Supernatural’s midseason finale was a microcosm of Season 10 to this point. The episode started slow and gradually built to a simmering conclusion. No big shocks or “Apocalypse take 3” this time. Just a smaller scale, more intimate storyline that reunited Castiel with the Winchesters and set the stage for what’s to come with Dean’s slow descent into madness. For a show that’s relied so heavily on the epic disasters Sam and Dean have to fix, the path we’ve charted these first nine episodes has been a jarring change of pace. Not to say it’s been bad. Shaking up the formula after nine full seasons is a great idea. I just don’t know yet if this Dean-centric storyline has the legs to carry an entire season.

“The Things We Left Behind” saw our favorite characters examining the people and events that molded them as people. For Castiel that meant revisiting his vessel’s daughter, Claire, whom we last saw as an adorable preteen in Season 4’s “The Rapture.” Well, puberty wasn’t kind to Jimmy’s daughter. Her mom ran off and she fell in with two dudes named Dustin and Randy, the latter of which used her to steal money for him. I loved this direction for Castiel’s character because it dusted off a chapter of the show’s history while also revealing new information – Jimmy died when Castiel exploded during “Swan Song.” That sort of trip down memory lane feels worthwhile when there’s some kind of payoff.

I’m always leery of teenaged children due to their ability to drag down other characters on an otherwise good show (see Julie on Friday Night Lights and Haddie on Parenthood). I don’t know if we’re going to see much more of Claire this season, but if we do, I hope she stops acting like a brat. Look, I know the girl has issues. Her dad is dead and her mom abandoned her. For once I’d like to see a teenager who wasn’t a total brat on a television show. Someone who is normal and well-adjusted. Hannah’s departure triggered a midlife crisis for Castiel and that’s good. Her decision needs to have a long-lasting impact. But this promising storyline will sour quickly if Claire doesn’t mellow out considerably.

Down in Hell, Crowley spent some time with mother dearest Rowena, which served to broaden our view of Crowley’s family tree. We already met his son last season (for some reason). Now we know his father was merely the lucky bastard who knocked up Rowena during a winter solstice orgy. The King of Hell’s softer side returned this hour as he eventually released Rowena from her bonds. On the surface, it appears Crowley is going soft by allowing his mother to sit by his side. We know the demon all too well, however. There’s definitely a long con in play here. Crowley will manipulate his mother to his own end soon enough. To what end he’ll use her remains to be seen and could serve as the catalyst for our big storyline the rest of this season. Could she be his undoing? It’s possible. I don’t see it, though.

The visions Dean had to start this hour became a horrific reality by the time it ended. The Mark of Cain is eating away at Dean’s soul no matter how many Three Stooges episodes he watches. Dean murdering a bunch of guys is a tad played out at this point, but the silver lining is that this violent outburst will force Dean to confront what the Mark is doing to him. Hopefully Sam will be in on that conversation. We’re long past the point where Sam and Dean should still be keeping secrets from each other, yet here we are, manufacturing drama for those awkward car conversations that end each episode. If we’re going small with this season’s story arcs, then we better get some honest conversations between two brothers who would die for each other but still lie to each other. It’s maddening!

You know what wasn’t maddening? Sam and Dean’s story in the bar to Castiel about their father. We haven’t had a moment like that in years. The dialogue almost felt plucked from another show. For once, Sam and Dean were just talking like normal people. No half-truths or monster mumbo jumbo for a case. This was just two brothers reflecting on the man who raised them right, even if they didn’t always like him for it. I would love to see more scenes like that this season. Just because these characters have been gone for a long time doesn’t mean they have to stay buried in the past. Part of what makes Supernatural so great is its rich history. There’s no shame in going back to that well.

Lines of the week

“It’s for a teenage girl. She’s urinating.” – Castiel

“Is ketchup a vegetable?” – Castiel
“Hell yes.” – Dean

Next time on Supernatural

Metatron and Charlie are both getting punched!

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