Last night's Supernatural started out with a goofball monster-of-the-week scenario and evolved into something dark and epic. Only on this show could you find joy buzzers that are tied to the fate of good and evil on Earth. Spoilers ahead!
The episode, called "I Believe the Children Are Our Future," starts out by lulling you into a false sense of zaniness. No really. The brothers are investigating a series of deaths in a Nebraska town that all seem to tie into kids' silly beliefs coming true. A teen scratches her brains out when she gets itching powder on her head; a joy buzzer electrocutes a man; kids who eat pop rocks and soda get horrible ulcers; and even Dean grows hair on his palms in a particularly gooftacular moment. For the first twenty minutes or so, I was groaning. C'mon guys, I thought, are you really going to give us something this dorky?
And that's when things got dark. Way dark.
It turns out that the source of the weird happenings is a kid who is bending reality to fit all the little lies his parents told him - about pop rocks and joy buzzers hurting you, for example. And then the brothers discover the kid, named Jesse, is adopted. When they visit his real mother, we get a series of hairraising flashbacks as she explains she was a virgin who got possessed and impregnated by a demon. Somehow she regained control of her body when she gave birth, and then expelled the demon by eating fistfuls of salt.
Around that time angel Castiel arrives looking really freaked out, and explains to the brothers that Jesse is the antichrist, a half-human, half-demon with almost limitless power. Turns out The Bible has it wrong about who the antichrist is. He's not the spawn of Lucifer; he's just any old human-demon hybrid, but he's Lucifer's mega-weapon in the war on Heaven. Cas wants to kill the kid, but Sam argues that they should tell him the truth and give him a choice. Maybe he'll choose to fight on the side of the angels.
This is where the episode really gets interesting. Cas tries to kill the kid, as you can see in the clip, but he's instantly turned into an action figure. So that leaves the Winchesters and their thorny "choice" option. We've already seen from previous scenes in the episode that the kid is really smart, so it's believable that when the brothers arrive he's willing to consider his options. Unfortunately, Dean tries to softpeddle what's at stake, claiming that Jesse is a "superhero" and that they want him to join an X-Men-style team that fights evil. (An idea that the kid clearly likes.) But when his real mom arrives, re-possessed by the demon, she tries to get Jesse on her side by saying that every grownup has lied to him except her. She promises him "a world without lies."
And that's when Sam tells Jesse the full truth - that he's half-demon, but that he can choose to do what his good/human side wants. We're not sure what Jesse's going to choose, but eventually he sucks the demon out of his mother with a wave of his hand and promises to think about what the brothers have told him. Then he looks in on his parents, fixes all the people whom he's harmed (including action figure Cas), and disappears. His mojo protects him from being found by angels or demons, so now there's this kid roaming around who has the power to decide who wins the Apocalypse.
We end with the brothers in the car, talking about how they understand why parents lie to their kids:
Dean: I'm starting to get why parents lie to their kids - telling em about pop rocks and coke protects em from the real evil . . . The more I think about it the more I wish dad had lied to us.
Sam: Me too.
What I thought was great about this scene, and really the whole second half of the episode, was that the question of good vs. evil is completely tangled up with the question of lies vs. truth. We see that truth can sometimes be a weapon of evil - for example, the demon mother/father of Jesse is the first adult who tells him most of the truth. And full disclosure of the truth, even when done for the sake of good, can actually lead to evils worse than death.
All we know for sure is that truth is what allows someone like Jesse to choose meaningfully between good and evil. And that's why Lucifer's minions are so fond of truth. They want people to choose evil, to really believe in it. A deluded evil person is just as useless as a deluded good one.
That final piece of dialogue between Dean and Sam (which reminded me of similar conversations in The Matrix) made me wonder whether the darkest temptation isn't evil, but rather the delusion that we are safe from evil.