Several Days Later
If you’re like me, your mind is consumed with holiday and year end lists right now – gift list, shopping list, grocery list, to-do lists (multiple) and the get-it-done-before-Dec.31 list. As much as you want to obsess over Supernatural’s mid-season cliffhanger, you run out of hours in the day before you run out of things to do so there is little time left for important things, like figuring out what really happened in “The Spear”. Hopefully, this Threads review will lay it all out for you.
Unlike my usual reviews, I’ve had a few days to let the episode’s developments rattle around in my head. I have not read other reviews nor your comments on those reviews so please forgive any overlap, but this is the best way I know how to give you my unbiased reactions and observations.
New Canon (or in this case), Say What Now?
Just about everything in the cliffhanger confused me. I’ve watched “The Spear” four times so far, yet many things still don’t make sense. Since life is run by lists this season, here’s my Supernatural list of “things we now know and don’t know”.
Michael really did leave Dean and Dean really has been himself for the past few months. I claim victory on that position. However, those of you who felt Michael was still somehow influencing Dean also get to claim victory because you suspected all along that Michael was hiding inside Dean. How is this possible? Out is out, right? Well it seems that…
An angel can leave a door open to re-possessing a host. WHAT? Does the archangel splinter their grace, like Voldemort divided up his soul? Why wouldn’t they all do that then? So they just need an initial invitation then the vessel is always open to them, to move in and out of whenever they wish? This seems to contradict all the rules about angel possession that we’ve learned thus far… but… honestly... I can’t actually think of any examples that make this impossible. Can you? It seems like a highly contrived plot manipulation, an illogical convenience that goes against the underlying basics of Billie’s “the universe has rules” tenet, but is it actually wrong as measured by previously established canon?
The “open door possession” tactic is the full Monty version of the new “remote possession” strategy: Any tiny portion of grace inside a vessel allows an angel to “be in the head” of the unsuspecting host. In other words, even a few drops of grace allows the angel to possess a host without actually inhabiting it.
Michael: I recognize you, Garth.
Garth: We've met? 'Cause I think I'd remember that.
Michael: Oh, I've spent some time in Dean Winchester's head -- his, um, memories.
Dean: Naomi gave us Michael's location, okay? We got a spy on the inside -- for a change, we're a step ahead.
Garth: Michael's sending some guys after someone. They're headed to an old recycling plant north of Omaha. Uh, says he wants them to get a weapon. A spear? That mean anything to you?
Castiel: Dean, where are Michael's forces? We're going off their Intel, and they had a head start.
Sam: Best guess: Jack's in Kansas City and that it's still game time for Michael there. I'm gonna head there now.
Garth: He's in my head. He won't stop. He won't let me stop!
The first climactic revelation was that Michael was able to control Garth because Garth drank a wisp of Michael’s grace. Being in Garth’s head meant that Michael knew everything Garth knew, and was able to override his will as if the host was actually possessed by the angel. Agreeing to ingest Michael’s grace was Michael’s sneaky way of possessing people without actually inhabiting them, thus, Michael was able to simultaneously possess hundreds of vessels, including Dean.
Michael: I'm trying something different this time -- an insurgency from within. My monster army turning every last man, woman, and child -- a wave of transformation. Vampires or werewolves -- it won't matter which. Everyone they turn will be mine. No muss, no fuss.
Which leads to the next several issues.
Was Michael using Dean as a spy?
I’m guessing yes, because 1) Michael was in Garth’s head after Garth drank grace, 2) we’re guessing Michael was able to repossess Dean because grace was left in Dean, 3)thus Michael should have been able to be in Dean’s head. (Does anyone remember from their Geometry Proofs what theorem I just used to connect those dots?) If so, that would also explain several puzzling plot points:
- Michael knew where the “egg” was located, and that Sam and Jack would be at that location because Dean knew those details. We did not hear a conversation where Sam told Garth about the existence of the egg, where it was shipped, nor their plan to go after it, so Garth’s mind didn’t tip off Michael but maybe Dean's did.
- There wasn’t an army of monsters at DarkKaia’s warehouse. Garth overheard Michael give the order to his minion, but that order may have been rescinded once Dean made the decision to go there with Castiel. Maybe Michael updated his plan, deciding that Castiel and Dean could retrieve the spear for him. Were they unknowingly acting out his grand plan? I’m guessing that’s the case.
These are big leaps in logic and we’re making a lot of assumptions but it’s the only way that so many things in this episode make sense. There are still many more unanswered questions, though.
Did the Djinn see Michael’s grace, this “open door”, in Dean’s mind? I’m guessing yes. I’d love to have this confirmed, though, when they give us all a much more satisfactory explanation of this new canon about revolving doors.
Why was Dean having dizzy spells? In this episode, it was obvious when Michael was re-exerting his authority over Dean's mind, because Dean started getting blurry vision. A few weeks ago, though, when Jack was ill, Dean experienced the same dizziness in the bunker. Was Michael resurfacing during these moments, listening in to private conversations to learn intel about his enemy's circumstances? Were these the only times Michael exerted control? If yes, couldn't he "read" and control Dean's mind at will, like the members of the monster army, without it being so obvious? We don’t have an answer yet, and I’d love clarification of this point in the future.
Why didn’t Michael kill Sam when he had the chance to do so? I have absolutely no idea. Why would you leave a major threat in play when you can end that worry with a snap of your fingers. Smart!Sam asked all these same questions:
Sam: How'd you find us?
Michael: What are you gonna do, Sam?
Sam: You're gonna kill me, anyways.
Sam: It was Michael. He knew where we were. He got the drop on us and destroyed the egg, and, uh Dean, he's got Jack.
Dean: How did you escape?
Sam: I didn't. He knocked me out. I don't know why he didn't kill me.
Later, Sam guessed that being spared was part of Michael’s plan:
He could've killed me back at the shipping facility. I think he wanted us to come here.
Yes, except they would have gone after Michael with or without Sam, so why not make them come to the fight without one key soldier?
Why did Michael bother to kidnap Jack? Michael didn’t need Jack as bait. Team Free Will was coming after Michael anyway, with the spear, with the intention of killing him. Michael’s little speech to Jack was rather interesting and helped define Michael’s point of view but it didn’t answer Jack’s question:
Jack: Why am I here? Why didn't you just kill me?
Michael: In your present, powerless condition? Why would I bother? […] Jack, we're family. You know, in fact, we're the only kin each other has left in this world.
Jack: My uncle's in the Cage. And you -- you're not family.
Michael: Well, not literally, no. Our connection, our relation is more a matter of scale of power […] Year by year, century by century, and as your power returns and grows, we'll only become more alike.
It makes no sense that Michael cares one bit about Jack being family. They were mortal enemies in the alternate universe, but now all of a sudden Michael wants to watch Jack grow up? The only logical conclusion is that Michael wants Jack for the power he can ultimately wield, but still, why capture him now? Michael did absolutely nothing useful with Jack, then conveniently or carelessly, I don’t know which, let Sam “rescue” Jack. It was a whole lot of action with no purpose that I can figure out. Please enlighten us all if the light bulb has gone off for you!
Why didn’t Dean enlist DarkKaia to use the spear against Michael herself? I’m guessing because she would have said no, or that she was afraid to face Michael. Your fight, not mine kind of thing. But they didn’t even try! Dean’s awkward attempt to look cool replicating DarkKaia’s agility with the spear only emphasized his ineptness with the weapon. His attacks on Michael with the spear were embarrassing to behold, leading to the most distracting question of them all:
Why didn’t Dean kill Michael with a follow-up blow immediately after winging him in the arm? DarkKaia would have executed that move with ease (as evidenced by her smooth kills against werewolves many weeks ago). Maybe a few minutes to try to enlist her would have been warranted.
Not Talking, Not Communicating, Not Telling the Truth a.k.a Secrets
Why did Dean lie to DarkKaia? Everyone was making so much progress this season in choosing to be open and honest with each other - until now that is. Dean obviously didn’t tell Sam or Cas about his dizzy spells. Maybe Dean dismissed the episodes as caffeine-hyped moments, or him needing more sleep. After all, they’ve been a bit preoccupied with Jack dying and all. That could almost be understandable. However, in “The Spear” Dean lied to DarkKaia without hesitation.
DarkKaia: The boy. The special boy. The one that used Kaia to open up the door? He can do it again, for me.
Dean: Yes, he can. And he will, if…
DarkKaia: How do I know you're telling the truth?
Castiel: You don't. Just like we don't know you're telling the truth.
Yes, lying was more expedient but it was falling back on old habits. Instead of creating new allies, Dean just gave an old enemy more reason to oppose him. It was quick but sloppy, and very disappointing from a character development standpoint. Dean’s decision made it clear how he regards DarkKaia. One expects enemies to keep secrets from each other, such as Michael’s secret plan, his “secret weapon” of remote possession, or Garth not revealing to the angel echelon that he was an undercover spy. Allies weren’t honest with each other, though, supposedly because no one wanted to worry their friends. So Garth didn’t tell Sam he had taken Michael’s elixir. When Sam learned the truth, he asked Dean:
Sam: He drank Michael’s grace. Why didn’t he tell me?
Dean: I don’t know.
Even Jack fell prey to the temptation of being sneaky. Caught eating his chocolaty, sugary cereal (a reasonably indulgent way to enjoy the life he recently nearly lost), he implored his one dad, “Don’t tell Sam.” Then after a conversation that references several threads we have been tracking (a very nice continuity bridge), Jack questioned the wisdom of secrets:
Castiel: Jack, it's the middle of the night.
Jack: Ah, I know. I couldn't wait till breakfast. Sam says this stuff will rot your teeth, but - I like it.
Cas: Jack, if you can't sleep, that's understandable, given recent events.
Jack: You mean dying and coming back to life.
Castiel: Yeah, we've all been through it. It's something of a rite of passage around here [woohoo! They specifically cited the “rite of passage” thread we’ve been tracking]…
Jack: Cas, the deal you made, why can't Sam and Dean know?
Cas: They can. I just don't want them to. They don't need that burden. You don't need that burden.
Jack: Of course I do. You did that for me.
Again, out of the mouths of babes comes wisdom. Jack's words even foreshadowed my overall lack of comprehension of this episode:
Jack: Did you take the decoder ring out of the box?
Castiel: Maybe. The secret password is "Cookietacular.
Maybe the “decoder ring” needed to answer all the mysteries in “The Spear” was in plain sight all along.
This episode raised so many questions but maybe its title was the key to the answers. If Michael left Dean to make Dean into an undercover “spy on the inside” who could sweet talk DarkKaia into giving up her spear, Michael wouldn’t have ordered so many monsters to hunt her down all this time. Maybe he didn’t have a grand plan, but instead was waiting patiently for the perfect opportunity to use Dean to maximum advantage. Dean going after the spear was the trigger. It was, after all, the only weapon that had hurt Michael. If that was his strategy, his patience paid off. He got the spear, Dean, and the resistance fighters all right where he wanted them. “The Spear” was perhaps the secret password to decode at least the plot’s purpose if not all its mysteries.
So why doesn’t this explanation resolve all questions? Because Michael’s own soliloquy didn’t mention any of these motivations or grand plans!
Michael: When I gave up Dean, you didn't think to question it, to ask why? Dean was resisting me. He was too attached to you, to all of you. He wouldn't stop squirming -- to get out, to get back. So I left but not without leaving the door open just a crack.
Castiel: Why wait?
Michael: To break him, to crush and disappoint him so completely that, this time, he'll be nice and quiet for a change -- buried. And he is. He's gone. And now I have a whole army out there, waiting, ready for my command, ready for this.
That should have been the “aha” moment… but it just didn't work for me. Michael left Dean because Dean was being annoying? There was no grand scheme? Then possessing him again is supposed to break Dean Winchester? Dean had the strength to fight because he was so attached to his family, but given the chance, Michael didn’t kill Sam, or Jack, or Castiel? THAT might have broken Dean. I just can’t make two and two equal four here. Have you cracked the secret code?
Michael told Jack that he didn’t yet comprehend the concept of time; that only a being that had lived for millennia understood how to use time to his advantage:
But you - you're just a child, a mere infant [old vs. young thread]. For you, the past two years - the entirety of your existence - feel like eons. You don't even know what time is. But you will. Real time, the time that makes mountains, that wipes out species. You'll see it all with me. Year by year, century by century, and as your power returns and grows, we'll only become more alike.
The word “time” was used 12 times in the dialog. In addition, there were even more references to time, such as numbers, hours of the day, calendar units of time and ages. That’s a significant emphasis on the ticking clock that our heroes are always fighting. It was probably also meant to create a sense of urgency, as the midnight deadline for Kansas City loomed ever closer.
Other words of note in the episode were “Kill”, which was used 14 times, and words specifying location. "Here", "there" and "where" were used a total of 45 times. Granted, these are common words in a script, but listen for the emphasis on location in everyone’s conversations. Those three words were ubiquitous, appearing in places where they didn’t seem needed.
I want to recognize that actress Felicia Terrell did an exceptionally good job duplicating Jensen’s portrayal of Michael’s mannerisms. Also, Jensen’s transformation into Michael was just plain eerie, Jared did his usual, fantastic job and Misha this time seemed strikingly confident as Castiel – enough so that it struck me in several scenes.
Sadly, most of the rest of “The Spear” bored and confused me. As you know, I have enthusiastically loved almost all of season 14, especially the past few episodes, but everything just seemed flat in this finale. There just wasn’t any passion, and the momentum was lost on confusion and annoyance at forced situations.
Oddly, I didn’t even like the way Ketch was written. He did his best, got the weapon, escaped a “swarm of mercenaries”, kept the weapon out of the enemy’s hands and sent it along to his allies. That wasn’t enough for them, though. They were dismissive, and Ketch was uncharacteristically speechless. Learning of the deadline (which they obviously hadn’t communicated to him), he could easily have retorted with his usual glib defiance, “Sorry chaps. It was truly the best I could do given the circumstances. It’s closer than it was and easily within reach. You’re welcome.” Instead, he sat there mute and the intended laugh fell flat.
I know many of you also objected to one particular scene that was meant to be tongue-in-cheek powerful:
I will admit that even I noted and was taken aback by the placement of characters in that scene. Sam and Dean being separated for much of this season has been grudgingly accepted as a way to give Jared and Jensen more time off. It would have cost nothing to have the brothers be a united front walking into battle, though. That was an extremely odd directorial choice – or was it?
Looking back at how many times I’ve said, “I’m guessing”, “it seems” or “maybe” in this review, the episode contained almost end to end ambiguity. It’s entirely possible that was by design, as it was a teaser episode. I’ve highlighted all the times the characters asked the exact questions that plagued me. Everything seemed “off”. The characters sensed it and at least some viewers (me included) sensed it. The choice of not having Sam walk by his brother’s side was the real clue that something in this episode was wrong – either accidentally or intentionally. I don’t know if it was the show or me, as all viewing experiences are a union of delivery and reception, but I was disappointed, not energized. I hope part two of this story contains the secret decoder ring. Maybe it will all become clear when the show returns. In the meantime, let's work together to keep our mind's from melting down like the Golden Goose's Egg and figure this all out! You can start by answering the questions I (and the characters) have asked about the story!
Screencaps courtesy of http://www.homeofthenutty.com/supernatural/screencaps/
Transcript courtesy of https://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/
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