Saturday, 14 May 2016

Supernatural Review - 11x21 All in the Family

- by sweetondean

First up, I'd like to apologise as this is probably going to be a bit brief – as some of you know I had a little bit of an accident the other day and got conked on the head by a big lump of tree and ended up getting a few stitches in my noggin! Last night my eye started swelling and is now all swollen and black! Yay me! So it’s all a bit uncomfortable and weird… But it was an important episode, so I did want to write something…


I was commenting on my Facebook today that as I see show after show cancelled after 2 or 3 seasons, I marvel at the fact that our show is about to head into its 12th season. But then, I really don’t…because of the complex stories, and mind blowing performances that we are privileged to share in, like those in All in the Family. What show has God show up? A God that doesn’t seem to have all the answers and a God whose grand plan for fixing things is most definitely flawed. What show has one of its lead characters confront God and question his judgement and commitment to the human race with a powerfully, heartbreaking speech? Our show, our show does that! 

Okay…obviously I’m jumping right to Dean and Jensen!

I’d heard Jensen talk in person, about the scene with Chuck where he cried. It was in his meet and greet in Seattle – the scene had come up in the Gold panel, so the topic was raised again in his meet and greet. Jensen was pretty excited about it and went into quite a bit of detail. 

The scene was very fresh for him, so he actually told us some of the lines, talking about how he made the choice to play Dean the way he did over playing Dean angry. He said that seemed like the right choice for Dean, and the more complex choice. Anger would have been the obvious choice, but he felt that was not the way Dean would have reacted. He also talked about how the scene related back to John and how he totally saw that on the page. He said how he was surprised where he went emotionally in the scene, and that Rob in particular, was surprised where Jensen went. I know at Asylum recently Jensen also said how he got a note from the team in LA congratulating him on taking that direction with the scene, because of how well it worked.

How well it worked and how! I was super excited to see the scene where Dean questions God/Chuck, because Jensen was so obviously excited by the scene himself and proud of how he played it. Though I was not prepared for how damn amazing it was going to be.

First off, the way Dean situated himself away from Sam and Chuck. He didn’t sit with them; he sat on a step – back against the wall, looking kind of small, knees up to his chest. He was separated – stand offish and almost childlike. 

Like Dean is with Death, he doesn’t under estimate who he’s talking to, he straight up says he means no disrespect, he knows the power he’s facing…but also like with Death, that’s not going to stop Dean speaking his mind. But I think that’s why he starts off so quiet, because he’s well aware of who he’s talking to. 

Dean is hurt. His anger, and disillusionment with God for seasons and seasons has spoken to that – to that disappointment, to that confusion. He’s not just pissed off, it’s worse, it’s deeper; he’s injured – and not just for him, but for the whole world. 

The brothers, their friends have all gone through terrible trials, often doing work directly associated with God’s absence and the anarchy that has reigned in Heaven and Hell ever since – but it’s more than that for Dean. Dean’s a hero, he’ll save everyone, the entire world if he has to, that’s who he and Sam are, so when he talks about God’s lack of attention, God's disregard of what was happening to his creation, he talks about it in relation to humanity, not about his own plight, not about his brother's plight; he doesn’t talk about the horrors he and Sam have suffered, he talks about the horrors mankind has suffered. He defends the world. Damn.

It was easier for Dean to believe in a God that no longer existed, gone for good, never coming back - but to find out that He was around…and later around as Chuck, and still did nothing, allowed the world to go through the horrors it did… everyone to go through the horrors they did…

The pain and confusion that comes out of Dean is so real and gut wrenching. He’s struggled with feelings of abandonment - like he’s going to be left at any moment - for years. That’s not a secret. I think, in relation to Sam at least, he no longer feels like that – which has given us the more open and honest Dean we’ve seen this season, one confident in his brother’s support and love. But here he is, facing God…and all those feelings come to the surface, and bubble out of him painfully.

Relating Dean’s pain and frustration back to John, was so spot on. So much of what Dean is and who Dean is comes back to how he was raised, how he loved his father, and how he felt that love was or wasn’t returned. That relationship has morphed and changed over the years, there’s more peace, more understanding, more forgiveness, but there will always be an element of hurt and anger for Dean around John and how he raised his boys. God was so cluey to pick up on that.

I think this scene is one of the most powerful scenes the show has ever done, certainly in relation to who Dean is, and is one of the most succinct boiling down of the essence of Dean we've seen. Of his deep wounds, of who he is - as a carer of everyone, a wounded child, and a fighter for the innocent and the world – I felt like the whole scene was 11 seasons coming.

Dean is a complicated and deep character. He’s not just bluster. He’s not just anger. He’s so much more, and Jensen knows that all too well, he knows and loves Dean, and knows how to convey that depth.

Every interaction Dean had with Chuck/God post the scene in which he confronted him, was a careful dance. He’s incredibly wary. From when he, almost nervously, approaches TV watching Chuck in the bunker,  to when he confronts him on the park bench.

Once again Dean’s physicality spoke volumes in that park bench scene. He stood for part of it, and when he finally sat, he sat right on the far edge of the bench – not too close to Chuck - but as far away as he could sit. He perched. There is zero comfort in Dean’s approach to God. He’s strong enough to say what needs to be said, that’s who he is, but he’s also aware of who he’s saying it to. His body language around Chuck colours every single word.

I almost appreciated the scene on the park bench even more than the one in the bunker with the 2 perfect tears. Dean’s frustration with Chuck’s plan, his bafflement that he, or he and Sam could be the answer to all the world’s problems – it all drew me right back to season 4, when Dean found out he was specifically hand picked by God to do His work. This story is so amazing how it can transit seasons like that. Dean couldn’t believe it then, and even after everything he and Sam have done, he still can’t believe it – still can’t believe that he could be the firewall between the light and the dark. His face was incredulous. So many of Dean’s personal doubts and demons raised their heads when facing Chuck/God, and more importantly the Father of all. I thought it was bloody brilliant!

Jensen Ackles is a damn fine actor. Where he took Dean in these emotional scenes with Chuck – and yet still managed to nail comedic lines like “put pants on” was…look I love the guy, you all know that, but seriously, he’s an exceptionally talented actor and that goes beyond me adoring him. I was floored by his performance in this episode. Kudos to him and his understanding of Dean, his pure love for his character, and his willingness to take emotional risks that give us gifts like he did this week. Bravo.

I loved that All in the Family kicked off right where we’d finished the week before, with Sam and Dean, glowing amulet in hand, looking gobsmacked at Chuck – zapping to the bunker, looking even more gobsmacked – seeing Surprise Kevin…LOOKING EVEN MORE GOBSMACKED! I squeaked when we saw Kevin. He looked so damn good! I’m so glad he survived the veil (and 24/7 with Mrs Tran), and I’m so happy he finally got to go to heaven! He deserves it!

Rob’s Chuck/God is such a surprise. He still has some of the weird, socially awkward Chuckness about him, but he manages to imbue the character with a sense of power that you can’t help but be wary off. I’m pretty sure I don’t want to piss him off. There is an underlying rage. It's like he could turn at any moment. Guess that’s the whole Almighty thing! Thus spake the Lord was freakin’ hilarious!

It seems like Chuck’s standing back behaviour is hard to shake. As much as he’s back in the game, he’s also kind of not... He appears to be waiting, for Amara to show, or for someone else to move the action forward, so he can do his final big play…as misguided as that is, because I think Dean is right, Amara isn’t going to want to follow his rules and deal.

But then, is that really his big plan, or is it that he’s leading the Winchesters to where they need to be to do what he knows they need to do? Kevin said, “Trust Chuck, whatever he thinks he needs you to do, he must think you can handle it.” And Chuck said he’s always had faith in them - so maybe the Winchesters are actually his strategy. Humans will step up – Dean, Sam and others that are the chosen. That’s why he saved Sam and Dean. Is this his final plan? Everything always comes down to the brothers…we know it’ll be them that take the lead in the final fight.

I absolutely loved the way Jared played Sam’s exuberance and awe at seeing God – with the wonderful babbling. He’s a little overwhelmed by the whole thing, kinda how I’d imagine Jared meeting Eddie Veder is. Heee. It would be overwhelming. It would be mind exploding. Sam has always had faith, he's always been a religious man - we found that out in season 2. He's always believed in God and believed in prayer. Sam handles himself pretty well all things considered. I also loved how Sam didn’t step in or try to stop Dean when Dean was saying his piece to God. Sam listening, allowing his brother to say what he needed to say. And Sam’s face, in response, said so much – initial awkwardness at where his brother was going, and then the understanding and the understanding of God, and the pain for for his brother. I loved that he let Dean talk. Having his brother’s back by allowing his brother to be. They really do compliment each other, they have such perfect chemistry. And I loved that God recognised Sam’s faith and Sam’s face at that recognition.

Sam Winchester is a legend. That he can push down everything that he must feel about Lucifer and take him under his arm to save him, because he knows that’s what has to be done – I wanted to reach out and hold him. He knows this angel, that has caused him so much physical and mental agony, may be part of their only hope to save the world - so as he's done before, he's taken a deep breath, faced his fear and done what he knows he needs to do, regardless of how that must have made him feel. He looks at the big picture. Because he's Sam fuckin' Winchester. 

Though I feel like Sam standing up to Lucifer in the cage has strengthened Sam. There’s a change in how he is around Lucifer. It's like it was his line in the sand. He stands more upright around the Devil now. I don't feel like Lucifer has the same hold over Sam's emotions he once had. Sam was able to say no to him, regardless of the personal cost, and I think Sam feels that. 

And of course, he's not only saving Lucifer....he's saving Cas...we can't forget, it's Cas too.

Also this... how great was this scene. Sam driving the Impala. SFW!

Donatello, the new prophet is a hoot. One of my favourite scenes of the episode was the conversation the boys had with him in the back of the car. Hilarious. They’re pretty cavalier with how they break the hunter news these days. And the back doors were locked because they sometimes keep monsters back there! And Sam stopping Dean before he blew the guy’s mind with anything to do with Santa Claus. And what other show would have a Prophet of the Lord be an atheist. Only Supernatural! It was all so delicious. There was a lot of comedy in this episode, punctuating the powerfully emotional scenes

Metatron’s character arc ended in a place I never thought we’d see – the Scribe of God sacrificing himself for the cause. I’m not sure if he actually thought the angel zapping spell would work on Amara or if he was just jostling for time so the guys could get away – but his new found appreciation of humanity and his eternal love for God, regardless of how the Big Guy tried to hurt him, certainly took him to an unexpected place. He was always entertaining, but he went from being vile to sympathetic. That’s fabulous writing of that character and a fabulous performance by Curtis Armstrong. I’ll miss him…weirdly…because he killed Dean and I’ll always remember that! I'll certainly miss Curtis. What a gift to have such a talented actor on our show.

The thing I like the most about Amara and Dean’s storyline is how transforming it is for Dean. Dean has had two seasons where he had little or no control over who he was, how he reacted and what his destiny would be. The Mark of Cain stripped that away from him. No matter how hard he tried to overcome it, he couldn’t and he knew it. It would change him to something else in the end, and there wasn't a damn thing he could do to stop it. That was what was so tragic about his connection with Amara. He thought he was done with the Mark of Cain, with the power it exerted over him, but then along comes the Darkness and once again he’s stripped of control…at least that’s what he thought. But at every turn, he’s been able to fight Amara. He was able to stand up to her when she hurt Sam, stand up to her when she first tried to consume him, he was more concerned for Cas than anything to do with her when they saw each other after Lucifer’s failed attempt with the Hand of God. She doesn’t understand it, her feelings for him are powerful, he’s all she wants and I think she would give up the destruction of her brother’s world if she could just have Dean. He’s her shiny toy. Dean feels her draw too, he can't control the feelings, but he can control what he does with them. He's strong enough to know, that no matter how good it might feel, it also feels bad and wrong, and he must resist at all costs. He doesn’t want to be bonded to evil and he’s fought it at every step…and he’s winning. I think this is why the Amara and Dean story has been so important, because it’s shown Dean that he can resist, and after two years of not having control, he can exert control on his life again…as much as the Winchesters ever can. Like Chuck said to Donatello, free will is part of the kit. Free will has always been an important part of the Supernatural story. Dean is still able to exert free will…and even if he ends up deciding to sacrifice himself to Amara to save the world…which I’m pretty sure he’s going to try to sell to Sam as an option…he’s doing that through his own free will, and nothing to do with Amara's so called bond. I think this has been a super important arc for Dean to go through this season, and it’s why I particularly like this story point.

I thoroughly enjoyed All in the Family. It was emotionally powerful, complex and confronting and at times, really very funny. And it’s setting us up for an all hands on deck showdown between the light and the dark, and the really dark! There are so many characters at play - so many powerful characters who really can't just be hanging around on Earth! I’m profoundly interested in where the God story is going…because having God living in the bunker, using up all the hot water and keeping Dean awake with crappy old folk songs will just be plain weird!

And apparently not even a head injury can shut me up!



  1. Thanks for the review even if you're not at your best. I loved the episode. Get well soon.

  2. Love your review! I read already too much of them that were really negative. I loved this episode for the same reasons you did.
    Get well soon and have a good time until the next episode!
    Greetings from Germany

  3. Ditto steelmaid's comment! One of the things I really appreciate about your responses to the show both here and on WoL is how a) thoughtful and b) positive they are. I've been struggling a bit recently with getting hit by negativity from unexpected directions, so it's comforting to see none of that here.

    Thank you for sharing your squee! I really needed it these last two episodes.

  4. So thankful for your review, even while injured. What a trooper you are. A light in the darkness of all the whiners. Argh. All I'll say about that. Onto the joy.

    That speech of Jensen's was incredible. Of course I cried. It was as if he was definitely as if he was speaking for any human who had felt exactly the same way at some time in their life. It spoke to me for sure. Maybe it even spoke to Jensen, since he said he was surprised at the emotion that came. That man is so under recognized for his talent. I know he says he doesn't need it, but it's a travesty none the less.

    Since Jensen let a few things slip while reading that email from the WB president I'm pretty anxious how this will all end. And although I don't follow negative nellie's on twitter, retweets sneak in now and then, so I've seen some of the comments.

    Here's how I see it. If Dean does 'offer' to sacrifice himself, it doesn't mean it happens. But in the offering it shows how he has grown. That he has been listening to Sam all season. So a possible scenerio I see is that maybe he has to choose between Sam and the universe. OR, choosing the universe means leaving Sam behind, which he's not too fond of either. But ultimately both ways speak to what they both have been talking about, especially Sam. So scared.

    Hope you are feeling better soon Amy.

  5. Like I said 11 seasons and these guys aren't phoning it in. The still care very much about their craft, their characters and what they feel they owe to us their adoring fans. They deliver each and every week.
    Thank you for your review. I hope you feel better soon.

  6. This is you when you're not feeling well? What would you have written if you were at your best? Superb review. Even though I saw the episode, I didn't see all of the fine points that you illuminated. Thank you! Hope you went to the doctor. Feel better soon.

  7. Well, crying again. So thanks for that ...

  8. Loved this episode so much! Jensen Ackles just killed it, he was was amazing in that scene in the bunker talking to God! He made me cry, damn you Ackles, lol! His body language, facial expressions and of course the emotion, wow!!! I love the chemistry between Jensen, Rob and Jared so great. In fact, all the Dean/Chuck scene's were fantastic in different way's, from Dean's face when God asked for bacon to his "is that my computer" and his cute smirk at Chuck's "I've never seen so much porn in one sitting", lol!! Dean's visions with Amara are just creepy and I'm seriously worried now after her words to him about becoming one with her! Everybody in this episode was so great, and this is why I watch after 11 seasons, love these guys so much!! Hope you are feeling better soon!!

  9. I enjoyed this episode, especially Jensen's performance and the scenes between Dean and God. Most of the complaints I've seen are about people having wanted the boys to TALK. They wanted Dean to talk to Sam about the Samulet, Sam to talk about his feelings regarding saving Lucifer, Sam and Dean to talk to God about him abandoning them in Hell. Basically people seemed to want all the angst to come out in this episode. But really, has that ever been the case? The Winchesters are pragmatic and always stow their emotional issues when faced with bigger problems. And it is almost always the case that when something big happens emotionally they are also faced with a world ending situation. So they don't talk about it and set about saving the world.
    The complaints made me think that if we got the episode some people wanted it would've been something like this :D