The imagery of constraint plays heavily into the story of “Our Little World.” Chains, jail cells, handcuffs, and a cage visually cue us.

Dig beneath these images, however, and one can see a very clear debate about constraint being painted: when to rebel, when to find comfort in it, and to know the difference. They are a reason to test boundaries, to grow beyond them, and to overthrow those that keep us shackled. Other times, it can be a structure that we can rely upon when everything else has failed or is falling apart around us. Constraints can come from outside and from within. We see this debate laced through every single character and the principle stories of the episode---and by examining them, we can truly learn the motivations of each.

spn1106 0074
In the beginning, we see a pair of teenage girls lay out the crux of the argument quite plainly. One girl is out, eating food she's not supposed to, and griping about the dating rules imposed upon her by her parents. She quips, “Hi, I'm Goldie, I'm only romantically available from June to August, but want to go steady?” The other girl sympathizes, but as soon as her phone chimes that her curfew has arrived, she makes her way home. She states, “Look, I hate my parents, too, Goldie, they suck, but I got a curfew.” One of these girls rebels, pushing far beyond the constraints placed upon her while the other seems almost comforted by the fact that they're there and will not buck them regardless of how irritating or unfair they may seem.

This conversation is illustrated over and over again through the episode. First and foremost, it appears in Crowley and Amara's relationship. Their debate about constraints turns violent quickly. Amara, returning from stealing the soul from one of those girls, finds the King of Hell waiting. He is not pleased by this, and shows his strength and power over her by using his telekinesis on her. Much like the parents these girls were avoiding, Crowley lays down his new ground rules. He tells her, “Actions have consequences around here, Amara. You've had the run of the court and seen what you've made of it. Believe me, this is going to hurt me way more than it hurts you. I'm sorry, my dear. You're grounded. You're strong, but you need to remember, I'm stronger.”

spn1106 0225
Crowley wants to train Amara in the structure of the Natural Order. It is what constrains him and he wants her to fall into line with it so her presence and power will be an asset to him and not a hindrance. He has tried to teach her about everything, the Dante order of the universe, and how best to go about in the world without drawing attention. The current system favors him and he enjoys being at the top of one of the Dante realms. Having Amara in his corner would be a boon to his business---and more importantly, keep her from turning her vast power on him. Ever the survivalist, he needs to win her over to his side of thinking---even if it means imposing some constraints upon her along the way.

Amara, being outside that structure, does not agree with his tactics, and does not want to simply find a way to wedge herself into the Natural Order. Instead, she seems interested in rearranging it, in possibly destroying it, and on replacing it with something of her own design---whatever that may be. But she's not strong enough just yet to stand against Crowley---evidenced by his ability to pin her down with his power alone. His imposed rules and regulations, his constraints on her now physically, and his insistence that she somehow shoehorn herself into the current Natural Order makes Amara bristle. She wants to rebel now more than ever, and she retorts, “For now.”

The debate is certainly set, then, as these two have vastly different world views.

spn1106 1158
Furthermore, Crowley's not only constrained by the Natural Order he belongs, but by time itself. He can only teach Amara what he wants to teach her and he can only rely on his own power to overwhelm her for so long. He tells her, “You have tremendous power and soon you'll have even more. But I have something you lack... wisdom, experience. I helped put Lucifer back in his Cage. I rose through the ranks of Hell, defeated all comers to claim the throne. And a few minor set backs aside, I'm still here. I don't know how to impart what I've learned to you, how to teach you. At the rate that you're growing I'll probably never get the chance to figure it out. Perhaps you don't need my tutelage, but I believe deep down in my gut I have something to offer you, if you just give me a chance,” but when she presses him for what he really wants from her, he simply replies, “Time.” Amara has grown so fast and has increased in power so quickly that there's no question that Crowley will have to move fast if he has any hope of her being an ally and for him to truly understand what it is she wants from the world.

Patience is not one of Amara's virtues, however. She will not idly sit back and let him “protect” her while she lives by his rules. She may acquiesce to that demand at first, but it is clear that her rebellion against Crowley's restraints have just begun. As comforting as being a part of the Natural Order is for Crowley, she will not be forced into its construct and she will not allow him to control her for much longer. So far, he has simply been a means to an end---a stepping stone along her path to understanding what God has built so she can replace it.

It makes sense. Considering that the Darkness was locked away for billions of years by God, Amara has no desire to go from one cage into another. Amara did not come to the world after her release simply to be placed on house arrest, grounded like a child. It is only a matter of time before she will rebel---perhaps do far worse to the King of Hell.

spn1106 1896
Crowley, throwing off his own constraint to not kill Dean, snarls, “Do you know how disturbing it was to realize that I couldn't bring myself to kill you? I've had tons of chances over the years, some you don't even know about, but... Still, I made peace with it. Embraced my softer side, learned to accept that there was just too much going on between you and I -- Bromance. But you know what? I think I am gonna kill you today. I feel different somehow, ready. What can I say? Fatherhood changes a man. ”

As he makes his move to finally kill Dean, Amara shows her own strength by forcing Crowley against the wall and extracting her own demands from him. She tells him coolly, “I don't need your protection and I certainly don't need your captivity.”

Dean Winchester's arrival into her room is clearly the moment Amara's been waiting for. Whether she believes he's there as her ally or not matters not at all. She sees his appearance as a distraction and an opportunity to overthrow Crowley's yoke. While they dispute what will happen to Dean and what it means about her accepting his earlier terms, Amara shows her rebellion against his constraint in a power play that leaves Crowley with no doubt: he's lost any hold he may have had on her.

While Crowley found constraints to be comforting, Amara found them restrictive. She wanted nothing to do with them, and for her they serve no purpose. There's no reason to adhere to God's rules. The Natural Order is not her order. She is outside it and she will not allow anyone to restrict her to its structure. And yet, her own constraints comfort her. She's bound to the elder Winchester by the Mark, and she seems to find that a comforting thought. She tells him, “Tell me what is happening here, between us? You save me, I save you. Why? You were the first thing I saw when I was freed, and it had been so long. Maybe that's it. My first experience of His creation. You can't help but represent that for me, the sweet triumph and the even sweeter folly of what He's wrought. There's no fighting it. I'm fascinated.”

spn1106 2522
When faced with another intrusion, this time from Sam, she shows that she will rebel against even that constraint. Amara has no qualms about using her power on Sam---a mistake that she does not fully comprehend at this stage---and then using that same strength on Dean himself. For all the talk that they are bound to one another and that they will always help each other, she's made it clear that she will buck that rule as she will any other.

But what about Castiel and Metatron's version of this argument? What does their struggle say about constraints, rebellion, and comfort?

Castiel, still recovering from Rowena's spell, has holed up in the Bunker. He's glued himself to Netflix and then general television, watching mindlessly almost anything that comes onto the screen. He's cocooned himself in bed, the surroundings messy and cluttered with evidence of his binge watching marathons. He's finding comfort in constraining himself to this room, to the Bunker, and to avoiding the reality that waits outside the door.

Our little world 130
After all, the spell that Rowena used has had some unforeseen side effects. The angel, pushed to try going outside by Dean, is assaulted by memories of violent attacks he committed while under the spell. He committed brutal violence, and Castiel fears that it will raise its head yet again and force him to commit more. It is the last thing Castiel wants to do, and so he retreats again. He'll watch vapidly stories about dogs on skateboards---anything inane really---to keep him from thinking about what might be pulling on him inside.

While watching television, however, Castiel comes upon Metatron's image in a grisly news story. He's the camera man, caught in a reflection on a car mirror. The story tells him exactly what town, and it isn't hard to track the former Scribe now turned human down to another gruesome scene. Metatron is stunned, demanding to know how Castiel finally tracked him down. He tells Metatron, “Same way you found him. Scoured the police scanners, got ahead of the authorities.”

Metatron is just as constrained as Castiel is. While Castiel found comfort in imposing his own lock down, avoiding situations to exact violence, Metatron has been rebelling against his own existence. His new found humanity has been a nightmare for him. He boasts at first, “I am in it to win it. I was at zero when you took my grace---hiding from angels, not a cent to my name. But I found my calling and I pulled myself up by my bootstraps and started a business. And you know, my story it's just beginning.” It's clear that this can't be true. Metatron's cockiness is all bravado to hide the fact that he's been rendered virtually powerless and as such has become a scavenging vulture on human suffering.

He may be human, but it doesn't mean he has to be sympathetic to others---evidenced by his cruel comments to the dying man, “Oh come on! I'm sorry, buddy. You live, there's no story.” Instead, he's hiding out, living as a bottom feeder until he can possibly hatch a new scheme to rise to power and reclaim his grace. Grace is something else he's also constrained by---and rebels against mightily. He knows that he can't steal another angel's to restore his power. It'll only lead to him being sick and dying and as he can't muster enough strength to stand against any angel to steal it, he will have to settle for his current human state.

spn1106 2057
That doesn't mean, however, that he doesn't see through Castiel's attempts to be comforted by his self imposed constraints. Metatron can clearly see that Castiel isn't fighting him for a reason. When Castiel points out to him that he's human and can be easily overpowered by an angel, Metatron retorts, “You think I didn't notice? You are broken, Castiel. You were always a bit of a nancy, but this, you have gone full wuss. Now, I don't know what it was that happened, but whatever it was, you are scarred, deep, paralyzed by trauma, by fear. Look at you! You can't even hit me!”

Pointing this constraint out to Castiel backfires on the Scribe. The angel may have been avoiding violence on purpose to not trigger any lingering effects of Rowena's spell, but he also won't be pushed around by Metatron, either. Castiel does punch Metatron viciously---demanding over and over any information on just who and what the Darkness really is. Since he's fully angel, his punches will deliver a wallop that will make Metatron relent.

spn1106 2200
And yet, Metatron continues to goad Castiel. He wants to break free of the human body he's locked into. He wants the “indignities” it provides to stop. Doing things like making his rent, like charging his phone, and the hemorrhoids are all the injustices he endures while stuck this way. If Metatron can force Castiel to snap, he'll manage to end his suffering. But that'd be too easy. Rebelling against the constraint Metatron tries to push on him, Castiel states, “You were right, Metatron. I am sick of having my strings pulled which is why I won't let you manipulate me into letting you off easy.”

Realizing that this means Castiel will choose to spare him rather than kill him---thus rejecting the easy option for the Scribe, Metatron admits, “The truth would make the Bible thumpers' heads explode. I mean, they want their God to be a finger-snapping all-powerful creator. They want magic, Mary Poppins. But what he did... Creation. That took work, took sacrifice. In order to create the world, God had to give up the only thing He'd ever known. He had to betray and sacrifice His only kin. The Darkness -- His sister.”

Sparing Metatron makes certain that the Scribe will suffer for what he's done far longer and for far worse than anything they could have dreamed for him in Heaven's jail. Castiel's decision coincides visually with Sam's decision to not kill the remaining demons as well, illustrating his clear choice not only to not let Metatron push him around, but to also rebel against the inner trauma he's resisted all episode. Thusly, Castiel has decided to no longer let it constrain him.

But what about Sam and Dean's portion of the story? How do they reflect this debate between rebelling or finding comfort in constraint? How do they answer the question when should you rebel and when should you find comfort? How does it show them championing the Natural Order, adhering to the premise of “saving people, and therefore preserving “our little world” from things such as Amara?

They are still in Fall River, cleaning up a few loose ends and learning about some new developments. The soulless man, Len, the one that they spared after he turned himself into the authorities has been found dead in jail. The brothers are shocked by this turn of events---until they're on scene and can clearly smell just who did the killings---demons. Dean asks, “Why would a demon order a hit on a guy with no soul? It's like a cracker jack with no prize.” Seeing yet another of Amara's soulless victims being hauled into the jail, they prepare to set a trap for the next assassination attempt. It may be their only lead into tracking her down---and figuring out Amara's next move.

spn1106 0765
It works, and they set out to question the demon extensively about what Crowley is doing with Amara and with these soulless people. They want to know just what is happening. The way to get that out of their demon is to torture him---or so Dean thinks. It's in how he gestures with the demon killing blade, and the stance he takes hovering over him. Even the demon knows where this will lead---retorting, “Torture me if you want. I know you'll just kill me anyway.”

This is how Sam and Dean have behaved for a number of years now. Rather than trying to save those possessed by demons and perhaps returning them to a normal life, the brothers have left host bodies behind, killed by either angel or demon killing blade. It became an easy way to handle their confrontations with demons---making quick work of their opponents and getting them to what they wanted or needed at any given time. This type of behavior, however, must now be curbed. If the Winchesters are truly going to try and return to “saving people” they must make a serious attempt at not simply going for the easy answer.

It is making these types of difficult decisions that in the long run will allow Sam and Dean to reclaim their original mission of “saving people, hunting things, family business,” and to preserve the Natural Order from the dismantling Amara intends. By choosing to do things a bit differently---to not go in for the quick kill, and by attempting to ask questions first, Sam and Dean are also reclaiming their true hero status. Constraint here, then, is a good thing required of them.

spn1106 0809
Sam states, “We can exorcise him---save his meat suit.”

Dean, prepared to kill the demon, is caught off guard by his brother's request. And yet, he yields. Typically Dean wants to kill first and ask questions later, but he has gone along with Sam's “new rules” since the start of the season. It shows a commitment to the new constraints Sam wants to place upon them---and that Dean isn't going to outright rebel against them, either. Unfortunately, the meat suit in question has been damaged beyond hope. To exorcise this demon may make the person inside unduly suffer. Sam grudgingly gives Dean the go ahead, and Dean kills him.

While the demon himself didn't yield much information, his phone certainly did, and the Winchesters finally discover Crowley's earth hide out. If he's indeed holding Amara there, then that's where they'll go to kill her. Sam is hesitant about this plan, knowing that it is dangerous at best and reckless at worst. He tells Dean, “We're going in to kill Amara. Are you ready for that? Because we don't know the first thing about her, Dean. We don't know her powers, we don't know how to take her down. Hell, we don't even know if she can be killed.”

spn1106 1123
Knowing that she's there and that she's perhaps not hit full strength, however, Dean knows they must at least try now while they still can. He tells Sam, “But she's too big of a threat to wait. I say we go in there and hit her with everything we've got.”

While Dean was willing to yield earlier on the demon, he will not here. After all, the Darkness threatens everything and if they can stop her here and now, they've done the right thing. It's his way of perhaps accepting Sam's new rules---new constraints---while tackling their newest and biggest challenge at the moment head on.

Besides, part of Dean's drive may be a constraint he would much rather buck---the strange bond Amara referred to in “Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire.” He doesn't want her hold on him to last much longer nor does he want it to grow any stronger. While he's willing to accept Sam's constraints, he's not necessarily willing to swallow hers. Even if he ends up in a situation that seems as if he's “saving her,” Dean knows that this isn't his true intention. He means to kill her and thusly remove her threat to not only him and his brother, but to the Natural Order and the world.

They make their way to the unguarded lair of the King of Hell, finding only a few guards in the hallway. Dean will go into the guarded room and confront Amara. There, he finds the young woman waiting. She asserts, “I knew you'd come.” The Darkness sees him as answering their bond---she believes that he has done this to rescue her in some fashion. Amara truly needs no rescuing---considering that she feeds on souls. She is trying to constrain Dean here---to some how cement what they share and hold him captive to it.

Our little world 647
As Crowley comes in and interrupts, Dean is further held down by the King of Hell's power. Crowley is tired of always pulling up short on killing him---and showing that she stands by her words, Amara turns on Crowley. She prevents him from making the killing blow and exacts a safe passage. Dean, stunned by this turn of events hesitates in his drive to kill her. The longer she talks, holding him captive, the more Dean seems constrained by the bond she asserts they share. Even as he raises the blade to kill her, showing a slow rebelling building, Dean can't seem to follow through. She is trying to lull him into feeling comfortable, to accepting her truth as his own.

spn1106 2524
It isn't until Sam finally breaks in and interrupts that Dean can break her hold. Amara tosses Sam aside, crashing him brutally into a wall. Without her undivided attention on him, and his instinctive drive to protect his little brother, Dean finally shakes off her power and charges. Amara, surprised by this, ends up using her power to toss him aside in turn. It is key that this happens here. It means, when the time comes, Dean can and will buck her constraints---will reject the bond Amara demands they have---and that Dean can stand side by side with Sam against her, no matter what she thinks. Dean's bond with Sam will always outweigh Amara's hold over him.

spn1106 1993
Meanwhile, in the hallway, Sam draws the attacks of the demon guards himself. It is here that we see Sam impose his rules on himself as he had on Dean. He didn't want Dean to outright kill the demon from earlier, so he will not outright kill these demons, either. The angel blade he has in his hand, he tucks back into his sleeve and makes a head long barehanded charge towards them. Rather than taking them on with deadly force, Sam is finding comfort in trying to adhere to his own code. He'd rather be constrained by helping as many as he can---and the potential to save these meat suits is high on his list---than be locked into simply killing both host and parasite.

In a way, Sam is tired of lowering himself to their level---of seeing the people they use up as collateral damage and nothing more. To do what they do, to redeem himself for any sins he feels he carries, Sam must therefore find comfort in this new constraint. He must not simply kill these demons for the sake of expediency and at the expense of these hapless humans.

spn1106 2068
Unfortunately, one of the demon attackers sees exactly what Sam is trying to do, and mocks him for it. He snarls, “Hunter, you of all people should know passivism doesn't pay.” The demon overpowers Sam, choking him ruthlessly. It forces Sam into a scramble to try and get away. Either he fights futilely and lets this demon kill him here and now, or he has to break his new rules. With little choice, Sam chooses the later and kills the demon only as a last resort. Once the deed is done, he turns to the others remaining, hesitating a moment in decision if he should follow suit with them or not.

In the end, Sam chooses to handcuff them with the Devil's Trapped handcuffs. He says, “Alright. Two out of three.”

Our little world 737
Our little world 741
Perhaps it is in the trying here that matters---that adhering to these constraints will allow him to overcome the others weighing heavily on Sam. Once they're back in the Bunker, comparing stories, Sam recalls another vision---one he had while at Crowley's hide out---that terrifies him. It is of a cage---perhaps the Cage. If it should turn out to be that very Cage, Sam knows then that the visions he's seen have not come from God, but from a far more sinister source, one he had hoped to leave behind: Lucifer.

It is one reason, then, why he must find so much comfort in the constraining rules of asking questions first before killing---and it is one that he hopes to perhaps impart to Dean.

After all, it is the only way that they'll truly be better than their opponents---Amara, Crowley, Rowena, and anyone else that threatens.

It is in constraining themselves to these new rules that they will find true comfort---and save more than themselves in the end.