For an episode with a doomsday-sounding title, “Point of No Return” was quite uplifting, giving hope to fans that things are turning, but for the better. The title is all the more apt that this is Supernatural’s 100th episode. Jeremy Carver, who wrote it, did an awesome job (as always), and I'm happy he didn't go cheesy by awkwardly bringing back beloved characters like Papa Winchester or Ellen/Jo (like they did in the series finale of The X-Files). The dialog and action in this episode were fast-paced and to the point, packing a lot into 40 minutes. The direction enhanced the script and the acting, as usual, topped it off beautifully. However not having the Impala star in this episode was a big mistake; that car is the most under appreciated character on Supernatural.
Three main themes were covered in this episode, all of which are intricately linked: faith, hope, and family.
The episode opened up with Zachariah drinking his sorrows away in a bar, a scene which was awesome for so many reasons. First was this gem of an exchange, made all the more priceless because of its flawless delivery:
Zachariah: Nah. My Boss.
Then was the whole irony of Zachariah commiserating about “pig filthy humans” with, well, a pig filthy human.
Then there is the continuing discussion around Zachariah. For one, how can he be an angel, a “servant of Heaven”, if he doesn’t even like humans? At the beginning of this episode, a short clip from “Dark Side of the Moon” reminds us of why he is still on the job. And so, while “work is worship” (especially for an angel), it definitely isn’t anymore for Zachariah. Taking care of Dean and Sam has become a matter of pride, and as we know, pride is oftentimes the downfall of many a great man (or angel). Which is why, despite the fact that he had been “employee of the month for every month for ever” and was being given another chance by God to redeem himself, the combination of his arrogance before humans (which, despite their flaws, are still God’s creatures) and his wounded pride – one feeding into the other in a downward spiral – was bound to get him exactly where he went.
It’s also interesting to point out that while he was supposedly on God’s side, Zachariah was far more dangerous than Lucifer, as he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Ironically enough, the reasons for Lucifer’s downfall and Zachariah’s demise are intimately related – which made Zachariah’s demise inevitable.
What a contrast with Pastor Gideon in last week’s “99 Problems”, who was humble enough to admit to his parish that he didn’t have the words to comfort Dylan’s parents, as well as to see beyond his love to his daughter to see that she wasn’t herself anymore. This also gives us insight into Dean being able to kill Leah in last week’s episode and being able to kill Zachariah in this week’s episode; for all the lack of hope and desperation, Dean has become an empty channel for God’s Will to flow through. Isn’t that the essence of being a servant of God?
While Zachariah’s demise was inevitable, I didn’t know how the writers were going to go about doing it. I was expecting God to get rid of him, either by killing him or stripping him of his powers and authority (just like Zachariah seemed to have been expecting, too), but I’m glad I’m not on the writing team because this was so much better: at the end, Zachariah set himself up for being killed by a filthy pig human.
Oh, the irony.
It’s all the more interesting that if Zachariah hadn’t had such a huge ego, i.e. if he was, like Pastor Gideon, a true servant of God, he would have accepted Dean’s offer and sacrificed himself for the greater good. But his self-importance, arrogance, and disdain for humans got the better of him.
Zachariah left us with one last fascinating question. In the Beautiful Room, he told Dean that this is exactly how God told him how it would “play out”. If Supernatural’s God is based on the Bible, then He is the All-Knowing, which would mean He knew what was going to happen. This implies that God knew what was going to happen, i.e. that Zachariah’s ego was going to get him killed. Did God want this to happen? Or is He simply testing his sons? Or is it because God gave us the gift of free will, He can’t swoop in and intercede as His whim, and like a parent who knows he must let his child walk alone at the risk of falling, God watched in agony as Zachariah’s ego finally got the best of him?
The meticulous breaking apart of Dean in the last couple of episodes climaxes in the second scene when, alone in a motel room so similar to the ones we have seen him and Sam stay at in the last five years, he packs the little that he owns, his leather jacket, his father’s gun, the keys to the Impala, placing on top of them a handwritten letter (we don’t know to whom, but I’m guessing the intended recipient is Sam). He then closes the box and addresses it to Bobby. But, in the first of many reversed role scenes in this episode, Sam appears, and, with the helps of a furious Castiel, brings Dean back to Bobby’s.
As those closest to him attempt to treat him delicately, Dean hides behind a wall of anger by continually provoking them. He sends out some pretty nasty shots, too, which I found understandable but still extremely shocking. He starts at the motel by attacking Sam ("All you've ever done is run away!"). It’s already a pretty low blow, but the next one is even worse when Dean taunts Sam: “Just remember. You’re not all hopped up on demon blood this time”. Both comments are way below the belt, all the more that Sam’s mistakes were lessons he has learned from (“And it was a mistake! Every single time!”), and therefore not in vain.
Back at Bobby’s, Dean attacks the rest of the group: “Eight months of turning pages and screwed pooches, but tonight, tonight’s when the magic happens.” The worst, though, was delivered in response to Bobby’s genuine concern: “You’re not my father”. It was Dean’s worst moment in the last five years, and he knows it; his avoiding Sam’s accusing glance is ample proof of that. Again, Dean of all people knows that the relationship between him and Bobby is more of a father-son one than he ever had with John, which, again, begs the same question mentioned above.
I have been arguing that Dean’s meticulous deconstruction is only to enable the writers to build him up again. Dean’s anger is his last defence to protect the tiny kernel of hope he still holds deep inside. His anger is also a sign that he doesn’t want to not believe. I would even argue that his wanting to say yes to Michael is not because he doesn’t believe; in fact, it implies that he does believe in something: Michael. In the words of Amatu'l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum: “To walk where there is no path/To breath where there is no air/To see where there is no light/This is Faith”.
One of the veils blinding Dean from believing is guilt: “Think of the number of people we got killed, Sam.” Not only do I think Sam is right (it’s not their fault), I find that Dean’s guilt is actually rather insulting to the memory of those who died fighting. Dean needs to figure out a way to balance fulfilling his responsibilities while not being buried under the weight of guilt. Sam is much more mature with this; he is obviously shaken by each death, but he deals with it and carries on. Sam’s maturity makes Dean’s doubt all the more puzzling.
Dean is so caught up in his guilt that it’s making him miss out on the best ally he has: Sam. Those of you who have read my reviews for a long time know how harsh I used to be with Sam, and how I have come to appreciate his newfound maturity. And I think that at the end of the episode Dean finally realises that his fears are outdated, and that the faithful, loyal, and strong brother he always wanted has been beside him for a couple of months now and isn't going anywhere.
The fact that deep down Dean still believes has been proven twice: in last week’s episode when Dean was able to kill Leah and again this week when he was able to kill Zachariah. After all, we had been told previously that only an angel could kill an angel. So either the rules have changed, Zachariah isn't an angel anymore, or Dean is acquiring angel-like virtues.
This is Supernatural’s current big question: how did he do it? The camera zoomed in on Dean’s eyes while Zachariah was bleeding out, and we saw a flash in them. Does it mean Dean has acquired angel-like powers? Or perhaps it’s symbolic, that although Dean is still human, he has become more of a servant of God than Zachariah has been in awhile, and in a way, the torch has been passed to him.
All this makes the character development in this season all the more interesting. Dean has been beaten down so low that he knows he can’t do it alone. Despite the fact that he was able to kill Leah and Zachariah, he still needs Sam and others to continue fighting. If Dean remains true to himself, as he has up to now, he’s going to realise that there is something else that has helped him all along to remain a true servant, i.e. his faith in God, the very same faith he has been denying for so long.
The role reversal has come to an end as Dean’s hope is finally rekindled. And kudos must be given to Sam for dealing with this delicate situation in a way he certainly wouldn’t have been able to a mere year ago.
Sam’s actions as the more responsible brother included him tracking Dean down to the motel and staying at Dean’s bedside, waiting for him to regain consciousness after being beaten up by Castiel – two things Dean had up to now done regularly. The best reversed-role moment was when Sam lets Dean out of Bobby’s safe room to help rescue Adam. Sam demonstrates yet again his newfound level of maturity when he doesn’t let Dean goad an angry reaction out of him with “You know if tables were turned, I’d let you rot in here. Hell, I have let you rot in here.”
How did it come to this? While Sam understanding and accepting his past mistakes is an essential part of it, what really made a difference this time is that Sam was able to set aside his anger. I was especially impressed with Sam’s relatively calm answer to Dean’s taunting “You’re not all hopped up on demon blood”. And come to think, Sam hasn’t been angry in the last couple of weeks, as if Dean’s weakness brought out the best in his little brother. So the “point of no return” could also be with regard to Sam’s self-perceived role as a responsible adult who is just as capable as his older brother of making a difference.
Sam’s unconditional faith in his brother is what saved the day. He was the only one who still believed in Dean’s strength, so much so that he turned to him to help getting Adam back from Zachariah, despite everyone else, Castiel, Bobby and even Dean thinking it’s a bad idea. It might seem like blind faith to some, but I think that Sam’s newfound maturity has also given him the clarity to see Dean for who he really is, rather than who he’s pretending to be.
One of the most poignant scenes in this season is the emotionally charged one between Sam and Dean right after Dean tells Zachariah to summon Michael. Sam looked so shocked, hurt, and disappointed; Dean looked upset, weak, broken. Sam looks away, as if in anger and disgust and something flickers on Dean’s face – he’s hesitating. Sam looks back to his brother and holds his gaze, as if begging him, yet again holding out hope; Dean’s face relaxes, he smiles and winks at Sam. All of this without a single word.
Ah, Jared and Jensen. You guys rock.
Dean had previously apologized for his behaviour towards Sam, but I don’t think it was ever as sincere as when he told him, “I don’t know if it’s being a big brother, or what, but to me you’ve always been this snot-nosed kid I’ve had to keep on the straight and narrow. I think we both know that that’s not you anymore. I mean hell, if you’re grown up enough to find faith in me, the least I can do is return the favour.” The bond between the two has not only survived, but thrived; it’s yet again them against the world. Dean might not fully believe in God yet but he believes in his relationship with Sam again, which makes me hope for some great Winchester brother moments again (like in season one’s “Hell House”).
But the question of Sam’s hope remains. He mentioned in “99 Problems” that he didn’t think God cared anymore, that the only thing keeping him going is Dean. While it’s touching and adorable, it’s also dangerous in that Dean is a fallible human. What was Sam going to do had Dean not been able to find hope again?
I would love to have a couple of Sam-centric episodes, as the question of Sam’s hope continues to tickle my fancy. Does he really believe what he told Paul in “99 Problems”, or was it a defense mechanism of sorts? Is his only source of hope his desire for redemption? And what about Sam’s faith? Sam has always been the brother with the most faith – at least, in appearance. But it is the true, strong kind of faith? Does he only believe in Dean? Or does he, too, believe in God?
The concept of family is, of course, not as simple as “Mommy, Daddy and the kids”, most certainly not in Supernatural. The exploration of this concept started right from the pilot and has gradually expanded from blood connections to those we choose to call family, namely through Bobby, Adam, and Castiel.
Bobby gave Dean the most important lesson of all: real loyalty to your family means carrying on even when it’s the last thing you want to do. It was heartbreaking to hear Bobby admit that the thought of suicide is a constant one, even more so that the only reason he has yet to do it is Dean: “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!” What a slap in Dean's face, whose anger had just made him tell Bobby, “You’re not my father”.
Is Bobby more of a father to the Winchester brothers than John was? While many fans are still bitterly angry at John for having put his sons through so much, I don’t think a parent’s worth is judged by what they did as much as the reasons why they did it. Is John a worse father than the rich one who buys a huge house for his family, only to never be home, cheat on his wife, and disparage his children when they do not make the father look good?
It’s probably going to be easier for Adam to accept that John was a good father to him once he knows the truth about the Winchesters and he realises that John’s absence was an attempt to not infect his third son’s life with the “Winchester Curse”. It’s interesting how Sam and Dean long for his stable life as much as he longs for theirs, at their father’s side what with the grass being greener on the other side and all.
Dean and Sam taught Adam an important lesson too when they attempted to rescue him. The three might not have known each other for long, but the two older Winchester brothers have proven that they do consider Adam as family by their actions, all the more so that, at the end of the episode, Sam and Dean look devastated when they lose Adam. Blood in itself doesn’t make for family, but the way people of the same bloodline treat one another does.
How terrible for Sam and Dean to find and lose Adam twice. I wish he had stayed on this time, especially since he likes cheeseburgers and beer just like Dean does and, most importantly, he has the same attitude as the eldest Winchester, which promises some awesome brother moments.
We can only guess at what happened to Adam. The fact that the Beautiful Room and everything in it simply disappeared leads me to think that Adam was taken by Michael and is not dead.
While he isn’t related to any of them or didn’t take the place of a family figure – heck, he isn’t even human – Castiel’s relationship with the Winchesters, and particularly with Dean, makes him as much family in my opinion as Adam. Castiel’s entrance in this episode was reminiscent of Dean’s in previous episodes and his anger came in sharp contrast to Sam’s calm. Not that any of us can blame him, really. After all, the poor angel has been through a lot. He has already killed many of his brothers (angels), has been banished from Heaven, and can’t find God.
No wonder he snapped and beat the living daylights out of Dean.
Can his faith be rekindled, after witnessing Dean giving up? His anger was epic and his disdain palpable. I found it interesting that despite this, Castiel was still willing to sacrifice himself during his last fight scene. It seems like Castiel’s faith in Dean is in the same state as Dean’s faith in God: thoroughly battered, denied but still there, albeit really small. Since Castiel’s crisis of faith deepened because of Dean’s defeatism it could be that Dean’s newfound hope is going to help Castiel continue his search for an answer. Perhaps a Castiel-centric episode is due.
Redemption was one of the many underlying themes in this episode. Zachariah sought it when God gave him a second change, but his arrogance made him lose it. It makes me wonder if God’s purpose was to give Zachariah a second chance at shedding his arrogance, not at convincing the Winchesters to say yes.
Despite his newfound maturity, Sam’s need for redemption is still present. One of Sam’s strengths is that he doesn’t have the ego that Zachariah had, and most importantly, that he has learned from the mistakes he previously made. Hopefully he will be able to seek real redemption this time.
Dean is probably in need of some redemption himself, after having seriously hurt those closest to him. But I have the impression that Sam has already fully forgiven him and that Bobby will too – after a good talking to, of course. As for Castiel… the fury of the angel was something to behold, but since he hasn’t quite lost himself yet, perhaps there is a chance that will work out as well.
This episode highlights yet again the main weakness of Lucifer’s camp, this time by contrasting it with the ever increasing consolidation of the ranks of the Winchesters’ side. The lack of unity within Lucifer’s camp and also within the company of God’s angels is going to be their downfall, whereas the increasing unity in the other camp is going to be the cornerstone of their victory. Perhaps this episode marks the point of no return because the boys are not only more mature and more united, but also and especially because the opposite side is breaking into factions and that this is the first time the Winchesters use this to their advantage.