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TV Review: ‘Supernatural': ‘I’m No Angel’

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This week’s Supernatural, “I’m No Angel” doesn’t match the quality of storytelling seen in the first two episodes, but still moves the key themes of the season along. Writers Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner have always been inconsistent, and this episode continues the trend. Fortunately, Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and Misha Collins always show up prepared to play, no matter the script, and they pull this one out of the fire.

I’ll start with the weak areas. Why are these writers allowed to completely disregard the show’s canon and mythology? Does showrunner Jeremy Carver have no appreciation for how important it is for a fantasy world to follow its own rules, so viewers will believe in the world? Supernatural came right out of the gate in the premiere with a fully realized believable universe, and creator Eric Kripke was obsessive about keeping that world consistent. Not every story line landed, but nothing jerked me out of the show, either.

That’s not the case with “I’m No Angel.” Last season these same writers turned reaper lore on its head in “Taxi Driver” when they made rogue reapers who possessed people and could trot in and out of purgatory with ease. That this retroactively impacted the overall story of season six was apparently of little significance. In their first episode this season, the writers continue to write reapers in a way that means they may as well be completely new mythological beings.

In season four, reapers were presented as representations of death, and Sam and Dean have no idea how anyone can kill death. The answer turns out to be Death’s own scythe, which can kill Death himself and which the demons have because Lucifer bound Death.

Now suddenly reapers are not representations of death, but instead appear to possess people just like demons (no need for consent) and die just like angels (angel swords make them explode in a burst of light). No scythes are necessary and no motivation is given for why rogue reapers exist. In “Death Takes a Holiday,” Tessa reacts to the coming apocalypse with “What? Your whole angel-demon dance-off? I could care less. I just want to do my job.”

These reapers don’t want to do their job. What do they want? Why are they willing to defy Death’s expectations for his reapers?  It’s all whiplash inducing and pulls me out of the show. I don’t know why Ross-Leming and Buckner didn’t just invent a new creature to hang their new mythology on. It would fit more comfortably than ignoring canon.

This writing team also has trouble writing dialogue, and this episode had some very clunky moments, as characters verbalize themes in on-the-nose dialogue. Misha Collins is wonderful in this episode, and that’s a real testament to his acting as he has to comment on how poor people can be giving and that people waste food. No subtlety in this script.

Castiel

Misha Collins (Castiel) has an excellent episode.

Fortunately, the actors make much of the story work. I really enjoyed Collins’ portrayal of Castiel having to negotiate not only the human world, but also his human body. I think moments like not knowing how to use toothpaste or what sheep are ring false, and I don’t want to see more of Castiel not knowing things he should as an ancient being who has been on earth a long time and hung out with the Winchesters for a decade. But I did enjoy him having to figure out how to keep his human body running and then how to understand new emotions and feelings he’s never dealt with before. I also enjoyed the nod to Meg in the choice of Clarence for an alias.

The writers move Sam and Dean’s arcs forward as Dean begins to get used to the idea of calling on Ezekiel, even though that ups the quotient of lies he has to tell. Jared Padalecki continues to nail his dual roles, and I can always tell when he is Sam and when he is Ezekiel. I think it’s interesting that Dean is beginning to have a little trouble, though. As Ezekiel takes on more human inflections and movements, the line is beginning to blur. When Ezekiel walks over to Dean with the intention of healing Cas, Dean first thinks he is Sam, as there is no blue eye flare. I think this blurring of identity is going to continue to be a theme as Dean tries to juggle all his lies.

Dean is getting mired deeper and deeper into his deceptions, as the price of saving his family is lying to them. Sam is beginning to get suspicious of how situations keep getting solved in ways he can’t follow. And instead of being able to leave the possession aspect under wraps, with all its consent issues, Dean instead has to use Sam as a tool in order to take advantage of Ezekiel’s power to help find and save Cas. Saving one is hurting another, compounding Dean’s guilt. That he will pay a heavy price is made clear as Sam says to his brother angel possessions are like body snatching. Uh oh.

Dean

Dean (Jensen Ackles) struggles with the guilt of his decisions.

And there’s no respite from the guilt for Dean. After finally tracking down Cas, the boys are too late to save him. He’s stabbed by a rogue reaper, and Ackles beautifully portrays Dean’s sadness at losing yet another member of his family. Dean lost his first family configuration when his mother was killed, but stepped in to help reform that family with his dad and Sam. He lost that family when his dad was killed, but gathered together another family with Bobby, Ellen and Jo, Cas and of course Sam. He had to face the loss of almost all those people as well, and last season had to give up Benny.

Dean has lost so many people, which makes him keep the family he has left close. That sense of loss is why I can understand his need to save Sam and why he can then use Sam to save Cas. Dean needs his family. The mounting pressure of this story line is that he may end up losing his relationships because of what he’s prepared to do to save them.

The end of the episode really showcases the complex trap Dean is now in. He used Ezekiel to save Sam, and now uses Sazekiel to save Cas. But Ezekiel convinces Dean Cas will only draw danger to – and this is interesting – the angel. If Cas stays, Ezekiel goes, which means Sam dies. And Dean does what he always does: he chooses his brother. The scene where he tells an unsuspecting Castiel that he has to leave is very poignant, particularly coming on the heels of a scene showing Sam, Cas and Dean acting like the family they are, teasing Cas about losing his virginity.

I’m left wondering just exactly what Ezekiel’s agenda is. While I’m not at all sure he’s a villain, I am sure he has his own story and that he is involving the Winchesters in it as much as they are involving him in theirs. My suspicion is he found a way to get rid of Castiel because Cas has knowledge that could hurt Ezekiel. My guess at this point is Ezekiel is not Ezekiel at all, and Cas would know that. But who is he? And who is he hiding from?

These are much more intriguing questions to me than the new angels we’ve just had introduced, so I hope Bart the Angel won’t be a major player this season. He reminds me far too much of Dick Roman, and that story wasn’t successful the first time around. Season nine continues to intrigue me, however, and I can’t wait for next week.

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About Gerry Weaver

  • sharonally

    I know I sound like a broken record but this episode showed why I am so icky over the whole Sam/ Ezekiel situation.

    • Gerry

      It’s always great to hear your comments! I think my perspective differs only in that I think the writers intend for us to think its icky and the ickiness will be part of the story. I think it was foreshadowing when Sam described angel possession to Dean as body snatching. And Dean is looking more and more caught as his lies force him into actions he knows in his gut are wrong.

      Though at the same time, the situation remains complicated because without the possession, not only would Sam be dead but so would Cas. Dean is fighting to save his family the only way he can. I think that will end up weighing heavily in his favour when he is inevitably judged. These boys end up forgiving a lot in each other–Sam never had to face that his demand that Dean give up Benny hurt Dean, especially as he felt he let his friend down in a time of trouble, while Benny came through for him. But Dean ended up understanding how upset Sam was at the thought that Dean might have pulled back from him and found a deeper friendship.

      They each think not being there for each other is the worst betrayal. They just sometimes have different views on what “being there” means. In the end, they see through to the core of what the intention was. I think this kind of drama and exploration is fair game for the writers. I just ask they write it well.

      • sharonally

        But is not how those ‘betrayal’s’ are seen that makes the difference to a audience . Dean’s desperate reasoning to save Sam which led to the Ezekiel possession at least IMO has been done in a sympathetic way . Sam’s let down of Dean last season was as cold as ice , with little insight and a screeching vet .

        Sam will be expected to understand and reach a point of seeing Dean’s pov though the violation is a sacred one , the autonomy of ones mind and body and esp for Sam who has had real control issues from childhood. How well will Sam’s reaction be received initally by a fandom/audience who has had access to Dean’s motivations/mindset that Sam did not have when he will more than likely throw the kitchen sink at Dean is what I am interested in.

        • Gerry

          Well, for me, I viewed the writing for Sam in the first half of last season as atrocious and frankly have decided to pretend for the most part that it didn’t happen. I don’t attach that coldness to Sam because it simply didn’t feel well supported or organic. The second half of the season I felt I knew Sam and could understand him as he admitted how harshly he has always viewed himself and how much he needs to know Dean puts him first, because Dean’s love helps him believe in himself. I would have liked Sam to have looked at the Benny situation from Dean’s point of view and the boys talked about it, but in the end, it wasn’t necessary. I could connect those dots.

          My feeling this season is most fans are hoping Dean isn’t being thrown under the character bus, because Sam’s inevitable hurt and angry reaction will have lots of story support, as does Cas’s hurt. Because I feel I understand why Dean has made the decisions that he did, and that one thing is now leading to another in a way that he didn’t anticipate and isn’t actually comfortable with, I am along for the ride. I don’t require the boys to be perfect, just understandable. They’ve always had flaws and been capable of poor decisions. To me, though, their core story is that through it all, they are good for each other in the end, because they believe in each other.

          • Ginger

            Bravo, Gerry. We don’t need any more brother wars and I’m very happy to be able to enjoy the show. Last year, I was one of the loudest critics. Even if I don’t enjoy all aspects of it (Charlie, Kevin), we’re getting some good storytelling this season and it makes for good weekly TV.

          • sharonally

            Being concerned about certain aspects of the sl is not brothers wars not everybody indulges in that ,it is merely questioning and as a Sam fan I have the same intention to do that as any Dean fan . You have stated that you had reasons last year , well it is no different this year. If I am allowed to raise those concerns .

            If Gerry does not want Dean and the sl questioned then by all means let me know.

          • Gerry

            Sharonally, all viewpoints are welcome! I questioned many choices in the first half of last season. We all bring different experiences to the show. This story line is meant to raise questions about the boys and their emotional states. It’s working for me, because I understand Dean’s motivations and question whether I need to accept Sam’s willingness to die at face value. I hope as the story progresses, you’ll feel Sam’s feelings are well examined.

  • Ginger

    Excellent review, Gerry. Absolutely exactly what I was thinking about the reaper canon, only your’s was succinct and well-stated. I would only add that when previous mythology is ignored, it harms characters and, in this case, the mytharc. The angels are the MotW this season, and this writing duo gave angel characteristics to reapers; thus, diminishing the angels as one of a group of big baddies.
    I also think that now there is no reason to ever have Death back, as that character is now totally diminished…and I loved Julian Richings Death character. Sadly, he is no longer the reaper boss, has no control over reapers, so why bother having him show up once in a while. That also takes away the really interesting, but never fully explored, relationship he had with Dean, and what I always thought was kind of respectful. A higher being showing Dean respect always made me wonder why. What made Dean special?
    As far as Zeke, I’m totally hooked on the season, just to see what’s going on with him, what favor he’s going to ask Dean to do, and what is his agenda. A wild guess on my part is that he is Michael escaped from the pit (his partially burned wings). I’m thinking Michael might be healing up and will take on the dick angels….and I’m probably very wrong. Obviously, he has to be an archangel. Obviously, he’s been out of the loop for a while. Obviously, he is very old. Obviously, he wants Dean on his side. Obviously, he has a backstory to be learned. It’s also obvious that the writers have purposefully made clear Dean’s dilemma and why he has made the choices he has made….and there will be more, I’m sure. I’m betting Zeke is a good guy.
    Whatever there is to come on that story will keep me from sinking into despair over the show like I did at this point last season, but there is absolutely no excuse, even being married to one of the executive producers, that this team gets by with this kind of stuff. They should take more pride in their work.
    I wasn’t interested in Cas exploring his humanness, mostly because (so far) it just makes Cas look stupid. Yeah, Misha did an okay job and now that he’s a lead, I guess they do need to establish his character…but Misha’s performances just don’t suck me in like the J2s. I do think JP is doing really good work with Sam/Zeke, and I like this Sam. I hope his character is being reset and will stay this way….finally.
    Not looking forward to Kudzu Charlie (someone else made up that name, but it’s so perfectly descriptive, I’m adopting it) next week. I cringe when I see Robbie Thompson has written an episode, because I know it will be all about Charlie. Can’t wait to get back to the mytharc episodes.

  • aurens66

    Great review, hit those nails on the head, the disregard for canon last year really pissed fans off, and I hoped that show writers and runners had heard this and were accordingly paying more attention, but I guess not. the addition of Reapers taking meatsuits, when the storyline this year are angels and demons taking meatsuits adds more confusion, and diminishes the canon, the characters, not to mention Death himself.

    Logic did not scan in this ep, Cas landing in Colorado, heading for the bunker, but ending up in Detroit. The inexplicable scene in a church, with a woman spouting platitudes at Cas about faith, when at the same time we see the consequences of faith when a human woman is blown apart when she accepts an angel possession. Mixed messages anyone?

    There was a great story here, with Cas becoming human – and Collins really did great with what he had – but the ‘issue’ of his virginity, once used to comedic effect falls flat, as it’s certainly not humorous with icky April (even before she was revealed as a Reaper) and April herself becomes a literal disposable character, that’s three for three so far when you count Hael, stabbed by Cas in the premiere and Tracey, who hopped into the impala for chicken, and disappeared somewhere between the ghost town and bunker (hopefully never to return)

    I was hoping with the Bros being able to cure demons, there would be a bit more concern with the human vessels, but they are piling up already, and I was really hoping for a return to the main theme of the show, hunting things, saving real people, please a few episodes of saving ordinary folks, instead of last season’s obsession with making friends with monsters.

    My theory is that Ezekiel is not the Zeke Cas knows, and that’s why Cas can’t be around him, he’d twig somehow, and we find that Zeke is actually Gabriel. He would also be one of Heaven’s most wanted, because he helped the Winchesters, whereas another angel (Mike, Raphe, Naomi even Zach) would be welcomed by other angels.

    I agree that Bart is not my idea of a baddie, he doesn’t have the evil edge of Zach, or the icy quality of Naomi.

    • Ginger

      There really was no reason at all for April, as a rogue reaper, to give Cas a PB&J, go back to work, and discover him again in the rain later, and there was no reason for Cas and April to have sex, for her to wake up, do his laundry, cut up fruit, and then bind him. There really was no reason for April to interrogate Cas about information on Metatron. She was just a bounty hunter hired to find him and deliver him to Bart. IMO, the whole Cas part was just to showcase Misha and bring him on as a lead. I didn’t enjoy that part of the episode at all.
      Like Gerry, when I first met Bart, I instantly thought ‘Dick Roman.’ When I first saw April reveal herself as a reaper (who I mistakenly took as an angel until I read the boards and had to rewatch that scene — that’s how bad the reaper mythology was screwed up)…anyway, I immediately thought ‘Meg 1.0.’ She may have been a better character if she had put her own spin on the character, but she didn’t work for me at all.

    • Gerry

      Hi Aurens66. There were some logical issues, for sure, including Cas’s map reading skills. (-: And I agree that these reapers are diminishing Death’s power, which I don’t think is serving that powerful character well.

      I don’t have an issue with April or with disposable characters in small roles. I didn’t need to see any more of Tracey than we did. Her purpose was to push both the Abbadon confrontation and Sam’s psychological state story lines forward, which she did. I can fill in the blanks on Dean dropping her off at her car and never expected him to take her to the bunker. She’s not a key player.

      I saw as much of Hael as I thought the story needed. I accepted her motivations for wanting Jimmy Novak as a vessel and noted her parallel to the possession theme with Sam. The actress did a good job.

      I don’t think the show disposes of women with any more ease than they dispose of men. Male characters serving the same kind of function in the script also get killed off. Supernatural’s world is a dangerous world and there is collateral damage. There always has been.

      I know the boys struggled more with the idea of collateral damage in the first couple of seasons, but they ended up having to take a larger view, because most of the time, they don’t have the option to fight the demon but save the vessel. I think episodes like the one with the rising of the witnesses specifically showcased the issue for the boys. And even though they were very sorry about Meg the girl, they would still have shoved Meg the demon out of the window, because they believe in the value of their quest.

      The reason this willingness to accept collateral damage doesn’t ruin the characters for me is the boys also accept the collateral damage to their own lives. They can’t save the people they love, either. Dean had to wrap Jo up in explosives and accept Ellen choosing to die with her in order to create a diversion for Sam and Dean. They tried their best to save their dad, but couldn’t. Pamala died helping them. Bobby died helping them. Ash died helping them. The boys know all about collateral damage.

      Dean’s willingness to leave the doors of Hell open to save Sam is an interesting addition to the dialogue. Last time this issue came up, Dean agreed with Sam’s view he needed to sacrifice himself for the greater good. This time Dean made a different decision, but we can already see he is guiltridden about it and feels he has to find a way to make good on his promise to Sam they know enough to be effective about demons anyway. We’ll also I think see Sam weigh what he feels he should be doing–is it really time to walk away from the fight when he decided not to close the gates?

      I like the monster hunting episodes and I love it when Sam and Dean get a win. But to me the show has always had a myth arc that drives the season. It wasn’t as visible in season one, but the groundwork was being laid. So I don’t mind the angel arc as long as I feel its purpose is to show me more about Sam and Dean and their relationship. I think this one has great potential to do that.

      I agree on the Zeke front that he was essentially hiding from Cas when he forced Dean to tell his friend to leave. My suspicion is not on Gabriel, because Dean knows Gabriel enough to recognize him. I think Zeke’s a bigwig angel of some kind, though. I’m really intrigued about this story line.

  • J L

    I agree with everything you’re saying about the choices Dean is making, and how the tragic irony is that in trying so hard to save them both (at the expense of the other) he may actually end up LOSING them both, whether they survive all of this or not :/

    I don’t think Cas was confused about the existence of sheep, however :P I think he said “What sheep?” because like… he didn’t understand how he was supposed to *count* sheep when he didn’t *see* any sheep. :P lol… he knows what sheep ARE, he just didn’t see any there to be counted :P

    • Gerry

      Hi JL, that does make more sense, re: sheep! I can understand him not understanding proverbs.

      I think Dean’s choices really are tragic, because he’s getting more deeply enmeshed with each lie, but now that he’s committed, he has to keep following the path. Ezekiel knows exactly what buttons to push. At this point, if Dean decided he had to allow Ezekiel to go, he will be responsible for Sam’s death. It will happen because of HIS decision, rather than fate the way it would have been in the hospital. And if he couldn’t let go in the hospital, he sure can’t decide to allow Sam to die now. Very sad, because of course Sam will feel betrayed and violated.

  • http://www.friv2friv3friv4.com/ friv 2 friv 3 friv 4

    I know I sound like a broken record but this episode showed why I am so icky over the whole Sam/ Ezekiel situation.