The Devil’s in the Details
He certainly is. The nuances that nobody noticed about Castiel as they left the basement known as Hell and likely won’t notice until the most inopportune of times. This twist presents so many opportunities to the story it’s hard to even name them all: we can have quite a match between Amara and Lucifer; the manipulations of Dean and Sam; the renewed storyline, in a sense, that we had a taste of back when Cas had the Leviathan power but with a whole new flavor; and of course, the return of a favoured villain in a brand new package. But let’s back up and take it one step at a time.
Vessels & Values
The weakest plot line with the most satisfying payoff was getting Castiel to Hell – and why - with everyone else this week. Ultimately, the tearing down of his esteem was so blatant and not very well done that by the time the offer came from Lucifer it seemed obvious where it was going - Castiel wanted to be useful, significant and valuable to the team/world. What didn't work was how abruptly his ego deflated after a brief conversation with Ambriel and short encounter with Amara. Actually, Cas seemed quite energized in recent days so it was a bit out of nowhere.
That aside, the other nonsensical element was Amara leaving him because he "wasn't worth it" - again this was forced and contrived for the sake of taking another blow at Castiel's ego. I kept expecting her to make a reference to him being Dean's friend and that it would hurt Dean to destroy Castiel. We've seen Amara consume many, many beings at any one time and in this instance she especially needed to recover from a large battle with the angels. Leaving Castiel didn't make sense at any level - certainly not even to deliver that ridiculous message. Again, this was one of the weakest points of the episode and, by and large, disappointing. As threats go this was incredibly lackluster and seemingly unnecessary since the individuals receiving the message knew Amara to be a threat already. The whole endeavor felt contrived, unusually so by Supernatural standards, and a vehicle to get Castiel from A to B with the necessary level of depression to say yes the way he did.
Appreciating the outcome though I do - the trip was a bit fumbling and obvious.
Sam’s Cage Time
Lots of material to look at in the time between Lucifer and Sam – Luce is definitely a master manipulator. The time spent between these two, solo, was a prime opportunity to answer some questions and even address some concerns that have floated around in the ether about characterizations of past vs present and the how the changes developed over the years. What was delightful about this was the trip through memory lane – some things we’d seen and a few new childhood memories thrown in for good measure.
Basically what Lucifer tried to sell was that Sam wasn’t the same man who jumped selflessly into the Pit six years ago after being strong enough to wrangle Lucifer; this Sam simply didn’t have the same convictions, the same follow through, the same strength – because he was caught in the bad, destructive cycle of saving Dean, starting apocolypses (apocoli?). And true enough, the boys have a nasty habit of this sometimes (okay, most times) but they started the year acknowledging the faults in their co-dependency, among other things, and so Lucifer had trouble leveraging this against Sam.
The highlight of the interaction between Sam and Lucifer, besides the top notch acting from both parties (Mark Pelligrino is so fun when he's evil!) was Sam saying no with absolute, firm convictions and faith in his brother:
“You talk a good game. You do. Hell, you almost had me sold a few times, but then I thought, what if you're right? What if you're telling the truth? What -- what if you can beat her?... Even though, last time, it took you plus three other archangels. Oh, yeah, and capital "G," God… But let's say you gank her. Then what? ... Then you go about starting the Apocalypse again because you're an old dog, and that's your old trick. … I think that whoever wins, you or the Darkness, everyone else loses. So, no. My answer is no.… This is about me having faith in my friends, having faith in my family. We will find a way…I'm ready to die. And I'm ready to watch people I love die. But I'm not ready to be your bitch.”
For a while, I did believe Sam might be swayed and give in - because Lucifer is a damn good salesman (sell ice to Eskimos, as they say) - so his refusal surprised me, in particular how firm in it he was. And it was great to watch Lucifer go from suave, easy pitches to rage of refusal. Can’t con a con artist, Lucifer - the Wincesters are the best in the business.
Sideline Drama: Dean, Crowley, Rowena
Since the episode was as much sass as drama, Dean brought top notch snark throughout this in almost every scene - even when he was alone and calling voicemails. (Wasn't that a treat to hear?). Dean’s roll this week was relegated largely to interactive observer – a role much of the audience would love to play at times – setting a number of balls in motion. Naturally Dean’s primary, overriding focus was to get Sam out of Hell and away from Lucifer, an endeavor he of course succeeds in after another partnership with Crowley and forcing Rowena’s cooperation again Lucifer.
The interesting encounter for Dean was Billie, the Reaper with a strong distaste for our boys. Billie is dispassionate in her engagements throughout the episode but that doesn’t mean her distain and conviction are read loud and clear. Two things were left floating around with regard to our Reaper: what favour will she ask of Crowley in repayment and will she play a role in enabling Rowena to return to execute the spell to trap Lucifer again?
There is not a lot to comment on around Dean – other than he didn’t turn to salt with smiting sickness – because as I said, his role was more facilitation throughout the episode: he sent (inadvertently due to his own inability, albeit) Castiel to ground zero of the Amara Smiting where is esteem issues where kicked into high gear and initializing the “yes” potential and he taxied the witch catcher to get the spell reversal done.
So although Dean didn’t function as a primary kickstarter this week, he was pivotal. Afterall, Rowena was busy eavesdropping on his conversation with Crowley while drinking her tea wasn’t she?
Speaking of Rowena and Crowley: this relationship never lacks ripe material and both these actors deliver the relationship as conflicted, angry, hateful and sparking with brilliance. Rowena, ever the loyal Lucifer disciple received a message from her Lord in a dream – a dazzling, twisted dream that involved Crowley in footie pajamas – where the plan was formed to trick Sam into the Cage. Through a clever game of deceit, on both parts with victory to Crowley (hands up if you were suspicious of the tea – especially when the King didn’t drink it himself) Rowena is forced to, among a series of humiliating other tasks, reverse her magic.
This aside, the relationship developments between Mother and Son were intense and Ruth Connell must be acknowledged for the performance on answering why she hates her son so much:
“I hate you, because when I look into your eyes I see the woman I used to be, before magic, before the coven. When I was nothing but Rowena, the tanner's daughter. A pale, scared little girl, who smelled of filth and death. I hate you, because when you were born, your father said he loved me, then he went back to his grand wife and his grand house, whilst I lay pathetic and half dead on a straw mat -- my thighs slick with blood. I hate you, because if I didn't, I'd love you. But love, love is weakness. And I'll never be weak again.”
A passionate, painful delivery makes you actually feel sorry for such a vicious, diabolical character. And this is the genius of the Supernatural world once again – nothing is every black and white. Even our villains, as cold-hearted, evil and truly despicable as they often seem surprise you sometimes. If I had to choose favourite moments of the episode – this would be among the top.
Sadly for Rowena, this was her goodbye speech.
The King is Home
For as clear as the signs were on the road to Castiel as the new vessel, it doesn’t diminish the results in anyway. The shift in physical stance, head tilt, eye contact, smirking: Lucifer is amused before even speaking that he’s done this in front of Sam and Dean and it shows. The real show starts, of course, back in Hell when Lucetiel, if you will, re-introduces himself to Crowley and Rowena with all the dynamism and flare you’d expect. Misha Collins does not disappoint as Lucifer: he is having fun and it’s clear this is a whole different character than Castiel.
Where Cas was awkward, unsure at times and inept with social norms with a stilted speech pattern – Lucifer, on the other hand, is (at least to his mind) the smartest, coolest guy in the room and he knows it and pleases himself with everyone else’s floundering, sycophant ways.
Without a doubt, this will be one great performance to watch. It will be especially interesting to witness Lucifer playing Castiel for the boys. And I can’t even begin to speculate on how it will ultimately play out for everyone – including the Darkness storyline. Thoughts?
In many ways this episode felt like a letter to the viewers – the long time viewers – acknowledging the concerns, the complaints, the questions that have arisen over recent seasons. Things like what did happen to Adam/Michael; when exactly did Castiel lose the verve we saw in the first appearance and does he know how far he’s fallen (no pun intended) from that original manifestation; do the brothers realize, fully, the impact of their choices and how they come to be caught in them; and even the look/not look for each other promise is addressed. In that sense, it was satisfying to watch; not because there were outright answers for anything per se, rather that something was acknowledged, often addressed and sometimes, yes, answered.
In addition, or perhaps in conjunction with this, the episode was an excellent example of how to do exposition and set up: because that is ultimately what 11x10 was all about – laying the ground work for the second half of the season. Following the pattern established early this year, we have the promise of a unique and damn intriguing game about to unfold as the weeks move forward.
The questions I’m left with are thus: how long will it take for the brothers to realize Cas isn’t exactly himself? What is Lucifer’s ultimate end game? What was happening to Amara when we saw her last Angel not agreeing with her? And finally, given what we saw of Amara swallowing in Ambriel and her statement about taking in the angel’s entirety – if she swallows Lucifer likewise, would she be vulnerable to the Cage banishment spell?
This was a good episode of entertainment and bridging between the first and second halves of the season. As twists go, Castiel saying yes to Lucifer wasn’t as big a shock as it could have been by the end of the episode but overall it was a great way to get Lucifer into the game without the overdone gimmick of Sam or Dean doing something regrettable for the fate of the world that only makes the problem worse. Sam himself acknowledged Lucifer might be able to stop Amara, but then they have to deal with Lucifer. Too bad Cas didn’t hear that logic.
So what did you think?