Supernatural Season Eight Episode Twenty-Three “Sacrifice” TV REVIEW
Writer: Jeremy Carver
Director: Phil Sgriccia
THE ONE WHERE Sam must save Crowley to pass the third trial, Metatron reveals his true colours and the angels lose their wings.
VERDICT Excuse me for a second, I need to get something off my chest… OMFG HOW AWESOME WAS THAT? Ahem, apologies.
From year dot Supernatural has been a show which knows how to end a season (even seasons six and seven had cracking cliffhangers), but the sight of heaven’s divine army falling from the sky in an awe-inspiring light show not only ranks as one of its best cliffhangers, but one of its best moments to date; with especially superb effects, music and direction. What might it mean for the future? Supernatural couldn’t have continued as the show it is now with the gates of hell closed, but with humanity’s only substantial protection against the underworld presumably powerless and wandering the earth, could the apocalyptic future envisaged in “The End” (5.04) finally come to pass? Whatever happens, I've every confidence in Supernatural ’s revitalised writer’s room.
And how could I not be confident? For the best part of the season, the arc has been singularly motivated by the quest to close the gates of hell, but in the final few minutes the rug is pulled from beneath our feet and the exact opposite unfolds – hell stays open for business and the angels are booted out of the clouds. It’s a wonderfully satisfying conclusion to the season arc, and the best kind of twist – one that plays on the momentum which has been building all year. In any other episode the fact Castiel had been stripped of his grace would be headline news, but here it simply feels like part of a bigger picture.
Cliffhanger aside, it’s still a corker of an episode, one more than worthy of the five stars which have just eluded it all season. From the unbearably uncomfortable opening scene, where Crowley takes Sheriff Mills (yay!) on a date destined for disaster, it’s an episode which barely puts a foot wrong. Mark Sheppard is on particularly fine form as the King of Hell, spitting out vitriolic one-liners at every given opportunity, performing a spot of Bowie karaoke, professing his love for HBO and, in his finest scene, finally facing up to the prospect of life with a soul.Crowley has always struck me as something of an opportunist. A man playing at being the devil. So while it’s jarring to see him portrayed as weak after such a long time on top, that’s exactly why it’s such a captivating character beat.
As if that wasn’t enough, Sam and Dean have a heart to heart engineered to leave everyone watching a sobbing mess. Seriously, if you didn’t fall apart at the line “Don't you dare think that there is anything, past or present, that I would put in front of you!” there’s a good chance you have no soul too. The performances and Carver’s script are unwaveringly strong across the board, but in this scene they’re both achingly perfect. The fact that this moment comes at the expense of a goal the brothers have been pursuing all season only serves to make it more powerful.
There’s so much to love: Abaddon’s fun (albeit brief) appearance, the cupid moment, Marv turning the tables on Naomi, the Batcave springing into life when the angels start to fall, Castiel telling Kevin the hard truth… But if there’s one thing to take away from this episode, and season eight, it’s that Supernatural is currently as good as it’s ever been. Carry on, Wayward Sons.
SPECULATION After Crowley’s emotional breakthrough could he be on Team Winchester next season in a fight against Abaddon in her new meatsuit? And given that Kevin still has the angel tablet, will he remain public enemy number one? And now that the entire world has seen angels falling out of the sky will the clandestine war become a very public one? And will Cas ever become an angel again? SO MANY QUESTIONS.
FEATURED MUSIC "Baby Got Back" Sir Mix-A-Lot is Crowley’s ringtone, "Nice to Be with You" by Gallery is playing in the bar when cupid arrives, "Changes" by David Bowie is sung by Crowley while tormenting Sam and, of course, "Carry On Wayward Son" by Kansas plays during the opening recap montage.
“Whoa - talk first, stab later.”
SAM’S EXPRESSION OF THE WEEK
META-MADNESS Season eight has been pleasingly free of the bizarre, meta dialogue which seems to slip in every once in a while, until this moment of fourth wall breaking insanity:
Castiel: “Do you really think it’s wise to be drinking on the job?”
Dean: “What show you been watching?”
CONTINUITY Before meeting with Crowley in Bobby’s junkyard the brother’s pause while looking at his 1971 Chevelle, which has been left to rust since his death. *sniff*
CONTINUITY 2 Crowley uses Sam’s blood to create a makeshift Goblet of Blood, used by supernatural creatures as a communication device since season one.
REFERENCE When Metatron says "Of the blessings set before you make your choice, and be content" he is quoting Samuel Johnson.
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT’S DUE Speaking of which, thanks to the Supernatural Wiki – an endlessly useful source of information for the trivia at the end of these reviews.
So many this week I couldn't decide so here are two favourites:
Dean : “Metatron lied. If you finish this trial, you're dead Sam.”
Sam : “So?”
Crowley : “Hello, boys. What's that old expression? Success has many fathers. Failure is aWinchester. Where's the stone?”
Dean: “You show us yours, and we'll show you ours.”
Crowley : “Really, Dean? I'm trying to conduct a professional negotiation here, and you want to talk dangly bits?”