Yeah, thanks Mr. Edlund. You went and did it again. My stomach is tore up in knots, Sam is left burning in Hell (mentally), and I'm stuck with that crushing vision in my head of his subtle yet tragic breakdown until March 16th. Yeah, thanks a lot.
Oh, I know better. This means that Ben is awesome at his job. At Comic Con last year when I interviewed The Vampire Diaries Executive Producer Kevin Williamson, he shared a little showrunner's trade secret when planning for breaks in the writer's room. "When you think about each episode to 22 it's so overwhelming. We try to do tent poles. Here it is and this is going to happen. And then we look at the schedule and see when the breaks are. The network tells you where you have hiatus for four weeks, so we go, â€˜Well, maybe we should do that there," so then everyone is hanging for 4 weeks. We like to torture our audiences as much as we torture our characters. It's fun."
Yeah, really fun. At least we went into the break with a bang. Aside from the fact that I'm a quivering mess for dear Sammy (Mark Pellegrino is the best damned Lucifer ever), there's no doubt that we were treated to an old school, intense creep fest that can only be pulled off by so few on the "Supernatural" writing team these days. If anyone is up to the task, it's the creative genius himself. Edlund does funny better than anyone, and he does bone-chilling-mess-with-your-head better than anyone. No matter what the theme he's all about the extremes. We're all about getting absorbed in every minute of it.
This episode has many layered themes and references, all perfectly woven in a fluid story that blurs lines between what is truly evil and what is truly good. It starts by exploring a concept that we've often wondered about, but have never truly seen. What happens to these victims after they're possessed? It has been eluded to in the past, Bobby's comment in "The Magnificent Seven" coming to mind, that a lifetime worth of psychiatry bills is what's in store for these people.
Turns out we that Jeffrey isn't the only possession victim who's psyche we get a vivid look at in "Repo Man." Sam too is struggling with his time being possessed by Lucifer. Far more than we ever realized. His noggin hasn't been good after all and he's much closer to the edge than anyone imagined. So the unraveling begins.
Part of Ben Edlund's legacy in Supernatural is that he loves to take demon stories and twist them around. It was him that came up with the standard that all demons were human once and years in Hell burned away their humanity (and I laugh how Sera Gamble recently mentioned in an interview how they've constantly had to work around that). It was he that promoted the idea of Lucifer as a sympathetic angel, someone who loved his father and saw himself an innocent victim of betrayal ("Now, tell me, does the punishment fit the crime, especially when I was right?" "Look what six billion of you have done to this thing and how many of you blame me for it?"). Edlund also came up with the hilarious new version of Hell, waiting in line for eternity.
Now for the latest twist. Some demons exist to be talent scouts, possessing evil bastards for the sake of recruitment. They want to help potential serial killers be real serial killers. "Looking for the next generation of superstars, before they get to Hell." It's funny, that's the one thing I would have assumed demons do before seeing this show. I'm shocked this hasn't been shown before now.
Turns out when Jeffrey was possessed those four years ago, he was a serial killer wannabe. This demon came along and taught him to put away those doubts and be all he could be. Jeffrey was a star pupil with one damaging side effect. He craved that demon inside of him. He missed that power, that bond, that pure evil. So he dealt with the loss by becoming a drunk and suicidal. Then, he pulled it all together. Turns out those halfway house programs are not only good at helping decent folk get back on track, but it works for evil bastards as well! He saw the light, it was time to get his demon back.
Since this episode is all about parallels, Jeffrey's story sounds a bit like Sam's after Dean's death, don't you think? After hitting his low, his new found mission involved embracing his dark side for achieving a greater purpose. He ended up doing more damage than Jeffrey, albeit unintentional. That is one blurry line. Good intentions or not, the results are the same.
The thing about Jeffrey that struck me was evil or not, he allowed Sam and Dean to beat him senseless four years ago so they could get info from the demon about Lilith's whereabouts, or at least who her lieutenants were. That could have been the demon telling him so, make the world think we was a stand up guy so he could go on with killing innocents, but the damage was pretty extensive physically. It was a very brutal and vicious beating. "When you left me at the ER, I had three smashed fingers, five teeth out, a broken wrist, nose, cheekbone, collarbone. I had to get 160 stitches, mugged. The doctor on duty said it looked like I got caught in the Spanish Inquisition."
That seems more savage than an average beating, don't you think? It was almost if Jeffrey liked it or something. He certainly understood why it had to be done. "I watched you torture an innocent man to get at a demon. Pretty charge situation, revealing, you guys talked about a lot of stuff, showed a lot of character. God, you were so desperate to fix the world back then. It kills you that people kept getting hurt and you just can't stop it, or I should say it's killed you, shouldn't I?" So at the time he knew what they were trying to do, and also knew it was futile. In a sense, he was probably humoring them. It's what demons would do.
Jeffrey's story ended with the cautionary tale that happens with every demon story. Never trust a demon. It's not like he was going to be greeted with warm fuzzies and happily ever after. He was told he was on his own, but could do all those terrible things he wanted with his own abilities. "All I had to do was loosen the lid on his jar, show him some practical know-how." Yeah, tell that to Dean Winchester with a gun.
I do believe I'm stating the obvious by saying Sam Winchester has faced a lot of crap in his life. To think, his sweet moment of death at the end of season two was probably the best thing that ever happened to him.
Considering how more involved I am with Sam's character than the victim of the week, watching his struggle this week tore me to shreds. It's very tragic, but it always has been in Sam's case. We've suspected for a long time that he has been teetering on an edge, but we really had no idea how close until we finally got to see what he sees. Lucifer is there all the time. This was hinted by Sam's leviathan doppleganger in "Slash Fiction" but man, it's really that bad if not worse. Sam sends him away with one press of his scarred hand, but it doesn't last long. If this was Sam's band aid, the sucker is worn and ready to fall off.
The torment is quite maddening. Lucifer constantly there, begging for attention, waiting for just the right seemingly innocent moment to work his way back in to Sam's psyche. There's no way Sam could have ignored him forever. The truly heart crushing part is that Lucifer didn't have to try hard to get Sam to let him back in. He was patient and found his way through Sam's devotion to Dean. He provided Sam with quick answers, ones that Sam could have eventually figured out on his own. When Dean's in danger though, there's an urgency. There's a panic that sets in and focusing on the solution doesn't happen so easily. So when Lucifer has the easy answer, well, how many stories does the Bible have of people being tempted by The Devil? He wasn't offering world domination back then either. Just an apple. Something simple and seemingly harmless, but the consequences are oh so severe.
In Sam's case, he's losing his greatest gift, his mind. At least Dean did Jeffrey a favor and put some bullets through him. Now that Lucifer has found his way in, its the cage all over again. Sam might be able to resist the burning, withstand the physical pain, but Lucifer is the master of messing with the mind. He's all about breaking and crushing souls, not owning them. He's going with one of the most extreme ways of torture imaginable, he won't let Sam sleep. Sam's mind is already fragile, once the never ending, 24/7 barrage of fear and pain resumes again, Sam will be lost. It's really heart breaking to think about it. He cannot be saved from this.
What makes Sam's story even more tragic is that it's good intentions again that are sinking him. He did it all for Dean. He's been coasting on fumes, hanging in there for Dean on a wing and a prayer ever since he fought his way out of the coma in "The Man Who Knew Too Much." It's the only thing that's been fueling his drive. He's lost Castiel, the Impala, Bobby, they're on the run from Leviathans and have to constantly watch their backs, yet as long as Dean is there, he's okay. While he knows Dean is his weakness, he also knows Dean is his strength. His stone number one. The problem is, stone number one has been sitting on sinking sand for some time. As Sam has also learned in his young doleful life, everything eventually catches up with him.
Going back to "No Rest For The Wicked," which is right around the time that the beginning flashback happened (see sweetondean's review for logic, I back everything she said 100 percent). Dean had it right then, and it still applies now. "Don't you see a pattern here? Dad's deal, my deal, now this? I mean every time one of us is up the creek the other is begging to sell their soul. That's all this is, man. Ruby's just jerking your chain down the road. You know what it's paved with and you know where it's going."
Insert "Lucifer" now instead of "Ruby." The demons get higher, the patterns remain the same. If Sam was told up front that he would be sacrificing his sanity for Dean's welfare, he still would have done it. Demons know how to play him. They always have.
It's Sam's dishonesty with Dean though has sealed his undoing. Deception burned Sam in season four and does so again now. It's no accident that Dean's comments about psychopathic behavior hit a little too close to Sam's situation. "That's what they do, all the time is act, act like they're normal, not balls-to-the-walls crazy." Sam has gone to great lengths in his life to appear normal and strong, but he pushed his luck too far this time. He put up with Lucifer all that time and was lulled into a false sense of control instead of dealing with the very not normal warning signs. He didn't want to believe he would lose control. This is again reminiscent of him being tricked by Ruby in season four. "I won't let it get too far." It's Sam rationalizing that all his crazy is under one umbrella to Bobby, so he's okay. Crazy is crazy, no matter what. He ended up fooling himself and Dean as well. Now they both are about to get hurt.
I understand why Sam did that though. He thought he was sparing Dean and had the best intentions, but he's gotten so good at hiding everything now it's too late to send out the distress call. He's gone past the breaking point. There's nothing he or Dean can do to fix this. Dean has to now go through the very painful and shocking process of watching his brother lose it all and hope that he isn't lost forever. If they're that lucky, time after that will be needed to rebuild.
On a side note, the flames in Sam's eyes at the end took me back to the one other time we've seen that, "Mannequin 3: The Reckoning." When he came back to Dean in that episode from his Hell flashback, the flames were in his eyes before going out. What does this mean? The easy explanation, Sam is in Hell in his mind. Or is it another clue? Yeah, I'll layoff the clues this review. Except I'm backing the theory that Ghost!Bobby put that devil's trap up in the warehouse.
You know what's scarier than what Sam's about to experience? What's going to happen to poor Dean in the process. He really doesn't know what's coming. He thinks that Sam has experienced some miracle cure. We know that from his conversation with the waitress in "Season 7: Time For A Wedding." We know Dean takes losses very hard and is already deeply suffering over what happened recently with Bobby and Castiel, not to mention the Impala. Losing Sam, especially to something other than death could be a blow he cannot take.
What adds insult to injury, Dean has never taken deception well. He's going to have to swallow all that resentment for the sake of his brother. Dean's role is extremely crucial. Once Sam shatters, Dean has to be there to help pick up the pieces. No one else in this universe will be able to do that, not even Sam. I'm sure he'll manage in the short term, but how will that affect him in the future? Will this again shatter his trust in Sam, make him wonder if he is watching a time bomb? Will this fuel his quest for revenge with Dick Roman out of nothing more than sheer frustration? There's a remainder of the season to answer that and probably the next one too.
That does reveal another interesting parallel and/or foreshadowing between what Dean and Sam did to Jeffrey four years ago and what's happening with Dean's quest against Dick Roman now. There is only one time frame when Sam and Dean were committing such extreme acts of torturing innocents to get info from a demon. Right around "Time is On My Side." Times were desperate indeed. The bill was coming due. After Dean went to Hell, finding Lilith became Sam's hellbent revenge obsession. That kind of didn't go well. Interesting, that's where Dean is right now with Dick Roman. There's no new info, and he's on the brink. Sam's calamity might be all it takes to get him fired up again.
What I want to know is just like before, what are they planning on doing when they catch up to the big bad? Lillith couldn't be killed, not until Sam developed his power anyway. Dick Roman can't be killed. This makes Dean's motives murky at best, just like with Jeffrey four years ago. His acts stray more in the personal revenge territory than saving the world. What lines will he cross? Will he be able to do this with his head on straight?
I do like how Dean felt some guilt over Jeffrey and cut him some slack, even if it ended up being the wrong move. It was human. He was probably remembering what happened since their first encounter. After all, Dean did die and for the wrong reasons. It got him nowhere except grievous torture in Hell. He innocently broke the first seal. Sam ended up trusting Ruby, using his powers, and in turn unleashing Lucifer. Dean watched Sam get possessed by Lucifer to save the world and go down to the cage in Hell, only to come back soulless. Getting that soul back came at a high price, a wall holding back all those memories. Which came down. Now Lucifer is tormenting Sam in his mind. Sam has started to crumble. And that could end up fueling Dean's revenge on the latest monster that's ready to do in the world. It's all kind of full circle, isn't it?
So, did I tell you this was a pretty layered story or what? It's quite mind bending all the rabbit holes this episode has burrowed for us. Whether it's by Mr. Edlund's design or a happy accident I don't know, but it works. I didn't even get to mention in this review so many other wonderful things like Nora's contribution to this story, who also parallels with Sam. She uses her knowledge for good, white magic only, yet when it came to the safety of her son, she offered up the dark stuff. She did find redemption though when she was able to save her son. At what cost though? As we've learned, people don't come back from demon possession normal.
I also didn't get a chance to rave about that library scene. I'm not a huge maven of horror stories (aka I've never read Stephen King) but that reminded me a lot of Jacob's Ladder. Totally freaked me out. Poor Sam, he had to really fight hard to send those images in his head away. These types of hallucinations can now only get worse. It's very scary.
My grade is an instant A, easily the most complex script of the season so far and the most nerve shattering. Coming up in a month, Sam goes bat shit crazy. After seeing all he's been through in seven seasons, don't you think it's about time? We can only hope that he comes out the other end better for it. And with his brother by his side.