Friday, March 19, 2010

Recap/Reassessment of Heart

There are ONLY spoilers for this one episode (Heart) but I completely ruin the ending for you if, for some reason, you haven't seen it. You've been warned.

Fridays are normally our day to recap new episodes, but as you know, SPN doesn’t come back until next week, so yet again we had no new show (I’ll pause while you join me in pouting or whatever its more dignified equal is). Sometimes instead we recap a “classic” SPN episode from an earlier season. Which works nicely since Supernatural is now in syndication and TNT has been showing it on weekday mornings, check your local listings.

Anyway, I was working at home a couple of weeks ago when I realized that Supernatural was about to come on and, since I had to run my kids’ school, I reflexively DVRed it. I’m not sure why since I actually own the DVD sets and could have watched the exact same episode, “Heart,” without the hassle of commercials. (Does anyone else do this? It’s like when ABC shows the Charlie Brown Christmas special every year and I make the family gather around the television even though we could pop in our copy whenever we want).

But I digress. When my husband got home, he thought it was maybe a new episode in our queue and sat down to watch it with me. (He gives me a lot of hell about my inappropriate appreciation of Sam and Dean—mostly Dean—but he gets wounded if I watch the show without him, witness our argument after I deleted the gory Cupid episode before he’d seen it. But I digress again).

Since my husband became a fan well after I did, he’d never seen “Heart,” and, as it’s not the kind of episode I enjoy watching over and over, I’d only seen it once. Since I, as a card carrying romance writer, really like happy endings, you can imagine why this episode is not my favorite. But beyond the ending, I recall thinking that I wasn’t crazy about the guest-actress's portrayal of Madison and that the chemistry between her and Sam seemed forced. Upon a second watching, I have decided that I was wrong.

We open on a scene in a nightclub that seemed a little more Angel or Charmed than SPN's normal grittier, low rent establishments. A woman deflects her druken boss, seemingly unperturbed as she's had practice with this lush, but then stiffens when she notices a scowling brute in the corner. Later she finds her drunken boss savaged in their office, blood aplenty, and Sam's trip to the morgue confirms an off the record suspicion of wolf attack and that the vic's heart is missing.

Apparently, the heart missing indicates werewolf and Dean turns up some previous similar crimes, so it looks like there's a werewolf in the area. Then the guys meet Madison, under the guise of investigating cops. It turns out the scowling brute was her ex and they wonder if he could be the wolf in question. One of them has to keep the beautiful slender brunette in protective custody while the other has to hit the mean-streets and look for a potentially dangerous guy. This leads to a very cute rock-paper-scissors, two out of three, both of which go to Sam. ("Dean, always with the scissors.")

But while Sam had no trouble insisting that he didn't want to hit the streets, he seems to lack his older brother's ease with women. Sam sorts of lurks uncomfortably around her apartment despite her flashing neon signs that She. Is. Interested. At one point when he's sitting at a table, she dumps a laundry basket of skimpy silky underwear in front of him and starts folding. This struck me as a lot funnier than I remember it being the first time around. (Later, when Madison goes to bed, she deliberately leaves the bedroom door ajar, and my husband rolled his eyes. "Even I would have picked up on a signal that obvious!") Probably the cutest moment between Sam and Madison was when she tells him that she never gets to watch her show (which, from the discussion they have, sounds like a soap opera) and that she won't put up with Sam making fun of it. Later, as the end credits roll, he is sitting in rapt attention discussing the show's villain with her and it is adorable. They also discuss how a seemingly self-confident woman like Madison let herself stay with a loser like her ex and she reveals that, ironically, a mugging a couple of months ago gave her a new outlook on life and changed hers for the better.

Later that night, Dean eventually catches up to Madison's very dead ex...who is missing his heart. Dean is also knocked aside by Madison the snarling werewolf. These boys really do have the worst luck with women!

Madison is surprised to wake up naked in her bed the next morning and even more surprised when cute Sam the policeman suddenly becomes menacing and withdrawn and ties her to a chair. Seeing the place on her arm where Dean nicked her with a silver knife, Sam has no doubt she's a werewolf but questions whether or not she's even aware of killing people at night or if it's just a protective instinct, sensing both of them men she's murdered as some level of threat to her. Sam asks if she was bitten during her mugging and she admits she was, on the neck, and Dean puzzles that the mark there is little more than a love bite. The brothers argue about what to do with her and Sam points out old lore that if you kill the person who turned you, it might free you (that I've actually heard before--in fact, I thin there was a short lived primetime drama revolving around that exact premise--but the whole missing heart thing was new to me; I think the writers just did that to symbolize how they plan to rip out Sam's heart and all of the viewers' at the end of the show).

Dean agrees to return the neighborhood where Madison was mugged and prostitutes have been murdered in the past, identifying that area as a werewolf hunting ground. Sam agrees to stay to keep an eye on Madison. Rather predictably, she breaks out of the chair when she turns and equally predictably, Sam can't bring himself to shoot her. But he does trap her in what I think is a closet after she manages to lacerate his pretty, pretty face. When Madison wakes at dawn and sees the destruction and clawed up walls, she becomes fully convince that Dean and Sam are not psychos after all.

Meanwhile, Dean manages a little destruction of his own, killing the werewolf who turned Madison (the neighbor who had a huge crush on her so, yes, it probably was a love bite after all). So the curse has probably been lifted, yes? (Yeah, you hold onto that dim hope.)

Dean, Sam, and Madison spend an entire full-moon night awake to see if she turns. Dean is noticeably the third wheel here. When dawn rises with no one wolfing out, they are in a celebratory mood. And Dean takes the most hilariously unsubtle exit ever so that Sam and Madison can...celebrate. Which, wow. They did not skimp on that love scene. There was definitely no fading to black or fogged up backseat of the Impala. Hello.

By the time night falls, Sam and Madison have drifted into happy afterglow sleep which doesn't last long. Madison turns wolf and bolts from her apartment, calling Sam scared from a payphone the next morning. They don't fully explain why she didn't wolf out the night before but the possibility is suggested that since she was awake the entire night, she was fighting it on a subconcious level. I don't suppose it would be possible for her to sleep during the day and stay awake nights of the full moon cycle? Or lock her up the way they always did with Oz on Buffy? But, no, because as Dean explains, those plans are not fail-safe. Eventually she would break out (or, with my plan, accidentally nod off, then wake up to find herself chowing down on some guy's heart in the east village). Dean spells out that she probably killed some one the night before and that, the first time their protective measures fail, she's going to end up killing again. The only permanent solution? Put her down.

Sam argues that they'll find a solution--he's deseperate to believe that because season 2 escalates his own self-worry that there's a monster within--but even Madison agrees with Dean. They have to kill her. And she asks Sam to be the one to do it. She puts the gun in his hand. He is poleaxed and just broken over the whole thing. Dean gently takes the gun and pulls his brother aside in conference, offering to do this for him, looking after Sam as he's tried to do ever since he carried the baby out of the burning house when he was a child. It was during their emotional discussion that I commented to my husband (completely without judgement, btw, it's merely an observation) that for a show about two very studly guys, they sure do cry a lot. Of course, I was crying along with them and even my husband was sitting next to me muttering, "Damn."

The last shot, if you'll pardon the double pun, is killer. Close up of Dean's face as he winces at the gunshot in the next room. Arguments have been made that, as we never see the body, Sam didn't go through with it and we might see her again. I don't buy it, but my husband said if he were Dean, he'd have to double-check, just to make sure.

It's definitely not a happy-shiny Supernatural (but then, so few are) but upon second-viewing, it was better than I remembered. I think one of my objections, formerly, were convenient plot holes, like why killing her had to be the only option and how she managed to stay human just long enough for the Big Love Scene and subsequent tragic ending. But after a re-listening of the dialogue, I think the writers at least made an attempt to spackle those holes and whereas I found the so-called chemistry between Sam and Madison awkwardly forced the first time around (oh, look, it's an episode where Sam's in close proximity to a beautiful woman, I don't suppose one thing could lead to another...) this time I found it awkwardly charming. Jared did a great job being sort of, well, gawky and making it believable that a gorgeous giant of a guy with those sculpted shoulders could still be uncomfortable with an attractive woman.

What about you guys--any episodes stand out for you where a second viewing left you with a completely different reaction than your first?


Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Loved this reassessment! I get gleeful when people like something better the second time around. :)

I can't say I've ever had that experience. I've never disliked an ep to that extent, though of course there are eps that I don't like as much.

A lot of fandom felt "Heart" was heavy-handed and manipulative with the symbolism, but I think that's true only from OUTSIDE the show, if you watch it as someone asking to be royally entertained. If you immerse yourself in the show, become part of it, then it's obvious that it's symbolism Sam needs, because he can't understand the awful thing he's asked his brother to do.

Man, you're making me want to go watch season 2 again...