“Abandon All Hope” Review
By Amanda Rebholz
There’s a long-running joke among the Supernatural fans that if a female character is competent, sassy, and self-reliant, chances are she’s going to die a horrible death before the show’s end. It’s held true for the street-smart thief Bela, the gorgeous and fabulous psychic Pamela, and even the adorable and sensitive werewolf Madison. The show isn’t known for having females that survive beyond a specific arc; even the villains like Meg and Ruby met their ends (albeit temporary; both were given second leases on life, but with different casting choices for the roles) after proving their prowess as competition for the boys. But the dynamic of Jo and Ellen Harvelle was something else entirely. They’d survived since their introduction in Season 2, primarily because they were absent on the show; by steering clear of the Winchesters for long periods of time they managed to preserve their lives for an extra few years.
However, as soon as paths crossed once more, you knew their days were numbered. Still, this is the Apocalypse and we fans knew we wouldn’t emerge unscathed; we’ve already lost such iconic characters as John Winchester, Gordon, Detective Frederick, Lilith, and Ruby, but the hunters had a pretty good track record up until now. When I read the spoiler that two people would die in “Abandon All Hope”, I actually put my money on Bobby and Ellen; Bobby is now confined to a wheelchair, which puts him out of commission during the most pivotal Lucifer battles, and Ellen was never a hunter by nature and preferred to stay clear of the actual nitty-gritty of it (and wished the same for Jo). I was in for a sad and very heartfelt awakening when the events transpired the way they did in the episode; by the end credits, Bobby Singer was still alive and well, and Jo and Ellen Harvelle had both gone to their final resting places.
Jo Harvelle is a character who I always felt had immense potential in the Supernatural universe. She was headstrong and smart, and a lot like a female Dean; she got herself into snits like Sammy, but was an excellent liar and conniver, and she was a born heartbreaker just like the elder Winchester. She was good with weapons and research; she could’ve shaped up into a very promising hunter indeed. Her attraction to Dean and the initial flirting (hell, she got him to sing REO Speedwagon), never went beyond a fraternal relationship; in “Abandon All Hope”, when Dean made a pass at her, Jo pretty much cemented herself in Winchester history as the first person to turn Dean down even after his ‘end of the world’ speech. She gave him sass right back and proved that she could hold her own against his charms; she became a contender, someone who could match his wits and skills blow for blow. She saved his life by endangering her own, firing at the hell hound that was on his trail; Jo was noble and loyal to Dean even to the very last minute.
Her mother Ellen was equally endearing; a hard-worn, world-weary woman with soulful eyes and an unstoppable maternal nature, Ellen was always looking out for the boys as if they were her own, and she and Bobby had taken on surrogate parent positions to Sam and Dean throughout the show. Ellen initially wanted to hate the boys because of their father’s involvement in her husband’s death, but she found herself unable to; they may have made bad choices and gotten her involved in their chaotic world, but they were also two orphaned young men in desperate need of love and support, and Ellen had no choice but to step up to the plate to fill the void left by Mary Winchester.
There has always been a huge trope in Supernatural about family, and how blood conquers any other ties one may have. Time and time again, the idea of family is drilled into a character’s head, or brought into a situation as a valid point, whether it’s something monumental like John Winchester sacrificing himself to save his son’s life or something as small as the rugaru in Season Four making a sacrificial choice to save his own family from his inner nature. The idea has always been that if it is between your own life and saving your family, there’s really no choice at all, and no deliberation needed. In this particular case, when Jo is grievously injured and clearly not going to survive the night, Ellen makes the executive decision to stay behind with her daughter.
Without Jo, Ellen really would have no reason to live; she exists solely to protect her little girl, and without that, Ellen is without purpose or will. The two of them had escaped their fate once before, when the roadhouse was burned to the ground in “All Hell Breaks Loose” and all of their friends were killed by the fire; it seems they could no longer ask for whom the bell tolled, and in their final moments neither of them blamed the Winchesters for their demises. It was their own choices that landed them there, and they went with nothing but love and affection for both boys and a prayer that Dean and Sam would be able to end the Apocalypse before Lucifer destroyed all of humankind.
That being said, most of us knew that it wouldn’t be so simple as shooting Lucifer with the Colt. When Samuel Colt created the gun, he couldn’t have possibly imagined it would be someday used on Lucifer himself; the gun was created to destroy angels, monsters, and other supernatural beings, but the most powerful angel of them all? Unlikely. It’s doubtful that the Colt would kill any angel at all; it was implied by Anna and Uriel earlier in Season Four that only an angel could kill another angel, that no man or demon could do it. So it’s unlikely that any weapon forged by a man could destroy an angel, by that logic. Yet apparently no one else thought of that, because everyone had faith that the Colt would work, including the demon Crowley. Or perhaps Crowley himself was in cahoots with Lucifer (we all know demons lie, and Crowley was Lilith’s lover; why would those two be lovers if Lilith herself was adamant about raising Lucifer to walk the earth if Crowley opposed her agenda?
And it’s not as if demons have never lied to the brothers and set them up before…perhaps Crowley thought the hell hounds and Meg would take care of the Winchesters neatly and keep them out of Lucifer’s way. Ruby gave us a similar speech on how she didn’t want to work for Lilith and had gone rogue; Crowley’s “I’m in sales!” speech had a similar insincere ring to it) and the entire handing-over of the Colt was a set-up to begin with. Him shooting his henchmen with the gun was an effective way both to empty the gun before handing it over (he HAD to know that one of the brothers would try to execute him after making the deal) and ensure that they had a flicker of trust for him. But if all he wanted was to speak to the Winchesters in private, why not just dismiss his goons? Very interesting indeed.
With the hiatus in full swing and Death (one of those lovely Horsemen… can we hope for a solid-white muscle car in his case?) let free of his prison, the show picked a hell of a cliffhanger to leave us stranded on for the next eight weeks. But when Supernatural resumes on January 21, you can be sure that the fans will be ravenous for more. For the first half of the season, Lucifer came, he saw, he kicked butt… and now it’s up to the Winchesters to flip the tables around and show the devil who really calls the shots around here.