As I was saying to Barb the other day, they might as well rename everything past Season Five ‘How Much Can We Beat Up Sam Today?’. This week, the pretty of Misha Collins notwithstanding, Cas actually trumped Sam on the beat-up scale.
But hey. I’m being mean. I actually loved the episode.
The first thing I noticed- and this was evident in the recap for the premiere, too- is that SPN has gone back to using that creepy sped-up effect, like they used to often do with ghosts. I like it. It gives a weird Japanese-horror-film effect, and it’s imaginative. Too many fantasy stories rely heavily on CGI (that said, I can’t wait for Crimson Peak to come to UK cinemas. Guillermo del Toro always gets a pass).
But the teaser for the episode was great, cutting between zombie-dude and Sam’s hands as he puts together a taser from hardware supplies. I love it when they do shit like that. It’s the kind of improvisation that seemed to fizzle out a little in more recent times, but this season is going back to its roots.
Sam tasers zombie-guy. And scene.
Meanwhile, Dean is delivering devil-baby and Jenna of the azure orbs to her grandmother’s house. The casting for this episode was pretty imaginative. I particularly loved the new reaper- but I’ll get to that later. The grandma cracked me up, anyway- she was clearly the sort of person oft-labelled as a Bible-thumper, for reasons of plot, but SPN didn’t ridicule her for it, just as in Faith the people in the church were taken seriously. For all the accusations of sexism, Supernatural is pretty non-judgmental. Just an interesting observation in an observationally interesting way.
And then we have devil-baby. Creepy as all hell, by the way. I’m not exactly great with kids, but I swear that baby was just cast for its little alien face.
The CGI in the telekinesis scene was pretty meh, but this gorgeous shot more than makes up for it.
Back in the hospital, Sam is interrogating his zombie dude. (I have to admit, the pudding-cup thing freaked me out. So animalistic. An unnerving detail.) Sam’s scenes had that post-apocalypticness that I mentioned in my last review, as he goes slowly insane in that huge shadowy hospital, bodies in the corridors and on the streets and no noise anywhere. The hospital is a fantastic location- assuming it’s a location. It’s so far removed from the (equally disturbing) urbanity of the Crowley-Dean-Amara scenes.
Speaking of which, Crowley’s line has seriously perked up. I think the ladies at Fangasm put it best when they mentioned the bitter exes vibe. I mean, he has lines like ‘Dean was a perfectly scrumptious choirboy’. Sometimes SPN is like a naughty kid caught with its hand in the cookie jar when the network turns its back.
Oh, and then there’s Cas. They seem to be actually finding things to do with him now- thank God, as they floundered for several episodes in Season Ten. Misha kills the torture scenes.
I made the vast mistake of eating toast whilst watching the episode (I know, dumb) and I could hardly watch. Really nasty and visceral. And equally horrid were Sam’s Hell flashbacks, assuming that’s what they were.
They go so fast that there’s no time to look away. They reminded me of Dean’s hell scene at the end of Season Three.
If you know me, you’re probably aware of my massive issue with the Hell trauma arc- or, more accurately, the disappearence of it. It formed much of the emotional agenda of two seasons, and then just vanished with Season Eight. Like- what? It was a huge issue. There’s no sweeping it under the rug. So I’m very glad they’re seemingly revisiting it.
Anyway, back to Cas. His scenes also formed the one significant downside of the episode: Heaven clearly has little place in the show at the moment. While, yeah, the psoriasis comment raised a snigger, the angels are either bitchy little banker-types with weasel-faces, or they’re Cas. There’s the odd exception (Gadreel, let me hug you) but that’s basically it.
On the other hand, I have to say that I really liked the Cas/Hannah thing here. I’m not a Hannah fan as played by Erica Carroll- I just found her pretty dull- but the gender-bending thing was very interesting. Cas interacted with male-Hannah the same as with female-Hannah (and male-Hannah was great- he had all Erica Carroll’s mannerisms down). Her death was actually pretty shocking to me. I have to admit, she wasn’t exactly on my gone-die list, and nor was Jenna.
Then we have our new reaper, Billie, and her scene might just be my favourite bit of the episode.
First introduced via her incredible rendition of O Death, complete with haunting key-change. Also: a beautiful woman who isn’t stick-thin. But Lisa Berry, the actress, also had an aura of menacing calm remniscient of Tessa. I believe she’s contracted a lot of dislike amongst the Samgirls of Tumblr- totally understood, if not quite shared- for calling Sam unclean. Yeah, it hurt his feelings, but it made for some nice parallels. (I know. I’m a stone. It’s awful.)
Something else I really liked? JA’s protectiveness. (Crowley’s maternal comment was only what I’ve been saying since Don’t Make Me Use My Mom Voice). I mean, come on, there was no way un-MoC’d Dean would be able to kill a baby. We knew it, he knew it, the king of Hell knew it. I’m not one of those people whose ovaries explode at the sight of a hot guy holding a newborn (being a grumpy teen probably helps), but it was touching, and reminded me weirdly of the way he treated trials!Sam.
Cut back to Sam, whose vision is blurring, and we have another pretty heartwrenching scene- the younger Winchester hunched over in pain, muttering ‘You’re okay you’re okay you’re okay.’ (Sam. Seriously. Call your damn brother.) Of course we’d have some of the most gorgeous closeups in the episode right here- and I like the detail of him yanking his hair back.
This review is now completely out of whack chronologically, so I may as well say it now: the prayer scene was fantastic. Again: Jared, you go. I’m thinking Trial And Error parallels.
But also- something so interesting- the way this season’s shaping up, it seems to be about death itself, and our attitudes towards death, and our fear of it. Sam’s fear of it, here. He’s not scared of it for his own sake (I recently saw a post saying that hey, Sam probably reckons that as long as he’s not on meathooks, everything’s okay by comparison), but for Dean’s.
I know a lot of people are inflamed about the constant lying. I wasn’t, though I thought I would be. I think the problem is that people are beginning to think of the Winchesters as sequences of events that follow logical patterns, rather than people- fictional people, but still people. People don’t develop in a linear fashion. There are bumps. Shit happens. Sam sitting in shock in the dark, lying to Dean, is what I categorise under ‘shit’.
Just before I wrap this up, a few words on the cinematography. So far this season is beautiful, Season Five beautiful- darker than the show’s been in ages. Season Ten was pretty dark, too. The show is going its own way at last. Screw you, CW (and your crappy promos too).
Anyway, tell me your thoughts. Who’s tuning in for The Bad Seed? I’ll also be breaking out the old VS tag soon- planning on doing a thing about JA’s directorial style.
Read my Vivisecting Supernatural essays here.