Trust has always played a major role in Supernatural. Sam and Dean's world is perilous and dangerous. There are threats lurking around every corner, and they must be on high alert at all times. Yet, Sam and Dean need to find those they can trust. But who? In "Goodbye Stranger," the brothers have to choose between trusting Meg, a demon, or Castiel, an angel---and at times both. But can they really trust either? And what of each other? What Sam and Dean really learn here is that they must learn to truly trust one another---no matter what.
The brothers pick up on a case where, "each of the victims had severe burns around their eyes, hands, and feet, puncture wounds through the backs of their hands, eyes and internal organs liquefied."
As they investigate, they learn that these victims were possessed people---something is targeting demons for some reason. Dean is content with the results, commenting, "I like the part about killing demons. That sounds right."
But as they delve deeper and encounter more demons, a familiar face arrives to break up the latest melee between Winchester and demon: Castiel.
It turns out that he is the one behind the killings. But the why is still yet unanswered. It seems random and without cause. The angel has to give the brothers a reason for his actions and quickly, especially after Sam demands, "How about you answer some questions first? Like, where the hell have you been?"
But can they trust his answer? The bigger question is: should they?
Since Castiel's return from Purgatory, he has been under Naomi's control. The brothers are unaware of this fact, but they can tell that something is wrong with their angel friend. He is acting different. He is "off" as Dean puts it, and he has been a bit more distant in his interactions with the Winchesters. Trusting him is something they've done in the past, but now they have to pause. Considering his behavior in season 6, their hesitation is understandable.
Castiel, on Naomi's prompt, replies, "I've been searching for the other half of the Demon Tablet."
Oh, he's searching for a tablet. He put in a good kernel of truth into his lie, but it is really the Angel Tablet he's after---and he knows these demons are looking for the same thing on Crowley's orders. If he can track them and learn what they know he can perhaps reach it first.
This answer seems to soothe the brothers, but Castiel's actions later on raise their alarm.
It's Castiel's embellishments in his lies that have caught him in their nets. He told them that the demons are also looking for a parchment that can translate the Demon Tablet without a prophet. Castiel is torturing a demon---in front of the brothers---because he wants to know the location of Lucifer's Crypts.
It isn't until Sam asks, "And she told you about the parchment?" that Castiel's house of cards collapses. If he doesn't act quickly, this demon will tell the brothers the truth. Naomi shouts at him to "Kill it!" and without hesitation Castiel stabs it in the heart with his angel blade. The Winchesters don't know the truth here, but they do know that there is even more wrong with their angel friend than they thought.
The demon did speak of a hostage, and as they rush after Castiel to find out who it is, they're shocked to find Meg.
Meg has been telling the demons holding her hostage the location of Lucifer's Crypts, but she too has been lying. She explains to the brothers, "I just get them in the ballpark. Enough time's passed and enough's changed that they bought it."
With Meg in the picture, the brothers now have to make a decision. They are already wary of Castiel, but they know that Meg is not someone to be trusted. She's a demon---and her history with them has not always been good. Can they truly trust her anymore than Castiel? Should they?
Castiel knows he's about to be caught as Meg starts to explain just what Crowley's after. He begs Naomi for an order---but begs that Meg be spared. After all, "Well, we could use her -- as Crowley did." The truth comes out finally, and the brothers learn that there is indeed an Angel Tablet.
Castiel has been exposed as lying, but quickly covers by saying, "Well, this is news to me, as well. Demons I interrogated, they must have been lying about their true intentions." Dean doesn't buy it however. It doesn't make sense, considering the fact that the angel had "Zero Dark Thirty" tortured the demon that led them to Meg in the first place.
Meg points out that since she had lied to the demons they only have a short amount of time before she's caught in her own web. They must move and move quickly in order to get to the Angel Tablet first. Only bad things can happen if Crowley should get his hands on it. They have to do everything tthey can to prevent that from happening.
But can they really trust Meg anymore than Crowley's demons?
Can they trust Castiel when they find it?
Dean asks, "You really think we can trust, uh, Meg-stiel?" and Sam answers, "No. But what choice do we have?"
What choice do they really have? If they don't go with them, they risk Crowley getting his hands on the Angel Tablet. But, going with could also be just as dangerous. Either Meg or Castiel could turn on them without a moment's notice. After all, neither are human and both are stronger than the brothers. They could decide to attack one or the other or both. It's a dangerous situation for both of them---but Sam and Dean have to take that chance.
Upon arrival, the brothers split up---Dean will go with Cas and Sam will stand guard with Meg. Sam protests, showing that he doesn't quite trust the angel, "What are you talking about, Dean? I'm not letting you go in there alone."
Alone. But Dean isn't going in alone. He's going with Castiel. To Sam, that doesn't matter. He feels that only he can protect his brother's back, that they can do this together. Let the angel and demon stand guard while they grab the Angel Tablet.
But Dean confronts Sam. Sam hasn't been honest with Dean about the effects of the Trials, and snaps, "No, you're not fine. You haven't been fine since the first trial. That's why I called Cass."
Dean has decided to trust Cas here, taking him with into the Crypt. It is a near fatal mistake.
As they enter the room, the angel sweeps his eyes around, locating where the Angel Tablet rests. Quickly he tells Naomi he has found it and she tells him to lie to Dean, tell him that the crypt is empty. Castiel tells her, "It's warded against angels." It leaves them little choice but to tell the elder Winchester that it is there.
Castiel points it out, and Dean opens the box. It's presence sets up conflict between the angel and hunter, as they argue about what to do with it. Castiel tells him, "Good. Hand it to me, and I'll take it to heaven." Dean instantly replies that they'll take it to Kevin so he can translate it. Naomi can't have that, so she is telling the angel to kill Dean.
To test Castiel and see if he can truly trust his angel friend, Dean also demands something. He asks, "Just tell me how you got out of Purgatory. Be honest with me -- for the first time since you've been back and this is yours." He has to know if he can trust Castiel.
But Castiel's answer is his angel blade in his hand.
Naomi sees this as the exact moment she's been waiting for. She has trained Castiel to kill Dean in simulation. This is her chance to eliminate his threat to her survival and to Heaven. She demands that he kill Dean, and almost in a replay of the beating Dean endured under Lucifer at Stull Cemetery, Castiel starts to viciously beat the elder Winchester.
Even though Dean didn't get the answer he wanted, that doesn't mean he won't plea with his friend. He first shouts, "Take it! But you're gonna have to kill me first. Come on, you coward. Do it. Do it!" Anything to break through to Castiel, Dean will say. Considering that Castiel is both emotionless and arguing with someone else during the beating, Dean knows that there's more going on here than his friend simply turning on him. He asks, "Who's Naomi!" and gets no answer. Trying to reach out even more, Dean changes to begging, "I know you can hear me. Cass... It's me. We're family. We need you. I need you."
It is the moment of truth---literally. Naomi demands that Castiel choose between Heaven and Dean, and Castiel chooses Dean. He drops his blade---only to pick up the tablet. It breaks the control Naomi has over him---and finally the angel can tell Dean the truth.
And yet, the angel isn't quite the ally he was before, either. He tells Dean that he must protect the tablet from Naomi, "and from you." Before Dean can talk sense into the angel, he disappears, driven to do something at the tablet's behest.
Meanwhile, Sam and Meg stand guard. Their conversation while they wait is familiar. It isn't entirely unlike their first encounter---at the bus station oh so many years ago after Sam had split with Dean to track down their father. There they had swapped stories about their families and being obligated to follow the plans set out before them. They discussed living their lives in their own ways.
It's a poetic moment for the two of them---yet knowing that Meg is a demon as we didn't then, we have to wonder if Sam can truly trust her. She could easily turn on the younger Winchester---but we can sense that she really has no reason to do so. Instead, we witness a bonding take place, a more natural conversation between them as they wait.
Meg is curious, and asks, "What's with all the "trial" and "being damaged" crap?"
Sam, his hackles already raised, retorts, "Look, no disrespect, but you haven't exactly been the most, uh, trustworthy person in our lives, Meg."
Hurt by his response, Meg says, "You don't want to say, fine. But remember, I spent time in that walking corpse of yours. I know your sad, little thoughts and feelings."
Sam can't really hide from this demon---not this time. He may not trust her, but he can't help but feel that what she says is right. It gives them an opening to be more real with one another. Ironically here, it is the demon and not the angel that is more trustworthy. She doesn't seem to be mining Sam for information to use. She's building common ground with the hunter---for a totally different reason than she did in the bus station.
Meg tells him flatly, "Deep down, in parts you never let see the light of day, you want to live a long, normal life away from creepy old things like me."
It's no secret to Meg, no matter how Sam tries to deny it or brush her comment off. Before he stops himself, he tells her about his year away from hunting---and who he spent it with. Meg, as is her nature, starts by mocking, "Oh, I heard the rest. You fell in love with a unicorn. It was beautiful, then sad, then sadder. I laughed, I cried, I puked in my mouth a little."
Just when we're being led to believe that she will turn on Sam or file this moment of vulnerability away for a later time, she says softly, "And honestly, I kind of get it."
Meg, as long as she's been involved in the fabric of the show, has always been a loyal character. She may be evil and a demon mostly, but she has the same belief system and honor code the Winchesters do: that you stick to family. She was loyal to the end to her father, Azazel, and she remained loyal to Lucifer after he was thrown back into the Cage. Meg isn't like other demons entirely. She feels very deeply. And in her time caring for Castiel she has actually developed some actual feelings for the angel. He, as she puts it, is her "unicorn."
Before Sam can ask her how she understands or even why, Crowley has arrived. Now it is Sam's turn to find out if he can trust Meg just as Dean had to find out if he could trust Castiel. Meg has no love for the King of Hell, but she could decide to join him and eliminate Sam if it should suit her cause. She could have used the moment to perhaps make Crowley a little less hesitant to torture her and more likely to have her work for him in other ways---less painful ways.
But she doesn't. Meg proves that she is actually trustworthy here when she shouts to Sam, "Go. Save your brother... and my unicorn."
Meg has made a choice here. She is loyal to Castiel---possibly without knowing why. Crowley poses a threat to both the Angel Tablet she protected out of family loyalty---and loyalty to Lucifer---and to Castiel. She has decided to stand up to Crowley, knowing that it is likely she will either end up back in his torture chamber---or even worse.
Sam and Dean are reunited, but are empty handed. As they climb the stairs and get into the car to speed away, they see in horror the death match occurring between Meg and Crowley. They can do nothing for her but get away. Meg stabs Crowley in the arm, only to find him furious at being both thwarted and stabbed. He quickly turns the blade on her and kills her.
Meg sacrificed herself for the Winchesters. Her loyalty may have been to Azazel and Lucifer originally in the past, but she seems to also have some loyalty to the Winchesters. In many ways, the episode title refers to Meg. She is the "stranger" the brothers never truly got to know, and now it seems they must say an abrupt goodbye.
Angels. Demons. Which one do the Winchesters choose to trust? It would seem they chose neither.
In the end, we see them driving down the road, reaching a figurative crossroads between one another. Dean says to Sam, "Listen, man, I can't take any more lies -- from anyone."
Just as Dean asked Castiel to be honest, here he is asking Sam the same.
Sam may have withheld his struggle with the Trials, may have lied about them, but it wasn't a malicious lie. It wasn't to hurt Dean. It wasn't to hide anything from his brother. This isn't like his demon blood addiction. He lied because he was hiding the truth from himself. Not only must he come clean with Dean---Sam must come clean with himself.
Sam replies softly, "Yeah. Um... I know. I'm sorry. I should have told you. I-I... just wanted to believe I was okay. I don't know."
Dean tells him, "Sammy, I need you to be honest with me from here on out, man."
Sam agrees. As they are being open and honest, Dean says, "Listen, I may not be able to carry the burden that comes along with these trials... But I can carry you."
It is in this statement that the brothers are reaffirming their trust in one another. If they can't trust the angel or the demon, if they can't trust anyone else, they must trust each other. Sam and Dean are facing a difficult road ahead of them---and it is in this conversation we see growth. They have cleared the air here, built a small foundation of trust they can build upon, and can strenghten it and their bond going forward.
With what lies ahead, it is their only hope to succeed and to survive.
Amanda Tapping reprises the mysterious Naomi. She has a firm grip on Castiel in the beginning of the episode, forcing him to mock kill his best friend repeatedly until he can do so without any hesitation whatsoever. Tapping puts all of Naomi's pride and exaltation in her praise of the compromised Castiel. Yet, cracks start to not only show but fracture in her cool, calm, and collected demeanor. Tapping makes Naomi frantic and combative repeatedly throughout the episode. She knows the Winchesters are close to learning the truth and she can't let that happen on her watch. She barks orders and we see in her facial expressions true fear that Heaven---and her very survival---could be under threat. Her confrontation with a reluctant Castiel shows just how desperate her character has become. She has been smug and used to getting her way thus far---all with little argument. Having her "pet" fight back and assert a form of free will of any kind has truly rattled her. Tapping shows Naomi's frustration and disappointment extremely well in the scene with Sheppard's Crowley. She seems unimpressed with the King of Hell, yet wary. Now that she's lost her hold on Castiel and has had to step out onto the chess board it'll be interesting to see just what she does next.
Rachel Miner brings charisma to the role of Meg. She's come along way from the one time major adversary of the Winchesters to a reluctant ally. Miner shows us just how Meg's grown---all the while keeping her demonic qualities intact. After all, she's allowed innocents to die in order to "buy some time." When Miner delivers the line "Hi, I'm Meg. I'm a demon," we can sense that she owns what she is. She knows she's spawn of Hell and largely considered an evil creature. Yet, there's more layers to her character, and Miner finds a way to tease them out. She's sympathetic to Sam. Their conversation connects them well---almost in a weird way calling back to the original conversation that Meg and Sam had---before they knew she was a demon. She---despite her nature---cares for Castiel. We can sense in the way Miner carries herself that Meg is an old being. Despite being afraid in the past, Meg decides to take a stand against Crowley---which comes with a high price: her life. Miner shows us Meg's resolve here in body language and tone of voice. We sense a resignation to either capture or death when she tells Sam to run to Dean and Castiel. Perhaps she is the "stranger" that Sam and Dean never truly got to know.
Mark Sheppard brings back the dastardly Crowley. He's frustrated once again with his underlings---and rightly so. After all, they did lose his big prize in Meg. Crowley doesn't usually like to get his hands dirty himself---unless he knows there is no risk in it for him---and Sheppard shows how exasperated the King of Hell is here in his interactions with first his underlings and later Meg after being foiled on acquiring the angel tablet. Even though he's as witty as ever, Crowley isn't here to play. Sheppard shows us that his character is on a mission with the eye on the prize, and anyone in his way will pay the price heavily. Since he can't take out his anger on the Winchesters, he settles for Meg. Crowley delivers a vicious blow to the one demon to dog the Winchesters since the very beginning, and Sheppard shows just how cold blooded the King of Hell can be in its action. Crowley has always been ruthless underneath his witty demeanor, and now we get to see just how much. Sheppard knows how to tease this out of Crowley in his performance, making him one to love to hate in many ways. It'll be interesting to see if he goes after his one time partner, Castiel.
Misha Collins played a stiff and distressed Castiel well. Even if the brothers hadn't voiced that something was off with the angel, we could tell by Collins performance. He seemed detached and cold at times, devoid of any emotion. Castiel has never been a character with good social graces, but here we see Collins strip even the endearing awkwardness away at times to show just how manipulated the angel has become. Later, in the crypt, as he is beating Dean at Naomi's command, Collins adds intensity to Castiel's cold exterior. He becomes frightening and brutal---mindless in his attacks and unrelenting in the face of Dean's pleas. Yet, Collins also shows that a shift is happening inside as he starts to argue openly with Naomi, being snatched back and forth so quickly to jar her absolute control. Castiel's actions in this episode haven't been of his own making---and Collins shows us through his performance how taxing that has been on his character. We see it in his facial expressions and hear it in his voice. Castiel is at his breaking point, and Collins shows us that extremely well. After grasping the angel tablet, regardless of breaking Naomi's hold, that doesn't change. It has more or less set him to his "factory settings." He withholds the tablet from Dean, stating that he has to protect it from Naomi---and "from you." He may no longer be under Naomi's iron grip control, but he's also not quite the ally of old, either.
Jensen Ackles shows us a boyish Dean at the start of the episode. Despite his sentiments that the Men of Letters are boring, he seems to enjoy exploring the Bunker and looking through their archives of supernatural goodies. Of course that could be due to the porn he finds. Ackles makes the moment funny, yet makes sure to have a bit of restraint and keep it from going over the top here. It's a cute moment, a calm before the storm. Once on the case, Ackles flips a switch and makes Dean serious and down to business. He becomes even more focused when they realize it is a demonic case. Ackles shows a skeptical but concerned Dean when confronting Castiel after the demons attack. There's a heavy dose of worry in his voice as they discuss him. When confronted later by Castiel over the tablet, Ackles puts Dean into a cautiously protective mode. He instantly recognizes that his angel friend is now an adversary---a bomb that he must defuse. Ackles shows that Dean is choosing his words carefully by speaking calmly and slowly. When that doesn't work, Ackles puts every emotion he has into pleading with Cas to stop, to be his friend, to fight off whatever is making him behave this way. Not unlike his beating at Lucifer's hands, Ackles has Dean try to reach out the entire time, with no care for himself. He even pleads with Castiel to kill him---and the timbre of his voice breaks our hearts. When he delivers the line, "This isn"™t you. Cas, I know you"™re in there. I know you can hear me. Cas, it"™s me. We"™re family. We need you; I need you," Ackles puts everything he has into it. It's an emotional plea. He echoes that plea with Sam in the car. Ackles has Dean tell his brother that he is going to help him with the trials, that "Listen, I may not be able to carry the burden that comes with these trials, but I can carry you." It's a significant moment, even if it gets dispersed with good humor. It shows us that Dean is willing to let his brother do these trials---but not alone.
Jared Padalecki shows us a frightened Sam at the start of the episode. He's still coughing up blood---and hiding it from Dean. His reaction to seeing the blood on the napkin shows that he's trying to hide his fear from himself, too, that if he pretends it's not there that it'll go away. Padalecki has Sam deflect from the incident quickly, slipping easily into the little brother teasing his elder brother about the porn magazine. He slips in a fondness underneath the teasing, especially in the line, "'less of course you need some more time with Miss October." Padalecki brings out Sam's compassionate side when on the case, being the sympathetic one. There's a simple sincerity in his delivery of the line, "Well, um, thank you very much for your time. We're both very sorry for your loss." After Cas breaks up their fights with the demons, we see Padalecki show Sam's frustration by tossing the ice pack away. It's a double meaning action, one for having been bested in a fight with a demon and two as yet another example of how the Hell Trials are weighing on him. Padalecki has some of his best scenes in the episode with Miner's Meg. As much as Dean and Cas have a "profound bond," there seems to be something between the demon and Sam. They may have been on opposite sides in the past, but they seem to recognize one another. The chemistry between Padalecki and Miner reinforces this, making their conversation powerful and moving. Each seems to sympathize with the other on some level---even if they do tease or show distrust in one another. It seems here, Sam doesn't have to hide who he is. Meg already knows---especially once her possession of him is brought up. Why lie or hide when the truth is already known? We see through their dual delivery of dialogue and performance Sam and Meg come to that understanding. In the final scene, when Sam and Dean discuss the Hell Trials, it is Sam deflecting the so-called "chick flick" moment with a light teasing. Padalecki shows that Sam understands Dean and has vowed to be honest going forward, but that doesn't mean he won't rib his brother when there's an opening.
Best Lines of the Week:
Castiel: You know, I can hear you both. I am a celestial being.
Dean: Well, he puts the "ass" in "Cass," huh?
Meg: Do I look like Google to you?
Crowley: Did Timon and Pumbaa tell you their big plan?
Meg: Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?
Meg: You really do know how to make a girl's nethers quiver, don't you?
Sam: 'less of course you need some more time with Miss October.
Sam and Dean in unison: Shut up Meg
Dean: Okay, bottom-line it for me, Bill Nye. Is it lethal?
Meg: You don't want to say, fine. But remember, I spent time in that walking corpse of yours. I know your sad, little thoughts and feelings.
Sam: You... realize you kind of just quoted "Lord of the Rings," right?
Looks like Supernatural is going back to school next week---Hunter's School.