The Morning After
Asmodeus is dead!! Hallelujah!
Charlie is back! Hooray!
Gabriel is alive and well again! Outstanding!
Supernatural’s “Bring ‘em Back Alive” crammed at least three game changing events into one episode! It was a bit jolting, abruptly closing plot lines I expected would run for at least 2-3 more episodes, but that made the episode (for the most part) enoyably intense. I thought Dean's shocking entry into the rift last week began a steady acceleration to the finale, with parallel fights: Dean and Ketch finding Mary, Bobby and Jack; while Sam, Castiel and Gabriel fought off Asmodeus and his search for Jack’s power. I totally got sucked into Dean’s prediction that they were on the ultimate multi-week rescue mission where he would miss the 24 hours deadline, search for and finally find Mary and Jack, but then would need Sam and Castiel to come save them all. Instead, this episode raced through all that in less than one day, dealing several supposed set-backs to Team Free Will.
Gabriel is alive! …but oops, he’s not staying. You rescued him and nursed him back to his healthy, powerful self (in less than 24 hours!) but he flew away taking all that ever-so-important archangel grace with him. Dean’s back! …but oops, he was unsuccessful. Rather, he’s now shot with a poisoned bullet and has returned empty handed. He left Ketch behind to gather intelligence, and he recruited a tactically important ally, getting one step closer to a dream team in the AU so that’s something at least.
At the end of this very long day for them, Dean, Sam and Castiel were defeated. Dean was angry; Sam and Cas were apologetic and defensive. None of that seemed right, though. Gabriel killed Asmodeus, a strategically important development that neither Dean, Sam nor Castiel seemed to care about! That deserved a HUGE check mark in their small book of wins! It certainly crossed something off my wish list for this season! They may have temporarily lost Gabriel, but he is alive and as Cas said, they will find him and get him back! Dean didn’t find Mary, but he, Sam and Castiel can work together again, and the AU team is simultaneously gaining strength. Of course we can see all that as the overseeing audience. Maybe to them it’s reasonable to be discouraged but once I recovered from the jarring and slightly awkward plot turns, a lot was right with the world!
Fans have lobbied for Charlie’s return since she was killed in season 10. Granted, this isn’t our Charlie, but the alternate universe’s sassy, tough, female warrior portrayed again by Felicia Day is game-world Charlie come to life! Even though fans speculated that the AU might be a chance for the show to “fix” the extremely unpopular decision to kill off this fan favorite character, her return was still a surprise. Judging by past seasons, I expected her to return in an episode much closer to the finale, say 20 or 21, as a gimmick to ratchet up emotions for the season’s ending. Reentering the series in the first three minutes of episode 18 was a shock, but I again applaud season 13 for moving plots forward earlier in the year rather than stalling with unimportant filler then abruptly stuffing everything into two myth arc heavy closers. This way every episode is significant to the story (maybe a little too significant in this case!) and the series is paced more like its early years during Kripke’s reign.
Charlie’s return was handled very well I thought. Dean finally talked about his guilt from Charlie’s death, and acknowledged how much she meant to him and Sam.
She was a sister to me. She did more for me and Sam than I can even say. And she was she was butchered. We couldn't get there in time
Charlie was still as opinionated and strong as ever, steadfast in her commitment to the rebellion both in the face of death and when given an opportunity to escape it all by running away to Sam and Dean’s reality.
Gabriel was the creative, unique, sadistic, sideways, sometimes funny, semi-friendly ally who was killed way back in season 5. His popularity has steadily increased as Richard Speight Jr’s gained a much larger following due to his involvement with the show and fans through conventions, directing and his own streamed series. Canon questions aside, Gabriel’s return to his former archangel glory was a spectacular scene. I loved seeing him transform, shedding years of abuse, then using his newfound power to torch his abuser. Richard/Gabriel looked so young again! I got chills seeing him spread his wings and claim his birthright! I could just imagine Castiel and Sam’s hopes swell when they saw him!
Technically, I question whether one small hit of archangel grace would revive Gabriel. If that’s all it took, wouldn’t there have been sometime in the past unknown number of years that his grace would have regenerated (another canon ripple) enough to allow him to save himself? The romantic notion that Gabriel was “awakened” by seeing Castiel and Sam suffer at the hands of the same abuser that “broke” him is endearing and worked well to create an emotional rescue/revival, but it may not hold up upon closer examination.
Still, I have wanted Asmodeus out of the story from the first day he sauntered into Hell’s throne room, so I am more than happy to hand wave away Gabriel’s triumph. Angel grace transfusions, regeneration and transfers seem to be here to stay…
Gabriel's testimony: Asmodeus, once the weakest of Hell's princes, grew strong by feeding on my grace
…so they might as well power up a fantastic archangel transfiguration! Happy dances all around that the last Prince of Hell is gone!!! I do NOT care about Hell’s power struggles and hope to never see that cheesy throne room ever again!
With Gabriel’s rebirth and Lucifer’s return to Sam and Dean’s world, that’s two out of three of the original apocalypse players back on the board. Michael is still stranded in the AU, but I sense a family reunion is looming. Are they building up to season 5 redux? Apocalypse avoidance round 2? Archangel number 4, Raphael, hasn’t been mentioned in a long time. Although he was important to Castiel’s rebellion in Heaven, Raphael wasn’t ever central to Sam and Dean’s story so I’m not anticipating all the brothers reuniting; just the ones who were directly involved in causing/deterring the showdown. The possibilities are tantalizing!
Dean and Ketch’s story was interwoven into Charlie’s return (or more accurately, visa-versa). I loved this part of the story too. I’ve said before that I’ve always liked Ketch’s character. His conflict was visible through his otherwise reprehensible actions; his feelings for Mary tugged at him as he carried out his duty bound orders. I enjoy now seeing him as a soldier fighting alongside Dean for what is right. Dean doesn’t forgive Ketch for past dealings but does recognize and acknowledge an ally in battle. David Hayden-Jones built a strong character who carries his weight in scenes with Jensen. The acting and plot partnership reminds me of Dean and Benny – the enemy turned ally in an apocalyptic world where fighting is all that matters. Maybe that parallel was specifically intended. Asmodeus referred to Gabriel as his “blood brother”. Was that a reference to Dean & Benny, now Ketch, or Dean and Sam?
Besides all of this going on, there was yet another parallel story – in the other cheesy throne room that I don’t care about: Heaven, Lucifer and Anael! There were significant plot advancements here as well, although they weren’t as shocking as the others. Lucifer admitted that he lied (something Lucifer had previously said he didn’t do). He can’t create angels nor give them back their wings. No surprise here. What was eye-opening was how sassy and brave Anael was in speaking up to him!
Your father created. You inherited. Before all of us start treating you like God, you might try acting like God.
Wow, she wasn’t intimidated by him at all! My only surprises were that Lucifer let her mouth off as long as he did, AND that he didn’t kill her in the end. Why didn’t he kill her? The really unnecessary and disgusting (although slightly humorous) vignette about the possessed teen showed how impulsively he killed the priests when they ineffectively and clumsily threw holy water on him and started reciting exorcism spells.
If Lucifer is that impetuous, letting Anael live seemed contrived and awkward. Still, it was a welcome twist, and an angel who seems fairly competent has a plan to restore heaven.
Jo/Anael: We came her to change things. Make Heaven better. Help the angels.
Lucifer: Dumah. Perfect timing.
She actually believes in these things! Maybe she’ll be on a redemption arc soon too? Maybe she’ll ally with Castiel as any port in a storm?
So if we’ve now sorted out everything that happened on the surface, were there any hidden threads to foreshadow the rest of the season?
Ketch: You do know where we are, don't you? Because, not to be a nag, but we've only got 24 hours
Dean: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Just give me -- give me a minute.
(later) We're running out of time. Let's pick up the pace.
(later) Come on, we don't have time for this.
(later) I do appreciate it, but we're running out of time. How about you rest? I'm gonna keep going. In five minutes.
Ketch: To your point, we are running out of time.
Slave Trader: POW Camp. from here.
Since time was of the essence to Dean and Ketch's mission, they continually reminded each other, and us, of the urgency of time. Other characters echoed this plotline with casual references to time as well.
Sam: Cas, he wanted to go solo.
Cas: And you let him?
Sam: I - He didn't give me much of a choice. Anyways, Dean's right. As long as he's over there, and we're here, we need to be taking care of Gabriel, getting him right again.
Cas: You didn't tell me it was this bad.
Sam: Yeah, well, years of isolation and torture and Asmodeus draining his grace.
After observing the aftermath of years of torture, Cas suggested they further Gabriel’s indignities but forcing him to ingest his grace:
Sam, I don't think he's gonna open up and let the choo-choo in. A technique for feeding recalcitrant children. I think a little coercion may be necessary.
What?? You’re trying to gain his trust and nurse him back to health by ganging up on him and forcing something down his throat in the first 30 seconds you are with him?? That made NO sense. Again, where is Sam’s voice? Why did he go along with that suggestion?
On the other hand, Charlie made it clear that she was the only one who made decisions for herself. When Dean begged her to come back to his world with him, she told him, “That’s not your call.” You go girl! Ketch also made his own decision to stay in the AU fight, possibly for the first time in a long time, freed of the MoL, Asmodeus and all of his prior masters.
All year we’ve tracked the importance of talking in season 13’s stories – talking things out, speaking the truth, hearing what others need to say. At the beginning of Dean's frantic search for his mother, he kept yelling for and at Ketch. This seemed odd, as Ketch rightly pointed out they were supposed to be trying to not get caught! During their foxhole bonding, Dean and Ketch had a bit of a heart-to-hear revealing chat, this time Dean speaking in a civil volume to his partner:
Ketch: What's the story you're not telling me?
Dean: What about your story you're not telling me?
Their talk was the pivotal moment when Ketch decided to help save Charlie, perhaps the moment he decided to commit himself to the cause.
Last week, xoferew offered that this thread should perhaps be expanded to include non-verbal forms of communication as well. Sam was upset that Scooby’s animated newspaper didn’t contain any words, and Sandy in “The Thing” mislabeled the secret society the Men of Words. Gabriel’s sewn lips prevented him from speaking until Sam removed the stitches, but Gabriel’s ordeal continued to silence him, as he was too traumatized to speak.
Sam: So why isn't he talking to us?
Cas: I don't know. Maybe he can't.
Sam: Or maybe he's choosing not to. Maybe he thinks it's safer that way.
Still, Gabriel found a way to communicate, writing out his story all over the walls and doors of the bunker’s bedroom.
Per usual, my brother had double my brawn and half my brains. He assumed the counterfeit me was what vanished that night, and he thought that he'd stabbed the real thing. The truth is, the thing Luci skewered was a fake. There are plenty of fakes to go around. Everyone believed Gabriel was gone. And suddenly, I was free.
One of the best scenes among many memorable scenes in this episode was Sam’s poignant plea to Gabriel, in which Sam admitted the truths of his life:
Gabriel, you have to dig yourself out of this hole.
Look, I know you think it's safer inside.
No more torture.
No more pain.
No more expectations.
I've been there.
You were nothing like your family.
You sure as hell weren't like your dad.
And just like you, I got out.
Or I-I thought I got out.
But then then my family needed me.
And this is my life.
No matter how many times I tried to fight it, this is what I was put here to do.
This is where I make the world a better place.
And sure, yeah, hookers in Monte Carlo sound great, but your family needs you.
Jack, your nephew, needs you.
The world needs you.
We need you.
Gabriel, I need you.
So, please, help us.
Jared really delivered in that scene. My heart filled with admiration and inspiration from all Sam has learned about how he makes a difference, and how each of us need to find where we make the world a better place. It got through to me, and it was enough to get through to Gabriel.
Sleeping/Dream Worlds, The Truth, and Imposters/Disguises
Throughout season 13, sleeping, waking and dream worlds have been openly inserted in almost every episode. As pointed out in the "Threads" comments last week (thanks Annabelle!), there have been several subtle reminders of awaking as well, such as Sam constantly getting knocked unconscious then “waking up” to the real world, or Dean awaking from his “temporary” death. In “Bring ‘em Back Alive” Gabriel fulfilled this thread by awakening from a self-induced dream world where he sought refuge from his constant torture. In doing so, he revealed that he had faked his death. He created a copy of himself, an imposter that interacted with his brother without raising any suspicion at all. This subterfuge freed him, and the truth is that there are plenty of fakes to go around.
This rewrite of season 5’s “Hammer of the Gods” was very well done. It provided a plausible expalanation for Gabriel’s reinsertion into the story, but it went far beyond that. Yet again, that story subtly warned the audience that someone is not who they say they are. Gabriel's imposter freed the real being to go undetected; he impersonated himself just as he had often impersonated someone else. Injured Gabriel was a seemingly helpless, unassuming being, yet inside him hid an extremely powerful being (his archangel self). Could this analogy be referring to the Entity and Castiel leaving the Empty several months ago, the more powerful being hiding inside the less powerful angel; or that the Entity is an imposter posing as Castiel leaving the real deal behind; or is it talking about Michael being freed from the AU in the month to come? It also subliminally refers to two would be kings, Lucifer and Asmodeus, who were weak and reviled but are trying to impersonate the real rulers of Heaven and Earth. In any case, someone is an imposter in season 13!
Burning – Fire and burning were threads early in season 13 but they haven’t been detected in a while. “Bring ‘em Back Alive” restarted the thread, if only temporarily. The priests’ ritual spoke of fire, Dean was “burning up” with fever, and Asmodeus was going to reduce the bunker to ashes but instead had a fatal encounter with flame.
Insanity – Castiel “jolted” Gabriel’s “mind into thinking straight”
Manners – Dean was sorry that the AU world couldn’t offer Ketch mai-tais, Charlie was sorry for not cooperating with her captors, and Jo/Anael was sorry Lucifer couldn't find his bliss . There were other pleasantries throughout the episode as well. Listen for them!
Water – Boats, water, floating and other references to water were prevalent for a while earlier in the season. They appeared again in this dialog, through draining grace and washing away sins. Were there others?
Animals – Birdseed cures and beasts, but I stopped jotting them down after that. What about you?
Dean’s shot at the Angel commander and missed? Dean doesn’t miss.
Overall, I really enjoyed “Bring “em Back Alive” because I loved, in order: Sam, Cas and Gabriel; Charlie’s return; Dean and Ketch’s adventure and Asmodeus being killed. Since Sr. Jo stood up to Lucifer, so that storyline was even acceptable. How about you, and chime in on the Threads!
Transcript quotes courtesy of https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/view_episode_scripts.php?tv-show=supernatural&episode=s13e18
Additional screencaps courtesy of http://www.homeofthenutty.com/supernatural/screencaps/