The episode was written by
Then he needs to decide if he'll wear Sam's hoodie or Dean's jacket.
His assistant has Mr. Rogers' sweater and seems like such a naive sweetie.
For the moment, we'll happily leave Metatron to his dastardly plan and go check in with Dean, who has been locked in the bunker dungeon. This is the When the Levee Breaks chapter of Fifty Shades of Season 4. We'll get to the guest appendix appearance of the end of S2 a bit later. Dean has started to cough up blood. It's hard to see from this cap but the blood on the floor has a glow to it like the Mark. I like that they shot this with Dean backed into a corner. We see him from above and it makes him look smaller and caged in. There are chains hanging in the foreground too.
Then he looks at himself in a mirror and he's looking rough. This is one of my favorite caps though. His image is mostly dark, partly blurry and bloody and the border makes him look like he's already wrapped in chains.
Dean is the Houdini of the hunting community and I wouldn't have left him alone (and not just because he's a flight risk) but surely Sam and Cas should know that also.
So dark. Cas let Sam out of the panic room and Dean has Crowley.
The storm clouds brewing behind Sam and Cas are probably coincidental but accurate.
I really like the transition from Sam with the bright green leaves to...
Crowley with the green leaves.
Although Crowley's are fake.
And last seen at the spa in 9.13.
At some point we see what Metatron is up to. There he is, behind his cart.
Watch out for the big nasty red pickup.
Too late. I think she'll need more than just the chiropractor. There's a lot of red and green here.
When we catch up with Dean and Crowley at the pub, the colors are similar.
A couple of the pub patrons look like they borrowed Sam's plaid shirts. Dean has a lot of bright red and green light behind him.
In come the demon henchmen in matching suits. They got the tip on reasonably priced suits from Bartholomew's angel crew.
They bring the bad news on a bright yellow phone. Pssst, the sale at Men's Warehouse is ending tomorrow.
When Cas and Gadreel go to find the doorway to heaven, the playground is also overwhelmingly red and green with a little yellow.
We meet the guards of Heaven's door. For whatever reason, maybe the hair color or style, this cap reminds me a lot of paintings by John William Waterhouse.
Here is his Ophelia.
These two are dressed like most of the female victims from S7 with pink and flowers. It's a reminder that these angels are wearing people and in at least one case, probably a child.
These are people too.
I like the crazy grill on the window in the angel prison. It looks a bit like sigils.
We get to see Dean and Crowley arrive at the RV park and we get a nice shot of the interior dash of the Impala.
Then we finally get to see Sam say something to Dean about how Gadreel's possession effected him. He still wants to go with Dean even though Dean sees this as a mission he may not come back from. It's interesting to see Sam still in red and Dean in blue. I wonder if that will be different next season.
To whatever end.
It's not easy to see in the cap but the ironically placed white picket fence is lined with a row of chicken wire and there is a bird in a cage in the foreground. The red flowers are a nice touch.
Then we get these guys on the same side facing off with Crowley and he has to give up the Impala's shotgun seat for Sam. Does Dean bother to clue Sam in about the serious consequences of killing while wearing the Mark of Cain? What do they talk about in the Impala on their way to disaster? It's night by the time they get there and that's a lot of time to sit next to each other in silence.
Meanwhile, back to Metatron. I like the opening shot of the homeless camp. It could be a cage too.
They've got an American flag. I really think there should have been a sign that said Camp Chitaqua.
Here's Metatron with an interesting collection of stuff including two baseball bats, a hard hat, a radio and a red cookie tin with yellow flowers.
Red and green graffiti.
The other angel has a funky plaid jacket.
A nice shot drawn back so we can see the protesting angel surrounded.
We get another look at the guy healed by Metatron. I don't think it's accidental that he has a pitchfork behind him, a mob weapon. He's also got a Chevy hubcap.
This is one of the most terrifying things to happen on this show in a while because it could be real too very easily.
Have I mentioned I hate this character? It's such a visceral reaction for me. Now my dislike is tangled up with my feelings about this season in general which doesn't help. I loath the fact that we'll see Metatron again next season.
When Sam and Dean arrive, Dean still has the red and green light behind him.
Dean's so far out of it he laid Sam out and left him undefended, unconscious in the open on a dirt road. He could have at least dragged him out of sight a bit.
Is this because he didn't want Sam to get killed by Metatron or to become a target of the First Blade? Or is it a suicide mission for Dean? Does he not want Sam to see him in action? It's so different from the end of S6 when Sam ended up unconscious and Dean left him in the panic room on an IV drip with a loaded weapon in case he could use it. At the very least, that place was warded. It does bear a little bit of similarity with the end of S4 with Sam choking Dean and leaving him on the floor of a battered motel room.
I like the night lighting at the camp, especially the lamp tucked behind the chair almost like a living room.
And Dean on his lone walk, barely outlined by light.
We jump to Hannah keeping her own kind of lone watch and we start to jump back and forth between Heaven's prison and Dean.
The light makes him look caged, too. (Or like Spiderman)
Cool shot of Gadreel, who could have been interesting to have around for another season.
I like that his panic at being locked up again has him breaking out in a sweat at his hairline.
Back to Dean. No sweat here.
Tons of yellow.
Metatron inside two yellow caution lines.
Who would he be praying to?
There isn't a fire extinguisher to put out the blaze Dean has going on in his head.
It's a cool set up for a show down. You'd think the seated guy is the weak one.
Then Dean gets the yellow light all over him, especially his face. I don't really remember him being lit this way very often.
He doesn't really look much like Dean. It's as if the light is a mask.
Nice shot with the First Blade in the picture.
Dean's in the darkness again and still hemmed in. He crossed Metatron's first line. Dean's so much taller than Metatron.
More of that caged look.
Then we get Sam, who in the competent manner he has, brings a gun to the fight.
And means business.
Toward the end of their fight, Metatron gets the yellow light on his face.
The blade backlit by yellow.
Then we jump to Cas in Heaven. I know the tablet had to be found and destroyed but I wish there hadn't been so much jumping back and forth and that we didn't spend so much time in Heaven and with monologuing Metatron. That was my biggest complaint with 8.23. Maybe it's Carver's preferred storytelling method. For me, it interrupts the action. For the first time, I actually watched this on TV real time with commercials and that was bad enough. Metatron's study has trash all over now and we have another look at the hourglass that has run out of sand.
I like this shot of Dean's hand over what looks like dead leaves.
And now Sam is in the Dean role from All Hell Breaks Loose part 1.
Back to Cas and the typewriter. Manual typewriters are evil so that should have been a big clue.
Then this happened and I was pretty much done.
Then there's a shattered tablet.
And if my heart hadn't already been shredded by the earlier bits of the season, my heart would have shattered too.
So much red on everyone.
I will forever wonder what this expression meant. Surprise that Sam came after him anyway? Fear that now Sam would be Metatron's target? The knowledge that he's dying? Shock? I think it's one of the few times in the last batch of episodes where he was just Dean. He tells Sam it was better this way because he didn't like what he was becoming. The season came full circle from Sam wanting to let go because he didn't want to be used to hurt anyone else to Dean making a similar decision. The parallel continues with Sam becoming Gadreel's vessel and Dean becoming a demon, in spite of their wishes. I just wish we wouldn't have had to wait until the last 20 minutes of the season to figure out where they were trying to go with the season's possession arc.
Back to Heaven. Art with a stormy sky and the bust of some guy. Is that Shakespeare?
Then Cas provides Metatron with enough rope to hang himself. Cas didn't seem too concerned about Dean but I suppose he was tied up at the time.
The angels in the outer office are going to take care of Metatron. Always be very kind to your office assistants. A raise is nice. Frankly, if my heaven turns out to be a desk job doing clerical work with a manual typewriter, I will riot.
Back to poor Sam, trying to keep Dean from bleeding out.
Then we got the reverse of the end of 8.23. We also got the ad-libbed "I lied" which just added to my overall frustration with this season.
Farewall is always a hand to the face or another hand or a kiss on the head. This hit me particularly hard because I feel like I've had to let Dean go this season too and I've been saying goodbye for 23 episodes.
Then Sam drove Dean's body back to the bunker, back home. In this light, their colors are pretty similar. Lots of red and green. I have to figure if Sam had been going to salt and burn him, he would have already done it.
Sam looks pretty calm and resolute already.
Sitting in the dark with no one to share his grief with. He's so isolated.
I get that he was summoning Crowley but I have a hard time believing he would have made a deal trading his soul. Doesn't he have anything else to use as leverage with Crowley? Crowley's going to screw him over anyhow.
If last year's theme was letting go, this season was all about what happens when someone makes you stay. It was also about what happens when you don't get to control your own destiny or more fundamentally, your own body. Magnus put the blade in Dean's hand first and Crowley delivered it here. Sam lost half a season to Gadreel. Cas is living on someone else's grace. Garth is werewolf. I read a comment that said that Crowley brought Dean back because he cared about him. I have to disagree. He wants to use him for his own ends and always has. I really don't think he regrets anything that happened here even though he tells Dean he never lied to him. Plus, I'm pretty sure Crowley has a crush on Moose.
We got a Crowley speech instead of Sam's by Dean's body. I would agree with another comment I read somewhere that Sam doesn't do soliloquies but I think in this case, it would have helped us out a lot. I think you could argue that the first run of seasons were the story of Sam told through Dean. Dean talked to anyone who would listen about Sam despite the no-chick-flick-moments rule. We observed Sam as Dean did. Much more rarely, we'd get a Sam-centric episode or a peak inside his head to see what he was up to but it was mostly demonstated by Sam's actions rather than a long speech about motivation and feelings. Not only was Dean telling people how he felt about Sam and what was happening to him, lots of the monsters took great pleasure in spilling Dean's emotional guts all over the floor. It was not much of a secret to the audience how Dean felt about everything from sex and pie to family and loyalty. The monsters would rather choke Sam which is a silencing instead.
The basic story of Sam and Dean as it's being presented now seems to be a role reversal of the earlier seasons. For the purposes of storytelling, SPN uses parallels all over the place so this could work but only really successfully if the roles of narrator and perspective holder are also swapped. The next season needs to be about Dean told from Sam's perspective. If not, they need another way to let us know a bit about what is going on in the minds of these characters, especially Sam. As Dean became lost to the Mark, he spoke less and less about feelings and the writers rarely give that to Sam to take up the slack. The guys have almost no friends they talk with anymore so we don't get inside their heads by eavesdropping that way. We got a bit of a peek into what was going on with Sam when we had a Jodi Mills episode and a bit with him and Cas but not enough about Sam in there to carry a season and not much to help tell Dean's story. Without some link with how these characters feel about the situations they find themselves in, they become more like caricatures to me. I'm losing my emotional resonance with them and that's a problem for me because that's why I've stayed with the show all this time.
The loss of the emotional connection is particularly rough for me when it comes to Dean. That connection was the reason I got hooked on SPN in the first place. I understood his strengths and weaknesses because in some ways, they are similar to mine. In the beginning, I cared about Sam because Dean did. It took me longer to bond with Sam but when I did, it was for keeps too. These guys are seriously flawed human beings but because I knew where it came from and also saw the goodness in them, I could still hold them up as heroes and I wanted them to succeed (survive, be happy, get that dog and house with curtains) so badly. Even when Sam was on his slide to addiction and trouble in S4, I had great sympathy for him and knew why he was where he was. His motivation was really focused and it was clear that it had been pretty consistent right on through all the seasons leading up to that. He also kept some essential Sam-ness to keep me connected to Sam as a character. Even with all the crazy things that have happened to him since then, he's still recognizable as Sam and he's retained a lot of what I have really liked about him all along. We've also been with the show long enough that he's had a redemption arc even if the character of Sam doesn't seem to realize it.
Dean, on the other hand, has unravelled. Any kind of emotional growth he had made by the time Sam jumped into the cage with Lucifer has been undone by everything from soulless!Sam, the Leviathans, Cas's madness and breaking Sam's wall, losing Bobby and almost everyone else he's cared for, alcoholism and then spending a year constantly fighting for his life in Purgatory. As this season went on, he lost more and more of what made him the Dean that I love. Looking back, I should have expected that this was where it was all headed for Dean. I've been trying to figure out why Dean's story has been ripping me up so much. I think I've maybe figured it out.
First off, I think Dean's story has been told in fits and starts. We've had things like the really heavy drinking in S7 that have seemed to be issues Dean is eventually going to have to face but the focus keeps changing and as it changes, the previous bits fall away instead of being maintained and adding to the total picture of what is going on with Dean. Does that mean he's gotten over that hurdle or did the writers just drop it for a while? To add to that, both Sam and Dean are characters that are constantly being shaped and presented by the slightly differing voices of a group of writers. It's character creation by committee but some of the subcommittees have differing understandings of who these men are and they all have different plot needs for the characters. That means we can have really smart, savy hunter Winchesters one week and in the next, the repeated blows to the head have obviously taken a toll on the collective Winchester brain trust. With so much of Dean's development as a character coming down to what are basically mental health issues, the focus on that has to be consistent and shown to build over time with all the parts coming together. So much of what happens with mental illness is expressed through an interior monologue and a whole world's worth of activity can be going on in the mind of someone who appears to be only gazing at a coffee cup. There needs to be an element of tell along with the show. It's been a delicate balance to keep Dean a sympathetic character and have him on a very dark, downward spiral. Sometimes it doesn't feel like all the writers are on board with the extent of how dark Dean might get and they write an episode where they leave a little hope that he might pull out of the spiral. That is hard to watch because it's so much like real life where there are good days and bad days and really, really bad days and you feel hopeful for the person on the good days and heaven help you if you get too close on a bad day.
That brings me to the other piece of why I find this so hard to watch. In the course of two seasons, Dean has gone from being the character I could see a lot of bits of myself in to being the character I fear most in real life. Part of my fear comes from my own battle with depression and it's unnerving to watch someone else appear to lose the fight to something that looks pretty similar. To watch someone bottom out and have it result in death and dehumanization is terrifying when I imagine myself in that spot. I think Dean lost the fight when he took on the Mark. The last couple of seconds weren't much of a surprise to me. I guess I figured Dean was heading for demonhood when he took on the Mark. I actually expected more Lucifer and less Metatron.
The other piece of fear is the really big one for me and the hardest to get beyond. It's all based on Dean's treatment of Sam. It's the reminder that even though you love someone, having that person in your life can lead to great pain. That doesn't mean that it's never going to get better between you or that forgiveness is impossible but none of that will take place if both stay standing in the same places. Maybe going separate ways is the right choice to make. Being the one to step away might mean frightening changes, emotional upheaval and a lot of hard work. In my life, I've been in Sam's early-season position twice, one through a betrayal of trust and plenty of lying, the other by a person with my best interests at heart but making decisions for me from an already emotionally compromised position. It's taken more than 40 years to work through the repercussions for me. I got through it but will always carry it with me. For better or worse, it's a large part of who I am now. Watching this SPN season has been like going to therapy and reliving that decision-making all over again but this time, with my relationship with the very damaged, uncooperative Dean as the subject. SPN is supposed to be my entertainment and an escape from thinking about real life stuff for a bit. Watching this has made me examine how much I'd really put in the past and what kind of crap baggage I'm still hauling. Not exactly escapist entertainment. Being as I'm still watching SPN, that's a pretty good indication of how good I am at letting go. Me and the Winchester boys have way more in common than I'd like to admit.
Which brings me around to a couple of final thoughts on the season. At this point, I'm glad we have a summer off. I need a break and to see other TV people. Some characters that know how to have fun, like, oh I don't know, the Winter Soldier, Sherlock or Jon Snow. Sean Bean is probably dying in something somewhere. Kidding aside, I don't have any other way to state this politely - I hated this season. In addition to dealing with my own emotional stuff, I found the writing and overall story plotting to be pretty frustrating. Some of the retcon, particularly with the reapers, makes me react like I do to styrofoam rubbing against itself. Cringing is the least of it. More importantly, some pretty serious issues about Sam's body autonomy were raised and then never really went anywhere except his understandable anger that was wiped away by the ad-libbed "I lied" line. What!?! I guess I'm still hauling my own snarling baggage around for that one.
I feel like this is the first time watching the show that I was being pushed to choose between Sam and Dean. Fandom's reaction to the early season and the SamandDean conflict has been pretty heated and got disturbingly ugly at some points. I'm wishing SPN wasn't doing a rehash of the basic plot of Kripke's run with the boys' roles swapped because it seems so forced to me. I also have a really hard time caring about the angels and heaven. I think maybe the writers are getting closer to some sort of character solidification for Cas but it still seems like they are searching for a voice for him. I admit, his time as a human was handled better than I thought it might be. Mostly my thoughts on the season center on Dean. I understand why the creative team wanted to bring Dean in the direction that they did but they have taken this person (albeit a fake one) that means the world to me and sent him to a place where I can't follow him. He and I were on a nine year journey together and he lost his way in the dark and I can't find him. Now, I'm going to get his body back and as beautiful as that might be, it was really always about his heart and his green eyes. Those, I'm left to mourn.
Demon Dean could be interesting but I can't get too worked up about this. I thought Purgatory had a lot of potential too. I'm going to keep watching and really hope for good things anyhow. After all, hope's kind of the whole point. I've been pleasantly surprised before and I think it will be clear within the first couple of episodes of season 10 whether I can stick it out. I've seen a lot of comments from all sorts of places including Jared that Sam needs to be the one to save Dean in terms of the story. My last thought for this season and SPN to this point overall is that the only one who can really save Dean is Dean. Sam can maybe get rid of the demon with a blood cure. Cas can lay hands on him and heal his stab wounds. But none of that matters if Dean comes back to himself with the same self-loathing and crippling need for Sam in his life and no realization that these are problems and he needs to make some changes. Dean needs to free himself from both the physical Hell he's tied to as a demon and the emotional Hell he's been living in for years. If season 10 can deliver some of that, it would be watching for.
So here's the bit where I personally address fictional characters in a way that I would never approach any of this with a real person. The disclaimer list below is kind of like warnings on fiction.
a.) it's very blunt, bordering on rude and there is no place for that with real people. Why add to anyone's pain?
b.) cussing is probably not appropriate when calmly offering advice on the CW. I'm sure there is an FCC fine in there somewhere.
c.) in real life, everyone has a very personal approach to challenges and having someone insist that this is the way to solve it is unproductive at best and hurtful at worst
d.) they wouldn't listen anyway - I never did
e.) I'm not qualified to be anyone's psychologist, dentist, auto mechanic or hair stylist
f.) my glass house has very thin walls
g.) it's cathartic and self-serving
i.) this is fiction
j.) all of the above
Dean, do you want to be a demon? Hang out with the King of Hell, maybe challenge him for his job? Or maybe get stuck serving the King and wreaking havoc on the world at his orders because there's some demonic small print in the Knight of Hell contract that you neglected to read. Is that what you want? Because if you can't make some changes if you're given the chance, you're always gonna end up here and in your world, people are going to die, probably Sam. Do you want that? After everything you've done so that didn't happen? If you don't want that, you've got to get your head together and start to make some changes. Dean, it's not easy to deal with the messy emotional baggage of a life or to admit that you fucked up. But to make changes, you've got to claim all that stuff as your own, your ugly truths and honorable acts, and haul it yourself. Moving forward is actually a little easier if you pick up the bag instead of just dragging it behind you. It isn't really possible for you to hand that bag to your brother, your angel or your demon, you can't remove it with alcohol or Mark of Cain meth, it doesn't go away if you ignore it in the Impala trunk and it's tied to you the same as Marley's chain was locked around him. Due to the nature of your weird life, it's even going to follow you into the afterlife. In the same way, you can't carry anyone else's baggage - not your Dad's, Sam's, Cas's, Metatron's or Crowley's. If you want to lighten the baggage, you've got to sort through it and throw out the junk yourself. And honey? I don't care who you are, there's always junk and other people's crap mixed in there. So pick up your own stuff or stay in the Hell you're in. It's your choice. Remember free will? The same goes for you, Sam, and your own autonomy. Son, it isn't going to get better if you ride around in a car with a guy who'll knock you out and leave your body on a dirt road 'for your own good'. Set some fuckin' boundaries and stand by them. Defend them if you have to. Buy your own car if that's what it takes. And Winchesters? QUIT LYING - to yourselves, to each other, and to the rest of the world. I double dog dare you.
All caps from homeofthenutty except the Waterhouse which came from Wikipedia.