For the record, I really liked “Captives”. It was engaging. It had a lot of Sam, Dean and Castiel. It brought Kevin back to us. Mostly, though, it felt hopeful again. In my review of the season so far (Is Season 9 Divine?), I observed that many episodes in the first half of the season felt hopeful. “Captives” gave me that same feeling. Mrs. Tran was rescued alive, Kevin is back with his mom, Castiel is making good choices, wayward angels chose to follow Cas and a path of peace, Bartholomew was killed (I found him very tiresome!) and we got a promise that the brother’s relationship will be mended. I sensed the turning point in many threads, many arcs, for the season. Maybe we are getting closer to redemption.
The Gates of Heaven are Closed – We are tracking several threads related to the angel war and Heaven’s restoration, namely whether the banishing spell is reversible, why Metatron has a hit-list of people who have to be eliminated, whether Gadreel will ultimately redeem himself, and whether Sam’s “inside knowledge” of Gadreel’s interactions with Metatron will ultimately be useful. While I didn’t see new evidence relating to any of these threads (did you?), we did learn from Kevin that “Heaven in closed for business. Everyone who’s died since the angels fell are just stuck inside the veil, waiting.” That answered a lot of questions about the extent of heaven’s shut down. While interesting, it doesn’t help Kevin (his body is ashes), Crowley/Abaddon/Hell Wars or Gadreel/Metatron. It puts a great deal more pressure on Sam, Dean and other hunters because there are more ghosts circling the veil, but given all that is going on, that doesn’t seem that relevant right now. It does confirm, though, that Metatron closed the gates of Heaven at the same time he evicted all the angels. If closing the gates of Heaven backed up the good souls, it logically follows that closing the gates of Hell would have delayed the departure of all the evil souls, too (congratulations to the people who speculated about this possibility several months ago!). If this is confirmed, it may be the exact vindication Sam needs to forgive himself (and Dean) for selfishly choosing each other instead of doing something they thought would rid the world of Hell’s interference forever. Maybe the brother’s love prevented a catastrophic mistake! Remember the morale of the first five years of Supernatural? In “Swan Song”, Chuck summed it all up by saying:
“So, what’s it all add up to? It’s hard to say. But me, I’d say this was a test…for Sam and Dean. And I think they did all right. Up against good, evil, angels, devils, destiny and God himself, they made their own choice. They chose family. And, well…isn’t that kinda the whole point?”
Maybe Chuck’s voice is still narrating this saga. Maybe, just maybe, this is where we are headed…..again. Sam would understand how very wrong he was in believing that “everything that has ever gone wrong between us has been because we’re family.” Choosing life in the church, instead of dying for the cause, would echo Castiel’s lesson when he stopped extracting grace from Sam (“First Born”):
“[the] old me would’ve just kept going. I would’ve jammed that needle in deeper until you died because the ends always justified the means. But what I went through [as a human]..taught me that angels can change, so who knows? Maybe Winchesters can too.”
Earlier in that process he told Sam “life is precious and it must be protected at all costs”. Maybe this whole season is reteaching the lesson that life and family are the whole point.
New Evidence for Existing Threads
“Captives” gave us a great deal of information about Bartholomew’s (and maybe Malachi’s) plans and motivations:
Bartholomew: “We have different methods, Cas, but we want the same thing – to find Metatron and restore our kind to heaven. I will outrace Malachi in the hunt for Metatron and I will certainly outrace you on your own…there’s no reason the two of us can’t take him down together.”
Bartholomew: [I’ve been] distracted from the real goal. But with you by my side – the new boss and the ultimate rebel working together – think of the message that would send to would-be dissidents. They’d finally understand that resistance is futile. Think of the bloodshed we could avert…What a united angel kind could accomplish in heaven…Elsewhere [with a sudden smirk].”
It seems Bartholomew, and by reference, Malachi, both want to be seen as the heroes who restore Heaven (add Gadreel to that list, too). Maybe they think that triumph will elevate them to the ultimate position of power. The Star Trek Borg reference (“resistance is futile”) subliminally gives us the image of masses of mindless drones (i.e. angels) following the will of one leader. They both arrogantly believe they should be that leader. Maybe Bartholomew and Malachi just need their kingdom back so they have someplace to rule (they are currently kings without a kingdom). Maybe they see themselves as the “new God”. Bartholomew’s “elsewhere” hinted that his plans were grander than just ruling angelkind in Heaven. Cas once thought of himself as the new God, too. I believe he was being influenced if not controlled by the Leviathans inside him at the time, but there was still the familiarity of the road already travelled for him. Bartholomew’s and Malachi’s race for power is the juxtaposition to Castiel’s growth in wisdom, humility and leadership. Castiel learned from his mistakes, which leads us to redemption…
Castiel was the voice of redemption in “Captives”. His refusal to engage in violence showed several angels a new, peaceful path to unity, finding Metatron and reopening the gates of Heaven. Castiel consciously chose his path to redemption when he said, “Angels fighting angels has to stop somewhere. Might as well stop with me.” Then when Bartholomew asked him if he was now a penitent, Cas answered “I’m nothing”. What an incredible statement of humility, in stark contrast to “I am the new God” that Cas proclaimed just a few years earlier. His time as a human taught him humility, patience and maybe a strength that comes from understanding yourself. Cas proclaimed, “Who I was, what I did, that’s not who I am” clearly telling us that he has changed.
The redemption arc vibrantly lit up this episode, making a welcome, heartwarming respite from the heartbreak of the Winchester brothers…
The Brother’s Relationship
Mrs. Tran gave Dean’s heart a voice when she reiterated the deepest, most primal instincts of any parent: “He is my son. It’s my job to keep him safe for as long as I can.” This was an obvious reminder and validation of at least one of Dean’s motivations in saving Sam. Kevin then absolved Sam of all guilt for Kevin’s death. Sam needed to hear that forgiveness. Crowley had already told Sam that the murder wasn’t his fault, but it needed to be repeated. Maybe Sam will eventually believe it. In any case, both Linda and Kevin Tran were used to help the brothers process their guilt.
Kevin then gave all of fandom a voice when he told the boys they need to talk about their differences and be brothers again. As a ghost, Kevin was like the fans who have been forced to watch the brothers fight but have no voice to help them understand, forgive, reconcile and grow. Kevin spoke for us in pointing out that life is too short to stubbornly hold onto pain and anger (“My mom is taking home a ghost”).
Sam and Dean then promised that they would work out their differences. This was hopefully a coded promise from the writers to fandom that they know they have to fix things between the boys. So far we only got a hesitation from Sam when he closed himself up in his room, and a resigned Dean, when he shut out the world by putting on headphones and losing himself in his music. Still, I’ll take the acknowledgement and the promise. That’s what I said I wanted from Jeremy Carver in the letter to him a few weeks ago. I choose to believe this was his promise to us.
“I did what I had to do”
This thread was at the center of the critical turning point in Cas and Bartholomew’s dialogue and relationship! Bartholomew was baiting Castiel to kill the pacifist. Once again an innocent life was threatened by someone’s quest for an ultimate goal. Bartholomew said, “I want to work with you, Castiel, but I need proof. They need proof that they were wrong, that you can do what has to be done. This has to be done.” Bart even repeated the phrase for emphasis! The rationalization of I did what I had to do was used repeatedly in the first half of the season to justify killing Kevin, Theo, the park ranger angel, letting Sam be possessed and so many more tragedies. Castiel announced the end of this justification, though, when he said “my only choice was to obey or be killed. Well, I choose.” He chose to not kill an innocent or Bartholomew. Castiel’s decision was the turning point in this arc, I believe. We may now see more people (including Gadreel?) recognize that you always have a choice. Team Free Will. The idea of choices may resonate with Sam and Dean, too, and again help them make sense out of their confusion and anger.
Castiel also clarified that choosing to defend life is not the same as being a pacifist or a push-over. Castiel protected himself when attacked by Bartholomew. He warned the angel in the cemetery “I don’t want to fight, but if I have to, I will.” He has reconciled his warrior training and instincts with his new reverence for life. He may be foreshadowing the lesson the Winchesters have to apply to themselves. Again, a turning point.
Will someone else turn out to be who they aren’t supposed to be?
Dean underestimated the storage facility clerk, because Dean pre-judged him based on either expectations of who would fill that particular job or his experience at the other storage sites. Either way, once Dean’s prediction about the “nerd’s” physical and social qualities were confirmed, Dean let down his guard believing the “funky homo sapien” was not a threat. That really seemed to me to be a slap in the face to everyone who prejudges people based on outward appearances…and a reiteration of the thread that not everyone is who they appear to be.
The Mark of Cain
Is the “cost” being immortal, becoming evil or a stone cold killer…
or being exiled from home and all you love? How is Dean going to get rid of the MoC? – My only observation on this thread is related to its lack of movement. The more episodes that don’t address this plot, the more I believe its story will be the basis of this season’s cliff hanger. I am more and more convinced that this may set up some gut-wrenching decision, action, consequence, or “cost” that drops us into the hiatus before season 10.
Threads on Hold (no new clues this time)
Let me know if I missed anything related to:
– “You’ve seen everything that he’s seen!”
– Why did Crowley want Kevin’s blood instead of Sam’s?
– Is the Angel Banishing Spell Reversible?
– Letting Go
– “Here is the FIRST name on your to-do list.”
– Bartholomew to Castiel: “No one is as motivated as you to take him down.” I found that very interesting. Bartholomew believed that Cas was tricked by Metatron rather than the original, popular assumption that Castiel was complicit with Metatron? Hurray. The truth is known and accepted.
– Bartholomew said that Metatron had been seen on earth 3 times: southern Washington state,
northern Michigan, and central Georgia. I haven’t looked on a map yet to try to identify probably cities for
those red dots. Anyone from those states recognize the general locale? I am just curious if those locations are revisited as the homes of future hit-list names, or something relevant to Metatron’s cause. It would take a lot for Metatron to become visible and I found it interesting that the map was shown twice during that scene.
– I promised I would hold onto the observation that Abaddon was at Castle Storage when she took Crowley’s phone call. Castle Storage was again the backdrop for this episode’s action. At first I thought that Abaddon was involved somehow with the hostages, but soon it became clear that it was Crowley’s doing and not some bizarre plot twist. Instead, I believe we are being told that Castle Storage is the most common chain of storage facilities in the Supernatural universe and we should expect to see it in every town, somewhere down the street from Biggersons! I also think we can take away the lesson that you do not want a job there since Abaddon, Crowley’s demon and Mrs. Tran all killed the hapless Castle Storage attendants (or people passing by?)! Is it a coincidence that their uniforms are red shirts (another Star Trek reference)?
– The storage locker that Dean was taken to as a diversion was rented by Bob Gunderson. The name sounded familiar so I looked it up. Bob Gunderson is “one of the top scarers at Monster, Inc.” in the movie “Monsters University” (pixar.wikia.com). Cute nod to scary monsters. The address for Mr. Gunderson was P.O. Box 2340 Kansas City, Kansas. Searches reveal a remote tie to a real Pest Control service. The PO box was the address of their site in Salt Lake City, Utah, but their other locations included Kansas City, Kansas and Austin, Texas (Jared connection?).
What do you think of my interpretations of “Captives”? Am I seeing things that aren’t there, or did I miss threads that were obvious? Your turn to be the detectives!