Wednesday, May 15, 2013

'Supernatural' Season Finale Recap: "Sacrifice"...

With a title like "Sacrficie," the eight season finale of The CW's Supernatural had a lot of promises to keep.

Since showrunner Jeremy Carver has spent the season talking about a "two year" plan, and we know Supernatural has been renewed, there wasn't an inherent promise to manage to complete all of the trials-- the angel tablet ones or even the demon tablet ones. The last two trials we saw completed (one for each) happened so quickly, so seemingly easily, despite the physical havoc the effects wreaked on Sam (Jared Padalecki) that I went into this episode convinced someone was screwing with them, unwilling to concede that it may have just been a flaw in the storytelling. There were a lot of things that needed answering before this hour was over!

Additionally, there was Crowley's (Mark Sheppard) promise hanging in the air from the end of "Clip Show" that he would continue to go after Sam and Dean's (Jensen Ackles) saved ones until he got what he wanted: the demon tablet. Admittedly, there aren't many near and dear left for the Winchesters, but I was hoping at least one familiar face would return as a well-kept secret.

And with the title being what it was, it certainly seemed like at least one character wouldn't be able to come out of the episode alive. Knowing that Ackles, Padalecki, and Misha Collins are all series regulars next year (man, sometimes knowing the business side of things really ruins the enjoyment in the episodes because it lowers the stakes considerably to know who is "safe" no matter what hell (and sometimes literally) they befall), there were only a few options.

Right off the top of the episode, Supernatural gave me something I wanted that I didn't even realize I wanted: a return to Sheriff Jody Mills (Kim Rhodes). I'll admit it: I kind of forgot about her. When Bobby died, so did my dreams of seeing her again, because they had such great banter, but now why would she be around? "Clip Show" came and went without me even wondering why she wasn't included. But of course it all makes sense now; she was the ace up Supernatural's sleeve, even if not Crowley's. He may not have come out and told Sam and Dean who his next victim would be (and oh how I LOLed at the idea that he was on a date!), but it didn't matter because A) they had already made their decision and B) we had already seen her and realized the weight of the situation.

Dean called Crowley just as Jody stumbled in the bathroom of the restaurant, choking on her own blood. Look, it's one thing to die in such a hellish (no pun intended) manner, but to add insult to injury, Jody not only knows about supernatural things and therefore could piece together what was going on, but she actually found the hex bag in her purse when the choking started. That's just an unnecessarily cruel thing to do to someone who was so strong and in the know. That's almost "giving Bobby such a sweet and poignant good-bye only to diminish it later when you've brought him back to bastardize his spirit" cruel. And clearly these are not things I take lightly.

Anyway, Dean called Crowley to tell him he had a deal, and Crowley was cocky enough to make Dean actually use the word "surrender." He just didn't say it fast enough to save poor Jody, and he never even asked who it was that Crowley was after that time. Honestly, it's probably better than they didn't find out. Dean and Sam got the tablet back from Kevin (Osric Chau) who they finally moved into their lair but too little, too late on that end, I'd say, and then headed to Sioux Falls to meet Crowley. But first they had to take a solemn pass through Bobby's junkyard to remind us all what we miss so damn much.

Of course, when Dean and Sam arrived, they had a plan of their own, but I have to admit I'm surprised it worked because it seemed so simple. Get close enough to Crowley to slap a "demonic handcuff" on him. I wish they had know about those for all of these eight years; it would have made some other hunts go a lot more smoothly! The handcuffs prevented Crowley from snapping his fingers and disappearing and forced him to look in Dean's eyes when Dean announced that Crowley was going to be the third trial.

It's a good thing Sam was so convinced the previous two trials were "purifying" him because after strapping Crowley into the equivalent of a demon electric chair in an abandoned, stand alone chuch, he had to administer doses of his purified blood to the demon, slowly, over the better part of a day. The rules were a little fuzzy about the demon blood that runs within Sam and whether or not that was what was purified and therefore now out of his system because even a priest, a human with regular blood, had to have his blood purified first. Dean gave his baby bro some snarky tips on prayer in order to help the process-- mostly listing things he did wrong that he should bring up in his process of atoning. It was a moment that could and perhaps should have turned sappy, as Dean really has come a long way with prayer since season four, but the episode didn't want to slow down in the middle to get there. The famous Winchester feelings scenes always come at the end, after all.

Meanwhile, Castiel (Collins) was picking Metatron's (Curtis Armstrong) brain about God like a little kid asking about, well, God. Metatron pointed out that God was exactly what you'd think, which included being kind of an a-hole. My words, not his. We should have expected that, given all he's been responsible for and all he just walked away from, but still the show drove it home in the beginning of the episode to set up that when things go south later, you shouldn't be surprised. Even when Metatron back-peddled a bit, saying that God was "fair," it seemed more like a moment of him worried the big guy had dropping to eavesdrop rather than that he meant it.

Metatron told Castiel the second angel's tablet dealt with obtaining Cupid's bow-- no more killing-- and they headed out to a Texas bar to find a guy looking for love to wait for the Cupid to show up. But Naomi's (Amanda Tapping) angel minions caught Castiel's scent and tracked them both down, taking only Metatron with them when they disappeared back up to heaven and Naomi's OCD office.

So while Sam was busy asking "someone" upstairs for help, Castiel went to Dean for the same thing. Dean was hesitant to leave Sam alone, of course, knowing how weak Sam has been from the trials. He probably didn't assume each injection Sam gave Crowley would zap him with those glowy arms again, making each one more difficult. You'd think that completing the trials would be a positive thing, and he'd gain strength, wouldn't you? Well, no, the world doesn't work that way. Not only do they require his strength-- and in this case his blood, his humanity-- but who's to say they're even entirely a good thing? Locking away demons, angels, whoever, whatever just has you playing God. And as we've established, God is kind of a dick.

As an aside, I had to wonder if "curing" Crowley and giving him his humanity back might mean that Sam would lose his own. Sure, the show already did "soul-less Sam," but in this case, there is no coming back from that. That was some of the best acting Padalecki's done, and the most interesting color on the character, as well as for the brother relationship. A return to it wouldn't be completely unwelcome.

But anyway, Dean was "down" to lock away the angels, too. He didn't worry over potentially losing Castiel to the weakness Sam was suffering. He didn't even wonder if an angel completing the angel trials spared that angel from having to return to heaven or if his friend would be zapped away forever. The momentum had to keep rolling, the plot had to keep moving, and so he went with Castiel to try to rescue Metatron, who Naomi had strapped to her own angel electric chair of sorts to figure out why he'd expose himself now, and with the lowly Castiel at all.

Metatron didn't really have any plans to get himself out of a bad situation. He didn't care if he got hurt a little bit. It was worth it if it meant she and the other archangels got what they deserved. Because the thing is, he lied to Castiel: the trials he told him he had to complete would not close off heaven but instead fling those pearly gates wide open (and there's the conflict for next year, laid out in exposition through Naomi's dialogue). Angels would walk the Earth, confused, scared, angry, cast off as Metatron felt he had been when God abandoned him. How soon would it be before they became just as problematic as the demons?

Naomi said that all God's creations must be protected, and I couldn't help but wonder just how much that encompassed. Could it include demons, too? After all, they're just twisted souls, and if you following the family tree high enough, it should all lead back to the same place. If Sam completed the trial, wouldn't he be breaking that mission? Naomi said Metatron knew Sam would die if completed-- a final (titular) sacrifice that honestly reminded me too much of Lilith being the final seal all those seasons ago. But such a great sacrifice implies a great reward, and there's no reason to believe a guy who played God and unbalanced the order of things would get rewarded. This show has taught us better than that.

Kevin took six months to decode the demon tablet, though, so giving him a few hours with the angel one-- one he didn't even know about-- wasn't much of a plan, either. Dean and Castiel ended up back at the same bar, hoping they'd get lucky and their barkeep would, too. And wouldn't you know it? Another patron who just happened to be in the bar every night bonded with the guy over some kind of hunting commercial (irony?), and though Dean was surprised to encounter two burly gay men in the heart of Texas, it was all because Cupid came a callin'. The delivery girl Dean thought would be the one the barkeep would hit it off with turned out to be the Cupid herself, and after a little chatter, Castiel said he thought he could fix the chaos upstairs, and she offered her bow (which was tattooed on her palm-- how kick ass is that!?) to him. I don't really know why, after all he's done, no matter how much he's felt bad about it, she (or anyone up there) would trust him, but I guess that should tell you something about just how bad things are.

Crowley, though, had a plan. He bit Sam during one of his injections-- enough to draw blood that he then spit into his own hand to perform a spell. I admit, I simply thought the bite was to unpurify Sam's blood so the trial wouldn't "take," but Crowley called for help to his demons down below, and Abaddon (Alaina Huffman) came a callin', too. But she didn't want to just cut Crowley free (why would she?); she wanted to deal, to get some of his power. Unfortunately he didn't even have time to consider it before Sam torched her vessel and left her blowing out of that church in a hurry.

I just have to point out that I don't know if it's the wooziness from the trials or what, but I'm glad Sam was in law school and not med school back in the day, because his injection puncture wounds were all over the place. You'd think he should reuse the same spot, rather than poke a bunch of painful holes. Then again, I guess any extra pain you can cause a demon is something, right?

Everyone was raving on social media about Sheppard's HBO-spewing monologue (which wasn't nearly as long and thankfully not as expository either as last week's), and while I admit Sheppard delivered it gloriously, it was a bit surreal for a situation that was already the definition of the word. Crowley's not only a demon, but he's the demon; he's the King of Hell; and he's sitting there, trying to relate to Sam through HBO miniseries and original comedies. Band of Brothers might have worked with Dean, even for a moment. After all, he just went through a foxhole situation (Purgatory) with someone (Benny) who was someone he'd normally take down but ended up helping because of the bond. But Girls? So not the right demo, Crowley, though I admit it was weird that they'd stay in all those crappy hotels whose only amenity was HBO and never turn on the TV. Eh well, they were busy, you know, saving people, hunting things... Crowley reaching for something so universally relatable as television, though, should have been the first clue that the trial was working, that he was becoming more human. Yet, I didn't trust it. Not when he stopping saying "Moose" and actually addressed Sam by name, not when he looked confused when he realized what he was saying, and certainly not when he was screaming about wanting and deserving to be loved. That smelled like pure, perfect manipulation to me-- a way to get under Sam's skin by tapping into something Sam's always worried about. Sheppard sold it, but I don't know, I just couldn't trust him. He's a demon, damn it! He's the demon. I couldn't believe he didn't have one final trick up his sleeve.

Metatron ended up having one final trick. After all Castiel had recently been through with Naomi using him for information, he didn't trust her and went up to heaven to find out what was really going on. Metatron turned the tables and strapped him in the chair, slicing out his grace and keeping it in a glowy vial as some kind of angel killer trophy, I assume. If Crowley's the Demon King, then Metatron's the Angel-Demon King (he's not an actual demon, but he's still horrible). Basically, he sent Castiel back down to Earth human, telling him to live, have a family, and come find him when he died of regular, human causes. It wasn't like Anna and her fall from grace; he had it taken from him. The question is, will he remember everything, or will his memories be gone with his grace like hers were?

Dean and Sam finally had their brother to brother talk over a weakened Crowley who was thisclose to being human again, too. Sam sliced his palm and was ready to complete the ritual when Dean tried to appeal to him, saying that all the knowledge they recently gained would help them turn the tide on demons, and they didn't actually need to slam the gates after all. Um, okay, sure, Dean. Like it's not totally obvious you just can't lose your brother. Again. I get your desperation, I do, but seriously? Sam's right. One life for thousands is more than a fair trade. I didn't agree with Sam that he always screwed up or held Dean back or let him down (occasionally he did, but that worked both ways), so it wasn't an issue about it being his life that would have to be sacrificed. I'd say the same thing if Dean were in his shoes. It's one life for thousands. It's basic math and human decency. It's the definition of sacrifice. But it's Supernatural, a show about two guys, a show that has sent them to unthinkable places, including death, and always brought them back to fight another day. Sam could always be brought back from the dead, but there was no way this show was going to get rid of half its points of conflict with at least another season to go! So forgive me if in season eight, I was annoyed the stakes were the same as they had always been, and I wasn't interested in a repetitive song and dance.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy their conversation. I did. They needed to have it. It broke my heart that Sam thought his greatest sin was letting down his big brother and part time father figure. It shouldn't be a sin at all. But I guess if you think something's a sin, then that makes it so for you. It broke my heart that he worried about being replaced. But it really annoyed me that after everything they'd been through Dean thought it was as simple as "letting go" and whatever was "in" Sam from the two-point-nine trials he completed would just magically vanish. Clearly they've become a bit too reliant on having beings around them that can snap their fingers and get things done. For those of us slumming it in the real world, it's a much longer, harder, sometimes impossible road.

As, of course, proved to be the case here so Supernatural could end the season on a cliffhanger. Dean dragged Sam, screaming in pain, out of the church, yelling for Castiel to come fix him. Castiel couldn't, of course, having crash-landed back on Earth actually like ET this time in the woods. Oh man how I hope he wakes up as Jimmy. I missed that crazy bastard! Kevin watched as the antiquated electronics and the special map in the Men of Letters bunker lit up with "incoming" new threats. Crowley's eyes popped open, his old smirk back on his face (which I'm happy about because I love his character but better not be what it appears because if Sam is still feeling the effects, so should he. He got really close to being "cured," after all, and as aforementioned, you can't just flip a switch and let go or turn this stuff off). And angels streamed down burning through the clouds, falling from heaven.

If you thought demons were terrible after years in hell, coming up to wreak havoc, I can only imagine that angels will be ten times worse. Look at how Metatron handled things: he laid in wait for years before striking, but when he finally did, it was huge. He was a little boy with a bruised ego, scorned, and he took it out on everyone. They've sat on the lawn of paradise in heaven, and now they are forced to slum it in the bowels of Earth. I'd be pissed, too.

So in the end, the titular "Sacrifice" (save for the minor character of Jody who we barely had time to mourn) wasn't a character's life but a great, season-long mission. Dean and Sam went into the trials so gung-ho about saving the world (again), they considered what they'd do next, after success, but not what it would mean not if they failed but if they chose to give up. These guys are not quitters, but they did walk away, which kind of made me wonder what all that work was towards at all. They did the selfish thing for once in stopping the trials and putting a Winchester before the world. How that will come to haunt them, in having to live with the decision while new external threats literally rain down upon them, is what I am most excited to explore next season. Will they throw themselves into finding another way to shut the gates? Or will they be too distracted with trying to shut the angel gates for a while? Just how much will Sam resent and regret the decision?

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