One of the pleasures of watching a really good show is that little is wasted. Each moment or action or exchange accomplishes something, either expanding our view of the world the writers have constructed or carefully controlling how we think about characters and events, usually in order to set us up for some sort of narrative twist or follow-through. And that tightness does more than create good television. It also creates a sense of trust between a show’s producers and its audience, which in turn allows those producers greater latitude in how they can present a story. When we know that the writers are never wasting our time, we’re a lot more indulgent in how long we’re willing to wait for a payoff. Supernatural is a show that has definitely earned that trust. That doesn’t mean that it’s never dropped a storyline in its run—I doubt such perfection is possible in a weekly series. But Supernatural does it so rarely that the writers themselves are comfortable poking fun at themselves for the times they have: we got to see this in this season’s “Fan Fiction” when one of the actors in Supernatural: The Musical is identified as playing Adam Milligan Winchester, the Winchester brother who has been trapped in a cage with Michael and Lucifer since season six. But this week’s “The Things We Left Behind” is one that shows some of those storylines beginning to pay off. The main thrust of the episode is spillover from “Girls, Girls, Girls” and the decision that angel Hannah made in that episode to give up her vessel, Caroline, so that Caroline could be reunited with her husband. Castiel’s own vessel, Jimmy Novak, has been through a great deal more, and we learn, when the angel goes to face Jimmy’s daughter Claire, that such an option is no longer possible for Castiel—Jimmy no longer resides in his body, his soul having been ripped out when Raphael attacked Castiel back in the fourth season. Nor, does it seem, that Castiel is in a position to make up for anything his taking of Jimmy Novak’s body has caused because too much has happened. After he tried to return Jimmy control of his body, and demons attacked the Novak family, Castiel takes Claire’s body for a brief time, telling the dying Jimmy that she is also called to serve as a vessel. Jimmy begs him to leave Claire and take him again, which Castiel does, both human and angel hoping for a little peace for what is left of the Novak family, but it’s too late. Claire’s mother Amelia, we learn in “The Things We Left Behind,” has abandoned her daughter. Claire herself, who has been a ward of the state for years, has gotten attached to a man, Randy, who uses her desire for a father figure to get her to steal for him to support his gambling habit. And Castiel’s return, and his news that her father Jimmy is gone forever, hardly makes things better. Which leads Dean to counsel Castiel that there really is no going back: “The people you’ve let down, the ones you can’t save, you gotta forget about them for your own good.” But Castiel, like Dean, is incapable of following this advice, and Castiel tries to help Claire get her life on track, ending up by separating her from Randy (who, it turns out, had no problem setting her up to be sexually assaulted and possibly enslaved) with the help of the brothers. Which leads us back to Dean’s own problem—the Mark of Cain. The last six or seven episodes have done a really good job of making us unsure about Dean’s current state of mind/soul. We think we saw him relieved of the demon whose company Crowley so enjoyed for a while, but we’ve also seen visions through Dean’s eyes of what has looked like the potential aftermath of the Mark set loose again. The fact that Dean has been reassuring Sam that he’s okay buys him nothing with us, as the brothers have a long track record of lying to each other about the things that matter most. But this week’s episode sheds light on Dean’s condition. When Castiel asks him how he’s doing, Dean reveals that appearances to the contrary, he is hanging on by his fingernails and needs Castiel to put him down should the Mark take him again—and to be ready to go around Sam to do it. The end of the episode makes it clear that this may happen sooner rather than later when Dean is attacked by a loan-sharking gang and leaves them a bloody and very dead mess, and is unable to reassure Sam that this violence was necessary. And we are left feeling the same way. Yes, the gang had him outnumbered and attacked him. But at the same time, Randy is among the dead. Certainly, Randy is a sleezeball and were he to die as collateral damage, I doubt we’d care. But this is a question of self-defense, not cosmic justice, and it’s hard to imagine that Randy would have attacked Dean, especially if Dean was operating under the Mark. Obviously, Sam’s efforts to relieve Dean of the Mark’s influence have failed, and we’re building toward something more catastrophic. As may well be happening with Rowena and Crowley. Actress Ruth Connell continues to pay Rowena as more a caricature than a character, which makes it difficult to imagine that her son Crowley would be taken in by the kind of blatant manipulation Rowena is using on him. The only thing that makes it possible to overcome her over-the-top portrayal so that it makes sense for Crowley to be susceptible to her machinations is the fact that the King of Hell still seems deeply hurt by what happened between Den and himself at the beginning of the episode, putting Rowena in the icky Oedipal position of being his rebound girl. Luckily, as I said, Supernatural’s writers have taught us to trust them, so I’m withholding judgment on how believable it will be if Rowena succeeds in ruling Hell through her son. That faith means I’m also looking forward to finding out not only about exactly what the Mark is doing to Dean but what Castel expects to do about both that and the pseudo-daughter he’s now responsible for. On any other show, I might be frustrated that we’re breaking at this point in the storyline for the winter hiatus. After all, it will be a month and a half until the next episode. But Supernatural has earned my faith in their ability to deliver great narrative in the end. If only that made the waiting any easier… Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.