To say the front half of Supernatural’s thirteenth season has been intense is a bit of an understatement, with most of said intensity not even coming from supernatural forces, but much more personal and all too human ones. Last week’s episode, Various and Sundry Villains, offers a much needed relief from the tension, while still piling onto the overarching story of the season.
This Monster of the Week episode starts off in a gas station, where two women who don’t need a spell to have men panting after them do just that to some poor yokel who’s just trying to buy some hooch. The sisters whammy Poor Dale with a love spell and compel him to rob the store and get them some fancy vodka, and if he kills the clerk in the process? No biggie. After they get what they want from Poor Dale, they turn him into Poor Dead Dale, by beating him to death with a sledgehammer. They don’t want to attract hunters, so these meanest of mean girl sisters try to make sure their kills look non-magical. After killing Poor Dead Dale, the sisters drive off to cause more mayhem.
Back in the bunker, Sam and Dean are researching alternate universes in order to save Jack and Mary, and we finally get it confirmed that they have been keeping in contact with “Cas” about Jack. It’s fairly useless, though, since “Cas” isn’t offering any leads and asking more questions than he is giving them helpful intel. Dean heads off to the store for some beer and runs into none other than the Millennial Magic Sisters, who take absolutely no time at all bewitching him.
In case you’d forgotten, Cas and Lucifer are imprisoned by Asmodeus and we (finally) get an update on their situation. The update is that basically nothing has changed. They’re in their cells. And there are dick jokes aplenty between the devil and a lower level demon named Dipper. Trapped behind warded bars, Lucifer tries to finagle Cas’s Grace from him, but being in jail has made Cas 1000% sassier and he has no time for this shit, pointing out that Lucifer is too weak to defeat even his weakest creation. I may think the Lucifer storyline is tired and stale, but I have to admit that the two share an chemistry that can be fun to watch, and it’s a relief to see Cas taking no shit.
Meanwhile, Dean returns to the bunker and we get to see Jensen Ackles’s comedic acting on full display. He’s in love! She’s perfect and he’s gonna ask her to move in and OMG what a coincidence that they asked him for the Black Grimoire and he has it?! It takes Sam all of three seconds to realize that Dean is under a love spell, but Dean doesn’t want to hear it, because Jamie has a sister!! And, if Sam is nice, Dean will introduce them! Sam tries to stop Dean from leaving by taking the keys, but Dean decides to walk because it’s gorgeous out. Sam tries one more time, but Dean punches him in the face, knocking him out before going off to meet his lady love.
Dean meets up with the sisters at the market, handing over the book. Just as Jamie is about to smash his head in, Sam comes roaring to the rescue, not that it matters much, since Dean jumps him for pointing a gun at Jamie. The two wrestle on the ground like a couple of five year olds, while the witches take off with the grimoire. All of the sudden, the hex bag burns up and the biggest baddest witch of them all utters two words I’ve sorely missed: “Hello, boys.” That’s right, fucking Rowena is BACK!!!
After saving the boys, the trio heads to the bunker so RowRow can explain to them (and us) how the hell she’s alive and where the fuck she’s been. Basically, Rowena can’t be killed permanently. Doesn’t seem to make dying much more fun for her, but hey, at least she’s not Humpty Dumpty. Rowena tells them that she put a tracking spell on the Grimoire and came when she felt it moving. Then Rowena asks about her son, and it’s clear she has no idea what happened to Crowley. Sam and Dean tell her that he sacrificed himself to save them, and rather than being proud, or happy that the child she hated is dead, Rowena is devastated. She, like most parents, would rather have a living child than a dead hero. She then gives a purposely superficial but effective recount of the torture and horror she went through with Lucifer and says she needs a spell to protect herself. Dean and Sam don’t see the witchy sisters as a problem they need help with, but Rowena suggests that the three of them team up to get the book back, and eventually the boys agree, though neither believes her story of being changed.
Back in Paranormal Prison, Dipper is still enjoying his perk of goading the angels in his charge. He’s not the only one, as Cas, after being fed up with Lucifer’s shit, tells Lucifer how good and heroic Jack is. He even hits low, pointing out how little the boy resembles his grace/bio Daddy, and that he reminds him more of Kelly than of him. Cas also informs Lucifer that Jack would kill him before embracing him, and it’s clear it’s getting to Luci. In a fit of rage, Lucifer manages to move a twig with his powers, and the familiar smirk appears.
Meanwhile, the Plum Sisters, Diabolical Duo that they are, are shopping while trying to decipher the grimoire. They continue to be assholes to Brenda, my favorite store clerk ever, and when they learn they need a human soul to sacrifice, decide that the dude restocking the shelves looks like an easy mark. They head home with the hapless sacrifice and we finally get to see what they’re up to. Looks like they want to resurrect their dead mommy and even though they’re not sure they can do it, they decide not to ask for help. I have to say, I’ve never been so annoyed with or hated a set of characters more. It’s not even that they’re evil, they’re just… badly written. They talk as if you asked a Baby Boomer to do an impression of “kids these days” and none of it feels natural at all. Anyway, Jennie tells Jamie she’s not sure she can do it, to which Jamie replies that she misses mom, and if they have to do every spell in the book, by God they’re gonna get her back! Sigh. Finally we find a more toxically codependent sibling set than the Winchesters.
With the help of Rowena and her tracking spell, the trio isn’t far behind the sisters, and when Dean goes to question folks, he comes across Brenda the clerk who, upon hearing that Dean hates the sisters as much as she does, is all too happy to share their whereabouts with him. While Dean is talking to people, Sam and Rowena are hanging back with Baby. Rowena talks about her fear of Lucifer, and the two bond a bit over their shared trauma. Sam tells Rowena that he’s also seen Lucifer’s true face, and it still keeps him up at night. I gotta say, I’m glad the show is finally addressing the shit Sam has dealt with over the years, because it’s a lot. And he never talks about it. Sam confesses to Rowena that he’s spent so long repressing the memories and feelings about his time with Lucifer, that he doesn’t think he can talk about it with anyone. Rowena confesses to Sam that the real reason she wants the Grimoire back is that the Grand Coven bound a great deal of her power, keeping her from the full extent of her capabilities (which, whoa, you mean this is her with her hands tied?), and that she wants just one page from it that might help her undo that binding spell. She doesn’t think she can protect herself from Lucifer without this, and we see Sam mull that over, visibly wrestling with his sympathy for a fellow survivor of Lucifer’s treatment and his knowledge of who Rowena is and what she’s capable of. When Dean returns with the address, a visibly upset Rowena is out of the car to “get some air.” And, of course, because for Rowena double crossing is synonymous with breathing, she steals the address from Dean and casts a sticky feet spell on the brothers before heading after the witches.
Back in Jail, Cas keeps picking at and needling Lucifer. Pissing off powerful entities is Cas’s superpower, if that wasn’t clear yet, and I fucking love it. Dipper the Demon comes back and can’t resist poking fun at Lucifer, but this time, the devil manages to use his powers, destroying the warding on his bars (because rage is a great motivator), and once he and Cas are out of their cells, Dipper is smote. JAILBREAK!! Cas and Lucifer fight their way out, and once outside, Lucifer again tries to get Cas to give up his Grace. Lucifer tries the carrot and the stick, but Cas is having none of it, and eventually he stabs Lucifer with an angel blade, and I can only dream that it kills him.
Back at the Plum sisters’ house, Rowena shows up, with a thing or two to say to the girls. Turns out she was the person they kept avoiding calling and the one who was to help them raise their mother from the dead. Rowena, ever the diplomat, insults their skills as witches, which pisses them off enough to have them sic their now zombie mom on Rowena. Obviously they are awesomely skilled spell casters, and 100% wanted to make their mom an extra on The Walking Dead. Zombie Mom is magic-proof, inexplicably, and goes after Rowena’s sweet, sweet brains. Soon enough Dean and Sam show up, having managed to get themselves unstuck through the sheer force of physical comedy. For some reason, like they always do, the boys warn the sisters that their guns are loaded with witch killing bullets, rather than just letting the girls figure that out on their own when they’re bleeding out. Unsurprisingly, the girls whammy the guns away and it’s a full on brawl. The sisters are armed with hammers and shit, and also are super strong thanks to a spell. They are handily kicking some Winchester ass, when Rowena finally manages to kill Zombie Dearest. Once mom is dead, Rowena casts her attack dog spell on the sisters, and pits them against each other. The sisters stab and hammer each other to death. It is fucked up and gruesome and over the top and exactly perfect for Rowena. Once the sisters are dead, the boys take the book back from Rowena, who pleads with Sam not to leave her unprotected. Sam takes the book and they go their separate ways.
Once they’re back at the bunker, Dean’s icing his knee, lamenting that they got beat up by girls, and Sam gives possibly my favorite reply he’s ever given, which is to roll his eyes and say that they get beat up by girls all the time, and Dean concedes. Dean confronts Sam about giving Rowena a spell from the grimoire, and Sam opens up a bit about the shit he’s been dealing with, explaining that he understands Rowena’s fear, but if she goes bad, he’ll take care of it.
Speaking of terrifying and awesome shit: we see Rowena cast the Black Grimoire spell Sam gav her, and I think she’s a goddess now or something because she’s all glowy and fast healing, and whatever the binds that were holding her were for, they’re broken. I’ve long wanted Rowena to take a more prominent role as an adversary for the boys, and I’m hopeful that this is the beginning of such.
Alright, while I can’t really call this a good episode, story wise (the A-plot was pretty weak), I think it was exactly what was needed. There are some great beats of comic relief (thank the lord Dean wasn’t under that spell the whole episode though), and, for being a monster of the week episode, we got a lot of great character exposition. So much of the season has been focused on Dean and how he’s been dealing with (or not dealing with) his losses and trauma, it was easy to forget that Sam went through a lot of the same shit, too, and that it deeply affected him. I’m still holding out hope that Lucifer won’t get a redemption arc, and I’m honestly loving the new “fuck all of you, I got shit to do” attitude Cas has going right now. Not to mention the fact that Rowena is back. I’d love to get to learn more about her life, both currently and in the past, because I feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface.