This review contains spoilers.
11.10 The Devil In The Details
‘The Road So Far’ is always the best way to kick off a return to Supernatural, not only bringing us up to speed with important events, but also giving us a kickass soundtrack. The episode kicks off with Sam stuck in the Cage with Lucifer, joyfully taking the younger Winchester through a tour of memories in order to make his point. Dean, meanwhile, is recovering from the attempt to kill Amara by the angels when he finds out what has happened to his brother. Castiel tries to ascertain whether Amara survived and Crowley and Rowena (revealed to have been working with Lucifer… obviously) enter a begrudging alliance in the hope that Lucifer will know what to do in order to defeat the Darkness, having done so once before.
The Devil In The Details manages to function as a deconstruction of the Supernatural formula whilst also adhering to it to a certain extent. Old dogs and old tricks are the order of the day. There’s a desperate situation that can seemingly only be dealt with by one of the brothers trading their safety for that of the world. One of the sidekicks is in trouble and might be compromising the Winchesters without realising. Lucifer’s ‘This Is Your Life’ for Sam tours through the various times that either Sam or Dean have sacrificed themselves to save the other, going as far as they possibly could for each other time and again.
Like the brothers, Castiel’s role as a sidekick within the show is analysed, off on a mission separate from the boys again, whilst they face their own battles. I love that the final fight brings them all together against Lucifer, using the choreography to highlight the bond between the three men. The show doesn’t always use its action in such a way, often more for entertainment than character development purposes, so it’s a welcome departure here. Even Crowley gets a look in. As Sam says, they have to work together to defeat the Darkness. Defeating Lucifer here is just a warm-up.
The use of traditional Supernatural tropes doesn’t end there, though the next one is a little more worthy of an eye roll than praise. The nasty fate of Rowena is so thunderingly typical of a show that dispenses of its female characters with alarming regularity. It was bound to happen eventually, however. One does not simply annoy the Winchesters without some kind of retribution. I know she wasn’t the most popular new character in the fandom, but I really liked Rowena. Ruth Connell provided a spiky presence that complemented the show’s humour well, alongside sparking nicely with Mark Sheppard. Then again, we all know death isn’t exactly a permanent thing in this series.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. Even at its darkest, Supernatural finds a way for its trademark dry humour. There’s a tonne of little comedic moments throughout the episode that demonstrate a show brimming with confidence and affection for its audience. There’s even a nod to new show Lucifer in there and heaven must be missing an angel indeed. Both Mark Pellegrino and now Mischa Collins cut loose brilliantly as Lucifer. The voicemail messages (“Sam can’t talk right now because he’s waxing”), Cas wanting to take Dean’s temperature with his finger and then Rowena’s recurring dream as a classic kind of surreal, slightly meta scene we’ve come to expect from the show. Crowley in pyjamas gleefully wielding a Funko Sam? I applaud them all for that one.
Also, kudos for getting back the best little Winchester they ever had in Colin Ford, who just happens to have conveniently grown up into a Dean-from-Gilmore Girls lookalike for the now teenage Young Sam. The episode has one foot in the Winchester history (“Hey! Assbut!”) and looking ahead to the brothers’ future in their battle against the Darkness. As such, with the return of Ford, poor Adam and the direct nods to the past, it feels designed specifically for the devoted audience that has followed the boys’ story right from the early days through to now. It gives the eleventh season a vigour that is unexpected given how far down that road we are and yet born entirely out of ongoing dilemmas I’ve pointed out many times right here.
Then there’s the return of Billie, the reaper determined to ensure that the Winchesters stay dead next time, hinting that it might be both Winchesters up for the chop this time. Whilst I don’t think for a second that this show would ever do that (the fandom would revolt for one), dare I hope that the writers are finally getting ready to blow apart their tried and tested formula? The knowing nods in the episode certainly point to it and hell, they just made Castiel the Devil. What a twist. For the first time in a while, the show is feeling a little unpredictable. It’s an odd feeling, isn’t it? I’m relishing it.