“Appointment in Samarra” Review
By Bekah James
I didn’t think there was any possible way for my mind to be even more blown after last week’s episode; but clearly, I was wrong. This week’s episode grabbed me by the scruff and rubbed my nose in the bits of last week’s brain matter. Like… whoa. This one is my absolute favorite episode of the Season thus far. Holy moley, I don’t even know what to talk about. Let’s just see what my fingers decide to type, shall we?
Any episode that kills Dean before the credits gets and holds my attention. Not just killed, by the way, but killed by Robert Englund! Before I was done with my Arsenio Hall-style fist pumping, Death came a-callin’. As one of my favorite characters in canon history, I was excited to see him back. It hadn’t occurred to me that Death would be able to just sashay into Hell and pluck Sam out of the Cage. Huh. I learn something new every week with the Winchesters. While it was shocking for Death to force Dean to choose between his brothers, it wasn’t really a surprise that Death would do that sort of thing. Conversely, it wasn’t surprising that Dean chose Sam, but it was shocking that he made the choice with absolutely no hesitation. There was never a chance he would’ve chosen Adam, but it hurt me deep down to see Dean having to make another choice that will leave him even more guilt-ridden. How much more can the man bear before he snaps? Suddenly, the thought of hunters going crazy (as in last Season’s “Sam Interrupted”) seems not only feasible, but also highly likely. I think us mere mortals would have assumed the fetal position quite some time ago.
Dean’s choices seemed to be a theme of the episode. He chooses to die in order to seek out Death. He chooses to put on Death’s ring. He chooses to spare the little girl. He chooses to take the ring off in order to save Jolene’s husband. There was one choice we never got to see made: To kill Sam or not. There was a moment so chilling to me that I left fingernail indentions in my palm; that being the moment Dean and Sam make and hold eye contact at the end of the episode. Dean was shot through the peep hole in the Panic Room door, leaving Jensen Ackles to convince us—with just his eyes—that he is weighing the decision of killing his soulless brother or allowing Sam to live, therefore putting himself, Bobby and countless others in danger. Sam must know what Dean is considering. Those few seconds, completely devoid of dialogue, said so very much. It was a brilliant piece of directing by Mike Rohl.
Jared Padalecki was on fire in this episode. His acting talent was on display and I have never seen him better. He must be exhausted this Season, portraying an essentially foreign character inside the skin of a familiar one. When he was sitting on the stairs in Bobby’s basement (and, by the way, go Bobby with his Scooby Doo-esque trap door!), he was stunningly good. He was creepy and intense, nailing the cold detachment when he delivered the line “It’s not like I want to kill you.” In that same scene, he refers to his souled self in the third person, pointing out that Dean “just cares about his little brother, Sammy.” Oh man, that was a knife twist in my heart.
I was scared when Sam attacked Bobby with the axe, and then absolutely terrified when he yanked Bobby’s head back in order to kill him. I mean… OMG… Sam was really going to kill Bobby! What the ever lovin’ eff?!? I know he doesn’t want his soul back—wall or no wall—but wow, it has never been more evident what the lack of soul has done to our beloved Sam.
You know, I adored Balthazar when he first appeared in “The Third Man” earlier this Season. I thought he was an acceptable replacement for Gabriel (although can anyone ever truly replace the spunky archangel turned trickster?), as a benign foil to Castiel. I liked that he was fencing heavenly artifacts for personal gain. But now, I think I will adore him the way I adored Lucifer—as an enemy to the brothers who must die. I am surprised that Balthazar did not just smite Sam. He must really have a problem with Dean (sigh, poor Dean, he does not seem to engender positive reactions in most angels, does he? Thank Chuck for Cas!) since he helps Sam defy his brother. And wow… patricide? Yeah, that’ll mark up the vessel. I wonder if Lucifer would be able to wear him if he managed to actually kill Bobby. I think it was a little too convenient that Bobby could count as his father.
And hear me out on this… why wouldn’t Dean be the one he tries to kill to fulfill the patricide thing? It was really Dean who raised Sam, if all of the flashbacks have taught us anything. It is Dean who routinely sacrifices himself to save Sam. Brotherly bonds aside, isn’t that what fathers do? I think it would have been cool to see that go down. Yes, yes, I know that is awful to say, but imagine all the angst and fantastic dialogue that would have given us to chew on! Tessa is back! Man, I love her. She is pissed at Dean for dying to ask a favor, and for him choosing to take Death’s dare, but she ultimately shelves her opinion. She has always seemed partial to Dean since their time together in Season Two’s “In My Time of Dying.” She seems at odds with herself, sometimes chastising Dean and sometimes guiding him through the rough patches with empathy. I had to laugh (although it wasn’t anywhere close to funny) when all of the souls he reaps ask him “why?” which was the exact question Dean himself asked Death before he Dr. Robert brought him back from his Seven Minutes In Limbo. Leave it to the writers of Supernatural to have the longest running female character to survive be a dang Grim Reaper. Seriously, those people have issues, LOL.
When Death returned at the end, just before Dean got down to the serious business of considering killing Sam, I was glad to see him eating once again. I wonder if Death eats to fill the void? We should book him on Dr. Phil posthaste. Death (Julian Richings) is creeptastic even offering Dean a bacon dog. I love how Death says things indirectly, never talking himself into a corner. He never fully admits that he knew Dean would fail the test, but he is glad that Dean would go back and choose (see that there? Choices again) kill the girl he initially spared. Even though Dean forgets himself and gets a little lippy, Death is more than happy to fetch Sam’s damaged soul and reinsert it and a spiffy new wall into Sam. But of course Death has a reason for his kindness. And here we go; the new story arc now that Crowley is dead and the missing soul has been recovered.
Dean and Sam have repeatedly thumbed their noses at the “natural order.” They continue to play fast and loose with their lives, thinking (hoping?) they will be restored to them over and over again. As we saw when Dean spared the little girl, when one soul that should have passed on fails to do so, there is a domino effect to fill the gap. Tessa said: “Everything you do has consequences.” Blamo. There it is. Dean comes back later with his ephinany: “No one really skates by, do they?” And then Death taps in for the big finish: “You and your brother keep coming back. You’re an affront to the balance of the universe and you cause disruption on a global scale.” Death sets Dean a new assignment: Keep on digging into souls and their value. Death sets Sam his own special assignment: Don’t scratch at the itchy brain wall. Yeah, okay. Sam is a Winchester and, more importantly, a guy. He is totally going to scratch at that wall.
So… is Death the Winchesters’ boss now? Will they be checking back in with him for a hot pretzel and a chat? I’m not even sure what the boys will be looking for, although I’m pretty sure they will turn to Castiel and Balthazar for information in the coming episodes.
Coming episodes. Hang on. We don’t get new episodes until January 28th. Oh for the love of…
Before I go, a note to Sera: Fantastic script with Robert Singer. Excellent. In fact, it was my favorite of the entire Season (even though there was no Cas… boo). But… When I said I wanted the Classic Rock back, I didn’t mean via Dean quoting “Dust in the Wind” to passing souls. I kinda meant, you know, an actual soundtrack. Just sayin’. Please.
Bekah’s Been Drinkin’ (Wooo!) I drank every time someone died. I thought what with Death in the eppy, I’d be loaded down like a hay truck on the final day of harvest. But nope. There were only five (including Dean and I’m not sure if he should count since he totally came back to life). Ah well. I made sure all five counted!!
The next time we meet, let’s raise our glass to a sure bet. Drink every time any regular characters’ names are used (Dean, Sam/Sammy, Bobby, Castiel/Cas).