Supernatural: Two Minutes to Midnight
August 24, 2021 5:09 AM - Season 5, Episode 21 - Subscribe

Sam and Dean battle it out with Pestilence, and Bobby sells Crowley his soul in exchange for the location of Death.


Bobby: World's gonna end. Seems stupid to get all precious over one little... soul.
Dean: You sold your soul?
Crowley: Oh, more like pawned it. I fully intend to give it back.
Dean: Well, then give it back!
Crowley: I will.
Dean: Now!
Sam: Did you kiss him?
Dean: Sam.
Sam: I was just wondering.
Bobby: [too vehemently] Nooooooo!
Crowley: [shows everyone a picture on his cellphone which depicts him and Bobby kissing]
Bobby: Why'd you take a picture?
Crowley: Why do you have to use tongue?

Dean: I gotta ask, how old are you?
Death: As old as God. Maybe older. Neither of us can remember anymore. Life, death, chicken, egg -- regardless, at the end, I'll reap him too.
Dean: God? You'll reap God?
Death: Oh, yes. God will die too, Dean.
Dean: ...This is way above my pay grade.
Death: Just a bit.

Pestilence: How'd you get here?
Castiel: I took a bus. Don't worry, I... [keels over coughing and gagging]
Pestilence: Well, look at that. An occupied vessel, but powerless. Oh, that's fascinating. There's not a speck of an angel in you, is there?
Castiel: [summons a burst of strength, slices off Pestilence's finger and takes his ring] Maybe just a speck.

Sam: The last thing Pestilence said was, "It's too late."
Bobby: He get specific?
Sam: No.
Dean: We're just a little freaked out that he might have left a bomb somewhere. So please tell us you have actual good news.
Bobby: Chicago's about to be wiped off the map. Storm of the millennium. Sets off a daisy chain of natural disasters. Three million are gonna die.
Dean: Huh.
Castiel: [to Bobby] I don't understand your definition of good news.

Bobby: What's *your* problem?
Castiel: This is what they meant by "the eleventh hour", right?
Bobby: Pretty much.
Castiel: Well, it's the eleventh hour, and I am useless. All I have is this. [indicating the gun he is holding] What am I even supposed to do with it?
Bobby: Point it and shoot.
Castiel: What I used to be...
Bobby: Are you really gonna bitch, to *me*?

Crowley: Bobby, you just gonna sit there?
Bobby: No, I'm gonna riverdance.
Crowley: I suppose if you want to impress the ladies. Bobby, Bobby, Bobby. Really wasted that crossroads deal. In fact, you get more if you phrase it properly. So, I took the liberty of adding a teeny sub-clause on your behalf. What can I say? I'm an altruist. Just gonna sit there?
Bobby: [gets out of his wheelchair and stands up] Son of a bitch.
Crowley: Yes, I know. Completely worth your soul. I'm a hell of a guy.
Bobby: Thanks.
Crowley: This is getting maudlin. Can we go?

Nurse: Sir. The Winchesters are here. We should go.
Pestilence: Are you kidding me?
Nurse: They have a track record with Horsemen.
Pestilence: You mean my brothers. What they did to my brothers. No. The only reasonable thing to do here is to take it out of their healthy young asses.
Nurse: We're under strict orders not to kill the vessels.
Pestilence: Well, if Satan wants them so bad, he can GLUE THEM BACK TOGETHER!

Castiel: [Contacting Dean via phone from a hospital after they defeated Zachariah] You said no to Michael. I owe you an apology.
Dean: Cass. It's okay.
Castiel: You are not the burnt and broken shell of a man that I believed you to be.
Dean: Thank you. I appreciate that.

Dean: [Seeing Bobby walk into the tool shed] How'd it go at the Rockettes audition?
Bobby: Uhhhh... high kick's fair. Boobs need work.

Crowley: [to Sam and Dean] You two are lucky you have your looks.

Dean: [Packing the Impala's trunk while Sam walks over, sighs heavily] Lemme guess. We're about to have a talk.

Dean: All right, well. Good luck stopping the whole zombie apocalypse.
Sam: Yeah. Good luck killing Death.
Dean: Yeah.
Sam: Remember when we used to just... hunt wendigos? How simple things were?
Dean: Not really.

Death: You have an inflated sense of your importance. To a thing like me, a thing like you, well... Think how you'd feel if a bacteria sat at your table and started to get snarky. This is one little planet in one tiny solar system in a galaxy that's barely out of its diapers. I'm old, Dean. Very old. So, I invite you to contemplate how insignificant I find you.

Dean: [trying to bluff his way into the security room of a convalescent home] Hey. Hi, uh, I'm looking for my nana. Her name is Eunice... Kennedy.
Security Guard: Go around front and see the nurse.
Dean: You mind just helping me out, sir? Uh, she's about, uh... oh about that small... gray hair, wears diapers. [he punches the guard, knocking him out]
Sam: Eunice Kennedy?
Dean: That's the beauty about improv, Sammy. You never know what's gonna come outta your mouth.

Pestilence: Disease gets a bad rap, don't you think? For being filthy, chaotic... but really, that just describes people who are sick. Disease itself? Very pure, single-minded... bacteria have one purpose -- divide and conquer. That's why in the end, it always wins. So, you gotta wonder why God pours all His love into something so MESSY! AND WEAK? It's ridiculous... and all I can do is show him he's wrong, one epidemic at a time.

Dean: We thought you were dead. Where are you?
Castiel: A hospital.
Dean: Are you okay?
Castiel: No.
Dean: ...
Castiel: ....
Dean: You wanna elaborate?


Julian Richings played Death in at least two other roles besides Supernatural, including the Hallmark film Ms. Scrooge, and the short film Dave vs Death. He also played a similar role in Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief as the ferryman to the Underworld.

The nursing home Sam and Dean search for Pestilence in is called Serenity Valley. This was the name of a battle in Firefly, the short lived show Mark Sheppard had a recurring role in. Also Ben Edlund, this episode's executive producer, was a producer on Firefly.

The title is a reference to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and their Doomsday Clock, which is a symbolic representation of the world's closeness to apocalyptic destruction, with midnight being the apocalypse itself. At the time of airing in 2010, the Doomsday Clock was set at 6 minutes to midnight. As of January 2021, it's 100 seconds to midnight, the closest it has been since 1953.

"2 Minutes to Midnight" is the first single track from an album released by Iron Maiden in 1984. The song refers to the Doomsday Clock's closest ever (as of that time) approach to midnight, in 1953.

Crowley asks Dean if he wants to stop for pizza on the way to where Death should be. Later it is discovered that Death was at a pizza restaurant.

Julian Richings later on complained jokingly in several interviews at conventions about the shooting of the pizzeria scene, because it had to be re-shot numerous times, with both himself and Jensen Ackles having to eat more pizza with each re-take.

The Chicago deep dish pizza, which Death and Dean are eating in the pizzeria scene, has been around since the 1930s. With its deep pan, thin crust, sauce on top instead of cheese (the longer cooking time would burn top cheese), it is more pie than pizza.

The white smoky haze on the ring that Dean obtains was added in digitally after filming to give the gemstone in the ring the appearance of movement.
posted by orange swan (10 comments total)
Death is one of my favourite characters in the whole series, and that is entirely because the casting of Julian Richings is so, so perfect. He looks like Dickensian undertaker, and for a character so quiet and understated, he has an amazing impact. He's the one and only being who ever manages to cow Dean. I mean, Dean wasn't even able to really enjoy his pizza.

Pestilence is good too. I admire his ability to ramp up from genial/courtly to enraged on a dime.

Bobby making a deal with Crowley without even thinking to ask for anything for himself, such as, you know, working legs, was so him. What a man.

Dean's exasperation with Crowley's constant vanishings and reappearances was fun. That would get annoying.
posted by orange swan at 5:15 AM on August 24, 2021 [3 favorites]

Another thing I meant to mention.... It's very, very common in the show for Sam to be all, "Dean. Dean," in an effort to get Dean to behave appropriately when in conversation with others (not that it ever works), but this is the first time we ever see Dean try to restrain Sam, or for that matter for Sam to behave so inappropriately by demonstrating a prurient interest that restraint was called for. It's a funny bit, but also a reversal of their usual roles and a subtle sign that something is amiss with Sam.
posted by orange swan at 5:46 AM on August 24, 2021

I feel like they knew they had something special in Julian Richings and wanted to really make sure we got it; I'm not aware of another character getting an intro like that long shot.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:37 AM on August 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

When this show hits the gas it can be very efficient.

"It's like a four color brochure for dying young" ok ok ok, I laughed.

You know what, I'm with Bobby, if you're going to sell your soul and kiss someone you would not otherwise be kissing to do it, what the hell, go ahead and use tongue.

Did I miss an explanation of the first building where Crowley thought Death was, with all the reapers around it? With that and the pizza thing it felt like it was going somewhere but I did not catch whatever it was.

Death gets an extremely solid intro, but the thing I like most about it is the very end. Yeah, he kills this random guy for no reason, that happens ten times a week on this show. The actual last shot is of strangers running over to try and help, and in a story where the plan is to end the world and turn everyone into rage zombies it feels like not an accident to be reminded that there are other people in the world and mostly people try and help.

Dean "Eunice Kennedy" Winchester lying to Death's face: strong work but I wonder how much Death actually relies on Dean's self-control when it comes to Sam being alive or not. (No, but there are only a couple of characters who visibly scare the piss out of Dean and I appreciate that Death is pretty much always one of them.)

Anyway, if they were going to stick to creepy older white men they really did do a good job casting the Horsemen. Titus Welliver was a little wasted, but Matt Frewer and Julian Richings especially are perfect.

I think it's a well-done bit of characterization that part of Dean's trouble believing Sam can pull this off is because it means incredibly scary things for his ability to keep Sam safe and with him.
posted by jameaterblues at 9:05 AM on August 24, 2021

Julian Richings is one of those actors that you can't help but notice. He's been around the Canadian TV circuit for ages (counting Adderly, Street Legal, Forever Knight, etc.) among his early credits. I really thought that he had a major, reoccurring role in Highlander, but that isn't showing up on his IMDB listings--instead it's only a couple of entries on the spin-off Highlander: The Raven. But I guess those were strong enough that they left an impression me that equates his face with that franchise.
posted by sardonyx at 9:12 AM on August 24, 2021

I did some googling on Julian Richings, and he seems to be firmly in the "a decent person so far as Google tells me" category. He has a very long list of credits on IMDb, which are mostly supporting roles -- not surprising for a character actor. He does a lot of stage work, teaches, and has been known to work for free if he thinks the material is interesting enough. He has spoken well of the Supernatural set's "relaxed but focused" atmosphere, had no complaints about his experience there other than having to eat too much pizza, and seemed relieved not to have been the target of any practical jokes during his time on set. His twitter account is mostly very professionally oriented and is generally all about theatre and film (no political tweets or any personal stuff), but he's very pleasant to everyone he interacts with and also sometimes retweets his daughter's tweets with the tag #prouddad -- she has dyspraxia and is something of an activist for disability community issues. Also he recently replied to a NOW Magazine film critic who referred to him as legendary with a wry, "Well thanks for the 'legendary' tag, Norm. I was kinda relishing it until my family saw it. They’ve been laughing like hyenas ever since."
posted by orange swan at 3:57 PM on August 24, 2021

I feel like they knew they had something special in Julian Richings and wanted to really make sure we got it; I'm not aware of another character getting an intro like that long shot.

Sera Gamble called it a "Rock Star Entrance"

EW has an article that discusses it with Julian Richlings as well.
posted by Pryde at 6:57 PM on August 24, 2021 [2 favorites]

I've been waiting a while to see those few seconds of Death's intro. Frewer is good, but he was upstaged by the treatment Richings got.

Richings using a normal voice and inflection for Death is sublime.

I'll quibble over Death "kills this random guy for no reason." The dude was being a dickbag; my esteem of Death shot up after that. The guy was likely a full-time asshole and not a one-off and Death would know that.

Though in most interpretations, Death is a kindness and not the cause of death, they just shepherd souls along. If you want to get Greek about it, it's Atropos who trims the threads of mortal souls from the tapestry of fate.

I get Bobby not asking for more; even if it won't officially be on the books, he'd still owe Crowley a favour and wouldn't be able to live that down to himself. Crowly giving him a sub-clause bonus likely pissed Bobby off (on the inside) to no end, each and every time he reminds himself that he can walk again.

I'm a bastard - Bobby probably gets even more bummed when thinking about that freebie which then causes him to think about how his zombie wife returned during a time where he had a spinal cord injury.

Eh. Trojan horse vaccines? I'm not going to touch that. Other than - WTF are pallets of (ostensibly) vaccine labeled with biohazard signs?
posted by porpoise at 7:26 PM on August 24, 2021

Trojan horse vaccines? I'm not going to touch that.

Swine flu was scary when it happened but I was thinking as I watched this that yeah, this show would be doing that plot differently in 2021.

The guy Death killed was definitely giving off dickbag vibes, though I thought that was more for the audience's benefit so they didn't feel as bad when he got summarily executed for bumping into someone on the street. (I still felt bad for him but I feel bad for the CGI crowds wiped out in disaster movies.) I think when Death talks about how insignificant he finds individual humans he means it, he was just as casually about to kill everyone in Chicago, I don't think he cares about one bacterium being a dick to the other bacterium enough to dispense justice in that sense. But I get what you're saying I think, he's way above things like "the sanctity of human life" but also, rude bacteria get the bleach spray.
posted by jameaterblues at 9:55 PM on August 24, 2021 [1 favorite]

rude bacteria get the bleach spray

Well put! Death didn't care either way until the dude went out of his way to be rude after the bump instead of just apologizing like a normal person. But that certain bacterium is known to always rude (or their kind overwhelmingly so), so no hesitation and no benefit of the doubt.
posted by porpoise at 10:37 PM on August 24, 2021

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