This episode certainly bookended itself with intensity. The gooey centre was all about family drama, be it demonic or angelic. I liked this episode for a number of reasons. Though it did lack in a few spots, overall as a mid-season finale it hit all the right marks. Since it left me in an emotionally overwhelmed mess by the end with unanswered questions that won't be addressed for several weeks, I’d say the job was done successfully.

Daddy Issues

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Claire Novak – how far she’s come. So different from the sweet child we met all those years ago. Gone is the innocent, cherubic (no pun intended) face and in her place is an angry, shoplifting teenager raging against everything and anyone. I enjoyed this Claire – it makes sense that she would be in such a state, given the implosion that her life suffered after Castiel and Jimmy wandered away. It even, in a way, makes sense that her mother would be so rocked by what took place that she couldn’t handle her life and left Claire in the care of another family member. When reality is shattered that much, well, it’s a lot to process. Not sure what my reaction would be if an angel possessed my husband, then my child, then some demons got involved, then my husband was taken again. It’s quite a complicated mess of things.

I admit I expected the group home coordinator to be some kind of demon or front for something supernatural, though I’m glad it didn’t end up that more predictable route. She was a legitimately caring woman concerned for Claire’s wellbeing. Randy, on the other hand….

Poor Castiel – he was trying so hard to make it up to Claire, and really there was no way this situation was going to end well. Jimmy is dead (at least we have confirmation now) and Claire isn’t wrong in saying Castiel’s possession started her family on this path. I can’t say it’s Castiel’s fault entirely, just one domino which started the procession of the others. [Claire’s mother made her own choices really – she did have a child to whom she owed a responsibility, regardless of Jimmy. I digress]. Cas was very sweet with Claire, despite her attitude and thievery. He certainly has come a long way from their initial meeting.

Randy’s Kids

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This guy was creepy from start to finish, from his house to glasses to the way he talked to the kids. How on earth Claire got mixed up with him I am really curious. She’s smart enough to know better, I would think – I guess because she was searching for a dad the idea was he filled the void, but he really did have that slimy bad-guy vibe oozing out of him a little too readily. This is one, small part I had trouble with because Claire was such clever character in other respects: how easily she was convinced to go from pick pocketing to armed robbery. I thought maybe if the gun didn’t have bullets, it would have been a tad more believable, but it was fully loaded.

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It’s a small nitpick, and I suppose the idea from the group home director talking with Sam is that Claire had a long history with Randy, time to build trust and family-esque environment. Nevertheless, it was a bit of a jump, given Claire’s intelligence and craftiness previously demonstrated.

Mother and Son: Hellish Reunion

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Crowley and Rowena were a brief flash in this week’s episode. Not much to discuss but quite a tease for the future. I have only two thoughts on this really. The first is that Rowena’s lying and betrayal of Crowley seemed a given from the moment that other demon was brought into her cell. Secondly, Crowley is too smart and manipulative not to know better. Especially given that he seems to know his mother very well. I can’t imagine he’d just casually put another demon in the same cell with her and then trust words out of her mouth. Crowley has something bigger in mind – Rowena doesn’t know who she’s messing with.

One other thought – when Crowley said he had a family, who was he referring to? It could be this was said to give mumsy an opening for manipulation, or it could be he was referring to his deceased family. But maybe, he meant his former BFF?

Confronting Castiel

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The anger Claire showed towards Cas, as I said, was legit and I really felt bad for her. She was so, so sad underneath everything. It would have been difficult to see a man who looked like her father and, more or less, who was responsible for her father’s death, talking to you but wasn’t your father. It was also interesting that when Castiel apologized, she kept refusing his apology and insisting he wasn’t sorry, he was guilty. This is a unique clarification – and likely accurate. Castiel wouldn’t undo what he’s done, because all things considered, he still needed a vessel and it’s what had to be done. But he does regret the hurt it caused along the way.

What I really enjoyed about Castiel and Claire, and this is carry-over from last week, is the hardcore, close up look at the damage done not only to the vessels, but to the lives that are left behind, especially in the long term like with Jimmy Novak. The angels ask permission for possession and it’s pitched as Heavenly work to be done, so it sounds really great. However, it lays waste to a lot of lives in the process, even if the angel does intend to do good with the vessel, like Cas, and not evil, like, say, Uriel. Demons don’t ask, they hijack, so angels, who ask permission, sound better by comparison, but given the end result, is it that much better?

Sam Winchester: The Observer

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Sam didn’t say much throughout this episode, but he certainly observed a lot. He noticed Dean’s Mark standing out sharply over lunch. He noticed the lackadaisical attitude Dean had at Wiener Hut while Cas “interrogated” the boy about Claire’s location. Overall, he kept a sharp eye on Dean and seemed not sure where things stood while he was doing it. His enjoyment at Dean’s enjoyment of lunch and TV was muted by well-hidden concern of the MoC – and he continued to offer questioning looks at Dean’s behaviour leading up to the end. The shoe was hanging in the air, and Sam was waiting for it drop – and drop it did.

Dean the Dreamer

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To start this episode is a mute-coloured, bloody dream of a hazy Dean post-slaughter in a room of dead bodies from which he awakes, gasping and horrified. Well, it certainly got my heart pumping and sent a shiver down my spine. As omens go, this does not bode well. By the time Dean and Cas get to the conversation in the diner, where Cas keenly and bluntly calls Dean out on not being okay, I’m pretty tense and wanted to hug Cas for *finally* saying something.

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This is a great moment in the diner because there is an easy friendship between the angel and the hunter. For example – Dean switching his empty plate with Cas’ burger, or Cas’ softening expression when he tells Dean he knows he’s not okay. Dean sets it up so Sam is away, and he knows that’s how it has to be, knows Sam cannot be a part of this request. Interestingly, with the exception of the self-denial or underplaying what is happening with Mark to themselves and each other, this is the first “secret” between the boys all season, if you would consider it to be that.

This conversation is sad, matter-of-fact and concise: Cas needs to end Dean if he starts to go off the rails, no matter what Sam says or does. Please do this for Dean because he can’t live with going there again. We don’t actually see Castiel promise anything, so I wonder if he said yes or if Dean just inferred it. Also, he must realize he’s asking his friend to kill him – that’s a hard request to make of Castiel. Later, when Castiel is ushering Claire away from the slaughter Dean created, there is a moment where he looks it over and his face is somewhere between saddened and shock. I can’t help but think he’s remembering his conversation in the diner and what Dean asked him to do.

Mark of Cain: Take Two

Rescuing Claire before Pervy McRaperson followed through on that “good deal” was a given. It’s always awesome to watch human bad guys get their asses kicked by an angel. It was even better to watch feisty little Claire save herself. Yes, Cas helped with the door, but she beat him up pretty good. On the other hand, he and his minions should have let it end there. If only they knew what was good for them.

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When the door slammed and Dean was kneeling on the floor, his head bleeding and those flashbacks began – my heart stopped and my stomach clenched. Here we go. This was so powerful – watching Sam realize Dean wasn’t with them in the same instant he hears the noise from the house and he dashes back – in slow motion, oh sweet mother of mercy. It’s making be nervous just typing about it and I know how it ends now.

The final moments of this episode were so incredibly intense it’s difficult to name the emotions they inspired. Watching Sam and Dean in that final scene was heart-clenching and devastating and, in a rare showing, left me glassy-eyed, struggling to process what I was watching. Sam dropping his gun, kneeling in front of his brother and cupping his face, urgently asking a glazed-eyed Dean to tell him he had to do it goes down on my top ten emotional Supernatural moments list.

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There was something incredibly potent about this exchange.  Sam was begging Dean to tell him he wasn’t  going to become a demon again, that he was still the same guy who laughed so fully and heartily at the Three Stooges and enjoyed a simple grilled cheese with enthusiasm. But he also knows that isn’t the answer he’s going to get – Sam knew this was coming and now the storm has arrived.

Dean answers Sam’s question like a shamed boy, “I did. I didn’t mean to.” When Sam then insists, “Tell me it was them or you!” Dean looks away, can’t meet his eyes. He doesn’t even seem to come back to reality until Claire screams. Dean doesn’t really know what is happening, his fear is realized and he’s aghast, doesn’t want to be this dark being, and can’t do this again. Wants the truth to be that he had to kill them, but doesn’t know if that’s the reality anymore.

This whole ending is very well filmed, and such an interesting, teasing choice not letting us really know what went on in the house with Dean during the fight. We can’t really say whether it was him or them, how much was the Mark or not. Either way, one thing is fundamentally clear: the Mark must go.

Final Thoughts

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Well, coherent thinking is a bit of a struggle. I keep replaying the last minute over and over in my mind. There were a few issues with the episode, as mentioned above, (one more thing – why didn’t Cas go find Claire’s mother?)  but overall I enjoyed it and that last scene was too good not to appreciate the artistry and emotional rawness from top to bottom. The New Year is certain to bring about intensity, adventure, angst and mystery. I can’t imagine where Sam and Dean can go from here, but I look forward to being there with them.
Share your thoughts below!

Comments  

sugarhi15
# sugarhi15 2014-12-13 17:35
you said it perfectly.....t hank you. ;)
elle
# elle 2014-12-13 17:49
Thank you - I'm still recovering! And previews for January aren't helping....
LEAH
# LEAH 2014-12-13 18:02
You saw it much the same as I did Elle. Thanks so much. My question is, and it has been brought up by several people on other threads, why would Cas kill Dean even if he wanted too? Doesn't Dean then revert back to being a demon? Sounds like a vicious circle to me. I enjoyed the episode myself. Was I hoping for a bigger jolt of what was alluded to in the promo, yes, but it did what it was supposed to do.
elle
# elle 2014-12-13 18:06
Interestingly, Dean doesn't actually ask Cas to kill him, but to smite him - which is more of evaporating him. He says, throw him into the sun, for example. I think he just wants Cas to eliminate him 100% so he cannot be a demon. He'd be dead, obviously but he also can't resurrect.
In the 200th episode (I think) Dean mentions he became a Knight of Hell, so I guess Cain would have to be the one to kill him if he turned again, with the blade? Same as Abaddon. Oh what a mess this is!
cheryl42
# cheryl42 2014-12-13 18:04
Thank you for your review. I also enjoyed this episode. I agree that the final scene was one of the most powerful moments in brother history. Sam was just as devastated as Dean. I can't imagine what this means for Dean going forward. How can Sam let him out of the bunker now? He is like a hidden land mine. Whoever steps on him is going to get blown to bits. I like Rowena more and more. I can really see where Crowley gets his art for conniving and manipulation. I am pretty sure Crowley isn't trusting Mommie Dearest in the least. And yes who is "family". I did love that Castiels story now has some direction. His quest to make things right may eventually take him to Amelia. Talk about awkward family reunion. I did love Claire. I couldn't place how old she would have been now. It's been 6 years and we know she is under 18 (juvenile hall instead of jail) so maybe 15 or 16 now? I can see how she may have been taken in completely by Randy if she has been with him for 4 or 5 years. I also loved that she was the one who fought her way free but still was a little girl when she hugged Cas in the car and sought his comfort in the house. I thought the casting for her was great as well she looked very much like the much younger Claire. Dean may have killed a bunch of scumbags but Randy posed no threat. This is going to be very hard on Dean.
elle
# elle 2014-12-13 18:11
Thank you - I agree, that final scene leaves me breathless. I can't even fully say why, it just grabs me. Those boys are too good!

I read in an interview with Misha that Claire is 17 here. Angry, hurt teenager - easily manipulated by Randy and still missing her family. 17 works, I suppose. I agree, she was very well cast - I wasn't sure it wasn't a different actress until I looked it up.
iamsam1013
# iamsam1013 2014-12-13 18:06
Thanks for the positive review! While it wasn't a completely perfect episode, I enjoyed it, and it seemed to do the job of setting up the 2nd half of the season. What did you think of the John Winchester story? I noticed you didn't mention it.
elle
# elle 2014-12-13 18:14
I enjoyed the JW story. I couldn't figure out where to mention it in the review actually. I thought it was a great piece of history to include about the boys and their father, plus an excellent way to illustrate something to Castiel about family: you don't always like them, but they love you and take care of you in spite of that. It kind of went hand in hand with what Dean said to Cole earlier about the people he loves pulling him back from the "dark" - it was a poignant and happy spot in the episode plus it was a good bonding moment for the three guys.
alysha
# alysha 2014-12-13 18:12
I have struggled with this season. Many episodes were poorly written and I felt as if Jared and Jensen were just there to pick up their paychecks. But THIS episode brought it all back for me. Jared and Jensen acted beautifully, in fact, Jared's silent subtle acting was excellent. He easily conveyed his worry over Dean and his knowledge that Dean was not fine. Dean's hunger was an easy metaphor for his need to feed the mark of cain. And what can I say about Castiel? His need to care for the humans affected by angels (carried over from 2 episodes ago) came to the fore, as it should. And how can you leave a person behind?

In fact, Sam and Dean did seem a bit out of character in not wanting to help Calire, but they came around.

This episode complemented the season 4 episode where we last saw Claire. In season 4 it ended with the revelation that Sam was giving in to evil, and this one, we end with Dean giving in to the mark.

thought the whole episode to be fantastic. And trust me, I've been ready to give up at points this year, so this is saying something.
elle
# elle 2014-12-13 18:20
I know some have struggled a bit with this season - I'm not one of them, I've loved a lot of it - but I appreciate the sentiment. There has been a great deal of subtly in the MoC hints, I think, and in the concerns or underplaying of the concern throughout the episodes which is where some people maybe have issues.

It's wonderful to see Castiel's story come to the forefront and intersect with the boys and MoC - especially when you point out the balance of it with the last time we saw Claire. I think the reluctance in the boys with Claire is they didn't understand why Cas was overly concerned with her to the point he needed their help (rather than, the police maybe) and, though they weren't voicing to each other, they were both worried about the MoC and trying not to do anything they didn't have to do.

I hope the episode keeps you watching, come 2015!
Fazzie
# Fazzie 2014-12-14 05:29
Thanks for the thoughts. I think you have said things that many are thinking.

It has taken me a couple of viewings but the only takeaways I can think of is the following.

1) Where Claire's mother is - well Cas does have a genetic link to Claire, she was probably easier to find for him. As for Amelia, well Claire says she was dropped off a Grandma's while her mother went to 'find' herself. Which to me sounds like something Grandma would have told Claire after she had her daughter committed to a mental institution for telling the whole story of being possessed by a demon and both her husband and child being vessels for angels.

2) That the point of the John story wasn't just to shift Cas from passive participate in Claire's tale, it was also to start the shift for Sam from passively observing to doing something willingly active about Dean's condition. What I mean is instead of fire fighting or continually waiting for the shoe to drop, as it did in this episode doing what he feels necessary to get ahead of the mark and him not being concerned what Dean's views are on it, just like John did in the CBGB story and Dean's actions a lot of the time for Sam. Because right now, with Dean's talk to Cas, he is being as active as he can be, (Short of cutting off his arm), and he is cutting his little brother right out of the equation. It would be nice to see that for Sam, an active, participate who would have a reason to have a POV in the story other than giving concern face or pouty lip when he feels he's let people down.
Lilah_Kane
# Lilah_Kane 2014-12-14 09:45
What a pretty screen cap about Sam at the start. ;)

Anyway, like some others I have liked the quieter pace of this season. I actually like to hear stories and also background to the other characters of Supernatural because they belong to the lives of Sam and Dean. Also that they revisit the history and past with characters they know and have met. Well, I like that. I have no issues that Claire and Amelia ended like this. Who in Supernatural ever has an happy ending? I think Claire's mother is in an institution or dead given what has happened.

Also the John story I can believe as no matter how you are the perfect soldier or do what your father tell you to do. If you are young/a teenager and get drunk really bad fore the first time it makes sense. Teenagers specially do that. I actually honor my dad myself but I am still rebellious against his ideas and do the opposite. And it isn't a surprise that maybe that one time Dean did it too. Maybe this was the story why Dean find out about roofies (mentioned in the purge) and how they look like.

Also this story and episode pointed out through Claire and reflected to the possession with angels to humans. Castiel messed up the life of this family and even if I adore him Claire has a point. It also reflects to Gadreel possessing Sam. Claire doesn't see the trio anything but the reason her family broke a part and that her father is dead. The lives in Supernatural are tough. All of them.

- Lilah
LEAH
# LEAH 2014-12-14 15:34
Nice post Lilah.
Bevie
# Bevie 2014-12-14 15:18
Thank you for this Elle! A lovely review expressing my own feelings, both for this episode and also for the season so far. I'm enjoying (a strange word to use considering the plight of my hero with his MoC brand) finally a season without world ending catastrophes, angel wars, and the brothers being pushed around like chess men on a board and best of all, the brothers being brothers again.

I'm happy to find Cas back with the boys and hope he and Sam can save Dean together. Knowing Cain will be back, I'm sure we are in for some heart rending episodes. I've never loved Sammy so much since the end of season 3. They've seemed to be at opposites all those years between then and now and I am really enjoying it all knowing those guys are there for each other for SURE this season.

I also love to hear their stories of their childhood with their dad. So realistic! Dean realizes his dad was not perfect as a dad, but he loved and still loves him entirely. And Sam agreeing was so heart warming that it gave me tears. I'm such a wimp for the family love of the Winchesters. I usually get those things from fanfic, but it was so nice it was included in the episode. I'd like a bit more reminiscenses (?) in the future. I'd even love to see an episode where they just talked about their childhood for the whole 45 minutes!

Anyway, thanks again Elle for this breath of fresh air. You don't know how much you've cheered me up here!
elle
# elle 2014-12-14 16:20
Bevie - thanks for your comments, I'm glad the review brightened your spirits!

I agree with you, the look back on the childhood with John was a great addition to the Winchester Memory Bank. More are welcome any time!
sugarhi15
# sugarhi15 2014-12-14 19:11
I kind of noticed the theme regarding fathers, come to think of it, absent fathers, in this ep. Crowley doesn't know and i'd say his mother doesn't know either who Crowley's father even is. so here we have Crowley in essence growing up without a father. what we don't know is what Crowley's feelings towards his absent father may be.

then we have jimmy novak. jimmy was a good father, a devoted father who loved his family, who loved his daughter. Then through an act of faith on his part, jimmy allowed himself to be possessed by an angel, thus abandoning his child. Granted, for jimmy this was an act of faith as he believed God was calling to him. He also believed he would be returned to his family. unfortunately for jimmy that was not the case. Claire clearly has issues with cas for taking and killing her father....but I wonder if given the chance to confront jimmy, would Claire have issues with him and blame him for abandoning her...not unlike the issues dean has with his father.

that brings us to john Winchester who is kind of similar to jimmy novak. here we have a devoted father and husband who loved his family. then through a supernatural act, his wife is taken from him and thus john ends up on a quest for revenge. john ends up, in a way, abandoning his own children...beca use even when he was with them, he wasn't "with" them. I believe cas is aware of dean's issues with his father...and now Claire seems to have these same issues, but with cas as well. I thought that the story of john Winchester not only served the purpose of bringing up a somewhat fond memory of their father...and driving home the point that as a father, it's their job to raise their children right even if it pisses their children off, and sometimes they do what they think is best even if it doesn't necessarily turn out that way... I think the story was meant to get cas to understand that like Claire, dean had moments when he hated his father, but he never really did. I got the feeling it was dean's way of trying to make cas feel better.

dean has been pretty focused on the moc...but when all is said and done, I wonder if dean's witnessing of claire's anger towards cas will aid his understanding as to why sam was so upset about angel possession. this is something I would love for them to bring up again. :)

can I just go off topic for just a sec and say that I just listened to Jason manns xmas with friends.....it' s really great....and I gotta say, I've heard white Christmas like a millions times in my life and I must've heard it sung by at least a dozen different people.....but listening to jared singing...it's the first time I've ever cried listening to that song....and I don't mean that in a bad way....I mean that grin to grin smile that leads to those happy tears cry....the man can really sing..... they all can....Jensen, Richard, Julie and of course rob....but for some reason hearing jared...made my heart burst ...just add singing to the many talents that these boys have....

sorry...now back to the topic at hand. :D
Sylvie
# Sylvie 2014-12-15 11:17
Thanks for the great review Elle. I was just in shock at the end. Yes, I knew it was probably a premonitory dream at the beginning, didn't make it any easier when it happened. :( I loved the whole Cas/Claire dynamic. I know some people were wondering why the hell Claire's mother would leave, but that was quite the trauma she went through, maybe she just couldn't deal with it anymore. As for Cas not going to find her, maybe that will come up in a later episode.

I loved the scene in the diner with Cas and Dean, those two are more like brothers than friends. Dean, knowing that Sam will not let anyone harm him has to ask Cas to kill him if he goes darkside, but I don't think Cas could or would do it either. And what can you say about Sam. The anguish on his face at the end was just too much, I'm so bloody worried about these two. We have to go and celebrate Christmas after this? My poor babies. :(
strawhair
# strawhair 2014-12-16 20:04
Excellent review. Well stated.

I'm actually relieved that Jimmy Novak is dead on at least one level. It probably means that Josie Sands was out of her old body by the time Abaddon's followers brought it back to be Abaddon's meat suit again, so she didn't have to live through that whole scheme or the final showdown with Dean.

Ah Dean. In so much trouble.