This week’s Supernatural episode was one of those episodes that everyone had a strong opinion about – but, as often happens in this fandom, not necessarily the same strong opinion. The one thing that everyone did agree on was that the acting was off the charts incredible – and nobody was left unemotional, that’s for sure.
For me, I think the emotions were especially complex because I was fortunate to be able to watch some of the episode be filmed, including some of the most intense moments. I thought that maybe, since I had already watched those horrific moments when Sam dies and Dean has to watch it, maybe it wouldn’t hit me so hard when I saw it onscreen. But no. It just meant that I got all emotional watching them film it, and then got emotional all over again watching the final product. I knew that Jensen and Jared had killed it in those scenes, but I don’t even have words for how much they broke my heart now that I’ve seen the episode.
So I agree with everyone else – the acting was off the charts. There was plenty to love about this episode, but there were also some things that bothered me, so here’s a bit of both along with a few behind the scenes tidbits.
The opening scene starts right in with the heartstring tugs – a scene of domestic family bliss, Cas and Jack and Mary and Sam around the table and teasing Dean about eating too much pizza, Mary saying she and John called him “our little piglet”. (This is Sam’s perspective, so it makes sense, but I’m pretty sure Dean’s love of food is a result of the deprivation that came after Mary died). Then Sam and Mary having the heart to heart that Sam has longed for, finally hearing Mary express her faith in her sons, how she knew they’d save her and they did. It’s Sam’s most wished for fantasy come to life – and of course it’s a dream.
Break my heart right at the outset, why don’t you? I sort of wanted to employ my dream interpretation skills, because that’s what psychologists do sometimes, but I’ll try to stop myself (would I just be psychoanalyzing writer Robert Berens? Hmmm. Tempting, Bobo…). I did love that in Sam’s fantasy, everyone is teasing Dean – it’s such a little brother fantasy. And everyone is together, family by blood, family by choice. Everyone is safe and happy. Oh Sam.
First quibble though – does Sam really sleep fully clothed in a long sleeve shirt even?? Really??
The team assembles to start the mission to the AU, and we immediately get the first of what turns out to be a theme of sexual innuendo in this episode. Now I’m all for that, don’t get me wrong, but at times it was a bit of an odd fit in an episode that was this dark and tragic. Cas informs everyone that Gabriel needed “some privacy” to extract his grace, which I guess is picking up on all that sexualized grace sucking weirdness between Lucifer and Anael? I didn’t like that, but this does make for some amusing reactions from the rest of the gang. He’s extracting it in Dean’s room, so Dean gets to protest because by this time the innuendo is clear.
Dean: What? No!
Cas: (patented what’s the problem face…)
Meanwhile, Rowena points out that their plan isn’t a very good one, since once again the rift will only be open for 24 hours and last time that wasn’t near enough time. Gabriel returns with a little vial of not very much grace and the innuendo keeps on coming, with the rift itself standing up and then slowly falling over and going limp far too soon and Gabriel’s “erect” angel blade going limp right along with it.
“Well that was fast,” Cas wryly notes.
“Premature, you might say,” Rowena adds.
The Winchesters and Cas go off to debate what to do next, which leaves Rowena and Gabriel to continue their snarky back and forth which echoes every awkward impotence conversation that inspired Viagra to be such a success. (Also Gabriel is pretending to read a book called “Laying Pipe” lol). Eventually Rowena decides that Gabriel has a nice “tidy wee tushy” and Gabriel decides that Rowena is “so tiny…so angry…” and that’s enough for them to declare their mutual attraction. Rowena seals the deal by caressing a phallic symbol of a something or other on the desk (a mortar or a pestle, you know what I mean…) and BOOM a new ship is born. Richard Speight Jr. and Ruth Connell were incredibly funny in that scene, and their characters together totally make sense to me.
Ruth Connell tweeted a photo of a prank that the boys played on her on set, which turned the pestle or the mortar or whatever into an even more obvious phallic symbol. Boys.
The other conversation across the bunker is the polar opposite, since there is nothing funny about it. They realize Gabriel doesn’t have the juice (ahem) to keep the rift open, so Castiel lays it out.
Cas: We need Archangel grace…
Sam: (the look on his face absolutely heart stopping because he KNOWS): No.
Cas: We need Lucifer.
Me: Oh hell no!
On the one hand, I like that Sam’s reaction means that the show is acknowledging Sam’s trauma and his very understandable terror when it comes to Lucifer. We don’t know the full extent of Sam’s torture in the Cage, but we know that it was enough to break him, not just physically but mentally. Sam’s fear is not just of Lucifer killing him, it’s of Lucifer destroying his mind, driving him insane, violating him in every possible way. Everyone who has ever gotten a glimpse of Sam Winchester’s mind and soul have wondered how he’s still standing and carrying on – so just the mention of Lucifer brings a profound reaction. I appreciate that Berens wrote that into this scene and Jared played it brilliantly.
The staging is so well done here, with Sam sitting and Dean and Castiel standing opposite him. It makes Sam look vulnerable, which is how he feels.
What came next was one of the things that disturbed me in this episode. Cas tries to convince Sam that they need to do this, which was uncomfortable considering the level of trauma that Sam experienced at the hands of Lucifer. Lucifer tortured him – abused him – broke him. So talking Sam into this? Perhaps it was necessary, but it made me cringe.
Cas: I was used by Lucifer too. It was the worst possible violation.
This is the second week in a row that someone has equated their traumatic experience with Sam’s or Dean’s – or even ignored that Sam and Dean have HAD such ridiculously horrific trauma at all. It made me cringe more to have Cas try to talk Sam into it by saying that he was hurt too, as though that should make Sam feel less or deny his own emotional reaction. What happened to Cas was different – it was his choice at the time (even if it turned out to be a bad one and although I think he really was trying to help) and certainly wasn’t the equivalent of what Sam went through in the Cage for those hundred years or whatever it was. I’m not saying Cas wasn’t used and tricked and that it felt horrible, I’m sure it did no matter how much Netflix he watched, but it’s not like what happened to Sam!
I’m trying to give the episode the benefit of the doubt and see this as Castiel’s attempt at empathy, because I think that’s probably what it was. Cas is sometimes awkward in his understanding of human emotions, which makes sense. But it felt disturbingly like telling an abuse survivor oh, I’ve had bad stuff happen too, you need to stop feeling your feelings about it and just get past it. Maybe it’s too many years of being a therapist and hearing too many people say those sorts of things to trauma survivors, so I’m reading too much into it. But it didn’t sit well with me. It seems like Misha kept ending up with lines that I scratched my head at in this episode, despite his perfectly fine delivery of them.
(Some fans have been speculating that this is not in fact Cas, but Empty!Cas, because he’s been less empathic than Castiel has been in recent seasons – I thought that too for a while, but the Show seems to have forgotten they introduced all that and let it drop, confusingly.)
Cas: We let Lucifer out of the cage…he’s never stopped being our responsibility.
Still cringing. If I had to try to make sense of this, it may be that Cas feels guilty about his ill-conceived decision that ended up letting Lucifer out of the cage, hence his repeated use of “we” and “our” to rationalize some of that guilt. And I’m glad he feels like he should take responsibility, but this was all in the service of convincing Sam, so it still didn’t sit well. Telling a trauma survivor that the perpetrator is his responsibility just makes me queasy.
(I’m well aware that I’m looking at this through the lens of a psychologist and that’s probably not what they’re going for here, but I can’t help it! I like to take the show apart with that lens and honestly it stands up to scrutiny amazingly well – the writers and the actors portray very human reactions to the constant trauma the characters endure. Sometimes that lens makes everything harder to watch, though.)
Sam, luckily, is a million times stronger and braver than me or practically anyone who exists in real life, because he ends up seeing Castiel’s argument for what it is – an attempt to do the right thing – and agreeing with Cas and Dean. Again, I do like that Berens made it clear that it is Sam’s decision; Castiel and Dean may be trying to convince him, but they’re also letting Sam make the final decision.
Sam: It’s our only choice.
Dean expresses his pervasive pessimism that they’ll have time to find Jack and Mary anyway, and then Sam Winchester and his big brain start thinking…
Sam: Wait a second…
Have I ever told you guys how much I love Sam Winchester? Or how Jared Padalecki plays him? Well, keep reading because I’m going to keep doing it. And some love to Robert Berens too, for letting Sam be the one to figure this out.
The trio return to the library and find a disheveled Gabriel and Rowena trying to pretend they weren’t just getting it on, and once again everyone’s comedic skills are top notch. (I especially loved Castiel just looking at his feet awkwardly).
Dean: Uh, Sam has a plan…
Damn right he does. Because Sam Winchester is smart and brave and has lived through more than most people could imagine in their wildest nightmares and yet he still has so much empathy….I said I would keep telling you about Sam Winchester.
Cut to Lucifer drowning his sorrows in a bar and actually sounding like he’s given up, with Cat’s Cradle playing in the background, because PERFECT. An iconic song about bad parenting!
Lucifer: Nothing matters….except my son.
He says he can’t sense his son anymore, so nothing matters. Turns out the seemingly sympathetic bartender is really Gabriel, and he’s roofied Lucifer, who can barely stay on his feet.
Lucifer: But I killed you!
He turns around, and there’s Rowena.
Lucifer: I killed you too!
Honestly, it did my soul good to see Gabriel and Rowena get one over on Lucifer for a change. He doesn’t fight them much, tells them to go ahead and put him out of his misery. Instead, they bring him back to the bunker where he’s bound with Rowena’s spell and Castiel slices his throat to extract his grace – but not all at once. Sam’s brilliant plan is to let it drip out of him slowly so that it keeps the rift open. Love me some Smart!Sam.
Lucifer accuses them of being out for revenge and his humiliation.
Sam: Humiliation, revenge, those are just bonuses.
Ah, that moment felt so GOOD! I so want to see Sam get his revenge, more than I want to see anyone else. It’s Sam who has suffered so incredibly and who rarely gets a chance – or even looks for a chance – to get back at the one who abused him.
The foursome go through the rift, leaving Rowena to babysit Lucifer.
Me: What could possibly go wrong…
They tumble through the rift and we’re still in humorous sexual innuendo territory, because Gabriel lands with his face in Castiel’s crotch – and stays there for a few awkward moments, while Dean and Sam’s eyebrows go up. Cas looks thoroughly nonplussed, which was a nice comedic touch, and Gabriel is totally flustered once again.
And so they set off for Dayton, through a forest that doesn’t look much like Kentucky but oh well.
Fun fact: I was originally going to watch filming the day they filmed in the forest, but it turned out to be the rainiest day they’ve ever had filming the show. Jared texted me some photos of cast and crew huddled under umbrellas and looking like they were standing in mud and getting soaked, and yes I am a wuss because nope. Jensen said later at a convention that they’d had to actually stop filming for a while, the rain was so bad. And when I got a chance to watch filming the next day (after the sun came out…), the crew was still talking about it being the worst weather they’ve ever had to endure. (One of my rare good decisions, apparently).
Cas fills Gabriel in on the sad state of Heaven, and suggests that maybe Gabriel can take over. Gabriel protests that he’s just a screw up, but Cas points out that the non-screw-ups have, well, screwed up, so maybe he’s what they need. I wonder if that’s setting something up for next season?
Sam and Dean get ONE brief moment of satisfaction, where they get to observe that they’re feeling lighter and more hopeful. Sam, his optimism and resilience intact, says that it’s because they finally feel like they’re getting close. After all these months, they’re finally almost to Mary and Jack. Oh, Sam.
They save some young woman named Maggie and her friend, the only survivors of vampires who are running rampant and out of control, apparently starved and turned into “pure appetite”. Oh dear. The vampires are in a tunnel that’s of course the fastest way to get to Jack and Mary.
Sam takes charge (mmm) and says that they’re not taking the long (safe) way around.
Sam: We don’t have time for a detour. We’re going through that tunnel.
Dean likes it when Sam takes control, so he – and everyone else – just fall in line. In they go to the tunnel.
Meanwhile, Lucifer is taunting Rowena. He tries to make her mad by insinuating that the boys left her behind because she’s the only woman. He tries singing an awful version of Camptown Races again and again. Seriously, doesn’t Rowena know a spell to shut him up? Or have something handy to gag him with? Surely she realizes how dangerous it is to let him talk! One of the things I love about Rowena is her intelligence – she hasn’t survived 300 years by not being smart. So not gagging Lucifer in some way, shape or form just didn’t seem like Rowena.
Rowena does know that Lucifer’s trying to get a rise out of her and tells him that she won’t fall for it – except she does. Because Lucifer is smart, and he knows that the one thing that will really get to her is making her relive her trauma at his hands. I will hand it to Berens, he understands trauma. Rowena has clearly been re-experiencing her torture and death, and so Lucifer reminds her – in detail. That’s how people are tormented by their traumatic memories, they come back so real it’s like you’re back there all over again, every sensation and taste and sound and smell reappearing. And so many trauma survivors can’t shake the feeling that they should have done something, they should have been able to fight their attacker off, even when that’s absolutely not true. So Lucifer uses that too.
Lucifer: I wanted a little fight from you…but you froze. You choked. So I choked you… what was that like, burning to death? I can’t get that smell outta my nose…
It works. Rowena breaks, has to torment him back by telling him where Jack is.
Rowena: A family reunion is happening with your son, Jack. He’ll be so glad to see his three fathers…
Me: No no no no no!
Lucifer, as we’ve seen before, is strengthened by his rage. He breaks free and attacks Rowena, choking her again. She manages to throw him off, but he falls right through the rift and disappears. With a renewed sense of purpose – finding his son. Uh oh.
Rowena (channeling her son): Bollocks.
She tries to revert to her selfish old self and just leave, but finds she can’t do it. Rowena really has changed. It’s not just for show – even when there’s no one there to see, she cares now.
Meanwhile, back in the AU, the boys arm themselves with Glo sticks and flashlights and head into the tunnel. It’s dark as hell in there, so we can’t see anything clearly, and it’s also creepy as hell. We see flashes of vampires lying in wait, silhouetted in the dark but recognizable from their pointy ears, just stalking our heroes. As the boys’ flashlights comb over the cave, they find a vampire eating one of Maggie’s former traveling companions, which Sam kills. Dean also takes one out who’s attacking Maggie and her friend, so we get a bit of badass Winchesters. They find a blocked passage, and Gabriel and Castiel get busy moving rocks.
Fun fact: The glo sticks were a brilliant idea to provide some light in the pitch dark cave, rather than try to add lights to a place that clearly wouldn’t have any. I was at first quite confused as to why the actors were wearing them, though – had they all been to a very tame rave the night before? It was really cool to see how director Phil Sgriccia and director of photography Serge Ladouceur worked to make sure the actors’ flashlights did the bulk of the lighting inside the tunnels – which is no mean feat! The tunnel itself was amazing. One of the reasons this Show kicks ass season after season is because of the care they put into every aspect of making the show. They built an entire tunnel in a giant abandoned warehouse, so that it looked and felt very real – and very creepy. Cobwebs that felt disturbingly real, dripping water and a yucky looking pond, passages that led to pitch darkness. Oh, and giant rocks for Misha and Richard to move which were of course lightweight.
(Jared gave me a little tour of the tunnels and went to demonstrate a fake rock – which turned out to be a real one! And true confession, I put my cup of coffee down at one point and then forgot that I’d put it down, so I spent the next hour terrified that it would somehow ruin a shot. Dean shines his flashlight on the roof of the tunnel, the rocks, the cobwebs, the….coffee cup?? Luckily that didn’t happen but it gave me indigestion for a while.)
Gabriel and Cas start moving the rocks, and of course that’s when the vampires attack.
Dean gets pinned to the wall by a vamp, and as he struggles, Sam takes on the other vampires across the cave.
Sam: I got it, I got it.
He does – and then he doesn’t.
There’s a fight scene as Sam takes on some of the vampires, and Dean fights off some more. It was a tremendous privilege to watch Jared and stunt coordinator Rob Hayter rehearse this scene. What struck me the most was how seamlessly they worked together and how quickly Jared mastered the moves the sequence required. He’s a tall guy, and he’s fighting while wearing Sam’s backpack, and yet he’s so graceful! I know they all get to do fight scenes a fair amount, but it seems to have paid off in them being very facile with the physicality of those moves.
On lunch break, Jared showed me some of the training videos that Rob makes for them so they can really understand the fights, which was so cool to see. Again, it’s those things, the way they all care so much about this show, that makes such a difference.
Rehearsal over, it was back into the tunnel to film, and back to the episode itself…
Just as Sam thinks he’s got it under control, two vampires come from behind and get him by both arms and take him by surprise, dragging him down. It happens so fast, one second I was sure Sam was gonna prevail and then suddenly then one leans in — and savages his throat! The camera is on Dean’s face as he sees Sam go down, his expression one of absolute horror.
From across the tunnel, Sam’s eyes find Dean’s, and he yells back.
The vampire bites – or rather tears – Sam’s throat, and we (and Dean) see the arterial blood spurting out of him and it’s CLEAR what’s happening. Dean lets out an agonized scream of “Sam!”
And Sam, gasping and already fading, manages one last weakly voiced, “Dean.”
It’s his last word. His last word was Dean. Because of course it was.
Watching that scene be filmed – first Jared’s coverage and then Jensen’s – was incredibly emotional, even sitting there knowing I was watching the filming of a television show. Jared and Jensen are just that good, and I care about these fictional characters so much, that all the emotional impact came right through. I gasped out loud when Sam went down and the blood started spurting, because no one had prepared me for what was going to happen, and had to slap a hand over my own mouth to avoid ruining anything. I think I sat there in shock for a good ten minutes after, even as I kept watching them film. Jared just put so much emotion into that moment, the way Sam yelled for Dean, the way he screamed as his throat was savaged….the way his head falls back as he dies of blood loss. I just….wow.
And then Jensen’s coverage, which if I was still emotionally alive at all, finished the job of killing me. He had to do multiple takes of Dean seeing Sam get attacked and yelling “Sammy!” and every time, it broke my heart. Every single time he put so much emotion into it, so much that it clearly drained him. These guys put 150% into everything they do, even after thirteen seasons, and that really does make all the difference.
Dean fights his way free of the vampire pinning him against the wall, which was a longer scene than it ended up looking like, with Jensen having a fight scene too and Dean throwing a guy practically over his shoulder. He immediately gets attacked by another vampire and blasts that one with his shotgun and blows its head right off like the freaking badass he is. He is clearly on a mission to save his brother, his every motion full of intent and urgency, allowing absolutely no bullshit.
Fun fact: Jensen really did fire that gun and it really did make a huge noise – luckily I was warned to cover my ears!
Castiel has already run after Sam as the vampires drag him away, yelling for him as he disappears into one of the pitch black passageways.
As Dean takes off yelling for his brother, Cas comes back and stops him. Dean tries to barrel past, and Cas grabs his shoulder to stop him.
Cas: He’s gone.
Cas: We don’t have time. Dean, we can’t save him.
The expression on Dean’s face is one of absolute horror – and shock.
I 1000% expected Dean to go after Sam anyway – to at least have to see for himself. I actually gasped in shock when he didn’t, when I was sitting there watching them film it. (Luckily it was a quiet gasp).
This is the part of the episode that is still bothering me two days later, though I’ve had time to make some sense out of it. But it still FEELS wrong.
One thing that we know unequivocally about Dean Winchester is that he will never leave his brother. This is canon. We’ve heard him say it, flat out, multiple times. And we’ve seen him live it. One of my favorite episodes of the series is ‘Red Meat’, which Robert Berens also penned (with Andrew Dabb). In that episode, Sam also dies temporarily (only on Supernatural is that a ‘thing’…). And in that episode, Dean also is forced to leave Sam’s body behind in order to get some civilians to safety. But this felt different. First, Dean didn’t get to SEE Sam’s body like he did in Red Meat. Yes, I know, Sam wasn’t just lying on the floor of a cabin this time, he was dragged off by vampires who would have been equally happy to eat Dean. And yes, Dean did see Sam get attacked. But I still can’t see him not wanting to see with his own eyes that Sam was indeed “gone” as Cas said.
Second, the dialogue for Misha was again just… weird. It was unclear from the timing whether Cas was gone long enough to even see for himself that Sam was indeed gone or if he just assumed. If he did know for certain, why didn’t he say that to Dean? Instead he said something vague about “not having time”. What?? Not having time to look for Sam?? Not having time when they’ve waited for months to get to the AU? That was not a compelling reason not to go look for Sam. If he’d said “Dean, he’s dead, and you will be too if you go after those vampires. There’s nothing you can do now, and we need to get these people to safety,” then I would have understood it better. But surely “we don’t have time” would never in a million years convince Dean Winchester not to go after his brother!
This is the Dean Winchester who, when told by Cas in Season 5 that all he’d see out there was Michael killing his brother, “Well then I ain’t gonna let him die alone.” Who sat with Sam’s dead body for three days at the end of Season 2 heedless of the pending apocalypse and exploded when Bobby tried to talk him into moving on. Who left a lamp on by Sam’s dead body and promised he’d come back for him before he led the survivors to safety in Red Meat. Who swore to Sam that “I’m never leaving you – ever!” as Sam lay dying in Amara’s mist at the end of Season 10. That’s the Dean Winchester I know and love. It’s not toxic codependence or character development when someone does not want to leave their brother without being sure you can’t save him. That’s who Dean is and that is the emotional backbone of this show.
I think that whole scene could have worked if only Dean had been able to see that Sam was gone for himself, ala Red Meat. Dean leaving Sam’s body behind worked in that episode, because he KNEW. So his commitment to keeping others safe kicked in, because it was too late for Sam. (Of course he was wrong that time, so you would think that would make him even MORE determined to make sure for himself this time!)
I’m going to assume that Dean could see clearly from across the tunnel that Sam was 100% certain to be dead because of that spurting blood, because that’s the only way it makes sense. But it bothered me enough to throw me out of the story, which is never a good thing.
That said, everything else about the tunnel scenes was stellar. Jared played the hell out of his death scene, breaking my heart with both of the times he called out for his brother. And Jensen played the hell out of Dean having to watch that, helpless and unable to save Sam – and then unable to even go after his body. He broke my heart into a million pieces with the look on his face when Cas said they were too late. Misha also had a moment when he showed us Castiel’s sadness, but it came after such an odd exchange that it didn’t have the impact it might have despite his best effort.
They continue on, Dean a walking zombie just putting one foot in front of the other. This follows canon well, the same as the other times we’ve seen one of the brothers lose the other. Sam like a robot after Dean’s death in Mystery Spot, Dean in Red Meat or even going through the motions with Lisa and Ben. I don’t even know how an actor manages to show what the character is feeling so clearly without even saying anything, but I could read all of Dean’s agony on his face.
He’s having flashbacks of Sam’s death as he pushes forward, and OMG that really broke me. The guilt, the regret, the sadness, the overwhelming sense of loss….you can see it all. Maggie tries to offer condolences about “your friend” and Dean just turns away from her. How could he ever explain who Sam was to him, what he’s lost?
But he’s Dean Winchester, and he keeps pushing on until they get to Dayton – and to Mary. You can see Dean’s shoulders drop when he sees his mother, when he knows he’s succeeded in what they’ve been working for this whole time – but Sam is not there to savor it with him. Mary wraps him up in a hug, and when she pulls back to look at him, she’s smiling, relieved – and then she gets a real look at his face.
Mary: Dean, where’s Sam?
Ohgod ohgod ohgod. He can’t even answer her. Can’t even speak. How do you tell your mother that her son is never coming back? A single tear overflows – the One Perfect Tear – and Mary knows.
And poor Dean. He’s been working for this reunion the entire season, and now he can’t even feel it, not with his brother dead.
Flash to Cas telling Jack the news, and Jack channeling many of the rest of us, screaming “he can’t be dead! Why didn’t you bring him back?”
Good question, Jack! Why is Jack the first person to demand this?
Cas says he’s not strong enough, that they would have if they could have.
(I am continually confused about this. I know Gabriel is not at full power, but he was able to take down the wards. And isn’t Cas at mostly full power? The two angels together could not take out a rag tag group of starving vampires?? Nobody wanted to get to Sam and at least TRY to bring him back or get him to Jack?? At the very least, Cas and Gabriel could have carried Sam’s body away from the vampires literally EATING him. They were tossing around giant rocks like they were nothing to clear the blocked passage a few seconds before. I just don’t get why everyone gave up so easily.)
No sooner does Dean get everyone to the camp and confirm that Mary and Jack are safe, then he turns around to head back out again.
Dean: We have to go back, get his body.
I think Mary is still in shock, but she knows better than to try to talk Dean out of it.
Ohgod, my heart. Of course he does. That’s very ‘Red Meat’ and it makes me feel a little better about the tunnel scene and Dean leaving Sam in the first place.
Flash to Sam, lying on the floor open-mouthed, eyes staring upwards, unseeing – and somehow looking incredibly beautiful anyway.
And then Sam sucks in a giant breath (also ala ‘Red Meat’) and comes back to life, struggling to his feet and clutching his throat where he just bled to death. Behind him, there’s a noise.
Lucifer: Boo! Hey Sammy.
And OMG the look on Sam’s face, his confusion giving way to horrified understanding.
Sam: You brought me back…
Lucifer: I did. You’re welcome.
Lucifer explains how he had enough juice to bring Sam back (he ate a bunch of AU angels on the way…ewww) and keeps not answering Sam’s question, because Sam KNOWS that Lucifer has an agenda, of course.
Sam: What do you want?
Lucifer: (doesn’t answer)
Sam: WHAT. DO. YOU. WANT?
Me: Holy hell, is it hot in here??
I don’t have words for how incredible Jared was in this scene. You can see every emotion Sam is feeling, and it’s absolutely heartbreaking. To have his abuser, the one who traumatized him so horrifically, be the one who brought him back to life? And is now going to hold this over his head to get what he wants? What is more horrible than that??
Lucifer finally answers.
Lucifer: What you have. A relationship with my son.
Lucifer knows that Jack won’t want to have anything to do with him if he just bursts into the camp and demands it. So he’ll come bearing gifts.
Lucifer to Sam: You.
Sam’s faaaaaaaaace OMG. I was dying right along with him.
Lucifer: I was the one who brought you back to life. I just want you to acknowledge it.
So he’s going to make Sam say it? Like some kind of twisted parody of gratitude – admit it to the one who tortured and abused and broke him?? I feel sick to my stomach just thinking about it, that this is what Sam is being forced to do.
Lucifer: So you coming with? Or (gestures to crowd of starving vampires) this?
Sam Winchester is so much stronger than I am. He wants to say go to hell, he wants to say no. But that would mean Lucifer would still go find Jack – and Dean, and Mary, and Cas and everyone else. This way, if he does this, he will be able to help keep the world – and his family – safe. So he agrees, even though it must be costing him so damn much.
Mark Pellegrino also did a fabulous job with this scene. I hate Lucifer unequivocally and want him to disappear from the Supernatural universe, and that’s in part due to Pellegrino’s skill in playing him. He makes Lucifer always interesting, and at the same time makes my skin crawl. The two of them together portray a complicated dynamic that rings a little too real to my psychologist self – hence the skin crawling.
The ending scene killed me all over again – let’s face it, I did a lot of dying during this episode.
As Dean is preparing to literally turn around and head right back to get Sam, a bell announces visitors to the camp. Dean looks up, and once again we can see every emotion he’s feeling as a bloodied but very much alive Sam stumbles into view. Disbelief, shock, and then Dean’s eyes literally widen as he realizes his brother is alive – it’s like he wasn’t willing to even let the world in when Sam was dead, all of him closed off – he was mute, unable to speak; half blind, eyes slitted closed, unable to see anything but the traumatic memory of watching Sam die. But as soon as he knows Sam is back, he can open himself up and let himself see again – let himself feel again. It was like five seconds, and every bit of that emotional journey came through loud and clear.
We see Castiel’s shocked face, and Mary, and Jack, whose face lights up with the kind of innocent absolute joy that any parent who has returned to their child after a long absence knows so well.
Jack: (almost reverently) Sam.
Alex Calvert did a wonderful job in the few moments he had onscreen showing us Jack’s feelings for Sam, and it touched me so much.
A brief almost-smile crosses Sam’s face as he sees everyone he loves standing there, alive and okay. His eyes lock to Dean’s and they share a look full of feeling.
And then Lucifer appears behind him.
Sam hangs his head, and you can see how tormented he is, only allowed that one second of triumph and relief after all this time. He looks ashamed, guilty almost – at having brought the devil himself to their doorstep. At maybe having disappointed his brother, let him down. Sam’s biggest fear. Ohgod, my heart broke for Sam in that moment.
Lucifer (to Jack): Hello, son.
By that point, I was ready to fall over. What a rollercoaster of an episode! I love this Show for its ability to create strong emotions in me and strong connections to the characters I love – and this episode certainly succeeded in that! So I’m giving Robert Berens kudos in spite of my quibbles.
And so many many kudos to the cast of this amazing show for all their hard work. On the day I was there, the actors had been there since early in the morning. Jared and Jensen were in pretty much every scene, and Richard and Misha in most of them. Jared wrapped a little earlier since Sam got taken out of the action, but the others were there until the end of filming past 11 pm. It was a long, long day full of almost constant work, and they must have been exhausted, but they were unfailingly good to each other throughout. Between takes, they chatted or clowned around, keeping each other’s spirits up. There may have been a bit of impromptu dancing at one point, and I got a kick out of Misha being called “Mish” and Jared “J-Rod” because that’s the sort of thing that just warms my little fangirl heart. I got to catch up with Jim Michaels and VFX wizard Adam Williams (who wrote a chapter with the lovely Lucy for Family Don’t End With Blood) and Maisie and Serge (who wrote a chapter for our second book) and meet the incredible Rob Hayter and so many wonderful, gracious crew. It was chilly in the warehouse and some lovely guy just appeared with a space heater that he insisted I put next to my chair even though I was trying very hard to just not get in the way. That’s just the kind of place this is. The spirit of collaboration on this show that so impressed me on my very first visit to the set a decade ago is just as alive and well as ever after thirteen seasons – how lucky does that make all of us who love this show?
(Jared was absolutely covered in fake blood when he wrapped so I didn’t take a picture – but I did give him a hug in spite of his protest of being disgusting, because seriously, he had just kicked ass SO much!)
I’m crossing my fingers that next week’s episode picks up right where this one left off (Spoilers ahead…) Jensen said at the Supernatural convention in the UK today that there’s a “bro hug” in the next episode, so it seems like we might pick up right there – I always love that, it amps up the momentum into something that feels like “real time”. And let’s face it, I will ALWAYS want a bro hug – especially after one of the Winchesters has lost the other, even if only temporarily.
Ready (or as ready as it’s possible to be) for the penultimate episode this Thursday!
Caps by @kayb625
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17 thoughts on “Supernatural ‘Beat The Devil’ – Yes, I’m Still Emotional!”
OMG, I am beyond jealous you got to see what has probably been my very favorite scene of the season! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing some of the details and “fun facts”, Lynn! The BTS stuff is endlessly fascinating to me, especially the fx and fights. If I’m not already following Rob Hayter’s SM, I’ll remedy that right now.
I had the same head-tilting reservations as you did about the episode. Next week will hopefully answer a few of those itchy questions. Thanks so much for the excellent review!
What luck to have it be that day, right?! They are all so amazing. And yes, I’m hoping next week’s episode will pick up where we left off and keep making me feel better lol
I agreed with what you said and like you I questioned Castiels’ motives. The main sticking points for me was Cas saying that “we” let Lucifer out and “ we” are responsible. I may or may not have yelled at my tv -no… that was you! And when Cas told Dean that it was too late for Sam I did tweet “ that’s not Cas!”
I really enjoyed watching Rowena thinking of leaving the bunker and realizing that she couldn’t do that now.
It was a great roller coaster ride but I felt so bad for Sam at the end, leading Lucifer right into the camp, he looked so guilty. Something else he will probably beat himself up about so I really hope that Dean doesn’t.
The fact is, they will probably need Lucifers’ help to take down Michael. Between Gabriel ( who has some grace) Castiel who also has some, and Lucifer, they should be able to take Michael down.
The one other point I want to make was about Gabriel wanting privacy to extract his grace. My feeling on it was that he wanted control over himself and especially his grace after Asmodeus used him for the last 7 years. It was his way of regaining part of himself. If that makes sense? I didn’t get a sexual vibe although after Deans reaction maybe a bit.
You are correct the acting skills and dedication to this show that Jensen and Jared portray is extraordinary. It makes me hope that when they do finally end this show that they give us a recap of their lives as they hopefully age. Although I also hope that day is far into the future. Also I’m very happy you got to experience the set and watch them film. That would be a dream for me. You are a very lucky and blessed person
Hi Lynn, I agree with much of what you said.
I need the help of other fans to please explain to me Castiel’s powers. Going back to the Kripke years, angels have been able to resurrect people. Zachariah resurrected Adam, Gadreel resurrected Charlie. What is different about Cas? We’ve been told that Jack is more powerful than Lucifer – if Luci could resurrect Sam, then Jack should be able to as well, right? Why didn’t Dean ask Jack to go back with him to get Sam? Can someone help me understand this because I’m so confused right now.
I know many fans have compared the events in the tunnel to Red Meat, but for me one of the big differences between this ep and Red Meat is that in RM Dean had to leave Sam to get the civilians to safety – in this ep Cas and Gabe could’ve gotten the civilians out. Or even just Gabe could’ve taken the civilians to Dayton, while Dean and Cas could take care of the vamps and get Sam to Jack so Jack could resurrect him. They didn’t know Lucifer jumped through the rift, as far as they knew they had sufficient time to get Sam. It just doesn’t gel for me.
The angel lore has been a mess since the end of season 8. The writers can’t seem to keep their powers consistent since the fall. It’s so frustrating. You also make a very good point about Gabriel getting the civilians out of the cave. Dean not doing everything in his power to go after Sam didn’t ring true to me. Only when Dean held Sam’s lifeless body would he be able to finish the mission (that’s my humble opinion).
Oh my Chuck you have hit upon my pet peeve: the ridiculous inconsistency of the writers in regards to Cas’ powers. I love this show like nothing else on earth but that bugs me SO MUCH.
Thanks for your excellent review as always. Especially happy,to hear that Jensen had a longer fight scene in the cave. That wold have added more weight to him not being able to get to his brother. And spot on about the Cas dialogue. Should have had him say “I don’t want to lose you too” rather than “We don’t have time.”
You absolutely spoke my mind! So awed by the actors (saying the most by not saying anything!!)and the fabulous script!
I hung up on exactly the same details as you:Luci would’ve turned angry enough for cracking anyhow but Rowena not gagging him????
And how could Cas be strong enough to feel the warding but yet not to get Sam back or at least kill the vamps???
Well. Lucifer had to go through the rift somehow or Sam would not have been revival. A gag in Lucifer’s mouth would have prevented the Sam from being saved and pushing the arc towards its conclusion so I cut Berens some slack here. Cas’ lines do not always resonate in this episode but again maybe the lines about not having enough time are really the writer’s way of saying,”look, we got to keep moving the episode along, no time for retrieval.” IMHO it is always Dean’s intention to go back for Sam as that is who he is. He not only had to save the girl, but finish the mission of finding Jack and Mary and the camp before taking final care of Sam even if it meant his death.
Berens thankfully puts Rowena in a position to make a moral choice and not flee but try to help. Her use of “Ballocks” echoed Crowley’s good choices for the Winchesters in the recent past. She is not a one or two dimensional character and that is why she falls into Luci’s taunt. I say it is good writing. As far as Sam sleeping in a long sleeve shirt and sweat pants, we have seen it before when he has been dreaming or awakened by Dean’s groans a few seasons ago. He is apparently so exhausted that he falls into bed in his “at home” sweats. Lots of folks do. And a gratuitous shot of 1/2 naked Sam would not have worked in the plot. It shows his focus on the job, to be ready. That’s what I am feeling. And the lightness of Gabrena, made the remainder of the episode even more dark.
Thank you Lynn so much for another amazing review and putting in words what I’m feeling! We are 4 days out from that episode and I’m still deeply shaken by it…and in utter awe of Jared and Jensen’s immense acting skills. So few words were said after Sam’s death by either actor, but so much was said, it takes my breath away! I too (as I’m sure most of the fandom) was scratching my head at That Scene. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand the implied motivations underlying Cas and Dean’s decision-making. The only thing I could come up with was a summation of the several facts that were left unarticulated by the writers but hopefully implied in Cas’ strange statement and Dean’s apparent easy acquiescence. I don’t think it was easy, I believe his acceptance came from his profound trust in Cas. If Cas says getting to him is impossible, then it must be.
– mission timeframe as an unknown since they weren’t positive that Mary and Jack were in Dayton and even with Lucifer’s grace replenishing the spell, they don’t know how long the rift will stay open
– everyone was aware Sam’s wound was immediately fatal (30-60 second bleed out time with that wound) and neither Cas nor Gabe had the juice for a resurrection
– Sam was dragged off into the dark labyrinth of tunnels and Cas lost track of where he was taken. His words would make more sense if they needed to first find and then retrieve Sam’s body. How do they defend the girl and undertake the search in dark tunnels apparently teaming with feral vamps? Risky even with 2 Angel’s on your side.
Only when the girl is delivered and Mary and Jack found can Dean justify the risk of going back, and true to character Dean would rather die than leave Sam behind.
That’s pretty much what I’ve come to as well, but it wasn’t my reaction the first (or second) time I watched it. The tunnels were so dark it’s hard to be sure that Dean could have seen Sam bleed out clearly enough to be sure, but that’s what I’m going with too. Nothing else makes sense.
It was shown right after that Dean was replaying the attack on Sam in his mind while on the way to the camp. So he did see clearly the spurt of blood shown by the glow stick hanging from his neck. I can’t even imagine how is this even a debate. Dean was directly in front of Sam.
As always, I love you review. It’s interesting that Sam, in his dream, doesn’t see Dean’s food “commitment” is tied to his early years struggle. Not surprising as Dean made sure Sammy was fed — just twists the knife a little bit more.
I can only blame Berens so much for the innuendo. Put Jared, Jensen, Rich, & Ruth in a scene — give them an inch and watch them take a mile+. As you said, it’s only the juxtaposition with the seriousness of the Lucifer bit that didn’t work as smoothly as I’d like.
I apparently am one of the few that, upon reflection, didn’t have a hard time with Dean not insisting on touching Sam’s dead body before escaping the tunnels. The whole scene reminded me of the “Mines of Moria” from Lord of The Rings. It wasn’t that they were in a rush to get to Mary, it’s that they were about to be overrun with orcish-vamps if they didn’t get their butts out of there. And I’m confident that Dean saw the arterial spray. Despite his toughness, even Sam couldn’t survive that and Dean knew (in his head, not his heart, that Sam was dead the minute that happened). I think Dean rushing after Sam was instinct and Cas pulled him up short made it clear, Sam is dead and they needed to get out of those tunnels. Could they have worded it better? Absolutely. But since Dean was in zombie mode til he saw Mary (and then broke my heart), and was going straight back to get Sam’s body, I felt there was no slight on Dean’s part toward’s Sam. This is what Sam would want — Sam was dead and neither Cas nor Gabe could save him. So Dean did the tactically correct thing, took care of getting Maggie, Cas & Gabe to Mary and then went back for the body. I’m not sure Dean was going to make it back alive going for Sam’s body alone — I’m not sure Dean cared.
…And it’s totally just a coincidence that all your BTS pics of the fight training just happen to show off Jared’s cute butt.
Not on purpose at all right ;-p
I 100% agree with the issues you had with this episode. I was downright hostile after it aired. I was just so angry about Cas saying “we” let Lucifer out of the cage. No, that was 100% on him. Sam told Lucifer “no” when he tried to convince Sam to let him out. This was all on Cas when he decided to say “yes” to Lucifer. I hated that this fact just gets glossed over by the show.
Dean not doing everything in his power to try to save Sam was so out of character. The Dean Winchester I’ve watched over the years would have pushed Cas aside and went to find his brother.
I loved Jack demanding to know why Cas didn’t try to save him. I’m sick of not knowing what an angel’s power is since season 8. They seem so arbitrary – when the Show needs an angel to kick some ass then they have powers, but when it will solve some problem in the plot that the writers don’t want dealt with then they can’t do squat. The Show needs to get back to setting rules and sticking to them like the did in the Kripke and Gamble years. The canon and mythology of the Show has been fast and loose since season 8.