The Morning After
I really enjoyed Supernatural’s 13.17 “The Thing”! It was face paced and struck a balance between action and mystery! The brothers got to explore an entirely new MoL location shrouded in secrets. Who was the girl in the gorgeous flapper dress? Who were the cultists in the beautiful velvet robes? Why were the police complicit in the attack?
The Asmodeus/Ketch/Gabriel scenes were also unexpectedly satisfying. Asmodeus’ tedium and the time in that cheesy throne room were mercifully saved by David Hayden-Jones’ and Richard Speight Jr.’s stellar acting that kept me completely engrossed in their plights. Why did Asmodeus want to keep the brothers from opening a door to yet another world? “We have to stop them” he said, but I never understood why he cared. Did you? No matter, because the visitors to the throne room were much more interesting. Did you expect Gabriel to be so traumatized? His abject fear was palatable through his body language and the expressions in his eyes! It was especially poignant given Ketch was hiding his fear, or not feeling it at all, in the face of the first of what Asmodeus promised would be many beatings. The spectrum of breaking down a warrior to a whimper was alarming.
Also, the ending was a complete shock! Wow! The portal to the alternate universe was opened so unceremoniously and so abruptly! Poof and Dean is gone! That implies that the six episodes remaining in the season are all going to be heart-stoppers! Usually the finale wind-up doesn’t start until about episode 20 or 21 so I’m thrilled that the season started all the exciting drama earlier!
The boys worked so hard to find the ingredients to their spell when in fact the Rhode Island MoL chapter house had the answer 100 years earlier.
Fruit from the tree of life, a vial of blood from presumably a holy man, the Solomon crystal and archangel grace were all on hand on the east coast. There was even some archangel grace stored in the cupboard! HOW did they get archangel grace, though?? MoL records seriously need to be digitized because the boys spend way too much time searching for answers (and ingredients) that have already been found, recorded, tried and ended - in disaster. I don’t think we are supposed to ask that question, so let’s turn our attention to the intended messages of “The Thing”!
Free Will, Talking and Protection
“The Thing” blatantly exposed that “free will” is an illusion for many people. It was a major theme of the episode yet there were no literal mentions of the term “Free Will” in the dialog. Instead, the concept was approached more from an authoritarian viewpoint.
At the extreme, Gabriel obviously had no free will whatsoever. He cowered at Asmodeus’ feet, traumatized by the torture and repeated, violent extraction of what makes him who his is, his archangel grace. His lips sewn together was an unusually cruel restraint, adding the inability to talk to his indignities. Unable to object or even cry out in pain further degraded him, binding his freedom of speech as well as his liberty. Literally and symbolically, Ketch restored Gabriel’s liberty, while Sam restored his dignity by removing the stitches that silenced him. I can’t wait to hear Gabriel’s story. Is he their Gabriel or the one from the AU?
Talking has been an important thread in season 13. It has demonstrated respect between individuals who recognize that their emotions, opinions, biases or decisions may not be understood or shared by those closest to them. The idea of “talking things out” was openly explored in the episode with the therapist who used “talk therapy” as a way to help victims recognize and reconcile their traumas. Dean’s inability to verbalize his trauma at the beginning of the season demonstrated how overwhelming it was to him. Sam kept pressing him, until Dean slowly released all his pent up anger and grief. Sam talked to Jack to help him understand himself and Dean’s resentment of him, and to Dean when Sam’s doubts were getting the better of him. Dean tried talking to Castiel several times about his time in the Empty and in Asmodeus’ prison. Anael even got Lucifer to talk about his feelings.
Several people have also been upset when others refused to talk things through. In some cases, it was specifically to hide something (e.g. Castiel in my opinion). Other times, it was because the person wasn’t yet able or willing to calmly negotiate human emotions.
The ability to talk openly has also been forcibly withheld from people, as was done to Gabriel and Ketch to specifically limit their real or perceived power. In Ketch’s case, he had been rather cheeky with Asmodeus because he thought they had a free will “arrangement”:
Ketch: That's not our arrangement, and I'm not the help. This is a freelance contract.
Asmodeus: So be a good lad and wait.
Now that he’s powered up, Asmodeus sees their relationship differently:
Asmodeus: It's time we talk about us. You see, I don't believe you understand the nature of this relationship.
Ketch: You pay me, I do what needs to be done. End of transaction.
Asmodeus: Yeah. See, no. It's more like, I own you.
Ketch: You don't o—
Asmodeus: And it's time you get in line, boy.
Ketch: If that's how you feel, I believe I'm done here. Good day.
Asmodeus: You're done when I say you're done. You're gonna learn, son. You do what I say when I say! And if you ever even think about sassing me again…
Asmodeus was insulted by Ketch openly expressing himself. Granted, Ketch had been boldly outspoken during his “negotiations” with Asmodeus, but until now the Prince of Hell seemed to regard Ketch’s articulation of independence as, if not welcome, at least respected input. No longer. As with Gabriel, Ketch was physically and emotionally beaten down in a show of power and a reset of who’s in charge. I’m thrilled about the outcome of this shift in relationships.
I have always be intrigued by Ketch. He’s a deep character with redeeming qualities that every once in a while peek through his otherwise reprehensible actions. In “The Thing”, Ketch moved a tiny bit closer to redemption. He rescued Gabriel and stole Asmodeus’ archangel grace reserves, thus striking two blows against Asmodeus’ power. He then brought these much needed assets to the boys. I love that Ketch is working with Sam and Dean, and I really look forward to seeing him in his more comfortable situation, at war in the AU.
While I’m excited by this turn of events, one thing that surprised me about Ketch’s defection was Dean’s reaction. Dean quickly accepted the logic of Ketch’s proposal. I firmly believe that was the right thing to do but am I wrong in thinking that Dean is usually the “no second chances” guy? Isn’t Sam usually saying “Dean, what choice do we have?” when he’s trying to get Dean to back off of his 'consequences be damned, I’m through with this traitor' attitude? It somewhat didn’t make sense that Sam didn’t also see the logic in Ketch’s offer. Even though I agreed with Dean, I bristled when he unilaterally made the decision to work with Ketch. Yes, Dean explained himself to Sam but not in a way that asked for his input. Rather Dean was in parent/child mode: I know better than you and this is for your own good. This was the first indication that Dean’s “no matter what” edict of saving mom was in full force. Dean didn’t talk with Sam but rather explained a decision that wasn’t up for debate. Sam had no choice in this matter (i.e. an underlying free will violation).
It turns out this was just the forerunner to an even larger unilateral decision by Dean:
Dean: All right, let's do this.
Sam: Well, shouldn't we wait?
Dean: Wait? Why? We got everything we need. Everything else is just burning daylight. Come on. Let's open this door.
Sam: All right. I'll gather my gear.
Dean: Uh, hold on. I'm heading in alone.
Dean: Look, we got a busted up archangel here. And who the hell knows what else? Okay? Somebody's gotta stay here just in case.
Ketch: And I'm coming with you. As I said, Asmodeus will be hunting me to the ends of the Earth, so it's better if I'm not on this Earth.
Sam: It's not that much better over there. You know it's a war zone, right?
Ketch: Won't be my first, shan't be my last.
Sam: Fine? So you want Ketch to go and not me?
Dean: I don't care if he dies. Hell, I'm kind of rootin' for it.
Sam: Still, you can't –
Dean: No, I have to. It takes something that's been over there before to open up the right door, so that's either you or me. So I'm gonna go. And if something happens to me, if time runs out, then I need you to come and save me and save Mom and save whoever else, okay?
Sam: It's safer if we go together.
Dean: Oh, there's no such thing as safer over there. You know that. I know you don't like this, okay? I don't expect you to. This is the way it's gonna be.
Again, I agree with Dean’s logic. Tactically, you don’t risk all your best soldiers in the same offensive, and I know he didn’t want to waste time in the inevitable argument with Sam. Dean was going to win, so coddling Sam was just a waste of time. Curiously, the episode’s writer chose to point out Dean’s line as significant too:
That was exactly my thought when I first heard Dean’s unilateral declaration. It so reminded me of John! I really didn’t like Sam’s free will and input being shut down like that! The key difference between Dean and John was that Dean understood what he was doing to Sam and he expressed compassion rather than choosing not to feel anything, as John had every day after Mary died. Dean’s close relationship with his brother was demonstrated by the light hearted practical joke of putting demeaning sticky notes on Sam’s back earlier in the episode, and the prolonged pat on the back when he left. Dean wouldn’t knowingly put Sam at risk if it was a danger Dean could face alone. Of that there is no doubt.
There were earlier indications in the diner that Dean was in full protection mode as well:
Sandy, whatever happened down there, you're safe now, okay? We'll protect you. I promise.
Then Dean nearly choked and got rather pointed when Sam suggested returning to investigate the now thought to be dangerous bunker without Dean:
Sam: You know what? How 'bout this? You stay here with Sandy. I'll go back –
Dean: No, no, no, no. What? What? I'm not gonna let you go back there by yourself.
Sam: Dean -- -
Dean: No, this is what we're gonna do.
The tussle in the diner escalated Dean’s protective instincts:
Dean: Sammy!! They took my brother. I'm gonna get him back.
Protection as a motivation was emphasized by, of all people, Ketch when he sought asylum from Asmodeus:
Sam: What's the catch? What do you want?
Still, a 10 minute argument with Sam would have been more respectful. What’s 10 minutes when you’ve been looking for the key to the door for over 6 months??
Perhaps Dean’s lack of discussion also had to do with Sam’s depression and hopelessness lately? Actually, yes, but inversely. Even more than ever, Sam would want to be a part of Mary’s and Jack’s rescue. He desperately needs to save them, so much so that maybe he’s a bit off his game right now? Either way, it’s true that Sam is the better of the two of them to tend to Gabriel’s wounds, to get him to trust them, to reveal what had happened to him, and to prepare him for the inevitable battle with Michael and Lucifer that looms ahead. Sam usually takes the lead in helping victims open up about their ordeal (as evidenced by him starting the conversation with Sandy). This traditionally femine nurturing/caring role is no less important than the traditionally masculine fighting/protecting role so the decision was respectful of Sam's abilities and sound, but free will and talking through things suffered in the interest of time and strategy. The realities of war? Dean had logically determined that Sam’s need to protect Dean shouldn’t interfere with the right decision. Dean channeled both his logical, strategic training and talents (Spock) and his emotionally protective instincts (McCoy) in order to be the big brother leader (Kirk) in this instance. Dean was the captain of this ship; Sam was the second in command - period. Dean unapologetically issued an order that he expected to be obeyed, but he did it with love. I do not want to start a bro war here but this line really struck me. It helped to investigate it a bit. Respectfully (and without killing each other!) how did you see it?
Once again, a season 13 plot revolved around a character who was not who it seemed to be. Innocent Sandy was really a powerful god disguised as a helpless victim. Honestly, the brothers should have been a little more wary of a being who was bound within a MoL chapter house! Their going-in assumption should have been that the MoL were the good guys, and if a “girl” has survived nearly 100 years unchanged, tied up in a fortress of those who battle the supernatural, they needed to act slowly and cautiously before proceeding. Do a little digging for facts first? Suspect the unexpected at least?? Their actions to save her were rash, but as already pointed out, this episode was full of rushed decisions about protection.
Curiously, Sandy and her captivity reminded me of the Sleeping Beauty story. Brave knights battled their way through an overgrown forest to find and rescue a beautiful young girl lying on an altar/bed. She had been “asleep” for a hundred years and awoke when she heard them enter. The parallel reminded me of the Cinderella stagecoach that was in the background of a scene in “A Most Holy Man”. It would be curious to analyze this season from a fairy tale standpoint. We haven’t tracked it as a thread, but I’m sensing there’s something here worth discovering. Anyone up for giving examples in the comments?
Back within this case, the hooded figures were also not who they were first assumed to be. Sam, Dean, and everyone in the diner presumed the cultist in disguises were the bad guys. Learning that the local police, who are usually assumed to be good guys, were among the mob didn’t even clue them that they were completely wrong in their assessment of the situation. Only through talking things out with Sam were the attacker’s true intentions revealed. First regarded as enemies, the cultists became allies, foreshadowing Ketch’s change of sides as well.
Of course I interpret that the sleeping, impostor, disguise details all foreshadow Castiel’s situation. I refer you to any of my season 13 “Threads” reviews to find details of my theory! There are other possibilities as well. One tweeter wondered if in fact Ketch was really Asmodeus, who of course possesses the ability to shapeshift. This might explain his sudden change of attitude toward Ketch. The beating could have convinced Gabriel that Ketch would be motivated to free him and thus worm Asmodeus into the boys’ trust - and traveling party. That idea might not hold together, though, as I don’t think Asmodeus knew the location nor had a key to the bunker.
Dean’s trek to the AU offers an additional possibility. After all, Michael is in the AU, and Dean is his true vessel… A powerful supernatural possessing a less powerful being may foreshadow someone’s going to be a meat suit soon. Theories?
Breaking up is Hard to Do
Yokoth: When the foolish humans open the door, they had no idea what was waiting for them on the other side.
Dean: You mean you?
Yokoth: I mean us. It was supposed to be us. Glythur and I, together. But my love - They shut the riff before he could make it through.
Sound familiar? Rift doors are notoriously single entry/exit only! People are always getting left behind! Mary from the boys, Jack from Kaia and the boys, Claire from Kaia, Lucifer left Michael behind, now Dean is separated from Sam. The monster’s primary motivation was to be reunited with her partner, and her “family” pulled her back first chance he got rather than have the rift separate them again so who’s guessing that Sam is going to have to go after Dean?
A Devil’s Bargain
Curiously, this episode showed a couple of devil’s bargains ending in disaster. Ketch’s bargain with Asmodeus upended. Why did Ketch think a Prince of Hell would honor contract terms anyway? Honor among thieves doesn’t apply when one of them is an ancient evil. The parallel story was the unfortunate MoL great-grandfather who came back from the war insane (a nod to the insanity thread) and thought he could save this world by opening a door to another world, letting the monsters loose. Doesn’t anyone ever open a door to those paradise realms Jack and Derek (the Native American dream walker) saw? Obviously, tentacles and screaming ensued and the schemer’s plan ended in the death of both the MoL chapter and most everyone in it. In this episode, both villains (Asmodeus and the grandfather) thought another universe held the key to power over this world.
It was only a side conversation, but the demon guards were looking at a cat video! Of course, what was the cat doing in the video? Sleeping in sunlight, just like Castiel when he woke up in the meadow and soaked in the sun!
Look, you just click on the kitty video. It loads just like that. Look! Napping in a sunbeam! Look at him! Look at this little guy. His little hat! Oh, yeah. I love cats.
The flirting going on in the diner between the soon-to-be-dead boy and the waitress supplied another animal reference but probably more importantly (because I just don’t know the significance of all these references to animals!), it foreshadowed one person making decisions for another:
Amy: Hey, Buck. Have you decided what you want?
Buck: Yeah. I'd like to try something different.
Waitress: Poor Buck. He comes in here bird-dogging after Amy, and she won't give him a simple yes or no.
Buck: Well, whatever you think, Amy. I mean, you know better than me.
Buck tried expressing himself and exerting his free will when he objected to going outside to investigate the disappearance of the shadowy figures, yet he did what his girlfriend wanted anyway, succumbing to her will. He should have stuck up for himself because giving in led to his death.
Then there were the lobster rolls and clam cakes! What, by the way is “Buffalo billing chicks”? Of course, tentacle monster was a big example of the animal thread! Ewww!
- Title Thread. xoferew commented last week that the word “thing” appeared far more often than normal. Nice catch! It may have been a lead into this week’s episode.
- Jinkies! Yay for the callback to Scooby!
- Leaps and Ladders, Hells’ waiting room reading material, may have referred back to the ladder the boys didn’t use and the leap they did use to get into the chapter house. Any other hidden Easter eggs there?
I thoroughly enjoyed "The Thing". It ignited the fuse for the remainder of the season with flair. I’m anxious to hear your theories (“Threads” is a spoiler free review but comments are open so please give spoiler warnings in the comments if you want to quote rumors.) and I can’t wait to see what happens next!
Transcripted quotes courtesy of http://www.homeofthenutty.com/supernatural/screencaps/
Additional screencaps courtesy of http://www.homeofthenutty.com/supernatural/screencaps/