Review (and Recap): Supernatural 5.01: Sympathy for the Devil

by Paula R. Stiles


[Here be big old episode spoilers]
Tagline: Lucifer’s on earth, searching for his vessel. Dean and Sam go looking for Michael’s Sword – and find it in a very surprising place.

Recap: After a kicking recap of season four to the tune of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck”, it all starts where season four left off, with Sam and Dean standing in front of a fountain of light blasting out of the bloody floor of a convent. Dean finally gets Sam to run, but Lucifer slams the doors on them. Lucifer starts shouting at them (that dog whistle from season four’s “Lazarus Rising”) and then, with no warning, we’re in an old Warner Bros. cartoon422-lucifer_rising involving Yosemite Sam in Hell. It’s being played on a plane, where Sam and Dean find themselves. Suddenly, the fountain of light blasts out in front of the plane and it starts to go down. As a freaked-out Dean looks out the window straight at Lucifer in all his glory, the title (blood swirling in white and a heart beating) cues up. Then scene cuts to them in the Impala, listening to disasters while Sam tries to apologize to Dean, who’s not interested.

The two of them then go to Chuck’s to find Castiel. There, after Chuck clobbers Sam with a plunger, they discover that Castiel was blown up by an archangel (in a gross bit, Chuck discovers Jimmy’s molar in his hair). Before they can really absorb this, however, Zachariah and two angel heavies show up to try to drag Dean back to Heaven. But Dean has an ace in a hole – he made a blood sigil like Castiel’s and uses it to blast the angels back to Heaven.

Back in a motel (whose outside looks an awful lot like Downtown Vancouver), Sam and Dean have a perfunctory conversation where Sam tries to apologise (again) and Dean refuses to have that conversation. Sam also admits that Ruby taught him how to make hex bags (considering their contents, that’s not good) and has made some to protect against demons.

Meanwhile, a lonely widower named Nick is being visited by bloody visions of his wife and baby’s death at the hands of a burglar and told he’s been “chosen”. This continues throughout the episode, with bloody cribs, crying baby monitors and fallen angels in the shape of dead wives.

After commercial, a young girl named Becky is writing Wincest (if you don’t know, you don’t want to) when she’s visited through webcam by Chuck. Since she’s his “Number One Fan” (nice Misery ref), he’s recruiting her for a mission. It involves meeting Sam and Dean in person (in their grotty motel) and warning them that the “Michael Sword” (hereafter known as “SuperSpork”) is on earth, lost to the angels, and being kept “in a castle on a hill made of 42 dogs.” Oh, and Becky’s a huge Samgirl, much to Sam’s discomfort.

The brothers then visit Bobby, who tells them some lore about the Archangel Michael, who kicked Lucifer out of Heaven with the SuperSpork. Sam tries to apologise to Bobby, which doesn’t go too well when Bobby effectively disowns him. Sam, crestfallen, goes for a walk.

This proves to be a mistake, since Bobby is (no big surprise) possessed and attacks Dean as soon as Sam leaves when Dean realized the location of the Season-5-Episoe-1-Sympathy-for-the-Devil-Stills-supernatural-7735371-1450-966SuperSpork is John’s magic locker from season three’s “Bad Day at Black Rock”.

Sam walks back into an ambush by Meg (remember her?) and her henchdemons. Sam appears to have lost his powers after being cleaned out by whoever put Sam and Dean on the plane and gets his butt kicked (by an old rotary phone – ouch!). It’s Bobby who changes the flow of battle. He manages to get brief control over the demon inside him, after Meg forces him to attack Dean with Ruby’s Sparkly Spork o’ Doom, and stabs himself. He kills the demon and (in a first for the show) survives the demon’s death throes. This distracts the demons long enough for Dean to get hold of the Spork and he takes care of the rest of the demons, except one. Ruby books out of her host.

Sam and Dean rush Bobby to the hospital. Sam wants to stay with Bobby, but Dean insists they go after the SuperSpork at John’s locker. This proves to be a trap, both for the dead demons they find and for themselves. Zachariah and his flunkies are waiting.

Zachariah informs Dean that Chuck’s dream was a trick: Dean is the SuperSpork. Dean finds this all very confusing (we hear ya, dude) and Zachariah dismissively explains that Dean isn’t really going to kill Lucifer because he’s just a human, and not a particularly good one, either. He’s just going to be the Archangel Michael’s vessel (his weapon) in the War against Lucifer. Incidentally, this is something foreshadowed by Dean’s looking at Lucifer directly – in the convent and from the plane – and not being blinded.

When Dean tells Zachariah to take a hike, Zachariah tortures Sam, offers to heal Bobby and gives Dean stomach cancer. Dean still refuses to become Michael’s vessel, realizing that Zachariah needs his consent. Before Zachariah can do more, his flunkies are dispatched by a mysterious newcomer – Castiel, back from the dead. Castiel orders Zachariah to restore the brothers and leave. Zachariah, cowed, obeys.

Castiel gives the brothers an Enochian sigil, carved into their ribs, that will hide them from all angels, including Lucifer. He then informs them that Lucifer is “circling his vessel”. When Sam asks Castiel if Castiel was really dead, Castiel admits that he was, but when asked how he came back, he simply leaves.

Meanwhile, Nick, the vessel in question, is being gaslighted by Lucifer in the form of Nick’s dead wife. Lucifer doesn’t lie to Nick, but you could say that he leaves a lot out. Lucifer says that he can’t give Nick his wife and child back (presumably, because they’re in Heaven), but can give him vengeance on their killer. Nick finally accepts.

At the hospital, Bobby finds out that he is paralyzed and won’t likely ever walk again, to which he responds with typical gruffness. Dean talks a good game for Bobby and Sam. Bobby apologises to Sam for what the demon said. However, outside in the parking lot, Dean is far more fatalistic. He says he’ll fight but doesn’t expect to win. He also admits (under pressure) that he is angry at Sam for choosing a demon over him after he gave everything to Sam, and that he doesn’t think he can ever trust Sam again. On that note, Dean walks away to the Impala, leaving Sam standing standing in a dark parking lot, alone.

Review: Oh, my, did that episode blow by. Very, very fast-paced, this one, helped by the introduction of tons of mysteries that look, on first sight, like loose ends but probably aren’t. We find out how Sam and Dean escape (or are rescued) from Lucifer’s rising, but not by whom. It’s not the angels. It could be God. It could even be either Sam or Dean, demonstrating a power as yet subconscious and hitherto unknown.

We meet Lucifer’s vessel and find out why he would give in to Lucifer (a vessel must be willing). We find out that Sam’s addiction (and powers) has been “cleaned” out of him in the transition to the plane at the beginning, but we don’t know by whom. We find out that Castiel was killed by an archangel and we see him come back, but again, we don’t know why or by whom.

There are other things that really don’t add up. Bobby stabs himself with the Spork and kills the demon inside him. In the past, this has been universally fatal to the host, but Bobby survives. Yes, he’s paralyzed, but he still survives.

Then there is all of the stuff involving angels and vessels. It’s repeated by Lucifer Castiel’s previous statement that vessels are very rare (we’re not told why, but season four’s “The Rapture” heavily implied that it was something genetic), but they aren’t unique. From the looks of things, Lucifer deliberately picks a vessel who is suffering and vulnerable. From his speech to Nick, it’s possible that Lucifer really does believe that he picked Nick because he and Nick have been similarly screwed over by God.

Dean’s experience is very, very different. While Nick is left to face Lucifer alone and is persuaded (albeit in a creepy, invasive way) to let Lucifer in, Dean is violently coerced by Zachariah, who has two flunkies with him at all times (one has to wonder why he needs to show up with reinforcements against two humans).

Another difference is that Nick is wooed by Lucifer directly in the guise of Nick’s dead wife, but Zachariah demands Dean’s obedience and assent by proxy for Michael. One could assume that Michael is too arrogant to come down himself, but what Michael wants never, in fact, does come up. This makes one wonder where Michael really figures in all of this and if he’s truly on board with the whole premature Apocalypse plan.

Zachariah declares that Michael needs a vessel in order to lead the War against Lucifer, but one has to ask why that’s so. We get why Lucifer might need a vessel, since he will be twisting and screwing with humans and interacting with demons. But why would the leader of the angels need one, and why can’t he pick one of the few other vessels out there? Why not pick Sam, for that matter, since Sam has the same heritage as Dean? Why only Dean? And how does Dean being a vessel jibe with the assertion that he started the Apocalypse by breaking the first seal and therefore is the only one who can stop it? Michael didn’t break the first, not unless Dean is Michael and not just his “angel condom”.

In “Lazarus Rising”, Castiel said he took on a human form so that he could communicate with Dean without hurting him. Michael doesn’t need to do that, especially since Zachariah has stated outright that the angels don’t care aboutcastiel04pe8 human casualties. So, what’s a few thousand burnt-out eyeballs and blown eardrums at each battle? And why would the demons believe the original story Zachariah gave Dean that Dean is the one who will kill Lucifer if it will really be Michael?

There is also the mirroring of Dean with the role of Michael, which not only continues but intensifies in “Sympathy for the Devil”. This is the first time that Michael is explicitly referenced since season two’s “Houses of the Holy”. Michael is the leader of Heaven’s army and here, we see Dean step up to the plate. Dean’s speech to Bobby about going into battle against both the angels and demons to kick them off the planet, needing only: “a GED and a give ’em hell attitude” may be bravado, but it is the speech of a leader rallying troops. Dean is not the pawn that Nick and other angel vessels like Castiel’s vessel Jimmy and his daughter are. Dean is setting himself up as a leader of humans to challenge both Heaven and Hell. Whatever Dean is, we already know that he intends to become the human equivalent of Lucifer and Michael and not a mere pawn in their game.

Other mirroring occurs. Meg refers to Bobby as Dean’s “surrogate father” and Bobby manages something that we have only seen Dean’s father John accomplish – he fights back his possessing demon long enough to stop hurting Dean. No one but Bobby or John has ever been able to resist a demon and both times, they did it to avoid killing Dean.

Castiel dies and is resurrected by a mysterious force. Just like Dean in the season four premiere, Castiel dies and is reborn different and greater. Like Sam, however, Castiel doesn’t seem to remember the part in between dying and being reborn.

Regarding Sam, I thought they did a good balance between smacking him around and giving him a breather. The “disowning” from Bobby was incredibly harsh and OOC, so I was relieved to find out it was a demon talking. Dean’s speech at the end wasn’t pleasant, but it had to be said. Sam did betray Dean, in a way that really had little to do with the Apocalypse and was that much more personal and bitter as a result. Sam said that he would like to take it all back, but he can’t. He did the Puppy Eyes o’ Doom a lot, but that didn’t work anymore.

That said, it was a nice start to see Sam relieved (not disappointed) at the disappearance of both his powers and physical addiction and falling in line beside Dean without question. Not that Sam needs to do everything Dean says (Dean’s been known to take the odd stupid pill here and there. Remember “Sex and Violence”?). But a lot of the deterioration of their relationship occurred when Sam showed so much disrespect for Dean and Dean’s judgment. Dean may not trust Sam anymore, but Sam stopped trusting Dean first.

Okay, so Bobby and Castiel were welcome returns and it looks as though they will both have their own story arcs. It was also fun to see Chuck again and it looks as though he’ll be helping the boys here and there (even if his info won’t necessarily be reliable). Emily Perkins (of Da Vinci’s Inquest and Ginger Snaps fame) did an hysterical turn as Becky Rosen the Supernatural fan from Hell. Some fans were not at all amused, if the scuttlebutt from the discussion boards is any indication, but I thought Perkins did a great job. Yeah, Becky’s annoying, but she’s supposed to be and Perkins’ timing is great. Becky is also a good gobetween character between Chuck and the boys, so hopefully, we’ll see her again.

The woman who played Lucifer in the form of Nick’s dead wife (Bellamy Young) seemed familiar but not terribly compelling. However, Mark Pellegrino was very sympathetic as Nick. We didn’t see him as Lucifer (Nick’s possession was evoked by a blast of white light seen from outside his house), but I’m sure he’ll do fine.

I was less thrilled with Meg. I didn’t care much for Rachel Miner’s portrayal. I’ll give her points for studying Nicki Aycox’s mannerisms and trying to imitate her snark, but something wasn’t working, either the direction or the writing or both. As Dean said, Meg went on way too long in an “I’m in love with the sound of my own voice” way.

There was some intrigue in her reactions to Sam and Dean, though. Meg seemed singularly unimpressed by Sam, despite his having opened the last seal and let her boss out. This makes one wonder what Lucifer’s actual relationship to his creations is. They are ex-humans, after all, and Lucifer hates humans. We can already see that the demons are too short-sighted (and na├»ve, in their own, sociopathic way) to even consider that Lucifer might not have their best interests at heart, but the question does remain whether or not he does.

Meg’s approach to Dean, as in the past, remained one of sexual obsession carefully shrouded by open contempt. She called him stupid and slow, yet also admitted a certain admiration for his role in the Apocalypse.

Kripke has said that we will meet God. I think that He will be someone we know, already. Castiel’s vigorous resurrection makes him a prime candidate. Bobby could also be Him. The players to be named later (who have probably already been cast) are difficult to determine. Not only will they be played by an actor or actress we already know (so, no handy casting calls to give things away), but we have already been introduced to the idea of characters who are so in occult (hidden) from the world that they, themselves, do not recognize their own, true nature. We saw this with Sam. We’re seeing this with Dean. And we may well see this with both Bobby and Castiel.

A final note about Castiel: the sword that he used, apparently unique in “On the Head of a Pin”, isn’t. At least one of Zachariah’s goons also had a sword of the same design. Of course, this begs the question of why Michael needs a human vessel to be his sword when the angels have a whole arsenal of metal objects that won’t argue with him, but that’s one of the questions that may be answered down the road.

Fun quotes:

Chuck [to Sam after clocking him in the head with a plunger]: Sam! You’re okay?

Sam: Well…my head hurts.

Chuck: In my last vision, you were, like, full-on Vader!

Chuck: The archangel smote the crap out of [Castiel]. He just exploded – like a water balloon full of Chunky Soup…Is that a molar? [sobs quietly] Do I have a molar in my hair? This has been a very stressful day!
Becky [to Chuck]: You got my letters! And my marzipan!
Becky [to Sam]: You’re Sam Winchester! [to Dean] And you’re…not what I pictured.

Sam [to Becky]: Uh, Becky, can you quit touching me?

Becky: No. [feels up Sam’s abs]

Dean [to Bobby]: You weren’t followed, were you?

Bobby: You mean by angels, demons or Sam’s new superfan?

Dean [seeing a picture of Michael in a book]: That guy looks like Cate Blanchett!

Meg [to Dean]: We really owe your brother a fruit basket.

Dean [to Meg]: My God, you like the sound of your own voice!

Dean [after Meg French-kisses him]: What is that – peanut butter?

Meg [beating up Sam]: Not so easy without those super-special demon powers, huh, Sammy?

Dean [sarcastically to Zachariah]: Oh, thank God! The angels are here!

Dean [to Zachariah]: Life as an angel condom! That’s real fun!

Zachariah [to Castiel]: How are you…

Castiel: …alive? That’s a good question. How did these two end up on that airplane? Another good question ’cause the angels didn’t do it. I think we both know the answer, don’t we?

Zachariah: That’s not possible.

Castiel: That scares you. It should. Now, put these boys back together and go. I won’t ask twice.

Dean [to Castiel]: Did you just brand us with [an Enochian sigil]?

Castiel: No, I carved it into your ribs.

Nick [to Lucifer]: Could you do me a favour, there, Satan and remind me to quit drinkin’ before I go to bed?

Bobby [to Dean]: How are we supposed to [stop the Apocalypse], genius?

Dean: I got no idea. What I got is a GED and a “give ’em hell” attitude. I’ll figure it out.

Bobby: You are nine kinds of crazy, boy.

Dean: It’s been said.

Dean [to Sam]: You chose a demon over your own brother – and look what happened!

Next week: Good God, Y’all [Yeah, I hate that title, too]: Sam and Dean visit Rufus’ little town in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, which has been mass-possessed. There, they meet up with Rufus, Ellen and Jo.

If you enjoyed this review, please consider making a small donation to Innsmouth Free Press.

About IFP

Keep Innsmouth going! Purchase our anthologies and books.

IFPReview (and Recap): Supernatural 5.01: Sympathy for the Devil