[Drops remote in stunned disbelief, unable to do anything other than emulate a pile of jello.]
What the… how did… what did Dean and Bobby just do to Sam? What’s coming in the final two episodes? Until that final shocking scene and subsequent preview, "The Rapture" is a pretty even, not over-the-top yet emotional look at another family not named Winchester that's torn apart over this holy war. Every once in a while, especially in a 22-episode season, some time has to be set aside for some good old fashioned story telling. Jeremy Carver is a master and his story works very well until those of us lulled into a sense of security are whacked in the head by a two by four at the end.
[Shakes it off, tries to focus on review.]
Sheesh, this is gonna be a long week. Anyway, the one thing I absolutely love about this season is the writers' and producers' ability to mix it up. It’s never the same episode each week, and usually what’s presented manages to take me by surprise. A pleasant surprise. “The Rapture” is no different. For a story that mainly focuses on the ramifications when the calling of a higher purpose comes from an angel, I’m easily sucked in by all the drama. Sure, the pacing is slower, and it’s hardly a blow-you-away episode (until the end, that is), but I’m pleased to see this story shared. Even the vessel has issues. There’s also enough intense Sam and Dean drama to keep me going for another week and still enjoy the story told.
So, what happens when an angel comes along, asking for service? The tale of Jimmy Novak is what happens, and the story behind the man serving as the “vessel” for Castiel for the last year is gut-wrenching to say the least. Jimmy, a devout man who’s at first honored by Castiel’s presence, finds he’s one of that rare breed that can communicate with angels in their true form (after the rough first meeting, that is). He eventually commits to making the sacrifice and serve, with his only request being that his family is kept safe.
A year later though, as Sam and Dean have found out since the angels have come along, God’s calling isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Jimmy is free when Castiel is supposedly dragged back to Heaven against his will. As he tells Sam and Dean while choking down food he hasn’t had in months, the last year has been like being tied to a comet. It’s not all the glory he expected, and he’s done. He’s so eager to go back he immediately reunites with his family, not buying into Sam and Dean’s theory that he’s a target for demons and putting his family in danger.
After all this is Supernatural, so the heartwarming family reunion can’t be all smiles, can it? Jimmy’s wife resents him for leaving, and isn’t sure she wants him back. The emotional strain on his family has been too hard, but Jimmy wants to try and start over anyway. Just when he’s finally happy over getting a shot at coming back, the demons waste no time in making their move, coming in the form of his neighbors.
Misha Collins takes this story and manages again to show us how strife is done. He's incredible in this dual performance, tasked with convincing the audience that he’s both a lost man eager to go back to his family and an angel who can’t grasp the concept of humanity. The distinction between the two personalities is well defined and very impressive. Thanks to convincing acting, both characters manage to get my full sympathy. They are both ultimately pawns in a high stakes game, and their fight is far from over.
Actually, that’s a parallel with Sam and Dean that this show likes to toy with so much. This week, it’s sacrifice. Jimmy had to give up everything, his perfect life, who he is, because there’s something in his blood. Sound familiar? As with Sam and Dean, Jimmy and Castiel’s calling is true, and their lives not their own. The question remains — in the end is this all for the greater good? Will their sacrifices be worth the price?
Speaking Of The Winchesters
Can things get any worse between these brothers? Judging by the previews, that can only be answered with a resounding yes. Sam, who’s crashing well beyond rock bottom, is weak, agitated, and desperate as the massive blood loss from the run-in with the ghouls has completely messed him up. He can’t get enough demon blood, and his dealer, I mean Ruby, is ignoring his calls. Sam is so bad off he can’t even exorcise “stunt demon #3” with his mind, worrying Dean and himself to no end.
In the request to come clean, Sam can’t offer Dean an explanation. “I’m scaring myself.” Sam is actually being truthful here, in that he’s finding out firsthand how much he doesn’t have control. He may not have told Dean about the blood, but he truly doesn’t have an explanation for what’s going on. Essentially, he’s an addict coming off a high, and the lack of control frightens him.
Sam’s sorry state, along with Jimmy’s desperate plea to Castiel for help that’s met by silence, leads to one heck of a demon showdown in a warehouse. Given the fact it’s yet another face-off between good and evil, it could have been predictable or disappointing, but instead it’s fantastic. It even has the funny, as “Heckle and Jeckle” are easily caught outside, even though we are given the impression that Dean has a great plan in place. “Well, nobody bats a thousand,” Dean replies in defense. That’s so much better this time than them coming in and saving the day, for it contributes to the great twist.
This scene has everything, but the most tragic part comes when Sam’s lies crash down on him. The demon blood is more than he can handle. As he wrestles with a demon and sees the bulging vein on her neck, his rabid eyes show how much he isn’t in his right mind when he slices it open and helps himself in the middle of a battle. Dean and Castiel’s flabbergasted glares at the sight of Sam’s bloody face and raging eyes mirror those watching a wild animal that’s gone in for a kill. Even in a little girl, Castiel’s reaction is dead on! As Sam viciously stabs the victim, he becomes the monster they’ve always feared he would be. Of course that blood infusion also gives Sam the mojo to pull the demonic black smoke out of Jimmy’s wife, essentially saving her life, but the price for saving that life is now officially too high. Sam’s soul is almost gone, and he’s beyond human.
I didn’t see Castiel coming to save the day by occupying Jimmy’s daughter, who apparently has the same special “blood” that he does. I’m actually moved by how faith and service is rewarded and how Castiel fulfills his promise to Jimmy that his family wouldn’t be harmed, even though Jimmy has a brief crisis of faith before the standoff. Jimmy is mortally wounded and given the chance to forever rest in peace, but instead he makes the ultimate sacrifice, offering himself in a lifetime of service as Castiel’s vessel rather than letting his daughter choose that life. His pleas to Castiel for his daughter’s life actually got me teary, and man, did I feel sorry for the poor guy at the end. In the end, is his fate better? Only time well tell.
Ah, but just when we think it’s over, time for the incredible final act. Alone in the Impala, Dean’s reaction is dead on. He’s silent and resigned. This troubles Sam more than anything, and he wants to get it out in the open like they always do. He tells Dean to “drop the bomb,” to pull over, hit him, yell, do something. He needs Dean to let it out so they can go back to the way things were. Dean does none of that, flatly telling Sam he’s disappointed and tired, and he’s done. After all that Sam’s done to him with the deception over the season, resignation is the only reaction he’s got left. He’s given up on his brother.
Ah ha, so we think. An innocent call from Bobby becomes mind-blowing setup for next week. Bobby’s got a “demon problem.” They rush to his house and the “demon problem” turns out to be Sam. One iron door slam later Sam’s a prisoner in Bobby’s panic room. Oh, but the clincher comes from Bobby and Dean staring at a panicked Sam through the small opening in the door, and ends with Bobby closing that too while Sam’s muffled yells continue as the screen goes black.
There’s the “Holy crap!” installment for the week. I knew it had to be coming, this close to the finale. We’ve had so many of those moments this season, but none have given me such a huge pit in my stomach. Now I’m all anxious to see how this is going to play out next week and I’m counting down the seconds, wondering how far over the edge Sam can go. Judging by the previews and from the history of this show, this won’t be pretty.
The Other Stuff
Dean is fishing! Best teaser ever. So, do you think he only fishes in his dreams, or does he actually try to get away and do that once in a while? Nah, I’m sure it’s a dream thing.
“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” Code for "I have no freaking idea." I love how that was used by both Sam and Jimmy when the hard answer couldn’t be given. It’s a statement of hope, even when the person delivering it knows there isn’t any.
I saw the wife being possessed a mile away. It’s happened before in other episodes. Demon escapes, person disappears long enough and ends up possessed. Didn’t Jeremy Carver do that in “In The Beginning?” Won’t Sam and Dean ever learn?
Line of the night belongs to Dean (as it often does). Sam lies about his whereabouts when Jimmy escapes, telling Dean he was getting a Coke. Dean’s reply is classic. “Was it a refreshing Coke?”
Anna makes a brief appearance, and I like it! She puts Dean in his place when he tries to charm her, and then is bothered by how different Sam seems. I suspect that is due to recent developments, otherwise wouldn’t have Castiel in previous episodes noticed as well? I wonder what she feels. Sam’s desperate denial that he isn’t different is a great example of how much he’s teetering on the edge.
Overall, I give this episode a B+. It’s good, and certainly one I’ll be re-watching a few times in the future, but given the ridiculously high bar that’s been set this year, it falls behind other episodes. Still, any episode that gives Misha Collins that chance to shine wins with me, and I expect we’ll be seeing more like this from him in season five. Welcome to the cast, Misha!
So, who else is biting their nails off over next week?