Stuck in the Middle (with You)/Awesome Crowley
[For a meta about Reservoir Dogs and Tarantino’s use of gay subtext, click here.]
I don’t want to be the person who ruins everyone’s fun, so I’m saving my one big criticism of this episode for last. This meta is completely positive, even saccharine, until the very last paragraph. Also, I’m borrowing one of my favourite AO3 tags as a title because, let’s face it, Crowley was the real hero of this episode and where the action was, and that’s perfectly okay and long overdue. Crowley’s been around for years now, and he’s gone through huge bouts of character development, and yet we still know next to nothing about him and he’s often treated like an afterthought, both by our heroes and by the writers. This episode finally (finally!) corrected that, because no matter how intriguing and plain beautiful everyone was, Crowley was magnificent - as I fully expected him to be.
After all, they’re good - but he’s Crowley.
Like anyone with eyes, I loved everything about this episode, and especially how it was filmed. I have to say - this is the first episode in a long time that actually had me in tenterhooks about a possible character death, because you never know, right? Theoretically, Crowley could die, and so could Cas. Theoretically. And also the music, did I mention the music? I think that scene of Cas crawling away from Ramiel and the shot of Ramiel stabbing him - that’s just become my favourite Supernatural scene ever, bar none. It was so powerful and dramatic and visually magnificent and that damn music - wow.
I adored that symbolism, because Cas’ been a Christ figure for a while now, and seeing him like that, on his back, defeated and stabbed by a lance - you can’t get more Golgotha than that. Beautiful stuff.
I also loved that this episode was, in a way - off-centre. Sam and Dean were there, of course, but the story was not focused around them. The real protagonist was the supernatural world itself - Cas, Crowley, Ramiel; even Lucifer, to me, was more present than he’s been in a while, what with this vague threat of his child hanging over the world, and him taunting Crowley and flashing his red eyes at this most undemonic demon in the very last scene. The truth is, I love everything about Sam and Dean, and that includes the incredibly talented actors who play them, but I feel the show could benefit greatly from approaching their story from a different perspective every once in a while. I’d love to know more about their childhood, for instance, or about this world of monsters and hunters around them; and a completely Outsider POV episode is, at this point, something I’d probably sell half my soul for.
Anyway - lately, this show reads like very good fanfiction, and considering how engaged, loving and talented this fandom is, this is high praise. I particularly appreciate the fact they’re going back to important plot points and filling them in with completely new details - after all, we’ve been wondering for years what’s up with demonic eyes, or how Crowley became king in the first place (or, at least, I know I did). This new class of demons appearing out of nowhere - creatures powerful enough to wield an archangel’s weapon - that’s incredible stuff. I’m guessing we’ll see more about them, and I can’t freaking wait.
So, yes - Ramiel was spot-on. Jerry Trimble managed just the right mixture of underwhelmingly normal and terrifyingly amoral - so much so I’m sort of sad we didn’t get to see more of this character, even if everything about him, including his death, was handled just right - there was no room for anything more.
My one slight criticism there would be the fizzling nature of Cas’ abilities. For instance, didn’t we establish that Cas can smell lies? So why couldn’t he guess Mary was hiding something? And what about demons’ true forms? I always assumed Cas could see that (was it ever stated in canon? it must have been), and I was therefore almost disappointed that Cas couldn’t recognize Ramiel for what he was. Maybe it can be explained away by him slowly becoming closer and closer to a human being - I don’t know. In any case, I’m truly appreciating how obsessed everyone seems to be with him lately. After years of taking angels for granted, we’ve got two characters in short succession fangirling over angels (in a creepy, murderous and definitely non-con way, but still) - and, yeah, I know that basically everyone spent the entirety of Supernatural pointing out how different and unique Cas is, and I’m grateful for that, but it’s also nice to get a reminder that angels are awesome (in the other sense of the word) in and of themselves.
(I’m still loving Mr Ketch, by the way. Aaaaaw.)
Let’s now come to our unsung hero: Mr Crowley.
Crowley was magnificent in all this. And we’ve now learned he never seriously planned to become King of Hell - my headcanon, which I’m considering confirmed, is that Crowley simply wants control. He’s been tortured for a century or more as some demon tore his human soul out of him, and he’s never putting himself in that position again, which is very sensible of him, and also very Scarlett O’Hara.