Supernatural Watch: Season 8, Episode 17 - Goodbye Stranger

I usually wait until Thursday mornings to write my Supernatural recaps but with tonight’s episode, entitled “Goodbye Stranger,” I couldn’t wait that long to gush about this sensational hour of television. From the opening scene of Castiel slaying Dean in a simulation that had happened hundreds of times, to the nerve-racking scene in Lucifer’s crypt, this was one of the best episodes in Supernatural history, and that’s saying something given the heights to which this show has soared. I’ve never seen a better written episode of this show (give writer Robbie Thompson a raise!) and having the unholy trinity of Castiel, Meg and Crowley back in our lives is simply wonderful. Supernatural picked up considerable steam this season when it introduced the Men of Letters and started the trial storyline, but “Goodbye Stranger” pushed Season 8 to a whole new level. Let’s see how it finishes, but this season has a chance to unseat Season 5 as the show’s finest.

Did they have to leave the dead Deans all over the floor?

This show can be hit or miss with its cold openings; the dance shoes that made the dancer’s feet explode come to mind as a memorable failure. That wasn’t a problem with “Goodbye Stranger.” The sight of Castiel breaking Dean’s arm and then stabbing him in the chest – with no context, mind you – was so disturbing that I was genuinely shocked, which is hard for a show to accomplish after eight seasons. As Meg brought up later in the episode, we’ve seen several versions of Castiel and this episode began with mind-controlled warrior Castiel (close to the Castiel we met in Season 4). I knew Naomi was pressuring Castiel to lie to Sam and Dean and was giving him orders but I never realized she was straight up controlling Castiel. It was good to have that explained –it makes Castiel’s actions defensible and once again proves just how devoted he is to Sam and Dean.

Castiel is fighting a battle on two sides here. On one hand he is trying to redeem himself in Heaven after becoming the new God in Season 7 and killing an untold number of angels. Naomi used this to exploit Castiel after she rescued him from Purgatory. He was broken and she fixed him. The other battle is also rather personal as Castiel attempts to rebuild his relationship with Sam and Dean after he betrayed them on his way to becoming the new God. It was a tough choice to side with Sam and Dean over Naomi but it was the right choice. Castiel has been manipulated before but it’s never been for long. As he told Meg: he has a noodle of his own, and it’s a good noodle.

Would the human tablet be the iPad?

Sam and Dean’s case this week dealt with ordinary people having their faces burned and their insides turned to mush. Any Supernatural fan worth their salt knew an angel had to be involved, and after a little investigation, we found out that Castiel had been hunting down demons who were searching for Lucifer’s crypt. Originally Castiel said the crypt contained a parchment that would allow Crowley to decode his half of the demon tablet without a prophet, but that was quickly proven false by Meg, who told the brothers that Crowley was actually looking for the angel tablet. Despite my misgivings about this new plot development (why would God create a tablet that would give demons the chance to destroy Heaven?) I’m thrilled to see the cat and mouse game between Crowley and Castiel continue in the coming weeks.

It does seem odd to me though that Crowley would focus on the angel tablet and not on simply killing Sam and Dean. The brothers are attempting to close the gates of Hell, after all, and why would the king of Hell doubt the track record of the guys who stopped the Apocalypse? I get that Crowley would want the angels dead but is that really the priority right now? The only clue of some ulterior motive is what Naomi said about destroying Heaven: perhaps Crowley wants to wipe out the angels and have Heaven as a backup plan if and when the Winchesters close the gates of Hell? Demons are fallen angels, after all, so Heaven is their original home. If this is the case, it would make Crowley’s actions seem less random.

Seriously, give Robbie Thompson a raise.

Didn’t you love the writing in this episode? Thompson’s script was sharp, funny and packed with callbacks to previous seasons. No joke, “Goodbye Stranger” was loaded with references, the most fun of which were hints at the secret romance between Castiel and Meg. Misha Collins and Rachel Miner have great chemistry and their whole discussion while Castiel wrapped Meg’s arm crackled with illicit sexual tension. I smiled when Meg mentioned “the pizza man” and Castiel acknowledged that memory was a good one. She also referenced the apocalypse and pined for the simpler time before it was averted, back when Meg was all bad and Castiel was all good. Now, as she said, Meg is a little good and Castiel is a little bad, which gets Meg all hot and bothered. Sam and Dean even christened the happy couple: Megstiel!

There was also humor elsewhere. Dean found a vintage Asian porn magazine in the Men of Letters lair and needed a few extra minutes to himself. Sam and Dean said “Shut up Meg” not once, but twice and Dean quoted Lord of the Rings and defended the “Ruby hobbit” by saying he always gets a pass. I mean, are you kidding me? Who wouldn’t love this writing? It wasn’t just the humor though, as we finally had some much-needed honesty in this episode. Everyone was straightforward and forthcoming this hour. Dean told Sam he knew that the trials were killing him and Castiel confirmed those suspicions. Castiel told Dean how he escaped from Purgatory and that Naomi had been controlling him. Sam even told Meg about the time he spent with Amelia, and Meg being the snark machine that she is, proceeded to call Amelia “a unicorn” and agonized over why Sam would stop after hitting a dog. Not a single scene was wasted this episode, which shows just how kickass Supernatural can be when it wants to be.

That’s gonna leave a mark.

There are so many lasting images that will stick with me from “Goodbye Stranger,” like the sight of hundreds of Deans dead on the floor, all slain by Castiel. Or like Dean’s face, swollen and bloody like it was in the Season 5 finale when Lucifer used it as a punching bag. Or the sad image of Meg’s dead body as it slumped to the ground. It appears Megstiel has been tragically cut short, but given the nature of this show, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Meg again soon. She’s too fun a character to leave on the sidelines for too long. If she is gone for good, she died a hero’s death, protecting the boys from Crowley and even managing to stab the smug bastard in the shoulder. Now let’s see what Sam, Dean and Castiel do with that sacrifice.

Line of the week

Dean: “This is a first edition, dude. Do you know how much this would go for on eBay?”

Sam: “No, why? Do you?”

Dean: “…No. Maybe. Shut up.”

Next week on Supernatural

Those darn kids with their knives and their devil’s traps!

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