This review contains spoilers.
9.2 Devil May Care
Watching a TV show is a bit like having faith: you have to believe that the writers will do right by the characters you love, and that after all these years, the show you fell in love with will live up to its potential. Personally, I’ve always taken after Dean Winchester in my inability to believe; the present season of Supernatural, however, continues to exceed my expectations, reminding me yet again that this is the show I fell in love with.
The second episode of the season continues to explore the aftermath of Sacrifice, this time dealing with the demonic side of the Winchesters’ new problem in the same way that the first one dealt with the angelic side of things. It’s a separation of Heaven and Hell that allows the writing to delve in depth into the experiences of each of the major players this season. This means that there’s little by way of plot: there isn’t really a monster to hunt or a mystery to solve. Instead, the episode recalls the themes that made Supernatural such a powerful story while infusing its characters with both pathos and development. Oh, and fulfilling the technical function of setting up more of this season’s antagonists and myth-arcs in between.
After all these seasons, it’s heartening to know that Supernatural is still about family, love, about human connections (in a totally not sappy way). After all, those are reasons the Winchesters managed to defeat Lucifer in the first place. However, as Bobby Singer said, “family don’t end with blood,” and it’s a sentiment this episode continues to echo. In addition to the Winchesters, that family includes Kevin Tran – to whom Dean made a heartfelt speech that I, for one, was not expecting – as well as Castiel, who, despite his absence this episode, is constantly mentioned. It’s reassuring to know that he’s in the Winchesters’ memories as well as that of viewers. But above all, it’s heartening that the age-old codependency (and isn’t this a word that gets thrown a lot in this fandom) we saw in the last episode seems to be replaced by the inclusion of meaningful relationships with a variety of characters. It’s not just Sam and Dean, though the two are in a good place, working together as partners (for now, anyway).
These themes also give depth to the characters, reminding us yet again that we’re not tuning in for the pretty faces (though, if I might say so, Jensen Ackles looked particularly stunning in this episode). Dean in particular appears as a multi-faceted character, with layers of emotions to correspond with the wide variety of experiences the episode throws at him: he’s struggling with the burden of trusting Ezekiel, worrying about Cas, playing the role of reassuring older brother to not only Sam, but also Kevin and Tracy, spouting words of wisdom left and right, and wondering whether he’s made the right choices about family (according to Ezekiel, he has, and it really is about time someone said something nice to him about that). He is so much more than just snide remarks and clever one-liners, and is it me or is it reassuring that he’s grown up enough not to feel the need to flirt with every hot girl he meets? (His interaction with Tracy Bell was that of an older brother, and what a breath of fresh air that was).
Sam is almost equally deep and complex throughout the episode; like Dean, he confronts a variety of worries and concerns that add layers to his personality. Like Dean, he’s worried about Castiel and questioning his decision about the trials. Yet at the same time, he admits to being happy, a rare occurrence in the Winchesters’ lives and long overdue – leaving us hopeful that he’s in a better place than the almost-suicidal one he’s been in recently. He’s also confronted with guilt and responsibility for the deaths he’s caused, in the form of Tracy Bell – another layer, another long overdue scene. It’s a necessary reminder that our heroes aren’t perfect.
In fact, calling the Winchesters out on their actions seems to be a theme throughout the episode: in addition to Tracy, Crowley also makes some undeniable points about their tendencies. It’s an almost meta-fictional approach, questioning the characters we take to be our heroes. Additionally, these accusations also form an interesting contrast with Ezekiel’s assertions that the Winchesters’ choices are the right ones. It makes Ezekiel, despite his short appearances, more and more intriguing, raising the question of how an angel seems to have such a human understanding of human nature. I’m just crossing my fingers very tightly that he doesn’t turn out to be evil.
The real stars of this episode, though, are Kevin and Crowley. Kevin’s had quite the journey since he met the Winchesters (then again, meeting the Winchesters tends to do that to you. Your life will never be the same again. You might regret it. No, I’m totally not talking about being a fan). He’s becoming part of a dark, deadly world, and it’s clearly changing him. In fact, he seems to be following a path similar to the Winchesters: a path that’s leading to revenge and a very unhealthy mental state. He’s already tortured Crowley as revenge for his mother, and revenge for himself: a scene reminiscent of On the Head of a Pin, where it was Dean and Alastair who reversed the roles of torturer and tortured. The question remains: how much will he let Crowley and the demons get to him? Will he also walk the same path, feeling that he’s completely alone in the world, or will Sam and Dean truly be the family they claim they are? In the process, I’m getting to really appreciate the acting talents of Osric Chau, which I had previously only remarked upon in passing. I have to say, the kid can act.
As for Crowley, he’s his usual self of clever retorts and sex jokes that I’m not even going to begin commenting on. More importantly, though, he’s serving the very vital role of acting as a foil for both the Winchesters and Kevin, fulfilling his usual demonic role of tempting with uncomfortable truths. He’s also, apparently, one kinky bastard, which really brings some new perspective to the dungeons and chains we saw in Hell. The things you learn about someone from chaining them up in your dungeon.
Crowley has competition though, and at the moment, it’s difficult to decide whether I’m rooting for the King or Queen of Hell. Crowley’s sassy, snide, manipulating cleverness is matched against Abbaddon’s fiery, prideful deadliness, in a performance by Alaina Huffman that would put all the other actors on this show to shame if they weren’t all so excellent as well. “The King is dead, long live the Queen,” she says, setting up an interesting dichotomy between a demon who conquers Hell and one who tricks his way to the throne. It’s yet another interesting allusion to previous seasons, with the loyalty of demons to the royal Lucifer juxtaposed with their fear of their businessman ruler.
With its harkening back to the themes of earlier seasons, its set-up of another epic story arc involving the armies of Heaven and Hell, and a wide cast of characters that serve as allies for the Winchesters, it seems like Supernatural is well on its way to becoming truly epic again – without neglecting the human element.
Read Anastasia’s review of the previous episode, I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here, here.
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