I loved “Inside Man”. The writing was sharp and the plots got some traction. Even though I have truly enjoyed most of season 10, this episode tugged at my heartstrings and pulled me in so deep that I felt the “oneness” I have so often felt with Supernatural. I fell in love with the show all over again.
The simple things I loved about “Inside Man”:
The whole nightmare scene – Dean calling out to Sam while in the grips of the nightmare. Bedhead Sam running down the hall in bare feet. Hearing Sam’s footfalls on the cold tile floor. Did you notice that Sam sleeps with two lights lit in his room? Yeah, I’d be afraid of the dark too if I’d lived his life. I also never realized that the brothers’ rooms are so far apart. It was an endearing scene that showed how much these brothers love each other.
Another hunter was handling a case – I have often wondered why multiple hunters don’t show up to the same job when the boys hit the road moments after reading a weird news item. I appreciated the acknowledgement that other hunters exist. Referencing a world outside the bunker makes everything more believable and realistic. THAT is tight writing.
Sam and Dean each acknowledged things that had happened before, as if they actually remembered their own histories. Sam mentioned all their other attempts to find a cure for the MoC – “Charlie’s gone radio silent. Everything else we’ve tried has been a dead end.” Dean acknowledged that Crowley had indeed changed and that it may have been from the trials:
Crowley: She says I’ve gone soft.
Dean: You have. What? Maybe it’s all that human blood Sammy pumped into you…
Again, continuity that acknowledges the show we see, a continuous series of events versus isolated chapters that maybe have one line of transition. Having the characters realize that their past affects their present lives made Sam, Dean and Castiel’s lives more believable because in reality they would talk about what happened yesterday, the day before, the week before.
Castiel’s slow-motion action jump into Heaven’s elevator! Great shot!
Crowley and Dean taking a drink at exactly the same moment when they each were confronted with the truth that punctured straight through the stories they had been telling themselves. It was funny yet symbolic of their kinship.
The important things I loved about “Inside Man”:
The brothers acting like brothers –
Sam: “Stay out of my room”
..then Dean being the mischievous big brother messing with his little brother. This seemingly insignificant comedy returned the show to its roots by adding to the revered line of pranks the brothers have played on each other over the years. It’s what makes them real. The fans needed to see the boys tease each other so we could fall in love with them again.
Legitimate, substantial plot progress – Rowena was honest with both Dean and Crowley; Crowley and Dean laid it all on the table; and Hannah and Bobby both cut through Castiel’s pretenses about his visit to Heaven.
The truth was refreshing and allowed real progress in the characters’ relationships and in their individual stories instead of wasting time with tiresome manipulations and inane misdirects. The characters were themselves again, not shallow caricatures who don’t express themselves or, worse yet, whine incessantly. They were smart, the plots assumed they were smart, and the dialogue granted the audience the courtesy of acknowledging that we are smart, allowing for substantive movement in the storylines.
All of our heroes received positive affirmation of their goodness, or at least their intentions – Rowena, of all people, reminded Dean of his goodness:
Rowena: “You’re a good influence on [Crowley]! That’s why you need to die… I think you’re a hero. You could have killed those men, but you didn’t because they’re innocent. You’re the good guy and you want them to live.”
Sam got his much needed encouragement from Bobby’s letter:
“So, this is weird huh. Look, I just wanted to say Cas told me what you’re doing for Dean and I’m not asking you to stop, but maybe going behind his back is not the best idea. Your brother, he can be stubborn, but I think he’d understand. And I know it’s the life, doing a little bad so you can do a lot of good, but sometimes the bad’s real bad, and the good, it can come at one hell of a price.
I ain’t there on the ground and whatever you do, I know you’ll make the right choice. You’re a good man Sam Winchester, one of the best and I’m damned proud of you son. I was content up here, but getting a call from you, it’s the happiest I’ve been in forever, no matter what it costs. So stay safe, keep fighting and kick it in the ass.
…and then we got a single tear from Sam.
These boys sorely needed to have their badly bruised opinions of themselves reinflated. Even Castiel received some reassurance:
Castiel: Dean has given up
Bobby: and you idgits haven’t.
Castiel: Would you?
Bobby: Hell no”
In short, this episode excelled because of good, tight writing.
The characters were real and their actions were smart (e.g. Dean stopped himself from killing the college kids and Crowley finally ousted his mother). There were no sudden, unexplained devices that made the characters annoying and the plots gapingly simplistic. They called each other on their choices (Hannah recognizing that Castiel was desperate), and they acknowledged their feelings (Bobby’s letter). The boys said and did small things that showed their love for each other (teasing, pranking and protecting each other) and they all acknowledged recent events and the world that has been built around them. We love Supernatural because it is smart television. It engages us with complex situations and intelligent people. In returning to that, this episode joins the ranks of classic Supernatural.
So how did the plots advance?
All prior evidence was that the bearer of the Mark wouldn’t turn into a demon until death, but two things in this episode contradicted, or rather clarified, that canon. Bobby was the first to provide more exposition on the MoC’s effect:
Bobby: You’ve got to figure out a way to get the MoC off Dean before it turns him back into a demon
Then Dean’s eyes turned black for just a second after his mean-spirited pool hustle. Together, these incidents corroborate that Dean’s soul is being corrupted very quickly and that he can turn into a demon without dying. The first time down this road, Dean was resurrected as a demon after being killed by Metatron, so it was reasonable to assume that he could forestall the Mark’s complete domination of his body and soul if he could stay alive. The truth, though, is that he is already part demon and his time is running out faster than we thought. I believe we have to correct our assumption that death is the transition point for Dean.
Dean’s momentary eye flash was also a reversal of Sam’s eyes turning black when he used his demon blood to kill Lilith in the season 4 finale. I hadn’t put the two storylines together before now, but Sam was unknowingly turning himself into a demon by increasing the amount of himself that was demon blood. He would soon have been, if he wasn’t already, a living demon version of himself.
Similarly, Rowena’s blinding-light-death-spell bounced off Dean just like Lilith’s death ray bounced off Sam.
Rowena: The spell I cast should have ripped him apart, but…
Crowley: …it was like Dean was protected, from on high. It’s the Mark of Cain. Never lets its host die easy.
Again, a parallel and reversal of the brothers’ paths. Each brother was immune to attack because there were just as much demon as human, and were supernaturally protected for a greater evil that awaited them.
Rowena’s reaction to the revelation about the mark then provided a new, major opening for a possible cure:
Rowena: the mark? It’s just a curse. The first curse, but still it can be removed.
Rowena: I’ll find a way.
Crowley: You do that.
The cataclysmic line of the episode, though, was also about a path to a cure and was another parallel to seasons 4 and 5:
Sam: How do we get rid of the mark?
Metatron: I don’t know. It’s old magic. God level magic, or Lucifer level, but you can’t ask him exactly, can you?
Anyone who was following my live tweets knew my jaw hit the floor with that line. THEY REINTRODUCED LUCIFER INTO THE STORY. Some of you had speculated about Sam rechanneling himself as Lucifer’s vessel to get the answer. I never, ever thought the show would go there. Some of the tweeters still aren’t convinced. The continued parallels to the season 4 and 5 plotlines have been blatant, though, and they are getting stronger. Bookdal pointed out that the Michael/Lucifer story is nothing more than the Cain/Abel story played out in heaven. Again with the “brother against brother” fate.
Almost as if on cue, Jensen used the word “vessel” during Seattle’s convention when asked about Dean’s fate in the finale. I was particularly struck by the interaction between Jensen and Jared during that answer just as much as by what they said. When Jared started to talk about filming the finale, Jensen told him to be careful (or to shut up). Jared said the season ten finale would be “the most intense episode since the season 5 finale”. He specifically had season 5 in his mind. Then Jensen tried to answer the question diplomatically yet vaguely, but he specifically used the word vessel instead of body. The boys were just hours away from filming the finale. They had read the script and prepared themselves to play out the final gut-wrenching scenes, and Jared mentioned season 5 and Jensen mentioned vessels! These 2 guys do not lie directly to fans. They were trying to honor their contracts while still honoring their honesty with fans and we get “trauma, season 5 and vessel” as our clues!
So if Dean doesn’t have to die to become a demon and Lucifer is now in play, what about the prior cures the boys had been chasing (and we had been discussing)?
Castiel: What about the tablets?
Metatron: No, there’s nothing in them about the mark.
Sam: So when you said the river ends at the source…
Metatron: I was just making up crap. Trying to buy time until I could screw you over. What? It worked before!
Castiel: He’s telling the truth.
I agree with Sam. WHAT?? Really? That dialog gave me whiplash!
Metatron was lying before and he knows nothing about the curse? He had me fooled. Saying “he’s gone nuclear” and “you’re only going to get worse Dean” sure sounded like he knew what he was talking about. The tablets don’t have anything about the mark so forget chasing them (and bringing back Kevin’s ghost), and there is no river to trace back to its source? I never, ever would have believed this drastic change in the direction of the plot if Castiel hadn’t said “He’s telling the truth”. It really seems like the River/Source idea that could have ended in the brothers breaking the curse by being stronger than Cain/Abel was suddenly discarded for a much, much larger myth arc. Someone please ask Andrew Dabb or Jeremy Carver if this episode was written after they knew they were renewed for season 11 and the writers had the license to make the plot much bigger than before. I am truly struggling with accepting that we just forget many of our prior theories and every clue Sam and Castiel have been chasing for 6 months. I feel…..duped? We still have the witchcraft, though. That one stuck. It’s also very possible that the curse breaker that Rowena will find is still that the brothers must choose to do something differently than Cain and Abel. Maybe Dean refuses to kill Sam, as we suggested. More likely, now though, is that the reversal theme is seen through to its end and Sam does what Dean did during the Season 5 finale – Sam chooses to die with Dean rather than let him die alone. We also have that troubling suicide thread that has invaded several recent episodes.
As dire as this sounds (I’m already hyperventilating thinking about it!), the episode made a concerted effort to balance the evil in Dean with Rowena’s speech testifying to his humanity. It also offered Bobby’s testament to Sam’s goodness to offset the desperate acts he is committing or contemplating. So maybe it was trying to give us hope alongside the death knell.
Ironically, a primary thread running through this episode was truth. When Dean had a knife to Rowena’s throat, she who had done nothing other than lie and manipulate her son told the truth about why she was trying to kill Dean. The previews had insinuated that she was going to lie again and say that she was working on Crowley’s orders (which was going to be extremely annoying). Then when Rowena presented her battered self to Crowley, she again told him the truth about why she went to Dean.
Crowley: I assume you had a reason for this little suicide run of yours.
Rowena: The best reason. You. Those Tumshies have you on a leash. I thought if they were gone…
Crowley: I know what you thought. I know that you were wrong. I have Sam and Dean exactly where I want them. What do they say? Keep your friends close ; your enemies closer.
Crowley and Dean were then brutally honest with each other, even deflating the stories each had told themselves and others to avoid painful truths:
Dean: Look, I’m not saying I didn’t want to slice and dice the witch. I’m just saying that’s not how it went down.
Crowley: So she’s a liar.
Dean: Must run in the family.
Crowley: Mother says that mark is just a curse. It can be removed. ‘course she doesn’t know how.
Dean: Figures. But I’m good. Thanks.
Crowley: Who’s the liar now?
The entire bar conversation between Crowley and Dean was fantastic. It was one of my favorite scenes in the episode. Crowley was smart and honest. He checked Rowena’s story with Dean, he told Dean about a possible cure for the Mark and he called Dean out for lying about his condition. In turn, Dean called Crowley out for holding onto the illusion of a family where none existed. The two enemies who had become pseudo-friends were talking again, comparing notes about the battle they were each waging on different fronts. They were honest with each other, frankly more honest than Sam, Dean and Castiel are being with each other. I accept the trio all know how much the truth will hurt and they are protecting each other. Crowley are Dean are two old soldiers, though. They don’t have to carry each other’s pain or give each other hope. They could share the honesty that we sometimes hear from friends when family can’t bear to, or afford to, give up hope.
There is still the possibility that Crowley is playing the long con. After all, he told his mother that he has the brothers exactly where he wants them. He could be acting sappy and weak to keep the MoC demon from turning against him with all his might. Still, at least so far, I completely believed Crowley’s sincerity when he asked Dean about turning “soft”. There was also their reflection on getting old and “never saw that coming”. Jeremy Carver said he was going to transition the brothers from their immature, fast and loose ways. This contemplation about how age changes the way one looks and reacts to things was a transparent advancement of this objective.
The episode also asked us to believe that the other ultimate liar and manipulator, Metatron, suddenly told the truth and spewed a string of important information simply because he was rendered fallible:
Sam: So when you said the river ends at the source…
Metatron: I was just making up crap. Trying to buy time until I could screw you over. What? It worked before!
Castiel: He’s telling the truth.
Metatron: No, no. Your grace. I wasn’t lying about that. There’s still some left. I’ll take you to it.
The truth was even endorsed from the heavens via Bobby’s letter:
Cas told me what you’re doing for Dean and I’m not asking you to stop, but maybe going behind his back is not the best idea. Your brother, he can be stubborn, but I think he’d understand.
What a kind, fatherly way of saying “I’m not going to make your choices for you, but you’re making a mistake lying to Dean.”
The irony was that after we saw the leader of all demons, the slimiest angel and a scheming witch all tell the truth, both brothers continued to lie to each other. That has to be important, but I don’t yet know why. They trust each other with their lives unquestionably. Isn’t it time they trusted each other with their feelings? Boys, two arch enemies were honest with each other. It’s time you were too.
Monsters and their Families
In an obvious portrayal of the family theme, Sam turned to his family, Bobby and Castiel, to keep Dean from becoming a monster. This season has given us several examples of human families being able to pull their loved ones back from the brink (e.g. Hannah’s vessel’s husband), so this is another hopeful thread as we march toward the dreaded MoC arc’s climax. In contrast, we’ve also seen people pretending to be family to protect themselves (Randy/Claire), and countless examples of families destroying their own, especially if some or all were already monsters. Crowley’s story started in this vein:
Dean: What the hell are you doing here?
Rowena: Saving my son.
The thread of saving the people we love that was so prominent in “The Things They Carried” was used by Rowena as possibly a testament to some true feelings for her son. Dean was the wise “old” friend, though, when he helped Crowley understand that his family was dooming him, not saving him:
Dean: What is it, huh? Why are you letting mommie dearest tie you into knots?
Crowley: Because we’re family. We’re blood.
Dean: Well that’s not the same thing. A wise man once told me, Family don’t end in blood. But it doesn’t start there either. Family cares about you. Not what you can do for them. Family’s there – through the good, bad, all of it. They got your back, even when it hurts. That’s family. That sound like your mother?
In that moment, Dean was more family to Crowley than Crowley’s own mother. In banishing her, Crowley said he was choosing himself, not the Winchesters, so is his story reflecting his human side that will be “saved” by Dean or his monster side that will be destroyed by Rowena?
Did Sam steal a truck just for a short jaunt to meet Castiel? Really? They need a second car! Sam can’t be committing grand theft auto every day of the week in his home town! I get that the cars in the bunker’s garage might not be inconspicuous enough to go under the local folk’s radar, but this car situation has gone too far!
Sam doesn’t even get to drive when he’s with Castiel. Passenger seat once more. How funny.
Rowena greeted the college kids with “Hello, boys.” Must run in the family!
It’s about time Crowley and Rowena got nick names from cartoons!
Dean: Boris. Where’s Natasha?
“The Bobby’s are surly”. Another hilarious line!
This episode pulled me in tight and held me there. I said I loved this episode because the characters were smart again. Fans revolt when the characters are stupid or blind to what’s happening around them. This week we got the characters we expect and want to see. As I said in a tweet: #BobbysBack #BigBrotherDeanIsBack #SamIsBack #CasIsBack #CrowleyIsBack. When all I needed to say was:
#SupernaturalisBack…to being the show we all love so very, very much. Thank you Andrew Dabb.
What did you think of “Inside Man”? How about the possibility of Lucifer coming back? Do you think Metatron is actually taking Castiel to his grace? What do you think “cost” awaits Bobby? Are you giving up on “the river ends at the source” and the tablets? Let me hear from you!
Screencaps courtesy of www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk