Supernatural: Hell's Angel

"This is exactly how we screw ourselves. We make the heart choice instead of the smart choice."

One of the strengths of this season of Supernatural is that it's re-worked and played with so many of the themes of season five. Once again, we have characters searching for God (primarily Amara, the only one who hasn't given up on that several years ago), we have Crowley and the boys forced to work together despite their misgiving, we have Lucifer wreaking havoc, and we have Cas making Sam's choice from that season and Dean reacting in more or less the same way (while Sam, logically enough, wants to respect Cas's choice). All of that sounds like a re-tread, but the story so far has been playing out with enough of a fresh twist that it draws on the show's strengths - along with a healthy dose of nostalgia - without feeling too warmed-over.

The Amara storyline itself has, I confess, left me a bit cold (I was really hoping Lucifer would finish her off here and we could focus on him for the last few episodes). I have all sorts of issues with it, including a lack of interest in the character, lack of interest in her weird connection with Dean (though it continues a trend of this show, in which the entire universe is in love with Dean, while he cares only about Sam), the fact that the show follows a broadly Judaeo-Christian mythology in which it makes no sense for the entirely monotheistic God, the all-powerful creator, to have a sister, and the somewhat muddled character motivations it's provoked in our heroes, some of which came to a head in the three-way argument between Crowley, Sam and Dean here.

However, the writers have used this arc to do some really interesting and positive things, so even though I'm not sold on Amara herself, I've enjoyed some of her episodes, this one included. Cas is my favourite character, but since he powered up again in season 10, he's also a walking plot hole since he can heal anyone of any condition including death. This problem was most obvious when Charlie was killed off last season - leading to much discussion of whether his powers had faded or not - but it's a constant issue, and last week's exploration of Sam and Dean's renewed vulnerability to death could never have worked if they could simply have picked up the phone to Cas. So while I'd rather Cas just became mortal and stayed that way, Casifer is an interesting direction to take while not entirely letting go of Cas, and of course, keeping Misha Collins in a job.

I've also enjoyed Collins' performance as Casifer, though I was happy to see Mark Pellegrino back too. I really enjoyed the scene inside Cas's head, watching Crowley and Lucifer duke it out while Cas tries to focus on the TV. In fact, I enjoyed a lot of the individual elements of this episode - I laughed aloud several times, I was genuinely uncertain and intrigued about where the plot was heading, and I even enjoyed having Rowena back, even though she's never been my favourite villain either.

One of the things that, up until Amara angel-napped him, made having Lucifer back even scarier than last time was that he is now the only archangel standing, and Amara is the only being more powerful than him. Raphael went poof, but it seems likely that the answer to our heroes' problems will be getting Michael (and, we hope, Adam) out of the Cage to team up with his brother. I'd really love it if Gabriel did indeed still turn out to be alive, though - he's much more fun (plus if he doesn't reappear now, in such dire times, we might have to accept he really is dead after all).

Much like most of the arc plot episodes, I enjoyed this without loving it. It was funny, it was entertaining and I'm invested enough to want to know where they're going with this, but I'm still, eighteen episodes in, sort of wondering where they're going with this. But then, I'm a weirdo who's always preferred standalone episodes anyway - the blend of the two is one of the things that's kept this show on the air for eleven years, going into a twelfth!

Bits:

 - Crowley's expression when Dean talked about wanting to be slapped by a girl wearing a Zorro mask during sex was gold - though quite why Dean thought that was such a terrible idea is a bit of a mystery.

 - I think the show needs to keep God at arms length a bit in order to preserve some kind of mystery - but at the same time, I'm desperate for an appearance from Chuck. Just wandering around in the background maybe, keeping an eye on things. Making sure the boys get hold of a life-saving silver bullet or bit of holy water or whatever when they need one. That sort of thing.

 - The set design and art direction on this show is always great, and the framing of the shot above with the triptych in the background is especially nice. Team Free Will has always been something of a trinity, with Dean the father, Sam the son and Castiel the spirit. In the original go-around, the son sacrificed himself to save the world. This time the spirit is in danger, which might be even more disastrous...

Quotes:

Crowley: I don't jig.

The series keeps on keeping on and I'm still enjoying it, even if the only episodes that really make it to greatness seem to be written by Robbie Thompson. Three out of four re-worked story arcs from season five.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

3 comments:

Mallena said...

Actually I think it was Dean that said he doesn't jig. I feel sorry for the writers sometimes. If they do too many season arc stories, people complain they want the boys back on the road fighting monsters and if they only do monster stories people cry "filler." There's also the problem of too powerful beings like Cas, Amara and Rowena. I just want epic thrills, tears and story arcs that are amazing. Too much to ask? Plus gorgeous men. Not the best episode, but Cas's kitchen scene did amuse.

Katherine said...

>> Team Free Will has always been something of a trinity, with Dean the father, Sam the son and Castiel the spirit.

That was a clever bit of writing.

magritte said...

While I enjoyed the episode on the whole, I felt like it gobbled up too much plot for one episode. It seemed awfully rushed to have an episode with Crowley acquiring a hand of cut, cutting a deal with the Winchesters, realizing they need Rowena and the Book of the Damned to be able to lock Lucifer away (and dealing with her non-death), discovering Cas doesn't actually want to expel Lucifer, AND a confrontation between Lucifer and Amara? I think it would have worked better if they'd scrapped Red Meat (the season's weakest episode) and turned this one into a two-parter.

I expected Amara to show up when she did, not because I thought she was tracking Rowena, but because Dean was in danger. But her connection with him didn't alert him when he overdosed on drugs last episode, so maybe it doesn't go that far.