“The Song Remains The Same” Review
By Amanda Rebholz
For a show that is known for being totally rife with drama, plot-twists, and incredible acting performances, Supernatural landed an absolute slam-dunk on all fronts with “The Song Remains the Same.” The acting performances hit it out of the ballpark all the way around, and some of the scenes literally left me with my jaw dropped and tears in my eyes.
Any storyline involving John and Mary Winchester is sure to strike a note with the fans simply because of the effect it has on the boys; Dean and Sam are and will always be the quintessential good sons, their parents having taken on a talismanic property during the course of the show. Originally John Winchester was almost as mythical as the beasts he hunted, a man with an impenetrable air of mystery around him and a gruff approach to raising his sons, and Mary was the martyred mother the boys never really knew. However, as the series progressed the audience began to learn more and more choice tidbits about the original Winchester duo, including John’s mild-mannered personality and Mary’s feisty background as a Hunter (with a similar disposition to the late Jo Harvelle, and more than a passing physical resemblance as well – perhaps this is part of why Dean is so drawn to Jo?). We’ve seen the way that sacrifice for family was apparently genetic – Mary threw away everything for the chance to bring John back from the dead, the same as Dean did for Sam at the end of Season 2. The Winchesters are destined for destruction from the day John and Mary met.
Of course, this is not a fact that escapes our resident angel Anna. While I am a fan of Julie Niven and think she’s a wonderful actress, I have never been an Anna fan. Her character beyond its original appearance seemed stilted and like a plot device to me— Anna would pop in at random inopportune moments to do something minor, then vanish again, and no one wondered where she’d gone or what she’d been doing. She was never exactly helpful, and she never stuck around long enough to truly involve herself in the battle the way that Castiel did. After he turned her over to Heaven last season, some fans assumed that she’d been killed; “The Song Remains the Same” was quick to disprove this theory in a big way.
The sexual relationship between Dean and Anna to me has always seemed unnecessary and insincere; having her show up in one of his dream-fantasy sequences was ironic and appropriately mood-killing. However, any angel-loathing one might begin to feel tickling are quickly squashed by the (much overdue) appearance of fan-favorite Castiel. Misha Collins’s performance is flawless as usual, and his execution of lines such as “Sam Winchester is my friend” and “It was a mistake” are leaden with the burden that Castiel bears as one of the renegade soldiers. He does not fall for Anna’s innocent act, and comes prepared to do battle with her if need be. This is the first time that Castiel has firmly chosen sides with Sam— in the past he himself would’ve been on board for Anna’s plot to kill the younger Winchester. He even seems to consider it for a moment before taking into account the effect this would have on Dean and declaring that he would find another way. Of all of the angels, Castiel is the only one whose heart seems to be in the right place, and it’s ironic that he’s also the most human of the angels.
This is also the first episode where we can truly see the consequences of being cut off from Heaven. Castiel not being able to exorcise Meg a few episodes ago was crucial enough of a plot point, but to have him comatose after time-travel (something he could do effortlessly when he had Heaven’s blessing) and teleportation (something he could do without a problem even just a few episodes ago) is completely devastating. It is much easier now, at this stage of Season 5, to see why Castiel will be so disheartened and broken in the future as he was shown in “The End” episode. To have his powers ripped so cruelly away from him, and his own inability to help the Winchesters despite his best efforts, is pretty much the equivalent of emasculating the angel. Meg hit the nail on the head when she called him ‘impotent’, although Cas is still giving it the old college try because he clearly doesn’t want to let the brothers down.
The idea of fate and inescapable destiny is a Supernatural trope that someone could write a college thesis on; it’s been drilled into our heads one way, then flipped on its head and drilled in another, but the end consensus always seems to be “all roads lead you here.” It’s been said by angels, men and demons alike, and so far it’s proven to be true. As stated in this episode, “Imagine the thousands of tiny coincidences that had to occur to bring you here…the thousands of choices you make every day that bring you closer to your destiny”. This is the second time Dean has traveled back in time to try and interfere with his mother’s fate, and the second time he has failed; it is reminiscent of “Mystery Spot,” where Gabriel’s entire point was to prove to Sam that no matter what they did differently, at the end of the day he still wouldn’t be able to save Dean from his fate.
While some fans have been clamoring for the appearance of Michael the entire season, I personally think he chose a perfect time to appear. It was when Dean was vulnerable and not in a position to sass him; I thought it was an especially nice touch that Michael chose John to deliver the message of “obey” to Dean, because John was always the only person who could get through to Dean anyway. Dean still rebelled, as we knew he would, but the ensuing conversation with Michael was beautifully written and made the hair on my arms stand up.
Of course, the episode did have a few plot holes that likely won’t be addressed – for example, if Anna died thirty years ago, then wouldn’t that send a butterfly effect-style ripple through space and time to the present-day Winchesters? They would have never met Anna, she would’ve never challenged Castiel to rebel, never would’ve christened the backseat of the Impala, et cetera et cetera. Still, the episode was a complete knock-out for me, and honestly I’d have to say that “The Song Remains the Same” is one of the most powerful episodes since “Time Is On My Side” and “In My Time of Dying”; it’s the first episode in several seasons that has left me literally feeling like I took a reeling punch to the gut when the credits finally rolled.
Anyone who is not watching Supernatural truly is missing out— this is one of the most creative, fearless, and well-executed shows with a cast and crew that are out of this world, and no episode aired yet in Season 5 has demonstrated that as well as “The Song Remains the Same” has. One can only imagine what is next in store for the boys, Castiel included, after this heart-wrenching roller coaster of an episode… and whether Sam’s musing “They all keep saying we’ll say yes… maybe we will” has any merit whatsoever.