Note: Do not read on if you have not seen Season 8, Episode 22 of The CW's "Supernatural," titled "Clip Show."
Although the playfully titled "Clip Show" didn't quite showcase the greatest hits of "Supernatural," it did take us on a brief trip down memory lane, revisiting Tommy from "Wendigo," Jenny from "Shut Up, Dr. Phil," and dearly departed Sarah from "Provenance."
On the one hand, I've been itching to see where some of the more memorable characters from seasons past have ended up -- I think I've name-dropped Michael from "Something Wicked" and scene-stealing Missouri more than once, and despite the fact that Julie Benz is now on "Defiance," I personally like to pretend that Layla somehow survived her terminal diagnosis from "Faith." On the other, these three characters were brought back for the sole purpose of dying, so I'm relieved that the show didn't twist the knife by killing off more than one beloved guest star.
I'll admit, as sassy as Sarah was in "Provenance," she was never a character I was desperate to see more of, so the emotional impact of her death didn't really hit me, but the loss certainly had the desired effect on Sam and proved that Crowley (who has vacillated between untrustworthy but jovial "devil we know" and murderous arch-nemesis enough that both the audience and the Winchesters tend to underestimate him) truly means business this time. Mark Sheppard's epic monologue as the Winchesters scrambled to save Sarah was truly a tour de force performance, managing to mock the boys' family motto, undermine their mission and cynically point out the emptiness of their lives in one smug tirade.
Dean's determination to complete the trials was likely to be steadfast regardless of whether or not Crowley had offed one of his former love interests -- if anything, the desire for revenge probably would've made him go kamikaze that much more quickly -- but in choosing the empathetic Moose's former flame, Crowley had Sam's resolve wavering faster than you can say "you're too precious for this world." Eyes on the prize, Sammy -- think how many more lives can be saved with the gates of Hell closed for good!
Sarah's demise also continued Sam's long-standing tradition of giving the kiss of death to anyone he's romantically linked to. Amelia should be sleeping with one eye open.
Preying on all the people the Winchesters have saved is a fascinating and long-overdue concept for the show to explore, given that one of the series' best episodes, "What Is and What Should Never Be," hinged on the idea that all the lives the brothers have saved make their own sacrifices worthwhile. That uneasy balance, weighing the good of the many against the good of the two, has always been a central struggle for the Winchesters given everything they've lost, and sounds like it will be a question that the boys have to face head on in the finale.
While it was satisfying to see the brothers as a united front (though judging by Sam's expression in the last scene, they might not stay that way), Team Free Will was still operating on emergency power, with Dean and Castiel's bromance on the back-burner. Dean was still in a huff over Castiel's decision not to trust him with the angel tablet (which, in hindsight, was quite the blunder), but Castiel was doing his best to soothe his BFF's bruised ego by going on a conciliatory grocery run for beer, jerky, toilet paper, Busty Asian Beauties and pie, in what was one of our dorky angel's most hilarious scenes to date. I was also amused by Dean's complete 180 from accusing Sam of always letting him down earlier in the season to insisting that "Sammy always comes through" just to try and guilt-trip Castiel. True familial emotional blackmail, which is a pretty reassuring sign, when you think about it.
While I think it would've been hard for Dean to resist that kind of peace offering (the guy sure is a sucker for pie), Castiel's plan was derailed by the appearance of Metatron, who did not prove himself entirely trustworthy this week. As one eagle-eyed viewer pointed out in the comments last week, "A Little Slice of Kevin" identified the holy scribe as an archangel, while in the last two episodes, Metatron has described himself as a pencil pusher from the secretarial pool, and not capable of any ass kicking.
Although this could be a continuity error, given that the season's theme is supposedly "perception," I'm not yet prepared to take Metatron at face value. His eagerness to push Castiel into supposedly completing the angel tablet trials seems far more like he's asking this naive "warrior" to do his dirty work for him, playing on Castiel's guilt for murdering the other angels. It would've been far better if Castiel had been able to pause and turn to the Winchesters for advice, but much like his ill-advised alliance with Crowley, Cas is letting his need to atone cloud his better judgment, once again trusting a more knowledgable business partner without really knowing all the facts.
Perhaps there are warring factions and Naomi doesn't have all the power, or perhaps Metatron is playing an even longer con. While Castiel's faith in people is one of his most endearing qualities -- especially since he's obviously feeling guilty for not trusting Dean and now feels the need to overcompensate -- at this point, after everything he's been through and everyone who's manipulated him, a little cynicism could be healthy. Metatron could pull any old yarn out of his ass and call it a trial, but without Kevin deciphering the angel tablet, who's to say that killing a Nephilim is anything official, or that the waitress is the only one on earth? On that subject, it's intriguing that a combination of human and angel DNA is physically stronger than a pure angel, and it would be nice to delve further into that biology next season. Her silvery eyes were a nice touch.
(Sidebar: I'm also hoping that last week's Grand Canyon mention was a purposeful sign of something more nefarious going on with our season-long theme, along with the discrepancies regarding Henry Winchester, given that Jeremy Carver wrote "In the Beginning." I know many of us were rooting for a slightly more interesting explanation for Amelia, and I still haven't given up on that idea.)
The Men of Letters storyline continues to add further depth to the mythology, and Father Thompson's method of curing a demon was well executed (makes you wonder what other time-saving tricks the MoL have stashed away in their files). The experiment was suitably creepy, but returning a demon's humanity does raise the troubling question of what happens to the person the demon is possessing -- does it leave two souls in one body, with the host trapped under the former demon's consciousness, or does it destroy the host's soul altogether? Given the ease of the demon killing knife and the Colt, I do miss the morality of the show's earlier seasons, when Sam and Dean were far more likely to hesitate before murdering both the demon and the person it's possessing, preferring to use exorcisms first. Obviously, the stakes are higher now than they were in Season 1 or 2, but it's still an ethical debate I'd like to see more of.
It's a relief that the show has righted itself after the distractingly uneven "Taxi Driver," and "Clip Show" was another solid and engaging hour, making it frustratingly difficult to predict where the season finale might go, or what Season 9 might involve, aside from the fairly safe bet that the angels and heaven will play a bigger role. What did you think of the episode, and what are your predictions for the finale?
"Supernatural" airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on The CW.