SUPERNATURAL Recap: The Road Out of Hell

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We opened this week of SUPERNATURAL with Sam still in Hell and Lucifer revealing that he had manipulated both Sam and Rowena to get the younger Winchester back in the cage with him. But Lucifer wasn’t interesting in tormenting him — oh no, he wanted to help Sam (then again, the devil is a liar). To do this, he took Sam back through some particular memories: kissing a girl, sacrificing himself at the end of the Apocalypse, and a scene with Amelia. Lucifer’s lesson? To convince Sam that he needs to be the man he once was and sacrifice his loved ones and himself in order to beat the Darkness.

Meanwhile, Crowley had also come to the realization that his mother was in league with the devil and confronted her. Naturally, the new King of Hell wasn’t eager to have Lucifer roaming the earth once again and no amount of Groupie Rowena’s praise of the devil was going to convince him. Her plan? To have Lucifer conquer the Darkness, ascend to his throne and then become his queen.

As Crowley yelled at his mother, Dean was trying to get in touch with his brother. Sam wasn’t answering his phone, naturally, and Dean’s worry was soon interrupted by a vomiting episode. Cas appeared to announce that smiting sickness was a thing (no, seriously, it’s a thing) and Dean had to get away from the site of the recent smiting by angel in order to feel well again. Instead, Cas volunteered to check if Amara had been killed. Soon after, Dean arrived back at the bunker and Crowley called with some bad news: Sam was in Hell with Lucifer.

The forrest where Amara was allegedly smited was dark — in the middle of the afternoon. And it’s there that Cas met a bureaucratic angel who had been sent to confirm Amara’s death as well. She expressed upon him that the Winchesters were the real heroes and Cas was really nothing more than a grunt in the great fight. Moments later they stumbled upon Amara, who killed and consumed the female angel and then introduced herself to Castiel, insulting him before sending him off to do a job for her.

Dean, meanwhile, got a meeting with Billie the reaper, who works with Crowley. She opened a doorway to Hell for him and he soon reunited with Crowley. Dean wanted to kill Rowena right off the bat, but Crowley cautioned patience because Rowena would be needed. His idea was to restrain her with a witch-trapping collar. Despite Rowena knowing of their plan, Dean and Crowley got the one-up on her and Cas showed up to deliver the message that Amara was coming.

In Hell, Lucifer made one last ditch effort to convince Sam to be his vessel, but Sam refused. He was prepared to die and watch Dean die, but he refused to be Lucifer’s bitch. As he rightly pointed out, Lucifer had help from his brothers and fathers the last time they beat the Darkness and even if he did accomplish it here, he would just try to jump-start the Apocalypse again. And so Lucifer resorted then to beating up Sam and Dean rushed to the cage when his brother started screaming. Cue a big fight between Castiel, Lucifer, Sam and Dean. As Rowena enacted her spell, Lucifer disappeared, but not before asking Castiel if he had any final words.

Later, we got the first scene ever with all five of the characters and then Crowley sent Dean, Sam and Cas on their way. But Cas opted not to join the Winchesters. Instead, he returned to Hell and revealed the fact that had agreed to be Lucifer’s vessel to Crowley and Rowena. And then he killed Rowena when she confirmed she was the only one who could return him to the cage. If you’re really dead I will miss you, Rowena. I liked you a lot.

Here’s my problem with this “Casifer” storyline: SUPERNATURAL spent two seasons with its main characters continuously saying “don’t let Lucifer out of his cage or become his vessel, that would be a super really terrible bad idea”. And then when he is let out of his cage and when Sam does agree to become his vessel it’s because it’s the end of the world and the moment has all sorts of emotional repercussions and leads to terrible consequences (see: trip to Hell). Lucifer even takes Sam to revisit the moment when he made a big choice and sacrifice (lasting an additional two seasons) in taking on Lucifer as a vessel. This was a hugely important storyline the show’s overall mytharc and it’s one that had an enormous and lasting impact on both Winchesters.

But now, in the span of only two episodes, the writers have seemingly said “remember those two seasons? Well, forget ‘em! We’re just going to throw that out of the window and let Lucifer loose. And not only that, but we’re going to have him inside of CAS, despite that making no sense in terms of canon (and diminishing the storyline concerning Dean and Sam as archangel vessels). Who cares if we’ve nullified the struggle, emotional resonance and gravitas of previous seasons, amirite?!”

And….for what? What’s the point of this? The emotional resonance of this storyline can’t equal the earlier one because there was no build-up and Castiel simply doesn’t have the personal connection to this arc that both of the brothers had. This wasn’t about a seasons-long internal struggle. Castiel made a unilateral and terrible split-second decision because he was sad about his lot in life and wanted to be a hero (while Sam intelligently opted not to go this route because it was very clearly a bad idea). What’s the lesson to be learned here? You may be saying “it’s too early to tell, Clarissa”, but the truth is that it isn’t. It’s the disregard of the initial journey that already erodes whatever lesson may be found.

If you follow logical storytelling, the end of this possession arc would be Castiel’s death. He may end up doing something heroic along the way, but he would die (and I hope he would do something heroic because there wasn’t much about his choice here that was heroic). That would be a lasting consequence and would harken back to last time he made a deal with a devil (see: seasons 6 & 7). But since his permanent death is not likely to happen, this storyline seems like an unnecessary retread and subversion of the emotional struggle of the earlier arc. Not to mention this episode framed Castiel in a rather poor light for the decision he made — even if he did this to help save angels and other people from Amara, it still comes across as deliberately obtuse after Sam’s eloquent refusal. It doesn’t feel sacrificial at all, it just feels self-serving in the face of fully knowing the dangers of this choice. And, frankly, it wasn’t fair to Cas that he was portrayed like this.

And that is disappointing. Because emotional struggle is what SUPERNATURAL is all about and this situation, regrettably, feels like nothing more than a plot device.

The next new episode of SUPERNATURAL will air on January 27 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on The CW. Watch a preview here.

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  • bjxmas

    My big question is, did Amara WANT Cas to let Lucifer out? Was Cas in full control of his actions when he said “Yes”? Seems like she sent Cas there for a reason. Maybe that reason is she needs Lucifer out and about, to either convince God to show, or maybe to consume him and become even more powerful. I hope there is more to the situation than we are aware of now.

  • ZoeF

    I agree with everything you wrote. The episode left me
    inarticulate with anger, so I’m glad you spoke for me. Carver and his bunch of
    writers are piggybacking on every successful moment of the Kripke years and
    using them for easy ideas and cheap drama. I’m furious.

  • ZoeF

    What bothers me the most is that for one flippant, cheap play for drama, the biggest arc of the 5 Kripke years was nullified – thanks to Cas’s spur of the moment self-absorbed choice, Lucifer is now out in the world, and all that sacrifice and pain for 5 years was for nothing.

  • Melaniedesi

    I’m not nearly so bothered by this as you are. I don’t see how it negates or lessens what happened before. I think Lucifer is a great character who adds immeasurably to the conflict of the situation. Having him possess Cas finally gives Misha something to do. The only thing that had me scratching my head was the actual logistics of Lucifer possessing Cas — I mean technically isn’t Cas in a vacated reconstituted meatsuit resembling Jimmy Novak? Which, yes, he had permission to possess originally, but how could he give permission to Lucifer? Does this mean that Castiel is sort of human now? (Which is interesting in and of itself)
    I loved Lucifer’s running commentary on Sam’s choice w/ Amelia sounding like it came off of TVWOP or somewhere.
    As far as Cas making the snap decision — perfectly in character — he’s really, really terrible at thinking things through – he’s not a baby in a trenchcoat so much as he’s a teenager in a trench coat.

  • M a r i e

    I did think this decision was in character for Cas. As great as he (and IMO he has been a hero) is we’ve seen in the past that he can make terrible decisions based upon ego. I’m interested to see where this goes. My only issue with the current story is that as much as I love Mark S I really think Crowleys time should be up. It makes no sense that Lucifer once free would keep him alive.

  • Clarissa

    I actually pondered that theory, but I ultimately disregarded it. It made no sense to me that she would want him out seeing as he helped God to lock her away last time. And any alliance between the two of them seems foolish since neither seems like the type of compromise with the other. Could I be wrong? Sure. But it just doesn’t make any sense to me given what we’ve seen thus far.

  • Clarissa

    Hi Melanie! I agree that it gives the character something to do as the writers seem to have been struggling for a long time to give him some purpose. But I still think it was a foolish decision and sort of sullied the earlier struggle. Agree to disagree on that. But I do think that it might have been better if the show actually DEFINED what Castiel is now. That’s why I think it makes no sense in canon. Given what we know about angel possession, Lucifer shouldn’t have been able to possess him.

    And yes, unfortunately he’s not the best at thinking through consequences. To be fair, a lot of the characters on this show (including the brothers) have made bad decisions before. But often they’re done to save the world or people they love (even if some aspect of it is selfish). This one just really felt more selfish than that. It wasn’t about protecting the world so much as it was about wanting people to like him and prove he was a hero. Maybe that wasn’t the intention, but that’s how it came across to me. I don’t feel like it was heroic at all and, frankly, I felt alternately angry at Cas and bad for his character because he was cast in such a poor light. You could say Dean taking on the MOC was a bad decision and it definitely was. But he also wasn’t aware of the consequences then. Cas *knew* the consequences here — he just acted like he didn’t care. Which is unfortunate.

  • Melaniedesi

    I agree with you that Castiel’s motive seemed — I think I would call it self-centered rather than selfish. Which, to me, emphasizes the brothers’ selfless sacrifices, rather than diminishes them. I didn’t get that Cas didn’t care — he actually seemed kinda despairing to me. He’s so been looking to put his faith in someone. Lucifer was a poor, poor choice. But again, that’s in stark contrast to Sam, who, despite looking for the higher power help, still put his faith in Dean.

  • Melaniedesi

    P.S. I don’t want to sound too much like I’m defending the storyline choice — I’m not really. I’m not sure where the storyline will take Cas — its not one of my favorite twists — I mean, will they kill him? Try to have him do the big sacrifice 2.0? It doesn’t seem like it will end well and I just love Mark as Lucifer so much I wish we could have kept him. But as I said, It just didn’t bother me much its where the writers ended up.

  • Clarissa

    Hey, don’t worry about sounding defensive! I completely agree that this choice was despairing. That much was clear. But here’s the part that I thought was….maybe self-centred or self-serving is better than just plain old “selfish”: all of the reasons that Sam gave for why being Luci’s vessel were things that Cas HAD to know. He had to know that Luci couldn’t be trusted and that he was damning the world to let him out (Cas isn’t stupid). And he just…didn’t care or didn’t mind. This was the first time someone made a deliberate choice on the show fully knowing that the world as a whole could be destroyed or knowing the exact consequences that would occur (often times when the characters make a bad choice they don’t specifically know the bad consequence that will come — this happened to Cas in season 6 with the leviathan soul storyline). This wasn’t about damning the world out of love or to save it — this was about *his* feelings. It was either because he was sad people didn’t appreciate him or because he wanted to prove he was a hero. And that’s never really been the motivation for the bad choices before (that’s never even been Cas’ rationale for his choices. You could argue that Dean taking on the MOC was sort of in the same vein, but that was also done without full knowledge of the consequences). So that’s the aspect I think was “selfish”, you know?

    Logic would dictate that they kill him, even if they try to prove that he’s not expendable beforehand. But chances are they won’t kill him, so there’s no point in rehashing the storyline.

  • Melaniedesi

    You’re absolutely right about Castiel knowing the consequences and that does make it really hard to understand how he could have said yes to Lucifer. Maybe the writers have an ace up Castiel’s trenchcoated sleeve that we don’t know about yet? Yeah, grasping at straws, I know.
    Who knows? They *might* kill him – everybody dies on Supernatural! (It just doesn’t take with the Winchesters — Billie the Reaper notwithstanding. In fact, the more she keeps saying that, the more I think one of the Winchesters will gank her. Its amazing to me how arrogant the supernatural beings continue to be about the Winchesters, you’d think that the fact Dean killed her boss would at least give her a little pause, but no . . . . .;))