This episode was everything I wanted from Claire Novak’s return while simultaneously being oddly disappointing for a mid-season finale.
Let’s start with the high points of the episode – and by high points I mean basically every scene with Castiel (Misha Collins) and Claire (Kathryn Newton). The reunion started off in a heartbreaking parallel to the last time the pair saw each other, with Claire looking hopefully at the vessel that was once her dad, only to have Castiel tell her “I am not your father.” I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get much of the story between Castiel searching “Jimmy Novak” on the internet and finding Claire, but we did finally get confirmation that yes, Jimmy has been in Heaven since Season 5. As expected, Claire immediately rejected the angel that took her father from her, and Castiel was determined to right his wrongs. Despite initially being at odds, the pair was able to work together long enough to get Claire out of her group home – a scenario which provided us with some adorable Cas-and-Claire moments, including her fixing his tie, and both of them calling him “a doof.” Of course, it couldn’t all be warm and fuzzy not-quite-father-daughter moments.
Ultimately, Claire ran from Castiel to join her apparent makeshift family, headed by a man named Randy (Roark Critchlow). It was this part of the episode where Claire took a turn I didn’t really expect. See, I had expected Claire to come back as some tough anti-angel angry teenager, ready for a fight and able to take on anything by herself. Instead, she was much more a hardened but lonely girl seeking a replacement for the family that was taken from her. While she was clever enough to get away from Castiel – who, let’s be honest, was pretty clueless anyway – when tasked with robbing a convenience store, Claire was clearly in over her head. Even in the end, when she helped Castiel take down her attempted assailant, she ended up being protected in the angel’s arms instead of on her own. Who Claire was revealed to be was perhaps a very normal outcome for the situation she experienced, but it seems the Winchester boys (and even Cole (Travis Aaron Wade), to some degree) have skewed my view of what happens when a child loses a parent so young.
Speaking of the Winchesters, I was really disappointed at how they were worked into the episode. Castiel called them into help and yet they only seemed to be there as back-up, not interfering when Claire went off on Castiel, and only jumping in when the situation escalated to a physical confrontation at Randy’s house. Add on to this the almost-random bar scene in which Sam (Jared Padalecki) prompted Dean (Jensen Ackles) to tell a story about the long-dead John Winchester (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and the pieces didn’t quite seem to fit. While I appreciated a look back into the Winchesters’ past and the sort-of tie-in to Castiel’s situation with Claire, it just seemed to stick out a bit from the rest of the episode.
So did the scenes featuring Crowley (Mark Sheppard) and Rowena (Ruth Connell) and the complicated who’s-fooling-who nature of their relationship. Again, while it was great (and funny) to get more of Crowley’s backstory and understand more about where the demon got his start in life, the scenes didn’t quite mesh with everything else going on. Similar to “Girls, Girls, Girls,” “The Things We Left Behind” had too many things going on in just one episode – especially for a Supernatural mid-season finale.
In the end, the real focus of this mid-season finale’s cliffhanger was Dean, but the way it was built up to was honestly a bit disappointing. The majority of the episode seemed to be about Castiel and Claire, with little flashes of Dean’s issues every once in a while. Yet, somehow, it was entirely predictable that Dean was going to go dark side again. There was no suspense, no real gripping terror concerning whether or not he was losing the battle with the Mark of Cain, and it was ultimately a bit of a letdown.
Overall, it seems that this season has functioned in much the same manner. Not only have potentially really interesting plot points come and gone too quickly, but the main story arc of Dean and his battle with the Mark has also been a bit disappointing. I still hold out hope, though, that this is just the beginning of the excitement, and that all hell is about to break loose when the season picks back up.
Now, of course, we just have to sit back and wait, as the next episode doesn’t air until January.
It’s going to be a long holiday season…
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