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curled around these images
just enough to make us dangerous
11.17 reaction/review 
31st-Mar-2016 09:53 pm
squeed, posted, I watched

I feel like forever since I've done this but…*deep breath*


Holy fuck! What an episode! What a ride!

I can't remember an episode that had me SO nervous and on the edge of my seat. I was totally taken on that journey. Even though I KNEW they would both be ok I was still so damn worried! At no point in the episode I could imagine where they were going or how they were going to resolve it.

And I actually cried. Cried! I really felt Sam's death and Dean's utter desperation and loss. I confess I haven't always felt that over their deaths - probably not since Swan Song have I felt a real sadness. Even though I knew Sam would be ok, it was the way it was done and Dean's incredible reaction that made it feel so damn sad and real.

The episode was so wonderfully constructed. I'm not always a fan of showing us what happens in the future and then going back (I actually did a little sigh when the "48 hours earlier" came up), but the cutting between the future and present was so tight and beautifully paced I was totally sucked into it.

The directing was sharp (congrats to new director Nina Lopez-Corrado) and the acting was top notch. I felt Jensen gave one of his best performances in a while (ok, he's always solid but the emotion was well controlled and fucking deep), Jared balanced the enormous amount of hurt with awesome kick-assery and Erin Way as Michelle was a standout guest star - giving a nuanced performance that beautifully reflected what was going on in Dean. The writing was inspired! Berens and Dabb made for a great partnership. More please you guys!

But it was the Epic Love Story of Sam and Dean that was the star of this episode. Possibly not since Mystery Spot have they written that story so well in one episode. I mean, the "love story" is constant and is seen over long periods (and in the climaxes of the season finales), but rarely all in one episode. This episode not only captured their love but actually delved into what that love is about and highlighted why it is so deep.

Since S8 I have been made to question their love for each other - as in, how "healthy" is it, is it damaging etc. We've been shown a Sam and Dean who have been willing to hurt the other (and the world) in order to keep each alive. They've appeared selfish and overly co-dependant. Even downright mean. I remember actually writing once that they would be better off apart at one point (argh!) It always felt like the Show was making some sort of deep comment about their relationship, but as S10 ended it looked like there was never really a comment to be had - they were just using their relationship as a way to build tension and create angst and drama.

Now, in S11, they seem to have turned that corner and instead of exploring their relationship in a negative way they've started to explore it more meaningful and positive way - as in, looking at their love and need for each other in a way that doesn't compromise their characters.

This episode explored the layers of their relationship without being either melodramatic or shallow. When Dean saw Sam dead what flooded through my mind was how is Dean going to carry on the fight without the only person who has been through everything (everything!) with him. Sure, it explored Dean's need for Sam to be alive (as many episodes have) but it really struck me this time why Dean needs Sam to be alive. It's no longer just "look out for Sam" but rather "How do I go on in this life? How do I keep going? How do I continue to fight? Who would I turn to? Who would I talk to? Laugh with? Cry with?" Somehow (and maybe I read into it more than was there?) this episode made me really understand the complete need they have for each other. How the other keeps them sane, keeps them fighting, keeps them strong. I know this isn't new to the show at all (Sam's first death in AHBL brought much of that home, as did Dean's deaths in Mystery Spot) but it's been so long since I've really felt the Show has understood that. Or taken that angle. Perhaps it was Jensen's performance or maybe it was the way Sam "died" (horrifically and unfairly) - I don't really know what it was, but boy whatever it was it worked for me.

I also loved that Dean was allowed to be Dean. He was allowed to feel the devastation of Sam's death and be determined to bring him back, but not at the expense of some of his core values. One of the strongest moments was when Dean left "dead" Sam in order to help the survivors. This felt like an amazingly (positive) step for Dean, in that he actually attended to people outside of Sam for that moment. He allowed Sam to be dead so he could help those in direct need. He always knew he'd be back, but also fulfilled the "saving people" part of the bumper sticker. I was very proud of him!

I'm sure many felt that there should have been a hug somewhere in the episode - and I thought there would have been one, but I'm actually glad it didn't happen. We didn't need it to know how Dean felt. There was a moment at the end - when Sam collapsed in the hospital - that I thought Dean would rush to Sam and hug him. But instead he just looked at him and soaked up the fact that he was alive. The relief, the love, the admiration was all there (did I mention one of Jensen's best performances?). Also, Dean's "what took you so long?" was perfect.

Then of course there was the Romeo and Juliet moment that had my heart racing and singing at the same time. Dean thinks Sam is dead so takes poison to kill himself too - only to find that Sam isn't actually dead. Luckily it didn't go the way of Romeo and Juliet - both dead (this time! Maybe that will be the way the show finally ends…).

And then finally Michelle speaks Dean's mind by saying she watched the man she loves dies and that there is no way she'll be normal again. Such an amazing line because it speaks of neither Sam or Dean being "normal" since they witnessed their first deaths of the other - Sam in AHBL and Dean in No Rest for the Wicked. They are not normal - never will be.

I haven't spoken much about Sam because even though he was amazing (Sam FUCKING Winchester for the win!) this was a Dean centric episode. It was about him and Sam being dead. It was about not being able to let go, not being able to live without Sam. It was Billie's truth that Sam needs to be alive for him, not for Sam. A recurring theme, but better handled than it's been for a long time.

Though I do just have to mention Sam a bit *g* - he was fucking unstoppable! Shot, chocked, beaten and yet able to fight off the monsters AND save Dean. His determination to save Dean was just as fierce. And the hurt!Sam was OFF THE PLANET! Also - Sam's ability to cope with ridiculous amounts of pain is the result of being in the cage (head canon).

Love that Billie doesn't want to make deals. Though I do wonder what the death of Death has actually meant for the world (nothing it seems?).

So yeah, totally loved it! Definitely my favourite episode this season - might even be up there as one of my faves since S8!!
31st-Mar-2016 02:04 pm (UTC)
I'm still flailing over this episode and words fail me.

Pretty much everything you said. <3
31st-Mar-2016 02:10 pm (UTC)
I'm still flailing too! I can't believe we've been given so much epic bro love in one episode.
31st-Mar-2016 02:55 pm (UTC)
Riding the high right there with you. :)
1st-Apr-2016 12:28 am (UTC)
Great to be on a high after an ep! :)
31st-Mar-2016 03:00 pm (UTC)
I think it was an important, significant moment when Dean begged Billie to bring Sam back and take him instead because that refuted her thesis that he wanted her to save Sam for selfish reasons, because Dean can't lose him. For too long on the show, and in much of fandom, it's been an accepted truth that Dean keeps saving Sam because he can't live without him - but Dean proved that he could in the year between seasons 5 and 6. He wasn't happy about it, but he did it. I think people tend to overlook what Dean actually said back when he first sold his soul to bring Sam back. He didn't say "I couldn't live without you, Sammy"; he said, "I couldn't live with you dead." There's a subtle difference. What he meant, then, was that he couldn't live with himself if he hadn't saved Sam. He believed it was his responsibility. Now . . . maybe it is partly because he believes Sam can save the world, and he can't. I also think maybe it's because he believes Sam deserves to have a life more than he does.
1st-Apr-2016 12:48 am (UTC)
Yes. I agree. I think the "take me instead" was a nice mirror of when Sam asked for the same when Dean died at the end of S3. I feel they can live without the other - they've both done it - not always successfully, but we have seen that they can do it. I think it was particularly poignant that this death came at this particular time (during the season and not part of a finale). It allowed them to explore the issue without having to make the event dictate the narrative for the next 3 or 4 episodes.

I think this time they gave us more reasons for Dean wanting Sam alive - not just the loss for himself (which I do actually think Dean struggles with), but also because he knows he can't defeat The Darkness alone. He believes Sam will be able to kill her, where he isn't able to. I think Dean also (still) considers that he has somehow failed Sam when he dies. I think this episode did what many haven't been able to do when it comes to this issue - present a situation that doesn't judge either one of them for their actions. Now, that might just be me and my personal reaction to it, but I didn't feel the characters (particularly Dean) were compromised this time (killing yourself might be kinda stupid, but not outside of his character).

I think I also reacted on a very personal level in "seeing" and really understanding what their lives would be like without the other. It hit me hard. In the past I have been "let your brother die and rest in peace" but now I'm "save him! You keep each other strong!"
31st-Mar-2016 03:34 pm (UTC)
Yes! I really enjoyed having my heart ripped out the episode!! LOL
1st-Apr-2016 12:49 am (UTC)
I suspect THEY enjoyed it too!! They like to play with us!
31st-Mar-2016 03:44 pm (UTC)
I was chat-watching online with a faraway friend, and I have it on record:

Another comment I made somewhere along the roller-coaster was "This isn't even SPN!!!" (which was my way of saying, in the, uh, "heat of the moment", that it was an amazing departure even for a show that's never relied heavily on formula).

It was such a refreshing and exciting episode, especially given that we're in season-freakin'-ELEVEN. They keep bringing it.
1st-Apr-2016 01:04 am (UTC)
haha! I love that conversation. I was also crying out "why hasn't he bleed out?!" (then I remember Sam fucking Winchester.*g*)

And I agree it was an amazing departure - we rarely get an episode focused so heavily on one of them being mortally wounded during the episode (mostly happens in a finale). So exciting!

31st-Mar-2016 03:55 pm (UTC)

Ash, ASH.

This episode.

I don't know if I can collect any better response than what you've done. This is probably my fave of S11 so far. SEASON ELEVEN, THE SEASON WE RE-FOUND SAM AND DEAN.

You know what amazes me more than anything else? Season 11, as a whole. What has happened, that the show has returned to what we loved about the Kripke era? Which switch was flipped? (Is it the easing back of Singer and Carver? Is it Dabb taking on more steering of the helm? Just spitballing, here.)

I'm still not totally sold on the Amara or Casifer threads, but what they're doing with the Winchesters is A+ #1 100% AWESOME. (Am I overkilling my glee? Perhaps! Let me have this, y'all.)

Totally agree that this was a big moment of revelation for/about Dean. I know you and I have both been craving Sam POV, but I was so, so okay with Dean's POV here, I could've cried. Might've teared up a teensy bit, no lie. Jensen was completely plugged into the emotions here, and gave one of his best performances of the season, without question. But also, anyone else think part of Sam's tenacity--through the blood loss and pain and near-death trauma--was to get back to Dean? Hands, everyone? I thought so. :)

OH! ALSO! Based on something Jared insinuated (at a recent con, I believe), I don't think Sam is quite done with the demon blood yet (Nothing concrete! And certainly nothing that touches on spoiler territory, so no worries.) But that could potentially be a small part of why he can take a licking and keep on ticking. (That, and your head canon, Ash. :D :D :D) Hey, this is me, here. I gotta hope.

MORE OH! And can we talk about the ladies?? I adored Erin Way's Michelle--more of her, please? Lisa Berry reprised her Billie the Reaper, again, whom I adored. (I watched a vidcast with her and she is a dyed-in-the-wool SPN fangirl who knows the show as well as we do. *HEARTS IN EYES* Love to have her at PittsCon.) And HELLO, the directorial debut of the incredibly talented Nina Lopez-Corrado was fantastic! She really knocked it outta the park, and the show hasn't used woman directors nearly enough.

Bob Berens has always been one of my favorite show writers. He brings a believability and gravitas to the universe, as well as a real adroitness at taking what he knows the audience loves about the show and presenting it in a way that feels fresh. Starting in media res, showing field triage...he manages to explore angles of the Winchesters' world that have always been there, yet typically unacknowledged. I absolutely squeed over Sam cracking jokes about camping, while Dean maintained his surly hate for The Outdoors. I suspect Dabb added the glibness to Beren's weight. They worked so beautifully as a team.

I was really proud of our show last night. Still am.

31st-Mar-2016 04:49 pm (UTC)
I can't stop grinning, and inside, I'm bouncing! I agree with every word. And also--is there possibly a link to that vidcast you mentioned with Lisa Berry? I would love to see that.
31st-Mar-2016 04:06 pm (UTC)
I got nothin' to add to this perfect review. This episode was SO disturbing, and I was grateful to find Jensen's tweet where he acknowledges the anxiety viewers were feeling, because when Sam actually "died" I think I had a full-blown panic attack, although I knew in my head he couldn't really be dead. I really wasn't prepared for the emotional roller-coaster of this whole episode, which felt much more like a season finale than a mid-second-half-of-the-season episode. I'm still shaking just thinking about it!

This is probably crazy, but when Dean tells Billie that Sam is the only one who can stop the Darkness (can't remember the exact line?) I believed him. I know, Billie accuses Dean of wanting Sam back for him, not just for some greater cause, but that's such old news, and Dean already knows that's true, but it feels like it's also true that Dean believes in Sam and trusts him to be the one who can ultimately stop the Darkness, since Dean obviously can't do it himself. And given the outstanding bad-assery Sam exhibits in this episode, I tend to agree with him :)
1st-Apr-2016 01:49 am (UTC)
This episode was SO disturbing

This! watching Sam get suffocated and then Dean froth at the mouth was ugly dying. It weren't "easy" deaths and I think that's what made the episode so stressful. And Dean not knowing how or why Sam died added to the angst levels. Ack! And then Sam was alive and Dean was dying…MY HEART!

This is probably crazy, but when Dean tells Billie that Sam is the only one who can stop the Darkness (can't remember the exact line?) I believed him.

Haha! Not crazy! Dean truly believes this. Sam has told him he has his back on that and Dean knows what Sam is capable of. Dean is hanging onto the fact that one of them will be able to finish The Darkness - he knows he can't (though he has actually got the knife in, it's just not worked. I still wonder why he's convinced himself he can't do the dead if necessary. Dean can do anything! :D), so he's counting on Sam being able to.

Though - they have so many problems to deal with. The Darkness is big, but Lucifer out has to be just as big I would have thought. Hee, I suppose we'll have to wait to see what happens (I want it now!).
31st-Mar-2016 04:51 pm (UTC)
No way I'm going to be more--or as--articulate than you or quickreaver, so I'll just add a firm nod and point to both of you, while I hug myself to keep from bouncing too much. I am a happy SPNgirl this morning!
1st-Apr-2016 01:49 am (UTC)
Me a happy SPN girl this morning too! So great to still be feeling good about an ep (and I look forward to re-watching it!)
31st-Mar-2016 05:01 pm (UTC)
This insures that I'll watch the ep again--this time with eyes wide open!

This season is such a pleasure to me because it feels like the Show has finally followed up on all the tentative truce offerings we've got from them in the last few seasons. I hope they continue on this path. :)
1st-Apr-2016 01:58 am (UTC)
I'm looking forward to watching it this time and seeing all the details (and enjoying it more knowing everything will be ok!) It was hard to "enjoy" watching the boys suffer so much.

Oh I hope they continue on this path too. I'm so scared they'll revert to the deceit and nastiness - but after 17 episodes it's looking promising they won't. :))
31st-Mar-2016 05:14 pm (UTC)
I watched it really, really late last night with a bad case of jet lag. So the impact was dulled. But DAMN, when the guy was choking Sam to death, I was amazed at the real-life brutality they were showing, not being thrown-against-the-wall-stuck-with-an-angel-blade violence. Also, watching Dean seize and foam at the mouth.

I'll watch it again when I feel more like myself.
1st-Apr-2016 02:01 am (UTC)
But DAMN, when the guy was choking Sam to death, I was amazed at the real-life brutality they were showing, not being thrown-against-the-wall-stuck-with-an-angel-blade violence.

yes yes! This! The choking was so unexpected. I thought Sam would just bleed out - but to have that added brutality and without Dean knowing - just upped the distress and tension.

Enjoy the re-watch! I'm looking forward to it now that I know what happens. :))
31st-Mar-2016 06:41 pm (UTC)
it was decent, could of been better, some missing scenes, the lie at the end; the beginning was great. it was decent. i'lll be back for episode 19

Edited at 2016-03-31 06:47 pm (UTC)
1st-Apr-2016 12:26 am (UTC)
Could have been better?!!?! Haha! Oh man, you're a harsh judge!

And I didn't feel Dean lied at the end, he just didn't tell Sam the whole truth at that moment. Namely because I think Sam knows Dean would have done something he wouldn't have approved of and that's not a "quick" conversation. The point was more about seeing Dean just not accept Sam as dead. He can't and won't ever accept that (which is seriously messed but, but that's nothing knew for either Dean or the show *g*).
31st-Mar-2016 07:09 pm (UTC)
That was me watching the ep... no title
And that was me after.. no title
What an episode! What a ride indeed! :D
1st-Apr-2016 02:05 am (UTC)
YEP!! And that first face for sure. I was SO stressed! I loved having such a strong reaction to an episode! <33
31st-Mar-2016 10:06 pm (UTC)
"but it's been so long since I've really felt the Show has understood that. Or taken that angle. Perhaps it was Jensen's performance or maybe it was the way Sam "died" (horrifically and unfairly) - I don't really know what it was, but boy whatever it was it worked for me." ME TOO! So much love for this episode for all the reasons. Hurts that really hurt (even Dean his his concussion and cracked ribs and felt it) as well as the emotion. I couldn't believe that this show could actually choke me up after all this time and all these deaths.

Bravo show!
1st-Apr-2016 04:39 am (UTC)
Yes! So much "real" hurt. Dean being tasered was so out of the blue and unfair. :(

I'm amazed I've been able to feel this after all this time (and deaths). Amazed and happy! Yay Show!
1st-Apr-2016 12:49 am (UTC)
Yes, yes, yes! Everything you said! What an episode.

I do wonder what the death of Death has actually meant for the world
It is my personal headcanon that you can't truly kill Death and that Billie is actually the new Death... Awesome character either way (love the actress too) and hope we see a lot more of her.
1st-Apr-2016 04:43 am (UTC)
I don't believe you can truly kill Death either. Billie is either the new Death (yay) or the other Death will be back and simply say.."What you thought you could kill me? And then he'd laugh a lot. :)
1st-Apr-2016 12:54 am (UTC)
Ash - beautiful recap for a gorgeous episode, one of the best, and the shock and awe I felt during this episode (unspoiled for the win!) reminded me so much of Sam's "first" death, so many years ago.... the episode where I realized I had found my 'heart show', if that makes any sense at all.

I have so enjoyed this season, which feels nothing short of a miracle to me. Thank you again for these recaps. Makes episodes like this one even more sweet. :-)
3rd-Apr-2016 01:13 am (UTC)
Thanks! :)

The pain definitely felt like those earlier days. Brutal and real. Kudos to both Jared and Jensen for putting so much heart into their performances. <3

It's so nice to be still on a high (and enjoying fandom) again. It gives me hope for S12 - if they can produce eps like this I will be a happy fangirl (even if it just means them continuing to work together - without the deceit).
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