Supernatural – Season 11 Episode 20
“Don’t Call Me Shurley”
After nearly 12 years, Supernatural finally introduces a character that fans have been itching to see enter the show for years.
Maybe I should say reintroduced as the character has been seen many times before but his true identity hasn’t been known to viewers by now. I am of course talking about Chuck (Rob Benedict) who reveals in this episode that he has actually been God this whole time. This wasn’t especially difficult to figure out and I’ve thought this would be the case since his appearance in the season 5 finale “Swan Song” but haven’t had anything to confirm or deny it either way since that point.
Introducing God is something the show has held off from doing before this point for reasons that remain unclear. I imagine part of it was fear of it being underwhelming or something going spectacularly wrong. Using God creates the potential to offend a great many people but if they haven’t done that by using Angels, Lucifer and other religious figures then having God hanging around shouldn’t make that much of a difference.
I’ve always thought Supernatural has a great way of keeping things grounded in the characters rather than the mechanics. The Angels all take human form with most of their heavenly powers being depicted by vague bright white lights or happening offscreen altogether. Somehow the production team manage to make this work most of the time because the character work is so strong. We feel the weight of everything happening because we know exactly how Sam and Dean are reacting to it for example.
The Angels are nicely simplified as essentially being a group of corporate warriors using souls as their way of measuring profits. Castiel is the rebel who works against the interests of his people because he has a different viewpoint to them. We know this is rare so he’s an outcast which is easy to relate to. The bigger ideas slot into place after that because they are seen through a lens that makes us as viewers able to understand them. Sam and Dean are human as well so things are essentially “dumbed down” to accommodate the limitations of human perception. Even Lucifer and Amara are essentially plagued by king size abandonment issues and are suffering the betrayal of their family. Again, very easy for us as viewers to latch onto.
With that in mind, was God ever going to be any different? Of course not because otherwise it’s the most powerful being in the universe spouting nonsense that is impossible for our tiny human brains to comprehend. Lesser works have gotten around explaining things properly by using the “you couldn’t possibly understand” cop out and it just smacks of lazy writing but this show tends to handle big ideas with a level of sophistication that makes even the most ludicrous things work.
Fans of Supernatural will know that nobody in Heaven has seen God for a very long time so his reappearance has always been a massive question mark for everyone on the show. Having him return now possibly makes the most sense since his sister Amara is on the loose and no other power exists that can be her equal. Logically he will need to show up so that he can sort it all out.
It’s exactly because of Amara that God turns up but not in the way you might expect. I’ll get into that later in the review but I’m jumping a little too far ahead at this point. The introduction to God comes through Metatron who is whisked away to the “safest place ever created” and runs into the man he knows as Chuck. After briefly insulting the Supernatural book series and calling him a hack he is clued in on Chuck actually being God.
The reaction is hilarious; Metatron switches from troll like criticism to to unbridled worship in a fraction of a second. He has been reunited with his father after such a long time and is clearly really happy with the prospect. What isn’t made clear right away is why God chose to reveal himself to Metatron and not anyone else. He would seem like the least likely candidate considering all the terrible things he has done over the past few years.
God tells Metatron that he chose him for a very particular reason. He was once God’s scribe and he wants some proofreading done for his autobiography. Metatron has the experience and a critical eye so seems like the logical choice. Beyond that it ties into the idea of God being capable of forgiving anything. Metatron is a great test for that considering what he has done. Plus keeping him human explains why God sticks to the primitive form of communication. As I said above it keeps everything grounded and relatable.
Interestingly this episode somewhat redeems Metatron. Not completely as that would be impossible but he has clearly been having a tough time of being mortal as shown by him living out of bins. There’s a strong suggestion that this has taught him compassion as he gives up his small morsel to feed a hungry dog. The time he has spent living like this has clearly given him some perspective and showed him how the other half lives.
Metatron is used as the advocate for all of humanity which surprises even him. God is clearly detached from what has gone on and doesn’t fully understand what has become of the world he has created. Metatron gives him that perspective by pointing out all of the good things humanity has accomplished. He gives God a reason to think that humanity are a creation that he can be proud of.
God does know this and there’s a real sense that he’s testing Metatron as he slowly reveals his reasons for doing everything he has been doing. He posed as Chuck to hide in plain sight and get a feel for what people are like by living as one. During that time he had boyfriends, girlfriends and moved around to see the world from the perspective of a human being.
To his mind the most impressive thing that humanity has invented was music. The creativity involved is something that God can’t understand and continues to be fascinated by. From the point of view of him as a creator it appears as if his creation has far exceeded what he thought was possible and his love of music represents that.
God and Metatron challenge each other in interesting ways throughout the episode. Once Metatron is assured that he can talk honestly around God he really tears into the autobiography. He accuses it of lacking in depth or detail which God can’t understand at first. His perception of what constitutes detail is very different and Metatron’s perspective as both a writer and a human being clues him into what people might want to know. Having only his sister for company before creating the universe might seem dull to God but nobody understands what that would be like. There are other such examples of what detail could and should be given when telling God’s story.
The relationship God has with Amara is explored through discussion of what brought them to this point. He describes himself as “being” and her as “nothingness” which creates a clear image of them being opposites that directly conflict with one another. God tried creating other realities before but Amara would constantly destroy them so he had no choice but to lock her up so that he could let one of his experiments have time to play out.
That experiment is us and we all know that has played out but that’s sort of the idea. God takes on the role of a parent when talking about humanity and points out that parents eventually just have to leave their kids to it so that’s exactly what he did. The result is the deeply flawed world we have now and God seems to have a very “Old Testament” attitude to that. He doesn’t want to fix it and thinks that wiping the slate clean is the best way forward so is content to leave Amara to it. The problem with that is Amara doesn’t just wipe the slate clean, she destroys it so there will be nothing left when she is finished. Everything that God likes about humanity will be gone and Metatron points out that it hasn’t historically been his style. What happened to the God that flooded the world but left enough alive to rebuild and try again?
In all honesty who can blame him for giving up on humanity? He has spent countless years listening to people praying for forgiveness and witnessing people killing in his name without knowing what it is he wants or stands for. I’ve be disgusted too and completely understand where he’s coming from. Discussing his thoughts with Metatron seems to bring him back around to feeling hopeful and ready to give humanity another chance. Amara is a problem only he can solve but he has to want to do it so a big part of this episode is bringing him around to wanting to do that.
I really liked the contrast he creates between nature and human nature. Nature is a system that runs itself and balances out in the long run but human nature is messy and unpredictable. He created both but is more afraid of human nature due to the unpredictability.
The way he transitions throughout the episode is really well done. I especially liked his angry reaction to being called a coward. This also functions as the beginnings of the slap in the face he needs to encourage him to take action. After this point it’s almost like he is trying and failing to convince himself to maintain his passive attitude. Metatron strikes a nerve when calling him a coward because God sees humanity as being better than he ever was. They are flawed of course but still better than him in many way. Establishing God as a somewhat vulnerable figure is a nice touch as it shows that he’s simply a really powerful being who tried an experiment that got out of hand. I wonder if there will be beings that existed before him that he looks up to. It seems unlikely as it is suggested that he and Amara were the first things existing. He does represent “being” after all which suggests that he is everything. Amara is equally complicated by being all of “nothing”. Nothingness being a tangible concept is really mind bending and I’ll be interested to see if the show even tries to tackle this.
Eventually he is shaken out of apathy and decides to introduce himself to Sam and Dean. The result of that we will have to wait until next week for but I’m interested to see what dynamic he will have with them.
Speaking of Sam and Dean for the first time in a review of a show where they are the leads. They have a really reduced presence in this episode as they try to combat Amara’s fog when it hits a small town. The one thing that is made clear here is that they are completely powerless to stop it and in a really cruel twist of fate Dean is left immune so that he can watch everything collapse around him.
Sam and Dean aren’t the focus here but their story runs in tandem to God’s lessons about humanity as they see the worst of it while demonstrating the best. Their struggle ramps up the tension throughout and keeps things feeling appropriately urgent.
The fact that Deus Ex Machina was used to solve the situation in the most literal sense was absolutely brilliant. How many shows can say that they literally have God show up to fix a problem?
I really liked the way certain things were explained around nobody noticing that God was among them. Dean’s necklace was identified as a way to find him at one point but he reveals that he simply turned it off and demonstrates that he can turn it back on. Having that be the thing that leads Sam and Dean to him at the end of the episode was a nice touch as well. Any confusion over Archangels not recognising him can easily be attributed to the fact that God is all powerful and created them so should easily be able to fool them.
Rob Benedict’s performance was really strong. Having him play God as understated and playful in the beginning with his tone becoming more serious and heavy with responsibility as the episode progressed. In many ways he seems like the least likely candidate for God but that also makes him a great choice. There’s a lot of power hidden in there but sometimes he does seem a little too quick to use a pop culture analogy and turn something serious into a joke. It’s nothing major but it does happen.
An excellent episode that brings God into the show in a really compelling way. Having Metatron act as the advocate for humanity is a really nice touch and seeing how he has changed since being exiled to a mortal existence worked well. Rob Benedict delivers a great performance as God and the character develops in in interesting ways throughout. Having the long conversation run parallel with a hopeless mission for Sam and Dean kept the episode feeling tense and the literal use of Deus Ex Machina to solve it was brilliant.