I’ve been breaking Season 15 into acts as if it were an extended play, and so we move into Act Two: Casting About. The Winchesters seem to be at loose ends, trying to figure out where they go. They’ve lost the only weapon they had against Chuck (a.k.a God) (Rob Benedict). With Dean (Jensen Ackles) feeling hopeless, Castiel (Misha Collins) gone, Rowena, Ketch, and Jack dead (or so it seems), Sam (Jared Padelecki) feels like he’s alone in the fight. He’s not, but learning the truth is a tougher and more merciless journey than our heroes may imagine. In this act, as they cast about for answers, they begin to really understand the depth and breadth of the challenge they face.
NOTE: This post is super-charged with Season 15 spoilers. If you care about that sort of thing, stop right here.
Finding their way
Episode 6, “Golden Time” finds the ghost of Eileen Leahy (Shoshannah Stern), escaped from Hell, haunting Sam and Dean. Eileen, a hunter in her own right, was last seen in season 12, killed by a hellhound and dragged to Hell. She’s come to the bunker to find some way to avoid an afterlife eternity of either torture or madness. At the same time, Castiel is on retreat, fishing and trying to figure out how to find peace.
Three key things occur in this episode. First, Sam, using a partial spell from Rowena’s secret library to brings Eileen back to the world of the living. (Their reunion is just wonderful; Sam’s heart almost visibly swells with her return and with finally getting a win.) Second, Sam convinces Dean that he couldn’t have succeeded in the effort without him. And third, Castiel solves a case involving a djinn (because these characters can’t ever go on vacation without it turning into work). Solving that case allows him catharsis; he takes out all his anger and frustration on nailing that djinn to the floor. It’s actually a little scary to watch—we’ve never seen Castiel act out with such intense rage. In the end, though, that battle helps him remember that his purpose is to help people. He accepts that if he doesn’t return to the bunker, then nothing changes.
Castiel in a new mode
Castiel’s return in “Last Call”—while Dean is out having more fun than we’ve seen, maybe ever, and learning the truth about an old friend, Lee Webb (Christian Kane) —gives him time to get back into the groove. He meets Eileen, who reacts a little as though she’s meeting a rock star. The only trouble is that Castiel’s return goes wrong. In the bunker infirmary, while trying to help Sam learn more about his shoulder wound, the force of Castiel’s effort throws Sam against the wall and knocks him out. Eileen and Sam have been deepening their relationship and her distress at his situation is palpable.
Castiel calls in an old associate, Sergei (Dmitri Vantis, wielding a delicious Russia accent), a shaman, to help them heal Sam. When Sergei proves rather nonchalant about the whole affair, Castiel threatens him. Sergei hightails it to the bunker. He reveals and confirms Sam’s connection to Chuck through the wound. When he attempts to blackmail Castiel with Sam’s life, Cas reveals his leverage over Sergei in the form of a threat against Sergei’s niece. Sergei relents and heals Sam after all. Sergei tells Cas he approves of this new approach; it’s almost Russian. And it reminds us that Castiel was a warrior, a soldier of God. There was a time when uncompromising commitment to a goal was his stock in trade.
Dean returns, having been given a glimpse of a different life and having made some hard choices. He finds Castiel in the bunker. They have a moment: will Dean apologize? Of course he doesn’t. Castiel heads back to the infirmary without another word. Dean follows. Sam, filled with conviction, declares that with this new information about the wound, he thinks they can beat Chuck.
What we see in Castiel’s choices and approach is a character in real transition. Dean is the closest thing he has to family, but Dean has made a regular habit of abusing Cas. The most recent incident, blaming everything on Cas, pushed the angel away, trying to give Dean some space, and trying to make some space for himself as well. When he and Dean come face to face with each other in the bunker for the first time in months, Cas waits for Dean to say something, anything, to heal their rift. Apparently the reverse is true as well, as if it’s Castiel’s job to make things easy. But Cas is done making things easy for Dean. They’ve got work to do, and so Castiel’s priority is to do that work. It’s a good look for him.
Finding a prophet in days of loss
In “Our Father, Who Aren’t in Heaven,” Dean digs out the demon tablet, the written word of God, with the idea that it may hold a clue to defeating Chuck. He gets in touch with Donatello Redfield the prophet (Keith Szarabajka) to interpret the tablet and see what can be learned. Donatello discovers that a key to Chuck’s demise might be found with “God’s favorite.” Sam and Dean deduce that this favorite must be the archangel Michael. Chuck interrupts their discussion, speaking through Donatello, warning them off their quest. The warning is unsettling but it doesn’t put them off. The trouble is, we last saw Michael in Hell in the Cage, the ultimate prison, trapped there in the company of Sam and Dean’s half-brother Adam. Their only choice is to go to Hell to get the answer they need.
In what can only be described as inevitable, it turns out that Rowena (Ruth Connell) has become the Queen of Hell. It’s entertaining to see our favorite witch finally holding the power she wanted so much in life. She commands her minions to find Michael. In the meanwhile, she sees that Dean and Castiel are at odds. She scolds them, telling them to fix it. She might as well have been Cher in Moonstruck, smacking Nicholas Cage and telling him to snap out of it. They looked like defiant little boys in response. When the news comes that Michael and Adam escaped Hell as a result of Chuck opening its gates, our heroes return to the bunker. They’re traveling in Adam’s body. How can Sam and Dean find Adam/Michael (Jake Abel)? Donatello is the answer. He locates Adam/Michael and the Winchesters capture him.
While Eileen keeps the door to Hell open so that the boys could get back, a friend, another hunter, contacts her looking for help to clean out a vampire’s nest. Sam, Dean and Castiel convince Michael to help them, to give them the spell that can defeat Chuck. Eileen promises to help her friend. She enlists Sam’s aid and they go, only to discover that it was a set-up: the call came from Chuck, who now has them in his grip.
The two plotlines in “The Trap” round out Act Two in season 15. One is Chuck’s attempts to break Sam’s spirit. The other is Dean and Castiel’s search for a key ingredient in Michael’s spell for imprisoning Chuck in a crystal vessel forever.
We’ve always known that Chuck is petty, but with Sam and Eileen in his clutches, he’s cold and cruel. He knows that the wound that he and Sam both have connects them somehow. He knows he’s weaker because of it but he can’t figure out why. First he uses Eileen to probe Sam’s wound with a scalpel. When he realizes that hope is what strengthens Sam, he begins to work on Sam’s resolve. He shows Sam a future without God’s light. He shows Sam the deaths of the Winchester brothers.
Dean and Castiel follow Rowena’s orders
Back at the bunker, Dean realizes that something’s wrong when Sam won’t answer his phone. He’s determined to help his brother but Castiel, in his new mode, ruthlessly insists that they stay focused on the bigger picture. The one ingredient they lack for Michael’s entrapment spell is a leviathan blossom, found only in Purgatory. Michael opens a door to Purgatory for them and they go through, with a twelve-hour window to find what they need.
Over the course of those twelve hours, Castiel apologizes to Dean for his failures. Dean blames him for leaving and Castiel quite reasonably points out that Dean could have stopped him but Dean was too angry. As they find the blossoms they need, leviathans knock out Dean. When he wakes up, Dean discovers that the blossoms have been burned and Castiel is gone; Dean must find him. As time runs out, Dean sends Castiel a prayer, a heartfelt apology for his anger, for letting Cas go. With just minutes left on the clock, Dean finds Cas. Leviathans captured him, but once Cas had what they needed—a leviathan blossom—he escaped. Dean starts to apologize to him but Castiel tells Dean that he heard Dean’s prayer. They’re good.
Face to face with fate
Together, they make the vessel they need to contain Chuck, and then go find Chuck, Sam and Eileen. Chuck has been using a casino as his lair. The metaphor is an apt one: a place where luck holds sway, a place where Chuck, being God, can influence the outcome. When they finally get the drop on Chuck, Sam can’t make himself use the vessel. He’s seen the world without God’s light. Chuck crushes the vessel. Chuck tells Dean that Sam’s visions—of the Winchesters killing each other—haven’t been possible outcomes; they’ve been visions of themselves in other worlds. No matter what choices they make, the end is always the same. And Dean, defiant as ever, tells him no, this Sam and Dean will never give Chuck the ending he wants. Chuck says, “We’ll see,” and disappears.
Back at the bunker, Eileen has decided to leave. She doesn’t know what is and isn’t real anymore and she needs space to figure it out. Sam, clearly heartbroken, kisses her and tells her that was real. She departs. Sam lets Dean and Castiel know Eileen’s gone. Now, all that’s left for them to do is wait for Chuck to show himself again and, understanding the scope of the work ahead, be ready for his return.
On Friday, I’ll wrap up with Act 3 of the season.
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Janna Silverstein is a writer and editor, an all-round professional nerd living in Seattle with two cats, a really big TV, and lots of books. She’s getting awfully antsy for new Supernatural episodes to return.