Well, it wouldn’t be the second half of a Supernatural season if the entire story hadn’t devolved into a big giant angst-fest. You know, more so than the show’s usual angst-fest. Sam is probably dying. Again. Castiel is being weird and evasive. Again. And once again, Dean is stuck in the middle, wondering why he doesn’t get nice things. Welcome to the homestretch, ya’ll!
More on my bitter tears later. Fresh off of a trippy adventure in his own personal “Mystery Spot” Castiel caught up with the Brothers Winchester when they invaded his turf in search of whatever was randomly killing demons in a small town. That “something” turned out to be Castiel himself, so I guess in actuality they all caught up to each other. How quaint!
From the jump, Dean and Sam suspected that there was something off with Castiel, which leaves Dean 2 for 2 with the knowing-his-family-members-are-lying-about-stuff record. Earlier, he spotted Sam’s bloody tissues in the trash bin back at the Batcave and between Sam’s supernatural black lung and the really great job the makeup people are doing making Jared Padalecki look like he’s perpetually fighting off the flu, it wasn’t hard to figure out that Sam isn’t as fine as he claims– but really, is he ever? Cas further elaborated on Moose’s condition by claiming that Sam was “damaged in ways he can’t heal” and implying that it was electromagnetic (!?) in nature.
Thanks for your insight, Cas. I guess. But brownie points to the Supernatural crew for making an effort to at least show a gradual progression toward…whatever we’re working toward. I’d rather have details dangled in the dialogue and Sam discretely hacking up a lung than the usual modus operandi of ignoring everything until it suddenly becomes relevant again. It makes me think that this story is being thought out and planned, as opposed to slapped together over hellatus. I like it. It makes up for the blah cases of the week that preceded this wangsty adventure and the general clusterfuck of the first half of the season. Amelia even kind of sort of made sense once Meg compared her to a unicorn during her and Sammich’s little heart-to-heart.
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It appears that Kevin is plagued by Crowley. He hears him in his head and in his dreams. His dreams are full of torture Crowley dishes out and the pressure of getting the tablets translated is really getting to the young man. When Dean and Sam show up he is carrying around a big metal frying pan and is in a real foul mood. They learn that he hasn’t heard from Garth, but he has translated the next trial, which is to rescue a soul from hell and send it to heaven.
In order to figure out how one can sneak into hell the boys summon and capture a Crossroads Demon, who Dean is disappointed that it isn’t a hot chick, and questions him. Finally he gives in and tells them that there are some Reapers that are smuggling people into hell as well as heaven, for a price. Before the boys put the demon out of its misery they learn everything they need to know about getting into hell.
They approach a reaper, who is playing that part of a Taxi Driver, they propose their need to get into hell and when the Reaper tells them he is the same Reaper that took Bobby Singer to hell Dean is hell-bent on getting his soul and sending it to heaven. The boys have a small discussion when Dean wants to go with Sam and Sam has to remind Dean that he has to do the trials alone and he will get Bobby back. The Reaper tells Dean to return for Sam in 24 hours and then leads Sam into an alleyway and instructs him to take his hand. As he does Sam mutters how creepy it all is.
The alley starts to twist and move and Sam starts to get nervous, but all of a sudden they appear in a grey forest. Sam asks RJ if they were in hell and RJ tells him that they are in purgatory. Sam begins to get upset saying that he paid to get to hell and RJ tells him to calm down and gives him directions to the backdoor (a portal) to hell but tells him to be back in the same spot in exactly 24 hours. Meanwhile Dean returns to the location where Kevin is hiding out. Kevin emerges from the closet, convinced that Crowley is in his head, spouting that it is the safest place to be. Dean gives the boy a lecture about how he has to suck it up and just keep going, but Kevin isn’t convinced and scurries back to his room with Dean’s pie in tow.
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After last week’s silly “Man’s Best Friend With Benefits” I hoped Supernatural would return to form tonight. I was a little leery, as “Remember the Titans” is not only another stand-alone episode, but one that involves gods. The show’s track record with gods is not good (see “Hammer of the Gods”). Sadly, the episode did end up a disappointment, though more for the damage to the season’s arc than the legend of the gods.
The portrayal of the Greek gods Zeus, Prometheus, and Artemis was handled adequately, drawing on the legend of Prometheus stealing fire for mankind and getting cursed by Zeus to die every day with an eagle eating his entrails. The conceit of his son inheriting the curse apparently by accident was a stretch, but one that I could roll with. The writers are allowed dramatic license to make the parallel to the Winchesters. However, it is that connection to the trials arc that failed for me.
Sam has been hiding-or thinks he’s been hiding-his tuberculosis or something with similar symptoms from Dean. But he’s scared. And watching the price Prometheus pays for saving mankind from darkness apparently opens his eyes to the likelihood he won’t survive the trials. He confesses his doubts to Dean, who prays for help to Castiel and it all should be very moving.
Sam, Dean and ArtemisBut I spent the episode just astonished at what was playing out. I could not believe Sam and Dean would bring Prometheus, his girlfriend and his son TO THE BUNKER. They were supposed to throw the key in and lock it away forever because the secrets inside are so dangerous in the wrong hands. Instead, they not only bring these people in, Dean then tells them all about the Men of Letters which is a-wait for it-secret society.
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FIRST, despite the unified front Sam and Dean managed to develop in the wake of the Men of Letters/Batcave stuff, it appears that we’re back to keeping secrets and flaunting our trust issues. Dean was still fiercely against Sam taking on the God trials required to close the gates of Hell, but a little headtrip through their worst memories-courtesy of this week’s evildoer, Spencer-somehow inspired him to back Sam’s plan?
Is that how this works? In what basically amounted to a revised version of his speech back in Season 5 when Sam decided jumping into Hell was a GREAT idea, Dean said he trusted Sam and would support whatever decision about the trials Sam made. Excellent. We’re all on the same page.
Then, LITERALLY TWO SECONDS LATER, Sam coughed up a wad of blood that was way too conveniently timed to NOT be somehow related to his neat glowing appendage trick from last week’s hellhound bubble bath. When Dean asked if he was okay, Sam pulled out his signature move: pairing an unconvincing “I’m fine” with the patented Sam Winchester Guilt Face. Oh no. HELL NO. I am not ready for this shit. I. AM. NOT. READY. FOR. THIS. SHIT.
Okay, okay, GOOD THINGS. They exist! They do! Wedged between James and Portia’s Bella/Edward romance-mind-meld-bondage-whatever and the admittedly semi-interesting world-building that explored the inner-workings of the witch community, there was that awesome confirmation that Dean’s trust issues aren’t so much about not trusting Sam as they’re about a general inability to trust ANYONE who isn’t Dean.
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After a season that started off pretty rocky for the Winchester brothers, tonight’s episode of Supernatural proved that they’re more bonded together than ever – and reaffirmed everything I love about these two crazy dudes.
As has been the trend with Supernatural lately, this episode saw yet another big mythology development: After weeks of headaches, nosebleeds, sleepless nights, and a diet of “ground-up hooves and pig anuses” (hot dogs), Kevin finally finished decoding the tablet. So Dean and Sam interrupted their homemade dinner (courtesy of Chef Dean!) to rush over and learn the details he’d uncovered.
Unfortunately for Sam and Dean, the instructions were a little complicated. But what else would you expect? We’re closing the gates of Hell, people, not cooking a Hot Pocket. Their new goal, as Kevin explained, was to pass a series of dangerous tests and earn the ability to close the gates. The catch? He’d only decoded one of three tests so far – and this couldn’t be a team effort. One person must complete all the tasks, he said.
With that, the boys set out to complete test one: Kill a hellhound and bathe in its blood. So they tracked down a family that seemed to be suspiciously lucky – in this case, a dysfunctional Ewing-like family who got rich by striking oil – in hopes of finding someone whose crossroads deal was nearing its end.
The ornate box Sam and Dean got from Henry holds a key. The key opens the former headquarters for the Men of Letters in Kansas. Despite not having been used in at least 60 years, it is clean and still has power and running water. The huge art deco headquarters was clearly the Men of Letters nerve center: HAM radio, full library, weapons, mini fridge. The boys settle in. They are there for about two weeks before they get a case.
An old rabbi named Isaac Bass spontaneously combusts in a college pub in Pennsylvania. Sam found his info in one of the Letters’ files. He was part of a team of rabbis that were “hardcore saboteurs” during WWII. The guys head to Pennsylvania and split up. Sam goes to the library to see what Bass was researching so intently, while Dean talks to the witnesses at the bar. While there, Dean thinks a young guy is following him – it turns out that he was just flirting with Dean. He tries to be cool, but leaves quickly. Sam calls – he thinks he is being followed. They plan to meet at a parking lot in 30 minutes.
Dean thinks he has found Sam, but it is really this massive ogre-like man, who throws him across the parking lot. Sam hears his brother in trouble and tries to hack off the meaty arm of the ogre – the knife sticks and doesn’t slow the monster down. The guy who was hitting on Dean at the bar stops him. His name is Aaron, and this is his golem.
As Aaron explains, Bass was his grandfather. He was always telling Aaron fantastical stories of the war, which he and his parents chalked up to escapist fantasy. But once Bass died, it became clear his stories were true. The group that Bass was part of was the Judah Initiative, and they created the golem from clay to protect the Jews in times of “general crappiness.” The golem tore down a Polish ghetto and killed a whole lot of Nazi bastards.
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In typical “Supernatural” fashion, the playful “LARP and the Real Girl” was a tonal 180 from the emotionally fraught events of “Torn and Frayed” — which is liable to give anyone marathoning the show emotional whiplash at a later date, but probably comes as a relief for those of us who are still reeling from last week’s intense installent.
At the top of the hour, the show acknowledged that Sam and Dean have both been through the wringer the past few weeks, with Dean expressing his desire to have a night off and see a movie or hit a bar; playing at normalcy the way the Winchesters can tragically only ever accomplish in small doses. Thankfully for Dean, their latest case unexpectedly managed to combine work and play, as the brothers investigated the whimsical world of Live Action Role-Playing.
Also in typical “Supernatural” fashion, neither brother seemed particularly eager to talk out their feelings (at least not with each other, although it was implied that Dean indeed gave Charlie the “wiki” on what they’d been up to since they last saw her), which meant a lot of distracting themselves with the job. It illustrated that when Sam’s head is in the game, he’s a darn good hunter, and proved Dean’s earlier point that Sam needed to be all in or all out in order to be reliable.
Although the brothers clearly have plenty of issues still to work out, this was the first episode all season (and arguably in the last three seasons) where we got to see Sam and Dean letting loose and having fun. Hell, I might even go so far as to say that they actually seemed to be enjoying each other’s company. While that’s a tragic indictment of how far they’ve fallen, it’s also realistic and surprisingly poignant, given all these two have suffered. These two have been through so much, apart and together and as a result of each other, that it’s nice to see them both slowly fumbling their way back towards that brotherly bond that made episodes like “Hell House” (remember that?) so enjoyable.
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Supernatural has been trying to keep a lot of balls in the air this season, and some of them slice through the air more gracefully, and more excitingly, than others. The show generally strives to have a lot going on, but the different pieces of previous seasons have tended to fit together more naturally than the pieces of this one. The biggest, most inert hulk is the part that seems meant to serve as the framework holding it all together-this year’s apocalyptic danger posed by Crowley and his search for the conveniently limitless supply of tablets bearing the word of God.
Tonight’s episode manages to squeeze in token references to everything that’s kept the Winchesters occupied since the fall: Dean’s bromance with Benny the vampire, Sam’s yearning for a normal life with Amelia, the bewildered return of Castiel, Kevin scribbling away in his translation journal, and the latest intriguing wrinkle that’s appeared in the tapestry: Naomi (Amanda Tapping), the blue-eyed, bunhead angel CEO figure who appears to be secretly controlling Castiel.
But the main purpose of the episode is to kick-start the big enveloping storyline by revealing that, just as there’s a “demon tablet” that would make it possible to consign all demons permanently to Hell, there’s also an “angel tablet” which Crowley would obviously love to find in his Crackerjacks one day. Theoretically, it’s not a bad gimmick. In practice, it means a lot of over-familiar scenes of Crowley and his current Mengele squatting inside a warehouse, taunting and interrogating an angel who’s tied to a chair with a Bloodsucking Freaks torture helmet strapped to his head, while Sam and Dean scurry though dark hallways, stabbing extras and spray-painting sigils.
Castiel recruits Dean for the effort to Hastings, Nebraska, while Sam finds himself confronted again by Amelia at his hotel door. Sam apologizes for returning to her life, however briefly, and offers to get out of her way before the two rekindle their passion with a kiss. Meanwhile, Viggo continues to inflict pain on Samandriel, stumbling upon a torture with skull-embedded pins that forces Samandriel to involuntarily chant in Enochian, setting fire to a local town bush.
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Supernatural wrapped up the first half of Season 8 with “Citizen Fang” an episode that found Sam and Dean at odds after a body showed up in Dean’s vampire friend Benny’s town. We also saw more of what happened with Sam and Amelia after they found out her husband was still alive.
When Sam first met Benny, he made it pretty clear that he wasn’t on board with Dean’s new friendship, so it shouldn’t have come as too much of a shock that he had sent someone to keep track of Benny’s activities. The surprising part was that the person Sam sent was fresh-out-of-the-mental-institution Martin (Jon Gries) from Season 5′s “Sam, Interrupted.” With so many hunters killed off in the past few years, the pickings must be slim. And I guess Garth was busy elsewhere.
I could at least partially understand Sam’s argument that Martin shouldn’t have been a danger to anyone because Sam had told him to just keep track of Benny, not hunt him down. But it was still a questionable decision on Sam’s part to send someone unstable into that situation. Gries did a great job with the role of Martin; I was never entirely sure if he was merely misguided or actually delusional. His fate in the end of the episode was sad, even though as Dean said, he brought it on himself.
Once Dean believed Benny that it was another vampire that was doing the killing, the hunting part of the story was over remarkably fast. If only Benny had dispatched that guy before he killed someone, then he wouldn’t have had to skip town, leaving his home behind. It was sad to see Benny loose the life that he had rebuilt for himself, especially his great-granddaughter Elizabeth.
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Supernatural often works best when it manages to be funny without abandoning its sense of menace, and the show is often funniest when it goes for pop culture parodies that wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Sledge Hammer! “Hunteri Heroici”-one of the best jokes was the explanation of the title-might be the most overtly parodic episode since the brothers were trapped inside “TV Land” a few years ago.
It earns its laughs with the smarts it brings to deconstructing the target at hand, animated cartoons. But it also manages to keep a firm grip on something more emotionally affecting than mere scariness. From the opening scene, in which a man engaged in a nervous rendezvous with his lover has his heart literally pop out of his chest, leaving a valentine-shaped hole in his body, there’s something lonely and sad pulsing beneath the bright, playful surface.
I don’t know whether this was by design or just one of those fluky things, but parts of the episode suggested a homage to the Joe Dante/Sally Cruikshank “It’s A Good Life” the version of the story about the kid who wishes people into the cornfield that appeared in the 1983 Twilight Zone movie.
But instead of a little boy remaking the world to suit himself, “Hunteri Heroici” is about a old man (Mike Farrell) who, with his faculties deserting him, has retreated into the well-worn pleasures of childhood. A resident of an old-age home, Farrell spends his days parked in front of the TV, staring at cartoons in a haze of senile dementia. Because he’s a powerfully telekinetic old man, this presents a problem: With his conscious mind lost in the mists, his uncontrolled powers set up a zone surrounding him, where things operate according to Toon Town laws. Having figured this out, the head of the home has been taking him along on bank robberies. Black holes are slapped onto the sides of walls to provide an instant entrance, guards are flattened beneath huge anvils labeled “1 TON” etc.