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18 May 2008 @ 10:12 pm
3.16 No Rest For the Wicked: We Are Not Gonna Make the Same Mistakes All Over Again  
 

3.16  No Rest For the Wicked: We Are Not Gonna Make the Same Mistakes All Over Again

 

No more deals, no time.

Sam shrugs off Lilith’s best shot;

Dean’s soul screams in Hell.

 

Episode Summary

 

 

 

Waking from a nightmare of hellhound pursuit and attack with only thirty hours remaining on his contract, Dean learned that Bobby had figured out how to locate Lilith. Sam attempted to reassure him with the promise that he wouldn’t go to Hell, but Dean’s momentary hallucination of Sam warping into a demon hellhound made that ring hollow.

 

Bobby’s spellcasting located Lilith in New Harmony, Indiana. Sam was ready to move out immediately, but Dean raised practical objections about relying on Bela’s intel, which was the only indication that Lilith was his contract holder, and pointed out that even if they cornered Lilith, they had no way to kill her, which they would have to do in order to void the contract. Sam advocated summoning Ruby both to confirm that Lilith was the right target and to obtain her demon-killing knife, but Dean refused point-blank, even overriding Bobby’s support, protesting that Ruby had lied consistently. Saying that just because he had to die didn’t mean that Sam and Bobby had to die as well, he insisted that they find a different way to save him, and not rely on Ruby.

 

Sam ignored his order and summoned Ruby anyway. She confirmed that Lilith was Dean’s contract holder, and said that she hadn’t told him before because the brothers would have gone up against her unprepared and would have died. Ruby said that he was ready now, and that the time was right because Lilith’s guard was down and she was taking some time to enjoy herself. Sam confirmed that he and Dean still had the hex bags she’d given them during Jus In Bello that would prevent Lilith from knowing where they were. But Ruby refused to give him her knife, telling him that the knife wouldn’t matter, and that he had the power within him to destroy Lilith. She said that his psychic abilities were only dormant, not gone, and that she could help him unlock all of them, not just the visions. She told him the powers were why Lilith was afraid of him. When he challenged her about why she hadn’t mentioned this before, she pointed out that he wouldn’t even have considered it until he was desperate enough. She claimed never to have lied to him, only to Dean.

 

Dean interrupted them, refusing to let Sam consider accepting her training. When Ruby insulted him, he hit her, triggering a brutal fight that left him in possession of the knife and Ruby caught under a devil’s trap that he’d painted on the ceiling some time earlier, fully expecting Sam to summon her. The brothers left her there. Sam argued that he should at least learn what he could do, but Dean maintained that there was a pattern in everything that had happened with both John’s deal and his that prompted each of them to sell their souls for the other, and he refused to let Sam consider following their example and sell himself for his brother. Dean confessed that Sam was his weak spot and noted that he was Sam’s, and said that the demons were using that against them. He advocated refusing to play the game any more and just going after the demons the way John had taught them.

 

Lilith, meanwhile, was enjoying herself by terrorizing a suburban family. Possessing a ten-year-old girl, she forced the girl’s parents and grandfather to do whatever she wanted and pretend to be happy, killing the family pet, her elderly babysitter, and her grandfather along the way for being mean to her or trying to get help from other neighbors.

 

Bobby disabled the Impala to ensure that the boys couldn’t leave without him. Dean argued that it wasn’t Bobby’s fight, but Bobby insisted that family didn’t end with blood, and challenged that the boys needed him because Dean was further handicapped by the hallucinations that came with being pursued by hellhounds. Dean had hidden them well enough that Sam was surprised, but once Bobby put it out in the open, he admitted to them. On the road to Indiana, with Bobby following in his Chevelle, Dean refused any emotional discussion, but diverted Sam into a Bon Jovi sing-along, their last light-hearted moment. Nearing New Harmony, a cop pulled the Impala over for a burned-out taillight, but Dean, looking at the cop, saw his real demon face below the human one, and killed the demon with Ruby’s dagger. With Dean approaching Hell himself in only five hours, they realized that he could now recognize other Hell creatures for what they were.

 

Despite creeping Dean out, his new talent came in handy as they cased the place from an empty house up for sale across the street, because he could identify Lilith in the little girl and the demon guards possessing various neighbors. Sam and Bobby both said that the little girl host would have to be sacrificed because Lilith absolutely had to be stopped in order to save everyone, not just Dean, and Dean finally reluctantly agreed. Dean drew out the postman and next-door neighbor guards, and Sam used the dagger to kill the demons and their hosts. Bobby meanwhile turned the water supply for the lawn sprinkler system into holy water. As the boys headed to the house, Ruby waylaid Dean, demanding her knife, but Sam stopped her. Dean got his first true look at Ruby, seeing through the host’s beauty to an ugly spirit within. Ruby maintained that they were too late, that Dean was dead and she didn’t intend to let Sam die too. Dean pointed out that they’d attracted the attention of all the neighbors, who were all possessed by demons. They bolted for the house with the demons in pursuit, and Bobby turned on the sprinkler system to prevent the guard demons from reaching the house. Unfortunately, the demons were between Bobby and the boys, so he had to retreat again to the vacant house and couldn’t help or even reach the brothers.

 

Inside, the three split up, with Dean knocking out the innocent father and taking him to safety behind a salt line in the basement while Sam and Ruby went upstairs, checking different rooms. Sam found the bedroom where the mother lay rigid in fear beside the daughter she had read to sleep. Terrified, the woman begged Sam to kill the girl. He struggled against his reluctance, but finally struck as the girl awoke and screamed – but Dean caught his arm at the last moment, saying that Lilith wasn’t in the little girl any more. They got the mother and daughter safely into the basement with orders to stay there no matter what they heard. Sam told Ruby to tell him what he needed to do in order to save Dean, and Dean again refused to let him consider it, telling him instead to keep fighting and remember what he’d been taught by John and Dean.

 

Midnight struck, and Dean saw a hellhound approaching. They fled into another room, slamming the door and lining the door and window with goofer dust. Ruby again told Sam to give her the dagger, saying she might be able to fight the hound, but Dean realized that the entity in Ruby’s body wasn’t Ruby any more, and she flung Sam up against a wall and laid Dean out on a table. Lilith in Ruby’s body opened the door to the hellhound and sicced it on Dean. The invisible hound ripped and mauled Dean to bloody death in front of Sam’s horrified eyes, and then Lilith raised her hand and flung her power against Sam – but when the white light faded, Sam was still alive and unhurt. Sam stood up, picked up the dagger, and would have killed her if she hadn’t abandoned Ruby’s body in a cloud of black smoke. Weeping, Sam knelt beside Dean’s still body and mourned, cradling his head.

 

And somewhere behind Dean’s dead and staring eyes, his soul hung suspended on chains in a murky crystalline emptiness criss-crossed by flaring energy lines, attached by hooks embedded in his bleeding body, crying out for help and screaming Sam’s name.

 

Commentary and Meta Analysis

 

Two days before this episode aired, I told a friend that even though “Carry On Wayward Son” by Kansas had become a tradition with Supernatural finales, I wasn’t expecting to hear it this time precisely because it promises hope – there’ll be peace when you are done – and given that I expected Dean to die and go to Hell, there’d be precious little peace to promise to either of the Winchester brothers. Curiously enough, when I heard the opening chords of Kansas kicking off the recap after all, I felt obscurely comforted not because I believed that Dean wouldn’t die and Sam wouldn’t be left bereft, but simply because the song still promised that despite it all, there will be peace when we are done. That may not be for at least two more years (I hope!), but I still feel that it’s a promise not only to us, but to the Winchesters.

 

I have a lot to say about this episode, enough that I’ll wind up saving some of my brother discussion for the hiatus. But I definitely want to spend some time now with Dean facing his fate, and with observations and speculation on Ruby, Lilith, and Sam.

 

Dean Winchester: Playing For Keeps

 

Nightmares were always Sam’s forte during the series, not Dean’s, but Dean’s opening nightmare of fleeing in panic from nothing only to confront and be brought down by a hellhound gave evidence of Dean’s increasing terror. Dismissing it and teasing Sam about taking a fun run to Tijuana, even if it was only a half-hearted attempt at humor, spoke just as eloquently to his determination not to yield to his fear. His hallucination of Sam’s face morphing into something demonic and then returning to normal – the same effect we saw in Crossroad Blues when the doomed doctor looked at the motel manager and when Evan was saying goodbye to his wife – disturbed him profoundly, but he kept his game face firmly in place for Sam successfully enough that Sam was surprised when Bobby asked Dean about experiencing hallucinations.

 

Despite his steadily growing fear of Hell as he approached death, Dean stayed firmly in big brother mode, determined to watch out for and save Sammy no matter what, even – perhaps especially – from himself. Dean knew all too well from his own example what guilt and grief and love could do, and tried desperately to keep Sam, just this once, from following in his big brother’s footsteps.

 

For all that Dean has never been given to introspection, it was very clear that he’s given a lot of thought to his situation over the past year, and when he pushed Sam to see things his way, he pulled out all the stops. When he refused to consider letting Sam summon Ruby for help, his explanation was an eerie echo of what the Trickster had told Sam in Mystery Spot, warning that Hell is using the brothers’ love and need for each other against them for its own purposes. Dean followed the progression to its logical conclusion and refused to allow it, determined that the sacrifices would stop with him. He saw what he had done in bringing Sam back as him having fallen into the same trap that had snared their father when his own life had been on the line. He’d had no choice but to accept what John had done for him, and he was willing to accept the consequences of his own action, but he wasn’t willing to let Sam follow his example and give Hell a Winchester trifecta. His own sacrifice would have meaning only if Sam survived and remained Sam, and he concluded that Sam following a demon’s advice or seduction could lead to as much a forfeiture of soul as its outright sale.

 

I would posit that he was particularly concerned precisely because Hell has always shown a particular interest in Sam, and would likely play the game most subtly with the prize it most wanted to achieve. Dean’s and John’s deals had been overt and outright, predictable for someone who knew how to push their buttons. Dean feared that Sam’s would have been less obvious, a temptation to do seemingly right things for right reasons, putting him on the slippery slope of power corruption without him even realizing it. He said as much: Ruby’s just jerking your chain down the road. You know what it’s paved with, and you know where it’s going. That would be the road to Hell, paved with good intentions.

 

Dean obviously thoroughly learned the lesson he acknowledged in last week’s Time Is On My Side, that he can’t force Sam to do or not do anything, and he acted on it this time. Knowing that Sam would be stubborn and insist on summoning Ruby on his own, contrary to his brother’s orders, Dean clearly took stock of their surroundings, figured out where Sam would likely try it, and took his own steps, painting a devil’s trap on the lower barn ceiling without Sam’s knowledge and well in advance of Sam’s summoning spell, probably while Sam and Bobby were otherwise engaged. Suckering Ruby into the devil’s trap by engaging her in a fight in which he was totally outclassed was a quintessential Dean maneuver, and he played it to his advantage. His weary, wounded triumph as he walked up the stairs and left her trapped held a satisfaction that her curses couldn’t dispel. Similarly, his later glee when the sprinkler trap worked momentarily overrode even his fear of his approaching fate.

 

Enroute to the battle, Dean wouldn’t let Sam dwell on what was coming. Instead, he turned aside the “misty goodbye speech” with his impromptu Bon Jovi sing-along. Belting out rock, he could pretend to be carefree, and teased Sam into pretending right along with him until both of them were howling with full hearts. Sam started singing only to humor him, but then it became real for both of them, just brothers together in the moment, sharing laughter and silliness and joy in each other right up until it came home to Dean that this really was the last such open laugh he and Sam would ever share. He still savored the moment, but it turned bittersweet.

 

Knowing that he couldn’t force Sam not to pursue the knowledge that Ruby had offered, Dean nonetheless did all that he could to make Sam realize how adamantly opposed to it he was even as the time ran out, and tried at the same time to absolve Sam of any guilt he might feel over failing to have done absolutely everything that might have been possible to save him. I’m sorry. I mean, this is all my fault. I know that. But what you’re doing – it’s not going to save me. It’s only going to kill you.

 

Dean smiled reassurance for Sam even as the clock struck midnight, even as they both knew it was over. His mauling death was horrific, and that Sam was forced helplessly to watch as he screamed and died made it all the worse; Dean would never have wanted him to see that and be scarred by it. And this was the second time Sam had been forced to stand by and watch Dean be tortured, the second time Dean couldn’t spare him.

 

In the aftermath of his death, we saw Dean suspended in continuing agony, crying for help, screaming for Sam. I found it telling that the necklace Sam gave to Dean all those Christmases ago is so much a part of Dean’s self-image that his consciousness is wearing it even in Hell, or whatever place of torment he’s currently suspended. No matter what, he’s still got his brother’s love, and everything else that necklace represents. And maybe next season we’ll finally learn what mojo it carries.

 

Sam, Ruby, and Lilith

 

Somehow, I don’t think Sam will ever be the Antichrist Superstar. He may go to some very dark places to bring his brother back, but he’s a Winchester, and his father and his brother taught him well. I have to believe that his humanity will triumph in the end.

 

I have always shared Dean’s distrust of Ruby. I don’t doubt that Ruby wanted Lilith dead, but for her own purposes. I wasn’t surprised when Ruby proclaimed that Sam had the power to defeat Lilith, if he would only let Ruby teach him; nothing else explained Ruby’s persistent interest in him. Still, whether his psychic abilities are humanly innate or were generated by the demon blood Azazel fed him when he was only six months old, giving another demon the keys to them seems a spectacularly bad idea.

 

All season, Ruby pushed Sam to become more ruthless, to kill without hesitation. Some of that lesson has taken; witness how viciously Sam took out the demon guards with Ruby’s knife. But at his core, Sam still remains Sam; witness his struggle to bring himself to kill the little girl, even after having been the one to advocate doing it in the first place. Sam lived what he could become in Mystery Spot; he hasn’t forgotten the horror of that.

 

Ruby also tried to make Sam trust her the best way she knew how; she told him the truth whenever she could, but selectively held out information she didn’t want him to have. She wanted and needed him to be desperate not only to overcome his distaste and fear of being different, but to get him to listen to her, and not to Dean. All season, she did her best to separate them, playing on her knowledge of both of them to sow secrets between them, understanding precisely how divisive secrets can be. She used Dean to manipulate Sam more than once, while also relying on him to keep Sam safe until she could use him.

 

Ruby had more in common with Azazel than with Lilith. I was grimly amused that Sam used the same incantation to summon Ruby that John had used to call Azazel in In My Time of Dying, just using a different sigil inscribed on the floor and none of his own blood. Both Ruby and Azazel wanted to use Sam and his gifts; Lilith simply wanted to destroy him. I would posit that Ruby saved the brothers when she could only because she wanted to use Sam when the time was right. And I would submit that Ruby showed her true feelings for Dean in the curses she heaped on him for trapping and leaving her, saying that she wanted to see him suffer.

 

Ruby’s escape from the devil’s trap shouldn’t have been surprising. We’ve seen other demons able to affect the world beyond the confines of a trap – remember Meg in Born Under a Bad Sign, saying that she’d learned some new tricks and cracking the plaster of Bobby’s ceiling to break the integrity of the design, and Casey in Sin City trying a similar trick, but only bringing down the basement stairs, not succeeding in cracking apart the floor where Dean had laid his trap. My guess is that Ruby managed to crack one or more of the barn boards on which the ceiling trap had been painted. I don’t think that she needed any assistance to get out; she clearly had resources beyond the usual run of ordinary demons.

 

And so did Lilith. Lilith managed to sneak out of the little girl, evict Ruby from the body she was possessing, and masquerade as Ruby until Dean’s doomed soul-sight unmasked her as an imposter, all without any visible sign. Most of the times we’ve seen demons possess or depart from hosts, they’ve done so in a noisy and obvious cloud of black smoke – but not all possessions have happened that way. Remember the bystander and the fireman in Devil’s Trap, who were possessed without any obvious outward sign. I would suggest that demons operating in a hurry or under stress can’t waste time and effort on being subtle, but that an old power like Lilith can be more circumspect when she has the opportunity.

 

I further suspect that, while Lilith was ostensibly having fun torturing the suburban family, she was actually laying a trap all along, one that Ruby either fell into or chose to lead the boys into as still being her best bet. Considering the number of neighbors possessed by demons acting as her guards, Lilith didn’t strike me as being on shore leave. I think she was waiting for an attack, inviting it, even, and was thus very ready to undertake a bodyswap at the first sign of an infiltration. I’ll confess to a bit of surprise at Lilith being able to ambush and replace Ruby in utter silence, but we haven’t seen every demon power on display yet. And I think it’s clear that Lilith outweighed Ruby in a one-on-one:  Ruby never demonstrated anything to match Lilith’s white-out killer power.

 

Sam surviving that power blast was the most certain demonstration we’ve seen of the power he contains. He had no opportunity to learn how to summon what he has, and whatever happened this time used the same simple repetitive unconscious triggers of ultimate shock and horror and no and stop and Dean as his telekinetic breakthrough in Nightmare. Unlike the situation in Devil’s Trap, where Sam was trying deliberately to summon the Colt to him and failed, this time, as in Nightmare, there was nothing specific in his mind; just pain and need and negation. He was as surprised to be alive and unhurt as Lilith was to see him that way, and his further immunity to her usual demon power to throw him up against a wall meant nothing more to him than the chance to kill her for what she’d done to Dean. Her hasty departure – in a noisy, roiling cloud of black smoke scrambling for survival, how inelegant – left him with nothing but his overwhelming grief and loss, no awareness of new power.

 

We’re left to wonder what will happen when Sam emerges from his first crushing experience of Dean’s death to realize that he’s changed in more ways than he knows, and to chance what that may mean in terms of getting Dean back. I’m certain that speculation will rage furiously all summer until we learn what Kripke has in store.

 

I’m also betting that we haven’t seen the last of either Ruby or Lilith. Lilith may have flipped Ruby out of the body she wanted to take, but somehow I don’t think she had the time to send her all the way back to Hell, or if she did, Ruby may be ready to take advantage of Dean’s presence again. I believe that Lilith, on the other hand, won’t be looking for a head-on confrontation again any time soon, not after what Sam did in negating everything she threw at him. I think that Lilith will pull back and regroup.

 

Production Notes

 

I’ve had “Wanted Dead Or Alive” on my Supernatural mood playlist for a long time. I’m a little Dean-like in that there’s nothing I enjoy more than tooling down the road in my beloved convertible with the top down and the rock music cranked, uninhibitedly singing along. But yesterday, for the first time ever when my iPod tossed up “Wanted Dead Or Alive,” I choked up and started crying two-thirds of the way through, when we hit the verse the brothers had sung. I have a feeling that’s going to happen to me a lot over the next few months. And what that tells me is that this episode achieved its goal perfectly.

 

Eric Kripke’s script hit all the right notes for the brothers, and succeeded in defying expectations at the same time. I know that a lot of people were expecting Sam to go darkside in order to save his brother, and weren’t expecting Dean actually to die. I’m glad that he didn’t go the predictable route. And I’m not even going to try predicting how he’s going to manage to bring Dean back in Jensen Ackles’ lovely body, after killing him so thoroughly!

 

Kim Manners brought the emotion with his direction, as always, and his collaboration with director of photography Serge Ladouceur is magnificent. I loved the “hellhound vision” pursuit shots and camera work in Dean’s dream. All of the emotional exchanges between the brothers were spot-on in tone, timing, and look; I will never forget the singing scene in the car, with the light and the darkness on the boys’ faces. And for some reason, I really enjoyed the moment in the house when Dean spun and grabbed the father. It was a stunt shot that just really worked.

 

A tormented Dean chained and suspended with steel hooks embedded in his shoulder and left side in the midst of a nothingness laced with chains and shot with thunder and lightning remains one of the most disturbing images I’ve ever seen. Whether that represents his lonely Hell or a prison constructed of his own mind, I’m not even going to guess. I thought his gruesome, savage, agonizing death by hellhound was bad enough to see, but the aftermath, with him crying out to Sam for help, was hideously inspired.

 

Jay Gruska’s underscore brought back some of my favorite musical themes, including the haunting musical depiction of Dean’s love for family that we heard back in the cabin during Devil’s Trap, this time playing under his “Eye of the Tiger” speech. I want recordings of his scores released, along with the ones by Chris Lennertz!

 

I don’t know who was responsible for making the cop car number 54 – Jerry Wanek, I suspect! – but it made me laugh on a rewatch when I noticed it as Sam, Dean, and Bobby were hiding it under branches and suddenly heard, Car 54, Where Are You? in my head! (Yes, I’m old enough to remember that …). And although I suspect that budget was the primary reason we didn’t get to see what Dean saw when he looked at demons with Hell-sensitized eyes, I think that leaving his Hell-vision to our imaginations, with just Dean’s expressions and reactions to go on, was inspired.

 

The most important notes for me were on the performances, which were all stellar. Jensen Ackles absolutely sold Dean’s desperation, resolution, courage, love, agony, and terror. Jared Padalecki matched him with Sam’s fear and determination, and his horror, denial, and wrenching grief at Dean’s death. The brothers singing Bon Jovi, with both Jensen and Jared deliberately hamming it up off-key, created an unforgettable moment of mingled transcendent joy and inexpressible sorrow. Jim Beaver’s Bobby, getting in Dean’s face about family not ending with blood, echoed Dean’s passionate determination to save Bobby in Dream a Little Dream of Me, and cemented Bobby’s role as a surrogate parent for the boys.

 

Katie Cassidy also demonstrated what she could do. Her flip into Lilith, when Lilith’s masquerade in Ruby’s body was revealed, demonstrated more range than she’d displayed while just portraying Ruby. Seeing Lilith’s spoiled little girl mannerisms translated into Ruby’s adult form was creepy in the extreme, and Katie’s delivery was a total departure from her tone and manner as Ruby. She managed to look and sound totally different, and establish Lilith as a new persona. And the look on her face at the end, the stunned surprise at seeing Sam still alive and unhurt, followed by the fear of realizing that her powers no longer worked against him and that he was going to kill her, were genuine.

 

I loved this episode, every heartbreaking moment of it. Going into it, I had no vested idea of what would happen. I didn’t anticipate or favor any one theory over another: Sam turning dark in order to save Dean, Sam taking Dean’s place, Dean going off on his own to keep Sam out of what would happen. Not being invested in any one concept, I was simply captivated by the way the story unfolded, and what it said about Sam and Dean. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here, and what more we’re going to learn about the Winchester brothers as it does.

 

And no matter how hard it is to believe right now, with those last searing images of Sam’s grief and Dean’s agony, this I have to believe:

 

There’ll be peace when we are done.

 

This ends the third season commentaries, but Supernatural University will be in session during the hiatus – beginning as soon as I recover enough to be able to write again!

 
 
Current Mood: crushedcrushed
Current Music: "When I'm Gone" by Three Doors Down
 
 
 
bardicvoice: Dualdark by <lj user=" title="bardicvoice: Dualdark by " />bardicvoice on May 22nd, 2008 01:35 am (UTC)
Thank you! This show does something very profound to me, and all I can do is try to pass that on.

I don't believe that the brothers we know and love are gone. I do believe that we'll go through dark times and hard changes right along with them, but I can't help but believe that in the end, the qualities we've loved in them from the start will triumph.

Hence my tagline, from Blue October's "For My Brother" - Whenever you're dark inside, don't let go.

Edited at 2008-05-22 01:37 am (UTC)