Friday, July 31, 2009

Classic Episode Review: "The Kids Are Alright"

When fans heard the premise of this episode, there was--of course--an uproar. Sure, everyone agreed, Dean's a dog and it's highly likely he left something behind somewhere--but don't bring it permanently into our show. No car seats in the Impala!

This was probably the first instance of me hearing a spoiler, watching the fandom freak out, and just trusting Kripke and Co. to do it right. And they did!

Understandably, Dean wants to get his fill of all the good things in life. Bacon cheeseburgers and sex, primarily. And there's this chick in this town where there also happens to be a job.

First we have to focus on the Dean-as-father part. There are a few elements to this. First is Dean fearing he is one, as Ben displays many common traits. Music, girls, cars, and food, to be specific. Lisa insists he's not Dean's, but Dean doesn't seem convinced. Later, Ben displays courage and leadership that also emulates Dean. Lisa's explanation of "having a type" works, but the whole possibility has Dean thinking. He begins to long for a normal life, a life where he could do all the fatherly things his own didn't do with him. But there's a wagonload of poignancy when he says he could never have it.

The "skeery" plot, the job they're there to do, is one of the most creepy ones, and I found it excellently handled. Anything to do with kids is tricky (unless you're a horror flick where that's the whole point, I guess). The girl who played Katie totally creeped me out. Kathleen Munroe, who played the freaked-out mother, was amazing and sympathetic even as she tried to drown her kid. The effects of the changelings was horrific yet subtle, for the most impact.

Oh, yeah. That was the monster-of-the-week. Changelings. Someone was taking the kids and replacing them with these things that sucked on the mother's synovial fluid. The really cool thing is that when Sam and Dean tracked them down, they didn't have to flame the kids. There was a kick-ass mother--no, a literal mother--who beat them up pretty good before they torched her, which made the changelings go fwoosh without anyone having to flame them on the front lawn. Very cool.

The final element of the episode was Ruby, who showed up all cocky and stuff, flashing her black eyes at Sam and giving hints about a deeper mystery, some of which, despite Ruby's revelation and termination in the season 4 finale, remains unresolved. She also claimed she could help save Dean. Thus began the Great Ruby Debate.

Some favorite lines:

"Gumby Girl...does that make me Pokey?"

Ben: "Only bitches send a grownup."
Dean: "You're not wrong."
Ben: "And I am not a bitch."

What are your favorite parts/lines of this episode? Did you like it? If not, why not? What did I miss? Weigh in, in the comments!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Summer Vacation ala Winchester

The kids here go back to school in a week and a half and as I look back over the summer, it feels like one long road trip. And since my favorite show is also one long road trip (and because the Winchester boys are never far from my mind) I couldn't help but draw parallels. My husband pointed out that in the span of two weeks, we had traveled the entire highway of Interestate 85, from where it ends up north in Virginia to where it dead-ends into 65 south of us. We've been through Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Tennesee, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and DC--but how did our travels stack up against Sam and Dean's? I've broken down a few of our road trip moments and rated them accordingly (points on a 1-6 scale).

Clearly, we could have earned more Winchester points if we'd been driving in my husband's very cool Mustang convertible, but alas, trippin' with the kids required the big blue, scuffed up (but paid off) minivan. Then again, who else understands making sacrifice for the family better than Sam and Dean?!

On our first big road trip day, we pulled into a diner for "brunch" (we like to start driving around 3 am so the kids 10 am we've generally been on the road for what it feels like a full day.) AC/DC was on the radio! ("Back in Black" and Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" are two of my six year old's favorite requests.) And the diner could have totally been a setting for an SPN show! Even the waitress looked familiar. I gave the place 4 Winchester points. We would've got 5 if the waitress had dropped the hot sauce (6, if my husband had then caught it).

Later that same day we sat in traffic on I-10, listening to Collective Soul's "Tremble My Beloved." Followed by the Jonas Brothers. And eventually a Pokemon movie on the DVD player. Have you ever noticed that the boys, for all the time they spend in the Impala, never seem stuck in construction or traffic? Winchester Points: 0 (Although, speaking of traffic? This summer was my first ever experience with driving in DC. The traffic there is worse than anything Allistair can dish up! Seriously, you want to see a good man go Dark Side, put him on Dupont Circle. The change in my husband was not unlike Sam's growing rages throughout the show's arc.)

Around Lafayette, we couldn't take being in the car anymore. Ended up spending night in semi-crappy hotel (Winchester-like, but no magic fingers bed). Filled up for gas and later learned of the "blue phantom" with multiple sightings and internet mentions (google Lafayette gas station phantom). Winchester points: 5 out of 6

Next day, crossed over to TX border, where we--former Texas residents--made way to nearest Whataburger with all possible haste! (Jared and Jensen would be so proud. And while I realize Jared and Jensen are real and Sam and Dean are...slightly less real, I still give us 5 Winchester points. Jared mentioned Whataburger by name in an interview.)

We made many stops in Texas, including to Victoria where the actual city newspaper, I kid you not, has devoted multiple articles to possible El Chupacabra sightings in the past year. Of course, local scientists and zookeepers keep insisting it's coyotes with mange, so...Winchester points: 2.

After our Texas trip, we were home less than a week before setting out again. At 4 am. During a storm, on dark deserted streets, while I (the only person awake) listened to Kansas. Definite 6 out of 6!

As we crossed into South Carolina, the sun not quite rising behind the drizzle, I spotted more and more fireworks signs. One had a vaguely creepy clown on it, but the next one was for Phantom Fireworks and had a genuinely disquieting logo. As I passed it (listening to Bon Jovi's "Bad Medicine"), my son sat bolt upright in the very back of the van. Now, apparently it was just to say he had to pee, which in and of itself isn't that chilling, but I had glanced out the windshield at the creepy phantom board and then back to my mirror--where suddenly a face loomed! Come on, you know how many times evil entities have popped up in the reflection behind the hero, or in the backseat of a previously uninhabited car? Winchester Points, 6+.

In North Carolina, we passed near the county that boasts the Brown Mtn. Lights phenomenon. Very well documented with numerous theories discussed and discredited...but at the end of the day, it's basically some flickering lights that aren't hurting anyone. Not what you would call bloody Mary scary. Winchester Points: 2.

Passed through a town called: Spotsylvania. Hee. It's like they merged Mystery Spot with Transylvania. I'm envisioning a town where vampires listen to a lot of Asia...

In Virgina, we were 20 miles outside of Clifton where there are ghost stories about a local murderer and other phenomena that all seem connected to a haunted, long-ago asylum. Shudder. Winchester points: 5

And I have to say, I have new respect for Sam and Dean, driving cross-country with each other for 4 seasons! I was sad this season that they were at each other's throats so often, but now I'm amazed that they've made it this far. Nothing like roadtripping with my entire family all summer to make me feel like I'm destined for an asylum!

Hopefully, not a haunted one.

Monday, July 27, 2009

What's in your trunk?

You know those Capital One commercials that ask, "What's in your wallet?" Well, today's question is, "What's in your trunk?" For most of us, the answer is probably pretty boring. You can't say the same for those Winchesters.

Here's a list compiled from sites, video, pics and memory of what you can find in Sam and Dean's weapons cache aka the Metallicar's trunk. It in know way covers everything. Feel free to add others in the comments. One thing's for sure, I imagine there are things in there that would scare us.

* spear heads

* machetes

* knives

* arrows

* throwing stars

* camcorder

* infrared thermo scanner

* EMF detector

* brass knuckles

* grenades & launcher

* wooden cross

* blacklight

* lockpick

* shovel

* duffle bags

* bandoliers

* gas

* salt tin

* wooden stakes

* holy water flasks

* salt rounds

* flare guns

* tasers

* mallet

And then of course there's the fire power. If you want the goods on the guns check out this page on the Internet Movie Firearms Database. From Colts to Glocks and Winchesters to Remingtons, these boys are packing.

Of course, elsewhere in the car we also know they've got Dean's cassettes, toothbrushes, Sam's laptop, Dad's journal, paper and pens, alias identifications, cell phones, maps, clothes and the occasional rotten tuna fish sandwich. If you think about it, the Impala is like Mary Poppin's carpet bag, it always has what they need when they need it. However, I don't think I've ever seen a spare tire!

As for me, I have two jackets, a beach towel and two canvas grocery sacks, which I forget to use. So, what's in your trunk?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Winchesters on other TV shows

I know, you're thinking, "There are other TV shows besides Supernatural?" Unfortunately, yes, there are. And I wouldn't have come to SPN without first falling for Jeffrey Dean Morgan on Grey's Anatomy, so I have to credit that show.

Here are some other shows you might have seen the Winchesters in.


Grey’s Anatomy 2006-2009

Jeffrey Dean Morgan played Denny, a heart patient that intern Izzy Stevens falls for, risks her career for, and then he DIES. How rude. He returned last season as a symptom of her brain tumor, but this was the speech that had women around the country falling in love with him.


Gilmore Girls 2000-2005

Jared pretty much jumped from high school to Gilmore Girls, where he played the very nice boyfriend Dean Forester to very nice girl Rory Gilmore.


Days of our Lives (1997-2000)

Jensen played Eric Brady, twin son of Marlena and Roman Brady. I know I had to be watching this when he was on, but I mostly remember when his character was a baby.

Dark Angel (2001-2002)
Wow, I didn’t realize this was so long ago. I bought this season on DVD because he was just adorable. He was a genetically engineered super-soldier, raised by the group Manticore, and assigned as Jessica Alba’s character Max’s breeding partner in Season 2 of Dark Angel. He’s a charmer, though, once he leaves the Manticore facility and enters Max’s world. He also plays the evil twin of Alec (named because of his smart-alec attitude.) I liked this show, but it had no resolution before it was cancelled.

Dawson’s Creek (2002-2003)

I didn’t see him on this, but he played Jen’s boyfriend.

Smallville (sorry, Natalie, this clip has Lana) 2004-2005

He played a man who fell for Lana when she was on a trip to France. He followed her back to Smallville and got a job as an assistant coach who had an inappropriate relationship with a student. As a teen-aged girl, I would have bought into the fantasy. As a teacher, I’m creeped out.

What’s your favorite show from our Supernatural boys? Did you know about the actors before you followed them to Supernatural?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Season 5 Episodes

I was supposed to do a recap of "Bloody Mary" today, but I've not had time what with the RWA conference last week and being under two deadlines at the moment. But I did notice that we're getting some episode titles for Season 5. Here's what IMDB is listing so far:

Season 5, Episode 1: "Sympathy for the Devil" set to air Sept. 10 (Only 50 days away!), written by Eric Kripke

Hmm, interesting title. Who is sympathetic toward the Devil? I can't imagine it would be the Winchester boys, but I could be wrong. Perhaps just Sam? The cause of more friction between Sam and Dean?

Season 5, Episode 2: "Good God, Y'All" set to air Sept. 17, written by Sera Gamble

Have to say I love this episode title since I'm from the South. Interesting that we have the Devil mentioned in the first episode and then God in the second. Part of me thinks they wouldn't cast anyone in the God role, but who knows?

Season 5, Episode 3: "Good to Be You and Me" set to air Sept. 24, written by Jeremy Carver

On first glance, this seems like it might be a brothers-focused episode. Maybe this is when they start healing the rift between them? Maybe they go up against something that causes them to realize they really are on the same thing and that it's good to be them instead of whatever they're facing or people in worse situations.

In casting news, I saw where the role of the archangel Raphael -- a mechanic who is possessed by one of the most powerful beings in the universe -- is being added as a recurring role.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Classic Episode Review: "Roadkill"

Sergei Bachlakov/The CW

I'm not a dumb person. I've seen The Sixth Sense. But I'll readily admit, I didn't see this coming.

Maybe I was too dazzled by the extra beauty in the episode. Supernatural is loaded with hot chick guest stars, mostly those with that slick, plastic-type beauty that makes them so hard to differentiate from each other, even if the acting is decent. Tricia Helfer is one of the few females on the show who's a big cut above. (Side note: I watched her on Warehouse 13 recently and had to turn up the air conditioning.)

I planned to watch this episode again before writing my post, but a jam-packed schedule last week rendered it impossible. So I'm just going to talk about the things that left an impact on me, one big enough to recall a year after I last watched the episode. Then you guys can fill in the blanks with what I missed. :)

By this episode, Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki have been working effortlessly together for a long time. Their chemistry, present from the beginning, is almost a living presence. Tricia Helfer had the rare experience to not only be in almost every scene with them, but to in fact have more screen time than they did. And she made it completely worthwhile.

Throughout the episode, I noted the things they did differently, and appreciated them as a departure from the norm that nonetheless stayed grounded in the show's normality. Sam and Dean had done research, knew about the deaths along the road, and the ghost, but we didn't have to see them doing the research. Later I realized we were really seeing everything through Molly's eyes, a unique way to show a typical vengeful spirit story. After all, certain types of stories can be told over and over, it's just the characters and how they do things that make them worth experiencing.

It was very cold while they were filming, poor Tricia didn't have as many layers as the boys did, and their breath had as much screen time as anyone else.

Jared had a cold, I think. He certainly sounded plugged up, especially during that very compassionate moment when they tried to hit me on the head with what was happening, and I ducked. (That was when they sat on the bed and he said "Some spirits hold on too tight...can't let go.")

My favorite line was when Dean told Sam he's a walking encyclopedia of weirdness, and Sam just agrees. I loved that. There's so often tension between them regarding the ways they're different. Early in season one, they did research equally, and Dean knew as much as Sam. But Sam--the scholarly, academic one--eventually took over more of that, and Dean seemed to let him. Sam became the "smart" one, even more than had already been established, and Dean constantly picked on him for it. So this easy, acknowledging moment when Sam just takes Dean's teasing at face value just feels good.

The moment I figured out what was going on was, of course, when they took Molly to David and he was in the house. It didn't make any sense. Even on my big TV, it was hard at first to tell that he looked so much older, but his behavior certainly didn't match a guy whose wife had disappeared. But we saw David, then Molly, then the boys, then Molly, and it hit me that she was dead. I'm sure plenty of people saw it coming, and some might have felt manipulated or deceived. But I felt like the writers were watching the dawning recognition on my face, the joy that I had been fooled so deliciously, and that they were giggling behind their hands at their success.

When they started the montage of flashbacks, I had a second of disappointment. I didn't need everything rehashed for me. But then, seeing everything turned around, from their perspective, and of course, new pieces we hadn't seen because Molly hadn't seen them, just enhanced the whole experience.

In the end, this episode hit the top of my "feel good" list. Instead of anger or self-recrimination, we got compassion and hope. And a taste of just how damned good the writers can be, even without straying too far from show parameters.

Supernatural reuses a lot of its guest stars (Anita Brown was Lindsay in "Skin" and Hope in "Wishful Thinking"; Keegan Connor Tracy was Karen Giles in "The Usual Suspects" and Sera Siege in "The Monster at the end of this Book"). I don't know if that's because there's a limited pool who will go to Vancouver for a guest role, or what. But they can reuse Tricia Helfer any time, and I won't even scoff at how she's too distinctive to do that with.

Your turn! What did you love--or dislike--about "Roadkill"? Favorite lines? Agree or disagree with my love of TH? Fill up the comments! :)

FYI, the commenting issue seems to be related to OpenID, is inconsistent across blogs and posts, and is not something Blogger seems to have addressed in any way as of yet. So if you get error code "bX-m9h15s" please try a different log-in method, and shoot us an e-mail to let us know. Thanks!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Jared!!!

27 years old today. I still feel dirty ;)





Coming this week

Monday -- Natalie does a classic episode review of "Roadkill."

Wednesday -- Trish continues our look back at past episodes with a recap of "Bloody Mary."

Friday -- MJ looks at the work of our favorite Supernatural actors outside of Supernatural.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

From the Vault:Episode Recap of "Skin" (1-6)

Note: this summary contains spoilers not just for the recapped episode but also mild spoilers from season four, since I discuss the contrast between “Skin” and later episodes.

This first season episode starts with Iron Butterfly’s pounding “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” (which, btw, it always takes me a week to get out of my head [oh, won’t you come with me-e-e-e and take my hand…]) and we see that some poor young woman has been tied up and—yikes—cut up. It looks as if her attacker might be coming in for the kill, but an outside shot of the house shows a SWAT team coming to her rescue. The bad guy tries to flee but is stopped at the back door where he turns with hands raised and we discover the bad guy is Dean.

Well, no. I mean, both of the Winchester boys have definitely had their “dark side” moments in four seasons of the show, but no way do I buy that Dean was just sadistically torturing a cute blonde. Hitting on, I could believe—in fact, I would bet on. But hurting? No.

It appears the explanation is going to be complicated since, as the beginning credits roll, we flash to “ONE WEEK AGO.” And the short set-up scene that follows is one of the reasons that I applaud the writers of this show. At a gas station where they’re fueling up the Impala, Sam is using his phone to read emails from college friends. Dean scoffs that Sam is even bothering to keep up with those friends since it’s not like Sam can tell him the truth about where he is, where he came from or, you know, anything. (Sam tried to find that rocky middle ground between truth and lie by simply telling his buddies he needed time off after Jessica’s death and is road-tripping with his big brother.)

The writers on this show excel at characterization and while I wasn’t always crazy about Sam’s character this past season, I recognize how skillfully they set up character arcs and how they brought the brothers full circle. In season 4’s “Jump the Shark,” it’s Sam who gives the speech about cutting away all friends, about how hunters can’t have any “civilians” in their lives. It’s essentially the same point Dean tries to make at the beginning of “Skin,” but when he hears Sam repeat it three years later, Dean looks deeply disturbed by what he once considered good advice.

Meanwhile, back in season 1Sam is deeply disturbed—by an email from a friend named Rebecca whose brother has just been arrested for torturing and killing his girlfriend. Videotaped evidence is damning, but Becky claims to have been with her brother at the time—which means he could only possibly be guilty if he were in “two places at once.” That is enough for Sam to talk Dean into checking it out, although Dean is skeptical that this is a supernatural crime. He gets a lot less skeptical, however, when they view an illegally obtained copy of the video and pause on a not-quite-human gleam of the eye. Sam and Dean debate dark doubles, shape-shifters and all the other usual supernatural suspects.

We get to see the killer in action when he breaks into another apartment and attacks a woman—all while looking identical to her boyfriend. (Dude’s clearly got issues.) The brothers track the as-yet-unidentified-whatever-it-is into the sewers…where they stumble over a thoroughly deees-gusting pile of skin, goo, and body parts. Dean postulates his self-proclaimed “sick thought” that maybe this particular monster actually sheds its host body when it’s done with it. Eew, and now I have issues.

The brothers are separated chasing it and when they reunite, Sam is suspicious that “Dean” is actually shapeshifter Dean. Which seems an accurate guess when “Dean” knocks him over the head.

Sam wakes up in the sewer, tied up, while Dean rants at him. It seems that the shifter in its borrowed skin also gets borrowed memories and emotions and pseudo-Dean (who, btw, is just as hot as the real one) unloads a barrel of resentment on Sam that at least SAM got to go to college and have a chance at a life. A chance Dean never got.

I always wondered in the post-hell-angst of season 4 whether or not Dean resented the sacrifice he made on his brother’s behalf. (Which, technically, wouldn’t be fair since Sam never asked for that, but one does wonder…)

When pseudo-Dean goes off to kill Becky (the blonde from the first few minutes), the two brothers (Dean was tied up and unconscious only a few yards away) manage to escape the sewers. Becky is seemingly saved but there’s a twist at the end when Becky herself turns out to be the dark double and must be killed. At the end, the shifter is killed wearing Dean’s face, making him (temporarily) dead as far as the police are concerned.

At the end, Dean allows that maybe it’s good that Sam still has connections.

Of course, this is when Sam’s connections are still college buddies and not demonesses whose blood he’s drinking…

So, aside from the notable ick factor, what did you think of the episode and, especially, what it tells us about the brothers’ relationship?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Misha Minions

Due to unforeseen circumstances, Terri's post about the legend of the Crossroads Demon will be rescheduled. Instead, we bring you beauty and hilarity...

I am still actively resisting Twitter, because I know how easily it will crush my already difficult schedule. But I do check out one Twitter profile from time to time, because this guy is freakin' hilarious.

My exposure to Misha-the-actor has only been on Supernatural. When I got to see him in person at the Salute to Supernatural convention in March, he was funny, engaging, and delightful. But I could never have predicted the stomach-busting laughter he could inspire. I heartily recommend going to the beginning and reading all the way through. He posts in bursts, so it really won't take that long. And make sure to click through to his twit pics. The guard and the Stonehenge! *falls down laughing*

It didn't take Misha long to work up to 14,000+ minions, as he calls his Twitter followers. One of them has started a website dedicated to Misha's Minions, and there I found this cool video:

What other Supernatural people are on Twitter? Who do you follow? Post in the comments and we'll create a list!

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Pop Culture in Supernatural

It makes sense that Sam and Dean would know a lot of pop culture. After all, they grew up locked in motel rooms with only the TV for company. Even now, they probably watch a lot of TV between cases. So it’s absolutely believable that even in the alternate Supernatural universe, our pop culture would be part of the boys’ lives.

There are the I.D.s, of course, which used to be more obscure but are now getting easirt to pick out. Tyler and Perry? Come on, guys. My favorites are Freeley and Simmons (when they were priests.)

Favorite movie quotes
“We’re not in Kansas anymore.” WIAWSNB
“Run, Forrest, run!” Wishful Thinking
A number of references to The Shining, especially after Sam’s abilities are revealed. Also a lot of Ghostbuster references, especially in Hell House. LOTS of Star Wars references, like “He full-on Obi-Wanned me,” from Simon Says, and “I love the guy but he writes like friggin' Yoda,” from Asylum.
“Let me know if you see any dead people, Haley Joel.” Asylum
“Dude, I full-on Swayze'd that mother!” In My Time of Dying (I completely didn’t get this as I hated that movie and blocked it from my memory.)

Favorite TV quotes
“Candy-gram!” The Magnificent Seven
Comparing Sam to the protagonists of Medium and Ghost Whisperer. “Who’s the hotter psychic?”
A number of instances comparing themselves to Mulder and Scully from the X-Files.

Crushes on girls from 60s sitcoms
Debating the hotness of Barbara Eden vs. the actress from Bewitched WIAWSNB
Being offered Ginger and Mary Ann in season 4’s finale.

What they don’t know:
It really bothered me that Dean know Mary Poppins, or Mina and Jonathan Harker from Dracula, especially the latter. Yet he knows Kurt Vonnegut styles? Also, Molly Ringwald movies, since he refers to “Ducky love” in Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things.
But I can see him not knowing what MySpace is. Sam’s the computer geek, after all.

References to the actors’ real lives
During Hollywood Babylon, they tour the studio where Gilmore Girls was filmed. Jared, natch, was in GG.
In Shadow, Meg says, “Oh, and I met what's-his-name, something Michael Murray - at a bar.” Chad Michael Murray was in Gilmore Girls with Jared.

Inspires own pop culture

Responding to “Bitch” with “Jerk.”

Naming the Impala Metallicar.

What are some other pop culture references you attribute to Supernatural? What are some of your favorite references?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Coming this week

Monday -- MJ will explore the pop culture references in Supernatural.

Wednesday -- Terri will take a closer look at the urban legend of the Devil's Crossroad.

Friday -- Tanya continues our look back at episodes in earlier seasons with a recap of "Skin."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Season 6?

So, not so many months ago, we did blog posts here about how Season 5 was going to be the last for Supernatural, the sensible ending to a five-season story arc. But now, probably because of increased ratings this last season, we're getting rumblings of a possible sixth season. Jensen and Jared are evidently already signed for a sixth if it came about. But here's my question -- after you have a season that is centered around the ultimate Big Bad Guy (aka Lucifer), what do you follow that with? Or do you think they could stretch the Lucifer story over two seasons? Perhaps they stick Lucifer back where he belongs, but then they have to deal with...dare I say it...Heaven?

As a writer, I would be a bit freaked if I thought I knew how many episodes I had left to finish wrapping up a story but then discovered that, oh wait, there might be even more episodes. How do you figure out what to reveal when and how to arc Season 5 if you don't know if it's truly the end or you will end up having an entire additional season to play with?

So, if there is a Season 6, what are your theories on what the big bad for that season will be? Do you want a sixth season, or do you like the idea of the story going out on a high point with Season 5? I certainly don't want it to stick around until it just gets stupid and embarrassing to watch.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Classic Episode Review: "Pilot"

The pilot of Supernatural was as close to perfect as a pilot can get. The very nature of the beast is difficult: You're executing an idea with a low budget and a cast that just met and doesn't have a groove yet, plus you're operating under the pressure of knowing this is your one shot to get it right. Most pilots don't get turned into TV shows.

A good pilot:

1. Introduces characters we can identify with in some way.

Sam and Dean are brothers who have been on the outs. They spend most of the pilot episode arguing. But there's an underlying core of affection and connection. I was completely sold near the beginning, when someone snuck into Sam's apartment and they fought in silhouette. That one sequence summed up their entire relationship: sometimes contentious, evenly matched, with one on top, then the other. Dean was the teacher and protector, while Sam was the student who'd at least reached his master's level.

2. Has a complete episode arc that tells exactly what the series will be.

The "Woman in White" urban legend tells us everything we can expect from a typical Supernatural episode. The creepy image stuttering and cinematography tell us it will be scary (as does, of course, the death scenes!). The pathos of the ghost's backstory tells us this isn't like a crime show that focuses on facts and clues but not so much on people and character. The ghost's motivation is sad, and I even felt pity for the husband who started the whole long chain of events.

We get humor ("Bitch." "Jerk." and "Is anything real about you, boy?" "My boobs.") and fake rock IDs and action and mystery.

3. Asks story questions that make us want to tune in next week, and the week after, and...

Not all good shows have a major story arc, but most do. If they don't, viewers know right away that the show will get stale and repetitive, and that can make us decide not to bother investing time and care into watching now.

But Supernatural easily avoided that fate. First, there's the catalyst that launches the events: Dad's on a job, and he hasn't been home in a while. Where is he? What will the boys find when they catch up with him? Then the neatly bookended mystery--whatever killed Mom has now killed Jessica, and the reluctant hero accepts the call to adventure. We've got to know what it was, and why it did it.

There's a danger in setting up a long-term mystery, too, because if it drags on too long without answers, viewers will also get bored and tune out. But at the start, we're full of anticipation and curiosity and we'll eagerly sign up for the ride.

4. Just enough backstory, but not too much.

All fiction has this balance to maintain, and it's always a struggle. We know Sam and his father have a contentious relationship. We know they had a very unconventional upbringing, that the brothers are closer than most because of it, despite their current rift, and that their mother's death drives everything they do, every choice they make. We know these things from several short lines and one powerful prologue, but the emphasis of the show is on the future. There isn't a chance to get bored.

What else did this pilot have? Obviously, two very attractive young men who are going to be the centerpiece of the show. A definite tone that's set in the colors, the lighting, the set dressing, the broad cinematography, even the shot angles. Hints at the depths they could plumb: Sam left the hunting life a long time ago, professes to hate it, but he has a wickedly curved knife all ready to pack. Dad had a journal full of notes on things he'd hunted, and a system of communication the boys can follow with little guidance.

Like anything, the episode wasn't perfect. How did Dean get to the farmhouse from the police station? And later, why did he return to Sam's apartment? His timing is just a little too coincidental. Of course, a deleted scene on the DVD shows him driving away and changing his mind, one quick shot showing us that he's not accepting Sam's decision as he turns the car around. But we didn't get that originally. Still, those small errors or oversights aren't enough to override all the good in this pilot. It made me really happy that I was a late starter and could watch as many episodes in a row as I wanted!

Your turn! Post your favorite lines or details from the pilot, or tell us what your first impression of this episode was. Did it hook you right away, or grow on you? Did you see the pilot first, or start watching on TV later in the show's run, and go back?

Monday, July 6, 2009

A First Timer's Take

One of the fun parts of being a parent is the vicarious thrill of rediscovering something for the first time by watching my kids discover it. Being a fan is a lot like that! I was just in Texas visiting a good friend who had never seen the web-musical Dr. Horrible or (gasp) any episodes of Supernatural. I showed up with a large bag of DVDs :-) We didn't even get through the first season of SPN but we did watch several episodes a night and I was curious, as someone who's seen four seasons of development with these characters, to get the first impressions of someone who was only just introduced to them last week. (BTW, I was a little taken aback at how YOUNG the boys both looked in compared to recent 'sodes.)

Me: So? Was it everything I promised? Did you love it, or what?

JL: You do know that saying "I told you so" is not your most attractive trait? But, yeah, it's a great show. They do catch up with John eventually, right?

Me: Not saying. Keep watching the DVDs. So what were your favorite parts?

JL: I liked the premise. Crime-solving duos are not new (Mulder and Scully, anyone?) but I enjoyed the added emotional element of family and that they're brothers. Brothers who hail from a very nice gene pool.

Me: God bless Texas.

JL: The music rocked--you're sure they don't have a soundtrack?

Me: Nah, you have to do what the rest of us have done, painstakingly track down all the songs through internet lists and then create an iPod playlist.

JL: I think I already have half those songs on iPod, just have to organize. Besides the music, I appreciated that the show got off to a SOLID start. Some shows are too slow to build. I know you also like Dollhouse, but--

Me: Let's just stay focused on SPN here! And stop rolling your eyes at me. I can see that.

JL: Through cyber space? Fine, back to Supernatural. I found myself really intrigued by the episodes that focused on specific folklore. Like, the Dead in the Water episode was okay, but basically just a ghost story. I was really interested to see the bloody mary episode (which you totally covered your eyes through)--

Me: It's been well established that I'm a wuss. This is not news.

JL: BTW, is it me or did they specifically take some of that imagery from The Ring?

Me: I have no idea. Was too wussy to watch The Ring.

JL: So back to the folklore aspect... I know you said you grew up with a "woman in white" legend and I was curious after the pilot so I did some googling. Apparently, my home state of Arkansas has one, too, but I never knew it! A lot of these episodes make me want to research more, just to compare everyone's stories. Have they ever done one about the fabled school bus crash on the train tracks and the cars stalling out there that end up with fingerprints all over their back window?

Me: Nope, but I doubt it will come up next season. It looks like it will be pretty dark and arc-heavy. So you've got a lot of catching up to do before then!

JL: Do you know when the season 4 DVD set comes out?

Me: Sep 1, 2009, according to Amazon. Mark your calendar!

Friday, July 3, 2009

From Hair to There

The boys have come a long way in the last several years and it's been especially exciting to see them (finally!) gain due notice from the media, critics and a wider audience. Season 4 really shone a (heavenly) light on Supernatural and hopefully Jared and Jensen will gain great things from their widening exposure. That said, whether you've been a fan of theirs well before SPN--I know there are many of us--or if you're just discovering J&J, I'm sure you'll appreciate our mane feature of the day...from Hair to There...because whether shorn, shaggy or sideburned there's no arguing (or is there?) that our guys are the best tressed.

How cute and clean cut is Jensen?

In Wishbone he's a little more blonde and the bowl bangs are let loose!

Looking a little more slick as Brad in Sweet Valley High.

His Eric Brady sleek and sexy look. (And where I first fell for Jensen.)

Alec in Dark Angel. Ah, yes, shorter, darker and the emergence of sideburns. Now we're getting there.

Good heavens, but this pic nearly did me in. I have a thing for long hair. (Sigh.) Looking damn hot as Dawson Creek's C.J., but regressing from Dean.

There's Dean! No wait, that's Smallville's Jason Teague.

There we go...Dean...a little sharkier than he is now...but Dean. And finally there's WTF?

Better known as Ten Inch Hero's Priestly. We heart him!

Jared at the Teen Choice Awards where he was discovered. Boy next door handsome, but you can still see the 'tude.

As Rory Gilmore's first boyfriend, Dean. And, damn, more bowl bangs. What did they call this haircut? Don't they call Kate Gosselin's a reverse mullet?

As Young McGuyver. Finally, the back is catching up with the front. Thank you, God! From here on out it's all about overall length and working the bangs.

Shaggy and sexy as Sam. This is his "I'm covering my big forehead look."

This is his long all over, I'm sexy as hell from hair to toe look. Or, do you really care what my hair looks like with a bod like this?

Eep! This unfortunate flip has his forehead eclipsing his smile. If only I could mess up his hair!

I hope you enjoyed this mane montage. I'm sure we'll see many more doos over the decades, as long as they don't go bald (I can't even picture it!), I'm willing to follow them from hair to there and I'm sure you are too.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Anatomy of an Awesome Episode

I started thinking about my favorite episodes as I scrambled for a topic this week. And I started thinking about how most of them have certain elements in common.

1) High Stakes

As you know, if you’ve been reading this blog, “Croatoan” is one of my favorite episodes. And the stakes are high. Sam may be infected with a demon virus that will change him irrevocably. Dean stays with him to die with him, to the point of giving up his car. (You know, the scene that I love so much, when Dean makes this choice, is actually pretty short. Feels longer.) The stakes can’t be any higher—the boys’ death. Riveting stuff. HOW will they get out of this?

I also love “Faith.” The stakes here are high because, well, first Dean is dying, then he has a reaper after him. The twist is that if he lets the reaper get him, the sweet Lila will be cured of her brain tumor. Oh, the dilemma!

What about “The Monster at the End of this Book?” HIGH stakes. Lilith is coming, Sam might sleep with her to make a deal, Dean must stop him and doesn’t know how! The boys are at odds and are unable to take steps to avoid what seems like an inevitable conclusion.

2) Humor

In “Croatoan,” despite the dark storyline and high body count, there is humor when Sam sees the word “Croatoan” carved on the pole. He goes into exposition and chides Dean for not paying attention in school. Dean defends himself with “A Shot Heard ‘Round the World” and “How a Bill Becomes Law.” Sam says, “Dude, that’s not school. That’s Schoolhouse Rock.”

When Dean’s in the hospital in “Faith,” he rails against how much daytime TV sucks. Considering he got an Emmy for being on “Days of our Lives…” Also, “Ooh, that fabric softener teddy bear. I’m gonna hunt that little bitch down.”

Humor in “The Monster at the End of this Book:” Oh, so much. I laughed the first fifteen minutes. My favorite, when Chuck was apologizing for “Bugs” and “Red Sky at Night:” “Horror is one thing, but to live bad writing. If I’d known it was real, I would have given it another pass.”

3) Advancement of the Myth-Arc

The way they get out of trouble is that Sam is immune to the virus, because of his demon blood. Hmm, the plot thickens.

Okay, so maybe “Faith” doesn’t have a big part to play in the myth arc, but it was just first season.

“The Monster at the End of this Book” was ALL myth-arc!

4) Metallicar-porn

Also, no Metallicar porn in “Faith,” though she is shown a bit.

In “Monster…,” poor Metallicar has her back window bashed!

Okay, so there are too many episodes to do this with, and this post is already long enough. What are your requirements for an awesome episode? What episodes are your favorites?