Friday, May 17, 2013

Supernatural Season 8, Episode 23: Sacrifice

Carry on my Wayward son!
There’ll be peace when you are done.
Lay your weary head to rest
Don’t you cry no more.

After watching 7 seasons of Supernatural back to back to recap them, this song produces an almost Pavlovian reflex in me. Something Epic This Way Comes.

And wow that opening prequel made season 8 seem monumentally more epic than it actually has been. The season may have been poor but kudos to the recappers, they made that look shiny.

So, to the actual action:

Jody is in a restaurant all dressed up – yes, Sheriff Jody, she who liked Bobby, that Jody. She’s waiting on a blind date, a man she knows as “Roger.” It’s Crowley. Of course he’s extremely charming and can even bring up a bonding moment over her dead son and husband. While she drops in the bathroom to consider Crowley’s merits (he’s hot), Crowley pulls out a little pack of spell components and her picture. He begins casting and she begins coughing up blood.

Dean Calls him on the phone to make him stop (oh dear gods, Crowley’s ring tone is Sir Mix-a-Lot), Crowley warns them they have a minute before Jody dies. Dean agrees to deal, he will give Crowley the demon tablet if Crowley gives them the angel tablet. And Dean has to say “I surrender.”


They Winchesters go with Kevin to where he hid the tablet – and they rejoin the two pieces together. They take the tablet and send Kevin to the Winchester Cave.

Meanwhile Castiel and Metatron discuss god (“Larger than life, gruff, bit of a sexist. But fair”). Metatron tries to reassure Castiel that the Nephilim was a monster. The next trial is Dwight Charles who is next in line to be hit by cupid’s arrow, apparently. Useful because Trial #2 is to retrieve cupid’s bow

Wow, either Cupid is overworked or there’s not a lot of love out there. Given the 6 billion people on the planet you’d think there’d be a lot less of a delay between people falling in love.

In Sioux Falls, The Winchesters meet Crowley for the exchange and he produces an enormous contract (of course he does). It’s pretty clear that Dean isn’t all that thrilled by signing and this is Sam’s push. Dean insists on reading the whole contract and Crowley mocks him for moving his lips while reading and further mocks them for putting emotion ahead of common sense.

In Heaven, one of Naomi’s minions reports that one of their “freelancers” has found Castiel – with Metatron. She doesn’t look happy about that.

As Sam moves forwards to sign the contract, Dean handcuffs Crowley to him. Crowley thinks this is very funny and tries to blink out – but the handcuffs are warded. Crowley decides fair enough and hits Dean – which hurts but not as much as when Dean hits back. Looks like the cuffs come with some severe power draining. And yes, they intend to redeem Crowley. He’s the third trial. He’s the demon they’re going to save.

Crowley?! Is he even redeemable? He wasn’t a nice man when he was alive. And, more importantly, will he be as wonderfully sarcastic if he’s nice?

To Castiel (normally I’d be disappointed leaving such an excellent scene – but it’s Castiel). And Castiel wants to hurry up the trial so has decided to help Dwight find love through personal ads. Yes, it is exactly as cringe worthy as you imagine. Metatron comments on Castiels lack of subtlety and Noami and co show up to kill Cas. Dwight shoots an angel but doesn’t achieve much and Naomi and her gang escape with Metatron after Metatron begs Castiel not to attack her and make it worse.

The Winchesters take Crowley to an abandoned church (and Dean let’s Sam drive! That tells you it’s important) and they chain him up very effectively in a demon trap. Much better secured than they did Abaddon.  Of course they need to inject Crowley with purified blood – blood of someone who has been shriven in confession. And Sam needs some tips on how to go about confession since it’s not exactly a habit. Don’t worry – Dean can help. He has a freaking LAUNDRY LIST of shit Sam’s pulled going back to season 1.

I actually love this bit. He’s not been cruel with it but it’s clear Dean has some Unresolved Resentment here – and rightly so.

Sam goes into the confessional (don’t you need a confessor?)  And outside Castiel appears to ask for Dean’s help (and Dean still has issues with Cas as well) telling him about the Angel trials and Naomi snatching Metatron.

Metatron wakes in a chair, chained to a dentist chair, and recognises Naomi. Apparently they have history – the Archangels wanted Naomi to “debrief” Metatron after god left and Metatron ran. Metatron isn’t co-operative and Naomi has a dental drill.

Dean doesn’t want to leave Sam but Sam thinks he should go. He can handle Crowley and if Dean can lock the angels away as well – that’s all good. Dean agrees but tells Sam he has to finish it, even if Dean isn’t back, he has to finish the trial. Cas and Dean flap off. And Sam gives Crowley the first injection – which doesn’t seem to have much effect – in fact, it’s Sam’s blood that glows all white and shiny.

Sam and Castiel take the angel tablet to Kevin who is duly Unimpressed by them wanting a tablet translated in a few hours when it took months for the demon tablet. Kevin says he’s out, he’s tried of it and sits down with a drink – only to have an angry Castiel teleport across the room and drag him to his feet with a fits in his clothes. He’s a prophet and will always be a prophet until he dies. There is no out. He pushes Kevin at the tablet and takes Dean and goes.

At the church Sam continues to inject the blood and Crowley manages to bite him – seriously biting Crowley? After Sam goes to treat the wound, Crowley spills the blood from his mouth into his palm and uses it to send a rather desperate call for help. Crowley sounding desperate – that’s new.

To Dwight’s bar where they’re still waiting for Dwight to find love and Castiel asks Dean if it’s wise to drink on the job and we get the awesome 4th wall cracking answer “what show’ve you been watching?”)  Dean worries about Castiel locking the door of heaven – and himself on the other side, especially considering the damage he did in heaven during his Leviathan days. Cas thinks it’s highly likely the will kill him which means this could be goodbye. They still watch and wait for Dwight to find love and he does – with Rod. Much to Castiel and Dean’s surprirse.

Yes a non-stereotyped gay couple on Supernatural that get to live?! I’m shocked too! (Ok maybethey pretty much entirely exist for laughs, since it’s all about Dean and Cas’s shock that true love involves another guy – but damn those 5 seconds of their interaction are better than just about everything his show has produced with gay men to date. Damned with faint praise, certainly, but still. And yes, that’s depressing as hell.)

Crowley is an awesome prisoner. Yes yes he is. And Sam’s blood continues to glow – this time accompanied by spooky Earthquakes. Crowley laughs as a crack across the church floor breaks the edge of the demon trap – and Abaddon enters. Abaddon throws Sam against the wall then out the window while Crowley tells him to say his prayers – with an edge of worry about Abaddon (after all, who says Abaddon is loyal?) And no, Abaddon would like to discuss the idea of Crowley giving her orders and Crowley being her king – and hits him. Repeatedly. After time travelling from the past, she is not amused that Crowley is king and it’s time to discuss regime change. Crowley is not amused but also pretty helpless. Luckily (possibly) for him, Abaddon turns and gets soaked in holy oil from Sam – and then set on fire. She’s forced to smoke out, abandoning the body.

Outside Dwight’s bar, Dean and Castiel confront the cupid and Castiel draws his knife demanding her bow. Dean intervenes – talk first (and this is Dean saying this!) Talking to her, she tells them how she’s afraid to go home, how heaven is in chaos. If Castiel thinks she can fix it – she will give him her bow and the mark appears on the palm of her hand.

In Naomi’s office, Naomi demands to know why Metatron is “doing this”. And he explains his life – plucked from obscurity to take down god’s word, then the ache when god left. But god left them paradise – which the Archangels ruined and further drove him from. He’s out for revenge. Uh-oh, ulterior motive, who didn’t see that coming?

Back in the church, Crowley is set back in his chair upright and even he has to prise Sam for driving off Abaddon. Sam reseals the demon trap and Crowley gapes and tries to say he saved Sam’s life (asking Abaddon to wait so he could kill Sam) oh, Crowley is getting desperate. He tries to invoke them fighting together in a well acted but rather sad attempt to gain Sam’s trust. He rambles on quite… ridiculously and even Sam gives him the side-eye, but the rambling goes on into a long rant about deserving to be loved. Which confuses even Crowley. Looks like the blood is having an effect

Later when Sam prepares his next injection, Crowley asks him for a favour – asks to know what Sam confessed. And, given his own history, where does he even start? How can he even look for forgiveness? Sam says they start with this and holds up the syringe, Crowley turns his head, allowing Sam to inject him.


To Castiel and Dean and calling Kevin who can’t find any mention of the trials that Castiel mentioned – also he’s tired of the sport’s metaphors, he’s a geek. And Naomi arrives – not to fight to talk. She tells Castiel it’s a lie, Metatron is lying to him about fixing heaven – he’s trying to break everything in revenge. What he’s doing will expel all angels from heaven, just as god cast out Luficer. It would cast out all angels to Earth., thousands walking the Earth. Castiel doesn’t believe her. But she tearfully tells them their mission is to protect what god created – though they had forgotten that. As a gesture of turst she warns Dean that, while she wants them to close the gates of hell, if Sam completes the trials, he will die: part of the trials, the ultimate sacrifice. She begs Castiel to stop what he’s doing and if he wants back in, she’ll listen to him, before flapping off.

Dean calls Kevin to check if she’s lying but Kevin doesn’t know. Castiel insists she is but Dean demands to be taken to Sam.

Sam is beginning the special exorcism for Crowley. He cuts his hand and the blood glows. Outside Dean heads in but Castiel doesn’t follow – he says he’s not wrong and he’s going to fix heaven and flaps off. Glowing, Sam approaches Crowley when Dean barges in and tells him to stop

Castiel enters Naomi’s office and finds her dead – her drill embedded in the back of her head. Metatron holds an Angel Blade to Castiel’s throat and says he should have listened to her.

In the church Dean tells Sam he’ll die if he completes the trial and Sam says, while glowing, “so?” (I can see that, I mean they’ve come back from the dead how many times?)

And Castiel gets locked into the dentist chair. Metatron tells him that what he’s doing aren’t trials, they’re components for a spell. He cuts a shallow wound in Castiels neck and takes out a glowing white substance –his essence, his grace, the last piece. In a very creepy fashion eh tells Castiel to live his life to the fullest – find a wife, have babies and when he dies and comes to heaven tell Metatron his story. He puts a hand on Castiel’s forehead and everything is overwhelmed with light

In the church Sam protests how close they are – and how many more people will die if he doesn’t go ahead. Dean’s counter is that they know so much more now – how to kill a hellhound, how to save souls from hell, how to convert a demon. They can turn the tide – but he needs Sam. Sam asks why – because Dean thinks he’s such a screw up (throwing back the confession ideas Sam gave him in his face). Sam says he confessed his greatest sin – the number of times he’s let Dean down. He doesn’t want to keep going until Dean decides he can’t trust Sam again – who will Dean turn to then? Another angel? Another vampire? Dean slams it down and says it’s not true (yes it is!) and points out he killed Benny for Sam and is willing to let Crowley and all his demons escape for Sam’s sake! (Amen to that!).

Sam doesn’t know how to stop with it in him but Dean says to just let it go and hugs Sam. Sam’s glow goes out. And Sam collapses in agony, gasping for air. Dean screams for Castiel – but he’s unconscious in the forest somewhere else, just waking up.

Kevin starts to leave the Winchester Cave when lots of technology flares to life and a siren sounds, a map of the world lights up with multiple markers. Everyone looks to the skies where bright white meteors plummet.

The angels are cast out of heaven – and they are falling.

Well damn – THAT was one epic ending. Falling angels. Crowley redeemed or not? Castiel human? Metatron running amok in Heaven, Abaddon in Hell… epic epic epic epic. And so much fodder for next season!

And some of these emotional scenes? Sam and Dean’s interactions? Sam’s guilt laden speech to Dean was so powerful. Crowley’s confession was a gut punch. And while Dean’s end speech was incredible, even his aside on what Sam should confess to was really well done.

This Castiel actually reminds me a lot more of Castiel when we first met him in season 4. It’s easy to forget how much he has changed, how human he has become, how much of the rigidness and certainty and judgement that was Castiel has been worn away over 4 seasons. He never used to ask or beg or plead or negotiate – he ordered and threatened. It’s interesting to see that coming back now Castiel has certainty, a task, a quest to pursue.

I do think that while Sam’s massive break down was powerful there is still a lot to cover there. We focus on Sam’s grief and guilt and how Dean has to make him feel better- but I feel that’s what’s happened for 8 seasons, working to make Sam feel better while Dean buries his issues. Doesn’t Dean kind of have a right to be angry about these things? It’s not like he’s being unfair, Sam did fail him, time and again and Dean has suffered more than anyone. As has Castiel for that matter. Yet Dean is the one expected to forgive and build everyone back up again – it’s something the show will have to cover one day.

But what this utterly epic ending really shows? Is how utterly shoddy season 8 has been

It’s been fractured with no unifying goals and lots of monsters of the week. There have been a ton of pointless, dull episodes. There hasn’t been nearly enough Castiel. If Benny was going to be part of it, arrive, die and then be thrown in Dean’s face I’m not sure what the point was. The trials – when the show finally settled on something resembling a meta , were poorly presented, lacked any real sense of epic or power and weren’t treated significantly differently from the rest of the monsters of the week. It’s almost like they decided to have a time out for everyone to grow and catch their breath and re-restablish their personal relations a bit more – but only the Winchesters have done that and, as I’ve said, they haven’t even buried their issues.

We had a lot of miniplots. Sam on whether he wanted to hunt or not. Dean and Benny. Castiel coming back. Which could have been fine – they could have had a whole season with an overarching story of the characters plotting their lives and getting back on track after a constant battlefield of trauma. They could have had the Winchesters set up their home in the cave, they could have delved into their personal issues more and focused on their relationships. But they didn’t – these were all mini arcs without connection and then half way through the season the writers suddenly decided “shit we need a plot – ANGEL AND DEMON TABLET! GO!” without any meat or substance behind it. Either make it an ongoing, powerful plot, or don’t. This half measure was a ruin.

Inclusionwise – ugh. We had Kevin around in the background for most of the season which, for Supernatural, is a major step up – but he was still very much a background character who was in service to the Winchesters. Reluctant service at that, since he was pretty much forced into his role.

With Kevin’s mother stepping out early, the only women were minor bit parts who didn’t last more than one episode. A lot of them were victims – a lot of victims. The only exception was Charlie who appeared for 2 distraction episodes – and pretty much represented the entirety of the GBLT representation as well, except for this episodes 5 second “oh look cupid set two guys up, didn’t see that coming” moment.

I don’t expect much from inclusion from Supernatural and… it doesn’t give much. That’s depressing, but after 8 seasons it’s clear that this is a show where all the main characters are straight, white men – it’s a stretch to consider Kevin one of the main cast. Maybe they’ll do more in season 9. I doubt it.

So, really great episode. Really awful season. And still awful on the inclusion and representation of marginalised people.