The Morning After
In the WFB writing team’s “Impressions of Supernatural Season 12” discussion a few weeks ago, I categorized the show this year as “mysterious and surprising”. True to form, episode 12.17 “British Invasion” was full of surprises. Some of the unexpected events and revelations were surprises to the characters, while others shocked the viewers.
It was gratifying to hear Mr. Ketch express the same observation after his tryst with Mary,
Ketch: Well that was unexpected. I must say when I first met you I didn’t see this coming…Life is full of surprises.
Mary: Ketch, you’re not reading anything into this, like it means anything?
Ketch: Oh, you really needn’t worry. Truth is, I’m not built for that and I suspect you aren’t either?
Mary: You’re wrong, but that was a long time ago. So we’re good.
So not only did Mary and Ketch surprisingly end up in bed together after a distinctly frosty start to their working relationship, but the psychotic killer got his feelings hurt by the mom who one might expect would be the more sentimental of the pair. Establishing Mr. Ketch’s soft side for Mary made his return to cold hearted executioner at the end of the episode even more stunning.
Prior episodes’ scripts foreshadowed that surprises were waiting to ambush both us and the characters in the story. We’ve been tracking hints in both word, i.e. use of the word “secret”, and deed, i.e. scenarios involving secrets. There have been secret rooms and passageways, characters who kept then revealed secrets to their friends and family, and myth arc secrets, such as the identities of the “old men” who run the British Men of Letters (BMoL). It is about surprises that I wish to focus because to me, they were at the heart of the “British Invasion”.
Rules aka The Code to Saving People and Hunting Things
Lucifer: I figured out the rules of the house…It’s your game, your rules, so I figure I can work with that.
We began tracking the Rules thread in episode 6 (“Asa Fox”). Since then it prominently appeared in episode 8 (“Rock Never Dies”), 9 (Billie and “First Blood”) and 10 (“Lily Sunder”). Its predictable climax was the clash between the opposing philosophies of the freewheeling, independent American hunting network and the militaristic British Men of Letters. "The British Invasion” poignantly depicted the extent of that divide. Dr. Hess spouted the propaganda that had been used to brainwash Mick as an isolated, desperate youth:
Dr. Hess: The Code is what separates us from the monsters. It is the order by which we all live.
Mick: No. The Code is what makes a young boy kill his best friend.
In one of the first shocks of the story, this code was the justification to force a child to murder another innocent, unarmed youth in cold blood.
Child Mick: He fought well. He didn’t want to die.
Headmistress: Yet the Code demands otherwise.
This sadistic act predicts that the BMoL will not hesitate to kill the Nephilim infant, preferably before it is born, thus also killing the pregnant mother. Beyond this obvious foreshadowing, though, the ruthlessness of demanding that one child kill another then standing by to wait for it to happen also implicates the British society as even more evil than we had imagined.
Headmistress Hess: This organization does important work. Work which allows millions of people to sleep safely in their beds at night. But in order to do this work, to protect those people, we need cadets who will employ their skills and execute orders without question.
Mick and Mr. Ketch have been quite vocal that the code demands all monsters be executed without mercy. This extreme was marginally defendable with the justification that humans were being protected and that the British Isles had been free of the fear of monsters for decades. Mary, Sam and Dean believe that monsters alone are in the society’s cross-hairs.
Even so, Mick’s code was already a point of contention with the Winchester code, which demands that they save as many people as possible, even those with a monster inside of them if that monster, power or evil can be controlled.
While the Winchesters are still in the dark, “The British Invasion” shattered even this minimal illusion of the BMoL’s moral justification to the viewers. The code has nothing to do with protecting life. Instead it is about protecting power – the power of the society over its members, and the power of the elite over the masses, whether they be hunters or civilians. If my theory about the leader of the BMoL’s “elders” is correct, it may also be about the power of monsters over the human race. Wednesday first noted the thread of power in season 12. Its purpose seems to now be coming into focus.
Twitter follower, @DRyzley, offered that the school’s motto, "Vis Unita Fortior" as seen in their emblem translates to “"Unity Breeds Power". My own research into translations revealed “Vis” means to wish for, or power; Unita is Unite; and Fortior is Powerful. Nothing in their emblem talks about safety, protection, sacred duty or anything else remotely altruistic. The British society is dedicated to power and control, far from the proud calling Henry Winchester believed was his destiny.
If Asmodeus is indeed the evil mastermind (i.e. Voldemort) that started and is directing the BMoL, perhaps his “hobby” is not only eliminating all monster threats to the human supply chain of souls but also to stand by and watch as humans order other humans to murder their own. Maybe his killing modus operandi is the sick voyeuristic pleasure of seeing how much evil he can infuse into people in the name of species cleansing. The Nazi storyline of “The One You’ve Been Waiting For” may have been our clue to this being true.
Is it possible we’ve already met Asmodeus? Could he be Dr. Hess? At the moment, I don’t think so. I see her as the embodiment of Dolores Umbridge working as an evil Death Eater under the orders of Voldermort. Granted, her introduction was ominous:
Timothy: What do you think she wants?
Michael (Child Mick): Nothing good.
She derives pleasure in forcing others to inflict pain. While she may be hiding behind the auspices of the BMoL organization, I don’t think she’s its leader. Someone even more soulless, literally, is behind a conspiracy on such a grand scale.
Dr. Hess: This Nephilim - Something big and bad is on its way Mr. Davies. We need the situation in the Americas settled, now.
The initial implication from her words is that the Nephilim is the “big and bad” thing that is on its way. She never actually said that though. Instead, her words of warning to Mick might foreshadow that something else big and bad is on its way.
Mick: Some time ago the home office recorded some kind of cosmic shock wave. Very rare, and after a few months…
Mick: you knew?
Dean: Yeah, we knew.
Mick describing the Nephilim as “a cosmic shock wave” may be a clue to us that his birth is the “cosmic” consequence that Billie warned would result from breaking the rules of a deal. Taking the theory one step further, maybe another cosmic battle between good and evil is on its way, with Asmodeus, who plans to ally with the Nephilim, Dagon and Lucifer on one side and humanity on the other. Perhaps humanity must again defend its right to exercise their free will, given to them by God, from ancient evils who wish to impose an apocalyptic fate upon them. The birth establishes the timeline on Lucifer’s rise to power, so the evil forces want the American threat to this plan “settled” quickly.
The Passage of Time
Dr. Hess: We don’t have time to court a handful of mangy colonials. Not anymore. So either Sam and Dean and the rest of their ill-bred lot learn to obey, or you turn them over to Mr. Ketch and start fresh. It’s an order. Assimilate or eliminate.
Another surprising twist to the BMoL storyline was Dr. Hess' order that all American hunters be killed. That makes no sense if you're trying to eliminate monsters, but it makes a lot of sense if your consider that Sam and Dean stopped Lucifer before (along with a long list of other worldwide calamities) so they pose the only threat to Asmodeus’ grand plan. Since Kelly looks close to her due date, their cooperation or elimination is now urgent. References to time were subtly woven into the episode through references to urgency, (now, quickly, out of time, etc). As so many other episodes in season 12, "The British Invasion" also used flashbacks to decades ago to show how deeply rooted the BMoL’s evil extended.
Grieving Moms and Violence Against Children
It seem the cruelty to children that was thrust upon us in “American Nightmare” was just a precursor to round two of such depravity, i.e. a child murdering another child that we saw in this story. The second shock of “British Invasion” was learning that it was Mick who killed his best friend, unarmed and pleading for his life. In “Ladies Drink Free”, Mick killed a young girl, but there were the mitigating circumstances of her having already turned into a werewolf and his reflexive strike being to defend his own life after she attacked him. That action shook him to his core, making him visibly tremble and question his righteousness. It also seems to have triggered recurring nightmares of his despicable act many years earlier. The power of the code over the BMoL’s army became clear in that one memory.
If we look at violence against children as a thread in and of itself, we could add the victimization of children by the ghost in “The Foundry”; the murder of Lily Sunder’s innocent young daughter and the naïve, broken Magda; and the werewolf attacks on young Asa Fox and Claire Novak (who we were reminded repeatedly was underage) to the list.
Clearly, all these stories are meant to numb us to the impending decision of whether an unborn child, or a newborn infant, should or can be murdered. Sam, Dean and Castiel have been debating this issue for several months, but given the death of Mick’s friend, I now fear the climax of this season may actually be a circle of people surrounding Kelly and her child. It’s going to come down to a mother protecting her baby.
Mick: You had her and you let her live?
Sam: She’d agreed to end the pregnancy, and I guess she changed her mind. Even with everything Kelly knew, it was still her kid. She couldn’t [kill it].
Mick: Then you should have. You should have shot her between the eyes immediately… The Code demands it.
Dean: Oh, the Code.
Mick: Do you have any idea what will happen if this abomination is born?
We didn’t actually see the Kendricks student die (I suspect due to the “code” that restricts such visuals in prime time, network television), so we probably will not actually see Lucifer’s child die, but the implication is clear. Once again, I’m very concerned that this “new” Supernatural will continue to push the “horror” aspects of its story.
Furthering the idea of corrupting, abusing and using children, it was also interesting to learn that Mick was a child on the streets, alone and desperate, when taken in by the BMoLs to learn the power of magic and spells. He was not from a legacy family. Rather, he was an orphan who didn’t have a home to return to for Christmas holidays. In contrast to the American model, this revealed that BMoL are thus not exclusively a passive, secret society that is passed from one generation of proud practitioners to another. Rather they are a secret society who recruit in the shadows and prey on those whose wills can be easily bent to their liking. This is not unlike any other terrorist organizations from the Nazis to present day Al-Qaeda.
Similarly, earlier this season we learned that Rowena was also a starving waif who turned to magic as the means to obtain personal dignity and defense against those who would use her. She sought another magical organization, the Loughlin family (12.11 “Regarding Dean”) as her refuge. Last week, Claire chose to hunt alone, making herself an attractive target for predators. The pattern of isolated children is there but its implications are unclear. Might the Nephilim also choose to abandon his parents and grow up an orphan? Will both his parents be killed, or one killed and the other sent to an eternal prison, thus making him effectively into an orphan? Is the point that children need to have something, either magical powers or powerful adults, to defend them against those who would exploit them? Claire was defended by Sam and Dean. The Foundry’s children were defended by Sam, Dean and Mary. We can expect that Sam at least will defend baby Luci. Sam has been exhibiting his independent will and opinion lately, doing what he thinks is right even if Dean disagrees, so that is a predictable split between them down the road. The outlier is Castiel. What is happening to him and which side will he choose?
In the mean time, Kelly was surprised to learn the truth about her fate:
Kelly: why are you doing this?
Dagon: Oh don’t even. I tried, but clearly you can’t be trusted.
Kelly: I was so worried about the baby. I was trying to protect him.
Dagon: Honey, you can’t. I mean you don’t need to. I wasn’t lying. Your baby’s strong, so strong. Whatever happens, he is going to be just fine. But you won’t…. birthing a nephilim? Fatal. Always.
Maybe this will change her reaction whenever she’s next confronted by hunters? It’s really too late now, though. The baby seems strong and large enough to survive and her fate seems to be sealed.
Mick: She killed a man of letters. She has to die.
Sam: It was an accident.
Mick: It doesn’t matter. The Code.
Dean: Hey, screw the Code. Mick, you don’t have to do this.
Mick: Yes, I do.
Sam: Mick, I know you guys have this MoL code that you blindly answer to but you don’t have to do that Mick. You’re better than that. You only have to answer to yourself. You only have to do what you know is right. You only have to answer to your own code.
Free will was a thread we tracked in early season 12, strongly present in episodes 1, 2 and 3. It appeared again in this episode, notably at the same time that Lady Bevel was reintroduced to the story.
Finding his conscience and exercising his free will to defy immoral orders from the BMoL was the redemptive moment for Mick Davies. The brothers had gotten through to him; he was convinced of their moral code. They were right and indiscriminate execution was wrong. Unfortunately, that redemption led to another big surprise in this episode.
Mr. Ketch, without warning or any obvious moral hesitation, shot Mick in the back of the head for his defiance.
Mick: When I was a child I had nothing. I owed you everything, and I obeyed. But I’m a man now Dr. Hess and I can see the choices and I choose to do the right thing.
Just as previously Sam and Dean “corrupted” Castiel by convincing him that free will was his right, and that blindly following immoral orders was wrong, Mick similarly defied his commander and broke ranks with fellow soldiers. Some fans commented that they expected Mick would die for being “corrupted” by free will, but having seen a glimmer of humanity in Mr. Ketch, plus his bonding moments with both Mary and Dean, I fully expected Mr. Ketch to defect and shoot Dr. Hess instead. I was completely shocked by Mick’s death. I really thought Ketch would be more of a man and less of an unthinking killing machine. I envisioned Mick, Ketch, Mary, Sam and Dean being allies fighting off the British invasion.
Good vs. Bad, Right vs. Wrong
Dean: Dude, don’t compliment the bad guys.
Good, Bad, Right, Wrong, Smart, Stupid (or synonyms) were used throughout “The British Invasion”. The moral high ground is still being debated within the characters’ actions and subtly in the narrative.
Dr. Hess: Hunters are dogs, Mr. Davies. You give them an order and they obey.
Although mentioned in several different places throughout the episode, the entire sequence in Hell heavily emphasized animals - puppy, “he is my dog”, “show time, Marmaduke”, “the beast has been humbled”, etc. It also hinted that maybe Crowley isn’t as blind to Lucifer’s betrayal as it seems:
Demon: After the system was installed, Crowley had Spivak killed to safeguard its secrets.
Lucifer: You can crack it, right?
Demon: Yeah, I just need some time.
That’s encouraging because Crowley is truly looking like a fool at the moment. Lucifer repeatedly underestimates Crowley’s intelligence, though, so there’s hope for a satisfactory outcome in this plotline. Alternately, Crowley has shown some signs of redemption and humanity this season. As Metatron, Gadreel, Mick and many other characters can attest, redemption usually leads to death. Do you think they would actually kill Crowley?
While still on the topic of killing off characters, now it’s bad luck to even be attracted to Sam? Eileen was kind to him, smiled a little bit more at him and clinked beer bottles with him so of course it looks like she’s now marked for death. No one mourns the passing of Mr. top-of-my-class Rawlings. He was the dolt who stood in the line of fire.
Now Eileen is going back to Ireland to regain her footing, unknowingly putting herself much closer to those who want her dead. That would be an extremely unwelcome end to her wonderful character (and I’m getting tired of the good people being killed!).
I’ve decided to save one additional surprise related to new canon from “British Invasion” for a separate discussion on the hints that have been dropped about season 13. Look for that article in a few weeks!
I enjoyed “British Invasion”, but I was painfully aware of how little time Sam and Dean were at the center of the story. I asked the WFBFamily to time the brothers’ screen time for me during rewatches. Reports ranged from 12 to 15 minutes (thank you to @PJaime08, @fiveto7 and @karenkitsn!) out of the presumably 42 minutes of show. If any of you would like to time prior episodes this season, I’ll keep track and perhaps do an article on it during hiatus. This season has had a number of personal life events for Jared and Jensen that we need to fully support as a fandom, but their absence seemed more noticeable than usual this week. Maybe I just miss them? Bro Hug Count for S12: Still Zero. Maybe season 12 will yet surprise us on that account too.
As the season draws to a close, these Threads reviews are getting longer and longer! Please take notes and share your thoughts on all the theories and threads I’ve presented, plus the ones I missed! Go!