Supernatural S07E21: "Reading Is Fundamental"
All season long we've been waiting for Supernatural's Leviathan storyline to kick into high gear, and with last week's "The Girl With the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo" we finally got out of neutral as things began to pick up. After Friday's "Reading Is Fundamental," we're practically going the speed limit, and a lot of that is because Supernatural superstar Ben Edlund, who wrote and directed the episode, was in the driver's seat.
"Reading Is Fundamental" was a peculiar episode because when you really think about it, not a lot happened except the discovery of a legitimate way to kill a Leviathan. Yes, that's astronomically huge for the storyline, but the episode was really just an hour of getting the "in case of emergency" tablet into the hands of the right person and letting them translate it. But Edlund has a knack for making things more interesting when the show needs it.
And making things interesting meant adding a healthy dose of Castiel, freshly awakened from his Lucifer-nightmare slumber. This was Cas back to abnormal angel, one of the many personae that actor Misha Collins deftly hops in and out of, and one of my favorites. I think the order for me goes 1) Unfamiliar with human ways and cell phones normal Castiel; 2) Oblivious, wigged-out, bee-chasing angel Castiel; 3) Orgy-loving stoner human Castiel; 9,4325) Angry God Castiel. I'm not sure how you've all felt about Castiel's arc, but I think there've been a fair amount of regrettable decisions made with regard to the character, and waking Castiel up as something we recognize was a way of the show saying, "We messed up, it's time to fix it." And it's about time, because I missed me some Castiel! It was also a convenient way of getting rid of that whole "mental wall" thing that Sam passed onto Castiel. Another case of, "This didn't work, let's just ditch it and pretend it never happened." We (the fans) were already a step ahead of you, Supernatural writers, but it's nice to see you recognize it too.
Castiel's rise from sawing logs with Lucifer was triggered by Sam and Dean breaking open Dick Roman's sacred mud-encased package, a tablet more sought after than anything Apple will put out until the iPad 7 with the power of God is released. The tablet was a bunch of chicken scratch that could only be read by a prophet, because God always has to make things so unnecessarily complicated, like he's a writer for Alcatraz or something. In fact, getting the tablet out of its case triggered a lot of things, including turning an Asian-American stereotype (Study study study! Must get into Princeton! Super organized! Plays the cello!) named Kevin into the only thing that could translate the words.
Eventually those words were read, and apparently the only worthwhile passage was something along the lines of, "Leviathans can only be killed by the bone of a righteous man soaked in the blood of the three fallen." One of the fallen is a fallen angel, and Castiel readily supplied his juice for the cause. The other two, if you paused the television to read Kevin's translation, said the blood of the ruler of fallen humanity and the father of fallen beasts. I'm guessing the latter is an Alpha monster, but I'm stumped on the former. Perhaps we haven't met him yet? Are there any really bad humans out there who can fill that role? At least now we know what will happen next episode: a fetch quest! Get the bone, get the blood, get the other blood, and get ready to stab Dick Roman in the finale!
One other interesting that was set up for the finale is the rag-tag group of world savers that's been assembled. Supernatural is a long way away from being the Sam and Dean show, and this season's gang of saviors looks like it will be Meg, Kevin, Castiel, and Ghost Bobby joining Sam and Dean to ride out the final credits of Season 4. (This would never happen if the old four-seater Impala was around.) Normally I'd be wary of bringing in such a large group and taking the spotlight off of Sam and Dean, but so far, Meg has shown her worth by killing those demons, neurotic Kevin is a welcome addition, and Castiel is no longer a total jerk. I'm crossing my fingers and thinking this can work, guys.
Another good step made in "Reading Is Fundamental" was making the Leviathans a bit darker. For most of the season they've been obvious winking pokes at corporate greed, but by keeping the caricature of Dick Roman out of this episode and using only Edgar, the Leviathans got a lot of their bite back. We needed to see Edgar gut a few angels to remind us that these are more than one-percenters with big teeth. It's a little late, but it's better than nothing.
As problematic as the first half of Season 7 was, Supernatural has made big strides in rectifying things and salvaging the season. It's still not great, but it's a long way away from its original trajectory of circling the bowl.
– Boy am I glad they killed off new angel Hester so quickly. She was annoying right from the get-go!
– I loved a lot of the new-age gobbledygook that Castiel was spittin', including how he backed the Neanderthals over Homo Sapiens because "their poetry was totally in tune with the spheres."
– Anyone get the feeling that Meg's along for the ride just so the writers will have someone to kill off in the finale?
– How is Crowley really going to fit in all this? He's always got some scheme schemin'.
Supernatural Season 7 Power Rankings
"Reading Is Fundamental" continued to point things in the right direction, and the addition of Kevin was a pleasant surprise. This episode benefited from its placement in the season, because it gave us great direction heading into the final two episodes. Had this been a middle-of-the-season episode, it would've landed somewhere in the middle. But now it's going to place higher than that.
1. "Plucky Pennywhistle's Magical Menagerie" (Episode 14)
Sam and Dean investigated mysterious deaths around a kid's pizza-and-games party house. Unicorns farting rainbows, ball pit sharks spraying blood, and octo-vamps giving fatal hickeys made this a fun episode.
2. "Party On, Garth" (Episode 18)
A Japanese ghost can only be seen by drunks, Garth returns, and Mr. Fizzles the sock puppet! But we finally learn the truth about what Bobby is up to in the afterlife.
4. "Death's Door" (Episode 10)
Bobby fought for his life and delved into his past as he tried to deliver a message to Sam and Dean from beyond the plane of the living.
5. "The Mentalists" (Episode 7)
More standalone fun as the brothers investigated murders in a town full of psychics.
6. "Reading Is Fundamental" (Episode 21)
Academic Asian stereotype Kevin became the prophet as Sam and Dean got instructions on how to kill a Leviathan. Plus, Cas came back!
7. "Meet the New Boss" (Episode 1)
Castiel got all righteous on those who didn't respect The Good Word, and it was great.
8. "Repo Man" (Episode 15)
The brothers visited a man they saved from a murderous demon four years ago, and Lucifer blabbed Sam's ear off.
9. "The Girl With the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo" (Episode 20)
Sam and Dean got a lesbian hacker to sift through Dick Roman's emails and Bobby ghost-pushed a lot of people.
10. "Born-Again Identity" (Episode 17)
Sam ended up in a mental hospital after too many chats with mind-Satan, and Castiel returned to smite and then get left behind.
11. "Adventures in Babysitting" (Episode 11)
Sam and Dean coped with Bobby's death and met a fellow hunter's young daughter.
12. "Out With the Old" (Episode 16)
A tale of cursed ballerina slippers became a story about a Leviathan real estate agent.
13. "Of Grave Importance" (Episode 19)
Sam and Dean headed to a haunted house, where Bobby learned a thing or two about ghosts and finally became visible to Sam and Dean.
14. "Slash Fiction" (Episode 6)
Two Leviathans disguised themselves as Sam and Dean and took off on a cross-country shootin' spree!
15. "The Slice Girls" (Episode 13)
Dean had a one-night stand with an Amazonian lady, and Sam took Dean's Daddy card away.
16. "Hello, Cruel World" (Episode 2)
The Leviathans set up a buffet at a hospital after spreading into the water supply.
17. "Time After Time" (Episode 12)
Dean traveled back to 1944 and battled the God of Time with Eliot Ness.
18. "How To Win Friends And Influence Monsters" (Episode 9)
Hyperadrenalized cannibals and stoner sandwiches! Dick Roman's plan was sort of unveiled! And Bobby got shot!
19. "The Girl Next Door" (Episode 3)
Via flashback, we saw Sam's first kiss... with a monster! Then Dean killed her.
20. "Defending Your Life" (Episode 4)
Dean went on trial before Osiris because of the guilt he carries. Jo came back to blow him up!
21. "Season 7, Time for a Wedding" (Episode 8)
Too. Much. Becky. Larson.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom