Family don't end in blood but it doesn't start there either.
After waking up in the middle of the night to Dean's screams, Sam knows that he has to do something and fast. The next morning, Sam uses the lack of cases as the perfect opportunity for his plan and tricks Dean into thinking he's going to see a French film. Dean takes the bait and decides to get some 'me time' in while Sam is away. Sam ends up meeting Castiel but to the angel's surprise, Dean isn't there and doesn't know what Sam is up to. Meanwhile, in hell, Rowena plans to confront the Winchesters as soon as possible but Crowley knows she's plotting something due to her lack of nagging lately. Back on earth, Sam and Castiel try talking with the angels to get the chance to speak with Metatron but it's not happening. The angels know what kind of threat he poses and won't give him up. Not willing to take no for an answer, Sam and Castiel visit an old ally of the Men of Letters and send a message to their inside man in heaven: Bobby Singer. Sam and Castiel need Bobby to help Castiel sneak into heaven to get Metatron out and ti won't be easy. After Dean heads to the local bar and hustles some college kids over pool but is then met by Rowena after a quick bathroom break. Rowena wants him dead but Dean sends her packing back to hell when her spell doesn't work. After heading home with her tail between her legs, she lies to Crowley and claims that Dean almost killed her. Crowley feels no sympathy for his mother's suicide mission but now the king of hell needs to have a sit down chat with Dean on the meaning of family.
I'm just going to say it now, Inside Man is probably one of the best episodes of Supernatural all season. After a string of some truly awful episodes, Inside Man is like a breath of fresh air. It avoided the monster of the week formula in favour of total focus on Dean's curse and what Sam is willing to do for his brother. There was also a great deal of story that unfolded in the one episode but the pacing never felt rushed and unlike previous weeks, Rowena's story had a point. Inside Man also had the most unique interpretation of Heaven we have seen yet in Supernatural. We already knew that each person is given their own plot in the clouds and it can be whatever they loved the most during their time on earth but the hallway of Bobby Singers was almost disturbing. Every person with that name was organized according to when they lived and died and then sectioned off in their own cell. That's right, I called it a cell. The angels don't like people leaving their cells because they were essentially jailers to souls that had passed on. Souls are meant to stay there and punished if they leave or do something out of order; as we saw in the case of Bobby.
Can a guest star can make or a break an episode? In the case of Jim Beaver the answer is obvious. Bobby Singer was an integral part of Supernatural and his death a few seasons back really hurt the show; any chance to get him back is fine by me. As Bobby Singer, Beaver is the father figure that the boys lacked (Yes, including John Winchester). Bobby also grounded the show and acted like a moral compass for the Winchesters and called them out when they messed up. Beaver is nothing less than admirable in the role and even in the short time that he was back, it makes us miss him even more.
Though theme can usually get muddled or tossed out the window, Inside Man did a great job of reminding us what family means in Supernatural. Whereas we usually get the impala talk in the closing moments between Sam and Dean, we saw the actions of Sam, Dean, Bobby, Castiel, Crowley and even Rowena to illustrate it. Sam's mission to save his brother is dangerous but worth it and even in heaven, Bobby will do whatever he can for the ones he loves. Dean's talk with Crowley in the bar also well done and just the talk the two of them needed to have. Wherever Crowley's head has been, Dean set it straight and put him back on track.
Inside Man was a great episode but there were a few flaws. The first being the opening scene and then the quick '24 Hours Earlier'. Besides killing time, that intro scene served no purpose besides ruining the surprise that Bobby was going to show up. Supernatural has been using that device quite a bit lately but it's not doing anything to serve the story. If it doesn't serve the story or surprise us in any way, it should just be dropped. Lastly, unless Ruth Connell is saving any great performances for later on, I hope she starts using them. Her lack of range didn't help her seem more sympathetic but that's just more of what I've come to expect.
If the rest of the season is as good as Inside Man, Supernatural fans would be very happy. It had great pacing and focus on a story that has moved at a snail's crawl. We'll see if this keeps up when Supernatural returns in two weeks (how many short breaks can there be?!) with Book of the Damned.