Let's start with the things I liked.
I loved the return of Rowena as the Queen of Hell. I think she was destined for that if she ever died permanently, so I'm glad that it came to fruition. The couple of scenes down in Hell were quite magical, even though they were in Hell. The all-female guard demons were WONDERFUL, the fight was insane and amazing, Jensen's adlibbed line was inspired, and the reveal of Rowena as the Queen was masterful. Speight did an excellent job with the directing on this one. I can't gush enough about that scene. Then the one in the throne room was pure hilarity. Perfectly performed by Ruth, Jensen, and Misha, it was a masterclass on tension and how to create it, but also how to make it fun while also keeping it meaningful. There was nothing about that scene that wasn't based in some sort of reality, although it involved the Queen of Hell, an Angel, a monster hunter, and it took place in literal Hell. It shouldn't have worked, but somehow it just did. It was played just right, making a scene that on paper is good, great.
Shockingly, I loved the writing in this episode. I generally don't pay attention to who the writers are unless I enjoy an episode. But after a few situations with Bucklemming, I've begun to keep my eyes out for their episodes to see if what I've heard through the fandom rings true. This episode didn't feel like a Bucklemming episode. Remember that Bucklemming were the pair responsible for Eileen's horrible death in the first place, along with dumbing down Crowley and making generally choppy and incoherent episodes. This episode, on the other hand, was a fabulous showing of how smart these characters are, minus the Achilles heel line, and it treated Eileen as a real human, rather than a prop or something that they needed to get out of the way. Eileen was fabulously written, making her needs known to Sam. Sam, Dean, and Cas were all batting at 1000 and showing themselves to be the competent, confident hunters they are.
Honestly, even if Eileen wasn't in a lot of the episode, the parts that she was in were amazing. Opening the episode with her on a hunt was a fabulous way to introduce her prowess to us again. We've seen it, no doubt, but I think we needed the reminder after not seeing her for so long, and then having her return and not really hunt last week. She held her own and she was a badass, who wasn't afraid to tell Sam when he was being overprotective. (He has good reason to be overprotective, but he really must be cramping her style.) She also remained in the bunker, even when she had a perfectly good reason to leave, while Sam, Dean, and Castiel were in Hell. She could have left without a problem, but she chose to handle what she was handling concerning keeping the spell going. When she got the second call, she jumped into action, taking Sam with her to soothe his nerves probably, along with providing her a partner. I can't suss out whether it was some kind of machination by Chuck to have Sam and Eileen be the two to go, but it was quite upsetting to see Sam and Eileen walk right into that trap. But, Eileen? On point. (Shocking because see above RE: Bucklemming.)
Now we're getting to some of my sticking points with the episode. I think what's throwing me off is the Michael of it all. Jake Abel gave a master class in playing two different characters with the same face, and I loved a lot of the scenes that he was in, but something is just sticking for me. Something about the situation with Michael is messing with me. One thing that I did notice is that Cas seemed to wait until the last moment to show Michael what Chuck did when he could have shown him the moment they arrived in the bunker and left it there. It seems a little illogical for Cas, who is well known for being quite linear and logical. The discussions between Michael and Adam in the diner were interesting, but I struggled to connect with either of them. Part of it most certainly is that we don't know Adam or this version of Michael very well. We don't know who this Michael is, and we never really got to see Adam as anything more than the youngest Winchester who unwittingly got involved in something much bigger than him. I struggled to see Adam and Michael, and the only moment I felt good about was the final line, "Since when do we get what we deserve?" It punctuated the situation for Adam and it set up the potential for problems when we return from this hiatus. I just struggled with the pair of them. Something just didn't sit right with me.
I feel like I'm missing something about the episode. Chuck was weird and annoying as normal, and he felt ridiculous and stupid to me. Cas was Cas, to me. As usual for me, not good or bad, but just eh. Do you see what I'm getting at? Some parts of the episode were great, but when I think about it as a whole, I kind of hate it. That hasn't happened to me ever with this show, and it's quite disconcerting. While I might not have liked an episode, I for sure have never revised my opinion or felt like something was missing in my head. Hmm. I guess I'll just have to keep thinking.
As normal, comments below are welcome and always appreciated, and social media is the place to find me! I hope everyone has good holidays and hope we can all survive this little winter hiatus.