Thoughts on Supernatural 11.21: All In The Family
Humourous and heart-wrenching moments, dramatic and intriguing; All In the Family was not without drama or lacking in some of the exposition we’ve been searching for over the season’s run. Season eleven has certainly been a new flavour mix for Supernatural. These past months have been more about subtle ambience, emotional flavours and a true, slow simmer of each major player. AITF was really no different – just adding a few extra pops before, what it seems, will be the big showdown finale.
What Didn’t Work
I enjoyed this episode – it was funny, emotional and felt like we’ve finally moved forward in some ways. Still, there were some things that just felt a bit…out of place or lacking for what there were. First and foremost, everyone has their own opinion on God/Chuck and Dean’s interaction – and I will touch on that later. So, don’t look for that here in the “didn’t work” column.
Primarily, I struggle with Amara and her holding pattern at this point. I wish there was a more distinct understanding of who she is – rather than this petulant little sister bent on kicking over big brother’s Lego tower just because he annoyed her. Ultimately, the scale is bigger but that is how the shape is forming even as we stare down the final days. So what didn’t work, what hasn’t worked to this point? The character development of Amara as a motivated villain. What does become of her once she destroyed everything, exactly? She consumes souls – so once they’ve been destroyed, and God is locked away, then what? She is adrift in an empty universe having expanded her energy without sources of replenishment? Somehow, there appear to be flaws.
This brings me to the other piece that just didn’t jive: Chuck’s so-called suicide plan. There was absolutely nothing about this that made any sense. His plan was to trade himself for the survival of the world, however once he’s in the cage and/or dead – there was nothing in Amara’s way of ultimate destruction and nothing to say she’d honour that agreement. The logic just…wasn’t. So we didn’t go with this plan in the end (for now I suppose) but it just seemed to be very, very under-thought.
And perhaps that was the point – it was human in its stupidity, driven by emotional need to protect the children (the creation, humans) rather than made through rational thought. This episode, and Shurley, seemed about humanizing God for everyone not just the audience. Nevertheless, this was just too impulsive and lacking in forethought.
Finally, quite unusually for our show, I was missing our boys conversing. After all, this was an episode that dropped some key emotional bombs in varying contexts. Amara’s psychic connection with Dean, Dean’s reaction to Chuck’s appearance, Kevin’s visit: an intimate dialogue wouldn’t have been out of place. A look at the reactions, particularly Sam, as he seemed a little shortchanged in the sentiment – expression this week, would have been okay. The finale will undoubtedly offer us something along these lines, beyond the few sentences tossed like crumbs at the end of AITF; hopefully it’s worth the wait (and Supernatural hasn’t let me down yet!).
So, those were pretty nitpicky, for the most part, and now that the complaints are over – let’s talk about the good stuff (mostly).
Donatello: Not the Teenage, Mutant Ninja Turtle
New, atheist prophets. Kevin's appearance wasn't just a fan treat or a bid for endorsement to gain Sam and Dean's trust: until his spirit was released and those prophet powers recycled, the next one could not be revealed. So, we're treated to Donatello - not on Crowley's could-be list, by the way, but a prophet nonetheless. Donatello, played by Keith Szarabajka (whom you might recognize from any number of things - including Holtz on Angel and who, not so coincidentally, I'm sure, also voiced the Kraang in the TMNT video game more recently) was struck by lightening very timely - allowing him to survive Amara-fog, unlike the remainder of his town - much to the ire of Sam and Dean who believed Chuck should have stepped in to save the town.
Nevertheless, it is ultimately Donatello who allows them to get a handle on Amara's location and even save Casifer. Hand's up if you kind of, maybe thought this character might have been being misled by Amara as a trap for the boys. Was I the only one who was 50/50 on that? Regardless, Donatello was a fun character to bring into this situation - instead of the typical prophet meltdown, he seemed to take everything relatively well, given the looming apocalypse and shaking hands with God and all. I can't help but wonder where exactly they sent Donatello at the end, given his connection to Amara's location: he may pose a threat and it seemed they speculated she may have been sending smoke after potential prophets?
Bunker Down with G-O-D
Most of the comedy was spurred by Chuck enjoying the finer things in the Bunker life - usually Dean's things. From his robe to his laptop (curling?) Chuck seemed to be relaxing, though still keeping an ear out for trouble. At least enough to hear Sam's (?) prayer when they were left to stare down Amara at the end. Realistically it would be too easy to have Chuck overly involved - his super snapping power could solve every problem before it's conceived so in that sense it was best to leave him in the bunker under the veil of disinterest, dispassion or lack of concern. It allowed things to happen a certain way, including Metatron to make his sacrifice - which might just spur their leader to the actions they need after all
Prior to any rescues, internet TV or long showers though, everyone had some reactions to news that Chuck was in actuality, God – the hardest hit and deepest of the reactions was Dean. An absent father, leaving his children to fight, struggle and suffer alone with desperate, repeated calls for help unanswered or ignored. Why wouldn't John and God be blurring for Dean? This exchange in the bunker was quietly on many levels. To start, we have the shock of Chuck as God soaking in and reinforced by the all-to-short Kevin cameo. Our favourite former-prophet notes immediately how stressed our Winchester boys look and he isn't wrong. After all, nonstop, day after day pursuit of Amara and/or Casifer with no fruit takes it's toll.
Sam fangirls with the best of them, which is amusing as hell to watch until Dean quietly lets him know that he's babbling. And this is really the crux of the entire scene here: the quiet. Sam is gushing, Kevin just crossed over, Chuck is super-casual at the table and Dean - in truly un-Dean-like fashion - isn't raging, yelling, ranting or demanding. Just, quiet. When Dean finally says his piece it's not about the Darkness or the immediateness of the threat their facing down but rather the years of pain and suffering in the world:
“I'm guessing you came back to help with the Darkness, and that's great. That's, you know -- It's fantastic. Um, but you've been gone a -- a... long, long time. And there's so much crap that has gone down on the Earth for thousands of years. I mean, plagues and wars, slaughters…Were you even aware, o-or did you just tune it out? …you did nothing. And, again, I-I'm not trying to piss you off. … People -- People pray to you. People build churches for you. They fight wars in your name, and you did nothing…from where I sit, it feels like you left us and you're trying to justify it.”
Again, all this is done, by and large, quietly and very emotionally. Dean is aching and in this exchange, the audience feels the weight of his anguish and the desperate need for answers readily as if it were our own. Very much a child crying out to a parent - whom Chuck makes clear is not him.
The one thing notable absentees from this scene? Sam's reaction. Aside from a short glance at a mostly neutral, intently listening face, Sam didn't offer anything during his brother's speech, or after and it undoubtedly upset him to watch his brother’s turmoil. Yet there is no address of this conversation again in the episode - not even when Sam is chattering about ears and planets. Interestingly, Sam has always been the one shown to have an unending faith while Dean has been more, blasé or (forgive the pun) rock and roll, about the entirety of the situation. Now, when faced with the abandoning Overseer of the Universe it is Dean overcome by his grief and Sam who is curious and sparkling toward Chuck.
The Fallen and The Redeemed: Lucifer and Metatron
Chuck was fundamentally against saving Casifer which means we were going to end up there one way or another. Has Amara really been torturing Lucifer all this time in the hopes that God would try and save him, despite their hate/hate relationship? Again there seem to be flaws in this plan - not the least of which is the block she had on her location which prevented God (or anyone else besides the prophet) from finding her. Though maybe I've misunderstood and she activated the prophet on purpose in order to be found but it backfired? Amara seems a bit cagey as a whole here so it's hard to say.
One thing is certain: God and Lucifer teaming up is going to be a great show if it's done right and I'm eager to watch that performance. Just the 60 seconds of screen time between Chuck and Casifer was enough to promise an electrifying relationship in pursuit of victory.
Poor Metatron: you started off so despicable and ended up such a fun character - why did you have to die just when I decided I liked you?! I suppose that's the Hero's Journey though, right? In retrospect this was the only ending that could have been for our Metatron. God was not going to return his grace after the whole evil-dictator thing and, to fully prove a turn around, sacrifice for family (what else is God to Metatron, really?) was the ultimate action of redemption. This was an unexpected and touching part of the episode, but done without unnecessary mush - which only made it better. Metatron wasn't friends with the Winchesters, he just loved God and was, as demonstrated last week as well, devoutly passionate about saving the world from Amara. The scene where he decides to stay is short, sweet and true to character - no convincing him to come along, Sam just lets him do what needs to be done. And even in death, Metatron is snarky to Amara. As he came in so he goes out.
To Be as One
The ever complex and disquieting bond between Amara and Dean has been interesting to take in throughout the season, and now I'm ready for the payoff in whatever form that may take. For Dean's sake - I hope he ends up killing her. The connection they share and the pull he feels appears to bother him deeply at times – despite the very minute chat he and Sam had about it.
This brings me to the final question about Amara: she consumes souls easily enough - why is Dean different? She appears to need his consent - or is the process something entirely different and she wants to absorb his consciousness as well? Maybe that was a teaser and it is a key in her destruction. Ah, rampant speculation, the fun we have together!
AITF was an enjoyable episode even with the questions it raised and the pieces it left to wayside. Donatello brought some new energy to the bunker even as we all deciding between laughter and confusion at the images of God wearing Dean's robe and slurping Chinese noodles with chopsticks. The A-Team is assembling, slowly but surely for the finale showdown and the uniqueness of the season, and level of players populating the field, all but guarantee an intriguing ending. Lots to think about after watching this one - so what were your thoughts?