TWO absolutely fantastic episodes, imo, so I want to comment on them TOGETHER.
I watched them many times, even independently from rewatching the entire run.
First off Julie McNiven is incredible as Anna. She conveys such vulnerability at first, looking fragile and deeply troubled, and then changes in front of our eyes into such calm confidence once she discovers she’s an angel, it’s really impressive acting.
I love Anna’s character arc on the show. She is a “good case” at the beginning, with her ability to know about the breaking seals, hear angel radio, draw a sigil to teleport angels away, her human back story. It’s all very intriguing and makes for a good mystery until we find out what she is.
Then she makes us understand the hardships angels go through – standing silent sentinel without feelings – and what it means to disobey and rebel. We get to see behind heaven’s curtains so to speak, finding out about the illusiveness of God and how much sheer, blind faith is required to be an angel. And the magnitude of her sacrifice – ripping out her own grace and falling – in order to be free or be human. We learn about grace and how it is the essence of what makes an angel and how it can exist outside of the body. There is so much new info she brings to the show’s canon.
It also made me wonder about Cas’ doubts and what that would mean for his future, when I watched this the first time.
Amongst angels we know – even later in the show – Anna is also singular as she isn’t inhabiting a vessel but she was born a vessel that later took back her grace. Doesn’t really match what we know about how angels work, but I like the different idea.
LOVE the short-lived Anna and Dean connection. They have a lot in common as their conversation about their shared frustrations show. She was also able to soothe Dean when he couldn’t allow himself to be open with Sam about the guilt he felt about his perceived failure in hell. I find the dynamic between them really interesting. The writers packed a lot of “relationship development” into a short amount of time which leaves me sad at the end that they didn’t get a chance for more. I think she finds him interesting and admirable straight from the start because of what the overheard from the angels, while he only sees her as a victim who needs protecting. Once he learns more about her back story and then finds out she’s an angel and a rebellious one at that he develops a mix of respect and wariness for her and feels drawn to her. Her ability to get under his skin in such short amount of time spent together clearly unsettles him a little BUT also give us the SMOKING HOT sex scene in the Impala’s back seat. I don’t think he would have banged her when he saw her as mostly vulnerable. Lots of layers there and well-acted on both of their parts.
I also really appreciate that we are shown Sam’s painful journey after Dean died. Especially because he TELLS Dean the whole – or most of the – story upon Dean’s request to make him understand! That’s a big step – both for Dean to be open enough to ask and for Sam to tell him so much.
It’s not taking away from Dean’s horrors, but it shows us that Sam really lost himself after Dean was gone. It also drives the point home how much of a moral compass Dean is in Sam’s life. Sam’s desperation, trying to make a deal when no one wants to, hearing that Hell has Dean right where they want to, is heart breaking. It’s also really sad to see him slide into dependency with Ruby. First, I think it’s mostly reckless need to do something and not caring about the outcome, but when he really starts to believe that he can actually do some good with his abilities, it’s already too mixed up with his addiction to the demon blood to be completely rational. Ruby is definitely a master manipulator getting Sam right where he’s most vulnerable promising revenge on Lilith.
The make out scene between Sam and Ruby is very fitting – just on this side of rough and a little too wild. There’s nothing but raw need not to be alone and to let off some steam here – no love or tenderness.
And I absolutely LOVE that is cuts off right before…too much…and we get Dean’s horrified “Too much information” comment! HAHA. That was perfect writing and editing.
Cas and Uriel showing up out of nowhere just demanding that Anna had to die without further explanation was scary and impactful for sure and a great end to the “I Know What You Did…” episode.
Another player we learn a lot about in these episodes is Alastair, of course. Mostly how powerful he is. Immune to Sam’s powers AND the demon knife. He clearly has no regard for any life, human or other. His speech about all the things he misses about hell while he tortures Ruby is chilling. Dean is clearly afraid of him.
Between that and Cas and Uriel in full dispassionate angel warrior mode the final confrontation in the barn has a lot of tension and palpable high stakes. It’s fun to watch.
Jensen is just masterful in both of these episodes. There are a LOT of great scenes for him to shine. Of course there is the absolute gut wrenching misery of the last scene of “Heaven and Hell” where he confesses to Sam about what happened in Hell. I know Jensen said in interviews that that was a super hard scene for him and he had to walk it off afterwards because he got so wrapped up in the intensity of feelings it was hard to let go of it. Well, it shows. It is 100% believable as a person in deep pain and shame. But there is also the scene when Anna hears the angel’s message about how they will throw Dean back into Hell, if he doesn’t give up Anna. You can FEEL Dean’s fear because of Jensen’s incredible “face acting” here. Same goes for the dream conversation he has with Uriel. Again with the wonderfully nuanced expressions when Uriel threatens to take him – a clear progression from fear to defiance. And on and on….just amazing.
Even the “filler scenes” in these episodes have a lot of fun stuff to offer:
LOVED Pamela’s cameo! The way she played helpless just to grab Sam’s ass. HA
When Ruby slips into the hotel maid for a hot minute and the interaction that actress has with the boys is great.
The billiard scene at the beginning of the episode gives us another little insight into the brother dynamic and how they operate on the road – making money. Although I always found it a bit unbelievable that Sam would simply give away $500!! Even with Ruby showing up.
ONE thing I always wondered about is if we were meant to believe that Ruby planned the entire situation (sending Sam and Dean after Anna, helping to get Anna’s grace back) in order to try and take out Alastair? Did she suspect Alastair would come for Anna? Was she worried that Alastair would give Sam and Dean too much information about the seals? After all he does tell Dean later that it’s his doing that the first seal broke. And if this was NOT Ruby’s plan then WHY did she come and tell Sam about Anna?
Both of these episodes were 10 out of 10 for me! They had an interesting case at the core with Anna’s story but also majorly drove the myth arc of the entire season forward AND we had great brother scenes.