There are two names that are usually synonymous with greatness on Supernatural, and those are writer Sera Gamble and director Philip Sgriccia. Sera has written some amazing episodes, such as "Faith", "Heart" and "When the Levee Breaks", while Phillip has directed not only my favorite Supernatural episode ever, "Nightshifter", but also classics like "Abandon All Hope…", "Ghostfacers" and "Hollywood Babylon" to name a few. When I saw these names on the credits for this particular episode, I actually squeed. Yes, I’d been a little let down by both Ben Edlund and Robert Singer — both legends on this show in their own right — in the previous episode, but thankfully Sera and Phillip did not disappoint.
What we have here is an exceptional episode. Sure it’s a little speedy and tries to get a LOT done in one episode that might’ve been better off in two — more on that in a moment — but if we’re only able to do all of this stuff in one episode, it might as well be done right…and done right it was. The principals, Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles, again turned masterful performances as Sam and Dean. Sam’s acceptance of his upcoming role as bait — despite his brother’s misgivings — and his admission that he’s the "least of all of them". That’s not an easy thing for anyone to say, but when Sam says it, I fully believe it. Dean’s bravado and yet sheer terror in the face of Death the horseman was palatable, and a perfect performance. I pretty much felt the same way he did when he was sitting down, having pizza with Death. It also made me want Chicago deep dish pizza. Yum.
It was also good to see Castiel return, though I feel so, so sorry for him that his angel mojo was gone. The last time we saw him fully human like this was in "The End", and he was a broken shell of a person, so I felt this latest turn was just as tragic. Jim Beaver did a great turn as Bobby as always, and I especially loved his performance when it was shown he could walk again. There was a glitch with Bobby’s performance, but I’ll talk about that in a moment.
The real stars of this episode though were the guest stars, who once again were all cast perfectly in their roles. Mark Sheppard as Crowley…I’ve gushed plenty about his performance, so I don’t need to do so again, but he did a great job. I was happy to FINALLY see Matt Frewer as Pestilence. MAN did he give me chills when he slowly killed that poor woman, then yelled at his demon keeper. His coldness, his sheer subtle brutality when dealing with the boys was just perfect, and I would’ve loved to have seen more of him.
The real star here, though, was Death, played BRILLIANTLY by Julian Richings. In saying he’s either as old or older than God himself, Richings did a PERFECT portrayal of someone that old, and yet with someone showing that much contempt for Lucifer as well as such a low opinion of humans (or "bacteria" as he said). Death should be an awe-inspiring character, and Richings played this brilliantly. His conversation with Dean was perfect. Sure, there could’be been a battle, with some witty banter exchanged by combatants, but that’s not what happened here. The show turned this whole thing on its ear, having Death HELP Dean by willingly giving him his ring. I also like how Death was the second entity to describe Lucifer’s behavior as a "tantrum".
Now there were a few niggles I had with this episode. First, the previous horsemen got their own episodes, and I wish Pestilence and Death received the same treatment. Our brief glimpses of them were enjoyable and awesome, sure, but I’d rather have seen more. I think we could’ve cut out an episode or two — like "Sam, Interrupted"…shudder… — and given these two fine actors a little more screen time. That said, the episode worked out well with the time allotted regardless, but still, I’d like to have seen more.
Secondly, something about Bobby’s performance confused me. When Sam and Bobby were in the warehouse, saving people and killing Croatoan zombies, Bobby had an odd expression when Sam ran off to get more people out of the building. It looked like an expression of shock. What confuses me is…why would Bobby be confused or shocked by Sam’s behavior. This is something Bobby later himself admitted Sam has been doing since he was twelve, so why should it be such a shock now? Was he just shocked by the situation, or by all the stacks of boxes filled with vials of Croatoan virus? I’m not sure, but it sure did pull me out of the show for a brief moment.
Overall, however, this was a very strong episode, with lots of great character interaction and development and fantastic writing and acting. This episode tied a lot of things up, but left more than enough open to have me wonder WHAT THE HELL is going to happen with the finale. The mere fact that I have no idea gives me chills, and I totally can’t wait to see how this season gets wrapped up.