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REVIEW: Supernatural 11×09 “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

Written by Katie Young

It’s Hellatus time again, folks, and what a cliffhanger for the mid-season finale! Amara, AKA The Darkness was sick of searching for her wayward brother (God, in case you’d forgotten), and now fully grown, she unleashed the full force of her powers to get The Almighty’s attention by smiting a few of his devotees. This she did in spectacular fashion, turning a benign water feature in a park into a blood fountain, and calling down lightning bolts to crispy-fry a preacher and his flock. When this attempt to summon her bro failed, she ran amok in a church, sucking the souls of the faithful and crushing their vessels for good measure. But the ultimate absent father still refused to show his not-so-omnipotent face. I have to say the VFX and sinister choral soundtrack in the opening of this episode, combined with some unusual camera angles, made it feel more like The Omen than our familiar show. It was super dramatic. I kind of liked it. There was something genuinely horrifying about the electrocution of the public speaker, and I love it when Supernatural can evoke that kind of visceral reaction from me.

While Amara had her tantrum of epic proportions, Sam and Dean sought the help of Crowley and Rowena to get Sam into The Cage. Convinced his visions from God were telling him to go back, Sam persuaded Dean to let him try, although the older brother was not happy with the plan at all. Sam’s visions – at first snippets of blood and torture – had become more focused and instructive. There was even a burning bush, and contact with Lucifer himself, who reached out to stroke Sam’s cheek tenderly, imbuing him with a sense of calm. The first time we got to see Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) after all this time was very affective. The special effects team clearly blew most of their budget on this episode, and the devil’s fiery eyes glowing in the dark were fabulous. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to buy that Nick’s meat suit is still serviceable (it’s been uninhabited since “Swan Song”, so presumably would be a bit ripe by now. Or eaten by wild animals.) But I’m prepared to overlook this detail because Pellegrino is so deliciously evil, and his chemistry with Jared Padalecki makes for wonderfully uncomfortable viewing.

I’m not sure why Crowley was so eager to help. Perhaps payback for his wounded pride after Amara’s rejection? Rowena clearly had another agenda too, and to be honest, after everything they’ve been through, you would have thought the Winchesters would steer clear of allowing the super-witch access to the Book of the Damned and the codex, even limited access. Especially when she revealed herself to be a massive Luci fangirl, practically drooling at the mention of the Prince of Darkness. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and Sam was left to supervise her while Dean went in pursuit of Amara. However, Amara and Dean are bonded somehow, both bearing the Mark of Cain, and while Sam tried to call his brother to explain they were off to Hell, Dean was locking lips with the creature he’d ineffectually attempted to stab with an angel blade moments before. To be fair, if I was the most powerful force in the Universe, I’d probably use my might to snog Dean Winchester too.

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Amara is an interesting foe. Both naive and terrifying, she blurs the line between good and evil, and that’s something the show has always done very well. Angels are dicks and monsters can be sympathetic. Speaking of angels, there was a bit of a subplot about some angel drones rallying to defeat Amara, but they didn’t get too far. Notable by his absence, Castiel had nothing to do with proceedings. Perhaps he was binge-watching Daredevil in the bunker…

So Sam was thrown to the wolves, entering Hell flanked by the King of Hell and his mother (from Hell). The idea was to bring Lucifer to neutral ground for a meeting instead of letting Sam enter the cage. This seems like a smart move as it means we still don’t get to see The Cage. I much prefer the idea that it stays an abstract concept rather than a literal place, and everything we see is filtered through Sam’s perception. The meeting place elected was Limbo (a sort of ‘holding room’ for extra bad demons), a separate part of Hell to Purgatory (which looks suspiciously like a forest in Vancouver). Now, I accept that a certain amount of retconning is necessary when you write a show as you go along, season by season, but I do feel it takes away some of the weight of earlier seasons when it suddenly becomes not only possible but kind of easy to walk into a place like Limbo. When you think of the things that had to happen in order to open the cage in season five, having a witch cast a spell to break Lucifer out seems a tad too convenient. And while we’re at it, where the f*ck is ADAM WINCHESTER?! Not even a mention for Michael’s vessel, Sam and Dean’s brother, who is languishing in special jail with Lucifer? Wow.

Rowena was in charge of warding the cage Lucifer was conjured into, and also warding Sam, but lo! The warding failed and Sam ended up trapped with his old bunk buddy. Lucifer revealed that Sam hadn’t been experiencing messages from God at all, and that releasing The Darkness had caused fissures in The Cage, through which he was able to reach out to his former vessel. Luci tried to persuade Sam to let him back in, and that’s where we were left dangling over the precipice until the New Year. So, that – as the kids say – escalated quickly! Lots to love in this episode, but I can’t help but feel slightly cheated by the way in which we were reunited with the Father of Lies.

Final Grade: B

+ Jared knocked it out of the park in this episode. His Single Tear was good enough to rival Jensen’s and I just wanted to hug him tight to me forever (although, that’s not a new development really…) And props to Mark Pellegrino for hitting the ground running and making me shiver with his sexually inappropriate malevolence.

+ Amara is still a captivating force. Multi-faceted and the only character with a weirder sibling relationship than the Winchesters. No wonder her and Dean get on.

+ Epic and filmic cinematography. This felt like a Supernatural movie rather than a regular episode.

– Where is Castiel? It seems so unlikely that he wouldn’t be in on the action in some capacity. And where for the love of all that is holy, is Adam? That boy has had the roughest deal of anyone in history.

– Dean ignoring Sam’s call to pursue Amara. I get it. She’s powerful. But their bro-love thwarted Lucifer and stopped the apocalypse. Focus on what matters, Dean!

– I am thrilled to have Lucifer back, but I’m annoyed that they wasted the whole Gadreel as harbinger storyline and “The End” 2014 reprise opportunity. Behold! For this is the gong I will never stop banging.

Additional Thought: With Sam trapped in Limbo with his old roomie, and Dean enthralled by Amara, will Crowley have to step up, perhaps with help from Castiel to reunite the boys?

What did you think? Were you thunderstruck by this episode, or was it mouldier that Nick’s meat suit should have been? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Twitter!

About the author

Katie Young