In “Stuck in the Middle (With You),” Mary Winchester leads a demon hunt that doesn’t go quite as planned. Mary has her own agenda that Sam and Dean are unaware of. If Supernatural has taught us anything, it’s that Winchesters keeping secrets from each other never turns out well. Writer Davy Perez reaches into the series’ past to weave in some intriguing connections to the present, including an unexpected Crowley backstory. “Stuck in the Middle (With You)” was directed by Richard Speight, Jr. (Gabriel), who really understands the relationships between all these characters.
Ode to Tarantino
“Stuck in the Middle (With You)” is a Quentin Tarantino-inspired episode that uses many of his film signatures such as title cards to introduce characters or distinguish timeframes, bloody action with unusual weapons, and musical cues to emphasize the tone of a scene. The opening scene mirrors Reservoir Dogs, with the camera panning around a table, over the shoulders of Sam, Dean, Mary, Castiel, and Wally, while they talk at a diner (#theyalwayssmelllikefood). Dean repeats a line from the film, telling the group “All right ramblers. Let’s get rambling.” Later, there’s slow motion shot of the group walking down the street recreating a classic scene from Reservoir Dogs. The title of the episode is the song that plays during the torture scene in Reservoir Dogs.
The scenes don’t take place in chronological order and are presented with title cards as sequences move back and forth, a technique often used in Tarantino films. The Lance of Michael, which Ramiel carries invisibly on his back, creates some intense combat scenes that bring Kill Bill to mind. Another of Ramiel’s possessions, the gold watch he holds when giving the Winchesters 30 seconds to return what’s been stolen, is similar to that carried by Captain Koons in Pulp Fiction. The box that holds a glowing object that Mary takes out of the safe is similar to the contents of the briefcase carried in Pulp Fiction, except that we eventually learn what the box contains.
The music almost takes on a role of its own in “Stuck in the Middle (With You).” Ramiel whistles “La Donna è Mobile” from Rigoletto as he returns from night fishing, similar to Elle whistling the theme song from Twisted Nerve in Kill Bill. Whistling is also incorporated into the Western-themed music that plays while Ramiel attacks, reminiscent of the music from The Hateful Eight. All of these Tarantino tributes serve to enrich a well-written and skillfully directed episode.
Moments of Beauty
Supernatural often has beautifully filmed scenes, thanks to the skill of series cinematographer Serge Ladouceur. The collaboration between Ladouceur and Speight gave us some lovely imagery. Some of our favorite shots included the tree branch shadows playing on Dean’s face, the wide shot of Ramiel returning to the house, the sunlight coming through the trees to reflect on the car window, and the light of the moon shining down as Ramiel pierces Castiel with the Lance of Michael. The darkness of the episode is used to focus on the actors’ faces and play with the limited environmental light.
Fragments of the scenes repeat, but from a different person’s point of view. Mary, Crowley, and Castiel are the stars of “Stuck in the Middle (With You),” with the Winchester brothers playing more of a supporting role. And it works. The thought-provoking dialogue from each of these three characters throughout the episode reveals something about their motivations.
The Wounded Angel
Castiel comes close to dying after being cut from the poisoned Blade of Michael. Even in the Cage, Michael gets some revenge against a rebellious angel. Castiel shares his good-byes with the Winchesters.
Castiel: “Look, thank you. Thank you. Knowing you, it’s been the best part of my life. And the things that … the things we’ve shared together, they have changed me. You’re my family. I love you. I love all of you. Just please … please, don’t make my last moments be spent watching you die. Just run. Save yourselves. And I will hold Ramiel off as long as I can.”
Dean: “Cas, no.”
Castiel: “Yes. You need to keep fighting.”
Sam: “We are fighting. We’re fighting for you, Cas.”
Dean: “And like you said, you’re family. And we don’t leave family behind.”
Castiel’s moments are less revelatory than those of Mary or Crowley, instead offering the viewer some emotionally satisfying scenes. We are genuinely concerned for Castiel’s life, especially after his death speech. Yet he survives, and his place within in the Winchester clan is further solidified.
Mary tries to justify working with the British Men of Letters to her fellow hunter Wally:
Wally: “You trust ’em? I—I just mean, I—I heard the sales pitch—money, gear. It all sounds swell, but someone walks up to you and offers you something that sounds a little too good to be true, I wonder, what’s the catch?”
Mary: “Since I’ve been working with them, we’ve taken out more than a dozen vamp nests, four werewolf packs, and a ghoul who was eating his way through Arlington. We saved a lot of people.”
Mary: “Right, so you do trust them.”
It’s still not clear if eliminating monsters is Mary’s true goal, or if she has a secret plan within a secret plan. It appears that Sam and Dean inherited their tendency to keep secrets from both their mother and their father. Even though it was evident Wally was going to die as soon he was introduced at the diner, it feels as though Mary is repeating all the mistakes her sons have already made. Using another hunter to help keep her British Men of Letters connection hidden from her sons only gets poor Wally killed. And we almost lost Cas. She also didn’t give up her stolen goods, even when Ramiel threatened all of them.
Mary’s not the mother the Winchesters hoped for, nor is she what we had expected. Despite this, she’s fascinating. She’s too busy doing her own thing to cut off the crusts of her sons’ sandwiches. She’s protective of her own independent, while also being fiercely loving when it comes to her children.
Mary isn’t happy with her partners, the British Men of Letters, for leading them into such a dangerous situation. In her most threatening voice, she tells Mr. Ketch, “Anything like that happens again, anything, and I will burn you down. All of you.” “Stuck in the Middle (With You)” gives us a blast from the past when it’s revealed Mary was after the Colt all along.
Crowley finally meets Mary Winchester. She’s much less excited about it than he is, threatening to end him if he touches her. Crowley reveals that the Winchesters have managed to mess with a Prince of Hell: “the oldest of the old demons. The first generation after Lilith. Lucifer turned them himself, before the oceans drank Atlantis. They were trained to be generals, to lead demonic armies in the war against Heaven. Like Azazel. They even have his eyes.”
The introduction of Ramiel is connected to the story of how Crowley became the King of Hell. How did we not know how Crowley became King all this time? Supernatural can still surprise us—and what a fun surprise. Mark Sheppard does an outstanding job playing the younger Crowley. He’s a little less confident, a little less cynical, and a little more obsequious. Somehow he actually looks younger through his uncertainty and subservience. When Crowley shows genuine surprise at the idea of taking the role of King for himself, we realize it’s this is not a manipulative plot he concocted to get power, but an opportunity he inadvertently walked into.
Even after Dean mocks Crowley, the King of Hell is out trying to make a deal to save the lives of the Winchesters. Crowley explains why he wants Ramiel to spare them:
Ramiel: “Those people—they your friends?”
Crowley: “I don’t have friends. I make deals with those I can use. Every kingdom needs allies, even Hell.”
Ramiel: “Allies. Is that what you call three humans with one good liver between them and a busted-up angel?”
Crowley: “I admit, they don’t sound like much. But every Armageddon, every bloody “this is the end of all things,” a Winchester stopped it. Like it or not, they’re an asset we can’t afford to lose.”
Crowley not only risks confronting Ramiel to save the Winchesters, but he’s responsible for saving Castiel by breaking the Lance of Michael just as black ooze starts pouring out of Castiel’s mouth. The Winchesters stand mouths agape at Crowley’s heroic act, though we expect that Crowley will continue to be mistreated by the Winchesters. The King returns to Hell and just when you think the episode can’t possibly get any better… Mark Pellegrino shows up. From his Cage, Lucifer warns Crowley that it’s only a matter of time before the Winchesters come for him. Could Mark Sheppard’s days on the series be numbered? Seems unlikely, but our hearts just skipped a beat at the prospect.
Stuck in the Middle (With You) Review
“Stuck in the Middle (With You)” is the highlight of Season 12 so far. We look forward to more episodes that involve Perez and Speight. Though, we’d most love to see an episode that involves Speight in his old role of Gabriel. If “Stuck in the Middle (With You)” is any indication, Supernatural could take us on an interesting journey as Season 12 continues.