This episode was all about trust, appearances and faith. Not the standard depiction that Supernatural has presented in the past, but a completely new spin on the subject. As humans, we walk through our lives and go through the entire spectrum of trust, ranging from absolute and total faith to complete and everlasting suspicion right out of the gate and everything in between. Sometimes, we find get burned and other times we’re surprised. Often, the older we get, the more experience we gain, the more skeptical we become and a wariness develops that allows, even subconsciously, for reading social queues, words, gestures or even just a feeling that allows wariness to abate or rise higher, as the case may be. Some people are exceptional at reading these signs. And some people, those flashing bright-eyes and the wide but feral grins, are really good at manipulating both sides of this system.
Tonight, we saw both sides of the coin and that special, not-quite-sure grey area in between.
Let’s talk angels: the winged, the calculating and the sycophantic. Our new head baddie, Bartholomew a.k.a. Bart recruited the super-popular online preacher, Buddy Boyle, on the ever popular “mission from God” to help the angels find vessels. The unfortunate thing is of course, Buddy believes he is doing Holy work and people around the world accept his sermons as truth, open their minds and bodies as vessels – sadly with the occasional “martyr” here and there (and they really do go here and there when they explode). Bart is one who has figured out this human world rather quickly – you put an honorable face on the internet with catchy speeches, pander to the religious factions out there and viola, legions of vessels await. Grade A façade for a high-speed God-Squad incursion.
I like Bart – he’s blatantly evil, well spoken, scheming and overall a formidable opponent. He definitely has potential; reminds me a bit of Dick Roman. Bart, for one so new to the human world, is first-class at maneuvering through it.
Castiel: Faith, Hedonism and Resurrection
Castiel of course is new to being mortal and, as he almost always has, presents a unique innocence in his approach to the world. This is a near childishly naïve approach to everything and far too full of disclosure of every thought and occurrence – “Do you every tire of urinating?”
That said, Castiel is wholly sincere and this translates to those around, prompting the communities he moved through to be generous with their limited supplies and even to be protective when Sam and Dean came looking for information. It’s worth mentioning that, though Castiel is certain inexperienced with many things in the world, this episode could have played him as very much a joke and it didn’t go that route – certainly not to any degree I expected.
Castiel was vigilant with his safety, enough to keep moving and sleep lightly – killing a stalking angel and even wise enough to forego food in order to get an Enochian tattoo. Cas also felt the highs and lows. Though he had some positive moments, he wasn’t without sad times as well. Castiel experienced a very poignant encounter in a church. It could have come across contrived, but in fact I felt it was very genuine. When Castiel is overwhelmed by the noise and chaos of the city, he seeks solace and the familiarity of a holy place, despite his loss of faith overall with Heaven. There he overhears a woman praying for her sick husband and they share quite a conversation as she goes to leave.
The woman explains to Cas that, despite what his beliefs are, they are his. She has her faith and it is stalwart. Whatever he may or may not think, it doesn’t cancel what she believes in. Perhaps he needs to rediscover his faith. Now, we know that Cas is right in that the angels have fallen and that God has, for all intents and purposes, seemingly abandon Heaven and his world. However, the important message here appears to be about believing in and having faith in something, period. Right now, Castiel is lost. He needs to find faith in something – that is what he is struggling to do.
The other thing Castiel learned a great deal about in this episode is, simply, humans. He is one now but he experienced and repeated many times about how helpful or generous or kind they’ve been. Now he has experienced this woman with her strength and belief, even in the angels (and while some are murderously insane, not all –I hope- are evil). Yes, Cas knows Sam and Dean and select other humans are awesome, but when speaking about humanity as a whole, this is a truer, broader level experience. One all the angels could stand to experience.
Of course, Cas learned that the poor and homeless a lot of people might shy away from on the street can actually be quite openhanded and that the sweet girl who brings you home for free sex, well, she’s probably a psycho looking to slaughter you. Trusting appearances – not always a good idea. In fact, rarely a good idea on this show. Hands up if you suspected little Miss PBJ from the get-go. Castiel is sweet and those blue eyes are endearing, sure, but no *way* do you bring a strange man home to your apartment who was rifling through the garbage – particularly a single woman. A puppy he ain’t.
Sam: Hale and Hearty
Speaking of puppies…it’s good to see Sam looking so healthy and happy. Up for a morning run to see the sunrise, fetching breakfast and generally enjoying life. It’s my guess, however, that this cannot last very much longer. This is another example of the trust theme in the episode. Sam trusts Dean – why wouldn’t he? So he hasn’t really questioned, so far, the truly questionable scenarios and snap-your-finger fixes that have followed the boys – but he’s getting to that point as we saw toward the end of this episode. While Sam was unconscious, too. It’s obvious that Sam – at some level – is starting to wonder though. So yes, he trusts Dean. But he also knows his brother and Sam is just as good at reading those social queues for lies as Dean is at manipulating (and frankly, when Dean is this strung out with all the lies and this nervous, he isn’t that good).
Sam is not a moron. Just the opposite in fact. Dean might the one person in the world in whom Sam has unwavering confidence, nevertheless, that many wobbly lies about the source of information that Dean kept producing are getting more and more transparent. Sam may not understand what is happening, but his radar is definitely going off.
For someone so weak, Zeke certainly demonstrates a fair bit of power when the mood strikes. He was also pretty damn quick to levy threats of abandoning Sam and getting a new vessel. Zeke is totally grey for me, and I think for Dean too. He is one who is either a truly good guy you can trust (I doubt it) or who is really freakin’ good at playing everyone.
Helping Dean and Sam save Cas was certainly a good-faith gesture. Both providing the information that he was initially in danger and then bringing him back from death of course. But manipulating Dean in to exiling Castiel does not scream good guy, regardless of his alleged reasons for doing so. Ezekiel has a plan for something and he is dragging the Winchesters along, one unknowingly and through emotional blackmail (which is a specialty on this show).
Dean: One Lie Begets Another
What to say about Dean. He had some struggles this episode. Lying to Sam is obviously a problem for him that is leaving Dean more unsteady on his feet every time he has to do it. It’s unnerving when Zeke appears so suddenly and worrying to see Sam go from deathbed to jogging in so little time – but of course, Sam doesn’t know he was that bad. Dean watch Cas die, which was clearly a difficult blow and then had to kick out this same friend, one who last week we heard him classify as his family. And finally, he can’t talk about any of this. He can’t say to Sam – “Dude, you were in a coma and nearly dead, take it easy.” He can’t explain that Zeke is blackmailing him, forcing him to pick Sam’s wellbeing over Cas’ safety in the bunker. Even Dean’s actions aren’t what they seem to those who trust him the most. Nevertheless, it’s what he feels he has to do. Dean must feel quite bound and in an increasingly isolated spot.
The Fun Stuff
So, with this episode being about Cas and his human exploits, it wasn’t all dark and depressing, naturally. There were some key moments worth mentioning, aside from witnessing his version of teeth brushing. Of course, Cas referring to himself as Clarence was funny – and a nice callback to his friendship with Meg. It was interesting that Dean didn’t understand this was a reference to It’s a Wonderful Life. Finally, and this was my favourite – when Castiel reveals to Sam and Dean he had sex with April. Dean choking on the burrito and the looks on both their faces was almost worth Cas being stabbed by that whore.
This was another well done episode of season nine. As I mentioned above, the Cas-as-a-human could have been seriously overplayed for jokes, but I thought it was used just enough. His experience in the church discussing faith was touching and it was it is interesting to learn more about both Ezekiel and the angels as each of their agendas reveals piece by piece. The episode addressed the idea that nothing is what it really seems – trust is something that must be carefully given – perhaps Dean’s trust in Zeke was misguided. Faith on the other hand, is a bit different. While Sam and Cas may wonder about Dean’s actions and discover he’s lying, it doesn’t shake their faith him. The ending of this episode was poised to be a jolly one – the boys together, Cas safely enjoying a burrito and the water pressure. Sam and Dean glad to have the crew gathered in the bunker and impressed their angelic buddy ain’t so virginal – and gratefully, alive. Then boom! Supernatural does what it does best and leaves us with tragic Cas eyes as Zeke blackmails Dean with Sudden-Death Sam or Good-Bye AngelBoy. Despite this, and even because of it, this was another win for season nine.