Anyway I thought to get my thoughts on the last episode out before the finale tomorrow, so here they are:
For the love of God, Dean is oh-so beautiful in this episode. Even the camera thought so and lovingly hovered on his face several seconds longer at the end before all faded to black. Don't think so? Just take a look at this:
With that out of the way, you may want to skip the rest of this lengthy post if you truly enjoyed and excited about the episode. Because aside from the pretty, this episode left me -- a self appointed Dean!girl -- disappointed and frustrated.
To start with, I'm disappointed with Pestilence. He was every bit of a clichéd bad guy who also happened to be gross. However there was a couple of seconds of a scene during the confrontation where a struggling Sam went to help a languished Dean that I loved dearly. These brotherly moments, albeit fleeting, never fail to hook me. As to the ailing boys themselves (hello hurt/comfort), I confess a sick!Dean always hits that tender spot in my heart. On the other hand, despite many others' adoration of limp!Sam, the 6'4" of pure muscle crumpled on the floor just doesn't do a thing for me. In contrast, I was more pumped and enjoyed seeing the gun toting Sam in action to stop the spread of Croatoan virus. I should note in that sequence, Castiel kicked ass at the end. However I hope his lack of angel juice is only a temporary thing. As interesting an idea as human!Castiel is, I much prefer him the way he was.
The demon Crowly is intriguing. I love the interaction he had with the boys, especially Dean. The unique chemistry between Mark Sheppard and Jensen Ackles was palpable here. I really hope he would have more appearances on the show. In many ways, Crowly reminds me of another deceased character I liked very much. In fact, I'll go as far as saying he's the male version of Bela whom I wished could have been more but never quite got there. With that being said, the reason he gave everyone why he wanted to make a deal for Bobby's soul just doesn't add up. Unless he's lying through his teeth and others were too preoccupied to take him up on it, I should think owning Bobby's soul, even temporarily, would guarantee a bullet from the Colt quicker than preventing it. Seriously, Crowly supposedly is a demon on his own, an outcast of his kind, thus his contract with Bobby can't be transferred to another demon should he die. By logic, the easiest way to ensure Bobby's soul remain intact is to dispatch the "King of Crossroads", as Crowly likes to call himself.
It could be all of Crowly's wheeling and dealing here are to deliver Dean to Death without raising any suspicion. Wouldn't that be a cool twist? But I'm afraid it's too late in the Apocalypse storyline for such an elaborate trick (I'd love to be proven wrong though). Speaking of the last horseman, I think Death was as much of an intrigue as Pestilence was a letdown. From the slow-mo intro of him on the streets of Chicago, to the quiet setting of an iconic pizzeria in the Windy City, the scenes with Death brought the best moments of the episode for me. Julian Richings and Jensen Ackles traded some awesome nuanced acting here to make the understated confrontation crackle with tension. Their dialog here was the smartest of the entire episode too. The idea of Death as old as God peaked my interest, and that Death reaps God too sent my head reeling along with Dean's. But of course! Where there is creation/life, there is destruction/death. For a storyline that's set in the world of supernatural and contains loads of characters found in religious text books, I really like it when the writers stir in as much naturalistic flavor as they can. The only thing gave me a moment of pause here is when Death told Dean Sam is the only one who can stop Lucifer. Wait a minute, what about Dean being the only one to do that? Was that all a lie and smoke screen then? I don't like it. Maybe Death is tricking Dean here, which ties in with the elaborate twist theory I mentioned above, but I kinda doubt it. My gut feeling is Death was being straight with Dean here, while Dean was not the least with him. I love the idea Dean would try to cheat Death. It's very consistent with his character. However the severity of the repercussion here is diminished by the fact Dean has "cheated" death many times. Should Death come to claim him because he doesn't hold his end of the bargain, I expect Dean would be brought back to life soon thereafter.
Now that the penultimate episode of the entire mytharc is reached, let me get things straight in my head and sum up my understanding of our heroes' goals and pitfalls. What the Team Free Will needs to achieve is plainly obvious -- to stop the Apocalypse. But meanwhile, in their quest, these are what the team figured cannot let happen:
- Michael battle Lucifer. Because if that happens half of the planet goes kaboom!
- Dean saying "yes" to Michael. Because if that happens Dean would die, and Michael would confront Lucifer which is something should be avoided by all means (see above).
- Sam saying "yes" to Lucifer. Because...well...that's what the Devil planned all along -- to ride his true vessel so that he can achieve his maximum power and destroy the whole planet. Also, like Dean, Sam would die from the ordeal.
Kapish? Except the writers did a piss poor job of convincing me the validity of the first two items from the list. Here are the holes I see in our intrepid heroes' reasoning:
- Really? Half of the planet would be wiped out if Michael confronts Lucifer? How did they know this? By some eyewitnesses, or written records in ancient texts? While that's sketchy, I do recall when Gabriel and Lucifer faced off and little Gabe got killed consequently, the explosion didn't even go beyond the room. Oh right, Gabriel was not as powerful as Lucifer nor Michael. But he's an archangel nonetheless. To say the difference between their power is that astronomical stretches my imagination. Or perhaps it's not the death of an archangel in the hands of another that causes planet wide catastrophe. It's the drawn out battle between them that wipes out half of the world's population. If that's the case, I don't see why Dean and Sam shouldn't enlist the help of Michael and they work together to dispatch Lucifer quickly and swiftly.
- Really? Dean would die if Michael rides him? Didn't Michael promise Dean that he would leave Dean unharmed? But oh no, Michael's an angel, the baddest of the bad, so he must not be trusted. Heh, I'm being facetious here. Truth be told, there's nothing I've seen so far making me believe Michael is that bad. What has been established about him at this point paints him as an arrogant career soldier, a foil to Lucifer's evil, a "good" son who if not understood, at least accepted his Father's love for the "new baby" -- the human race. Michael put Lucifer in prison once, why does everyone assume he can't be persuaded to do it a second time, without destroying half of his Father's beloved creation?
The irony is, the only item on that list I find entirely indisputable, the one I think they should heed that says Sam must not say "yes" to Lucifer, is being taken off the list here. Because our intrepid heroes (at least Sam with Bobby's support) hatched a plan:
- Collect all four horsemen rings so they can open the gate to the prison downstairs.
- Sam says "yes" to Lucifer at the precipice of the said gate.
- After Lucifer enters him, Sam overpowers the Devil inside his body for a moment so he can jump into the fiery pit.
- Lucifer gets put back into the prison, and Sam gets to be a martyr, or at least a "big damn hero".
Where does Dean fit in this plan? I honestly don't think our heroes thought beyond Sam, what Sam has to do. But since Michael got his vessel already, and Dean is forbidden to say "yes" as that's what he MUST NOT DO, he is now back to being only Sam's big brother. Therefore the default place I can see for Dean in this plan of theirs is being the gate opener; then stand on the sideline watching his brother save the world and if things start to go south, maybe strengthen Sam's resolve by reminding him the epic LOVE. If that doesn't work? ... Hell, it just has to work because Sam is awesome. He's not giving in to his fate here. He's fighting it with all his might. ...
Ahem! How did such an "extraordinary" plan come about? And Why is it necessary? Because Sam first convinced himself, then Bobby, possibly Castiel and Dean, that he is all that they got. He is the last resort, their trump card, their secret weapon. Aarrghh...
I'm affronted by the sheer foolhardiness of the whole thing. Let's just look at the plan itself. Its success entirely depends on Sam besting Lucifer. Should the plan fail, all will be lost, making an already bad situation even worse. But our heroes apparently don't take that into consideration because a) they have so much faith in Sam; and b) they have No. Other. Choice.
I say, it's all nice and heartwarming that they trust Sam's ability so implicitly. But when the entire human race is on the line, that blind faith is disturbingly reckless for my taste. Sam, Bobby conveniently ignore the fact that Sam was unable to wrestle free from a little demon called Meg when he was possessed by her in the past. Now that Sam is an "ex blood junkie", he is strong enough to control the Devil by the horns. Riiight!
But wait, Sam has so much good and heroism in him -- that much I don't dispute -- he surely can overcome the Prince of Darkness himself? In principle, don't we all like to believe that -- good conquers evil, light vanquishes dark. The thing is, I also recall not more than a week ago, Sam coolly dispatched a demon possessing his old college buddy for no other purpose than avenging his lost love (exorcising the demon wasn't nearly satisfying enough). The moral debate of killing the innocent host, one who once was his friend no less, didn't even register on Sam's conscience as he sought his vengeance. Compare to before, Sam has turned so many shades of gray nowadays -- a character development I find compelling, but doesn't lend confidence in his ability to overpower the darkest creature on his own.
I'm not saying Sam's willingness to sacrifice himself isn't noble. I'm not even saying Sam has a snowball's chance in hell of winning. After all, he kicked his addiction cold turkey, didn't he? But the difference between that particular brand of "demon" and the Devil is huge, and his apparent lack of consideration for his possible failure bothers me. The line between confidence and arrogance is all but thin. Let's face it, did they even have a contingency plan here? Not that I can see. Haven't they been foretold Hell on Earth starts with Sam saying "yes" to Lucifer? Yet they chose to ignore that and gamble with all bets on Sam. If only humanity isn't at stake here, I may admire their courage and trust. As it is, the best I can say is they are a bunch of chuckleheads, and they'd be lucky if they win as planned, or there's a "God" above God who writes the outcome in the cheesiest glory.
And I want to point out herein lies my biggest disappointment in this episode -- Bobby. He should have been the pragmatic voice of the bunch here. Instead, his reaction to Sam's decision makes me frustrated. He is one person I expect to judge a plan of action by looking at its merit and fallout, yet he let his personal feeling toward the person who made such plan influence his opinion. I couldn't help comparing his regard to Sam here with those he gave Dean several weeks ago when Dean contemplated saying "yes" to Michael. When Dean did that, he got locked up, yelled at, and beaten the crap out of him. Some may argue Dean deserved all that because he was lying down, giving up. But I disagree. Dean was disillusioned -- sure; uncertain his brother wouldn't strike out on his own and succumb to Lucifer's lure -- sure; laying down his weapon and stop fighting -- no; salvaging a losing battle the best way he sees fit -- yes. In my eyes, Dean was making the same kind of sacrifice Sam was making here, yet he was met with such disapproval. I think Bobby does have a special bond with Dean, who's almost like his favorite child, and Bobby treats him accordingly -- like a child not yet mature. Whereas Sam may not be as close to Bobby as Dean, but I think Bobby respects Sam as an adult, his equal. I think that's the reason behind Bobby so quickly got on board with Sam's risky gamble.
The kicker is I don't think taking this extraordinary risk is even called for. Because I don't think our heroes are out of options as they thought so here. Like I mentioned above, I'm not convinced the archangel Michael couldn't be turned into their ally. Strategically speaking, enlisting his help seems a much surer and safer bet than Sam accepting Lucifer. Now that they found a way to stop Lucifer other than slaying him in a cosmic battle, why couldn't they let Dean appeal to Michael, asking him to help throw Lucifer back in prison? Okay, let's say they don't think Michael would show mercy and give consideration to humanity here, why couldn't they plan this: find Lucifer!Nick, instead of having Sam say "yes" to Lucifer, have Dean say "yes" to Michael, open the gate to the prison, and Dean takes control over Michael and make him shove Lucifer in his half burnt out host back down the fiery pit? Still risky I admit, but a whole lot better than the plan Sam and Bobby concocted. Dean should have as good a chance as Sam to overpower his archangel, and even if he does not succeed, the fallout is not half as devastating.
It saddens me that they never truly considered Dean nor the archangel he's connected to as a viable option here. Never mind it's been said in different ways that Dean is the one to stop Lucifer, as far as our heroes are concerned (Dean himself included), what they want from him has never gone beyond guard duty -- his one role in life is looking after his little brother, and that's still the only role he is allowed to accept. As to Michael, sadly, this powerful being with an intriguing link to Dean has been woefully inactive so far. It's like we kept hearing the thunder but barely saw the rain. Had the writers concretely and/or pragmatically shown Michael is a dead end here, I would've been receptive to the notion that Sam is the last hope in the fight against evil. As it is, Sam's premature self appointment for the role left me feeling his mindset here is about the same as it was at the end of last season. Back then, I see the major reason he chose to align with Ruby and fell into her trap was because she fueled his belief that he was the only one strong enough to stop the Apocalypse from happening. And he's doing it again here by proclaiming he's the only recourse available in stopping Lucifer before he fully considered all the "cards" in their hands and those that are still out on the "table".
I can't fault Sam for yearning to be the hero that saves the day, nor do I trivialize his willingness to sacrifice himself in doing so. But because the writers haven't sufficiently shown me our heroes are down to their last "bag of tricks", Sam's otherwise heroic choice here is diminished to being precariously reckless and cavalier. If I feel this episode suggested writer's intention of confining Dean's character arc back at where it started (his brother's keeper) after literally putting him through Heaven and Hell, it also looks to me Sam's character arc is going to remain the same (fraught with angst over what he can be). All the tantalizing explorations of Dean's own purpose apart from Sam, and Sam's need of Dean, who's an integral part of a life Sam's younger self had striven to be independent from have fizzled out towards the end. I hate to think the character developments through five seasons amounted to going around in a giant circle, but I'm afraid that's what I would get at the conclusion of the mytharc a mere episode away.
So here I am, all hopes on Kripke to salvage the story with a climax that will satisfy me and avoid all the cliché. However I can't say I'm holding my breath with great anticipation anymore. Don't get me wrong, I'd watch the finale when it airs for sure, but at this moment, I'm resentful to the writer here putting me in the position of rooting for having Sam's risky plan blow up in his face. And I pray, please don't let the power of love save the world in the literal sense, i.e. please don't give us the "yellow crayon moment" for those who watched BtVS.