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TV Review: ‘Supernatural’ – ‘Devil May Care’

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The second episode of Supernatural’s ninth season, “Devil May Care,” focuses on Dean Winchester (Jensen Ackles) and his younger brother Sam (Jared Padalecki). This installment of what is, essentially, a three-part premiere is written by Andrew Dabb and directed by Guy Norman Bee. The third episode, “I’m No Angel,” centers on Castiel (Misha Collins) and airs Tuesday.

“Devil May Care” lacks the seamlessness that marked the premiere’s interwoven perspectives. This time, the primary action centers on Dean and Sam as they knowingly walking into a trap set by Abaddon (Alaina Huffman) to rescue kidnapped hunters. However, this storyline seems a bit muddled, and the secondary action is more finely wrought. Kevin’s (Osric Chau) turn as “Kevin Frickin’ Solo” and his interactions with Crowley (Mark Sheppard) and later with Dean are especially enjoyable scenes.

DMC1Making audiences feel for one-shot characters is difficult, and in this episode, there are two to presumably care about: kidnapped hunters Irv Franklin (Paul Rae) and Tracy Bell (Olivia Ryan Stern). While Tracy is acknowledged as an unknown hunter, the narrative valiantly tries to create a history for Irv, whom Dean describes as “a friend.” We discover that the Winchesters know him through Bobby Singer, and the character speaks familiarly with the boys, even going so far as to ask Sam how he is doing and to call him “son.”

While Ackles, Padalecki, and Rae work to strengthen the narrative’s suggestion of a pre-existing friendship, the relationship still feels flat to me.  I suspect that’s primarily because the bond with Irv simply doesn’t seem relevant to the story. Since the Winchesters are actively looking for Abaddon, isn’t it likely that they would go after the kidnapped hunters even if both are strangers? It also seems odd that the hunter shown being tortured by Abaddon isn’t Irv. Showing what he goes through would make his confession of breaking under torture, and his subsequent death, more meaningful. As is, my reaction is more along the lines of, “Okay, now let’s get back to Dean and Abaddon.”

Tracy’s arc also seems awkward, though I like how Dabb uses her to reference Lucifer’s release in season four. Such threads are needed to sustain the cohesion of a long-running show like Supernatural, and the past few seasons haven’t had nearly enough of them. Tracy gets over a minute of solo screen time before she’s kidnapped, an introduction that suggests she will have more of a presence than she actually does. In the end, other than a conciliatory verbal exchange with Sam, whom she blames for her parents’ deaths, Tracey gets into the backseat of the Impala and simply disappears from the story.

Some of this disjointedness may stem from the unacknowledged time gaps in this episode, which actually spans several days. Supernatural fans often joke about how quickly the Impala can traverse the country, and we see that speed in this episode too. At first, Dean and Sam are traveling back to Lebanon, KS, from Randolph, NY; over the course of the episode, they travel to California and then to Oregon before finally returning to Kansas – that’s a lot of driving time. However, a short and well-used scene of the Winchesters leaving Eugene could have easily helped conclude Tracy’s role.

Regardless of the weakness of the Irv and Tracy plotline, I really enjoyed this episode. There’s a lot of good going on, and I’m excited by the framing of the season’s arcs. I’m anxiously waiting to see how the possession storyline ultimately impacts Dean and Sam’s relationship. As I wrote last week, there’s the potential here to dismantle the unhealthy side of their codependency, and I would love to see that happen.

Devil May CareDean continues to struggle with the ramifications of Ezekiel, whom he’s now nicknamed “Zeke”  (and how many of us called that one?!), possessing Sam. Meanwhile, the theme of consent and self-identity has broadened in scope. Now, in addition to the premiere’s focus on Hael wanting to possess Castiel, and Ezekiel possessing Sam, we have Abaddon threatening Dean with possession.

The scene between Ackles and Huffman is amazing. Besides the fact that they’re beautiful people with strong chemistry, Abaddon’s fascination with Dean opens up an often-overlooked or, at least, underplayed facet of the hunter.

Many fans remember that Dean spent forty years in hell (a season four storyline). For thirty of those years, he was tortured, and then he became Alistair’s star pupil and tortured others – and he enjoyed it. While the Winchesters’ post-traumatic stress is always glossed over, Dean in season four did struggle with the horror of his actions. Even assuming that his stint in Purgatory was purifying, Dean’s comment to Abaddon, “Between you and me, it is a horror story up there,” tells us he’s still haunted. Abaddon asks Dean if he’s ever “listened to a girl scream as you rip her guts out,” and the audience knows that he has, even if the Knight of Hell does not.

This complex scene also draws on the fact that Dean has a history, in-show, of being threatened sexually. Altogether, Abaddon’s dialogue (“You and me, lover, we’ll have a grand ol’ time”), Huffman’s nonverbal language, and Ackles’s facial expressions create a charged moment underscored by threats of physical, sexual, and mental violence.

If we view Abaddon’s threat of possession as a disturbing parallel to Zeke’s possession of Sam, then we open up entirely new avenues of consideration and speculation.  And let’s not forget the opening scenes, where the camera cuts from Abaddon’s burned body directly to Dean laying, corpse-like, on a picnic table. I’m wondering just what’s in store for Dean: Will he only struggle with playing a role in Sam’s possession, or will he struggle against possession himself?

While Ezekiel continues to state his good intentions, my suspicion persists. In this episode, the diner scene raises a red flag for me. After Zeke kills the demons, he hands Dean the demon-killing blade, noting that he used it so that Dean can easily cover up the truth. That’s a lot of foresight for someone not strategizing. I also can’t overlook that Zeke tells Dean exactly what he needs to hear, reassuring him that love is a valid motivation. This is too eerily similar to Ezekiel-as-Dean telling Sam exactly what he needed to hear in order to obtain consent (9×01). There’s much potential here for Ezekiel to be more than the “friendly warrior angel” he purports to be.

Devil May Care“Devil May Care” does bring a known, former big bad back into the limelight: Crowley is imprisoned in the Winchesters’ dungeon, and they torture him with solitude. Unfortunately, Kevin, who has his own issues with the King of Hell, approaches him while the Winchesters are away, and Crowley takes full advantage of the opportunity. As Crowley later tells Dean and Sam, “[Kevin’s] my new favorite toy – wind him up and watch him go.”

Crowley’s preferred method of entertainment applies across the board in this episode. Abaddon winds Dean up; we could argue Ezekiel is engaging in similar manipulations; and we don’t yet know where any of this is going, though there’s a lot of interesting speculation floating around.

“Devil May Care” leaves the audience on a sentimental note: Dean waylays a bolting Kevin and talks him out of leaving, assuring the prophet that he’s family. “You, me, Sam, and Cas – we are all we’ve got,” Dean states emphatically. This speech bears echoes of Dean’s conversation with Cas in the crypt (8×17) and his conversation with Sam in the church (8×23). As with Sam, Dean’s tone with Kevin is very paternal. (In contrast, Dean’s tone with Cas is not at all paternal.)

The very last scene begins as a classic broment of talking and sharing a drink. Sam confesses, “I’m happy with my life for the first time for forever.” Of course, this is where the look on Dean’s face reminds us of the darker undertones to Sam’s happiness, and the audience is left wondering just what will happen when Sam learns that he’s possessed, not to mention how Dean will negotiate the fall-out.

As Sam says to Dean, “So, you ready for it? Fallen angels, Abaddon, Cas losing his halo, Crowley in [the] basement?” I definitely am, and I’m looking forward to “I’m No Angel,” which airs Oct. 22 on the CW network. Check out the promo here and the sneak peek here.

Other notes:

  • Kevin has to know he’s family when Dean brings him prune juice. You can find Guy Norman Bee’s tweet here. (And if you didn’t notice, when Dean and Sam return to the bunker at the end of the episode, Dean has a bucket of chicken in one hand and the jar of prune juice in the other.)
  • In this interview, showrunner Jeremy Carver discusses how Castiel’s physical absence in some episodes will be handled. I’m happy to see that Dabb carefully weaves in references of Castiel that do, in fact, sustain his presence in the Winchesters’ lives. This approach bodes well, I think, for how the season’s multiple character arcs will be managed long-term.
  • In Crowley’s last scene of the episode, he watches Sam very closely as the younger Winchester leaves. Anyone else think that Crowley knows everything’s not as it should be with Moose?
  • DMC2FBI aliases Stark and Banner… enough said.
  • There are a lot of great lines in this episode. My favorites? Crowley waxes on about how he “can’t wait to see Sam in stilettos and a leather bustier, really putting the S-A-M into S & M.” Dean snarks at Kevin, offering a moment of levity with the stressed-out prophet: “You’re a crappy shot, Katniss.” And the best is the back and forth between Dean and Sam: “Check the net for anything angel-y… or demon-y… or monster-y… or ghost-y. [sighs] It’s going to be a busy year.”
  • I love that Abaddon resurrects with full hair, make-up, and hellfire-red nail polish intact.
  • Perhaps my suspicion is going too far, but I wonder at some of Sam’s comments: He is on board with hunting and expressing contentment in a way that he hasn’t been since… ever? It makes me wonder just how far Zeke’s mental manipulations are going and where the story is going to wind up.
  • What are your thoughts about the episode? Your favorite lines? Share in the comments below!
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About L. Scott

L. Scott is a freelance writer and editor, among other things. Follow her on Twitter @Lyda_Scott.
  • Mother October

    I always appreciate your analysis! Another articulate assessment of what continues overall to be a fabulous show!!

    • Lyda Scott

      Thanks! I appreciate your reading! This has been such a great season so far, hasn’t it?

  • MB

    Thank you for your attention to the subtleties. I trust your eye! Looking forward to the next installment!

    • Lyda Scott

      Thanks! SPN is such a fun show to scrutinize because there’s just so much *there*! Happy watching!

  • J L

    Your review is really insightful and picked up on a lot of details that I haven’t seen in many other reviews so far. 🙂 And now I have to go rewatch Crowley’s last scene, because I didn’t notice him paying any extra attention to Sam, and I thought it was a bit off, since surely Crowley would pick up on the presence of an angel… nice catch 🙂

    I hadn’t really thought about it before, but you’re right, this is not the first time that Dean has had sexual threats in his direction. I can think of twice offhand: 1) Alistair, of course – it’s more than implied that some of the torture Dean went through at his hand was sexual in nature; and 2) the vampire that turned him in season 7 …

    Are there other instances you had in mind? I feel like I’m forgetting a couple, but maybe not…

    And I have to wonder about Crowley’s motivations for winding up Kevin the way he did, too… surface says he wanted some attention/distraction from his thoughts/to reinforce he’s still capable of pushing Kevin’s buttons as ever… But I wonder if a part of him is beginning to crave punishment for his sins… hmmm 😉

    Excellent review 🙂

    • Lyda Scott

      Hey there! Thank you for reading and commenting! 🙂 I think that Alistair and the vamp in S07 are great examples of the sexual threat thematic. Others I think of are the S&M club in 4×12, the siren in 4×14, Meg in 5×1 (she kisses him against his will), the fairies in 6.09, the looming male demon in 6×10, and the organ recipients holding him down while the stripper straddles him in 8×3. And there are the textual moments that suggest the possibility of violence/attention because of how “pretty” he is (the 07 vamp again, Gwen in 6.01 “you have fine features for a hunter,” etc.)

      Can you think of any others? These are quick notes from my “great rewatch” pre-S09 premiere, so I’m sure there are other examples, particularly more subtle ones that just imply a non-con element. It’s just so interesting to me that despite Dean being such a BAMF, his appearance seems to mark him for receiving that kind of attention… there’s a lot there that can be teased out/discussed, I think.

      And, YES, I can’t wait to see what happens with Crowley either – I’m curious to see how far his self-reflection (and wasn’t the isolation torture amazingly effective?!) goes.

      I’m excited for this week’s episode too – I’m hoping we’ll all have lots more to analyze! 🙂

  • L

    You have some great observations about the Dean/Abaddon scene. I too thought that scene was amazing, well acted and full of chemistry!

    I hope the show is going somewhere with this for Dean, he’s been kept out of the mytharc long enough and too many of his storylines, in my opinion, are about other characters (e.g. Sam) and not Dean himself.

    • Lyda Scott

      Thank you! 🙂 I look forward to seeing how the Dean/Abaddon dynamic develops — they play off each other so well!

      I’m really hopeful about how this season is going to play out arc-wise. It seems to me that S09 is inverting the narrative structure that SPN has relied on for a while, which I think is awesome considering how narrative is often gendered (Sam tends to get the so-called “masculine” arc, Dean the so-called “feminine”). Whereas past seasons privileged Sam’s arc quite often, S09 seems very purposefully centered on Dean and making his role explicit rather than implicit. I think that implicitness was a frustration for many in S08; the Purgatory storyline, for ex, had SO MUCH POTENTIAL, yet next to Sam’s existential crisis and the Trials, it just got lost in the shuffle. I blame that on the season’s overall construction because, of course, what the narrative privileges, viewers tend to privilege – at least at first glance. (For instance, several of the Samelia flashbacks interrupted moments with Dean – like his convo with Cas at the end of “Hunteri Heroici” – that, in my opinion, would have added more to the episode than the FB did.)

      I’m very excited to see what happens next… there are so many possibilities with Abaddon, Ezekiel, and the possession and consent themes, etc.!! I can’t wait to see what tonight’s episode brings us! 🙂