The sixth season of Supernatural, as I mentioned in part one of this post (many, many moons ago) ((last year!)), is all about breaking with tradition.  We have a shift in the character paradigm and, in “Caged Heat”, a fracturing of the typical trajectory of a season.

I have this bad habit of thinking something at the beginning of an episode of Supernatural, which then always ends up destroyed by the end.  To wit, in the opening scenes, with Crowley torturing the alpha shapeshifter, who has assumed Crowley’s form, I thought, “I really love that Crowley has developed into this season’s big bad.”  Oh Karen. . . .you doomed him.

The episode provides a clearer sense of how things now work for the Winchester boys.  They capture monsters and bring them to Crowley’s henchmen, garnering little respect in the process.  Dean is still tormented about whether Sam actually wants his soul back, sounding almost petulant in his regular interrogation of his brother.  It’s an interrogation that’s ended when Sam is grabbed by a demon henchman, one who works for Meg, or, as Dean calls her, “evil bitch.”

Meg’s looking for Crowley, which again highlights the shifting power dynamics of hell.  Crowley is hunting down members of the old guard, the faithful servants of Lucifer.  Meg wants to get to him first.  In the continuing struggle between brothers, Dean wants nothing to do with her, whereas Sam is ready and willing to bargain.  Sam wins.  They’re playing with Meg now.

First, however, Sam wants to solicit the help of Castiel.  He does, but it’s ugly.  Sam shares no squishy feelings with Castiel.  The way Sam speaks to him, it would appear that he can barely tolerate the angel’s presence.  And while he summoned Castiel with a funny Raiders of the Lost Ark reference (does this mean the Ark really would make people’s faces melt off?), Sam keeps him there with the threat of hunting him down and killing him.  Castiel again references the war in heaven, but Sam has no patience for this, and I can’t help wondering if Castiel remains only to ensure Dean’s safety.  They keep their spat from Dean, acting as if they are working in concert.  Though I’m not sure Dean believed what he was hearing.  He had that pensive, “I’m sucking a thoughtful tooth,” Dean face.  Unfortunately Castiel cannot find Crowley — he’s hidden from him — so they have to go to Plan B:  Samuel.

Because this is the season of answers, rather than deferments, we find out why Samuel is working for Crowley.  In a twist that fits in perfectly with the Winchester way of life, even if he is a Campbell, Samuel reveals that he’s working for Crowley because he has promised to bring Mary (Samuel’s daughter, Sam and Dean’s mother) back from the dead.  My brain exploded with the implications of this. . .would she really want to be alive?  How would they explain it?  How do these people keep coming back without manifesting in a rotting corpse/skeleton?  I would think that coming back to life after so long would lead to some kind of insanity. . .but I guess if Samuel could come back then it’s possible.

There’s an interesting dynamic at play here.  Dean wants/needs to get his way because he’s desperate for the restoration of Sam’s soul and, of course, Sam will always be priority one with Dean.  Then you have Samuel who cares about nothing more than getting his daughter back.  Mary coming into play as a pawn provides an extra dollop of tension, for the audience has always seen Mary as a Winchester.  She was the impetus behind a life of hunting — the quest for yellow-eyes.  Her murder informed the behaviors of both John and Dean.  “What Is and What Should Never Be” provided an intimate look at just how significant Mary was to Dean’s life — he didn’t wish for an existence where his father survived; he wished for his mother.  Yet none of this matters when Samuel pulls out the “she’s my daughter” card.  He seeks to invalidate a child’s claim.  Samuel argues that he needs her more than Dean does — as he comments, “You know how to live without her.”  This results in an emotional tug-of-war, and the revelation that Samuel has no issue with choosing Mary over Sam and Dean.  It’s not too much of a surprise that he doesn’t have strong feelings for Dean, but given that he and Sam have spent the past year together, the ease with which he could toss him aside took me aback.  There’s something to be said for the human being standing in front of you, versus the woman who has been buried for many years.

Dean attempts to argue with Samuel, saying what we all had to be yelling at the tv, there’s no way a deal with Crowley to raise someone from the dead can end well.  Samuel points out Dean’s hypocrisy, but saving the life of family by making deals with demons has never ended up well for the Winchester family.  Dean points this out, but Samuel isn’t listening.  He asks them to leave.

So, when things are looking their darkest, Castiel decides to watch and analyze porn.

“It’s very complex.  The pizza man truly loves this babysitter.  Why does he keep slapping her rear?  Perhaps she has done something wrong.”

Funniest.  Thing.  Ever.

Samuel shows up at the door, questions the judgment of watching porn with angels, and then hands the team a map showing Crowley’s location.  “It’s what Mary would want,” he explains, and then he leaves refusing to offer further help. “I may be stupid, but I’m not suicidal.”

A deal with Meg and her minions is made.  Castiel and Dean are together in the motel, preparing for the upcoming confrontation, when Castiel shocks Dean with horrific news.  He’s not sure that they should be trying to restore Sam’s soul.  The soul has been trapped with Michael and Lucifer for over a year, with the seething angels taking their frustration out on it.  Castiel explains that if they put Sam’s soul back in his body the repercussions would most likely be devastating — insanity and suffering on a scale that Castiel couldn’t even begin to address.  Dean doesn’t care — he argues that there must be a way to save him — argues that there *is no other choice* than to save him.

This moment is incredibly important for the next episode.  It’s also the moment where I started looking at the Dean/Sam dynamic just a bit differently, which I believe was the writers’ intent.  What we see, and what Dean and Castiel don’t, is that Sam has heard every word.  He now knows what will happen if his soul is restored, and he knows this before they go into battle with Crowley.  When I say it changed the way I looked at their dynamic, it was the first moment where I started to feel that Sam was being pressured into something by his older brother.  I usually side with Dean — I’m pretty sure I argued that in my last post — and his role this season has been the protagonist for the audience, our entry into the story.  But how can you not watch that scene and think about what Sam must be feeling?  To believe that you’re actually holding it together pretty well, albeit with no empathy, nor conscience.  Knowing that your brother, the person who swore to serve as your protector (whether you wanted it or not), wants to cram a soul back into you that would push you over the edge into madness — most likely to your complete destruction.  In that moment it felt like Dean was overstepping.  The implications of all of this are more fully realized in the next episode, but for now I think the writers were pushing for that, trying to make us feel just how devastatingly fraught this situation had become.

Thanks to Samuel’s map, the team is able to glean that Crowley is torturing monsters in an abandoned prison.  The group, plus Meg and her minions, breaks in, only to discover that the asylum is guarded by hellhounds.  Goodbye minions.  Meg tries to ditch the team by abandoning her meatsuit, but Crowley has locked all demons into their bodies.  Meg volunteers to stay and fight off the dogs, telling the boys to take the enchanted knife (that’s my name for it) and kill Crowley.

However, before she begins her fight, Meg grabs Castiel and gives him a mega-kiss, and possibly cops a feel.  Dean and Sam are a bit shocked.  But not nearly as shocked as when she stops and Castiel grabs her, spins her, shoves her against the wall, and starts making out with her.  Speechless boys.  Castiel stops and backs away.  Meg asks, “What was that?”  To which Castiel responds with the line of the episode, “I learned that from the pizza man.”

The battle between Meg and the hellhounds commences.  The team leaves her behind to find Crowley, only to lose Castiel when Samuel (surprise!) shows up and banishes him with the angel banishing sigil.  Turns out Samuel wasn’t being as helpful as we thought, selling out Sam and Dean’s plan to Crowley.

Seriously, we’re only 26 minutes in and this episode is just chock full of goodness.

The boys are locked up in separate cells and Dean receives a visit from Samuel, who thinks he can justify his actions. He claims that Dean sold out his mother by choosing Sam — a person who Samuel doesn’t even consider human any longer. Everyone loves to pile the guilt on poor Dean. Apparently bringing someone back from the dead is far more acceptable than restoring a soul. Samuel confirms that he doesn’t feel close to the boys, spitting out that Dean is nothing to him. Dean then delivers a chilling line that gave me anticipatory goosebumps, “I’ll tell you who I am. I’m the guy you never want to see again. Cause I’ll make it out of here. Trust me. The next time you see me, I’ll be there to kill you.” Freaking awesome.

Samuel watches as Dean is dragged away by Crowley’s henchmen, who put him in a room with two vampires. While in another room Demon Christian is torturing the still living Meg. And in cell, Sam (who has heard Dean’s protests) kneels down and clamps down on his arm with his teeth, tearing into his skin. I was *completely* flummoxed by this. In fact, I believe I yelled to both the dog and the television, “Is he drinking his own blood? Does he have demon blood in him?” I’m an idiot. Sam was using his blood to create a Devil’s Trap, which not only traps Crowley’s henchman, but drips blood on their heads. Umm. . .yuck. And the shot of Sam laughing, with teeth bloodied, was a reminder that he’s not our Sam right now. But he does save Dean.

The scene with Christian torturing Meg is meant to evoke the scene where Alastair tortured Ruby. Both women are tied down, naked, with leather restraints covering the things that shall not be seen on network TV. Alastair’s torture of Ruby was horrendous, cutting and slicing her arms, legs, and stomach, but Christian’s is so much worse, so much more violent, that it’s the one moment in the episode that made me think it was pushed a smidgen too far. Christian has the enchanted knife and like a psychotic gynecologist is using it to slice up Meg’s insides. It’s brutal. Do they make the torture that much worse so that when Dean sneaks up behind Christian, takes the enchanted knife out of his hand, and stabs him the audience won’t feel bad to lose Christian? There is no remorse in Dean’s eyes.

Crowley finally appears again, ready to torture the female djinn that was captured in the first episode. Until the alarm is tripped, by Sam and Dean. Sam slams him with a metal pipe, knocking him into a Devil’s Trap. With the help of Meg, Sam asks Crowley for his soul back — a request he denies. Meg tortures him with the Darth Vader grip until Crowley bellows that he can’t get the soul back. He doesn’t have enough power to reach into the cage again and drag out Sam’s soul. He then unknowingly seconds what Castiel has said, asking why Sam would even want back a soul that has been at the mercy of both Lucifer and Michael. Meg agrees. Sam gives up and then the boys let Meg go into the trap to kill Crowley. However, he’s Crowley, so he takes Meg down, breaks the trap, and moves towards killing them all.

Surprise! Castiel arrives, telling him to leave the boys alone. Crowley begins his witty demon banter, telling Castiel that he’s heard that Cas is losing the battle for heaven to Raphael, saying that the war makes Vietnam look like “a roller derby.” There’s little fear, until he discovers that Castiel has Crowley’s bones. Still very little fear. Castiel wants to bargain — bones for Sam’s soul. When he says he can’t, Castiel wastes no time in setting the bag of bones, and thereby Crowley, aflame.

Holy. Effing. Crap.

And with that Crowley is no more. This is not a season that drags its feet. It dispatched, with little fanfare, a big bad who’s also a fan favorite. It made me question who exactly the Winchesters are fighting against this season. And now who takes over hell?

Final moment epiphany by the Impala: Dean reassures Sam that they will find another way to restore his soul and, in a not wholly-unexpected turn of events, Sam says no.

“You don’t even know what you’re saying.”

“No, I’m saying something you don’t like. You obviously care, a lot, but I think maybe I’m better off without it.”

“You’re wrong. You don’t know how wrong you are.”

“I’m not sure about that.”

Next — Part 3: Appointment in Samarra