Review SPN 9.10: Road Trip
I have to say that for me on first viewing “Road Trip” was the most enjoyable episode of the season. It was tightly written, well-paced, and balanced a highly dramatic story with in-character humor. The thing for me that made this such a strong episode was the focus on interaction between the characters. Most of that interaction was substantial whether between Dean and Castiel, Crowley and Sam, Sam and Dean, even those scenes that followed Gadreel helped drive the story. It was a character driven storyline, and I have to talk about a character who has sat too much in the background until now. Crowley.
Here’s what’s great about Crowley in addition to his snarkilicious dialogue. He’s smart, and he’s patient. As he said to Abaddon, it’s about the campaign. She thinks only of the battle. He bides his time. Look how long he sat there in the dungeon in the bunker thinking, plotting, planning, and the moment he was needed, he was ready to deal. I’ve seen speculation that he is a good guy now. Of course, he isn’t, but so far the Winchesters have been of more use to him alive than dead. There were probably times when he had the opportunity to kill one or both of them, but unless Sam and Dean are a direct threat, he’ll keep them alive because they may be of use to him in some way – just as he is sometimes of use to them – hence Crowley’s parting shot at Dean: “I’m dead. I know. I love you too.”
Crowley has survived because he doesn’t underestimate his opponent – not those denim-clad nightmares and not Abaddon. I thought it was really interesting that he had thought about her methods, but she is too arrogant to have considered the effects of her own deadly behavior against the lesser demons or the effectiveness of his treatment of his subordinates. If she is vanquished, it will be because she underestimates Crowley and/or the Winchesters.
Crowley’s scene inside Sam’s head was really effective. He came across as wanting to help Sam. Now, I know that could just be put down to the fact that if he failed to save Sam, Dean wouldn’t have hesitated to kill him, but I think it was more than that. When Sam asked if he’d killed Kevin, Crowley was emotional in his response that Sam wasn’t responsible. I’ve had the feeling for awhile that Crowley has a certain amount of affection for Sam and Kevin especially, but even for Dean and Castiel. Maybe it’s just the effect of the human blood he’s taken in. Or maybe it’s that he respects them and he seems to be a very lonely demon, so he appreciates having worthy opponents and sometimes allies.
But enough about Crowley who is kind of my happy place in this review. This episode was really all about Dean. From giving Kevin a hunter’s funeral to walking away from his brother and best friend, it was Dean’s choices and their consequences that dominated the story. It was good to see Dean owning his mistakes even if Cas did try to minimize it by saying that he’d let Sam be possessed for the right reasons.
Dean: Yeah, like that matters.
Cas: It does. Sometimes it’s all that matters.
Now, Cas has been trying to deal with his own mistakes for awhile and he’s trying to get Dean to see that a person’s intentions are important – his own when he took on the souls from Purgatory and when he caused the angels to fall, Sam’s when he drank demon blood and when he didn’t look for Dean – but Dean has never been good at forgiving himself or others. Despite Castiel’s apparent handwave of Dean’s mistake in judgment when he made the deal with Gadreel, Cas tried to dissuade Dean from making deals with Crowley, which of course fell on deaf ears. Not only did Dean take Crowley on a road trip, but he let Crowley go free when the demon successfully helped Sam expel Gadreel. While Crowley kept his word, there’s no doubt there will consequences for letting him go.
I have to back up a step here to consider how Castiel reacted when he found out who was possessing Sam because Castiel rarely loses his temper. (Remember that time he beat the shit out of Dean?) But when he learned Gadreel’s name, his reaction is explosive: “It’s his fault, all of it. The corruption of man, demons, Hell. God left because of him. The archangels, the apocalypse. If he hadn’t been so weak, none of it would have happened. You ruined the universe, you damn son of a bitch!” I think that Castiel’s use of the word “weak” is really important here, because what we see in Gadreel’s interactions with Metatron is that he is weak. He doesn’t demand answers; he just accepts Metatron’s story about creating a new Heaven and caves to the scribe’s ultimatums. He is so weak that he killed his best friend Abner who possessed an abuser and turned him into a good family man. It was clearly against his conscience, but his desire for vindication and esteem came first because Abner made the mistake of telling Gadreel that he had to do what was right for him. Those words echoed Dean’s line in “Bad Boys” that you sometimes have to do what is right for you even if you hurt someone you love.
I’ve seen parallels being drawn between Sam and Gadreel, but I think the parallel between Dean and Gadreel was clear in this episode. We know that Dean is weak. Sam is his weakness. Just as Ezekiel/Gadreel strung Dean along about healing Sam and leaving him, Metatron is stringing Gadreel along about his role in this new Heaven they are building. Both Dean and Gadreel were too weak and desperate to question the angel in control. No doubt Gadreel is going to find himself duped by Metatron just as Dean was duped by him. So is Gadreel a “bad guy?” Well, Castiel would have died at the hands of the rogue reaper if Gadreel hadn’t brought him back and Charlie would have too if Dean hadn’t insisted that Gadreel bring her back. On the other hand, Kevin is dead as are Thaddeus and Abner as well as their vessels. Gadreel has allowed Metatron to make him nothing more than a hit man.
If Gadreel is a bad guy, is Dean? He seems to think so. Taking Crowley’s pronouncement that people around him “don’t have much in the way of a lifespan,” Dean has concluded that he is “poison.” He’s going to walk away, not just from Sam but Castiel too, not because he’s mad at Sam or disappointed in Sam or because he thinks they’re weaker together, but because he believes he is a danger to those around him.
Dean: People get close to me they get killed, or worse. I tell myself I help more people than I hurt and I tell myself that I’m doing it all for the right reasons and I believe that. But I can’t – I won’t drag anyone anybody into the muck with me – not anymore.
Sam: Go. I’m not going to stop you. But don’t go thinking that’s the problem because it’s not.
Dean: What’s that supposed to mean?
Sam: Just go.
And this brings us to Sam who insists twice in this scene that he was ready to die, willing to die if Dean hadn’t tricked him. Do we conclude that Sam still thinks that the problem is him? He is the reason that Dean makes bad decisions? If so, there’s something aggravatingly self-centered about that, or does he mean that the problem is them – their dynamic, their lies and secrets and willingness to sacrifice everything for one another. After all, Dean didn’t act alone. He asked Sam to stop the trials and when Sam agreed, people died. Dean asked Sam to come with him instead of Death and again, Sam’s agreement led to others dying.
There are two times that the boys let each other go: In “Swan Song” which saved the world and when Sam didn’t look for Dean. We don’t know what would have happened if Sam had looked for Dean or kept hunting or tried to help Kevin, so we can’t really speculate on the outcome, but in the end, not looking for him didn’t turn out well.
So Dean has walked away leaving Sam and Castiel together. I’ll be interested to see how Sam and Castiel relate. A lot of fans have wanted to see some real interaction between them, and I hope we get that. Considering the way Castiel reacted to Dean in “Road Trip,” one can only imagine what he’ll say to Sam about Dean’s decision and how he made it for the “right reason.” And Gadreel, will we learn that he let the serpent into the Garden of Eden for the right reasons as well?