Thursday, December 5, 2013

Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 9: Holy Terror

Meta! We’re getting back to the meta! No more talking animals or Oz or other nonsense!

And we open with a bus full of singing Christians. It’s a bus with “Jesus Saves” written on it, full of women singing hymns – The Melody Ministy Glee club apparently. Pulling up to a biker bar.

They get out, all dressed the same in long white dresses and pink cardigans and enter the biker bar full of bikers. There’s a confrontation – and BOTH sides draw angel blades. Lots of flashing white light and sounds of conflict – and the bloodstained Christian Glee Club leave a whole lot of dead bikers behind

Well, I was waiting for something to eat them, but this is an acceptable second.

Sam and Dean are driving along and clearly on the case – much to Ezekiel’s annoyance because it puts him and Sam at risk (Ezekiel is a rather cowardly angel, it has to be said). Dean’s impatient for Ezekiel to actually put Sam together again and points out they can’t ignore the case without Sam getting suspicious. Ezekiel is not only a cowardly angel but a snippy one as well – and when Sam comes back he notices he’s lost time again which is beginning to frustrate him and add to the whole “something’s wrong!” worry.

At the biker bar, there’s already an FBI agent present apparently… well, there’s Castiel pretending to be an FBI agent anyway

Castiel! He’s back!

Dean gives him A Look. That wryly amused, mildly irritated, happy-to-see-you-but-still-going-to-to-chew-you-out-over-this most excellent look. Sam has a look as well, but it’s not as good as Dean’s. Last we saw Castiel he was trying to avoid all things angelic and trying to live a normal life; but if angels are slaughtering each other he feels the need to intervene. And adds “Cas is back” which is… just Castiel. Looking at the pics they can see that there’s a large number of angels involved – one or two couldn’t have inflicted this level of violence. They already know Bartholomew’s faction – but there could easily be another.

Naturally Ezekiel is most unamused by Castiel joining them again.

Meanwhile two big ominous cars park, out of which come representatives from 2 factions of angels. One lead by Malachi (including the Melody Glee club) and the other by Bartholomew’s representative – he hasn’t come in person. Malachi is not amused – if Bartholomew wants to unite and avoid all kinds of bloodbath, he will meet personally (in between lots of talk of them disrespecting each other). Which is fine because Bartholomew won’t negotiate either. Malachi and his minions (including the Christian Glee lady) promptly kill Bartholomew’s representatives. Really, under a flag of truce, that’s just not sporting. Bad angels! Bad!

Back to the Winchesters and Castiel wondering if it’s ok for him to help them (Sam doesn’t understand why he’d ask since he still doesn’t know that Dean told him to leave). We have recap of the murderous April (Dean being Dean, he only remembers “she was hot”.) and Bartholomew’s plan to unite angelkind and retake Heaven – then Castiel goes to the bar for another round (already hammered after one drink) giving Ezekiel chance to pop in and whine. This time Dean doesn’t have time for it – Ezekiel made enemies choosing sides? Well Castiel has far more angels coming after him and he’s not whimpering and whining.

Admittedly this is incredibly selfish since Ezekiel did choose sides effectively to help Sam and Dean, but still, Ezekiel HAS chosen a side, so stay with the side – cowering in the corner is not choosing a side. I think I’d be more sympethatic and see this point if Ezekiel expressed his displeasure in a way that wasn’t “waaaaah!” When Castiel returns with the drinks, Samkiel huffs outside the bar where he runs into… Metatron.

And Metatron recognises him as an angel – but not Ezekiel. He imitated Ezekiel because he was good and honourable which, according to Metatron, is everything this angel – Gadriel - isn’t. Gadriel protests that he’s been terribly slandered. Regardless of the bad stories, Gadriel had been locked in prison for millennia because he was the angel who watched over the Garden of Eden. Gaddy, Gaddy, you have one job – one job – stop some silly people eating fruit, but nooooo! But still, bygones, Metatron claims credit for freeing Gadriel because his locking of Heaven made every angel fall – even Gaddy. Apparently Gadriel didn’t know that Heaven was entirely locked down. There’s a wrinkle in Metatron’s plan – yes he has Heaven all to himself now – but you can only be smugly victorious for so long before it starts getting dull. It’s boring up there. He wants to rebuild Heaven by handpicking angels – preferably funny ones. He plays on Gadriel’s epic insecurity to get him on side

Inside, Castiel awkwardly pokes the fact that Dean told him to leave and Sam doesn’t know why. Dean doesn’t spill the whole truth but does say Ezekiel helped heal Sam and to help Sam they have to keep away from Castiel.

Poor Castiel
Back to the Winchester cave and Sam is, again, surprised that Castiel disappeared for no apparent reason. Anyway, on the research front, it turns out the bikers who were killed were a Born Again Biker Gang. Yes. Looking further they realise that the bikers were connected to Reverend Boyle, who works for Bartholomew. They had hoped the Reverend had gone quiet – but it seems he stopped doing the televangelist thing because encouraging everyone everywhere to let the angels in was allowing angels who didn’t support Bartholomew find hosts. This way Bartholomew can control who gets embodied. Which means there’s a new group out there brutal enough to take on Bartholomew’s people: as Dean says, angels are dicks.

Which is when we move to another skirmish in the Angel war, with Glee Lady leading a Bible meeting trying to get a group of people to open up to possession – with glowy angels hovering above them. Just as she’s about to succeed, a group of Bartholomew’s angels attack, killing her with an Angel blade and using their lethal touch on all the gathered humans (reminding us that they may be footsoldiers in this war, but they are still angels).

In  presumably free moments, Metatron continues to work on his pitch to Gadriel: this time pointing out how exhausting and chaotic humans are and how nice it’d be to be in Heaven away from them all. Gadriel isn’t entirely unsuspicious and points out Metatron would be ruler of Heaven which would kind of make him God – Metatron backs off from that and says he’d just be called “X”. Which is actually rather creepier than calling oneself god.

Castiel seems to have hit rock bottom because he decides to ask for advice. Through prayer. Pretty much every prayer position imaginable. Yes, he’s praying, yes the angels can hear him, no this isn’t sensible. And Muriel arrives to help him – and she isn’t happy that the person asking for help is Castiel, hated by all things halo’ed and winged. He wants info and Muriel may be the best person to talk to since she wants nothing to do with the militants – he assumed no militant would answer his prayer because his being warded would make him seem human and the militants are completely uninterested in humanity. She tells him Malachi is Bartholomew’s opposition (who Castiel recognises as “the anarchist”) and fewer and fewer angels are independent as both groups hunt the unaligned and torture and kill them to force allegiance.

Which is when Malachi’s angels break down the door – they were hunting Muriel but Castiel is an excellent bonus. They’re taken to Malachi’s torture compound, both of them get badly mangled pretty quickly though Muriel makes sure to tell Castiel she never knowingly lead Malachi’s people to him. They torture Castiel and kill Muriel to try and make him give up what he knows about Metatron; unfortunately he doesn’t know much. Castiel tries to shame Malachi by lamenting angels slaughtering angels, but Malachi isn’t taking that from Castiel who slaughtered so many when full of Leviathan – or the many more who died during the Fall. That shocks Castiel – but apparently locking them out of Heaven called many angels to die: Azrael, Sophia, Ezekiel… oooh that last name! Yes, Ezekiel’s dead which means Castiel realises someone else had to have healed Sam.

When Malachi leaves Castiel alone with his torturer, that torturer then surprisingly asks Castiel to pass on a message – to Metatron. He’ll do anything Metatron wants if he can get into heaven, yes, he’s jumping ship. Castiel actually digs up some guile from somewhere and makes the torturer really sell it to him and assure him he’s totally a team player (he also thinks none of them will survive the war between Malachi and Bartholomew). He releases Castiel – and Castiel stabs him with his angel blade. White light emerges from his mouth and into Castiel’s – Castiel has stolen back his Grace, his angelhood. He glows with a brilliant white light and is fully healed. The torturer isn’t dead – at least, until Castiel touches his head with the lethal angel glowy-touch.

Castiel is really back.

Malachi returns to find a lot of his followers dead. Castiel was not amused it seems

Back at the Winchester cave, Kevin has been allowed out of the plot box! So he can do some more tablet reading still trying to reverse Metatron’s spell. As he and Sam get up to date on the latest deaths on the angel war, Dean turns to put more pressure on Kevin to find some way to return the angels to heaven. And Kevin notices that Sam has been stepping out a lot lately without telling anyone where he’s going.

Dean gets a call from Castiel warning him about Malachi – and Castiel admitting he has become what they have – a barbarian (c’mon Castiel, it’s hardly the first time you’ve killed an Angel. Or the 10th. Or the 30th). And that he has his mojo back – sort of, since it’s not his Grace. Dean is shocked by all the changes and wants to try and talk to an obviously troubled Castiel about them – but Castiel just says they’re going to war, he needs to be ready – Castiel interrupts concern with the news that Ezekiel is dead – and has been for a long time.

Dean runs to Kevin to demand a spell to shut down an Angel so they can speak to the vessel (not a bad thing anyway since Gadriel revealed that Sam could kick him out at any time – so presumably they can deposes vessels of angels by talking them into kicking their angels out). He sets an exhausted Kevin on the task.

Meanwhile Gadriel tells Metatron that he will join him and become his second in command. Great, but first Metatron needs Gadriel to prove his loyalty by neutralising their enemies. Gadriel tries a brief “but nooo, I do not kill”, Metatron isn’t impressed and hands him a to-do list.

Kevin cobbles together a spell from the tablet and the Men of Letters books – he’s not 100% sure, but Kevin knows something is up because why else would they already be painting the symbols for it? Dean urges him to trust him and Kevin, accurately, says “I always trust you and I always end up screwed.” So very true.

Dean takes Sam into the prepared room and activates the spell and quickly recaps Sam on what he did, on the possession and a whole lot angst and shock and anger that Dean would do this without respecting Sam’s choices – angst later, now they have to evict mystery angel who is up to no good. Sam is stuck on angst – and punches Dean unconscious and runs out. Or maybe Gadriel took over and the uncertain spell wasn’t good enough

He goes to Kevin – and Gadriel uses the angel touch on him. Gadriel kills Kevin. Just in time for Dean to catch up and see him fall. Dean tries to help, but Kevin falls dead and Gadriel pins Dean to a wall. Gadriel heard them talking and changed the sigil Dean had to activate, stopping it form working. Gadriel leaves with the tablet while both Sam and Dean practice their best angst faces.

The mid-season finale! So, what of this season so far? Well that was a pretty epic end to the first half with lots of drama, major things happening and generally excitingness. I think Supernatural may actually be pulling itself out of the hole it dug itself. Season 7 was terrible, Season 8 was looking up  (poor still, compared to seasons 4, 5, and 6 – the Golden Age of Supernatural) and season 9 feels like they’ve got a lot of their mojo back. We had a lot of episodes that were fillerish – perhaps more filler than was necessary since the show really needed to get back onto the rails to make up for the last 2 seasons. We’re climbing out again and I’m actually really hopeful.

What I’m not hopeful about is the inclusion situation:

Dean seems almost to have been getting worse this season when it comes to women. Last episode with his chasing the celibacy group leader and now he only remembers April by “she was hot.”? Also, we have a huge attrition rate of female angels – Muriel appeared, how long did we expect her to last? The leaders of the factions are male, the archangels we’ve seen are male. Any angel that has lasted for more than 2 or 3 episodes has pretty much been male except for Naomi. Then throw in things like Abaddon and the female hunters (who all seems to be attractive and usually young while, except for the Winchesters themselves, most male Hunters seem to be older and grizzled)… We have the odd decent female character – Sheriff Jodie and Charlie, but they’re one off episodes, filler episodes not the main meta and they are sometimes highly unusual. Charlie in particular feels like she’s brought in for very cartoony, almost non-canonical episodes. She’s the Simpsons Hallowe’en special of Supernatural – she arrives, something ridiculously zany happens, and she leaves. While she herself isn’t the comic relief, her presence means the episode is. If Supernatural was a comic series, then Charlie episodes would be the alternate world #245 where the cannon is all weird and Batman marries Wonder Woman.

And then there’s Kevin. This show has had a painful lack of major POC for a long time now. It’s actually had a painful lack of anyone who isn’t a white, straight, cis, able bodied man (yes Bobby was briefly disabled. Briefly being the operative word). And then we brought in Kevin to be a tool, to be a resource, to be exploited – he was dragged out whenever he was useful and when he wasn’t they put him in the plot box never to be seen until the next time they had use for him.

Do you know what really rubs salt in that? They know. They lampshaded it. Kevin even told them that they treat him as a tool to be exploited. And Dean told him he was family, that he mattered them as much as Castiel, that he was one of them. And I celebrated because it seemed this character was finally going to be a character and due some respect, not some tool they push to the brink of exhaustion in service…

And then Kevin falls into the plot box. The excuses they find to get rid of him! They send him on a weekend holiday. One episode he’s absent entirely because of a 3 day hangover (seriously). That whole speech was nonsense because they STILL treated Kevin as a complete servant who disappeared entirely when he wasn’t useful – until he came back this episode to die and cause more Winchester Angst. The Prophet is no longer useful, to the fridge with you!

I’m glad the season is giving me hints of going back to how Supernatural used to be in terms of plot and action. But, sadly, it’s doing the same thing with its minorities as well