Here's a particularly affecting moment from last night's Supernatural, in which we see the true banality of evil — not speaking up in the face of monstrous events — and how it's haunted this ex-nun for decades. It's astonishing that this old workhorse of a show can still blow you away sometimes.
"Mother's Little Helper" was the first episode directed by Castiel actor Misha Collins, and he's clearly trying to stretch his wings here. There are a ton of really inventive shots in the episode where things turn out not to be what they appear. At one point, we pull back from an idyllic small-town scene, which turns out to be a painting in a grungy restaurant. We keep seeing Dean apparently doing research in the bunker, only to see that he's actually in a crappy bar. And the placement of shots in the above clip intersperses the elderly woman's face with her younger nun counterpart in a pretty neat way.
The theme of illusion and trickery seems pretty apt for this episode, in which demons are posing as nuns in both the 1950s and today, under the orders of Abaddon. The nuns have been running a scheme to steal souls and keep them in jars, so they can be turned into demons. Through a series of nun flashbacks, we discover that Henry Winchester and Josie, his Men of Letters partner, investigated this scheme back in the day, but only partially vanquished the demons — and that's how Josie got possessed by Abaddon. In the present day, the nuns have fallen on hard times because the Catholic Church doesn't have enough sway to go around stealing people's souls without anyone noticing any more. Sad.
The soul-stealing thing is a particularly neat spin on the show's mythos, with the people turning into violent psychos — sort of like Sam when his soul was gone, but different. They're like simulacra of people, without whatever makes them human. And for once, Sam is actually able to save most of the victims, restoring their souls so they can hopefully pick up the pieces that their rampages left behind.
Meanwhile, Dean basically just spins his wheels in this episode, pretending to do research until he attracts the attention of Crowley, who's concerned that Dean is too freaked out by the power of the Mark of Cain to do what he'll need to do. So Crowley stages a little test, where a demon pretends to be a Hunter, and Dean talks him out of killing Crowley. Not sure what that proves, but at least the "Mark of Cain" storyline has advanced fractionally.
And this episode addresses my biggest problem with the Abaddon storyline — the unclear stakes. Until now, it's been a couple of vague statements about Abaddon's evil plans to take over Hell and sweep across the Earth, but now we have some specifics — and they're genuinely kind of alarming. An army of newly made demons that are loyal only to Abaddon and have no real identities of their own could actually be kind of horrific. So, too, is the idea of demon "factories" hidden all over the country. It'll be interesting to see how this develops.