Nope, we're not talking about Frank Miller's comic story here. You know, I remember a time when I looked forward to Castiel's appearances and furthering of the season arcs...
Ok ok, to shake things up, I'm going to get all my complaining in FIRST, then end with everything positive I liked about this episode.
...There's a joke once in Seinfeld: "That offends you as a Jew?" "No it offends me as a comedian!" In a lot of ways these episodes have been angering me not as much as a fan but as a (hobbyist) writer. We'll have sequences or moments which are going good, developing organically then... WHAM slam on the breaks! Jump back on the script rails! Let's throw out all that "organic" stuff, sounds too much like quality and hard work.
Exhibit A: The opening bit with Dean, Sam, and Angel-Ride-Along (ARA) in the car. Well done discussion then Sam wakes up. He has a moment about "dude, I'm blacking out". Now this bit is getting interesting, it's developing something between the brothers... oh wait, they'll just quash it. Seriously look at the rest of the episode? If we cut out that bit, say... Sam assumes he woke up from a nap, does it change anything? No! At most it contributes to the audience fakeout near the end of the episode. That's just the clearest and most obvious example so you get my frame of reference when we get to...
Castiel. Oh Cas, when did you become infected with Spike-disease? The terrible infection where a character varies from episode to episode with no consistency. There is a small sliver of excuse with Cas as we conceptually go through periods of not seeing him where things could happen but the writers have to cover this with a line or some sort of sign acknowledging it. Otherwise it's just lazy writing. So now to demonstrate how badly Castiel's been done, let's do what I'll call, "Season 9 [so far] abridged."
- Castiel - "Dean I wanna help!"
- Dean- "No! You need to stay hidden!"
- C- "I'ma gonna hide in the bunker now!"
- D- "No! You have to go hide elsewhere!"
- C- "kk, I'm hiding at gas station now."
- D- "Dude, wtf? Why are you boring up your life?"
- C- "kk, I'm going to hunt with you now."
- D- "What are you doing? This is totally too risky for you!"
- C- "But you said..."
- D- "Look, I'm clearly playing the wife stereotype right now, which means everything you do is wrong."
- C- "Even when I do what you tell me?"
- D- "Especially doing what I tell you!"
- C- "Did I mention about the reaper I slep-"
- Fans- "SHUT UP ABOUT THE DAMN REAPERS!"
Then Castiel vampire's out another angel's grace. Now I initially thought graces were sort of unique and tied to the originating angel but I could let this slide IF we had ANY acknowledgement and handwaving about how Cas can do this now but didn't when he had car-crash angel at his mercy in 9.01. I mean she was a definite enemy and this was a potential ally and Cas could have used the help for awhile, maybe set up an ambush for Malechi but just.... ARGH! The answer to a character's motivation, the "Why?" should never be "because it's in the script" (IITS). If grace stealing is so easy anyone can do it, why does Malachi bother with an organization? (Kind of goes against the "anarchist" motif, eh?) Why not just steal the grace from angels and build up your power, a la Castiel's move at the end/beginning of S6 & S7? Why kill Muriel right away? Why not take her grace for more power? If only Castiel knows about this and the others don't... how? Cas has always been on the "last to know" list with anything angel related. Here's an idea off the top of my head. Metatron shows up: "Cas... sorry about your grace. It's not reversible but as a show that we can still be friends, I can help you get a grace back..." Then in the scene: Boom! Cas recites a few words and plot hole plugged.
Now I do like that the show is trying to have a multifaceted conflict. The problem is... I'm losing interest in even watching it play out. Example: up until he kills Kevin, why is Metatron a villain? A lot of arguments one could make for that case would end up applying in principle to the series protagonists as well, meaning either Metatron isn't a villain or we've just gone into full on protagonist-centered morality (which I loathe). Hell the angels seem to have always been messing with people as far back as we've seen them so it's hard to have sympathy for... well as Dean would say, "a bunch of dicks". And unlike the past, now people can actually escape from these angels when they die (since the winged bastards won't be in heaven or hell). I was more disappointed that we didn't see Metatron try and ingratiate himself with our heroes (since he needs allies right now). It would have made the episode even more tense had say... Metatron checked in the bunker, then him or Sadreel let out Crowley and made Kevin's death look like the demon's fault. Straight up forcing the Winchesters to be your enemy just doesn't seem wise.
And falling from Heaven kills angels? I... I have so many questions on how that works! By Jabootu's horns the angel lore is such a gorram mess. By now it's getting to the point where, "What can or can't the angels do?" may as well just be answered with, "Whatever the damn plot requires!" The show's going to kill itself if they don't practice some discipline soon.
So what was good about this episode?
I'm angry about how those believers' faiths are being misused. But I'm counting that as "good" since I'm supposed to be horrified and angry about the angels' actions.
I'm not happy that Kevin died, but they at least pulled it off pretty well in a narrative sense. I was nearly screaming at my TV (or my mobile phone, where I was watching it), "That's what you get for making poor choices and screwing over your allies, Dean!" So while I wasn't thrilled with the consequences, I was glad there have been ACTUAL consequences towards Dean's bad choices of late.
I was hoping we'd get one of the little church ladies as the season villain as we've always had large or intimidating figures with the exception of S3 little-girl Lilith. The show's due for a foe that doesn't appear threatening. So I was pleased to see Curtis Armstrong return. He looks so tiny compared to moose-Padelecki in those scenes. I really hope we get to see a lot more from him and the writers utilize the "threat that doesn't look like a threat" to their full advantage. Kudos also to Curtis who's doing a great job with his role. The yellow-eyed-demon in S2 was always, I thought, one of the best examples of actually tempting someone to do wrong, but Metatron here may edge him out. They've done great so far of showing how one can end up evil through rationalizations. Of drawing closer to darkness inch by inch. See, it's when they pull off brilliant moments like that, which makes me angrier over some of the missteps. We know they can do better!
Not sure about the promo for the next episode. One figures that if Sam could grab hold of Satan and send him back to the box, a regular angel might notbe a challenge for him to kick out. But they established the sigil was changed so there's at least a possible explanation there. Though with that and the demon lock tattoo Meg put on him way back in S2, (and Satan) seems like Sam's body should really have some zoning laws by now.
In general good acting on everyone's part (even if poor Misha Collins can't get some decent writing to work with) and a few fine moments keep this episode from being too wretched, but it's still nowhere close to their best mid-season finales.