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October 9, 2015

'Supernatural' Season 6, Episode 19 Recap

by Maureen Ryan, posted May 2nd 2011 11:30AM
['Supernatural' - 'Mommy Dearest']

Here's a thought exercise for you: What if 'Mommy Dearest' had aired in February or March?

If it had, we'd have almost half a season to explore the issues raised by Castiel's war in Heaven and how he's been using souls in that fight. We'd have half a season to tie that story line to the thread about Sam's soul. We might even have time for a return appearance from a fan favorite -- Death.

Don't get me wrong, I thought 'Mommy' was generally satisfying, nicely atmospheric and teed up some interesting things to come. And I was happy to see a couple of my suspicions confirmed. I'd thought we'd see Crowley again, but I never imagined he'd be in an alliance with Cas. That was a well-played surprise. And as I wrote last week, I thought the Mother plot was really just a diversion and that Cas would occupy center stage toward the end of the season. The fact that we get some more quality time with Crowley is a bonus.

All that being said, I find it a bit frustrating that we are going to delve into the Cas/Heaven story lines with just three hours left in the season (an episode will air May 6, then there's a 2-hour finale May 20). It's been hard to get invested in that war, because we've only been getting occasional reports about it.

But the structural issue with the season is bigger than a mere lack of Cas. Though I had some quibbles here and there, the fall run of episodes built up the suspense in several story lines remarkably well, and 'Caged Heat' and 'Appointment in Samarra' finished up the first half of the season very strongly. There was the sense that the season was inexorably building up to a series of interesting, intersecting conflicts.

Then, when the show returned, various story lines were all over the map and didn't seem to have a clear sense of direction. The Campbell story line petered out disappointingly, and though I enjoyed 'Frontierland' and 'The French Mistake' a lot, they were one-offs that didn't really add a ton of heft to the season-long arc. And during the second half of the season, we also had to endure 'Mannequin 3,' one of my least favorite episodes ever ('Like a Virgin' wasn't that great either).

Generally speaking, there wasn't a sense of overall momentum and the show's energy and direction were erratic after it returned in February, even if individual episodes worked on their own. And as I said, though 'Mommy' provided some chewy food for thought, I wished we'd gotten to this episode -- and to this sense of palpable investment in the high stakes for the characters -- sooner.

Part of the problem with this run of episodes was that the Mother was a misfire. Perhaps she'd have been more interesting if the actress who'd been cast in the role was interesting or even competent, but she wasn't. I generally hate to be this hard on actors, but it has to be said -- Julia Maxwell was just terrible as the Mother. She had no presence and her line readings were wooden, at best. The terrible performance and the uninspired writing of this standard-issue character were a pretty deadly combination.

I am vastly relieved that the producers brought in Samantha Smith to do the heavy lifting in the Mother's diner scene with the Winchesters. If Maxwell had tried to deliver all that material, I might well have done and Elvis and shot my television.

Not surprisingly, Smith did really well in her big exposition scene (Oh, if only she'd played the Mother all season. Ah well.) All the same, that part of the episode felt a little rushed. It had to lay out a lot of information about souls that 'Supernatural' has never explicitly explained before (to my recollection, anyway), and it could have done a slightly better job on that front.

I consider myself a fairly devoted fan of the show, but I was unclear on what, exactly, happens to some souls within the universe of 'Supernatural,' so I could have used more clarity about where certain souls go, who gets them and why. I think the show was assuming more knowledge about this topic than I personally have. (And not to beat a dead horse, but there's that structural issue again. What if, prior to 'Mommy,' we'd gotten a refresher course on where souls go when critters turn civilians? That would have been nice. We did get intimations that Cas was doing bad things with souls but more info on the mechanics and properties of souls would have been helpful.)

Here's what I understand about souls at this point, based on what the Mother said and on assumptions I've made as I've watched the show over six seasons: If a human is taken over by a demon, that person's mind and soul remain inside the body but are trapped and essentially held hostage by the demon. But if a human is turned by the kind of creatures created by the Mother, those human souls are expelled from their bodies -- and those souls revert to the Mother. Maybe?

I may have that wrong -- feel free to share theories and information in comments. But what she said and things that transpired in the episode raised a whole host of questions for me. Here are my 'Mommy'-related queries:

• What does the Mother do with the souls she collects? Presumably she has received millions of them over the years.

• If Crowley is taking souls that "belong" to the mother on behalf of Cas, what will happen to the souls once they aren't being taken by Crowley or Cas any more? Theoretically, would they go to Heaven? Now that the Mother's gone, what would happen to them if they were no longer being diverted?

• Is that the normal process for humans who've never been turned -- that their souls just go to Heaven? Is that still happening for most humans who die? Or...

• Does Cas have to harvest some souls to power his war machine because Raphael's side is using all the "normal" souls that are arriving in Heaven? Hmmm. I wonder if that's what we'll learn in next week's episode, which I'm quite anxious to see, given that it was written and directed by Ben Edlund. (Feel free to speculate about this, but in comments, PLEASE don't share any spoilers about the episode. The general rule here is, speculation is fine, spoilers are not.)

• So the Mother is powerful and ancient -- and had access to a huge energy source, i.e., millions of souls -- yet phoenix ash still killed her? I wonder if she is really dead. In a way, I hope so, because I don't want to see that actress on the show again. But having said that, what a letdown. The character not only didn't really work, her arrival never created any palpable tension, at least not for me. She turned up, her worm minion issued some boilerplate threats, she finally encountered the Winchesters, then blammo, she's dead. As Big Bads go, she was just Bad. Not so much with the Big.

• Haven't souls been valuable forever? Why haven't they been stolen or harvested for nefarious purposes before? Is it only possible now because of the chaos in Heaven? Is it only possible with the help or complicity of angels?

• So why did Crowley need to come to the diner to help Cas? Why were he and Cas there? If all the possessed types were dead, what was the point of that? Perhaps they both needed to "clean up" the entire town, not just the diner. In any event, it was great to see Crowley. Very few shows have the guts to truly kill off a Mark Sheppard character once and for all, and it's easy to see why.

• Now that they're besties, have Cas and Crowley kissed? Excitement! There could be a whole love triangle as we head into the final stretch of the season.

In all seriousness, I got a season 2 or season 3 vibe from 'Mommy,' and I mean that in a good way. It reminded me of 'Jus in Bello,' possibly because it was partly set in a police station in a strangely off small town. And the investigation of the 'Jefferson Starships' was well orchestrated, and I especially loved the final scene -- the mood and the feel of it.

Despite his limited screen time, Misha Collins has done a terrific job of showing us a new Cas this season -- a man who has had to do so many terrible things that they hardly seem terrible any more. Castiel came down to Earth a few years ago not knowing much about human beings, and he learned to admire the compassion and loyalty that they are capable of. The look on his face as he's done various unpleasant things -- such as torture that Mother minion in the police station -- shows that he's nearly lost touch with the human qualities he'd learned to appreciate and cultivate.

As he looked around the diner, there was a real sense of tragedy about Cas, a mood perfectly defined by the mournful song (by Jefferson Starship, no less! A beautifully hilarious and appropriate touch). That scene, and the episode as a whole, had a driving feeling of tension and stakes, and also a bittersweet sense of what the characters have had to give up in order to "survive," if you can call it that. Hence the season 2 or 3 vibe.

The Mother did have one pretty great trick up her sleeve -- using Ryan as the test case for her new super-virus was a brilliant move. If you want the Winchesters' judgment to go wobbly, using a lost pair of brothers is the way to go. Unlike Cas, there are some things the Winchesters just can't do -- they just couldn't let those brothers die. But if they become as relentless and as hard as Cas, what will they give up? Is having a weak spot or two all that separates them from the demonic hordes?

Right now, the scariest person in the Winchesters' world is a man who's supposed to be one of their best (and only) friends, and that's one hell of a moral and personal dilemma. If 'Mommy' was supposed to get me excited about 'The Man Who Would Be King,' it did that well. On to next week.

A few final observations and favorite lines:

• "Cas, get out of my ass!"

• "Now it just looks like you're pooping."

• "Jefferson Starship. Because they're horrible and hard to kill."

• The Winchesters as well as Bobby and Cas hunting together is a pretty great combination. If the show featured those four every week, that would be pretty sweet.

• Normally Cas complains about having to help out the Winchesters, but this week we didn't get any of the "But I have a war to fight!" resistance. He knew he needed to eliminate the Mother -- or help in that effort -- so that the boys wouldn't find out about his alliance with Crowley.

• Now Dean will have to deal with not only Sam's soul-wall problem (which we haven't heard a peep about lately) but with Cas' betrayal. So many funtimes ahead for the Winchesters.

• "You know what whines? Babies whine." I love that they still made time for some good Dean-Cas comedy in the episode.

• I'm so, so glad that Mark Sheppard's names weren't in the opening credits. I really didn't know he was going to turn up (I've been trying to avoid spoilers for the last part of the season, so I don't know if rumors of his appearance had been circulating). Anyway, the show did a pretty excellent job of preserving that surprise.

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'Supernatural' airs 9PM ET on the CW.

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Victoria Masina

Julia MaxweIl - from the moment she first appeared as EVE in the last few seconds of the Virgin episode (saying her line in such a cheesy way) I felt embarrassed for her. And I was sad. I hoped for a really great, bad-ass mother of all. A role only an excellent actress could've performed. (I, too, was so relieved to see Samantha Smith taking over, LOL) Anyway, I shouldn’t take it out on Maxwell, of course she'll take the role if offered. This is such a miscast that I wonder who’s fault it is... The casting department? Or one of the producers? Who got her in and WHY? They can't have really thought "oh, she's good for the role" unless they were possessed by demons and forced to cast her...

March 15 2012 at 4:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Space comments Mommy Dearest

Good episode overall, finally we got some answers. The big bad “Mother of all” who appeared for most of the season smeed to be the main baddy but now it would appear she was just a decoy for the main story. This is the first time I think the casting got this role wrong. Both the actor and the writers did a poor job making this so called big threat scary, dangerous not not all that powerful. When she took the appearance of Mary only then did she become a real threat due to Samantha Smith’s fine performance. Clever idea Dean ingesting the ashes (with whiskey so typical of Dean) and therefore killing Eve when she bit Dean ‘s neck (I’d volunteer any time to do that hehe)
I knew Crowley was coming back due to spoilers I meant to miss, just didn’t know when or how he would reappear. Fortunately the way the writers did it was a surprise thanks writers.
Cas is sure showing a very different side then we’ve been used to. I keep thinking that we just might get an answer as to why Cas let Sam out of the panic room in “When the Levee Breaks”. Wonder if Dean is going to find out about that. It would sure shake Dean’s foundation.
Sam and Bobby are having doubts about Cas’s behavior but when Dean and us find out Crowley is working for Cas and exactly what Cas Cas been doing or become Dean’s confidence and his world will be shattered.
Best part of this episode Dean, Sam, Castiel and Bobby all working together. Four fantastic actors in an episode. NOTE: writers do it again.
The rest of the few episodes left are going to be one hell of a ride.Thank goodness there is a Season 7.

May 05 2011 at 11:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Thanks for your thoughts, Mo. I've never felt that the writing of the storytelling on this show was all that great. I'd describe it as inconsistent, at best, and I'd like to add two questions to your list of things I'd like to see answered in the next three episodes-all the while thinking that it's likely we'll never get answers to some of these things if we're going by the past history of the writing on this show-that being said, I'm wondering, for what reason was Dean pulled back into the hunting world by a SoullessSam who we've been shown feels that "Family only holds you back."? And in The Third Man why would SoullessSam not allow Dean to torch the bones of the demon Crowley stating "A deal is a deal." as his reasoning when we now know that he WAS soulless at the time and that "honoring a deal" for honor's sake would hardly have been his true reasoning. These two things have been bugging me since we learned that Sam was soulless from the beginning of the season, and I'm hoping for answers to at least these two questions in the next three episodes.
I also agree with your thoughts on the myth-arc being a mess with not enough attention paid to the War in Heaven. That being said, I've enjoyed the last three episodes as much as I enjoyed the first 6, when I still felt there was promise for this season. Hopefully they can finish strong with the type of balance in character focus that the last three have given us and it will continue into S7. I've loved Dean, Sam, Bobby, and Cas working together and I've especially loved the return of SuperSmart and Best Demon Hunter on the Planet Dean. IMO, characterization has been the strongest part of the writing of this show and when they get that right, the weaknesses I see in the other aspects fade. So I'm glad to see that they're at least getting back on track with that aspect of the writing.

May 04 2011 at 9:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's too bad that they used up the name 'Lilith' on the generic she-demon from the earlier seasons, because that's who 'Eve' is - Lilith, the mother of all monsters from Jewish folklore, the original wife of Adam who was rejected by him because she wouldn't submit. Funny, how they went with that other wife's name.

Now I know what Mark Sheppard was talking about when he was good-naturedly kvetching, at the last convention I heard him speak, about how not only is he never a series regular, but he can't even have his name in the credits sometimes because it would reveal too much about the episode.

May 03 2011 at 1:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Mo, wanted to say really love your recaps, this is the first season i can see '" live" (im from the Netherlands) so it is nice to read what other people think.

I think that Cas and Crowley wanted the Mother out of Purgatory because if the find Purgatory, it is much easier to take control over the souls with here not being there. I presume the souls are very powerful because these are the souls of powerful beings i.e. the creations/children of the mother who had special powers when there were topside. Didn't she say that one of the reasons she was mad, was because they were stealing souls that belonged to here and tha's whyt she wanted to go topside. To make al humans in monsters so that there souls go to Purgatory.

May 03 2011 at 11:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

please someone tell me if they have problems with the broadcast- end of show when playing miracles- the broadcast went to a promo for a news station- just wondering because i love this show- but so frustrarting that i miss parts of it

May 03 2011 at 10:44 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Just a small clarification, I don't think the actress who plays the mother is a bad actress, it's just that she doesn't fit in this particular role. Maybe it's because she is too young (the actress), an ancient spirit in a youthful body would be visible one way or another, at least in her eyes.

May 03 2011 at 6:45 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

But did the Mother really die, or was her spirit "just" sent back to Purgatory. Because the lore was that the ashes of the Phoenix would burn the Mother not kill here.

May 03 2011 at 3:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Bancapup's comment

The thing is, when she rose from purgatory she was already dead so the ashes did kill her again, but whats the point if Dragons can open purgatory and release her again. Also all angels and demons go there, so purgatory is huge place which is way worse than hell(IMO).

May 03 2011 at 6:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I thought about that too! The lore specifically said "burn" and none of the characters said, "Oh, she's dead now." Wonder if she's not dead.

May 03 2011 at 10:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I never thought that I'd be wishing that the Mother didn't die, that just her meat suit died, and her spirit went back to Purgatory. The Mother was a boring villian, but it was too weird that she died so easily.

Loved your review Mo. But, I had trouble seeing the comedy in "You know who whines Cas - babies" or "Get out of my ass Cas". A bit crude for me. But, I'm choosing to see it as showing us Dean character development. Dean is uncomfortable with his relationship with Cas, how to catagorize it. Dean didn't like Bobby/Sam assuming that Cas always comes to Dean's call

May 03 2011 at 1:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I'm so glad to hear that there will be a season seven. I love this show!!

Good review Mo, thank you. I agree with you for most of your comments, specially about the actress who play the “Mother of all”, she looks mean but without the charisma like usually the big-bad-evil people have in Supernatural. I also think that it was much much better with the scene played by Samantha Smith.
But overall «Mommy Dearest» made me so happy!!

Because :

(I was really disappointed when he have been killed by Castiel).

– Dean, so bossy, so committed and so funny in the same time (also a great strategist, very smart). This is the Dean I love!
"You don't let Sam and Dean Winchester do squat. They do what they gotta.".

– The scene with the two children in the backseat of the Impala, we can read everything in Sam's eyes, a very touching moment.

– Bobby was there.

– And Castiel......with Crowley, big surprise !!

I always very carefully avoid all kind of spoilers this is why, for me, this episode was full of surprises. I really enjoyed it.

May 02 2011 at 9:29 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

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