In the third episode of the sixth season of Supernatural, Dean and Sam work together to solve a case involving Biblical plagues. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Supernatural.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of police brutality.
Okay, so is this what the sixth season is going to have as its overarching narrative? WHO KNOWS. (Wait, all of you do. OH GOD.) Things are still clearly weird with Sam because of ~reasons~, but if there’s a season-long arc to be found here, the show is purposely keeping that hidden from me. But I think that if we’re going to be dealing with the civil war in Heaven, then sign me the fuck up. I find the way that this show has dealt with the angel mythology to be endlessly compelling, and I’m all here for it, particularly if that means we get more of Balthazar. THIS IS GREAT. LET’S CHAT.
Given recent events in the U.S. surrounding Ferguson, Michael Brown, and our longstanding epidemic of police brutality, I was already bracing for this story to turn out differently than it did. But y’all, I’m legitimately shocked. This show gave a young black boy a revenge narrative against cops and didn’t demonize him for it. I kept waiting for that to happen! I think that using something as deeply traumatizing as this as the basis to introduce another plot that has nothing to do with it is a problem, so I don’t want this to come off as pure praise. It’s not. I mean, the story plainly spells out that Aaron Birch is a stepping stool in the case, and it’s largely character development for Sam and Dean, not Aaron himself. That’s an issue. Still, the story accepts that cops can abuse their power to end lives, and it gives Aaron a chance to enact out his own brand of personal justice. I didn’t expect that!
It’s also THE GROSSEST THING EVER, OH MY GOD. SO GROSS. MUCH GROSS. I may have out-noped this whole season just in the first 15 minutes of “The Third Man.” I AM NOT ASHAMED OF THIS.
Sam Winchester, Man of Mystery
What on earth is going on with Sam Winchester? I thought that this might be a simple case of Dean and Sam switching roles after the events in “Swan Song.” It’s almost like they’re opposites of one another in comparison to themselves in season one. Sam is now the sexually aggressive brother who is willing to do what needs to be done to solve a case, and Dean is the one vocalizing his ethical concerns and eager to find another way to get what they need. But I think that this theory only scratches the surface of what’s going on here. Again, it’s hard to forget that we’re largely seeing this through Dean’s eyes. We still have no idea what Sam was up to in the year since he went to Hell. We get glimpses of how he’s changed, but Sam never seems all that bothered by it. He’s either accepted that he’s changed, or he’s hiding something from everyone.
Here’s the point where I admit that I have not a single theory. Not a one! I feel like I don’t have nearly enough to put this together, but I also can’t deny that Sam just feels off. I get that this is an intentional thing, too. We’re meant to look at him and recognize the change. BUT WHY? WHAT’S HAPPENING? Gah, this show is teasing me.
I want this to be this season’s arc because IT IS SO FASCINATING. It’s clear that the whole Chuck = God theory doesn’t really need to play into where the show can go in the future, since all that matters is that God is simply not around anymore. After the events at the end of season five, Heaven is in chaos, and the war is no longer between demons and angels. Castiel’s return to Supernatural brings with him an angelic civil war, one where Raphael the archangel wants control of Heaven instead of allowing Cas to have it.
Thankfully, the writers don’t ignore the fact that Cas has canonically not appeared in the Winchesters’ lives for a long time. Well, they also don’t ignore that the angels are always jerks. Cas ignored Sam FOR OVER A YEAR. A year!!! I did like that Dean scolded him for this, saying that even if he’d just popped down to say, “I have no idea why you’re back, Sam,” that would have helped a million times more than utter silence. Friggin’ angels.
But y’all: ANGEL CIVIL WAR. It’s such an intriguing concept, and our introduction to it in “The Third Man” is just a goddamn treat to watch. Holy weapons stolen from Heaven! Angels trying to kill one another! Castiel unknowingly freeing all the angels from their holy destiny! BALTHAZAR! I mean, this is all shit I WANT TO SEE EXPLORED IN GREAT DETAIL. The angels could have just been some sort of force for good within this world, but their mythology is so complicated that we’re given stories like this instead. The power vacuum in heaven was filled by Castiel… sort of. What I could understand from this episode was that the “traditionalists,” led by Raphael, want to make sure that Heaven stays precisely on the path set by God, even if God isn’t around or changed His mind. This includes RESTARTING THE APOCALYPSE. (Oh, you poor Winchesters. You’re apocalypse magnets!)
What’s interesting to me, though is that there are at least three sides to this, and I think Balthazar best represents the title. Castiel is still in support of some sort of hierarchal control in Heaven and remains opposed to Raphael and his followers. But Balthazar wants neither option. He wants a world of utter freedom, where he can be released from the duties and requirements of being an angel of God. While still being an angel of God, I should say. So what little we see of Balthazar here is of a being who wants to live a very human life without pretty much any of the responsibility that comes with it. Sex, drugs, selling human souls just for the hell of it… it’s his own brand of chaos. I mean… what can an angel do with a human soul that they own??? THIS IS UNHEARD OF.
I’m guessing it’s part of… something. A THING. Yes, this is clearly a great theory. But like the past episode, “The Third Man” does not give us a tidy conclusion. Raphael’s vessel is dead, turned to salt by Balthazar, but he’s not gone. He’s still going to try to wrestle control from Castiel. And it’s clear that Balthazar and Cas have a very close relationship with one another, even if they disagree about Heaven, God, and duty. I don’t think this is the last time we’ve seen Balthazar act as an ally to Cas, but I also think I need to take into account that he’s an eternal variable. He might defer to Cas in the future because he’s fond of his brother, but he’s chosen his own team over everything else. Well, and he’s got all the stolen holy weapons, too! I suppose I’m fascinated that all three episodes of this season have not given us any closure whatsoever. There’s a lot left for the audience to ponder, and because of that, there’s an intentional sense of aimlessness to the narrative. We’ve got to deal with Sam’s development post-Hell; there’s the angelic civil war; there’s Samuel’s secret contact; there’s the Alpha shapeshifter; there’s Lisa and Ben. THERE’S A LOT GOING ON.
So what’s next? Oh gods, I’m scared to find out.
The video for “The Third Man” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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