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Okay, so: that final ‘okay’? Okay, sure, Sam won’t pursue the whole ‘Cage’ route. Okay. Dean knows it’s insincere as soon as it’s spoken. The director assumes the audience will need a little longer to absorb that obvious fact, hence necessary Soulful Stare Past Camera from Sam as the closing shot.

 

Now, proceeding from that to consider the rest of the episode: we have a similarly heavy-handed ‘THIS IS THE BIT THAT APPLIES TO THE BROTHERS OKAY’ moment when the sister of deceased (I don’t remember names because I don’t remember names) inserted a whole “fear paralyses us, it makes us not do things we should do or do bad things” moment into The Great Reveal Speech. Plus “I spent my whole life sticking up for my brother WHAT IF I WAS WRONG”. In case we missed the fact that the sudden change in narrative tone meant that this applied to our main characters, we also zoomed in on both Sam and Dean to see their reactions.

 

In Sam’s case? Easy and clear. Sam has been fearing pursuing the ‘Cage’ route - part of which is telling Dean about it, which he resolved to do and did by the end of the episode. We are left with the heavy implication that he will go further with it. (Hello, Lucifer!) He has, moreover, affirmed this personally within the episode by facing down the clown - which would have been a cute callback if it hadn’t felt shoe-horned in just to make that point, sigh. I love Sam’s clown fear precisely because it is irrational and so very human; that is, belonging to an entirely different category in his head to the epic/heroic/‘real-world’ sort of fears that he has to face on an everyday basis. Lucifer and the cage should belong in this category: as something he has faced, and something that has traumatised him, but which he can compartmentalise and (to a certain extent) control. 

 

If I were to don my fanfic hat for a moment, I’d say - “ah yes, but what if some version of Lucifer has entered the irrational terror part of Sam’s brain, the same as that occupied by clowns?” I would say “aha, that would be Hallucifer, who was obviously not actual Lucifer but Sam dealing with the idea of Lucifer and of a lack of control of his own psyche, since he behaved so very differently to that dignified, distant, driven archangel that we saw in season 5, and if this is the case then we could have this resolved by having real Lucifer return as a comprehensible and realistically motivated adversary”. Sadly, my fanfic brain tends to outstrip actual canon writing, so I doubt this will happen. Meh.

 

But that’s just Sam. We panned to Dean as well, when talking about fear. I assume the fears we’re meant to associate with Dean at this point involve the Mark and a loss of control (and, therefore, hurting Castiel - interestingly, demon!Deanm’s attempt to kill Sam doesn’t seem to haunt him? at least it hasn’t been referred back to by the narrative). But I see less of that - and this whole episode was generally Sam-focussed, so I think it remains open how we’re meant to read Dean’s fears right now.

 

All of that said. I can’t help but feel there’s something more going on with dead-guy himself. Allegations of paedophilia, wrongful accusations, accidental murder? That’s some rather heavy stuff, and I’m surprised we didn’t pick up on that in more depth in the episode. Feels like a dropped thread - or one that might possibly be picked up later? 

 

Plus masks and puppets, but that felt both too heavy-handed and also not particularly relevant to what’s going on now. More… you know… season 5. When there was a possiblity of them being meatsuits. To archangels. Ahem.

And am I the only one who got the impression that the MOW was protecting women? And since it wasn't, why did it suddenly kick into action against Doug and Donna? Doug wasn't in on it, was he? It was just the two guys, whom the ghost got - so why didn't he stop after that?

Incidentally, that one manuscript we focussed on when Sam was grumbling about how none of the ‘pre-Biblical’ texts Castiel had brought back were useful, as they were all in Aramaic or had nothing to do with the Darkness? 

Definitely neither Aramaic nor pre-Biblical - couldn’t see close enough to read any of it but judging by the general aspect of the page and the shape of the words, it’s definitely medieval Latin, probably 13-14C book hand. Although, to be generous to them, one could say it was a later copy of an earlier text; if only medieval Latin translations had not been at all influenced by, you know, the medieval church. If it’s worth translating it’s worth translating properly - ie, finding the ‘truth’ in it, which probably means a very loose translation heavily influenced by western patristic tradition. And therefore any ‘darkness’ it references will have been filtered through many layers of whatever every copyist for at least thirteen centuries has considered to be ‘darkness’, in whatever language and cultural context. No wonder it’s no good. Sam, honey, you really need to learn to study cultural, semantic, and linguistic context for every text you consult, not to mention, you know, the months or years of work that any manuscript / early-text scholar will put into constructing a provenance for every manuscript and a tree for every text suggesting its dissemination and influence and so on. 

 

Good responses I’ve seen to this episode: (will be updated as I see more, and feel free to add links in the comments)

Meta -
 this one little snippet from goodquestionharlie;
a fairly sound general review from thedailyfandom;
almaasi’s reaction post;
reflections on God and Amara from this and the previous episode, by postmodernmulticolouredcloak;
masks and burning things frmo dustydreamsanddirtyscars;
and, obviously most important of all, an ongoing BUT CAN CAS FLY THEN debate.
 

Fic/art -
non-explicit wincest drabble frmo kansaskissedlips - “I’m cold”. Poor Sammy! 
destiel drabble "How was Gaza?" from ozonecologne

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