Supernatural meta, reviews & fic recs

SPN 10.17: “Inside Man” Review

Dean Winchester

In contrast to what has been an often lackluster and disappointing season, “Inside Man” was well-paced and tightly writing by Andrew Dabb. From Sam reverently taking Bobby’s cap from his bag to Crowley’s showdown with Rowena, there were also some very satisfying moments

I’ve had complaints this season about multiple story lines being woven together in single episodes because it has led to choppy scenes and poor pacing, but “Inside Man” shows that multiple story lines can work effectively when well written and executed. Here, Dabb separated Sam, who’s seeking a solution to Dean’s curse, and Dean, who looked for distraction without a hunt or his brother to get him through. Crowley, meanwhile, had his own issues with Rowena to deal with.

Perhaps the most satisfying element to this episode is that Sam had a strong role to play. Having told Dean a lie about going to a foreign film in Wichita, Sam instead met up with Cas and plotted to break Metatron out of heaven with the help of Bobby. The interaction between Sam and Bobby was wonderful, and seeing Bobby in action again reinforces what a mistake it was to kill him off in season seven. Jim Beaver, unlike anyone else on the show besides the lead actors, could carry off an episode on his own.

Having gotten Metatron out of heaven, Castiel cut the scribe’s throat and bottled his grace in a nice reversal of the season eight scene in which Metatron took his. The coldly detached expression on Sam’s face as he watched was a reminder of how he’s able to lock away his famous empathy and compassion when he has a job to do – especially when it involves his brother. Sam shooting Metatron in the leg to show they meant business and remind him of his new mortality was just icing on the cake.

Unfortunately for Sam and Cas, Metatron had been playing them in the past. He didn’t know how to get rid of the Mark of Cain. It wasn’t mentioned in the tablets. All he knew was that it was “God level magic or Lucifer level, but you can’t ask him, can you?” It could be a throw away line or a suggestion of just how far Sam might consider going to save his brother. Metatron dangled knowledge of Castiel’s remaining grace in front of him to prevent being killed.

Meanwhile, after going out for a beer and hustling some college boys at pool, Dean saw or thought he saw his eyes flash black in a mirror. Is it possible that taking some foolish guys for everything they had on them fed the Mark in some small way? Perhaps that was what was going on when Dean annoyed bar patrons with his bad karaoke or fooled around with Anne Marie. Maybe those minor acts of dickish behavior helped take the edge off.

Whatever the case, he was confronted by Rowena who discovered that her level of magic was no match for Dean, but being a decent judge of character, she bet Dean wouldn’t kill her because she was the only one who could save the college kids she’d put under a spell. She called him ‘hero’ like it was a dirty word. With both Dean and Crowley, she continued her lie about protecting her son, when her true motive is getting into the bunker to reach the witches’ treasures.

Crowley showed that he hasn’t been taken in by her lies, and Dean made him see that she wasn’t “family.” Dean was honest with Crowley telling him that he had lost his edge, and Crowley took Dean’s observations and advice to heart. When he returned to hell, he declared he had his edge back and tossed Rowena out on her conniving ass. While Rowena appeared devastated as she walked off alone, no doubt we haven’t seen the last of her.

If there was a weak point, it’s when Bobby could have had the time to write the letter that Cas passed to Sam. Although clearly a plot device, it was touching and helps set up the coming story arc. Bobby’s letter implicitly endorsed Sam’s future actions in his attempts to save Dean and urged Sam to be honest with his brother.

“Inside Man” is an example of what a good group of actors can do with competently written scenes. Jensen Ackles and Mark Sheppard handled the scene between Dean and Crowley at the bar with such natural ease. Dabb wasn’t going for big laughs, but humor that sprang from characterization. So, while Crowley’s “Squirrel” and Dean’s “Boris. Where’s Natasha?” lines were funny, they were downplayed by the actors to much better effect than the broad humor that we’ve seen much of the season.

Even Rowena, who had come across as a caricature in other episodes, was written and played to better effect. Less simpering and more grit gave the character threatening quality that she hadn’t had. Metatron started out as arrogant and smarmy as usual, and it was a pleasure seeing him get the props knocked out from under him. Sam, Castiel, and Bobby defying heaven was almost like the old days, and the scene with Bobby surrounded by angels suggested there will be repercussions for everyone involved.

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