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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

It’s the Last Supernatural Season Finale – And I’ve Got Feelings! (14.20, Moriah)

 

Last week was the Season 14 finale of my favorite show, Supernatural.  The last Supernatural season finale, ever; the next one will be the series finale. As season finales have done for over a decade, the ‘Road So Far’ was accompanied by the song that’s become the unofficial theme song for Supernatural, Kansas’ Carry On (Wayward Son). I immediately burst into tears, which isn’t the first time. I don’t even want to think about the state I’ll be in when Carry On starts to play a year from now and we all know it’s the last time.

Two days later, I’m still conflicted about the episode – and damn, do I have a lot of questions! I was not alone in my split opinions.  My timeline literally alternated between “Genius OMG!” and “Stupidest episode ever how dare you!”  I had whiplash just trying to skim through Twitter. The confusing thing is, I get it. I get both reactions. As often happens to me, I’m caught somewhere in the middle instead of being firmly all in with one group or the other. You can look at this episode from multiple perspectives, and each sends me to a different emotional space. One thing is for certain – I still care about this Show just as much as I always have, because it kept me awake half the night and was the first thing I thought about when I woke up this morning. That in itself is pretty amazing.

So let’s walk (or run, really, because this was a fast paced episode) through ‘Moriah’, and see what worked and on what level – and what didn’t.

I love ‘The Road So Far’ in every season finale. This one recapped pretty much all of Season 14, from Michael to the return of John and the epic family reunion in the 300th episode. There was some epic VFX and some emotional moments, and then we pick up right where we left off – with Jack having blown up the Ma’lak box and escaped.

He confronts Sam, Dean and Cas, eyes glowing ominously.

Jack: You lied to me!

He throws them across the room, but at least he didn’t incinerate them. And then he’s gone.

Dean and Castiel are still very much at odds in this episode, Dean arguing that Jack is dangerous and needs to be stopped.

Dean: Now he’s just another monster.

Cas: (shocked) You don’t mean that.

Dean: The hell I don’t.

Fandom was still split about Jack and whether he’s still a misunderstood nougat loving boy trying to do the right thing or a soulless dangerously powerful being who’s killed people. Logically I think it’s pretty clear the latter is true, but emotionally the Show keeps making sure we remember the former version of Jack and thus feel for him. So Dean still comes off as pretty harsh, and very very angry.

Director Phil Sgriccia makes the emotional scene between Dean and Cas jump off the screen with its intensity, and Jensen Ackles and Misha Collins both bring it. They are both angry, both convinced they are right and the other is wrong – and that the stakes are high because someone (Jack or other people) will die if they don’t do what they feel they need to. Sam is the emotional core of the audience in much of this episode, cringing as the two people he’s so close to have it out but unable to intervene.

One of the things I haven’t liked in Season 14 is the lack of interaction between Dean and Sam, which is why I started watching the Show in the first place. In this episode, they actually get to talk, so that goes in the win column (though their conversation is uncharacteristically awkward). Dean wants Sam to know that he realizes how hard this is for Sam and what Jack meant to him.

Dean: Hell, he meant a lot to me too, he was family. But this is not Jack anymore. We have to do the hard thing, the ugly thing. Not like it’s the first time though, right?

At the time I thought that was an odd thing to say. In retrospect, I see that Andrew Dabb (who is both the showrunner and the writer of this episode) was trying to foreshadow the eventual reveal that the Winchesters have been manipulated their whole lives into doing all kinds of hard and ugly things – for the amusement of God. I mean, Chuck.

It was interesting that Dean continued to refer to Jack as “the kid” throughout this conversation with his brother, even as he’s trying to convince Sam that he needs to be killed. I saw this as evidence of Dean’s ambivalence. I said in my last review, Dean is not as certain about this course of action as he seems. It’s there in little tells like that. He likes to bluster and present his decision as something he’s absolutely certain about, but Dean is a much deeper thinker than that – and he feels things more deeply than he lets on too.

Meanwhile, Jack is hurt that he was lied to by the father figures he trusted, and hypervigilant for all the lying that humans do all the time – which of course he finds evidence of everywhere. Jack’s temper gets the better of him again, and he orders everyone to “Stop lying!”

Which they do.

Sam and Dean put on their fed suits (momentary detour to say that yes, the boys do look damn good in their fed suits) and head out in the Impala to look for Jack. They drive to a company called Mirror Universe which looks like it must be in California (and seems like some sort of call out to every science fiction episode ever that had one, including arguably Supernatural’s own AU). Either that or it’s a hint about what eventually happens in this episode.

Dean scoffs at the “nerds” but Sam isn’t having it. (Because Sam Winchester as we head into the last season has had it up to here with not speaking his mind, and he’s doing it – and I am here for it!)

Sam: Takes one to know one.

He proceeds to prove it by rattling off all the totally nerdy things that fanboy Dean does, including watching Jeopardy every night just like me; Dean doesn’t deny any of them. Jared and Jensen were gold in this entire scene, their expressions on point and their brotherly chemistry lighting up the screen.

Dean beelines for the attractive woman at the desk, assuming he can charm her (not a bad assumption).

Dean (flashing his badge per usual): I’m Dean Winchester and I’m looking for the Devil’s son.

Receptionist: What?

Dean: What?

He tries to correct himself and blurts it out again, ending with “And this badge is fake.”  Ackles and comedy never cease to amaze me.

The formerly peaceful employees of Mirror Universe are also suddenly unable to lie, which results in confessions of affairs (and unexpected voyeurism), accusations of yogurt theft with resulting violence, and someone walking around exclaiming “I hate everyone!”

Dean proves that they can’t lie either by demanding that Sam tell him who his favorite singer is, because he knows Sam is lying when he says Elvis. (In fact, I’m pretty sure he knows what the real answer is, he just wants to hear Sam say it).

Sam says Celine Dion every time he tries to say Elvis, which I admit annoyed me. Celine Dion? Oh come on, really, Show?

Read more

Supernatural Puts ‘Jack In The Box’ – and Me In A Mood

 

It’s a tough time to be a fan. I have two shows that I absolutely adore, and both of those shows delivered a gut punch last week that left me reeling. The Magicians season finale saw the death of one of my favorite characters (and half of my favorite ship) and it was both excruciatingly well done and absolutely heartbreaking (and maybe a bit problematic too). The very next night, Supernatural aired its penultimate episode of Season 14. I was already raw from the anticipatory grieving about Supernatural ending this time next year, and then The Magicians ripped me apart, so I went into watching “Jack In The Box” with more trepidation and dread than anticipation.

To those of you saying hey, why can’t you just watch the Show and love it? Let me just say that I would give ANYTHING to be able to do that right now. I DO love it, I will always love it. What I really want to do is squee about it all the time.  But last week’s episode left me feeling sad and vaguely sick to my stomach, so there’s not a lot of squee to be had right now.

I always go back and do a rewatch before I write my review, but today I found every excuse not to. Have to run out and pick up the ham for tomorrow’s dinner. Have to grade some papers. Have to clean….and water the plants (we have lot of plants, so that took alot of time)…have to….  Finally I couldn’t put it off any longer, and the rewatch made me feel every bit as sick to my stomach as the first watch did. I guess you can say that means the episode was well done, because it was clearly crafted to be upsetting (just as the episode before was crafted to be very sad), but when I don’t want to watch it, I’m not sure that’s the level of upset the Show was going for.

There were lots of times back in the day when fandom would all go online after a rip-you-apart episode of Supernatural and post tons of icons (predecessor of gifs) saying “Damn You Kripke!”

The Show has never played it the easy way, and it has never been lollipops and rainbows. It’s a story filled with tragedy, but it has also always been a story with hope and with characters I loved fiercely, who were often heroic in the face of tragedy. Terrible things have happened to our heroes over the years, and they’ve had to make terrible decisions to save the world and each other, but this episode was particularly hard to swallow. I’m well aware that my emotions (like most of the fandom’s) are heightened because we know we have only 21 episodes left of this story that is so important to us. That makes every episode that doesn’t hit quite right for me seem even more upsetting than it would have before we knew the end was imminent. So with that in mind, here are my thoughts on ‘Jack In The Box.’

We’ve known the episode title for quite a while, so everyone knew that Jack was probably going to end  up in that goddamn box, but I for one didn’t want to believe it. The Ma’lak box was so profoundly upsetting to the fandom when Dean was determined to get in it, and his nightmare so horrifying, that the thought of Jack in that box was almost unthinkable. So I guess I chose not to think about it. Still, as the ‘Then’ segment started, a chilling dread began to settle over me. Please Show, don’t go there. Please?

Let me just say at the outset that all the actors outdid themselves. They all played their parts incredibly well and every one of them made me genuinely feel. It wasn’t always what I wanted to feel, but feel I did. Robert Singer directed (and had a cameo as a doctor) and that was also as well done as always. The VFX was on point and the cinematography and set dec were often breathtakingly beautiful. I appreciate my Show even when I’m reluctant to go where it’s taking me.

We open with a memorial service for Mary in the bunker. The AU hunters and other people who’ve hunted with her are there, her photo (or rather Sam Smith’s photo) and John’s journal on the table. Sam, Dean and Cas join the group but only Dean speaks. He’s carefully composed, makes a joke about Mary’s cooking even, while Sam stands silent, nodding in agreement.

Dean: We lost our mom once before…

It’s something important to remember when you look at Dean’s behavior in this episode. There’s this thing with grief that’s called the “fishhook effect”. A new loss “hooks into” all the old loss and pulls it up like a fish snagged on a line, so that the pain of the new loss brings up all the pain of the old one and it’s overwhelming. That’s what happens to Dean here, I think. Unlike Sam, he remembers the horrible pain of losing his mother as a four year old, something that has shaped his life ever since and left him with a reservoir of anger that he’s channeled into making him an often ruthless hunter.

Dean expresses their gratitude that they got to know her and what she was really like, a smart and stubborn hunter who couldn’t cook worth a damn.

Dean: Mom, you weren’t here long enough…. But we’re glad for the time we had.

There’s a weird and jarring moment in the middle of all this where AU Bobby suddenly appears and tosses a hatchet across the room to kill one of the guests, who apparently is a wraith, but WTF? It was all very odd.

WTF?

AU Bobby says what we’re all thinking – that maybe Dean is like him, “bein’ teary in public’s not my style.”

That’s for sure because Bobby doesn’t seem very torn up at all for someone who was maybe kinda sorta having a bit of a thing with Mary.

At any rate, it’s soon clear that something is up with Dean. Sam suggests they open Ketch’s bottle of Scotch and hang out and talk about Mom.

Dean: (almost coldly) Talk about Mom? Isn’t that what we’ve been doing?

Ouch.

He boxes things up with steely motivation, like he thinks he can just box up his grief over losing his mother (again).

Courtesy of that grief and loss course I’m currently teaching, Dean and Sam struggle to understand each other in this episode or to be there for each other because they have two very different styles of grieving. Sam is an intuitive griever – he wants to express his grief and share his feelings, eager to take in the comfort of others. Dean, on the other hand, is an instrumental griever. He keeps his feelings to himself and tries to DO something instead – like plan a memorial and box up his mother’s things. Neither can help the other right now, and that’s heartbreaking.

Cas, Sam and Bobby break out the Scotch as Sam looks at one of the very few (only?) photos of him, Dean and Mary when they were little.

They disagree, however, about what to do about Jack.

Cas: We need to find Jack…and help him.

Bobby: I liked the kid… but if his human side is gone, he’s an unstoppable monster who don’t know right from wrong, and he needs to be put down!

Bobby sets off to do just that, and Dean takes off saying he needs to get out of there.

When the next scene opens, we see that Dean has parked the Impala in the woods and is sitting alone on a fallen log. He looks around one last time to make sure nobody is watching him, and then he finally breaks down. Jensen Ackles can make you believe grief like no one else, and he sobbed for real here. I can’t help but wonder if he was crying real tears knowing he will be losing Dean Winchester soon, the way so many of us keep crying. At any rate, it was a heartbreaking scene. Ackles talked about it at a recent convention, saying that it was a brutal scene to film because it was cold and pouring rain and they needed to shoot from above so there couldn’t be any shelter for him. It sounded like it took a long time to film, so it’s sort of a shame it was so short. It got the point across though. Dean is hurting – BAD. He just can’t let anyone know it.

Gifs itsokaysammy

And what is the most common ‘cover’ emotion when someone is hurting that badly? You guessed it. Anger.

Read more