A seemingly simple case involving a series of loosely connected murders quickly evolved into unintentional family therapy and gory remains in Supernatural 13×04
Supernatural delivered another monster of the week episode this week. But like with last week’s “Patience,” the case and monster ultimately took a back seat to developing the characters and slowly advancing the main story. Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles), despite strongly objecting, decided to bring Jack (Alexander Calvert) on his first real case. The case itself was fairly straightforward and involved two shapeshifters. One was a therapist named Mia (Rukiya Bernard) who would transform into the guise of dead loved ones to help her patients move on. The other went around killing Mia’s patients while pretending to be their dead loved ones. The timing of including a monster with good intentions was rather appropriate given Jack’s doubts about his own nature as a force of good.
Eventually, Mia appeared to Jack as his dead mother. In that form, Mia comforted him and told him that it doesn’t matter if he’s a monster. It only matters if his actions are good or bad. In the midst of the investigation, Sam and Dean inadvertently turned a fake therapy session into a real one and things between the brothers came to a head. Eventually, Dean apologized Sam for his recent behavior, told Jack he did a good job, and even told Sam to have hope about their mother still being alive.
RELATED | Supernatural Roundtable 13×03 “Patience”
Last week’s cliffhanger showed Castiel (Misha Collins) waking up in a black void after Jack appeared to reach out to him. “The Big Empty” followed up on that and gave us a closer look at where Castiel was located. Cas found himself in the Empty, a place where angels and demons sleep for eternity when they die. Cas being woken up there also awoke the entity that oversees the Empty. The cosmic entity, which didn’t give itself a name beyond that, morphed into the appearance of Castiel from a black ooze-like state and said that it predated God and Amara.
Things soon became incredibly heated as the cosmic entity got more and more annoyed with Castiel being awake. After repeatedly trying to torture and convince Castiel to go back to sleep so it could also sleep, Castiel demanded that the entity release him. The cosmic entity appeared to eventually give in and sent Castiel back to Earth. The exact circumstances leading to that return were left open-ended.
While the monster of the week story didn’t break any new ground for the show, the rest of the episode gave us a lot to think about and discuss. So let’s meet our roundtable guests and discuss “The Big Empty!”
Lindsay (@lindieface) – Beleaguered grad student, unrepentant fangirl, whiskey aficionado
Chhany (@waywardhunters) – A student who is maybe a bit too much obsessed with Supernatural
Sarah (@mishdestiel) – Writer, reader, student. Cornered by Supernatural eight years ago.
Donna (@DeeMacNY) – Supernatural fan since season 1
Tricia (@tricia_16_) – Wayward wife and mother of two who found my people, my passion, and myself through Supernatural and its fandom
1. Shapeshifters have been used fairly frequently over this show’s long history. How do you feel about their usage in “The Big Empty?” Effective or too predictable? Somewhere in-between?
Lindsay (@lindieface): I’m definitely glad they returned back to the original gross shapeshifters, rather than the odd version that was on Bloodlines – and I thought Mia was a great spin on the typical monster. She was gentle and caring, a fantastic therapist, and a genuinely good egg. I love it when they explore the human side of some of these creatures.
Chhany (@waywardhunters): Shapeshifters are definitely one of the most interesting monsters on the show. They’re still kind of human, since they do not NEED to kill in order to survive. I’m glad that they returned and it wasn’t predictable at all (at least to me).
Sarah (@mishdestiel): I thought it was effective, especially because of the way the shifters were used on the episode. The therapist Mia using her abilities to help her patients try and find some peace with people they lost is a simple thing that I never thought about, so it wasn’t predictable at all to me.
Donna (@DeeMacNY): “Skin” is one of my favorite episodes and I was glad to see that they used the original premise that shifters actually peel their skin off when shifting. It’s nice to see continuity like that, and I have no problem with types of monsters we’ve seen before being used again, as long as continuity is respected.
Tricia (@tricia_16_): I thought the actress who played the shape-shifter was fantastic, but the fact that there was a shapeshifter as the monster of the week was kinda “meh” for me overall. I liked that they used this shape-shifter to further prove that you choose who and what you are, though. I actually thought when Sam called Dean that Sam was the one who got caught by the shape-shifter, and I was super surprised to see it was Dean instead!
2. The direct introduction of the Empty and the cosmic entity that inhabits it raises a lot of interesting questions. It’s difficult to know where to begin. What do you think the cosmic entity is? What predates God and Amara?
Lindsay: First off, how cool is the Empty? The VFX team did a fantastic job with those shots, especially the initial entity’s appearance as a…black goo person? I’m not sure what to call it. Since the entity predates God and Amara, I have no idea what it could be, but I’m really intrigued. It wasn’t quite good, it wasn’t quite evil…but it WAS fascinating.
Chhany: It’s great to finally know where angels and demons go after they die! I asked that question myself for straight 12 seasons! The Empty seems to be so different from Hell, Earth and Heaven. I really hope we’re gonna learn more about it! Especially what the cosmic entity is and what/who it is to Amara and God. Maybe it’s their kind of sibling or even a being that’s older than them? We’ll find out soon! (Hopefully.)
Sarah: That was very intriguing. I am pretty sure this entity is supposed to be the boss of the Empty, an entity that materializes itself differently for each being that is there, doing its best to push their buttons and make them suffer if they’re awake. And the only thing I know that predates God is nothing (in the essence of the word) so I think this entity only brings more questions instead of answering the ones we have.
Donna: In “Two Minutes to Midnight” Death told Dean that he and God have forgotten who came first, so I suppose it’s possible that the Cosmic Entity is Death. Perhaps we’re finally going to see what the “cosmic consequences” were for Cass reneging on Sam and Dean’s deal with Billie and killing her.
Tricia: Honestly? I’m totally blank on this one. What DOES predate God? I’ve got nothing! I have to brush up on my lore (where’s Sam Winchester when you need him!?). The black goo was cool, but it raises a lot of questions for sure. I was really happy to finally know where angels and demons go when they die, though.
3. The fake therapy session Sam and Dean started quickly turned into a real therapy session. As damaged as they are, do you think actual therapy would be helpful for the brothers? Or should they stick to liquid therapy and punching things (and each other)?
Lindsay: If there’s anyone in need of some family therapy after all they’ve been through, it’s the Winchesters! While liquid therapy is Dean’s coping method of choice, this seems like a much healthier alternative. Not only would it help them work through their grief, but we’ve seen them grow so much as individuals and away from codependency over the last few seasons, and I’d love to see that continue. Overall, they both seem much more at ease – still close, but a healthier and more productive dynamic.
Chhany: That scene was definitely one of my favorites. Dean and Sam tend to not talk about their feelings a lot. But to be honest, I don’t think a therapy would help them a lot. The Winchesters are already mentally damaged. There’s not really a therapy that could help these fellas!
Sarah: I really think Sam and Dean could use some therapy (I’m a psychology student but I promise I’m being completely neutral about this). They rarely use their words and that’s not healthy, being a hunter or not. That condition usually leads to bad decisions and self-loathing feelings that cause them much distress. A therapist like Mia could help them a lot with their grief, their dialogues and mundane situations.
Donna: Although I don’t see regular Dr. Phil sessions becoming part of the show, I think the key to Sam and Dean working out their issues is actually talking to one another. The “no chick flick moments” rule has definitely not been conducive to that. No one can ever understand Sam and Dean better than they understand each other. They just need to talk to one another.
Tricia: I couldn’t believe they were actually talking about their feelings with one another! It’s so unheard of for them! I think the boys are in a weird position, because while talking about their feelings in therapy would be beneficial, they also can’t really talk about them because of the life they lead. Imagine a therapist bringing up the unhealthy codependency between the two of them? Ha! But they need to live that way to survive their lifestyle, which a therapist wouldn’t get. So no, I don’t think it would be helpful to them as much as it would be for the average person.
4. Jack got to meet a version of his mother in this episode. Do you think that will haunt him or help him find peace with his mother’s death?
Lindsay: That was such a lovely scene. Really bittersweet. I feel like ultimately it will help Jack maintain the direction he’s heading in, and have a lasting impact on him and his potential for goodness. As long as he takes after adopted father Cas and not biological father Lucifer, I think he’ll be okay.
Chhany: Poor little Jack! He still feels so guilty, it’s so sad. I was glad that he met this ‘version’ of his mother. It will definitely help him a lot in order to deal with the death of his mom.
Sarah: I believe he found peace now, and if it haunts him, it will be in a positive way. Jack having the opportunity to “see his mother” was very important in my opinion. So far, he only dealt with people that wanted something from him or disliked him for what he can do. He still doesn’t have enough humanity to form his own thoughts about himself so he absorbs what other people say about him. Jack needed to listen to the words she said and he needed that support, even if that wasn’t really his mom.
Donna: I think meeting Kelly will help Jack realize that, just as Sam has been telling him, he actually can choose for himself to be good. And now he’s actually seen that in practice, with the doctor who was a “monster” who has chosen the path of being good.
Tricia: Jack said it helped, so I’m going to go with that! I don’t think closure will haunt him.
5. Misha Collins has played a lot of different roles throughout the series. How good was he as the cosmic entity?! How would you rank that performance when stacked up against his other various roles?
Lindsay: Misha’s versatility and depth with every incarnation of his character never fails to blow me away, and tonight was no exception. The entity (Faux-Cas, if you will) was so unlike Cas – the movements and voice were jarring and unsettling, and it was SUPPOSED to be. Definitely felt like an ancient entity trying to approximate a human, and Misha completely knocked it out of the park. Original Recipe Cas will always be my favorite, but he does a fantastic job with all the various iterations: Casifer, Leviathan Cas, Jimmy, the Entity, everyone else…the man is incredibly talented.
Chhany: Misha Collins is my favorite actor on the show, he is incredibly talented and that performance was just breathtaking! But no performance will ever top him as Lucifer (Casifer for win!). Even tho it was very similar to Casifer! I’d rank it as his #3 performance since it was just amazing! But Casifer and ‘normal’ Castiel are just the best! Sorry!
Sarah: Misha was extraordinary! He is extremely talented and definitely needs more appreciation for his remarkable job (on and off screen). His acting as Lucifer was very impressive as well, so I’d say Empty!Cas and Lucifer!Cas are tied for me. I’m a big softie for Castiel so all of his other personas are amazing and Misha played them all very well. I hope we get to see a little bit more of what he can do on this new role.
Donna: I’m interested to see if the acting choice to give the Entity an accent has any implications down the road. Was he attempting to mimic Death’s accent?
Tricia: I know people are going to throw tomatoes at me for this, but I wasn’t feeling this version of Cas as the Cosmic Entity. His acting is great, yes. He was two totally different people here, absolutely. But the accent was almost too weird for me, and I couldn’t stop laughing long enough at first to even hear what was being said. It was too much for me! (Okay, fine. I may have been struck stupid by the combined beauty of two Misha’s on screen at the same time…) Lucifer Cas was easily the best other role Misha has played in the past, no argument.
6. Dean apologized to Sam for his behavior in more recent episodes and even admitted that Jack did a good job. Do you think that was a step in the right direction? And in the interest of fairness, should Sam apologize to Dean as well?
Lindsay: I’m glad Dean apologized, yes – though I think by now, people should realize that anger and lashing out and withdrawing? That’s how Dean grieves. And he is clearly hurting after their recent losses. I think if anything, his apology almost indicates that he’s reaching out for help. I don’t think Sam necessarily needs to apologize, but I would like to see him keep an eye on Dean until his despair starts to even out – and until Cas and Mary inevitably reunite with them.
Chhany: No, I do not think Sam should apologize! For what should he apologize? He was the one taking the lead and letting his brother grieve, the one who tried to keep hoping for the best AND the one who cared for Jack. Sam didn’t do anything wrong!
Sarah: I think it was a huge step in the right direction. I love when Dean is written that way: acknowledging his actions and thinking about things, not just acting towards where his feelings lead him. It shows that he is trying hard to deal with his grief and that he’s not unable to speak about his feelings, he just doesn’t like it. Sam should apologize as well because he was a little pushy about Jack. They both made mistakes.
Donna: I absolutely loved the two scenes at the end, first between Dean and Jack, and then the brothers. It took Jack saving Sam for Dean to finally realize that Sam may have been right and Jack can choose to be good. I’m also glad Dean apologized to Sam for being so angry towards him. Sam has been grieving the very same loses that Dean has and hasn’t deserved to be the brunt of Dean’s anger. I really don’t feel Sam has anything to apologize for. He’s been understanding towards Dean and never spoke poorly of him. I don’t think that Sam stating his own feelings during the “counseling session” was out of line. It was something Dean needed to hear.
Tricia: I don’t think Sam needs to apologize to Dean. I don’t know what he would apologize for? But I loved that Dean apologized to Jack, and I loved that all it took for him to come around a little bit is for Jack to save Sam. Dean’s such a good big brother! I do think this is a step in the right direction, but I think it’s a baby step. The real forgiveness will come when Dean realizes Castiel and Mary aren’t really dead.
7. The cosmic entity appears to have sent Castiel back to Earth. Let’s assume that it has. What do you think Castiel did to convince it to send him back? Did he just annoy it until it let him go? Or did he make some sort of deal?
Lindsay: I do think that our Cas is back on Earth – that relieved half-smile as he enjoyed the sun was pure Cas, and it gave me a lot of feelings. But back to the question! Something about Cas’s stubborn persistence (not to mention his insistence on returning to his family on earth) being the key to getting out of the Empty is really satisfying to me. I like to think he annoyed the Entity into freeing him…because we know Cas. He isn’t going to give up until he’s back with the Winchesters where he belongs.
Chhany: Call me crazy but I think it’s not real Castiel! It may be a part of Castiel and a part of the cosmic entity, ‘cause maybe the cosmic entity can’t get out of the Empty without a vessel? I think they made a deal!
Sarah: I would love to believe that Castiel simply annoyed the entity until he was sent back, but I think some sort of deal was made. The first thing that came to my mind was the thought that maybe Cas doesn’t have all his memories, as if he agreed that in order to be sent back to earth he would lose his memories of the Winchesters and everything he lived with them. He agreed to that while having faith that Sam and Dean will try to find him and make him remember everything.
Donna: Although I have to admit that I’m very amused by the idea that Cass is so annoying he got kicked out of the Empty, I think there’s probably more to it than that. It may actually be the Entity itself who is now on Earth, or perhaps he hitched a ride out with real Cass, and they’re both in one vessel.
Tricia: I am laughing so hard at the idea of Castiel being so annoying that the Cosmic Entity sent him back just to get rid of him! I can see Cas annoying the sh*t out of him in my head so easily! Sadly, though, going with Castiel’s past actions, I’m sure there was some kind of deal involved. This show tends to make Castiel repeat the same mistakes over and over, so that’s probably the route they’ll take. I really, really hope I’m wrong though!
Final Verdict: Supernatural delivered a simple monster of the week story held together with strong character work and interesting new lore relating to the Empty
We’re now four episodes into Supernatural’s thirteenth season and the show has continued to impress and surprise us in unexpected ways. The character development and expansion of the show’s lore have been high points all season long and “The Big Empty” continued that trend. The episode started with a somewhat tired monster of the week case and managed to turn it into a very relevant story that helped Sam, Dean, and Jack move forward in a believable manner.
Misha Collins was also allowed to let loose in a new way by playing the cosmic entity of the Empty. He’s always been one of the more versatile actors on the show and our roundtablers greatly enjoyed seeing him take on a completely new and unique character. We didn’t learn much new about the Empty itself but its introduction and Castiel’s mysterious release from it raised numerous intriguing questions we can’t wait to have answered.
Despite serving the needs of the individual character arcs in the episode, shapeshifters have been used repeatedly over the course of the series and their usage here was rather by the numbers. We didn’t really learn anything new about them and the case effectively solved itself. Misha Collins as the cosmic entity didn’t impress all of our roundtablers either.
While the case and monsters featured in the main story of “The Big Empty” weren’t mind-blowing, the development of Sam, Dean, and Jack more than made up for the episode’s shortcomings. We’re expecting that whatever convinced the cosmic entity to release Castiel from the Empty to continue being an ongoing issue for both Castiel and the Winchesters, and we can’t wait to see how all of that plays out going forward.