Abandon all hope. I suppose that’s a given when Lucifer is walking the earth, but after seeing Lucifer massacre an entire town just to raise the angel of death (not to mention the gruesome demise of the Harvelles), one has to wonder how in the world Sam and Dean can get out of bed every morning. No matter what they do, no matter what they try, it ends in pain, loss, and the end of humanity remains a near term inevitability. Maybe it’s no accident that the next episode has them in a nuthouse.
Yes, it’s another mytharc classic from Ben Edlund. Let’s face it. After three weeks of diversions, we had to have a sobering reminder that there’s an apocalypse going on and Lucifer is trying to destroy all. Ah, but it isn't just humans he wants to eradicate. Demons are fair game now too. How is that twist going to play out? How are demons going to take it that those years of efforts to raise their leader are ultimately going to lead to their destruction? Will there be any left by the time they figure it out? How is this show making me feel sorry for demons?
The world just keeps getting lonelier for Sam and Dean. It all begins with the introduction of the new crossroads demon, Crowley. That's another piece of inspired casting with Mark Sheppard, who rocked as the sly demon who sees the writing on the wall. How does he know about Lucifer's hatred of demons when no others do? Why would he try to get Sam and Dean involved by giving them the colt? Did he know it wouldn’t work? I do love when this show brings on characters of questionable motive. A little of that character mystery has been lost this season with the introduction of Lucifer and other archangels whose motives are very clear. Who will Sam and Dean need to ally with? What dangers are involved in these partnerships if they win? Chances are they aren't thinking that far since they hold little hope so far of winning.
The way the story unfolds is where Ben Edlund is a master. It starts with beer and shots at Bobby's place. Yes, I caught the Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King reference when Castiel easily downs shots with Ellen and Jo (I too am a dork and have all the extended editions). His bonding in this episode with Ellen and Jo is adorable. The other highlight is watching Jo shut down Dean. Those two were never meant to be more than what they already are. Sure it was established earlier in the season that Jo was over her schoolgirl crush, but it is great to see her handle herself among the charms of the master, even if it's their last night on earth.
This show works best during those understated moments where the actors are allowed to simply react. As it’s time to pose for the photo, there aren't many words said when faced with the knowledge that the end is near. It's not something hunters discuss. In posing, how fitting that the only one stating the obvious is the non-human angel. With everyone else, their silent reactions captured by the camera say it all. They're doomed. It's a bittersweet gathering.
One of the big treats is the return of the old Castiel. He’s been troubling me this season but not in this one. The vision of all the reapers, which only he could see, is a great looming visual and Cas’ reaction to their presence is both stoic and ominous. Then he has his forced confrontation with Lucifer where his fierce loyalty to Sam and Dean, despite all that’s happened, is downright inspirational. Yes, he’s losing his power and having to rely more on humanity for survival, but he’s still loyal. I got chills when he declared that he wouldn’t allow Lucifer to take Sam Winchester.
One of the strengths of this show is when Phil Sgriccia is allowed to do action sequences. The hellhound attack is especially effective because they aren't visibly there, yet we believe they are there. They're scarier that way. But Mr. Sgriccia pulls a rabbit out of his hat when he slows down the action to do one of the most heartbreaking death sequences done on this show. The actor's strengths are definitely used to their maximum potential. Take the realization of Jo's mortal wounds. How the horror and fear of her demise is achingly shown just through the shared expressions of Sam, Dean, and Ellen. Pitch perfect. It's fitting, no, its imperative that if anyone has to pull Dean out of meltdown mode, it's Bobby. It reflects what Dean told Bobby at the end of "The Curious Case of Dean Winchester." He can't do this without him. Sure, Bobby is falling apart too, but they find strength in being unified. Sam can't pull Dean out of a place like that, no matter how strong their family bond. Only Dean's father figure can.
How about Jo's lingering death scene? How Sam crouches down and holds her hand, sending his sympathies with his pained eyes. Or Dean, oh poor Dean. He and Jo have always had something special. A bond of admiration and caring. After all, relationships aren't possible when saving the world. Sometimes what you have together can only be explained through a look or a longing gaze. Dean's silent, sweet kiss goodbye says it all. You are someone truly special, Jo Harvelle.
Ellen is very special as well. She sacrifices herself not only for Sam and Dean but because she can't let her baby die alone. What mother would? It is crushing that Ellen has to watch Jo die first. No mother should ever have to go through that, even if it’s only for a minute. Great job by Samantha Ferris in showing the crippling pain from loss and bitter resolve to fight in just a few seconds. Now there are two more awful deaths to add to Sam and Dean's survivor guilt. Of course I didn't bust out crying until Ellen told Dean to "kick it in the ass." We love you, Kim Manners.
Show of hands of those that actually believed that the colt would kill Lucifer. I don’t see any. So, is your reasoning from last season when Uriel said that the only thing that can kill an angel is another angel? Or is it from the likelihood of Lucifer actually dying slim? At least by anyone other than Michael. Or was it that Lucifer wasn’t going to die in episode 10 of the apocalyptic season? Yeah, someone forgot to tell Sam and Dean it wouldn’t work.
Castiel gets the kick ass moment award this episode for getting out of the ring of fire by throwing down and stepping on his very own Meg!Demon carpet. That's so much better than actually killing her, which he no longer has the power to do. He also left her alive with the knowledge of what Crowley said, so how long will it take for her rude awakening? Once free, Castiel can only deliver Sam and Dean to safety while Lucifer welcomes with open arms death.
By the very depressing end, Lucifer could not be stopped. He didn't even seem bothered that Sam wouldn't agree to be his vessel or that they got away. Lucifer has that all mapped out. It all goes down within six months in Detroit. Just like what was revealed in "The End." So what could possibly happen to Sam between now and then that will cause that to happen? Are more really bad things coming for the boys? Damn you, Kripke! Sorry, that slipped out.
How can anyone not be choked up over the burning of the picture in the end? I love how not a single word is said. Sam, Dean, and Bobby in vigil watch the images slowly fade away. Sure the intent is because there are no bodies to salt and burn, but the close-up on the photo as opposed to a close-up on Sam, Dean, and Bobby has to symbolize something. My take is either something really bad is coming, or something inside of them all died along with Ellen and Jo. Probably hope, fighting spirit, or possibly a piece of their humanity. Lucifer could already feel the rage welling in Sam. No way they aren't going to take this personally.
So What Does This All Mean?
These angels keep bringing it up. Sam and Dean are supposedly like Michael and Lucifer, two brothers who loved each other and betrayed one another. There seems to be a piece missing though, too. Sam and Dean are two brothers who have also reconciled. Could this end up being the difference in their parallels that unravels everything? Also, the one angel whose take we haven't gotten on this is Michael. What would he say about this whole mess?
This episode did raise a question as well: how strong is that brotherly bond? It seems unflappable when they are drinking beer, with Sam brushing off Dean's snide comment about not trusting a demon. It seems unflappable when Sam confronts Lucifer primarily as a diversion for Dean to get close enough to fire the colt. Yet Lucifer talks to Sam about being smacked down by big brother and again with the silent reactions, we can't help but think something clicks. After all the growing apart they did last season, how repaired is the damage? Just judging by the previews for the next episode (January 21?) those exact questions could be asked.
My grade is an A. Not much to elaborate on other than I'm an emotional mess. We have a nine-week breather now to wildly speculate how in the world Kripke is getting them out of this mess. Or maybe he won't. Maybe destiny is too powerful to fight. I'm anxious to see them try though. Happy “Winter Hellatus,” everybody!