Done poorly, these costumes could have been the mill stones that sunk the entire episode to the depths of the inane. Instead, they were the highlight of the show! The inanimate eyes surrounded by oversized features made these creatures haunting! I had to laugh out loud because they were making everyone squirm so much! That bunny head was just freaky, and the deer head looked alive. I’m guessing costume design for this episode was done by Kerry Weinrauch (the most recent credit on IMDB). Congratulations and thank you to whomever was responsible! You elevated this episode to be uncomfortably creepy.
The actors who stood frozen in place creeping people out with anticipation also did a phenomenal job selling the story. The best scene of the show was Sam in the elevator with that clown. That’s going to make my next list of best comedic scenes of the series. Jared’s expressions were priceless as that clown just stood there while Sam freaked out.
Alice’s tweet about that scene captured the moment perfectly:
“Sam summons the inner strength to fight the clown after seeing the scalpel. This man was in a cage in Hell with Lucifer right?”
Rabbit, Jester, Clown and Deer have joined the suicidal teddy bear in Supernatural’s hall of fame! How many of your phobias did they hit? Well if you didn’t have any before, I bet you have a few new ones now!
As far as the rest of the episode, I love Sheriff Donna, but some of her dialog was very contrived. In fact, quite a bit of the dialog was forced, slow, too obvious, or out of sync with a cohesive emotional flow in the episode. Still, several layers of season 11’s themes were present so let’s pull on some of these threads.
Visions/The CageSam’s very serious, personal prayer of desperation and fear just didn’t have the emotional impact it should have had because it followed the silliness of adults being attacked by a bloody rabbit, and it was clumsily set up to be overheard by Dean! That aside, Sam is obviously and justifiably scared by the visions he is having.
Dean’s reaction was extremely telling, though. Ridicule? Why is Dean so threatened by Sam’s prayers?
Dean: All I’m saying is don’t count on God. Count on us.Good advice, but it is most interesting because it is a reiteration of VisionJohn’s words in “Baby”: “God helps those who help themselves”. That’s twice that we have been told God will not take over and hand wave this problem away, and that Team Free Will must find the answers themselves. I don’t think either comment gets us any closer to knowing if it is God, Lucifer or someone else (Michael?) who is getting inside Sam’s head, though. Luckily, other conversations offer additional clues about the Cage.
In lamenting about having to kill Mike (bunny head boy), Donna and Sam teamed up to seek redemption for the “victims”:
Donna: The kid was innocent…if the mask was cursed, he was just a puppet, right? He was a victim too.Reread those quotes, replacing the word mask with mark. It’s a simple substitution of one letter.
Sam: No one else dies. Not like this.
The hidden message is that since the Mark was cursed, its bearers were innocent victims, nothing more than puppets who didn’t deserve what happened to them. We certainly believe that about Dean, because we strongly empathize with him. Besides, Sam spent an entire season telling us (and Castiel and everyone else) that Dean was innocent and didn’t deserve his fate. If we already bought into that conclusion, though, why is this being emphasized now?
Dean wasn’t the first person to be taken over by the Mark. Its first victim was Lucifer. Lucifer bore the original curse. He was possessed, or corrupted, by its will and changed from being God’s most trusted lieutenant to being the most reviled, feared evil in the universe. Perhaps he didn’t deserve what happened to him. Even more dire, like poor Mike, maybe Lucifer doesn’t deserve to die for what he did while possessed (Sam’s “No one else dies. Not like this”). As punishment for his crimes, Michael passed the death sentence on Lucifer before the final battle of the apocalypse, a moment in the brothers' history reintroduced into this plot by Dean:
You kidding me? He [God] didn't feel the need to show up for the Apocalypse. Why would he give a crap now?The implication of Donna and Sam’s sympathies is that now that Lucifer is free of the Mark he doesn’t deserve to die for the things he did while he was possessed.
Donna’s advocacy for the application of justice continued when faced with the second possessed victim. When the young girl was freed of the jester mask’s curse, Donna and Sam again empathized and desired mercy:
Donna: ‘The poor thing doesn’t deserve to be locked up”Donna did let the girl go, a benevolent action that was later repeated when Sam let the innocent grandfather (clown) ‘escape’. Neither perpetrator deserved to be jailed for life for things they were forced to do by the curse, without either their knowledge or consent.
Sam: So let her go.
In contrast, Lucifer was sentenced to life in a cage for his actions. Sam’s admission that he had visions of the cage conveniently reminded the audience of Lucifer’s plight.
Sam: I keep praying to God because if it is God -- and I know you think it isn't, but if it is -- then he's showing me something I don't know what to do with.
Sam: The cage.
Dean: Lucifer's cage?
Sam: Yeah. What if he's telling me I have to go back? What if he's saying that's where the answer is to beating the Darkness?
Dean: Sam, no. No, okay. I don't know if these visions are coming from God or PBS or what. But we've been down that road. Anything having to do with that cage is -- it -- it's suicide. You of all people know that. So, no. Just...Not gonna happen.
One of the messages of "Plush" was clearly that once freed of their curse, innocent victims like Mike, the girl, the grandfather, Dean or Lucifer, should not be ‘caged’ or killed for crimes they were forced to commit. This merciful stance also supports Sam’s renewed commitment to saving all the people. In “Out of the Darkness Into the Fire” (11.01) Sam advocated to save the lives of the infected, and in “Our Little World” (11.06) Sam chose to not kill the hosts who were possessed by demons. It sounds like we are being told that Lucifer should be set free and pardoned because his curse has been lifted and he is back to being a “good” archangel!
Could someone else have also been wrongly imprisoned for life?
In “The Bad Seed” (11.03) a pivotal conversation between young Amara and the adult Darkness reminded us of their incarceration:
Grown Darkness: You look confused. Troubled.Was this a case of another unjustified life sentence?
Young Amara: God did all of this after he locked me away. I didn't know it was so much.
Grown Darkness: All for his own ego. And no matter what he made, that doesn't excuse what he did to us.
Young Amara: I know.
Abusive Parents/Abused Children
In “Plush”, the townspeople killed Chester because they suspected him of child abuse. In “Thin Lizzie” (11.05), Lizzie, Sydney, Jordie and the Innkeeper were all abused or controlled by uncaring, unfit parents. With child abuse now being the theme of two episodes so far, one has to ask, “Who is the abused child that is obviously been foreshadowed?” Since Metatron said that the Darkness is God’s sister, their relationship seems to be that of siblings not parent/child. Oh the other hand, Amara was intensely interested in Lizzie, the abused child who ended her suffering by (supposedly) killing her parents. In “Thin Lizzie” Threads, I presented the argument that Amara could be the daughter of the Darkness (the mirror conversation, several abusive mothers being killed, Amara’s identification with Lizzie). The recurrence of child abuse as a theme and motivation for murder in “Plush” adds credibility to the idea that the Darkness is a controlling mother who should fear the retribution of her abused daughter. The episode presented even more evidence than this, though.
FamilyThis episode’s vengeful spirit was an uncle who was wrongfully accused of abusing children. The choice of the ‘monster’ being an uncle is interesting since, now knowing that the Darkness is God’s sister, if my theory is correct, God is Amara’s uncle. Max gave an additional detail about Uncle Chester that might bolster the theory that God is an uncle:
Dean: Hey. Poker? I can show you a move or two.An uncle who knows magic? Metatron told Castiel that people want to believe that God knows magic.
Max: Magic trick. Something my uncle taught me.
Dean: Ah. Yeah, you were pretty close to him, huh?
Max: Yeah. He was cool. I miss him.
Dean: He sounds like a good guy.
Max: He was. What those men said about him wasn't true.
If we entertain for a moment the idea that God being Amara’s uncle is what was being hinted at here, suddenly the numerous references to uncles this season become extremely important. Crowley donned the name “Uncle Crowley” to Amara. In “Thin Lizzie”, Len specifically tried to exonerate the child and implicate the uncle:
Lizzie has been so misunderstood by history. It's pretty obvious her uncle had the stronger motive and opportunity.In a scary foreshadowing, though, Amara stated her belief that the abused child was the killer:
Oh, no. Lizzie definitely hacked them. You can see it in her eyes -- serial-killer eyes.If Amara was right, then Lizzie’s uncle was innocent of wrong doing. Max’s testimony and the existence of Chester’s vengeful spirit seem to imply that Uncle Chester was also wrongly accused. In her conversation with Amara through the mirror, the Darkness accused Uncle God of being unjustified in locking “them” away. The parallel would seem to imply that God too is innocent.
This season’s references to family were deepened by Max’s misguided, protective mother:
I couldn’t do that to Max. He already lost his father and his uncle. He couldn’t lose me [his mother] too.She also made an obviously foreboding prediction that could apply to either Sam or Dean:
“I spent my whole life sticking up for my brother. But what if I couldn't see him for who he really was?...I had to suck it up and face my biggest fear. If not me, then who? But I should've talked to him. I just should've gone to him first.”…Fear cripples you. Makes you do nothing, or worse. Makes you do something you regret. I should have trusted my brother.
Both brothers have spent their whole lives sticking up for each other yet each has wondered if they could trust the other. Dean spent years worrying that he didn’t really know Sammy, and that Sam was some sort of agent of Satan. Sam’s visions of the cage might reawaken that fear. Throughout the entire last year, people challenged Sam that he wasn’t accepting who Dean had become. Dean’s supposed bond with the Darkness might also give a renewed reason to question Dean’s loyalties.
Both brothers also have something to fear. Sam obviously fears having to go back to the cage. Dean fears …what? The bond with the Darkness? Facing his ‘savage’ instincts (e.g. liking torture in Hell, the simplicity of killing in Purgatory, not winning his battle with the Mark. Savage was his alias in this episode). We know they should talk to each other. They should go to each other first. They should trust each other. Even Dean recognized that the universe believes they are stronger together than apart. Since right now Sam is being more open than Dean, I have to wonder if this message is being aimed at Dean. Dean hasn’t yet come clean about his conversations with the Darkness or Amara. I have speculated that he is refusing to recognize, deal with or talk about these interactions because they frighten him so much. In a sense, he is frozen with fear. Applying Mrs. Johnson’s confession to Dean’s future, though, is a deeply troubling omen.
Taken literally, Mrs. Johnson described how she was tricked and betrayed by Chester’s killers. Betrayal has been constant theme the past few years. Castiel was tricked and betrayed by Metatron; Dean was tricked and betrayed by Gadreel, who turned around and betrayed Metatron (I seem to remember Metatron mentioning betrayal last week. Anyone remember for sure?). The Darkness feels betrayed by God. Was God also betrayed somehow? Is anyone telling the truth?
Sam's plea to Mrs. Johnson (Rita) to tell the truth was partially responsible for her reflections and regrets on not being courageous or honest:
Sam to Rita: Look, we need to know the truth.His earlier prayer also revealed that telling the truth and getting to the truth is utmost on Sam's mind:
So, uh... on the off chance that you're actually listening, uh... Uh, I gotta be real honest. The visions aren't making a whole lot of sense to me. Truth is... I don't know what's what. Please. What are you trying to say?With all the predictions about truth being their only chance, when will these boys talk to each other??
How did Castiel get things from Gaza? Cas’ wings are broken. He can’t fly anymore.
For the record, I didn’t care for the way Donna’s character was “developed” in this episode. Why did they emphasize yet again that being overweight was a distinguishing characteristic of Donna’s? “Fat sucker Donna”? Why would Sam refer to the case when they met her as opposed to the more recent case when she learned of the supernatural world around her? Why name the lead officer Doug? Did they have to work that hard to show that Donna had relationship baggage? The “Somebody might have a crush. Once bitten twice Doug-ed” scene was slow. I was embarrassed for the actors and uncomfortable watching the socially awkward silence. Then the “Lady cops can’t handle the heavy liftin’? Watch and learn” scene was also forced and awkward.
The “Lay off the HGH. You might have to pee in a cup” scene was also painful to watch. The poor actors had to pause then snicker? Was it supposed to lay the foundation that the coach was a lowlife? What about the quarterback’s stereotypical bravado “Why would I know? I’m the quarterback”. It made perfect sense for him to say “and I hold the state bench record” but then why would the dialog waste time asking him how much he benched (“4 plates each side”)? Was that meant to establish a measurement of the attackers’ strength?
When Officer Doug repeatedly questioned the rash of costume killings, Sam and Dean stood there with nothing to say. They have been coming up with cover stories all their lives yet all of a sudden they couldn’t think of an excuse? Donna’s “copycat” story was actually fairly good. It could have been passed over quickly, but instead everyone paused on it, causing another 5 seconds of awkward silence.
A shot gun blast in a police station and NO ONE rushes in to investigate gun fire in the holding area?
Len, Lonnie – The names struck me as unusual. Two male characters’ names that begin with L? Subliminal reminder of Lucifer? This week's victim was a Mike and the baby Amara's father was Mike. A reminder of the archangel Michael? Then Gabriel was mentioned in an earlier episode too (as a detective name). Are the archangels reuniting? Am I reaching too far?
Please share any good explanations or insights for the above curiosities. Sometimes there are reasons I miss.
Despite picking on the slow dialog, I actually enjoyed "Plush". The stuffed animal heads won me over. That, and having Sam deal with another clown. That bit just doesn’t get old. How did you rate it in balance, and what do you think of its themes?
I need to show you something. A member of my family is color blind. When he saw the picture of Dean, Sam and Donna around the burning bunny head in the woods (ironically in the Vision section above), his first question was "whose face is in the back ground?" I didn't see it the same as he did until he pointed out the eyes, eye brows, chin, head, etc. I changed the lighting on the pic (but did not otherwise manipulate it). Here is what he saw:
It's pretty cool isn't it? Explanation in the comments below.
Some direct quotes courtesy of: http://transcripts.foreverdreaming.org
Screencaps courtesy of: http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/