Well, that was a bit of a humdinger, wasn’t it?  An episode that went deep philosophically yet still had enough to appease the fans, gave the actors something to work with and then ended on a mystery cliffhanger that has since spurned wild speculation among the faithful.  So yeah, I would call it a pretty good hour.  Not perfect, but pretty good. 

I’d like to offer my congratulations to writer Steve Yockey for finally delivering since season two (save for season 9’s “Road Trip”) a very worthwhile mid-season premiere.  Mid-season premieres have ranged from weak to just all out dung (I’m looking at you “First Blood” and “Wayward Sisters”), which tends to be a huge momentum killer when trying to kick start the rest of the season.  What I appreciated the most about “Nihilism” is something Steve Yockey has skillfully done before, tie together a few of the many dangling plot threads into something that’s not only logical but creates many possibilities.  In this case, he went in a direction I never anticipated.  Supernatural has left so much out there and the amount of material to work with is staggering, yet few writers choose to do what Yockey has done.  I’m actually looking forward how the rest of the season plays out.  That’s a miracle right there.


The Avengers Anyone? 

As good as the episode was, the concepts here weren’t totally unique.  Let’s take the return of Billie.  “Nihilism” is a logical progression from last season’s “Advanced Thanatology” and suddenly Billie’s library make sense to me.  It’s all about choices and consequences.  Free will comes with a price.  Consequences of actions has been a long running theme in “Supernatural” and each time Sam and Dean have literally moved Heaven and Earth to save one another the stakes get higher.  At this point they need to be huge and Dean’s predicament fits the bill nicely.  Dean has basically screwed the world with his decision this time and his “one” choice to get out of it mirrors Sam’s only choice of taking Lucifer down to the cage personally in season five.  But did Billie’s “one choice” have to mirror The Avengers: Infinity War a little too perfectly?  In that film there was only one successful choice out of millions.  It was a catastrophic one, but given the fact there’s another Avengers movie coming it’s likely the only one that offers hope for the future. 

Whatever Dean has to do, it’s not going to be pleasant,  It can’t be an act of self sacrifice, otherwise Dean wouldn’t have looked so horrified.  For him, self sacrifice would have been a done deal, no questions asked.  Of course that’s very obvious to anyone that knows this show, so just call me Captain Obvious.  I’m not going to spend much time speculating what that could be, but the solution very likely goes against every instinct and belief that Dean has ever had.  Okay, maybe one tiny speculation, and it comes from season 10’s “Brother’s Keeper.”  Remember how Death was practically forcing Dean to kill Sam?   I never understood why he was so pushy about it.   I’m thinking he saw back then what Billie sees now.  No wonder both of them found the Winchesters so useful.  But part of me is hoping it turns out to be more than that too, just because that’s a little too obvious.  After all, what does Sam’s death have to do with keeping Michael in that flimsy mind cage?  Wait, in that episode Death also promised to take Dean to a place far away never to be seen by anyone.  The empty perhaps?  Hah, you caught me speculating.  I’ll stop now. 

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(Death knew something!)

Another plot that I have never been able to reconcile until right now is Michael’s. Ever since alt world Michael was introduced last season, I haven’t understood his motivation.  Why did he want to come to this earth and destroy it, just like he did the last one?  His anger and need for destruction have always seemed flimsy to me, but no longer.   The title itself was the complete explanation.  He’s a nihilist and is out to destroy anything his father created.  He wants to jump from world to world and destroy it, then kill God so he can…live in peace alone?  Geez, how is that not Thanos? 

I think I actually love Chuck more after hearing Michael’s interpretation of his Father’s work.  For one, the fact that God keeps creating new worlds with adjustments is fascinating to me.  It again explains why those worlds existed and why a being like Jack could jump from world to world.  Because the archangels can.  Chuck wanted to show off his work to his sons.  But where Michael calls each world a failed draft, Chuck would likely see each creation as a new chapter in his story.  I wonder if any of that was in his autobiography!   Chuck is flawed and so is each of his worlds, but they matter.  They all have meaning in their own way and that’s what makes them special. 

There’s a broader theme too and that’s a parallel of nihilism in “Supernatural” to our society in general.  There’s different ways to explain the concept of nihilism, but I’ll use the one that seems to most apply to Michael.  The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy says, "A true nihilist would believe in nothing, have no loyalties, and no purpose other than, perhaps, an impulse to destroy.”  Sound a bit on the nose when it comes to Michael don’t you think?  Or how about thoughts from the nihilism master, Friedrich Nietzsche, who claimed that “its corrosive effects would eventually destroy all moral, religious, and metaphysical convictions and precipitate the greatest crisis in human history.”  Yes in our world and yes in the SPN world. 

Nihilism, or this case, the nihilist, destroys and will never stop unless we stop it.  It can be tied to collapses of entire civilizations.  One could argue with our divided country right now and the lack of morals and human values when making decisions in favor of political posturing and racism is turning us into a nihilistic society.  I’ll go one step further and say it’s been horrifying to watch since we have been unable to stop it or there are so many out there unwilling to stop it.  Accepting destructive ideas and embracing division is tearing apart our existence slowly.  Suddenly I see the emergence of Michael as more than an extension of the SPN mytharc.  It’s a subliminal commentary on the direction our country is heading.  That’s something “Supernatural” has done before and why it’s appealed so much to audiences.  The fact that even forces we experience today can be defeated by normal Joes that find meaning and purpose in this world, it is something we all need to believe in so badly.  We still refuse to believe that in the end, the bad guy wins.  It destroys all hope otherwise. 

So, now that I know what Michael is all about, does this make me appreciate him more?  Not one bit.   I don’t like this incarnation of Michael.  He’s too negative and too overbearing in his negativity.  I get where Steve Yockey and the other writers are coming from when writing Michael. Previous archangels and demons used monologuing to get into people’s heads.  It’s what they do.  But Michael is taking memories from Dean and twisting his interpretations into the most awful and extremely negative actions, all due to his nihilistic point of view.  Sadly, none of it is entertaining or even chilling.  He’s turned into a wooden monologuing villain with really no purpose other than to chew scenery and twist the preverbal mustache while grating my patience with his attitude. 

If you’re going to copy The Avengers, at least make Michael a worthy villain like Thanos.  One that destroys but still feels deep regret.  A being that has a destiny to fulfill but struggles with the burden of responsibility in reaching that goal.  Someone with complexities and layers you would never imagine from a villain.  Remember the Michael that visited Dean in season five’s “The Song Remains the Same?”  He had passion.  He believed in his destiny.  He wasn’t all doom and gloom.  He was believable and actually likable!  He also wasn’t someone who spent countless amounts of time droning in his anger and monologuing.  I get that we need a little filler in the story but so many times I was yelling, “Just shut up!  We get it.”   None of that is a slam on Jensen though, who has done amazing work with the material he’s been given.  It’s just he’s playing a character that’s so one note I cannot connect. 

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Look at that, I’ve jumped deeply into philosophy and haven’t got to the fun stuff.  I LOVED that Dean’s current dream is owning a bar, having a few drinks, getting into a few fights, and then doing it all over again.  Suddenly I’m picturing him running the next Roadhouse, aka a hangout for hunters.  He can help hunters via the Roadhouse and Sam, aka “The Chief” can manage the troops at the bunker.  It’s kind of cozy.  Oh boy, there’s another fan fiction writing itself!  For the record, Dean’s bar owner scenario was far more fun to watch than Sam doing research in the bunker in “Road Trip.”  Sam needs to get out more and have a little fun. 

Count me in as enjoying all the little Easter eggs in the bar.  I won’t go into all of them since Nightsky already did a great job of that, but I caught each one of them too.  It was a sight for sore eyes (no pun intended) to see Pamela again.  BTW, did anyone notice in the credits that Traci Dinwiddie was listed as Thunderbird Dinwiddie?  Someone will have to tell me the story behind that name, but I love it. 

Also count me as one of those who caught right away that Castiel couldn’t see the reaper.  Um, hello, ANGEL.  Remember he was the only one that could see them in “Abandon All Hope?” Angels and reapers are practically family thanks to a total blunder in canon a few seasons ago.  But yeah, we’ll chalk it up to another continuity oversight.   

I also didn’t jump into Jack’s story too much, but it seems to me that whatever solution is keeping him alive is corrupting that innocence of his.  It’s inevitable, they grow up, but it still makes me sad to see that innocence disappear so quickly.  I did love the Castiel pep talk though.  It made me feel better.  But yeah, he’s headed for some very dark times. 


The Red Headed Monster


Since I was told this review involved a commentary on nihilism, or extreme negativity and absence of meaning, I’m holding back my extremist ways.  Since we were also on the subject of The Avengers, I’m left to thinking, which Avenger does our heroes most resemble?   

Sam is a pretty easy one, and one that has been spoofed before.  Thor!  

ItsThor!4

ThorJared


The rest aren’t so easy.  By default Mary is the Black Widow.  Castiel, well, how about Bruce Banner?  I know some have depicted him as Captain America in fan art but he's not as suave.  He’s mild mannered.  He can kind of hulk out when he wishes but it seems lately he rarely does.  That leaves Jack, who, well, huh, he’d be…(looks at the list of remaining characters)…oh!  He would make a good Star Lord.  That means Dean would have to be Tony Stark/Ironman in this setup.  Anyone who watched Infinity War knows that Tony Stark has been the one setup to run with the no win scenario and change the outcome.  Plus he’s kind of snarky and so is Dean. 

So there, it’s a game you didn’t think you’d be playing, huh?  Any other characters I’m missing? 

Overall grade, a B+.  The best takeaway from this episode is I’m ready for more.  With the big 300th episode just two weeks away, things are looking up.  Momentum is kind of fun, isn’t it?