Supernatural – Season 11 Episode 18
Supernatural returns to the season long arc as the entirety of the main cast play their part in furthering the overall story.
It’s been a while since we’ve seen any of this due to all of the fairly self contained narratives that we’ve seen over the past few weeks. I don’t have a problem with this as the show can’t be wholly focused on the “big bad” otherwise the it all starts to feel a little single minded and claustrophobic plus it allows the writers to have some fun with the core Sam and Dean relationship.
We learn why Amara hasn’t been heard of for a while and it’s because she’s still licking her wounds after the attempted smiting by all the power of Heaven. It didn’t kill her but it seems to have hurt a lot. I’d say that’s important as it creates hope by showing that she isn’t invincible. How she will inevitably be stopped is anyone’s guess but now we know there’s a way.
Unfortunately she is being tended to by Rowena who survived her fatal encounter with Lucifer. I have never liked this character and had started to think that she was never coming back but apparently she can’t be disposed of. The explanation of her survival felt like something of a cop out as the reserve magic hiding in her leg was never teased before now so it feels like the writers were looking for a way to bring her back after making her exit seem so final.
Other than irritating me her return poses another problem for the show as a whole. It basically makes the core characters untouchable to the point where I’m sure that they will all be safe at any given point no matter how dire the situation seems to be. This is a shame considering that this season has worked to make death a credible threat to the Winchesters specifically again. If Rowena hadn’t returned then the danger of the situation would feel a lot more significant.
At least Rowena’s is consistently written. She has always been completely self serving and will pledge allegiance to the one more likely to keep her safe. In the early part of that episode Amara seemed to be her best bet so nursing her back to Earth was a way to be thought of as useful and therefore enjoy the fruits of the protection Amara can offer. When that looks less likely to her, Rowena changes allegiance to Lucifer as it appears that he can wield the latest Hand of God weapon to bring her down. I can almost respect her unrelenting desire for self preservation but I wonder why anyone bothers to accept her help. In Amara’s case it makes sense as she needed help getting back up to full strength but Lucifer should definitely know better given that he has all of Castiel’s memories.
Lucifer was used well in this episode. I like that he returned to Heaven to put the fear of him -I genuinely almost typed God there- into them. It’s good to see the corporate image of Heaven again as it is the best representation of the organisational structure on this show. It is completely disorganised and full of incompetence on almost every level so Lucifer finds it easy to wander in and pretty much take over. I liked the riff on corporate motivation speeches he gave such as “He who hesitates, disintegrates”. Lucifer is such a fun character and Misha Collins has managed to deliver his own spin on it while retaining the spirit of Mark Pellegrino’s performance.
Amara and Lucifer’s confrontation is nicely handled. It’s interesting that she shrugged off the attack from the Hand of God weapon so casually and takes him away for a discussion. Sam and Dean speculate that Lucifer being cast out by God might make his connection to these weapons weak which makes him the wrong guy to wield them. Lucifer has never been ignorant of the fact that he is no match for Amara but this revelation takes away the only chance he had and he has to resort to bargaining. His first instinct is to ally with her to bring down God because they could take him together but she is having absolutely none of it. Rightly so because she was betrayed by him and God before so why should she trust him? Her working theory is that hurting Lucifer might be the one thing to draw God out because he might still consider Lucifer to be his favourite son. It’s an interesting theory and if it doesn’t pan out then at least she can enjoy torturing him.
Emily Swallow is on top form as Amara in this episode. She shows a measure of vulnerability in the early scenes as she regains her strength but she still seems to be powerful despite the fact that she is injured. She still commands respect from Rowena and seems fiercely determined to get back to her plan. When she gets back to full strength and goes to confront Lucifer there is no doubt how powerful and threatening she is. I like that Swallow’s performance shows real contempt for Lucifer and she successfully puts across a rich history between them. If you think about it then Lucifer is essentially her nephew and the conflict does feel familial in how the actors play it. Amara even refers to Crowley as “Uncle Crowley” due to the fact that he tries to control her when she was a child so it’s all one big family squabble when you boil it down to its core and that makes the whole conflict more relatable.
I don’t always think that Crowley is effectively used in this show but when he works with Sam and Dean while having a defined role in that group then he works really well. In this case he was the one holding all the cards as he had access to the Hand of God weapon that they need. The problem is that they differ on their interpretation of how it should be used. Crowley insists that Lucifer be thrown back in his cage before he hands anything over but Sam and Dean think that Lucifer needs to use it against Amara before they lock him up again. Sam and Dean have absolutely no leverage here as they have nothing that Crowley wants. It creates an interesting dynamic as all the brothers can do is stand around frustrated as Crowley continues to refuse. Eventually his hand is forced but it’s good that he doesn’t give up what he has simply because he is asked to.
There is a further complication as Sam and Dean don’t see eye to eye on what should be done with Lucifer. Dean wants Lucifer to be put in another vessel where Sam thinks that the current one is the best bet since it’s still going after all it has been through since Castiel started using it. Dean wants to save their friend but Sam thinks that his wishes should be respected since he consented to all of this in the first place. I like seeing conflict between Sam and Dean play out without any of them backing down. There is something of an agreement at the end of the episode when they renew their shared policy to get out of the way when they aren’t in full agreement. It ties into the theme of honesty that has come up throughout the season. They have to be honest so that they know whether they should act or not. This shows real growth for Sam and Dean and makes the relationship more interesting.
Crowley’s motivation for hating Lucifer is spot on for him. Lucifer humiliated him by treating him like a dog and made him clean the floor with his tongue. Crowley is proud and arrogant so being at the mercy of someone so cruel is unforgivable for him. Dean rightly points out that this is about more than Crowley’s ego but for Crowley his ego is everything so there is a difference in priorities in the motivation to bring down Lucifer and Amara.
I was disappointed that Crowley’s journey into Castiel/Lucifer’s head didn’t last longer. This could have been an entire episode in itself as the three of them bounce off each other. It is interesting that Castiel’s willingness to let Lucifer handle this is fully on display as he sits quietly and stays out of the way. In return, Lucifer leaves him alone but doesn’t extend that same kindness to Crowley. It was a great sequence but would have been better if it had been fully explored and wouldn’t have wasted Mark Pellegrino who was great as always in his brief appearance.
A great episode that brings the continuing story back in a big way and makes good use of the rich dynamics between all of the main characters. Rowena being back isn’t something I personally would have wanted but she is written as consistently selfish so serves her purpose. The sequence where Crowley enters Castiel’s head to interact with both Cas and Lucifer was great but could have been so much longer and better developed. Amara still continues to be an immensely layered villain and i look forward to seeing how this all plays out.
- Amara being a compelling and complex villain
- Misha Collins’ performance as Lucifer
- solid use of Crowley
- underuse of Crowley’s trip into Lucifer’s head