Thursday, May 22, 2014

Supernatural Season 9, Episode 23: Do You Believe in Miracles

Carry On My Wayward Son!

Yes, I get a big happy grin on my face as soon as the music starts – something epic this way comes!

In fact, pause the recap, I’m going to listen to the song a few times.

Anyway to the episode – Sam and Castiel are desperately restraining Dean from slicing Gadreel into itty bitty pieces (I’m sure Angels used to be stronger than this) with the First Blade. They decide that the guy with anger issues and the most powerful melee weapon ever to exist needs to hang around in the dungeon until they’re sure what to do about his rage, urge to kill and ability to do so to just about everything. Dean is not amused. And when they leave he starts coughing up blood – not a good sign.

Castiel has his own doubts – with his army gone is it really the time to lock away one of their assets?

Over to Metatron who is still writing his little story and has a new lackey, Neal, who calls him God. Metatron addresses the collective angels with a speech on Angel Radio (Neal loves his reverb); in between saying that he’s god, he tells them all that he’s going on a trip which will be “glorious.”

Castiel heals Gadreel, despite his protests that Castiel can’t spare his dwindling Grace. Of course both of them heard Metatron’s message – and Gadreel apparently fears for humanity.

Crowley, meanwhile, is enjoying his victory over Abaddon but is interrupted by a summons – from Dean. Dean wants to know what happened – because since he killed Abaddon he has been craving killing, really really really need to kill or he coughs up blood until he does. It’s the Mark – it drives him to kill, or it kills him if he doesn’t. He could get rid of the Mark – or Crowley could help him escape and get the Blade back

They go for the second option – Sam & co come back and are really upset by this (Sam looks like he may have just burst a blood vessel). While Sam panics over this, Gadreel and Castiel actually think a First-Blade equipped Dean would be an awesome weapon against Metatron. Putting that aside, they also have to break Metatron’s connection to the Angel Tablet which is giving him god-like powers; without it he’s just an Angel.

Crowley and Dean are doing their sniping double act, with Crowley lecturing Dean on his terrible wait staff etiquette (hey, he may be the King of Hell, but he’s a classy King of Hell) and lots of sniping at each other. They do get a viral video of Metatron’s latest ploy – healing an apparently dead woman; in front of witnesses with camera-phones

And if there’s any more proof how badly off Dean is – he just walked away from a hamburger.

Gadreel and Castiel head to the Gates of Heaven to grab the tablet – and they’re an even weirder team. And while Castiel could ruin a good pop culture reference, it’s nothing to the mauling it gets when Castiel tries to explain Star Wars to Gadreel. The doorway is in a playground guarded by Azrael and Pura – angels disguised as a mother and daughter. Gadreel gets access by pretending Castiel is his prisoner.

Which turns into reality when the angels rumble what Gadreel is planning and lead him into a trap and a stay in Heaven’s gaol. They try to convince their guard, angel Hannah about the evil things Metatron has done she’s not convinced

But Gadreel has had a revelation – his constant obsession with his own redemption is selfish, their main mission must be to protect the humans who Metatron is now targeting – and he’s carved the suicide-bomb runes into his own chest. He destroys himself to destroy the cells – telling Hannah and Castiel to stand back. He makes a convincing argument for Hannah

Dean and Sam meet up checking in on the miracle-healing in which Sam rants a bit at Dean, part of it justified and part of it just bewildering (since when is Gadreel a “real friend”?) they argue back and forth, dragging up Dean letting Gadreel posses Sam but both agree Dean may be their best shot to kill Metatron which Dean will take “for better or worse” which is ominous – especially with Crowley listening in.

Metatron (or “Merve” as he calls himself) keeps up his heavenly-homeless person act when he is called out by an angel – but his ranting isn’t taken very seriously by the people who have seen him perform miracles – and they attack and beat the angel (angels used to be so so so much more powerful than this); killing him with Metatron’s angel blade.

Dean and Sam are nearby and Dean struggles with the Blade – but Sam trusts him enough to give it to him. They make a brief acknowledgement of how bad things have been between them this season – and Dean knocks Sam out. Yes, it’s another “I’m protecting Sam by removing all his choices” moment that makes Dean so popular.

Dean confronts Metatron – and Metatron tries to sell himself as god – and point out the extreme failings of god and how he has done far more for humanity than for gods. Dean mocks his desperate self-promotion, and the evil deeds done in the name of it (and the Cubs. Just because). Metatron keeps trying to make the case that the world is better with him than without him – before adding that Gadreel and Castiel has failed; so Dean punches him. Which is a great first blow – but Metatron is still channeling the power of god. Word of God > First Blade

(He’s also an angel which used to mean extreme super powers that terrified everything, but apparently not any more).

Outside, Sam has woken up and is working his way through Metatron’s crowd of deluded homeless people with a gun. He arrives just as, in Heaven, Castiel finds the angel tablet – and Metatron stabs Dean with an Angel Blade

Dramatic slow motion… Dean sees Sam and he collapses – falling just as Castiel destroys the Angel tablet. Sam runs to lift Dean while Metatron smiles – and the ground shakes and thunder rolls. Sam rushes at Metatron with the angel blade but he disappears

And reappears in his office with Castiel. He launches his own verbal attack on Castiel – he has done so much, sacrificed Gadreel and destroyed the angel tablet to save Dean Winchester (and, no, he doesn’t buy the whole saving humanity or heaven or angels – it’s all about saving Dean) and Dean is dead.

Sam desperately tries to help Dean but Dean tells Sam it’s better he dies – the Mark is turning him into something he doesn’t want to be. He reminds Sam that he did say he wouldn’t sacrifice everything for Dean… Sam lied.

In Heaven Castiel snarls at Metatron for all the lies he’s been telling but Metatron mocks them because they’re all so ignorant and trusting and so desperate and so needy. Which just goes to show, while Metatron can tell a good story, he doesn’t learn from them – all his reading should have told him only a terrible villain monologues. Castiel has used Metatron’s little angel radio to broadcast everything he just said. The angels aren’t quite THAT needy and they’re very displeased. Metatron gets to stay in Heaven’s cells and Hannah praises Castiel for his leadership in  letting him live. But Castiel doesn’t want to be a leader – just an angel; though his draining Grace will kill him.

On the ground, a seriously injured Dean and Sam have their amazing emotional moments they do so well. A tearful Sam gets an unconscious Dean to a bed in the Winchester Cave, pours himself a drink and does something he was always against – summons Crowley.

But Crowley is already by Dean’s bedside with Crowley doing some quality 4th wall breaking about how “expected” this whole thing is (after all, how many times have the Winchesters come back from the dead?). But Crowley seems genuinely regretful about convincing Dean to take on the Mark of Cain – because he didn’t know the consequences; he seems desperate to make that clear to Dean that he never lied. Crowley fills in a story he neglected to mention – Cain didn’t want to become the murderer the Blade tried to make him, so he killed himself. The Mark didn’t let go – Crowley didn’t believe it, until he saw Dean leave the cheeseburger uneaten. He puts the Blade in Dean’s hand and lays it on his chest. Crowley tells him to open his eyes – see what he sees, feel what Crowley feels

And Dean opens his eyes – that are black from edge to edge. Demon eyes.

And if I were Crowley I’d be far more afraid of this contender for the throne than ever I was for Abaddon.

Supernatural always always always brings awesome season finales and this is no exception. The twists of this episode were excellent, the emotion always first rate, the drama classic and despite the innumerable times the Winchesters have cheated death, the pain and the loss really came across.

I’m left with so many questions. Not just the obvious – Demon Dean and the Angels without a ruler and Castiel’s Grace. Not story questions – but character questions.

Where is Dean and Sam’s relationship? Oh they’re constantly fighting, making up, fighting making up. But this season they didn’t. They didn’t make up, they constantly put their issues into abeyance, but there was no make up scene, the rift is still there even if they’re willing to tip-toe around it and right until the very last episode Dean was still doing the same thing that pissed Sam off in the first place. Yet, despite their relationship being worse than it ever has been, we also have Sam stepping into Dean’s role – doing anything for his brother. It was always Dean who sold his soul for Sam, who sold the entire world for Sam – but Sam, on the other side, never did the same – he left Dean in Purgatory, he was willing to die and leave Dean – Sam was never that needy nor quite as unhealthily invested in their relationship. So what changed? Is it the lack of resolved conflict between them? Is it the brutal exposure of just HOW invested Dean is in Sam that has made Sam feel the same/feel guilty? Or is it that actually holding a body rather than just a disappearance is too much for Sam to ignore?

Crowley – yes, we’ve had a hot mess of his human blood addiction, but where is he now? He seemed to genuinely seek the Winchester’s company for more than mere usefulness. He genuinely seems regretful for what happened to Dean – and really invested in making Dean believe that. Is he frightened of Dean or has he built the first, loose foundations of a friendship there?

Castiel is actually the character I’m least curious about – that doesn’t mean anything less than adoration – it’s just that he’s not a predictable character because he’s a reactive character -  so “what will he do in this situation” is entirely dependent on what other people do. He will then react – often highly unwisely and in a dangerous and ill-thought out direction – but without something to react to, he tends to drift. And for the love of all that is sensible, can we stop putting him in leadership positions?! The man is an awful leader. Over and over and over again he has shown himself utterly incapable of anything resembling sensible leadership. It doesn’t matter how inspiring he is (which is debateable), he is AWFUL at it.

I’m also quite curious about a Supernatural revival. It’s not secret that Supernatural has been shaky for the last 2-3 seasons – but Crowly openly talked about monotony at the end there. I spy a coded message: the writers know the series needs shaking up and plan to do that. It wouldn’t surprise me if we saw some dramatic changes next season.

Which brings me to the season itself – and it wasn’t good. It had good elements – but it was distracted. The whole angel civil war didn’t seem to know what it wanted to do (as well as vastly retconning the angel powers), often falling into the background for the sake of monster of the week and being completely rewritten on more than one occasion. Similar to the demon civil war, Abaddon and Crowley checked out for weeks, occasionally emerged to throw a semi-crumb of plot, then retreated again. In between we had the eternal Winchester emotion war, odd monsters of the week and quite often the feeling like there was no meta-plot at all. It lacked coherence, it lacked reason, it liked shine and excitement.

Inclusionwise it was its usually hot mess. We have 4 main characters and 2 main antagonists. The 4 main characters are straight white men, 1 antagonist is a straight white man, the other a straight white woman (who was killed off in dramatic anti-climax). Charlie appeared for her token single-episode-per-season appearance to try and add a figleaf of inclusion to try and address the trainwreck Supernatural has with both women and LGBT people (and her episodes are always completely surreal and feel almosy non-cannon). I’m beginning to suspect Sherriff Jody may be the same. Which is a shame because I really like Jody, she’s a deep, complex, excellent character – but if she’s going to be a character, make her a character. She doesn’t have to be in every episode – but I’m beginning to feel these episodes are there just to say “look, we’ve done the woman episode – now, please ignore the overwhelming maleness” and the really terrible record with female characters.

The hot mess of Kevin I’ve already ranted about but it bears repeating – this show doesn’t have anything close to  good record with POC and to then take their one attempt at a long term recurring POC, sideline him constantly then kill him off just rubs acid into the wounds.

I want to love this show and there are still elements that I adore about it – but it is one of the worst trainwrecks out there when it comes to marginalised characters.