Friday, April 3, 2015

Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 17: Inside Man

Castiel and Sam go to a… séance? Ritual? Really? And where’s my opening murder?

The ritual is to get in touch with… BOBBY! It’s Bobby! Yes I have unholy glee over this – Bobby!

Annoyingly this was one of those ridiculous spoiler prologues that need to die in fire and we’re thrown back 24 hours earlier.

And Sam being woken in the middle of the night by Dean screaming his name during a nightmare. Yes he’s having a Mark of Cain nightmare about killing Sam

The next day Dean pretends there’s nothing wrong so Sam pretends there’s no cases so instead he’s going to watch a boring art movie he knows Dean isn’t interested in – and it’ll probably take all night because he’s going a long way to watch a film. In French. About a Mime. Y’know, I don’t care how many head injuries Dean has had over the years, there’s no way he’s falling for this.

The “stay out of my room” is amusingly fraternal though

The French film turns out to be a secret liaison with Castiel and trying a last ditch resort to help Dean deal with the Mark – a solution Castiel doesn’t like.

That involves going to the gates of Heaven where Castiel isn’t welcome because of the whole Metatron torture thing. They have an interesting way of talking to him though – swapping a vessel so Hannah can speak to him despite her determination not to possess people. Castiel and Sam want to question Metatron about the Mark of Cain which he claimed to have information on but, as Hannah points out, he does have a habit of lying. Hannah’s also worried that they’re release Metatron because they’re desperate and Metatron is cunning, another very valid concern. Castiel pulls an epic guilt trip on her as she calls the guard to be all ominous for “all he’s done for heaven” and “all he’s done for her” (uh… Castiel’s record with Heaven isn’t… stellar. Do we forget the Leviathan possession thing?)

Sam leads Castiel away because he has a far worse plan than fighting 4 angels – breaking Metatron from prison

Oh such a very very bad plan.

This involves going to see a psychic, Oliver, who is very defensive of his privacy (Sam has to stop Castiel being all gung-ho as is increasingly becoming his wont – blowing stuff up is helping!). Oliver is a mind reader so it helps speed up introductions except when it comes to an actual angel when he’s an atheist (not any more!). He’s going to help them break Castiel out of prison (because, as a mind reader, he can tell what will happen if he doesn’t).

Which is when they contact Bobby in Heaven (more Bobby glee!). They update Bobby on everything and Bobby is awesome. Did I mention he was awesome? They present the plan for Bobby to bust out and open the gates of Heaven. It’s not exactly a “plan” so much as a “vague statement of intent.”

The talk him out to escape his heaven cell and enter the creepy white corridor of creepiness. Bobby decides the best way to deal with this is to let everyone out and then lead a little revolt when Hannah arrives to try and get everyone to go back to their cells. The angels call in reinforcements to face the Surly revolt

Yes, surly. Yes it’s silly but it amuses me immensely. This leaves the gate out unguarded enough for Bobby to open it. Castiel gets into heaven and Bobby demands the truth about Dean and learns they’re doing all this without his knowledge which he thinks is a terrible idea but he’d do the same.

They go to rescue Metatron – who Bobby dubs a “fraggle.” Metatron reminds them that he’d rather die than be Dean’s punching bad but Castiel assures him he’ll be Castiel’s own personal punching bag. Of course this is giving Metatron knowledge which is never a good idea.

Back to Earth with Metatron. This is such a bad idea. Metraton starts throwing his weight around and gloating so Castiel cuts his throat and steals his grace…

…well… damn. I admit, even with Castiel getting more edgy this episode, I didn’t see that coming. After the grace is stolen, Sam shoots Metatron in the leg. Metatron crumples. Metatron admits he doesn’t know how to remove the mark – saying it’s god (or Lucifer) level magic that isn’t even on the tablets. Hannah was right, Metatron was lying. For the sake of his life Metatron offers up the remainder of Castiel’s grace

It’s an offer they take and they part was – but not before Castiel gives Sam a message from Bobby. The message tells Sam not to lie to Dean but also it warns him about doing bad for the sake of good, even as it’s necessary during the job, the price can be too high

Alas, we have to catch up with the Hell storylines. Crowley and Rowena continue to be annoying and Crowley is suspicious that Rowena isn’t nagging him; so she distracts him by talking about her sex life. Despite being the super manipulative and cunning king of hell, he falls for it. Of course he does.

This leaves her free to talk to Product Placement Demon who carefully shows us all the features of the tablet-hybrid he’s using (I’m amazed that a “buy” link doesn’t appear at the bottom of the screen).

Meanwhile, Dean goes to a bar for nachos, beer and putting innocent people at risk from the Mark of Cain (Dean is apparently a regular here – how does he manage to be a regular in a bar?) This involves conning cocky college students at pool.

Which is when Rowena arrives, just as Dean’s eyes get all demonic in the bathroom. Rowena raises the best toast ever (“here’s to evil skanks” not even slightly disturbed by Dean’s sexist language) and hexes the college guys to attack Dean. He beats them down while resisting the urge to murder. But she has a plan B – an epic spell she has prepared and unleashes against him.

It does nothing. Oops. Mark of Cain beats Rowena’s magic it seems

Dean holds her at knife point so she mentions her son and rants about how the Winchesters are a “good influence” on her son – and why that’s a bad thing. She also has a contingency to live – her fighting spell will kill the college kids as we’ve seen before unless Rowena stops it. She’s relying on his urge to save people to stop him killing.

He lets her live and she storms back to hell in a tantrum because her magic didn’t work. Plan B includes inflicting many dramatic injuries on herself then telling Crowley that Dean did it. Crowley doesn’t seem very sympathetic, points out how hard Dean is to kill while wearing the Mark of Can. She dismisses it as a curse, she can lift it, she can find a way. She whines about him being under their control and adds an attempt to guilt him of not being outraged at Dean hurting his mother. He dismisses it as her “being stupid.” He is the king of hell after all. Instead she resorts to threatening him with a demonic revolt as his minions will take this attack and lack of retaliation as weakness.

Faced with this Crowley goes to confront Dean – and have drinks. Crowley believes Dean when he says Rowena is lying but Crowley also brings a surprising sprig of hope with Rowena’s summation of the Mark as “just a curse”. Dean also agrees that Crowley HAS gone soft, but then Dean wouldn’t sit and drink with the King of Hell once either. Dean also asks why Crowley is letting his mother manipulate him like this and Crowley says “we’re family, blood,” to which Dean hits back “they’re not the same thing.” Dean gives Crowley an epic lecture on what family means

With this new lesson, Crowley goes back to Hell and evicts his mother, denying that giving birth to him alone is sufficient to claim to be his mother. He calls evicting her “choosing him” not the Winchesters; he’s the king of hell and that’s the only reason she ever pretended to care.

A pause on the “not any more snark”. He’s an atheist who believes in the proven supernatural (he is, after all, a mind reader) that doesn’t deny the existence of angels – or of powerful beings that call themselves angels. This actually applies, to some degree, to the show as well – after all, we know angels are the agents of god because… they say they are. And they’re powerful enough that no-one feels like arguing the point.

On that note – the idea of Heaven as personalised was a nice one, but this? This sounds a lot like a very nicely decorated prison. It looks like a very nicely decorated prison. When you put that together with previous seasons of Hell and Heaven basically harvesting souls as a power source and we’re poking a really really disturbing possibility in the Supernatural canon.

I’d also like to know why angels need vessels even in Heaven – is there no way in no place that they can interact with humans without possession? And doesn’t this mean that Metatron is being imprisoned with his vessel?

Sam and Castiel – Dean is usually the one we see as dangerous, despite Castiel’s power – because Dean is the ruthless one. Sure Castiel and Sam can be dangerous if they’re is spelled or delusional or broken or soulless – but in full command of themselves it’s generally Dean who will cross the lines and go to the dark places. It’s good to remember that none of the cast have that many lines they won’t cross. Which folds so well with Bobby’s letter about being careful of the price you pay to do good.

Crowley and Dean – actually I appreciated one element of this, both of them acknowledging that they’ve changed a lot and them drinking together is damn weird. It’s an interesting acknowledgement but I still can’t really point to WHEN they became friends and how that friendship endured given their very natures and reason for being. This friendship has been held together more for narrative amusement – it just kind of happened and kept happening and I approach the whole thing with a lot of bemusement. It’s certainly there now, real and well acted and even fun to see – but how did we get here?

Still, I’ll let that go for Dean’s epic speech on family (and on an episode where Castiel and Sam, are refusing to give up on him and invoking Bobby, more of a father to him than John ever was). An excellent message and I’m really glad to get rid of the whole Rowena vs Crowley storyline – but not so much Rowena’s actions. The whole idea that an abused/victimised woman is lying to demonise a man is a toxic one in our society and, even in the hands of such an obvious villain, it’s something we should hesitate to depict to say the least. Having Rowena dramatically demand Crowley to see what Dean did to her and basically have the response be that she's a liar and/or brought it on herself (even though both are true this episode) is a damaging message

A lot of this episode really goes well together despite the separate storylines, drawing on the past to bring a lot of messages together – evil for the greater good, family, keeping secrets for someone’s “own good” and the manipulations we do in someone’s best interests. It was artfully put together