Tuesday, March 31, 2009
For all the talk of hell and demons on the show, God hasn’t come into play in the lives of the Winchesters until Dean’s return from hell. Sure, they use the accoutrements of faith, particularly holy water and the rosary, but how much do they believe? I thought you couldn’t create holy water unless your faith was strong. I guess their faith is more geared toward it working against the demons, since they’re able to create holy water all the time.
(What is Kripke’s religious background? Anyone know?)
We don’t see much of John’s faith, and we know Dean doesn’t believe as early as “Faith,” one of my favorite episodes. Sam is the one who drags Dean to the preacher. Yes, Sam is desperate for anything to help his brother, but he also believes it will work.
When they discover the healing is supernatural, Dean’s faith is not strengthened. The one thing that DOES make Dean change his mind is seeing the Faith of…oh, man….Layla? Lola? Lila? He offers to pray for her. I wonder if he does. And if he does….what does that mean?
We learn in “Houses of the Holy” that Sam prays every day. Dean absolutely does not believe in angels because every night his mother told him angels were watching over him. Because she died so violently, he no longer believed angels were watching over him.
NOW I wonder if she knew what she was talking about. Have angels been watching over Dean all this time?
Dean felt justified at the end of “Houses of the Holy” and Sam’s belief was shaken. Dean didn’t like that, either. I love this show’s use of those shades of gray. Dean’s belief seems to be if God exists, why does all this bad happen? Why do demons wander the earth, destroying families, leaving children to be raised as he and Sam were raised?
Sam’s faith must extend from the opposite end of the spectrum. If there is evil, good must exist.
We see the faith, or lack of faith, in other characters, too. Tessa the Reaper tells Dean there is no happy place. Anna questioned her faith and lost her grace. Uriel turned his back on God to raise his brother Lucifer. Castiel is questioning his own heretofore unshakeable faith.
Now they have proof God exists, only no one knows his purpose. In the world of Kripke, God seems even more distant than He might in our world. Where is He while Lilith is trying to raise Lucifer? Is He so confident in his angels’ ability to defeat her? Is He testing humanity through the Winchesters? Why have only five angels seen Him?
The more I learn about the Supernatural God, the more I tend to take Dean’s side.
We know there is a hell. We know Reapers take souls, but where? Where did the boy from “Death Takes a Holiday” go when Tessa embraced him, if there is no happy place?
Here’s a question that occurred to me when I was writing this. Where did Sam’s soul go when he died? True, he wasn’t dead as long as Dean, but was he walking the earth? Why doesn’t he remember?
Monday, March 30, 2009
If you're reading this blog, you're probably at least somewhat familiar with YouTube. YouTube is everything you've ever wanted to see on video. Looking for high school football highlights for Tom Brady, superstar NFL quarterback, from nearly 15 years ago? They're there. Maybe you were born later than 1984 but wanna know why your parents keep yelling "Where's the beef?"
But YouTube is also a repository of creativity, and a great deal of it is dedicated to our favorite show. A simple search brings up 162,000 hits. Here are some of our favorites (some not safe for work):
This one is my fave, because it has excellent timing and matches the clips with the lyrics. You'll notice they've added an "advertisement" that allows you to purchase the music used (assuming that carries over from the main URL to the embedded video). That makes me squee with joy for the musicians being (well-meaningly) infringed upon by the fans.
There are probably a hundred Supernatural drinking games on YouTube. This one is magnificent for its action choices, its music, and its "interactivity" with the boys:
There's a sequel here.
Here's a short one you'll have to watch over and over, and then you'll curse me for days for the earworm:
I'm not the only Supernatural Sister who hangs out a YouTube! Mary also recommends the previous two (and heck, she might have pointed me to them in the first place!). But her favorite favorite is a South Park mix with magnificent alignment:
It's probably not a surprise that Trish said the ones Mary listed are some of her favorites, too. Plus, she is routinely cracked up by this (embedding is disabled on that one) and this:
Those two have been available on TV, of course, but thank goodness for YouTube when we want to go back and giggle.
I could fill another couple of webfeet with videos, but Tanya's got the truth of it:
"I try to stay away from them because once I'm at a place like youtube watching Winchester vids, I can lose an entire day of writing before I realize it! But when I am there, I tend to watch Dean's eye of the tiger performance and different interviews, including one of the boys at a convention talking about Texas accents :-)"
There you go! I've probably wasted a good half hour of your time there. Now it's your turn. What excellent videos have we missed? I need some replacements for the "Dude" and "Son of a Bitch" Dean videos that got taken down! Share your favorites in the comments!
Sunday, March 29, 2009
More good things on tap this week:
Monday -- Natalie talks about her favorite Supernatural videos.
Tuesday -- MJ explores religion in the Supernatural-verse.
Wednesday -- Trish explains why, without Netflix, this blog might have never been.
Thursday -- Tanya compares marathon viewing to episodic viewing.
Friday -- Terri recaps this week's episode, "The Monster at the End of this Book."
So be sure to come by and comment each day. And tell all your Supernatural-loving friends.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The last several episodes of Supernatural have been super heavy, so it's natural that this one was projected to be light and funny.
But come on. This is the fandom that counts "Mystery Spot" among its favorite episodes, because of the combination of humor and pathos. So did we really expect this week's episode to be "Hollywood Babylon"?
Oh, wait, that's next week.
Number One, who watches with me, had to go to bed straight after the show, so I couldn't write this up while I watched. So I'm sure I'm going to miss details, and I will likely ramble all over the place. Please fill in the blanks and make corrections in the comments. We're interactive! :)
I was kind of surprised that they launched us right into it. We have no idea what's going on when we see Dean Smith getting ready for work, making himself a latte at home, wearing suspenders, combing his hair flat...and driving a Prius to work.
We see him totally comfortable as the director of sales and marketing, schmoozing it up and--OMG--eating a salad. Getting a master cleanse recipe from someone on the phone...I'm sorry, but even in alterna-world, there is no bloat on that boy.
In the meantime, Sam Wesson (can you believe I didn't GET IT* until long after the episode was over?!) is working tech support. Apparently, the company they work for is full of morons who can't operate their printers. He's friends with a guy one cubicle over. At first, I yelled, "He's the one!" because he wasn't wearing the yellow shirt. I was wrong. But that's later. Ian and Sam are friends, and Ian gets off on listening to Sam talk about his dreams. He finds stuff like, "I saved a grim reaper named Tessa from demons" high-larious. But it's apparently affecting Sam's sleep, because he dozes off over his work and scenes from
Let me pause for a moment to say how delicious Sam is in a polo shirt, even if it is a bit too stiff and loose and I can't believe I'm saying this, but...I miss his hunting clothes. He seems diminished without his boots and the layers that make his wide shoulders look even wider. It's a minor degree, though, really--I mean, how many men tower over cubicle walls like that?
I've only seen Office Space once--Trish, were the recurring images of copiers and papers being faxed and pencils being sharpened a tribute to that movie? How about the phone later? I remember the printer thing, but did he do the phone?
Sam stares at Dean in the elevator in their first encounter and is sure he knows him from somewhere. Dean blows him off. "Save it for the health club, pal." Later, alone in the elevator again, Sam asks him about ghosts, and tells him he's been having these dreams. Dean seems to have adapted to his new life a little more easily, since he doesn't appear to sense anything amiss, hasn't been having dreams, doesn't recognize Sam one iota...of course, can we blame him? After what he learned?
So there's an employee obsessed with his work, and when his computer freezes and he loses some, he panics, then says he failed the company, then goes and sticks his head in the microwave. Gruesome. Everyone's pretty shaken by it, and suspicious Dean shows his first inkling that he's not like the rest of these corporate drones or even the movers and shakers at his higher level. Then Ian appears in a yellow shirt after having been called up to Human Resources, and he's obsessed with his work. If Sammy was himself, he would have clued in already, but even though he knows it's weird, he doesn't know why or what to look for.
Then Dean calls Ian upstairs and lets him know he filled out the wrong report. Ian gets disproportionately upset, even with Dean's reassurances. He runs to the bathroom, and Dean follows. We get typical ghostie activity: breath-fogging cold, running taps, soap dispensers gone wild. When Ian stabs himself in the neck with a pencil (poetic, considering he'd just stolen a few packs), Dean sees a reflection of an old man who isn't there. After giving his report to the authorities, he calls Sam up to his office.
It took him a little longer than usual, but Sam's clued now. He found the connection between the two employees after hacking their e-mail accounts. Dean calls him on that, he admits to having some skills, and Dean, instead of being corporately disapproving, finds it sweet (as in sah-weet, not awww). Both guys had been called to HR in room 1444--except, as Dean points out immediately, HR is on 7.
Both guys have been working at this company for three weeks. That's coincidentally odd, but hey, it's a big company, and they don't work together, so it's not that much of a coincidence, I guess. They talk about what's going on, and can't help themselves--they go investigate.
They arrive in room 1444 just as another employee, who'd been called up there, is trapped (more ghostie activity, with the monitors in this storeroom all turning on with static) and is about to be electrically altered by the ghost (ref. "Asylum" in season one). The boys get thrown up against the wall and shelves (standard treatment, though they don't know that!) and Dean grabs a huge iron wrench, swinging it through Mr. Ghost, saving the random employee.
Back at Dean's (awesome!) apartment, they dissect their heroism. "How'd you know ghosts are afraid of wrenches?!" Sam asks in awe. He wants a beer, but a gleeful Dean, who is on that master cleanse, has gotten rid of all carbs. I think Sam says something about figuring out what's going on, but I don't remember because I was too distracted by Dean calling him Sammy, and then the following exchange:
Sam: Did you just call me "Sammy"?
Dean: I don't know, did I?
Sam: I think you did. (Both look perplexed.) Don't do that.
Dean: Okay. Sorry.
So they start to do some research. Dean find the best site ever, and it's...Ghostfacers! We couldn't stop giggling at them, but Ed and Harry have learned from those douchenozzles Sam and Dean Winchester, and don't hesitate to give them (insulting) credit. They have a step-by-step approach that Sam and Dean follow.
Sam uses his research-fu to find out the founder of the company is their ghost, who poured everything into the company and said his blood ran through its walls. He also finds that there were 17 suicides around the stock market crash that preceded the Great Depression. Dean reflects that the only time things were that bad was...now. He laments his portfolio's losses, and the mind boggles.
Then they collect weapons--salt and iron fireplace pokers--while discussing the impossibility of getting guns they can load with rock salt shells. They take the weapons they can collect back to the office--room 1444 was the owner's original office, before the building was made taller--and start to search the room. But a security officer finds Sam and starts to escort him away. I don't know why, but Ghost Boss stops the elevator between floors, and when the security guy climbs out and tries to get Sam to follow, the elevator moves and chops him mostly in half.
You can tell Sera Gamble wrote this episode. No, a beloved recurring character doesn't die, but she definitely writes the most gruesome deaths. Ick and ugh.
Sam goes back to Dean, who has figured out where the remains are (museum level), but when they break open the display holding Ghost Boss's gloves, he appears and they have to fight him. They delight in their prowess, flinging salt through the apparition and whaling away with their pokers. Every time Sam commends Dean, he goes, "Right?" or "I know, right?" He's such a delight.
While Dean is about to become ghost toast, Sam manages to light the ghost's gloves on fire, and ghost is no more. But back in Dean's office, as they post-mortem the job, things get weird. Sam claims that he is not who he is supposed to be. He's meant for more ("Most people who work in cubicles feel that way," says the guy with the nice office) and he hates his job and his clothes and his last name. He wants them to do this for good--go after ghosts--but Dean wonders about the logistics. How would they get money? Steal credit cards? What about sleeping? Crappy motels? He's not thrilled with the idea, but to Sam, that's all just details.
Sam admits that he's been dreaming about hunting with Dean, that they're friends...brothers. Dean says no way, he has a father, Bob, a mother, Ellen, and a sister, Jo. Even through my glee I found that sad--why not his real mother and father? But it makes sense, because it's things he might have half-wished, and it's foreign to reality, so probably easier to maintain in the illusion. On Sam's part, he moved here after he broke up with his fiancée, Madison, but when he called her number he got an animal hospital. Oh, whoever is doing this has a real sense of humor**.
Well, Dean refuses to buy into Sam's weirdness, and when Sam says he knows Dean, Dean gets all serious, says he does not, and sends him away.
The next day, Sam's staring at his phone, which is ringing off the hook. He finally stands, beats the phone to death, and announces that he quits. That's the last we see of him, and I was a bit disappointed by that. Sam has got to be part of Dean's destiny, and it bothers me a little that whenever Dean is forced to face that destiny, Sam is somewhere else.
But I'm getting a little ahead of myself.
Dean's at his desk, trying to work, but it's obvious Sam has gotten to him. His boss comes in, offers him a big bonus because they're so happy with him, entices him with the possibility of a vice presidency if he works seven days a week, 16 hours a day, for a decade. Dean turns him down. Says he's got other work to do. That he just has to do it.
"Finally," the boss says, putting his fingers on Dean's forehead, and all the color drains out of the world.
Light and color are often symbols of wrongness on Supernatural (ref. "What is and What Should Never Be"). Even when we have sunlight and sailboats ("Red Sky at Morning"), the color is washed out a bit. So it's especially jarring to go from the alterna-reality to real-reality, even as it brings a sense of anticipation, an eagerness that goes along with "here come the answers!"
I have to say something here about the acting in the episode. Jared has gotten a lot of praise lately for how far he's come since season one, and the complexity of his character has given him plenty to draw on (moments like when he was lying to Cole in "Death Takes a Holiday"). But Jensen, who has been amazing since the pilot, once again nails every beat. In the early scenes, there wasn't an iota of Dean Winchester in him. When Sam confronts him and he sends him away, we see some flickers. But when Zachariah (his boss, but in reality Castiel's boss, who doesn't seem to think much of humanity either...but I'm getting ahead of myself again) touches Dean, the weight of Winchester settles over him. He's instantly himself, and his movements, his expressions, change.
At this point, I'm realizing how nice it was to see both boys, but Dean especially, well rested and focused on something mundane. Now it's changed, and it's enough to make you weep. And yet, rejoice, too.
When Dean followed the Hero's Journey Rules and Rejected the Call last week, I wished I was in the room with him to tell him he could wallow for a day, but then he had to suck it up and do his job because for damned sure he was capable. More than. Zachariah's way was better, I guess, though it amounted to the same thing. Dean's strong. Saving people, hunting things, isn't just the family business--it's who Dean is, and he's more than ready to take on his destiny***.
This was all done perfectly, IMO. Sam and Castiel could have cajoled and supported and pushed Dean, tried to convince him he was up to the task, that he had no choice, etc. But they were just too close to him. Dean would never have believed them, or been able to hear what they said through his haze of grief and despair and self-loathing.
But Zachariah was higher up the chain, someone who had the authority and the objectivity to make him hear. Not to mention, the power to not just tell him, but show him the truth. When Dean lived it, it was much harder for him to deny. Plus, the removal of memory sufficient to let him experience the simple ghost hunting job for itself gave him some healing time, some distance he could never have gotten otherwise.
So can Dean do it? Can he face the worst possible fate and make it not happen? It's much, much easier to believe in now.
*Dean Smith and Sam Wesson. Smith and Wesson. Gun manufacturers. Just in case there are people who don't know. I should have. My mother worked for them!
**After seeing the preview for this episode, I'd wondered if the Trickster was behind it. I didn't want him to be, because it's been done before [even though I desperately want the Trickster back!], but this bit of humor fits that guess. Perhaps a bit of deliberate misdirection.
***That was a nice moment when Sam said something about something being in his blood, and referring to destiny, and Dean saying he didn't believe in destiny--their real selves showing through, or a bit of meta-ness in advance of next week's extreme meta episode.
I think it's safe to say that it's hard to love a Winchester boy. Not that it's actually difficult to fall for one of them, but that the likelihood of that relationship working out long term is next to zip. Not only would most sane girls not be willing to give up a normal life to ride around the country fighting really scary dudes, but I'm pretty sure some of the fans would do her in.
Supernatural is, above all, about the relationship of these two brothers. Other characters can be secondary at best and more commonly window dressing or "victim of the week." This is why there is fan outcry when things happen like the introduction of Ruby and Bela or the upcoming episode in which we will evidently be introduced to a third Winchester brother. Some fans don't want to shift the focus off Sam and Dean, and I suspect some don't want any girlfriend material in there so they can continue imagining themselves in that role. :)
Let's face it -- if you're a girl and you get introduced on Supernatural, my bet is that you're not long for this world or that we'll soon be seeing you in the Impala's rear view mirror. This trend is set early when Sam's serious girlfriend, Jessica, is killed (like his mother was) in the pilot, as soon as he heads back toward the supernatural-hunting life. The girl who we learn in "Route 666" was Dean's foray into a serious relationship, Cassie, is a casualty (though she's still alive) of the boys' hunting lifestyle too. One of the saddest, tear-inducing episodes for me has been "Heart", in which Sam finally lets go of Jessica enough to fall for someone else. Too bad Madison ends up being a werewolf and he has to kill her.
I'm sensing a trend here.
But here's the thing -- the boys have given so much, worked so hard, been to hell and back (Dean, literally) that I think they deserve to find love and somehow live a happily ever after. Somehow I don't suspect that's in the cards. I'm not sure they'll even survive in the end. And if they do, how do they leave all they've seen and done behind to marry and raise kids in small-town America or suburbia? Do you think that's even possible? Will there ever be no evil baddies to fight?
If the writers somehow make this possible, what kind of women do you think they'll have to create as potential love interests for Sam and Dean to make the fans happy? How soon before the series finale do you think these women can be introduced so that the fans don't revolt? Or do you think we've already met them. Have to say that Anna grew on me in the recent episode, "On the Head of a Pin." The only way I can see this is if somehow God or the angels can wipe their memories of all the bad stuff and allow them to start with a fresh slate. Could that be their reward for helping heaven defeat Lucifer and his minions?
I'm curious what you think. Is long-term love in the cards for the boys?
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
In last week’s review of The Supernatural Book of Monsters, Spirits, Demons and Ghouls by Alex Irvine, I complained that the book wasn’t anchored in any one voice. I’m happy to say that’s not the case with his second SPN title, John Winchester’s Journal. The diary opens in 1983, two weeks after Mary’s death, when Fletcher Gable gave John the blank book to “write everything down.” Each year highlights Dean (Jan. 24) and Sammy’s (May 2) birthdays, as well as the anniversaries of Mary’s death (Nov. 2) and their wedding (May 17). There are also ample notes and doodles throughout on hunter lore and methodology.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to fans because it smoothly mixed the mythology with the story of a dad who wants nothing more than to avenge his beloved wife’s death and protect this two sons, but finds himself struggling with whether or not he’s made the right choices. John’s pain and frustration are palpable, as is his pride in the boys. He knows he’s not going to win any parent of the year awards, but he wants to, needs to, prepare them for the time when he won’t be around. He’s especially hard on Dean who he tasks with watching over his little brother. It’s a duty he’s drilled into his head from the time he was five. Sammy, on the other hand, has always been different and John often draws comparisons. When Dean turned eleven he asked for his own gun, when Sammy turned eleven he asked for a computer. John knows there’s something “special” about Sam, but doesn’t know what. It’s just one more thing about his youngest he doesn’t understand. The diary format does a great job of demonstrating the growth and change the Winchesters go through. John realizes he’s been hunting Mary’s murderer for longer than he knew her. Dean goes from a quiet and contemplative kid to a lady killer bad ass who Dad thinks he did right by. And Sammy, dear Sammy, rebels like any normal young man and totally pisses his father off by being…normal.
The book gives an intimate portrayal of this hunter family, parallels the show well and offers additional insight, especially into Lilith.
* A succubus is a female demon who harvests semen that her male counterpart (incubi) then uses to impregnate women with babies who are more susceptible to demon possession or become witches. Hebrews call the succubus Lilith.
* And, get this, Sammy’s not the only one to do the deed with a demon! A lonely John slept with Ms. Lyle, Sammy’s teacher, but learned she was a demon when she tried to kidnap Sammy. Dean performed his first exorcism and John wondered if Lyle was really Lilith. He also questioned why she wanted Sammy, but remembered some lore: “The stories also say that succubi come to claim the children that have been fathered by incubi, which is ridiculous.”
The last entry is October 28, 2005, twenty-two years and two grown sons later, John finally finds Azazel.
Now if only they’d publish the boys journal.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
One of the things I loved about Supernatural is the way the boys investigated urban legends. (I’m one who prefers the stand-alone episodes, though I know the show wouldn’t be the same without the myth-arc.) I loved the Bloody Mary episode, the Hookman, the Woman in White.
I know the boys have bigger fish to fry right now, but here are some cases I would love to see them on.
La Bruja Lechuza is a Mexican legend. She is a witch who comes to a house in the form of a giant owl-type bird, to take away someone who is close to death. Some of my students claim to have seen her, and are terrified of her. I would love to see the boys come to town (how about a San Antonio set show? Hmm?) and hunt her down, only to find out she isn’t what they believe her to be?
The Jersey Devil is another interesting urban legend, but from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t do much, like a chupacabra. It just eats livestock and freaks people out. Still, I have faith Kripke could make it a fun monster-of-the-week.
A haunted lighthouse would make a good setting for an episode. Maybe set during a hurricane or something…definitely with a love interest.
New Orleans…something in the cemeteries. I know, cliché, but again, I have faith in Kripke. Wouldn’t it be cool to see the boys vs. a voodoo priestess? Or working side by side with one?
But my number one wish for a setting is Stull Cemetery in Lawrence, Kansas. (I wonder if this doesn’t tie in to Mary’s family’s careers as hunters.) Supposedly, Satan can manifest there, and does on Halloween. His only son is rumored to be buried there, and when Pope John Paul II flew across the country, he had his plane avoid Kansas. Weird, huh? It’s said to be a devil’s gate, which I know we’ve done, but how cool would it be to have it in a real place? They could even go up against a group of Satan worshipers or something.
What stories would you like to see the boys tackle?
Monday, March 23, 2009
(Mild spoilers for episodes already aired)
Hope is an interesting thematic element in television shows. Throughout most of (Joss Whedon's) series Angel, hope (for Angel's redemption) was a major driving force--but some would argue it never paid off, given the Butch Cassidy/Sundance Kid ending of the series. Ron Moore's and David Eick's Battlestar Galactica is undoubtedly the darkest television show I've ever watched, but hope was a predominant element (the hope to find Earth, the hope for survival). And then we have Supernatural. It's always had its dark moments (see: death, demons, hell), but before this season, I never would have thought to characterize it as bleak (and even this season, I cracked up during Monster Movie and Yellow Fever), yet looking back, I wonder if maybe it's always been bleaker than I realize. (The reason I didn't truly think last season was bleak was because I was just certain Dean would find a way to escape Lilith. At least, I hoped he would.)
Courtesy of Merriam-Webster online, bleak: "not hopeful or encouraging."
Yep, that's Show all right.
In the pilot, Sam had the gall to hope for, to actually try to build, a normal life. Dean mocked that wish in a fight, basically telling Sam to give it up because he was never going to be normal, he was a Winchester. And then fate (well, actually, Azazel) took if a step further and killed Sam's girlfriend. Although none of us knew it at the time, this cycle dated back to Sam's mom, Mary, who'd been raised a hunter. She wished for a normal life, to marry John and settle down peacefully--but wound up having to make a demonic pact with Azazel to save John's life. Eventually, she gave up her own life for it and set the boys on their current course.
In season 2, we got the episode "What Is and What Should Never Be," where Dean gets his wishes (sort of) at a cost. He almost decides to stay in the dream world, even though his dad is dead there, too, and Sam is contemputous of him (but successful and healthy and engaged to Jessica) but to do so would have meant sacrificing himself to the Djinn. So, thumbnail hypothesis: wishes equal death? Well, certainly Sam's wishing for a normal life, and Mary doing so before him, ended in flaming-ceiling-death for various parties. This season brought us "Wishful Thinking," which also characterized wishes as potentially dangerous--and even though some people I know thought it was pretty funny, I thought that the suicidal teddy bear (brought to life by a little girl's wish) was disturbing. He tries to blow his head off and ends up sobbing because he can't die.
Throughout the entire series, there's been the possibility that things will "end bloody" for the boys. But even the alternative (growing old naturally) was painted as bleak and bitter in "Criss Angel is a Douchebag." Um, okay, Show, you really don't want us to have any hope for the boys' future, do you?
But wait! There's always the Buffy-esque season 5, the boys may die in the fight against good and evil (make that, die again, since they've both been down that particular road), may have to sacrifice themselves, but perhaps then they can save the world and move on to a better place. Ha, Krikpe, I've found at least a small smidge of something to hope for...haven't I?
Alas, no. In "Death takes a Holiday," a Reaper talks about the better place being a lie we tell ourselves for comfort and hope. And then, as a final tire iron to the kneecap, in "On the Head of a Pin," an angel utters the statement that God doesn't exist. Well, alrighty then. Dean Winchester by the end of that episode was a bruised and bloody portrait of despair. He told Castiel that he can't do it, he can't fight the apocalypse, and on one hand, I kind of think he's right. After all, without hope, how can you pick yourself back up and go on? Even though Dean himself once mocked Sam's hopes for a normal life (which Sam reiterated right back to him in "Death Takes a Holiday") Dean has hoped for things along the way--to find his father (which they did, only to lose him when John traded his life for Dean's), to protect Sam (which Dean sacrificed his own life to do--only to risk losing Sam in a different way now that he's sleeping with Ruby and swilling demon blood), to be a good man slaying demons and a son his father could be proud of (only to learn that while John never broke, Dean was down there torturing people and breaking apocalpytic seals). You see where I'm going with this, yes? Wishes and hope for the future end very badly.
Which makes me wonder, how is our show going to end? Will the boys be able to rediscover enough optimism to get back into the fray, enough hope in love and each other to at least repair their own relationship even if they can't save the rest of the world?
I wish I knew.
Posted by Tanya Michaels at 6:55 AM
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Whee, another week of Winchester goodness headed your way...
Monday -- Tanya asks if wishing is dangerous and explores how Supernatural looks at the dangers of hoping and wishing.
Tuesday --MJ will go looking for new cases for the boys among some well-known (and less well known) urban legends.
Wednesday -- Terri focuses on John Winchester's Journal.
Thursday -- I (Trish) will look at the pros and cons of Sam and Dean finding love.
Friday -- Natalie recaps this week's episode, "It's a Terrible Life."
Friday, March 20, 2009
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS!!!!!!
I knew going into this episode that it would go places I did not want the show to go, so reviewing it is going to be tough. Now we know what Sam didn’t like about drawing demons—eek! Who knew, watching Season One, we’d end up here? Even though Ben Edlund wrote it, I’m pretty sure this isn’t going to be cheery.
We open with Castiel kneeling beside a blonde beauty with an odd-shaped wound below her throat. He leaves as the cops arrive, and the camera pulls out to reveal the shadow of angel wings behind the woman.
The brothers are fighting in the Impala. They’ve just come from Pamela’s funeral and Dean is frustrated and angry. When Sam suggests they hook up with Ruby, Dean snarls that he doesn’t care. Sam argues Dean should be getting angry, not wary. They step into a motel room and there are Castiel and Uriel. Dean unleashes his anger on them when they ask for help. Dean snaps that they’ve just been helping another seal remain closed. The angels reveal that seven angels have been killed, and they need to find the demon who’s doing it. They need Dean to torture Allistair to find out who it is. The look on Dean’s face as they bring up his living nightmare, ask him to relive it….heartbreaking. Uriel says they’re not asking, and the angels disappear with Dean.
Dean looks into the room where the angels are holding Allistair in an elaborate devil’s trap. Dean still resists, and asks to talk to Castiel alone. Cas looks weary. He reveals that his superiors are questioning his sympathies, that he’s getting too close to his humans, that he’s beginning to expression emotions, and it’s affecting his judgment. He reveals he’d give anything not to have Dean torture Allistair after Dean warns him that if Dean walks through the door, Castiel won’t like what walks out.
Okay, here’s Ben Edlund’s touch, the snark of Allistair. I love this character. He taunts Dean, even as he’s chained to this Devil’s Trap. Allistair tells Dean how he tortured John for almost a century without breaking, that he was made of the stuff of heroes. Then he taunts Dean that he only lasted thirty years, that he wasn’t the man his father wanted him to be.
This is the part I found out about by accidentally watching a Canadian preview. I was hoping Allistair would reveal that John had broken, because though I like John’s character, I hate seeing Dean become more twisted up inside by knowing he had failed his father. Dean buries his reaction, as he’s so good at doing, and tells Allistair that he’s dreamed of payback, and he has some ideas. Some of the snark disappears when Dean loads a syringe with holy water.
Back at the motel, Ruby shows up to help Sam find where the angels have taken Dean. She thinks Sam is worried that Dean has to torture Allistair. Instead, Sam tells her he doesn’t think Dean is strong enough for the job, and Sam has to do it. And the way Sam gets strong enough? BY DRINKING RUBY’S BLOOD. Uh-huh, that’s right. (I actually saw this in that damn preview, too, and was thinking, “Tanya’s not going to like this one bit.”) So…wow, Kripke. That’s the part of pulling demons Sam didn’t like. Well, hell, he sure seemed to like it now.
(Can you believe my laptop battery died and now I’m watching over my shoulder as I type…grrr. I had it on the charger, damn it.)
We go back to Dean coating a knife with holy water as Allistair asks if Dean really thinks torturing Allistair will give him closure. Allistair reminds Dean he carved him into a new animal and there’s no going back.
Okay, the creepy is that Dean really seems to be into this.
The camera cuts to one of the pipes Allistair is strapped to, slipping, and a drop of water sizzles on the ground, erasing a line of the devil’s trap. Oops, we know what that means!
Outside the room, lights flicker and Anna returns in her old body, though it was destroyed. She said she called in some favors to get it back. She demands (okay, not demands, way too calm for that) to know why Cas is letting Dean do this. He tells her it’s God’s work. She doesn’t buy that torturing is God’s work. She’s afraid he’s going to ruin the one real weapon they have. Castiel chides her for questioning God’s will, but she doesn’t think it’s God’s will. She believes the orders are coming from somewhere, but not God. She doesn’t think God would ask that of Cas. She points out that what Cas is feeling is doubt.
Dean is meanwhile doing some awful things to Allistair. Not watching. Ick.
Anna tries to convince Cas to stop it, but he claims he’s not like her. She doubted and fell, and he’s not willing to do that. He tells her to go.
Meanwhile, Allistair reveals the Big Deal. The event that started the apocalypse. Because Dean doesn’t have enough baggage, he now learns that he broke the first seal when he, a righteous man, sheds blood in hell. Allistair wanted John to be the one to break the seal but he wouldn’t pick up the razor. Dean’s weakness got the ball rolling, started the dominos falling.
Dean turns his back, trying to recover himself, and when he turns back, ready to end Allistair, he finds the demon free of the trap and ready for payback. He beats the holy hell out of Dean and pins him to the trap. Dean is dying when Castiel rushes in (hello, where have you been?) . They fight and Allistair pins Castiel to the wall, ready to send him back to heaven in a kind of exorcism when Sam stops him, pinning Allistair to the wall (hey, Sam’s the only one not pinned to the wall tonight!) Castiel watches as Sam tortures Allistair without touching him, revealing that Lilith isn’t behind the deaths of the angels. She wouldn’t kill seven, she’d kill hundreds. Allistair taunts Sam to send him back to hell, but Sam reveals that he can KILL DEMONS WITH HIS MIND. Holy. Hell.
So he does. Man, I liked Allistair. Cas is absolutely freaked out. This is Not Good.
Dean’s back in the hospital, intubated, Sam by his side. Castiel comes by and Sam begs him for a miracle, that Dean deserves it after doing what he did for the angels. Castiel can’t, and his doubt deepens. He meets Uriel in a snowy park. Uriel is freaking out because he’s been told to stop hunting the demons responsible for killing angels. Cas tells him what Allistair said, what Anna said, that maybe the orders are coming from heaven, but not God. Both angels wonder what is going on up there. Are they being punished because they’re losing the war?
Cas calls Anna and tells her he’s considering disobedience, that he’s beginning to feel. She tells him it’s only going to get worse, that making choices is confusing and terrifying. He’s not sure what to do next. He needs her to tell him what to do, but she won’t.
He returns to the room where they held Allistair and inspects the devil’s trap. Uriel joins him to see if Cas is ready to fight with him (fight who? I missed that.)
This episode is just full of surprises, because while Cas is questioning why a leaky faucet can undo the work of angels, and Uriel reminds him that the only thing that can kill an angel is another angel, as he unsheathes a lethal looking knife. Uriel loathes being trapped with humans, and claims that God stopped being their father when He created humans. Uriel wants Castiel to join with him to raise Lucifer. Uriel envies Lucifer’s strength and beauty, and the fact he didn’t bow to humanity. He was cast out for standing up for the angels, according to Uriel. Uriel urges Cas to believe in Lucifer, and that God no longer cares about what they do.
Cas asks what Uriel’s plan was. Did he want to kill the whole garrison? But no, he’d only killed the ones who said no. He wants Cas to help him bring on the apocalypse. Cas fights him, and dayum. Hell of a fight, and boy, is it wrong to think an angel is sexy? Uriel has the upper hand, and is about to deal a killing blow, proclaiming there is no God. Then he jolts as a blade slices through his throat. Anna leans in, with one of the most awkward lines I’ve ever heard on this show. “Maybe not, but there’s still me.”
So, Allistair and Uriel are dead. Cas goes to the hospital to sit by Dean’s side. Groggy Dean sounds JUST like his daddy. Cas reveals that Uriel was working against them. Dean asks if it’s true, that he broke the seal. Cas confirms it. He says as soon as they learned Lilith’s plan, they laid siege to hell to get to him, but were too late. He then tells Dean that blame doesn’t fall on him, fate does, because the man who breaks the first seal is the only person who can end it. Dean does not want to hear that. He knows he’s not strong enough. He doesn’t want this responsibility. He’s not the man his father wanted him to be, or that God wanted him to be.
I love how so many story threads came together in this episode, and smoothly, IMO. Watching Dean torture was rough, knowing the effect of Allistair’s revelation was rougher. I hate what Sam has to do to get stronger in his abilities. I hate that Allistair is gone, since he was my favorite demon since Meg. I loved everything else (except forementioned line from Anna. Really, Ben?)
What did you think?
Thursday, March 19, 2009
It started in the pilot.
Sam wakes up in the middle of the night, hearing an intruder in the house. He engages him, they fight, and I'm hooked. Passion ignited.
That "fight" scene did more than grab me (and many other fans). It grounded the boys' relationship, in a way. They were pretty evenly matched in that fight. Sure, Dean was holding back because he knew it was Sam, but Sam wasn't swinging to kill, either, just subdue. One got the upper hand, then the other, and such has been their relationship ever since.
For three seasons, Dean's role as protector and leader was undisrupted. He saved Sam from possession, from death, from the Yellow-Eyed Demon, even sacrificed himself to keep Sam safe. But all along, Sam has matured (in most ways) and learned how to lead, himself. He exerted some control when he saved Dean from Gordon and later killed Gordon with his bare hands. At the end of season 3, when they were going after Lilith and trying to save Dean from Hell, Sam pushed harder and harder to influence their course of action. He learned things about himself, and was forced to go out on his own when the Trickster killed Dean "for good."
And then he was alone. Dean's influence could never disappear, but when he was in Hell, Sam made all the decisions. He made his own choices, and explored every facet of his identity, including the part manifested by the demon blood forced on him when he was six months old.
You can't go back after that, and I knew the brotherly dynamics would change. Dean had missed four months, and his time in Hell would have permanent effects. Sam wouldn't be subverted to his brother's will anymore.
In some ways, I was right. I mean, Dean does still get to choose the music in the Impala. But Sam doesn't listen to him anymore, especially when his reasons are "Because I said so!" But I hoped their partnership would grow stronger, that they could see each other more as equals. That their fight against a common enemy would be enough to help them overcome the adjustment to the changes.
But Kripke doesn't play that way.
It starts out simple, and gets more and more complex the more detail you add:
Sam works with a demon. He has demon powers, and that's bad.
Dean works with an angel. Angels work for God, so that's good.
But the demon has a good goal, ridding the earth of one of the worst demons in existence. Her motives are suspicious and likely selfish. She manipulates to get her way.
The angels have a good goal, stopping that same really bad demon from freeing Lucifer and bringing hell to earth, but they don't seem to care how many people die to stop that from happening. They, too, manipulate to get their way.
Sam's powers enable him to save people while killing demons. Dean equates "demon" with "evil" and can't seem to unbend even a little. So Sam has stopped trying to make him understand. That opens a rift between them, one that gets wider and wider the more he lies. It was worsened by Dean lying, too, about Hell, but Dean's lies were internal and didn't affect others (so far!). And he came clean. He opened up to Sam, who didn't offer any support or commiseration for the pain Dean's been suffering. Is Sam too wrapped up in his own issues, or did Dean's confession change how Sam feels about him? Or does he just feel inadequate and therefore does nothing?
The angels, and Dean, and now Pam have all told Sam that he does not have the right idea, using his powers, that he's going down an unknown path they all fear. But Sam's intentions have always been noble. Even though he has a need for personal revenge, and his own pain to exorcise (hee--get it?), his goal, getting rid of Lilith, is consistent with the rest of their lives. Saving people, hunting things. Evil things.
Until "Sex and Violence," I could envision a path where the brothers were at personal odds but still had the same goals, the same core values, the same basic way of looking at things. They could continue down the road side by side, or fighting back to back, with nothing in the world more important or more valued than each other.
But then, under the siren's spell, Sam said some horrible things, things he really seems to believe, despite his repeated assertion that he didn't mean them. He has decided his powers, his history, elevates him above others. In "Death Takes a Holiday" he said the rules don't apply to "us," not just himself, but the fact that he's including Dean in the "specialness" doesn't help. It's not that he's wrong, on the face of it. They are different. They've escaped death, and Hell, and all manner of bad things. At this point, they've probably defeated more and worse things than any hunter on earth, which would put them at the top of the game.
But Sam now seems to be equating "different" with "better." He acts superior toward
demons, angels, and Dean alike. His disillusionment with the angels and his fear of the future have brought him to a dangerous place. A Spider-Man place*, a test that I think he's going to fail, devastatingly.
Since early in season 4, many people have predicted a "brother against brother" showdown. I've fought the idea not just because I hate it, but because I didn't think the events, early on, necessarily supported it. The complexity of the influences (good demon, bad angel) didn't pit the brothers against each other, and they had, and still have, the same goal.
My position is getting harder to hold onto, now that Sam is lying to little boy ghosts as well as his brother, and he seems to care less and less about the people than about winning the battle. Now that Dean seems to be letting Sam's attitude and his words sever the ties he has knotted so tightly in the past.
In season one's episode "Scarecrow," Dean leaves Sam on the side of the road. Their needs were at odds then, but it never felt like they were truly ready to cut each other off. If something similar happened now, I don't think it would be so easy to overcome. They've damaged each other, and been damaged by outside sources, and the bond that would hold them through anything is far more tenuous.
What's coming, though? Speculation is really difficult when we don't know if this war will continue into season 5, if we avoid any spoilers or pretend we didn't hear anything about the season finale. And the external framework still makes it really hard to envision Sam and Dean truly fighting each other, as themselves and not some monster's plaything.
Still, every episode, every moment of character development, seems to be leading us to that end. I'm kind of resigned to facing it, but I cling to the belief that Kripke and Co. know--they have to know, how can they not know?--that breaking the brothers the wrong way will break his show completely, so whatever they do to them in the end, they'll fix. I am, of course, fully invested in the ride.
Your turn! What do you think of the inevitability of a brother-vs.-brother showdown, and how do you think it will manifest? (Speculation only, let's avoid spoilers!)
*With great power comes great responsibility.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Part of Supernatural’s allure is the monster-of-the-week mythology. The paranormal bounty brothers never lack for things to hunt. In The Supernatural Books of Monsters, Spirits, Demons and Ghouls, Alex Irvine delves deeper into the creatures Dean and Sam have given us a basic introduction to.
The book is divided into five parts and includes two appendixes—Herbs, Oils and Hoodoo Hands and Names and Attributes of European Demons.
I’ll tell you my biggest pet peeve right off the bat...the book is supposedly narrated by both Sam and Dean, but it comes off like this weird omniscient point-of-view that sounds nothing like them. Their “voices” on the show are distinctive and unique and none of that is carried on to the page. It would’ve been better for the author to write as an interested observer, perhaps a professor or a paranormal investigator fascinated with the Winchesters. Typically speaking, the kind of narration Irvine chose would create reader intimacy, as if the boys were sharing secrets, but because we know their personalities so well, and he does not emulate them at all, it has an immediate and opposite reaction, repelling the reader to think, “Who’re these dudes?”
Come to think of it, the perfect narrator for this book would’ve been Bobby Singer!
That complaint aside, and admittedly it’s a big one, how does the lore fare?
SPIRITS covers the importance of salt and burn, the woman in white, banshees, water spirits, urban legends and vengeful spirits like the Hook Man and Bloody Mary, land spirits: native and immigrant, such as the Indian curse, Amityville, Route 55, Wisconsin Lakes Curse and the Curse of Kaskaskia, plus Venir (scarecrow), Lawrence lore and Death Apparitions.
MONSTERS is all about the Wendigo, Shapeshifters, Yenaldooshi, Bearwalker, Leszy, Nahuales, Puca, The Animal Wives (Selkies, Swan Maidens and Kitsune), Lycanthropy, Tulpas, Humunculus, Golem and Rakshasa.
GHOULS, REVENANTS, ET CETERA is a paranormal potpourri of Ghouls, Shtrigas, Draugrs, Vamps, Zombies and others.
WITCHES, FAMILIARS AND BLACK DOGS is just that.
And DEMONS gets down and dirty with Succubus/Incubus, Jinn, Tengu, Abiku, Pishacha, Acheri, YED, Lesser Demons, Reaper and Goofer Dust.
The book does a great job of reintroducing the MOTW and expanding on their details, oftentimes giving culture differences. Did you know a Leszy is a Slavic forest spirit that likes to makes its appearance as a talking mushroom? Or that the word zombie comes the from the Bantu word nzambi and Haitian zombies were created from magic and the poison of a pufferfish? And, considering the recent Death Takes A Holiday, I enjoyed learning that Reapers are called psychopomps. Doesn’t that sound scarily solicitous? I’ve also adopted the hoodoo tradition of Goofer Dust and now, much to my husband's horror, walk around whispering “Kiss my ass” everywhere in case a witch is present.
In blending show elements and deepening the mythological stories, The Supernatural Book of Monsters, Spirits, Demons and Ghouls is an entertaining and fascinating read, even if it does miss the mark on giving the Winchesters a voice.
Monday, March 16, 2009
I am a writer (with a lifelong love of stories) who holds a degree in history, so I have a geeky love for the tales that get passed down over the years and retold in different cultures worldwide. The varied urban legends and folklore that formed the backbone of season 1--and, to a lesser degree, later seasons--fascinate me (and, also, scare the hell out of me). And, on St. Patrick's Day, with its association with leprechauns and faerie folk, it seemed like a fitting time to offer this short quiz to see what you know about the mythological!
SPN's pilot jumped right in with something eerily familiar to me, the ghostly hitchiker, frequently known as the Woman in White. (As I've mentioned before, I grew up with the Ghost of White Rock Lake down the road, to speak.) Witch of the following (okay, I swear that was a totally Freduian typo) is also a well known regional tale of a paranormal passenger?
a) the Pasadena woman in white who, according to reports, predicted a major earthquake
b) the Georgia woman in white who warns of evil in the red clay
c) the Washington woman in white who warned her drivers of a Mt. Saint Helen's eruption
Tales of encountering her began after the major eruption in 1980 and were eventually reported in numerous media, such as the Tacoma Washington News Tribune. According to legend, she warned that MSH would erupt again on October 12. Which it did. In 2004. I prefer these "helpful" (or at least innocuous) sightings to the traditionally Hispanic and emotionally disquieting stories of La Lorona (the weeping woman who killed her children), which is the version in the SPN pilot. (Great ep, but that scene where her kids confronted her at the end? CHILLS. I am now officially sleeping with the light on. Oh, and speaking of me being a wuss, I understand that if you Google you Tube ghost hitchhiker, someone aparently posted an eerie little vid that, even if it turns out to have been doctored up by some high school kids who are good with a camcorder, I am still too chicken to check out. You feel free, though!)
When it comes to warding off evil, by now, we should have all learned the nifty properties of the all important salt circle (I briefly considered sleeping with a big ring of Morton around the king sized bed, but figure J is only willing to indulge my neuroses so far.) What else is suggested for keeping evil out of the house?
a) bamboo wind chimes outside the front door, sprinkled with Holy water the day they are first hung
b) burying an iron knife beneath your doorstep
c) cooking with lots of garlic
Iron has long been reputed one of the stronger wards against evil, helpful for barring entrance to demons, witches, spirits and even malicious fairies. (Then again, some superstitious might claim that you need the garlic to hedge your bets with vampires. But garlic apparently has a high sulfur content, which SPN generally associates with demons dropping by the neighborhood, so season at your own risk...)
Which of the following is a real medical syndrome based on a mythological creature depicted in Supernatural?
a) Wendigo psychosis
c) Djinn dementia
The second episode of Supernatural (Wendigo) is not among my favorite (although I cackled at "I'm Agent Ford, this is Agent Hamill.") But the legend stuck with me because, unlike Hook Man or Bloody Mary, it wasn't one I was familiar with. So I did a little research until it creeped me out too much. Variations of Wendigo legend were part of tribal lore for some Native American and Canadian peoples who believed that a person could be transformed if they resorted to cannabilism for any reason. The rare psychosis leads to an actual craving for human flesh (usually after having ingested it in life-threatening famine) which, yikes. And ew.
So, to change the subject, Vanaheimr was the mythological home to Vanir (Norse deities). Do you know what episode featured a Vanir without looking it up? (I'll give the answer in comments.)
And finally, I think we can agree that the Impala is nearly a supernatural being herself--preternaturally strong and sexy and full of life. So when did Chevy introduce the first Imapala? (Come on, Dean would want you to know.)
That's when the earliest version was introduced, but it didn't become its own model until 1959.
So, how'd you do? Ready to ride shotgun and rock out to Bon Jovi, or are you probably better off safely at home? Always assuming, of course, that "home" has no malevolent poltergeists...
Check back in April for my quiz on Which Hunter Type Are You? (Less educational trivia, more pictures of Dean and Sam.)
I wonder if Bobby Singer has ever been called a Redneck Rupert Giles. Because, in a lot of ways, Bobby is to the Winchester boys what Giles was to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Think about it -- who gets called when the main character(s) is/are stumped? Who is surrounded by piles and piles of books about all kinds of supernatural baddies? Who acts as a father figure in the absence of a real father? Despite the contrast between the trucker caps and flannel Bobby always wears and the tweedy professor look Giles prefers, these two characters have a lot in common. Although we've yet to see Bobby and the rest of the Supernatural cast in a musical episode yet. :)
Okay, let's focus on Bobby, played wonderfully by Jim Beaver. I just love this guy. He's funny, smart, tells it like it is, and obviously loves Sam and Dean like they were his own sons. And he's pretty darn handy to have around when you're fighting demons and the like.
Bobby first showed up in the Supernatural-verse toward the end of Season One, after Papa Winchester has been taken captive by meanie Meg. He helps the boys trap and perform an exorcism on Meg, and also explains to them about how the girl Meg was is still trapped inside her body. Bobby starts appearing more regularly in Season Two. The emotions surrounding his scenes run the gamut from touching (when he understands that while Sam is on the surface talking about the Impala when he says it's worth saving as long as one thing works, he's really talking about the near-death Dean) to funny (when he loans the boys the only working vehicle he has -- a minivan!) I can't help but giggle thinking about Dean and the minivan.
Bobby shows just how smart he is about all this supernatural stuff in "Tall Tales" when, after listening to Sam and Dean's wildly varying accounting of events, tells them that they're dealing with a trickster. This is one of the times when you can just see Bobby's mental eye-rolling at the boys.
While Bobby loves the boys, he doesn't always agree with them. One such instance is when Dean refuses to bury Sam after he's killed in "All Hell Breaks Loose," instead choosing to trade his soul for Sam's resurrection.
In Season Three, we finally see that Bobby, like so many other hunters, got into hunting because of a personal loss -- that of his wife, whom he killed when she became possessed. We also see that the Winchester boys are becoming more and more like family to him. As the season winds down, and the attack on Lilith is imminent, Dean tells Bobby that it isn't his fight. To which Bobby says, "Family don't end with blood, boy!"
I think my favorite Bobby moment of Season Four so far is when the boys discover his ghost- and demon-proof panic room. When Dean asks, "You have a ghost-proof panic room?", Bobby, in typical Bobby style, says, "I had a weekend off."
I've heard buzz that someone close to the boys may be killed off, and I really, REALLY hope it's not Bobby. He's just way too much fun. But going back to the Giles comparison, Buffy had to stand alone at some point and not depend on Giles, so Giles left her. He didn't die, but he wasn't there for her to call. So the possibility is there for Bobby to go bye-bye in some way, but I can't say I like it.
What do you think? Do you think Bobby will be around for Season Five? Why or why not?
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Monday -- I'll share the reasons I love Bobby's character. I mean, what's not to love? :)
Tuesday -- Tanya will test everyone's demon-hunting knowledge.
Wednesday -- Terri will do a review of the Supernatural Book of Monsters, Spirits, Demons and Ghouls.
Thursday -- It's Brother vs. Brother time with Natalie.
Friday -- MJ is in the driver's seat for this week's episode recap, for "On the Head of a Pin." I'm guessing this is an angel episode. :)
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Spoilers (as in point by point summary) for Death Takes a Holiday
Okay, love for Kripke and all, but DUDE! This was the latest in the continuing series of episodes where I ended up depressed after. In fact, I think they should do away with the annoying commercials for Arby's they kept showing (the one with the guy styling his hair with a burger? ugh) and just do ads for, you know, Lexapro, Effexor, Zoloft... Of course, rant notwithstanding, I still thought the episode was fairly well written/acted and had some interesting character moments.
We open on a scene with two guys discussing fantasy football as they step onto a dark street--the only relevant bit here is the would-be mugger who gets startled into shooting one of the guys. Point blank. In the heart. So it would be rather shocking that said shooting victim didn't die, except that I already knew the title of the ep, so no big surprise there.
Flash to our boys in one of the ubiquitous diners they like to frequent (pie!) and Sam saying he got a tip from Bobby (who I wish was getting more screen time!) that there was a Wyoming town where people were mysteriously not dying. Although, somewhat amusingly, IMO, there have only been two non-deaths. Doesn't it take three to make a pattern? But Sam elaborates that, of the two, one was clinically dead when he got up and walked out of hospice and the other was aforementioned shot-through-the-heart (and you're to blame) guy. Sam immediately posits that it's probably something dark (ie demonic deals) and that they should make tracks.
It's here that, to me, Dean seems to get reeeeeaaaaal uncomfortable. He sits like a lump while his brother heads toward the door and when Sam turns back, Dean snips, "You sure you want me to go? I wouldn't want to hold you back." (See: siren-induced sibling brawl in 4.14 "Sex and Violence".) Now, maybe it's just me, but I think that Dean picking a fight here wasn't anger at his bro but at himself (guilty conscience) because what Sam's suggesting brings up a point we've mentioned here on the blog before. In the Supernatural mythos, hell isn't just populated by baddies, but people who were desperate enough to try to make deals (e.g. John Winchester, Dean Winchester...). So I wonder if perhaps Sam didn't get Dean thinking about those poor deluded fools who make deals (perhaps to gain more time with their loved ones, e.g. MARY Winchester) and end up somehow paying later. What if some of those types were the very souls Dean was "happily" torturing in hell?
Or maybe I just read waaaaaay too much into it. But Dean still radiates that guilt that's been a central part of his character ever since he admitted to Sam that he definitely remembers his time down under.
The brothers visit one of the "miracle" survivors, their cover being that they are bloggers for the Lord. (Fairly hilarious, but nothing beats the time they showed up as grief counselors: "We're here to hug.") In this scene, we get our first example of how much the brothers have changed places. Remember back when Dean was a jaded hunter who didn't let pesky stuff like emotions get in the way of the job, and Sensitive Sammy was his contrast? Yeah, not so much anymore. Sam asks, somewhat tactlessly, "Been to any crossroads lately? Talked to anyone with black eyes? Maybe red?"
Our intrepid heroes conclude that perhaps the reason no one's died here in the last 10 days is an absence of Reapers, which leads them to an asthmatic kid (the last death in town). It's Sam's idea that they do a seance in the cemetery to just ask the kid what he knows, and Dean (again, the erstwhile jaded hunter who thought nothing of traveling the world in the Impala and doing whatever necesary to gank monsters) observes that it's "whacked" how matter-of-factly they do things like try to raise spirits in the cemetery. Well, yes, Dean. It's like he's just chimed in for a chorus of the same song Sammy was singing when we first met him. In fact, they go on to argue about bringing back the Reapers, with Sam contending that they're a "natural" order that must be maintained and Dean getting indignant over the irony (Yeah, Sam. See the title of your show). Dean points out that being a Winchester is all about cheating death, so what makes them so special? (I could give him a list, but I don't think that's what he's talking about.) Anyway, Sam is borderline condescending when he points out that this IS their life and Dean can't be Joe Plumber, no matter how much he wants to be normal. Which brings us full circle to the pilot episode where Dean thinks it's ridiculous that Sam wants to go off and marry Jess and live the life of Joe Normal. (BTW, as you can probably tell, I was not so much with the Sam-love this ep, but Padalecki was doing a GREAT job. He could be cold and distant and morally detached, and then he'd smile at something or make a comment and it was like seeing the old Sam, which only underlined how much his character has changed.)
Their cemetery fun is interrupted by Allistair and when we first met the demon, I thought he was a little over the top in a handlebar mustache, mob-boss, too campy to be truly spooky way. But because they've made him so distinctive, I think it's easier for different actors (possessees) to play him and be recognizable. Dean gets knocked out immediately, but then Sam uses some of his mojo to drive him off. And let me just say, Sam when he goes to that dark exorcism place? He DOES look spooky. It can't be easy to be that hot and that chilling.
Seance thwarted, the brothers decide to visit the spirit plane to talk to the kid, via the help of grouchy and reluctant psychic, Pamela Barnes, who we first met in the season opener Lazarus Rising. Frankly, can you blame her for being grouchy and reluctantly? When Bobby first brought the boys to her for help, she ended up blinded for her troubles. (And, um, she ain't gonna end up much better after assisting them in this episode.) Once they become ghostlike, we see a bit of characteristic--or what used to be characteristic--sibling behavior. Dean can't resist putting his hand through Sam (much, as it seems, my kids can't resist poking at each other whenever we're driving somewhere).
Sam: "Get out of me."
Dean: "You're such a prude."
Well, actually he's NOT. There were one or two times in early seasons he actually did come across as a little...well, prissy (don't kill me, Samgirls), but that was before he was doing female doctors up against walls and having smoking sex with demons. Our boys--and their relationship--are nowhere near what they were in seasons 1, 2, or 3. Which was evidenced earlier when Sam lied about Allistair running and Dean called him on it, telling Sam he could keep his little secrets but to at least not treat him (Dean) like an idiot.
Even more so than most episodes, this was one was rife with the pop cult references, including "ghost" Dean making plans to "feel up Demi Moore" and, after they gently break the news to the spirit kid that he is, in fact, deceased, he snarks back at them, "Yeah, thanks haley Joel, I know I'm dead." Love it!
The "black smoke" took the Reaper who first came for the kid (apparently, sacrificing two reapers in a ritualistic way on a certain night will open another seal) but now another Reaper has come to collect: Tessa. Who you may remember (although Dean initially did not) from 2.1 "In My Time of Dying." She's come for the kid, although she agrees not to reap him yet until they can sort out what's going on with Allistair. But, to sort that out, they need the kid's cooperation. Sam offers to talk to him and when Dean asks what his brother plans to say, Sam responds, "Whatever I have to." Which he does. He baldly lies to the kid, promising he can stay in the house with his family forever and doesn't have to go into the light if he helps. Liar! And so unlike the Sammy we once knew. It would have been Dean taking the Machiavellian approach and Sam fretting over it. Oh, I feel sad now.
But then there's a great scene where the kid is trying to teach them to use their ghostly powers that cracked me up. Especially when Dean makes a Mr. Myagi reference, and the kid asks blanky, "Who's Mr. Myagi?"
After the scary old man reaper is--what? killed? you can kill death?--dispatched and another confrontation with Allistair, the boys do at least manage to save Tessa. But Sam gets yanked back into the corporeal plane because Pamela the pyschic is being attacked. He arrives to send a demon out of a body, but not in time to keep Pamela from being stabbed. (Honestly, it's no wonder she hates helping these guys.) Clearly a mortal wound, or, at least, it will be, once Tessa gets back on the job.
Meanwhile, Dean squares off with Allistair, who calls Dean "angsty." Angsty! Need anymore proof that the brothers have completely switched roles? But then Castiel shows up, which apparently results in the capture of Allistair (which I'm probably not spelling right, but at least I'm consistent). Then Dean has to go with Tessa to explain to the kid that Sam lied (and then conveniently fled the plane before having the tough discussion). There's a semi-poignant moment where Tessa explains that the kid will be doing his grieving mother a favor by removing his spirit from the house, then he walks into her for a hug and disappears in a bright flash of light. (Seriously, why did they send creepy Reaper after him in the first place instead of the pretty soothing one?) But then the writers RUIN it by having Tessa go completely cold and insist that there is no "better place" and Dean knows it.
COME ON! Even on Buffy, which got darker in its last two seasons, there was a heaven (of course, her meddling friends did her psychological damage by yanking her out of it, but not my point.) Where's the balance, show? We have demons galore--but the angels are cryptic at best, occasionally fallen and, well, I'm not sure the word I want to use for Uriel is appropriate for this blog. We have a torturous unthinkable hell, but there's no heaven? We're missing the contrast, the balance the, dare I say, natural order of things :-) I'm curious to see if there's a light at the end of this season's darkness or if that's something we'll work toward next season. (Unless, horrors, we just get even darker next season and get one of those Angelesque apocolyptic endings, which, NO! These poor boys deserve better. And if the show's mythos already includes a God and angels, why not a heaven? So now the boys have nothing to work toward? Nothing to look forward to after a life of battling evil? Unfair!)
Dean awakes in time to see that Pamela is dying and lamely offers that she's, "going to a better place." To which she calls bullshit. Then she hugs Sam goodbye, except what she's really doing is telling him that she felt the darkness in him and that if he's rationalizing his new powers by telling himself he has the best of attentions, well, bullshit to that, too.
And then credits. And Tanya staring miserably at the screen going, Gah.
What about you? What do you think of the boys' role reversals and the growing sense of impending doom? Well-written and intriguing, or enough already, we need more eye of the tiger end credits to keep us from crying ourselves to sleep after the eps?
Posted by Tanya Michaels at 8:15 PM
"What Cha Gonna Do" by Classic
"Speaking In Tongues" by Eagles Of Death Metal
"Ramblin' Man" by Allman Brothers Band
"Back In Black" by AC/DC
"Highway To Hell" by AC/DC
"My Cheatin' Ways" by Kid Gloves Music
CUE MUSIC: [And you can take your anemic, alternative pop music and shove it up your ass. Dean plays bass thumping, pile driving Zeppelin, and he plays it loud.]
That’s the way series creator Erik Kripke noted the music intro for the pilot script of Supernatural. A small town Ohioan, and big time Led Zepplin fan, Erik fought to make Supernatural stand out on the soundtrack landscape. His beloved 70’s mullet rock was so important to him he nearly quit the show when they tried to steer him from metal to McLachlan. Fortunately, Kripke won and those eight songs quickly told viewers this show was going to be different. Now legions of new fans are downloading AC/DC, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Foreigner and I know I’m not the only one with Kansas’s Carry On My Wayward Son as a ringtone.
While Kripke is the most paramount influence over Supernatural’s sound, kudos also have to go to music supervisor Alex Patsavas. Patsavas has paired music with pictures for Roswell, The O.C., Gossip Girl, Chuck, Twilight (Yes, that Twilight) and Grey’s Anatomy. She combs through over 500 submissions a week for all the shows she works on and is considered a golden girl for her ability to discover new talent and shoot songs to the top of the charts. After Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars played during Denny’s (our Jeffrey Dean Morgan) death scene on Grey’s it became #1 on I-Tunes download list the following day. Patsavas considers music to be a character and that certainly holds true for the Supernatural soundtrack.
Sadly, though the fans and Kripke would love to see official Supernatural soundtracks released, it doesn’t look to be possible due to steep costs. Led Zeppelin, in particular, is impossibly (read: obscenely) expensive to license, but I imagine they have to know how much this show has created a resurgence of interest in their songs. As an alternative Kripke has asked Warner Music to create an official Supernatural I-Tunes playlist, but that hasn’t happened either (even though you can download all the episodes). However, fans have created some pretty awesome I-Tunes I-Mix’s so you can download your own soundtrack that way. And if you want to see a broken down song episode guide check out Supernatural.TV.
I know I’ve gained a greater appreciation for classic rock because of this show and that’s one of Kripke’s greatest pleasures.
"One of the best pleasures I've had with this show is when I'm online checking out the blogs and there's this 14-year-old kid who says, 'What is this band, Foreigner and this song, Hot Blooded? I really liked it and I went out and bought the greatest hits of Foreigner' and I'm like, ah, I'm doing God's work! I'm introducing people to Foreigner, now if I can get people on board with Triumph! Spreading that sick obsession of mine has been very, very gratifying."
Did you love mullet rock before Supernatural? Got any Supernatural ringtones? What do you think Sammy listens to? And are you waiting for Carry on Wayward Son to make an appearance in season 4 like I am? This song has become a heartbreaking season ending hallmark--1.20 Salvation, 2.22 All Hell Breaks Loose, 3.16 No Rest for the Wicked—and I expect this season to be no different.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
MJ: I've been looking forward to this movie since I heard Jeffrey Dean Morgan would be in it. I read Watchmen in January 2008, and understood why Jeffrey said fans of Denny would lose their....well, they wouldn't be getting the same character at all. I urged my teen-aged son to read it (okay, maybe not the best parenting move) but not until he saw the trailer was he a convert. So I thought the two of us could write a joint review of the movie for you.
JF: I was first introduced to Alan Moore through V For Vendetta, unaware that his true genius lay in a novel recommended to me by my mother. Hurm.
MJ: I loved V for Vendetta, the movie, but never read the book. I had actually never read a graphic novel before Watchmen (thank you JDM).
JF: Watchmen takes place in an alternate 1985 in which Richard Nixon is still President, the United States won the Vietnam War and superheroes have been outlawed except for the God-like Dr. Manhattan and the nihilistic Comedian whose murder kicks off the plot.
MJ: The man dies IN EVERYTHING.
JF: Hehe, "Deady."
MJ: FUNNY. Poor JDM. He said when his agent sent him the graphic novel, he thought the agent was playing a joke on him-he died on page three. The agent told him not to be a...well, to just keep reading. He went to meet Zach, who told him the role was his if he wanted. I think Zach was the perfect director for this-he clearly had a vision going in.
JF: Yeah, my friend Sam said he would've rather seen Terry Gilliam direct it. Isn't he cute? The movie stays ridiculously faithful to the novel in all aspects but the ending, which honestly does not bother me.
MJ: The movie was so close to the book that I was actually ticking events off in my head: This needs to happen, and this, and this. I agree about the ending. It seemed to make more sense and create more conflict this way.
JF: There's violence. Lots of violence.
MJ: I hid my eyes pretty much every time Rorschach was on the screen. He was not sane, but he did have some of the best lines in the movie. I loved the line, "God didn't much care what any of us did that night." Also, "I'm not locked in here with you. You're locked in here with me."
JF: He had some of the greatest lines in the history of superhero movies. Speaking of greatest, best opening credits in the history of mankind. Bob Dylan makes everything better.
MJ: Agreed. It worked as a terrific prologue, giving the viewers who read the book AND the ones who hadn't a history of these costumed heroes....who weren't really all that heroic. These people wanted to help society but ended up being consumed by their own egos, or by their own power, or hiding behind their masks. It's a great character study.
JF: Psychologists will love this movie. It's definitely more mature in that aspect, as well as giving the existence of superheroes cultural and political aspects, i.e. Ozymandias (Matthew Goode) partying with David Bowie and The Village People and the United States using Dr. Manhattan to win the Vietnam War. Although...the political bits left something to be desired but the first bit with the McLaughlin Group: perfection.
MJ: It did a good job of setting the time period-I never watched the McLaughlin Group, but I remember SNL making fun of it. During the credits, I saw that Annie Leibowitz was portrayed. I recognized the Andy Warhol character and of course JFK and Jackie. My quibble with Nixon was he looked like a caricature. Yes, I know, this is a movie about superheroes, but everything else looked "real," even the big blue guy.
JF: Where's Frank Langella when you need him? Even though I think this guy did a good job, just the nose...long. Like the movie, actually. But despite its length, the film is really fast-paced due to the fact that it has a lot of ground to cover, but stay with it, it's worth it.
MJ: Yet some scenes, like the love scene, were a hair too long. I would have rather they built up other parts of the story, like the big revelation that I'd been looking forward to. It lost some of its emotional punch because a lot of the backstory was compressed.
JF: What the hell was up with that sex scene? It was unreasonably long when it was only depicted in a few frames in the novel. And to "Hallelujah?" There are so many things that are wrong with this scene.
MJ: There is only so much of Patrick Wilson I want to see, you know?
JF: I was more comfortable with Dr. Manhattan's person because at least his nudity highlighted his gravitation away from humanity.
MJ: Yeah, and his need for PANTS? I thought it was just because he didn't shred his pants like the Hulk when he got bigger.
JF: Maybe he just likes the breeze.
MJ: My son, ladies and gentlemen.
JF: Moving on, fans of Grey's Anatomy and Supernatural ...
MJ: That would be me.
JF: ...have been trying to tell me this for ages and I finally agree: Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a horribly underrated actor and he was great as The Comedian. Only he could look so cool beating up hippies to KC & The Sunshine Band.
MJ: He was wicked. Not adorable or redeemable at all. But that music was terrific. I've heard people complain that the soundtrack drew them out of the movie. I enjoyed it, though. "Unforgettable" was playing as a backdrop for the Comedian's murder, "Sound of Silence" during the funeral, "Hallelujah" during the love scene....well done.
JF: Gah, "Hallelujah..." The score was perfect though, it had a real Blade Runner feel to it, but...cooler? Zack definitely liked contrasting themes just as Moore did in the novel. The symmetry that is so prominent in the book also presents itself in the film, but most of it requires a second viewing to understand.
MJ: I do want to see it again. It's a long movie, though, so....maybe after a week or so.
JF: True that, yo. My butt's still flat from two viewings. But Jackie Earle Haley makes it worth it because Jackie Earle Haley is absolutely brilliant as Rorschach. Role of a lifetime despite Christian Bale voice. Lives in San Antonio. Must investigate further. Jackie Earle Haley.
MJ: I loved his scenes with Dan (Nite Owl) and when he was unmasked.
JF: The scenes on Mars are some of my favorite scenes in cinematic history. They're just so beautiful. Towards the end, it kind of has a Return Of The King feel to it, just in how it's edited and in the sense of urgency. Maybe that's just me.
MJ: I didn't get that comparison, and to be honest, Dr. Manhattan was probably the least compelling character for me.
JF: You take that back!
MJ: Come on-the Comedian was intriguing, Rorschach was fascinating, Silk Spectre was interesting...okay, maybe Nite Owl was the least compelling. While Billy Crudup did a terrific job, I felt a distance from the character.
JF: Which makes sense if you think about it. Isn't he getting further away from humanity? Therefore, humans would fall out of touch with him.
MJ: Right. Well, they did a good job with that. So the Mars scenes, while cool, weren't my favorite. I know those scenes were very important to Watchmen fans.
JF: Very much so, but Zack Snyder may be upsetting some Bob Dylan fans with My Chemical Romance's cover of "Desolation Row." But despite my moral opposition to their cover, it fit. "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love And Understanding?" by Elvis Costello would've been a better fit.
MJ: While I love Elvis, I thought the song they used fit great. So, final analysis...best movie of the year?
JF: What could possibly top it? The Wolverine movie? Please.
MJ: Dude. GAMBIT.
JF: Anyone in Watchmen could easily destroy Gambit. AND THEY DON'T EVEN HAVE POWERS!
MJ: Hey, it's your fault I even know who Gambit is. Remember those cartoons we'd watch over and over?
JF: Uh huh, and who's the one who recommended a comic book to her son? That just happened.
MJ: My fault....my son has WAY too much exposure to pop culture. Back to the movie....I've not been able to get it out of my head for days, and not just the JDM parts (he's actually only in a handful of scenes because, you know, he DIES at the beginning.) Still, really a powerful movie.
JF: You can forgive Zack Snyder for 300 now.
MJ: Hey, now! How can you forget, "THIS IS SPARTA???"
JF: By memorizing the first lines of Rorschach's journal or anything that has artistic merit.
MJ: You like having gas in your car, right?
JF: Most car thieves don't know how to drive a stick, I do.
MJ: Because I taught you. Behave.
JF: "Rorschach's Journal, October 12, 1985..."
MJ: This could go on forever.
Have you seen the movie? What did you think?