"Houses of the Holy"
--Robin's Rambles by Robin Vogel
 
This was another episode that left me in tears. In Providence, Rhode Island, Sam and Dean find a group of people killing citizens who either have or are going to commit evil acts upon others. Here Sam reveals to Dean that he does believe in angels and prays every day. "The things you learn about a guy," says Dean, taken aback. Since he's never seen an angel, he refuses to believe they exist. They're like unicorns, who have silver moonbeams flying out their asses. "There's no such thing as unicorns?" demands Sam, deadpan. 
 
Although there is one before her, the second is Gloria, a chain-smoking hooker who is sitting in her squalid apartment when it begins to shake as if caught in an earthquake. She's unable to turn off her TV, which is stuck on religious programming. When she sees a bright light, an angel urges her to go to a man's house, look for a special sign, and stab the man who lives there to death. Gloria does so and is promptly sent to an asylum, where Sam, looking yummy in orderly whites, questions her. Gloria is at peace and happy.
 
Dean must remain out of sight because of his being wanted by the FBI and the asylum being a city building, so Dean stays behind at the hotel and becomes addicted to the Magic Fingers machine. He's very disappointed to find himself out of quarters and annoyed that Sam refuses to help his sick habit. Dean is going stir-crazy, so Sam brings him along to check out the dead man's porch, where Gloria said she saw her sign—an angel Christmas decoration that the deceased man neglected to put away. 
 
Another remark Gloria heard from the angel about the dead man, a librarian, was that he was evil "down to his foundations," so Sam and Dean head down to his basement and find a fingernail wedged in the wall. They dig up a skeleton. They later tie in the corpse they discovered man with a couple of other missing college students who were last seen in the library. 
 
Meantime, another citizen, Zack Smith, gets a visit from the bright light angel, takes a walk, knocks at a stranger's door and stabs the man who answers directly in the heart, leaving him dead. Sam and Dean enter this man's home through a window, where Sam easily hacks into his computer and discovers he was going to meet a 13-year-old girl...today. It appears this is an avenging angel who prevents bad things from happening by having evil men killed before they strike. Dean still refuses to believe in angels.
 
The brothers pay a visit to the church the last two victims belonged to, Our Lady of Angels Church. They tell Father Reynolds they are new in town and want to become members. Dean says they're from Fremont, TX, but incorrectly names the priest there. They discuss the tragic murders, and Michael, the Archangel, who was a demon fighter who fought evil, fierce, vigilant, God's warrior. Dean notices a memorial on the church steps; Father Reynolds explains that Father Gregory was shot for his car keys two months ago and never got Last Rites. "I've been praying for divine intervention ever since." Dean picks up a small photo of Father Gregory from the memorial and says the priest must be the avenging spirit. Sam doesn't want to believe that, he stubbornly holds onto the idea of an angel, and this is when he confesses to Dean he prays everyday. Dean goes to Father Gregory's crypt, leaving Sam alone, and that's when the latter gets a visit from the bright light angel. Finding Sam passed out, Dean anxiously rouses him. The first thing Sam sees is the angel statue—his sign to kill someone! Realizing what has happened, Dean offers Sam a sip of booze from his flask, but Sam refuses. Dean takes a drink. 
 
Sam feels peace, grace, he has to smite a sinner! This man hasn't sinned yet, but he's going to. The brothers argue vehemently over this. Their mother felt the same, says Dean bitterly, that angels were watching over them, but she was wrong! There is no God, there's just chaos, random violence and unpredictable evil that rips you to shreds! Dean wants to prove to Sam that they're dealing with the spirit of the murdered priest, so they're going to hold a seance in the church. The angel won't show, that they know for sure. They go to round up the needed supplies, substituting a Spongebob Squarepants placemat for an altarcloth. They can just turn it over, says Dean. Sam spots the man he's supposed to murder, standing bathed in light. Dean sees the same man, without the light, and insists that HE will follow him, not Sam. Sam must hold the séance. 
 
Dean takes off after the guy in the Impala. Sam performs the seance ritual, but is caught by Father Reynolds, who is horrified at such a ritual being done in a church. Father Thomas Gregory appears, a very mixed-up spirit. "I've come in answer to your prayers," he says softly. When Father Reynolds tells Thomas he is only a man, a spirit, the ghost explains, "I could see everything, I saw you crying and came to help. I could smite the wicked, offer redemption to the innocents." Father Reynolds tells the Father Gregory's ghost that the rules of God and man are different - this is not God's will--thou shalt not kill. People who kill are being locked away. You are lost, misguided--men cannot be angels." As Sam looks on sadly, Father Reynolds tells Father Gregory it's time for him to rest. He gives him Last Rites, and mentions Raphael, Master of Air. Father Gregory disappears in one last burst of light and is gone. 
 
Dean has followed the young man, who picks up a young woman, takes her to a desolate place, parks, smacks her, and tries to rape her. Dean smashes the driver's side window, roughs the guy up, makes sure the woman is out of the car and safe, and takes off after the guy when he drives away. There's a wild car chase that ends when the bad guy gets into an accident with a truck carrying long metal rods. One of them crashes through the windshield, impaling the bad guy through the heart, pinning him through his seat. Dean observes this, stunned.
 
The Winchester brothers meet up at their hotel, each anxious to discuss what has happened. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" begins to play and I start to cry. Sam is disappointed; there was no angel, it was Father Gregory as Dean insisted. When Dean offers him a sip from the flask, Sam accepts, and passes it back to Dean, who takes a gulp, too. "I wanted to believe so badly," says Sam, "doing what we do all the time, there's so much evil, I think I'll drown in it. I wanted to feel we weren't alone." When Dean assures Sam he's got HIM, Sam adds, "You're just one person, I mean a higher power, a greater good, so maybe I can be saved. I guess you're right - we've got to go with what we know." Dean explains to Sam that the guy he tailed WAS bad news. He didn't kill him, though, but the way he died was perhaps. . .God's will. 
 
  1. This was Sam's episode. While Dean may have been told angels were watching over him, Sam was the one who prayed. I wonder how that came to be?
  1. I felt sorry for Father Gregory. How could a man of the cloth become so confused in death that he believed setting one set of humans to kill another, even bad ones, was acceptable? Strange. But intriguing. 
  1.  Knowing what we do now, what do you think of Dean's feelings about angels? 
  1.  How did you feel about the death of the attempted rapist? Did God clean that one up Himself? It sure changed Dean's mind about the whole thing, didn't it?
  1. Those who were set up to do the killing were derelicts in one form or other, or at least those with unhappy lives. They ended up in an asylum—but at peace.  What do you think about this? Sam wouldn't have wanted this, would he? Or WOULD he?
  1. This episode is thought by some to be too preachy. Do you think it is?        
 

Comments  

trina
# trina 2010-02-24 09:28
I love this episode, but watching it now is kind of heartbreaking. The idea of Sam praying to the very things that are then going to do their best to destroy him is one of the more tragic aspects of the show. I also find it telling that even back in season 2 he felt he needed redemtion. He certainly hadn't done anything wrong at that point.
Supernarttu
# Supernarttu 2010-02-24 11:10
Again an eppie I love *suprise* ;-)

I like the idea of this eppie, and avenging angel. Like Sam, I was kinda hoping that it would've been an angel...ish creature. I could just see his heart break when Father Gregory was revealed. He really wanted to believe in a higher power. And then we find out, after two years of pain and suffering that those powers DO exist but they don't really care and the Big Guy seems terribly absent. No wonder his belief is shaken, or broken even.

And I'm not so sure if Dean had a change of hearts. I'm thinking he said it for Sams benefit, trying to keep the faith in him. Dean has only had faith in his family and himself, I doubt he has changed those beliefs even though he's faith in both have been scattered a few times.

I really felt for Father Gregory too. He was a really sympathethic MOTW, which are unusual in our show (even though the most seem to be in s2 lol). He also seemed so lost, misguided, so 'sure' he was an angel and giving justice. Ironically, seeing the 'real' angels nowadays, I'd rather take Father Gregory's version any day of the week. At least he wasn't wiping out thousands or letting the Apocalypse happen. Not saying that I don't love the way the angels are portrayed but boy, they are as ruthless as demons.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2010-02-24 13:07
Robin, thanks for a great review of one of my favourite episodes which makes me cry whenever I watch it. Ah, weepy woman!

@ 1:I believe since Sam had always felt to be different, from childhood on (a result of the demon blood thing he didn’t know anything about yet, but felt there was something different to him), and with an unstable family situation – always on the road, endangered lives, he probably began to search for help and support (in silence, as it has often been his way), and perhaps the way to turn to God and angels was the shortest, as belief if it is strong can provide the kind of stability hardly anything else can. He wanted to believe there was help coming from somewhere. He might have even hoped for it early on.

@2: I agree, I also felt for Father Gregory, and I came to tears as he realized that he had been so wrong, that he wasn’t an angel. We’ve often heard in this show how angry spirits are born, maybe the violent death he experienced was enough to confuse his soul. Who knows what might have become of him, had Sam and Father Reynolds not put him to rest…

@3+4: I don’t know if God choose to smite that rapist. So many women are being raped every day, and He went and chose that one needed to be saved? It might have been Him, it might have been a coincidence, but Dean obviously interpreted it as a higher power’s intervention.
I don’t think, though, that this experience altered his attitude at so early a stage. Much later he had trouble accepting Cas and the whole angel-pie, but he might have come to better terms with having a believing, praying brother (a fact that astonished him at first). He might have opened up to the possibility a bit more, but I doubt that he was convinced of angels at that point.

@5: I don’t know if life in an asylum would be the chosen path for Sam, albeit at peace. I believe, though, that Sam hopes for peace, the man is so troubled he could need some. But I don’t think this is the kind of peace he would settle for. It would also mean to some extent to give away responsibility for your own life and let it be lead by faith alone. I don’t think Sam could do that.

@6: too preachy? Really? To my mind it showed the different approaches to faith of several people – the ones who did ‘God’s’ work, Sam’s belief, Dean’s scepticism, Father Gregory’s mistake…
I’m a person of faith, but I tend to get very irritated when someone tries to tell me what I need to believe or when someone comes on too strong, and I’m allergic to bigotry. I didn’t find anything of that here. But I can imagine how some might interpret the episode in that manner. It depends on personal sensibilities, and, as we know, there is hardly a more sensitive subject than religion. For some people.

Robin, thanks again, I’m looking forward to see what the others have to say.
Love Jas
Randal
# Randal 2010-02-24 13:18
Love this episode, great review and as for your questions to us (a fine, fine idea to get us to kick around our theories and comments and bric-à-brac),

1. Let me consult the magic 8-ball. I wasn't *completely* surprised upon that revelation, given that I would have expected that from Sam before Dean, but there wasn't that much of a hint beforehand.

2. When someone thinks the Big Cheese is telling them to do something, hell, they'll listen to a dog, too. Just as Ted.

3. Dean may have been wrong about their existence, but they're still pretty much dicks, at least the upper echelons. Cas is the exception that proves the rule.

4. Random act of luck. If God's that concerned about his divine petting zoo, he/she/it's one drunk, incapacitated keeper.

5. Those people had nothing good to latch on to, thus were easy prey. Sam has his good works, and Dean. No way he ends up in an asylum, 5.11 notwithstanding .
8-)

6. Too preachy? Aw, hell no, and this is coming from a committed atheist. Like most everything on Supernatural, it's one more demonstration of how nothing is black-and-white , cut-and-dried. The world and the human condition are multifaceted entities.
Robin Vogel
# Robin Vogel 2010-02-24 21:06
I just wanted to tell you how much I love you folks, your delicious sense of humor, the generosity of your commentary and the way you make me feel wanted here. I really feel blessed and happy to be posting my work over here!