‘Supernatural’: I’m the cage

Supernatural
“Nihilism”
January 17, 2019

THEN

“This time, he’ll be nice and quiet for a change—buried. And he is. He’s gone.”

NOW

“Now this … just feels right.”

So apparently Michael’s finger snap wasn’t just to activate his monsters.  It was also to initiate a costume change. And it bears repeating—great day in the morning Jensen Ackles can wear a suit.

spn-dean-dont-objectify-me

Michael forces Sam, Cas, and Jack to their knees while ruminating on the nature of hope and gloating about his perfect vessel and the destroyed spear. 

Castiel pulls himself off the floor and flings himself at Michael. It’s an ineffectual attack, but the perfect diversion. Sam pulls a small bottle out of his bag, lights the wick, and heaves it at Michael. 

HOLY SHIT, SAM JUST HOLY FIRE MOLOTOV’D DEAN!

Michael quickly extinguishes the fire, but not before Cas claps Bobby’s angel cuffs on him. Sam holds his breath, waiting to see if the cuffs will hold. 

They do. 

The cuffs contain Michael’s magic and clip his wings, but they can’t break his hold over his monster army.  The sound of blaring sirens and whirring helicopters blades filter into the room.

While the AV Clubbers try to slap a bandaid on the city, Sam’s plan is to dump Michael in the trunk of the Impala and make a run for the Bunker.  

Um, isn’t Garth still in the trunk? 

“It’s a big trunk.”

They’ll have to get through a phalanx of Michael’s monsters first. Cas struggles to hold the door closed against a pack of werewolves while they review their nonexistent options.  Jack asks if they’re going to die there and something pings in Sam’s brain.  He shouts for Jessica.

Cas is like

spn-castiel-what-the-hell

Sam explains that Billie—Death—assigned a Reaper to keep an eye on him and Dean.  Her name is Jessica, and as they learned to their mortification in “Funeralia,” she is always watching. 

the-office-dwight-creeper

The words are barely out of his mouth when a Reaper appears.  Her name is Violet.  She says it’s her shift.

“We have shifts now, because you mess up so, so many things.”

Clearly, they’re in a pickle and Violet wants them to know they have her full emotional support.  Jack thinks Sam has lost his ginormous mind.  Neither he nor Cas can see Violet—but Michael can.  He says in his world, they locked Death away and enslaved the Reapers.

Sam tells Violet he’s calling in a favor.  He says Death owes them after they fixed that whole Rowena thing. Violet shoots back that they kind of started the whole Rowena thing, so.  Also, there are rules—as Sam well knows—and Violet doesn’t have access to that kind of … but then Violet cuts herself off.  She shushes Sam and begins listening to a voice that only she can hear.

In a blink, they find themselves standing in the Bunker’s map room.  

“Have fun.”

Michael is chained to a column as a temporary measure while Team Free Will discuss what to do with him. Michael blandly says he can hear them.  The three walk a few feet away into the library.

“Really?”

And I will note here that I am loving Jensen as Michael. I think he finally feels comfortable in the angel’s skin and is letting himself have fun with the role.  He’s snarking for the fences with every line that writer Steve Yockey tees up for him.  It’s delicious.

For TFW, not so much.  

Sam calls back to his experience of being possessed by Gadreel in Season 9.  He explains that the angel kept him trapped in a fake world inside his own head.  Crowley was able to force his way in and show Sam how to take control, and he drove Gadreel out.

RIP Crowley.  RIP Gadreel.

Maggie calls from KC to say she and the other hunters are almost to Hitomi Tower.  Sam is like, yeah … about that.  They’re all back at the Bunker, but can she check on Garth?  Never mind Garth, WHAT ABOUT BABY?!  TELL HER TO CHECK ON THE CAR!! But there’s no time for that now because the monsters are leaving KC and heading west.

From the other room, Michael asks Castiel to remind him … Lebanon is west of KC, yes?

Cas and Jack break off to put the Bunker on lockdown.  Michael calls out to put a chair against the door.  

big-lebowski-chair-door

“That’ll help.”

Michael tells Sam that nothing has changed.  “Tonight, everybody dies.”  And the last thing Sam will see is his brother’s pretty smile as Michael rips him apart.

Jack is left alone with Michael.  The angel says it’s a little insulting—the boy is nothing—and Jack takes the bait.  DO NOT ENGAGE, JACK.  DON’T ENGAGE.  Jack tells Michael that Sam and Dean are going to beat him.  Dean is strong.  With the proud certainly of a fanboy, Jack says Michael doesn’t know anything about Dean.

“I’m in his head—literally.  I know everything.”

Michael says he knows how sad Dean was when Jack died.  At least, on the outside.  But on the inside … well, it’s not that Dean was happy.  He just didn’t care.  Michael says Jack isn’t loved—he’s just a job. One that none of them wanted.  

None of what he’s saying is true, but Michael’s words slip and slither into Jack’s mind like a velvet covered icepick. 

Castiel sends Jack off to help Sam and gets his own measure of abuse.  Michael calls him an anemic babysitter.  Nothing like the Castiel he knew.  Cas does not point out that he killed the angel that Michael knew, so.  

Michael asks Castiel, “Why do you love this world enough to risk your own life?”

Castiel answers with a question of his own.  “Why do you hate this world enough to burn it to the ground?”

Put another way, God, Michael! Why are you such a megabitch??

heathers-because-i-can-be

But really, because Daddy Issues.

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Just as in this world, AV!Michael and Lucifer thought if they broke enough of their toys, Daddy would come back. But he didn’t. And now that Michael knows God is a writer, he has come to understand that all these worlds are just failed drafts.  

Michael says at first he thought he’d take a page from Auntie Amara and try to do it better.  Be more Chuck than Chuck. But now, Michael just wants to burn all of the old man’s worlds until he catches up to him.  And then,

“Even God can die.”

spn-death-chicago
“At the end, I’ll reap Him, too.”

Sam repairs the BMoL’s mind hack machine and hooks Michael up to it.  The archangel gives their cool science project a solid B-.  Jack asks what he should do while everyone is poking around in Dean’s head. Cas tells him to pray.  Also, make sure no one kills them.

Cas puts one hand on Sam’s shoulder.  He flips the machine on with the other.

They soon find themselves in a black, empty void. It’s like the eye of the hurricane that is Dean’s mind.  Memories swirl around them.  Cas says there’s so much trauma.  So many scars. 

We hear snippets from the past, including Dean’s agonized cries from Hell for Sam, his monologue to Sam’s dead body from “All Hell Breaks Loose: Part Two”, and (my personal favorite) most of his demon doppelganger’s dialogue from “Dream a Little Dream of Me”. 

It’s a beautifully done scene that reinforces for me that, while Dean still fears losing or being left by his loved ones, his greatest fear is losing himself and becoming a blunt instrument of destruction.

Sam says Dean has been through a lot, but he’s strong.  Castiel agrees, but what he meant is, if Michael has Dean trapped away and drowning, he has no idea where to even begin looking.  There’s just so much to sift through.

Sam wonders if they’re looking in the right place.  Would Michael bury Dean in trauma?  He says Dean thrives on trauma.  He’s had to his whole life.  It keeps him alert and ready.  But if Michael wanted to keep him quiet this time—keep him distracted—Sam says he would give Dean something he’s never had before.

Contentment. 

And Dean has found it running his own dive bar. He’s never had anything this nice.  “This is my dream.”  

And let’s just take a moment to appreciate a few of the details from the glorious set design of Rocky’s Bar.

spn-rockys-bar-set-1

The taxidermied squirrel wearing an aviator’s cap. The mounted moose head on the wall. What may or may not be the coin box of a magic fingers bed sitting behind the squirrel.  The carved wooden monkey that lived on the bar in Harvelle’s Road House.

spn-road-house-harvelles-monkey

The Calaveras painting that calls back to the bar in “Brother’s Keeper” where Dean killed Death Prime. The El Sol neon sign, calling back to wish!verse Carmen from “What is and What Should Never Be”. The tagline for the beer in that episode was, “Go someplace better”. The original Kansas KAZ license plate hanging over the bar.  

And the three taps proudly serving Family Business Beer Company’s Cosmic Cowboy IPA, Ghost White IPA, and Fox Rye Lager.

family-business-road-trip

Oh, Show.  Oh, clever, clever Show.

Dean is safely stuck in a loop of slicing limes, not signing the persistent lawyer lady’s sale papers, waiting for Sam and Cas to finish their ghoul thing in Wichita, killing the odd vampire that comes in looking for revenge, and doing shots with the best damn psychic in the state.

SPN-Pamela-Barnes-Sassela.gif

AHHHHH!! SASSELA! IT’S SASSELA!!!  EEEP!

Sam tells Cas to try looking through Dean’s good memories.  The two we hear most clearly are about hooking up with the posse from “Frontierland” and Dean asking Sam to see if they have any pie from “All Hell Breaks Lose: Part 1.” Which seems like an odd one for the happy column, but it was the last moment before their lives well and truly (and literally) went to hell. 

Oh, Dean.

But when Sam hears Dean talking about Rocky’s he quickly realizes the memory is out of place.  It’s never happened. That’s where they should go.  And when they get there, the look on Sam’s face can be described as, “This must be what going mad feels like.”

Dean pours two pints of Cosmic Cowboy while Sam and Cas try to get their bearings.  When Sassela walks into the room Sam decides, no this must be what going mad feels like. 

He blurts out that none of this is real! Not the bar. Not Sassela.  She huffs back that he’s never met anyone more real than her.  Cas explains that what Sam meant is that she’s just a complex manifestation of Dean’s memories designed to distract him.

And let’s talk about Sassela for a minute.  Seeing her again was an unexpected delight.  She feels right in this dreamscape, but there are any number of people past or present Michael could have conjured up. I think the answer is that Sassela’s memory isn’t weighted with the same baggage that Lisa, Jo, or Charlie’s would be. And the last time Dean saw Sassela was in Ash’s Heaven bar in “Dark Side of the Moon,” which has a nice symmetry to it.

spn-we-got-ash-killed-too

The new variables of Sam and Cas don’t change Dean’s loop.  They jump right along with him. When the vampires attack, they’re both spattered with blood.  It’s hard to say which one is more taken aback by how visceral Dean’s mind is. They both gape slack-jawed as the bodies hit the floor.

Sam begins to get shouty as he tells Dean that Michael is possessing him. He has to remember that!  The bar isn’t real.  Sassela isn’t real.  Sam reminds Dean that they were there together when she was blinded.  Dean looks at Sassela who shakes her head.  The very idea!  

But then he’s hit with the memory of her screams as her eyes were BURNED OUT OF HER FOOL SKULL, EEEP!  When he looks at her again, she’s wearing the white plastic prosthetics that she told angel Anna make her look extra-psychic. Sassela says she’s been blind for a while.

“Thank Feathers here for that one.”

Cas is like, OMG IT WAS AN ACCIDENT I TOLD HER NOT TO SPY ON MY TRUE FORM. 

Sam says it’s not just that … she’s dead. She died helping them. The upbeat song that’s been playing on repeat winds down until it sounds like a dirge. Dean flashes back to Sassela bleeding out in a motel room.  

And it doesn’t seem like these boys age, but then you see an episode from 10 years ago and they look like infants.  

When Dean flashes back to the bar, Sassela is gone. But even that isn’t enough to shake him into awareness. He insists this is his life. This is the dream! Castiel pleads with him to remember. They need him to come back.

And then Sam says the word. It’s their go word. It means drop everything and run.

Poughkeepsie.

It all comes flooding back to Dean. All of it. Dean remembers. He remembers everything.

Sam looks like he wants to weep with relief.  

And then Michael shows up.

Dean orders the archangel out of his head, but does he mean that? Really? Deep down? Michael doesn’t think so.  

He knows Dean. He is Dean.

Michael says Dean only tolerates Castiel because he thinks he owes the angel for saving him from Hell. He mockingly growls the “gripped you tight” line back at Cas. I imagine the Season 14 gag reel is just going to be 8 minutes of Misha not being able to get through this scene.

Michael asks what Cas has done since then—other than make mistakes.  One after the other after another. And this is Michael’s cruel genius. Because he’s lying, but there’s also a tee-tiny kernel of truth to what he says. Because Cas has made so, so many mistakes.  Dean has even said as much, way back in Season 6 in “The Man Who Would be King. 

But when the chips are down, Dean will choose Cas all day long.

spn-dean-castiel-rather-have-you

And as for Sam … well, according to Michael, Dean was his happiest when Sam left for school and it was just him and John. Michael says that, deep down, Dean knows that Sam will always abandon him, again and again. 

We all know that Dean’s general fear of abandonment is too deeply seated to ever really go away. But it’s also true that he knows from experience that Sam will be there for him when he needs him.

I mean, unless Jeremy Carver is running the show.

spn-dean-sam-hit-a-dog

Dean barks at Michael to shut up, but the archangel just keeps chipping away.  Dean doesn’t need them … he doesn’t even like them.  Michael says they’re not his family, they’re his responsibilities.  Sam starts to look a little nervous at that one.  He heard Dean’s memory.  “Dad didn’t even have to tell me. It was just always my responsibility, you know? It’s like I had one job” 

Michael calls Sam and Cas a weight around Dean’s neck.  He insists that Dean was desperate to get away from them.  And that is why he said, “Yes.”

Michael smirks, but he’s overplayed his hand.  Cas realizes something is wrong. Michael is stalling.

Maggie and the AV Clubbers hustle into the Bunker, just barely ahead of Michael’s monsters after failing to stop them at a roadblock.  And shouldn’t they have just gone straight back to the Bunker to begin with?  Just all hole up, have a nice cold pint, and wait for this to all blow over?

Shaun-of-the-dead-pint-winchester.gif

I mean, the Bunker is supposed to be the safest place on earth, warded against any evil ever created. But then Andrew Dabb decided in Season 10 that plastic explosives trump warding and now errrrrbody can get into the Bunker, so.  

Although, anybody can get into the Bunker if the front door isn’t actually locked.  Because—surprise!—when Tiger went into the woods alone? Yeah, he totally got turned and now he’s under Michael’s control.  

The monsters flood into the Bunker.  Jack watches as they make short work of the AV Clubbers so he incinerates them with a sonic scream and burns a hole through his soul.

Who could have possibly seen that coming?

futurama-shocked-not-shocked

In Dean’s head, Michael pshaws at the idea that he needs his monster cavalry to save him. Dean challenges him to prove his power by snapping his fingers and nuking them all. Cas says the archangel can’t. Because inside Dean’s head, they’re all just mental projections.  They’re all the same and Michael is just talk.

Except for the part where Michael can back up all of his big talk with a legitimate beat down. Fight fight pummel fight. It’s remarkable to see how Jensen changes his whole physical approach when he’s fighting as Michael. Dean is a brawler. Michael is compact and efficient. There’s an elegance to his movement, like a dance.

Team Free Will picks itself up off the floor again some more.  Michael observes that they didn’t really think this out, did they? Even if they could force him out, what do they think he would leave behind?

SPN_Donnie-Raphael-S4.jpg

“You’d be nothing but blood and bone.”

The ohshit awareness that Michael isn’t bluffing flashes across Dean’s face.  It’s just as quickly replaced with resolve.  New plan.  They don’t kick Michael out.

“We keep him in.”

Dean pulls open the door to the walk-in cooler.  He grapples with Michael who easily throws him aside.  Sam moose-checks the archangel from behind, catching Michael off guard and sending him tumbling into the cooler.  Castiel slams the door shut and Dean slips the lock into place.

Michael pounds and rages from inside the cooler.

Dean says the door will hold.  His mind.  His rules.

“I got him. I’m the cage.”

boom

I can’t tell you how much I love this.  I love that Team Free Will worked together but that ultimately it’s Dean and his strength of will that will keep Michael contained.

At least, I imagine, for a little while.

Dust settling.  Maggie tells Sam that the monsters have all dispersed and no longer appear to be under Michael’s control.  The expression on Sam’s face says there’s still a supercharged army out there waiting to be activated along with a whole bunch of newly turned werewolves and vamps.  He’ll save the celebration for later.

Jack is in the kitchen getting the nephilim version of the, ‘I’m not angry, just disappointed’, lecture from Castiel.  He reminds Jack that he can’t afford accidents.  Not when the consequence is losing a part of his soul.  The cost to Jack seems worth it.  He says the monsters would have killed them.

Cas can’t really argue that point.  He simply says that he’s seen first hand what the absence of a soul does.

spn-sam-pull-up

Not really making your case here, Feathers.  

Castiel ignores me.  He says it’s not just about Jack staying alive.  It’s about Jack staying him.

Jack says it won’t happen again.

Narrator: It will happen again.

Dean is in his room. He’s standing in front of the mirror with his arms braced on the sink. There’s the sound of low drumming, almost like a heartbeat.  Dean blows out a breath and quietly tells himself it’s just him.  The door rattles in his mind. Dean tells himself again, a little more firmly, that it’s just him.

Dean finally lifts his head and looks in the mirror.  Michael rages.  The door holds.  It’s just him.

“So, not all good news.”  Billie appears.  She purrs Dean’s name to get his attention.  She could have knocked, but she figured all that banging on the door in his head was enough.  Dean says Violet the Reaper really came through with the assist.

“You broke the rules.”

Billie says she took a calculated risk.  She warned him.  About the dangers of jumping from world to world.  Dean doesn’t deny he ignored her.  He simply says that rescuing Mary and Jack and helping the AV Clubbers was worth it.  Dean turns away from her as he says this, maybe hoping she won’t notice how hard he has to work to keep the door in his mind safely locked.

Billie asks if Dean remembers his visit to her reading room and all the shelves with all the books describing all the ways he might die.  Dean calls them upbeat classics.  Billie tells him that they’ve all been rewritten.  They all end the same way now, with the Archangel Michael escaping his mind and using Dean as his vessel to burn down this world.

evil elmo fire

All of the books, but one.

Billie holds the slim black notebook out to Dean.  He opens it, reads what’s on the page, and looks at Death nonplussed.  What is he supposed to do with this?  He can barely get the words out. Billie flatly tells him that’s up to him. She leaves Dean and his olive henley of hotness alone again in his room, looking completely and utterly lost.

Supernatural airs Thursday at 8:00 p.m. (Eastern) on The CW. Whitney also watches LegaciesFollow her on Twitter @Watcher_Whitney.

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