I love Supernatural. Let me start out by stating that for the record. I also generally liked season 9. In my opinion it added several very good episodes to what was already an outstanding series. I have been interested in the plot lines - all the plot lines – this season. The casting, acting, directing and production have also continued to be exceptional.

So I’m struggling with what I can say about “Stairway to Heaven” that is encouraging and complimentary because the whole episode felt wrong.

For one thing, the angels were denigrated to inanely stupid beings. They chose sides in an epic battle for heaven by bowling! At least they could have used a dramatic game of chance like Baccarat or Russian Roulette…or drawing straws!  The angels en masse returned to being loyal to the megalomaniac who caused all their problems in the first place simply because of one speech full of obvious bating and propaganda. After a climactic decision to accept leadership a few weeks ago, Castiel suddenly can’t string three words together to adequately explain himself, to counter Metatron’s accusations or to explain why killing Dean goes against everything he is trying to exemplify. “It’s complicated” was a ridiculous response from someone who has learned so much about motivation, right and wrong. Metatron was reduced to a caricature of his former, maniacal self when he was depicted as a nerd trying to be popular. [The same thing was done to Abaddon, by the way. The unstoppable Knight of Hell sipped martinis then stood helpless and slack-jawed when the Mark of Cain proved itself to be a worthy opponent. It’s almost as if the antagonists this season needed to be downgraded to weak simpletons in order to be defeated by the heroes of the story.]

The dialogues and the settings also just didn’t match what was happening. Popular culture references and cheap humor were over used in an episode that was should have been dark, filled with revulsion that Metatron had brainwashed allies into being angelic kamikaze squads who targeted their own kind; or that Dean was obviously losing himself to rage and blinded violence. Instead of building suspense and hope as Castiel approached the supposedly long-sought backdoor to Heaven, we were given a gag about spinning blades and Raiders of the Lost Arc. A grotesquely burned former friend was found amid a cheesy, silly depiction of Castiel’s Heaven (I realize that was a last-minute substitute for what the writer originally had in mind, but both the first and the last idea should have been thrown out!).

Which brings me to what I feel truly went wrong with this episode, and as a matter of fact, the prior episode as well.

The emotion was all wrong.

The episode that precedes the season’s climax should build a sense of dread, defeat, horror, foreboding and fear. Metatron is winning the war. Dean is losing himself. Castiel has been betrayed. Sam can’t get through to his brother. Humans and angels are being indiscriminately slaughtered, and both heaven and earth are on the brink of being ruled by a cruel new god. Instead, the settings were ice cream parlors, bowling alleys and prom dance halls. Opponents made fun of Metatron. Castiel and Sam calmly considered the changes they were noticing in Dean. Metatron’s strategic, climactic move to convince opposing angels to defect was delivered from his arm chair via a video conference call. MetatronVideoChat

Instead of saying “Wow!” when the episode was over, my reaction was “What was that?”

SPN 0430

So while I mourn the lost opportunity for an epic episode, and truly remain perplexed as to exactly what the writers intended, there were still highlights in the story.

Gad look 0271
I liked Gadreel. His change of heart was convincing and well-timed.

Tessa
I liked seeing Tessa again. I adore her character, her relationship with Dean, and her soft but authoritative voice. She should not have been killed just to make a point.

DeanRaging
I liked the dramatic ending. Dean’s rage was jarring and his attack on Gadreel was shocking.

I liked Castiel's Black Light hand, and his "I got this. I don't got this." humor which worked perfectly. Then there was this...
Sam reflexes 0060

I’ll end on those positive notes, because when all is said and done, even with a few missteps, I still love Supernatural.

Nate Winchester

Dean perfectly portrayed Nate’s reaction to “Stairway to Heaven”:

http://giphy.com/gifs/nQKgTeduzUzHq/


He sent me a few other gifs as well, but you get the point.

Bardicvoice

I hate writing negative reviews. I hate sounding whiny, bitchy, needy, and demanding. It's too readily and easily misread as an indictment of everything, and that's not what I intend. Ever.

I love Supernatural. I appreciate everything that everyone involved with the show pours into it. The cast and crew give it their all, all the time, and it shows – and I love that. I thank them for that. I hold them close to my heart for that, because I know they love the show as much as I do (if not exactly in the same way), and not just because it's a meal ticket for them.

But even creator Eric Kripke acknowledged that some episodes just aren't good. It might have been a bad idea overlooked in the heat of the creative moment, or a good idea derailed by cost constraints, or something done to accommodate the requirements of a studio or a network, or simply a mistake recognized too late to correct it. But for whatever reason, "Stairway to Heaven" doesn't work.

Gerry Weaver


My takeaway: I had a tough time with “Stairway to Heaven” when it first aired and sadly, the rewatch didn’t change my mind. Andrew Dabb took the prize away from Ross-Leming and Buckner for worst script of the season and it’s a shame the battle was close. This episode highlights the pacing issues, the continuity issues, the plot issues . . . sigh. However, there is some good stuff peeking out here and there, so I’m going to first mention what I didn’t like and spend more time on what I did.

So, what didn’t I like? How about bringing Tessa back as an angel without exploiting her backstory with Dean to any meaningful extent and then killing her?

9.22 tessa 0796
Tessa, like Death, is one of those characters who bring gravitas when she appears, and her relationship with Dean has always been incredibly interesting. Her ability to make him face hard truths while caring about him has always made her a useful playing piece on the storyboard. Her distance from the angels, which was such a part of her character, was a useful perspective. Her death here didn’t accomplish much storywise and wasn’t a powerful emotional beat, either. What a waste.

I still really dislike reapers as angels and at Leaky Con, Robbie Thompson apparently tried to clarify that reapers really aren’t angels, but some other kind of supernatural creature. Sorry, Robbie, but this episode doesn’t allow that read, even thought that is indeed the logical read, given past lore. Do the writers talk to each other? Does Jeremy Carver care about the story building of this universe? Is it a free for all? Sigh.

The overall arc doesn’t fare much better. The issues with pacing all season come into glaring focus when Cas asks Sam, “Do you think Dean seems a little different?” Really? The season is coming to a close and Dean’s main relationships finally wonder if that Mark of Cain is significant? Why doesn’t Cas have a really good idea that the Mark of Cain carries a great deal of power? He knows the real story of Cain and Abel. And why hasn’t Sam been obsessively researching the Mark as he worries about Dean’s hyperaggression and ruthlessness? I know it’s hard to keep an arc’s momentum over 23 episodes and that stand alones are necessary to break things up. But Carver so far has not shown a deft hand at keeping themes in play throughout the season. I suspect losing Ben Edlund really impacted the writers’ room.

Fortunately, there are things to like. Jensen’s snarl and animalistic attack were really well done.

9.22 Sam4 1713
And I loved Jared’s subtle work as he shows his hurt at Dean’s rejection of them as a team, but can still signal him he is willing to trust Gadreel.

Tahmoh as Gadreel had an incredible arc this season. Being able to make the angel sympathetic after killing Kevin should have been an insurmountable task, but Tahmoh gave him such intensity and genuine desire for self-respect. And his time possessing Sam taught him how to make the most epic bitch faces, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
9.22 Gad 1578

The most successful part of the episode for me was the continuation of Cas’s arc. I don’t think it was an accident Dean brings up Cas’s season six story line, where he sacrificed the good of people, right down to Sam and Dean, to try and fix heaven. Cas’s intentions were always good, but his methods to gain power in the past were very flawed. Given that he’s in the midst of another stab at leadership, the call back is very relevant.

Cas is again trying to fix heaven and gathering the power to do it. But he’s heading down a well-worn path, promising an end to angel on angel violence, but drawing on a military model to do it. Commander Cas is heading uncomfortably close to Metatron territory, as he uses the hero worship of his followers strategically to gain power. Sam and Dean are uncomfortable with the cult-like status of Cas’s army for a reason.

SPN 0350
Metatron is wily enough to know that once you are up on a pedestal, it doesn’t take much to destabilize that perch. He sets up a trap to show the angels Cas’s loyalties are with humanity, not heaven. There is a read that Cas’s refusal to kill Dean shows his personal feelings about Dean as opposed to other characters. But I think the choice scene was deliberately meant to recall season six when Cas put his desire for the power to heal heaven above caring for humans, to everyone’s detriment including his own.

SPN 0479
If Cas would only have stayed his hand for Dean in particular, and would have killed Sam, Charlie, Garth—even Redshirt #2, come to that—then he hasn’t progressed from season six nor is he much different than Metatron. I read the scene as Cas realizing that gaining power in heaven by hurting humanity is the wrong choice, given his mission to care for humanity. He has no good choices, but he does now know not to take this one. Of course, it’s also true that killing Dean would hurt Cas personally, which is story writing 101. Don’t use Redshirt #2 when you can use a character everyone cares about.

Cas’s choice resonates in Gadreel’s realization that his own road to redemption has been very flawed. Redemption doesn’t come through what others think of you, but rather what you think of yourself. I think the way Cas has never lost sight of his own definition of his mission is his true qualification for leadership. His ability to refuse the wrong route to power, hard won, is critical to his arc to true leadership. I didn’t like much about this episode, but I did like the development of Cas, the reluctant leader.

*****
Are we all being to critical? Are we looking at the episode as reviewers more than fans? What did you think of the show? What were the hits and misses for you?

All of our original reviews of "Stairway to Heaven" can be found in the Episode Guide.

we have a google group so what? Professions sometimes talk to each other

Comments  

njspnfan
# njspnfan 2014-09-17 18:35
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LEAH
# LEAH 2014-09-17 19:25
I didn't enjoy this episode the first time nor in the rewatch last night. I pretty much agree with all of your your criticisms. The bowling alley. It was so wrong for the plot and the show! I didn't like the angel headquarters either. It seemed so silly. And the biggest gripe I had was bringing back a character most of us relly liked and the killing her off for no good reason other than to elicit emotion. Well the only emotion I felt was anger at that. She was a rich character and they misused her and eliminated her. Still a little pissed.:)
E
# E 2014-09-17 21:50
Quote:
After a climactic decision to accept leadership a few weeks ago, Castiel suddenly can’t string three words together to adequately explain himself, to counter Metatron’s accusations
Heh! This was exactly my reaction as well. Why didn't Cas simply say to Metatron…."I only stole Theo's grace because you stole mine first to kick all the angels out of heaven." When a plot is so poorly planned that your characters can't actually say something that is essentially completely obvious because it might derail your plot, then you've got problems. So Cas can't point out that Metatron also stole grace because then all of the angels would be willing to follow him and then Metatron's plan to overtake everything won't work. Sam can't be concerned about the MoC because then he might find an answer to the problem or make things up with Dean and then Dean wouldn't become a demon. Carver absolutely does not have the flair for balancing out the plot with the character development the way Kripke did. There were so many moments in the episode that simply did not follow any logical train of thought and it was all in service to the plot that couldn't seem to stand on its own. Sad. :(

And I also agree with the problems with tone that both Bardicvoice and Nightsky had. This episode contained entirely the wrong tone for the penultimate episode. You are so right, the stakes should be high, the tension even higher; we should be concerned that the protagonists are up against insurmountable odds. Making everyone snarky and unpleasant does not help. All the bowling angels were snide, Metatron degenerated into a whiner here (and I had so liked him earlier in the season; he had true menace) even those little girls in the candy shop were awful and I could have cared less that they died…. what is the point of that? Shouldn't we care that this angel war is resulting in the collateral damage of innocent humans? Those humans are US… but they were so awfully rendered my only thought about their being blown up was "good riddance." And like njspnfan, this is where I pretty much checked out on Dean. He was so caustic and violent that I just couldn't muster up any sympathy. He turned on Cas, he killed Tessa, he claimed dictatorship and went off the rails. He was so harsh that I found it put me off rather than generated any of my sympathies which were all with Sam and oddly Gadreel at this point. IMO this show currently does not have that deft hand that knows how to evenly plot out a season or that sensitive mind that delves into the nuances of character like it used to. I have hope that between Robbie Thompson, Robert Berens and Jeremy Carver that season 10 will have some good episodes but the rest of the writers leave a LOT to be desired and I don't feel that they are up to the writing quality that they used to have in spades on this show. Carver is actually a lot like Sera Gamble, he can write a good episode but he's not much of a show runner.
nappi815
# nappi815 2014-09-18 00:01
I didn't have a problem with this episode. I agree that i'm used to more on the edge of my seat second to last eps, but I actually did find this episode dark despite the light humor that was added in. I also think i'm growing accustomed to the more subtle approach that carver has taken.....it's not "in your face", but I still can see that it's there. since most have expressed the negative aspects...i'll strictly focus on what I found to be the positive:

I liked the continuity from last week. Sam witnessed dean not merely killing abbadon, it was more like a massacre... it was very violent, which scared the crap out of sam. sam asked that dean bury the blade and it ends very ominously with dean telling sam "no". sam, who looks quite pretty in the morning, is sleeping with a gun under his pillow. This is a clear indication that sam is both scared and distrustful of his brother. :o

dean was pretty dark throughout the episode. it was obvious that he sent sam away with cas because he had brought the blade. I thought flagstaff's words rang true for dean, and instead of the pained look in his eyes when he usually feels that way about himself or the way he perceives others to see him, the look in dean's eyes was that of acceptance at her words. It's as though he embraced her accusation with open arms and basked in knowing what he was instead of aching at the notion of it. he was cruel to everyone. he was ready to kill at the drop of a dime. he held no sympathy for anyone, most especially Tessa. I mean he actually was treasuring the moment of her death, embracing the power. kind of sick really.... he was absolutely unlikeable in every way imaginable and I think that's exactly what they were going for....so success there;). dean has all but lost himself. as for his remark about a dictatorship... well, he is bossy and short:D....the comment wasn't anything that dean hasn't said before in one way or another....but he never used that term...when I think of dictatorship, I think of the most evil person who ever walked this earth....hitler ....dean using that word, proclaiming himself a dictator...well for me, since this is a rewatch, that was a kind of foreshadowing of what dean was about to become.

sam: well he looked gorgeous, but that aside, I enjoyed him very much. I actually get why sam hasn't done research on the moc, why that hasn't really been his focus. sam has spent most of the time trying to deal with what's happened to him, trying to get through to dean, trying to deal with his guilt about kevin, that before you know it we're up to blade runners. dean hasn't behaved in any way that's unusual. the only time dean behaved in a way that worried sam was when he first touched the blade....then of course sam associated dean's change of behavior with the blade. the more dean touched it, the more he wanted it, the more dangerous he was becoming ....sam's concern grew and his primary concern was to keep dean away from that blade. I totally get the the moc story is meant for s10...and it makes sense to me that sam would focus on it after saving dean. what I didn't get was cas....how come cas never brought it up to sam? did cas know the story behind the moc? was it an angelic bedtime story? or just a demonic one? Crowley knew what would become of dean...cas didn't? cas knew it wasn't a smart move judging from his reaction when he saw the mark....I just got the feeling that cas didn't really know what would happen to dean...but cas knew enough to tell sam to "watch him". from the conversation in the car, cas seemed like he was fishing. asking sam about dean. but cas never admitted to sam that he knew anything...so was he afraid to say something? did cas not want to believe the story was possible? did he even know the story? it did leave me to wonder how much cas really knew.... so I just took the conversation as what it was meant to do, which was to validate sam's concern because cas had the same concern he did. at least that's what he felt like to me. I liked the way sam handled dean when dean told him they weren't a team, it was a dictatorship... .sam was sensible. confronting dean is the last thing sam should do....instead he walked away. he gave it a few minutes...and then he came back....the conversation could've continued had gad not arrived...when I watched that scene I thought of bobby back in s4....he told dean he knew he was upset, but to be good to sam, so they could get him back.....dean ignored bobby's advice..... sam may not have had bobby whispering in his ear, but he knows his brother well enough to know when to step back. I really admire that about sam.

I also enjoyed sam and cas working together. I always like their scenes. I didn't mind the pop culture references, for me they didn't take away from the seriousness of the situation. oh and I loved that cas used female pop stars for the boys aliases. :D

as for metatron... I find him quite clever and maniacal. and the fact that he's a nerd...well, isn't that how it usually works in horror movies. it's the nerd that seeks revenge and becomes the killer. the who can't take anymore ridicule, that needs to prove to everyone how clever they truly are and no one can stop them. this is metatron....met atron was from the secretarial pool, a no one, but then God selected him, above all others to write down the word. ego anyone? the information he had in his head...who knows how long metatron was truly planning all of this. he purposely picks a vessel that looks harmless, that no one would deem as intelligent or capable of what he's planning, someone who basically looks like a bumpkin. so what, he had self esteem issues, who doesn't? what's so dark about it is that these issues are what drove metatron to want to become the new God. what's scary is that he looks like the biggest nerd in the world and yet he's an absolute megalomaniac who is in fact quite brilliant. I think that's scary. I compare metatron to this innocent looking unsuspecting straight a nerd student that no one thinks twice about and then ends up blowing up the building...to me that's dark and scary... but, like I said, in a more subtle way....it sneaks up behind you...

I'm not much interested in the angel storyline so I didn't care about the bowling scene....but I could guess why they chose that game...bowling. ...it's one of the least dangerous sport..is it a sport? activity? that there is. you don't really associate bowling with any kind of viciousness so for metatron to pull off his plan in a bowling alley? I can see the genius of it. as for the angels being so gullible.....I think it's been pretty well established in s4 that angels, the grunts, are basically soldiers. they just pretty much follow orders...withou t question....the only angels that ever seemed capable to me were the archangels and Zachariah. the only grunt to ever have his own thoughts and actual instinct is cas....if I recall, anna was not just a mere grunt, she was in charge..she had her own instinct as well. I think the fact the metatron could easily manipulate the angels plays into gad's realization that metatron is insane and needs to be stopped.

I have liked gad's story arc from the start. I think it says a lot that he could go from the angel who killed kevin, to an angel who has been mislead and is just trying to make right all that he's done wrong. he actually pulled off exuding sympathy from I think a lot of people. that has to do with good storytelling and good acting, which for the most I think we did get this season....even in this episode. not as good as others...but not bad either, at least for me. ;)

to end on a positive note....I just finished watching s9 special features...and since there are those out there who might not have watched yet, I will be mindful of spoiling....but I will say this much....
carver has validated almost every post I've written in regards to sam .....and I have the utmost confidence that we will get what we've been asking for in s10;)
Nate Winchester
# Nate Winchester 2014-09-18 09:05
Embed fixed.

You know... I'm not sure that's "Dean" judging from the shirt and background (I'm reasonably sure neither have been on SPN). He looks a little too old to be from his role on Dark Angel (I think that was the show title?) so I'm guessing maybe that was a scene from his stint on Smallville?
njspnfan
# njspnfan 2014-09-18 09:53
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Lilah_Kane
# Lilah_Kane 2014-09-18 12:32
If you mean the gif. It's from Changing channels - Supernatural :D
njspnfan
# njspnfan 2014-09-18 15:51
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debbab
# debbab 2014-09-18 09:41
The episode tried to jam too much into it. I appreciated how it attempted to move the characters further along, infuse humor and popular references, and push to the finale.thesy
had just skipped Blood Lines they might have had time to make this episode a two part penultimate episode that really worked better. I did not like the disposition of Tessa. It seemed like S9 was dedicated to cleaning up previous characters so the story could be reinvented. A bit heavy handed with Tessa. Also felt the personal heaven" prom nite for Cas was a fail as was the lead up to it. The crispy angel saying he doesn't want to owe his life to Castiel, reminded me of the cheese the Leviathan used to eat to clerk in season 7. No, not everything tastes better with cheese(well it does, but not this scene). I thought the bowling scene was so "human" it made me laugh until I cried. And Tetmoh's performance here and the finale are worth noting as truly positive. Just think it had good intentions that went array. gave me that i ate too much at the buffet feeling, but generally the food tasted okay, just lacked time in the prep room or too many indgredients for one sitting. Overall the episode passes.
Scullspeare
# Scullspeare 2014-09-18 09:43
NATE WINCHESTER:
Quote:
You know... I'm not sure that's "Dean" judging from the shirt and background (I'm reasonably sure neither have been on SPN). He looks a little too old to be from his role on Dark Angel (I think that was the show title?) so I'm guessing maybe that was a scene from his stint on Smallville?

If you're referring to the gif under your name up top, that's definitely Dean - from the Japanese game show set of Changing Channels. Love the 'review' BTW. :)
TeresaPezzino
# TeresaPezzino 2014-09-20 09:20
I concur with the reviewers that this episode felt totally off for me. However, there was one moment that took my breath away - the angels confronting Dean and he has this look in his eyes and this specific tilt of his head as he says "Are you asking, or telling?" that scared the crap out of me. Kudos to Jensen!