First off, when I saw that the fabulous Ben Edlund wrote this episode, and the fantastic Robert Singer directed it, I got all giddy. Both of these guys have brought us wonderful episodes of the show, so I expected that same level of excellence this time around. Mostly, my expectations were rewarded, but in some cases not so much. First we’ll take a look at what worked in the episode.
Mark Sheppard — this guy is in nearly EVERYTHING, and rightfully so — came back as Crowley, the soul-sales demon we last saw in "Abandon All Hope". Sheppard gives a wonderful turn as Crowley, a demon you kinda sorta want to trust, but really know you shouldn’t. His facial expressions were delightful, and his dialogue honestly compelling. I’ve been a fan of his ever since his turn as Badger on Firefly, and he doesn’t disappoint in this episode.
Eric Johnson, who played Brady — a demon who was Sam’s best friend in college — did a great job as well. He pulled off the arrogance found in most demons fantastically, and I found him completely believable in his role as the once-best-friend of Sam back in college, who also fixed him up with Jessica. However, there was one problem I had with his character that I’ll get to in a moment, which is more of a writing than an acting problem.
The real star of this episode, however, was Sam. Jared Padalecki did a fantastic job of portraying the sheer anger of finding out Brody was a demon — and what he did to Jessica — and yet not fully giving into that anger, as well as the sadness and desperation of his situation. Bobby was right when he told Sam he can barely handle himself, and we see a little bit of that more and more. Sam’s idea to be the bait to lure Lucifer into the cage was indeed awful — Just like Dean’s idea to say yes to Michael — but it’s sad that I could see the reasoning behind it. Hopefully it won’t come to that, but who knows? Jared’s portrayal of Sam in the final scene, where he torments and finally guts Brody, is one of his best in a long time, I think. Props should go to Jared Padalecki for doing an excellent job with this material.
Jensen also did a great job this week, being torn between dealing with his brother and kinda-sorta trusting Crowley. However, it’s good to see more of the true Dean, as we saw last week. Instead of being sad and tortured and empty, he’s now acting confident again. Whether it’s just an act or he truly believes in himself is another matter, but it was good to see wisecracking, half-smiling Dean back again.
Now let’s get to what didn’t work…the big one being Brady’s reveal that it was he, not Azazel, who killed Jessica and turned Sam’s life back to hunting. If I recall correctly, Azazel previously fully admitted he was the one who killed Jessica. There was no mention of a hitman or an intermediary. Therefore, is this a retcon to bring an emotional sting to the episode? Was Azazel only telling a half-truth when he said he killed Jessica? While this reveal was likely included to give a big emotional impact, I honestly didn’t feel it at all, as the recollection of Azazel saying this made it fall flat for me.
Secondly, where the hell was Matt Frewer?!?! You introduce someone as LEGENDARY as Matt Frewer at the end of the previous episode, and don’t show him at ALL in the next one? What the hell? I’m wondering if we’ll see him at all again, or if that tease at the end of "Hammer of the Gods" was just that, a tease, but truly one of the biggest ever. We only saw a FLY in this episode, which represented pestilence. It was mentioned at the end that the boys were going after him, but will we SEE any of that, or will the next episode focus entirely on Death?
Thirdly, and this one is minor, but it bugged me…why didn’t Dean just kick the door open when Sam locked him in? I recall them kicking open locked and blocked doors before. The wooden door was being blocked with a wooden chair, would it have been that difficult for someone of Dean’s strength to break it open? If so, correct me of course, but this still bugged me. I know if he’d had gotten out we’d not have that great scene in which Sam DOESN’T kill Brady, but still, it bugged me.
So there you have it, a very mixed episode with great bits and WTF bits. Thankfully the WTF bits didn’t slow down the momentum building to the finale, but they did bug me enough that they almost took me out of the episode. Thankfully, again, the good outweighed the bad, but sadly not by a whole helluva lot. Hopefully the next episode will be more…consistent…