Some Thoughts on Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 9, “Holy Terror”
“Holy Terror” was written by Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner and directed by Thomas J. Wright.
Warning: This review is full of SPOILERS. But it is also very, very late, so it will probably not spoil anybody.
Uh, I really hope this isn’t a reference to Frank Miller’s self-professed propaganda comic of the same name.
But it seems about as likely as anything else. Here’s the Wikipedia disambiguation page for the phrase “Holy Terror.” Maybe there’s something in there: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Terror
For now, I’m going to assume that this title was chosen because it sounded like a familiar phrase and could be tied to angels, while working as a reference both to the large-scale threat of the angelic ‘holy war’ and the small-scale threat presented by specific angels.
This episode starts out with two gangs of angels (one a church glee club, one a biker gang) facing off against each other. The church glee club (composed entirely of women) wins! The biker gang is K/Oed. Just kidding! They all die.
Sam and Dean roll into town to investigate.
When they arrive on the scene impersonating FBI agents, they find Castiel. When last we saw Cas, he was homeless and working a low-income job at a gas station. Now Castiel, too, is impersonating an FBI agent.
So many questions! Where did Cas get his new suit? Where did he get the money for his new suit? Is it a rental? How did he manage transportation to the crime scene? Is his car a rental? Did he bus here? Did he call out of work for this? Does he have a home now?
None of these questions are answered! (As in: never. Unless they address this stuff in Season 10.) I feel like the show skipped an episode.
Anyway, the boys greet Castiel. Sam looks amused; Dean looks annoyed. Castiel explains, “I still have that badge you gave me,” which–what? Dean gave Cas his fake badge in Season 5, Episode 3, “Free to be You and Me.” Which means that, even though Cas has exploded twice since then, been submerged in a lake, gotten amnesia, lost his Grace and gotten rid of all his clothes, his (well, Jimmy’s) wallet made it through intact. I guess I knew that, since he used money in Season 8’s “Clip Show” (though I always wondered if he acquired that wad of cash elsewhere) but this is still a little weird. And a little sweet. It reminds me of how Dean kept Cas’s trench in Season 7.
Aww, they’re like pack rats.
Moving right along. Cas proceeds to be painfully adorable and Team Free Will sits down for a beer–that is, until Ezekiel-in-Sam’s-body shows up to Destiel block. One of Ezekiel’s biggest plot functions is keep Cas away from Dean. This does not endear Ezekiel to me. At Ezekiel’s prompting, Dean gives Cas the “It’s not you; it’s me” speech.
Thus making all the fangirls cry.
Metatron shows up, removing himself from my “Missing in Action” list.
Metatron lets us all know that Ezekiel is really Gadreel. Apparently, Gadreel was the angelic guard who let “evil” into the garden of Eden, thus making him responsible for the Fall of Man and pretty much all the evil on Earth. And he’s been being punished for his failure for thousands of years. No wonder he’s always so twitchy.
And Metatron recruits Gadreel, saying that together, they can fix Heaven. This should sound familiar from when Metatron used almost the exact same rhetoric on Cas in Season 8. So this should end well. Also, the creepy music in the background is kind of a giveaway that this is a bad idea.
Later in the episode, Metatron asks Gadreel to prove his “fidelity” by killing people Metatron wants killed. And Gadreel accepts this, because–well, honestly, I think that after millenia of being blamed for all things bad, Gadreel is just desperate for approval from somebody.
Back in the Plot
There is more angelic infighting between the Bartholomew faction and the Malachi faction! This time, Bart’s people kill one angel and a bunch of vessels. OK, then.
Castiel prays! Every which way he can think of. Like someone throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. I don’t know why he’s hedging his bets so much, considering how entrenched Supernatural is in Judeo-Christian mythology, but it’s a little hard to care about that one way or the other.
Because seriously? This is so cute. It’s wrong how cute this is.
It’s also just about the most ill-considered thing that Castiel could do, on account of how he’s Heaven’s Most Wanted and he has zero angelic allies.
Fortunately for him and all of his fans, a friendly angel does answer his prayer. She’s all, “Wow, this was stupid of you.” Here’s the reasoning he gives her for why he thought broadcasting his thoughts to thousands of superpowered people who want him dead might not be the worst idea in the history of ever:
CASTIEL: I’m warded, and my Grace is gone, and I was hoping that I would seem like just another desperate human that the … the militants couldn’t care less about.
Weak, Castiel. Very weak. There are so very many conditions that need to be met for this course of action to work out.
You’re trusting a lot to faith there, Cas.
Oh, yeah …
And the rest of my recap/review is under the cut:
Muriel and Castiel
The name of the nice angel who answers Castiel’s prayer is Muriel. Muriel and Castiel both get captured by one of the factions, because–ironically–Malachi was tracking Muriel already.
Malachi tortures Castiel for info on Metatron which Castiel does not have. Well, technically, Malachi gets another angel named Theo to do the torturing. As part of the interrogation, Malachi has Theo kill Muriel. Just to prove to Cas that he’s serious about consequences.
For those of you keeping score at home, this episode has three female characters that are speaking roles. Of those three characters, three die.
Anyway, once Cas is alone with Theo, Theo lets him go, thinking Cas can help him jump ship to Team Metatron. So, Cas steals Theo’s Grace and then–
Grace is transferable!?! Did everybody else know that Grace is transferable? Back in Season 4’s “Heaven and Hell,” when Anna went on a hunt for her fallen Grace, Grace was transferable? Like, she could have just stolen Castiel’s or Uriel’s and been done with it? In that episode, Grace is described as “energy,” but I always kind of got the feeling that each angel’s Grace was unique to the angel. Like a fingerprint or a soul. But apparently that’s not the case. (And maybe next season we’ll learn that souls are transferable. Who knows?)
If Grace has been transferable for all of Season 9, why didn’t Castiel steal some Grace the last time he killed an angel? Why wait until now? Was it just a penitence thing?
OK, they’ve sorta kinda retcon-explained this stuff in later Season 9 episodes by claiming that Castiel’s stolen Grace is problematic in a variety of ways, but still. What the fudge.
Without his Grace, Castiel is “human.” Meaning that Grace is what differentiates angels from humans. If the only difference between an angel and a human is Grace, and Grace is transferable, then can a human become an angel by eating an angel’s Grace? (Actually, that sounds cool. Here’s hoping for angel!Sam in Season 10.)
If Grace is transferable (and I guess it is), I can think of one, and only one, reason that fallen angels who want Grace but can’t find their own ‘true’ Grace don’t cannibalize the Grace of other angels as a matter of course. Excuse me while I fanwank.
When Castiel tells Theo, “you have something that I’ll need,” Theo answers, “Anything.” So, I’m going with: a fallen angel can cannibalize an angel’s Grace and reclaim angelic status as long as the fallen angel has the angel’s consent. Because angels are big on the letter (if not the spirit) of consent in this show; see why Michael and Lucifer needed the Winbros’ consent in Season 5. This loophole-for-fallen-angels could have been part of the show’s mythos all along! It just doesn’t come up that often.
But whether or not I accept that angelic Grace is one-size-fits-all, I take issue with Cas getting his Grace back.
The Issue I Take with Cas Getting Grace Back
OK, so here’s my problem. Castiel’s fall from angel to human was one of the most poignant parts of the Season 8 finale. What a game-changer, right? There was so much potential for Castiel to learn about being human, and about what good he could do in the world as a human. Back in the Season 9 premiere, when he promised a fallen angel that he would spend the “rest of his life” helping the fallen angels? That had emotional impact. All he had to offer was his paltry, mortal, human life, and he was offering it all. Heavy stuff. And even though he then proceeded to kill that angel in self-defense, I was moved by the sentiment. I was really, really looking forward to seeing Castiel’s character development as a human. After all, his becoming human was a profound, permanent change to the character’s condition.
But Supernatural doesn’t like permanent changes to its characters’ conditions. Pamela goes blind? She dies and gets her sight back in Heaven. Bobby can’t walk? Crowley throws in working legs as a bonus in their demon deal–time to ditch the wheelchair. Crowley cuts off a single one of Kevin’s fingers? Castiel will fix that right up for him. Sam’s got a demon blood addiction? No sweat; divine detox is to the rescue. Sam’s suffering PTSD from Hell? First Death’s wall and then Castiel’s Hell-extraction technique will take care of it. Castiel becomes mentally ill after extracting Sam’s Hell? Never fear; Purgatory makes people go sane! (Because WTF why wouldn’t it?) So … yeah, Supernatural is kind of ableist. Kind of a lot ableist. And while it includes some very good character development, it, perversely, does not like incorporating changes in its characters’ states of being. With the singular exception of when living characters become dead. (I would also include dead characters becoming living, except that mostly happens to Sam, Dean and Cas, and for Team Free Will, dying and coming back to life reads less as a true change in their states of being and more as some kind of Resurrection Revolving Door.)
But anyway. Cas. Human Cas. I was so excited by the idea of Cas having to learn to live differently. Just like I was so excited when Bobby first got his wheelchair, because having a badass disabled character on the cast was (a) moderately progressive and (b) kind of a common-sense consequence of most of the show’s characters being in an extremely dangerous business. Really, there should be more characters on SPN showing visible scarring and disability.
I’m not saying that human!Cas is equivalent to disabled!Bobby. Human!Cas is still able-bodied as a human. But he’s certainly differently abled when compared to angel!Cas. Cas’s transformation was something that introduced new, unfamiliar limitations that the character would have to navigate: fewer powers, less physical strength, increased vulnerability, dependence on food and rest, and so on.
Anyway, Supernatural got my hopes up and knocked ’em down with Bobby. And Pamela. And Sam. And Cas. So I don’t know why this particular take-back (Cas, again) gets to me so much. I mean, I should be used to it by now.
Part of it, I’m sure, is just my fondness for the character. I am very fond of Cas. So when I feel like the showrunners are cutting corners with him, I really sit up and take notice.
Also–and perhaps more importantly–Cas’s losing his Grace was one of the biggest reveals in Season 8. It was one of the last things that happened in the finale. And, up until this epsiode, “Holy Terror,” it really felt like Cas’s humanity was building to something.
Apparently, it was building to Castiel cannibalizing the Grace of another angel. Which he does because he is finally motivated by–guess what?–the fridging of a female character introduced in this episode for the purpose of motivating Castiel in this way.
The End of the Episode
SO MUCH happens at the end of this episode! Cas becomes an angel again; Cas tells Dean the real Ezekiel is dead; Dean finally comes clean to Sam about Zeke only to find out that Gadreel is the one driving the Sammobile; and Gadreel kills Kevin. Because “Kevin Tran” is apparently the first name on Metatron’s hit list.
I knew Kevin would regret joining the Winchester family.
Missing in Action
The warring demonic factions must be on hiatus so that the warring angelic factions can have their chance in the limelight.
This episode makes me miss Crowley and Abaddon. They are … less boring than Malachi and Bart.
Well, I’m a little ticked off about all the female characters with speaking parts dying. And about Cas being restored to angel status, especially when he was only human for four episodes of Season 9 and the tail end of the Season 8 finale. And about Grace being transferable, because what is up with that?
I know it might seem odd for me to complain so very much about the transferable-Grace thing in an episode in which another beloved character was flat-out murdered. However, that decision made more sense to me. I’m not thrilled to see Kevin go (and it’s not like SPN has so many recurring POC characters that they can kill one off without it being, well, a problem), but at least Kevin’s death makes sense in the context of both Metatron’s motivations and Season 9’s larger plot.
Of course, for the next few episodes or so, Kevin’s death is going to be all about giving Dean and Sam (especially Dean) Something to Feel Bad About. (NOTE: This paragraph was a prediction when I first drafted it. Now that I have seen the rest of Season 9, it’s just a commentary.) Now, mourning is not something with rules, and I firmly believe that people should be allowed to mourn however works best for them in their own unique situations; at the same time, Sam and Dean are our heroes, the protagonists at the center of this fictional world, and they have a special way of making other people’s tragic deaths all about them, their self-esteem issues, and their failures as protectors.
And that gets old quickly.
No sketch for now (though I may update this post with fanart later). Instead, since this eppie was about making the Destiel ‘shippers cry, here is a link to one of the best and most adorable Destial vids out there, “Everything is Castiel and Nothing Hurts.” Video by Zoey; song by Elizabeth Smart. Let your slash flag fly, fellow SPN fans! Let your slash flag fly.