A lot packed into this week’s 40-minute installment. Comedy, drama, action and heartache all for the price of one episode! You can certainly feel the stakes rising and the gaining momentum as we get closer to that inevitable showdown (whatever it may be) in the final days of season thirteen. While not solely focused on the main mission, episode twenty didn’t disappoint either.

All About the Attitude

The styling of this episode was all it’s own – save for the intercut parts of the Apocalypse World. The unique style when focusing on the Gabriel/Loki plot was fun without being goofy, certainly the right way to do anything involving the Trickster. One of the best moments, strictly on a visual level, was the shot of Sam, Dean and Gabriel on the elevator. Add in some musack just to make it more ridiculous and it is the perfect shot. Overall, the episode adopted a clear western/Tarantino chic (with direct nods to Kill Bill even) that worked throughout.

UB2The opener set up the episode with the right attitude that flowed through the entirety of Gabriel’s journey, until the end when the serious notes became more potent. The first scene is comical without compromising on the needed weight of the storyline to drive it later on.

A Norse-Mythology All Their Own

The fleshing out of Gabriel’s backstory certainly took an intriguing turn in this episode. I can’t say that the motivation for handing Gabriel over to Asmodeus is absolute sensical (or at what point Asmodeus went shopping for him and why Lucifer didn’t know?) but it’s almost negligible in the grand story.

The characters themselves are fun and ridiculous, even though they are briefly on screen and done away with relatively quickly. The idea that Loki and Gabriel have the same face, well a better psychologist could have a field day analyzing all the self-loathing and metaphors embodied in the concept of killing himself.

UB7Speaking to Loki and Gabriel, this was mostly well done simply because it was unexpected and interesting. Richard Speight Jr. did a fantastic job in both roles, playing off of himself (and we’ve heard from other actors on this show how challenging this can be). Loki was not what I expected, given the Trickster persona we’ve been privy too from Gabriel. He was more distinguished, hard and, at least on this occasion, coldly angry when engaging Dean – and later quite nasty when fighting Gabriel; none of these are things we’d seen from the Trickster we know and love. Subtlety made all the difference in distinguishing the two characters and it played well.

UB4Regarding Gabriel, the trauma of his torture and experiences with Asmodeus still resonate despite his humor and apparent shake-it-off attitude. Again, this was very well done with the writing and the acting, because nothing was too heavy-handed as an obvious cover for emotion or pain. Gabriel was actively trying to overcome and thought vengeance was the way. Sam and Dean’s roles in this were also a worthwhile addition, since they had polar opposite reactions and both understood exactly where he was coming from. Again, the message was not saturated with the idea that both brothers fully understand the idea of torture and drive for revenge – but it came across clearly. This is when Supernatural is at it’s best – subtle and strong at the same time.

In the end, Gabriel got his revenge but it cost him something rather than achieving what he wanted, that much was clear in his conversation with Sam. Gabriel is a tragic character in many respects and this episode furthered that – though at the same time, these events seem to have motivated him to finally choose a side. Perhaps this is what he needs in the end? Thoughts on Gabriel’s true backstory?

Live Together, Die Together

“Dean, we're going to that place, and we're gonna save Jack and Mom.

Together.

And if something happens, we will deal with it together.

And if we die? We'll do that together, too”

Okay, this scene was brief. Nevertheless it was the highlight of the episode. As always these come in the final seconds of the episode and never fail to leave this writer’s heart melted for one reason or another. Somehow, in the two minutes before the credits came on the screen, the brothers managed to address not only Dean’s shuttering of Sam previously when he went through the rift with Ketch (PS – wonder how he’s making out in AW) but also, the amped up anxiety given the fall out from the last time they faced a Michael/Lucifer situation.

UB9Dean’s certainly been behaving overprotectively, though I have to say he isn’t as bull-in-a-china shop obvious about it as he has been in the past. And, I’ve said it before (and will again), nothing like a proper conversation and getting called out to face their feelings like adults these days. Thanks, Sam. This speech was short, but sweet and in the end that smile on Dean’s face says it all. What’s left to say about it but wow.

As The Apocalypse World Turns

This was actually a fairly minor storyline woven in drips between larger scenes of the Gabriel plot, which faired well overall, I suppose. It gave us a glimpse into the AW world, let us see what Mary and Jack were up to and certainly had paralleling themes to Gabriel’s vengeance quest.

UB5Jack’s overconfidence is not unexpected at this point, given his immaturity and lack of experience with all things; Mary is a great counterbalance to this in her hesitation and practical concerns about things like feeding the groups of survivors as they continue to grow. It was also a good change to see Mary in a mothering role, albeit in a war-torn environment, as opposed to strictly the huntress we’ve been familiar with since she returned.

I will grant that the plot was a little…I’m not going to say sloppy, because that’s not right. Simple. It was very clear that the empty base was a trap. Leaving Kevin behind was incredibly careless – why don’t you want your prophet? And leaving your army men out for anyone to play with? Come on! In fact, it was painfully obvious to everyone but Jack. And that was the point I suppose, so that Jack had to learn the hard way about the costs.

UB6Simplicity aside, there were some great moments in here. First and foremost: Osric as Kevin. Poor Kevin, so tortured and desperate. What’s so interesting about AW is that the mirror characters have similarities to their real world characters but the impact of the war has altered them so dramatically as well – and it’s fascinating to watch the same actors play those nuances. Even if he had to die (again) it was great to see Kevin.

UB10Speaking of the death scene, this was a beautiful visual moment. When Kevin set off the bomb, the moment Jack grabs Mary and wraps his wings around her was stunning (no - this picture doesn't depict the wings, sadly, that visual was hard to track down in time to post this review, but this is close!). It was subtle and very brief – but beautiful. In the next scene, he is holding her unconscious and taking in the destruction. This is just as powerful a moment visually as it is for Jack emotionally, with the charred corpses lining the room.

Finally, Mary and Jack have a conversation mid-way through that demonstrates a lovely relationship between the two. There is clear love between them. Though I will say, Mary’s statement that she can’t lose another boy and Jack’s assertion that she won’t makes me certain one of them will die before the season is done. Thoughts?

Final Thoughts

This was a strong episode with consistent themes on the repercussions of torture, revenge and the costs of both. The ultimate theme of the strength of family was felt too in both worlds and feels like foreshadowing for what’s to come. Sam and Dean have quite an assemblage in the Bunker these days: so when will the first battle begin?

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