Firefox News -- Firefox.org - http://firefox.org/news
Supernatural Review: 4.22, Lucifer Rising: Cheeseburgers in Paradise.
http://firefox.org/news/articles/2808/1/Supernatural-Review-422-Lucifer-Rising-Cheeseburgers-in-Paradise/Page1.html
Tracy Morris
Tracy S. Morris is the author of the award-winning Tranquility series of Southern paranormal humor mysteries. <br> http://www.yarddogpress.com/allen&.htm <br> Morris's story <i> Fish Story </i> will appear in the Baen anthology <i> Strip Mauled</i> <br> <br> Her new novel<i> Bride of Tranquility</i> Is available now from Yard Dog Press.<br> Her website is http://www.tracysmorris.com/  
By Tracy Morris
Published on 05/18/2009
 
Let me start off by saying that I went into the show thinking that Kripke, Sera and the rest of the creators had been violating the rules of their own universe.  By the end of the episode, I’ve been convinced that not only have they stuck to their own rules, but they managed to throw a few curves this season thanks to some brilliant misdirection.  Well played, Kripke.

Episode good, but not surprising.
Let me start off by saying that I went into the show thinking that Kripke, Sera and the rest of the creators had been violating the rules of their own universe.  By the end of the episode, I’ve been convinced that not only have they stuck to their own rules, but they managed to throw a few curves this season thanks to some brilliant misdirection.  Well played, Kripke.

As has been par for the four seasons of Supernatural, this season finale begins with a montage set to Kansas’s Carry on My Wayward Son.  This has been a Supernatural tradition that the fans look forward to almost more than anything else on the show.  I think if Kripke ever did away with this, the fans might be out for blood.

And speaking of blood, immediately following the flashbacks we get another flashback.  This one to a convent circa 1972 somewhere in Maryland, where a demon possesses a priest.  The next morning, we’re treated to a kind of a fun little sermon where the demon calls the convent a nun factory and mentions the fact that his dad is sealed under the ground that the convent is built on.  Then the priest’s eyes flash yellow. 

It’s Azazel – which kind of explains why the sermon of evil was so entertaining. 

Azazel slaughters the eight nuns and manages to get his daddy on the line.  Turns out that Azazel is the son of Lucifer, and in order to get free, Lucifer needs Lillith to break the 66 seals.  But first, to get Lilith free, Azazel needs to find a special child. 

Pay attention to that wording.  It’s going to be important later.

In some abandoned house somewhere Sam angsts over his fight with Dean to Ruby.  Ruby tries to console him with the idea that the brothers can reconcile after Sam ends Lilith and the threat she posed.  But Sam doesn’t think he’ll survive the end. 

Back at Bobby’s house, Dean is going through similar manly pain.  Bobby suggests that Dean give Sam a call, but Dean refuses.  After all, didn’t he say the exact things to Sam that his dad did?  Which prompts Bobby to unleash his awesome powers of smackdown.  He tells Dean that he’s a better man John, and that he can make things right with Sam when John wouldn’t.

Sam and Ruby track down one of Lilith’s minions – a baby sealing demon that Ruby says is ‘Lilith’s personal chef.’ 

Ew. 

They take her back to their abandoned shack and torture Lilith’s location out of her.  Ruby tells Sam that they need to keep the demon alive so that Sam can feed on her blood.  Which prompts the demon to let the human host back into the driver’s seat and force Sam to confront what he’s about to do: take the life of an innocent human.

Zacheriah should know better than to appeal to Dean's baser needs when he is worried about Sam.
Before Dean can patch things up with Sam, he’s taken to something that looks like an upscale funeral parlor: White walls, stained glass and medieval religious paintings, gold trim.  And on the table is an iced bucket of El Sol, and a plate full of cheeseburgers.  (Nice continuity, Kripke!)

Immediately,  Castiel and Zacheriah appear.  Dean snarks about The Secret Life of Zach and Cas.  (There have been a lot of Disney references this season.  Does someone on the writer's staff have a nine year old?)  Zacheriah tells Dean that he’s in heaven’s green room.  They’ve put him there for his protection so that he’ll be ready for his big showdown.  But in the background, Castiel looks constipated, and Zacheriah’s coming across like a used car salesman.  Dean’s BS detector goes haywire, but he lets it lie for the moment. Instead, as soon as he’s alone, Dean calls Sam to apologize.

Sam and Ruby put the girl in the trunk, and drive to Maryland like the Gecko brothers in From Dusk Till Dawn.  I’m thinking it would be cool if Harvey Keitel showed up in this episode.  Alas, it’s not to be.  Instead Sam notices that Dean has sent him a voice mail, and he moons over it like a 12 year old girl until Ruby heckles him into listening to it.

But when Sam listens, it’s not the message Dean sent.  Instead, it’s Dean’s voice calling Sam a freak and telling him that he’s going to hunt him down, since he couldn’t save him.  Dean’s (false) words goad Sam into ordering Ruby to kill the nurse so that he can drink her blood.

Back in heaven’s waiting room, Dean tries to call Sam again, but he can’t get any reception.  Castiel shows up and says that Dean is in a no service area, which is a nice shoutout to this comic.  

Dean confronts both Castiel and Zachariah and gets the whole story this time.  Dean isn’t going to stop Lilith.  The angels are setting him up to take down Lucifer.  The angels want the apocalypse to come, because they like their chances.  And once Lucifer is taken out, there will be peace on earth.

Of course, this is their own plan.  No one knows where God is. 

Castiel, however, is conflicted.  He returns again and yanks Dean out of his heavenly prison to see the prophet, Chuck.  There they find out where Sam is going.  Castiel sends Dean to the convent and stays behind to hold off the archangels who are in hot pursuit.

Sam and Ruby get to the convent and dispatch Lilith’s minions.  Before Dean can stop him, he also destroys Lilith.  Then Ruby does the big reveal thing by taunting Sam.  Turns out that she was the celebrity mole all the time.  You folks at home raise your hands if you’re surprised.  Also?  Sam had the power in him the whole time.  He didn’t need the demon blood.  But she made him think he did so that he would drink his becoming-demonic potion like a good boy.     

Sam and Dean kill Ruby, but before they get away, a portal opens.  And that’s the end of the season. 

I’m not really too surprised about the season ending.  The big bad got free, giving the boys something to fight against next year.  Ruby turned out to be evil, and the angels aren’t really on the level either.

What’s got my mind boggling is the level of planning that went into this moment.
From the beginning, we’ve only known what Sam and Dean know.  But the creators have had Azaziel’s complex plan thoroughly plotted out.

Step one: Find two children. 

Step two: open the pit, get Lilith out.

Step three: Get child #1 to break the first seal.

Step four: get child #2 to break the last seal.

We’ve thought since season two, with the demonic game of Survivor that Azaziel was interested in Sam.  After all, he needed someone to open the Hell Gate, lead the demons and break the last seal.  But I don’t think for a minute that Azaziel didn’t have a plan for Dean. 

Dean and Sam were like bookends in the seal-breaking plan.  He needed the righteous man to break the first seal.  Maybe, if everything went his way and both Sam and Dean went demonic, Azaziel figured he was getting a two-for-one special.

But what floors me is that by putting emphasis on how much the demons wanted Sam, they caused us to lose sight of how much the demons wanted Dean.  Every time there was a move for Dean’s soul, it was framed as a demon deal.  We didn’t see it as demons after Dean the way we saw demons after Sam.  Instead we saw Dean offering his soul up on a silver platter. 

And – getting back to the subject of Sam and why I thought that Kripke was violating his own rules.  Throughout this season, I’ve wondered why Sam needed demon blood.  The very first scene of the very first episode showed Sam moving the mobile in his crib with his mind before the demon gave him blood to drink. That point kind of got swept under the rug with demonic flashbacks and Sam moaning about how demon blood made him a freak. 

So having Lucifer say to Azaziel that they needed to find a special child and later having Ruby snark about Dumbo and magic feathers was a nice bit of confirmation for me that Sam was already psychic.  The demon blood was just the demon’s way of turning Sam demonic.   (Demons lie.  This was established in season 1.)

Finally, it’s good to see at the end of the episode that Sam and Dean are standing together, clutching each other as they face down the end.  Kripke has said that the show is about Sam and Dean’s relationship at its core.  So when you strip away the angels, the demons and the deception, you still have Sam and Dean standing shoulder to shoulder against whatever is coming.

My impression about this season, and the series overall, could be summed up in trite platitudes about roads to hell, good intentions, straight and narrow vs. wide and winding.  But I think that when you boil it right down to the essentials, Supernatural’s theme is the same as many other ‘hero’s Journey’ stories: what is right and what is easy are not the same.

What is easy vs. what is right.
Sam has been consistent throughout the series in choosing the path that is easy. Pre-season, he would rather go to college, be normal and not hunt because it is easier.  In Seasons 1 and 2 he would rather hunt down the creature that killed Jess than adapt his normal life to what it would be without her. 

Seasons three and four for Sam are about how killing Lillth right away is the easiest way to end things.  Because Sam still doesn’t want to live with the results of a life of hunting.  He dosen’t want to be old and alone like Rufus.  Add to that the season four mentality that “Dean is weak.”  Although prophecy foretold that Dean would end things, Sam would rather do it himself because it was easier to kill Lilith than to get Dean to the point in his resolve that he could end things. 

Conversely, Dean has been shown to take the path of what is right even when it flies in the face of his own safety, comfort or happiness.  In What Is and What Should Never Be from season 2, Dean chooses to return to his world rather than live in a fantasy world and let a monster win.  In season 3’s Jus in Bello, Dean was determined to fight to the end, rather than let Ruby sacrifice a virgin to destroy all the demons in the area (while Sam was all in favor of the Virgin sacrifice).

So where does that leave us next season?  Lucifer is free, and Dean has to stop him.  God is missing.  And Sam is a full-on-black-eyed demon.   One who willingly killed a woman when he could have exorcized the demon out of her and set her free.

One thing is for certain, there has to be some kind of reckoning for Sam.  Before he can be restored to hero status, he will have to pay some kind of penance for what he’s done.  He will have to learn the difference between right and easy.  And he will have to learn to choose right.  Right now we as an audience may like him as a person, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s willingly done evil things in the name of good.  That’s going to have to be dealt with. 

I’m looking forward to next season, no matter what happens.  Bring it.