It's been weeks since our last Supernatural fix, and somehow the show managed to pull off a Titanic-related episode that was original, whimsical, and tragic all at once. In sum: Goddamn I was I glad to see the Winchesters again.
Before I watched last night's episode, which I knew would involve the Titanic in some way, I found myself ticking off on my fingers the tropes I find groan-worthiest in genre TV: dream episodes, "go inside their mind" episodes, holodeck/alternate reality episodes, Old West episodes, and yes, visiting-the-Titanic episodes (sorry, Doctor Who!). So it was with a certain amount of wariness that I began to watch, but I was happily surprised at every turn.
The return of Ellen
As the episode opened, the brothers were trying to get Bobby to stop drinking and researching the Mother of All problem. "Just get some sleep," they urged, and then agreed that they should get going before "she" got home. Wha-huh? Then, when we check in on Bobby later while the boys are off investigating a series of weird, improbable accident deaths, Ellen suddenly waltzes into his house and starts yanking booze bottles out of his hand and chopping up vegetables for dinner. When he grumblingly thanks her, she kisses him and says, "That's why you married me." Wha-huh-huh? Did I miss something?
Apparently, we all did. Once again through some kind of magical trickery, Bobby has been given a wife who will be snatched away from him by the end of the episode. This time, the culprit is Balthazar, who hated the movie Titanic so much that he went back in time and saved the ship - meaning (randomly) that Ellen and her daughter Jo didn't die. And Bobby has a wife who feeds him carrots when she's not out hunting monsters.
So now the boys know that things are out of whack, because of course all the descendents of the people on the Titanic are wandering around - thousands of people who should never have been born, because their ancestors should have died in the icy sea while listening to Celine Dion.
Do not torment us with brief moments of Ellen ever again, show.
It is uncool to dangle the only non-demon asskicking female character back in front of us, reminding us of how pissed off we are that she had to die. Bring her back or keep her dead. Grumble!
But do you know who is really pissed about all this? The Fates.
It turns out that the Three Fates - you know, those hot librarians with the looms and record books who determine whether you'll live or die - lost their jobs after the apocalypse didn't happen. They used to work for God, but Castiel fired them when he took over Heaven because he wants to honor the brothers' faith in freedom, the ability to forge their own destinies.
Let's not even get into the weirdness of an ancient Greek myth working for the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God.
So the Fates are really angry about the job loss thing, but they're keeping it together until Balthazar pulls his little retcon with the Titanic. Which is why all those people are having improbable accidents and dying. The Fates are killing off all the descendents of the people who should have died on the Titanic. Essentially, they're trying to prevent Balthazar from retroactively injecting freewill into eras that were technically Fate-controlled.
Let's not even get into the weirdness of the idea that "freedom" apparently includes an ability to prevent mass death from occurring via retcon.
And the Fates aren't going to stop, either. One of them tells Cas she'll kill Sam and Dean if Cas doesn't allow the people killed by Fate to remain dead. Will Cas really be able to run a war and watch over Sam and Dean all the time, to prevent Fate from striking when they least expect it? The answer is clearly no. So, to prevent 50,000 awful deaths, including Sam and Dean's, Cas and Balthazar agree to go back to the Titanic and sink it.
Luckily, we don't have to see them do it, which means we were all spared the historical costumes.
Is Castiel minting souls? Interesting.
One of the Fates also accuses Cas of ordering Balthazar to save the Titanic so that he could "mint souls" for his war in Heaven. And he looks guilty as hell, though he and Balthazar both deny it.
Our sweet angel is playing dirty. And he's lying to the brothers about the real reason he let Balthazar zap the Titanic back on course, away from the iceberg. Not sure why he picked the Titanic - it might have been more population-expanding to (for example) prevent the 1918 Spanish flu or cure AIDS in Africa. But whatever. At least, as I noted earlier, we didn't have to see the brothers or angels running around on the Titanic wearing 1910s-style swimsuits and listening to a string quartet. Seriously, I was braced for that and thank Cas it didn't happen.
And now it is time to process our feelings.
When Sam and Dean do a repeat of the show's opening scene, only this time in our universe, they find Bobby crashed out on the couch with a book in his hand. So at least he's getting some sleep, even if Ellen is dead. I'm not feeling very good about this, and neither are Sam and Dean.
But Castiel has already told them why they have to remember the alternate universe, the example of how things could have been, because it's basically a demonstration of the fact that Cas is no longer allied with Fate. Before the (averted) apocalypse, we lived in a world ruled by the Three Fates, who determine who will live and die. But now, we have "freedom" and three very angry, unemployed Fates.
Supernatural has always been a show set in an alternate reality where monsters exist and the apocalypse nearly happened, but now a new, intriguing aspect of that alternate reality has been fleshed out.
This is a world where Fate explicitly has no control. A world where people do have true freedom, whatever that means. There is no predestination. Does that make it more like our own world, or less? I love it when this show makes you answer questions like that.