Supernatural “All in the Family” Review (Season 11, Episode 21)

After the events in last week’s Supernatural, I was concerned about the show’s ability to follow it up. Although there were some problems with this episode, for the most part, it did a solid job of setting the stage for the last couple episodes of the season. There was quite a bit happening here, so let’s get right to it. Fair warning: this might get a little long.

Dean and Sam were pretty much floored when Chuck suddenly appeared. Unsurprisingly, Dean was skeptical about Chuck being The Big Man until Chuck snapped them all back to the MoL Bunker. What followed was one of the most emotionally vulnerable moments we’ve seen from Dean in a long time. It’s no secret that Dean has major abandonment issues. How could he not? From his viewpoint, his whole life has been a parade of people leaving him behind for one reason or another. God included. For a long time, Dean didn’t even believe that God existed. But even after he accepted the reality of God’s existence, Dean’s unbelief morphed into anger because he felt God should’ve taken a more active role in saving humanity from itself, the machinations of Heaven, and all the other things trying to destroy the world. Over the years, though, Dean’s anger seems to have morphed again into resignation. He resigned himself to the idea God left because he no longer believes in people and that, basically, humanity is on its own. Thus, when Dean confronted Chuck, I expected anger. Lots of anger. What I got instead was profound sadness and deep hurt.

Dean didn’t yell or attack Chuck. He just asked God essentially the same thing Metatron asked him in last week’s episode: Why did you abandon us (me)? Why didn’t you help us (me)? Instead of the rather dismissive answer of ‘you disappointed me’ that Chuck gave Metatron, he gave Dean what I believe to be a much more honest answer. He wanted humanity to learn to stand on its own two feet and he didn’t believe that would happen if he didn’t walk away. Basically, he didn’t leave because he no longer believed in humanity. He left because he DID believe in humanity. Dean kind of scoffed at that explanation, but at least it was an answer after so many years of silence. Part of Dean’s issue is no doubt the fact that he has given so much for humanity. He’s given up almost all of his family. He’s given up his chance for happiness. He’s given up his chance for peace. Dean feels that if he’s got to sacrifice so much, the least God could do is step up and make the world better. I can see Dean’s point. Most of Dean’s life has been fighting, blood, pain, and death. He’s witnessed the worst parts of humanity and the worst parts of the supernatural world. So from his point of view, Chuck walking away and refusing to get involved wasn’t good parenting. It was detrimental. However, I can also see Chuck’s point. Oftentimes, people want the freedom to make their own decisions, but then they want God to step in a save them from the negative consequences of those decisions. Then, they get angry if he doesn’t. It’s kind of like having a kid in college experiencing living away from home for the first time. They want to do what they want to do, but they do it knowing that if things get too far out of hand they can call mom and dad. Parents have to strike a balance between teaching their children to take responsibility for themselves and being a safety net. That’s why Chuck decided to step back. He realized that as long as he was saving people from themselves, they would never grow up. He gave humanity free will, and part of having free will means living with the consequences (good or bad) of your decisions.

The next conversation between Dean and Chuck was just as heavy. After finding out that Chuck’s intent was to sacrifice himself to save everyone, Dean tried to convince him that that wasn’t the right move. In doing so, Chuck revealed to Dean that the reason he saved Dean is that Dean is one of the chosen standing between darkness and light. I wasn’t really surprised by that revelation because I’ve been saying that for years, but Dean was surprised. He’s never felt himself worthy of, well, anything really. It doesn’t matter how much good Dean has done, he’s always felt that it can never balance out all the wrong he’s done. Dean has always had self-worth issues, but his time as a torture master in Hell exacerbated the problem. He has never and will never forgive himself for what he did, so for God to now tell Dean that he’s a chosen one and that he believes in Dean isn’t something Dean can accept. Unsurprisingly, Jensen Ackles knocked it out of the park. He has always had such great instincts as an actor, and those instincts didn’t fail him in this episode. I appreciate the way he approached Dean’s conversations with Chuck. Jensen’s decision to play the Dean/Chuck scenes with vulnerability instead of rage goes right along with the emotional growth and maturity we’ve seen from Dean over the course of this season. It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it was exactly what the story needed. Kudos to Jensen for giving such a wonderfully nuanced, heartfelt performance. Truly outstanding work.

Then there’s Metatron. You know what? How dare you pull a Winchester and take one for the team! How very dare you, sir! I was comfortable in my hate for Metatron, but I just can’t bring myself to hate him quite so hard anymore. Don’t get me wrong. He’s still responsible for Dean and Kevin’s deaths, and I will never forgive him for that. But Metatron stepped up in a way that I honestly didn’t see coming. As I said in my review of last week’s episode, Metatron has gone through some things since we first met him, and those trials and tribulations have given him a different perspective on humanity in general and himself in particular. He accepted that he was a crappy angel, an even worse God, and utterly dismal as a human. After reading Chuck’s autobiography and realizing what Chuck planned to do, he couldn’t bring himself to just sit by and do nothing. The bottom line is that Metatron sacrificed himself because he still loved God and wanted to protect him. His decision to sacrifice himself for someone he loved is dangerously close to heroic which is just not a word I would’ve associated with Metatron.

Chuck seems to have taken a page out of the Winchesters’ playbook. He finally decided to come off the sidelines and help save humanity, but his plan was to die. He can claim all he wants that Amara just wants to put him in a cage the same way he caged her, but I don’t think he actually believes that. He knew that going to face her meant that he was going to die, but he was willing to do that if it meant saving everything he created. The problem is, what guarantee did he have that Amara would keep her word even if she did accept his deal? Once she has him caged, she would be free to do whatever it is she wants to do and he would be powerless to stop it. So his plan seemed kind of shortsighted to me.

All of that being said, there were two primary problems with this episode. First, there’s Chuck saying that he can’t find Amara because she’s warded against him specifically. Um….what? Ever since Amara got out of prison, she’s been searching for her brother and commanding that he come and face her. If that’s what she wants, why would she have warded herself so he couldn’t find her? The only thing I can figure is that Amara wants to meet Chuck on her turf so she can have home court advantage. There’s no other reason she would be shielding herself from him while simultaneously declaring that she wants him to come out of hiding and face her. The other problem is that Dean had to go out into the middle of the woods in order for Amara to be able to talk to him, but why? Dean’s not warded against her. She’s in his head and she’s always been able to find him before without him making a special trip to see her. Why could she only contact him via subconscious this time? Both of these situations are problematic because the narrative didn’t explain either of those situations by either exposition or by action. It would make sense that Amara would want to confront Chuck somewhere that she can have the advantage, but the show simply saying that she’s warded against Chuck wasn’t enough to convey that. Then Amara’s sudden inability to pop in on Dean whenever she wants was just a plot contrivance to get Dean and Amara separated from everyone else. That would’ve been ok if the show hadn’t spent the first half of the episode pretending like Amara hasn’t ever been able to find Dean whenever and wherever she wanted.

Despite those issues, this was a solid lead in to the end of the season. It looks like whatever switch Metatron flipped to keep more prophets from popping up has been flipped back on. Unless Donatello is Amara’s prophet, which it pretty much looks like he is. Speaking of the ninja turtle, I really liked him. His response to Sam and Dean’s rundown of their current situation was priceless and completely appropriate. Poor guy just got swept up into the Winchesters’ orbit just like so many before him. As much as I wanted the Boys to rescue Lucifer so they can get Cas back, I don’t know whether having Lucifer on the team is a good idea. Yes. He’s angry at Amara for what she did to him, but I have to wonder whether he’s angrier at her or at God. He claims that he can put that aside so they can deal with the bigger threat, but he’s spent millennia stewing over what God did to him. That kind of anger and hurt can’t be put aside quite so easily. Not to mention the fact that Lucifer lies. Constantly. So we’ll just have to see how this works out. While Dean was slightly upset with God, Sam totally fanboyed and it was adorable. He tried so hard to keep his cool, but he was so excited he started babbling. Sam has always had faith and he’s always wanted to believe that God wasn’t as absent and unconcerned as he appeared. Having Chuck show up and essentially say exactly that was clearly exciting for Sam. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Kevin. I have been wondering whether Kevin was able to make it to heaven since the door was opened again, but it appears he’s still been hanging out with Mrs. Tran. Not any longer though. God finally sent Kevin’s soul to heaven where it belongs. I don’t know how the show was able to keep Osric Chau’s cameo under wraps, but it was awesome. I was watching the episode with several friends, and we all gasped audibly and then (without even realizing it) held our breath the entire minute or so Kevin was on screen. Nicely done, show. Very nicely done.