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Supernatural: Appointment in Samarra

Death: "I want you to be me for one day."
Dean: "Are you serious?"
Death: "No, I'm being incredibly sarcastic."

I expected Dean to screw up his assignment for Death. I didn't expect Sam to get his soul back. So I guess I was half right.

The Dean-as-Death story was well-done, even though it was predictable. Dean probably thought he could do it for Sam, but we all know Dean cares too much. There had to be someone that Dean couldn't bear to take, and of course, it was the heart-wrenching classic, the little girl in the hospital. I do wish they'd spared one line to explain why, with all the people on earth who die every day, Death was personally scheduled to take only those few.

Death is definitely my favorite Horseman. He has presence. I like his demeanor, his taste for junk food, his dry sense of humor. And I think he's genuinely fond of Dean, or why else would he come through with Sam's soul after Dean blew the deal? Unless Death wanted Sam to have his soul back because of the natural order stuff, which is probably the case. He told Dean that it was all about the souls. There's something major going on this season with souls and with Purgatory that we don't know about yet. Well, duh.

It was nice to see Tessa the reaper again. And I really enjoyed Robert Englund, aka Freddy Kruger, as the skeezy backroom Doctor Flatliner. Balthazar was back, too, which was nice, but he's just not as much fun as Gabriel or as evil as Zachariah. Not yet, anyway.

The B plot, Robo-Sam versus Bobby, was so much fun in I-can't-stand-watching-this-because-it's-getting-to-me sort of way. Sam chopping through the closet door with an axe a la The Shining and falling through the booby trap was my favorite. And I was relieved that it turned out the way it did, because I thought they were setting up a cliffhanger where Dean as Death would have to choose between Bobby's life and Sam's soul, and I honestly don't know what Dean would have done in that situation. Maybe that's why the writers didn't go there.

Will Sam be himself again at last, or will it be Sam Interrupted? With this show, it's hard to tell. And why the wall in his mind? Dean spent thirty years in Hell, much of it being tortured by Alastair, and he's handling it. Why is it so much worse for Sam? What could be worse than decades of torture? Actually, I don't want to know.

Here's an interesting question. What would Dean have done to Robo-Sam if Death hadn't come through? Letting him go would have been out of the question because he was a serious danger. Permanent imprisonment in the demon panic room while constantly worrying that he would find his way out? Or would Dean have considered killing Sam's body in order to protect Bobby?

Bits and pieces:

— "Appointment in Samarra" is a reference to an unavoidable appointment with Death. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appointment_in_Samarra. And Death Takes a Holiday is a classic movie, as well.

— If something went wrong while flatlining, Dean wanted Dr. Robert to send a letter to Benjamin Braeden in Battlecreek, Michigan. That's Lisa's son, Ben. The writers get a continuity gold star.

— The teddy bear from "Wishful Thinking" was on the little girl's hospital bed. I think it killed the mood a little because Dan noticed it and couldn't stop laughing.

— Dean was trying to get Adam released, too; I'm glad someone finally mentioned poor Adam. Of course, I'm not surprised that Dean didn't hesitate to choose Sam over Adam. It would be much harder to choose Sam over Bobby, although I think Dean would do that, too.

— Death said that the chances that the wall in Sam's mind will protect him are 75%. That was the same number Dr. Robert gave that Dean would wake up from flatlining. And Death had Sam's soul in what looked like an old black doctor's bag. Nice touch.

— Way past time I mentioned it, but I really like how we never see angels appear and disappear; we just hear flapping wings. No expensive special effects, and it works so well. Smart idea.

— This was the mid-season finale. The next episode will air January 28.


Tessa: "Where do you get the nerve?"
Dean: "Desperate times."
Robo-Sam said the same thing when Balthazar asked why he summoned him.

Death: "Nothing lasts forever. Well, I do."

Death: "Don't roll your eyes, Dean. It's impolite."

Dean: "Here goes everything."

Dean: (standing over the armed robber) "He's in agonizing pain, right?"
Tessa: "Yes."
Dean: "Give me a minute."

Heart attack man: "Tell me what it all means."
Dean: "Everything is dust in the wind."
Heart attack man: "That's it? A Kansas song?"
Tessa: "Sorry. He's new."

Bobby: "I may have been born at night, boy. But it wasn't last night."

Bobby: "Ain't nobody killing me in my house but me."
That's an interesting statement, in a suicidal sense.

Girl: "Natural order is stupid."
Dean: "I agree with you there."

Dean: "What's with you and cheap food?"
Death: "I could ask you the same thing."
Dean has now eaten with Death twice. Except I don't think Dean took a bite this time.

This was a strong episode. Not as heart-wrenching as last year's mid-season finale, but I don't think I could handle another one of those.

Three out of four black doctor bags, or four out of four? I'll let you guys decide,

Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.


  1. I'm not liking Dean making all the decisions for Sam right now.
    Sam had legitimate reason not to want his soul back, after everything Cas and Crowley said, yet Dean forced it upon. As Sam pointed out, if this goes wrong, it's not Dean who has to suffer. Or in other words, had Dean not decided to get Sam's soul back on his own, Sam wouldn't have had to try and kill Bobby...

    I really hope the second part of the season has at least one episode of Dean getting put in his place. It's long overdue...

  2. I also was expecting Dean to be faced with taking Bobby. I don't think he'd be able to do it. If he wasn't able to let the drunk widower die because he couldn't take the girl, I just don't see him letting Bobby die. Not even for Sam. I don't think he'd be able to live with that choice.

    Death is a very interesting character, and I'm very curious about what's up with the souls and Purgatory. I'm glad that it looks like those introductory arcs aren't just done now that Crowley is dead and Sam has his soul back. It still feels like it is all leading to something.

  3. Billie, wasn't Dean only dead for a few months but that hell time is different, so it was 30-40 years? Or am I misremembering it? If that's the case, then Sam's soul has been in hell for well over a hundred hell years, and it was getting "special" attention from the Devil himself (and his pissy brother).

    I liked this episode though I agree that the entire reaping arc with Dean was predictible. I like Death--he's not malicious, he's just doing his job, and strikes me as really irritated with the angels (and the other things) that are making it harder for him. He also showed that he's not thrilled with taking the cute, nice 12-year-old girl but that it does have to happen.

    I really like him as a charecter. And I liked Tessa.

  4. Hello Billie,

    I would like to take this opportunity to thank you personally, as it was your early reviews of some first season episodes of Supernatural that got me into what is now my favourite television series (I discovered your website and blog when I was surfing for Lost references).

    About the people 'scheduled to die' for this day, there's no evidence to suggest that Dean hadn't taken any other lives off screen. Hell, if you would make a documentary about every death in some randomly selected 24 hours of time, I am quite certain that documentary would not nearly fit into a single evening time slot. My guess is that a lot of reapings were omitted, and only a few of them were shown to drive the plot. The robber to show Dean's willingness, the heart attack victim to show the routine of the job, and finally, the little girl to show his hesitation and the resulting moral quandary.

    On a final note, angels don't always appear off-screen. There have been occasions where they appeared onscreen, although the apparition itself obscured by things like a flash of lightning. Either way, the lack of reliance on special effects when it is not needed somehow makes the series more realistic and gritty in my eyes.

  5. You're very welcome, Anonymous.

    You might be right about the death schedule, too -- that makes sense.

  6. Hey Billie.

    If you remember Dean spent a few months in hell which translated into 30 years. Sam spent a year - at least.

  7. I get the time difference and that might very well be the chief issue. But Sam isn't in Hell proper -- right? and he's not alone with Lucifer; he's with Adam and Michael, too, and it seems like that would make a difference. I could be wrong, and I often am. I'm sure we'll eventually find out what Sam's situation was.

  8. My first comment is addressed to André Knoche, Dean is making the decision for RoboSam because RoboSam has no moral compass, he doesn't know wrong from right so Dean has no choice but to make the decision for him...I thought that was pretty clear in the episode.

    Another thing, I too thought the inclusion of the 12 year old girl was a little predictable but then I believe it WAS "rigged from the jump". She was a plant and Death knew that Dean wouldn't want to kill her, he knew that Dean would fail - and he was right - and as a result Dean saw first hand what it takes to clean up the mess caused by those who mess up the natural order.

    I find it funny that Death scolding Dean on all this dying and coming back to life business, makes me think that the writers have finally decided enough is enough with regard to all the resurrections on this show. Could this mean that from now on when a character dies...they actually die, which means that everyone is in genuine peril again when faced with the baddies.

    That would be great, because we need to have that feeling of danger when things get bad - which can get lost if we always assume they will be miraculously healed/brought back to life every time.

  9. Yo Billie
    Awesome review as always. I think that maybe if the Wall breaks Sam will be strong willed enough to have come out of it not insane. At least that could be where the writers were heading.
    I think what happened to Sam is a bit different as well. Dean was tortured by Alastair, whereas Sam's soul has been torn to shreds by the Devil and Michael. I can imagine that being a hell of alot worse.

  10. Pretty good episode and I liked it a lot. Glad to see Tessa again and I love Death, the actor is dead-on.
    I have to say that I was surprised that Sam was willing to kill Bobby but I understand his reasons. Let´s see what happens now with Sam with his soul again.

  11. For a bit I thought Dean will put on Death's ring and touch Sam, but it wasn't necessary as Death has other plans.

    So now our boys are agents of Death instead of Crowley's. I bet they'll do some standalones now before returning to the soul/purgatory issue and the mind-wall. I think it will break at the end of the penultimate episode.

  12. First of all, kudos to Julian Richings who was magnificent as Death. I really enjoy watching his performance.

    I have mixed feelings about this episode. On the one hand, I knew that the writers were never going to allow Sam to kill Bobby, so there was no tension there for me. If he had succeeded, Dean would have either had to have his brother arrested or kill him. Either way, the show is at an end.

    I felt a bit as though as I was being manipulated. Up until this point, Sam had done nothing so horrible that living without his soul was not an option -- clearly the one he would have chosen. Dean is the one who has been on a mission to retrieve it, but why? Does he genuinely believe that Sam must have his soul or is there a part of him that is jealous of the fact that Sam is now the better hunter and can shag anything in a skirt?

    By having Sam go after Bobby, the writers let Dean ( and themselves a bit) off the hook. Dean never has to wonder if he did the right thing and, I believe, we are meant to breathe a sigh of relief that Sam is back with us.

    I found "Sam" fascinating once we learned what the problem was. He was obviously lacking a moral compass, but he was still strongly tied to Dean and he was able to make the difficult decisions. Would Sam have bitten his own arm to draw the devil's trap? I'm not convinced he would.

    When (not if) the wall comes down, I'm sure we're going to be in for one hell of a ride. I just hope that this action of Dean's is not the final nail in the coffin of the boys' relationship.

  13. Great review Billie and overall I really liked this episode, but I need a little clarifying when it comes to Death.

    I don't really get how Dean having Death's ring all this time has really altered things. I mean this particular Death is one of the horseman and when the other horsemen lost their rings, their 'jobs' were considerably affected. Dean has had Death's ring for some time and it seemed people went on dying, then reaped etc. So what is the bigger picture I'm missing. It's not like Death is one out 500 guys wearing a ring and making sure people go off to their proper destiny. He is THE Death.

    On other notes, I LOVED the Bobby/Sam scenes. They really had me on edge and I honestly wasn't too sure of Bobby's outcome - glad he made it.

  14. Billie wrote:

    "I really like how we never see angels appear and disappear; we just hear flapping wings."

    When I first noticed this, I was reminded of Babylon 5, when Kosh would exit his encounter suit off-camera.


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