Last night's Supernatural confirmed, once and for all, that Dean is one of the great philosopher-heroes of our time. Meanwhile, Sam really is just a whiny bitch who can't get past his daddy issues. Spoilers ahead...
With so many TV shows struggling with the whole "standalone episodes vs. arc storytelling" issue, Supernatural has found a really unique angle and pursued it pretty relentlessly. I've lost count of how many episodes have had the format where the first half hour feels like a lightweight "problem of the week" episode, and then halfway through we suddenly discover larger implications. The textbook example of this is last week's "body-switching" episode, which sounded just ridiculous but then turned into a story about demons putting a price on Dean's head.
(Although if the Demons really wanted Dean dead, you'd think they'd just keep tabs on every cheap motel within a few hundred mile radius of his last known location.)
This time around, we had the "Anna wants to kill Ma and Pa Winchester before Sam and Dean can be born" plot, which was fun but mostly an excuse for Sam and Dean to work through feelings about their childhoods again. Until the Archangel Michael shows up — in John Winchester's body, no less — and has a heart-to-heart with Dean about his destiny, to become Michael's vessel on Earth so Michael can lead the fight against Satan. (And Matt Cohen was eerie and magnetic as Michael — really great stuff.)
Dean not only tells Michael to shove it, but is positively eloquent (for Dean) about his belief in Free Will. At this point, Dean has stood up to angels, archangels, Satan and now Heaven's top archangel, and every single time he hasn't even flinched in his determination to make his own life. Dean's absolute certainty is pretty inspirational (even though this is the guy who broke when he was in Hell) and he should be the poster-boy for secular humanism or something. It's telling that in the (possibly fake) future Dean visited a while back, Sam had broken down and said "Yes" to Lucifer, but Dean had held firm.
And finally, last night, we got to the crux of the matter: Dean believes in free will, and that he's more than just a vessel, or a puppet for larger forces. He wants the right to make his own bad decisions. But Michael makes a pretty persuasive case that everything in Dean's life is fore-ordained and he has no choice about any of it. All of his actions, all of his choices, have been set in motion by larger forces. It's pretty clear that Dean's one chance to assert that he's
not a number a free human agent in the unverse is going to come from his ability to keep saying "No." So what do you want to bet he says "Yes" towards the end of the season?
Sam, meanwhile, just continues to work through his Daddy issues, although I do have to say the scene between Sam and John, where Sam tries to tell his dad — too late — that he forgives him is amazingly touching and I did choke up a bit. Still, it's been five years. Hasn't Sam sort of worked out some of this stuff by now? Dean, by contrast, has the sort of nostalgia and admiration for his folks that you'd expect, but is nowhere near as tangled. He sees the seeds of the great hunter his dad will become, and admires them, and he tries to reason with his mom. But just like the last time Dean visited the 1970s, it's not a huge complicated emotional thing for him, because he's made peace with his upbringing, way more than Sam has. Still.
It was pretty funny that both Winchester parents are horrified to hear about how Sam and Dean were raised, and both brothers are like, "No, really. It's fine."
I kept waiting for someone to mention that Ma Winchester put all of this in motion by making a deal with Azazel, the Yellow-Eyed Demon. You'd think that would be a pertinent fact to bring up in all this — but of course, making deals with Azazel is a proud Winchester family tradition, so it's water under the bridge really.
Anyway, what elevated last night's episode to the heights of true brilliance was this bit:
So "Team Free Will," the only people willing to stand up for their right to choose their own destiny, are "good" with the idea of never having been born in the first place? Really? Doesn't that sort of negate the "free will" thing? Just a tad? I mean, it's hard to have freedom of choice if you never exist in the first place. (Of course, you could say they choose not to have been born. But it still feels like a negation, rather than an option.)
This is the sort of thing that makes me think Team Free Will is not going to do that great in the end.
So I'm wondering exactly how Anna did get out of Heaven's prison. I mean, I believe Castiel that Heaven is not jailbreak-friendly. But who let her out? The angels haven't made any moves to kill Sam before now, and they've had the chance a few times since he broke the final seal. (Most notably in the "Changing Channels" episode.) Is killing Sam now official angelic policy, just like the demons want Dean dead? If so, why send Anna? After all, the risk that she'll decide to take out both brothers — as she almost did last night — is pretty high. She's a loose cannon.
Is there still a faction in Heaven that doesn't want the battle between Lucifer and Michael to take place? And is willing to take extreme measures to prevent it?
Also, I was dying to know more about what was going on when Michael turned up. I'm guessing that was the Michael of 1978, not modern-day Michael — but he definitely knew the score circa 2010, so maybe he was the present-day version? He seemed not to appreciate Anna's plan, as her singed corpse testifies, and he didn't take the opportunity to let Sam die. Because he wants to kill Lucifer, not Sam. I wonder what he told Uriel about all this? Also, Michael seems to think he's still doing God's will, even though the other angels all think God is dead, and they don't care.
Anyway, last night's episode mostly cemented my sense that Dean is really one of the great epic figures of our time, and how great is it that the Archangel Michael's chosen vessel has dreams like this one?