Was the episode a barnburner? No. Was it better than “We Need to Talk About Kevin?” Yes. Was it better than “I Think I’m Gonna Like it Here?” Oh yes. Was it better than “Black?” Light years yes.
It felt like a “Supernatural” episode to me for starters. The story flowed well and I never lost interest. The dialogue was great (no one does dialogue better than Carver). There were light moments. The side stories didn’t dominate or distract too much from the main action yet they were enjoyable as well. I think ultimately though, this episode kicked off the season with a premise of which we all can get onboard. It’s everything I’ve felt that’s been missing in this show for a while now. “Hunting Things” is only half the bumper sticker. We need that other half.
The Winchester Boys and Philosophical Bumper StickersBut there was way more to this story than Sam and Dean sharing ideologies in a tense lockdown situation. Tone is everything. No matter how much the Winchesters were back and willing to fight, we were constantly reminded what a dark situation they truly face. It was all done through show, don’t tell. I love show, don’t tell. I want to hold onto it and curl up with it at night. Carver proved there is a way to unfold a mythological story through demonstration, not dialogue. It starts with seeing exactly what happened to both Sam and Dean in that cloud of dark. Sam was knocked unconscious after Dean disappears, taken by Amara to a field of dark swirling clouds. The visual is stunning. He’s surrounded by evil, yet Dean is protected. Their conversation plays out through the episode, to slowly feed us information, so not to overwhelm with us a dialogue heavy scene. It’s ideal, and it keeps the even, very eerie tone in the entire episode.
The episode connected on an emotional level, telling whole stories through emotional reactions, which is honestly a rare feat with a show this old. Too many other lesser skilled writers (I’m not naming names) fail to bring that out on the page. Carver is eloquent, as well as director Robert Singer, in drawing out those tender moments at just the right time. I felt instantly connected to new dad Mike and felt awful over his demise. I loved him taking that moment to hold and love that child while telling his story, knowing full well that his end was coming. He made sure that he chose to right person to care for her. I also loved the return of sympathetic Sam and Dean, taking in every word with tender heartbreak of this very tragic situation. It’s facial acting and no two do it better. I swear somewhere down the road this show forgot that (probably lost in the sensationalized stories and dialogue-heavy exposition).
One extraordinary feat that happened too was I felt the suspense! I was on the edge of my seat when Sam was checking out the hospital after they arrived. He stumbled upon black throat guy pounding away at the door, tensely hiding from his view. Sam wouldn’t kill him though. He’s decided to ask questions first and then shoot later. I also jumped during that scene in the dark supply closet, waiting for the bad guys to bust in. No, I didn’t expect someone to jump out from behind. Well done!
Jenna: “This job is supposed to be saving people.”
Dean: Sounds better on paper, doesn’t it?
On the flip side, Dean has gone into survival mode. If there’s ever been a piece of dialogue to show the two different directions these brothers have gone, this is THE one. (it’s a long conversation, but it’s very important!)
Sam: I get it. I do. We’re going to save that baby, okay, and we’re gonna find Cas and we’re gonna stop the Darkness.
Dean: What are we talking about?
Sam: The plan.
Dean: We have a plan. It’s the same plan is it’s always been. In order to get out we go through.
Sam: And? How has that been working for us?
Dean: We can’t save Cas, we’re stuck in a hospital. Just like I can’t strap on in a time machine, go back and tell Cain to shove that Mark up his ass or stop you from releasing the darkness. Now have we made mistakes? Yes, Hell yes. And we can analyze each and every one of them over a couple of frostys when we’re old and farting sawdust and OUT OF THIS ROOM! Right now all I can do is I can gear up, I can head out, I can save that freaking baby, which is exactly what I’m gonna do.
Sam: When did we forget how to do this?
Sam: Dean, if we don’t change, right now, all our crap is just going to keep repeating itself.
Dean: I don’t even…what?
Sam: This…this kill first question later. What happened to us? Hunting things, we’re good at that, sure, we’re great at that, but it’s only half the bumper sticker man.
Dean: Sam, I’m trying to save that baby.
Sam: And what about the others out there?
Dean: You mean the ones that are trying to kill us?
Sam: The ones that are sick, the ones that are dying.
Dean: Yeah, who won’t rest until they’ve infected us all.
Sam: So we just forget about a cure?
Dean: What cure? Jenna’s cure? (Holds up shotgun)
Sam: There’s always a cure. You just have to want to find it.
Dean: Yeah, how are you going to find it if you’re dead. (Turns around). And around and around we go.
Sam: Saving people means all of the people Dean, not just that baby, not just each other. I unleashed a force on this world that could destroy it to save you.
Dean: I told you not to.
Sam: I would do it again, in a second, I would do it again. And that is what I’m talking about. This isn’t on you. It is on us. We have to change.
Dean: What are you thinking?
Sam: Get Jenna to the car, get her and the baby somewhere safe.
Dean: Without a shot. And what are we gonna do with those things on our tail.
Sam: They won’t be on your tail.
This discussion raises some very good questions. For one, I’m thrilled to see this talk happen. I wasn’t a pure fan of the whole idea that Sam and Dean in the course of saving each other over the last two seasons put other people’s lives above their own, intentionally or not. But how hypocritical is it of Sam to start changing after the damage has been done? Why is Sam all of a sudden feeling the guilt of harming people when he was so willing to risk everything to save people before? Because Sam is not a guy for regrets, and neither is Dean. That doesn’t fix anything. He did say he would do it again in a second. The mess is made, it’s time to clean it up. I think this time though, Sam is emotionally exhausted. He felt like in this episode he was always on the brink of tears. He’s at his wits end and I’m not sure if he can take at this point another setback, and he’s facing a big one! I’m sure he’ll find a way though. This is Sam freaking Winchester.
Dean also backed Sam’s play after this talk. Was Dean wrong to go into survival mode initially? Jenna was following Sam’s philosophy that these people should be saved. But Dean did raise a good point, how can you save people if you’re dead? “And round and round we go.” This seems to be the catch 22 of the Winchester’s lives. I’d like to see Dean get out of survival mode and see the bigger picture, but maybe not quite to the degree of Sam who was more willing to sacrifice himself this go around. There has to be a balance between the two, and that balance is the missing half of that proverbial bumper sticker.
Also, if Sam thinks they should start changing now, then why did he lie to Dean when he called? Why didn’t he tell him that something was wrong? Because he knew that Dean would forget about saving the baby and come after him. But is the lie really changing things? Dean after all didn’t come forward with the info about his conversation with Amara. I would think that Dean would have a better reason to tell the truth than Sam. Was it really Dean just remembering things as they went? I’d buy into that explanation. No matter what, some things don’t change with these Winchesters. Lying to each other is one of them.
As for all the other details, the truth is Jeremy Carver’s scripts don’t do much with hidden clues or making one thing seem like something else. What you see for the most part can be taken at face value. Take Sam for instance. He wasn’t attacked by the black neck people (rabids?) because he was already infected. There’s nothing more to it than that. Sam knew it, which is why he sat on the floor of that supply closet devastated. He knew what was going on inside of him. He took their retreat as the very bad sign it was, that hesitant look in the mirror only being the final confirmation. Having hours to live is definitely a trial for Sam and that’s why I can’t wait to see how next week plays out.
Also, the mark on the baby, I took that to be that’s the woman in the clouds. After all, the mark is the same. Amara is the Darkness. The baby is evil. Castiel put it best, “The Darkness is a woman?” Her words with Dean indicated that she doesn’t know anything about earth and creation from the times of the Book of Genesis on. She never heard of Death and he was pretty damned old. So, it does seem fitting she would start her new life, her re-creation, as a baby. Am I disappointed that The Darkness can be traced to one being? I’m not sure yet. I like the idea better than the disastrous “Anyone can be a Leviathan” plot from season seven, but at the same time, what could this one being do that’s so awful that she could only be contained by God and his archangels? I’m underwhelmed so far but willing to give it a chance. What is this Darkness really? TBD.
I even liked the B stories. For one, Castiel is such a stoic figure. To see him so bewildered, so emotional, so desperate and lost, it was a nice change of pace. It proves too that when it comes to those heart tugging moments, Misha Collins can also knock it out of the park. Castiel surrendered himself to other angels rather than risk hurting others. It’s the noble Castiel we know and love, and boy is he going to pay dearly. At least he managed to call Sam and Dean so they could all get on the same page before he surrendered to Heaven’s goons. I just hope Andrew Dabb isn’t a fan of Deliverance.
I’m sorry, but I laughed at Crowley. It was juvenile, unnecessary, and I laughed anyway. It was a very clever Crowley thing to do to escape via red smoke down the drain just before Castiel stabbed him. I loved the woman he possessed. She did the perfect Crowley! Just saying the word “King!” was dead on. I thought going through with the orgy was hilarious, and such a Crowley thing to do. I even laughed at the menopause comment. I won’t read into anymore than that. It was having a little fun in a dire situation.
However, I REALLY loved how noise is coming from the cage. You know it’s Lucifer. Death said it all, Lucifer was the original holder of the Mark. I wonder what he has to say and how he’ll get to say it.
Other ThoughtsA minor quibble, I don’t care for the title card too much. It looks like a slightly jazzed up version of season one. It’s pretty tame. Is it a statement that we’re back to basics? I hope not.
This episode looks like it was shot with the exact set from “Jus in Bello.” I’ll have to consult my locations expert, Bardicvoice, and see if that episode was filmed in the studio or onsite somewhere.
I didn’t miss Rowena this episode. There was just too much going on and no room for her. At least Castiel reminded us that she is at large with The Book of the Damned and the Codex. Just in case we forgot.
Overall grade, a B+. All that matters is the premise leaves me wanting more. I haven’t said that in several season openers. Thank you Mr. Carver. Bring on next week!