‘Supernatural’ season 15, episode 2 review: ‘Nothing about our lives is real’

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Supernatural brought together a large cast of familiar faces this week – possibly too many? Here’s our review of Supernatural season 15, episode 2, “Raising Hell.”

The second instalment of what we now know to be a three-part season premiere, Supernatural season 15, episode 2 sees Sam, Dean and Castiel still holding the fort at the local high school, where they’ve corralled the folks of Harlan, Kansas to protect them from the ghostly quarantine zone we may as well call the Hellmouth. It’s been a few days, and everyone – on every side of this story – is itching with restless rage, aside from Belphegor, who remains, in his own words, a “goofy optimist.”

The guys receive their requested assist from Rowena, unexpected help from Ketch, and a shocking and sad revelation about their dear departed Kevin. Meanwhile, divine siblings Chuck and Amara reunite in Reno, much to the chagrin of the Darkness.

This episode featured nine main characters – ten, if you count the lead villain. That’s a lot of ground to cover, so it’s taken a minute, but without further ado, here’s my “Friday Fifteen” – fifteen takeaways from Supernatural season 15, episode 2 that, in my book, are worth further consideration, appreciation, condemnation, speculation… all the ations. Yep, it’s no longer Friday. Look, I told you last week that both “Friday” and “Fifteen” were going to be relative terms. Anyway. Here’s what I’ve been thinking about since Friday. Here’s what I got from “Raising Hell.”

‘Supernatural’ season 15, episode 2 review

‘Raising Hell’

1) The episode starts on the point of view of the Harlan civilians, as we see a local lady named Nan sneaking home to get some allergy meds for her child. Through her, we learn that the townsfolk aren’t taking the supposed threat (elevated benzene levels) very seriously. She encounters a neighbor, who turns out to be possessed by the episode’s Main Ghost Baddie, and meets a violent end very quickly. Anxiety over her disappearance travels through to the high school shelter: the first moment we get with Team Free Will in this episode is Cas flagging the issue of the restless civilians and missing woman to Sam, and more of the civilians – her husband and friends – get suspicious and angry, twigging that something bigger is going on.

They sneak out to go and find her, and are summarily also possessed and at least incapacitated, if not killed, by the ghost gang. The first third of the episode gives kinda a lot of weight to this situation, and from one angle, frames Team Free Will’s actions as somewhat inconsiderate and neglectful. Of course, the magnitude of their plight and the secret that they’re keeping makes their priorities understandable to us, but given that we see several scenes of the civilian point of view that invite us to have sympathy for the way they’ve been dismissed, and also two scenes of Cas expressing concerns to Sam about whether they’re playing this right, in terms of how to take care of the people or tell Nan’s family the truth about her death, it is bizarre that this element is dropped midway through the episode. Seeing the victim’s point of view in the cold open is normal for Supernatural, but this went beyond that. It has no follow-through at all. It’s built up to matter, and be a motivator, and it just stops. I understand that in reality, the team had to handle the source of the disappearances – the violent ghosts – but still, it sits oddly and feels a bit unbalanced. Still, the episode closes mid-crisis, so maybe this will pick up next week during episode 3.

2) It’s cool to see that Sam’s network of hunters is still going strong. This was an element of the civilian quarantine predicament that I did really enjoy – learning how, over the past couple of days, the guys called in anyone available to lend a hand, be they refugees from Apocalypse World like Jules (glad to see they weren’t all slain by Michael in the Bunker) or perhaps others he’s connected with.

Even though I did laugh at his completely unsubtle full-volume conversation with Cas about the cover-up they were trying to maintain while weaving in close quarters through the civilians in their care, and even though he did struggle to keep his cool at points – right now, and for good reason, no one in Team Free Will can really have a conversation without getting mad – I loved seeing Sam the General once again, taking command of a group, giving orders to his soldiers and juggling various demands.

This is what he was born to do, as Mary once assured him, and though this situation is… well… situational, seeing the dynamic in action again gives me hope for what Sam’s future may hold, particularly in a world where – just kicking the tires on this – the boys are able to eliminate the cosmic problems in their universe, the Heaven, Hell, God-level issues, and are able to settle down to a semi-retired life of “normal” hunting, doing the kind of paranormal exterminator work that was all they ever expected to do – all most hunters do – when called for. Even seeing him get up in front of civilians and deliver a somewhat insecure speech full of lies (I wish we got to see him attempt to answer the townspeople’s questions) fills me with pride in the character, and I hope that season 15 allows him to shine as the mash-up of Bobby Singer and Henry V that I know he’s destined to become. Missed you, Chief.

3) I don’t quite understand the ghombie mythology. Are they corporeal? Are they not? The ones at the cemetery possessed corpses, I guess, for physical use while closing in on Sam, Dean and Cas, and that’s thrown me off. The other ones we’ve seen so far, this week and last, are pretty much just projections? Yet they can wield weapons and so on, and make physical contact with human victims even when not possessing a body. Look, I don’t know. I guess the show is just using them how they need to use them, which isn’t new for Supernatural lore. I think what’s throwing it off for me is that these episodes mostly took place in broad daylight, and so the ghostly beings looked very solid and their spooky makeup looked more comical than terrifying – especially when this week, we’re dealing with a party of ghosts led by Jack the Ripper suspect Francis Tumblety, holding a council to basically determine what to do about being trapped in the town. We spent wayyy too much time on this point of view, especially as the driver the ghosts gave us was basically “Being evil is fun and we would like to keep doing it, please. Ho ho ho, did I mention I like being evil?”

I don’t know if this was meant to be funny but it came across as farcical and almost childishly arch – and also boring. “I do bad stuff because I’m evil, look at how evil I am” is just about the least interesting take on a villian ever, so zero stars for all of that. Don’t waste our time with this, Supernatural. We talked about this last week. Every second that’s spent with someone not already beloved by us – you better make it count thrice as much as those moments in any other season. We didn’t even get to see Sam geek out over facing a potential Jack the Ripper, though the way this episode makes a flirtatious joke out of the Ripper’s victims is… not great. But the actual point of the ghost gang plot is the discovery that Belphegor’s warding around the town is fading and finding another solution for containing the ghosts is a priority, which… yeah, duh. However, it does lead to recreating the soul bomb concept of vacuuming them up – the “Soulcatcher,” as Dean calls it – and as far as ideas go, it’s a pretty good one. For now.

4) Stop trying to make Ketch happen. It’s not going to happen. And I feel a little bad about saying it, because I do actually enjoy the character and I think actor David Haydn-Jones gives a great performance. But speaking strictly from a narrative perspective: he should not have the role in the show that he has today.

As part of the British Men of Letters, Ketch had a fabulous introduction – the threat of his very name hung heavy in the first 8 episodes – and a pretty good arc during season 12, in which we discover the depths of his smooth sociopathy. By the end of season 12, after his murder of the abused psychic teenager Magda Peterson, his murder of the deaf hunter Eileen Leahy via hellhound, his murder of his very redeemable cinnamon roll colleague Mick Davies, his bizarre sexual relationship with Mary that grew in an intimidating obsession, his violent beating of her peppered with offers to save her from the American hunters’ fate if she “plays nice,” and his complicitness in brainwashing and torturing Mary to make her into a ruthlessly programmed, Winter Soldier-esque hitwoman, he meets his well-earned death from a bullet of her gun.

There was a moment in season 12 – one or two episodes, near the end – where the potential of a deeper story for Ketch could have been possible, and even fascinating. During his time acting as brainwashed Mary’s handler, some of the comments from him make it sounds like he was once a product of this process – that he is the way he is because this procedure was done to him, as well, and that he’s so sunken into it that he does have his own version of free will and autonomy now, after years of his original humanity being scooped out. That he became who he is because he was abused in this way. But that never actually came to pass. The final takeaway is that Ketch just is that vile – a true psychopath. His death was the right thing, a victory for Mary, and his story was over.

Or so we thought. Supernatural season 15, episode 2 was written by the same writing team who chose to resurrect Ketch in season 13, episode 7, putting him back in the Winchesters’ path via a real-life, actual “I’m my own twin” ploy. (Yikes.) (He was not, in fact, his own twin.) Over season 13, the same writers gave him, in each of their credited episodes, the world’s worst redemption arc, building his plotline into the overall story in a way meant that he needed to keep showing up – they shoehorned him in in a way that became annoyingly necessary and required him to spill over into the season’s arc. It’s not unbelievable that the threat of Lucifer and Michael might drive a disgusting person to align their goals with our heroes – I can buy Ketch probably doesn’t want the world to end, sure – but the fact that anyone at Supernatural thought that of all the villain deaths in the show, Ketch was the one worth reversing and redeeming, is just bananas to me.

Ketch is not a demon like Crowley or Meg, a vampire like Benny – characters who did terrible, unforgivable things, people we would never accept the redemption of in real life, but who a television narrative allows us to forgive because they are monsters and we witnessed their journey in growing a conscience and veering back towards a state of humanity. Ketch was just a guy. A really horrible guy. He was good at wetworks because he loved it. His lack of empathy or any morals at all made him an excellent tool for the British Men of Letters, called in when other agents weren’t able to stomach the needs of the job, but leaving the British Men of Letters didn’t change his nature. His nature was very firmly established in season 12. It’s not something you can come back from.

But for some reason, these particular writers clearly see Ketch as the hero of his own story, and they see that story as one worth telling. With all due respect to David Haydn-Jones – who does well at making the character more enjoyable to watch and is thoughtful about Ketch’s inner life, he’s allowed to see Ketch as the hero of his own story, it’s what good actors who play villains should do – to the viewers of Supernatural, Ketch is no one’s hero and his story is simply not worth telling here. I hope Haydn-Jones finds a good job somewhere else, because he deserves it, but this is getting ridiculous.

In season 12, Ketch’s toxic attempts to connect with Dean and convince him that they are kindred spirits, one and the same in their innate lust for killing, positing that they both need to direct that energy somewhere useful or they’ll become dangerous to those around them may have paled in egregiousness compared to his many other crimes, but I haven’t forgotten them. You try to devalue Dean’s inner sweetness? You try to claim that the ways he’s been weaponized his whole life are a core part of his wiring, something that he enjoys in the way Ketch does, rather than a constant source of trauma and shame? You’re dead to me. Forever. No redemption arc for you.

And so to see him genuinely bond with Dean in season 13? For Ketch to claim that his feelings for Mary were in any way honorable, that he feels like he needs to save her? To see him tenderly nurse Dean in the Apocalypse World, saving him from poison and forging a life debt? To see Dean become emotionally available to him about his grief upon discovering the AU Charlie? For Ketch to reveal feelings of empathy about failing to save loved ones, to claim that what prevented him was his “duty” to the British Men of Letters, despite previously establishing that he’s an actual psychopath who enjoyed his role with the MoL because they point him at stuff he gets to relish in destroying and then pay him? To hear him basically claim he was “just following orders” and to express a wish to wash the bloodstains off of his hands?

To see a story in which he earns valor, staying behind in the Apocalypse World to fight for the resistance, bonding with Charlie, and withstanding torture from angels for the sake of the resistance? To see him sob over Charlie being tortured by AU Castiel? It’s all just… madness. It’s not that I don’t believe in peoples’ ability to change. I just don’t believe in Ketch’s. And it’s not even that I don’t believe in his redemption. I believe that the show thinks they have genuinely redeemed him. We’re not meant to be second-guessing his loyalty. He’s meant to be an ally who the Winchesters find annoying but who we find fun. We’re meant to trust him. We’re meant to root for him.

And I just don’t want to. I just don’t believe in his right to a redemption. This is a story that never needed to go anywhere after his death in season 12, and the fact that someone thought “You know who would be really cool to bring back and build up as an adjacent member of Team Free Will? Ketch!” is bonkers to me. As a human character, any single one of his crimes would have been unforgivable. The fact that we went into the season knowing about Eileen Leahy’s return should have meant that Supernatural shoved Ketch into a far corner and thrown a blanket over him, lest we remember his role in her death – you know, when he set an invisible hellhound on an innocent woman, exploiting her disability and condemning her, presumably, to Hell – not paraded him around as a rogue do-gooder, a dapper caricature who rushes to the Winchesters aid and sets himself up as the romantic fixation of the show’s leading female character.

When Dean shot Ketch to shake out the ghost possessing him at the end, I really thought we might be rid of him once and for all, killed in the line of duty or whatever. But alas, off he goes into the ambulance, only winged in the shoulder, with some friendly banter, well wishes and apologies from his best buddy Dean. We’ll probably see him again before the show’s over. Jesus Christ. Sorry, David. But Jesus fucking Christ.

5) And the coupling of Rowena and Ketch is just… gross. Even Haydn-Jones, great sport that he is, made fun of the negative reaction to this new development on Twitter. They really said “I know what this season needs! A lecherous subplot between a guy who doesn’t need to be here and a queen who has better things to do,” and just went for it. While I always admire Rowena’s free spirit – the Gabriel liaison was fun, for example – this felt very reductive and it was so awkward and sleazy. The reminder of their former meeting was shoved in so forcefully that I actually had to look up what they were talking about to make sure it hadn’t been invented on the spot for the sake of this episode.

Thankfully, no, it hadn’t – that would have been a step too far. It was the history established when Ketch came back to life – he referred to an offscreen incident in which he had let Rowena escape from the British Men of Letters some years ago in exchange for Rowena’s resurrection charm. Which, like.. I guess. But when you have to create an offscreen history and literally spell it out in exposition in order to sell people on a romance, that’s maybe not the greatest basis for a pairing, especially at a moment in time where people are really starting to lean into the organically blossoming connection between Sam and Rowena, which can be viewed a myriad of ways, including the seeds for a really interesting love story.

On top of everything else, it feels belittling to the character of Rowena to place her libido above the mission at hand. She obviously followed through on her spell, and brilliantly, but the fact that more of her screen time this episode was dedicated to eye-batting, staggered breathing, swooning over his “dominance” and his melodramatic peacocking than meaningful interactions with Team Free Will and general witchy badassery is a waste of the show’s present-day leading woman. It didn’t even end up going anywhere, so it was either an entirely pointless waste of everyone’s screen time or foreshadowing of a future where they go off together, which would be an awful way to say goodbye to Rowena.

Lest we forget, our very first introduction to Ketch, via Lady Toni Bevell, implied a serious history of sexualized violence. We then saw the same threat play out with Mary. And yet Sam and Dean didn’t seem all that bothered about Rowena’s desire – annoyed that the pair were wasting time on it, mild vague warnings, but nothing even close to the protectiveness what I would hope for if a woman they cared about was getting saucy about a man who abused and possibly raped their mother. And they do care about her. But I feel like the episode didn’t want it to play as heinous? A joke, yes, but not morally reprehensible, which is concerning.

Also, when we weren’t dealing with her and Ketch, we were making light of her history with Tumblety, hearing more sexually violent threats about special she was because he chose not to gut her, unlike his other “dates” – that is, the sex workers that Jack the Ripper brutally murdered. We already identified Tumblety via Bel – why did this aspect need to play out as well? She deserves better.

6) Aside from all that, Rowena is amazing as our heroine and I am so looking forward to what the season has in store for her. Her journey – particularly within Andrew Dabb’s tenure as showrunner – has been an incredible one, and she’s now probably the show’s number one power player, as well as a trusted friend who, unlike Ketch, has definitely earned the right to have us rooting for her. Teaming up with boys to help contain Lucifer, season 12 saw her still fulfilling the role of a wily antagonist who was also a reluctant ally. The Winchesters still had to clean up her messes, and it was a relationship of threats, warnings and mutual owed favors. But after dying and losing her son, season 13 brought her more closely into the Winchesters’ lives in some very interesting ways.

Attempting to protect herself, she still wasn’t exactly a good guy, but when she finds a special commonality with Sam – what with their ongoing work together in practicing magic, their bonding over Lucifer trauma, the benefit of the doubt he’s given her, the actual magical resources he’s slipped her behind Dean’s back – it brings a new depth to her role in the show, particularly after her come-to-Billie moment in “Funeralia,” in which she has a breakdown about losing her son and all the awful things she’s done. The Winchesters put their faith in her ability to make amends and change her fate, even though she and Sam are linked by the promise in Death’s notebook that he would be the one to someday kill her.

She hasn’t let them down yet. The end of that season saw her come good and truly commit to helping others even when it meant risking her own life, and her emotional journey getting there, when she discovers her inability to leave the guys when the going got tough, is one of the most moving parts of the show. In season 14, she’s a true ally, a kind presence, and a force for good, as sassy and self-serving as she may performatively act. She even ends up getting possessed by Michael when he gives her the ultimatum to either let him in or live with him killing everyone she cares about – all the inhabitants of the Bunker.

What she was able to do with her power and bravery this episode, despite how much she knew it would take out of her, saved the day. The script, thankfully, acknowledged that, making it clear how much the boys depend on her. She’s ride or die now, part of the all important “we,” and I’m hungry for her to become a huge part of season 15. There’s no way that Sam will kill her because they’re enemies once again more – if her death does come to pass at his hands, it will be in some sort of act of sacrifice or mercy. Calling it now. I just hope it’s later rather than sooner. Next week’s promo looks worrying, though.

7) Belphegor has a price on his head – a demon called Ardat wants him dead. In a big way, apparently. This is one tidbit that we got from Ketch that actually has value – Ketch was in the area hunting Belphegor as a freelance assassin, and Ardat, his client, had claimed to Ketch that Bel was a gigantic threat to humanity. We definitely could have discovered this Bel backstory in a different way, but there you have it. A taste of what’s to come as we learn more about Belphegor’s motivations – and per Andrew Dabb, we should watch out for his agenda. Naturally. He isn’t just going to be a fun new friend – and we want Jack back. So who or what is Ardat, and why does she care about humanity enough to order a threat to them exterminated?

Why would a human (Ketch) believe this as a demon’s motivation? Like Belphegor, Ardat is a name in “real” demonology – Supernatural didn’t invent it – though unlike Belphegor, Ardat is not as established in lore to have their own Wikipedia page. From what can be accessed about this name, it’s most commonly seen as Ardat-Lili, associated with the demon Lilith – who we know well on Supernatural – as either an attendant or a facet of Lilith herself. I have to say, I’m not massively interested in revisiting Lilith as a threat, but if Ardat comes into play, I suspect that she’s gotta be someone we know already, perhaps by a different name. Surely. We wouldn’t be so invested in Bel if he wasn’t in Jack, if we weren’t watching Alex perform him. No time for random subplots involving brand new characters that we have no attachment to. I’m gunning for Bela Talbot, who must have become a demon by now after centuries of Hell-timeline torture. Lilith was hugely connected to her ultimate fate, and I am extremely interested in finding out what happened to her. Whoever Ardat is, I’m guessing that she’s the new Boss of Hell and that when God cracked it open, Belphegor took the chance to hotfoot it due to whatever their beef is – that’s why he’s running with the Winchesters.

8) Cas currently can’t heal – another piece of information that Ketch’s visit revealed. If the issue is with Cas’s power, we could have found this out another way – like, any other way – and we already know he couldn’t help Sam, but that seemed to be due to the GodWound. Cas healed Sam’s tummy just fine before he went poking at the quantum link. If the issue is with Ketch – shrug. He’s an android? I dunno. I think we are meant to assume that the problem is Cas, and I guess it was to do with poking the GodWound. Maybe it sucked in his grace and made him basically human and we just don’t know it yet. Misha Collins does keep talking about wanting to return to the human version of Cas. Maybe he’s going to have to come to terms with mortality. Either way, this episode did place Cas in the position of being the most concerned about the human factor of their predicament – the immediate needs of the people they’re helping, rather than the big picture. It’s interesting to see him as the biggest representation of “humanity” in the group right now.

9) So about that Dean and Cas scene. Ooooooooooof. That moment wasn’t the blow-up that I predicted last week – that’s still to come, based on interview comments about Cas leaving “in a huff,” but it was completely unexpected, impactful, and brilliant. If 15×01’s most poignant scene was the final conversation between the brothers, then 15×02’s was this painful encounter. Needless to say, it was the best moment of the whole hour. It was quite literally stunning, literally breathtaking, catching me frozen in place with a sharp inhale.

It also felt somewhat out of place in this episode, only in terms of it being a totally different tone and weight to most of what else was going on – it almost felt like part of a different show, though it would have been at home in countless other Supernatural episodes – but its presence elevated the quality of “Raising Hell” by a good measure. For starters, it raised this article’s star review by a whole point on its own. It’s a moment fans are likely never to forget.

Like last week’s final scene, it dealt with the philosophy our guys must face when they have to stop and consider what the truth about what God did to them actually means. Unlike last week, the outcome is not quite as mutually hopeful, but it’s heavy and powerful and vindicating, deepening and strengthening our understanding of both characters profoundly as they face the road ahead.

“Nothing about our lives is real.” It’s deliciously miserable to see Dean feeling like this. When you think about the Dean of it all – when you think about his long and hard-won battle with agency and identity, when you think about the reason that his possession by Michael was so important (and believe me, the stakes in that story were never about what Michael would do to the world, they were always about what the experience would do to Dean, a huge chance for him to come to terms with a) recognising that autonomy had been abused and b) taking it back and claiming himself, which is new and important ground or a character who has always accepted that he is an instrument of others and has always had a fragile sense of self) this is nothing short of a tragedy.

After his incredible personal victory in the 300th episode – his ability to stand up and look at his life after seeing his father again, to assess his whole path and be okay with it, to say “I’m good with who I am,” to weigh the ups and downs and to be at peace with where that’s brought him – I would have prayed for that growth to be unbreakable, permanent. But what with Chuck’s reveal, it completely makes sense that Dean’s hard-won self actualization would feel shattered. It’s miserable, but it makes sense. It’s the cruel reinforcement of a system that he only just came to terms with breaking, amplified to a mind-bending degree.

We’re learning that Dean is destabilized and angry about this in a particular way that that others aren’t. Sam and Cas have both demonstrated that no matter what Chuck said or did, they still believe in their own free will. Dean, whose relationship with autonomy is, as mentioned, shaky at best, is frustrated that he can’t get to where they are, he’s furious when he thinks about the long history of pain that could have been avoided if the deity just left them alone, and most terrifyingly, he’s questioning a deep down fear that nothing – his mind, his personality, his relationships, his choices – are in fact his own. Dean has always needed his life to have meaning, he needed it to have mattered, and he needed the worst things in his life to have been unavoidably random because it’s the only way that he can bear the trauma he went through.

Now? He seems to be in a space where he believes that Chuck was actually puppeteering them – him – internally, rather than “just” setting up the obstacle course that he wanted his favorite characters to run. Learning that the hurdles in his path were put there specifically by someone watching for entertainment, that his pain, his heartbreaking decisions, his sacrifices were enjoyable… even that would already be too much. But Dean’s response is deeper still. He’s questioning his entire being, his ownership of his own mind and make-up. This is a full blown existential crisis.

10) Which is why the Cas of it all is even more incredible. The Scene™ fascinatingly frames Cas as entirely in the right – not that this is a matter of Dean being “wrong,” his feelings are valid, if not factually correct – but more just his fully-felt defense of the point of view that we know, narratively, to be true and complete, the side of this story we’re meant to believe. It’s the same angle that Sam presented at the end of 15×01, but the differences in how Dean responded to Sam and how he responds to Cas are – as usual – stark. 15×01 was hopeful, Dean seemingly inspired by Sam’s perspective and drive. I didn’t disbelieve it, but this scene proved that it was more complex than that – Dean’s struggling to process things and his belief system is fracturing in silence. Enter Cas.

Dean has a history of unloading on Cas about the darker parts of his mind, the things he won’t sully Sam with. It reminds me, in a way, of Buffy and Spike, when she felt relief in telling him that she wasn’t happy to be alive and pulled out of Heaven in Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 6 – the freedom of taking out your problems on someone you don’t feel cripplingly responsible for. Dean’s feelings for Cas are a lot less callous than Buffy’s purportedly were for Spike at that point, but there’s a similarity in terms of Dean not wanting to burden Sam and allowing himself to be more vulnerable with someone he doesn’t hold back with. Dean is the most honest with Cas out of anyone in the show. It’s not always kind and it’s not always healthy and it’s not always fair and it’s not always even the whole truth, but Dean spills his guts with Cas because he feels safe to let go, stripped back to his basest reactions, often untempered by any other factors aside from his raw id. In short, with Cas, it’s okay to get ugly.

Dean has always, since childhood, put on a game face for Sam, going as far as to tell Sam that he shouldn’t stop believing in things just because Dean couldn’t. Dean needs Sam’s faith, what I always think of as his ruthless optimism, to survive. When he tells Sam that things are hopeless, he says it because he wants his brother to pull him back up and say “no, they’re not.” It’s what they do and it is beautiful and valuable, their own give and take.

But that has never been Dean’s relationship with Cas. Theirs is one of hard truths, of not giving an inch, of gaining conviction via challenge, of rage, rather than sympathy, when the other is faltering. If Dean and Sam are “We’re in this together. Let me help you keep up your end of the deal,” then Dean and Cas are “We’re in this together, so how dare you not keep up your end of the deal?”

That’s why this scene is so important. Because yes, Dean’s point is valid – shouldn’t Cas be madder than anyone? Dean’s taking out his anger on himself and on anyone stupid enough not to have seen the truth for what it is. He’s angry, too, that Sam and Cas aren’t angry in the same way that he is. Because yes, Cas’s situation is messed up on a divine level, played by God, his own Father, for all eternity. Cas has suffered more than the confines of humanity could ever explain. Cas got played harder than anyone and has all the reason in the world to be a cosmic wavelength of celestial wrath.

But Cas has already rejected one belief system, one pre-written way of the world. Cas has already determined that his path is his own, no matter what was intended for him. He rebelled from Heaven, he killed his own kin, he gave up everything that initially made him him in order to choose who he wanted to be and what he wanted to stand for. He knows exactly how much and exactly how little God’s plan or God’s obstacles matter. He knows exactly what it is to feel ownership of your own self – the good, the bad and the ugly. He has chosen what matters to him, he has chosen his own duty, he has chosen his own family, and this all bubbles up beautifully when Dean challenges him about what Chuck has done. Cas has all the reason in the world to mirror Dean’s outward fury and his self-hatred on a stratospheric scale for buying into “the biggest scam in history,” but instead pinpoints his anger at what Chuck took from him – killing Jack. Chuck has the ability to hurt Cas, yes. But he does not have the ability to rip out his personhood and rewire him.

Because after all this time, no one in this show has a better sense of self, a firmer belief in the power of free will, than Cas. The humans were designed with it. Castiel wasn’t, but like most scholars dedicated to a course of study as opposed to incidentally exposed to it, he learned the language better than most native speakers and knows the boundaries inside and out. He knows the rules and how to break them. Cas has already done the Free Will coursework, aced the test. The practical application of his studies may have not always been a surefire win, but it doesn’t change the fact that the theory is sound. He had, after all, a great teacher.

It gives me the shivers, to watch this scene and remember a moment ten years or more ago, in a beautiful room, where Dean was the one screaming the nature of free will to a recently brainwashed angel, the one who, against his better judgement, had revealed to Dean all the questions, doubts, and emotions that his kind were not meant to contain. All the qualities that made him more human than angel, soul or grace be damned. All the things that made Dean know – against all odds – that this being was no more condemned to a fated plan than he was, and that if Dean could just convince him of that, then they could change the story.

To remember, not long after this, seeing the writer, the prophet, Chuck – God himself – caught out by Dean and Castiel’s unpredicted appearance, being told, to his surprise, by his own wayward son: “We’re making it up as we go.” Oh yes Dean, Castiel, above all others, he knows. You taught him too well. If he says that you are real, believe him.

11) What is God afraid of? Despite all his domineering deitieness in “Moriah,” it didn’t take us long into season 15 to discover that Chuck is really running scared – running, in fact, to his big sister, and trying to childishly coerce her into helping him leave this current world. Amara isn’t having any of it, and in a great performance from both actors, she carefully reads his behaviour and his essence and gives us an assessment of his situation – that he’s weak, diminished and not whole – and leaves him behind, presumably to visit another world, keeping him trapped in this one. The takeaway? Chuck wants to escape. He’s threatened, either because of the wound itself or because if something he fears will come for him while he isn’t powered up. We should probably be quite worried about Sam, because whatever is going off with the GodWound, Chuck is also suffering. And if he’s been struck down so severely by his own weapon, then who knows what it might do to Sam? The two wounds are truly connected – agitating one agitates the other – and so basically Sam has a quantum link to God right now, which does not sound very pleasant

12) Emily Swallow is welcome on my television any day of the week and we are lucky to have her back for a bit before she blows minds in The Mandalorian. She’s so fantastic. I love her face, and I mean that both in a silly hyperbolic way and an extremely genuine and literal way, her expressions are phenomenal and I love her big bold yellow suit and I am so excited to see what she does with an actualized, somewhat humanized Amara, an Amara that’s grown into her personality and personhood – the “better me,” as she says. Catching a glimpse of her adjustment to life on earth was delightful, and the sheer power rolling off her when crossed was tangible. She’s so damn cool. Amara’s story in season 11 was a somewhat disturbing one for a number of reasons, and I admit I am a little bit worried about what will happen when she and Dean inevitably reunite (seeing the Mark of Cain again was a trip, plus the whole romance angle) but her story did end sympathetically, and she parted with Team Free Will on good terms.

But consider. Ultimately we have the most powerful being in the universe, played by an awesome actress, who has a lot of goodwill toward one of our leading characters and a complete lack of tolerance for the season’s big bad, who happens to be her bratty little brother. Right now, Amara clearly doesn’t want anything to do with the hole Chuck has dug himself into – whatever happened on their family bonding trip that started out so well, she got understandably got sick of hanging out with him. I’m curious about her reaction when she finds out the truth about what Chuck has done – will it anger her, or is it beneath her notice? She has her own experience with Chuck’s awful, egocentric controlling behaviour, so I’m pretty sure she won’t be too happy about it. I am completely ready for her to be a huge asset to our guys – and the universe – and I can’t wait for her to inevitably meet Billie. Death and the Darkness are the two beings equal to or stronger than God, and they’re both going to be disgusted with Chuck’s behaviour when they find out the extent of it. Between Team Free Will and these two boss ladies, Chuck does not stand a chance.

13) The fact that Kevin cannot get into Heaven is probably the series-long predicament. He’s the canary in the coal mine. If Belphegor is telling the truth, that is. And I think he is. I think that this reveal was our first clue at what Sam and Dean really have to do this season. For my money, seeing Kevin again and learning the truth is the first warning sign to the boys and the audience that the structure of Heaven and Hell is going to have to change in order for Supernatural to come to an end. In that moment they’re focused on Kevin, and he asks them to accept that sometimes you just can’t change these things.. But soon they’ll think of others. If a human soul that has been in Hell can never enter Heaven, then soon they’re going to start thinking about the possibility of about Eileen, Ellen, Jo – all killed by hellhounds – damned for ever. Of all the other good people who may have met the same fate in any number of way. All the things wrong with the system, a system set in place by a corrupt God who has no place in this story anymore. And then they might look to themselves, and at some point, they’ll realize that they, having both done time in Hell, have no hope, no peace, no reward, even in death, and then the audience will know for sure what I currently suspect. That is not how the story of Supernatural is going to end for Sam and Dean – with a future in Hell. They’re going to make this right. They’re going to rebuild the structure of the afterlife for the human soul. This is, perhaps, even the great “work to do” that Billie told Dean that he and Sam still had to complete, back when he killed himself in “Advanced Thanatology.”

Billie has no time for Chuck, and I would bet that her team-up with the Empty entity to awaken Jack has no small part to play in this as well. Between Sam, Dean, Cas Jack, Billie, the Empty and Amara, I can see Supernatural pulling off an ending reminiscent of His Dark Materials, perhaps even going as far as to transmute the current state of things: from the case of conscious souls in heaven and hell into instead a peacefully dissipated oblivion. That’s an endgame I bet those mentioned power players could whip up. Maybe not, but the regime will get turned upside down one way or another in order to save humanity for all eternity. At the end of the day, whether they themselves live or die, Sam and Dean somehow need to be responsible for changing the rules of life after death, allowing the show (and the Winchesters) a prospect of finality that death, in the world of Supernatural, has never presented itself as before.

14) Is it just me, or did this episode have a few too many continuity errors? This isn’t something that usually jumps out to me, and I am not talking about long-term errors, something that doesn’t fit with some old piece of canon. I am talking about scene to scene issues that don’t make sense. “What is linear time?” A fandom friend asked me. “Never heard of her.” For example: Sam getting the call about Dean having “a situation” and then shows up to find Dean and Bel just staring at the possessed civilians? Have they just been standing there for twenty minutes or however long it took Sam to walk or drive down? Not to mention, the fact that they don’t know that the people are possessed until their eyes start bleeding when the episode had just made a point about Bel being able to see the ghosts? For example: Ketch showing up with his iron filings gun and saving the day, a scene that Belphegor was in, and then him reacting in shock “Oh, Jack!?” when Bel walks into the roundtable discussion when they get Ketch back to the school? For example: Ketch himself getting possessed by Tumblety- which, when did that even happen? He did wear the iron chain Dean gave him, he’s not that stupid. I would assume the possession happened when Tumblety hit him over the head and took him out, but he was wearing the chain then, plus between that and the possession reveal, we see Tumblety in his own form at the meeting with Sam and Dean. When Ketch shows up on the grassy verge to rejoin the group, he isn’t wearing the chain. How did Tumblety take it off, with his ghost hands? Was Ketch already possessed then, or did Tumblety jump into him when he and Rowena crossed the barrier to vacuum the ghosts? What gives?

15) More. Chick. Flick. Moments. Please. It’s season 15. It’s 2019. Sam and Dean should have said “I love you” back to Kevin when he departed. Seeing them just stand there silently in response to Kevin’s raw and agendaless words in a time of huge uncertainty and fear for him was weird. It was not a good look. Because you know what? To me, him saying this, them not saying it? It lands for me as if he does love them, but he knows he isn’t very important to them. Like “It’s okay that you don’t love me, but I do love you.” Which is so not the case! They obviously love him, and their actions – their miserable concern for his current predicament, their reaction to his death back in season 9 – speak to that.

And one of my very favorite moments of the series is when Kevin calls Dean out on the love language he uses – Dean has always liked to say “need” instead of “love,” which is both an incredibly intense reminder of his mental state about relationships (the show has used the word “needy” to describe Dean quite a few times, and it’s harsh but true) and also an easily misinterpreted statement that implies a relationship based on usefulness – “I need you [as an asset because you have this skill/power and I don’t]” as opposed to “I need you [to be with me in this family in order for me to feel okay/stable/safe/happy]”. Kevin directly addresses this when Dean tries it out on him in season 9, and for once, Dean spells out what he means. When Dean says “I need you,” it means “I can’t imagine living without you.”

It’s… a lot. And in a lot of ways, “I love you” is a lot less complicated. Less desperate. Nothing asked, nothing owed. Just a reminder of the depth, the importance of a relationship. Just an effort to say “you are in my heart.” That matters. So why the fuck did they just stand there silently staring? This wasn’t tough and manly. It was odd and unfair. Yes, these guys are still emotionally constipated, but ever since Andrew Dabb started driving this train in the season 11 finale, the ability to express their feelings verbally has gotten a lot better.

“Alpha and Omega” was a game-changing episode for a number of reasons – primarily because it broke the tragic cycle of unhealthy personal self-sacrifice that Sam and Dean had been trading off on for a decade – but the vindicating wonder of Sam and Dean’s chick flick moment in that episode, what that represented in how Dean has grown, was important, and it was only the start of what was to come. That episode obviously ended with the return of Mary Winchester, and over the course of her three seasons back with her sons, struggling to fit in but gloriously alive, emotional expression got a little easier in the Winchester family.

They’re still not super demonstrative, but seasons 12, 13 and 14 have been peppered with more direct “I love you’s” and more conversations acknowledging the love in this family – Sam, Dean, Cas, Jack, Mary and even John – than anyone watching the early seasons of the show would ever predict, and that’s a beautiful thing. After the boys’ surprise encounter with John in the 300th episode last season, the notion of “grabbing the extra minutes you are gifted with a lost loved one and making the most of them” should be a high priority. Yes, they saw Kevin after his death as a ghost before, and yes, right now there’s a huge crisis at hand so not too much can be expected in terms of making up for lost time.

But still. Guys. He stood there, saying his goodbyes, and he felt that reminding you that he loved you was important. That’s the moment where you say it back. It ain’t that deep, fam. Well, it is. But you know what I mean. I think we’ll see Kevin again before the series draws to a close, but, and now is not the moment to hold back with the feels. This season is going to be full of a lot of final farewells, and they have to count.

‘Supernatural’ airs Thursdays at 8/7c on The CW

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