Supernatural 5.13 “The Song Remains the Same” Review

Ah, Zeppelin titles. Season 2 had “In My Time of Dying,” “Houses of the Holy,” and “What Is And What Should Never Be.” All great episodes. Okay, I wasn’t the hugest fan of “Houses,” but it brought us the Holy Pole of God, and who can’t be thankful for that? Then came “When the Levee Breaks.” Great song, not such a great episode. But the thing is, the Zeppelin titles tend to reflect the events of their respective episodes moreso than any of the manufactured names. [Confession: I think ‘Ventilator Blues’ would have been a better choice for 2.01, but I’ve always been more of a Stones girl.] Tonight’s episode was no exception.

By my count, the song remained the same in five different ways:

1) The anvils. Good lord. As if I didn’t already understand that young!John was a complete 180 from Jeffery Dean Morgan!John, I had to be slapped over the head for five minutes during the horribly awkward conversation with Sam in which Daddy laments how messed up he will make his children. I get that Mary’s death changed everything, I do. But good lord, it musta taken a whole lot of tequila and guilt to turn naive, holistic young Johnny Boy into Daddy Winchester. I was willing to deal with the characterization in “In the Beginning” because he was lovestruck, covering up his crippling PTSD, yadda yadda. But the man was a Marine! In Vietnam! Growing up hunting monsters doesn’t exactly seem very far down on the “Messed Up and Deserving Righteous Indignation” scale for John Winchester, even one unexposed to monsters. And guilty Sammy was just so overwhelmed by emooooootion! It came off as manufactured and self-conscious, not organic and genuine. Dean’s conversation with Mary was a bit less hackneyed, but I still could have done without it.

2) Angels are dicks. Except when they’re Castiel: then they’re pretty dicks. Or when they’re Anna and they’re just Mary Sues. So badass, she broke out of Heavenly Prison! And can infiltrate Dean’s surprisingly unimaginative sexual fantasies! And can pull crowbars out of her torso! (Okay, that was kinda cool.) I feel like she was in this episode not to present a real threat to the Winchesters, but for the writers to tie up her “loose end,” much as they did with Jo and Ellen (I’d say the latter was more successful than the former). It was probably done in the most painless fashion possible, so I’m okay with that, but she still didn’t exactly advance the plot forward. Apocalypse: still an issue. Sam and Dean: still not meatsuits. Lucifer: stuck on that island somewhere near Fiji eating papayas and squishing his toes in the sand.

3) A Winchester died! I’ll admit, the 1.22/2.01 arc where it wasn’t clear if Dean was gonna pull through had me on the edge of my seat. And then Daddy Winchester bit the dust and I was all, “Noooootheycan’tdothat!!” I also let out a tiny little sob at the end of 2.21 when Sam collapsed in Dean’s arms and Dean was screaming, “Saaaaaam!” as he held his formerly un-floppy brother in his arms. At this point, though, I’ve lost track of how many times the Brothers Winchester have been resurrected. And really — show of hands here — how many people really thought Anna was going to succeed in killing off Momma and Papa and Sammy Winchester? Because, last I checked, there’s still about a half a season left. So my reaction when Sam got stabbed was more, “So who’s bringing him back to life this time?” than, “OMGSTABBYNOOOOOO.”

4) Time travel! Let me preface this by saying that I love ‘Lost.’ I started loving ‘Lost’ even more when they started messing around with the timeline. Why? Because it makes no sense. I have given up trying to figure out what era/parallel universe I’m in with that show and I’m completely happy about it because it’s just that ridiculous. I’ve given up trying to rationalize how it works. ‘Supernatural’ time travel, however, puzzles me, perhaps because it’s not quite ridiculous enough. In “In the Beginning,” I was pretty sure it was just an illusion of time travel — something in Dean’s head manufactured for Castiel for the purposes of getting him to react a certain way. Ditto with “The End.” In between, “It’s a Terrible Life” reinforced that concept because it was clear that the angels had the ability to pick people up, screw around with their heads and put them into “different” worlds governed by their rules (again, in order to influence behavior). I’d figured the two powers were connected. That would explain why none of Dean’s actions in “Beginning” and “End” actually altered the present — no Butterfly Effects, nothin’. But tonight it was real, honest-to-goodness “time travel.” On one hand, I like the idea that maybe Michael’s inhabitance of John’s meatsuit wasn’t as innocent as he claimed and things shifted around to the point where Daddy Winchester became Sucky John after Mary died. On the other hand, I’m having serious trouble figuring out exactly how this whole thing is supposed to work.

5) Fate versus free will! This topic is frustrating to me because there’s a resolution to it (in terms of the end of the series/Apocalypse) that’s appropriate and expected, and then there’s the one that’s looming in the back of my mind that I almost think Kripke’s foolish enough to go for, given the developments over the last few seasons, but pray that he doesn’t. The whole mess started back when the Big Stupid Secret came up. Prior to that, in Season 1 and the first half of Season 2, the guys went out and saved people and killed monsters because it was their choice. There were things that went bump in the night that they couldn’t let the monsters threaten innocent people when they knew they had the tools to remedy the problem. Hunting was a choice — Sam joining Dean back on the road was a choice (the YED would debate me on that one), finding Dad was a choice, hell, going to St. Louis was a choice. Each choice added another layer and pushed the story in a different direction. The culmination of Season 1 — Sam refusing to shoot John — was a choice. That choice had consequences for character development AND the mytharc. If Sam shot John, we’d be in a completely different place right now. Dean wouldn’t have died, he wouldn’t have moped around Season 2 feeling guilty, no America’s Next Top Demon General Competition, etc. Agency and free will at its best. But starting with the Big Stupid Secret and Sam’s destiny, the boys’ choices started having less and less impact on the trajectory of the storyline. Sam and Dean were subject to the whims of the YED — granted, they were able to take out the YED, but doomed themselves in the process. Next, Dean tried to avoid his condemnation to hell and no matter what he did, he was stuck. Season 4 rolled around and Sam was destined to kill Lilith and set Lucifer free — all paths lead to that moment and Ruby was gonna get him there whether he liked it or not. At that point, the big picture chess moves, if you will, were no longer being carried out by the boys. They were happening up top and down below.

The situation with the heavenly and hellacious meatsuits is similar — Dean even recognized tonight that he’s going to say yes to Michael eventually. I think the same sentiment has been nagging Sam for a while. He knows he’s “weak.” They both are. Now, the ending we should get is one where the boys say no to both Michael and Lucifer and find a way to defeat them that puts the entire conflict to rest and they ride off into the sunset (or voluntarily suffer horrible dismemberments instead of turning their bodies over to be used as puppets). But that’s the appropriate ending from a thematic point of view. The thing is, the value of the boys’ choices have been diluted so much over the past few seasons (“all roads lead to Detroit”) that the voice in the back of my head says that one of both of the boys will cave, one will have to kill the other and, in some show of “free will,” redeems himself by sticking the sword into his own chest. Fate pwns all. So for all of the “Yay, Team Free Will!” talk, I can’t help rolling my eyes when the Winchesters keep getting screwed over and over again by forces beyond their control. I don’t want to watch pawns. Pawns are not special, nor are they particularly entertaining to me.

On a less thematic note, I really did enjoy Matt Cohen’s portrayal of Michael. It was very earnest and yet there was something edgy simmering under the surface. Michael is certainly not of the fluffy persuasion, as far as angels go, and I don’t really believe him when he says he’ll leave Dean’s meatsuit intact when he’s done with it. I liked Amy Gumenick again as Mary and we got to see Uriel for, like, five seconds. But while this was the first real mytharc episode we’ve had since the show came back from hiatus, I can’t say that it propelled the plot forward by much. While Anna’s situation, which I didn’t particularly care about in the first place, is now resolved, we’re still no closer to the epic conflagration between Michael and Lucifer: the boys haven’t found a way around Detroit, Lucifer hasn’t found the right leverage for Sam, and Castiel’s probably still passed out on the motel bed while ‘Stairway to Heaven’ plays from the radio. I personally look forward to an episode entitled ‘Kashmir,’ where Castiel transports the boys to a small village in the north of India where they have to infiltrate a demon terrorist training camp and Dean discovers the wonders of curry while Sam decides he’d prefer a life of goat herding.

What? I’d totally watch it.

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