The Morning After
Finally! A myth arc episode! While I enjoy Supernatural’s lighter episodes, I am drawn to the deeper story, i.e. the mythology, the relationships between the characters, and whatever big stakes, supernatural battle is currently being fought by Sam, Dean and Castiel. “Our Father Who Aren’t In Heaven” (OFWAIH) delivered on all those fronts with an outstanding character study of Adam and Michael leading the way. Superbly directly by Richard Speight, Jr. with intricate stage sets by Jerry Wanek’s team, this story was visually, intellectually and emotionally interesting. Let’s get started!
Welcome Back Characters!
Rowena is the Queen of Hell!
Maybe fandom is getting really good at theorizing where plotlines will go, or maybe Rowena’s coup to take the throne was just too sweet (and obvious) for the writers to pass up. We all hoped that Rowena would successfully parlay her fate of being cast into Hell into one last grab for power. For hundreds of years, she sought power to both redeem herself from the humiliation she suffered at the hands of Crowley’s father, and later, the Grand Coven, and to ensure that nothing like that ever happened to her again. Her coronation was also an obvious progression of her second-guessing her son’s reign from the sidelines of Hell’s court. Still, until her triumphant return as Queen, we couldn’t be certain that her poignant, dramatic death in 15.03 “The Rupture” wasn’t her final goodbye to the series.
(Did Crowley say similar words about his subjects fearing him? Threaders, the gauntlet is thrown! Did he say the exact same thing at some point?)
Rowena: Lads, I'm queen. My subjects revere me. Well, fear me, which is better. I should have died a long time ago.
I was particularly thrilled (and relieved) to see that her character didn’t at all regress into her former petty, shallow self. I loved that she winked at the boys after she pretended to be a maniacal dictator. Her fondness for ‘Samuel’ and her bond with Team Free Will as allies remained as strong as it was when she left them. That character growth was desperately needed and an extremely welcome development in her storyline. The ease of their interactions fed the relationship thread that was prevalent in “OFWAIH”.
There are a few important implications from Rowena rising to the throne of Hell. First, Hell is once again an ally to Team Free Will, as it was occasionally under Crowley’s rule. A particularly relevant example would be when Crowley mustered the forces of Hell to fight by their side against Amara. Season 15 might give us a gender-swap version of that battle against the ultimate deity.
Secondly, Rowena granted Sam much needed relief from the terrible guilt he felt about being the instrument of her death.
Sam: Rowena, I...
Samuel, please. You killing me was one of the best things that ever happened.
Hopefully, this conversation gives Sam some piece of mind. Again reiterating the relationship thread, Rowena’s forgiveness appeared to have mended any fracture in their friendship that may not have been there from her perspective but definitely weighed heavily on Sam.
Lastly, Rowena has her happy ending. I am heartened that maybe her character’s final disposition is another indication of the writers’ intention to give characters endings that are not only appropriate for them, but are happy as well (see my optimistic interpretation of “Last Call”’s foreshadowing of “The End”)!
Adam’s return was another sign that maybe characters are going to get the happy endings they ‘deserve’. In confirming that Adam had escaped the cage and was back on Earth, “OFWAIH” brought back a character that had been ignored since season five’s climactic conclusion. Ten years later, Jake Abel finally returned as the third, forgotten Winchester brother, Adam, and the powerful archangel, Michael, both of whom were left languishing in Lucifer’s cage in Hell all this time.
Just as Christian Kane was truly the star of last week’s episode, Jake Abel’s return as Adam and Michael dominated “OFWAIH”. Jake’s acting was absolutely brilliant. He repeatedly switched back and forth between two entirely different characters, seamlessly portraying the long lost innocence of Adam, who, despite unimaginable trauma, retained enough of his humanity to soften a head strong, immensely powerful archangel who had been God’s obedient enforcer for millennia. Watching the conversations between these two completely opposite beings who had co-habitated for a decade was mesmerizing. Eugenie and Brad’s dialog insightfully showcased each person’s background and personality, then Jake’s delivery brought each character’s perspective to life. When he was Michael, Jake’s voice seemed lower/deeper, and the cadence of Michael’s talking was slower and more deliberate, intimating his vast maturity and strength differential over Adam. Jake’s Adam still had an impishness to him, shutting Michael down because “he’s not listening” (the ‘listening/communicating’ thread) and daring to challenge Michael’s long-held beliefs about his father. The relationship they had built out of necessity was the primary character study of the episode. Watching it unfold was fascinating!
Michael’s journey to transform his view of the world from apocalypse 1.0 to the threat of apocalypse 2.0 at the hands of his Father was also well written. His unwillingness to believe his enemies’ version of the new world order was realistic. His reluctant conversion needed to be slow and painful to be believable, so the solution of having Castiel mind-meld with him to hasten the process was perfect. I loved how Cas purposely baited his big brother into physical contact so Cas could show him their truth. That was as much about Michael coming up to speed as it was about Castiel not taking no for an answer… again. I LOVE this version of Castiel! Continuing to display the confidence we saw in him last week, Cas again took the initiative to move things along.
My review for “Last Call” rejoiced at welcoming Castiel back as a three dimensional character with backbone. “OFWAIH” gave me a slightly different view, however. Now it seems to me that we’re finally seeing a Castiel who has come into his own as an adult. Ever since he decided to break out of the confines of angel obedience 11 years ago, we have watched him mature in a trajectory that can be compared to that of a human child.
When Cas first teamed with Sam and Dean, he did whatever they asked him to do. They guided his navigation and understanding of the strange new world as parents or mentors instruct a child. After these first formative years of introduction, Cas went through his “teen age” years when he experimented with making his own decisions, but his choices frequently had very bad consequences. He had power and autonomy but he didn’t have good judgment. Then Jack came along, and Castiel unexpectedly became a father. Suddenly, he had someone looking to him for protection and guidance. Once Castiel felt a parental bond and responsibility for Jack, Castiel took a strong stance that was different than that of his previous mentors (especially Dean). Mirroring the same separation tension that often develops between young adults and parents, Dean bristled at Cas’ independence, and they argued, as parents and children often fight as the child chooses different paths than the ones the parents would have chosen. Dean is still furious with Cas, questioning his choices, and even his right to make those choices, because of the dire consequences that Dean blames on Cas. It’s easier to blame than to grieve:
Castiel: Something went wrong. You know this. Something always goes wrong.
Dean: Yeah, why does that something always seem to be you? (“The Rupture”)
Cas even “ran away from home” at the end of this fight. Someone on the road brought him to his senses, and he has returned to the nest but he is a different person now. He is assured of his right to make his own choices, such as that beautiful, brave prayer that found Michael, or mind-melding Michael’s education. Still, Dean is having trouble accepting that Castiel isn’t going to ask permission anymore.
Dean: Maybe you went too far. I mean, he's been in lockdown for quite a while, you know? Maybe you just, uh, went too fast.
My theory about Castiel’s relationship with the brothers (especially Dean) partially explains why Castiel stood up to another older brother, Michael. Cas is no longer intimidated by archangels (yes, he defied Raphael but that was born out of both necessity AND hubris) . He needed Michael’s help, and wasn’t taking no for an answer. I don’t any longer see his character change as a “welcome back Castiel” as I said last week, as much as a “Welcome, Castiel. It’s good to have you as a full-fledged, grown up member of Team Free Will.” It’s taking a while, but as any mentor or parent, Dean will slowly come to accept that his boy has grown up. [Note: I don’t think this theory precludes the Destiel interpretation. I see Dean as a mentor, or maybe older brother, to Cas. Others see him as a mentor and potential lover. I don’t think the partner relationship precludes the mentor relationship.]
As an extension of my theory about Dean accepting Cas as an adult, remember the last time Dean had to acknowledge a younger bro as an "overgrown adult"? That was right before he had to let go and allow Sam to sacrifice himself. I can't help but wonder if that is where this team (who LOVE parallels with earlier seasons) is taking this story. Thoughts?
Rowena: What am I picking up from you two? A wee tiff? Tell your Auntie Rowena.
Dean: It's fine. Don't worry about it.
Cas: It's fine.Rowena:
Boys? Fix it!
Studying various types of relationships was an underlying themes throughout “OFWAIH”. Within moments, it was obvious to Rowena that Dean and Cas’ relationship had hit a snag. She called them on it, advising the life is too short for ridiculous “tiffs”. As noted above, Michael and Adam worked through their contentious relationship to come to an understanding:
Dean: Wait, Mic Michael lets you talk? I mean, he lets you be?
Adam: Uh, yeah. In the Cage, we came to an agreement. We only had each other.
Sam and Eileen echoed the tactic of talking to work out their misunderstandings:
Dean: Eileen did good, right? Getting us back from hell. She doing okay?
Sam: Yeah. I guess.
Dean: You guess?
Sam: If she needs something from me, she'll tell me. We have an agreement.
Dean: You have an agreement? That's adorable.
Looking back, relationships have been a thread throughout season 15. My “Threads” reviews for 15.02 “Raising Hell” and 15.03 “The Rupture” called it “Connections” but over time it has revealed itself to more precisely be about relationships. I’m now wondering if this new emphasis on agreements is foreshadowing that the “tiff” in Chuck and Amara’s relationship will be mended by some kind of “agreement”. Alternately, maybe the relationship between Chuck, Sam and Dean, or Chuck and humanity will be repaired through “talking”, “listening” and reaching an “agreement”. This would merge several threads we’ve been tracking!
Dean: Look, we know that Chuck overpowered his sister, the Darkness, and locked her up…
Castiel: …so we may be able to lock him up, too.
Donatello: Why don't you just kill him?
Sam: God has to exist to maintain the balance of the universe. Without him, creation would fall apart.
Relationships are all about maintaining a healthy balance of power between the people involved. Michael could easily overpower Adam, as Dean reminded us when he flinched thinking of how he was muted and completely overpowered by AU Michael. Eileen pushed back a bit when Sam became overly protective, so they negotiated where their power balance needed to be placed. Dean and Cas haven’t yet found the balance of their wills in their relationship. In “The Rupture”, Rowena called Dean a “fulcrum” (See Threads 15.3), giving a different name to a balancing point between two sides of things.
Chuck’s threat to Team Free Will provided yet another metaphor for the idea of the finding the perfect balance of give and take in relationships:
Chuck (through Donatello): So, here's the thing. Usually, I really love our little process. I toss something at you guys, and you slam it right back. It's fun, like tennis. With monsters. But this Let this one go.
Dean: Or what?
Chuck: Or I go all-powerful. Maybe not on you. Not right away. But, let's see, there's Jody, Donna, Eileen. Pretty much everybody on your speed dial. So drop it.
Going back to my theory of Dean getting angry about Castiel growing up, isn’t that actually the same thing that’s happening right now in the relationship between God and his “children”? The relationship between Sam, Dean and God is painfully fighting its way to the next stage of maturity. Sam and Dean didn’t do what God expected and wanted them to do. He said he gave them free will, but when they actually exercised it and made very different choices than he wanted them to make (i.e. pushed to be independent adults), he became angry. Daddy doesn’t like his boys displaying their independence. Might this all be foreshadowing an evolution in everyone’s relationships, where they achieve an agreement on the new balance of power between fully autonomous “adults” versus the old one-sided relationship where the parent had the power and the children listened?
What do you think? The next thread provides even more evidence that this may be where the story is going!
Fathers and Son/ Title Thread
Cas: Michael sealed him in the Cage. So Michael was the favorite.
Dean: Oh, yeah, a real daddy's boy.
Sam: But if Michael helped Chuck overpower Amara, then maybe he also knows how to lock him up.
Cas: Perhaps, but even if we could get to him, he wouldn't tell us.
Dean: I don't know. I mean, if my dad kept me locked up in a cage for 10 years, I might be looking to get some payback. It's worth a shot.
The debate over whether to try to find Michael reiterated that Michael was always the obedient son, never challenging the will of his father. Michael later admitted that he didn’t ever question his dad.
Michael: You and I have been together for years. My father and I have been together for eternity. I exist because he willed it.
Adam: So he's having a mid-eternity crisis. Or maybe you don't know your dad as well as you think you do. The point is parents keep secrets, right? Does it hurt to ask the question?
Michael: Yes! It would. It would mean that I doubt him. The good son, the favorite, doubts his father.
Like Dean had once been with John, Michael believes his role is to execute his father’s orders without question. Sam, Dean, Cas and Adam are forcing Michael past this childlike hero-worship into adolescence and seeing parents as flawed beings for the first time.
Cas: Michael, we needed to speak with you because God is back. You didn't think the Cage just opened on its own, did you?
Michael: If my father is back, he will usher in Paradise.
Dean: No, he won't. Because Paradise is boring, and your dad? He's just looking to be entertained. Which means we're his puppets. All of us, especially you.
Michael: I won't hear this. You're lying. I don't know what your agenda is, but you're lying.
As you might expect from an episode that specifically names the Father in the title, a great deal of time is spent exploring Michael’s relationship with his Father. The word “father” is used 9 times in the script, in addition to all the variations on the word, such as dad and daddy. This thread is turning out to be a primary focus of the myth arc. As stated by the episode’s title, Michael comes to accept that his Father is no longer in Heaven. He’s on Earth, and is wreaking havoc with his children.
Background Song for Chuck’s rigged (one might say “fixed”) Casino gambling: Oooh. Love is the power. Oh, yeah. It will be here today, yes, and it will be here tomorrow.
Drunk on power, much?
Dean: Right, so, the best thing to do is toss him in solitary and throw away the key.
Donatello: Okay, but the last time, it took the power of God to do this? I mean, even if he has a hidden flaw, do you have the power of God?
Sam: You know what? Uh, one step at a time. You figure out how to lock him up, we'll take care of the rest.
But if Michael helped Chuck overpower Amara, then maybe he also knows how to lock him up.
Dean: Listen, have you, uh, sensed anything lately? Like a surge of power? But not not God-like.
The tension in this season’s plot is all about how to gain more power than God. As Rowena predicted, they always underestimate the power of “real magic”. With Michael turning over the spell to entrap God, it seems that the answer to the power struggle will be Sam’s mastery of magic. I’m having trouble believing it will be that simple, so I see that more as the 'try and fail' fake-out climax that comes before the real solution is found. But that’s just me. What do you think?
God’s power being thwarted by magic connects Chuck and Rowena’s stories. WFB follower and Supernatural fan @DRyzley on Twitter noted that a parallel was drawn between their appearances in “OFWAIH”:
A powerful person (Chuck; Rowena) had a drink brought to them by someone (waitress; Sam) who was scared of them.
That was an interesting detail! The importance of the waitresses continued with another detail noticed by @SPNDeanGirl:
Adam/Michael’s waitress was named Jessica!
Laying on the guilt for Sam developing a relationship with Eileen, maybe?
Besides lamenting over Chuck’s power, and seeing Rowena’s ascension to power, I particularly enjoyed seeing an angel at full power again. Since Michael wasn’t part of the angels’ fall from Heaven, his wings are still intact. It was oddly gratifying to hear that he was using those wings to dart around the world on a whim.
I particularly loved seeing him smite Lilith (to the dismay of the diners’ patrons)!
Michael: Who sent you?
Lilith: You have to ask? Your daddy.
Michael: If that's true, he can come talk to me himself.
Lilith: Yeah, except I'm not supposed to leave without you.
Why did God need to send a messenger to retrieve Michael? Can’t God talk to Michael telepathically, or something? Can’t God travel around with a snap of his fingers, or find a power like Mike’s that has to stand out like a beacon on Earth? Donatello sensed Michael’s location by honing in on his powers. Couldn’t God do the same? Is he that weak?
It was immensely satisfying to have Michael smite Lilith. I found this version of that character extremely grating, so I cheered at her demise! Goodbye for good, Lilith! Good riddance!
Sam: With Adam, we said goodbye because we thought we had to. We were wrong.
I dearly love that Sam was the first person who spoke up to Michael. Cas had tried “repeatedly” to get Michael to believe that God was the enemy, but when Michael tried to bring up their shared trauma in the cage, Sam made it clear he had moved on from that reality. It seemed so brave of him to assume equal stature with Michael (before they knew that Michael had granted Adam equal footing).
Adam was reunited with his family, but it is unclear to me if this was a one-time thing or if he and Michael are now a part of the fight.
Dean: Before you go, can I talk to him?
Michael walked out on Dean and Cas, saying he wouldn’t be joining them in Purgatory. Do you think he’ll be back to help them wrestle God into Amara’s prison? Rowena’s goodbye turned out to be temporary. Might Adam/Michael’s be as well?
In choosing to concentrate on the relationships of the season, I didn’t even touch on the “New Canon” of using the demon tablet to learn that God has a “secret fear that is always there” or that there is now a spell to lock away God. If it took God, Michael and Lucifer to lock away Amara, doesn’t Michael have to come back to help defeat his Father?
Michael: What was done in the darkness can be done to God, if he's as weak as you say.
Amara can provide the god-level power. Since Chuck is not at full strength, maybe one archangel instead of two will be enough but surely they can’t do it without him. Or maybe Rowena and Hell will substitute for Lucifer? Then who will be the guardian of the key? That is an extremely scary thought!
Lest we forget about Sam’s gunshot wound, “shooting” and “shot” were woven into the dialog three times. One occurrence is noted above. In addition, Dean and Donatello used that turn of phrase:
Dean: So, we know that Chuck is weak, right? If we're to take our shot, now's the time.
Donatello: And, guys, when I go crazy again, just shoot me.
@DeanIsntFine and @Pathryn on Twitter brought to me attention (during my live tweet of the episode) that Dean was again talking about how people “deserve” to be treated. You’ll remember that Dean and Lee debated this a bit in “Last Call”. Curiously, considering what Adam deserved bookended this episode. First, the “Then” montage opened the episode by reminding us of what Dean said way back when Adam’s body was possessed:
Dean: Adam was our brother. He died like a hunter. He deserves to go out like one.
Then the last lines to close out the episode left us with Dean saying:
Dean: Adam, I want you to know we are sorry. What happened to you - You're a good man. You didn't deserve that.
Adam: Since when do we get what we deserve?
Anyone interested in going back through this season’s earlier episodes to listen for the word “deserve” during rewatch to see if this is an emerging thread?
“OFWAIH” was only the 8th episode of the season, so we’re not even half way through the plotline yet. That means there’s still a lot of time for things to happen! It also means I’m not entirely convinced this was the mid-season finale, because 15.11, which is the half way point, is followed by a 6 week hiatus!
No matter what we call it, the depth of “OFWAIH” finally gave us substantive progress in the season’s story, character interactions and set up for the future. It wasn’t an “epic” hour, but once again the stellar performances, exciting developments and a touch of humor made it extremely enjoyable and a worthy installment in this last season. For me, it introduced more than the obvious possibilities for the series’ end. It also left us on a cliffhanger, with Sam and Eileen captured by Chuck (due to a dubious “relationship” Eileen has with another hunter who is probably dead). We have to wait until January 16th to find out what happens next. Until then…
I'd love to hear your thoughts, below! Let the commenting and questioning begin!
Read more of Nightsky's "Threads" reviews! Links can be found on her writer's page.
Transcript quotes courtesy of Springfield! Springfield