Thursday, January 16, 2014

Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 10: Road Trip

Sad music plays as Dean does his best sad eyes over a funeral pyre (as we’ve seen through 9 seasons, hunters usually burn their dead on a pyre – I suppose it ensures the dead are actually dead), presumably Kevin’s. Dean mopes around the Wincester cave, really straining to force as much wounded pathos onto his face as possible (and this is Supernatural they’ve already set records for wounded pathos). He’s had a lot of practice at it, but Jensen Ackles can certainly pull off angry grief.

Cut to an apparent rock star who is trying really really hard to pull off the cool look and meeting… Sam/Gadreel (hereby known as Samreel) in his dressing room; yes, trying-too-hard guy with the adoring fans and groupies is an angel – Thaddeus – who used to be Gadreel’s official angelic torturer. Thaddeus is pretty casual about all this – until Gadreel shows him the angel blade he has: by Thaddeus.

In the Winchester cave, Castiel arrives (in his trenchcoat again – angel got his mojo back!) and even his complete lack of any kind of social grace notices something is up. Dean brings him up to date and his plan to kill the angel – which may mean killing Sam. Unless they can get through to Sam and have him evict his angelic squatter; Castiel remembers Alfie (Semandriel) who told Castiel that Crowley had got to his angelic code. Maybe they can do the same to Samdreel.

Of course, they need someone who knows about that – Crowley. Who, on learning of Kevin’s death, is quick to remind Dean how everyone around him eventually dies. But he will crack their angel for them – but he wants to go on a little trip (chains on) first. Dean thinks that sounds fairly harmless – Castiel is the sensible one “it’s Crowley, he can always do something.” Yes yes he can.

Road trip time – in Castiel’s car which “stopped inexplicably”. Was I the only one who both cringed and grinned at that statement? Alas, it’s a simple matter of being out of petrol (of course, Crowley mocks Castiel’s pimp-car. And, yes, “Castiel’s pimp-car” is going to become a fandom staple). The car is awful – but made up for by an exasperated Dean playing parent to the bickering demon and angel in the back seat.

The road trip may have consequences though – because one of Abaddon’s demonic spies spots Crowley.

Samreel reports in to his boss, Metatron at a bar (the bar man is Gadreel’s last vessel), giving him the tablets he’s retrieved and reporting on all the death – since Metatron controls Heaven, with Kevin’s death there will be no more prophets. Samreel isn’t happy that Metatron has more people to kill (Alexander Sarver this time)

Crowley leads them to a front for an NSA listening post he’s infiltrated with a demon called Cecily, to use the vast amount of information to find people to make demonic pacts with –hey it beats waiting for them to come to you. He speaks to Cecily alone who promptly fills Crowley in on Castiel being human and then angel again (and acknowledges his awesome sexiness)

         As all right thinking people do

And also explains why Castiel has a car now – his wings are broken, he can’t fly/teleport. She also reassures Crowley that most of Hell is pretty much in limbo, waiting to see if Abaddon or Crowley wins, only the most aggressive demons have joined Team Abaddon. And, of course Cecily is playing both sides, she’s a demon and it’s the only sensible thing to do. She does tell him where Sam – or the Impala – is though.

Samreel’s target tends out to be the angel Abner – who has a wife and child and is pretty happy being human, and is also an old friend of Gadreel’s and former prison-mate (he’s a self-confessed lousy angel). He has taken the Fall as a chance to start over, clean slate, possessing and abuser to make the damaged family loving.

Which sounds nice except, later, when Dean arrives he finds Abner dead and Samreel washing the blood from his hands. Dean is an excellent distraction, allowing Castiel to punch Samreel in the face and knock him out.

Abaddon checks in with Cicely who happily reports everything to her, playing both sides and all. Alas, Abaddon just doesn’t really get this demon thing and is not nearly as forgiving of playing both sides. Shame, I liked Cicely.

Samreel wakes well and truly restrained and Castiel confirms that Sam is healed enough not to need an angel any more –though he doesn’t recognise Gadreel. After all the necessary posturing, it’s down to Crowley to do his thing; his unpleasant, agonising and very time consuming icky torture thing.

Dean and Castiel have a bonding moment while dean tries to distract himself from Crowley sticking needles in his brother’s brain – reflecting on their mutual being-far-too-trusting-far-too-often problem. Finally Crowley breaks through and they learn Gadreel’s identity: Castiel is not a fan of the angel he blames for, well, everything since the dawn of time. Castiel has Issues with him. Many Issues. Castiel has to be pulled off him by Dean; now we know how popular Gadreel is in heaven.

Of course the poking isn’t working to get to Sam, Gadreel being rather inured to torture by now. Time for Plan B – Castiel also possess Sam to tell him the truth… but Angels can’t possess without permission. Demons can – Crowley volunteers in exchange for his freedom. Dean is all kinds of suspicious about this – but Crowley is sharp and clear; he always keeps his bargains. Which is true, he was actually very angry with demons who didn’t.

Crowley enters the dream Gadreel has trapped Sam in; thinking he’s hunting ghouls that eat cheerleaders. Crowley quickly proves himself to Sam by using a codeword of Dean’s and shooting him in the chest – causing no damage. He pushes Sam to remember everything that’s happened while Gadreel possessed him; which means he remembers killing Kevin.

Which is when Gadreel shows up (his form that of his original vessel) and starts beating poor Crowley; until Sam takes over and banishes him. Gadreel tries to make him worry about his injuries- but Sam was ready to die before, he’s not going to keep Gadreel in his head for that.

In the bar, an irritated Metatron is waiting of Samreel to show up – when the bar-tender is repossessed by Gadreel. Crowley returns home, Sam is back in control – and Abaddon and crew show up. Everyone runs – leaving Crowley (who is toweringly awesome) to face off against Abaddon.

This is gonna be good…

Abaddon demands one of her minions take off Crowley’s head. No-one volunteers. He has comforting words for the silly silly demons who supported Abaddon and banters with Abaddon. Of course Abaddon wants to settle this with violence but Crowley consider it an election: hearts and minds, demons choosing and all that (the World’s Angriest Ginger or Crowley, where everyone gets a say, a virgin and all the entrails they can eat) before vanishing.

Meanwhile, Castiel heals Sam’s injuries and, of course, Sam is furious with Dean. He was ready to die, he made that choice; Dean was beyond wrong to manipulate him into possession rather than accept his own choice. Especially since it lead to Kevin’s death. Dean takes the blame for that and repeats his intention to kill Gadreel – alone.

Because he’s absorbed the message of him being poison – how everyone around him eventually dies

Of course, Sam doesn’t exactly want Dean around now either – and tells him to go. But that this whole poison thing isn’t the problem. Dean leaves… Sam and Castiel watch him

Castiel’s “you were stupid for the right reasons” covers so much in this show, as does Dean’s response. Ultimately, the reason for the stupidity doesn’t change the outcome, but how often has this show been desperately about doing your very best with little knowledge and flawed tools and utterly screwing up despite meaning the best? In some ways that’s the cornerstone of Supernatural, doing what they can in less than ideal situations, sometimes making it worse but always trying to make it better – being stupid for the right reasons. It works and is powerful – especially when put in the wider context: because it’s not about saying “well I meant well!” when your screw ups hurt people or cause chaos. It’s about acknowledging those mistakes and keeping trying even when you don’t think you can do any good. It’s about owning the bad things you’ve done and trying to fix them and not letting fear of screwing up again stopping you trying.

That’s the advantage of having 9 seasons – you have so much context and texture with which to make statements like that.

Abner, Abner – possessing a human and creating a new family out of the abuse they used to live – one of love and respect and… yeah, unless he’s a telling his new wife the truth, he’s still with her under very false pretences which puts a nasty question mark over consent. It is not ok to pretend to be someone else when sleeping with someone.

I wouldn’t say that Crowley was a more democratic ruler of hell – but he was a more efficient one – they got things done, while Abaddon has one setting: break stuff.

Sam and Dean’s falling out – I honestly aren’t that fussed. Because this has happened so many times before – they’ve had a rift and eventually they get over it. Sam’s issues get rocked back and forth for a while, Dean’s issues get suppressed. Is this the last straw? Maybe… I don’t know, we shall have to see. Ultimately, Sam has a major point, Dean never has respected him as an equal fully, on some level, Sam has always been the little brother, Sam has always been second and, in the end, Dean has always thought he knew better (of course, generally he does) and that has its limits. Flip side is, Dean is a deeply damaged co-dependent personality who has managed to keep his wreck of a mind going by focusing on the job, on helping people and supporting his little brother lubricated with copious amounts of alcohol: with none of his issues every addressed over the seasons (as I’ve complained about before) is it any surprise that he absolutely couldn’t let go of one of the few anchors he has? His whole reason for wanting to go after Gadreel alone is because one of those anchors – that he helps people – has been badly shattered.

But I can also see why Sam let Dean go – because Sam is epicly pissed at Dean and his taking control of every aspect of Sam – and here’s Dean turning that into his own pity party. Even while I think Dean needed a lot more pity parties than he’s had – and certainly needed more people to give a damn than he has had – the time and place is wrong and broken. When you are epicly – and righteously – pissed at someone, that is not the time for them to cast themselves as the victim.