Supernatural – Season 11 Episode 14
Supernatural toys with time travel as Dean tries to track down a weapon that could raise their chances against Amara.
Time travel has been used before on this show to varying degrees of success but it’s always a fun concept to play around with. The rules have never been properly established as most of the historical events that Sam and Dean are involved in are chosen because there’s an inevitability to them and therefore very little chance to mess with the timeline. In some cases the course of history has been changed but it’s something that Supernatural has fun with rather than treats as a serious idea.
In this case, Sam’s research has turned up some promising information on a series of relics vaguely referred to as “the hand of God”. There are a number of them throughout history but the only solid lead is records of something fitting that description that went missing during the second World War. It seems legit because it has ties to the Men of Letters but the main problem is that the last recorded location of the relic was on an Allied Submarine that was taken out by a Nazi Destroyer.
Dean’s idea is to enlist Castiel to send him back in time so that he can retrieve the artifact before the submarine is lost with all hands. It’s deemed an acceptable risk as there is minimal effect to be had on the timeline since he will be on a submarine thousands of feet below sea level shortly before everyone dies.
As we all know, Lucifer still inhabits Castiel but he tries to bluff his way through the situation by agreeing with everything they say and playing on their ignorance of how his powers work. He passes off Castiel being comparatively weak by telling them that time travel is completely different to teleporting. The fact that Sam and Dean believe it strains credibility but Dean really wants to hear it so it is shrugged off.
The episode is pretty tightly contained with most of it taking place either on the submarine or the bunker and most of it is people talking. It more than makes up for the relative lack of action by making the dialogue fascinating and the cast delivering excellent performances that kept me riveted throughout.
Dean’s mission has a sense of hopelessness to it that really affects him as the people around him are no longer entries in a textbook and are brought to life by him being there. Even warning them about their fate does nothing to stop what’s coming. All he can really do is sit there and watch it unfold while being powerless to do anything about it.
Most of his scenes in the past involve him interacting with Delphine (Weronika Rosati) who trusts him quickly because he knows about the Men of Letters. She seems to accept that he is from the future a little quickly but I suppose she has seen stranger things so I’m willing to roll with it. Delphine made a large impression in a really short time as she matched wits with Dean while conducting herself with bravery and strength. It was easy to believe why she was a trusted member of the Men of Letters despite the role of women in that time period and definitely came across as competent.
There was a lot of tension in the submarine scenes. I found myself really gripped by the battle that took place and was surprisingly invested in the events despite the inevitability of the destruction and the lack of development of the crew. I would have liked to see the crew play a bigger part in the episode but it was fairly compelling as it was.
The Hand of God weapon was used really well in the episode. Delphine always spoke as if she was in awe of it while being more than a little afraid. She knows what it is capable of and doesn’t want that falling into the wrong hands. Her sacrifice when she wielded the weapon and drained the artifact dry made perfect dramatic sense and the look on her face as she became overwhelmed by the power said a lot. I suspect that she will return in a later episode as the new avatar for the weapon.
Dean is visibly shaken by his experience when the horror of what he witnessed sets in. His inability to change the outcome really distresses him and serves as a reminder that not everyone can be saved despite the best efforts. It’s a powerful moment that is well acted by Jensen Ackles.
In the present day Sam works with Cas/Lucifer to find a way to get Dean back since the submarine is protected against Angel intrusion. A spell is discovered that needs the power of an Archangel to make it work. This is a problem since Cas is still vastly underpowered at this point and wasn’t close to matching an Archangel at full strength. Lucifer’s issue is knowing he has the power but still wants to maintain his cover.
It doesn’t take long for him to drop the act and fully reveal himself to Sam. I like that he struggled to pretend to be Cas and really hated having to put on a “grim face of Angelic Constipation” as he puts it. Misha Collins does a great job as Lucifer pretending to be Cas as well as replicating Mark Pellegrino’s mannerisms ably. I like that he hates pretending to be friends with Sam and Dean more than being their enemies. There was a simplicity to trying to kill them that he seems to miss. I also find it interesting that he seems more fixated on Dean than Sam at this point and likens Sam’s treatment of him to a girl that rejects advances but can’t be forgotten.
Castiel is still in there and fights back against Lucifer when he threatens Sam. His power to resist Lucifer’s influence is limited but he is able to fight back on some occasions. There’s a lot of places this could go but I’d like to see Cas accepting Lucifer being in control as long as he remains focused on stopping Amara.
The situation is made more interesting by the fact that Lucifer admits that he can’t stop Amara on his own so will need some help. Will he become a temporary ally of the Winchesters or will there be a hunt for the rest of the artifacts. Either way I like that Lucifer’s secret is out as I was worried the show would draw this out for as long as it could. Onward to more dynamic stories.
As titles go “The Vessel” was absolutely perfect. There’s the obvious interpretation of the submarine but it also ties into Castiel as well as perhaps dropping a hint that Delphine has become a vessel for the power once held by the artifact. I would also argue that Dean was a vessel for history as it happened around him. He was being led by external forces so in a sense he acted as a vessel as well. It’s rare to have such a simple yet layered episode title that ties so completely into everything going on.
An excellent episode that makes good use of time travel and remains surprisingly compelling despite the confined nature of the two settings. The Lucifer as Castiel plot is moving along nicely with a smart decision being made on revealing that secret early.
• a perfect title tying into many aspects of the episode
• the excellent performances that didn’t make the lack of location variety seem like a drawback
• plenty of interesting elements to be developed
• the crew of the submarine being slightly underdeveloped