Tuesday, April 28, 2009

No More Blues Brothers

Not too long ago, it occurred to me how comfortable the boys have become in suits. And that made me think of how the episodes now compare to previous seasons. Let us count the ways the Winchester Brothers have changed (or not) in four years...

The Suits

Remember in "Phantom Traveler," they came out of a shop looking like the Blues Brothers in cheap black suits? Dean complained about that, and walked like the whole thing itched.

Contrast that with "Jump the Shark," when the bartender took him for a cop or fed right from the get-go. Both boys have a couple of suits stuffed in their duffels now, and not only don't hesitate to pull them out for a pretext, but wear them as if they were born to do so.


Their pretexting (cover stories) have gotten slicker, though Dean does still like to use the rocker names, and they even have backup for their covers (ref. Bobby in "Sex and Violence" with his wall of agency phones).

The brotherly comfort level has changed, too, but it's come full circle. In season one they had the same goal but different motivations. They butted heads because of it, and their methods often grated on each other. They held things back from each other, too, especially after Dad died.

When Dean saved Sammy and consigned himself to hell, they came together in a new way. They relied on each other more, and even though it wasn't all smooth sailing, they were closer to partners (at least at times) than they ever had been before.

But now they've come to the joining of the mobius strip (like "full circle" but twisted away from how it started), and they're once again keeping things from each other, with different motivations taking them toward the same goal.

Whew. Got dark for a moment there. Let's lighten it up.

Every Season Has Its...

Ghost Episode(s)
Spirits manifest in different ways in the Supernatural universe. Ghosts are a classic staple, and they use them extensively.

Season 1: A dead boy gets revenge from his watery grave, a dead woman gets revenge from reflective surfaces, a dead priest gets revenge through his hook... And just to be a little different, a dead mother gets revenge on a poltergeist who dares to go after her sons.

Season 2: The ghost was good! The drug addict one, anyway. The HH Wells one was the epitome of bad. *shudder* The little girl ghost was just as vengeful/angry as any have been, but we got to see her as a normal person, and the resolution in that episode didn't come, for once, from the boys. (Aside: That ep provided one of my all-time favorite quotes, "Dude! You're not gonna poke her with a stick!" and the drunken exchange.) They took things even further with a ghost who didn't know she was a ghost, a bunch of celebrity ghosts being controlled by a vengeful writer, and one applying her own brand of justice to prison inmates in death as she had in life.

Whew. I never realized just how hard they ply the revenge theme in this show!

Truncated Season 3 only hit the ghost episodes twice, with a girl who wasn't actually dead and a lonely, creepy guy who was incidental to the real purpose of the show: bringing back the Ghostfacers!

By Season 4, they've really run out the genre. We saw some spirits conjured by Lilith (out for revenge) and the "Whoops! We're not really ghosts!" episode, also dealing with revenge. There were 3 other ghost episodes so far this season, but I've rattled on long enough. I'm kind of shocked there were so many, and used in so many different ways. Kudos to the writers for their creativity.

Every Season Also Has Its...

Faith Episode

Imagined dialogue in the writer's room while breaking episodes:

Season one: "Let's explore how ephemeral yet powerful faith can be, especially in desperate circumstances."

Season two: "Faith was so much fun last year, we should explore it again. Dean is a non-believer, but Sam believes wholeheartedly. Won't it be cool if they both have good reason to feel the way they do, and it's the same reason?"

Season three: "Dean's going to hell and we're sitting on our asses with this strike. Let's just hold off until season 4."

Season four: "Eh, what the hell. Let's stop pussyfootin' and just go all the way."

Then there's the...

Flashback or Alternate Reality Episode

1.18, Wee!Dean rebels against his tedious, self-sacrificing role taking care of Sammy, and almost lets him get taken by a striga.

Michael: You said you're a big brother?
Dean Winchester: Yeah.
Michael: You'd take care of your little brother? You'd do anything for him?
Dean Winchester: [in a very heartfelt way] Yeah, I would.

2.20, A djinn gives Dean everything he thinks he wants, but it turns out to be...flawed.

Dean Winchester: Bitch.
Sam Winchester: What're you calling me a bitch for?

3.8, more Dean taking care of Sam, this time giving him girl presents and getting his necklace in return--something he almost never takes off.

Dean Winchester: Remember that wreath dad brought home that one year?
Sam Winchester: You mean the one he stole from, like, a liquor store?
Dean Winchester: Yeah, it was a bunch of empty beer cans.
Dean Winchester: That thing was great.

Season 4 goes all out, with TWO flashback episodes AND an alternate reality:

4.3, in which Our Hero learns his mother was a Hunter.

Young Mary Winchester: I want a family. I want to be safe... You know what the worst thing is I can think of, the very worst thing? It's for my children raised into this like I was.

4.13, in which Our Other Hero recalls high school and kicks some bully ass.

and finally, 4.17, where they put Sam in a snug, short-sleeved polo shirt and crammed his gigantic bulk into a cubicle a quarter of the size of a normal one, and...

I'm sorry, I don't remember anything else.

This is getting really super long, so let me rush through my other thoughts.

Meta Episode

How much fun are "Hollywood Babylon" and "The Monster at the End of this Book"? The links will take you to the lists on the Supernatural Wiki of all the little self-referential things they tucked into the scripts.

You Think You Know All About X, But...Episode

Some redundancy here, but we have:

"The Benders" — "Dude, they're just people."

"The Usual Suspects" — Ghost who's actually being helpful

"Roadkill" — Ghost who doesn't know it

"Sin City" — Demons are actually kinda a lot like humans

"Lazarus Rising" — ANGELS, baby!

"Wishful Thinking" — Existential teddy bear

"Jump the Shark" — Ghouls. Whoa.

How Dare They Introduce Women Episodes

Cassie — everyone hated her (well, I didn't, but I seem to be the only one)

Jo — everyone hated her (probably wouldn't have if we'd been told she was a little sister type, which is how it came out, instead of love interest)

Ruby — everyone hated her (until we got a new Ruby, then everyone loved Katie better)

Bela — see Monday's post

I had intentions of talking about growth (Jared got...what's a word for "bigger than gigantic"?...and became a tremendous actor along the way; Bobby's influence on their lives increased; etc.) and the things that have remained constant (John's influence on their lives, Dean's beauty and heartbreaking pain, etc.), but obviously, I've gone on way too long already. So I'll just leave you with something new at YouTube.

Feel free to add stuff in the comments that I missed, or correct me if you think I'm wrong!


Maria Lima said...

Wow, great recap and great vid. I fell in love with the show all over again.

Thanks, Natalie!

(amused: word verification godsthic...maybe the random knows something we don't? :-) Hee!)

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Thanks, Maria! While I was writing it, I had the urge to go watch them all again. :) I can't wait until summer when I actually have time to do so (hopefully!)

LOL on the word verification. Sometimes it's just creepy!

Anonymous said...

Nice post, Natalie! You know, usually whenever I stop watching a show that I once enjoyed, my complaint is the lack of character growth. (I found Grey's Anatomy intriguing for the first two seasons, but it went seriously downhill from there and now I've stopped watching all together. I occasionally have problems with long-running book series for this reason. I love coming back to visit the characters, but if a show's going to run for more than three years or a fiction series is going to span five, ten or twenty books, it can't be a retread of the same thing over and over!) Anyway, in just that simple juxtaposition of the two guys in their suits you demonstrated an evolution. They don't always change in the ways I want and I think we can debate at times whether they're actually progressing or devolving, but they're for sure changing, building toward something, and dragging us along for the sometimes tense, usually engrossing ride. I really respect the writers for that!

And I respect the actors' ability to believably convey those changes without completely contradicting everything that came before (the other thing that often drives me crazy, when a character you've done for three years does something he or she would never do, simply because it's sweeps month and the network wanting something "shocking." A lot of shows write themselves into corners they can't get out of. It takes skill and cajones to literally send your main character to hell and then not only get him out but up the already dire emotional ante!)

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Very well said, Tanya. All the contributors to the show--writers, directors, actors, even costumers and props and effects people--have stricken a nearly perfect balance between continuity and change.

Anonymous said...

Good video. I loved it. I loved your re-cap, made me want to go back and watch those episode I haven't seen in months, maybe close to a year now. Your quotes were epic, but just to let you know some of the female population did love Jo. Not very many, but still. lol. I love Jo's spunk, I'm glad they had her in season five. The Ruby thing, genius and totally true. lol.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Thanks, Angel! And I appreciate hearing that some people did love Jo. :) For me, she's not at the level of Ellen or Bobby, but I, too, loved her spunk and was really happy to see her in season five!