Friday night's Supernatural episode, "Caged Heat," was one of the very best this season. The writing was funny and dark, the plot went twisty, and there was some seriously dark character development. Plus, angel porn! Spoilers ahead.
Everything is better with Crowley
You already knew that Crowley makes most episodes better, partly because he's such a delightful character but also because he signals that we're veering back into the Judeo-Christian scenario that has always been this show's strongest suit. And the opening scene, where Crowley is torturing the alpha shifter - who is of course wearing Crowley's face - was a stroke of evil genius. What could be better than watching Crowley as tortured and torturer? Pretty much nothing.
So Crowley is still looking for Purgatory, and we still don't know why. And maybe we'll never know, given the whole bonesack bonfire thing at the end of the episode. More on that in a minute!
Is it time for the Queen of Hell?
I wasn't sure I'd want to see the demon Meg again, but this episode convinced me we need a queen in Hell. First she kidnaps the brothers, trying to get intel from them about Crowley's whereabouts - which Sam correctly guesses is because Crowley is hunting down and eliminating all of Lucifer's old supporters. Then she reveals her big plan: She wants to kill Crowley and take over Hell, with help from Sam and Dean. Reluctantly, they go along with her plan. They've been trying to find Crowley too, and get back Sam's soul. And given that they're already working with demons, they might as well team of with Meg.
There was also a kind of WTF subplot involving Meg and Cas that I loved. Cas comes down to help out after Sam recites the plot of Raiders of the Lost Ark and convinces Cas he's got the Ark. Dejected over how badly the war against Raphael is going in Heaven, he starts watching porn (see clip above) and winds up randomly making out with Meg when they break Crowley's monster prison and are about to face down the hell hounds. As I said, it was a totally random subplot, but it worked with what we know of Cas (in an alternate future where he's de-winged, he became a sex guru) and it helped to make us like Meg more too.
Not only did Meg let us see Cas' horny side, but she brought us yet another scene with Corin "Parker Lewis" Nemec - and who can ever get enough of those? After she and the brothers are captured by Crowley's demon bitches, Parker Lewis does some serious bondage-and-knife torture on Meg while making clenched-jaw faces and dispatching banter. In case you were wondering, there was absolutely no reason why Meg needed to be naked in order for Parker to torture her. Crowley has put a spell on his prison that prevents her from exiting the old meatsack, but he hasn't laid down a demons-must-be-naked rule. Which is sort of too bad, given the "we need to see more of Corin Nemec" mandate.
Anyway, the torture is cut short (ha ha) when Dean comes in and gives Parker the old demon-killing knife treatment.
Every father is a failure
One of the least-convincing aspects of this episode was Gramps' turncoat moment. He's always been a hardass, but selling his soul to Crowley just to get his daughter back when he knows full well that deals like that always go sour? I would have bought into his betrayal of the brothers more if he'd just been simply a mercenary, working with Crowley for kicks. There was the beginning of an intriguing idea when Gramps sneered at Dean's appeal to "family" in the dungeon, suggesting that for some people blood isn't a real bond. "What are you supposed to be to me?" he asks Dean, and we've been wondering the same thing. Just because Gramps is family doesn't mean he has anything in common with the Winchesters.
His betrayal also touches on a theme that's near Supernatural's heart, which is that every father is a failure in the end. Though the boys' dad was a hero in many ways, he also robbed Sam and Dean of their childhoods. And now Gramps wants to rob them of their very lives, apparently to bring their mother back to life. Before he stalks away, Dean promises to kill him. Expect more dad-related showdowns.
Father failure even crept into the episode's representation of Cas. Rarely have we seen this angelic father figure appear so weak, dejected, and downright lame. First he falls for Sam's Raiders recap trick, then he spends his time watching porn, and finally he admits that he's basically losing the war in Heaven. Plus, he can do nothing to help out when Sam's soul is finally rescued. As ever, the boys are basically on their own.
Of course, bad fathers fare no better in this episode. In this season Crowley has been an evil surrogate dad to the Winchesters, sending them on missions and even occasionally helping out. But at last he's been bested. Cas has found his bones, and burns them when Crowley admits he can't help them retrieve Sam's soul. For the second time in the episode, we hear about how horribly tortured Sam's soul has been, as the sole plaything in the cage with Lucifer and Michael. Even as he burns Crowley to the ground by lighting his bones on fire, Castiel has to admit that the King of Hell is right: Sam's soul has probably been so horrifically abused that implanting it back in Sam might actually be worse than leaving him in Replicant mode.
Now it is time to process our feelings
Sam is starting to come around to Castiel and Crowley's way of thinking, too. At the end of the episode, when the brothers traditionally have a processing conversation, he tells Dean that "when angels and demons agree" he pays attention - and both have been saying that his soul is probably in terrible shape. Dean is, of course, totally pissed off. They've just dragged themselves through the monster prison to get intel on where Sam's soul is, and now he's just going to give up?
Meanwhile, a very mopey Cas has returned to Heaven to fight his crappy war, Crowley is probably dead but there may be a loophole, Meg is roaming in demon cyberspace looking for a new avatar, and Gramps has a Dean-shaped target on his back. Things are heating up - and they may get even hotter next week when Death himself makes another appearance.