So first off, I’d like to establish that this review is going to be in no way rational or objective. (Are you really meant to be objective about SPN anyway? I don’t think so.) I’m going to have a little bitch about weird plot contrivances, but that aside, I thought it was kind of amazing.
And here’s why: despite my quibbles, which I’ll get to, this felt epic. It felt huge. The stakes are honestly high- and the ending had me upset literally for days. (I kid you not, I marched into my English class first period the next day and practically bawled out ‘SAM WINCHESTER IS BACK IN HELL.’)
The teaser was great. I love Emily Swallow as Amara- she’s ferocious and amoral and seductive, yet also strangely naive. Not naive in a bad way- like a wild animal.
But in that first scene- that was some nasty shit. I cringe when SPN gets gory, but in an approving sort of way. It adds grit. (This may come as a shock to you all, but I like gritty!SPN. I like it a lot). I loved the whole bleeding fountain thing. This episode was full of shots like that- ones that I could see becoming iconic. Bob Singer seriously outdid himself.
(Look at the sign. I love Jerry Wanek.)
From there, we go straight into a dream sequence- Sam and Lucifer in the cage. No dialogue; a wise choice. The performances say it all.
It was awesome to have Pellegrino back, and on top form. I say woot. Gorgeously shot, too- those eyes were a creepy touch.
It transfers to the burning bush scene, which was equally beautiful. I could (and have) screencap this season til kingdom come. Expect many VS metas when I have more time on my hands.
And from there, straight to these cool in-your-face shots-
I really liked the way the episode was put together- how it jumped from scene to scene. I wouldn’t describe it as disjointed, but destablising. Like the cinematography- all the shots of stained glass and broken figures and candles. It was almost like a really long dream sequence.
Jensen, as ever, shone. This season’s Dean has a soft vulnerability to him- but also at times that jaded grumpy-old-man routine (which I find so funny). I know a lot of people are up in arms about his not answering his phone. It’s kind of a cheap plot device, but it makes sense to me that he was under his Amara-trance thing. Anyway, what would he have done to stop Lucifer, seriously? Likely as not he’d’ve ended up in with Lucifer too. Oh, and the closeup below was beautiful.
The other thing fans seem to be pissed about is that we saw nothing of Michael and/or Adam. I can only say to that people should actually pay attention to what’s happening before moaning. It was made perfectly clear that what Sam got trapped in was not THE Cage- it was in Limbo. Neutral ground. So I suppose what we saw was technically a manifestation of Lucifer, while his ‘essence’ or whatever was stuck in the Cage. But semantics.
And I would say that, no, this episode did not make Sam seem stupid. Naive, perhaps but naïve in the way of someone who has been through everything and desperately needs one last thing to have faith in. What we’ve been seeing is Sam clinging to the idea of God as a last resort. If he’d so much as entertained the idea that it was Lucifer and not God talking to him, he would not have shattered so spectacularly at the end. It’s fantastic characterization, really- Sam has obviously held it together for years by pushing everything back. Now, we’re seeing him finally break down. Jared is phenomenal. What I find interesting (and by that I mean completely soul-destroying) is that Sam manages to keep it together, just , until Lucifer’s rapey comment. After that, his face just- yeah.
Stunningly shot, of course. (I saw a really cool thing on Tumblr about Dean being in the light with the Darkness, and Sam being in the darkness with the Bringer of Light. I love Bob Singer.)
Then there’s the predator/prey dynamic that’s going on with both Sam and Lucifer, and Dean and Amara. I’m already sick of seeing whingey meta about ‘But Dean didn’t consent to that kiss! I don’t like Amara very much!’ No. He didn’t. Shocking. But there’s more to it than that. There are layers to their relationship. She is genuinely drawn to him. It’s different but also similar to- the weird affection that Lucifer has for Sam. I find the contrasting relationships so interesting. Amara seems to represent what Purgatory did for Dean- that peace in chaos.
The Samifer relationship has always had a faintly Stockholmy vibe to it. And also a distinctly rapey one. And no, the show doesn’t handle that subtlety. Why the hell should it? We’re talking about rape. There is literally no way to handle that delicately. It’s never dealt with, never acknowledged by Sam and Dean, because the only way they can plausibly function is by not acknowledging it. Of course here we had the ‘Top bunk? Bottom bunk? Or do you wanna share?’ line and Sam looking terrified and I’ve seen some people react with ‘That line was in no way necessary.’
I find it in no way relevant as to whether a line is necessary or not. It isn’t as if it came out of the blue- rape has been in the subtext since people started being possessed, after all, and Born Under A Bad Sign made it pretty explicit. That fear is pretty much intrinsic to the show and to the characters- particularly Sam, it seems, who is constantly being possessed and controlled. Necessary? I’m really not sure what was meant by that. Would people rather the show backed away from the issue entirely? Because it ties neatly back to one of the things the show has always been about- the cracks in such classic masculinity.
My personal quibble with this episode was the icky exposition. While I have to hand it to the B & L duo (Lucifer’s ‘three off-ramps ago’ line was pretty great) for the most part, we really don’t need to be reminded that Lucifer was ‘the biggest monster ever hatched’ until the boys ‘hatched a bigger one’. That is unneccessary. And clunky, which is worse. Oh, and the angel scene was boring. I’m so done with the angels, but as they hardly signify this season I can handwave it. I’m too excited over the SamnDean stuff.
Finally, the music was fantastic. All the operatic stuff. It gave a sense of scale similar to the angels falling at the end of S8. Good job, Jay Gruska.
I’m super worried about Sam now. How shall I endure my first mid-season hiatus? The promo for next episode has blindsided me.