First, what went very, very right in this episode. All the lead actors delivered terrific performances. A number of emotional arcs were set in motion for the season as well. Both Osric Chau (Kevin) and Mark Sheppard (Crowley) delivered powerful performances. I love that they use a time out to punish Crowley. We are already seeing that he’s flashing back to the emotions he felt when Sam (Jared Padalecki) was exorcising him. The brothers are astute enough to realize the most effective way to punish Crowley – don’t give him an outlet for his sharp tongue. His taunting of Kevin seemed unproductive at first. Why get Kevin to torture him? Is Crowley trying to atone for his many, varied sins? Or was he simply trying to get Kevin to make a mistake and inadvertently free him? Crowley does play on Kevin’s weaknesses expertly. Making him think that the Winchesters will thrown Kevin away when they are done with him, and trying to get Kevin to identify with him as a fellow prisoner. In the end, Kevin is too smart for Crowley. I think I enjoy every time someone underestimates Kevin. Crowley says he wants a quid pro quo to help the boys, but he simply gave up those two demon names with very little provocation. The subtle nuances that Sheppard brings to the portrayal of Crowley make me really excited to see where this season will take the character. And props to Sheppard for that scene in the trunk!
Chau, like all the actors on the show, moves from pretty broad comedy, through horror, to intense drama, and nails all of it. I love the banter between Chau and Jensen Ackles (Dean) – the two have undeniable chemistry. Arguably the most powerful scene in the entire episode is when Dean tells Kevin that he’s family and that he and Sam would die for him. Kevin is clearly at his breaking point and both Chau and Ackles make the scene everything fans could hope for. Dean clearly states that their family now includes both Cas (Misha Collins) and Kevin. Dean is now a big brother to more than one sibling. Chau is equally good in the scene where he has to back up Dean and Sam’s cover as FBI agents. I adored his cover as Kevin Solo – and the fact that he uses his own unique skill set to back them up. He isn’t a hunter, so he doesn’t simply play the part of their superior the way Bobby (Jim Beaver) or Garth (DJ Qualls) would. Instead, he hacks into the officer’s digital footprint and blackmails her into helping. Just a quick shout out for the great FBI aliases of Stark and Banner. Perfect for Dean to be Ironman (with a heart that gives him his “super powers”) and Sam to be the Hulk (“super powered” by a barely controlled substance – gamma radiation vs angel power).
In addition to the scene with Chau, Ackles fight scene with Abaddon (Alaina Huffman) is also terrific. Abaddon tells Dean she’s had an eye on his vessel all along because he is the perfect vessel. It makes perfect sense that a Knight of Hell would want the vessel of a Knight of Heaven as Dean was earmarked as Michael’s vessel after all. I loved Dean asking her “We gonna fight or make out: I’m getting some real mixed signals here.” Naturally, she can’t possess him without removing his tattoo, which she threatens to do, but is prevented from doing by Ezekiel showing up. It was great to see Huffman back, though it is also one of my major issues with the episode.
Given that Abaddon is disgusted by the “weak” vessels of the demons under her command, why would she insist on restoring her destroyed vessel? And really, shouldn’t demons be able to super power any vessel they possess? As much as I wanted Huffman back to play Abaddon, it really doesn’t make any sense for her to insist on having the same vessel. That said, I did really like the scene with her interrogating the demons. She is baffled at how a salesman became King of Hell. She tells them that they are making deals when they should just be taking what they want. According to Abaddon, “A king fights. A king conquers.” She also tips her hand to her end game: The King is dead, long live the Queen.
It was interesting to see more hunters introduced. Of course, most of them don’t make it through the episode. Irv (Paul Rae) provides a great Canadian shout out by referencing a hunt in Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) that he went on with Bobby. Dean knows all about the werewolf Siamese twins because Bobby talked about it every time he drank Labatt’s (a Canadian beer). We also meet Tracy (Olivia Ryan Stern) who blames Sam for the death of her parents. It was nice to see a woman hunter dispatching a vampire with relative ease. Of course, her accusation has Sam brooding about his role in releasing Lucifer. Dean is able to get Sam to realize that while that was a mistake, Sam has done a lot to atone for it since. It was nice to see Dean schooling her on the importance of recognizing the “real” monsters in this world, showing how far he’s come himself.
Sam and Dean’s rescue of Irv and Tracy is another one of my irritations with this episode. How did they go in so unprepared? By all means set up the phone to decoy them, but why is Dean simply carrying the other weapons around in the bag rather than dividing them up and actually using them?
Padalecki does a great job inventing yet another incarnation of Sam – Ezekiel/Sam. Guy Bee tweeted that Padalecki invented this version before he even met Tahmoh Penikett because this episode was filmed before Ezekiel had been cast, before the first episode. It did make sense that he would emerge to protect his vessel when Sam is knocked unconscious. I loved the shadow of Ezekiel’s wings which are all burnt and tattered – another great moment from the VFX team.
The scene between “Zeke” and Dean is a close second to the Kevin scene. Zeke does seem to be completely genuine. I believe he is one of the good guys. It’s nice to see Dean getting some positive reinforcement for a change. I like Ackles choice to play Dean as still uncomfortable around Zeke as he is an angel even if he is in his brother’s body. Dean admits his guilt over everyone killed by the demons being his fault for not closing the gates to Hell. But Zeke sees that what he did, he did out of love. Dean’s discomfort over discussing “love” with anyone other than Sam felt right, and he’s still reluctant to take praise or comfort from anyone. However, Zeke is determined that Dean should understand that Dean is doing the right thing. Zeke also wants Dean to trust him, to believe he is one of the good guys. Trust is an important theme in the episode as Dean attempts to get Kevin to believe him. Trusting Crowley is always a bad thing. Finally, Dean is still consumed with guilt because his brother does trust him and he feels he is betraying Sam by lying to him.
The final scene between the brothers seems to be setting a new tradition. Instead of heartfelt moments in the Impala, it seems we can anticipate them within the Men of Letters bunker. Sam tells Dean that he is finally happy with his life for the first time in a very long time. He also says he feels fine. Dean looks somewhat doubtful and troubled – no doubt still worried that the deal he made for Sam is going to go bad somehow. It’s interesting that we see Dean down his drink – and he’s gone for the hard stuff, not beer. I hope that they aren’t going to send Dean back into the bottle again.
What did you think of the episode? Did you find the story credible? Whose performance did you find the most powerful? Do you trust Zeke? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.