This episode took a very different approach to telling a story. At first, I was a little skeptical about the mixed up timeline. But once I caught on, I was totally on board with the way the out-of-order scenes heightened the tension of the episode and gave it a unique feel. For anyone who didn't quite catch it all here's what went down (in order):
Around six years ago, after the demise of the yellow-eyed demon, Azazel and the locking away of Lucifer, and the death of Lilith, the throne of Hell was up for grabs. As King of the Crossroads, Crowley was sent to find the next person in line for the throne, Ramiel Prince of Hell. He comes bearing gifts: the lance of Lucifer, a mysterious box that is later revealed to be the missing colt, and the crown. Ramiel, however, has absolutely no interest in the throne and so he hands it over to the ambitious Crowley in exchange for one thing, peace, and quiet. As long as no one bothers him or any other Prince of Hell, they'll mind their own business.
Fast forward to the current timeline. Mary Winchester has accepted to work with the British men of letters. They give her intel on the location of the item they desire (the colt) and she goes after it. She scouts out the territory and soon realizes that she needs help. She calls up another hunter, Wally, to pretend that he's the one who found the demon in the first place. That way, when she calls in Sam, Dean, and Cas, they won't question the source of her information. The group meets up at a diner to discuss the plan.
That night, they got to the house where the demon has been living. They set up their trap and wait for him to show up. While they wait, Mary searches the basement and finds a hidden safe, which she cracks with a device presumably given to her by the Men of Letters. They removed the colt from the safe and returns to her post to wait for the demon.
The demon returns home. As planned, he enters the front door and Dean shoots him with a devil's trap bullet. He is apparently unconcerned by it and continues to calmly put away his things. Dean shoots him several more times with no real effect other than it makes him angry. He discovers the devil's trap under the carpet easily. Sam moves in with Ruby's knife and stabs the demon, but this also has no effect. The whole group converges on him with everything they have, but the demon has no trouble. While they fight, more demons arrive. Theses ones were a guard sent by Crowley and charged with making sure that Ramiel was left alone by everyone. Wally is killed in the attack.
During the fight, Mary sees that the demon has yellow eyes just like Azazel had. The demon isolates the Winchesters and notices that they've brought along an angel. He goes after Cas with Michael's lance and stabs him in the gut. Mary escapes with Cas to a nearby farm, and the demon disappears.
Sam and Dean meet up with Cas and Mary at the nearby farm and try to figure out what went wrong. It doesn't take long to realize that Cas is dying ad there's nothing they can do for him. Crowley appears and is very angry with them. He explains to them that the demon they attacked was Rameil, one of the Princes of Hell that was supposedly dead. He relates the story of how he got his crown and explained what was used to stab Castiel and that there is no way to find a cure in time. He shares with them that the Princes of Hell were among the first that Lucifer turned, there from the beginning. Angry, Dean demands that Crowley helps them or go back to Hell. Crowley disappears. Dean assumes that he went running and hide, but instead, Crowley goes to see Ramiel to try and talk him out of killing the Winchesters. Ramiel's answer is shown, but the answer was probably a no since immediately after that he uses Crowley's body to blow open the doors of the barn where the Winchesters are hiding out.
In a last ditch effort to save Cas, the Winchesters trap Ramiel in a holy oil circle and demand that he cures Cas, who is rapidly getting worse. He tells them again that there is no cure. He name drops a few other Princes who are also not dead, including one who is interested in the missing mother of the nephilim that Lucifer spawned. But soon he grows tired of the interrogation and pulls out the lance, which he uses to blow away the holy oil circle and the Winchester. They get up and fight, as they always do and manage to wrest the lance from his hands. Sam gets ahold of it and stabs Ramiel in the chest. Ramiel laughs at Sam, who continues to put all his strength behind the thrust and puts the tip through his heart. Ramiel disappears in a flash of smoke.
Cas is still dying, though, and as they kill Ramiel, he begins to convulse, leaking nasty black goo from his mouth. Sam drops the lance and rushes to his friend's side along with Dean and Mary. Crowley regains consciousness (or just decides it's safe enough to get up) and wanders over to the lance. He looks at the runes inscribed on it and ponders them for a moment, remembering a comment that Ramiel made when it was given to him. Crowley snaps the lance in two and the magic is broken. Cas is healed.
Furious, Mary turns over the gun to Mr. Catch who seems unperturbed by the events. She threatens to burn down their entire organization if they ever put her family in that kind of danger again. Mr. Catch apologizes, but it seems pretty clear that he isn't and it was likely not a mistake that sent her after a Prince of Hell. Meanwhile, Crowley has a conversation in Hell with a new prisoner: Lucifer.
This was a pretty bold episode. The non-chronological timeline was very well done. Despite being something that I wasn't used to, I understood exactly what was going on and I think this episode is stronger for it. I wasn't too sure about how I like the soundtrack that was chosen for this episode, however. It just didn't fit in with the rock-n-roll roughness of the show or the seriousness of the events going on. But despite this, the emotional impact remains powerful. Cas is a part of the WInchester family, and we've known that for a very long time now, but the recent few episodes have really highlighted this, especially towards the end when Mary threatens to take down the Men of Letters if their info ever hurts one of her boys again.
So far this season, it hasn't really seemed that the Winchesters are up against one particular enemy. They're facing off against Lucifer and trying to hunt down and eliminate the nephilim, but also after the now captured Lucifer. This episode introduced the Princes of Hell, at least one of which is evidently indicating some interest in the current events. And through all this, the Men of Letters hover in the background as both a potential threat and ally, but more likely the former. So unlike in previous seasons, there isn't one big build up to one clear big-bad. In my opinion, this complexity makes the show very interesting to watch as all these different factors come into play. And on top of all that, we get to see glimpses of the everyday lives of the WInchesters which makes us really fall more and more in love with the characters and their struggles and be more proud of their triumphs. Do you guys agree? What do you think is going to happen? I would rate the episode 8.5.