The final moments had good stuff – Dean learns that the angel inside Sam isn’t Ezekiel and the gravity of the danger finally hits him. Gadreel kills Kevin and tells Dean that Sam is no longer there. I’m sorry to see Kevin go. I would have much rather traded Garth because the kid had potential to really make a mark on the series. Instead he was killed before he had the chance to make the jump from wallpaper/sidekick to a truly beloved character who was part of the Winchester family. Again, wasted potential. I do accept though that the show at times needs to kill off characters to raise the stakes in the plot, and Kevin always was expendable.
What prevented this from being a great episode is that the tone throughout most of the episode was wrong. The writers for this episode, Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner, often seem to feel the need to turn everything into some kind of comedic farce, stripping the gravitas right out of the scenes. Instead of Anna and Uriel from season 4, we got the Melody Ministry Glee Club facing off against a group of born-again bikers in a dive bar. We saw a return of Cas the buffoon – the one who throws out eye-rolling lines like “Cas is back in town,” and jokes with Dean about how “hot” his reaper-fling was.
In fact, there were issues with a lot of the dialogue – from the heavy-handed “Lord of the Rings” line from Malachi, “And so it begins,” to Dean casually tossing out to Sam, “Would I lie?” right after he’s been shoveling out pile after pile. Other examples of dialogue that didn’t work: “anemic functionaries like Bartholomew” from an angel (do angels care about a human condition like anemia enough to make it part of their vocabulary?), or “top of the Christmas tree Castiel” (do angels really joke about themselves as Christmas tree ornaments?).
These writers don’t seem to respect the characters or the story and feel the need to poke fun at them at every chance they get. This can work sometimes. I was more charitable to this writing team in season 7, because I thought they introduced a more playful tone to the series that it desperately needed at the time. But lately they’ve writing more of the mytharc-driving episodes, and in episodes like this, the tone is just wrong. These episodes are too important.
The HighlightsThe angel wars have been escalating, and there’s a new power challenging Bartholomew. This angel is Malachi, one Cas describes as an “anarchist.” Meanwhile, Metatron makes an appearance to try to sway Gadreel (Zeke), who has been imprisoned since he slipped up and let the Garden of Eden fall, to become his soldier in remaking Heaven. Gadreel’s first task is to kill Kevin Tran, which he does to Dean’s horror. He also tells Dean that Sam is no longer in his body.
Also good was that there was no appearance of rogue reapers.
The BadAside from everything I mentioned above, there were some eyebrow-raising liberties taken with the portrayal of angels. Cas is able to steal another angel’s grace by slitting his throat? Really? Also, why wouldn’t Cas be able to see and recognize angels even in his human form? Anna could see demons’ true faces and recognized Cas and Uriel even though Cas had started wearing a new human after she had fallen.
Pickings were slim for opportunities for Sam exposition in this episode, given the inconvenient fact that Sam was mostly missing, so we got exposition from Gadreel instead.
Finally, one of the things that struck me watching this episode was that all of the loss was about the angels. The deaths were mourned by Cas as angel deaths and there was little mention of the human casualties. The result of presenting the story like this is that it distances Sam and Dean from the angel mytharc. A huge supernatural disturbance such as this would have been very troubling to Sam and Dean in earlier seasons because of the massive loss of human life that would result. They would have been talking about this earlier and more actively researching the situation, rather than heading out on smaller supernatural cases week after week. Watching this episode, I had a moment of wishing for a return of John Winchester to remind them, “there are lives at stake!”