Emotionally Powerful, Just How I like It – Supernatural Byzantium

 

I watched last week’s Supernatural episode at a Supernatural convention in Jacksonville with my friend , YouTuber Alana King. That meant we recorded our reactions live for her video, much of which consisted of me making stunned faces and needing lots of tissues, which our helpful friend Christina kept tossing over from off camera. Alana and I were in shock half the time, so there are long stretches of us frozen with our jaws hanging open (which is not very attractive NGL) but when we did get animated, there was a lot to say.  I’ll link the video at the end if you’d like to laugh at us. Feel free!

Now that the con is over and I’ve had time to do a rewatch, I’ve got some deeper thoughts and some praise for pretty much everyone who had a hand in crafting this episode – and that makes me one happy fangirl!

The episode begins with Jack’s three dads sitting at his bedside, doing just what Rowena said – watching over him as he dies.  (Cue my first wobbly lower lip).  Sam is right there next to him, so much sadness in his expressive eyes. Dean is across the room, struggling to hold it together, hands gripping the sides of the dresser telegraphing all the emotion he’s trying not to show. Cas stands watching over all of them, blue eyes troubled.

Jack is the one dealing with his impending death the best, saying that maybe this is how it’s supposed to be and asking his dads not to be sad.

Dean: Don’t give me that meant to be crap.

Jack starts to cough, having trouble breathing, and Dean walks out, unable to watch someone he loves suffering. He’s angry, as he always is when life hands someone he cares about a raw deal.  He punches the wall like he did when  Bobby was dying, even as Jack asks Sam to tell Dean that it’s okay. The role reversal here at the end of Jack’s life is painful, Jack trying so hard to comfort the three men who are already grieving him.

Jack: Sam, what happens next, for someone like me?

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Three Men And A Nephilim – Supernatural Unhuman

 

Drive by review since I’m traveling with the family, so thematic stream of consciousness instead of scene by scene for a change. I watched last week’s Supernatural in an Air BnB in DC whose television set was large and impressive looking but weirdly distorted the picture so that the most beautiful cast in the world did not look like their beautiful selves. Boo.

While this won’t go down in history as one of my favorite episodes, there were some things I enjoyed, and the episode got me all thinky which I also enjoy.  On the other hand, there were also some things I didn’t like. While I was overjoyed to have Ruth Connell back on the show, I was totally confused that Rowena didn’t know seem to know that Jack was Lucifer’s son. What?? She goaded Lucifer with that when she was holding the portal open, saying that his three dads were more fathers to Jack that Lucifer himself. So why did she seem shocked when Sam told her about Jack’s father? I realize she didn’t actually know Jack, but she knew about him. Those kinds of things throw me out of the story and I don’t like that – I like to be immersed and engrossed when I watch my favorite show.

I also got thrown out of the story by Sergei the Shaman, who seemed like such an over the top villainous untrustworthy guy that I didn’t believe a word he said and didn’t expect Castiel to believe him either. Why did he? Cas has been oddly gullible recently, and that seems weird. I get that we all get a little gullible in desperate times, so I’m chalking it up to that. But, I mean, ‘He seemed honest.’ Did he?? Also Sergei had an accent that sounded just like Misha Collins when he’s doing his Indio-Russia thing, so I also half expected Cas to start talking the same way, which was neither here nor there but made me giggle when that wasn’t what the show was going for.

I do love Castiel’s had-it-up-to-here expression here though.

Considering Sergei, do we even believe that the grace he gave Cas was from Gabriel? (Was there a reason to take this at face value? Has Ketch’s word become reason enough?) Or was it really Michael’s grace, and the whole thing an elaborate plot to get Michael’s influence into Jack in the same way he’s been trying to influence other “monsters”? (Was that why Dean’s vision blurred out and his mind went a bit offline a few times there? Was that Michael coming to the fore to see how his plan is going or has he left something behind that allows him to do so?)  That did give us some nice close ups of Dean blinking those long eyelashes.

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But I will say THAT is chilling, the idea that Jack might be corrupted in some way. I don’t worry that Jack will die, because they clearly need him as a key player, but that doesn’t mean he will stay the innocent well-intentioned nougat loving son that he has been this season. And that does worry me.

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Supernatural ‘Optimism’ – Some Laughs, Some Feels and A Bit of Head Scratching

 

Last week’s Supernatural episode, hopefully titled ‘Optimism’, was one of those episodes that fandom didn’t agree on. And that’s okay. Like most episodes of this Show, there were things I liked and things I didn’t. I’ll get to the elephant in the room thing in time, but first, a look at some of the things that worked for me and what didn’t.

Richard Speight Jr. directed the episode, and I tend to really enjoy his directing, so that was a point in this episode’s favor. I like his pacing, and his editing, and I really really like the way he embraces the quirkiness of Supernatural that has always been one of my favorite parts of the Show. Writer Steve Yockey is a good partner for that quirkiness and the two worked well together here. From the first frame, the weirdly upbeat music presents the small town as too-good-to-be-true, including Harper the perky town librarian. She’s got at least two quirky suitors, one of whom seems dangerously jealous and slightly unhinged, so we immediately are suspicious that something bad is going to happen to too-good-to-be-true librarian.

Sure enough, it does. Winston, the nice guy suitor who Harper clearly isn’t into, saunters down the street feeling good about himself after Harper agrees to dinner, and the familiar strains of Stayin’ Alive start to play. Speight mimics the view of John Travolta’s iconic walk in the opening of Saturday Night Fever, which comes off as amusingly ironic when applied to Winston.

And also announces to us that poor happy Winston is probably not long for this world. Yep. Splat.

I loved that whole opening, and it had Speight’s directorial touch all over it.

Back to the bunker, where Jack is piling a ton of sugar into his coffee (ewww) and Dean is looking for Sam. We find out that Sam and Charlie have gone off on a stakeout because Dean was somewhere else and that means we’re not getting Sam and Dean hunting together for a little while. Not something that makes me particularly happy, but I’ll roll with it.

Jack about Sam and Charlie: They’re probably doing something really exciting…

Cut to Sam and Charlie, sitting in a truck and looking bored to death.

These are the edits that Speight is excellent at, the juxtaposition and Jared and Felicia Day’s acting skills making just that little bit hilarious. It was the first time I laughed out loud during this episode but not the last.

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The Winchesters Are Together Again in this Week’s Supernatural, ‘The Scar’

 

This week’s Supernatural brought a divided reaction from fans, which is almost always the case for this show – but I really enjoyed it. Writer Robert Berens kept things mostly canon-compliant, so I had fewer head scratching or WTF moments. And while the back and forth between story lines still jarred me, at least this week there were only two story lines running simultaneously instead of three or more. So instead of a scene by scene analysis, here are the things I loved, the things I liked, and the things that didn’t work for me in this episode for each of those two storylines.

Story line number one is Sam and Dean together again and in pursuit of something that will harm Michael. Story line number two diverges after the first few scenes to follow Castiel and Jack at the bunker trying to save a hapless young woman who the hunters have rescued from a witch. (Nick is off trying to find himself or his family’s killers, so thankfully no story line number three. He apparently left a note and isn’t returning Castiel’s phone calls, which isn’t ominous at all… but that’s okay, I’m just glad we only have two stories to bounce back and forth between this week because that’s enough!)

I have a lot to say about the first, so let me start with the latter. I continue to like the exploration of Cas and Jack’s relationship that this season is undertaking. Jack continues to struggle with finding his place with the hunters, so hurt after Dean dismisses him that Jack decides to run away. He’s such a teenager sometimes, and I find that endearing. He packs up his little backpack and prepares to leave, writing a note out for all three of his “dads”, but then hears Cas and AU hunter Jules trying to help Laura, a young woman kidnapped by a witch and dying from an aging spell. Jack, who can be quite empathic at times, decides to stay, drawn in by the woman’s dire circumstances and his desire to console her.

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Director Dick Returns to Supernatural with ‘Gods and Monsters’!

 

After a season premiere that kicked up conflicting emotions for me, the second episode of Season 14 of Supernatural was a different kind of episode – but once again, it kicked up some conflicting emotions. I had a lot of anticipation for this one because I enjoy Richard Speight’s directing and always look forward to hearing his thoughtful take on how he brought a script to life. On the other hand, my track record with enjoying the episodes from these particular writers is spotty. So I guess I went into this with conflicting emotions!

Speight is proficient at juggling the back and forth story lines that Supernatural sometimes serves up, and he did an admirable job here, but I tend to get whiplash if we’re bouncing back and forth between too many stories no matter how proficient the directing is. That was the case here to some extent, though Speight managed to keep the transitions smooth enough that I didn’t feel too jarred. Because there are so many story lines going on, I’ll touch on each scene briefly here, but with the through line of what worked and what didn’t in each one.

I pay more attention to the “Then” montage than ever before these days, because it usually gives a clue to what will be foregrounded in the episode, or at the very least what they don’t trust us to remember (of course we all do) or what they think a viewer who has somehow avoided seeing Supernatural for 14 years would need to know to just step right in and pick it up (totally and completely impossible at this point, give it up, Show!)  The “Then” this week features the final showdown with Lucifer and the moment of Dean’s possession, and a reminder of Jack’s trauma and his hatred of both Michael and Lucifer. With that frame set, we enter the episode through Michael and what he’s up to now – no disposable characters or case of the week for the beginning minutes. The opening scene is visually striking and sets the tone for who Michael is and how we should feel about him. Speight likes to set up close up shots that are like works of art and emotionally evocative – this time it’s done in flashes, like there’s a thunderstorm outside, and the fact that you only get glimpses adds to the feeling of trepidation. A flash of heavy chains, broken statues, a church organ covered in cobwebs, light filtered through age-dimmed stained glass windows. A church defiled. The last close-up shot is of blood slowly dripping from the cut throat of a restrained man, leaning over a chalice that’s  slowly filling as he’s drained. The musical score is full of foreboding, fear mirrored on the faces of the chained up people waiting their turn. (The slow drip of blood will be a recurring image in this episode).

It was a strong opening, and a fitting frame for Michael, still dressed impeccably and as implacable as he was last week (though he has donned an imposing leather apron because clearly he loves his nice suits staying impeccable). It makes him look like a butcher, the leather and straps both terrifying and (perhaps because this is Jensen Ackles) also an oddly sexualized image. Michael seems to pull for objectification, a fact not lost on fandom.

Michael heals the vampire’s slit throat and adds a pinch of archangel grace to the blood.

Michael: A little of this, a little of that…

He then grabs the vampire’s head and forcefully makes him drink. When the vampire acquiesces, Michael does nothing to reduce the erotic vibe of the scene by crooning, “Yes, good boy” as the bound vampire follows his orders.

Unfortunately for the compliant vamp, no sooner has he done so than he burns out and dies, much to the other vampires’ horror.

Michael remains unemotional.

Michael: Huh. Too much that…

It’s our first glimpse of Michael having a sense of humor, albeit a twisted dark one. Ackles did flesh out the character a bit more in this episode, which at first threw me a bit. Last week he was so unemotional he was almost flat, disturbingly so. This week, he showed some humor and some other emotional notes, including pride and a sadistic enjoyment from wielding his power over others. I felt like that was consistent with Christian Keyes’ portrayal of Michael, but it was more personality than Michael showed last week.

There’s another visually effective shot of the dead vampire’s feet dragging across the floor as Michael pulls him over to a pile of other dead vampires; the camera pulls out to show just how many, with lots of impact.

Michael flips the curved blade he’s holding, cocky.

Michael: All right, who’s next?

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I might have needed a cold drink at that moment. There’s something hot about the cocky expression and the facile skill with which he flips that blade. Actually the same thing happens when Ackles flips his mic onstage with equal agility, which he has a habit of doing quite often. But I digress.

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