SPN 9.17: Mother’s Little Helper review
I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by writer Adam Glass’ third outing of season nine, “Mother’s Little Helper.” Not only was Sam at no point tied to anything, but he actually behaved intelligently and acted as a competent hunter without his brother’s help. Misha Collins did a nice job directing. The pacing was good, and to the extent he had any influence, the performances by the lead and supporting actors were strong. The casting of the nuns, in particular, was spot on. Character actress Jenny O’Hara, who played Julia, was terrific as always.
The episode began with someone inexplicably killing someone – in this case, a wife murdered her husband over his whining about meatloaf again – which led to the opening scene in the bunker with Dean pouring over research while Sam worried and tried to get him to go on hunt. Dean insisted that he needed to keep looking for Abaddon, so Sam took the Impala and went off on the hunt alone. It was interesting that Dean not only allowed, but encouraged, the two most important things in his life simply take off without him – and just days after the Impala was vandalized by demons.
Sam went to Milton, Illinois where he soon learned from former nun Julia that his grandfather Henry and Josie, Abaddon’s chosen vessel, visited her convent in 1958. He figured out that the people who were committing murder behave a bit like he did while soulless. His reasoning was vague, and Dean pointed out that Sam wasn’t that murderous or impulsive. A search of the closed convent led him to the discovery that Abaddon was stealing souls to create an army loyal only to her. He killed the remaining demon possessing another nun and released the souls she has stored there in jars.
Okay, so Abaddon is reaping souls and turning them into demons for her army. That makes sense. However, on the logistics – it wasn’t explained why those people who were soulless became uncontrollably violent and impulsive unlike Sam when he was soulless. Sam speculated that different people simply react differently to losing their soul, except everyone in Milton who lost their soul appeared to become impulsively violent. I did think it was a nice reflection on past situations, however. Sam was shown recalling what it was to be soulless – no longer caring about family and such. We didn’t get that kind of reflection when Dean was hanging with his vampire pal Benny despite the long history with vampires the boys have had or the fact that Dean was briefly a vampire himself. The other issue I wonder about is what happened to the souls that Sam released if their body was dead – the wife at the beginning, for example, who killed herself. Did her soul just go into the veil with the others awaiting entrance to heaven?
We also learned that exorcism doesn’t work on Abaddon, because while Henry and Jose were able to exorcise two lesser demons possessing nuns, they couldn’t exorcise Abaddon from the Mother Superior. Learning that Abaddon was going to possess Henry, Josie offered herself because she knew Henry feared leaving his wife and son without him. Sister Agnes survived the exorcisms of 1958 with the demon still possessing her. Although, Abaddon told her to “keep it going” until she returned, it would have been pretty obvious if the townsfolk of Milton had been going on murderous rampages for the past fifty odd years, and as Julia told Sam, “it seems to be happening again.”
Sister Agnes was possessed by some tough as nails badass demon too. It took much longer for the exorcism to even begin to have an effect on her. Good thing that clever Sam had it recorded on his phone or she’d have throttled him outright. As it was, she still managed to smash the phone before she smoked out. I hand it to Glass for changing his MO and not making Sam the damsel in distress that he usually does. Sam managed to recover quickly and stab her before she could get the upper hand again. He then released the trapped souls so they could flit back to their vessels. The townspeople were shown being re-ensouled at the jail. I guess, they’ll now have to live with the horrific things their body’s did while soulless as Sam did when his soul was returned.
As for Dean, he’s back to drinking and not sleeping, but the drinking seems to have no effect. He sat at the table in the library and drank an entire fifth of whiskey with no apparent signs of intoxication. He’s lying to and avoiding Sam because he doesn’t want his brother to see the obvious effects that the Mark of Cain is having on him since using the First Blade. As Crowley so accurately observed, Dean is scared. I need to mention here what a great job they did of filming Crowley as the devil on Dean’s shoulder. In a number of shots, Dean was turned away from Crowley who was sort of crouched behind him, egging him on, shaming him, mocking him. “When I kill, I kill for a reason,” Dean insisted. Crowley scoffed, “Who do you think you’re talking to?” and later, “What’s in that bottle? Delusion?”
“What’s in the bottle, delusion?” Crowley set up a demon posing as a hunter bent on killing him to test Dean’s “loyalty.” It makes sense that Dean would protect Crowley at this point because Crowley has the blade, but it also shows just how much Dean needs the blade. As long as Crowley has it, he controls their relationship. He is with the blade as Ruby was with the blood in her relationship with Sam. The difference here I think is that Dean already knows how little control he has, that he can’t trust Crowley, and he’s frightened. Sam on the other hand was convinced that he was in control of his powers, could use them for good to redeem the darkness in himself, and that could trust Ruby until it all blew up in his face. Dean doesn’t believe he can be redeemed and probably hasn’t since he returned from hell. The question is, how long will it be before Dean admits to Sam that he’s in trouble? And will it matter?
When Dean confronted Crowley about continuing his blood addiction, which Crowley confessed to “embracing,” Dean said that any price was worth stopping Abaddon:
Crowley: How about you? Takes a junkie to know a junkie …You just want to touch that precious again, don’t you?
Dean: I want to kill Abaddon. That’s what I want, so whatever happens with the blade, I can’t worry about that. … What I want, what I fear, none of that means squat because this is the one chance we have to kill Abaddon, so I’m all in no matter what the consequences.
Crowley learned what he needed to know – that Dean is an ally at least until Abaddon is killed – and he pushed him just that little bit further to commit himself, consequences be damned, to the cause. So, Dean seems to know what is at stake and is willing to pay the price. The question remains whether Sam will be willing, not just to lose his brother, but to let him become a monster, in order to kill Abaddon.
In the final scene back at the bunker, Sam unintentionally put the nail in lid of the coffin when he returned and told Dean that he was right about finding and killing Abaddon. Not only is Crowley manipulating Dean into giving in to the feelings the Mark are bringing out in him, but Sam being on board with the plan, legitimizes Dean’s quest. Sam revealed to Dean that Abaddon is mining souls to create an army. Sam is worried about the effect the blade is having on Dean, but unlike Crowley, he doesn’t realize just how much Dean already needs the feelings, the fix, that the blade gives him. It was pretty clear in this episode that Crowley like Magnus wants to make Dean his puppet, his servant, a kind of human hellhound. It makes sense that a knight of hell would work for the King of Hell … or the Queen.
This is really the bottom line: Dean is on his way to becoming a Knight of Hell, something inhuman, exactly the kind of monster he once feared Sam would become. That isn’t the same thing as letting your brother go live another life or die and go to heaven. If Dean were to become a knight of hell, he’d be no different from Abaddon herself. Allowing that to happen wouldn’t solve anything. The question is, how can that be stopped? Can Sam or Castiel, singly or together, steer Dean from the dark path he’s on? We know that Cain was turned away from knights by love, so it can be done, but even then, what would it mean for Dean? He would still have the Mark of Cain and the full consequences of what that means haven’t yet been revealed.