After the previous episode's strained comedy, I was a bit wary during the first half of this latest effort. One of the biggest concerns I had about The X-Files, especially in its later years, was the rising number of light-hearted episodes, even as the circumstances within the larger story arc darkened considerably. And I prefer when those lighter episodes speak to some aspect of the character evolution that might otherwise be left untouched.
The first half of the episode was interesting, at least in terms of how some items were being taken literally and how reality was being warped. It was also a bit frustrating. The one take-home message of the previous episode, its saving grace, was Sam's insistence that the brothers must work together on an even playing field. There was no discernible change in the dynamic between the Brothers Winchester in this episode, which made things seem oddly disconnected.
By the time Castiel came along and explained what was happening, at least there was some context. Is it still appropriate to refer to Sam as the Antichrist Superstar? Probably not, but somehow, I still feel like he's more of a candidate for the role than some kid channeling Bill Mumy from the Twilight Zone. I was shocked that no one was sent into the cornfield.
I've been looking for Sam to get a chance to address his issues directly, rather than in relation to Dean, so this was a step in that direction. Sam is hung up on the fact that he made the wrong choices (choosing the demon blood over his family, for one), and he wants to believe that Jessie could make better ones, if given the chance. Psychologically, it makes sense, but logically, it's one hell of a chance to take.
The brothers were lucky that Jessie was willing to hear them out, especially when his entire world was falling apart around him. The kid who played Jessie gave a chilling performance. At any given time, it was impossible to tell which path he would take, which lent each moment a sense of foreboding. In fact, in the end, I wasn't sure that Sam had made the right call. I wouldn't ever want the Brothers Winchester to be saddled with a kid, but without some sort of guidance, Jessie could go darkside pretty damn quick. I wouldn't be shocked if he returned in a big and bad way later in the season.
The confrontation between Sam and Castiel was one of the better scenes of the episode. The easy chemistry between Dean and Castiel sometimes makes it hard to see how strong Misha Collins' portrayal of the embattled angel really is. This interaction with Sam brought out some subtle undertones to the characterization. As much as Castiel believes in Dean, he does not believe in Sam. He abides Sam for Dean's sake. Castiel's reminder that Sam made the wrong choice was devastating in its bluntness.
Perhaps because it took so long to reveal the true nature of the threat in this episode, or because the end of the story felt a bit abrupt with Jessie's departure, things felt a bit open-ended and unresolved. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it did seem like the pacing was a little bit off. It wasn't enough to derail the episode in any major way, but it did take off a bit of the usual polish.