In the eighth episode of the fifth season of Supernatural, the Trickster returns… sort of. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
Can I just state for posterity’s sake that I think the angel mythology is probably the best thing Supernatural has done? In “Changing Channels,” we discover that Winchester angst is more or less a predestined thing due to the vicious war being waged between angels. And I had to stop and just marvel about how this show opened up its own mythology to include supernatural creatures that could have sent this show in a million terrible directions. Seriously! But from the appearance of Castiel at the opening of season four to this point, the use of the angels has been careful and focused. We haven’t been overwhelmed by them, which actually works better as a viewer. I end up craving more world building and character development from them because they’re largely so mysterious. Of course, the end of season four guaranteed that they’d be around for a while and that they’d be intricately tied into season five’s narrative.
And this is what we get. Holy shit, I LOVE SO MUCH ABOUT THIS.
There are two aspects to this episode that I’d like to address separately, and I’ll save the more serious stuff for the second half of this piece. “Changing Channels” is technically a meta episode of Supernatural, but it’s less of an analysis of the show and more a parody of other shows. The writers and actors have a ball poking fun at a number of TV genres. There are references to Grey’s Anatomy, the CSI shows, American sitcoms, and the absurdity of Japanese game shows. And lord, no one had more fun than Jared and Jensen, who had to pull off layered roles for this episode. Technically, they’re playing their characters playing other characters. AND IT’S SO GREAT.
There’s just so much to love here. The music choices for Dr. Sexy M.D. are out of this world. The ENDLESS HORRIBLE AND CORNY PUNCHLINES DURING THE CSI SEQUENCE. The coloring! I loved how the sitcom part was bright and sharp and horrifically cheesy. The sandwich! YOU’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER MOUTH. It was, simply put, a treat to watch these actors let loose and give us such an absurd performance. And that includes Richard Speight, Jr., though it’s the more serious stuff that I found rewarding for him.
Still, it’s impossible to divorce the silliness from the Trickster’s actual plan, and I love that the gimmick has a purpose. Throwing Dean and Sam into other fictional worlds is fun, I’m not going to deny that. If there’d been no greater plot to “Changing Channels” beyond their need to get out of the Trickster’s world, I would have been happy! I really would have. But it’s what this episode did with the greater apocalypse mythology that made me love it so much.
I don’t know that the show planned for the Trickster to always have been an angel. Well, not just “an angel,” but the angel, specifically the Archangel. I suppose I don’t care because it works for me. The reveal of Gabriel’s identity forces us to re-think that it is that he’s done over the course of this show, and I personally believe that it makes his past episodes – “Tall Tales” and “Mystery Spot” – a whole lot more interesting. My initial quibble with this reveal was that it didn’t make sense to me that an angel of God would be responsible for so much death, and then I thought about it for five fucking seconds and realized that YES THEY ABSOLUTELY WOULD. The angels have always been ruthless.
But for me, it’s Gabriel’s emotional, frustrated confession that does me in. This is about family, specifically one that has spent an innumerable amount of time constantly tearing themselves apart. And maybe I relate to Gabriel a little too much, since I had a difficult home life and I eventually ran away from it all rather than stay and fix it. Granted, I did not then disguise myself as a murderous Trickster god, LET’S NOT SUGGEST THAT. But Gabriel loved his family and adored his father, and all of it fell apart. His father disappeared, and his two elder brothers soon hated each other so much that they did everything they could to destroy one another. Gabriel’s flight from his heavenly family is as much a sign of his need to place his own happiness first and a temper tantrum of sorts. He doesn’t leave his family in order to bring happiness to others. He doesn’t go out in the world and make his own family. He sows discord because it’s all he’s ever known. It’s a replication of the very same thing that’s been raging between heaven and hell for thousands of years.
So why wouldn’t he want it all to end? He sticks Dean and Sam into “TV Land” in order to convince them (or trick them) into accepting the roles that they’ve been destined to fulfill this whole time. If Sam and Dean consent to becoming vessels, then the final war between Michael and Lucifer can begin. It’s through this that the whole idea of the “Chosen One” trope is both openly used and openly subverted. Sam and Dean are the perfect stand-ins for Michael and Lucifer because their lives so eerily match those of the angels’, you know? WINCHESTER ANGST IS CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY, I’M D Y I N G.
It’s incredible, then, that after all of this, that after all the reveals and shocks, Dean Winchester still refuses to consent. For me, it’s a sign that despite everything, Dean still has hope. He still believes that there is a third option, that there cannot be only two options left for him and his brother. I also think it’s pretty powerful that after the difficulty earlier in this season, Dean wouldn’t even entertain the notion of having to kill his brother. He doesn’t accept it, and along with his pretty boy angel friend, he’s going to find a way to circumvent the “destiny” that the angels and demons have for him and his brother.
Seriously, though, I LOVE THIS EPISODE SO MUCH. Oh my god, there are so many GIF possibilities here. SO MANY OF THEM.
The video for “Changing Channels” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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