I don’t even need to see the writing credits of an episode. I’m so familiar now with each writer’s quirks, aka “go to” devices. Do they have the ability to put together a fluid script and does substance triumph over stunts? As soon as I saw the graphic and brutal gore in the murders of those two innocent people with no real substance behind the act, I knew this was a Brad and Eugenie script. The lack of fluid plotting and time wasting scenes on characters not named Winchester until the end cemented that feeling.
I shouldn’t be so harsh though. I think Buckner/Ross-Leming scripts had been stronger this season. However, they have tells and sometimes they fall back on them too heavily when a story is meant to bridge an episode to something that will happen later rather than the here and now. Stunts like mistaking gore and brutality for real horror, spending too much time of secondary characters, and choppy plotting that fails to mix unrelated stories fluidly. Check, check, and check. But hey, at least we got some very strong brotherly scenes. Without those, this episode would have gone onto my ever growing “epic fail” list.
Indulge me, but let’s go through the bad stuff first. I’d like to go out on a high.
I get the intent of the Nick story, but they’re trying to stretch it into something way more than what it really is. I was interested at first, now, I’m bored and don’t see this leading to any sort of payoff. Or, if there is a payoff, they’re taking way too much time to get there! So much so I’ve already lost interest. We know, Nick is a loose cannon, but his unstable actions aren’t compelling. Everything he does has become eye rolling because it’s rooted in predictable brutality with no real purpose or believability. He’s not super human! He escaped from the hospital that easily? He was wanted in four states! They should have had him guarded by more than one stupid cop (that's not usual police protocol). I wish I felt something when he was confronted by the ghost of his wife, but I didn’t. Maybe because him going to that house and her appearing felt random. Oh boy, he’s choosing Lucifer over his wife. Color me surprised. I’m still waiting for all this to go somewhere rather than it being time killing mid-season filler.
The whole Donatello drama seemed off and rather anticlimactic. I felt instead of introducing compelling lore, they tried to wedge it in between everything else. It had a plausible theory, the natural order has been upset, but the “resurrection” of Donatello was weak and had zero drama to it. Castiel can suddenly fix him because he’s fighting? It sounded like another inconceivable plot twist to service a weak plot. I get that Donatello was ruining the next prophet but wasn’t it determined earlier that having a soulless prophet is a bad thing? It causes him to do shifty things? How is Donatello living good? I won’t pick apart too much, suspending disbelief for another time, but once again it was another concept sandwiched uncomfortably in between the ultimate strength of the story, the brothers.
The Tony the Prophet scenes were awful and wasteful. Most of the classic uncomfortable to watch scenes are organic due to the plot itself unfolding and nature of the monster. Take Doc Benton for example in season three’s “Time is on My Side.” We saw him capture his first victim and then he arrived at the hospital later all messed up. As Doc Benton’s story progressed, the horror got more and more graphic, but that’s because his mission was revealed and the reasons for his brutality known. He was fighting for survival. Here, without getting that background first, the scenes jumped right to graphic and brutal from the start, coming across as over indulgent in misdirected horror rather than properly servicing the plot. It’s a shame that the producers in this episode mistook a brutal killing for entertaining horror. Just like any other genre, it has to be done right to be effective. His suicide made even less sense. I mean, Sam and Dean beat him, call him a psycho and tell him he's killing innocent people, and are horrified that he grabs Dean's gun and puts a bullet in his brain? Yeah, poorly conceived overall.
Sam’s Slow Unraveling
The episode started with Dean's terror, in the form of a terrifying dream of what it would be like to be at the bottom of the ocean in a box forever. I was particularly chilled by the scratches on the motel wall and his bloodied fingertips. But it turned out that this episode would explore the unraveling of Sam's psyche, not Dean's. I know that Dean's is coming, but given all the crap Sam has had to deal with, it's about time he showed some cracks in the armor. I've often been very critical that Sam has been written as wooden and robotic in the plots with no real emotional fallout from his struggles. It’s hard to grip me emotionally anymore with the brotherly drama, even when Castiel is thrown into the mix. It’s been done, then redone, then rehashed, and then redone again hoping we wouldn’t notice. But dammit, Sammy got me in that final scene. Crap did Jared sell that. We so rarely get to see what’s eating at Sam inside and when it comes out, it has the potential to be solid gold. It was.
Honestly, the dynamic between Sam, Dean and Castiel reminded me a lot of episode 100, “Point of No Return,” from all the way back on season five. I LOVED that episode because it was very emotional and really dug deep into the root of the brotherly dynamic. Sam was juggling so much, barely trying to hold things together as Dean was going off the rails, ready to say “yes” to Michael. They eventually got through it by Sam putting unwavering faith in his brother. But yeah, a lot has happened since then. Sam and Dean have literally been to hell and back and then hell and back again! No wonder Sam feels betrayed by Dean’s decision. Every ounce of their being has been committed to fighting the good fight together. Always keep fighting. They’re the guys that save the world. They learned long ago they can’t give up on each other. It’s no longer an option. So yeah, no wonder Sam is gobsmacked by Dean’s decision. Something bothered me about this conversation at the end of last week though:
Sam: So... you came out here to see Donna, to see Mom on some -- some what? Some sick, secret farewell tour? You were gonna leave and, you weren't even gonna tell me. Me. Do you realize how messed up that is, how unfair that is?
Dean: I didn't have a choice! Sam, you're the last person I could tell, the last person I could be around, 'cause you're the only person that could've talk me out of it. And I won't be talked out of it. I won't. I'm doing this. Now, you could either let me do it alone... or you can help me. But I'm doing this.
Sam: All right.
At the end of this episode I wondered, “Really? Why did Sam give up so easily?” I was glad to see this week that he was just trying to buy some time, talk his big brother down from this ridiculous act. Sam’s never been one to wear his heart on his sleeve. He internalizes a lot and holds back what he’s thinking and feeling. He’s the one that needs to hold it together for everyone else’s sake. But signs of Sam’s desperation were there in this episode, desperation that we did not see at all in the beginning of the season when Dean was missing. Needless to say, he’s not taking the blow of Dean’s plan well. “Man, I left that behind a long time ago. I had to. And if we're gonna get through this, I-I have to do like you said and... try and keep my mind off where we're going. So if we could not have conversations that sound like... deathbed apologies, I would really appreciate it.” This is a reversal from “No Rest For the Wicked,” when Sam wanted to talk and Dean silenced him with the epic “Wanted Dead or Alive” sing-a-long. Sam is really hurt over Dean’s choice. He’s so raw can’t talk about it. It looked like he was fighting back tears.
Another sign that Sam was losing it happened during the confrontation with Tony the Prophet. Those were some brutal punches. Of course part of that frustration could have also been from giving Nick the benefit of the doubt and that backfiring, but no doubt it was mostly about Dean. But it was his hope that by telling Castiel, he would be able to convince Dean too. That didn't go over so well.
Castiel’s reaction to the plan was a big ole “meh” for me. He had a right to be angry, finding out from Sam instead of Dean. But instead of a true heart-to-heart or a brutal confrontation like we got in “Point of No Return,” we ended up with Castiel throwing passive-aggressive lines that went no where. Sure, he’s done that before, but that’s when he and Dean have had little quarrels. Here the stakes couldn’t be higher! Overall, it was disappointing and Castiel’s character continues to flounder with little substance in his actions. Please, we need a writer that will do him justice!
The Winchester Ballet
Now, it’s time for the good part. One of the best scenes in a really long time. Let’s walk through closing scene, or something I like to call, “The Winchester Ballet.” Cue music...
Sam: “Sorry.” How sorry are you? Sorry that you fight to keep Donatello alive, but when it comes to you, you just throw in the towel? Or are you sorry that, after all these years, our entire lives, a-after I’ve looked up to you, after I’ve learned from you, I-I-I’ve copied you, I followed you to Hell and back… are you sorry that all of that it – it – it means nothing now?
Dean: Who’s saying that?
Sam: You are, when you tell me I have to kill you. When you’re telling me that I have to just throw away everything we stand for, throw away faith, throw away family. We’re the guys who saved the world. We don’t just check out of it!
After throwing words at Dean all episode, Sam finally breaks. Out of frustration, he pushes Dean! He’s starting to unravel, accepting that mere words are no longer getting through. It takes a lot for Sam to hit this point. Dean still persists.
DEAN: Sam, I have tried everything. Everything! I got one card left to play and I have to play it.
SAM: You have one card today! But we’ll find another tomorrow. But if you quit on us today, there will be no tomorrow! You tell me, uh, you don’t know what else to do. I don’t either, Dean. Not yet. But what you’re doing now, i-it’s – it’s wrong! It’s quitting! I mean, l-look what just happened. Donatello never quit fighting. So we could help him because he never gave up.
I believe in us, Dean.
(Look at the hair fly!)
Dean says nothing, so Sam hits him! Alright! Dean so had that coming. You know that Sam is really losing his shit if he hits Dean. He’s so rarely done that before, at least when he wasn’t under the influence of a spell or demon blood. Heck, has he ever hit Dean before outside of being under the influence of something? Come on continuity hounds, help me out here. Sam goes for the double punch, out of emotional control now and Dean finally gets it. He finally sees how badly Sam has been impacted by his choice. He blocks the punch and pulls his brother in for a hug instead. The ballet hits crescendo and we’re left in tears, totally sucked in by the love between these two brothers.
Oh, but it isn’t over yet. Time for the closer. Just before we get lulled into a false sense of security that everything is alright, there’s that staunch reminder that we aren’t at the end of the season yet.
Dean: I believe in all of us. And I’ll keep believing until I can’t. Until there’s absolutely no other way. But when that day comes – if that day comes… Sam, you have to take it for what it is – the end. And you have to promise me that you’ll do then what you can’t do now, and that’s let me go. And put me in that box.
Sam, now a total emotional wreck, tearfully agrees. Suddenly they all are on the same page. Sam gets his chance to save Dean but just like in season two with Dean possibly having to kill Sam, if the saving plan goes off the rails, they have to go through with the unthinkable. They may have been here before, but it still hurts like hell every time we see it. Twelve seasons later and watching them face another horrific fate isn’t any easier. The ballet is now over and it was a masterpiece. It’s a nice way to go into next week.
Quote of the episode (not counting the brotherly dialogue): Castiel: She went through the entire Book of the Damned and found nothing. And I told her to do it again, see if she missed something, and, uh... well, the woman has a remarkable command of profanity.
Easily my favorite hair shot of the season. Look at that wave! That poof!
I’m not going to comment much on Dean’s talk in the car about John “sending him away,” but I did cough into my hand abruptly yelling, “Retcon!” At this point, the writers should know better. I hope this doesn’t impact this week’s episode because I’ve just about had it with the John bashing.
I really didn’t like that they tried to equate Donatello fighting for life with Dean’s situation. It’s not even close! It’s not like Donatello has the same status with them like Bobby or Jack. He’s just another guy they’ve run into in this crazy mythology. Terrible parallel overall and Sam and Castiel didn’t need to run with that.
Something happened in this episode that made me hit my boiling point. I mean really, HOW DID THEY LET THIS HAPPEN?? WHY OH WHY?? Seriously, what were they thinking? Why did they think that the Impala, our hallowed Baby herself, could haul a trailer? In the HISTORY OF THE SHOW, Baby has never had a trailer hitch and given her age, it would not be a good idea to start now.
I mean seriously, look through the years. Season two, no trailer hitch…
Season five, many impalas, no trailer hitches…
Season eleven, banged up and dirtied Baby, no trailer hitch...
Season fourteen, heck, LAST WEEK’S EPISODE, NO TRAILER HITCH!
You think you can just strap a trailer to a bumper and go? Seriously, Google hauling a trailer without a trailer hitch. The common responses are “You can’t pull a trailer without a hitch,” “You’d be insane to tow a trailer without a hitch,” “What sort of black magic do you think you know to pull a trailer without a hitch?” and my favorite, “It is illegal to pull a trailer on the road without a hitch.”
Could Dean have installed one this week? It's not like you can go to an auto service center and say, "Can you install a modern trailer hitch on my 1967 Impala?" That thing is made of pure steel. How do you drill holes into it? How would it fit? Plus, why would you want to drill holes into Baby?
Worse off, why didn't anyone on the crew in charge of the vehicles point this out? Someone dropped the ball in the research department.
Overall grade, a C. The rest of the episode gets a D- but the closing scene gets an A++, pushing up the grade a bit. Next week, 300! It’s going to be epic, I hope.