After the obligatory “Our story so far...,” which was set to Bob Seger’s “Katmandu,” we jumped right back into the unfortunate plight of the most adorable angel in the garrison, Samandriel—or as Dean likes to call him, “Alfie.” Samandriel and Crowley were having the worst sleepover ever and since Crowley routinely breaks every toy that's handed to him, Alfie wasn’t looking so hot. Uggggh my precious baby angel!
On the other side of the country, Benny was doing the creeper thing, hanging around a playground in a dark coat and dark sunglasses. He was running low on fresh blood snack paks and sounding a mite strung out when he called Dean for a refill. Unfortunately for Benny, Dean was busy trying to make up with Sam—or at least get Sam to stop being a pissy, pissy princess—while Sammykins, who was having none of that making up B.S., got himself some booty from boring Amelia. SO BORING. But hey, Jared Padalecki took his shirt off, so if nothing else, my shallow needs have been fulfilled. Savor it; there’s like a one-shirtless-scene-per-season quota on this show.
Oh and Castiel? The real star of this episode? He was flitting about, healing babies, probably chillin’ with those bees he loves so much, just minding his own business before KILLING MY PRECIOUS BABY ANGEL. I won’t hold it against him, though, because he was basically possessed or mind-controlled or something. Idk. Naomi is the rudest. Besides, Castiel doesn’t need us to angst over Alfie. When he inevitably gets to the bottom of Naomi’s manipulation, I’m sure he’ll get his guilt trip booked all by himself. It’s the Winchester way. It’s the gloriously irrational woe of Wangst.
Naomi, however, picked the wrong angel to go all puppetmaster on, and the faults in her system have already begun to short-circuit. Her planted suggestions, though successful in the short term, set off alarms in Castiel’s angel brain from almost the very beginning. Witnessing Samandriel’s torment at Crowley’s hands further stripped away the facade of normalcy, complete with post traumatic WTF flashbacks of Naomi sticking angel antennas in places where angel antennas probably don’t belong. No, not the butt.
I don’t believe that Naomi’s system can be sustained in the long run, not when it comes to the poster angel for Team Free Will. Castiel knows that something isn’t right and by the end of “Torn and Frayed,” Dean and Sam were suspicious as well, having renewed their codependency vows and cut off contact with everyone not named Dean or Sam. They are hopeless in that regard. However, it was certainly a relief that Sam made the decision to stay with Dean on his own. I thought for sure that once Castiel had recruited him to Samandriel’s rescue par-tay that the mission would end up preventing a Sam who was ready to commit to Amelia from making their deadline, thus adding more wangst to the OMG DEAN IS SUCH AN ASSBUTT fire and I’m really, truly ready for something to put that fire out (as well as its equally irritating counterpart, the OMG SAM IS SUCH AN ASSBUTT inferno.)
There’s tons of room to argue that just because Sam didn’t go back to Amelia doesn’t mean that he’s not going to be a completely whiny, wangsty sack of sadness for the foreseeable future. Sure. But this is the guy who put a gag on Satan in the middle of the apocalypse-- it’s hard to make him do anything that he really, REALLY doesn’t want to do. Dean is the one who tends to be motivated by obligation, being the “good soldier” and all. But Dean also made some tough calls for the sake of his relationship with Sam, first by encouraging him to return to Amelia, then by cutting ties with Benny for good (for now). Given Benny’s clearly unwell tone, his recent fall from the wagon, and the fact that he actually SAID, “I’m not doing so well,” I’m not entirely sure that was the best decision to make. My spidey sense sure was tingling. However questionable it was though, it was essential for regaining Sam’s trust...unless he was ready to let Sam chop his purgatory BFF’s head off, and frankly, none of us are ready for that just yet.
Supernatural’s return served to streamline the overall story of this season by closing—however temporarily—some of the less immediate plots and therby freeing up time and resources to focus on the larger issues that have driven the season since the beginning. It was a good call, given the show’s recently developed habit of biting off more than it can chew, particularly in the second half of the season. In my opinion, this overload has routinely led to rushed, less-than-satisfying conclusions: Sam’s hell trauma, the Leviathan, Eve, the Campbells. It doesn’t have to be that way and it hasn’t always been that way! Supernatural is perfectly capable of telling a complete, coherent, and exciting story across a single season while maintaining just enough ambiguity to set the stage for the future, in the event that the CW stalwart finds itself renewed yet again. (I’m already biting my nails!)
As it stands, heading into the second half of Season 8, the stories which demand our utmost attention are:
1. The tablets—Kevin is still working on the demon tablet. Crowley recently discovered that there’s an angel tablet out there somewhere because of course there is.
2. Naomi and Castiel and her complete disrespect for personal space and free will.
3. Sam and Dean and their ISSUES—which sounds vague, I know. Vague enough to spark concern that they’ve become supporting characters in their own series. But not really. At its core, Supernatural has always been about Sam and Dean and their issues. The monsters and demons are just a bonus.
With Dean and Sam reuniting to save the world (again), however reluctantly, the two individuals and the two stories that have done the most to drive them apart this season have been placed on the back burner. I’m sure we’ll see Benny and Amelia, or at least Benny, again in the future, but they’ve been removed from our immediate concern for the time being and that’s okay. It’s time to eliminate the distractions and focus. There will be time for wangsty squabbling after Apocalypse Version 3.0. No, 2.0. No, 3— Actually, I’ve lost count.
– Smart Winchester Sighting: Dean Edition. When Castiel went to Dean for help locating Samandriel, Dean immediately busted out the laptop and, after hiding his porn stash (“YOU SAW NOTHING”), hit the books. Um. Keyboard. I liked the nod toward Dean possessing decent research skills. Dean’s hunted solo lots of times, which means he’d have to have at least comparable research skills to his brother, but Sam traditionally ends up with the “booksmart” reputation.
– “Your mom’s so hot. Seriously, you mom is so sexy...” I wonder how many takes were required to get through that with a straight face?
– “Our ninth abandoned factory. Ain’t that America?” Come to Pittsburgh! We've turned ours into shopping malls... though I’m not sure that’s much better. I mean, when you get into the whole well-paying-manufacturing-jobs-replaced-with-low-paying-service-jobs... yeah, okay, I’ll shut up. ‘MURCA.
– “STOW YOUR CRAP.” Oh Castiel, I love when you wear the bossy pants.
– Winchester Mommy Issues: Dude, Dean was really not okay with Kevin sending his mom away because his tablet crap was “more important.” Waaaaaangst!
– Don’t worry, Deano. I’ve fallen asleep cradling a beer bottle as well. No shame! (Okay, maybe a little shame.)
– Samandriel kept saying “THEY are controlling us,” not “she.” So... do you think Naomi is really as bad as she looked in this episode? Is she part of a system? Is she possibly fighting the system from within? Was she justified in ordering Samandriel’s death? If so, then why the need to pin it on Cas and suggest that it was self-defence?
– Wasn’t the whole point of angels that they didn’t have free will? So, essentially, weren’t they always being controlled to an extent? Until they overrode their own programming? I mean, we’ve certainly never seen them so blatantly manipulated in the past, but Crowley seemed to think the programming came from God, while Castiel’s meltdown seemed to point the finger at Naomi. What are your current theories?