“Supernatural” has always been a show that leaves you guessing. We diehard fans love spending hours taking what we’ve learned from each episode and playing connect the dots. “Caged Heat” though did something very unique with our little game. It’s gone and turned the picture we thought was coming together into something completely unrecognizable. Now that can be good or bad. You’re likely to get a different response depending on the fan you ask, for the confusion is now quite polarizing.
“Caged Heat” is a really good episode technically. Sam, Dean and Castiel working together, Meg coming along and being awesome, Christian finally getting that Dean Winchester filleting we’ve been rooting for since the season opener, some funny moments and great dialogue, and the boys winning one for once by getting rid of the big bad. Of course there’s a price and again it’s the debate over Sam’s soul. That’s been season six though. All the episodes have been good technically, but there’s a little something missing there right in the center. The soul. Entertained or not most fans cannot deny that this is not the same show, much like this is not the same Sam and Dean Winchester and same brotherly relationship.
Let first focus on what made “Caged Heat” so strong. For one, Castiel is back into the mix. He was great from beginning to end. Poor guy. He doesn’t want to fight civil wars alone. He misses his friends. You know, the good old days when there was a looming apocalypse. His little stunt with Meg, kissing her like “the pizza man” still reminds us how humanity fascinates him. He needs companionship. I think what Balthazar told him in “The Third Man” is really sticking with him. When it comes to being an enforcer though, he’s very effective.
The plot as well is quite intriguing. Sam, Dean and Castiel working with Meg to take down a common enemy, once Sam addresses his little nasty issue of missing a soul first. We get to see the dank and dirty prison where monsters are being tortured and killed by Crowley. The horrible lengths he’s going to find Purgatory. Crowley’s intentions are still unclear but his evil methods certainly aren’t. We even get the mildly amusing opening scene where he gets to torture and behead himself, aka the alpha shapeshifter. That had to be a fun one for Mark Sheppard, who we will really miss on this show.
The return of Meg is good too, but also a bit of a head-scratcher. She is her normal smart mouthed self certainly didn’t hold back for Dean or Castiel’s sake, but her interaction with Sam was puzzling the entire episode. I highly suspect those two had an arrangement before she supposedly “ambushed” the Winchesters. After all, these guys are hard to find by demons thanks to their rib carvings so how else would she find them? In the past seasons Sam has always been the one that’s gotten the brunt of Meg’s ire. For her to keep her distance most of the episode and take orders from him certainly had me wondering what was up between those two. I’m especially suspicious after Sam killed Meg’s minion and she didn’t protest or fight. It certainly was a great indication that she was following his lead for some hidden reason.
The strength of “Caged Heat” is the balance between the dramatic moments, the action, and funny bits, something missing a lot this season. Castiel trying to decipher porn in a “room full of dudes” is hilarious, unlike the awkward time in the whorehouse in “Free To Be You and Me.” Equally hilarious is Sam and Dean’s expressions of complete astonishment when Castiel returns Meg’s kiss, even though she did it just to grab his angel killing sword. There were the “hell yeah!” moments from Dean, like when he threatened to kill Samuel with his cold stare of death and finally got to end Christian by yanking the demon killing ginsu out of his hand and skewering him with it. Also, when you give Sam Winchester a blunt object, he’s completely badass.
The lines are really great in this one too. Dean got in several, like when being confronted by a pair of hungry ghouls. “Alright, alright, Shawshank’s a great flick, but let’s skip the shower scene, huh?” Meg had several good ones, especially when flirting with Castiel. Aside from calling him by the nickname she used in their last meeting in “Abandon All Hope,” Clarence, she always had a dirty response for his stoic words. “Keep talking dirty, makes my meat suit all dewy.” The bluntness of Sam with Dean continues too, a side of his new personality I enjoy. “Okay, you’re right, let’s go with Plan B. Oh yeah, we don’t have one. Until we do sorry dude, stock up on soap on a rope.”
Then, talk about throwing a monkey wrench into the season, they killed off Crowley! The supposed big bad of the season was nothing more than the weaker pathetic being that was portrayed in “Weekend at Bobby’s.” While his fiery death is a surprise, it seems quite easy too. How did Castiel find his bones so easily? I suspect he was setup, but by who? Is there really another big bad out there calling the shots? If so, who is it? We’ve actually been entertaining that thought on this site since the episode aired, including the possibility that Sam is the true one to reckon with. One clue that could be the case is Sam asking Castiel take care of the monster prison at the end. Did he in a sense tell Castiel to kill everyone there? Why would the place be wiped away like that? Is it Sam’s attempt to cover tracks or just get rid of the monsters? More mysteries to solve and the more we get each week the more they become maddening.
This episode did try a bit too hard at continuity, for all the demon hunting elements were there, as if the writer was following a manual. The return of the knife, Devil’s Traps, the demon torture table, Sam and Dean taking the TK toss, and so on. Also, Sam’s characterization again compared to other weeks was very uneven. In this episode, he was actually showing signs of emotion, rage, and taking things personally. I’ll touch more on this on my season six thoughts later in this article, but again Sam’s actions ended up being more distracting than compelling. Except when he performed self-mutilation to draw a Devil’s Trap with his own blood. The wicked smile with his bloody teeth gave me chills!
Then there’s Samuel. I’m not sure what to think there. I understand his grief over Mary but to sacrifice his grandsons? There’s something more there. If there isn’t, he’s being written poorly. What Grandfather would turn on blood like that? If he knew that Dean made a deal for Sam, didn’t he know that Mary sacrificed her soul for these boys? Wouldn’t he know she’d do anything for them? His actions defied logic. If blindly resurrecting Mary above all else are really Samuel’s true intentions, that is a complete waste in resurrecting a character.
Ultimately though, the big struggle of the episode is whether or not Sam should get his soul back. It’s always been my belief that Sam doesn’t really want it back and has been going through the motions to please (or manipulate) Dean. Even Dean believed this in the very beginning of this episode. Castiel, being forced to actually spend time with the Winchesters, finally lays it out for Dean. Sam’s soul maybe so irreparably damaged that restoring it will reduce Sam to vegetable status. Crowley reinforces this. Even Meg agrees. When Sam believes they’re right, now Dean ends up taking the same road to denial that Samuel seems to be on regarding Mary. They’ll find a way. They have too. The Sam that’s there now is a “replicant.” I get that Dean misses his brother but to risk what is for what was seems like Dean has gone back to seeing Sam as an inhuman freak. It seems like a major step backward, especially after all that was accomplished with character growth in “Swan Song.” For once, I was with Sam in walking away at the end. Sam has to fight for his right to be. If Dean can’t come on board, Sam should go it alone.
I’m not sure if I should be giving grades anymore on these episodes. If everything that’s been presented all turns out to be inconsistent writing, then it’s an instant drop for everything (except “Weekend at Bobby’s” which is still holding strong). Analyzing just the technical construction, I’m giving “Caged Heat” an A-. If all these little character and plot nuances end up being red herrings or going nowhere though, this episode gets busted to a C.
Season Six Where Art Thou?
If “Caged Heat” did anything, it got me more puzzled about the direction season six in general is taking. The way I see it, two things are happening this season. Either the scattered plotting and uneven characterization is because it all adds up to something we don’t expect or it’s due to inferior writing. After watching “Caged Heat” I’m entertaining a large amount of conspiracy theories. I have to, because the alternative explanation of sloppy writing would definitely take whatever wind exists out of the sails of season six.
I get it, we’re dealing with flawed characters with fishy motivations. That’s a known aspect of noir, a cinematic theme supposedly inspiring season six (at least that’s what they told us at Comic Con). Another aspect is “red herrings,” aka things introduced in the plot that are meant to distract but go nowhere. A lot of this erratic character behavior could end up being red herrings or a lot of it could be important. Ten episodes in this season and we really can’t be sure yet. Here’s what I have on my scorecard of where we stand now at this point in season six. Prepare for your brain to hurt:
Sam and Dean are at odds again, Ten episodes in and there’s no hint of the brothers being close to the same page or ready to work together. That’s not exactly what I expected. I’m not going to criticize or say this must be corrected but I’d like some better clues that it’s all for a reason. Is it? Does this brotherly rift go anywhere? Dean once again sees his brother as some sort of freak. One that’s incapable of making his own decisions or doing the right thing. Then again, this isn’t Sam. Not the real Sam anyway. So does Dean have to let go and accept or try to get the real Sam back? His struggle and frustration ends up really being our struggle and frustration. It’s not fun. We as fans now have to wonder, what will happen if the old Sam never comes back? Will his soul heal or corrupt if it returns? The situation seems no win for these brothers right now and that’s pretty depressing.
Sam is scheming. He’s definitely up to something. The whole plan he concocted supposedly on the fly with Meg was too well though out. He had to have figured it out ahead of time and was waiting for the right opportunity. Dean has no right to trust him but man, Dean is so busy going through the motions and missing the old Sam he’s not seeing some clues. Sam’s behavior in “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” was all an act. Sam has actually been manipulating Dean all season. The vampire fiasco was pretty obvious. Is it just Dean’s warped sense of loyalty keeping him around? Is Sam using the soul thing so he can keep a close eye on Dean? Is none of this really happening and Sam’s behavior is just all over the map?
Why didn’t Sam contact Dean for a year? If he doesn’t care about Dean or Lisa as he claims, why would he care if Dean was happy and had a family? I’m beginning to think anything Sam says is a smoke and mirrors for hiding his real plan, including having feelings. Either that or the writers are completely butchering his character. No matter what, often times this Sam isn’t fun to watch either. Why was Sam even brought back? I have sincere doubts that Crowley did it alone for he had no good reason for Sam to be around. He was likely following orders. At least that’s the explanation that makes sense to me.
Okay, I got to know. What happened to Sam’s powers? He had them for five seasons and suddenly not a mention? I have this feeling he has them but is holding back. Either that or they were just dropped entirely because the writers didn’t want to deal with them. I was quite disappointed that this episode hinted he might use them when he bit into himself and it didn’t happen. Is that just me?
Samuel, where did he come from? Crowley said in “Caged Heat” that Samuel was the best purchase he made since Dick Cheney. From who? Balthazar maybe? Is that who pulled Samuel from Heaven? Now Samuel goes from confident family leader to pawn in Crowley’s master plan quivering mess over his dead daughter? He’s so obsessed and focused on Mary he can’t look beyond at her legacy? What will he do now that he’s not getting her back since Crowley is dead? What happens now that he’s left to live without someone owning him? Does he hold this against Sam and Dean, and will Dean make good on his promise to kill him? Does anyone care? I honestly hope there’s some future development there because Samuel is not resonating with anyone right now.
Crowley is not the big bad after all. Is there one? Is Hell now in civil war much like Heaven and eventually a new power emerges? Or has there always been a higher power than Crowley? Who is the other power? Meg is a minion. Raphael seems too busy in heaven. It’s sad, but given the week in and week out erratic behavior from Sam, if it’s not bad writing it’s a front for something else. Is Sam the new rising leader or is the enforcer for one? Maybe he’s finally become that General for the demon army? Were the events in “Caged Heat” a ploy for him and Meg to not get his soul back, but to take out Crowley and his stupid plan to conquer Purgatory? Maybe the monster prison needed to be destroyed so that tracks could be covered? Is it possible Sam is going to use monsters as part of a new plan? Is he using Dean to find monsters? Or is the real mastermind Samuel? Of course it could be nobody and it’s just mass chaos everywhere. But then I’d have to blast the show for horrible writing if that ended up being true.
One thing I’ve always loved about “Supernatural” is that they’ve never allowed the plot to get so complicated that they write themselves into an inescapable corner of conflicting continuity and presentation, a la “The X-Files.” Sure, some loose threads got by, but for the most part, the plot and characters were kept in control. That doesn’t seem to be the case in season six, at least so far. So is this the side effect of this noir approach? Is this really working for the show?
I’ll be honest, I like season six. I don’t love it. Not like I loved the other seasons. I don’t find the situation hopeless and I still have faith that it’s all going somewhere, but sometimes I think I’m watching “Unsolved Mysteries” rather than the clever and emotionally compelling horror show I fell in love with. My Friday nights aren’t ending with the same excitement and buzz as my Thursdays the years before. That’s okay though, for shows evolve, people evolve, things change. I’m here to watch and be entertained, no matter what the level. “Smallville” is certainly not ending the way it started and I can’t expect the same for this show. Until then though, I’m just hoping to walk away from an episode with some things making sense. That to me is turning out to be best case scenario. I’m not there yet.