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TV Review: ‘Supernatural': ‘Dog Dean Afternoon’

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This week’s “Dog Dean Afternoon” was notable in a few ways. The show apparently is determined to keep whacking away at a dog-themed episode, despite the all too fresh memory of “Man’s Best Friend With Benefits.” The team taking on the latest attempt is comprised of Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder, penning their first episode since returning to Supernatural’s writing room. So, how successful was this match up? I’ll give it a B+.

The premise of the episode raised a red flag for many viewers, given previous canine-themed misfires, and a lacklustre promo didn’t help matters. Fortunately for the show, Jensen Ackles can handle anything the writers throw at him. So far this season, he’s been showing Dean’s desperation at losing his family and his guilt over lying to his brother. In “Dog Dean Afternoon,” he got to show off his impeccable comedic instincts.

Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester

Jensen Ackles showing off his comedic chops as Dean enjoys the ride.

The concept of talking animals slid the show into Disney territory, so there was a real danger of taking Dean’s doggie moves over the top—but not in Ackles’ capable hands.  Whether playing fetch with Sam or barking at the mailman, he nailed the canine mentality and physicality without descending into caricature, and the result was hilarious. I laughed out loud at every scene of Doggy Dean, with the sight of Dean happily hanging out the window as the Impala cruises into the parking lot a particular favourite.

If the rest of the episode matched the success of Ackles’ physical comedy, the result would have been an instant classic. Unfortunately, there were some issues, beginning with the voice acting for the animals. Generally, Supernatural nails its guest casting, but not this time. It’s a testament to Jensen Ackles’ comedic chops that the episode is as funny as it is, because his screen partners for the most part fell flat.

None of the voices captured the personality of the animals and most of them felt like they belonged in a cartoon, which given that Ackles played his part with subtlety, was jarring. And when you invite your viewers in to a Disney movie with talking animals, it’s a poor choice to then subject them to feline murder—there was some serious tonal dissonance in the cat killing scene.

Steve Valentine was fine as the murderous chef, and his story line gave the episode some dramatic heft, as Dean was forced to see the danger of a man’s core being consumed from within by his invocation of greater powers to save his life. It’s not that Dean’s been comfortable with his decision to manipulate an unknowing Sam into accepting Ezekiel’s possession, but there’s nothing like the words coming out of his own mouth to drive the point home that Sam is still in danger, just of a different kind.

Poor Sam spent a good deal of the episode knocked unconscious as Zeke healed him from another fatal wound.  This has happened often enough this season to make me wonder why Sam hasn’t suffered permanent brain damage, which means it shouldn’t happen again any time soon. I didn’t mind the scene in this episode, because it did serve to show Sam’s growing suspicions and Dean’s realization he has a tiger by the tail, but at this point, show, we get it. Time to move the story on.

I did like that Zeke made only a brief appearance—and that Jared Padalecki showed again the confidence with which he’s switching between personalities. Like Ackles, he’s taking everything the writers are throwing at him and running with it. I hope Supernatural’s creative team toasts Jensen and Jared every week, because they elevate flawed episodes like this one.

“Dog Dean Afternoon” was never destined to be everyone’s cup of tea; the off-beat stories never are.  I don’t think the plan to schedule two off-beat episodes back to back paid off. Viewers who didn’t like visiting Oz last week probably didn’t like watching Disney this week. The poor promo and lacklustre voice acting added to the negative balance, so I wasn’t surprised to see the ratings take a slight dip.

Jared Padalcki as Sam Winchester

Jared Padalecki as Sam Winchester, wondering why he keeps getting knocked out when the action heats up.

Nonetheless, Ackles’ knack for physical comedy saved the episode for me, and I suspect Doggy Dean scenes will join other classic funny moments from the show. The decision to end the story on a sombre note rife with foreboding was also an excellent choice, as the inevitable exposure of Dean’s lie looms closer.

 

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About Gerry Weaver

  • Podd Socks

    It was a good episode, alot better than last weeks Oz episode….

  • Gerry

    Hi Podd! I’m glad you liked it. I liked last week’s as well, but I do understand why some people didn’t. The tone was very different and the boys took a backseat to the guest star.

    This week, if the voice acting had been spot on, the episode would have been a classic. Jensen still made all his scenes work, fortunately.

  • Lyla

    I’m a hard sell where comedy is concerned. I don’t like comedy in TV, movies, or books as a general rule, but I smiled and often laughed out loud all through this episode. I liked it a lot, and I had fun watching the episode. Totally agree with your B+ rating for the reasons you point out. The fetching scene and the pigeon scene were definitely LOL moments for me.

    I want to add to your point about Ackles playing his part with subtlety. Not only was his comedy played with subtlety, I thought his understated performance in the final scene was the perfect way to sell the foreboding of what’s to come (as opposed to the go-to angst the show is way too fond of using).
    Having Sam play straight man to Dean’s clowning plays to a strength in JP’s acting, IMO, and I always like to see that. I also like the slow roll-out of Sam questioning what’s going on.
    Loved the episode taking on shamanism (hunters are shaman in a sense) and a new MotW. The dog-killer scene didn’t bother me at all, because it fit with the shamanism theme, and having Dean be the alpha of the pack and having the dogs kill the off-the-rails human kept with the show’s tenant that the Winchesters don’t kill humans.
    And here, after Felicia Day’s awesome Charlie episode and; yes, the lackluster promo clips, I almost didn’t watch the episode. I’m glad I did!

    • Gerry

      Hi Lyla, thanks for commenting! I agree that the last scene really benefited from Jensen’s subtle read of Dean’s recognition his words about Chef Leo also applied to his own situation with Sam–and that at this point, there’s nothing he can do but ride it out and hope he can make Sam understand.

      The scene also picked up on Ezekiel’s words to Dean last episode when he said healing Charlie would keep the angel in Sam longer than Dean or he wants. There was a warning there that Dean didn’t take in at the time, but I think now has.

      I do like the slow burn, because nothing is being swept under the carpet only to suddenly emerge half way through the season (hello season 7 soul storyline). I just think it’s time we got something more than Sam being knocked unconscious so Ezekiel can heal him. The story needs to move–and I think it will. I hate to say I’m looking forward to that as I know the angst will burn, but I do think the fall out will be dramatic and will get the boys talking.

      I hope Sam will be rethinking his death wish as much as Dean rethinks taking consent away from his brother. Some nice shades of grey, much like season four, would be wonderful.

      • Lyla

        I actually thought Dean’s, “Trust me Sammy you’ve got nothing to worry about” and the line to Sam, “until it takes over completely” was nice foreshadowing of Dean’s distrust of angels in general and that he was kind of putting Zeke on notice. I took it as a promise to Sam and foreshadowing of Dean’s suspicion of Zeke, but now that you mention it, I can see that the point probably meant that Dean gained a fuller understanding of Zeke’s warning from last week and the consequences of his decisions. So, thanks for bringing that out. I just hope it doesn’t lead to endless guilt and apologies to Sam when the fall-out happens. I’m really tired of apologetic Dean.

        • Gerry

          Yes, I hope we get shades of grey, not just Dean having to face the consequences of his decision. He DOES have to do that–he has a lot to apologize for. But I hope we don’t have to take at face value Sam’s calling for Death was because he is at peace and ready to rest. Ten minutes before, in the finale, he was a mess and thought he deserved to die for his flaws. I don’t see how he resolved all that, even given Dean’s reassurances of his love, in the time he had.

          I think we’ve had foreshadowing Sam’s state of mind is part of the issue. Death only came to Sam because he called. Sam’s time was not up on the cosmic calendar. It wasn’t just that Sam had the choice to refuse to go with his reaper, as Sam and Bobby had. Death didn’t even tell him it was his time. He said that part was Sam’s choice, too. So I hope get more examination on why Sam’s choice was to die, especially since I know we’ll get examination on why Dean needed him to live.

          • Lyla

            I’ve never thought it was Sam’s choice to die; rather that he needed Dean to give him hope…that “light at the end of the tunnel thing”.
            It would be nice if Dean’s decision for allowing possession and the lies he continues to tell (because Sam is not healed enough yet to live on his own) actually reflects back to Sam’s state of mine and growth of character. That would be a nice way to take the story and would make sense in why the show has gone to great lengths to give Dean authentic reasons for his decisions. There’s lessons for Dean to learn if that was the avenue taken, so I think that would be a brilliant conclusion to an interesting story. Just, please, Show, no more Dean angst!
            BTW, I’m Ginger. I don’t know how the name Lyla got posted on there. My daughter’s use of my computer, maybe?

          • Gerry

            Hey Ginger! Great to talk to you again.

            I think we did see Sam tell Death he was ready to die, as long as he could make sure no one (read: Dean) could make a deal to bring him back.

            But you’re so right: why? That’s the crux of his arc so far. Did he need the hope Dean offered? That’s my read. I think he’s still not that far from his mindset in the finale and he sees death as a way not to have to take the painful path to being comfortable in his own skin–perhaps because he doesn’t believe he can be. And that’s what Dean has always offered to him. Dean believes Sam is lovable as he is, that he can be the man he wants to be. I hope that gets some play this season, as well as Dean’s need for Sam because he’s afraid of what his life would be without him.

            I’ve always loved the idea in Supernatural that Sam and Dean as a team are stronger than they are alone.

          • Lyla

            I love your take on the show, and we share the same hope for the season. I seriously had to debate with myself whether to watch another season of SPN, but am finding S9 intriguing in the story possibilities for the brothers. The best one they’ve had since S4 for me. I just hope the writers don’t take the easy (and lazy) route out again and we do, in fact, see some of our hopes come out of the season.
            I’m a little bummed at the thought of Garth again and, probably more Charlie, and not interested at all with Cas being a retarded human (but I can FF him away). The brothers, though. I’m super hyped for that!

          • Gerry

            I’m intrigued with this arc, too. I had issues with last season, especially the first half with Sam, but so far this season, I’m liking the set up. It will be interesting to see how the brothers process this dust up, because if they can’t see each other’s perspective, how can they repair the relationship? I trust Carver is not trying to set up another seasons’ long cycle of buried resentments that keep surfacing but never get dealt with.

            As long as the brothers make sense to me, I can handle the other story lines. I am wondering where the writers are going with Cas. To me, he’s always been the closest representation of God’s vision, the best embodiment of free will in heaven. The angels were given free will when God left the premises, and they’re still trying to deal with it.

            I suspect Cas will find meaningful human relationships of his own, just as Metatron suggested, but will have to give them up to take back his grace and resume the cosmic fight to reshape heaven with free will.

            However, Cas’s powers have always made him a problematic character to keep in the show. He can’t be the Winchesters’ pocket angel. I do wonder how the writers will handle that arc.

          • sharonally

            I do not think we have that much of a apologizing Dean or one that is expected to . As I do not see Sam has the one in any way wrong here and considering what Dean has done and is doing then nobody should have a issue with fallout from all of this. I find it strange how when Dean does something it is for authentic reasons but when Sam does it he is just being a selfish , thoughtless bad brother.

            I want genuine fallout that doesnt have Dean coming out of this barely untouched as a character by his actions , or that Sam is deemed as been unfair and lacking understanding . What Dean did will hit Sam to his core , esp after the treatment he has had over trust and lying and that needs to be reflected. I am all for grey areas but not Dean being treated differently than Sam has been over his actions and how Sam would of been if it had been him making that decision and lying to his brother.

            What Dean did is not heroic or noble , it was done out of a need his own need not to lose Sam and he has evoked Ezekiel on purpose as well. This situation is not about Sam being understanding of what Dean has done that should be something he comes to in time ,not a accepting of the damage done to him like with Castiel pulling his wall down but a Sam that is allowed to process the situation.

          • Gerry

            I completely agree with you, Sharonally, that Sam needs to be able process the situation in much more depth than he was allowed to with Castiel. I’m not completely happy with how that story line was handled, because Dean and Sam seemed to snap right back into the same shaped relationship as they had before,without impact.

            Where we have a different read is in whether this is a completely one-sided situation where Dean is completely selfish. I don’t consider Sam to be selfish or thoughtless in wanting to die, but I also don’t see it as the height of mental health. He was clearly in a terrible state during the finale.

            Therefore, to me, there is a case for Dean to be overriding consent because Sam was not thinking clearly at the time–Sam’s time was only up if Sam wanted it to be. At the same time, Dean was also acting selfishly because he didn’t want to lose his brother. I don’t think the fall out has to be black and white on one side or the other. It seldom is in real life.

            I hope to see Sam fully express his sense of violation, but at the same time realize he no longer wants to die and is glad he’s not dead. I hope to see Dean admit overriding consent is not something that gets a get out of jail free card because he’s big brother, but also get given credit for trying to do the best he could in horrible circumstances. If Sam had died in the premiere, Dean’s last memory of his brother would have been Sam expressing he deserved to die because he let Dean down. Will Sam really blame Dean for not accepting that mindframe as a way to leave his brother?

            It’s all very difficult and sensitive and interesting!

  • http://www.friv2friv3friv4.com/ friv 2 friv 3 friv 4

    It was a good episode, alot better than last weeks Oz episode….

    • Gerry

      Glad to hear you liked it! The Oz episode wasn’t for everyone. I wouldn’t want to see the show adopt that tone too often myself, though I did enjoy the episode.