When last we saw America’s favorite demon-hunting brothers, the Winchesters (Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki) were suffering the results of their aborted trials when suddenly the sky started raining angels. Metatron robbed Castiel (Misha Collins) of his Grace and in doing so triggered a spell that sent the angels in heaven down to Earth. It was the fall en masse. This new season picks up pretty much directly after that. The demon trials, even incomplete, have left Sam in a coma and Dean is expectedly trying really hard to awaken his brother.
This episode (directed by John Showalter) certainly feels like a season premiere. It goes to great lengths to reintroduce the characters and reminds us of the exact nature of the important dynamics. Obviously Sam and Dean’s relationship is the object of much examination. Despite both actors giving it their all, and good work from Misha Collins this episode, and this plot especially feel pretty stale. It plays out like investigations of their relationship always seem to play out. Sam, as I mentioned before, is in mortal danger. We are treated to numerous sequences in his head where Dean plays the part of Sam’s soul (or whatever) that wants to fight and live. Bobby appears as the part that wants to die. Sam sides with Bobby because, as we all know, Sam does want to die, and he’s wanted to for a while. There is much handwringing and arguing, but eventually Sam and Bobby set off for the great beyond.
Real-life Dean does not take to this particularly well. He’s not entirely aware of what’s happening in Sam’s mind, but he does know all too much about the coma. In order to restore his brother’s basic human capabilities Dean sends out an open prayer on “Angel Radio” (this phrase gets used more than once; #reasonsIlovethisshow) he gets mixed responses. Many of the angels blame Castiel for their fall. It seems like they don’t know the whole story, but ignorant or not, they are upset with the man in the trench coat. When Dean’s message hits the angel airwaves, a whole mess of them follow the signal seeking information regarding heaven’s prodigal son.
Lucky for Dean the angel who gets there first (well there’s one other one, but he gets dispatched quickly following a slapfight between celestial beings) is Ezekiel (Tahmoh Penikett). Ezekiel doesn’t blame Castiel and works to help save Sam. I’m sure the offer of Dean’s future assistance played no small part in this choice, but it seems given how many angels want to ventilate Dean that Ezekiel is probably a good guy. Castiel gives him the seal of approval, for what that’s worth, during a phone conversation with Dean. I love Castiel, so if he says Ezekiel is good then dude is fine by me.
Speaking of Castiel, while all of this business is happening with the Winchesters there is still action in Castiel’s ancestral home: the B plot. Castiel is 100% human, and that takes some getting used to. He can’t fly or do magic. By the end of the episode, he can’t even wear his coat. It’s a pretty obvious metaphor for Cas’s shift in life path, but it feels earned as a contrast between angel Cas (well dressed with a creepy trench coat) and human Cas who wears a T-shirt, jeans and a hoodie. Times are tough in the angel business. Anyways, powerless Cas is trying to find his way when he runs into Hale (Grace Phipps) a very creepy young lady who turns out to be a very creepy young lady angel.
Casitel tells Hael all about how great being human is. You get to make choices! She tells him that she wants to see the Grand Canyon, which she made the last time she was on earth, so the two of them set off. At the same time, Ezekiel and Dean set about healing Sam when suddenly glass starts exploding everywhere. You know what that means: Angel Attack (great band name) Dean tells Ezekiel to heal Sam and sets off to fight the (former) host of Heaven. He is overwhelmed at first but eventually defeats the celestial beasts with an Angelic Destruction Rune (greater band name). Enemies dispatched, Dean returns to Sam’s room where he sees a fatigued Ezekiel and a still comatose Sam. Apparently getting kicked out of Heaven takes a pretty heavy toll, and Ezekiel is too weak to save Sam.
Inside Sam’s head, he and Bobby (or Sam’s sad brain, if you will) come to a house in the woods. This is where you go to get ready to die. Sam is about to walk into the luxury death cabin, when Dean (Sam’s defiant brain – not the lack of a happy brain because duh Sam only has two modes) stabs Sad Brain Bobby in the Back. Sam doesn’t take that well. The dude is ready to die. He banishes Defiant Brain Dean and continues walking to the cabin, where he meets our old friend Death.
After the Angels have been dealt with and the assault fended off, Dean gets a call from Castiel. Castiel explains his situation, but quickly dismisses Deans’s – super important and valid – concerns and insists on coming to help Sam. Winchester the Elder explains that it’s not such a good idea for Castiel to be there with most of the angels after him for having some role in their fall from Grace. Castiel typically refuses Dean’s advice and tells Hael that he will be leaving. Hael then knocks him unconscious with a wooden beam. When Castiel comes to in a minivan, he learns of Hael’s plan to merge her own essence with his vessel in order to fight against the other angels. She wants to protect him, but she is really crazy. Castiel does the only reasonable thing. He puts on his seatbelt, grabs the wheel, and crashes the car into a tree.
Dean is not doing a great job with Ezekiel’s recently dropped “I can’t save him” bomb. He insists there has to be a way. Of course, he does. It turns out there is. Of course, there is. It turns out it’s not necessarily ethical or pleasant. Of course, it isn’t. Ezekiel thinks he can save Sam if Dean will give the angel permission to possess his brother. Dean is resistant at first, but the urge to save his little bro is just too much. Using Ezekiel’s powers Dean actually intervenes in Sam’s coma dream. He asks his brother to live. Death says it’s Sam’s choice. Sam says bros before all, even the inevitable call of the grave. Dream Dean gives way to Ezekiel, then there is a bright flash of light and a fade to black.
In the episode’s waning moments, we see the man once possessed by Ezekiel lying in Sam’s hospital bed very confused. The doctor is also confused. Possessed Sam and Dean discuss the shady morality of this strategy and agree that it’s probably best to erase Sam’s memory of this stuff so that he won’t ask too many questions about how he got out of the hospital. Castiel kills Hael while she makes a bunch of threats in her broken young lady body. Afterwards, he goes to wash the blood of his clothes, but he spies a vending machine. Forced to choose between sustenance and a wash Castiel goes with water and a snack. This is how he ends up trench coat free and begins his development into a new character. Finally, Sam wakes up in the car. Dean tells him that he’s been asleep for a whole day, and that is that.
It wasn’t a bad way to start the season. It felt very much like an episode of Supernatural. There’s no doubt about that. I am excited for next week when they get back to Crowley and the business of Hell. It seems like there will be fertile ground there, what with all of the fallen angels. I am also curious to see if Castiel will be able to find any angelic allies. This episode was a little bit slow and felt extra slow with its lack of discernible threats. The angels were around, but they were dismissed for now pretty quickly. Hael was a nice taste of the dangers that await Castiel, but she too didn’t take much (classic car-crash + stab combo) to deal with. I’m sure once the season gets some direction it will improve. This show is always at its best when the Winchesters are both conscious with a clear opponent. We’ll get there soon, and this episode was an acceptable first step along that path.