Supernatural Recap: Season 13 Episode 18 “Bring ’em Back Alive”
Buckle (Leming) your seats kids – this week’s Supernatural (written by writing team Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner) was non-stop. Resurrections, deaths, power-ups, exorcisms, “a spin cycle through space and time” – this episode had everything we love about the show in forty-three minutes. The result was a little, well, all over the place, but full of great individual moments. Let’s dive into one of the most jam-packed Supernatural episodes of the season.
I mean it – serious spoilers. This is a doozy. If you haven’t watched it, please, stop what you’re doing, go to the CW app, and watch it yourself. It’s absolutely better unspoiled, I promise.
Still here? Okay.
CHARLIE IS BACK.
Well, of course we know it’s not “our” Charlie. Our world’s nerdy Charlie Bradbury that saved the world, and our boys, more than once is very much still dead. But just shortly after Ketch and Dean are deposited into the apocalypse world, they come across a group of rebels that are quickly killed until they reach – AU Charlie Bradbury.
And the wails of joy could be heard all across the fandom.
In case you’re new to the fandom, a quick history lesson – the death of Charlie Bradbury (played by the wonderful Felicia Day) in season 10 was considered by many as one of the more devastating story moves the writers and showrunners ever made. Charlie was not only a reflection on the bulk of the female viewers, but one of the only prevalent LGBTQ characters in the show. Not to mention the sister the Winchester brothers never had. Jeremy Carver, who was the showrunner at the time, famously dodged the question about the move at Comic Con. Needless to say, the return of one of the more beloved characters to the show had me quite literally dancing in my living room, and I was not alone.
Cas has arrived back to the bunker and is predictably exasperated that Dean jumped into the face of danger with only Ketch as backup. For now though, they have more pressing matters – namely a tortured Gabriel who continues to refuse to speak. Cas and Sam even try to feed him back his own grace – but he won’t take “the choo choo train,” as Cas so aptly puts it.
Next we’re checking in with Lucifer and Anael, who are still in Heaven and by all appearances, running the show. But Lucifer is a bit miffed that he doesn’t feel adequately worshipped, and none of the other angels are feeling particularly frightened by him. His power seems to be in name only, and even flashing his eyes red at Duma, the angel in charge of finding Jack, doesn’t seem to motivate her to work any faster. Anael (played brilliantly by Danneel Ackles) reminds him in no uncertain terms that the respect his father received was because he actually led the angels, as opposed to just sitting on the throne.
Back in the apocalypse world, Ketch and Dean are still traversing through the snow to find Charlie. She’d been recognized, seconds before her execution, as a person with knowledge of Mary and Jack’s whereabouts – so therefore whisked off to presumably be tortured for said information. Ketch continues to prod Dean for more information about Charlie, even going so far as to question the reason he’s going after her instead of sticking to the mission was just because it was “personal”. (Of course it’s personal, Ketch! You don’t even know!) Their journey is cut short when they run into one of the dudes working with the angels who, quick as you can blink, shoots Dean. The bullet hits him square in the shoulder and he’s down. Ketch is quick to step in, taking the shooter down and together, the two of them get the location out of the jerk before they knock him out.
In the bunker, Cas checks back in with Gabriel to discover that he’s written the story of what he’s been up to for the last eight years in Enochian along the walls of his room. As it turns out, he’d given Lucifer (and the fans) the ol’ fake out eight years ago when he’d unknowingly stabbed a copycat Gabe instead of the real thing. Gabe got the heck out of dodge, moved to Monte Carlo and shacked up with a bunch of porn stars. (How very Gabriel of him.) That is, until Asmodeus kidnapped and then subsequently tortured him for the last few years.
If there was one weakness of this episode, it was the fact that the viewer practically got whiplash as the episode bounced from one story line to the next. We’re suddenly back with Lucifer , who has finally decided to attempt to step into his father’s shoes and give this whole “listening to prayers” thing a try. It lands him in the middle of an exorcism, where he sasses his way in, snaps his fingers and sends the demon (who was really just trying to have a little fun) back to where he came from. The two priests who were performing the exorcism however, proceed to freak out and insist that Lucifer is the devil himself, and no amount of explanation of how the angel actually fell seemed to make a bit of difference. With a snap of his fingers, the priests were extinguished.
Still continuing on their journey, Ketch again inquires about the nature of Dean and Charlie’s relationship when Dean collapses. With a short rip of his shirt it’s revealed that the bullet was more than what it seemed – Dean had actually been poisoned. Luckily, it’s a poison Ketch recognizes, and he’s able to create an antidote right there in the field. (Those deadly British Men of Letters skills are, rather begrudgingly, coming in handy.)
At the bunker, Castiel makes an attempt to heal Gabriel, but with no effect. Sam was about to leave Gabriel alone, when he turns and makes an impassioned speech. This is certainly one of Sam’s strongest attributes – his ability to empathize, even with those that have done him wrong. (Remember of course that in “Mystery Spot” Gabriel made Sam watch Dean die hundreds of times – and hasn’t really ever apologized, despite the fact that he had become an ally to Team Free Will before he was “killed.”)
“You are nothing like your family, you sure as hell are nothing like your dad. Me either,” Sam says. “And just like you, I got out. Or I thought I got out. But then, my family needed me. And this is my life, no matter how many times I try to fight it. This is what I was put here to do. This is where I make the world a better place.”
Woah. Boy does it feel good to hear Sam Winchester say that out loud. That this life that he has fought against so long, he finally feels like it’s where he can make the most positive difference in the world. What a beautiful bit of character development from the Sammy that just begrudgingly hopped into his brothers car for one last run to save their dad thirteen years ago. Older Sam Winchester sees (as the rest of us do) the incredible amount of good that he has done over the years. And considering what a dark place Sam has been this season, it’s great here to see him admit a spark in the darkness that surrounds him.
When Gabriel finally speaks, it’s to clarify to Sam who he’d really spent all that time in Monte Carlo with. “Porn Stars,” he says, with a grin and a flash of blue in his eyes. The camera makes a quick cut to Asmodeus, who appeared to have just been waiting for Gabriel to speak in order to track him.
Ketch and Dean are still trudging across snowy terrain, but Dean’s injury forces them to rest. In his exhaustion, he finally gives Ketch what he’s been asking for – an explanation of who Charlie is.
This was the first of two great moments delivered by Jensen Ackles this episode, but one got the sense, as he was talking, that his speech was almost like an apology from the writers, not just a speech by Dean about a dear friend. (Keep in mind that Ross-Leming and Buckner were also responsible for writing “Dark Dynasty,” the episode where Charlie was murdered.)
“Charlie was like family. She was a sister to me. She did more for me and Sam than I can even say. And she was butchered. And we couldn’t get there in time and I-”
“You feel you failed her.” Ketch chimed in.
Dean sighed. “I know I did.”
“That I understand.”
Ketch continues and talks about his transgressions, though never getting specific, and he’s clearly haunted by them. It’s a call back to last episode, as Asmodeus reminded Ketch that for the both of them, redemption is not a possibility. Whether or not it’s actually true, Ketch is clearly motivated to try, and agrees to help save Charlie to start to wash some of his stain clean.
At this point they flash over to Charlie, who is being tortured for information. And though it’s not really contributing to the storyline of the episode, it was one big hell yes moment to watch Charlie spit “Bite Me” in the face of that jerk angel. Man, I missed her!
Back at the bunker, Sam and Cas have finally been able to feed Gabriel back his grace but it’s thus far taken no effect. The phone rings and it’s Asmodeus, of course, who has figured out that they’ve got his angel. While naturally they don’t give up that they have Gabriel, Kentucky Fried King of Hell figures it out and tells them they have ten minutes, or the bunker will be turned to ash.
In Heaven, Lucifer is incensed about all of the “bad propaganda” that’s been spread about him over the years. Rather than fight it, he decides instead to focus on fatherhood and Jack. When Anael calls him on that obvious lie, and tells him to start doing what he said he was going to do (namely create more angels and give existing ones their wings back) he finally admits that he doesn’t actually have the power to do that. He’s been fibbing this entire time. Anael lets him have it – that Lucifer seems incapable of doing anything of substance, and that ultimately he’s just scared of reading the contempt in his son’s eyes. With a flippant grin, she finishes with “You might as well be back in the cage.” Lucifer understandably doesn’t take this well, but thankfully doesn’t kill her because let’s be honest, it’s incredibly refreshing to see someone call Lucifer out. I hope Anael is around for a long time yet.
Dean and Ketch finally find the silo where Charlie is being held and stage an ambush just as she’s about to be executed. She doesn’t recognize Dean, but she’s not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, so she takes off with them into the woods.
The bunker is warded to the teeth, but that doesn’t seem to stop Asmodeus’ men, who make their way in and attack Sam and Cas. Though they take a bunch of demons out, Asmodeus is able to immobilize them with a flick of his wrist and grab Gabriel, dragging him from the bunker. But something stirs in Gabriel and even as Asmodeus is yelling things like “I will break you, boy!” Gabe finds the strength to throw the men off of him. His eyes glow blue as his body is healed of all wounds, and behind him a pair of wings shadow against the bunker wall. And for the second time this episode, the fandom cheered with glee.
“By the way,” Gabriel quips with a grin. “I always hated that dumbass suit.” With a snap of his fingers, Asmodeus is set aflame and burns out with a snarl. Kentucky Fried King of Hell indeed.
And well, I don’t know that any of us are all that bummed to see him go.
After explaining exactly what’s been happening with the apocalypse world and the AU Michael, Sam and Cas make an impassioned plea to Gabriel to stick around to help them fight. While he’s thankful for the rescue, he refuses. Sam reminds him that he’ll die too if Michael takes over the world. Gabriel smiles as he reminds Sam that last time the world was ending, he banked on the Winchester brothers – and he fully believes they’ll be able to pull it off again. Not even a plea from Cas can keep him from bouncing.
In apocalypse world, Dean is just finishing up telling AU Charlie about our world Charlie. She’s quick to question the nature of their relationship too, and Dean clarifies “She was into chicks.” “Oh,” Charlie smiles, “I like her.” (Looks like Charlie is a lesbian in all universes. This is wonderful news!) They approach the rift ready to make the jump, but Ketch stops him. He wants to stay behind and gather intel so that when he comes back with Sam and Cas, they can be more prepared. Charlie wants to stay too – after all, this is her world, and her fight. You can see the guilt in Dean’s eyes as he says to her “I don’t want to lose you again.” With a smile, Charlie gently reminds him, “That’s not your call to make.”
Dean jumps back to the bunker and into the aftermath of Gabriel’s departure. Both sides of the rift catch the other up on what’s happened in the last twenty four hours, ending with the unfortunate conclusion – Gabriel is gone, and so is the only archangel grace they could have used to open the rift again.
And Dean just loses it.
“If we can’t open the door, then I should have never come back!” he yells at Sam and Cas. Pausing for a moment, he takes a breath before shoving the books and papers in front of him off the desk with a loud “Son of a bitch!”
“Every time! Everytime we get close, everything falls apart. Every friggin time.”
Wow. If that ain’t the damn truth. This moment is so hard to watch, as Dean’s frustration builds and spills and it is messy and angry and honest. It’s a moment we’ve only seen Dean have in private before, like earlier in this season where he took his frustration of Castiel’s death out on a bathroom door in the middle of nowhere. But now here he is in front of his brother and best friend like an exposed nerve. And as sad as I am for him, for all three of them, I’m so proud of Dean for letting himself be this frustrated and honest with them. Cas continues to be a source of faith for Dean (and Sam) and makes a solemn promise, one Dean knows he’ll follow through with. “We will find Gabriel.”
“We better.” Dean growls.
It’s astounding to me that after thirteen years, Jensen, Jared and Misha continue to never phone in a scene like this. They acutely embody the characters they portray, and the emotions are so clearly written on each of their faces. Sam’s flinch at Dean’s moment of violence. Castiel’s near tears with shame for feeling like he’d failed Dean again. Dean’s dirty hands through his own hair and down his face with frustration. The tension of the scene is so nuanced, so compelling, I forgot to breathe the first time through.
We’ll hardly get a chance to take a breath before next week where we will see the introduction of a new reaper, and the return of Rowena and Billie! For now, the fandom rests a little easier, knowing that one wonderful female character has escaped the fridge. (How about next, we bring Eileen back?)
“Funeralia” airs Thursday, April 19 at 8/7c on the CW.