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Supernatural 8.23 "Sacrifice" Review: It's Raining Angels

    The season finale of Supernatural, “Sacrifice,” was written by showrunner Jeremy Carver and directed by Phil Sgriccia. It featured a simply amazing performance by Mark Sheppard, and a game changer that sets up the ninth season nicely. Once again the VFX work put every other television show on the air to shame. Sgriccia performs his usual magic and delivered a number of wonderful performances. The build up of tension at the end to the reveal of the angels being expelled was excellent as everyone is trying to figure out what is going on. It was a solid episode, though personally, not my favorite season finale.
      The episode begins with the usual season montage set to Kansas’ “Carry On My Wayward Son,” which we all sang along with, right? Then we cut to Sheriff Jodi Mills (Kim Rhodes) having a blind date with Crowley! She’s his next victim should the Winchesters decide not to take his deal. I was really hoping that she of all people would recognize the hex bag and save herself. I’m going to settle for the fact that she’s still alive and we will see her a lot more next season.
    It was great to see Kevin (Osric Chau), and even better that they finally let him into the Bunker. I adore that Dean (Jensen Ackles) keeps the key in its special box. Kevin will obviously be back next season. They still have the angel tablet, so maybe it will contain some clue to re-opening Heaven. Cas (Misha Collins) explaining to Kevin that he will always be a Prophet was a terrific scene as Chau goes from rebellious to cowed. Loved Kevin finally telling Dean that the sports metaphors weren’t motivating him. Even though it looks like Kevin is running away again at the end of the episode, it really felt like the character underwent grew into himself this season. He certainly faced considerable loss and hardship.
      Curtis Armstrong as Metatron delivers a terrific performance. I was so disappointed when he turned out to be a bad guy! He played the earnest, mild-mannered everyman so well that his switch to bitter and vindictive is even more shocking. Loved his comments to Cas that God was “larger than life, gruff, a bit of a sexist... but fair!” Metatron having to deal with Castiel’s poor social skills was hysterical. Metatron is a little too happy to see Naomi (Amanda Tapping), but once his plan is revealed it makes perfect sense. Naomi muses on why he’s come out of hiding now. His disdain for her also makes more sense in hindsight as she is simply playing right into his hands. Metatron’s motivation is simple revenge for what the angels have taken from him. By the time Cas returns to stop him, Metatron is pretty clearly as crazy as Dean says to Cas earlier in the episode. Metatron tells Cas that he is expelling the angels with a spell, that there never were trials – at least for shutting the gates to Heaven. This helps to explain why Kevin couldn’t find Nephillim  or Cupid’s bow on the tablet. This begs the question of whether the tablet can help – or maybe they will need a powerful witch – like Crowley? Tapping also turns in her best performance this season when she comes to Dean and Cas to warn them. Her anguish at finally remembering the angels’ true purpose rings true. It would seem that she’s dead by the end of the episode, but there were no burnt wings, so maybe there is hope she will be back.
    We lose another great female character when Sam lights Abaddon on fire. Alaina Huffman gives yet another great performance as the Knight of Hell and really holds her own in the scene with Mark Sheppard’s Crowley. I would have loved to see them have more scenes together. They both have the snarky comment down to an art form. She does manage to smoke out, so Abaddon will no doubt be back but unfortunately in another vessel.
    There’s a nice moment in the scene with Cas and Dean in the bar that breaks the fourth wall. Cas questions whether Dean should be drinking on the job and Dean asks, “What show have you been watching?” To top it off, there’s a show playing on the tv in the background about archery/bow-hunting and Supernatural is, of course, preceded by Arrow on the CW.
    Mark Sheppard’s performance is nothing short of brilliant. The brief flash of fear that crosses his face when Dean tells him that he’s the last trial and they are going to turn him back into a human is only the beginning. As Sam (Jared Padalecki) works his way through the cure, Sheppard’s voice loses its deep growl and his expressions become more clearly filled with emotion, not just anger. Once again, Sheppard delivers this performance while held virtually immobile in a chair. His speech becomes more tentative and he shifts from Moose to Sam. His anguish at what he’s done becomes greater as he becomes more human and he begs Sam to tell him how to atone. He meekly offers his neck by the last injection as he’s willing to begin to atone by helping to close the gates to Hell. I hope that we haven’t lost Crowely – but it will be interesting to see if he “recovers” from the procedure at all, or if he’s not able to regain his full power. It might be interesting to see he and Cas sharing an apartment a la The Odd Couple – but without either of them having any powers.
    Sam and Dean unite to capture Crowley to finish the trials to close the gates of Hell. Sam has to purify his blood through confession – which really doesn’t work if you don’t have a Priest. It’s still amusing to see Dean try to school him on how/what to confess. Of course, Dean comes off looking like a dick, particularly when Sam tells him that what he confessed was that he had continually let his brother down. Padalecki turns in one of his best performances as he confesses to his brother. It seems unlikely that whatever has been making him sick is simply going to stop now that he’s stopped doing the trials. Many people felt that Sam’s character has been off this season, but frankly, his “so?” in reaction to Dean telling him he was going to die if he finished the trial seemed off to me. Sam was the one talking about finding a life after hunting after all, or was he simply lying to his brother? Wasn’t Sam supposed to pull Dean toward a life after hunting by taking on the trials himself so it wouldn’t be a suicide mission for Dean? Dean, of course, is once again the master of his brother’s pain, and even a brotherly hug doesn’t seem to be enough to cure Sam. In fact, Dean appears to simply let everyone down in this episode. He fails to keep either his brother or Cas safe and isn’t effective at helping either in their respective tasks: Cas has lost his grace, and Sam is still at death’s door, yet the demons are still loose and now there are de-graced angels all over the earth. It’s true that they have the resources of the Men of Letters at their disposal, but it’s only been Sam that has been able to wade through the information as all the research now falls to him.
    The final scene with the angels falling from Heaven is a stellar example of the outstanding work done this season by the VFX team: Mark Meloche, Grant Lindsay, Ryan Curtis, Christopher Richardson, Trevor Chong, Steve McLeod, Kevin Genzel, Derek Rein, Werner ten Hoeve, Mladen Miholjcic, Jason Macza, Adam Williams, and John Marshall. The scene with the angels falling gave me goosebumps, especially the angel with his wings on fire. Sam’s glowing arms, according to one tweet, weren’t finished until Sunday at 10pm. It may have come in just under the wire, but the quality of those effects is simply amazing. Abaddon’s going up in flames and smoking out were also brilliant, and the montage at the beginning captured many of the spectacular head decapitations this year. Also a shout out to Jerry Wanek whose sets were amazing all year, culminating in the church in this episode. The crucifix with just the hands and feet was a spectacularly creepy touch!
    It looks likely that next season will focus on trying to get the angels back to Heaven and get Cas’ grace back. If the fight does focus on Heaven, that does present lots of opportunities for guest appearances. Bobby (Jim Beaver) told Sam he wanted back in the game. Ash (Chad Lindberg) is a force to be reckoned with in Heaven. Pam (Traci Dinwiddie), Ellen (Samantha Ferris), and Jo (Alona Tal) are also all there, not to mention Mary (Samantha Smith) and John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). And where do dead angels go? Is it possible we might see some of the archangels It will be interesting to see what kind of role Crowley will play and whether Kevin will be waiting when they get back. With Misha Collins upgraded to regular again, he should factor heavily into the plot. Many people have objected to his acting as a dues ex machine in the past, so they should be happier about his presence if he can’t snap his fingers and fix injuries or transport anyone anywhere. Personally, I will miss his latent power, and I hope that he won’t simply be relegated to comic relief as he has been in the past when he lost his powers or his mind.
    What did you think of the finale? What are your thoughts going into next season? Do you think Naomi is dead or will we see her again? Is Kevin going to disappear? How sick is Sam? How will you be spending hellatus? Let me know in the comments. I’ll be posting a season review in the next week or so, and I hope you will come back and share your thoughts on how the entire season worked for you once we’ve had a chance to let the emotions of the finale settle.

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