How crazy is it that after ten years, Supernatural can still surprise us? And not with some, “Oh, that’s interesting” kind of pondering, but with a jump-out-of-your-seat and yell-out-loud shocker. Consider our collective minds blown. “The Devil in the Details” was a fun ride with a helluva ending.
“The Devil in the Details” finds the Winchesters doing what they do best: going down memory lane, considering self-sacrifice, buddying up with Crowley, and saving each other. But it’s not just about the Winchesters. Not content to take a supporting role any longer, Castiel decides to take decisive action in the fight against the Darkness. True to form, after astonishing us with a completely unexpected turn of events, Supernatural turns around and breaks our hearts. Mouths are still agape.
The Winchesters Go to Hell
How do you keep a story about brothers who constantly repeat the same patterns over and over again fresh? We dunno, but the Supernatural writers sure seem to. Rather than shy away from the human failings of Sam and Dean, they embrace the nature of the characters that have been so carefully crafted over a decade. Supernatural constantly explores the idea of the Winchesters’ greatest strength and greatest weakness being their willingness to risk everything to save each other.
Lucifer tells Sam that his guilt over not looking for his brother when Dean went to Purgatory drives him to take greater and greater risks to save Dean while disregarding the consequences of their choices. Lucifer tells Sam:
“Instead of choosing the world you choose each other, no matter how many innocent people die.”
Sam and Dean didn’t shut the gates of Hell when they had the chance. Despite a pretty dire warning from Death, the brothers rolled the dice on removing the Mark. Lucifer portrays Sam as a shadow of his former self. The Devil is known for being persuasive, and he very convincingly depicts Sam as the ultimate anti-hero. Sam has made so many errors in judgment, with the best of intentions, that we’re genuinely worried Sam will say yes to Lucifer right up until ‘yes’ is no longer an option. Even after they’ve escaped Lucifer, Sam immediately begins to question his decision, wondering: what if Lucifer is the only one who can stop the Darkness? Well, it seems we’re going to have a chance to see if it’s true, after all.
Castiel Takes Center Stage
What we don’t realize at first, what is so cleverly hidden in the layers of the narrative, is that this isn’t Sam’s story, nor is it Dean’s—it’s Castiel’s. Cas enters the story for the purposes he normally serves—to help one of the Winchesters with something they can’t do on their own. Their guardian angel, but clearly a secondary character. However, in the midst of the tale, Castiel begins to change course.
While looking for signs of recently smited Amara, Castiel is reminded by the angel Ambriel that he’s considered a pariah by his own brothers. Some believe that the angel Ambriel is associated with communication and clarity—that Ambriel can clear away confusion, doubt, disbelief, and fear in order to help someone find their true path. Amariel isn’t the only one with some truth bombs for Castiel. Both Ambriel and Amara point out Castiel is an expendable player in the Winchesters’ drama. Amara challenges his claim that he doesn’t fear death, telling him, “You reek of fear and self-loathing.” She sends him to the Winchesters as an errand boy, with her message—“I am coming”—branded on his chest. That can’t be good for an angel’s self-esteem.
When they leave Hell and make their way back outside, both Sam and Dean notice that Castiel doesn’t seem quite like himself. The audience also notices what we interpret as doubt and discontent. It’s not until Castiel makes a reappearance in Hell, interrupting Crowley and Rowena’s family time, that we realize that Lucifer has taken Castiel as a vessel. Whoa. We flash back to the moment in the cell when the Winchesters were worried about each other and Lucifer was about to kill Castiel. In that moment Castiel asks Lucifer if he can really defeat the Darkness. When Lucifer affirms he can, Castiel says, “Then, yes,” offering himself as a vessel.
Misha Collins as Lucifer was a revelation. With his voice and body language, he was instantly recognizable as Satan. It was as if Mark Pellegrino had taken Misha Collins as a vessel. When he acted seductive with Rowena, he was Lucifer. When Mark Pellegrino as Lucifer is in a scene, you’re always on pins and needles, waiting to see what will happen because he is both terrifying and unpredictable. Misha Collins manifested those same qualities in his performance.
Another way that Supernatural continues to keep us engaged is to include emotional moments we can connect to. A series only about hunting monsters and saving the world wouldn’t be able survive over ten years if we weren’t so invested in the characters and their struggles. Rather than have a boy melodrama moment between Sam and Dean at the end of the episode, “The Devil in the Details” brought us back to the troubled relationship between Crowley and Rowena. With his mother trapped in the witch catcher, Crowley wants to keep her with him in Hell. He doesn’t want to kill Rowena, but instead wants to keep his mum near. The King of Hell is still looking for answers about being unloved and abandoned by his mother.
We have loved the Scottish lass Rowena since we got to know her in “Girls, Girls, Girls.” Ruth Connell gave an outstanding performance throughout the episode, and her last scenes were very moving. During a tender moment, Crowley asks his mother why she hates him.
“I hate you because when I look into your eyes, I see the woman I used to be, before magic, before the coven, when I was nothing but Rowena, the Tanner’s daughter. A pale, scared, little girl who smelled of filth and death. I hate you … because when you were born, your father said he loved me. Then he went back to his grand wife and his grand house whilst I lay pathetic and half-dead on a straw mat, my thighs slick with blood. I hate you … because if I didn’t … I’d love you. But love—love is weakness. And I’ll never be weak again.”
When Lucifer arrives in his fancy new Castiel vessel, Rowena is thrilled to see him. Before he rewards her with a token of his affection, Lucifer asks Rowena if anyone else can open the cage. The camera flashes to Crowley, who knows what the audience knows—that she shouldn’t reveal the extent of her power. Lucifer would never let someone with such power over the Cage live. Just as Crowley’s father betrayed Rowena, Lucifer betrays her as well, snapping her neck as her son looks on.
The Devil in the Details
Supernatural moves the season story arc along in “The Devil in the Details” with a very satisfying journey that ends abruptly. In “O Brother Where Art Thou?” it was revealed that God was never communicating with Sam; it was only Lucifer’s deceptions. In “The Devil in the Details,” despite Sam’s resistance, Lucifer finds a way to walk the earth once more through Castiel. As we mourn the loss of our favorite witch Rowena, we wonder what unexpected road Supernatural will travel down next.