“Alright, ramblers. Let’s get rambling.” – Dean, “Stuck In The Middle (With You)”
More so than in any of its eleven other seasons, the CW’s Supernatural has kept us guessing as to what this season’s main plotline will be. Will it all come down to the final battle against Lucifer? Are the British Men of Letters this season’s “big bad”? Will the impending anti-christ lead to another apocalypse? This week’s episode, however, led the Winchesters to another potentially epic challenge.
Previews and episode synopses made viewers think that this was going to be the week that the brothers discover that Mary (Samantha Smith) has been collaborating with the British Men of Letters, but (spoiler alert!) that didn’t happen. The audience, at least, learns the extent of her dealings with them, destroying the monsters and taking the powerful weapons that she’s ordered to, in exchange for favors and information. That really doesn’t sound so bad, until you notice that on this particular mission, she’s roping in an inexperienced new hunter Wally (Donavon Stinson) and lying to her sons (and Castiel [Misha Collins]) about what’s really going on. Throughout the episode, she’s given plenty of chances to come clean and actually help the situation, but she stays silent. Before you dislike her too much, however, did anyone notice that at the end of the episode she actually tells Mr. Ketch (David Haydn-Jones) that “one of her sons almost died”, meaning that she considers Castiel as one of her own?
Yes, this was the week that Castiel almost died. No matter how many times this show fools us into thinking that a major character is going to die, at some point, I still wondered if this was going to be the end of Cass. Of course, I was relieved to see him live to see another episode. Perhaps, like this week’s episode, I need to go back to the beginning before I fully examine the end.
Like Reservoir Dogs, “Stuck In The Middle (With You)” used non-linear storytelling; that is, the same scenes were shown over and over again from different characters’ perspectives. We opened with Mary’s story that they were all on the hunt for a rugaru (a monster who dines on human flesh) hiding in a secluded cabin. She was also there to take a special object for the Men of Letters, something that once glowed like the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. This average day for the Winchesters soon goes bad, as the rugaru reveals himself to be a yellow-eyed demon.
Many Supernatural fans, including myself, argue that the show’s most threatening villain was its very first, as it was the yellow-eyed demon Azazel (Fredric Lane) who killed Mary Winchester, Sam’s fiancée Jessica (Adrianne Palicki), and John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), all in the first season. Since then, the brothers have defeated the “mother of all monsters”, Lucifer, whatever “The Darkness” actually was, and Death itself; the fact that one little demon caused this much trouble back then seems kind of quaint. Instead, this episode actually breathed new life into this series history, as Crowley (Mark Sheppard) arrived to explain just what makes yellow-eyed demons so special.
Apparently, Crowley wasn’t the next in line for the “King of Hell” throne. Lucifer’s first minions, Azazel, Dagon, Asmodeus, and Ramiel (Jerry Trimble Jr) are considered to be the powerful “princes of hell”, but, as Ramiel tells Crowley, they weren’t particularly interested in becoming royalty. Crowley strikes up a deal with this particular yellow-eyed demon, giving him the lance of the archangel Michael and the magical Colt (another integral part of early Supernatural mythology; one that’s barely been seen since season five) in exchange for leaving him alone.
Long story short, there’s a lot of fighting, and Ramiel pretty much overtakes every character, killing Mary’s newbie hunter friend Wally and seriously injuring Castiel with the lance. The Winchesters set a trap and try to get Ramiel to cure their friend, but it doesn’t work. Sam (Jared Padalecki) makes his contribution to the episode by stabbing and killing Ramiel, but that doesn’t stop Castiel literally rotting away. Just as we’re wondering whether the show is really going to kill off one of its most popular characters, Crowley surprises everyone by breaking the lance and thereby saving Castiel’s life.
Despite the confusion caused by the end-before-the-beginning storytelling, “Stuck In The Middle (With You)” is a contender for this season’s most memorable episode. I also didn’t care for the generic-sounding “western” music played during a few pivotal scenes, but perhaps it was an attempt by the powers that be to both lighten the serious mood, and subtly let viewers know that the characters were going to be okay (except for poor Wally), and made anticipation for next week’s episode even stronger.
Did we just see the best episode of the season? Could this season’s big bad actually be the other two yellow-eyed demons? That would certainly bring the story back to its beginning. As if the episode didn’t offer enough surprises, the final scene reveals Mark Pellegrino is back as Lucifer; Crowley’s been keeping him locked up in another cage in Hell, not unlike the one he kept Crowley in last season.
One final note: Supernatural fans might like to know that this week’s episode was directed by Richard Speight Jr., who’s best known for playing the role of the angel Gabriel/the Trickster seasons two through five.