Whether an inspired retcon, or part of an extremely clever plan, this past episode of Supernatural, “Changing Channels” (5-8),not only added to the richness of the mytharc, but shone a very focused light on what I think will evolve in the rest of the season. Using the conceit of being trapped in a series of television episodes, from an over-the-top color-filled generic laugh-track sitcom, to a Japanese game show, a herpes ad, a brilliant parody of Grey’s Anatomy, and finally, an homage to CSI/procedurals, the writers of Supernatural shows us what’s at stake, giving us oh so many clues as to the final denoument of both the Apocalypse and season five.
When I wrote my essay for In the Hunt, I was elated at the use of the Trickster in the show, one of my favorite characters in folklore. He is harbinger and storyteller, bringer of Chaos and here only for one thing: to teach a lesson. It’s a brilliant reveal: the Trickster is in fact the Archangel Gabriel in his own form of holy witness protection (as he states in the episode). I jumped for joy when I realized how well this worked.
In Mystery Spot (3-11), Richard Speight, Jr. as the Trickster explains: “Dean’s your weakness. The bad guys know it, too. It’s going to be the death of you, Sam. Sometimes, you just gotta let people go.” He also explains that: “the way you two keep sacrificing yourselves for each other? Nothing good comes out of it. Just blood, and pain.” Not a very nice message, but a most excellent parallel to the Gabriel of myth.
Gabriel’s role in legend parallels that of the Trickster: he is the Messenger, with a capital “M”, the one who brings the Word, and by doing so, usually ends up causing true Chaos–the upset of the message recipient’s life as he or she knows it. He foretells the births of John the Baptist to the elderly and barren Elizabeth and of Jesus to Mary. He brings the Q’uran to Muhammad, the sacred fire to Zoroaster and generally, is the Holy Al Gore, revealing the News of the World, in all its troubled glory, to us lowly humans.
In his first appearance in the Book of Daniel, Gabriel (in the form of a man) says to Daniel: “And he said, Behold, I will make you know what shall happen in the last end of the indignation. For it is for the time appointed for the end.” (Daniel 8:19). In “Tall Tales” (2-15), “Mystery Spot,” and now in “Changing Channels,” Trickster/Gabriel underlines the lesson for the Winchesters: They are each other’s weakness and that they were “born to this. Destiny. As it is in Heaven, so it must be on earth. One brother has to kill the other. From the moment Dad flipped on the lights around her, we knew it was going to end with you–always.”
The parallels delight me. In the Bible, to Elizabeth and Mary, the birth of sons–both sacred vessels, both of whom met dire ends. To Dean and Sam, the knowledge that they are the sacred vessels and that their destiny was planned from on High . . . and that one of them must die to make the suffering of the world end (or in this case, the family squabble that is Armageddon). In my humble opinion, Kripke’s got us (his audience) exactly where he wants us: enraptured.
One of my online blog friends stated that the only way this would totally parallel Gabriel’s Biblical messages is if Jeffrey Dean Morgan comes back as God. I think she’s exactly right. The show even has Gabriel telling the boys: “Why do you think you are the vessels? Michael is the big brother, loyal to an absent father. Lucifer is the little brother, rebellious of Daddy’s plan.” It’s been this way all along. From the early canon of the show where Sam leaves his family (Lucifer falls); Dean’s blind dedication to his father (Michael as the left hand of God), to now, when their destiny means that the fate of the World and of its people is in their hands. How much more Biblical can you get? Only this time, in a typical Kripke twist, unlike Biblical Mary, Mary Winchester also gave birth to Lucifer’s vessel, not just God’s.
So how is the season going to end? Kripke, I’m sure knows, but me, I’ve got a glimmer of an idea. At the end of this episode, after Gabriel makes his pronouncement that it’s been like this, always, Dean, in typical fashion just looks at him and says, “No. That’s not going to happen.” There is no arguing, no pleading. Just “no.” Dean will not continue to bend and play this game to its supposed destined end, just as he fought playing his role in the game shows. Dean–unlike Sammy, who endured nothing but humiliation in his TV show roles–has learned his lesson. He admits that his parents would still be alive if Sam had not been born, he sees past the disguise of Dr. Sexy, he is the one who just says “no.”
In the Japanese game show, Dean is champion. Does this mean that he will be Champion in the Apocalypse? I think yes; it will come down to Sammy finally casting off his pride, humbling himself and learning his lesson. Led by Dean, who has learned to stand up even against his own brother, the two brothers will find the key to stopping Armageddon–and that key will most likely be their own cadre of Angels, ready to stand up and say “no,” just as calmly and definitely as Dean has throughout the season.
Castiel and Anna already cast their vote with humanity. Will Gabriel do so as well? Dean pokes Gabriel right where it hurts, pointing out that this (the Apocalypse) is about him (Gabriel) being too afraid to stand up to family, a lesson Dean has already learned in spades. With that comment, and Dean’s parting shot as he turns on the sprinklers that extinguish the fire, “Don’t say I never did anything for you,” I’ve got a hunch that we’re in for another one of Kripke’s amazing season enders.
* With apologies to Joss Whedon for borrowing his most excellent title
See more about Maria Lima and what she’s written for the Smart Pop series here.