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Supernatural 8.21 "The Great Escapist" Review: It's a Real Page-Turner.

    This week’s episode of Supernatural, “The Great Escapist,” was written by the inimitable Ben Edlund and directed by Robert Duncan McNeill. Edlund, of course, is one of my favorite writers because he always delivers an interesting storyline that only he could have thought of and his dialogue is always sharp. He’s also adept at both mytharc episodes and comic monster-of-the-week episodes. This week’s episode was the former, and it delivered a really satisfying amount of the main storyline for this season. And could there be a better writer to introduce the angel Metatron than the master of meta himself? McNeill hasn’t directed Supernatural since season one’s episode “Skin,” but unsurprisingly, given his other directorial credits, delivered a well-crafted episode with some terrific performances.
     One of the best performances was Osric Chau as Kevin. When we first see him, he’s looking about as rough as the last time we saw him. Although, he looks even rougher in the failsafe video he emails to Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles). His performance in the video is heartbreaking as he comes to terms with his own death and the anguish he feels over having failed in his mission as prophet. I loved that as Kevin accepted his fate and saw through Crowley’s (Mark Sheppard) deception, he looks increasingly healthy. While Kevin started to suspect something was up after the fake Sam and Dean screwed up the secret knock, we as viewers knew something was up because Sam looked way too healthy. After Kevin traps the demons ‘playing’ Sam and Dean, Crowley drops the pretense and confronts Kevin. It’s a fantastic scene to see Kevin stand up to Crowley. Chau also holds his own with the ever wonderful Sheppard.
     Only Ben Edlund would have an episode that was as subtly meta as this one. Crowley “directing” the deception he’s perpetrating on Kevin is simply inspired. I loved Crowley lounging in the director’s chair by the video displays and giving his demons character notes was hilarious. Sheppard does some of his best work when an episode provides him with the opportunity to contrast Crowley’s humor with his chilling, sadistic side. The scene in which Crowley faces off with Naomi (Amanda Tapping) was terrific. Naomi proved in this episode that she is, without a doubt, as evil and cruel as Crowley. Tapping is terrific and creates a worthy match for Crowley. I really hope that they both stick around longer than the end of the season. It was also a treat to see Cas (Misha Collins) and Crowley face off again. Perhaps the best scene, though, was when Cas quoted “his friend” and told Naomi to “bite me.”
     Only Ben Edlund would have thought up having Cas hide in Biggerson’s because they are so ubiquitous and they all look the same. It was a nice detail to have Cas keep touching the angel tablet by his hiding it in himself. It also made me think back to Cas having the Leviathans in him, and the other souls from Purgatory. Even before Naomi starts beating Cas up, he isn’t looking very healthy. Once he got Crowley’s bullet out of himself, I expected he’d be able to heal himself, yet when Dean and Sam find him at the end of the episode, he is still in very bad shape. I’m curious as to whether it is an after effect of the tablet being in him, the bullet or what Naomi has been doing to him. The conversation between Cas and Ion casts a very different perspective on heaven. Ion has been privy to information we have yet to learn about what has been going on in heaven. I’m not sure how this new vision of the angels fits with what we’ve known up until now. Cas maintains that the angels aren’t machines and weren’t meant to be programmed.
    Sam has gotten sicker but is still resisting Dean’s attempts to help him. Sam tells Dean that the trials are changing him, and Dean looks freaked out, much as he did when Sam revealed he had visions in season one. Dean is hit particularly hard by Kevin’s video and muses they should have brought him to the bunker – a point many viewers had already made. In going through the material that Kevin emailed them, Sam recognizes a symbol from a class he took at Stanford. Yet another nice shout out to season one. There’s a nice brotherly moment as Sam tries to correct Dean’s un-pc use of “Indian.” Now that they have a lead, Sam seems almost manic in his desire to follow it.
     Once they get to Colorado, Sam’s condition worsens as he is “resonating” with the word. He’s also remembering episodes from their childhood, including Dean reading to him from Classic Illustrated. Sam tells Dean that even then he never felt like he was pure; he felt evil because of the demon blood, and he’s convinced that the trials will purify him.  Metatron (Curtis Armstrong) tells Dean that shutting the gates of Hell will have consequences: “you have to weigh what it will take to do this and what will the world be like when you are done.” It’s possible that Sam will be willing to sacrifice anything if it means that he’ll finally be purified. If they do shut the gates of hell forever, it’s going to create a problem for anyone who was destined to go to Hell when they died. Will that mean a lot more vengeful ghosts or poltergeists? Will they simply hang around as demons topside and therefore closing the gates won’t actually help to decrease the number of demons topside? It might even mean an increase in their number. In the final scene Dean wants to confirm that once the final trial is complete, Sam will be better. Sam tells him he feels better now because they are doing something. I don’t think Sam expects to get better; he tells Dean he’s relieved because they are heading toward the “end.”
     Curtis Armstrong is a wonderful addition to the Supernatural universe. He feels a lot like he could be Chuck’s (Rob Benedict) older brother. Of course given that he’s pulled a “great escape” not unlike Gabriel (Richard Speight) maybe he is more like the archangel. Metatron is quick to explain that he’s not an archangel, however; God pulled him from the secretarial pool. He’s just an ordinary working stiff, and that reminded me of Joshua, the gardener who God liked to chat with in season five’s “Dark Side of the Moon.” It’s also who the Winchesters are. One of the funniest scenes for me was Sam’s incredulity that Metatron didn’t know who they were. The title of the episode also resonates with the fact that Metatron has been escaping into other worlds via stories. Metatron tells the brothers that “it was your storytelling that is the true flower of free will. When you tell stories, you become Gods of tiny intricate dimensions.” Presumably, without free will, angels are poor story tellers. This reminded me even more of Chuck who was a writer and as it turned out, God. This is also another nice meta-moment from Edlund. The writers of Supernatural are also the ones who control the story.
    Metatron does save Kevin after Dean tells him Kevin’s death is his fault. Naturally, Metatron as an angel would know that the Prophet was still alive. It wasn’t clear what they did with Kevin at the end of the episode. Perhaps leaving him with Metatron was the safest place or perhaps Metatron could help teach Kevin more about reading the tablets. We did of course learn that the final trial is to cure a demon. I wonder if Sam’s demon blood would qualify him? The promotional photos for the next episode would suggest that it is Abaddon. I think it would be the ultimate punishment, however, if they were to “cure” Crowley, thereby taking away all of his power.
    How did you like the episode? Thoughts on the final trial? Speculations on whether the brothers will actually close the gates of Hell or not? And what’s wrong with Cas? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.