It's a great day to be a fan girl. The show is back! Yep, it was all good, until I sat down to write this review. I mean, how do you summarize all that? We got a little of everything, and I do mean everything. I was half-expecting Kripke to show up at the end and toss in a kitchen sink.
Before I jump into the review, I should make note of a few relevant season five staff position changes. The obvious one is Misha Collins, who's now listed in the starring credits along with Jared and Jensen. Jeremy Carver is now a co-executive producer and Ben Edlund, Sera Gamble, and Phil Sgriccia are all now executive producers. Congratulations to all earning those well deserved promotions.
As for the directing and writing, for the first time the always solid Robert Singer gets the call to direct the season opener. Of course we all miss Kim Manners, but I definitely saw his influence, which is a nice homage. As with all the other openers thus far, the writer is the “keeps everyone on their toes” Eric Kripke.
Sympathy For The Devil
Picking up where we left off, Sam and Dean are being engulfed in Lucifer's white light. They try to escape, but those menacing convent doors close again, trapping them inside. Everything goes white and they're… on an airplane? Wow, I don't think anyone saw that coming, including Sam and Dean, whose shocked expressions said it all. So, only a minute into this and there's a new mystery to solve.
No time is wasted in getting to the core of these episodes, the brotherly drama that's laced throughout. Sam tries to apologize, but Dean brushes it off. He's focused on finding Lucifer. Sam knows something's up, we know something's up, but there are too many other messes to get to right now.
Like an exploded Castiel at Chuck's house. Zachariah and entourage waiting for Dean. An icky slash fan and avid Sam girl being called to duty to deliver a message about finding Michael's sword. Bobby arriving (with the Impala!) and responding to Sam's heartbreaking confession about starting the apocalypse by casting him out of his life. Bobby going black eyes and attacking Dean under the leadership of Meg demon. Bobby stabbing himself with demon knife to save Dean. Sam and Dean racing to the storage locker where Michael's sword is, only to find out from Zachariah that Dean is Michael's sword, aka vessel. A very pissed off Castiel showing up after Zachariah hurts Dean and kills Sam (yes, he dies again) and making Zack hit the reboot button while putting the fear of you-know-who into him. Castiel branding an angel-cloaking sigil into Sam and Dean's ribs and moving on. Bobby being paralyzed and apologizing to Sam after getting a pep talk from Dean that he didn't really mean. Oh, and in between all that Lucifer tempting his grieving-from-the-worst-possible tragedy vessel.
Whew, got all that? Yes, only after all that was there time to finally get to the heart of the matter. Dean can't forgive Sam and will never trust him again. Dude, that's harsh. Justified, but harsh.
A Deeper Look
Now that I got the short attention span portion of the review out of the way, time for deeper analysis. When breaking down this episode, this is a rare case where the parts are far greater than their whole. Every scene is strong but when they are put together, the pacing is thrown off. For example, the story of Lucifer's vessel, which is so well done, just doesn't fit in between the equally great drama of Bobby being possessed and stabbing himself to save Dean. That’s the risk though of cramming so much into such a short time space.
Putting that aside though, this episode is the ideal setup for the episodes to come. It definitely delivers the message that the apocalypse is a grossly out of control situation and just about anything can go wrong. You know, the stuff we crave.
For our four main heroes, there is plenty of peril for all of them. Bobby even gets a meaty story. We knew right away something wasn't right when he chewed out Sam after he honestly told him what happened. Bobby wouldn't be so cruel to Sam like that no matter what he did. For anyone who's watched this show, "out of character" means demon possession. Sure, endless debates can be triggered over how Bobby could have possibly been possessed since he's always been well protected, but for now, I'm just going to believe this is one tricky demon.
Bobby fighting off the demon within before killing Dean is a page out of "Devil's Trap" when John was possessed. Since that’s following continuity, I have no problem with it. Bobby took the chance to sacrifice himself for the sake of Dean. He deserves a medal indeed. I'm not sure if he bought into Dean's pep talk in the end, but he appreciated it. The burning question now is how long will they drag out the Bobby paralysis story? If Castiel heals him next week, I'll feel cheated. I'm dying to see Jim Beaver's take on the character shift.
Poor Dean, he's angry and looks like he just wants to kill something. Not that I blame him. How much can a man take? He's being hunted by both angels and demons. His surrogate father just drove a knife in his own belly to save him. Lucifer is free and going to destroy the world and he has no way to stop it. He finds out that his destiny is to be the vessel for the archangel Michael, the true slayer of Lucifer, thus giving up control of his free will. That's not something Dean will let go of so easily.
But the absolutely worse thing eating Dean alive right now is the one person who matters to him the most betrayed him in the worst possible way. He chose a demon over him. Forgive and forget for him doesn't come easy and in this case may never happen. In his mind, the Sam he knew and loved is gone. Of course we fans know better. What tears you apart only makes you stronger.
Dean's no compromise attitude serves him well and again we get another huge character defining moment. Sure, sending the angels away with the drawn-in-his-own-blood sigil is cool, but it's his second run-in with Zachariah that has us bowing at his feet. Zachariah tries everything to get Dean to agree that Michael take over his body. He breaks Sam's legs. Dean says no. He promises to heal Bobby. Dean says no. His gives Dean painful stomach cancer. Dean, blood drooling from his mouth, says no. So what's left? Attack Dean’s biggest weakness and kill Sam. He takes away Sam's lungs and as Sam slowly loses breath on the floor, Dean says no. Yes, our boy has learned his lesson well. He won't play games any more, no matter what the cost.
Of course that scene gets way better when one badass Castiel being armed with the angel-killing dagger and a new purpose storms in. Whatever brought him back from the dead was also responsible for Sam and Dean ending up on that plane. It wasn't angels. By the way Zachariah freaks out I'd say we're talking about God. If that's true, something tells me we'll have a new banished angel in the pit by the end of the season. Castiel gets the best line of the night. "Now put these boys back together and go. I won't ask twice." I'm liking this new rogue version of Castiel.
It can’t be Castiel without ambiguity though. After Sam and Dean are revived, he protects them by burning an Enochian symbol into their ribs and moving on before giving Dean any answers. I can’t wait to see where this is going. Something’s going on with our favorite angel, and it’s huge.
Then there's Sam. Oh Sammy. Let's face it, we knew he'd have it rough. Starting the apocalypse is something one can’t live down easily. He takes responsibility for his actions like a man, especially after Bobby's heart crushing tongue lashing. Sure it wasn't really Bobby and he does get his forgiveness in the end, but that isn't what Sam needs the most. He needs to clear things with Dean. Sam walks on eggshells the entire episode following big brother's lead, even though Dean shuts him down twice. He tries to be helpful by making up hex bags to protect them from being detected by angels or demons. His pride is short-lived though when Dean wants to know where he got them. He has to shamefully admit that he learned how to do that from Ruby, but that’s progress. Sam isn’t giving anymore lies, no matter how painful the truth is.
Ultimately, like he usually does, Sam manages to get the truth out of Dean. Sam has learned before though that when Dean is honest, it’s not pretty. What he gets is even worse than Dean calling him a monster in "When The Levee Breaks." Dean gives him no chance of making things right. He'll never trust him again. In a simple yet powerful expression of despair Sam completely crumbles inside when he hears that. The final shot intentionally shows the brothers divided, with Dean going to the Impala and a stunned Sam staying behind. Another great setup for coming episodes.
Even the guest acting stands up. Mark Pelligrino as Nick, the tortured man whose family was brutally murdered, conveys in a few short scenes the bad place he's in. Bring on Lucifer in the form of his dead wife and watch the master ace what other demons usually do well — twist human weakness and vulnerability to their advantage. Lucifer is tender, sympathetic, believable, and offers this man something no one else can — justice for his family. How could he refuse? The powerful exchange in the scene makes us thankful again that this show can attract actors of this caliber.
So, now that the apocalypse has been properly staged, it’s time to start the fight. Let's hope that all four of our heroes can overcome their personal obstacles in time to save the world. I’m sure that’s what the rest of season five will be all about.
Questions For Later
There was plenty in this episode that got fan debate going. First, how did Sam and Dean not notice that Bobby was possessed? The way I see it, Sam was still too guilt-ridden and self-loathing. Dean was still really distracted by everything and had no clue what to do. It was an honest mistake. A really bad one for Bobby, but an honest one.
Why did Sam lose his powers? I’m taking that to be an extension of the final scene in “Lucifer Rising” when he tried to kill Ruby and had no power. “You shot your payload on the boss,” Ruby told him. This could mean that the powers are gone permanently, or just temporarily. That’s for future episodes to determine. It makes sense to me he didn’t have them in this one. As for being healed from the withdrawal symptoms, it’s possible he may not suffer physically, but I’m taking bets that emotionally the cravings and the issues are still there. We haven’t seen the last of Sam’s demon blood issues.
A really interesting issue came up. How can Dean be a vessel for Michael if he couldn’t hear Castiel’s voice without suffering extreme pain? A theory thrown out there (which I like) is that maybe Dean can only hear the voice of the angel he’s supposed to be a vessel for. Also, if you remember, Jimmy Novak had issues with Castiel’s voice at first but adapted. Could be Dean could hear it now as well. Again, something to keep in the back of the mind for the future.
This episode had my most favorite shout-out of the entire series! I’m talking about the almost exact recreation from one of my favorite scenes in Galaxy Quest when the mega fan was told that it was all real. It’s every bit as hysterical here too. Becky makes the perfect scary fan and Kripke again is sending us his reality check. I can't look at fanfic the same way again.
The Devil is in Delaware! That's my husband's home state and we often wondered when it would make an appearance in this show. I knew something about that place wasn't right. [That's the sound of my hubby smacking me right now — wink.]
Okay, admit it. Who took a sick pleasure in again watching Dean freak out over an airplane he's in going down? Continuity! No wonder he never flies.
I knew just by going through the AC/DC catalog that if any song serves as a barn-burning season opener that hasn’t been in the series yet, "Thunderstruck" is the obvious choice. I really hope they air in a future episode the montage of all four seasons shown at Comic-Con. That was to Judas Priest's "You've Got Another Thing Coming" and it was awesome.
My overall grade for "Sympathy For The Devil" is an A-. Uneven pacing prevents it from going higher, but I’m very happy with this season opener. Next week, a wild west showdown with demons. I see Jo, Ellen, and Rufus! Considering it's on opposite the Fringe premiere, I think a lot of DVRs will be busy.Powered by Sidelines