Hammering out a coherent review for “I Believe The Children Are Our Future” has turned out to be quite a demanding task. Sure, the incessant needs of my family contributed, but it was also due to trying to judge this one fairly. As far as emotional impact, this episode is a big winner. However, in breaking things down, those little nagging thoughts that got pushed aside by my initial “Tragic kid story, what’s the issue?” reaction were allowed to eventually surface. When they did, that blew my initial review all to hell.
First, I offer an apology for missing last week’s review. While I didn't mind "Fallen Idols," it was so light there really wasn't that much to say. The review I attempted didn’t measure up to what I’ve done so far. However, the impact of that episode really showed in this week's installment, so “Fallen Idols” did have some merit after all. The brothers have aired all their grievances and are moving on.
That shift in the brotherly relationship brings many bonus highlights to this episode. It’s so wonderful to see them working well together again. They are a team, both on equal ground and not an ounce of resentment between them. Everything they are doing feels so right, so in sync. I'm wracking my brain trying to remember the last time they were this together. Late season two comes to mind. The training wheels are indeed off. They are even back to their old sibling rivalry ways, aka Dean pushing Sam’s buttons. The classic bitchfaces from Sam make a glorious return, causing me to squee a bit. I especially enjoy Dean testing out the previously lethal joy buzzer on his agitated brother based on a “hunch.” The brotherly ribbing is back! Oh, I missed it.
Granted such brotherly fun can't exist without the right set of circumstances. Like itching powder that makes a babysitter scratch her brains out. A harmless joy buzzer that electrocutes someone. A dad who tells his daughter about the tooth fairy and…shiver…I can't go there. Let's just say I'm in for a sleepless night next time one of my kids loses a tooth. I guess Kripke and company can cross tooth fairy off the "Things To Ruin" list.
This show thrives in knowing that the abnormal is prime fodder for a few laughs, especially with Dean. When Dean uses safety goggles and long rubber gloves to flash cook a ham with the cursed joy buzzer, he truly becomes Mr. Wizard. How about Dean eating the entire ham within a day since they didn't have a fridge, much to the ire of Sam? Dean melting a rubber chicken with that same toy, freaking out the novelty store manager? No, the best is Dean's picture perfect recreation of a face that "froze that way."
Oh, but the real fall on the floor moment comes from Sam's reveal that all this strangeness is happening in a geographical hot zone. It occurs to Dean they're staying within that zone. Why? His palm is hairy. With one exasperated reaction Sam makes an awkward situation outright hilarious. "You know you could go blind from that too." They went there! Whacking off humor finally made it to this show. That's just as funny as "master of your domain." Dean’s smirk is priceless after getting a warning from his uptight little brother not to use his razor.
However, what started as a quirky story about old wives tales coming true goes dark fast and next thing we know we're embroiled deep in the mytharc. Once Sam and Dean find Jesse, the boy in the center of all this, Sam discovers the boy is adopted (more on that soon). Finding the birth mother, Julia, is when the episode takes a real heartbreaking turn. She was possessed for nine months and impregnated by a demon, thus giving birth to a half human, half demon child. The scene in which she tells about the birth, complete with grueling flashbacks, is a stunner. Ever Carradine emotes the trauma that plagues this woman to this day so well. The scene is enhanced by Sam and Dean sympathetically listening in the background. At that moment they are all sharing a connection, as if they're reliving their demonic horrors at once.
Enter Castiel, who definitely ruffled some feathers this week. I get it, the angel has had it rough lately. He has to act on his own and he hasn't quite figured out the best way to do that yet. But he does know that Jesse is the Antichrist and powerful enough to destroy all the hosts in Heaven, aka the angels. When his plan to kill Jesse is met with objection by both Sam and Dean, the scene is set for a drama I've been dying to see for a while now, the Sam and Castiel confrontation. Sam points out they're the good guys and won't kill children. Castiel brings up that Sam wouldn’t have a problem with that a year ago. Sam thinks that by telling the child the truth he’ll make the right choices. Castiel stares into Sam’s eyes with a steely glare that twists that knife of guilt that's been in Sam's gut all season. “You didn’t. And I can’t take that chance.”
From there, everything spirals out of control, the way a Supernatural plot often does. Castiel is off to kill the child, while Julia is possessed by the demon that impregnated her now that she knows where Jesse is. Here is where we find out how powerful Jesse is in the best possible way, because in fear of being harmed he turns Cas into a miniature action figure, complete with kung fu grip for the miniature knife. That prompts cries throughout the fandom, each fan wanting a mini Castiel of their very own. At this point, this just can’t get weirder. Even Sam and Dean, who have seen it all, are pretty blown away by this.
From here on out, its pure rip-your-guts-out drama. Dean does his best to spare Jesse some serious trauma and tells him his powers are because he's a superhero. They need to take him somewhere for training. The boy seems to be buying into it until the demon-in- birth-mother-meatsuit arrives, disabling Sam and Dean with the TK toss against the wall.
This scene is an acting extravaganza. Not only is Ever Carradine great in switching gears to the brutally honest demon, but Gattlin Griffith as the young boy learning the harsh truth that he's half human, half demon is amazing. The portrayal of a child’s innocence lost at that moment is very moving. What's even more moving is how Jesse chooses to hear Sam's version of the story, as if he intuitively knows that Sam too has a special connection in all this. Jared's interaction with Gattlin heightens this already emotionally powerful scene, for Sam believes this boy can make the right choices, especially since he didn't. Sure, Sam's appeal comes across as a bit heavy-handed for some, but for me it works. I’m an infamous softy for Sam pain, though.
So if that wasn't enough, after the boy sends the demon away now Dean joins the fold and this part is the most heart-wrenching. Jared, Jensen, and Gattlin just kill this. The brothers come clean with Jesse in the most sensitive way, with tender honesty about his parents being in danger and the sacrifices they've had to make in their lives, including watching their dad die. Their talk forces this child to grow up in a hurry, even if the truth is what the boy wanted. He must decide what to do next.
Jesse ultimately makes the hard decision to leave alone, restoring everyone back in the town to the way they were, including Castiel. With this new development, i.e. the Antichrist as an 11-year-old boy wandering the earth alone and undetectable, a whole new realm of possibilities have just opened up. Chances are very strong we’ll be seeing more of Jesse in the future.
There Are Some Plot Holes
Oh yes, there are a few plot holes. First, let's break down the fact that there is an Antichrist as part of the mythology now. Anyone who knows apocalyptic prophecy accepts one must exist. I've heard the outcries though, how can he be a demon spawn from a virgin birth, why aren't there more kids like this then, how can he be this powerful? In my quick research of what the Antichrist is supposed to be, even pulling out my dusty bible, there are very few clear definitions out there. Nobody really agrees on who or what he's supposed to be. There isn't even clear evidence that its one person. One translation has the Antichrist as "son of perdition" but that to me doesn't mean son of The Devil. So, half human, half demon makes sense to me. There's even a vague mention of many Antichrists in the Bible, but one powerful one emerges.
It's already been established on this show a few times, especially last season, that the current Christian bible is the "just for tourists" version. Other translations exist, and judging by the Old Testament type angel Castiel is, his knowledge comes from more ancient sources. “Your bible gets more wrong than it gets right.” That’s a free pass there to give the writers plenty more latitude with their story development. No matter what the origin, the purpose of the Antichrist is to oppose Christ. This is where the possibilities get fascinating. Now that Jesse's alone in the world, how fast will it take for that lost innocence be turned? Will he indeed make the wrong choices like Sam and fall into the hands of Lucifer? That might be too simple an analysis for such a huge biblical concept, but it's all I've got for now.
How did Sam find the adoption records and birth mother so easily? Couldn't a demon have done that? I won't harp on the point though, since it's already been pointed out so eloquently in other reviews (thanks Mo!). If anything, I'm having problems with Sam going back to getting pinned to walls by demons. You know, I’m fine with him not having those demon powers anymore, but if the death ray of white light bounces off of him how does the TK toss from a lower level demon work on him? I know, he's not that powerful anymore but after Alastair couldn't throw Sam with his mind I had hoped we'd turned a corner. I would have liked it better if the demon couldn’t do anything to Sam but kept him back by threatening Dean and the boy. Ah well, I’m splitting hairs again. Creative license wins.
Despite the nitpicks, I'm adoring the character development this season, especially Sam. He's truly broken up over what he did and it’s going to dog him forever. But to still maintain enough hope that a child in a somewhat similar circumstance will make different choices than he did? Most would be cynical or doubtful. It’s shocking he has any hope left. What we are seeing is season two Sam. Boy, did I miss him.
Oh, but Dean is having some adorable man pain, too. There’s nothing like taking part in destroying the innocence of a child to bring back some awful childhood memories. At least he managed to keep Sam in the dark for a while. We often forget the burdens Dean had to bear at such a young age and we got that reminder watching him fruitlessly try to spare Jesse from the same fate with that Superman story. His speech to Sam at the end wishing that their dad lied to him really got to me. That’s the first time we’ve seen such regret in Dean, but somehow we sensed it was there all along.
As for Castiel, I'm still giving this fallen angel a pass for now. Not much has been put into his development so far this season but being alone in the world isn't doing his character many favors. He hasn't owned up to his role in starting the apocalypse but I think once his human side takes over a bit more, he will. Even Dean defended him to Jesse, calling Cas confused. He is indeed. What he needs right now is Anna, in more ways than one. Yes, I’m still pushing for that ship.
Other Things Noticed
Agents Page and Plant? Again? It's time to retire the Zeppelin aliases. Look I dig Zeppelin just as much as everyone, but they were never into overexposure. How about something slightly more modern, like Cobain and Vedder?
Alliance, Nebraska. That brought a smile to my face. That’s the home of nearby Carhenge. My relatives came all the way from England one time and while driving through America's heartland saw this marvel. They thought it was better than the real one.
I loved the old glory motel room motif. Too bad not enough of that room got highlighted. I personally loved the flag pillow and the flag room divider with worn planks for the stripes. I’m not a fan of this motif in my house but seeing it in an episode about the Antichrist, it so worked for me.
Normally I give a grade on these episodes, but this time I defer. This seems like a big setup episode for what's to come. I'd rather grade it in hindsight after some more drama has played out. As for this week, it's a repeat of the season premiere. Whew, I think we can all use a small break. In the meantime, I'm brushing up on my theology.