Our Heroes Find A Little Hope with Supernatural 15.06 “Golden Time”

I didn’t get to watch last week’s Supernatural episode live since I was on a plane flying to Jacksonville for a Supernatural convention when it aired. That meant avoiding spoilers until I finally had a chance to watch, which was well after midnight after the Saturday night concert at the convention, on a friend’s laptop in her hotel room. While we also lettered a sign for a photo op the next day. (Just a typical 2 am at a Supernatural convention…)  This was a bit of an unusual episode and not a very emotional one for the most part for us, but it had some lovely moments. Maybe this review won’t be ten pages long like my usual ones though – I hear sighs of relief from out there!

The episode opens with a music video-esque montage of someone we don’t know breaking into Rowena’s apartment and trying to steal her magic supplies. It was well done but it wasn’t Sam or Dean or Cas and it’s the last season so time with them is precious and it went on way too long. At some point my friend Alana announced “oh, she’s gonna die” – and sure enough, she did.  Just not quite quickly enough.

Cut to the bunker, Sam on his laptop, wondering if he’s hearing things. Dean in his dead guy robe – and hot dog pajamas because Dean Winchester.

Apparently Dean has been hiding in his room again, this time eating his feelings (and cereal) and escaping by watching the show that reminds him of his childhood, Scooby Doo. He’s still feeling pretty hopeless, locked into what he calls Chuck’s story of “Cain and Abel 2.0” and feeling like he’s just waiting for God to find them and make them kill each other. No wonder he feels so depressed and helpless, when you think of it like that. Sam, on the other hand, keeps researching and keeps trying.

It’s the dynamic of the entire season so far – the Winchesters take turns, one of them hopeless and the other trying to pull them out of it. It’s been the dynamic of the show as well, but now it’s intensified, alternating episode to episode in a way that sort of makes me dizzy.

Sam goes out for a jog (in the beautiful rainy Vancouver weather) and Alana and I stop what we’re doing to appreciate Jared Padalecki’s grace when he’s running.

My friend Alana: It’s like he’s floating!

Seriously, it’s a beautiful thing.

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And We’re Off!  Supernatural Proverbs 17:3

 

We’ve never had a Supernatural episode named after a Bible verse before, but considering how this season is shaping up to be all about God, I guess it’s appropriate. Proverbs 17:3 was the swan song episode for writer Steve Yockey, who has written some of my favorites, and another directorial stint for Richard Speight Jr. With that combination, it’s not surprising that I liked it a lot – but it was an unusual episode in many ways. Proverbs 17:3 is all about how “the Lord trieth the hearts”, and that’s certainly fitting for what happened to the Winchesters in this episode. But it’s not that simple; this entire episode worked on multiple levels, so it’s equally fitting for what keeps happening to the fans. My heart is definitely being tried!

Let’s dig in, shall we? (There’s nothing I love more than feeling like I have a lot to dig into the day after an episode airs, and for the millionth time I have to say that I’m going to miss this day-after-conversation-speculation-discussion SO much)

The episode starts off with a quintessential Supernatural opener, three young women (who look so much alike half the fandom thought they were triplets) on an ill-advised camping trip and one of them being silly enough to go OUTSIDE the tent when they hear scary noises. Only one survives, and the case of the week is kicked off.

Meanwhile, Sam has been texting Cas (which he erroneously spells Cass like everyone on this show) and it’s sort of heartbreaking. I understand why Cas left so abruptly, but I doubt Sam really does despite whatever explanation Dean gave him.

Dean returns with supplies, including ghost pepper jerky, and we get a pricelessly funny brothers scene which I loved. Only Supernatural can seamlessly transition from people getting murdered to Jensen and Jared making us laugh over ghost pepper jerky. I think most of us suspected that we were seeing as much Jared and Jensen as Sam and Dean in that scene, and wondered if Jared was reprising his spike-the-eggnog-and-not-tell-Jensen bit from the Christmas episode, this time with super hot actual jerky. There’s a moment when Jensen definitely does his half hidden OMG laugh, and the throwing the water all over himself felt a lot like his ad libbing too. Meanwhile, Sam’s knowing taunting of his overly macho brother by withholding the water was so perfect – and could have been Jared too.

It’s wonderful to have a familiar and beloved colleague directing so much for the final season, and Richard Speight Jr. does a great job with this one. He understands the fandom differently than any other director would (except Jensen himself and another of this year’s directors, Matt Cohen) thanks to doing so many conventions for the past decade. He knows what gold Jared and Jensen are when he gives them some free rein and I think that’s what he did here. He also recognizes that gold when he sees it, and knows how to edit to make sure that comes through. I’m grateful!

On the other hand, Speight also knows how to make a moment visually stunning and powerful, perhaps thanks to his love of Tarantino and film in general. That fits well with this last season, when much of the show is subtext and meta, and when there are call backs to earlier seasons that have impact thanks to the way they’re presented. Speight has a unique style, and occasionally it jars me, but I think that also works most of the time. We’re supposed to jarred at this point, just like the Winchesters, our collective footing swept out from under us.

And lastly? Speight understands just how beautiful we think these characters are. Like Kim Manners, he’s not afraid to linger on their expressive faces, up close and personal, or to showcase their fighting as the oddly erotic thing it can sometimes be. He also is very aware of how demon Dean and Lucifer Sam affected the fandom, and just how powerful it will be to see them again. And see them we do, gorgeously.

In this moment, he knows what to linger on.

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Supernatural Director Jensen Ackles Hits It Hard with Atomic Monsters

Supernatural’s fourth episode of its fifteenth and final season reminded me of all the reasons I’m going to be a sobbing mess when the show wraps – and I don’t have this sort of episode to dig into and enjoy! Written by Davy Perez and directed by Jensen Ackles himself, ‘Atomic Monsters’ ran the gamut (as some of the most enjoyable Supernatural episodes do) from action hero sequence to humor to meta to tear-your-heart-out boys in the car conversation. In other words, exactly what I want from my Show.

I was bouncing with anticipation for the opening sequence after hearing Ackles talk about it so excitedly and hearing some of his original ideas (never doubt that the man can write), and then reading some of his interviews about the sequence. Jensen sent a full pitch to showrunner Andrew Dabb, who came back saying he loved it but it wasn’t possible unless they were doing a full length feature film. (Um, who’s on board to watch that film? Line up to the left).

Ackles and stunt coordinator Rob Hayter posted the two of them practicing some of the John Wick type moves in the studio. Jensen’s conversation with Rob: “Let’s go hard here. We’re gonna go big, we’re gonna do like a full Dean Winchester as John Wick.”

And that’s exactly what they did.

All the applause for triple threat writer/director/actor Ackles for creating the perfect showcase for the character he loves so much, making Dean badass (and bearded) and showing off his own smooth stunt moves in the process. He filmed the sequence red lit, much like the  scenes of demon Dean tracking down his brother in the bunker, with the lighting giving it all a surreal feel and somehow accentuating the violence and desperation.

We get the feeling this is Dean, but not our Dean, as he takes down demon after demon, stalking the familiar halls of the bunker. The dread builds as he encounters a fallen comrade – and we realize it’s Benny.

I’ve complained already about too many characters being brought back in one episode, but this time it worked for me, in part because Ty Olsson was in a short but emotional scene. Despite his few lines, the chemistry between Ackles and Olsson was clear, as was Dean’s genuine affection for Benny, and the lines that he did have hit right in the heart. The show is understanding and leaning into the power of the call back this season, as we all try to prepare ourselves to wrap it up. Benny’s words to Dean echoed his words from many seasons ago, as Benny once again dies.

Benny: I’ll see you on the other side, brother.

Well done, Ty Olsson and Jensen Ackles.

Jensen also shared that it was he who wanted someone memorable to be killed in the fight sequence, and suggested Olsson. Although Ty was working elsewhere, he was able to fly in for just a few hours to do the scene, and he killed it. And we got another fan favorite character back before the show ends! Interestingly, in this sequence – which seems to be an alternate reality – Benny is human. But it seems like in every universe they’re in, Dean and Benny care about each other.

Our sense of dread builds as the body count increases, and when Dean finally demands “Where is he?” I think we all knew who he was looking for.  It’s still shocking to see Sam standing there, lit in red, a halo of beautiful hair around that handsome familiar face – which looks totally unfamiliar because of the cold expression. All Sam’s empathy, which Jared Padalecki is so skilled at showing us, is gone. Erased. Sam’s voice is cold, even in the face of his brother’s pleading. Long before his eyes go black, we know that this Sam is not going to hear Dean. And that is profoundly terrifying, upending the one thing that we all count on for this Show. The Winchesters always, always care about each other.

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Lynn and Nightsky Watch Supernatural ‘The Rupture’ – With Lots of Tissues!

 

The third episode of Supernatural’s fifteenth and final season in some ways felt like the first – the first of this season that really felt like my Show. Written by Robert Berens and directed by Supernatural veteran director Charles Beeson, it was a rollercoaster of a story that had me on the edge of my seat (literally) and then all out sobbing (also literally). Sometimes it seems masochistic to say, but this is what I want from my Show – I want to FEEL. And damn, did I ever feel during this episode! All the kudos to Berens, Beeson, set dec wizard Jerry Wanek, Adam Williams and his VFX crew, and the incredible actors who brought this episode to life. And made me cry so much.

After watching it live last night, I picked up my good friend Nightsky from the Winchester Family Business at the airport this morning and we decided to do a rewatch together – and to just blog our reactions real time. So here are our thoughts – and feelings, lots of feelings – about ‘The Rupture.’ Don’t worry, I had the tissues ready.

The Road So Far pops up onscreen. Here we go, folks!

Lynn: Argh I have to sit through some of that ridiculous second episode again. Do not want.

Nightsky: I thought it was a little spoilery that they included that clip that Sam has to be the one who kills Rowena. As if fandom has forgotten that??

Lynn: Seriously.

Ghost guy from last week appears onscreen.

Nightsky: ARGH

Lynn: SAME

Then we were off with episode 3. We start off with an interesting new hunter.

Nightsky: I like that they pulled in other hunters, since they’re not the only hunters in the country.

Lynn: And she had some personality too. She was sassy.

Then our heroes (and heroine) set off to try a new spell from Rowena, who has changed into a frankly amazing pink dress. Rowena is oddly optimistic about the chances of success.

Lynn: Oh no Rowena, stop with the optimism, it never ends well on Supernatural!

Nightsky: I appreciated the consistency that they referred back to how they left those people back at the gym with the reference to the anxious townspeople though.

Lynn: Continuity FTW!

Ghosts are flying up out of the huge crack as our heroes walk by.

Nightsky: Where were these ghosts for the past three days? Late to the party? The doors of hell open and it takes you three days to get out?

Lynn:  I’m totally confused by these souls/ghosts. Why do some of them have to possess bodies and others just show up looking like they did in life, like Jack the Ripper or the woman in white? I don’t get it.

We had no answer.

Rowena and her pink dress are beautiful in the creepy crypt, though. Just sayin.

They barricade  themselves in. Banging starts on the door.

Nightsky: Okay, why are ghosts now banging on the door? They just were strolling through the cemetery like they were on their way to high tea, totally unconcerned.

Lynn: I got nothin’.

Rowena starts her incantation as Sam, Dean, Castiel and Belphagor look on.

 

Lynn: I wonder if this is the scene where she accidentally said “vulva” and J2M cracked up. (Turns out it was the next scene with all of them and Ruth doing an incantation)

Nightsky: Berens was so proud of that pink dress. At first I thought it was an odd choice for a red head, but in that scene her eyes glow pink and the ghost attacks on the wall glow pink as her spell works and maybe that was a nice tip of the hat that this was a woman doing this.

Lynn: Her eyes were totally violet.

Nightsky: Totally pink.

Yes, we’re still friends. There are too many ghosts for Rowena’s power to hold and she collapses on the floor, gasping.

Rowena: We’re all going to die!

And that was just the beginning of the episode!

Rowena asks for a drink and Sam solicitously offers her water.

Rowena: A REAL drink.

Dean shrugs like, I got nothin’.

Sam looks at Dean like oh come on, I KNOW you have a flask. Dean tries to avoid, but Sam gives him that I’m-your-brother-and-I-know-you look until Dean reluctantly hands it over.

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‘Raising Hell’ With Supernatural 15.02

 

Episode two of the fifteenth and final season of Supernatural was called ‘Raising Hell’. I’m not sure why it was called that, since Hell was ostensibly already “raised” in the first episode, but it turned out to be sort of fitting anyway, since the episode raised a fair amount of disagreement and infighting amongst the stressed-out-because-we’re-about-to-lose-this-show fandom. As a fan, I sometimes agree with all the sides. I understand the fans who don’t want to hear any complaints or criticisms, who desperately want their last 19 episodes of the show to be something that feels good, a celebration without critique that brings only joy and lots of good memories. I understand that feeling; I tend to be good at forgiving, handwaving and even ignoring in order to appreciate the good parts of what I love. On the other hand, I also understand the fans who are critical of an episode. When you only have 19…18….episodes left, having one of those feel unsatisfying is tough to swallow. I’m somewhere in between the extremes.

The writers of this episode are not always my favorites, as I’ve said before. They have written some good episodes, but there are quite a few that haven’t worked well for me. Whether it’s because they’re seasoned television writers or because they just enjoy juggling, these are the writers who often are given the episodes that include everything but the kitchen sink (which I’m sure, in all fairness, is challenging). Some people like that and are happy to greet each new revelation with a more is better attitude. That’s not me. I like to savor each little bit of this show. I like the show to spool itself out without too much rushing, and for every moment to be invested with depth and a meaning I have to work a bit to figure out. I’m not just here for the action; I expect the show to give me insight into the characters that are why I love it.  I start to get a headache when there’s too much going on that isn’t well connected to the main characters or when there are too many characters jammed into one episode.

We’ve been told that lots of ‘fan favorite’ characters will be coming back this season, which makes sense. It’s the last season, our last chance to see some of our favorites and perhaps to give them a proper send off. I’ve been on board with that revelation, and at the same time concerned that it would be overdone, so that each return wouldn’t have the gravity it’s due. For me, that happened in this episode. Rowena and Chuck were back, which was expected, so I won’t consider those a “return” as much as a they’re-part-of-the-current-storyline. But in addition to Rowena and Chuck (and new character Belphegor) in this episode, we had three other returns: Amara, Ketch and Kevin. That’s a lot of returns in one episode!

I like all three of the returning characters, and the actors did a wonderful job with their portrayals. While I initially wasn’t a Ketch fan, I’ve warmed up to the character over the seasons, partly I suspect because David Haydn-Jones is an awesome human being and a talented enough actor that he brings a vulnerability to Ketch that’s unexpected and interesting. Most of fandom was spoiled for all three returns, which also dilutes the impact considerably, and while I don’t entirely know if it made sense for Ketch to turn up there in the nick of time, I could go with it.

Then we had the return of Amara, something fandom also knew about. I loved Emily Swallow showing us Amara’s evolution (and her snazzy new wardrobe) but by the time we saw her and Chuck, the episode was already feeling a bit crowded.

And then we got the most emotional return of all – Kevin Tran. Again, most of us knew he’d be back, which diminished the impact, unfortunately. I was happy he was coming back; It’s no secret that I love Osric Chau to bits and that I adored his character. But by the time Kevin appeared, I think I actually exclaimed “Kevin too??”

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