In the spirit of the holidays, WFB is giving you a great deal! We've got not two, not three, but FOUR reviews for the price of one in this Black Friday, "all opinions must go" sale.
Actually this being a midseason finale, we thought we'd do a little something different and have a group of your fabulous writers do a roundtable discussion on this episode!
1) This episode, how do you rank it overall? Positive, negative, or average?
Bardicvoice: Hard one; there was some brilliance in it, but it was too scattered and choppy for me to love it unreservedly. I'd come down with "average" because of the balancing factor involved. Loved the performances by Jensen and Jared, and the technical production work was top notch! (The Mark of Cain appearing in the stained glass window in the house where Dean lost it? What a great Jerry Wanek touch!)
Metamorphic Rocks: Average.
Pragmatic Dreamer: Positively average. I liked it.
2) Can you pick out one positive thing from this episode?
Bardicvoice: I can pick out more than one, but I can't go on at length! I did particularly love the brothers telling Castiel the anecdote about John in New York, and the way they told it -- kudos to Jared and Jensen! -- illustrated the complexity of their family relationship and showed the continual and ever-changing development of both of the brothers' attitudes toward John even after his death. There was nothing simple in the telling of that tale. Both brothers love their father, and yet they both also acknowledged they still resent him, too. They can see his flaws. They know his failings. They've learned over time how differently they each used to view him, and how each of their differing views captured aspects of him the other hadn't seen. But since his death, they've both, in different ways and with lots of stops and starts, also gradually come to terms with understanding and appreciating that he loved them both with all his heart and did his very imperfect best for them. And after making horrible mistakes with good intentions themselves, they've mostly forgiven John for how he hurt them, knowing he hadn't meant to. That was a treat of Winchester maturity I cherish. So thank you, Andrew Dabb, Jared, Jensen, and Guy Bee.
I did love the episode having a common theme -- parent issues, basically -- that touched all of the characters involved: Sam, Dean, Castiel, Crowley, Claire. Unfortunately, I thought packing all of them into it made it too busy and choppy overall. I was least invested in Crowley and Rowena; the Hell stuff was just too far removed from the rest of the action to be anything more than a distracting sideshow. Mind, I enjoy the characters and the actors, but I've never cared for the presentation of Hell. Hell, schmell.
Metamorphic Rocks: It was nice to see the story of Jimmy Novak's possession and the effects on his family revisited after all this time. The episode effectively delved into the guilt Castiel feels over taking Jimmy as a vessel, exemplified by his desire to make amends to Jimmy's daughter by guiding her at such a pivotal time in her life. We also finally got an answer to what ultimately happened to Jimmy's soul, so having that closure was an added bonus.
There were also some very well done, poignant moments in this episode - particularly Sam and Dean telling the John Winchester story, as well as Claire's disclosure to Castiel that she prayed to him to return her dad to his family.
Pragmatic Dreamer: Adored the John Winchester story. I really appreciated the mix of emotions from the brothers - love, grief, respect, anger, and understanding. Also really liked Cas telling Dean he was/could be a role model. I got annoyed over the years when Dean (and Sam to some extent as well) was always told to quit whining about the hunting life, and that his best qualities were his deadliest traits. Essentially, the only positive reinforcement he was getting was around the fact he was an efficient, skilled hunter. That's all rather ironic now, in light of the final scene. But in The Ketchup Scene I think Cas was trying to affirm that Dean is a good man and he needs to hear that. I also liked the brief glimpse of what a masterful manipulator Rowena is.
Nate: I liked that canon seems to be remembered and applied again. And when retcons are applied, they at least make sense in the show and don't break canon worse.