Mouth hanging open, heart pounding, out of breath. That was my reaction at the end of 11.09 “O Brother, Where Art Thou”! 

“What in the name of *&^%@ [insert your own deity, swear word or local colloquialism here] just happened??”

Sam is trapped back in the cage with Lucifer?? That single man tear tore out my heart. NOOO. Sammy!

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…and What is happening with Dean? He seems to be lucid and sane (he at least tried to stab Amara) but he is so drawn to her.

…and What is Amara up to?

…and Why don’t they trust Crowley? Has he ever double crossed them?

…and What is Rowena up to? She surely betrayed them!

….and Where on earth is Castiel???

Based on fans’ reactions afterward, I have come to believe that there were two ways to watch, “O Brother, Where Art Thou”. Some watched it with an analytical viewing, meaning it had to make sense. It needed to be logical, consistent with canon and believable, well, as believable as a show about visiting Hell can be. The other way to watch it was to let its emotion and impact wash over you. Embrace its dramatic tension. Soak in the immensely powerful visual story that was presented and go where it took you.

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That’s the way I watched Supernatural’s mid-season finale. It blew me away. I was on the edge of my seat throughout most of the hour (with a few exceptions that I’ll discuss below). My whole body ached at the end of the episode from the tension. Dean’s near hypnotism with Amara’s sultry, calm seduction and innocent, self-assured justifications mesmerized me. Then I literally held my breath when it looked like Sam was considering saying “Yes” (my poor husband is bruised from me hitting his arm in Sam’s momentary, dramatic pause before saying No). I worried constantly about what might happen next. In my viewing, the Dean/Amara and Sam/Lucifer/Crowley scenes were spectacular.

One might ask why a fan can’t have both exciting, dramatic suspense and a plot that is tightly written and consistent with canon? Actually, that is what I saw. Everything I saw was plausible with the right explanations and theories. There is no doubt, though, that this episode raised huge, troubling questions, only some of which I stated above, so where should we begin to unravel its puzzles?

Amara/Darkness/Dean


“Girl, you’ll be a woman soon. Soon, you’ll need a man”

Amara grew up. She is now the age she was when Dean first met her in a swirl of exploding Darkness.  Her physical maturity was specifically referenced but then questioned:
Dean: You grew up.
Amara: Yes
Dean: So this is you now.
Amara: At least for today.

What does that mean? She expects to change more? That was a tantalizing tease. I don’t know what to think about that at all yet. Do you?  Regardless of what she may become, her current identity and motivation is enough of an enigma to deserve our attention.

Amara is obviously enamored with Dean. She’s told him several times that he set her free and they share a bond. She is very protective of him, first spiriting him out of the Impala when she was set free, then saving his life in Crowley’s lair, a fact that did not go unnoticed by the King of all schemers:
Crowley to Dean: Why did she insist on sparing you? What is she to you?

Dean evades that question, largely because he doesn’t have any idea how to answer it. He is as confused by Amara’s actions as he is by his reactions to her. Her seduction of Dean was foreshadowed a few weeks ago in the closing song, but the time had come for Amara to make her move. When she had the opportunity to consume Dean’s soul, she hesitated and instead kissed him...a kiss he seemed to return.

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She obviously sees their relationship developing even further:
I am the original Mark. You and I will be together. It’s so simple, Dean. We will become one. Why wouldn’t you want that?

Dean is either denying, afraid of or totally confused by what is happening with Amara. Crowley spilled the beans now though, and the stakes just got raised, so maybe Dean will begin to discuss the unmistakable role his relationship with Amara has to their current crisis.

The Neglected Child

Despite her seductive charms and obvious physical maturity (a fact that was flaunted quite prominently by her low cut dress), Amara’s actions to a great extent were those of a child throwing a tantrum to get attention.

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References to children acting up because they feel neglected were laced throughout the entire episode. For example, Crowley hinted at the idea of toddler’s tantrums when describing limbo:
Crowley: We’re in the furthest reaches of Hell – limbo – where I send unruly souls for time-outs.
Amara herself confessed to needing attention when she explained her quest and defended her violent outbursts: 
Amara: You misunderstand my purpose on earth.
Dean: Well, do I misunderstand the people you butchered in that park? Or in that church?
Amara: I had to get his attention.
Dean: “His”?
Amara: God. I tried praying, calling out in need. He ignored me. He forced my hand. I had no other reason to harm his chosen. My issue is with my brother, not his creation.

It is also a child’s nature to rebel against rules. To their way of thinking, rules stifle their ‘freedom’ to do whatever they want.  Amara admitted to dreaming of a world without rules:
Dean: It is his universe, his rules.
Amara:  What if there were no rules? Just Bliss.

Lucifer reiterated Amara’s wild, rebellious nature then specifically referred to tantrums:
She's quite a force. Determined to take over everything even back then. Prone to tantrums. I can see why Pop is laying low.
He also later referenced discipline issues:
Am I up for parole? Time off for bad behavior? [a clever twist on the expected phrase of time off for good behavior]

Time-outs are associated with confining children to a particular space when they break rules or exhibit bad behavior. Is that what happened to Amara? Is that why she was exiled? 

Lucifer’s memories further implied a younger, less mature child-like Amara:
Lucifer: Now that sis is here, God's not the only circus in town. [reminder of the clown/fear/elevator episode?]
Sam:    Is she equal to him in power?
Lucifer: Raw power? Sure. But she's got none of the... Experience. God is a master strategist.

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The season’s primary theme of abused and neglected children should not be forgotten just because Amara is grown up. Sydney and Reese were also adults when they became violent over childhood traumas. It is very possible that the ‘children’ theme is still a major hint to Amara’s identity, or possibly her motivation. What if we have a child who was put in a very long time out because of her bad behavior? Is that consistent with the rest of the clues to who she is and what she wants?

The Chosen

Besides Amara’s reference above to God’s creation as the chosen, there were numerous other mentions of being “chosen”:
Park Preacher: Only the chosen will be raised to heaven.


Amara: Do you see what’s happening? All your favorites, all your chosen, they are suffering. Show yourself!

In all these instances, the “chosen” refers to humanity, using the Biblical depiction of “God’s Chosen People”. Amara claims to not have any reason to harm God’s chosen, but the word’s repetition in the dialog makes it interesting.  Predating Lucifer’s jealousy, was she jealous because God “chose” the safety of his creation over loyalty to her? That would explain why Lucifer suddenly started resenting humanity and acting like the rebellious youngest sibling when he took on the Mark. It transferred to him the jealousy of she whom it imprisoned. That would also take the Mark’s sibling rivalry and resentment of creation back one generation further than Cain and Abel.

Alternately, this could be pure sibling rivalry and she resents that God was “chosen” over her, but by whom? She was adamant that she didn’t have Daddy issues and there was no daddy. Right now I’m leaning toward the theory of the attention deprived, unruly deity being jealous of God's vision of humanity being the center of the universe. It just fits so well with Lucifer, the Mark, Cain and Abel, her wanting to do things differently…and God’s favoritism towards his chosen. What do you think?

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A completely different interpretation could be that Dean is the chosen one. Maybe the continual emphasis on babies this season (rabbits dying, “The Bad Seed”, “Baby”, visual cues, etc.) intersects with the abused child theme and we have an Amara who is all grown up and wants to procreate, with Dean, creating her own “chosen”. That way she can do things differently in the universe, as she promised in an earlier episode.

With all the descriptions we have been given on Amara, we still don’t have the full picture of who she is or what she wants. Amara’s description of herself was ominous and cryptic if not helpful: 
Amara:  I was the beginning, and I will be the end. I will be all that there is.
Dean:    So you’re it. That would make you God.
Amara: No. God was the light. I am the dark. That’s all you need to know for now.
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Amara believes she deserves “everything”, which was corroborated by Lucifer when he remembered her determination the first time around (quote above). All we know for sure is that she wants her universe back, and she wants it to be “dark”.

…In the Dark

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So much of this episode was dark – the nighttime meeting with Crowley, the Bunker Dungeon, Limbo, Hell – yet all of the background around Amara was light, beautiful and scenic – an angel fountain in a park, and mountains in an open expanse. The characters each took turns reminding us of darkness:
Priest: God is the light. And it is the light that vanquishes the Darkness.

Rowena: The original dark prince?

Sam: I don’t know Crowley. I’d say it suits you. Dark. Empty.

Lucifer: I gotta say, I’m a little in the dark about this meeting.

Even Amara defined herself as dark. Curious then that she was always depicted in light (e.g. she was introduced in the season 11 premiere as coming “Out of Darkness”). Maybe not all is what it seems with Amara. That would ring true with this season’s theme of the truth being hidden behind deception, or incorrect assumptions. Season 11’s episodes portrayed uncertain guilt, killers’ identities being hidden behind masks and costumes, people having no control over their actions (darkness disease, ghost possession), and imaginary friends that help children escape reality. All these plots point to not being able to trust what we’re seeing. Dean is certainly in the dark about what is happening between him and Amara. Crowley was in the dark about Rowena’s plan (more on that later), and Sam was in the dark about the source of his visions.  Are we being told and shown one thing when the truth is something else altogether? I certainly believe that we only know part of the truth about Amara. Similarly, I also believe that we can’t trust what we were shown on the flip side of the coin…


Cage/Lucifer/Sam


“Just My Imagination”

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As a large part of the fandom suspected, Sam’s visions were not coming from God as Sam assumed and had hoped. Sam was duped. His world crashed down on him when he was told that God had never been with him, and Sam realized that he had been manipulated into a trap laid by Lucifer. Sam’s tear not only betrayed his terror and heart break, but that of an entire fandom.

To be clear, though, Lucifer and Sam are not in THE cage. Crowley cleared stated that he wouldn’t, and couldn’t, open Lucifer’s eternal prison.
Crowley: Opening the cage, that's another matter.
Dean: You're the King of the joint. Don't you have a key?
Crowley: It was sealed by God himself. Of course I don't “have a key”. The mechanism is of divine manufacture. I believe its secrets, along with the spells for warding Sam, are recorded where many such mysteries are found. The Book of the Damned.

Dean even said that there was no way the plan would move forward if Sam had to get into the cage with Lucifer. The “cell’ in which the meeting took place was a temporary holding cell. It didn’t even look like the original cage that God sealed and to which Crowley does not have a key. That cage is hanging from chains in the middle of a void.  This cell was on the ground and was initially empty.

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                            The Cage                                                                             The Cell

The bars were of completely different design:

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             Sam's vision of Himself in the Cage                              Sam in the Cell at the end of the episode

All the key players emphasized repeatedly that the Cage was not opened.
Sam: Let's just hope she knows what she's doing. The cell won't hold crap if the warding's not right.
Rowena: Don't you worry about me, Samuel. I'm a professional.
Crowley: You're certain you can do this without actually opening the cage?
Rowena: We're about to find out, aren't we?

One possibility is that Rowena’s spell transferred Lucifer from the Cage to a holding cell, like a prisoner who is bound hand and foot for a meeting with his lawyer in a conference room well within the prison’s (Hell’s) outer walls. Another possibility is that Lucifer’s image was projected into the cell for a ‘teleconference’. I’m not certain how it was done but I AM certain that Lucifer was never free. Dean, Sam and Crowley all agreed that was a deal breaker (the antithesis of Amara being freed from her prison).

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Since we were not looking at the real cage, there is no problem with us not seeing Michael/Adam. He is still back in the REAL cage. Lucifer alone was needed for this meeting.

Once we accept that something about the current situation isn’t real, we can look back and understand foreshadowing of this subterfuge all season. All of the references to meanings being hidden, truth being elusive and imagination coming to life predict a masterful sting operation is in play. This episode said as much:
Dean: What proof do we have that anything of this is actually real

Crowley to Sam: Let's say you're making this up. I mean, I never think of you as imaginative.

Sam to Rowena: Do I look crazy?

We’ve seen inside Sam’s mind before (the battle with Gadreel). Is Sam visiting Lucifer telepathically?

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I am convinced that 1)Together, Dean, Sam and Crowley would have considered that Sam’s visions weren’t from God 2) they would not have trusted Rowena 3) given the risk of meddling with THE cage, they came up with a plan that is more intricate than has yet been revealed, and 4)Sam is not actually trapped in a cell with Lucifer. I am certain he has an escape hatch somewhere.

Crowley/Rowena, Deals, Promises and Truth

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So why did the warding fail? Rowena may have told us the answer:
Crowley: Surely Sam knows better than to cut some sort of deal.
Rowena: You know, Fergus, sometimes striking a deal, even a painful one, may be the only option.

At the end, when she said, “Follow me Fergus”, she didn’t seem at all surprised that the warding failed. Dean, Sam and Crowley specifically told her she couldn’t trust them, and Crowley introduced the likely scenario of a double cross when he said “It’s a Devil’s Bargain”. It seems quite likely that Rowena doubled down and in casting the spell struck a deal with the devil.

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Promises also seemed to be important. The priest said he knew because God promised. Sam promised he’d call Dean. Rowena promised Lincoln a fun night at the theater. What promises were kept and which were broken doesn’t seem as important now as which ones we don’t know about. That is pivotal.

Urgency and “Desperate times call for desperate measures”

The entire dialog tried to impart that the good guys were out of time:
Grunt angel leader: “We get past our differences. We stand united, and we move now!”
Sam mentioned urgency when talking to Dean:
Dean: Apparently, it's a massacre. The place is covered in blood.

Sam: She's upping her game. She's gonna pass the point where we can deal with her.

Crowley imparted urgency to his mum:
You see then mother, the need for urgency.
When talking to Lucifer, Sam again alluded to a sense of urgency:
Sam:    If it weren’t for the crisis topside, you wouldn’t be getting one now.
Lucifer: Crisis?

Rowena also expressed urgency:
Things Change. It’s now or never.

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I thought Rowena’s desire to get to the meeting quickly was odd. She hadn’t even known about the Darkness until a few hours earlier during the enlightening conversation with Sam, Dean and her son. Now all of a sudden she is pressed to move quickly? I don’t yet know whether to attribute her impatience to ulterior motives, that is, wanting to get it over with because she knew she was going to betray them, or convenient writing. I suspect the former right now.  Besides her urgency, did the overall atmosphere of being out of time, whether real or not, partially explain the incredibly conspicuous absence of the ally’s fourth musketeer?

Heaven/Castiel

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Where was Castiel? It was incredibly weird, in fact entirely unbelievable, that Sam and Dean sought out Crowley and finally pursued Sam’s visions without consulting or involving Castiel. His absence was magnified when self-proclaimed grunt angels decided to take it upon themselves to challenge God’s sister. A few angels unite all of heaven in a day when no one has been able to do that before, and attack God’s sister, an entity equal in power to God himself? That was just bizarre and completely unbelievable.

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In case you hadn’t guessed, the two angel scenes completely interrupted the flow of the episode for me. The premise was contrived, the dialog and acting were awkward, and the outcome was ludicrous.  The obvious challenge that GruntAngel#1 didn’t have any leadership experience seemed specifically aimed at highlighting Castiel’s absence. Did they have to move so quickly that they couldn’t find him or wait for his return? That is what we were asked to believe. Instead I theorize that this conspicuous, ridiculous situation is, in and of itself, a clue. The fact that Cas wasn’t there deepens my belief that he is their backup plan. I cannot envision any scenario where the mid-season’s climax of Sam’s visions and their plan to vanquish the Darkness wouldn’t involve Cas. Truly, not all is as it seems.  

Family

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The theme of family permeated almost every scene of the episode:
Crowley to Dean: Goodness mummy [mommy], loosen the grip.

Dean: You wanna know what she is, Crowley? How about God's sister?

Crowley: God's sister? He has relatives?

Crowley: Mother. Good of you to stop by.

Rowena: His sister?

Crowley:  I’ll make you a little deal, mummy. You pitch in, like a good girl, I’ll call off my assassins.

Rowena to Sam: Well, you do have unresolved issues with your domineering older brother and the abandonment by your father.

Rowena to Crowley: Flop sweat, sonny?

Crowley to Rowena: Mother, you’re drooling.

Dean: Whatever the deal is between you two, whoever threw the first punch, whoever was daddy's favorite –
Amara: There was no daddy.
Dean: Whatever.

Lucifer: What was dad’s suggestion?...I did help dad seal up the Darkness all those years ago....Now that sis is here…

Rowena: It’s not easy being a parent, knowing when to hug your child, when to kill him. 
No doubt, family isn’t easy. Who the players are in the biggest family squabble of all time, though, still remains to be seen.

Bottom Line


My second viewing of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” pulled me back from the edge. The episode’s title says it all for me. Where is Cas? He’s exactly where he was told to be when Team Free Will hatched some grand scheme. Where is Dean? Not “bonding” with Amara. Where is Sam? He is not trapped in Hell with Lucifer. At least, that is the truth I’m going to hold onto for the next 6 weeks. I have chosen to revel in the brilliant visual artistry and the suspenseful story that was laid before me. Will you join me in “Our Little World” of imagination?  Does any of my interpretation make sense to you? Can you take it further? Did I get it all wrong? We’ve got time to figure this out!

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