You Gotta Have Faith
I hate bringing up an old 80’s cliché, but you gotta have faith. Sure that’s true but what if your faith rests in the totally wrong thing? Do you stick with everything you believe in when times get tough or change your ways out of desperation? What happens when faith is tested and you end up making bad decisions based on the blindness of that faith? In just a mere forty minutes, Supernatural tries to take on those questions while using a device that’s been working so well so far this season, an antagonist rooted in apocalyptic mythology. For such a heavy subject, the lessons learned end up being what we’ve grown to expect for this program – darn right tragic.
Sure, it was established in last week’s stellar episode “Dark Side of The Moon” that Dean was all out of faith. Castiel was despondent too and Sam was trying to hold it all together. “99 Problems” tries to carry on the dire emotional states of our trio and as expected they’re really struggling. But first, there’s no time for crying in the beer. In another great teaser, Sam and Dean frantically try to flee something. Dean pushes the Impala to its limits and Sam’s bloody shoulder tells us something’s amiss. Considering this is a Julie Siege script, something bad must happen to the Impala and she gets that out of the way early when a demon smashes through the window and grabs Sam. Then the Sacrament Lutheran Militia arrives. When a group of holy hollers can extinguish a set of demons quickly with a fire hose, a tank of holy water and a one sentence Enochian exorcism that it leaves Sam and Dean stunned, they must be doing something extraordinary.
Think about it, what would happen if your town was stormed with demons and a local prophet in the form of the preacher’s daughter tells all of you an apocalypse is in full swing? How would you react? Would you do whatever it takes in defense? Who would you put your faith in? God? Better yet, how about the prophet spreading God’s word? The locals face that test, as do Sam, Dean and Castiel. The townspeople do what any good folks would do at first – they band together. They take arms, learn tricks for survival, and rely on one another, that is until their faith is pushed to the limit. When innocents like a teenage boy start dying, priorities begin to shift. The lines between right and wrong disappear.
So, take that and compare it to Dean Winchester. His faith in anything he ever held dear is gone. He’s going through the motions and doesn’t care what happens considering everyone’s going to die anyway. He’s farther along in his spiral than these people and down so low he doesn’t know how to crawl out. Still, despite his lost hope, he knows it’s wrong to kill a neighbor because a prophet says to. He still feels the pain over the loss of innocent lives. He tries not to care, but he does. That makes a so-called faithless Dean more guided than everyone else because he doesn’t have blind faith. He doesn’t hold delusions about resurrecting dead loved ones at the cost of others. Then again, he’s been there before.
Then there’s Sam, who’s losing the one thing he can rely on the most, his brother. He’s juggling trying to find a way to fight and get Dean to stay in the game. He’s desperate to get through, even begging Dean to pull it together. “You think you’re the only one white-knuckling it here Dean? I can’t count on anyone else. I can’t do this alone.” He sees how down his brother is and it’s scaring him.
Sam’s also having trouble with his other lifeline, the missing blue-eyed angel on a bender after his search for God ended in bitter disappointment. Castiel eventually does come around (albeit in an inebriated state) and delivers for Sam with information about the false prophet, aka the Whore of Babylon. Sure, Cas is hurting but something about this town affects him. He does notice that these people are following what they thought were messages from angels and putting their faith in that. His disappointment in himself for letting people down comes through with one simple answer to the reverend, who points out he is an angel when they are looking for a “true servant of God.” “A poor excuse for one,” Castiel answers with regret. Feeling the pain of his bender, he shares his overwhelming discontent for his new found “deadbeat Dad” situation with Dean. So how does Dean manage to go on? “On a good day you get to kill a whore.” Dean seems get through, meaning that neither of them are too far gone.
Two townspeople turn out to be the ones of truest faith, one clergy and one not religious. Both don’t have answers for what’s happening, but still stick with their core beliefs. They aren’t willing to cross the lines for the sake of promised salvation if it isn’t right. Paul, our tragic hero, goes down doing what he believes in. He stands by his neighbors but doesn’t change his ways because some person with visions says he should. He becomes a martyr as a result. It’s interesting how Sam and Dean perceive Paul’s death in different ways. Sam sees it as a line being crossed and a reason to fight. Dean sees the horror of Paul’s death instead of what he died for. That’s why Dean is having doubts. Being tired, frustrated and burned out will do that to a person.
I’m still puzzled by Castiel’s dismissal of all of them being candidates as the one that gets to plunge the branch of the Cypress tree into the she-villain. (I did find his observation “Sam is an abomination” funny.) He doesn’t see any of them as “true servants of God.” Is it possible that they all are and anyone of them could have killed her? Or is there something special about Dean that no one (including us) knows about and that’s something we’re going to find out at another time? Or is it simply he’s decided to say yes to Michael? That’s the fun of being a fan of this show, driving ourselves crazy trying to connect the dots. I personally think there’s plenty more on this to come and it won’t be last time Dean’s status is in question.
Even though Dean gets his “good day,” it quickly turns sour when Dean makes a big decision alone. He abandons Sam and Castiel at the motel (Sam’s frustration over watching the Impala leave is riveting) and tracks down his former love, Lisa (“The Kids Are Alright,” “Dream A Little Dream of Me”). This scene is a little disjointed, despite its sweetness. It makes sense to me that Dean would go to her with knowledge that he’s facing the end, especially since we know how he feels about her from prior episodes, but I’m still trying to figure out what prompted the decision. What is the final “gotcha!” and why go there? Who knows, maybe Lisa and Ben were the reasons he’s been fighting all this time and he’s chosen to let that go.