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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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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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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Hellatus Is Over! Supernatural Returns with Stranger In A Strange Land

 

Full disclosure: I saw the season premiere episode for the first time two weeks ago at the Entertainment Weekly sneak peek screening in New York City. But somehow I was still entirely caught up in the excitement of Thursday as premiere day – there’s something energizing about an entire fandom all over the world all online and watching in some way, shape or form and all bouncing from anticipation! At the EW event, I got to watch the episode with Jared Padalecki, Jensen Ackles and Danneel Ackles, which was an amazing experience. None of them had seen the episode either, so I got to see them react at the same time as I was reacting – and at times got to see them react to the fans in the room reacting to them. It’s French Mistake levels of meta!

(You can read all about that experience here – Sneak Peek at Supernatural Season 14 in NYC)

That experience colored my rewatch when the episode aired live on Thursday night, and only made it better. There were things that didn’t 100% work for me in the episode, but those were largely overshadowed by the things that very much did. I’ve been waiting two weeks to be able to talk about the episode, so here goes!

The recap reminds us that last season saw Dean Winchester expressing a rare optimism about being able to actually rid the world of bad stuff – a tiny bit of hope that maybe they really could create a better world. That idea of “a better world” gets an entirely different spin in Season 14, beginning with the premiere. Meanwhile, recap music is blasting as we review all the incredible things that happened last season.

Me as the recap of the Road So Far plays: MY SHOW IS SO EFFING BADASS!!!

Supernatural is also creative; the opening music bleeds into an AC/DC song on the Impala’s radio, and a bearded stern-faced Sam Winchester turns it off. Nice touch, and it immediately lets us know that Sam Winchester is not in fact okay. That’s Dean’s music, and it must be incredibly painful to be driving his brother’s car and listening to his brother’s music when Dean himself is not there. Jared’s face also lets us know that Sam is very far from okay – the actor doesn’t need any dialogue to show us just how upset and how driven Sam Winchester is right now. (Make no mistake, I’d LOVE for him to have more dialogue that also shows us that though!)

Just the fact that Sam is alone driving the Impala was incredibly painful to see – I miss Dean Winchester like a missing limb.

We jump from Jared to Jensen, but not to Dean from Sam. Instead it’s Michael, interrupting a holy man’s prayers. This is the scene we saw at Comic Con many months ago, so it’s a familiar one, but no less chilling for its familiarity. Ackles invests Michael with so much quiet, understated menace, it gives you goosebumps. He’s soft spoken, the cadence of his speech slower than Dean’s, more deliberate. He pronounces every consonant because he’s in no hurry; he’s an all powerful being so he has all the time in the world. All those conscious choices make Michael an entirely new character even as he’s played by one of the lead actors we know and love.

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