This is one of those episodes that doesn’t stick in my head as being a favorite, yet when we rewatched it, I was struck by how solid it is – and how visually powerful. No wonder, since it’s directed by the brilliant Kim Manners and written by the equally brilliant Eric Kripke.
Season 3 was a season we weren’t guaranteed. The first four or five seasons of Supernatural were stressful for fandom – we were never sure the show would eke out another season’s renewal. It was a weirdly exciting time that had the benefit of bonding the fandom together in the shared goal of just keeping the little show we loved on the air. No time for ship wars or character (or actor) wank when the show’s very existence wasn’t assured. Sometimes, not gonna lie, I really miss those days.
As Season 3 began, we were all tremendously relieved and full of anticipation for a season that promised to be horrifying (in the best sense of the word) now that the YED was a) dead but b) had succeeded in opening the hell gate and releasing a whole bunch of demons. Little did we know there was about to be a writer’s strike that would alter the season (and as I write this rewatch in 2023, there is another, so there is still clearly alot of progress to be made!)
That upped the stakes considerably for the Winchester brothers – and that danger became crystal clear right away with this season premiere episode.
We get some vintage AC/DC to start with “Hell’s Bells”, a song I will forever associate with Supernatural.
The early seasons openers were often also truly horrifying in the best sense of the word, as some hapless red shirt person met a terrible fate. This time it’s in a quiet suburban development in Oak Park, Illinois. (Kripke has always known that quiet suburban neighborhoods are truly the most horrifying). Scary music plays as a guy takes out the trash late at night. (Not gonna lie, every time I take out the trash late at night, I think about this episode). A dog barks as he puts in the bag, and then the trash cans start to rattle like there’s something in them, and instead of walking away like any sane person would, the guy goes BACK to investigate.
All of us watching: Why???
Street lamps flicker, then a big black cloud of smoke comes rolling through the night sky. The guy just stands there and stares at it as we’re all yelling at him to RUN, FOOL! He finally, belatedly, starts to run but it’s too late, it knocks him down and a tendril of smoke goes right in his mouth. Ewwww!
He opens his black eyes.
All the demons start to smoke down to Earth, presumably doing the same thing to more foolish people.
SUPERNATURAL, the title card reminds us – the new title card for Season 3! That was a big point of excitement every year, and they never disappointed.
One week later… and we know we’re about to see what the Winchester brothers are up to. We couldn’t have guessed this one, though!
Sam’s sitting in the Impala at night, reading about Dr. Faustus and his deal with the devil at the crossroads by flashlight – while Dean is inside a motel or house or something.
Sam is sitting in the car watching through the window for some reason.
Dean, in an undershirt, flashes Sam a big horny grin and gives his brother a thumbs up, Sam smiling indulgently.
Everyone at the time: Wha?
Then he closes the (transparent so why bother) curtains and helpfully takes off a woman’s shirt.
As Sam watches and smiles (affectionately, according to the transcript).
The season finale of Walker tied up a lot of loose ends for Season 2 – and then kicked off a whole new mystery, and a dramatic one at that!
The episode is titled “Something’s Missing” and that is both literally and figuratively true throughout the show. (One of the things I like best about Walker is that they love to run parallel themes throughout an episode and then reference it somehow in the title, and it’s a fun game for a reviewer to pick out all the instances of that theme – or at least it is for this reviewer!)
The first thing that’s missing is Emily, because Stella Blue is about to graduate. If you’ve ever lost someone, you know that the toughest times are big life events, the celebrations that you always thought that special person would be at. I facilitated a grief counseling group at a university counseling center for many years, and I heard from so many students nearing graduation just how hard it was to approach that milestone without a parent they had always imagined there to be proud of them. Emily not being there is hard for Stella, and it’s hard for Cordell too. Cordell is every parent, wondering where the time went and saying that it seems like yesterday that Emily told him she was pregnant.
Later in the episode, they share a tender father-daughter moment over one of the games they used to play on family game night, something Cordell hasn’t been able to do since he lost his wife. Stella says it seems like a good time to start over, or to carry on where they left off. Cordell admits he would never have taken the game out of the box, that it’s so like her – and her mom – to make him face it. That’s also a theme of the episode, going back to the exploration of grief and loss that I have always valued most in this show – that you can’t go over it or around it, eventually you have to go through it. Everyone does that differently and on their own timetable, but Stella and Geri and Cordell have all learned that it’s true. Cordell is proud of his daughter.
Cordell: You make all of us feel. You’re the one that keeps this family together. I ran, you stayed.
Stella: I ran a few times too.
Stella has grown up a lot over the past two years of real time, and on the show as well. Cordell gives her a gift, knowing she’s been struggling with individuation and the question of staying close or going away for college.
Cordell: I want you to know now…it’s okay to go.
That made me tear up partly because it was such a beautifully played father-daughter scene, and partly because that’s a line from the Supernatural finale too, when Sam gives his brother the gift of permission to go in a more permanent way. I don’t know if it was a deliberate call back, but it made me even more emotional than I was. I’m sure the parallel wasn’t lost on Padalecki, who understands intimately the importance of that finale to many fans.
Another thing that’s missing, but not for long, in this episode is certainty. The certainty of figuring out who you are and what you want to do with your life. While Stella seems close to figuring that out, both Liam and Trey are at a transition point in their lives and unsure of where they should be going.
James tells Trey that he has to stay out of official Ranger business if he’s not an official Ranger – which James offers him after making some calls. They’re willing to treat his military experience as time served so he could be an actual Ranger – which came as no surprise to most of the fandom, who has been expecting it. I feel better about that than them offering to employ him as a psychologist when he isn’t one, but that’s probably just me feeling bitter about all those years of a PhD program to get to that point. It makes sense to make Trey a Ranger so they can keep Jeff Pierre and his popular character on the show, and Trey certainly seems qualified.
Trey talks to his mom about the Ranger offer; she’s not all that happy about it, worrying about all the stress and anxiety. I can relate to his mom – that would so be me if one of my kids announced that!
Liam is also unsure of his next step, saying he’s not so sure he wants to go back to being a lawyer and envious of his father for always knowing what he wanted to do. Later in the episode, he thanks Bonham for forgiving him when he wanted to move away, and Bonham says that it helped make him who he is. So did you, and the ranch, Liam says. And when Bonham says that the ranch isn’t for everyone, Liam tells his father: I think it is, for me.
The penultimate episode of ‘The Boys’ Season 3, ominously titled ‘Here Comes A Candle To Light You To Bed,’ releases this Friday on Prime Video, and the little teasers already have everyone bouncing in anticipation (per usual). This is my non-spoilery teaser review of my own reaction to episode 3.7 – and as a Supernatural fan, this one is especially for everyone who was already a Jensen Ackles admirer or has joined the party recently and jumped on board in appreciation of Soldier Boy.
The last few episodes of Season 3 are going to be a rollercoaster for Ackles fans the likes of which we have never ridden. My advice is you’d better hold on tight, because this one is like that rollercoaster in the dark at Disney World where it’s extra scary because you never know when there’s gonna be a sudden twist or how violent the turn is gonna be. That also makes it extra exhilarating – for a long time that was my favorite ride there. But when I say my heart was pounding out of my chest and I had to jump up and sort of run around my kitchen a few times to calm down, to the accompaniment of colorful exclamations, I am not exaggerating.
Ackles himself weighed in on Instagram about his character’s wee bit of anger issues….
From the perspective of someone who has been a Supernatural fan for 17 years, there are all kinds of things that fandom has imagined a character Ackles plays doing – things that a show on the CW could not include, even if it might have made more sense for hardened traumatized hunter Dean Winchester than his PG vocabulary ever did. Most of those things have played out in fanfiction over the years, for sure, but somehow seeing and hearing a character onscreen who is not limited to the CW standards and practices was more shocking than I expected. No, I am very much not complaining.
Seeing Jensen be able to sink his teeth into a role like this, into a character who is raw and fucked up and in many ways the worst of a swatch of humanity in real life – it was awesome. For someone who’s a long-time fan, it was also a mind fuck, in that I could not help but love the character just a little even when I hated him.
There’s a reason the fandom calls him Danger Grampa or Sweet Baby Murder Kitten, after all.
We learn about some of the horrible things he’s done in this episode, right alongside more of the things that have been done to him – and right alongside the moments when he lets his guard down a little and says something real and shows some genuine emotion. That is one of the things this show has excelled at from the beginning and why I’ve loved it since Season 1 – it’s always shades of gray, even the worst characters having moments of humanity when I feel for them. But having one of my favorite actors embody that kind of complexity made it so much more difficult for me to negotiate. I kept wanting to sympathize with him – especially when the traumas of his past are laid out – but each time there’s a punch to the gut that reminds me that I can’t get too pulled in. Talk about a mindfuck!
Episode 6 of The Boys Season 3 drops tomorrow (or tonight if we’re lucky) and has a lot of anticipation around it, simply because – as its title announces – it’s the Herogasm episode. It’s still amazing to me that the series was able to pull off the supe orgy event from the comics and put it on streaming video. Herogasm is every bit as zany as everyone expected, and surprisingly humorous too. I didn’t expect to laugh out loud when there were such … creative… things going on. Flying vibrators? Sex with a…. Okay, you have to watch. This show is good at that, though – mixing the sexual with the violent with the humorous with the occasionally touching. And not just the Herogasm kind of touching!
Here’s my non-spoilery teaser review of Episode 6, which everyone should watch when it drops on Friday (or Thursday night if we’re lucky). Stay tuned for a spoilery recap and in depth review this weekend once everyone has had a chance to watch.
I won’t give away what actually happens at the Herogasm bash, or who ends up being there to join in the fun (or pursue other goals while others have fun). Let’s just say that a lot happens, and it is both disturbing and darkly funny. I will forever appreciate The Boys for being able to combine all those things with a drug-fueled supe orgy that had so many pump bottles of lube on the set that many a hapless crew member apparently mistook one for covid-protocol hand sanitizer.
So yes, that happened.
Now that I’ve seen it, I can only imagine what it was like to be on the set that day. Jensen Ackles shared his own experience on set that day with us at a convention in Denver shortly after filming it.
Jensen: They had rented out this huge mansion, just gaudy and perfect, and I see the A camera operator, his mask down, eating a sandwich and he looks a little traumatized. I was like, hey man, what’s goin’ on, you good? And he just shakes his head nad says “I seen some shit, man. I seen some shit.” He was already PTSD and we hadn’t even gone to lunch yet. And he was right. I can’t unsee it, can’t put that toothpaste back in the bottle. There was the set dec stuff brought in by the art department and let’s just say there were a lot of sex toys all around, and in addition there were just like vats of lube. The problem was they looked very similar to the covid hand sanitizers that they had spread throughout the set, so every now and then you’d hear an expletive because somebody had done an entire pump of lube on their hand and was like oh crap!
Jensen to Supernatural costar Jared Padalecki standing next to him: I don’t know that you’re old enough to see this. (He then played it for Padalecki on their recent flight to another convention).
So, be prepared!
The underlying theme of the episode plays out before and alongside Herogasm — the slow but sure desertion of anyone who is truly “on his team” for Homelander. Because anyone who has watched Eric Kripke’s shows for a long long time knows he can bring the OMG and the OHMYHEART and the OUCH all in one episode.
Homelander is increasingly isolated, in one poignant and disturbing scene left with only himself to talk to – literally. He also talks back, which is never a good sign but makes for fascinating fictional media. It makes horrifying sense that it’s the persona created in childhood when John needed to dissociate, still with him after all this time – probably more and more present as the stress and isolation build up. It’s the ‘strong one’ who got him through the trauma that happened in the ‘bad room’, who at first tries to give him(self) a pep talk about being better than everyone and not needing anyone, then resorts to taunting him for the part of himself that still longs for love and approval. There’s the suggestion that he carve those parts of himself out, leave him pure, clean.
You get the feeling that’s exactly where Homelander is headed. Impermeable. Cold. Unfeeling.
Makes sense when you’re a helpless, traumatized child – shut off your feelings, make yourself like stone. Make the pain stop. My little bit of empathy for Homelander reappears briefly every time I hear about his horribly abusive childhood – his defenses make sense, but they are so far from helpful at this point, they’re likely to take everyone around him down. And there’s no justifying that, even if you can see how he got there. His lack of remorse when he kills, even innocent bystanders, is absolutely horrifying.
In contrast to Homelander’s coldness, Starlight in this episode runs hot and takes no shit. She’s increasingly fed up with everyone and their brother and sister who keep “telling me I need to be shitty in order to win.” You can tell she wants to give a big fuck you to all kinds of people in this episode, including Victoria Neuman, who is so damn pleasant even though you know she could pop everyone’s heads like a melon. That’s scarier than someone who actually looks scary! Annie January takes the spotlight in a different way in this episode, and I was cheering.
We also get more backstory of Frenchie’s childhood and how much it messed him up, which is for sure the theme of this entire show. We get more backstory on Mother’s Milk too, including exactly what happened with his family and Soldier Boy back in the day, the origin of his OCD and his current obsession to confront Soldier Boy and get some kind of revenge. For many of the characters, revenge seems like the only way to end that kind of obsession. Mother’s Milk is looking for that with Soldier Boy, Hughie is looking for that with A Train, and A Train is looking for it with Blue Hawk. Round and round and round we go.
And that brings us to Soldier Boy and Butcher. Butcher’s looking for that with Homelander; Soldier Boy is looking for that with the team who abandoned him. The utilitarian partnership between Butcher and Soldier Boy, with Hughie along for the ride, is a lot more fascinating than I expected it to be. Soldier Boy’s return shakes everything and everyone up, supes included. Having someone else on the playing field with at least as much power as Homelander is a game changer, but while there are plenty of similarities between the two, there are also differences.
I was thrilled that we get to know Soldier Boy better in this episode. Ackles brings unexpected depth to his character once again, much to my distress – he’s a jerk who’s stuck in the racist misogynistic homophobic ideas that were so common in his time, and that have clearly always worked just fine for him so why would he change them? They’re beliefs that have probably hurt countless people over the decades and he remains uninterested in changing them. But he’s surprisingly open in sharing his feelings and how lost he is in this new world. A world that, as he says, forgot him.
He doesn’t seem interested in causing harm to anyone except the team that betrayed him. Like Homelander, though, he’s also a man who has nothing and has lost everything; and that, as we’ve seen before, is a dangerous man. Especially when they have great power. He may not be out for revenge against anyone but Payback, but he also can’t control his explosions that destroy city blocks and he’s not very concerned about collateral damage. Not exactly a caring, compassionate chap.
The rest of the original Payback team better be on the lookout…
The underlying theme of this episode is how much blame to give other things – whether outside influences or substances like V – for when people do bad things. Is it the V who turns people evil, corrupting them, or does it just bring out who they really are? It’s a metaphor both for the power and privilege someone gains and what that allows them to do, and also for the ways in which we absolve ourselves of blame for the things we do that hurt others – it’s not my fault, it’s the people who hurt me in the past. It’s the drugs. It’s the V. Or is it?
The episode is also very much about the mantra of Eric Kripke’s earlier show, Supernatural. Saving people, hunting things. What does it mean to be saved and what does it mean to be the one doing the saving? There are some pivotal choices made in this episode around that question. Mother’s Milk, Starlight, Kimiko and Hughie all make decisions about what’s most important to them, confronting some hard truths about themselves.
This is perhaps the most powerful episode yet of Season 3, with every actor stepping up with compelling performances, and twists and turns to make your head spin. One of the things I love most about this show is that I almost never know what’s coming. I don’t like it when things are predictable, and that is one thing The Boys has never been.
And just so you know, there are two episodes left of this season, and you can count on that unpredictability to remain. And then some!
Tune in tomorrow (or later tonight if we’re lucky) for Herogasm – and then check back here on the weekend for our spoilery review and recap!
Written by Raelle Tucker and directed by Charles Beeson, Roadkill wasn’t initially one of my favorite episodes, but on rewatch I was struck by how good it is. It’s not a feel good episode – it’s sad, tragic – but that is so well done. I feel for Molly, so it’s not an episode I tend to want to rewatch, but damn, the acting and writing are top notch. It’s a little bit of a Sixth Sense homage too, which always makes me happy since I was in that movie. (And it’s a great film, of course). Sure, I have zero lines and I’m just sitting in the auditorium audience but hey, I’m still in it.
The THEN reminds us that our boys are “smack in the middle of” the storm that’s coming, and that Dean especially is focused on “saving people, hunting things”. But we’re also reminded that the brothers are not entirely on the same page, as they both struggle with how to interpret their father’s mission and how much of it they want to take on.
Dean: If it’s supernatural, we kill it – that’s our job.
Sam: No, Dean – our job is hunting evil.
Well done THEN sequence, because that’s the crux of what Sam and Dean are trying to figure out right now, and they’re having a pretty epic brotherly tussle as they do it.
In a memorable opening, a car drives along a dark road at night as House of The Rising Sun plays on the car radio and the couple argue about being lost and turning around, the guy looking at the map (remember maps? I remember maps….and the days before your phone could just helpfully direct you where to go). Their arguing is good natured, and the guy offers to make it up to the woman, kissing her neck although they’re driving and uh oh, this is not a good idea when you’re in the opening sequence of a Supernatural episode.
The woman, Molly, pushes him off, which takes her eyes off the road just as a man appears on the road. She tries to avoid him and ends up crashing into a tree, the windshield shattering. Uh oh.
Molly wakes up, the car smoking, David nowhere to be found. She crawls out of the car, calling for him, walking through dark and creepy woods as we all hold our breath, waiting for the other shoe to drop.
She finally sees a house with a light on in the woods and though it seems like a bad idea once again, she knocks on the door and then goes inside. There are knives on the wall and blood on the counter, and a man with his back turned.
Molly recognizes the man she almost hit, reaching out to see if he’s okay, though we as viewers can see that he’s not – his stomach is impaled and bleeding way too much to actually be alive, in fact.
Molly: Sir, are you hurt?
He turns around and opens his mouth – and his teeth start to fall out, mouth bloody, stomach wound gaping. It’s a Sixth Sense like reveal, and it’s so well done that it’s super creepy and scary. Season 2, Supernatural really was a little horror movie every week – so good!
The SUPERNATURAL title card pops up and lets us know our boys will be appearing soon. Perfect time for the logo of that season.
Molly screams and runs through the woods, terrified. It’s filmed in slow motion, adding to the terror of will the dead guy catch her or won’t he, and then she runs right onto the road. A car is coming as she yells Stop! Stop! The car skids to a halt – and we see that it’s the Impala.
Dean: Holy– (The ‘shit’ is silent because CW)
Molly is totally freaked out, banging on the window and asking the boys to help her. Sam and Dean exchange a glance as she explains about the scary guy.
Dean: Did he look like he lost a fight with a lawn mower?