With their list of allies getting shorter by the day, the Winchesters called a powerful old frenemy this week, to help them in their search for the AWOL angel Gabriel. But things rarely go to plan where a certain red-headed witch is concerned, and instead of getting assistance with their rift problem, the boys found themselves on a mission to stop Rowena from killing humans and – more importantly – reapers.
There’s been a palpable effort to bring back the show’s most popular supporting cast this season, and Ruth Connell‘s Scottish seductress is definitely a fan favourite – with good reason. “Funeralia”, directed by Nina Lopez-Corrado also gave us a touch of Death AKA Billie (the wonderful Lisa Berry), and sassy reaper, Jessica, last seen herding lost souls in this season’s “Advanced Thanatology”. And if all that wasn’t enough to satisfy your need for kick-ass femmes, Amanda Tapping‘s Naomi was back in Heaven.
But while this female-driven installment provided plenty of good performances, wit, and a few surprise revelations, it also had its share of flaws. Rowena’s story was the most compelling of the episode. Our favourite Celt had a high old time swanning around fancy soirees, doing the tango with unsuspecting bystanders before causing art patrons to spontaneously combust. But it transpired that as well as offing human rotters, the witch was also bumping off reapers, and that was screwing with the natural order of things. It was all a ruse, however, to get Death’s attention, because while Rowena wasn’t winning any Mother of the Year prizes while Crowley was alive, his demise had hit her harder than expected.
It’s hard to know what Rowena’s true motivations are – and that’s a credit to Connell – because she’s wrong-footed our heroes so often in the past. Now and then, we’ve had glimpses of remorse and real emotion, but ultimately the grand witch is an extremely unreliable sort. Which is why she’s so fun to watch. I think we’re supposed to go along with her redemption arc at this point, and I found it a little hard to swallow that Rowena would want her despised son back so badly as to provoke Death. It feels like there’s simply too much bad blood there, and Rowena has thus far seemed the type to tamp her pain and misery down, apply more eyeliner and move forward.
Jessica was a joy, and I enjoyed the hint of awkwardness between the brothers at the thought of her watching them as a kind of omnipotent babysitter. There’s also always the underlying threat that Billie will reveal to Sam that Dean committed suicide the last time he thought his brother was dead in “Red Meat”, and I really hope that’s explored more in the future because, all the mythological frippery aside, this is a show about two men who are co-dependent to the point of pathology! There was a spirited attempt to adhere to the laws governing death, but honestly it’s just hilarious watching Billie being all grumpy about it thirteen seasons in. Dean, Sam, Rowena, and Billie have all come back from their own deaths, and we’ve met Fate before, so all the warnings about upsetting the balance are as hollow as it gets these days. It was intriguing that all versions of Rowena’s death are down to Sam, but I am confused as to why Dean would blurt that out to her! I also liked the ominous way Billie told Dean she’d see him again soon…
Meanwhile, Castiel decided to go to Heaven and ask the angels for help in locating Gabriel. Weirdly, no one mentioned anything about Lucifer being the new boss, but Naomi made a shock reappearance, assuring Cas that him drilling her in the head did no lasting damage, and informing him that there are a grand total of nine angels left in Heaven (including Cas) and ‘a couple on Earth’. One of the angels left on Earth was a very drunk man we’ve never seen before, so I’m assuming he barely even counts. I’m going to level with you here: I’m very bored of the way angels are presented on Supernatural. Even speaking of them in terms of ‘men and women’ is at odds with the original lore about their true forms and makes them seem dull. I know TV has to follow certain narrative conventions, but doesn’t it seem weird that the angels are still using flesh and blood vessels in their own celestial realm? Where are all these light waves and lion-faced creatures? Angels are totally pedestrian now, and I am hoping their scarcity is going to make them a bit more interesting and magical! I am intrigued by the concept of all the souls falling back to Earth if Heaven powers down for good though – lots more ghosts for our boys to contend with.
It’s actually hard to know what to make of this episode without knowing how much of it will be relevant to future storylines. On the one hand, it felt a bit like filler before the final few episodes of the season, but on the other, there were a few tidbits which might be setting up threads for next year. Overall, there were some nice moments, but too much was overlooked to make “Funeralia” truly satisfying.
Final Grade: C
+ Castiel’s reaction to Rowena’s phone flirting was actually adorable.
+ Dean’s tentacle porn habit raised its tendrils again!
+ Girl power was rife this week, with great performances from all the female supporting cast.
– Rowena’s motives didn’t ring true for me.
– The Heaven saga needs to end.
– None of the stakes here felt real. There’s definitely some common ground and genuine emotion between Sam and Rowena, but it wasn’t explored fully in this episode.
Extra Thought: I actually don’t know where to begin with puzzling out the rules around death and angels and demons at this point, but surely Lucifer being in Heaven would set Castiel’s angel radio/radar off, and the devil’s power would be enough to power Heaven to a greater extent? It seems just bizarre that Cas went and came back without noticing that particular detail!
What did you think? Was this episode spellbinding, or should it have been read its last rites? Sound off in the comments, or over on Twitter!