The first time we met the Supernatural writers, we were immediately impressed with how thoughtful and serious they were about the Show and making it the best it can be. More than once, as we chatted over drinks, one of the writers mentioned that Andrew Dabb would be joining us later. Each time, they added, “He’s the heart of Supernatural.” I didn’t entirely understand what they meant, though when we did get a chance to talk to Andrew later, it was clear that he has a serious emotional investment in the show and the characters. Of course, we’re used to that with fandom. We all have an emotional investment in this show and these characters!
As I watched this week’s episode, the writers’ words kept coming back to me. More than any other episode he’s written, with the possible exception of Dark Side of the Moon, “Inside Man” reminded me of why the other writers consider Dabb the heart of the show. The episode flowed so smoothly, I didn’t realize how much of an emotional impact it was carrying until we got to the end and Sam was tearing up – and so was I. Thank you, Andrew Dabb, for letting us see that, and for letting me feel it.
Fandom is rarely in unanimous agreement, and I’ve seen a few who didn’t care for this episode – but the vast majority of fans loved it. And I’m one of them. Let me run down my favorite things, in no particular order, and then you can tell me yours in the comments. We love discussion!
IT’S ALL ABOUT FAMILY
The family theme is woven through this episode, as it is throughout the entire series. Finally, after we’ve all spent a lot of time wondering who’s onto who, Crowley gets wise to Rowena. All the props in the world to Mark Sheppard and Ruth Connell, who acted their asses off in all their scenes. I love both characters so much that I had a twinge of regret watching them go their separate ways, though it was inextricably tangled up with the impulse to yell “Yes! You tell her, Crowley!”
Rowena’s story line is now thoroughly integrated with the Winchesters’ as well as her son’s, so I have no doubt we haven’t seen the last of her, thankfully.
Ruthie Connell wins the best live tweet of the night during the scene where Dean confronts Rowena.
@Ruthieconnell: Did Jensen Ackles bend me over a bar yet or what? #ToughJobButSomeoneHadToDoIt
I feel for you, Ruthie Connell, I really do. How many takes did you ask for?
Even the humor worked perfectly in this episode – Dabb didn’t go for the broad laughs that make Show think they have to play that over-the-top Stooges-esque music that I loathe, but instead gave us subtle moments that made me smirk. Crowley’s greeting of “Squirrel” and Dean’s “Boris. Where’s Natasha?” worked so well, and Sheppard and Ackles knew exactly how to deliver those lines. Similarly, Crowley’s flustered reaction to walking in on his mother naked, and Rowena’s taunting him with some details about her sexual exploits to make him forget he was ever worried about something more serious – perfectly executed by Connell and Sheppard.
Connell and Dabb together gave us a Rowena whose toughness and determination came to the forefront, even as I couldn’t help wondering if some of her tears really were about being rejected by her son – no matter that she was out to use him from the start. Her reaction to the mark was intriguing – it’s just a curse. The first curse, sure, but just a curse. Hmmm.
Then there was Crowley and Dean; their scene in the bar was all about family too. The two of them drinking together was like a return to their bromance days, and they do seem to have a grudging affection for each other. Although I think Crowley has been wise to Rowena for a while, I also think there’s a part of him that really does long for family. He’s jealous of Dean and Sam for having that, and he wanted it from his mother even if intellectually he always knew he wouldn’t get it. Crowley has done awful things, but Sheppard plays him with a vulnerability that I can’t help but respond to.
Crowley and Dean are both so weary, so worn down. In contrast to so much of the other communication in the episode (especially Dean and Sam), Dean and Crowley were almost brutally honest with each other in this scene. Defenses down, telling it like it is.
The episode was surprisingly well integrated, even though it separated Sam and Dean and followed them in their respective adventures. While Sam and Cas are breaking Bobby out of heaven, Dean is quoting him to Crowley.
“Family don’t end in blood, but it doesn’t start there, either. Family cares about you. Not what you can do for them. Family is there. Through the good, bad, all of it. They’ve got your back even when it hurts. That’s family.”
I get the feeling that Crowley would like nothing better than to have that – perhaps from Dean and Sam themselves. Or from his son, who is out there in the modern world somewhere doing who knows what. Hey Theo Devaney, wanna come back? Daddy needs you!
BADASS CAS AND SAMTASTIC SAM!
I enjoyed when Cas was human, and I enjoyed when Cas was leviathian, but mostly I love Cas as we originally were introduced to him. Badass angel Cas, fighting for what he believes in. In this episode, what he believes in is the same thing that Sam Winchester does – saving Dean. The two of them together are a force to be reckoned with, and damn, I like that.
Highlights were Cas leaping into the playground sandbox – wait, let’s say leaping into the portal, that sounds much more badass – and sliding into Heaven. I bet Misha Collins got a bit of a workout during this episode. Good thing he’s in excellent shape.
And Sam really was Samtastic in this episode! Thank you thank you thank you, Andrew Dabb, for giving us so much Sam pov in this episode. I’ve been craving it, and it felt tremendously gratifying to finally see Sam’s emotions and hear his thoughts.
Hannah was sort of back in this episode, though without Erica Carroll. But I liked the reminder that angels occupy vessels and it’s the vessel that has a gender. Hannah possessed a male vessel, and then greeted Cas with the same warmth and clear attraction, and Cas returned both (until Hannah took a hard line about letting him back into heaven and near Metatron, that is).
Metatron is back too, another thread tying together into the story arc for the end of the season.
I adore the character of Metatron, with his constant snarky comments. And Curtis Armstrong manages to make me confused enough to not have a clue when Metatron is lying or when he’s telling the truth. Was “the river ends at its source” just a play for more time, or is he lying now when he says he knows nothing about removing the mark? Who knows!
The humor worked well in this episode, with Metatron’s quip of “Asstiel” tossed out there just right. Armstrong plays this character in such a pitch perfect way, managing to make him complicated and inscrutable in just a few lines of dialogue. For a really nice guy in real life, he does smarmy so damn well!
I have a feeling the entire fandom was cheering when Metatron got his comeuppance, especially when Sam and Cas threw his taunts back at him.
If you had forgotten what a badass Sam Winchester can be (and maybe you had, since we haven’t seen enough of it recently), you got a big surprise when he put a bullet in Metatron’s knee without flinching. That look on his face was so hard and so cold, I think I actually shivered. Everything that Metatron has done to Sam – Gadreel, Kevin, the impact on his relationship with Dean – you could see the fury in Sam’s eyes, all that empathy we’re used to seeing there gone. Sam Winchester is one scary badass hunter, and we need to remember that. (He’s also that abandoned son longing for his father’s approval who tears up when he reads his surrogate dad’s words of praise).
Who wasn’t cheering when Cas and Sam took Metatron’s grace? I have no clue why nobody thought to take his grace from him before if it was that easy, but I was cheering when Cas did (file it under the ‘wouldn’t a bungee cord be a good idea?’ tab of Supernatural suggestions).
I loved every bit of the Sam and Cas interaction in this episode — their understated mutual respect and shared determination. The smoothness with which they worked together and their ability to communicate with just an expression or a nod – they were so on the same page.
Also, who didn’t squee a little at Sam and Cas holding hands?
Jim Beaver live tweet: These guys had to hold hands for HOURS!
@WilliamShatner: Everyone shipping Sasstiel?
Sometimes I just have to pinch myself that Captain Kirk himself is a Supernatural fan, and that Shatner is a guy in his 80’s casually talking about shipping and using the correct (albeit misspelled) portmanteau.
GOING OLD SCHOOL
I didn’t even know how much I’d missed Bobby until he was back on my tv screen, as grumpy and as loving as ever. After the emotional experience of seeing Jeffrey Dean Morgan at VegasCon, I was nearly overwhelmed by seeing the Winchesters’ other father figure back on the show again. Jim Beaver is such an incredible actor, and so embodies the role of Bobby, that he makes every scene believable and emotional. I loved his partnership with Cas, and the way he proves he’s as sharp as ever in spite of his grumbling about having gone soft. I loved everything about him being in this episode. Everything.
Nobody else could make this line so perfect:
Bobby: This is the scribe of God? Looks like a Fraggle.
And Andrew Dabb, thank you times a billion for: The Bobbys are surly.
Oh yes they are, and it’s glorious.
And while I’m at it, thank you for making the exit door to heaven number 42, the ultimate pop culture reference from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as the “Answer to The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything”. And a repeated SPN reference too.
The return of Bobby Singer was enough in itself to make this episode qualify for one of my highest compliments, “old school SPN”. But there was more!
I loved the return of brotherly pranks, which we haven’t seen for quite a while. I wondered if Sam reminded Dean to ‘stay out of my room’ specifically to give him the idea of NOT staying out, perhaps sacrificing the integrity of his belongings in order to give his brother some amusement, and to help him feel like himself in familiar brotherly territory. It seemed to work at least for a while. Dean was distracted by scrubbing Sam’s toothbrush in his armpit, rubbing his butt on Sam’s pillow, and taping down Sam’s (very very old school) MoL phone. He looked almost gleeful doing it too, which was nice to see. Sam knows his brother so well.
Btw, did anyone else interpret Dean’s admission of wanting a little “me time” as not exactly G rated? Was that just me who got distracted for a minute?
Of course, Sam and Dean lying to each other never turns out to be a good thing, but I got the feeling they both knew they were onto the other and went along with it anyway. We’ll see how that goes…
FANFIC COME TO LIFE
This is my highest compliment for an episode, which should surprise no one who has read Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls. I’ll stack the reams of well written fanfic up against anything on the shelves of Barnes and Noble (or available on Kindle) and nothing makes me happier than finding a fic that expands the canon of the Show I love in a way that makes sense to me. So saying that multiple scenes in “Inside Man” were like fanfic come to life is really saying something!
First there’s the nightmare scene. Dean yelling for Sam in his sleep, sounding exactly like when he called out for his brother when he was in hell. I straight up GASPED, it sounded so much the same. There’s nothing I love more than one brother leaping up and running full tilt and headlong (barefoot – guh!) ready to do what it takes to save the other. Sam managed to look both badass and hot as hell, hair flowing, eyes flashing, gun raised, as he burst through Dean’s door.
And then there was Dean, sweaty and writhing on the bed, calling for Sam, the arm with the mark stretched out ominously still and stiff on the bed. Once again, my mind temporarily went in an inappropriate direction – but so did at least half of fandom’s, judging by the number of gifs on Tumblr of that scene, helpfully cropped so that interpretation is facilitated in whatever direction your imagination cares to go. Thanks, Show.
As much as I’d be happy to have footage of Dean sweating and writhing on the bed for any reason, the scene made narrative sense too – Sam really sees the toll this is taking on Dean, when his defenses are down and he can’t lie about it. He can hear the pain and fear, and it amps up Sam’s determination to do whatever the hell it takes to make it stop.
If this really was fanfic, I’d be looking forward to the comfort part of the hurt/comfort trope, but in canon, it made sense that Sam wouldn’t wake his brother. Dean would be mortified that Sam had seen him so vulnerable and in pain, and that would only make him close himself off more to his brother. The longing to be able to comfort Dean – to do something – is clear on Sam’s face, in the anguish he feels being so helpless. But it fuels his resolve too, and that’s a good thing in my book.
Then there’s the wonderful scene of Dean playing pool. This is something we’ve heard about repeatedly on the Show, and something that’s absolutely iconic in fanfiction. But we haven’t SEEN it. Dean snapping into I’m-drunk-and-an-easy-mark mode, smoothly luring the arrogant frat boys in, and then snapping out of it in a heartbeat, with an easy smirk as he cleans up the balls without missing a beat. Oh, Dean. The gif of that smirk as he leans over the table and lines up his shot is EVERYWHERE. And with good reason.
Someone suggested that the vehemence with which Dean went after those guys was fueled by the themes of class which have always been there in Supernatural. His own version of a small battle of class warfare, easily won. Which just makes me love the scene even more.
Bonus points to Dabb for amping up the angst first, as Dean scrolls to Sam’s name on his phone and hovers over it, then puts it away. And for Dean casually spiking up his hair, and then winking flirtatiously at the bartender. I’m pretty sure there will never be another fictional character that gets to me like the many facets of Dean Winchester. Even after ten years.
Kudos to Jensen Ackles for the nightmare scenes, both bar scenes, and that amazing moment when Dean glances up at himself in the mirror and is taken aback by the flash of black eyes. His reaction was so perfect, so realistic – in about four seconds, he conveyed Dean’s shock, panic, and determination, as he damps it down and goes back out there.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END – IT ALL STARTS TO COME TOGETHER
I was worried that an episode with so many players would be fragmented and whiplash inducing, but that’s not at all what happened here. All the storylines are now connecting, coming together in a beautiful way. It’s why, despite my occasional complaints of whiplash, I fundamentally trust Show to weave the threads together. This episode was the beginning of that weaving, the start of the final push to the finale, when everything and everyone are connected organically, and the pressure and suspense start to build and build and build. This is my favorite time of a season, when I can see the brilliance of the writers and the actors and the crew coming together until I’m sitting here brimming with anticipation and terror simultaneously. After TEN YEARS, guys, I’m still on the edge of my seat, needing to grab somebody’s hand and hold on tight.
The last scenes tie the entire episode together in precisely the way that I’m used to from writing a book or a long piece of fanfiction. We revisit all the characters from the episode as we listen to Jim Beaver’s voice reading the letter Bobby wrote to Sam. [And wasn’t that a freaking gorgeous shot of Rowena walking down the alley? Kudos, Serge Ladouceur].
We see the impact it has on Sam as Bobby tells him what Sam so desperately needs to hear and believe – that he’s a good man, the best. That Bobby is proud of him. My heart soared and ached for Sam at that moment, and when Bobby quoted the words from Jared Padalecki’s real life #AlwaysKeepFighting campaign, I started to sob. When he quoted Kim Manners iconic “Kick it in the ass,” I completely lost it. Brilliant brilliant brilliant, to tie the emotions that the character is feeling to the real life emotions of love and loss that all of us – and in that moment, specifically Padalecki and Beaver – have experienced. It’s what Supernatural does best. It’s risky, and it wouldn’t work in many shows, but with our ten year shared history, it’s perfect here. We all get it, and we all feel it. And yes, Andrew Dabb, this episode showed us the heart of the show – and reminded us that Supernatural is deeply embedded in all our hearts.
Thanks for that.
After everything that Jared, Jensen and Misha hinted about the season finale being “intense,” are we ready??? Who’s gonna be there to hold my hand???
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