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Supernatural - I'm No Angel - Review

My review for this week’s episode, I’m no angel, is mixed. On the one hand, we got some touching character moments with Cas, as well as forward movement in the angel storyline with the news that a group is mobilizing behind Bartholomew, and hints that Ezekiel is hiding from him. On the other hand, while Dean was experiencing a feeling of whiplash from watching Sam instantly transition from Sam to Zeke and back again, I was experiencing a feeling of whiplash trying to make sense of the mythology. April’s an angel. No, she’s a reaper. No, she’s an angel. No, she’s a reaper. Does this qualify as meta?

The Highlights

We saw Cas as a hunted man (it feels odd calling him a man), hiding behind a fake name in homeless shelters, on street corners, and in tattoo parlors. All of the human emotions he had been witnessing for thousands of years were suddenly real for him, as he dealt with hunger, cold, and attraction. He experienced sex, death (again), and fear.

Hunting Cas was an angel name Bartholomew, who was rounding up a multitude of human vessel volunteers with the help of a religious evangelist to give form to his army of followers. (Apparently, Cas’s season 7 instincts were correct to distrust religious evangelists.) Bartholomew has apparently enlisted the help of rogue reapers to track down and assassinate Cas. Why Cas is his number one priority right now isn’t clear, but it may have to do with Cas’s comment to April that because his grace was the final key to Metatron’s spell of casting out angels, Cas may be the key to reversing it.

Meanwhile Ezekiel made some new appearances, temporarily putting Sam to sleep as Ezekiel slipped in and out of Sam’s persona to speak to Dean.

The Good

One of the standout moments of this episode took place between Cas and a woman in a church who was praying for her sick husband. They talked about faith, and Cas tried to explain how no one was listening. It brought me back to season 4 when Dean first prayed to Cas, and Cas told Dean it was a sign of faith. Cas’s most important personal story has always centered around his gradual loss of faith, and it seemed right that Cas – learning now what it means to be human – should see what faith looks like from the human perspective.

Another standout scene with Cas showed him walking down the a street in Chinatown, overwhelmed by the smells, sounds, and diversions of a crowded city. Very nice job all around, with the filming, direction, and acting that conveyed Cas’s disorientation and feelings of isolation.

The transitions between Sam and Ezekiel were creepy good, and an effective reminder that once again, it’s a crowded place inside Sam Winchester’s head.

Dean had some good lines:
- “We’re not cops. Do we look like cops?” By the looks on the homeless men’s faces, Dean and Sam did. Oh, the irony. For so many years they’ve been trying to pass them off as FBI or other officials to skeptical bystanders.
- Cas: “You lied.” Dean: “I did. I do that.”

I was laughing at how little time it took before Dean had Zeke working for him. That’s very Dean. I was thinking back to Dean’s attempts to get Death running his errands – like down to Lucifer’s cage to retrieve Sam’s soul in season 6.

We had a return of Sam’s jogging. This fits Sam. He used to be on a soccer team, and I could see him picking up running while he was at Stanford. It was a good way to let us know that Sam’s feeling much better again. I like that this time the reason Sam is jogging is because there’s an angel healing him, rather than because his brother taught him that putting pressure on his palm relieves psychosis and post-Hell trauma. This just works better for me. What I’d like now is to see other writers pick up on this and build in some consistency. Next time we get a peek inside the Winchesters’ trunk, I wan’t to see Sam’s running shoes in there.

Finally, “You can’t stay.” Yes, that is in the “good” category. Cas looked like a kicked puppy, but it’s good drama, and much more effective that Cas “dying” again. How many of us really believed that would stick?

The Bad

Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, the writers who penned this episode, have an annoying habit of seeming to forget which show they’re writing for. In the past their witches have resembled those from Charmed, with their familiars, their powers to make objects fly across their room, and their powers to astral project. Bounty-hunter reapers are from Grimm.

And freelance reapers? Freelance for what? What do they get out of this? They’re not alive. Where is Death in all of this? He always seemed like a boss who ran a very tight ship and took rules seriously. And can’t reapers just find people without tracking them? If not, how on earth do they do their job in transitioning over people when their time comes? Very inefficient if they have to act as private investigators to track down each person.  If Cas's warding was the key keeping him hidden from reapers, isn't that a way to live forever then?  We learned in Death Takes a Holiday that if reapers can't reach you, you can't die.

And if there are freelance reapers, why didn’t Zach and Lucifer use freelance reapers in season 5 when Sam and Dean were hiding from them? And why do reapers look and act like angels now? And possess people? There are so many questions around this. The biggest one is, if there was a plot need for a supernatural creature that could act as bounty hunters, what on earth was wrong with just introducing a supernatural creature new to Sam and Dean, rather than warping a previously established mythology into something – just – different?

Next on the list is Sam’s exposition that Clarence was an angel and that Meg used to call Cas Clarence, and Dean’s confusion at the reference. Another annoying habit of these writers are their patterns of have Sam exposit on something in most of their episodes, and writing Dean as not understanding something that he would have caught. I was one of the maybe 10% of American kids who never happened to watch It’s a Wonderful Life growing up, despite the fact that it’s on TV several times around Christmas every year. But even I knew that Clarence was an angel because it’s a reference that’s part of American culture. But what’s more annoying is that I got the feeling watching it that Sam’s explanation wasn’t so much for Dean’s benefit, as it was for OUR (the viewers’) benefit – the we didn’t catch reference the first TWENTY TIMES Meg called Cas Clarence on the show.

And speaking of Dean, Dean would have been asking harder questions about Ezekiel, especially after Ezekiel indicated that he didn’t want to be caught by Bartholomew either. Really Zeke? Why would he feel threatened by another angel?

The final thing that makes this list was an overload of (and inconsistent) Cas-isms. Cas is awkward. We get that. But too much of anything is overkill. The “inconsistent” comes in Cas not knowing know what safe sex was but understanding the play-on-words in saying he’s not an angel.

The “Huh?”

A lot of the reaper questions belong in here – such as how they can be held in handcuffs if they’re really some sort of a spirit, or how a reaper can be killed like with an angel blade. I chose to put most of the reaper questions into the “Bad” section, rather than the “Huh” section, because sadly, I wasn’t surprised by this.

The Speculation

The scene between Cas and the woman in the church about faith ended with her telling him, “Someone is listening.” While the point of the conversation was Cas and his faith, something about the way that last line was delivered came out sounding prophetic. Will there be a new player introduced – maybe God – who is listening?

Sam is really feeling good. Should we be concerned? A lot of the focus has been around the expected reaction that Sam won’t take well the news that Dean let an angel possess him. But we’re talking about a character here who had a serious problem fighting an addiction to power, and this was when he had a long list or reasons not to indulge. Now he has a new power source without the nasty aftertaste of evil and brotherly disapproval. What if Sam grows to like this new feeling and decides to let Zeke stick around because he doesn’t want to give up the power?

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