It's an odd feeling when an episode simultaneously has me on the edge of my seat and deeply irritated at the same time. I almost feel like reviewing it would spoil the pleasure because on rewatching there was fatty gristle in the tasty stew. How's that for a metaphor?
"Captives" is directed by set designer Jerry Wanek and written by Robert Berens. It cuts back and forth seamlessly between two plotlines. It is also a showcase for Wanek's amazing, beautiful bunker sets. It's fast-paced, but "Captives" has clutter that 42 minutes can't afford. Kind of like Season 9 itself. The A-story is so well written and acted that I wish the B story didn't exist, no matter how good the writing is.
THEN: Kevin's story up to and including his untimely death, including Mama Tran. Kevin says, "you killed my mother" to Crowley, who messes with the prophet's head by intimating she might be alive. It ends with Sam telling Dean that Dean only saved him because Dean didn’t want to be alone. Then Sam tells Dean that in his place, Sam wouldn’t have saved Dean.
NOW: Dean is lying on his bed, headphones, listening to "Lonely Is The Night." He didn't want to be alone, but now he is more alone than ever. But lights flicker, things buzz, there's a ghost! Dean calls out for Sam, who whips out of his room and, when he can't find his brother, grabs an iron sword. They might not be speaking to each other, but they will defend each other to the death. And even better, we get this!
Could Sam be dressed like this for the entire episode? No? Damn.
The bunker being haunted is such a cool concept! The VFX team also does an amazing job with the ghost effects. Dean shoots it with rock salt, and says casually, "Yep. Bunker's haunted."
It's haunted by KEVIN TRAN!! (Osric Chau), who lets them know by beeping the coffeemaker. Hee. Alone with the coffeemaker, Dean makes a speech in which he actually uses the words "my fault." But before we can savor that delicious moment, Kevin appears with a crack about Dean's self-pity.
I was so happy to see Kevin again! Spirits are trapped in the veil now that Heaven is closed. Which brings up an interesting thought: how many thousands are there? And if Hell had been boarded up, would we have then been overrun with bad souls?
Kevin wants the Winchesters to find his mom. He learned from another spirit that she is still alive (yay!). Since "Candy" is bound to where she died, a few miles away from the storage facility where she was kept captive by Crowley, along with Mama Tran and someone named "Jerome" who is never mentioned again. Sam and Dean put up radios, lights, and just to be safe, the coffeemaker. The brothers' scenes under the trestle have a nice old time feel, with Sam snarking at Dean. There are several role reversals in this episode, including (spoiler alert!) Dean being the one hit over the head and being tied up! Thank you, Robert Berens!
"Candy" shows up via the radio, and does an exposition dump about Crowley, storage units, blah blah.
And now for the fatty gristle: the Angel War. The angel war didn't work in Season 6 and works EVEN LESS NOW! WHY IS IT EVEN IN THE SHOW? DON'T WE HAVE ENOUGH SUBPLOTS TO SINK A DAMN WHALING BOAT? Are the creatives even interested, or is the war considered a necessary evil? Pardon the pun. It's boring, slows up the hunt for Metatron and Gadreel. Which is the interesting part of the angel story. I need Metatron on my screen.
Two angels having a staring contest.
Bartholomew (Adam Harrington) captures Castiel, and brings him to Buddy Boyle's church. Which is an enormous building with scripture written in huge metal letters. It doesn't make sense that Boyle would have such a Scientology-level base, but whatever.
Misha Collins conveys his conflicting emotions subtly, and Adam Harrington, despite the limitations of his role, manages several levels of friendliness/rage/control freak.
Bart and Cas were garrison buddies and now they've switched positions. Bartholomew is, as he was when we first met him, a B-movie cult leader with gleaming teeth. I sat there thinking, "no, don't join him, you have an addiction to being a dumbass whenever there's a larger plan!" (Crowley, anyone?). Bart wants Cas to join him in one of those "kill them all/you don't lose without bloodshed blah blah". Then he takes Castiel to see the last of the "Penitents", pacifist angels, being tortured.
What is it with this show and slicing torsos?
We have the now de rigeur torture porn. By now Bartholomew has gone completely Mein Fuhrer. He orders Castiel to kill the Penitent, but ends up killing the angel himself. Don't worry, the show stopped worrying about vessels several seasons ago. Sam's demon blood route is looking mighty
good at this point.
Crazy eyes alert!
“Angels fighting angels has to stop somewhere. It might as well stop with me,” Cas says. Please, please, please let it be so. Cas starts to leave. Bartholomew tries to kill Castiel, but Castiel goes BAMF and kills him instead. Farewell, we hardly knew ye, but who gives a shit?
Don't piss off the nerd angel
Only: Cas has followers now! KNOCK IT OFF! THIS STUFF STOPPED WORKING AFTER SEASON FIVE! There was Malachi versus Bartholomew for one episode, and now Cas has apostles. I have a bad feeling about this. As in this is going to take up more episode time.
Back to the good part. The Winchesters find--Castle Storage! I love Castle Storage, it's like Biggerson's. Smooth creamy consistency. Two bespectacled nerds work there. There are storage lockers rented to "D.Webster." Dean admires Crowley's in-joke, as do I.
One of the bespectacled nerds, Del (James Immekus), says he'll take Dean to the storage locker. Big mistake. They go to a storage locker filled with stuff. Del clocks Dean unconscious.
Sam finds the right storage locker, and finds Mama Tran! Kudos to the show for making the actress look like she has spent more than a month in a storage locker.
She screams when the storage door rolls open, expecting one of her tormentors to appear. But it's Sam, who unties her. Dell locks the door with his remote. Lauren Tom and Jared Padalecki take the show to a whole new level in their scenes together. She's certain Kevin is with the Winchesters. The emotions playing across Sam's face are heartbreaking, guilt at what happened and knowing the pain she'll feel when he tells her that her son is dead. She brushes aside Sam to disable the door, saying she'd learned from Kevin's projects. Sam puts his hand on her hand, and they look at each other. The moment is beautifully tragic. Rather than breaking down, Tiger Mommy turns her fury toward disabling the lock.
Meanwhile Dean has been tied up. He wakes to find that Del has slit the throat of his lookalike coworker to place a phone call to Crowley.
Can we agree that Jensen Ackles's legs look particularly delectable?
Del's an intern who hates his sucky job, "hosing down the floors, emptying the sugar bowls". Yes! For once, a show admits that captives have to go to the bathroom! This is actually a big deal to me. No shows I can think of allow for the idea that captives can be...messy. It's these little touches that help ground "Supernatural" in reality.
Since Crowley has disappeared, Del is furious. He isn't allowed to kill. "I have my demon needs!" he storms. Dean implies that Crowley has been hanging with the Winchesters. This sends Del over the edge. He tosses the bowl aside, saying "I quit!" and gleefully cuts Dean's throat. Before Del can deliver the big stab, Sam grabs him and gives Mama Tran the demon knife. Stonefaced, she kills him.
Back at the bunker, mother and son have a tearful reunion. Kudos again for letting Lauren Tom look like hammered crap. She finds his father's ring, the object he is bound to, and takes it with her. Dean says to enjoy her time with Kevin: “the uninterrupted twenty-four seven, no escape, quality time.” Before they leave, Kevin gives them the variation on the speech that has been done so many times in so many movies and TV shows it's grown moss on the side that doesn't face the sun. "Stop fighting. Get over it." He's going home with his mom, and he's a ghost. He makes them promise to get along. They grudgingly promise.
"I'm dead, so I know stuff."
It takes a lot more than a lecture on love by a dead guy to get the boys over this latest crisis. Especially because, oh, SAM IS STARING AT THE GUY HE KILLED BECAUSE OF HIS BROTHER'S ACTIONS. Dean turns around to see--
Sam goes to the door of his room, hesitates, then goes in. We exit on the same image on which we entered. Dean, alone, listening to the same music on his headphones. Jerome is presumably rotting in the storage locker.
On the one hand, I want to see Kevin again. But on the other, I thought of how they let the air out of the tires after Bobby's heartbreaking death by bringing him back. And back. And back. It's like he never left! But what if Kevin leads all of the spirits out of the veil and they attack Metatron? That would be so cool! Are you listening, writers? Isn't that better than an angel war?
Oh, forget it. Can you bring back Crowley?