As we're nearing the finale things are really beginning to get set in motion as Sam and Dean's search for the remaining horsemen. The "Then and Now" bit showed the horsemen and the Croatoan virus implying they would both play large parts here. This unfortunately wasn't the case, as they were barely a framework (especially the virus) to the episode and more of a setup for the final two.
What we did get here instead was still really good, just not quite what I was hoping for. I do like that Sam and Dean are seen actively searching for Pestilence as opposed to stumbling into the Apocalypse plot which has happened a lot this season. However their search is in vain until Crowley shows up to lend a hand. He was a great character earlier in the season and it was great to see him back. Sam constantly trying to kill him was played with the right balance of action and comedy that it worked nicely. Of course it did have Crowley doing the old off-screen disappearing trick. Obviously it's an artistic choice by the show to do this, but for shots like Sam swinging and Crowley teleporting behind him, not showing it really didn't work.
So Sam understandably doesn't trust Crowley whereas Dean does (reluctantly though). When Dean went with Crowley instead of Sam it had me thinking of Dean's "You trusted a demon over your own brother" line from earlier this season. However the difference here is that they really are out of options and Dean's questionable choice is understandable. Crowley and Dean's teamup to grab Brady was pretty fun. I was a bit surprised Dean wasn't angrier at Crowley for murdering the security guards, but maybe at this point he's accepted collateral damage. Crowley's trick to use Dean as bait to get Brady was fairly obvious I thought, but brilliant nonetheless! Crowley's "that's what you get for trusting a demon" line actually made him more trustworthy in a weird way. Certainly more honest about his end game which at this point I think we can take at face value.
Then however came the point of the story I wasn't so huge on. When Crowley said Sam and Brady had history I initially thought he was Meg in another body, but I was just a bit wrong there! Retcons are rarely a good thing. It's understandable that in a long running series the best way to give an emotional connection to a new character is to find a way to tie them into a story but more often than not it just feels forced. Now to be fair retroactively adding Brady into the show's continuity was far from bad. There was always a bit of a question about how or why Yellow Eyes killed Jessica, so having it be one of his lackeys made sense. Also that Azazel would've been keeping an eye on Sam also made sense, so it was done a lot better than similar situations on most other shows. However, it was nowhere near as good as previous tricks like this on the show. Quick examples: last season we found out Sam and Dean's mum had been a hunter. However at the end of season 2 we saw that Mary Winchester recognised the Yellow Eyed demon in Sam's nursery. Similarly this season we found out the Trickster was an Arc Angel, but a mere two episodes after his first appearance they did an episode about the possibility of Angels.
When rewatching the show seeing these things makes you think that maybe they were set up all along which gives more validity to it. I'm fairly certain Brady wasn't in the first episode (because I would've recognised Smallville's Eric Johnson) so it doesn't tie in well. Also wouldn't Sam have noticed if there was a demon around him for like two years? They seem to ignore it a bit now, but back then demons gave off sulphur as well as various other tells which you'd think Sam would've picked up on.
Sam eventually killing off Brady was an interesting bit. I'm not sure whether it was the best choice, but it worked for the character. Surely letting him suffer at Lucifer's hands would be a worse punishment (as well as possible save his old friend). But it all worked and was a cool scene. Also glad to see they've improved the demon killing effect, as it didn't look quite as good in the false profit episode a few weeks back.
The final scene had Crowley try to seduce Bobby. It's a clever trick to use a loophole in the deal making thing. However do any of us trust that Crowley would return Bobby's soul, or if he even can after completing a deal? The scene had me actually saying at the screen "don't do it, Bobby" and for any show to invoke a verbal reaction like that obviously they're doing something right. It was a cool cliffhanger to end on, as while Bobby might realise it's a stupid thing to do it may be the only option they have.
So this was a decent episode to move us closer to the final episode. While not the best use of a retcon it did still work and didn't hurt the overall story. Maybe a bit more action might've been nice here (still not a fan of the invisible hell hounds) but it all worked. With two episodes to go I'm confident the show can finsh this season with the high quality its had throughout.