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TV Review: Supernatural – “Good God, Y’All”

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Er… um… wow. Thanks, Sera Gamble, you did it to us again. You turned us into quivering piles of soft matter just so you could have more fun with brotherly drama. They split up? Dean let Sam go without a fight? Dean offered Sam the Impala? Dammit, thanks for pushing buttons.

When I spoke with Sera Gamble, Eric Kripke, and Ben Edlund at Comic-Con, much of what they talked about ended up in this episode. We were told Dean would have to break his patterns of jumping in and saving Sam for the sake of others, that there would be a town under siege with people hiding in the basement, that Ellen, Jo, and Rufus would be back, that Sam would be kidnapped, and that there would be big fallout in the brotherly relationship. Kripke even mentioned the four horsemen would be driving muscle cars and I must say a 1965 cherry red Ford Mustang fastback is my dream car (yes, I giggled at Dean admiring it). I’m really envying War right now.

It’s one thing, though, to get nuggets like that but it’s another to actually see it in action. “Good God, Y’All” played out way better than I could have possibly hoped. I think it’s a no brainer as to why. Throw in some great music ("Spirit In The Sky"), an apocalyptic battle, clever directing, and Jared and Jensen at the top of their games and the results far exceed anything on paper (which is also great). Even though we’ve come to expect such excellence every week, somehow most of what’s delivered always manages to impress us.

The second episode of a season usually follows the same format. The character of focus is in distress, a story of suspense unfolds that leads to a climactic showdown, a character’s issues are raised during said plot, and then there’s a big shift in which the character comes away learning something about themselves that they may or may not like. In this show, it’s usually "may not."

This year Sam gets the main focus as he rightly should. The dude has some major problems. While Sam was healed physically in the season opener, we all knew that whatever was lingering inside wouldn’t go away. After all, he can’t be healed from himself. Sam comes away with an understanding of why he craved the demon blood but only after the hint was applied to him like a sledgehammer.

Before getting to the main focus of this review, the brotherly strife, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the excellent first seven minutes. This is the only appearance of both Bobby and Castiel. Even those boys have deep troubles. Bobby isn’t taking being paralyzed well and has gone into withdrawal mode. Castiel can’t even find Sam and Dean since they are hidden from angels, as even a curious Dean goes to radiology to find what exactly is on his ribs. It’s far more than some sigil. Every inch is now littered in apocryphal graffiti. One call to Sam’s cell phone fixes all that, but what arrives is an angel on the edge.

Castiel’s mission upon first impression seems to be as obsessively focused as Sam’s desire to kill Lilith last season. Only one other being can defeat Lucifer other than Michael. God. He’s out to find God. Dean's less than helpful suggestion that God is on a tortilla in New Mexico leads to the best line of the night, courtesy of a Cas deadpan. “No, he’s not on any flatbread.” Sure we laugh, but when Dean uses jokes, he’s not buying into the plan. Cas won’t accept Dean’s theological apprehensions this time and the intense delivery from Misha Collins gives me chills. “I killed two angels this week, my brothers. I’m hunted, I rebelled, and I did all of it for you. And you failed. You and your brother destroyed the world and I lost everything for nothing. So keep your opinions to yourself.” Dean shuts up after that.

At six minutes in, there’s a reveal on an object of our desire that’s been part of fan speculation for five seasons now. Dean’s treasured amulet, the one given to him by an eight-year-old Sam, will burn hot in the presence of God. Castiel needs it. Dean’s reluctant handover of one of his most cherished possessions is likely symbolism for what happens later. It’s Dean’s first step in letting go of Sam.

Showdown at River Pass

The brothers race off to River Pass, Colorado to help Rufus with a demon attack and two Wars surface — a showdown with demons among the townspeople and a brotherly conflict. Both are in full scale immediately upon arrival. They reunite with Ellen and she’s looking every bit as good as when we last saw her at the end of season two. Why hasn’t she been back since then? Anyway, she’s hunting with Jo, but they’ve separated. The first brotherly test comes when Sam offers to go with Dean to get supplies, but Dean tries to convince Sam to stay behind with everyone else. Sam sees what’s happening, Dean doesn’t want him going near demons, but Dean denies it. They go on anyway and Sam’s frustration grows when Dean doesn’t like the plan that they split up to get things. All that’s needed now is a major incident that hints Dean isn’t all that wrong.

There were three really great scenes in this episode and one of them is the next one, Sam in the convenience store. As he’s getting rock salt (I don’t ever remember seeing cardboard canisters labeled “rock salt” in a store), two supposed demons enter. Sam hides and goes for the shotgun, but he’s not quick enough. He struggles with the guy and tries latinating but there’s no time, being left no choice but to pull out the knife and stab the young man and his companion to death.

There’s no better way to show an audience that something bad is firing inside a character than a long dramatic pause of despair. Sam hauntingly gazes at the blood dripping on the knife and the pools on the floor, it all sinking in that his issues are surfacing. When Dean comes in and sees Sam’s state, his very disturbed reaction only fuels his fears about Sam. Sure, by season five it's second nature, but I’m still amazed how Jensen and Jared still wow us by telling so much story with nonverbal glares. That’s why Sera Gamble and Phil Sgriccia are so good too — they know how to play to their actors’ strengths.

Dean talks to a withdrawn Sam and Sam confesses he wishes he could save people like he used to. Here’s where the disconnect between these two becomes apparent. Dean asks if he means when he was hopped up on demon blood. Sam doesn’t get the chance to explain because Ellen interrupts. I do wonder how much Sam would have tried to explain. He knows he doesn’t need the blood to be powerful, but Dean doesn’t. At least there’s been no evidence that he does. So, while Dean is right to think that Sam’s addiction issues are surfacing, the underlying motivation is still lost on him.

Dean’s mistrust also exacerbates the situation when Sam wants to go with Ellen to find Jo. Dean takes him aside and tells him he’ll go, and Sam this time gets angry. “Oh, that’s right, I forgot. You think I’ll take one look at a demon and fall off the wagon, as if after everything I haven’t learned my lesson.” Dean fires back, “Well, have you?” Sam shoves him against the wall. “If you actually think — ” and he stops himself, even though Dean is staring him down with irritation. The writing on the wall becomes apparent; their issues are getting in the way of their job. Things are bad.

What else is bad? Sam gets captured, by Rufus and Jo nonetheless, who thinks he’s a demon. While he goes through plenty of physical torture with beatings and having salt shoved down his throat, Dean and Ellen get the recent omens from the townspeople. What’s happening is straight from Revelation 8. War, one of the four horsemen, is in town, and he’s pitting the townspeople against one another by making them think they’re seeing demons. He’s also replaced his red horse with that sweet cherry mustang. I’m with Dean, that’s the way I’d roll too.

Sam figures out what’s happening too because he actually gets to talk to War. There’s nothing like a candid conversation with a being as evil as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse to finally force Sam to accept the truth about himself. War tells him exactly what’s in his head with dead-on accuracy. Ever since the incident in the store Sam can’t stop thinking about the blood. He can’t hold back the huge lust for power that’s always been inside him and he wants to be strong again, stronger than everybody. Sam quietly listens to this with a frightened expression because he knows War is right. War then gets him hard with the final comment. “Good intentions, quick slide to Hell buddy boy. You feel bad now, wait until you’re thigh deep in warm corpses. Because I’m only getting started.”

Sure, the rest of it plays out like a shootout at the OK Corral, with Sam and Dean besting War by cutting off some of his fingers to get the ring he’s using to control the people. War and that sweet mustang disappear in a flash and the people are back to normal. Except they’re not since many of them slaughtered their neighbors and found out the apocalypse has started, but at least the hunters’ jobs are done.

Saying Goodbye

There’s still unfinished business, so now comes a whopper of a scene that gets to the heart of everything. Oh, and when I say “heart” I mean ours getting crushed to a pulp. Sam is ready to talk and goes on even though he notices Dean’s uncomfortable body language. Sam doesn’t trust himself either. The blood triggered something and even though intentions were good and felt true, he really misses the feeling. “I know how messed up that sounds, which means I know how messed up I am.” The underlying problem is him and how far he’ll go. “It scares the Hell out of me, Dean” and this is the most heartfelt honesty we’ve gotten from Sam since season two.

Sam admits, “I’m in no shape to be hunting. I need to step back cause I’m dangerous. Maybe it’s just best if we go our separate ways.” Dean shocks Sam by thinking he’s right and explains. “Truth is I spend more time worrying about you than about doing the job right. I can’t afford that, you know. Not now.” Sam finishes with one more apology and Dean gives another “I know.”

Are you crying yet? Well, just wait! Sam nods and starts to leave, and then Dean floors us. “Hey, do you want to take the Impala?” Did he just offer his most treasured possession to his brother? Especially when he gave up the amulet earlier? What does this mean? Is Dean ready to cut ties with all that’s near to him in preparation for a final battle? Sam doesn’t accept, but then again, we knew he wouldn’t. Still, the gesture is huge.

Sam gets up and takes one more look at his brother. “Take care of yourself, Dean.” Dean can’t even make eye contact, and we realize his brave face is one big front. “Yeah, you too, Sammy.” Sam gets his bags out of the Impala and hitches a ride with a nearby truck, while Dean stays at the picnic table and watches his brother go.

Wow, this is a huge shift for each brother. For Dean, stepping up to new responsibility means hard choices. Family isn’t the main priority anymore. He knows Sam is hurting, but he has to distance himself to keep his head in the game. In that last scene he couldn’t look at his own brother, trying to hold it together as he let the most important thing in his life go. Sam has to move on though, forge his own destiny. Considering Dean has spent a lifetime protecting him, watching Sam walk away changes his entire world.

As for Sam, he believes separating from Dean puts his brother out of harm’s way. Sam likely thinks what he’s done has irreparably damaged their relationship and he can’t get Dean’s forgiveness when he can’t forgive himself. The idea of hurting another human is ripping Sam apart and he can’t go back to the way things were before he let his inner powers loose. He can’t take the guilt anymore. He can’t take the life. Where he goes from here is why we’re exactly dying for next Thursday to get here.

My overall grade — an A for the brotherly issues, B+ for the town story. It was great to see Ellen, Jo, and Rufus again, but their time was limited and sometimes wasted. Let’s hope they come back. Next week, three words: Dean, Castiel, whorehouse. If that doesn’t get your attention, I don’t know what will.

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About Alice Jester

  • elle2

    Sam running his hand slowly down the Impala as he walked away at the end said so much, that choked me up…He’s in so much pain. Great jogb to whoever thought to do that, Jared, Phil or Sera, doesn’t matter, it delivered!

    Like you I loved seeing Jo, Ellen and Rufus but such rich characters, so wasted. Sure we ‘know them’ much more Ellen and Jo so a lot of time isn’t needed, but I would have liked to see the good-bye scene, catch you when the next horseman arrives. I’m betting something was filmed but cut to make sure there was time for the lengthy and oh-so-necessary Sam and Dean good-bye scene.

    Bring on next THursday!

  • JoAnne

    Thank you for an outstanding review.
    In “A Very Supernatural Christmas” it was a beautiful and touching moment to see who actually gave the amulet to Dean, then to know that Dean never would take it off and that it was once again his beloved brother giving it back to him in “Lazarus Rising.” He treasures this amulet so, as he treasures his “baby” and he treasures his brother.

    That it why it was so hard for me to watch Dean just( with some reluctance) hand over the amulet to Castiel without even looking at Sam for approval/understanding.

    It was hard for me to watch Dean struggle with should he go out and find Sam or take care of the people in the basement, when at any other time, Sam would have been his first and only major concern. The struggle Dean went through…

    Then Sam, staring at the blood on the floor, touching the blood on the knife, then realizing his brother was watching him making Sam wonder how many more doubts Dean now had. The inner struggle he has continually been going through for awhile now eating away at him, eroding any bit of confidence he thought he was gaining by trying to do the right thing. Poor, poor Sammy. He always thought he was doing the right thing, for the greater good, for his brother who went to hell for him. And look what happens. The apocalypse is starting, Lucifer walks free and Sam has, at this time, lost his brother’s trust, which is as monumental if not even more so than the other two.

    Dean taking Sammy by surprise and not arguing with him to stay, stunned Sammy, but crushed Dean. They could barely get their words out to each other.
    For Dean to offer his beloved car to Sam, not only showed his love for his brother, but also that if he was going to lose Sammy then nothing else matters.

  • Suze

    It was nice to see Rufus and all the old faces but they didn’t really do much … It felt as if the whole episode was building towards the last scene. Everything has changed. Part of me is well pleased as the split should lead to loads of meaty drama and self-discovery and whatnot and the other part is horrified by what’s been lost.

    If they keep this up I’m going to be a small puddle of tearful angstyness by November. Kripke hates us …

  • vichi

    Hei Alice,
    Nice to read your review, as always! For me, this was a perfect episode. And you were right, the scene where Dean offers Sammy the Impala, was the one that made me cry! I mean, this guy lost everything and now he must let go his own brother, and all this for the greater good! The same goes for the amulet. It was the first step Dean took in letting Sammy go, Kripke was right, season 5 shows us a new Dean, Dean – the leader!

  • San

    Very inciteful review and I agree with pretty much everything you’ve said there. Both brothers are hurting so much, but by being together they are hurting even more.

    The only thing I don’t agree with and this is the writers, not you, is the whole thing with Sam wanting power. I’ve never seen this until they threw it in in season 4. Sam wanted CONTROL of his life yes, and that is completely normal and he had to fight for it against a domineering father and an overprotective brother. Sam likes order in his life, and he has some compulsive tendancies, as evidenced by his actions in the episode where Dean died over 100 times. But control is not the same as wanting to be more powerful than everyone at all and I don’t see any indications that this was in him before last year. He has pretty much been content to follow Dean, occassionally arguing with him when he felt strongly about something, but Dean argued equally as strongly and most often he forced the issue. So to me, this is coming out of nowhere and isn’t a part of the Sam that has been there seasons 1 thru 3.

    Other than that, I’m curious to see what exactly it is inside Sam that gives him his power to begin with – since demon blood isn’t the origin supposedly. Is Sam truly evil by nature and physic to boot? Not the Sam I saw, because other than his desperation when he killed that nurse, he always tried to save people, unlike Dean who used that knife and killed the host.

    I’m also curious to see how Dean is going to deal with trying to save humanity, deal with his brother and decide what to do about the whole ‘angel condom’ issue. Since Dean has never been possesed, it would be very interesting to see how he dealt with the whole idea of someone else ‘running’ him in his skin.

  • Jennifer

    I was also tremendously touched when Sam trailed his hand along the Impala during the last scene. I had read once that the state or condition of the Impala is a direct reflection of Dean’s state of mind. The dirtier the Impala the more conflicted or upset Dean is… and boy was the Impala filty! Especially compared with episode three.