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Review: Supernatural 13×12 “Various and Sundry Villains”

We finally caught up with our incarcerated angels this week, as Cas and Lucifer made a bid for freedom, Sam’s mood showed no sign of improvement, and a certain Scottish redhead made a shock return…

A pair of witch sisters with a penchant for love spells and murder meant trouble for the Winchesters this week, as Dean accidentally found himself besotted, much to Sam’s bemusement. Things went from bad to worse when Sam tried to prevent his brother from giving the Black Grimoire to his enchantress. However, the boys found themselves a surprising ally in the form of Rowena, last seen as a charred corpse at Lucifer’s feet in Season 12.

While I’ve often expressed disappointment in the fact that death has little weight in the Supernatural universe these days, and the ease with which returning characters dodge their fates means feeling cheated out of our emotional investment in their loss, in Rowena’s case it kind of makes sense that she’s powerful enough to be almost immortal. We know from previous experience that she has a hex bag buried in her body which enables her to heal, and although she was resurrected, the emotional scars left by her ordeal at Lucifer’s mercy allowed us to feel a degree of sympathy for the witch. This was compounded by her finding out that Crowley was dead. While no one could accuse Rowena of being Mother of the Year, there have been moments of real pathos in their relationship, and I’ve always been left with the sneaking suspicion that these two characters chose to hate one another to protect themselves from a fierce love which made them both vulnerable.

But of course, Rowena has never been exactly trustworthy, and the Winchesters soon realised she was also in league with the witches and planning to take the grimoire for herself. The Plum Sisters could have been a lot more interesting for my money. There were several parallels with Sam and Dean which could have been played up more – siblings determined to bring back their mother at any cost – but the girls were never particularly fleshed out, so the horror of their reanimated mom and Rowena turning them on one another fell somewhat flat.

However, both Ruth Connell and Jared Padalecki knocked it out of the park this week, and their shared residual fear from their suffering at Lucifer’s hand made for compelling viewing. While much of Season 7 dealt with Sam’s Hell memories, or rather trying to suppress them to keep him from crumbling, Sam and Dean have never spoken about their time in the Underworld on screen. Sam’s confession that they don’t talk about it off screen either, meant that his conversation with Rowena was the closest he’s come to confronting his demons. Little wonder then, that he caved and let Rowena take a spell from the grimoire, one which will undoubtedly make her stronger than he could imagine, and will cause trouble for all concerned down the line. But the beauty of Rowena as a character is that she might be ‘bad’ but she’s a survivor, and her sense of self preservation comes from the knowledge that women – especially clever and powerful ones – are always a threat, and therefore in danger.

Sam and Rowena’s bonding session also reminded us that Lucifer is not just a pithy antagonist. He’s an ancient being who has done unspeakable things, and yet he can charm and seduce and lie his way under the skin of his victims. It seems right and fitting that the angel who fell from grace because of jealousy would find strength in rage when taunted by Castiel about the son he’s never met, and who is so different from his father in every way. I’m not quite sure of the magical logistics of regaining power against warding by getting stroppy, but I liked the fact that Jack is his motivation. It also seems that Castiel is learning from his mistakes, taking the first opportunity that arose after their escape to shank his travelling companion with an angel blade, although I’m fairly sure that’s not going to work out too well…

Overall this was an enjoyable episode with strong performances. It’s always fun when Jensen Ackles gets to show off his comedic chops, and the Evil Dead style zombie mom was a nice touch. It was also great to see Sam starting to address his underlying issues instead of brushing his funk off as a phase. Now he’s raised Dean out of his slump, Sam has realised he needs to work through some things, and I hope the show addresses that instead of giving us the usual ‘we’ll get through it’ lines until the status quo resumes. For a series about the ridiculous lengths two people will go to for one another, those Winchesters sure can be emotionally stunted!

Final Grade: C

+ The cashier who Dean questioned about the Plum Sisters might be my favourite character in the history of the show.

+ Rowena calling Dean a ‘poor, sheltered boy’ for not knowing about ‘fifth base’, and Dean looking to Sam for help was brilliant.

+ Love that Dean is convinced he and Sam will work things out together, but I hope that means some real conversations and healing.

– Why would a demon be called DIPPER??

– After weeks of incarceration, Cas and Lucifer’s escape seemed ridiculously easy.

Extra Thought: Past the halfway point in this season, it’s still not entirely clear what the main arc is, and where the major threat is coming from. We’ve had Ketch return and Clegg tease that there are countless more monsters in the world than the Winchesters know, while Lucifer, Asmodeus, Michael, and even Jack and Rowena have the potential to cause real trouble.

What did you think? Did “Various and Sundry Villains” leave you lovestruck, or did it just suck? Sound off in the comments or over on Twitter!

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Katie Young

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