Several Days Later
Like Supernatural’s episode “Prophet and Loss”, you have to stick with this review all the way to the end because it just may surprise you.
I have been reminded by many people on many occasions that Supernatural is a horror show. There is death in every episode - beheadings, shootings, stabbings – with blood splatter and guts and gore. For the most part, that violence doesn’t faze me, because it doesn’t depict reality. Killing or being killed by monsters, angels or demons isn’t real. Watching a mentally disturbed person dispassionately execute a step by step plan to murder terrified victims in cold bold is different, however. There were four such scenes in “Prophet and Loss”, three by a confused prophet and one by an insane Nick. This kind of detailed, dissociative violence is completely unnecessary, and is not at all what Supernatural is about. It sickened me and, in my opinion, was a cheap ploy to stir emotion. There was no finesse, subtlety, deep thought or mystery. The only emotion it stirred in me was revulsion.
To be fair, many fans welcomed the return to a darker Supernatural. We all watch for different reasons I suppose. Appealing to different people in different ways broadens the show’s appeal. To me, wanton violence detracts from the subtle messages Supernatural so skillfully delivers. Of course, “Prophet and Loss” wasn’t subtle about anything. The bluntness of the violence indicated the size of the hammer that would be hitting us over head in this episode. From the transparent, double meanings in the script - a person drowned in sea water; a younger brother who lost a part of himself when his older brother died; standing by helplessly as a person committed suicide; fighting to stay alive until those who love you can save you; all the way to the last scene of Sam punching Dean in the face to try to get through to him - diplomacy and tact were replaced with point-blank, brute force. Dean was so stubbornly committed to his plan, that’s what it took for him to see Sam’s desperation.
Which was the whole point. The time for subtlety had passed. Reason, logic, conversation, compassion, even emotional pleas weren’t getting through to Dean. He had become as dissociative as all the other people in this story whose minds had been corrupted by supernatural influences. Dean was being driven to an insane action by an apocalyptic archangel screaming and pounding inside his head. Dean can’t contain Michael much longer but he can’t let him out, and an all-powerful entity told him the only way to save humans is through his own eternal damnation. The verse may have been different but the song was the same as Tony killing to “save” his victims because “God’s” voice inside his head told him to, or Nick trying to “save” himself by eternally damning himself with a supernatural archangel, or Donatello lying as an empty shell because supernatural beings sucked first his soul then his mind out of him. Tony and Nick’s violence, and Donatello’s and Dean’s detachment, demonstrated that there was little or no humanity left in any of them. Motives were different but in all cases the supernatural had overridden the human instincts of fear, reason or love. Nick’s own wife couldn’t appeal to his humanity, just as the people closest to Dean couldn’t dissuade him from his suicidal plan. Could anyone’s humanity be reached and restored?
Talking and Listening
Cas: Were you able to talk him out of it?
Sam: No. So I'm counting on you. Any luck?
Cas: I did as you asked. I've looked for any possible way to forcibly extract Michael and destroy him. - But so far, nothing.
Sam: And what about Rowena?
Cas: She went through the entire Book of the Damned and found nothing. And I told her to do it again, see if she missed something, and, uh well, the woman has a remarkable command of profanity.
Sam: All right, thanks. Keep going.
Cas: Sam, maybe if I spoke with Dean
Sam: It wouldn't matter. Believe me, I've never seen him like this. He won't listen to me. He just -- No. If we don't find some way, Dean's gone.
Dean had disconnected himself from his emotions in order to go through with his own execution, and words had become ineffective tools of persuasion. Even Rowena had to resort to being blunt and crude to get Castiel to listen to her!
Sam: Didn't mean to wake you. Sorry.
Dean: No, it's just a bad dream. It's fine.
Sam: You want to talk about it?
Dean: No, I'm kay. What are you doing? Why don't you get some sleep?
Sam: You know, Dean, you don't have to act like what you're planning to do is just business as usual. I know you're scared.
Dean: Never said I wasn't scared, but it doesn't matter.
Sam: Doesn't matter? Dean, we know we could die, doing what we do. It's always a possibility. But what you're talking about is far worse than death. Michael's an archangel. He could literally keep you buried in a coffin, alive, forever..
Dean: Okay, I get it. But what's the other option, huh? Michael gets outta my head and ends the world? 'Cause it's all right there in Billie's book.
Sam: Yeah, but that's only if don't find another way to take Michael off the board, and there has to be another way.
Dean: And what is that other way? Exactly.
Actually, Sam was desperately trying to "wake" Dean up to the reality of what he was planning to do, but Sam’s constant pleas to Dean became uncomfortable for Dean. Sam was asking Dean to feel the enormity and terror of his plan, but instead Dean asked Sam to be equally as cold and unemotional about this “thing” he was doing at “the end” of their trip:
Dean: Man, I-I just want to make sure that you're still with me on this thing. You're gonna see it through to the end.
Sam: Well, I gave you my word, didn't I?
Dean: Okay, all right. Just, you know, after what you said last night, I don't need you and Mom coming up with some way to stop me.
Sam: You know, Mom hates this. I hate this.
Dean: I know.
Sam: And Cass and Jack, you haven't even told them.
Dean: Okay, well, yeah, that's because I'm not good with the whole big goodbyes, all right? I don't need to get shaky on this thing.
Sam: Wouldn't be the worst thing.
Dean: You know what Michael wants to do, you know that this will stop it, and you know that there's no other way. So just put the end of this trip out of your head, okay?
Sinking in the horror of it all, Sam tried it Dean’s way:
Sam: And if we're gonna get through this, I have to do like you said and try and keep my mind off of where we're going. So if we could not have conversations that sound like deathbed apologies, I would really appreciate it.
Dean: Right, yeah.
“Get through this?” This isn’t a bad day they’re trying to get through! If they “get through this”, Dean is going swimming so pushing ahead is not in anyone’s best interest! More to the point, since when is there anything that Sam doesn’t want to talk about? Sam wants to talk about everything! In the hotel room earlier, he gave Dean an opening to talk about his plan, saying he didn’t have to act like it was business as usual – so then Sam adopts the strategy of disconnecting from his feelings? Sam is still looking up to, learning from and imitating his big brother.
If Dean can get through “this thing” by not thinking about it, then Sam is going to try that too. Except Sam couldn’t keep it up…
Sam: If Cas isn't right about Donatello, then where does that leave him? Trapped. Trapped in his own body somewhere between life and death. It's just tough to think about somebody going through that.
Dean: Then don't. Thinking -- highly overrated.
Sam: Easy for you to say.
Dean: No, it's not, actually. […] Nothing's changed, Sam.
Castiel was also prodding Dean to talk about what he was doing, so Dean tried the same strategy of ignoring Castiel’s pokes at his emotions.
Cas: Dean! It's so good to hear from you.
Dean: Okay. Well. Good. Listen, Cass. Sam and I are working this case.
Cas: You're working a case? That is so good to hear. So I assume that means you're not going through with it, because I have to say, Dean, this plan of yours, it was born of -- of desperation, not reason.
Dean: My "plan"?
Cas: I know that I'm not supposed to know what I know, but
Dean: Look, I'm fine with my plan, okay? We can talk about my plan later.
Cas: Dean. You are making a terrible mistake.
Dean: Does the name "Tony Alvarez" mean anything to you?
Dean: Say more.[…]
Cas: Wait, Dean, Dean. We need to have a conversation.
Dean: Look, I really got to handle this right now, okay? So thank you, and, uh it's good to hear your voice.
Despite Dean’s verbal admonishments to both Sam and Castiel about interfering with his plan, and his advice to not think or feel anything about what was going to happen, Dean repeatedly, subconsciously asked them to stop him…
Just, you know, after what you said last night, I don't need you and Mom coming up with some way to stop me. You know what Michael wants to do, you know that this will stop it, and you know that there's no other way.
… and they repeatedly begged that he (and others) stop planning suicide:
Sam: Wait. Stop. Hey, stop. Stop, stop, stop.
Castiel: It doesn't mean that I don't wish that there could've been another way.
Dean: I know the feeling.
Cas: Oh, no. No, please don't compare this with your suicidal plan. Just stop.
Dean: Okay. All right. Why don't we talk about that later?
Cas: Because, according to your plan, there won't be a later.
Dean: Cas, if you were a friend of mine, then you will understand that I have to do this and you won't try to stop me. You think this is easy on me? It has to be done.
Cas: So, then, this is goodbye?
Way to go Castiel! I like this Castiel who doesn’t mince words! He is seeing situations very clearly, and just as he did with Jack a few weeks ago, in no uncertain words is calling his family out for their actions.
Hope and Humanity
In the end, it took both words and actions working together to pull people back from the brink, even if only temporarily. Donatello started out as the most mechanical and unemotional, i.e. dissociative, being of them all:
Rashad: You're making the right choice. Your uncle's in a persistent vegetative state, being kept alive by machinery and nothing else. Sometimes letting go is the right choice.
Dean: Tell me about it.
Sam: Rashad, you were saying there's been no improvement with our uncle?
Dr.: That's right. There's no real brain activity to speak of. Um, nothing beyond the occasional muscle spasm or, uh, babble of words. Strictly reflexive.
Dean: What kind of babbled word?
Yet it was Donatello’s words that made Castiel try to save him:
Cas: Dean, if there's a spark -- a hope -- then I have to try. You taught me that.
Donatello is only partially saved. As Castiel reminded Dean, Donatello still can’t feel anything because he doesn’t have a soul. As well, Dean is only partially saved.
Sam found a way to get through to Dean. Sam’s verbal jabs turned into physical jabs, then pokes, then a fist to the face, until he emotionally broke Dean with a desperate death-grip hug,
and Dean finally felt what Sam wanted Dean to feel...
– the love and desperation of his family.
Sam had to fully give into his emotion to put Dean in touch with his own.
Sam: Tomorrow morning, we're, back on track. No rest for the self-destructive.
Dean: Well, I would call this a win. Kind of nice. We're going out on a high.
Sam: "Going out" being the operative phrase.
Sam: “Sorry." How sorry are you? Sorry that you fight to keep Donatello alive, but when it comes to you, you just throw in the towel? Or are you sorry that, after all these years, our entire lives, after I've looked up to you, after I've learned from you, I've copied you, I followed you to Hell and back, are you sorry that all of that it means nothing now?
Dean: Who's saying that?
Sam: You are, when you tell me I have to kill you. When you're telling me that I have to just throw away everything we stand for, throw away faith, throw away family. We're the guys who save the world. We don't just check out of it!
Dean: Sam, I have tried everything. Everything! I got one card left to play, and I have to play it.
Sam: You have one card today! But we'll find another tomorrow. But if you quit on us today, there won't be no tomorrow! You tell me, uh, you don't know what else to do. I don't either, Dean. Not yet. But what you're doing now, it's wrong! It's quitting! I mean, look what just happened. Donatello never quit fighting. So we could help him because he gave up. I believe in us, Dean. I believe in us. Why don't you believe in us, too?
Dean agreed to wait, but it’s only a temporary reprieve:
Dean: Okay, Sam. Let's go home. Let's go home. Maybe Billie's wrong. Maybe. But I do believe in us. I believe in all of us. And I'll keep believing until I can't. Until there's absolutely no other way. But when that day comes -- if that day comes Sam, you have to take it for what it is -- the end. And you have to promise me that you'll do then what you can't do now, and that's let me go.
And put me in that box. You too.
Sam: Yeah, all right. All right. All right.
Dean: Now, you heard me. Let's go home. Just don't hit me again, okay?
Notice how the word ‘right’ had been used the entire episode, when Dean felt what he was doing was right. Once Sam broke apart, suddenly everything was “wrong” until Dean agreed to change his mind. Then all was right again. Dean knew that Sam was the only thing in the world who could make him change his mind. He was right.
They keep each other human.
New Canon/Say What Now?
John used to send Dean away when Dean really “pissed him off”? Wow. Those early years just keep getting worse and worse. By the end of the series, John is going to be vilified beyond recognition.
Prophets will go bizarro if their predecessor isn’t dead before they’re activated? Donatello’s “resurrection” has a definite purpose. Besides proving the point that Dean shouldn’t give up hope, how does Donatello fit into the overall arc? They brought him back for a reason.
Sam: So, then, this might not end with Tony Alvarez. Because the next prophet's gonna show up somewhere, and the crazy could start all over again. By the way Cas, I thought there could only be one prophet at a time.
Cas: Yeah, there should, but Donatello is between life and death. The natural order's been upset. Perhaps Donatello's state has created a prophet who's not only premature but malformed.
Sam: But if Tony was wired wrong because of Donatello, then the next prophet will be wired wrong, as well, and then the next and the next and… How do we end this?
Dean: You know how.
Death also talked to Dean about the natural order in things, so the entire conversation above was also about Dean's situation. This might not end tonight, and the craziness will start all over again with Dean considering a solution that leaves him between life and death - a solution that's all wrong. It’s not a coincidence that we’ve been shown that insanity results when things don’t go as planned in the universe. It’s also not a coincidence that Dean told Sam ‘he knows’ how to end the insanity they’re stuck in – Sam just doesn’t want to admit to it or allow that end to happen.
Nick’s wife, Sarah, can’t move on because Nick’s choice to be Lucifer again is unfinished business? I’m not sure that makes sense.
Sarah: You doomed me to stay in this place forever. You've doomed yourself.
Nick: I know. I'm sorry.
Sarah: Where are you going?
Nick: Wherever it's darkest. Wherever he is.
Nick can’t reject Lucifer so Sarah is “doomed to stay in this place forever” - because she wants to save her husband? She is doomed by his choice? That would equate to Sam being doomed by Dean’s choice. Unable to save Dean, Sam will be doomed to be stuck in a place of terror, defeat and guilt, forever. Nice parallel but beyond that, what was the purpose in bringing back Sarah? She chewed up ten minutes of script! Unlike Dean who was unable to deny his brother what he asked, Nick denied Sarah her desperate plea - opposites again. Their confrontation was “the end” of Nick’s old life. He is now willingly, knowingly, going darkside, well to “wherever is darkest, wherever he is.” The Empty? Nick also said something extremely significant to Dean’s storyline.
Nick: That's a real thing, okay? And he left me, but it changed me.
Officer: Listen, you piece of crap. You want to say the Devil made you do it, well, you stick with that. 'Cause either way, you're gonna be locked up for the rest of your life. You're done. You're buried.
IF Team Free Will finds a way to save Dean, how are they going to assure that Dean's humanity isn’t “changed” , like Nick's was, or that Dean will be nothing but “blood and bone” as Michael threatened?
Sam: We're here to talk to you about your brother, Alan.
Dean: Oh. Well, definitely brothers.
Eddie: Alan was my twin. I'm Eddie. I can't believe he's gone. We were close. Best friends. Alan always said he was my "big brother," 'cause he was born first, by, like, four minutes. Losing him is like losing a part of myself. I never knew it could be this bad.
Time continued to be emphasized as critical in the storyline. Michael is breaking out of the cage in Dean’s mind. Dean’s panicked that he won’t be able to contain Michael much longer… so let’s stop to work a case? Because it’s “on the way” to me killing myself??? It demonstrated Sam’s attempt to put the whole “Drive to Dean’s Doom” out of his mind so completely that he wanted to work a case, but it would have made more sense if he would have told Castiel that he was trying to distract Dean, stall for time so he could think of a way to stop Dean. Oh well, let it go.
The "end" was also used in this episode to signify the ultimate deadline, the destination we've been counting down to all season. Sam just moved the end down the road a bit.
Title Thread and Final Impressions
The title “Prophet and Loss” is a play on the words in the phrase “Profit and Loss”, two exact opposites in the cold and calculating world of business. This episode held true to that title in multiple ways. First, everyone either succeeded in or was attempting to look at death unemotionally, dispassionately, as if what they were dealing with was “business as usual”. The story was also a study in opposites. The blunt transparency of the parallel plots and the obviousness of the script were presented against the backdrop of one of Supernatural’s finest directorial presentations of the series. Under the direction of Thomas J. Wright, "Prophet and Loss" was a visual goldmine (when I wasn't looking away in horror!):
The episode opened with Dean possibly the most emotional we’ve seen him in 14 years.
Utter terror enveloped him (and us) followed immediately by a Dean completely detached from his emotions.
Sam starts out calm but slowly melts down into total emotional desperation.
The brutality of senseless violence was set against one of the most tender, vulnerable displays of love ever seen between Sam and Dean.
The worst of Supernatural brought out the best of Supernatural. Scene after scene that repulsed me was followed by scene after scene that I can’t stop watching. When I first saw the episode, I felt almost nothing. I was so angered by the insulting Criminal Minds violence that I was numbed to Sam and Dean’s struggle. Maybe that was the point. Maybe the audience was being drawn into the same emotional tug of war that pulled at Sam and Dean – or maybe it was just a cheap ploy. I don’t know. But I do know that I needed to see that ending fight and reconciliation between the brothers again – and again – and again. It is undoubtedly one of the most powerful brother scenes of the series. It is captivating, and a perfect example of why most of us have watched 299 hours of this saga. Sam and Dean were together for most of the episode, which is a rarity these days. Jared and Jensen delivered such emotionally committed, open, trusting performances, the power was magnetic.
So while I’ll forever fast forward through all the stupid murder scenes, I’ll keep hitting rewind/replay on everything else. That horrific suicide-in-a-box plan is still on the table, so I’m scared senseless. Season 14 is an emotional wringer, and if they keep showing us that much of Sam and Dean’s brotherly bond, I’m all in.
Threads is all about discussion! Let me know what you think of the threads I found and the questions I've asked, then add your own threads, questions and observations below!
You can catch up on my prior Threads articles for season 14, and all my other reviews and articles since season 8, by going to my Writer Page!