A few weeks ago at Paleyfest in Los Angeles, (at which held the premier showing of “Scoobynatural”) I had the unique opportunity to speak for a moment to the writer of this week’s episode of Supernatural, Steven Yockey. Whilst I gushed my excitement for both the upcoming episode and the show in general, he had one warning for me – the rest of season following “Scoobynatural” would be non-stop, straight through the finale.
And boy, he was not wrong.
This week saw the return of two fan favorites – the ever-enigmatic Rowena, and the charming Death 2.0, Billie. And one fan… well, I wouldn’t call her a favorite, per say. At least within the show’s canon. But we’ll get to that in a bit.
The episode opens in Portland, where we see Rowena and her hulking stud of a companion Bernard attending a fancy art opening. In the midst of it all, she receives a call from the Winchesters and Castiel, who have reached out to try to get her to band up with them to fight the alternative universe Michael. It’s a good strategy, but one that’s got that distinct feeling of the season coming towards a close – they’re trying to band all of their allies together. Rowena is delighted to hear from them of course. (Especially Castiel, whom she calls “handsome”, which, side note, seems to be one of the few Supernatural universe constants – every angel, demon, and human they’ve run across can all agree that Cas is a babe.) But she has no intention of banding together with Team Free Will to save the world – she has a different agenda entirely. She introduces herself to one of the party attendees, Elizabeth Maller, who Rowena seems to have more information about than she lets on. After a small scene where we get to see a little of Ruth Connell’s dancing background in the form of a tango, she tosses her handbag to Elizabeth, whispers a few words on a low dip and poof – Elizabeth bursts into flames.
After the title card, we’re back in the bunker. Cas and Dean are in the kitchen and brainstorming as to how to find Gabriel. They haven’t come up with much until Cas suggests taking a short visit to Heaven to ask the other angels for assistance. Dean is skeptical, but Cas explains it is a “Hail Mary” play. “It’s a sports term, like slam dunk or ball handler,” Castiel says with his trademark dry humor. Dean can hardly hold a straight face as Sam comes into the kitchen with an article about the woman who’d burst into flame, tying it back to Rowena. Dean is pretty pissed – after all, Sam had given Rowena a page from the Black Grimoire in “Various and Sundry Villains,” which they both knew would exponentially increase her power. Sam had done it so Rowena would feel safe – and indeed the kindred feeling they share in being victims of Lucifer’s makes Sam more empathetic to her cause. But Sam said he’d take care of Rowena if her powers got out of hand. So the brothers go off Portland, and Castiel off to heaven, though not before Dean’s solemn warning to “not get dead again.” (That sound you heard was my heart shattering a little as Dean could barely meet his eye.)
Castiel runs into Indra, an angel guarding the gates of heaven who is – absolutely plastered. Frankly, he is fresh out of craps to give about anyone getting into Heaven, so Cas doesn’t meet any of the resistance he was expecting. Once he arrives, he runs straight into Duma. He launches into an explanation of the direness of the circumstances that brought him back, but before he can finish, the lights in heaven start to pulse, off and then back on again. Duma’s not looking particularly murderous – she says with resignation that perhaps they can help each other.
Sam and Dean are headed to Portland and discussing what to do with Rowena when a voice pipes up from the backseat. It’s Jessica, the reaper who had met with Dean the last time he died (in “Advanced Thanatology”). She explains that Death had asked her to keep an eye on the Winchester brothers. (“Like a babysitter?” Dean grumbles. “More like a baby monitor” she clarifies.) And she’s seen everything the brothers have been doing. Everything. Even that tentacle porn Dean is hiding under his bed…
Anyway, she’s showing herself because Rowena has popped up on Death’s radar. Apparently, the people she has been killing have been dying at the wrong time, and she has been instructed to act as a resource for the brothers in their quest to stop Rowena.
They arrive at the scene of the crime to a few interesting developments – it turns out that our dear exploded Elizabeth was one bad egg. Her pharmaceutical company was responsible for killing dozens of people – and due to expensive lawyers, she got off on a technicality. But that’s not the most curious thing the boys have discovered – next to outline of the body is another large scuff mark. Sam recognizes it as the remnants of a dead reaper. Jessica confirms what they have found and explains the hazards of what Rowena is doing – essentially, that killing people before their time throws off fate, creating a butterfly effect. Ripples across time, becoming so bad that Death will have to do a system reset, like a plague or a mid-sized war. Not that Death would get involved with the actual prevention of all this happening – she’s got rules. However, Jessica says, Sam could greatly improve the world’s chances of avoiding mass chaos. As it turns out, in the infamous Death notebooks which outline each way that every person could die, (Dean’s got a whole shelf) Rowena McCloud is always killed by Sam Winchester. Without exception.
As an aside here – this is a fascinating dynamic to introduce between these two characters. Sam and Rowena share a common trauma in being victims of Lucifer’s cruelty, and it has made them (in the past) somewhat kindred spirits. Sam’s empathetic nature will be at odds with this development, and it’s already proving to be a plot point Jared is readily sinking his teeth into.
In Heaven, Castiel is fidgety, as he has been left alone in the throne room. Eventually Duma shows up, apologizing for the wait. “Its fine,” Castiel says. “Actually, it’s not fine, because all of creation is at stake, but here we are.” While he pleads for just a few spare angels to help him find Gabriel, he gets an unexpected visitor – Naomi. That sound you heard across fandom was the boos and hisses towards a character we all loved to hate, played so articulately by Amanda Tapping. The last we’d heard of her, she was (thankfully) dead, but apparently, like a few other characters this season, turns out, not so much. (Are we really all that mad, though? This reunion tour of a season has made me cheer out loud with glee more times than may of the seasons before combined.) Castiel is spitting mad, verbally listing off the atrocities Naomi had committed, including making him murder hundreds of (fake) Dean Winchesters in an effort to brainwash him. (Steve Yockey always brings back old mythology to his episodes, blending it so seamlessly with the new, and it’s as much a treat as it is nice to know he remembers it all as well as we do.) Naomi doesn’t even blink (or apologize) as she explains that while the situation on earth may be pretty dire, the situation in Heaven is, arguably, more so. Angels are what powers heaven, and they are down to exactly eleven. Eleven angels keeping the lights on, quite literally. And when their power runs out, so does the storage of billions of souls, which will fall back down to earth presumably to haunt and become restless spirits. But Gabriel, she says, can keep Heaven running.
I’m getting a sense here that Gabriel ain’t gonna stay lost for long.
Sam and Dean meet with Rowena at a bar to make an attempt to stop her. Not surprisingly, she’s not interested, as what she’s really trying to do is get Death’s attention to get Fergus back. She explains that she feels his turning evil is really all her fault, due to the path she walked down years ago. It’s a somber moment (I get it Rowena, I miss Crowley too) but Sam confesses that if she doesn’t stop he’ll have to stop her – and he’s the only one that’s going to do it. She takes off, Sam chasing her and Dean getting caught in a fight with Bernard. (Who, as it turns out, was a highly trained military operative, so it takes him just a extra few minutes to take him down.) Sam stops her, pleading with her. “You’re messing with the machinery of the universe!” he says. “You’re going to have to shoot me,” she replies.
And, blow me down, he does. With a pause, with resignation, and then in a split section decision, the gun goes off. Only, Rowena is powerful enough to stop the bullet midair. She’s crushed as she looks at him, then whispers an incantation, and Sam is knocked out.
She drags him to a hotel room. (Okay, minor plot hole here but – how did she do this? Bernard was passed out, and Sam’s roughly the size of a moose to Rowena’s mouse. I have lots of questions.) “I’m a flawed, petty, evil creature,” she explains. “I don’t know that I can be redeemed, but I have to try.” And unfortunately, that means taking out Sam, before he can take her out. It’s fascinating to see that Rowena has just as many reservations in killing Sam as he did her (despite the fact that it’s only he that can kill her,) but she does some powerful magic over the protective tattoo on his chest. (I’m certain that will come up later.)
And that is when Death finally decides to show up. Though not to save Sam. “Go ahead,” she challenges. “I’m curious to see what happens.” But she refuses to bring Fergus back. Billie is so perfectly coiffed here, maintaining the passivity of Death, and it only serves to fuel Rowena’s rage further when, as Sam’s pleading with her in the background (“This isn’t you! Not anymore!”) she turns her magic on Death herself. It doesn’t work of course – Rowena isn’t that powerful. With a grim grin, Death shakes her head. “You were never going to kill him.” Rowena breaks down, on her knees, pleading with Death – if she won’t give her back Fergus, surely Death will take her. But Billie refuses. “You already know how your story ends.”
At that moment, Dean bursts in (yelling for his brother, true Winchester style) just to catch the tail end. Billie looks up at Dean, mumbles a cheerful “Hello Dean, see you again soon” before poofing away.
(With only four episodes left this season, that sentence made my blood run cold.)
At Heaven’s gates, Naomi and Cas are saying goodbye – it’s not as if they’re on good terms, but the common enemy of not losing Heaven has made for strange bedfellows. Castiel, ever the pillar of faith (but especially so, this season) makes a solemn vow to fix heaven. But Naomi shakes her head. “This may be one of those things you can’t fix,” she says. “Everything ends, Castiel.”
Except this show, right? Right. That wasn’t at all the writers trying to prepare us. No sir.
On the ground at the hotel room, Sam, Dean and Rowena are left to pick up the pieces of their crazy situation. Rowena still feels such guilt for Fergus’ death and again, brings up the subject of redemption. This echoes Ketch’s words last episode – the question of if a person who has done unspeakable wrongs could ever be redeemed – or if they’re just doomed to live the rest of their lives with the red stain of their past. It certainly feels like there’s a better chance for Rowena than Ketch (grumble grumble you killed Eileen, dude,) but it’s obvious that redemption is going to be a theme as we close out this season. At least Sam and Dean think there’s a possibility for some redemption for her – if she helps them stop Michael. Carefully, Sam explains that Lucifer is back, and she turns away. Dean, in a moment where he could have expressed a little more empathy, asks her in so many words if she was going to freak out. Of course, she won’t – she’s a fighter. She snarls a little at the insinuation. Of course she is frightened. Of course her heart is racing. But she feels braver than before – after all, she knows with crystal clear certainty that Lucifer won’t be the one to kill her.
Next week we return to the alternate universe to check back in on Mary, Jack and from the looks of it, Kevin as well. Dare we hope to get another bit of Charlie? I’m gonna keep my fingers crossed.
Episode 19 of Season 13 of Supernatural, “Unfinished Business,” premieres on Thursday, April 26th at 8/7c on The CW.