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14 September 2009 @ 11:28 am
5.01 Sympathy For The Devil: What I Need Is You  

5.01 Sympathy For The Devil: What I Need Is You

Lucifer walks Earth;

Angels seek the Michael sword.

Trust is hard to find.



Episode Summary

Picking up precisely where last season’s Lucifer Rising left off, the Winchester brothers were in the convent in Ilchester, Maryland with brilliant, blinding white light pouring up from the iris in the floor defined by Lilith’s blood. They tried to flee but the door slammed shut, trapping them inside as ear-piercing sound grew to unbearable levels, bringing them to their knees – and suddenly they were sitting in an airplane in mid-flight, with an old Warner Brothers cartoon of Yosemite Sam facing the Devil on the in-flight entertainment screens. No sooner had the pilot announced they were starting the descent into Baltimore, about to pass Ilchester and Ellicott City, than a blinding column of light shot up from the ground, forcing the pilot to bank and dive violently enough to trigger the deployment of oxygen onboard. The boys wound up in a rental car, driving through the night as the radio stations Sam flicked through each provided another story of disaster: an abandoned convent in Ilchester not likely being a terrorist target, an unexpected hurricane hitting Galveston, a successful nuclear test in North Korea, earth tremors, swine flu. They could only speculate about how they’d gotten from the convent to the plane. Sam started trying to apologize, but Dean cut him off saying it was all right and they just needed to figure things out.

Trying to find Castiel, they arrived at Chuck’s home in the morning to find the kitchen trashed and bloodied. Chuck was relieved to see them well, especially after his last vision of Sam in the chapel having gone “full-on Vader,” with demon-black eyes – something neither of the brothers had known. He told them Cas was dead, destroyed by the archangel. Right on cue, Zachariah appeared with two confederates, telling Dean he had to come with them to destroy Lucifer before he found his vessel, because once he had a body, he would be powerful in ways they couldn’t imagine. Dean refused to cooperate and when Zachariah started to try pressuring him, pulled out the sliding door of the kitchen to reveal an angel-banishing sigil drawn on the door in his own blood – the same one used by Castiel in Lucifer Rising. Dean slapped his palm against the sigil to complete the spell, and the angels were flung away in a burst of light.

The boys retreated to a motel to regroup. Sam provided hex bags he’d made to hide them from both angels and demons, something he’d learned from Ruby. Dean asked Sam how he was doing and if he felt the need to drink blood again. Sam said he felt fine, with none of the withdrawal symptoms he’d experienced before, and wondered if whatever had put them on the plane had somehow cleaned it all out of him. Sam again tried to apologize but Dean flared up, asking why Sam kept bringing it up when he knew there wasn’t anything he could do or say to make it better. Dean maintained they didn’t need to put it under a microscope; that they’d made a mess and would just clean it up. Trying to treat it like any other hunt, he prompted Sam to think about what they needed to do first: find the Devil, the thing they were supposed to stop.

Come nightfall in Pike Creek, Delaware, a man named Nick returned to his home amid a spooky, isolated swirl of wind that banged his gate and tossed around the leaves and branches in his yard. That night in bed, he woke to find himself covered in blood – but when he scrambled out in horror and turned on the light, he and the sheets were clean and unstained. Shaken, he forced himself back to bed, only to roll over in the dark to see the blood-spattered face of his wife in bed beside him, telling him that he was special, he was chosen. He covered his face with his hand, and when he looked again, he was alone and the bed was undisturbed.

Elsewhere in the night, Becky, a fan of the Supernatural books writing a slash story on her computer, received a web call from Chuck, who contacted her to carry a message to Sam and Dean because he was afraid he was being watched by the angels and didn’t think that anyone but a rabid fan would believe him. Becky followed his directions to the motel the next day, where she gushed over Sam and then delivered Chuck’s message: the angels had lost the Michael sword and it was on Earth, in a castle on a hill made of forty-two dogs.

Bobby arrived in the Impala, which had been left at his place when the angels abducted Dean in Lucifer Rising. He brought books for them to read in search of clues to the sword, and said that archangel Michael had been the one who put Lucifer down in hell the last time. Sam told Bobby – over Dean’s protests – that this was all his fault, that Lilith was the final Seal and when he killed her, he set Lucifer free. He acknowledged they’d tried to warn him about Ruby and the demon blood, but he hadn’t listened. Appalled and furious, Bobby told him this kind of thing didn’t get forgiven and if they got through it, Sam should lose his number. Chastened, Sam left to do his reading in a nearby church, but took no books.

Alone in the room with Dean, Bobby mused that he’d never thought he’d agree John was right about Sam, when he’d told Dean to either save Sam or kill him, and wondered if they shouldn’t have tried so hard to save him. Dean had a sudden flash of memory and dug out the card for John’s storage space in upstate New York, the one they’d found during Bad Day At Black Rock: Castle Storage, 42 Rover Hill. Guessing this meant John had the Michael sword all along, Bobby said it was good enough for him – and then attacked Dean with inhuman strength, revealing that Bobby had been possessed by a demon. Two more demons came into the room, and one revealed herself as Meg. She told him that with the return of their father Lucifer, every demon was dreaming again as they hadn’t since they were human; that it was heaven on Earth and he was the only bump in the road, and every demon was dying for a piece of him. Telling him Bobby was still awake inside his body, she picked up the demon-killing knife and handed it to the Bobby-demon, meaning to torture Bobby by having him kill Dean. Dean pleaded with Bobby, trying to reach him as the demon moved in for the kill, and at the last instant Bobby managed to break free, deliberately plunging the knife into his own gut and killing the demon. Dean attacked both Meg and the other demon, getting the worst of it just as Sam burst back in through the door. Meg taunted him about being unable to use his demon powers. Dean pulled the knife from Bobby’s body and used it to kill the other demon, then advanced on Meg, who smoked out of her host and left the body slumped on the floor.

Up in Pike Creek, Nick was packing baby clothes and toys into a box when the baby’s swing began to rock and the baby monitor buried in the box transmitted the sounds of a baby crying. He went upstairs to the nursery and turned on the light, but saw only the empty crib. He turned away only to hear the crying again, and when he looked back, saw blood pouring out of the crib. Overcome, he fell to his knees, weeping beside the empty, neat, and unstained crib.

The boys took Bobby to the emergency room, but Dean insisted they had to leave him there and try to beat the demons to the storage unit to retrieve the Michael sword. Driving breakneck through the night, they opened the lockup to find demons lying dead on the floor and Zachariah waiting with two other angels. Zachariah admitted he’d planted the prophetic image of the sword and the lockup in Chuck’s mind because he really had lost the sword when the Winchesters disappeared from angel senses: he claimed the sword was Dean, who was destined to be Michael’s vessel. Trying to force Dean to agree, since angels can’t possess unwilling hosts, Zachariah broke Sam’s legs, threatened to leave Bobby crippled for life, and afflicted Dean with terminal stomach cancer, offering to make everything right if only Dean agreed. Dean refused, and Zachariah upped the ante by depriving Sam of his lungs, suffocating him. Dean still refused to yield, preferring to die. In a flash of brilliant light, Castiel appeared, killing one of Zachariah’s flunkies before he was even aware, and launching a violent attack on the other that left him dead as well. Facing off against a shocked and surprised Zachariah, Castiel said that they both knew the answer to how he was alive again and who had put the boys on the airplane. He told Zachariah to put the boys back together and leave, and Zachariah silently complied.

Castiel warned that Lucifer was circling his vessel and once he took it, the hex bags wouldn’t be enough to protect the brothers. He touched both of them, carving an Enochian protective sigil into their very bones to render them invisible to every angel. He admitted that he really had been dead, but when Dean asked how he was back, he vanished.

Nick woke within his dream to see his wife Sarah, who told him he was dreaming but that it was very real. She said she wasn’t his wife, but the angel Lucifer. She told him she was there because he was special, someone very rare, a vessel. She said she needed to take control of his mind and body, and admitted that it would probably be unpleasant for him, but was necessary. She said it would be his choice, that he needed to invite her in, and for incentive, she drew a parallel between herself and him, saying she had loved God too much and for that, he had punished her, even as he had punished Nick by letting his family be butchered in their beds. Lucifer claimed that proved God was either sadistic or simply didn’t care. Noting that Nick was righteously angry and that God had done this to him, Lucifer offered to get him justice and peace. Flashing back through all his images of loss, Nick agreed, and Lucifer took him.

At the hospital, Bobby reacted badly to hearing that he was unlikely to walk again, and verbally chased the doctor out of his room. Dean maintained he’d be fine. Sam asked what they would do now, and Bobby disconsolately said they’d save as many as they could for as long as they could. Dean asked what would happen if humans won, asserting they should take them all on, demons and angels alike, refusing to play in the apocalypse and instead killing Lucifer themselves, and maybe Michael too. Maintaining he had no idea how to do it, but that he had a GED and a give ‘em hell attitude and he’d figure it out, Dean offered crazy hope, which at least made Bobby smile. As the boys left, Bobby stopped Sam, telling him the words he’d spoken earlier were the demon’s, not his own, and that he wasn’t cutting Sam out, not ever. Outside the hospital, Dean admitted his pep talk had been just for Bobby’s benefit and he didn’t believe they had any chance. Sam asked if Dean had something to say to him, and Dean finally opened up, confessing that he’d tried to pretend everything could be all right, but he didn’t think it ever could be again. He acknowledged he knew Sam was sorry and would do anything to take it back, but said Sam was the one he had depended on the most, and Sam, in choosing a demon over his own brother, had let him down in ways he couldn’t even express. Sam asked what he could do, and Dean said, nothing. He said he didn’t think they could ever again be what they once were, because he didn’t think he could trust Sam. Sam just stood as Dean walked away and got into the car alone.

Commentary and Meta Analysis

Sympathy For The Devil
wasn’t the best season opener, but it definitely set the stage for what promises to be a complex and emotional season. It was at its best in depicting the strain between the brothers and emphasizing the consequences of actions taken and choices made, but I think it faltered in setting up a messy and convoluted twist on the show’s mythology. I suspect part of that twist may be a red herring, but more about that later in this discussion. From the smorgasbord of potential meta topics, I’m going to delve into the relationship between the brothers, my take on Dean as the “Michael sword,” Bobby’s possession and Meg’s reappearance, and the nature of Lucifer.

This Is All My Fault, I’m Sorry

From the very beginning of the episode, Sam, racked with guilt, kept trying to apologize, and Dean refused to permit it. Only when Bobby arrived – well, a demon in Bobby’s body, but a third corner to the conversation nonetheless – did Sam succeed in saying what he meant to say: he understood he had been the one to unleash the apocalypse by refusing to listen to the warnings from Bobby and Dean, and he was sorry.

Sam’s guilt and contrition were palpable. He genuinely understood the magnitude of what he’d done, and would have done anything to be able to take it back. The whole of how he’d been deceived and had even facilitated his own deception had become clear to him at the end of Lucifer Rising, and the responsibility was crushing.

Dean’s refusal to allow Sam to speak may seem curious at first blush, but I think it had several components. One was definitely his typical desire not to have to face the emotion: to be able to pretend that everything was normal again, and not to have to think about what to do next once the apology was out in the open. But that, I think, was the least of his reasons.

Another, I’m certain, was the depth of his own guilt. The one and only secret we still haven’t seen Dean share with anyone other than Alastair and the angels was the horror he learned in On The Head Of A Pin: that when he, to his everlasting shame and guilt, broke in Hell, he also broke the first Seal, enabling the demons and Zachariah’s faction of angels to jump-start the apocalypse. I’m confident he hadn’t shared that information with Sam off-screen because if he had, it would definitely have featured in Sam’s hallucinations in When The Levee Breaks.

Because of that, I think Dean didn’t want to let Sam apologize in part precisely because he still feels that the first and greater guilt falls on him. Knowing how Dean thinks, he believes that if he hadn’t broken, the pressure wouldn’t ever have fallen on Sam, so Sam’s guilt for the apocalypse is largely his own fault, and nothing he wants to hear Sam apologize for. Sam’s apology just brings the magnitude of his own failure to the fore. Sooner or later, Dean’s going to have to admit his role to his brother and the world, and that will just mean more guilt and more shame. He knows full well that if he doesn’t admit it outright, the truth will still out eventually: all the demons and all the angels know it, so only humans are still in the dark. I think Dean believes that having started the apocalypse is more on him than on Sam, and I think he fears that in the eyes of everyone he knows, of all the humans he would die to save, that will ultimately prove a truly unforgiveable offense.

I think another reason Dean didn’t want Sam to open up about his role in the apocalypse was his fear that Bobby and others really wouldn’t be able to forgive the men who, all unwitting, brought about the end of the world. Dean still loves Sam more than life, even with his current trust issues; I really believe he doesn’t want to see Sam, of all people, condemned for Dean’s mistakes and weaknesses, or even for Sam’s own.

When Sam finally succeeded in apologizing for his role in the apocalypse, though, Dean watched events unfold with different eyes. He didn’t intervene when demon!Bobby laid into Sam, not because he felt it was earned or justified, I think, but because he saw the effect it had on Sam. Sam was hurt by Bobby’s reaction, no question, but in a way, he was also satisfied. He’d been drowning in his own guilt, feeling he should have been punished for what he did, but encountering only Dean’s refusal to satisfy that need. It’s a psychological thing within us that when we know we’ve done wrong, when we know we deserve punishment, we feel even more guilty if that punishment doesn’t happen. There’s no release from the guilt if we’re not allowed to acknowledge it and accept the consequences. There’s a satisfaction in accepting punishment we genuinely feel is due; it’s expiation following contrition, and only after we’ve experienced it can we accept forgiveness and move on. This is the sound psychological basis for such theological concepts as the Catholic sacrament of confession, in which worshippers admit their faults and sins, accept administrative punishments, and are granted absolution.

I think Dean let Sam apologize and stood silent while Sam accepted his punishment precisely because he finally saw that Sam needed this. He clearly was disquieted and disturbed by the vitriol of Bobby’s response, but he didn’t comment on it; he saw it as being uncharacteristic of Bobby, but he also saw that Sam sucked it up and accepted it as his due, afterward feeling less poisoned by his guilt even though he was badly hurt and shocked by thinking that Bobby was disowning him. Sam was willing to accept whatever Bobby decreed as appropriate for what he’d done; that more than anything else indicated just how earnest Sam was in his contrition. It was also instructive to see Dean watching again at the end, when Bobby made clear to Sam that he wasn’t going to cut Sam off, ever. Dean didn’t miss either Bobby’s sincerity or the effect it had on Sam: that was the first genuine smile we’d seen on Sam’s face since he realized what he’d done, and Dean took it all in, learning from it.

The scene between the brothers at the end was the single most important one of the episode for me. It defined the real core of the damage to the brothers’ relationship from all that had gone before. Dean’s betrayal and pain weren’t for Sam’s role in the apocalypse; Dean’s own guilt for that stands as the worse offense in Dean’s own eyes. Instead, it boils down to the very last exchange between them:

You were the one that I depended on the most, and you let me down in ways that I can’t even … I’m just, I’m having a hard time forgiving and forgetting here, y’know?

What can I do?

Honestly? Nothing. I just don’t … I don’t think we can ever be what we were, y’know? I just don’t think I can trust you.

The real problem for Dean isn’t that Sam opened the last Seal: it’s that Sam lied to him and hid things from him for a long time before that, and finally, deliberately, chose Ruby over him, nearly killing him before walking away. Dean kept John’s and his own secrets from time to time, and is still keeping his own worst secret about having broken the first Seal, but the simple truth is that Dean has always shared his heart with Sam, and sooner rather than later. The only things he’s generally hidden from Sam for any period of time were things he thought might hurt or frighten Sam. He’s needed time along the way to come to terms with his own issues and memories, but in the end he’s always, always, opened himself up and shared with Sam, and held nothing back in the telling no matter how badly it reflected on him. He always trusted Sam to accept him. Sam, on the other hand, has consistently kept his secrets even after they’ve come out, especially when he was ashamed of them and feared that Dean wouldn’t still love him if he knew. For example, just think how long a time passed between Sam seeing the vision of being fed demon blood in All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 1, and finally admitting what he’d known only when he slipped up while talking to Dean in Metamorphosis, when Dean was sharing his experience of seeing the past during In The Beginning.

At the same time, however, I think Dean in his sorrow, loss, and pain overstated the impossibility of complete reconciliation. The brotherly love between them is still there and still strong, in both directions. There is something Sam can do to regain Dean’s trust: it will just take time. It will take Sam being there for Dean no matter what, as events unfold. It will take painful and unhappy truths and shared guilt and loss. I fully expect there will be glitches and slip-ups, as Sam doubts himself and Dean doubts everything, but I believe that in the end, they will come back together in a new relationship, even stronger for their hard-won understanding.

You’re The Michael Sword

The revelation that Dean apparently is intended to be the human vessel for the archangel Michael surprised and bothered me, based on what we learned about vessels from Castiel in Lazarus Rising and from Castiel, Jimmy, and Claire in The Rapture. In Lazarus Rising, Castiel told Dean that only certain special people – demonstrably not including Dean, after what happened when Castiel tried to speak to him in the gas station and at the hotel – could perceive his true visage and tolerate hearing his true voice. Castiel implied this ability, along with his host having prayed to serve, made his human vessel a suitable one to contain an angel. I don’t believe Castiel knew then that Zachariah believed Dean was slated to be Michael’s vessel, and thus expected him to have the characteristics of a vessel. I think Castiel’s surprise was simply that a man important enough to be the subject of prophecy and ordered rescued from Hell by an angel was still nothing more than human even after that experience. I believe Castiel spoke the truth in On The Head Of A Pin when he told Dean that he didn’t know what the prophecy of the righteous man meant, other than Dean was that man and the fate of the world thus rested on him.

In The Rapture, we learned the ability to be a vessel is innate and apparently has a genetic component; it’s in the blood, as Castiel said. Jimmy’s daughter Claire, like Jimmy, obviously possessed the ability to hear and speak with Castiel internally while he was in his angelic form, because she agreed to become his vessel right under the noses of the demons imprisoning her with none of them the wiser. We learned from both Jimmy and Claire that a vessel had to be willing and invite an angel to move in, unlike the case with demons who could possess unwilling hosts. All of those things – the relative rarity of humans able to be vessels, the innate blood-borne nature of the trait, the prospective vessel’s ability to perceive and understand angelic speech, and the requirement of willingness – were further reinforced through Lucifer’s seduction of Nick in Sympathy For The Devil.

Suitability as a vessel doesn’t come with any markers visible to our eyes. I suppose it’s possible that either John or Mary came from vessel stock and passed the ability on to one or both of their sons without ever knowing it. Vessel bloodlines may even have been one trait that Azazel looked for in breeding up his special children, depending on exactly what Lucifer wanted them to do in the long run. But if Dean had been endowed with the genetic gift of vessel suitability, even though hearing Castiel’s voice was overpowering the first time – remember, from what we saw in The Rapture, it was initially overwhelming for Jimmy too, putting him into something resembling an epileptic fit – I’d think he, like Jimmy, should have been able to tolerate and understand it by the second time around. At the least, Castiel should have been able to appear and speak to him in dreams as Lucifer did with poor Nick, manipulating his dreams and appearing in the semblance of the ghost of his dead wife. Instead, Castiel wasn’t able to communicate with Dean at all until after he had taken human form through residing in Jimmy. Even Castiel’s and Uriel’s visits to Dean in dreams, in The Rapture and Heaven and Hell, respectively, happened only after both had taken human vessels, suggesting that their voices still had to be moderated through human forms for Dean to perceive and understand them even in the realm of dreams. For those reasons, I think Dean, unlike Jimmy, Claire, and Nick, does not carry the genetic predisposition to be a vessel.

I would reason that being the one to break the first Seal marked Dean in Zachariah’s eyes as Michael’s destined vessel, since prophecy said that the righteous man who begins it is the only one who can finish it. In trying to persuade Dean to agree to serve, Zachariah insisted that there had to be a battle, that Michael had to defeat the Serpent, because that was also written. According to the evident rules of the game, if that battle were to take place on Earth, Michael, like Lucifer or any other angel, would have to inhabit a human vessel in order to meddle within human-perceptible reality. If Michael destroying or re-imprisoning Lucifer would end the apocalypse, then Zachariah’s logic would suggest that Michael would have to inhabit Dean to do it, in order to fulfill both the prophecy of the ultimate triumph of heaven and the prophecy of the righteous man. Ergo, Dean – being the man foretold in prophecy – would have been transformed by his fate in Hell into a vessel able to hold the archangel Michael, despite not carrying the genetic markers of vessel suitability for any other, lesser angel.

I would submit, however, that Zachariah is putting his own interpretation and spin on prophecy, and I think he is wrong. Prophecy is necessarily vague and often speaks in metaphors, and the favorite warning of mythology as epitomized by the stories of the Oracle at Delphi is that the assumptions you make about the meaning of a prophecy either to bring it about or to evade it may result in the opposite of what you intend. Something Zachariah said was curious in the extreme – We don’t have our general. It wasn’t clear from that whether Michael was simply absent from the fight on Earth because he lacked a suitable vessel, or whether Michael, like God, actually wasn’t in the heavenly building. It may well be that Michael hasn’t been involved yet in any part of Zachariah’s machinations to speed the start of the apocalypse, and that Zachariah, in attempting to secure Dean for him, is just doing what he thinks will further his plans and prepare for the endgame without knowing what Michael’s orders may actually be when he arrives from wherever to take command of the final battle.

Zachariah comes across as middle management stepping into a strategic void to take advantage of the absence of his superiors. He admitted to planting the “Michael’s sword” image in Chuck’s mind to draw the Winchesters to him since he could no longer find them courtesy of the hex bags Sam had made, so we have no reason to believe that anything he said about Dean being Michael’s sword or vessel has the same truth or inevitability as divinely inspired prophecy. I think it’s simply Zachariah’s interpretation, not reality. Zachariah is obviously a bureaucrat and not a warrior himself; recall how he simply stood by dumbfounded and took no action as Castiel took out his angel flunkies. I think Zachariah believes he knows how everything will play out and is acting accordingly. I think angels and demons will both hunt Dean with different ends in mind precisely because they share Zachariah’s view of things, but me? I don’t. I don’t think Dean is ever going to be Michael’s vessel.

You see, I don’t buy Dean’s role as being to step aside from himself to let an archangel use his body to ultimately save the day. Personal choice, free will, and accepting responsibility for the consequences of actions taken are all key themes underlying Supernatural’s entire story arc. For all its supernatural elements, the show is ultimately about being human, about the importance of the actions and choices and feelings of individuals and families. I don’t see the show copping out by having its human heart surrendered to the keeping of an angel for the final deciding act. I think it far more likely that the pep talk Dean gave Bobby, however much he didn’t believe in it himself at the time, will ultimately define the core of the story and the choices the characters make to fight for all that is human in despite of both the demonic and the divine. I could see Dean effectively taking on Michael’s warrior attributes and commanding role in the fight of good versus evil, but only as the defender of humanity, and only as a fully human man.

And something else? If within the show God is indeed Love – more the New Testament Father/Son/Spirit rather than the ruthless Old Testament Lord/King – my money would be on the divine supporting human choice, where that choice is made in love.

Your Surrogate Daddy Is Still Awake, Screaming In There

I really hope we learn when and how Bobby was possessed. Given how canny about demons he became after the tragic outcome of his first encounter, when he had to kill his possessed wife, I’m certain this was no opportunistic possession. We know that Bobby above all other hunters was able to spot possession in others and was wise to guarding against it for himself and his friends. At a minimum, he would always have been wearing one of his own anti-possession charms, and after the Winchesters got theirs tattooed onto their skins, I’d be surprised if he hadn’t done the same, and spread the tip to other hunters as something to do right along with stocking up on salt and holy water and seeding your property with devil’s traps.

My guess is that Meg (and I hope we learn the proper name for her someday, because after having met the ghost of human Meg in Are You There, God? It’s Me, Dean Winchester, I really don’t like using the human’s name for the demon that stole her) has as much of a hate on for Bobby as she does for Dean. After all, it was Bobby who figured out how to break the binding link by branding across it in Born Under A Bad Sign to free Sam. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that when demon!Meg decided to hunt again for the hex-bag-equipped, invisible-to-demons Winchesters, she made straight for Bobby with the deliberate intent of breaking his wards. In BUABS, she presented herself as a renegade from Azazel’s master plan and was clearly running solo in pursuit of her own revenge; in the new regime, she easily found confederates to help her, since her prime personal target had become every demon’s quest. I suspect she used numbers to overpower Bobby physically, outside of the devil’s traps she knew were in his house, and then removed his protection either by taking off his charm or, if he’d gotten tattooed, by physically breaking across the design on his skin with a cut or a burn, much the way he’d broken the binding link. Unprotected, he couldn’t have resisted possession any more than John or Sam.

We don’t know when it happened, but we know it absolutely couldn’t have been before Dean left after Sam’s escape in When The Levee Breaks, because otherwise Bobby wouldn’t have been able to enter or even touch the door of the panic room. We can infer that it hadn’t happened before the last discussion he had with Dean in Lucifer Rising, because his message then about the importance of family was pure Bobby. My guess would be that it happened shortly after Lucifer’s rising, when the realization of his return brought dreams back to demons and the word began to spread through the demon world that Dean was target number one.

That demon!Meg wanted to hurt Bobby as badly as she wanted to hurt Dean was evident in her assertion that Bobby was deliberately allowed to remain awake inside his demon-possessed body to experience the full horror, despair, and grief of killing Dean, his surrogate son. I loved Bobby being able to turn that against her through the strength of his love and will being enough to overpower the demon’s control long enough to choose killing the demon within and very possibly himself rather than killing Dean. Bobby really is family, and family really is more than blood.

Bobby’s success in dominating the demon even if only for a few seconds supports the conclusion that John had achieved the same thing in Devil’s Trap. I had always debated within myself whether that glimpse of John’s own eyes, stripped of Azazel’s yellow, meant John truly had succeeded in breaking loose and stopping Azazel’s torture of Dean, or just indicated that Azazel had let him surface long enough to appreciate the full horror of his helplessness, savoring the taste of his ultimate despair. From now on, I’m going to go with John having actually succeeded in his attempt to save his son, and that makes me feel quietly good.

It also raises the question why Sam was never able to break free when he was possessed by demon!Meg and tormenting Dean. I can think of two reasons. The first and simplest is that Sam, unlike the others, wasn’t simply possessed; he’d been branded with a binding link, locking the demon inside his body beyond even the power of an exorcism to free him. The binding link might also have affected his ability to shift the demon out of control over his body from within. The second possible reason is that demon!Meg might have kept him mostly unaware of what he was doing, at least when Dean was the target. Sam really didn’t seem to remember having shot Dean, or beaten him at the end; he recalled seeing his hands murder Wandell, but demon!Meg may have been too busy enjoying using his body to torture Dean to bother with using Sam’s awareness of the events to torture Sam as well.

Bobby’s decision to save Dean by sacrificing himself has now had consequences he never would have expected. My guess is he thought he would die along with the demon, and he was prepared to accept that. I believe the possibility he may never walk again – that he may face living the rest of his life crippled, and with Armageddon in the offing – is nothing he’d ever contemplated. Bobby has always been active and a fighter; having to change his perceptions of himself and his abilities will be hard. But I believe in him, and in the strength and adaptability of the human spirit. And I believe in the love and support of his surrogate sons.

I Can Give You Justice

Lucifer’s seduction of his human vessel was chilling. Nick – how appropriate a name, given that the devil has often been called Old Nick – presented disturbing parallels to John Winchester: a grieving, angry man who lost his wife and child to brutal, apparently senseless violence. Both were obsessed with and gutted by their loss. But where John had two young sons to save and protect and provide a reason to go on, Nick had no one left.

I’m convinced Nick’s nightmares of blood and horror and loss were induced and emphasized by Lucifer to make Nick more susceptible to persuasion. I think those dream visions were Lucifer’s way of opening the conversation, and Nick’s ability to perceive them was proof that he, like Jimmy and Claire, is a vessel. Assuming the dream image of Nick’s dead wife was very calculated to play on his grief, anger, fear, and longing. Lucifer claimed that, contrary to legend, he didn’t lie; he said he didn’t have to. He didn’t lie – but he didn’t tell all the truth, either. He presented selective information, for truly is it said that even the Devil can quote scripture to his purpose. In his own defense, he claimed to have been betrayed by God and condemned for loving God too much; he neglected to mention disobeying God out of pride, or selfishly refusing to accept God’s love for his human creation.

Lucifer laid the blame for the deaths of Nick’s wife and child on God, using the case of what has long been called in theology and philosophy the problem of pain: the challenge to faith presented by a supposedly benevolent and omnipotent God allowing good people to be hurt. Lucifer presented only two possible reasons for God allowing Nick’s wife and child to be murdered: that he wanted to torment Nick, or that he didn’t care.

In placing all the blame for Nick’s pain on God, Lucifer neglected to mention other possible explanations for the problem of pain, starting with God having given humans – including the monster who butchered Nick’s family, assuming that had been done by a man and not a demon – free will to choose their actions for themselves, whether good or evil. And he also failed to mention demons and others encouraging humans down the dark road, enticing them to selfishness and abuse of others.

That very same free will, however, meant Nick had to invite Lucifer in, because Lucifer, being constrained by angelic rules rather than demonic ones, couldn’t take an unwilling host. This is interesting precisely because it establishes that Lucifer, despite being the originator and leader of the demons, is fundamentally different from them. We learned in Malleus Maleficarum that most if not all demons were debased, corrupted humans, which implies they continue to have some human traits and freedoms, something demon!Meg has made very clear. We learned from this episode that even debased angels still have to play by the angel rulebook. I wonder what importance that difference will assume as the apocalypse continues?

Finally, it was interesting to see the differences and similarities in approach between Zachariah and Lucifer. Both of them used threats and torment, but in different ways. Lucifer inflicted the torment and replayed the threats through anonymous nightmares to soften Nick up before he showed up in his “good cop” persona to offer a way out, to promise justice. Zachariah, failing to call Dean to heel, brutalized him both emotionally and physically in an attempt to force him to yield and did it all directly, making no attempt to conceal his manipulation. Lucifer was far more calculated and smooth in his approach, but I think the difference lay more in the targets. Nick was pretty well destroyed and ready to reach for a helping hand, ready to give up his own life in exchange for his vengeance. Dean, however, has already been down as far as anyone could go, and started to climb back out on his own. Dean has learned through brutal, bitter experience that his willingness to sacrifice himself to save and spare others is sometimes a failing, not a virtue, a price too high to pay. Perhaps the greatest maturity he displayed in this episode came when he said no to Zachariah even when he knew his refusal would cost Bobby his legs and Sam his life. His own death was never the issue and nothing he cared about.

I wonder what approach Michael would take, were he ever to approach Dean directly about his role in the apocalypse? We’ve seen a seducer and a bureaucrat; I wonder about the warrior.

Production Notes

I enjoyed this episode. It wasn’t without its issues, but it definitely set the stage for what promises to be a kick-ass season. The new title card was very suggestive of what we can expect with its pounding heartbeat, burst of spreading blood, and background angelic whispering. I’m not enamored of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” but it fit the pattern for a hard-driving background to the retrospective on the story up to this point. Supernatural has the best recaps in the business, and I think they’re the province of executive producer/regular director Phil Sgriccia, whom I will always applaud. The use of an old Warner Brothers cartoon in the teaser was a hilarious example of synergy, given that Supernatural is also a Warner property.

I believe most of my issues with Sympathy For The Devil came because of how much territory it needed to cover in order to lay the groundwork for the rest of the season. The choppiness of the opening – cutting from convent to airplane to rental car – was disconcerting to watch the first time around. I loved the strong immediate suggestion that God took a hand, translocating the boys from the convent to the airplane with no one on the plane being aware of anything different and simultaneously jumping them a few moments back in time to give them the birds-eye view of Lucifer’s escape, but God’s motivation for doing just that much and no more really presents a dilemma to human understanding, assuming that was the work of God.

There was one continuity glitch that immediately bothered me. In Chuck’s house, we didn’t actually see the boys enter, so there may have been time for Dean to have drawn his angel banishing sigil if he did it immediately upon arriving and before we first saw the boys in the house. The real glitch, however, was that Dean’s left hand was bleeding, but he slammed his clean right palm up against the door to trigger the sigil’s banishment, so there was no blood left on the sigil. Both times we’ve seen that trick used before, in Heaven And Hell and Lucifer Rising, it took a bloody hand to activate the mark. From a camera perspective, I understand the choice of having Dean slam the door with his right hand, but it provided an immediate narrative disconnect. Oops.

I had few quibbles with the script. One was the logic behind using Becky the fangirl. Yes, it was funny having an over-the-top fangirl who wrote slash fanfic encountering the brothers and losing it over Sam, but it felt a little off for the pacing and logic of the story. If Chuck thought the angels really had him under surveillance, why would he think their system wouldn’t react just as much to him giving someone else explicit instructions on how to find the Winchesters with a message as to giving them a call? And while there are Beckys in the fandom, there are a lot of less stereotypical fans as well. I love the man, but I hope Kripke doesn’t always laugh at us when he inserts us in the story; laughing with us would be more fun from where I’m sitting.

Now that I’ve gotten most of my little gripes out of the way, let me dive into all the things that worked. Eric Kripke’s script was full of gems, from the many quotable one-liners to the way the brothers’ relationship was left at the end. Presenting Lucifer as an appealing master manipulator who seduced Nick into letting him move in was inspired, as was introducing Lucifer as the hero of his own story. A really good villain never sees himself as evil, and having Lucifer appear in Paradise Lost form, perceiving himself as having been wronged by God, was a great choice. I also loved the little touch about Dean having a GED, not a high school diploma; I want the story behind that line!

I could readily appreciate from a narrative perspective why the script dispensed with the physical effects of Sam’s demon blood addiction and short-circuited his current withdrawal; we’d seen its debilitation in When The Levee Breaks, and Dean trying to deal with a hallucinating, agonized, cold-turkey Sam would have been a major problem in terms of developing the larger plot. I hope and expect that the psychological effects of addiction won’t be as readily glossed over, though, and that we’ll eventually learn more about how Sam avoided going through physical withdrawal again. I also hope we learn, if only in a throwaway comment, how Bobby wound up possessed, given how unlikely a victim of possession he should logically be.

While I missed Kim Manners’ fine touch, I really enjoyed a lot of Robert Singer’s direction. This show has always delighted in using mirrors to great effect, and this episode was no different. I loved the use of the mirror in the first motel scene; we got to see both sides of Sam’s face as he tried to be honest with Dean, reinforcing that he was being truly open. I also loved the way that Singer often shot the brothers together, keeping one still visible in the background while conversation was directed at the one in the foreground; watch the brothers in Chuck’s house with both Chuck and Zachariah, and Dean returning to stand just past Sam’s shoulder while Bobby tells him that he didn’t mean what the demon made him say. Despite the continuing emotional gap between Sam and Dean, those shots started to bring the brothers back together visually after they’d been so much apart last season, and also let us see the background brother reacting to what was happening in the foreground. The final shots in the parking lot were sheer brilliance, with the crane pulling back to emphasize the physical and emotional distance between the brothers as Dean, for the first time in his life, walked away from Sam without asking him to follow. Still, even across that distance in the dark, Dean looked back and paused, the visual indicator that he wasn’t leaving Sam entirely no matter what he had said, and I delighted that the shot ended without us hearing the car door slam. The car door would have been finality; the lack of it kept the moment open.

Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki definitely brought the goods again, as I’ve come to expect. Jared brought genuine life to Sam’s crushing guilt and need for absolution, while Jensen made Dean’s pain over the loss of his old relationship with his brother heartbreakingly real. These two really are the most underappreciated actors on network television, and deserve more credit than they get from the mainstream.

Jim Beaver as Bobby is obviously going to have an incredibly meaty story arc this season, and I can’t wait to see what he brings to it. Bobby’s new handicap is a radical life-changer, especially for a hunter on the advent of the apocalypse, and for a man who chose to save another’s life even at the price of his own, without realizing that the price would be paid differently than he expected. I do wonder whether his paralysis is the result of the knife wound – that blade was really long, and perhaps could have nicked the spine – or if it came from Zachariah and wasn’t corrected precisely because Zachariah, being a stickler for bureaucratic form, restored only what Castiel forced him to: the boys, not the boys and Bobby.

I’m also looking forward to further revelations about Misha Collins’ Castiel. Like Cas and Zachariah, I suspect that truly divine intervention was required to restore Castiel to life; what that will mean for Cas, for the developing apocalypse, for the self-serving angels, and for the outcome of the story has me sitting on the edge of my chair. God may not be in the building, but I think he saw his faithful angelic sparrow fall and picked him up again. I do wonder whether Jimmy was restored along with Cas, or if Cas is now alone in that reconstituted body. And was that same force responsible for giving Anna her human body back, or are there more players in the game? I’m definitely staying tuned to find out. I have to wonder why, if God indeed was taking a hand, he chose to go only as far as he did.

One thing involving Castiel made me laugh out loud. When Cas carved the Enochian protective sigils into the boys’ ribs, I swear I could hear the folks in the makeup department exclaiming in relief about not having to keep track of another continuity element like the anti-possession tattoos, assuming the boys ever take off their shirts or get them ripped again! Of course, that also has the advantage of making them non-defaceable, unlike the tattoos ...

Kurt Fuller and Rob Benedict both reprised and grew the characters of Zachariah and Chuck, and I’ll be happy to see more of both of them. Chuck is an interesting creation: a true prophet of the Lord, apparently, but one in whom the angels can plant some “prophecies” they want to see and use. How much of what Chuck has seen was divinely inspired, and how much has he been used? I found it fascinating that on the one hand, Zachariah believes explicitly in the inevitability of true prophecy, and on the other, thinks nothing of planting a vision in an acknowledged prophet to manipulate both the prophet and the Winchesters. Fuller did a great job walking that line and making Zachariah the angel you love to hate.

Rachel Miner’s appearance as the new Meg was brief, but I liked her. I’ll be curious to see whether Meg returned to that body after the brothers left with Bobby for the hospital; I’d like to know whether she’s sharing with a host, or if she’s in there alone now after the host’s death. We’ll see.

Sympathy For The Devil left me with plenty of sympathy for Sam, Dean, Bobby, and Nick, but none yet for Lucifer; I didn’t buy what he was selling. What Lucifer needed was Nick; what Sam and Dean need is to find their way back to trusting each other and forging a new balance of brotherhood and love without unhealthy codependence. Lucifer got what he needed; I hope the brothers are as lucky.

I firmly believe they will be.



Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: "Sympathy For The Devil" by the Rolling Stones
fannishliss: eye of the tiger!fannishliss on September 14th, 2009 04:26 pm (UTC)
glad to hear from you! hope your house is recovering from its renovation by now... HAPPY S5!!

I have read enough of your meta by now that I actually kind of feel like I have you watching over my shoulder. I was like, oh, she will totally not tolerate the no handprint! also, the lack of foley car door slam in the final scene! I am so there with you.

I am surprised to consider whether Dean has revealed that "he started it" -- I thought he had, but now I don't remember why. HM.

I was having an interesting conversation last night in meta about whether Michael is associated with Z. I have a lot of questions about what an archangel IS -- the way they have been presented before, they sound more alien to us by orders of magnitude than the Angels -- fierce, irresistible, forces. Like you, I question whether Z is acting on Michael's orders.
bardicvoice: B&W brothers by <lj user=clubinthesky>bardicvoice on September 14th, 2009 11:24 pm (UTC)
Glad to be back! The house isn't quite done yet, but I have hope that I'll soon be able to unpack all the gods-rotted boxes again ...

I love the way this show keeps setting us up with new questions to explore! I'm also curious to know its take on angels versus archangels.

On Dean breaking the first Seal, I initially assumed he'd spoken of it, but then realized that the only times we've seen him refer to it have been with angels or Alastair. It's possible that it got shared off-screen, but the more I thought about it, the less I believed it. It's typically taken some time for Dean to internally process the really bad stuff before he's been ready to share it, and things ran awfully fast at the end of the season, with his relationship with Sam totally on the skids for virtually all of that time.

I'll be curious to see if, when, and how this comes up in the show!
(no subject) - robijean on September 16th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC) (Expand)
galathea_snbgalathea_snb on September 14th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
Interesting read, as always, Mary. :)

I think the only point where I really disagree with you is in thinking that Dean didn't tell Sam that he was the first seal. The reason it didn't show up in Sam's hallucinations was simply because those were about Sam, a logical argument that circled in his mind and I don't think any of Dean's 'real' actions factored in it. After all he also didn't think about Dean torturing souls or anything like that. ;) It was all about Sam. Also, as a contrast to Sam, in all of the 2nd half of S4 Dean opted for total honesty in everything with his brother and he continued to do so in S5. I think he truly changed in his approach to communication. He is more mature, more confident. So, I do think he shared his culpability with Sam right away. Especially given how devastated he was at the end of 4.16.

I do think that he still feels guilt, how could he not, but I take the overwhelming confidence and determination he displays ever since 4.22/5.01 as a sign that he truly moved on into a state of mind that allows him to fight back and atone for his sin by being the best man he can. I don't think that his behaviour towards Sam was dictated at all by his own guilt in starting the apocalypse and only in his personal hurt. That's also why I think that when possessed Bobby lays into Sam he doesn't protest. I think part of him wants to say something similar himself, but of course he loves his brother and he could never be so cruel. Nonetheless I think at the moment the feeling of betrayal rules Dean's emotions. :)

Edited at 2009-09-14 05:27 pm (UTC)
bardicvoice: B&W brothers by <lj user=clubinthesky>bardicvoice on September 14th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC)
You know, I too assumed at first that Dean had told Sam about having broken the first Seal precisely because he'd been all about the sharing in season four once he opened the door on his Hell experience. But then I thought harder and realized that by the time Dean learned that truth, the events of the season had kicked into high gear, and as everything spiraled out of control, the boys were more apart than together and their relationship was unraveling. I don't think Dean had time to process the info and decide to share it before he lost the trust in Sam essential to sharing. It will be interesting to see whether we learn the truth of who knew what when during this season!

I definitely agree that despite the guilt he still feels, Dean has turned the corner on it; it doesn't rule him as it did at the end of On The Head Of A Pin. I think his feelings toward Sam are a complex mix with betrayal and loss right up there with the love. Poor boys, both of them! I'm really looking forward to the point when, having put all cards on the table, they finally manage to come back together.
(no subject) - galathea_snb on September 15th, 2009 12:06 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - andromakhe001 on September 15th, 2009 05:49 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Danipinkphoenix1985 on September 14th, 2009 05:37 pm (UTC)
how are the renovations going?

Mary- I totally agree with you on everything once again! although I found the ep to be ok and the final scene gutted me :(
bardicvoice: B&W brothers by <lj user=clubinthesky>bardicvoice on September 14th, 2009 11:43 pm (UTC)
Alas, the remodeling isn't quite complete; I should get the schedule for the finishing pieces tomorrow. Most of it is done and looks gorgeous, but there are a lot of fussy little details to be cleaned up and the new wood floors upstairs need some adjustment because the wood expanded a lot more than anyone would have expected. I can't wait for it all to be done so I can unpack all my boxes and get access to my books again!

The final scene was painful in the extreme, but so, so good; and that particular air-clearing had to come before Sam and Dean could start finding their way back together. I have no doubt that they'll manage to rebuild their brotherhood, and be the stronger for it!
(no subject) - pinkphoenix1985 on September 15th, 2009 06:30 pm (UTC) (Expand)
deangirl1: readingdeangirl1 on September 14th, 2009 06:06 pm (UTC)
Some thinky-thoughts back at ya!
I agree that some of this episode was choppy - it was my first comment actually... I am laughing to myself that Becky grated on you - my husband was fully waiting for me to go nuclear (I was expecting it myself, having seen the promo clips), but I laughed! I really, truly found her funny (of course, she's a wincest-writing-Samgirl - so maybe my bias is showing again...).
As for Dean being Michael's vessel? I have no problem believing it. Here are my reasonings... First, Mary kept telling Dean angels were watching over him -- perhaps this is an indications that "blood" comes from her side? I also don't have a problem with Dean not being able to tolerate the voice of EVERY angel. Maybe as a vessel, he can only tolerate the voice of the angel for whom he is chosen? As far back as Faith, LeGrange told Dean there was a job he had to do - maybe this is it?
I do agree with all your thoughts about free will -- I think THAT is what God will reward - THAT was his gift to man after all. In the end, it may be that Dean has to choose to let Michael use him -- but it will be his choice and I can certainly see Dean ultimately making that choice to save humanity even if it means his own death.
The boys. Dean, for me, is beyond hurt and angry. I think that to a large extent, though, throughout this episode he is trying to operate on the same tenents he always has, but in the end, he can't get past it. I think he refrains from supporting demonBobby because he won't leave Sam along with noone, but when Bobby says he didn't mean it and will always be there for Sam, Dean finally feels like he can have his say. Even if Dean walks away, Sam will still have Bobby - he won't be alone or unprotected. I agree with Dean that they will never have what they had before -- but I think that that is a good thing. Something needed to break that cycle of co-dependence and this finally has.
I'm not sure I completely agree that Dean hasn't admitted to breaking the first seal... but it is something to consider. It would be one more reason for him to give in to Michael - to atone for that sin.
I agree with your love for the new Meg. I'm looking forward to Bobby's meaty storyline. I'm also looking forward to our golden-tongued Lucifer -- nice call on his selective interpretation of events. Lying can also be done by omission....
I fear you will need several drinks if all your comments are this long! Thanks as always for such a great write up on the episode -- I've been watching for it!!!
bardicvoice: B&W brothers by <lj user=clubinthesky>bardicvoice on September 14th, 2009 11:56 pm (UTC)
Sorry about the length, but it's Kripke's fault: if he didn't stuff so much into this show, I wouldn't feel so compelled to blather on! *grin* The hardest part about doing these is that I keep thinking of more stuff I really should mention, and every time I read what I posted, there's a moment when I kick myself and say, "Dang; how did I miss mentioning _____?" (fill in the blank ...)

I'll admit, I laughed at Becky. She was funny. But for me, it's a joke that gets old fast, especially when it's repeated without much variety and is the only flavor of fandom on display. And I'm really emphatically not into slash, so ... very not me.

It will be interesting to see how Dean's role actually plays out over the course of the season. I don't think we'll know who's got the right of it until the very end. I always expect Kripke to surprise me, and so far, he hasn't disappointed!
(no subject) - deangirl1 on September 15th, 2009 01:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - robijean on September 16th, 2009 12:45 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bardicvoice on September 17th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC) (Expand)
seesmooshrun: thoughtfulDeanseesmooshrun on September 14th, 2009 06:47 pm (UTC)
Yay!!! you're back!! As always I loved reading your insights into the episode. I'm with you in believing that Dean has not shared the Big Secret about the first seal, even though he has otherwise eventually bared his soul to Sam about everything else. I'm not sure yet how I feel about your belief that Zachariah is deluded in his belief that Dean is the Michael sword. I really don't want the show to go there; I too think it will not be Dean's role to step aside and let another fight through him, but to fight as humanity's champion AS A HUMAN. Just have to think for awhile about why Zach believes it so firmly if it isn't so.

Personally I cheered inside when Dean told Sam that he felt betrayed by Sam's actions and could no longer trust him. Not because I enjoyed seeing Sam so devastated, not because I thought it was some kind of payback, but because i saw it as one of the few healthy things that has happened in their relationship for a long time. For once, Dean wasn't repressing or drinking away his feelings, he was letting them out. I remember a quote that I now cannot find, something along the lines of, 'If you are angry or hurt with a friend, you must tell them, for not to do so is to deny the friendship and to deny that friend the opportunity to make things right.' I think that, despite his kicked-puppy look, Sam is strong enough to handle that truth. what Sam and Dean need is to find their way back to trusting each other and forging a new balance of brotherhood and love without unhealthy codependence. I think this was the first step on that road.

Thank you for all your thoughts and I'm looking forward to the nest installment.
bardicvoice: B&W brothers by <lj user=clubinthesky>bardicvoice on September 15th, 2009 12:07 am (UTC)
Yes, I'm back - flee in fear of the excessively long meta!!!

One of the things I love about this show is how it sets up situations that gradually resolve over time, and not necessarily in the way you expect. I'll be fascinated to see how the whole Michael-Dean thing plays out: there are so many different ways this could actually work, it boggles the mind.

I was glad - hurt, but glad - that Dean laid it on the line. It was analogous to lancing the boil so it could drain and then eventually heal. I really do believe the brothers will emerge stronger and closer than ever before the end, and that the relationship between them will be healthy in ways it wasn't before. Openness from both of them is essential, and now it's there.

I can't wait!
tabbytabby333 on September 14th, 2009 07:22 pm (UTC)
I'm glad I found your reviews as they are quite interesting and delight the critiquing fool in me.

It may well be that Michael hasn’t been involved yet in any part of Zachariah’s machinations to speed the start of the apocalypse, and that Zachariah...

The fact that it isn't Michael himself circling the vessel Dean(as Lucifer did with Nick and Castiel did with Jimmy) points to this conclusion as well. If Michael were in this at all, he'd be the one talking to Dean. It's that or Michael is even worse than Zach in his thinking about humans. Since I don't think Michael is involved in the grab for Dean, I also suspect that Zach is wrong about Dean's role. It may be that Dean is Michael's sword, but not in the way that Zach thinks.

I love that Castiel is not 100% sure who resurrected him. His unwavering faith in God I'm sure makes him believe that God is moving about in the events and is more than willing to use that belief to scare Zach.

I'm curious, how did Castiel know about the Winchesters being put on the plane? He must have some angel friends lurking about as well.

Finally, i wanted to say, i know some folks were upset at the continued unravelling of Dean and Sam's relationship. I, on the other hand, am encouraged by that last scene. Dean has finally put everything on the table (I think Sam knows he broke that first seal) and with that step, they can begin to heal. It'll take a while, but they will be stronger for the healing.
galathea_snbgalathea_snb on September 14th, 2009 09:32 pm (UTC)
If Michael were in this at all, he'd be the one talking to Dean.
Sorry to jump in, but Michael can't talk to Dean, since we know from Lazarus Rising that Dean isn't one of the special people who are able to bear the voice of an angel in his true form! And if Dean is indeed the only vessel for Michael there's no getting around that.
(no subject) - tabby333 on September 14th, 2009 11:58 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - etoile444 on September 15th, 2009 12:00 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - galathea_snb on September 15th, 2009 12:17 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bardicvoice on September 15th, 2009 01:12 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - andromakhe001 on September 15th, 2009 05:55 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - andromakhe001 on September 15th, 2009 05:53 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bardicvoice on September 15th, 2009 01:05 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - tabby333 on September 15th, 2009 02:07 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - andromakhe001 on September 15th, 2009 06:00 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bardicvoice on September 17th, 2009 12:43 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Anonymous) on September 14th, 2009 08:30 pm (UTC)
Dean's left arm
It's my thought that Dean sliced his left forearm for the blood to write the anti-angel sigil (which he wrote with his right hand. When Zach saw blood in his hand, it was blood that dripped from his arm wound. His right hand, which he activated the sigil, would have been the hand he used to write the symbols. (Just my interpretation). I love your recaps!
bardicvoice: B&W brothers by <lj user=clubinthesky>bardicvoice on September 15th, 2009 01:14 am (UTC)
Re: Dean's left arm
Thanks, Henry, and welcome!

I wouldn't be surprised that Dean drew the symbol right-handed; it just bothered me that there wasn't more blood on his hand to complete the sigil. Call me the picky continuity dork! *grin*
Re: Dean's left arm - (Anonymous) on September 16th, 2009 02:22 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Dean's left arm - bardicvoice on September 17th, 2009 01:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
Re: Dean's left arm - (Anonymous) on September 17th, 2009 03:57 am (UTC) (Expand)
chiiyo86chiiyo86 on September 14th, 2009 08:33 pm (UTC)
Hey, Mary!

So good to finally have another of your episode commentaries! It brought the thinky on, as usual.

He’d been drowning in his own guilt, feeling he should have been punished for what he did, but encountering only Dean’s refusal to satisfy that need.

I think you've the only one I've seen pointing that out, but I agree with you. Sam was frustrated because Dean was denying him punishment. And some people seem to be mad that Dean didn't say he had broken the first seal, but I don't think Sam would have welcomed the confession - he wouldn't have wanted Dean minimizing his reponsibility. And responsibility is important to Sam because otherwise, he was just the destiny puppet.

You’re The Michael Sword

Fun fact: when they first said "Michael Sword", I heard "microsword". "What the hell is this?" was I wondering. :D

He admitted to planting the “Michael’s sword” image in Chuck’s mind to draw the Winchesters to him

Oh, thanks for making that clear! I didn't get that part.

You have an interesting theory about Dean as Michael's vessel. It could be that his stay in Hell gave Dean a special strength that makes him a vessel of choice for Michael. Or at least that Zachariah thinks so. We'll have to see how it unfolds.

As for Bobby, as much as a shock that it was to see him get hurt, I'm starting to fear that they'll find a way to cure him, because it would rob us of a good storyline and character development.
bardicvoice: B&W brothers by <lj user=clubinthesky>bardicvoice on September 15th, 2009 01:39 am (UTC)
Thanks, Elsa! Beware the thinky ... *grin*

I love the way that Sam is owning up to what he did and accepting responsibility for it; he's been through the wringer, but it's made him grow up, and his determination to face the music and do the right thing is admirable in the extreme. I really don't think he understood just exactly how badly he had hurt Dean until Dean laid it out in the open; the look on Sam's face, the surprise and loss when Dean said he didn't think he could trust him any more, was devastated. Dean has always accepted him, even all the times when Sam feared he wouldn't - losing that was huge. I think Sam is really going to fight to get that back, because life without it would be much more empty. And I do believe he'll get there.

I also think that the show won't sidestep Bobby's life change. Supernatural doesn't let any of its primary characters off easy. If he gets the use of his legs back, I don't think it will happen soon, and I don't think it would be without cost. I'm willing to bet that someone/something will offer him a trade, if not a deal. I also bet he'll tell the dealer to shove it - but that looking at a future in a wheelchair will make him halfway regret doing it. Nothing will be without complexity, without choice, or without pain.

And if it turns out that his paralysis is indeed because Dean refused Zachariah, the fallout on both of them is going to be positively brutal.
(no subject) - andromakhe001 on September 15th, 2009 07:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bardicvoice on September 17th, 2009 01:35 am (UTC) (Expand)
(Anonymous) on September 14th, 2009 09:00 pm (UTC)
sympathy for the devil
Great to see your review again and yeah that season 5 has started. Two things I'm glad you mentioned. One: I believe Bobby not being able to walk is because of what Zachariah said and that Castiel had him restore "the boys" and not "the boys and Bobby." Dean saying no to his request was very clear. I am so glad you caught that and mentioned it in your review. Two: I believe your perception of Lucifer to be the same as mine. The Bible says that Satan is the author of deception and confusion. I know Kripke has stated he is portraying a more sympathetic Satan than other T.V. programs have, but the whole time Satan, in the form of Nick's "wife", was manipulating him into submission I couldn't help but see him for who he truly is and this was portrayed in this character. Kripke really isn't that far of the mark of who Satan really is. It really was very scary to watch. The horror aspect of this show never really has scared me, because I know it isn't real, but the portrayal of Satan in this way was scary because I know that Satan is real and this is how he is. That being a deceiver and master manipulater. I'm anxious to see what Kripke does with this as the season moves on. I'm also anxious how Sam is going to react to these characteristics of Satan, especially given the fact he let him out and his guilt and grief.
bardicvoice: B&W brothers by <lj user=clubinthesky>bardicvoice on September 15th, 2009 01:59 am (UTC)
Re: sympathy for the devil
Thanks for coming!

I really do think I'm going to love the show's depiction of Lucifer. That sounds bad (*grin*), but what I mean is that playing out the seductive, deceptive aspect of evil makes it so much more comprehensible. When you see the full path people's choices lead them down, and not just the last act at the end, you can understand how they came to be what they are. That doesn't mean you excuse them for making bad choices, but maybe you can figure out how to turn them around if you can make them see it, too.

Witness Sam. He did what he did out of good intentions; only at the end of the path were his eyes opened to just how wrong he'd been, and how he'd blinded himself in the process. I suspect we haven't seen the end of that road, either. I'm betting that Sam is going to be questioning every choice he makes for a while, out of fear that he may be making a mistake again; and I fully expect him to be tempted to do things out of the belief that they would be right.

I don't envy him, not at all.
(Anonymous) on September 14th, 2009 10:01 pm (UTC)
Sympathy for the Devil
This was another thoughtful analysis. You constantly point out things that I didn't notice while watching the episode. I also had a problem with Bobby's possession for the same reasons that you gave. I thought that Becky the fangirl was funny but in retrospect I agree with your comments on that part of the episode. Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and Jim Beaver did phenomenal acting jobs but they always do. I can't wait to see how the rest of this season plays out. It should be interesting.
bardicvoice: B&W brothers by <lj user=clubinthesky>bardicvoice on September 15th, 2009 02:01 am (UTC)
Re: Sympathy for the Devil
Thank you! I'm already jonesing for the next episode ... *grin*
karenmiller: cute kittykarenmiller on September 14th, 2009 10:13 pm (UTC)
And she's back!

Great read as always. Personally, I'm loving the Dean as Michael's sword thing. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out. I don't think it undermines anything about Dean's place as a human. I think asking Dean of all people to do this is the biggest ask ever, the ultimate hero question. I think it ties into his oath to Castiel, and also to events of The Rapture.

I honestly don't know whether or not he 'fessed up over being the first seal or not. Again, I'm happy to sit back and wait. In fact, I've come across so much anxiety in commentary about not getting all the answers in the first 42 mins. (not meaning you here) and I'm really puzzled. I guess it means that people are invested but you know seriously? Chill. It's like expecting all the answers in chapter 1 of a book. The narrative purpose of chapter 1 is to set up lots and lots of questions that will then be answered in subsequent chapters. The time to complain about questions not being answered is at the end of the book, not at the beginning.

And re the Becky thing? I have many many issues with it, but most of all I'm unhappy because my choice to exclude wincest from my experience of the show was taken away from me by its explicit inclusion in the text. There's an assumption in that saying, hey, no-one's got a problem with it, everyone thinks it's kind of cute and funny, yeah? Well, no.

I think it's going to be an interesting season indeed and I'm so looking forward to looking over your shoulder as we ride the rollercoaster.
galathea_snbgalathea_snb on September 14th, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC)
It's like expecting all the answers in chapter 1 of a book.
But we are actually in chapter 5 of the book, you know. It's not as if S5 would exist in a vacuum. *sticks tongue out*
(no subject) - bardicvoice on September 14th, 2009 11:03 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - galathea_snb on September 14th, 2009 11:29 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - karenmiller on September 14th, 2009 11:26 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - galathea_snb on September 14th, 2009 11:38 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - karenmiller on September 15th, 2009 12:03 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - galathea_snb on September 15th, 2009 12:22 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - bardicvoice on September 15th, 2009 02:13 am (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - karenmiller on September 15th, 2009 02:52 am (UTC) (Expand)
ErinRua: Stormerinrua on September 14th, 2009 10:41 pm (UTC)
A couple quick things: I think Chuck's visions have been angel-tampered A LOT. I think the reason Zach appeared to threaten Chuck and make him keep on writing, back in S4, is because Zach believes what Chuck writes will come to pass, and so he wants/needs Chuck to write the things Zachariah wants to happen.

In other words, Chuck writes the script, and once written the word is presumably law (though Cas and Dean have proved that not entirely so), and so Zach needs Chuck to write the script but according to his, Zach's specifications, in order to keep the Apocalyptic game plan on schedule.

Which goes to say, if Chuck somehow gets past/resists the angelic tampering, what might he receive as a more true vision? ;-)

In another thing, I loved the idea of sigils on the boys' ribs, because, yeah, no pesky details for makeup, but also - ribs? Enjoy a certain Biblical significance so it just amused me, without me looking too deeply into why. ;-)

Meanwhile, I'm trying to cling to your optimism re: Sam & Dean, but I just know it's going to hurt so damn much, before the boys - and we - get what we really want. *whimpers and clings*

Edited at 2009-09-15 12:11 am (UTC)
bardicvoice: B&W brothers by <lj user=clubinthesky>bardicvoice on September 17th, 2009 01:45 am (UTC)
Hmm, my personal suspicion would be that, for Chuck's prophecies to have power, they would have to be divinely inspired; in other words, that the prophetic nature comes only from the source, not merely that Chuck is the one to write it. I wouldn't put it past Zachariah to try to get others to accept his vision because he got Chuck to see/write it, but I don't think that Chuck himself has any power to convert a lie into the truth of prophecy.

But what Zachariah's meddling with Chuck has done, at least for the brothers, is made it impossible for them to rely on his visions, because they now know that what he sees can be tampered with and be other than the truth. Unless Chuck can learn to distinguish between true inspiration and malicious tampering, he's not going to be able to help the boys by foretelling what will happen. That's insidious and inspired on Zachariah's part, if he wants to deny the Winchesters one of their best tools to combat the apocalypse.

But hang in there, girl: I do firmly believe that we'll have rock-solid brothers together again before the end, and Dean's pessimism notwithstanding, that they'll win.

And you comment on ribs made me laugh out loud!
(no subject) - erinrua on September 17th, 2009 02:33 am (UTC) (Expand)
anne_summersanne_summers on September 14th, 2009 11:47 pm (UTC)
I always love your comments Mary.
Looking forward to read the next one.
bardicvoice: B&W brothers by <lj user=clubinthesky>bardicvoice on September 17th, 2009 01:46 am (UTC)
Thanks, Anne! Hope you enjoy all of them ... *grin*
i dream of colors that have never been seen: pic#93067489etoile444 on September 15th, 2009 12:04 am (UTC)
I enjoyed reading your thoughts and had some to add:

I think Sam is on a new path to honesty and openness and Dean wants him to go there. That’s why he let him spew to Bobby about all his guilt. Sam has never been much for sharing (sure he talks the talk, but never really bares his soul, not like Dean does).

But as to the vessel concept. Why would Castiel have thought Dean was special (presumably to vessel) if there wasn’t some sort of marker or at least a rumor about him being special somehow. And for that matter, how is Sam a special child. Lucifer said, “find a special child…not create one.” And if Michael wants or needs a vessel why doesn’t he ask Dean himself. Shady politicians from the planet Vulcan I tell ya!

I like your ideas about Bobby’s possession, there better be some back story on this in the show to explain why he of all people could get possessed. I think Zach paralyzed him while he was punishing Dean and Sam and he didn’t take it back.

Perhaps the greatest maturity he displayed in this episode came when he said no to Zachariah even when he knew his refusal would cost Bobby his legs and Sam his life.

This is new and improved Dean. Very much a true leader.
bardicvoice: B&W brothers by <lj user=clubinthesky>bardicvoice on September 17th, 2009 02:06 am (UTC)
On your question about why Castiel would have thought Dean was special if there wasn't any "vessel" marker; my thought is his first clue that Dean was special was simply the order that this soul be rescued from Hell. Why wouldn't a man worthy of rescue from Hell be able to hear his rescuer? As it turned out, Dean couldn't; to my mind, that just made him special in a different way.

And yeah, why wouldn't Michael be soliciting his own vessel, if Dean was indeed intended to serve in that role? That's just one of the reasons I suspect Zachariah to be wrong in what he said, and wrong in what he believes, if he really believes that.

I don't think we know where Michael actually fits in all this, yet. I think Zachariah just wanted to achieve a fait accompli, and flat-out failed.

I do still wonder about Sam. I don't believe that we've seen the full endgame that Lucifer intended, when he told Azazel that he needed to find a special child. Azazel told Jake that he had a whole list of tasty things for his chosen one to do: I'm betting that there's more to what was desired of Sam than just opening the final Seal. I don't know what it is, yet, but I strongly believe that there's still another stratagem concerning Sam yet to be revealed.

I love the new and improved Dean! It cost him one hell of a lot to get to this point, but watching him refuse to cave in to Zachariah, even when Zachariah took out the people he loved the most? Damn, but that man has grown!
blackcat333_99blackcat333_99 on September 15th, 2009 01:29 am (UTC)
Good to see you back in action. :)

But if Dean had been endowed with the genetic gift of vessel suitability, even though hearing Castiel’s voice was overpowering the first time – remember, from what we saw in The Rapture, it was initially overwhelming for Jimmy too, putting him into something resembling an epileptic fit – I’d think he, like Jimmy, should have been able to tolerate and understand it by the second time around.

It's an interesting question they've raised about Dean, isn't it? On the one hand, it could be as you suspect -- Dean's not actually meant to be a vessel. Certainly more evidence to support this than contra-indicate it. OTOH -- back to the question of free will. What if the problem is that Dean is SO resistant he simply refuses to allow access to himself on all levels, communication included. Considering his many times voiced opinions on the supernatural, and that he thought Castiel was some high level demon approaching him in both of his early trial attempts to talk to Dean... maybe it is unwittingly Dean's choice to sabotage/subconsciously say no to being one of those "special people". As you noted, Kripke's big on free will being a theme, and Dean could present the new understanding that these "special people" do have more choice than even they may know in the matter. Or maybe I'm just smoking the good stuff, lol. Anyway, I wouldn't put money for or against Dean's potential vessel status just yet. Definitely looking forward to more info from the show on that front.
bardicvoice: B&W brothers by <lj user=clubinthesky>bardicvoice on September 17th, 2009 02:10 am (UTC)
It's a fun conundrum, isn't it - that question about Dean, free will, and vesseldom? I don't think we're going to get any answers soon, but I do think we'll have a definitive answer by the end of this season. In the meantime, we all get to chase our tails and debate the issue ... *grin*

Good to see you and everyone back again!