Then: Angels are unhappy, bad crap is happening, Dean and Amara are bonded, Sam's having visions and he thinks God wants him to go back to the cage, Dean says they'll find another way but they both know there isn't one.
Now: Amara accosts a group of people listening to a man preach, and I know some of us thought it was funny that the Darkness would have visible bra straps, but she's not wearing one now and this dress really isn't doing her any favors. But no one's looking at her chest, because she turns a fountain to blood and then kills everyone. And God does not respond.
Sam is in darkness, with eerie blue lights and lightning flashing around him. He opens his eyes and sees he's in some kind of cage-like structure, then turns to see... duh duh duh... Lucifer.
Yes, Sam, I do get haircuts in Hell.
Lucifer smiles and touches his face and then suddenly we're outside, in daylight, with Sam alone (and oh, doesn't he look nice), and I don't know when they filmed this scene but it must have been pretty damn cold. He's praying, and he asks "Is this really the answer? Is this what you want?" And God, or whoever is sending Sam's visions (spoiler alert: ahem), says here's your sign. Because a bush has burst into flame behind him.
Yes, Sam, I have sent you a LITERAL BURNING BUSH. AM I BEING TOO SUBTLE?
Back at the bunker, Dean points out that this is a crazy idea, and they do this weird thing where the camera is super close to their faces. It's a technique they normally use when the characters are hallucinating or something, so I'm not sure why they pull it out here.
If I were directing, you'd get pretty closeups, not this weird shit.
Sam's convinced he's right about the visions because they only come when he prays to God. And he says that in the vision, when Lucifer touches him, he feels calm. And that's not something he'd think of on his own, so it must come from God, right? And also, there's the burning bush. To which Dean responds "You were in the forest. There are bushes there, and sometimes they burn." Oh, god, Dean. I love that he's reaching SO hard for some explanation other than the one Sam has accepted.
Sometimes bushes burn, Sam. Sometimes water turns into wine. It doesn't mean anything.
Also, the pretty in this scene is intense.
Come on, Dean. You know the people want to see some trauma. Roll with it.
Apparently Sam convinces Dean, because next we see the boys somewhere dark and spooky talking to Crowley. Who I guess is still on speed-dial. I wonder what they said to convince him to meet them and not kill them?
No, seriously, Sam, look at the writers. This is gonna go south.
They ask if it's possible, not that they're going to do it, but just theoretically, you know, if we wanted to, which we don't, but could one, perhaps, go to hell and talk to Lucifer? Asking for a friend. Crowley's all, "No, bye," but they remind him that the Darkness is bad for everyone, including him. Crowley points out that she's loose because she chose Dean and why did she insist on sparing him anyway? Which, by the way, he didn't tell Sam.
Uh oh. Hope Sam didn't hear that.
Uh, yeah, I did hear that.
But it's okay, I'm sure they'll have time to talk about it later.
Dean doesn't want Sam to go to the cage, Sam says that if he can't get to the cage, he can't meet with Lucifer, and Crowley decides he may have a better way. While killing Sam is on his bucket list, now is not the time, but he thinks they can meet at a neutral point, under his control. He doesn't have a key to the cage, but the secrets of the cage, and the necessary warding symbols to protect Sam, are (conveniently) found in the Book of the Damned. We also get a brief glimpse of Lucifer in the cage, and I guess we know whose fingers were poking out of it.
Cut to a church. It's a Catholic church, as television churches almost invariably are. Amara's looking for God, and is annoyed to find he's not actually physically present there, so she kills everyone in the church and eats their souls. And again, she's irritated to not get a response from her brother. Also, there's a meeting of angels who have decided to take charge of things, and one of them's named Daniel, and I thought Daniel was one of the rogue angels who was killed last season? Wasn't he hanging out with Adina? I'd look it up but I don't really care enough. Next!
In Faux Hell, Rowena is brought to Crowley in chains. So I guess he knew where she was all along? The brothers show up and we finally get some Winchester/Rowena snarking action. Crowley promises to call off his goons if she'll open the cage and keep Sam safe. She's a little too excited when she finds out who's actually in the cage.
Dean heads off to investigate the deaths at the church, while Sam supervises Rowena's work.
Who requested the lip-biting?
And again, let me point out how much I love Rowena when she's playing off the Winchesters. Now that she has the Book of the Damned, the codex, and Charlie's work in hand, she tries to poke about in other parts of the Book. Sam tries to stop her. On the phone with Dean, he admits that he's not okay with any of this, but they have no choice. Dean makes him promise not to do anything until he gets back. Sam doesn't understand how foreshadowing works, so he says yeah, nothing's happening but research anyway, but he won't do anything until Dean gets back.
Sam's black v-neck t-shirt is A LITTLE DISTRACTING.
Sam's expression is VERY DISTRACTING.
Sam's shoulder-to-waist ratio is... oh, well, you know.
Now that the brothers have split up, I'm going to talk about their stories as a whole instead of switching back and forth as the episode did.
Dean leaves the church and pauses a bit on the steps, because he looks really good and he knows I like it.
This would be even better with just a little bit of blood.
Or maybe he pauses because he hears/feels something weird. No one else notices it, but there's a low kind of rumbling noise. He orders a hot dog, and then Sam calls. Dean just stares at his phone, then turns around and sees Amara. Oh, Dean. You really should answer that. Instead he stares at Amara for a bit, and she says he came because he felt her presence, and then they're elsewhere, in some kind of wilderness. She tells him she killed all those people to get her brother's attention. She consumed the souls of the dead, but they're not gone, they're part of her, so they'll live forever. Kind of like the yogurt I ate this morning is now a part of me, and will live as long as I do. I don't think it makes the yogurt feel any better, though. (It was tropical fruit Greek yogurt with some pistachios mixed in. It was yummy. And now it lives as part of me.)
Amara doesn't blame Dean for mistrusting her, because she knows he's heard all of God's propaganda. And what if all of God's rules didn't exist? What if there was nothing, no pain, just bliss? Wouldn't that be awesome? Blah blah blah. There's a lot of talking here. As she talks, Dean stealthily draws a blade out of his jacket - the one he yoinked last week, I assume - and wheels around and stabs her with it. Which answers the question of whether he'd mentally be able to kill her. Sadly, he's able mentally but not physically, because the blade shatters on impact. She's not mad, because she knows it's his instinct to fight. Amara takes his face in her hands and opens her mouth and looks like she's going to consume his soul, then looks surprised and kisses him instead. Is she surprised because she attempted to take his soul but it wasn't there? Or because she couldn't get to it? Or is she surprised that she decided she'd rather kiss him than munch on his yummy fire-roasted soul? And why does Dean kiss her back? If something evil that you wanted to destroy kissed you, would you kiss her back?
(On the other hand, I watched Born Under a Bad Sign last week and damn, if that version of Sam kissed me, I'd kiss him back. Why do I not watch this episode every week? Or just, you know, the scene with Jo? Because DAMN. So I guess I should cut Dean some slack.)
This is why you need to wear your hair a little longer, Dean. A girl likes something to grab back there. Just sayin'.
She says the kiss was "the future," and hmmm. Does the Darkness need a consort? Then a group of angels shows up and orders her to surrender, and if she doesn't, all of Heaven will smite her at once. Dean says no, if they take her down, a lot of people will die. Huh? I thought the whole point was taking her down? Why are people going to die because she's destroyed? It's a moot point, because none of these angels has watched a kung-fu movie, or saw Sam battle demons in 11.06, so they attack one at a time, and are easily destroyed. There's some angry cloud-swirling above them, which Dean assumes is Heaven coming to smite her, and Amara's all, maybe they'll hear me now. She zaps Dean back to the church and stands angrily, and a bolt of lightning strikes her. Can she and Dean still become one?
Sam reminds us that Rowena's got a hell of a lot of information in her hands, and can't be trusted with it, and maybe that will be relevant later? Who knows. She suddenly cries "aha!" and instructs him to summon Fair-gus to get some supplies and a handcart, because "we are going to Hell." Are there people who say going to Hell in a handcart instead of a handbasket?
Sam tries to call Dean, but he doesn't answer. Rowena insists it's now or never, and of course Sam believes her, because why would he not believe her? Then we see Team Handcart walking into Hell. Rowena remarks that it's not as "scenic" as she expected, and Crowley explains it's actually Limbo, "the furthest reaches of Hell." What it lacks in ambience, it makes up for in security. I'm glad they addressed this, because no CW-funded version of Hell is ever going to match our imaginations, so it's good that they made it low-key and explained it away. (And let's hope it's more secure than that little corner of Hell Sam broke into, because seriously, they need some alarms or something.)
Limbo is dark, but there are familiar flashes of lightning and thundering noises. There's a cage here. Not the cage - it's more open. Rowena paints protective symbols on the base while Crowley grouses about how much he dislikes the place and Sam snarks at him. Crowley asks, for the audience's sake, if Rowena is sure she can do this without actually opening the cage, so apparently she's going to teleport Lucifer into Cage 2.0 somehow. Or do some kind of supernatural Facetime chat. She chants and the symbols begin to glow, and then a wall of fire surrounds Cage 2.0. More chanting and an orgasmic expression, and the flames grow higher and Crowley and Sam look like they're just about to turn and run and then... this.
Now that's what I'm talking about!
Lucifer addresses Crowley first, and they have this conversation:
My old friend Crowley.
A mere acolyte carrying your torch.
You're too kind. To yourself.
Oh, Lucifer, you magnificent bastard. I have missed you. Rowena is instantly smitten, and starts fangirling all over the place.
Rowena and Luci 4evah!!!!111!1
Then Lucifer turns to Sam. "Sam Winchester, my old roomie. Hug it out?" (Oh god, I'm dead.) Lucifer seems to be unaware that the Darkness has been released, and I don't know if we're supposed to really believe he doesn't know, or if we're supposed to get that he's just yanking Sam's chain. Because there's a LOT of chain-yanking going on here. Mark Pellegrino does sly and smarmy so beautifully. Sam says God has answered his prayers, and told him to seek out Lucifer. Lucifer agrees to help take care of the Darkness, but he'd only be a puff of smoke (true?) if he were topside, so he wants a vessel. His vessel. Sam has a burst of common sense and refuses, and Lucifer's all, what, you think this is crazy? You've already done crazy. Working with Crowley was crazy. (Working with Rowena was crazier, I have to point out.) And furthermore, why does Sam think God sent him here in the first place? His visions were the word of God and he can't say no to that! (spoiler alert: !!!!!!!!!!) Sam still refuses, and says he'll find another way. (Even though he's insisted all along that there isn't another way.)
Then the protective sigils around the cage fade and the wall of flame dies out. Rowena's not surprised, and whisks Crowley away. Either she did it on purpose, or she figured her warding probably wouldn't last long. Sam, on the other hand, is very surprised, because he finds himself inside the cage. He panics at first, but then calms down, and when Lucifer points out that he's "extraordinarily calm given the circumstances," he explains that this is what God told him was going to happen, so he just has to go with it.
"Oh, that would make so much sense, if it was God doing the talking."
When the Darkness was released, it damaged the cage enough for Lucifer to reach out and get inside Sam's head. Lucifer's the one who gave him the visions. God's completely out of the picture. "He's not with you. He's never been with you. It was always. Just. Me." Jared's face, as everything Sam thought he knew comes crashing at his feet, is just... ugh. Heartbreaking.
And there's another question answered.
Well! I haven't decided if this was wonderful or awful or somewhere in between. I'm leaning toward wonderful. I could have done without the angel drama. Dean and Amara talked too much. I didn't miss Cas but it does seem, logically, that he would have been involved in this. And I would hope Sam would have more sense than to believe Rowena when she said they had to implement her plan "now or never." But man, those are some nitpicky bad things and a SHITLOAD of good.
So, what's going to happen to Sam? Is Lucifer physically in the cage with him? I mean, he's talking about "sharing bunks," so... yeah. Is time running at Hell-speed for Sam, or at normal speed, since he's in Limbo? Did Rowena do all of this on purpose, or is she just incompetent? Was Amara annihilated? Will Dean ever get his hot dog? I guess we'll find out in January!
And now, a wee little survey:
Are there too many screencaps in my reviews?
No spoilers in the comments, please!