Some deals are too good to refuse. Other deals don't leave you with a choice.
Now that Gabriel and Rowena have joined the team, the Winchesters have everything they need to open another rift and save Mary and Jack. But then things hit a snag when certain, ahem, the rift doesn't exactly live up to expectations. Now that they have used up the angel grace they had from Gabriell, there is just one other person let that can give them what they need – Lucifer. After a quick . Beforeplan to use the old magical roofie trick, the team binds Lucifer and plans to drain his grace to keep the rift open and kill him after they return. After Castiel, Dean, Gabriel and Sam head into the bizarro world, they quickly get their bearings and head towards Dayton where they heard that Jack and Mary would be. On their way they rescue a couple from a feral vampire. The couple tells them there is a tunnel but it's filled with more vampires just like the one that Sam killed. With time working against them, they have no choice but to head straight through the tunnel if they hope to see Mary and Jack again. Back at the bunker, Rowena's spell to bind Lucifer fails and he manages to break free. Before he kills Rowena again, she manages to blast him through the rift into the other world. It's now a race to Jack and Mary where the only thing standing between them is a tunnel full of brutal vampires.
For an episode on the tail end of the season, Beat the Devil was probably one of the high points of season thirteen. What Beat the Devil did so well was set up a story that continually escalated in a natural progression that ramped up the intensity over time. The first ten minutes of the episode were a mix of the plan between Sam, Castiel and Dean while it cut back and forth to Gabriel and Rowena. I had never considered it before, but the two of them had pretty great chemistry with one another and their brief romance to pass the time was a well suited, charming moment. From there, it was the bar scene where Lucifer was abducted and later, the path through the tunnel. Each beat of the story felt significant and each character had their time to shine. This pacing and thoughtful exposition of the plot made Beat the Devil a great episode.
What Beat the Devil also did incredibly well was make Lucifer relevant to the final episode of the season. Mark Pellegrino is always great in the role but this season has been a case of too much of a good thing. Lucifer has been overexposed and the returns have diminished over the seasons after he has been defeated several times. Grace Do I think that Lucifer will get a win here with Jack? It seems pretty unlikely with two episodes left but for Beat the Devil, he resurrected Sam and still pushed his way back into the story. The only real drawback with Lucifer here is that Supernatural has continually ignored its own lore time and time again whenever his grace is involved. Gabriel has been recovering his grace and he didn't have enough to keep the rift open. Lucifer was bleeding his out and he managed to have quite a bit to spare. It doesn't help that they also gave him the Incredible Hulk out to that and showed that when he's angry, the rules don't apply to him. For a show that is based off of rules on how to kill monsters and old folklore, Supernatural will abandon those as soon as it suits a character.
Besides the above, Beat the Devil had a few more things that could have tightened the story. To start, the Maggie and Floyd going with the team through the tunnel added nothing to the episode and actually weakened the tension of that whole scene. Either was a red shirt character and their deaths don't matter. Not having them there would have built up the tension leading into the room and then eventually made Sam's loss that much harder. Also, the camerawork during the scene could have been much tighter and left the vampire reveals as subtle movements across the frame rather than a revealed silhouette. Lastly, while Dean got his moment with Mary to see his mother again, Jack wasn't given the same with Castiel. Supernatural has emphasized again and again that they are the father and son relationship here but we didn't get any of that. Instead, we had the reaction to Jack learning that Sam was dead. I understand that it would be redundant to have two reunion scenes next to one another in such a short time but Jack hasn't gotten the attention the character has needed.
Overall, Beat the Devil was a really good episode with great pacing and some flaws. Were they enough to ruin the episode? No, but there were enough to be noticed. With only two shows left for the season, I'm looking forward to seeing what happens on next week's episode, Exodus.