“We’re the guys who save the world. We don’t just check out of it.”
It’s a rare thing for an episode of Supernatural to have what one would call an incomplete narrative structure. Even in episodes where the primary purpose is not a resolution of an hour’s plotline, but contributing to the overall season story and/or character arcs, lack the feeling of completeness the way “Prophet and Loss” does. That does not mean it’s a bad episode—there are some poignant emotional moments for several characters—but at the end of the day, “Prophet and Loss” reads like a half-finished chapter leading to the final third of a book.
By far the least interesting (and least relevant…for now) aspect of “Prophet and Loss” is the narrative following Tony Alvarez, a man who’s decided to follow the mysterious whispers in his head to supplicate them. He kills two people and, afterwards, carves Enochian script on their bodies. Sam and Dean get wind of these killings and, after stopping Tony, get Castiel’s help in deciphering the issue. Turns out that the state of Donatello, the current prophet, trapped between life and death, is causing glitches in the prophet line and, though Tony is stopped, the next prophet called will exhibit the same defects. Castiel’s able to revive Donny and he wakes, craving the wings as he always does. Whether his soulessness will cause issues remains to be seen. Good news for the Winchesters though is that maybe Donny will have a line on another way for the white hats to defeat Michael and permanently expel him from Dean’s body.
And it’s in this conflict with Sam regarding Dean’s choice to box himself in for eternity, that “Prophet and Loss” shines brightest. Generally speaking, even when Supernatural is bad, there’s still the knowledge that the interactions between Sam and Dean will make up for any lack of fullness or quality in the narrative. Whereas that usually takes the form of snarky banter or pop culture references, there are no real laughs this time. It’s just Sam (and, to a lesser extent, Castiel) talking through his anger with Dean, refusing to believe his brother’s choice is the right thing to do. Not to trivialize a serious topic, but Sam sees Dean’s choice as nothing more than a glorified suicide. His brother is giving up the fight when they still have so much to fight for while Dean sees no other way, only that by doing this, he will leave those he loves in a much better place. More than Cas’s own distress at losing Dean, Sam sees his brother’s purported sacrifice as a betrayal of all they have gone through over the years. The fact that Donatello, who was all but dead, found a way to hang on and eventually return to the world, strengthens Sam’s belief that his brother is giving up. “I believe in us,” Sam tells him during his final push to change Dean’s mind, “why don’t you believe in us, too?”
As it turns out, those are the words Dean needed to hear. And with Castiel stepping in as support for Sam, the elder Winchester relents, opening the door that there just may be another way. That while the Ma’lak box isn’t off the table, he’ll only use it as a last resort. Until then though, he’ll fight and scratch and claw to find a way win this battle, too.
After all, it’s what they’ve always done.
- At times I sound like a broken record when lauding the chemistry between brothers. While Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki aren’t related (as far as I know!) the time they’ve spent together on the show has all but solidified them as brothers in all but blood. That relationship has only strengthened their on-screen characters and Sam’s heartfelt pleas go beyond playing a role.
- The wayward prophet subplot was about as forgettable as things could get. Granted, now that Donatello’s wing-eating, soulless self is back on the board, he may prove invaluable in finding a way to stop Michael. Still, they could have given a bit more development to Tony Alvarez, made his part in things a bit more interesting.
- So, Nick’s a wanted murderer in multiple states and they have a single cop watching him? Even in this world, that’s one of those plot elements that strains credulity.
- On the Nick front, coming face-to-face with the ghost of his wife Sarah was a surprise moment. Maybe more surprising was his inability to renounce Lucifer, even if it would allow his wife to finally be at peace. But more than that betrayal is the implication that Nick wants to be reunited with his celestial hijacker. It also begs the question on whether or not Lucifer is well and truly gone.