Supernatural – Season 15 Episode 9
Supernatural returns from hiatus with Sam and Eileen confronting Chuck while Sam heads to Purgatory with Castiel to find the Leviathan Blossom that will hopefully help trap Chuck and save their universe.
I’ve dropped the ball a bit on my reviews of this show because of real life majorly getting in the way and causing me to fall behind so heavily that I wasn’t able to catch up before Christmas. However, I am more or less back on track and will hopefully cover every episode between now and the final ever episode.
Season 15 has impressed me a great deal overall. The stakes are high without ever seeming ridiculous and there’s a strong focus on the core relationships being put under pressure by these seemingly hopeless circumstances. Chuck makes for a strong antagonist thanks to Rob Benedict expertly towing the line between sinister and goofy in ways that keep the audience guessing. Wanting to be entertained is ample justification for not simply killing Sam and Dean with the smallest thought and the vulnerability caused by his injury connecting him to Sam imbues him with the right amount of desperation.
Chuck’s injury has him scared -or at the very least concerned- that he might be beaten by those who are far less powerful than he is. It has been established that he’s stuck in this dimension and that’s something he doesn’t want. Ultimately it boils down to an all powerful being accepting that they aren’t all powerful any more which isn’t easy to do, especially for someone with Chuck’s ego. This episode features him trying to literally dissect the injury that connects him to Sam by forcing Eileen to poke at him with a scalpel in order to learn how it works and how to get rid of it.
This ties into his desire for entertainment as well as his desperation and vulnerability. Making Eileen explore the wound highlights his self appointed role as a storyteller who prefers to make others play out scenarios rather than be involved himself. Sam taunts him about this and Chuck is forced to admit that he’s right but immediately asserts his dominance by taking control of Eileen and force her to hurt Sam. Eileen and Sam’s growing connection since her resurrection makes this even more entertaining for Chuck as he can now watch Eileen hurt someone that she has grown very close to with no way to stop herself. The loss of self and lack of consent remain a consistent by-product of Chuck’s actions and add to his role as a villain.
What I find interesting about Chuck as a villain is that’s not “Good” or “Evil” in the sense that we as viewers understand those concepts. He sees himself as above those ideas because he is responsible for their creation, at least in the sense that he created the beings that defined those concepts. This makes him the ultimate example of selfish because he is only concerned with what he can get out of others. His reaction to Sam and Dean being able to evade his watchful eye is to engineer a scenario that would allow him to see them again. This is why it was possible to resurrect Eileen which counts as a really personal attack on Sam as he was manipulated into doing exactly what Chuck wanted because he wanted to help someone that he cared about. The immediate downside is that Chuck is now aware of everything that Same and Dean do which makes Eileen a liability to them. It’s crushing for Sam because he was starting to see a future with her but for Chuck it’s nothing but entertainment. He says that he hates missing his “favourite show” and makes it clear that he wants a Cain and Abel ending for Sam and Dean that he will stop at nothing to get.
Sam’s reaction to Chuck’s involvement in Eileen’s return is heartbreaking because the writers have done the necessary work to highlight what’s developing between them and how close they are. Her return was treated as a significant victory as it was one thing that could be done to truly help someone in the midst of so much loss and darkness. Chuck being behind that and having it be part of an ongoing plan would cheapen that because it’s a reminder to Sam that he is very much a pawn in Chuck’s game no matter how much he tries to prove that he has free will. Making choices is the one advantage he thought he had over Chuck and now that has been taken away from him as it has been proven that Chuck is able to manipulate him through knowing how he thinks.
There is one advantage Sam has that irritates Chuck. Up until this episode he had hope that it was possible to win and live in a world where free will was unimpeded by Chuck’s influence. Earlier in the season Sam was the voice of hope to a Dean that had all but given up and it turns out that the injury connecting him to Chuck is a physical representation of that continued hope. Once Chuck realises this his objective shifts to forcing Sam to depriving Sam of his hope in order to free himself from the forcible tether to both Sam and his universe.
To do this he shows Sam what his future will be if he and Dean manage to beat him. Unsurprisingly it’s significantly worse than the current situation. According to Chuck, their victory means a world overrun by monsters and a fight that can never be won. That part is certainly bad enough but Chuck also shows Sam a Dean that is defeated by the world they now live in who completely gives up on being a Hunter. It’s not something Sam is ready to accept but he continues to look into the future and see how the bleakness of what the world becomes continues to take its toll. It’s a future defined by incalculable losses, both personal and global which arguably makes it a world not worth living in. Sam remains determined to do whatever good he can no matter how futile it may seem and convinces Dean to accompany him to raid a Vampire Nest. Dean goes with him out of loyalty and obligation to Sam rather than the belief that it will do any good which leads to the end result of them failing and become Vampires. They meet their end at the hands of Bobby and Jody. Even though it won’t be how the show -and their lives- end it’s certainly a jarring image as it shows Sam and Dean becoming one of the things they have devoted their lives to fighting before being ended by those they are closest to. Dean killing Jody in the process makes the whole thing so much worse.
Sam tried to deny that this is their future but there is a niggling doubt that constantly makes him question if God might be lying to him. It certainly wouldn’t be out of character for him but if he is giving Sam access to the true future should their current plan succeed then he, Dean and Cas are spiralling towards a really dark ending for each of them. It’s easy to see why Sam might feel that taking the risk isn’t worth it considering where it could end up. Chuck adds to this by suggesting that his presence tips the scales in Humanity’s favour by keeping Monsters and other such supernatural threats at a more manageable level. The absence of God means that natural law takes over and Monsters can take over because they wield more power than Humanity. It’s a strong argument that Sam has to give serious consideration because of how much sense it makes. His hesitation at the moment before deciding to go through with the plan is appropriately tense and wonderfully acted by Jared Padalecki who plays that beat before choosing whether to believe Chuck or not wonderfully.
Sam choosing to believe Chuck and consequently losing his hope is a major development for him that puts the Winchesters in a really dark place in the middle of the season. The connected injury was the one advantage they had because it limited Chuck in a way that gave them a slim chance at victory but now that the injury has been healed they are dealing with a Chuck who has truly unlimited power. At this point the only thing keeping them alive is that Chuck wants to be entertained by the ending that he is trying to engineer for them. Technically this means that they have a chance but the Eileen situation means that they can’t be sure that their decisions are actually their own and the vision of an increasingly bleak post-victory future begs the question of whether it’s even worth defeating Chuck.
The loss of hope on Sam’s part mirrors the gaining of hope for Dean. His hope is more motivated by anger and his own stubbornness but it gives him the necessary motivation to ensure that Chuck doesn’t have the satisfaction of getting the ending that he wants. There is talk of it always ending the same way in every other universe that he created. Dean insists that this Sam and Dean are different which is likely the case because the show focuses on them which means that the ending will most likely be something that audiences -and by extension Chuck- wouldn’t predict. There are already signs that things aren’t playing out the way Chuck expects such as the injury he sustained that connected him to Sam.
Flipping the roles so that Dean is now the hopeful one is expected but has a lot of potential. Sam learned a lot in this episode and isn’t comfortable with any of it. The final twist of the knife is Eileen leaving because she has no idea what’s real any more and doesn’t trust herself to be around them because of what Chuck said. It’s tragic and makes for another loss for the Winchesters who now have basically nothing to work with following the failure of their most recent plan.
It’s a big episode for Dean because it ends the rift between him and Cas. Their trip to Purgatory may be unproductive in terms of narrative progression but it’s a significant emotional step. Early on in the episode Cas is still tying to apologise to Dean for decisions that he made and Dean is completely unreceptive at first. It isn’t until it looks like he might lose Cas that he starts to look past his anger and find a way to forgive. He puts it all out there in a prayer and delivers an emotionally raw monologue where he admits that he was wrong to hold Cas responsible for what has happened. It’s a rare moment of vulnerability and introspection for Dean; he questions the anger that is always close to the surface and acknowledges that he often lets it control him. Ultimately he doesn’t want to be the person who reacts with anger to terrible situations but he can’t stop himself from expressing it. He finds it within himself to forgive Cas which was ultimately the real point of this subplot. Jensen Ackles’ performance in this scene is devastating; he takes Dean to a place that he doesn’t often go and it’s really powerful to witness. This may contribute to Dean’s more hopeful outlook at the end of the episode as he has had a realisation of a personal flaw of his and finds himself supported by both Sam and Cas which could be associated with strength, at least as far as he’s concerned.
The major weak point of the episode is the Leviathan antagonist (Tom Stevens) who fails to make much of an impression. He mentions Eve and how she’s out for revenge against them but he fails to make an impression and so much of the plot surrounding him happens off screen. Based on how it’s presented Castiel’s escape seems suspicious and makes me wonder if the Cas that goes back with Dean is actually a Leviathan in disguise. The mention of Eve and the fact that Cas isn’t shown escaping makes me think along those lines though either way the execution is clumsy. Granted it means that more time is devoted to what makes the episode great but this also means that the clumsiness stands out even more by comparison.
The episode ends with Jack in -presumably- The Empty being approached by Billie who simply tells him “it’s time”. This comes at a time where it seems all hope is lost. There’s no guarantee that Billie is approaching Jack for something that will benefit Sam, Dean and Cas though given her tendency to help them in the past it’s more than likely that she has some plan that might help them in some way. Time will tell though whatever it happens it is good to see Jack again and I still have no idea how the writers might end the series.
A strong episode that has powerful emotional beats for both Sam and Dean while maintaining Chuck’s status as an excellent antagonist in really compelling ways. Sam being subjected to a view of the future where they manage to trap Chuck and seeing how bleak it all turns out is excellently done. His defiance eventually giving way to hopelessness when he sees that he and Dean will end up becoming one of the things they’ve spent their lives fighting makes sense and Chuck continues to manipulate him expertly. The loss of hope also means the injury that connected them heals which removes the one advantage they had since Chuck is now completely invulnerable once again. All that is keeping them alive is that Chuck has a plan for them that results in an entertaining ending.
Dean gains hope just as Sam loses it through his own stubbornness. He doesn’t want to see Chuck gain the satisfaction that comes with getting the ending that he wants so continues to be defiant. This comes after finding it within himself to forgive Cas in a brutally honest moment where he opens up about being quick to anger. It’s a devastating scene beautifully performed by Jensen Ackles and makes for a rare moment of vulnerability from Dean. The Leviathan antagonist stands out as being poorly handled in the context of the episode which made me wonder if Cas really escaped or if he has been replaced by a Leviathan. If that’s the case then I won’t be surprised but it’s ineptly handled either way. The ending is intriguing and Jack’s return is certainly welcomed.
- Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki both providing powerful performances in key scenes
- Sam’s loss of hope feeling both earned and organic based on what he learns
- Chuck’s continued characterisation as a hands off manipulator
- Sam’s loss of hope being coupled with Dean gaining it thanks to his own stubbornness
- the emotionally raw moment where Dean admits a failing of his and forgives Cas
- Jack’s reappearance
- the handling of the Leviathan antagonist
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