"Supernatural" 11.2, "Form and Void." Starring Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles, Misha Collins, and Mark Sheppard; Written by Andrew Dabb, Directed by Phil Sgriccia.
Team Free Will is certainly doing a good job maintaining a quality season into its second episode. "Form and Void" opens with Sam and Dean still working their separate gigs; Sam is in Cedar Rapids trying to cure his veiny ailment, and Dean has delivered baby Amara and Deputy Jenna to Jenna's grandmother in Superior, Nebraska. It's difficult to say who might be having a worse time. Sam's infection is growing rapidly and he continues to discover more vein monsters, which I recently learned are officially called "rabids." Dean ends up sticking around Superior a little longer than anticipated after he gets a frantic call from Jenna and Grandma who think Amara might be a Jedi. Or possessed. Or an evil older than Death. Sam encounters a lone reaper who gives him a serious what-for. The reapers are nine times of done with the Winchesters' shit, and she tells him in clear and venomous tones that should he or Dean bite it, that's it. No more mulligans. Dean returns to the alleged safe house only to find that Grandma has summoned an exorcist. Unfortunately, that exorcist is Crowley, and he's taking no small delight in strutting around in his priest garb.
After his encounter with Billie the Reaper, Sam prays. He confesses his sin, you know - the one about unleashing the most evil thing ever, and begs help. He has a vision in which Sam sees himself pulled apart Pinhead style and hears the reaper's words repeat in his head. It's clear why her jibe triggers his narrowed search for vein-rage cure, but the torture? Could that be memories of his time in the Pit? If so, that's the second mention in as many episode and is hopefully setting up a return to that story. I definitely did not understand why those images were relevant, other than Sam being deemed "unclean in the Biblical sense." When Billie the Reaper launched that insult, was she only referring to the vein-rage, or will Sam's little "Satan's Meat Suit" stint come back into play? My favorite part of Sam's story this week was the use of clips from "Night of the Hunter" to lure a rabid into a trap. The scenes featured Reverend Powell's retelling of the story of Cain and Abel,, and it was just a really nice touch. Perhaps the scene asked the biggest question of all: Did God really respond to Sam's prayer, or was it just a fever dream that led him to the holy oil cure? And I loved that the holy oil had been heavily foreshadowed in the premiere. That's fun writing!
Castiel spent most of the episode being beaten up by some Angels. They're still super pissed about the whole Metatron thing, but Cas is dealing with this witch's curse business and really doesn't have time for their crap. A scuffle ensues, Hannah gets offed, and by episode's end Cas is in a puddle of boo-boos and rage back in the bat cave, reunited at last with the Winchesters.
Dean and Crowley shared the most interesting bit of the episode. They learn of the mark on Baby Amara, and after an incident in which Deputy Jenna murders her grandma and smashes all her bric-a-brac they also learn the baby eats souls. Let me tell you - that is not a baby you want to let get to the hangry stage. Dean decides to kill her, but Crowley says "as if" because he doesn't think Dean has the gumption to kill a wee little babe. He tells Dean he'll get his chance, but only after Crowley is done with her. He's got plans, see. Their interactions continue to have perfect comedic timing and great chemistry. But I'm excited to see the return of Crowley as a genuine bad guy, instead of bumbling comedic foil. He's acting like the King of Hell again, and I'm welcoming funny and formidable Crowley with open arms. Mark Sheppard has the chops to be a wildly intimidating foe and it looks like he'll get to show them off this season.
All of the qualms I expressed last year about an eleventh season are resting comfortably behind two solid, fast and concisely paced, cohesive episodes. I know the season is still in its infancy, but I've had so much fun these past two weeks that I will happily eat my concerns and sit back and enjoy the rest of the ride.
Until next week, when we will have Rowena's return in an episode directed by Jensen Ackles.