Supernatural Wins with ‘The Gamblers’ 

 

It feels SO good to sit down to write a review of my favorite show and be overflowing with love for it, like I’ve been so many countless times over the past fifteen years. We have nine episodes left of Supernatural, and all I want is to feel like this – grateful, inspired, in love, dreading the end. The relief is like a physical thing, to feel this way right now, as melodramatic as that might sound.

So, let me do some squeeing, because I’ve missed it!  I enjoyed this episode by Davy Perez and Meredith Glynn so much that I just want to go scene by scene and savor it all over again.

THEN:  (Moment of inappropriate giggling because they actually used the vampire Dean hiss in the ‘Then’ montage. Ahem. Okay, sorry.)

The opening is another musical montage, which seems to be a thing now for the Show, but it works especially well because the song is so damn fitting. “North to Alaska” is exactly where Sam and Dean are headed, and the song actually starts off with the lyrics “Big Sam left Seattle…” and something about his brother, and how perfect is that? Meanwhile, some poor guy named Leonard is losing at pool and losing his cool and clearly about to die. He loses, gets kicked out of the pool hall, falls in the dirt and can’t find his now-broken glasses ala the Lord of the Flies scene I’ve never gotten over and then gets run down by an 18 wheeler. In other words, quintessential Supernatural beginning.

As Sam and Dean make their way to Alaska, Sam texts with Eileen and Dean snarks about turning off the sound. Eileen is skeptical about this trek they’re on and so is Sam, but Dean insists they need to try, and is hanging onto hope.

Dean: It’s there, it’s gotta be. Chuck wants us weak, because he’s coming for us, Sammy.

So on they go (Baby might be down on her luck but apparently she can still drive all the way to Alaska, and the Winchesters are a whole lot better at getting through those Canadian border stops than I am most of the time even with their currently shitty luck!)

Sam’s asleep in the car like he often is in the best fanfic, and Dean of course wakes him like any big brother would, with a slap and a ‘Hey!’

Brothers.

Dean’s stopping for food, because he ate everything they had in the cooler while Sam slept.

Sam: (affronted) We’re on a budget!

Gifs sasquatchandleatherjacket

Jared Padalecki has such a knack for making even a simple line so funny and so Sam, and I laughed out loud at that. The Winchesters are down to their last $4.60, so all they can get is a cup of coffee and a slice of pie.

Dean: Two forks?

I laughed again, realized I was thoroughly enjoying the episode, and became practically euphoric at the realization.

Gif sasquatchandleatherjacket

Sam gives Dean grief about not being able to have cheese and Dean gives him an affronted look right back.

Dean: Dude, Lactaid!

Me: This episode is everything!

Much of the episode – dialogue included – really did read like fanfic, and that is my highest compliment. It means the writers get the characters as well as we do, and that feels incredibly good. Sam and Dean and Cas and Jack were Sam and Dean and Cas and Jack!

Dean turns his 1000 watt smile on the waitress and they find out there’s a “magic pool hall” in the middle of nowhere and that people like poor Leonard don’t come back from it.

Sam: Now we know the down side – it might kill you.

Dean is much more optimistic.

Dean: This is my game – hell, our game!

He reminds Sam of all the memories they have of playing pool.

Sam: (frowning) Yeah, because we had to eat!

Me: Yep, definitely have read that fic.

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Supernatural ‘The Heroes’ Journey’ – Sort Of?

 

Last week’s Supernatural episode, the ironically titled “The Heroes’ Journey”, was one of those episodes that made me laugh at first, but then kind of disturbed me. Not simultaneously, luckily. I was tempted to just write up the things I giggled at when they were happening and try to shut off my higher cognitive functions to prevent any other feelings, but it turns out I’m just not built that way. So to everyone on twitter who advised me “not to think too deeply about it”, my apologies. Maybe just read the first part of this if you don’t want to think too much and just enjoy the amusing parts.

I really enjoyed the first part of the episode; I went into this one just looking to be entertained.  Most of us knew the premise was something about Sam and Dean having “normal people problems”, which sounds pretty innocuous and has the potential to be funny. After all, Jared and Jensen are gifted at comedy, so maybe this would be a chance for them to exercise those comic chops as well as a chance for me not to gnash my teeth. And for a while, that worked. My first tweet of the night was “OMG I’m loving this episode!”  Jared and Jensen were clearly having a good time with it, and just that is enough to make me happy too. They have always loved the humorous moments, and they play off each other seamlessly.

The beginning cage match sequence was unusual. It was impressively choreographed by the brilliant Rob Hayter, and the music and slo mo and direction were interesting. The problem is, it was three whole minutes long out of the 42 we get in an episode, and I don’t give a damn about whoever those two monsters are, so I got antsy even as I could appreciate the artistry of the scene. With less than 8 hours left with the Winchesters and company, I selfishly want every moment!

Then we’re following Dean to the Quik Mart with jaunty piano music that lets us know things are going to be weird (My guess is that the awesome Jay Gruska had alot of fun with this episode too). It’s clearly a terrible horrible no good very bad day as Dean’s Charlie-guaranteed credit card doesn’t work, he’s got a toothache that prevents him from enjoying his usual fare, and he gets a traffic ticket at his habitual spot. Meanwhile, Sam is cooking dinner for them at the bunker and burns the whatever in the oven and then inexplicably tries to pick up a pot of boiling pasta without oven mitts and spills it all over. Dean comes home calling for Sam, and Sam trips up the stairs to the kitchen. Then starts sneezing his head off, snot everywhere.

I mean, it was alot! Jared and Jensen cavorted through it looking like they were having the time of their lives.

Also, I love domestic Sam cooking dinner in the bunker’s amazing kitchen.

Gif jaredandjensen

Jared and Jensen pull this off like you’d expect, as in they’re hilarious, and I was amused – I thought it clearly must be a curse since it was so over the top, one thing after another and certainly far outside “normal”. Garth calls and asks for their help, and they start driving to his house – and Baby craps out. Noooooo not Baby! Dean, who it’s established knows how to take that car apart and put her back together again, seems to flood her and then doesn’t even look under the hood, which is….weird.

Me: I guess that’s part of the curse? Weird.

They get to Garth’s, and he and his wife have an older daughter and young twins (sort of like Ackles in real life!)  Garth hugs Dean, saying “you smell so good” (this nod to Dean’s attractiveness  seems like a bit of a meta commentary – since it’s what everyone who has ever had a photo op with Jensen Ackles walks away saying!)  It also ties into some of the more thinky thoughts I eventually let into consciousness about the episode.

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Supernatural Returns From Last Mid Season Hiatus with ‘The Trap’

 

Supernatural returned from its very last mid season hiatus with an episode that fans waited for with a wide range of emotions, which is probably going to be par for the course for the last eleven episodes of the series. I have mixed feelings every time an episode airs, because it’s one episode closer to the end, and because it’s one more chance to take the show somewhere I may not want to follow, knowing there’s no time for that to change anymore. This is not an easy thing, staying with a show you’ve loved for fifteen years to the bitter end! It feels like an emotional and psychological risk, which is something I’ve never experienced before with television.

I’m actually really looking forward to next week’s episode, which will be a ‘funny’ one – at least in parts. I feel like I need a break from all the angst and stress! To think, this used to be my stress reliever!

So here are the things I liked and the things that didn’t work too well for me. It was a kickass ‘The Road So Far’. I watch those beginnings and am always in awe of just what a remarkable show this is. We also had an amazing Shaving People Punting Things video the week before, which made this next string of episodes look truly epic. I think sometimes those editors get the show better than anyone!

Anyway, the episode was split into two story lines, as it so often is. Sam and Eileen wake up tied to chairs, captured by Chuck. I’ve said before that I thought Chuck had a hand in manipulating Sam and Eileen and it turns out that yes, he put her in Sam’s path and made that spell fall out (that was obviously too much of a coincidence) and let Sam being a good person do the rest. What an awful thing for Eileen and Sam to find out. How do you have any hope of sorting out which of your feelings are real and which aren’t? Worse yet, did you really have agency (and the capacity for any kind of consent) when you acted on those feelings? Chuck really is a bad bad guy. I’m still confused as to why Sam looked so conflicted about his relationship with Eileen the entire time, though. Side effect of Chuck’s “nudges”? Was he somehow sensing the interference? We may never know.

Chuck’s explanation is particularly cruel.

Chuck: I couldn’t see you. I needed eyes and ears on the inside… well, eyes.

Ouch. If you wanted to turn Chuck into an irredeemable villain, Show, that’s a good way to do it. So vicious and pointed. Rob delivered it perfectly; I could appreciate that even as I literally cringed hearing it.

I love that Eileen shot back, “Screw you.”

Shoshannah Stern delivers the line with all the venom and badassery it warranted.

Yeah, screw you, Chuck! (But not you, Rob, I still adore you)

Meanwhile, Dean is worrying about not being able to reach Sam, not knowing that Sam and Eileen are captured. I also love that Eileen almost did screw Chuck over by managing to place a call to Dean (more badassery). I’m assuming her phone has a convert to text feature because Dean kept yelling “Eileen?” into the phone.  Unfortunately, Chuck realizes and picks up.

Dean: Chuck, you dick!

Chuck: Bye, Dean.

Dean tracks Sam’s phone, and smart Winchesters make me happy. Cas is also doing something smart – making Leviathan bullets out of Borax.

Dean: We need to go!

Cas: To Purgatory.

Not what Dean meant; he’s understandably focused on saving Sam and Eileen. They argue, and Dean says he’s not leaving Sam, because he’s Dean.

Cas: Stop being so stupid!

I was taken aback by that. Castiel in this episode is written as had-it-up-to-here, bristling with anger and resentment. We don’t always see Castiel’s emotions come to the surface, but I think he’s every bit as angry as Dean has been, to the point where he’s harsh and sometimes cold. It’s not the “badass Cas” which we’ve seen before, it’s as though he’s so angry that he’s put up a wall.

The episode had a lot to say about anger, but not all of it was easy to decipher. We saw Dean’s anger come spilling out in his initial fight with Cas, in which he lashes out with some hurtful things. Everyone expresses anger differently, and in this episode we saw Castiel’s anger too. I think he walked out on that fight with Dean because it was just too painful, but it was also clearly because he was angry. Otherwise he would have picked up Sam’s phone calls. His response to anger is to withdraw and then to put up a cold shoulder and refuse to be reached, literally or figuratively. Maybe I can’t stop my psychologist brain from kicking in, but this is a familiar pattern. One person goes on the attack, spewing hurtful words, then the other withdraws and puts up a wall. Both are expressions of anger and intended to hurt. Often one of those people is very afraid of abandonment; in this case, that applies to both of them, so the withdrawal and stonewalling is an effective counterattack (that probably impact Dean’s later breakdown).

Cas points out that they have no way to kill Chuck and that going to Purgatory and doing the spell is the way they’ll save Sam – and the world.

Surprisingly, Dean goes along fairly quickly, which I didn’t expect. I had a little trouble with that instant capitulation, much like the scene in the tunnels in Season 13 when Dean tries to go after an in-peril Sam and Cas stops him. Dean seemed a little too easy to convince here too. However, Cas does have a point, so maybe Dean just reluctantly agreed. The pacing (or the editing?) was wonky in this episode, so perhaps some things that were meant to be conveyed just didn’t come through.

Back to the casino (isn’t it interesting that Chuck has taken up residence at a casino? He loves rolling the dice and playing the odds, especially when it’s with other people’s lives.)

Chuck does a lot of dialoguing in this episode, which Rob Benedict pulls off quite well. He decides to dig out the god bullet in Sam’s shoulder that he realizes is keeping him weak, but hesitates. (I at first thought it was because it would hurt Chuck too, because isn’t that exactly what we’ve been told in canon? But no, that’s apparently been discarded, because Chuck calmly plays guitar while Sam has a knife dug into him). For some reason, Sam thinks it would be a good idea to taunt God while he’s holding a knife to him, ridiculing Chuck for not being able to get his hands dirty.

Sam: You just like to watch.

Oooh, Sam. Good one. But still not sure it’s a great idea…

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It’s The Last Mid Season Hiatus for Supernatural!

 

Last week’s Supernatural episode was the mid season finale, though only the 8th in this 20 episode season. However, it ushered in the month long holiday hiatus, so it still felt like the big mid season cliffhanger. Luckily, this episode fell to Richard Speight Jr. to direct, so although the episode’s writers don’t always tend to be my favorites, I knew I’d enjoy the way Speight brought the story to life at least. He didn’t let me down – and neither did the amazing cast.

My perspective on the show this season is different than any other, because every episode that airs brings us closer to the last. Fans and cast are acutely aware that we only have a limited amount of time with these beloved characters, so emotions are heightened about what we’re all hoping for from these last moments with them. In previous seasons, if there’s a part of a season that doesn’t really work for me, it’s been relatively easy to shrug it off and say oh well, it will get better. After all, there are always things I love and moments that are profoundly satisfying when it comes to Supernatural. This season, though, it’s harder to shrug.  So I was really happy to enjoy this episode. It was a solid episode that moved the story along and took us to a sort of tipping point. And the acting performances – every single one of them – were magnificent.  Maybe it didn’t make me jump up and down and scream OMG I love my Show (which is what I always hope for when watching Supernatural) but my mantra has been cherish the things you do love while you still have them, so that’s the lens I watched with. And there was a lot to cherish in this one.

The first scene was pure Speight, a visual example of why I like his directing: a decadent casino, the floor littered with dead bodies. A terrified cocktail waitress carefully steps over her former colleagues and customers, balancing a drink – which she serves up to Chuck (of course). I loved the way the scene was filmed, full of dark humor and an undercurrent of genuine fear because it’s clear that Chuck could snap at any time.  God is bored, engineering constant wins but without any surprises, and that’s making him cranky.

Chuck to terrified waitress: And you don’t want me cranky.

It’s still hard to look at Rob Benedict’s adorable face and be scared of him, but somehow Rob pulls it off.

I haven’t been to many casinos, so this one reminded me of the Rio, where the Supernatural convention in Vegas is held every year. The Rio always seems surreal to me with its smoke and decadence and pervasive sense of desperation mixed with boredom, and it almost seemed like Speight and Rob Benedict amplified all that a thousand fold.  It gave the whole scene a feeling of emptiness and sadness. (Sorry, Rio, but I haven’t entirely forgiven you for that time our toilet spontaneously combusted in the middle of the night while we were all asleep and gushed something putrid and horrible that escaped the bathroom like a brown plague and sent us running out of the room in our PJ’s.) Anyway…

Flash to the next scene, Eileen hunting – and doing a bang up job of it. She’s badass and kickass and doesn’t need any help, taking out the bad guys alone, and I’m here for it! I’m also relieved that she’s not only still alive, but still a hunter in every sense of the word – even dying on the job couldn’t change that.

As she goes after the last one, she nearly stabs Sam Winchester instead, not expecting him to be there. Once the monster is dispatched (by Eileen who literally did not need any help), she turns to Sam.

Eileen: Were you tailing me?

Sam: You could’ve left a note… You think I’m being over protective?

Eileen: Little bit.

Shoshannah Stern is so good, just that little line was priceless. But seriously, she’s right – Sam is maybe being a tad over protective. The Winchesters were used to their mother hunting on her own and letting them know when she needed backup, and they’ve known and respected many other kickass female hunters, so I don’t think they treat female hunters any different than male hunters. Sam knows she’s a hunter; it’s who she is and what she does and what we love her for. So why was Sam tailing Eileen and not even letting her know? That seems a) dangerous, as in he almost got himself killed and interfered with her hunt, and b) not entirely in character.  I’m assuming we’re supposed to believe it’s because he’s romantically involved with her and that’s affecting his judgment. But damn it, Eileen was doing A-okay on her own and I love her independence and her mad hunting skills.

Back at the bunker, Dean – whose newly found sense of motivation has stayed intact from last episode – excitedly tells Sam and Eileen that he’s found a way to maybe get to Chuck. He unwraps the demon tablet, they share some exposition about what it means and why it was created, and then get to the bottom line – maybe Chuck isn’t untouchable after all.

Dean is so cute when he’s hopeful – it’s like he becomes twenty years younger.

Sam: So he has an Achilles’ heel.

Dean: No, I’m saying he has a weak spot.

Sam: (looks frustrated)

Me: (looks positively murderous)

Seriously? You want me to believe that Dean Winchester doesn’t know what an Achilles’ heel means??

I know some people decided to head canon that Dean was just faking not knowing in order to mess with Sam, but I’ve rewatched it several times and that is not how either of them played it. There’s no comic tell from Ackles at all, and I think there would be.

It wouldn’t be so egregious if Dean hadn’t said such an iconic line himself using that exact expression.

Dean: The point is, maybe we are each other’s Achilles’ heel. Maybe they’ll find a way to use us against each other, I don’t know. I just know we’re all we’ve got. And more than that, we keep each other human.

He knew what it meant then!

It’s a small thing, but it threw me out of the moment.

Castiel goes off in search of someone who can read the tablet – the soulless prophet Donatello.

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Last Call! Supernatural Lines Up for The Last Mid Season Finale

 

Last week’s Supernatural was the first written by Jeremy Adams, who I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with at Comic Con last summer. He’s a great guy and a big fan of the show and the genre, and his enthusiasm for what he was writing came through in the episode – and was largely what I liked about it. The episode was split between more serious moments and pure fun, and it was the fun parts that will be most memorable about it for me.

Jeremy’s excitement about being on the Supernatural set was also infectious, and he was kind enough to give us all sorts of behind the scenes goodies too. Here’s Jeremy being appreciated by the cast…

From Jeremy’s twitter

We also got some lovely behind the scenes content from guest star Shoshannah Stern, who was back as Eileen. It’s no secret that I think Shoshannah is awesome, and she understands fandom and our love of this show.

We got the cast practicing signing videos, and this priceless between scenes rest time photo with Jared and Misha. Awww.

Even Jensen got into the act, sharing some photos of him and guest star (and long time real life pal) Christian Kane relaxing between scenes and practicing some stunt fighting too. Still got it, boys!

Let me talk about the fun stuff first, because that’s what I enjoyed the most. The episode wasn’t actually a meta episode, but I don’t know that I’ve ever watched an episode thinking more about what was happening in “real life” and less about the characters and the story. To the extent that I couldn’t see Dean singing with Lee as much as Jensen singing with his old friend Christian Kane.

Usually that wouldn’t make me happy, because it’s the characters and the story that I love with all my heart. But it’s the last season, the last chance that this cast has to do some of the things they’ve wanted to for a long time, and it was infectiously joyful to see Jensen so happy to be able to finally have Kane on his show – both of them were clearly having the time of their lives. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Jensen sing live, and some of those little mannerisms of seeming indecision were definitely his, and it made me smile.

I was oddly nostalgic myself about Jensen and Christian singing together on Supernatural, because one of the first times I saw Jensen sing (not in person, I wasn’t that lucky, but god bless the fans who filmed it) was at a Kane concert for Christian’s birthday. It was so rare and so special to see Jensen sing back then – and I must have watched that little clip… well, probably a lot. So seeing them perform together on the actual show was a reminder of how long they’ve known each other and how long I’ve been watching this show!

It’s rare we get to see Dean Winchester that happy, which was another reason it kept looking like Jensen to me instead of Dean – at first. I mean, look at that FACE!

Toss in a few little meta commentaries about lip synching Eye of the Tiger and that whole first scene in Swayze’s Bar was all about reality instead of fiction. (If that was all the episode was, I would’ve been sorely disappointed, though).

The other part of the episode that worked for me was Dean’s journey from apathy and feeling mostly hopeless to rediscovering his “always keep fighting” determination. The classic hero’s journey, with Dean coming out on the other side of his trauma and hopelessness, realizing who he is and what he wants and resolving to go after that. Lee is a mirror for Dean, at one point even saying “I am you – I just woke up and saw that the world was broken.”

That’s what Dean was on his way to becoming, to giving up just like that. But faced with who he would be if he did give up, Dean finds his motivation to keep going. Yeah, the world is seriously effed up, and it would be tempting to give up like Lee did and just look out for yourself. But that’s not Dean Winchester.

Dean: Then you fix it! You fight for it!

And that’s exactly what he’s now determined to do – or at least I’m hoping that’s where he is now and that he’ll stay there. I liked the way the character of Lee, a gifted hunter and fierce fighter who had gone dark side, provided the spark for Dean to make a decision about how he wanted to end up – a hunter, now and always. That’s my Show.

After all, as he says, someone’s gotta kill the bad guys.

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