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Review: Supernatural 13×13 “Devil’s Bargain”

There were a lot of moving parts in this week’s installment of Supernatural, as alliances were formed, information exchanged, new characters introduced, and familiar faces brought back. The focus was firmly on moving along the season arc, and picked up where we left off last week, in the aftermath of Cas and Lucifer’s escape from Asmodeus’ clutches.

I’m not entirely sure how both Cas and Lucifer survived their attempts on each other’s lives, but survive they did. There was a nice scene, reminiscent of Stand By Me, in which two boys found Castiel’s inert body in the woods and poked him with a stick, which I’m choosing to believe was a throwback to Sam’s memorable line in one of my all time favourite episodes, Season 2’s “Playthings”. With Lucifer gone, a revived Cas made his way back to the bunker to fill the Winchesters in on events, revealing the details of his imprisonment, and the fact that Mary and Jack were alive, and trapped in the Apocalypse World.

News of Mary seemed to galvanise Sam, and he was much more himself than we’ve seen in recent weeks. It was great to have the boys back in dynamic mode, and even Cas was somewhat restored to something like the glorious badass he was when he was first introduced. Unapologetic about his pact with the devil, he exuded a confidence and determination we’ve not seen for a long time, and long may it continue.

Having foiled Castiel’s assassination attempt, Lucifer was having a hard time dealing with his whole lack of grace situation, and the inconveniently human side effects of his condition. Cold and hunger led to him striking up a conversation with a homeless man, whom it transpired was trying to get together enough money to see a faith healer for his injured leg. Sister Jo (a much anticipated guest appearance by Danneel Ackles) had quite the reputation for being able to cure any ailment, so it wasn’t surprising to find that the good sister was in fact an angel called Anael. While she wasn’t much cop as a celestial, Sister Jo found her calling on Earth, and became an astute woman of business, which stood her in good stead when it came to making a bargain with Satan.

Reasoning that it was better to keep her alive and tap her for grace whenever Lucifer needed, Sister Jo managed to wrap the archangel around her little finger, and even had him exposing his vulnerable side on a motel bed. We’ve seen a lot more facets of Lucifer this season, and it was interesting to see these two non-human characters discuss the pro and cons of human feelings and sensations. Part of the allure of The Morning Star and his fall from grace in mythology has always been that his pride is very relatable, and it’s good to see the show explore that in a bit more depth. The sexualisation of the relationship between Jo and Lucifer was unexpected, but made sense in the context of two power hungry beings sparking off one another’s ambition. And that ambition certainly paid off, given that by the end of the episode, Lucifer had managed to invest himself with the title King of Heaven, with Anael as his right hand woman. How’s that for a promotion?

While Sister Jo managed to convince the Winchesters and Cas that Lucifer was holding her against her will when they tracked her down, she double crossed them, and for a minute it seemed that Team Free Will was in real trouble. Help arrived in the unexpected form of Arthur Ketch, sent by Asmodeus to execute the weakened Lucifer, and imprisoned in the Impala’s trunk by the boys. While it’s understandable that the brothers and Cas didn’t want to give Ketch the benefit of the doubt, he does also seem to be working as a double agent. His utter contempt for monsters and the fervour he had for his work for the British Men of Letters would seem to support the idea that he has always intended to bring down Asmodeus, and he certainly had a point when he told Sam and Dean he’s the lesser of at least three current evils (Asmodeus, Lucifer, and Michael). I was glad that his demon bomb (has that always been a thing, by the way?!) intercepted Lucifer’s grip on the boys because it would have made no sense to have Lucifer leave them alive at this point.

But while Ketch might be a traitor to Asmodeus’ cause, the Prince of Hell and purveyor of finger-licking good chicken (sorry) had a couple more tricks up his sleeve. He cast a spell on the prophet Donatello, forcing him to relay any information gleaned from the demon tablet the Winchesters tasked him with decrypting in order to open a rift to the Apocalypse World – a nice bit of equilibrium to the scenes earlier in the season with Kevin Tran. Asmodeus also procured an archangel blade, and when Ketch pointed out the sword could only be wielded by another archangel, he produced a shocking ace in the hole: Gabriel, his bloody lips stitched together and incarcerated in a filthy cell. Given that Gabriel was killed by Lucifer back in Season 5, and God Himself confirmed he couldn’t be brought back in Season 11, I am fascinated to know how the show is going to explain this twist.

Considering that a lot happened in “Devil’s Bargain”, the episode felt relatively slow. But in terms of developing the plot and serving up surprises, it really delivered. With a mini-hiatus ahead, it remains to be seen how quickly the rift can be opened and Jack and Mary rescued, and which of the villains will prove the biggest threat to humanity. I just hope the balance between new and old antagonists and mythology can be sustained through to the end of the season, and that Supernatural can continue to find fresh ways of utilising this raft of characters and themes.

Final Grade: C+

+ The final shot of Gabriel was genuinely surprising and beautifully horrific. And Lucifer punching the cherub’s heart out was very effective.

+ Ketch shouldn’t still be relevant but I am really enjoying his character and how much he is clearly messing with the Winchesters’ heads.

+ I’m relieved that Danneel Ackles was not stunt-cast as a love interest for Dean a la the meta Sam/Ruby parallel in “The French Mistake”, which still irritates me to this day.

– The angels are still failing to live up to their potential, and the fact that they allowed Lucifer to just walk in and take the throne of Heaven shows how dumb and unimposing they have become on this show.

– Considering how much actually went down, this episode did feel a little slow.

– I’m very confused as to how the whole angel and grace power thing works now, seeing as Cas and Lucifer both seem to be indestructible but also weak at this point!

Extra Thought: It was quite churlish to bring back poor Cupid (albeit in quite a creepy form), only to have him murdered. Now that there are hardly any angels (and therefore cherubs) left, does that mean humans soon won’t be able to fall in love? Inquiring minds need to know…

What did you think? Was this episode as flawless as Sister Jo’s hair, or about as appetising as Donny’s discarded chicken bones? Sound off in the comments, or over on Twitter.

 

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Katie Young

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