question with another question. Castiel is extremely talented at diverting questions about himself, anything to avoid talking about his feelings, especially with a villain.
Michael’s response to this question however should send chills down your spine, as suddenly we know where the episode title comes from. Michael himself is suffering from extreme nihilism, having completely lost faith in his father, believing that every world God AKA Chuck created was just a discarded draft. His determination to destroy all of creation before finding and killing God is terrifying and only adds to his allure as a truly formidable villain this season.
I want to take this opportunity to sing Amanda Tapping’s praises as director of this episode. She has this way of using extreme close ups which not only make the characters look beautiful, but manages to convey such intensity of emotion. Her directing style is artistic and intimate and she is able to bring the viewer into a scene to the point where it almost feels intrusive to the characters. 12x19 The Future is some of her best work in my opinion (and if you don’t remember that episode please go and re-watch it immediately) but this episode is a close second due to several intimate conversations held throughout including this one between Castiel and Michael.
With the ever looming threat of Michael’s monsters making their way to the Bunker, Sam is hard at work setting up the device that will allow him and Castiel into Dean’s mind. Jack insists he can help by using the magic currently powering his soul. But this is clearly a bad idea, and Sam tells Jack that Dean wouldn’t want it that way, but is that really going to stop him? Jack has struggled with his identity since losing his power, and now he has been given a new power source, but using it has huge repercussions on his humanity. Jack’s desire to do good and be helpful, could end up destroying everything that makes him human, even if he is doing it out of love. This is a slippery slope for Jack, as we will see later in this episode.
Soon everything is set up and Cas prepares Michael much to the archangels taunts and sarcasm. Upon entering Dean’s head the boys find themselves in a dark empty place which is very much reminiscent of the actual empty – It is symbolic that Dean has his own dark nothingness inside his head with his own cosmic monster lurking in the shadows.
Sam and Castiel in the darkness of Dean’s mind.
Through their insistence that Dean thrives on trauma, and is used to it, Sam and Cas work together as a brilliant team to figure out where Dean is being kept and distracted in his own mind. It is quite rare for Sam and Cas to have many shared scenes together such as this, and one thing I adore about this episode is how close Sam and Cas are and how well they work together. They bounce ideas off of each other, and come to mutual agreements on the way forward. It is a smooth partnership that works flawlessly as they act quickly to save the one person they both love more than anything. Sam and Cas are treated as equals in this episode. Fighting side by side and complimenting each other in their skills, strengths, and through the different ways they each know Dean.
This is shown even more clearly once they find themselves at Rocky’s bar, with Dean standing in front of them offering them a drink of Cosmic Cowboy. The scene turns from humorous to sorrowful in true Supernatural fashion as the boys initially get caught up in the continuous loop Dean has created. They only manage to get his attention by first reminding him that Pamela was blinded by Castiel (in which Castiel’s guilt is obvious as he reminds Dean that it was accidental) and then as the music distorts and cuts out, of her death. It proves Sam’s prior words right that Dean thrives on trauma, as it is his trauma over losing Pamela that breaks the loop, and Dean’s face is another moment to cry over.
Castiel plays the emotional card, begging with Dean to remember because his family needs him back. It seems to be working but Dean’s stubborn desire to hold on to his fantasy life is strong. Sam’s logical mind finds the trigger however, by using his own experience with a similar trauma, the code word “Poughkeepsie” breaks through Dean’s barriers and snaps him out of his dream.
Unfortunately that is when Michael shows up to ruin everything. Michael is quick to make dramatic claims and lies to taunt and cause fractures among the boys.
“You only tolerate the angel because you think you owe him. Because he gripped you tight and raised you from perdition… or whatever.
“But since then, what has he done? Only made mistakes. One after the other.
“And Sam, oh Sam, you know Dean was his happiest when you quit hunting leaving him with your dad, just the two of them. See deep down he knows that you will always abandon him, again and again.
“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 want it, you were desperate to get away from them and that is why you said yes.”
I love this, because like with Jack earlier in the episode, Michael is taking Dean’s fears, and his worst memories of those he loves, and twisting them against him. I find it interesting that Dean and Cas’s first meeting has featured so prominently in this episode, to the point that Cas’s first ever words have been quoted in full.
Everything Michael says is a lie of course, but each lie is cleverly told using Dean’s fears and twisting those fears into something malicious. His fear of abandonment, his guilt, his darkest moments, all the times that Sam and Cas have let him down.
Dean listens horrified as Michael makes these outrageous claims unable to shut him up, until Castiel is able to see through the lies for what they really are; a bid for time.
The action picks up, the boys fight Michael, being evenly matched inside Dean’s mind, whilst outside in the Bunker, the monsters manage to break in and fight the hunters as Jack is caught in the middle.
Jack makes the choice to use his powers to destroy the monsters and protect his family, even though doing so risks his soul. He has proven himself just as self sacrificial as his Winchester family.
Back in Dean’s mind, the boys are able to trap Michael in the store room in a well coordinated scene displaying the joint effort and teamwork of all three Winchesters. I find this symbolic in that their success came from equality. Throughout this episode, Cas and Sam have been a united source in everything. They have shared their thoughts, their ideas, and worked together to find and save Dean. Once Dean snapped out of his dream, all three of them had to work together to lock Michael away. It seems to me that the key to defeating Michael along with any other villain that may be lurking in the shadows is for the boys to remain a team, a united front, and to keep the channels of communication open between them. Then again, when have the Winchesters ever learned to be honest with each other?
The fact that Dean is strong enough to contain an archangel inside his own mind speaks volumes for the character. It can also be read as a nice metaphor in many ways for other things Dean keeps locked away inside - fears, emotions, secrets. Bottling things up and locking them away are never healthy and this is hardly a permanent solution for Michael.
Once back in the real world, Cas takes a moment to show off his excellent parenting skills with Jack and stresses that the soul is important and Jack could risk losing himself if he continues to burn his soul by using magic. Based on Jack’s thoughtful expression to Cas’s warning thought, it doesn’t seem like this is going to end up well for Jack. More bad decisions could be potentially looming for the conflicted nephilim. Castiel continues to show just how human he has become in his emotional responses particularly his love for his family and specifically his new son. His emotional growth as a character over the past 10 years has truly been emphasised this season and I really enjoy seeing him handle emotionally charged situations such as this one.
Since Yokey seems to revel in writing emotionally charged situations, the next scene really packs a punch. We find Dean in front of a mirror (always a bad sign for Dean as mirror scenes continually represent internal conflicts for him) struggling to ignore the outraged archangel banging in his head. Whenever Billie appears in an episode she tends to dominate the scene and this was no different. Her visits are always profound and filled with meaning and foreboding. This time she hands Dean over the only remaining “Death book” in which his fate isn’t to be used as Michael’s vessel to burn down the world, he is horrified at whatever he reads.
Gif Source: http://kendaspntwd.tumblr.com/post/182214630224
The thing is, whilst this book could say anything about Dean’s future Death, there are two things to remember here. One, when has Dean Winchester, Mr Embodiment of Free Will Himself, ever succumbed to fate or destiny? Two, when has Billie ever not been two steps ahead of everyone in shaping the best possible outcome? I mean, you could argue that whilst still just another Reaper she orchestrated her own death so that she could get herself that special promotion. After all, she’s smart enough to know that threatening the Winchesters is only going to get you dead, I’m betting she was banking on that and luckily Castiel came through for her (admit it, its genius). So what’s the betting that Billie has handed this to Dean knowing full well that whatever is written in that book is not going to be what happens? I see Billie as the smartest character on this show and one of the most powerful. Anything she hands to Mr Free Will, leader of Team Free Will™ is only going to trigger a new path for fate rather than whatever is currently written.
This was an emotional and exciting episode with many ups and downs, captivating its audience and enticing us to keep tuning in. With so many troublesome things weighing on the Winchester family, I can’t wait to see what else is in store in the coming weeks.
As promised above, please find my list of all the various mementos in Dean’s bar that I could find. Please drop me a comment if you think I missed any!
- Taxidermy squirrel – also a reference to Dean
- Taxidermy moose head on the wall – a reference to Sam
- The monkey from the Roadhouse
- The bullfighter statue behind the bar – the theory being that this is referencing Dean riding “Larry” the bull from 12x11
- The Cosmic Cowboy IPA – a cheeky little nod to FBBC, Jensen’s beer company in Austin, as Cosmic Cowboy is one of their actual beers. Also personal opinion but Cosmic Cowboy is so named after Castiel ;)
- Fox Rye and Ghost are also beers are the FBBC.
- The original Impala license plate number hanging on the wall.
- The carved “Daphne loves Fred” on the bar – a reference to the Scoobynatural episode
- The painting of the Mexican skeletons – a reference to the Tiki bar where Dean made Death nachos at the end of season 10? Also Dean’s respect for Death both as a character and a concept perhaps.
- The cowboy and cowgirl from 13x06 – Dean does love his cowboys
- A picture of a man on a pier at sunset – Potentially this is a reference to both Dean’s dream of peace on a pier from 4x20, and also a nod to Jensen and Misha’s fun sunset pictures together which caused a lot of excitement in fandom during filming of episode 10x20.
- Some singing fish over the door – Fish have long been a reference to both humans and angels in this show. The fish who crawled up the shoreline, and the comparison between teaching free will to angels to “teaching poetry to fish” come to mind -thought there are many other fish references throughout the shows history.
"The Spear" 14x09
14x09 – Yippie Ki Yay Mother F***ers! An epic mid-season finale to end a strong season so far.
As I sat down to re-watch 14x09 The Spear over Christmas leftovers I took a moment to reflect on the current season of Supernatural, and how much I have enjoyed it. For a show in its 14th season, the writers have really impressed me in how they continue to keep this show fresh and interesting. The one thing you can never say about Supernatural is that it doesn’t know how to adapt to the times. This show has changed over the years along with the Winchester brothers themselves, and as we have watched those boys grow up into strong admirable men, the central theme of family and brotherhood running through its core is more present now than ever.
The Spear is a solid episode, and one that is a homage to the classic Christmas movie Die Hard throughout. Supernatural has parodied several popular movies in recent years, with 12x12’s Reservoir Dogs and 13x06’s Tombstone tributes being some of the most memorable episodes of recent seasons. It is my opinion that The Spear will also join those two episodes in being a fan favourite going forward.
The THEN sequence is extremely long, and covers all the major plot points of season 14 so far, reminding the viewer of everything still fresh and raw for our boys at this point. The stand out points being Dean’s possession and mysterious release by Michael, Michael’s super charged monsters, Jack’s death, Kaia’s spear, Dean’s anger and aggression towards Kaia, Cas’s deal with the Empty, and Jack’s resurrection. We are in for a jam packed episode.
From hearing the first few notes of “Rocking around the Christmas Tree” I knew I was going to enjoy this. The camera slowly pans over Christmas decorations to reveal a bloody handprints and a terrified man running away from a werewolf. One almost kiss under the mistletoe from our monster later and the victim is dead. Ah Supernatural. How I love you.
We finally catch up with Michael since he let Dean go in 14x02 God’s and Monsters and get confirmation that he has excellent taste in vessels. I’ve got to hand it to Felisha Terrell for her performance as a cool and calculated Michael who is one step ahead of the boys throughout this episode. With the stellar performances of both Christian Keyes and Jensen Ackles before her, she made the role her own and I hope that we will see more of her in the future.
Another epic guest star and former fan favourite also returns this episode in the form of DJ Qualls as the lovable werewolf Garth. Is Garth really working for Michael now along with his werewolf kin? I sincerely doubt it regardless of his reasoning of “protecting his family”.
Following the title sequence we find Jack sneaking a midnight snack in possibly my second favourite scene of the episode. I laugh as he proclaims “don’t tell Sam!” to Castiel because we all know that of his three fathers, Sam is the strict dad who doesn’t allow sugary snacks. It’s the more intimate moments such as this scene that I fangirl over, because it reveals the softer side of TFW, the side we don’t get to see as often amongst the blood and violence of the main stories. If Sam is Jack’s strict dad, does this mean Cas is the rebellious dad who joins in with his son’s bad habits? Of course it does. Where does this place Dean on the dad scale I hear you ask? My moneys on “fun” dad since he took him fishing and let him drive the impala just two episodes ago. Poor Sam is the only responsible parent in the house!
Cas acknowledges the Winchester rite of passage in Jack’s resurrection (and kudos to writer Robert Berens for continuing a trend in this show of having characters textually state long running fandom jokes). Congratulations Jack, you are now officially part of the Winchester clan.
We are reminded that there is still a vulnerability in heaven that hasn’t yet been addressed (and no doubt will crop up again before season end) and we are also reminded of Cas’s deal with the Empty – a deal that broke mine and many others hearts last episode. In typical Cas fashion, he justifies his secret in the most heart breaking of ways:
“They don’t need that burden, you don’t need that burden.”
Trust Cas to keep secrets to spare his loved ones pain.
We also get more confirmation that Cas thinks the same way the rest of us do:
“the Empty said that it wouldn’t come for me until I had finally given myself permission to be happy. But with everything we have going on, with Michael still out there, I don’t see that happening any time soon. This life may be a lot of things, but it’s rarely happy.”
Poor Castiel. Though he does have a point. He isn’t exactly known for being a happy character, so I’m sure he’ll be okay… for now. I am itching to find out what will happen in the second half of the season for Castiel and his current predicament.
One final heart warming moment regarding decoder rings that is yet another reminder of how far this amazing character has grown and developed over the course of the show, and this “cookietacular” scene ends.
To no one’s surprise Garth is acting as a double agent for Chief Sam. Michael wants Garth to “make the change” and even with Garth’s reassurance that he’ll be able to resist, Sam isn’t convinced. In a situation similar to that of 14x05’s Nightmare Logic Sam takes his role as leader of the hunters to heart and proclaims that any fall out from Garth’s decision to help will fall on his shoulders. Sam is always so quick to blame himself for any potential disastrous outcomes. As great a leader as he has proven himself to be, he puts too much pressure on himself and needs to learn to accept that others are also responsible for their own choices. With choice being one of several main themes of this season, I expect this will be explored further in the episodes still to come.
Ketch’s video call to the boys proves to be a comedic scene and even though I was at first disappointed at the return of Ketch in season 13, feeling his character had served his purpose in season 12, I can’t deny that David Hayden Jones has excellent chemistry with the main cast and his enjoyment playing the role is obvious in every second of his screen time. Much to the boys annoyance, he has put one of their main weapons against Michael in the post, and it’s Christmas time! So it’s up to Sam and Jack to go break into to the local post office to get it.
Meanwhile back and Hitomi Plaza (a play on Nakatomi Plaza from Die Hard) Garth “makes the change” despite his efforts and overhears Michael’s plans. The monster army will attack Kansas City on Christmas Eve, and Michael has located AU Kaia and intends to steal her spear. When Garth tells the boys what he heard they make their plans and the action gets started.
Dean and Cas make their way to find AU Kaia to bargain with her for the spear. I always enjoy scenes where Dean and Cas work together, as they are often rare to come by nowadays which is a travesty since the two actors have such excellent chemistry together. Cas mentions how happy Dean seems, that he didn’t complain on the drive to the recycling centre even with a broken tape deck, and Dean explains that he is fired up, feeling optimistic after the “no strings attached” win of Jack’s resurrection. Little does Dean know the truth of the matter, but Cas’s reaction is enough to yet again remind us all of the dark shadow looming over him.
Given how this episode has twice now reminded us of Cas’s deal, I see this as a very important plot point for the second half of the season. I am excited to see Sam and Dean’s reactions when they do eventually find out and also to find out exactly what could trigger Cas allowing himself true happiness.
Dean opens up to Cas about his experience with possession, something he was able to briefly talk to Sam about at the end of 13x03 The Scar.
“Michael conned me, kept me trapped and drowning inside my own body, now when you and Sam were possessed by Lucifer I thought I understood, but I didn’t. Not really. So yeah, if we get a chance to trap him, I’ll take that. But I won’t be truly happy until he’s dead, and I kill him.”
I LOVE that Dean is acknowledging that he previously didn’t understand what both Cas and Sam went through at Lucifer’s hands. I love that the show is acknowledging the past traumas of its lead characters, since both Cas and Sam rarely talk about their possession. Having said that, I thought the end of season 13 explored Sam’s Lucifer trauma quite well, with Jared blowing me away with his ability to portray Sam’s fear and anger when facing the devil. Whilst I wish that we could have seen more of Dean’s own struggles over the past few episodes, I do hope that going forward all three of the Winchesters will be able to open up to each other more often about everything they have been through. We often joke in fandom that communication is the biggest villain on the show, but in recent years I’m starting to think that this is exactly what Dabb & Co are trying to convey with their story lines.
Meanwhile at the post office, Jack continues to want to prove himself to his father figures. “I just wanted to stay useful” he says. So much of Jack’s story this season mirrors Castiel’s in season 9, and I love how this time the guys are working together to help Jack build up his own self worth.
When Michael shows up to thwart Jack and Sam’s plans, I’m not surprised. The boys have been uncharacteristically optimistic throughout the episode so far and have underestimated Michael constantly. I’d imagine most of the audience have spent the episode waiting for the other shoe to drop, as this is a Supernatural Mid-Season Finale after all. Whilst Sam suffers another concussion and Jack is kidnapped, Dean and Cas are left in an empty warehouse wondering where Michael’s forces are? Did you boys ever stop to consider that maybe YOU are his forces? Because that was my first thought.
When Kaia sneaks up on Dean much to Castiel’s distress, the following scene is a testament to how far Dean has come even in just a year. Robert Berens also wrote 13x09 The Bad Place as well as 14x03 The Scar and his episodes have a tendency to dig deeply into Dean’s psyche and reveal his inner fears, weaknesses and worst qualities, as a commentary on his growth and development. These episodes highlighted how Dean uses anger and violence to disguise his fear, with AU Kaia specifically calling him out on these traits in 14x03 and comparing him directly to Michael. It seems Dean finally listened to her, because his ability to negotiate and appeal to her through love instead of violence is one that made me glow with pride for him:
“There are people that I care about, my family, and they’re in danger. Michael, the one who tortured me, the one who tortured you. He’s gonna hurt them, and kill them, and then worse, thousands will die. And the only thing that is gonna stop him, is this spear in your hands. So if you’re not gonna give it to me, kill me.”
After a bargain made with a small lie about Jack, and an insightful analysis by Cas that AU Kaia is still hiding something (and therefore Berens has more story to tell about this compelling character), the boys are successful in getting the spear. But not without a threat from Kaia first that she will find and kill them if they don’t bring it back.
Once Sam wakes up from his concussion to let Dean and Cas know that Michael has taken Jack, he is warned by Cas not to go after Jack alone. Since this is Sam Fucking Winchester though, he will of course ignore Cas’s request.
We find Jack up in Michael’s suite in Hitomi Plaza, just as confused as we are as to why Michael has taken him. Michael’s reason being that they are family – but not in the literal sense, as Jack quickly points out that his actual uncle Michael is still in the cage.
With family and found family being such a huge theme on this show, Michael’s claim of family so quickly falls short its practically laughable. Jack sees right through him as do I, and he quickly admits that he is really only interested in Jack’s power once regained. It is a testament to just what a powerful character Jack was that Michael is willing to wait potentially centuries for Jack’s power to return, that he would keep Jack by his side and nurture him whilst powerless only to utilise him once his power is regained. It is also an interesting contrast to Jack’s own struggle to be useful among his found family, who have shown that they have little care for his power, and instead love him wholly as their own son, useful or not.
As I predicted, Sam storms the plaza and takes out the remaining monsters to save Jack all by himself. Sam Fucking Winchester strikes again. When they encounter Garth things start to go wrong and we learn that Michael has complete control over all the monsters that “made the change”. Garth is unable to control himself regardless of Sam’s plea’s, but is eventually incapacitated and thrown in the Impala’s trunk. Poor Garth. Hopefully the boys will be able to find a way to cure you in the next episode!
Finally Team Free Will 2.0 are reunited and in fairly good spirits. Sam theorises that Michael was able to spy on them through Garth, and Dean plays around with the spear in a classic display of comedy acting from Jensen.
The next scene is my favourite from the episode. In a homage to Die Hard to the tune of Ode to Joy, the boys outline their plan and stand as a unified front, optimistic even with impossible odds. In a call back to 12x12 Stuck in the Middle with You they walk in unison. I found it very interesting and different that Dean and Cas were in front rather than Sam and Dean. They walked in pace, dressed in similar colours, symbolising not only their unification, but also how both are in similarly precarious positions right now. Cas has his deal with the Empty looming over him, like a shadow cursing his very happiness, and Dean, who had spoken of his own true happiness earlier this episode, with Michael as his own empty shadow hanging over his head. Both started out in this episode fairly optimistic about their situations, but does this foreshadow both of their downfalls relatively soon?
Unfortunately it appears Michael really is one step ahead of them throughout, and is sitting in wait, completely aware of their plans from the start. Castiel attacks first, as Michael is able to sense his presence, and whilst he puts up a good fight is left bloody for it. Sam and Jack are quickly taken down. Jensen Ackles gets to show off his excellent skills with the spear (quite different from his comedic display from earlier) and I love the moment where Sam passes the spear to Dean in a call back to 13x23 Let the Good Times Roll. Brothers working together during the fight is always a highlight. Once Dean gets hold of the spear again though it all goes wrong. We get glimpses of a dark bar and flashes to Dean’s time under Michael’s possession, and just like that, Dean is gone. All the kudos to Jensen in that moment because the change from Dean to Michael was immediate and obvious. The sudden coldness of his expression gave me chills.
Pulling further similarities to 12x12 Stuck in the Middle With You the spear is snapped in a flash of blue light. This will no doubt leave AU Kaia very unhappy and seeking vengeance.
“When I gave up Dean you didn’t think to question it?” Michael asks as the boys look on in horror.
Yes Michael. I did question it, so did everyone else. We all questioned it and speculated and theorised and wrote essays online about it for WEEKS. (Maybe the three dumbasses in front of you didn’t, but everyone else definitely did!)
“Dean was resisting me. He was too attached to you. To all of you”.
I love the continued use in this show since season 12 of the singular and the plural forms of “you”. In yet another similar moment to 12x12 (and I’m loving how relevant 12x12 is in this episode, I’d really encourage a re-watch of that spectacular episode if anyone is feeling bored over hiatus) the camera cuts to Sam after the first singular “you”, and then cuts to all three of them after the second plural “you”. Because no one can deny that Dean’s attachment to Sam is a huge part of his motivations throughout the series, even if he now has a wider family unit that are also extremely important to him. Love is never a finite source, and Dean has mountains of love to give his family.
“He wouldn’t stop squirming, to get out to get back, so I left. But not without leaving the door open just a crack.”
“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.”
I feel like Michael is underestimating Dean here. But I like how this explanation is also very reminiscent of what the Empty is doing with Cas. Allowing happiness and a taste of freedom, only to rip it away from them the moment they gain some hope. Throughout this episode Dean has been the most optimistic of all of our heroes. He was so determined to beat Michael that he completely forgot about his earlier episodes of dizziness and the various clues that Michael was making it too easy for them.
Sam’s face at the end here is horrifying and heart breaking. He is so crushed. They really all did think they had a chance didn’t they?
That final finger snap though. Very Thanos Supernatural. But also very sinister, and a great way to end the episode. I loved it.
Trust Supernatural to end its Christmas finale on a dark and depressing note. Dean once again possessed by Michael, and apparently all of Kansas City overrun with monsters. Though if the promos from the next episode when the season returns are anything to go by, I think we’ll be getting Dean back pretty quickly, as it appears Sam and Cas are going to be diving into Dean’s subconscious to snap him out of his funk. I can’t wait to see what Sam and Cas will find, and what new and interesting revelations about Dean this could give us.
This entire episode was extremely enjoyable from start to finish. With strong acting, brilliant music choices, some compelling dialogue and an overall A+ effort from the whole team. I would rank it among the top episodes of season 14 so far. A strong episode to end a strong first half of the season, and I can’t wait to see what else Dabb & co have up their sleeves for when the show returns in the new year.
(1)The writer reserves judgement on Die Hard’s Christmas Movie status and will leave that up to debate for anyone that feels passionate enough about the topic.