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06 October 2008 @ 03:40 pm
4.3 In The Beginning: You Have To Stop It  

4.3 In The Beginning: You Have To Stop It

A trip to the past
Reveals family secrets:
Destinies can’t change.

Episode Summary

Sam left Dean asleep in their latest motel and snuck out to be picked up by Ruby, who asked him if he was ready. When he responded with “Definitely,” they drove off together in the night. Dean, meanwhile, dreamed flashes of his own terrified eyes amidst blood and screaming, and woke to discover Castiel sitting on his bed. Castiel told Dean that he had to stop it, and then touched his forehead – and Dean woke up on a sidewalk bench in bright morning sunlight, being prodded awake by a cop telling him he had to sleep somewhere else. Confused and disoriented, getting no signal on his cellphone, he wandered into the diner across the street, learning from the young man sitting at the counter next to him that he was in Lawrence, Kansas. To his astonishment he also learned that it was April 30, 1973, and the young man was 19-year-old John Winchester, newly returned from Vietnam.

Following John, he rounded a corner and met Castiel, who told him that what he was experiencing was real. Castiel repeated that he had to stop it, but disappeared without telling him what it was he had to stop. At a used car dealer, where John was looking at a VW bus, Dean sold him instead on the dusty Impala. Acquiring a car of his own, he kept following John, and saw him pick up his date, Mary Campbell. Outside the diner and without John’s knowledge, Mary confronted and attacked Dean to learn why he’d been following them – and seeing the charm bracelet on her wrist adorned with a cross, a pentacle, and a Star of David, among other symbols, he realized that she was a hunter.

Dean passed his grandfather Samuel’s test to prove himself a hunter, and despite Samuel’s distrust of other hunters, found himself invited to dinner by his grandmother Deanna. The conversation revealed that John was a naïve civilian unaware of hunting, while Samuel was working the case of a farmer inexplicably mangled by a combine. Samuel refused to let Dean join in his hunt, but when he and Mary went to the farm the next morning to investigate, they found Dean already there. Talking to the dead man’s teenaged son, Mary and Dean learned that a yellow-eyed man had offered to stop his father’s abusive beatings in exchange for getting a favor from the boy ten years later.

Realizing that his father’s journal listed the dates and locations of everyone he believed had contact with the yellow-eyed demon, including the boy on the farm, and that its next stop would be in Haleyville, just three miles away from Lawrence, Dean determined to kill it in order to stop what had happened to his family. Before leaving, he asked Mary what John was like, and she called him a sweet and kind man who still believed in “happily ever after” even after having experienced Vietnam. Mary shared the secret that she hated the family business and wanted to get out, that she loved John precisely because he was everything that a hunter wasn’t, and that she thought that the worst possible thing would be if her children grew up in the hunting life the way she had.

Knowing that Daniel Elkins had the Colt, Dean drove to Colorado, discovering Castiel abruptly in the car with him. When he asked Castiel why he hadn’t sent Sam to the past along with him, Castiel said without explanation that this was something he had to do alone. When Dean asked for assurance that his parents would live and he and Sam would grow up normally if he killed the demon, Castiel asked him if he didn’t care that all the people he, John, and Sam had saved would die if they didn’t become hunters. Dean answered that he cared, but that this was his family, and he couldn’t let his parents die again. Castiel disappeared.

Elkins caught Dean stealing the Colt from his safe, but let him go when he offered no threat to Elkins and said passionately that he needed it to save his family. He said that it would be with the Campbell family of hunters in Lawrence when he was done. When Samuel let slip that Dean had said he’d gone to kill a demon in Haleyville, Mary realized that the person he’d identified as the contact was a friend of hers, and insisted on helping. The Campbells arrived just as the yellow-eyed demon Azazel, in the guise of the family doctor, was presenting his deal to save the girl’s father from terminal cancer. Samuel shot the host, but the demon flung him aside. When Mary attacked him, the demon expressed interest in her. Dean arrived with the Colt, and the demon fled the host before he could fire.

Back at the Campbells’ home, Dean told Samuel the truth about who he was, only to discover that Samuel was possessed by Azazel. Gloating, the demon told Dean that he was choosing the perfect parents for his crop of psychic kids, describing how he would feed the babies demon blood to make them strong, and said that he was making deals because he needed permission to get into their homes. When Dean challenged him to learn why, mentioning leading the demon army, Azazel claimed that his endgame went way beyond that, but refused to tell Dean – or the angels he said were on Dean’s shoulder – what his plans actually were, announcing his intention to cover his tracks. The demon killed Samuel’s body by stabbing himself with Samuel’s knife. Deanna made a try for the Colt, but the demon broke her neck. Dean broke free and got the Colt, but the demon, still in Samuel’s body, was already gone.

Unaware of what was happening, Mary had asked John to take her away. John stopped the car in a romantic, secluded place to ask her to marry him, but Samuel showed up, yanked Mary out of the car, and when John tried to stop him, snapped John’s neck, killing him. The demon revealed himself to Mary, saying that he had also killed her parents, and offered to bring John back in exchange for letting him just make an uninterrupted visit to her house ten years later. He promised that she could escape from hunting, and have no more monsters or fears; he promised her safety. Bereft of everything, she agreed, and kissed the demon to seal the deal just as Dean arrived. The demon fled, John awoke, and Castiel touched Dean’s shoulder, transporting him back to the present, where he awoke again on the motel room bed. Castiel told him not to be too hard on himself because he couldn’t have stopped it, that destiny can’t be changed. He said that Dean’s trip had been for him to learn the truth, and that he now knew as much as the angels did. He explained that they knew what Azazel had done to Sam, but not why. He warned Dean that Sam was on a dangerous road and they weren’t sure where it would lead. He told Dean to stop it, or they would. And he told Dean the address where Sam could be found. To be continued …

Commentary and Meta Analysis

One of the things I love most about this show is its continuity, particularly the way that questions raised find further development and even answers in later stories. In The Beginning was an absolute delight in the way it addressed mysteries begun all the way back in the pilot and deepened in other episodes. We learned why Mary’s spirit apologized to Sam in Home and why Mary recognized the demon in the vision of what happened in the nursery that the demon gave Sam in All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 1. We learned that his dream vision hadn’t lied about baby Sam having been fed demon blood. We even heard the demon repeating lines and attitudes in new contexts, including an echo in his reaction to Mary of him calling Sam his favorite in AHBL, P1 and bemoaning the red tape involved in deal-making that he mentioned in AHBL, P2. We met a younger and more vital version of Daniel Elkins, the grizzled old hunter we first saw in Dead Man’s Blood, and heard from Samuel the acknowledgment that the story of the Colt was well known in hunter circles, albeit mostly dismissed as a legend. All of those things made this an incredibly satisfying episode.

The specific story elements I’m going to explore in this commentary include the immutability of destiny, the reasons for Dean’s journey in time and for Sam not accompanying him, and the full scope of the tragedy of the Winchesters.

Causality Paradox and the Immutability of Destiny

My major problem with this episode is one common to virtually every time-travel story: I have issues with paradoxes. On the one hand, Castiel told Dean afterward that he couldn’t have stopped what happened, that destiny couldn’t be changed; but on the other hand, Dean’s presence appeared to directly influence events in very fundamental ways. The biggest one is simply that Samuel and Mary had no reason to be in Haleyville until Mary reacted to Dean’s information about where the yellow-eyed demon would be, and it wasn’t until encountering Mary there that the demon noticed her and marked her as a target – or so he said. Again, it was apparently their presence where they had no intention of being that led to the demon possessing Samuel, and to killing Samuel, Deanna, and John in order to set the stage for making the deal with Mary. It would seem that it was actually Dean’s presence out of time that drove all the events that led to his family’s tragedy. On a lesser level, played for humor, it also seems to have been Dean’s influence that led John to buy the Impala.

I don’t buy that an angel sending Dean traveling in time caused what happened to his family, and I don’t believe that the episode actually intended to suggest that. I think that the real key was another of Castiel’s lines, right after his observation that destiny couldn’t be changed: All roads lead to the same destination. I have two possible explanations to offer in support of this interpretation. One, which assumes that Dean actually was introduced into the real but fluid past by Castiel, with ripple effects like water swirling around a rock tossed into a creek, would posit that while specific details may have been altered by Dean’s presence – for example, exactly how Azazel happened to become aware of Mary that night – all of the individual destinies of the people involved played out the same way they actually did, with Samuel, Deanna, and John all dying that night, and John being returned to life by Mary’s deal. This idea holds that all the same things happened, and that only the specifics of their execution were changed by Dean’s presence. This explanation, however, still has paradox causality problems, with Dean, who presumably wasn’t present the first time around, having direct causative impacts on the people and events of his own history – including the yellow-eyed demon – using information from the future about the past to shape that past.

My second possible explanation is that Castiel gave Dean a true dream of the past, something essentially real and true to events, but with details altered to accommodate his point-of-view presence. In other words, it was real to him, and adjusted on the basis of the decisions he made, but it wasn’t real to history, at least not in terms of Dean actually having been present and interacting with his family before he was ever born. This posits that he saw essentially what happened, with everyone he encountered acting true to themselves and reacting as they would have if Dean had been present, based on the knowledge available to Castiel.

I don’t know which approach actually works for me, and I don’t know that it matters. I loved the episode for itself, for the personal stories and the performances, but causality paradoxes give me headaches. However, if only for Azazel having to remember in that frozen instant before he died that Dean had promised even before he was born that he would be the one to kill him, and that Azazel hadn’t believed that claim and even accepted John’s deal to save Dean’s life in despite of it, dismissing Dean as being of little consequence, I could wish that Dean’s timeshifted version of the past was actually real. If it was real, however, I do wonder how the Colt actually got back to Daniel Elkins without John learning about either the weapon or the man, and whether Elkins – who hadn’t heard of the Campbells as hunters until Dean told him about them – had eventually told John the truth about his wife’s heritage when John finally did meet him after Mary’s death.

The Reasons For It All

I guessed from the outset that Dean would be unable to change the past in any truly paradoxical way that would have changed the history of his own life, including what happened to his family. My immediate thought at the end of the episode was that Castiel had been around Dean long enough to realize that Dean wasn’t inclined to believe anything that he was told unless he already intimately trusted the source, and that the best way to teach him was through his own direct experience. If Castiel had simply told Dean what Azazel had done to Sam, Dean might not have believed him despite the doubts he already felt. Hearing his plans directly from the demon’s mouth, however, made them very real to Dean, and primed him to accept Castiel’s warning about Sam being on a dangerous road leading to who knows where.

Accordingly, the most obvious reason for Dean’s time-trip was exactly what Castiel said: an opportunity for him to learn the truth, and to know everything that Castiel and his forces already knew about Sam and Azazel in order to predispose him to act as Castiel desires. But I think there might have been other reasons as well, and that they included giving Castiel the opportunity to truly understand Dean and forcing Dean to face himself.

From the outset, Castiel, in his innocence of human understanding, has displayed curiosity about Dean. When Dean first refused to believe his assertion that he was an angel and then questioned why an angel would have rescued him from Hell, Castiel openly asked him what was wrong, and answered his own question with wonder when he observed without understanding that Dean didn’t believe that he deserved to be saved. It was very clear that Castiel was unfamiliar with the psychological complexity of humans, and particularly inexperienced with non-believers.

When Castiel appeared to Dean during his drive to Colorado, I think he was honestly curious, not judging, when he questioned Dean about his feelings, asking if Dean didn’t care that all the people he had saved would die if he changed the past and he, John, and Sam didn’t become hunters to save them. Castiel already knew that Dean had no chance to actually affect the outcome, so his question was a purely intellectual one, but it forced Dean to consider how much he himself has changed. We saw Dean face that same question before in his djinn-induced dream in What Is And What Should Never Be, when he decided at his father’s grave – and before he realized that the dream-world was false – to sacrifice his imperfect but sweet wish reality to restore the life he had known despite its loss and pain precisely in order to save all the people who would otherwise have died. This time, however, given the opportunity really to know and to save both of his parents, he couldn’t face giving them and his brother up in favor of numbers of strangers. In the aftermath of losing his whole family, including having seen his brother die as a consequence of the demon’s interference, and following his own deal, death, and resurrection, Dean has finally hit his limit on personal sacrifice. He’s a different man than he was before because of what he’s suffered in the year since encountering the djinn.

In the moment when Castiel reappeared just after Dean saw Mary sealing her deal and unwittingly the doom of her family, Dean’s anguish over his failure and the complete desolation of his family’s loss was plain on his face. However briefly, what Castiel showed him then was compassion. Compassion requires empathy and understanding, and I believe this was the first time Castiel had enough of both regarding Dean to be able to approach him on an emotional level. Without the opportunity to observe Dean and his own soul-searching on this sojourn into the past, I don’t think Castiel would have achieved this degree of understanding and appreciation. I would submit that Castiel has learned as much from this experience as Dean. And I would also submit that Castiel’s compassion for Dean in that moment was the surest proof we’re yet received that Castiel is what he claims to be, and in no way an agent of evil.

I do wonder when and under what circumstances Castiel will reveal himself to Sam. I suspect that there were two major reasons Sam was not included on this jaunt into the past, and that the first and simplest was that Castiel knew that Sam was already aware of the single most salient detail that Dean had to learn: that Sam had been tainted with demon blood. I would guess, however, that the second and more important reason was actually to keep Sam as safe as possible by keeping him remote from another direct connection with Azazel, which might have resulted in him being pushed further down the dark path than whatever he is currently doing with Ruby. Since there was no chance for whoever went back in time to actually affect events, it would have been foolish to risk a confrontation between Sam and Azazel that might have adversely affected Sam on his return to the present, and it’s a fair bet that Sam, had he been with Dean, would have found the temptation to use his powers to save his parents irresistible when everything else inevitably failed. I suspect that would have been catastrophic for Sam, and perhaps for everyone.

Given what Azazel told Dean about his criteria for choosing the parents of his special children, it seems most likely that Sam’s psychic abilities are indeed a direct result of the demon’s interference, not something innately human that he inherited and that Azazel simply wanted to warp to his own purposes. I found it fascinating that, even though Dean had told Azazel the date of his birth, and it was less than six years from the date of events rather than being in the ten year target timeframe of his demon deals, Azazel nonetheless momentarily wondered if Dean might have been one of his, and sniffed him for the taint. Had Azazel perhaps been busier than we knew, and might there be other products of Azazel’s breeding program who are older than Sam and were intended to serve some different purpose in Azazel’s endgame than competing to become the leader of his demon army and the most obvious instrument of his plans? Is Ruby a part of Azazel’s endgame, picking up subtly to groom Sam for his true role where Azazel’s death forced him to leave off? If Castiel was hoping for additional intelligence on that score, he didn’t acquire it.

Family Tragedy

In The Beginning finally gave us the context to appreciate the full magnitude of the Winchester family tragedy. For the first time, we can really understand just how much John lost. We knew from our brief glimpse of the happy family before the fire in the pilot that John had been a loving husband and father, but we hadn’t known the true depth of his innocence: that despite being a Marine with wartime service in Vietnam, he had still managed to retain a sweet belief in “happily ever after” and a cheerful, open friendliness that reached out to strangers. The closed-off, stern, angry, suspicious, uncompromising man that he became after Mary’s death – the man who reluctantly admitted having become a drill sergeant instead of a father – was alien to the young man in the diner. Seeing with adult eyes the very different man his father had been before the ruin the demon had made of his life was heartbreaking for Dean, and for us.

Even more heartbreaking was learning that Sam, despite his many similarities to John, took after Mary in the depth of his passion to be free of the hunting life, to be able to embrace safety, security, and normality. Knowing already that Mary’s fierce determination to give her children a better life was thwarted by reality, and then learning that the deal she made precisely to ensure that life was what destroyed it, was bitter grief for Dean. He couldn’t blame Mary for her choice, especially not remembering his own. He had thought that the Winchester cycle of sacrifice began with John, but the first deal had been Mary’s, and without it, none of them would even have existed.

I found it very telling that Azazel promised Mary not just John’s life, but also safety and security, and said he would ensure that no monsters would bother her. I had wondered how anyone raised as a hunter could have chosen to neglect basic precautions, knowing what darkness hid beneath the normal surface of the world, but Azazel’s deal meant that she didn’t have to worry about the rest of the supernatural world – just about what Azazel would eventually do. As the years passed and the immediate terror and loss receded, how easy it would have been gradually to relax vigilance, to accept the present good – and how incredibly horrifying it must have been when she saw that figure in the nursery and realized that Azazel’s real target was her baby boy. In that instant, she reneged on her deal. She had to know that she had no real chance to interfere, given how easily the demon had handled everything thrown at it in the past, but she couldn’t turn away from the defense of her child.

I wonder how much of the story of their family’s past Dean will share with Sam, especially given the unnatural way in which he learned it. I suspect that, right after Castiel’s warning, he’s going to be flying anger flags, rightly assuming that Sam has been learning to use his demon-given powers and has lied to him about it, but I wonder how long it will take for him to be able to step down the anger in favor of trying more rational conciliation. Given that his anger is born of his fear for his brother’s safety, and that he has a lifetime of fear stored up as fuel, it’s going to be very hard for Dean to turn the anger off, but I predict that Sam, who understandably believes in his decisions and the good that he’s doing, will react defensively and badly unless and until he can see past Dean’s anger to understand the core of his fear and to realize that it’s not fear of him, but fear for him. I think we’re going to be in for rocky times and more family tragedy before they manage to share their secrets and truly come together again. To be continued ...

Production Notes

Causality paradoxes aside, Jeremy Carver’s script on his and Eric Kripke’s story positively sang, and everyone responsible for casting this episode deserves kudos for having assembled the absolutely best company of performers to bring it to life. Mitch Pileggi was pitch-perfect as both gruff Samuel Campbell and as flamboyant Azazel, the yellow-eyed demon, putting his own stamp on the latter role fully as solidly as Fred Lehne did back in seasons one and two. Azazel is evil, and his delight in causing misery and pain and then drinking it in like fine wine came gleefully off the screen in Pileggi’s performance. This is one of those times when I found it easy to forget how much I liked the actor in his many other roles, because his Samuel was convincingly alive as himself and his Azazel made my skin crawl. His sniffing Dean for demon taint, casually murdering Deanna and John, and lusting after the deal with Mary gave me goosebumps. His behavior would have been over the top for any other character, but for Azazel, it hit the mark.

Newcomers Amy Gumenick and Matthew Cohen convincingly carried off young Mary and John both in talent terms and through their amazing physical resemblance to Samantha Smith and Jeffrey Dean Morgan; I could see them growing into their mature characters. Gumenick had more of an opportunity to shine given the structure of the story, and she sold both the physical and emotional aspects of the role of a reluctant hunter who wanted love and family and was reduced to losing everything. On the action front, I particularly enjoyed not only her initial fight with Dean, but the way she read and responded to his tiny facial signal to break away from the demon and give him a clean shot.

We didn’t get a lot of Cohen, but what we had was more than enough to illustrate just how sweetly different John had been before the supernatural invaded his life, while still showcasing the calm strength that would eventually turn to hunter granite. We also didn’t see much of Alison Hossack as Deanna Campbell, Dean’s grandmother and evident namesake, but she included nice touches in her performance that helped to establish Deanna as a competent hunter in her own right, from her casual, flashing knife work while preparing a fruit salad to her cautious advance toward the Colt when she realized that her husband was possessed. At the same time, she gave us a glimpse of what Mary might have been like as both a hunter and mother, affectionately managing her crotchety husband, welcoming a stranger to dinner, and matter-of-factly discussing hunter business.

My only quibble with the script apart from the causality paradox issue was Castiel’s artificial and misleading “You have to stop it” instruction to Dean in the beginning and in their first encounter in the past. Admittedly, implying that he had the chance to change the past both sucked us in and made Dean invest fully in the experience, but it was duplicitous and caused Dean far more pain than if he’d been told outright that he could look and touch but not change. Azazel was honest with Sam when he gave Sam his view of the past; it felt off that an angel wouldn’t have been as forthright with Dean. Then again, Castiel has had far less experience with humans than Azazel, and may honestly not have realized the full effect that the experience would have on Dean. He definitely conveyed compassion at the end – well, until he reverted back to being a remote advisor and gave Dean his warning about Sam. Misha Collins continues to do nicely at keeping Castiel non-human.

I got a major kick out of the series spending time in the 1970’s. The signs (Tab!), the wardrobe, the hairstyles, and the makeup all fit the period; I grinned for the combination of Mary’s pale lipstick and heavy mascara, and for the hippie get-up on the diner’s counter man. The gorgeous cars made me wonder if the studio put out a call for extras to the local classic car club, and I’ll admit that I briefly wondered why Dean didn’t react first to the cars in the street while on his way to the diner! My first car was a gold 1973 Ford Pinto, so I laughed to see what Dean wound up driving after persuading John to buy the Impala – not my Pinto, but close enough!

For his direction here, I could even almost forgive director Steve Boyum for having taken the spotlights off the Impala back when he was shooting Dream a Little Dream of Me. (On second thought, I’m not going to forgive him until the spotlights get put back. Hear me, Powers That Be? I want Dean’s best girl’s spotlights back!) I also particularly enjoyed the music, including the return of “Ramblin’ Man” by the Allman Brothers Band, which has been on my Supernatural playlist since the pilot. Now I’m going to have to dig out the other background tunes, including what Mary was listening to when Dean stopped to say goodbye, and wound up overcome with emotion.

And speaking of overcome, my last notes go to Jensen Ackles. This was his episode in the same way that he owned What Is And What Should Never Be, and I loved what he brought to it. His chemistry with both Pileggi and Gumenick was magnetic. From his astonished disbelief at meeting his father, his delight in Mary’s beauty, and his amusement in sparring with Samuel to his grief at hearing what his future mother wanted and would never have, his desperate determination to defeat the demon and save his parents, and the utter devastation of his final defeat, Dean ran the gamut of emotion, and Jensen gave us every minute of it.

I don’t believe that Sam could logically have been a part of this particular story of discovery, given the danger likely inherent in having him mix it up directly with Azazel now that he’s using his powers, so I have no qualms about Jared Padalecki not having been on tap for this episode. I do hope that the first minutes of the next episode see Dean showing up at the address where Sam and Ruby are, even though I’m certain that the first really serious fight of their reunion will be the inevitable result and they’ll both wind up scarred by it.

In The Beginning added new dimensions to a story we thought we already knew, and made it something more. We’re three episodes into the new season, and every one is a keeper.

 
 
Current Mood: busy
Current Music: "These Days" by Jackson Browne
 
 
 
and all I hear is silence and all I feel is tiredathenaswirls on October 6th, 2008 08:25 pm (UTC)
Am I the first to comment? I friended you. Hope that's ok. :)The leather jacket is back! I missed the leather jacket & classic rock so much last season. This episode was almost heartbreaking. Sometimes it's so easy to forget how fragile Dean really is under his bravado & swagger. It seems like Dean is being given the same assignment with the same consequences that John gave him in IMTOD..save Sam or kill him. The perpetual guardian.

bardicvoice: Lazarus Hugs by <lj user=kynikey>bardicvoice on October 7th, 2008 01:14 am (UTC)
It's most definitely okay!

I was delighted to see the leather jacket again! Somehow, I didn't believe that Sam would ever have gotten rid of it; it was something too dear to Dean for Sam to have abandoned it.

Dean will always work to save Sam, and in the end, I can't believe that he would fail.

I love our Winchester brothers ...
Diagonally Parked in a Parallel Universe: CastielWingedriverbella on October 6th, 2008 08:47 pm (UTC)
I've been looking forward to your take on this episode and I am not disappointed! There have been a few disgruntled sorts around (although not many; most people seem to have thought this episode rocked), some missing Jared and some just not happy with the angel twist at all. Your explanation for why it would have been a very bad idea for Sam to have been there was well-reasoned and convincing--and something I had not considered before. And I am finding the angel arc to be completely fascinating, especially the way the writers are taking the heavy-metal (if you will) version of angels and elements from various traditions to inform their vision. The possibilities are so wide open it is stunning.

I lean toward the first version of time-travel vs. paradox; that is, that the core events were fixed and no matter what Dean did, everything would eventually spiral back to where it was destined to be. I have yet to find any really scientifically or rationally satisfying version of time-travel, and I am content to enjoy what is presented for its story-telling potential.

An aspect of the current season that really interests me, and one I would love to hear your thoughts on, is the relationship between the angels and God. Clearly, he is keeping them on a sort of "need to know" status where information is concerned. Which implies that angels have free will. As I understand it, this varies among different theological schools and traditions. Obviously a subject for endless debate and speculation. Good times!

At any rate, really enjoyed the meta and looking forward to more as this amazing season goes on.
bardicvoice: Burning Mary by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on October 7th, 2008 01:44 am (UTC)
Avoiding disgruntlement is the major reason I stay away from most organized fandom spots; I want to celebrate the show, not nitpick it to death, and life is too short to spend it being negative!

Glad you liked my take on why Castiel wouldn't have sent Sam along. It seemed to make sense to me.

I've been trying not to think too much about God in this cosmology. It's always a problem, dealing with a presumed omniscient entity; it begs the question why God would in the first place create a being that S/He knew from the outset would choose to oppose divine will as soon as being given free will. Does God want to be opposed?

Still, that aside, I would posit that angels would have to have free will, or Lucifer, first among angels, could never have chosen to defy God's command to acknowledge the precedence of humans, as per the traditional story of Lucifer's exile from Heaven. Angels never struck me as automatons, but rather as creations that never needed faith because they lived in the presence of God with full awareness of the power in Heaven.

I'm fascinated by what Kripke is doing with his angels. Castiel has been a delight; I wonder what other angels will be like? I'm fully expecting individuals with very different personalities, but all with absolute loyalty and obedience to God ... unless they, like Lucifer, are of the fallen variety.

I'm really looking forward to the ride!
(no subject) - fannishliss on October 7th, 2008 02:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Danipinkphoenix1985 on October 6th, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC)
Bardic- brilliant review! I have to admit that I didn't think of the possibilty of what would happen to Sam had he also been in the past- I like how you point out that he would definitely try and save his parents by using the very powers that Azazel gave him.
bardicvoice: Burning Mary by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on October 7th, 2008 01:46 am (UTC)
Thank you! The more I thought, the more logical it seemed that letting Sam confront Azazel would have been a really bad idea ...
(no subject) - pinkphoenix1985 on October 8th, 2008 01:00 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(Deleted comment)
bardicvoice: Burning Mary by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on October 7th, 2008 02:01 am (UTC)
Thank you! I did figure that Castiel always meant stopping Sam from going down the dark road, but the ambiguous way he used the statement both at the outset and the first time he spoke to Dean in the past wound up being deliberately misleading because it implied something totally different: that Dean had been sent back in time to prevent things in the past, not in the present or future.

I must admit, I was as frustrated as Dean with that ambiguity. But since I never believed that he actually had the chance to save the past, I stayed upset with Castiel even after Dean was back in the present, because of the way that Dean having misinterpreted him wound up hurting Dean when he didn't have to be hurt that badly. I think Castiel miscalculated what that trip to the past would cost his human ...
(Deleted comment)
whimsywinx: SN-JohnGigglewhimsywinx on October 7th, 2008 01:40 am (UTC)
I hadn't thought of your reasoning for why Sam couldn't come back, but it fits. Sam is not in control of himself, as evidenced by his tight control, and he'd have run amuck.

I liked Mary so much here. I did miss John being an active part. And how poetic that the family just keeps making deals and dying for each other.
bardicvoice: Burning Mary by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on October 7th, 2008 02:05 am (UTC)
I loved spunky, feisty, determined Mary! John being so innocent and sweet made me ache for what would happen to him to turn him into that brittle shell of himself that we knew and still loved, even without having seen the fullness of what he once was. That was grief ...
the ricky the bartender fanatic.: spn: ruby's eyes shine ebony blackvorrothiel on October 7th, 2008 01:46 am (UTC)
Good review - you voiced exactly what I thought about Dean's trip to the past. I believe those events still would have happened if Dean hadn't been sent back.

And you hit it on the head why Sam couldn't logically go back too - Dean had to find out about Sam, Sam would have met up with YED. But it's one of the fantastic episodes in a while - definitely Kripke's love letter to the mytharc fans.
bardicvoice: Burning Mary by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on October 7th, 2008 02:06 am (UTC)
Thank you - glad you enjoyed it! I'd love to send a love letter back to Kripke for what he's given us so far this season ... hmm, sounds like mail is in order!
Zazzazreil on October 7th, 2008 02:59 am (UTC)
When I first watched the episode I blinked when Castiel said "You have to stop it." As a fan of scifi I am familiar with time travel paradoxes and I knew Dean couldn't really stop it and then be there to stop it. If that makes any sense. So I started to wonder could Dean could be there to stop something else? Like the deal at Liddy's. Or was those cryptic words simply a way to insure that Dean would begin to hunt and then not only learn what happened to his brother but also give the Angels the opportunity to learn more of Azazel's plans. Unfortunately Azazel must have read the Evil Warlord's handbook and at least paid some attention to it.

I felt that his continuation of keeping Dean alive was arrogance but perhaps also that in being shown the future he could no longer change it. Sort of like particle physics where for some particles deduce its acceleration and speed but not its location and vica versa. Such that one can change the future as long is it is unknown but once known it is fixed. Thus Dean telling Azazel he killed him essentially freezes Azazel's future and he can't kill Dean. As to why he didn't kill Dean then and there, well I suspect that was the Angel on Dean's shoulder giving him pause.

It has never bothered me that Castiel does not know Gods mind and that things are hidden from him. Humans have free will and to some degree so must Angels or none would have fallen. I think God holding back information has a great deal to do with Sam, and the fact that he has much potential for goodness as he does ti lose his way, and the fact that he prays for Salvation probably doesn't hurt. Dean's return may be an answer to Sam's prayers in more than one way


The one thing that did bother me in the show was Daniel Elkins, it would have been so much cleaner for Dean to steal the gun and then mail it back to the man. So that scene had to be important for some reason even though it never made sense why Daniel would let Dean take the gun. At first I thought I saw Castiel shadow in one of the scenes but now I think it was a trick of a the light. So why why why let a stranger walked off with the gun. As far fetched as it seems it only works forme if the Mysterious hunter that Samuel Colt made the Gun for was Dean and Dean eventually gave the Gun to Elkin's in the first place telling him he would be back for it some day. Sigh- But that would make Dean a Time Traveling Gunman for God and as fun as that would be - its far to silly - isn't it? Ah my brain hurts

As always love your metas

Zaz

(Anonymous) on October 10th, 2008 06:33 pm (UTC)
Hey Zaz,

Just wanted to throw my two cents in about the Elkins thing. I think that scene was in the show because it explains how Elkins got the gun back after Dean had finished with it. If you remember Dean dropped it and vanished after Mary's deal. I'm guessing she picked it up, took it home, and Elkins tracked her down (since Dean told him Mary's last name).

I think it may be a continuity thing since we were told John got the gun from Elkins at a later time, so it was essential that Elkins get the gun back in the past.

Iti
(no subject) - bardicvoice on October 14th, 2008 01:54 am (UTC) (Expand)
fluffykitty2001fluffykitty2001 on October 7th, 2008 04:38 am (UTC)
Awesome Meta!
Hi Mary! It’s me, Alice. I got your note on my article, and with delight came to read your latest review. Thanks for letting me know it was available.

Great analysis as usual! I have no idea why I read these each time, but have never bothered to comment before. Please excuse my awful lurking habits.

I learned to avoid nitpicking time travel paradoxes after being forced to watch Star Trek for years. All those time adventures managed to come with a giant reset button, so I decided to stop killing my brain and let sci-fi have its fun. I’m convinced the angels weren’t going to let Dean alter time drastically. Either his visit had little consequence, or they did that whole “time bending” thing and hit that reset button.

Either way, the experience was meant as more than to show Dean the truth, but to hit home as to how end of the world consequential what happened to his family and Sam is and not turn a blind eye to his brother anymore. Seeing something and experiencing are two different things. The latter delivers greater impact and a more severe message. Dean has only ever believed what he can see, so Castiel made that possible.

I agree with Dean hitting the limit with personal sacrifice, if it means happiness for his family. If it was just him affected, he’d go on the side of saving others. He still doesn’t believe he’s worthy of saving, and the whole angel pulling him from Hell thing still has him rattled.

Castiel is very mysterious. I think you’re right in that he doesn’t know how to deal with humans, but it’s more than that too. It goes back to the conversation in “Are You There God…” where Castiel tries to tell Dean that God moves in mysterious ways and doesn’t give straight answers. Angels are rather used to that ambiguity and blindly follow it. I think Castiel doesn’t understand why Dean isn’t the same. He might also be trying to teach Dean that things aren’t what they seem. There’s a bigger picture involved and he’s powerless to change certain things. Of course it seems that Sam is a big part of the picture, and I do wonder if Dean was pulled out of Hell mostly because of Sam.

It was a 1979 Pinto BTW. I wonder who on the show thought someone wouldn't catch that. Still, it was great to see Dean drive one, since it's essentially the anti-Impala. I grew up with Pintos, and every year the model was just as crappy as the earlier one. I'm sure there wasn't much difference between a 73 and 79.

I'm really excited about Thursday's episode. There's going to be some major strife there. Can't wait!
bardicvoice: Burning Mary by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on October 14th, 2008 02:03 am (UTC)
Re: Awesome Meta!
Thanks for coming by, Alice! I'm just sorry that it took me this long to get around to responding to comments ... been a little busy, lately.

I do suspect that the reason Dean was pulled out of Hell was his ability to influence Sam eventually to make the right choice, and in the process, to help uncover the truth about Azazel's endgame. I think that free choice to do right is what really matters in the endgame of the show, and that the boys are each other's anchors in the "doing right" department.

I actually loved my 1973 Pinto! *grin*
laineyau on October 7th, 2008 07:58 am (UTC)
Again, thank you for your wonderful recap. This was a great episode in explaining so much. I was shocked to find Mary a hunter but all the speculation over the years that we have done all has come together now. It really leaves me feeling that we can move forward completely now, with a clean slate, and a clear finish line. (Not that I want the finish, but it is inevitable).
It gave me the impression of you know how you dust your hands together after a job well done of cleaning. That is the feeling I got at the end.

Also sadness of everything that could have been, lost.

I agree that I don't believe that Dean "interfered" with the past. It was going to happen. We have seen that the Demons know if hunters are around and the Demon was in Kansas at that time, so it does still indicate a strong possibility that one way or another, they would have crossed paths.

This is just getting better and better and I am loving it.
bardicvoice: Burning Mary by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on October 14th, 2008 02:05 am (UTC)
Thanks, Lainey! I agree with how wonderful this season has been; I'm loving it all so far!
x5valex5vale on October 7th, 2008 08:45 am (UTC)
Always worthy.

I love how you write, I love what do you see in this show :)
bardicvoice: Burning Mary by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on October 14th, 2008 02:06 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm happy you come by - I'll confess to visiting you a lot, but rarely leaving a comment. I'm a bad girl! (And have little time ...)
(no subject) - x5vale on October 14th, 2008 08:38 am (UTC) (Expand)
yourlibrarianyourlibrarian on October 7th, 2008 04:47 pm (UTC)
Yes, I also thought that the experience was something of a guided dream, particularly given Castiel's two appearances in it, both to keep Dean on track about the purpose of his being there. Had the idea actually been to have Dean do something specific, his unhelpful vagueness would have been ridiculous.

I would submit that Castiel has learned as much from this experience as Dean. And I would also submit that Castiel’s compassion for Dean in that moment was the surest proof we’re yet received that Castiel is what he claims to be, and in no way an agent of evil.

That's an interesting idea, yes, that Castiel is information gathering on Dean during this experience just as much as he's sharing it.

Even more heartbreaking was learning that Sam, despite his many similarities to John, took after Mary in the depth of his passion to be free of the hunting life, to be able to embrace safety, security, and normality.

What's so interesting about what this told us about Sam and John's similarities is how both react under stress and loss. Given his other similarities to his mother it's intriguing to speculate how things might have gone had it been John who died and Mary who lived after the fire.

In that instant, she reneged on her deal.

What I really liked about that moment was how in the Pilot we're all lulled into a false sense of security by the "Sshhh" Azazel gives her as she first stumbles into the nursery, and yet now three seasons later we realize it was his giving her a reminder of how she was supposed to stay out of his way.
bardicvoice: Burning Mary by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on October 14th, 2008 02:08 am (UTC)
What I really liked about that moment was how in the Pilot we're all lulled into a false sense of security by the "Sshhh" Azazel gives her as she first stumbles into the nursery, and yet now three seasons later we realize it was his giving her a reminder of how she was supposed to stay out of his way.

Oooh, I like that thought! And I'm sorry it took me so long to tell you that ...

Edited at 2008-10-14 02:08 am (UTC)
(Anonymous) on October 7th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
Hi, Mary!

Thanks for the meta. It was a great episode.

Yeah, time travel stories will make your brain hurt, that's why I'm not generally too fond of them. But there were so many things to love in the episode, that I can get along with it.

I like your point about Castiel and his cutiosity about human nature. I think that's a good way to explain his presence in the episode, and his quesions, because he sure didn't help Dean in any way.

Mary was awesome, wasn't she? She was so brave, and strong, and cute - she was her boys's mother. It makes me grieve for her death in a way I couldn't before.

See you!

Elsa (aka Chiiyo).
bardicvoice: Burning Mary by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on October 14th, 2008 02:10 am (UTC)
Thanks, Elsa!

I agree that I hurt for Mary all over again, and in whole new ways - and for that, I love this show.

Does that make me a masochist?
shutterbugs7shutterbugs7 on October 7th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC)
Wonderful, wonderful review as usual Bardicvoice!

There had definitely been a distressed feeling in my usual chat room that the show wouldn't be worth watching without Jared. When I read this, I just thought it was ludicrous. I am a SamGirl myself but appreciate the brothers together more than anything. I, for one, watched the episode with an open mind...and it did not disappoint.

There are only a few episodes that brought me to tears and this was one. Jensen's performance, especially during the scene when Mary starts talking about wanting to be safe and ending with Dean's warning to her, was phenomenal. His tears brought even more tears running down my face.

The tragedy of the Winchester family is completely revealed in this episode and it was so very important to the mytharc. To learn that Mary was the one who began the cycle of the deals is devastating but not at all surprising. Poor Sammy started out his life at the mercy of the demon. I only hope that his brothr Dean is stong enough to "save" him.
bardicvoice: Burning Mary by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on October 14th, 2008 02:12 am (UTC)
Thanks, SB!

I can't understand how fans could diss an episode like this one. This show handles emotion so convincingly and so well that it sucks me in every time; I'm in it for the long run, and look forward to seeing where Kripke takes it.
historylover29historylover29 on October 9th, 2008 12:57 am (UTC)
I think the "You have to stop it" means two things. The first is that he HAD to stop John from buying that UGLY Volkswagon Bus in order to buy Metallicar. So, in that case, he did stop something. And I'm glad he did!

On a serious note, I think the "You have to stop it" means Dean has to stop the attitude with Castiel. Now he knows what the angels know.

Great commentary!

Kat
bardicvoice: Burning Mary by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on October 14th, 2008 02:14 am (UTC)
Heh! Trying to get Dean to stop being a smartass is a challenge at which even angels quail!

Thanks for coming, Kat!
zofia27zofia27 on October 9th, 2008 02:26 am (UTC)
Great job Mary!

I hadn't thought about the impact if Sam had also gone back in time. I thought I had read some sides or something that said the original script did have both going back but with Jared not being available to film..for whatever reason...they modified the script. I don't know if that's true or not but it would certainly have been a comletely different episode if both the boys were there.

The who time paradox thing can give me migraines but the general impression I got is that Dean couldn't change the past but he could change the future because of the knowledge he gained in the past. It took me a while to reconcile that with Castiel's comment that the destiny was set but he must have been talking about the past otherwise why go to all this trouble if the future couldn't be changed?

This was a stand-out episode and I can't wait to see where this is going. To Be Continued indeed!
bardicvoice: Burning Mary by <lj user=janglyjewels>bardicvoice on October 14th, 2008 02:17 am (UTC)
Zofia, I think you're absolutely right about destiny having bee set in terms of events that had already happened in the past being fixed, but that what Dean could stop would be wrong actions in the future; that's the same meaning I eventually drew from what Castiel said.

And I suspect that the biggest reason for the "To Be Continued ..." was to still the outcry about Sam's absence by virtually guaranteeing that we'd pick up exactly where we left off, by starting with whatever Sam and Ruby were up to!