Supernatural meta, reviews & fic recs

Review: I’m No Angel (SPN 9.03)

the boys torture a reaper

As I mentioned in the review of Devil May Care (9.02), the first three episodes of Season 9 appear to be a trilogy to set up the playing field and show the players positions on it. In the first episode, we saw inside Sam’s head and Ezekiel was introduced who also now inhabits Sam’s body. The second episode gave us more about Dean and reintroduced Abaddon, Crowley, and Kevin. In I’m No Angel, we got more on how Castiel is dealing with the loss of his grace, but also gave us a lot more on Ezekiel and Dean.

Let’s start there since it is where the episode started with Ezekiel taking control of Sam and revealing to Dean that a faction of angels is organizing quickly and searching for Castiel. He offers to help Dean, but Dean basically tells him to get lost. He wants his brother. For the first of a number of times in the episode, Dean screws up and has to cover his tracks when he mentions to Sam that the angels organizing. Dean tries to cover by saying it just makes sense, but one lie leads to another, and Sam will begin to catch on that something is going on. Sam lets it go, and the boys agree that they need to find Cas.

Castiel meanwhile is living in homeless shelters and under bridges while trying to make his way to the bunker, which is in Kansas, right? So why does he go from Lafayette, IN to Detroit? Maybe he just jumped the nearest truck or he was intentionally leading the angels away from the bunker. Yeah, we’ll go with one of those.

what a mess

We learn that Bartholomew is using a televangelist to convince humans that they should become vessels for angels. He is sending out angels to search for Castiel, and when he discovers that Castiel has warded himself against being found, he hires a rogue reaper, Maurice, to find him. Bartholomew sets him on Sam and Dean who quickly notice the tail. The boys get the drop on Maurice and proceed to torture him for information.

This was one of the best scenes in the episode for me because it was essential Sam and Dean. These are the hunters from the Kripke years that we rarely see anymore. They are alert, fast, predatory, and merciless. After extracting information from the reaper, Dean stabs him in the throat, which was a nice moment – reminiscent of Zachariah without being heavy handed.

do what you want

Later, frustrated by lack of progress in finding Cas, Dean calls Ezekiel forward and asks for help in finding a reaper.

Meanwhile, Castiel gets picked up by some nice sympathetic woman, April, who doesn’t usually bring strange men home but then proceeds to take Cas to bed. Ruh-roh. They talk as they lie in bed together. She asks him how he ended up homeless, and he admits to having been naïve in trusting someone he shouldn’t. Too bad he didn’t learn from his experience with Metatron because, surprise, April is a reaper.

Apparently she feigned being human to get information from him. He asks if that included sex, and she says that she has some leeway to make “executive decisions.” It is unclear why she bothered having the post coital tete-a-tete with him since she doesn’t believe what he told her. Instead, she calls him a liar and proceeds to cut him up with the angel blade. He suggests to her that she might not want to kill him since he may be necessary to reversing Metatron’s spell, and when Sam and Dean burst in she stabs Cas with the angel blade. I wonder if that is an executive decision that Bartholomew would be okay with.

sam he's gone

Dean is visibly shaken when he realizes that Cas is dead, but Sam isn’t Sam. He’s Ezekiel who heals Castiel’s wounds; then he collapses. Sam and Cas both awaken in bewilderment. Dean is flustered a moment, but tells Sam just what he told him in Devil May Care – “you got dinged.” He says that he made a deal with April that he wouldn’t kill her if she healed Cas, which she did. “You lied,” Cas says. There’s a pause, and Dean says, “I do that.” The look on Castiel’s face isn’t clear, but it suggests either that he knows that too well or that he doesn’t believe Dean.

Dean's lying liar face

Dean’s lying liar face

The final scene shows just how caught up in lies Dean is. Sam is confused at how Dean knew where to find Cas, and Dean says that he found an address in Maurice’s pocket. Sam doesn’t let it go but says he never saw Dean go through Maurice’s pocket. Dean makes some weak statement about doing nerdy things like Sam does. Dean has to know that all these little moments that don’t make sense to Sam are adding up. He has to feel the pressure knowing that at some point he’s going to get caught in the lie outright.

Castiel tells Sam and Dean, “I do now see how difficult life can be and how well you two have led it. I think you will be great teachers.” Whoa, don’t get ahead of yourself there Cas. He also reveals that he’s had sex. The boys are amused and funny moment. It’s a nice little “brothers” kind of moment. The two “older” brothers are amused by their less experienced brother finally getting some, and it’s all very affectionate and nice. “Our little Cas. He gave it up to a reaper,” Dean says.

That scene is completely undercut then when Cas leaves and Ezekiel appears. He tells Dean that Castiel has to leave the bunker or he will. Dean does try to argue for Castiel: “This is Cas who vouched for you when I didn’t know you from jack. The bunker is safe.”

But Ezekiel makes it clear that he’ll let Sam die rather than risk Bartholomew’s forces finding him. Dean, of course, folds rather than risk Sam’s life, and he tells Cas that he has to hit the road. I’ve never felt particularly sorry for Castiel until the end of I’m No Angel, but the look on his face there. He’s lost his grace, there’s an army of angels gunning for him, and his best friend, the person who taught him what family means and he was sure could count is giving him the boot. He must feel that he is both homeless and friendless.

I'm sorry, buddy

I’m sorry, buddy

Now here’s the question. Both angels and demons are after Kevin because he’s the prophet, so while Cas may be more of a focus for the angels, the bunker is already hiding someone who is being sought by enemies. Why is having Castiel there such a greater risk? I can’t help but think that there is something Ezekiel isn’t telling Dean. I wonder if it has anything to do with why he was injured in his fall. Or perhaps he’s just afraid that Castiel will learn that he is inside Sam if he stays. I’m not ready to call Ezekiel a bad guy yet, but he is almost certainly not on the up and up.

I thought it was interesting too that although, Ezekiel indicated that Sam would still die without his angel mojo, Sam seems to be healing at a pretty impressive rate and the angel had the excess power to resurrect Castiel. Yes, Sam collapsed for a moment afterward, but then regained consciousness with no apparent lingering weakness. There’s something shady about the creepy angel.

Dean kills the reaper

I didn’t like the new rogue reaper mythology that was revealed in Taxi Driver, and I still don’t like it. We first saw a reaper back in Faith (1.12 What a great episode that was. Raelle Tucker and Sera Gamble were a great writing team.) Anyway, the reaper was scary. I mean, creepy scary – silent and dogged and threatening. The next reaper we saw was Tess in season 2 (In My Time of Dying 2.01). She put on a pretty non-threatening face in an attempt to lure Dean to the other side, but in one scene Dean saw her for what she was. She was a scary non-corporeal entity that swirled over his body. Under The Carver Administration, however, reapers appear to be more like angels. When they are stabbed with angel blade, they shine out like angels. The reaper appeared to use April as a vessel. That is not how reapers were established to work in canon. They could alter a human’s perception of reality and appear human, but they didn’t possess actually humans.

I also dislike the “rogue” angel idea. When Death was introduced, he appeared as one of the top powers – possibly older than god. He tells Dean that he will reap God one day. That’s pretty bad ass. But the rogue reaper idea not only minimizes Death to being a poor manager who can’t keep his employees in line – more like Crowley than Abaddon if you will – I don’t understand what it is that rogue reapers get from their side deals with angels or whomever. Just what was in it for Ajay in Taxi Driver, or Maurice or “April”?

Speaking of April. I wonder if she was awake and aware when the reaper was using her body to have sex with Castiel. I find the casual use of vessels by angels, demons and reapers disturbing when issues like this aren’t even hinted at within the show. It is something that Castiel didn’t even acknowledge. He was rather pleased even after he knew that he’d had sex with a reaper instead of being troubled by the fact that an innocent person was being used that way.

Over all, I think that I’m No Angel was a really weak episode, but I didn’t expect more from writers Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner.


7 responses

  1. Guillermo

    I agree with all your statements on this episode, in particular the facts that were established in early seasons about the reapers, they should stay creepy & scary. The team work of killing the rogue reaper “the old family business way” of the Winchester brothers was just awesome!
    Now Esekiel is hiding something really heavy, and Castiel in same place with Crowley is way to risky, as he is human and can be possess by a demon and he is a very strong vessel…I think is better to keep Cas close and safe as a “Hunter partner” and place Crowley in a different location…

    October 24, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    • Yeah, I just don’t buy Ezekiel’s reason for Castiel having to leave. Abaddon is looking for Crowley, angels and demons are all looking for Kevin, so there are already two fugitives hiding at the bunker, yet Cas has to leave. The other thing is, why did Ezekiel tell Dean about Bartholomew’s forces in the first place if he didn’t want Dean to go after Cas and bring him to the bunker? Ezekiel has to have some kind of agenda. I kind of wish Dean hadn’t cut him off when he said that he could be useful. I’d like to know what his plan was.
      I guess we’ll find out in time. Thanks!

      October 25, 2013 at 3:13 pm

  2. wolfeep

    Wow. First of all, awesome review.

    I get so caught up in plot that I don’t even realize some of the big pictures. For one, Sam and Dean really haven’t been hunter-ish in awhile. You’re right. Secondly, I was a little confused on why the reaper had to possess April in the first place, but I let the thought slide. I’m not sure what makes these reapers different from classic ones, but I was sort of hoping Death would keep them in line. And good call. No one even considered the fact that there was probably still an innocent woman in there somewhere.

    October 25, 2013 at 2:46 pm

    • Thanks! Yeah, there were just some inconsistencies that really bothered me in this ep. I don’t really expect better from writers Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner though. I miss Kripke, Gamble, Raelle Hunter and the early season writers. Now they’ve lost Edlund too, and it shows. 😦

      October 25, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      • wolfeep

        Dang. If some of the earlier writers were still present, this show would be scarier, edgier, and downright classic. Hopefully it’ll get better as it goes. Next week looks pretty good.

        October 25, 2013 at 3:58 pm

  3. Well put. After watching the “sequel” to this (9.06) I could help but put in a rework.

    This is one of those episodes that just gets worse the more you unpack it. Like why is the REAPER not being INVISIBLE while following the Winchesters?

    January 30, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    • They’ve gotten so sloppy that it isn’t even funny. At the end of 9.12, Sam got back in the Impala without getting his duffel out of the car he’d been driving. *eyeroll*

      Yours is an interesting take on “I’m No Angel” that certainly gets rid of some of the stickier issues — like Cas having non-consensual sex with April (since we assume there was a possessed human in that vessel) and acting all proud of it later. I think April’s situation was supposed to be some kind of parallel to Sam being possessed, but the way they cavalierly had the guys discuss it made it seem like it was no big deal, which was kind of sickening and didn’t add anything to Sam’s sl. I still don’t understand Gadreel healing Cas and then saying he couldn’t stay at the bunker. Was he testing his control over Dean? Seeing just how far Dean would go for Sam? IDK. But that scene with Dean killing April was worth it to hear him admit that he lied “It’s what I do.” If only Sam and Cas had taken that for what it was.

      Buckner and Ross-Leming are apparently proud of their retcon of the Reapers. They shouldn’t be. It’s pretty awful. I’m just going to leave it at that.

      So, yeah, you’re revision is far better. You’re absolutely right that simplifying is usually the better course of action, but these writers throw everything into a script as though using misdirection will confuse the viewer into not seeing their errors. Like pointing into the corner and then when we look, they can do something sneaky behind our backs. But we’re not five-year-olds. We’ve seen that trick before.

      January 31, 2014 at 5:28 am

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