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5.03 Free to Be You and Me: People Can Change, There Is Reason For Hope

5.03 Free to Be You and Me: People Can Change, There Is Reason For Hope

Dean helps Cas hunt God.

Sam, alone, learns his planned fate:

Lucifer’s vessel.



Episode Summary

At the Great Plains Motel in Garber, Oklahoma, Sam rolled over in bed to find Jessica, his dead girlfriend, smiling at him. She asked him what he was doing, running away, and told him he’d always known he was different; that even at Stanford, he’d known there was something dark inside him, and that darkness meant Jess was dead from the moment they said hello. She told him he couldn’t run from himself. She said she was trying to protect him from himself, because the past would catch up to him again and the people closest to him would die. She said things were never going to change with him, ever, and then she disappeared.


Flashing back to a week earlier, we saw Sam arriving at the motel, dropped off by his latest ride, burning his fake hunter IDs and taking a job as a busboy in at a local bar and grill. At the same time in Greeley, Pennsylvania, Dean was hunting a vampire, working alone.


While Dean was cleaning up after killing the vampire, Castiel appeared in his motel room, having learned where he was from Bobby. He asked Dean to help him hunt down Raphael, the archangel who had killed him, to interrogate him about the whereabouts of God. Having no interest in hunting God or in committing suicide by confronting an archangel, Dean resisted. He was even more dismissive when Castiel said that no angel would dare to harm him because he was Michael’s vessel, but he gave in when Castiel admitted he was asking Dean to help him because he knew no one else would. Dean refused to use angelic transportation, however, so they drove to Waterville, Maine, where Raphael had been seen.


Meanwhile, at the bar, Sam’s good looks, obvious intelligence, and quiet, mysterious vibe attracted Lindsay, the waitress, who tried to learn more about him. Sam’s attention was drawn to a news report of disaster at the nearby town of Hawley, OK, where an unprecedented hailstorm produced lightning strikes that set much of the area on fire.


In Maine, Dean and Castiel questioned the deputy sheriff who had seen Raphael. He’d responded to what looked like extreme gang violence – thirty or forty people all trying to kill each other at a gas station – when there was a pure white explosion that leveled the gas station and evidently killed them all, except for mechanic Donny Fennerman, who was kneeling in the center without a scratch on him. They followed the deputy’s directions to find Donny in St. Pete’s Hospital, a vessel now empty of Raphael and seemingly mostly empty of Donny as well. Dean asked if that’s what he would be like after Michael jumped his bones, and Castiel responded that Michael was much stronger and it would be much worse for Dean.


Following up on the news report, Sam realized that the disaster in Hawley matched another omen out of Revelations. He hesitated at the thought of calling Dean and then instead called Bobby, who was back living in his house in his wheelchair, with a bed set up in his living room. When Bobby asked why he was calling, Sam hesitantly questioned whether Dean had told Bobby about their separation, and Bobby said he had. When Sam suggested that he get a nearby hunter to look into the situation, Bobby pointedly noted that the closest and best hunter was Sam himself. Sam apologized, saying he had to sit this one out, and hung up over Bobby’s protests.


Back in Maine, Castiel reappeared at the abandoned house Dean was using as a base, carrying a flask of rare oil he’d gotten in Jerusalem for the ritual he planned to use at dawn to call Raphael back to the body of his vessel and trap him for questioning. When Dean asked if they had any chance of surviving the ritual and Castiel indicated that Dean did, Dean – learning that Castiel was a virgin – was determined that Castiel enjoy his last night on Earth and insisted on taking him to a house of prostitution. Dismayed at being in a den of iniquity and obviously terrified of the expectations on him, Castiel reluctantly went with a prostitute hilariously called Chastity, but the assignation got derailed when he looked into her and told her it wasn’t her fault her father left home; he just didn’t like his job. Grabbing Castiel and beating it out the back door just ahead of the bouncers, Dean observed that he hadn’t laughed that hard in years.


Three hunters sent by Bobby to check out the situation in Hawley turned up in Sam’s bar, further piquing Lindsay’s curiosity by calling him “Sam” instead of his current alias of “Keith,” and trying to recruit Sam’s help to take on the demon block party happening in Hawley. Sam refused, saying he had to sit this one out without being able to explain why, and the hunters, both irritated and curious, left without him. Lindsay insisted that she was going to buy Sam dinner and he was going to talk, and he insisted that he couldn’t. When she persisted, he wound up explaining that he’d been in business with his brother and was good at it, but he’d made some mistakes and done things he wasn’t proud of, and a lot of people got hurt. Reading between the lines, Lindsay asked what his poison was, and brought out an Alcoholics Anonymous token to demonstrate how well and personally she understood addiction. She told him no one had ever done anything so bad they couldn’t be forgiven, that they couldn’t change.


Just before dawn at the hospital in Maine, Castiel poured a circle of oil around the catatonic Donny, explaining that when the oil burned, no angel could cross it without being destroyed. He said there was the equivalent of an open phone line between a vessel and his angel, and he chanted his summoning into Donny’s ear, ending with an insulting challenge in English to Raphael to come and get him. He lit the circle and the sun rose, but nothing happened. Come night, they returned to the abandoned house to discover Donny, inhabited by Raphael, materializing inside, surrounded by wings of lightning. Raphael claimed it was only his mercy that kept him from smiting Castiel, but Dean countered that Raphael might have been afraid that God would bring Cas back again and smite Raphael in his turn. Rounding on Dean, Raphael thanked Castiel for bringing him, and said that he would take Dean to Michael. Despite his fear, Dean maintained his bravado, drawing Raphael towards him – and Castiel ignited the ring of oil he’d laid down earlier, anticipating Raphael’s move. Castiel asked Raphael where God was, and Raphael answered that God was dead.


After closing at the bar, Ray, the leader of the hunters, returned looking the worse for wear and asking if there was something Sam wanted to tell him. Ray said they’d captured a demon only to be jumped by ten more, and Steve died. Sam apologized, but Ray wouldn’t buy it. He said the demon told them crazy things about Sam, and Sam instantly said that demons lie. Ray asked again, one last time, for the truth, and then his partner Richie brought in Lindsay, holding her at knifepoint. Persuading Richie to set the knife down, Sam admitted that what the demons said was all true. Ray insisted that he keep going, to say it all out loud. Observing that it wouldn’t make them hate him any less or make him hate himself any less, he admitted that he started the apocalypse.


Raphael posited that God was gone for good because nothing else could explain why he had done nothing to counter the evils of the twentieth century. When he warned Dean against blaspheming God because He was the angels’ father, Dean observed sarcastically that He would be so proud to know His sons started the apocalypse. Raphael countered that God had run off, leaving no instructions and a world to rot. Oppressed at the thought of living in a godless universe, Raphael said the angels were tired and just wanted it to be over; they wanted their promised Paradise. Angry beyond fear, Dean challenged the angels’ assumption that they could do whatever they wanted, and Raphael replied that what they wanted, they got. Despite being within the burning circle, his power blew in the windows and whipped up the storm outside. Castiel asked why he had returned, if God was dead. Raphael slyly asked whether Castiel had considered that perhaps Lucifer had brought him back, since every rebellious angel weakened the forces of Heaven. As Castiel turned to leave, Raphael warned them not to leave him there, saying he would find them. Castiel countered that he might find them, one day, but that for tonight, Raphael was his little bitch. Dean agreed, and they left.


At the bar, Ray produced a vial of demon blood, calling it “go juice” and saying Sam was going to drink it, Hulk out, and go kill the demons who had killed his best friend. Ritchie handcuffed Lindsay to the bar rail, and when Sam refused, both hunters attacked, forcing him down to the ground and pouring the blood in his mouth. The hunters staggered back, watching as Sam slowly got up, waiting to see what would happen … and Sam spat out the blood in the Ray’s face, immediately attacking Ritchie and knocking him down before the Ray could clear the blood from his eyes and fight back. Grabbing Ray and forcing him down on the bar beside Lindsay, Sam picked up Ritchie’s knife, but seeing Lindsay watching him, Sam mastered himself and flung Ray away, telling the two of them to go. Ritchie threatened him, telling him not to think they wouldn’t be back.


Driving away, Dean asked Castiel if he was okay. Getting no response, he offered that even though he thought Castiel’s crusade was insane, he knew a bit about missing fathers. Observing that when he’d been looking for his own father, even though logic said John was dead, he had known in his heart his Dad was alive, he asked Castiel what he believed. When Cas responded that he believed God was out there, Dean told Cas to go find him. When Cas in turn asked about him, Dean said that he was good. When Cas asked if he was good even without his brother, Dean responded, “Especially without my brother.” He said he’d spent so much time worrying about Sam, and he’d had more fun with Cas in 24 hours than he’d had with Sam in years. After years of being chained to his family, he claimed that being alone, he was happy. Castiel disappeared, and the smile slipped off Dean’s face.


Back in the motel, Sam heard Jess’s voice and opened his eyes to find her lying beside him again. She asked if this was his life now, and if he thought he could live forever with his head buried in the sand. Responding to the end of their earlier dream conversation, and in the aftermath of his experience with Lindsay and the hunters, Sam said she was wrong: that people could change, that there was reason for hope. Jess told him there wasn’t. When he asked how she could be so sure, she morphed into the image of Nick, Lucifer’s vessel, and Lucifer answered “Because you freed me.” He told Sam he wanted to give him a gift, to give him everything, and when Sam refused, he went on to apologize and then say Sam was his true vessel. Sam refused, saying it would never happen, but Lucifer maintained that he would find Sam and when he did, Sam would agree to let him in. Realizing that Lucifer needed consent, Sam proclaimed that he would kill himself before letting him in, and Lucifer calmly said he’d just bring Sam back to life again. Lucifer offered sympathy for the burdens on Sam’s shoulders, what he’d done and what he still had to do. He told Sam he would never lie to him and never trick him, but that Sam would say yes. When Sam maintained his refusal, Lucifer told him he knew Sam better than Sam knew himself. He said it had to be Sam, it always had to be Sam – and then he disappeared.


Commentary and Meta Analysis

With this episode, I think the last of the principal conflicts for the season have been laid out in detail, setting the stage for the rest of the apocalypse story to play out. First, the apocalypse began; second, Dean was revealed as Michael’s vessel; third, Bobby was crippled; fourth, Castiel began his search for God; and now Sam was revealed as Lucifer’s vessel, the bookend complement to his older brother. That’s a lot for one season to deal with, but it promises to be magnificent!


In this meta discussion, I’ll address Sam and Dean each being on their own, along with another segment of my take on the prophesied showdown between Michael and Lucifer; and I’ll riff on absent fathers, angelic despair, and Castiel’s search for God.


Me And Sam Are Taking Separate Vacations For A While

It fascinated me to learn that Sam hadn’t called Bobby on his own, instead leaving it to Dean to tell Bobby about Sam’s decision. Sam had gotten through telling Dean, but he couldn’t manage to say it to Bobby, too; not right away, at least. Sam burning his fake hunter IDs right at the start was like an alcoholic pouring booze down the drain to remove temptation and make a clean break with the past, suggesting he was thinking about making the break permanent. At the same time, Dean, having to explain Sam’s absence to Castiel and referring to them taking separate vacations for a while, seemed to be holding on to the idea of Sam coming back, and after not too long a time. The following week’s events changed both of them in almost opposing ways.



Sam discovered to his dismay that he couldn’t shut out the hunting world even to try to live a normal life. First, his awareness of the apocalypse extended automatically to him translating the news into demonic omens out of Revelation, and he couldn’t hold back from sending out the alert; then hunters arrived, not only betraying his disguise but forcing him to admit that what they’d just learned about him from demons was true. Finally, Lucifer appeared in a dream to reveal that Sam was intended to be his vessel, and Lucifer didn’t intend to take no for an answer. Whether Sam wanted to return to hunting or not, he learned that he didn’t really have any choice in the matter because the hunting world would simply hunt him down. However much he wanted to be alone and intended to protect people by not letting them be close to him, he learned he could never stay far enough away to keep everyone safe from risk. I believe the inescapable conclusion, even though he never said it and may not yet have reached it, was that he’d be better off and the world would be safer if he went on the offensive with someone to watch his back and fight at his side.


The struggle for Sam’s soul that I think will form the crux of the season was laid out in this episode in the opposing viewpoints of Lucifer and Lindsay:


Same song, different verse. Things are never going to change with you. Ever. It had to be you, Sam. It always had to be you.

I do know that no one has ever done anything so bad they can’t be forgiven, they can’t change.

Lucifer counseled despair, giving in to inevitability, handing over responsibility to prophecy and fate. His voice was water, wearing away stone with its steady assault and irresistible flow. Give in, it’s too much to bear, you can’t escape, I will find you, you will give in. Life is grief and pain and loss and will never change; give up, give in. Don’t fight, ‘cause you can never win.


Give up, give in, and the pain will stop – sound familiar? It should. It’s the same song that finally broke Dean in Hell, just played on different instruments. It’s the essence of Hell. Surrender yourself, forget who you are, stop trying, stop striving; you can’t win or escape, so why fight? You’re alone, you’re abandoned, no one can help you, there is no hope of relief; but give in to the inevitable, and the pain will go away. The truth behind the lie, however, is that the pain goes away only because in giving up you cease to be yourself; you lose the humanity and sense of self that makes you care. When you stop caring, you stop hurting – but a void feels no joy, either.


Lindsay, in contrast, offered human hope, based on taking responsibility and deciding to change. Hope isn’t easy – it takes work, it takes effort, and it hurts – but its reward is peace. Recovering from addiction is a perfect illustration of hope in action. An axiom of Alcoholics Anonymous is that an alcoholic never stops being an alcoholic. The temptation is always there, fueled by whatever drove the initial urge to drink, and the fight against it is constant and sometimes cripplingly intense – but the alcoholic can choose not to drink, to stay in control despite the overwhelming need, and each day sober is a victory, a triumph of will and the proof that change can happen. Each day sober doesn’t make the next any easier, but it does make it possible to say that what you’ve done before, you can do again, and that very repetition makes you stronger. And that strength, in the end, brings contentment and peace and pride in each achievement, even though the fight itself never ends.


We didn’t get to see what happened between Lindsay and Sam after the confrontation with the hunters in the bar, but judging from Sam’s quiet, determined, post-combat rejection of the dream of Jess – I love you, Jess. God knows how much I miss you, too. But you’re wrong. People can change. There is reason for hope – Lindsay clearly didn’t reject him after hearing his admission of having started the apocalypse and seeing the brutality and violence of which he was capable. For his own part, Sam drew strength and peace from knowing he’d both resisted the temptation to swallow the demon blood and drawn back from a killing rage. He’d seen that he could change, that even in an extreme situation – even with demon blood poured into his mouth – he could reject the lure of the strength it promised and stop himself from going too far, and that gave him hope and the beginning of trust in himself. And until Sam can start trusting himself again, it’s going to be hard for anyone else who knows what he’s fighting to trust him, too.


Sam’s awareness of Lindsay watching him helped him both resist temptation and pull back from the brink of murder, demonstrating another key I believe will be important to Sam’s personal redemption: recognizing his own need for community, support, and human closeness. Alcoholics Anonymous understands the importance of help and support to the success of any individual in the program. No AA member goes it alone. They work a buddy system, so every addict has a coach to call on when despair or temptation looms, someone to offer encouragement and share strength to help through the rough spots.


Lucifer tried to isolate Sam by playing on his fears: the people closest to you die. That was very calculated and deliberate, because one man alone finds it much harder to resist despair than a man bolstered by the caring and support of others. Hope is hard to sustain when you’re alone. While I believe Sam needed this time on his own to start coming to terms with himself and put events in perspective, I believe the ultimate lesson he has to learn is that sometimes you can’t make it on your own, and accepting help isn’t a weakness. A team can be far stronger than one man alone.


I think that Sam, if he tried to stay alone or if he wound up that way because others rejected him, would eventually break and give in to Lucifer out of despair, much as Dean, alone and tormented for decades in Hell, gave in to Alastair. Sam needs to be with people: he loves and wants love, he cares and craves caring. It’s not in his nature to hold back from trying to help, so becoming a recluse wouldn’t suit him. He has to get over his fear of bringing death to those around him and his guilt for consequences that were never his fault – and Jessica’s death is emblematic of both those things – because Lucifer can use them against him to deprive him of his essential human support structure of friends and family.



While Sam learned that being alone brought no safety and no peace, Dean, on the other hand, discovered that being alone didn’t have to be the torment he’d always feared. He learned to his surprise that even though he was lonely and missed Sam – and that post-vampire-hunt glance at the empty passenger seat spoke volumes about just how much he was missing his brother, or at least missing the sense he’d had of his brother before they’d started drifting apart – he could also laugh and have fun and even feel free of the burden of family responsibility he’d always carried. Probably the only other time in his life he’d been hunting alone and hadn’t felt the constant need to worry about Sam was when Sam was at Stanford, at least after he’d been there a while and nothing bad had happened to him. But even then, the tenor of the separation had been different because we’ve been given to understand there hadn’t been anything mutual about it; Sam had rebelled, John had exiled him, and Dean had been caught in the middle. That buried hurt and the envy of seeing Sam able to escape to his dreams had to rankle.


This time, there was no anger in their parting. There was regret and pain and loss, but there was also agreement. No voices were raised, no doors were slammed, no one snuck away; Sam said he needed time and space, and Dean agreed. Far from exiling Sam, Dean offered support in the form of the Impala. When Sam left, he said he would be taking a break from hunting, giving Dean at least some reason to think he might be able to lie low and safe for a while.


And all that, I think, was enormously liberating. Dean had always defined himself and his worth in terms of his family: he was John’s son and Sam’s big brother. John was the one who initially locked those family chains on him, but Dean accepted them and kept forging more links through his need not to be alone. His fears of failing the people he loved and being abandoned by them were some of the first true things we learned about him, keys to the insecure Dean who hid behind the cocky, self-assured façade. When John disappeared, that fear was what made Dean seek out Sam at Stanford and ask for his help. That fear of being alone and being guilty for having failed both John and Sam led to Dean selling his soul to get Sam back.


Not until he learned the consequences of his actions – starting the apocalypse – did Dean finally realize that his extreme family ties, his over-developed sense of responsibility, and his willingness to sacrifice himself weren’t necessarily virtues, but reflected his weaknesses and his fears. He learned to the world’s cost that there are times you have to hold on to your principles and your soul even when it means both you and others will suffer. Dean learned in the aftermath of Hell the very lesson the Trickster had tried to teach Sam in Mystery Spot: that sometimes, you had to let people go, that what happened to others through the will of someone else wasn’t your fault, and that giving in to a bully threatening someone you loved wouldn’t simply let you trade places and take all the punishment on yourself.


Dean refusing to yield to Zachariah in Sympathy For The Devil even when Zachariah inflicted pain, suffering, and virtual death on the two people closest to him was proof of how much he’s been tempered in the fire. This time, Dean refused to break; he refused to give himself up to Zachariah, Michael, and the angels even for the sake of others. Holding strong cost him dear, and probably cost him more than he’s yet been able to face in terms of Bobby’s paralysis possibly being due to Zachariah’s spite. But I think Dean finally does understand that the actions of others are not his fault, not even when those others maintain that he could stop them and save others just by giving up, by giving in. I don’t see him yielding to become Michael’s vessel to save Sam, Bobby, or himself; he knows that price is too high and too fleeting. I don’t see him trusting in the promises of angels that his agreement would save the rest of humanity either, not after the callous scorn for humanity he’s seen from Zachariah and Raphael. But that’s an aside for a different time.


For the first time since we met him, Dean dropped the baggage of being responsible for everyone else, and he did it at the same time as Sam stepped up directly to take responsibility for himself. Sam left, and the world didn’t end. Dean could hunt without being driven and obsessed. He could shorten his focus to one day at a time rather than brooding over the end of the world and his part in it. He wasn’t being constantly exposed to Sam’s fears and guilt on top of his own. He could give up worrying and just live – and in the process he could recover laughter and the delight of the moment. And all of that had to bring its own overwhelming joy and relief, a giddy sense of freedom and well-being.


I think some of what Dean said to Castiel about being happy, about being good despite and even because of Sam’s absence, was absolutely true. I think Dean surprised himself with being able to feel any happiness on his own, especially after the last several years when the pressure on him just kept increasing. There were happy moments with Sam even this past year – remember Dean’s delight in being alive again in Monster Movie, for example (which, despite having aired as the fifth episode last season, had been shot as the third episode, and really shows the brothers before the break of Dean discovering Sam’s hidden partnership with Ruby in Metamorphosis) – but they were all still laced with Dean’s fears, Sam’s secrets, and the shame of Dean’s increasing memories of Hell. And for Dean, it wasn’t just the building tension of the handful of years since the pilot, but also the forty years in Hell when there was no joy or love or laughter at all. It really had been years since his last belly laugh. Despite all of that, however, Dean discovered that life is still sweet and laughter still heals.


At the same time, though, I believe Dean exaggerated his well-being and happiness for Castiel’s sake. He knew Castiel was aching to resume his search for God and needed support after the fears and doubts that Raphael had raised. When Castiel hesitated about leaving Dean to go after God, Dean said what Castiel needed to hear – that Dean was better than fine on his own. The instant loss of his smile the moment that Castiel disappeared gave the lie to his Pollyanna lightness, however. Sam is still in his heart and always will be. Dean’s speech in the car seemed intended almost as much to bolster and persuade himself that he felt better and more certain than he actually did as to convince Castiel that the angel didn’t need to stick around for his human friend’s sake.


Up until now, the weakness of Sam and Dean was their absolute emotional interdependence on each other, their total inability since their father died to let each other go when they should have. Dean said it, in No Rest For The Wicked: Don’t you see a pattern here? Dad’s deal, my deal, and now this? Every time one of us is up the creek, the other is begging to sell their soul. That’s all this is, man. Ruby’s just jerking your chain down the road. You know what it’s paved with and you know where it’s going. All I’m saying – Sammy, all I’m saying is, that you’re my weak spot. You are. And I’m yours. … And those evil sons of bitches know it, too. I mean, what we’ll do for each other, how far we’ll go – they’re using that against us.

They’ve been each other’s weakness, but they’ve also been each other’s strength. They’re better and stronger together than apart, not just because their skill sets are complementary and they can guard each other’s backs, but because – until this last disastrous year – they were always there and able to support each other emotionally. When one faltered, the other could carry on. When one admitted weakness and confessed truth, the other provided support and acceptance and shouldered the load. The growing loss of truth and trust between them damaged their former ability to loan each other strength because they couldn’t pass the burdens between them.

Both of them are better able now to see themselves and each other with clearer, wiser eyes. I don’t think either will make the same mistakes they did in the past, although I fear the last barriers still between them may be not just their uncertainty in trusting each other after the ruin all their secrets made before, but also a reluctance to reunite for fear of the past repeating itself and old patterns of behavior – particularly Dean automatically domineering as big brother and Sam reflexively rebelling as little brother – reasserting themselves. I believe they are past that, but until they believe it, getting back together may be hard. And the hardest key may be giving up the secrets they’ve hoarded and learning to trust that each will still accept and love the other despite what sharing those secrets reveals. I can’t wait to see whether Sam will tell Dean about Lucifer’s revelation, whether or not Dean learns of it from other sources.


I believe that the brothers being together is their one and only chance of averting disaster. Either one alone is vulnerable to despair; together, if they can fight their way back to trusting themselves and each other, they embody hope. And hope is human, right down to the core.


I Do Know A Little Something About Missing Fathers

The parallels and contrasts between the Winchesters and the heavenly family of God and His angels were on ironically amusing display in this episode. Put me down as voting to have God, if and when He eventually appears, decide for humor and convenience to assume the father-figure guise of John Winchester and be played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, because that would just rock.


God as a strict but absentee father who left his angel sons to their own devices and resources with minimal direction made for an obvious John parallel. Castiel as the faithful soldier-son sticking to his post, his duty, and his love despite his own doubts and confusion played a similar role in the heavenly family to Dean’s role in the Winchester one – no wonder the two of them get along so well despite their differences. Zachariah, Raphael, and the other rebellious angels who have taken over the hierarchy of heaven, resentful of their Father’s absence and assumptions and choosing stubbornly to go their own way, present an imperfect but obvious parallel to Sam.


Raphael’s confusion and resentment at heaven’s apparent abandonment by God earned no sympathy from Dean. Admittedly, we learned in Something Wicked that whenever John left while the boys were very young, he always issued the same basic orders to his oldest son, but that still left a lot of responsibility and need for improvisation on Dean’s shoulders. It’s a fair bet that John simply assumed the standing orders as the boys grew up, rather than reissuing them every time. That would be similar to my mind to God having given His angels assignments to watch over the world and then left them to it, even for centuries. Unlike the rebellious angels, we know Dean never abrogated that responsibility after the near disaster that occurred the one time he flirted with disobedience. Dean never asked or wondered if the standing orders still applied or not when his father disappeared; he assumed them as a matter of course. It would never have occurred to Dean to dismiss them and branch out on his own just because his father had vanished, and I think that would have been true no matter how much time passed. Saving people, hunting things, watching out for Sammy – those were orders he never questioned.


I think Dean could appreciate the fatigue and despair that Raphael and Castiel both displayed as soldier-sons left too long alone under the unremitting burden of duty, but his sympathies remained staunchly with Castiel who, like Dean, still soldiered on anyway and found strength in his faith in his father. Raphael, Zachariah, and their faction triggering the apocalypse just to get it over with and head on into paradise no matter what the cost would be to the rest of their Father’s creation was simply not something Dean could ever justify or understand.


And that is also why I called the rebellious angels an imperfect parallel to Sam. Sam felt a lot of the same resentment and desire to break free as the impatient angels, but in chafing against John, Sam would never have chosen to be willfully callous of others. He might do things without realizing their effect – I think he often didn’t realize when he hurt Dean, for example – but he always intended to do the right thing, and hurting many for the abiding comfort of the remaining few wouldn’t be in his character. I see a much truer parallel between Sam and Anna, the angel who rebelled against her orders and fled her fear of punishment, choosing to fall and become human in order to be free to feel and live as she chose. Anna didn’t choose her course knowing and not caring that it would have disastrous consequences on others; she fell because she wanted and cared too much and because she was afraid, and those same factors seem to apply to Sam.


Dean recognized the obvious link between his search for his own father and Castiel’s search for God, but I wonder if he can yet see himself in the angel or see the angel in himself. I also wonder whether Castiel can yet see himself in the mirror when he looks at Dean. The link between Castiel and Dean is the one thing I think most likely to someday bring Dean to believe in God, although I don’t think he’ll ever get there simply through faith. Dean has seen and lost too much to go on blind faith, but faith in friends is an entirely different matter.


I’m very curious to learn why God left heaven and what He’s been up to while His angelic creations began to lose faith in Him and chose to steal a march on the end times for their own satisfaction. John was a human, flawed and fallible as humans are, and I truly believe he didn’t fully realize the damaging effects of his parenting style on his sons. I think John was blinded by his own loss and obsession and didn’t see or understand how he warped Dean and pushed Sam away. Theology holds God to be omniscient, however, so one would think that God would know and take into account the effect his absence would have on his angels, and anticipate a demon finding a way to communicate with Lucifer and plot his escape. If that’s the case, one has to ask what divine purpose was served by God’s absence opening the way to angels and demons triggering the end of mortal creation. Did God intend angels finally to discover they, like humans, like God, had free will, and the responsibility to choose what to do with it and accept the consequences? Was God testing the angels’ faith as once he challenged Job’s?


And if redemption is truly possible for everyone, no matter what they’ve done, might this really be the opportunity for Lucifer, his fallen human-souled demons, and the other rebellious angels to learn from humans that they, like humans – like John and Dean and Sam – can realize when and how they were wrong, and choose to change, to take charge of their own destinies? Could the end result of all this anguish be the ability for all to find the way to paradise, or for more to realize the spark of the divine within themselves and become, not just creations, but fit companions for God? Inquiring minds want to know.


Production Notes

Most of this episode riveted me to the screen. The montage paralleling the events of Sam’s and Dean’s separate lives was brilliant, and setting it to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” – a song that’s long been on my personal Supernatural playlist – made my heart sing. Kudos to director J. Miller Tobin for blocking the scenes to mesh so well and editor Nicole Baer for putting that all together so perfectly. Most of Jeremy Carver’s script touched me where I live, conveying Sam’s desperate quest for hope and redemption, Dean’s mixed emotions at his freedom, and the angels’ despair at the loss of God.


As usual, I’m going to get my criticisms out of the way first. I only had one major irritation with the script, and that concerned the whole “deflowering Castiel” gag. Yes, we all know that Dean loves sex and considers dying without experiencing it to be a major tragedy – who could forget his reaction in Jus In Bello to thinking that Nancy would die before she’d ever been laid? – and the expression of utter terror on Misha Collin’s face as Cas confronted even the thought of being with a prostitute was priceless, but that whole bit rang false to me. Dean had learned from Anna in Heaven And Hell that angels were asexual – she listed sex as an advantage humans had over angels – so his incredulity at the thought of Castiel being a virgin just didn’t fly, especially given all his experience with Castiel’s attitudes and personality to date. Castiel going along with Dean pushing him into a situation so totally distasteful and unnecessary also felt off. I can appreciate Castiel, exploring this curious friendship he has with Dean, wanting to go along with Dean’s ideas and fit in with him, and I can appreciate Dean wanting to take Castiel’s mind off the thought that he would probably die at dawn, but – the whorehouse just didn’t work to do that for me. Dean needed a really good belly laugh to drive home the realization that he could have fun again, but given this setup, Dean’s laughter and the joke itself came across as forced.


I did enjoy the comedy act of Dean trying to groom Castiel to hunt with him. Castiel is so honest and earnest, and so disconnected still from human reality that Dean rightly didn’t even try to explain why telling the truth wouldn’t work. Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins made a delightful comedy team with flawless timing and delivery; the whole bit with the FBI badges was hilarious.


I loved all the performances by the principals in this episode. Jared Padalecki did a spectacular job with Sam’s internal conflicts about hunting and revealing the truth, and captured Sam’s initial determined hope and ultimate crushing despair in the final scene with Lucifer with heartbreaking power. Jensen’s ability to convey both Dean’s surface cockiness and the inner terror he was desperately trying to cover in the confrontation with Raphael impressed me no end, as did his mix of Dean’s emotions in the final scene in the car with Castiel. And while I thought Misha’s depiction of Castiel’s unrest in the brothel went a bit over the top, I had no argument at all with the way he brought out Castiel’s fears and doubts when Raphael stirred them up. Our closest angel is becoming more human by the day. (Incidentally, I don’t think there’s any chance that Lucifer raised Castiel, because there’s a logic to a single agent being responsible for both resurrecting Castiel and snatching the brothers out of the presence of Lucifer in the chapel – and the last thing Lucifer would have chosen to do was send Sam away when the whole point of him being there was to become Lucifer’s vessel. Just my two cents there ...)


I enjoyed seeing Adrienne Palicki as Jess again, even if she – being an expression of Lucifer – wasn’t quite herself this time; the chemistry she had with Jared from their scenes in the pilot is still there. Sam’s continuing commitment to Jess is another demonstration of how similar Sam is to John. Mark Pellegrino’s quiet, seemingly gentle but very intense Lucifer effectively creeps me out. He’s not seductive but he is convincingly persuasive, and his counsel of despair just gets heavier and heavier and harder to resist.


The production crew were responsible for lovely touches, including the top ID in Sam’s little bonfire being his Pennsylvania State Police Forensic Services Unit one, Sam’s perfect match for the ID Dean flashed in the very next moment of the montage. The red and black color scheme in Sam’s motel room turned into an appropriate Hell setting for Lucifer’s appearance.


The script also had subtle gems. I was delighted at the suggestion in Dean’s first alias – the one he used with the doctor at the beginning of the vampire hunt – that Dean was subconsciously making himself pay penance for his failure to stop Lucifer and the apocalypse by taking on the name of a man who made an infamous mistake. Bill Buckner, rather than being one of Dean’s usual rock star idols, was a baseball player who, in the 1986 World Series, let the ball roll between his legs – a much maligned and ridiculed fielding error that cost the Red Sox both the crucial game and the title. When it came time for Dean to team with Castiel, however, the new aliases he chose – Alonzo Mosley and Eddie Moscone – came from characters in the action comedy film Midnight Run, almost as if Dean was setting us up for the laughs.


Another thing I liked was the show’s penchant for consistency. Lucifer being able to find Sam in his dreams even though his physical body was hidden by the Enochian sigil, but not knowing from that dream contact where Sam was in the world unless Sam was willing to tell him, was a callback to Uriel talking to Dean in his dreams in Heaven And Hell because he couldn’t find him while Dean was hidden by Ruby’s hex bag.


The extreme irony of the title was also brilliant. Sam and Dean were each on their own, free to be themselves. At the same time, however, Sam couldn’t find his way free of the hunting life to be who he wanted to be, and Lucifer maintained that he had never been free, that Sam was always destined to be his vessel and couldn’t escape. Dean was free of the shackles of responsibility he’d always felt to Sam, to family, and to duty, but at the same time, he couldn’t resist taking on duty again when Castiel approached him as the only one who would be willing to help.


Earlier this season, I resisted believing that Dean was intended to be Michael’s vessel, and although a lot of the fandom had predicted for some time that Sam would be Lucifer’s vessel, I never wanted to go there. I will now concede that the plan for the series always did intend to set up the brothers as the apparent avatars for the fight between good and evil, but you know what? I still don’t believe that’s the way it’s going to go in the end. I don’t believe it because it’s too predictable, and that’s a sin of which I don’t believe creator Eric Kripke is guilty. And I don’t believe it because the themes of the show are and have always been family, free will, personal choice, personal responsibility, hope, and redemption. Yes, the destiny card has always been on the table and keeps getting thrown into the pot, but I think it’s a red herring that’s going to be cooked. Put me down on the side of believing that in the end – no matter what side trips happen in the middle – Sam and Dean are going to be their human selves, and the resolution of the story is going to turn on their humanity and brotherhood, not on a confrontation between angelic beings in borrowed human hosts.


In the end, I believe this episode’s title, for all its present irony, speaks the truth and hints at the future: that Dean and Sam are free to be themselves, free to choose not to embody Michael and Lucifer, free to remain diverse and human – as all of us are free to be.

You and me.


My earnest apologies for how horribly late this review/commentary is; I plead the pressures of real life and work. If you're curious to see something of what I do in real life, well -- this is my work website, brand-new as of this past Tuesday night.

And now that's up, hopefully work won't get quite that much in the way of Supernatural again!

The icon for this entry came from talulababy. Thank you!

Tags: dean winchester, episode commentaries, jared padalecki, jeffrey dean morgan, jensen ackles, jeremy carver, john winchester, meta, psychology, sam winchester, supernatural, supernatural university, theology

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