Emily Dunbar ’17 /Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
This episode of Supernatural, while beginning and ending in literal and metaphorical flames, really shone as a mid-season opener should. It drew from and dished out much-needed character development for characters new and old, and gave off vibes reminiscent of the greatest moments in past seasons.
We got to see a side of Dean Winchester ( Jensen Ackles ) that we hadn’t seen for a long time, the side of him that not only grieves, but also completely blames himself for every terrible thing that’s happened to a single person. This time, our poor, favorite prophet, Kevin Tran ( Osric Chau ), is the object of Dean’s angst, and after watching his young friend burn on the funeral pyre, he goes into the bunker and demolishes any and every bit of order they once had.
Gadreel has run off with Sam Winchester’s ( Jared Padalecki ) body, and Dean is reeling to even think about who the angel is, let alone what he could possibly want with his younger brother. Castiel ( Misha Collins ), freshly re-Graced and ready to assist the Winchesters, is surprised when he wings in to find that Dean is alone. Dean finally tells him everything. With his confidence having been restored with his Grace, we see the Castiel we know and love, the one who is constantly ready to remind you that he’s an Angel of the Lord, and ready to find a way because he knows he has free will to see him through. It was fantastic to see Cas trying to push Dean, reminding him that they’ve got an arch nemesis shackled in the dungeon that just might be able to help them get through to Sam.
As expected, ex-King of the Crossroads, Crowley ( Mark Sheppard ), knows just how to break through Gadreel’s defenses to get to Sam. The problem (and there always has to be one in a demon deal, right?) is that it can’t be explained; it can only be performed. All that lil’ ol’ Crowley asks is to be unshackled and allowed to roam freely for a while.
Dean, true to his character through and through, feels conflicted. He knows that allowing someone to “help” his brother without really knowing their intentions is what got them into this mess in the first place. However, when has Dean Winchester ever sat back and let anything happen to Sammy? When would he let Sam flounder if he knew there was some way, albeit terrifyingly risky, to help him?
Despite Castiel’s warning against listening to Crowley (which is great in itself, since Cas knows better than anyone that trusting Crowley gets you a belly-full of Leviathan and an entire season up the crazy creek), Dean decides to release the Cockney Cracken and try his hand at righting what he sees as his own wrong.
During all this, Gadreel is meeting up with Metatron (Curtis Armstrong), the archangel who cast all the angels from Heaven at the end of season 8, trying to gain his trust. Gadreel is sent to kill the angel who guarded Heaven’s high-security prison, and he does it with a smile. In his back-and-forth with Corey, the horrid pop singer the angel is inhabiting, we see that Gadreel still feels guilty for his crimes, but does not feel he deserved the harsh punishment he and his friends received while locked up. This guilt is a viable explanation for why he would spend his time with out-of-the-pond scum like Metatron; he wants to pay penance for his crimes and serve a purpose and a master again. The problem is, and we see this when Gadreel hesitates at gaining his next assignment, the angel is starting to question whether he’s placing his loyalty in the right place and whether he should be fighting for the other side.
He is sent to kill Abner, his best friend who also happened to be a high-profile criminal. Abner is living a human life and absolutely loves it. Gadreel clearly doesn’t want to kill him, but still feeling unsure about what is best to save the Paradise he once destroyed, he follows Metatron’s orders and kills his best friend.
Meanwhile, Dean, Cas, and Crowley, looking like a generational boy band, made their way towards the most hilarious bit in the episode. Crowley comments on Cas’s cream-colored pimp-mobile, and the men ride off to search for Gadreel with rap music blaring from the speakers, suggesting that our favorite Angel of the Lord pumps himself up with some Kanye during those late-night drives to protect the planet.
Crowley drags Dean and Cas to an NSA listening post to determine where Gadreel may be. He meets with a demon that, as it turns out, is playing both sides, helping Crowley and Abaddon (Alaina Huffman) equally, whenever the moment arises. In this moment, we see that fighting-without-fighting spirit that we’ve always loved in the King of Hell. This demon informs him that few are actually loyal to Abaddon, while most are waiting around to see who will take charge. Crowley takes this as a challenge, and returns from his meeting with the Impala’s location as well as a new sense of purpose.
The team tracks down the Impala and finds Gadreel washing the he best friend’s blood from his hands. The audience can see how much it pained him, but Dean only sees someone taking advantage of his brother. They drag him away, tie him to a chair, and allow Crowley to get to work on cracking this angel’s code.
During this process, they find out his name is Gadreel, and Castiel tells them what the angel did, some millennia ago. Crowley’s renewed determination causes him to keep poking, but the screams that erupt from Gadreel sound like Sam, so Dean has to excuse himself. Cas follows him out, and we get an absolutely wonderful and much-needed heart to heart between Dean and his angelic best friend. Dean apologizes for not telling Cas the truth about Sam and for throwing him out without giving him explanation. Cas accepts and assures him he understands. These are the moments we really missed, since the past two seasons have been a lot of somebody screwing up and the other one forgiving quickly so they could try to save the world. For the first time in a long time, we get to see these two friends figuratively hugging it out.
Nothing they do seems to be weeding Gadreel out, so Dean suggests Castiel go inside to force his departure. Angels need permission to enter a vessel… but demons don’t, and yet again, Crowley suggests the most terrible thing possible – what if he possesses Sam? Dean doesn’t have any other option, and promises to let Crowley walk, no questions asked, if he helps them one final time. The demon stays true to his word, as we know him to do, and he fights with Sam inside his own head, forcing him to expel himself and Gadreel in one fell swoop. Gadreel returns to his original vessel, and Crowley is placed back inside his just in time to hear someone trying to break in.
Crowley tells Dean to take Sam and run; he and his newfound confidence wanted a word with their intruder. He gives Abaddon’s cronies an ultimatum, and tells them to get the word out: the King of Hell is back on top.
Unfortunately, a great episode like this means bad news for the Winchester boys. After putting enough distance between themselves and Abaddon, Sam gives Dean a piece of his mind. Dean has shifted his guilt back onto Sam, which we’ve honestly been waiting for all season, and suggests that they separate. We’re left with Dean streaking away in the Impala and Sam and Cas standing alone.
While this Scooby-Doo-esque “let’s split up” mantra has never worked in the past, Sam has never been quite this angry before. It seems that this final betrayal, though with good intentions (always with good intentions), is the last Sam can take from Dean. The preview for next week looks like we’ll see a Dean/Crowley crime-solving team, which means we just might get some development in Sam and Castiel’s relationship.
This episode was a breathed fresh air and life into a season that really only started getting juicy right before the mid-season finale. Tune in next Tuesday at 9 p.m. on the CW to see whether the call to save people and hunt things will be enough to put the family business back together.