Whew, this was nothing like I expected and everything I needed after last week. Where 15.10 was humorous if lackluster, “The Gamblers” was a taut piano wire of angst, emotion and plot that held me until the second the screen went dark. Ripe with intensity and information, we even got Jack back by the end. I’ll say it, I really enjoyed this episode.

Out of Luck

Determined to find the mystical place Garth spoke of, Sam and Dean set off for Alaska with nary a clue to what they were looking for beyond “you’ll know it when you see it.” I did laugh at their note to Cas and his reaction – it was beyond vague and just what you’d expect at this point. So I guess Sam and Dean made it back to the bunker, packed (and cleaned up) without incident and headed out after their goodbye with Garth.

Right away the episode has a more serious note than last week about this “normalness” and for that I’m grateful. The heaviness of what’s happening is palpable as the boys discuss what will happen if Chuck returns and they are like this.

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Their so-called “normalness” also manifests differently this week: while the car is breaking down (or getting a flat) and their credit cards aren’t working, Sam and Dean aren’t overrun by disease or accidents in other respects. In fact, they happen upon a diner when they happen upon the information about the pool hall – so, that was lucky, no? I’m still not a fan of the “normal” curse, but if they aren’t tripping every second step like toddlers with new legs, I can live with it.

Agent Lizzo On The Job

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While Sam and Dean pursue the Alaska Project, Cas (and the viewers) are treated to a shock: Jack – or a strong likeness of him – is murdering people and eating hearts.

This second plot of Cas and Jack can hardly be called the B Plot. The tension volleys between both storylines so beautifully and the sentiment, the unknown and anxiety in the Cas and Jack plot is so heightened, it cannot be said to be secondary, simply parallel to the other happenings in the episode.

 There is a lot about this storyline to say, but then we don’t really know much yet either.

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Cas’ reaction to seeing Jack is heart wrenching, and though we the audience knew that Billie was planning to bring him back, it wasn’t 100% clear that this was our Jack – after all, he didn’t eat hearts before.

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Later, the quiet but powerful scene of Jack being tortured by the Grigori is one of the best in the episode. The filmography reminded me of Castiel’s entrance many, many (many) seasons ago, as Jack and the Grigori are framed by the stained glass and pews in the church. Jack not speaking for most of this scene only added to the tension, and then by not using his powers despite being hurt opened up more questions. Finally of course, Castiel kills the Grigori and his reunion with Jack is beautiful. I can’t even really do it justice, other than to say both Misha and Alex played to emotion phenomenally. After waiting most of the episode for it, the payoff of getting these two together was worth it.  

Fortuna Favours the Brave

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I’ll skip over much of the pool hall, other than to say it was fantastic to see the boys play pool in such lengths after all these years of hearing about their hustling prowess. It was also wonderful to see a trade off between the brothers, that they each got to play and succeed, talk about their talents and have moments of pride watching each other.

(Oh, and for anyone wondering – the shot where Dean hops the ball over another, was a real shot that Jensen made, according to Twitter.)

I come from a family where pool is a big sport, so this was lots of fun to watch.

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More interesting though was Fortuna. Like Sam, I thought for sure “Moira” was a witch and maybe, we’d have a connection to Rowena ultimately. This was better. This information about God was curious and I can’t help but wonder if other demi-gods are out there, interested in supporting the Winchesters in their quest against Chuck.

The way Sam and Dean ultimately win by losing is the best part of this story though – and it was what was lacking last week: fighting even in the face of certain defeat.

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Sam and Dean always fight, even when they don’t stand a chance, because it’s who they are and who they’ve always been – it’s part of the “Saving People” motto. Fortuna recognized that, and respected it: they are heroes. So despite losing to her, they got back the luck of “heroes” that Garth thought Chuck probably stripped from them.

“She thought your kind had gone extinct…Heroes. Like the old days. And, uh, she gave me a message. She said, "Don't play his game. Make him play yours.”

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Here, I suspect, is the chorus to the rest of our season: making Chuck play the Winchesters' game. Rewriting the script, rather than following his. Especially if there is a player Chuck has counted out. That said, Fortuna names three specific mythological heroes when she offers to renegotiate her deal with Sam and this viewer couldn’t help but wonder at the foreshadowing: Gilgamesh loses his best friend, Cuchulainn kills his son by mistake, Hercules kills his lover (and sons in some stories) when under a spell.

It could mean nothing of course; then again does anything ever mean nothing on Supernatural?

 

Family Reunion

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Much like the reunion with Cas, Jack’s reunion with Sam and Dean is largely unspoken – but wow is it intense. These boys can express so much in just a look or a touch. Sam moves first and hugs Jack, and then the way Dean holds Jack’s face and looks at Cas, who has such an assuring, elated expression. Yup, this scene is incredible for the lack of dialogue and all that it still says about this family.  From here we get the details: Billie has a plan, Jack has to stay hidden (and eat hearts? Still fuzzy on that, but I gather it’s a power booster of sorts) and ultimately he can kill Chuck. Cool?  

“If I do exactly what she says, if I follow her plan, then I’ll get stronger and I’ll be able to kill God.”

So, for the first time in what feels like ages we leave on an uplifting (?) note? At the very least, we have a plan and nobody has been kidnapped, fatally injured or killed. So the question is: when will the other shoe drop?

Final Thoughts

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“The Gamblers” was a prime example of when Supernatural gets it right: dramatic tension, humour, family and plot all come together in a perfect storm and leave us both satisfied and wanting more. Finally, finally we have Jack back after half a season of waiting and wondering. Not only are the boys restored from whatever befell them last week, but the unit is whole again emotionally and physically: all our four men are together at the Bunker, working to the same ends without resentments lingering. This holds the promise of a grand final second half.

Sam and Dean are heroes, this has never been the question. All that matters is that they act like the heroes we’ve always known, and that’s how they’ll win. It sounds simple but of course it will mean sacrifice and selfless acts. The great mythological heroes Fortuna named didn’t become heroes without great tragedy. Gambling comes down to this: the bigger the win, the bigger the risk.  So the question isn’t whether they are heroes, the question is what will it cost in the end and is it worth the risk?

Share your thoughts below.

(Screencaps courtesy of Raloria@LiveJournal)