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TV Review: Supernatural – “Dark Side of The Moon”

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Normally when it’s time for me to write a Supernatural episode review, I like to take a day or two and digest what I’ve witnessed. After all, this show has many layers and there’s always something hidden that surfaces after a couple of re-watches and some analysis. For “Dark Side of The Moon” though, it’s been several days and I’m still scratching the surface when it comes to the gravity of this episode. I even had to write my full length recap before the review which is a rarity. I needed that good a grasp.

This concept of the main characters dying and going into the afterlife has been done repeatedly in television drama and never goes the same way. Welcome to Heaven Supernatural style. This episode is explosive from the word go, when Sam and Dean are brutally (and graphically) gunned down in their motel room beds by two vengeful hunters. That shock alone is jarring enough so by the time we get to the emotional rest of the episode, we’re pretty shaken. The writers, Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin, who became part of the writing team last season, really come to their own in this outstanding script. This episode is directed by first time to Supernatural director Jeff Woolnough, who brings something unique to the unfolding of this extraordinary story.

This episode is a character continuity fiesta. Old issues with Sam and Dean resurface and new information is learned, but it’s all in line with what we knew before. Each brother gets a revealing look into the other’s deeply private moments and it is a shock on both ends. Heaven is all about relieving life’s greatest hits and Dean starts with a very happy memory involving thirteen year old Sam (welcome back Colin Ford!) and the setting off of likely illegal fireworks on the fourth of July. This is a brilliant scene the way it is shot and edited, right down to Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” the colorful lighting of the scenery and faces, and the overjoyed reactions of both young Sam and the older Dean, who rarely smiles anymore. Much happier times indeed.

The reality of being dead hits Dean once Castiel finds a way to communicate, via the car radio. He’s off to find Sam, who’s caught in his own happy memory of a Thanksgiving dinner when eleven with an enamored girlfriend and her family. From there the memories continue. Dean remembers a touching moment when Mary fixes him lunch (cutting the crusts off his sandwich) and he’s there to comfort her with hugs when she’s has a fight with John. Sam fondly remembers the time he ran away from home and lived on his own for two weeks in a trailer with a dog named Bones (I love Golden Retrievers) and when he ditched Dean and John for Stanford.

Dean instantly sees the problem. Sam’s best memories are some of his personal worst. Dean can’t understand why Sam doesn’t value family, and Sam explains he didn’t have moments like getting the crusts cut off his peanut butter and jelly so he doesn’t see family the same. This has been an ongoing rift between the brothers since season one, their differing perception of loyalty toward family, but given Dean’s fragile state of mind and wavering faith after the incidents in “My Bloody Valentine,” seeing this side of Sam again only adds fuel to that internal fire.

Castiel is the one that sends Sam and Dean on a quest through Heaven, communicating via a distorted TV image reminiscent of 1984 (Nice touch). The problem is if Zachariah finds them he’ll send them back, and they need to take advantage of a rare opportunity first. They must find an angel named Joshua who talks to God. Castiel is cut off from Heaven and desperately needs Sam and Dean to do this for him. Dean agrees for reasons that become clear later, God is his last hope.

The trip through Heaven comes with surprises, including reunions with Ash (Chad Lindberg) and Pamela (Traci Dinwiddie). Each give Sam and Dean their own perspectives of this life of paradise, for despite being caught in their own private worlds, they’re content and happy. Ash even reveals that this isn’t the first time Sam and Dean have been there and angels “windexed” their brains each time they returned back to Earth. I really appreciate that this show didn’t hide the fact that Sam and Dean do tend to die a lot (even in the opening credits) and something did happen as a result of those deaths. That’s been a topic of discussion for a while among the fandom and answers are finally delivered.

About Alice Jester

  • Tiecg1

    Great commentary. I like how you’ve seen both sides of the equation. I know it would be weird or possibly sacrilegeous to say that Dean was *gasp* overreacting, but I think it was about time we saw an emotional meltdown from him that didn’t involve a bottle of liquor in his hands. This episode was deep and the debate between who was more out of touch with the other brother, Sam or Dean, is dividing fandom. But my take is Dean’s anger was a tad irrational and Sam was a little out of touch with the burden that Dean had been carrying since he was a child. I find it hard to believe that Dean was saint his whole childhood though, just like I find it equally hard to believe that Sam was completely selfish his entire childhood. But I love that their relationship has layers. Maybe some type of true respect for each other will come from all this torment.

    I feel like it was refreshing that Sam finally knows that he has been forgiven by God. Now if he could only get that forgiveness from his brother. It won’t be easy though.

    Some say that Castiel got some kind of revelation from God at the end of the ep, but I don’t know. I just wish he was more resolute in his faith. These angels are so messed up (and I couldn’t even watch the part with Zachariah and Mary! It made me squirm!).

  • carlotspeak

    Best review of all that I have read so far. Thank you.

  • Fifthelement

    I heartily agree with carlotspeak, this is one of, if not the best, review that I have read on this episode. In fact, this is the first time that I have chosen to partake in any discussion about the show. Thank you.

    And you are so right about this: “[I]f you want to blame them for turning you an emotional wreck, have at it. They’ve been just brutal recently, and I’m sure that’s perceived by them to be doing their jobs right.”

    I sat in stunned disbelief after this episode, trying in vain to absorb the impact of what was revealed and pondering what is to come. Days later I was still discussing it with my husband, who is a very recent convert this wonderful, wonderful show. Great job by the writers, the director, and, as always, the actors for bringing it all to life.

  • faye

    Great review, as ever. I think I’ve read most of them, and some, you have to wonder if the writers actually watch the show on a regular basis.

    I do think the places Sam and Dean visited in Heaven were coreographed by Zachariah. If not I think we have to take a close 2nd look at Sam’s memories. He’s been running away from his life, and he’s never got very far, even when he was older. He’s trying to deal with his anger issues, but this is something different.

    One thing I’d like to ask, because it seems to be a topic everyone has avoided mentioning (like the elephant in the room): a resurrection episode for Easter? No comment?

  • carlotspeak

    Good catch, faye. Perhaps, too high up of the blessed being to compare with the boys no one think to say? I am not sure. Sorry, I am a Buddhist and I don’t know enough. I love the show to death, though.

  • http://www.thewinchesterfamilybusiness.com Alice Jester

    Tiecg1 – I couldn’t agree more, the brothers are just both in different worlds right now. This was a big eye opener for both. I’ve read those fan debates and I think your take is correct, Dean wasn’t a saint and Sam wasn’t totally selfish. Plus they’ve been down this road before. Perspectives are different though when coasting on fumes.

    Castiel’s reaction does puzzle me the most, and one I didn’t speculate on too much because I think there’s a lot of his story left. He’s really confused right now, being separated from Heaven and alone, but for some reason I think he’s going to come to his senses and see that he was given another chance by God. I’m also happy that Sam has salvation. Actually, that doesn’t surprise me, but him knowing that, very cool.

    Thanks carlotspeak! I’m glad you liked this.

    fifthelement – Welcome to the comment page! That’s what I love about this show, it has episodes like this that inspire fans to discuss, even those that have never commented before. It’s so great your husband is a recent convert! My husband watches too and it’s great to get into discussions with someone in the same room. We both see things so differently so its fun.

    Faye – I do believe that my theory about Zachariah is unpopular opinion. I’m sure it’s one of those things that we’ll never really know the answer and someone will ask Kripke at Comic Con and he’ll leave it as one of those “secrets”. Sam’s happiest memories are when he became his own person. I wonder if he’ll ever desire that again or take the “it was fun while it lasted” approach. You are so right! It was an interesting episode to air on Easter week. Good catch. I do wonder if that was intentional or a happy accident.

    Thanks everyone for all the great comments!

  • cassi

    Awesome review Alice. Besides the episode being absolutely awesome, I was really glad that we finally got a dramatic script by Dabb and Loflin. Usually they rely very heavily on Supernatural’s comedic aspect and forget about the drama part. I prefer Edlund’s witty and dark sense of humor, so I’m not a big fan of their very straight-forward type of comedy episode. I was getting really worried for season 6. Fortunately, they delivered an awesome reminder after what seems ages ago season 4′s After School Special that they too can write drama.