Team Freewill is back! Once again this show, especially writer Jeremy Carver, manages to pack quite a bit into 40 minutes. To quote one of the writers on my website, “Point of No Return” is “flipping insanely awesome!”
For this very special 100th episode, themes that have driven the core of this show are brought to the forefront and delivered in mind-blowing fashion. One theme is the importance of family. This time, the family bond goes beyond blood, for Castiel and Bobby are there too, as well as a reluctant half-family member. Loyalty and heroism are explored too but come from different sources. Finally faith, which has been a dominant theme of late, gets its due as well.
The heart of this story rests in the heart of the series in general, the turbulent brotherly relationship between Sam and Dean. What makes this situation unique though is there’s a total role reversal from the end of last season. Sam is now the one who must step up and take control and the result is a big (and overdue) breakthrough for his character and the brotherly relationship.
The opener is classic Supernatural. A dejected Zachariah shares “downsizing” stories with a “pig filthy” human in a bar. This episode may have been written by Jeremy Carver, but the grim humor in this scene has Ben Edlund written all over it. Zach bonds with the jobless man, but doesn’t seem to care too much when the guy’s eardrums explode and eyes burn out when his boss appears. Zachariah has a second chance and passes by the carnage while signing. Has he learned from his mistakes? Um, not really.
Meanwhile Dean sits alone in private agony in a motel room, pouring drinks and writing the farewell note to Sam. We all die a little as Dean somberly packs a box with what few belongings he has: his leather jacket, his gun, and the keys to the Impala. Luckily Sam can track Dean too, accenting the role reversal that takes place in the episode (nice touch of 100 on the motel room door too). Sam’s taking Dean’s disappearing act personally. “How could you do that?” he asks Dean with bitterness and hurt. Dean does what he can to discourage Sam, even throwing Sam’s similar behavior in the past back at him. Sam admits he was wrong and has to stop him. Dean alludes to their fight in “When The Levee Breaks,” for Sam isn’t hopped up on demon blood this time. Sam shakes it off because he has an ace up his sleeve. Enter one furious angel.
Sam takes the role of leader and fights to hold everything together (including himself). Thanks to Castiel’s interception of the latest dastardly angelic plan, Sam has to deal with two brothers on each side of him not acting with rationality. Taking lumps from Dean is one thing but he gets Adam’s defiant attitude, who turns out to be a carbon copy of the oldest Winchester. Sam tries hard to relate, to bond, to use “blood” as a reason to stay together, but Adam won’t accept any of that. John Winchester wasn’t his father in his eyes. His mother was all he had and he just wants to see her again like the angels promised if he becomes Michael’s “sword.” He’s not about to believe that angels would lie to him but definitely thinks his so-called brothers would.
In the meantime Dean at his lowest point does all he can to alienate those who are trying to stop him. He insults Bobby and gets a tongue lashing for that and he spends the entire episode trading annoyed glances and snide comments with Castiel. Dean’s treatment of Sam though is the harshest, and the tension gets really raw when Dean is locked in the panic room. Dean won’t allow Adam to say yes and while Sam is in agreement, he’s not letting Dean do that either. Sam pleads that he stop the self-sacrificing and they stick together. Dean, as seen in many situations before, gives the brutal honesty after Sam asks for it.
Dean: I just, I don’t believe.
Sam: In what?
Dean: In you. I mean, I don’t know if it’s going to be demon blood, or some other demon chick, or what but, I do know they’re going to find a way to turn you.
Sam: So you’re saying I’m not strong enough.
Dean: You’re angry. You’re self-righteous. Lucifer’s going to wear you to the prom man, it’s just a matter of time.
Sam [teary]: Don’t say that to me. Not you. Of all people.
Dean: I don’t want to, but it’s the truth. And when Satan takes you over, there’s gotta be somebody there to fight him, and it ain’t gonna be that kid. So it’s gotta be me.
Ouch. At first I thought it was Dean trying to push Sam away but one of my frequent readers came up with a better analysis. Dean isn’t saying that just to hurt Sam, he really believes it. He’d seen that Sam had said yes to Lucifer in “The End” and has seen Sam cave into weakness before, as recently as their run in with Famine in “My Bloody Valentine.” Angels know weaknesses, just like when Michael got John to say yes in “The Song Remains the Same.” Just like they could with Adam right now. It’s a dire situation that he must end now.
In the middle of this Sam and Dean drama is the troubled Castiel, who also is experiencing a crisis of faith. He’s very angry over Dean’s behavior and is now following Sam’s lead. After Dean tricks him in the panic room and escapes, Castiel tracks him down and beats the crap out of him, letting all his resentment out. “I rebelled for this? So you could surrender to them? I gave everything for you and this is what you give to me?” He returns a battered Dean back to Sam, his faith in Dean now completely gone.
Despite Sam’s efforts, the angels do get to Adam and take him away. If Sam shows any signs of cracking, its right after he finds out Adam is gone. Castiel knows where they have taken him though, so now Sam must pull it together and make some tough decisions. So, if you only have an unstable angel and a handicapped guy as your backup, how do you plan an offensive against a squad of angels? By admitting the truth. Sam can’t do this alone. He takes a huge gamble and throws every he has on the one thing he’s always counted on his entire life, his big brother.
In the second gut-wrenching panic room scene, Dean comes to and Sam calmly delivers the plan. Sam uncuffs Dean and tells him he’s going with him to get Adam. Dean points out what a bad idea this is, but even though Bobby and Cas think so, Sam’s not so sure. Dean thinks they’re right, for it’s a trap to get him there to make him say yes or it’s not and he’s going to say yes anyway which he warns he will. Sam says he won’t, taking a huge leap of faith in the one person who’s never let him down. Dean tries again with the brutal honesty. “You know if tables were turned, I’d let you rot in here. Hell, I have let you rot in here.” Sam tries to not let the comment get the better of him, even though his big sigh shows how much it stings. “Yeah, well, I guess I’m not that smart.” Why is he doing this? “Because, you’re still my big brother.” The brotherly drama by this point has ripped a loyal fan’s heart to shreds and there’s more to come!
Yes, it’s funny that the Green Room from “Lucifer Rising” is really in an abandoned muffler factory in Van Nuys. This is after all the Wal-Mart apocalypse. What’s not so funny though is Castiel, who has nothing left to lose. He’s going to take on five angels on his own, even though it’s suicide. He bitterly explains to Dean, “But then I won’t have to watch you fail. Sorry Dean, I don’t have the same faith in you that Sam does.” There are two big fist-pumping parts of this episode, the first coming when Castiel executes his brilliant (yet sacrificial) plan. He carves the angel-banishing sigil onto his chest, waits until the angels are close enough, and zaps them and himself away. There’s the badass Castiel that’s been missing most of this season!
Dean goes to rescue Adam and once he’s floored by the family loyalty, he warns Dean it’s a trap. Dean knows. Sam tries to take out Zachariah, but he’s not fast enough and gets tossed across the room, injured in the process. Adam and Sam both begin coughing up blood and a fragile Dean can’t stand to see those he loves in pain anymore. He says the dreaded yes and this next sequence is brilliant. Hats off to director Phil Sgriccia as well as Jared and Jensen.
While Zachariah turns with malevolent smile, summoning the almighty Michael, Dean and Sam unfold the next part of the story with just glances. This isn’t the first time Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have sold an entire sequence with only nonverbal exchanges and once again it’s incredible. In the first glance Dean is apologetic and Sam is crushed with betrayal. Next Dean goes back to Sam with the same look of remorse and Sam looks away in agony. Sam looks at him again with soul-crushing disappointment and right there Dean’s expression falls, hinting he’s changed his mind. Sam sees it and knows something is up. Dean cracks a tiny smile and then winks. He’s back!
While Zachariah thinks he’s beaten Dean with his weakness of family, Dean turns the tables on Zachariah’s weakness, his huge ego. He will say yes to Michael as long as some conditions are met; one is Michael gets to obliterate Zachariah. He’s appalled, claiming Michael would never do that to him. Dean cleverly points out who’s more important. While Zachariah goes off on Dean in rage, that’s enough for Dean to grab the angel-killing sword without notice. He plunges the sword through Zachariah’s chin, and watches him flame out. There’s the other fist-pumping “hell yeah!” moment, the kind that makes fans fall in love with this show all over again.
But wait, how could Dean do that? Didn’t Uriel point out last season that the only thing that can kill an angel is another angel? Just like with the Whore of Babylon in the previous episode, there’s a mystery looming over why Dean can suddenly kill these beings. The close-up of his glowing eyes instead of them burning out is a clue, leaving so much more to that twist we need to know.
Now for the final brotherly scene, and it’s the most satisfying one in a long time, maybe in the entire series. They’re riding back in a pickup truck and Sam asks what we all want to know. Why did Dean change his mind? “Honestly, the damndest thing. I mean the world’s ending, the walls are coming down on us, I look over at you and all I can think about is, ‘this stupid son of a bitch brought me here.’ I just didn’t want to let you down.” Aww! There’s the overprotective big brother we all know and love. Sam says he didn’t let him down. Dean has indeed found his faith again and in the best place, for his little brother isn’t the “snot-nosed kid” anymore that he’s had to keep on the “straight and narrow.” “Hell, if you’re grown up enough to find faith in me, least I can do is return the favor.” It’s time to fight their way. Sam agrees with a smile. A happy ending! It’s about time!
This episode has some significant character development, particularly Sam Winchester’s coming of age. We’ve waited so long to see him step up, to redeem himself from his past misjudgments, and he does it by sticking with the one thing he’s always believed in, his big brother. His faith never wavers and that is all that’s needed to get through. It’s inspiring to see him mature like this after everything that’s happened. Dean is pulled from his lowest of lows by the one person he never believed could save him. Now he does believe and the brotherly bond is stronger than ever. Strong enough to take on the end of the world. It’s awesome.
What about Castiel’s sacrifice? Since we know he’ll be back, will he be able to mend things with Dean? Will their relationship go back to what it was, or even stronger? I’m curious from what source Castiel will find strength and hope again. Maybe he’ll rely more on both brothers? Is it possible now that Zachariah’s dead he’ll get some help from other angels? Nah, that’s a little too optimistic.
Another theme that seems to be repeated here is how angels (and demons too) underestimate the power of the human spirit. This is none more true than Zachariah’s “second” chance. His downfall comes from his short sightedness. He didn’t come back wiser or with a new respect for humanity. His continued hatred and manipulation is worse than ever, and he is blinded trying to fight the one thing that has held him back all this time. These two brothers are not about to let each other down. They’ve already learned what happens when they do.
It’s funny how Dean jokes with Adam that “We’re working on the power of love,” and that in the end is exactly what ends up saving them! That might end up being the answer after all.
There’s no Impala in this episode? In the 100th? How could that be? That’s my only nitpick of this episode though.
“Maybe they wrongly assumed that Dean would be strong enough to withstand them.”
“You know what, blow me Cas.”
“That's the round I mean to put through my skull. Every morning, I look at it. I think, ‘Maybe today is the day I'll flip the lights out.’ But I don't do it. I never do it. You know why? Because I promised you I wouldn't give up!”
“You know, you pitch the whole dewy-eyed bromance thing, but the truth is I’m on lockdown, aren’t I?”
“What, we gonna to hop into the Family Truckster? Pop on down to Wally World?”
“Cas, not for nothing, but the last person who looked at me like that…I got laid.”
“You know Sam and Dean Winchester are psychotically, irrationally, erotically, co-dependent on each other, right?”
“I’m Dean Winchester, do you know how I am?” “Dear God.” “I’ll take that as a yes.”
“Word to the wise. Don’t piss off the nerd angels.”
“I don’t know. Jupiter, a blade of grass, not Van Nuys.”
“Before Michael gets one piece of this sweet ass, he has to turn you into a piece of charcoal.”
Overall grade, an A+. You know I’ve given a few of those lately, but the writing has just gotten so good and that’s where I tend to give the higher marks. The episode is well paced, well directed, has great drama, acting, tension, is quote-worthy, and for once has a satisfying conclusion. Who wouldn’t rave about that? Next week, I really have no idea what it’s all about. We’ll find out.