“Form and Void” was one of the most intense episodes in Supernatural’s history, at least for me. The three members of Team Free Will were each isolated and desperate, facing an extreme situation. Brutal torture and betrayal of one, mere hours to death for a second, and understanding and accepting that a baby is evil incarnate for the third. The pain and fear were unrelenting, equally intense in each of our boys’ dilemmas. The music was riveting and the acting was excellent, which added to the tension.
Even though it is hard to look past drama that bores into your core, this episode provided excellent clues to possible directions for season 11’s mythology. Every plot was rich with hidden meaning!
Death, Reapers and the Great Beyond
“Form and Void” introduced a second, striking female reaper to Supernatural’s world. The reaper Billie was calm and a wealth of knowledge, yet she also vindictively threatened to throw Sam (and Dean) into “the empty”, aka the “void”. So now Sam and Dean have to fear dying because there is fate worse than Hell? Seems being in nothing might be preferable to eternal torture. Still, Billie’s threats seemed hollow. Her promise to break her sacred vocation and not deliver Sam’s soul certainly added isolation and desperation to Sam’s immediate situation since he thought he was facing imminent death, but in the long term why introduce this plot line? Thinking about that question raised an interesting answer: maybe this was not the first time the empty void had been mentioned. Was this the place Death said he could send Dean, a place where Dean could never hurt anyone ever again? Is this “void” a fourth possible destination available to reapers (in addition to Heaven, Hell or Purgatory)? Could it be the season 11 cliffhanger? Let’s keep our ears open for future advancements of this thread!
Beyond this ominous description of a fate worse than death, Billie’s exposition did decisively answer one question that had been debated since the season 10 finale: What happens to all the people who die if Death is gone? She may as well have held up a flashing sign with arrows that said “Canon Clarification”!
ReaperBillie: “I am not looking to get friendly with the man who helped gut my boss”
Sam: I’m sorry about Death.
ReaperBillie: So am I, but people are still dying so work to do, souls to collect.
Her explanation reiterated the importance of souls, and curiously contained a reference back to something the boy’s have said so often, “we’ve got work to do”, reminding us of their mission (Saving People, Hunting Things/Evil) and their determination to clean up their messes (hold that thought).
Her canon laden dialog also made a specific point of referencing her boss’ death. Call me crazy, but every time a character mentions that Death is dead, I become more convinced that he is still alive. It seems we are being set up for a “grand reveal” at some distant point in the future. Besides this intentional namedrop to bring Death back into the storyline, Billie said something else that fortified the theory that Death is not dead (or however that needs to be said!). Just before Death was killed in the Season 10 finale, he taunted Sam “Then there was that time you stood me up”, supposedly conveying his annoyance and providing additional motivation for wanting Sam dead. When Billie talked about Sam and Dean’s revolving door to the afterlife, though, she said, “The old Death thought it was funny.” Her characterization of Death’s attitude toward the boys is inconsistent with the irritation expressed by the Death that Dean supposedly summoned, casting doubt either on Billie’s knowledge of her boss, or on the legitimacy of the Death in the finale .
The reaper was also introduced into the scene by singing “O Death”, which is Death’s theme song (an absolutely beautiful voice and rendition by whomever sang it by the way. A highlight of the episode for me!). The singer changed keys, went flat on cue, and varied the song’s notes just enough to give it an eerie, something’s-not-right feeling. Why use this specific musical cue, though? Since it was used way back in season 5 to introduce the character of Death, it seemed curious, although not entirely inappropriate, to use it again here. It undoubtedly reminded everyone of Death, so I interpret it a subconscious way to keep Death in the plot.
The fourth clue came last week when the Darkness said “I don’t know this Death, and he doesn’t know me”, yet the Death talking to Dean gave such a detailed description of the Darkness in the finale. In that exposition, Death said God and the archangels fought back the Darkness. Wasn’t Death around at the time? I thought he and God forget which one of them is older. Wouldn’t Death have known the Darkness if he is indeed as old as or older than God? Something isn’t tracking here.
Dean himself provided the most convincing clue…
Realistic, convincing visions were the basis of 10.19 “The Werther Project”. In that episode, a supernatural smoke which was analogous to the Darkness caused hallucinations that drove people to kill themselves. The introduction of that idea to canon was significant enough that I believe it was a seed for future arcs. Dean reintroduced the idea of visions into this year’s storyline in his conversation in the bunker with Sam:
Sam: I still don’t understand. I thought the Darkness was a woman, not a child.
Dean: Same here. I don’t know. Maybe whatever I saw wasn’t real. Maybe it was a vision”
The word “vision” was important enough to the story that Sam even repeated it. Dean is referring to his vision of the Darkness here, possibly secretly hoping that his conversation with the Darkness was only a vision so that her prophecy of his allegiance to her wouldn’t come true. An interesting possibility, but one that is not borne out by his observation of the MoC on Amara. The words by themselves, though, can take on a second application. Read in the context of Dean having recently discussed the demise of Death, they clearly open the possibility that Dean’s complex interaction with Death in the Mexican restaurant was nothing more than a vision. After all, Sam’s interaction with Rowena dispelling Susie’s ghost and opening the Werther box in the basement was equally complex. Dean summoned Death, but perhaps Death didn’t respond. Instead, the MoC took over and projected an entire dramatic scene whereby Death demanded Sam be killed. This vision gave the MoC what it wanted, a brother killing a brother, by providing a motivation Dean could accept, saving the world from his tyranny. Given Dean’s self-loathing, this was a reasonable scenario his mind might conjure. In “The Werther Project”, Dean ended his vision himself by understanding that the real Benny would love him enough to never ask him for his life. Similarly, maybe Dean’s touchstone of love broke through his later vision, enabling him to end it by killing its central figure, Death. There is one major hole in this parallel that I haven’t worked out yet (do you know what it is?). Everything else points so unilaterally to Death not being dead, though, that I’m remaining steadfast to my theory while I wait for more to be revealed.
Even if the application of all these clues to Death’s corporeal status is completely off base, there is no doubt that visions will be a cornerstone of Season 11’s arc. After praying to God, Sam has a vision of…what? His time in the cage? Weren’t all Sam’s memories of the cage transferred to Castiel? Was it a vision of Sam’s future? Another possibility is that Lucifer heard Sam’s prayers (angels hear all prayers) and strengthened by the release of the Darkness was able to reconnect to Sam to resume his mental torture. That would be consistent with last week’s mention of voices suddenly crying out from the cage. It would also parallel the unexpected response Castiel received from his prayer. Castiel also prayed to Heaven for help, but his prayer was answered by malicious angels. Maybe this was a clue that Sam’s prayer would also be answered by a corrupted, evil angel.
Also, whose was the voice warning Sam to not go through with the Holy Oil cure?
“Don’t do this to yourself. Stop!”
Was that the Darkness trying to protect itself? Had it enough of a grip on Sam’s mind to influence his actions? This is the most likely explanation since victims went insane and starting killing people once the darkness reached their brains. A wilder theory might be that Lucifer didn’t want Sam to cure himself so was again invading his thoughts. Either way, I loved that Sam was strong enough to break through the suicidal thoughts and save himself. I just didn’t expect it to happen so quickly…
Cleaning up The Darkness
Reaper Billie: “You are unclean in the biblical sense.”
So Holy Oil is the cure for the Darkness Disease (copyright on the name!). It was slightly awkward that the reaper gave Sam the clue to the cure at the same time she was telling him how much she wanted him dead but I liked that there was a biblical cure for a pre-biblical scourge. It was slightly disappointing that it happened so fast, though. Sam’s peril was an intensely emotional drama that could have lasted at least one or two more episodes. It was also a bit weak that the Darkness’ release only infected a few people in just one town. Wasn’t the darkness “explosion” (I just can’t repeat Dean’s description!) radially emitted? Surely there were other towns in the 360 degree blast zone. To do justice to the enormity of the release, the spread of the disease should have been explored longer. Instead, this fantastic plot fizzled in just two episodes. It reminded me of how abruptly the DemonDean plotline was resolved, although there were several mitigating circumstances involved there such as Jared’s injury and the timing of the 200th episode. Absent those factors, the Darkness Disease was a tremendous idea that should have been explored much longer. Why discard a good idea so fast??
While searching for the cure, Sam’s prayer to God held a curiously specific reference:
Sam: I am not asking you to clean up my mess.
The pre-season Threads article explored whether the Darkness was actually a “mess” God left when he and the archangels didn’t “finish the job” of destroying the Darkness in the first place. Sam brining up this phrase calls attention to this possibility. This is definitely something we want to listen for in the future.
As far as Amara, the baby, the girl, eating souls, throwing possessed blocks across the room with ominous messages… you are on your own. Sorry, but I just can’t write about those things. They seriously creeped me out. In ten years I have never, ever been bothered by a Supernatural episode but this episode hit too many of my hot spots. It went way too close to The Omen with religious bastions being trashed by a demonic, horrifying child. I had nightmares both Wednesday and Thursday night, after the initial airing and my rewatch for this article. To write about it means I would have to allow the images to roll around in my mind, analyzing, considering – touching both logic and imagination. I just can’t. My throat has tightened up just writing this much.
It is interesting that Amara won’t hurt Dean, and supposedly visa-versa, though. How isolated and desperate must he feel, hearing that the child “likes him”? Hopefully, the little girl grows into an adult soon. I can deal with sultry woman in plunging necklines seducing Dean. So let me turn my thoughts to brighter subjects… like Crowley!
It’s About the Souls
You throw away your life because you’ve come to assume that it will bounce right back into your lap. The human soul is not a rubber ball. It’s vulnerable, impermanent, but stronger than you know and more valuable than you can imagine…. Right now you’re digging at something. Intrepid detective. I want you to keep digging, Dean. It’s about the souls. – Death, 6.11 Appointment in Samarra
What are Crowley’s plans for Amara? With his scheming, manipulative mind, he has some plan. He was his evil self when he sacrificed innocent victims to sate Amara’s hunger for souls yet he helped Dean understand Amara’s threat:
Ancient, world shattering evil.
That thing. It’s Old, Deep, Dark.
When Dean asked if Crowley was offering to kill Amara, Crowley responded:
It’s a promise, right after I’m done with her.
That could be very useful!
Of course neither Crowley nor Dean could kill the other, realizing they still might need each other in the future. After all, while “ally” is probably too strong a word, they have a long history of working together for their mutual benefit.
Crowley’s duplicity is genius.
Castiel and Heaven
Hannah: “This isn’t how we do things”
I thought it odd that Hannah didn’t answer Castiel when he prayed to Heaven in last week’s premiere episode. I should have paid attention to that instinct! It turns out that she did hear him, but instead of sticking to the rules she so arduously championed in prior years and imprison Castiel for his “transgressions” or help cure him, she schemed with the two despicable angels and either allowed, or ordered, Castiel to be tortured.
Castiel: Why Hannah? We were friends.
Hannah: That was before you freed Metatron. Before…
Wasn’t she the one who insisted that Metatron be imprisoned, yet she doesn’t extend the same due process to her “friend”? Wasn’t she the one who was willing to free Metatron in exchange for Castiel’s grace? It was Castiel who insisted that this not be done. Now she literally and figuratively turns her back on Castiel because he freed Metatron?
This was a shocking betrayal that added to the intense emotion of Castiel’s isolation and desperation. She had also initially been very eager to track down and punish all the rogue angels. Cas repeatedly advocated tolerance and peace (remember those two fishing/hippie angels?). Based on her time with Cas on Earth and her decision to release her vessel and return to Heaven, it seemed she had grown in her independent thinking and loyalty to Castiel. Obviously, when the pressure rose to a whole new level, though (“Alarms that haven’t gone off since…ever”), she regressed to group think, or she caved to peer pressure.
The angels talked about taking a vote. Even though Hannah had grown into a leader and ingratiated herself to us by her displays of friendship with Castiel, she had gone along with the crowd and abandoned him once before, when Metatron broadcasted his condemnation of Castiel. It was very disappointing and surprising that she walked out on Cas with the other angels then, so her recent betrayal actually was consistent with her early character. It was really a shame that Castiel lost his only ally in Heaven and a friend he had come to trust, and the show lost another recurring female character. Still, her character was nebulous and she was now portrayed as a male, so while I feel bad for Castiel, I don’t personally feel a loss.
Her betrayal also showed us the smart, courageous, tactical warrior that Cas used to be, because even he was bleeding, in pain and exhausted, he was smart enough to figure out the sting and overpower his captors.
Misha superbly portrayed Castiel’s pain, exhaustion, confusion, hurt feelings, humility, spell-induced rage and strength, and a variety of other emotions.
This episode gave him a chance to play something beyond Castiel’s stoic, naïve, straight-man role…with great results.
– Why do you think they showed Sam taking medication? Aspirin for a headache when Black Evil is taking over his body?
– SmartSam built a do-it-yourself Taser!
– Pudding!? What was with the pudding? That had to be an easter egg just for the fans.
– “Put a bullet in me and then eat one yourself” was very reminiscent of “Croatoan”
– How did they get Castiel’s trench coat off of him with his arms bound above his head? It was on him when they awoke him, but off of him during the torture.
– “Who we gonna call? Ghostbusters!” Great Line.
– Why would Sam and Dean go back to the bunker when they knew that Amara’s last location was gramma’s house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? Did Dean conclude that Crowley took her? Considering she was just walking down the street barefooted, Dean would probably have been able to find her with just a drive through town.
– Sam revealed that he still believes he is the lesser of the two brothers, saying “Dean deserves better, Dean deserves a life.” Oh Sam.
What did you think of this episode? Please tell me I’m not the only wimp in the SPN Family who was scarred for life (or at least days) by this episode! Am I totally nuts with my theory on Death? Cleaning up messes? How about visions and misdirected prayers? Have any ideas about Crowley’s plans? Your turn!