Supernatural has given me whiplash before, but never quite like this! Grab some Thanksgiving leftovers, and let’s talk about “War of the Worlds”.
First, the recap. Granted, we’ve spent a lot of time with the Winchesters as they struggle with their grief and losses, but I honestly couldn’t remember most of those scenes with Asmodeus! Yes, we’ve seen a lot about Jack this season, but I didn’t exactly remember Asmodeus’ plans for him—to train him to be the new ruler of Hell, and for him to serve as Jack’s advisor. I do like how recaps have progressed in recent seasons, reminding us of the show’s past when it’s relevant in the current episode, and this is one episode where it clearly was needed.
The jump to the open with Lucifer and Michael was a bit jarring, owing mostly to us not being shown exactly what happened at the end of their fight in the alternate world. But I will say that I utterly loved this scene. I love how Supernatural tackles the notion of God and spirituality in general. It’s certainly not an easy subject! For one thing, you’re writing about a being who has millions of devout followers. But as a character, God is not a major role, so he’s not exactly going to get a lot of dialogue (season 11 notwithstanding). Hearing Lucifer talk about God’s optimism and love for humanity reminded me of Castiel’s early years, in particular a conversation in a park with Dean where he talked about all of God’s creatures and how special they all were. And I love how conversationally the show tackles God’s absence, mirroring the biggest question many peopl ask while simultaneously explaining the character’s diminished presence in the story.
Pulling back to reveal Lucifer bound in a cage, at the mercy of Michael, was visually arresting just as the monologue continued to wax poetic. The script is flipped here, with Lucifer the victim and Michael the aggressor. When Supernatural does psychological horror, it does it very well, and this scene was no exception. It was shot with a very cinematic feel that gave me the most wonderful sense of unease. The lighting as it bled through slats into the church, the closeup on the spikes in the cage, the scars on Lucifer which showed that this wasn’t the first time he’d been tortured in this cage—all worked together to build a satisfying scene unlike any other cold open we’ve seen this season. Also, shout-out to the shot of the crucifix in the foreground as Michael exited the scene. Very cool juxtaposition there.
Sadly, it kind of went downhill from there.
Some of it was predictable. For example, I guess we all knew that Castiel was bound to leave the bunker again, right? Because it’s his duty or responsibility or whatever. So even though the show claims to embrace “Team Free Will 2.0” we don’t actually get it for more than maybe an episode. When Cas walked out the door, I was certain we wouldn’t see him again for at least another three episodes. I did like the close-ups of Sam, who is clearly affected by Jack’s disappearance. We have a nice balance switch happening between Sam and Dean; Dean’s outlook is clearly improved now that Castiel is back, which means he can support Sam more in his struggles. Less is more here, and it works. I appreciated Dean wanting to go with Cas as he left, and expressing his concern for Cas’ well-being, even if it did end up manifesting itself in another “don’t do anything stupid” admonition.
I mentioned in my previous recap that I was trying to avoid spoilers for future episodes, especially since there were so many rumors about past cast members returning. That paid off in this episode, because I was happily surprised at the return of Osric Chau! I love that even in the alternate world, Kevin is still a prophet. A bit more manic, perhaps, but a nice contrast to the Kevin we remember, who was more subdued and stoic. He was still incredibly intelligent, which was wonderful to see. I’ve missed Kevin ever since Gadreel killed him, and I was so happy to see his return.
I wish I could say the same for Ketch. Last season, I appreciated Ketch. I thought his “relationship” with Mary was kind of creepy, although I kind of liked how he brought out that raw side of Dean near the end. But when Ketch died, his story line felt complete—not a premature end like Kevin’s. And I was a little surprised that the show was actually trying out an “evil twin” story here. Like Dean, I sure wasn’t buying it. However, I just had to shake my head at the manner of Ketch’s resurrection. It was bad enough that they used the “secret resurrection implant” thing with Rowena, but to purely recycle it for Ketch? It struck me as both implausible and lazy. The reveal itself played out kind of nicely, though. Ketch smoking the witch unconscious and then bursting in guns ablaze, only to be felled by a tranquilizer dart? While wearing a gas mask to heighten the drama of the identity reveal? Nice.
It soon became clear to me that this episode had a lot of work to do. By the time it was over, there were a number of new pieces on the proverbial chess board, which felt a little rushed for my tastes. Kevin being the one to recreate the rift between worlds? Cool! Lucifer being the only one who gets through? Frustrating, though expected. I like that he came through without his powers, though. Guess that means Michael will have to sacrifice some of his own grace after all, if he’s going to get Kevin to do that spell again. I expect we’ll see them both in the “real” world soon enough.
And Castiel didn’t disappear after all! We got to see his secretive meeting with the angel Duma (proving once again that angels in general can’t be trusted), and we discovered that the angels want to use Jack for their own purposes, too. This means that Jack has few allies left, with Sam perhaps being the only one. Castiel’s fight scene matched previous fights this season in intensity, even if it ended with Lucifer coming to the rescue, setting up a sort of redo of Castiel and Crowley’s “buddy cop” alliance. Maybe it’s because Lucifer and Cas were clearly at odds last season, but seeing the two of them having fairly normal conversations—remembering that one had only somewhat recently possessed the other—creeped me out in a way I’m not certain the writers intended. Also, things escalated pretty quickly (“We’re sorta all gonna die”—so I guess the apocalypse is about to restart? Again?) with a side order of ho-hum dialogue-wise (Seriously, can “Oh my dad” as a catch phrase just go away now?).
With everything going on, it was easy to forget about the hotel desk clerk that connected the boys to Asmodeus, tying the two story lines together. But while Sam and Dean were catching up, Asmodeus captured Lucifer and Castiel. I found myself wondering at first why Castiel was so easily beaten by Asmodeus, but then I remembered his near-death at the hands of brother Ramiel and it made more sense. I do wonder when we’ll see explicitly just how “back” Castiel truly is.
The fight scenes continue to be dazzling and brutal, and this episode was no exception. Though the fight with Sam, Dean, demons, and (surprise!) Ketch is enough to make Dean realize that there is no twin brother (thank goodness), I still didn’t really buy the reason for Ketch’s insertion back into the story. Never mind that Rowena’s magic resurrection charm was the reason he’s still alive; now he needs to find Rowena again so it can be “recharged”? That’s a thing? And if so, why didn’t Rowena recharge her own charm? (Or DID she…?) I don’t know, it still came off as flimsy and a difficult sell, even from a show that regularly strays from reality. And then, to make matters worse, Ketch gives Sam and Dean the slip by actually dropping a smoke bomb and hightailing it? Seriously? I thought the cartoon episode was later this season. Good grief.
To top it all off, Dean gets tricked by Asmodeus who answers Cas’ phone when Dean calls and speaks using Cas’ voice. It was nice to see Dean checking in with Cas, but it was also an interaction that Dean should have seen through right away. I mean, come on. “See you soon, Dean”? Really? And in the last few seconds of this rather puzzling episode, Ketch’s purpose (such as it is) is made clear—to help Asmodeus track down and capture Jack. That was a long, long road to get us to this point.
As I said, clearly this episode was meant to push the plot along significantly. I do question the wisdom of airing such a plot-heavy episode on a holiday, but it is what it is. I find that I’m less fond of Ketch in this new story line, although David Haydn-Jones did a splendid job with the material. For the first time this season, though, I’m underwhelmed. In spite of some stunning visuals (kudos to director Richard Speight—I do so enjoy his directing style), the storytelling left a lot to be desired. I felt like it should have perhaps taken two episodes to work through all this plot, and some of the beats bordered on ridiculous. But overall, I’m reluctant to fully criticize a story before it’s complete. So here’s hoping that by the end of the season, things like Ketch’s improbable presence will make more sense.
I’d love to know your thoughts on this episode, or predictions for this season. Sound off below!