I’m going to tell you why I loved this episode so much. No doubt, “Stuck in the Middle (With You)” was a full blown homage to filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and that makes me very happy. I love this man’s films and got every shout out they were going for. For the most part, the effort was brilliant. For those that aren’t familiar with Tarantino’s style (aka the young audience that now watches this show) I can tell you that it is very hard to copy. You don’t see a lot of filmmakers trying to emulate.
It takes a certain amount of skill to deliver on non-linear storytelling, aka showing scenes out of chronological order, using title cards, and bringing together in a scattered intersection individual plot threads. For the most part writer Davy Perez and director Richard Speight Jr. pulled it off. From the Reservoir Dogs-esque opening in the diner and the slow motion shot outside to the Kill Bill inspired fight scenes to the Pulp Fiction inspired use of “glowing” to show the importance of the colt to the The Hateful Eight inspired score (that film was scored by the original Spaghetti Western composer Ennio Morricone), it became obvious how much of a Tarantino study both these guys are. Yes, I loved the Spaghetti Western themed score. I may be the only one, but the music to me fit the style they were copying, even if it seemed out of place for this show.
I caught on what was happening within the first few minutes, but given my familiarity (and love) with this style of storytelling, I gave it a lot of scrutiny as well. While I applaud the effort and the risks taken to do this sort of story, there were rough spots in the execution here and there, but not so much to ruin the hour. Just knock it down a grade or so. Given the effort that was taken for a one hour TV show episode, all parties involved should be proud of delivering something with this caliber of cinematic quality.
I found it extremely interesting that the creative direction is going back to the lore that we had in season one. That lore that has always been a little murky and not thoroughly explored. In other words, there were plot holes. I was pleasantly surprised over how solid this story was and filled in some long, burning gaps in continuity. For one, I’m thrilled they are revisiting the long ignored demonic hierarchy. Remember when different levels of demons used to have different colored eyes? It didn’t make sense that Azazel was the only yellow eyed demon.
From what we were told in this hour, all of the Princes of Hell were dead except for Ramiel, Asmodeus, and Dagon. They weren’t Lucifer loyalists and just wanted to be left alone, even though Dagon is taking an interest in the Lucifer offspring. They were also turned by Lucifer personally after Lilith so they could be generals for Lucifer’s army. Hmm, that’s very interesting! Considering the Princes were mostly killed and the remaining ones went into hiding, suddenly Azazel’s plan for the special children makes a ton of sense. He was carrying on where Lucifer had gone before and failed.
For anyone that knows their Book of Enoch (I do!), Azazel was fallen angel. Azazel originally was a Watcher, or an angel that was sent to earth to watch over humans. Unfortunately, a number of these watchers got corrupted and started doing things like taking human wives. That’s when the archangels were sent to clean up the mess. Azazel was cast out of Heaven for teaching humans how to make weapons and jewelry and encouraging a Godless lifestyle. Eventually he was cast into the darkness (aka Hell) by Raphael.
Ramiel is mentioned in the Book of Enoch as a fallen watcher as well. He was one of the 200 fallen angels. Asmodeus gets a mention in the Binsfeld’s classification of demons (from 1589) as one of the seven Princes of Hell. Guess what, the seven Princes of Hell were also known as the Seven Deadly Sins. So, when season three’s “The Magnificent Seven” looked the Seven Deadly Sins, they didn't use the real angel names, because Lucifer was also Pride according to Binsfeld. Yet in “Supernatural” he’s an archangel (and the Book of Enoch too). Dagon isn’t in any of those, but is in Paradise Lost, as well as one of the superiors in Hell of…wait for it…Crowley in Good Omens. Dagon is also a male.
So what does this all mean? “Supernatural” is making up their own s*** up again by pulling from different pieces of apocryphal texts and blending it all together to suit their story. I love it. Just think about it, if Azazel’s plan had succeeded, Sam could have been running Hell right now instead of Crowley. So, does this mean the demon blood stuff and the powers will come back into play? Can a girl dream?
A lot happens in Tarantino films, but one popular go to theme is the double cross (Jackie Brown did that well). Enter Mary Winchester, who has plenty to hide. No wonder, the love of this woman’s life is John Winchester, the most mysterious liar ever. John kept secrets because he didn’t trust anyone and he believed that the less people knew the better. They were safer that way. Mary’s motivations are the same, but they’re hard to understand given she’s a mother. She knows from folklore how dangerous and mystical the colt is. While it’s kind of a “been there done that” item for us as well as Sam and Dean, Mary doesn’t have that history. It’s very possible she doesn’t know Dean used it to kill Azazel. Dean’s words were in the general area of, “We took care of it.” She may not know that it failed on Lucifer and that’s where Dean lost it. She only knows the stories her father told her.
Mary was ready to come clean at the end, when a newly recovered Castiel asked what was Ramiel talking about when he said something was taken from him. Dean gave her the out by claiming Ramiel was crazy, but it did make you wonder why she didn’t kill Ramiel with the gun during his ultimatum. I think it’s related to why she had Wally lie for her, the less Sam and Dean know the better. Again, she learned that from the best. She had to see how the whole thing was going to play out before showing her cards. She wasn’t at the most desperate moment and she didn’t think that producing the colt was going to save Castiel.
Why did she give the colt to Mr. Ketch? I think she believes the British Men of Letters are doing good. No, she doesn’t trust them. But so far their arrangement is working. She’s killing a lot of bad creatures and they give her support. She feels like she’s protecting her boys this way, keeping them out of harms way and letting the experts handle the dangerous weapons. This is just another toy to them.
Sam: Wait, Mom? Um... I just wanted to make sure that, um... you're okay. I mean, I know... you never really wanted this.
Mary: Since when is life about getting what you want?
I’m still put off by Mary’s emotional distance, even though I understand it. Notice how she didn’t even hug her boys when she met up with them outside the diner? She can’t live, she can’t die, she’s stuck. She might as well kill as much evil as she can in the meantime and make the world safer for her boys so they can live. No, this doesn’t make her a sympathetic or even likable character. That’s not her desire. Safety for her boys is all that matters, even if it means lying. I’m also wondering now, especially since she’s the one that made the deal with Azazel that targeted Sam for his evil plan, if Mary believes that Sam is still in some sort of danger. She’s been distant with Sam even though he's been reaching out to her. That could be guilt for what she did all those years ago, but still, it makes me wonder if she knows more than what she lets on. Maybe the British Men of Letters have even threatened to take out Sam, aka the demon blooded boy, if she doesn’t help. Nah, it’s probably none of that, but back to that girl dreaming…
I like the stronger storylines that Castiel has been getting lately. He’s already got the consequences from killing Billie hanging over him, and I think Castiel has been around the block enough where he suspects Mary is lying to Sam and Dean. For one, angels can tell when someone is lying. He didn’t call out Mary on her lie in the kitchen because there was no time. They had to confront Ramiel. I did notice that when Mary was meeting Mr. Ketch in the diner that there was a POV from outside. Perhaps that was Castiel? Yeah, maybe not, but maybe.
It’s really funny, because both Castiel and Mary’s main mission is to protect Sam and Dean. They just have different ways of going about it. Castiel has no reason to lie and it’s not really in his nature. I think a confrontation is coming and they’ll come to an agreement. Castiel could end up lying for her. Maybe Mary will be the one to save Castiel from whatever predicament he has coming. Either way, I like how close these two are becoming.
If anyone has suffered from the murky storytelling between seasons five and six, it was Crowley. We never saw his rise to power. How could that happen to a crossroads demon that helped stop the apocalypse? His scene from six years ago with Ramiel was LONG overdue. My husband has often asked me through the seasons, “What ever did happen to the colt?” It’s funny, I told him that Dean dropped it in “Abandon All Hope” after shooting Lucifer, finding out it couldn’t kill him, and then was TK tossed across the field, and speculated, “Crowley probably picked it up.” That’s exactly what Crowley told Ramiel! After all, we have learned through the seasons, especially last season, that Crowley loves collecting supernatural artifacts. He even stashes them in all sorts of places and uses them for leverage more than anything. It would make sense that he would offer two objects to a powerful demon that could kill him as a way to bargain.
Crowley was put in a really awful position by this turn of events. For one, there are now two Princes of Hell still alive that can come after him and challenge his throne. The arrangement has been broken and one of their own is dead. It’s kind of ironic that the Winchesters, the very people he has protected time and time again, are the ones that got him in this fix by going after Ramiel. Lucifer raised a good question, will Sam and Dean protect Crowley? Does he have their loyalty despite all he’s done? I think he’s at least earned Castiel’s loyalty for saving his life. Castiel is not someone who forgets that sort of thing. I wonder if Castiel will end up going against Sam and Dean’s wishes and save Crowley for that reason.
I wasn’t too surprised by the Lucifer reveal. Considering Rowena did the spell, of course she would follow her son’s wishes and just condemn him to another cage in the lair. I’m just wondering why Crowley needs Lucifer there. Why not send him to the cage? Keep your enemies closer? That leverage thing again? Yeah, there’s more to come on that for sure.
The Almost Barn Burner
I did love the brisk pace of the episode, from that fantastic opening scene in the diner (not only the 360 around the table but the dialogue as well) until just after Crowley’s sudden appearance in the barn. His sudden appearance was a shock and I didn’t expect to see him at that moment. However, one of the most important things that has to happen when unfolding plot piecing together different sides of the story is even pacing. By the time it got to Crowley’s background story, the pacing suffered. There was too much exposition during his meeting with Ramiel six years ago. The info was important, but it needed to be faster. Speed up the dialogue, heighten the intensity of the tone in the conversation, add some more drama to the scene, it doesn’t matter. Just telling what happened didn’t work.
The episode continued to struggle until later in the “A Real Barn Burner” section of the episode picked up the action again. Crowley’s chat outside with Ramiel didn’t seem that necessary. It could have only been a few sentences and took too much time. I also appreciated Castiel’s dying speech, which was very heartfelt, but that part was a very odd fit for the episode. Again it chewed too much time and didn’t seem to fit with everything else. Not to mention, we knew Castiel wasn’t going to die. If anything, the panic in Mary’s eyes was more telling about that scene than anything else. She believes he’s family as much as her boys.
Once the confrontation in the barn with Ramiel started though, everything picked up again all the way to the end. I loved how dangerous and brash Ramiel was. Using Michael’s lance to snuff out the ring of fire was awesome as was his 30 second ultimatum. He wasn’t messing around! It’s great that Sam got to kill him, because that makes him even now with Dean killing Azazel. They each have one Prince of Hell kill under their belt. Their list of accomplishments just keep growing!
Ketch and Company
My question is, how did the British Men of Letters find out about the whereabouts of the colt? Why send Mary Winchester? They couldn’t go fetch the colt themselves? Surely they knew about Sam and Dean’s history with the colt. Perhaps it’s because they knew only Sam and Dean had the right ties to take down a powerful demon (aka Crowley) and Mary would call them for help. This is the very reason why the British Men of Letters is so eager to recruit them.
While we got a lot this week, I’m still dying to know what in the world the British Men of Letters are up to. I’m sure all that is coming, but I wonder if they go to these great lengths to procure all of their artifacts, not just the colt. Maybe it was just that they didn’t think such a powerful weapon should be in the hands of such a powerful demon. So that still leaves the question, friend or foe?
Overall grade, an A-. There’s the knockdown for the drop in pacing and also because they killed another awesome hunter. I liked Wally. But given this episode delivered on a hugely risky concept, gave us something wildly different, and filled in some mythology gaps while bringing to light dilemmas for Mary, Crowley as well as another wrinkle for Castiel, it’s all good. I hope Quentin Tarantino is smiling with approval.