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Supernatural - Bring 'em Back Alive - Review

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Supernatural “Bring ‘em Back Alive” was written by the team of Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming and was directed by Amyn Kaderali. The episode sees a pretty satisfying return of Gabriel (Richard Speight Jr) and a terrific surprise return of Felicia Day as Charlie – not “our” Charlie, but it was fantastic to have Day back on the show. While the episode was full of fan service, my personally favorite part might have been when Gabriel finally takes care of the Asmodeus (Jeffrey Vincent Price) problem. Price never impressed me, and I will not miss his presence.

The episode begins with Dean (Jensen Ackles) and Ketch (David Hayden-Jones) landing in a very snowy Apocalypse-world. While the tones are washed out, I think Dean can be forgiven for being completely disoriented because it didn’t look anything like the Apocalypse-world he was in before – and we’ve been there a lot more and it never looked much like this either! Given the amount of snow, this couldn’t have been a fun week for the actors!

For once, Dean doesn’t bluster that he knows where he is even as Ketch reminds him that they only have 24 hours before the rift closes. Dean thinks that Ketch is only there to save his own skin and tells him to just go away and do his own thing. But that’s not why Ketch is there – Ketch is looking for redemption of some kind, and it’s clear that Mary (Samantha Smith) has had a real effect on him. He tells Dean that he wants to help find her and Jack (Alexander Calvert). Dean points out that Mary will likely just want to kill him – again – when she sees him.

Ketch convinces Dean to let him help. The two see an Angel patrol executing human prisoners. Dean wants to kill the angels, but Ketch stops him as it’s not smart – bad odds. Just as the hood is removed from the last prisoner, the Commander (Marco Grazzini) stops the other angel from executing her. Dean is incredulous – it’s CHARLIE!!! She is part of the inner circle of the resistance so the Commander wants to take her to Michael to interrogate. Ketch has to hold Dean back.

Meanwhile, back at the bunker, Cas (Misha Collins) is furious that Dean is in Apocalypse-world alone – and when Sam (Jared Padalecki) tells him with Ketch – that doesn’t make it any better. And let’s not forget that NO ONE THOUGHT TO CALL CAS!!!! I’m not sure why he’s not furious about that… Sam has clearly come to terms with being left behind. He’s now focused on helping Gabriel – who is cowering behind a chest of drawers when Sam and Cas enter his bedroom.

Sam explains that Gabriel’s condition is attributable to years of isolation and torture and having his grace drained. Speight is terrific in this episode. He begins the episode completely sunken in PTSD. Sam still has the vial of Gabriel’s grace. Which begs the question of why he simply gives the entire vial to him. Also? What did they use to send Dean and Ketch through the rift? Why doesn’t Sam keep some of the grace back in case he needs to do a rescue mission for Dean? Which turns out to be a really, really good question.

Gabriel doesn’t want his grace back. I loved Cas telling Sam that he’s not going to open up and let the choo-choo in – and then he explains what it means! When they try to use coercion, Gabriel completely flips out.

We finally make it back to Heaven to see what Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) and Jo (Danneel Ackles) are up to. Jo is tired of Lucifer basically doing nothing. He wants his “First Lady” to simply be at his beck and call. She is busy actually trying to run Heaven. When Duma (Erica Cerra) comes to check in, Lucifer wants her opinion on what Jo should be doing – keep him happy, right? Duma doesn’t want to comment on “couple’s issues.” Lucifer then moves on to her report on his son. So far the angels they can spare are scouring the planet – but they don’t have the manpower. Lucifer flashes his red eyes at her to get her to agree it’s a priority and she takes her leave.

Lucifer is angry that they would never have treated his father like this! Jo points out that Lucifer is definitely not his father. She points out that his father created – but he only inherited. She tells him that before they’ll treat him like God, he should try acting like God.

Dean and Ketch have a different of opinion on how to proceed. I loved Dean turning around and Ketch is just gone. Ketch points out that he’s practicing stealth – but Dean is desperate to save Charlie. He tells Ketch that it’s just because she’s seen his mother – but we all know it’s much more than that. However, it is beyond stupid for Dean to suddenly have forgotten how to hunt. Ketch is pretty sure that Dean’s interest is personal. Whatever else Ketch is, he’s not stupid.

Ketch disappears again, just before a slaver jumps out and shoots Dean. Ketch jumps the slaver who almost gets the better of Ketch, but Dean is on his feet and fires a couple of shots into the air. The slaver isn’t going to talk, so Dean shoots him in the leg. He tells them he was going to take Dean to the “Silo” – the POW camp – they’ll find it if they follow the road four or five hours from there. We can assume that he points which direction before Dean knocks him out.

Cas goes to check on Gabriel and calls Sam when he finds that Gabriel has written his story on the walls in Enochian. I thought this was a nicely creative way to fill us in – with Cas narrating flashbacks. It starts with Gabriel’s death – but Lucifer had actually killed yet another double. Gabriel was suddenly free from any obligation – to God or humans – so he moved to Monte Carlo and shacked up with Porn stars – I loved Sam’s face here! Both Sam and Cas are happy to skip the details about the Porn stars. The skim over just exactly how an Arch-angel was captured and delivered to Asmodeus.

Cas concludes that Gabriel’s intellect is clearly intact, which leaves the question of why he’s not talking. Cas wonders if he can’t, but Sam wonders if he’s simply choosing not to. Sam points out that Gabriel might think it’s safer that way.

We jump back to Lucifer who has decided to act more Godly. He has a new Men in Black suit and shades. Even the music for this scene indicates that Lucifer has been relegated to comic relief. Not surprisingly, Lucifer has no patience for whining prayers – but is attracted to the prayers of an exorcism.

The exorcism looks a lot more like The Exorcist than anything we’ve ever seen on this show. And the contrast between this rather silly – though amusing – scene with the exorcism the brothers perform on Meg in season one is pretty striking. The show is still entertaining but in a very different way. The demon inside the girl (Bianca Caroca) recognizes Lucifer right away. Lucifer tells the Priests (Curtis Tweedie and Tim Beckmann) to chill. The girl isn’t possessed by Satan – and he banishes Anthony.

When Lucifer tells them who he is, the Priests freak out. Lucifer thinks God has used perfect marketing to make him the bad guy. He tries to tell them that God made him into the fall guy – the all-purpose villain. They freak out even more when he tells them he’s running Heaven. He quickly loses patience with them – and smokes them out.

Back in Apocalypse-world, Ketch is impressed with the Slaver’s cutting edge weapons. He’s never seen angel-killing bullets before – but Dean has them too! Ketch notices that Dean is not well. Dean lies and says he’s fine – until he collapses. Ketch insists on checking the wound, and it is a lot worse than they thought.

Cas can’t heal an Arch-angel, but he lays hands on him to try to help to re-order Gabriel’s thoughts. He tells Sam that it’s still possible that Gabriel is just lost. However, after Cas’s “treatment” Gabriel’s stare is more focused and seems angry rather than afraid.

Ketch has determined that Dean’s symptoms are consistent with a poison the Men of Letters use to disable monsters in the field. He concocts the antidote because if the antidote isn’t administered, the infected dies a particularly gruesome death. Ketch warns Dean that the antidote “will smart.”

Sam sits with Gabriel, and then tells him that he needs to dig himself out of the hole he’s in. Sam empathizes with Gabriel. He tells him that he’s been there – it’s easier with no expectations or demands. He understands being nothing like the rest of his family. Like Gabriel, Sam got out – or thought he did. But then his family needed him, and now this is his life. The scene is underscored by the music of the Winchester family theme. Sam tells Gabriel he’s fine with this life – it’s where Sam can make a difference and make the world a better place. Sam tells Gabriel that his family needs him and the world needs him and Sam needs him. He pleads with Gabriel to help them. Padalecki is terrific in this scene.

Sam finally does get through to Gabriel. He finally speaks to correct Sam. He wasn’t just with hookers in Monte Carlo – they were Porn stars. And Gabriel’s eyes finally glow with his grace. And apparently, it’s firing up his grace that alerts Asmodeus to where he is.

It’s now night in Apocalypse-world. Dean is still suffering the after effects of the poison, but being Dean is insisting on keeping going. Ketch insists that Dean rest when he basically collapses but Dean insists he’s going to keep going – and then he face plants. Ketch wants to use the time to talk about Charlie.

Ketch suggests that they are running out of time, and it makes more sense to retreat and return home to get reinforcements and regroup. They may not be able to rescue Charlie and they likely won’t have time to rescue Mary and Jack even if they can get to Charlie. They’ll have a better chance to rescue everyone. Dean insists that Charlie won’t give the angels what they want – and Ketch points out that Dean’s Charlie wouldn’t. This is a different Charlie.

Dean insists that it’s 100% that the Angels will kill Charlie. Dean can’t be responsible for her death again. Ketch wants to know what Dean isn’t saying – and Dean actually tells Ketch that Charlie was like a sister to him. He also tells Ketch that she did more for Sam and him than he can even say. He tells Ketch that she was butchered and they couldn’t get there in time. Ketch understands that Dean feels like he failed her – and Dean is clearly carrying the guilt for Charlie’s death. I’m glad that they have revisited Charlie’s death because it felt badly done at the time, and this gives it more weight. Ackles is terrific in this scene, and I’m really liking the dynamic with Hayden-Jones – who also gives a terrific performance in this episode as we starts to see some of his walls come down.

Dean then pushes Ketch to tell him what he’s not telling him. Ketch tells Dean that he’s had many failures. The difference is that he didn’t try to save them. Duty always came first – but Ketch has clearly re-thought that and now clearly has regrets and guilt over those friends and colleagues that he let die. Dean tells him that he does suck – but it doesn’t carry the same bite as it usually does. And the Ketch is totally on board to save Charlie – and Dean has clearly at least started to change his opinion of Ketch. Ketch hopes that saving Charlie may be the beginning of his own redemption. And this really starts to feel like Ketch’s swan song. Anybody else totally convinced that Ketch will die in order to save Mary?

Charlie is doing her best “bite me’s” and resisting the Commander’s questioning. We also get a glimpse into how “our” Charlie must have died.

Back at the Bunker, Gabriel takes all of his grace, but isn’t sure that it’s helping. Asmodeus calls Sam to give him one chance to return Gabriel. Gabriel is clearly terrified by just the sound of Asmodeus’ voice. But Sam assures him that he’s in the safest place possible.

Lucifer is giving up on the human race but has decided that he’ll find his bliss in fatherhood. Together with Jack, he’ll remake the world with people who worship him. Jo is not impressed. She tells him to stop complaining about humans and put Heaven to rights. She tells him to make good on his promises and make more Angels – or at least give them their wings back. Lucifer admits that he lied – and then tells her not to tell anyone else.

Jo continues to play mother to Lucifer, browbeating him. She tells him that it’s not the humans, the Angels, or his Father’s propaganda that’s killing him – it’s his complete failure. He’s not really trying to find Jack because he’s afraid that Jack will have nothing but contempt for him. She drives home her point that unlike his Father, Lucifer can’t create anything. She tells him that he might as well go back to the cage – and that’s the last straw. Lucifer grabs her by the neck and his eyes glow red. And then he releases her. She tells him that now he doesn’t have her either – and she walks out. Was she practicing tough love, trying to get him angry enough to act? Or did she lose her mind and think that she could get away with talking to him like that? Let’s hope that Jo isn’t suddenly another stupid female character on the show.

Back in Apocalypse-world, Dean and Ketch arrive at the compound just as the Commander is about to execute Charlie. Just before the sword can take off her head, Dean throws in a grenade, and he and Ketch go in guns blazing. Charlie wants to know who the Hell Dean is, but goes with him when he frees her.

Meanwhile, at the Bunker, Asmodeus manages to burn off the wardings. It was a nice effect as they are seen glowing on the walls – and flickering out. Sam and Cas battle Asmodeus’ demons – and Collins throws the most convincing punch I’ve ever seen him deliver! Asmodeus enters and his demons drag Gabriel toward the door. Asmodeus tells him he’s going to punish him severely, and it seems that Asmodeus is going to kill Cas and Sam slowly.

One of the things that most impressed me about Richard Speight Jr was the scene in “Changing Channels” when he suddenly goes from the Trickster to Gabriel and there is the profound change in his entire demeanor – it’s a great performance, and one that he does here. Gabriel throws off his captors and then faces down Asmodeus who is still trying to control him. He’s almost back to the cowering Gabriel we first saw.

Then he throws back his shoulders, and suddenly, his grace completely heals him (and cleans him up) and his eyes burn with Angel grace. We get the hero shot of his wings behind him and he simply deflects the power Asmodeus sends at him. I always hated that dumb-ass suit too. I’ve rarely been happier to see a character go up in flames.

Cas and Sam fill Gabriel in on what’s been happening, but he’s still having a hard time processing all of it. Cas tells Gabriel that they may need his help to fight the Michael from the other world. Gabriel thanks them for the rescue and the redemption arc (nice!!!), but he doesn’t want to be part of the team. Gabriel tells Sam that the last time the earth was ending, he put his money on them – and that’s what he’s doing now. Cas tells Gabriel that he can’t turn his back on his father’s creation, but Gabriel points out that his Father turned his back on it first. It’s unclear why Gabriel still has his wings, however.

Dean fills Charlie in on who he is – and who the other Charlie was – and apparently this Charlie is also gay – well done, writers! She is able to tell them that the last she heard, Mary and Jack were fighting close to Dayton. Charlie isn’t sure she believes any of it until they show her the rift.

Time is running out, but Ketch and Charlie both insist that they are staying. Ketch tells Dean to bring back all the reinforcement he can, but he’ll stay and gather as much intel as possible. Charlie points out that this is her home and her friends need her. This is her fight. Dean tells her that he doesn’t want to lose her again, and she tells him that it’s not his call – and really, it was Charlie’s call in this world to decide on her own actions. It should go a little way to helping Dean forgive himself. Dean gives Charlie his extra gun and jumps through the rift just in time as the Commander and his goons show up, leaving Ketch and Charlie in a firefight.

Sam and Cas are waiting when Dean comes through and the rift closes. Sam is worried Dean is hurt – it’s fine! – and wants to know where Mary and Jack are. Dean tells them that Ketch and Charlie stayed behind to find her. And Dean wants to know what he missed – Sam and Cas fill him in. Dean is not happy when they tell him that they asked Gabriel and let him say no to helping. Sam then tells Dean that all of Gabriel’s grace is gone.

Dean is furious. He shouldn’t have come back. He is distraught as he says “Every time we get close, it all falls apart.” Cas assures Dean that they’ll find Gabriel… but we all know how hard it can be to find him when he doesn’t want to be found…

As usual at this time of the season, it’s three steps forward and four steps back – as Dean points out, it’s the same for us viewers – it’s too soon to get really close! The episode features some terrific performances, especially from Richard Speight Jr. I’m looking forward to more of Felicia Day’s kickass Charlie. I’m also happy to see Ketch really on the road to redemption – but I am convinced that it only leads one place. Not reserving some grace is a move too stupid for Sam, so we’ll put that down to poor writing and a somewhat too contrived plot. What did you think of the episode? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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