The past is prologue:
Anna hunts John and Mary,
Fought by Team Free Will.
Unable to find him physically, Anna infiltrated Dean’s dream of angel and devil strippers, telling him Castiel had betrayed her to the forces of Heaven and she had been tortured for her disobedience. She said she had escaped her prison and was on the run from Heaven, and told him to meet her at a warehouse address. Castiel appeared at the warehouse instead, saying the Winchesters trusted her but he didn’t. He doubted her claim to have escaped, believing she had been allowed free to perform a mission, and asked what she was doing with the knife she hid. He observed her blade wouldn’t kill angels, unlike the one he carried. Anna said Sam Winchester had to die and she would scatter his cells across the universe to prevent Lucifer and his minions from ever being able to reassemble him, because if he never became Lucifer’s vessel, Lucifer’s entire plan would short-circuit. Castiel refused to cooperate, saying Sam was his friend and warning her that if she came near Sam, he would kill her. She disappeared.
Anna reappeared in 1978, collapsing onto the hood of a Pontiac Firebird parked in an alley with two young people kissing inside. The shocked couple scrambled to help her to a hospital.
In the brothers’ motel room, Castiel drew the symbols for a spell on the table while the brothers tried to come to grips with his news about Anna. Dean protested when Sam asked if the plan to kill him would actually stop Satan, and Castiel said it wouldn’t. He also said Anna wouldn’t give up until Sam was dead, and they had to kill her first. He cast his spell, staggering with the result, and told them she had gone back to 1978. He realized Anna intended to kill John and Mary Winchester to prevent Sam from ever being born. He said he would stop her but Dean insisted on the brothers going along, saying John and Mary were their parents and if they could save them – not just from Anna, but to set things right – they had to try, even though Castiel warned them that he would be weakened by attempting time travel while cut off from Heaven, and taking passengers would make it worse. They packed supplies including Castiel’s angel-killing short sword and a couple of ewers of holy oil, and Castiel transported them into the past. True to his prediction, Castiel coughed blood and collapsed upon arrival, and Dean left him in a motel to recover while Sam scored the Winchesters’ address from a phone book.
Mary and John were happily preparing for dinner when the brothers arrived, although John hesitated before answering Mary’s question about his day at work by saying it was fine. Answering the door, Mary immediately recognized Dean from their previous encounter during In The Beginning and told him he had to go, saying she had a normal life now. Before she could close the door on them, John arrived, and Dean proclaimed them Mary’s cousins, just stopping to say hello. John noted Dean looked familiar, and Dean put it down to small town life, saying they must have seen each other in passing before. John introduced himself, offering his hand to shake, and Sam, overcome with emotion at seeing his parents young and alive, had a hard time keeping it together, passing off his fixation as fatigue from a long trip. Mary said they were just leaving, but John insisted they come in for a beer. Sam couldn’t stop staring at Mary, finally blurting out that she was beautiful, and Dean covered by saying they hadn’t seen Mary for a long time and she was the spitting image of their mom, and her father had been like a grandpa to them. John mentioned Samuel’s tragic death by heart attack, then asked why they were in town. When the brothers simultaneously provided two different answers – plumbing and scrap metal – Mary covered by saying she needed to prepare dinner. She again said the brothers had to leave, but John asked them to stay for dinner since he never got to meet much of Mary’s family.
The hall phone rang, and John excused himself to answer it, hearing Mr. Woodson, his boss at the garage, telling him he would have to be let go. John begged for the chance to continue even part time, and the man told him to come in right away to talk, saying they might be able to work something out – but the person on the other end of the phone was Anna, not his boss.
In the living room, Mary insisted the brothers leave, saying that the last time she saw Dean, a demon killed her parents. Sam warned that she and John were in danger, and when she asked if it was a demon, Sam blurted out that it was an angel. Mary averred there was no such thing, but Dean said they were twice as powerful as demons. When Mary asked why an angel would want to kill them, Dean said it was a long story but she had to trust them and they had to go. She reluctantly agreed, persuaded by their urgency, but asked what she should tell John – and Dean realized the house was too quiet and he couldn’t hear John. They found a note scrawled beside the phone, that John would be back in 15 minutes.
At the garage, John found his boss dead, his eyes burned out of their sockets. Backing away in shock, he nearly ran into Anna, who threw him across the room. As she came after him, however, she wavered, bleeding from the nose and apparently still weakened by the time travel, and he struck her down with a tire iron. Despite that, she appeared in front of him when he turned, and flung him over a car. Before she could continue, Dean attacked with Castiel’s blade, but she flung him out of the building through a window. Mary snatched up the fallen weapon and attacked, displaying a skill and focus that astonished John, acquitting herself well until Anna disappeared, only to reappear behind her, disarm her, and fling her into the windshield of a car while saying she was sorry. She advanced on Mary, who stabbed her with a crowbar. Anna pulled the tool out of her chest, saying it wasn’t that easy to kill an angel, but Sam – who had spent the fight drawing on the wall the angel-banishing sigil Dean had learned from Castiel – said you could distract them, and touched the sigil with his bloody hand to banish her.
Driving in the Impala to a Campbell safe house in the country, John was incredulous about the reality of monsters and angry about the secret Mary had kept about being a hunter all her life. At the cabin, Mary pointed out devil’s traps and iron fixtures and promised salt, holy water, guns, and knives, but Sam said they wouldn’t help against angels. Dean opened the bag they’d packed, showing off the banishing sigil, and Sam pulled out the holy oil, taking Mary with him to show her how it was used. Asking about the banishing sigil, John insisted on helping, not being useless, cutting his own palm when Dean reluctantly said it needed to be drawn in human blood. Dean saw in his practical determination the father he remembered, telling John he reminded him of hid dad.
Coming in as John finished inscribing a sigil, Sam complimented him, and then apologized for everything. John asked how long he had known about hunting, and when Sam admitted he’d been raised to it, John exploded in anger, asking how his father could have done that to a child. John insisted that a father was supposed to protect his children, and Sam found himself defending John to his younger self, explaining that his father had done the best he could and that, although Sam had hated him when he was younger, he finally understood and wished he could have told his father that he loved him and forgave him for what his actions had done to his sons.
Anna summoned Uriel for assistance, despite the angels’ orders not to come down to Earth or take a vessel. He recognized that Anna was not the Anna of now, and she agreed, saying that 30 years on she was still his superior. She told him she needed him to kill some humans, saying they would be the ones who would kill him in the future, and she was giving him the chance to kill them first.
With preparations complete, Mary insisted on Dean telling her why an angel wanted her dead. He tried to dodge, but to keep her from leaving, finally confessed he was her son. He told her he and Sam were named after her parents; that when he was sick, she would make tomato rice soup, because that’s what her mom had made for her, and she would sing him “Hey, Jude” instead of a lullaby because it was her favorite Beatles’ song. She was appalled to think she had raised her kids to be hunters, and he assured her she hadn’t because she was dead, killed by the yellow-eyed demon, and John had become a hunter for revenge. He told her a demon would come into Sam’s nursery when he was six months old, on November 2, 1983, and insisted that she not go into the room. He told her to wake up that morning, take Sam, and run. Sam, interrupting, said that wouldn’t be enough, because the demon would find them. Instead, he told her to leave John now. Realizing that would mean they would never be born, Dean agreed, telling Mary never being born was different from dying, and he and Sam were okay with that. Mary protested that she couldn’t. Sam warned her she could never have the normal life she wanted, that it would all go rotten, she would die, and her children would be cursed. She said it was too late; she was already pregnant.
John burst in to announce the blood sigils were gone, turned to smudges. Touching the floor where she had poured a ring of holy oil, Mary found the floor dry, with no trace of oil left. A whispering noise grew to the unbearable sound of angel voices shattering all the glass in the house, and Anna and Uriel appeared. Protecting John and Mary, Dean took on Uriel and Sam attacked Anna with Castiel’s blade, but the brothers were no match for the angels. John went for the blade Sam dropped, but Anna stopped him, flinging him through a window and out of the cabin to land unconscious on the ground. Anna advanced on Mary, but when Sam blocked her way, Anna grabbed a pipe from the wall and stabbed him in the gut even as Uriel choked Dean.
As Sam fell dying or dead and Dean cried out in despair and loss, John was bathed in light. Anna faced Mary again, saying she was really sorry. Behind her, John said Anna’s name, but it wasn’t John: it was the archangel Michael in John’s body. He touched Anna, and both she and her body burned instantly away to ash. Uriel released Dean and apologized to Michael, telling him he didn’t know, and Michael dismissed him with a finger snap. He told Mary John was fine and put her to sleep. He told Dean their conversation was long overdue, and when Dean demanded he fix Sam, said they would talk first, and then he disparagingly said he would fix Dean’s Sammy.
Dean asked how Michael had gotten into John, and Michael explained he had told John he could save his wife, and John said yes. Dean observed that negated the angels’ constant insistence he was Michael’s one and only vessel, and Michael said Dean was his true vessel, but not his only one. He told Dean it was a bloodline stretching back to Cain and Abel; it was in his blood, his father’s blood, his family’s blood. Dean asked what Michael wanted with him, saying he knew Dean wouldn’t say yes. Michael said he wanted Dean to understand what he and Dean had to do. Michael said Lucifer had defied God and betrayed him, but Michael still loved his brother and didn’t want to kill him any more than Dean would want to kill Sam. Drawing the obvious Winchester parallels, Michael said he had raised Lucifer and still loved him, but would kill him because it was right, because God said so. Michael said God had known from the beginning this was how it would end, and he would do whatever God said because he was a good son. Dean bitterly advised him from experience that was a dead end street. Michael called him an unimportant little man, asking him why he would get to choose, and Dean said he had to believe he could choose what to do with his unimportant little life. Michael maintained free will was just an illusion, telling Dean to consider the unlikeliness of the millions of random acts of chance that led to John and Mary being born, falling in love, and giving birth to Sam and Dean, and the random choices they had made that always brought them closer to their destiny. He insisted none of it was random or chance, but a plan playing itself out perfectly, and that’s why Dean would say yes. He told Dean to buck up, because unlike his brothers, he wouldn’t leave Dean a drooling idiot when he was done. Dean asked about John, and Michael promised to leave him better than new, saying he would scrub both John’s and Mary’s memories so they wouldn’t recall him or the brothers. Dean protested Mary wouldn’t remember to avoid Sam’s nursery when the demon arrived, and Michael dismissively said that was obvious, and Dean knew it would play out one way or another. He told Dean he couldn’t fight city hall, then sent Sam back home. He told Dean he would see him soon, and sent him back as well.
Back in their motel, the brothers were surprised to see Castiel reappear. He said he was surprised to have made it back, and promptly passed out, bleeding from the nose but still breathing. They laid him on a bed, and then shared a drink, which Dean poured as a toast to Team Free Will: an ex-blood junkie, a dropout with six bucks to his name, and Mr. Comatose. Troubled, Sam observed that everyone kept saying they would say yes, and spoke his fear they might be right, because even though they couldn’t see any reason they would agree, he had been weak before, and Michael had gotten John to say yes. Dean insisted that was different because Anna was about to kill Mary, and Sam asked what Dean would say if he had the chance to save her.
Back in the past, John and a very pregnant Mary, looking at the nursery prepared for their coming child, remarked on her garage sale purchase of a cheap little angel figurine Mary simply liked, even though she couldn’t say why. Feeling the child kick in her womb, she teased him about being a troublemaker already, but told him it was all okay: angels were watching over him.
Commentary and Meta Analysis
I loved this episode. I had issues with it particularly concerning plot points and direction, but I readily forgive all of those for what this story meant to Sam and Dean and did to me. In this discussion, I’ll explore the impact on Sam of meeting his parents; speculate on the why’s and how’s of Anna’s mission to the past; and contemplate the latest chapter in the debate between free will and destiny as embodied in Dean and Michael.
You Sure You’re Okay, Sam?
Dean had been through the time travel experience before and had gotten over his first wonder at knowing the younger versions of his parents. For Sam, the shock of seeing Mary as a living, breathing, beautiful woman for the first time was staggering, but that turned out to be easier than seeing how different a man John had been from the obsessed martinet Sam had known all his life. With no memories of Mary, Sam adjusted relatively quickly to accepting her as a competent if reluctant hunter. Experiencing John, however, was like looking into a mirror, and finally forced him to acknowledge both how little he’d understood and how unfair he’d been.
Sam’s journey of discovery about his father has been a theme of Supernatural from the very beginning. We saw in the pilot how angry Sam was with John for the way they’d been raised, and how he dismissed John’s obsession and disparaged his drinking. As the series progressed, Sam was slowly obliged to rethink his opinions as he learned things he hadn’t known, such as John having spoken of him with pride to others (Phantom Traveler) and having kept an eye on him even after the fight that resulted in Sam’s solitary departure for Stanford (Bugs). Briefly reunited in Shadow, he had tangible proof that John loved him and regretted their falling out. Father and son had a further moment of détente in Dead Man’s Blood when John admitted his mistakes and Sam realized he had more in common with his father than either of them had thought. Sam still thought their similarities were due only to what had happened to them – Mary’s and Jess’s deaths – rather than to their personalities and how they reacted to those tragedies, but he saw things from John’s perspective for the very first time. Sam’s misunderstanding of John’s intent during In My Time Of Dying led to yet another fight, one Sam was never able to mend after he understood the real purpose of John’s death. In Everybody Loves A Clown we saw Sam’s regret, his desire to make it up to John despite knowing it was too little, too late, and we saw glimpses of his increased acceptance of John and sorrow for lost opportunities in such episodes as Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things and Crossroad Blues.
Meeting young John gave Sam a totally different perspective. Dean had known John as a loving father for the first four years of his life and had experienced John’s change after the tragedy of Mary’s death; Sam had no such memories. Sensing how much John had changed, I think Dean always retained at least a flavor of John as the once-happy dad he remembered, not just the giver of orders he became. I believe that, along with his fear of more loss, influenced Dean’s always more loving and obedient response to John. Sam never had the opportunity to know that difference before, but hearing young John’s vehement denunciation of a father who would raise his children to be hunters finally brought Sam to that same realization. Sam had begun to understand John a little after he himself had felt the grief and guilt of Jess’s death and the pull of revenge; now he finally saw what John had started from, and grasped just how far revenge for his wife and fear for his sons had driven him from the core of who and what he was. I found it telling that in the cabin, Dean was most affected by how much young John, when faced with hunting and monsters, resembled his older self in the practical determination of his soldier’s focus, while Sam was struck far more by how very different young John was from the drill sergeant father he’d always known.
But more than just meeting young John, I think it was Sam’s own parallel experience over the last couple of years that finally made him able understand how a man could change so much and go so far from what he had been and believed. I don’t think Sam truly could have appreciated John’s situation before he had taken the journey we saw him on during the last two seasons. His loss of Jess was a beginning, but it didn’t and couldn’t pack the same punch as John’s loss of Mary, his wife of ten years and the mother of his sons. For Sam, the real corresponding trigger was Dean’s death and the bitter knowledge that Dean – the brother he’d loved all his life – was in torment in Hell. Sam experienced the same kind of life-shattering loss as John and reacted in much the same way, pursuing whatever it took to get his revenge without regard for what he gave up in terms of morality, decency, compassion, and truth. By the time he’d gotten Dean back, he couldn’t even realize how much he had changed, any more than John had been able to most of the time. John didn’t really see himself through Sam’s eyes until the scene in the cabin in Dead Man’s Blood. Now that he’s seen and understood the truth of John, I wonder if Sam may also have a better chance of seeing himself truly through Dean’s eyes, rather than through the filter of what he fears Dean sees.
Sam forgiving John is a major step beyond simply understanding him. With the events of this episode, I think Sam has reached the high point of resolving his outstanding issues with his father, and I hope having been able to say to young John what he was never able to say to his living father gives him some closure, and also provides the clue that he, too, can be worthy of forgiveness even for the things he’s done.
He was trying. He died trying. Believe me, I used to be mad at him. I … I mean, I used to hate the guy. But now I … I get it. He was … just doing the best he could. And he was trying to keep it together in this impossible situation. See, my mom, um, she was amazing, beautiful, and she was the love of his life. And she got killed. And I think he would’ve gone crazy if he didn’t do something. Truth is, my dad died before I got to tell him that … I understand … why he did what he did, and I forgive him for what it did to us. I do. And I just … I love him.
They Didn’t Send Me; I Escaped
The destiny-altering time travel premise of this story bothered me both because of what we’d seen about Dean’s inability to alter the past during In The Beginning, and because the angels’ explicit and often-stated belief in the immutability of destiny argued against an angel trying to alter it. On reflection, however, I concluded there might be explanations for both things that would tie in to Anna’s attempt to kill the Winchesters before their sons could be born.
When Castiel told Dean he couldn’t have changed what happened on his previous trip into the past, he didn’t say the past couldn’t be changed; he said destiny couldn’t be changed. At the time, as a loyal soldier of Heaven under Zachariah’s command, he was a clear believer in the inevitability of destiny and prophecy, with an absolute and simple faith in God’s plan.
As last season progressed, however, we learned there were different factions in Heaven, as well as the split between Heaven and Hell. Uriel, despising humans, joined with other rebel angels seeking to free and join Lucifer, finally revealing himself and dying in On The Head Of A Pin. Zachariah in Lucifer Rising spoke for the group seeking to jump-start the apocalypse and then defeat Lucifer and enjoy paradise on Earth in the aftermath of the fight. Both Raphael (Free To Be You And Me) and Michael appear now to be invested in the same vision as Zachariah. After her return to angelic status in Heaven And Hell, Anna represented yet a third group, one not believing that Zachariah and his ilk were actually following the will of God. She encouraged Castiel to think for himself and make his own choices about what was right in On The Head Of A Pin, advice he began to take to heart until he was disciplined in The Rapture.
This diversity in angelic ranks indicates a similar diversity in opinion on destiny, or at least on what constitutes destiny, and is further complicated by the position of the lord of Hell. Michael and Lucifer, despite being on opposite sides of the struggle and with diametrically opposing goals, each believe they are destined to win. Both can’t be right. In Changing Channels, Gabriel asserted the inevitability of the conflict, but didn’t offer an opinion on which side would win, just stating one brother would have to kill the other. Castiel this season came to pursue a third course, looking for God as an alternative to having to go with any faction. He may not yet believe fully in human free will, but he has come to dispute the inevitability of any single destiny as predicted by those he no longer trusts. Castiel still believes in God, but no longer in anyone who purports to speak for him.
If destiny is not as singular and inviolable as Castiel used to believe it to be, then events he once thought were determined by destiny may be subject to change. Castiel observed in On The Head Of A Pin that angels were supposed to be the agents of fate. Angels have the ability to bend time, as we saw both here and during In The Beginning, and may have seen in The End, depending on whether Dean’s trip into the future was real or hallucinatory. If Dean’s future journey was real, his actions in reuniting with Sam on his return changed the course of that future, at least in one major detail. All those things together suggest a time-traveling angel’s actions could possibly have an effect on the timeline, despite what we thought and Castiel said earlier. I think Castiel is no longer so assured that what was once has to remain as “destiny” dictated, and therefore saw an attempt by an angel to change things in the past as a real potential threat. (I also think that present-day Dean and Sam not winking out of existence as soon as Anna translated back in time argued pretty well that she wouldn’t succeed, but I’ve got enough of a headache without getting into all the illogic of temporal transitions …)
Before her imprisonment in When The Levee Breaks, Anna – with her emphasis on choosing one’s own course rather than obeying orders – didn’t seem invested in the concept of an unavoidable destiny. She supported Dean’s and Bobby’s actions in that episode in confining Sam and trying to break him of the demon blood addiction, to counter the plans of demons and impatient angels intent on having Sam break the last seal on schedule. Of all the angels we have met, she was the one most likely to attempt to derail “destiny” and the plans of those who wanted the human world to end, and if she saw no other way and no longer believed the brothers would have the strength to choose to resist, I could see her deciding to try to stop the endgame before it could begin by preventing the brothers from being born.
Anna’s plan didn’t appear to serve the goals of Zachariah’s faction – the angels who had imprisoned her – or the goals of Uriel’s group or Lucifer, since they all want the brothers to play their roles and bring on the end, believing their respective sides will win. But despite that, I still think she was allowed to escape and encouraged to think she was acting on her own. I would submit her difficulty in traveling in time demonstrated she didn’t have the power of Heaven behind her. Castiel displayed no ill effects from his In The Beginning trip even with Dean as a passenger, when he was still under Heaven’s orders and connected to the wellspring of Heaven’s power. Anna, like Castiel on this trip, was seriously weakened by her time jump even though she carried no one else with her, so I believe she made it on her own power reserves.
But I don’t think she really did escape. In fact, I think her “escape” was deliberately arranged to bring about precisely the result it did – and I think the orders came from Michael.
Future Anna in the past summoned the Uriel of the past to help her, demonstrating that angels, like humans, experience linear time. But the Michael who inhabited John’s body and spoke to Dean was clearly the Michael of the present, not the past. Almost his first words to Dean were that their conversation was long overdue. Were he the Michael of the past, that wouldn’t have been the case. So Michael traveled back in time just as Anna, Castiel, and the brothers had done. Why?
I would submit that changing the past and killing John and Mary were never the real object of Anna’s quest, however much she thought so. I think Anna’s whole trip was arranged precisely to draw the Winchesters to a time and place where/when Michael would have convenient access to a suitable vessel to permit his conversation with Dean. No angel can find Dean or Sam because of the Enochian sigils Castiel carved into their bones, so Michael needed a way to draw him to a place he could be found. We know Dean can’t bear the sound of an angel’s true voice, much less understand it – witness all the pain and shattered glass both in Lazarus Rising and here – so Michael needed to inhabit a vessel to be able to converse with him. Even conversations with angels in dreams have come only when they were already wearing human vessels to filter their projected speech; one presumes they would be as overpowering in their true forms in dreams as they are in reality. So Michael needed a vessel.
Despite Michael’s comment about the Winchesters coming from a vessel bloodline extending all the way back to Cain and Abel (which in scientific terms would imply a genetic trait now spread through most of the world’s population, given that we’re all descended from a gene pool that used to be a whole lot smaller than it is now), it’s been suggested ever since we met Castiel in Lazarus Rising that relatively few humans are capable of hosting angels. It would further seem that the more powerful the angel, the fewer potential vessels would have the strength to withstand the occupation – witness Nick’s deterioration as a sub-optimal vessel for Lucifer, and Castiel’s observation in Free To Be You And Me that Dean would be left in much worse shape by Michael than Raphael’s empty vessel. While Michael indicated he could control the effects of his inhabitation to prevent damage to his vessel – something Castiel obviously also did, since Jimmy and Claire were left unharmed in The Rapture save by their memories of the experience – he evidently had a small selection of suitable choices. And what would be more suitable and persuasive than the body of Dean’s beloved and sorely missed father?
So I think the whole argument about whether or not the past could actually have been changed is moot, because I believe Michael’s intent was never to change the past, but simply to use it as a convenient venue. Anna served her purpose in drawing Dean to a meeting and providing the jeopardy that prompted John to invite Michael in, all to give Michael a voice.
And if that’s truly the case, Heaven’s angels are as Machiavellian as Hell’s prince.
Free Will’s An Illusion, Dean
In his conversation with Dean, Michael presented the same arguments Lucifer made to Sam in Free To Be You And Me and Abandon All Hope – and to Dean in The End – about nothing being random and everything being preordained, about people being unable to change and choice being dictated. He also displayed the same dismissal of the value and importance of humans as Zachariah, Lucifer, and Uriel. Michael sees all humans as tools, nothing more, to bring about the divine plan foreseen from the beginning by God. He restored Sam not to appease Dean, but purely to play the role he’d been assigned. Michael clearly considers himself and his brother Lucifer as the only actors who matter in this little drama, and the conflict between them as the center of the universe. Lucifer goes even a step further, having decided that God made a mistake in creating imperfect humans and that Lucifer, in recognizing that mistake, is therefore more perfect than God and will rise to take his place.
What colossal arrogance.
Why would a dispute between two brother angels merit being the lynchpin of the universe God built – the God who also built those brother angels and the humanity they so disparage? What purpose God creating humans and telling his angels to bow to them – just so Lucifer in his pride would refuse and be cast unjustly into Hell to set the stage for a future fight with Michael? So we’re to think God created all of this – and us – just to serve as window dressing for a spat between two of the children he created over who is right, the one who obeys Dad or the one who proves Dad wrong?
To quote Dean: Nah.
I don’t think so.
Michael maintained that free will was an illusion because God had planned everything and knew how it would all turn out. I addressed this in my commentary on Changing Channels, but I’ll mention it again here. The theological debate between the tenets of free will and predestination occasioned by the collision of the concept of God being all-knowing with his having created humans in his own image and likeness with the inherent ability to choose is mind-boggling. Still, I recommend Milton’s take on it in Paradise Lost, where God, speaking to his Son, says that he created both men and angels with free will because without it, they couldn’t have given any proof of true allegiance, faith, or love through their obedience to him, and he couldn’t have taken any pleasure from their actions if their will or reason had simply served necessity, not God. Concerning both the fall of Lucifer and of Man, Milton’s God maintains, they themselves decreed Their own revolt, not I; if I foreknew, Foreknowledge had no influence on their fault, Which had no less prov’d certain unforeknown. In the view of Milton’s God, the free choice itself was the important thing, proving as it would what the individual truly felt and thus providing the reason for joy or sorrow on the part of God in the result.
I don’t think Milton’s God would take any pleasure from the actions and choices of Michael, Lucifer, Zachariah, or Uriel. All of their actions seem rooted in pride, not faith, belief, or love of God or anyone else. Michael prated about his obedience, but his dismissive attitude toward humans argues that if he bowed to them at God’s command, he was paying only lip service, not being whole-hearted. On the other hand, I think God would take great pleasure in the actions and choices of humans like Dean, Sam, Bobby and others when they struggle to help and save others, and of angels like Castiel seeking to understand and do not the expected or expedient thing, but the right thing, appreciating throughout all the beauty of every aspect of creation.
And why would God create, unless creation brought joy and satisfaction? Unless he’s a two-year-old who delights above all in smashing things, I don’t see God’s endgame, his purpose in creation, being to bring it all down in bloody ruin over the colossal arrogance of two out of the quadrillions of beings he created.
I don’t believe either Michael or Lucifer comprehends God’s endgame. And right now, neither do we.
This episode packed an immediate and undeniable emotional wallop for me. It wasn’t perfect, but I loved where it went. I have always enjoyed Sera Gamble’s emotional touch with Sam and Dean in her scripts, and this one, written with Nancy Weiner, was no exception. And all the one-liners had me laughing even harder than usual at the show’s humor quota! While I have some issues with Steve Boyum’s direction in this, I have no issues whatsoever with the performances he drew from all of the actors.
As usual, I’ll get my criticisms out of the way first. There were several little details in the script that really bothered me. I already dealt with the always problematic time travel issues in the commentary, so I won’t repeat them here. John referring to Samuel having died of a heart attack was a big glitch for me; how the heck could anyone have passed off his obvious stabbing death as a heart attack? Why not refer to his tragic death in a mugging, which might at least have been a reasonable cover story for Mary to have concocted under the circumstances? Very minor details included me wondering how Dean paid for Castiel’s hotel room in the past, given that all his money and credit cards would have been future ones and he had no time to hustle anything contemporary, and how Mary and the brothers realized John had gone to the garage after his phone call, enabling them to arrive just in time to save him. Woodson’s death by having his eyes burned out of his head was clearly meant to show incontrovertibly he’d been killed by an angel, but it made me wonder why Anna didn’t simply use the weapon of her own true form on others besides the garage owner. And how did Anna and Uriel – or was it Michael – smudge the banishing sigils and evaporate the holy oil before they made their appearance, when other angels in previous episodes didn’t or couldn’t do the same?
My biggest issue, however, surrounds one particular aspect of Steve Boyum’s direction. I understand why it happened – it was obviously part of the episode’s homage to James Cameron’s Terminator movies, right along with Anna on a phone call speaking with the voice of someone of the opposite sex whom she’d killed – but Anna deliberately stalking John and Mary in that slow, inexorable machine fashion and showily throwing people over and into cars and through walls rather than simply snapping their necks was irritatingly unbelievable. To explain how John, Mary, and Dean managed to remain alive when they all should have been readily dispatched, I made the excuse to myself that Anna truly was reluctant to kill two innocent people and Uriel always sadistically enjoyed inflicting pain, but it was an uncomfortable stretch.
Enough nit-picking: on to the good stuff!
Top of the good stuff were all the performances, which were pitch-perfect. Jared Padalecki rocked Sam’s first meeting with Mary and John, with tears welling in his eyes and his inability to stop staring at Mary or release John’s hand. His monologue in response to John angrily denouncing a father who would endanger his children was some of Jared’s best dramatic work to date. Jensen Ackles as Dean reacting to John wanting to be useful, telling Mary he was her son, and facing off against Michael was superb. Amy Gumenick and Matt Cohen as young Mary and John (and Michael!) really brought the goods. I loved their sweetness together and their passion apart, and Mary’s dismay at John’s reaction to the disclosure of her secret. I thought Cohen was brilliant in conveying Michael’s unearthly certainty and arrogance. I’ll miss Julie McNiven’s Anna – she was an angelic wild card, not definitively on anyone’s side, and that made her particularly interesting. And the casting directors get major props for casting Matt Ward as past Uriel’s vessel: he looked as if he truly could have grown up to be Robert Wisdom, who played Uriel in our time! I adored Misha Collins as Castiel announcing to Anna that Sam was his friend, and acknowledging that he had changed; I was delighted to see that development in the script, and relished watching Castiel realize and admit it. I look forward to more development of Castiel’s relationship with Sam.
I laughed out loud at Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” being the soundtrack to Dean’s stripper dream, especially given that was his final suggestion for the siren’s song in the strip club in Sex and Violence. I’ve also been waiting for years for Molly Hatchet to turn up in the score, although I’ll admit I thought it would be “Flirtin’ With Disaster” or “One Last Ride” rather than “The Creeper.” Every time rock music makes its appearance, I smile. And I enjoyed the show sneaking in more music references with the Led Zeppelin episode title and the “Grease” poster on the wall in the alley where Anna appeared in the past.
The stunt and effects crews definitely worked overtime on this episode. All the ratchets flinging people through the air, over cars, and into and through walls took a lot of time and effort, and cost bruises. While the Terminator-stalk aspect irritated me, the rest of the fight scene work was great. Special props to Amy Gumenick’s handling of Castiel’s angel-killing blade! The effects crew had a picnic with angels appearing with light flickers and spark showers and imploding all the windows in the cabin with their true voices. And I give a big thank-you to the folks who rounded up all those classic cars to sell the scenes in the past, even though Dean’s line about Pintos came with not a single Pinto in view that I could see.
The locations were a treat. Sam and Dean appeared on the road in front of the same building in Fort Langley that had been the clinic in Croatoan. I think the warehouse and the alley where Anna appeared in the past may have been in Terminal City, another place they’ve used before. I always enjoy seeing how locations get redressed to look like somewhere else!
Those of you who’ve been reading me for a while know I’m firmly in the camp of Team Free Will. Like Dean, I have to believe there’s more to life than being forced to take part in someone else’s hair-pulling catfight. I have to believe the choices I make matter. They may not matter all that much to the broader world outside my door – my life is much smaller than the Winchesters’ – but they define who and what I am. I choose. Like Sam and Dean, I’m not immune to the influence of the world around me, and my options aren’t unlimited, but I choose. And I take responsibility for those choices and their consequences.
How about you?
The icon on this one is by bakinblak . Thanks!
I've been dealing with the East Coast Snowmageddon. Hope everyone's staying warm and safe!