galathea: (dean_worthit)
[personal profile] galathea
While the season opener took a look at the immediate aftermath of the S8 finale for the Winchesters and the fallen angels, Devil May Care by Andrew Dabb follows up with an exploration of the demonic side of things. The episode not only gives Crowley, Abaddon and Kevin a spot in the limelight, but it also confronts Dean with the consequences of his actions in Sacrifice as well as I Think I’m Gonna Like It Here. Overall, Devil May Care is a solid instalment in the new season. It may not be as much of an emotional rollercoaster as the season opener, but it is still a fairly entertaining episode.

I admit that, two episodes in, S9 is a lot more enjoyable for me than S8. Granted, that is not much of an achievement, considering how much I hated the first half of S8, but still. Okay, so I do have my problems with Dean’s characterisation, and my general lack of enthusiasm for the mytharc results in occasional bouts of boredom while watching an episode, but for the most part the story manages to engage me, emotionally. That has mainly two reasons, I think. Firstly, I find Abaddon and Ezekiel a lot more interesting than Mrs Tran, Benny and Amelia. Abaddon’s energy, her determination and sense of purpose are a breeze of fresh air. And, despite my uneasiness with the consent issues of Sam’s possession, I like the element of mystery and uncertainty that Ezekiel brings to the story. I guess that just goes to show that interesting new characters can revive even stale storylines (angels/demons) to some extent. Secondly, unlike last season, Sam and Dean actually get along and visibly enjoy each other’s company; the trials and tribulations of the past couple of weeks seem to have brought them closer together again, and I can only welcome that. Really, I am so much easier to please, if the writers just allow me to enjoy Sam and Dean’s relationship instead of burying it under contrived conflicts. Of course, the inevitable conflict that will result from Sam’s discovery of what exactly Dean did to save his life is looming at the horizon, but at the very least the brothers will have an actual, comprehensible reason to fight this time.

Dean: "I’m not really with the whole love and ... love."
Ezekiel: "But it is why I said yes."
Dean: "Yeah, and if that goes sideways that’s on me, too."
Ezekiel: "That is not going to happen."
Dean: "This is nuts. I mean, you’re Sam, but you’re not Sam, and normally he is the one I’m talking to about all this stuff. I’m trusting you, Zeke. I just gotta hope that you’re one of the good guys."

One of the episode’s main story strands is Dean’s confrontation with the consequences of his actions, not only with regard to his decision to allow Sam’s possession, but also where his choice to abort the hell trials to save Sam’s life is concerned. Unsurprisingly, the latter causes Dean to feel responsible for every casualty that can be linked to a demon attack, which adds a somewhat desperate edge to his usual motivation to hunt. It explains, for example, why he so readily walks into Abaddon’s obvious trap; his guilty conscience leaves him little choice in the matter. Sam’s possession weighs heavily on Dean, too, if the frequent worried glances he throws Sam’s way are anything to go by. He and Sam may be back to acting as in sync as ever, but it is obvious that his feelings of guilt prevent Dean from being able to fully enjoy their current closeness. Dean’s conversation with Ezekiel in particular highlights his uneasiness with Sam’s possession. Ezekiel unexpectedly taking control of Sam’s body, if only to save his life, clearly unsettles Dean, and he is tangibly uncomfortable in the angel’s presence. I mean, he is tense and barely able to look Ezekiel in the eyes. In fact, his entire posture is the exact opposite of the one he usually has in Sam’s presence. Kudos to Jensen for making Dean’s physical reaction to Ezekiel so palpable.

Anyway, I think it is interesting that Ezekiel does everything in his power to assure Dean of his good intentions and convince him that he did the right thing by allowing the possession. He even goes as far as accessing Sam’s memories and feelings to support his reassurances, because he knows instinctively that Dean will be more amenable to his words if they are based on Sam’s feelings rather than his own. After all, Ezekiel’s statement that Sam knows Dean’s choices are rooted in his love for Sam gives Dean the hope that, ultimately, his brother will forgive him for his transgression. However, Ezekiel casually divulging Sam’s innermost thoughts and feelings to Dean is not only highly manipulative, but also further violates Sam’s privacy, because obviously he never consented to any of it. It is all quite troubling, really. There is one moment that I really love about Dean’s conversation with Ezekiel, though, namely when Dean expresses his regret about being unable to talk to his brother about his situation. Now, to be honest, even on his best days, Dean is not exactly forthcoming where discussing his fears and worries are concerned, and while I do believe that he wants to confide in Sam more often, his need to hide his own vulnerabilities from Sam usually wins out. Still, I love that Dean acknowledges how much he depends on Sam as a sounding board for his thoughts and feelings. ♥

Overall, while I still feel very uncomfortable with the situation of Sam’s possession, I am rather intrigued by Ezekiel as a character. There are moments where I feel he is completely sincere and compassionate, like, in the season opener, for example, where he (seemingly) respected Dean’s choice not to accept his proposal and offered to leave, so as to not intrude on the private moment between the brothers. However, there are also moments where he comes off as fairly manipulative to me, like, for example, when he quickly dissuaded Dean from the notion of telling Sam the truth about the possession by playing on Dean’s fear that Sam will eject Ezekiel and die as a result. I really like that ambivalence, because it keeps me on the edge of my seat. I am really torn, though, about how I want Ezekiel’s storyline to be resolved. On the one hand, I want Ezekiel to be a good angel – well, as much as someone who possesses a human being without true consent and arbitrarily exerts control over their mind and body can be called 'good' in the first place, secret agenda or not – because I do not want Sam to suffer any more than he already has. On the other hand, however, I want Ezekiel to have an agenda of his own, mainly because I want Dean’s choice to have consequences. Now, Dean obviously knows that what he did was wrong, but if he gets off easy for his violation of Sam’s right to self-determination and bodily autonomy, he will never learn to respect Sam as his own person, and without that respect, the brotherly relationship will never grow into a truly equal partnership.

Dean: "What about you? How is the engine running?"
Sam: "Honestly, I feel better than I have in a long time. I mean, I realise it’s crazy out there, and we have trouble coming for us. But I look around and I see friends and family. I am happy with my life for the first time in forever. I am. I really am. Things are good."
Dean: "Never better."

The final conversation between Sam and Dean is set up like a typical brotherly bonding moment, but I think there are dissonant notes in that scene, some of which are no doubt deliberate, but others are probably less so. For example, I am sure that Dean’s attempt to comfort Sam, who still harbours feelings of guilt over what happened to Tracy and her family during the apocalypse, is meant to be reassuring. However, Dean’s statement that Sam’s mistakes are in the past comes off as somewhat insincere, considering that, just a couple of days ago, Dean threw the exact same accusations as Tracy in Sam’s face, when he listed 'letting Lucifer out' as one of the many sins Sam should confess (Sacrifice). The same applies to Dean’s earlier scene with Tracy, where he defends his brother’s actions to her; his words sound a tad hypocritical with his accusations from Sacrifice in mind. Now, I have little doubt that Dean defending Sam is supposed to illustrate how his current doubts about his own recent choices motivate him to rethink his earlier unfair stance on Sam’s choices. Still, I find it difficult to buy into that change, not least because Dean seemed to have been in a place of true forgiveness before, but S8 subverted that impression. So, how am I (or Sam) supposed to believe that, this time, his understanding for Sam is genuine? Really, I hate the way Dean’s characterisation in S8 undermines his sincerity in the past as well as the present.

By the way, I have to say that I am growing really tired of random hunters acting hostile towards Sam, because he inadvertently let Lucifer out of his cage when he broke the last seal. Not that I think the hunters’ community should have gotten over the Winchesters’ involvement in the apocalypse by now, but, just once, I would like to see that Dean’s responsibility for breaking the first seal is taken into account as well or that Sam’s atonement for his misguided choices is at least mentioned as an extenuating factor. I mean, demons clearly are a chatty bunch, so I am sure that all the facts about Lucifer’s release and re-imprisonment are well known in the hunters’ community by now, so it makes little sense that hunters act friendly around Dean, but condemn Sam without a second thought.

But I digress. Another, more deliberate, dissonant note in Sam and Dean’s conversation is Sam’s unexpected admittance that he feels happy with his life for the first time in a long time. It just strikes me as a rather uncharacteristic statement for Sam, and I cannot help but wonder if, alongside of healing Sam’s body, Ezekiel has taken to influencing his frame of mind as well. I mean, only a couple of days ago, when he was in the final stages of the trials, Sam was at his breaking point, emotionally and physically, and even though he might not have been actively suicidal, he was at peace with the prospect of his own death. Moreover, just moments ago, he felt miserable for the hurt he unintentionally caused when he let Lucifer out of his cage, so his sudden turn-around seems awfully suspicious. Of course, it is entirely possible that narrowly escaping death just lifted Sam’s spirits to the point where it feels like happiness to him, but still, the statement seems odd to me. I really hope we will get further clarifying insight into Sam’s state of mind in the upcoming episodes, because I find the thought of Ezekiel possibly messing with Sam in this manner rather chilling. Anyway, Dean’s uneasiness with Sam’s announcement is palpable, and I really feel for him. I mean, this is all he has ever wanted – a Sam who finds happiness in the life he shares with Dean – and he cannot even enjoy it, because he knows the secret he keeps will destroy Sam’s happiness if it ever comes out.

Random Notes:

  • It is no secret that I love stories that involve the hunters’ community, but it never sits quite right with me when a hunter we have never even heard mentioned before – like the hunter Irv in this week’s episode – is suddenly introduced as a long-standing friend of the brothers, as if that will make us automatically care about him. I really have to wonder how and when Sam and Dean became close friends with all those hunters we met over the course of the show in the first place, given that it was established in S1/2 that John kept his boys away from the hunters’ community – Sam and Dean did not even really know that there was such a thing as a community of hunters (Bloodlust) – and that they had hardly any time or opportunity to make friends these past ten years, hunters or otherwise.

  • I have to say that Dean’s heart-warming speech about Kevin being family had the same incredulous effect on me as his similar speeches to Castiel, mainly because in both cases Dean’s words and actions are just not in accordance with each other. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that Dean genuinely cares about Kevin and Castiel, but he does treat both of them more as useful sidekicks than as family. Outside the context of a mission, Dean rarely shows any concern for their well-being, and he only ever voices his appreciation for them, if he wants them to comply with his wishes, like when he wanted Castiel to stop his efforts to open purgatory or like he now wants Kevin to continue to be their prophet on call. Dean’s lack of concern for Castiel’s current situation at the beginning of the episode plays into this impression, too. Dean knows that Castiel is on the run from his fellow angels and that he no longer has the means to defend himself; he also knows that Castiel has no money and no means of transportation, so his blasé reaction seems pretty cold. I mean, could you imagine Dean telling Sam that he is old enough to find his way back to the Batcave on his own, if Sam called him and told him that he is stranded in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of angry angels on his tail? I don’t think so. I am not saying that Dean is lying to Kevin or Castiel when he tells them that he considers them family, but I do think that there is an element of manipulation in his reassurances, too.

  • And while we are talking about Kevin, I really feel for him. The hope that his ordeal will be over, if he can just finish this one task of translating the demon tablet, was the only thing that kept him going these last couple of months, so the realisation that he will probably never be able to return to a normal life must be absolutely crushing. His discomfort with the fact that he finds himself confined under one roof with his worst enemy, completely dependent on people who are little more than strangers to him is tangible. While I do think that the extreme experiences Kevin shared with Sam and Dean created a bond between them, I am not sure he feels truly at home with them in the Batcave, which is why he really needed to hear Dean’s assurance that he is more than an asset to them. It is easy to forget sometimes that Kevin is still very young and that he is not as used to this life as Sam and Dean are. The brothers will need to step up as guardians, mentors and family for Kevin, if they want him to ever truly commit to the mission.

  • I am not quite sure what to think about Sam and Dean’s plan to get Crowley to tell them the names of all demons who are currently roaming the earth, so they can hunt them down. To what end, exactly? I mean, I doubt that they plan on killing countless innocent vessels only to destroy the demons inside them, and since the gates of hell are still open, performing exorcisms would only have limited effects, as the demons would just claw their way out of hell at the next opportunity. That leaves trying to cure the demons, but would that even work? As I understand it, the blood injected into the possessed host needs to be 'pure', like from a priest or someone who underwent a purification, like Sam during the trials. However, assuming that Ezekiel will indeed heal the damage said purification did to Sam’s physiology, will he still qualify as pure thereafter?

  • And while we are talking about demons clawing their way out of hell, does anyone remember the obstacles Azazel had to overcome to set one measly army of demons free from hell? So, how exactly does Abaddon plan on liberating demonkind and giving them reign over the earth? She may be ambitious and powerful, but she is still only a demon. I really do love Abaddon’s obsession with the public image of demons, though, as well as her 'demons do not negotiate, they take' attitude. I wonder if it was indeed Crowley who introduced the concept of demon deals to hell in the first place. It would not only explain why he was the King of the Crossroads, but also why he is such a stickler for the rules of making deals.
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