The Morning After
Supernatural episode 13.6, “Tombstone”, was a fun monster-of-the-week episode, meant to mirror the lightened mood in the bunker now that Cas is back. Dean particularly was all smiles, his inner fanboy squeeng over old west gunslingers and mementos. Is there an Old West theme park? Sam needs to take Dean there for their next vacation!
For most of the story, Jack was also feeling particularly happy.
He was so proud of himself for finding a case and knowing what zombies were! He was the small archangel child who couldn’t wait until his parents got home from work to show them that he had mastered his levitation homework!
(I love this freeze frame. Every facial expression perfectly conveys their different reactions to Jack's growing powers. )
Jack's self-confidence and buoyancy were adorable (I seem to use the word a lot to describe Jack!). After five weeks of heavy themes like death, grief, abandonment and loss, the levity in this hunt was supposed to signal that brighter times were ahead.
I don't think the writers intended for us to take this episode too seriously. It was meant to be fun after all. The “Wild Bill Suite” was a riot! That set was fantastic! Stirrup hangers! I might have to do another “Motel” Review just to highlight that room! There were a few epic lines in the episode also, like this one:
“Two salty hunters, one half-angel kid, and a dude who just came back from the dead. Again. Team Free Will 2.0.”
Best quote of the episode and surely a classic line for the series!
Then that slow motion shot of Dean in snake skin boots, bolo tie and cowboy hat.
Despite the humorous underpinnings of the episode, the story had serious components. For the second time this season (that I remember), a monster boyfriend got controlling and physically abusive with his girl. If there’s a message there, I haven’t yet figured it out. Then just as Athena’s innocence was lost to the truth, tragedy robbed Jack of his innocence. I commented during the show that “Cas warmed our hearts, Sam and Dean stole our hearts, but Jack broke our hearts.” I absolutely hated that Jack’s enthusiastic attempt to be helpful ended in the death of an innocent.
Levity aside, a few things in the story didn’t hold up under close scrutiny. For example, Jack said he couldn’t “even do one good thing”, but he failed to acknowledge bringing back his father from the Empty? No one interrupted him with “How about you brought Cas back to life!”? That was slightly irritating. Also, Jack didn’t need to knock his friends over/out before disappearing. They had no way to stop him. So that last scene was a bit contrived to shoehorn in the necessity of Jack leaving the story for a while. It wasn’t quite as annoying as Mary’s abrupt “I have to leave” departure last season, but it almost hit that level of “Really?”
Tombstone (Title Thread)
Appropriately, the title of this week’s episode seems to be as obvious and straightforward as the story itself. The word “Tombstone” immediately brings to mind images of the old west, gun slingers, bank robbers who cover their face with bandanas, and sheriffs who settle scores through show downs rather than the law. Yes, there is probably a layered reference to the fact that the ghoul was a grave robber who made tombstones the unnecessary guardians of empty plots, but digging deep doesn’t reveal any new graveyard secrets here. Am I missing something? (There’s actually a Dodge City, Kansas??)
Unfortunately, my engagement with “Tombstone” was as superficial as its name, shallow as the grave Sam hopped into looking for bones. Last week’s heart stopping scene of finally finding Castiel was such an emotional cliff hanger! It left us dangling, waiting for act two to complete the drama of a reunion we’d anticipated for six months!
THAT should have been where the story began this week! We were all left standing on that dark street, just out of view in the shadows, watching Sam and Dean absorb the sight of their resurrected best friend. Instead, the collective breath we had been holding since last week was exhaled and lost forever when we were forced to sit through an opening scene of a cold graveyard, a dirty hand, a dumbfounded sheriff-of-the-week and a dispassionate Dean.
What?? I don’t care about some trite, grimy monster right now! I don’t want a funny Dean! I want a Dean whose heart is in knots, a Sam whose mind has gone blank, and a Castiel who’s home again. I want hugs, and explanations and Team Free Will! UGH! The momentum of that moment was wasted when we jumped ahead with a “48 hours later” scenario. Once we were taken back to that supposedly joyous reunion, it fell flat for me. None of the three boys seemed that engaged. I asked other fans online and they said they felt it too. Sam didn’t “even know what to say”?
The guy who always knew exactly what to say to Jack to make him believe, and trust, and hope is at a loss for words? (Aside, I vaguely recall a prior dialog of “I don’t know what to say” and Dean saying “well I do” in an earlier episode. Does anyone else remember that?)
I didn’t sense any intensity between Dean and Cas either. I am not a Destieler but I’ve felt more chemistry between them when they were fighting each other to the death!
Is it because the timing was wrong and we were all suffering from the awkwardness of “huggus interruptus”? Was it because the entirety of that scene was released in the sneak peek trailer beforehand? It teased a grand scene but that was all there was – nothing more. I honestly don’t know. I just know something felt off. The following scene when Jack finally met his “Father” also seemed emotionless, at least at first.
What the H-E-double toothpicks?
To be fair, Castiel later seemed to connect a bit more with Jack, a moment I chose as the title image of this review but I wouldn't have expected a delay - or such a passive introduction. How did these scenes work for you? After season's 13's phenomenal emotional rebound, I am suspicious of the blandness of these scenes. In fact, everything about Castiel felt off during the entire case, and maybe that’s the point. Is this really Castiel?
Sleep… and Nothing
Curiously, sleep was used as comic relief in the episode in which Castiel returned from his “eternal sleep”.
Jack: You can have the couch if you want. I don't sleep much.Cas: I don't sleep at all.
Cas: I told you. He’s an angry sleeper. Like a bear.
Sleep was extremely important to the Empty Entity. In fact, it was his entire existence, so its emphasis here is rather suspicious.
Also, curiously, the word “nothing” was repeated four times in the script.
Sam: Where were you? In Heaven?
Cas: No. No, I was in the Empty…Apparently, it's where angels and demons go when they die.
Sam: What was it like?
Castiel: Well, it's dark and nothing. It's like nothing. I was sleeping, and then I heard a voice that said my name, and I woke up.
Sam used “nothing” to deflect Dean’s challenge about his improved mood (copied below), and when Sam jumped into the grave, he said, “Here goes nothing.” Sleep and nothing were each only mentioned four times so maybe it’s nothing : ) but there are more subtle references to the mysterious cosmic entity.
Is it real or is it Memorex?
(Google it if you don’t know that reference)
After the “ancient cosmic being” read Cas’ mind, I have been convinced that the entity decided to take Earth for a test drive, leaving the real Cas in the Empty, alone. I have viewed everything Castiel has done since he’s returned to Earth through that lens. Alice, on the other hand, is convinced that the real Cas came back. A third possibility is that the real Cas came back but is changed somehow. Let’s look at the evidence.
Cas spoke lovingly of Kelly, as if he truly felt the admiration he professed, and his encouraging words to Jack about being proud of him sounded sincere. That whole conversation was very convincing, in fact.
Jack: And then there were these angels and they tried to kill me, but I thought angels were good?
Cas: Well, in Heaven, good is a relative turn.
Jack: What's it like? Heaven?
Cas: Well, that depends.
Jack: But it's nice?
Cas: It can be.
Jack: That's good. My mother's in Heaven.
Cas: Yeah, I know she is. Kelly was - She was a very brave woman.
Jack: She left me a message. She said I had an angel watching over me.
Cas: Jack, I'm so sorry. I should've been here for you.
Jack: No. It's okay. It's just I understand why she trusted you. Why I trusted you.
Cas: You remember that?
Jack: I remember feeling safe.
Cas: Jack, your mother, she believed that you would do amazing things. She said that you would change the world for the better. And now, looking at you, talking to you, I know that she was right, that we were right. Kelly would be so proud of you.
Cas examined his wardrobe when he landed in the Twilight meadow. He’s worn basically the same thing every day for 9 years! He was wearing those clothes in the Empty. Why would he be surprised by what he was wearing? Cas also soaked in the heat and light of the sun as if it was the first time he had felt it.
Cas' emotions were all wrong in the reunions with Sam, Dean and Jack.
I think seeing Jack for the first time especially would have elicited a smile or a tighter embrace of the being he believes is the second savior.
The Empty’s Entity said he loved to sleep, then by coincidence the first episode after Castiel’s return features dialog and scenes of sleeping? Cas really looked disappointed when he told Jack he doesn’t “sleep at all”.
The “pep talk” in the Impala to Jack was also weird. Cas has killed people he loved? Can you help me out here and list those off for me? Was he simply referring to his “brother and sister” angels? Notice Sam’s reaction to Castiel’s pep talk. It’s as if Sam thought it odd too. Gail and a few other fans online (that I saw) theorized that Sam was remembering his own “mistakes” when Cas brought up regret. One of Sam’s ghosts that was specifically mentioned was DemonBloodSam killing that nurse. Maybe, but Sam’s other reactions to Castiel’s reappearance seem reserved or concerned, as well.
No, I don’t chalk this up to writers not giving Sam a voice. Instead, I’m keying in on Sam. He didn’t immediately welcome Castiel back when they first saw each other again, and it seemed like Sam was holding back a concern when he told Dean he was happy he felt better.
Sam: Still can't believe you brought your own hat.
Dean: Well, I can't believe you didn't.
Sam: You're in a good mood, huh?
Dean: Yeah. And?
Sam: Nothing. No, no, I, uh you've been having a rough go, so it's good to see you smile.
Dean: Well, I said I needed a big win. We got Cass back. That's a pretty damn big win.
Sam: Yeah. Fair enough.
“Fair enough” is Sam’s reaction to “Cas is back”? That’s Sam’s smart mind spinning and cautious Sam talking. I think Sam is wondering, watching and waiting.
Later, I think Dean came right out and told us that wasn’t the real Cas:
Can I just say I'm getting real sick and tired of fighting things that look like other things?
Entity or Changed Cas
Why couldn’t Cas heal the guard? One theory was because the injury was caused by Jack’s powers but that doesn’t hold up. The guard died from blunt force trauma to the head, regardless of who blew the wind that pushed him against that pole. Was it because the guard was already dead and weakened Cas can’t bring people back to life? That’s plausible. Entity Cas might also have had enough cosmic power to resurrect a dead human but we don’t know that for sure. Maybe his powers don’t work at all outside the Empty. So this incident doesn’t really tip the scales one way or another.
My instinct is that we weren’t watching the real Castiel… but then I think of those convincing conversations and I’m unsure again. What do you think? Either way, we’re going to track this again next week!
So I guess ghouls can now tunnel through the earth as easily as moles? We’ve never seen that before. I believe they’ve always lived out in the open, ala Dave, who must have had enough normalcy surrounding his life to keep his girlfriend from being suspicious, or, in days gone by, Adam and Kate Milligan who seemed to inhabit the home of their namesakes.
We also learned that the archangel half of Jack reduces the amount of sleep he needs, and that he learns really fast! He picked up all of Sam and Dean's computer hacking skills just from watching them?
I have this image of the writers adding pages to a giant binder of "Supernatural beings" lore that they keep in their conference room!
Believing the Truth
Season 13 has included a small but steady thread of believing in things or people. Of course, the story for a while revolved around the conflicting opinions of Team Free Will, i.e. Castiel’s belief that Jack is the redeemer, Sam’s belief that Jack is a good kid with great powers, and Dean’s belief that Jack is a monster. Jack has won over Dean so it seems no one is worried about Jack’s intentions anymore. I never was, but Dean’s conversion makes me think they’re setting us up for a fall... NO, I can’t believe Jack is ever going to be anything but good!
I was especially interested in Jack talking about trust, and Sam, Dean and Castiel each mentioning lies:
Castiel: Jack, I've killed people who didn't deserve it my friends -- I've killed people I loved. I wish I could tell you that it -- that it gets easier, that with time, it hurts less, but that would be a lie because it -- it never gets easier. And those moments, they never stop hurting. But that doesn't mean that you should stop fighting. Doesn't mean that just because you made a mistake -- and that's what this is, Jack. It's a mistake. That doesn't mean that you can't -- can't be better, do better. I believe that. I have to believe that.
Sam: And we still believe in you, Jack.
If belief refers to Jack, I propose that lies refers to Castiel. Maybe? No?
Castiel's speech also eluded to the Mental Health thread documented last week. People make mistakes, sometimes serious mistakes, but "that doesn't mean that you should stop fighting", i.e. always keep fighting. He assured Jack you can always do better. Wise advice from someone who wrote the book on trying again after serious misjudgments. Too bad Jack didn't listen to him.
Good, Right and Manners
Yes, those threads are all still prevalent throughout the script! “Hello”, “thank you” and “sorry” opened and closed several conversations. Do you think that’s just the result of some corporate WB memo that said “have your characters all be more polite, please.”?
Wild Bill’s suite was full of animal heads and portraits. There was a beautiful mural of a trio of horses on the wall. There was also a cowboy and his horse painting outside the bank.
The “sleeps like a bear” line was blatant. Let’s go with them giving a nod to the animal thread rather than any other possible interpretation of Dean as a bear, shall we?
I wasn’t overwhelmingly in love with the episode in the same way I gushed about the past several this season. Still, it was original, and light for the most part. I liked the guest actor Eric Schweig, "Sarge" (kudos for season 13's continued emphasis on diversity), and there were several really funny moments. Maybe I'm just looking for meaning where there is none, and I should accept a monster of the week story at face value. I’ll just have to overlook the emotional dampening relapse, and the loss of Jack. I’m keeping my eye on that Castiel fellow, though. I’m still not sure I trust him.
Additional Screencaps courtesy of: http://www.homeofthenutty.com/supernatural/