6.18 Frontierland: Maybe You Got To Go Find Him And Make History
To burn the Mother,
Brothers travel to Colt’s time
For phoenix ashes.
My most earnest apologies, but the only way I could get this out even one minute before the next episode aired was to send it without my customary detailed episode summary. I promise a summary eventually, but I just can’t accomplish it in time, this time. I’m very sorry to let you all down!
Commentary and Meta Analysis
I had all my usual issues with the use of time travel, but none of them got in the way of my thorough enjoyment of this episode. In this discussion, I’ll delve a little further into Castiel’s problems in Heaven and on Earth, and speculate a bit on Samuel Colt and the emotional fate of hunters.
Look What You’re Turning Into
I speculated about the nature of Castiel’s problems in Heaven in my review of My Heart Will Go On, and I think Rachel’s interactions with Castiel here shed a lot more light on them. We didn’t see a lot, but some things came through loud and clear, chief among them being that other angels don’t share Castiel’s feelings for humans, resent every time Castiel puts the Winchesters and their human concerns ahead of his command obligations in Heaven, and find some of Castiel’s choices and decisions morally unacceptable.
When Rachel first appeared and asked the hunters what they needed, I think she might genuinely have been willing to help them. She was polite and direct, and things might have gone very differently if Dean had behaved the same way instead of dismissing her as inconsequential and insisting on speaking to Castiel like a rude customer demanding to be waited on by a manager rather than a mere clerk. When she got angry, her disdain for humans getting above themselves an attitude echoing that of Zachariah and Uriel immediately became plain, so it’s also possible that she might have refused to do what they wanted, but we’ll probably never know.
She clearly resented both Castiel’s implied reprimand for her critical rant and his choice to abrogate his command responsibilities for a time in order to help the Winchesters. In her mind, the war in Heaven was far more important that anything on Earth could possibly be, so Castiel was betraying his cause and also demeaning his proper station by serving and indulging the Winchesters instead of doing his duty. I do think she had his dignity and authority in mind and didn’t like the way the Winchesters simply seemed to summon him whenever they needed something, but she also didn’t appreciate him putting his friendship with lesser beings ahead of his responsibility to angels, and presumably God.
When Rachel summoned and confronted Castiel about his “dirty little secret” and countered his insistence that he had to defeat Raphael by saying he shouldn’t do it that way, asking him to look at what he was turning into, I think she was referring to what Atropos revealed last episode, about Castiel having artificially manufactured souls for power. I’m betting that’s just the latest in a long line of morally murky decisions Castiel has made in Heaven like the ones we’ve seen him make here on Earth, compromising his conscience in his increasingly desperate attempts to prevent Raphael from winning and reinstating the apocalypse. Castiel hasn’t entirely lost his moral compass witness his clear discomfort with things he’s done but his decisions have become increasingly grey and uncomfortable where they once were resolute black and white, all because he perceives the stakes as being too high for him to take the chance he might lose. When Dean challenged him in disbelief about torturing young Aaron Birch in The Third Man, Castiel responded, I can’t care about that, Dean; I don’t have the luxury. Rachel’s reaction to Castiel here shows that Dean hasn’t been the only one wondering about Castiel’s slide from grace, and just how far he’s gone down the road of doing other similarly uncomfortable things we don’t yet know about.
And I have to wonder if one of those “dirty little secret” decisions might relate to Purgatory, and gaining access to the power of souls destined to go there. At the end of Caged Heat, Sam told Castiel he could help by dealing with Crowley’s prison-full of monsters, since they couldn’t be released. The implication was that Castiel would destroy them, but what if he did something else? What if they, like the humans the monsters seem to be related to, have souls, and what if Castiel found a way to use them?
For the record, by the way, I think Rachel was wrong about many things. It’s true the brothers have only summoned Castiel when they’ve needed help, but they knew of no way to help him in turn in his war in Heaven; he even told them in Caged Heat there was nothing they could do. I believe the Winchesters and Bobby truly are Castiel’s friends and would do whatever they could, but humans are underpowered in comparison to angels at least unless and until they could access and unleash the power of their souls, which none of us obviously know how to do.
I’ve Given My Whole Life To This; I’m Done
Something I love about Supernatural is the way it raises new questions every time it supplies answers to old ones, and introducing Samuel Colt did that in spades. We first heard Colt mentioned all the way back in Dead Man’s Blood when John recounted the legend of Colt having built his gun that could kill “supernatural anything” back in 1835. Having been born in 1814, Colt would have been only 21 then, and 47 when we met him here. In our real-life history, Colt died just a year later, in 1862.
We still don’t know how Colt got into hunting, but the line I used for the start of this section suggests he might have been raised to it like the Winchester brothers or the Campbells, whether of a hunting family or because of a personal encounter very early on in life. We know he’d been in the game for at least 26 years by the time we met him here, since he had to have known about the supernatural in order to have built the gun back in 1835. Colt still having the gun suggests he himself was the hunter he’d built it for; either that, or he got it back when the man he’d built it for died. This episode’s continuity with everything else we knew about Colt, having him in the process of building the devil’s trap railroad to fence off the devil’s gate, delighted me no end, but just makes me want to know more.
The two demons he killed in his cabin said, We know you built that devil’s gate, Colt, so you’re gonna open it for us. Begs the question: why did Samuel Colt build a gate into Hell? We already knew he’d built the door and the lock that held the gate shut, using the Colt as the key. What we still don’t know, however, is whether an opening into Hell already existed in that cemetery and he just built the door and lock to close it, and then made the devil’s trap railway to prevent demons from reopening it, or whether he made that actual opening into Hell himself for some reason.
We also don’t know how he made the gun and got it to work. The way Ruby managed to help Bobby reactivate the gun in Sin City suggests that either witchcraft or demon power or a combination of both may have been necessary. What we learned about all the historical manipulation required on the part of both demons and angels to bring about the apocalypse leads me to hypothesize that Samuel Colt might have been influenced by angels, demons, or both to build both the gate and the gun for the roles they would later play. And who knows: Ruby may even have been his creative enabling muse back then, only to find herself exorcised back to Hell and trapped there again when he shut and locked the gate after using her. That’s a story I’d like to see!
Colt reminded me very strongly of Rufus and Bobby. All of them grew tired, old, and jaded beyond their chronological years by their lifetimes of hunting. And all of them serve as bleak predictions of the futures of Sam and Dean.
What makes those predictions seem bleaker now than ever before is the way both brothers have lost any hope for a brighter or different future. Once upon a time, Sam was committed to not walking down that hunting path, instead opening up other doors on a different future with family and hope. That’s part of what drove him when we first met him at the beginning of the series. He still believed it in Shadow, when he said he’d go back to school after they killed the demon. It became harder for him as he grew more and more afraid during season two of his powers and the destiny Azazel had planned for him, but escaping it all remained his goal. Finding a way to do that to be able to stop hunting and live a different way by ending the threat at its source was what drove him back to working with Ruby to develop his powers at the end of Criss Angel Is A Douchebag. Only after Lucifer rose and Sam understood how he’d been used did Sam lose that hope of being different, of being able to walk away. Now he’s the one who told Colt there was no way to retire, that no hunter could ever stop. But although he sees the hunting future as something inevitable and generally pretty bleak, he doesn’t seem to despair of it the way he once did. Instead, he seems to see it as a mission, as something that needs doing and is worth doing a vocation, rather than the doom or prison sentence he viewed it as in the past. But he doesn’t seem to hold out any hope of a happy future; just one in which he finds fulfillment in and makes up for past mistakes by saving people.
Dean’s journey was different. In the very beginning when we first met him, he seemed and I think he truly was relatively happy hunting, provided he didn’t think too deeply about it: he was good at it, and he derived a lot of emotional satisfaction from saving people. Along the way, particularly beginning in Skin and Shadow and developing through No Exit, Dream A Little Dream Of Me, Criss Angel, and other episodes, we learned that his dedication to hunting was at least partially a coping mechanism, a way for him to make the best of a situation from which he saw no escape. Dean was very good at making lemonade out of the lemons life handed him.
As the lemons became an unceasing barrage of rotting fruit through seasons four and five, however, I think he lost the knack of finding contentment in the seemingly inevitable. He was overwhelmed by depression and ultimately, with the loss of Sam, by despair. Left to himself, I think he would have died, whether by committing suicide directly or doing it by monster through hunting alone. He went to Lisa and Ben only because he’d made a promise to Sam.
And then something happened that changed things again, and it was precisely what I believe Sam had intended when he sent Dean to the Braedens. Little by little, Dean came back to life. It’s a human thing; life goes on, and if we have people around us who care about us and for whom we care, we have to deal with the day-to-day of living with them rather than losing ourselves in the past or in our grief. We get caught up in events and discover things that make us laugh again, and that clearly happened to Dean. He didn’t lose his pain, but it dulled enough to let him find a separate peace at least for a while in moments of quiet joy being father to a boy and lover to a woman. We saw some of those moments in the montage in Exile On Main Street, and in the photos of him with Lisa and Ben, and those snippets of happiness were real. He got a glimpse of a different life, and while it wasn’t perfect being without Sam and knowing he was in Hell would always hurt, and working construction definitely didn’t have the emotional payback of hunting it had promise in other ways.
Sam and hunting coming back into the picture threw it all into confusion, especially because Sam, lacking his soul, wasn’t the Sam Dean knew. Dean initially assumed his life with Lisa and Ben was over and lost because he brought danger to their door simply because he was a hunter. Lisa’s willingness in Two And A Half Men to take the chance and try making it work anyway opened a door he clearly hadn’t expected, and created a wild hope he’d never had before of connecting both pieces of his life: hunter and nurturing family man. And it actually seemed to be working for a while, up until the moment in Live Free Or Twi-Hard when he found himself transformed into a monster and made the disastrous decision to try saying goodbye before he died. That experience, and Lisa shutting him out afterward in You Can’t Handle The Truth, made him change his view of himself to the bleak image that he’s a killer, someone constitutionally incapable and unworthy of being anything but a hunter, someone only another hunter should ever be around because he is as much a danger to them as the monsters he hunted would be.
And here’s where things get very interesting to me, because when all this gets put together, it appears the brothers have switched emotional roles again. Dean’s view of hunting as a curse and himself as a natural-born killer seems to have become even darker than the negative, depressing images Sam used to have of the family business as something to escape and himself as a freak. Sam’s view, on the other hand, seems to have transformed into something more like the acceptance of hunting as a worthy mission Dean had at the very beginning of the series, but flavored with the very conscious belief that he has to hunt not just because knowledge brings duty with it, but because he feels the need to make up for what he did before.
Still, while they’re both sadder and wiser now and their overall cumulative view of the world is darker than it was, the brothers being fully together again lightens both their hearts. They’ve been recovering their ease with each other over the last few episodes, falling back into rhythm, starting to tease each other without the sense of walking on eggshells. I believe that will continue as they stay and continue to grow together, and that gives me hope they’ll be able to support each other through whatever else comes. They’ve given their whole lives to this but unlike Samuel Colt, they both acknowledge they’re still far from done, and that’s where hope survives.