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4.1 Lazarus Rising We Have Work For You

4.1 Lazarus Rising: We Have Work For You

Sam hunts with his mind.
Divine force frees Dean from Hell:
“We have work for you.”

Episode Summary

From hellish flashes of his terrified, tortured eyes amid a cacophony of screams, Dean gasped and choked awake in the pitch darkness of a cheap pine coffin. Smashing through the box and digging himself out of his grave, he found himself in a miniature Tunguska, with his makeshift grave at the center of a perfect circle of stripped and fallen trees like the blast radius from an atmospheric nuke. He broke into a small deserted gas station, taking water, junk food, and a porn magazine. He realized from a newspaper that four months had passed since he died, and that he was near Pontiac, IL. Looking in the restroom mirror, he saw no evidence of the hellhound attack that had killed him, but discovered the badly blistered print of a hand burned onto his left shoulder. As he raided the cash register, the TV and radio turned on, and as he desperately tried to salt the doors and windows, unbearable sound assailed him and shattered all the glass, and then stopped.

He tried to call Sam and Bobby from a pay phone, but Sam’s number was disconnected and Bobby reacted violently to his claim to be Dean. He hot-wired a car even older than the Impala and drove to Bobby’s, managing to persuade Bobby of his identity when he cut himself with a silver knife. Bobby brought him up to speed on how badly things had gone since his death, with Sam off hunting on his own and refusing to be found. Knowing his brother, Dean guessed the alias on his cell phone account and had the service provider activate the GPS in the phone, and discovered that Sam was in Pontiac. He and Bobby immediately guessed that Sam had made a deal to bring Dean back, and went to confront him. They discovered Sam entertaining a girl in his room, but once Sam was persuaded that Dean was real, the girl was forgotten and left.

Sam vehemently denied having brought Dean back and even apologized that he’d been unable to do it, admitting that he’d even tried to open the devil’s gate and make a deal of his own, only to learn that no demons would deal. Sam said that he’d started hunting Lilith to get revenge, and had followed a group of demons from Tennessee when they suddenly moved to Illinois, to the same place and time that Dean returned. At a loss to figure out what had brought Dean back, Bobby suggested they contact a psychic he knew, and went to make arrangements. Left alone, Sam returned to Dean the amulet he’d been wearing since Dean died, and asked Dean what Hell was like; Dean professed not to remember anything. Later, however, looking into the bathroom mirror, he saw hell-lit flashes of his own eyes in the midst of blood and terror.

On the drive to the psychic’s house, Sam described how Lilith’s attack on him had failed and how she’d fled when he surprisingly proved immune to her burning light, and reported that Ruby was apparently dead. When Dean asked if he’d been using his psychic abilities, Sam denied it, saying that he hadn’t tried to do anything with them because it had nearly been Dean’s dying wish that he not go down that path.

Saucy and beautiful psychic Pamela Barnes set up a séance to try to get a glimpse of what pulled Dean from the pit. When she commanded the being to reveal itself to her, the entity – calling itself Castiel – tried to warn her away. When she continued to push, her eyes were literally burned from her head. Bobby accompanied her to the hospital while the boys returned to Pontiac, trying to figure out their next move over pie in the local diner. Dean advocated trying to summon and directly confront Castiel, while Sam urged going after the demons that he’d originally followed to the town. Their waitress revealed herself to be one of the demons, along with the cook and the only other patron. When she threatened to take Dean back to Hell, he called her bluff, and realized that the demons were as surprised and ignorant as he was, and that they were afraid of whatever had the power to have freed him from Hell. Betting that their fear meant that they wouldn’t attack, Dean took the chance and walked out with Sam, and the demons let them go.

The argument about what to do next continued. When Dean fell asleep trying to research Castiel, Sam snuck back to the diner to take out the demons, only to discover that Castiel had been there before him: their eyes had been burned out. The one survivor said that she had seen the end, that they were all dead, but wouldn’t tell him anything more. Without using any ritual, Sam exerted just the power of his mind to pull the demon smoke out of its host body and consign it to fire and Hell. As he checked the body of the host waitress, cursing that she hadn’t survived, the girl who’d been in his motel room emerged from the kitchen to compliment him on his skill: Ruby, in a new host. She said that nothing she’d ever seen before had the power to have freed Dean, and that no demon could have done it. She asked if he was going to tell Dean about what the two of them had been doing, and observed that if Dean learned about it from someone other than Sam, he’d be angry. Sam said that he’d tell Dean when he found the right way to say it, and that he wanted to keep going with what they were doing, because he was saving people and killing demons.

Meanwhile, back at the hotel, Dean awoke when the television and radio turned on, and was overwhelmed by the same unbearable sound he’d heard at the gas station. It shattered all the glass in the room, including the mirrored ceiling. Bobby burst in to find him screaming on the floor and bleeding from the ears, and the sound abruptly stopped. Dean persuaded Bobby against his better judgment to help him summon Castiel. He called Sam to find out where he was, but didn’t tell him what he and Bobby were doing, figuring that Sam would only have tried to talk them out of it. They prepared an empty storage barn with every protective symbol they knew, laid out every possible weapon, and summoned Castiel. For a while, nothing happened; then a mighty wind threatened to take the roof off, the barred door opened, and a man walked in across the salt and over every symbol. Bullets and shot had no effect, and even Ruby’s demon-killing knife, planted to its hilt in the man’s chest, did nothing. The man simply touched Bobby and put him to sleep so he could talk privately with Dean. He told Dean that he was an angel of the Lord and had raised Dean from Hell because God commanded it: “Because we have work for you.”

Commentary and Meta Analysis

Well, with the appearance of Castiel my powers of prediction come woefully into question, since a few of my earlier Supernatural University classes posited that we would be unlikely to see angels acting directly in the show. Oops. You might want to bear that evidence of my fallibility in mind during the following discussion.

Lazarus Rising was a magnificent opening to the fourth season, opening up a whole new aspect of the show’s underlying mythology while simultaneously restructuring the relationship between the Winchester brothers. I do believe that this may be the best season yet; it’s certainly going to add to the complexity of the characters and the show. In this meta discussion, I’ll explore both of these things, looking at Dean, Sam and Ruby, and Castiel.

This Is Your Problem, Dean: You Have No Faith

Dean returned from Hell confused and mostly amnesiac about everything he had experienced following his death, barring brief flashes of blood, screaming, and terror. Without a clue about how he had escaped from Hell other than the blistered handprint on his shoulder, he automatically assumed that what drew him out was evil, and was most likely the result of Sam having made the same kind of choice he had when he sold his soul to save his brother. Confronted by Castiel with a radically different explanation – that he’d been saved from Hell by an angel acting on orders from God – Dean’s worldview is being flipped on its axis. I’m betting that he won’t readily or easily accept that explanation and what it means about his life.

This is a brilliant stroke, however. Dean has famously demonstrated that he has no faith in anything other than what his life has taught him. He stated it flat-out in Houses of the Holy, back in season two: There’s no higher power. There’s no god. I mean, there’s just chaos and violence and random, unpredictable evil that comes out of nowhere and rips you to shreds. So you want me to believe in this stuff? I’m going to need some hard proof. You got any? Now Castiel has challenged him to believe that there is a God, and that He not only cares about one Dean Winchester, but gave the command to free him from Hell and task him directly with doing the Lord’s work. If Castiel is to be believed, God has chosen the man without faith to become the instrument of faith, in despite of himself, and set him on the road by restoring him from death and freeing him from torment in Hell.

That directly challenges not only what Dean has believed about good and evil since his universe was destroyed when he was four, but also his own self image of being someone not worthy of being saved. We’ve known at least since Faith back in season one that Dean didn’t consider his life as being as valuable as anyone else’s: he displayed it in the revival tent, when he tried to demur and have Roy LeGrange choose someone else to heal; when he asked LeGrange why the preacher had chosen to save him, rather than someone else; in conversation with Sam, when he protested having been saved at someone else’s expense; and in his final confrontation with the Reaper, when he didn’t even try to escape, knowing that his death would mean life for Layla. This extreme self-deprecation has been a consistent trait throughout the series, and we’ve seen other characters recognize it at several points in the story thus far. Bobby realized and articulated it back in All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 2, when Dean’s broken assertion that selling his soul to bring Sam back might make his life mean something: What , and it didn’t before? Have you got that low an opinion of yourself? Are you that screwed in the head?! Sam despairingly confronted him with it at the very beginning of Dream a Little Dream of Me last season: No, I mean no one can save you because you don’t want to be saved. I mean, how can you care so little about yourself? What’s wrong with you?

And now Castiel has done the same: You don’t think you deserve to be saved.

I don’t believe that Dean will take Castiel’s pronouncement on faith, so to speak. Sure, he’s out of Hell and walking the earth, and he’s seen demons afraid of whatever made that happen – but I’m betting that Dean will challenge Castiel to prove whose side he’s on before he’ll be inclined either to trust or to believe. Unsurprisingly, given his past, Dean is a Thomas, an empiricist who demands proof, and that will take more than a vision of spectral wings. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dean asking for a miracle to demonstrate Castiel’s bona fides: perhaps the restoration of Pamela’s eyes? After all, his first challenge to Castiel’s claim was Some angel you are; you burned out that poor woman’s eyes! His implication was that evil is as evil does, and blinding someone wasn’t a good act. Castiel not having killed Bobby when he easily could have was the one act he could be certain of that spoke to Castiel being good, but I don’t think that will be enough for Dean to accept the rest, especially not if Castiel insists on his identity and mission being a secret. Why did Castiel insist on speaking to Dean alone, rather than allowing Bobby – a good man – to remain conscious as a witness? Dean will wonder about that, I think.

Dean is already keeping one secret from Sam. He wasn’t entirely lying when he said that he must have blacked out his memories of Hell, but his assertion that he didn’t remember a thing doesn’t comport with his brief flashes of images of terror, blood, and screaming. It’s likely that not wanting to burden Sam with more guilt for his suffering will keep him from admitting anything that he remembers, unless and until the memories become too extreme to hide, but if he starts remembering more and tries to keep it in, it will eat him alive, and sooner or later, the walls will break.

Unless and until he begins recovering more coherent memories of his time in Hell, Dean will have fewer internal adjustments to make than either Sam or Bobby, but the ones he needs to make are very real. For Dean right now, there’s just a blank between the world going dark when he died and the darkness he awoke to in his grave. At the same time, however, Sam and Bobby have the bitter memories of the four months of grief, pain, and loss they survived to deal with, as they readjust to Dean being alive. Not having lived those months himself, Dean has to recognize and adjust to the accommodations that Sam and Bobby made in their lives in order to be able to go on. We saw a bit of that in the liquor bottles on Bobby’s desk and in Dean’s silent acknowledgment, when Bobby said that those months hadn’t been easy, that it was his decision to make the deal in the first place that had put them through that pain; in Bobby’s house, we saw Dean taking responsibility for it. The evidence of it in Sam’s changed relationship with the Impala was played for laughs, but was deadly serious as well: Sam had made the car his own right along with all decisions about the hunt, and readjusting to Dean in the driver’s seat and at his side will take conscious effort, even though to Dean, it feels for the moment as if nothing had changed and no time had passed. Watching this develop and play out promises to bring new aspects to the brothers’ relationship.

Gettin’ Pretty Slick There, Sam; Better All The Time

Alone after Dean’s death, Sam reverted to John’s mold: insisting on hunting alone, cutting off ties to Bobby and presumably anyone else he still knew, and pursuing vengeance with a vengeance once he believed that he had no chance to save Dean. He made his own decisions, answered to no one, and changed more than Dean yet knows.
Although we know more than Dean does, there’s a lot we don’t know. Sam admitted to some of the things he’d done in his attempt to rescue Dean from Hell, including trying to open the devil’s gate and make deals with demons, but he outright lied about not having pursued his psychic gifts and about his continuing relationship with Ruby. We have to wonder how much else he’d hiding, that will gradually come out as he and Dean begin to live and work together again. Given the closeness of their lives, it’s inevitable that all secrets eventually will out; the question is how much devastation they’ll leave behind when they do, given the hurricanes of emotion they’re likely to unleash.

It’s clear that Sam blames himself for Dean’s death and whatever he suffered in Hell, because he hadn’t been able to keep his promise that he’d find a way to save Dean. I think that will get worse when and if Dean begins to remember what he experienced in Hell, because although I’m certain Dean will try to hide it, I think that sooner or later, he’ll be overwhelmed, the same way he was by figuring out that John had sold his soul for him and by having hidden from Sam John’s last words to him. Dean’s pattern is that he tries to hide pain until it shatters him; I think that this shattering will be epic when it comes, and will hit Sam harder than his other breakdowns precisely because Sam feels somewhat responsible for what happened to him.

At the same time, however, Sam has become more his own man than ever before. He’s chosen the course of his life and gone his own way pursuing it. Having to share those decisions, not to mention hiding the things he’s done that he knows Dean will hate and fear, will inevitably breed resentment. Family psychology is always complex – each brother has always resented the other even while loving him wholeheartedly, with Dean perceiving that he always had to be responsible for Sam and give things up for him, and Sam perceiving that he always came second to Dean in John’s estimation and hating always having to follow Dean’s orders – but I think we’ll see that much more clearly this season than before. I don’t doubt that the love is always there and will always be the strongest bond, but Sam having had a taste of true independence will make jockeying for a new rapprochement with Dean a messy proposition.

And then there are Sam’s powers and his relationship with Ruby. We don’t yet know but I hope we’ll learn when and how and why Sam made the choice to explore and use his psychic gifts. How soon after Dean died did he first try to do things with his mind, and what did he try first? Did he try them on his own and then decide he needed a coach, or did Ruby reappear first and persuade him into experimentation? Did he summon Ruby back, or did she seek him out after recovering from Lilith having evicted her from the Katie Cassidy body? It’s clear that he and Ruby have been working together for a while, and given the way he pulled that demon out of the waitress’s body and sent it to Hell with just his mind, he’s been getting a lot of practice. As they left the diner after their first confrontation with the possessed waitress, when Dean advocated caution because they were outnumbered by the demons and had only one effective weapon between them, Sam told Dean, I’ve been killing a lot more demons than that lately. Now we know how.

Sam’s decision to hide his use of his powers until he can figure out the right words to use to explain it is clearly going to backfire on him at the worst possible moment, probably during a fight where he’ll have to use his powers in front of Dean without warning, or where they’ll simply manifest as they did when he proved immune both to Lilith’s white fire and her subsequent attempt to shove him back into the wall. Amusingly enough, Sam is doing the same thing that John always did and that Sam always resented: he’s not sharing information unless he has to. Sam is definitely his father’s son, despite the psychic abilities.

His teaming with Ruby is also full of questions and issues. I haven’t decided in my own mind whether Ruby was already in Kristy when we first saw her open the door of Sam’s motel room, but I’m inclined to think not; I don’t think that Ruby would have been able so perfectly to hide her reaction to seeing Dean alive, especially not given the knowledge she later admitted that nothing demonic could have brought him back and that it took something more powerful than she had ever seen. No matter what human host she’s wearing, Ruby herself just wouldn’t be that good an actress, to perfectly conceal that much surprise and fear.

I’d also hope that Sam hasn’t fallen so far off the path that he was making out with a possessed host. After all, he’d been possessed and had to deal with what Meg did with his body; I hope he’s still a little sensitive to consequences to possessed hosts. He was upset that the possessed waitress hadn’t survived, so he is still displaying concern for people. That makes me more partial to the idea that Ruby has been jumping hosts with relative frequency so as not to use them up and chose this casual one-night-stand after she left Sam’s room, and that Sam is so familiar with her mannerisms that he can recognize her in any meat suit she wears.

I’m also very curious about Ruby’s changed attitude toward both Sam and Dean, and how that developed. In the diner after Sam dispatched the last demon, Ruby was very diffident, evidencing more respect for Dean and for Sam’s love for him than she’d ever displayed before, and even expressing concern about not coming between them and about how badly Dean would react if he learned about Sam’s powers and their partnership from anyone other than Sam. Those were very un-Ruby-like comments, since she’d never given Dean the time of day when he was alive unless she needed him to help her with Sam. I think it highly likely that Ruby had to change her tune after Dean died because Sam would have been savage in his grief and more likely than not to simply destroy anything that mocked or denigrated Dean, but I’d be curious to see how that transpired. Did she say something disparaging and nearly get herself destroyed, or was she wise enough to come back with a honeyed tongue and not bait the bear? And how much of her newfound respect for Dean is actually fear of whatever thing had the cosmic power to bring him back, for a purpose she doesn’t yet understand?

Ruby always had a finely honed sense of self-preservation, and I suspect that her changed manner with Sam is simply another reflection of it, an accommodation she made to be able to stay close to Sam and continue pursuing whatever agenda she actually has in mind without getting separated from him or destroyed by him using the very powers she’s helped him to unlock. I was pleased to hear him say that he still doesn’t know if he trusts her; I wouldn’t.

I Am An Angel Of The Lord

Accepting for the moment that Castiel is exactly what he says he is, he is definitely an Old Testament or Book of Revelations-style angel, more avenging warrior than New Testament messenger or guardian. My angel lore is rusty, but I do seem to recall that in the hierarchy of angels, the most powerful were indeed not meant for mortal eyes to see.

Castiel’s curious mixture of innocence, confidence, fallibility, and earnest exhortation rang true to me for what he claimed to be. Even angels, after all, are not perfect or all-knowing. I found it fascinating that, after having been tasked with retrieving Dean from Hell, he assumed automatically that Dean would be one of those certain special people able to perceive his true form and voice, and tried twice to speak to him before figuring out that what he assumed wasn’t correct. After his speech about being the one who had gripped Dean tight and raised him from perdition, he apparently initially took Dean’s thank-you at face value, with a slight smile and nod; then he seemed curious rather than surprised when Dean followed up by stabbing him to the heart. He seemed almost dispassionate about putting Bobby to sleep. Unlike the case with all the demons we’ve met, none of his reactions were human.

Watching Castiel coming to revelations and understanding about Dean was intriguing. Castiel was clearly surprised that Dean didn’t believe him when he said he was an angel. Dean’s adamant refusal to believe seemed to arouse his curiosity, and when he looked closely, he seemed to see into Dean’s soul and understand his most basic problem:

Look, pal, I’m not buying what you’re selling, so who are you, really?
I told you.
Right. And why would an angel rescue me from Hell?
Good things do happen, Dean.
Not in my experience.
What’s the matter? *dawning realization* You don’t think you deserve to be saved.
Why’d you do it?

Understanding the depth of Dean’s unbelief, Castiel’s declarations that he had saved Dean because God had commanded it, because they had work for him to do, were uttered with absolute sincerity and earnest directness, as if he had to make their truth apparent from the words themselves. For the first time in their conversation, he wasn’t taking for granted that Dean would simply accept what he said, but was speaking to convince and persuade. We’ll have to wait and see whether that was enough for Dean, but I’d put my money on Dean still needing more. How Castiel deals with Dean and his lack of faith and whether he reveals himself in subsequent encounters to restore that faith will be fascinating to watch. This conversation clearly isn’t over.

The thing that troubles me most about Castiel is his assumption of the human body of a man who reportedly prayed for this opportunity to serve, but is nevertheless inhabited by a spirit and no longer in control of his own body, nor able to continue with his own life. Unless Castiel’s tenancy is very different than possession by a demon and can actually prevent or heal physical damage to the host body, Castiel’s vessel will be dead when he leaves it, given the gunshot and knife wounds that Dean and Bobby delivered. It troubles me that an agent of good would need a human body to work through, and would thus usurp a life. It doesn’t entirely help that the life was freely given, because no one making such a deal would actually be cognizant of all its ramifications; they’re too far outside the bounds of what we normal people could even think in order for us to be able to understand. But perhaps that will be resolved in time, particularly if we meet the host without Castiel in residence.

Production Notes

Okay, now it’s time for me to abandon the scholarly approach and give vent to my delight. I loved this episode for everything the production brought to it, from Eric Kripke’s script and Kim Manners’ direction to the performances, particularly by Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki, Jim Beaver, Misha Collins, and Traci Dinwiddie.

Lazarus Rising has perhaps the longest opening of any Supernatural episode. From the opening recap through to the first commercial break, that segment ran a full unbroken 17 minutes, instantly hooking us with the terror of Dean’s waking and taking us through his reunions with Bobby and Sam. And for all of that time, apart from the AC/DC behind the recap, a few sound effects, one soft chord when Dean and Bobby embraced, and an ambient background radio at the beginning of the scene in Sam’s motel room, there was no music, no sound other than voices, breathing, and nature, right up until Dean confronted Sam with the accusation that he’d made a deal to bring him back. That absence of background musical cues just added to both the sense of reality and to the blankness of memory and current knowledge in Dean’s mind. The music returned fully only after the brothers were reunited and their focus turned to the meat of their newest case: learning what had pulled Dean out of Hell. The background score came back when the show resumed the pattern of the boys’ lives, and not before.

The visual and audio special effects deserve their own mention. The flashes of Dean’s eyes conveying the torment and terror of Hell showed little but implied much. The crane shot that pulled sharply up into an aerial view of the grave in the midst of the fallen trees was brilliant, with the shadows of Dean and the cross a stark contrast. Sam’s mental exorcism of the demon in the waitress echoed both the usual exorcism and the trick that Tammi pulled on Ruby in Malleus Maleficarum, while becoming at the same time its own unique thing: a host vomiting up demon smoke swirling into a trapped circle, and then descending into the crackle of flames and vanishing. The reveal of Castiel’s spectral wings was magnificent without going overboard, while the physical effect of the barn roof shuddering in the divine wind was wonderfully scary. The makeup work on Dean’s tattoo, bloodied hands, and blistered shoulder were fine detail, while the burned-out eyes on everyone encountering Castiel’s true form were truly horrific. And I’d really like to know how many cameras they had running on how many takes for the air gun sequences of Dean being bombarded with glass in the gas station and the hotel! I’d like to see behind-the-scenes footage on those.

I very much enjoyed Traci Dinwiddie’s saucy, sassy take on Pamela Barnes, and I hope we’ll see her again. I’d particularly like to see Pamela get her eyes back, because she certainly used them well! Watching Dean nudge Sam into ogling her along with him and then shutting him out when she invited a threesome was hysterical, and a sweet indication that the brother bond is alive and well.

I was also extremely impressed with Misha Collins’ delivery on Castiel. It’s got to be hard to deliver lines like I’m the one who gripped you tight and raised you from perdition, not to mention I’m an angel of the Lord, with believable conviction. Although expressed through a human body, Castiel’s reactions were not human, and Collins pulled that off. The expressions on his face conveyed when Castiel realized that Dean truly didn’t believe, truly didn’t have faith, and subtly showed the dawning of the light when he understood that Dean didn’t believe he deserved to be saved. I hope we see more of Castiel interacting with Dean, and I’m dying to find out both whether Bobby will remember anything of Castiel’s appearance and whether Castiel will ever reveal himself to Sam.

My jury is still out on Genevieve Cortese as Ruby. Until we know more about how Ruby ingratiated herself again with Sam after Dean’s death, we won’t be able to judge how much of the difference in Ruby’s mannerisms was due to Ruby’s deliberate choice to make herself more acceptable to Sam, and how much may be due to Ruby being played by a different actress without the same take on arrogance and snark that Katie Cassidy used in the character. Given the lines Ruby was speaking, much of the change seemed to be awkwardly in the character herself, meaning that the actress had to take a different tack in playing her. The scene with Ruby and Sam in the diner is the one spot where I though the script was problematic, because Ruby came off simply in what she said as being so different form the character we had known before that it was jarring. I could see reasons why she might have changed in order to preserve her position with Sam, but if that’s the case, I’d like to have seen a bit more of that on display. And I still can’t decide whether Ruby was already in Kristy when she first opened Sam’s door. That ambiguity can be a good thing, but here, well, I really want to know, and I can’t get a read on it from the actress’s performance.

Jensen was superb. I believed Dean’s gasping terror at waking in his grave, and his hoarse voice hurt whether you took it as four months of disuse, or four months screaming in Hell. All the little touches that immediately cued a viewer into knowing that this really was Dean were delightful, from his going first for the candy for sustenance to the smirk at the porn magazine to the put-upon sigh at what he was going to have to drive to Bobby’s. And if we needed any clue that the Dean we got back from the dead is not in the same mental space as the one we saw preparing for death in season three, it came in the slight aggrieved hesitation before he cut himself with the silver knife to prove himself to Bobby. Last season, he was reckless, and so pumped on the hunt that he could cut himself without hesitation and feel nothing until later; now he’s alive, without a death sentence that he knows of, and pain is no longer trivial.

Jared sold the harder new Sam, who nonetheless instantly became the little brother overcome with having Dean back the moment he was convinced of his reality. I think it’s going to be fascinating watching how Jared plays Sam readjusting to Dean’s reappearance, when he’s so clearly become his own man while Dean was gone. The depths and layers to Sam are more numerous than they’ve ever been, and Jared has the chops to convey them.

And yes, I celebrate the first mutual hug we’ve ever gotten, in all of its desperate, heartfelt, gasping and grasping perfection! That was worth every minute we’ve waited for it!

My favorite laugh-out-loud moments were the iPod in the Impala (and how funny was it that the emo music on Sam’s iPod was by Jensen’s friend Jason Manns?) and Dean disinviting Sam to Pamela’s implied ménage a trois. I love the way that this show still brings the funny even in the midst of deeper emotions. Bobby and Dean sitting on the tables after doing the summoning, with Bobby swinging his legs and whistling like a bored little boy, can crack me up as well as any delivery of witty lines.

A couple of last comments. I loved the cinematography and the lighting. The desaturated color in the opening grave escape sequence was a welcome return to the show’s earlier unique look. It’s not quite as stripped as the first two seasons were, but it’s lost the often distracting brightness that ran through season three. The use of light, shadow, color, and mirrors throughout was striking, not just in the shooting, but in the set dressing as well. That bordello red bathroom in the hotel, for example, made a really effective backdrop for Dean’s flashes back to Hell. And I loved the way that this episode ended, with Castiel’s We have work for you echoing the final lines of both the pilot episode and the end of season two, We’ve got work to do. I love the symmetry!

I apologize that this took so long and turned out to be so long, but I’ll confess to being out of practice at this and also point to this episode having had a wealth of things that needed commentary. I can’t wait to see where all of this leads, and whether any of my guesses pan out. In Dean’s words, Bring it!

And now that I've finally finished mine, I'm going to go around and start trying to catch up on reading all I've missed! (And has anyone else been having a mother of a time trying to get dumb-shit LJ cuts to work? I had to wrangle code for 40 minutes to get this to come out right ... assuming it actually will come out right when I post it this time!)
Tags: bobby singer, dean winchester, episode commentaries, eric kripke, kim manners, meta, sam winchester, supernatural, supernatural university

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