Thrown into an unexpected and unwanted trip five years into the future courtesy of Zachariah, Dean is shown possible consequences to choices he is currently making. The episode gives Supernatural a chance to stretch the characters in ways that we may never see again and the results are in turn amusing and alarming.
In any episode written by Ben Edlund, I look forward to seeing how he will skew things and the most fun he has this time around is with Castiel. Misha Collins, usually so solemn as Castiel, is given the chance to show a what-if version of him as a human. A stoned, pill-popping, orgy-loving, wallow-in-decadence human, to be precise. Maybe all that time he spends with Dean will have an affect after all. Seeing Collins act so differently from Castiel’s usual demeanor is hilarious, especially how amused he is at Past Dean’s ability to get under Future Dean’s skin. “What? I like past you,” is his response to Dean’s glare. There are quite a few funny lines and Edlund has a knack for making them feel fit seamlessly into the scene, rather than tacked on like jokes.
Castiel’s situation, while amusing at times, is also tragic in that he has lost his angelic power, and with it his sense of feeling important in the fight against Lucifer. And he is not the only person severely changed in this new world. Dean, meeting up with his future self, is appalled at what he has become. This Dean will torture to get information, sacrifice his friends in order to accomplish a mission, and as Dean himself notes, is “broken.” Jensen Ackles, acting opposite himself, turns in a great performance as an even tougher version of Dean Winchester than we currently have. It is not too hard to see how this could happen to Dean, especially when we find out what has become of Sam.
Sam has accepted Lucifer’s request to become his vessel, for reasons that are not explained. As fun as it always is to watch Jared Padalecki twist Sam’s earnest nature into something evil, the fact that it is not explained why Sam would make this choice is either a convenient plot hole, or an indication that Zachariah’s vision is not real. In any case, Padalecki is not the demon type of evil that he has done in the past, here he channels Mark Pellegrino’s version of Lucifer, although he does not elicit the same level of sympathy from Dean that he has received from others. There is something horrible about seeing Lucifer’s words come out of Sam’s mouth and Dean is not falling for any of it.
The virus from the season two episode “Croatoan” has been unleashed and turned people into zombies, yet this element did not play as big a role in the story as I had expected. Seeing them chase Dean down the street and then watching him be rescued by soldiers was reminiscent of 28 Days Later, in a good way. And that scene did a great job setting the post-apocalyptic feel on which the remainder of the episode depends. The filming of the destroyed city was well done, especially considering that Supernatural does not have a big budget for global destruction type of special effects. You wouldn’t know it from that scene however.
The purpose for Dean’s visit to 2014 is that Zachariah is hoping to change Dean’s mind about allowing Michael to use him as a vessel to fight Lucifer. Happily, Dean still does not trust Zachariah, and why should he? In fact, why should Dean trust anything that happened in the vision of the future? For all he knows, the entire thing was rigged, just like the vision in last season’s episode “It’s a Terrible Life.” Both times Zachariah attempts to get Dean to do something he does not want to do. Last time Dean gave in; this time he is only more resolved to stay his own course. I would have been disappointed in any other outcome to Dean’s journey than what happened at the end of this episode – a reunion with Sam. This is not a surprising ending, but it felt right.
As an aside, Lucifer and Dean’s conversation happened in a garden, and if the vision Zachariah sent was to tempt Dean into accepting Michael as a vessel, then a garden is an appropriate place for that conversation (see Genesis 3). A few other moments in the episode that I especially appreciated include Sam calling Dean at the beginning to let him know what Lucifer said to him last week. Previous seasons might have had the brothers hiding this type of information from each other; I am glad to see they have grown enough to talk to each other honestly. And I am also glad the show knows this moment is important enough to show to us. I also thought it was great that Castiel, even without his angel “mojo”, knows that Dean is not the Dean from 2014 as soon as he lays eyes on him. Castiel has grown more and more in tune with Dean and the reminder of this connection ties in nicely with Castiel’s rescue of Dean in the final minutes of the episode.