Posts tagged Sam Winchester
Yo-ho, yo-ho, the hunter’s life for me. . .
If there’s been an underlying theme to the Supernatural episodes of the New Year it’s this: if you’re a hunter, then you live and die as a hunter. You can’t escape the life, and you can’t survive it by wallowing in the misery that it creates.
“At Death’s Door” left us with the cliffhanger of whether or not Bobby chose to go with the Reaper, and “Adventures in Babysitting” seemed to point to Bobby having made his final departure. However, early on, there was a possible hint of things being not quite settled when Dean discovered that his beer was empty, with neither Sam nor himself having consumed it. One can only hope that this will eventually point to something else. While not having Bobby around leaves a gaping wound not easily healed, it makes the Leviathan threat even more potent.
The Leviathans are an odd “big-bad.” Their end game is unknown. We don’t have a sense of what the Winchesters are fighting against or how they can even possibly win. While it was unclear how they were going to fight Lucifer and Michael to stop the apocalypse, it was an easier mythology to grasp. Leviathans are simply an unknown quantity, which can be frustrating for viewers. Yet as an evil, they are made more potent by the loss of almost all allies for the Winchester brothers. Previous enemies have been fought with the assistance of their father, Bobby, Ash, Ellen and Jo, and of course Castiel. This season finds the Winchesters weakened. We might not know exactly what threat is posed, but we have two characters now stripped of everything they’ve relied upon. No identities, no father figures, no mentors, no angel to bail them out. Plus, as we’re reminded in almost every episode by its absence, no Impala. Every action seems futile — it’s a darkness that the Winchesters have never really had to experience.
Yet not all hope is lost. As we see in “Adventures” and “Time after Time after Time,” there are relatively new friends that remain, for now. Frank serves as a new, not as fatherly, much more paranoid, fount of information — one who even teaches Dean computer tricks that render Sam jealous. Thanks to her loyalty to Bobby, Sheriff Jody Mills also shows up, not only to give the boys a case, but also to offer a helping hand when things go awry. Are they as significant as Bobby and Castiel? Of course not. But they are tiny sources of light in a life that is now very, very dark for the Winchesters.
It would have been very easy to spend the first episode post-Bobby focused solely on vengeance, which is actually what I thought they might do. Of course this comes into play — Dean is consumed with taking down Dick Roman and discovering what the numbers that Bobby inscribed on Sam’s hand mean for the Leviathan quest. So much so that in “Time” he lies to Sam, pretending to be watching anime porn when he’s really researching Roman’s life. Yet this shifts slightly when presented with a secondary job — a missing hunter. In any other episode this would just be another case of the week, but, given all that has just happened with Bobby, it serves to highlight the fragile life of the hunter and the children that are raised in that lifestyle. For reasons intimately tied to their own pasts and compounded by the recent loss of their own father figure, Sam and Dean want to help Krissy, the young daughter of the missing hunter. Sam wants to save her the pain of losing her father, while Dean hopes that she’ll escape the life, finding an outlet like Sam originally did. Yet, in the end, it’s Krissy who saves them all — eagerly and happily. When you’re born into the life, it’s hard to escape the pull of that life.
Frank serves two purposes in this episode. Firstly, he discovers that Bobby’s numbers are coordinates that point to a parcel in Wisconsin (“a field, not the Death Star”) recently purchased by a subsidiary of Dick Roman’s company. Furthermore, it’s a field surrounded by Roman’s surveillance equipment, which Frank can tap in to, of course. Secondly, he gives Dean some advice. “Quit.” Of course Dean’s not going to quit and he scoffs at the idea of leaving his brother. So Frank tells him to do what he did: “Decide to be fine till the end of the week. Make yourself smile because you’re alive and that’s your job. And then do it again the next week.” “So fake it,” Dean replies. “I call it being professional. Do it right, with a smile, or don’t do it.” Though watching Dean try to smile at the end of the episode was both painful and slightly creepy.
“Time After Time After Time” (one hell of a second 2012 episode) continues to push the idea that it’s time for Dean to leave his melancholy behind and accept who and what he is. It just happens that this advice comes from Eliot Ness. (Was anyone else mightily excited to see Nicholas Lea? I miss Alex Krycek. Also, Lea and Duchovny clearly both take the same anti-aging serum.)
Thanks to a tip from Jody Mills, Sam and Dean start chasing down a monster who leaves behind drained, mummified corpses, only to find out, once Dean gets transported back to 1944, that they’ve been fighting Chronos, the God of Time (played by Jason Dohring — oh how I miss Logan Echolls).
Overall it was a solid episode, marred only by a terrible acting job by a bit player who took his role as “medicated” witness a bit too far — someone needed to reign in that community theater overacting. Also, it would have been great to have more time with Lea and Dohring, solid guest stars who were great when they were onscreen but simply weren’t onscreen enough.
The scenes in 1944 were entertaining, especially watching Dean interacting with hero Eliot Ness. Anachronistic language and clothing, plus Ness as a straight-man foil, was a great distraction from both the Leviathans and Bobby’s death. And Dean looks mighty fine in a tailored suit. But the episode still brought back the hunting theme, as the salient moment from 1944 is the conversation between Ness and Dean while they’re on a stakeout outside a diner where Chronos’s hangs out.
Dean, waxing morose about how the hunting life has lost meaning since everyone keeps dying, is confronted with Ness’s forthright and unsympathetic response.
“Boo-hoo, cry me a river you nancy. Tell me, are all hunters as soft as you in the future? Everybody loses everybody and then boom, one day your number is up, but at least you’re making a difference. So enjoy it while it lasts kid cause hunting is the only clarity you’re gonna find in this life, and that makes you luckier than most.”
The other significant moment occurs at the end of the episode, as Chronos is dying. In his final throes he looks at Sam and Dean and prophecies what’s to come.
“Wanna know your future? I know your future. It’s covered in thick black ooze. It’s everywhere. They’re everywhere. Enjoy oblivion.”
Mission, purpose, re-dedication to the hunting life? Hopefully sorted.
Ness: “How does that fill you with awe?”
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. . .
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.”
“Because they’re my boys.
Well. So. . . .that happened.
Caveat: I don’t watch the show live, so please don’t mention anything in the teasers for the next episode – all of my speculations are based solely on what has been seen in the episode. I say this only because I don’t know if the teasers for this week point to what happened to Bobby and I don’t want to know!
This was a great episode for misdirection. Written by Ben Edlund, who has become known for bringing the funny to Winchester life, and a beginning that mocked glamour campers (glampers), it seemed as if this episode would follow the past few, being light on mythology and heavy on humor. At the very least, I thought we might be seeing Supernatural pay homage to the first season episode of The X-Files entitled “The Jersey Devil.”
Initially it was heavy on humor. Dean’s love of food, somewhat reminiscent of Brad Pitt’s character Rusty in Ocean’s Eleven, is always good for a laugh or two, especially when it involves reaction shots of Sam and Bobby. When that food, a Pepperjack Turducken Slammer from Biggersons, turns out to be tainted and results in a stoned Dean, it becomes hilarious.
A stoned Dean meant a Dean who really doesn’t care about much of anything. “I’m not that worried about it.” Seeing this guilt-free Dean was a momentary relief, except that it was caused by the funky chicken in the TDK Slammer. “If I wasn’t so chilled out right now, I would puke.”
Of course it ended up being so much more than tainted food and a stoned Dean – it was the Leviathans. That actually was a surprise. Our doctor friend from earlier in the season is using humanity’s sloth and obsession with fast food against them, turning them into TDK addicts, slowing their metabolism, causing weight gain, and dampening their emotional range, making them complacent and unaware. Unfortunately, for the baddies, the concoction results in some people turning hyper-violent, like our poor Biggerson’s waiter Brandon, who early on tries to bait Dean into fighting him. (Dean is too stunned to really fight back.)
Yet it wasn’t Dean’s consumption of the “formula” that we needed to worry about. We should have known that Bobby was the one in peril. The scene where the boys reminisce with Bobby about their childhood adventures with him, the fact that Bobby is smack-dab in the middle of the action with the boys (unlike his usual role of mentor and guide), Bobby’s affectionate take on Sam always being a “deep sum-a-bitch,” these are the more subtle clues that jump out in a re-watch. Yet it’s when Bobby chastises Dean for his “everything-is-doomed” attitude, ending with the admonishment of “You die before me and I’ll kill you,” that it became blatantly apparent that bad things were on the horizon for our beloved Mister Singer.
The final crisis, with the boys and Bobby facing off against head Leviathan, Dick “friggin’” Roman, had Bobby making more than a few lucky escapes, with escape and peril so densely plotted that there wasn’t time to feel relief, only an escalation in tension. In the closing scene, when Bobby runs to the van with Dick Roman on his heels, there is a brief moment where you think, “of course Bobby escaped any real danger. . .Supernatural can’t kill Bobby,” only to realize that the fact that the camera won’t show Bobby means that something is wrong – that something being a hole in his head.
So the real question is whether Supernatural will really kill off Bobby. Can they do it? I’m of two minds here. If the show was truly brave – truly headed down the path of despair that I discussed in my last article – then they would do it. They would leave Dean with nothing but a brother with a fractured brain. But I don’t think they can do that. I’m not necessarily saying that’s what I want. The fan in me wants Bobby alive to the end. I can’t imagine the show without him – as I’ve said before, he’s now the third Winchester – the surrogate father. However, the part of me that loves dramatic narrative feels that Bobby’s death would take the boys to a point that they haven’t experienced before – a place where they have nothing and no one. In the battle of good vs. evil, it’s the place where most heroes have to go.
This is all complicated by the real-world problem of season eight. If the cast and crew have decided that they don’t want another season, that this should be the end, then the writers have so much more creative license to bring about an end game. But if there is a season nine on deck, then you have a problem getting rid of Bobby. The writers and audience have invested so much in the character, that giving Sam and Dean new people in a new season will prove difficult. The Supernatural audience is passionate and problematic. The response to Cas’s “death” has been vocal and not really that unexpected – although the level of vitriol spewed against Sera Gamble is a bit distressing. I’m not sure that the writers have enough support from the fan base to kill off Bobby Singer – unless it’s the final season. Even then. . . .
Maybe Bobby can be an angel.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
As this was a Ben Edlund episode, there are a ton of great moments. So many that I could probably just cite the entire script. Here are some of my favorites:
Brandon’s nicknames for our trio are hysterical – Big Bird, Ken Doll, and Creepy Uncle. Awesome.
Bobby: “Brandon’s got his flair all up in a bunch.”
“You don’t shoot Bambi jackass. . . .you shoot Bambi’s mother.”
Dean: “It’s like the perfect storm of your top-three edible birds.”
“Man I liked Rick.” (if only for the reaction shots of Sam and Bobby)
“I think you pissed off my sandwich.”
“You know now it’s all making sense. Remember when Crowley kept going on about hating dick? I thought he was just being general but, [pointing at laptop] psish!”
Random Politician: “Roman is ruthless, but good-looking. I think he’ll make a great candidate.”
Dick: “Sam, that is not how we communicate from a place of yes.”
Despair. I think it’s the emotion hardest for cialis online an audience to embrace — especially if that emotion extends over many episodes or, to the audience’s chagrin, an entire season. It’s this word, this feeling, this thought, that is driving season seven of Supernatural. It is what I believe to be the concept most frustrating for the discontented in the audience.
I’ve been thinking about this after reading Mo Ryan’s article on aoltv.com about what Supernatural needs to do to rescue its stumbling season. Now I find Ryan to be a refreshing and incisive critic, who can be a passionate advocate for television shows, yet I read this article, paused, and wondered if I was watching a different show than everyone else. Then I thought I must be giving Supernatural some kind of pass simply because I feel like, after seven years, that the Winchesters are part of my weekly life — in a weird way they are like TV family (exactly how I felt about LOST). You spend so much time watching and re-watching that their story becomes interwoven into the fibers of your very being. Then I wondered if it was even possible to be critical of something that you love — in the same way that I refuse to listen to any negative comments about William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury, was I simply incapable of applying rational thought to a show that I love?
No, that wasn’t the answer. There are instances in this website where I have critiqued the show or negatively reviewed an episode. It’s not that I can’t find flaws with Supernatural — don’t get me started on their problems with female characters — but clearly something is happening. If you look at responses to reviews, the audience seems overwhelmingly unhappy. Some of you were generous enough to give me your thoughts, which demonstrated that there are satisfied viewers who probably aren’t speaking up in blog comments. Yet there were also a few responses that pointed to issues that I’ve seen elsewhere. These concerns tend to revolve around Castiel and the season’s seeming lack of purpose, as, for many, the Leviathan arc seems too amorphous to create an invested audience.
This is why I circled back to the concept of despair. Ryan asserted that by taking everything away from the boys, they have nothing to fight for, no reason to go on (I’m badly paraphrasing). I would argue that that’s exactly the point. We’ve seen them with purpose, with a specific goal that they’re fighting towards (killing Azazel, saving Dean from Hell, stopping the apocalypse, restoring Sam’s soul), and Gamble could have easily followed that template. Instead, as KimberlyFDR pointed out, Gamble started her tenure as showrunner by adopting a darker tone. This shouldn’t be surprising. Gamble has historically written the episodes that delve deeply into the emotional fragility of the boys. She consistently pushes past Dean’s bravado to explore what makes him a depressed, martyred, fan of the drink. As I’ve mentioned ad nauseam, her episode “What Is and What Should Never Be” provided the first, tragic look at what drives Dean — and it was horrifically sad. So the tone of the new seasons shouldn’t be a surprise at all.
I would argue that last season was the setup for Sam and Dean hitting rock bottom this season — the setup for complete despair. Ideally, this season, the boys would be left with no one. And if this was a novel, Bobby would also have been a fatality, perhaps the Leviathan would have ensured his end. However, I don’t think the show can kill off Bobby — not without a complete fan revolt — or at the very least not until near the series finale. We’re at a point, after seven years, that following the traditional Supernatural template is not the best option. Exploring despair, exploring what happens to our Winchesters when they have nothing but each other to fight for — now that’s meaty. The vague threat of the Leviathans? I would bundle that up with the concept of despair. The boys barely understand what they’re fighting, only knowing, once again, that it’s a threat that could destroy the world. Yet as a result of their despair — and really, it’s Dean’s despair — the day-to-day is rote. Rote in a way that highlights how much they have lost and how far they have fallen. How do you survive when you have nothing?
One of the darkest periods of the show was when John Winchester died. It’s the event that brought Dean the closest to this despair — his character now is a reflection of his character then. Brooding, excessively drinking, refusing to see beyond the black and white of the situation, seeking some kind of solace through the destruction of monsters. It was all there. But the quest for vengeance — for killing Azazel — is what brought him back, after just a few episodes, from the abyss. In the present, that vengeance is missing. The enemy is scattered, can spread easily, and is almost impossible to kill. Not only that, the Leviathans are smart, strong hunters. There is no respite from running because they consistently and quickly track the boys down. Or, in an even worse case scenario, make life almost impossible for them by shifting into their forms.
Can’t you just feel it? When you think about what they’re currently going through? No home, no place of safety, no Castiel to act as a deus ex machina, no easy way to identify or kill their foes — it’s despair. It’s their darkest moment. And it’s incredibly difficult to watch.
Yet none of this means there’s something wrong with the show — it just means it’s progressing in a way that makes the audience uncomfortable.
During this past season of Breaking Bad, another fantastic critic, Tim Goodman, whose thoughts I appreciate and often disagree with, wrote about his concern with how deconstructing every episode prevented critics/viewers from just sitting back and enjoying the ride. That because we don’t let the arc happen without trying to anticipate or second-guess the writers, we can’t fully appreciate what the show is trying to do.
I think it’s an interesting point. And while I’m not comparing Supernatural to Breaking Bad, I do think that we take such ownership of a show, that it’s oftentimes difficult to let the arc happen without feeling like we’re being betrayed in some way. Isn’t part of the magic letting a show take us somewhere that we haven’t anticipated? Isn’t it the responsibility of art to force us to examine and explore emotions and situations that might make us feel uncomfortable or distressed?
This is the darkest place the Winchesters have ever been. They have no one. They have nothing to hold on to but their skill as hunters. Their entire world is destabilized — so much so that they don’t even have control over their own bodies, their own stories. The Leviathans can inscribe a reality for them by assuming their own shapes and personas. It’s taxing to experience this with them, but it’s a fascinating journey.
Okay Supernatural, I was ready to take a ride on the “Amy Pond Guilt Experience,” and instead you took me in a totally different direction.
The crux of the episode’s narrative was the arrival of Osiris, who was searching for people weighted down by guilt, holding a spectral trial, and then judging them innocent or guilty. If declared guilty, the “prisoner” would then be killed in the manner that emulated the crime they committed.
Now, I love any episode that directly addresses Dean’s inability to overcome the guilt that has been building, and building, and building over the years, so a Dean/Osiris showdown allowed Supernatural to deal with an issue that forms the core of this character — and serves as the reason for so much of Dean’s drinking. Dean’s guilt, and unmitigated commitment to family, has always been the most poignant part of his personality. I would argue that it’s what turned Dean from being a stereotypical frat-boy, womanizing, blue collar hunter, into the brother loved by the (female) audience for his unwavering loyalty, (mostly) pure heart, and combination warrior/knight errant/domestique qualities.
As Osiris puts Dean on trial, he brings out three witnesses — the people about whom Dean feels the most guilt. Now, if you’d seen any marketing for this episode, it was no surprise to hear Osiris call Joanna Beth Harvelle to the stand, as Jo figured heavily in the episode teasers. So Jo is the first witness, Sam is the second, and it is strongly hinted that Sam’s Amy Pond would be the third.
This could easily have devolved into a clichéd discussion of Dean’s guilt, but the line of questioning Osiris used exposed an interesting facet of Dean’s psyche. While Jo’s arrival might not have been a surprise (trailers), the reason that she was there was rather unexpected and dovetailed nicely with Sam’s. Dean’s guilt doesn’t stem from any of the actions that led to Jo and Sam’s various injuries and death, but rather is woven into the idea that if he had never “pushed” them into hunting in the first place none of the mortal consequences would have materialized.
As a viewer, it was easy to take apart Osisiris’ line of questioning, and Sam, acting as Dean’s lawyer, did just that. Jo grew up in the hunter lifestyle, idolizing her father and working at a roadhouse surrounded by hunters and talk of supernatural phenomena. Dean didn’t push her into becoming a hunter; he just gave her an opportunity to put her skills to work. With Sam, even if Dean hadn’t shown up at Sam’s Palo Alto apartment, plans would have been put into motion to get Sam back into the game. Regardless of what happened in the Winchester family, Yellow Eyes always had Sam’s future mapped out.
Yet even though Sam brings all of this out, and Dean acquiesces to Sam’s logic, it’s not very convincing. In fact, it becomes readily apparent that while everyone else realizes that Dean isn’t responsible for what has happened, that he doesn’t need to bear this guilt (Jo even states exactly that), Dean refuses to believe them. That guilt is so ingrained in his character and in his personal narrative that he will not abandon that burden. And even though Sam is making a convincing case, Dean accepts his death sentence before the third person is brought out, sure that it will be Amy Pond.
Yet I wonder, would it have been? I know that’s what the show is hinting towards, but Dean doesn’t feel guilty about killing Amy. He doesn’t think he’s made a mistake in killing Amy. In fact, Dean doesn’t stop Osiris from calling Amy to the stand because he can’t handle being faced with his actions, but rather because he doesn’t want Sam to find out what he has done. He doesn’t want to damage his relationship with Sam – that’s markedly different than feeling guilty about killing Amy.
This becomes clear when Sam leaves Dean in the hotel room. We know Sam can’t be used as the weapon of justice, as he is still alive, but there is a brief moment where it is unclear whether the weapon to step out of the shadows will be Jo or Amy. If Dean truly felt such remorse, such guilt, for killing Amy, then she would have been the one to kill him. Yet that isn’t what happened – it’s Jo. Jo’s time as a hunter – Jo’s death during the pre-apocalypse – that’s what Dean cannot get over – that’s the burden he refuses to let go – a burden that he’s ready to die for.
That, of course, makes the end scene, with the boys sharing feelings while they drink beer and lean on the Impala, all the more painful, as Dean realizes that the guilt he shares is his problem and his alone. Rather than returning from Hell burdened by his experiences, as Dean does in season four, Sam sees it as a soul-cleansing experience. Sam’s suffered for his sins and he no longer feels guilt for anything he’s done –the past is past. The question remains whether Dean will ever be able to lessen his burden – whether he’ll ever let go of the guilt he feels.
Quick note: I’m always pleased when Supernatural allows for the existence of all gods. While so many episodes of the past few seasons have been focused on angels, devils, and God, they have never used that as a reason to omit the potential for other spiritual entities. Osiris and Lucifer can both rule over the underworld.
I also love the rational Bobby telling Sam that he and Dean need to get the hell out of Dodge: “He weighs the guilt and if he finds more than a feather’s worth, boom, you’re done. . .This guy hones in on people that feel guilty. Who does that sound like to you?”
At some point I really want to write about Supernatural’s woman problem. I know it’s been discussed in other forums, but having Jo back, albeit briefly, was a reminder of what this show is missing without her and Ellen.
Welcome back to season two! Okay, not really, but “The Girl Next Door” brought back the Sam and Dean personality types that dominated that season. This Ackles directed episode wasn’t at all what I thought it would be, being less about the Leviathans and more about giving us another emotional starting point with the boys.
The question of Bobby’s well-being addressed almost immediately, the episode then dispatches of the Leviathan problem it set up last week. This season is about the boys being on the run, without a stable home base, so while the Leviathans didn’t really play much of a role in the episode (beyond the teaser), they are a tension underlying everything – they have the means to pursue the Winchesters and they are, for now, impossible to kill.
The central narrative illuminated an episode from Sam’s past – when in 1998 he helped his Dad and Dean (who were off screen) hunt down a Kitsune, a monster who must feed on the brains and pituitary glands of human beings. For the flashbacks, the Supernatural casting crew has brought back Colin Ford, who truly is an apt young Sam – he captures Padalecki’s emotion and mannerisms perfectly.
Past and present Sam are looking for the same Kitsune, a girl named “Amy Pond” (nice), who is played in the present by Jewel Staite (who wasn’t given enough to do). Young Sam accidentally finds young Amy while doing research at the library, eventually saves her from bully boys, and once back at her house discovers that her mom is the Kitsune on a killing spree. Amy saves Sam’s life by shoving a knife through her mother’s heart. Present Sam, recognizing the Kitsune pattern in a modern day series of slayings, goes after Amy, with the intention of finally stopping her murders.
And here is where we get the Sam that we’ve seen over the years, but nowhere more apparent than in the season two “Bloodlust.” In that early episode, Sam was the one to prevent the slaughter of Lenore and her vampire crew, believing that the things we call “monster” don’t necessarily have to be evil. In “The Girl Next Door” we have a similar situation. As children, Sam lets Amy escape, before the arrival of his father and brother – and we all know John Winchester would have killed the girl. Then, as adults, he chooses to let her go again. Amy, who now works as a mortician where she can acquire brains and pituitary glands from corpses, needs fresh meat for her dying son, Jacob. Three kills later and he’s cured. She begs for forgiveness and understanding, and Sam gives it to her. He walks away.
And he walks right into the fist of Dean, who is pissed at being left behind with only a note and no Impala. Sam explains the case, including the events of the past, and says that he let Amy go, that he knows she won’t kill again. He begs Dean to trust him – and Dean says yes, that maybe it is the time to finally trust.
It’s not surprising that Sam and Amy would form a bond: both are pushed around by domineering, emotionally abusive parents; both want a life different than what they have; both fear that they will become their parents. Given Sam’s past – given his understanding of monsters – it’s no surprise he allows her to live in peace.
What is a surprise is that Dean agrees. Or does he?
I’ll admit it. I bought into Dean’s lie. I thought it was an interesting character development for Dean, that after all this time he’d finally let Sam make a decision like this, though, granted, he did let Lenore live in “Bloodlust.” (Yet that was more related to his realization that Gordon Walker was insane than it was related to Sam’s thought process.) What I wasn’t prepared for was the resurgence of season two Dean – the Dean in “Bloodlust” whose discontent and turmoil led him towards the hunter dark side – led him to become more like Gordon Walker — the no option Dean.
Is this what we’re seeing here? A resurgence of the Dean who can only see the black and white of a situation? A Dean who refuses to apply human exceptions to a demon/monster/freak? A Dean who is so self-loathing that he cannot see the possibility for change in others?
Well, it’s the Dean we have in “The Girl Next Door,” as he shows up at Amy’s motel room and, despite her protestations, kills her. Only to turn and see Jacob watching. Now, Dean doesn’t kill the boy, although Dean makes Jacob promise not to kill another human being for food – a promise to which Jacob ominously replies, “the only person I’m going to kill. . .is you.” Is this our Chekhov’s gun? Is Jacob being introduced into the story only to come back later and do just that? Or is this a moment where we see a monster born? Does the death of Amy only ensure that instead of a normal life, Jacob will turn into the creature that lives by his appetite?
I really thought “The Girl Next Door” was going to be an episode dedicated to Sam, but the last few minutes made me realize that it was actually to bring us to a depressing realization about Dean’s state of mind.
Ackles did a great job directing. There were a few moments that took me out of the episode – the camera angles when Bobby was running out of the hospital and when the morgue body was being pulled out on a slab – but overall fantastic. In fact, his use of flashback was effective, especially the ease with which we slid between times – very fluid and precise.
Love that Biggerson’s is becoming a running joke – and the Winchester eatery of choice. I guess their year of free food is probably finished though.
The nacho cheese scene? So gross, even though we don’t really see any of the actual consumption.
Also, it seems very right that Bobby and Dean would become enmeshed in telenovas.
B: “What happened?”
B: “Adios, ese.”
Just as the 7th season premiere began in the same moment that we left the Winchesters in the 6th season finale, so this episode began where the last left off, and I’m guessing the same thing will happen on Friday. I usually don’t read responses to a Supernatural episode until after I’ve crafted my review, but I caved this week and I’ve seen some negative responses to these cliffhangers. Frankly, I love it. As a narrative technique it builds tension. We see that there’s not a second of the Winchester’s current lives that can be glossed over — the audience needs to experience every moment with them. In so doing, the events become even more epic. True, this means we haven’t really had a stand-alone episode, but it highlights the seriousness of this new threat. With this Friday’s episode we’ll have had four concurrent episodes addressing the Castiel/Leviathan big bad. I can’t think of a time where the Supernatural team gave us back to back to back to back episodes that dealt with the season’s main arc.
Yet unlike “Meet the New Boss,” which catapulted the show forward with narrative developments, “Hello, Cruel World” really moved pieces into place for the next installment. We gleaned some basic information about the Leviathans, enough to prove that they’re more terrifying than other monsters — there’s a reason they were trapped in Purgatory. Hints were dropped that there is a “boss” — someone/thing that appears demanding, intolerant, and unwilling to brook idiotic choices (like eating a high school swim team) that threaten to expose them to the populace. As monsters, they are constantly wailing about their hunger — human organs seem to be the food of choice — which reminded me of various X-Files monsters, “the wire” in the Doctor Who episode “The Idiot’s Lantern,” and George Costanza’s mother. Once the Leviathans have abandoned Castiel’s body, exploding into a reservoir that serves as drinking water for the local area, they can then inhabit whomever is unlucky enough to come in contact with their fluid form. It’s a form that, again, is straight out of The X-Files — the black oil. Like the dark, liquid Leviathans, the “black cancer” in The X-Files had the ability to enter a human and take possession of their body, exhibiting a sentience and a need to communicate. As we see in “Hello, Cruel World,” the Leviathans use their form to enter innocent humans via water fountains, sinks, and any other water pathway that seems viable. They also have the ability to transfer bodies, as is the case when the Leviathan trapped in the body of a child (another creepy kid casting coup for Supernatural) assumes the body of a surgeon. However, the transfer itself is odd. The child grabs the arm of the surgeon and then the camera angle changes, showing the event in silhouette, hidden behind a room divider, as it appears that the child/Leviathan steals the flesh from the surgeon, and in draining him becomes him. This would make it seem that there are multiple options for Leviathan movement, making them difficult to keep track of and kill.
Oh yeah, and they might be Terminators. Okay, not literally, but as we see, they are, as of right now, seemingly impossible to kill. Dropping a car on one, bursting his vessel and leaving its black oil form spread on the tarmac does nothing — it re-forms. Like I said, Terminators.
For all of this, the true thrust of the story is about what Supernatural does best, exploring the relationship between Sam, Dean, and Bobby. And pain.
Sam doesn’t hide his hallucinations from his family, letting them know exactly what he’s seeing, telling them precisely what Lucifer is saying to him. The story reaches its apex when Sam, thinking he’s leaving Bobby’s house with Dean, ends up at a warehouse with Lucifer, who is pushing Sam to the brink of madness. When Dean finds him, he doesn’t have the power to sway Sam with emotion. I’m fascinated that this moment received critical backlash. The argument being that Dean, of all people, should have been able to convince Sam that his life with him was real — that Lucifer’s appearance was madness. Yet that’s exactly what *cannot* happen. Lucifer is a part of Sam’s brain — a manifestation made possible by the broken wall in his head. The result of this is that Sam/Lucifer knows exactly what Dean’s arguments will be — hence the moment in the episode where Sam tells Dean exactly that — that Lucifer knows what Dean is thinking. The only way to convince Sam that the life he’s living is real is to inflict pain. With eyes full of compassion, Dean shoves his fingers into the gashes in Sam’s palm, and as Sam gasps Lucifer flickers. The more pain, the more Lucifer dissipates.
Pain. Sam’s mental trauma is a manifestation of his horrific memories from Hell. The questions remaining are how that brain will heal, if it can, and what the impact of this broken wall will have on the season. Dean, however, is dealing with the pain that we’ve seen since season one — how to keep his loved ones safe. Yet, Dean can’t keep people safe. Sometimes the demon/monster/angel/devil that they have to fight is simply too powerful. Bobby, calling Dean on his crap, speaks for the audience when he tells him there’s no way he’s okay with the loss of Castiel (not that long, in Supernatural time, after the loss of Ben and Lisa), who was more like family than friend. In this moment, when Bobby is reminding Dean that he’s there — that he’s there to support Dean whenever he needs it — we have a clear foreshadowing that something is going to happen to Bobby. In fact, the note I made during this scene, not knowing what was yet to come, was that losing Bobby might be the thing to push Dean over the edge. Because if there’s one thing we’ve learned from Supernatural, it’s that Dean’s life can never be easy. His pain is deep, visceral, constant and his guilt drives the show.
More pain. Reminiscent of the loss of Harvelle’s Roadhouse in season two’s “All Hell Breaks Loose,” the boys find Bobby’s house burned to the ground, tearing a place of stability (their home) away from them. Even worse, Bobby has disappeared, and there’s a Leviathan there who knocks Sam unconscious and breaks Dean’s leg, leaving us with the boys in an ambulance on the way to a hospital teeming with Leviathans. Quite the cliffhanger. Can’t wait for Friday, which should be filled with more of Dean’s suffering.
Welcome back Supernatural fans! Let me start by saying that if this season premiere did nothing else, it reinforced the fact that Sera Gamble is a brilliant showrunner and writer, who makes impressive and strategic choices for the show. Proving that last season was no fluke, Gamble gave us an opening episode that moved action along quickly. Gone are the days when a problem would require a three-month resolution. There was immediate gratification after a long summer of pondering the state of the Winchester world. And like all good television shows, the answers offered only served to generate a threefold increase in new questions.
“Once you were my favorite pets, before you turned and bit me.”
It became readily apparent by the end of last season that Supernatural had a Castiel problem. Not an issue of fan adoration or acting. No, you can’t argue that Cas isn’t a fan favorite, nor that the Collins/Ackles interaction wasn’t the highlight of many an episode. The problem was with the character itself — Cas was becoming stagnant. Cas had become the deus ex machina mechanism that saved the Winchester boys from many a tight spot and could provide answers quickly in order to push the narrative to a more fertile place. While much loved, Castiel’s role was to swoop in, make some vague statements, solve problems, and swoop out.
The decision to make Castiel a primary chess piece in the war to win Heaven and open a portal to Purgatory was a brilliant strategic move. It gave the writers something different to do with the character — it allowed them to create entirely new facets to his personality, bringing out a Cas who, by the end, was willing to sacrifice Sam and Dean if it meant he could wrest control of Heaven from Raphael. Who knew that Castiel would be the one to bring down the wall in Sam’s brain — doing the one thing guaranteed to destroy both brothers. Those final episodes allowed for a character depth not really seen before, especially as we watched Castiel’s despair as he calls upon God for guidance in what was his equivalent to Jesus’ Garden of Gethsemane moment.
We all watched in shock in the finale as Castiel opened the portal to Purgatory, assimilated the outpouring of souls, and then, transformed, declared himself God, threatening to smite down those who did not bow to him. Left all summer with the horrified faces of Bobby and the Winchesters, the question seemed to be how the writers would restore the Cas we all loved. For Supernatural, a show that likes to kill the characters that a) we’ve grown attached to and b) they no longer know what to do with, creating a scenario where they have a multiplicity of options for a static character proved that it was a brave new show.
“I hope for your sake this is the last you see me.”
Picking up from the last seconds of the finale (bless the continuity editor for his/her amazing work), the premiere gave us this new Castiel — this new god flush with power and immune to the emotions of the Winchesters. As he unequivocally states, “the Castiel you knew is gone.” The entire scene is pulsing with the underlying threat of Castiel’s potentially fickle behavior. In one moment he is demanding they bow before him and then in the next halting their sluggish prostration, recognizing that it would only be false reverence. Nothing makes the transformation more apparent than Cas’s reaction to Dean’s disdain, as he spits out, “What a brave little ant you are.” The Cas who would do anything for Dean, even striking a death blow against his fellow angels, has been suppressed, if not destroyed.
“You need a firm hand. You need a father. And I am your father now.”
As if to emphasize the complete disintegration of the Castiel with a conscience, we bear witness to his public manifestations. Castiel is not a silent god — a god of the imagination or prayer — no, Castiel is a vengeful god. He embraces his new powers and goes on a smiting spree; the world runs red with spilled blood. Granted, there are moments of wish fulfillment, as Cas destroys all religious leaders who preach sermons of hate; who sow the seeds of disunity by condemning those who do not conform to the rules of a belief system not propagated by God but by hypocritical men; who show themselves to be false prophets, regardless of creed. We cannot help but smile as Cas destroys the equivalent of the Westboro Baptist Church and even Dean agrees that the elimination of the KKK is a step in the right direction. However, Castiel cannot rein in his vengeance. He spreads his net to anyone who does not follow him. In a scene that is cinematically gorgeous, Castiel annihilates the angels who will not pledge loyalty his reign. Castiel is so engorged with power that he begins to burn up — as we saw with Lucifer, his vessel simply cannot contain what is inside. It’s a clever red herring. Watching his skin blister and peel, seeing his hands leave scorch marks on the pews of a church, it would seem that he is suffering the issue that proved most problematic for Michael and Lucifer, a weak vessel, and yet it is so much worse. In a scene reminiscent of good sci-fi horror (like Alien), the souls inside of Castiel begin to pulse outwards from his stomach. Unlike Michael and Lucifer who have a power granted from Heaven, Castiel has stolen his authority. Even worse, he has taken souls from Purgatory — a place filled with monsters.
“I put your needs first. Don’t you understand, I am a better god than my father.”
With Cas becoming a symbol of absolute power corrupting absolutely, the Winchesters fall back on that which has sustained them all these years — the ability of human beings to endure. Bobby, who I consider a Winchester even though he is a Singer, will follow the boys down whatever path they choose, resigned that it might mean his death, remaining a voice of reason if/when they need some kind of guidance. Bobby, who, in contrast to the new Cas, is much more of the father figure that you would hope to find — loving, forgiving, supportive.
Sam is in a dangerous place. Trying to figure out ways to save Castiel, he cannot escape the memories seeping through the broken membrane in his head. Sam is living in two worlds — hallucination and reality. He tries to navigate it silently, not telling his family that anything is wrong, maintaining his stoicism, even after initially collapsing and slipping into a near-coma. Sam stays true to his Winchester roots, keeping his suffering secret to save his brother from this nightmare. Of course this is more than just a nightmare. Sam’s life is at risk, and the hallucinations he suffers are so much more visceral than the post-traumatic stress Dean endured after his time in Hell. Like Dean, Sam dreams of Hell’s meathooks, but Sam also dreams of something coming after him — of ominous whispering and chains breaking through the universe and lynching him. Worst of all, he sees Lucifer — the Mark Pellegrino version, sans melting skin.
In Sam’s fantastic last scene in the episode, he comes face to face with Lucifer. After a moment of doubt and fear, he scoffs. The moment is brilliant:
S: “Meathooks, chains, you, it’s not real. It’s just my brain leaking memories from the cage, ‘cause of the wall breaking down. That’s all.”
L: “That’s very good, your little theory, it’s wrong. Sam, this isn’t you going guano, everything else is.”
L: “Everything, from the second you sprung out of that lock box. . .”
S: “That’s impossible.”
L: “No, escaping was impossible. I have to say, I think this is my best torture yet. Make you believe that you’re free, and then, yank the wool off of your eyes. You never left Sam. You’re still in the cage. . .with me.”
Of course Sam is just hallucinating, but what magnificent dialogue. If you’re confronted by the devil, having escaped a cage in Hell, wouldn’t you think this was possible? Wouldn’t the devil have exactly this kind of power? Wouldn’t this scenario be the ideal form of torture? I’m not sure Sam’s brain could have derived a better nightmare — this is truly a moment of pure Hell. And it’s the last time we see him in this episode; he’s broken and disappears. Even with everything else going on, all the conflict caused by Castiel, Sam’s fragile state is not ignored, not forgotten, not pushed into a different episode to be dealt with later. This is a season premiere of almost pure chaos.
Dean. Dean, more than any other character, just endures. Not without despair. He is, after all, human, but he still tries to fight — even if fighting is simply fixing the (once again) destroyed Impala. Of course you have to wonder how much more he can take. The wall in his brother’s brain is crushed and the angel that he considered some form of family has become a monster. While Dean will not give up on Sam, he does give up on Castiel. In an unexpected moment it is Sam that refuses to abandon the quest to save Castiel, the one willing to plead with Cas to return and seek help. It shows just how despairing Dean is. Then again, what does Sam have to lose. He’s not as emotionally invested in the angel — he even stabbed Cas in the back (literally) in the season finale. Every season the writers pile more and more and more upon Dean. He’s our modern Job. I think it would be anathema to the character to break completely and succumb to despair, to abandon all hope, but he’s being pushed as close as possible.
“I have plans for you.”
The quest to bring back Castiel was not all scenes of despair and slaughter. Old friends Crowley and Death were also on hand to lend a dose of sarcasm and gravitas. Ensuring we’ll have more scenes with Crowley this season, Castiel returned him to his position as Hell’s overseer. Again, the writers used this as a moment to show just how far Cas had fallen, for when Crowley wonders why Cas would even want a hell, when he could have all of those souls to further increase his power, Cas responds that he needs “a threat to hold over enemies.” All live in fear of Cas, though Crowley is willing to still play for both sides, delivering to the Winchesters a spell to bind Death.
“Because we said so, and we’re the boss of you.”
The scenes with Death resonate with a sense of future threat. Dean has always been willing to reuse the tools at his command, but this time his reliance on old weapons might bode poorly for what’s to come. Recognizing that only Death has a power beyond God and Lucifer, Dean (with Bobby and Sam) invoke a spell to bind Death, forcing him to do their bidding. As with all scenes featuring Julian Richings, the result is less than what Dean hoped for and far more revelatory.
Continuing with the refreshing trend of almost immediate storyline payoff, Death mistakenly thinks they’ve bound him to rebuild the wall in Sam’s head. He brings to light Sam’s hallucinations, alerting Bobby and Dean to that which they deep-down already knew. . .Sam is not okay. But the real mission — destroying God — brings Castiel to them.
“I know God and you sir are no God.”
With this arrival comes truth. Castiel is no god. He is, as Death calls him, “a mutated angel,” with a vessel that is going to explode. Cas might believe that he can simply repair the body, but Death reveals that Cas has done more than take souls from Purgatory, he’s taken the beasts too. Those beasts are not going to sit idly by and serve as some kind of battery for Cas’s needs. They are not a power to be harvested — they are a power that wants release.
Herein lies the crux of the season. We went into the summer thinking that season seven would be a fight against Cas as a god, but it’s so much worse than that — and so much better because the writers aren’t mired with a single big bad. With Cas/God as the big bad, the show would have had to figure out a way to craft plausible scenarios to drag that battle on, with a foe who could annihilate the Winchesters with the snap of his fingers. Yet in this moment with Death, as we learn that Cas has swallowed the Leviathans, the writers have freed themselves from their God problem and allowed for their own version of a hellmouth.
This also means, for now at least, that the fan-favorite version of Cas is gone. By the end of the episode, even with the portal to Purgatory reopened (with help from Death) and the souls poured back in, Cas cannot escape what he has wrought. The souls might have returned, but the Leviathans refused to give up their hold on the vessel.
In a moment somewhat reminiscent of the season two finale of Buffy, the Cas that the Winchesters know and love briefly returns. He is defeated, repentant, seeking some kind of absolution — he pledges to Dean that he will fix what he has done. There is a tiny moment, maybe thirty seconds, when everything seems like it will be okay, and then the Leviathans take over, saying that they have killed the Cas that we know. Whether that’s true or not remains to be seen. There could be some fragment of Cas buried deep in the vessel. Or he could be gone. One never knows with Supernatural. I am, however, looking forward to seeing Mischa Collins tear things up as a Leviathan, rather than the Winchester’s trusty angel.
So, first off, confession: as a loyal viewer I love watching almost every episode of Supernatural. The banter, the demons, the emotional relationships, any scene with Dean — I enjoy every minute of it. It just makes me happy to watch.
That said, in trying to write this review, I quickly realized that this was a very weak addition to the Supernatural universe. The reason is simple — it’s a borrowed concept that served as an easy way to eliminate a swath of people. People who could have added to the complexity of the show.
What I liked:
–The banter between Bobby and Rufus. There was a momentary sense that the show had assembled a dysfunctional A-Team to fight the upcoming battle. Also, of course, there was the implied parallel between the Sam/Dean and Bobby/Rufus relationship — as if Bobby and Rufus were a version of the boys that could one day come to pass.
–That the Mother of All can create new monsters. This is a fantastic opportunity for the Supernatural writers to break from established lore and create an entirely new canon of creatures specific to the Supernatural universe.
–Dean’s clean slate moment at the close of the episode. Sure, it’s a facile way to address all of the underlying tension and problems caused by Soulless Sam. Yet, quite frankly, sometimes Supernatural drags those things out because they don’t know how to reach a satisfying emotional resolution. Therefore, if this is the means to get that all settled so that they can start fighting as a more cohesive team, so be it. Plus it was Dean’s way of ensuring that he and Sam won’t turn out like Bobby and Rufus, with one of them standing over the other’s grave with regrets about what was not said.
What I didn’t like: Pretty much everything else.
–The creature: Here Supernatural has the chance to break away from the norm and instead borrows something straight from an episode of The X-Files called “Ice.” Similar scenario — group locked in a facility where “arctic worms” that were released from core samples of the Earth infect people, making them go crazy and kill each other, no one knows who is infected, they all turn on each other, almost everyone dies, and while worms are not demon slugs, they’re pretty damn close. The show also borrowed from itself. The paranoia, group trapped together, almost impossible to tell who is infected — it’s just like season two’s episode “Croatoan,” which was written by John Shiban, who began his career as a writer for The X-Files.
–When the A-Team walked into the factory I thought “all they need now is a female character to give even a smidgen of balance.” Lo and behold, they open the doors and there’s Gwen. And within five or ten minutes she’s dead. I know it’s almost a running joke at this point how the show treats female characters, but Gwen had a lot of potential. Plus, once again, our only female character remaining is evil.
–It really did feel like a lazy way to get rid of characters and plot ends. Hint at a complicated past between Bobby and Rufus, but why develop that when we can kill him. Grandpa Samuel, kill him too. Basically get rid of everyone but our three main characters. It just felt weak.
–The transition between the boys worrying about Bobby being dead and the cemetery scene felt juvenile. It was obvious that it wasn’t Bobby. It just didn’t feel like a Supernatural moment. It felt like something out of a soap opera or a much weaker and poorly written CW show.
I don’t have a lot of patience with lazy writing, and this episode just felt like it was full of cheap tricks and story plagiarism. I can’t fault the acting — everyone was great, as you would expect from that team — but I think the writing team needed a serious hand to bring them in line. And I hate it when a show just kills people off to kill people off. Make the death mean something. At least Ellen and Jo died in one of the battles to fight the oncoming apocalypse — fighting against one of The Four Horsemen — that’s epic. Dying because of a demonic slug, simply to clear up loose ends, that’s just lame.
A Supernatural metatextual episode written by Ben Edlund? It is, of course, a recipe for excellence — the type of episode where all of Ackles’ lines are quotable and the slightly surreal plot puts it in the pantheon of Edlund classics such as “Bad Day at Black Rock,” “Ghostfacers,” “Monster Movie,” and “Wishful Thinking.”
This episode, which is even more self-referential than “The Monster at the End of This Book,” is narratively framed by the angel Balthazar, who appears suddenly in Bobby’s home (whilst Bobby is out on a liquor run), fleeing from one of Raphael’s minions. Balthazar, who has also been stabbed, clarifies the situation, saying that Raphael’s minions are after any and all who have given aid to Castiel, including the Winchester boys. With little explanation, Balthazar hands Sam a key for safekeeping. He then puts together a tidy little mixture that includes lamb blood, salt, and bone of a lesser saint, which he then stirs and uses to paint a sigil onto a window — a window he then uses his angelic powers to throw Sam and Dean through when Virgil, a killer minion, arrives.
I’ve decided that any episode that features Balthazar in some way is a good one. He’s a character that can add a level of menace, but in a grey-hat kind-of way. He’s neither good nor evil, more a mercenary who takes care of himself. A bit of a Han Solo, before we discovered that Han Solo was all heart. It’s impossible to tell whose side he’ll finally choose, and chances are the side he’ll choose in the final battle is his own. Balthazar brings enough snark to shut down Dean, which is always fun to watch, as Ackles portrays with elan Dean’s shock, annoyance, and apprehension at having his caustic wit matched by an angel. I’m hoping that the civil war amongst the angels will lead to more Balthazar appearances.
Once the boys are thrown though the window, they fall into a parallel universe, alti-verse, bizarro world (whatever suits), where they are actors Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, working on a show called Supernatural. Basically, they’ve fallen into our world, but one where the actor’s lives and personalities are fodder for humor.
This is a show that relishes in mocking itself and its viewers, and it immediately sets in as soon as the boys stand up. Everything is fair game and Edlund does two things very well: mocking the inanity of simple things like their names (Jensen, Misha, Padalecki) and having Dean react to the things about show business that are anathema to his core beliefs — makeup (“Oh crap, I’m a painted whore.”); the fact that an audience would want to watch a show about their lives; filming in Vancouver (“Dude, we’re not even in America.”); and the multiple Impalas that are simply props (“I feel sick. I’m gonna be sick.”).
The show makes fun of Ackles’ former life as a soap star, showing a clip of his time on Days of our Lives and lampoons the contents of his trailer. Collins, who initially plays like he’s really Castiel, only to break character and speak in his real voice when the boys go off-script, gets mocked for his desire to be friends with “J-squared” and tweets his reactions to what he believes is a punking by the boys. Parodying the Ackles/Padalecki friendship in real life, the show makes them out to be frenemies, who apparently never speak to each other. But Padalecki bears the brunt of Edlund’s spoofs, making him out to be a narcissist who spends his money on a mansion with lavish accoutrements, such as a tanning bed and massive pictures of himself. Real-life wife Genevieve Padalecki (best known as playing the version of Ruby that betrays Sam in order to free Lucifer) gets in on the action, displaying disdain and disgust for Ackles, while also serving as an environmental activist.
But one of the best parts is watching the two try to “act” as Sam and Dean. Their inability to hit their marks, Sam not knowing how to stand or what to do with his hands, Dean talking to the floor and reading his lines off of the script, Sam talking to the camera while Dean chastises him, and Sam’s hands during the lock and key sequence — hilarious.
The underlying thread to all of the parody is that the boys want to find a way back to their own reality, to escape that nothingness that is filming a television show, and to return to a job that actually has an impact on people. As Dean explains to Bob Singer at one point, “We matter to that world. In fact we even save a son-of-a-bitch once or twice.” Unfortunately a return is not that easy, even with the ability to buy relics over the internet with Padalecki’s copious-limit credit cards. They simply cannot re-create Balthazar’s spell.
Then, as all good Edlund scripts do, things fall apart and get crazy. Using the sigil that Balthazar used, Virgil breaks into bizarro world. He finds the boys and attempts to put some angel hoodoo on them, but finds himself unable to use his powers. The Winchesters attack. Unfortunately, they are prevented from stopping Virgil by stage hands who don’t understand the severity of events. Virgil pickpockets the key from Sam and walks free. Yet without his powers, Virgil is unable to phone home to contact Raphael. So, following in the tradition seen in earlier seasons, he chooses someone to slit their neck, take their blood, and use it as a means of communication. The victim he chooses is Misha, who, wearing his namaste t-shirt, goes from acting goofy to humorously terrified (is that even possible?).
Now the boys are spurred into action, shed their facade of being Jared and Jensen, and act like the Winchesters trying to stop a monster. Or, in this case, an angel. An angel who just happens to have a shotgun and is taking people out at the studio. It must be a writer and showrunner’s dream, to jokingly take out your colleagues. First to go is Faux-Kripke, who, unable to comprehend the situation at hand (a situation that seems like it was straight out of an action/horror movie, natch), survives two gunshots to his body before succumbing to a third. Virgil then makes a face as if he’s Indiana Jones fighting a man with a sword, pulls a gun out of his belt and shoots Bob Singer, just once.
After more shooting, the boys fight with Virgil, get the key, and are yanked back into their own world by Raphael, who is now in the form of a woman. I like that angels are equal-opportunity occupiers of humans. But all is not lost, as Balthazar appears, soon to be followed by Castiel. For this has all gone according to plan — Balthazar’s plan. Distract Virgil by using the Winchester boys as bait — bait that carried a useless key. While events transpired in our world, Balthazar was seeking out the cache of weapons that he stole from heaven and giving them to Castiel.
And once again we are confronted with the idea of a civil war in heaven — one that the boys know little about. Dean’s frustrations are mounting and he tries, without success, to glean information from Castiel. As always, he is pushed aside with an apology and a promise to give him more detail later. What exactly is Castiel hiding from Sam and Dean??
While we didn’t have a scene of catharsis by the Impala, we were given a moment, just before Virgil showed up at the studio shooting people, where Sam and Dean discuss the possibility of being stuck in this universe. Doing his roundabout passive-agressive questioning, Dean implies that Sam wouldn’t be so sad staying in this universe — one where he has a life with money and comforts, no hell, no heaven, no threat to his brain. But Sam’s having none of it. Their lives are in their universe — their friends are there — they make a difference there — and they are brothers there. It’s Dean once again giving Sam an out that he won’t take.
Postmodern television episodes always have the potential to be epic failures. Effective metatext is difficult to accomplish. Finding the balance between self-referential humor and maintaining the arc of an episode is not that simple. Edlund created another hysterical, touching, random, surreal, brilliant episode of Supernatural.
Dean: “I said ‘hey.”
Balthazar: “You did. Twice. Good for you.”
Sam: “Here. Wherever here is, this, this twilight zone Balthazar zapped us into. For whatever reason, our life is a TV show.”
Sam: “I don’t know.”
Dean: “No, seriously, why? Why would anybody want to watch our lives?”
Sam: “Well, I mean, according to the interviewer not very many people do.”
Dean: “I think we are definitely out of soul-phone range.”
Bob Singer: “Cause I’d like to think that over these years we’ve grown closer. That you don’t think of me as director Bob or executive producer Bob Singer, but as Uncle Bob.”
Sam: “Wait, you’re kidding. So the character in the show, Bobby Singer. . .”
Dean: “What kind of a douchebag names a character after himself?”
Sam: “Oh that’s not right.”
Homeless Man (talking to the boys about Misha’s death): “Yeah, yeah, that’s right, the scary man killed the attractive crying man and then he started to pray.”