Episode 817 “Goodbye Stranger”
Back in the saddle with the mid-season opener. I’m starting to feel like I’m repeating myself in these reviews. This episode did what it needed to advance the story arc. I’m ticked off about the death of a character and obvious writer manipulation of the audience, there were a lot of funny lines (mostly from Dean and Castiel).
One section, however, was the most masterfully written and edited sequence in the entire season, if not the past two seasons.
We open with Castiel killing Dean. A lot. In fact, it turns out that Naomi has been making Castiel kill “Dean” over and over and over hundreds of times, to get him numb to it, so that when Cas has his hands on the angel tablet, he won’t hesitate to kill Dean for realsies. Foreshadowing! Dun dun DUNNNN.
The “monster of the week” isn’t really a monster. Castiel has been killing demons-in-hiding, who have been possessing people as they try to find clues to where the angel tablet is.
As Sam and Dean question Castiel about what’s going on, it intercuts between the house where they all happen to be and heaven, where Castiel asks Naomi what he should tell them when the questions get too sticky.
“Lie,” answers Naomi, looking at him like he’s a half-wit.
Later, they meet up with Meg. Now, I have always hated Meg the demon. Anyone in the house knows when she’s on screen because of my exasperated complaining. But this time, she actually becomes sympathetic. Interesting. She gets quietly drunk and comes on to Castiel, who is helping with the wounds she received at the hands of Crowley for the past year before she escaped. The crazy thing is that he not only responds, in his oddly detached way, they’re actually kind of cute together. The idea of them getting together is a little creepy, but also sort of intriguing. As much as I usually hate Meg, this surprises me.
And so, in typical TV-writer-manipulating-our-emotions-because-it-makes-the-writer-feel-clever style, Crowley shows up and kills her. Of course. Make her sympathetic and likeable so that we feel worse when she dies. How fun! Yes, fun for the writer. I cannot express how much I hate that kind of thing.
Having said that, now for my glowing praise of the masterful scene in which Cas and Dean find the angel tablet. As Meg and Sam are outside trying to keep Crowley and his minions out, they talk about where Sam’s been for the past year. In an echo of Dean going on and on about Sam not looking for him while he was in purgatory, Meg asks why they didn’t look for her either. Gratefully, we are spared yet another guilt trip on Sam, and they simply talk about it.
Intercut their conversation with Cas and Dean, alone, in the chamber. Remember that foreshadowing? Well, once Dean has the tablet in his hot little hands, Cas is ordered to kill him and take it. We are cutting between Cas and Naomi, and Cas and Dean, and Sam and Meg, and it’s brilliantly done. Whoever wrote it, and whoever was in charge of the final edit, deserve Emmys.
Castiel struggles to obey Naomi’s commands, while flipping back and forth between her and the reality of Dean before him, who he beats the crap out of. Cas can’t quite kill him, so as he’s beating in Dean’s face, he’s begging Naomi that there has to be another way. Finally, he makes his choice.
“I have to protect this tablet from her… and from you, Dean,” says Castiel. He cuts his ties with Naomi and heaven, takes the tablet, heals Dean, then disappears.
Crowley has arrived and starts beating the hell out of his “favorite chew toy,” Meg. Dean and Sam escape because they don’t have the tablet and Cas isn’t with them, so it’s clear what’s happened. Meg gets one good stab in on Crowley before he knifes her as the Winchesters drive off. Castiel is last seen on a Greyhound bus with the tablet, knowing that if he uses any kind of angel abilities, Naomi will be able to find him.
According to the teaser for the next episode, someone has started up a “hunter school,” and is training up teens to be little Dean Winchesters. It looks like the whereabouts of Castiel, and the angel tablet, are going to be unknown for a little while, which makes perfect sense. I’m looking forward to seeing how this all turns out.