No wine tonight (well, only a LITTLE bit) because I was driving, so I'm less drunk than usual. Let's see if it affects the ol' memory banks...
The opening was awesome. I loved the song choice. Now, unfortunately, I had seen the extended preview (because I'm an idiot) and thought I was completely spoiled for this episode - and I was a bit, but not to the degree that I thought I was.
ETA: Oh! TITLE CARD! TITLE CARD WAS BEAUTIFUL! I love it!!!!
So, we open in the car, with Sam and Dean, and already from the kind of weird camera angles or maybe just Dean's expression, I had a feeling that maybe we were inside Sam's head. Plus, I knew that Sam would be in a hospital bed, so he just seemed way too healthy and with it to me. I LOVED what they did though...with Dean not being Dean, just a projection of a facet of Sam. But I'm getting ahead of myself... Mind!Dean tells Sam that he's dying, and we pan out to Sam lying in the hospital....
The doctor breaks it down for Dean...Sam's internal organs are burnt somehow, and he's in a coma to save himself the pain of dying, but he IS dying, and there's no coming back. Then the doctor makes the mistake of telling Dean that it's "in God's hands"... listen folks, don't tell grieving atheists that they have to rely on God, it never goes over well. Dean is no exception.
Let's cut to Cas, who is wandering about in Colorado, at a loss as to what to do. He can still tune into angel radio - so yay for consistency there! (graceless!Anna could also hear the angels), but Cas can't respond, nor can he hear prayers, as we soon find out. He wanders into the road where a truck nearly hits him, and he hurts his hand... and feels pain for the first time. I really liked the driver, and wish that Cas could have stuck with him a bit longer - he was nice! He thought Cas was dehydrated, and even when Cas appeared to just be crazy, the driver was still really good with him!
Anyway, let's go back to Sam... I'm never going to remember the order of how everything happens, so forgive me if I'm getting it out of order, btw.
Sam is still in a coma - he's got Dean, who supposedly represents the part of Sam that wants to live... and I love how his projection of Dean is like a distilled over-the-top version of Dean, even if it's subtle. It's like a VERY subtle version of Tall Tales, which is the only other time we've ever gotten to see Sam POV on Dean. Dean is brash and insistent and uncompromising.
And then Bobby pops up in the back seat. Okay, so, full disclosure here - I actually wasn't too thrilled when I found out that Bobby was coming back. I'm of the opinion that every time they bring him back, it diminishes the affect of his death more and more. If I had my way, he'd have never been a ghost in the first place...and I know the fans love him, but I also think that SPN bringing him back just because the fans love him kind of ruins their integrity as writers. BUT! I SHOULDN'T HAVE DOUBTED THEM!
I really liked this return, because it makes sense that Sam would have a projection of Bobby in his mind too...after all, Bobby was the father-figure that Sam actually got along with, unlike John, who Sam always saw as similar to Dean in temperament, Bobby was much calmer and more intellectual in his arguments. John and Dean (and arguably even Sam) are all creatures ruled by emotion, whereas Bobby was very much able to step back and keep a perspective on things. So, yeah, I liked the fact that he represented the logical side of Sam that figured that maybe if he was dying it was better to just accept it as a job well done.
I also liked this, because that was more the Bobby that we knew... the one who knew that when your time comes, you should just go. Sam and I both were very disconcerted the last time we saw Bobby and he was so insistent that Sam find a way to bring him back to earth. So, I liked the fact that Sam's projection of Bobby was much more in keeping with how I always thought Bobby would be about death. Sam left a great legacy, and it's time to move on.
I'm getting WAY ahead of myself here though...we're still in the car with Sam, mind!Dean and mind!Bobby... I loved the bit where Dean starts arguing with Sam about how Sam obviously wants to live and that's why Dean's in the front seat, and then suddenly Bobby's in the front seat too.
Seriously, this whole episode is so fun from a psychological stand-point when it comes to Sam. I love it! It's also kind of similar to that fic that I wrote once (Were It Not That I Have Bad Dreams) - where Sam is dying and Dean dreamscapes his noggin until Sam eventually comes to his senses.
Anyway, Sam decides to hear Bobby out, and they go to walk through some woods to talk things over.
Meanwhile, Dean is praying to Cas, not knowing that Cas can't hear him. When Cas doesn't show up, Dean does something arguably VERY inadvisable and gives an open prayer to any and all angels "with their ears on" - we cut to see the various angels hearing the prayer... and many of them immediately head towards the hospital. Except thankfully slower, because they're all seemingly, at diminished capacity.
This is where we find out what FORM the angels have taken now that they've fallen. They still need vessels - and many have taken them. They also have seemingly just continued letting their vessels live their lives. They still have some abilities, but they DON'T have wings, so they can't insta-transport anymore. We find out more as the episode progresses, but basically the abilities they did have are diminished.
Cas meanwhile, discovers that he has no abilities without his grace, and is fully human. He arrives at a gas station, and the friendly pick-up truck driver gives him money (because he's SUPER NICE) and calls him "kid" which just supports Dean's "baby in a trenchcoat" comment, because Cas is at least as old as the primordial human-fish, if not older...and the vessel he's in is a forty-year-old.
Cas can't make the biker using the phone go to sleep via fingers-or-palm-to-forehead. Really, he should have seen that coming. Not only that, but he finds an angel named Hael, who APPEARS to be innocent and desperate for help. And she IS desperate for help, but her intentions are anything but innocent...
And Cas, god love him, tries to help - and he's kind and gentle and tries to get her to see that falling isn't necessarily a BAD thing...that she can learn to do things now, to do things she WANTS to do, rather than what she's TOLD to do... basically, five years after the apocalypse, Castiel is STILL trying to get the angels to understand free will. I'm starting to think that Castiel may have been God's experiment in giving an angel the capacity to have free will...well, Castiel and Lucifer, I guess. Maybe Lucifer was attempt number one, and then God realized that he should also make the angel fundamentally kind. Who knows... anyway, kind-Castiel kind of breaks my heart a little, because I had a feeling (and also saw a preview that suggested) that it was all a charade.
Anyhoo, meanwhile, back at the hospital, Dean is visited by a grief counselor...and my goodness, if I didn't want to be a doctor that mentioned God around Dean Winchester, I DEFINITELY would not want to be a grief counselor who had to try to convince Dean that Sam's death is inevitable. Dean has ISSUES man, I mean, technically all death is inevitable...I understand that Sam's only 32, so, yeah...too young to die...but I really hope Dean's not still doing this when he's 90.
The grief counselor makes a comment about how Dean would really need to have a angelic connection to get a miracle at this point, and Dean's like "I might have something just as good... I have the King of Hell in my trunk!" And I laughed! I can't believe Dean just left Crowley in the trunk while he sat by Sam's bedside...and he just kind of FORGOT about him. Hilarious. Also, I mean, what are their lives?! This show is ridiculous and awesome.
Crowley is still in the trunk, "one knock for yes, two for no - are you still alive?" Hahahah...but we don't get to see him because Dean's attacked by a suited angel with a sword. (Note: Angels still have their swords.) Thankfully, he's rescued by chiseled-jaw angel! Otherwise known as Ezekiel, otherwise known as "Okay, I love him." Because he's A LOT like Cas first was back in S4, and I just... I didn't realize how much I missed that type of angel. He gets his ass kicked a little, but he's awesome...so awesome. I loved him telling Dean that he came to help and then passing out and then Dean's little "okay!"
Dean gets Ezekiel awake and in Sam's room, and then Cas finally gets in touch with him. I loved this whole conversation too - because I guess I'm so used to fanfic where Cas is a helpless little babybird that Dean frets over - so it was refreshing to remember that the writers haven't forgotten the fact that technically Cas SHOULD be able to look after himself, and Dean treats him as someone who can. YES, he's concerned and reminds Cas that he has to eat and sleep and do human stuff, that he knows Cas isn't used to, but he also doesn't say "Where are you? I'll come immediately to you and cuddle you better!" He tells Cas to get to the bunker and assumes that Cas will be capable of that. Cas, meanwhile, also isn't a babybird - he's far more concerned about Sam than he is about himself...which is as it should be, because at least Cas is alive.
Dean warns Cas about the angels gunning for him, and warns Cas away from trusting Hael. Meanwhile, Cas confirms that Ezekiel is a good soldier, and he has a fond smile. Man, given how much Ezekiel is similar to Cas, I'd imagine that they had to have been friends... I really hope so anyway, but hey, knowing this show, Ezekiel is probably evil or something.
Angels attack the hospital and cut the phone-call short. Dean quickly wards the room, and runs out to fight... getting his ass handed to him by two angels.
Let's get back to Sam... after a long talk with Bobby, Sam decides that it's time to move on, and Bobby says that all he has to do is enter a cottage in his mind. The part of him that wants to live, gives one last fight - again, being Dean to an extreme, he literally uses his fist for this fight after stabbing Bobby through the heart. Sam is used to Dean hitting him when he's really angry, we've seen this before...it's kind of horrible, but it's true, so I liked the fact that they included it. I also liked the fact that Sam dismisses him by patting him on the cheek - in a move we've only ever seen Bobby do in the past. It's a very kind of...condescending? paternal?...way to dismiss Dean.
He enters the cottage to find DEATH! I love that Death came personally, because Sam ranks that high. I love the fact that they sit down and discuss it, even though Sam figures Death came just because he'll enjoy taking a Winchester. When really, Death came because he LIKES Sam... he's impressed by him. Sam has such self-esteem issues that I'm pretty sure that was nice to hear, even if it was coming from Death.
Back to Cas! Cas tries to do as Dean suggested and leave Hael to travel to the Grand Canyon alone, so that Cas can get to the bunker without being followed. (Also, I think it's pretty neat that Hael made the Grand Canyon but has never seen it.) This is the thing with Hael, I don't think everything she told Castiel is bullshit. I think that she IS lost, and she IS afraid, and she DOES want to see the Grand Canyon...she just ALSO has more sinister motives. When Cas tries to leave, she hits him over the head with a piece of wood and kidnaps him.
Turns out, Hael chose a vessel that's too weak to contain her... ie: not the family line for Hael's true vessel (if she has one). She's slowly burning through the girl, Lucifer-style. Hael's solution to this is to possess Castiel, who's vessel is strong... it makes me wonder if the family-lines thing isn't for individual angels, but rather just angels in general. Like, I always assumed that Winchester=Michael!vessel, and Campbell=Lucifer!vessel...(which I loved, because I thought it was really poetic that Campbells were/are hunters). And maybe that's still true, but maybe for the non-archangels, it's just in general that certain family line/genetics are better and they can pick and choose who they possess - so one person might be the a good vessel for ANY angel, not just a certain angel.
Anyway, Cas sees a way out by noting that Hael hasn't learned to use seat belts yet. Cas buckles up and yanks on the wheel to crash the car. When he comes to, Hael has been thrown through the windshield and is gross and incapacitated. Cas tries to convince her that he only wants to help the angels, but Hael tells him he's an idiot... and yeah, basically Cas has to kill her, before she can go on angel radio and tell everyone where he is.
Sidenote: I kind of don't like the fact that the angels call it "angel radio" - I understand that they don't really have a name for it, but "angel radio" is just something that Dean came up with on the fly to describe what Anna was hearing. It would make much more sense for the angels to have their own name for it. Even just "the voices of the angels" or something very basic like that - rather than calling it a name that refers to a specific piece of human-technology.
Dean, meanwhile, draws a banishing sigil and gets rid of his attackers... he should know where angels go when they can't get into heaven though, that question had to be for show. When Cas banished himself, he ended up on a fishing boat in the gulf of Mexico, I believe. Anyway, sadly, between Ezekiel's waning angel powers and the warding on the room, he's been unable to help Sam. Dean quickly tries to cross off the warding, but it's of no use... Sam's too far gone...
To prove it, Ezekiel let's Dean hear Sam and Death's discussion... and we find out that Sam has one condition for going with Death - basically, he has a "Dean clause" - Death has to make sure there's no way for Dean to bring him back, that it's a permanent death, that NO ONE ELSE WILL BE HURT BECAUSE OF SAM. And that last bit just breaks my heart...Sam basically just sees his life as a serious of other people getting hurt because Sam exists, and that's so sad.
Dean is outraged when he hears this...but there's one way that Ezekiel CAN save him. If Ezekiel possesses Sam, he can keep Sam alive and repair the damage to Sam slowly over time while Ezekiel himself recovers from his fall (and subsequent beating).
Dean knows that Sam would rather die than be possessed, but Dean also knew that Sam would probably want to die than have Dean sell his soul... the fact is that when it comes to saving each other, Sam and Dean can be pretty selfish. So, just to complete the non-con of this resurrection, Ezekiel and Dean decide that Dean has to be the one that Sam says yes too, because it's the only way to trick Sam into agreeing. Sam will agree to live if Dean asks him to, and since the only way to live is to be possessed by Ezekiel, that means that yes is permission for Ezekiel to posses him.
Sure enough, Dean goes in (or possibly just gives Ezekiel the words) and convinces Sam not to go. Sam made a promise to Dean that they'd stick together and Dean's holding him to that promise - more than that, "there ain't no me, if there ain't no you" - Dean has decided that Sam and he are a packaged deal. They either go out together or they don't go out at all. (Or Dean goes out, seeing as how Sam is the only Winchester capable of letting go, it seems.)
Sam acquiesces, and says yes to Dean...and TADA, possession time!
I have to say, I did NOT see that coming. My theory was that in order to save Sam, Dean would have to sneak-feed him demon blood - because the trials had purified him of it, but he needed it to live because he's had it in him since he was 6 months old. So, I totally thought that the big secret of the season would be Dean getting Sam back on the demon-blood train...I did NOT think that the big secret of the season would be that Sam is secretly possessed. I'm happy to be wrong, because I think this is arguably more interesting!
Back to Cas! Cas is in the laundromat, washing the blood off his clothes.... only, before he puts the quarters in the machine...what appear to be his LAST quarters... he glances over and sees the vending machine. At first, I thought he was looking at the "do not overload the washers" sign and I was like "Cas, don't worry, you're cool, it's just a suit and trench coat." but then I realized it was the vending machine and Cas was hungry and/or thirsty... and we see Cas contemplate, and then make the decision to CHANGE WARDROBE. He's abandoned his distinctive JohnConstantine-Trench and has switched to jeans and a hoodie...and a bottle of water, which he chugs. Our Cas is officially human.
Back to Dean and Ezekiel....who have left the hospital. They decide that Sam can't know about the possession, because if he rejects Ezekiel (which, what? vessels can DO THAT?!) then it means that Sam dies. I loved Dean's "no, this is too huge!" I should point out that I think the record for Dean keeping something from Sam still sits at 10 episodes (remembering Hell in S4), but the longest TIME wise, was probably 3-4 months (John's final words in S2). Sam is the MUCH better secret keeper in the family. He kept the being fed demon-blood as a baby fact a secret for 2 whole YEARS and even then, Dean found out from Cas, not Sam... and then, Dean only found out about Sam drinking demon blood when he did it in front of him, and that was 20 episodes. Anyway, yeah, Dean sucks at secrets, is my point. So, I'm concerned.
Sidenote: Jared, I love you, and I understand from your twitter that it was a miserable day to film because you were way too hot and trying not to squint...but you kind of are a bit TOO much like a robot when you are playing Ezekiel in that final scene. Tahmoh did it a little better.
Other sidenote: Tahmoh! Don't go!! I'm kind of sad that Ezekiel has a new vessel in Sam... I want more Tahmoh.
ANYWAY.... in scene reminiscent of the opening scene inside Sam's head, Sam wakes up in the car driving at night. It's been a day and a half, and for all Sam knows, Dean's just been driving around with Sam's comatose body, because he "knew [he]'d pull through"....okay, SLIGHTLY creepy and I'd start worrying about Dean's mental health (more so than usual) if I were Sam, but okay! I did love Dean's quip about letting Japanese tourists take pictures... and that quip makes Sam buy the story for some reason, and then "we've got work to do." Which is an excellent call back to the pilot, lo these 8 years later.
So, VERY INTERESTING set-up for the season. This means that Sam and Dean are never TRULY alone. Dean has to trust Ezekiel enough to let him into the bunker, hell, he's trusted him enough to let him into his BROTHER....so, I guess the bunker isn't that big of a deal. But Dean's trusting him based on Cas' word, and Cas has read people wrong before...he's also trusting him on Ezekiel's actions, and I have to admit, that he came across as sincere and trust worthy, much like Cas first did. But Cas also eventually double-crossed Dean and let Sam out of the panic room... will Ezekiel do something similar? Will it be as innocent or more sinister?
We now know what the status of the angels are....so it looks like next episode is where we find out the status of hell and the various demons in the Winchester's lives.
VERY INTERESTING INDEED.
As usual, let me know what I missed or what you desperately want to talk about in the comments!
PS: Rewatch of S8 will probably start this week.