Supernatural – Season 15 Episode 2
Supernatural continues its final season with further efforts to keep a lid on the mass haunting situation from the previous episode.
It’s rare to have an episode of Supernatural follow directly on from the events in the previous one. This would typically happen at the end of a season because a story is too large and significant to be contained within a single episode. By itself having this season open with a two part story helps sell how far high the stakes are. The situation has escalated to the point that a crisis is no longer a one and done before moving onto the next town. Even though the threat so far is limited to Ghosts things have still changed and some extra thought has to be put into dealing with them.
Added to that is a charismatic and intelligent ringleader in the form of Francis Tumblety aka Jack the Ripper himself (Lane Davies). He encourages the Ghosts to follow him and present a united front against the Winchesters which makes sense considering their notoriety among the ghostly community. Francis is a great one shot villain with the right level of menace to make him a credible threat. He commands the typical brand of sarcasm that so many antagonists in this show exhibit but Lane Davies plays it well and manages to create a memorable villain in such a short time. The fact that he doesn’t actually do all that much beyond give speeches before he’s eventually defeated lets him down some but there’s no denying that he has presence. Perhaps spending more time capitalising on the history he and Rowena have would have helped but for the purposes of this episode he was well above average.
This episode has the return of no less than 5 recurring characters at once which is quite something. Fortunately the episode doesn’t feel bloated by the inclusion of so many guests because they are all deployed in a way that works for them without being over or underused. Rowena is brought in because her skills provide the best chance Sam and Dean have of solving this problem. She is tasked with making another version of the soul bomb that was to be used against Amara back at the end of season 11 because it traps souls as its power source so it makes sense as a device to use against the large numbers of Ghosts stuck in the town. Naturally there are problems attached to that such as the intricacy of such a device making it very hard to copy and the limited time that she has to create one. The end result is a less powerful device that can only be used to trap a few Ghosts at a time. I liked this idea because it offers a solution while still presenting difficulties. It’s an effective callback to prior events in the show and an organic way to celebrate what has come before.
Ketch also makes a return to largely do what he does best with the appropriate level of class. His arrival is motivated by hunting down Belphegor which offers a further hint that there’s more to him than he’s letting on but Ketch puts that aside for now because the situation at hand is a far bigger problem than a Demon he’s been hired to bring down. As always Ketch makes for a great presence who compliments Dean wonderfully with their similar approach to dealing with problems. He also brings skills and knowledge to the table thanks to his former affiliation with the British Men of Letters.
Rowena and Ketch share some sexually charged flirtatious scenes together strongly pointing towards an unconventional attraction between them. David Haydn-Jones and Ruth Connell play this with just the right level of comedic flair to keep it from becoming an irritating distraction. It’s an attraction found on mutual respect and admiration that makes for an amusing back and forth throughout the episode. Another great touch is both of them asking Dean about the other as if they’re teenagers at high school which feels appropriate given that they’re based at a high school at this point. I hope we’ll see more of this attraction to see where it might head.
Another returning character is the Ghost of Kevin Tran who shouldn’t be there by all accounts since he was supposed to go to Heaven. It turns out that this was another thing that God lied about which means that Kevin was damned to Hell instead. Not only that but apparently Heaven won’t have him since he has been tainted by Hell which only adds to Kevin as a tragic figure. John Winchester and Bobby making it into Heaven after being in Hell is addressed as an exception on God’s part back when he used to like Sam and Dean so any inconsistencies fans may drum up are directly addressed before they can be debated. Amusingly Supernatural is one of few shows where an acceptable explanation is “God did it”.
Kevin is on hand to help Sam and Dean in any way he can. He has gained a bad boy reputation in Hell for being cast out of Heaven which is believed to earn him some credibility among his fellow Ghosts. This doesn’t last long because Francis is too smart for him but it’s still great to have Kevin back as another throwback to bygone days. He still proves useful enough throughout and his decision to wander the Earth as an untethered spirit feels like a reasonable end to his role in this episode. It’s unlikely to be the last we see of him this season as there is the strong possibility that he will start to go crazy and become a problem that needs to be dealt with. Sam and Dean letting him go rather than subject him to the torment in Hell makes sense as a mark of respect for someone they hold in high regard.
The other two returning characters don’t interact with Sam and Dean at all. Chuck and Amara share a subplot where God goes to her for help as he is unable to leave our universe. He is unable to do that because of a wound identical to the one Sam gained as a result of shooting him with the Equaliser. This wound connects them as shown by Sam feeling the same pain Chuck feels when he pokes at it. I’m really enjoying Chuck being characterised as a snivelling and self serving while also being more than a little pathetic. It’s clear that things aren’t going the way he wants them to and he wants to get away from his current surroundings to start something new. He’s basically the ultimate user who’s fed up with his toys and wants new ones.
Amara sees through him immediately and picks up on his powers being diminished to the point that he needs her in order to do what he wants but couldn’t be less interested in helping him. She has been taking time to work on herself and discovered a love for massages, yoga and expensive clothes. This is an interesting development for Amara who was motivated by vengeance when she was last seen; now she has put it behind her and is finding ways to join her existence. She has also developed a distaste for her brother which means that she wants absolutely nothing to do with him beyond what she needs to do. The universal balance is mentioned but that only means that they both have to exist not that they have to be anywhere near one another. It’s also cathartic payback on her part for her brother locking him away as she is confining him to a single universe that he doesn’t want to be in. Their scenes together were excellent to watch and it’s great to see Emily Swallow return to take this character further. Of course God being connected to Sam through their wounds is going to come up again and I suspect that Amara will be involved in some significant way down the road.
Apparently Sam’s pep talk in the previous episode about defeating the legions of enemies ahead of them and reclaiming the world for themselves was only a temporary motivator as Dean is right back in full “what’s the point?” mode and angrily opens up to Castiel about how meaningless everything they’ve done prior to this point has been. It’s more or less the same ground as in the previous episode about being stuck in a maze and taking actions along a predetermined path. Basically he’s feeling that there has been a lack of that all important free will in his life. Cas sees it as an obstacle course built by God that they still made their own choices when navigating. He tells Dean that they are what’s real within all of this even if the arena is a manufactured one and Castiel sees that as counting for something. Dean remains unconvinced but at least he will continue fighting out of well cultivated stubbornness so hopefully he’ll come around and approach the situation with a spring in his step before too long.
There aren’t too many missteps in this episode. It juggles a large number of characters expertly, moves along at a decent clip and manages to have a good amount of emotionally resonant moments. The only issue was some moments where characters who should know better behave idiotically to move the plot forward. For example Ketch is given an iron necklace by Dean only to forget to wear it later in the episode to manufacture tension around his possession towards the end of the episode. It’s not a mistake Ketch should make because he definitely knows better so it doesn’t really work.
A strong episode that expertly juggles a large number of characters while delivering a good amount of emotionally resonant character beats. The returning characters are used really well within the scope of their skills and compliment the story nicely. Rowena’s presence provides an organic callback to a previous plot while offering a solution to the current situation that still has its limitations. Ketch is brought in as a hint that Belphegor is more than he seems and used well once he’s around. The sexually charged flirtatious interactions between Ketch and Rowena are really fun and never descend into the realm of irritation. Kevin’s return is also used really well as it ties into the Ghost problem while also offering a return of the engaging dynamic he once had with Sam and Dean. Their decision to let him wander the Earth as an untethered spirit makes sense as a mark of respect on their part. The villain of the piece, Francis Tumblety aka Jack the Ripper is really well performed with the appropriate levels of wit and menace. He’s let down by not actually doing an awful lot but is a memorable presence in spite of that.
Chuck and Amara’s separate plot is another thing that works well. I like that Chuck is characterised as snivelling, self serving and pathetic countered by Amara’s complete disinterest in helping him. She has spent the time since her last appearance finding herself and developed a distaste for her brother. Chuck is basically the ultimate user and is unable to do what he wants by abandoning this universe. She won’t enable this as a cathartic payback for her brother locking her away as she is doing essentially the same thing to him by preventing him from moving on. It’s an engaging dynamic and great to see how much Amara has grown. Sam’s pep talk in the previous episode appears to have only temporarily worked on Dean who still sees everything they’ve done as a waste of time. Castiel tells him that he sees their actions within the obstacle course set up by God as important as they still made their own choices that definitely matter. Thankfully Dean will still fight because he’s too stubborn to do anything else but hopefully he will come around and approach it with a spring in his step. The only major issue this episode has is some characters behaving stupidly for the purposes of manufacturing tension. A clear example of this is Ketch not wearing the iron necklace given to him by Dean so that he can be possessed towards the end of the episode. This doesn’t work as Ketch should know better. Outside of minor issues like that this is a really strong outing.
- expertly juggling a large number of characters
- returning characters being used well within the context of the story
- the sexually charged flirtatious interactions between Rowena and Ketch
- Sam and Dean letting Kevin go as a mark of respect
- Chuck being characterised as snivelling, self serving and pathetic
- seeing how far Amara has developed since her last appearance
- Amara cathartically getting her own back on her brother by stranding him in her own way
- Francis Tumblety aka Jack the Ripper making for an engaging and charismatic villain
- Francis aka Jack the Ripper suffering from not getting an awful lot to do
- Ketch making a stupid decision that ends with him being possessed when he should know better
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