Supernatural 5.20: "The Devil You Know"




With only a handful of episodes left before the planned arc of “Supernatural” comes to a rousing finish, I’m a bit surprised that the urgency is not quite at the anticipated level. I had hoped, once the writers got the light-hearted fare out of the way during the first half of the season, that the second half would be a relentless drive to the finish. I think a lot of important ground has been covered, to be sure, but if the writers are still planning to wrap up the Apocalypse this season, it doesn’t exactly feel like it.


That isn’t to say that this is a bad episode, or that the writers aren’t trying to bring the tale full circle. Crowley is a great recurring character, and if he survives, it will be interesting to see if he becomes a fixture of the sixth season. After all, even if Lucifer is tossed back in his cage and the real Apocalypse is postponed to a later date, the demons are still going to exist and will still be roaming the earth. Based on Crowley’s offer to Bobby at the end of the episode, there’s plenty of reason to think that the Brothers Winchester will have debts to pay once the big dance is over.


And bringing in Brady was an interesting idea. It’s already been well established that Sam’s current role was the result of a long-term plan going back generations, if not millennia. So it’s no surprise that Azazel was manipulating Sam far more than realized. After all, if the death of a lover was something that Azazel thought would be needed to propel Sam in the right direction to become the perfect means of releasing Lucifer (his development as the Antichrist Superstar in the first two seasons being the prelude to Ruby’s manipulations, in retrospect), then having a demon set Sam up with Jessie makes perfect sense.


With so little time, I was concerned that Pestilence might get short shrift. After all, we already know from “The End” that Pestilence unleashes the Croatoan virus on the world, and the means wasn’t ground that really needed to be covered. Yet the methodology is clever and in keeping with the notion that the Horsemen use human weakness to bring destruction.


In this case, it is fear of infection and death from disease. I would have preferred a scenario that didn’t play into the irrational conspiracy theories of the anti-vaccination camp, but it is a wonderfully ironic strategy. Spread a mild but potentially serious flu around just enough to start worldwide panic, and then offer a vaccine that actually holds the Croatoan virus. (My only quibble being that a latency period would be more effective to maximize spread of the virus before the homicidal tendencies begin.)


I even liked the notion that these characters can’t stop trying to sacrifice themselves. It’s a stark contrast to Crowley, who is wonderfully focused on self-preservation, but it’s also a bit predictable after a while. At least it’s still being offered in the spirit of active resistance vs. passive submission, which is consistent with recent events.


Sam’s decision is a bit ridiculous, though. Sam is well aware of the fact that he was tempted to the dark side because he was meant to be ready to offer himself as Lucifer’s meatsuit. Even though Sam stepped back from the brink, there’s a huge part of him that is still tempted. If Sam were to go through with this plan, and somehow overcome the possessing power of an angel (not a demon, and a key difference), it would seem a little too convenient, given what has been established.


But it was interesting to see that Bobby seemed to consider what Crowley was saying at the end of the episode, even if he delivered a fairly strong rebuttal in the form of a rock-salt barrage. It would be a reasonably logical end to Bobby’s long and difficult path this season, so it could be justified on that level. And for that matter, it would also be a sacrifice on the order of John Winchester’s sacrifice, which would be thematically fitting.


So there was a lot to like about this episode; it’s just that it seemed to end before coming to a strong enough conclusion to move the story towards the resolution of the apocalypse. The required story elements are still waiting to be triggered: getting the final two Horsemen rings and luring Lucifer back into his cage. Now only two episodes remain to make it happen. Unless the producers are going to break their promise and have the resolution spill over into the sixth season premiere (leaving the fifth season with a cliffhanger), I don’t see how this can all be done without it feeling rushed.

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