Phenomenal. Truly, that is the only thought I had after watching this episode. It was 42 minutes and change of fully engrossing television and one of the best episodes this season has had to offer. From the opening, which started like a scene from a Marvel adapted television series with the darkened alleyway and hooded figure with blade-strapped back, it promised action for sure – but the emotion and genuine human drama was less expected. Both Sam and Dean made major decisions and traded something for another, neither left satisfied in the end but doing what they had to do and the journey to reach those conclusions, ah, so good but so hard. Never mind that final scene which is almost an unspeakable twist – an oh so bad it’s good.
Isn’t it wonderful to welcome Charlie back again? And my, she’s had a journey around the world for the book of skin and blood. Charlie always adds a freshness to the show, even when the episodes are darker or have a particularly melancholic element as this one did. At times she introduces a lightness that no other character can quite match. Having said that, she’s a badass fighter and a hell of a field medic apparently, since that bullet wound caused no trouble in the time it took to reach Angel 911.
I appreciate that Charlie is available for Sam to talk to, as she recognizes the pressures of the job, particularly after as long as the boys have been in it and the struggle Sam is enduring. Where Castiel is a great friend as well, he doesn’t completely understand the nuances of human relations the same way. Charlie was able to lend a good ear and ask questions that made Sam think as well – though his conclusions may not have been exactly what she, or Dean, were aiming for ultimately.
The review wouldn’t be complete without touching briefly on Charlie and Castiel finally meeting. It was short, as Castiel was expected to be, but it was sweet. Charlie was very excited and I assume Castiel was too – though both were disappointed he couldn’t just zap Dean to normal. The Avengers have assembled now, team fully in gear at bunker and perhaps now the solution will be found... after pizza and beer.
Angelic Road Trip
Castiel has never looked so completely and utterly annoyed as he did during his time on the road and in the dinner with Metatron. Curtis Armstrong is, undoubtedly, a great villain and plays Metatron as a wicked word slinger – but as the most irritating and whiny passenger – wow – he was brilliant. The chemistry between these characters is excellent in any forum, but the comedy aspect was a new component – Castiel is often the straight man in the scenarios and seeing him get angry enough to call Sam and ask about shooting Metatron, without a true display of temper simply just an inquiry, was hilarious.
There were so many good exchanges between Metatron and Castiel on their trip, including the dinner with the discussion of food and digestion. Metatron also tries to sell Castiel on their similarities of experiences as angels and former-angel humans. What was most significant (what is always significant about Castiel to me) is his unending loyalty to the Winchesters. I loved the conviction with which he tells Metatron that since Metatron killed his friend Dean, that’s all that matters and it can never be forgiven.
Knowing how it ended, with Metatron taking the tablet and planning to take the Grace, why was he trying to persuade Castiel on the up side of being human? It seemed such a hard sell with the appeals of songs and food, etc. And then of course in the library when talking to Cas about what he hoped to do when he finished his mission on Earth. As Metatron drew the last Enochian symbol, he said “he tried” – was he hoping to convince Castiel to give up the Grace and go on his merry way?
Beyond the “buddy comedy” elements as Metatron deftly identified in the library, two swift advances came to fruition in the plot – finally. First and foremost we can put to rest the dramatics over Castiel’s grace. He’s a fully functional angel again! Yay! This was a moment I had been waiting for – for what seemed like eternity – and it didn’t disappoint. The library was rocked by the force of the grace, we saw Castiel’s wings again and he was restored. Hallelujah. Second of course, is the reveal of the demon tablet. How this will end, who knows, but one can’t help but wonder what role the tablet will play in the Mark and its removal. After all, as we know, Cain was the first demon. It seems fitting in a way that since Metatron started the whole mess, he be there to clean it up, so to speak.
Extreme Brotherly Love
There has been a wonderful re-establishment of the close bond between Sam and Dean this season. Everything has been on the table and they deal with it together. But as we know there will come a point if one of their lives is on the line and they have to make a choice between their brother and greater risk of consequence: Winchesters choose family. And when they make these choices, it turns the wheel towards secrecy and heavy burden, as the end of 10.18 well illustrated.
Throughout the entirety of the episode, Sam’s goal was, as it always has been of course, a solution for Dean. However, Sam is getting more concerned and desperate as he goes along and hiding more and more from Dean. The Metatron debacle is entirely hush-hush (which will come back and bite in one way or another, probably in conjunction with the Tablet and the Book now) and now of course the Book still existing. Sam watched Dean closely as they worked and there was a deep sadness about him that his brother is getting worse not better, the weight you carry when caring for an ill patient and constantly trying to remain hopeful and positive for their sake. It’s a profound load for Sam alone day after day, particularly when he feels Dean bucks against “cures” with decent potential. The Book offered a brief reprieve, even during the drive to Charlie, Sam genuinely happy to see Dean so excited and talking about going to the beach for vacation – but it was not lasting.
Sam’s conversation with Charlie was poignant, to say the least. It reached so far back in the mythology of the Winchesters, even mentioning Jess, to make the point that Sam is a hunter to his core and he loves what he does. He never planned for this to be his life, never wanted it in fact, and now he can’t imagine not doing it. But only with Dean by his side. Jared was so touching in this moment; Sam was overcome by the thought of no Dean – the little brother who needs his big brother. He’s capable of doing it by himself but he does not want to be alone, it’s just that simple. Plainly put the moment was sweet and moving.
Now, past the sweet part, Sam was also quick on his feet and tricky to boot. Hands up if you too truly thought the Book of the Damned had burned. But then, really we shouldn’t be surprised because when it comes to selling souls, jumping into hell and all those fun things to save each other, passion overtakes reason with these boys. It was clear at the end that Sam knew he’d gone against Dean’s desires and had some guilt about that, but on the other side he is doing what needs to be done to save Dean. One wonders how long it took him to plan to go to Rowena for help after Dean shared the information about her and he learned about the Book. Regardless, this is a deep, dark rabbit hole that promises drama, drama, drama. And maybe a cure too?
Marked, Mean Dean
Dean wants to be cured, no doubt. And like Sam, he has secrets from his brother – primarily that tidbit from Cain about the Mark pushing you to kill your sibling. Dean struggles to control the Mark, which is getting stronger and with the Book calling to him as well, asking him to use it for further damage and destruction: this is a bad combination. How long can the Book be out in the world before it will call to him further, or before he’ll recognize at least that it still does exist?
The conversation about Rowena and the Mark as a curse went over better than expected – demonstrating a new maturity or respect maybe in the relationship that has been born of the new type of challenges the year served up to the boys. Dean was nonchalant about the disclosure of the information, or trying to be, maybe reluctant to get his hopes up or Sam’s more importantly. Sam maybe didn’t have a chance to react as Charlie’s call came in during the discussion, but he digested the information smoother than expected in the moment.
It was great to get a glimpse of a lighter Dean in the car with Sam, jamming to the music. Picturing these guys on the beach somewhere is a struggle, I admit. I feel like the guns in the waist band of swim shorts would be noticeable, but that’s my opinion. Regardless, that trip is further away than anticipated now though Dean retains his optimism to a degree, having counted Castiel getting his Grace back as the win they were overdue.
Despite the loss they also suffered, Dean seems genuine in his confident attitude – or at the very least he has firm direction. There is no waiver, no choice. Either they find a solution for the Mark that isn’t damaging or they don’t. Perhaps Dean is relying on the fact that he made a pact with Castiel to vaporize him should he go too dark again. Regardless, the spirit Dean demonstrated in the final group scene appeared wholly authentic and relaxed for the first time in a long time.
Odds and Ends
Clan Evil – the short and sweet of it is that they weren’t the major villains here because it’s more about the book. Ultimately, these boys were a way to drive Charlie, Sam and Dean together faster and have Dean understand the darkness of that book wholly, from the source family while giving Sam an opportunity to take it to be used. And this was all done very well ultimately. Perhaps this group will come into play later – maybe they know Rowena – but for now they did their job and served their purpose. It’d be one too many players on the board at this point, in my opinion, to have them back in a significant way.
Let’s talk about the music: Supernatural always does music well, but in particular this episode was excellent. First we had the brother scene in the car, The Boys Are Back In Town, and since I’ve gushed about this exchange a fair bit already I won’t do it again except to say I loved it from the music to the dialogue to the tone.
The other moment of the course was at the end, Behind Blue Eyes. Wow, if ever there was an appropriate anthem for Sam, at least today, this was it. Not only did the song overlay the happier family dinner scene with a melancholic, foreboding fog but then we had Sam’s baritone voiceover smoothly making clear it absolutely was not the seemingly loose-ends-tied-for-today conclusion it appeared to be. The fight scene re-viewed from Sam’s lens as it really happened was unexpected and perfectly executed. The addition of the music was just right.
Finally, the pacing and tone of this episode were excellent. Unlike previous episodes this season which did shift between two story arcs as this one did, both maintained a general feel of a mission and neither was out of balance with the mood of the other plot. Further, the two arcs were connected in the beginning with Cas and Sam having a brief dialogue and then of course the entire group being brought together in the end. Information was set up and used well, but not overtly obvious: Sam learning about Rowena and ultimately taking her the Book was a surprise. Metatron escaping was anticipated, though Castiel getting his Grace back – frankly I thought it might never happen and we’d see Metatron the angel again first. Well paced, good, dark but not depressing tones and as always the acting is totally in touch with where the characters need to be and so much is conveyed wordlessly.
One of my favourites of the season. I feel like that list is getting a bit crowded now to be honest, but we’ve seen some high quality lately, and if this keeps up it bodes very well (and makes me very nervous) for where the finale will leave us. The last moments of this episode will resonate, certainly the mark of strong writing and powerful delivery. Sam is in his venture alone, always a reason to worry when it comes to the Winchesters. Full circle and back to selling souls in one form or another. We have a brother tottering on the brink of evil and the other desperate to save him at any and all costs. This can only end tragically.
There was a discussion about the song Ironic at the beginning of the episode, and later Metatron remarks to Castiel that he’s come so far only to “drown in shallow water” which too is ironic of course. The other line was about the two things a man needs for success: “ignorance and confidence.” Both boys are lacking information that the other has: Sam doesn’t know about Dean’s fear of killing him and Dean doesn’t know the extent Sam has already gone and is going to cure the Mark. Both are sure theirs is the way to go about succeeding. Dean is working hard not to turn, so he refuses cures that will be exceptionally damaging or are evil and he ultimately doesn’t want to lose Sam. On the other hand, Sam doesn’t want to lose Dean, so he’s using every available resource – and the last line of the episode was to discuss “terms” – so what will this cost Sam ultimately? Will Dean lose Sam in the process in one way or another or vice versa? Irony, ignorance and confidence.