6.19 Mommy Dearest: I'm Building The Perfect Beast
Eve builds new hybrids;
Castiel faked Crowley's death –
All about the souls.
Two young men leaving a bar at night met Eve – still barefoot in her white dress, but with a small bloody wound in her side – on her way in. The young black man flirted with her, saying Heaven must be missing an angel, and she just smiled, reached up, and trailed the backs of her fingers lightly down the side of his face as she walked past and into the bar. Where she touched him, a jagged network of veins briefly appeared, then vanished. His friend urged him away.
Inside the crowded bar, Eve locked the doors and broke off the door handles. As she made her way through the crowd, a young man spotting her bare feet and the blood on her dress asked her if she was okay. She responded she was perfect and kissed him, causing dark veins to appear on his face and then fade into his skin. When the man's friend, taken aback, began to protest, Eve said she'd given him a gift and proceeded to walk past, stroking two more people on her way. Each of them leaped up and attacked the people around them as Eve calmly continued to the bar, where she picked up a drink and perched on a bar stool to watch the erupting chaos. Each victim bitten and left for dead rose up to attack more, and with the doors locked, no one could escape. Eve watched in silent satisfaction.
In the basement at Bobby's, Dean proceeded to load phoenix ashes into shotgun shells, filling only five shells before the bottle of ash was empty. When Sam and Bobby observed that was more than they'd had, Dean sourly questioned whether the ashes would work at all. Explaining he'd had a mishap while filling a shell, he proceeded graphically to demonstrate what he'd learned as a result by smearing some of the ash on his bare arm to no ill effect. Sam speculated the ash might be like iron or silver, deadly to monsters but harmless to humans. Dean observed they'd have to find Eve to test it out. Bobby agreed he'd been looking, but offered it might be time for Dean to make a call. Dean protested always being the one to call Cass, objecting that the angel didn't live in his ass and was busy, but Castiel appeared immediately behind him even before he'd finished speaking, startling him. Castiel asked if they'd made any progress locating Eve. Bobby said they'd been about to ask the angel, but Castiel said she was hidden from him and from all angels. Sam ventured that what they needed was an inside man, a friendly monster, so they pored through their records hoping to find one. Eventually, Castiel reappeared with Lenore, the peaceful vampire leader from Bloodlust, looking haggard and harried. Lenore said her nest was gone because all the vampires, constantly hearing Eve's orders in their heads, had gone back to hunting humans. When they told her they wanted to find Eve, she laughed bitterly that Eve could be listening to them that very moment; that she could just as well be a video camera. They persuaded her to give them Eve's location anyway – Grants Pass, Oregon – and she told them Eve now knew they were coming. Lenore demanded they kill her before they left, saying she was too dangerous; she admitted she'd fed on a girl and would do it again, because she couldn't keep resisting Eve. The brothers refused, encouraging her not to give up, but Castiel, saying they had to move things along, touched her with his power and her soul burned out of her body.
Castiel transported the four of them to Grants Pass, where they were surprised to see a sunny, bucolic town that looked perfectly normal. Bobby said he needed a computer, and they wound up talking over lunch at Ernie's Diner while Bobby, despite complaining the iPad Sam had provided wasn't a computer because it didn't have buttons, said his news checks hadn't turned up anything unusual. Castiel said he would search the town, but found himself abruptly unable to tap any of his angelic abilities, guessing Eve might be blocking him somehow. Continuing his search, Bobby discovered a local doctor had contacted the CDC the day before reporting a patient with symptoms he couldn't diagnose, a young black man named Ed Bright – and the driver's license photo showed the first young man Eve had touched outside the bar.
They split up in search of the doctor, with Dean and Castiel heading to his office while Bobby and Sam visited his house. The woman closing the office said Dr. Silver hadn't called in and she didn't know where he was. Planning to break in and take a look around by picking the lock on the back door, Dean saw drops of blood on the ground and a smear of it on the lock of the back shed. Opening the shed, he found the dead body of Ed Bright, covered in bloody boils.
At Dr. Silver's house, Bobby found a photo of the doctor, his wife, and their two young sons, but the whole family was missing even though nothing had been packed and the car was still in the driveway. As Bobby and Dean were leaving, they were stopped by the local sheriff, who said he was checking up because the doctor was a friend and hadn't shown up or called in to work. Bobby and Sam bluffed, saying they were FBI and reporting the doctor missing, and Bobby urged the sheriff to put out an all-points bulletin on the doctor, offering to come to the station to compare notes. The sheriff agreed, and they went their separate ways, with Bobby and Sam rejoining Dean and Castiel outside the house Ed Bright shared with a group of friends. Castiel spotted a perfect double of Ed inside through the window, and they speculated they were dealing with shifters. Sam and Dean went in to discover all five of the guys inside looking exactly like Ed. Four of them were already dead, and the last one – whose driver's license identified him as Marshall Todd, the blond guy who'd been with Ed when he met Eve – was dying. He told them Ed had felt bad so he'd taken him to the doctor, but now all of them were sick. When they pressed him, he said he and Ed had met a girl in white outside a bar on Eighth Street.
The hunters wondered why Eve was making monsters who were sick and dying, but had no theories. They went to check out the bar, and discovered everyone inside dead, showing the marks of bloody monster attacks. Bobby wondered why the sheriff hadn't noticed so many people missing. Examining the bodies, Dean found a woman with vampire fangs who also had the wrist spike characteristic of a wraith, like the one they'd killed in Sam, Interrupted, and they realized all the bodies were hybrid monsters Eve made. Dean promptly christened the hybrids “Jefferson Starships,” mocking the band (Because they're horrible and hard to kill). Bobby observed they all appeared to have died from raging fever, like Ed Bright. Dean crouched down by the bar to examine another body just as the sheriff and two deputies burst in. The lawmen arrested and cuffed Sam, Bobby, and Castiel, but missed Dean as he hid behind the bar.
At the police station, Sam caught a glimpse of the security monitor screen and saw the eyes of the cop behind him glowing like a shifter's eyes. He broke free and attacked, calling to the others that they were Jefferson Starships, and Castiel and Bobby also tried to fight back despite being handcuffed. Dean, having followed them from the bar, appeared in the nick of time to save Castiel by beheading a monster with a machete, and Castiel returned the favor by killing the one on Bobby. Dean flung the last one away from Sam, but Sam stopped him from killing it, knowing they needed information on Eve's whereabouts. Bobby interrogated the thing, threatening it with a silver knife, but it gloated they were stupid human cattle. The brothers heard a noise from elsewhere in the station and went to investigate, expecting more monsters, but finding Dr. Silver's two young sons, Joe and Ryan, handcuffed and gagged in a cell. They freed the boys and reassured them the cops wouldn't be back. Joe, the older brother, told them Ryan hadn't spoken since they'd been taken. Dean promised to get them out of the handcuffs, but noted they'd first have to find out if the boys were who and what they appeared to be, saying there were a few dozen tests they'd have to run. Afterward, they brought the boys into the main area of the police station, declaring them human, and while Ryan nibbled on a chocolate bar, Joe said they hadn't heard anything about a mother or Eve, that he and Ryan had been alone in the cell. When Dean asked about their parents, Joe said the cops had told them they would be next, they would be food. Dean asked if they had any other family, and Joe said they had an uncle in Meritt, a town 15 miles down the road. Dean promised to get them there. Castiel drew Dean aside, protesting they had to find Eve and there were millions of lives at stake, not just two. Dean retorted he was getting sick and tired of greater purposes, and said what he really wanted to do was save a couple of kids. He said they would catch up, and he and Sam escorted the boys out to the Impala. Watching as Joe protectively drew Ryan in to curl up against him in the back seat, telling the younger boy he should get some rest, the Winchesters saw an echo of themselves, and enjoyed a moment's peaceful satisfaction in one thing going right. That was simply reinforced when they saw the boys' uncle welcome them with hugs.
Back at the police station, Bobby assured Castiel the boys wouldn't be gone long, but the angel sarcastically observed they might find more wayward orphans along the way. When Bobby chided him, Castiel snarkily asked his pardon for having highlighted the Winchesters' crippling and dangerous empathetic response with sarcasm, saying letting them go was a bad idea. Bobby pointed out that they still needed coordinates to find Eve, and drew the angel back into the interrogation. The monster sheriff told Bobby Eve could see them right now and they were just making her mad. Castiel told Bobby he needed five minutes alone with the monster, and Bobby walked away, taking a pull on his whiskey flask out in the main room. He heard gurgling screams followed by silence a few minutes later and then Castiel walked out wiping blood off his hands, saying Eve was at 25 Buckley Street and he should call Sam and Dean.
When the brothers returned to the station, Dean saw the sheriff monster was missing his head. Bobby said they had a location and just needed to get close enough to take a shot. Dean passed around the phoenix ash shells he had made, giving one to each of them to load and sliding the last one into his pocket. Going to the address, they discovered it was the diner where they'd eaten lunch. Speculating about why she'd let them both in and out of the place before, Dean offered an impatiently simple plan to flush her out; he and Sam would go in, and if they failed to get a shot, it would be up to Bobby and Castiel.
Inside the diner, Sam did a sweeping scan across the other patrons with his cell phone camera, discovering they all had shifter-glowing eyes. As they decided to retreat, the waitress set down two specials in front of them and told them leaving would be rude, calling Sam by name, and they realized she was Eve. Her monster children closed all the blinds, making it impossible for Bobby and Castiel to see what was going on, and one collected the brothers' weapons. She sniffed the breech of one of the guns, detecting the scent of phoenix ash, and told an underling to destroy the guns. She told the brothers to relax, that she wasn't there to fight. She told them she'd never wanted to tear apart the planet, that she'd been happy with the natural order in which some of her children turned some humans, and humans hunted a few of them. She said what changed was her children started getting kidnapped and tortured, even her firstborns, and claimed she was pushed into this because a mother defends her children. When Dean scoffed at her motherhood claim, she transformed her appearance into a perfect copy of Mary Winchester, pointing out their mother had died to protect them. Dean told her the conversation was over, saying if she wanted to kill them she should do it, but she said it was Crowley she wanted dead. The brothers protested that Crowley had burned months ago, but she assured them he was alive, that she saw his face through the eyes of every child he strung up and skinned.
She asked if they had any idea why he wanted her babies, and Dean harked back to the demon saying he wanted Purgatory. She scoffed at that, saying it was about the souls. She told them souls were power, fuel, each soul a nuclear reactor, and when you combined them, you had the sun. She asked them to think what the king of Hell could do with all that power, saying he wanted to siphon off her supply of souls and tortured her children to do it. She said she would quit playing nice; instead, she would turn every human into a monster so all their souls would go to Purgatory, to her, instead of to Heaven or Hell. Dean pointed out there were a few billion humans and her plan might take a while, but she asked him rhetorically what they thought she was doing here, and answered her own question by saying she was building the perfect beast. She dismissed the many dead hybrids in the town as unfortunate failures along the way in her beta testing program, but asserted she'd finally gotten it right, producing a quiet, smart, inconspicuous hybrid that could infiltrate and spread the monster-conversion infection through a whole town in under a day. She gloated that the Winchesters had been the final test to see if it could slip past hunters undetected, and it worked: she revealed it was Ryan, the silent little boy they had rescued and delivered to his uncle.
And in Meritt, the uncle found Joe, the older boy, lying unconscious or dead on the living room floor with his neck savagely bitten, and turned away to discover bloody-mouthed Ryan confronting him. Then Joe got up to menace him as well, and both boys attacked.
The Winchesters were sickened to realize what they'd done, but Eve gleefully pointed out that Ryan had been bound to work on them – a little wayward orphan like themselves. She noted it was too late for them to do anything about Ryan now, and said she had an offer to propose. Noting Crowley was notoriously hard to find, she offered to let them live if they found Crowley and brought him to her. Dean refused, and when Sam began to protest, shut him down to repeat the answer was no. She chided him for speaking as if he had another option, and then the door opened and Castiel and Bobby were brought into the diner under guard. She noted she was older than Castiel and knew what made angels tick, saying as long as she was around, he was unplugged. She encouraged the brothers to work for her, saying it was a good deal, and offered as a bonus that she wouldn't kill their friends, either. Dean said they'd spent the last few months working for an evil dick and weren't about to sign up to work for an evil bitch. As Bobby, Castiel, and Sam looked on in horrified dismay, Dean insisted they wouldn't work for demons or monsters, and if that meant she would kill them, she should do it. She said she might just turn them instead and get them to do what she wanted anyway, and Dean said the answer was still no. With inhuman speed, she grabbed Dean from behind, warning him not to test her, but he responded with a simple, Bite me. She did exactly that, sinking her teeth in his neck, but even as the others struggled to reach him, Eve let him go, coughing and choking. Dean revealed he'd dumped one cartridge worth of phoenix ash into an ounce of whiskey and drunk it, poisoning his blood with the ash. Burning from within, Eve began spewing fluids, almost as if she was dissolving or dying in the different ways her various children did, and then fell as her chest lit up with a soul-like light that then went dark. All the monsters in the diner screamed and began to attack. Castiel shouted they should close their eyes and then blasted the place with power and light. When the light faded, all the monsters were dead, their eyes burned out.
Castiel healed Dean. Dean said they had to go to deal with the little kid because he was one of them, cutting off Castiel by saying he knew the angel had told him so. At the uncle's house, they found the man dead on the floor and briefly thought they'd lost it all, but Bobby found the two boys also dead. Sam found traces of sulfur, making it clear demons had killed them. Knowing demons wouldn't have cared about monsters unless they'd been ordered, Sam wondered if Eve had been telling the truth, and Dean told Bobby and Castiel about Eve's claim that Crowley was still alive. Castiel protested he had burned Crowley's bones. Saying he was an angel and would look into it immediately, Castiel vanished. Dean shouted after him that he should tell them what he found out, but Bobby and Sam shared a look and moved thoughtfully away. When Dean reacted to their dissociation, Bobby, to make him think, asked how Crowley had gotten away, pointing out it wasn't like Castiel to make that kind of mistake, unless he meant to. Dean defended him, saying it was Cass they were talking about, and appealed to Sam, asking if Sam believed it. Sam hesitated, and when Dean pressed him, said for Dean's benefit that it was probably nothing, but clearly didn't believe what he was saying.
Back in the diner, surrounded by the bodies of the dead, Castiel turned when Crowley arrived. The demon chidingly told him this was getting ridiculous, and asked how many times he was going to have to clean up Castiel's messes.
Commentary and Meta Analysis
Okay, I will candidly admit: I did NOT see that one coming! I'm still not entirely sure how it arrived – I'm shaky on the divine metaphysics – but I'm dying to find out where it goes and how it came about in the first place. In this discussion, I'm going to explore where the Winchester brothers' heads are; speculate about what's going on with Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory; and look at the changes in Castiel.
I'm Getting A Little Sick And Tired Of The Greater Purposes
I think Dean's reaction to Castiel trying to get him to forget about the young Silver brothers and concentrate on the bigger picture not only embodied Dean's frustration, but also spoke to the desires of many fans to return to a simpler past.
In the beginning of the series, the Winchesters' mission was simple and very personal: saving people, hunting things – the family business. It meant avenging their mother's death and finding their father. Every battle was direct – find it, figure it out, kill it – and every victory brought the immediate satisfaction of saving someone or getting a step closer to the goal.
That started getting complicated very quickly as the brothers began to understand that something had been done to Sam when he was just a baby, but even then, the mission focus was simple: saving Sam. It was still personal and very immediate.
Things became much more complex as the whole apocalypse machinery ground into gear. The stakes and the mission kept getting bigger, the problems more impossible to face, and the personal emotional price ever higher, while the reward – if there was a reward – became increasingly more remote and theoretical. Saving the world really isn't something we can get our minds around; it's just too big and too impersonal. Saving a brother, saving a friend, hell, even saving a stranger is something we can understand and celebrate; we can see the results of what we've done right there in front of us. Saving the world, on the other hand; we just can't see the whole world, not all at once, and not while also being able to see all the small-scale lives within it that make it matter.
Dean's and Sam's reactions to the orphaned Silver boys were prompted in large part by the Winchesters seeing themselves in the Silvers, remembering their own closeness as young boys in the back seat, but another piece of it was their desperate need – especially on Dean's part – to see a clear victory they could understand, to be able to salvage these two young lives out of the massive ruin their own lives had become. They haven't had a tangible, unalloyed victory in far too long; everything's been tainted. Yes, they averted the apocalypse and Sam succeeded in defeating Lucifer, but the price they paid was far too dear for any of them to perceive it as a win. Yes, Sam now has his soul back and the brothers are emotionally and spiritually united to a glorious degree we haven't seen in years, but that coexists with the specter of what will happen when that wall in Sam's mind falls and plunges him into the fullness of his unendurable, unimaginable memories of Hell.
Once upon a time, a long, long time ago, the brothers believed in happy endings. Oh, not for themselves – Sam briefly entertained that hope with Jessica, but surrendered it long ago, and Dean has never had it – but at least for the people they constantly sacrificed themselves to save. Their justification and reward for the lives they led was seeing the people they'd helped survive; knowing through those people that they'd done something good and worthwhile, that their personal sacrifices had meaning. That satisfaction fed them from day to day even when they had no long-term hopes for themselves. They've been deprived of that solace for a long time now, so it was no wonder to me that they grasped it in both hands and held on to the moment when it came.
That moment turning to dust in their hands was bitter beyond words.
Supernatural has always been dark, but there were almost always at least glimmers of light and hope present. This noir season, despite all its humor, has just carried us and the Winchesters even further into the dark. Noir, indeed.
Every Soul, Mine
Eve's explanation for why she was doing what she was doing was fascinating, but I'm still trying to get my head around it. It appears I got some of the concepts right in my earlier discussions about Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, and souls, but I still have a lot to learn!
We learned all the way back in The Third Man that souls had power. That power was what prompted Balthazar to make deals, buying souls in exchange for Heavenly weapons. In Family Matters, we discovered that – at least according to the alpha vampire – human souls went only to either Heaven or Hell, but monster souls all went to Purgatory.
I guessed at the time that since souls had power, whoever could control the souls in Purgatory would have access to a considerable power source, and speculated that snaring the power of those souls was not only Crowley's game, but might be a rogue angel's as well. Prior to My Heart Will Go On, however, I would never have guessed Castiel to be that kind of rogue.
I'm not certain I fully understand what's going on, but it strikes me that, in the beginning, all human souls may have been intended for Heaven. I also wonder when, in Supernatural's cosmology, God created Hell; whether God conceived of it at the very beginning as the ultimate repository for the souls of free-willed humans who chose not to follow God, or whether it didn't come to be until God needed a place to exile his rebellious angel Lucifer and the human souls he'd warped into the first demons, as we learned from Ruby's version of demon Sunday school in When The Levee Breaks. And I wonder if Purgatory and the concept of monsters as challenges for humanity to face was part of God's original plan for the natural order of things, or only came about after Eve – whether she was part of God's intentional creation, a rebellious thing like Lucifer, an independent god, or a force like Death – began transforming humans into monsters and thus diverting their souls from both Heaven and Hell. I suspect any of the latter three rather than the first, if only because Eve – with her ability to transform any individual human into a monster and destine them for Purgatory – utterly overrides and dispenses with humanity and free will even more than a demon possessing a human does.
This all makes me wonder why God created humans in the first place, and why he apparently preferred them to and valued them above angels. Given Eve's comment about souls being fuel, little nuclear reactors that when combined produce the sun, I wonder whether the ultimate purpose of creating humans may have been to power Heaven, setting up a self-replicating engine that freed God to move on to other things. Wouldn't it be ironic – especially for Zachariah and the other angels who chose deliberately to bring about the apocalypse – if all that Heavenly power angels can draw on and channel is generated by the presence of human souls dwelling in and generating bliss in Heaven, and relies on the steady arrival of more souls to replace the power being consumed? If human souls reliving their bliss power Heaven and angels, then I would guess that human souls in torment in Hell provide the power for all we've seen demons and Lucifer able to do.
Even if this vision is remotely close to accurate, I still can't figure out how power already in one repository or another could be diverted. Eve's plan as she described it here was to steal a march on both Heaven and Hell by grabbing every current and future soul for Purgatory by turning every single human into a monster, and that idea, I can grasp. Her ability to pull that off would have made her more powerful than either side. From what we've learned, angels couldn't pull souls into Heaven, nor could demons drag them to Hell; either side could kill a human, but the ultimate destination of that human soul – unless God directly intervened, as he did with Sam – was predicated on human choice either to do good or yield to temptation. Eve's ability simply to transform people willy-nilly into monsters, however, would have removed free will and choice from the equation entirely. Monsters, we're told, wind up in Purgatory because of their very nature, apparently without regard for whether they behaved as monsters or tried – as Lenore did – to resist. Were Eve able to do what she claimed, and if souls do indeed power their destinations, she eventually could have destroyed both Heaven and Hell by cutting off their future power source, once the power of their existing supply of souls already there was exhausted. And even before that drain was complete, her connection to that sheer number of souls, far outstripping all the ones already in either Heaven or Hell, would likely have made Eve stronger than any angel or any demon, even the king of Hell.
The thing I'm not at all clear on is what benefit Crowley was pursuing in torturing monsters to obtain information on the location of Purgatory, unless it would be possible to transfer souls currently in Purgatory – and presumably providing power to Eve – out of it, either to Heaven or Hell. Crowley being able to find Purgatory wouldn't prevent monster souls from going there, unless he was able somehow to block the entrance and force souls away. Contemplating that gives me the same headache I always get when the show refers to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory as places with physical locations relative to Earth. Presumably we'll learn more soon.
I do wonder whether there's a way to reverse a human having been turned into a monster, in order to negate the hold of Purgatory on the soul and reclaim the human power of free-willed choice, leading to an end in a different place. Castiel was able to do it for Dean in the diner, to cleanse him of the Jefferson Starship taint while Dean was still alive, and Samuel Campbell's cure for vampirism had similarly been able to work on Dean before he fed as a vampire in Live Free Or Twi-Hard; the question for me is whether later cures might also exist to expunge the monster mark. If that is the case, and if monster souls could be turned back into human ones even after death and be redirected to their proper heavenly or damned destination, then seizing control of Purgatory and re-purposing the souls inside could dramatically affect the divine and demonic balance of power.
There's A Greater Purpose Here
All this season, we've seen a very changed Castiel, one willing to do previously inconceivable things in pursuit of his goal. His journey this season reminds me strongly of Sam's journey in seasons three through most of five, with his focus on the big picture blinding him to the truth and importance of the dark details and leading him to tell himself over and over again that the end must justify the means. And it reminds me of Dean's choice at the end of season two, when he sold his soul in his conviction that Sam being alive was worth the price of Hell.
Castiel did conceal the truth in the past, most particularly when he was operating under orders. Witness, for example, that he concealed the truth of the angels' orders in It's The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester until after the fact; apparently never disclosed that he released Sam in When The Levee Breaks; and hid the truth about Dean's destined role in prophecy until Dean himself asked directly in On The Head Of A Pin.
Once Castiel struck out determinedly on his own when he helped Dean escape the beautiful room in Lucifer Rising, however, he seemed to adopt an honesty policy – at least up until Dean spent a year offline and Sam came back soulless. In that time, he's done things even he wouldn't have imagined before, including torturing an innocent boy (The Third Man); deliberately using the Winchesters, without their knowledge, as decoys (The French Mistake); and changing history to create added souls wholesale purely to gain power (My Heart Will Go On).
In this episode, we learned Castiel faked Crowley's death in Caged Heat. We still don't know how much else he's faked along the way to cover up his cooperation with Crowley, but even the bare fact of that cooperation is pretty damning, and really explains what was behind Rachel's attack in Frontierland. Castiel cooperating with the current lord of Hell would appear to be the essence of his “dirty little secret,” as Rachel put it, and if that doesn't justify her attack on him, nothing would. Discovering that your heavenly commander is in cahoots with the current King of Hell would definitely be disconcerting to the loyal forces of Heaven, to say the least.
My problem with the whole situation is simply that I don't understand what Crowley could have offered Castiel that could possibly have offset who and what he is – unless, perhaps, Castiel, by losing ground to Raphael in his civil war for Heaven, either was or faced being cut off from accessing the power of Heaven by Raphael in much the same way he, as a rebel, had been cut off from it throughout season five by Zachariah. Were he either deprived of heavenly strength or threatened with losing it again when he needed it most, I could see Castiel, in desperation, partnering with Crowley in the search for Purgatory to gain the power of other souls to use in his war to regain Heaven and prevent Raphael from reinstating the apocalypse and destroying the world. That's pretty much the only idea I can come up with that seems able to explain the partnership. I don't for a moment believe that Castiel ever intended to do evil or to benefit a demon or Hell, but I could see him – like Sam and Dean before him – being seduced into wrong and horrible choices by thinking it was the only way to succeed in doing the right thing and achieving a good and necessary end.
Even before he rebelled, we knew foot-soldier angel Castiel was never a combat match for the very top echelon of demons; just recall how easily Alistair wiped the floor with him in On The Head Of A Pin, for example. Similarly, he knew he didn't stand a chance going up against an archangel, as he did in Lucifer Rising and again in Swan Song. Still, he returned, in his own words, new and improved at the end of Swan Song, able to heal Dean and bring Bobby back to life with a mere touch, and set off on his attempt to be the new sheriff in town bringing order back to Heaven. He had obviously been reconnected to the power of Heaven – probably, as he had guessed, by God – and even been given an upgrade, perhaps to archangel levels.
Still, as I ruminated in My Heart Will Go On and Frontierland, I wonder just how well-defined his mission was in his own mind. Restoring order to Heaven and getting angels back on God's program would have required some thought about what that program really entailed in a timeline that had departed from the certainty of prophecy and the presence of God. Against his likely uncertainty and vague sense of doing what was right, Raphael could have offered the other angels a much more defined and familiar program, if he were indeed advocating a return to a worldview dominated by scripture and an apocalyptic vision angels had long believed in and accepted. I could see Castiel losing ground and losing followers, but being unwilling either to concede defeat or to give up his convictions. And I could see him, in refusing to lose his position and with it, the world, believing that accepting anything that staved off the apocalypse was worth doing. When you can't afford to fail, doing the unthinkable in order to win suddenly becomes not just thinkable, but apparently vital.
The road to Hell really is paved with good intentions; Dean and Sam have both learned that, to their cost. If I'm right, I fear Castiel may now be realizing the truth of that in his own heart.
I'm really enjoying the addition of Adam Glass to the writers' stable; even though his scripts tend to have logic holes, they hold up emotionally, and he writes the brothers' relationship beautifully. This episode was no exception.
Okay; criticisms first. The big logic hole in this one was, why didn't Eve simply turn the brothers and Bobby and have done, rather than trying to persuade them to cooperate with her? Unless she was worried that her new, improved, monster-DNA-resequencing virus wasn't perfect and might have resulted in the brothers being beta-test failures like Ed Bright rather than fully successful, impossible-to-detect Jefferson Starships like little Ryan, making deals instead of transforming them outright just didn't make sense. Not acting until she was certain that Ryan had passed their screening tests and convinced them he was human made sense, but holding off on simply taking them after that was artificial.
My second problem came when Dean touched the blood on the ground at the doctor's office. We learned in short order that what Eve had done to Ed and the others in the town was highly contagious – so how did Dean not get infected from his contact with Ed's blood? For the rest of the episode, he, Sam, and Bobby took pains to try avoiding coming in physical contact with the victims, but the damage should already have been done. Either Dean was immune, or that contagion didn't spread the way we were given to understand it did.
My third issue came with the script's blatant fan service to slash fandom. The sly sexual innuendo in the dialogue and physical blocking between Dean and Castiel when the angel first appeared and in all the references to Castiel being limp or impotent around Eve and the suggestion to the doctor's nurse that he was suffering from a sexually transmitted disease doubtless made slash fans giddy, but they just made me roll my eyes. The insistence by slash fans that every single close, same-sex friendship absolutely must have a physically sexual component to it has always struck me as tiresome and forced, and seeing the show's writers obviously winking while pandering to that segment of the audience just makes me sigh. Love Ain't Nothing But Sex Misspelled is just the title of a 1968 short story collection by Harlan Ellison, not a statement of fact. That's my opinion. You're just as entitled to yours, but I'm simply speaking my truth when I say it fatigues me and leaves me cold.
But enough kvetching. Eve had a lot of exposition to deliver, but having the bulk of it come through the mouth of Samantha Smith playing Eve playing Mary Winchester made even the expository dialogue come to life. That was a great move, and a lovely performance! And apart from Dean's little misstep with the finger in the blood, I enjoyed seeing him being a smart hunter. I loved the subtle bit with him dropping the gloves in the basement at Bobby's place when he said he'd had a mishap with the phoenix ash, learning that physical contact with it didn't harm him; the clear implication that he'd been wearing gloves and being ultra-careful with the ash up until he evidently spilled some on his skin and came away unhurt was really nice. And it was clear how that experience, combined with Sam's cogent observation about the ash possibly being like silver or iron, prompted Dean to toss back a precautionary slug of whiskey and ash, to turn himself into a Trojan horse to defeat Eve by taunting her into biting him. I really enjoyed that. I also liked the touch of Eve intelligently and deliberately having created a monster able to defeat all the usual hunters' tests; the brothers weren't taken in through any foolish lack of caution, but purely because the trap had been so perfectly laid that it couldn't be detected by any empirical means. Sam coming up with the idea of utilizing a friendly monster as an inside man was a less chilling version of his soulless self having used the same approach to infiltrate the vampire lair in Live Free Or Twi-Hard. I appreciated that symmetry and also loved seeing Amber Benson return as Lenore, tying this season directly back into season two.
John Showalter's direction was very straightforward and easy to follow. I can only imagine the organized chaos of shooting that massive crowd fight scene in the teaser; pulling off a major stunt sequence like that is anything but easy, and takes a tremendous amount of planning to stage and shoot. My hat's off to director Showalter and to stunt coordinator Lou Bollo! I think the scene I most loved, however, was the one of the two sets of brothers in the car on the way to the uncle's house. Serge Ladouceur's lighting and the way the brothers were framed and shot just made that whole scene ache so beautifully, with the kids in the back seat serving as the mirror for Sam and Dean in both the past and the present the way we most love to see them: united, protective, trusting and loving each other. Seeing Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki as both of the older brothers smiling not just for the memory of their younger selves but in appreciation for each other now felt so good after all their long estrangement that we knew it had to presage something really terrible – but that image sticks in my mind as something to cling to and keep.
The performances were also a treat, and Mark Sheppard again foregoing an opening credit to make his reappearance a surprise, as he did in Family Matters, makes me appreciate his professionalism all the more. I may hate what Crowley has done to Castiel, but I love Mark as Crowley! I still suspect Crowley isn't as secure in his apparent kingship of Hell as he pretends to be; I'm guessing that in his own way, he's paddling just as hard as Castiel to keep his head above water, but he's just better at hiding the effort from prying eyes, being more practiced in deceit.
I'm looking forward to rewatching this entire season to see all the subtle ways in which Misha Collins incorporated hints about what's up with Castiel, without ever revealing it until now. I've been thinking back over his every abstracted look and every sideways glance away from Dean's eyes, and I'm convinced we've been royally had by a master. I'm afraid of the future, but I can't wait to see it and learn what happens next.
The effects crew did a sweet job with Eve transforming into the image of Mary Winchester, and the trick of having Eve dying with multiple physical effects, as if she embodied the different forms of all the various monsters she had created, was a neat touch. (I am wondering about that little bloody wound in her side during the teaser, though; will we ever learn about that? And if anyone wonders, by the way, my money is on Eve simply having been flung back into Purgatory, not totally destroyed; the lore said the ash could burn her, which leads me to think that had happened before ...)
I have to give a shout to Jay Gruska for his gorgeous original score, especially his incorporation of the themes he's used before for Dean's love of family to underscore how emotionally close Sam and Dean are again, and to music coordinator Alexandra Patsavas for securing the use of both Jefferson Starship's “Miracles” and Hot Chocolate's “You Sexy Thing” to bookend the episode with classic rock. Hmm, songs that mention miracles in an episode featuring souls and Eve's warped ability to create: great job. And somehow, I suspect Eric Kripke had a hand in the monsters being christened “Jefferson Starships”; I'm betting he appreciated Jefferson Airplane back in the day (remember “White Rabbit” being used so effectively back in Simon Said?) but winced at the group's later reincarnation!
Finally, I have to applaud the show's second delightful backhanded product placement for Apple. Dean in Lazarus Rising disparaging Sam having installed an iPod jack in the Impala and tossing the iPod into the back seat was great; Bobby dissing the iPad for lacking buttons was in the same vein, and will probably do equally well for Apple's image. Way to make placement actually work, and not intrude!
I will freely confess that I'm terrified about where the rest of this season will take Bobby, Castiel, the Winchesters, and us. If we thought this season was dark before, well – I fear we ain't seen nothing yet. There may be nothing so dangerous as a man – or an angel – who believes he has to do whatever it takes to win; all too often, that choice means he loses himself and everything he is, as well as everything he fought to win.
Judgment day may be coming.
The icon on this is by meg_tdj . Thanks!