Holy terror, indeed. Tonight’s episode promised lots of intense movement on the season’s main plot, and we certainly got that. An all-out angelic war, Cas getting his grace back, Sam apparently being “lost” to his angelic parasite, and saddest of all, Kevin dies. The prophet had been around for a while, so it was probably a matter of time before he died to add emotional weight and shock to an episode (such is the way of the Supernatural recurring character), and his death at the hands of Gadreel, the angel we thought was Ezekiel, certainly achieved that. Writers Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner and director Thomas J. Wright definitely deserve praise for the way the death manages to come out of nowhere—even in a mid-season finale where someone was probably going to die. The shot of the card with Kevin’s name sitting atop his smoldering body is legitimately chilling. It would have been a bit better if Kevin had played a more prominent role this season beyond translating away and showing up randomly for a few seconds to complain about said translations, but Osric Chau gets the chance to remind viewers why he stuck around this long before getting his eyes hollowed out.
Kevin’s demise is just the most striking moment in an episode full of them. Most of those come courtesy of the season’s first real taste of the angelic war, currently between factions led by the cool, smarmy Bartholomew (who doesn’t appear in the episode) and the grungy, dirty Malachi. The negotiation gone wrong is a little stale, but otherwise most of the war—from the opening slaughter of a biker gang by the Melody Ministry Glee Club to the angels swirling over a campfire waiting to be let in to bodies—was pretty much exactly what I’ve wanted from this whole season. The moves and countermoves (to steal a phrase from Catching Fire) between the factions are reliably interesting, and they’re not even close to the most interesting part of the episode by design.
That would be the reemergence of Metatron as a serious threat and probably the most dangerous of the angels on the board. Curtis Armstrong is easily the night’s standout player (sorry, Chau), finally getting the spotlight he needed back when the schlubby scribe made a full heel-turn at the end of last season. His menacing but jovial, almost carefree manner does an excellent job communicating the intense ambition and entitlement Metatron feels to the throne in Heaven, where he will call himself X instead of God. Where Malachi and Bartholomew (or at least his deputies) spend “Holy Terror” running around like mad trying to kill each other, Metatron plays it cool, suggesting that he’s the one everyone should really be worried about. That makes sense, since Metatron has a secret weapon: the angel formerly known as Ezekiel, or should I say Gadreel.
See, it turns out that “Ezekiel” is actually Gadreel, originally God’s most trusted angel, tasked with protecting the Garden from evil. (The real Ezekiel perished in the fall, and according to Malachi it was not pretty.) When the serpent entered, Gadreel was blamed and imprisoned for the Fall of Adam and Eve and the subsequent original sin. Metatron approaches Gadreel to rebuild Heaven, without “functionaries” or “stupid angels”—though there might be room for some funny ones.
As a revelation for the Ezekiel story, it’s… fine? We didn’t know enough about the original Ezekiel for it to be totally unreasonable that Metatron could have turned him, and while the angel’s aversion to the rest of his kind makes a bit more sense now, it doesn’t really make up for the aggravating, repetitive nature of this plot. And it seems like we’re supposed to think Gadreel was actually kind of a good guy before he was thrown in prison (and then again before he joined Metatron, since he claims to have been using Ezekiel’s name so that he could help people), but we have almost no time to get to know him as a separate character.
At the very least, Dean finally has to face the music for all his lies. As frustrating as it was watching Sam and Dean have the same conversation over and over, “Holy Terror” does a pretty good job of having the full weight of Dean’s secrecy come down on him. Though it seems like Sam still doesn’t know about Gadreel (since he wasn’t actually “home” during Dean’s confession), Dean losing his brother is pretty much directly attributable to his refusal to trust Sam with the knowledge of the angelic presence, regardless of what “Zeke” said to the contrary. And Dean’s refusal to tell Kevin exactly why they needed to cast the spell means Kevin doesn’t suspect anything when Sam appears to fry his brain. Kevin’s death, then, is one of the more compelling pieces of Winchester guilt in a while, since it’s absolutely, unequivocally, Dean’s fault. Here’s hoping the rest of this season (and future seasons) treat it right.
Thankfully, there’s a bright spot for both our heroes, and the episode’s generally gloomy focus, in Cas. The human Cas shows up at the site of the angelic slaughter, investigating in his best attempt to mimic Sam and Dean. Misha Collins’ expression when Cas says “agent” and nudges Sam, as well as his delivery of “Cas is back in town,” are both just delightful. A lot of Cas’ stop at the crime scene is a retread of the Castiel-Hunter arc from last season, but Collins is so great at trying and failing to emulate the Winchesters’ particular brand of masculinity that it doesn’t really matter.
But the humor stops at Cas’ attempts at praying, which are funny, but also summon yet another short-lived female companion for him—this time an angel named Muriel who has attempted to remain neutral in the civil war but leads Malachi to Cas anyway. It seems like Cas’ torture is going to be yet another boilerplate torture scene for a show that hasn’t had any in a while, when Theo the torturer tries to betray Malachi for a chance at being raised to Heaven. This leads to Cas slitting Theo’s throat and taking his grace, which, yay, I guess? It was probably inevitable that Cas was going to go full angel again, but this way of getting it back was just kind of lame, since he could have done it at pretty much any time and never even mentioned it as something he was unwilling to do.
If there’s a more serious problem with “Holy Terror,” it’s a slight error in the calibration of the pacing. We’ve gotten a few indications of the extent of the angelic war before, but tonight is supposed to be the episode all hell (Heaven?) breaks loose and stuff happens. Certainly, a whole lot of things are going on. With all this angel stuff flying around, though, it’s difficult to get invested in any of the individual storylines for long. If each of the scenes in “Holy Terror” had been propulsive enough to keep a viewer stuck on the edge of her seat, it probably would’ve been an all-time classic. As it is, it’s still a very good episode, but one that serves more to clear the decks a bit and start setting the stage for the season’s hopefully frenzied and epic endgame.
- “I always trust you. And I always end up screwed.” RIP, Kevin. I guess we’ll never really know if your mom was still alive.
- There are a lot of cornier than usual, groan-worthy lines in this episode, worst of all Malachi’s “Virtue is its own punishment,” which, come on guys.
- Also “ignition sigil” is a phrase that was used in this episode.
- Still no Crowley! It looks like he’ll be playing a prominent role in the next episode, so there’s that, at least.
- That’s all for this year, so see you all in 2014! For no real reason, I’m going to just leave this here.