Soulful and sad, humorous and heartfelt, “Sundry” was a little bit of everything mixed together for a genuine and forward-moving presentation on PTSD, old friends and lessons learned. Not to mention witches, zombies and Lucifer and Cas’ too. But where did it all leave us, at the mid-season point in the grand scheme of the plot?
Millennial Witches: Like, So Awesome
Jaime and Jennie were a fresh new take on witches, a villain that we’ve truly seen done to death. These girls perfectly balanced the line between funny and sociopathic in their machinations of everyone around them and total disregard for any and all life but their own. At the same time, while these girls were very apparently street-smart and capable, they were also driven by impulse and had a careless approach that left room for Rowena to be the driving force behind the overall scheme, ultimately. In particular, the snatching of Dean Winchester.
Everything about the “seduction” of our eldest Winchester brother was so precise and played out just right. Not only was the capture of Dean via a rescue scenario just the right way to draw him in, but kudos to Jensen for how he played the lovesick ridiculousness of it all so matter-of-factly later at the Bunker. Here too we can’t overlook (a) how quickly Sam catches on to the fact that something is wrong with Dean (his reaction is priceless throughout this entire exchange) but also the quick parallel to Becky’s love spell back in season seven:
“I am, like, full-on twitterpated here. Seriously, I can't wait for you to meet her, either. She -- I mean, she's. She's sweet and she's beautiful and she's just kinda sorta perfect. Anyway, I'm thinking of asking her to move in with me here if that's cool, 'cause this is big-time.”
“Okay, okay, okay. I think I know what's going on here. Do you remember, uh, uh, Becky in Vegas? The love spell and…”
The cherry on top of this of course comes as Sam roars to Dean’s rescue in the Impala as Jaime and Jennie are about finished with him. The two brothers end up wrestling, Sam searching to find the hex bag and Dean determined to finish Sam for shooting his “beloved” witch. Ultimately it ends with a strike of lightening, the clicking of heels and a very distinct accent. A family that knows how to make a entrance, undoubtedly.
Red Heads and Recovery
Always something akin to “frenemies”, the relationship between Sam and Rowena certainly took an interesting new turn in this week’s episode – and it was definitely for the better in this viewer's opinion. One of the things that has always been a Supernatural strength, even before it was necessarily trendy, was giving great depth and examination to the so-called “villains” like Rowena – offering viewers an opportunity to understand that none of their actions are as simple as good vs evil, black and white - even in the case of beasties and creatures sometimes. In “Various and Sundry” Rowena and Sam communed over their similar trauma at the hands of the same abuser – Lucifer. For Rowena her actions in the entire episode were driven by her desire to protect herself from Lucifer should she ever encounter him again, given the horrific nature of what he inflicted on her.
“Before he crushed my skull, Lucifer showed me his face. His true face. I'm scared, Sam. All the time.”
“I've seen it, too, what he really looks like behind -- behind whatever vessel. It yeah, still keeps me up at night…I guess I don't deal with it. Not really. I mean, I-I pushed it down and, um the -- the world kept almost ending, so I-I keep pushing it down, and I don't know. I-I don't really talk about it, not even with Dean. I mean, I-I-I could. You know, he'd -- he'd listen, but that's not something I really know how to share.”
The script and acting, both Ruth and Jared, did a beautiful job of delivering strong empathy and insight for Sam and Rowena alike. In each case there was a clear sense of PTSD – though in no way was anything belittled or written off with a “get over it” tone; rather Sam’s forlorn notion was that it wouldn’t go away and it was simply something they had to learn to live with.
Motivation is Everything
Flash sideways, and in an ironic twist of timing – as Sam and Dean become caught in dramas motivated by Lucifer damage, the devil himself is snarking alongside Castiel in the prisons of Hell. Despite the lack of action in this storyline so far, Misha and Mark are truly a team on screen. The humour, sarcasm and basic expressions (and mostly without the other seeing it) enriched these otherwise visually quiet, simple scenes in delightful ways.
Outside of the deadpan and wit, Lucifer appears to have found his trigger – rage (surprise!) and this allowed for him and Castiel to flee Hell while Asmosdeus was on (coffee?) break, spilling a little demon blood on the way. A few other things that must be mentioned here: I absolutely love Castiel’s conviction when he says no to Lucifer and sticks with it. In the past, Cas has been burned (in fact, we see him list these sins) and has finally learned his lesson. He doesn’t waffle, doesn’t waiver. And the final moment is Castiel “rectifying” these mistakes by stabbing a weakened Lucifer with an angel blade. Wow.
So – is Lucifer truly dead? Could it be so simple? I personally doubt it. We need to understand more of this “true” face before that can happen. Right?
References, Callbacks and Remembrances
This week the episode felt rich with references to the past, parallels to other characters and maybe even cautionary tales for what could be with current storylines.
Jaime and Jennie over the dead will-be zombie body of Mama Plum, discussing soul sacrifices and resurrection spells – I couldn’t help but think back to season two’s “What’s Dead Should Stay Dead”.
Further to that is the parallel here of two sisters going to any length to get their mom back. Of course these are very twisted girls, and entertainingly psychotic in every way – though having said that there remains a sense of kinship and bond as they talk about their mother and their family unit that is eerily reminiscent in way of the Winchester family.
Several other moments through the episode recall the past, going back to “Season Seven, Time for a Wedding”, the boys wrestling akin to the Trickster’s first appearance in season two and more recent mentions including Asmosdeus' phone call impersonating Castiel (which has apparently been continuing, and the boys are finding Cas frustratingly unhelpful and inquisitive). The most significant of these of course is the acknowledgement of Sam’s time with Lucifer – and though nothing specific in reference to which Lucifer encounter Sam was referencing, presumably his most recent time was the most prevalent in his mind – and the lasting trauma of these experiences.
This episode left with questions and disbalances all around. On one hand, Castiel has certainly re-established his power, if only to himself, by confronting and dominating Lucifer and leaving the viewers to wonder what the hell (no pun intended) is going to happen now. On the other side of the power spectrum, Rowena achieved her mission and a truly stunning visual display was able to unbind her powers. As a woman – and a human – who has encountered the darker side of bullying at various times in life, I have to support Rowena in her desire to achieve strength for the sake of protection and security; particularly given the gruesome nature of her death at the end of season twelve. And this moment was a powerful, triumphant note for her to end on – I wanted to cheer for her. On the other hand, this is Rowena, not quite a hero. What will it all mean?
Finally we have the somber kitchen encounter. Again we have a true illustration of the disconnect of sentiment between Sam and Dean being so delicately handled, I can’t help but be awed by the scene. Sam is very much in a sad place while Dean is struggling to motivate him, though trying to be what his brother needs. Beyond that this is a complete 180 degree reversal as compared to when season thirteen began.
“I know what Rowena is dealing with. And she's not the only one who feels helpless…I mean, I had a plan, you know. I, uh Help Jack, um, bring Mom back. It wasn't much, but it was something. It -- it kept me from spinning off the rails. A-and now Jack is gone, Mom is still in Hell, basically, a-and I-I-I just.”
“We'll figure it out…I don't know. But we will, you and me.”
These two characters have come so far in understanding themselves, which the writers and Jared and Jensen convey in a collaborative of words and expressions that are purely and completely human, raw and unadulterated, which makes it compelling and beautiful to watch especially in these quiet moments.
Sam is in a sad space without a direction; he has a mission but is at a loss about which direction to begin to engage it. This illustrates well some mental struggles and how they can take hold – but also the difficulty in something as apparently simply as verbalizing these feelings.
This episode had a strong balance of the general “of the week” sense with overall plot and key character elements. Surprisingly, there was a smooth meld of heavy subject matters (mental trauma, abuse) with some light humour, physical comedy and plot. Overall, this was an enjoyable episode that left me asking what to expect next!
So – who do we think is dead? What do you think about the notion of Lucifer as an abuser of Rowena, Sam and maybe even Castiel (he must have seen that true Face too right? And he was manipulated to do some horrible things, is there abuse/trauma too? Definitely some aftershock reverberating through.)? Discuss theories and thoughts below!
[Images courtesy of HomeoftheNutty.com]