In “Angel Heart,” Supernatural gives us a stand-alone episode that ties up some loose ends from Season 10. It’s fun to see the Winchester brothers helping out Cas. Dean can benefit from helping a friend in order to tone down the murderous impulses of the Mark. It also gives Sam the chance to get out of his head and away from his own Mark-related obsession. When we see that Claire Novak’s mother Amelia is being held captive by a supernatural creature, “Angel Heart” reminds us that there are still lots of monsters to hunt in the world of Supernatural.
[For the recap, continue reading—but if you want to go straight to the review analysis of this episode, click here.]
Claire’s Hunt for Mom
Claire is on her own hunt, for her mother. Claire’s life has been turned upside-down ever since Castiel took her father as a vessel and her mother disappeared. Claire has tracked down a man, Ronnie Carwright, whom her mother met with before disappearing. She challenges him for information about her mother and he refuses to tell her anything, even though it’s pretty obvious that he knows something. Those years in the foster system have given Claire some pretty useful resources, but interrogating people might not be one of them. Despite her street smarts, she follows Ronnie out to the alley, where he knocks her out. At least Ronnie is polite enough to call an ambulance.
Castiel waits outside Tulsa Memorial Hospital for the Winchester brothers. The biggest surprise of the episode is that Castiel is listed as Claire’s emergency contact, resulting in him being called by the hospital. Castiel needs the Winchesters for backup because they can relate to Claire’s teenage angst. Claire is not happy to see them. She never seems happy. She’s particularly displeased to see Dean, since he slaughtered her street-dad Randy during a Mark-inspired rage in “The Things We Left Behind.”
Moving right into the role of fake dad, Castiel asks Claire, “Why were you at a bar, young lady?” All right, so he didn’t say “young lady,” but you get the idea. She tells them about her search for her mom. She’s been gathering clues from her mom’s diary and postcards. When Castiel asks why Claire’s mom Amelia wanted to meet with Ronnie, Claire tells him, “She went looking for miracles. She went looking for you.”
Joining the Hunt
Sam, Dean, and Cas talk in the hallway, forgetting Good Charlie’s warning from “There’s No Place Like Home”—“Dudes. secrets are bad.” They debate whether or not Amelia’s disappearance is a case, and Dean jumps in, saying, “Close enough. Come on, give me something to punch already.” When they go back into the hospital room to let Claire know they are going to track down Ronnie, they find that she has disappeared. That’s what you get when you insist on “private” talks. Sam heads to the motel Claire was staying at, while Dean and Castiel head to the bar where Ronnie knocked out Claire.
On the way to the bar, Dean reminds Castiel that he’s not Claire’s dad. Castiel is in guilty angel mode. Dean tells Castiel that Claire might be better off on her own, without anyone holding her back: “I’m saying she might be stronger on her own.” Is this Dean talking, or the opinion of Mark-flavored Dean?
Dean and Castiel find Ronnie at the bar. He is easily intimidated into giving up his source by Dean, who uses the bang-your-head-on-the-table technique. The so-called faith healer that Ronnie was rounding up “candidates” for is Peter Holloway. Perhaps Ronnie should have been more scared of Peter Holloway than he was of Dean, because later Peter shows up and kills Ronnie with a big sword.
Sam is waiting at the hotel when Claire arrives. Sam challenges Claire’s earlier claim that she wants to find her mom in order to tell her off. Claire sarcastically asks if he always gets along with his mom, and Sam tells her that his mother died when he was a baby. Awkward. Sam tells her that he got to know his mother later in life, explaining, “In this line of work, death isn’t always goodbye.” After sharing this touching moment, Sam tells Claire he’ll teach her how to hack into her mom’s records and set up fake credit cards. Always willing to help the next generation.
Claire: “You guys are credit card scammers, too?”
Sam: “Yeah. Hunting monsters doesn’t exactly pay the bills.”
Claire: “Then why do you do it?”
Sam: “To help people—make a difference.”
Dean and Castiel meet up with Sam and Claire at the hotel. Deans tells them about the faith healer Peter Holloway. They aren’t sure if Peter is an angel, because although he healed some people, he might’ve fed off of others, which seems unangelic.
Castiel has gotten Claire a birthday present—Grumpy Cat. What 18-year-old girl doesn’t love to get stuffed animals for her birthday? It’s a very Castiel present, and not just because he looks like Grumpy Cat.
They get a police alert that Ronnie’s body has been found outside the bar.
Claire: “You were just supposed to talk to Ronnie. What did you do to him?”
Dean: “I didn’t lay a hand on him.”
Castiel: “Dean, that isn’t exactly true.”
Dean: “I didn’t kill the guy.”
Claire insists on going to the scene with Cas and Dean, while Sam stays back to do research. Before Cas leaves, Sam asks him what happened at the bar, and Cas replies, “Dean snapped. He’s getting worse.” Castiel may be exaggerating a bit—Dean’s eyes didn’t turn black or anything.
At the crime scene, Dean introduces Castiel and himself as Agents Clapton and Page, and explains Claire’s presence by saying “It’s ‘bring your daughter to work’ day at the Bureau.” This is perhaps the least plausible encounter with the local police, though they always seem to be fooled—or perhaps they just don’t care. Cas tells Dean that the wound is wider than an angel blade and he doesn’t recognize the red marks at the lesion’s entry. In her deadpan tone, Claire remarks, “Best birthday ever.”
As usual, Sam’s research has paid off, and he’s identified a farmhouse owned by Holloway. There’s a discussion about who is going to check out the farmhouse. Despite her protests, Castiel tells Claire she can’t go. He tells her that he can’t let anything happen to her, to which she responds, “Anything else, you mean.” Claire’s so sassy. Castiel doesn’t want Dean to come either, after what happened back at the bar with Ronnie. Geez, it’s not like he slaughtered a room full of men or something, at least not recently. Sam tells Dean: “Dean, Cas is right. We need to keep the Mark in check. And we don’t know what’s out there. You know, maybe you should … Maybe you should stay here.” Dean begrudgingly agrees to stay back with Claire, and Cas tells them, “No fighting … Both of you.”
After Castiel and Sam leave, Dean and Claire are not pleased with being left in the hotel room. Dean snaps: “If we stay cooped up in this motel room all night long, I’m gonna lose my mind.” Claire responds, “Spoiler alert—you already have.” Good one, Claire. They go out and have a game of mini-golf sprinkled with Caddyshack and Happy Gilmore references. Even though it’s unbelievable that Claire wouldn’t despise Dean with every fiber of her being after he killed Randy, we love their interaction. Dean is a natural adolescent and rarely gets to express that side with Serious Sam. Claire sarcastically asks if golf is part of the Winchester lifestyle, along with cheap motels and stolen credit cards. He tells Claire, “We help people.” When she bring up Castiel’s role in her father’s death, Dean provides some context:
“Claire, what happened to your dad … I’m sorry, okay? I really am. But there’s something you gotta know. Your dad’s sacrifice was not meaningless. Yeah, he gave up his body, his vessel. And because he did that, Cas … Cas was able to save the world. The world. Your father’s a hero. He did not die in vain.”
Their golf game provides Claire with some understanding, but it also helps Dean realize that Ronnie’s mortal wound was caused by an angel sword. Dean and Claire go back to the motel and begin researching angel swords. They determine that the culprit is a Grigori—watcher angels who sometimes help people and sometimes prey on them. Turns out that Sam isn’t the only one who is good at research. Dean gets ready to head over to Holloway’s. Dean has his own way of helping the next generation. Instead of telling Claire to wait at the hotel, he gives her a gun and says, “Happy Birthday. Don’t shoot me. Let’s go.”
Sam and Castiel are heading to the farmhouse, with Sam driving the Impala! Castiel tries to get Sam’s perspective on what he should do about Claire. Sam doesn’t think Castiel should leave Claire alone, pointing out that though she’s not exactly family, she’s close enough. Sam tells Castiel: “Here’s all I know—going it alone, that’s no way to live. You being there for her, even if she thinks she doesn’t want you to be there for her, that’s good for both of you.” Is Sam still talking about Castiel and Claire?
At Peter Holloway’s creepy farmhouse, Castiel has found Amelia in the barn. He’s unable to heal her wounds. She realizes he isn’t Jimmy, and Castiel tells her that Jimmy is in Heaven. Castiel tells her that despite his promises, he failed to protect Jimmy’s family. Amelia tells him all that matters is that Claire is alive. He tells Amelia, “She’s grown up to be a very strong-willed young woman.” Ain’t that the truth.
Sam has been checking out the farmhouse while Castiel is out at the barn. He manages to get captured, as usual. Peter Holloway tells Sam his real name is Tamiel and that he’s a Grigori. Tamiel tells Sam that watcher angels have been feeding on human souls since the beginning of time. Tamiel seems to enjoy having a hunter to share his story with—finally, someone who can appreciate the tale. While Tamiel gives him a dramatic speech about the Grigori and their inscribed swords, Sam is using a nail to open the handcuffs shackling him to the chair.
Dean and Claire have arrived and enter the barn. Claire is reunited with her mother and they have a touching reunion. Dean and Castiel leave the Novaks in the barn, looking for Sam in the house. They find Sam, who has freed himself, but Tamiel doesn’t seem to be in the house.
Tamiel has come out to the barn, where he finds Claire and the recently freed Amelia. He tells Claire, “You know there’s no fixing her, right?” Claire uses the gun to try to keep Tamiel at bay, but to no avail. What a useless birthday present. As he advances on Claire with the sword, her mother Amelia jumps between them and is pierced by Tamiel’s sword, sacrificing herself to save Claire. Castiel, Sam, and Dean, arriving moments too late, begin to battle with Tamiel. Though they manage to disarm him, Tamiel continues to fight against the three. He is one powerful angel. In the end, Claire kills Tamiel with his own sword. Predictable, but we’re suckers for that kind of righteous vengeance. Amelia dies and finally reunites with Jimmy, in Heaven. Their reunification reflects Sam’s sentiment that death doesn’t always mean goodbye.
The next day they send Claire off to stay with Jody Mills. Sam denies that it’s a halfway house for wayward girls, but isn’t it? We can’t wait to see how Claire gets along with Jody’s adopted daughter Alex. Dean gives Claire some gifts: a DVD of Caddyshack and the book The Enochian Myth. Dean’s gives her a look for having kept Grumpy Cat and a lecture for having kept Tamiel’s sword:
Dean: You know, Claire … You already got your revenge. You go down this path—our path—it’s not a long life.”
Claire: “I don’t know. You seem pretty old.”
Claire asks Dean to keep an eye on Castiel, saying he’s been through enough. Finally Castiel comes over to say goodbye and she hugs him, as Willie Nelson’s “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” starts to play.
“Angel Heart” Review
We are hoping the story of Claire and Alex, along with den mother Jody, will be developed into a Supernatural spin-off. We’d watch that series before a Bloodlines spin-off any day of the week. We can just hear the description now: “Supernatural Survivors. Three women who survived losing everything to the supernatural world come together to create their own family, fighting whatever gets in their way.” Alex would be the party girl trying to recapture her lost adolescence, while Claire would be the serious one still set on vengeance. Jody would be the wise mother figure who just wants to keep the girls safe.
“Angel Heart” was a very well-balanced episode. Each brother spends time with Claire, emphasizing Sam’s role as compassionate teacher and Dean’s tendency to be a fun risk-taker. When talking to Claire, the brothers echo each other’s sentiment that what they do is help people. When talking to Castiel, differences in perspective related to the Mark of Cain come out. Dean talks about how being with other people is a weakness, while Sam talks about being there for someone even if it’s not what they want.
Kathryn Newton plays Claire Novak in a very detached, sardonic manner. She’s rash and impulsive, but wise for her age. She could almost be Doctor Who’s next companion. Leisha Hailey’s performance as Amelia Novak was moving in her scenes with both Castiel and Claire. Introducing Tamiel (Treva Etienne) as a Grigori who has captured Amelia was an excellent way to bring some closure to Claire’s story arc in Season 10.
An ancient angel as abomination establishes a foe worthy of Sam (Jared Padalecki), Dean (Jensen Ackles), and Castiel (Misha Collins). Castiel, with his newly restored grace, and Dean amped up by the Mark, not to mention Sam’s nerdy research skills, need someone dangerous to contend with to give the story purpose. This could have been an interesting Monster of the Week episode, but tying it into the narrative of Castiel and Claire also gave the story emotional resonance. Though there was certainly subtext, as well as a bit of text, related to the Mark of Cain, it was refreshing to not talk just about it for an entire episode. “Angel Heart” reflects that strong storytelling and acting we have seen throughout most of Season 10 of Supernatural.