It was very much the Dick Speight show this week, as the actor directed the episode and played the dual roles of Gabriel and Loki, fleshing out the backstory of how the Archangel came to be the Trickster, and was eventually sold into servitude to become Asmodeus’ plaything. And over in the Apocalypse World, Jack and Mary found themselves face to face with a familiar prophet when they stormed Michael’s abandoned stronghold.
“Unfinished Business” started off with some old skool vibes, as Sam and Dean checked into a motel room, and we learnt they were out on the road looking for Gabriel – or, more accurately, his grace. There was a nice moment when a grumpy Dean perked up on realising his bed had a vibrate setting, demonstrating that almost decade and numerous catastrophes have done little to instill any concept of boundaries in these boys. It wasn’t long before a wounded Gabriel turned up at their door, fresh from a fight with Fenrir Odinson, and revealed he had felt Rowena put a tracking spell on him. Gabriel was after hitting the brothers up for a grace fix, but they told him they’d used the last of it to open the rift, before being rudely interrupted by Loki’s other two sons, Narfi and Sleipnir. The Winchesters fought the demi-gods, giving Gabriel a chance to kill Narfi and, after Sleipnir fled, the archangel told the brothers the entire history of his involvement with the Norse pantheon. Honestly, the whole Trickster/Gabriel thing has always been slightly puzzling to me, so this is one instance of retconning I am actually prepared to get on board with.
I liked the idea of Loki and Gabriel meeting and becoming friends aeons ago, and the combination of Gaiman-style clashes of faiths and cultures mixed with a Tarantino-esque revenge arc made for a pretty fun episode. Dean savouring the salacious details of Gabe’s time in Monte Carlo provided a nice spot of levity, and the narrative of Gabriel assuming Loki’s identity to escape Lucifer and Michael, but Loki ultimately blaming the angel for Odin’s death actually worked for me. It seemed a shame to wipe out the entire clutch of Norse characters in one episode, especially the dapper Sleipnir, but in terms of giving Gabriel’s past an anchor, it was pretty effective. Of course, it was super convenient that the answer to Sam and Dean’s grace predicament turned up so quickly, but hey – this is Supernatural.
Over in the alternate world, Jack and Mary discovered that the angels had retreated, and – high on his recent victories – Jack decided to go and investigate Michael’s old haunt despite Mary’s concern that they were walking into a trap. Things seemed innocuous enough at the ruined church at first, with just little Kevin Tran left behind, locked in a dungeon. Kevin told Mary and Jack of Michael’s plan to open to open the rift and invade their realm, and Jack wanted to go after him. Mary asked Jack to wait a day for Bobby, fearing that she would lose another boy (aww), but Jack was determined. However, Kevin had been left behind for a reason, and as Jack tried to leave, the prophet revealed a sigil carved into his chest. He explained that Michael had promised him that he would see his mother again in Heaven if he sacrificed himself, and so Kevin’s second death was equally as tragic as his first. Jack managed to save Mary by wrapping her in his wings (so Nephilim DO have wings – good to know!) but the rest of their party was killed. A blessing in disguise then, that Jack didn’t wait for Bobby, or else he would be dead now too.
Perhaps the most surprising (and welcome) element of this episode was Sam and Dean’s final conversation. The boys were all set to go and retrieve their missing family members with Gabriel on board, Castiel safe, and Rowena lending a hand (for now at least). But something was troubling Dean and Sam called him out on his lack of enthusiasm as well as pursuing Loki alone, and going through the rift with Ketch a few weeks ago. I wasn’t prepared for Dean to admit his misgivings about challenging Michael being down to what happened to Sam the last time they faced the end of the world, and even more shocking was Sam’s insistence that they would face whatever was about to happen together and – if need be – die together. Richard Speight is known for directing episodes that pay homage to various cinematic styles, and for injecting playfulness, so this touching moment between the brothers kind of came out left field and gave me a lump in the throat.
I suspect there are fans who will be disappointed by the sidelining of the Winchesters in favour of giving Gabriel and Jack screen time, and I was prepared to join their ranks. But I found myself enjoying this episode much more than I expected. Gabriel’s missing years were explained fairly well, as was the long-running association with Norse mythology. Mary and Jack’s burgeoning fondness for one another was quite moving, and alt-Kevin’s death tragic. And while the brother’s were not the main focus this week, they had a real, emotional, honest conversation (albeit a brief one) which went straight for the heartstrings.
Final Grade B-
+ Loved the shoot out lit only by the intermittent blaze of the guns. It really reminded me of the climax of The Doom Generation.
+ It was good to see a bit of male/male flirtation happening in the Monte Carlo porn star paradise.
+ That ending though!
– The SFX on the Norse deities were a bit Snapchat filter.
– For some reason, it irked me that Gabriel was talking about time in terms of millennia, then claiming seven years was a long time. I know time works differently in Hell, but even so…
– Sam and Dean were very passive in this episode, which is not ideal three weeks from the season finale. The solutions to their not insignificant problems fell in their laps this week.
Extra Thought: I’m wondering if the real Gabriel survived this episode and will keep his word, or if there is more than meets the eye to this trickster…
What did you think? Did “Unfinished Business” have you seeing double or seeing red? Sound off in the comments or over on on Twitter!