8.10 Torn And Frayed: I Can't Enjoy A World I Need To Save

Who controls angels?
Crowley and Naomi both
Tamper with base code.

Commentary And Meta Analysis

Torn and frayed pretty well described all of our heroes by the end of this episode. But despite being torn and frayed, a blanket can still keep you warm, and the way this episode ended, with the Winchesters deliberately reunited by their own conscious choice, it offered us a warmth and hope we've long been missing. I loved this episode and look forward to where the story will take us from here.

In this commentary, I'm going to look at angel source code, tablets, and what's happening in Heaven; Sam and Dean's choices and relationships; and Benny's struggle with addiction.

You, Celestial Being, Have Been Created To Be An Angel Of The Lord

This episode raised some fascinating questions: just who is controlling angels, and to what end, and who – or what – is Naomi? Samandriel was terrified and refused when Castiel announced he'd be taken back to Heaven. Having realized through Crowley's torture that he'd been programmed with secrets he hadn't consciously known he had, including his core angelic programming to obey and the existence of a tablet on angels, Samandriel also realized something else: “Heaven. Naomi. I've been there. I know. They're controlling us, Castiel!”

When angels were first introduced in season four, the show established them immediately as a very different creation from humans. Being disaffected, Anna was an unreliable narrator, but many of the things she said in Heaven And Hell correlated with things we later learned from Castiel, Zachariah, Sebastian, Gabriel, Michael, Raphael, and Lucifer. Anna's central precept was that angels were purpose-built and rigidly programmed to obey God, and Crowley and Viggo tapping into Samandriel's base code appear to have discovered just that. In her bitterness, Anna presented angels almost as brainwashed slaves, saying the price for disobedience was death. She also claimed that angels lacked emotion, the ability to feel, and were expected to have the perfection of stone.

I never accepted all of Anna's statements as true because if they were, she never would have been able to make them. I never disputed that angels were designed and structured to obey, and that, lacking human bodies, they wouldn't be equipped to experience emotions the way we feel them. Both Lucifer's disobedience and Anna's own rebellion, however, demonstrated that angels weren't automatons and had the capacity both to choose for themselves and to feel strongly enough to go against orders. Basically, while they were built for obedience, they also had the capacity to learn, and based on that learning, to adapt their behavior; they may have been pre-programmed, but they also had the ability to modify their own code.

Castiel demonstrated this beautifully through all the time we've known him. Lacking real human contact until he was the one soldier from the garrison to lay hands on Dean and rescue him from Hell, we saw him initially as a pure angel, distant from strong emotion, steadfast in his devotion to God, and unquestioningly obedient to orders from his superiors in Heaven. As time went on and the orders he was getting departed from his understanding of what God would truly desire, however, he began to doubt and question, as we saw in It's The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester. Primed by Anna in On The Head Of A Pin to question whether his orders were really coming from God, he uncovered Uriel's treachery and the plot by a faction in Heaven to free Lucifer. Captured and severely disciplined by his superiors in The Rapture, he toed the party line again, but Dean – having learned the truth behind the angels' machinations from Zachariah – was able to persuade him in Lucifer Rising to disobey orders and try to foil Zachariah's plot. Destroyed by Raphael and seemingly resurrected by God in Sympathy For The Devil, he continued steadfast in his faith in God even as he worked to block Zachariah's schemes and end the apocalypse, until he learned in Dark Side Of The Moon that God didn't intend to intervene. From that moment, he abandoned faith and simply tried as best he could to do what he thought was right, what he thought he needed to do first to end the apocalypse and then to restore order in Heaven. He made a lot of wrong choices, but my point is that he was free to make them; he transcended his basic programming and completed his evolution into a self-willed, self-directed being, until he made the mistake of taking the Leviathan into himself and lost control to them.

The Castiel we've seen since his return from Purgatory is a different kettle of fish. We learned very quickly in A Little Slice Of Kevin that he was being controlled by Naomi, who selectively blocked his memories of how he got out of Purgatory as well as any conscious knowledge that he was acting under her orders and reporting to her everything that he learned on Earth. That was an experience totally different from his earlier interactions with Heaven when Zachariah and his faction were admittedly lying to the majority of angel underlings – like Castiel – about their purpose being to prevent the Seals from being broken, deceiving them to keep them in line. Whatever form Castiel's punishment for disobedience took after he slyly revealed how Dean could use Chuck and Heaven's mandate to protect prophets to save Sam from Lilith in The Monster At The End Of This Book, he clearly recalled it in The Rapture, When The Levee Breaks, and Lucifer Rising, but he has had no accessible memories of Naomi here until now. Zachariah used deception, punishment, and the angels' ingrained obedience to authority to achieve his goals, but he clearly couldn't control individual angels as Naomi has been puppeting Castiel; he'd have done it if he could have, and things would have turned out very differently.

As he got close enough to feel Samandriel's torment, Castiel experienced flashes of similar torture of his own at the hands of Naomi. When he escaped with Samandriel, he began to question her purpose and finally asked, “Who is controlling us? Why did I see your face? Why was I so afraid? What did you do to me?” Naomi forced him to parrot her lies to Sam and Dean, but the strain between her control and his attempt to resist caused him to bleed from one eye. That eye was where he'd seemingly remembered her inserting a probe similar to what Crowley had done to Samandriel – but where Crowley and Viggo's actions had been exploratory, Naomi's had been focused and knowledgeable. Naomi knew precisely how to access Castiel's source code and alter his programming at a level below his conscious awareness, corrupting his memory and seizing control of his consciousness, being able to yank him into her office at will and banish him with equal ease. Zachariah had no such power over him, so I think Naomi is operating from an entirely different power and knowledge base than any we've seen before.

And if Naomi did this to Castiel, why wouldn't she have done it to others, especially any who might have questioned or challenged her power? Samandriel's words suggest to me that during Crowley's torture, he may have recalled Naomi doing essentially the same thing to him well before Crowley captured him.

We only have Naomi's word that she was behind Castiel's rescue from Purgatory. Since he can't remember how he escaped, she may have had nothing to do with it at all, and simply be taking advantage of whatever caused his release while blocking his memory of the truth. If she did go to the trouble of retrieving him, the next question is why. He has a unique relationship with the Winchesters, who would be unlikely to trust any other angel, but would that be enough to warrant the cost of a rescue? If not, what else is going on? Castiel is unique among angels in his own right – that's a whole additional meta currently in progress – and perhaps Naomi wants to control that angelic wild card; all we can do is wait and see.

Finally, Naomi wasn't surprised by the existence of an angel tablet. I think she already knew about it and also knew that information on the tablet lay buried in the mind of every angel, just waiting to be triggered by the appropriate programmed stimulus when the angel would need to be aware, similar to the way Castiel said every angel instinctively knew the name of every prophet. I think the fear Crowley might have been able to break Samandriel enough to learn of it was what lay behind her tasking Castiel with the rescue mission in the first place. Not wanting awareness of the tablet – or of her control of other angels – to spread might be why she chose to send only Castiel, her carefully programmed puppet, instead of a battle force of angels.

Metatron's personal farewell note on the demon tablet – evidently the last of the tablets written – said, “So ends the transcription of the sacred Word for the defense of mankind. Into the hands of God's children thus passes the compendium of tablets.” Both angels and humans have been called children of God, but Castiel said in Reading Is Fundamental that angels couldn't read the tablets because the Word wasn't meant for them. Considering the threat angels could pose to humans – something demonstrated vividly by Lucifer's creation of demons out of human souls, and later by Zachariah's manipulations – I was fully expecting to learn about an angel tablet to match the Leviathan and demon ones. I think there might also be a tablet on Death and Reapers. By his own account, Death has been around at least as long as God. Since humans are designed to die and have their souls conveyed by Reapers, however, defenses against them may not have been in God's plan – but then again, there was lore on how to bind Death and Reapers, as we saw in Meet The New Boss, Death Takes A Holiday, and Faith, and that could have originated in a tablet as a protection against power running amok. I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn there's also a human tablet, since we're often out greatest threat to ourselves, and I would expect that one to contain information on ghosts as well, since ghosts are simply human souls. I wonder whether there are tablets for the monsters created from human stock by Eve, but that would depend on when the tablets were created. If they were done in chronological order, all the monsters Eve designed – vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and more – might not have tablets simply because they were of more recent origin than demons, and weren't designs created by God.

I suspect all the effective lore hunters have on demons and angels came originally from the tablets, filtered through the programmed minds of prophets as specific bits and pieces of information became essential to the survival of humanity. Such intricate defenses as the protective circles and devil's traps contained in the Key of Solomon Bobby gave Sam back in Devil's Trap couldn't have come from trial and error development; they're too complex, too precise, too specifically detailed. Similarly, the contents of hex bags that could guard against location by both demons and angels suggest specific inspiration rather than repeated random attempts, and the sigils to banish, weaken, or exclude angels were not things someone could stumble over through experimentation, since the first failure would probably have led to the termination of the experimenter and the destruction of his or her documentation.

I wouldn't be surprised to learn Naomi either has the angel tablet or has seen ancient prophetic transcriptons of parts of it, and the information on it includes the instructions on how to access an angel's core programming. As we saw from all the pieces Kevin was quoting to Crowley in A Little Slice Of Kevin, the demon tablet appeared to cover every aspect of demons; back in We Need To Talk About Kevin, he said as much to the Winchesters. The leviathan and angel ones are doubtless at least as thorough. And since the only time humans would encounter angels in survivable circumstances would be when the angel was within a human vessel – given that sight of an angel's true form would, at the very least, burn out a person's eyes, and might destroy them entirely – any instructions intended for humans on accessing angelic core data would have been supplied in terms of how to reach an angel through its vessel. That's what we saw in Castiel's memory of Naomi approaching his eye with a probe. Unless the vision was metaphorical, driven by Castiel's mind being within the vessel of Jimmy and thus perceiving things in human terms, it suggests Naomi did exactly the same thing as Viggo and Crowley: attack an angel through the points where its mind connected with that of its human vessel. And where would she have learned that – something Zachariah and his faction obviously didn't know – except from the angel tablet? The only other sources that come readily to mind are Death and Leviathan, who both predated angels, saw their creation, and thus were in a position to understand things about angelic structure that even the angels themselves didn't know, but neither of them have been inclined to share information.

I sometimes wonder whether Naomi is an angel at all. Her pristine office may or may not be in Heaven; that all depends on who and what she is, if she isn't an angel, or if she is an angel, who may be pulling her strings now or might threaten to pull them later if they gained access to the information encrypted in the angel tablet. I look forward to finding out. And I can't wait to see the brothers' reaction when they learn about the angel tablet – because as of the end of the episode, they still didn't know, since Castiel didn't tell them and Dean killed Viggo before he could spill the beans.

I'm Just Tired Of All The Fighting

Dean won my award for the most truthful sentence this week when he uttered the tagline for this section of my commentary. His vulnerabilty and honesty in that moment, admitting his fatigue and the jealousy that underlaid his anger but being willing to let Sam go to take a chance on happiness without recrimination or guilt, were the final ingredients necessary to get both of the brothers not simply talking at each other, but actually hearing each other. The end of this episode was the most hopeful thing I've seen this season. The brothers stayed together of their own choice, having finally aired their issues for once without defensiveness or accusation on either side. Dean opened the beers, Sam brought in the chili bowls, and they sat to watch boxing on television while eating with no need for words, sitting in a familiar silence that wasn't uncomfortable or strained, even if it wasn't yet happy. And for that moment, neither of them was hunting or absorbed in duty; they were simply together, united.

The divisions between the brothers still exist and will inevitably resurface. I've discussed those differences before, most recently in my Supernatural University meta “Being Your Brother's Keeper,” written just before this episode aired, and they will always exist. There are still things that haven't been fully resolved – for example, I think Sam's opposition to Benny was driven primarily by his resentment that Dean demanded trust and made an exception for Benny when he refused to accord Sam the same trust for Amy in The Girl Next Door – and will definitely come up again, but I think there will be much less rancor when they do.

The episode started with both brothers still seeing only their own positions. The first crack came when Dean realized he really hadn't thought about the impact his dummy text would have on Sam. He'd seen it simply as the only strategy he had to keep Sam from killing Benny, never considering the soul-deep fear it would cause given Sam's history of relationship loss. He admitted he'd been wrong, but Sam was still too angry for any forgiveness, throwing at Dean the same argument Dean had used with him concerning Amy – that it wasn't a matter of trusting a brother, but of not being able to trust the monster the brother was making the mistake of trusting. Dean reacted with the same anger, as defensive of Benny as Sam had been of Amy, and the door slammed shut between them again. Having been rebuffed, Dean flatly refused to have Castiel bring Sam back to help.

For Sam's part, Amelia's visit just demonstrated that nothing had changed his reasons for having left in the first place. Almost her first words were that she had been settled in with Don, even content, until he reappeared; Sam's presence just confused things. She had moved on while he hadn't. They fell into bed again, but Sam's first reaction afterward had no happiness to it; only the sense that while the sex was great, it was also a mistake.

Amelia's reaction finally sealed my judgment on the character. Up until now, I've been ambivalent. I would have preferred a relationship with a strong woman who could have been a match for Sam – someone like Sarah from Provenance, for example, or like Dean's Lisa – but I understood that it was precisely Amelia's need that helped draw Sam out of his own spiral of emptiness and loss after Dean's disappearance and presumed death. Alone and lost, Sam needed to be needed in order to come back to himself, and Amelia and Riot the dog, both injured things requiring help and care, provided exactly that.

This time, however, Amelia in her weakness of character put the entire onus of choice squarely on Sam's shoulders alone, and that proved to me they could never have made it work. The killer line for me was this: “I'm telling you that if you stay, against everything I believe in, I would be with you.” That was poison. When they agreed to use a potential meeting two days later as their decision point, I knew Amelia would show up; she'd already said she couldn't resist what he offered even though she didn't want to hurt the husband who loved her and believed choosing Sam would be wrong. Abdicating her own responsibility for choice that way would simply have led to her later blaming Sam for anything about their lives that didn't turn out well; she would always have harked back to the moment he “made” her violate her own beliefs to go with him instead.

The other thing that showed Sam's relationship with Amelia was doomed was his absolute refusal to tell her the truth about his own life. Admittedly, anyone who hadn't been exposed to the supernatural directly would likely have believed Sam was nuts, but no human relationship could survive such blatant secrecy and dissimulation. It's one thing to know your husband works in security and can't share some of his knowledge with you; it's another thing entirely to be denied knowing anything about his past, who he is, and what he's done.

I suspect that when Castiel abruptly appeared, Sam already knew – even if he hadn't admitted it to himself – that leaving Amelia was his only right choice. Castiel called on him for a rescue mission, which would have made it virtually impossible for Sam to refuse. He and Dean partnered on the assignment as well as ever, despite both of them still resenting each other, and finished the mission with even bigger questions and concerns about Castiel to draw them closer together.

And in that moment, tired of always being at odds, Dean dropped his anger and all his defenses, and set Sam free. He opened the door for Sam to choose a different life if he wanted to with no accusation and no blame, concluding that at least one of them could be happy. He cautioned that if Sam chose to stay, he needed to be in all the way, observing that trying to have a foot in both worlds is what got you dead. He made no promises – in particular, he said nothing about Benny, not addressing Sam's ultimatum in Texas at all – just leaving the decision up to Sam. Sam went for a walk. Not knowing Sam's decision, Dean nonetheless called Benny and reluctantly severed ties, applying to himself as a hunter the same condition he had ordered for Sam: both feet in, or both feet out. He chose Sam.

And Sam, back from his walk, chose Dean.

If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you … it's your family.

One Day At A Time, Man

Benny, experiencing the vampire blood-hunger again at full intensity after decades without it in Purgtory, displayed all the classic signs of an addict desperate for help to avoid falling back into his addiction. His phone calls to Dean were a perfect match for an alcoholic calling his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, begging for support. When Dean regretfully cut him off, choosing peace with Sam and both feet fully in the hunter world over his friendship with Benny, the vampire was left to his own devices. I'm confident we will see him again, and I'm looking forward to it.

When we do see him, however, I'm hoping it won't be in the anticipated, cliched storyline of Benny having inevitably fallen from grace and Dean being obligated to hunt and kill him, or to see him killed by Sam with the resulting brother fallout that would cause. I hope Benny's story will continue instead to be one of redemption, of success in spite of the odds. We know from the example of Lenore in Bloodlust that it's possible for vampires to slake their thirst without using human blood, and from Live Free And TwiHard as well as all the episodes with Benny this season that blood bank supplies can satisfy a vampire's need for nourishment. Like any addict, then, if Benny has the necessary strength of will, he has a chance.

To succeed in his resolve to stay clean, Benny likely needs to be able to hold himself accountable to someone. He used Dean for that in the beginning, and then his granddaughter Elizabeth until Martin interfered. With those resources now closed to him, I wonder if he might do the same thing Lenore did, establishing a nest of non-hunting vampires and having to live clean as their example. Lenore did it at first not out of respect for the sanctity of life, but purely out of self-preservation to keep her nest from attracting attention and being hunted to death. Benny has even better reason, given not only his knowledge that killing would bring Dean and other hunters down on him, but also his realization that humans are more than just something to drink.

Lenore succeeded until Eve forced her to fall, as we learned in Mommy Dearest. Eve had that power because she'd designed vampires in the first place and kept a builder's back door into their operating systems, allowing her to enter their minds and apply pressure that eventually proved irresistable. Eve is now gone, so Benny wouldn't face that threat.

What he would face, however, is setting himself up in opposition to the vampire Alpha – and wouldn't that be a great fight to see, and one the Winchesters would have reason to join? My point is, things with Benny don't have to go the way Sam expects, Dean fears, and many fans anticipate. Me, I'm hoping for the challenge of something new, and I'd love to see Benny square off against his Alpha, helping and being helped by the Winchesters, reestablishing his bond with Dean and gaining Sam's respect along the way. And hopefully surviving to point the way for others.

Production Notes

I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. A lot of the credit goes to the script by Jenny Klein. I appreciated her treatment of the emotional relationship between the brothers and delighted in the story being chock-full of high concept ideas on the nature of angels. I also loved the parallel she drew between Kevin and the Winchesters: Kevin's line about not being able to enjoy a world he needs to save shows he is in the same place both brothers have been at their respective nadirs. And what that says to me is Kevin, like the Winchesters, needs to reconnect with what they're all fighting for; if they're too removed from human happiness and human connections, they lose precisely what makes them most effective and committed: their humanity. Kevin needs his mother and the Winchester brothers need each other, and they all need more friends.

Director Robert Singer perfectly complemented Klein's script, making every moment visual – and unless I'm much mistaken, he also did a voiceover cameo, narrating the dung beetle documentary Sam was watching. (Hey, I'm a voice artist; that was something I was definitely going to notice!) It wouldn't be the first time: Singer (uncredited) also did the voiceover on the wildebeest documentary in Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid. One of the things I most appreciated about Klein and Singer in this episode was their choice to play the end of the episode with no dialogue at all after the end of Dean's phone call to Benny; they trusted the actors' performances to carry the scenes of Dean, alone, watching boxing on television; Amelia returning to the motel room to find Sam not there; and Sam joining Dean to share dinner and watch boxing, committing to the hunt. Combined with Jay Gruska's emotional score, especially the brilliant wooden flute and strings elements during the brothers' hunt through Crowley's complex and the poignant, string-heavy theme covering Amelia's return to the vacant motel room and the brother's dinner, the visual images were perfection. Editor Donald Koch wove scenes together perfectly, especially the tight, quick cuts between Samandriel's torment and Castiel's fragmented memories and Naomi's orders and Castiel's parroting of her language to the Winchesters.

As a rule, I avoid spoilers and don't read other reviews until I've finished my own, but I couldn't help but notice the flurry of fan tweets protesting that angel swords being able to kill demons was a retcon – an alternation of previously established facts to create a spurious retroactive continuity. I have to say that accusation was wrong. As we learned from Alastair in On The Head Of A Pin, demons didn't know how to kill angels … at least not until angels – including Castiel masquerading as God – were doing it themselves so often that they left blades from dead angels lying around for demons to be able to retrieve, as Meg indicated in Reading Is Fundamental. But angels didn't need their swords to kill demons. An angel's most potent and readily accessible weapon has always been its ability to smite, something we've seen often since Heaven And Hell. Since they could kill most demons with a touch, why would an angel ever have bothered to draw a weapon that a demon might have been able to deflect or knock out of its hand? That didn't mean an angel sword couldn't kill a demon; just that the angel routinely would not have needed to draw a sword for that purpose. Castiel erred in not pulling his sword on Alastair in On The Head Of A Pin, but his choice telekinetically to employ Ruby's demon-killing knife, which Dean had already brought into play, seemed reasonable under the circumstances. From everything we've seen, angel blades were designed explicitly to be effective against other angels, and came into play because an angel couldn't smite and kill another angel unless the killing angel was innately more powerful. Remember Michael, an archangel, destroying mere rebel angel Anna with a touch, but historically being depicted as wielding a sword against Lucifer. Since most angels were innately more powerful than most demons (although I doubt cupids would have qualified), it makes sense that a sword powerful enough to kill angels would have been effective on anything less powerful than an angel. We saw Meg use Castiel's sword quite effectively against the hellhounds in Caged Heat. But apart from that one occasion, when Meg lifted the weapon off Castiel, no angel ever lent its weapon to someone else. It would appear that every angel has a sword, but also that the sword materializes only when the angel requires it; we've never seen anything to suggest that Castiel could have raided Heaven's armory to supply the Winchesters. So, no retcon; at least, not in my estimation.

On another potential retcon issue, I did notice Viggo and Crowley's ability to torture an angel, despite all the times right from the beginning in Lazarus Rising when we saw Castiel ignore physical injuries and evidence no pain even when his human vessel should have been mortally injured. I'm attributing Samandriel's torment to a combination of the sigils on his bindings – something supported by Castiel indicating he was still impaired by some of the symbols on the walls – and to Crowley using an appropriated angel blade to inflict significant damage. I also had to wonder if the spikes on the frame Viggo was using might not have been rendered from another angel sword, meaning their substance could hae caused damage a normal tool wouldn't have inflicted.

I have to give a shout-out to the production design folk; Garth's boat being painted with the name “Fizzles Folly” made me laugh out loud, remembering Garth using his “Mr. Fizzles” sock puppet to communicate with the little girl in Party On, Garth. Delightful continuity, guys! Thank you!

In terms of performances, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki both brought their “A” games, as ever. Dean's vulnerability and resignation broke my heart in Jensen's scenes with Jared and on the phone with Ty Olsson's Benny. Shirtless Jared was delectable in bed after his rendezvous with Amelia – hey, I can be as shallow as the next female! – and wearing clothes, he really brought the goods when he faced Jensen's Dean, both in anger and in his genuine surprise and truth when Dean let Sam go. The final scene between the brothers was perfection in its comfortable silence and shared looks.

I also really appreciated Liane Balaban's Amelia in this episode. The scene in which Amelia finished Sam's sentences in the motel room had genuine chemistry; like the scene in Heartache when she surprised Sam with a birthday cake, this one resonated with a true relationship. I came down not liking Amelia because she proved to be a weak character, not – to my mind, anyway – a worthy match for Sam, but in this episode, Liane Balaban made her a real person.

Ty Olsson has been an absolute delight as Benny all this season. His depiction of both Dean's staunch companion in Purgatory and a complex, conflicted man back in the world plagued with addiction issues and the determination to do right has won my heart. I've made no secret of my hope that Benny's story gets to play out well in the end. I'd like to see more of Benny, and a lot more of Ty even outside of Supernatural. I'm still hoping to be able to see his performance in Borealis one of these days.

Misha Collins as Castiel sold the angel's confusion, fear, and distress, torn between Naomi's orders, his own fragmented memories, and his positive need to save one angel after having destroyed so many during his Leviathan-inspired power madness. As a long-time fan of Stargate SG-1, I've definitely been enjoying Amanda Tapping's guest turn as Naomi even though I loathe what Naomi is doing. I'm looking forward to learning exactly what is driving her and whether she'll prove an enemy, as she currently appears, or transform into someone with laudable goals who's making choices every bit as bad as the ones Castiel made when he was Leviathan-mad. And while I'm talking angels, I have to say I will miss Tyler Johnston's Samandriel. Dean hit the nail on the head when he called Alfie “Heaven's most adorable angel.” His touching faith in Castiel and his statement that he believed having too much heart had always been Castiel's problem cemented his place in my heart back in What's Up, Tiger Mommy?, and I hope that whenever Naomi is called to account for her actions, her sentence will be carried out in Samandriel's name.

I know I've been missing in action from commentary during much of this season so far, but I have to say I've been enjoying what showrunner Jeremy Carver has brought to the table. I'm in for the long run, and I can't wait to see where we go from here, with Sam and Dean back together again. And while their coats are torn and frayed and have seen much better days, as long as this show plays, they'll steal my heart away.



# st50 2013-01-22 23:34
I really enjoyed reading this review, bardicvoice.
Perhaps I can see my way to becoming a bit more hopeful for the brothers.
Nice to see you back here, you have been missed. Looking forward to more reviews from everybody after tomorrow. :-)
# Bardicvoice 2013-01-26 16:55
Thanks! I hope the end of LARP helped further your happiness ... :)
# sylia91 2013-01-22 23:35
Here, here. You made a lot of great points regading this episode and I've missed your very insightful commentaries especially the analysis of the technical aspects. You often have a lot of insider information that really adds to the review. I really liked this episode and felt it fullfilled a lot of important criteria of resolving one of the early ongoing conflicts and story lines while progressing the myth arc and delivering on the emotional angst and action. A tough juggling act indeed but not surprising from director Singer. Look forward more reviews from you!
# Bardicvoice 2013-01-26 16:56
Thanks! You'll definitely be seeing more from me!
# Grace232 2013-01-23 00:49
Wow! Thank you so much for this. I liked this episode, but I am now going to go back and watch it again. Your analysis made me appreciate so many aspects even more - things I did not notice or took for granted. Also - thanks so much for clearing up the angel sword killing a demon issue. I had the same understanding as you (but would never have said it so eloquently), but did not want to get into a debate about it. I really appreciate this show and all the other fans that love it too, and an article like this makes the entire experience that much richer. Thank you again!
# Bardicvoice 2013-01-26 16:57
Thank YOU for coming by and commenting, even if it did take me way too long to respond!
# Edward 2013-01-23 01:10
Great review. I totally agree about hoping for a more interesting story arch for Benny. It might come full circle as Ty Olsson played one of the vamps in Lenore's nest.
# Bardicvoice 2013-01-26 17:02
It would be fun to see Benny follow in Lenore's steps, wouldn't it? Benny's got so much more scope than Eli; it would be a treat to see Ty Olsson get his chops into that arc!
# anonymousN 2013-01-23 03:07
I liked the episode but am still apprehensive about where they will go from here.Unless and until I know what exactly Amelia and Don equation stands and Sam and Amelia equation stood i will refrain from commenting on both Sam and Amelia.If the writers don't further delve into this personally for me it will leave a bad taste in my mouth.
# Bardicvoice 2013-01-26 17:07
I suspect that the Amelia storyline is done. She has no connection to the supernatural unless there's something odd about Don, and with Sam having chosen to put both feet back into hunting, going back to her again just wouldn't make sense unless it's to deal with a supernatural threat. But that's just my two cents, which may not even be worth two pennies. :)
# KG_SPN 2013-01-23 05:49
Awesome review! Thanks :-)

You've given me so much more to think about with your very thorough analysis, especially regarding the angels and what they might be up to.

I think this episode not only left all the characters torn and frayed, but much of the fandom as well. Hopefully, Sam & Dean's relationship will continue to improve and this will ease some of the angst for everyone ;-)

I really liked what you said about the end of Sam and Amelia's relationship. I've was never convinced (even though I really wanted to be) because of the lack of chemistry... but your point about Sam needing to be needed is very interesting! Perhaps that is why there seemed to be a lack of passion... the relationship was more about helping one another in their respective grief. There's still a part of me that wonders if there is more to be revealed here... especially as we still don't know who was watching Sam & Amelia's house in the opening episode. I don't think it was Don, as some people have suggested.

Anyhow, it is great to see the boys back together... and I'm really looking forward to seeing Felicia Day in the next episode. It's sure to be fun :lol:
# Bardicvoice 2013-01-26 17:12
The Sam and Amelia relationship really did seem to be about two wounded people supporting each other; even Amelia said as much when talking to her father. On that level, it made sense to me, but clearly wouldn't last. I am curious to see if there's still a supernatural threat angle to play out.

BTW, my first guess on the watcher in the shadows was Dean. I do wonder if we'll finally be shown!

I loved LARP And The Real Girl. And if the end of that episode didn't mark a milestone in the restoration of the brothers' relationship, I'm not a bard with a voice!
# Amy 2013-01-23 09:36
I geuss the Sam and Ameila relationship never worked for me because the writers stacked the deck against them while stacking the deck FOR Dea and Benny. SO Sam loses his only charector outside outside Dean (amiela was no match for him like you said, so no loss but she SHOULD have been a loss) while Dean will didn't lose Benny just temporarily set him aside.

I will never get the imbalence. Dean now has a best friend and a comrade in arms whose a much better brother....all who are connected to the world they live in. Sam has..... none of those things. he doesn't even have a dog.

Maybe Sam wouldn't crave normal so much if he was given a connection to another person....a friend... within their world. Anytime Sam has had a friend its been in the normal world. Sam doesn't crave normal and safe...he craves simple human contact...a connection with another person.

Anyway thansk for the review. I wish Ameila had been an actual choice .. one that made us ache for Sam while we rooted for him to choose Dean and hunting. but as you said..1) Emila was a weak charector...no real match for Sam. 2) Sam never opened up to her.

And that made that whole arc disappointing and pointless.
# Bardicvoice 2013-01-26 17:32
I don't perceive the same imbalance you do, I think because we're using different definitions for what the brothers want and expect for themselves and each other. I also didn't see Sam's sojourn with Amelia as pointless; I saw it as his way back from having lost himself after Dean vanished and presumably died, leaving Sam totally alone.

And since we don't know what the writers intend for either Benny or Amelia as the season progresses, I'm not assuming anything. Who knows where things will go from here? Not I, said the pussycat! :)
# suebsg9 2013-01-23 15:32
For me it spoke volumes that Dean drove as far as he did to talk to same granted got him no where other then drop Benny or I am leaving thing all over again. I am glad Dean left you could see that choice hurt Sam. I even think when he threw the choice to Dean he had the puppy dog eyes going and Dean didn't go for it. So I am glad that Dean still stood by Benny at that time. And he kinda apologized worrying Sam about Amelia. I get Sam will never get the connection between Dean and Benny. But he never seems to want to talk purgatory with Dean only time they talk about purgatory is when Dean gets asked about it or like when Cas reappeared and Dean was suspecious how Cas doesn't remember any of it. And since Deans return all Sam to me has done is throw how great his normal life was without him in it. At least that is what it looked like when they end up at farmers market in eps. And he is applying for college. See this is what I don't understand Dean can disappear with kronos and sam will look for him. But when he disappears with Dick he doesn't. Its like you just did this not to long ago. I am glad that Dean is hunting and seems when his mojo is working he can be one heck of a hunter and take out as many demons and also find things I like how he helped Cas find Alfie and was trying to do it solo without Sam. Had Cas not gone to get Sam it would have been intresting to see what would have happend if Dean and Cas could have handled hunt on their own. And another thing sorry rambling here but I like when the door was knocked on again I keep wondering if Sam was hopeing it was Dean he looked like ok get in my ticked off mood if it is him. And disappointed at first it wasn't and turned out to be Amelia. And then when Cas got him sitting in the park. Only way he was being brought in if Cas did it. And I like how Dean gave Sam and out at the end they briefly talked about Cas and Dean said you leave you have somewhere you have to be and thats when it was like Sam finally had a revelation that he needed to be on the hunt part of me hopes that its also because if something is going on with Cas hopefully this doesn't hit Dean as hard as when he lost Cas in S7. Dean took everthing Cas did hard and now they are on the road to mend and its like you hate to see Dean go through that again and part of me hopes tha Sam realizes when it comes to Cas he is the closest friend Dean has and not sure how Dean would handle loosing that again. I am looking forward to hopefully another talk from the brothers some with more depth to it. Ok that is my take on Torn and Frayed and thank god eps on tonight my poor ipad has the eps and not sure how many times i have watched it. Of course don't watch the Alfie torture scenes have to turn down the screams. But i find scenes with Sam and Dean, Dean and Cas, Dean and Benny and Dean and Kevin intresting. Sorry Sam and Amelia bore me.
# Bardicvoice 2013-01-26 18:12
I can't get into everything you raised - no time! - but I'm going to jump in on one: the difference between Dean's disappearance with Chronos and his vanishing with Dick. In Time After Time, the guys were working a case and following a suspect, and when Dean grappled him and disappeared with him in the same flash of red light other witnesses had reported, it was clear Dean had been transported with the suspect. Sam had plenty of clues to follow to identify Chronos and realize that time travel was involved.

When Dean and Castiel both disappeared in Dick Roman's explosion of black goo even though neither was close enough to touch him, Sam really didn't have any clues. If the Leviathan went somewhere rather than being outright destroyed, as a monster, it would have gone to Purgatory, but nothing in all the intensive research Sam, Dean, and Bobby had done on Purgatory during the previous two years ever suggested that a human -- or an angel, for that matter -- could have gone there. Crowley, talking about god-weapons packing a kick that their users should be warned against and saying he couldn't help Sam when Sam asked where Dean was, basically implied that the missing were destroyed or otherwise lost. Under the circumstances, it made sense to me that Sam would have had nowhere TO look. I know others may disagree, but that's my read on the situation, based on everything we saw and knew.

As for Castiel: I'm betting the brothers will figure out in relatively short order that he's being manipulated and isn't fully responsible for his own actions. I don't think we're going to see a repeat of the rift that occurred in season 6 and led into season 7. I'm looking forward to learning how the brothers will manage to help free Castiel from Naomi's puppetry, though!
# dmonk 2013-01-23 15:32
The method which you explained the use of the angel blade is really a solid argument. Whenever I want to take Supernatural lore to the next level, I'll read your stuff!
# Bardicvoice 2013-01-26 18:13
Why, thank you! I'm honored!
# Bevie 2013-01-23 16:22
You give me hope when all hope seems lost with our boys.

Thank you for another great uplifting meta and review!
# Bardicvoice 2013-01-26 18:14
Thank you! I'm all about the hope, and always have been. It's my weakness -- or maybe, my strength! *grin*
# kaj 2013-01-24 00:05
Does anyone notice that Sam wears the same shirt as before when he is in the motel room . His shirt is the same motif with the wallpaper.

the different is before he was Dean-less now he's with Dean. and whenever there's Dean and a pseudo-Dean woman in the same room. the pseudo character won't stand a chance. Got to admit Amelia is substitute to fill Sam's Dean shaped hole temporarily until the real Dean is back.
# Bardicvoice 2013-01-26 18:14
A wallpaper shirt?! I obviously have to watch it again!

# Bamboo24 2013-01-24 01:27
Amelia's reaction finally sealed my judgment on the character. Up until now, I've been ambivalent. I would have preferred a relationship with a strong woman who could have been a match for Sam – someone like Sarah from Provenance, for example, or like Dean's Lisa – but I understood that it was precisely Amelia's need that helped draw Sam out of his own spiral of emptiness and loss after Dean's disappearance and presumed death. Alone and lost, Sam needed to be needed in order to come back to himself, and Amelia and Riot the dog, both injured things requiring help and care, provided exactly that.
Spot-on understanding of that relationship.

And in that moment, tired of always being at odds, Dean dropped his anger and all his defenses, and set Sam free. He opened the door for Sam to choose a different life if he wanted to with no accusation and no blame, concluding that at least one of them could be happy. He cautioned that if Sam chose to stay, he needed to be in all the way, observing that trying to have a foot in both worlds is what got you dead. He made no promises – in particular, he said nothing about Benny, not addressing Sam's ultimatum in Texas at all – just leaving the decision up to Sam. Sam went for a walk. Not knowing Sam's decision, Dean nonetheless called Benny and reluctantly severed ties, applying to himself as a hunter the same condition he had ordered for Sam: both feet in, or both feet out. He chose Sam.
And Sam, back from his walk, chose Dean.
If you love something, set it free. If it comes back to you … it's your family.
I'm in love. Again - spot-on understanding and analysis.

Me, I'm hoping for the challenge of something new, and I'd love to see Benny square off against his Alpha, helping and being helped by the Winchesters, reestablishing his bond with Dean and gaining Sam's respect along the way. And hopefully surviving to point the way for others.
Agreed, agreed, agreed!

Thank you so much for sharing - your wisdom and insight seemingly know no bounds!
# Bardicvoice 2013-01-26 18:15
Thank you! I am blushing ... and there definitely are bounds!
# BagginsDVM 2013-01-24 22:35
So glad to read your thoughts again, Bardic! I loved your blanket analogy, & I needed the comfort of that blanket, for I was feeling so much sadness after my 1st viewing of this episode. Now I'm feeling much more hopeful, especially about the brothers. Thanks!
# Bardicvoice 2013-01-26 18:16
Thank you! And I hope the end of LARP And The Real Girl helped even more than my blanket ...
# wunderpat 2013-01-24 22:55
Thanks for writing this. I really enjoyed it. I still maintain that amy and Benny are apples and oranges. Sam hunted her and knew she was killing, and let her go. Dean confronted Benny, machete in hand, and believed him when he said he wasn't killing. But perhaps Sam sees the situations as the same. Personally, I think he's jealous.

I think Sam would be able to make connections if he accepted his lot in life and embraced it. He never settled into hunting, it was always temporary and preventing him from having his real/normal life. It's akin to an overweight person putting their life on hold until they reach their ideal weight. (Been there/done that).
# Sharon 2013-01-26 17:36
Thanks for writing this. I really enjoyed it. I still maintain that amy and Benny are apples and oranges. Sam hunted her and knew she was killing, and let her go. Dean confronted Benny, machete in hand, and believed him when he said he wasn't killing. But perhaps Sam sees the situations as the same. Personally, I think he's jealous.

I think Sam would be able to make connections if he accepted his lot in life and embraced it. He never settled into hunting, it was always temporary and preventing him from having his real/normal life. It's akin to an overweight person putting their life on hold until they reach their ideal weight. (Been there/done that).
Certainly he could accept his lot in life and he pretty much has done as it was once said ' I had it good for a while ' now its gone. Maybe Amelia was a hope wrapped in a dream and maybe they wouldnt of lasted even if Don and Dean had not returned maybe Sam in the end might of had too much baggage that eventually the relationship would of sunk ? but then again after all the hurt and pain and horror of his life he might of found a simplicity and a sense of a home he has rarely knowing with Amelia and Riot.
But because we always knew he would go back to hunting and Dean and the fact alot of the fandom never got to care the sl was never the heartbreaking story it could of been.
# Bardicvoice 2013-01-26 18:25
Thanks! And I agree with you!

I have always thought that Dean's general acceptance of his lot in life and his decision to always make the best of it -- to take whatever good he could find in it and enjoy it to the max, from burgers to pie to porn to sex to simple success in a hunt -- meant that he had a better chance of being happy than Sam, precisely because Sam's focus was always on how things could be better if they were different. For the most part, Dean has always lived in the moment; Sam always seemed to try to live in the future, and I think he missed out on a lot of small joys because of it.

And it's been my experience that our small joys add up to our relative contentment in life ...
# rs 2013-01-26 20:02
I've followed your reviews, and found them encouraging. I always thought, here is someone who would find something positive to say even if it is to point out how nice the curtains are in the motel room. And I mean that in a positive, not snarky, way - especially in this fandom. On the cite I just left, the Sam-fans/Dean-f ans are crossing swords over which character is the most abused by the writers. Your last comment on the brothers' different attitudes reminds me of your review of A Very SPN Christmas.