Hellatus is Over! Supernatural 10.10 The Hunter Games

Warner Bros/the CW
Warner Bros/the CW

I was already in an amped up Supernatural state thanks to the San Francisco convention last weekend, so to say I was excited about the mid season premiere was an understatement. We had a big family pizza party with lots of cousins and aunts and uncles joining us, which was awesome until about 8:49 pm, when I started to hyperventilate a little. Luckily everyone cleared out shortly thereafter, possibly because someone asked “wait, is there a new Supernatural on tonight?” and I answered much too loudly, “YES!!!”

I watched the episode with my daughter, and once again, we both enjoyed the episode despite a few minor quibbles. Yay! So here are Ten Things I Liked About Episode 10.10.

And a few little things I didn’t. Let me explain about the inclusion of those few things. My relationship with Show is complicated, but that’s not a bad thing. I enjoy the hell out of watching just about every single episode (only two in the history of the Show have annoyed me so much that I didn’t want to rewatch them immediately, or perhaps ever). I always find things to love in an episode, and I generally end up bouncing up and down and squeeful about how Supernatural is still the goddamn Best Show Ever. Which it is.

That doesn’t mean I don’t find things to quibble with, or sometimes wish canon would veer off in a different direction than it does. Supernatural isn’t perfect to me – it’s real. I adore its ridiculously talented, passionate, motivated — and imperfect — cast and crew, writers and producers. They’re human, and that means they have the heart and soul to pour into this crazy wonderful little Show we all love. Humans aren’t perfect, and neither are shows. But everyone cares about this thing they’re creating, and everyone is all in trying to make it the best damn Show they can. I can’t even put into words how much I appreciate that, or how much I value it. If, in a review here, or on a roundtable discussion elsewhere, I combine my squee and respect and appreciation with some wishing and complaining, that doesn’t mean I don’t care. It means I do. Just like my editor or my beta cares enough to point out when things I write aren’t perfect, and ways I might make things better. Sometimes I choose to ignore that, and sometimes my editor or my beta is wrong (shhh, don’t tell them!). I’d be the first to say that my ideas for the Show are probably wrong too sometimes – or at the very least impractical for television or misaligned with where the keepers of the Show’s official canon want to go. And I’ll be the first to shrug and say oh well, my ideas weren’t that good anyway, and send kudos to the creative team who ended up taking me somewhere I didn’t even know I wanted to go. I trust them enough to know I’ll never quit this Show, and enough to enjoy the ride every week, wherever they take me.

This week was no exception. I enjoyed the hell out of that 42 minute rollercoaster. In the 24 hours since, and in a day of chatting with my daughter and other fans about the episode, I’ve got some quibbles. But for the most part? There was a lot to love, and I’m just damn glad my Show is back!

Ten Things I loved:

1. The ‘Road So Far’ set to Electric Light Orchestra’s Long Black Road. I don’t really know the song, but it seemed so perfect. “You gotta get up in the morning, take your heavy load. And you gotta keep goin’ down the long black road.” In both Jensen and Jared’s meet and greets at SFCon this past weekend, they talked about the theme of the Show being “try”. The Winchesters keep trying, and they don’t give up on each other, no matter what. It’s a message that has drawn many of us to the Show, full of personal meaning. That song seemed to echo those sentiments, so it rang extra true to me. Also, the montage of scenes was awesome!

2. The cast and crew showing off their amazing talent (again). Congrats to John Badham for brilliant directing, and Brad Creasser for taking over as DP while Serge Ladouceur was prepping the next episode. Together they created scenes that were breathtakingly gorgeous and packed an emotional punch that left me breathless multiple times. The shots of the MoL bunker were particularly beautiful.

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Badham and Creasser really brought us inside the bunker with the boys, let us feel how long those hallways are, giving us a real feel for how large it is. It doesn’t feel like a set at all, even when you’re standing in it — it feels like an actual bunker. I loved the scene of Dean and Sam walking and talking, following the turns of the hallways (Also, bowlegs!). I loved the scene of Cas and Sam running through the same hallways, terrified of what’s happening to Dean. The use of lighting was spectacular throughout – Serge must have been proud. He even tweeted out the credit to Brad.

Tweeted by @adamwvfx
Tweeted by @adamwvfx

The VFX guys deserve a shout out for this episode too, which was heavy with visual effects. Not a single one came off cheesy or artificial looking – instead they fit seamlessly into the narrative and looked like they were happening right before our eyes. Rowena’s traveling “sight” was particularly well done, and so very very creepy.

Composited by alejandra m, tweet by @adamwvfx
Composited by alejandra m, tweet by @adamwvfx

And then there’s the acting. The four regulars were all stellar, and all had a chance to shine. Guest actors Ruthie Connell and Curtis Armstrong were no less stellar, and Kathryn Love Newton brought some humanity to a character who doesn’t always come across as very sympathetic.

3. Castiel. I loved his concern for Claire, and his inability to let it go. One of the things I’ve quibbled with in the past is that we didn’t get to see Cas be human for very long, which was a shame. I thoroughly enjoyed that story line, and wanted to see so much more of his struggle to deal with the emotions and the mortality of being a man. That said, I’m glad he’s BAMF!Cas again, but has retained some of that humanity and emotionality. It’s clear he feels both guilty and responsible for Claire, but his essential awkwardness (which I also love) keeps getting in his way. I really felt for him, when she kept refusing to stay with him or to allow him to try to keep her safe. It’s a bit of a mirror for Sam and Dean, and Dean’s constant longing to keep Sam safe, and Sam’s chafing against that or refusal to let him.

Cas doesn’t know how to convince Claire that Randy was bad for her, that he didn’t really care about her. She doesn’t want to listen, especially now that he’s gone and she’s grieving another father figure – this one murdered at the hands of a man that Cas calls friend. No wonder she keeps pushing him away. I had been bothered before that the issue of Castiel looking just like her dead father wasn’t acknowledged in the Show, so I was thrilled that it was touched on in this episode. Imagine how impossible that would be, to have to look at someone wearing your dead father’s body, but is not him. I loved that Claire told him that straight out, and that Cas seemed to listen and try to understand.

Cas pleads with Claire
Cas pleads with Claire

I also like where Cas is right now. He’s a quirky angel again. I laughed out loud when he said he’d text Dean the phone number, and Misha nailed his quiet admission, “I like texting.” I didn’t even need the “emoticons” added on; just the idea that Cas would enjoy something as humanly simple as texting made me happy. He sometimes struggles with face-to-face communication, so I can totally see texting as something he’d enjoy. Just like the Winchesters, Castiel is a character who many of us relate to strongly. His idiosyncrasies are an important and appealing part of who he is, and I love that Dean and Sam accept him and love him and respect him for the journey he’s been on and who he’s become.

xxxx 10.11 cas text

He’s awkward but honest when he tries to convince Dean to talk to Claire:

“I thought there would be a connection, one extremely messed-up human to another.”

It’s true, but it’s not what most people would say. Dean’s half smile says he gets it, that he knows Cas and appreciates him for who he is and how he relates, even when it’s awkward.

xxxx 10.11 cas screwed uphuman

I like that the awkwardness that we’ve come to expect in the character is back. On the other hand, I love that he’s Castiel again – an angel with at least some (borrowed) juice. When he burst into the bunker and questioned what the hell the Winchesters were doing, and when he swept in to blow away the door to get to Dean, I was reminded just how badass the character was originally written. I liked seeing some of that return, even if it is temporary right now. He’s torn between his loyalty to the Winchesters and to the angels, but willing to go out on a limb and risk bringing Metatron if it’s the only way to help Dean. However, he draws the line where he has to, which I liked.

BAMF!Cas is back
BAMF!Cas is back

He’s not a pushover for either the brothers or the angels, but is trying to find his own way and do the right thing. Making it up to Claire is part of that attempt to make things right.

Another problem I’ve had with this season and last is that Castiel’s story line was not always well integrated with the Winchesters’ arc. This week jam packed a lot into one episode, but the story lines meshed organically, which is something I’ve been wanting to see.

Cas (Misha) got one of my favorite lines in the episode. When Claire accuses Dean of being a monster, Cas considers for a moment, and then responds, “It’s possible that there is a little monster in all of us.” He’s defending Dean, but it goes deeper than that. Castiel, originally an angel who looked at the question of right/wrong and good/bad in concrete, black and white terms, has grown a lot over the years. His understanding of what it means to be a ‘monster’ is much more nuanced now, as is Sam and Dean’s. As is ours — all of us who watch the Show and confront those moral questions along with it.

4. Everything about Crowley and his mummy. I have loved the character of Crowley from the get go, and have felt sympathetic toward him when there was no reason to (except maybe that Mark Sheppard is hard not to like). The glimpses we got of Crowley’s humanity – in the church with Sam, in his interaction with his son, and in his bromancing escapades with Dean – have made me like the character even more. Maybe it’s the psychologist in me, but hearing stories of his horrific childhood have now solidified that liking into actual caring about Crowley, which I realize is a foolish and dangerous thing, because hello, demon! Nevertheless, there it is.

So I feel rather terrified for him, watching Rowena spin her brilliantly diabolical web of deceit that’s sure to leave Crowley gutted. As much as he’s trying to fight it, and clearly knows intellectually that he cannot trust her, that wounded little boy still longing for his mother’s love keeps breaking through. It’s a real thing, I’ve seen it too often in real people, and it’s breaking my heart.

I both love it and hate it when Show is smart enough to get things right. Sometimes they’re so right it hurts.

xxxx 10.11 crowleyrowena

Of course a lot of the credit goes to Connell and Sheppard, who play this relationship like virtuosos. I hate Rowena but I can’t help but admire her intellect and persistence and her amazing acting ability (the character’s as well as the actress!) Also I could listen to her accent for days. Months even.

Who else could give us dialogue gems like this?

Rowena: “Darling, what can I do?”

Crowley: “Not a thing, you evil bitch.”

Rowena: “Not a thing, you evil bitch…mother.”

Sheppard shows us just enough of his vulnerability to make us want to warn him about his ‘mummy’ – more than once, I found myself yelling at the television set. “No, no, don’t believe her!” I’m terrified of where this is going, and I can’t wait to find out.

5. Metatron. I adore Curtis Armstrong, who is sweet and smart and adorable. But wow, do I hate Metatron – which I suppose means Curtis is a damn good actor. He taunts Sam, gleeful at what’s happened to Dean.

“He’s gone nuclear! Total foaming-at-the-mouth, balls out maniac. That’s fantastic!”

xxxx 10.11 meta

Sam’s hatred is palpable then, and he gets right to the point when he puts it into words.

“Buddy, I don’t care what happens to you. You killed my brother.”

I love that Sam and Dean both use terms of endearment with Metatron, to highlight just how much they hate him. It amps the creepy and scary factor up by about a million.

And then Metatron taunts Dean. Oh, does he taunt Dean. I can feel Dean’s hatred of Metatron right through my television screen – it seeped out like a physical thing, leaving all the air in the room charged. I swear my hair was standing on end when Dean walked into the dungeon to confront him, standing there in the shadows looking as dark as I’ve ever seen him. I was literally scared. Terrified even.

xxxx 10.10 dean

Dean taunts Metatron right back, using another term of endearment that came across so intensely frightening that it gave me goosebumps.

“You’re going to tell me everything. All of it. And it’s not going to cost me a damn dime, Slugger.”

I don’t know how Metatron didn’t have a heart attack on the spot.

Except that of course that was Metatron’s plan all along. Goad him, get him angry, push him further toward the dark side. It’s the same game Crowley played last year, pushing Dean toward being a demon. Metatron is even better at it though, a master of manipulation. He hits Dean right where it hurts, reminding him of how low he’s already sunk, making a joke of the morality of the formerly “righteous man”.

Credit ProudSPNer
Credit ProudSPNer

Accusing him of violating Sam and letting an angel possess him – the thing that came between Sam and Dean so profoundly last season that it almost ripped them apart forever. Dean still carries that guilt, and you can see how much Metatron’s accusations get to him.

You can feel the rage coming off Dean in waves, can feel the darkness sinking in and taking hold. Dean finally gets to confront Metatron with all the horrors he inflicted – “killing Kevin using my brother’s hands”. “Killing me.”

The scene was played as so intense, it left me breathless. What breath I did have was used up with me gasping and jumping up and down and yelling “Sam, Cas, OMG, run faster, OMG OMG OMG!”

xxxx 10.11 meta dean

xxxx 10.11 dean

Those scenes produced a strange emotional mix, part adrenaline rush, part terror, and part ‘this probably shouldn’t be so hot, should it?’

As much as I hate Metatron, the character’s complexity makes me relish him as a villain too. One of my favorite lines:

“Ain’t life a bitch? Nebbishy little guy, me, always sticking it to the lunkhead jocks.”

It’s true, and it’s part of Metatron’s appeal. But I still hate him.

Random other good things of note:

6. I love that William Shatner was the one live tweeting the episode, along with Osric Chau.

7. I love that they dedicated the episode to Matt Riley, who the SPNFamily recently lost.

8. Trivia tidbit from editor Nicole Baer: At one pt, we had Crowley strutting his stuff to “Staying Alive” in his opening dream sequence. Now that I would pay to see!

9. Even Robbie Thompson agrees that we need more wet hair Sam. Like, a lot more.

xxxx 10.11 wet sam

Fandom wholeheartedly approves of wet!Sam.

Me included.

Tweeted by WeLoveSPN
Tweeted by WeLoveSPN

So that’s a whole lot of good. There were a few things that niggled at me, though they didn’t significantly get in the way of my enjoyment. But let me get them out of the way so I can finish talking about what I loved, okay?

1. It’s one of those things that’s probably a necessary way to move the story along and ratchet up the dramatic tension (which Show does so well and which I greatly appreciate), but every time Sam let Dean go off somewhere alone I wanted to say, “Really, Sam? You’re so worried about him and you know he’s unstable as hell, but you’re gonna let him go off and meet up with Claire? Hell, you’re even gonna let him go off to make a sandwich?” I think if I were Sam, I’d be stuck to my brother like glue.

2. Claire’s abrupt change of heart didn’t work for my daughter at all. She’s not a fan of the character in general, but softened a bit when Claire was being honest with Cas about how hard it was to be around him and why. We see her take up with some not-very-nice people (once again) and then back away from letting them kill Dean at the last minute. We see Cas trying to get through to her, but her pushing him away. And then suddenly Cas responds to her “longing” for him (odd choice of words, since I have a hard time believing that she was), and Claire is suddenly looking at him with affection and randomly saying she likes him better with a tie. Huh?

Cap by pulah_anu
Cap by pulah_anu

All the reality of the previous scenes of the two of them, which rang so true, were erased way too quickly. We didn’t see enough of Claire’s journey for that about face to be believable. However, at least they didn’t have her hop happily into the backseat. I just wish they’d let her stay angry and hurt for a while, like most people would have.

Okay, back to what I loved about this episode.

10. Sam and Dean, and where they are now. I saved this for last because it makes me so happy. Jensen has told me twice now that Sam wants to be there for Dean this season. That Sam and Dean are in this together. That Sam is determined to save his brother, and basically isn’t going to let anything stop him. I think we’re starting to see that now, and it feels so damn good after all of the estrangement between the brothers last year.

Neither brother is running from the other, at least for now. Sam is there for Dean, physically and emotionally. Physically, he’s there to pull his brother back from killing Metatron, wrestling him away and across the room, and then holding him there with one hand on Dean’s shoulder. It’s enough to ground Dean, to begin to calm him.


xxxx 10.11 sampickeddeanup

xxxx 10.11 protective sam

Emotionally he’s there for Dean too, sitting down with him even after Dean has lost it, bringing him a beer and encouraging him to talk. He’s not judging, he’s there to help. And Dean feels it. He responds by – miracle of miracles – talking openly to his brother. He admits how dark it is where he’s gone, that he couldn’t stop, that he shouldn’t have done what he did.

Dean looks hopeless, and it breaks my heart. Sam listens, without blame. He feels like the big brother almost, there to console Dean and tell him they’re gonna get through this. It’s clear he believes in Dean, more than Dean himself does right now. Maybe you’re strong enough to do this, he says, even if we can’t get rid of the mark. It will take a powerful force to remove the mark, but if anyone can do it, maybe it’s Dean.

“Maybe part of that great power is you,” Sam says gently. And Dean wants to believe it, you can see it on his face. Sam has always looked up to Dean and thought him more capable than Dean himself has ever believed. Sam, with his hope and his faith and his belief in his brother, is Dean’s rock right now. And that gives me some hope.


xxxx 10.11 sam

xxxx 10.11 bros

Cain had Collette, but Dean has Sam. And he has Cas too.

I was so caught up in that scene that I didn’t realize my face was wet until the moment was broken by the ringing phone. Bad timing, Claire!

One of the things I quibbled with recently is the lack of Sam POV in the Show. Last year, I never felt like I knew what was going on in Sam’s head – what was he thinking? Feeling? His actions didn’t make sense to me sometimes because they seemed to come out of nowhere. This episode gave us some lovely glimpses into Sam’s headspace – what he’s thinking about, how determined he is, how frightened he is. And most of all, how much he cares about his brother.

I think Jared and Jensen summed it up in their meet and greets this past weekend:

Jared: Everyone wants a Dean to their Sam.

Jensen: The brothers both have big scars, but the moral of the show is “Never give up, keep fighting for each other.”

With a little help from their friends, I think the Winchesters are doing just that.

Is it Tuesday yet??

— Lynn
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42 thoughts on “Hellatus is Over! Supernatural 10.10 The Hunter Games

  • I think the reference to the ‘tie’ was to do with Constantine (the series and person) who dresses the same as Castiel but wears a tie also. in the last Con last year references were made to the similarity of their outfits.
    Its funny, I also thought that Sam’s love would be Dean’s saving grace. I’m just curious as to how they’ll bring that about.

  • I REALLY was displeased by the mid-season finale so I went into this episode with really low expectations. BUT luckily, I was pleasantly surprise by how much I enjoyed last night’s episode. Dean, Sam and (shockingly) Metatron’s scenes were stellar & made the episode for me – I just wish there were more!

    I think Supernatural has struggled with pacing in recent years, and last night’s episode was no exception. I HATED how much momentum was lost whenever the story cut away from Dean/Sam/Metatron to Cas & Claire scenes, or even Crowley & Rowena scenes. I think the perfect example of this was when Dean emerged from the shadows & made his entrance to confront Metatron – we then cut to commercial & return to…not Dean and Metatron. Like, what a let down! I also may or may not yelled at my TV when Claire called & interrupted the bro-ment!

    The MoC plot is so exciting to me right now. I’m invested it in because it is directly tied to the brothers. I watched the Dean, Sam, and Metatron scenes on the edge of seat. The Cas, Claire, Crowley & Rowena scenes simply didn’t have the same urgency or importance. So the constant switching between plot lines was giving me whiplash, and just leaving me frustrated.

    It also didn’t help that I think that the whole Claire plot has been a giant dud. I just don’t get it. It’s too soap opera-esque. I don’t get the whole Cas being a father figure to Claire – he (essentially) ruined her life, whether intentionally or not, or for the greater good or not. Being in Jimmy’s meat suit has to be incredibly painful for her, and so I’m glad she called him on it. It’s great that Cas wants to “right his wrongs” or whatever, but…this storyline just flat lined for me. I also thought it was laughable that with EVERYTHING else on Dean’s plate right now, Cas wanted him to go mend things with Claire..like huh?

    I too was wondering where the hell Sam was when Dean when to chat with Claire..like, really writers? Sam should be bungeed to him.

    “Cain had Collette, but Dean has Sam. And he has Cas too.”

    I keep seeing people saying/predicting this – that it is going to be Sam who enables to Dean to fight/control/beat the MoC. & gah, I can’t help but hope & pray that is true.

    I would forgive Show for every little gripe I’ve ever had if Sam ended up being Dean’s Collette.

    As much as I like Cas, I really don’t want to see the MoC to be a Team Free Will victory. I’m sure some will rake me over the coals for that belief, but…as close as the brothers are to Cas, it’s nothing compared to how close Sam & Dean are to each other. I just..I feel like it would, in a way, lessen the significance of the brothers bond, something that is such a cornerstone to show. It’s Sam & Dean against the world, not Sam & Dean & Cas.

    (LOVE those J2 quotes by the way!)

    Now don’t get me wrong. I want Cas to still be heavily involved in the search for the MoC fix. I would expect nothing less from him & would be incredibly disappointed if Cas didn’t put forth all the effort he possibly could to help Dean…I just want it to end there. I don’t want another angel-swoops-in save.

    I just want (need!) Sam to get this “W” in his column. ::fingers crossed::

  • I wrote my review of this and did a lot more theorizing on what Rowena is trying to pull, I adore her and I am thrilled with how they are showcasing witchcraft this season. As far as the boys, since the beginning of S10 pretty much everyone has been saying Sam and Dean are on the same page and since they are flipping the script so much in regards to it being Dean that needs to be saved, not Sam I can’t see them lessening that.

    Personally I think that may be why they brought in Claire, Castiel has his own journey for redemption just like Dean and I think people are confusing Cas’s desire to repent with him wanting to be a father. He’s not looking to raise Claire but in some way make up for all the pain he has caused both her and his fellow angels which he referenced with the “mend fences in Heaven” comment. He needs to know he can actually do good again, not just destroy everything like he did in S7, 8 and even 9.

    He’s living on borrowed time, stealing Grace which has to be eating at him. I think Castiel’s storyline will surprise everyone by the end of the season.

    • Good point, and I do agree – it’s not about parenting Claire, it’s about making it up to her for all the chaos her father’s (and Castiel’s) decision caused to an innocent child – and about his own journey toward redemption.

  • The one thing I don’t think Dean told Sam is that if he stops killing, then the Mark will kill him. The only reason Cain could survive the Mark was because he was a demon (at least according to Crowley). Dean is no longer a demon, so he is in the same place he was last season when he started coughing up blood because he was resisting the Mark. So I don’t think anything short of removing the Mark will save him. What I don’t understand is why they don’t consider trying to find Cain. Or God for that matter. Heck, maybe Death knows something!

  • “10. Sam and Dean, and where they are now. I saved this for last because it makes me so happy. Jensen has told me twice now that Sam wants to be there for Dean this season. That Sam and Dean are in this together. That Sam is determined to save his brother, and basically isn’t going to let anything stop him. I think we’re starting to see that now, and it feels so damn good after all of the estrangement between the brothers last year.”

    Thank you for this review, Lynn! #10 above makes me one super, happy camper as well! Especially after some seasons where there is emotional distance between them. I’ll never forget when Dean became a vampire. The Vamp is chewing on Dean’s neck and Sam comes a runnin’ then just stops and watches. We knew something was up with Sam and he turned out to be soulless, but, oh how I would have loved to have seen what the Real!Sammy would have done. Now, we get to see this with the MOC!Dean. I’m sure there will still be secrets between the brothers, but, at last they are on the same page and hopefully, Dean is seeing that Sam truly cares and loves him.

    I agree about how this episode flowed with all of the characters rotating scenes. Sometimes , in the past, Cas’s scenes seemed disjointed. I love Cas’s sincerity loyalty and compassion. I especially love it when Team Free Will unites to solve a problem, and it does feel good that Cas is there for Sam and Dean in this crisis. Yes, thank you Cas for obliterating that door, so Sam could get to his beloved brother.

    Mark Sheppard as Crowley has always been perfect! You never know with Crowley just what evil thing he has in mind for the next time. Ruthie Connell as Rowena is deliciously evil. “Mummy Dearest” all the way. 🙂

    Jensen and Jared mesmerize me each and every time. I was at the SF con too and Jensen spoke, as you know, of what Kim Manners taught him in finding the nuances in each scene.
    I think both Js truly find every nook and cranny to explore in a scene, which captivates me.
    Sam’s worry over his brother, yet staunch support, and Dean’s guilt and rage are all too real and puts me through an emotional wringer because of just how good Jared and Jensen are.

    Thank you again for your enlightening and thorough review, Lynn!! I can hardly wait to see what happens next! 🙂

    • Errr….did I say that? I totally didn’t mean that. Forgive me, oh wise-and-never-wrong-of-course-not editor… 🙂

  • Lynn I agree almost with everything you wrote but I really wanted to hug you when you say “I think if I were Sam, I’d be stuck to my brother like glue.” ! It comes so much from your guts and not from your therapist brain! 😛

    Come on, I’m pretty sure you have said exactly the opposite to your patients or they relatives a lot of times. 😉
    I know you know that this is a pretty good way to make someone feel useless, a failure. The “glue person” says: “I love you I am scared for you, I want to help you” but the other person hears I don’t trust you, you are nothing without me. 😛

    And Sam trusts Dean, doesn’t he?

    • I couldn’t agree more about staying with Dean! I’ve been yelling at the screen “Dean needs a sitter, dammit!”

      I suppose:
      1. Sam isn’t used to having to watch out for someone, so he’s like new dad that way, letting the toddler play in the kitchen unsupervised. 2. There’s only 44 minutes of show, so insert plot device here. And as a side note, 3. Lynn, you shouldn’t use your therapist brain for Sam and Dean – their problems require straight up clergy.

      • My thoughts exactly, about Sam leaving Dean to his own devices for even five minutes! He’s not used to it, he wants to trust Dean, and PLOT DEVICE. Dean has to be alone to do the dicy things required to further the story. As to point #3? Quite possibly! 😉

  • The thing I love most about your reviews is the love for the show you put into them, pointing out all the best things even when there are weaknesses and quibbles that must be dealt with. I had that same feeling about this episode–that the acting and where the brothers are now (and, yes, how utterly sexy intense and angry Dean can be)–far outweighed any weaknesses in the story. My biggest personal quibble was the complete lack of motivation for those two new “friends” of Claire’s for beating up Dean. Probably the result of not enough time to flesh out the characters, but they seemed a particularly weak plot device. But as always, all the things to love far outweighed any plot holes.

    Something that really struck me about Crowley is that those bits of humanity peeking through his King of Hell shtick are kind of the dark mirror image of Castiel. As Castiel’s journey and his relationship with the Winchester brothers have humanized the angel, similar experiences have contributed to humanizing the demon. No one–including us fans, of course–is left untouched by encounters with the Winchesters!

    • That’s for sure! And yes, I agree, about both Crowley and Castiel and the impact that knowing the Winchesters has had on each of them.

    • I was also wondering about Claire’s new friends. Are they demons? Angels after Cas? Merely sociopaths? While I liked the end result of the Claire + scary drifters plot point, it seemed like a really long way to go for Dean Winchester to not kill someone.

      • I was also wondering what their deal was.I mean obviously they’d never heard of Dean Winchester otherwise they’d have come with more weapons/people. they seemed so random.

  • Great review of The Hunter Games. I agree with all the things you mentioned that shined in this episode. My absolute favorite shot was Dean coming out of the darkness of the dungeon. Bravo to Brad Creasser. (I didn’t realize that Serge didn’t work on this episode.)

    I don’t want to reiterate the same things you just beautifully commented on. I just wanted to address the issue with Claire. I don’t think you are delving deep enough into her situation to understand her actions here. I don’t believe it is an “abrupt change of heart” with her at all. Her feelings for Castiel are extremely complex and is a huge part of her inner struggle right now.

    Yes, Cas looks just like her dead father, and both Dean & Cas have killed both men who she considered father-figures; but Cas has also been the ONLY person who has been kind to her without asking for anything in return… for years! Plus, his appearance is subconsciously a comfort to her, even if consciously she knows it’s not her real father. She puts up a good front that she’s tough and can take care of herself, but who doesn’t need to be hugged and to let their guard down every once in a while and feel safe until we can charge up our strength to go out and fight again?

    She struggles between trying to move forward with her life, letting Cas help her; and kicking herself internally for not doing enough to punish him for being in this situation in the first place. Leaving was a reflex because when you only have yourself to trust, you can’t let your defenses down; and letting Cas take care of her was definitely letting her defense down. I think she was angry when she met up with those strangers, and she just expected them to ‘rough up’ Dean so she could feel a bit vindicated, and have the illusion of control in a situation where she has no control. I don’t think she expected them to kill him, and that’s when she stepped in to stop things.

    This is hugely important!

    It shows that no matter what has happened to Claire in her young life, she still has a moral code and is compelled to do the right thing. That shows hope for her if she can find a place to safely exist. After leaving those terrible strangers (who I really thought were going to be either Angels working for Metatron, or demons working for Crowley… whew! Glad they didn’t add another confusing dimension to this.) she realized she can’t trust just anyone anymore. So at this moment, once again walking down a lonely road alone, I do believe she had a ‘longing’ for Castiel, because he still represents the only person she can trust right now.

    The line about the tie was just a way for the writers to let us know that Claire is softening to the idea that she might be able to be around Cas without being upset in the future.

    Anyway, I just wanted to give you a different way to look at the Claire situation.
    All my best!

    • I like your POV on Claire. I said something of the sort, but didn’t say it quite as well 😀 also I didn’t comment on the fact that she wouldn’t go that far as to let Dean being killed -not that he would, I think the Mark would have taken over-. That means she still has a moral compass, a line she hasn’t yet crossed, and that’s probably the part of her “longing” for Castiel, the part that still wants to be a good person despite what has happened to her. It doesn’t help the fact that the one who ruined her life in the first place is the one now trying to help her, and that’s a big struggle for her. However, I really don’t think that she should entirely trust Cas either, not that he would do anything to harm her, but when it comes to the big fight -and it will come- with Metatron, the Mark, Crowley, Rowena or whoever, Cas is gonna leave her behind to protect her, and she will be disappointed again. She should just keep praying to him when in need, but go her own way. Oops. Sorry. Long comment.

  • Since that was a really long reply, I just wanted to give a list of why I love the Claire storyline so much.

    1) It’s a great way to highlight Castiel’s emotional struggle for wanting to make amends with bad choices he made in the past as an Angel. I don’t know if it’s losing his grace, or slowly realizing that the ‘mission’ is not as important as humanity. But it’s fascinating to see where this journey is taking him. Will he become a better, new & improved Angel running Heaven. Or will he choose to be a human and live his final days here on Earth?! Bring on Season 11!

    2) It’s a way to bring back characters from the past who have touched us, and are a fabric of the show’s history. Plus, it’s nice when they tie up loose ends.

    3) Kathryn Newton is AMAZING in this role. It’s wonderful to see such powerful and emotional performances coming from someone so young, who stop these guys dead in their tracks. Grown men who stopped the Apocalypse are completely floored by this teenager. It’s wonderful to see this story unfolding.

    4) I love how Claire’s situation is intertwined with not only Cas, but with Dean and Sam too. I’d love to see them all make amends where she is concerned and find her Mother to get her life back on track. My hopes are that Crowley has her Mother hidden away somewhere like Mrs. Tran, and she didn’t just abandon Claire like they think. That would tie in to the main 4 character storylines.

    • I think that the problem with Claire is that
      1. we don’t really know her well enough to be invested in her well being and she came on with so much hostility toward (for me especially Dean) the boys and Castiel that she rubbed a lot of supporters the wrong way.
      2. Not to disparage her acting skills but she just didn’t evoke an emotional response. case in point – Rowena; she might be an evil bitch but she made me smile at her evilness at first introduction; Death was just so cool killing off that guy and being partial to fast food; Abbaddon was just evilest bitch ever – but Claire is just vanilla teenage angst and misplaced anger. But she didn’t really even commit to that enough for me to want her to feel something different. she just did not make me care.

  • Great review as usual, I thought every one had some really good observations. I enjoyed the episode didn’t have too many concerns. I like to believe that we just have to be patient and all will be revealed so to speak with regards to the direction of the season. As I watched the Crowley story, I had to wonder if Crowley isn’t really buying Rowena’s lies as much as it seems. I think it will make a kick ass plot twist when he confronts/punishes her!

  • I enjoyed the episode from the beginning to the end. I’ve come to realize there are very few #SPN episodes I don’t like. Even when I’m not enthusiastic about them at first, they always find a way to my heart. But that’s not the case here, I was excited about this one and it didn’t disappoint. Like at all. I think your #10 is #1 for most of us. The boys being close again, Sam actually being there for Dean and taking care of him is so heartwarming. I think I have never loved Sam more than I’m loving him this season. About the two things that you didn’t like much, I explain it like this: 1. It felt odd to me too that Sam didn’t go along with Dean when he went to meet Claire. I expect it was Sam trusting Dean. I guess he wouldn’t expect his brother would hurt the girl, mark or no mark, of course it didn’t occur to him that it could go all the way around and be an ambush. 2. I think Claire’s “longing” for Castiel may not even be conscious. He’s “a celestial being” I’m sure he picked on some deeply buried wish that she wasn’t alone, or to have someone care about her. Maybe deep down, she understands what Cas is trying to do, even if she’s hurt and angry and doesn’t want anything to do with him, she probably knows he’s still better than guys like Randy, even if she won’t admit it out loud. Well, enough on that, but Crowley and Rowena, THAT is something. I can’t wait to see what Rowena is cooking up. That hex bag! And Crowley falling prey to her manipulations. I am where you are. Reluctantly coming to care about Crowley and worried about what’s gonna happen to him. Metatron on the other hand, gets to my nerves. I can’t stand him. I can’t see how he taunts them, my blood boils just like Sam’s and Dean’s and all I wish is to stab his laughing face! THERE!

    • I agree with your thoughts on Claire /Castiel, nicely put! Right there with you when it comes to Metatron. He certainly knows how to push everyone’s buttons!

    • I also wonder if Claire’s connection to Castiel is cemented because she was very briefly his vessel. You can add in more guilt to Claire’s particular brand of crazy since Jimmy begged Cas to use him instead of his daughter.

      • That part about Claire being briefly Cas’ vessel had escaped my analysis! That is absolutely true, Cas himself said once that there is a connection between an angel and its vessel, and once a vessel, always a vessel, right? I think the writers must have forgotten about it too, or they could have just brought it up to show Claire that she cannot escape the connection. Like a tough way of telling her Cas will always be there for her, even if she pushes him away. 🙂

      • I often wonder why the writers don’t hire a few fangirls/boys to be in writers meetings or table reads. Their entire job would be to point out contradictory lines of dialogue.Chances are most of us would do this for significantly less than scale. Like, perhaps, for free.

        Of course, they could also be ignoring that “once a vessel” angle because Sam was a vessel, too, and that might not be a path they want to revisit.

  • Loved most of your review, but to be honest, I’ve got to say that I am firmly on the ‘Claire Novak is great’ bandwagon.

    Sorry, I’m just dumping a lot of feelings here, and it’s not just about this review, but I really, really love Claire Novak, and I’m frustrated by how much of the critique of her character seems to boil down to ‘she’s a teenage girl being a teenage girl’, and we are all supposed to write teenage girls off as being unimportant or silly.

    I actually love Claire precisely because she is flawed, emotional, with her motivations shifting around in ways that don’t always make sense on a surface level….

    She is a teenage girl who has been through so much upheaval in her life, and she is struggling to stay afloat in all of that, but trying to carry herself through as best she can. Someone hurts her, she lashes out. Someone is kind, she clings to it, even if that will end up hurting her in the long run.
    She trusts people she shouldn’t, and holds grudges at the same time, and she doesn’t know how to let go of things, all the time. (She liked Cas in a tie because he looked like a father, like her father. Even if she couldn’t have him be that for her, she appreciated that he was trying, there was comfort in that, because she missed her father, and because he was trying to be kind)

    Yes, she’s angry, and no, not all of her decisions are based in logic, but to me she is so believable as a seventeen year old who is remaining strong in a bunch of bad situations, and trying to come to terms with everything.

    I think the trouble with fandoms sometimes is we get far too caught up in the idea of the Strong Female Character ™, where all women must be fabulous and strong-willed and able to kick ass and manipulate everyone without breaking a nail or shedding a tear.

    Which… Can be good, sometimes, and don’t get me wrong, I’ve totally enjoyed characters like that on the show.

    But it is kind of limiting in what kind of women we value, and often those sorts of characters are written in a very skin-deep way (what did we REALLY know about Abaddon, fab though she was, after eight episodes, compared to how much we know about Claire after two?).

    So I appreciate having female characters that are allowed to be vulnerable in very human, very female-coded ways, while still having agency and being interesting and strong in their OWN way.

    Yeah. Claire Novak. Love her.

  • Great review as always. I particularly like your use of ‘quibbles’ because that sums up the issues we have quite well. Even episodes I don’t remember liking all that much always surprise me in rerun. (Well, maybe not Bitten…) The little issues sometimes stand out though. In this episode, I really only had two that haven’t been mentioned in previous people’s replies.

    Dean’s line “We gotta get rid of this thing.” For whatever reason, that line fell flat to me. It could be that it’s just not a great line. (Much like Sam’s oddly delivered “Welcome home, Dean” seemed off after curing his brother.) Dean’s commentary on the obvious seemed half-hearted there. Now, if it turns out it’s half-hearted because Dean isn’t so sure he wants to give up the mark, then holy hell that will be awesome.

    My other quibble is how incredibly lame Crowely’s hell is. Did he set up at some junior high D&D party? Isn’t he from a time period where Hell would be just unspeakably terrifying? Where’s the lake of fire? I realize he probably doesn’t want to be hanging out in the same room as all the torture, but can’t we get a glimpse of the unbearable horrors? It’s Hell!

    And on a related note, RIP Guthrie. I liked you and your fantastic facial hair.

    • I also find that on rewatch of any episode I catch something I didn’t see before. I also thought that ‘welcome home dean’ was an awkward line but maybe it was supposed to be? after all when Dean ‘died’ things weren’t exactly kopasetic (sp?) between the boys and they were just like kind of forgiving each other for their last fight. plus Dean has been telling him over and over that he doesn’t want to come back, leave me alone, fuck off…he even used the same words in his note that Sam used to him when he wanted to die in season 9. ‘let me go’. So I’m guessing it is awkward – and you can see that and even the way they’re interacting is kind of walking on eggshells. So maybe the awkwardness of those lines was deliberate…

      • I know this about another episode, but the more I think about why “Welcome Home, Dean.” didn’t sound like Sam (to me at least) was the inflection. Admittedly I know nothing about direction or any of that, so my terms are going to be wrong here, but bear with me. I think had it been said somewhat meaner, almost sarcastic, it would’ve worked for all the reasons you said. Things weren’t good between them, then Sam sort of went crazy, and then he finds out his brother is an [expletive deleted] demon. And now he has to cure him. He’s grieving, he’s worried, and he’s still pissed. If it was delivered more like, “Welcome home, asshole.” I would’ve bought it. But clearly there was supposed to be some brother moment there, so the inflection was more like “thank [whoever God is now] you’re back.” I still stand by the version in my head (yeah, I know, revisionist writing…) where Sam asks Dean, “are you back with me?” because it hedges the bets a bit. It also would’ve made a good last line of the episode so we could’ve waited another week to see if it worked.

      • I think sarcasm wouldn’t have worked with what went before. It was Sam who said ‘let me go’ and then was mad at Dean for not letting him go and then went and refused to let Dean go. If anyone should have been doing sarcasm its Dean. Sam would have been more embarrassed yet unsure how Dean is going to react plus happy he’s back which equals…awkward…do you see it?

      • I absolutely see your point. I think that’s one of the things that draws people into the show. It was only one line, but there are multiple ways to interpret it. Granted, I’m going from memory here, but Sam’s season 5 level rage is what stood out the most from his stages of grief. Which is odd considering on this show bargaining could actually get you somewhere. Sam’s rage (which I assumed was directed at Dean, Sam himself, Crowley, Cas, the world in general, all varieties of the afterlife, and so on) also fits with some of the ‘monster within’ themes from this season.

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