I loved “All in the Family”. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire hour. At the half way point, I realized my hand had been over my mouth in the “Oh My Chuck, I can’t breathe!” position for I don’t know how long. I didn’t go to sleep until 2 a.m. because my heart and mind were still in overdrive. Oh, what Supernatural does to me!
Similar to last week’s “Don’t Call Me Shurley”, this episode was jam packed with action, plot developments and underlying messages. Let’s take a closer look at the themes and the dialog to see if we can catch up on everything that happened! I think I’ll keep track with ‘=>’ so maybe we can go back and count all the big moves we had to absorb and understand!
First of all, I was very, very happy that this week’s show picked up at the exact moment Sam and Dean met God! That’s a reality-shattering development worth savoring and analyzing! Of course the brothers needed some time to comprehend that the amulet was glowing and was leading them to a prophet and friend they thought was long gone. I believe they presumed he was dead. I don't remember that Chuck’s sudden disappearance was ever really addressed other than a word or two about Kevin appearing as the next prophet implied Chuck's death (am I right on that, canon buffs?).
The shock on their faces was priceless and I’m super happy that they didn’t just accept Chuck as God without proof. That would have been hugely inconsistent with their hunter instincts and their many experiences with possessed vessels, shapeshifters and imposters. God had to prove he was who he said he was. Wouldn’t we all react the same way? “You’re… who, now?” What a fantastic wonderful opportunity that led us to our beloved…
27 seconds into the show and we were already dropped to the floor with shock! What a fantastic job everyone did of keeping that secret!
Let’s take a moment to revel in the fact that they brought back Kevin! I don’t know if I was happiest for Sam and Dean to be able to get closure on Kevin’s fate, for Kevin who was finally able to enter heaven, for fans who still mourn Kevin’s shocking death, or for Osric because he had another few moments on the show that has shaped a large part of who he is as a person.
Once the elation over his return sank in, the implications of his appearance started to hit us:
God: Kevin, you’ve been in the veil long enough. It’s time you had an upgrade.
=> Kevin was still in the veil. Well, that is where we last saw him so plus one point for canon consistency but that means that…
=> Millions of souls are still stuck in the veil. The corollary to that revelation is that the gates to Heaven are still closed. So all this time, no one has been able to enter heaven except through the express elevator of an angel or God hand wave? That a rather big plot point that hasn’t been talked about since 9.14 (“The Captives”). Well now. Wouldn’t you think the angels would have noticed that, or that it would have been mentioned just once that there was a giant “Road Closed” sign on the path to eternal life? I have to assume that this was brought up now because it will once again become important, so let’s record that long-ignored-but-not-forgotten thread for the future.
=> Then Kevin’s time as a prophet is rewarded with his soul being transported to Heaven. Good for him! Maybe he can spring Bobby from Heaven’s jail (or whatever happened to him!)
=> Lastly, Kevin’s entry into Heaven flipped the switch that automatically activates the next prophet, so not only was Kevin’s character resurrected but so was the prophet plotline. Enter, Donatello Redfield - I’m guessing I’m going to be typing THAT name a lot over the next year (they couldn’t have come up with an easier name, like Kevin Tran?)!
Reintroducing prophets to Sam and Dean’s team was a rather convenient tactic for finding Amara and giving the brothers more supernatural help. It seems prophets can sense Gods’ presence (as in the plural, both He and She). Prophets can also mend tablets so the smashed one may get resurrected as well. Metatron specifically mentioned the angel tablet, reminding us of its existence, and both tablets (which one got smashed and where are they again? I remember Cas hid one of them) may be needed to fix whatever catastrophe ends season 11. Given the new prophet and the specific mention of the tablets, this is probably a set up to season 12 stories. That might explain the rather weak attempt at justifying the sudden appearance of another prophet. Sam and Dean stumbled through a few words like “it’s possible Crowley missed a few” and “could it have been Amara's God power?” Maybe there will be something different about this prophet that needs to be explored in season 12’s mythology. I’m going to go with that premise rather than presume it was just weak writing.
God’s Point of ViewJust one hilarious “Holy Crap” after Dean and Sam see Kevin’s soul rise to Heaven and accept that they are truly in the presence of God the Father, we were treated to a wonderful conversation between Dean and God. It was the first of two conversations between them that were pure gold. Their talks were sensitive yet powerful, insightful yet brilliantly obvious. Dean asked the questions that trillions of hearts since the dawn of time have asked God, “Why do you not intervene and fix the world?”
And there's so much crap that has gone down on the Earth for thousands of years. I mean, plagues and wars, slaughters. And you were, I don't know, writing books, going to fan conventions. Were you even aware, o-or did you just tune it out?
Dean also asked about religion in as respectful a way as he knew how (a subject that was reiterated by the fact that the prophet had been an atheist).
Jensen’s acting in that first confrontation with the Father was stunning. That was one of Dean’s most tearful moments in the history of the show and everything about that conversation was true to Dean’s character for the past 11 years. Rob was also magnificent as God. No actor could be more perfect for the role of God. Rob is one of the most humble, sensitive, warm-hearted people in the cast. His portrayal of God made me feel as if I was talking one-on-one with the Almighty myself. The entire conversation was breath-taking, quite literally. I was transfixed by Rob and Jensen’s intensity, and full of joy that Sam witnessed one of the most vulnerable, soul-bearing moments of Dean’s life; and the loving heartbreak of God’s love for his “children”:
I was so sure if I kept stepping in, teaching, punishing, that these beautiful creatures that I created... would grow up. But it only stayed the same. And I saw that I needed to step away and let my baby find its way. Being overinvolved is no longer parenting. It's enabling.Doesn’t every parent struggle with when to help and when to back away?
The fact that God’s explanation made sense to me both in the imaginary and the real worlds, and that Dean’s honest, fearful, frustrated emotions were treated with such dignity made this a masterful scene. It was also another answer, as God’s words made it clear that…
=> the baby, the traumatized child, is humanity.
Traumatized Children and Their Families / Dads and Fatherhood
The theme of traumatized children that we’ve been tracking all season referred to us, to all of humanity. Each of us is the child who lost a parent, or saw a sister die, or was left alone to fend for ourselves because our Father left us. I get chills just thinking about it.
I know you had a complicated upbringing, Dean, but don't confuse me with your dad.
The references all season to dad’s, fathers and fatherhood has been a study of humanity’s relationship with God. No matter how much I think I understand this show, it just keeps getting deeper. Lucifer’s reiteration of his familial relationship with God echoed what Dean was basically asking God to do for humanity:
Lucifer: Want me to beg Daddy to come rescue his screw-up of a son?
Lucifer then continued to explain more of God’s and Amara’s roles in the universe:
I'm no fan of Pops, but he did make all of... you know, everything. And that's something that you could never do, because all you ever wanted was nothing. It's not too inspiring, is it?
Contributing to the excellence of this episode was one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from Misha.
For the first time, I saw and heard Lucifer, not Castiel and not Casifer. Just Lucifer. His reunion with his father also paralleled the brothers’ reunion with Kevin. Eventually we are working toward God’s reunion with his sister, which brings us to the next theme that laced this episode.
Sacrifice (and Search)
Metatron: He's gonna...meet with her. He's just not gonna take her down. He's gonna... sacrifice himself. Let her do whatever she wants with him.
Sam: Do you really expect us to buy this?
Metatron: No. Of course not. Here. Buy this. Ignore the typos, but read it. It's in his own words. It's not an autobiography. It's a suicide note.
We have tracked the sacrifice and search theme all season. Nearly every episode showed us selfless sacrifices that heroes made or offered to make for the greater good. Suicide has been less obvious, but has been alluded to a few times. Early episodes introduced the theme through weekly characters, such as Uncle Chester in 11.07 “Plush” who killed himself. Most recently, though, the suicide theme specifically focused on Dean. In “Red Meat”, he intentionally swallowed an overdose of pills to “temporarily” die in order to talk to a reaper, and last week he purposely inhaled Amara’s deadly fog so he could die alongside Sam. Clearly God’s plan is to “sacrifice” himself to save his creation but Metatron linked together the sacrifice and suicide themes by categorizing God’s plan as suicide.
In their second serious, poignant conversation, Dean confronted God about his plan:
Dean: How is death by your sister a strategy?
God: I know her. Her beef is with me.
Dean: Yeah, but I still don't understand how -- how dying is a -- a blueprint for success.
God: I won't be dying. I'll be caged. I trade myself for... everything I created.
Metatron’s words above undoubtedly contain a parallel foreboding message for Dean as God’s justification for his plan could also just as easily be spoken by Dean. We all expect that Dean is going to meet with Amara and he’s already admitted that he’s “not gonna take her down.” It isn’t a big leap to expect that he’d “sacrifice himself” and “let her do whatever she wants with him” as long as it saved all of humanity, including Sam. Validating the “heroes and hostages” theme all season, we all know Dean would say, “I’d trade myself for everything.” Ironically, Dean challenges God’s thinking that sacrifice will lead to success. Last week, it was Metatron who called God a quitter and chastised him for thinking of giving up.
Metatron’s death punctuated the message that even though one believes their sacrifice will contribute to the greater good, or at least win the day, their strategy can fail and they can end up dying a pointless death that does nothing but leave others with one less fighter who had a lot to offer. I now think that the #AKF (Always Keep Fighting) sign at the top of the building a few weeks ago was not only a nod to Jared’s campaign but was also a clear message for either God or Dean. Sacrifice may not be the answer.
As if trying to wrap his head around God’s “kamikaze” plan wasn’t enough, Dean then learns something we all wonder about – our purpose on Earth.
God: If my plan doesn't work, then humans will step up. You, Sam, others that are the chosen will have to find a way. It's why I saved you years ago. You're the firewall between light and darkness.
=> It was God who transported Sam and Dean to the plane high above Lucifer’s (first) resurrection point. Another answer from a season 4 pivotal moment! God personally took an interest in Dean and Sam’s lives. That’s intimidating enough, but then to learn that...
=> Sam and Dean (and others) are the chosen. They are the “firewall” that defends humanity and keeps its light from going out. They were born to a higher purpose.
Michael told them that but hearing it straight from God? Well, “Thus spake the Lord!”
Hope for the Future
I have to admit, I was disappointed that Sam didn’t get a chance (yet) to explore his relationship with God. Sam had a lot to do in the episode - he got to drive the Impala, he saved Lucifer – isn’t that ironic – but I really, really wanted him to be able to have a heart-to-heart talk with God. Best scenario would have been that they got to talk alone. Sam was the brother who kept the faith. Sam went to Hell because he thought he was obeying God’s will. The dialog even acknowledged that Sam prayed to God:
Sam: I mean, I-I-I was hoping you were around. I-I-I prayed and I -- but I don't know if they got, uh, lost in the spam or if –
The writers outright told Sam to stop talking when he first met God! I completely accept that a faith-filled person will be more intimidated when they actually meet the object of their devotion. Like the extreme of a fan meeting their idol (and we’ve all read dozens of stories of utter brain freeze when fans meet the Supernatural cast in person), Sam babbled. In fact, Sam’s stammering was even compared to that situation:
Dean: Okay, fan boy, calm down.
I applaud that Sam’s reaction when first meeting God was more authentic than if he had been immediately composed and coherent. I appreciate the honesty that everyone crashes and burns in the presence of an idol. Dean blathered when he met his childhood wrestling idol, an interesting foreshadowing that we missed entirely, so the first conversation being taken over by Dean makes perfect sense.
Sam’s later interactions with God continued to be disappointing though. Sam said he has a million questions for God, and they’re about the planets? How about, “Were any of my visions from you?” or, as Sam is the deep thinker, how about “So how are Dean and I doing, in balance?” or “Are mom and dad safe and happy in heaven?” Instead, Dean gets to challenge God on not battling Amara (which makes sense since he is plays the solider/warrior role) but Sam doesn’t get equal time to explore his questions?
I am an optimistic person, so I am going to assume that a deep and sensitive conversation between God and Sammy will be forthcoming in the next two episodes. I did appreciate God looking at Sam when God said “I’ve always had faith in you” then turning to look at Dean to say “even if you didn’t’ return the favor.” That fills me with hope that Sam’s faith is known to the writers and will still be rewarded.
I’m curious about the emphasis, and parallel, of Sam to a fan boy, though. The role and reaction of fans were mentioned several times. When asked about fighting Amara, Lucifer said,
Say no? You see what she's done to me? Do I look like a fan?!
I highlighted one or two other times that fans were used as an analogy for the story’s various situations. I haven’t had time to ponder this, so I’m wondering, what you think it means?
Dean’s “In other words, adios” at the end of the episode sounded painfully foreboding. It really sounded like the sacrifice theme might become the dominant motivator in the final showdown with Amara. Rather than end on that terrifying thought, though, another theme for the season was also woven into those words – Truth. Dean told Sammy the truth throughout the entire episode. He told him about his visions and meeting with Amara,
and Dean spoke truth every time he talked with Chuck. Was the turning point for this belabored relationship flaw contained in the last episode when Chuck said, “I want to tell the truth” and “Man, this whole honesty thing -- it's really freeing”? I certainly hope so.
This review doesn’t even begin to do justice to this episode. “All in the Family” covered every theme of the season, including ones I haven’t touched on such as betrayal, visions and family, all of which were repeatedly mentioned in the dialog. It tied up loose ends that have been languishing for years. It ended one major character and introduced another. In choosing to talk about themes, clues and plots, I sacrificed conveying the intensity, honesty and blindingly fast pace (again!) it contained. I loved it (again!), but I want to hear your thoughts on its messages. After all, we have to get through the next two episodes together.
Screencaps courtesy of: http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view-screencaps.php?tv-show=supernatural-2005&episode=s11e21
Transcripts courtesy of: http://transcripts.foreverdreaming.org/viewtopic.php?f=105&t=27130