And here we have part two of our three-act opening story. Last week we established the characters, this week we established the main problems of the season: Abaddon, making a bid for Queen of Hell, and Ezekiel!Sam, or more specifically Dean keeping this secret from Sam. There's also the lingering threat of Crowley, tied up in the bunker, and Cas is still not with our boys. Ultimately I don't think this second episode was quite as strong as the first, but it still set up a few of the season's conflicts very nicely.
Let's look at the plot. Crowley has been taken captive to the bunker, where Sam and Dean tell him to give them a list of all the demons currently on earth. Crowley refuses, amused. He doesn't think anything the Winchesters do is going to be enough to force him to talk. In response, Sam and Dean leave him alone to stew in silence. As the main plot takes the brothers out of the bunker, Kevin is left alone with Crowley.
This leads to a very intense exchange between Kevin and Crowley. By asking Kevin not to go near Crowley, Dean was asking almost the impossible - it would be like telling Dean to stay away from Azazel. Crowley murdered Kevin's girlfriend and his mother - but oh wait. Maybe not his mother? Crowley says she's still alive, and that if he lets him go, Crowley will release her. Kevin is clearly upset by this information, but of course he doesn't let Crowley go. This scene between them was genius. Crowley got straight to the heart of the matter when he made Kevin doubt his place in Sam and Dean's lives. He suggested that Kevin was only being kept around because he was useful, not because they cared for him. By the end of the episode, Crowley is willing to give the brothers some names.
When Kevin attempts to leave the bunker, Dean convinces him to stay in a heartfelt speech. He says that Kevin is family - along with himself, Cas, and Sam. While this exchange was absolutely emotional and beautiful, and while Osric Chau killed it with the tears and the anger and all the great acting, I found myself wishing Sam also could have been there. Once again, it was an example of Dean having a stronger bond with a character than Sam does. I always feel bad for him in these situations. However, I've got to say that Kevin and Crowley really stole the show in this episode. Despite their story line being secondary, I found myself very captivated by it, at some parts even more so than the main plot.
But now onto that main plot. Abaddon is back, and lookin' hot. She wants those Winchester boys, and she sets about getting them by targeting other hunters. She gets other demons to use soldiers as vessels, which helps her capture her bait. She manages to get Sam and Dean's attention by kidnapping two hunters: Irv, an old friend, and Tracy Bell, a young girl relatively new to the hunter scene.
Sam and Dean walk straight into Abaddon's trap, guns blazing, as Dean says. There was a brief but lovely moment in the Impala where they talk about the fact that it's a trap, but decide to stick together and kick some ass. Which they do. They find the two hunters tied up, free them, and then lure the demons with a looped voice recording of Dean shouting. They manage to escape, but in the process Irv is killed.
Tracy Bell. Let's talk about this person for a moment. Thus far, I am very pleased. It could be just because she's still alive, and that's rare for a woman on this show. However, I also like her because she seems to have her own set of problems and a serious attitude, but ultimately she seems like a good person. Learning that her parents were killed by demons who were celebrating the release of Lucifer... ugh. Her hatred of Sam was such an interesting twist to add to the character, but Dean gave her a pep talk that basically amounted to this: people make mistakes when trying to do the right thing. It was four seasons ago, get over the Lucifer thing! (Okay, obviously Dean didn't say that last thing). As we move forward, I hope Tracy becomes a regular guest star and her character can continue to develop.
So, Abaddon shows up and confronts Dean, while Sam gets chased into a nearby building by three other demons. Abaddon is flirting/threatening Dean, in a scene that came across as really creepily sexual but also menacing. I love Abaddon. She's a bad ass villain. Supernatural is really good at villains. Lucifer and Crowley are both other examples of awesomeness. I'm glad we get to see an unapologetic evil lady villain, and I'm glad that she seems to be sticking around. She'll be a fun one to fight.
Meanwhile, Sam is in serious danger of dying via demon attack, so our trusty friend Ezekiel takes over Sam's body and kills the three angels with the angel blade. Dean rushes in to see Ezekiel, and the two of them have a conversation in which Dean feels guilty about all the chaos the demons are causing (after all, he's the one who convinced Sam not to close the gates of Hell), and Ezekiel tells him that he is "doing the right thing."
This conversation was all sorts of awesome. Hell, this whole scene was all sorts of awesome. The effects of the tattered wings and Ezekiel!Sam's blue electric eyes... aw man. Great stuff. And Dean's squeamishness about talking about "love" just makes me laugh, considering all the mushy stuff he said to Sam in "Sacrifice." But that's one of the most endearing things about his character. There are certain boundaries he's erected to protect his sense of "manliness" and to protect his heart from getting crushed. We've seen some of these walls come down recently, but the L word seems to be one hurdle he's unwilling to jump.
This conversation also nailed in some of the major themes already developing in the season. Namely - issues of consent. Earlier we had Abaddon threatening to force a possession on Dean. It sounded creepy, and evil. And it is. And yet it's pretty much exactly what Dean and Ezekiel did to Sam. Having Ezekiel tell Dean that he's doing the right thing - and using Sam's body to do it? All sorts of wonderful creepiness going on here. When Sam wakes up, all traces of Ezekiel gone and his mind wiped of the memories, he's stunned to see the three demons dead. Dean explained that he came in and killed them, to which Sam reacts with admiration and shock. There was a really cute moment when Sam told Dean that he was pretty damn awesome for having accomplished something like that. Jensen gets a gold star for his portrayal of Dean's reaction to such a compliment. He seems gratified by his brother's belief in him, but also of course guilty for the lie.
The episode ends with a conversation that only further highlights this conflict. Sam and Dean talk about where they stand. Sam asks Dean if he's ready for all the craziness coming their way. Dean asks Sam how he's feeling - and receives an unexpected response. Sam says he feels great - better than he has in years. It's a heartbreaking moment, because you can tell that Dean is extremely uncomfortable with keeping secrets from Sam, and that his guilt is enormous. I cannot freakin' wait for Sam to find out the truth. The fallout is going to be epic.
A few other nuts and bolts: No Misha this week, but Cas' presence was still very felt throughout the episode. Dean expresses his confidence in Cas' ability to find his way to the bunker on his own, which I loved, because it furthers the cause of Cas being treated like a competent angel-turned-human rather than as a joke. Dean also mentions Cas in the very short list of people he considers family, which was heartwarming to say the least.
Dean's pop culture references. I just about died from cuteness overload. He mentions Zero Dark Thirty in reference to what they plan on doing with Crowley. He mentions Breaking Bad. He calls Kevin "Katniss." And best of all? He somehow manages to get away with using the names "Stark" and "Banner" on Sam and Dean's fake FBI badges. Are you kidding me? I laughed so hard at that one.
I also have to mention Kevin's bad ass moment where he hacks into a cop's records and basically blackmails her into letting the brothers examine the crime scene. I loved this moment in terms of the awesomeness for Kevin's character (Kevin Solo, marry me now) but I had a few problems with it as well. I found it a tad unrealistic that Sam and Dean had no plan for if their authority was questioned... they used to have a system in place with Bobby, and I think it's kind of silly that they didn't plan for that possibility. Wouldn't Garth maybe have a similar system in place? Oh well. Also, Kevin's hacking skills were a bit extreme. I might believe that of Charlie, but with Kevin it felt a bit too easy. Maybe I'm being a tad too critical.
As I said at the start of this review, this episode wasn't as strong as the premiere. The main reason for that was... Abaddon. Not that I don't love her. I already mentioned that I love her, and I'm excited to see her character continue to pose a serious threat to the boys. However, in this episode I found her threat diminished by all the other goings on. We had Crowley and Kevin's mounting tension, the introduction of Tracy, Ezekiel!Sam, and just a lot of stuff going on. Although Dean and Abaddon's scene was really intense, it also fell a little too close to the cliche of the bad guy monologue. Maybe I'm missing something, but why exactly didn't Abaddon just snap his neck when she had the chance?
Still, this was strong. Not going on any top ten lists, or anything, but still really strong. These past two episodes have made me very optimistic about the future of the show! The momentum from the last half of Season Eight is still in full force.