Supernatural Episode Reviews
"Funeralia" -- 13 x 19
Supernatural’s “Funeralia” gave us several important things to consider, many of which tie in very clearly with the overarching plotlines for the season. Of course, Rowena is at the front of this episode, and with that comes her relationship not just with the brothers but specifically with Sam.
Another aspect the audience can’t help but notice is how Dean has become a lot healthier with his communication skills and his abilities to appreciate and accept the nuances of others. Finally, watching Cas and Naomi discuss heaven leads to many questions about what the last four episodes may have in store for us.
Sam and Rowena’s connection is pressed upon heavily both in dialogue and in Jared’s and Ruth’s performances. Sam takes responsibility right away when he realizes that Rowena is behind the case he’s found, and throughout tracking her, finding her, and attempting to stop her, he maintains that Rowena is still not entirely worthy of the bullet he promised he’d put in her should she slip up.
The narrative supports his hopes: Rowena is revealed to be killing “innocents” before their time, as well as their reapers. However, if all Rowena wanted was to get Death’s attention, she could have chosen anyone off the street and killed them before their time in order to make the same commotion. Instead, she specifically chooses victims who are clearly awful people and who have caused widespread suffering.
This is a subtle point from the writers which tries to hint that she’s not as detached as she seems. When we learn that Sam is the one who kills Rowena, the immediate superficial prediction is that this will come to a head at the end of the episode. However, the writers again thwart such an ending by consistently showing Sam to be very reluctant toward taking Rowena down. His problems with her center around the fact that he “trusted” her and yet she is still making mistakes.
When he confronts her in the alley he hesitates, just long enough for Rowena to turn around and save herself, and immediately after he fires the gun you see the remorse, the pain on his face. Up until now we’ve been questioning Rowena’s true motive, even after she reveals that apparently she wants Crowley, her son, back to life, and that’s why she’s trying to get Death’s attention. Her glib attitude and history of lying both make the audience suspicious.
When Dean reveals to her that Sam is her ultimate killer the audience screams “WHY DEAN?! WHY DID YOU DO THAT?!” But the narrative soon tells us this revelation means nothing to Rowena. Despite their painful, tear-ridden, gut-wrenching, tension-laden interaction when she’s threatening to kill him, Death shows up, calls her bluff, and eventually chastises Rowena with the truth, that she “never intended to kill him.”
Even after knowing Sam is her murderer, Rowena didn’t have it in her to really commit to murdering him in order to save herself, or her son. That’s a powerful event. In the aftermath of the encounter, Rowena admits that while learning that Lucifer is back, she isn’t scared, because why should she be? Knowing who her true murderer is has set her free, sort of.
This gives the audience pause, but only long enough so we can see Sam’s guilt stricken and conflicted face, followed by his fervent assurance that they have changed the fates of others’ many times, and that he wants to change hers—i.e., he’d rather not kill her, at least at the moment. Who can say what is in store for Sam and Rowena? For now, at least, they appear to be begrudging allies, but with some textual and acted undertones which point toward a potential, more emotionally charged relationship, to say the least.
Another major aspect of this episode is how Dean is portrayed as being in a much healthier, stronger, and surer mindset than he has been in a long time. We begin with Dean and Cas trying to come up with ideas for how to help their current, seemingly hopeless, predicaments. Not only is the scene set up for tension, but it bursts immediately when Dean, instead of flying off the handle like the end of last episode, sighs and makes a quip about needing a stronger drink.
We even get some much needed humorous and endearing dialogue between Dean and Cas, where Dean gets to show the audience his appreciative reaction to Cas using a “Hail Mary” analogy accurately, followed by his slightly disheveled and flustered reaction to Cas obtusely explaining other kinds of sports analogies like “Ball Handler.” The moment which should have been rife with fear and tension is instead exploding with, rather adorable, camaraderie.
Dean’s mood even continues into the discussion Sam brings up when he drops the information that Rowena is doing dirty deeds again. Instead of being overcome with rage, Dean reminds Sam that he said he would take care of Rowena, but leaves it at that, and with a level-head tells Cas that his “ask the angels” idea is a good one, imparting only his vulnerable request that Cas be careful. The calmer Dean doesn’t go away, instead lingering as he and his brother ride to Idaho, displayed by Dean’s attempt to sympathize with Sam’s feelings about Rowena betraying him.
Normally we would see Dean be a hard ass “I told you so” big brother here, but instead he tries to reassure Sam that he too wants for all this to be a misunderstanding. In fact, much later when Dean bursts in to save his brother from Rowena, when Death tells Dean she will “see him again soon,” we see a look of fright and determination—this is decades away from the last time Dean and Death had a talk, when he was pretty ready and willing to die for a simple MOTW issue.
Finally, when Rowena, Sam and Dean are all recovering from the trauma of the close encounter with Death (each having such a nuanced definition of this encounter, for sure), Dean looks Rowena in the eye and tells her, after she makes a joke about whether or not he believes she can be redeemed, that he does. The audience knows Dean Winchester, knows when he’s joking and when he’s serious, and he’s deathly—pardon the pun—serious when he meets Rowena’s eyes and assures her of this. It’s a heartwarming moment.
The last major aspect of this episode deals with the issues this season has raised for Heaven and its angels, at least in this universe. Indra, the guardian of Heaven’s gate, is so far from being ready and willing to guard that its laughable; he clutches a liquor bottle in a brown bag like a homeless man, whines about the potential fight Castiel might want to have with him, and glibly informs Cas that if he wants entrance to Heaven, he won’t stand in his way.
Beyond that, Indra even slips in a statement affirming that he would be completely fine with dying, were Cas inclined to be the one to put an end to his suffering. And it is clear he is suffering by the dead look in his eyes. The encounter does not bode well for what Cas, and the audience, will see moving forward. After waiting around for Duma to consider his request, Cas is finally confronted with an enemy he thought long dead.
The reappearance of Naomi knocks the audience flat on their backs—after all, the last time they saw her, she had a drill in her skull several years ago. We learn from Naomi that Heaven is currently “running out of juice,” so to speak; angels are apparently the life force which Heaven runs on, and the fact that there’s only 11 angels, total, in this universe means that the majority of them MUST remain in Heaven for it to continue to function even semi-properly. After Cas learns this, and Naomi begs him to help them find Gabriel so that Heaven can have an Archangel to pull on for power, the audience is left concerned for what exactly will happen to one of the show’s prime species of supernatural beings for nearly 10 years.
The biggest question, however, that keen audience members should be asking themselves is this: is Naomi REALLY Naomi? This entire episode, Lucifer is absent, and yet he is supposedly running Heaven. We know that Archangels have incredible powers, one of which potentially is to change shape (this is seen by finding out that Asmodeus was likely shape-shifting as a result of draining and feeding on Gabriel’s grace).
When we watch Naomi and Cas interact, he brings up, eventually, the largest problem he has with her—the fact that she forced him to murder Dean Winchester (or a replica of him, at least), over and over again, and eventually nearly made him murder the real Dean. During this interaction Naomi shows a rather obtuse unawareness of exactly how much she hurt Castiel during her extensive reindoctrination processes.
If there’s one thing Naomi has never been, however, it’s obtuse. And so, the audience is left to wonder whether Naomi is really alive, or if Lucifer is merely taking her guise in order to manipulate Castiel into bringing Gabriel to Heaven instead of to the Winchesters.
Remember, Lucifer promised the angels something he could not deliver. Perhaps he believes that, with Gabriel present, they can fix the issue together, or at least that Gabriel is powerful enough to help him maintain control of Heaven while he continues looking for Jack. All in all, this episode felt like a true nostalgic Supernatural episode to the veteran fan.
While the plot was clearly related to the overall season problems, there were still smaller threads to follow, as well as serious issues interlaced with stunningly brilliant points of humor—Sam Winchester having an extensive array of hair products and Dean Winchester having tentacle porn under his bed (and after having been involved in an episode where literal tentacle monsters wanted to have sex with each other so bad that they tried to invade our universe to do so), Sam perpetually pulling his brainiac tricks by finding the apparently exact Medieval paintings of “Death/Reaper killings” he was thinking of five seconds ago, Dean not only knowing about The Butterfly Effect as a movie but admitting in the same breath that he liked it and that he’s watched other Ashton Kutcher movies (potentially all of them as he judges The Butterfly Effect to be Ashton’s “second best”), and Dean and Bernard duking it out to elevator music while a confused group of innocent bystanders wait awkwardly for the doors to close so they can go to their respective floors.
While the ominous bits, like Death reminding us through her reaper Jessica that she’s “always around,” bled through and at times dominated, the episode was nuanced and balanced enough to truly satisfy all of the diverse types of Supernatural fans out there. I for one cannot wait to see what the last four episodes have in store for us.