Excuse me, do you know where the recruitment office is for Team Freewill? There’s a few million of us ready to jump on board.
Wow, just another amazing epic classic from a show that routinely delivers amazing epic classics. This time, Sera Gamble and Nancy Weiner present a flawless script that pushes this show’s already amazing actors and their director, Steve Boyum, to the limit. Like we had any doubt they wouldn’t deliver.
Much like the Winchesters' lives, this episode depicted a nasty situation that banded the family together in a fight that spun out of their control and ended in disaster. Anna, the wayward angel from last season, arrives in Dean’s raunchy (and hilarious) dream. Of course it turns out her intent is to kill Sam and spread all parts of him over the globe so Lucifer would never find him. Her plan backfires when instead of Dean and Sam coming to meet her, Castiel shows. With his angel-killing sword. Even though her plan makes sense to Castiel, he won’t agree to it because Sam is his friend. I’m touched! It’s so nice to see a bond like that being formed with Sam and Castiel now. “Come near Sam Winchester and I’ll be forced to kill you.” He’s even on board with the “there must be another way” train of thought now.
What’s really interesting is Sam sees validity in Anna’s plan too. He asks Castiel if she’s right, if she kills him, will that stop Lucifer? Castiel presumably (granted we’re expression-reading here) lies and tells him Dean’s offhand reference to Glenn Close. Castiel’s fierce protectiveness of the brothers gets better each time we see it. Here, it’s the strongest yet.
Anna goes to plan B, which is to kill John and Mary Winchester before Dean and Sam are even born. The choice of timeline, 1978, is interesting. I thought the motivation was to kill Sam, not negate both Dean and Sam. The timeline choice if anything makes the later conversation with Mary, Dean, and Sam more interesting. This time Sam gets to go along with Dean’s latest time travel adventure and what felt wrong about “In The Beginning” and “The End” finally seems right. Sam belongs there with his brother. Since it is Sam’s first time, this is the perfect setup for one of the multiple emotional zingers in this episode. Sam gets to meet his past parents, especially Mary, the mother he never knew. He stands in the background, flabbergasted and teary, while Dean does the talking. His reaction is simple, understated, emotional, and just plain heart-tugging.
It’s a shame that Castiel couldn’t join in on all the fun, but this is a family reunion after all and he’d end up being a party crasher. I like how being removed from Heaven is taking its toll and how much harder things are getting for him. Plus, Misha Collins plays angel in a coma really well. Alone to fight Anna, the brothers bring what few tricks they have up their sleeves. Sam finally gets his turn at the angel-banishing sigil and it’s awesome. However, the real awesome part of the fight scene in the garage is Mary channeling her inner hunter and kicking some serious ass. You go, girl!
What I adore about the writing in this show is how they manage to work in those fun, priceless little moments that don’t add much to the plot but so add to our delight. There’s no better example than the entire Winchester family in the Impala, John driving, Mary in the front seat, and Sam and Dean in the back. Needless to say, John is very upset to now learn that monsters are real and the three passengers in his car fight them. He’s especially bent when Mary admits she’s been doing this all her life. Dean and Sam try to defend, but John shushes them all. “Not another word or so help me I’ll turn this car around.” The irony of this “awkward family road trip” is not lost on Sam and Dean.
Luckily Mary has an isolated safe house that’s been in the family for years, which is the perfect setup to get some emotional baggage out of the way while hunkering down for the big fight. It starts with John and Dean. John is ready to jump in and do whatever it takes to protect Mary, even though he’s still quite upset about the whole monsters thing. He volunteers to draw the angel-banishing sigils in his own blood, a fighting spirit reminiscent of the hunter John Winchester we know and love. Dean even smiles and tells John he reminds him of his Dad.
Then, in what is the biggest Kleenex moment of the episode, Sam finally gets to have an honest talk with his Dad. Sure it’s John of the past, but it’s the one chance he has to unload all that regret that’s been burdening him since John died. Young John doesn’t understand how anyone could raise their kids in that sort of life. “The number it must have done on your head.” Um yeah, understatement. Sam defends his Dad, mentioning he died trying to protect him. He used to hate him, but now he understands he was doing the best he could. “You see, my mom, she was amazing, beautiful, and she was the love of his life. And she got killed, and I think he would have gone crazy if he didn’t do something. Truth is, my dad died before I got to tell him that… I understand. Why he did what he did, and I forgive him, for what it did to us I do. And I just… I love him.” John’s deeply affected by this, as if he knows Sam is really talking about him. What a gorgeous scene. Both Jared Padalecki and Matthew Cohen are just stunning.
The next Kleenex moment starts with just Dean and Mary. She demands to know the truth and Dean is finally pushed into admitting he’s her son. He and Sam came from 2010, brought there by a much friendlier angel. One who’s still unconscious in a seedy motel room somewhere, by the way. He gets her and all of us crying by bringing up how she used to feed him tomato rice soup when he was sick and singing him “Hey Jude.” Mary is mortified, wondering how she ended up raising her boys as hunters. Dean explains how she’s killed by the yellow-eyed demon and John becomes a hunter, thus raising them in that life. He warns her about November 2, 1983 again, telling her to take Sam and run. Sam comes in though and points out the flaw in the plan. The yellow-eyed demon will find her and him. There’s another way. Mary must leave John. That way, the brothers will never be born, a plan both Sam and Dean have no problem with. Mary won’t do this though, insisting there must be another way. Hmm, so that’s where Dean gets it from. Mary has another good reason — she’s pregnant. Given that Dean was born on January 24, 1979, she should be.
John interrupts the emotional discussion, for the sigils aren’t bloody anymore and the oil has dried up. In comes Uriel, recruited earlier by Anna, and the troublemaking angel herself. A fight ensues and yeah, it goes badly. Uriel kicks the crap out of Dean, John gets flung outside, and Sam’s left to defend Mary. Anna in very graphic fashion follows through with her vow to kill Sam. I know Winchester deaths are kind of cliché now, but Sam’s death this time is shocking and disturbing. Impaled by a lead pipe, he struggles for a few seconds in full view of a frantic Dean before sliding down, his corpse left to waste on the ground in a growing pool of his own blood. Yikes!
Anna goes for Mary next and… divine intervention strikes again. But this is better than just another angel visit. It’s THE angel, the archangel Michael. Wearing a freshly minted John Winchester suit he smites Anna into ashes and zaps Uriel away. He assures Mary John is fine just before giving her the angel fingers of sleep. That leaves him and Dean alone to talk, but Dean is more concerned about his dead brother on the floor. Michael wants to talk first and I absolutely love how Matthew Cohen here is able to switch gears so well going from John to the arrogant, superior, yet very charismatic Michael. He and Jensen Ackles blow us away in this scene.
Sure, Michael reiterates what Zachariah, Lucifer, and Gabriel have said before, but his message is so much more powerful. He doesn’t want to kill Lucifer, a brother he practically raised (another parallel to Sam and Dean) but he has to. Lucifer betrayed him and their father. It’s called being a good son. He points out all the random acts that happened for John and Mary to meet, fall in love, have Dean and Sam, and so forth. It’s all part of a plan that’s playing out perfectly. That’s why Dean will say yes. What’s really significant about this conversation though isn’t the pre-destiny talk, but the reveal that it’s John’s bloodline, going all the way back to Cain and Abel, that makes Dean the perfect vessel for him, but not the only one. John said yes to him because he promised to save Mary.
Dean, still defiant, believes that he gets to choose what to do with his “unimportant little life.” They end at an impasse but Michael gets the final word, very confident that Dean will say yes. He even promises to not leave him the “drooling mess” his brothers do their vessels when he’s done “wearing” him. Ditto for John, plus he’s going to do one better. He’s going to scrub their minds, make sure they don’t remember Dean, Sam, or any of this. That way Mary gets the happy life she wants. Sure, she still walks into that nursery, but that was always supposed to happen one way or another. With one zap he sends dead Sam back to the future breathing and then does so with Dean before promising to see him again soon. The crushed look on Dean’s face before he goes tells it all. He’s powerless again to save his family.
Back at the motel in 2010 and might I comment the peach and multi-colored polka dot walls are fabulous! They mark the triumphant return of the over-the-top motel room. Castiel appears and they grab him just before he passes out again. While Sam and Dean share a drink, Dean makes a joke of the dire situation. “Team Freewill. One ex-blood junkie, one dropout with six bucks to his name, and Mr. Comatose over there.” The harsh reality sets in that with the right motivation, like saving their mother, they’ll say yes to Lucifer and Michael. If that wasn’t unsettling enough, the pitch perfect ending goes back to John and a very pregnant Mary in Dean’s nursery. The very happy couple marvel over a cheap artifact Mary found at a garage sale, a small figurine of an angel. She can’t put her finger on why she likes it and assures her kicking baby, “Angels are watching over you.” Crud, I’d run out of Kleenexes by that time.
So, with that, we’re left with so many questions. For one, the bloodline is Sam’s too. So that’s the answer to Ruby’s statement in last season’s finale, “It always had to be you.” That’s scary. Does that mean Nick is related to the Winchesters? I also wonder what it would take for Dean to say “yes.” Dean seemed truly affected by Michael’s words, as if he saw his point. He refuses to believe though that he has no control over the future. In “The End,” Dean saw what could happen if he didn’t say yes, but concluded that particular future happened because Sam did. How much longer before what the angels tell him goes beyond “annoying”? Will they be able to get through to him, considering all that he knows about the past and future? Since it involves killing Sam, I can’t imagine they would be able to use Sam as the reason. What happens if Sam says yes first? Also, what about poor Castiel? How much longer before he ends up becoming a mere mortal? He’s getting weaker all the time.
My overall grade, an A+. Say what you want about Michael showing up and mentioning the same thing that’s been said over and over again, but I just found his take more fascinating. Up next week, The Edlund ruins Valentine’s Day.