Supernatural S11E14 “The Vessel” REVIEW
Airing in the UK on E4 on Wednesdays at 10pm
Writer: Robert Berens
Director: John Badham
Essential Plot Points:
- In a flashback to Nazi-occupied France, a Woman of Letters uncovers a mysterious artefact held by a Nazi officer, who she quickly despatches.
- Present day, and Sam is having an archaeological geek-fest – specifically over a super-weapon said to be found by Nazi archaeologists: the Hand of God, believed to contain traces of God’s power. Could it be their answer to defeating Amara?
- They discover that the Hand of God was stolen by a Woman of Letters named Delphine, who took a submarine to get it back to the States – only it never arrived. The sub was sunk.
- It seems like a lost cause, but never say never if you’re a Winchester; Dean calls “Cas” to ask for his help, giving Lucifer a break from soul reports and tablet games to help Dean time travel back to the past.
- Despite promising to stick with Dean, “Cas” isn’t there when Dean arrives on the USS Bluefin – turns out there’s some sort of warding on the sub. “Cas” arrives back in the bunker, absolutely soaking wet.
- Dean gets hold of a navy outfit and sets about trying to find Delphine and her Hand of God. He finds her, but makes the mistake of calling her by her name – something none of the crew knows.
- Dean’s forced to admit that he’s from the future after his mobile phone’s discovered, and after telling Delphine he’s a Man of Letters, she believes him.
- He explains how the sub’s going down, and he needs to take and protect the Hand of God before it happens.
- Delphine agrees to that and to erasing her warding.
- Sam discovers a spell that’s never been used before, but could be their ticket to getting “Cas” back to Dean in the past – except that it needs an archangel to make it work. Of course, Sam doesn’t realise he’s got an archangel sitting right next to him, so dismisses the idea.
- The final ward on the sub is bound to Delphine – to break it, Delphine has to die.
- Lucifer sets about pulling the ingredients together for the spell, which Sam pegs as desperation. He offers “Cas” his soul as a power-up, which is when Lucifer decides he’s had enough. He doesn’t need to play Cas anymore!
- He’ll get Dean and the Hand of God for his own gain, but he doesn’t need Sam anymore.
- Cas isn’t about to let Sam die, though, and manages to push through to stop Lucifer from killing him.
- Turns out the German destroyer is headed by none other than the Nazi officer Delphine killed. He’s a member of the Thule, the zombie Nazi group.
- Dean suggests using the Hand of God to save the sub, but Delphine says no – they’re going to die, and they may as well die with purpose. She fires up the Hand of God herself, breaking the ward on her chest and ripping through the German destroyer with its power.
- Lucifer brings Dean back just as the sub is about to explode, and quickly discovers that it’s not Cas he’s dealing with anymore. Lucifer takes the Hand of God, only to find out that it’s a one-hit-wonder. It’s completely dry of power.
- Sam uses the angel banishing sigil to banish Lucifer, leaving the Winchesters to mull over Cas’s decision to let Lucifer in.
This week Supernatural is time travelling for the first time in years! Dean’s been to the wild west, he’s been to 1944, he’s gone back to see his parents, and now he’s heading back to World War II to save a mythical artefact: the Hand of God. It’s high-stakes as usual!
This week’s A plot sees Dean having to play naval crew as he stows aboard a military submarine. It’s a shame that the episode’s time constraints mean we don’t see more of Dean trying to fit in, given that he’s quickly discovered and forced to out himself as a time traveller. Given that he’s on a submarine – the fact that he didn’t stand out like a beacon from the word go is impressive enough – but his interactions with the crew and his attempts to get the lingo correct are adorable. Gams! Plus, he could have at least kept the hat on a bit longer! Ah, Dean, you can make anything look good.
On the darker side of things, Dean also has to deal with knowing that everyone he meets on the submarine is bound to die, and there’s nothing he can do. He goes as far as sabotaging his mission by offering to use the Hand of God to save everyone aboard, but it’s not to be. The final scene, with Dean clutching the now useless Hand of God as he contemplates everything that happened – how he was just a bystander to all those deaths – is a powerful moment, especially for a character who isn’t known for emoting all that much.
The B plot is an all-too-rare Sam’n’Cas show – sort of. Does it count if it’s Lucifer pretending to be Cas? Anyway, Sam is such a mother hen this episode, telling Dean not to go back to the past, it’s too dangerous, and telling “Cas” not to try the spell because he’s not strong enough and it’s dangerous… he must feel pretty helpless. Especially when he realises just who’s taken the wheel of his friend’s vessel. Lucifer’s reveal is a fantastic moment; understated and yet chilling as he laughs at Sam’s bewilderment. He’s so different to Castiel; Misha Collins does a great job portraying the switch from one to the other a few times this episode, and the difference is staggering. Almost as good is Lucifer’s anger at getting dunked in the ocean, where he’s trying to stay in character as Cas whilst displaying behaviour completely incongruous to the character. It’s a great performance.
A few one-off characters are introduced this episode, notably Woman of Letters, Delphine. So far there haven’t been many Women of Letters, namely Charlie and Dorothy, so it’s always good to see that side of it being expanded on. Robert Berens has written a fantastically strong-willed character in Delphine; there aren’t many who could stomach faking a relationship with a Nazi for so long! She’s dedicated to her mission and her belief in the Men of Letters, and so hardly falters when Dean tells her he’s from the future. She’s willing to die for what she believes in, and in the end makes the ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. It’s a shame we won’t be seeing her again.
The concept of Hands of God is also introduced this episode, adding another notch to the “God references” this season. Sam’s theory that God was speaking to him may have been sunk in the worst way possible, but now there’s a more physical representation to hold onto. The next step towards the man himself making an appearance? These Hands of God look like they’re going to be an important asset in defeating The Darkness; through Delphine we’ve seen a glimpse of what they’re capable of, even if only once. Now they just have to find more.
- This is a solid episode with a great concept, introducing a new weapon that fits right in with Supernatural lore. The Hand of God wins points for not being a total deus ex machina either, with its one-time-only use.
- Delphine is a great one-hit-wonder character who’s given a solid mission and personality even within the time constraints.
- Sam geeking out over archaeology at the beginning of the episode!
- Lucifer idly playing an iPad game instead of ruling Hell. Plus his… creative method of dealing with Crowley. Good doggy.
- Misha Collins’ performance as Lucifer continues to impress, particularly the switches between Cas and Lucifer himself.
- The cameo of the Thule, last seen in season eight! Always nice to see past canon brought back.
- Dean’s submarine plot seemed a little rushed, but then with episode time constraints that can’t be helped.
And the Random:
- This particular Hand of God is part of the Ark of the Covenant, a biblical object made by Moses to hold the Ten Commandments. Of course, as Dean references, it’s also part of the main plot of the Indiana Jones movie Raiders of the Lost Ark.
- Check out this blog to find out how the Supernatural crew constructed the USS Bluefin.
- Edith Piaf’s “Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien” is heard multiple times in this episode. Writer Robert Berens has explained how it’s Delphine’s theme.