In the twenty-first and penultimate episode of the fifth season of Supernatural, the boys go after Pestilence, but Bobby surprises them with a lead on Death as well. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of body horror/sickness, ableism, and queerbaiting.
I was simply blown away by this episode. In hindsight, it’s remarkably dense, dealing with numerous plot lines without making this feel rushed or underdeveloped. It’s A HUGE episode, both for the characters and the story. A lot of times, the penultimate episode of a serialized show feels like it exists just to set-up the finale. And while “Two Minutes to Midnight” serves that purpose, it is an immense work all by itself.
LET’S DO THIS.
The opening scene of this episode reminded me that I didn’t even address Sam’s plan to accept Lucifer’s offer in order to trap him. It’s clear now that this was going to be a HUGE part of the finale, but alas, I didn’t talk about it. I try to do my best to cover as much as possible, but I write these reviews largely from memory. In that sense, it’s trickier for me to cover everything I might want to address because I don’t have the text sitting in front of me. I have a policy of not Googling episode summaries or Wiki entries for the things I’m watching because I’m scared I’ll accidentally see a spoiler. So! It’s only inevitable that I miss some pretty big things along the way. But now I can address it!
EVERYTHING IS MESSED UP, HELP ME.
I don’t think this season has been all that clear on which powers of Castiel’s that he’s lost since being cut off from Heaven. At times, he exhibits powers of telekinesis or fast travel (sorry, had to steal the term from Borderlands). Then he’s powerless in other regards. Here, though, he wakes up from his self-banishment in a hospital in Louisiana, and he’s completely mortal. I’m guessing that this process was always gradual, that he had a finite amount of “power” and used it up in “Point of No Return.” Suddenly, Castiel’s struggle to understand human nature and behavior is less funny, isn’t it? There’s certainly humor in his inability to understand half of Dean’s references or his social weirdness, but I can’t stop thinking about “The End.” We are moving closer and closer to that vision of the future, and it’s eerie! Sam is thinking of consenting to Lucifer, and Cas is now human.
But Bobby appears to have escaped his fate, right? Sort of?
Serenity Valley Convalescent Home
In case you’re not a video person, allow me to repeat myself: the casting of the Four Horsemen is perfect. These four actors have done an incredible job with these roles! Despite that we saw him at the end of the last episode, we finally get a chance to appreciate Matt Frewer as Pestilence here. I loved that the show decided to have him play Pestilence as if he were a family doctor gone wrong. THOSE GLASSES BRING IT ALL TOGETHER. And my gods, he’s eerie because he’s so confident. Even after Castiel secures the ring, Pestilence doesn’t even care about being rendered powerless. That’s so frightening! But I also don’t want to ignore that his power is part of that. He could inflict anyone he wants with a disease, and he has fun tormenting everyone in Serenity Valley, including Sam and Dean. And it’s so gross IT IS SO GROSS. There are open sores, lots of blood, and lots of The Exorcist-era vomit.
I went into this episode expecting the entire story to deal with Pestilence, though, and then I was worried how the writers were going to make this last a full 42 minutes. If Pestilence didn’t care about ruining the bodies of the Winchesters, how could this ever be resolved?
Well, I wasn’t ready for the rest of this episode at all.
Bobby / Crowley
It’s at this point that the narrative splits off into multiple plots, all of which ruin my life. After regrouping at Bobby’s, Bobby reveals that Death is in Chicago, ready to unleash a storm that’ll claim millions of lives. Which he knows because he did go through with Crowley’s offer. I appreciate the idea behind the whole kiss scene, but without any actual confirmation that Bobby or Crowley are bisexual or pansexual, we have the same problem as before. Straight people playing with queerness for a laugh, and no actual queer people. I mean… why not just use this to maybe confirm that Bobby is queer? Why have him do this if it’s just so that the audience can laugh?
Anyway, the narrative split brings about a split in who goes where, and it’s a neat way for the writers to deal with all the dangling plots that need resolving. Dean and Crowley head to Chicago to try and get Death’s ring while Sam, Bobby, and Castiel head to the Niveus distribution center to stop Pestilence’s spread of the Croatoan virus. It’s here that Crowley reveals that Bobby got a little bit more in his bargain than he planned to. I totally get that this is yet another sign that Crowley means what he says! This could still go either way for the team, since Crowley could be manipulating them, but it still has an unfortunate implication regardless. It’s a common ableist trope to magically remove a person’s disability, thereby not only removing the representation that character provided to the narrative, but giving us a rather lazy “end” to this particularly storyline. So, this is it? Bobby is just magically healed? I’m glad he’s happy, but I think the writers could have done better with this.
Sam. SAM WINCHESTER. That’s all I have to say. Okay, not really, but lord, I am overwhelmed by all things Sam in this episode. I’m so happy that we get that scene at the end where Bobby admits that they’ve all been rather brutal with Sam over the years and that it’s time they give him credit for the unwavering goodness that constantly comes through him. I was so confused about that weird look Bobby gave Sam while they were in the warehouse, but I get it. He was impressed. After hearing the news that he’d have to consume an ungodly amount of demon’s blood to survive being Lucifer’s vessel, Sam doesn’t let himself get distracted while saving people. And it’s a sign of Sam’s selflessness, both in the warehouse and in general. Hell, that’s part of the reason why he’s willing to sacrifice himself in order to trap Lucifer, isn’t it? I imagine that the rough time Sam’s been through this season, he might also wish that he could end things, like Bobby, Dean, and Cas all did at one point, too. But Sam Winchester, who has had the deck stacked against him his whole life, is still determined to try.
SAM MY FEELINGS FOR YOU ARE ENDLESS.
Dean / Death
And yet? The absolute best scene in the history of this show belongs to Dean and Death. After a spectacular introduction over Jen Titus’s cover of “O Death,” Dean finally meets the Reaper. It’s an unsettling journey to that point, since Crowley and Dean can’t seem to find him until they pretty much accidentally discover the pizzeria he’s holed up in. What if Crowley was lying? THIS SHOW HAS MADE ME DISTRUST EVERYONE I SWEAR. (Well, between this and Tamora Pierce’s novels, I’ll soon distrust all fictional characters.)
There is a beautiful visual poetry in the way Dean slowly approaches Death. The cameras never rush Dean’s slow walk around to Death’s table, and it’s just so unbelievably tense. It’s a fantastic way to establish that Dean is utterly not in control of events here. Death gets his scythe back (which I think was hinted to be a way to draw Dean to Death all along), he controls the conversation, and he controls the future. At least, he wants to. We’d been given three antagonistic and terrifying Horsemen prior to this, so Death’s reveal that he wants Dean’s help shocked me into breathless silence. (I HELD MY BREATH MULTIPLE TIMES DURING THIS SCENE.)
It makes sense that Death never truly answered to Lucifer. He is eternal and ageless, and he’s always been there. Death exists in the mortal world independent of Lucifer, no? Lucifer had been in the cage for thousands of years without controlling Death, so Death wants freedom. I wonder if this was a hint that Death and Crowley were allies. They both want Lucifer returned to his cage, don’t they?
Anyway, Julian Richings is astounding in this role, choosing to play Death as this eternal being who is well aware that he’s several paygrades above Dean in the grand scheme of things. I don’t think Death changes his mind about Dean’s insignificance; he just sees him as a means to an end, which is freeing him from Lucifer’s leash. It’s through this that we shockingly watch Dean get Death’s ring, which he willingly hands over, in exchange for refusing to stop Sam from consenting to Lucifer. Dean later claims that he has every intention of double crossing Death, which I imagine is not going to go well if he goes through with it. But my hope here, going into the finale, is that Sam really is strong enough to become Lucifer’s vessel and then fight his way out of him. I want so badly to believe that Sam can do this, that his journey over this season has been leading up to this moment so he can finally conquer this aspect of him.
But this is also Supernatural we’re talking about, so I’m sure I’ll be flattened with despair soon. Ugh, off I go to ruin myself, y’all.
The video for “Two Minutes to Midnight” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
Mark Links Stuff
– If you would like to support this website and keep Mark Does Stuff running, I’ve put up a detailed post explaining how you can!
– Please check out the MarkDoesStuff.com. All Mark Watches videos for past shows/season are now archived there!
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Feature will be Farscape.
– I will be at quite a few conventions and will be hosting events throughout the US, Canada, and Europe in 2014, so check my Tour Dates / Appearances page often to see if I’m coming to your city!
– Inspired by last year’s impromptu event in London, I am taking Mark in the Park on the road! You can see all currently planned dates and pitch your own city here.