The Morning After

Another great episode!
That’s four in a row!
Just 19 more to go!
I’m loving this show!

Season 13 is delivering everything I love about Supernatural.  Feelings, conversations, reactions, apologies, confusion, revelations - all of it is pure and honest. Writer Meredith Glynn did an outstanding job with “The Big Empty”. It was heartfelt and real, with emotion, suspense and excitement, plus it advanced the season’s stories in meaningful and significant ways. I don’t know if it was Castiel’s return, Dean’s breakthrough, Sam again voicing his feelings, or Jack’s warm smiles, but this episode seemed to have a renewed energy that I haven’t sensed in a long time in Supernatural. Jared and Jensen gave excellent performances as usual, but there seemed to be more intensity in their interactions, something unusual.

13.4 0198 Jack Happy

Their acting was matched by superb performances from Misha and Alexander, ratcheting virtually every scene up a notch in quality. There weren’t any filler scenes or low points in delivery.  As have the prior three episodes, “The Big Empty” also dealt with a second universe. It wasn’t the alternate reality this time but rather a new universe of nothingness. The season’s steady forward pace is keeping things interesting!

13.4 0079 Dean snark    13.4 0088 Sam

The season 13 writers have also mercifully avoided out of character, manufactured drama. The brothers have not been on the same page (like, at all), but they are talking to each other openly and honestly so the story’s conflict is coming from a place we can all understand  - the core of who Sam and Dean are as people, and how they are each processing crushing grief. Dean is honestly expressing how he feels to Sam, even if it’s been callous and hard to hear, and in the most welcome character development of the century, Sam is finally pushing back with his truth.

13.4 0152 Jack upset

Even Jack isn’t holding back. He’s immediately sharing his confusion, anger and doubts with Sam, who is responding by truthfully explaining his motivations.

13.4 0162 Sam jack talk

I wish all my parenting conversations were as wise and thoughtful as Sam’s. Jack also trusted the counselor with his grief and pain, and she in turn was able to help him find some closure.

Truth

13.4 292 SFO Mia

Ironically, this week’s shapeshifting monster emphasized facing the truth of who we each are as people. During my live tweet of the episode, I asked fans what they thought was the message from the shapeshifter at the center of the hunt. The responses are all insightful:

@BeetleGal27 Nature vs. Nurture

@Sn_chills Not all Monsters are bad.

@bardicvoice It’s not what you are that matters. It’s what you do – and why.

@abyers815 It was a way for Jack to see that while he might be a “monster” that doesn’t mean he has to act like one. He can still do good.

@GailZMartin I heard echoes of Famine with Dean, John’s death/Dean’s reaction, a monster who chose to be good and one who chose to be bad. Mirrors again.

@mbchrisross Maybe just that you can’t outrun your past?

@hollylilly22 When the monster tells you you are a dick, Dean is forced to look at his behavior

I agree with all these interpretations and I hope we talk about each extensively in the comments. The interpretation that spoke to me, though, was being true to yourself.

Mia: I know you guys are Hunters. But please, I am telling you the truth.

Jack reiterated the aura of truth surrounding the shifter when he confessed to her:

Sam and Dean aren't my real brothers. Sometimes we have to lie. I'm still trying to understand.

I was overjoyed with the truths spoken by all characters. Self-discovery and high emotional IQ in one episode? What did we do to deserve this?

Family and The Big Empty

First, Castiel!! What an outstanding performance by Misha! I was mesmerized by Black Goo Cas. It was amazing how Misha transformed his voice and facial expressions to portray a character so totally different from Castiel that even when standing face to face, their two distinct personalities made me forget they were the same actor.

13.4 272 SFO Cas2

Really superb acting. I hate to say this but I had the thought that Misha’s performance range expands when he is in his own scenes, away from the two mischievous co-stars who pride themselves on distracting him during his lines. For Misha, the Big Empty was a sound stage that gave him the solitude to explore his talent.

13.4 329 SFO Cas2

For Castiel, the Big Empty was less joyous. He was forced by that universe’s caretaker to relive his painful, humiliating deaths

Entity: Besides, you don't want to go back.

Cas: Yes, I do. Sam and Dean need me.

Entity: Oh, save it. I have tiptoed through all your little tulips. Your memories, your little feelings, yes. I know what you hate. I know who you love, what you fear. There is nothing for you back there.

Dean, Sam and Jack also had to face the big, black emptiness inside themselves that happens whenever someone loses their mom and someone they’ve called “brother”.  In a very tender scene, Jack admitted the loss he’s feeling, being robbed of a love he never knew:

Jack: My mother died when I was born. I never met her. This is all I have. And I just I need to see her, just once. 

Crumble into pieces! Once again Alexander Calvert drew us into Jack’s innocence and broke our hearts with his childlike yearning for the protection and love of a mother. Jack’s fast growth to his teen years allowed him to express a child’s lost maternal relationship, a loss Sam shares but never really talked about. Jack’s revelations also mirror Dean, though. They are both scared (“fear” thread) about feeling nothing:

Jack: I’m afraid.

Mia/Kelly: Why? Why are you afraid?

Jack: Sam thinks you were right, that -- that I'm good. He wants me to believe it, and I wanna believe it, too. It's just, I've hurt people. I didn't mean to. It was an accident. And I know I should feel bad, and I say I feel bad, but most of the time, I mostly I don't feel anything. And that's why I think maybe Maybe I'm a monster.

Mia/Kelly: Jack, it doesn't matter what you are. It matters what you do. And even monsters can do good in this world.

The feeling of being dead inside might be familiar to Dean but it’s terrifying to Jack, and rightly so. It’s a different emptiness from the feelings of loss.

10

We never really heard Sam talk about missing his mom, but finally he opened up:

Dean: My brother's delusional. He won't even admit that Mom's dead. Won't even admit it. Because if he admits it, then it's real. If it's real, then he has to deal with it, and he can't handle that.

Sam: Right, because this is so easy for you, huh?

Dean: No, it's not easy.

Sam: Yeah, but at least you had a relationship with Mom. I mean, who would she always call? Who did she look to for everything? You had something with her I never had. And now I'm just supposed to accept that I never will have it?

That’s not what I expected Sam to say. Powerful emotion that stems from his deepest, most private feelings. Sam’s mom was taken away from him for the second time before he got a chance to know her or feel her love. His emptiness is something he has lived with all his life, but this time is worse in that he lost something he so was close to having. Sam’s clinging to hope, largely I believe because Sam is the “there’s always a way” optimist. That’s just who he is. Deep down, he might also be remembering how Dean raked him over the coals for giving up on him so quickly when he disappeared. Sam accepted guilt (which infuriated many fans) for that decision so maybe the lesson of not leaving anyone behind sunk deep into his psyche. Dean didn’t have to make that choice since he didn’t watch his loved one disappear in front of his eyes.

13.4 0100 Dean angry

The first time he lost his mom she really was dead, so his emotional memory is telling him to get reacquainted with the gut wrenching loss he experienced as a child.

So what does this mean that your plan for bringing Mom back isn't working? 'Cause I'll say it again -- Mom's dead, Sam. Lucifer ripped out her freakin' heart. Now the sooner you can wrap your head around that, the sooner we can all move on.

Sam: So you're saying you want to move on, from Mom.

The reality he knew then almost extinguished the flame in Sam’s heart:  

Dean: What's up?

Sam: What if you're right? About Mom. What if she is dead, and I'm just in denial?

Dean: Don't say that.

Sam: What? You've been wanting me to admit that since it happened.

Dean: I know I have, but don't say that. I need you to keep the faith, for both of us. 'Cause right now, Right now, I don't believe in a damn thing.

Dean finally admitting that he’s empty was the breakthrough for which Sam (and fans) have been patiently (impatiently), empathetically (annoyed to no end) waiting. Thank goodness Angry!Dean is gone! He was wearing down my very generous understanding of his pain!  Sam and Jack were close to being considered for sainthood putting up with Dean’s outbursts! I’m SO happy to have big bro back again!

So the episode’s title referred to the emptiness inside all those who grieve but it also introduced us to the mysterious elephant’s graveyard for angels and demons. What is the Big Empty, literally?

Entity: before God and Amara, creation, destruction, Heaven, Hell, your precious little Earth, what was there?

Cas: Nothing.

Entity: Yes. That's right. Nothing. Nothing but Empty. And you are soaking in it. Angels and demons, you all come here when you die.

Cas: Every angel that ever died is here?

Entity: Yes, sleeping an endless peaceful sleep. You know, I was sleeping, too. Hey, uh, since we're pals, there's something I've gotta know. I've just gotta ask. Why are you awake? 'Cause fun fact -- in all of forever, nothing ever wakes up here. I mean, ever. Ever. And second fun fact -- when you woke up, I woke up, and I don't like being awake. So what's up, smart guy?

Cas: I don't know.

Entity: Well, think!

Cas: The Winchesters. Sam and Dean, they must've made a deal.

Entity: No. No, no, no. Not with me, and I'm -- I'm the only one that has any pull here. Not Heaven, not Hell, not G-O-D himself.

Outstanding! We finally get to see and learn about the place where Death promised to put Mark of Cain Dean so that he could never hurt anyone ever again!  So who is this new player?

13.4 0527 Goo

He’s not God or Amara since he refers to them as separate from himself. He’s not of Heaven or Hell either for the same reason. I’ve heard some theories that this is Death. Intriguing, but I don’t know. It sounds like this entity predates Death.

Cas: What are you?

Entity: Oh, I'm just your friendly neighborhood cosmic entity.

Cas: Why do you look like me?

Entity: Oh, yes. Yes, yes. Well, I show up in my real form, and you freak out, rip out your own eyes, et cetera.

 I think we’re dealing with something new. What do you think?

Part of the excitement of season 13 is that it is defining and exploring multiple universes. “The Big Empty” is a landmark episode. From now on, there is one more place in Sam and Dean’s story to which beings can be sent, from which they can escape, and importantly, from which they can be resurrected and rescued. I wonder where the writers might go with this. Speculation?

Maturity and Manners

13.4 490 SFO Bros

After one of the prior three episodes (I think the premiere actually), a commenter (please take credit if this was you!) observed that the story’s characters were saying please and thank you and apologizing to each other for misunderstandings or for bad behavior. I noticed this continued again last week but this week the apologies were truly important to the storyline.

Dean: You did good today, Jack. [to Sam] Listen, man, back at Mia's, I was out of line. I'm sorry for being a a dick lately.

Sam: Thanks.

Dean: And maybe you're right, about the kid. I mean, he tries. I'll give him that. And he tapped his powers, saved our ass, so that's a win.

Was this the climactic conclusion of the boys’ sudden bout with manners and maturity? I hope not. I like the grown-up version of Sam and Dean.

Good vs. Bad/Evil, Right vs. Wrong

Again, there are far too many occurrences of the words good, bad and right to list them all, but listen for them. Here are three of the most significant examples:

Sam: He’s a good kid…

Jack: You kill monsters because you’re the good guys...

Sam: Jack, I really think this would be good for you. You know, maybe a change of scenery might –

Jack: Get my powers working again?

Sam: Yeah, maybe.

Jack: So I can be your interdimensional can opener? You're using me.

Sam: Jack when you were born, it ripped a hole in reality. Like a like a door from this world to another, to a really bad, bad place. So Dean and Cas and I, we closed that door. But our mom, Mary, she's trapped on the other side. If we can get your powers back, maybe we can open that door up. Maybe…

Jack: You wanna save her.

Sam: Yeah. Yeah, I do. But if this doesn't work, if that can't happen, that's okay, because I do care about you. But I should've told you. I'm sorry.

The little old lady victim chimed in too:

 Hello? Hello! Hello? Hello! Roadside Assistance.  May I help you?

Sad Victim: I blew a tire, out on Route 19.

Helpful Voice: Okay, no problem. We'll get someone right out there.

[later] Sam: Thank you.

Dean: Well? Get anything?

Sam: Yeah, cops found the victim, Gloria Simon, about an hour ago. Something ripped her apart.

Then this seemingly insignificant introduction at the doctor’s office used almost every episode theme and thread we’re tracking: 

Guy: Hello? Can I help you?

Sam: Yeah, we're hoping to see the doctor.

Guy: Oh, I'm sorry. You caught us right at the end of our day. Maybe tomorrow.

Dean: No, today's good. Like right now.

Sam: He -- Uh, we just need a moment of her time.

Guy: You've lost someone recently?

Dean: No.

Jack: My mother.

Sam: Our mother.

Sam’s hope, Dean’s refusal to deal with the deaths he should be grieving, Sam and Jack missing their moms, polite manners, good and right, and family! Nice writing Meredith! [post-note: Superb observation in the comments that's absolutely worth reading about the words Hello and Goodbye! Now that I'm looking for those words, they are EVERYWHERE in the episode! I'm really impressed Meredith!]

Saving People

Entity: Come on, Castiel! Wouldn't you rather be a fond memory than a constant, festering disappointment? Just let's lay down. Let's just try and sleep. Think about it. Infinite peace, yes? No regrets. No pain. Kiddo, save yourself.

Cas: I'm already saved.

Jack learned that Sam wants to save Mary so it was significant to have Cas say that he was already saved. Jack saved, or rather gave Cas back, his life, just as Jack saved Sam and Dean’s lives. He doesn’t yet know it, but he is a hero!

Jack

This is the second episode this season where Dean has used “Jack” as an expression for something else. The first time I believe was “we ain’t got Jack” (or something like that) to express nothingness. Now Dean’s referring to a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey, where he gets lost in drinking.

I'm good, actually. With death, closure, whole freakin' bottle of Jack.

Did I miss a “Jack” saying in the other two season 13 eps? Let me know because these are standing out to me now. Do you think they’re symbolic or just an old saying of Dean’s?

Ripping out our Hearts

Listen/watch for how many times the word “ripped” is used. I’ve highlighted a few examples above. I wonder if it means something beyond this episode. Have you heard it earlier in the season? Watch for it in the coming weeks.  

New Rules

Earlier in the season, we noted that canon was being rewritten or ignored when demons died with white light instead of red, and a Prince of Hell demon could shape shift. In this episode, shapeshifters can take on another's form without touching them. Are these anomalies or mistakes? I think Dean may have given us our answer:

I mean, a ghost that won't show up on EMF? Doesn't make any sense.Yeah, well, what does these days? You know, I mean, we've got portals to apocalyptic worlds. We've got, uh, shape-shifting demons. Dealing with a whole new set of tiddlywinks. I say we just do what we do.

It’s possible that through Dean the writers just told us that everything is fair game now. They aren’t going to be limited by 12 years of canon. “There’s a new sheriff in town” and he’s making the rules now! Asmodeus said as much before but Dean said it a little louder for fans who didn’t hear it the first time!

Curiosities

  • Two online fans pointed out the significance of Castiel’s wardrobe:

13.4 Cas wardrobe fr Tw

(Image from the Twitter conversation)

@tabykislanov “I noticed Cas using the blue tie when he woke up [in the field at the end of the episode]. Does that mean something about this “version” of him? Is this Cas number 1?”

@DoctorZac77 “Complete original outfit, including the longer trench coat. In the empty, they both have striped tie and shorter trench. I think they also had black pants. Final pants were blue”

Meaning, anyone?

  • I heard one mention of the Animals Thread - “I missed you Baby Bear.” [post note: many more animal references mentioned in comments]
  • There was one more plug for Scooby! “Looney Tunes” is a Warner Bros animated cartoon, just like Scooby!

As far as the opening poem, that just popped out of my head. I never claimed to be a poet. You give it a try! As you have undoubtedly surmised, I need and use many more words to review Supernatural! There’s just so much to say! Now it’s your turn! What did you think of “The Big Empty” and the threads it contained? 

 

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