This episode was all about collateral damage. Every war has its casualties, and the fight between good and evil is no exception. What makes the losses in this conflict especially poignant, though, is the number of innocents who fall. Sometimes they get caught in the crossfire. Sometimes they are chosen to die, for the sweet taste of their terror, and for the devastation their death leaves behind. Sometimes they're just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Those who fight on the side of darkness delight in torturing and taking the blameless. Those who fight the good fight, however, are haunted by the lives they couldn't save, and must hold remorse and guilt at bay even as they soldier on.
I think it hits Dean the hardest. Although in the beginning it was Sam who held back and hesitated while Dean charged ahead, even then Sam seemed better able to compartmentalize the human cost of what the boys do, to view the big picture intellectually, accept the reality of it all, and move on, mostly unburdened. Watch Sam when Henriksen hurls his accusations in that gas station restroom. Sam is sorry, undoubtedly, but he's not accepting any blame. He even shakes his head no right before Victor attacks. Sam doesn't dwell on the choices they have to make, and doesn't take the inevitable losses personally. The only life with the power to truly break him, I think, is Dean's. But Dean, who never hesitates to do what must be done, feels everything. He may not show it, and he may not talk about it, but you can see it in his eyes, and I think it never leaves him. And in this episode he was forced to face it head on.
With each of the ghosts from his past that Dean faces, you can see how they live on inside him, still mourned, and far from forgotten. With Meg, Ronald and Victor alike, Dean engages, anguished, and tries to connect, even though he is dealing with nothing more than twisted, angry specters, bitter shadows of their former human selves. And every charge they level against him hits him like a blow, and is added to the list of transgressions he carries with him at all times. If ever there were a man who could be set free by God's cleansing forgiveness, that man is Dean Winchester.
As for Bobby, no death will ever be as hard to bear as his first, that of his wife. Having already made that sacrifice, he knows well the rules of this game. While he undoubtedly has regrets about lives lost in battle, he will never be unduly burdened by them. Bobby rarely expounds on the many horrors we know he has seen. Far from verbose, he imparts his wisdom in the form of pithy enjoinders and moves on. Bobby is a pragmatist. Who else would construct a ghost proof panic room?
Let's take a moment to appreciate the panic room, shall we? First of all, kudos to whoever dreamed it up. It was an inspired choice, both as a set and a plot device. What an awesome idea, to have a safe haven where the boys could catch their breath, regroup, strategize, and even indulge in a little religious philosophy. And the design team outdid themselves with the details, from the pentagram exhaust fan and the salted, riveted, iron walls to the jugs of holy water and the vintage black and white poster of Bo Derek from the movie Ten. Very nicely done. Dean is right. Bobby is awesome. And how long before Dean brings a chick down there? :)
In the end, of course, Bobby and the boys find a way to vanquish evil, and we are treated to a final battle scene that is both relentless and rousing, full of endless salt rounds and hot boys in action. It was beautifully shot and edited, and a joy to watch. I was scared for a minute there that we were going to lose Bobby; thank you for not going there, Kripke.
This episode was a wonderful way to revisit some favorite characters, while continuing to explore the toll this life takes on the hunters about whom we care so much. Victor Henriksen and Ronald Resnick were both wonderful characters whose deaths devastated me, and it was great to see them again, even as evil incarnations. And Nicki Aycox just blew me away as Meg. What an amazing actress! I was astounded by the depth and range of emotion she portrayed, and she couldn't have been more different from the possessed Meg we met in S1. Color me impressed, show.
The ghosts we hadn't met before were probably the scariest of all. Does it surprise you that Kripke, the king of creepy little girls, decided to up the ante by doubling up on them? :) Those little actresses did a good job; the way they looked and the way they talked both freaked me out. The worst part, however, was when they had their little hands on Bobby, holding him down and covering his mouth. *shivers* Bobby looked terrified, and rightly so!
I didn't take much of what the ghosts said to heart. We all know our boys do the best they can, and that they are ever mindful of the greater good. They each have paid the ultimate price in this war, and they both have proved themselves willing to take any risk necessary to protect even strangers in danger. The world would definitely be worse off if they didn't fight at all. I certainly don't think they are at fault when they can't save someone; they dispatch evil and work hard to save whomever they can. That said, however, Meg had a point about Sam and Ruby.
Sam has always been a little more willing to blur the lines between the demon world and our own. He championed the reformed vampires. He had an intimate relationship, albeit a brief one, with a werewolf. He was willing to make Nancy a sacrificial virgin in Jus In Bello. And I still don't know what the hell he's doing with Ruby, exactly. His newly developed powers are mysterious, and awesome, and incredibly hot, but the fact that he's still withholding them from Dean worries me. A lot.
So let's talk about that final scene between Dean and Castiel. I thought those four minutes were more intense and more significant than the whole rest of the episode combined. I have to admit my own religious sensibilities were shocked by Dean's attitude and demeanor, and I am far from devout. He called an Angel of the Lord a dick! *feels faint* Dean, honey, you need to watch yourself. He was such a rage ball! I think his emotions were still raw from what he had just been through, and he was weary from trying to decide if Castiel was really what he said he was. He was reckless, and so Castiel quietly but clearly reminded him of what is at stake here, and exactly with whom he is dealing.
Misha Collins rocks my world. I love everything about his performance as Castiel, and I absolutely believe in the power and the fury of his warrior angel. Dean was clearly taken aback by what Castiel revealed to him. The name of Lucifer momentarily commanded respect, even from a cynic like Dean, but he still couldn't resist the temptation to bring the snark. But when Castiel leaned in close and let our boy feel just a hint of his true power, Dean's eyes went wide, and he couldn't meet his gaze. And when Castiel growled, "You should show me some respect. I dragged you out of hell; I can throw you back in," I got chills. Oh, baby, this story owns me.
Jared and Jensen are so good that it's hard to remember that they're acting. They are Sam and Dean. Jared shows us with every look and nuance of body language the balancing act that Sam is trying to pull off. He's consorting with Ruby, developing his psychic powers, sending demons back to hell, and believing with all his heart that this is his destiny and the best way to save the world, and yet he also can't bring himself to tell Dean all about it. Oh, Sammy, this is so not good. Sam says he's not afraid of angels, but should he be? And Jared shows us Sam's inner conflict in subtle little ways, ways that we can only see because we know, but that Dean and Bobby never notice.
And what can I say about Jensen? The man is an incredible actor. He shows us the depths of Dean's tortured soul in those beautiful, expressive eyes of his, and makes me ache with Dean's pain. I wish I could make Dean see what I see in him, and give him hope, and peace. I can't believe I respond to a fictional character on such an emotional level, and it's Jensen's performance that inspires that. I know in my heart that Dean will fulfill the role that God has chosen for him, and I can't wait to see how Jensen will reveal the hero Dean holds inside. More, please! :)
I also have to take a moment to mention the hotness. Big, sexy, powerful hotness from Sam. Beautiful, emo, masculine hotness from Dean, with a side of gunplay. And disturbing, forbidden hotness from Castiel. Lovely.
Random thoughts: Did the Ginormotron walking through the car yard make anyone else flash on The Iron Giant? :) Jared pronounced the word "library" correctly! \o/ How much do you love that grey v-neck tee that Sammy likes to sleep in? Yum. What was the deal with Sam on the couch and Dean on the floor? Are there no beds upstairs? And just for the record, I'm taking all the mythology and religion presented here at face value. My job is time consuming enough; I don't do homework for my shows.
It seems that some people are finding this new season of Supernatural controversial, and even off-putting. Not me! So far I'm loving this show more than ever, and I can't wait for the next episode. There are so many different ways the show could go with this story, and every one I can imagine intrigues me. Some of them scare me, too, but I'll just have to watch and hope. Please don't hurt me, Kripke.