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Supernatural 9.10 "Road Trip" Review: A Demon and an Angel Walk Into My Brother...

    Supernatural returned from hiatus with “Road Trip” written by Andrew Dabb and directed by the inimitable Robert Singer. This was one of the strongest episodes yet this season and featured fantastic performances from Jensen Ackles, Mark Sheppard, Misha Collins, Jared Padalecki, Alaina Huffman, and Curtis Armstrong. There was a lot of pay off in this episode from seeds planted in earlier episodes and seasons, and there was evidence of how these characters have grown and changed.

    The episode begins with Dean (Ackles) giving Kevin Tran (Osric Chau who is universally missed both on set by cast and crew and on screen by fans) a proper hunter’s funeral. We get the by now familiar shot of Dean’s devastated face through the flames and almost exact mirror of Dean through the flames of his father’s pyre. This was a scene that I know I felt cheated out of after the death of Bobby, and it helped to ease the pain of Kevin’s loss somewhat. It’s also an interesting juxtaposition if one considers Dean’s role in Kevin’s life to be as a guardian or father figure to him – Dean has now “buried” both his father and his son. Just as Dean took his anger and grief out on the trunk of the Impala in “Everybody Loves a Clown,” here Dean’s anger and grief trash the bunker.

    The episode gives us a lot more insight into Gadreel. Padalecki does an excellent job as always doing double duty portraying both the angel Gadreel for most of the episode and Sam as well. Gadreel is still doing Metatron’s (Armstrong) bidding to prove his loyalty. Gadreel is happy to kill Thadeus, an angel currently occupying a Justin Bieber-like musician, who tortured Gadreel in prison. Armstrong is terrific as Metatron barely tolerates Gadreel and manipulates him. The question of the next prophet is also answered as Metatron reveals that he’s “flipped a switch” that will ensure there are no more prophets, which, of course, means that even if they can get the tablets back, they will have no way to decipher them.

    There is a nice shout out back to Metatron’s love of stories when he tells Gadreel that they are writing their own epic story – and sometimes that means you have to kill your darlings. It almost felt as if Metatron was stepping into Chuck’s shoes as a foil for the writers themselves and their remorse over killing Kevin. Metatron is annoyed that Gadreel didn’t show any initiative and didn’t kill Dean when he had the chance.

    Metatron continues to test (or further torture) Gadreel and next sends him to kill his best friend, Abner (Dan Payne). Gadreel tells Abner that he got their revenge for them. Abner, however, has forgiven those who hurt him. He tells Gadreel that the key to happiness is getting the one thing that you want and never letting it go. Ironically, this seals Abner’s fate as the one thing Gadreel wants is to clear his name and earn his place back in Heaven.

    Cas is “back in the game” as Dean puts it. Interestingly, he’s wearing what’s become his signature angel outfit. He has a new trench coat – which looks to be a much better quality than his old one! He also appears to have a much nicer suit and has ditched his blue tie. This is actually fitting as it sets him apart from the other bureaucratic angels in suits.

    Singer always seems to get the best work out of Ackles and there are a number of strong emotional scenes in the episode. Dean is ready to kill Sam if it is the only way to kill Gadreel. Cas convinces him to talk to Crowley about using the same techniques Crowley used on Alfie.

    The episode is full of great one liners and zingers from Mark Sheppard’s Crowley. Sheppard further layers Crowley in this episode. Interestingly, he refuses Dean’s offer of his own blood, looking instead for Kevin’s. It makes me wonder what it was that was special about Kevin’s blood – was it because he was a prophet or something else? There is just a flicker of a moment after Cas tells him Kevin is dead that Crowley looks truly moved over it. He then reiterates what he’s said to Dean before. That he warned Kevin to get away from Dean because people close to Dean ended up dead. We see by the end of the episode that Crowley’s words at a time when Dean is feeling guilty over Kevin and Sam have a profound effect on him.

    I loved seeing Crowley, Cas, and Dean set off on their road trip – in Cas’s “pimp-mobile.” Dean has rightly deduced that the reason the car stopped “inexplicably” is because it ran out of gas. Apparently working at a Gas 'n Sip didn't teach Cas much about cars. Watching Crowley and Cas fight over shotgun and then Dean putting them both in the backseat and having to make them behave was hilarious! I also loved Cas standing up to Crowley and telling him he was going to “be the one to carve out his heart” when Crowley betrayed them. Cas is definitely more in touch with his emotions.

    Crowley manages to get all the information he needs to get up to speed. He takes Dean and Cas to one of his operative, Cecily (Brenna O’Brien). Fun fact – O’Brien is actually Jeremy Carver’s assistant. Cecily confesses to Crowley that she’s playing both sides, waiting to see whether Abaddon or Crowley come out on top. As the consummate opportunist, Crowley respects and appreciates her initiative, but Abaddon kills her for her disloyalty. This nicely highlights the difference in the two. Huffman infuses Abaddon with a sexual presence and a barely contained glee as she kills Cecily.

    Cecily is easily able to track the Impala and lead them to Gadreel. I loved Crowley calling the Impala, Dean’s phallus on wheels – LOL! Gadreel has already killed Abner by the time the "three amigos' arrive, but Cas takes Gadreel down with one punch - it was satisfying to see Cas back in fighting form.

    Gadreel has worked closely with Dean and for all he says, I wonder if Gadreel has developed some feeling for Dean. He doesn’t think to just kill him as Metatron suggests he should have. He also knows that Dean doesn’t have it in him to let Sam die for any reason, let alone put an angel blade through his heart. Gadreel also soothes Dean with the knowledge that Sam is locked in a dream inside his head and isn’t suffering.

    Even though it isn’t Sam, Dean is deeply disturbed by Crowley’s torturing Gadreel. Dean retreats and takes the opportunity to apologize to Cas for kicking him out of the bunker – something that bothered a lot of viewers. Dean confesses he got played, but Cas is quick to forgive and draw a parallel to his own experience being “played” that Dean was not nearly as quick to forgive. Cas’s emotions also come to the fore in this scene and even moreso on learning that the angel possessing Sam is Gadreel. In fact, Cas completely gives in to his anger when he calls him a son of a bitch and accuses him of ruining the universe.

    Ultimately, of course, Crowley is able to buy his complete freedom by offering to possess Sam to get him to eject Gadreel. Cas can’t do it because he has to be invited in, and Dean has him burn off Sam’s anti-possession tattoo. I wonder how quickly he’ll get it redone?  Crowley also learns Sam and Dean’s safeword: Poughkeepsie – that means drop everything and run. I have to wonder if he can use that in future to his advantage too. Great continuity and VFX on the show’s part, and we see once again that Crowley, unlike the other demons, smokes out red.

    Crowley is actually the perfect one to send in to get Sam. As he points out, he knows how possession works. It’s interesting that Crowley quickly absolves Sam from any guilt over Kevin’s death when Sam remembers it, telling him that Gadreel killed Kevin, not Sam. Was he taking pity on Sam or furthering his own interests? Sam might be less likely to take his life back if he doesn’t feel worthy. Crowley was quick to blame Dean after all – but that helped to motivate Dean to do what Crowley wanted. It was great to finally see Tahmoh Penikett back to take up Gadreel again. Armstrong is starting to rival Sheppard for the great lines as he says, “Let me guess. Winchester trouble?” as Gadreel returns.

    Gadreel underestimates Crowley when he calls him a coward. Crowley doesn’t run from Abaddon after all. Sheppard’s little neck crack telegraph’s Crowley’s readiness to start his campaign to regain Hell. I suspect that Crowley knew right from the beginning what it was going to take to free Sam but he stalled until he could gather intel. He also schools Abaddon, telling her that they aren’t in a fight, they are waging a campaign. Crowley knows that you win more people to your cause with incentives other than fear.

    The final scene of the episode sees the brothers finally confront each other. Sam is angry at Dean for lying to him and allowing a psychotic angel to possess him when he was ready to die. In some ways, this feels like the show is continuing to beat a dead horse, but the end of the argument gives me hope that we may be working towards a new understanding between the brothers. Dean refuses to let Sam take any blame for Kevin’s death and reveals that Crowley’s words from the beginning of the episode have really had an impact on him. He tells Sam that he’s tainted and poison and that he’ll make it right by going after Gadreel on his own. Dean tells Sam that he’s not going to drag anyone else through the muck with him. Sam tells Dean to go, but also tells him that that’s not the reason. Sam’s final words are somewhat cryptic – Dean asks him to clarify, but Sam just sends him away. I’m hoping when Sam does clarify what he meant, we will finally see some actual growth between these two characters. Cas watches and is obviously upset for Dean, but also lets him leave without a word. Cas, of course, is going to stay with Sam to continue to heal him.

    Lots of seeds were planted in this episode. Clearly, we’ll be seeing Metatron and the angels vying for dominance as well as Abaddon and Crowley facing off over Hell. I’m betting Sam and Dean are back, at least working together by the end of the next episode. Were you upset to see the brothers split again? Do you think Crowley is going to keep injecting human blood and do you think it’s made him less ruthless? Did Cas seem to retain some of his humanity as well? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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