Where to even begin with this one? I'm sure what I say will have already been said in the other wonderful reviews (which I haven't read yet). This episode was a powerful one, with a wonderfully dark air about it that landed somewhere as a beautiful cross between Criminal Minds and Supernatural. So, without further ado, let's dive right in:
We open four years prior, to Dean and Sam getting information from the possessed Jeffrey and Dean does some serious damage to get that information. I'm sure it's been discussed ad nauseum by this point, but was this meant to take place sometime in season four? It had a distinctly season four overture about it, particularly with Dean's torturing. I was a bit surprised how far he was willing to go to get the information on Lilith, to the point of breaking Jeffrey's hand (though he didn't) and this definitely felt like post-Hell's star torturer Dean, than pre-Hell Dean.
So the boys exercise Jeffrey and drop him at the hospital to say that he was mugged. It was fabulous to see the Impala, if only for a minute or two, as well as some old classics like Dean's ring. A real highlight would have been the amulet of course, but I'll take what I can get.
Flash forward four years to present day, where the boys have no decent leads on Dick Roman, besides the information that they've infiltrated the luxury boat industry. Sam and Dean realize that the demon they exercised back in the day has returned with a vengeance. Dean doesn't seem keen to return but Sam reminds him it's unfinished business and off they go. It was nice to see a detective that recalled them (and their rocker alias') from the last visit. I also appreciated Dean's mention to Sam that one day they are going to flash those badges and the on-scene crew will turn out to be Leviathan. Though the leviathan plot hasn't buzzed along, the mentions of how deep and wide spread their infiltration of the planet has become keeps it present in the story.
Initially, when Dean and Sam when to speak to the white magic Wiccan, I suspected the demon was in her, given the way she edged around the devil's trap. Close, but no cigar. The real meaty character of this episode was Jeffrey himself. As I mentioned before, the previews from this episode reminded me of an episode of Angel where a boy is being possessed and doing evil things, like trying to murder his sister. Eventually, the demon is exercised and they discover that the boy is the real evil when he tries to burn his family in their sleep. So, I had a feeling Jeffrey wasn't the innocent victim Sam and Dean believed him to be.
Jeffrey was played very well. You felt sorry for him in the beginning and he gave the distinct impression of being dragged back into the demonic mess just when he was trying to get his life together. He definitely had that sad, pathetic quality about him. Alas, he was pure and desperately evil, with a case of demon love. Killing the dog "“ that was just twisted. And it was made even worse by having her follow, happy little tail wagging and carrying her cone, to her slaughter. Animal deaths on TV upset me a lot more than the red-shirts.
After knocking out Dean and performing the ritual to summon the demon back, Jeffrey is disappointed when he isn't possessed, but the son of the Wiccan is. The demon claims, like a proud tutor, that Jeffrey has learned everything he can from the demon and the demon needs to move on to training others. Admittedly, I was surprised the demon even made a move towards Dean. I expect there would be a standing no-kill order on the Winchesters while they are sorting out the Leviathan thing, per Crowley's instructions. I was also hoping we might have an appearance by the dark lord, but no such luck. It's an interesting idea of a demon "talent scout" who cultivates damned souls before they get to Hell. Jeffrey was definitely a twisted individual and the perfect candidate for demon possession, given his weak and vulnerable mind.
Sam and Wicca-mom show up, the demon is exercised again and Dean shoots Jeffrey dead without hesitation. From a comparison point of view, the easy kill of Jeffrey versus hesitation to harm evil humans in the past shows just how far our boys have come. I'm not condemning this kill by any means, because Jeffrey was pure evil and needed to be put down as any demon or monster would be.
So, that's the long and short of the case. It was a pretty decent MOTW storyline with a few twists, though as I said, I suspected strongly that Jeffrey was the real baddie all along. I think it's always interesting to watch the psychological profile of evil, which a usual monster of the week story doesn't always give us "“ they're evil "˜cause they're evil is often the extent of it.
The Return of Lucifer
The real heart of this episode of course, is Sam and Lucifer. Sam's quiet descent back into madness was done incredibly well. Like Sam, we were struggling to ignore Lucifer's attention grabbing actions in the background until, by the end, like Sam we wanted to know what he had to contribute because we needed Sam to get to Dean.
Unlike Jeffrey, Sam is not a weak mind. If his hallucinations have been carrying on like this all this time, as we can assume given the times we've seen the palm-press, then he has held it together remarkably well. What was particularly well done was the way Sam eventually gave into the hallucinations. It was gradual and he didn't even know he was doing it until it was too late. At the top end of the episode, Sam ignores Lucifer's suggestions of the detective's name. In the library, though he doesn't acknowledge he's doing it, Sam begins to take Lucifer's information about the coroner's report. One simple "shut up" and it's all over. Lucifer had his foot back in the door of Sam's mind and he's in for a trippy ride.
The exchanges in the library were great; the manifestation of all the people smashing their brains out on the library tables was an especially visceral image. Like Sam, I watched through squinted eyes and hoped for it to end as abruptly as it began. One thing about this scene was Lucifer holding a book at one point that he tossed onto the table?
Mark Pellegrino, as always, played a superb Lucifer. He was charming and slick as any sociopath and as in previous appearances, his smug pride at tormenting Sam was easily conveyed. This character is so deliciously evil, that despite every appearance being a bad thing for Sam, I love him dearly. I particularly enjoyed the forked tongue. Lucifer used his powers of manipulation of Sam's mind effusively and without discernible pattern, choosing any random moment to throw Sam off kilter and hitch his step during the investigation. He also cleverly used Sam's growing unease over Dean's disappearance to slip his way back into Sam's acknowledgement. Clever fallen angel, aren't you Lucifer?
Jared Padalecki played this magnificently. His struggle was quiet, exhausting and frustrating and with barely a word addressing the Lucifer thing, we could feel his effort and, certainly in the final scenes, frantic disquieting panic to hold on to the edges of reality. One very telling moment of Sam was his interactions with the Wiccan, his line "do you want the ear or the kid" was delivered so matter of fact and underscored with cold anger it was like a different person. This small scene gave me chills, and I liked it.
The closing moments of this episode were, simply put, brilliant. To begin with it's played very well by both Jared and Mark. Jared conveyed well contained panic and distress at the realization that he could no longer lock Lucifer out and these hallucinations were going to be stronger. I could feel the anxiety as Lucifer taunted, never going to sleep again, never going to have a moments peace. Just the threat of this makes me feel like climbing the wall so one can only imagine what was passing through Sammy's mind. For his part, Lucifer has realized he's fully in and can no longer be banished by the palm-press, he's ecstatic and it's time to up the ante: get louder and more obnoxious. We're going to have some fun now. Particularly potent is the contrast of the fire burning around Sam as he sits on the bed trying valiantly to block it out, while Dean sleeps unaware of the mental torture being inflicted on Sam. It gave a strong sense of desolation and isolation to Sam's inner torment.
I loved this motel room, in particular the lime green leopard spotted duvets covering the bed. Seeing Sam and Dean both lying under these monstrosities felt like they were in a corny 70's porno. It was great. On that note, the set designs and lighting in this episode were very well done. The dark and shadow nature of the barn, the dingy quality to Jeffrey's sad little apartment and the brightly lit library all struck an apropos tone for the episode and the events therein.
This was a classic Supernatural episode and I loved every minute of it. Sam's slow slide back down the rabbit hole was potent and striking and worked well within the overall story of this episode. The acting was, as always, outstanding and the technical bits tied everything together in a dark little bow. The only unfortunate element of this installment? Waiting to find out what is next for our boys. We'll all be "balls to the wall" crazy by the end of this hiatus.
What did you think fellow watchers?