Supernatural "Stairway to Heaven" Review: That Escalated Quickly

By MaryAnn Sleasman

May 14, 2014

Supernatural S09E22: "Stairway to Heaven"


I think this might've been the first Castiel-centric episode of Supernatural where I was actually totally invested right from the start. I didn't even have to be convinced it wasn't pure fangirl fodder. (I know.) "Stairway to Heaven" wasn't even a complete Cas-fest; the Castiel stuff shared screentime with Dean's epic bloodlust/manpain, which, with one—ONE—episode left in Season Fine, has finally started to get cray cray and awesome. You know, just in time for summer break. 

Despite the dour ending, "Stairway to Heaven" featured "Commander" Castiel in all his reluctant, fearless-leader glory, and after hearing all about Castiel the Soldier for so long, it was nice to actually see that persona. He's been the "baby in a trenchcoat" for far too long. I mean, "raised your ass from perdition" is the finest flavor of Castiel—though "new and improved, with 100 percent more pop culture references" is a close second. Also: Aww, he was so proud to get the LOTR reference. 


And of course, like basically everything else on Supernatural, Castiel's tenure as the cuddly puppy-dog alternative to Team Boogertron was short-lived, and of course it was because he couldn't bring himself to shank Dean in response to the shanking of Tessa, the latest casualty of Dean's ongoing shank-fest who was also an angel or something? STOP TOUCHING THE MYTHOLOGY, SUPERNATURAL. JUST STOP IT. 

And stop killing all the girls. 

And stop... just stop. If you want to stab something, go stab Sam, because he's been super-dumb lately and at least then I'll be able to feel all happy about the Cain and Abel parallels you've been shoving down our throats since Cain first revealed that Abel—the biblical goody-two-shoes of old—was actually cavorting with Satan when his big bro did him in. Not to mention the fact that next week is the season finale, and all good Supernatural finales require Sam to do his best corpse-bride impression. The show is is 63 in dog years, it's allowed to be comfortable, and frankly, when it tries to rewrite the details, we get "Bloodlines" and "Taxi Driver" and the muckity-muck of an uneven season that started out promising, which makes the pain feel that much more severe. 

There's certainly still hope for a great finish, though. "Stairway to Heaven" is proof of that—aside from the whole reapers-are-angels thing. 


Here's what was great: 

Dean's Mark of Cain bloodlust was kicked up to 11 this week, as he argued with Sam over whether or not the First Blade should be his new favorite binky and went far beyond being a mere dickhead to acting really quite terrifying. The terror isn't necessarily in the bloodshed—though it's definitely disturbing and such an extreme opposite of the Anti-Torture Dean we saw in the aftermath of his hell-cation. The gore, the blood, the delight in terrorizing his victims is the icing on the cake of everything else. "Everything else" being when Dean isn't running someone through with the First Blade. 

Dean is capable of being pretty bloodthirsty and scary even when he isn't all hopped up on Mark of Cain juice. He has some pretty nasty—and totally sober—kills under his belt. We know exactly what he's capable of, and the thing is, so does Dean. With the exception of his time in Purgatory, Dean himself is generally pretty horrified by the man he's grown up to be, clinging to the "hero" label as though that makes it better somehow. And maybe it does, but just a little. Both Dean and Sam have certainly done "what they had to do" at various points in Supernatural's run, from throwing a demon-blood kegger to torturing for hire to letting Lucifer say yes to the meat-dress to or stuffing an archangel down a coma patient's throat against his will. Even in Purgatory, I don't think Dean particularly enjoyed the killing, but he enjoyed not having to think about it, not having to justify it. It was "pure" in the sense that inhibitions weren't necessary. They were still in the back of his mind, however.


Together, the Mark and the First Blade eliminate that inhibition. We've seen Dean do some terrible stuff even with self-control. Dean WITHOUT self-control is something utterly terrifying, and not only does Dean know it, but Dean likes it. He's spent half this season trying to win back Sam's approval following the Gadreel incident, and years before that trying to please Castiel, Lisa, John Winchester, and cute blondes in high school history class, and it's never really worked out. Now, as far as Dean's concerned, it doesn't have to. 

Back in Sam's demon blood days, so much of his self-destructive rage was fed by residual disappointments with his life, his relationships, his feelings of failure when it came to (not) saving Dean from Hell, (not) being the good soldier John Winchester wanted, (not) escaping the hunting life. All those seeds were planted well before the series picked up in the middle of his life. Dean has sorely needed a similar treatment for a long time, and his descent into corruption is no less satisfyingly tragic. 


Metatron's tenuous control on Heaven, which is slipping further and further despite his swelling ranks, proved itself to be a comfortably slow-burn story heading into the finale. It made Gadreel's long-anticipated betrayal a cathartic experience for all... until Dean stabbed him with the First Blade. It's just a flesh wound, right? RIGHT?

"Stairway to Heaven" also (sort of) gave us a reunited Team Free Will. Dean's reassurance that Cas and the Winchesters versus the world beats the armies of heaven and hell any day of the week represented the sort of solidarity Season 9 has been missing since... well, it's just been missing it. Granted, it's hard to get behind the awesome threesome with Dean in his current homicidal state, but, eh, we'll get there. Teamwork makes the dream work. 

I'm still really bummed about killing off Tessa though. :( 



NOTES

– Dumb Winchester Sighting: OMG get it together, Sam. 

– Lol @ Boogertron being called a "nerd." I see what you did there!

– "Old shoes and... alcoholism?"


What did you think of "Stairway to Heaven"? What are your predictions for the finale? Who's gonna die (for now)? Who's gonna live (for now)?


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  • MichelleHood24 May 19, 2014

    :) I've been waiting for dean to finally get here and it's utterly terrifyingly magnificent. Dean has always had darkness and anger, and well is capable killing with ease, and each season we see a steady increase in his violent ways so this season and the effects of the mark just fit so well. Poor Tessa I liked her I wish they hadn't have killed her, and poor Gadriel, dean went full primal instincts on him I hope he's ok I was getting used to seeing that handsome hunk of a man. METATRON MUST DIE.

  • CharmedOneP391 May 17, 2014

    So ive wanted to ask about this for a while but not that its been brought back up during Tessa's (RIP) speech, the whole lost souls who would've gone to heaven and their screams, anyone remember episode 4 of this season with Charlie and The Wizard of Oz take, when Charlie died she woke up and was talking about a nice dream and Dorothy told her she went to heaven. But the hates were shut and locked... Cmon writers make sure you talk to each other before adding in mid season story arcs y'all are better than that

  • woz22 May 17, 2014

    So we go on to the finale underwhelming or what I preferred Abbadon story then this metatron is boring and stupid at least Dean is going all psycho on everybody, hopefully next season the last. I feel the show has run out of ideas now and is rehashing the same ideas again a bit like Lost and Heroes I am not sure if I tune in for season next year.

  • jannel May 18, 2014

    I don't think the show has run out of ideas yet. The storyline is amazing. The writers don't know what the heck their are doing. All the best behind the scene people have
    either died of left the show. Kripke, Lunden, ( I think that's how you spell his name ) Gamble, and of course Kim Manners. CW/TNT has one really amazing show on ( SPN ) and they are screwing it all up. The audience ( fans ) are not only American but from Canada, South American, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and even now the fandom has extended to Muslim countries.

    I'm sure that worldwide, the ratings for SPN are explosive. We basically only hear of the American and maybe Canadian ratings. But I'm sure, world wide, at this point and time, globally, the rating are phenomenal. Jensen said in one of comic con shows, that he and his fellow SPN work family even had a mass said especially for them ,in Rome at Saint Peters, under a portrait of Michael and Lucifer. How amazing is that !

  • woz22 May 18, 2014

    It will probably end up like Quantum Leap with endless reruns on cable worldwide yes but I feel the show has run its course and if does continue it will be like flogging a dead horse !

  • alcalde May 23, 2014

    And being Supernatural, the horse will go to Hell then be raised up again. It will go the Heaven but return to earth. Then it'll go to Purgatory but escape. Then it'll time travel and become its own father or something.

  • jannel May 18, 2014

    I don't really agree or disagree with your reply. As long as SPN get the mythology straight and they keep up with the consistency of the show. Ending SPN would be fine but with the respect that the show deserves. And if the writers can't get it together then yes it will be like flogging a dead horse. For me, as long as the show ends with all loose ends tied up, mythology straight and a powerful and believable, ending that would satisfy all the present and future fans, when it ends is not the question. It's how it ends that is the question.

  • AnaPeradenic May 16, 2014

    Spears & Aguilera!!!! bahahahahhaa!!! laughing so hard!! tears!!!

  • viidu May 16, 2014

    Why Tessa? I liked her! Shame on you, writers, cause it isn't necessary.

  • Panther927 May 16, 2014

    So instead of making metatron a formidable foe that they should be afraid of and raise the stakes for us as viewers about what could happen . We get a loony opponent , why supernatural ?? I want to feel that our heroes are in real danger !!! not that them winning is inevitable.

    Favorite quote in the episode : " I'm very pop culture savvy now " Castiel hahhah I don't think I'll ever reconcile Big Baby in a trench coat with commander Castiel who understands pop culture references .

  • alcalde May 23, 2014

    This, this a thousand times this! I regret only that I have but one thumbs up to give.

    This episode INTENTIONALLY made the sole remaining Big Bad look like a bumbling idiot (along with the angels in general). BOWLING? I couldn't help but feel like Metatron is being written/performed like Rick Moranis' character in Spaceballs (a spoof on Star Wars with Moranis as a bumbling version of Darth Vader).

    Worse, they've gone off the deep end with Metatron. Back in the day, Chuck was God and also a writer. He actually represented Supernatural creator Eric Kripke, a writer and "god" of the show. Now Metatron the new God-wannabe has broken the fourth wall. He's the voice of the writing room and goes on and on about fiction writing terminology. I think the character is vastly less interesting to the audience than it is to the writing room; Metatron is somewhat of a vanity project.

    I think it's all about the paychecks at this point. :-(

    On Arrow season 2 is giving us a second half almost entirely devoted to the main plot, including the last six episodes. The Big Bad has been in the making since the early part of season 1 and is slowly destroying everything the hero cares about. He's had several years in show time to plan his revenge and is always two moves ahead of the heroes. Combined with his resources, allies and his own abilities he seems completely unbeatable. I believe the final two episodes and part of the one before it take place over a single evening with a reckoning/battle a season in the making with the budget being blown on special effects, fires, explosions, CGI, extras, etc. as an entire city of half a million is beset by an army of super-strong, super-healing terrorists, a homeland security agency blocking all routes out and sending in a wave of drones to level the city to keep the army and its super-soldier formula from escaping and our heroes only having until dawn to save the day.

    Supernatural is giving us Metatron... trying on a trenchcoat and bowling.

    Oh we are SO far away from the days of the Yellow-eyed Demon.....

  • ChicN May 15, 2014

    Season 9 is giving me Season 6 feelings. More often than not I'm embarrassed to be watching this show. A great deal of the time I'm embarrassed for the actors. Season 6 filled me with so much disgust, I didn't watch (haven't watched and will never watch) season 7. I fell into season 8 and only felt baffled about who the hell Charlie was, nothing else left me perplexed storywise. I'm feeling very little desire to watch season 10 and I know it's the last. Ugh.

    I just didn't like this ep. I love Team Free Will, but it just seems so hollow that we are finally getting what we were expecting for the entire season in the last couple of rushed episodes of the season. I can't believe how stupid they portray the angels. I can deal with their Earthly naivete and racism, but I can't stand that these soldiers are HORRIBLE tacticians. They got one job and they aren't even good at it! How did no one not propose that someone was impersonating Castiel? Why didn't Dean or Sam propose this and show some fucking unwavering loyalty for their "brother" instead of standing around looking stupid and letting doubt be sown in the ranks that they probably would need to help fight Metatron?

    Why are the angels just joining up with the dude that cast them out in the first place, instead of going over and kicking his ass? Their sudden, but inevitable demise is assured and uninteresting.

    Dean going psycho just in time for the summer break. *yawn*

    They did such a poor job with soooo many storylines this season. JFC.


  • alcalde May 23, 2014

    &They; got one job and they aren't even good at it!

    So true. This whole episode the viewers knew everything that was going to happen even if we weren't supposed to but the characters couldn't figure anything out. We all knew right away that Metatron was behind the suicide attacks. We all knew Dean brought the knife with him. We knew the portal was a trap. We knew Gadreel would change sides (in fact, most probably knew it since the previous episode). Maybe not everyone knew Tessa was a goner, but we certainly knew Dean was going to attack Gadreel, etc. And of course we all knew the mark/blade would change Dean since it was first mentioned.

    Part of me hoped during the Metatron and Castiel conversation that it would become clear neither side launched the suicide attacks and it would turn out to be some devious plot by Crowley or Abaddon or the first hints of an unseen Big Bad for next season to escalate the angel war for their own ends, etc. That was not to be, however. Despite what some insist here, the writing never gets that intricate or clever. Everything was telegraphed way ahead of time.

  • sergioleandro1 May 15, 2014

    Will next season really be the last?

  • wwcpd May 16, 2014

    As far as I know, no end date has officially been announced. Back in January, the head of the CW said the show could go on indefinitely.

  • sergioleandro1 May 16, 2014

    I was afraid of that.

  • KateSullivan May 15, 2014

    I too was a little confused by Tessa...I do have a vague memory of her status being changed the last time we saw her, but I was kind of confused that Dean could see her in the first place. But whatever, too bad she was some sort of weird convert of Metatron's, you would think Death would have something to say about him coopting her.

    Anyway...I am a little confused. Yes. Confusion is the best description. Maybe the fact its the fact that Dean got a pretty clear set of directions from Cain. Kill Abaddon. Then come kill me. I don't remember killing Metatron being an option or learning it was the only weapon to kill him. And then, this totally homicidal Dean, that can't be exactly what Crowley wants. And, hello angels, it is not just because Cas can't recognize his best friend that he suspects something is wrong with Dean. And half of you saw the First Blade. What sort of impact does that actually have?

  • Martin6492 May 15, 2014

    Hi all first time poster here now this episode did bring up an interesting question for us , in all honesty ever since we saw kevin tran's ghost we were wondering so here it is.

    Where is DEATH during all this he must be furious about the souls not being able to get where they need to be, it is kind of his area he does the killing then his reapers take them to either heavan or hell, was death equally effected by the fall ?? can he still do his job ?? and why did dean not ask about him during the interrogation of tessa ??

    In the past we have been led to believe that death possess's an extraordinary amount of power you know the whole thing about how he will "reap" god one day and it just seems like with an overaching storyline like this pretty much angel and heavan centric that he should be involved.

    It is not like dean to forget about death given that he is the only human to spend so much time with him and did it not occur to Dean that he would be the ultimate weapon in this angel war.

    We would love to hear everone's thoughts

    M

  • sergioleandro1 May 15, 2014

    It's a bit weird Death has not been aound more.
    I also expected for Michael or Lucifer showing up again. Series usually like to bring back old, powerful characters.

  • MichelleHood24 May 19, 2014

    Next season maybe it would be nice to see a pissed off Michael and a severely damaged Adam.

  • wwcpd May 15, 2014

    My impression of Death is that as long as people are dying the way they are supposed to, I don't think he'd really care whether their souls were then getting where they needed to be. And I don't think he'd be interested in getting involved in an angel war. I think he'd think that was beneath him. I see Death as more of a universal concept, rather than just some specialized kind of angel.

  • Martin6492 May 15, 2014

    Interesting point there he has always had a certain non-chalonte attitude toward the seasons paticular storys and saying it is beneath him is kind of what he seems to project, however tessa said she could hear the screaming and pain of the souls if she can death must be able to, also it brings us back to appointment in samara when death lectured dean on the importance of not "stamping feet" and just doing the job it maybe that he just does'nt care but all these angel's must be increasing his work load though what with all the extra people that are dying as a result of their actions

    Wow better stop for the moment so we can get our head around it but thanks for the disscussion.

    M

  • Aesandil May 15, 2014

    It's a travesty, what they have done to Tessa. I really liked the character, so to see her turned into this desperate, suicide bomber who was so easily fooled by a fake Castiel was beyond painful to watch. Up until now, she has always been portrayed as a strong-willed, smart person.

    And I won't even get into this whole Reapers & Angels conundrum. The showrunners have managed to turn this part of mythology into an incredibly murky territory, and there isn't much sense to be made of it without proper clarifications. If there ever can be any.

    Metatron must truly be the most needy and insecure villain ever. In a way it makes sense, for a shunned scribe to want to become a popular leader. Trying too hard, not exactly knowing how to get there. His misleading "God-like" ways only further make him come off as pathetic. Plus this weird complex where he sets himself up as an underdog, only to seemingly emerge victorious.
    I'm disappointed that angels as a whole are much worse than a bunch of confused children. The way their loyalties shift, there does not seem to be much in the form of coherent thoughts. I think I'd have an easier time accepting this if at least a few of them'd decided to stick with Castiel regardless. As it is, they all just amount to a formless mass.

    Of the things I liked, Cas standing up on his own is always a welcome sight. Especially when he doesn't allow himself to be intimidated and ordered around by Dean. That's the Cas I would like to see more often, over the one that is consistentl lost and unsure of himself.
    Dean's growing addiction to his new favorite toy is also being portrayed quite well. He really channeled that frightening part of his personality when he vehemently opposed Sam's attempts to send him to a rehab. Gadreel should count himself lucky that he didn't get the Blade deep into his guts... for now.

    So in the end it all boils down to them three (four?) against the world. Once again. Or perhaps Crowley will hop along as well. I'm curious as to how the finale is going to play out, even if not too hopeful.

  • sergioleandro1 May 15, 2014

    After Bloodlines, there's nothing they can't do.

  • Aesandil May 16, 2014

    That's a harsh truth, I'm afraid.

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