Sunday, 21 February 2016

Review - Supernatural 11x14 "The Vessel"

-by sweetondean

It’s broken record time…. What even is season 11 and its escalating excellence? We all know this show rocks, week in and week out. And we all know our crew rocks, week in and week out. But then there are episodes like “The Vessel”. Set onboard a damn submarine in WWII for heaven’s sake. It’s unbe-freakin-lievable what this show can create and achieve. This episode looked like a mini movie, even more so than usual. It was positively cinematic – the gorgeous lighting, the astonishing sub set, the sharp editing, and the directing by John Badham. I still get blown away every time John Badham directs our show! That will never not be damn cool!

“The Vessel” was a tense episode, one of the reasons for that being; both areas of action were in enclosed spaces. Dean was trapped on a doomed submarine, the Necromancer Nazis depth charging from above; Sam was trapped in the Bunker with Lucifer…even if he didn’t know it at first, we sure as hell did and it was stressful and creepy and claustrophobic! My blood pressure was off the charts throughout this episode! And at one stage I was kneeling upright on my bed screaming at my TV…to the point where my dog started to fret and jumped on me to calm me the hell down. But there was no calm to be had. No calm at all!

“The Vessel” was also a profoundly sad episode. I cried at the end…yes Dean makes me cry whenever he cries sure, but it was also the thought of the crew of the submarine, whose destiny was set, and though they knew their fate, they stuck with their mission gallantly, while Dean could only watch on. I was also struck by the thought of all those souls that were lost like this, bombed to the bottom of the ocean, young lives snuffed out by stupid war. The whole thing was deeply moving. And Dean’s desire to save everyone and then his resulting sadness when he realised there was never anything he could have done…he was just a witness to history. It was horribly tragic. What a thing to carry…another thing. The lives that these brothers have to traverse, is staggering. I’d have folded into a ball in the corner of the room long ago.

But I have jumped waayyyyy ahead! Which is totally like me! :P

Once again we started this week with the Winchesters in another domestic scene in the Bunker…albeit a cranky, caffeine deprived one! The creation of the Bunker was genius. It allows the brothers to have this base and gives us some remarkably different, and remarkably ordinary interactions between them – like the search for coffee sitting alongside the search for how to kill the sister of God! The banter between Sam and Dean this season gives me bubbles of joy! That comfort that has settled over their relationship and consequently, their interactions.  It speaks to how relaxed these two are with each other now, that Dean finishes off – or attempts to finish off - Sam’s coffee dregs!

I feel like the search for a weapon to fight Amara is going to turn out to be folly…because I’m pretty sure Sam and Dean are going to discover that between them, they have whatever they need to destroy her…at least I hope so! I don’t think Lucifer is going to have what it takes, or be needed, or be in the final fight…it’s going to be the boys. I’m hoping somehow, something will change in Amara’s whack-a-do connection to Dean that will take her by surprise. It would be good to see Dean be the one to destroy her or send her back to her prison (which I think might be in the Empty)…breaking the last tie to the Mark of Cain and finally putting all that nastiness behind him. But until (if) that happens, the search for how to defeat the Darkness goes on, and leads Sam to the Hand of God, a weapon that was lost during WWII.

I love the time travel episodes, they can be a bit head screwing…like I found myself thinking…what if Dean died on the sub? Would he then be stuck in a loop from birth, to all the things we’ve witnessed, to dying on the sub again and again… time travel stuff can really do a number on you! They’re always super fun episodes though, and without fail, become favourites of mine.

Of course to get back in time (sing it with my Huey), the boys need some angel mojo…which of course means Cas…EXCEPT IT DOESN’T!

Man…Casifer creeps me the hell out. The way he watched, smirking at the boys as they heatedly discussed Dean’s decision to be the one to take on the mission. It was just plain creepy. Seeing Cas smirk = creepy.

Dean’s fervent assertion that he should be the one to get backed up for a week for the cause, was his way of feeling useful in a situation where he feels he’s utterly useless. Dean always likes to feel in control, like he can take on all the brother’s supernatural problems. He’s that guy; he sees himself as that guy, and to not be that guy messes with his self-image. So much of how he identifies himself is based around his ability to hunt. He may have inner conflicts about his worth and what the ability to kill and enjoy it says about him, but he never doubts his ability to be able to do the job and do it well. But now, he doesn’t believe he can act out against Amara, he feels impotent in the face of what might be the Winchester’s toughest fight, (which is a bit defeatist of him really…seeing as he did break through her trance twice), so in his eyes, this mission is a way he can contribute. This is how he can still do what he does best. I’m sure somewhere mixed in all of that was his protection of Sam thingy…which I’m sure is why Sam initially arced up over the idea! But hearing Dean’s reasons, Sam reluctantly agrees. Dean is right, if anything happened to him in the past, they’d need Sam in the future to finish the battle – because right now, Sam seems to be their best bet.

Imagine if all three of them went on to the sub though! They would’ve been helluva conspicuous! Imagine Sam on a sub! This actually made me Google if there were height restrictions on WWII subs…it seems you could be up to 6’4…so Sammy is borderline! Casifer ended up not being able to get onto the sub because of the warding created by Delphine. This was a good thing (though not a good thing for Sam’s soul), because I’m not so sure had Lucifer got on that sub…he wouldn’t have just zapped himself out of there to parts unknown with the Hand of God weapon, leaving Dean die on the doomed submarine, and Sam back in the Bunker never knowing what happened! Ugh! The thought of that is not worthy thoughting about! So I’m bloody glad for that warding! It also gave us a drippy Cas shot…which was hilarious and weirdly adorable! Snarky Lucifer nearly giving himself away because he can’t hide the fact he’s a total arsehole! Bit by bit, his facade was slipping.

The Men of Letters is the gift that just keeps giving. This season, we’ve met the wonderful Eileen who it turned out to be a Legacy like the brothers, and now we meet the kickass Delphine, a Femme de Lettres during a period where the Men of Letters were still active…and you know…alive!

There was never a single moment that I did not believe in the action set onboard the submarine. The guest cast was incredibly wonderful. Particular Weronika Rosati, who played the determined Delphine, and Grant Harvey who played Petey. I particularly liked Petey. His sad acceptance of what Dean told him was gut wrenching. He broke my heart. Grant did an amazing job with his character. I felt like he could have easily been Sam or Dean. He could have been a hunter, or he could have been the brothers were they alive during WWII…because you know both would have signed up in a heartbeat. The way Petey asked when the war was going to end, because he was worried about the people he loved…knowing his own fate was out of his hands… Ugh. It was all so tragic. For me, his character had such power. He was the representation of all that was happening to that crew, and to so many young men who faced their own demise in a similar way. Man, this episode was totally heartbreaking when it wasn’t freaking me out with stress!

The action away from the sub was equally as compelling. I was mighty uncomfortable during the scenes in Hell. Mark Sheppard played cowering Crowley beautifully…though I was never entirely sure that he wasn’t partly putting on an act – as Lucifer called him out on. We saw Crowley put on a similar performance in front of Cain, all the time scheming to ensure that situation went his way. There is no doubt in my mind Crowley’s plotting his return to power. But the way he cringed when Lucifer patted him on the head…ewwww…that was disturbing! The whole scene made my skin crawl! Misha allows just enough pure evil to seep through Lucifer’s Devil may care mask to make him feel truly terrifying, but never as much as when he’s with Sam.

Every so often, the Cas mask slipped. You could see that Lucifer was totally over the charade, and was finding it damn hard to care about keeping it up! But though you could see Sam starting to look questioningly at Cas…as his responses became less and less like the angel friend Sam knows, the desperate need to find a way to get Dean back to the present, over shadowed everything else. That was until Lucifer finally cottoned on that really, he didn’t need Sam anymore…

Oh my gosh, the soulonoscopy scene freaked me the hell out! This is when I started screaming at my TV. Sam’s shear terror when he realised he was trapped with Lucifer. Jared is so damn good at portraying the fear that you can see grips every part of Sam. You can feel Sam’s fear. It makes my blood run cold every time I witness it. He seems so small in those moments. Kudos to Jared, and how he played that scene. And to Misha too, because here we had Casifer vacillating between Lucifer and fake Cas, to show how easy it was for him to fool the brothers. It kind of gave me whiplash! Weirdly I find Misha’s Lucifer the most terrifying we’ve seen…and I think that’s because it’s Cas saying those words and it feels so wrong!

And then we had the question that fandom has pondered every since Cas said yes to becoming the Devil’s new vessel. Cas is indeed inside there as well. The horror!

The moment Cas was able to take control to save Sam gave me pause to hope that maybe Cas will be able to overcome Lucifer and cast him out of his vessel. But will he want to? In that moment, his reasoning for not throwing Lucifer out on his butt was that Lucifer was the only way to save Dean from the past. Cas can no longer time travel…broken wings means no teleporting full stop! But does Cas still believe that his move to yes was the right one? That this is the best way for him to help in the battle against Amara? Noooo Cas it’s not! Seriously, out of all the missteps Cas has made in his desire to be of service to the world, this is the absolute worst!

And of course as soon as Dean is back in the Bunker, he finds out that Cas is not Cas. The look on his face when Sam tells him what’s actually happening and he realises this is not the friend he trusts. Sadness! It was fabulous quick thinking on Sam’s behalf to do the send the angels to the outfield sigil and zap Lucifer’s ass to parts unknown, leaving the brothers once again with no lead on how to fix the Amara problem…and the final scene on the broken down jetty.

I need to give a shout out to Jensen Ackles yet again, for his bloody brilliant acting. The deep to the core sadness that permeated out of Dean in the final moments of this episode was astonishing. Ackles can fucking act, man. He’s so damn good. And Dean’s absolute inability to believe in that moment, that Cas would ever be complicit with the Devil, just added to the confusion and bone weary grief that sat like a shroud over Dean. It was another wonderful scene with another wonderfully emotionally open conversation between the brothers, and a metaphoric hand on the shoulder as Sam walked away. A comfort and also a reminder that Sam has Dean back. Such a powerful moment, enhanced by the music of Edith Piaf. This show is at the absolute top of its game. A++++++++++++ to every one involved.

The presence of God has been an ongoing theme in season 11. Whether it’s through Dean’s continued fury for what he sees as God’s desertion of His duties to man, to the Big Guy’s sister being a pain in everyone’s butt, to visions that Lucifer professes were all actually from him to trap Sam - who we all know has faith in God, to Dean witnessing His power flowing through Delphine as she used the Hand of God to save Dean and blow that German battleship out of the water. With God being so present in season 11, you can’t help but think that this is going to have relevance in the battle to come. It would be a nice way to close off the God is a deadbeat, out of the picture, dad storyline, to have Him empower the brothers in someway. Imagine the Winchesters going into season 12 with all that God stuff behind them…talk about clearing the slate! The brothers both have a different relationship with God. Dean’s anger towards Him certainly plays into Amara’s plans. I’ve talked about this in the past. It’s something that I’m sure enhances their bond and makes Dean even more attractive and susceptible to The Darkness…that anger, that hurt, that lack of faith, which has been referenced over and over. But as Dean cradled the one shot weapon that was once part of the Ark of the Covenant (Raiders reference for the WIN), I did wonder if the battle will end up coming down to acceptance of God and faith. God’s just anecdotally been such a big part of the story this season, I can’t see how He can’t be part of the big picture moving forward, or how Dean’s continual dismissal of Him isn’t going to have impact on the fight at hand. Maybe it’s as simple as Dean finding faith and belief in himself? It’ll be a big play on behalf of the show if we go the God road…but I feel like that’s the way we’re heading...also for reasons of…….. Well if you know, you getting what I’m layin’ down?

“The Vessel” was a tour-de-force, to keep up the French theme! I’m so glad Bob Beren’s pitched his wonderful idea and story to The Carver. I’m so glad John Badham was slated to direct this one, which gave The Carver the confidence to say yes to such a big undertaking. It was the show pushing it’s own boundaries yet again, with what it can achieve…in season 11. First we had “Baby”, all shot within the car…then we had “The Vessel”, where the action took place on a 100ft submarine set, purpose built for one episode. Yep. This is our show *heart explodes with love*.

Next week will be the final ep, before the mid-second-part-of-the-season mini-hiatus. After that, it’s hang on to everything you’ve got as we hurtle towards the finale. I have ZERO idea of where we’re going or what’s going to happen when we get there! But I’m sure as hell looking forward to the ride!



  1. Loved this episode, I always love Bobo Berens writing and a plus having the fantastic John Badham directing!! I loved everything about this episode from grumpy morning Dean, protective Sam and downright creepy Casifer. The Sam/Casifer confrontation was fab, the scenes on the sub felt like a movie, and of course, that stunningly shot last scene with Sam and Dean on the dock! WOW! Jensen was fantastic, the emotion, the heartbreak just from his eyes and face, omg! I cried, I admit it freely. I agree, Dean is struggling not being in control as such, he's so used to being big brother, protector that he's lost. I worry about the Mark, if there's still residue remaining which is affecting him. Even though it has been removed, I think there's still some problems to come from his time bearing it, or was it God's plan all along for it to happen to Dean? Like a trial? Am I reaching, I don't know, but I do know I'm loving Season 11!! All these brother moments, that is the core of the Supernatural I love. Can't wait to see what comes next!

  2. What I wonder is when Dean told Sam that a sub is going down. You can't really mess with that. Well, before Dean went back the history said nothing about the German ship getting blasted and all the members of the Thule dying. So, how would that NOT change the future?

    1. That's time loop to you. Logic waves goodbye. But as they always say, "History adjusts itself somehow". And the ship could have been destroyed later, because of storm or something. There is more than one God's Hand existing in the world.