The Morning After
Contrary to last week’s season 14 premiere, Supernatural’s “Gods and Monsters” defies being summarized by only a single word. Jack’s visit to his grandparents’ home was sweet but Jack’s hard line attitude about killing Dean was disturbing. Nick’s heartbreak when he remembered his wife and infant’s murders was touching, but his regression to Lucifer’s instincts and his remorseless murder of another human being was chilling. Dean’s return to his Sammy was a huge relief but the very real possibility that it’s a trick is terrifying.
Supernatural’s second episode this season kept us on an emotional roller coaster. I love it when this show delivers that kind of engagement! It wasn’t the deep emotion that has one rocking back and forth in terror or suspense, nor the kind that evokes tears of joy or horror. Rather, my emotions vacillated between empathy and worry. The story shocked us repeatedly – Jack’s cold-heartedness after his tenderness, Nick’s violence after his vulnerability, Dean’s sudden appearance and weakness after Michael’s hubris that he “owned” Dean. So while shocking might be the closest word to summarize all the switchbacks felt while watching the story unfold, the emotion I feel the morning after absorbing all that shock is foreboding.
I was truly impressed with “Gods and Monsters”. Again in contrast to last week’s episode, this story was engaging both emotionally and intellectually. Since Nick’s story progressed substantially, and is obviously going to be significant to the season’s arc (I suspect in several ways), I guess we are supposed to lay aside all the questions about Nick being alive at all, attributing them to major faults of the premiere but nonetheless now canon. Believe me, his resuscitation is a HUGE annoyance to me, as I know it is to many of you. I believe our heroes will need to investigate him further now that they’ve unleashed a homicidal maniac so maybe there is still hope we’ll get satisfying answers about Nick. For now, his presence generated a torrent of important questions. Why is he acting this way? Was he always like this? Does the host retain modicums of grace, psychological attributes or physical habits of their possessing archangel? Are there bits of Lucifer left inside Nick? What does all this mean for Dean? And what’s happening with Jack? Is he manifesting some of the coldness of his father? We’ll try to unravel all these mysteries, but this is what I hope for from a Supernatural episode! Emotional engagement delivered by a complex, intricate storyline. Well done Eugenie and Brad.
Castiel: But t-to go out there alone? Jack, you have been on the radar of every angel and demon and power broker in creation since the day you were born, and I'm sorry, but you're not exactly yourself.
An underlying commonality to Dean’s, Nick’s and Jack’s storylines is uncovering if there are monsters lying dormant beneath innocent, endearing façades. First, Dean.
Michael: Why do you think I dumped your brothers and sisters in plain sight? Why do you think I let you escape? Rule number 1 -- you can't have a trap without bait. That brings us to rule number 2, which says once the trap has been sprung, you don't need the bait anymore.
By his own admission, Michael led Sam, Mary and Bobby to that church in Duluth as a trap. The question remains, though, whether the trap was solely having the werewolves attack, or suddenly, easily, having Dean rejoin the team.
The obvious assumption is that Michael wants the hunters (Sam, Castiel and pseudo-Bobby) who defeated his counterpart in this world out of the way. He might think a pack of werewolves would be enough to finish them off. If he wanted them dead and he knew exactly where they’d be, though, why wouldn’t he just go himself to kill them? With his ego, he’d feel certain he could overpower them in seconds, and frankly, I agree with him. Jack alone bested him before. Michael has to guess (or know) that Jack isn’t at full power, so would Michael really be afraid of the human resistance? On the other hand, maybe he’s smart enough to not underestimate them. I’m not convinced of that. I believe he hoped the werewolves would dispatch his enemies but he doesn’t really care one way or another. He is brazen enough to believe they aren’t a threat to him. Twice now (once this week and once last week) he’s said that he’s “close” to being God. He hasn’t given any indication that the hunters concern him. He’s all about finding his path to purifying the world. So yes, he would go to the trouble to bait them to the church then hope he got lucky and the werewolves killed them but I seriously doubt that was the ultimate end game of his grand Minnesota plan.
Which brings us to Dean. Is Michael gone? Did he leave Dean? Since the werewolves were ineffective and I don’t believe Michael really cared if they succeeded or not, the obvious supposition is that Dean was the trap; that Michael is lying dormant within Dean to infiltrate the enemy from within as a Trojan horse.
Believe it or not, I don’t think that’s the case. I think Dean is Dean.
Dean: Sammy. It's me.
Sam: Dean. Is it really you?
Dean: Yeah, it's really me.
Sam: A-Are you okay?
Dean: No, I'm not okay!
Sam: But you got Michael to leave.
Dean: No, I -- I don't I didn't.
Dean: He just -- He just left.
Dean: I don't know. I don't know.
Dean felt Michael leave. I suppose Michael could be tricking Dean into believing he’s free but my money’s still on Michael being gone. Why? Because I don’t think Michael is the type to hide. Being inside Dean would mean that Michael is subduing that giant ego of his. His “Close” to God and “Better” than the other archangels (last week’s quote) arrogance makes him the type of warrior who likes frontal attacks. He would want to be the general calling the shots, putting his plan into motion. He recruited the werewolf pack leader as an ally, and that guy seemed patient, ruthless, smart and capable. They share a vision for a human slave world but that doesn’t mean Michael would take himself off the battlefield and trust the war to someone he just met, and who he clearly believes is inferior in power and intelligence. So I think we’re supposed to worry about Dean being Michael - and Dean is going to worry about it, and his family is going to worry about it – but I think Dean is Dean. He’s back to fighting against Michael with his family. I think they’ll take half the season revealing where Michael is now and why he left Dean.
Having said all that, I agree with Dean that he’s not okay. Surely the writers don’t care enough, or suppose that the fans care enough, about Nick to suddenly pursue his former life as a B-side plot. So Nick’s whole storyline has been put into motion to set precedent for the aftermath of archangel possession. Let’s study this a bit.
First, last week there’s suddenly new canon about archangel blades sparing the host. If that’s true, that means God thought enough about the power of archangels to consider how to kill them while sparing the human shell. Second, there’s the whole conversation between Nick and Castiel about hosting angels:
Castiel you're just a stone-cold body snatcher. You're no different than Lucifer.
So not true. Lucifer never revealed his true identity to Nick. Lucifer took the form of Nick’s dead wife, and tricked a grieving husband into saying yes. Castiel had pure intentions, gave Jimmy a choice, then respected his wishes to free Claire when Cas possessed Jimmy the second time. It would be worthwhile in the comments to debate their possession circumstances and ethics but my point here is the significance that this conversation took place at all. Nick is the story’s way of examining how hosts feel about being possessed by angels. Hopefully, Sam weighs in on this debate but Sam’s circumstances are entirely different as well.
Sam willingly said yes to Lucifer to trap the archangel. Then Sam’s body and soul were individually and forcibly separated from his archangel captor. Would that make a difference? Lucifer didn’t release or die on Sam; Sam was pulled out of Lucifer. This might be an interesting basis for canon nuances. Season 6 was largely dedicated to exploring the impact Lucifer’s possession had on Sam. Nick’s experience widens that field of study. There is now a second test subject that might give clues as to what will happen with Dean. Maybe Nick’s story is to show that each archangel possession is unique and neither we nor they can predict what will happen to Dean based on either Nick or Sam.
It was shocking to see Nick instinctively reenact Lucifer’s finger snap to dispatch his enemies:
Castiel: Why did you do that?
Nick: Do what?
Castiel: What went through your head just now?
Nick: Um, I don't know. Nothing? What are you trying to get at?
Castiel: Even though he's departed, there may be some of his influence still within you. Lucifer may have inflicted more damage on your psyche than we suspected.
Nick: I don't have time for this.
Nick wasn’t even aware of his snapping-fingers threat or saying “Don’t!” It’s like he blacked out. Later, he brutally killed his former neighbor. Are remnants of Lucifer still inside Nick? Castiel says no. He celestially examined Nick and found no Lucifer. So the host either learned, retained or adopted the archangel’s actions. Does he have split-personality disorder now? That never happened to Sam so was Nick a monster before Lucifer possessed him? There is a distinct possibility that Nick murdered his family since his penchant for hammers is disturbingly coincidental. Now the Winchesters are going to have to solve the family's cold case to determine if Nick's violence is pre or post angel, and whether this predicts what will happen to Dean. It sounds like the family's murder may even have been supernatural:
Nick: you got a good look at the man who left my house, and then you changed your story.
Arty: Well, I had to, Nick, because there was no man. I mean, In the heat of the moment, I guess I thought I saw something. I wanted so much to help. But I was wrong.
What’s your take on all of this? In any case, the effects of angel possession, and the mystery of whether Nick or Dean are purely human or are harboring or being influenced by their malevolent hitchhikers is definitely an "imposter/ monster disguised as a hero" thread for season 14.
I’m worried about Jack.
Jack: I heard what you were saying, Cass, about me finding out where I came from. Well, I never knew my mother. I thought the next best thing might be for me to meet the only real family that I have left.
Cas: That is not --
…true! That is not true! Jack, how many times have Cas, Dean and Sam called you family? How many times have you said they are your family? How many times has Castiel told you that your strength is your family? Now, all of a sudden, you don’t have any real family beside blood relatives who can never know your true self? The visit with his grandparents was very well done and fit seamlessly into the story. Their existence introduced a “normal” life akin to what Sam always dreamt about. This might be Jack’s retirement plan if the battle with Heaven and Hell is ever won. I just expanded my “happily ever after” last episode scenario. He also reminded himself, and us, of hope for him:
I heard her tell him that it isn't fate or her or his dad who sets his path. It's himself. Who he chooses to be. [free will thread]
This episode reprised the question of who Jack is going to choose to be. Jack’s rejection of his adopted family is disturbing. In losing his powers, Jack has lost himself. One second he is the vulnerable, adopted teen searching for his identity. The next moment he is a heartless killer who dispassionately determines that a human host is not worth saving if it means stopping Michael. Is Lucifer’s influence coming through in Jack, or just as scary, did his exposure to war and death before he had enough sense of who he was as a person permanently eradicate his mercy? Are we back to the concern about whether Jack is good or evil? Please, please don’t corrupt this kid. I do NOT want to see a plotline of having to save Jack from a Mark of Lucifer compulsion for violence. Until we know for sure, Jack also fits into the thread of potentially harboring a latent monster beneath the surface.
Sam: Cass, you know why you can't come with us, right?
Castiel: My angelic presence would be sensed by Michael, thereby nullifying your hopes of a sneak attack. And you need me to stay here and babysit Nick and Jack.
Sam: It's not babysitting, Cass.
Cas: Only in the sense that they're not infants, but they both have to be supervised. Jack is lost without his grace, and Nick is - I mean he's just a mess.
Sam: Well, i-it's not his fault. Cass, Nick was housing. You know, h-he deserves a shot at rebuilding his life.
Cas: And yet every time I look at him, all I can see is the supreme agent of evil.
Jack: You talking about my dad again? Look, I understand.
Convenient reminder that “the supreme agent of evil” is genetically part of Jack. Also nice set up that Dean might need to “rebuild his life” after being possessed by Michael.
This conversation was ostensibly about Castiel, though. Nice reiteration of the Castiel’s angelic nature and the need for human hosts. I’m beginning to hope that my theory of him being possessed by the Empty Entity (a stone cold body snatcher??) is true, though, just so there’s an excuse for him not being able to do just about anything right.
Castiel’s wisdom and patience when talking to Nick and Jack was endearing. Castiel tried so hard to help these traumatized people find truth. His guidance was truly inspiring and I loved seeing this side of him. He had something hopeful to say about Jack too:
Patience persistence -- those are skills, too. The past, where you came from, that's important, but it is not as important as the future and where you're going.
Wow, I really appreciated Cas the Wise.
Say What Now?
Castiel had one job, though: babysit the used-to-be-powerful-now-confused humans, and he let both of them wander about at will! Did he not see them leave the bunker? Was he unable to restrain a weakened (recently stabbed) man and a boy with pathetic fighting skills? If I had to identify one glaring flaw in this weeks’ plotline, honestly this would be it. Castiel cannot be the stooge that enables unrealistic plot twists every week. This is getting ridiculous. Pretty soon I’m going to start a “Where’s Castiel” thread!
When Jack defended his rebellious walkabout to his Dad/babysitter/Castiel, Jack specifically mentioned that he “heard” Castiel’s advice about knowing where he came from (Actually Cas said the past and where you came from is not as important as where you’re going but Jack latched onto something he could act on rather than trying to figure out the future.). That jumped out at me because I was once told that good teens often hear the wisdom of their parents but don’t want to or can’t yet understand how to act on that wisdom. Still, they hear it and hold onto it for later. Having “heard” someone or something was mentioned six times in the script. Not understanding other’s emotional traumas was a corollary theme that ran throughout “Gods and Monsters”.
Lucifer to Cas: I don't understand why I would do something like that. [then later] You don’t understand.
Jack to Cas: You don't understand what I'm going through. [then later] And I get it, I understand, but if he can't be saved, if it comes down to him or Michael, Michael has to be stopped.
Arty to Nick: I completely understand.
Nick to Arty: Do you understand me? I deserve justice! I'm gonna get justice! Do you understand…
Jack chose a dangerous way to interpret Cas’ guidance, so he didn’t truly understand what Cas wanted him to do, but he still “heard” him. I'm curious what else we "heard" but "misunderstood" in this script.
Jack: I know the last time, I sucked when it mattered, and I need to improve.
Castiel: At the time of the Great Fall, when the angels were banished from Heaven…
Vampire Girl: … every time, there would be this explosion
Michael: Isn't it time you had your due?
Mr. Klein: We haven't heard from her in a long time.
Jack: And in the time I spent with her, she was an amazing mother.
Curiously, almost every character mentions time; Jack mentions it twice, which might reflect that the time it will take to get back to “normal” is foremost on his mind. Castiel observes that Jack is researching “about two centuries of biblical lore” then he and Jack concur that it could take anywhere from a month to a century to get back to full power – or even more since Jack is half human (Is the life span of a Nephilim equal to that of an angel or a human? or a star child? or Renesmee? Curious question. Anyone know?) I find it interesting that no one pursuing Michael – Dean, Sam, Mary or Bobby – worried about time. Subtext clue that time wasn’t going to be a factor in getting Dean back?
Werewolf Pack Leader: But, believe me, it's an absurd dream.
It was just the one mention, but dream worlds were so important to season 13, this seed for the future or remnant of the past is noteworthy.
As usual, the acting and production quality of “Gods and Monsters” was superb. Kudos to Mark Pellegrino for his chilling jumps between distraught Nick, murderous Lucifer, innocent vessel and homicidal maniac. Richard Speight, Jr’s direction was also outstanding.
The mood, lighting, camera angles – everything added to the story’s tension. I am still searching for a single word to describe this episode but maybe its characters’ duality defies singular description. How would you describe this ep? Time will tell whether good or evil, the obvious or the hidden, wins out in each person. I’m excited to see the mystery unfold.
Additional Screencaps courtesy of: http://www.homeofthenutty.com/supernatural/screencaps