The Morning After
Supernatural’s season 13 mid-season finale, “The Bad Place”, was nothing less than mind-blowing, on multiple levels. First and foremost, the episode was intense. It wove together several stories, each focusing on a unique, well-written character who faced a crossroad in their life. Each person’s anguish at having to make difficult choices in crisis situations filled the hour with deep emotion – emotion that was transferred very effectively to the audience through fabulous acting and heart-pounding music. Season 13’s character creation has been truly impressive.
The cinematography in “The Bad Place” also substantially added to the episode’s impact. The shipyard location was visually and narratively stunning. The lighting and directorial presentation of that haunting, isolated hull enveloping Sam, Dean, Jack and Kaia gripped my heart, squeezing tighter and tighter as the urgency of the music and danger intensified. The virtual effects of Jack’s power, angel sigils being melted away, and infinite universes afloat in space brought the surrealism of the supernatural battle to life. (We'll have to wait for later reviews to display the visual delights of this episode as it hasn't yet been screencapped.)
Then there was that shocking ending. Kaia seemed to fare the best, although we don’t yet know why the dream walker was spared being transported to the realms that she herself was contacting. That will be an interesting explanation. Jack ended up with “mom”. The image of him at Mary’s feet was extremely powerful, but I haven’t yet sorted out why it deeply touched me. Maybe because now that Sam and Dean are his brothers, Mary is Jack’s surrogate mother, and he came in Sam and Dean’s place to save her? There was also something subliminal about the background of Christ’s crucifixion in the scene – Mary and her anguish hanging above the innocent child below. I’m going to take a few days (and rewatches) to let that scene sink in more.
Lastly, Sam and Dean. Of course they ended up in the place that is worse than nightmares. Of course, they’re alone and some horrible monster is stomping through the forest toward them. Then the camera panned back to reveal the giant paw print – and I laughed out loud. Hysterical laughter! Really?!? They ended up in the Land of the Lost crossover?? I was totally bought into a Purgatory/ Hell hybrid until it turned out to be Jurassic Park. I’m definitely going to need the full five weeks of hiatus to buy into that one! Maybe it’s a dragon? They’ve fought the human counterparts of dragons so that’s one possible tie into the show’s prior stories. Maybe it’s the id of the worst evils in the world? After all, they previously battled thoughts with the Ghostfacers. What else could it be? I could really use some plausible theories to keep me from thinking the show has completely forgotten how to take itself seriously! I love Sam and Dean’s story. Don’t make fun of me for it! I have too much invested in their reality! But I have to admit, it showed imagination (the dream walker’s dreaded word. Was that a hint?) and was entirely unexpected. I’ll suspend judgement to see where in the world of multi-verses (seen The Flash lately?) the writing team is going with this!
The challenge with writing (editing, illustrating, uploading, formatting, proofing and publishing) a review within 24 hours of the first viewing of a complex episode is that, like you, I’m still trying to process and make sense out of what I saw! I’m still reeling from the emotion and drama at the same time I’m trying to figure out what happened! I have so much I want to say, I can’t type fast enough. There were several strategically important events in this mid-season cliffhanger that need to be recognized! How about we peel away the layers of “The Bad Place” together, one thread at a time (sorry about the mixed metaphor)? So What Happened?
Characters, Characters Everywhere
Kaia Joined the Story - “The Bad Place” gave us our first introduction to another permanent member of the “Wayward Sisters” cast, Kaia. Played by Yadira Guevara-Prip, Kaia (a name I love by the way) already has a rich backstory. As with Jack (Alexander Calvert) and Patience (Clark Backo), Yadira’s portrayal of Kaia is captivating. I really like this character. She’s survived on her own despite immense difficulties. She’s resourceful, brutally honest, and thinks fast on her feet. I am anxious to see more of her.
Patience Left - Patience’s father didn’t learn a thing from the mistake he made with Missouri, his mother, and in a draconian John Winchester move, tells Patience to not return home. Really? If your daughter can’t be what you want her to be then you don’t want her in your life at all? You love her so much and are so afraid for her safety that you never want to see her again because you’ll be too worried about her all the time? Only A’s, not C’s, and only Ivy League schools are acceptable for her? We don’t get to control who our kids become. Patience made a choice to accept what was happening to her. Like Sam, she didn’t have any control or choice over the genes she inherited or the family she was born into. She is just trying to understand and deal with it the best she can. What she did honored her father. In a painful conversation that reinforced the Right/Wrong, Truth/Lies and Free Will threads, Patience chose to follow her heart.
Patience: Dad this is who I am.Mr. Turner: No. If you get involved in that... Look, I was wrong to lie about Grandma. But you know what happened to her.Patience: You raised me to do what's right, and this is what's right. If I don't go, people will die.Mr. Turner: Patience, don't. You go now, you choose that life, you don't come back.
Perfect time for a parent to turn his back on his daughter (not). Really annoying but of course necessary to set up her future relationship with Jody
They Learned that Mary is alive…and Dean crossed a line – It’s not the first time the brothers have done the wrong thing for the right reasons. Nine years ago Sam killed an innocent nurse to have enough demon blood to “kill” Lilith. Both moments were shocking because we don’t expect our heroes to knowingly and willingly hurt the innocent. By kidnapping Kaia at gunpoint, Dean completely disregarded her free will and forced a scared, vulnerable teenager to do something she clearly didn’t want to do. The look on Jack’s face and the sound of Sam’s shocked voice said it all. In that moment, Dean was no better than the angels that Jack rejected:
Angel: You should be among your own kind.Jack: My kind? The kind that kills people? That kidnaps people?
There is no doubt that Kaia was safer with Sam, Dean and Jack than on her own but they didn’t even try to explain that to her. Dean’s actions would have been more palatable had he said, “they’ll find you again and kill you. You have a chance with us.” Of course, it is doubtful that she would have believed them or even been able to process what was happening. After all, she had just learned that the supernatural world is real, angels exist and are cruel, a teen can blow away enemies with his mind, and strangers wanted her to willingly go the the land of her nightmares. As it played out, however, Dean’s actions were wrong. He felt guilty, desperate, and under extreme pressure to save their mom from torture after he ignored her for months, so he reacted. How far would he have taken it, or would Sam have let him take it?
Sam: So now what? We get Kaia to the Wind Caves, and then what? Force her to dreamwalk at gunpoint?Dean: We get Mom back, no matter what.
He later apologized:
Kid, sorry to drag you into this. This was not your fight.
The moment reminded us that Dean is only human.
Jack’s Back, and He’s Family – At the beginning of the story, Jack’s true nature was still being debated:
Paula Swan (in credits; Derek’s girlfriend in the script): Speak of the devil.
Jody: I think it’s your boy.
Dean: Sam, we gonna talk about it?Sam: What?Dean: You saw that painting… Well, it looks like Jack gave up on us and he's looking for Daddy.Sam: Dean, we don't know that.Dean: Don't we? A guy is dead. Look, I hate this, too, but we've gotta be prepared.Sam: To kill him.Dean: Look, this isn't an "I told you so.” Okay? I mean I actually like the kid. I do. But, I mean, we're in worst-case scenario land here.Sam: Yeah, but, Dean, we need more information. I mean we gotta figure out what Jack wanted, how -- how dreamwalking even works.
Once they finally talked to Jack, the brothers learned that Sam, Castiel and Kelly were right about Jack. He was good. Of his own free will, Jack chose the Winchesters, and they accepted him into their family. In a beautiful scene (that according to Robert Berens wasn't originally written into the episode), all the questions about Jack were answered.
Sam: Jack, we were worried, okay? You know, when you disappeared, you were in a dark place. And we didn't know where you were going.Dean: Thought you were looking for your dad.Jack: You mean Lucifer?Sam: Yeah.Jack: I was scared. I was upset. But why would I look for him? He's no one to me. You, Castiel -- you're my family.Dean: Yes, we are. Finding Mom - You did a good thing, kid. You did a real good thing.
Angel: You should be among your own kind. You don't belong with them. Come with us. Come home.Jack: I am home.
Set off the fireworks! I think most of us love this kid and I for one am thrilled that he’s on Sam and Dean’s side! Now that his loyalties have been determined definitively, do you think the Good/Bad Thread will end here or continue for the rest of season 13?
Making Deals/Selling Souls
Addict: I would've sold my son for another hit.Jack: No, we had a deal.Kaia: You said you'd get me out. That's the deal I heard.
Since the question of Jack’s loyalty has been settled, who is going to be tempted to make a deal? It’s curious that the addict said “sell my son” versus “sell my soul”, which is the usual expression one would expect to hear. Is Lucifer going to try to trade Jack to get back into power? Theories?
The Bad Place – Title Thread
Counselor: We've all been exactly where you are, Kaia, denying the truth of our situation.Kaia: I hate doing this to myself, putting that junk in my body, but it's the only thing that keeps me awake. It's the only thing that that keeps me from… from the Bad Place.Counselor: Yes, we've all we all have our "bad places," don't we? The stuff we're running from, the things that we try to blot out with drugs or drink. But we have to face it eventually, don't we?
Is this foreshadowing for Kaia - that she’ll need to go to the bad place to save Sam and Dean? After all, she knows how to get there. She’s been there before. Maybe she is somewhat familiar with the terrain. She certainly knows how to escape its dangers. The rift is still open, so others may be able to go through with her but we have no idea to which of the two destinations it leads. If she faces her fears (the Fear thread), she will be better equipped to move forward as a functioning member of society. The counselor’s words also seemed to apply to Dean. At least for all of his adult years, Dean has blotted out painful memories or guilt with alcohol. Could this line mean that Dean will curb his addiction?
Doors, Locks and Keys
Locks, keys and opening doors were mentioned frequently in this mid-season cliffhanger.
Kaia: That door was tripled locked;Jack: Kaia’s the keyAngel: Door’s a little hinky. Let me help you.Sam: My brother and I, our -- our mother is trapped in -- in another world, and -- and if you can tell Jack where it is, then he can open a door -- And we can save her.Dean: So what's the play?Jack: Derek said there are sacred sites, places where the walls between worlds are thin, where it's easy to cross over. I was taking Kaia to the Wind Caves.
Jack thought Kaia and the wind caves were “the key”. At the time, they were talking about Mary’s universe, but Derek’s information could be applied to any universe. What if the “crossing over” applies to other realms as well? Jack could break down the doors where the locks are the weakest? There’s one place in particular that was constantly in the subtext.
“The Bad Place” referred to Kaia’s nightmare woods with giant, 3-toed monsters but it is conceivable that it applies to another realm as well. Kaia and Derek were dream walkers, a name that refers to a state of mind when one is asleep. As in “Tombstone”, “The Bad Place” frequently referred to sleeping, and being in the dark.
Kaia: What did you do?Jack: Don't worry. He's just sleeping. You're not the only one with powers.
Is this line talking about Jack and the counselor, or about the Entity and Castiel? Did the Empty Entity put Castiel asleep and leave him in the darkness of the Empty?
Jack: I left to try to get a grip on my powers. I wanted to prove to you that I'm good, to do one good thing. So I did the thing you wanted the most. I experimented, opening doors to other worlds. I could almost do it. I could get right to the edge. But I couldn't see. I could only feel around in the dark. I needed eyes. A seer. A dreamwalker.
Are we being told that Castiel is feeling around in the darkness of the Empty? I’m convinced that is the truth. Together with the lock and key analogies for Mary’s, and now Jack’s, alternate universe, maybe Kaia and Jack need to work together to free his “father” and well as his “mother”. What do you think?
Counselor: The court sent you here to get better, but if you don't wanna talk about this, then we can't –Kaia: I am talking about it. See? Lips? Moving?Counselor: Let's talk about your scars.
This year’s emphasis on talking is most welcome. It shows not only maturity and civilized communication between Sam and Dean, but also that we as an audience get to hear more thoughts and feelings - fears, regrets, worries. Yes, please! Let this continue for the rest of the year!
Angels can now break down warding with a concentrated, synchronized, uhhh, pounding ritual. New or not, that was super, uber cool. If the writers are going to come up with something that obliterates prior canon, at least this was better than the simple snap of fingers. I suppose it makes sense. If angels know of a lock that keeps them out of places, wouldn’t they try to come up with a key? Question: will the bunker EVER be safe?
There was only one reference to insanity that I heard, but it was enough to keep this thread going.
Kaia: You're insane.Dean: Yeah, the whole world's insane.
After they find out they’re in Jurassic World, the boys are going to think they’re the ones going insane! Or maybe this is a meta message that the fans are going to go insane trying to make sense out of all this?
My sincerest thanks and congratulations to the outstanding cast of this story and Robert Berens, Phil Scgriccia, Serge Ladouceur, Christopher Lennertz, Russ Hamilton, Jerry Wanek, Jim Michaels, Adam Williams, the sound, editing and art departments, and the entire Supernatural crew on creating an episode that will capture our imaginations the entire hiatus. I can’t wait to hear what you thought of it, and where it’s going to lead!
Transcript quotes courtesy of: https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=supernatural&episode=s13e09
Cast and Crew Names courtesy of: http://www.imdb.com