A couple months back I posted about my nerdy trip to Vancouver and visiting the set of Supernatural, and how excited I was because the episode took place in my hometown of Madison, WI. Well, last week’s episode “The Big Empty” was the episode I saw filmed. Needless to say, I annoyed my husband to no end while watching, but let’s get into “The Big Empty!”
We start off as any other episode of Supernatural does, with a guy getting killed by his dead wife, and pretty much dive in straight from there. The Monster of the Week bit of this episode wasn’t especially compelling, but I really enjoyed a lot of the character-driven points. After the dead-wife murder, we see the boys back at the bunker, Dean is researching the murder we just saw, and when he says he’s going to head out and work the case, Sam suggests that they bring Jack (who is full-on teenager now, sitting in his room with his headphones on) along, so he has a chance to see the world and not become a weirdo hermit like them (okay those are my words). Dean tries to kibosh it, because all Dean can do when it comes to Jack is say “fuck no” with fewer and fewer legitimate concerns. We get that you’re sad, Dean, but shit, it’s hard to like you right now. Dean says he doesn’t want Jack to go “out there” because who knows what he’ll do, only to have Jack say “no thanks” after Dean is finally convinced. Sam is in full blown mediator mom mode now. Jack is feeling a bit salty ever since overhearing Dean accuse Sam of using Jack for his own means. Sam reassures our Teenage Mutant Ninja Nephilim that even though he hopes Jack can help free Mary, Sam cares about him either way, and Jack agrees to come along.
Once in Madison, and exasperated Dean and an exasperated-but-at-Dean-for-being-an-asshole Sam start to teach Jack the ways of hunting: mostly what kind of monsters are what, and how sometimes lying isn’t so bad. I gotta say, I completely understand why Jack’s moral compass may be a bit… off, since so much of what the WInchesters do falls in the grey area of morality. Yes they lie and steal, but it’s (mostly) in the name of a greater good. The moral code of the boys is murky at best, but usually intentions and family loyalty win out over common sense, and I can see how that would be confusing for someone new to existence, or just new to the boys. Anyway, Dean orders Jack to stay in the car while he and Sam talk to a witness, but Jack instead goes into the victim’s home to help look for clues. Jack has reminded me of his chosen father so often this season, and never is it more apparent than this week. He just wants to help, but isn’t sure how, though his intentions are good. I want to hug Jack, especially after Douchebag Dean comes in to brush off all of Jack’s attempts. There is no EMF reading, leading the boys to believe the killer isn’t a ghost but a revenant, so off the the cemetery they go. Once there, Dean does let Jack help with the digging (meaning he makes Jack to it all while he sips a beer, because he’s just that big of an dickhead these days), and Sam rightfully calls him out by saying Dean is behaving just like their dad which, newsflash, isn’t a good thing. Dean may have been “happy” taking orders, but Sam and Jack are not the same people that Dean was. Once the grave is dug and there is a body to be found, everyone is confused. The killer can’t be a revenant if there’s a body, but they can’t be a ghost without EMF. Dean says “fuck it” and burns the body, anyway, since nothing makes any damn sense, anyway.
While all this grave-digging and body burning is going on, a woman gets a flat tire on the side of the road on her way from Waunakee, and while on the phone with roadside assistance, gets killed by her son, who died in 1996. Fun fact: I saw this being filmed and took a normal amount of pictures by the Waunakee road sign, since I live 15 minutes away from the only Waunakee in the world (it’s on their signs and everything).
Anyway! The next day the boys check out the crime scene (no EMF) and then head to the police station to see if there are any connections between the victims. Sam finds out they had the same therapist and both wrote in grief journals. Since confidentiality laws would impede the hunt if they were FBI agents, they decide to see Dr Mia Vallens as brothers grieving the loss of their mother.
Finally the Winchesters make a visit I think they’ve needed for a long ass time: Family therapy! Dean starts out by being a blasé jerk about the whole thing, whereas Sam seems to actually try and take the opportunity to talk to his brother about their shared grief. Poking around trying to figure out what the good doctor is up to is an added bonus. Sam tells Dr Vallens that he doesn’t think Dean has accepted and processed their mother’s death, to which Dean snaps to attention, accusing Sam of being unable to even admit that she’s dead in the first place. This pisses Sam off and he says that it’s unfair that Dean expects him to just accept that he will never have a relationship with his mother (like Dean had), and storms out. It’s a real breakthrough. Once in the lobby, Sam gets a drink and notices, quite frankly, an alarming amount of blood on the sign and bannister of the staircase. He goes snooping around and finds a whole big pile of gooey skin, teeth, and hair in the bathtub.
Meanwhile, Dr Vallens is calling Dean out on his shitty ass behavior when Sam charges in yelling that Vallens is a shifter and boy howdy do the guns come out, then. Vallens admits that she is a shifter, and she knows the boys are hunters, but insists that she hasn’t killed anyone and only uses her “gift” to help grieving people find closure and say goodbye. Once her alibi checks out, she tells them that an old boyfriend was a dickface and not only murdered people, but destroyed their lives while he was at it. They decide he must be targeting her patients, and Dean (with Jack tagging along) goes to check out her assistant while Sam and Vallens go through security footage.
Now, while ALL this is happening on Earth, back in the Empty, there is still an angel who is up and at ‘em. That’s right! Cas is in the empty, hollering for help, and gaining the attention of a weird black good man, who eventually molds himself to look like you guessed it, Cas! I love when Misha Collins gets to stretch his acting muscles and be new and different versions of Cas. This isn’t really a new version of Cas, as it were, but the image an all powerful being who just wants a fucking nap takes to not scare the angel.
Empty!Cas explains that before God and Amara there was nothing, and this is that nothing. This is where all angels and demons go when they die. It may seem like a shitty deal, but everyone there gets an eternity of uninterrupted sleep and, if you’re a parent like me, that sounds pretty fucking good some days. This also potentially opens a shit load of doors as far as past characters coming back, unless the only reason Jack could wake Cas is because of the bond they share. Anyway, Empty!Cas (aka Robin Williams in Cas cosplay, as my friend called him) asks Cas why the fuck he’s awake, and Cas jumps to the obvious conclusion that the Winchesters must have made a deal. Empty!Cas nopes that right out of there, saying no one has any sway over the Empty but him, and then decides fuck playing nice, so just reads Cas’ mind.
Once he’s done digging through Cas’s angelic brain, Empty!Cas becomes every single parent of a small child, telling Cas that he wants to sleep, he needs to sleep, and doesn’t Cas want a nice peaceful rest, too? Cas tells Empty!Cas to send him back to Earth, since there isn’t a far enough corner to fling him so he’d be ignored, and if Cas doesn’t sleep, Empty!Cas can’t, either. Empty!Cas seriously underestimates Cas’s love of humanity and the Winchesters and tries to convince him that he doesn’t want to go back, but Cas insists that the boys need him. Empty!Cas reminds him that he has read Cas’s mind and knows all his secrets. He knows what Cas hates, he knows who Cas loves (join the club, Empty!Cas), and knows what he fears, but just in case Cas forgot, Empty!Cas shows him (and us) the highlight reel of Cas’ pain and misdeeds on Earth.
Back on Earth, Dean and Jack return to Mia’s house to find that Sam went after Buddy(Mia’s ex), who was posing as a new patient. Dean is salty that Sam didn’t call him, and literally the whole world rolls their eyes while Mia asks if Dean blames him. Jack asks to talk to Mia, and when they’re alone, tells her he never met his mother before asking if she would shift into Kelly for him. Mia obliges, and it’s a really touching moment when Jack sees his “mom” for the first time. He tells her he’s afraid. He’s afraid that he will hurt people by accident, or let Sam down. He’s afraid because even though he knows he should feel bad about things, he doesn’t and does that make him a monster? It’s a conversation Jack desperately needs to have, and one that he cannot have with either Winchester. He needs his mother, and, barring her or Cas, a non-judgemental shapeshifter will do. “Kelly” assures him that even monsters can be good; it doesn’t matter what you are so much as what you do. Back in the lobby, Dean gets a call from Sam, telling him that Buddy is gone and he’s heading back to Mia’s. Once they hang up, we see that Dean is actually knocked out on the floor, while Buddy!Dean heads into Mia’s office to knock out Jack with a fireplace poker before peeling off his Dean suit.
Meanwhile in the Empty, Empty!Cas is alternating between beating Cas up and rubbing his back and hair, trying to get the angel to just go the fuck to sleep. He hasn’t tried reading the same book 27 times yet, but I can’t help but feel like he’s close. That is until Cas assures him that not only will he not go back to sleep, he will make damn sure Empty!Cas can’t sleep, either. Cas will keep them both up until they go insane. Cas is my four year old on a sugar high. He’s already saved, and he will fight Empty!Cas for eternity. Unless Empty!Cas releases him and sends him back to Earth.
Speaking of Earth! Buddy has Jack and Dean all tied up nice and tidy and decides it’ll be fun to make Mia “be the monster she’s meant to be” and force her to shoot them, or he’ll shoot her (with Dean’s silver bullets, so it’ll count). Dean is quietly telling Jack that he’s got to try using his powers to free them while Mia spreads her arms and challenges Buddy to shoot her, because she’s not killing Dean or Jack. There’s a quick pause in the tension though, because Sam is back. Buddy silences Dean and uses his voice to call Sam into the ambush. When Sam walks in, Buddy shoots, but Jack whammies Buddy into the wall and redirects the bullet so it misses Sam, who quickly kills Buddy. Mia tells them she’ll take care of the mess here and sends them on their way.
Once they’re back at the bunker, Dean tells Jack that he did good, and Jack smiles the tiniest bit. It’s a huge step for Dean, and hopefully we can soon see less hostility between the older Winchester and his charge. Dean then finds Sam and admits that maybe Sam is right, and Jack could be good. Showing effort is one way to get into Dean’s good graces, saving his brother’s life is a much quicker one. Sam tells Dean that he may be right, too, and it may be time for Sam to give up the ghost of saving Mary. Dean begs Sam not to lose hope. Sam has to have faith enough for both of them, because Dean doesn’t believe in anything, anymore.
Cut to Cas waking up in a field, in a new outfit (yay old tie!) and relishing the sun beating on his face.
Okay! I have to say, I fucking love the idea that Cas just basically annoyed himself back to life, and I’ve never related to a character more than I do to Empty!Cas these days. I just want to sleep. So, like I said before, this is the episode where I got to watch some of the filming, and I gotta say, I really loved the experience of watching it live. It certainly gave me an even better appreciation of how much work the cast and crew do to put on a good story for us.
What did you think of The Big Empty? Are you as excited as I am to have Cas back?? I’m frankly fed up with Dean’s shit at this point. Do you think his anger and distrust of Jack is justified?