We all have met that one person that you just can't stand. That one that no matter what, finds ways to annoy you to the point that if you don't get away, they will drive you up the wall. So, imagine being trapped with that somebody with no escape and maybe you'll come to a fraction of what Sam Winchester has dealt with mentally. Oh, and his bothersome buddy happens to be the devil. What a lucky guy.
This season, more so at the outset, has played around with the idea of Sam's crumbling mind but ultimately left it to the point where the audience just had to buy his deterioration and struggles with Lucifer shouting on his shoulder and messing with his head. Except as viewers it's a lot harder to accept when we can't connect with Sam's issues because we don't see it. And of course, when you have a talent like Mark Pellegrino acting deliciously obnoxious, sarcastic, and fiendish in toying with the main character, that particular visual experience makes Sam's nightmare of a broken soul much more impactful.
But it was finally seeing Sam on the verge of his breaking point, seeing him placed in psychiatric care (do they always have to wear white clothes?), seeing him rock the scruffy look, that made Sam's struggles for the season so much more interesting than just taking his word for it. It was easy to feel for Sam's predicament with each exploding firecracker Lucifer gleefully dropped while watching the normally solid and resolute character taken to painful wincing and heavy bags under his eyes.
And to top that off, Sam still managed to help another girl with her ghost issue. Sure, it was dealt with rather quickly, but with everything that was jam packed into this episode it was more of an added bonus to the story.
Of course with Dean being Dean, saving his little brother has always been high on his priority list, and it seemed rather like a miracle or at least ghostly movement that led him to Emmanuel, Sam's last hope.
Cue fan excitement because Emmanuel was none other than Castiel. Unfortunately struck with a bad case of amnesia, but certainly Castiel.
Why was he brought back? Was it really God and some sort of divine intervention?
No matter the reason, it was a welcome return and definitely interesting to watch scenes take place with his old pal, Dean. Since, if you can remember back at the beginning of the season, Castiel and the Winchester brother didn't end on the best of terms, what with him becoming the new God, refusing to give up his powers, and breaking Sam's wall.
It would have been so easy for Dean to tear into Castiel, but the lack of memory changed the situation, giving Dean the chance to reflect and in a way forgive his friend because he was no longer gone. And that he hoped he could save his brother. Rather than just dishing out anger, they were able to discuss the betrayal. If anything you just wanted the two to make up.
And like Jason Bourne, Castiel got to say that famous "I remember everything" line when his memory restored. Although the best part of his revival had to be Dean handing Castiel back his trench coat. It was like handing Superman his cape, laying down the frustration and resentment, and saying, "Let's do this together again."
In the end, "The Born-Again Identity" was beautifully bittersweet in its story.
With Castiel eager to right his wrongs, you wanted him to fix Sam. I even thought he might at one point, while secretly hoping he wouldn't because that kind of a repair would have been too easy.
Rather, Castiel chose to sacrifice himself and bear Sam's mind meltdown for himself. Was it retribution? Can Castiel bear dealing with Lucifer better than Sam?
It was sad watching the return of this character jump back to full power, attempting to make right, and falling after his sacrifice. A tragic undertaking in such a short time, but far more dramatic than simply walking into water and disappearing. It was a great turn for this fantastic character and I hope that Sam and Dean will be able to find a way to help him out, even if the original dilemma is now just on a different foot.
The surprise appearances didn't stop with the missing angel either, but rather incorporated the return of the demons and the conniving Meg Masters. It seems that Crowley has lifted his ban on killing Sam and Dean. Convenient for the story, perhaps? Maybe, but I welcome an enemy that seems dangerous and having them play a key role is just another testament to touching on past seasons.
I was expecting the Leviathan connection to take place as well, thinking that they might be in the hospital, but no, they remained absent.
While the lack of that big bad has been a bit bothersome at times, it didn't take away from the well crafted and executed episode written by Sera Gamble. From the top notch acting to the fantastically connected story towards a a conclusion that was both exciting and heartbreaking, it was spot on good. Supernatural, even at seven seasons, you've still got that A-game running through your episodic veins.
What did you think of the episode? Were you glad Castiel returned? Should he have saved Sam like he did? What's next for the brothers now that the demons and the Leviathan are out to get them? Sound off below!
Sean McKenna is a TV Fanatic Staff Writer. Follow him on Twitter.