Richard Speight, Jr., perhaps more familiar to viewers as the archangel Gabriel, swapped his acting cap for his directorial one this week to bring us the second installment of Supernatural‘s fourteenth season, and – as the title suggests – “Gods and Monsters” tackled that familiar theme of what makes a monster. But while this show is frequently concerned with the blurred lines between the human and the monstrous, this episode also explored the notion of what makes a god.
When a pile of bodies with burnt-out eyes turned up in Duluth, Sam, Mary, and Bobby went to investigate, leaving Cas to ‘babysit’ Jack and Nick. What they found at the morgue were not human victims, but rather a group of dead vampires, the failed experiments of Michael’s attempts to fuse monster blood with archangel grace. After vamps, Michael moved onto werewolves, seducing a young woman who believed she’d found her next meal and forcing her to call her alpha. Michael’s proposition – a new world order where humans are kept for labour and food – was met with enthusiasm by the pack leader, and soon Sam, Mary, and Bobby found themselves confronted by a new breed of loup garou, one that couldn’t be harmed by silver. This arc seems to be the antithesis of the British Men of Letters story-line, where instead of eradicating monsters, Michael is single-mindedly turning them into the superior lifeforms on Earth. In the absence of God, Michael’s philosophical musings on why humans were chosen to assert mastery over other creatures made for an interesting new spin on the age old dilemma of what gives Sam and Dean the right to judge which ones get to live or die.
We also saw Dean reunited with Sam – at least it appeared to be Dean. But given Michael’s slaughter of the young vamp he used as bait to get his brother, mother, and Bobby where he wanted them, I wouldn’t be expecting an emotional reunion just yet…
Back at the bunker, Cas was providing tea and sympathy, assuring Jack that while it may take him more than a century to regain his grace, patience and perseverance were just as important as being able to smite everyone in a five-mile radius at will when it came to fighting bad guys. Jack was understandably not overly comforted by Castiel’s insistence that he was just as happy and valued as a ‘no bells and whistles version’ of himself as he was when he was a badass mother-fudging agent of the Lord, and set out to learn a little about his origins by turning up on his maternal grandparents’ doorstep. Kelly’s Mom and Dad (either the most naive people on the plant, or the most in denial), bought Jack’s story that he was a friend from work, and that Kelly was still away on super secret government business. Seemingly satisfied with the idea of receiving news of their grandson’s birth from a White House intern, Ma and Pa Kline welcomed Jack with open arms.
Back at the bunker, Castiel didn’t have the heart to chastise Jack for going to meet his birth family, but a gulf opened up between the angel and the nephilim when Jack suggested Dean might have to die to destroy Michael. While Cas is clearly not okay with the concept of Dean becoming collateral damage, Jack made a very good point when he said Dean wouldn’t want it any other way. Of course Dean Winchester would give his life to save the planet in a heartbeat, but I have a feeling a certain Sam Winchester will have a very different view. Are we setting up for a divide between this dysfunctional little family?
But we should probably add babysitting to the list of things Cas is absolutely useless at, because it wasn’t only Jack who managed to escape the bunker on his watch. Nick, still traumatised by the memories of all the things his body has done under Lucifer’s control, discovered he’d said ‘yes’ to the devil in an state of abject grief and hopelessness, following the brutal murder of his wife and child. Nick’s anger at finding out the murderer had never been brought to justice drove him to pay a visit to an old neighbour who had changed his witness statement, giving the police nothing to go on. Lucifer might be gone (for now) but he’s clearly left Nick with some bad habits, most chillingly his attempt to explode Cas with a click of his fingers when he tried to touch Nick’s shoulder. Oh, and clubbing his former neighbour to death with hammer…
Overall this was a decent episode. It posed some interesting theological questions, and threw us a few curveballs. I’m hoping now that Sam appears to be in Michael’s trap, we get some good interaction between the younger Winchester and Michael wearing his brother’s meat suit. While the scenes of Jack meeting his grandparents were touching, I could have done with more of Michael and his diabolical plans. Whilst Nick was a sympathetic character when he was first introduced, I fear Mark Pellegrino‘s scenery chewing is much better suited to his portrayal of Lucifer than to his damaged vessel. A less overwrought performance could have made Nick the fledgling vigilante serial killer a lot more effective.
Final Grade: C
+ I am very much here for the Hannibal aesthetic of Jensen Ackles in a leather apron, calmly dispatching people, then putting on a tux for dinner.
+ Sam’s hopeful but weary little face at the end was a thing of beauty. Nice work from Jared Padalecki.
+ There were a few complex moral questions posed in this episode, and I hope they are given adequate time and thought.
– Nothing upsets me more that the ret-conning of classic eps. We’ve all seen “Heart” and since when can werewolves change form at will?
– I found the Nick plot-line a little too melodramatic. Subtlety could have made this episode really creepy.
– I appreciate that the show is trying to do something different, but I miss the two leads sharing screen-time.
Extra Thought: I’m still undecided as to whether Nick is scarred by Lucifer, or whether the devil is dormant in there somewhere…
What did you think? Was this episode divine, or beastly? Sound off in the comments, or over on Twitter!