This review contains spoilers.
10.3 Soul Survivor
Well, that didn’t last very long did it?
By the end of the episode, Dean is back to being human, Castiel’s got more grace courtesy of Crowley and it looks like we’ve got a new Big Bad on the horizon. After last week’s fairly action-packed instalment, Soul Survivor dials everything back for a more talkative approach that re-aligns everyone in their proper places following the first two episodes. The episode may get things back to normal a bit quicker than we all wanted (I shall miss sassy Deanmon if he is truly gone), but it’s another strong one and features some emotional moments for the brothers Winchester. However, everything’s still a little unsettled.
Crowley’s storyline is the most noticeable shift in the show’s usual pace, no doubt because Mark A. Sheppard is now a regular and therefore requires more screentime, but it also means that the show’s internal dynamics are on the move too. Heaven and Hell have always had their role to play here, but they’re fairly mutually exclusive unless there’s a major clash of interest on the cards. Given that Crowley has become an increasingly big part of the Winchester team and finds himself saving Castiel here, it’s the most linked the three worlds have been since the show began and I sense an alliance is perhaps in the offing moving forward.
The Crowley and Castiel pairing though is merely a sideshow to the main event that finds Sam and Dean back together once more. The Winchester conflicts always seem to come back to blood, whether it’s hammering home that they’re the only family they’ve got or using blood as some sort of cure or drug to get what they want. Here, it’s the Ritual of Sanctified Blood, designed by the Men of Letters to cure demons and bring them back to humanity. We’ve seen it work on Crowley, the effects of which are still being felt, and now we see how Dean reacts to it. Put simply, not well.
Clashes between the Winchester brothers are always emotional and this one was no different as Dean brought up seemingly every ounce of resentment against Sam in a bid to get his brother to let him go. It dredges up just about everything, including how Sam’s existence led to the death of their mother, Mary. Sam’s visit to Dean’s room affirms this as he finds various pictures of the Winchester family. This scene also happens to contain two of the best visual jokes so far in the season; it wouldn’t be Dean’s room without Busty Asian Beauties and leftover pie. Other than that brief giggle, it’s heavy stuff and both Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles are excellent in these scenes, using the brothers’ respective histories and similarities to produce one of the more emotional Winchester talks.
There’s also an underlying tragedy in Dean’s pleading to remain a demon. As Cas points out towards the end of the episode, Dean feels no pain in this form; he’s freed from the burdens that have weighed on him considerably more than anyone else. The show doesn’t make the links back to his drinking explicitly, but the suggestion is there. Dean’s addictions, first alcoholic, now demonic, exist precisely because he wants it all to go away, just as Sam was quite happy to die in the previous season and lose all of the anguish that went with living. The show has placed the brothers back on a parallel again and even though poor Lester got caught up in the crossfire, the narrative is elegantly done, drawing the two of them back together through their respective differences.
It’s a shame that the writers didn’t push the adversarial Winchester storyline further, because that’s where the sparks really flew in this episode and it would have shaken those dynamics up even more. There’s a sense that courage was required here to keep the brothers apart for just that little bit longer. Reactions to a demonic Dean have largely been positive and keeping him around longer would have not only made sense for the fans, but for the narrative too. Imagine how interesting it would have been to have Dean as the mystical whosit causing chaos across America, someone we’ve grown to love over the years. Alas, it seems it is not meant to be. That being said, it’s still impressive that they managed to make it this long before hitting the usual road.
Which brings us nicely to the final scene’s teaser at the end of the episode. It appears there’s a new player in town with a penchant for reading and nailing people to ceilings. As you do. With the callbacks to Mary Winchester and the similarities here to her demise (corpse on the ceiling, the blood drip), could we have someone like Yellow Eyes on our hands? It’s an interesting set-up, but if we’re back with the usual Supernatural order, it’ll be a couple of episodes at least before we find out.
Read Becky’s review of the previous episode, Reichenbach, here.
Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.