BUT...there is a very serious issue addressed in this episode which is all about tearing down our romantic notions. First of all, by showing Dean how different the real west is compared to what he had seen in the movies he loved. Secondly by tearing down Sam's romantic notions of THE Samuel Colt who is not the hero they thought he was. And finally and most painfully for me, through the killing of a "monster" who had done nothing wrong. Dean's only reason for killing Finch is that he is a phoenix and Dean needs the ashes to kill the Mother. This is another episode that really makes me question "WHAT IS A MONSTER?" Weren't those humans more monster than the phoenix in this case? Isn't Dean more of a monster than the phoenix, even? And it's obvious that it was all set up this way on purpose. Because the second and most important point this episode makes is one of the main themes of the whole show. Nothing is black and white. No one is completely good or evil. Not even monsters, not even Dean or Sam.
I mentioned this in the previous episode as well, but Sam and Dean should have been working with the "monsters" here to stop Crowley and Cas. They could have done it together. Instead, they end up wasting time killing them because ... well, that's what they've always done. The monster is the enemy and they have to stop it. It's a hard lesson to learn this episode when all I want is to revel in Dean, "the hero."
Guy Bee, the Director, also mentions in Winchester Radio how Dean's romantic notions of the Wild West gradually peel away in this ep, and I guess my romantic notions of Dean are also peeled away in that sense. But that is also what makes this episode one of the best ever. It makes me laugh and melt and think serious thoughts all in one, and that is pretty rare if you ask me.
Anyway, let's go on to the fun stuff!
"Reprise" by Federale (plays during the opening title card)
"Hero" by Federale (plays at various points in the episode)
"The Hanging" by Federale (plays during the showdown between Elias and Dean)
The episode starts with a shootout with what we on rewatch know is the phoenix. We see Dean's gorgeous eyes, the clock and people peeking out of their windows - one specifically out of the Western Couriers window, a company logo we see again at the end of the episode. The gunmen draw their guns and then our awesome special title and music<3
Then we are back in the present day - 48 hours earlier, 150 years later - and Sam, Dean and Bobby are looking for the hidden Campbell library at the farm - which I guess is an old family heirloom in itself. Sam seems to vaguely remember going there with Samuel and he finally finds it under a cellar door. They go in and start researching for the Mother of All. Bobby finds something that says that phoenix ash would kill the Mother. They had never imagined before that a phoenix was real, but once they start looking for how to kill it, Dean finds something in a precious journal, the actual journal of Samuel Colt!
In it, Colt tells of the gun killing a phoenix (not Colt himself - so he wasn't lying!) and the phoenix became a mound of ash. As they talk about how to find a phoenix, Dean gets the brilliant idea that they can go back in time and get the ashes of this particular phoenix that "Colt killed" because they know someone who could swing it.
DEAN I know where we can find one. March 5, 1861. Sunrise, Wyoming. We'll "Star Trek IV" this bitch.
BOBBY I only watched "Deep Space Nine."
DEAN It's like I don't even know you guys anymore. "Star Trek IV." Save the whales.
Dean is talking about an old Star Trek movie where Captain (now Admiral) Kirk and his crew go back in time to bring humpback whales to the future and save the Earth from an alien probe - I've seen this :D There are so many movies and shows they reference that either I haven't seen or don't know enough of, so it's really nice to understand what Dean is talking about here LOL
Of course when Dean talks about someone who can take them back to the past, he means Cas. Dean makes a call, and an angel appears, but it's not Cas. It's a stuck up angel who's not happy with Cas spending so much time helping those apes downstairs so she's starting to lecture the three guys when Cas comes in and tells her that that's enough. She leaves but she is definitely not happy. At this point, she seems like a protective mother hen - sort of close to the image of "Moneypenny" as Dean calls her. It reminds me of the angels in Season 9, actually, which naturally it would because in both situations Cas has been put on the pedistool as their leader. But, we do see some differences in how they see him here later on.
Cas is willing to help them go back, but he's telling them that they only have 24 hours. The farther back they go, the harder it is for him to control the situation and bring them back. Just as Cas has finished explaining that in layman terms(Bobby tells him to "aim lower" LOL), Dean comes back with bags of clothes.
Sam takes one look at the name on one of the bags and goes, no way. I'm not changing. Just because you have a fetish, you don't have to drag me into it! Which is hilarious but weird that he doesn't look at the clothes first. I guess he knows the store and what kind of clothes they have? Then they have this whole talk with Bobby about how Dean has all the Clint Eastwood movies memorized (especially the ones with the Orangatan side-kick) which is totally adorable. It's interesting how Dean is so into these historical movies and has such fetishes - we see this again in episodes in Season 7 and 8 - and I must say it tickles me pink because I love that kind of stuff too. Sam is not really interested anything like that except for as knowlege to be used in hunting. For example he knows all the stories of the Greek Gods, he knows about burial rituals as we saw in our recent Season 11 episode.. but I almost forgot! he actually has a pretty serious fetish with regard to serial killers as both seen in No Exit and other more recent episodes. And just as Sam teases Dean and makes all sorts of faces at him here, so does Dean tease Sam mercilessly there :P Sam is amused by Dean in this episode and seeing Sam's reaction to Dean is just as awesome as seeing Dean's excitement and disappointments.
SAM You can recite every Clint Eastwood movie ever made, line for line.
BOBBY Even the monkey movies?
SAM Yeah. Especially the monkey movies.
DEAN His name is Clyde. At least wear the damn shirt.
Next scene Sam comes back into the office with an embroidered white shirt on - seems Dean's convinced him to wear the shirt. It actually reminds me a lot of the hideous pink shirt Marty McFly was given to wear by 50s Doc Brown when he went back to the west :D 50s doc was sure Marty would blend in with the "locals" with the shirt, just as Dean thought this was normal wear. Dean has a serape, because of course he's seen that movie by Clint Eastwood and thinks it is common clothing. (In BttF, Marty discards his pink shirt and wears a serape... which actually "helps him blend in" and do a trick that Clint does in one of his movies) But it has the opposite effect in this universe. We see Cas commenting on Dean's serape first.
CAS: Is it customary to wear a blanket?
Dean gives up on explaining and asks Bobby about the bag of gold. Bobby tells them that (naturally) they don't take plastic where they are going! I'd have thought Dean would have thought of that LOL
DEAN All right, well, see ya at High Noon tomorrow.
Cas zaps them back in time and they arrive a bit out of town in the middle of a field. They need to find Samuel Colt pronto, and Dean suggests they go check out the saloon first - and maybe they'll have some time for some "fun" with the girls?
DEAN Hey, we should try the Saloon first, uh, see what we get from the locals.
SAM Sure. (chuckles) Whatever, Sundance.
As they start toward town, Sam happens to step in some manure... which I think is also a reference to BttF. I love the way Sam hops around trying to get the manure off as they walk toward town. Dean is happy to see some "authenticity."
Meanwhile, Cas is leaving Bobby's house. He has important stuff to do. He asks Bobby to "pray for him" when it's time.
BOBBY: I'll pray for all of us.
The first thing Sam and Dean see as they get into town is a hanging - and Sam has to comment, "Talk about authenticity!" Dean notices that the man to be hanged, Finch, has cuffs on his hands that he cannot undo. In his last words, he warns:
ELIAS FINCH You're gonna burn for this. Every one of you.
Total play on words. Awesome.
bubblesbrnaid alerted me to the fact that the way Finch "dies" so quickly is actually not very authentic since they wouldn't have the method down for breaking the guy's neck and killing him instantaniously for another 20 years. I'm guessing it could have been coincidental, but I'm also wondering if he died in the first place. It's very interesting to think about.
I've thought about "authenticity" alot in the past few days and considering this is the second time we hear the word in the episode, I'd like to pause here a bit and talk about it.
First of all, this episode is based on the old western movies. The Director mentioned in the podcast that he watched numerous Clint Eastwood and other Westerns to get a feel for it and so the creators had these old movies in mind. They also included many similarities to Back to the Future III. Dean's idea of the wild west is also based on the old movies.
As we all know, the old movies are anything but historically accurate or authentic. They are not really meant to be. They are the same as any old fantasy or sci-fi story, show or movie in that their primary objective is the fight between the black and white idea of good and evil. The villain(s) who deserves to die and the hero(s) who saves the day. The whole idea is very romantic. And many people are drawn to that. That is why countries at war try to depict their enemy as being completely evil and their own soldiers as being heros. Soldiers who've fought on both sides know better.
The old westerns did not show how dirty and unsanitary people and towns were at that time because it would take away from the main theme and objective. Even in Japan, the old Samurai movies are anything but authentic in some ways. karakuri_doll and I were talking about how Japanese people used to be so sexually free that many men walked around bare naked. Workers - like the men pulling the rikisha - would work with nothing on. People would walk home from the public baths bare naked. Literally. It was only after foreigners came in that this changed. But of course in the movies they are shown with at least a piece of cloth around their private parts. It is also true that the death scenes were toned down considerably. Anybody who knows anything about Harakiri knows that it was usually a very painful, looong death and often needed a second to finish it off. But, all this is not important in the fight against good and evil or other notions of romantic heroism they are trying to portray and they sure can't have such stuff on TV, especially in the morning national historical drama hours, LOL So everything was toned down to make it all much more romantic and easy for viewers to deal with.
What viewers need to constantly remember is that authenticity is not the theme of these shows. We shouldn't be watching them for the purpose of learning practices of the period and believe everything we see. Dean obviously learned this the hard way in his trip - not just regarding to the customs and practices of the period, but with regard to heros and villains. And I think that is an important point that the writers of Supernatural are trying to make. This episode has a theme - that monsters are not all evil and deserving of death, and our heros are not completely heroic in their actions - and everything in it is to support that theme.
So going on...
As they decide to ask the Sheriff about Samuel Colt, a town man turns around from the hanging and notices the "blanket." Dean is so disappointed, he throws the serape to the ground and leaves it behind. This is of course one layer of the onion that Guy was talking about in the podcast.
When they go in to see the Sheriff at the town jail, no one really takes them seriously - the name Sheriff Clint Eastwood doesn't make very much of an impression, especially with such clean clothes.
But the Sheriff and buddies do know Colt and tell them that the bartender at the saloon has been around forever and would know where he might be. The bartender's name is Elkins, and according to Guy there used to be a scene with a conversation between Sam and Dean how this might be an ancestor of Daniel Elkins, John's friend, but the scene was cut. This was definitely something the writers were thinking of tying in though which is kind of neat.
We have Dean and Sam's first "grand entrance" into the bar. Dean is expecting something a bit different from what they get, which is a drunk sleeping at a table (onion layer 2) and some dirty looking girls on the side. Sam pats Dean on the back as Dean groans in disappointment which is again very cute.
ELKINS What'll you have?
DEAN Oh, uh, okay. Great. I'll have your top-shelf whiskey.
ELKINS Only have the one shelf.
DEAN That'll do just fine. And he'll have a sarsaparilla.
Elkins is just telling them about how rumors said Colt was building a railroad station in the middle of nowhere and the boys immediately think of the devil's gate, when a beat up(and possibly quite smelly) saloon girl - Elkins' best (onion layer 3) tries to get Dean to go with her. Thankfully he's saved by the Judge, who had an appointment.
Dean then finds out that whiskey in the wild west tastes like gasoline (onion layer4) Poor Dean. Sam's sarsaparilla, on the other hand, tastes pretty good :D
Just then, the phoenix decides to attack the judge while he is in a compromising position
and turns him to ash.
Sam and Dean rush in and find the judge burned to the crisp. The Sheriff follows later and is smart enough to know that ghosts don't leave footprints. He tells Sam and Dean to come along in the posse - after they get some proper gear of course. I like how he includes Sam in that as well, that obviously his clothing is just as weird as Dean's. Sam and Dean have somewhere to go first. They go check out the cemetary and find that Finch has risen from his grave.
I love the image of this scene. Sam and Dean in that dark cemetery with the two lamps is a very nice picture! Dean suggests that since Colt doesn't seem to be coming here on his own anytime soon, Sam should go and get him while Dean participates in the posse. This is one of those places you can see a whole bunch of nice Sam faces :D
And Sam is off on his first (?) horse ride...
DEAN: Ride'm cowboy.
DEAN: The poor horse.
As Sam goes galloping away to Colt's house (also an awesome image!) Dean is gearing up for the posse.
But the Sheriff is packing his horse to skedaddle when Finch finds him and turns him to ash as well.
Meanwhile back in the present/future...
Cas is called out by Rachel the stuck up angel we saw earlier.
RACHEL We put our faith in you, and...look what you're turning into.
Another reference to how anyone can become a monster? I guess the fact that Cas kills Rachel here shows how far he'll go to do what he believes is the only way, and foretells danger to the boys as well. Interesting that on first watch at least, I was on Cas' side in this particular fight because of how bitchy Rachel was to Sam and Dean, but on rewatch, we can see that her fears are genuine.
Rachel seems to know Cas' dirty little secret and tells him that she can't let him do it. Cas tells her he needs to win and this is the only way so Rachel tries to kill him. Cas kills her instead, but is wounded.
He makes his way back to Bobby's who watches Cas make a warding against angels and then helps him to the sofa to rest.
When Dean arrives at the bar - his second entrance not noticed by anyone but the bartender but still remarked on:
ELKINS New hat.
DEAN I look good. Where's the posse? I must be early.
And boy does he look good now <3 Love the hat especially, which again reminds me of Marty when he gets his new hat (which is remarked on at the bar as well) and looks so much better :D
Dean soon finds out that not only was the Sheriff not going to be there but that he'd been killed by Finch as well. Elkins names Dean the new Sheriff and now he is truly Sheriff :D Gear and all. This time, though, Dean is not very happy about it... or maybe he is completely overwhelmed with emotion upon being named Sheriff?
Meanwhile we see Samuel Colt for the first time. He's drinking whiskey and writing in his journal when two demons enter and tell Colt that they are going to tear him limb from limb if he doesn't open the devil's gate for them. Colt is apathetic. He tells them he's retired! LOL But when they keep at it, he takes out his gun and shoots and kills the demons, which shows us that this is indeed Samuel Colt and his famous gun.
Back to Dean, who is knocking on the deputy's door, pretending to be a woman. Love that they have both of these scenes starting with the door opening!
DEAN Howdy, pilgrim.
DEPUTY I ain't no pilgrim.
DEAN You really think you can outrun him? He is going to kill you. Unless...
DEPUTY Unless what?
DEAN Unless we gank him first.
DEPUTY "Gank"? What's "gank"? Mister, you're crazy. No way. You're on your own.
DEAN I'm not asking you to throw down with him. I'm asking you to play your part.
DEPUTY My part?
DEAN Yeah. Bait.
Hehe, the use of modern words and how people react to them also reminds me of BttF but also love "the part" Dean has for the deputy.
Back to Colt. He's coming back from dragging the bodies out back when in comes Sam. Samuel immediately sprays holy water on Sam and Sam is so used to that reaction :D
Sam has many moments this ep where he acts like a lanky kid. I just can't ... it's very cute the way he walks in to Colt's home with his head tilted to one side and those long legs all timid. He's a bit more bold when he tells Colt he is from the future and shows Colt his smartphone. Colt readily believes, which is a surprise to Sam until Colt explains that he's had enough experience to believe anything. Colt's not very excited about going with Sam to kill the phoenix (understatement). He tells Sam what he told the demons. He's retired. He's out of the life. And Sam tells Colt what he and Dean have learned the hard way.
Even when Sam tells him to just give him the gun, he still hesitates saying that Sam should come back when he has some more experience under his belt.
SAM But you're a hunter.
SAMUEL COLT Retired.
SAM There's no such thing.
SAMUEL COLT I'm out.
SAM There is no getting out. Look, for what it's worth, in my time, you're a hero.
SAMUEL COLT Me?
SAM Yes, sir.
So this obviously shows how distorted history can be depending on who writes it aye? History from a hunter's point of view is always going to be on the side of the hunter.
SAM So, what? You can really just sit there?
SAMUEL COLT I've given my whole life to this. I'm done.
SAM So it doesn't matter what happens.
SAMUEL COLT No, it doesn't.
SAM So everything you did, it all means nothing? Give me the gun.
Interesting how what Colt says here is what Sam says/feels at the end of Season 7. Actually, it makes me think a bit differently about Sam in Season 8.
Back with Bobby and Cas...
BOBBY How bad's it hurt?
CASTIEL I'll heal.
BOBBY Well, good...'Cause we got less than an hour before you pick up the kids at Frontierland.
Like that! Sounds like a couple discussing who's going to pick up the kids at Disneyland - where Fronteirland is actually the name of a section of the park.
Cas tells Bobby though that he's hurt too bad to bring Sam and Dean back and Bobby is like, what are you talking about?! We have to bring them back! Isn't there any way at all? A spell or something? And Cas mentions how there is one way but it's very dangerous. He could harness a soul's power to bring them back, if Bobby would let him touch it. (And I'm already giggling... :P)
BOBBY Touch it?
Bobby sees no other way than to let Cas touch his soul in order to save the boys and so he willingly says yes. Let me stop here though and remark on the fact that again we have a very big hint as to why Cas wanted all those souls last episode.
BOBBY And the catch is...?
CASTIEL Doing this is like...putting your hand in a nuclear reactor. I have to do it very gingerly.
CASTIEL Or you'll explode.
BOBBY Well. Keep both hands on the wheel. Let's do this.
Back to Dean. He has the Deputy in a cell in the jail house, wondering what is keeping Sam. The Deputy seems unwilling to tell Dean why Finch is after him and the others, when Finch himself walks in and tells him.
ELIAS I was married to a woman. Good woman -- human. We lived outside of town, didn't bother anyone.
DEAN Sure, freak with a heart of gold.
ELIAS You want to call me "monster," fine. But all we did was go into town. I go into the bank for five minutes. I come out, she's gone. And then I heard her scream. This... man had her pinned in the alley. I go to stop him, he pulls his gun, shoots me, then her. She died in my arms. 'Course, I don't die. The shots brought the Sheriff. Next thing I know, I'm in iron. That's why I want him just where he is -- trapped, scared. I saved the best for last.
This speech by Finch is very moving. The way he says, "Course, I don't die" is so painful, as if he wished he could have died with his wife.
ELIAS So tell me -- are you really willing to die to protect this piece of filth?
DEAN Honestly, I could care less about him. He's a dick and a coward.
DEAN But this ain't about him. I know what you are.
DEAN Yeah. So...I got to kill you.
Would Sam have let Dean kill the phoenix if he had been there? I don't know. I do hope that Dean was conflicted about it. I hope that he wished he had a choice (he does but he probably doesn't think so) at least. He's hardened by his purpose though, to kill the Mother, which he thinks is the most important thing at the moment.
DEAN Wow. I should have seen that coming.
Finch somehow gets to the gun here and shoots the Deputy. Realizing the danger, Dean runs for it, jumping out the window to avoid the shot. He's running, hoping Sam will show up in time with the gun when thankfully, he does.
Sam doesn't know what is going on and he tries to stop Dean when Dean walks out into the street to confront Finch with the Colt in hand. Sam peeking out from the side here is a totally different feel from Dean's. He totally doesn't look like a hunter - more like a spectator!
Finch, not knowing that Dean has the Colt, which can actually kill him, comes out into the street and it's the same scene we saw at the beginning of the show.
All this time, there is a constant back and forth between the Wild West, and Cas and Bobby and the clocks, warning that Dean doesn't have much time to get the ash.
Dean's the quicker draw which is awesome. He could have been killed as well. I guess Finch's shot went sideways when the bullet hit him. It doesn't hurt Dean at all. Finch, on the other hand, burns up like his victims.
DEAN Yippee-ki-yay, mother...
Dean is standing there blowing on the smoke of his gun and we are all thinking how awesome that looks when we remember Dean needs to hurry. Cas is going to be zapping them back any second! Sam shouts at Dean and Dean remembers. He runs desperately toward the ash and slides the bottle toward it to get a few grains when he is back at Bobby's with an empty bottle.
Dean tells them they have to let him go back to get the ash, but even he notices that Cas is not in any shape to do it and Bobby doesn't look very good either.
DEAN Bobby, you --
BOBBY I'm still kickin', Annie Oakley. Be back good as new in...A decade or two.
DEAN And we screwed the pooch. Bobby, I'm sorry.
They are standing there all dejected when the doorbell rings. Sam goes to get it and it's a delivery guy from Western Courers with a package from Samuel Colt, rambling about a bet he has with boys at the office and would Sam sign... (which is exactly the same thing that the guy from Western Union says to Marty at the end of BttF II :DD )
On opening the box, Sam finds his now old smartphone and a bottle filled with phoenix ash. When Sam and Dean were brought back to the present, Dean actually dropped the colt - I think when he was running toward the ash, so the colt would have been lying there in the middle of the street with the pile of ash when Elkins must have picked it up. Colt would have come and heard the story of the colt in the middle of the street and written what he did in his diary <3 I think Sam's talk with Colt moved him to action - not only to give Sam the Colt, but to check out how that had gone and keep the ash for Sam. They built a relationship in that short time, you know?! That is so neat!
Dean is in awe of what he sees.
DEAN Ashes of a Phoenix. You know what this means?
BOBBY Yeah, I didn't get a "soulonoscopy" for nothing.
DEAN Yes. And... it means we take the fight to her.
The thing I really like about this ending, is that all of them worked together to make this possible. Bobby and Cas, Sam and Samuel Colt, and Dean. None of them could have done it on their own. And to have another episode to look forward to in which they actually use the phoenix ash is all kinds of awesome as well.