Episode 5.8

“Changing Channels” Review
By Amanda Rebholz

The episode begins with the cheesy set-up of a sitcom, the boys parodying themselves with abandon as a laugh track plays in the background. Everything about the opening, from the hilarious theme song to the title credits, is executed with perfection; this show somehow manages never to take itself too seriously, but still to remain endearing enough to keep the fans emotionally invested. There were certainly plenty of gems in this episode, from Dean’s secret obsession with Dr. McSexy (his fangirlish reaction to seeing the man in person, as well as the wink-wink-nudge-nudge joke about Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s role on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’, was absolutely priceless) to Sam being reincarnated as KITT from ‘Knight Rider.’

As fans, we rarely get to see the comedic side of Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles shine; both have plenty of background in dramatic roles and we all know that Jensen is the master of the Single Manly Tear, to be released in moments of extreme emotional distress, and Jared has perfected the pouty scowl that has become Sam’s trademark. Nonetheless, seeing the boys riffing off each other, making bad puns, googly eyes, over-exaggerated facial expressions, and generally being hams is reminiscent of watching them in interviews or behind-the-scenes featurettes, and one can only imagine how much fun they had on the set of this particular episode. It made me nostalgic for the rare silly moments in earlier seasons, such as the prank war or the slapstick physical comedy we saw in episodes like “Tall Tales” and “Bad Day at Black Rock”; it really gave what’s been an otherwise insanely-dark season a nice (and appreciated) reprieve from the angst marathons we’ve been suffering through lately!

I’d like to take this moment to express my absolute undying love for the Trickster. I have always been a fan of this particular role in mythology; the crow, Anansi, Loki, whatever name you choose to give it, I have always loved the characters who manage to teach lessons by giving others a taste of their own medicine, who can warp and twist a situation to benefit themselves while making the others involved look like inferior jackasses. When Richard Speight Jr. first swaggered onto the set in “Tall Tales”, I fell madly in love. Casting-wise, he is absolutely flawless. His vulpine face is perfect for the sly, cunning facial expressions he makes; his expressive eyes and cynical voice relay the devil-may-care attitude of the Trickster perfectly. Character-wise, he is brilliant; he serves up revenge and irony left and right and has a grand time while doing so. He’s self-indulgent, whimsical, imaginative, proud, and stubborn; he’s intelligent, much moreso than any other ‘Supernatural’ villain, and he’s resourceful and clever. Above all, he is LIKABLE. Characters like the Rugaru or shapeshifters are easily forgotten when their episode arc ends; Trickster is endearing because he’s a representation of Robin Goodfellow from Shakespeare. He is the puck who can deliver the world or devastate your reality, depending on his mood swings. But he is also witty and somewhat reasonable; he is self-preserving and has taken pity on Sam and Dean in the past, giving up the ghost of his games when it appears that it really is too much for them to handle.

In retrospect, the revelation this week that Trickster is the archangel Gabriel makes absolutely perfect sense. In “Mystery Spot”, the most memorable of the Trickster episodes, he tries to get Sam to face the reality that Dean is going to die and that he will have to carry on and function without him. He tries for months on end, hoping to desensitize Sam to the sight of his brother dying; in this way, it is clear Gabriel actually WANTED Sam to be alright. He didn’t want the apocalypse to begin; he didn’t want them to have to be vessels. If Sam had allowed Dean to stay dead as he was in the Trickster-created reality, then Sam would’ve gone on to become a hardened, jaded hunter… but he wouldn’t be the vessel for Lucifer. Dean and Sam would not have gone down the paths they chose, and their destinies would’ve turned out much differently.

Gabriel is the first archangel that we’ve seen who isn’t a complete douche. Raphael was vengeful and full of resentment toward Castiel; there seems to be no love lost there between him and Gabriel either, but it appears to be more due to Castiel’s disdain at Gabriel’s lack of involvement in the apocalypse. Castiel has chosen a side and forsaken his brothers, though he still does what he believes to be God’s will; Castiel has risked much and died once already to save what he believes in. Gabriel fled to Earth as a coward, hiding himself as the Trickster and amusing himself with petty pleasures while the world fell down around him. He DID try to interfere with Sam and Dean’s destinies on a few different occasions, but never to such an extent that he actually altered the course; he could’ve refused to resurrect Dean after his final (real) death, and he could’ve told them about the master plan long before Sam was involved with Ruby and her bloodletting. Instead he was afraid, and sat back to let fate take its course. However, the look in his eyes when Dean flat-out told him that he was a coward for not standing up to his family…it told me that we haven’t seen the last of Gabriel, and that he may have chosen a side in the war after all whether he knows it yet or not.