The Big Empty
Written By: Meredith Glynn
Directed By: John Badham
Air date: November 2, 2017
THE LONG WAY HOME - When multiple patients of grief counselor Mia Vallens (guest star Rukiya Bernard) turn up dead, Sam, Dean, and Jack investigate the mystery surrounding the murders and, each inadvertently, are forced to deal with unresolved grief of their own.
- All Therapists Are Muggles: Averted. In two of the three cases Sam and Dean have worked in the mental health field, the mental health worker ended up being a supernatural creature. In this episode, Mia is a shapeshifter.
- The Atoner: Mia becomes a therapist to help people as a way to make up for helping Buddy to kill them.
- Death Is Cheap: Cheaper than ever now: up until this episode, if an angel or demon died, they'd never come back. Once you saw the burnt shape of angel wings on the ground or a demon glow from the inside out while wracked with pain in its final moments, you knew that was the end of the character for the rest of the series. Now the Big Empty, the vast nothingness whence they go can be escaped from, and an angel or demon can return to life. While this can only be done under extremely special circumstances, it shows that there is no true Cessation of Existence for any living thing in the strictest sense in the Supernatural universe.
- Eldritch Abomination: The Cosmic Entity tells Castiel that his true form would drive him insane. To highlight this: keep in mind Castiel is an angel and thus a lower tier Eldritch Abomination himself.
- Eldritch Location: The Big Empty existed before the Universe, before God and even before Amara. It is an infinite featureless expanse of blackness where nothing exists. It is also a Genius Loci that sleeps along with everything that dies and arrives there, except that a creature waking up (which is usually impossible) will also wake up the Big Empty, and it cannot psychologically handle being awake.
- Epiphany Therapy: Dean has been acted angry and abrasive for the last three episodes, but after one therapy session he realizes his actions are unfair, that Jack deserves his approval and that Sam needs his support. Dean even apologizes for his previous behavior, an extremely rare action for a character that generally likes to pretend things never happened.
- Five Stages of Grief: The chief area of work for Mia, a grief counselor. Sam mostly resides in denial, refusing to acknowledge that Mary might be dead and he doesn't talk about Cas at all. Dean is mostly angry, but he has attempted bargaining and went through a stage of depressed drinking before insisting he had accepted Cas and Mary's deaths. Jack who never personally met any of the people who died seems to have accepted their deaths, but repeated rejections by Dean has him waffling in depression territory.
- Genius Loci: The "Big Empty". It has been asleep forever until now when Cas wakes up, inadvertently waking the Big Empty up too. It claims to be a cosmic force like God and Amara, and is extremely unhappy about being woken up.
- Mind Probe: The Cosmic Entity painfully forces his way through Cas' memories.
- The Nothing After Death: The Big Empty is this: it(he) is where angels, demons and anything else without a soul goes when it dies. Once there, the dead creature simply sleeps a dreamless sleep for eternity. He also claims that anything that comes to him after death like angels and demons can never leave or be brought back to life, even by God or Amara. It turns out the Big Empty himself can send creatures back to the world of the living if they wake up from their eternal slumber and annoy him enough. He never had to do it before though, since nothing could wake a dead angel or demon while in his domain... until Jack was born.
- Staring Down Cthulhu: Castiel faces the Big Empty, a force older than God or Amara (and probably just as powerful), and Cas forces it to cough him back up into the living world simply by being too annoying to ignore and refusing to go back to sleep.
- There Are No Therapists: Averted. Although the Winchesters don't have time to go to therapy and generally have problems the average therapist couldn't even begin to understand, this is the third time their work has required them to attend a therapy session (previously, Sam talks to Dr Elcott about losing Jess and dealing with Dean's lies and both boys intentionally got themselves committed in order to hunt a wraith but ended up discussing the stresses of hunting life as well) that they actually found helpful.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: Dean, moreso than usual. Mostly towards Jack.
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: When Castiel encounters an anthropomorphized version of the Empty that is a doppelganger of himself, the doppelganger speaks with an accent that doesn't seem to be from any specific place beyond "Maybe Europe?"
- You Cannot Grasp the True Form: The big Empty appears to Castiel as a mirror of himself, verbally invoking this.