After "Holy Terror" and Kevin's death rocked the Supernatural world, could "Road Trip" match that intensity? Not quite, but close. You are warned, a lot of this review is going to sound porny. Even if I don't mean to. Just look for the Ding!
Robert Singer does a phenomenal job directing, especially the visuals. Written by Andrew Dabb, it is fast-paced, witty, with unexpected twists and turns. Like "Sacrifice," this episode belongs to Mark Sheppard as Crowley. In this episode the King of Hell is truly hard to read. Has he become more humane? Is he capable of giving a shit? Does he care about Sam's welfare? Or is it all a pose to free himself?
THEN: Sam is dying, but Dean tricks him into being possessed by Ezekiel. But he isn't Zeke, he's Gadreel and Metatron wants to rule heaven with Gadreel as his dupe, while Abbadon wants to rule everything and then some, and Cas gets his grace back and Gadreel kills Kevin.
NOW: The opening shot is Dean, alone, standing at Kevin's burning pyre. In the bunker, Dean looks at the PB&J crusts, milk, where Kevin's dead body lay, a photo of Kevin and his mom on his phone. Then he trashes the room, reminiscent of when he beat Baby with a tire iron in rage and grief at his father's death at the conclusion of Season 2's "Everybody Loves a Clown." This time feels slightly rote, quite a bit of the Winchesters' reactions to each other have felt somewhat rote this season. But Jensen Ackles must be relieved to have something to do with the A-story besides sulk and look guilty.
A Justin Beiber clone singer listens to his manager as she runs down the set list, all of which are songs with "Baby" in the title. Hee. He shuts the dressing room door and finds a pissed Gadreel. Turns out Justin is the angel who tortured Gadreel for centuries in Angel Alcatraz. Justin gestures to the screaming audience waiting for him and says, "Why be a human when you can be a god?" Hee. Gadreel kills Justin, natch.
Dean is moping around the bunker when Cas shows up, suited up, in trenchcoat but without tie. This costuming suggests a looser, more humanized Castiel. Dean tells Cas everything.
Oh, Cas, you codependent little schmuck
Dean: “God, I was so damn stupid."
Cas: “You were stupid for the right reasons."
Dean: "Yeah, like that matters."
Cas: "It does. Sometimes it's all that matters."
What?? Dean hasn't been stupid, he's been a manipulative, lying jerk-off. Right reasons or not, Kevin is dead, Sam is possessed and doesn't know it, and Gadreel is in charge of Sam's body, presumably forever. I don't think "right reasons" apply here.
Meanwhile, Metatron is hanging out in a bar sipping cosmopolitans (heh). It's tended by Gadreel's first vessel. Gadreel is still uncertain that he is doing the right thing. How many more enemies does he have to kill? It's clear he feels bad about Kevin. Metatron says that if Gadreel bails, he'll be forever remembered as "Heaven's biggest joke." Like Sam, Gadreel needs approval, in this case, Metatron. He doesn't know enough about humanity and emotions to see that Metatron is a lying weasel. “We are writing our own epic story here. To make that work, sometimes you have to kill your darlings.” (I love you, Andrew Dabb).
He gives the angel a new name to kill. Turns out it's Gadreel's boyfriend from prison, Abner. (Ding!) What? Lucifer was Sam's "bunk buddy" in Hell, wasn't he? Gadreel seems to be getting more comfortable with killing people as he goes along, hardening himself in order to be Metatron's second in command. (Ding!)
Dean and Cas go to Crowley to ask that he torture Gadreel to get him out of Sam. (Ding!) Crowley agrees, provided they let him have some "fresh air. Chains on." They get into a huge Lincoln Continental--with hydraulics, no less. "I like it," Cas says defensively.
Crowley has a mole in the NSA, which is masquerading as a financial firm. There, the demon Cecily, who I fell in love with immediately, fills Crowley in. "Hell doesn't give a damn," she snarls, annoyed that they're ignoring the data she sends every day. “That B with an itch ain’t the boss. I mean, she’s got a few of the more agro types on her side, but most are just waiting to see who takes the belt, you or her.” She admits she's playing both sides. "Wouldn't you?" Once again, between Cecily and Justin, wonderful secondary characters. Stop killing them off, dammit! Abbadon doesn't think so, and offs her. To be honest, when Abbadon pulled out the blood-slicked angel blade, I hoped she would lick it. That would be soooo wrong, and soooo sexy. (Ding, my bad.)
“Your phallus on wheels just ran a red light in Somerset, Pennsylvania 10 minutes ago.” (Do I even need a ding here?) Crowley informs his buddies, and off they go, to the latest murder scene. Dean threatens Gadreel, and gets the de rigeuer tossed-into-the-nearest-heavy-object. Doesn't this man ever learn? Gadreel starts toward Dean--but Gadreel is sucker-punched by Castiel! Bad-ass motherfucker Cas is back!
Sometimes I wonder if there are certain empty basements and warehouses scattered around the country that the Winchesters already know about. Since they end up in them so often. Gadreel is strapped to a chair, and taunts Dean about putting a blade through his brother's heart. Whoops! Crowley sticks the first pin into Gadreel's head. Torture Time, kiddies!
When the barely conscious angel reveals he is Gadreel, Cas goes berserk. “It’s his fault, all of it. The corruption of man, demons, Hell. God left because of him. The archangels, the apocalypse. If he hadn’t been so weak, none of it would have happened. You ruined the universe, you damn son of a bitch!”
DO NOT piss off the nerd angel!
Dean pulls off his attack-dog angel. Gadreel taunts them that he can endure much worse torture than having pins stuck in his head, that he can sit there for years. He's put Sam in a dream where he's on a hunt that involves ghouls and dead cheerleaders. Dean orders Cas to get into Sam (Ding!) but Cas needs Sam's permission. Crowley, on the other hand, does not. He saves Sam, they let Crowley walk out a free man. “I keep my bargains. Besides, I don’t want to be inside your brother any longer than I have to. I’m not one for sloppy seconds." (Whole buncha Dings!)
Dean takes the deal. He tells Crowley to say "Poughkeepsie." Their "safe word" (Ding!) for "drop everything and run!"
Ding! Ding! Ding!
What I wouldn't give to see footage of those two actors minus the smoke. It must have been side-splitting.
We FINALLY get to see real Sam, even if it's only a dream, researching a hunt where ghouls eat dead cheerleaders. Dean's voice calls from a distance, "you want a beer?" Sam leaps up when he sees Crowley, who says, "Poughkeepsie!" Crowley tells him what's happening: Sam's seen everything the angel's seen and tells Sam to remember -- and Sam remembers Kevin's death. He asks in a soft voice if he killed Kevin and Crowley says with complete sincerity, "No. You didn't. He did."
"You need to take control and CAST THAT PUNK-ASS HOLY ROLLER OUT!"
Gadreel (in the form of Tahmoh Penikett) appears, and proceeds to beat the shit out of Crowley, before Sam tackles him and they fight. Crowley yells at Sam to take control. Sam puts his foot on Gadreel's neck and says, "I said, get...the...hell OUT!" Man, homicidal Sam is hot.
Sam's mouth flies open and a stream of angel light pours out. (Ding!) Elsewhere, Metatron is at the same bar. Glass starts breaking, bottles explode--the bartender says yes, his mouth opens, white light, and he swallows! (Ding!) KAPOW! He's Gadreel.
Jared Padalecki has been doing a great job, but when Penikett returns as Gadreel he plays it seamlessly, losing the stilted manner and infusing Gadreel with depth. Perhaps that is because Penikett has played multiple characters, while Padalecki has been playing variations on the same character for nine years.
Sam's mouth again flies open (Ding!) and the red smoke pours back into Crowley. While Cas and Dean tend to Sam, Crowley mutters, "I'm fine, thanks for asking." Dean says to Crowley, "This don't make us square. I see you again--" Crowley nods. "I'm dead, I know. I love you, too." Heh.
Abbadon shows up, in all of her red-haired, red-lipsticked glory. Crowley stays while the others flee. He greets her, not a care in the world. She is there to kill him. Of course. Boy, this episode has been full of empty threats. She's ready to take Crowley on, right there, right now. But he has news for her--the demons (who are squirming uncomfortably during this exchange) are waiting to see who wins. This isn't a fight, it's a campaign. The demons can "take orders from the world’s angriest ginger, and that’s saying something, or join my team, where everyone gets a say, a virgin and all the entrails they can eat.”
All hail the Queen...that is, if it's okay...
I was reminded of this exchange from "Weekend At Bobby's", written by Dabb and Daniel Loflin:
Crowley: You know what the problem with demons is?
Bobby: They're demons.
Crowley: Exactly. Evil lying prats. The whole lot of them. And stupid. [...] You know, there's days that I think Lucifer's whole “Spike anything with black eyes” plan wasn't half bad.
With a snap of his fingers, Crowley's gone.
Vote for Crowley!
We come back to a bridge on the rain at night. Even though it's raining, miraculously, neither Dean, Sam or Cas get wet. (Ding!) Cas says he can heal Sam, in stages. Then he walks away to let the brothers talk.
Dean knows that Sam is pissed. Sam is not "pissed," he is seriously furious. He was fine with dying, but because of Dean's needs, Dean went ahead and let a "psycho angel" possess him. As they argue, Sam says again he was willing to die. He was tricked into saying yes. In fact, Ezekiel-as-Dean pushed him into it, asking, "Is that a yes?" after railing on about "you gotta let me in, man, there ain't no you if there ain't no me!" Of course Sam says "yes," and is ZOMG WHAT THE FUCK when Ezekiel grabs him.
And Sam feels responsible for Kevin's death.
Now wait just a minute, bucko! Nobody gets to feel bad about that but Dean. Too bad you were possessed when Gadreel killed Kevin, Justin and Abner and felt the whole thing, too bad you were helpless and lied to for months, too bad your brother screwed with your head because he couldn't stand losing you. It's still all about Dean's pain. "Kevin's blood is on my hands." He goes on, "but I'll find Gadreel and I will end that sonuvabitch. And I'll do it alone." Sam asks, "What's that supposed to mean?
"I'm poison, Sam!" Okay, we get it: "Poooor meeee, I get people killed, waw!" Strap on a pair, you big baby. You can feel him waiting for Sam to say, "It's okay, Dean," and follow him to the Impala. But Sam says, "Go." And calls after him, "Don't go thinking that's the problem, 'cause it's not."
Damn straight that's not the problem. The problem is that Dean never apologizes, and once again he co-opts Sam's emotions. "I'm sorry I did that terrible thing to you and I'm the worst person in the world and I hate myself and it's all about meeeee--so you're not allowed to be upset because I'm upset for both of us!" Painting himself as the victim, he's astonished that the real victim lets him go. For once, Sam is well, boo-hoo, Princess, I'm done.
Don't let the door hit your ass on the way out, Dean.
Sam is so done with this crap.