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Review: Supernatural 11×21 “All in the Family”

Written by Katie Young

After the emotional confrontations of last week’s terrific episode, we picked up precisely where we left off with Chuck and the Winchesters having a heart to heart. While Sam seemed awestruck and fanboyish, Dean was sceptical and wounded, his daddy issues clearly on display as he tearfully accused Chuck of abandoning humanity, and allowing it to suffer for eons. This is in keeping with the way the boys have expressed their faith since back in Season 2’s “House of the Holy”, and, interestingly, is a total reversal of the way they each viewed their relationship with their father.

I said last week that I needed time to process the repercussions of this development, and a week later, I have to say, I’m with Dean! Although Chuck tried to lessen the blow by letting the boys see former prophet, Kevin Tran, before he released him from the veil and sent his soul to Heaven, it must have been a bitter pill to swallow, realising that ‘Chuck’ has had the power to change things all along, and that he let both Sam and Dean languish in Hell (where Adam still is, lest we forget!) and stood by while pretty much everyone they’ve ever loved died!

As if having God wearing his bathrobe, judging his porn stash, and eating his bacon wasn’t enough, Dean also had to contend with visitations from Amara, who revealed that she wants him to become one with her and live on forever as the only thing left in Creation. Kinky mare. Add into the mix a new prophet with the unlikely name of Donatello Redfield (tell me you didn’t also think of the Ninja Turtle first), and a plan to spring Casifer from Amara’s torture chamber, and we got what should have been a thrill ride of an episode, but actually fell somewhat flat. Uneasy alliances were formed as the Winchesters realised they would need Lucifer’s help stuffing Amara back into her box, and Metatron alerted them to Chuck’s plan to sacrifice himself to his stroppy, goth sister in order to save the Universe. Yes, it transpired that Chuck’s autobiography was more suicide note than memoir, so Dean went to distract Amara while Sam, Metatron and hapless, atheist prophet, Donatello went to bust Casifer out of bondage.

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It was odd to see Sam working with Metatron. Even though the Scribe of God redeemed himself a little last week and made the ultimate sacrifice for the team this week, it’s not been so very long since Metatron killed Dean Winchester. With characters like Crowley and Meg, time, distance, and necessity made their dealings more believable, but the Metatron/Sam beef feels too recent to be played down. Similarly, it jars to see Sam helping Lucifer down from his cross, although it probably helps that he’s wearing Cas’ face at the moment. But the Hell trauma for Sam has been such a huge deal for so long, that this newly formed squad feels very strange indeed.

One of the main issues for me with this episode is that the stakes are so high, it’s almost impossible to convey them effectively. Amara implores Dean to ‘give up his smallness’, but actually, the ‘smallness’, the humanity is the heart of Supernatural. While they deal with monsters, gods, and angels on the show, we understand these things through their effect on the lives of the humans we’re invested in. By making those creatures ‘small’ and human too, we lose the sense that Sam and Dean are dealing with things vastly more powerful than they are, and that it’s their love which enables them to fight and overcome things immeasurably bigger than themselves. While I’m totally on board with the notion of a flawed and capricious God (humans are made in His image, after all), and that the struggles between Heaven and Hell are just an extreme form of dysfunctional family dynamics, having God be Chuck undermines the sense of threat. Some things need to stay unknowable to sustain our sense of wonder.

So, as we head into the season finale, we are left with a souped-up version of Team Free Will, and – as at the end of Season 5 – each member has a slightly different agenda. It remains to be seen whether God will survive the battle, or whether He will check out and leave it to the humans to step up.

Final Grade: C-

+ The reunion between Chuck and Lucifer was super-charged, but all too brief. I would like to have seen a lot more of that!

+ Jensen Ackles got to demonstrate how brilliant he is at crying while looking pretty for the first time in forever. He’s superhuman, to be honest.

+ I’m enjoying the fact that Dean Winchester is so attractive, not even nihilistic forces of destruction can resist him.

– The continuity department was taking a nap, because the article Sam reads on Hope Springs suggests the fog hit weeks ago, although this episode was set directly after the events of last week.

– The writing/dialogue didn’t seem strong enough for the issues at hand this week. There’s a time and a place for pop culture references and quips, but sometimes we need the gravitas.

– I’m not in love with the new prophet. I like the idea of an atheist Chosen One more than the execution at this point.

Extra Thought:

With the close of Season 11 looming, I’m pondering where we go in terms of myth-arc from here. Now God Himself is in the picture, what’s left out there to square up to our brothers? Or will the show that killed Death dare to gank The Almighty?!

What did you think of “All in the Family”? Was it like ambrosia for your eyeballs, or are Chuck’s way’s too mysterious for you? Tell us in the comments or on Twitter!

 

 

About the author

Katie Young