The first half of season nine explored Castiel's experience as the new Adam, the fall of angels from Heaven, and the aftermath of the Trials---particularly that of Dean allowing Gadreel to possess his brother, Sam. We watched each of these stories reflect or weave around a particular center---the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man. It became both metaphor and literal in the tapestry of the story. “Holy Terror” exposed the serpents invading the various Gardens while “Road Trip” explores the consequences of their invasion---particularly that of Gadreel's possession of Sam.
Consequences. It's a loaded word. For every action, there is an equal reaction. That is the lesson we learn in “Road Trip” explicitly.
Our first Garden was the original Garden of Eden. It was to be paradise---pristine and perfect. It was to be where man and God lived in harmony and peace. And it was invaded by a serpent. We learn in “Holy Terror,” that it is Gadreel that let in this serpent---and we see in some mythology sources that he may even be the serpent. The serpent tells Eve to eat of the Tree of Knowledge---that, “You will be like God.”
The first consequence of this act we all know well. Humanity is banished from the Garden forever to fend for themselves in the cold. They are to go forth into the world, knowing the difference between good and evil. Humankind will know the taste of death for this act. It is a far reaching consequence. It has changed everything for humanity for all time.
But what of the serpent? Surely it faced a consequence for its action. What was its punishment? What did God do to it? Genesis tells us that God commands to the serpent, “Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you shall go, and you shall eat dust all the days of your life.”
In “Road Trip,” we learn from Castiel's outburst that the serpent was indeed none other than Lucifer. His fate, then, was to be locked away in The Cage, buried within Hell. Lucifer, too, was banished.
But what about Gadreel? What was his punishment? When Metatron first confronted him in “Holy Terror,” we learn that this angel has been locked away. He, too, was banished form Heaven at large. As we watch Gadreel confront another angel that Metatron has sent him to kill, we learn what his imprisonment entailed. He tells Thaddeus, “I was imprisoned, and you tortured me.”
Thaddeus simply replies, “Heaven has rules. Do the crime, do the time. That's it.”
Gadreel may have let in a serpent all those years ago---Lucifer---but it would seem he's not learned his lesson. It would seem that Gadreel has forgotten the consequences that came from that. We see him return to Metatron, triumphant after his successful murder of Thaddeus. Metatron is an even bigger serpent than Gadreel has become, and we see the Scribe lead the angel by the nose. Here is where we learn Gadreel's true weakness---and why he fell to Lucifer in the first place. He suffers the same fatal flaw as the archangel: that of pride.
It is also pride that will allow Metatron to
Metatron passes him another name, and when Gadreel protests, he retorts, “It's not your place to ask questions. It is your place to obey. You want to be my second in command? Prove you're ready. Prove you're loyal. Or don't. Walk away. Go back to being Gadreel the traitor, the sap, heaven's longest-running joke.”
It hits a nerve in Gadreel, and while he may not like the order, we see him follow through. He has no choice. Either he proves that he's the “sap” everyone believes him to be---or he takes action to prove that he can be part of building a new and better Heaven by doing as Metatron tells him. Gadreel will have to accept the consequences of his choice---even if that price comes high.
It isn't until Gadreel discovers who his target is that we see him waver or hesitate. Unfortunately, his fellow prisoner, Abner, gives him all the reasoning he needs to fall further down the rabbit hole and become more of a chump than ever before. Abner tells Gadreel, “The key to happiness? It's getting the one thing you want most and never letting it go.”
Abner hopes he'll understand what the Fall could mean for angels---a second chance at a good life for instance. He hopes that his friend will take this chance at freedom and move on from the dark past. He hopes Gadreel will let go and make a new life---as he has with a human family. It's quiet. It's peaceful. It also comes with love. He tells Gadreel, “I love my family and they love me.” It's the only thing Abner wants---and he believes that's what Gadreel would want, too.
Instead, it only steels Gadreel's resolve to follow through. He so badly wants to be a hero, to be considered part of Heaven's elite. And so, he kills his friend in cold blood, no longer questioning the order Metatron gave him. He has chosen to pay the heavy price of throwing away a friend---and Abner had called Gadreel his “best friend.” Gadreel has chosen to accept the consequences, no matter what they may end up being, by following Metatron now.
But Gadreel hasn't only let in a serpent into the Garden of Eden---nor is he only following a new serpent in Metatron. He is a serpent himself. He's infected two key Gardens: The MOL Bunker and Sam Winchester.
We begin the episode with the tragic consequence of Kevin's death. Dean is giving the Prophet a Hunter's Funeral. It is a hard thing to witness---and to bear. As we see Dean reenter the Bunker and face the empty library---the now tainted Garden---we see him cast a sorrowful glance towards the spot where Kevin died. In his grief, he casts papers, books, chairs, and lamps to the floor---further destroying the Garden the Bunker once was.
The biggest consequence, of course, is Gadreel leaving while still in possession of Sam. It raises an old command for Dean: if you can't save Sam, you must kill him.
Lost, forlorn, and seemingly out of options, Dean is prepared to do the latter. He tells Castiel in his desperation, “If I don't end Sam and that halo burns him out---”
But not all hope is lost. Castiel offers to Dean, “Before he [Alfie] died, he told me the demons were able to dig into his mind, access his coding. We might be able to do that here. Might be able to -- to bypass the angel and talk directly to Sam.”
It might mean letting another serpent into the Garden, but Dean has little choice. If this is the only way to save Sam, then that's what he'll do. That serpent? None other than Crowley.
The consequences of the near-cure are still affecting the King of Hell---clearly in the sincere way he says, “Oh, I'm sorry to hear that,” about Kevin's death. This consequence may yet play into Dean's favor when the time comes.
Dean, Castiel, and Crowley chase down Gadreel---after he's killed his former friend, Abner.
It is now time for Dean to face the consequences of his choice to allow Gadreel to possess Sam---and for Sam, the real Sam, to learn the truth. This is a consequence that Dean has hidden from all season. Despite wanting to tell Sam all along, despite dropping hints, and despite trying to tell Sam at the end of “Rock and a Hard Place,” Dean has kept this secret. It has, thus, prevented Sam from choosing to either keep the angel or to expel him.
First, Dean must witness the physical aspect of Gadreel's possession. He must see what his choice to allow the serpent in has wrought on his brother's body. It is a hard scene to watch as Crowley prepares to follow through on his end of the bargain. He gets to stretch his legs, go on a “field trip,” in exchange for cracking the angel currently possessing Sam. Much as we saw Crowley insert needles and poke and prod at Samandriel, we see him do the same here to Gadreel. This time, though, the angel is wearing Sam's face---so his cries are really Sam's cries. This pain may not be his own, but each hiss and each cry of pain stab into Dean's heart, reminding him of what he's done to his brother.
It is another consequence---illustrated with excruciating pain---that comes from Dean letting in the serpent.
Unfortunately it doesn't do anything save give them the angel's name---Gadreel. He's finally exposed to Dean---and Castiel, which means perhaps eventually all angels. Gadreel tells them bluntly, “It won't work. You will never find your brother. Go ahead. Poke and prod. I can sit in this chair for years and watch you fail over and over again. I've endured much worse than this, Dean. So...much...worse. And I have all the time in the world.”
It means that Dean might have to let another serpent into the Garden that is Sam. He turns to Castiel, begging him to possess his brother as well---to wake Sam up and get him to expel Gadreel. With Sam out of commission and under-wraps---and Gadreel in the driver's seat---that won't be possible. Castiel can't get Sam's permission. They will have to find another way to reach Sam.
That leaves them with one option---one that could come with another set of consequences. If Castiel can't do it, perhaps Crowley can. He tells Dean, “Demons can take what they want. I can burrow into that rat's nest of a head. I can wake Sam up. Just call me plan "C."” Dean has little choice. If Crowley can somehow get inside Sam's head and wake him from the dream Gadreel's locked him in, Sam can then expel the angel himself. It's the only chance they have left.
Once Castiel burns off Sam's anti-possession tattoo, Crowley possesses Sam, finding him quickly inside the dream. He tells him the secret word, “Poughkeepsie,” and tells him the truth about the situation. He pleads with Sam, telling him, “Blow it up and cast that punk-ass holy roller out!”
It sets up perhaps one of the best scenes of the season. Gadreel made the crucial mistake all adversaries facing a Winchester do: he underestimates Sam. He wanted the vessel that Sam provides---after all it is strong enough to endure an archangel for eternity perhaps---and so he doesn't want to give it up anytime soon. What he doesn't understand is that Sam Winchester defeated the very archangel Gadreel once let into the Garden of Eden: Lucifer.
Gadreel, wearing the face of his original vessel, compounds further on his mistake by telling Sam, “You're not strong enough.”
As they tussle, Sam finally gets the upper hand and pins Gadreel down, proving that what the angel had told Dean was true: he could cast him out at anytime. He angrily tells the angel, “I said get the hell---Out!”
In a cloud of bluish-white smoke, we see Gadreel cast from Sam. As mankind and Lucifer were banished, Gadreel is banished here, too. And as Gadreel returns to his former vessel---and the serpent, Metatron---we know that he will eventually face the consequences for his invasion of the Garden that is Sam Winchester. Much as the serpent was told to “eat dust for all the days of your life,” Gadreel will endure his own punishment. The question remains though---which Winchester will deliver that punishment: Sam or Dean?
It leaves Sam still possessed, however. Dean not only had let Gadreel in---he's now let Crowley in. Will Crowley keep his word? Will he keep his bargain with the elder Winchester? If anything, Dean may have gotten rid of one serpent only to replace it with another.
Luckily, they don't have to ponder long on this question. Crowley voluntarily leaves, returning to his preferred meat suit. The consequence for this action is simple. Crowley told Dean, “I save Sam, I leave here a free man.”
Dean upholds his end of the bargain, and Crowley is now free to fight for his throne as the King of Hell. Will this be yet another serpent that Dean will have to face at a later date? Or will Crowley be more ally going forward? How much longer can the consequences of his near-cure hold and how will Crowley sustain it going forward? Will he want to?
Now Sam knows the truth, and this comes with its own set of of consequences. Dean may have had to face the fact that he had let in a serpent at the end of “Holy Terror,” but now he has to face his brother for what he's done.
Sam is understandably upset. After all, he was the one possessed by Gadreel---and then Crowley. He was the one that had endure the pain of Crowley's techniques. He was the one that lost chunks of time. He was the one that had this done to him. But Sam doesn't call Dean out for these things---not at first. That's not what seems to be the primary problem for Sam.
He tells Dean, “What you do want me to say -- that I'm pissed? Okay. I am. I'm pissed. You lied to me. Again.”
It is the lie---as it always is between the Winchesters---that bothers Sam. Everything that comes with the lie compounds the problem. For the Winchesters, the lie is always the greatest serpent that enters their brotherhood Garden. It is the kernel for which everything the serpent, Gadreel, has done since is wound around.
Dean must also face another consequence from what he's done. Sam tells him point blank, “I was ready to die, Dean!”
He tells Sam, “I know. But I wouldn't let you, because that's not in me.”
Rather than accept what he saw in the cabin, Dean instead chose to accept what Sam had told him while doing the Trials---that he wanted to “kill a hellhound and not die” and that he saw a “light at the end of the tunnel.” He saw Sam's death as unacceptable---perhaps in vain. After all, they had stopped the Trials to close Hell---so Sam would live. Instead, Dean had circumvented Sam's possible death by getting his brother to acquiesce to being possessed by an angel.
It was a selfish act---and both brothers know it.
Yet that doesn't seem to stop Sam from trying to shoulder the consequences for the serpent's actions---in particular Kevin's death. He may not have done it---but it was his body that did. He feels much the same way after he learned what Soulless Sam had done---responsible.
Dean won't allow him to. He tells Sam, “No. That is not on you. Kevin's blood is on my hands, and that ain't ever getting clean. I'll burn for that. I will.”
And because he let the serpent that is Gadreel in, he will deal with him alone. Dean places everything that has happened since on himself, saying, “Come on, man. Can't you see? I'm... I'm poison, Sam. People get close to me, they get killed...or worse. You know, I tell myself that I-I -- I help more people than I hurt. And I tell myself that I'm -- I'm doing it all for the right reasons, and I -- I believe that. But I can't -- I won't... Drag anybody through the muck with me. Not anymore.”
This is the consequence Dean must face after letting Gadreel in. This is the price he must pay. Crowley told him, after learning about Kevin's death, “People in your general vicinity don't have much in the way of a life-span.”
Dean takes this to heart. If he wants his brother alive---and he does---he must now walk away from him. Much as humanity had to be banned from the Garden of Eden for eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge or Lucifer had to be locked away in the Cage---or Gadreel locked in Heaven's prison---Dean must now banish himself from Sam.
For how long he must endure this consequence remains to be seen.
Dan Payne crosses over from another Supernatural Family Project---The Divine---to play the role of the angel Abner. He makes the character a sympathetic figure---and despite being larger than even Jared Padalecki---Payne makes Abner gentle. The earnestness in his performance makes it all the harder to see Abner meet such an unfortunate end. Payne puts all of Abner's heart into the line, “I love my family and they love me.” He may have played a short lived character---but he made Abner count.
Tahmoh Penikett returns to the show first as the bartender serving Metatron. We can see Penikett show the man's confusion upon seeing Gadreel wearing Sam's face. It's a subtle moment, but we can tell that it's shaken the man in some way---almost as much as it's shaken Gadreel. Penikett takes over the role of Gadreel well in the scene taking place in Sam's head. We see him arrogantly try to muscle Sam down, telling him that, “Maybe I'm the only thing holding you together. I leave, you might die. ” Penikett also shows Gadreel's shock well at being bested when Sam finally gets the upper hand and casts the angel out. We only get a brief glimpse of Gadreel once he's repossessed his original vessel, and yet we can see that Penikett's taken his cue from Padalecki to show Gadreel's displeasure at having been cast out of Sam Winchester. It'll be intriguing to see how Penikett blends what Padalecki's done with the character and how he'll make make Gadreel truly his own.
Curtis Armstrong returns as the manipulative and cruel Metatron. We can sense in his performance here that he is growing impatient with Gadreel, waiting for him to do his dirty work faster. It comes across best in his delivery of the line, “Not much for seizing the initiative, are we? ” Armstrong makes it easy for us to hate Metatron. He makes the angel an arrogant and cruel character. He also shows us how Metatron isn't surprised by the Winchesters besting Gadreel. Armstrong makes him sound bored when he says, “Let me guess. Winchester trouble? ” Now that Gadreel is fully on board and with him in his original vessel, it'll be interesting to see what Metatron does next---and how Armstrong will present him.
Alaina Huffman makes Abaddon a frightening addition to the show. She contrasts wonderfully with Sheppard's Crowley. Her charisma makes Abaddon a fascinating character whenever she is on screen. Huffman shines best in the scene facing down Cecily. She may not be doing anything particularly threatening until the last moment, but we want to crawl into the corner away from her, too. It's all in how Huffman carries herself. She gives the Knight of Hell a confidence that makes her terrifying. Despite that, though, we can sense a subtle change in her when Abaddon and Crowley face off. Huffman shows us that Abaddon isn't nearly as certain of her standing as Hell's new Queen as she sells to herself and others. We can see that in her confusion at trying to understand why Crowley doesn't see this as a fight, rather a campaign. It's all in how she says, “It's not?” Now that Crowley is out and able to fight back, it'll be interesting to see just how Abaddon reacts---and how Huffman plays her.
Mark Sheppard makes Crowley equally charming and captivating in this episode. It's also a treat to see him in action once again. Sheppard makes Crowley's wit subtly amusing and fun---especially when he delivers lines such as, “Your phallus on wheels just ran a red light in Somerset, Pennsylvania ten minutes ago,” and “I'm dead. Yes, I know. I love you too.” There's a slight difference in Crowley in this episode---as if the lingering effects of the Trials are still there, backed by the human blood injections. Sheppard shows this well in how Crowley reacts to the news about Kevin's demise. Where this shows best, however, is when Crowley possesses Sam to help get rid of Gadreel. This is Sheppard's best scene in the episode, and as he shouts at Sam, “Blow it up and cast that punk-ass holy roller out! ” we can sense the difference in Crowley the most. Sheppard shows us Crowley's integrity well, too. He makes a deal, he keeps it. As we see Crowley face off with Abaddon, this time with him no longer in chains, we see Sheppard show us that Crowley's truly back in the game in this exchange. It'll be interesting to see how Sheppard presents Crowley for the remainder of the season---and how much longer the near-cure may still effect him.
Misha Collins brings us Castiel restored to normal---complete with the trench coat. He's the socially awkward and rigid angel we've come to know. It's refreshing to see him back in his element. Collins has great chemistry with Ackles in “Road Trip.” We see this best in the scenes they share---first at the MOL Bunker discussing what has happened since Gadreel left and again as Crowley is torturing Gadreel. Collins shows us that not all of Castiel's brush with humanity has worn off in these scenes, too. We can sense in the way he carries himself and delivers his lines that the angel is much more understanding than he once was. That chemistry doesn't end with Ackles. It extends to Sheppard, too. As we see the angel face off with Crowley over the back seat, we see his comedic timing shine. It's a brief, but understated moment that hits with great humor. Collins also shows us Castiel's fury with Gadreel, once the angel's identity is revealed. We can sense his hurt and anger in that exchange. Now that Castiel is an angel once more, it'll be interesting to see what he does next---and if he should be working with Padalecki's Sam more closely.
Jensen Ackles made us feel all of Dean's emotions deeply in this episode---in many ways, he made us feel them as if they were our own. From the very beginning, his grief over Kevin and the aftermath of Gadreel's exit, we can tell that Dean is smashed apart inside---all by how Ackles carries himself. He telegraphs all of Dean's inner pain beautifully with just a look. He showed us Dean's anguish at Crowley using his techniques on Gadreel to reach Sam all through tight and tense body language. When we see him finally unable to take it anymore, Ackles puts all of Dean's emotion into the line, “I can't watch that anymore. ” It's a powerful performance from start to finish---but Ackles shines best and hits hardest emotionally when he tells Sam, “Come on man, can’t you see, I’m poison. People get close to me they get killed, or worse. I tell myself I help more people than I hurt and I tell myself that I’m doing it all for the right reasons and I believe that. But I can’t -- I won’t drag anyone anybody into the muck with me - not anymore.” All of Dean's agony, his grief, and his self-loathing is carried in this statement and in how Ackles delivers it.
Jared Padalecki caps off his dual role for season nine with a stellar performance. We see him as Gadreel first---and now that he is exposed as the serpent that he really is, we see a sheen of anger and condescension lace throughout the angel. He is arrogant and vengeful---evidenced in his brutal attack on Thaddeus. Padalecki shows Gadreel's frustration with Metatron well, too---and yet we can tell in how he carries himself that Gadreel is stuck doing as he is told rather he likes it or not. When we see Gadreel captured and facing being tortured by Crowley, Padalecki shows how cruel the angel really is when he taunts Dean about Sam---especially in how he delivers the line, “ You want this to end? Go ahead. Put a blade through your brother's heart.” Even when he's strapped down, Padalecki makes Gadreel seem intimidating and a force to be reckoned with. But it is the return of Sam where Padalecki truly gets to shine this week. All of Sam's determination and anger bursts forth as he fights Gadreel. It is perhaps Padalecki's best scene this season, especially when he delivers the line “I said get...the hell...Out! ” After we see Sam wake up, Padalecki shows us Sam's shock, anger, and heartbreak with his signature subtle style. Even before he says a single world in that final scene, we can feel all of Sam's hurt---see it all over his face just by how Padalecki presents him. And as he delivers the line, “But don't go thinking that's the problem, 'cause it's not,” we can sense all of his inner turmoil and grief at his latest parting from his brother---and for what has been done. It'll be interesting to see how Padalecki shows Sam in the aftermath to what has happened to him.
Best Lines of the Week:
Sam: I said get...the hell...Out!
Crowley: Your phallus on wheels just ran a red light in Somerset, Pennsylvania ten minutes ago.
Dean: A demon and an angel walk Into my brother. Sounds like a bad joke.
Crowley: What are you, a pimp?
Crowley: Other than the fact that I'm trying to unravel a living, multidimensional knot of pure energy, not much.
Next week we get to see Dean and Crowley team up against Abaddon.