Thoughts on Supernatural 13.14: “Good Intentions”
“Good Intentions” was a rock solid episode in nearly every respect. This was quick paced, emotionally catching, character motivated, action based and plot-driving. And let’s not overlook the beautiful visuals that we are offered in Apocalypse Universe either! Where to even begin when talking about this one?
The spiral of Donatello could have gone in so many other directions – and most of them would have felt stilted, overdrawn and done-to-death. Because let’s be honest, the “character is mind-melded to an evil overlord” had its heyday with Naomi and Cas, for the most part. Truly, I was concerned we’d have something stretched over several episodes in a sort-of rehash of that – involving a tablet again no less. What actually happened was so much better.
Actor Keith Szarabajka delivered a brilliant portrayal of the manic, sociopathic spiral of Donatello to a tee. Some of this credit goes to the visuals again - shots of tablet, the words, the uncomfortable close shots - all added to the frenetic energy that surrounded Donatello and permeated every lie we suspected he was telling, if only because the audience was privy to Asmodeus’ manipulations.
This plot also seemed to develop organically, despite it’s simplicity. The opportunity for humour with Gog and Magog versus Dean and Castiel as a result of the lie from Donatello gave a break from some of overall heaviness of the episode. And truly, this “battle” and preceding dialogue was brilliant; Dean’s flippant commentary on seeing the ancient “men” as a counterweight to Castiel’s intensity. And of course, the subtitles translating the pre-Canaanite spat between Gog and Magog over the “pretty” one:
“Why interrupt me? You always do this.”
“Good! Good! Which shall we kill first?”
“I will kill the pretty one.”
“They are equally pretty.”
“The smaller one then.”
The results, without having seen the actual battle between Sam and Donatello, were also a fun touch. I wondered after watching Sam be smacked by the bottle – but not unconscious – if Donatello, who had trouble jogging, could really physically best Sam Winchester (Dean would never let him live this down!). So instead seeing the damage of an obvious scuffle and the resulting prophet trapped in the interrogation was much better.
Beyond moments for humour, the plot with Donatello offered a platform for one of the key elements of the developing storylines in this latter half of the season: Castiel’s development into a powerful soldier. I’ll discuss this more indepth later so for now I’ll just say it was well woven together.
Finally, the wrap up on Donatello was clean and simple, if a tad rushed by the off screen nature of it. The lack of a soul was always an interesting element. We saw with Sam how it affected the way he behaved and impacted his usual choices (let’s remember that smirk when Dean becomes a vampire!) so it’s not surprising that a prophet would be similarly impacted, but in ostensibly more dangerous ways.
Donatello is not dead. This means any number of things are both true and possible: no new prophet, Donatello could be healed by good, evil or any other player in between for their respective purpose or he could just die off screen as purpose suits the plot. Thoughts?
Doing What They Have to Do
Undoubtedly it’s no secret that I am a big fan of both Castiel and Misha. So with that in mind, I was particularly impressed this week with our angel and the performance – especially the second half of this episode. The frustration, the hunger to do something, the determination: it practically bled from the screen it was so palpable in the writing and delivery. Again I’ll confess something – this was a challenging week for me where I have struggled and felt very challenged on a personal level, so maybe it’s a little (a lot) of my own bias coming in when I say this was all touching.
When Castiel first appeared in season four he was a force. Over the years Castiel has always been ready to fight by the Winchesters side but he has searched, questioned, been lost and a host of other things. Certainly he has moments of fierceness in there but this is the first time in a long time that Castiel has delivered a true sense of “warrior” in everything from is demeanor to his words to his actions.
The episode opened with Cas feeling frustrated by his own sense of guilt at the notion that he was failing the purpose of his resurrection, be it save and protect Jack and/or the world from alt!Michael. Dean offers a motivational word and by the second half of this episode, after the panic of watching Dean pseudo-suffocate under a maniacal Donatello’s spellwork, there is a clear shift. Castiel has totally redirected his purpose – enough talk, time for action now. Whether you agree with his actions toward Donatello or not, his comment has some moving words in it:
“I'm not going to let you or anyone hurt the people I love. Not Again.”
The title of the episode, “Good Intentions” and themes throughout, suggest that, as we well know, a good intention doesn’t always produce (or justify) the intended result. Here is where it is tricky with Castiel and Donatello: at this point, Donatello is clearly a monster. A human one, yes, but no soul – and no possible way to recover it (as they discussed it couldn’t be done, it was a yummy meal). He attempted to kill them – and no doubt would again if freed – and relished it. Dangerous as any beast? Yes. Human by biological definition? Yes. Then again, he did some spell work – don’t witches start that way too? I’m not going to make a declarative statement here, right or wrong. Too many variables. I’m just going to focus on Castiel and his motives alone, which were genuine.
Finally, and I’ve said this before and probably will again before the season is done, a refreshing attitude from Castiel is that in lieu of guilt – we have passion. The depths and intensity certainly hint at some potential for darker decisions and a “means to a end” with larger ramifications by season's end and that too opens new doors as character motivation that pique my attention.
Turning to the brothers this episode, who by the end are in the rare position of getting the speech rather than giving, it was a relatively quiet episode for Sam and Dean. What stood out starkly was again the role reversal between Sam and Dean: we have Dean in the role of optimist trying to hold everything and everyone together with generalized hope and declarative statements that they will succeed. On the other hand is Sam, sort of going along but then quick to give into despair when they lose Donatello and show such disappointment on his face “we were so close” when the prophet goes evil.
As a result, these two are again, uncharacteristically, scattered. The planning is off, their ability to read Donatello’s clear “not quite right-ness” is off and they can’t quite pull together the pieces once Donatello refuses to give them what they need - Dean reassuring Sam repeatedly while Sam shakes his head sadly. They might not have acknowledged it so directly but these boys are feeling their losses.
Ultimately, this is what prompts Castiel to act and emerge, at least here, as a leader. His final statements are true and powerful – the impact reads on Sam and Dean’s faces:
“What exactly gives you the right?”
“Nothing. I took it. If I hadn't acted we would still be sitting around talking about what to do next, we would be wasting time. And it's time we don't have Dean. I told you, war is coming. War. And I did what soldiers do. Now we needed the spell to open the rift, and I got it. We need four major ingredients: The grace of an archangel. A fruit from a tree of life. The Seal of Solomon and the blood of a most holy man. We find those things, we can bring everybody home. And together we can beat Lucifer and Michael. this is the only way we win. This is the only way we survive. It's like you said Dean. Whatever it takes.”
Whatever it takes. For family and survival. Good intentions, right?
Mind games with someone as strong as Jack? Michael, like so many “bad guys” clearly has an ego he will trip on in the coming days. That said, the Zachariah call back to mental manipulations was a nice touch. Let’s start with the visuals in Apocalypse World (AW). The “poofing” angels, the odd shaped towers, the grey sepia tone set against red lighting and even the almost night-vision effects, akin to a single camera horror movie, while Michael is dragging Jack to Mary’s cell: all very well done and effective at creating this totally independent, war-torn, ravaged world.
I will say that I found the warding and headache part of the storyline a little bit…”really?”… but it was pretty so it didn’t detract anything. Having said that, the warding confuses me in some of the consistency: how can the angels use their powers on Jack (i.e. Zachariah) if the warding prevents him from using his on them? Were the cells warded or the whole place? How did Jack use his powers in the camp inspite of warding? Why weren’t they at least wonky? These are nitpicky things – but please clarify!
Set against these visuals of course, are the characters and this is the first episode when we’ve had an opportunity to watch some new relationships bloom with our favourite characters. To begin is Jack and Mary. Jack is undeniably sweet and Mary is a mother so it’s not surprising that these two bond or that she protects him the way she does later on, opting to leave the camp if he can’t stay. Though he looks like an adult, Jack is very much a youth, the joy on his face playing with the children was beyond sweet. Hopefully, the warzone won’t strip these personality qualities from him.
New Bobby and Mary were easily the best piece of the AW. As always, its wonderful to have Jim Beaver back. It was evident that though this was Bobby, it was not the same Bobby Singer from the regular world. This credit is owed to the nuances of the writing and the acting, a little less gruff and different tonal structures – small but key differences to make this character different without changing the foundation from someone we love.
The relationship between Mary and Bobby, two characters who in our world never met but in this world had a relationship of some kind, was also interesting to watch. Mary’s realization that her deal to bring John back changed the course of the world was huge:
“ Mary Campbell was a complicated woman. Brave, but sad. Full of regret.”
“ Let me guess -- she made a bad demon deal?”
“ Opposite. She didn't make one. Lost the love of her life. Never moved on.”
“ And Dean and Sam were never born. Bobby, I made that deal. And it -- I brought my boys a lot of pain. But What happened here, in your world? Sam and Dean stopped that war in mine.”
“ Then I'd say you made the right choice.”
Mary’s choice cost the people she loves a lot in many respects, and her own life (for a few years at least) but in the grand scheme, it made a massive impact. Ripples right? They’re a bitch.
The grand plot in AW was about Mary and Jack escaping Michael, and reaching Bobby’s camp for safety. Only of course, until Bobby learns Jack is a Nephilim and ejects them due to angel-prejudice (well based, I’d say looking at what Team Wings have done). Naturally, and predictably, Jack earns Bobby’s respect by saving them when angels attack the camp. Though expected, this plot was still well executed. Jack starts to run, per Mary’s orders, but decides it’s not what he learned from the boys. Jack is both fierce and sweet through this episode, and ultimately demonstrates how much of a warrior he can be for good by the end:
“I had to come back. Sam and Dean, they wouldn't run. They'd stay and fight. These angels, what they're doing, they're not gonna stop. As long as Michael's out there, this war will never be over….I have to kill him.”
Gear up for battle! We didn’t get that big apocalypse showdown in season five – but I have a feeling we are going to get it this time around. Directions for war are shaping up so clearly and all the tones of this episodes were playing that same song – the faceoff is coming to town.
This episode felt strong, certain of its message and the direction it was taking our characters. Finally – my favourite aspect – all our characters are moving together toward the same goal. No secrets, no guilt, just pulling together and unified against an impending big bad.
So – what did you think? Good intentions that fell felt from our mains or would you have done the same? Who was the pretty one? Did you just want to hug Sam when he thought they were out of options? Share below!
[Certain images courtesy of HomeoftheNutty.com]