They say “Still waters run deep”. That adage certainly applies to Supernatural’s “Lily Sunder Has Some Regrets”. Such an understated title for Lily’s life being completed destroyed by an obsessed, evil supernatural being and her future being completely dictated by her obsession with revenge!
I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. As with its title, on the surface the story seemed straight-forward and simplistic but once I started analyzing its underlying messages, I found layer upon layer of character development, symbolism and foreshadowing. This turned out to be the longest Threads analysis of the season thus far, so settle in and enjoy!
Moms/Parents and their Children (who often have abandonment issues)
As in so many other stories this season, Lily was a grieving mother who had to make sense out of losing her child to supernatural forces. Like Asa’s mom, Lorraine; the insane mom in “American Nightmare”; and of course, Mary, who was torn away from the toddlers she knew both on Earth and in Heaven, the course of Lily’s life was forever altered when a supernatural interference jarred her away from the picturesque family life she was living. Lorraine tried to blame others for her loss but ultimately opened her heart to new grandchildren for healing. Crazy mom blamed Satan and was driven insane because she could never open her heart to her innocent child’s powers. Instead she walled herself up in religious fanaticism and hate that destroyed her entire family. Mary is turning to her work, trying to find a purpose that replaces mothering small children but she is still in pain because she hasn’t yet been able to open her heart and accept the loving adults who suddenly replaced her dream world.
In this week’s case, Lily became obsessed with revenge when her daughter was killed. Its emotional toll consumed her, her lost eye a physical symbol of her loss and the lengths to which she would go to achieve her goal. What was fascinating about her story was the character growth she achieved in just the few days we saw her. When Lily confronted Benjamin and Marabel, she was taunting and unforgiving. She didn’t explain that the angels had all made a mistake or seek the angels' repentance. Lily’s heart was closed off, full of grief.
Once Ishim was dead, though, who rightly should have been her only target for revenge, Lily softened. She gained a sudden inclination to mercy and spared Castiel.While it was a bit too convenient that she killed the other angels in the squad without hesitation but then let Castiel explain himself, she may have been impressed that Cas killed Ishim, one of his own. It was also made clear that even though she was a vengeful mother, she applied a very strict moral code to her hunting vendetta: she wouldn’t harm people, even those who got in her way.
Lily to the brothers: I don’t wanna hurt you. I don’t want to hurt any human.
Much like Sam, she was intent on saving people but hunting the things that killed her baby. Her story was about love turning into hate, weakness turning into power, dreams turning into dust, and finding life again after death.
In addition to her grief, Lily’s story shared another common component with prior stories: Lily and her child were living with a foster father. I’ve noted before that adoption has been a component of this season’s parenting thread. This week’s family unit confirmed once again that “family don’t end with blood”. Akabel “adopted” May and was protecting both her and her mom from evil. In “The One You’ve Been Waiting For”, Ellie’s adoption also protected her from the evil in her lineage. I’m convinced this isn’t a coincidence.
There are several intriguing ways that adoption could foreshadow future events. If, and in my opinion when, Kelly Kline's baby is allowed to live, it will have an absentee father, leaving open the opportunity for a foster family. The first possibility is that Kelly gives up the baby to protect its identity. This would parallel Ellie’s lineage being kept a secret and Asa keeping his children a secret to protect them from his hunting world. For this scenario to work, angels couldn’t be able to sense the location or presence of a Nephilim. This episode seemed to confirm that piece of angel canon. The angel squad couldn’t sense that a Nephilim wasn’t in Lily’s house, and if I remember correctly, Cas wasn’t able to sense the Nephilim who Metatron asked him to kill a few years ago, so angels must not expect to recognize a nephilim from afar. Cas also isn’t able to find Kelly who is carrying a Nephilim, so the baby doesn’t seem to be sending out energy vibes to the universe. That implies that a Nephilim can remain anonymous if its lineage is kept secret.
Another possibility is that Mary becomes the baby’s protector. She desperately wants to raise a child and she is certainly capable of protecting humans. She isn’t very knowledgeable or experienced with angels, though. This leads us to two more likely candidates.
Wouldn’t it be bizarre if Castiel stepped in as a foster dad?? Think about it! His new family role would directly parallel the angel Akabel protecting a human family from other angels. Cas could once again be a warrior, protecting humans from angels who may not share his merciful tendencies. His experience with Lily’s child will certainly play a big role in opening his heart to inter-species offspring. It would also give him his own family to protect, which would give purpose to last episode’s display of his protective instincts for the Winchester family. We’ve been saying for a long time that he needs a purpose in this story. What if all the focus on God’s poor parenting skills leads to Castiel trying his hand at raising, guiding and teaching a Nephilim? Cas is the child’s uncle after all!
Saving People/Hunting Things
Lastly, Lily could become Kelly’s and the Nephilim’s protector. The quote above hints that Lily is already thinking like a hunter. The murder of her husband and child by a supernatural being giave her the common traumatic background that catapulted so many hunters into “the life”. Like John Winchester, she made herself into a fierce hunter whose singular mission was hunting the supernatural creatures who killed her family. She’s already categorizing the objects of her hunts as monsters, as when she explained her former “wonderful life” to the brothers:
All my life, I dreamed about angels. I studied them. I made them my life’s work, until finally I learned the spell to summon one, Ishim. I thought he was perfect but he is a monster.
She also has the training and skills to be a hunter. Ishim told Cas,
She was a professor of apocalyptic literature. Studied angels, speaks fluent Enochian.
then confirmed that she had inside knowledge of the angel world:
Ishim: I shared all of our secrets with you, taught you all of our ways for your precious studies. ….
Those are amazing credentials for a new hunter! She also now has some angel physiology and is able to wield Enochian magic. She is an angel hunter, probably the best on the planet considering she’s learned how to do things that surprised even Sam.
Lily: I’ve studied angels all my very long life. I use their magic to fight, to hear them to stay alive. Enochian magic.
Sam: That’s possible?
Lily: It is if you’re willing to pay the price of admission. Every time I use one of their spells, a piece of my soul burns away. And once it’s gone…
Sam: You won’t feel anything anymore. You won’t care about anything anymore. You won’t be human anymore.
She is becoming the soulless, highly trained, formidable hunter we saw in SoullessSam, combined with the immunity to supernatural forces of DemonBloodSam:
Lily: Oh Benjamin. Your little angel tricks won’t work on me.
Her training, knowledge and abilities together with her desire to be a mother again would make her a formidable guardian for a Nephilim.
Which, if any, of these options do you think is likely? Do you see other possibilities?
After so many seasons of the superficial “angels are dicks” cliché, Lily’s story and this rare hunt for a wayward angel finally gave additional details on angel history, skills, personalities and motivations. Unfortunately, Castiel’s backstory caused a bit of a wrinkle in the show’s timeline. One fan tweeted me trying to reconcile why Castiel nearly blew out Dean’s eardrums after Dean’s resurrection from Hell. At the time, Cas gave the excuse that it had been too long since he had talked with people but it appears Cas had taken a human vessel just 100 years ago. Other fans were bothered by the claim that angels hadn’t been on earth in a millennia yet Cas was a women in 1901. I’m content that this was adequately covered in the conversation between Cas and Sam:
Cas: Before the Apocalypse, angels…rarely came to Earth.
Sam: Yeah, basically never, right?
Cas: Right, except this once.
Personally, I don’t get too distracted by canon tangents so this was enough reconciliation with past episodes for me. Rather than being bothered by conflicting details, the angels’ stories pulled me into the show and kept it interesting for me. There were so many new references to angel power and so many new facets to ponder!
First, Benjamin was allowed to recite a very elaborate angel prayer before his death, one which Cas referenced later:
Castiel: Another angel. An old friend. He called out for help.
Dean: Good old reliable angel radio.
Castiel: He was begging for help and then he just stopped.
An angel’s identity and relationship to its vessel were also emphasized, and the bond between an angel and his vessel seemed to take on new importance
Sam: So Benjamin’s a woman?
Cas: Benjamin is an angel. His vessel is a woman… But it’s more than that. She’s not just his vessel.
Sam: She’s his friend.
Cas: Yeah. Benjamin would never put her in unnecessary danger.
Castiel was also able to identify that the blade on the bar's floor didn’t belong to Benjamin. They all look the same to me! Was he able to see something unique or can he sense the owner of the blade by residual energy or something?
Dean: Looks like we had a little angel-on-angel action.
Cas: This isn’t Benjamin’s blade.
Curiously, this double angel phrasing was repeated later by Ishim when he was taunting Castiel:
He was an angel’s angel.
The specific duplicate wording lends validity to my theory that an angel will end up protecting another angel in the long run, i.e. Lily or Castiel protecting the Nephilim.
Lily was also able to recite some kind of prayer that located Castiel. An angel divining prayer? That’s new! After twelve years, it’s exciting that the inhabitants and rules that govern the Supernatural universe are still being defined!
Dean: Billie said there would be cosmic consequences if that deal got broken. You have any idea what that means?
Dean: Neither do I.
Akabel was summarily executed as a supposed just punishment for a crime when the angel firing squad delivered corporal punishment for breaking angels’ rules.
Marabel: Nephilim are forbidden by the oldest laws in Heaven.
Benjamin: We jumped down here for a kid?
Cas: Nephilim grow up. They grow into their power and then –
Marabel: Entire worlds die.
Ishim: So we’ve come to set things right.
Significantly, the angels didn’t allow the accused a chance to plea his innocence or explain the situation. Lily similarly carried out her sentence of death on the executioners without letting them speak or explain. There wasn’t common understanding until Sam and Dean intervened:
Sam: Listen, it’s not Cas’ fault that heaven has these crazy rules about Nephilim. Your daughter.
Lily: You think…?
This seems to foreshadow that the “consequences” of Castiel breaking a blood oath will be equally unsympathetic and relentless. I have a theory (unsubstantiated for the moment) that the Nephilim will be able to counteract, or defend, the world against such consequences. It may turn out that Team Free Will needs the Nephilim because it will take something of cosmic power to defend humans from cosmic consequences. What do you think?
Smart vs. Stupid, Right vs. Wrong
“Lily Sunder” again explored whether good intended actions are smart or stupid. When Dean was sniping at Cas for his actions, Dean said he would go along on the road trip only because,
Gotta make sure you don’t do anything else stupid.
Cas threw this back up to Dean when they arrived at the diner:
If I plan to do anything else stupid, I’ll let you know.
Doing the right thing, which we explored as a thread in “First Blood”(and prior episodes), was also studied again. Ishim and Cas’ dialogs were filled with a sub-textual debate of right and wrong:
Castiel: I’m not a hero but sometimes doing the right thing requires sacrifices.
Ishim: True, but it just always seems that it’s other angels sacrificing for your good deeds.
Cas: We completed a mission.
Dean: Some mission.
Cas: It was horrific but it was necessary. It was right…
Ishim: Castiels right. It won’t work.
Sam: We have to try.
Dean: He’s right, and we’re not askin’.
When it was all over, Cas said to Lily,
I’m sorry. I was wrong.
Once he knew he played a part in murdering an innocent, Cas’ assumption of righteousness was reversed and he offered to accept the consequences of his mistake. There is so much potential for foreshadowing in this story! Perhaps Cas will again throw himself on the mercy of his executioner when the cosmic consequences are known? Dean later referred to how long Cas had been fighting with them. Do you think the show would really kill off Cas?
The Abuse of Power
Wednesday and I have both been tracking references to power – abusing power, coming into power, being powerless. I’ve been relating it to parenting while Wednesday has observed power lines, cutting the power to a building, living without electrical power, etc. In this episode, Lily and Ishim were locked in a century- long power struggle. When he killed her daughter, he gloated,
You are powerless to do anything. You. Are. Powerless.
More than a hundred years later, she remembered that feeling of being unable to stop him, and the words that mocked her inferiority. She took great pleasure in finally being able to tell Ishim,
You can’t smite me Ishim. I’m not powerless anymore.
Castiel’s power was also explored. His righteousness was morally weakened when he served under Ishim. Centuries later, this parasitical relationship was physically manifested by Castiel becoming weak after healing, i.e. giving his strength, to Ishim. In mock gratitude, Ishim told Castiel to stop whining about being weak. He later accused Castiel of being “pathetically weak” and then threatened to cure Castiel’s “human weakness”. This exchange reminded me of a wise distinction I heard recently. The meek will inherit the earth – but being meek is not the same as being weak. Sometimes it takes more strength to be meek and peaceful than forceful and aggressive. Castiel showed this strength when he reproached Dean for getting his dander up:
The angels I served with are being killed so I will put up with Ishim, I will put up with everything else… and so will you.
When it was all over, Dean and Sam narrated the lesson for us:
Dean: You’re not weak, Cas. You know that, right?
Sam: I mean, obviously, you’ve changed, but it’s all been for the better man.
Dean: You have been with us every step of this long, crazy thrill ride and no matter how crazy it got, you never back down.
Sam: and that takes real strength.
Cas: Thank you.
Dean: Cas, I don’t like how the whole Billie thing went down. Okay? I know you think you were doing the right thing…. What are you gonna do if you find Kelly and Lucifer Jr? It is a nephilim, right?
Cas: Oh, no. It’s more than that. An ordinary Nephilim is one of the most dangerous beings in all of creation but one that’s fathered by an archangel, the devil himself? I can’t imagine the power.
Sam: bus Cas, at the end of the day, it’s a mom and her kid.
Growing up or Growing Old?
I’ve highlighted several conversations that emphasized being old. In addition to those mentioned already (and below), there were others:
Cas: Kept your vessels all this time. I’m impressed.
Marabel: We are not careless.
Ishim: But you, Castiel – I liked the old you better. [then later] No wings, no home. Just a ratty old coat and a pair of poorly trained monkeys So nice to see you old friend.
In trying to wrap his head around what was happening, Sam said
She’s gotta be what, 100 years old?
Castiel: No. More.
This may have been simply a reinforcement of the length of Lily’s timeline, or it may have deeper meaning, such as referring to the new generation of hunters we’ve seen this season. What do you think? We’ll keep watching for this thread.
Humans vs. Animals
Ishim repeatedly referred to people as monkeys, primates, apes, simians and filthy animals so we have more than a simple token animal reference in the episode!
It was punctuated by Akabel’s conviction:
Humans aren’t animals. Most of them are good and true and… How could anyone know them and not love them?
I find it interesting that this ‘sub-thread’ is ever present. Maybe I’ve got it reversed. It’s an over-arching thread of the entire series so maybe its inclusion is for the “moral of the story” reasons. Time will tell.
All of the players from the 1901 drama were reunited in this episode. It wasn’t a particularly happy reunion, nor one that everyone survived. The same happened in “Asa Fox” (the wake). Do you think tragic reunions foreshadow something for Mary, Sam and Dean? Maybe Castiel? He did say he would sacrifice his life if necessary.
The entire premise of the “Lily Sunder” story was the secret that Ishim kept from his squad for over a century. Castiel also wanted to keep his business with Benjamin and Ishim a secret, calling it personal, but his friend Sam wouldn’t let him bear that burden alone. Sam was also the voice of Mary’s secrets, as she continues to keep her sons at a distance:
Sam: Mom’s good [a double meaning about her skills as a hunter].
Dean: I just think she jumped back into this a little quick, don’t you?
Sam: I don’t think we have the kind of mom who’s gonna stay home and make us chicken soup for dinner, you know?
There is a deep secret hidden in Supernatural’s twelfth season. Lily herself admitted it when she said, ‘Patience is a talent”. A meta message to fans? Something is coming our way. I’m sure of it.
- Why did the opening sequence spend SO much time on that video game? I kept trying to find significance in the animal tearing down buildings. It was a nearly a minute of our precious 42 minutes of story. I enjoyed the Space Invaders images on the bar as that was a game I personally spent hours playing. Loved that game! I have to admit ignorance on the name and importance of the wolf-thing game, though. Maybe the game was just a backdrop for Lily’s dialog:
Lily: You’re too old for video games… everyone deserves a turn”.
Again, a reference to age. Plus, a turn at what? Parenting? Redemption? Then why stare at the darn game for so long? Some of you will say pacing. Maybe. It’s worth some discussion.
- Wednesday’s “First Blood” review highlighted the theme of appreciation and gratefulness. This episode repeated that thread, specifically in Dean saying he was grateful for Castiel caring about them, and Castiel complaining about Dean not being appreciative. Since I didn’t detect that theme, I’m going to let Wednesday continue its exploration, or feel free to speculate about its meaning in the comments.
- In addition to Lily’s comment about burning out her soul, Dean also kindled the Burning/Branding thread when he said, “We burn that bridge when we come to it.” Interesting choice of words, don’t you think? Lucifer…
- The insanity thread was reprised in Ishim’s obsession with Lily. I’m really curious where this is leading.
I’ve probably asked way too many questions and given you way too much to consider, but thank Steve Yockey for the detail in his writing! The plot may not have been particularly intricate but as we’ve seen in prior years, the simplest hunts provide the most clues to the season’s arc. Let’s work together to unravel its secrets!
Dialog confirmed with http://transcripts.foreverdreaming.org/
Screencaps courtesy of www.homeofthenutty.com/