Given the events of this week’s episode of Supernatural “Beat the Devil,” you might be surprised to find out how much I enjoyed it. Don’t get me wrong – I was screaming and crying at the television like the rest of the SPN Family (much to the delight of my own family members.) But this episode was, plain and simple, what is so great about this show. It was at points side-splittingly hilarious, not taking itself too seriously, then seamlessly switching to horror movie level terrifying, then finally landing in achingly sad and angry for our favorite guys. Bobo Berens is a master storyteller, and the combination of him and Phil Sgriccia, the director, made for an episode with so many feels, it could have been the finale. But strap in guys, because there’s two episodes AFTER this.
The camera pans over Dean’s shoulder as we start at the bunker. Sam, Mary, Cas, and Jack are sitting around the map table, laughingly enjoying a pizza and teasing each other. (We’ve all read this fanfic, right?) Sam helps Mary clear the plates, and he pulls her aside to ask how she’s been since they saved her in the alternative universe. She smiles, genuine, and says that she always knew he and Dean would come save her. But she gets stuck on his name, repeating it until we hear a buzzer and oh, of course, Sam wakes up. Because this is all a dream.
In reality, they’re preparing to go to the alternative universe again. Cas has left Gabriel in Dean’s room so he could extract his grace “in private” (ew), and Rowena is putting together the last ingredients for the spell. She points out how ridiculous it is that they only have twenty four hours to complete their rescue mission. She’s right of course – but what choice do they have? Gabriel shows up with, well, very little actual grace. Quite a wimpy showing, in fact. When Rowena does the spell, the rift shows up – for a moment. It flashes, spurts, and goes a bit, well, flacid before dying out entirely.
“Well that was – fast,” Cas grumbles.
“One could even say, premature,” Rowena adds.
With Gabriel’s manhood (angelhood?) clearly in question, our team is forced to face the inevitable conclusion – they need Lucifer’s archangel grace to save Jack and Mary.
Convincing Sam is proving to be a difficult task, and who can blame him? It’s not as if their dealings with Lucifer have ended less than catastrophically. Castiel levels with him about his own trauma (having been possessed by Lucifer a few seasons ago) but the reality is this – they let Lucifer out. And it’s really their responsibility to deal with him, plain and simple.
Rowena and Gabriel are left to their own devices while the boys talk, and ho boy, this is the comedic duo the fandom never knew we needed. Gabriel is emasculated and lashing out as they banter, and Rowena is perfectly articulate as she shuts him down. The only thing they can seem to agree on is how annoying it is when original recipe Team Free Will has to take a few minutes to talk about their feelings. (Like Crowley used to say, with a hiss.) That is, until we get a glimpse into their inner monologue. (Please note, it’s since been revealed by Emma Peterson, assistant production coordinator for the show that these lines were ad libbed by Richard Speight Jr. and Ruth Connell, which makes it all the more hilarious.)
Rowena, internally, while looking at Gabriel. “Quite a tidy wee tush he’s got going on there. Sort of cute…”
Gabriel, then noticing Rowena checking him out, “Ah she’s so tiny, so angry. Milky white skin, dancer’s body – God, I bet she’s flexible.”
And it, is, ON.
That is until, Dean, Sam and Cas finally come to the conclusion that they’re going to go after Lucifer and ah, ahem, interrupt them. (Look it’s really impossible to describe the hilarity of this scene. Just go watch it!)
Lucifer, meanwhile, is drowning his sorrows in a dusty bar to some Harry Chapin. (“Cat’s Cradle” was a great song choice for this scene!) He’s bitter and fatalist about heaven and hell with one conclusion – the only thing that ever mattered to him is Jack. The bartender assures him that Jack will come around to see Lucifer’s side one day – only, Lucifer never told him his name. And then suddenly, Lucifer’s having a hard time keeping upright. That’s because the nameless bartender is actually Gabriel, in true trickster fashion. I’ll be honest, it filled me with glee to watch Lucifer’s shocked “I killed you!” to Gabriel – immediately followed by the same realization about Rowena. (Sidenote – when do we get the spinoff of Gabriel and Rowena teaming up to take down the bad guys? I’d watch the heck out of that.)
With Lucifer captured, bound and dragged back to the bunker, they’ve discovered that they can keep the portal open as long as they keep a tiny drip of his grace going at all times into the spell bowl. They leave Rowena in charge, and Team Free Will plus Gabriel take off for Apocalypse World.
After a rather hilarious landing (Gabriel actually landed face first in Castiel’s crotch – the dick jokes just keep on coming, people!) they determine they’re about a two days walk from Denton, the base Jack and Mary are located. Along the way we get the bro talk we’ve all been waiting for – between Gabriel and Castiel. Cas fills Gabe in on the rather depressing state of Heaven back in their world. Gabriel of course being an archangel could actually fix it. He’s got the juice to make more angels, but he feels like he’s been too much of a screw up to make any difference. “Heaven’s been run into the ground by upstanding angels,” Castiel says. “Perhaps a screw up is just the change we need.”
The bro feels just keep on truckin with Sam and Dean, walking a few paces ahead. Dean gently questioned why Sam’s been in such better spirits since they landed this side of the rift. But in Sam’s mind, they’re so close to the end of their goal, it’s nearing time for celebration. A scream pulls them from their talk, and they come face to face with a couple fighting for their life against this world’s version of a vampire (a far more starved and depraved version than we’re used to in the normal world.) Our boys come to their rescue, and they explain they’d been heading north to try to get to the same camp Jack and Mary are at, but between here are there is a tunnel full of these vampires they were not able to pass. Optimistically, Sam points out that they’ve killed a nest of vamps before, so this should be a breeze.
(Has Sam ever seen Supernatural? That’s never how these things go!)
Back in the bunker, unsurprisingly, Lucifer is using the only weapon he has to torture Rowena – his mouth. And when singing Camptown Races ad nauseum doesn’t work, he takes to recounting the last time he saw Rowena in painful detail. She snaps, but two can play at that game as she reminds him where Sam, Dean and Cas actually are. Afterall, Lucifer’s grace is making it possible for Team Free Will 2.0 to have a big sappy family reunion. “That’s right, your wee boy is over there,” she points to the rift. “And he’ll be so glad to see his three fathers!” (Thank you Bobo, from the bottom of my heart, for making that little truth canon.) Unfortunately, this gives Lucifer something to fight for (his son), and he breaks free of his bonds to throw her against a wall. But she’s not powerless – she casts a spell which tosses him away from her – and right into the rift.
Rowena is all prepared to take off right afterward. (She even has a little adorable conversation with herself, one you can tell she’s had before in the name of self preservation.) After all, this isn’t exactly her problem. But she has a change of heart and decides to stick around to figure out a way to keep the rift open, even without the constant tap of archangel grace.
The tunnel in apocalypse world is SCARY. Supernatural has evolved into a very different show than its beginnings in horror, but here in this vamp infested cave of doom, we get a return to its roots. I confess while watching this initially, I stopped taking notes because it was so frightening – and I loved it! Kudos to all who were involved in bringing the creep. It’s not long before they’re attacked, and the vamps get the upper hand. They have Dean completely bound and he’s horrified to watch Sam hit his knees, covered in vamps. And then one of them savagely bites Sam’s neck, right at his jugular.
I think my damn heart stopped.
It’s bloody and messy and Dean’s yelling as they pull Sam into another tunnel and away from the team. Cas takes off after him at full speed as Dean straight up murders the rest of the vamps but – it’s too late. Cas meets Dean at the start of the dark corridor to stop him from going any further. Sam’s gone.
This is such a powerful moment of character growth for Dean. For so long, it was him and Sam against the world. Over the years, they’ve culled together a family, but what’s critical here is that in that moment, Dean trusts Castiel’s word. Dean knows deep down that Castiel would do anything for Sam. If he’s saying it’s hopeless, if he’s saying that there’s nothing they can do, then it really is. And Dean believes him.
(By the way, we all know there’s no possible chance Sam is dead forever. But the power of the acting in this scene makes us ache for all involved, but especially the devastation on Misha and Jensen’s faces.)
While the other three continue their journey, the camera pans back to show the audience a very, very dead Sam. (Thanks for the pain GUYS.)
They reach the outcroppings of the rebel base, as indicated by wardings that Castiel is unable to cross. Archangels have no problem though, and Gabriel blasts through them. They’re quickly met with guns on the other side and finally, Mary. The reunion is bitter sweet, and Jensen’s acting here is brilliant as Mary asks gently where Sam is. The level of emotions that man can convey without a single word is unreal. He can’t even tell her, just looks at her wordlessly as tears stream down his face.
Back in the cave, Sam gasps back to life (us too, geez that was a long five minutes!) He’s checking himself out when he hears a voice behind him – Lucifer. (And the fandom collectively shudders for Sam.) Turns out, he’s the one who has brought him back to life. He explains that he powered himself back up by draining a horde of Michael’s angels while he was tracking them. Sam’s not impressed, and turns to leave but – Lucifer is holding back the vampire hordes as well. So he’s trapped. “What do you want?!” Sam yells at Lucifer, but for us it’s obvious – he wants a way in to see his boy, Jack. And bringing Sam back to life is definitely a way to get into the kid’s good graces. But once again, Sam is in a no-win situation where he has to give in to the demands of his tormentor. Jared is excellent here, playing Sam equal parts frightened and still ready to kick Lucifer’s ass and utterly defeated.
(When all of this apocalypse world stuff is done, Sam deserves a soft pillow, a puppy, and a nap. This season has been hard on Sammy.)
At the rebel base, Jack is losing his damn mind over Sam’s death, yelling at Castiel and Gabriel for not saving him. Dean stops long enough to refill his water before declaring that he was going to go back to get Sam’s body. But before he can, alarms start to go off and there, stumbling slowly into camp, is Sam himself. There’s a beautiful moment here where everyone’s reactions are captured, and I have to confess, Jack’s is my favorite as he broke into a huge grin. The smile fades however as another set of steps approach, and Sam closes his eyes briefly with shame as Lucifer steps into view. His eyes scan the crowd and land on Jack with a smile. He says “Hello son,” and Sam’s face falls. He has failed to protect Jack.
This episode was a whirlwind, and from the looks of it, next week’s is shaping up to be just as shocking. All we really know about it is that Mary punches Lucifer in the face and man, that alone makes me want to watch!
“Exodus” premieres Thursday, May 10 at 8/7c on The CW.