Posts tagged Death

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The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys #1-3 Review

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Writing: Gerard Way, Shaun Simon

Art: Becky Cloonan

Review by Melissa Megan

From Dark Horse Comics: “Years ago, the Killjoys fought against the tyrannical megacorporation Better Living Industries, costing them their lives, save for one—the mysterious Girl. Today, the followers of the original Killjoys languish in the Desert while BLI systematically strips citizens of their individuality. As the fight for freedom fades, it’s left to the Girl to take up the mantle and bring down the fearsome BLI or else join the mindless ranks of Bat City!”

16707That’s the first time I’ve copied a series description, word for word, from the publisher site. Please, forgive me. I’ve been holding off on reviewing The Killjoys because I just haven’t been able to wrap my head around how I feel about it. Part of the predicament has been because it’s just a confusing, overloaded story. I thought rather than waste time trying to clearly articulate the story synopsis for you, I’d prefer to use my brain cells on verbalizing my actual feelings about the experience of reading it. Thanks for your forgiveness.

I loved the Umbrella Academy and I love Becky Cloonan, so I figured The Killjoys had to be great, right? Well…sort of. There are some great, fun pieces here, but they do not connect in the most agreeable way. Let’s start with Girl, the main protagonist. She is the lonely prodigy of the long gone Killjoys, a band of glamorous rebels who lost their lives fighting the evil BLI corporation. These days, Girl roams the desert with her kitty, moping about her lost pals. When her old friend Cola discovers her, he tries to lead her in the right direction, away from the violent and unstable new teen rebel group, the Ultra V’s. The lure of anarchy and lip gloss may be too much for her and she becomes intrigued by the V’s.

There is nothing wrong with Girl, there just isn’t much anything with Girl. It’s hard to feel attached to her or even to give a damn what she chooses to do because she doesn’t offer much in the way of personality. Cola and his senior ham radio buddy feel a bit more deep as characters, but they speak in such silly, hyper stylized dj jabber it’s tough to hang in there to figure out what they’re talking about. Example: “The sodas gone flat, D. All the bubbles have popped. Carbonation is a thing of the past. The ghost of our childhood is staring us down in a rusted metal can” Uh, ok. preview-the-true-life-of-the-fabulous-killjoys-

The V’s are fun enough in a wild, teen spirit kind of way. My personal favorite characters (and story) here are the porn bots whose desperate fight to exist without fear of being deemed obsolete and trashed is tragic and dangerous. I’m not sure how much of a focal point they were meant to be, but I found myself more invested in their lives than any of the humans.

Overall, the True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys just comes across like a cocky, indulgent, angsty song put to nice artwork. Becky Cloonan does her thing well, I only wish I could say the writing was as polished. Unfortunately, issue #3 may be the last one for me. I know some out there are loving this series, but after giving it some time to get under my skin I feel underwhelmed and ready to shower off all the glitter and dust.

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Bedlam #7 Review

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Writing: Nick Spencer

Art: Ryan Browne

Cover: Frazer Irving

Review by Melissa Megan

Oh, Bedlam chaos and insanity, how I missed you. In issue #7 Madder Red is back to his old tricks, which in this case is playing puppet master with the heads of two recently murdered religious leaders for an audience of locals gathered to prove they are not afraid of Madder Red. Ok, so it’s only another flashback of one of his many bloody killings, but oh boy does it make his madness crystal clear. This opening scene is the kind of material that drew me to this series and I, for one, am glad to see the pace picking back up.

In present day, Fillmore is still working with Detective Acevedo, helping the police solve murder cases. He makes it look easy and she still doesn’t seem to understand how or why he has such an intimate understanding of all the madmen he paints in such great detail for her. Although Fillmore is maintaining some level of normalcy to Acevedo, he is losing his grip, having hallucinations and flashbacks of his alter ego, Madder Red.

This issue is the first one with a new artist. It was announced a couple months back that Riley Rossmo would be stepping down from Bedlam, due to “creative differences” with the writer. Artist Ryan Browne (Hack/Slash, Hoax Hunters) does an admiral job with the visuals of this world, obviously making a respectful attempt to maintain the appearance of the characters that we have grown comfortable with. His overall style is similar to Rossmo’s in it’s lines and wobbly sketchiness, but doesn’t quite have the same depth. The changes didn’t ruin Bedlam for me, but it does feel different. I suspect as long as the writing holds up, the new art work will melt in just fine, without causing much disruption in the atmosphere.

You should be buying and reading Bedlam. I admit, it has had some ups and downs, but in general is one of the best horror comics being written right now. It’s quite unique and terrifying.

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Locke & Key Omega #5 Review

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Writing: Joe Hill

Art: Gabriel Rodriguez

Review by Melissa Megan

 

Locke & Key Omega #5 is the final issue in what was originally rumored to be the end of the series, but now we know Locke & Key will actually close with two extra long issues in an ‘Alpha’ set. This one is by far one of the most intense and harsh issues to date and that’s saying a lot.

Dodge has finally succeeded in opening the black door, trapping the graduating class of Lovecraft Academy in the drowning cave with him. The dark shadows are his army now as he begins to march the students to their deaths at the bottom of the cave. Kinsey is trapped on the walkway, being tormented by evil versions of her friends who have become terrible servants of Dodge. She does everything she can to keep some hope that her family will rescue her, but with every minute that passes death creeps in.

Tyler Locke is hanging on the edge of life himself thanks to an accidental gunshot wound to the stomach. His mother races to save him using a magical medical cabinet. Her desperate move sets up a heartbreaking and honest reunion between Tyler and his late father.

As Dodge wastes the lives of students who either refuse to follow him or do follow him but are apparently found to be unfit for the blessings of the black door, he presents Kinsey with a horrible choice. A game to set up the final scene of his plan. What is his plan? That is unclear at this point, which is a genius approach to take.

The dark shadows are moving in from every side, the black door is open and the alien terrors have begun feasting on souls. The few members of the Locke family still alive and free from Dodge’s grasp don’t seem to have the power, ability or time to help Kinsey. The entire situation is looking very grim. Without any knowledge of exactly what Dodge is doing with the black door and the only person with full knowledge of who Dodge is being the mentally challenged Rufus, Locke & Key Omega does not appear to have a happy ending.

This is a fantastic final issue for Locke & Key Omega, but obviously not the end of the story for the Locke family. Good thing, because after all the suspense and sadness this story has built up, if this were the absolute end I would be pissed. I need to see this thing to the close, even if that means watching the brutal destruction of the remaining Locke kids. The Locke & Key series has been both fun and crushing. Endearing and sweet but dark and heavy. It is a perfect marriage of writing and art, making the ultimate love child of a comic series. Locke & Key will forever be on my ‘top recommendations’ list.

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Chin Music #1 Review

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Chin Music #1 Review 

Writing:  Steve Niles

Art: Tony Harris

Review by Melissa Megan

Apparently, Chin Music is about a guy named Shaw who can leap through time and possesses supernatural powers. He’s on the run from some other creepy dudes who also have powers, like tearing his skin from his bones. Apparently he has landed in Prohibition era Chicago and must now contend with the local police, gangsters and the supernatural underground. I say apparently because Image Comics tells me that this is what’s happening in Chin Music, but to be perfectly honest I only understood about half of that premise reading through issue #1.

I hate to criticize Steve Niles at all because I really love pretty much everything he puts his pen to, but this introduction just didn’t connect with me, story wise. There’s a lot going on, but not all of it is clear. Granted, it’s a pilot issue, so there’s lots more story to tell and time to tell it. I have all the faith in the world that Niles will pull the plot together in future issues and that my confusion will disappear. Not being crystal on what’s going on in this issue doesn’t necessarily mean I didn’t enjoy it, however. It is action packed, moody, violent and spooky. I just don’t ‘get it’ yet.

The artwork by Tony Harris is brilliant here. It’s thick with atmosphere and very, very pretty. Some of the panels are framed in art deco borders, like intricate picture frames. This lends quite a bit of flourish to the pages and really helps set the retro style of the book. Harris’ characters all seem to have large, chunky facial features and knobby knuckles, but it’s less of a distraction than a style. I found his play with color and texture very pleasing to look at.

All in all, Chin Music seems like it could be a quality series. As long as the story isn’t too difficult to grasp, there’s a good idea here and some unique styling. I’ll definitely be keeping up with this one and am anxious to see Steve Niles develop it further.

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Review: Saga #11

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Writing: Brian K. Vaughan

Art: Fiona Staples

Review by Melissa Megan

Boy does Brian K. Vaughan know how to open an issue and get your attention. In another of Hazel’s flashbacks to her parents’ beginnings, we get to be a fly on the wall to what I assume is her moment of being conceived. Every naughty detail revealed and oh boy, is Alana naughty! Of course it’s also a difficult realization of the kind of situation Hazel was brought in to: her parents fugitives, each of their respect homelands hunting them down. Alana and Marko aren’t even sure they can breed, being of two different species from different planets, but the method of baby making seems to work just fine.

Another great skill of Brian K. Vaughan is transitioning from one place in a story to another, seamlessly, without depleting the jarring effect of that jump. The ship containing Alana, Marko, Hazel, Marko’s parents and Hazel’s ghostly babysitter is spiraling towards a freshly born fetus planet that appears hungry. In another ship which has already been damaged and exposed to open space, The Will tries to save Lying Cat while Gwendolyn holds tight to the slave child they rescued from Sextillion. If you aren’t reading Saga already, you should be appropriately confused by now.

Every single issue of Saga contains so much. So very much that I often find myself re-reading an issue to make sure I didn’t miss something really important. Issue #11 is powerful and emotional. I’m not going to spoil this for anyone, but I will say that by the end of this issue you’ll feel some feelings that might not be happy. This issue also has many opportunities for Fiona Staples to show off her art skills with sweeping space landscapes and beautiful scenes of magic making. The creators of Saga are the power couple of 2013 and Saga is their glowing love child.

Read Saga and don’t stop. Well, if you read one issue you won’t want to stop.

Death's Door

Supernatural: Death’s Door

Apologies for the delay in posting this. I made the mistake of reading too many fan comments (on other sites) after the airing of the episode and found myself a bit disheartened by the proliferation of people emphatically stating that they would NEVER watch Supernatural AGAIN because of Bobby’s death.  I have now pledged NEVER to read the internets until after I write reviews.  So I took a break, stopped taking Supernatural hatred personally, and re-watched the episode.

After watching “Death’s Door” (multiple times), I was left with two thoughts.  One, that Sera Gamble knows how to deliver an emotional, powerhouse episode, and two, that this was Jim Beaver’s finest hour.  Combine these two things and you end up with the strongest episode of the season, if not one of the strongest of the series.  It also highlighted how much Supernatural would benefit from Gamble writing more episodes.  I know that’s impractical, given her role as showrunner, but her episode draws unintentional attention to the weakness of some of her current writing staff.

“Death’s Door” was a heartbreaking episode, but a perfect way to send out a character who is beloved in Supernatural fandom.  Of course, we never saw Bobby’s answer about whether he would stay or go, but it would be a grave misstep to have him remain behind.  Bobby knows, as all hunters do, what happens to those people who make the choice to remain in limbo, trapped between worlds, forever.  It makes little sense for him to make a decision that transforms him into that which he hunted.  If he does, then it better be for a damn good reason.  There’s been a lot of backtracking in good television shows lately, as they refuse to commit to the hard path of killing off a character.  Bobby’s death is a bold move and this should stand as his final hour.

It’s an episode that dissects the emotional life of Bobby Singer.  We see his close ties to Rufus, which was wonderful to watch.  We’ve seen them in tandem before, and it’s always been entertaining, but it was nice to see Bobby with his hunting partner.  So often we see Bobby only in relation to the Winchesters – keeping them in line, guiding them down the right path, providing information gleaned from his books – and it was good to see him in action with the person who was probably the closest thing to his best friend.  And in an inversion of the typical Bobby Singer experience, it is Rufus who helps guide Bobby towards a resolution — who explains that to find his way out of the darkness, out of dying, he must find a door, and that door will be in his most traumatic memory.  Oh, and also, Bobby needs to evade the Reaper who is trying to collect his soul.

Every memory that Bobby experiences in these last life moments in some way involve fatherhood.  Whether it’s a fight with his wife, who he desperately loved, a memory of the Winchester boys, or a glimpse back into his dark childhood, everything intersected around the concept of, the struggle for, what makes a good father.

One would imagine that Bobby’s traumatic memory of his wife, which Rufus even mentions, would be the moment he had to end her life.  It isn’t.  It’s a fight — a fight in which Bobby confesses that he doesn’t want kids because he breaks every thing he touches.  This is immediately negated by a memory of taking a very young Dean out to play a game of catch when John had instructed Bobby to make Dean practice shooting.  It’s the type of moment that plays out in different iterations throughout the episode, as we see Bobby playing the role of father to the Winchesters.  And it’s not that the audience didn’t already know this, but seeing the trio in moments of peace, acting like a normal family, this is what makes Bobby’s death even more tragic — even more poignant.

It’s also no surprise to discover that Bobby’s most feared memory involves the boy (a young Bobby) who has been tailing him through his various recollections.  Taking a page out of Flatliners, Bobby must relive the darkest moment from his childhood, where he saves his mother from his abusive father by killing him.  His mother, unable to support the act of the child who protected her, condemns him.

Even with all of this, what truly stands out in this episode, as one would expect, is the tie between Bobby and the Winchester boys.  We watch as Dean and Sam struggle with the news that Bobby is on the brink of death.  Sam, who realize that survival is unlikely cannot do anything but mourn and try to make his brother understand the bleakness of the situation.  Dean does what Dean does best — pretends that everything will be fine — that Bobby can fight back.  Yet cracks show.  When a hospital administrator approaches Dean about organ donation he almost gets a punch in the face.  The pain in this scene is palpable — far beyond the broken glass and bleeding knuckles.  A pain that feeds into Dean’s subsequent interaction with Dick Roman, who is lurking outside of the hospital in his Towncar, pleased with the outcome of his gunshot.  Assuming Bobby does die, this is our first glimpse of what vengeance looks like — our first glimpse of a Dean recharged, with a mission, with a new found purpose beyond just saving the world.  Dick laughs off Dean’s threats, reveling in his seeming immortality, but there is a moment, when Dean spits out “you’re either laughing because you’re scared or you’re laughing because you’re stupid,” that Dick looks nonplussed.  He seems taken aback and just slightly scared.

Yet, it’s Bobby’s episode and his love for the Winchester boys shines through in almost every scene.  Even as the Reaper explains that Bobby’s brain is dying, that the bullet is destroying him, his goal is to get to Sam and Dean, to tell them what he found in Dick Roman’s office.  So as Bobby works through the trauma of his youth, we are given a scene with the boys, where they say goodbye in case Bobby doesn’t make it through surgery.  Well, Sam does.  Bobby revives, and it seems that he might recover, and in these final moments he does two things — gives them the numbers from Dick Roman’s office and calls them “idjits” one last time.  Then flatlines. (sob)

It’s powerful stuff — sad, traumatic, painful.  It’s a glorious send-off to a beloved character.  And Sam and Dean look broken, just broken in the hospital.  It ends with Bobby’s final memory — the last thing saved in a dying brain — it’s a scene of peace with Dean and Sam, as they gather to watch a movie, drink some beer, eat some popcorn, and bicker over licorice, “little chewy pieces of heaven.”  We’re left with the Reaper asking Bobby whether he will stay or go as the credits rise.  So yes, there is a possibility that he will choose to stay — and it’s the one false moment to the episode — leaving the viewer on a cliffhanger.
I guess we’ll see what the new episode brings. . .
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Possibly the best moment of the episode — this scene with the Reaper trying to convince Bobby to give in to death:

“Bobby. . .you’ve helped.  You got handed a small, unremarkable life and you did something with it. Most men like you die of liver disease, watching Barney Miller reruns. You’ve done enough. Believe me.”

“I don’t care.”

“Why?”

“Because they’re my boys.

(sob)

Appointment in Samarra

Supernatural Part 3: Appointment in Samarra

At the end of “Caged Heat” I was torn between two brothers, feeling like a fool. Oh, no, wait, that’s a song. Yet it’s an odd feeling for a Supernatural fan to have to pick sides in a brother war. I mean, we all have our favorite, but that doesn’t mean we dislike the other. Supernatural allows you to root for Dean *and* Sam, but “Caged Heat” left me with a dilemma. I understood why Dean was obsessed with getting Sam’s soul back. I have a younger brother that I would do anything for, especially if his soul was at stake. However, as I mentioned last week, I think the writers have done a fantastic job of making Sam’s reaction completely reasonable. One of the ways they have done this is by making soulless Sam rather acceptable. Yes, there are glimpses of wrongness in him, but for the most part he’s just Sam. An uncaring, sarcastic, impassive Sam, but Sam nonetheless. Granted, he let Dean get attacked by a vampire, but his rationale was far less psychological than I had predicted. Sam is just a hunting machine at the moment. The threat of Sam turning into a destroyed waste of a creature once his broken soul is returned is such a catastrophic threat that who in their right mind would want that?

So we start the episode on slightly unsure footing. Do we support Dean in his quest to restore Sam’s soul and potentially destroy his brother’s sanity? Or do we hope that Sam can find a way to save himself?

To save Sam, Dean has come up with a crazy, albeit clever, solution. He will ask for Death’s help. For this to happen, Dean must first find Death and, really, unless he’s stuck in a tree the only way to find him is to die. So Dean seeks out Dr. Robert (played by Robert Englund), who “stitched up” John Winchester “more times than [he] could count.” When he had a medical license. Now, however, his office is a grotty apartment over a Chinese grocery store. In a telling moment, Dean hands Dr. Robert a letter addressed to Ben and asks him to deliver it if anything should go wrong. Robert is surprised that he doesn’t have one for Sam. Dean replies, “If I don’t make it back. Nothing I say is gonna mean a damn thing to him.” Sadly, given that it’s soulless Sam, that’s probably very true.

Robert successfully stops Dean’s heart, and his spirit walks down to the store and summons everyone’s favorite reaper, Tessa. He begs her to call Death, but she refuses, both because she’s not allowed to and on principal. But Death shows up anyway. While the death of Crowley robbed Supernatural of some of its color, Death’s return made me rather happy. He is a masterly character.

Dean attempts to bargain with Death, promising to return the ring he borrowed last season. Death doesn’t let him finish his thought. “I’m sorry, you assume that I don’t know where you’ve hidden it.” Long pause to let that sink in with Dean, and then Death continues. “Now we’ve established that you have hubris, but no leverage, what is it you want?” Dean spells it out. He wants Death to save both Sam’s soul and Adam. Death makes him choose. The choice is obvious, but it does at least address a potential audience concern that Dean would leave Adam down there without a mention. Death tells Dean that Sam’s soul has been flayed, down to the raw nerve. All the while, Dr. Robert is trying to resuscitate Dean, with the requisite three minutes having passed — to little success of course.

Death gives Dean a bit of a talking to, explaining that Dean’s request that Death chop off Sam’s memory of the hell experience is ridiculous — that the soul can be tortured and beaten but can never be broken– pieces cannot be removed. What he is willing to offer, however, is to put up a wall, of unknown stability, in Sam’s mind that will keep the torture at bay. How long that the wall will hold is unknown. I should mention that Tessa thinks this is a terrible idea. Of course Dean chooses potentially-eventually broken Sam. But it’s not that easy. Death will fulfill Dean’s request, but only if Dean completes a challenge. He must wear Death’s ring for one day — must be Death for 24-hours — and if he fails, if he takes off the ring, then Death will not save Sam. “But why?” Dean asks. “Simple Dean, because. . .” Before he can get the answer, Dean is brought back to life.

Let’s just say that Dean’s attempt to convince Sam this is a good idea does not go well. Castiel and Crowley’s warnings about the condition of his soul have left Sam not just apprehensive, but downright antagonistic about its return. Dean explains that Death can put up a wall, but must admit that it’s not a foolproof solution.

“Great, so playing pretty fast and loose with my life here don’t you think.”

“I’m trying to save your life!”

“Exactly Dean, it’s my life. It’s my life. It’s my soul. And it sure as hell ain’t your head that’s gonna explode when this whole scheme of yours goes sideways.”

Bobby, questioning the deal, asks Dean what he had to promise in exchange for Sam’s soul. Bobby, who’s no stranger to the crazy deals that Winchesters make to save their own, recognizes that there’s something a bit. . .off. . .about the whole thing. Dean confesses that he must be Death for a day and Sam, under the auspices of “clearing his head” tries to get to the ring first and prevent the deal from taking place. I will say, this Sam is far more proactive than Sam-with-soul. Sam agrees to let Dean try to save his soul — fishy!! Dean leaves, but not without asking Bobby to watch Sam.

Of course Sam is not just going to wait for Dean to restore his deformed soul. In a warehouse (I guess Bobby wasn’t watching him that closely) he performs a ritual to summon Balthazar. Sam wants to know if there’s any way — a spell, a weapon, anything — that can keep a soul permanently out of a body. Balthazar is intrigued and when he realizes that Sam’s soul is still in the cage, he’s almost tickled with delight. He then confirms what Castiel and Crowley have said — Sam does *not* want that soul back in his body. Balthazar shocks Sam by saying that he’ll help him with no conditions, which is slightly disingenuous because he gloats about how great it will be to have Sam in his debt. Also, Balthazar’s hate for Dean is making the prospect even more delicious. Here’s the real catch: while the spell ingredients are, for the most part, easy to acquire, Balthazar needs Sam to scar his vessel. To do this he needs to commit patricide. Sam is confused. John, after all, is dead. Balthazar explains, “You need the blood of your father, but your father needn’t be blood.” Oh hell.

The episode cuts between Dean and Sam, building up the tension of what Sam is going to do. For ease of recapping, I’m going to deal with Dean’s experience with Death first and then Sam. But I wanted to mention this because it was a brilliant way to ramp up the anxiety of the situation, especially given what Sam is setting out to do.

Dean, meanwhile, is trying to deal with his new job title, and Tessa isn’t making it any easier on him. Dean doesn’t just get to give people his death touch, but sometimes they have questions, like “why.” Killing the first two are easier than he expected — a criminal shot during a robbery and a man having a heart attack while eating pizza. Well, easy until the second man asks, “Wait, tell me, what it all means?” Dean replies, “Everything is dust in the wind.” He’s completely chuffed with his answer. The man, not so much. “That’s it? A Kansas song?”

The third death is what breaks Dean. A young girl, 13, with a serious heart condition, who is in a hospital with her father watching over her — a father who has no one else in the world. Dean, as anticipated, rebels. Tessa tries to explain that it’s destiny, but Dean says it’s “a load of crap.” He and Tessa fight about how successful his prior attempts at messing with life and death have been, but Dean is adamant. The girl will not die while he is Death. Of course, as we know, and as Dean should know, there are repercussions to cheating death when it’s your time. In this case, the ripple effect is swift. The nurse who was meant to be scrubbing in on the girl’s surgery — a surgery that did not happen as the girl’s heart “miraculously” healed — is killed in a traffic accident. The nurse, who was meant to live for quite a long time, having kids and grandkids, is dead because the little girl lived. Tessa wants him to kill the girl — set the universe right — but he can’t bring himself to do it. Especially when he sees that the nurse’s husband, devastated from her death, gets into his car after coming out of a bar. Unable to stop the man from crashing and dying, as the man can’t see Dean while he’s Death, Dean takes off the ring and saves him, thereby losing the challenge.

Dean, now visible, stands outside the wrecked car, screaming at the heavens and Tessa to release him and zap him back home. Abandoned, Dean looks around and comes to a realization. Even though he lost, Dean puts the ring back on to tie up loose ends. He and Tessa end up back at the hospital, and Dean, knowing what havoc has been wreaked with his decisions, accepts that the young girl’s life will always be haunted in some way, as the universe tries to course correct. As the spirit of the girl stands between Dean and Tessa, she says she cannot leave her father — that it isn’t fair. Dean, able to answer in a way he simply wasn’t before, responds that it’s not fair, but that there’s a natural order to things. It would appear that he does accept this — that he understands the ripple effect of saving someone from death when it’s their time, but I don’t get the sense that he believes it so whole-heartedly that he would implement it in the decisions he makes about loved ones. I think that if he had to save Ben, even if it meant causing the deaths of other innocents, he would.

Back at the car ranch. . . .Sam decides to fulfill his need to scar his vessel and returns to Bobby’s house.

Okay, now I found this to be a brilliant strategy on the part of Gamble and Singer. It is at this moment that the true impact of Sam’s missing soul becomes apparent. Sam, who I had felt sympathy for (well played writers), was going to kill Bobby? I tried to talk myself out of the situation. “He’s going to kill Bobby?!?!? No, he wouldn’t do that. Nope. No way. They can’t do that. He can’t do that. Oh my gods he’s going to kill Bobby. Holy crap. Okay Dean, I’m sorry I doubted you.” Really, they could just as easily have had Balthazar say that Sam needed to kill someone with the blood of his father and had him try to kill Dean, but even that might not make Sam seem truly evil. (Can he be evil without a soul? Is he just. . .wrong?) I could come up with a list of reasons (a short list though) why Sam would be justified, in his own mind, for killing Dean, but Bobby? Smart move. Having Sam go after the one character that everyone loves (who the hell doesn’t love Bobby?) and who does everything he can for the boys, often to his own detriment (as we saw earlier this season), just demonstrates how far gone our Sam really is — and yes, that makes Dean’s decision the right one. For if Sam is willing to kill Bobby, then no one is safe. Sam without a soul needs to be a dead Sam. It was at this moment, also, when I began to think that the season’s big bad just might be Sam. Maybe the apocalyptic fight between the brothers that I was expecting last year will actually be this season. More on that at the end.

So Sam returns, tells Bobby he’s just been out driving (does anyone in his sphere believe his lies?), and they sit down to a quiet, tense, and anxiety-filled game of poker. When Bobby gets up to grab another beer from the fridge, Sam makes his move. Bobby, however, strikes first with his billy club. He delivers a sardonic Bobby Singer line, “I may have been born at night boy, but it wasn’t last night.” When Bobby’s back is turned to grab some rope, Sam escapes. More tension as Bobby searches his dark house! Why does no one ever have the lights on!?! It’s so X-Files. Bobby locks himself in a closet. Sam finds him and starts breaking the door down with an axe. Luckily Bobby, who is always one step ahead of the boys, has cornered himself in a closet for a reason — trap door underneath Sam! So Sam, who is now trapped in the basement, and Bobby have a conversation.

In his own misguided way, Sam explains to Bobby that he doesn’t want to kill him, but he has too. The line between Sam-with-soul and Sam-without is now complete — they are now two separate entities. He says that Dean doesn’t care anything about him, but only his little brother Sammy that he wants to save from burning in hell. Sam is fine with the other one dying. Unfortunately, Sam escapes through a grate in the panic room and Bobby follows him — only to be knocked out with a steel pipe outside his barn/garage/warehouse.

Regardless of his pleas, Bobby is in real danger. Sam readies the knife to slit Bobby’s throat and drink his blood. Even though it’s a short scene, it’s terribly creepy. Sam has no emotion, no remorse. He’s following a plan. There’s no room for reasoning, because there’s no other solution. His lack of insight, logic, instinct — all things Dean has pointed out throughout the season — make him a danger — a monster. Sam doesn’t seem to understand that drinking the blood of a man who has been a father to him actually makes him the type of monster that he’s so keen to hunt. How brilliant that he is the darkness now — his behavior in this episode has made him a manifestation of evil.

Just as he’s about to bury the knife into Bobby’s throat, Dean grabs his arm and stops him. Delivering a pithy Dean line, “Hi Sam, I’m back” before knocking him out with killer punch.

But now Dean’s at an impasse. He has no solution for retrieving Sam’s soul and with the attempt on Bobby’s life, Dean knows he can’t be let free. He and Bobby both know they need to confront the idea of killing him, but neither one wants to articulate that.

Surprise! Death is waiting upstairs with a bacon hot dog for Dean. No that’s not a weird euphemism, he really did bring hot dogs from a place in L.A. Death watches Dean turn the ring over and over in his fingers and says, almost with a compassionate understanding, “Heavier than it looks isn’t it? Sometimes you just want the thing off. But you know that.” Dean is just broken by this point. He can barely look Death in the eye as he admits to defeat, to breaking the natural order. Death asks him, if he could do it all over again, would he kill the little girl straight away? Dean says yes, which surprises Death, but Dean’s response is that he would have saved the nurse. But Death sees it as something more complicated. He believes that Dean has now seen behind the workings of the human condition — that he’s seen the natural order of things and realized the consequences when that order is disrupted. Death goes on to say what Dean needs to hear, “This is hard for you Dean. You throw away your life because you’ve come to assume it’ll bounce right back into your lap. The human soul is not a rubber ball. It’s vulnerable, impermanent, but stronger than you know, and more valuable than you can imagine.”

As it turns out, Death has planned this as a life-lesson for Dean, to see what decisions have to be made on the other side. Now he’s going to go save Sam’s soul. Dean wonders why Death would do that for him. Death’s response is fascinating, and points to something much larger in our future. “I wouldn’t do it for you. You and your brother keep coming back. You’re an affront to the balance of the universe and you cause disruption on a global scale. But you have use. Right now you’re digging at something. Intrepid detective, I want you to keep digging, Dean. . .it’s about souls. You’ll understand when you need to.”

So with a 75% chance of the wall working on Sam, Death goes down to hell, rescues Sammy’s soul, and shoves it back into Sam’s unwilling vessel. “Now Sam, I’m going to put up a barrier inside your mind. It might feel a little. . .itchy. Do me a favor and don’t scratch the wall, because trust me, you’re not going to like what happens.”

Sam begs them not to do this, but no one listens — not Dean, not Bobby, not Death. And as Death shoves Sam’s soul back into his chest, with Sam screaming in agony, the episode ends. . . .

Brilliant. Just bloody brilliant. Every time I watch I get goosebumps. And I hope this means we get to see more of Death, because Julian Richings is fantastic. Plus it’s fun to watch him interact with Ackles. There aren’t many people in the Supernatural universe that Dean fears, but you can see in the episode just how much Death scares him.

Also, even knowing that Sam had almost killed Bobby, and that he was a threat to everyone we know and love, I couldn’t help but feel a bit badly for him, tied down and screaming in pain. Just a little. Not that much.

Oh souls! What do you mean for this show??? What is your value? What entity is trying to utilize you, besides Balthazar? How are you figuring into the battle in heaven? And what is going to happen to Sam?? I still believe that the battle between Sam and Dean will happen — will it be a brother apocalypse? The wall in Sam’s mind has to break, but what will be the consequences? Will it be the break that pushes him fully darkside? Will he side against Castiel in the battle for heaven? And can anything catch a ride on soul? Is Sam somehow infected with Lucifer? Or Michael??

The CW released a new promo poster for the show this week, prior to tonight’s pre-emption, and it clearly points towards another celestial battle. Dean with a halo shaped light over his head, slightly elevated above Sam, who is wearing a red shirt with a snake coiled around his arm, his eyes glowing. Heaven and Hell in battle once more? The boys no longer potential vessels, but human warriors for the respective causes? Regardless, I don’t think things look that good for our darling Sammy.

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