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November 23, 2014

'Supernatural' Season 6, Episode 10 Recap

by Maureen Ryan, posted Dec 5th 2010 10:30PM
['Supernatural' - 'Caged Heat']

'Doing this is how the bad guys get us every time. It's our Achilles' heel.' -- Dean Winchester

The family business. Good guys versus bad guys. Winchesters versus demons.

That's how things worked when all was right with the world. But these days, everything is upside down. The Winchesters are working for and with the baddest of the bad, Samuel sold out his grandsons to the dark side, Sam may be better off without a soul, and an angel may have the hots for a demon.

The road to Hell isn't paved with good intentions. It's paved with the shards of the Winchesters' belief system.

It's a world gone mad, but given how expertly the 'Supernatural' powers that be are deconstructing the foundations of the show, given how well the writers are grounding all the mayhem in very real stakes and interesting dilemmas for the characters, given how much flair the cast is displaying as the show assaults everything the Winchesters had previously held dear, well, I don't know about you, but I. Am. Loving it!

Sure, individual episodes here and there have had some wobbly bits, but as a whole, I think the questions and themes being raised in Season 6 are bold, unpredictable and dramatically delicious. These days, the Winchesters have little or nothing to hold on to, when it comes to the old truisms and beliefs that used to motivate them. Back in the day, there were good guys -- hunters -- and they knew who the bad guys were. The brothers were on the side of the angels, even before they met Castiel. At least that was usually their assumption, even if they happened to be biding their time in Hell or making the occasional deal with unsavory types.

Well, goodbye to all that. The Winchesters of season 1 would freak if they saw what they were up to six years in the future.

Ever since he's been topside, Sam has been working with Samuel and thus working for Crowley, and soon enough Dean was sucked into demonic indentured servitude as well. But hey, family values will get you through any rough spot, right? Isn't that 'Supernatural' 101?

Well, er, as it happens, family stuff can be complicated. Sure, relationships in the Winchester family have had more than their share of difficult moments, but in 'Caged Heat,' Dean threatened to murder his own grandfather -- with good reason. That Winchester-Campbell Christmas party is going to be so awkward this year!

I know I haven't spent much time talking about the meat of the episode, as it were, but I thought it was necessary to take a step back and offer up a few thoughts on why the current season's overall arc has been so pleasing. The writers and actors have made us more invested than ever in the Winchesters' plight by changing the ground rules on the brothers in ways that make a lot of sense. All along, the show has stayed within the moral universe it has established over the past six years, but the questions have only gotten murkier and more difficult to unravel.

Since the middle of Season 1, the family business has not been about killing demons, not really. It's been about painful self-assessment and difficult steps along the road to maturity. It's about who you are and who's by your side when you try to do the right thing -- and examining whether what you're doing is actually right.

As we rolled into the sixth season, nothing was done melodramatically; what we've seen feels like a natural extension of what's come before, yet the writers aren't being complacent. So many shows coast into their sixth season either offering variations on familiar themes or becoming outrageous and silly in artificial attempts to "change things up." But 'Supernatural' has picked apart its own DNA and flipped quite a few familiar formulations on their heads, all while keeping the tone familiar and the focus on the characters. And damn, the show has even managed to stay funny, in its own dark and twisted way, even as it does yet another number on the tortured existences of the Winchester boys.

And without going into a whole digression about season 5, it must be noted that the current season is working on the macro level because the questions being posed have so many personal ramifications for the Winchester brothers. The Apocalypse was an Apocalypse. It wasn't necessarily their apocalypse. It took a few too many gyrations to connect it to Sam and Dean's fates as individuals and as a family.

This season's arc is entirely personal. It's all about: What price Sam's soul? What does it mean to be human? What values and beliefs will the brothers sacrifice to get his soul back? Should they even want it back, given its current status as Michael and Lucifer's chew toy?

All very gnarly dilemmas, all beautifully brought into play by the wonderful 'Caged Heat,' which was all mythology, all the time, It was surprising, dramatic, funny and expertly executed. Plus it had Castiel watching a porno. Does it get better than that? No, not much.

As I said, as a whole, Season 6 hasn't been afraid to methodically take apart the old 'Supernatural' formulas and question them or reconstitute them in new ways. What was impressive about 'Caged Heat' in particular was the way in which it blew apart a whole bunch of story threads that a lesser show would have milked for a much longer period of time.

Sure, it'll be sad not to see the snarktastic awesomeness of Crowley any more, but kudos to the show for not dragging out the "Winchesters working for the King of Hell" angle for an entire season. We got half a season of Crowley's delicious brand of evil, and the show cut bait before that got old.

So what happens to the plan for Crowley to snap up real estate in Purgatory? Does Purgatory become a battleground for Raphael and Castiel as the war in Heaven spreads? I've no idea what happens next in Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. Of course, we might be done with Purgatory for the season, and maybe the Alpha story line too. Though, as several of you have pointed out, there have been a few references to Dean's First Son status this season. That makes me think we're not quite done with the Alphas thread as yet.

Of course, the "Find Sam's Soul" story line is still around, but that whole venture is much more complicated now. Dean's the only one who isn't ambivalent about that quest at this stage, and I think Dean's probably far more doubtful about that goal than he pretends.

Oh, poor Dean. Come on, we have to go there. He has so much more self-awareness than he used to have, yet he's still not fully able to face reality, and maybe that one lingering shred of delusional hope is the only thing keeping him going. The irony is, Dean castigated Samuel for attempting to get his daughter back, not realizing that he (Dean) may well be making a similar mistake.

Dean has to believe that Sam getting his soul back will be a good thing, but why does he think that'll go any better than Samuel's attempt to get back Mary? It probably won't, but Dean has to believe in something. The brother he used to know is gone, his attempt at a normal life is over, he's spent weeks or months working for a demon he truly hates, and if he just gives up on Sam, then he's stuck with a soulless robot in the Metallicar beside him. No wonder he's desperate to avoid that grim fate. It's not just Sam's life he's trying to salvage, it's his own.

Dean is alone, and the war-weary Castiel isn't exactly much help. No wonder he has to make himself believe he can fix Sam. But can he? As Sam noted, when angels and demons agree that something can't be done, it's probably a lost cause. And of course it's easy to see the pathos of Sam's situation as well -- he's not fully human, and he's aware of his status as a freak, and he's unable to decide if the way he is is good enough or if it's just another form or hellish existence.

I didn't expect the season to go in this direction -- for 'Supernatural' to cast doubt on whether the heroes' quest is even a worthy one before we'd reached the halfway point in the season. I have no idea where things are going to go next, again, not because the writers are being arbitrary but because they're keeping things in flux in very intriguing ways.

From where I'm sitting, the quest for Sam's soul opens up a few possibilities, to wit:

1. They get Sam's soul back and Sam becomes evil, or insane or catatonic. Or something even worse happens to him.

2. They don't get Sam's soul back and Dean has to teach Replicant!Sam how to be a real boy.

3. They somehow find a way to fix Sam's soul, but there's a catch. This is 'Supernatural' -- there's always a catch. Maybe to save Sam's soul, Castiel will have to lose the war in Heaven once and for all. Or perhaps Cas will have to go downstairs and serve as den leader in Hell, now that Crowley's gone.

And those are just a few ideas off the top of my head. I'm sure much more twisted things are being bandied about in the 'Supernatural' writers' room.

If I have an ongoing quibble with the way episodes have been unfolding, they have tended to have a lot of information dumps during the last seven to 10 minutes, but that wasn't really a problem in Brett Matthews and Jenny Klein's script. The whole episode -- the dialogue, pacing, character moments and the overall momentum -- was very satisfying and enjoyable from beginning to end, and the Castiel vs. Crowley scene at the end was just the cherry on top.

Speaking of Castiel, Misha Collins did a great job of playing a nice range of different notes in the episode and Castiel was generally well used in 'Caged Heat.' (Having said that, the show often comes close to using Cas as a deus ex machina who solves all the problems with random bits of angelic magic. But given how little he's appeared this season, that hasn't been too much of an issue. Yet.). There was a war-weary air about Cas this time around. He looked so tired of battle that hanging with the Winchester almost seemed like a vacation for him.

The porn scene was of course a classic of Castiel comedy, and the way he used his newfound loverboy skills on Meg was hilarious ("I learned that from the pizza man"). Yet in his scene with Crowley, Cas was more decisive than we've ever seen him. He's clearly a battle-tested leader at this point. Given how driven Dean is, how pitiless Sam is and how powerful Cas is, Team Free Will is a pretty fearsome ensemble at this point.

It's too bad that we won't see more of Crowley and Cas together, but I certainly enjoyed Crowley's meta-comment about how scarce the angel has been of late ("Haven't seen you all season!"). And no doubt we'll see Meg again one of these days. One of the themes of the season appears to be unlikely alliances, and I'm sure we haven't seen the last of the Winchesters' strange and/or demonic bedfellows.

Not to mention unexpected enemies. We've seen the brothers in conflict before -- it's one of the cornerstones of the show, in fact -- but now there appears to be Winchesters vs. Campbells cage match brewing. I'm not sure what side Gwen would be on in that fight, but I hope to see her again too. She must be struggling with her part in the family business as well.

Just what is that family business these days? Ganking critters or doing business with them? Hunting demons or making alliances with them? Does the Winchester clan get to claim the moral high ground these days, or are they just one more family (human or otherwise) trying to get by while the powerful and greedy at the top of the flow chart battle it out?

I have no idea. I'm just really glad we get another new episode next week.

A few more notes about 'Caged Heat':

• Now that Crowley's gone, so is Samuel's hope of getting Mary back. Of course, we can't assume Crowley was ever going to fulfill his end of the bargain.

• All of Mark Sheppard's scenes were really good, but the opening scene of Crowley vs. Crowley was particularly tasty. I love that he had an actual baby monitor for the shifter nursery.

• Did I miss something? How did the brothers get untied after their confab with Meg in that abandoned house?

• Sam using the plot of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' to lure Castiel to their location? Golden.

• After seeing how easily Castiel could apparate into "Monster Gitmo," my husband dubbed him "'Supernatural's' Dobby."

• All the actors had so many good little moments and that's the kind of thing I love -- when a really meaty mythology episode delivers a lot of really satisfying character moments, big and small. One Sam moment I loved: When he said, in that Robo!Sam way, "No big. This is what friends do for each other." Totally sincere insincerity. Or maybe it's the other way around.

• I try to be attuned to gender issues when it comes to the shows I watch, but I must admit, the fact that Meg was naked in her torture scene was not something that I thought about much the first time I watched 'Caged Heat.' However after some people pointed out that gender concerns had become quite the topic in the comment area of the AV Club review written by Zack Handlen, I thought about that more the second time I watched the episode. It is somewhat disturbing that Meg was naked in that scene, given that I can't recall male demons or any males, for that matter, being unclothed in similar kinds of scenes. It almost seemed as it was an unconscious attempt to punish Meg for being such sexual creature. I certainly don't have the time and space to do a whole "gender in 'Supernatural'" discussion here, though that is certainly a worthy and complicated topic of discussion. Feel free to share your thoughts on that scene here, and I'll head over to the AV Club to check out Zack's thoughts and that discussion after I've posted this review.

• One last note: I've got my latest Swag for Charity auction going at the moment; all the proceeds from it go to help a medical charity in Haiti. I've got one 'Supernatural' item among the 15 items currently for sale. Thanks to the many 'SPN' fans who tweeted links to the auction, and if more of you feel moved to tweet or Facebook about it in the next week or so, that'd be fab and much appreciated. I'll be adding a new batch of really fun items to the auction every few days, so check back frequently. Thanks!

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Nitelady33-supernatural

Mo great review as usual. Not wanting to sound like a broken record again :)but everyone is this episode hit it out of the galaxy in the acting department.
No long comment this time. Hope Crowley isn't dead - he is just the best demon period. Loved Meg (Rachel Miner going fantastic job. The torture scene with Meg didn't bother me - it's just SPN. Cas and porn hilarious. AND I love season 6. It shows how everyone has matured and changed. Like real life no one stays the same.

December 10 2010 at 11:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LS

I didn't care too much for this episode. I'm sick of the brothers being puppets for demons. Allying with Meg, what?! The torture scene with her was beyond disgusting and I'm digusted with the writers for that. Maureen, I have to say that I am not enjoying how "creative" the writers are getting with the characters and by this I mean Sam and Dean. I'm am fatigued by the constant strife and dissonance between the two characters that I tune in weekly to see. It's wearing on me and just not much fun. It's one thing to develop characters but it's another to have them become completely different people...that's why I don't watch soap operas!

December 08 2010 at 11:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to LS's comment
Dontainique

I see your point. I want the brotherly bond back between the Winchester brothers with all my heart, but I think the maturing and changing of the characters is essential to the story. They are different people now than they were, but that's a really good thing. It's that they're older, more mature, and have more perspective now. They've seen and been through so much, it would be asking way too much of the fans for the boys not to have gone through some drastic changes. Think of how trite and unbelievable it would be if Dean were still the same guy now that he was in S1. He's lost his father, lost one of the only women he's ever loved, he's been tortured in Hell, he tortured people in Hell, watched his friends die, and averted the Apocalypse. All the while he's been fighting angels, demons, and monsters. Look at Sam too. It would be wholly unbelievable for him to be the same overly sensitive, doe-eyed kid that he was in S1. He's been through hell (literally). I think the growth and changes that Dean and Sam have endured are actually very well-developed and honest.

December 08 2010 at 9:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lune Rouge

I agree with you Dontainique. The changing of Sam and Dean's character is entirely justified. After five season, they are exactly how they are supposed to be after all what they have been through. Like Mo said in her review above "The writers and actors have made us more invested than ever in the Winchesters' plight by changing the ground rules on the brothers in ways that make a lot of sense."

December 09 2010 at 1:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lune Rouge

I hope it wasn't the end of Crowley. He is a very interesting character like Gabriel was. But if Crowley's gone for good, at least he is gone in a nice firework!

I also would like to see Bobby more often.

And what about Dean's amulet? Is it gone for good too?? Because it was an important symbol of the relationship between the two brothers. Why did the writers decide that it was not necessary anymore after 5 seasons?

December 08 2010 at 2:55 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
olaf78

Hey Mo
You absolutely nailed it in this review, I love how you articulated the way that SPN is re-inventing itself. I was excited to see all the major players assemble in this episode and then consequently break apart in another configuration at the end. I wish the mutilation of Sam's soul had been more gently integrated throughout the preceding episodes, it would have had more impact, but this was a strong episode and Jared Padalecki was very good in it.
On the issue of sexism (is that even the right term?) I can't stop thinking about it. Similar to you I was glossing over the treatment of Meg until the Avclub comments section.
Comments have been made about how alot of the women have been sassy and full of agency, thus powerful. I disagree - I think this idea of the hot, sassy, feisty semi-badass woman is an idea OF women rather than how women really are.
Charlie-Jane Anders on IO9 wrote a blog about the Buffy re-boot that asked for more female characters like Buffy to be on our screens. And, for me, that is the bench-mark. Very few of the female characters (Jo and Ellen excepted) on SPN have ever felt as well realised as Dean, Sam or Bobby. I know that they are the stars of the show but think on Chuck and how well he was drawn though he wasn't a regular.
And this isn't even talking about the torture porn and the use of the perjoratives (bitch, whore etc), because it makes me sad!
Anyways I love this show but I think that means I can see its flaws and speak about them, so here's to an awesome season and more Cas and less porn.

December 08 2010 at 12:15 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ebony

Your review is one of the best I have read about this season yet! I think you really have a good understanding about how this season is going and what the writers are trying to accomplish with the characters of the show. I know a lot of people have expressed discontent with this season so far, and sure every episode hasn't been the greatest, but, like you said, taken as a whole, this season is doing good.

December 07 2010 at 1:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Elena M

Rock on, Mo. Absolutely loved your thoughtful take on the season and some of the interesting questions being asked...

Interesting points made by Erika and Destro above... Sexualized violence against women is such a staple in horror, I think because it IS particularly horrifying to take someone who's already vulnerable and have that vulnerability be mercilessly exploited and used against them... Can't imagine anything worse, and so find those scenes genuinely frightening. I'm thinking back to "Skin" in season 1 for example. I guess I don't find the show to be misogynistic so much as highlighting the horror inherent in misogyny.

That being said I did cringe at Dean's comment to Cas at the end, but from a character standpoint, when I think about all the hell Meg put him through over the years (remember when she slashed Caleb's throat in Salvation?) she kinda had it coming... Still, that came pretty close to crossing a line for me.

Liked how Destro pointed out that the men don't entirely escape sexualized threats and violence either although scenes haven't carried quite the same sense of exploitation

December 07 2010 at 1:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dontainique

I just had this very random thought. What if Crowley was lying about not being able to pull Sam's soul out of the cage? What if he pulled it out and stashed it somewhere, but he told Sam that he couldn't get it out? What if Crowley intentionally got himself sent to Purgatory so he could find it and has some sort of spell that would allow him to come back. And when he does get back he's planning to take over Robo-Sam's body? I mean Sam is, for all intents and purposes, an empty vessel.

December 06 2010 at 3:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Grace

wow, GREAT review! I totally agree with you on the Season as a whole, I think the writers are doing a great job with it, even if certain little things bother me.

I actually think one of the most interesting parts of the episode was the full exchange between Sam and Castiel.With his interactions with Dean, you are aware that Cas is an angel and has strange personality traits, but he always seems tame, often cute, even when he's angry. But with Sam, especially Soulless!Sam, you really see the Castiel that's been around for thousands of years, the one that's fighting a war in heaven. like after Sam threatens to kill him and Cas just smirks and says 'Boy.' THAT was definitely alluding to scary angel-wrath for me.

i do hope we get at least a little more information on the war upstairs, and i'm excited to see which direction the writers take the Soul issue.

December 06 2010 at 2:31 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jtwonderdog

I guess for me the more overt the sexualized violence, like Meg's, the less offensive it is to me, actually, because it's textual, because it's being referenced and engaged with, versus this passive buying into "she's a woman, lets make this hot." Meg is calling out, textually, the rapeyness of the torture, and mocking Christian for thinking it could break her.

But I keep coming back to Gamble in season 4 pointing out that if Sam had slept with Ruby w/o a proper explanation for her vessel, it would make him a rapist, and she took steps to fix it in the actual story, not an explanation after the fact. She seems very (and refreshingly) aware of certain implications and actually making the sexual threat overt, rather than just a passive effect through camera work for titillation, Meg's treatment felt very much a subversion of the trope more than anything else.

That..and I think this episode might actually be playing up that idea that maybe Dean went through a similar experience in Hell, since he's the only one really cracking rape jokes, it comes off, to me, mostly as extreme defensiveness, especially in this episode the actual reference to Meg and Dean going to the Hogwarts of Torture together.

December 06 2010 at 1:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to jtwonderdog's comment
Nickie

Good point about Adam janet, I'd forgotten he was also in the cage! Why would Lucifer/Michael be taking it out of Sam's disembodied soul when they have a whole Adam to play with? Seems the characters have forgotten him too but I'm sure the writers haven't!

Am I the only one who is more interested in finding out more about the war of angels than I am about Sam and his soul? New Sam is interesting especially the superpowers he seems to have gained (what's the sleep thing about?) but all the SavingSoullessSam stuff is in danger of becoming a bit old if we don't start exploring some of the other threads soon. I like all the Winchester brothers family emotional stuff but now that Crowley's gone, at least for the time being, they really can't do anything about getting the soul until Cas works it out. And now Sam isn't even sure he wants his soul back after all I hope that means they'll start getting involved with the world outside the Winchesters again and let us see what's been going on!

December 06 2010 at 12:30 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Nickie's comment
jossgirl

You're definitely not the only one who's more interested in finding out about the war in heaven, Nickie. Or at least something more than that it isn't going well for Castiel. I'd really like to see Balthazar again soon. And heck, as long as we're talking wishes, I dearly wish the writers would find a way to bring back Gabriel.

As for why Lucifer & Michael aren't taking it out on Adam - maybe b/c Adam's soul is still in his body which is still a vessel for Michael? Or maybe that Michael is so powerful that he's burned away the vestiges of Adam's soul already? Remember that Sam had to drink a lot of demon blood in order to retain some semblance of "self" once he allowed Lucifer in. Or is everything pure soul, no body, once in Hell?

December 07 2010 at 2:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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