Happy 300th Episode Supernatural! Five Reasons ‘Lebanon’ Brought The Tears

 

I watched the milestone 300th episode of my favorite show of all time, Supernatural, with a horrendous case of the flu and no voice at all. I couldn’t live tweet and I didn’t have the stamina to read what anyone else thought of the episode, on twitter or anywhere else, so I missed a bit of the ‘we’re all in this together’ feeling that I relish when the Show has a special episode like this. I watched it on DVR later that night, curled up under a blanket with lots of tissues (for multiple purposes) and a cup of hot tea with honey instead of the wine and cherry pie I’d been planning. It’s taken me almost a week to finally find the strength to sit down at a keyboard and write out my thoughts. But you know what? I was as emotional as I’ve ever been about an episode of this Show that consistently makes me VERY emotional. And that’s really saying something.

Now that I can think a little more clearly, I’ve come up with five reasons why this episode worked so well for me (and I think for most people), but to do the episode justice, let’s start at the beginning. I also note a few things that shouldn’t have worked so well, but those mostly got lost in the shuffle of OMG FEEEEEELINGS that characterized my viewing experience.

The emotional hooks start immediately – we’re vaulted right back to the start, the boys (babies!) uttering the iconic lines “Dad’s on a hunting trip” and “We got work to do.”  For someone like me who has been watching from the start, it meant everything that the ‘Then’ went all the way back to the beginning and reminded me of just how long this Show has been a big part of my life.

Then we’re rolling, and instead of guest stars of the week, we get to follow the Winchesters right away, so color me happy. Sam and Dean in a pawn shop searching for something specific, buying their way into the secret back room where the occult items are shelved. Sam surprised me by being the one to mess with an ominous looking teddy bear (it’s usually Dean who can’t keep his hands off things like that and Sam doing the eyeroll, though Dean does get his chance later with the dragon’s breath thingy).

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And then with a twist, it turns out the boys are tracking down the shop owner who killed a hunter and stole all this dangerous stuff. He makes the mistake of attacking Sam with a giant scimitar and threatening him, with a speech that ends with “You’re a big boy…” so of course Dean kills him.

Dean: They always talk too much…

I laughed out loud – or I would have if I was capable of making any actual sound. So this is going to follow the Show’s tradition of being a little self referential and a wee bit meta then, and that makes me very happy indeed. The Robbie Thompson-penned 200th episode, Fan Fiction, one of my favorites of the series, was more than a wee bit meta and I loved every minute of it. It seems fitting that the Show should give both its fans and its cast some wink wink nudge nudges in a milestone episode, and that’s Reason No. 1 that this episode worked for me. There were numerous call backs to previous iconic scenes, plus a whole bunch of Easter eggs scattered throughout, from items we’ve seen in past episodes to Family Business Beer signs. I loved every one of them! Thanks, Meredith Glynn and Andrew Dabb, for working so hard to get them all in, and so organically.

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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.

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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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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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