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Supernatural 9.14 "Captives" Review: A Prison of Our Own Making


    Supernatural returned this week with “Captives” written by Robert Berens and directed by Jerry Wanek. Wanek, of course, is also the wonderful production designer of the show who is responsible for the beautiful Men of Letters bunker. This is the second episode that Berens has penned and the second that Wanek has directed, and they both delivered in a big way. Of course, the highlight of the episode was the return of not one but two characters we thought we’d seen the last of: Kevin (Osric Chau) and Linda (Lauren Tom) Tran. But hey, this is Supernatural – no one is ever really dead, right?

    The episode plays on the title “Captives” in a number of ways. Most obviously it refers to the captives that Crowley (Mark Sheppard) is holding at Castle Storage. It also refers to all the dead who are being held captive in the veil because they can’t move on because Heaven is closed for business, thanks to Metatron. Castiel (Misha Collins) is held captive by Bartholomew (Adam Harrington). In another sense, the angels are held captive by their own obedience. Even Del (James Immekus), the captor of Linda and Candy (Lina Roessler), is a captive in his servitude to Crowley. Dean becomes a captive of Del too. Finally, Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) are captives in their unhealthy relationship. This is nicely emphasized by them being closeted in their separate rooms – they are as much captives in their chosen cells as Mama Tran is in her storage locker. Dean’s headphones almost mimic Mama Tran’s chains.

    The “Then” scenes end with Sam telling Dean that Dean only saved him because Dean didn’t want to be alone. When Sam tells Dean that in his place, Sam wouldn’t have saved Dean, Dean is perhaps as alone as if Sam had died, and this is picked up as the episode begins. The episode begins with the brothers isolated in their rooms, but the signs of a ghost quickly launch them into hunter mode. A quick shout out to the VFX team for the ghost effects throughout the episode. Sam grabs an iron sword while Dean goes for his shotgun. Sam may want to put distance between himself and his brother, but his worry for Dean when he can’t find him shows that he can’t simply stop caring. I loved Ackles delivery of “Yep. Bunker’s haunted.”

    Dean doesn’t want to believe that it’s Kevin but is forced to admit that it is. Ackles is terrific as Dean tries to apologize to Kevin while encouraging him to manifest. Sam may be ready to care about Dean’s physical well-being, but he doesn’t seem to notice Dean’s distress when he enters the kitchen.

    It was fantastic to see Chau back as Kevin. I have to admit that I was really hoping that we were actually going to get to keep Kevin in the bunker as a friendly ghost. Of course, as they warn Mrs Tran at the end of the episode, all ghosts eventually seem to go mad and get angry. We do get an answer to a question that has been floating around for a while. With the gates of Heaven closed, no one is getting in, so all the dead are stuck in the veil. It must be getting pretty crowded by now. This might be another reason Metatron has come back to earth. If there are no new residents in Heaven, maybe he is running out of new stories to amuse himself with.

    Of course, Kevin would be smart enough to figure out what was going on and to be able to devise a way to communicate with others. Kevin would appear to have become a bit of a leader, and of course, he managed to communicate and manifest from the veil quickly. It’s clear from Dean’s reaction that he is immediately committed to finding Mrs Tran if that will help to make it right with Kevin.

    The brothers work the case, but it’s not without some friction. When Dean calls Crowley, Sam gives him a hard time about it, saying that Crowley isn’t answering because he’s just not that into Dean. Dean responds that he knows Crowley is a flaming douche. In the car, discussing the case, Dean points out that it’s unlikely Crowley had Candy killed. Once again, Sam gives Dean a hard time for taking Crowley’s – the King of Hell after all – side. Dean snarks back that he’s just working the case, and Sam rolls his eyes. Of course, when pushed into a corner and isolated from friends and family, Dean tends to make bad choices – Crowley is the same kind of “bad” friend as Gordon Walker was or even the crossroads demon. Of course, Dean also is sensible enough to discourage Del from calling Crowley before they can rescue Mrs Tran.

    I was not a particular fan of Mrs Tran before this episode, but Lauren Tom more than brought her A-game to this episode and delivers a powerful performance on every level. Her terror when Sam first finds her is very different than the strong, self-assured tiger-mommy we’ve seen in the past. I loved it when she essentially shoves Sam out of the way to hot wire the door, underscoring her devotion to Kevin by explaining that she’d learned a thing or two helping him with his school projects.

    Padalecki is also fantastic in this scene as he struggles with whether or not to tell Mrs Tran that Kevin is dead. His anguish at the pain he knows it will cause her and his own guilt over the death are clear to read on his face. I loved that he didn’t have to say it, and she proved her status as tiger-mommy by not allowing herself to give in to her grief, channelling her feelings into anger and determination.

    Misha Collins also delivers an outstanding performance as Castiel finally finds his way. He meets one of the ‘penitent’ who have renounced making war and are living humbly among the humans. They are trying to get back in touch with their true purpose – to watch over and protect humans. Cas is captured by Bartholomew, who we learn had been a follower of Cas when he was in charge of Heaven. Bartholomew has embraced a path completely antithetical to the penitent. He attempts to recruit Cas, but Cas refuses to fight – though he is ready to defend himself and kills Bartholomew. I was a bit disappointed to see Harrington go as he’s been great. He does a terrific job in this episode showing that Bartholomew is really treading a thin line between madness and obsession.

    This episode is actually a nice payoff for Cas’s journey. His own experience with pride and attempting to lead through fear and might give him the insight to understand and reject Bartholomew’s offer. For Bartholomew, it’s all about methods and that’s what Cas ends up rejecting. Bartholomew does make some good points, however. He presses Cas on exactly what he’s trying to accomplish. Bartholomew is right that Cas will have a much harder time challenging Metatron on his own. I thought it was both hilarious and telling when Bartholomew remarked that “resistance is futile” – just like the Borg on Star Trek. His vision is blind obedience to his rule, but Cas has a healthy respect for free will. Cas proves his humility by telling Bart that he is nothing and walking away from taking over Bart’s faction. His own time spent as human has given Cas a new appreciation for humans as we saw in “First Born.” It is Cas’s commitment and belief that now bring him followers – he has become a reluctant leader, but he’s never been more prepared to be a good leader.

    In the end, Cas does kill Bart, and the brothers let Mrs Tran kill Del. Is anybody else disturbed by the fact that no one seems concerned with the human vessels anymore? There seems to be no attempt to exorcise the demons – or angels – as there was with Meg in season one.

    The reunion between Mrs Tran and Kevin is short but poignant. Dean warns her that taking Kevin with her may be dangerous. She responds that it’s her job as a mother to take of him and keep him safe. Kevin says almost the same thing about her. He feels terrible that she was held and tortured for a year because of him and he says she’s his responsibility. Both Kevin and Mrs Tran echo Dean’s sentiments about family. Sam tells Kevin that he had been the brothers’ responsibility and that they’d let him down. Kevin quickly absolves Sam from any responsibility, saying he knew it wasn’t Sam that did it. Dean reiterates that they are going to get Kevin to Heaven. He tells Kevin to enjoy his time with his mother – he makes a joke out of it: “the uninterrupted twenty-four seven, no escape, quality time.” Kevin calls him a dick, but it’s no secret that Dean would like nothing better than to have that kind of time with his own mother or his brother.

    Kevin’s final words to the brothers are to ask them to promise him something – to get over it. “The drama the fighting? It’s stupid.” Kevin tells him that even though he’s a ghost and they couldn’t see him, he could see them. This felt like a wonderful message from the fans – who are also always watching and many of whom are done with the fighting between the brothers. He reminds them that he’s going home a ghost but that they both still have each other. Sam promises, but it’s clear that he doesn’t mean it and that is reinforced by his simply walking away as soon as Kevin and Mrs Tran are out the door. Dean promises, but he clearly knows that Sam doesn’t mean it, so he’s not shocked to turn around in mid-sentence and to find Sam gone, though he is disappointed. However, when Sam gets back to his room, he hesitates at his door as if he’s reconsidering. Padalecki does a wonderful job here too as we see Sam shake himself and firm his resolve to keep his brother at arm’s length. Dean returns to his room and cocoons himself in his music once again. The closeup of Dean’s face deep in thought makes me nervous – Dean with too much time to think could be a dangerous quantity. The brothers end the episode much as they started it – captives in a solitude of their own making.

    What did you think of the episode? Are you totally done with the fighting? Is there a glimmer of hope here that we might be getting past it? Were you happy to see Kevin and Mrs Tran again? I’d bet we’ll see them again before the end of the year. Do you think it’s a good idea for Castiel to take a leadership role again? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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