Winchesters Caught In The Mousetrap – Supernatural ‘Game Night’

 

Twenty three more Supernatural episodes to go, and counting. Last week’s ‘Game Night,’ written by Meredith Glynn and directed by John Showalter, was the first episode I watched knowing that the Show was coming to an end, so I think I was even more attentive than usual. As in, nobody should say a word to me while I’m relishing every last second of my favorite show for the next solid year! It wasn’t a perfect episode, but it was a wild rollercoaster of both action and emotion, and that means I enjoyed it – and was grateful to be able to see a new episode. That’s going to be the case from now on in, but I’ll probably still find things to quibble about in the midst of my relishing. Okay, make that definitely.

The ‘Then’ includes Nick, which made me groan because I’m just over that story line and the inevitable tie-in to Lucifer (as is about 99.9% of the fandom, but apparently that news has not reached the network). The ‘Now’ begins with someone baking cookies and for a split second I thought it was Dean doing some nesting in the bunker, but nope, it’s Donatello humming and baking in his cozy kitchen. I really like Donatello so when the doorbell rang I started shaking my head immediately, even before he wound up tied to a table with a gigantic hypodermic needle poking into his neck. (I closed my eyes but his screams were still audible). Ouch.

Back at the bunker, it’s Winchester Game Night. Dean is fixing his favorite childhood game, Mousetrap (aww), Jack is making Jiffy Pop on the stove and Mary’s got the beers. Sammy’s out picking up the pepperoni meat intensive pizzas and one with pineapple for Jack, over Dean’s objections. It’s a nice domestic scene which means things are about to go south in a big way.

Sure enough, Dean gets a phone call pleading for help from Donatello.

Dean: So much for Winchester Game Night…

He tries to call Sam but there’s conveniently no signal – that’s Show’s favorite way of splitting characters up, oops, no service suddenly – so he and Mary head off with instructions for Jack to fill Sam in. (I do love that Sam’s voicemail says if you can’t reach him to ‘call my brother’ just like John’s always said ‘call my son Dean’.)

Once Sam gets back he says what I’m thinking – I should be there with you!

Dean assures him it’s okay, and Sam takes issue (me too, Sam).

Sam to Dean: Watch your back.

Dean: That’s the plan.

Winchester for love you, be careful.

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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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Supernatural ‘Exodus’ – Back From the AU and On to the Season Finale!

 

After my epic review of last week’s episode, I’ll try to make this one more concise – which I realize isn’t saying much with the bar that low. Exodus, the penultimate episode of Season 13, began with a lengthy recap, which caused me to start encouraging my television to “come on, get to it, we know what happened last week!”

I suppose it’s possible that someone forgot that Sam Winchester died in the last episode and that Lucifer brought him back and that he has just now walked into the rebel camp – where Sam sees Mary alive and Dean sees Sam alive. But I don’t know that person.

I do love that they pick up right where they left off, which doesn’t happen often enough and which gives the episode an extra sense of urgency and immediacy. Sam hugs Mary, who he’s been trying desperately to get to all season, and Dean stares at Sam over Mary’s shoulder like he almost can’t believe it, with a soft “Sam?”

As soon as Sam and Dean have a moment alone, they both need to reconnect after the intense emotions each has experienced – Dean’s devastation at losing Sam and Sam’s shame and guilt at being brought back by Lucifer and bringing him to the camp.

Sam: I’m sorry about all this.

I held my breath, waiting to see what Dean would say and my heart breaking for Sam – who has absolutely nothing to be sorry about but is always ALWAYS worried about disappointing his big brother.

Dean: Are you good?

Sam: I’m alive, yeah.

Dean: Well then you’ve got nothin’ to apologize for.

Me: OMG YES!

Dean pulls Sam into a hug, wraps him up so very tight, and you can see the moment when Sam lets go of that guilt and self-blame and just leans into it, letting his brother hold him. Realizing that it’s okay, that all Dean cares about is that Sam is alive and well and that’s all that matters.

Dean: I thought I lost you, man.

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Director (and Guest Star) Richard Speight Jr. Brings the Emotions in ‘Unfinished Business’

I am loving the lead up to Supernatural’s Season 13 finale. With four episodes remaining, this week’s ‘Unfinished Business’ kept up the momentum and continued the work of bringing the team together who will try to save the world (from AU Michael or Lucifer or the both of them). We’ve now gotten rid of Asmodeus to clear off the playing field a bit, and by the end of this episode Castiel, Gabriel and Rowena will all be in the bunker with the Winchesters getting ready to save Mary and Jack (oh, and the world).

Richard Speight, Jr. directed this episode, which wouldn’t be OMG AMAZING in itself since he has already directed multiple episodes. What makes it OMG AMAZING is that Richard ended up directing an episode in which he also is the featured guest star! They assign the directing schedule early on, so originally they didn’t know Gabriel would be getting an origin story, or that this would be it. When I sat down with Richard earlier this year after his first directing foray for Season 13, he knew he’d be directing episode 20 but had no idea what it would be. Turns out it’s one that stars his own character, Gabriel! Not one to be easily discouraged, Speight opted to do it anyway. He must have worked his butt off, but he pulled off a tour de force performance as not one guest character, but TWO – Gabriel and Loki!


Two of Speight’s previous directing outings have been favorites of mine, especially Season 11’s ‘Just My Imagination’ and Season 12’s ‘Stuck In The Middle With You’. The latter was beautifully directed and scored, the title and the music and the directing choices a loving tribute to Quentin Tarantino’s films. That was writer Davy Perez who wrote the nod to Tarantino, but Richard told me in an interview at that time that he then knew he could pick up the momentum and roll with it.

Richard: …I decided oh, I can totally go stylized with this, we’re gonna go cinematically stylized, and I can dive in and keep fanning the flames in that direction. So that led to a lot of Western themes that I put in there, and to a Western score that got put in…. I’m a big Sergio Leone fan, and it felt like there was a lot we sort of pulled from that.

‘Unfinished Business’ also lent itself to being cinematically stylized, from some of the filming choices to the set dec to the awesome music score by Jay Gruska that really set the episode apart. Gruska apparently composed original music even for Gabriel’s kazoo solo, which was perfect for the alley fight scene – and also worked as an homage to Supernatural actor and Richard Speight good friend Rob Benedict’s band, Louden Swain (fans who love the band join in with a kazoo chorus on one of their best-loved songs). Gruska’s score was integral to the cinematic styling of this episode, making some of the pivotal scenes more memorable.

In some of the previous episodes he has directed, I’ve been impressed with the beautiful cinematography and lighting and asked Richard about it. His appreciation for director of photography Serge Ladouceur’s talent makes their collaboration a particularly striking one. In War of the Worlds, for example, he said that he’d almost over-shot the sequence with Lucifer in the hanging cage being tormented by Michael because it just looked so cool!
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Things Get Serious with Supernatural ‘Funeralia’

The ominously titled “Funeralia,” written by Steve Yockey and directed by (one of my favorite directors) Nina Lopez-Corrado, kept the momentum going as Supernatural nears the end of Season 13. I had a few quibbles with this episode, but there was quite a bit that I loved a lot.

This episode had only two story lines going, which made the back and forth feel less overwhelming than it sometimes does, and I appreciated that. It let the emotional impact of both story arcs come through much more clearly, and honestly, that’s usually my favorite thing about an episode of this show. Adventure is good, but I watch for the emotional resonance, for the characters who are so real that they feel things – and I can feel with them.

Story line number one was Castiel and the fate of Heaven and the Angels. I am not always very adept at following the angelic story lines because they seem to shift from time to time when I’m not paying enough attention (or maybe that’s why I don’t pay enough attention). In this episode, Naomi reminds Cas (who apparently already knew) that Heaven is powered by angels, and without angels, all the souls housed there will fall to earth as ghosts. Huh? Weren’t there whole seasons when no one – Cas included – was at all concerned about the angel population and everyone seemed very willing to lead armies against other angel factions and kill lots of angels? Was nobody worried about Heaven being out of power as a result?? There was a time when Metatron ejected all the angels from Heaven, so I’m not sure how it kept being powered up then (or maybe he left a few dozen up there?) I also didn’t think it was powered by angels in the first place – wasn’t it powered by souls? And that’s why everyone wanted them from Purgatory? And then there was also the reapers are actually angels thing, which nobody mentioned this time, but I think that went away rather quickly which is probably for the best.

At any rate, I was a bit confused by all that new information about Heaven. Angel and Heaven canon in this Show tend to be a bit flexible, which is not my favorite thing. I was also confused about why no one told Cas that Lucifer was actually in Heaven – and where is he, for that matter? Or Jo?

Those quibbles aside, Misha Collins and Amanda Tapping made the Heaven story line compelling anyway, because they were both so damn good.
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