(As I mentioned in my post announcing this rewatch project, there will be spoilers!)
Season 2, Episode 13: Houses of the Holy
Image and episode summary from Wikipedia:
When the brothers investigate murders in Providence, Rhode Island in which the culprits claim to have been ordered to do so by an angel, they find that the victims were a killer and a pedophile, and that both attended the same church. Sam and Dean learn that a priest had been shot to death outside the church. While Sam wants to believe that it really is an angel, Dean thinks it is the vengeful spirit of the priest. Sam is later visited by the angel, who orders him to kill an evil man. While Dean tracks the angel's target to make sure that the man does not do anything bad, Sam summons the spirit of the priest (David Monahan). The spirit believes himself to be an angel, but another priest (Denis Arndt) at the church convinces him otherwise and puts his soul to rest using the Last Rites. Meanwhile, Dean prevents the man from attacking a woman, and then chases after him in his car. During the pursuit, the man almost crashes into a truck, and a metal pipe on the truck falls and impales him, which Dean believes may have been God's doing.
This is definitely a creepy opening!
All this talk of Heaven and angels…makes me think of [spoilers! Highlight the rest of sentence to read season 4+ spoiler: Cas and the apocalypse episodes in seasons 4 and 5. I can’t wait to see that! End of spoiler]
So one must wonder – is this an angel?
Ohh Sam is working at a psychiatric hospital with Gloria (the girl from the beginning of episode). She seems stable and healthy…she thinks what she saw is real. An angel.
Woah she stabbed a man in the heart! She said it was God’s will – God didn’t tell her directly but he sent an angel. What she did was important – helped smite an evil man. Redemption.
She waited for a sign beside the victim’s door – she knew because the angel told her that he was guilty to his deepest foundations. That was good enough for her. She didn’t know his name.
LOL Dean on a vibrating bed at the motel!
I LOVE the motel sets they come up with!!
Sam has Dean on lockdown – he was on the news as a bank robber, after all.
Sam is not sure that Gloria is crazy. She truly believes she was touched by an angel. Sam couldn’t find any dirt on her victim, Carl: no criminal record, had lots of friends, went to church, worked at a library. Is Gloria nuts?
But she’s the second in town to murder because an angel told her.
Dean tells Sam he doesn’t believe in angels: “There’s no such thing.” [SPOILER – HIGHLIGHT TO READ: EVERYONE WHO HAS SEEN S4 E1 OR ANYTHING PAST THAT IS LOL’ING. Although I don’t think they had any intentions, at this point in the show, of adding angels to the mythology, so I guess while it’s kind of ironic now, it wasn’t at the time. End of spoiler.]
Sam tells Dean there’s more lore about angels than anything else they’ve hunted; Dean responds that there’s a ton of lore about unicorns too [SPOILER – HIGHLIGHT TO READ: wait for it……wait like 5 more seasons but wait for it…….there is indeed a unicorn later… End of spoiler. What a spoiler-y post.]
Bottom line: Dean doesn’t believe in angels because he’s never seen one. He believes in what he can see. Sam’s incredulous because they’ve seen things most people couldn’t dream about; Dean says exactly – they’ve seen them. He thinks this must be a demon or a spirit but Sam is not convinced.
Sam says there was nothing at Gloria’s place – no sulphur or EMF – but they should go check out Billy’s place, for the ‘sign’ Gloria saw. Off they go!
The sign: an angel statue beside the door? Dean thinks that’s it. Sam looks around, moves to the back of the house, and finds a cellar door entrance. He remembers Gloria saying the guy was guilty to his deepest foundations. Was she being literal? They go down into the cellar/basement. There’s nothing too out of the ordinary…but the more Sam looks around, he notices something weird on the wall. It turns out to be a human fingernail! They grab some shovels and dig. They find a skeleton! So whatever told Gloria this man was guilty at least knew that.
Cut to some dude on a bed – he seems to be visited by the same thing that visited Gloria. We then see him out walking on the street, and he sees what he clearly interprets as a sign – something glowing, possibly an angel? – in front of someone’s house. He knocks on the door, which is answered by a man. Our guy – Zach – takes out a knife and kills the guy who answered the door! The sign turns out to be an angel statue/bird bath.
Sam comes into the motel room with food; Dean looks forlornly at the bed massager while listening to their police scanner. Sam refuses to enable his sick habit.
Sam reports that three students have gone missing from the college campus this year – he’s looking into the body found at Gloria’s victim’s place. Last seen at library where her victim worked. Gloria’s angel or whatever struck again! Dean tells Sam about the murder committed by Zach, who went to the police after to confess.
They go to Zach’s victim’s house to investigate. I love seeing Sam and Dean breaking and entering, investigating, working together. Once again, this victim – Fred – seems clean and normal, but Sam finds an unmarked file on his computer, which is of course password protected. But Sam cracks the password with his excellent computer skills. It turns out to be a bunch of e-mails to some lady named Jennifer. But Jennifer turns out to be 13 years old. They met in a chat room and the e-mails are pretty personal. Fred set up a time and place to meet her – and it would have been today.
Dean: “Huh. I guess if you’re gonna stab someone, good timing.”
So did this ‘angel’ save Jennifer? Dean says this spirit is some sort of do-gooder, whereas most are out for vengeance. Almost like an… Sam: “Avenging angel? How else do you explain it, Dean?”
The three guys are not connected to each other, all were stabbed through the heart, and at least 2 were world class pervs.
But it turns out they are connected – they all went to the same church. More investigating to be done!
The boys meet with the priest to learn about the church. Dean asks about the neighbourhood, saying they heard about the murders. The killers said an angel made them do it. The priest is upset, saying it’s tragic to think that God’s messenger would appear and incite people to murder.
OMG SAM POINTS TO A PAINTING AND ASKS IF IT’S MICHAEL AND THE PRIEST SAYS YES, THE ARCHANGEL MICHAEL. FLAMING SWORD. FIGHTER OF DEMONS. HOLY FORCE AGAINST EVIL.
The priest says much of the scripture paints angels as God’s warriors. He quotes from Luke 2:9.
As they leave the church, they see a memorial at the church site for Father Gregory, who passed away right on those steps two months ago, after he was shot for his car keys. He was a priest at the church. There was no time to administer his last rites. Ever since he died, this priest has been praying for deliverance from the violence and bloodshed in the neighbourhood. He says they could use a little divine intervention. I THINK WE’VE CRACKED THE CASE.
So a devoted priest dies violent death = vengeful spirit. As their priest, he knew the victims and things about them that no one else knew. But then precious Sam points out that Father Reynolds started praying for help two months ago – the time this all started to happen.
Dean wonders when Sam became such a believer. Why is he so willing to buy this crap? When Sam tells Dean that he does pray every day, and has for a long time, Dean is incredulous. “The things you learn about a guy.”
They go to check out Father Gregory’s grave – he’s interred at that church – and Sam sees one of the angel statues shaking/moving, as light comes in the window behind it. Is this a sign? He then sees the ‘angel’, the same that Gloria and Zach saw. Dean comes to look for him and finds Sam collapsed on the ground.
Sam wakes and tells Dean he’s okay. Isn’t he going to tell him what he saw?? OK he tells Dean he saw an angel. Dean clearly needs a drink. He asks Sam for more information on what happened. A feeling like peace and grace washed over Sam. Dean teases him, but Sam is serious. It spoke to him, knew who he was. Dean reminds him this wouldn’t be the first spirit to read people’s minds.
Sam was told he’s been chosen to smite a sinner and has to wait for the sign. He asked the ‘angel’ what this person did, and the angel told him that he hasn’t done anything yet, but he will.
Dean is not impressed. And I’ve gotta say, this doesn’t seem like our Sammy to me – to kill someone, a human, for a thing that hasn’t happened? Sam insists the angel hasn’t been wrong yet; someone is supposed to do something awful and he can stop it. Dean says that Sam is supposed to be bad too – maybe he should just stop him now? Ouch.
Sam is upset that Dean won’t even consider the possibility that this is an angel or God’s will. If they’re hunting an angel, maybe they should stop. Dean congratulates Sam on having faith; says their mother had faith too. “She used to tell me when she’d tuck me in that angels were watching over us”. SAD. That was the last thing she ever said to Dean. “She was wrong.” There was nothing protecting her.
There’s no God, no higher power; just chaos and violence, random unpredictable evil that comes out of nowhere. Dean needs to see some hard proof before he can believe. Dean is convinced that they are dealing with a spirit. They find wormwood at the priest’s grave – a plant associated with the dead, specifically those not at rest. It doesn’t seem to be growing anywhere else. Dean says it’s him – the dead priest is the angel/demon. Sam is not convinced.
Dean says he’ll give him proof – they’ll summon Father Gregory’s spirit. Sam isn’t sure about doing a séance in a church…but there’s a ritual in their dad’s journal.
If it’s an angel, Sam says it won’t show. Nothing will happen. Dean says this is a perk of the job – they don’t have to operate on faith; they can know for sure. Doesn’t Sam want to know for sure?
LOL Sponge Bob placemat instead of an altar cloth.
Sam sees ‘the sign’ – a guy’s standing at the corner and there’s glowing around him. Sam says that’s the guy – they have to stop him. Dean says Sam can’t go kill a guy because a ghost told him to. Sam knows that. He’s going to stop him. Dean asks him to define Stop. Sam wants to prevent someone from getting hurt. Dean gives in and drives after the guy’s car and tells Sam to go do the séance and Dean’s got this.
Dean follows his car. The guy seems to be picking up a date – a girl gets in the car; he gives her flowers as he walks her to the car door. Dean follows as they drive off.
Back at the church, Sam is preparing for the séance. Yay for another John Winchester journal sighting!!
The not-dead priest comes in and asks Sam what’s going on. Sam has to explain that this is a séance. The priest is definitely upset and tries to get Sam to leave. But then they see – the glowing light. The séance worked. Sam knows now that it isn’t an angel, it’s Father Gregory’s spirit. And as the glowing light goes away, we see that it is indeed Father Gregory.
Father Gregory says he’s come in answer to Father Reynolds’ prayers.
Dean is following this guy’s car still…
Back at the church, Father Gregory speaks to Sam, telling him he should hurry on his path. Sam apologizes and tells him he’s not an angel. Father Gregory doesn’t believe him. Sam tells him he’s a man, a spirit, and he needs to rest. Father Gregory believes he is an angel and recounts his death – he felt the bullet pierce him. No pain. Suddenly he could see everything. Saw Father Reynolds praying. Father Gregory has come to help him. Father Reynolds seems…concerned.
Dean follows this guy’s car, which has suddenly disappeared.
Father Rreynolds realizes the murders are related to Father Gregory, who says he’s received the word of God, to smite the wicked, and he is carrying out His will.
Father Reynolds says Father Gregory is driving innocent people to kill. Father Gregory says those innocent people are being offered redemption. Some people need redemption. “Don’t they Sam?” Burn.
Father Reynolds is upset. Father Gregory says the rules of God and the rules of man are two very different things. Father Gregory says the people who have killed have found peace, beaten their demons, and been given the keys to heaven.
Father Reynolds says no, this is vengeance – it’s wrong. This goes against everything Father Gregory believed. He’s lost and misguided, not an angel. Men cannot be angels. Father Gregory is confused. He doesn’t understand. Father Reynolds prayed for him.
Father Reynolds says he prayed for God’s help, not this. “Thou shalt not kill. That’s the word of God.”
Meanwhile, car guy pulls over. His date is confused. He tries to make a move, but she pushes him off, saying they should go or will be late for movies. He hits her! Then he apologizes, and says he’s never done this before. He has a knife! He has some very bad intentions. Luckily Dean shows up at the right time and knocks the guy out! His date escapes the car. Dean tells her to call 911 on her cellphone as the guy comes to and drives off in his car!
Back at the church, Father Gregory is sad. Father Reynolds tells him it’s time to rest, to be at peace. He wants to give him last rites. Father Gregory allows it and Father Reynolds begins. Sam watches. Father Gregory starts to ghost flicker, startling Father Reynolds. Father Gregory calls for Father Reynolds, who tells him to rest. Father Gregory kneels before him while Father Reynolds finishes the last rites. And then Father Gregory’s spirit is gone.
For a non-believer, I found this very moving.
Dean is still chasing car guy, who does some swerve-y driving around a big truck but Dean stays on his tail. As they approach an intersection, a long pipe falls off a truck and crashes through car guy’s windshield, impaling him. Dean is visibly shaken.
Sam is back at the motel packing up when Dean enters. Sam tells him he was right – it wasn’t an angel, it was Father Gregory. Dean has a drink (the flask!) and offers it to Sam, who takes it this time (he turned it down earlier). Sam is sad. He wanted to believe so badly. It’s so hard to do what they do. There’s so much evil in the world, he could drown in it. And when he thinks about his destiny and how he could end up…
Dean says don’t worry about that, he’s watching out for Sam. Sam says but Dean’s just one person, and Sam needed to think that there was something else watching too. Some higher power. Some greater good. This is so sad.
And Sam says: “Maybe I could be saved.” I’VE SEEN THIS EPISODE MULTIPLE TIMES AND THIS CONVERSATION ALWAYS GETS ME. SAM IS SO PRECIOUS AND SO SAD, SO EAGER TO BELIEVE BECAUSE THAT BELIEF MEANS A CHANCE FOR HIM NOT TO BE THE MONSTER PEOPLE SEEM TO THINK HE’S DESTINED TO BE. AND DEAN CAN’T COMFORT HIM BECAUSE DEAN DOESN’T BELIEVE IN ANY HIGHER POWER.
Sam says it clouded his judgment, Dean’s right, they’ve gotta go with what they know, what they see, what’s right there. Dean says it’s funny, because the guy in the car turned out to be bad news. Father Gregory gave Sam some accurate info, and if Dean hadn’t been there, something terrible would have happened. The guy is dead, but not by Dean’s hand. Divine intervention perhaps…?
Dean: “I’ll tell you one thing. The way he died, if I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes, I never would have believed it. I don’t know what to call it.”
Sam: “What? Dean what did you see?”
Dean: “Maybe…God’s will.”
And Knocking on Heaven’s Door plays us out!
As with most episodes that tackle questions of faith, I really liked this one. There are some great scenes between Sam and Dean, tying this into Sam’s fate and the bigger storyline of the season.
Like the season 1 episode ‘Faith’ (one of my faves), this episode focuses on faith, fate, and belief, and we see the stark differences between Sam and Dean in those respects.
READ ON FOR A SPOILER: And of course, when I watch this knowing that in fact angels and heaven are coming in a couple of seasons, it has an added layer. And even after angels are introduced, the show and characters still struggle with fate and faith (HELLO MICHAEL AND LUCIFER VESSELS).