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09 February 2010 @ 05:52 pm
5.13 The Song Remains The Same: We Have To Try  
5.13 The Song Remains The Same: We Have To Try
 
The past is prologue:
Anna hunts John and Mary,
Fought by Team Free Will. 

 
Episode Summary
 
Unable to find him physically, Anna infiltrated Dean’s dream of angel and devil strippers, telling him Castiel had betrayed her to the forces of Heaven and she had been tortured for her disobedience. She said she had escaped her prison and was on the run from Heaven, and told him to meet her at a warehouse address. Castiel appeared at the warehouse instead, saying the Winchesters trusted her but he didn’t. He doubted her claim to have escaped, believing she had been allowed free to perform a mission, and asked what she was doing with the knife she hid. He observed her blade wouldn’t kill angels, unlike the one he carried. Anna said Sam Winchester had to die and she would scatter his cells across the universe to prevent Lucifer and his minions from ever being able to reassemble him, because if he never became Lucifer’s vessel, Lucifer’s entire plan would short-circuit. Castiel refused to cooperate, saying Sam was his friend and warning her that if she came near Sam, he would kill her. She disappeared.
 
Anna reappeared in 1978, collapsing onto the hood of a Pontiac Firebird parked in an alley with two young people kissing inside. The shocked couple scrambled to help her to a hospital.
 
In the brothers’ motel room, Castiel drew the symbols for a spell on the table while the brothers tried to come to grips with his news about Anna. Dean protested when Sam asked if the plan to kill him would actually stop Satan, and Castiel said it wouldn’t. He also said Anna wouldn’t give up until Sam was dead, and they had to kill her first. He cast his spell, staggering with the result, and told them she had gone back to 1978. He realized Anna intended to kill John and Mary Winchester to prevent Sam from ever being born. He said he would stop her but Dean insisted on the brothers going along, saying John and Mary were their parents and if they could save them – not just from Anna, but to set things right – they had to try, even though Castiel warned them that he would be weakened by attempting time travel while cut off from Heaven, and taking passengers would make it worse. They packed supplies including Castiel’s angel-killing short sword and a couple of ewers of holy oil, and Castiel transported them into the past. True to his prediction, Castiel coughed blood and collapsed upon arrival, and Dean left him in a motel to recover while Sam scored the Winchesters’ address from a phone book.
 
Mary and John were happily preparing for dinner when the brothers arrived, although John hesitated before answering Mary’s question about his day at work by saying it was fine. Answering the door, Mary immediately recognized Dean from their previous encounter during In The Beginning and told him he had to go, saying she had a normal life now. Before she could close the door on them, John arrived, and Dean proclaimed them Mary’s cousins, just stopping to say hello. John noted Dean looked familiar, and Dean put it down to small town life, saying they must have seen each other in passing before. John introduced himself, offering his hand to shake, and Sam, overcome with emotion at seeing his parents young and alive, had a hard time keeping it together, passing off his fixation as fatigue from a long trip. Mary said they were just leaving, but John insisted they come in for a beer. Sam couldn’t stop staring at Mary, finally blurting out that she was beautiful, and Dean covered by saying they hadn’t seen Mary for a long time and she was the spitting image of their mom, and her father had been like a grandpa to them. John mentioned Samuel’s tragic death by heart attack, then asked why they were in town. When the brothers simultaneously provided two different answers – plumbing and scrap metal – Mary covered by saying she needed to prepare dinner. She again said the brothers had to leave, but John asked them to stay for dinner since he never got to meet much of Mary’s family.
 
The hall phone rang, and John excused himself to answer it, hearing Mr. Woodson, his boss at the garage, telling him he would have to be let go. John begged for the chance to continue even part time, and the man told him to come in right away to talk, saying they might be able to work something out – but the person on the other end of the phone was Anna, not his boss.
 
In the living room, Mary insisted the brothers leave, saying that the last time she saw Dean, a demon killed her parents. Sam warned that she and John were in danger, and when she asked if it was a demon, Sam blurted out that it was an angel. Mary averred there was no such thing, but Dean said they were twice as powerful as demons. When Mary asked why an angel would want to kill them, Dean said it was a long story but she had to trust them and they had to go. She reluctantly agreed, persuaded by their urgency, but asked what she should tell John – and Dean realized the house was too quiet and he couldn’t hear John. They found a note scrawled beside the phone, that John would be back in 15 minutes.
 
At the garage, John found his boss dead, his eyes burned out of their sockets. Backing away in shock, he nearly ran into Anna, who threw him across the room. As she came after him, however, she wavered, bleeding from the nose and apparently still weakened by the time travel, and he struck her down with a tire iron. Despite that, she appeared in front of him when he turned, and flung him over a car. Before she could continue, Dean attacked with Castiel’s blade, but she flung him out of the building through a window. Mary snatched up the fallen weapon and attacked, displaying a skill and focus that astonished John, acquitting herself well until Anna disappeared, only to reappear behind her, disarm her, and fling her into the windshield of a car while saying she was sorry. She advanced on Mary, who stabbed her with a crowbar. Anna pulled the tool out of her chest, saying it wasn’t that easy to kill an angel, but Sam – who had spent the fight drawing on the wall the angel-banishing sigil Dean had learned from Castiel – said you could distract them, and touched the sigil with his bloody hand to banish her.
 
Driving in the Impala to a Campbell safe house in the country, John was incredulous about the reality of monsters and angry about the secret Mary had kept about being a hunter all her life. At the cabin, Mary pointed out devil’s traps and iron fixtures and promised salt, holy water, guns, and knives, but Sam said they wouldn’t help against angels. Dean opened the bag they’d packed, showing off the banishing sigil, and Sam pulled out the holy oil, taking Mary with him to show her how it was used. Asking about the banishing sigil, John insisted on helping, not being useless, cutting his own palm when Dean reluctantly said it needed to be drawn in human blood. Dean saw in his practical determination the father he remembered, telling John he reminded him of hid dad.
 
Coming in as John finished inscribing a sigil, Sam complimented him, and then apologized for everything. John asked how long he had known about hunting, and when Sam admitted he’d been raised to it, John exploded in anger, asking how his father could have done that to a child. John insisted that a father was supposed to protect his children, and Sam found himself defending John to his younger self, explaining that his father had done the best he could and that, although Sam had hated him when he was younger, he finally understood and wished he could have told his father that he loved him and forgave him for what his actions had done to his sons.
 
Anna summoned Uriel for assistance, despite the angels’ orders not to come down to Earth or take a vessel. He recognized that Anna was not the Anna of now, and she agreed, saying that 30 years on she was still his superior. She told him she needed him to kill some humans, saying they would be the ones who would kill him in the future, and she was giving him the chance to kill them first.
 
With preparations complete, Mary insisted on Dean telling her why an angel wanted her dead. He tried to dodge, but to keep her from leaving, finally confessed he was her son. He told her he and Sam were named after her parents; that when he was sick, she would make tomato rice soup, because that’s what her mom had made for her, and she would sing him “Hey, Jude” instead of a lullaby because it was her favorite Beatles’ song. She was appalled to think she had raised her kids to be hunters, and he assured her she hadn’t because she was dead, killed by the yellow-eyed demon, and John had become a hunter for revenge. He told her a demon would come into Sam’s nursery when he was six months old, on November 2, 1983, and insisted that she not go into the room. He told her to wake up that morning, take Sam, and run. Sam, interrupting, said that wouldn’t be enough, because the demon would find them. Instead, he told her to leave John now. Realizing that would mean they would never be born, Dean agreed, telling Mary never being born was different from dying, and he and Sam were okay with that. Mary protested that she couldn’t. Sam warned her she could never have the normal life she wanted, that it would all go rotten, she would die, and her children would be cursed. She said it was too late; she was already pregnant.
 
John burst in to announce the blood sigils were gone, turned to smudges. Touching the floor where she had poured a ring of holy oil, Mary found the floor dry, with no trace of oil left. A whispering noise grew to the unbearable sound of angel voices shattering all the glass in the house, and Anna and Uriel appeared. Protecting John and Mary, Dean took on Uriel and Sam attacked Anna with Castiel’s blade, but the brothers were no match for the angels. John went for the blade Sam dropped, but Anna stopped him, flinging him through a window and out of the cabin to land unconscious on the ground. Anna advanced on Mary, but when Sam blocked her way, Anna grabbed a pipe from the wall and stabbed him in the gut even as Uriel choked Dean.
 
As Sam fell dying or dead and Dean cried out in despair and loss, John was bathed in light. Anna faced Mary again, saying she was really sorry. Behind her, John said Anna’s name, but it wasn’t John: it was the archangel Michael in John’s body. He touched Anna, and both she and her body burned instantly away to ash. Uriel released Dean and apologized to Michael, telling him he didn’t know, and Michael dismissed him with a finger snap. He told Mary John was fine and put her to sleep. He told Dean their conversation was long overdue, and when Dean demanded he fix Sam, said they would talk first, and then he disparagingly said he would fix Dean’s Sammy.
 
Dean asked how Michael had gotten into John, and Michael explained he had told John he could save his wife, and John said yes. Dean observed that negated the angels’ constant insistence he was Michael’s one and only vessel, and Michael said Dean was his true vessel, but not his only one. He told Dean it was a bloodline stretching back to Cain and Abel; it was in his blood, his father’s blood, his family’s blood. Dean asked what Michael wanted with him, saying he knew Dean wouldn’t say yes. Michael said he wanted Dean to understand what he and Dean had to do. Michael said Lucifer had defied God and betrayed him, but Michael still loved his brother and didn’t want to kill him any more than Dean would want to kill Sam. Drawing the obvious Winchester parallels, Michael said he had raised Lucifer and still loved him, but would kill him because it was right, because God said so. Michael said God had known from the beginning this was how it would end, and he would do whatever God said because he was a good son. Dean bitterly advised him from experience that was a dead end street. Michael called him an unimportant little man, asking him why he would get to choose, and Dean said he had to believe he could choose what to do with his unimportant little life. Michael maintained free will was just an illusion, telling Dean to consider the unlikeliness of the millions of random acts of chance that led to John and Mary being born, falling in love, and giving birth to Sam and Dean, and the random choices they had made that always brought them closer to their destiny. He insisted none of it was random or chance, but a plan playing itself out perfectly, and that’s why Dean would say yes. He told Dean to buck up, because unlike his brothers, he wouldn’t leave Dean a drooling idiot when he was done. Dean asked about John, and Michael promised to leave him better than new, saying he would scrub both John’s and Mary’s memories so they wouldn’t recall him or the brothers. Dean protested Mary wouldn’t remember to avoid Sam’s nursery when the demon arrived, and Michael dismissively said that was obvious, and Dean knew it would play out one way or another. He told Dean he couldn’t fight city hall, then sent Sam back home. He told Dean he would see him soon, and sent him back as well.
 
Back in their motel, the brothers were surprised to see Castiel reappear. He said he was surprised to have made it back, and promptly passed out, bleeding from the nose but still breathing. They laid him on a bed, and then shared a drink, which Dean poured as a toast to Team Free Will: an ex-blood junkie, a dropout with six bucks to his name, and Mr. Comatose. Troubled, Sam observed that everyone kept saying they would say yes, and spoke his fear they might be right, because even though they couldn’t see any reason they would agree, he had been weak before, and Michael had gotten John to say yes. Dean insisted that was different because Anna was about to kill Mary, and Sam asked what Dean would say if he had the chance to save her.
 
Back in the past, John and a very pregnant Mary, looking at the nursery prepared for their coming child, remarked on her garage sale purchase of a cheap little angel figurine Mary simply liked, even though she couldn’t say why. Feeling the child kick in her womb, she teased him about being a troublemaker already, but told him it was all okay: angels were watching over him.
 
Commentary and Meta Analysis
 
I loved this episode. I had issues with it particularly concerning plot points and direction, but I readily forgive all of those for what this story meant to Sam and Dean and did to me. In this discussion, I’ll explore the impact on Sam of meeting his parents; speculate on the why’s and how’s of Anna’s mission to the past; and contemplate the latest chapter in the debate between free will and destiny as embodied in Dean and Michael.
 
You Sure You’re Okay, Sam?
 
Dean had been through the time travel experience before and had gotten over his first wonder at knowing the younger versions of his parents. For Sam, the shock of seeing Mary as a living, breathing, beautiful woman for the first time was staggering, but that turned out to be easier than seeing how different a man John had been from the obsessed martinet Sam had known all his life. With no memories of Mary, Sam adjusted relatively quickly to accepting her as a competent if reluctant hunter. Experiencing John, however, was like looking into a mirror, and finally forced him to acknowledge both how little he’d understood and how unfair he’d been.
 
Sam’s journey of discovery about his father has been a theme of Supernatural from the very beginning. We saw in the pilot how angry Sam was with John for the way they’d been raised, and how he dismissed John’s obsession and disparaged his drinking. As the series progressed, Sam was slowly obliged to rethink his opinions as he learned things he hadn’t known, such as John having spoken of him with pride to others (Phantom Traveler) and having kept an eye on him even after the fight that resulted in Sam’s solitary departure for Stanford (Bugs). Briefly reunited in Shadow, he had tangible proof that John loved him and regretted their falling out. Father and son had a further moment of détente in Dead Man’s Blood when John admitted his mistakes and Sam realized he had more in common with his father than either of them had thought. Sam still thought their similarities were due only to what had happened to them – Mary’s and Jess’s deaths – rather than to their personalities and how they reacted to those tragedies, but he saw things from John’s perspective for the very first time. Sam’s misunderstanding of John’s intent during In My Time Of Dying led to yet another fight, one Sam was never able to mend after he understood the real purpose of John’s death. In Everybody Loves A Clown we saw Sam’s regret, his desire to make it up to John despite knowing it was too little, too late, and we saw glimpses of his increased acceptance of John and sorrow for lost opportunities in such episodes as Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things and Crossroad Blues.
 
Meeting young John gave Sam a totally different perspective. Dean had known John as a loving father for the first four years of his life and had experienced John’s change after the tragedy of Mary’s death; Sam had no such memories. Sensing how much John had changed, I think Dean always retained at least a flavor of John as the once-happy dad he remembered, not just the giver of orders he became. I believe that, along with his fear of more loss, influenced Dean’s always more loving and obedient response to John. Sam never had the opportunity to know that difference before, but hearing young John’s vehement denunciation of a father who would raise his children to be hunters finally brought Sam to that same realization. Sam had begun to understand John a little after he himself had felt the grief and guilt of Jess’s death and the pull of revenge; now he finally saw what John had started from, and grasped just how far revenge for his wife and fear for his sons had driven him from the core of who and what he was. I found it telling that in the cabin, Dean was most affected by how much young John, when faced with hunting and monsters, resembled his older self in the practical determination of his soldier’s focus, while Sam was struck far more by how very different young John was from the drill sergeant father he’d always known.   
 
But more than just meeting young John, I think it was Sam’s own parallel experience over the last couple of years that finally made him able understand how a man could change so much and go so far from what he had been and believed. I don’t think Sam truly could have appreciated John’s situation before he had taken the journey we saw him on during the last two seasons. His loss of Jess was a beginning, but it didn’t and couldn’t pack the same punch as John’s loss of Mary, his wife of ten years and the mother of his sons. For Sam, the real corresponding trigger was Dean’s death and the bitter knowledge that Dean – the brother he’d loved all his life – was in torment in Hell. Sam experienced the same kind of life-shattering loss as John and reacted in much the same way, pursuing whatever it took to get his revenge without regard for what he gave up in terms of morality, decency, compassion, and truth. By the time he’d gotten Dean back, he couldn’t even realize how much he had changed, any more than John had been able to most of the time. John didn’t really see himself through Sam’s eyes until the scene in the cabin in Dead Man’s Blood. Now that he’s seen and understood the truth of John, I wonder if Sam may also have a better chance of seeing himself truly through Dean’s eyes, rather than through the filter of what he fears Dean sees.
 
Sam forgiving John is a major step beyond simply understanding him. With the events of this episode, I think Sam has reached the high point of resolving his outstanding issues with his father, and I hope having been able to say to young John what he was never able to say to his living father gives him some closure, and also provides the clue that he, too, can be worthy of forgiveness even for the things he’s done.
 
He was trying. He died trying. Believe me, I used to be mad at him. I … I mean, I used to hate the guy. But now I … I get it. He was … just doing the best he could. And he was trying to keep it together in this impossible situation. See, my mom, um, she was amazing, beautiful, and she was the love of his life. And she got killed. And I think he would’ve gone crazy if he didn’t do something. Truth is, my dad died before I got to tell him that … I understand … why he did what he did, and I forgive him for what it did to us. I do. And I just … I love him.
 
Oh, Sam.
 
They Didn’t Send Me; I Escaped
 
The destiny-altering time travel premise of this story bothered me both because of what we’d seen about Dean’s inability to alter the past during In The Beginning, and because the angels’ explicit and often-stated belief in the immutability of destiny argued against an angel trying to alter it. On reflection, however, I concluded there might be explanations for both things that would tie in to Anna’s attempt to kill the Winchesters before their sons could be born.
 
When Castiel told Dean he couldn’t have changed what happened on his previous trip into the past, he didn’t say the past couldn’t be changed; he said destiny couldn’t be changed. At the time, as a loyal soldier of Heaven under Zachariah’s command, he was a clear believer in the inevitability of destiny and prophecy, with an absolute and simple faith in God’s plan.
 
As last season progressed, however, we learned there were different factions in Heaven, as well as the split between Heaven and Hell. Uriel, despising humans, joined with other rebel angels seeking to free and join Lucifer, finally revealing himself and dying in On The Head Of A Pin. Zachariah in Lucifer Rising spoke for the group seeking to jump-start the apocalypse and then defeat Lucifer and enjoy paradise on Earth in the aftermath of the fight. Both Raphael (Free To Be You And Me) and Michael appear now to be invested in the same vision as Zachariah. After her return to angelic status in Heaven And Hell, Anna represented yet a third group, one not believing that Zachariah and his ilk were actually following the will of God. She encouraged Castiel to think for himself and make his own choices about what was right in On The Head Of A Pin, advice he began to take to heart until he was disciplined in The Rapture.
 
This diversity in angelic ranks indicates a similar diversity in opinion on destiny, or at least on what constitutes destiny, and is further complicated by the position of the lord of Hell. Michael and Lucifer, despite being on opposite sides of the struggle and with diametrically opposing goals, each believe they are destined to win. Both can’t be right. In Changing Channels, Gabriel asserted the inevitability of the conflict, but didn’t offer an opinion on which side would win, just stating one brother would have to kill the other. Castiel this season came to pursue a third course, looking for God as an alternative to having to go with any faction. He may not yet believe fully in human free will, but he has come to dispute the inevitability of any single destiny as predicted by those he no longer trusts. Castiel still believes in God, but no longer in anyone who purports to speak for him.
 
If destiny is not as singular and inviolable as Castiel used to believe it to be, then events he once thought were determined by destiny may be subject to change. Castiel observed in On The Head Of A Pin that angels were supposed to be the agents of fate. Angels have the ability to bend time, as we saw both here and during In The Beginning, and may have seen in The End, depending on whether Dean’s trip into the future was real or hallucinatory. If Dean’s future journey was real, his actions in reuniting with Sam on his return changed the course of that future, at least in one major detail. All those things together suggest a time-traveling angel’s actions could possibly have an effect on the timeline, despite what we thought and Castiel said earlier. I think Castiel is no longer so assured that what was once has to remain as “destiny” dictated, and therefore saw an attempt by an angel to change things in the past as a real potential threat. (I also think that present-day Dean and Sam not winking out of existence as soon as Anna translated back in time argued pretty well that she wouldn’t succeed, but I’ve got enough of a headache without getting into all the illogic of temporal transitions …)
 
Before her imprisonment in When The Levee Breaks, Anna – with her emphasis on choosing one’s own course rather than obeying orders – didn’t seem invested in the concept of an unavoidable destiny. She supported Dean’s and Bobby’s actions in that episode in confining Sam and trying to break him of the demon blood addiction, to counter the plans of demons and impatient angels intent on having Sam break the last seal on schedule. Of all the angels we have met, she was the one most likely to attempt to derail “destiny” and the plans of those who wanted the human world to end, and if she saw no other way and no longer believed the brothers would have the strength to choose to resist, I could see her deciding to try to stop the endgame before it could begin by preventing the brothers from being born.
 
Anna’s plan didn’t appear to serve the goals of Zachariah’s faction – the angels who had imprisoned her – or the goals of Uriel’s group or Lucifer, since they all want the brothers to play their roles and bring on the end, believing their respective sides will win. But despite that, I still think she was allowed to escape and encouraged to think she was acting on her own. I would submit her difficulty in traveling in time demonstrated she didn’t have the power of Heaven behind her. Castiel displayed no ill effects from his In The Beginning trip even with Dean as a passenger, when he was still under Heaven’s orders and connected to the wellspring of Heaven’s power. Anna, like Castiel on this trip, was seriously weakened by her time jump even though she carried no one else with her, so I believe she made it on her own power reserves.
 
But I don’t think she really did escape. In fact, I think her “escape” was deliberately arranged to bring about precisely the result it did – and I think the orders came from Michael.
 
Future Anna in the past summoned the Uriel of the past to help her, demonstrating that angels, like humans, experience linear time. But the Michael who inhabited John’s body and spoke to Dean was clearly the Michael of the present, not the past. Almost his first words to Dean were that their conversation was long overdue. Were he the Michael of the past, that wouldn’t have been the case. So Michael traveled back in time just as Anna, Castiel, and the brothers had done. Why?
 
I would submit that changing the past and killing John and Mary were never the real object of Anna’s quest, however much she thought so. I think Anna’s whole trip was arranged precisely to draw the Winchesters to a time and place where/when Michael would have convenient access to a suitable vessel to permit his conversation with Dean. No angel can find Dean or Sam because of the Enochian sigils Castiel carved into their bones, so Michael needed a way to draw him to a place he could be found. We know Dean can’t bear the sound of an angel’s true voice, much less understand it – witness all the pain and shattered glass both in Lazarus Rising and here – so Michael needed to inhabit a vessel to be able to converse with him. Even conversations with angels in dreams have come only when they were already wearing human vessels to filter their projected speech; one presumes they would be as overpowering in their true forms in dreams as they are in reality. So Michael needed a vessel.
 
Despite Michael’s comment about the Winchesters coming from a vessel bloodline extending all the way back to Cain and Abel (which in scientific terms would imply a genetic trait now spread through most of the world’s population, given that we’re all descended from a gene pool that used to be a whole lot smaller than it is now), it’s been suggested ever since we met Castiel in Lazarus Rising that relatively few humans are capable of hosting angels. It would further seem that the more powerful the angel, the fewer potential vessels would have the strength to withstand the occupation – witness Nick’s deterioration as a sub-optimal vessel for Lucifer, and Castiel’s observation in Free To Be You And Me that Dean would be left in much worse shape by Michael than Raphael’s empty vessel. While Michael indicated he could control the effects of his inhabitation to prevent damage to his vessel – something Castiel obviously also did, since Jimmy and Claire were left unharmed in The Rapture save by their memories of the experience – he evidently had a small selection of suitable choices. And what would be more suitable and persuasive than the body of Dean’s beloved and sorely missed father?
 
So I think the whole argument about whether or not the past could actually have been changed is moot, because I believe Michael’s intent was never to change the past, but simply to use it as a convenient venue. Anna served her purpose in drawing Dean to a meeting and providing the jeopardy that prompted John to invite Michael in, all to give Michael a voice.
 
And if that’s truly the case, Heaven’s angels are as Machiavellian as Hell’s prince.
 
Free Will’s An Illusion, Dean
 
In his conversation with Dean, Michael presented the same arguments Lucifer made to Sam in Free To Be You And Me and Abandon All Hope – and to Dean in The End – about nothing being random and everything being preordained, about people being unable to change and choice being dictated. He also displayed the same dismissal of the value and importance of humans as Zachariah, Lucifer, and Uriel. Michael sees all humans as tools, nothing more, to bring about the divine plan foreseen from the beginning by God. He restored Sam not to appease Dean, but purely to play the role he’d been assigned. Michael clearly considers himself and his brother Lucifer as the only actors who matter in this little drama, and the conflict between them as the center of the universe. Lucifer goes even a step further, having decided that God made a mistake in creating imperfect humans and that Lucifer, in recognizing that mistake, is therefore more perfect than God and will rise to take his place.
 
What colossal arrogance.
 
Why would a dispute between two brother angels merit being the lynchpin of the universe God built – the God who also built those brother angels and the humanity they so disparage? What purpose God creating humans and telling his angels to bow to them – just so Lucifer in his pride would refuse and be cast unjustly into Hell to set the stage for a future fight with Michael? So we’re to think God created all of this – and us – just to serve as window dressing for a spat between two of the children he created over who is right, the one who obeys Dad or the one who proves Dad wrong?
 
To quote Dean: Nah.
 
I don’t think so.
 
Michael maintained that free will was an illusion because God had planned everything and knew how it would all turn out. I addressed this in my commentary on Changing Channels, but I’ll mention it again here. The theological debate between the tenets of free will and predestination occasioned by the collision of the concept of God being all-knowing with his having created humans in his own image and likeness with the inherent ability to choose is mind-boggling. Still, I recommend Milton’s take on it in Paradise Lost, where God, speaking to his Son, says that he created both men and angels with free will because without it, they couldn’t have given any proof of true allegiance, faith, or love through their obedience to him, and he couldn’t have taken any pleasure from their actions if their will or reason had simply served necessity, not God. Concerning both the fall of Lucifer and of Man, Milton’s God maintains, they themselves decreed Their own revolt, not I; if I foreknew, Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault, Which had no less prov’d certain unforeknown. In the view of Milton’s God, the free choice itself was the important thing, proving as it would what the individual truly felt and thus providing the reason for joy or sorrow on the part of God in the result.
 
I don’t think Milton’s God would take any pleasure from the actions and choices of Michael, Lucifer, Zachariah, or Uriel. All of their actions seem rooted in pride, not faith, belief, or love of God or anyone else. Michael prated about his obedience, but his dismissive attitude toward humans argues that if he bowed to them at God’s command, he was paying only lip service, not being whole-hearted. On the other hand, I think God would take great pleasure in the actions and choices of humans like Dean, Sam, Bobby and others when they struggle to help and save others, and of angels like Castiel seeking to understand and do not the expected or expedient thing, but the right thing, appreciating throughout all the beauty of every aspect of creation.
 
And why would God create, unless creation brought joy and satisfaction? Unless he’s a two-year-old who delights above all in smashing things, I don’t see God’s endgame, his purpose in creation, being to bring it all down in bloody ruin over the colossal arrogance of two out of the quadrillions of beings he created.
 
I don’t believe either Michael or Lucifer comprehends God’s endgame. And right now, neither do we.
 
Production Notes
 
This episode packed an immediate and undeniable emotional wallop for me. It wasn’t perfect, but I loved where it went. I have always enjoyed Sera Gamble’s emotional touch with Sam and Dean in her scripts, and this one, written with Nancy Weiner, was no exception. And all the one-liners had me laughing even harder than usual at the show’s humor quota! While I have some issues with Steve Boyum’s direction in this, I have no issues whatsoever with the performances he drew from all of the actors.
 
As usual, I’ll get my criticisms out of the way first. There were several little details in the script that really bothered me. I already dealt with the always problematic time travel issues in the commentary, so I won’t repeat them here. John referring to Samuel having died of a heart attack was a big glitch for me; how the heck could anyone have passed off his obvious stabbing death as a heart attack? Why not refer to his tragic death in a mugging, which might at least have been a reasonable cover story for Mary to have concocted under the circumstances? Very minor details included me wondering how Dean paid for Castiel’s hotel room in the past, given that all his money and credit cards would have been future ones and he had no time to hustle anything contemporary, and how Mary and the brothers realized John had gone to the garage after his phone call, enabling them to arrive just in time to save him. Woodson’s death by having his eyes burned out of his head was clearly meant to show incontrovertibly he’d been killed by an angel, but it made me wonder why Anna didn’t simply use the weapon of her own true form on others besides the garage owner. And how did Anna and Uriel – or was it Michael – smudge the banishing sigils and evaporate the holy oil before they made their appearance, when other angels in previous episodes didn’t or couldn’t do the same?
 
My biggest issue, however, surrounds one particular aspect of Steve Boyum’s direction. I understand why it happened – it was obviously part of the episode’s homage to James Cameron’s Terminator movies, right along with Anna on a phone call speaking with the voice of someone of the opposite sex whom she’d killed – but Anna deliberately stalking John and Mary in that slow, inexorable machine fashion and showily throwing people over and into cars and through walls rather than simply snapping their necks was irritatingly unbelievable. To explain how John, Mary, and Dean managed to remain alive when they all should have been readily dispatched, I made the excuse to myself that Anna truly was reluctant to kill two innocent people and Uriel always sadistically enjoyed inflicting pain, but it was an uncomfortable stretch.    
 
Enough nit-picking: on to the good stuff!
 
Top of the good stuff were all the performances, which were pitch-perfect. Jared Padalecki rocked Sam’s first meeting with Mary and John, with tears welling in his eyes and his inability to stop staring at Mary or release John’s hand. His monologue in response to John angrily denouncing a father who would endanger his children was some of Jared’s best dramatic work to date. Jensen Ackles as Dean reacting to John wanting to be useful, telling Mary he was her son, and facing off against Michael was superb. Amy Gumenick and Matt Cohen as young Mary and John (and Michael!) really brought the goods. I loved their sweetness together and their passion apart, and Mary’s dismay at John’s reaction to the disclosure of her secret. I thought Cohen was brilliant in conveying Michael’s unearthly certainty and arrogance. I’ll miss Julie McNiven’s Anna – she was an angelic wild card, not definitively on anyone’s side, and that made her particularly interesting. And the casting directors get major props for casting Matt Ward as past Uriel’s vessel: he looked as if he truly could have grown up to be Robert Wisdom, who played Uriel in our time! I adored Misha Collins as Castiel announcing to Anna that Sam was his friend, and acknowledging that he had changed; I was delighted to see that development in the script, and relished watching Castiel realize and admit it. I look forward to more development of Castiel’s relationship with Sam.
 
I laughed out loud at Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” being the soundtrack to Dean’s stripper dream, especially given that was his final suggestion for the siren’s song in the strip club in Sex and Violence. I’ve also been waiting for years for Molly Hatchet to turn up in the score, although I’ll admit I thought it would be “Flirtin’ With Disaster” or “One Last Ride” rather than “The Creeper.” Every time rock music makes its appearance, I smile. And I enjoyed the show sneaking in more music references with the Led Zeppelin episode title and the “Grease” poster on the wall in the alley where Anna appeared in the past.
 
The stunt and effects crews definitely worked overtime on this episode. All the ratchets flinging people through the air, over cars, and into and through walls took a lot of time and effort, and cost bruises. While the Terminator-stalk aspect irritated me, the rest of the fight scene work was great. Special props to Amy Gumenick’s handling of Castiel’s angel-killing blade! The effects crew had a picnic with angels appearing with light flickers and spark showers and imploding all the windows in the cabin with their true voices. And I give a big thank-you to the folks who rounded up all those classic cars to sell the scenes in the past, even though Dean’s line about Pintos came with not a single Pinto in view that I could see.
 
The locations were a treat. Sam and Dean appeared on the road in front of the same building in Fort Langley that had been the clinic in Croatoan. I think the warehouse and the alley where Anna appeared in the past may have been in Terminal City, another place they’ve used before. I always enjoy seeing how locations get redressed to look like somewhere else!
 
Those of you who’ve been reading me for a while know I’m firmly in the camp of Team Free Will. Like Dean, I have to believe there’s more to life than being forced to take part in someone else’s hair-pulling catfight. I have to believe the choices I make matter. They may not matter all that much to the broader world outside my door – my life is much smaller than the Winchesters’ – but they define who and what I am. I choose. Like Sam and Dean, I’m not immune to the influence of the world around me, and my options aren’t unlimited, but I choose. And I take responsibility for those choices and their consequences.
 
How about you?


The icon on this one is by bakinblak . Thanks!

I've been dealing with the East Coast Snowmageddon. Hope everyone's staying warm and safe!


 
 
Current Mood: pensivepensive
Current Music: "The Song Remains The Same" by Led Zeppelin
 
 
 
sethra2000sethra2000 on February 9th, 2010 11:44 pm (UTC)
*Helps to dig you out of the snow*

Wow, yet another wonderful review. I admit I was looking forward to your take on this eppy as it's my fav so far this season. I'm all for Team free Will, I think it's a case of "Doth protest too much" on the part of the other factions, almost like they are desperate to convince themselves as well as the Winchesters.

As for the J's, those guys are just the best at what they do, which is bring their characters to wonderful and heartfelt life. I shall miss them terribly when show ends, long may it play.
bardicvoice: TeamFreeWill by <lj user=bakinblak>bardicvoice on February 10th, 2010 03:25 pm (UTC)
Thank you! There's a whiteout outside my window right now; we're in a blizzard, which is truly rare for Virginia.

I'm with you in thinking I'm really going to miss Jared, Jensen, Sam, and Dean when this show ends. I've come to love these characters passionately and to respect and enjoy the actors. No matter what the J's do after this, we won't be given the opportunity again to welcome both of them into our homes every week. I'll confess, I'm selfish. I'm sure they would both love to do films and I hope they get the chance to work on many different projects, but I hate the thought of only seeing them maybe once or twice in a year for a total of 2 to 4 hours, rather than 22 times for a total of over 15 hours!
chatchien: broken dollchatchien on February 9th, 2010 11:54 pm (UTC)
I've been dealing with the East Coast Snowmageddon.

Two feet of snow and another foot due in the next two days where I am.

I just found your LJ Blog about 2 months ago and I have enjoyed reading it and your views.

"Anna reappeared in 1978, collapsing onto the hood of a Pontiac Firebird parked in an alley with two young people kissing inside."

Actually, I think that they were passing a toke between them.

"Sam forgiving John is a major step beyond simply understanding him"

It also diminishes some of Sam's Anger that is so appealing to Lucifer.

"I’m firmly in the camp of Team Free Will."

I am too, although I do find Michael persuasive (or pretty, either one). That is why I found it so interesting that Team Free Will was so intent on denying Mary her right to Free Will and Choice. If Dean and Sam get to make their choices, then Mary (and John) do too. Michael was the only to respect Mary's Free Will for all his arguments against it. For all of Dean's advocacy of Free Will, he didn't want his mother to exercise hers. She wanted John and she wanted Dean.

As for the immutability of the Past, I don't know what to think. I have begun to second guess everything that Castiel says. He has lied to Dean before and I don't think that he has stopped lying to him. All I can say is that the Past consists of Mary's choices and no one but Mary can change those and she showed no inclination to do that.

I will say this, if this was Michael's plan to find Dean and talk to him, Michael is a subtle archangel (compare him to Gabriel) and he has a Lucky General's sense of when to strike and go on the offensive. And the ArchAngels are an interesting lot. Raphael is sure that God is Dead. Gabriel is sure that God is absent. Only Lucifer and Michael seem to act as though God is very much present and within their contact.

And I think that Anna was a member of Team Free Will. From her first appearance, she looked at what was around her and made her own decisions. And she always wanted the best for humanity and the planet. Like Ellen and Jo, she died (or did she? I'm not sure.) attempting to stop the Apocalypse. I've begun to think that the women on this show, are the most active and paying the highest cost in preventing Armegedon.
bardicvoice: TeamFreeWill by <lj user=bakinblak>bardicvoice on February 10th, 2010 03:38 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Sounds like you may not be all that far from me ... :)

Nice catch on the toke-passing! I thought I'd heard the snap of a lighter before those heads came together, but the roach wasn't in evidence when they got startled by Anna and bolted out the doors. How much you want to bet that was a network thing, not to show drug use?

I must disagree with you on Michael respecting Mary's free will while the brothers didn't. Dean and Sam didn't try to take away Mary's choice or force Mary to do anything; all they did was tell her the consequences of the choice she had made in the lives they had lived, and plead with her to make a different choice this time around to bring about different consequences. The choice was always hers to make, and they knew it.

Michael, on the other hand, didn't bother to be concerned with Mary's choice because he believed it wouldn't matter; he believed she had to choose as she did and couldn't do differently. He made a big thing out of giving her what she wanted - a normal life without fear - but had he actually respected her right to choose, he wouldn't have taken from her memory the knowledge of her available choices, including Dean's warning about not going into the nursery the night she would die.

I agree that Anna was a member of Team Free Will, although she was wearing a different jersey than the boys. :)
(no subject) - chatchien on February 10th, 2010 08:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
historylover29historylover29 on February 10th, 2010 12:04 am (UTC)
Good analysis.

I loved this one. One of the best this season. I do think I liked "The End" and "Abandon All Hope" better. But, loved this.

Jensen has such wonderful chemisty with both actresses who play Mary. It's a familial chemistry, and it's beautiful to see. I really loved Dean telling Mary what she was like as a mother. The tomato-stars soup when he was sick, the "Hey Jude" lullaby (which made me very happy being a huge Beatles fan!)

By the way, did you notice the wings on that hood Anna fell on? That was pretty sweet.

I hate Anna. I have since she was revealed to be an angel. The reasons for her fall were idiotic,and after that, I never liked her. So, eh.

But, I loved Michael. Although I'm wondering how Team Free Will can possibly when. I really hope it does, though.

Kat
bardicvoice: TeamFreeWill by <lj user=bakinblak>bardicvoice on February 10th, 2010 03:57 pm (UTC)
I saw the wings, Kat! Thanks for mentioning them - no matter how long these bloody commentaries get, I never manage to remember to include all the details. That was a great image!

I liked Anna in spite of the idiocy of her introduction. I mean, really: ripping out an angel's grace in Heaven (which is literally up in the sky!) and falling like a meteorite through the night to be born a human baby? Krikpe had to have been both smoking and drinking to have come up with that one. Dumb. But I liked her status as an unreliable narrator, someone whose personal bias tainted her every perception and thus what she told us of Heaven and angels. In her anger and dissatisfaction with her life and her defiant rebellion against what was expected of her, she reminded me of early Sam; she bad-mouthed her lot as an angel the same way he saw only the negative things about the life he had lived with John and Dean. And it amused me that she never saw the contradiction in her claim that angels had no free will, and her own exercise of that will to abandon her position. Heh.

I don't see Sam and Dean saying yes to Lucifer and Michael unless they could find a way to change the rules and remain the dominant consciousness in the blend, rather than yielding control to the angels. I am very curious about how this whole thing is going to get resolved!
Maggie: SPN - Team Free Willmwmm23 on February 10th, 2010 12:41 am (UTC)
Amazing review as always! I love your insight into the show so much, it's always such a pleasure to read. And I absolutely loved this episode, although I agree that Anna's method of combat bothered me too. And of course I'm Team Free Will! :D

And how did Anna and Uriel – or was it Michael – smudge the banishing sigils and evaporate the holy oil before they made their appearance, when other angels in previous episodes didn’t or couldn’t do the same?

Being aware that the Winchesters would know that Anna was coming, I reckon they must have arrived quietly and checked out what was there to ambush them. Like I imagine a demon could break a devil's trap that they were outside of; Raphael, Gabriel and Castiel were all already in the holy oil circles before they were aware of it. I haven't rewatched the episode with that in mind so I don't know if that works within the scene, but that's what I imagined. *shrugs*
bardicvoice: TeamFreeWill by <lj user=bakinblak>bardicvoice on February 10th, 2010 04:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

My gripe on the vanishing sigils and holy oil was really minor. I think you're right about angels forewarned being forearmed and able to negate countermeasures if they had reason to check for them. Raphael and Gabriel were both dismissive of the idea that Castiel and mere humans could pose any threat, and took no precautions. Whether the agent here was Anna, Uriel, or Michael, they took the humans more seriously this time.
(Anonymous) on February 10th, 2010 01:13 am (UTC)
I stand and applaud. You are brilliant, and I’m sure you know that ;)
Your words inspire me as much as the show itself. Thank you!

And what are your thoughts regarding John being Michael’s vessel? Wasn’t Azazel looking for so-called vessel bloodlines in breeding up his special children?.. Then isn’t it one hell of a coincidence that both Mary and John were very powerful vessels? Or Mary was not? My head hurts…
And I still hope we’ll get an explanation of why Dean can’t perceive angels’ true visage.

Vicky
bardicvoice: TeamFreeWill by <lj user=bakinblak>bardicvoice on February 10th, 2010 04:28 pm (UTC)
I have a swelled head, and I'm sure you know that! Thanks, Vicky!

I don't know whether Azazel actually could smell out people able to be angel vessels, or just looked for good, solid folk who might be. My guess is the latter. We know from Ava's description in All Hell Breaks Loose of her series of combats that he had seeded a lot more families than we knew about, and we saw in In The Beginning that he had made his approaches to both men and women. He couldn't have known who they would marry or have children with - although in Mary's case, he knew by the time he made the deal that she would have a son who consorted with angels, so that must have been a thrill for him.

I think if Michael made the same kind of approach to Dean that he did to John - that enveloping light thing requesting admission to the body - Dean would perceive him. The show's conceit, however, has been that, in that specific circumstance, we the audience could not; remember Castiel's light surrounding Jimmy, with Jimmy talking to a voice we could not hear, and Michael's light surrounding young John in similar silence. I would note that even Jimmy couldn't bear Castiel the first time he approached; he collapsed in what looked like an epileptic fit from the overload.
borgmama1of5borgmama1of5 on February 10th, 2010 03:29 am (UTC)
I appreciated you take on Anna. Her actions made no sense to me, but you did provide one possible motivation.

It was an amazing episode and your comments increase my appreciation of it. Thanks!
bardicvoice: TeamFreeWill by <lj user=bakinblak>bardicvoice on February 10th, 2010 06:39 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
The Rogue Bitch.: smite first ask questions laterroguebitch on February 10th, 2010 03:50 am (UTC)

I always love your meta and never have anything intelligent to say about what you write except, yeah, I agree with you!

Two things:

The only person that made time-travel make sense to me was Kage Baker with her Company novels.

I would love to see a Supernatural/Sandman crossover where Morpheus gets sick of all these angels tromping through The Dreaming pursuing their own agendas.
bardicvoice: TeamFreeWill by <lj user=bakinblak>bardicvoice on February 10th, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I don't mix universes as a rule, but your suggestion on Morpheus made me laugh!
seesmooshrunseesmooshrun on February 10th, 2010 04:06 am (UTC)
So we’re to think God created all of this – and us – just to serve as window dressing for a spat between two of the children he created over who is right, the one who obeys Dad or the one who proves Dad wrong?
 
To quote Dean: Nah.


You know, in the midst of all this sturm und drang over the fight between the brothers and fulfilling destiny and epic apocalyptic *stuff*, I never stopped to think -- this. Is that really what all of God's work has been leading up to? Is that all there is? I've been so caught up in the story and the telling of it that I never stopped to question that aspect of it. Sloppy, I know. But I'm almost sorry now that I have this to ponder. Takes some of the wind out of the sails of the Apocalypse. The world will be no less destroyed, of course, but for it to be so epically meaningless -- wow. Don't know whether to thank you or curse you, but I will definitely have to incorporate this into my thinking. I agree, however, that this can't be what God intended. It just can't. To create all of this, the whole of creation, all these millenia, etc. -- just so two of his kids can play keepaway with the world -- yeah, that's a definite "nah".

Good to see you getting all caught up, sorry about the snow (we've got plenty here too). Me, I can't wait long enough to be as coherent about my comments, because I love reading others' comments and don't let myself do so until I've posted. I admire your patience and your brain.
bardicvoice: TeamFreeWill by <lj user=bakinblak>bardicvoice on February 10th, 2010 06:46 pm (UTC)
Umm - sorry? *grin* I'm thinking the boys are going to wind up putting the apocalypse back in its bottle and teaching free will and the importance of compassion to angels ...

I keep thinking I should go out and shovel some more, but every time I stand up, the wind picks up again and the world turns white as snow devils spin around my yard. Not looking forward to digging through those drifts ...

Like you, I don't read other peoples' reactions until after I've written mine, which means I am WAY behind!
yourlibrarianyourlibrarian on February 10th, 2010 04:39 am (UTC)
Sam’s own parallel experience over the last couple of years that finally made him able understand how a man could change so much and go so far from what he had been and believed.

Very true.

I think Anna’s whole trip was arranged precisely to draw the Winchesters to a time and place where/when Michael would have convenient access to a suitable vessel to permit his conversation with Dean.

Interesting idea, but I think it begs the question why he'd need one were Dean his perfect vessel. How was he able to communicate with John to get permission to possess him? He seemed just as affected by Uriel's voice as Dean.
bardicvoice: TeamFreeWill by <lj user=bakinblak>bardicvoice on February 10th, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
Part of the angelic communication thing, I think, is simply that the show adopted the convention that we, as the audience, can't understand angels in their own form. I think Michael could do the same white-light approach he made to John - the same one Castiel made to Jimmy back in The Rapture - but if he did, we wouldn't be able to hear the angel's half of the conversation. Michael taking a vessel allowed him to talk to Dean while we could hear. I think it also made sense as something less invasive to Dean than Michael putting his voice into Dean's mind, as Castiel conversed with Jimmy. Knowing Dean, he would reject that kind of overture immediately almost as a knee-jerk reaction; approaching him instead externally as someone with whom to share a conversation at least could get him to listen.

I think even the white-light approach requires finesse. I'm reminded that Jimmy couldn't tolerate Castiel's voice on his first try; Jimmy was struck down in something that looked like an epileptic fit. And Michael's approach to John began while John was unconscious, so his physical perceptions weren't involved and being stressed. I think Uriel used his angelic voice as a weapon, fully aware that the physical manifestations of an angel shouting - something powerful enough to smash windows wholesale - would be unbearable for anyone.

Maybe, anyway!
Zazzazreil on February 10th, 2010 04:54 am (UTC)
As an avid Science fiction Reader and a long time Role Playing gamer familiar with Time Master, the fact that Sam and Dean did not disappear when Anna returned to the past did not bother me, as there is a theory that when the past is changed there is a short period of time before the wave of change hits when you can go back and prevent the change. I wasn't even to worried about the information John and Mary received changing the future because, I was darn sure that the writer would find a way to erase them, and I was right and what a way it was. What I did not consider and I think you point out so well is that Michael was always behind Anna escape. Now that you said it I am convinced that you are absolutely correct, everything points that way, from Castiel's first meeting with Anna. Wow clever and tricky and now I have to watch the show again.

I wonder if God's End Game for this season is not the apocalypse, which of course this being a show will be averted but showing the angels who have lost their way and their faith a way back to God. Maybe God had not left the building but it is the angels who in losing faith fail to perceive him. Maybe the Winchester Gospels are not for man kind but for Angelic kind. I guess that's actually a little arrogant imagining Sam and Dean as the Messiah for Angels, but it pleases me even so. It also makes an excellent seguay for a story arc for season 6 if it gets renewed and an explanation as to why Castiel would still be around, since Misha has a two season contract.

John thinking Samuel being a heart attack did not bother me, Azazel promised Mary a normal life, two dead stabbed parents is not a great start to a normal life. Samuel and Deanna were dead but I bet a demon of Azazel's power could have altered the evidence. Paying for the hotel rooms didn't bother me, modern money is different but not all the older money is out of circulation, so unless people were deliberately checking dates on the bills between Sam and Dean they could have swung enough money for a hotel room, and rooms were cheaper then too, and credit card fraud was much easier. The evaporating oil and the smudging sigils made sense to me because in previous episodes the angels did not know that the Winchesters and their allies had these things or were prepared to use them, they were arrogant. But Uriel was warned by Anna (who lied) that the Winchester had killed him in the future, and therefore would be more careful and scout the cabin before entering. Anna or he may even had seen the preparations. Your other comments though, I didn't even think of at the time but agree could have been handled better.

And I am all aboard with Team Free Will!! I might need a Team Free Will button or T-Shirt for the March Convention

Zaz
bardicvoice: TeamFreeWill by <lj user=bakinblak>bardicvoice on February 10th, 2010 07:15 pm (UTC)
I wonder if God's End Game for this season is not the apocalypse, which of course this being a show will be averted but showing the angels who have lost their way and their faith a way back to God.

I've had a bit of fun positing variations on this theme for a while. I really do think that human free will and compassion is going to turn out to the the key to this season, and to this whole apocalypse storyline.

I like the idea of a season six, too, especially with the idea Kripke put forward of the season backing off from the epic to the personal. I think I'd love to see a season with the boys - having done whatever they'll have done to put a cork in the apocalypse - going back to living their ordinary lives. How do you deal, after you've saved the world? (Walked on the moon, won the gold medal, achieved your lifetime goal?) I'm sure evil wouldn't be defeated and there would still be many things to hunt, and all while the boys were still trying to process the fallout of all that happened to and between them. And if Castiel continues with his humanization - and wouldn't it be a trip if all the angels got a taste of that? - it would be interesting to see him slotting into a human world with less and less angelic essence.

Hmm, Azazel altering the evidence of Samuel's and Deanna's deaths is something I hadn't considered. I just ran with the last glimpse we had from In The Beginning, with Samuel's bloody corpse lying in the road beside Mary and John. Making Mary's world a normal one as part of the deal is something I can accept. (Of course, I've already written fic where that didn't happen, so ... for my writing purposes I'll leave that untouched!)
Melcoltshot_1 on February 10th, 2010 05:13 am (UTC)
HI-- new to your journal -- recent friends on Facebook :)

Once I was able to process the episode without my thoughts being overpowered by joyful squeee at the awesomeness of it, I came to much the same conclusions that you did.
1) All the angels except Castiel suffer from pride -- and in this episode, pride went before Anna's fall. Anna believed that she escaped, because she thinks she's special -- rules and all don't apply to her -- how quickly she went to 'I'm your superior' with Uriel and "After all these years, still underestimating me" to Cas.
2) It was Michael's plan all along to get Dean somewhere he could talk to him w/ John as his vessel.
3) Anna's ineptness is explained by Michael's interference - she is weak because as you say - heaven (in the form of Michael) is not behind her and in fact, is against her succeeding in killing John and/or Mary.
4) Team Free Will is eventually gonna kick Team Destiny's arrogant ass or I'll be bundling up my DVD's and sending them back to WB & Kripke.

The time travel aspect just always gives me a headache-- but its kind of explained like in The Time Machine (horrible movie with little resemblance to H.G. Wells, Jeremy Irons slumming and the moon blowing up o.O) where the keeps going back in time to try and save his fiance and it never works and he asks why can't I save my fiance? And is told 'Becuase without her death, you wouldn't be here - you wouldn't build the time machine.'
Without Mary's death the WInchesters we adore cannot exist. And so, regretfully, she must die in that nursery.

Anyway - completely adored the episode.
bardicvoice: TeamFreeWill by <lj user=bakinblak>bardicvoice on February 10th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC)
Thanks for coming by, and welcome; hope you enjoy what you find here!

I like your point about Anna also suffering from pride. You're right; she believed herself special. Nice point!

The brothers truly wouldn't be who they currently are without the tragedy that shaped their lives. Alas - but making the best of what happens means that you can find whatever is good even when all around seems evil. The good here is that the brothers learned to save other people.
Danipinkphoenix1985 on February 10th, 2010 09:11 am (UTC)
this is brilliant and you know that I agree with you as always...

My view on the angels is more that it's not that they haven't got free-will they're just not aware of the possibility. They're first and foremost soldiers who are supposed to obey God in particular.

All the angels (including Castiel in S4) have this notion that free-will is an illusion and really destiny is what determines here.

Since Sam=destiny and Dean=free will I would like to see a merge of the two where free will helps create destiny and be in harmony and not the other way around.

I have to admit that being so invested in the show has actually ruined it for me because it's become for me at least very angel heavy with the Winchesters as vessel whereas S1-S3 was all about the boys.
(Anonymous) on February 10th, 2010 11:24 am (UTC)
"I have to admit that being so invested in the show has actually ruined it for me because it's become for me at least very angel heavy with the Winchesters as vessel whereas S1-S3 was all about the boys."

You know, that's exactly how I feel. It's not that Seasons 4 and 5 didn't have brilliant moments (last episode was definitely one), but I sorely miss the older seasons when the focus was on the boys' relationship. I think Castiel is OK but his relationship with Dean was never appealing to me. Dean/Castiel can never replace Dean/Sam to me. This is not a popular opinion though. When I tried to express it in another forum I almost started a war.
(no subject) - pinkphoenix1985 on February 10th, 2010 12:13 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on February 10th, 2010 04:14 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pinkphoenix1985 on February 10th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bardicvoice on February 11th, 2010 11:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pinkphoenix1985 on February 17th, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on February 10th, 2010 12:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) on February 10th, 2010 04:17 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pinkphoenix1985 on February 10th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bardicvoice on February 11th, 2010 11:39 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bardicvoice on February 11th, 2010 11:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - pinkphoenix1985 on February 17th, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC) (Expand)
ali888ali888 on February 10th, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
And the casting directors get major props for casting Matt Ward as past Uriel’s vessel: he looked as if he truly could have grown up to be Robert Wisdom,

That is exactly what I thought. The casting people got that one spot on.

Time travel episodes of shows usually give me headaches; the only one I can honestly say I love is 'Trials and Tribbilations' (the DS9 follow up to the TOS episodes 'the Trouble with Tribbles'. But in this episode, things made sense and the re-set button 'had' to be pushed. I'm with 'Team Free-Will' and I hope the twist at the end of the season is that Dean and Sam exersise theirs.
bardicvoice: TeamFreeWill by <lj user=bakinblak>bardicvoice on February 11th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
Loved that DS-9 episode! Laughed my ass off watching it ...

You already know that I believe the brothers and free will win the day in the end, somehow!
kaz? bonne?: spn - clutchdatenshiblue on February 10th, 2010 05:52 pm (UTC)
Regarding the reason for Anna's inefficiency, I'm going to sacrilegiously do a cut and paste job on a comment I made to another excellent meta, as it seems relevant.

My own gut instinct was that Anna was unstable, after her torture by her angel captors, and therefore not thinking and operating with flawless logic. Her inefficiency felt to me like that of a maddened and erratic person, or wild animal (angels are forces of nature after all, rather than humans), seeing the world through a warped viewpoint, trying to do a good thing, but handicapped by the symptoms of her trauma.

I think that angels are the agents of fate as long as they are obeying direct orders from God, but since He has 'left the building', they are no longer acting in that capacity, although they certainly believe that they are.

When questions of angels and fate (and free will) arise, my mind keeps going back to a fundamental question.

Why were human beings created? Why did God insist that angels acknowledge them, leading to Lucifer's famous rebellion and the schism in Heaven that is still playing out?

Lucifer points out how flawed humans are: we murder, lie, steal, and trash the planet. Why would God favor these flawed creations and ask his firstborn, the angels, to honor them?

What do humans have that offsets all that potential for destruction and evil?

I think the answer is free will. The ability to learn, and make different choices the next time.

I think that's what the entire theme of the series is about.

It also explains, or suggests, to me, why God left the building.

I think He has stepped aside to let things play out, in the hope (or prescience) that where he has failed by simply ordering them, to teach his firstborn race how to make choices based on what is right, rather than on blindly following orders, that allowing these catastrophic events to occur, perhaps his second born, the humans, in the form of the Winchester boys, might be able to teach by example.

In a way, it parallels the story of Job, if you allow for a lot of artistic leeway. ;) Lucifer was allowed to visit so many awful trials upon Job because God was attempting to demonstrate to Lucifer that his second borns could have faith in the face of it.

Here, they may be the teaching tools to show the angels of Heaven what free will is about, and how choices can be made based on what an individual believes to be right rather than on selfish needs or blind obedience. In Castiel, we may have the single example of the lesson actually taking effect.

Even Lucifer, the rebel angel, is in a way still acting upon a blind obedience, not to God's more recent edicts but to what Lucifer thought God wanted earlier. A pristine world. Complete order.

I agree that Michael, now that we've seen him, maybe smart and awesomely powerful but he is really no better than Lucifer, having no more respect for human beings than his brother. I agree 100% with your take on why he obeyed God's edict - not out of understanding but simply because 'orders is orders'.

Gabriel may actually be in a better position than Michael, or Raphael, to begin to understand what is happening, now, post Changing Channels.

Castiel still seems to be the only one who has learned from what is happening, though that is taking all of his words and actions at complete face value, which may turn out to be a blind.

All of this intellectual stuff aside, this episode killed me dead because of one thing - Sam. There is not enough Oh Sam in the universe to acknowledge his (via Jared) reaction to meeting his parents and I'm so damn glad this happened. I've read a few episode reactions where people have said nothing significant took place in this episode, perhaps aside from Michael's appearance and talk with Dean, but with Sam on the balance of one of the most important choices (Dean being the other), of this entire Apocalypse, every experience he has is significant. The key to Sam unraveling his famous anger may have been in his meeting Mary, and talking with young John.
bardicvoice: TeamFreeWill by <lj user=bakinblak>bardicvoice on February 11th, 2010 11:52 pm (UTC)
I don't mind your cut-and-paste sacrilege ... :)

I've been playing for a while with the concept of humans teaching angels about free will, compassion, and love as part of God's overall plan. And I had some fun back during my commentary on Changing Channels with the idea of God having removed himself from the field precisely to remove his foreknowledge of how individuals would choose so they wouldn't feel that his knowing meant their choices weren't their own. This is fun stuff to contemplate, hey?

I definitely agree with you on the vital importance of the events of this episode to and on Sam. Meeting his parents, seeing them together, understanding their strength and their loss, defending his father to his younger self - all of that was monumental. Anyone who didn't see that simply wasn't watching. Oh, Sam ...
chiiyo86chiiyo86 on February 10th, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
Hey, Mary! A review from you is always a treat, especially after such a lovely episode. I was so happy to see John and Mary again (but especially Mary), and though I'm usually spoiled rotten, I didn't know about Michael being in this episode and it was a nice surprise.

I wonder if Sam may also have a better chance of seeing himself truly through Dean’s eyes, rather than through the filter of what he fears Dean sees.

It would be awesome. To me it's really the next step for the character, because so much of his mistakes were caused by his fear to be rejected by his brother and to lose his love.

In fact, I think her “escape” was deliberately arranged to bring about precisely the result it did – and I think the orders came from Michael.

I've seen this idea mentioned by someone else, but not as developped. It's interesting. It's true that one has to wonder how Michael found them, and just at the right time! It would make sense if he was following Anna... It makes Anna's fate all the more tragic.

The more I hear the angels babble about destiny, the more I'm convinced it's going to play out differently... We'll just have to wait and see!


bardicvoice: TeamFreeWill by <lj user=bakinblak>bardicvoice on February 12th, 2010 12:12 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad you enjoy these so much, because I certainly enjoy thinking about and writing them!

I avoid spoilers, so you should have heard my shriek when I saw John enveloped in angel light and Anna named him Michael. Talk about out of the blue! Loved it, though.

I really do hope Sam learns not to cripple himself and his relationship with his brother through his fear of what Dean thinks, feels, and believes about him. So much of what went wrong did so because Sam hid things out of fear that Dean would disapprove and shut him out, but the hiding only made things worse. Cards on the table is always the better choice for both brothers.

I have to believe that free will trumps destiny ...