Supernatural Tackles the Ghost in the Machine – 10.13

WB/The CW Promo
WB/The CW Promo

Drive-by review — I liked it! I liked how old school the episode was, with the brothers working together to solve a MotW case and the entire episode spooling out with one reveal after another. We had EMF meters, rockstar aliases, ghosts, and baby roaring off down the street. It was suitably old school SPN creepy and scary and at times disgusting, which often seemed to be the case in the early seasons.

The whole ‘ghost in the machine’ thing has always been a bit terrifying, from way back in 2001 A Space Odyssey to Stephen King to that 90s classic anime. Who hasn’t looked askance at their GPS or Siri every now and then and wondered if it was messing with you? I swear, she just sounds judgmental at times. Especially on the fifteenth “recalculating…”

Get it, Dean!
Get it, Dean!

The best sci fi/horror scares you because it pulls for some of those primal things we’re all a little afraid of, and this episode did a good job of that. It wasn’t terribly original in that sense, but it didn’t have to be – many reiterations of that same theme work just fine. I missed this, but smarter fans than me picked up on the fact that it was episode 10.13, and that may have been an homage to the X Files (1013 was the creator’s production company) and its classic episode “Kill Switch” about a homicidal internet ghost. Damn, I loved that show. And so did many of the cast and crew and writers of Supernatural.

An old fashioned salt and burn
An old fashioned salt and burn
So very X Files
So very X Files

I also loved the reference to Lawnmower Man, which left a big impact on me when I saw it – both terrifying and tragic. Show remembered its own canon as far as ghosts and their tendency to go dark and seek revenge too, which I always appreciate. Thanks, Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder!

Another thing I loved about this episode was that Sam got to be smart again. I mean, we know he’s smart, but sometimes Show doesn’t let us see it enough. This time Sam shows off his sexy tech savvy, figures out what’s going on with the ghost and that his widow is the key to stopping him, and instantly figures out what to do when Dean’s frantic 911 text comes in. (Also, I am ridiculously enamored of every single little Winchester procedure the brothers know by heart.) Sam’s smart enough and quick enough to save Dean and the girl, which makes me happy.

Smart!Sam. Yum.
Smart!Sam. Yum.

Actually I’d love both boys to be smart at the same time in an episode – Dean was a little dumbed down at times, which makes for some nice brotherly ribbing but doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. Really, Dean doesn’t know Siri/Trini? Or anything about the internet? He’s done too much research for that to be the case. I mean, my dad knows about the internet!

Not sure why Dean eating so sloppily that spaghetti was falling out of his mouth either (other than Ackles is good at on-camera eating and can make it quite funny). I’m assuming we’re supposed to realize that despite Dean’s best efforts, his demonic appetites are coming back – food and sex certainly. I’m not sure he needed to eat that way for me to get it, though I do appreciate Sam’s incredulous looks.

Cap emyvan99
Cap emyvan99

The teenagers who so callously left that man to die were exaggerated, but that’s a horror movie trope that is probably appropriate here. Hashtag this and that – even my students don’t say that in conversation! And I don’t pretend to understand whether or not ghosts are still stuck in the veil or can now ‘move on’. Though if that could have implications for bringing Kevin back, I’m all for it! Those are relatively minor quibbles though. There was a lot more that I liked.

The directing by John Showalter and the cinematography and special effects were particularly noteworthy. The boys in their long coats strolling down that suburban street – what a striking shot. They looked so out of place in suburbia, and yet I was struck by what a beautiful image they made. Apparently that shot had some VFX, though I couldn’t say how. The VFX of the car going off the bridge was masterful, and that shot was also quite beautiful.

Boys in Coats. Tweet adamwvfx
Boys in Coats. Tweet adamwvfx
Gorgeous. Tweet adamwvfx
Gorgeous. Tweet adamwvfx

Know what else was beautiful? The fact that my favorite Show used my current favorite song. I actually jumped up and stared incredulously for a minute, yelling “OMG is that? Is it? OMG it is!!” I couldn’t resist a tweet to Hozier, who has absolutely no chance of seeing it amidst his hundreds of thousands of followers.

“@Hozier Congrats on being part of the canon of the best show on earth. #Supernatural #TakeMeToChurch”

I’m not sure what’s up with using such current music on SPN, and if it’s a choice between current and classic, I’d rather the Show stick with classic. But I can’t deny being thrilled to hear that song last night.

The best thing about this episode for me was that Sam and Dean are actually talking to each other. They’re not hiding, they’re not lying, they’re not stubbornly refusing to speak to each other. They’re being honest, and even though they might not agree, they’re talking about it. This in itself is miraculous, considering how the brothers have [not] communicated in the past. They’ve both been through so much, and they seem done with judging each other and all about supporting each other – and even thanking each other. I get the feeling both Sam and Dean have done a helluva lot of thinking while they’ve been between cases. They’re not on the same page exactly, but they seem committed to getting through this – whatever it is – together.

The last scenes were amazing. Dean talking to the ghost [but really to himself] was heartbreaking, and Ackles sold it as always. Why do these actors not have multiple awards? Seriously.

“The blood fuels the rage. You have 2 choices. You can keep killing, and become something you don’t recognize. Or you can move on, because that’s the only thing that will give you peace.”

Kudos to the guest actors playing both the husband and the wife, who managed to break my heart as they came to terms with letting go. I could empathize totally with the wife — we’ve all wanted to hang onto someone we love that desperately, that we’d take any part of them. Some of the best fanfic I’ve read deals with the same dilemma, and this episode was well done as the wife talked about her reluctance to let go. The parallel was not lost on me that once again it’s the person who is loved and loves most who can break the spell and pull the other back from the darkness. It’s Cain and Collette all over again. What does this mean for Sam and Dean?

The themes of peace and forgiveness remain front and center. “I’ve found my peace,” Dean tells Sam in the car. “My peace is helping people. Working cases. That’s all I want to do.”

Oh, Dean...
Oh, Dean…

Dean defines peace as hunting, the thing that has always defined Dean. The way he’s trying to make up for the hurt he’s caused along the way (and doesn’t that break my damn heart…)

Sam tries to talk him out of it. “Nothing is guaranteed, but you can’t just stop fighting.” [aka, Sam articulates the theme of Supernatural once again]. Cas, too, hasn’t given up, and is apparently out there following leads. And still talking to Sam every day apparently, which I find entirely heartwarming.

Dean doesn’t see it as giving up, although he’s always had a tougher time holding onto hope than Sam. That doesn’t work for him; he ends up waking up each day and trying to hang onto it and then crashing down in disappointment when it doesn’t work. Dean needs to feel like he has some control; like he’s not at the whim of someone else figuring out how to save him. He’s a doer, always has been. It’s how he copes.

Dean: “So I’m gonna fight it, until I can’t fight it anymore. And when all is said and done, I’ll go down swinging.”

The camera turns then to Sam’s face, and my heart stopped with how much pain and fear there is there.

xxxxx 10.13 end sam

xxxxx 10.13 end sd

I wanted, in that moment, so badly to tell Jared what an amazing bit of acting that was. I could feel it, every bit of it. I could feel what it was like to sit across from the person you love and feel like they’re giving up. It was heartbreaking. And yet, I can also sense, beneath the hurt and fear, the determination that Sam Winchester has always had. He’s going to do this, I think to myself. Come hell or high water, he’s going to save his brother.

Right??? Somebody tell me that’s right!

Next week’s episode looks amazing, btw. I can hardly wait!

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And what was going on behind the scenes...
And what was going on behind the scenes…

25 thoughts on “Supernatural Tackles the Ghost in the Machine – 10.13

  • Great review, as always! And as always, I agree with almost every word. I’m thrilled that you mentioned the X-Files connections. The very first thought I had when I first saw the promo for this ep was how funny it was that this would be 10×13. There’s a S1 ep of X-Files called Ghost In The Machine, which was similar, except it was about a computer and didn’t really involve the internet (and certainly not wi-fi…this was 1993, after all). And then of course, Kill Switch from S7, which you mentioned. And 1013 is a very significant number for X-Philes for several reasons, since 10/13 is Chris Carter’s birthday, Fox Mulder’s birthday, and Ten Thirteen is Chris’ production company, of course. But there were some other subtle X-Files connections as well. hen Dean was talking about the Mark and said “The answer is not out there. It’s with me,” it was very reminiscent of a speech Scully made during her cancer arc (“The truth is in me”), during a scene in which she decided to keep fighting, and Mulder was there to support her. There were other little things here and there too, including Sam actually saying “ghost in the machine” (although I recognize that phrase was around before X-Files – I remember The Police album too 😉 ). Enough that I went as far as checking both Eric Charmelo’s and Nicole Snyder’s IMdB pages to see if they had ever worked on X-Files in any capacity.

    Anyhoo, sorry, I’m always very excited when I see connections between my two favorite shows of all time. 🙂 I love that this episode was such an old-school MOTW in so many ways, but most of all, I love how much the brothers were in sync with each other, supporting each other, and communicating so well! The final scene was one of the best BM’s we’ve had all season, IMO. I also agree that Dean would be much more internet savvy than he is made out to be, but I guess that’s just a running gag now. And I squeed when I heard the Hozier song too! My 11-year-old was listening to that song tonight and didn’t believe me when I told her I know it and love it too.

    And yes, of course Sam is going to do whatever it takes to save his brother!

  • I love it that every now and then, a ghost gets to go into the light. All the flashbacks during the intro to very old episodes I remember like it was yesterday because I’ve been having my very own rewatch marathons ever since. MotW old school works for me! You know, saving people, hunting things. The family business. Damn straight. Sam not giving up on Dean is the heartwarmingest thing ever and Cass out there looking for an answer too. That’s two episodes in a row that simply made me happy and that’s beginning to scare me. As for new music, it is to me what the internet is to Dean. Sorry. 😀 pretty much nothing ahead of 1990 finds a place in my heart.

    • I agree with the ghosts moving on – I’m glad that every now and then the ghosts are just “confused” and move on.

  • That final scene, those looks of love and determination, that was everything. Sam isn’t giving up, and he’s not letting Dean give up either, even if Dean is done with all the researching and worrying and hoping. Sam’s not. Oh I love these guys so much!

    Thank you for another great review!

  • As always, I so appreciate your thoughtful reviews. My BFF and I were squeeing throughout this episode, also loving the old school feel. And speaking of feels… they also broke my heart, as usual. You are so right about the awards. Both Jensen and Jared deserve recognition for their incredible work. It makes it hard to watch a lot of other TV, sometimes, I’m so spoiled by the quality of Supernatural, and the love that is poured into it by all involved.

    • I think I’m always holding up the acting on SPN against other shows and even films. It’s like my gold standard now 🙂

  • I appreciate your reviews so much. They make me think. And then I have to rewatch to catch what I didn’t the first time! This time, though, even my geeky son (who was watching “under duress” only because he was in the room playing computer games — yeah, right!) caught a lot of the references. Still couldn’t get the hubs, the Chief Geek, to watch, but it was his loss.

    I agree that, for some reason, the writers seemed to “dumb down” Dean this go ’round. Granted, it lent a little comedic air to the whole thing, but was it really necessary? I don’t think so. We all know that Dean’s smarter than most folks give him credit for and Sam, well, he’s the uber-geek of the two. Still, Dean had to know what the GPS program’s name. Then again, the reference to GenX and later “Christine” had me laughing out loud. That was FUNNY! “Christine” was my first real horror movie and I loved it!

    And what is is with strong gingers in this show? I’m not dissing hair color; many in my family are redheads. I just think it’s odd slash interesting that we have yet another strong female character who is a redhead. Is there a story there with the writers that we don’t know? Are they saying something here or was it just a casting coincidence. (Coincidentally, I don’t believe in coincidence. At. all. LOL) Makes me wonder if Delilah — now THERE”S a name — will show up again in another bit part along the way. Hmmm.

    Thanks again for a terrific review. I really look forward to your thoughts on the Show. I’m a huge fan of the production of it — not just the wonderful/fantastic/dreamy actors, but the set design, the lighting, the story-telling, the minutae of it all. Makes for a fun and often though-provoking experience each time I watch … over and over and over and over. 🙂

    • I agree, the production on this show is stellar. So many talented and dedicated people who all care so much even after a decade! Also, hmmm to strong gingers…

  • I thought that the episode had lots of references to S1 which I’m surprised more people haven’t commented on. Dean breaking the computer was like when he broke the mirror in Bloody Mary. The cord coming up to strangle the girl was like the lamp cord strangling Sam in Home (I think that’s the ep name?). Those touches on top of it just being a very S1 style episode really made me smile.

    Re the eating, I think he eats like that just to get a rise out of Sam. Just a brother doing something that he knows is going to irritate his sibling. Brothers being brothers, you know? Which I think we’ve seen a lot of this season, in the way they’ve been teasing each other as in days of old.

    And that last scene…they’ve been hitting it out of the park all season, but the two of them were just magnificent during their talk. The peace that Dean radiated at having come to a decision he can live with (I kind of associated it with a person with a possibly terminal disease who decides to end treatment. Quality over quantity of life, if that makes sense?). The pain, fear and determination from Sam. Oh, my heart.

    Last, this is my first comment to you ladies, and I wanted to take the chance to thank you for showing that intellectual people can be fangirls without it diminishing their academic pursuits. So many people think that academics can’t geek out over stuff like this, that it lessens them somehow. And academics think they can’t reveal their outside fandom passions without being embarrassed by it. It’s so great to see a couple of women with PhDs squeeing with glee over something like Supernatural (and as a PhD candidate in Women’s Studies myself, I really appreciate it personally!)

    • Yes absolutely, I noticed those S1 connections too and then forgot to mention them. It did add to the old school vibe. Glad to meet another academic who’s also a fan and proud of it! That’s exactly why we wrote ‘Fangasm’ and ‘Fandom At The Crossroads’ – to challenge shame about being both!

      • Haven’t had the time to read the books yet – first year coursework, TAing and my children put a serious crimp in my reading time, lol! – but they’re on my to-read list.

        I wish I did research in a field where I could contribute to the journal I saw on your ‘About Us’ page (sadly, Canadian women’s history is not that). Since I got involved in fandoms over a decade ago, I’ve been fascinated by how each one develops its own vocabulary and lingo that’s code for certain things within that fandom. I’m sure the ‘zines from back in the day must have had much the same thing, so there’s probably some sort of historical overview that could be done as well. I’ve always thought it would be an interesting paper topic, but it just isn’t my field. A fanboy or -girl linguist needs to get on this stat! 😀

        Back to marking first year essay proposals and annotated bibliographies. Wish me luck. :/

    • I can’t agree more with this: “I wanted to take the chance to thank you for showing that intellectual people can be fangirls without it diminishing their academic pursuits. So many people think that academics can’t geek out over stuff like this, that it lessens them somehow. And academics think they can’t reveal their outside fandom passions without being embarrassed by it.”

      While I’m not an academic, I am in a somewhat similar profession. I’m looking forward to nerding out at a con about all this stuff with other smart fangirls.

      • I would LOVE to nerd out with you but alas, I don’t think I’ll find myself at a con anytime soon. I’ll live vicariously through you, maybe? 😀

      • Based in how I can go on and on and on about an episode for 500+ words I’m sure I’ll have something to say about DCcon this summer. 😉 Although I hope I’m too “in the moment” to take notes!

        Honestly, I’m jut so happy that this blog is okay with long (really, really long) comments and is so civil towards its members. (Is members the right word? I think of it as a community at least.)

        Good luck with your research!

  • While Take Me to Church could not be more my LEAST favorite song on Earth (probably because I feel forced to listen to it way too often and boy did I feel like someone was deliberately pulling my chain when I heard it), the musical choices made sense considering the younger generation that was a prominent part of the last two episodes.

    As for the redheads, I’m of the thought that at this point it’s an inside joke for anyone who’s been watching forever. Anna was the first, right? Personally, I like it!

    Great review! I didn’t realize the X Files connection and I love to know stuff like that.

  • I liked this episode. The things I liked, I loved, and the things I didn’t like, were basically ‘meh, whatever.’ I really didn’t care for the college kids – they seemed one dimensional even for guest actors. But then again, it has been a long time since I was in college. You know, Gen X, and all. 😉

    A few points;
    Like everyone said, dumbing down Dean thing is out of place. There was no reason for Dean not to know the Siri/Trini ap. Even though their mobile plan consists of burner phones, he would’ve at least seen a commercial with Siri at some point.

    I laughed out loud at “I’m so sorry I ever made you leave.” when Dean was checking out his two great loves, women and food, in the cafeteria. I am also guessing that the increased appetites are somehow MoC related, although I can’t figure out why he lost his appetite at the end of last season. Unless it was because the MoC was killing him, or it’s some sort of supernatural process. If it’s a process, then that might lead into whatever horrible thing they’ll have to do to Dean to ‘fix’ him.

    Or maybe they don’t fix him… I mean, season 11 it happening, so maybe this carries over. I think we can all agree that more growling would be okay. You know, for plot.

    The look on Dean’s face tells me that he eats that way to annoy Sam, which is cute. But nonetheless I kept thinking, “Dean, put the carbs down. Those are noodles, not love.” 😉

    I was expecting a reference to “Long Distance Call” but didn’t see one. Hubbs already deleted the episode from the DVR so I can’t go back to see if it was in the opening.

    For all the ups and downs of the episode, the ending was great. Dean coming up with his plan and selling Sam on it – or trying to, Sam of course, will have his own plan to save Dean. But that plan gives Dean his sense of purpose and control, Ackles something to play with for the rest of the season, and the writers have a way to go back to MotW a little (or lot?) more often. Win/Win/Win!

  • Great episode! Loved all the X-Files references. I was waiting for the Bree Scharp song “David Duchovny Why Don’t Love Me” to be played! Your review was spot on. I rhink the college kids were a little over done but not by much. My staff is predominately that age group and unfortunately this repesentation is closer than you think. Loved the Hozier song and I thought it fit nicely since it was playing on the college kids phones. Maybe the food scenes were a bit over board but they made me laugh. I rhink that nobody does food. schtick (sp?) like JA!! Love everyone’s comments. Everybody catches different aspects. Until next week!

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