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I really loved this episode. I have a couple of quibbles but mostly I loved it. First I am so excited about the particular thing that Sam is doing to charge up his demon powers. My two biggest fears were that he would be killing or having sex with Ruby and neither one of those happened, so it's all happy in my corner. Also, I wonder if Ruby's blood is diluted (because it's from her human body) or in some other way different than the YE demon's blood, because a few drops of that changed Sam for life, but this wears off after a few weeks. This habit also seems like it could be gotten over fairly quickly if you could just take Sam out of situations where he feels the need to use his powers. It's definitely not the best thing in the world for Sam to be doing, but it's something that it makes sense to me for him to try. Sam had already disagreed with the idea that just because the powers stem from demons means that it's impossible for him to use them for good, and on the surface the only bad thing here is that he's charging up using more of the thing that gave him his power in the first place. I like that they kept the ambiguity surrounding his powers. The next big question for me is how the demons get their power in the first place, and if that's something that it's possible for Sam to be touching without tainting himself.

The racial stuff with Uriel is one of my few not goods with this episode, but in terms of characters I happy that he was the one killing the angels and not Anna. I love that thus far fallen angel hasn't equaled evil, and I'd like to keep it that way. I also love that it was an angel who technically hadn't fallen yet, who felt the most strongly about following orders who turned against God in the end. I think that the ability to question and to think for yourself is an important component of the world as it exists, and the story of someone whose life is structured around taking orders not having patience with those who want to think and question, and ultimately becoming jealous when authority figures privilege the questioners, moves me a lot. I also do think that it made sense for Uriel to turn away from God completely when he questioned, and to identify strongly with the first angel to turn away.

For the most part I loved Dean's mytharc reveal. It was the perfect finish to the question about who is special that was brought up last week. Dean is special, but it's nothing to be proud of. His special destiny originated in his failing, he gets to save the day but it only needs to be saved because of his actions. Dean both is and is not a hero in this story, and that's awesome.

I'm not one hundred percent convinced that the timing of the story makes sense however. Why Dean? Why break the seals now? Heroes must have ended up in hell before, and fallen before. Presumably the idea is that usually people who would be able to resist torturing others go to heaven, or maybe even pass out of existence altogether. I wonder if anyone gets to hell any other way than the hounds. Perhaps if you get to be taken by a reaper then you move into some other totally inaccessible realm altogether. But I'm not sure I believe that the Winchesters are the first good men to sell their souls.

I don't buy Alistair's story about Dean's father at all. John's response to pain while he was still human wasn't to hold out against it and handle it spectacularly well, it was to emotionally damage his sons in a crazy quest for revenge. I don't think that John intended to hurt them, but I also really don't think that his character has been set up as someone who is so good that he would be able to withstand being tortured for hundreds of years without cracking.

So far I think that the only possible answer the show has given us to "why now" question regarding the seals is that the Winchesters are the first heroes to go around selling their souls for their family willy nilly, but I don't believe that John wouldn't torture others after being in hell for hundreds of years. It seems much more plausible to me that the demons did think that John Winchester would break the first seal when he got down to hell, and that he did start torturing but that he didn't qualify as righteous enough. Alistair would of course lie to Dean about this, telling him that his beloved father fell in the same way that he did would be a comfort, telling him that his father was a better man than he was would make Dean a disappointment to his father's legacy.

If that's true if then maybe we'll get to see demon!John appear before the end of the series. Dean's story about torturing after being in hell long enough tallies nicely with Ruby's assertion that all demons were once humans. I have no idea how long it takes to get from the stage that Dean was at to actually being a demon, but John has been down

It also occurs to me that maybe part of the reason that Dean seems so comparatively unaffected by his experience in hell is that the angels had to undo some demonic change that had begun to occur in him to get him out. What if the part of him that was traumatized by the experience and through that trauma become demonic was simply left in hell? I need to rewatch this episode, but I'm sure that someone, maybe Alistair, mentioned that a piece of Dean had in fact been left behind in hell and would rejoin Dean if he tortured again.

Looking to the future, I really hope that Anna and Ruby don't turn out to be super evil or super good. Ideally Anna would be pushing for a new way of being an angel that involves more independent thinking and less orders and Ruby would be very Snape-like (less the stupid romantic motivations), where she's not out for the greater good but not secretly working for the bad guys either, just trying to do what she thinks is necessary to survive. (I'm not totally averse to some of her actions benefiting Lilith and co., but I will be really pissed off if that benefit is her primary motivation.) I think that Ruby and Sam do need to part ways eventually, but not because of some big revelation that she's still working for Lilith, but because he realizes that their goals and values are different and that she's manipulating him.

I don't want Ruby to be an idealistic character, I want her to be a darker echo of Pamela, someone who is more concerned with surviving than with the end of the world. I think that would be a lot more interesting than some deep cover on behalf of hell. I also definitely want more exploration of Ruby's assertion that she still remembers her feelings and motivations from when she was human. It would be neat if something had screwed up in the process of her beginning to torture so that she didn't become demon in quite the right way, so that she parallels Anna as an independent character who isn't necessarily tied to the end goals of either side in this conflict.

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lizzieladie

July 2012

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