“Let It Bleed” has all the makings of a great episode. Bringing a horror fiction icon like H.P. Lovecraft into the mythology (albeit taking liberties with his real backstory), coming up with a credible way to crack the door to purgatory, giving Dean Winchester a powerhouse emotional story in which he lives one of his worst nightmares, continue Castiel’s saga by having him do his best to make amends but failing, and of course making sure everything the second to last episode of the season does what it must do to segue into a traditional blockbuster finale.
So why didn’t I enjoy it?
Let’s start with the obvious reason. It depressed the crap out of me. We’ve endured one very dark and somber season and by episode 21, I was looking for some more hope or something more uplifting, like our heroes banding together in their desperate hour to fight evil. Remember last season’s “Two Minutes ‘Til Midnight?” The heroes triumphing in their missions, everything falling into place to take on Lucifer, and together as a unified team they face the horrifying reality that one of their own is taking a fall to save humanity. It was heroic, awe inspiring, and Dean’s scene with Death gives me freaking chills to this day!
On top of that, I hoped that after last week’s stunning (and series landmark) episode, “The Man Who Would Be King,” Castiel would earn redemption by saving Dean and/or saving Ben and Lisa. Oh wait, he did that. Um, I was hoping Dean would appreciate those actions? Gee, what was I thinking?
Before I get started, I know that many didn’t like the season finale, “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” for the same reason I didn’t like this one. It was too depressing. The difference for me is I actually dug Sam’s intense psychological struggle. In my review of that episode, I acknowledged that Sam did pull things together a bit quickly and the episode, especially the angel drama, seemed too rushed, but hey, I still loved what we did get with Sam’s struggle. The first 30 minutes were great before it fell apart.
Sam’s wall had to come down. It was inevitable. He couldn’t exist in that condition, three separate aspects of his being divided by a wall. He had to become whole again. So that struggle that he faced made sense to me. The fact that it was taken down by Castiel made it even more shocking.
In Dean’s case, did we really need another Lisa and Ben drama? Don’t get me wrong, I really love Lisa and Ben and the impact they’ve had on Dean’s life. But why this? Why the horror of watching them get captured by Crowley, Lisa being critically wounded after being possessed, and then Dean taking Castiel’s gift of life and making them forget he existed? That’s got “Days of Our Lives” all over it, not a credible plot like their poignant parting in “Mannequin 3: The Reckoning.” It’s an actual “Jump The Shark” moment.
I know, this is a Sci-fi show. I’m calling out for credibility? Sam had a freaking wall in his head! Sure it’s a fine line, but what I’ve always adored about Lisa and Ben is that they brought a healthy dose of reality and normalcy to Dean’s screwed up life. They represented the other side of life, the part he always wished he had. They gave him real human situations to juggle in between completely messed up ones. “Let It Bleed” managed to toss all that out the window.
Other than getting one most awesome, on the brink of tears, heart ripping into pieces before our very eyes, Emmy worthy scene in the hospital from Jensen, I felt completely unsatisfied by the whole Ben and Lisa outcome. We can get into “what ifs” and say that not remembering will now put them more into danger, but I do wonder if this plot was constructed just because TPTB realized that they took the whole Ben and Lisa drama too far. Since they had to kill 40 minutes why not erase their mistakes? I’d actually believe that if the finale wasn’t such a crowded mess plot wise.
You know though, I digress. The way I’m writing this, I’m making it sound all bad. There were some parts of this episode I really loved. Most of it involved Bobby and the mythology revolving around H.P. Lovecraft. Jim Beaver, who’s had some really strong material this season, is again given a huge reason to shine. He makes one terrific investigative reporter. I laughed at his biting sarcasm that flew by the H.P Lovecraft uber fan. (“You must be catnip to the ladies.” Bwah!). I thought his scene with the old man in the asylum is easily one of the most endearing moments we’ve had this season, if not the entire series. I especially got caught up in how Bobby was the only one that showed sympathy over the man’s mother.
Then there’s him and Eleanor Visyak. Oh Ellie. I knew it was too good too be true. The chemistry is just too good. That marks her for doom. The twist about Dr. Visyak being a monster of purgatory is not only perfect, continuity wise it makes a lot of sense. Plus it becomes a good excuse to bring back a great guest actress in Kim Johnston Ulrich. I swear, Bobby’s streak with the ladies is every bit as deadly than Sam’s, maybe more so. That’s another really depressing part.
Let’s not forget Balthazar, who continues to be an incredible addition (so naturally an eventual subtraction) to this twisted angel plot. I felt so bad for him when he badly tries to cover his surprise when Sam and Dean tell him about Castiel’s deal with Crowley. The scene between Balthazar and Castiel in the tranquil forest is, oh how do I describe something so perfect? It not only is a painful confrontation over loyalty and deception, it loosely follows a parallel between Sam and Dean in seasons four and five. Castiel has a dangerous plan, one that might not just destroy him, but half the planet with him. We could tell though that Balthazar’s true concern is for his buddy, despite his obvious hurt over Castiel keeping secrets. So much so, he ends up becoming a double agent and helping Sam and Dean. His motives are pure. Castiel needs to be stopped for his own good. Fat lot of good that did him (yeah, still bitter about that).
I did love Lisa as a demon. Cindy Sampson is amazing playing something evil. Very very cool. The things she said to mess with both Dean and Ben’s head, whoa! Also, while it’s extremely predictable that when Dean is truly angry he’s outright dangerous and will take out everyone single handedly, I loved seeing it anyway. Picking off demons one by one with ease while he rescues Lisa and Ben, that’s pure classic Dean. The fact it happened off camera this time but we could still hear it, even better.
It all ends there though. Castiel, coming off of the absolutely perfect “The Man Who Would Be King,” becomes perplexing (aka, written all over the map). A few scenes turned more into head scratchers than powerful emotional struggles. I get it, he thinks it’s too late. He can’t back down. Yet he pleads to Dean to support him and is still there to save him and heal Lisa. How is that consistent with his statement at the end of the previous episode that Dean can’t stop him because he’s an angel? Why is he coming back for Dean’s approval? Didn’t that ship already sail? Again, I do believe it was dragged on drama designed to kill time that didn’t need killin’.
Dean however, his actions with Castiel are the most head scratching. He’s convinced that Castiel is wrong, yet accepts his help anyway then tells him that none of it changes anything? Really? Wow, it’s sort of “When The Levee Breaks” all over again. Honestly, why was Dean being so unyielding? Why couldn’t he reluctantly follow Cas? He’s done it for Sam before. Do we go back to the same reasons he couldn’t trust Sam in season four? Is it because Castiel deceived him with one lie? Chose a demon over him? Is this pride interrupting his judgment again? Why can’t he see Castiel’s perspective? Has he not learned what happens when he does this? That makes his plea to Castiel/New God at the end of “The Man Who Knew Too Much” that much more out of character. Dean is not a too little, too late kind of guy.
I know, before I get shouted down by Dean fans, I’m not attacking Dean as a person or his choices here. I’m questioning the writing and how is character is all over the map. Think about it, he shuns Castiel, refuses to help, but then takes his help anyway as far as Ben and Lisa are concerned, but doesn’t give Castiel any benefit of the doubt. Then in the next episode he and Castiel are back to being at bitter odds? (Before what Castiel did to Sam anyway. Now that was a declaration of war!) Oh but wait, Cas is God now, let’s suck up to him? (**walking around in circles looking all around for the explainable plot progression that whizzed by me**).
What was that three years of bonding between Dean and Castiel? That history they had together? It all unravels that fast? At least Sam and Dean in season four had a long and slow (and perfectly plotted) decline in their relationship. Here Dean and Castiel’s rift comes out of nowhere at the end of the season. What happened to Dean’s grand speech at the end of “And Then There Were None” about clean slates? I recognize this will be a topic to probe further in the “A Deeper Look At Season Six Dean Winchester” article, but I’m just so confused as to how he and Castiel’s relationship could have fallen apart so easily. It just seemed stronger than that.
To add insult to injury, Sam’s role in “Let It Bleed” pushes my head scratching into full blown hair ripping out of its follicles. When I end up fondly reminiscing of the good ole days of “Mannequin 3: The Reckoning” (an episode I loathed until now) when Sam gives Dean an ultimate show of support in a dark hour, something is seriously wrong. Sam cautiously deals with Dean the entire episode by walking on pins and needles, isn’t there to save his brother against possible demon attack during interrogation, isn’t there with him at the hospital, and he picks up a whiskey glass? Not that I don’t get why he did that, but why now, why this drama? I could have picked ten other more stressing times where he should have been pounding the hard stuff. Then after Dean’s heart crushing goodbye to Lisa and Ben, SAM BERATES DEAN? Tells him what he did is really low? Huh? Um, er, where were you Sam during all that hospital drama? Where were the puppy dog eyes agonizing over your stricken brother? Where was your silent support that you’re there for him? Were you off drinking more whiskey? None of Sam’s actions made sense after the deeply personal and in sync brotherly bonding of late.
With this episode, it all hit me. I’m getting tired of the darkness and the pointless plots that go nowhere. The no win, let’s throw another bombshell at these guys and watch them fall apart scenario. Dean doesn’t deserve this. Then again, he never does. How much of it can a fan watch though before getting too frustrated? Where’s my tender brotherly ending? I did not need to see Sam getting shouted down instead of them having a moment, even if he had it coming. Dean loses two people he loved the most (outside of family) and one of his best friends FOR NO GOOD REASON. He didn’t sacrifice for the greater good this time. On top of all that, the cool monster gets captured by the angel. Surprise, surprise. Let me guess, by next episode, she joins the death pool. When deaths become that predictable, they become pointless. But then again, I’ve already made clear my opinions about that, so pardon the redundancy.
I won’t go on because a deeper analysis of the issues seen here will be done in upcoming articles about season six. I’m certain that in my disappointment I missed the real point of this episode, which was to further Dean’s dramatic arc and add another layer to his already tortured character. I personally think they should have stretched out “The Man Who Knew Too Much” into two hours (one hour Sam drama, one hour Sam, Dean and Bobby bonding together to stop Castiel) and scrapped this one instead. That way, the drama could have fallen on the brothers and not Dean having yet another horrific go with Ben and Lisa. I honestly thought that ship had sailed seven episodes ago.
Jasminka and Bardicvoice were able to find the gems with “Let It Bleed” and their perspectives are certainly much healthier than mine in this case. I highly endorse their reviews for something more inspired. I just had trouble getting past certain things and that was after I gave myself a week to think about it. Instead, I got madder. I can assure, “Let It Bleed” is not on my rewatch list. I’m not even going to give it a grade because I don’t think I’d be very fair with it. I can say this, at least it’s not “Bugs” or “Hammer of The Gods.”
I know that each finale episode, “Let It Bleed” and “The Man Who Knew Too Much” were very polarizing with fans. So which one did you like best? Why? Which one made you actually scream in total frustration over the half assed plotting? Please, tell me what I missed.