Supernatural has been bringing characters back from the dead more often than usual, and I couldn’t get behind the returns because they seemed to be mostly for plot reasons. That’s what I thought Rowena was going to be used for. But “Funeralia” gives her a fantastic emotional journey that’s engaging and impactful. Not only does it set up an interesting dynamic (Sam’s destined to kill Rowena), but the episode also gets Rowena to join the Winchester’s saving the world adventures again. I’m always down for some redemption arcs.
I liked Rowena’s weird justification for killing the people she did. She wanted to get to the reapers, but she still went after evil people to get to them. Rowena’s always had loose morals, but that’s what keeps her interesting. But this character arc actually feels like a significant turning point for her, and one I think the show desperately needs. Sam and Dean are undoubtedly the main characters, but giving a secondary character like Rowena a meaningful character arc will freshen things up a bit. Her emotional breakdown in front of Death is one of the best scenes from this season, and probably the most emotionally fulfilling moments of these later Supernatural seasons. It gives Rowena a chance to show remorse, and it gives Billie/Death a moment of compassion. Billie’s speech about making mistakes is top-level writing for this show in terms of thematic statements.
Cas’ solo journey into heaven is also a solid piece of storytelling. The ominous greeting he receives at the gates of heaven is great set up, and the flickering of lights in the brightly lit hallways of heaven cleverly conveyed the wrongness that’s clearly lurking around the corner. I love the tension of these scenes, the way the angels let Cas monologue about his problems while they stand silently listening is dripping in dramatic tension. Of course, we know why the angels are acting odd — Lucifer has taken over, and he’s going to round the corner any second to reveal himself. This twist is handled so cleanly, I’m not even upset by another returned character.
It’s not Lucifer who shows up, but Naomi. She played a significant part in season eight, in which she manipulated Cas into doing her bidding and then erased his memories of ever doing so. The last we saw of her, Cas had driven a drill through her head. Should have known that wouldn’t exactly kill an angel, so the show’s at least justified there. She explains to Cas she’s come out of hiding because there are currently only nine angels left in heaven, and two on Earth. Angels are needed to power heaven, and if Cas can find Gabriel, he should do the trick. (Too bad the Winchesters actually need his grace for a separate world-ending crisis). Lucifer is strangely absent, and the angels only mention him off-hand, and never by name. It’s suspicious, but Lucifer could just be out answering prayers to be more like his dad.
“Funeralia” is a great example of the way this show can do emotional drama as well as action. Often times, huge character moments fall flat because I’m always aware nothing can ever befall the Winchesters. But tonight I feared Rowena doing some actual damage to Sam, and that’s all tied up in her reason for doing what she’s doing — to get her son back. It’s a simple motivation, but an understandable one that raises the stakes on a show that constantly defies death.
- Jessica was a fun addition to the episode, as she provided most of the comic relief. Hopefully she sticks around as Death’s sidekick, maybe?
- Really enjoyed the scene of Cas in the waiting room in heaven. Another example of how Supernatural views the two major after life dimensions as corporate settings in which we perpetually wait on whatever it is we’re waiting for.
- There were so many great lines this episode, but I wasn’t able to write many down. The one I for sure remember: “She’s right. You don’t go to parties.”
- I feel like Dean was playing the blame game again. This time, he blames Sam for Rowena killing people because Sam gave her the book to boost her powers. This was right after he blamed Sam for letting Gabriel leave. Not keeping in mind that Rowena and Gabriel, as two characters themselves, and therefore real people, have the right to make their own decisions. Rowena said she wouldn’t turn bad, but then she decided to break her promise to Sam. Gabriel decided to leave the world to end. Other people’s decisions are not on Sam. Sometimes, I don’t think Dean will ever learn that.
- He does tell Rowena he believes she can be redeemed, though.