Whew. Where to even begin with this one? It was chalk full of Supernatural goodness from top to bottom, featuring old faces, reunions, phenomenal acting and serious cliffhangers, on two fronts. Some interesting moments of symmetry. What does it all add up to? One great mid-season finale.
Let’s break it down.
The Eileen in Team
This episode started off with Eileen on a hunt and suddenly Sam shows up to white-knight the situation. It was unnecessary and the show acknowledged Sam was being overprotective. There were two things that would later be echoed by the end of the episode.
First, Sam mentions that Eileen leaves without leaving a note versus later, when she asks for his help. Second, while this time she is completely capable, the end meeting is a trap laid by God (more on this later). Since these moments bookend the episode, the symmetry is interesting though it’s hard to know what exact commentary is being delivered by it. Sam is understandably concerned about Eileen (even before God’s threat) and Eileen is accustomed to working as a solo huntress, rather than a teammate. Both are working to adjust. God is the wrench in these plans. Is Eileen a tool of manipulation, or will she be part of the happy ending as Dean so sweetly encouraged Sam to aim for?
Maybe this will be clearer once we see the outcome of the meeting with God – but for now, it’s something worth taking note of.
The Solution in the Problem
Having overcome the depression and the “why-bother” approach weighing him down last week, Dean is struck by an idea. Hey, why did God write down all these “how to defeat stuff I should be able to snap away” manuals, unless he was afraid of being gone in the first place? This leads to the idea that should have occurred earlier, had they not all been moping – Amara is a goddess, equal to Chuck, who was locked away. Therefore, they should be able to do the same with Chuck.
Quick, to the prophet phone!
But, before we do that. We must address the elephant in this scene: Dean’s line that suggests he doesn’t know what an Achilles heal means. If you were on Twitter, you probably saw the collective facepalm, and, as a few were quick to post, Dean had this key line back in season five, “Point of No Return”
“Maybe we're each other's Achilles Heel. Maybe they'll find a way to use us against each other, I don't know. I just know we're all we've got.”
So yeah. That was pretty glaring as far as oversights go. We’ll chalk it up to stress, Dean.
The Voice of God
It’s fantastic anytime Donatello graces the boys with his presence. He’s hilariously resistant to this plan, hiding from Castiel in a great moment where Cas annoyedly taps on the window. Donatello just wants to live his best soulless life.
Oddly, he lost his soul as a result of Amara so it’s kind of fitting that he should be looped into a plan to lock her brother into the same prison she escaped from all those years back. Again, note the symmetry here.
Now for the most part, even without is soul, Donatello is a fairly affable guy. He’s nervous and a bit twitchy (but really, who wouldn’t be at this point), so the moment Chuck takes over his body the transformation is incredible. Keith Szarabajka does an amazing job as Chuck in Donatello. His tenor, is face, the way he keeps his body limp and head low through the delivery. This is one of the moments (and there are a few) that make the episode sing. The unease is palpable through the screen as the boys stand to attention. You can’t help wondering if Donatello will live through the encounter.
Listening to Chuck as Donatello tell them to back off, rattling off Donna, Jody and Eileen as possible consequences for pursuing their course is chilling and affirming. Why would God go to so much trouble, unless they are onto something?
This is Chuck as an malevolent entity, menacing, dark and imposing.
And it is wonderful.
Hail the Queen
Naturally, the Winchesters decide to pursue their goals despite Chuck’s caution. Castiel wonders if they should back off, for Jody and Donna and Eileen, but Sam aptly points out that nobody will be safe, regardless, because Chuck is an ass (I’m paraphrasing of course).
Gosh, there is so much in this episode.
The spell to get to Hell, to find Adam is the same one Rowena used. After it’s performed, before Sam says the words, Castiel says:
“It’s exactly the spell Rowena used. Just without Rowena.”
In the moment, this is a little sad. Later, this is obviously some foreshadowing.
This scene also shows Castiel healing Dean’s hand, at some cost to himself. They don’t discuss it and the tension between these two remains heavy throughout, so much so that later on “Auntie Rowena” will call them out.
Before we get to the big reveal, let’s take a moment to appreciate Hell and the welcome committee that greets Sam, Dean and Castiel. We have a silent, all female guard that stalks dramatically out of the columns, overwhelming our heroes easily. Not only is this a brilliantly choreographed fight scene, it birthed a new-classic quote from Dean:
“Are any of us winning?”
According to episode director Richard Speight, Jr. on Twitter, this was a Jensen improvisational moment. Thank you. It was a perfect cap of levity on a wonderful action scene.
Let’s get to the meat of this: Queen Rowena. Hearing her voice off scene was like a small tease and then there she was, in all her glorious magnificence. Rowena: “Hello boys.”
I doubt this is the last time we’ll see Rowena again – but her on the throne of Hell is the perfect culmination of her story. Somebody has to lead Hell, after all. Who better? Though we don’t see much of Rowena ruling her subjects, the implied is so much better: trembling subjects, her female guard squad, the petrified demon who reports that Michael is gone. It all adds up to one badass queen.
It was also worthwhile to have some absolution for Sam on his part in her death:
“You killing me was one of the best things that ever happened. Yes, there are things I miss about being alive. Flesh-on-flesh sex. Amazon doesn't deliver here yet. But, lads, I'm queen. My subjects revere me. Well, fear me, which is better. I should have died a long time ago.”
Now, there are a few things that baffle me about this just a bit. Maybe this will be clarified down the road but: how does Rowena still have the same body as before? Is she a demon? If not, is she still a witch? These details seem a little misty. In the best way, I suppose, but confused nevertheless.
Regardless of the why and the how, Rowena’s return was another element that added wonderful magic (pun intended!) to this episode. Ruth was stunning atop her throne, making me wonder if gold glittery cat eyes would be over the top for daytime office make up; and admiring the way she switches so smoothly between fierce, startling commander and charming mother-esque figure, referring to Sam as “my dove” in the same breath – simply delightful to watch.
Two Faces of Adam
The star of this episode was undoubtedly Jake Abel. Anytime an actor successful pulls off two characters, acting opposite himself (which happens semi-regularly on this show) they deserve a kudos. When they do it this well, they deserve an ovation and an award. I have a lot of thoughts on the Michael/Adam event, but I’ll try to be succinct.
First, as already stated, Jake was phenomenal. Adam and Michael were two totally different characters. Adam was sweet, reasonable, forgiving even and undeniably human. He was lonely and there was something touching about him wanting a burger so much. In contrast is Michael, loyal to his father (to a fault), rigid in his beliefs and alien in his mannerisms. Each of these characters was very distinct in their motions, facial expressions, voices – there was never a doubt about who was speaking.
Credit to the scene in the diner. We don’t know Adam, really, and we don’t know this Michael. This small scene gave us a chance to not only know them – but their relationship, which was important. They’d been together for ten years. If not for the insane circumstances, this was almost a sweet friendship. When Michael smiles at Adam (granted this is in his mind, not as we saw really) and tells him to go for it with the burger and fries, it was endearing. There is genuine affection for Adam. He also later listens to him, considers his words when being held by the Winchesters and Castiel.
Sam and Dean are struck by the fact that Adam is allowed to be “out” while possessed by Michael – Adam explains they came to an understanding because they only have each other.
It’s also worth noting how much different this Michael is from alternative Michael. There is not the arrogance or intolerance for humanity that Michael seemed to have. This is a completely different character, and I think I kind of liked him.
For his part, Adam was shockingly understanding of the Winchesters. It was refreshing that he wasn't written as vengeful, angry or hateful towards Sam and Dean for what happened. He acknowledges that forgiveness wasn’t really there, but also that “Sam and Dean try to be on the right side of things. They actually do…if they try to tell you somethings off with God, it’s because they believe it’s true. And if they believe it, it’s probably true.” That’s a pretty generous endorsement considering what he went through as a result of Sam and Dean. Credit for making this character better than your average revenge-driven, irrational guy.
One nitpick. Itsy-bitsy. This is really more because I can’t handle the timeline of this season. So, Michael disappears when the cage is flung open by God at the end of last season. Why, in the diner are they behaving like that’s day one? Adam mentions getting a job, needing clothes, etc. Unless, that was day one and the cavorting all over Earth that Donatello latched onto was later in time than the diner? Anybody connect these dots for me? Leave a comment!
Oh, and let’s not forget the brief encounter with Lilith. Michael wasn’t having it and it’s not 100 percent clear if he vaporized her or she vanished. What is apparent is that God wants Michael for something – maybe to stop him from helping the Winchesters as he later will. Maybe for something else. Only time will tell just what God has in mind – obviously he needs to gather some players to his side of the board though.
See the Truth
Castiel was a key player again this week and pretty aggressive in his machinations.
First, he prays very hard to Michael and draws him into a trap (reminiscing very seriously about the infamous “assbutt” line) – where director Richard Speight, Jr. lights an amazing entrance for Sam and Dean. Let’s all take a minute and acknowledge the beauty that was that shot.
Okay, moving on.
Later when Michael isn’t hopping on board the God-is-Evil train, I was wondering why Castiel couldn’t mind-meld him and show the wanton destruction God has brought upon Earth and Heaven – and he does just that. Cas was more antagonistic about it, but hey, whatever gets the job done.
“Even when I was just another angel, I thought you were too haughty, too. To paraphrase a friend, you had an entire oak tree shoved up your ass. But now? I'm looking at you, and I just pity you. Because you were never God's favorite. You were just a little part of his story, a tiny part of his story.You weren't even a star. At least Lucifer knew that God can't be trusted. But I guess he was always the smart one.”
Castiel has gone back to the warrior angel we met, but with the upgrade to his snark factor, and it’s been working in the best of ways. The fight with Michael was short but the payoff worth it. Of course he needed to see for himself everything that has been happening with God, in order to understand the level of deception – and Castiel delivered with surround sound.
The only question is, how long can Castiel perform these tricks until he burns out entirely?
Eileen the Independent
Eileen had her own sort of side plot through out the episode. I admit, it was kind of dumb if we're being totally honest. This was irritating to me on two levels. First, the constant “can’t you do anything on your own” and “do you need to ask permission” trope, should be retired. I mean, ego doesn’t need to supersede logic and when the situation dictates that a team is useful or God himself has imploded the world so backup could be warranted, the call to prove yourself an independent warrior might not be there the same way as on an ordinary Thursday.
This is not a criticism of Eileen – more a critique of writing. I hate the stereotype of “I will prove I am capable by doing something obviously stupid” etc. That’s not exactly what happened here, but it was leaning that direction every time Eileen talked to her friend.
Second issue: this “friend” was so obviously a trap. For starters, Sue started the conversation with “I didn’t know if you’d pick up. People are saying you’re dead.” Why would you call her for back up when you’ve been told she’s dead? That line alone flagged me to this person being an imposter, since it was so stupid. Then when she played on the independence factor, which was an earlier issue between Eileen and Sam (in a roundabout way) that confirmed it.
Thankfully, this plot course corrected by Eileen getting Sam to go with her. Again, I’m not suggesting Eileen is not a capable and independent hunter – but the computer video clearly looked like an overwhelming mess of a situation, that required more than just one person for backup. And the more the merrier when dealing with multiple monsters.
Oh, and God probably wanted Sam there.
Friends and Foes
Welcome to the end of the mid-season finale. This is the part of the episode where I was yelling, where the heck did the hour go?!
Let’s talk about Chuck. He lured Sam and Eileen out to a parking garage and that’s where we leave them. Conversation? Slaughter? Both? I wonder if there is a bargain in Chuck’s mind. Time will tell. The whole thing is kind of mobster. When we last saw Chuck (outside of possession), he was pulling slot machines, surrounded by bodies, being served a drink by one petrified waitress. Living the life. He’s probably bored and ready to make a change.
Meanwhile back at the bunker, Michael has had his rose-coloured glass knocked off and is ready to give the Winchesters and Cas what they need to lock Chuck away. In true Supernatural fashion, they have all the ingredients but one: Leviathan blossom nectar, which only grows in Purgatory.
Michael opens a rift to Purgatory which will stay open twelve hours.
Speaking to the rift itself, some had issue with Michael being able to open the rift so easily when Lucifer could not do this for the purpose of getting himself back to the regular world. Personally, I’m less bothered by this. It seems apparent that the archangels have different talents, or at least learn different talents (see Loki and Gabriel) along the way. Also, perhaps God taught him or gave him this ability when they locked the Leviathan away in the first place. Or maybe this is writing error.
More on this in a minute.
Before heading out, Dean apologizes to Adam. This is a very humble moment, and Adam is very Winchester about the whole thing, possibly foreshadowing what’s to come:
“Since when do we get what we deserve?”
Whew. That’s both ominous and depressing.
I hope this isn’t the last we see of Adam/Michael – it seems that he should have a part to play if God is to be locked away. Maybe an epic Avenger’s style match up?! With everyone together against Chuck. Thoughts?
Back to the rift. Let’s consider that it is up to Dean and Castiel to now return to Purgatory to get this blossom. Purgatory, where they spent a year together surviving after the Leviathan battle (do I sense a Dick Roman cameo in our future?). Purgatory, where Benny was also last seen to be. Purgatory, where I suspect our new bratva-style angel and the elder Winchester will be forced to repair their relationship. Again, there is some symmetry in these two going back to Purgatory together.
This was a great episode and the ideal mid-season finale. We got some answers, were left with more questions and are waiting with bated breath to see what happens next. There were some phenomenal performances by guest stars in this episode, not the least of which were Jake Abel and, of course, the lovely Ruth as a powerful Queen Rowena. The characters have a direction and a path towards a goal, the writing – especially the dialogue – was incredibly strong and I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the visuals, which underscored some very powerful moments in the episode.
From top to bottom, this is a highlight for season fifteen so far, and definitely worth a few rewatches as we wait to see what 2020 brings.
Read more of Elle's "Thoughts on Supernatural'! Her reviews and other articles are all linked on her Writer's Page.