'Supernatural' Season 8, Episode 17 Review - Castiel is Back! (Again)

After a few weeks of side adventures involving witches and titans, Supernatural has once again returned to their ever-growing seasonal story. This time, the long-awaited return of Castiel (Misha Collins) return brings with it a few new challenges for Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) to face along the the way.

Fresh from his Heavenly training, Castiel joins Sam and Dean as they investigate the digging of some holes. After finding out that everyone is searching for Lucifer's crypts, which holds the angel tablet, Castiel is forced to betray those he calls family. But when the true gravity of the situation is revealed, only "Goodbye Stranger" by Supertramp can set things right in the eyes of an angel.

Even though fans of Supernatural have had much fun running around with the Winchesters as they help (or hurt) whatever ancient being needs it, it’s time to fully integrate the seasonal storyline into the newly energized show. Although there may have been a few missteps here and there, this episode has done much to elevate and refine many of season’s earlier elements, like Heaven’s involvement with Castiel.

When Castiel was first shown to have intermittent in-the-moment conversations with his celestial bosses, its implementation was more of an awkward annoyance than something required to tell a coherent and informative story. However, like with the series itself, Castiel’s phone-home abilities were reworked to create some truly great, suspenseful scenes that couldn’t really be replicated any other way. By switching out the twice-an-episode Heavenly conversation with a feverish game of telephone, Castiel’s actions, although simple, were accentuated even more with each quick trip above, elevating the suspense exponentially.

The Winchesters, too, received some well-deserved padding to their story and the challenges they now face. Dean, like always, takes center stage when a more nuanced delivery is needed in an episode, and this week’s episode wasn’t any different. However, when faced with having to deal with an uncontrollable Castiel, Ackles somehow managed to illicit the impossible from its longtime fans: fear.

With each blow to the head Dean took from his angelic friend, Supernatural's previous affinity of bringing characters back from the dead was all but forgotten, instead replaced with an emotion-filled scene of the caliber that one would expect from a series finale. Sure, Sam and Dean may be safe for right now, but this scene was just a quick reminder of the rich, emotional storytelling ability that this series possesses.

Of course, when Dean takes center stage, Sam must step into the background, and this episode is no exception. Hardly comparable to Dean's emotive performance, Sam did, however, manage to, well, manage some of the messier, unnecessary story elements in this episode, like Meg.

For all intents and purposes, Meg, in whatever form, serves as a constant reminder of past seasons, ever changing in her appearance (some more successful than other), though always appropriately positioned as one of the series' love-to-hate characters. This time, a more personal tale of Meg was intermixed with uncomfortable references to a sexual liaison with everyone's favorite angelic hero. That's not to say its use was off-putting; it's just that the further implications of such an act were largely glossed over in favor of a minimal comedic affect.

And much like Meg and Castiel, the new (now gone) Lucifer's crypt storyline was simply introduced, used and thrown away as quickly as the 42-minute episode time limit would allow. For what reason? Likely the necessity to "bring everyone together" in a single storyline. Still, considering the weight that Lucifer's name still holds with the series (which isn't easy), perhaps an alternative demonic name would have sufficed.

Still, Supernatural continues to rebuild itself from "the seasons that will not be named", so it's not too surprising that certain tricks were implemented to help with its transition. And even though some of the big picture ideas initially lose out to the more eccentric one-off episodes, the core story that's being told, once all the past seasonal sins are washed, will certainly be capable of carrying the show in to season 10.


Supernatural returns next Thursday with “Freak and Geeks” @9pm on CW. You can check out a preview below:

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