Supernatural ‘Optimism’ – Some Laughs, Some Feels and A Bit of Head Scratching

 

Last week’s Supernatural episode, hopefully titled ‘Optimism’, was one of those episodes that fandom didn’t agree on. And that’s okay. Like most episodes of this Show, there were things I liked and things I didn’t. I’ll get to the elephant in the room thing in time, but first, a look at some of the things that worked for me and what didn’t.

Richard Speight Jr. directed the episode, and I tend to really enjoy his directing, so that was a point in this episode’s favor. I like his pacing, and his editing, and I really really like the way he embraces the quirkiness of Supernatural that has always been one of my favorite parts of the Show. Writer Steve Yockey is a good partner for that quirkiness and the two worked well together here. From the first frame, the weirdly upbeat music presents the small town as too-good-to-be-true, including Harper the perky town librarian. She’s got at least two quirky suitors, one of whom seems dangerously jealous and slightly unhinged, so we immediately are suspicious that something bad is going to happen to too-good-to-be-true librarian.

Sure enough, it does. Winston, the nice guy suitor who Harper clearly isn’t into, saunters down the street feeling good about himself after Harper agrees to dinner, and the familiar strains of Stayin’ Alive start to play. Speight mimics the view of John Travolta’s iconic walk in the opening of Saturday Night Fever, which comes off as amusingly ironic when applied to Winston.

And also announces to us that poor happy Winston is probably not long for this world. Yep. Splat.

I loved that whole opening, and it had Speight’s directorial touch all over it.

Back to the bunker, where Jack is piling a ton of sugar into his coffee (ewww) and Dean is looking for Sam. We find out that Sam and Charlie have gone off on a stakeout because Dean was somewhere else and that means we’re not getting Sam and Dean hunting together for a little while. Not something that makes me particularly happy, but I’ll roll with it.

Jack about Sam and Charlie: They’re probably doing something really exciting…

Cut to Sam and Charlie, sitting in a truck and looking bored to death.

These are the edits that Speight is excellent at, the juxtaposition and Jared and Felicia Day’s acting skills making just that little bit hilarious. It was the first time I laughed out loud during this episode but not the last.

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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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Lynn and Kim talk Supernatural and its ‘Various and Sundry Villains’

I haven’t seen so much commentary on a Supernatural episode – and not just by the big outlets who routinely cover the show – in a long time. I’m talking fannish thinky thoughts – on Tumblr, on Twitter, on Facebook, even on LiveJournal! And that says something about ‘Various and Sundry Villains’ and the way Steve Yockey wrote the characters and the story arc this week. It was also the week to honor female directors and filmmakers, so having Amanda Tapping back to direct was wonderful – and she did an amazing job. Not only did the humor come through, but Tapping filmed the emotional scenes in a powerful way – often in ultra close ups, evoking the intimacy of the moment we were witnessing. (And also showing off our very beautiful cast…)

Ruth with director Amanda Tapping – tweet Ruth Connell

So here are my own thinky thoughts to add to the mix, and because everyone had something to say about this episode, here are some of Kim’s (my talented photographer friend) too. Amusingly, we agree passionately about some things and have a completely different take on others. But that’s how fandom should be! What we have in common is a deep love for this Show, which lets us disagree and still have lots in common.

Like most, I loved a lot about the episode, or at least I loved the overwhelming majority of the episode. The two very emotional scenes were award worthy, no question.  There were some times when the episode felt like a roller coaster though – or more accurately a Wild Mouse – because every so often it would lurch to a stop and leave me hanging onto the lap bar going wait, what? There was an unnevenness to it that was jarring at times, and that was confusing – perhaps because there was a TON happening. We’re back to multiple story lines, and that switch back and forth never sits entirely well with me. Every time I get deeply invested in what’s happening we switch to the other story line and I have a moment of irritation before I can make that mental switch too. It’s a common thing on Supernatural, but I don’t entirely enjoy it. My brain likes to go deep and then stay there, especially when my emotions are deeply engaged, as they were in much of this episode.

Kim is much more forgiving. At least she thinks she is…

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Five for Five? Supernatural Advanced Thanatology

I was once again at a convention for last week’s Supernatural episode, so that meant trying frantically to set up the Family Don’t End With Blood vendor table and then running upstairs to borrow a friend’s hotel room to watch the episode. But this time, the hotel actually had the CW – yay!! So I was sitting perched on my friend’s bed watching all by myself, which didn’t stop me from making a lot of noise at times. Sorry, neighboring hotel rooms!

‘Advanced Thanatology’ is an unusual title for an episode, so I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one. Season 13 has been making me pretty happy so far, which means I now go into every episode with all my fingers and toes crossed because I desperately want them to keep the quality up. It’s nervewracking to be a fangirl, what can I say? This episode was written by one of the newer writers, Steve Yockey. And guess what? My finger and toe crossing worked! This is the fifth episode of the season, and the fifth one I liked. Woohoo!

We start with an unusually long opening sequence, in which a few foolish kids play out the horror film genre stereotype of ‘never do this unless you want to die’ behaviors. It was scary as hell, so I appreciated that, even though I admit that part way through I started mumbling ‘where are Sam and Dean, come on!’ I know, spoiled Supernatural fan. I just want my boys!

The actor playing Shawn, Seth Isaac Johnson, did an amazing job portraying his character’s terror though – and Alisen Down as his mom totally broke my heart. Someday I really am gonna send a gigantic fruit basket to Supernatural’s casting agency, because not only are the regulars incredible, most of the guest cast is too! The mom and son pair who were this week’s side characters served as the emotional push for Dean’s building sense of failure to go over the edge, because they portrayed fear and grief and loss so vividly. Shawn initially escapes, but he makes the other stereotypical horror film mistake of bringing home one of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen – a plague mask from the haunted house of a deceased demented doctor. I was honestly afraid I’d have nightmares that night! Kudos props department, kudos.

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Ouch! Supernatural Gets Emotional with Twigs & Twine & Tasha Barnes

Sometimes it’s downright painful being a Supernatural fan! But I don’t mean that as a complaint—this is part of what the Show has always been. Two weeks in a row that were painful is tough to take, there’s no doubt about that, but there was a lot to appreciate in this week’s episode. Even the painful was just done so well! Grudging admiration, Steve Yockey, for the writing, Richard Speight Jr., for the directing, and all the actors for conveying the pain so brilliantly.

Before I do an actual recap, here are some of the reasons for my grudging admiration.

First, I love when an episode is a mirror for the Winchesters. This is a tradition going back all the way to the beginning, something Kripke liked to do and made work extremely well. Sometimes the mirror is a little too large and obvious, but in this case, I didn’t think we were too pounded over the head with it – or maybe I just enjoyed the pounding. Which sounds really wrong.

Max and Alicia, the witch twins, were immediately seen by fans as a mirror of Sam and Dean in their first episode. Their closeness, the way they talked at the same time and finished each other’s sentences, the way they squabbled but clearly always had each other’s backs – all of that reminded us of the Winchester brothers. Sibling pairs often are used in the show as a mirror for the brothers, so that wasn’t a surprise.

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