When I watch SPN, I usually notice colors and the sets. This time, I spent enough time trying to figure out what was happening the first time around that I didn't pick up much until a rewatch and looking at caps. It wasn't until I realized that Sam sounded weird after he and Dean were leaving the hospital that I realized that Ezekiel was using him as a vessel. I had no idea he was going to set up shop. I know some folks are angry enough about the non-con possession that they aren't going to watch any more. For me, I think this is awful for Sam but not out of character for Dean to agree to this. SPN has been really casual about all the awful implications of becoming a vessel or being possessed, especially in the last couple of seasons. It's been no problem to kill an angel or a demon with little regard for the person trapped in there with them. This is a shot at a return to caring about the vessel or unfortunate possessee. Plus, SPN is a horror show and there isn't much creepier than having an angel sleeper cell inside your body. I wish they had chosen a different route with this but I've wished a lot of things with this show and they still made episode 8.15. I have to say that I'd like Sam to be Sam, not some other character acting through him and I hope this part doesn't go on for the whole first half of the season like soulless Sam. At least we know what's up with Sam, even if he doesn't.
As to Dean resorting to this, I think Dean made a desperate grab for some way of keeping Sam here because that's what Dean does. I don't think he works any other way. I wrote a bit about SPN being a love story but that it's a very dark one and it's taken a big step further along that road. We know Dean won't let go of Sam. He's told us that. The real Dean didn't hear Sam make the whole argument with himself that led to him choosing death. Even if he did, I don't think he'd be willing to believe that Sam wanted to die. He's frequently in denial about Sam wanting something other than what Dean wants for him. The whole battle in Sam's head with Dean and Bobby and his talk with Death about making it so he couldn't be brought back made it clear that he knows Dean does desperate things like crossroads deals. He still told Dean yes anyway. Like everything else on this show, it made me think. First, here's a really good example of why you should make a Living Will. As for keeping the angel possession a secret, Dean knows this isn't a good idea. I don't think he intended to do so but the brothers keeping secrets also isn't new. It's a huge piece of who they are together and I wouldn't expect it to change even if they give it lip service. I wish there was some other way to generate tension though. The epic resulting fight should by all rights cause a tsunami.
How long is it really going to be before Sam realizes what's up? Crowley and the other demons can probably tell that Sam is a vessel and somebody is going to spill the beans like LeviaSam about Amy. Will Sam be able to use Ezekiel? Sam overpowered Lucifer and Ezekiel's not even an archangel…that we know of. Dean's going on the recommendation of Cas, who is the best judge of character on this show. NOT. Based on his recommendation, Ezekiel's probably this season's big bad. On a very shallow note, I wish Zeke still had wings because Sam would look cool with the black-shadow wings behind him. What if Ezekiel doesn't want to leave, is there a way to exorcise an angel? Maybe the angel tablet will have some ideas.
With all this talk of angels, I should probably mention Cas and that I'm glad they managed to keep him from being bombastic comic relief. I was extremely worried about that. I'm willing to give his story a chance for a while.
The thought that I'm left with is that this all is a continuation of last season's big questions about choices and who gets to make them. Are you making a choice really understanding what you're doing? When do you let go? Can you let go? Some of the colors used this episode lead me to think that we're still talking about free will. In the past, that's often been linked with the use of US flags and red, white and blue. Once we get out of Sam's head and into the real world, Dean is watching tv about the angels. I wonder if this is why Sam starts talking about the angels when we see him in his head. It's what's on in his room in red, white and blue.
It's on the heart monitor.
Less so after Ezekiel turns it off and Dean gets closer to making his choice. Zeke's wearing a red shirt.
Later, when he's walking around in Sam, his shirt has touches of red again. Not really sure what happened to free will but it's not going on here.
The most obvious red, white and blue is the flag on the bus behind Ezekiel. The bus has very prominent green also and that used to be a warning color. The swoosh on the side of the bus looks like a wing.
The other angels also have a lot of green and yellow with red accents. Yellow used to be a warning too.
Hael gets some blue but a lot of yellow. Blue has been a color associated with angels and also Dean.
Cas still has his angel blue. We'll come back to Cas in a little bit.
Tractor!angel already has a fan club on tumblr. Nothing runs like a Deere.
That's one fast tractor. Here's another angel in green.
The most alarming bit of green is the bit that Sam's wearing. Dean's wearing green and blue too.
I like the way the light filters in. There's a lot of red here.
There's still some blue also while Dean is in the chapel. There's a tear just clinging to that lower lid.
When Dean's got Zeke in the holy fire, he's really lit with red.
Does that mean now that Sam can be trapped in a ring of fire, too? This is one place in this episode where fire shows up.
I like the symmetry of this shot. While Dean is concentrating on other angels besides Zeke, there are bits of red and green.
More touches of red with a fire alarm.
And a fire fighting axe. Axe beats sigil.
Dean is going to have to be careful he doesn't use the angel banishing symbol around Sam now.
Dean was met with angels spoiling for a fight, while meanwhile, newly-human Cas meets a genuinely nice guy who doesn't end up dying. Huh. He's cautious though with his rifle in the truck's gun rack. We're told that we're in Longmont, Colorado. It's in the Rocky Mountains near Longs Peak. The gas station the nice guy takes Cas to is named after that. Very early in September that area of Colorado had massive rains resulting in what they're calling the 1000 year flood. I don't know if this area was chosen for the show before or after the floods.
Nice!guy is wearing blue plaid over tan, just opposite of Cas's tan over blue.
He drops Cas off at a gas station and Cas looks at this fence that still has Christmas lights wrapped around it.
I love the gas station's attempt at decorating with hubcaps and antlers.
This guy is a hardcore biker babe. The orange patch on his vest says so.
I like all the skulls on his shirt. SPN chic.
Finally Cas gets to call Dean who gives him good advice. The sign on the dumpster is warning him too. He gets whacked in the head anyhow. Welcome to the human side of SPN. You'll get choked in a future scene.
Hael is destroying her vessel. Is that going to happen to Sam?
Red, white and blue but not as we'd like to see them.
Angels seem like they can heal themselves to some degree. Is Hael prevented from that because she's cut off from Heaven? She sits there telling Cas off looking like she just walked off the Carrie set. And then Cas commits his first murder as a human. Didn't take long.
Cas realizes he needs to clean up. I'm guessing he must have walked to town. He's in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. He started in the middle of the state and he's on the far west edge now. Glenwood Springs was named the "Most Fun Town in America" by Rand McNally and USA Today in their 2011 Best of the Road Rally contest. The jail held serial killer Ted Bundy until he escaped and was loose for 17 hours undetected. I wonder what the other laundry user thought of bloody Cas. The thing that stood out to me most was the yellow. To this point in this episode the yellow has been with the angels. There's a lot of blue too.
This director likes to take camera shots from inside things like microwaves and safes. It looks like we're looking around things here.
Item B6 is pie.
A little "free" sign. Cas is finally free of that trench coat.
Another shot through things. Cas is going to need some anti-possession ink.
Because we need to see what the washer sees.
And then Cas makes a big step toward leaving life as an angel behind. He leaves the yellow and blue behind and heads out into the night in a red hoodie. He still has a light blue shirt on and jeans. His colors are similar to the Winchesters' leaving the hospital. The sign on the window talks about alterations and mending. Kind of appropriate. I hope Cas will get to change his clothes once in a while from now on. And finally a big drink of water to wash it all down. Welcome to the real world.
This episode was tough in that it had two stories to tell, Cas's and Sam's. They interwove them, presumably to keep the tension up, but for me, it felt more like an interruption, not a clean scene change. This recap is like that too. So off to Sam. What's been going on in his head while Dean's been busy battling angels and Cas has been embracing his humanity? He's joy riding with Dean, we think. Inside Sam's head, it's really red and later green. There's some blue but it doesn't last long. Although Sam is supposed to be the brother more likely to talk about his feelings, sometimes it feels like he's as close-mouthed around us as he was around Jess and Amelia. There's a lot going on that we only see with these brief trips through Sam's head. I think it's interesting that he plunks himself in the passenger seat with Dean driving. He's not in control of where he's headed even in his own head and he's relying on Dean to get him there.
When Dean tells him that he died, the camera angles get really wonky. (There's a technical term for ya.)
There's a lot of red at this point. Sam's brain conjures up Bobby to argue with Dean.
Sam keeps asking Dean if he has a plan and Dean says he's working on it. Sam doesn't really see a way out of this so he can't put it in Dean's head and unfortunately he recognizes this.
I"m glad this is how they brought Bobby back. I'm glad for Sam's sake that Lucifer didn't show up.
Dean in Sam's head.
Sam brings Bobby up to the front but doesn't let him take the wheel. Sam never takes control of the car either so Bobby grabs him and blips off to somewhere quieter.
More weird angles and funky gold light.
Reminds me a little of some memories of Sam's.
These woods have enormous trees. Sam and Bobby are dwarfed by them while walking down on the path. It's a lovely place to shoot.
Bobby helpfully points to Sam's way out. For his trouble, Sam's fighting instinct kills Bobby with a "sorry, old man."
Sam is asking himself that at this point.
DEAN Come on, Sammy. Bobby was the part of you that wants to die. I know it stings, but he had to go.
SAM No. You have to go. When are you gonna realize it's over?! There's nothing to fight for!
DEAN No, see, I know you don't believe that.
SAM Really? Then what's your plan, Dean?
DEAN My plan? [He punches Sam, who reels back.] My plan is to fight! [He pushes SAM and hits him again.] My plan is to try! My plan [he punches SAM again] is to give a damn! [He holds SAM by the front of his jacket.] Are you telling me there's nothing? Huh? You telling me there's nothing to fight for, that there's nothing to hope for?!
SAM No. I'm telling you there is. You might not like it. You might not accept it, but it's in there. It's in that house.
DEAN You know what's in that house! Now, I can't help you if you ain't willing to fight for yourself!
SAM I know. [He puts his hands on DEAN’s arms so that DEAN lets go of his jacket.] It's okay. It's what I want.
Dean has come out fighting. Sam lets his subconscious Dean whale on him and split his lip. Sam tells this version of Dean that he's letting go but the real Dean never hears this part. This is a far cry from where Sam was at in 8.14 just after he killed the hellhound.
SAM I'm closing the gates. It's a suicide mission for you.
SAM I want to slam hell shut, too, okay? But I want to survive it. I want to live, and so should you. You have friends up here, family. I mean, hell, you even got your own room now. You were right, okay? I see light at the end of this tunnel. And I'm sorry you don't -- I am. But it's there. And if you come with me, I can take you to it.
That fighting instinct holds on hard.
Sam looks so tired.
If this had been goodbye with the real Dean, this would have looked different.
Sam's basically letting go of himself. Does Sam let go and head for death because that's what he wants or because he can't see a way out and he's giving up?
Sam is off to meet his reaper.
The light at the end of Sam's tunnel turns out to be a fireside chat with Death.
I'm pretty sure Death is really himself, not part of Sam.
The best part of the episode for me was Death telling Sam, "Well played, my boy." Bobby tells him that but that's just part of Sam telling himself. Sam's opinion of himself is a wreck and it's great to hear somebody with a huge view of the big picture tell him he's done well. Unfortunately at this point, Sam won't remember what Death told him.
I think Death came partly because it's an honor to collect Sam but also because if ever there was the chance of something hinky happening, it would be here.
I wonder if Sam based the cabin off memories of places they've stayed. The wagon wheel light has been in a couple of motel rooms and Rufus's cabin. Turns out this is the Rufus cabin set reconstructed.
In the room, there's the head of a bear and a bighorn sheep, a lamp made of antlers, a little brown jug, a duck and what might be a moose (ha) or an elk (on the mantle). The rug is pretty cool. There are a pair of skis and snowshoes and a really old wringer style washer.
And now Dean. I think this really is Dean that Ezekiel is projecting into Sam's head.
The bit about the cronuts is too much Dean to be anyone else.
I like this with Death standing between them. I don't really know why Death didn't mention that Dean was there by angel power. Death told Sam the choice was his and he lets Dean make his case. Maybe he already knows how this is going to play out. Is Dean preventing a suicide here or just disrupting the natural order? For Dean, this is his equivalent of Sam killing Lilith in the sense that it was a bad choice but it hasn't hit him yet how really awful it is. It's different in that Sam is going to pay the price for this. It remains to be seen how the rest of the world will suffer. The worst bit is that Sam had to say yes for this to happen to him. Makes it pretty easy to blame the victim.
I really think Dean intended to tell Sam about this but Zeke still knows which strings to pull.
I wonder if Dean remembers what Sam said after Dean had Cas wipe the memories of Lisa and Ben.
SAM: Dean, you know, you've pulled some shady crap before, but this - (he shakes his head) - has got to be the worst. (he scoffs) Whitewashing their memories? Take it from somebody who knows -
I've been trying to think of a way to understand how Dean got from selling his own soul for Sam to this point where it feels like he just sold Sam out. This is the nearest thing I could come up with. Let's say for the sake of getting in Dean's head, that Dean is addicted to Sam like an alcoholic is addicted to alcohol. Alcoholism is a progressive disease with behavior changes that mark the progression. Lying about how much you drink is an early symptom. Dean's been lying since he was 4, a lot of the time to Sam. As things get worse, other people start commenting on how much you’re drinking. Like Lisa said, "You two have the most unhealthy, tangled up, crazy thing that I've ever seen, and as long as he's in your life, you're never gonna be happy." Personal relationships become less important than drinking (Sam). You start to feel real guilt about your drinking, develop unreasonable feelings of resentment, and start becoming occasionally aggressive. With Dean, there is already so much guilt and aggression, how are you going to notice a drop of water in a bucket. You start drinking with people you wouldn’t have associated with earlier in your life. An open prayer to any angel with ears on might be a step down that road. Your thinking becomes scattered and impaired. Through grief and the pressure of the Sam Directive - look after Sam - any decision made about Sam is going to be impaired.
As the addiction gets worse, your lose your sense of morality and start doing things you wouldn’t have considered previously. Memory wipes and interfering in the natural order have already been done. Why not use them directly on Sam? You are hospitalized for your drinking. It remains to be seen but really possible for either Sam or Dean as a result of this. Your remorse becomes a constant feeling. Yeah, Dean's pretty much going to be at that point in the next couple of weeks, if he isn't already. You can no longer count on any family or friends to help you. Who is Dean going to go to for help with this? Sam, the usual source of support, is the victim as well as being inhabited by Dean's dealer, Zeke, who so far knows just which strings to pull. A lot of this is pretty familiar from watching Sam's skid downward in S4. Ruby was able to get in there and take advantage of Sam's grief and desperation. Maybe Zeke will turn out to be a good guy in this but I have my doubts. He certainly has his own agenda. Alcoholism is fatal if it isn't treated and that involves giving it up entirely and usually getting involved in a 12 step program. There's usually hitting rock bottom and admitting you have a problem to start to turn things around. Let's hope Dean doesn't have to spend 200 years locked up with Lucifer to stop this progression. This is messed up on so many levels.
Dean's not going to know who's riding in that passenger seat. Of course, neither will Sam for a while.
I hope the show treats this with the gravity it deserves. There are a whole bunch of sex jokes to be made about this situation but it seems too awful for that. Dean basically just sacrificed Sam to save him so that Dean could have him around. Was this in any way Dean's call to make? Where do you draw the line with following someone's wishes when they lead to a preventable death? Is Sam's life worth the price Sam's going to pay for it? When Sam figures this out, and he will, he'll leave if he follows his usual pattern. This is a case of 'be careful what you wish for.' How does Sam ever trust Dean again? How does Dean ever make this right? I don't think he has a clue. I don't either. How about you?
Caps from homeofthenutty and me.