Last week, Supernatural handled the tension of a quarantined town in “Raising Hell” quite well. Each significant party got screen time: the townspeople were justifiably questioning why they were holed up at the high school, Sam and Dean called in some hunter reinforcements (though, this seemed random since the show gets unusually stingy with filling out its hunter quota), and the spirits currently trapped in the small town of Harlan, Kansas were organizing and strategizing, inexplicably led by Jack the Ripper. Amara even makes a fabulous return to show how her relationship with Chuck seems to be on the verge of breaking again.
The first few episodes of a new season usually take the time to deal with the fall out from the previous season, to varying degrees of success. “Back and to the Future” had great urgency regarding this, while “Raising Hell” stepped back from the urgency, but managed to raise the tension. In the case of “The Rupture,” the episode lacks both the urgency and tension, delivering a fizzling end to the latest apocalypse.
It’s a bit of a bummer since this episode also involves the (final) death of Rowena. The show has brought back Rowena many times, but “The Rupture” does make a pretty convincing case that that’s impossible this time around. Earlier this year, showrunner Andrew Dabb talked about how death was going to be more permanent this season. Considering three characters died this episode, it’s clear he wasn’t messing around, despite how much I’m inclined to believe Supernatural has never been about death.
The three deaths in “The Rupture” exist on a spectrum of importance. Rowena, of course, is the heaviest one emotionally. Whether she was working with the Winchesters or against them, Rowena always brought a sense of energy to every scene she was in. Ruth Connell turned what could have been a stereotypical witch character into one with a lot of heart, even if Rowena herself didn’t believe she had one. It is unfortunate that her death is being used to further Sam’s emotional journey this season, since he’s the one that technically killed her (though this is questionable — Rowena essentially killed herself, even if Sam was holding the knife).
Arthur Ketch, admittedly not my favorite addition to the Supernatural world, died with some moral integrity than he’s ever possessed by not giving up the Winchesters right before a demon ripped his heart out of his chest. So, that’s that.
And then there’s Belphegor. It’s no surprise Belphegor was going to turn on the Winchesters and Cas at some point. It was just a matter of how. So when he explained to Cas that he was going to use Lilith’s Crook to suck all of hell’s souls into him to gain unimaginable power, it’s fitting that Cas is the one to stop him. At the end of season six, Cas did something similar when he wanted to become god. Even though stopping Belphagor meant abandoning the plan he made with Sam, Dean, and Rowena, Cas chose to act on what he believed was right.
He burns Belphagor out, but not before it’s implied one of the souls Belphagor had sucked into him was Jack. The pause Cas makes here, and his renewed conviction to follow through with killing Belphagor, is one of the more emotionally complicated moments of the show. Cas’ decision making has often been questionable in the past. But there are times when he’s incredibly insightful. His actions here can only be directly linked to last week’s episode. With Dean still generally angry at everything, but specifically about being a pawn in Chuck’s plan his whole life, Cas gives a short but clever speech:
“Even if we didn’t know that all of the challenges we’ve faced were of Chuck’s machinations, how would we describe it all? We’d call it life. Because that’s precisely what life is. It’s an obstacle course, but we ran our own race. We made our own moves. And mostly, we did well with that.”
This is what Supernatural is about. The marrying of ideas, of prophecy and free will. It’s what life is. Rowena fulfilling the prophecy that she would die by Sam’s hand is both an example of self-fulfilling prophecy and free will. One of her final parting works — “I believe in prophecy” — is a testament to that. Cas choosing to tackle the immediate obstacle of Belphagor potentially being the next Big Bad is him running his own race. Supernatural has toyed with the idea of free will before (see: seasons four and five), but it’s time for season 15 to acknowledge that it’s equally important to find peace with the choices the brothers have or haven’t made. Because part of life is learning to be okay with yourself and how to make adjustments along the way.
Ultimately, “The Rupture” isn’t the greatest entry to the Supernatural canon. However, it is rich in some of the themes the show has touched on in the past, while seemingly offering new ideas to consider by the time we reach the end.
Supernatural returns Nov. 7 by going back to the basics. See you then.
Wayward Thoughts from 15×02 and 15×03:
I’ve been waiting for Chuck and Amara to return ever since season 11. Their dynamic is so great and I love the idea that this time around, Chuck is the bad guy. It’s a great role reversal that re-contextualizes all of their interactions in season 11.
Poor Kevin. Kid can’t catch a break. I’m not sure I love the explanation that Chuck never sent him to heaven in season 11. Makes it seem like Chuck has always been evil, when it’s far more interesting that he’s just a righteous asshole. The Chuck from season 11 had no reason to lie about sending Kevin to heaven. I’d also love if we stopped bringing Kevin back to torture him. His decision to stay on Earth as a spirit is tragic. Perhaps he’ll return some time down the line this season to lend a hand.
Incredibly intriguing that Sam and Chuck’s wounds are connected somehow.
“I can’t believe I teamed up with a demon again.”
“Jack the Ripper.” “Cool.”
“I know you are all wondering why we were spit out of hell.”
“How about that Game of Thrones ending? Pretty great, right?” Chuck would think that ending was great.
“Since God himself cast me down, I’ve got kind of a bad boy rep.”
Why did we miss Cas singing?
The rift between Dean and Cas is a bummer. Dean is incredibly in the wrong here. Cas is clearly struggling and he doesn’t seem to understand where he stands anymore.
“I believe in prophecy.”
“I know we’ve grown quite fond of each other, haven’t we?”