I was very pleased to get a review from Elle on “Abandon All Hope.” It’s one of those episodes that takes a while to sink in, so I’m thrilled she took some time to absorb it all and come up with this great review.
Before I present Elle’s review though, I should note that Tigershire let me know about her review for this episode at her blog. So take time to check this out as well, for she too has some great thoughts regarding this saga.
Also, my recap is coming. I did make some progress on it today, so hopefully it’ll just take another day or two. The pretty boy screen shots are what’s taking the longest amount of time.
Okay everyone, enjoy Elle’s analysis and send some feedback her way!
Thoughts on Abandon All Hope
The typical method for writing my reviews is taking a second or third watch of the episode and making notes as I watch. However, I found that with this episode, that method just wouldn’t work. Abandon All Hope… is one of those episodes that cannot be experienced in fragments and doesn’t lend itself to note-taking because you find yourself too absorbed, too invested to either pause or remember to make a notation. In fact, I spent the majority of time standing in front of my television tense and anxious and only looking away from the TV in order to retrieve a tissue and sop up the tears. As frustrating as it is to have a hiatus in Supernatural, this was the ideal place for it fall because AAH takes time to process.
Traditionally, episode ten of Supernatural includes a huge reveal, an emotional bomb or a significant cliff-hanger. In years past, episode ten has brought us the John-finally-calls-the-boys hanger, the “dad told me I’d have to kill you” bomb, the Dean-will-become-a-demon-in-Hell shock and the Dean-was-in-Hell-for-40-years-&-tortured-souls reveal. In the case of AAH, we got all three. Abandon All Hope…comes from Dante’s Divine Comedy and is allegedly the inscription found at the entrance to Hell. It is a fitting title, as we’re at the half way point of season five and arguably on the threshold of a full-scale apocalypse (because, until this point, the apocalypse has been partially present in select arenas).
The opening sequence of this episode caught my attention – it was a clever use of the highway overpasses in the cross-road summoning ritual. Further to that, we have the delightful Mark Sheppard as Lilith’s right hand, the demon Crowley. A charming, manipulative demon who is quite content to exploit the homophobic nature of a fat-cat bank executive to make a deal. This is a demon who enjoys his existence, further evidenced by his lavish household, and when he later hands the colt over to Winchester brothers it is believable that he truly doesn’t want the world to end – certainly not this world which he has grown quite fond of, especially the lovely playthings in that world known as humans. This character brought to mind a quote from one of my favourite (small-s) supernatural characters, Spike: “We like to talk big….’I’m going to destroy the world.’ It’s just tough guy talk…the truth is I like this world…you’ve got people. Billions of people walking around here like Happy Meals with legs. It’s all right here.” Happy Meal part aside, the same logic applies to Crowley’s decision to aid the Winchesters – status quo works for him and he isn’t eager to change it.
Also, and he’s later proven very right on this front, Crowley knows that Lucifer doesn’t hold anyone aside from himself in too high a regard. So if he takes out humans now, it’s not a far leap to see that demons will be next on the chopping block. Admittedly, when he first handed the colt over so easily, I couldn’t help but think we were going to have a retro-Ruby moment and was glad to see it didn’t go in that direction. This demon’s motive is purely self-survival, nothing more, nothing less. Crowley did have some choice dialogue in his few minutes of screen time and he succeeded in catching Sam and Dean off guard which is a rarity. Crowley would be welcome as a returning character – he’s quite dynamic.
For Castiel, this episode was more a teaser about what the future holds for his character and his waning angelic qualities, both internally and physically. The levity of the exchange between Cas ‘Huggy Bear’ the Angel and Dean was a nice reminder of Castiel’s continued innocence in some aspects of his existence. Further to this, we had Ellen and Jo trying to get Cas drunk by feeding him shooters. This was a great moment, especially Cas’ glee at being a part of this human ritual – “I think I’m starting to feel something.”
Exchanges between Castiel and Lucifer were incredibly gratifying. Castiel was in the ring of fire for a change and I have to take a moment to appreciate the cinematography of the scene while he’s in that ring. It was a beautiful scene, the shadows and flickering firelight set an ideal ambience for the discussion between Cas and Lucifer. Here, Castiel demonstrated unwavering loyalty to Sam and Dean and the cause for which they are fighting. Castiel is a learner – that much we have seen. His little unscrew-the-bolt trick goes back to On the Head of a Pin only this time it worked in his favour as opposed to against him. He did seem surprised that his exorcism-touch wasn’t working, but perhaps he’s been hanging out with the Winchesters too long, because his improvising was magnificent. Using Meg as a bridge over the fire was a powerful moment on the screen – her screams as he steps over her burning body and out of the ring of fire, all the while a look of focused and fierce determination on his face. Scary.
This episode drew a lot of parallels between Lucifer and other characters – Lucifer is fond of this technique to draw people into his web. He used it on Nick, he uses it here on Castiel and then again later with Sam. This mirror effect is meant to play on the like-attracts-like philosophy whereby one can more readily sympathize or ally with one in whom we see ourselves reflected. Simply put, Lucifer is a master manipulator. Lucifer’s continued and disquieting calmness as he matter-of-factly carries out his plans piece by piece keep this character intriguing. We know he’s evil. We know he’s calculating. However, it’s at a completely different level than we’ve seen any other character on this show. Consider when he refers to Meg as “my child” and cups her face as though he truly was a father addressing a child. He knows he has power over them but he chooses to exploit it not in an overt way, rather opting for a subtler manipulation by playing into the idea that he is the demonic messiah. What is especially unique about Lucifer is that he never expresses anger; he never loses control of himself. In other situations, characters emotions can often be their downfall. For Lucifer, I suspect that his ultimate weakness is that which already caused him to fall once before – his pride. He is supremely confident that everything is going to fall into place just as he needs it to, including Sam’s eventual acquiescence.
The colt not working didn’t surprise me nearly as much as when Dean pulled the trigger. I was startled that not only was he able to get close enough (I’m pretty sure the Winchesters could give the CIA stealth lessons) but that he actually managed to shoot. Of course, since Lucifer is “one of the five beings” the colt doesn’t kill, the point is rather moot. (I did find it curious that Lucifer could repair the bullet hole through the centre of his vessels skull and yet the peeling skin on his face and hands poses an issue. Hmm.) Lucifer’s monloguing, unlike the traditional MOTW who stand still and goes on ad nauseum, took place as he continued with his ritual and his words “they’re just demons” really says it all. Lucifer is out for number one and that’s it. Crowley hit it on the nose in predicting Lucifer’s affinity for the demonic population only extended to their usefulness as minions and nothing more. His indifference to everything and everyone, including his own “people” makes him even more disturbing a character – Lucifer is a sociopath if ever there was.
The group photo at Bobby’s before the hunters with an angel in tow headed off to war (more or less) was very foreboding. We saw this photo once before in The End when Dean played flash-forward five years. If we didn’t know it was going to be a hard-hitting episode, this should have been the final clue. The return of the hell hounds was well executed. Dean’s obvious issues with them were subtle but duly present. Despite the invisible demon-canines, the group opted to shoot they’re way out of the situation and make a run for it. When Dean was snagged first, my heart leapt to my throat. And when Jo turned around for him, I knew it was all over. This was the moment. This moment on the street with Meg and the hellhounds and the subsequent barricading into the hardware store was delivered remarkably. It was fast paced, intense but not contrived in anyway.
Of course, once inside the hardware store, the writers hit the emotional overdrive button and let loose. First, let’s take a moment to appreciate that Dean rigged a two-way radio in a matter of minutes in the middle of a crisis situation. If I’m ever stranded on a desert island, this is who I want with me. (Who am I kidding? I’d take him to the island with or without his technical genius). While some may not have felt Bobby was well used in this episode, his Giles-like role worked for me. The conversation between Dean and Bobby over the radio had my insides twisting. Jensen always does the emotional scenes so, so well and this was no exception. Bobby got Dean back on track as he was having difficulty thinking straight beyond what was happening to Jo and he proceeded to let them know which big-bad had drawn Lucifer to Carthage.
Death scenes, when they’re done right, are raw, painful and remembered. The death of Jo and Ellen will be one of the most memorable moments in Supernatural history. Primarily what worked was that Jo didn’t give a long, self-sacrificing speech. She was practical and though Ellen’s motherly instinct warred with her at first, in the end, Jo’s plan was what they went with. The moment when Dean kissed Jo’s forehead, all semblance of my self-control was gone and the tears were streaming. Eventually, this became out and out sobbing and I had to sit down as the emotions totally overwhelmed. Their silent goodbye was beautiful and absolutely fitting. What’s more was Jo’s intuitive reading of her mother’s face to know that Ellen wasn’t going to leave her. The final moments of Jo and Ellen’s lives are difficult to completely capture with words. When Jo was gone before the dogs came in and Ellen kissed her, saying “that’s my good girl” – there really isn’t a way to describe how powerful and heart twisting this moment was. They died as warriors on the battlefield and their send-off was just as it should have been.
The final scene of Sam, Dean and Bobby burning the group photo in memorial of Jo and Ellen was exceedingly potent. Dean and Sam have been systematically stripped of most everything in their lives – Bobby through his paralysis is still useful but not as a soldier on the frontline, Jo and Ellen, even their relationship (though it is being repaired). “No friends, no hope. Take all that away and what’s left?” Though both major players are hedging their bets that these losses will force Sam and/or Dean’s hand into giving up their bodies as vessels, in the end I’m willing to bet it makes them stronger. So what’s left? Two incredibly motivated, pissed-off and determined Winchesters.
This review is shorter than I thought it’d be, I’ll admit. But the truly significant moments of this episode can only be experienced by watching them. Abandon All Hope… ranks among my top ten, if not five, episodes of Supernatural. We’ve been left with a fairly substantial cliff-hanger and a remarkable jumping off point for episodes eleven through twenty-two. The pale rider himself has been brought forth, as yet, sight unseen. Castiel’s low-battery symbol is flashing. And Sam, Bobby and Dean have lost two very dear friends. The second half of season five is certainly gearing up to be one hell of a trip (no pun intended).