Symbolism can make a story's rich tapestry all the more fulfilling and illuminating. It can add layers and depth revealing fresh insights. It can come in dialog, in music, and in visual cues. “Form and Void” makes use of all of these to tell its story---but most of all it uses Catholic symbolism to convey so much.
We see it visually in the statuary outside Jenna's grandma's house. We see it in the way her grandma crosses herself after the baby Amara demands that they feed her. We see it in Crowley's disguise as “Father Crowley,” making a personal call to see just what this Darkness is and how he can use it to his advantage. That symbolism, although muted by the non-denominational chapel, also appears in Sam's story. It's Catholicism that ties the story together---and more to the point a particular Catholic prayer: the Prayer of St. Francis.

The Prayer of St. Francis provides a great contrast of good and bad. It recognizes the dark and the light of the world. Its simplicity makes it endure after all these centuries---and while debate rages if the celebrated saint even wrote it, that is but a moot point. Its simple lines of “Where there is hatred/let me sow love” and “grant that I may seek to understand as to be understood” resonate with so many---Catholic and non-Catholic alike. It is this contrast and plea to rise above the bad by humbly asking for the good that threads throughout this episode. We are shown the Darkness and its tendrils sweeping through, cursing some of the people of Superior, Nebraska. We see the threat of emptiness and hopelessness in Billie's warning to Sam, and we see a void of love, peace, and joy in the fates of Jenna and her grandmother. We see hatred and injury in Castiel's story---despite his efforts to try and pardon and console. And yet, the promise of the St. Francis Prayer remains steadfast in Sam's story---and can show us that not all is lost. That pardoning leads to being pardoned ourselves is still very much a possibility---but only if we are willing to try.

Let's start with the bad things, the things we wish to replace in the prayer and examine how they shape the fabric of this episode. How does hate, doubt, despair, and injury fit into the story? How does focusing selfishly on wanting to be understood or being loved rather than understanding or loving expose our vulnerabilities to the Darkness or the evil of the world? How do these things lead to conflict---often with deadly consequences?

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When we first see Castiel, the two angels that took him rouse him rudely. They want to know one thing only: where is Metatron. They will not take ignorance as an excuse. Instead, they will injure him as they feel they've been injured. Their orders aren't to kill him, no, but they will take their time in torturing him. After all, it is Castiel's fault that they're in this situation. It's his trust in Metatron that led to the Fall. To make matters worse, he freed the rogue angel now turned human. They can't believe that he is unaware of Metatron's whereabouts. After all, the Scribe is now powerless. He doesn't have any grace, so Castiel should have been able to track him. Castiel admits that Metatron tricked him once again, so one of them quips, “So you're just stupid.”

The angels here are falling into the undesired emotions of injury, hatred, and darkness. They seek more to be understood than to understand. No matter what Castiel says, they find his words empty and meaningless. They find his pleas for mercy a mockery. It is his fault they have to have a door to Heaven. It is his fault that the factions fight upstairs---at least in their view. Efram and Jonah stand in for so many angels that may wish to pay back all the harm Castiel caused. So they torture him by cutting his face, stabbing an angel blade painfully into his shoulders and cutting his chest just enough for it to hurt.

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Castiel pleads, “Mercy, Brother, please!” This particular plea stings deep. Efram mocks him more, remarking, “Brother? Huh! What are you?” Efram, especially, is angry. He finds it laughable that Castiel considers himself an Angel of the Lord, that he's part of their family. As far as Efram is concerned, Castiel lost that status by always choosing the Winchesters over Heaven. He allows this rage to consume him, telling Castiel, “So, see you're not my brother, and if I had it my way, I'd take this blade, stick it in your heart, and call that a damn good day.” He wishes Castiel would simply give them the answer to their question. At that point, he'd be useless to them, and it wouldn't matter if he brutally murdered this angel.

On the other hand, Castiel tries to follow the other half of the prayer, desperate to break through to them. He knows that he is guilty of the crimes they accuse him of---they're right. He does side with Sam and Dean, and he has made mistakes that harmed Heaven. He knows they have every right to be angry with him for what he's done---and yet he knows that his own bloodshed will not stop the carnage. His death will only be one more angel slain---another statistic in the body counts. Castiel wants them to see that he pardons them for what they're doing---perhaps in hopes that they may do the same for him. He may not want them to forgive completely or to avoid punishments, but this torture is senseless. It does nothing for Efram and Jonah besides feed their darker emotions and rage.

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Castiel, for all his efforts to understand his brethren, however, fails in doing so. His failing is that he wishes for them to understand him. As he tries to defend his reasoning about losing Metatron in the wind, he loses his grip on trying to understand them. It's understandable that he would waver here, considering the pain they're inflicting. Their actions make it impossible for them to have any hope of bridging gaps or finding common ground. Efram and Jonah punish him so brutally that any time he tries to explain what happened or why he can't give them the answer they want, they simply refuse to listen. In kind, Castiel loses a little more ground in his efforts to reach them. His struggle against the spell Rowena cast doesn't help by any means, but he certainly is losing patience nonetheless. It is this loss of patience that will be his undoing in trying to reach through to his brothers.

Before Efram can do significant damage, Hannah bursts in, demanding that they stop this. She pleads for them to listen, to not follow this violent impulse, and to trust her judgment. And yet, it is clear that holding Castiel here rather than taking him to Heaven as he wanted is done on her order. As it dawns on Castiel and he asks her blatantly, she cannot deny the truth. It is written in the expression on her new male vessel's face. She, just as Efram and Jonah, is to blame for what has happened in this room. She is just as culpable and has descended into their doubt and despair.

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Unfortunately, it is working with them that will cost Hannah her life. As they battle about what to do with Castiel next, they attack each other viciously. Castiel, nearly about to be angel hacked, fights his way out of the chair. He uses the spell Rowena cast to his advantage, overpowering his brothers and killing one. But it is much too late. Too much of the hatred has been sown. Too much injury has occurred to be pardoned by Heaven. Before he can stop Efram, he has already stabbed Hannah to death, leaving him to retaliate or be killed himself.

Finding himself full of despair after this, Castiel has no choice but to turn to those he knows will try to find an answer---a cure to this spell. He knows that he will have to shun Heaven again---as they have shun him. He will turn to the Winchesters and seek their consul, dig through the Men of Letter's papers and books, and he will try to find an answer. If he can somehow cancel what the witch has done to him, maybe there will be hope again---and the next time he should try to reach out to his Heavenly family he can have better luck---maybe.

But all of these things Castiel experiences are largely external---are largely done to him or around him. Excluding his self-defense maneuvers, Castiel isn't the one doing the sowing of hatred. He's not the one unwilling to understand. He isn't the one refusing to pardon or to face up to the injuries he's caused. Most of those things were done by Efram and Jonah. So if he isn't the prime example of these darker and undesirable qualities, than who is?

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Simply put, it is both in Crowley and principally the Darkness that we see the worst of these qualities. Their actions at the farmhouse show just how powerful they truly can be---and how easy it is for these darker emotions to slither their way into our lives and our hearts. Crowley and the Darkness are metaphors for just how we allow ourselves to let these things in---and how easy it is for them to control us in ways we aren't even aware of---until it is too late sometimes.

Crowley poses as a priest. He's been sent in to assure Jenna's grandmother after Amara has shown her powers. His presence is meant to soothe, to provide a salve to their fears. He's supposed to deal with this situation, make this baby a pure innocent again, and return them to peace and joy at having a little child in the house. He's meant to help their faith in a higher power---in God's grace---and to console them in this frightening moment.

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And yet that's not what he does at all. Crowley uses this to his advantage, appearing benign and friendly. He's polite. He easily charms both women, and he knows just what to say and how to say it so they don't suspect a thing. His mask is perfect to them---but it doesn't fool Dean. Upon learning that he is the priest meant to exorcise this baby, his face tells the story. He knows that Crowley is here for no good---and yet he can't exactly out the King of Hell to Jenna or her grandmother. If they're both here, they might as well work the case together and find out what they're both here to learn: just what is the Darkness?

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Just as Crowley used the guise of a priest to worm his way into their home, Amara, the Darkness, does one better. She has come to this place as an innocent. A small newborn baby. She will get what she wants from them simply by being in their home. All she really has to do is wait---and yet she becomes impatient. Though this form gained her entry into the world, it is weak. She can't move on her own as a baby. She can't do what she wants to do---so she decides to sow fear.

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Using her telekinesis, she makes the baby supply box topple, giving her access to the wooden letter blocks. After the commotion, both Jenna and her grandmother rush in to find the letters floating over the crib. She slams each one into the wall, leaving a demand in its wake. There is no question as to what Amara wants. She tells them, “FEED ME.”

The question is feed her what exactly? She is no ordinary baby, after all. No peas and carrots will suffice for her. Instead, she'll want something far more substantive. She'll want something far more valuable.

Despite having seen the baby do this and knowing that her grandmother has called in a priest to handle the supernatural situation, Jenna can't help but be drawn to Amara. It's easy to forget that this baby did something frightening----may be as her grandmother says, “has the devil inside it”----when she smiles so cute and seems so harmless. Jenna leans over, inspecting the now seemingly normal baby when its too late.

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The Darkness asserts itself, sowing its very name within Jenna. Amara was hungry alright---hungry for a human soul. She takes it, sucking it right out of the woman, leaving her an empty pit. Jenna has become a soulless void, a manifestation of all the undesired qualities we want to counter. She makes her way calmly down the stairs, confronting her grandmother brutally. There's no anger, no sadness, just a calm as she kills her grandmother. The action itself is devoid of emotions.

In this way, the Darkness makes us see there is little reason to hope, she makes us wonder if there is any light left. It doesn't get any brighter when Dean and Crowley discover Jenna smashing all of her grandmother's angelic figurines---another Catholic visual that ties us to the prayer shaping the story. Dean wants to help her, wants to understand rather than be understood. He wants her to stop doing this and tell them why she's done what she did.

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In this way, Dean is trying to adhere to Sam's plea from “Out of the Darkness, Into the Fire.” He is trying to approach this carefully, ask more questions, find a way to help Jenna after this has happened before he simply kills her. In this way, Dean is embodying the best of the St. Francis Prayer---and providing a perfect mirror to his brother, Sam, as they struggle through their separate fights. He wants to understand her rather than be understood. He wants to truly help her and save her after what has happened with Amara and the Darkness infected Superior, Nebraska. Dean, as we've seen him before, is calm in his approach. We can tell that he's startled by Jenna's personality change. She's not the woman he met trying to save a town---or the woman who adopted a baby willingly. This Jenna is far too cold and unpredictable. Even so, he doesn't want to hurt her or startle her. She's still someone worth saving and someone he's willing to fight for---against whatever has done this to her. He gently says, “Jenna, listen to me, whatever's happened, whatever's going on, we can fix it, okay?---Just come with us, okay?” It is a starting point---a beacon of hope to all the despair around him that Dean at least tries.

It's Crowley that diagnoses the young woman. He knows outright that she is soulless. The battle is underway and Dean, trying to wrestle her down ends up finding a soulless Jenna harder to take down---all without hurting her as much as possible, of course. After all, Dean can't save her if he ends up killing her. His most potent moves are off limits. It makes the battle longer than normal. This drama bores Crowley all too quickly, and he shows just how phony his disguise really is. He kills Jenna, slamming her hard enough into the ceiling to fall dead at Dean's feet. It leads them to turn on one another yet again, battling it out before they can reach the Darkness as she makes her escape. Now that she's been fed, she can move and find more souls to devour.

And yet there is another example of this compare and contrast---this plea for the good to replace the bad found in Sam's story and those he encounters.

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Despair and sadness is explored in the reaper, Billie. She laments, singing “O Death,” as a tribute and elegy to her former boss, Death. Nevertheless, she is still on duty and she is still reaping souls. She has come to Superior, Nebraska to handle the deaths of the rabids, taking them onto the next life. There, she confronts a dying Sam, warning him of the Empty. This information makes all hope and faith flicker. If there is a void, a place nothing can come back from, and if reapers can send souls there, it may be even worse than Hell itself. It is oblivion---an erasure of existence and the worst possible after life we all fear may be our final end. In the unknown that is death, we all see it as a worst case, a nightmare that we shy away from. It is why we adhere, in part, to particular religions, desperate that there is something better for us in the next life.

To know that there is a bottomless void would be too much to handle for anyone.

And yet, Sam knows that he may face just that. It is in his story we truly see the countering of the darker parts, those undesired feelings we want to replace. Just as he is facing the worst possibility, given to him by Billie---that he is unclean in the Biblical sense---he turns to faith. He turns to hope. As long as he can still move, reason, and fight, Sam will try to find that cure and start righting the wrongs he feels he committed.

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At the start, Sam leads one of the rabids into the hospital so he can study them. He needs to know what they know. He needs to see it, to hear their story, to figure it all out. The way he does this is ripe with more of the symbolism, the subtle nature of this episode's undercurrent of the St. Francis Prayer. Robert Mitchum's voice lures this man, talking of one hand of love and one hand of hate, and as the monologue concludes, his voice says, “it's love that's won and old left hand hate is down for the count.”

This little snippet says so much and yet sits within our subconscious, waiting to be discovered. It is covert in how it sums so much up of what Sam hopes will be the truth in the long run---not only in finding a cure but in finding a way to defeat the Darkness itself. It is a beautiful message, all hidden in plain sight while Sam snares one of these rabids.

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The man he lures into the hospital is able to talk---but is clearly infected and struggling against the anger. For his protection, Sam has handcuffed him. Sam asks his name, only to have the man snap, “Bite me.” Rather than showing anger or striking him, Sam shows patience. He is gentle with this man in a way that shows just how he is trying to emulate the other half of the prayer. He wants to understand this man, not combat him. He wants to gain his trust, to find a way to build hope, and to console him on some level.

It is in Sam's gentle nature that so much of the St. Francis Prayer finds life in “Form and Void.”

So Sam simply says, “Okay, Bite Me, how long have you been infected?”

It is in remaining calm that will grant Sam answers. Unsurprisingly, this tactic works. He doesn't have to hit him or push his buttons or cajole him into telling him more---and it is a stark contrast to the angels torturing Castiel for their own answers. He needs to simply be gentle. By giving “Bite Me” some pudding and letting him tell his story in his own way, Sam learns the truth about how this disease works. This disease is unconventional---not one that works by any time table or general symptoms list. Instead, it seems to afflict each person differently---killing some faster than others, driving others to rages and murder sprees sooner---and so there's no real way to put a pattern together.

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In that moment, Sam totters on the precipice of doubt and despair---couple that with his encounter with Billie, the Reaper, and its no wonder Sam is struggling to remain hopeful. It leads him to a chapel to pray---another allusion to the cornerstone of the episode's story. Sam is humble in his efforts. He's quiet. There's no boasting or begging for himself. There's no pleas to save him. Sam is resigned to the fact that he may die. Instead, he sums up the St. Francis Prayer in Winchester speak. He puts all the same heartfelt emotion, the same desires, the same beliefs that there's something better out there into this one moment.

Sam humbly prays, “So, I know it's been a long time but... Dean and I, we've been through a lot of bad, but this is different. This is my fault, and I don't know how to fix it. And if I have to die, I've made my peace with that, but please Dean deserves better. Dean deserves a life. There are people out there, good people... who are going to suffer because of me, and I'm not asking you to clean up my mess. Hell I don't even know you're out there, but if you are, and if you can hear me, I-we need your help God. We need to know there's hope, we need a sign.”

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For his efforts, he's met with silence. Even then, though, Sam leaves the chapel quietly, not defeated and not angry. As he walks out, he is accosted with a brutal image of perhaps his time in the Cage---he's assaulted perhaps by something yet to come. We're left to wonder if it is a sign from God, expressing His displeasure or an assault from the infection Sam has. He shouts out, “What does that even mean!”

Sam's quest for understanding is what will allow him to find the pardon he so desperately wants but will never ask for. He will dig deeper even as he begins to fail. He's bombarded with more brutal images of his time in the Cage, memories that had once nearly overwhelmed him. And yet, it is both these terrible things, these dark memories, and Billie's words that will give him the key he needs to save himself---and those afflicted just like him.

It is this seamless symbolism that fleshes out the story---it shows a clear delineation of the two halves of the prayer wonderfully. Where there is doubt, Sam will spread faith. Where there is despair, he will find hope. Where others may try to be understood, he will understand. Where there is darkness, he will spread light. For the injury caused in the release of the Darkness, Sam will find pardon in learning the cure. He will give this knowledge away to those he saves---for it he will receive gratitude.

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As Sam struggles to connect the Bible passages and Billie's words while succumbing---passages that read: “Everyone will be purified by fire as a sacrifice is purified by salt,” and “I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him”---he takes a sponge of holy oil and lights it on fire, holding it near his throat. The passages themselves are key symbols, yet to be truly understood but profound in relation to Sam's very actions. What he's doing is risky, considering how easily he can set himself on fire. He needs to know that he's learned the way to save others---and he wouldn't test this on anyone else if it should do more harm than good. He will take that burden on alone.

The despair, darkness, hatred, doubt, and sadness that permeates so much of the negative half of the prayer surges to its strongest point here. Sam is struggling to do this not only because he feels sick---his inner voice of hatred, the doubt he feels about his goodness, his sadness and fear while in the Cage---words that Lucifer may have used on him---all surge forward, overwhelming him nearly. They bombard and attack, trying to stop him. This darkness inside him knows that light is coming to dispel it away.

And yet, that voice starts to fade and is silenced as he uses the holy oil. It works, burning out this poison in a visual and active symbol for burning out these darker sides of ourselves. Sam prayed for a sign. Sam prayed to receive all of these gifts to be able to bring these good things to the world. In this cure he has received it.

After all, he must start somewhere if they are indeed to curb the Darkness.

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Like a little candle, Sam has lit hope's flame. In the vast Darkness, that light will shine brighter over time, passed from one person to the next---just as it was passed onto those he cured. The Darkness may be the Emptiness Billie mentioned. It may try to sweep over the world and drown it. It may try to find a way to destroy through hatred. It may cause great injury and spread doubt and despair in its wake.

But it will not snuff this small candle---or the chance that Sam and Dean together will find a way to stop it. In the end, they will find hope by adhering to the precepts of the prayer, living its hopeful words.

In that way, they will find pardon.
 

Comments  

SueB
# SueB 2015-10-19 10:13
Excellent review. I love the imagery you paint with your words (as always). I like the use of the Prayer of St Francis as a framework. I think it fits.

I found it interesting that Sam turned to prayer. The last time he had a "conversation" with God was when he confessed his sins during 8.23 Sacrifice. Sam simultaneously sometimes has serious self-esteem issues and can occasionally be guilty of pride. He thinks he's unworthy in so many ways (although I thought we were mostly past that, I think the spread of the Darkness and the words of Billie really played into that old issue). OTOH, Sam is so much smarter than the average bear. And he knows it. It's not arrogance, it's pretty much a fact. But reliance on his own intellect over others input is a form of pride. What Sam did in that chapel was to humble himself. Again, Sam IS generally humble. But he went in there basically saying he can't figure it out. That goes to the one aspect of him that where he IS usually very capable -- his intellect. And while "selfless" is a defining quality, his prayer was very much that way. He opened himself up to direction, verses his own opinion. I think that's big. And I don't think he got punished for it.

While painful I think the vision of Sam in the cage is less punishment but more a hint as to where to get the solution. It may or maynot be from God but the implication is also there -- the solution to the Darkness is going to be difficult.

I also wonder if the imagery of the cage is to hint at just how Dark, Darkness can get and that the solution may require confronting their own sources of Darkness.

I also like your comment about Dean working hard to try and save Jenna. He listened to what Sam had to say (and what he himself was talking about in the finale). He was trying to get a WIN for Jenna. I think Crowley truncating that pissed him off not just because he killed Jenna but because it made him see how comfortable he was working with the King of Rotten. I bet stabbing Crowley in the hand felt GOOD. I also think Dean is smart enough to know that he may despise working with Crowley but he has his uses. Just killing him in a fit of pique would be adding another serious evil variable into an already complex equation. Crowley is predictably unpredictable. And he will stop and talk to Dean. These are advantages to not give up quickly.

This episode gave me a lot to think about.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-10-19 17:31
Thanks for the comment.

I think Sam is aware that he has been full of pride---and I think that stands out the most to him in how he thought he could somehow use Rowena to cure his brother, have no consequences, and somehow manage to curb the witch once she was no longer useful. Instead, the witch did what he wanted, but got away and now the Darkness is out. I think it's something he feels is his fault rooted in what he must see as prideful actions. On one hand, they absolutely are. He brushed off doubts and questions that should have made him pause on that desperate path to save his brother. And he even admitted to this pride when he told Dean in the opener that he'd do it all again and that this is the problem.

His turning to prayer was so profound and moving for me because I saw in him this acknowledgement of those faults. I agree with you. He often relies so much on his own intellect, and here he is stumped as there's no real pattern or answer. His finding the cure is almost---no pun intended---a total stab in the dark. He asked for a sign and while the imagery in the Cage may or may not be due to his affliction with the Darkness disease or it may be God's way of leading him to the answer, but when he latches onto Billie's statement about being "unclean in the Biblical sense" Sam has NO idea if this holy oil trick will work. It could make it worse, it could do nothing. He didn't know what would happen when he did it. He did it hoping it was the answer---to me that is the true sign of what Sam needed after that heartfelt prayer.

And we're also left to wonder just how effective holy oil like this will be on other aspects of the Darkness yet to come. I don't think any single solution will work. No one weapon will be the ultimate tool to defeating her, I think.

As for Dean and Jenna, absolutely. He paused and took time to try and reason with her. She may have been soulless, but given enough time and logic, Dean may have had a chance to reach through to her. We really have no idea how Soulless Sam acted immediately after being made soulless. Aside from standing under that light, we don't see him again until he's already been soulless for a year. It's possible that Soulless Sam was just as ruthless and cruel to those around him in those first few hours/days/week s. It would make sense that he would have adjusted to "assimilate." I think Dean knows that enough to try even if it's not stated overtly here. The fact that Crowley got "bored" absolutely ticked Dean off. He wanted Jenna to live in the end and he went out of his way to keep from just killing her. That behavior alone showed great growth to me.

In the end, I hope he keeps trying to save others, even if Crowley is a convenient and necessary partner sometimes.

Thanks again.
winmomwannabe
# winmomwannabe 2015-10-19 12:04
Wow. Allison, this was an incredible review. I loved how you tied it to the prayer. Just wonderful insight. Love reading your stuff and anxiously await your review each week. Thank you.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-10-19 17:32
Thanks for the comment. I'm so glad you enjoyed this take. I actually have half a novel written surrounding this prayer, and as St. Francis is my Catholic confirmation name, I just kept coming back to it as I thought about all the imagery. I'm glad it fit the episode so well for you!

Thanks again.
Lilah_Kane
# Lilah_Kane 2015-10-19 15:35
I could actually see the scenes again with your narrative. That is how lively you write and on point. Dean did stop to ask instead of acting and going head first to battle and take Jenna down in any means necessary. I mean she already killed her grand mother. Usually that was all the reason to Dean to put her down. Sam is also trying to do the other side with the bumper sticker. Both are doing it but it slowly builds up. Learning doesn't happen fast. And that was seen on all fronts.

- Lilah
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-10-19 17:36
Thanks for the comment.

Absolutely. In the last two seasons especially, Dean would have simply shot her dead and been done with it. She had killed her grandmother, so he'd just eliminate her. Here, we see him pause and try to do what he can to save her even if that fight takes longer than usual. I really loved seeing that element of Dean again. And Sam totally wants to try and find a way to save others as he did here. I think it will take time and they will make mistakes along the way---but as long as they're really trying to find ways to save more than just making a mess and cleaning it up, then they're on the right path to reclaiming that other half of the bumper sticker again.

Thanks again.
Barbara Maake
# Barbara Maake 2015-10-19 17:30
Wow, FAE, what a beautiful analysis of the episode. The Prayer of St. Francis is one of my favorite hymns but I never would have recognized how applicable it is to the episode. I was quite struck by the numerous Catholic and religious references but I wasn't quite sure what to make of them. You tied all of those references together so wonderfully. Sam really did come off as very much the penitent in this episode, and I found it extremely moving. He did bare his soul in that prayer, continuing the journey he began in the first episode when he expressed his resolve to rededicate himself to the business of saving people, all of the people. And I hadn't really thought about it, but it's true that Dean, too, took his first steps down that path, as shown in his attitude towards Jenna and the baby. I hope so much that we see the brothers continue this shift back towards the saving people part of the family business, which has largely gone by the wayside the last few seasons. If they do, this could be a truly amazing season.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-10-19 18:03
Thanks for the comment.

The prayer kinda struck me in the head when I was thinking about all the Catholic imagery. Actually, it's kind of ironic that it happened the way it did. I was noting down "Father Crowley" and that's when it struck me that this episode really used that prayer. I'm Catholic, with St. Francis as my confirmation saint, so that prayer is largely influential on me. I actually have half of a novel written surrounding the prayer, actually. (Should dig that outta the stacks sometime.)

It really summed so much of this episode up and built so much for me on what they started in that first episode. I loved seeing Sam as the penitent. He absolutely was/is and I think Dean mirrored him so much even if he wasn't as successful in saving Jenna. I think, in trying, they will find their way to pardon. It'll make for a moving story indeed.

Thanks again.
spnlit
# spnlit 2015-10-21 19:53
What makes this show so incredible to me is how it invokes and inspires such strong thought and emotion and how that inspiration translates differently based on the individual viewer's personal view, issues, ideals, and in this case faith/ religion. This show through the years has certainly inspired many people, myself included to think about and delve deeper into our own life, purpose and faith. I too am a Catholic and being born on the feast day of St Francis have taken this prayer to heart and soul. Thus, I see where you are coming from and appreciate and thank you for sharing your thoughtful, deep, heart felt analysis based on the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. It certainly applies to the overall mission of our "boys"; Castiel's journey; the show in general and in particular this episode/ season; and also, I may add, to their personal brother relationship and relation with family and very close friends. The prayer to sow pardon to injury; faith to doubt; hope to despair; light to darkness; and bring consolation, understanding pardon and love. Perhaps it is why this show has been so enduring and has touched many of us deeply. Well done FAE, thank you again, and for goodness sake finish that novel. If it is inspired by the prayer it needs to be completed. The world could use another good book!
danashulps
# danashulps 2015-10-19 20:48
The Robert Mitchum love/hate speech from Night of the Hunter hit me like a ton of bricks, being so incongruous with Sam's trick to simply capture a "rabid." I liked your symbolism link to the prayer of St. Francis. I would also suggest a parallelism of love/hate, light/darkness. Are the writers toying with us or is this a thread for Nightsky?
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-10-19 20:55
Thanks for the comment.

The Robert Mitchum speech just kept pulling me in when I watched on rewatches. When I really listened to what he was saying instead of focusing on the action, it just hit me. It was amazing how it was talking about love winning in the end. So subtle and smartly used. I'm glad you liked my tying the prayer of St. Francis in. I don't know if Nightsky will look at that as a thread, but I think it could work really well.

Thanks again.
Nogadamo Bhitia
# Nogadamo Bhitia 2015-10-19 23:17
The film snippet Sam uses is from The Night of the Hunter, a terrifying film. I saw it when I was about the age of the little boy in the film. Robert Mitchum chases the kids for days, always singing a hymn to let them know he is coming. The cinematography is fabulous. The kids finally run into a spinster lady, played wonderfully by Lilian Gish, who protects them. This film fits perfectly with the themes you explore in this article and I encourage everyone to watch it.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-10-20 17:40
Thanks for the comment.

I will most certainly have to check into that film. It sounds amazing and it really adds even more to the use of that clip. I've always liked Mitchum and the way he tells stories on screen.

Thanks again
Suzkatoon75
# Suzkatoon75 2015-10-20 03:47
Great thoughts! The Prayer of St. Francis was new to me so really liked how you could use that to tie in the stories of this episode.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-10-20 17:41
Thanks for the comment.

I'm glad I could point out a new prayer! It's been one of my favorites for a very very long time. I'm glad you could see it applying to the episode.

Thanks again.
sugarhi15
# sugarhi15 2015-10-20 09:48
I really enjoyed your take this week. I know supernatural isn't about religion, but I do believe that this show has always revolved around faith and hope. I do think that this episode tied into both of these concepts.

I've always believed that from the moment we've found out the boys had to be born, it was because God had wanted it. Supernatural seemingly gives the impression, as declared by the angels and archangels, as well as metatron, that God has seemingly left the planet. These angels then took it among themselves to run things, including throwing themselves a little apocalypse. In watching Free to be you and me last night, it occurred to me, ....sam asked Lucifer...why me? and Lucifer replied...it had to be you sam. But it seemed to me that Lucifer couldn't provide a specific answer to Sam's question. He simply noted, for no other reason that it had to be. It's as though Lucifer couldn't give a reason, he just knew. Same could be said of Zach and his insistence and belief that dean was the Michael Sword. "you are the chosen one" Zach had told dean...And yet he could never provide an answer as to why. It leads me to believe that the angel's belief that the boys should be the vessels has been ingrained in them by God...because God knew, as he chose them, that it would be Sam and Dean that would prevent the Apocalypse. Any other vessel, any other psychic child would've failed...but Sam & Dean, chosen by God didn't.

We find out in dsotm that God is in fact ever present. Joshua had told the boys that God was on earth. He noted that God doesn't think that the Apocalypse was his problem. Yet he saved the boys from the church and put them on the plane. He brought Cas back...So perhaps if we delve deeper behind Joshua's words...God thinking the Apocalypse wasn't his problem was in fact true, because he knew all along that the boys were going to stop it...therefore, the apocalypse wasn't a problem... and to say God didn't help along the way...I don't believe that to be so. I always found it very interesting that the character of Chuck was in the episode the end...the episode which helped dean realize that he was wrong in thinking that he and sam were weaker together, that in fact the opposite was true. I highly doubt that Chuck's role was simply to inform dean to treasure toilet paper....given in swan song, we find out that chuck is in fact God....well leads me to believe that God is in fact present in the supernatural world and has been there to help the boys...especial ly given how many times they come back from the dead.

the reason I mention this is because, I do in fact believe that there was more to this episode in regards to faith and hope than it might seem. I do lean towards the fact that billie wasn't only there to simply reap that soul and scare the pants off of sam Winchester. It was all in what she said and the fact that she said what she did. She told sam he was unclean in the biblical sense...pretty on the nose choice of words to insult sam with. that insult didn't even directly have anything to do with why she was angry with him, which was because he supposed helped in offing her boss. So the whole, you're unclean was kind of out of left field, which is why I don't believe it to be merely an insult, but a clue. She seemed quite calm and though menacing, she didn't seem to give off the impression of hostility or rage at the "supposed loss" of her boss. She also told sam that death thought his and dean's return were amusing, which seemed odd given that death had mentioned how dean's messing around with the natural order was actually quite irksome. death did mention having to clean up his mess did he not, he even went so far as to teach dean a lesson by making him wear his ring and be him for a day. that remark kind of threw me...but I kind of hand waved it, as I believe that God is the one who keeps bringing the boys back, and I feel Death is keen on the boys being the chosen ones by God, that he simply just deals with it. He's even helped once or twice. Kind of a well, if I can't reap em, join em, kind of attitude. :D Billie threatened Sam by noting that this resurrection business has come to it's end and she threatened to throw them both into the 'empty"....a place no one can ever come back from. That threat alone didn't seem right to me. First off, I don't believe reapers decide where souls go, they're job is simply to reap them and send them to where God chooses the souls to God. Billie's threat, though scary feels like an empty one to me. Even if she went rogue, I still believe that God trumps rogue reaper, I even believe God could trump the empty. I'm therefore leaning very strongly that the threat wasn't just meant to be a threat...she gave sam very important information...n othing can come back from the empty....so if the darkness cannot be killed, as it wasn't able to be killed the first time, then it stands to reason that it needs to be re-contained... ..and the only place that the darkness wouldn't be able to escape from would be 'the empty"....so basically Billie has given sam the solution to this problem, I just don't think he understands and realizes it just yet.

Billie's threat/insult to sam while intending to or not did lead sam to the church to pray. Sam praying for everyone but himself doesn't surprise me in the least...his owning up to his mistakes and dealing with them also, typical sam Winchester SOP. Sam asked for a sign, some direction, and I do believe as some others do that his prayer was in fact answered by God. It wasn't a direct answer, it was subtle and sam will eventually figure them out..which leads me to believe he will have more of them. His sign was of his time in the cage, and while it's too early for carver to show us anyone in the cage, he did provide us with subtle hints that it won't be too long now before we do get back to Lucifer/Michael . Sam may not have seen his torturer but he saw his torture...and we all know who did that to sam...God was sending sam visions of the cage I believe, because the help the boys need might just start there...with Michael/and or Lucifer. Carver also made mention of unrest in the cage as well. I don't believe Sam's visions a mere coincidence after asking for a sign from God, given that his prayer was answered within like two minutes....I also don't believe those visions can come from the cage...if that was a possibility, why bother putting Lucifer in the cage in the first place? I think as others noted it would've happened already.

form and void....the darkness had no form according to lore. When Rowena cast the spell she removed the curse from dean, but she didn't destroy the mark. She transferred it, it seems onto the first child born at the time the mark was removed....and when darkness was freed she entered the vessel with the mark? does that seem plausible. darkness is now form. but as a form it needs to feed..so what does the darkness need to grow stronger? apparently souls....for death foretold how powerful they are...how it's all about the souls. Will she always need to consume souls? Does Crowley want to get in good with the darkness so she can consume souls for him...since he cannot have purgatory? or does the darkness simply eat souls to create a world that is void....that is dark....after all, without a soul, one is evil, cold, without sympathy or empathy...they might even kill..depending on the vessel....in essence, without a soul, the vessel is void...dark.... is that what the darkness ultimately wants? ultimately needs? to live in a dark world...a world without light...a world without hope? as it once was when before she was imprisoned by God....the creator of light.

Seems to me this all goes back to Sam and Dean Winchester. Sam has always represented the light. the light of knowledge...the light of empathy. He is sympathetic and patient. He has unwavering faith in his brother, and I believe he's still has unwavering faith in God or at the very most God's goodness. Praying is symbolic of that. Sam had promised once to show dean the light because he believes in it. it's this faith and his belief in the light that will help in the fight against the darkness. it's his light that has always helped dean make it through his own darkness....The Winchester's ....the chosen ones....their always keep fighting attitude, their never ending love for ea. other and their unending desire and need to save others....that' s what will allow them to beat the darkness....

I don't forsee the boys being punished in the end...when all is said and done, I believe there's only light in the boys future....;)
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-10-20 17:51
Thanks for the wonderful comment!

You bring up so many wonderful points that I hope I brushed on but didn't explore too deeply as I don't know where things will ultimately go and avoided too much speculation.

I think it's intriguing that God is the driving force for Sam and Dean---even if they don't know it---in your argument. I can see it as plausible because he seemed to take direct action only if he felt it was absolutely necessary (ie the plane after Lucifer was released). I think it's very possible that God knew that Sam and Dean would follow their own script that would tear up the one the Angels believed so strongly was the one God HAD written. It fits with the concept that God created man for free will and as Angels seem to struggle with that concept they'd see only one outcome. Sam would say Yes and Dean would say Yes and they'd get the big prize fight. Any other ending? Just too foreign. It seems to be part of the problem they're facing now in the aftermath even five years later. They can't figure out how to adapt to free will and a storyline that doesn't end up in the Apocalypse.

I think Billie's conversation with Sam totally can read as a lot of God talking to him through her absolutely. I don't know that it is, but I can see it being very possible. She did make a very specific statement about him being "unclean, in the Biblical sense." Even when Sam's struggling with all the memories from the Cage that phrase is what allowed him to put pieces together.

It's also interesting that you mention that the Darkness may be defeated by being sent to the Empty. She did take over a baby to take form, but how do you get rid of her? It's an intriguing thought process that I think should be explored and I hope is in some way in the season to come. It may be the very way to beat her. I think---and I'd have to rewatch the episode again---but the season 10 finale, isn't the Empty where Death told he'd send Dean in the first place? That the Mark would be secure there and he'd be unable to hurt anyone---but the Darkness would remain locked? It's something to keep in mind, too.

And yes, I think the boys have to find light to counter the darkness that the Darkness will bring. It's one reason this prayer struck me as I thought about the episode. It totally gives me so much hope for the season, even if they do have bad habits still to break and may take two steps back sometimes.

Thanks again.
YellowEyedSam
# YellowEyedSam 2015-10-20 13:53
You make the episode sound better than it was. Did you feel Sam's screen time was short? They bigged it up so much in the trailers I was actually left depressed for half the day. Now I just feel disappointment. :/

Quote:
Sam prayed for a sign.
Some people say the vision was the sign, but now that I've read your review I think Billie giving him the clue was the sign he asked for. I wonder where those visions came from then..
LEAH
# LEAH 2015-10-20 16:13
That's too bad YES. I am so optimistic for this season. I thought these first 2 episodes had so much to get excited about. Intriguing mysteries, yay. Good meaty stories for all the main characters especially Sam and Dean. I didn't feel Sam was particularly shortchanged this time. Better brother relationship, yay. I am more excited than I have been in years. I am sure the focus will be more on Sam at times and Dean at others. Cas may be the focus of some episodes. I am good with that as long as the writing is consistently good.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-10-20 17:54
Thanks for the comment.

I actually found Sam's story in this episode to be the foundation of the entire episode. He is working solo and it is his action that drives his story. Others tell him things---such as Bite Me telling him how the disease is unpredictable and how Billie tells him about the Empty---but in the end Sam is the one doing and saving and that gave me so much hope. His prayer made me cry, and it anchored the entire episode. I'm hoping we'll see more of this in the season to come, but I won't speculate on where they're going or what will happen next. So far, Sam's drive to fix things and to return to "saving people" has touched me. I hope it'll do that for you as the season continues.

Thanks again.
YellowEyedSam
# YellowEyedSam 2015-10-20 18:25
Don't get me wrong. It was a good episode but that cure scene left a bitter taste in my mouth. It went by far too quick. It went nothing like how I imagined it; Dean coming in to find the holy oil dabbed cloth on the floor. A near defeated Sam trying to pick it back up but instead goes for Dean. A brief fight ensures where Dean overpowers Sam through some means and grabs the sticks with the still burning cloth and places it by Sam's neck. Something like that one idea, I didn't iron out the creases.

I now know how the demon Dean fans felt. Everything gets exciting then poof, the writers drop it faster than a vampire's decapitated head. There's going to be no resolution to the demon blood story line, the writers practically confirmed it by saying no afflictions this season. Oh the potential this season had for that story line. I wonder what we'll get instead? Can't be worse than wallpaper Sam last season can it? [sarcasm] I'm sure the writers have learnt their lesson from last season [/sarcasm]

*sigh* At least the majority are still excited. Don't let me get you down.
sugarhi15
# sugarhi15 2015-10-20 15:46
I think billie gave sam a few helpful clues....sam went to pray after his confrontation with billie...and his prayers were for a sign to guide him in cleaning up his mess...he stated he unleashed a force on this world...so i took it to mean sam was asking for help on how to fight the darkness. Not two minutes later he got his visions....whil e billies words about being biblically unclean led to sam finding the cure.....it also led him to the church to ask god for help...i think god did...
The visions will lead sam to defeating the darkness...or to those who can help...
AlyCat22
# AlyCat22 2015-10-21 04:01
What I find interesting is that if Dean hadn't packed the Holy oil in the duffle that not only would there be no cure but Sam (unless Dean could get back in time) would have died. It just goes to show how much they truly need each other.
YellowEyedSam
# YellowEyedSam 2015-10-21 08:47
I think that would of been more interesting and edge of your seat moment. Dean racing back as he gets a call from Sam mentioning holy oil. :)
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2015-10-21 08:51
Except they have shown Sam packing the Holy Oil as well. Seems like when they don't know what to expect they pack everything.
Far Away Eyes
# Far Away Eyes 2015-10-21 17:12
Thanks for the comment.

I don't know. I think on one hand that it does show that they need each other, on the other I think they tend to pack everything hoping that something in that bag will give them the answer. Either way, I like that they're prepared for anything and that their combined intelligence helps them out.

Thanks again.
khalid
# khalid 2015-11-25 11:08
what is the name of the song in S11E02 when Dean stabs Crowley in the hand and searches the house for The Darkness child.