Contributor: John Keegan
Written by Adam Glass
Directed by Serge Ladouceur
Early in the series’ run, before the multitude of episodes exploring Sam and Dean’s mother Mary came along, I had wondered if there was a generational legacy for the Winchester bloodline. It was certainly implied by the Yellow-Eyed Demon and Sam’s unique abilities (some of which disappeared over time), but that was later explained away, and Mary’s family tree turned out to be the Hunters of the family. The implication, of course, being that John Winchester learned everything he needed to know about Hunting from Mary’s family and other contacts after her death.
This episode, then, was a bit of a vindication, even if it seems that this is a perfect example of retroactive continuity. Nothing that is presented in this episode contradicts what has come before, but it does change the context of a few things. It’s something that a lot of series do as time marches on, but it is rarely done well, even when the ideas themselves are good.
In this case, the writers introduce the Men of Letters and Knights of Hell, both additions to an already complex mythology. The Knights of Hell are probably the easier pill to swallow, since it makes sense that Lucifer would have some demonic followers that were older than others, and therefore far more powerful than the typical demon. Where Lilith might fall into this concept isn’t hard to reconcile, and of course, Meg, Ruby, and Crowley are relatively new blood by comparison.
On the other hand, while Hunters have always had a certain blue-collar mystique to them, folks like Bobby made it very clear that they had more than a casual acquaintance with studying ancient texts and uncovering obscure lore. With John Winchester on the hunt for the demon that killed his wife, never mind running across all kinds of monsters and arcane situations, there didn’t need to be another layer on top of that to explain the details in his journal. There’s never been an indication that it was particularly special or more complete than any other Hunter’s resources.
The Men of Letters remind me a bit of a smaller-scale Talamasca, the organization in Anne Rice novels that catalogued and tracked supernatural bloodlines and creatures over the millennia. Of course, the Men of Letters (who apparently were more inclusive than their name would imply) were also arrogant jerks. (Wesley Wyndham-Price would have loved these folks.) But the idea of a storehouse of powerful relics is an interesting one, and plants a potential seed for the future.
It does, however, add to the notion that the Brothers Winchester are something very special. Being the synthesis of the Hunters and Men of Letters, representing Dean and Sam respectively, reinforces the basis for them being the subject of the Winchester Gospels. One can imagine the final versions of the Winchester Gospels starting off with lineages on both sides of the family now, leading to the point where the two converge to produce the dudes that prevented the apocalypse. Several times over.
The repository of lore mentioned in this episode now gets added to the Angel and Demon tablets as information that simply cannot get into the hands of Humanity’s enemies, and as such, it makes sense that Crowley and Naomi, more or less representing the two sources of supernatural threats these days, would be vying for control of the situation. In keeping with their natures, Crowley is using violence and threats to get what he wants, while Naomi is using binding control as her technique.
If I had to guess, given that this season has been about staying ahead of the threat, this episode is going to turn out to be very important. As in, possessing any of this knowledge is going to turn out to be just too damn dangerous, and Sam and Dean will have to debate whether or not to risk using it to seal off the angels and demons once and for all (unlikely) or toss them and the key into the repository where all of it will be out of reach for eternity (far more likely). Of course, the road is never easy for the Brothers Winchester, so I look forward to how things continue to complicate as the season rolls on.