Supernatural 8.17 Review: Family Don’t End with Blood

Goodbye Stranger

Hello my Supernatural Junkies! It has been absolutely FOREVER since our last cyber meeting, but we’re back! Supernatural came back from spring break with one of the best episodes of the season, and that’s saying something since I’ve really enjoyed S8. I was looking for the right words to describe my feelings about this episode, but honestly, I have no words. When Supernatural is firing on all cylinders (as it most certainly was in this installment) it tends to leave me rather speechless. There was so much going on and so many emotions, I had to watch the episode about 3 times before I could nail down what I wanted to say about it. So let’s not waste any more time.

I have to start off by saying that however much they’re paying Robbie Thompson isn’t enough. He has solidified himself as one of my favorite Supernatural writers second only to Ben Edlund. Much like Edlund, Thompson is able to capture the drama, action, and dark humor that is unique to Supernatural. He not only understands each of the characters individually, he understands the Supernatural universe as a whole. Watching his episodes, you wouldn’t know that he just came on board in S7 because he has such a firm grasp of Supernatural’s past. There were a number of shoutouts to earlier seasons in ‘Goodbye Stranger,’ and they fit seamlessly into the current story. Recalling those past moments allowed us to really see the growth of these characters over the past 8 and half years. Seriously, give this man a raise.

I can’t say that I’m a hardcore Castiel fan, but I have enjoyed watching his evolution over the course of the last several seasons. I’ve also always loved the dynamic he brings to the show whenever he’s on it. However, it has seemed that the writers have struggled to find a place for Cas over the last couple of seasons and I can understand their pain. Cas is one of the most powerful beings we’ve ever dealt with, and it’s difficult to figure out how to keep him in the story while not completely removing urgency from the Boys story. Well, it looks like they’ve finally found a place for Cas. It looks like he may not necessarily be interacting with the Boys all that much (at least for the moment) but since Cas is such an interesting character all on his own, I don’t think that’ll be a problem.

Watching Cas’s journey in this episode, I had a really wild thought. It seemed like Naomi was somehow able to separate Cas’s mind from his body. I know. It doesn’t make much sense, but watching the scene where Cas was beating Dean it seemed to me that his mind was in heaven fighting with her while his vessel was still on Earth. Naomi even at one point told Cas to let his vessel do what he knew deep down was the right thing to do. I don’t know. It just seemed a little weird. I also found it a bit weird that Naomi’s office seemed to change colors as Cas was breaking free from her grip. I don’t know if that necessarily has anything to do with Naomi’s hold over him, but it was kind of interesting to me.

Speaking of Cas beating Dean, that scene ranks right at the top of ‘painful Supernatural scenes that I’ll never forget.’ Let me say first of all, it should be a felony to destroy the national treasure that is Jensen Ackles’ face. That being said, I always figured that Dean would be the key to Cas breaking Naomi’s hold over him. I just didn’t know it would happen in such a painful and brutal way. The cold open of the episode was jarring, but Naomi made a fatal mistake in trying to re-train Cas to kill Dean. None of those Deans was really Dean. Sure, the Fake!Dean was pleading for his life, but she had no way of knowing that Dean’s love is what would get through to Cas. She doesn’t understand family and she doesn’t understand love. Especially not the kind of love for family that the Winchesters (Dean in particular) display. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Dean allow himself to get beaten to a pulp by someone he loves in an effort to reach them. He was able to get through to John at the end of S1 and Sam at the end of S5 the same way. Dean has always put his family above everything, and ultimately that’s a bond that can never be broken and that’s what Dean was appealing to. Naomi made a mistake in forcing Cas to choose between heaven and the Winchesters. Cas learned about love, loyalty, and family from them. He understands that in a way that Naomi never will and Dean’s pleas reminded him of that and gave him the strength to break free. That scene in the crypt was extremely nuanced and probably the most powerful scene of the entire episode. Cas looked genuinely horrified when he realized that he’d nearly beat his best friend to death. That was like a knife to my heart. Dean just twisted the knife when he leaned back from Cas in fear, not realizing he no longer had reason to be afraid, as Cas raised his hand to heal him. Excellent work by Ackles and Collins. Just excellent.

I can’t say I was surprised that we lost Meg. About halfway through the episode I started getting the feeling she wasn’t going to survive this time. By the time she got to that (rather amusing) conversation with Sam, I knew she was a goner because she basically said she was tired. She was tired of running. She was tired of fighting. She was tired of the blurred lines and complexity of the current landscape. She was just ready to be done with all of it. The reason she understood Sam’s desire for normal (aside from the fact that she’s been in his noggin before) is that she was right there with him. Granted, her normal involves being evil and killing people, but she wanted things to go back to the way they were. She seemed to realize that she was never really going to be able to carve out a place for herself in the new regime, so she decided to take a stand. I think that’s probably why she didn’t even flinch when Crowley told her the Boys were trying to close the gates of Hell. I felt like she told Sam to run not so much because she was trying to die heroically, but she just wanted to go out fighting. I don’t know how I feel about losing Meg though. She was certainly an interesting, layered character who added a great deal to the Supernatural universe. But I don’t really know that she necessarily fit into the story anymore. There was obviously a sense of nostalgia for her because she’s been causing trouble for the Boys since S1, but I think at the end of the day I’m glad her story is done.

Sam and Dean seem to be on much more solid footing now than they’ve been in a while. Sam has been trying to pretend that he’s fine, but Dean isn’t an idiot. He’s known the whole time that Sam isn’t ok. Sam didn’t seem to be trying to hide his worsening condition out of any sort of malicious intent though. He wanted, no, NEEDED to believe that he was ok and he kept telling Dean that he was fine because he was trying to convince himself of that. I didn’t really expect Dean (and we) would confront Sam’s health so bluntly, but it really needed to happen. It puts both Sam and Dean at risk for Sam to be so off his game. It’ll be interesting to see how they move forward with Sam being unable to consistently, effectively defend himself. I’m also really concerned because of what Cas said about Sam being broken in ways that even he can’t heal. That’s extremely ominous. I really loved the way Dean handled Sam’s denials about his condition. Dean didn’t get angry. He was just honest with Sam, and Sam chose to be honest with Dean in return. That shows growth on both Dean and Sam’s part. Let’s just hope it lasts because Supernatural works best when the Winchesters are on the same page.

All of the pieces came together to form what I think is one of Supernatural’s best hours of the series, and that is saying something considering how high some of Supernatural’s episodes have soared. And I don’t know if it was just me, but I felt like Naomi and Crowley had more than just a passing, antagonistic past. It seemed like either they had worked together before or they were involved in some other twisted, intimate relationship. Maybe it’s just the way Crowley relates to people, but it just seems like there’s more to their relationship.

Well, those are the thoughts I was able to cobble together about this episode. Until next time; peace, love, and joy to all.

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