Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Review (Season 11, Episode 9)

SUPERNATURAL O Brother Where Art Thou?

I sat for a long time just staring at a blank page trying to figure out how to put into words everything I thought about the Supernatural mid-season finale. The only thing I could really come up with was wow. Just wow. That is what a mid-season finale is supposed to be. It was truly one of the best episodes the show has done in a long time, and I am simultaneously excited and anxious for what comes next.

The big news out of this episode is Luci’s back, baby! In the interest of full disclosure, I adore Mark Pellegrino. He is a fantastic actor, and his portrayal of Lucifer is my favorite. My love for Mark Pellegrino aside, Lucifer coming back at this point makes perfect sense for the story. Lucifer is one of the few beings alive who was there when The Darkness was caged. He’s one of the beings that helped cage her. It would make sense that he would either have information on how to do it again or that he would have the ability to do it again. I don’t believe he would have the ability to do it alone since Death said it took God and ALL of the archangels to do it the first time. But maybe if he were to work with all of the remaining angels, they might be able to do it. The problem, though, is Lucifer’s complete disdain for humanity. He made it abundantly clear during the apocalypse that he had no interest in trying to save humanity. The Earth? Sure. But people? Not so much. The other problem is that in order for Lucifer to walk the earth, he needs a vessel and Nick isn’t available anymore. Sam already refused to let Lucifer use him, so we’re kind of still stuck. One thing I’d be willing to bet my paycheck on is that Lucifer is lying. Maybe not outright, but he’s lying about something. He is Lucifer after all. He may have chosen to be (mostly) honest with Sam during the apocalypse, but that’s due in large part to the fact that he was confident he knew exactly how it would play out. This is a whole new ballgame though. No one knows how this is going to end, and Lucifer has no reason to be honest with Sam. In the here and now, Luci just wants out of the cage and he’s willing to do whatever he has to do in order to make that happen.

Lucifer’s return also ended up dumping Sam right in the middle of his worst nightmare. Sam’s last encounter with Lucifer ended with Sam jumping into the cage and spending the next 150 years being Lucifer’s chew toy. When Sam got out (after he got his soul back anyway) he was plagued with hallucinations and flashbacks both of which almost killed him because Hallucifer wouldn’t let Sam sleep or eat. All of that, plus whatever happened to Sam while he was actually in the cage, add up to Sam being completely terrified of having to confront Lucifer again. What Sam never wanted to happen again was to be trapped in a cage with Lucifer. This time it’s even worse, though because this isn’t just Sam’s soul trapped in a cage with Lucifer. This is ALL of Sam, body and soul, trapped in a cage with Lucifer. Sam is a tough guy, but there’s only so much torture a person can take. And since Sam has already suffered more than his fair share, I don’t know that he has it in him to survive the cage again. What’s even worse, and a thought that will probably occur to Sam at some point, is that Dean might not be able to save him this time. Not without doing something that will no doubt create a whole host of other problems. But no matter the cost, Dean will destroy heaven, hell, earth, and everything in between to get Sam back. What hurt the most for Sam, though, was the moment he realized that he had been played. Sam sincerely believed God was sending him messages and actually trying to help. When Lucifer rather gleefully informed Sam that he was the one sending Sam the messages, the last vestiges of Sam’s faith died. It was then that resignation and absolute terror took up residence. Jared Padalecki gave what has to be one of his best performances in this episode. Sam’s fear was palpable as was his acceptance when he found himself back in Lucifer’s cage. All of the scenes between Padalecki and Pellegrino were amazing, but none more so than the last scene. Jared totally sold Sam’s terror but also his determination to hold out for as long as he could against whatever tortures Lucifer was about to heap upon him. It was heartbreaking, powerful, and downright heroic. Kudos to Jared for some truly outstanding work.

While Sam was dealing with Lucifer, Dean had another face to face with a fully grown Amara. We learned a few interesting from this meeting. First, Dean can apparently sense Amara. Maybe a better description is that he can feel her presence. That could come in handy later on, but it is most likely going to continue to be a liability since being able to feel her probably means their bond is getting stronger. Second, Amara informed Dean their “becoming one” is inevitable because Dean is the one who released her. That was creepy. Like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction level creepy. Why does Amara need to become one with Dean? I mean, I have eyes. I can see why she would want to become one with Dean, but that’s a whole other issue. Amara wants God to come face her and answer for banishing her. Ok. I get that. But why does she need Dean to do that? What purpose does it serve? Third, we got a little taste of Amara’s power. Not only can she turn water to blood (which was one of the ten plagues in the book of Exodus) but she can also smite angels without touching them. That’s not necessarily surprising since she is God’s sister, but it is moderately disconcerting. The angels are clearly out of their depth even if they haven’t realized it yet. Mostly, Dean and Amara’s meeting was about Amara telling Dean that he would be hers. I’m sure we’ll spend some time exploring that, but Amara doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into trying to force Dean Winchester to do something he doesn’t want to do. Even though Dean is obviously drawn to Amara and she seems to have what almost appears to be a compulsion spell over Dean, Dean is also probably the most stubborn person on the planet. The only person who has ever been able to get Dean to do something he didn’t want to do is Sam. Dean was clearly fighting whatever Amara was doing to him even while she was telling him he couldn’t stop her. Just before she kissed him, it looked like she was trying to consume Dean’s soul like she’s done to all those other people. I couldn’t really tell whether she chose to stop or whether she just wasn’t able to pull Dean’s soul away from him though. If she couldn’t take Dean’s soul, then maybe that could be the key to stopping her.

This was an excellent mid-season finale. It pulled together the major story threads we’ve been working with thus far this season and paid them off in a satisfying way. It also set the stage for what could be some very difficult times ahead for Sam and Dean. Sam barely survived the cage the first time, and he wasn’t nearly as broken going in that time as he is this time. Dean barely survived Sam going into the cage the first time, and I don’t think Dean has it in him to go through that again either. When Dean finds out what has happened to Sam, I don’t believe there is any limit to what Dean will do to get his brother back. I also have no doubt that Rowena knew exactly what she was doing when she drew that warding, and she’s probably got some scheme working to try and obtain more power for herself. Or at the very least figure out how to take out Crowley. Crowley is understandably afraid because if Lucifer does manage to get loose, Crowley knows he is a dead man. Or demon. Oh you know what I mean. I know there has been some talk about Castiel’s absence from this episode, but given the way things played out, his absence makes sense. This episode was primarily about Sam and Dean coming face to face with their fears. Cas’s presence wouldn’t have changed the outcome of either Sam or Dean’s situations, nor would it have added to the story at this point. I do believe Dean needs to go get Cas now though because this is more than Dean can handle on his own. I was surprised to see this episode was written by Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner. Their scripts tend to be much less nuanced than this script was, and they also tend to have the characters behaving in very uncharacteristic ways just to move the plot forward. I’m pleased to say there wasn’t a whole lot of that here. There were a few moments of dumb, but it wasn’t uncharacteristically so. For example, it was pretty stupid of Sam and Dean to split up because it never works out well when they split up. It also didn’t make sense that Sam would only try to call Dean the one time before going to talk to Lucifer, but this is something we’ve seen before. Yes, it was a plot contrivance to get the Boys separated, but in the grand scheme of things, it was done with quite a bit more finesse than these writers usually possess. As I said, this was an excellent mid-season finale and I will be on the edge of my seat until the show returns on January 20th. So what did y’all think of the mid-season finale?