So much to say about this episode – and it’s all good. “Beat the Devil” opened strong and carried the momentum to the final seconds, delivering strength, emotions and all the nitty, gritty in between. The telltale signs of nearing the finale – in particular that “Beat the Devil” primarily followed one storyline through the entire episode. Episode twenty in this season of worthwhile episodes wasn’t perfect, but it certainly hit all the right high notes.
Relationships and Evolution: New, Old and Potential
Because the episode followed (save for minute branches) one consecutive storyline, there was a bit more focus on some unique relationships and interactions between characters that may not have otherwise been afforded that time. This brought some humour and planted seeds for future possibilities.
Let’s look at Rowena and Gabriel, since this was the most interesting and, to date, the characters with no prior screen time from our motely crew of heroes. Initially, Gabriel produces such a pathetic amount of Grace for the spell that the rift quickly becomes flaccid and ultimately collapses before anyone can think of entering. This in itself was a brilliant moment: the build up, the swelling music, the serious expressions. Only to have such a monumental let down. Despite the seriousness of the situation and need to get to the other side, this entire incident afforded some necessary levity. And, as it turns out, it also offered a due counterbalance to a harsh and gritty second half of the episode as well.
Watching Ruth and Richard speaking in unison – with different dialogue – about Gabriel’s inability to produce Grace later was classic. It was well acted and funny in its simplicity. These two were not characters I’d have put together in any sense but somehow they work well. It was an interesting decision to reveal internal thoughts of Rowena and Gabriel in just the brief moment before they run off together – I’ll admit I wasn’t clear right away as to whether this was a side-effect of the spell Rowena had cast since it sort of came out of nowhere. Were they hearing each other’s thoughts? Though quickly obvious it was being played for laughs to the audience (and the lines were funny). I’m not sure why this was the choice so randomly and one off. Thoughts?
One of the best moments that came out of this union was the reaction of Sam, Dean and Cas on discovery and realization that Gabriel and Rowena had had sex. Sam looks truly horrified, Cas just keeps his head down and Dean is stunned. The picture they make is beyond words.
Later, Rowena and Gabriel each have a moment of realization and self-discovery. For Rowena, her character journey has been truly brilliant this season. She is still a bad-ass, though it’s evident the trauma of her Lucifer-induced death last season changed her significantly. She did choose to stay and help the boys after Lucifer went through the rift, afterall. She knew it was the right thing to do.
Even in Rowena’s interaction with Lucifer, she understood he was trying to bait her and, despite being affected and drawn in ultimately, she resisted well and kept her emotions at bay. This was another strong scene, Ruth acted the trauma and PTSD poignantly, both in the moments with dialogue with Lucifer but also in the moments where she said nothing – and these were where she was the strongest, conveying it all through her expressions. Still, this line to Lucifer, though it gave him the rage to escape, was a great one:
“Your wee boy's over there, and he'll be so glad to see his three fathers. Of course, as far as he's concerned, they are his father. And you? You're nothing to him. Or me. Or anyone now.Nothing.”
“Well, Heaven's been run into the ground by upstanding angels. Perhaps a screwup is just the change we need.”
And Gabriel seemed to take this into deep consideration. Do we have a new leader?
Laying a Trap
Catching Lucifer was a small part of the episode overall, but it was done so well that it’s worth mention. Sam was very against the notion of Lucifer being involved and it is Castiel who petitions for this with Sam – perhaps Dean does as well, though not that we saw on screen – and Sam finally agrees. Sam then conceives the idea that they can use Lucifer as angel-on-tap to keep the door open longer so they can be guaranteed to get back.
(Speaking briefly to the issue of the Grace – I’m going to assume that Archangel Grace works differently than regular angel Grace. After all, wasn’t Cas dying when his was missing – as in, to “recharging” it?)
Next we are privy to one pathetic Morningstar, drinking at the bar and bemoaning how he had it all in the palm of his hand and he lost all it…if only he had his son. I admit, I did not have an inkling that this bar was the set up to get Lucifer. So well done. I really enjoyed that they were able to pull mind games on Lucifer for a change and that we were able to watch Gabriel in his Trickster form – taking great pleasure doing it too. This scene was a lot of fun – but when will they ever learn? If you have the chance to kill Lucifer – TAKE IT!
Journey Through Nightmares
Finally making it through the rift, the episode takes a dark turn. The apocalypse world is ravaged and that includes the monsters. The boys decide to go through the tunnel as a quicker way to get to Mary and Jack, feeling prepared to fight the nest of starved, rabid vampires. They are not. These scenes were some of the best in the episode. The lighting and shadows, the caverns, the teeth – everything set the scene and added to the intensity, which continued to build the longer we were in the tunnel with our group. Finally, Sam, Dean, Cas and Gabriel – along with the two civilians – are overwhelmed by the vampires and, unexpectedly, they don’t win as Dean’s nightmare comes to life watching Sam’s throat ripped out as he is dragged away. This moment was horrifying. Of course Sam can’t die. Dean rips apart the nearby creatures and races after Sam, but Cas (who already tried to get to him) stops him, because it’s too late. Because of the dream fake out in the opening, I kept waiting for Dean to snap up in bed. For something to happen to show that this wasn’t real. Alas, it was.
So, a few things about this event and it’s effect on the rest of the episode. First, Jensen’s reaction was spot on. Mostly non-verbal, you knew everything he was feeling. Immediately afterwards, Dean was simply shutdown. His face read like a book of cold rage. Second, Mary and Dean’s reunion is what it is. She is excited to see him, he is devastated when she asked about Sam. However, the reunions overall were a bit of a letdown. We have been building most of the season towards these characters coming together, and we didn’t even see Jack learning they are there or hearing of Sam’s death. Or his reunion with Castiel. Time maybe of the essence – but these reactions were worth the time and I felt a bit shortchanged.
Deal with the Devil
Much like Dean’s nightmare in watching his brother die, Sam’s nightmare was waking to Lucifer’s grinning face. We knew he couldn’t die – at least not permanently – so it wasn’t a surprise to have Sam’s “Lazarus” moment. He’s had a few over thirteen years. It’s the subsequent conversation with Lucifer that makes it interesting.
Most of the time, Lucifer is truly evil and takes pleasure in being that way. However, when it comes to his son there seems to be some genuine interest in an actual relationship. It’s a small, slim bit that breaks through when he talks about Jack – or when Rowena throws in his face that he is nothing to Jack – but it’s there and it’s what gives his character depth in these situations. Do we think he is still after Jack for power, or is there something more there?
Lucifer presents Sam with the offer of freeing him from the cave of vampires in exchange for Sam telling Jack that Lucifer saved Sam from the dead. Sam is wholly disgusted with these options – but what can you do. So…I’m not sure what Lucifer expects here ultimately. Sam can make this deal and lie. (He won’t). Sam can make this deal and be very explicit when he explains things to Jack. Either way, love doesn’t just spring up from one allegedly decent act, Lucifer. It’s an odd deal, no matter which way you spin this. Or am I the only one who thinks so?
This was a powerful, thematic episode built on facing worst nightmares and overcoming. It was certainly dark but not lacking in humour. Finally, Mary and Jack are reunited with Sam and Dean. The final moments of this episode saw almost no words spoken, simply the realization that Sam is alive, followed by that Lucifer smirk and “Hello, son.” This was certainly a solid note to close out such a dynamic episode. But what does it all amount to?
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[Some images courtesy of HomeoftheNutty.com]