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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Supernatural: "Heaven Can't Wait"

Illustration for article titled Supernatural: "Heaven Can't Wait"

Supernatural usually works best when its stakes are relatively low or ridiculously high. The goofier standalones (like last week’s) get most of their manic, often metafictional energy from the fact that we know nothing too bad is going to happen in the episode—it’s just a case of the week, after all. By contrast, the mythology is at its best when there are real, world-shattering threats. It’s hard to compare different apocalyptic scenarios, sure, but the end times promised by Lucifer and Michael in season five were more epic in scope and more destructive than the Leviathans’ massive meat farm or the possibility that the Winchesters could close the gates of Hell. “Heaven Can’t Wait” was a bit of an odd episode—a slowly paced mythology installment that just gives us a sense of where our heroes are right now—and is much better for it.

To be fair, “Heaven Can’t Wait” isn’t quite a full-blown mythology episode, since the A-story follows Dean and Cas solving a case. But that case is mostly bound up in the ongoing fallout from the angels’ Fall. Our antagonist Ephram (an underused Ashton Holmes) is one of the Hands Of Mercy—heavenly medics who euthanize those “beyond saving” by smiting them quickly and painlessly. The notion that the angel is causing trouble because he doesn’t understand human emotion is a smart one—most of the mileage the show has gotten out of the angels as villains has come from their unwillingness to consider humans as more than pawns in a game, so it makes sense that they’re unable to deal with pain. Still, the show treats the whole thing as pretty unimportant: Ephram kills a few people who are in pain, lectures at Cas for a while, and is unceremoniously eliminated. The most important part of this story, really, is Ephram’s speech lecturing Cas about his new lack of ambition, which functions, along with the rest of the case, as an excuse to dig in and do what “I’m No Angel” should have done—meditate on what it means for Cas to truly be human.

At least for now, it means that Cas has given up on the supernatural and taken to working at a convenience store in Rexford, Idaho as “Steve.” Since we’ve already gotten Cas adjusting to human physiology, “Heaven Can’t Wait” gets to focus on the way he deals with the nastier, more emotional parts of humanity as he’s duped into babysitting for his boss (Tanya Clarke) after thinking they have a date. I feel bad for Cas (maybe I’m a sap, but I was too excited for an awkward date to see the babysitting thing coming), but the story gave us two pretty perfect moments. First, Dean getting Cas ready for the “date.” Cas waving Dean away like an embarrassed teenager getting dropped off by his dad was perfect, as was Ackles’ adorable expression of obvious pride and genuine sweetness. Second, Cas sings “Believe It Or Not,” a.k.a. the theme song from The Greatest American Hero. To a baby. This is undeniably fan service (especially since it just kind of comes out of nowhere), but damned if Misha Collins doesn’t sell it as an expression of his confusion. Yes, it’s adorable, but Cas’ obvious empathy with someone else recently thrust into being human also resonates nicely with his pain.

Possibly Cas’ most salient trait has been the way he is lost, searching for a purpose in a world without God to tell him what to do (remember that way too on the nose scene in the church?). A simple human life actually fills his spiritual void nicely. So it’s a pleasant surprise that the show doesn’t completely and fully mock the life he’s built for himself (and the small, but real amount of responsibility he has). In particular, his quiet dignity in cleaning up accidents in convenience store bathrooms isn’t played for laughs nearly as much as I’d feared. It might be inevitable that Cas leave this human life behind eventually, but we get a sense that even without Heaven, Hell, or the whole war, he’d probably be a little melancholy but otherwise just fine. I hope that he’s used in this capacity as a sort of angelic consultant for a while before returning fully to the fold.

Our B-story is equally meditative, as Kevin and Sam try to get Crowley to translate part of the angel tablet so they can reverse Metatron’s spell. That doesn’t sound very slow, but the episode nicely calls out the way Crowley hasn’t been threatening in a long, long time. And if it’s brief, “Heaven Can’t Wait” indulges one of the things I wanted to see out of this season—debate over demonic governing philosophy! Crowley’s blood phone call with Abaddon is funny (if I remember right, the show has made the jokes about bad connections before, but it still works), but it’s also potent, somehow accomplishing sympathy for the devil. Crowley may be the (ousted) king of Hell, but he still believes in contracts and a mass mechanical, legal approach to evil. Abaddon just wants to burn the world, and that new (or old) approach renders an even a remotely thoughtful, calculating demon like Crowley obsolete or dead. So in the end, Crowley injects himself with another syringe of human blood. I suppose this might be another play and won’t turn him fully human, but if that’s the case I’ll be pretty sad—human Crowley would give the show something new to do with his character and possibly complete his transformation into a Winchester ally. Come to think of it, it’d put him on equal footing with Cas, too. Maybe the spin-off can just be about humans Cas and Crowley driving around the country in a van, righting wrongs and solving mysteries?

Part of the reason “Heaven Can’t Wait” feels so casual is because the Winchesters are split up—Dean leaves not only to work the case, but also to get out of the research Kevin and Sam are doing into the angel tablet. That decision works wonders, not only because Dean and Cas work together so well, but also because it means there’s no Zeke story at all, which is an unbelievable bit of fresh air. It also reduces the amount the episode has to deal with—easier to just ignore Zeke than to even have to mention him in situations like this, I think. There’s a ton going on in this season of Supernatural—the angels’ power struggle (and Bartholomew’s introduction as a new enemy), Abaddon’s rise to power, Cas and Crowley’s newfound humanity, and the attempts to translate the angel tablet, to name the most important. If most of the episodes this season focus on one or two of those threads instead of trying to indulge all (or even most) of them the way, say, “I’m No Angel” did, it won’t just be one of the best seasons of post-Kripke Supernatural, it’ll be one of the best seasons period.


Stray observations:

  • Really nice comic moment when Cas tries to mimic throwing the coffee stirrer into the trash, then high five a coworker who didn’t see him do it.
  • “Who does that? Why couldn’t he just dump me on Facebook like a normal person.”
  • Dean makes fun of Cas for just “Nuking taquitos.” Cas’ response is the best: “Nachos too.”
  • Sam sums up the Crowley story: “Like it or not, there’s still a part of you that’s not a douche.”
  • Dean’s dates usually end when he runs out of singles. Sigh.