Castiel continues to struggle with the burdens that come with his new-fangled power. The broken wall in Sam’s head causes him to have hallucinations, and he has difficulty discerning what’s real and what’s not. Bobby worries that Dean is beginning to stumble under the weight of fighting Castiel and keeping an eye on Sam.
Supernatural airs Friday nights at 9:00 on the CW.
When you see the name Ben Edlund come up in the credits for an episode of Supernatural you can usually expect something special. In a worst case scenario, it’ll be surprisingly solid. In the best of times, you get a classic that hits all its marks, funny, scary, tragic, and timeless.
This episode, “Hello Cruel World” doesn’t lean very far toward the funny, instead giving us a fast and dirty immersion into both the new world of the Leviathans and Sam’s splintered noggin.
And sorry, folks. It looks like Castiel is gone for good. Now Misha Collins is still going to be around, but just when and how isn’t clear yet.
So first, the Leviathans. What do we know so far?
Well, Cas’ body wasn’t strong enough to hold them all, so he does a slow walk into an Idaho water reservoir and dissolves into an inky mass of tentacles. Sort of.
This lets them slip into the water supply, infecting people right and left in bursts of disturbing black spooge. Once inside, a Leviathan has access to its host’s memories, and as a group, they’re very organized. An unnamed leader has plans for this world that seem to mainly involve eating people.
It’s a slight variation on the Supernatural tradition with Demons inhabiting bodies and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little disappointed with that. I was really hoping for something a little more off the reservation with these new creatures.
There are all kinds of things that could be done with a real Lovecraftian angle that wouldn’t require lots of effects or money. But instead we get the same old same old.
I expected it, but I was hoping for something different.
At least when they show themselves, they’re pretty freaking disturbing.
Anyway, thanks to one Leviathan’s horrible TV watching habits (Dr. Sexy, M.D.) the monsters figure out that with the right people under their control, a hospital is essentially a Human Smorgasbord. So they hijack some hospital staff and before you know it people are disappearing from Sioux Falls General Hospital and Sheriff Mills (Kim Rhodes), whom we last saw in episode 6.04 “Weekend at Bobby’s”, just happens to be in for some minor surgery.
She quickly figures out that something is going on and calls Bobby (Jim Beaver) for help.
This brings us to the other plotline surging through this episode: Sam’s insanity and his hallucinations.
Since the wall in his head has been down, Sam (Jared Padalecki) has been seeing Lucifer (Mark Pellegrino) and having trouble figuring out whether he’s really in this world fighting evil, or if he’s still trapped in the Pit being tormented by the Devil. And it doesn’t matter that Dean (Jensen Ackles) keeps telling him that Lucifer isn’t real, because Lucifer is telling Sam that Dean isn’t real either.
Luckily this isn’t drawn out as long as I feared it would be. In fact, by the end of this episode Sam knows what’s real and what isn’t. That doesn’t mean Lucifer is gone, though.
This is a narrative conceit that I’ve enjoyed ever since Farscape used hallucinations of Scorpius (Wayne Pygram) to mess with Crichton (Ben Browder). It provides interesting opportunities for internal dialogues and opens the door for very disturbing revelations. Or the hallucinations can even become a help for the character rather than a hindrance.
There are loads of ways this could go, but if we know anything about the Winchester Boys, nothing is going to go easy.
Speaking of which, there’s a very interesting thing being done with the episode pacing this season. From the opening moments of last week’s premiere to the opening moments this week, we’re not pausing for breath. Unlike earlier seasons, where an episode typically signaled the end of that particular adventure and next week would pick up sometime later (except for the occasional cliffhanger ending, of course), we’re not getting that this time out.
And it looks like next week’s going to keep that ball rolling.
Which means that our boys aren’t getting any down time. At least not during the breaks between episodes. It creates a more frantic, intense mood, with each episode so far starting out in a bad, desperate place, then taking the course of the episode to work our way to another even worse, desperate place where we suddenly cut to the end credits.
This time, the episode ends with Sam (concussion) and Dean (broken leg) in an ambulance being rushed to Sioux Falls General and right into the arms of Leviathan. And the Leviathan bastard that nearly killed them is already healing and getting ready to come at them again.
This is after Bobby’s house has been burned down, Bobby is missing, and the boys had to drop a car on the bad guy to even slow him down.
And with no Castiel to back them up, things are looking pretty grim.
But that’s just how I like my Supernatural! Well, incredibly dark and hopeless or whimsically self-referential.
The description for next week’s episode doesn’t sound anything like what the preview showed and there’s no mention of escapades in a hospital, so we’ll have to see just how this cliffhanger wraps, but for now, color me impressed. Last season was a complete surprise and after two episodes in, I have pretty high hopes for what’s to come.
This was another solid episode as far as I’m concerned.
Let’s see how long they can keep it up.
Paul Brian McCoy is the writer of Mondo Marvel and a regular contributor to Shot for Shot. His first novel, The Unraveling: Damaged Inc. Book One is on sale now for Kindle and Nook, or can be sampled and/or purchased at Smashwords. He is unnaturally preoccupied with zombie films, Asian cult cinema, and sci-fi television. He can also be found babbling on Twitter at @PBMcCoy and blogging occasionally at Infernal Desire Machines.