Upon hearing the title of this episode, I was afraid it would be just that: a clip show. I should probably trust the Supernatural writers more, as they delivered one of the best episodes of the last few seasons. Not only did they return to the tone of the first five seasons, referencing earlier episodes and drawing on the strengths of earlier stories, they gave us moral dilemmas for both Castiel and Sam, resulting in a rift between the brothers and between Castiel and his new alley, Metatron.
The opening of “Clip Show” is much like an early episode, with a happy couple getting away for the weekend, unfortunately to be terrorized by an unseen monster. As it happens, the unseen monster is a wendigo, a creature the boys hunted in season one. After the credits, we see Sam and Dean holed up in their bunker, attempting to puzzle out the specifics of the third trial, which we now know is to ‘cure a demon’.
Sam spots a scrawled note in one of the files they’re researching and he takes Dean to room 7B, where they spot a demon trap, chains with odd markings, and a projector. The boys decide to have a clip show of their own. Castiel, who is still in Dean’s bad graces, hesitatingly joins them, and to their astonishment, the film reels depict an odd exorcism ritual, one they’ve never seen before.
Castiel wants to go with Dean to visit the priest who saw the exorcism experiments, allowing Sam to recuperate, but Dean still doesn’t want anything to do with Cas, so he is left behind. Sam and Dean travel to St. Louis to converse with the priest about his experience. He reveals that his predecessor believed demons could be ‘healed,’ since demons are human souls twisted by their time in hell. He was even successful with one such exorcism right before he died.
While the Winchesters are in St. Louis, Cas is desperately attempting to get back in Dean’s good graces, by going shopping and picking up everything from jerky to a copy of Dean’s favorite ‘magazine’. When he can’t get pie, Cas begins to threaten the cashier, but is interrupted by Metatron, who is concocting a scheme to rid the world of angels while the Winchesters get rid of the demons. They remove to a restaurant to talk shop.
The first trial to close Heaven’s door is to cut the heart out of a nephilim, but there’s only one in the world and she happens to be their waitress. Castiel struggles with the choice between saving many lives and ending one innocent one. His mind is made up for him, however, when the nephilim acknowledges the angels and fights back, allowing Castiel to kill her without a guilty conscience. Or at least, less of one. After all, he’s atoning for what he did in Heaven, which will hopefully result in a reconciliation as the angels are forced to reside upstairs and in close proximity.
Before the boys can put their own plan completely into action, Sam’s phone rings. The number? “666.” Crowley’s on the line. It wasn’t a wendigo that killed the boy at the beginning of the episode, it was Crowley, and he’s planning on killing again, this time a girl the Winchesters rescued in season seven. They arrive too late, and rush on to meet Sarah, a girl they helped in season one. It has become a veritable clip show of survivors, and the reason, Crowley states, is that the knowledge of existing survivors is the excuse the boys allow themselves for their pitiful lives. If they don’t have that comfort, says Crowley, “What will you have left?”
The boys return to the lair, heartbroken and exhausted. Sam feels as if they should take Crowley’s deal and end the killing of innocent people, but Dean wants to continue on with the third trial and end the demons’ visitation rights permanently. “Are you with me?” he asks Sam. We don’t get an answer.
“Clip Show” hearkens back to the basics of Supernatural: the Winchesters, Crowley, and Castiel are all trying to do right by their respective families, which will result in an epic clash of power in the finale. There’s the fun stuff, too, like Crowley’s teasing, the mentions of pie, and Castiel’s confusion at basically everything. Then of course, we have the two Winchesters duking it out over what the right thing is in this situation. It made me excited to see what the story arc over the next few seasons will be, but I must admit to some fear and trepidation over next week’s season finale, “Sacrifice”.