Friday, 26 October 2018

Supernatural S14E3 - a review (with spoilers)

“The Scar”

The episode starts with a much-needed brotherly scene between Sam and Dean in which Dean in a very typical manner (that just screams Dean) reacts to Sam’s beard, providing pretty much the only light-hearted moment of the episode. At first, from the dramatic way he is talking about it, you imagine that Dean means something a lot more sinister, considering that he has been very recently possessed by an archangel, until Sam makes a face and says in exasperation, “Dean, it’s just a beard”. I loved that short but fun scene.
Of course, the tone changes almost immediately. Sam wants to ask if Dean is okay. Dean forestalls his queries by telling him that he doesn’t have to do that. Michael is gone. He doesn’t remember anything. He’s good. He’s just really, really happy to be… home… Except that it doesn’t look like home anymore, does it? Poor Dean. I feel for him. I wouldn’t want to come back to a place I consider home and instead of comfort and familiarity find it packed with strangers who don’t give a damn about you and make you feel like a stranger yourself.
His reaction to Sam’s new appellation is, of course, expected and hilarious. “Chief?” His offended facial expression says it all. Seriously, Sammy?! But he doesn’t say anything else. It looks like he’s barely holding it together. It’s obvious that he’s trying to act like his usual self, teasing his younger brother and all that, but you can see the strain and the pain in his eyes, you can hear it in his heavy sigh, it’s all too much. He wants to get away. He wants to be alone.
Jack slips out of the crowd and greets Dean – all innocence and genuine surprise. “Is that really you?” he asks with a childish smile and when Dean nods and exhales a painful “Yeah” (are those tears in his eyes?) he turns to Sam to confirm his words. Sam nods too. You wouldn’t even think, would you, that only five minutes ago Jack was saying that Dean doesn’t matter and that he must die if that means getting rid of Michael.
Castiel rushes forward next. As if on cue the music grows louder and becomes so romantic I almost expected them to jump into each other’s arms. However, they just look at each other, quite longingly (if you ask me), obviously restraining themselves from doing more, and it is Jack who gets to hug Dean instead. I’m not much of a shipper – but I’m not blind either. That scene filled with heavy sighs and tentative smiles and meaningful looks and unspoken words? It is a scene right out of a romantic novel. Instantly Jane Austen quotes began to pop up in my head.
“Had you seen his look, his manner, had you heard his voice at that moment!” I mean, seriously, isn’t it a perfect description of the aforementioned scene? Or this one: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” Or how about the quote that I think accurately describes the show’s treatment of what is known as “destiel”: “It was every day implied, but never professedly declared. Sometimes I thought it had been – but it never was.” Personally, I think that it should be a truth universally acknowledged that if you can apply a Jane Austen quote to a scene, it must be true love.
However, I do have to wonder just how much of that scene was actually written out in the script and how much of it was the actors’ choice. If it were any other show, I would probably commend the writer’s way of underlining the (clearly present) romantic element of the scene. But, as far as I know, the show in question has never openly acknowledged this particular aspect of Dean and Castiel’s relationship – even though they never fail to remark on it in one way or another. The most recent mention was, memorably and explicitly enough, in the first episode of the season. So what is it? Why not cross that line? The show, after all, had no problem labeling that nanosecond connection and instant bond that sprang between Claire and Kaia as “first love”. So why not acknowledge and finally label the original bond – the profound one? It was curious to observe Sam’s expression in both scenes. It definitely reflected my own thoughts and reactions.
Dean takes the very first opportunity to leave, once again assuring Sam and the others (note the return of romantic notes as he looks and points at Castiel even though the latter is not shown) that he is “still okay”. He enters his room, looking around, familiarizing himself with his surroundings. Thankfully, his room is still his own. He starts shedding the clothes that Michael had put on him but, of course, it’s not just the clothes that he wants to shed. We see that he is not okay. “Dean, how is he really?” asks Castiel in the meantime, his expression worried, returning Sam’s focus from Nick (he actually starts asking about him the moment Dean is gone) back to his brother (where it should be!). “Why would Michael just give up his vessel like that?” “Why was Michael helping monsters?” Sam has no answers to any of that.
Dean is in a white tee, looking in the mirror when he notices a scar on his upper arm. He has no idea where it came from. The question is what could have hurt Michael like that? In order to find out Dean asks Castiel to get into his head and jolt his memory. But it is only when Castiel touches his scar that Dean sees a spear that managed to wound Michael and a hooded figure wielding it. “Dean, who was that?” asks Castiel. Dean identifies the figure as “the thing that killed Kaia in the Bad Place.” They call Jody. It turns out that three headless bodies with similar wounds were found in her area.
Dean, Sam and Castiel are getting ready to go when Jack shows up and asks them if they are leaving. Dean and Sam tell him that Kaia’s killer is in Sioux Falls and that he, she or it can hurt Michael. Jack intends to go with them. Castiel tells him that it might not be the best idea. Dean says that it’s not going to happen. Sam suggests that maybe Jack needs a little bit more training. Jack begins to bristle – another hissy fit alert. Dean is not the one to beat about the bush and tells it as it is – “C'mon, kid. Look at you. You're barely 100 pounds soaking wet” – there’s really no time for mollycoddling – and instantly gets reproachful looks from Castiel and Sam, which, of course, prompt him to apologize to Jack who storms off half-way through Dean’s saying that he didn’t mean to be a dick. Personally, I don’t see why Dean gets to be called a dick for being straightforward and yet it is all right for Jack to tell that Dean doesn’t matter and must die.
Dean is impatient to hit the road and when Castiel is delayed by the arrival of a rescued girl, who has been hexed by a witch, they decide that he should stay behind after he fails to heal her right away. Sam isn’t happy about it but prompted by Castiel he follows Dean. Dean’s face is set in a determined frown and his lips are pursed as his whole attention is focused on the road. Sam is watching the hand of the speedometer moving towards eighty, looking mildly concerned. His mind is struggling with questions they have no answers to. Moreover, he desperately needs to talk to his brother. “You said you let Michael in. Then, bang, you’re back in a blink. But for me you were gone for weeks. I didn’t know if you were alive. I just need you to talk to me, to slow down, so I can catch up.” But Dean – quite understandably – isn’t ready to talk about what happened to him – or slow down. He needs time to come to terms with the consequences of his choice and he needs to move as fast as he can so as not to go out of his mind dwelling on it.
I must say I really missed these brotherly moments in the car, even though all they do is argue, which is, when I think about it, kind of their thing.
Dean, Sam and Jody follow the trail, find the heads missing from the bodies that turn out to be vampires (with enhanced abilities) and discover (after a swift fight) that Michael’s attacker is Kaia’s doppelganger from the other world. She manages to overpower them and escape. Dean is determined to find her and get the answers out of her. He is quite obsessed. Sam tries to reason with him. He thinks that these vampires were hunting her because Michael sent them to finish what he started. Dean says that it doesn’t change the plan. He is focused, tense, intense, angry. Sam watches him, unable to do anything. He tells Jody that Dean is working something out and that he is doing it alone and believes that Dean isn’t ready for this case. Jody seems to understand Dean’s motive better. “Maybe he needs it,” she says. She is also the only one in this episode who tells him that he has nothing to apologize for. They finally catch up with Kaia at some abandoned hut and Dean knocks her out with the barrel of a gun – now earning shocked looks from Sam and Jody. Personally, I thought that it was a just payback. I mean, she did the same, didn’t she, using his shock at seeing her face to overpower him not so long ago?
Afterwards, we witness a long scene most of which is dedicated to verbal abuse of Dean. Just what he needs right now. Let’s kick him while he’s down. Boy, do they like to tell him that he is worthless and weak on this show, or what? At this point Dean just wants to get his hands on the other Kaia’s weapon, because, apparently, it’s the only thing that can hurt Michael. He has already worked himself up in a terrible rage. Robert Berens, in particular, seems to have a penchant for portraying Dean as completely unbalanced and ready to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. Remember “The Bad Place” where he had Dean point a gun in Kaia’s face and scream his head off for her to get into the car? That’s right. His job. By the way, he didn’t fail to mention this scene, that shocked and horrified everyone at the time, in this episode – I suppose as another point against Dean. I just love it when writers commit what I call “character murder” in order to show other characters in a better – more sympathetic – light. Well, of course, we know where this particular writer’s sympathies lie.
Finally, after all the talking and putting-Dean-down, we see a flashback of Michael!Dean fighting with Kaia – and it was riveting and beautiful to watch. Dean, however, could not stand the pain of remembering it. His eyes were growing more and more haunted, until they looked completely dead, hopeless. Now we know that Michael wants the spear, because he knows that it can hurt him. I wonder if that is why he left Dean’s body in the first place (and we know that to be true because the show-runner said as much in a recent interview) – because he discovered that he is not invincible when possessing his vessel. So where is he? What is he up to? How does he command his army of monsters without a body? Is he possessing someone else? Is he looking for a way to enhance his true vessel so that it can withstand the spear’s power? Or, perhaps, he has learnt that Lucifer’s vessel was patched up and rebooted by Crowley’s expert demons and decided that Nick (who is conveniently AWOL at this point) would serve him better now that he knows that he can be hurt while wearing Dean? Dear Lord, I hope not.
In the meantime, back at the bunker, Jack has solved the case of the cursed girl and brought her back to life after witnessing her death when the reverse spell didn’t work. We know that after he wasn’t taken on a hunt, he decided to leave the bunker (again), penning a letter and all that, but something about that girl stopped him and he changed his mind, instead keeping vigil at her bedside and listening to her tale of woe, which included her running away from her mother and its consequences – a powerful lesson for a runaway-wannabe here – while Castiel and the hunter from the au!world were working on the spell. Is it just me or is the show putting more and more focus on Jack with each new episode? Is it gradually becoming his show? Well, if this is the case, I suggest the show-runner and co adjust their focus. Supernatural is not about Jack.
Castiel is all impressed by how Jack solved the case (looking and talking about it like a proud father with tears of joy shining in his eyes). He tells Jack that he has proven that he has the mind and the heart of a hunter and that they should all go on a hunting trip together. He also, bizarrely enough, feels that he hasn’t been there for Jack and apologizes for that. Personally, I think it’s utter bull. He was there for him as much as anyone could be under the circumstances, while Jack was thinking only about himself. But… something is not right. Jack is not well. But what is it? What’s happening to him now? The consequences of the witch’s curse he helped to lift? Or, perhaps, something to do with his now human body? Well, whatever it is, I’m sure the writers will think it more important than Dean’s trauma or Dean and Sam's storyline and spend a lot of time exploring it. However, I would seriously question putting in charge of such a long-running show someone who cares so little about its iconic main characters.
Dean finally breaks down on their way home. He is ready to talk. “You were right,” he says to his brother. “I didn’t want to look at it, what Michael used me for. I just wanted to race ahead, you know, skip to the end of the story, the part where I get the weapon and I take out the bad guy – the part where I kill Michael. … You know, I said yes to him because I thought… It was stupid. I was stupid. … I don’t remember most of what Michael did with me because I was underwater, drowning, and that I remember. I felt every second of it – clawing, fighting for air. I thought I could make it out, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t strong enough. And now he’s gone and he’s out there putting an army of monsters together and he’s hurting people. And it’s all on me, man. I said yes.” It is heartbreaking to watch. Of course, it is not unexpected that Dean blames himself for everything that happened. Sam is gazing at him, his eyes filled with tears. I wish Sam could be a little bit more vocal in his comfort, reminding Dean that he did what he did in order to save him, Jack, and the rest of the world. But all we got from him was, “Dean, you did what you had to do.” “It’s my fault,” says Dean in the end – and there is nothing but silence to greet his words. Sam lets him think that it is so. Dean is on his own.
I wish the episode would end there – with such a poignant scene – but no. Dean and Sam are not the main characters or the main focus of the show any more. The last scene belongs to Jack. He is sitting in his room and coughing up blood.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Supernatural s14e2 - a review (with spoilers)

“Gods and Monsters”

Sam and Dean Winchester are the quintessence of “Supernatural” – they were the beginning and they will be the end and there is no point denying it – there is simply no “Supernatural” without them or the actors who play them. However, this season the creators of the show are changing not only the established lore (silver no longer has any effect on werewolves – or anything but decapitation, for that matter, seems to work), but also the very status quo of the show. At least that was the impression that I got as I watched this episode. Do you know why? Well, mainly, because there was so precious little of Sam or Dean in this episode.
Of course, as much as it upsets and pains me to say it, I didn’t expect to be seeing much of Jensen in this episode. However, plot-wise it’s understandable. Dean, currently being possessed by the archangel Michael, is mostly unavailable. Though he did make a nanosecond appearance in the mirror as he attempted to give his possessor an unsuccessful boot – and, of course, he appeared at the end of the episode with some very surprising news indeed. Michael still making his way into the show as the Big Bad with a Plan – despite the writers’ recent announcement (that seems to contradict all their previous statements) that he is not in fact the major Big Bad of the season – would not be taking central stage at this point, of course. But what about Sam? Where did he go? Why was there so little of him? Why was he practically pushed aside (after taking charge so successfully last episode) to make way for other characters and their stories?
Well, I can tell you why. It wasn’t so much a “Supernatural” episode, after all, as an episode of “Dr Phil” on “Supernatural” and Sam just wasn’t part of – er – “the main action”, I suppose. You see, he was off looking for Michael!Dean with Mary and Bobby – but that, I’m afraid, isn’t as interesting or important as following the emotional journey of Nick and Jack, guided with varying degrees of success by Castiel, Angel of the Lord, who could not take part in the search and was obliged to take on the “babysitting duty”, because “his angelic presence would be sensed by Michael, thereby nullifying their hopes of a sneak attack”. Well, he didn’t seem too pleased about that. From a punching bag last week to a nanny/shrink this week there isn’t much of an upgrade for him on this Jack-and-Nick drama hour – though both put him through an emotional wringer all right, throwing into his face that he didn’t understand what they were going through when he was trying to comfort them. Like father, like son…
But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
At the end of last episode Michael finally found the type of monster he could work with on creating a better world – whatever that is in his understanding – someone whose want he finds simple, pure and clean. I’m still not sure what exactly he is trying to accomplish and I’m afraid the writers don’t have much of a clue either. Personally, I suspect that they never truly planned to have Michael possess Dean for very long and figured that they didn’t really need to think it all the way through, details and all, because they knew that they would be dropping this particular storyline soon enough. In any case, this episode opens with a truly sinister scene: in an abandoned church, which, for all its ruin and decay, provides a beautiful background, Michael is experimenting on vampires. He mixes their blood with his grace – and .discards his failed experiments with chilling calm of scientific detachment. Again, he is disappointed. He is not an easy man to please. His movements are unhurried and precise and his expression is amused and morbidly expectant as he twirls his weapon of choice while selecting his next victim.
This time around the bunker seems to house only Bobby, Mary, Sam, Castiel, Jack and Nick. Sam finds Michael’s bloody trail (the trail that Michael left entirely on purpose for him to find) and together with Bobby and Mary they take off. Bobby looks more like a bumbling old fool than anything else in this iteration with a serious case of foot-in-mouth disease. (Mary obviously finds it endearing, judging by the way she smiles playfully at him and claps him on the shoulder in the morgue later on.) Castiel reluctantly stays behind – he doesn’t really have much of a choice. Jack is lost without his powers and Nick is a mess and they both need supervision. Something in Castiel’s voice when he says this gives Sam a pause. He is once again playing devil’s advocate when he tells Castiel with that piteous look on his face that it isn’t Nick’s fault and that Nick deserves a shot at rebuilding his life now that he isn’t possessed anymore. I’m sure it will come back to bite him later. Oh. Wait. It already did. Jack doesn’t object when they don’t invite him to join them on their search and says that he wants to improve. However, by improving he means researching how long it takes archangel grace to replenish. Very productive.
Nick is seeing flashbacks of Lucifer’s many killings while possessing him before Castiel brings him some nourishment and they have a heart-to-heart chat – once Castiel can finally make himself look him in the eye. After Castiel tells Nick that his family was murdered, which prompted him to say “yes” to Lucifer, Nick decides to find out who did it. He becomes a man possessed. No pun intended. And is it even considered pun in this case? However, his initial search proves fruitless and when Castiel tries to comfort him and puts a hand on his shoulder – he snaps – like in “he snaps his fingers just like Lucifer did when smiting someone”. He says that he doesn’t know why he did it when Castiel asks him about it. Or does he? There was a look about him that screamed Lucifer. So who is it? What is it? A dangerous side-effect after a prolong exposure to archangel’s possession? Or is it Lucifer himself? Is he still lurking there somewhere, biding his time, waiting to be unleashed? Or is he merely playing us all and there is no Nick to speak of? This is all extremely troubling and confusing and I don’t like it, especially considering the shocking events that took place at the end of the episode.
Jack continues to wallow in self-pity, repeating over and over again that without his grace he has nothing left. Castiel tells him about his own experience as a human and makes some very good points about patience and persistence (using Sam and Dean’s example), past and future, and which one is more important in defining his purposefulness. “What did you have left?” asks Jack when Castiel tells him how hopeless and useless he felt after he lost his wings and grace. “I had Sam and Dean,” replies Castiel simply. “But I had something else that was extremely helpful. I had myself. Just the basic me. As Dean would say without all the bells and whistles.” I understand the importance of such talks and I think Castiel did a very good job there, but it all made it look like family drama rather than a sci-fi/fantasy show “Supernatural” is supposed to be. In the end, Castiel’s pep talk results in Jack seeking his maternal grandparents.
Michael/Dean tuxedo/mirror scene is powerful and poignant and, on a very shallow note, so very, very pretty. I actually jumped when Michael smashed the glass. His voice is low, threatening and enthralling at the same time. He is once again on a prowl, looking for a new, a better monster to recruit – someone who can be improved – werewolves seem to fit the bill. Vampires, apparently, were just a test material. His cruel humour and cold amusement make him even more frightening than before. What is he going to do next? You just don’t know. His smile is as sharp as glass and at any moment there will be that look in his eyes that will freeze your blood. He doesn’t like playing games and gets bored when others do. His attitude is casually suave when dealing with women and carelessly calculated when dealing with men. His goal is becoming more defined as he seeks an audience with the leader of a werewolf pack. “Why be the hunted when you can be the hunter?” he asks him in the end. And isn’t it an interesting choice of phrase, considering that he is possessing one?
But we still don’t know what he’s planning until he pays a visit to Lydia – the vampire who told Sam, Mary and Bobby where to find him. He knows that she was talking with them even though she tries to deny it. “Why do you think I dumped your brothers and sisters in plain sight?” he asks her. “Why do you think I let you escape? Rule №1: you can’t have a trap without bait,” he tells her. “That brings us to Rule №2, which says once the trap has been sprung, you don’t need the bait anymore.” But what is the actual trap? Is it the werewolf ambush or Dean who claims that Michael “just left”? What is going on? Is Dean the equivalent of the Trojan horse? I mean just earlier Michael showed no intentions of wishing to leave the building whatsoever, telling Dean that he owned him and that he should hang on and just enjoy the ride. Well, it was a pretty short ride if he truly left! But did he really? He didn’t, by any chance, invite himself inside Nick to help him take his revenge? (I suppose he would consider wanting revenge pure enough.) I really hope not. I don’t think that it would make much sense. Nick wasn’t even Lucifer’s true vessel. Surely Michael is the strongest when he is wearing Dean?
Jack meets his mother’s parents. It is a touching scene but smacks too much of a soap opera. Castiel is not happy that Jack left the bunker. Jack tells Castiel, “I never knew my mother. I thought the next best thing might be for me to meet the only real family that I have left.” Castiel is visibly hurt by his words. “That is not – ” he all but growls but stops himself before he can say something he might regret. Instead, he controls his emotions and asks Jack if it helped. Jack then tells him about his visit and that he just couldn’t tell them that she died. “I suppose there are worse ways to be human than to be kind,” remarks Castiel.
Funnily enough, Jack’s kindness disappears as abruptly as Nick snapped his fingers in true Lucifer fashion when Castiel tells him that Sam and the others might have found Michael. “So they’re going to try and kill him?” Jack asks all business-like. “No,” replies Castiel, frowning at him; perhaps, wondering about the sudden change. “The plan is to subdue him using angel cuffs and spell work and to get Michael out of Dean.” “And if he doesn’t leave?” demands Jack. “Then they’ll try to drive him out.” “And if that doesn’t work? ... Michael has to be stopped!” Jack's face looks almost savage, showing no sympathy. “I know,” says Castiel patiently, “and he will be, after Dean is – ” “Dean doesn’t matter,” says Jack, cutting Castiel off and scolding him for focusing "so much on saving Dean" – and just like that all my sympathy and partiality for him is gone. It shouldn’t have come as a shock, really, after he all but admitted that he doesn’t consider them his family, but it still did. I’m sorry, Jack. But you’re wrong. Dean matters. Castiel is shocked by Jack’s “Dean has to die” tirade so much that he is rendered speechless - but his stricken expression says it all. “Do you think he’d want it any other way?” Jack throws at Castiel in the end. Castiel doesn't reply. He knows the answer to that. Well, of course not! We all know that Dean would sacrifice himself if he had to. But here’s the thing, Jack: it’s not your call to make. It's not up to you to decide who to sacrifice for the greater good. Dean, Sam, Castiel, they all had their share of “I’m going to sacrifice myself” moments and it was up to their family – their real family – to try and find a way not to let that happen by whatever means possible.
So… at the end of this episode there are two burning questions that I want answers to: “Is it Dean or is it Michael?” and “Is it Nick or is it Lucifer?”

I will say this: it wasn't a bad episode altogether (I enjoyed Castiel scenes and Michael!Dean scenes a great deal) and it was definitely much better than the premiere, which, I think, was one of the worst in the history of the show. But here's the thing that's bugging me: I don't understand why we should be spending so much time on Jack and Nick. Why are they taking up so much screen time? Why do we get to see more of them than the main characters? Why are their stories and emotional tribulations more important that Sam and Dean's? I didn't sign up for "Jack and Nick" show, and as far as secondary characters go, they are definitely not the characters I would wish to spend more time with than strictly necessary. I will give the writers points for one thing though (if it was their intention, of course): the whole episode was heavy on building up sympathy for both Jack and Nick - and then, in a rather shocking turn of events, they pretty much smashed it all with a few blows of an ax, both literally and figuratively.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Supernatural s14e1: a review (with spoilers)

“Stranger In A Strange Land”

There was so precious little I liked about this episode, I think I’ll start with that. I really liked the very first shot of Sam, alone, struggling with grief, intent on the mission ahead, driving Impala along a dark, deserted, rain-washed road, a classic rock tune blaring from the radio until he softly switches it off; it’s too painful to listen to without Dean not steering the wheel by his side, drumming and humming along, maybe even cracking a joke or two. It was a very poignant and powerful visual – a lighter shade of blue on the horizon as a hint of hope, perhaps? – a perfect setting… for about a second... We later find out that his errand turned out to be a bust.
The next scene is Michael scene and it is riveting. I have never had any doubts about Jensen’s acting skills and yet I was not prepared for how different it would be to look at his face and see no trace of Dean anywhere. Michael is cold, calm and collected. He shows no emotions. He has no emotions. He smiles but he is not amused. He is in no hurry. He takes his time. He has a question and he seeks the answer that will not disappoint, that will gratify, that will serve his purpose. But what is his purpose? A better world. Well, that’s what he says. But is it truly? “What do you want?” he asks. But what do you want, Michael? His scenes, however short and episodic, are phenomenal. I could watch the whole episode just of Michael asking different people what they want.
And then comes the title card and it is… so very disappointing. It looks like something a five-year-old would have patched up with minimum skills and resources: splotchy and clumsy and so very unrealistic.
Then the first glimpse of the bunker and it is a scene of much activity, all very business- and military-like. But Dean’s absence feels like a void and it seems that the writer is trying to fill it with other hunters – but mostly with Bobby and his old man’s ramblings and lectures. It doesn’t work. I have to confess that I found him annoying and unsympathetic in this episode. “Life is a little different when you can’t just zap people around, eh?” he tells Jack, who is struggling with the loss of his powers, that have never been truly explored or delved into on the show. Jack, lost and hurt, is lying at his feet after he has knocked him down and told him with a chuckle to “watch for that left”. There were so many things that one could say to Jack on that occasion, I thought; so many parallels that one could make about people who lost certain physical abilities due to disease or in an accident and had to learn to live and deal with it – instead of a bunch of commonplace nothings.
Mary is often hovering uncertainly over Sam as though on the brink of breaking into a mother mode, but after two seasons, during one of which she was actively distancing herself from her sons, it doesn’t come easily or naturally. Their interaction is hollow and strained, filled with Mary’s platitudes and empty promises, and it’s almost as though Sam wants to say “don’t bother on my account now”. Of course, without his brother by his side nothing looks right anymore. Dean must be here. But he isn’t.
Almost as though it is inevitable, we are introduced to another King of Hell wannabe – or, to be more precise, another Crowley wannabe – another copycat demon who uses fancy lingo and silly endearments that sound off and has a penchant for unnecessary drama. I suppose it would be too much to ask to bring in another Queen of Hell for a change. Personally, I think Rowena would have been a much better choice, not to mention that it would be a rather interesting turn of events. However, instead we are subjected to this demon’s popinjay ways and long-winded prattle and it is boring as hell and just as trite and it wastes precious screen time. I thought back in S12 that Crowley had outlived his usefulness as a character, that he had become too soft to return to his more nefarious ways, but looking at these poor substitutes and their failed attempts to emulate him I wish he were back.
Mary is once again hovering uncertainly in the doorway when Sam and Jack are having a conversation about strength and faith that she interrupts in order to tell Sam that “he’s awake”. Jack is visibly disappointed and hurt when Sam leaves. The “he” in question comes as a shock. It is incredible, unbelievable. Mary says that she can barely look at “him” and hastily retreats (I wonder what happened to that badass hunter that she was so persistently shown to be throughout the last two seasons), leaving Sam on his own to take care of – wait for it – Lucifer’s vessel! Miraculously, after all this time, the man – Nick – Lucifer was possessing is alive. I must say that this was an unexpected turn of events that I thoroughly failed to appreciate. I hoped never to see Lucifer or his vessel ever again. I thought that Dean’s sacrifice put an end to that long-winding saga. Alas, no. Apparently, “the archangel blades were meant to kill the archangel inside and not the person they possess…” Is it just me or does it sound a little too far-fetched – and extremely convenient? Just another gimmick. It rather reminded me of that cock-an-bull story that Arthur Ketch was spinning last season about his twin brother Alexander. Of course, that, at least, was later confirmed to be untrue.
Sam steels himself before entering the room and you can see a whole range of emotions playing across his face. It seems to be a recurring theme recently, isn’t it? Last season Sam had to take care of Gabriel – the archangel who killed his brother over and over and over again to teach him a lesson – and this season he has to take care of the vessel of the archangel who possessed him, tortured his soul in hell and, in the end, forced his brother to say “yes” to Michael in order to defeat him once and for all. “I’m glad Lucifer is dead,” says Sam through a lump in his throat. “Me too,” replies Nick. I hope it’s true; otherwise Dean’s sacrifice was all for naught, wasn’t it? A real slap in the face, if you ask me. When Sam finally leaves the room, you can see how much it took of him to be inside that room with Nick.
However, he doesn’t get a break for the very next moment he receives a call from this week’s king-of-hell-wannabe who wants to make a deal with him in order to become one (what a bewildering concept!) and who took Castiel hostage in order to have some leverage during the negotiations. Sam instantly assembles a team, knowing full well that it’s a trap, comprising himself, Mary, Bobby, Jack, and, bizarrely enough, out of all the seasoned hunters in the bunker… Maggie? I was pleased that (despite the inevitable danger) Sam showed Jack that he had faith in him not only through empty words but through his own actions by allowing him to join them. But why take Maggie? I do not recall her being a hunter in the first place – and at the start of the episode she could barely handle staring at blood. What a strange decision on the writer’s part – to put another young and wide-eyed girl in harm’s way!
The fight that ensued was quite brutal and for a while it seemed that our side was going to lose. I’m sorry to say that Castiel had very little to do throughout the episode. He somehow managed to miss the fact that he walked into a demon-infested bar, was then instantly overpowered, beaten up and, finally, forced to impersonate a trussed-up turkey, while the others fought all around him. At one point Mary gives Maggie an angel blade with the help of which she later saves Mary’s hide. And yet, for whatever reason, no one thought to teach Jack to use something other than his fists in order to defend himself, considering how badly he was doing. Is this another bone carelessly thrown into the “girl power” camp? I’ve noticed that it has become this writer’s staple to make the girls look stronger by deliberately making the boys look weaker.
I appreciated Castiel's speech - self-deprecating ("To be fair, we've all got punched in the face"), sympathetic, encouraging and rallying - to Jack after the fight when he felt even more useless than before and believed that without his powers he had nothing: "You've got your family. And we are going to find Dean. And we are going to beat Michael. And we are going to do it together. Because that's what we do." I think it is something Dean would say if he were there and I want to believe that Castiel learned it from him. 
It was a right decision to end the episode with another Michael scene. He might be cruel and calculating but he is also enigmatic and mesmerizing and it is simply fascinating to watch him move and hear him talk.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this show needs writers who know how to craft stories instead of going at them with a butcher knife. I don't usually do this but I have to say one more thing: Andrew Dabb has to go. His writing is lazy and incompetent, it is devoid of imagination, consistency, subtlety and finesse, and he is simply an awful storyteller.