When would be the best timing to start the quizzes?
Looking back at it all, it hasn’t been the best season. Actually, when I started writing this review, I felt like I disliked this season the most out of all the others, and maybe I still do. There were admittedly many good eps. Dean’s PTSD from Purgatory was so moving. I also enjoyed getting some eps that let us get away from the normal everyday Supernatural life. Fun eps like Hunteri Heroici and LARP and the Real Girl. And I appreciated some eps for the reason I actually did not like the season as a whole - Sam’s lack of self-esteem and misunderstanding regarding how Dean sees him in the Benny eps even though I hated seeing Sam angry at Dean. I grew to appreciate them all more this rewatch when I realized that it was not about Dean or even about any inconsistency in Sam's personality. This final ep was just too much for me until just a few minutes ago when I could finally rationalize that last scene in my mind after all these years of searching. So... bear with me.
It all starts between Seasons 7 and 8 when Sam decides that other hunters are just as good or better than him and that he’s just going to quit hunting - possibly over grief and blaming himself for Dean’s death. His self-confidence is at an all-time low and even in his relationship with Amelia, he chooses to back out when the husband comes back and he finds out the husband is a good guy. We see flashbacks of this in Citizen Fang, linking his feelings there to how he feels about Dean and Benny. That lack of self-confidence is not helped when Dean “blames him” for not looking for him. First he finds out that Dean would go on a hunting trip with a vampire instead of him, and then that he was wrong to assume that Benny was bad news when Benny gives up his life for Sam in Taxi Driver… I think then he feels like “even a vampire” is better than him. He finds something he can do to prove himself and those are the trials. Dean is worried for him but instead of taking that as a sign of love, he takes that as proof that Dean doesn’t trust him. It doesn’t help that the trials are making him weaker and sicker as he continues. Although we have further proof later in First Born that Sam’s biggest issue was with himself not being good enough, he gradually starts to be more and more bothered by the idea that Dean doesn't trust him. Dean doesn't care for him. Dean doesn't love him.
How painful and confusing it was for me to look back at this season using the two lenses: Sam’s insecurity and the meaninglessness of the trials themselves. And this episode was the culmination of it all so of course it was going to be damn painful. But I will explain what I gleaned in my second and third editing stage of this thing that made it so much better for me. I hope it might be helpful or atleast interesting to you in some way. There were also some really good scenes and the ending definitely made for wonderful speculation during the hiatus.
I felt like I've thought about this ep more than I have any other recent ep. So... this might be a tad long.
The ep starts with Jody having a blind date with CROWLEY! Crowley has put a spell on Jody and while she is in the bathroom, she starts to choke and spit up blood. Crowley is phoning up Sam and Dean. It’s Dean on the phone and he looks really dangerous. Oh man. I remember how I thought for sure they were going to make a deal with Crowley when I first watched this scene. Sam and Dean promise that they will give Crowley the whole demon tablet and in exchange, he should give them the angel tablet.
CROWLEY:On what grounds?
DEAN:On the grounds that you're a douche bag and no douche bag should have that much power. Deal or not?
There are only a few seconds left until Jody dies but Crowley is insisting that they tell him “I surrender.”
We actually never hear Dean say the words, which is a real bummer. I mean, if you are going to make Crowley say something crazy like that, the viewer needs Dean to answer with SOMETHING.
We next see Sam and Dean driving up to a big sign for a chili restaurant… except there’s a picture of a devil. Kevin is there digging up the demon tablet. Kevin asks if they think it will work and Sam answers, what else can they do? Dean gives Kevin the key to the bunker telling him not to bring in any party-ers and Kevin is like, “I don’t have any friends.” I don’t think he was into that kind to party anyway, but this is the sad reminder of his life which has just been constantly hiding from Crowley and translating the trials. At this point, Dean is optimistic that by closing the gates, Kevin will be able to go back to the semblance of a normal life.
Sam and Dean then go to Sioux Falls, and pull into Bobby’s old yard. As they get out of the car, Dean walks over to one particular car in the yard and stops to look at it. Although I don’t remember it particularly, I am guessing that this is the car that Bobby used to use… :’(
Crowley appears and rolls out the contract which Sam must sign because he is the one doing the trials. Dean tells him he’s going to read the fine print first so that Crowley doesn’t screw them over. Dean and Sam pretend to argue about something and make Crowley think they are at odds. Then Dean slowly walks up to Crowley reading the contract backwards bottom to top or maybe the words are backwards? which is a bit weird. But when he gets there and Crowley tells Sam to hurry and sign, Dean looks back at Sam and Sam nods and I was just thinking on first watch… o-oh, they are going to sign it… but Dean looks back at Crowley and slams those cuffs on him.
DEAN:Unh-unh-unh. Demonic handcuffs, jackass. No flicking, no teleporting, no smoking out -- oh, and... no deal. Which pretty much means that you're our bitch.
CROWLEY:Fine. You want to play chain gang? Let's. (Crowley punches Dean)
CROWLEY:You saddled yourself to the wrong bull, mate. (Dean punches Crowley back)
DEAN:I can do this all day, 'cause you know what? Damn, it feels good! But sooner or later, you're gonna have to face it -- you're ours. Which means that your demon ass is going to be a mortal ass pretty damn quick.
CROWLEY [to SAM]:What's he mouthing on about?
SAM:You're the third trial, Crowley.
This is an amazing trick, both on us as viewers and on Crowley. HIS FACE! And that close up of bad ass Dean is amazing too.
They take him to an old church and get him inside a Devil’s Trap. Dean is still worried about Sam and we have that super weird, painful scene where Dean gives Sam suggestions about what to confess about in his confession to purify his blood. WHY? What are the writers trying to do with this scene? Make Sam feel even worse than he does, I suppose.
DEAN:Your blood's supposed to be purified, isn't it? You ever, uh -- you ever done the "forgive me, father" before?
SAM:Well, once, when we were kids. Which is why I have no clue what to say now.
DEAN:Well, I mean, I could give you suggestions if you want.
SAM:O-okay. Yeah, sure.
DEAN:All right. Well, I'm just spit-balling here, but if I were you, uh... Ruby, killing Lilith, letting Lucifer out, losing your soul, not looking for me when I went to Purgatory,
Picking Ruby over Dean … that’s sort of like what Sam accuses Dean of doing to him with Benny in his speech later isn’t it? Hmmm. Losing his soul of course was not Sam’s fault at all but Cas’ And all these things Sam feels he already paid for by going to Hell and suffering Lucifer except the issue about not looking for Dean. Does Dean still feel hurt about Sam not looking for him? Sam sure thinks he does.
DEAN:for starters. Or, hey, h-how about what you did to, uh, Penny Markle in the sixth grade? Why don't you lead with that?
SAM:Well, that was you.
Especially from that last suggestion, I feel like Dean is possibly trying to joke here and Sam just doesn’t see it because he feels so bad about himself (and we totally don't see it either). I can’t imagine that Dean wouldn’t remember what he’d done himself, and normally, Sam would just roll his eyes at Dean if Dean said something like that. It makes me think that Dean is trying to put Sam at ease - to make him laugh - but it’s just not working like he wants it too. It is still painful to listen to and I really just want to kill the writers.
Sam goes to give his confession, seriously considering all that Dean has said.
Meanwhile Cas is going on what he thinks are the angel trials with Metatron. He’s glad when he hears he doesn’t have to kill another soul. They go into the bar to find a cupid. Unfortunately or fortunately? the angels have of course been looking for Cas and get wind of Metatron and Cas being together. For some reason they just capture Metatron and leave. Cas decides to go back to Dean for help. He tells Dean about the “angel trials” and that he needs Dean’s help. Dean tells him that if anyone needs handholding now it’s Sam.
CASTIEL:Dean, I need your help.
DEAN:Little busy, Cas. Take a number.
Dean’s curt, and we get the feeling that he’s still angry at Cas, especially after he up and disappeared again.
CASTIEL:I'm afraid this can't wait. Naomi has taken Metatron.
DEAN:And you know Metatron how?
CASTIEL:I've been working with him on the Angel trials.
CASTIEL:We're gonna shut it all down -- Heaven, Hell, all of it.
DEAN:Metatron, the guy who was full-on crazy, cat-lady-hoarder angel yesterday -- now he wants to save Heaven?
CASTIEL:Yes, he wants to. But I'm the only one in who can. I can't fail, Dean, not on this one. I need your help.
DEAN: Look, Cas, that's all well and good, okay, but you're asking me to leave Sam, and we've got Crowley in there tied and trussed. Now, if anybody needs a chaperone while doing the heavy lifting, it's Sam.
SAM: You should go.
Sam comes up and hears Dean’s words about having to “hold Sam’s hand” and we should suppose he is feeling bad about himself yet again - like Dean thinks Sam needs a chaperon because he can’t do it on his own. Sam mentions this in his little speech later.
Anyway, he tells Dean that he can do it and that Dean should go help Cas. Dean then agrees to go and tells Sam to go ahead with the trials if he can’t make it in time and leaves with Cas. This does seem to prove to me again that Dean does trust Sam with the trials. He would not have agreed to leave otherwise.
Cas and Dean first go to Kevin at the bunker to ask him to translate the angel tablet. Kevin is very rebellious because he is so tired of translating but Cas gets up and personal and makes him.
Okay. Um, it's the Angel Tablet, which I've never laid eyes on in my life. You want a translation in like six hours when it took me six months and a dead mom to translate a piece of the Demon Tablet?
...this is not what I do. It's what I did. You told me I was out, Dean.
DEAN:Yeah, well –
KEVIN:and if this is gonna be the "guys like us are never out" speech, save it.
CASTIEL: Dean's right.
CASTIEL:There is no out. Only duty.
KEVIN:Get the hell off me.
CASTIEL:You are a Prophet of the Lord, always and forever... ...until the day you cease to exist, and then another Prophet takes your place. Now, are you clear as to the task before you?
CASTIEL:Then do it, and let's go.
I don't think I've ever said this before but I've always though that Kevin was really selfish. I can't fault him for it. There is nothing wrong with that. Some people just see their welfare as worth more than to be chased around by Crowley or become the slave of the Winchesters just to save the world. Someone else can do all that you know? That's what most people would think. And that is quite understandable. Hell, even Sam thought that this season, right? Huh... Another parallel. Kevin just wants to have a normal life, and he thought he was out now that he didn't have the tablet anymore and now they are forcing him back in.
So,this is an interesting parallel because Sam actually didn't look for Kevin for those exact same reasons but then decided to do this one last thing of closing the gates before he quit all together. And Kevin and Sam both sort of change after Season 8 don't they? Kevin accepts his role and stays in the bunker with the boys even after it all finished, while Sam goes through a bit more before he starts admitting that he actually did enjoy what he did.
I will also say that Cas does a lot of up close and personal these last two eps - starting with the clerk who can't give him any pie, then killing the nephilim, with Kevin here and then almost doing the same to the cupid. He's beginning to think that violence and threats are the way to get things done - sort of reverting to his old self maybe?
Anyway, then Cas and Dean go to the bar where the cupid is supposed to appear. The bartender thinks Cas saved his life from the angels so gives them free drinks. As Dean has a beer, Cas asks if it is wise to drink on the job.
DEAN:What show you been watching?
LOL Fourth wall reference :D
Talk to me. Are you sure about this? I mean, it's one thing me and Sammy slamming the gates to the pit, but you -- you're -- you're boarding up Heaven, and you're locking the door behind you.
CASTIEL:Yeah. I know.
DEAN:You did a lot of damage up there, man. You think they're just gonna let that slide?
CASTIEL:Do you mean do I think they'll kill me? Yeah, they might.
DEAN:So this is it? E.T. goes home.
Now this is interesting compared to what Dean says to Sam later. It shows how dependant he is on Sam of course but also sort of that despite all that talk of Cas being family, he's sure not treating him like his other family. He respects that Cas needs to do this to pay for what mistakes he has made. At the beginning of the season, when Cas let go of his hand at the portal because he wanted to pay for his mistakes by staying in Purgatory, Dean changed his memory of that into one where he was blaming himself for not being able to save Cas. Now, however, he is ready to accept that Cas needs to do what he feels he has to do.
So how about Sam? Dean has let Sam go before in Season 5 and that was to an eternity of Lucifer torture. Of course Dean did try to save Sam from the cage later (and Cas sort of did) but he accepted that Sam had to do it to save the world and gave in to Sam's plan. Why is he going back to Season 1 Dean here? He seems to have learned his lesson with Cas but reverted to old ways with Sam. This may have something to do with how hard it was to get (the real) Sam back after the cage. And then Dean lost him again when he had to go to Purgatory. And the fact that Dean saw Sam wanting a normal life and wanted that for him too (Trial and Error) while he felt like he wanted to go down fighting. HE wanted to do the trials and thought he'd die doing them. He wanted SAM to grow old and be happy. And it had all been kind of screwed up when Sam decided he was going to do the trials instead because he didn't want Dean to die either. Now Dean has to try to save Sam at all costs.
Anyway, we have a cute moment with the gay guys, then Cas and Dean corner the cupid. Cas tries to go at her with the angel blade but Dean stops him saying, talk first, stab later. They explain the situation as Cas sees it, and the cupid, who has not been getting proper instructions for a long time, feels that if Cas can fix things she’d gladly give her bow. I wonder what that does to her? Giving up her bow? Do they gouge it out of her hand? Or is it a spell? Does it make her a non-cupid? So she gives up something. A sacrifice for her family. Unfortunately she must find out later that Cas wasn’t helping heaven. He was making all the angels fall.
Why the writers had to do this to Cas I cannot imagine. He’s made plenty of mistakes already. But, I just looked back at What’s Up Tiger Mommy and Samandriel says of Cas, “too much heart was always Castiel’s problem. “ So this season shows just how much heart Cas has, and how much of a problem that actually is. But, how can you fault someone for having too much heart??
Meanwhile, Metatron is being briefed by Naomi and she finds out what Metatron is planning.
METATRON:Do you have any idea what it would be like to be plucked from obscurity, to sit at God's feet, to be asked to write down his word? The ache I felt when he was gone, telling myself, "Father's left, but look what he's left us -- paradise." But you and your Archangels couldn't leave well enough alone. You ran me from my home. Did you really think you could do all of that to me and there'd be no payback?
Metatron has tears in his eyes and I feel for him in his speech here, even though I don’t like his need for vengeance. And I will also point out that the act itself is not very different from what the boys are attempting toward the demons. He’s only a baddy when we look at it from the angels’ perspective. I’m sure Sam and Dean don’t really care one way or the other at this point.
Naomi goes to meet Cas and Dean and tells them what Metatron is planning. They call Kevin and Kevin says that the tablet doesn’t have anything about a cupid’s bow or nephilim. Naomi then tells Dean about how Sam will die if he finishes the trials.
NAOMI:Our mission was to protect what God created. I don't know when we forgot that. I want nothing more than to see you shut the Gates of Hell, but I told you that you could trust me. If Sam completes those trials, he is going to die.
DEAN:What the hell are you talking about?
NAOMI:I saw it in Metatron's head. It was always God's intention -- the ultimate sacrifice. As for you, Castiel, I beg of you, stop this path. Metatron has been neutralized. If you want back in, truly, I will listen.
Again a very emotional speech, this time by Naomi. We get the sense that despite her methods, she really thought she was doing the right thing - to correct a defect or reprogram angels to protect the angels and maybe even humans. Why she realizes her mistake here is not clear. Maybe she just really wants Dean’s help in convincing Cas not to go through with the spell.
Cas doesn’t want to admit he was wrong but Dean believes Naomi and tells Cas to send him to Sam. He does, then goes off to heaven and finds Naomi stabbed in the back of the head with her own instrument. Then he’s caught by Metatron, who takes his grace.
METATRON:Shh! Castiel, I want you to stop thinking about master plans, Heaven and Angels, and all this. That doesn't concern you anymore. These were never trials, Castiel. This is a spell. And what I'm taking from you now -- your essence, your Grace -- is the last piece. And now something wonderful is going to happen, for me and for you. I want you to live this new life to the fullest. Find a wife. Make babies. And when you die and your soul comes to Heaven, find me. Tell me your story.
Looking back at this now, after Metatron himself has experienced losing his grace and becoming “human” and is so epically bad at it… and the fact that he did try to write his own little story before that and failed… it is quite hilarious.
Meanwhile, Sam and Crowley. The first shot of blood doesn’t really do anything to Crowley. The second shot doesn’t either, but Crowley bites Sam to get some blood to call demons to his rescue.
No one hears it except Abbadon, who comes and tries to kill them both for a regime change. Sam burns up her body and she flies away as black smoke. He puts Crowley back in a devil’s trap and then Crowley starts saying strange things.
Crowley: Seriously? Me, seriously? We just shared a foxhole, you and I. We beat back the Tet Offensive, outrun the --the Rape of Nanking, together! And still you're gonna do me like this?! Band of Brothers? The Pacific? None of this means anything to you? All those motels, you never once watched HBO, not once? Girls? You're my Marnie, Moose. A-and Hannah -- she just -- she needs to be loved. She deserves it. Don't we all -- you, me -- we deserve to be loved. I deserve to be loved! I just want to be loved.
This is also a really good scene for me - Crowley as he is gradually cured. His speech about wanting to be loved and wanting to be forgiven is emotional.
It is interesting to think of why Crowley became a demon to begin with. We know that his mother didn't love him and left him when he was small - three? - and then he made a deal to have a longer penis and got sent to Hell for it. From this we can deduce that the base of his problems is this lack of love, and probably, his deal was to somehow attain love - thinking that if he just had enough sexual prowess, then he would be loved.
I want to think about Crowley’s idea that “we all deserve to be loved.” The word “deserve” means to “do something or have or show qualities worthy of (a reaction which rewards or punishes as appropriate).” So, to say that you deserve love would mean that you are worthy of it. I do not think that love is something that is attained as a reward or because you are worthy of it so to me, the idea that anyone would "deserve" love is wrong. Crowley seems to insist here though that he was denied something he deserved, but... what if it's the opposite? He is insisting he deserves it because he wants it so badly but he had always felt that somehow he didn't deserve it. Maybe he felt that it was his fault that his mom didn't love him, and that is why he felt he had to change in order to be loved. Maybe his demon deal was a way to fix that and make him feel worthy.
On the side - I just watched an episode of Adventure time and huh...
The Ice King is actually very similar in various ways to Crowley and I'd love to go into it at another time!
Instead, let's take a look at Sam. From the very start of the season, he thought he wasn't good enough. There were plenty other hunters to do the job. Don was more worthy of Amelia than him. Even a vampire was better than him. Dean was sure to leave him for someone better. So he does the trials to try to prove that he is worthy. Doesn't this pattern sound familiar? Trying to fix things by making himself worthy?
Let's go on.
Then, Crowley starts feeling remorse for what he has done.
CROWLEY:Would it be possible, Moose...I'd like...to ask you a-a favor, Sam. Earlier, when you were confessing back there...what did you say? I only ask because, given my history...it raises the question... Where do I start...to even look for forgiveness? I mean...
SAM:How about we start with this?
Interesting that he starts calling Sam by his name instead of his nickname “moose.” This is also a marked contrast with the previous speech where he is complaining about how he has been treated. He is admitting the wrongs he has done and remorse for them, which is the key to his cure as seen in the previous episode.
And then the last scene where Sam is just about to cure Crowley and Dean comes barging in to stop him.
DEAN:Metatron lied. You finish this trial, you're dead, Sam.
SAM:So? Look at him. Look at him! Look how close we are! Other people will die if I don't finish this!
DEAN:Think about it. Think about what we know, huh? Pulling souls from hell, curing demons, hell, ganking a Hellhound! We have enough knowledge on our side to turn the tide here. But I can't do it without you.
But Sam doesn’t seem to get why Dean is trying to stop him, because he has put himself down so hard. All he can think about is how every little thing Dean said had made him feel worse and sacrificing himself for these trials will somehow make him worthy of Dean’s love.
SAM:You can barely do it with me. I mean, you think I screw up everything I try. You think I need a chaperone, remember?
DEAN:Come on, man. That's not what I meant.
And, yeah, Dean, I feel as flabbergasted as you. All through Season 8, you’ve told Sam how going down crazy street with him was what you loved. It had to be with him. And here you realize that he has somehow misunderstood you.
SAM:No, it's exactly what you meant. You want to know what I confessed in there? What my greatest sin was? It was how many times I let you down. I can't do that again.
SAM:What happens when you've decided I can't be trusted again? I mean, who are you gonna turn to next time instead of me? Another angel, another -- another vampire? Do you have any idea what it feels like to watch your brother just –
OK, stooooop! What do you mean, “when you’ve decided”? What a weird way of putting it, right? The wording makes Sam sound terribly whiny like he's feeling sorry for himself, aye? It also sounds an awful lot like Crowley’s just a few minutes before - how he isn’t given the love he “deserves.” I used to do that to my dad when he scolded me for something bad I did. “You don’t love me. *tears* *weeps*” Which (I knew would) inevitably lead to a cuddle and “But no, I do love you.” My daughter does the same thing to me, and I have to stop being upset and assure her otherwise. Of course Dean isn't upset here, but Sam does think that Dean is disappointed in him and is desperate for Dean to tell him he loves him anyway. Of course Dean does.
DEAN:Hold on, hold on! You seriously think that? Because none of it -- none of it -- is true. Listen, man, I know we've had our disagreements, okay? Hell, I know I've said some junk that set you back on your heels. But, Sammy...come on. I killed Benny to save you. I'm willing to let this bastard and all the sons of bitches that killed mom walk because of you. Don't you dare think that there is anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you! It has never been like that, ever! I need you to see that. I'm begging you.
The rational, self-confident Sam would have known it, but he is confused about what his real issues are. The issue is not whether or not he deserves to be loved, because Dean loves him whether he succeeds or fails regardless of Sam being “worthy” and he will always pick Sam over everything. Sam blames Dean for doing this exact thing in Season 9.
The true issue here is his own feelings of worthlessness. That is what made him quit hunting after Season 7. That is what made him see Don and Benny as better than him, and also make Dean’s words seem like he doesn’t trust Sam. Because, Sam himself doesn’t trust Sam. And that is why he is so angry at Dean in Season 9 for saving him (when he thought he didn't deserve it) and almost gives his life to find Gadreel.
So Sam's focus on deserving Dean’s love here, is that due to the effects of the trials? I think it is very interesting that both Crowley and Sam talk about being worthy (or not) in different words. And, maybe it is not the spirit of the trials or whatever I speculated earlier, but I think Sam is at a very bad place at this point - like suicidally depressed bad. Not believing in himself was bad enough but not being able to even believe in his brother’s loyalty, that would have been the final thread. The point where he'd think that he might as well die. There was no point in living. And Dean’s proclamation of love at least was enough to give him back a little bit of will to live.
I used to think that Dean should have maybe let Sam sacrifice himself here, but now, when I think about how Sam appeals to Dean's love for him, it is obvious that Sam really doesn't want to go through with this. He is putting out a cry for help. Thinking of it that way, Dean was right to not let him die. Sam is not truly willing to sacrifice himself to save others like he was in Season 5. He just feels so bad about himself that he thinks he might as well.
Dean ties up the wound on his hand with a kerchief, they have a brother hug and then go out of the church where they find the angels falling.
Cas also wakes up somewhere without a grace and sees them falling. Kevin also sees it. He’s just on his way out - maybe just sick of them using him and ready to hide from them like he did from Crowley - but he stops to watch the machines beep and, as we know from the first ep of Season 9, he stays in the bunker after that. First, he's just scared probably, but maybe he also realizes how important a role he has and that they really can't do without him.
If you’re interested, here is a fic I wrote of an AU Season 9 ep 1 during the hiatus. One of my first fics ever LOL