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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Every Episode Counts Now and I’m Emotional: Supernatural ‘Don’t Go In The Woods’

 

My review of last week’s Supernatural isn’t exactly what it would have been if I’d written it right away. That’s because the world of every Supernatural fan careened off its axis on Friday when it was announced that the Show would end after one more season. Most of us have been very emotional since, and when I went back to re-watch this episode, it was through a very different lens. A lens that has me wanting to cherish every last second of the Winchesters and company that I can get before this wild ride is all over. This may not have been one of my favorite episodes, but it gave me Sam and Dean on a hunt and an emotional story with Jack, and I’m feeling grateful.

‘Don’t Go In The Woods’ was directed by John Fitzpatrick and written by first-time writer Nick Vaught and veteran writer Davy Perez, both of whom are avid horror fans, so we knew this episode would be heavy on the horror tropes. It started off like so many horror films do, with a young couple making out in the woods and hearing spooky noises. Which, for some inexplicable reason, they always think is the wind. When does the wind sound like that?? Instead of a monster rapping on the car window, we get the horror trope curve ball, since it’s the boy’s gruff dad – who’s also the town sheriff because of course he is. The young woman decides to give them space and go off to the bathroom, which is a shack in the middle of the woods and OMG WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT YOUNG WOMAN??? Even if it wasn’t scary as hell I wouldn’t sit down on the toilet seat like she does, btw. But she does, and the eerie whistling starts, and then we see the deformed clawed hand reach over the stall door. Cue screams!

That scene was nicely done, scary and disgusting and we didn’t get to see the monster which is always scarier anyway. The entire episode that took place in the woods was very dark, like old school Supernatural, and that added to the scary factor.

Cut to the bunker, where Sam is researching and starting to feel maybe a little bit better, though it’s clear the guilt over the AU hunters being killed is still there. Dean walks in to find Sam hunched over the laptop, and I get unexpectedly emotional because that’s such an iconic Winchester scene and SHIT we’ll only have 24 more episodes to get more of those! Where are my tissues?

Dean: Whatcha looking at? Porn? Sex tapes? Nip slips?

Sam: The internet is more than just naked people, you know that, right?

Dean: Not my internet.

Iconic Winchesters. I smile through my tears.

Sam shares the case and offers to go get Cas, but Dean explains that Cas left that morning, feeling too cooped up and needing to stretch his legs. Sam asks about taking Jack, but Dean says no, that he’s gotten them in trouble before with his powers and he just got them back.  Much to Sam’s disagreement, Dean doesn’t tell Jack the truth though, instead making up a fairly lame story about Jack needing to be there in case Mary comes by (why?) and them needing him to go on a supply run.

Jack, still trying his new strategy of not worrying Sam and Dean, agrees to do the supply run.

Me: Wait, so you think he’ll be less likely to get into trouble going into town ALONE??

But this is a horror movie, so I guess the bad decision fits, and we all know that what’s coming can’t be good.

Jack looks so eager to please as he says “I’ll do it” and it breaks my heart.

Somewhere out there, there’s a clip of the gag reel that shows what was really on that list, and makes me feel great empathy for Alex Calvert trying to keep a straight face. Just another day on the Supernatural set…

Next up, Winchesters in FBI coats and fed suits, and once again I’m hit by a wave of anticipatory nostalgia that I have to swallow down. The Sheriff (Adam Beach) isn’t nearly as moved as I am, not exactly wanting them there but reluctantly allowing them to examine the body of the murdered young woman.

This scene is also scarier than these scenes usually are on Supernatural, because as soon as they pull out the drawer, her arm falls off the side and hits Dean, who jumps back like he’s been electrocuted. Sam makes a face, incredulous.

Sam: Seriously?

Dean insists he has cat-like reflexes, can’t help it.

Gifs by itsokaysammy

Me: Ohgod, I can’t lose them, this is painful…

Also the body is seriously scary because her eyes are OPEN. *shudders*  Nice work, someone.

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Two In A Row! Supernatural Does What It Does Best With ‘Damaged Goods’

I don’t quite know what to do with myself – this is two weeks in a row that I’ve been absolutely blown away by how GOOD the Supernatural episode was. I must have become accustomed to getting a good episode here and there and every now and then a great one, and having the ones in between be frustrating in some way or not quite satisfying. I didn’t even realize how accustomed to that I’d become, but apparently having two fabulous episodes back to back is almost too much for me – I haven’t felt this euphoric about the Show in a while, and it feels amazing to be back to fangirling my little heart out over Supernatural.

Thank you, Show! Thank you Steve Yockey for last week’s episode and Davy Perez for this week’s episode. The cast never disappoints — even when I’m disappointed in the episode itself, I’m never anything but impressed with all of them. But this week and last week, something special happened. That spark, that magic, that “lightning in a bottle” that first captivated me about this Show returned. This week and last week, Jared and Jensen were onscreen together after being apart for much of this season, and I was blown away all over again by how much emotional impact they bring to Sam and Dean when the brothers are interacting. That’s what made me fall in love with this Show, and what I found so compelling – and I’ve missed it. Something happens when those two are onscreen together, when the emotions are so intense and so palpable and so REAL and I can feel everything Sam and Dean are feeling. It’s magic, pure magic.

Damaged Goods was also heartbreaking and horrifying, but that too is what Supernatural has always been about. From the moment we see Dean packing up his duffel, there’s a sense of foreboding. He leaves his room and glances down the hall, almost wistfully. Was he regretting not being able to say goodbye to Cas and Jack? Regretting leaving the place he’s come to call home? He finds Sam in the library, hard at work trying to figure out a way to vanquish Michael and save his brother. Dean overtly expresses his appreciation, and that’s…. odd? Then he says he wants to go see Mom, sounding downright sentimental, and he doesn’t want Sam to come along, and … uh oh. Every alarm bell in my head starts going off. Dean’s going to do something stupid and sacrificial, clearly.

When Dean starts to leave and then suddenly veers to pull Sam into a hug from behind, I already want to cry because something very bad is clearly about to happen. Ackles is brilliant in this small, quiet scene. The way it looks like he’s trying to leave without touching Sam, but he’s pulled almost like a magnetic force, and the way he clutches Sam to him, almost kissing him on the head – it’s almost more maternal than brotherly, so full of affection it makes my heart ache.

“Take care, Sammy,” he says, and forces himself to leave.

Sam stares after him, looking as worried as I’m feeling.

Caps itsokaysammy

Such a small scene, but so much of what this Show is about. The love between these two brothers, the shared history of sacrifice and courage and saving each other and the world and trying to do the right thing – it all adds up to become this intense emotional experience when you’ve been following the Winchesters’ story for going on fourteen years. We know them; we know, as Dean rests his chin on Sam’s head and pulls Sam to him, that this is goodbye.

And that fucking hurts.

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What The Hell Did He See In Dean’s Head? Supernatural 14.05 Nightmare Logic

 

This week’s Supernatural episode didn’t leave me jumping up and down and squeeing to the rooftops – but that’s not actually a complaint. Instead it left me scratching my head and wondering where the hell we’re going from here and what the hell the Djinn saw in Dean’s mind. That’s a feeling I often had in the early seasons of Supernatural, so once again, that makes me a happy fangirl. (Not that I don’t have things to critique, of course…)

The episode started out slow, and at the first break I was feeling a bit meh about it. This surprised me because I usually enjoy Meredith Glynn’s writing quite a bit. It took me a little while to realize that the pace was slower than I’ve grown used to – but once again, that turned out to be a good thing. Instead of ten different plot lines zigzagging through the episode, Glynn and director Darren Grant took their time, following each scene and letting the anticipation or suspense or fear or whatever emotion build before bringing it to a climax. The pace was slower, so you could savor moments like Dean and Sam exploring a dark and scary crypt or Sam fearlessly going up to the attic or Dean quietly bonding with Sasha. I just have gotten used to a faster pace on this Show, so it took until the halfway point for me to realize I was actually appreciating the Show taking its time for a change.

The beginning scene is Maggie, whose name half of my timeline can’t remember, which says something that isn’t good. She’s hunting alone for some reason, and not very competently. Sure enough, she’s attacked and taken down by something that looks like a ghoul. I scratch my head. That’s not the reaction Show was going for most likely, but I honestly cannot manufacture much feeling about the AU hunters. There are way too many of them and I don’t like them in the bunker and that all translates into me just not caring very much what happens to them. Maggie has never seemed like someone who should be a hunter, and we haven’t been given any reason to care about her. It’s like she’s the only one of the random AU people who has a name, so she keeps getting tossed into the story. Sorry, Maggie. At least I’m remembering your name.

Then we’re in the overcrowded bunker, Chief Sam briefing a bunch of AU hunters. He’s all awkward when Dean walks in, which is telling – Sam is clearly not comfortable being the leader when Dean is around. I’m not sure I’m all that comfortable with this new dynamic either, but Dean seems more at ease than either me or Sam.

Dean: You kids have fun out there.

He teases Sam to break the awkwardness, telling him that he did a great job with the whole camp counselor vibe and offering to get him a whistle.

Dean: And they’re checking in? That’s adorable.

It’s not, however, adorable that Sam isn’t getting enough sleep. Protective big brother Dean gets on his back about it, clearly worried. Dean stays in this mode when Sam gets upset that Maggie (Katherine Evans) didn’t check in, trying to reassure Sam that she might still be alive. Poor Sam, his reserves clearly on zero and feeling the burden of responsibility, immediately starts catastrophizing and falling into hopelessness, so it’s a good thing Dean is back to pull him out of it. The brothers are always a good team when they’re together, always knowing what the other one needs to hear in order to keep going. There was a lot of that in this episode, and I appreciate every moment.

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A Supernatural Joy Ride with ‘Mint Condition’

 

There are few things more satisfying than watching a new episode of your favorite show with a bunch of people who share your passion. I was in Minneapolis for a Supernatural convention last Thursday, so of course I was looking forward to watching the show with fellow fans. After a few minutes of panic upon finding out that my hotel didn’t even carry The CW, I took to twitter to see if anyone would take pity on me and invite me over to watch. In a city full of fans, that took about ten seconds, so when 7 pm rolled around I was happily curled up on the sofa in the honors floor suite of some friends’ hotel. We had crackers and cheese and wine and soda and the free buffet that nobody else was apparently interested in – and then the lovely man in charge of the suite kept making us sandwiches and bringing them in for us to try! Ever have those sort of moments when you’re sure that life is too good to be real? This was one of them.

Davy Perez is one of my favorite Supernatural writers, and the previews for ‘Mint Condition’ suggested it would be a fun Halloween-horror-movie-themed episode, but you never know. It turns out, this episode was even more fun than I expected, and an especially good episode to watch with fellow fans. The episode also had some underlying messages that weren’t just there for the fun, which made it a multllayered and sometimes surprisingly meta episode as well.

Perez knows his horror movie tropes, that’s for sure. The episode opens in a comic shop, jam packed full of superhero lunchboxes and action figures and posters, including one for “Hell Hazers”, the film being made in one of the show’s first meta episodes, Hollywood Babylon. I adore when the show references its own history, so that made me squee out loud for the first time in this episode but definitely not the last. The television in the comic shop is tuned to Shocker TV. On screen, Hatchetman says his signature line “time to slice and dice” and then the young guy working at the shop turns it off – and proceeds to stuff a brand new Thundercats Panthro figure into his backpack.

Everyone in the room: Uh oh.

We quickly learn that Stuart isn’t exactly a model employee and in fact is given to angry outbursts and ugly and stigmatizing name-calling. Especially when someone accuses him of being weak, as in not being able to beat up Superman.

When I watched this episode live, it was like being taken on a rollicking roller coaster ride along with my friends, and it was pure joy. On rewatch, the darker themes came through, including some commentary on troll-infested internet culture and the messages about masculinity that can end up being so toxic. Stuart’s barely contained rage when someone threatens his ideas about masculinity (ie, you should be strong enough to beat up Superman or you’ll be a virgin for your whole life) is scarier than most horror tropes in the midst of so much real life violence springing from similar fears and rage. It comes out in Stuart’s treatment of a customer, his outburst at a delayed pizza delivery, and even in his berating fellow players and storming off in the midst of a Fortnite game online.  Stuart, for me, hit a little too close to reality for me to stomach him easily. Or feel much sympathy!

But back to the show. Angry Stuart, kicked out by his roommate and back to living in his mother’s basement, regards his stolen Panthro figure. And then it TURNS ITS HEAD!!!! I legit screamed – look, I admit I have a bit of a thing about dolls and figures coming to life. Too many horror movies as a kid perhaps, but OMG there is nothing more horrifying than thinking that’s a possibility. Following the classic horror movie protocol, Stuart leans in close and ASKS the Panthro what it’s doing.

Everyone in the room: NOOOOO! RUN AWAY!!

Of course he doesn’t, and the fierce little (possessed) Panthro beats the crap out of him with its little nunchucks.  SO creepy!

Back to the bunker, where Dean Winchester is sprawled out on his bed, socked feet up on the nightstand, head on a pillow watching television and eating pizza. Let me repeat. Dean Winchester is sprawled out on his bed. The camera doesn’t exactly do a slow pan as in that early seasons episode (you know the one, black boxers, tee shirt…) but it’s a nice visual, just saying.

 

There’s a Hell Hazers III movie ad, which again makes me squee with continuity joy, and then Dean’s Hatchetman marathon continues. Dean repeats the tag line along with the film: “Time to slice and dice”.

Everyone in the room: Fanboy Dean!!

One of my favorite flavors.

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