Supernatural – Season 13 Episode 20
Supernatural brings Gabriel back into the fold when he recruits Sam and Dean to help him on his personal revenge mission.
Before we begin I just want to point out how bizarre it is that Supernatural has been on for 13 years and has never used the title “Unfinished Business”. I felt that the observation deserved to be made considering how common a title it is and how long the show has been on the air.
Thankfully Gabriel’s return to the fold wasn’t dragged out any longer than it needed to be. He was gone just long enough to be missed and make the Winchesters feel like the were back at square one but the show couldn’t leave him off the board for long considering how close we are to the end of the season
He comes back with a revenge mission and enlists Sam and Dean to help him in exchange for his help dealing with the alternate Michael. It seems like a reasonable trade and allows for some of Gabriel’s backstory to be filled in. His quest for vengeance is centred on the real Loki. Apparently there was an agreement for Gabriel to assume his identity in an arrangement that was mutually beneficial and now Gabriel wants to tie up the loose end by killing Loki.
Supernatural is at its best when morality is treated as something complicated. This episode plays around with the idea of picking the side that will be most beneficial to you in the short term. Sam and Dean need Gabriel’s help but he won’t give it unless they help him with his revenge mission. There’s no indication that Gabriel is any more righteous than Loki as and no attempt is made to fill the audience in on Loki’s side of the story, at least early on. We as viewers only have the information given to Sam and Dean which means that there’s a high chance that Gabriel isn’t being entirely honest with them.
On the surface Gabriel’s motivation seems sound enough. Loki was able to hook him up with a great witness protection program full of booze and porn stars until he was sold to Asmodeus in exchange for their survival should an Apocalypse come to pass. Now that Gabriel is free and there is no Apocalypse for now he looks to make everyone who had a hand in him being tortured pay with their lives. On the surface it seems like a reasonable motivation and one that the Winchesters can get behind but there is the suggestion that there is more to it than this.
There is some resistance to the idea on Dean’s part because he doesn’t think that revenge is the answer given his own experience with revenge. Sam argues for helping Gabriel and Dean calls him out on having his own desire for revenge against Lucifer which likely motivates his point of view on this. Once again the morality of the situation is complicated with Sam and Dean occupying two different yet equally valid positions on the issue. Sam steers clear of the Lucifer subject suggesting that there’s more than an element of truth to Dean’s concerns and Dean agrees to help as long as Gabriel returns the favour. It’s morally complicated and Dean isn’t hugely comfortable with it but he will do what needs to be done.
Dean does eventually learn that Gabriel hasn’t been entirely honest with them when he meets Loki (also Richard Speight Jr.) who says that he turned over Gabriel because he blames him for Odin’s death. Even though Lucifer was the one to deliver the death blow to Odin it was Gabriel who lured Lucifer to that location. Apparently when Loki agreed to give Gabriel his identity one of the conditions was that Gabriel leave his family alone. he broke that deal when entering the hotel and made Lucifer aware of that location therefore deserving that punishment as far as Loki is concerned. These events were depicted back in season 5’s “Hammer of the Gods”, an episode I’ll confess to not remembering all that well but the motivations still make sense in context of this episode.
Gabriel’s confrontation with Loki is the highlight of the episode for a number of reasons. Richard Speight Jr. pulls double duty playing Loki and Gabriel -triple duty if you include directing- and does an excellent job creating two distinct characters. Loki doesn’t have a lot of screen time but the performance delivers a clear sense of who he is. He has become very bitter thanks to all of the losses he has endured and really hates Gabriel who he sees as responsible for it. At the very least Gabriel is responsible for the death of his sons so there is a strong element of truth to how he feels.
The conversation they have as they fight is also really well done. Loki is enraged at Gabriel and sees his revenge mission as an insult to everything that was done for him. Killing his sons doesn’t sit right with him either and he doesn’t mind showing Gabriel just how angry he is. Loki also manages to strike a nerve by pointing out that Gabriel lives for pleasure but doesn’t stand for anything. He is basically judging Gabriel for doing nothing with his life or his powers and seems more than content to deprive him of such a wasted existence. With the help of Dean Gabriel wins but is left with a lot to consider. This pays off very quickly when he says “tricks are for kids” and tells Sam he’s a “whole new guy” suggesting that he has taken what Loki said to heart and found something to fight for.
This episode is comparable to the previous episode because the Winchesters play more of a supporting role to the story of another character. There’s a lot to unpack from the events of this episode specifically around Dean running off on his own to take on Loki. Sam confronts him about this as he feels sidelined at this point. His decision to go to the alternate universe with Ketch instead of him was something that really bothered Sam and his actions in this episode suggests that there’s a problem that needs addressing.
Dean makes no apologies for any decision he has made because he makes those choices to protect Sam. He doesn’t care what happens to him but does care what happens to Sam so won’t make a decision that will put him in mortal danger when he’s able to do what needs to be done on his own. His justification for this is that Sam went to hell during the last Apocalypse so he wants to avoid that happening again even if it costs him his own life.
Sam doesn’t accept this because he also cares about protecting his brother. He delivers an impassioned monologue about dealing with whatever comes their way together even if that means they die together. The connection between Sam and Dean is very strong at this point and both brothers are fully determined to ensure that the other makes it out alive. Dean smirks as Sam walks away after making this speech showing the solidarity and respect between them.
It looks like things are falling into place before the finale. Last week brought Rowena onto their side and this episode turns Gabriel into an ally so they have everything they need to get through to the other universe along with some formidable firepower backing them up. Having two episodes in a row focused on other characters and their particular stories has worked well as it has helped reinforce how difficult the coming battle will be through developing the powerful beings that need to be on board with Sam and Dean’s plan to even let the battle start.
This episode also spends some time in the alternate universe to catch the audience up with Jack and Mary who have been fighting a relentless campaign against the Angels. It has been going really well with numerous victories and the Angel Headquarters being empty. Investigating their HQ reveals Kevin Tran left behind in the dungeon who fills them in on Michael’s plan to open a rift and invade the other world. It’s well known that Michael wants to journey to “our” universe but Kevin’s warning suggests that he’s getting closer to achieving that goal.
Jack is all set to go after Michael but Mary encourages him to wait for Bobby to return in order to assess the situation properly but Jack eventually decides to go anyway and promises to return when he’s done. Mary tells him that she doesn’t want to lose another boy showing that their connection has grown deeper since their escape. This is all well acted and the emotional weight comes across thanks to that strong acting but we haven’t seen Jack and Mary since “Good Intentions” so this connection doesn’t come across as strongly as it should because we haven’t seen it form. Maybe periodically cutting to them in other episodes would have helped with this but it does feel like the mother/son dynamic has come out of nowhere to an extent.
As soon as Jack is getting ready to leave Kevin reveals a sigil on his test and reveals that he was left as a Trojan Horse to catch them unawares. His orders were to wait until Bobby returned before carrying out his instruction but he can’t afford to wait if Jack leaves. The reason for this is that Michael wants to break Jack by taking away everyone close to him and expose him to crippling loss that makes victory feel like defeat. I like this idea as it shows Michael to be both malicious and calculating with a real vendetta against Jack in particular. Unfortunately this antagonistic relationship hasn’t been developed in any way but hopefully there’s time to do something with it.
Kevin’s motivation for doing this also makes sense. He has been promised a reunion with his mother in Heaven which is definitely enough to motivate him to do what is asked of him. Mary tries to talk him down by sharing her own experience of Heaven but Kevin is too far gone to listen to reason and goes through with it leaving only Jack and Mary alive. This could be Jack’s first real experience of massive loss and the first time he ever considers the overall stakes of what he is doing. It’ll be interesting to find out if Human cost is something he is willing to live with.
Another strong episode that puts the Winchesters in the background while giving the focus to another interesting character. Gabriel’s revenge mission has lots of layers to it and is more than a little morally ambiguous. It’s clear that blame rests on both sides and that the Winchesters only resolve to work with him because they need him. Gabriel is affected by his experiences to the point that he decides not to be the Trickster any more and actually let his life mean something by finding something to fight for. Richard Speight Jr. does a great job in the dual role of Loki and Gabriel, managing to create a distinct character in Loki in a very short time The fact that he directed the episode only makes it more noteworthy. Loki and Gabriel’s confrontation has a lot of weight to it showing the shared resentment and showcasing their different points of view.
Sam confronting Dean about being sidelined a lot lately was really strong stuff. Dean doesn’t apologise for his behaviour and admits that he wants to protect Sam because of what happened to him during the events of the last Apocalypse. Sam commits to being by Dean’s side the whole time because he wants to protect his brother as well so things are shaping up nicely for the finale with united brothers and powerful allies. Mary and Jack’s contribution to the episode wasn’t as strong as the rest of it but I like the idea of Jack having to deal with the Human cost of resisting Michael and being challenged with the prospect of losing people close to him. Michael is off screen but is clearly a calculating antagonist. Mary telling Jack she doesn’t want to lose “another boy” was well acted and endearing as well but the show hasn’t done enough work on the antagonistic relationship between Michael and Jack or the mother/son dynamic between Jack and Mary to truly earn what happened in this episode.
- complex morality attached to Gabriel’s vendetta with Loki
- Richard Speight Jr’s impressive double performance
- Gabriel being changed by his experience and finding something to live for
- Sam calling Dean out on sidelining him and committing to the upcoming fight
- Michael’s attempt to make victory feel as brutal as defeat for Jack
- the antagonistic relationship between Michael and Jack not feeling earned
- the mother/son dynamic between Jack and Mary suffering from a lack of development
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