Usually after an episode I’m immediately on the fan boards sharing my initial reactions. I then spend time and more posts trying to debunk what complainers and dissenters have to say, asking people in general to look deeper than what was presented.
I did none of that after watching “Heaven and Hell.” After watching, I was left with more questions than answers, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I wasn’t ready for discussion. I immediately did the re-watch, and while the episode came across far better the second time, I was still left trying to reconcile all what was presented. So, in something different for me, I went to bed to sleep on it.
I’m still trying to make sense of it all. The setup seems straightforward enough. On one side are the angels. They can’t feel, they’ve never seen the face of God (except four of them), and they act purely on faith and orders. On the other side are the demons, most of whom were human once and turned demons when they forgot their humanity. The rest are ancient fallen angels following Lucifer. In the middle are the Winchester brothers, one saved by angels and aligned with a fallen angel, one cursed with demon blood and aligned with a benevolent demon (supposedly). The explosive result (besides two very opposite sex scenes) happens when all sides come together in one place to fight for what they believe is right. We get a battle between good and evil, and in the end we still aren’t sure which side was which and who won.
It Wasn’t Flawless
First, I’ll get the nitpicks out of the way, so I can rave over all the great character moments. This episode was written by Eric Kripke himself and his imagination went a little wild here. First, that whole idea of “ripping out grace” is borderline ridiculous to me. Nah, forget borderline. It fell in Kentucky? It’s a tree? Uriel is able to capture it and put it in a vial? All Anna had to do is get her grace back with said vial and she’s an angel again? Don’t angels fall because of disobedience? Sorry, but all that doesn’t even look good on paper. It certainly didn’t work when acted out.
Second, I’m still scratching my head over the construction that went into the “plan” of bringing the angels and demons together. Given the risky timing variables, like Ruby ending up getting tortured and the angels showing up late in the morning (when Ruby sneaked out in the middle of the night), it seemed to be a plan held together by a wing and a prayer (excuse the pun). I don’t know, maybe it’s me, but I figured Sam and Dean would be a little slicker than that. It went over clunky despite the decent end result.
Third, I have a problem with the sex scene. No, I don’t object to the long overdue Dean getting naked and making passionate love to a hot angel in the back seat of the Impala. That part generated plenty of drool-worthy twists in my seat. My issue is I hate Bad Company. Loathe them. They have been one of the most overplayed acts on Detroit classic rock radio for years, and whenever one of their songs comes on the radio, an instant reflex within kicks in to switch it off. Watching the scene on mute delivered the jaw-dropping, hot flashes reaction I was supposed to have.
The Good Stuff
Okay, nitpicks over. Time to focus on what truly made “Heaven and Hell” special. There are plenty of parallels to hammer home the thin and blurred line between both places and who represents them. Let’s start with Anna and Ruby. Even though one’s from Heaven and one’s from Hell, they’re both the same. Both crave humanity and want to know what it’s like to feel. Both have taken a curious interest in the Winchester brothers. Both have used sex to console and connect with a brother just to experience that human side they’ve been so far removed from. Both want to do what’s right. The funniest scene is also the most ironic when Dean jokes about an angel and a demon in the back seat of the Impala. That’s more than a joke. That’s a powerful image showing how both sides aren’t different at all.
There isn’t any difference between Alastair and Uriel, either. Both are powerful, ruthless, and have an intolerance for humans, demons, angels, just about anything. Both have no morals, no souls, nor regard for human feelings. Their purpose is to destroy and inflict harm, and they exist to obey different masters.
In the middle of all this, new possibilities for Sam were unveiled, which is always exciting. For one, apparently he’s been holding back on his abilities (a shock to no one). Ruby accuses him of getting flabby with his powers and he can best Alastair. “You know what you’ve gotta do,” Ruby says. Sam refuses, letting her know, “No, I’m not doing that anymore.” Sure, I already see where that’s going. He’ll go there if it’ll save Dean. I also can’t wait to see it.
When Dean is threatened by the angels’ ultimatum, Sam has no problem with exploring how to kill an angel. The angels aren’t the good guys anymore, and he’s sticking to the allegiance he can count on, Dean. Thanks to Ruby’s Godzilla and Mothra reference, Sam comes up with the plan to bring the two sides together and let them fight it out. Of course it’s a pretty dicey plan, and he takes credit for Ruby’s reference, but it all ends well for now. Score another close scrape for the Winchesters.
One thing that surprised me was Ruby’s allegiance to Sam and Dean. She goes to Alastair alone and endures extreme torture, but instead of saving herself she asks for Sam and Dean’s safety as well. One clue to what’s happening with her came by the way she looks at Sam before she sneaks out. She’s falling for him. Her loyalty to Sam seems to be almost as blind as Sam and Dean’s to each other. We all still wonder if there’s a scheme behind her actions but for now, we can’t assume anything more than she wants her humanity back and is finding it through Sam.
I’m not sure what to make of Dean’s connection with Anna, especially the way she opens up to him. She comes across as both caring and manipulative. She certainly sells the idea to Dean that angels are miserable and being human, even with the pain, is a pretty good thing. She felt his difficult struggle over whether to turn her over to the angels or go back to Hell, and played on his internal guilt in the process. She even compounds that guilt by telling him she knows what he did in Hell, increasing his vulnerability before reaching out to him physically. Hmm, sounds a lot like Ruby, huh?
So, we get the fan girl moment of the episode, Dean’s sex scene. For one, it’s about time one of these brothers got laid in the back of the Impala and considering its Dean’s car, it should be him. That back seat was created exactly for that sort of thing. You know, the days when lovers used to go to “name that point” and name that point (Thank you! I’m here all week). Their little tryst is sweet, passionate, loving, and it reflects what these two most need, sharing comfort through a tender act. A rather interesting contrast to Sam and Ruby’s fiery release, isn’t it? Either way, laid Winchesters make me happy.
Dean’s not going to be bullied again though, especially after caving to Alastair in Hell. He challenges Uriel’s ultimatum, taking the chance that Uriel is bluffing about sending him back to Hell. After all, he still believes he was saved for a greater purpose. Even Dean has his breaking points, though. When given the choice to give up Anna or they kill Sam, that’s a no-brainer. Now the angels play on that weakness as well as the demons. I’m still not sure if Anna knew ahead of time of the plan or knew that Dean gave her up to the angels, but even if she did, her granting forgiveness to Dean is exactly what he needed.
The final scene is classic Winchester heartache with a twist. For one, the two brothers have their talk on the Impala, which is a must. The unique setup in this scene though makes the impact on the audience heavier and it worked beautifully (bravo, J. Miller Tobin). Sam listens in the background, getting his heart slowly crushed while Dean is in the foreground looking forward, baring his soul for the audience, not Sam. Jensen, pulling again from that exceptional ability to blow us away with each gut-wrenching reaction to tragic circumstances, lets Dean softly crumble this time over the confession of becoming a torturer in Hell, something so horrific that none of us, even Sam, could imagine what it was like. Just like Sam, all we can do is painfully listen and let him get it all out. It’s a rare show of intense vulnerability from Dean and a far cry from his bitterness at the end of “Wishful Thinking.” It’s a shame that such acting performances are rarely recognized in the sci-fi genre, for Jensen easily outperforms anyone on the small screen today.
The title of tortured soul of the week though belongs to Castiel, not Dean. Misha Collins with resounding distinction sells the deep struggle within Castiel with only pained looks in his eyes. You know how many directors beg to have an actor at their disposal with such strengths?
No one is more affected by the battle's outcome than Castiel. His conflicted glares at Anna as they are about to destroy her are genuine, and even though she accuses him of being unfeeling, I don’t believe he was. He knew their act is wrong, but he still must obey. What got me was how Dean jumped in and saved Castiel from Alastair, thus turning Alastair on him and Sam. That’s another thing that will continue to eat at Castiel as he continues his obedience. Why would a human do this for him? Uriel didn’t try to help, instead focused on killing the other demons. He watches Anna getting her grace as if it was an epiphany more than a defeat. Castiel is learning about loyalty and humanity, and it’s a hard lesson for him.
Castiel’s time on earth has been an eye-opener and all of a sudden the desire to feel like these humans is getting too intense to ignore. He wants to understand what motivates Dean and why Anna would fall to be human. He wants to understand why Sam would embrace his evil powers, even though his acts justify the means. He wants to know what he’s doing is right. Our favorite angel is being set up for a fall and if that does happen, the results could be incredible. I try not to over-speculate, but the thought of Castiel as a fallen angel fighting with Sam and Dean against the uprising of Lucifer gets me pretty excited.
Other Stray Thoughts
Ruby tells Sam, “You’re pretty buff for a nerd.” She’ll get no arguments from me.
“You cut yourself a slice of angel food cake.” Ha! Uriel can be funny too.
Glad to see Pamela Barnes back and fully recovered from her eyeballs flaming from her skull. She still has her spark, has a new vendetta for angels, and adores Sam’s butt. She’s a pretty wise woman!
Sam had to point out Dean’s confusion of reality with porn, twice.
It’s my belief Alastair was blasted back to Hell by Anna, but we’ll see.
Dean after the conflict tells Castiel and Uriel to go find Anna, as if he’s the field general now or something. I loved that. Uriel vows this isn’t over, and Dean calls him “chuckles” again. Ah, gotta love Dean and his pet names.
As for grades, I guess last week’s episode wasn’t a huge tie-in to this week’s after all. I give “I Know What You Did Last Summer” an A, and “Heaven and Hell” a B+. The clunky storytelling is what lowers the latter. The acting remains perfect though, especially this time from Jensen and Misha (even Genevieve is improving) and we can’t wait to see what comes next.
The show is now on hiatus until January 15, and I’m going on hiatus myself for a small while. I think we all need to catch our breaths and take time to reflect through reruns how truly blessed we are by this show. Happy hiatus, everyone!