Had the episode closed with Mary being given THE leather coat from Dean and THE amulet from Sam as good luck charms, this would have been a 5 shell episode.
They did not. So the final score will be lower.
Well, this episode had a lot of echoes didn’t it? There’s the “multiple ghosts trapped by another ghost” story from episode 7.19. Ghost kids vs ghost parents of the pilot. The “mistaken ghost kids for the problem” style of episode 5.09. Heck we even have “cast member attacking Dean fights back against control” motif which has been done by John, Bobby, Sam, Castiel, meaning Mary now gives us the full house.
Yet I don’t mind the repetition.
Why? As I pointed out in part 4 of my retrospective series, using the comfortable and familiar is a good tool when introducing the audience to a new aspect. Back then, it was the traditional MotW story style inverted in a way that left it recognizable which led to one of the best episodes ever in the series. Here, after all the storyline wrap ups from the start of the season, we the audience (and the characters) really get a chance to examine Mary process her presence. So the use of a “traditional SPN ghost story” mixed up with previously used motifs is good. It helps the audience process, “here is this new thing – how will it affect old things – will I like new thing.”
Then Mary has to go and leave making almost the entire exercise pointless. Also making her like Castiel and Grandpa now. At least the show didn’t kill her again like I was afraid they would. Though part of me has to step outside the story and ask, “how messed up are the writers’ family lives?” I mean, Mary has to leave because she can’t deal with having adult children now? While I understand that would be a powerful shock and confusing emotionally, it just doesn’t seem right that a mom would give up her real, flesh-and-blood children over memories of them. Maybe I’ve just known too many awesome mothers strong of heart and spirit but it just doesn’t seem real to me. (just like how Grandpa’s quest was to “rez Mary” instead of help out his grandchildren – really?)
The Cas & Crow Comedy Caravan was interesting enough. Straddling the line between too much (“I am so sick of these guys”) and too little (“none of what they’re doing makes sense”) is tricky but the writers seemed to have pulled it off. I guess we’ll see if anything comes of this or if the joke will quickly get old.
Then there’s Rowena…
First of all, 2 canon things. 1) I was getting ready to go nerd rage at the vessel stuff, but the show pulled out a twist and kept things logical and consistent. So good job, everyone (don’t say I don’t reward competence). It says something about the state of things that actually FOLLOWING canon and logic counts as a twist. (yes Lucifer was pretty stupid there – but baby steps, people) 2) What is “bottom of the ocean” supposed to do to him? For those who forgot, the “angel wings” in the show were representative of the angels’ ability to teleport. When the angels fell in S9, they loss this ability to teleport (too bad they didn’t lose more) which was represented by their “wings” being visibly tattered. (Gadreel, Castiel) Lucifer’s “wings” . . . are still completely whole. Unless there’s a range limit on the teleportation (which I don’t think applies given Castiel’s Biggerson Trick – or at least, it’s limit is so large it’s meaningless) that means Lucifer has been inconvenienced by Rowena for all of… 7 seconds maybe.
And yes, I am aware of the problems this brings up with the “banishment” reveal 2 episodes ago. (hinted at in episode 5.21) While it was easier to assume they were sent to an afterlife and “locked out” of Earth for a time, maybe the “meteor” trick paralyzed their wings for a time. At the moment, it’s of low continuity importance with a minor extrapolation effort. Maybe Rowena blended her spell with that banishment sigil but now we’re starting to push into moderate extrapolation territory. At any rate, logically Lucifer won’t be gone for long. Realistically, we’ll probably know when the writers ran short on ideas or the mid season finale comes up as he returns.
So anyway, onto Rowena herself. Like Metatron, so much more in story hate seems to be directed at her than is warranted. And I don’t mean by Lucifer or Crowley (who we expect to be petty and such) but by those who are supposed to be heroes. The bigger issue is that I can’t ever remember what’s been done with her character. And I love redheads and keep a detailed database of those from the show in my brain. Still, what has she really done? Even as an antagonist? The attack dog spell is about it. I don’t mind Rowena in the show I just wish they would do something with her beyond being a plot device that could be replaced by a book or any other character. Have her move into the bunker and treat Sam & Dean as the sons she never had. Heck what if she became Lucifer’s new vessel? But she doesn’t bring anything new out of any other character that somebody else doesn’t. We had a few moments between Crowley and her but on the whole they’re no more different from “frenemies” than he and Cas. We don’t get a sense of her history beyond super generic details, or consequences from her actions, or that she might reform and be willing to make amends (put in “community service” – like mothering in the bunker).
Yes I’m saying I wished she had gotten to go off and be the Florida wife of her dreams. Yes I’m saying the wrong mom has left the show because Mary was at least bringing memorable moments and new character interactions out of the show. Rowena just keeps it all bland. Heck why not see Mary and Rowena interact? That MILF club could be pretty darn interesting to watch.
It’s definitely the strongest episode of the season so far, but by chickening out at the end and reverting everything back to the status quo kept this from being a full-four shell episode. If they turn around and reveal that it was another twist, and the status quo will NOT survive next episode, then this becomes worthy of that 4th shell.
So far this season it looks like Mary is going to be the measure of quality, being our sign of better storytelling and character. Lucifer and the Letter!Folk look to be our loads this season, dragging everything down. Time will tell if the pattern holds or new twists await.
Place your bets now.