What’s this? Yet more continuity and myth arc advancement as Sam and Dean stayed in Fall River, Massachusetts to track down the human husks Amara left in her wake last week, and Castiel confronted a down-on-his-luck Metatron. I want to trust you so bad, Supernatural, but I’ve been burnt so many times before!
I’ll start by saying that I always do a little fist pump when I see the words ‘written by Robert Berens‘ appear on screen at the beginning of an episode. Since joining the show in season nine, Berens’ contributions have been consistently nuanced and layered. He wrote one of last season’s highlights, the fantastic “The Executioner’s Song”, and his ability to imbue the biblical lore with the gravitas it needs is a beautiful thing.
There were three plot strands happening in tandem this week, and the episode managed not only to draw parallels between all of the characters involved, but also highlighted some of the show’s major themes. It felt like “Our Little World” threw a lasso around previous seasons and yanked it tight, lashing them all together, and restoring a sense of cohesion which has been absent for a long time. No mean feat.
While the Winchesters investigated anything that sounded like the effects of soullessness (kitten murder! A low blow, Show! *cries*), Amara returned to Crowley’s fold, only to find herself grounded for sneaking out. The King of Hell sent minions out to clean up after his wayward charge’s little feeding frenzy, which meant the brothers got wind of demon involvement when poor Len, the Lizzie Borden super-fan turned super-scapegoat, turned up on a mortuary slab. RIP, Len. You join the legions of characters I’d like to see again, but probably never will. After entrapping and interrogating a demon assassin, Sam and Dean realised Crowley was babysitting the soul-sucking teen, and tracked his hideaway to an abandoned asylum.
Meanwhile, Castiel’s newfound addiction to trash TV proved to be strangely advantageous when a graphic true crime report revealed Metatron was out and about, and doing his very best impression of Louis Bloom from Nightcrawler. Only creepier. The angel with the bluest eyes tracked down his old foe and gave him a sound beating whilst trying to extract information on The Darkness for his hunter chums. But Cas was a celestial being on the edge, plagued by flashbacks of the violence he committed under Rowena’s spell, and full of self-doubt. Enraged by Metatron’s taunts, Castiel worked him over, stopping short of killing him, even through God’s former scribe ended up asking to be put out of the misery of living as a human. Castiel beat him until he revealed Amara’s origins: She is the forsaken sister of God!
These brutal scene between the angels was interlaced and juxtaposed with the Winchesters infiltrating Crowley’s stronghold, with Sam trying desperately to immobilise demon henchmen rather than shanking them with Ruby’s knife as a matter of course.
Once Dean reached Amara’s chamber, like a messed up version of a fairy-tale hero rescuing a princess from a tower (indeed, the title “Our Little World” refers to the song about Rapunzel’s incarceration from Sondheim’s musical, Into the Woods), he found their ‘bond’ wouldn’t allow him to stab her through the heart, and it wasn’t long before they were sprung by Crowley. The King of Hell admitted his relationship with Dean had become complex (a ‘bromance’, if you please), but that ‘fatherhood’ had changed him, and now he felt ready to kill the elder Winchester. Amara flexed her rapidly increasing power, and forbade her new daddy from harming Dean. She confessed to Dean that she found him fascinating as the first of God’s creations she encountered once she was freed. Dean seemed similarly enthralled, showing no inclination to kill The Darkness until she raised a hand against Sammy. But even though she looked shocked and betrayed by Dean’s attempt to destroy her, she let him go and vanished out into the world.
We ended the episode in the bunker with Dean and Castiel rebuking each other for letting Metatron and Amara escape respectively, while Sam had a vision which made me squeal with excitement. THE CAGE. THE MUTHAFUDGIN’ CAGE, PEOPLE! I’m having palpitations.
While the actual plot was fairly simple and neat, there was an awful lot going on in this episode. Castiel bemoaning the irresponsibility of the guys taking paternity tests on a talk-show was a nice bit of foreshadowing before we saw Crowley struggling to control a malevolent force in the body of a young girl, even reading parenting books in a board meeting about projected soul harvests. If there’s one theme that overrides all others on Supernatural, it’s the notion of family. Given Crowley’s estrangement from his mother and his son, and in light of his admission that he has some kind of lingering affection for Dean, it doesn’t seem impossible that Crowley’s desire to tutor Amara stems from a genuine desire to impart wisdom, to nuture something or someone, to leave a legacy, to be a parent.
Similarly, Amara states that Dean is the first creature she saw on her release. Like a duckling, she has ‘imprinted’ on him somehow, forging a bond between them which subverts the natural order between the hunter and the monster. Castiel and Metatron are heavenly ‘brothers’, and despite his insistence that he wouldn’t be manipulated anymore, Cas shows mercy, even after everything Metatron has done. Sam has made the decision to go back to the mantra he and his brother had when they first started out on the road together. Saving people. Hunting things. The family business. He is becoming the boy who saved the world once more, the person who sees all humans as an extension of family, every soul worth preserving. His visions of The Cage remind us of the epic battle between brothers Lucifer and Michael, a fight which almost ended the world, and of a family member he couldn’t save – Adam Winchester. This episode seemed to be exploring all facets of ‘family’. Be it in Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, or here on Earth, we are tied to one another by blood, by oaths, by love, by hate, by circumstances, or by shared experience.
And now God has family too. Not just the flawed and bureaucratic angels, but an actual sibling. This is a very exciting and ambitious expansion of the Judeo-Christian lore the show has followed until now. I must admit, I love the idea that The Darkness is God’s bad sister. His evil twin. So many creation myths are based on duality, the light and darkness, and this literal interpretation is enticing…
Final Grade: B+
+ Smart Winchesters working together, and hatching cunning plans.
+ The beautifully designed motel room. Garish wallpaper and two queens – perfection.
+ Curtis Armstrong was genuinely upsetting and unsettling as Metatron. I was one hundred percent with Castiel in simultaneously wanting to knock his teeth out and pitying him. Bravo.
+ A lovely, mature performance from Samantha Isler as Amara meant her tenderness for and fascination with Dean was sensual without being seedy.
+ Berens’ dialogue and characterisation was intelligent and natural.
+ The glimpse of The Cage suspended from chains visually recalled Dean’s time in Hell at the end of season two. I adore these details.
+ Nice use of the Urge Overkill track at the end. I suddenly felt compelled to get a burger and a foot massage…
– Len’s death. Another great character bites the dust.
– The Winchesters concealing matters of great import from one another. I think Castiel needs to bang their heads together at this point.
It was always going to be pretty much impossible to continue the show beyond season five without any additional story arcs feeling tacked on. I mean, once you’ve sacrificed a Winchester to avert the apocalypse, where do you go from there? I’ve said often and loudly that I felt the show missed a trick by introducing Gadreel and not using him as the harbinger for Lucifer’s 2014 return, but maybe this season will finally find a way to pick up some loose ends, revisit some of the past mythology and build on it in a way which feels organic, rather than trying to ‘top’ previous Big Bads with less effective inventions. For the first time in a long while, I am cautiously optimistic.
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