by Mieke Trudeau
“Stay safe, keep fighting and kick it in the ass”
Bobby! Dean hustling pool! Badass Sam-tastic and “I’m helping” Castiel; this week’s Supernatural episode, written by Andrew Dabb and directed by Rashaad Ernesto Green, was a reminder of the show I fell in love with all those years ago.
Inside Man was the perfect example of how one can take multiple threads and weave them into a cohesive story around the central characters and arc, without resorting to clunky devices such as heavy-handed parallels. The presence of Cas, Crowley, Rowena, Metatron and even Bobby did not only make sense, but all these individual characters and side stories helped focus the main plot.
In addition to the episode having the feel of earlier seasons, there were some noticable connections to season 3. I haven’t seen it officially confirmed but hearing Dean’s nightmare screams for Sam in the opening scene, side by side to the ones from Dean in hell (No Rest for the Wicked S3.16), sure makes it sound as if it is the actual audio spliced in. It is downright eerie. Another scene that stood out is the one where Rowena (Ruth Connell) throws a powerful spell at Dean without result. The visuals compare almost frame for frame to the final scene in S3.16, where Lillith tries to do the same to Sam. Thematically, we have been on this road for a while now; with an arc of redemption that has been leading back to the very genesis of the brothers’ story.
The Inside Man in this case is Bobby (the ever lovely Jim Beaver). I’m always a little leery of the show bringing him back because even though I’m still upset about the decision to kill him off in the first place, shoehorning Bobby back into the narrative has too much potential to cheapen his place in the Supernatural universe. However, this time, his presence was just what Sam, and the story, needed.
Sam and Cas are on a mission to try once again to get Metatron (Curtis Armstrong) to reveal what he knows about a cure for the Mark but they are unsuccesful in gaining access to heaven, since the angels, with Hannah in charge, no longer trust Castiel to do the right thing. I had to laugh a little at Cas’ righteous indignation about being rejected, considering “all he had done” for heaven. I guess the angels are not quite over all his missteps. As a side note, I was very impressed with Lee Majdoub‘s performance as the portal guarding angel. His portrayal of being possessed by Hannah was spot on. I believed completely that I was watching Cas’ angel friend in that interaction.
Having to go to plan B, Sam finds a psychic (a very funny Richard Newman) with connections to the Men of Letters, who helps them contact Bobby in his own private heaven. Bobby creates a diversion by freeing all the other Robert Singers and is able to let Cas into heaven through back door number 42; that number of course being The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything, according to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The scene gives us probably the best line of the episode and maybe the season, when an angel sounds the alarm with: “The Bobbys are surly, I repeat, the Bobbys are surly!”
Curtis Armstrong is again great as Metatron. I am really starting to see the scribe, or Fraggle as Bobby calls him, as a very effective villain. He is an irritant, an instigator, who plays with his prey. Cas takes Metatron’s grace and Sam coldly and without hesitation shoots him in the leg. I’m not sure why no one thought of stealing Metatron’s grace before, since it renders him human and vulnerable, but it sure was great to see both Sam and Cas so determined and ruthless. Metatron claims to have lied and it’s another dead end for Sam but the scribe persuades Cas to take him on a road trip to salvage his remaining grace.
Dean, left alone at the bunker, gets stir crazy after hilariously pulling big brother pranks by rubbing his butt on Sam’s pillow and wiping his toothbrush in his armpit. How I have missed this brotherly dynamic! Dean decides to go visit what looks like a favorite local bar where he ends up hustling three college kids out of some money playing pool. Again, what a throwback to the Supernatural of old! As Bobby says, after learning about Dean’s problem with the Mark of Cain: “Remember when this job was just chopping up some fang and tossing back a cold one? Miss that.” I remember, Bobby, I remember.
For the first time in a while, it is clear that Dean is skating on the edge. First he has that awful nightmare about Cain’s prediction, that makes Sam come running, gun in hand, and then when he looks in the mirror at the bar, he is startled to see his eyes flash black. But when he fights the college boys that Rowena has bewitched to attack him, he stops short of killing them, when he so easily could have. Rowena throws that at him, as if it is an insult. Dean won’t kill her if she is the only one who can lift the spell she has cast on those boys, because he is a hero, and heroes don’t let innocents die. Dean learns that Crowley is Rowena’s son and that she wants him dead because he is a good influence on the king of hell and it has made him soft. It is an interesting thought that the Winchesters, as representatives of humanity, have influenced these two supernatural creatures to such an extent that they have betrayed their natural roles. Crowley is a weak and indecisive king of hell, and Castiel is mistrusted and no longer welcome in heaven.
I really liked the talk that Crowley and Dean finally have, after Rowena tries to convince her son that mean Dean Winchester beat her bloody. Dean agrees that Crowley isn’t who he used to be, that he has gone soft. When Crowley says that he listens to his mother because she is his blood, Dean explains what he has learned through all his trials and tribulations, and what a wise man once told him; family don’t end with blood, but it don’t begin with it either. Family doesn’t look to get something from you, it always has your back, even if it hurts. This is another familiar theme of the Supernatural world of course and Crowley seems to take it to heart in a way only the king of hell can; he kicks his manipulative mother to the curb once and for all. I have to admit that I actually clapped and cheered when he exclaimed: “I am bloody Crowley and I am the king of hell!” This is the demon king we all love to hate! I can’t imagine that we have seen the last of a bloodied and bruised Rowena. She claims that the Mark is just another curse, albeit the first one, that can be reversed. She has her own agenda of course, she wants to reclaim all that the Men of Letters stole from her coven and she wants the Winchesters dead. I am glad that Rowena finally fits into the story. Ruth Connell plays her so well and her final scene with Mark Sheppard was a turning point in so many ways.
Sam comes home in defeat but the boys tell each other nothing. It is sad to see them once again keep secrets, but for once they are not really at odds. It is not that they don’t trust each other, or find the other not capable enough, like they have in the past. They are each trying to save and spare their brother.
For once, the camera stays with Sam, as he goes to his room to read a letter from Bobby that Cas smuggled out of heaven. In it, Bobby tells him he is a good man, one of the best and that he understands that Sam has to do what he must to save Dean. But he warns that sometimes the little bad that has to be done to accomplish good can take over, and that the good can come at an awfully high price. He also tells Sam to confide in Dean, because Bobby knows that they are always better together. And he ends it with words that resonate especially deep with Supernatural fans: “Stay safe, keep fighting and kick it in the ass.” I think I wasn’t alone when I shed a tear along with Sam, after that.
I can’t think of a much better episode to take us into the home stretch. I would love to hear what all of you think. Where will it end? Was Metatron lying about knowing how to cure the Mark? He mentioned that it would require god or Lucifer level magic. Sam showed no mercy in his quest to find a cure. How dark will he go to save his brother? We are watching a mirror image of some of the earlier seasons with some seemingly explicit shout outs to season 3. Will Sam finally get the chance to do the one thing he has never accomplished? Will he save Dean from a fate worse than hell? Give me your thoughts in a comment below.