The episode title is interesting. As I understand, it received a last minute change. In fact when the episode finally went up on iTune, it's still listed as "Back to the Future II". Sometimes you gotta love those eleventh hour inspirations. Personally, I think the new title captured the essence of the story better.
The hour started with Dean's little naughty dream. The thing is we all know dreams hold deeper meanings. So what does this lusty sequence say besides showing the obvious that Dean is a red blooded womanizer? Here's what I see: a) Dean gets a more literal and visual awareness of the two opposing forces here, courting and seducing; b) subconsciously Dean accepts sin and virtue go hand in hand; and it takes both of them together to make a "pretty" picture -- isn't himself a prime example of this?! and c) in Dean's world, angel is as "perverse" as the devil -- a revelation that has become quite anvilicious by now.
I find it amusing that despite he's sitting in what appears to be a private stripper lounge, enjoying not one but two sluttishly clad dancers gyrating in front of him, Jensen managed to make his character come off naughty rather than sleazy. When Anna crashed the "party", Dean looked like a mischievous boy who was caught with his hands stuck in a cookie jar. The way his doe like eyes blinked reminded me of those cute characters from Japanese Anime cartoons I used to watch when I was a kid.
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Speaking of Anna, how has she changed here! The last time we saw her, she was still Dean's (if not Sam's) ally. Now she's all bent on killing John and Mary before either Winchester boy gets conceived. For awhile it confounded me why she went back to 1978 if all she wanted to do was to make sure Sam doesn't get born. Then it hit me she wanted Dean gone too! After all Dean is the one that broke the first seal and got the ball rolling so to speak. I gather her "Sam Winchester must die" speech was for Castiel's benefit only. She left Dean out because she knew Castiel won't let her harm Dean. Sneaky little angel she was. But she miscalculated. She didn't count on Sam earning Castiel's friendship also.
The scene where Anna dropped back in time was pretty cool. I didn't catch this until it was pointed out to me that she landed right on top of the Firebird of a 70s Pontiac Trans Am. The painted wings of the bird spread neatly behind her back. The show has found yet another symbolic way to give an angel its wings.
Dean's smart alec remarks and pop cultural reference throughout the episode were hilarious. The Glen Close one took me a while to figure out he was talking about her movie Fatal Attraction. But this exchange between Dean and Castiel cracked me up instantly:
So what? You are like the DeLorean without enough plutonium?
I don't understand that reference.
Bwahahah, that must be why they named it "Back to the Future II" in the first place. Oh Cas, you are the best foil against Dean's smart mouth!
I don't want to dwell too much on the scenes where all the Winchesters were at one place. I'm sure they have been discussed at great length, and the emotional impacts of these scenes were clear and precise. While none of them made me cry like the Dean/Mary scene from "In the Beginning" did, I truly adored the one where Sam told the oblivious John how he felt about him, and the one where Dean told Mary she should grab Sammy and run on the morning of Nov. 2nd, 1983.
I love it whenever the show reminds us how much like John Sam actually is. It felt gratifying to have Sam finally get to tell John, defending him even, that he now understood what John had to do when he and Dean were growing up. Ironically, the father and son's positions were reversed here with John essentially repeating younger!Sam's old complaints. It's sad that as Sam reached across time to connect with his Dad, John had no way of comprehending the love and understanding his son was giving him.
I'm an unabashed Dean!girl, so even when I'm moved by Sam's plight, oftentimes my heart trips over Dean's predicament more. In this case, it clenched hard when Dean told Mary to take Sam and run and never look back. "But what about you, Dean?" I wanted to ask. The thing is I don't think Dean spared himself a thought for even a second. His natural instinct was centered on saving Sammy and his mom, even at the expense of himself being abandoned. Once again, I see Dean's self sacrificing way was ingrained, unshakable.
Mary's revelation was entirely expected. What I didn't get was why everyone was so surprised. Did they travel back further than the 9 month prior to Dean's birth? Did Mary have an unusually long pregnancy with Dean, or something?
I was surprised at seeing a younger looking Uriel, who was certainly alive and kicking back then. Anna lied to him since it was her who killed him in the future, not the Winchesters. This is the first time an angel told a direct lie, isn't it? In the past, they may tell half truth and withheld information, but I don't believe they've outright said anything that was untrue. When Uriel and Anna snuck into the cabin, I couldn't help but wonder why the Winchesters didn't use those Enochian anti-angel symbols featured in "Death Takes a Holiday" to protect their lair. Guess their objective wasn't to keep Anna out, but to trap her and kill her instead. Too bad they didn't anticipate she got help of her own.
Gosh, Sam's death took my breath away. Even though intellectually I knew Sam would live to fight another day, hearing Dean's raspy cry of Sam's name shook me. And it didn't escape me that the last word on Sam's dying lips was a whispered "Dean"!
With this episode, I've also anticipated the entrance of Michael. As soon as I saw the spoiler awhile ago that they were traveling back to the year right before Dean was born, I suspected the story somehow would involve the last Archangel we've yet to meet. What I didn't know was the format in which he'd be introduced.
Since I learned Dean is the "Michael Sword", I've been speculating at the relationship between Dean and Michael. I thought their connection runs deeper than a vessel to its designated angel. Why? Because why refer to Dean as the "sword" if he's only a "sheath"? (Okay, mind out of the gutter!) Anyway, for awhile I thought Dean Winchester is Michael the same way as Anna Milton was the rebellious angel. However this episode eliminated that hypothesis. Nonetheless, having Michael appear in young!John's form was quite brilliant. The audience finally got the long awaited confrontation between Michael and Dean:
Looking at the still of the scene, I've noticed the curious lighting angle: the "celestial" beam that came through the little window hit Dean squarely in the face, awash him in light and creating an unconventional halo behind him; at the same time, leaving the actual archangel Michael's face completely in the dark. Is this symbolic or random, I wonder?
Michael's revelation that Sam and Dean are the direct descendants of Cain and Abel was like a flashlight that went off in my head. This exposition is inspired. It strengthens the claim that Sam and Dean are the destined "avatars" for Lucifer and Michael. After all, there were countless blood-brothers throughout times, why are Sam and Dean so special? Looking at the first brothers in history, I have this thought that maybe the Winchesters are direct descendants of Cain (on account that Cain is settled farmer), while the Campbells descended from Abel (on account that Abel is hunter-gatherer). Thus John and Mary's union resulted in bringing the fated brothers' offspring back into the same family.
Michael told Dean that a master plan is at work where there's a beginning and an end. In between, although millions of different choices can be made, they all work towards the same destiny in the end. Is he right here? I think it depends on how one defines the end, or the master plan. For instance, let's look at life itself. There is a master plan in which beginning is birth; and it ends in death. No matter what happens during the lifespan, death is inescapable (unless one's a Cylon of course -- sorry I couldn't resist). But Michael's claim of fate has a gigantic hole: who is he to say his plan, or his brother's plan are the master plan here?! It's quite arrogant of him to presume IMO. For all we know, the end he and Lucifer sought after perhaps is only one of those "inconsequential" choices Dean and Sam have to make along their journey of life.
I can't be too disappointed with Michael though because his arrogance I expected, and I guess he means well in his own way. Despite him being the betrayed one here, Michael freely admitted he still loves Lucifer. But Michael vowed he would not let his personal feeling interfere with his duty.
Because I'm a good son,he said, implying it was God's wish, therefore righteous, to kill Lucifer. To that Dean promptly replied
That's a dead end street,meaning blindly following order isn't going to get them anywhere off the beaten path. Despite Dean's vocal defiance, Michael wasn't worried because he believed the master plan would play itself out, thus echoing the same sentiment Lucifer gave Sam. The difference between Michael and his brothers is Michael cared about Dean. He promised he won't leave Dean a drooling mess once he's done with him, as Raphael did to his vessel, as Lucifer possibly would do to Sam. Michael telegraphed his care not only through promise, but in gesture as well. His gentle straightening of Dean's jacket was almost like something John would do to his son.
Another elegance of this episode is it wiped out a continuity glitch introduced since "In the Beginning". Because Michael erased all the memories of Mary and John's encounter with Dean and Sam, it stands to reason why Mary was seemingly unaware of the ill fate awaited her on the night of Nov. 2, 1983. Thus the song of Winchesters' life remains the same -- yeah, that's "Carry On My Wayward Son" you are hearing in the background. ;-)
Jokes aside, I think the title also has a clever pun. In my opinion, the "song" is also the "son", which could only refer to Dean, the one Mary was carrying when Anna went Terminator on them. The Team Freewill Dean scrambled together, consisting
one ex blood junkie, a dropout with 6 bucks to his name, and Mr. Comatoseis quite the evidence that even after Michael's ominous warning he can't fight the City Hall, Dean remains the rebel to the end.
Next we saw the very pregnant Mary benignly admonished the still in the womb Dean as quite a "trouble maker", thus bringing the story here into full circle where the son remained the same from beginning to end (or is that end to beginning). The last thing Mary said before the screen faded out was
Angels are watching over you.It made me wonder if Michael didn't put that thought in her head while wiping out other memories. Suddenly the once comforting words took on a dark sinister shade as the credits rolled over the screen.