The Super Sleepy Dispatch

Recap and Review: Supernatural 10:9 “The Things We Left Behind”

Written by P.S. Griffin

Supernatural’s midseason finale, “The Things We Left Behind,” was something of an odd duck as these things go.  It was written by Andrew Dabb who gave us the fantastic season ten, episode two masterpiece “Reichenbach”. In that episode there wasn’t a wasted scene or moment.

After viewing this, episode I tend to think his earlier outing was ghost written in part by Jeremy Carver, the show runner and easily the strongest writer currently on the show.  I guess we’re just lucky that the opening and closing sequences which focused on Dean Winchester and his struggles with the Mark of Cain were worth the price of admission, although Director Guy Bee was probably the one responsible for their dynamic staging and lighting.

The problem with the episode’s storylines was they were pretty dull, they weren’t supernatural at all, and they focused on peripheral characters that no one cares about, Castiel and Crowley notwithstanding.

Instead of having these characters’ stories tie into the mytharc, we find that they contribute to the ongoing onslaught of subtext and anvils.  Yeah?  However this week they’re not even hiding these in a reasonably well crafted and scary (I know… wishful thinking on both accounts!) monster of the week story.  I realize that given the numerous monsters we have met with good intentions who want to live like humans, we were bound to come across humans that act like monsters.  For me this is not enough to make the episode work.

The episode opens with a montage of images shot using a dark, neutral palette which is slightly overexposed; the only color in the scene comes from the spattered and pooled blood, and Dean’s blue jeans as he kneels in the muck. The result is gorgeous, horrific and foreboding. We see Dean, stunned and scared as he surveys a room that has been transformed into an abattoir… by him and his blade.  Dean and the viewer surveys the array of corpses in stunned horror.

Dean awakens from this nightmare clearly agitated and scared.  He’s dressed in a tee and jeans, and sleeping on top of his bedding.  Oh Lord! Add copious amounts of booze and tacky hotel rooms and we’re back to season seven, the last time Dean was in full blown angst mode. 

It is of of particular note that he was sleeping in this episode.  He wasn’t sleeping last year when the Mark was taking over.  So either we have a case of rampant LOL!canon or he’s not completely human because he’s handling the side effects much better. Besides sleeping, he’s still not sick to death or vomiting blood per “Do You Believe in Miracles?”.

We cut to poor Claire Novak, juvenile delinquent, who is being returned to her group home.  She’s a runaway which has earned her 48 hours in solitary confinement.  She has a sweet face, loads of curly blond hair, too much eye make-up, and a sullen, angry attitude that earns her no friends or favors. Honey, you would be better off getting your GED and saving that give ’em hell attitude until after you’ve exited the system. She proceeds to rage against everything by throwing a fit in her cell.

The next day she’s sitting on the floor and punching the inflatable punching bag by her bed, metaphorically chilling. She’s surprised and then hopeful when the attendant announces that her father is here to see her.  It’s Castiel of course and his face is filled with sympathy as he says, “Hello, Claire. It’s been a long time.”  He asks the attendant for privacy,  and after he’s left he says, “I am not your father.” 

Claire’s face hardens, “Right. I’m not your father. Those were the first words you ever said to me, remember?” Castiel sadly admits that he remembers everything. Claire responds, “So do I, Castiel.”

This scene is made all the more tragic by a flashback to Claire’s first encounter with Castiel in season four’s “The Rapture”.  Wee Claire finds her father on the front porch and when she tries to speak to him Castiel replies using the exact same words, “I am not your father” and summarily walks away, effectively forever.  

Castiel means well; unfortunately he’s invoked memories from the worst day of Claire’s life, the day that her happy family fell apart.

She asks about her dad, and Castiel explains in compassionate yet clinical terms that he’s dead, “The human soul… can only occupy a body while it retains a certain structural integrity. And this vessel it was… it was ripped apart on a subatomic level by an archangel;” explaining that he looks like Jimmy because he was re-assembled.

He reassures Claire that Jimmy is in heaven. The fact is that her father is dead and forever lost to her; the fact that he’s in heaven means little to her now.  Also I sense that after her experience with the high and mighty Castiel, Claire might think that an eternity in heaven isn’t that great a deal.  She blurts, “Yay for him… You can get the hell out of my life now.”

Castiel isn’t moving away from her: he continues looking at her with concern. Claire asks him, “You took everything from me. What do you want now?”  He replies, “Nothing. I just… I came here to help you.” Claire wants to know why, to which Castiel responds,  “Because I’ve hurt you so…”

During this exchange we also learn that Claire is in “child jail” because her mother wigged out after “The Rapture”, and the grandmother she was stashed with died.  Since both Mommy and Daddy never came home she ended up in the system.

I am not sure I fault Amelia for her melt-down.  She was demon possessed, undoubtedly suffered as a result, and her husband was a runaway. I do fault Dabb for the events of this episode since logic would dictate that Castiel go find Mommy and fix her so that Claire might have a loving human home, especially since his grace is temporary (not to mention a profound bond with the Marked Dean who Cas fears is on a road to ruin).  At this time Cas can’t promise that he will be there for her in the long run.

Anyhow Claire’s sad tale prompts Castiel to say “I can never replace what I took from you. But if there’s anything you need. Anything at all…”  Claire manages things so that Castiel and tie (welcome back!) feel compelled to work the system to spring Claire.

We cut to Claire and Castiel waiting in an office.  He’s wearing a fab purple striped tie which Claire fiddles with before pronouncing, “Now you look like a dad.” She is smiling in a way to suggest that Cas is helping her and making her happy.  At least he seems to think so, or at least falls for her act enough to do whatever it takes to grant her wish.

Their interview with the group home director is abysmal since there’s no way to gloss over a six year absence as anything other than abandonment.  Couple that with Castiel’s cryptic answer that he was away, traveling for work and fighting “certain deadly threats to humanity,” which Claire quickly amends to extermination.  When the Director asks about her clearly imaginary bedbug problem, Castiel’s only advice is  “You should sleep tight… and not let them bite.”  The sly wink doesn’t help.  Cas’ request is denied because as the Director observes to Castiel, “I know you want to be her friend… she doesn’t need a friend, she needs a father.”

Speaking of fatherless sons on the highway to hell… The proverbial poster child is alone at the Men of Letters lair watching the Three Stooges on his laptop and laughing uncontrollable; yet another instance of Dean behaving over the top “normal” in order to convince anyone that’s looking that he’s the same old guy and doing just fine.

Sam comes in and hands Dean a grilled cheese sandwich,  looking both pleased and worried by Dean’s manic demeanor.  He wants to believe that Dean is as happy and carefree as his brother pretends to be, but his inner critic is crying.  He looks at the Mark and winces.  Meanwhile, Dean is overdoing his enjoyment as he eats the sandwich with Epicurean relish.

So… after lunch with the Winchesters where each brother is pretending that everything’s beautiful, we return to child prison. Claire is in bed and becomes frightened because of odd scary noises in the night.  Of course it’s Castiel breaking her out; and no Claire, that man in the hallway is not dead… he’s sleeping.  Misha Collins’ delivery of this line is priceless.  It’s as if he cannot comprehend how she can think that, and at the same time he’s extremely annoyed at her assumption. Silly girl!  Don’t you know that angel smiting of humans is identified by those blackened holes of burnt out eyes? For shame.

Great. Now it’s the time in our presentation to visit with Crowley,  the emotional King of Hell.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love Crowley when he’s wily and when he’s besotted with Dean; however, at this point it’s patently clear that he’s bored with Hell, and Hell is pretty much done with him.  Poor bloke just doesn’t really know what to do with himself otherwise.

Anyhow, it seems Momma Rowena has been chained in his topside dungeon for weeks without a howdy do from Fergus.  Gerald brings in another prisoner whom he treats roughly, “Sit. Stay. Good dog.”

Rowena takes the opportunity to plead her case, “Wait… my son. I need to talk to him. It’s been weeks. Tell him I’m sorry.” Gerald laughs, suggesting as if Crowley would bother with the likes of her.  Her pleas seemed heartfelt and sincere; however, after Gerald leaves it’s obvious that her cries were a well acted ploy.  She’s annoyed to be where she is and without the tools to manage her escape.

I know a lot of fans find Rowena  to be too over the top, but frankly that’s the point. She over plays the accent to hide her wiles and manipulative ways.  Her silly facade is how she’s eluded death for so long when she has powerful enemies like the Grand Coven.

Yet again I think that “Girls, Girls, Girls” has already given us a very clear picture of Rowena and her evil ways. So I really want these scenes to move along and tell me something I don’t know. Also, I ask myself if the absent daddy or mommy subtext is going to be worth it.

So we’re back to our renegade angel and his erstwhile charge. They’re at a roadhouse and she’s eating fries with lots of ketchup. Parental Cas wants her to eat a vegetable to which Claire replies, “Ketchup’s a vegetable.”  Sadly it is to many Americans.

We then see a marvelous conversation in which Claire acknowledges that Castiel is different than the angel she knew six years ago. “You’ve changed. The Castiel I met, he was crappy. Like super stuck up and a dick, and you just wanted to punch him in his stupid angel face… Now you’re just… I don’t know… nicer, and kind of a doof, no offense.”

Castiel doesn’t think he was so bad but with brief reflection admits, “Before, I was very self-assured, convinced I was on this righteous path. Now, I realize that there is no righteous path. It’s just people trying to do their best in a world where it’s far too easy to do their worst.”

I like this.  I like that he acknowledges that his actions were his choices, and that he probably made mistakes along the way despite believing that he was doing good at the time or doing heaven’s work.  The conversation also acknowledges that the road Cas has been on and his choices have changed him.  This was alluded to nearly every time he interacted with one of his kind; However, this is the first time someone has noted the changes as being positive. Of course his dialogue is apropos to the Winchesters as well.

Then the tone turns serious.  He wants to know what they should do next.  She thinks his part is done, “Look, I appreciate the meal and… you know… the felony. But you don’t need to babysit.” She says that she can take care of herself and tells him that although he might still feel guilty, she’s fine; they’re good, “Even Steven.”

Castiel recognizes that she’s still a child (and without a home because of him).  He disagrees with her saying, “We committed a crime, and you might need me again, so I think we should stick together.” Claire makes a face and agrees before excusing herself to pee.

I wanted Castiel to commiserate about the time humans waste on peeing (“I’m No Angel”); sadly he doesn’t.  Even sadder he doesn’t pick up the obvious cues that she lied and stole his wallet when she bumped into him.  Her skill at thievery screams Fagin (Oliver Twist) well before we meet her “savior”. Cas discovers her duplicity too late to stop her from hitching a ride.

In the morning he meets up with Dean and Sam who were called in to help with an emergency.  Dean is rather harsh and annoyed at being called in for a domestic situation with no tinge of the supernatural.  Cas is clearly hurt and annoyed by Dean’s  attitude.  Sam looks uncomfortable yet remains silent as his brother continues to rant, “No Cas, an emergency is a dead body, okay, or a wigged out angel or the Apocalypse, take three. Some chick bolting on you is not an emergency….That’s every Friday night for Sam.” And cue classic bitchface by Sam.  LOL!  It’s been a while.

Cas isn’t folding, “This isn’t just some chick. I’m responsible for her.”  Likewise  Dean says, “Since when? You met her once, how many years ago?”

Ouch. One assumes it’s the Mark talking but he’s stone cold, especially since he was there and knows that Castiel wore Claire once and destroyed her family.  It’s easy to see that Castiel might feel responsibility, even though it’s rather sudden and abrupt for him to be focused on her.

The boys note that finding her won’t solve his problem.  As Dean eloquently puts it, “It’s pretty clear that she doesn’t want to play house.”

Nonetheless Cas is adamant, “I need to know that Claire is safe, and I need your help.”  And with that Dean acquiesces.  He gives Sam the car keys to investigate at the group home.  Dean and Cas are staying at the restaurant in case she returns to the scene of the crime.

It’s been a long time since we’ve had a scene that did justice to Dean, Cas and their profound bond. Both order and  eventually Dean eats both meals. Dean is eating fries slathered in ketchup, prompting Cas to ask the authority if ketchup is a vegetable.  Dean looks stunned that someone would have to ask before answering “Hell yes!”

Then the scene turns serious as Dean shows more honesty with Castiel than he has with Sam all season. It’s clear that Dean arranged this alone time with his angel for a reason other than Claire’s well being.

First they discuss Cas’s problems.  Dean wants to know what is going on with him. “Alright, so spill. What’s up with the family reunion?” Cas starts to explain as Dean trades his empty plate for Cas’ meal, and in short course has it all figured out. Dean tells him that he’s going through  a midlife crisis, to which Cas replies, “Well, I’m extremely old. I think I’m entitled.”

Comically Dean, the poster child for poor mental health gives Cas excellent advice, “Cas, listen to me. Some stuff you just gotta let go… the people you let down, the ones you can’t save? You gotta forget about ’em, for your own good.”

Cas slyly asks if that what Dean does.   We all know the answer to this…NO!. Dean amiable agrees that he doesn’t follow his advice, “That’s the opposite of what I do, but I ain’t exactly a role model.” 

Castiel sweetly and with conviction tells Dean “That’s not true,” meaning of course the world would be a much better place if there were many more just like him, and of course no one beats themselves up more for any perceived failure.  Dean might have been Atlas in another life because he certainly wears the weight of the world on his shoulders ( No one knows Dean better than his angel.  It’s a lovely Destiel moment.

Dean sweetly is both pleased at the compliment and very surprised, almost unable to believe that Cas holds him in such high regard. Oh how I love Jensen Ackles’ mastery of his face and voice, and the strong chemistry and solid acting that both men bring to their scenes together.  May I have some more please!

Now we get very serious.  Cas turns the tables on Dean and asks him how he is.

Dean says he’s fine, great, whatever… it’s the same shtick he’s been feeding Sam since “Soul Survivor” but with a bit less conviction.  Cas isn’t buying it.  No surprise there because Castiel is the angel that gripped Dean tight (how I miss the handprint), raised him from perdition and cleaned his soul of demonic taint. 

Anyhow, the eyes are the window to the soul they say!  After exchanging a pointed look Dean gets real, “Yeah, well, I lost the black eyes, so that’s a plus. Still have this,” gesturing at the Mark of Cain seared into his right forearm and soul.

Cas is clearly concerned and asks whether the Mark is still bothering him. Good grief! Of course it is!  Why is no one bothering to find anything out about the Mark.  Dean clearly hasn’t shared what he knows, or the fact that Crowley is a wealth of knowledge. 

At the least someone should find Cain and get some firsthand information. 

In the old days Cas would have been smiting demons left and right for information.  I can see why Dean was annoyed by Castiel’s sudden interest in Claire.  It almost looks like he’s in it alone,  especially since Cas and Sam’s plan B was killing him if the cure failed (and I am pretty sure that it did).

Dean is silent and deeply reflective, which means a tantalizing flashback for us of the horror of his slaughterhouse dream. Oh the beauty of all of that wanton blood spatter.  It smells like mytharc magic!

Dean returns to reality as Castiel repeatedly says his name. Dean asks his friend to do him a solid. Of course Castiel agrees.  Dean says, “If I do go darkside, you’ve got to take me out…Knife me, spike me, throw me into the freaking sun. And don’t let Sam get in the way because he’ll try. I can’t go down that road again, man. I can’t be that thing again.”

Castiel looks sad and hesitant about this. I am glad to see this, because he seemed too stoic about killing Dean in “Soul Survivor”.

I am convinced that there is still demon in Dean and he knows it.  He’s clearly not being honest with how he feels most days, or what he knows regarding the Mark.  Simply the fact that he isn’t sick to death and vomiting blood is enough to tell him and us that the demon remains (please don’t be LOL!canon!). 

I can only conclude that he’s afraid of losing control so completely that he will injure someone he loves.  Even in his fully demonic state it’s clear that he didn’t want to endanger Sam. It’s the reason he left the note.  I wonder if the Mark pushes for fratricide (Cain and Abel!!!), or if Dean only worries that it will because of Cain’s family history.

Still something about that dream rattled Dean.  He’s clearly afraid of losing control, which is interesting considering that he was a demon with a surprisingly moral code of conduct and a Knight of Hell with a penchant for saving damsels in distress. Well… as long as he was killing regularly.

Yawn.  Back at Crowley’s place the King is whining about his mother to an increasingly sycophantic Gerald; and Rowena pumps her cell mate for useful information, whilst admits that her crime was being a horrible mother, a sentiment that Crowley shares.  Rowena darling, actually you were incarcerated for killing demons with your special hex.

Also we get useful confirmation that these digs are stateside, not Hell adjacent or Hell proper. The cell mate is on the outs for finagling her way out of Hell without authorization. This means there’s a demon working against Crowley’s interests.

Rowena’s admission is a nice segue to the throne room where Crowley discusses his horrible mother.  Blah, blah, blah… She once almost traded him for three pigs when he was an attractive child who could juggle and was worth at least five… Blah, blah, blah…

Gerald killed his mum for burning him with cigarettes as a child.  He offers to kill Rowena (Yes please), but Crowley declines because he has plans for her.  So he says and so I sincerely hope!

Finally we witness Sam’s interview with the director of the group home. She has kind words for Claire who I sense shares a spiritual kinship with Dean; Claire is a good kid. smart and has a big heart despite her bravado.

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