I went into this season almost entirely unspoiled, except for the obvious: somehow, Dean would get out of Hell.
So when Castiel showed up at the end of the first episode, impossible to summon, impossible to kill, and announced, “I am an angel of the Lord,” I kind of flipped out.
On one hand, I’ve wondered where SPN would end up going if they decided to depict supernatural forces of good. Angels are far from fluffy harmless things; Biblically speaking, they’re inhuman warriors and messengers, sent to convince people to do what God has for them or to smite the forces of the enemy. Encounters like that always begin with the angel saying, “Do not be afraid.” Or, possibly, with the human they’re meeting falling face down in terror.
I love how inhuman Castiel seems. I love the harmless looks, so totally belied by the cadence of speech, by the total lack of fear (even when telling Dean how many of Castiel’s angelic brothers died in battle, there’s only anger, no fear), by the way he seems to have to work so hard to understand human beings at all. He’s something Other. Exactly how I would have done it myself.
On the other hand, I wrote a post a while ago about my glee over Eric Kripke’s take on the show’s “seeming absence of good.”
"We have a firm belief in the cosmology of this show that evil, in terms of demons, etc, is very tangible and real and out there. Angels and supernatural forces of good are much more elusive. But in my opinion - and the opinion of the writers - if God is out there, he isn't sending angels to fight the battles; he's working through a very human, sweaty, outgunned and overwhelmed group of hunters. For us, these are the angels. I think the point that's very important to us to make is that the forces of good work through humans who are flawed and imperfect and trying to make the right decisions. And that's the way God works. So we try to present that."
That’s something I’ve seen in the show since “Faith” (still one of my favorite episodes). Even in “Houses of the Holy,” where there seemed to be some evidence of supernatural aid on the side of good, it was low-key and hidden. And I love this approach, because even though I as a Christian believe that God did interfere in the world for our salvation, I also believe that we human beings are His hands and feet, His sword and shield in this shattered and fallen world.
That’s the worldview I’ve always seen in Supernatural.
Bringing Castiel in challenges that.
So far, though, they’ve been circumspect about what Castiel is there for, what exactly he is ordered to do, whether he can interfere in any way larger than raising Dean from “perdition” and telling him things about the past.
It’s still good humans, still the Winchesters, who are the truly active force for good.
I hope it stays that way.
I like where the whole angel thing seems headed. I’m still really nervous about what the show could end up saying about God. They tackled this promisingly in ep 2, through Dean trying to come to grips with the idea that God ordered Castiel to pull Dean out of Hell.
1. I don’t want this show to go the route of, say, The Dark Is Rising series. Or Babylon 5, despite the fact that I deeply enjoyed both. (I.e., Light and Dark are both manipulative bastards and humanity must follow its own path.) If we’re going to have demons and angels and God, then I’d like to see this tackle some actual worldviews and theology. Good can be/seem ruthless, yes; but I don’t want to see the Winchesters set equally against both good and evil. I don’t want the humans to be the only people we can root for. I’d like to be able to root for God, too.
2. I don’t want to end up in a truly dualistic worldview. Devil is just as powerful as God, etc. (This doesn’t seem likely, given general demonic reaction to Castiel’s presence, but it’s here for the sake of completion.)
3. I don’t want Sam to go completely evil. I think this is extremely unlikely, but the show isn’t encouraging me with its limited Sam-pov so far this season.
I was spoiled only for the most basic premise of this episode. I’ll write a little bit more on the time travel below, but overall I liked this episode much, MUCH more than I had expected to. And this despite the fact that I am more of a John-girl than I thought.
I adore Mary’s parents. Samuel and Deanna FTW! Especially Deanna, with her snark and her knife skills. Dean is most definitely her grandson.
When Mary comes out and tackles Dean in the alley, I was shocked. Mary, a hunter? My brain kind of froze: it felt like bad fanfic for a minute, and I wasn’t at all sure I would like where this was going. Then I remembered that the YED showed Sam a vision that hinted at Mary recognizing him that night in the nursery, and that Mary had apologized to Sam in “Home,” and suddenly the idea became intriguing rather than annoying.
Everyone has said this, but for an episode with about 5 seconds of Sam, the story was all about him. Nicely played, writers.
I thought the casting for young Mary was brilliant. She looked similar enough that it didn’t mess with my head, and the more I watched the actress, the more impressed I was with her performance. Mary is so much more real to me than she was before, and I adore that she’s so fleshed out now, that she’s not just a victim (though she is still that).
Also love: that it’s not Mary Jess truly resembles--it’s John. *flails* John was Mary’s Jess, her normality, her chance to be safe! That scene made me tear up so hard.
Mitch Pileggi did a fantastic job as the YED. That is one way to bring him back! Favorite moment of episode: Dean staring the YED in the face and telling him, “I’m the one who kills you.” Brings back memories of, say, AHBL 2, where the YED ignored Dean to his peril. <3
“Sammy, you should be here. Mom is a total babe. And I am so going to hell. Again.” *snerk*
John is a Star Trek nerd. A secret one, probably, but that’s totally canon now. *g*
I also love that Castiel came clean with Dean about what’s going on. It’s back to season 2: save Sammy or kill him. I’ve seen people calling what Castiel said “a threat.” I didn’t get that vibe from his delivery. I’d say that he’s just filling Dean in on what has to happen, and the fact that Dean was brought back from Hell so God’s forces wouldn’t have to step in and smite Sam? Is kind of awesome.
Temporal mechanics give me a headache. This is true when it happens in sci-fi shows, where it’s a standard plot device; and it’s even more true in a horror show like SPN, where it’s really not at all part of what one might expect to happen.
There are 3 reasons I can simply let this episode slide without over-thinking it: 1) Dean doesn’t change anything major, apparently, 2) it’s as good a way as any for Castiel to show Dean the truth, 3) Castiel’s comment that Dean couldn’t have changed anything, because “all roads lead to the same destination.”
To be honest? I find myself not really considering this as time-travel at all. My brain has slotted it into the “deeply realistic participatory dream” area; I don’t quite believe that Castiel sent Dean back in time, but that he knocked him out and showed him the past experientially. Kind of like what Yellow Eyes did to Sam in AHBL 1, but because Dean will more readily believe his own experience than a “film reel” explanation, Castiel let him live through it.
That means I really, really want someone to take the episode and write up what happened (since major events did not change with Dean’s presence) without Dean there. *firm nod*
I am deeply displeased at the writing/casting/directing/acting of John Winchester in this episode.
He’s far too clean-cut, happy, quiet, far too white picket fence, Johnny-Apple-Pie for an ex-Marine corporal who just got back from Vietnam. (Also, I have a feeling that the dates on that DO NOT work out, and that’s pissing me off. I haven’t checked, though.)
I don’t mind that all the agency here is Mary’s, in fact I think the story requires that. I don’t mind, either, that Mary loves John in large part because he is “a naive civilian” (even though given John’s own military background I’d challenge her on that as a good description), because even after fighting he still believes in “happily ever after.” I think that’s a decent possibility for John (though it wipes out preseries fic by the dozen), and I think it’s very sweet, and even sweeter that Mary sees that in him.
So I’m not sure my beef is with the writer. The dialogue would be fine if, say, Jeffery Dean Morgan were delivering it. I’m not peeved at the way the actor looks, either, because how could they match JDM? It’s either the acting, either this guy just isn’t good enough to infuse the dialogue with this version of John and still give him that ex-military edge; or it’s the directing.
I see what the show was trying to do here: give us John as he was before he lost Mary, make the difference as striking as possible. I just don’t buy it. It reads as Mary’s vision of John, one clouded by her love and her desire to escape the hunting life. Not John as he really must have been, no matter what Mary says about loving him for who he is.
And that leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
Also, I suddenly want to write 2nd-person John-pov fic set during a couple of these scenes. I’ve never wanted to write “fix-it” fic before!
To sum up: this is going to some very interesting places. I’m glued to my TV for the rest of the coming season...but mishandled, this direction could lead me to abandon one of my favorite shows for good. Quite a potent choice, Kripke & Co.