Thoughts on Supernatural 15.02 “Raising Hell”

Rattled townspeople, organizing ghosts and familiar faces around every corner. For the second episode, “Raising Hell” sure has a lot in it by all accounts. We even got a glimpse into what Chuck is up to while the Winchesters and Co work on picking up the pieces of his temper tantrum. So, how did it all come together? Mostly well. A few notes landed a bit flat, though. So let’s dive in and dissect.

Ghostly Threats

Okay, I have mixed thoughts on the ghosts. At the top of the episode, Belphegor clarifies that one of the ghosts is in fact, Jack the Ripper. Ohh, scary. But then, not so much. Although this ghost spends the episode as the ringleader of the spirit-squad trying to escape the barricade, there was nothing extra gained by having him be the infamous serial killer. Save for a joke about him having known and/or had a relationship with Rowena back in the day, this identity served no purpose.

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On top of this, when all was said and done, our ghost was relatively easily taken down. Yes, he possessed Ketch for a red-hot minute. But even in this he didn’t do more than snatch the soul catcher for a moment before being quickly evacuated from the body and sucked into the weapon. So in this, he wasn’t much of a lead villain, unfortunately.

The ghosts themselves also weren’t a frightening threat once they starting holding council meetings and organizing. Ghosts, at least in my opinion, are startling in their creep factor: the unknown, the random appearance, the haunting, if you will. Once a group of twenty or more convene in a sunny foyer – olden day costumes and war make up or not – they lose that element of fright.

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Having said that, the concept of the ghosts and the visual at the end served the narrative to convey the scale of what the hunters are facing. It’s massive and daunting. This visual at the end was quite reminiscent of the angels' fall to earth: everyone seems very small and the problem insurmountable.

The Tragic Tale of Kevin Tran

On second thought, I may have misspoken. If there was a legitimately fearsome ghost moment, then credit goes to Kevin Tran and his awesome entrance. (Well, it would have been more fearsome had I not been accidentally spoiled by Twitter. Bad viewer! Don’t read Twitter before watching!).

Oh Kevin. Will you never rest in peace? In yet another example of Chuck’s dickishness, we learn that Kevin was never sent to Heaven as promised, but to Hell instead. Why? We can only speculate.

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Kevin swooped in as a badass to save Dean and Ketch and then went to work as a “spy” on the other ghosts. This was a short lived plot as he was immediately caught and ransomed. I can’t say I loved this plot point either. I’m not sure why they needed a spy at all, for one thing. The ghosts want to leave and are actively trying to break the barrier. For another, Kevin was caught too readily and saved just as easily, it was almost moot. And, as I’ve already stated, this level of organizing in the ghosts (to me at least) served to humanize them which, ironically, made them less scary if anything at all.

It was wonderful to see Osric Chau again – and the door was open to see him again this season, with Kevin released to wonder the Earth. Let’s hope he’ll be back and with his sanity intact too.

Quarantine and Not Lovin’ It

When the episode picks up, we have a townswoman who has snuck back into the quarantine area – and is murdered for her sin. A short time later back in the high school, Sam and Cas discuss what to tell the edgy townspeople who need answers. I thought, wow – a lot of time must have passed, they are really taking their time dealing with this issue. Interesting.

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And then it’s revealed it’s only been Two. Days.

DAYS. Really?

Okay, I recognize being displaced from your home is disturbing and upsetting. However, the townspeople were behaving as if they’d been locked down for much longer and without explanation to boot. Meanwhile, it’d been a couple days and they’re being given information about a chemical leak and a clean up happening.

So – this is nitpicky, but since it became a driving force for parts of the plot it bothered me. The townspeople were motivated to sneak back into the quarantine area because they didn’t believe what was happening, among other reasons. The initial murder victim – whose status as missing motivated her husband and then neighbours - needed medication from her house – why not speak to the “FBI” about this? It’s only been TWO DAYS!

 DEEP BREATH. Okay. Moving on.

Emotional Overload

You might be wondering if I liked anything about this episode or if I spent the whole time pointing at the screen and yelling.

What I thought was well serviced, if a little shortchanged, in “Raising Hell” was the display across Sam, Dean and Castiel, respectively, of the impact their overall situation is having.

With Sam we saw that he is very unsure and lacking his usual confidence. This was displayed in particular in his attempts to speak to the town. Sam struggled to find his voice, to make himself heard over the crowd and then to even deliver the words with any authority or sureness. This is because he has none. Sam doesn’t know how they will contain this problem or deal with the grander issue: that God has shaken the snow globe of the universe into oblivion and all the rules have flown out the window.

I couldn’t help but contrast this moment with Sam’s rally cry to the hunters at the end of season 12, where he truly came into his leadership and delivered strength to the people looking to him, because he felt assured in the team’s ability to prevail, despite uncertainty. Today, that can’t be said. 

If Sam is doubting, Dean is absolute: it was all worthless lies. And in true Dean fashion, this pisses him off. This time, though, in callback perhaps to earlier versions of Dean, we have a man more stoic in his anger than prone to outburst. Even his conversation with Castiel, while simmering with temper, was uncharacteristically absent expressed emotion for the most part. Dean remained this way through most of the episode - angry but enduring. Belphegor referenced his own time in Hell as being a “good soldier”, a phrase that caught Dean’s attention, and this viewer couldn’t help but wonder: is this a comment about Dean himself?

Between the two brothers then is Castiel, not doubting like Sam and not angry like Dean. Instead, Castiel is obviously trying to retain some faith that it’s not all meaningless. The great irony, of course, is that it is he who is now trying to convince Dean of the idea that they had free choices when once he was the “agent of destiny” who came to understand freewill. His line to Dean when he claims nothing is real, refuting it simply with, “We are.” is both potent and profound. I have no doubt that this will become a core component of their fight to restore the balance, whatever that may be, in  the world. 

The other element worth noting is that the boys were mostly splintered off for the episode. Castiel and Dean have a very tense encounter where Dean refuses Castiel’s fumbled apology for what happened with Mary. Castiel and Sam also engage quite tersely over handling of the town. And Sam keeps to himself, by and large, with regard to his wounds. Nobody on this team is pulling together where it counts. We know how that turns out.

Romance in Battle

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What happens when you bring together a centuries-old, reformed witch and a former BMoL assassin? Why, love of course! Or, lust at least. This little subplot was fun to watch if for no other reason than the chemistry (pun intended!) between Ruth and David. They teased, flirted and played with each other right to the brink, using every euphemism in the book. Since both of these characters are sassy, sarcastic and dangerous in their own right, it was entertaining to watch them together and a nice break from the other dramas.

Let’s send them on a mission!

Sibling Rivalry: Take Two

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It was a nice surprise to see Emily Swallow’s name flash in the opening credits – I was very interested to see what our favourite goddess was up to after all this time. Although I hoped she might appear to the Winchesters, that payoff would have been a bit short-sighted, so I can’t say I’m disappointed with how Amara was used in “Raising Hell.”

After learning Amara has been enjoying Reno and taking a break from her brother, she catches onto the fact that Chuck is not quite at full power. Nowhere near it, in fact. So, not only is the wound still affecting Sam, it’s really affecting Chuck it seems – he’s bound to the Earth. Bummer you set it aflame then I guess.

Here’s what I particularly like about this exchange: Chuck still angles to manipulate Amara, and though it takes her a minute because she’s generally disinterested in him, she catches onto it easily enough. This time, as she reminds him of what he did to her (lock her away) we have the benefit of knowing who he really is. Chuck is not the affable if absentee father we thought he was back when Amara was trying to destroy the world. He’s more sociopathic – finally, we can see her perspective of him snap into place more fully, even if in retrospect.

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Somehow this makes the vision of her walking out on him all the more satisfying.

Maybe Amara will be the new God before all is said an done? She did say she likes this world, after all.

Final Thoughts

While I liked this episode well enough, it was very cluttered.

The central plot was overwhelmed by distracting elements of the townspeople “conspiring” to return to the quarantine area, the ghosts holding assemblies that undermined their spook-factors and needless “celebrity” ghost namedropping. Time would have been better spent with our main characters, a little character development in addition to the few moments we got and – though I truly liked what we saw – some more with God and Amara.

What I will say is this: it had one hell of a foreboding end.

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