'Supernatural' Recap: A Knight's Trial
May 2nd, 2013 8:41am EDT
It doesn't take a Stanford-educated genius like Sam to figure out that I’m not an unbiased "Supernatural" blogger. I love the show, the actors, the characters, the cast, and even the crew. I happily devour everything I can find about it, and put some of my own musings out into the void. In spite of all that, I still wasn't prepared for the whack-a-doo brilliance of "The Great Escapist," thanks to write Ben Edlund (who deserves an Emmy-nod for penning this stellar episode). Position yourself near your fainting couch—because the all of the feels make you swoon like Scarlet O’Hara—and let's dive in, shall we?
Last week, Dean was the reined-in big brother who humored a weakening Sam as he insisted he was fine. This week, the gloves are off. Dean makes Papa Winchester's "Cure All Kitchen Sink Stew,” offering to feed him and swaddling him in blankets. His concern manifests itself into mother-henning to the tenth degree because Sam’s got a raging fever, hasn’t eaten in three days, and can barely stand. “You gotta let me take care of you, man. You gotta let me help you get your strength back," Dean urges. If this doesn’t prove that the writers read fan fiction, nothing will.
Sam, who is varying degrees of bleach white and frighteningly jaundice, is defiant, determined and occasionally delirious. “Those first two trails, they’re not just things I did, they’re doing something to me. They’re changing me, Dean," he explains.
Their broment is of course truncated by an email from an otherwise AWOL Kevin Tran (Osric Chau). It’s a video that our clever prophet had rigged to auto-send if he was too busy being tortured or dead to reset. Kevin has been an emotional grenade all season, and this video is the messy explosion of regret, remorse and his perceived failure. It's painfully hard to watch what Sam and Dean believe to be Kevin's last moments, which are equal parts raw and brave: "The one thing I know is that I’m not going to break this time. I’ve been uploading all my notes and translations. You’re gonna have to figure out the rest.”
"We should've moved him here," Dean gripes and the audience collectively screams, “DUH!” Sam just gloms onto the one wisp of a lead he can find, which is a petroglyph from a Colorado Native American tribe found on the tablet as an "editor's note” that essentially means “Messenger of God,” which is Metraton’s calling card. Sam, who’s now spastic with certainty, convinces Dean to follow the only lead they have.
Unfortunately, Sam’s barely lucid by the time they arrive at the deserted Two Rivers Casino. Not only is he hearing something akin to a high-pitched trill, but he’s rambling on about Dean riding “a farty donkey” at the Grand Canyon—a memory he shouldn’t have because he was barely four years old—and how he wants to tail the hotel manager because he looks like a “villain from ‘Scooby Doo’.” I’d be lying if I said Delirious-Sammy isn’t my favorite facet of Sam since Season 6’s epic Soulless Sam. The delirium works a much-needed comic relief, the kid still’s suffering. He follows the same shrill whine, which sounds an awful lot like Castiel when he first appeared in “Lazarus Rising,” to a room where hundreds of books are piled up by the door, and passes out before he can call Dean.
I’ve been blessed enough to have extremely high fevers that can spike without warning. The highest fever I recall having was over 103, and I could barely feel my legs or process anything other than how crappy I felt. Poor Dean has the pleasure of finding his brother roasting on the floor with a temperature set to Las Vegas in July, so he had no choice but to cool him down with an ice bath. This scene is craftily shot, framed so it looks more like a baptism than a quick-and-dirty way to keep Sam’s brain from deep-frying, and this is for one poignant reason: “You used to read to me when I was really little from that old classics illustrated comic book ‘Knights Of The Round Table.’ All of King Arthur’s knights and they were all on the quest for the Holy Grail. I remember thinking I could never go on a quest like that because I’m not clean. Do you think maybe I knew about the demon blood in me, and the evil of it, and that I wasn’t pure…It doesn’t matter anymore because these trials are purifying me.” If you’re not sobbing right now, I’m judging you.
It’s a rare insight to Sam’s soul, and it resonates like a suckerpunch to the soul. Sam knew even as a child that he was capital-D different, but this quest from God may be fixing it. It also explains what’s happening to his body. He’s not dying or on the verge of becoming this dark demonic hybrid ala Season 4, he’s being purified. So maybe the blood he was coughing up was actually the demon blood. God works in mysterious ways, right? Jared Padalecki turns in the performance of the season, flexing those acting muscles by cycling from seriously sick to hilarious loopy to intimidatingly angry. It’s a treat to watch him breath palpably emotion and surprisingly color into an episode that’s a turning point for Sam Winchester—a character who is often underwritten. Jensen Ackles admittedly isn’t given much to do here, but he offers beautiful support work with just an economy of facial expressions and a few zingers.
Metatron (‘King Of The Nerds’ Curtis Armstrong) is basically Heaven’s English teacher. He’s someone you’d dismiss because of the unassuming face and grandpa sweaters. He was plucked from angelic obscurity to write down God’s word before he disappeared. When God left, the archangels “cried and wailed” for their father back until they to take over the universe—something they couldn’t do without Metatron’s Opus. Instead of stepping up and diffusing the epic battle, Metatron became Switzerland, turning his back on the entire battle and hiding in literature.
While Metatron was reading Harry Potter and hopefully avoiding all things Twilight, he’d missed the multi-plane warfare between heaven, hell and humanity. And my how the angels have fallen. Under Naomi’s rule, Heaven is nothing more than a ruthless bureaucracy; its angels dogged employees tasked with doing its bidding like tracking down and torturing our favorite angel. Casitel has been hiding in the “sameness” of the thousands of Biggerson’s franchises, which made it impossible for angels to predict his location. Dropping the hearts and flowers act from “Taxi Driver,” Naomi manages to corner him by massacring everyone at a select restaurant and trying to torture answers out of him, to which Castiel responds, “In the words of a good friend, ‘Bite me.’” He doesn’t get bitten but he does get shot by Crowley’s gun loaded with bullets made from a melted down angel-blade (!!!!). The King of Hell also figures out that Castiel has hidden the coveted angel tablet inside of him, which sounds like the world’s most painful Stupid Angel Trick. “Do you even know what the mission was? They’re in all of our heads.”
One of the things that’s always so intriguing about “Supernatural,” is that the angels aren’t much better than the demons. In a disturbing parallel, Crowley and his team of employees have kidnapped and mind-warped Kevin, hiring actors to pose as Sam and Dean and recreated the safehouse boat. It’s “The Truman Show,” and Kevin is the unwitting star. Thankfully, it doesn’t take long for him to figure it out. He uses it to get the missing piece of the demon tablet, which is good because it apparently holds great power.
Back in Metatron’s library, Sam is 100% done with his indifference. “Pull the friggin’ trigger, you cowardly piece of garbage. All the time you’ve been hiding here, how much suffering have you read over? How much of it has been as the hands of your kind?” Dean steps in to tell Metatron not the tragic tale of generations of cursed Winchesters, but the story of Kevin Tran, who they believed died protecting the word of God. Apparently, the story is convincing enough, because he “erases” the angel wards in Crowley’s lair, and saves Kevin’s life. The third trial sounds easy as baking a pie made out of explosives: They have to "cure a demon.”
Then he leaves the Winchesters with these ominous words: “You really intend on closing the door of hell? You’re going to have to weigh that choice. What is it going to take to do this? And what will the world be like when it’s done?” Um, gulp. The good thing about demons is that they keep the angels in check.
This bleak whirlwind installment ends with the triumphant reunion of a recovering, hopeful Sam and Dean and their beloved angel. He’s crumpled a bloody head in the middle of the road as if he’d tried to teleport into the Impala, and overshot the landing. Dean swerves and stares at him, shocked, and of course snarky Castiel retorts, “A little help?”
What was your favorite broment this week: Dean making Sam soup? Sam’s crystal clear childhood memories? Castiel’s MacGuyver-esque smiting of Ion? Sam taking the time to style his fabulous coif to meet Metatron? Sounds off below!
Next week, Crowley vows to kill everyone The Friggin’ Winchesters have ever saved. Check out the promo below:
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Photo Credits: The CW Television Network