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TV Review: Supernatural – “Abandon All Hope”

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I have to admit that I was dreading watching this episode a little bit for two reasons. First of all, it’s the last episode before the Christmas hiatus, which will last well into January 2010 (how can you do this to us, Kripke?) and second of all, an episode from a TV show covering a war between Heaven and hell that is entitled "Abandon All Hope" doesn’t bode well, wouldn’t you say?

But I finally got over my willies (and had enough spoilers on my Tumblr dashboard) and finally watched this episode. Then it took me quite some time to get my act together and review this episode. It was kind of nice to have "Supernatural review" on my to-do list for an extra two weeks before yielding to the desire to write it up. It’s going to be a hard couple of coming weeks, that’s for sure.

The opening scene was quite intriguing, and builds right into the little bit of precious information Becky (our unlikely informant) gave the boys last episode — that Crawley has the Colt. Speaking of which, Crawley was rather brilliantly portrayed by Mark Sheppard, wouldn’t you say?

It’s obvious that a lot of work has been done by the boys, Jo, Ellen, and Castiel since the last episode, which is great, because this leaves a lot of room open for books going over the action between episodes. And no, I am certainly not talking about fan fiction. I went there once, and I never want to go there again (sorry, guys).

It’s also obvious from the very beginning that, although Supernatural’s typical banter and one-liners are going to be present in this episode just like in any episode, the jokes are over; it’s time for some serious Apocalyptic action.

There were a couple of things that were a little intriguing about this episode, and that make me wonder if, on one side, Supernatural might be running out of steam (I know, I dared), or if the writers are taking us somewhere we are not expecting and these are the foundation blocks of a future that is quite different from what we are expecting.

For one, there was the blatant display of homophobia at the beginning, when Crawley asks the banker to seal the deal with the typical kiss. It seems like the writers are having a bit too much fun with some fans’ obsession with slash fiction. Becky was awesome; last episode’s joke was also funny. But seriously guys, give it a rest. Most Supernatural fans are not into Wincest or slash, and we’d like for some other jokes to be laid on us.

Then came the rather big mistake, and a very atypical one for the Winchesters: the devil’s trap under the rumpled rug. I’m sorry, but that really didn’t fly. I can understand that Sam and Dean are on pins and needles, I can understand that they are more vulnerable to making mistakes, but even I wouldn’t have made that mistake were I a rookie on my first hunt. It was a rather lazy and/or sloppy way for the writers to make sure that Dean and Sam were caught. They should have let Crawley walk into the trap, then the other two demons would have caught the Winchester brothers (that’s a mistake they could have made, i.e. not seen all the sentinels), and then another demon could have come and freed Crawley. That type of mistake on behalf of the Winchester brothers would have made a lot more sense than a rumpled rug. Yes, I’m sneering a little bit here. But Supernatural writers have consistently set the bar high, so any slip – however small – is hard to take.

Despite that blunder, the scene of the Winchester boys with Crawley was interesting in more than one way. On the one hand, there was this little gem of an exchange:

Crawley: Do you know how deep I could have buried this thing (the Colt)? There is no reason you or anyone should know this exists at all. Except that I told you.

Sam, incredulous: You told us.

Crawley: Yes. Rumours. Innuendo. Sent out on the grapevine.

In TV land, this reminded me immediately of the ‘African Internet’ that was referred to in The X-Files’ season seven premiere by Amina Ngebe when Scully was surprised at the fact that the secret she asked others to keep made its way seemingly around the continent. In real life, it makes for an even more poignant exchange in a day and age when we, the public, are stuck in what seems to be a massive marketing campaign on a global scale to make us believe certain things that’ll make us act in ways a relatively small group of people want us to act.

The other thing I found interesting in the scene with Crawley is that, rather than being a source of despair, what he said fills me with hope. For the first time, I can see how the tide can be turned. Crawley is turning against Lucifer to ensure his own survival – there can’t be much trust left there. Therefore it’s certain that other demons have had the same thought – that they need to stand up to Lucifer to ensure their survival. There is rancour and disunity within the ranks of hell just as there is within the ranks of heaven – things are starting to even out. Not just that, but perhaps the oddest and unholiest of alliances can be made: everyone against Lucifer, be they humans, demons or angels. Now that would make for some awesome TV.

Unfortunately, it brings me to something I didn’t find that awesome. I found it odd that Castiel would choose his last night on earth to do shots with Ellen (or with anyone else, for that matter). Wasn’t he traumatised enough last time, when, on another night that might have been his last on earth, he followed Dean into what he himself referred to as a ‘den of iniquity’?

Despite this, Castiel is turning out to be one of the most intriguing characters in the series. These blatant contradictions in his character are just as intriguing as they are annoying – perhaps even more so. His faith in God remains firm, despite some major shake-ups, and yet he went to a bordello and now is doing shots.

Quite unsettling, yet, in light of the above mentioned unholy alliance, perhaps it makes sense – that Castiel, who might be starting to understand the various shades of grey and exploring some of the things he previously wouldn’t have, but whose core faith has yet to be breached, could become the figure bringing together seemingly diametrically opposed groups of people.

However if Castiel is going to become such a figure, he really needs to get his facts straight. How did he not know about the Colt not being able to kill Lucifer? For that matter, how come no one knew about this? Weren’t we told previously that no one can kill Lucifer but one of his kind? I’m really going to have to go through previous seasons’ episodes to figure out how this happened.

The scene with the Impala rolling into town followed by Ellen’s truck reminded me a lot – appropriately so, perhaps – of the episode "The End". I have to admit that this is where my blood pressure (and probably that of thousands of fans) started skyrocketing, especially when it became obvious that the Winchester brothers rolled into town with no weapons in their hands or laps other than their cell phones. Seriously? What are you going to do if you’re attacked, call 911?

And for that matter, why did Dean and Sam only get Ellen and Jo to walk into battle with them? Between Ellen, Dean, and Bobby, I’m sure at least a couple of hunters would have been able to make it to the battle. Time is of the essence, yes, but come on, not even two or three hunters are near the area?

Another mild incongruence that bugged me a lot was when the Winchester brothers chose to separate themselves from Ellen, Jo, and Castiel. You’d think that, just as they are closing in on Lucifer, they would want to keep the troops (and consequently their strength) together. Then again, I’m no hunter.

The scene with the reapers was quite a treat, a perfect, creepy-without-trying moment. The superimposition of the street as Ellen and Jo saw it with the way Castiel was seeing it, filled with immobile Reapers, was something straight out of a B-movie. And while Castiel walked amongst the Reapers that only he could see, I was reminded of that moment in the Matrix when Morpheus is explaining to Neo that life can’t be only about what we see, taste, hear, smell and touch, for if it were so, life would basically be limited to a series of neuroelectric impulses. Doesn’t it make you wonder what reality really is? Doesn’t it make you wonder what there is with you right here, at this very moment, that you can’t see?

You probably do — or you wouldn’t be watching Supernatural!

Castiel walking in on Lucifer in another B-movie worthy moment, when the audience is screaming at the screen “Don’t go there!” but he does anyhow, gave way to another thought-provoking conversation. I find it fascinating and scary how Lucifer manages time and again to turn every truth and every argument to suit his needs in a seemingly logical way. In this case, Lucifer is actually trying to convince Castiel, Mister faithful-to-the-end himself, that they are on the same team. He bases his argument on the fact that they both rebelled against Heaven and therefore are seen in the same way by the other angels. Talk about a lazy and badly built argument, as this conversation is built on a basic yet important flaw in Lucifer’s logic. He mentions Castiel’s self-interest as being the reason why they should join forces. This clearly demonstrated that his logic is based on self-interest rather than on love for humanity, as an angel’s logic is supposed to be based on. Hence his entire logic is terribly undermined right from the beginning.

I can’t possibly finish this review without mentioning Jo’s death. Ah, Jo. Talk about the youngest being the bravest and the wisest:

Jo: Stop. Guys, stop. Can we uh, be realistic about this please? […] I can't fight. I can't walk. But I could do something. We've got propane, wiring, rock salt, iron nails, everything we need […] To build a bomb…

Ellen: No, I, I won't let you! […]

Jo: (smiling) Mom. This might literally be your last chance to treat me like an adult. You might want to take it.

Ellen: (crying) Well, you heard her. Get to work.

So often we focus on the amazing acting skills of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki that we tend to forget the skills of the actors (or in this case, the actresses) portraying some of the recurrent characters. Alona Tal and Samantha Ferris (can I get a w00t w00t, Canada!) did an amazing job, making the entire sequence (from Jo’s mauling by the hellhound to the explosion of the hardware store) poignant without going into the cheesiness and awkwardness that can sometimes permeate these scenes.

It’s also funny (in a I-have-a-tear-in-my-eye kind of way) how mothers are at the same time so strong when it comes to their children and yet so weak, and how well their children know them. In an instant, with only a look, Jo guessed that her mother was planning on staying with her in the hardware store. In retrospect, it’s a good thing, since Jo took her last breath before detonating the bomb. But this was something they couldn’t have predicted, and the question begs to be asked: was Ellen’s sacrifice needed? After all, she’s a hunter and could have continued fighting alongside Dean and Sam.

Perhaps if she was strong enough to live without Jo, it wouldn’t have been needed. But it is probable that after first losing her husband and then her daughter, Ellen’s ensuing grief and possible resentment could have become a liability. So perhaps she didn’t only decide to stay with her daughter because she wasn’t brave enough to live without her; perhaps is was because she was brave enough to sacrifice herself too, since she wouldn’t be able to contribute anything more to the fight.

While it was rather obvious from the beginning of the episode that this could not be the time when Lucifer would die (he needs to live another four to six months until the end of the season, after all), I couldn’t help but wonder what this episode would do to Sam and Dean’s still relatively fragile relationship (as compared to what it was pre-Ruby). I think that the boys are definitely on the way to becoming closer than before; Sam has really changed, and Dean is finally letting go (barring the occasional still-bitter one-liner). And although I know Lucifer’s arrogance will be one of the reasons for his downfall, I can’t help but wonder at his supreme confidence:

Sam: [looking at the men standing around] What did you do? What did you do to this town?

Lucifer: Oh, I was very generous with this town. One demon for every able-bodied man.

Sam: And the rest of them?

Lucifer: [gesturing at the pit he's been filling in] In there. I know it's awful but, these Horsemen are so demanding. So it was women and children first. I know what you must think of me Sam. But I have to do this. I have to. You of all people should understand.

Sam: What's that supposed to mean?

Lucifer: I was a son. A brother, like you, a younger brother, and I had an older brother who I loved. Idolized, in fact. And one day I went to him, and I begged him to stand with me. And Michael… Michael turned on me. Called me a freak, a monster. And then he beat me down, all because I was different. Because I had a mind of my own. Tell me something Sam, any of this sound familiar?

Just like he was trying to plant the seed of doubt in Castiel’s heart earlier, here he is, trying to do the same with Sam. And I think it’s good that this is happening; just like Castiel is smart enough to see through Lucifer’s convoluted and deeply flawed logic, Sam has acquired a lot of perspective in the last two years and this interaction will cement his newfound mental stability and maturity. Again, another reason to not abandon all hope.

And I must mention that Mark Pellegrino’s Lucifer is an awesomely creepy performance that I am not likely to forget anytime soon.

I don’t know how I feel about the ending. I like that it was solemn and silent, and that not a single word ruined the moment. But I don’t understand why Bobby burned the picture. Wouldn’t you want to keep the last picture of two hunters who courageously died during battle?

On that delightfully cheerful note, I leave you, dear reader, but not without tickling your brain a little further (to make sure you make it all the way until January’s episode for the second half of the season to begin). Let’s ponder the question: do we need to abandon all hope, as this episode’s title seems to want to encourage us to do? While the situation does seem pretty dire, there is a relatively little but extremely important point that, after reflection, is bound to make you do anything but abandon hope.

Lucifer, as Dean and Sam watch, horrified, as the possessed men fall down dead: What? They’re just demons.

This adds on to a point that I made earlier. Crawley’s position shows that there is already disunity within the ranks of the demons, who are turning against their creator – i.e. Lucifer. This point is taken further during Castiel’s conversation with Meg, and driven home with Lucifer’s obvious disregard for the creatures he has created.

It’s going to be so fascinating to see in upcoming episodes the demons having a crisis of faith. Then it’s really going to give Castiel, Bobby, and the boys an edge, because there is nothing worse for an army than disunity. On top of that, I find it highly unlikely that someone as arrogant as Lucifer would ever believe that the demons he’s created would ever dare turn away from him. And that will probably contribute decisively to his demise.

Last point that just might boggle your mind: Satan doesn’t really exist. Satan is an angel gone rogue.

And with that, I bid you farewell until January.

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About Sahar

  • Suzie

    Actually about half of Supernatural’s fanbase are wincest fans.

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    Oh dear… I really hope you’re wrong ;)

  • fx

    If you wonder why Castiel didn’t know that the colt wouldn’t kill Lucifer (and I think he had voiced skepticism about it when it was first mentioned), why wouldn’t Crawley know, too? The biggest thing this episode accomplished in bringing the story forward is that the colt put Sam right in front of Lucifer. I think Crawley was following Lucifer’s interests. That’s why he had the colt.

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    fx, your theory makes sense. After more thinking, I do have two other theories to offer.

    First, perhaps the Colt not being able to kill Lucifer is simply a very well kept secret. And it would make sense that Lucifer wouldn’t want anyone to know that.

    Second, that this is just another simple yet efficient demonstration about how people tend to forget the truth, in this case, that only angels can kill angels. This would therefore make this a simple yet powerful social commentary.

  • Koterz

    Well, the reason that Bobby burnt the picture is because it was the best way to honor them. You know, a hunter’s funeral is where the body was burnt, but since they didn’t have the bodies, the best way to give respect to their memories was by burning the picture. Besides, hopefully Bobby still has the negatives.

  • Amy

    Don’t trust Crowly. Becky said she was pretty sure Lilith and Crowly were lovers. Sam killed Lilith. Ulterior motives are playing out here.

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    Koterz, you do have a good point. It just might have been their own mini ‘funeral’ of sorts. Excellent point!

    Amy, you’re right – I forgot about that little tidbit of information. Which means that, while it still hols, my theory about disunity within the ranks of the demons is a little less strong.

  • http://myspace.com/nitewoman Nitewoman

    Enjoyed your review, thoughts and ideas and the questions you posed. I haven’t written my review yet as this was an episode that tore me apart. I have always loved Jo and Ellen, so it was bitter sweet to lose both of them, but if they had to die…what a great tribute to two of the best hunters.
    I had always wished the relationship with Dean and Jo had ben developed more in a romance situation instead of the “little sister” I always loved the chemistry between Dean and Jo. When the hellhounds attacked Jo just knew she was the first casualty. I so wished Jo could have had her moment with Dean. Dean’s pain was palatable. Watching him see Jo was dying and IMHO realizing just how much he cared about her.
    Ellen was the only other person except for Bobby that Dean would listen to and Ellen could always keep Dean in line. At times I feel that Ellen actually had the most control over Dean because she was the mother figure that Dean needed so desperately. For many years Dean had John, but when John died that’s when the boys met Ellen and she was the one that kept Dean from loosing it after John was dead.
    Again wish Jo had said yes to Dean, she always did love him, and being her last night on earth why not have the last thing you wanted…Dean. Dean showed real love and respect toward Jo.He did acknowledge that they were both great hunters. Dean’s last two kisses to Jo – perfect. The last shot, Dean looking at the photo of Jo’s face burning, got to me, Dean did love Jo and realizes the terrible cost of life to him and Sam for being the hunters that John brought them up to be. Don’t know how I’m going to wait until January….kiss a happy Xmas goodbye!

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    Nitewoman, thank you for sharing some great comments (as usual!). You’re right about Ellen being the mother figure that helped Dean keep it together, and Jo being someone he cared deeply about. I’m sad about that too – I honestly thought those two would end up together sometime (and not just a fling, but the real deal) and, just like you, as soon as Jo was attacked, I knew it was a done deal. After all, this is war, and during war, people die :(

    And I hope you have a happy Christmas anyhow – however awesome it is, Supernatural is only a show ;)

    So MERRY CHRISTMAS! I insist ;)