By Stacey Gillard
“There’s one hard, fast rule in this universe. What lives, dies.”
While I would have liked Sam and Dean to have more interaction, this week’s episode was so full of action, intrigue and good old-fashioned monster fighting it made me shelf that desire for 42 minutes and sit back and watch the Winchesters at work.
Having dropped Jenna and the baby off at her grandmother’s house, Dean heads back towards his brother to help in the fight to cure the “rabids”. I was excited that he was on his way to his brother – Sam’s speech in last week’s episode was so heartfelt and hard-hitting I needed them to work together, but more than that I needed Dean to know Sam is infected. Baby Amara, however, manages to throw a spanner in the works by using building blocks to demand food and Jenna calls him back for help, realizing that it may not be usual behavior for a newborn.
When Dean arrives back at the house it is to discover that Jenna’s grandmother has called in an exorcist for the child: Father Crowley, who is more than willing to talk to Dean once he’s finished his cup of tea. I’m not sure how he did it but Crowley looked perfectly natural dressed as a priest! Crowley tells Dean that he can feel the power emanating from the child but admits he has no idea what it is. However, when Jenna slaughters her grandmother (while she’s making a pot of tea no less, the horror!) Crowley discovers the deputy no longer has a soul, Amara has devoured it. When Jenna attacks Dean a pretty epic fight ensues, until Crowley gets bored and smashes the soulless cop into the ceiling, killing her. I would have enjoyed more time getting to know Jenna, but I suppose the Winchesters already have a couple of more-than-capable law enforcement officers in their lives, we can’t expect more than that. (In other words, more Jody and Donna please!) Dean admits to Crowley that it is The Darkness that has been released and, realizing that his “loyalties” would be better placed in the hands of the new evil threat and admitting that he and Dean have had their fun but it’s time to move on, Crowley tries to go after the girl, only to be pinned to the wall by Dean’s angel blade. Taking out Ruby’s knife Dean makes as if to slice into Crowley but instead leaves him there while he goes after the child. When will the Winchesters learn – finish the job!
I don’t believe for a second that Dean would have been able to kill Amara. Apart from the fact it would go against what he promised Sam, that they would do what they could to save everyone and this was just a (mostly) defenseless child, the “bond” Amara insisted they have seems to play a large role in his decision-making right now and I feel something would have stopped him. It is however a moot point as the growing girl has walked out of the house and we later see the now escaped Crowley upping his creep factor by luring little ribbon-adorned Amara into his van with the promise of candy – in this case, a doomed family of four juicy souls.
Crowley’s involvement in the season 11 arc is now obvious but Castiel’s place in the story is a little fuzzy for me. After being kidnapped by his brethren at the end of last week’s episode we see him being tortured to give up the location of Metatron. He endures slashes from an angel blade and being placed in the horrific angel brain probing device despite his insistence that he doesn’t know. If I’m honest I found the torture scene to be a little long and gratuitous but it did give Misha Collins a chance to show off his acting chops as I certainly felt the agony he was suffering. In a flash of blinding light his torturers are banished by the returning Hannah, still in the body of the young man she took as a vessel the last time she left. Lee Majdoub once again gave a fantastic performance, seeming to channel Erica Carroll by giving Hannah such familiar mannerisms as well as a palpable chemistry with Misha Collins‘ Castiel. Hannah tries to trick Cas into giving up Metatron, the capture, torture and subsequent rescue actually being her plan all along to soften up Cas into telling her what she needs to know. She tells Cas that he is despised in Heaven and after Hannah is killed by her cohort, Castiel surrenders to the effects of Rowena’s attack dog virus. In a heart-wrenching overhead shot we see him surrounded by bodies, shoulders slumped in defeat. While I would like to see more of an effect from the virus, what atrocities he has committed along with what Hannah has told him it seems Cas’ return to Heaven is doubtful
Sam’s fight to save the rabids, and now himself, from the Darkness infection was full of old school research and was really reminiscent of early seasons. As we see a web-page referring to hoodoo on his laptop it’s obvious his search has become desperate, the tendrils of the disease reaching further up his neck. After capturing a rabid he discovers the disease moves at different paces in different people but I can’t help but wonder why Sam’s was such a slow progression. It suggests to me something in his blood is suppressing the infection; maybe this is why Jared Padalecki polled his fans recently on Twitter, asking if they thought Sam was free of demon blood.
In the hospital halls, Sam encounters Billie (Lisa Berry), a Reaper who is singing the haunting “O Death” over multiple dead bodies scattered around. As Sam apologizes for Death’s demise she tells him she can tell he’s dying and that he will never be clean. This must have hit a little too close to home for Sam who spent the first 5 seasons trying to come to terms with the fact his blood was sullied by Azazel. The Reaper also tells Sam that with Death gone, nobody is amused by the Winchesters’ penchance for dying and coming back. Next time they die they will be reaped and sent, not to Heaven or Hell, but to The Empty, and “nobody comes back from there.” There’s always been that small amount of comfort on this show, that if and when our heroes perish they’ll be around soon enough to carry on the tale. Maybe this is setting up for the end of the series as both stars have hinted they’d like the Winchesters to go out Butch and Sundance style. In any case, this makes things a little more tense this season and Sam and Dean will have to tread very carefully with this prospect hanging over their heads. Billie is a nice addition, another kick-ass Reaper with an intimidating contempt for the boys and I would be happy for the Winchesters to have more interaction with her.
In yet another beautifully shot and acted scene, Sam makes a visit to the hospital chapel and appeals to a God that he knows has little time for them. We know this is a futile last-ditch attempt at salvation, Sam’s faith has been shaken to pieces over the past 11 seasons, but in an emotional appeal the younger Winchester admits to feeling fully responsible for The Darkness being free and begs for help. His speech to Dean demanded they both take responsibility but Sam seems to be shouldering the blame and that’s going to come back and bite him unless he talks to his brother. The Winchesters talking to each other – now that’s a novel concept!
With none of the signs he was appealing for, Sam leaves the chapel but outside he’s hit by graphic visions of what we can only assume is his time in hell, vicious flashes of hooks and chains and flesh being ripped. Seeing Sam drop to his knees with the pain of the visions once more brought me back to early seasons and I feel in a lot of ways we are coming full circle as the boys have a stronger relationship and are much more in the dark about what they are fighting. What isn’t clear is who sent the visions or why. Are we to assume God listened to Sam’s prayers and sent him a reminder of his time in the Cage, prompting him to remember Billie’s accusation of impurity and driving him to research a possible cure on the internet? Or was this a cry from Lucifer, trapped and apparently terrified in the Cage, imploring his former “bunk buddy” to listen to his cries for help and warning him of the impending doom The Darkness brings? Whichever it was, Sam gets the proverbial light bulb and as the infection takes more of a hold on him he finds the answer he was looking for – the flames from holy oil burn the disease from his veins, an indication of the pure evil that is infecting the town. [Author’s note: anyone else get scared Sam was going to set his lovely locks on fire?]
Finally the Winchesters are reunited as they return to their home. The bunker is still a mess after the showdown there at the end of last season and as they survey the piles of damage Dean talks of his connection with Amara, how her appearance to him was as an adult, suggesting she came to him in a vision. As Sam listens to him and visibly flinches at the mention of visions a fandom holds its collective breath for Sam to admit to Dean what he experienced in the hospital. No such luck as their attention is caught by movement behind the pile of books; Castiel has come to the only place he knows he can turn to in times of need.
So again, having the boys apart for a full episode is never desirable but it was played in such a way that I didn’t feel that they were split. The togetherness is there again, even when they are physically apart and somehow Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki make that a tangible thing. Now if only Sam would tell his brother about the visions…
Next week sees the return (finally!) of Rowena and is directed by Jensen Ackles. Should be a good one! As always, tell us your thoughts!