After a unannounced break of about a month Supernatural finally came back with a new episode. It is a shame that this was done with so little ceremony or much promotion because this was truly a great one. A return to form. The kind of thing that everyone of us have been clamoring to receive after a bunch of underwhelming entries like “Remember the Titans”. What has made Supernatural such a great watch over the years is the mix of horror, mythology, drama and lets not forget humor especially at themselves all in one package. When this all flows well it acts as truly outstanding TV but take some elements out or rearrange the balance and the product falters. However in “Goodbye Stranger” they nail it on all cylinders and for the first time in a while any fan that sees this episode simply has to respond with “this is the show I love”.
The episode opens with Dean walking in a warehouse like he has done so many times before with his gun drawn. From the shadows a figure grabs him, hits him with the butt of a knife, breaks his arm, throws him to the floor and then stabs him to death. Once the deed is done the character is revealed to be Castiel. Awesome beginning to be sure but since Dean bit the dust we can only assume this is a dream. Then out walks Naomi, the mysterious character that has been giving Cass orders since his return for purgatory. She tells him he is ready for the real deal. We then pull back to see one of the best things Supernatural has ever done a room full of thousands upon thousands of Deans killed in brutal ways. On one hand it works as a truly bloody scene that shows the Cass can really pull this off but on another you are clued into the psychological torture he must have gone through the first few times he had to murder Dean. We miss it but we know the character well enough to know this is here.
We first meet the boys at the Men of Letters Headquarters where Dean is going through boxes and finds a vintage Asian erotica magazine. His defense of being excited to have found it was one of the funnier bits of the season and one which I won’t spoil by trying to sum it up. Laughter aside there is a problem as Sam as noticed that a few people in a small town are dying in horrifying ways which is just the kind of thing they investigate. After some sleuthing they find out that each of the victims was actually a demon at the time they were killed. Although a good problem to have someone unknown to the boys is “ganking” bad guys. Eventually after running into a group of demons they are rescued by Castiel who turns out is behind the killings. I am not going to lie I was actually pretty happy to see Sam and Dean go after some Demons again. Sure in previous seasons it was done to death but with such a long lay off it is fun to watch them go up against some of the good old foes.
Our first reaction upon seeing Castiel, well when he is not holding a bloody knife over a dead Dean, should be one of happiness but is tempered by the fact that we know what he is here to do. In one of the more interesting back and forths we have Cass speaking with Naomi and Sam and Dean almost simultaneously which really shows actor Misha Collins range. He needs to play concerned, murderous, believable, confused, angry and calm all depending on the audience to which he is speaking and being legit. After torturing the one demon left behind we find out that Crowley has a hostage one who knows where the Angel tablet might be. Wanting to get their first Castiel disappears leaving Sam and Dean to run off to their car.
“Goodbye Stranger” also bolsters the return of the demon Meg, since she was the hostage and has been tortured by Crowley for the last year. A bit of a side bar – I always liked Meg because she is one of the better written characters on the show. Like the boys we have gone through a lot with her. When she was working for them, against them, neutral, with them again, against them again before finally settling on who the hell knows. In lesser hands you couldn’t understand how or why this demon would even be allowed near Sam and Dean. However actress Rachel Miner gives her a sexy, combative, fun and dark swagger that just draws you in. Your not quite sure if you can believe what she is saying but dammit it sounds so good hearing it that we just have to keep her around. This is best shown in the little flirtation scene she has with Castiel early on. Her upfront wit and smarts meets Cass’ naivete and ability to understand everyday expressions makes for a lovely flirtatious conversation.
With Meg in tow the gang arrives at the warehouse, seems like a trend for this sort of thing. I don’t know why they don’t just start looking there all the time but I digress. Castiel recommends that he and Dean go inside while Sam tends to Meg. From the moment this is said the tension starts mounting. We know what he is here to do and now Cass has the perfect opportunity. The reason moments like this work so well even on a syndicated show where the good guys routinely get out of horrible trouble is that the writers have killed off main characters before. As you would expect we have a scene where Castiel is not only fighting Dean but Naomi and most importantly himself to undo the programming. Eventually Cass wins and touches the tablet which seemingly relieves him of the hold Naomi had on him. Castiel’s mind now clear he says he knows what he must do – protect the tablet from Naomi and Dean. Like that he is gone.
Meanwhile outside Meg and Sam are confronted by Crowley. Unfortunately as the boys make their get away Meg is stabbed to death by Crowley. It might not seem like it, especially since we have seen so much death and destruction over the years, but this was just the end of one of the longest term characters on the show. Meg has been there in the shadows since season 1 and like I said previously I really am a fan so hopefully she doesn’t stay gone for good.
Following Meg’s end we get a brief scene with Crowley and Naomi lamenting how neither of them have the Tablet they wanted. They are obviously far from friends but it is odd that they should be conversing with each other. The episode closes with Castiel on a bus accompanied by a classic rock tune (which is a bit of a trademark for the show) riding cross country.
“Goodbye Stranger” raises many questions – Is Castiel with Sam and Dean or not? Why can’t Dean have the tablet? How close are Naomi and Crowley really? Who is Naomi? Is she truly an agent of heaven or someone gone rogue? How much would Dean’s magazine really go for? Well the last one we don’t really need the answer to….I guess. Anyway, as I said to lead off this review, this episode gets it all right and does it with good story and great acting. Sam and Dean have a reduced role here but that is fine. After months and months of just them and weak secondary characters it was time for a break. Castiel and Meg are a breath of fresh air. Each is a strong character and reminds us how much their dynamic really adds to the show. Shame to see Meg go but even thought it seems kind of final hopefully she will crawl out of hell and come on back.
In my summary of the show’s events I deliberately kept things simple and vague. To be honest, I would be happy if you read the first paragraph and were reminded the show was on and it was a can’t miss which lead you to run to your DVR. We can only hope that these last few episodes can maintain the quality we get here. Alright I will shut up. Go watch some TV.