It’s Gonna Take A lot To Drag Me Away (From Supernatural)

I love the title of this episode (thank you, writer Meghan Fitzmartin). In fact, I’m listening to Toto right now as I write this review. ‘Africa’, the lyrics of which inspired this episode’s title, is a pop culture phenomenon, but it’s also special to the Supernatural fandom, and nobody knows that better than Meghan. It’s so special that I broke my ‘don’t let yourself get onstage for karaoke at a Supernatural con’ rule and joined my friend Alana and her cousin for our karaoke version of Africa along with Kim Rhodes, Briana Buckmaster, Matt Cohen and Richard Speight, Jr. – who were all dumbfounded that I was up there doing it. That’s the power this song has over me! Chris Schmelke plays it in photo ops regularly, and I’ve witnessed all sorts of people succumbing to its power, including Jared and Jensen and impromptu waltzes. After ‘Carry On’, it’s one of the songs that is most reminiscent of this wild ride I’ve been on for fifteen years with this show, and it’s always going to bring both smiles and tears every time I hear it. So thank you, Meghan.

This was one of those episodes that kicked up a lot of divergent opinions in the fandom – some people loved it, some people hated it, and a lot of people had conflicting emotions. You can probably guess that I’m one of them, as this show often leaves me feeling that way recently. There was a lot I enjoyed, and then there were a few things that drove me crazy.

I’m glad we got one more flashback episode, because frankly I could watch Weechesters for an entire spinoff tv series and be ecstatic about that. Amyn Kaderali always does a great job directing this show, and he did so here, setting up some truly scary moments while at the same time showcasing Jerry Wanek’s iconic motel décor beautifully.

There were scenes I loved and dialogue I loved. There were also a few things that made me jump up and down and start yelling at my tv screen, which is never a good sign when I’m watching Supernatural. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating – every episode matters now. Every scene, every interaction, every moment, matters now. We have FOUR episodes left. Once again, that makes me cherish just having time with the Winchesters, but also grow frustrated quickly when something doesn’t quite work. Let me start from the beginning, which happens to be in the present.

The Rooster’s Sunrise Motel is quintessential Supernatural. “If I Didn’t Care” plays as adult Travis (Ryan Alexander McDonald) checks into a particular room – 214. Interesting song choice – If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t be trying to get past this trauma? If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t lie to you to try to protect you?  There are a lot of options.

Anyway, the opening scene was scary as hell, Travis trying to talk himself into being calm and facing his fears, while we see the closet door slowly opening behind him. AAHHHH!!! A ghostly kid taunts and attacks him. Poor Travis.

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Supernatural Brings Some Laughs with ‘Peace of Mind’

 

I watched this episode of Supernatural from an unusual perspective (for me, at least). I wasn’t able to watch Peace of Mind live, nor was I able to watch it for almost an entire week thanks to being on family vacation. (Despite what most people would probably assume, I actually do prioritize the kids over my favorite show. Okay, maybe I did sneak off and try to watch a bit of the episode on the CW app on Sunday, but that lasted about five minutes, so I gave up after only a single attempt. Pretty respectable, I think.)  This meant that I was partially spoiled for the episode, but more importantly, that I already knew what most of my social media timelines thought of it. I intentionally have a wide range of friends and acquaintances on various platforms, and they have a wide range of reasons why they love Supernatural, so it’s not surprising that some people loved the episode and some people hated it.

If you really needed a break from the angst and a good laugh, you probably loved it. If you watch for quality Misha Collins content, you were pretty pleased. If you ship Sastiel or are amused by Misha Collins and Jared Padalecki’s real life (adorable) teasing friendship, you got way more than you ever dreamt you would and were probably over the moon. If you watch for Sam and Dean and expect them to be interacting alot, maybe you weren’t. In other words, as in most things fandom, your mileage may vary.

When I tweeted that I hadn’t been able to watch and had no clue whether I’d like it or not, I had a lot of predictions from people in all those contingents about how I’d feel when I finally sat down to watch, which was also really interesting to hear. That watching thing finally happened last night, and guess what? Even I didn’t predict my reaction very accurately!

I didn’t have a strong emotional reaction in either direction, perhaps because I was already prepared for what the episode would contain. That allowed me to look at it with two different lenses, which is not the way I would usually do a review, but I think it’s helpful here. As a 42 minute piece of episodic television, I think Peace Of Mind was well done – and very enjoyable. Collins and Padalecki together in Charming Acres were comedy gold, both of them hitting just the right notes, and Meghan Fitzmartin’s teleplay giving them all the right dialogue to play with. They looked like they were having the time of their lives and that enthusiasm carried right over onto the screen. That story line – let’s call it the A story line – was particularly well done.

Misha shared at the Nashville Supernatural convention last weekend that there had been a scene where Sam lands on top of Castiel, and that Jared had way too much fun with that, including making “an impact”. That little tease primed me for the scene, and when it actually happened I laughed out loud, imagining all the fun Padalecki must have had with a trapped Collins who’s trying to stay in character. I’m crossing all my fingers and toes for lots of gag reel content from that one, because Phil Sgriccia was directing and he definitely knows when to let the cameras keep rolling!

I loved the set dec and locations that transformed a part of Vancouver into the idyllic and picturesque (according to Cas) Charming Acres, and the campy music and back-in-time costumes. Supernatural never cuts corners and it shows.

The B story line, as Dean tries to figure out if Jack is in the angel or devil camp (at times with a Twinkie choice test), worked less well for me, but perhaps that’s inevitably colored by having expectations for how these characters would be feeling after recent canon events. There was humor there too, but it didn’t work as well for me in the B story line. That may be because there just wasn’t as good a reason for the departure from the Show’s usual angst and darkness, like there was in the A story line. Alex Calvert and Keith Szarabajka (Donatello) had some lovely scenes together, but I think the back and forth between what was happening in Charming Acres to Cas and Sam and then to what was happening with Jack and Dean kept jarring me. I was more invested in the Sam and Cas story and didn’t want to keep being yanked away, which is a recurring problem with me and Supernatural when they have two separate story lines running.

From purely the perspective of an episode of television, the bookended brief Winchester brothers moments at the start and end were a separate thing too. They worked for me, and I was glad they were there, but perhaps that’s largely because I was waiting for them as a Supernatural fan.

So that’s the first perspective. Congrats to Meghan for her first episode as a writer and to Steve Yockey for his co-writing, especially for the entire Charming Acres story line. I literally laughed out loud – more than once!

The second perspective is of someone who has watched Supernatural since the beginning and is emotionally invested in this season’s story line as well as in the individual characters. From that perspective, I wasn’t quite as happy with the episode. Did we need a break from the angst? I know some people did, but I was in my happy place after the emotion-drenched episodes we had in the middle of the season and craving nothing more than a continuation of that angsty Winchestery goodness. I do enjoy the “funny” episodes, and I did enjoy this one, but I was also a little frustrated that it popped into the middle of a pretty serious overarching story arc.

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