One thing I did like about this episode was the Mary+Cas team-up. Like, seriously, I would have loved to see more of that.
And I like the actor who plays the secret service guy person... you know, the ethnically ambiguous guy. He's cute.
Okay, that all being said, there's a LOT that is wrong with this episode, and most of this rewatch is going to be coming up with rewrites - I've actually been thinking of this one a LOT this past week, and probably a lot since last year, if I were going to add it all up. And I've come up with some options - so we'll get into those.
So, let's first get our set-up... no matter how the previous episode gets rewritten, this episode opens with Sam and Dean placed into solitary.
Now, to give credit where credit is due, solitary IS a torture that people treat way more lightly than they should. It's probably treated that way because no physical harm comes to a person, and no verbal abuse happens either. BUT, studies show that it's actually REALLY cruel. Humans are, no matter how misanthropic, a social animal, and depriving them of that is extremely damaging to their psyche and well-being. There are certainly enough cases of real-world abuses of solitary confinement that prove this (Canada has a really bad history of leaving people in solitary for too long, and there's been a couple of high profile news items about it in recent years...so yeah, basically, I've read a little about it recently, and it is a torture that our current systems can get away with. So, this episode is pretty accurate, I feel, with it's use.)
Anyway, that's our set-up - Sam and Dean are separated and each placed into solitary confinement.
Now, let's take a break to talk about the BMoL storyline, in which we see Mick trying to recruit hunters. The first, we see, turn him down because he has soft hands and has clearly never hunted a day in his life. Also, American Hunters refuse to take orders from anyone. I love that, and that's what I wanted going forward too - the fact that they AREN'T hunters to be what undoes them. The fact that they have NO IDEA what life is like for American hunters, what calls need to be made, how American Hunters DO consider nuance and morally grey areas before they act - how it's important to them to follow their individual morals/decisions rather than strict rules by a distant leadership (I mean, doesn't that sound familiar with the whole American mythos right there?)
Mary: "If they needed help, why didn't they call me?"
Cas: "You were out."
- I think when I first watched this scene, I misinterpreted that line as a reprimand for Mary NOT BEING HOME. But I realize now that what Cas means is that Mary was out of Hunting. The boys weren't calling her because she had 'abandoned' them, they weren't calling her in order to respect her retirement.
And then we see Dean unscrew a loose screw. AND THIS IS WHERE WE DIVERGE IN THE REWRITE.
Crowley: "Do you know how many all powerful beings have tried to kill them?"
Cas: "Roughly, yes."
Crowley: "...they're like herpes. Just when you think they're gone, HELLO! The boys are back - leaving a trial of bodies in their wake. So, whoever has Sam and Dean, well in the immortal words of Lawrence Tyrone, 'I pity the fool!'"
- I take it back THIS IS WHERE WE DIVERGE IN THE REWRITE, because Crowley is SPOT ON.
And Mary starts doing hunts, because Dean's cell rings, and Alicia needs help.
We also learn that Cas tried to work a vampire case, but failed. And that he considers that if Sam and Dean were around, those people would have been saved. And I like that idea, that Sam and Dean have a function that you NOTICE when it's missing. Though, you know, it's kind of too big a burden, but still.
Problem #1- Maybe the writers saw Dean summoning Death and making a deal as the Winchester equivalent of being a badass, but I didn't.
Problem #2 - The fact that SOLITARY breaks them, after both of them have 40+ years of torture-victim experience? I mean, Sam even OPENS this season telling Toni that there was nothing she could do to him that could compare to what he's already been through. That should STILL HOLD TRUE. I mean, geez, someone go back in time and tell Alistair that all he had to do was leave Dean alone for two hell-months, and he could have broken the first seal in the first week of having Dean in Hell.
Rewrite Option #1: There is no deal with Billy. We see the badass Dean and Sam that we know figure out how to jail break that sucker. We saw Sam take out a gunman using a bracket before (Benders), Dean having a WHOLE SCREW should be enough. I mean, case-and-point, they just have to have a SEMBLANCE of death at 'chow-time' in order for the guard to open their cell door to check on them. So, slice open (shallow) a wrist on a screw, make it look like both - that gets you the door open, AND you still have the screw, that easily gets you hand-to-hand combat and possibly a weapon. Yeah, it might also bring the facility down on you, but you know tactics and strategy and we see later in the episode that given a defensible position, Sam and Dean can fight their way out of a situation.
Rewrite ANY OPTION: Cas can't find them because they have tattooed ribs, this is canon. HOWEVER, there is no reason for Dean (or Sam) not to have been praying this whole time. There is no reason for Cas to not have heard ANYTHING. What we should be getting with the Castiel and Mary scenes is Castiel saying 'They say they're alright, but they're being kept in solitary confinement and they don't know where they are.' And if they ARE struggling with solitary, we should see that reflected in Castiel's reports - maybe a wish that praying could go both ways, because he knows they just need someone to talk to, etc.
Listen, if I had a one-way anytime telephone to my BFF, I'd be using it, ESPECIALLY if I were in solitary confinement.
Rewrite Option #2: It's MARY who makes the deal with Billy. This makes INFINITELY more sense. We already know that Mary feels wrong about being back. We already know that she would do anything for her boys. So have her summon Billy and offer to go with her, as long as Mary has enough time to see them safe. Billy then shows up and informs Sam and Dean. They still have something to make vague references to while running away - something that they need to talk about - but that something is 'Are we really letting mom sacrifice herself for us, or do we have a plan to avoid it?' or even 'There has to be a catch that we don't know about', if Billy just came in and helped them seemingly of her own free will. Mary making the deal with Billy makes a lot of sense in terms of character too, because we know that part of the reason that Dean was so willing to sacrifice his life and eternal soul for Sam, was because he already felt like he didn't deserve to be alive and at least this way his life could mean something - Mary might logic things the same way. If she was brought back, then obviously she was brought back in order to help her boys, and this is a way she could do that.
We still need the BMoL in order to find out where exactly the boys are and assist in the rescue, and so that part of the story can stay the same.
Depressing Sidenote: Can I just say that the image of Castiel sitting all alone in a darkened bunker without Sam and Dean is pretty heartbreaking - because, I mean, as an immortal (unless attacked) being, eventually that's going to be his life.
Speaking of the BMoL - we get a nice little parallel to it with the two anti-terrorism dudes... with the old guy huffing as they run through the woods, and the younger guy being like "been a while since you were in the field, hasn't it?" all smirky... but in this case, the BMoL could very well be like the old guy, supposedly the expert, but can't make it when it comes to having his boots on the ground.
Cas: "They helped up with Lucifer."
Mick: "Lucifer?! THE Lucifer?"
Mick: "So, wait, you're telling me that what happened in Indianapolis - you took on the bleeding devil himself?"
Ketch: "Did you win?"
*Mick and Ketch share a look*
- THIS is what I wanted. I wanted it to be apparent that BMoL had NO IDEA the LEVEL that Sam and Dean work at. I wanted them to be caught completely unaware by the stakes, by the reality of it all. I never felt like I got a payoff for that at all though. Even though I should have. People who don't even have to deal with monsters (Mick) or people who ONLY deal with lone-monsters (Ketch), would have ABSOLUTELY no idea how to go about dealing with apocalyptic hell-plots and rogue archangels.
Mick: "And if word were to get out that we did our part to save Sam and Dean Winchester - well, that's just good business, innit?"
- See, you could still have this episode give the BMoL a burst in terms of them expanding their network - AND have it be an exploration of how little they know about the Winchesters. Have us see the Winchesters from outsider POVs a little. Maybe talking about the Winchesters with other hunters, seeing how they're held in esteem or not. This would also tie in nicely with Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox, where we got to see a little of the stories that hunters tell each other... this one, we could explore what they say to curious but untrustworthy strangers... which would also fit into my REWRITE where part of the BMoL mission in America is to determine whether Sam and Dean are good or evil (which is the rewrite that explains why Toni started off with torture and then Mick came in with honey... that it's a fight between Toni, who believes they're evil, and Mick, who believes they're good.)
Dean: "We're not trapped out here with you. You're trapped out here with us."
- I mean, it's a Watchman line. Everytime I hear it, all I think about is that they're ripping off the Watchman... but it's a GOOD Watchman line. There's a REASON everyone rips it off.
Guy: "Who are you?"
Sam: "We're the guys who saved the world."
- I know some people thing that line is pretty cheesy, but I kinda love it. Again, I'd love it even more if this episode had been an exploration of how other people see Sam and Dean. It'd be a great culmination of that, if we had seen Mick asking about the the Winchesters, along with Cas' story about people dying because they weren't around, etc.
SASSY HUGS! Also Destiel hugs and mom hugs - but y'all know that I love me some (platonic) Sassy.
Ketch: "You left survivors."
Dean: "They were soldiers, just doing what they were told."
Ketch: "Still, a bit unprofessional."
Sam: "We'll handle it. Let's get."
- Again, Ketch's comment makes more sense if we do a rewrite and therefore know the BMoL are weighing Sam and Dean's actions to determine whether they're good or evil or bad or good in terms of BMoL standards (and BMoL standards are what matters - because we know that not killing innocent soldiers is GOOD, but BMoL are quite obviously assholes and we know this well at this point.)
Dean: "So wait, you're hunting?"
Mary: "A little bit."
Sam: "I knew you couldn't stay away."
- I love Sam's smile there. It seems a LITTLE incongruous, since Sam is always SUPER understanding of people who want to stay away. But then he also believes, perhaps out of desperation, that Mary secretly never really left hunting, and doesn't really want to. I think it helps him cope with the fear that Mary might be disappointed in their life choices.
Dean: "I've been to hell, this was worse."
- Ugh, no it's not. This is dumb.
The only thing not dumb about this scene is that Castiel stabs Billy in order to save them, because that makes a LOT of scene for Castiel character. HOWEVER, you can't fucking kill reapers, I don't care how many times they've done it since S8. It doesn't make any sense. FURTHERMORE, you can't kill Death either. So, Billy is either faking it, or 'killing' them just slows them down for a little while.
Cas: "...this sad doomed little world, it needs you. It needs every last Winchester it can get, and I won't let you die - I won't let any of you die. And I won't let you sacrifice yourselves, you mean TOO MUCH TO ME, to everything. Yeah, you made a deal. You made a stupid deal and I broke it. You're welcome."
- YEAH, you tell 'em Cas. One nice thing about this season is that Castiel suddenly gets REALLY honest about how much he loves the Winchesters. Like, desperately and frighteningly (to him) loves them. Not that he didn't love them before, but it's like every season, he just gets more and more consumed by it, and at this point he's like 'I am LOSING MY MIND WITH MY LOVE FOR YOU.' And I'm into it.
The other stupid thing about this scene is Billy's speech about how breaking the deal will have cosmic consequences - because IT DOESN'T. Like, if you're going to say something like that YOU HAVE TO FOLLOW THROUGH. Since they never follow through, it's just a stupid speech that is meaningless. So, final rewrite on this storyline is to amend Billy's speech. If a deal was made, it was Mary who made it, not the boys, and Castiel can still save her, but without any warnings about cosmic consequences first.
Ketch DOES save them from being tailed and put back on the most-wanted list, but he does so by killing a lot of innocent people and that's horrible.
And Mary signs up with the BMoL - which again, makes sense if her motivation is to SAVE HER CHILDREN FROM HUNTING, which has been her motivation since 1972.
And there you have it. Personally, my preference for rewrite option would probably be Option #1, and then with the time we have left over by not having Billy in the episode, we use to explore outsider POVs on the Winchesters. BUT, Option #2 has it look closest to how it looks now, so that's also good if you want to keep Castiel's awesome 'I love you' speech.
As usual, let me know what you thought in comments. And in case I didn't make it clear at the offset of this rewatch, the positive/negative rule is KINDA suspended for these posts. I mean, don't go crazy, but you can also just be critical if you want, you don't need to also be complimentary.
This entry was originally posted at https://hells-half-acre.dreamwidth.org/548909.html.