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TV Review: Supernatural – “Everybody Hates Hitler”

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It’s no secret I’ve been having issues with some aspects of Supernatural‘s season eight, but I was still eagerly awaiting Ben Edlund’s latest script, “Everybody Hates Hitler.” Edlund is a superb writer. He moves from comedy to drama with ease and usually manages to pull threads of each through his episodes. Some of his scripts are darker, some more comedic, but all nail characterization and move the season’s arcs forward in a satisfying way. This week’s episode is no exception. Edlund can’t singlehandedly fix Sam’s terrible story line this season, but he’s making me very happy with the show’s reboot.

John DeSantis as the GolemThe story offers us more secret societies, one involving Nazi necromancers and the other rabbis dedicated to fighting such things as Nazi necromancers. The rabbis’ weapon of choice was a golem, wonderfully played by John DeSantis. I’m not sure how all these secret societies stayed so secret when they all were involved with each other, but that’s not enough of a nitpick to derail my enjoyment of the episode. The golem and his present day hapless new owner, played by Adam Rose, had excellent chemistry, and they each played off Sam and Dean well.

Seeing Sam Winchester having to look up, way up, set up the physical comedy of the episode, without sacrificing the gravitas DeSantis gave his character. I’d love to see Aaron and his golem again on the series. Watching Aaron get his supposed flirt on with Dean was funny and continued the light but sure touch the writers have found this season with sexuality.

Jensen AcklesI had no doubt Edlund would craft an engaging story. I was a little less sure what I would think of the reboot in the mythology or the brothers’ relationship. But so far, so good. The Men of Letters Batcave is a marvelous set and I do love the vibe of Sam and Dean delightedly making the place their own, something they have never had. Dean geeking out over shower water pressure and Sam geeking out over card catalogues is adorable and right in character.

Do I have caveats? Yes, a few. The show was conceived as a road show, with the boys in the Impala growling their way through truck stop America, to paraphrase Eric Kripke. When he created the Roadhouse in season two, he decided to burn it down at the season’s end because he felt it didn’t work for the series. In the Season Two Companion, he said, “”What we realized is that this series is so much about the road trip. Giving them a place to go, runs counter to that and really changes the tone in a way you don’t want.”

I’ve no doubt Kripke was right about what his five year vision required. But Supernatural has needed a good reboot since the end of season five, and seasons six and seven didn’t really find a satisfying new long term vision. It remains to be seen whether shifting some of the road show emphasis to a cool new home base will pay off. Will the boys seem as comfortable in shady hotel rooms as they investigate cases? Will there still be as much of a need for shady hotel rooms?

And characterwise, will the standing set encourage the writers to give Dean and Sam unique characteristics and goals by assigning Sam to be a Winchester Man of Letters and Dean to be a Campbell hunter? That would be taking complex characters and going backward to a more simplistic view. Dean and Sam have always had both brain and brawn, even if Sam has always loved the intellectual sphere and Dean has always loved getting engaged with the hunt. I hope to continue to see Sam and Dean showing both Winchester and Campbell characteristics.

Jared PadaleckiThat said, it was wonderful seeing Sam’s delight in the archive at his fingertips. I can see the arc the writers were aiming for with the younger Winchester, as he finds a place which allows his personal interests to intersect with his duty, instead of demanding he give up his personal desires for his duty.

That doesn’t make the first half of the season click into place for me, though. Instead of the love triangle, I think it would have worked much better if the writers had decided to pursue the theme of perception with Sam and had him realise his view of “real life” didn’t match reality all that well. “Everybody Hates Hitler” would have been an excellent pay off for that arc. I would have liked to see Sam realize the life of a handyman would not have satisfied him, as Dean had to realize he could not live a nine to five punch clock life in the suburbs, even if he loved the idea of a family.

I’d like to have seen the younger Winchester realize Sam Winchester is a dead serial killer, so resuming his university life with Amelia in tow was not an option (he can’t exactly access any of his transcripts or ID and if he has to contact an underworld person to manufacture some, how does he explain to Amelia and her dad he has to become someone else?). Sam’s “real life” was based on lies. Far from grounding him in reality, he had to live like an espionage mole, creating a life in constant danger of exposure and lying to his dearest companions. Is that really a healthy option for him?

I would also like to have seen the show follow through on the illusion and living a lie hints about Sam and Amelia’s relationship and allowed Sam to really consider what his life with Dean gives him versus what his life with Amelia offered. Was he truly using the relationship as a way to avoid grieivng for his brother, as Amelia’s dad thought?

Jensen Ackles, Jared Padalecki and Ty OlssonInstead, we got Sam telling Dean to find a happiness equation that didn’t include him, as he’d done the same with Dean and then insisting Dean could not define his family for himself. Sam’s attitude to Benny contradicts his previous characterization, unless he realizes how much it is based on not wanting to lose Dean. We still need a scene where Sam and Dean discuss Benny, and Sam does the kind of soul searching Dean had to do about Amelia and letting Sam go.

If all this had happened, Sam’s realization there is a place for him in the world which suits him would feel absolutely right, the inevitable result of what had gone before. This new reality is more real than the “real life” with Amelia because Sam doesn’t have to lie and he doesn’t have to deny his life experience to make it work. He’s not a mole in his own life.

Whether Sam and Dean will ever find a way to have romantic relationships remains to be seen. I hope they both do. I am sure the only hope they have is find a way that feels true to the men they are. That won’t be punching a clock in the suburbs for Dean or fixing radiators for Sam.

For these reasons, “Everybody Hates Hitler” cements the feeling of a reboot introduced in “As Time Goes By,” rather than building on the first half of the season. I’m not sure what that will mean in the long run, especially when earlier elements like Benny and possibly Amelia return to the story. But for now, I’ll take it. I’m really enjoying my show again.

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About Gerry Weaver

  • Gerry

    I think we saw a progression of Sam working through his feelings. Lucifer Rising begins with this scene:

    I don’t know. I-I just… I’m starting to think… maybe Dean was right.

    About what?

    About everything.

    We’re gonna see this through, right, Sam? Sam?

    Sam does keep going, but he’s clearly conflicted and considering that Dean has been right all along. Later when he has to drink the nurse, there’s this exchange:

    Sam? Your head in the game here?

    (after a pause)
    I’m good. Let’s go.

    You okay?

    I just said I was.

    Look, I know hand-holding really isn’t my thing… but still, Dean was wrong, saying what he said to you.

    No, he was right to say it. I mean, I don’t blame him after what I did.

    Well, after we’re done, you guys will patch things up. I mean, you always do.

    You’re talking like I’ve got an ‘after’.

    Don’t say that.

    I can feel it inside me, Ruby. I’ve changed… for good. And there’s no going back now.

    I think Sam felt trapped into his path at a certain point and the lack of Dean to give him alternatives was a huge hole in his life. That was the point of Lucifer’s plan to separate the boys. That was why the demons intercepted Dean’s message of reconciliation–they didn’t want Sam to realize he still had Dean on his side, so turning away from his path was still possible.

    I never blamed Sam for finding it hard not be manipulated by Lucifer–Lucifer was supposed to be a terrible foe experienced at using people’s weaknesses against them. I wish Sam had been able to listen to that voice that said Dean was righ,t before killing Lilith. But the trap, based on a lifetime of obsessive revenge seeking, was well set.

    So I understand why Dean could understand and forgive Sam for his decision in When the Levee Breaks. I also understand why he could look at Sam and see a man who valued doing the right thing so much he could sacrifice himself to a terrible fate. Sam thought that was what he was doing in When the Levee Breaks. He actually did it Swan Song.

    But yes, I agree with you that this season dropped Sam and Dean back to season one dynamics as if the past six years hadn’t happened. And they did so, at least for me, in a way that causes story dissonance. I know Dean processed Sam’s season four decisions because I saw him do so in Swan Song. I know he didn’t hold Soulless Sam against Sam because I watched seasons 6 & 7.

    I know Sam’s definition of monster is not the one he’s currently using for Benny because every season, including Bitten in this one, has shown that.

    I still have some small hope these issues will be satisfactorily addressed, but it is dwindling. So I have the choice to accept the reboot and ignore Sam’s dissatisfying first 10 eps or decide the storyline is now broken for me and leave the show. I’m going to give Carver more time to show me his vision, because dang, I love this show and these characters.

  • shamangrrl

    “But to me, the two most important parts of the season were Sam realizing Dean was right, but feeling cut off from him due to his own disgust at himself. In season 5, Dean processed all that Sam had done, but realized Sam’s many strengths were the most important part of him and therefore being able to love all of him. For me, that is what stopped the Apocalypse, the way heaven and hell together couldn’t break the bond.”

    I don’t think Sam ever realized Dean was right. If he did, he would have stopped what he was doing. Also, his opinion of Dean grew progressively worse in S5, so again, I didn’t see any acknowledgement from Sam. But I do agree that Dean processess all that Sam had done in S5. But once again, for always, as evinced in the past several episodes – Dean processed all that Sam did. And Dean took it upon himself. Sam is no longer the teenager who ran away to school. Dean is no longer in the position of brother/father/mother. They are both in their 30’s. Show had dropped them right back to the disfunctional dynamics of S1, when Sam was 20ish and Dean was 25ish. To buy into this reboot, I’d have to ignore more than half a season.

  • Gerry

    I have a somewhat different perception of the bond between the brothers, so that’s probably why I like what’s onscreen now; I just don’t think it’s been organically arrived through the first half of the season.

    I’ve believed in the brothers’ bond since season one–it’s what drew me to the show. For me in season one, rather than lack of respect, I see a younger brother who is used to respecting and listening to his big brother trying to establish his own boundaries. Sam was angry with his dad. I didn’t feel he was angry at Dean, but as Dean and John were pushing him in the same way, Dean was caught up in Sam’s need to stand up to his dad. It was hard on his relationship with Dean, but I always felt Dean could understand Sam’s frustration with John just as he could understand John’s frustration and hurt with Sam. He was caught in the middle, the “fixer” in the family. As Dean eventually had to do his own re-evaluation of what John had the right to ask him to do, I think Sam’s viewpoint had some validity in the story.

    In season three, I saw Sam torn apart that he was going to lose a brother who was brother, father and mother to him. It was a loss he couldn’t imagine or accept, and his journey was slowly realizing that the unimaginable was going to happen, that he had to accept what he couldn’t accept. He grabbed at any straw that looked like it might help, and yes, Ruby was one. I saw his desperation as showing the brother bond, not negating it. Dean had a similar desperation at the end of season two and he made his own poor decision.

    Season four, the brothers’ bond was tested–that was the arc of the season. Lucifer, through his agents, did work on Sam’s pride and anger to have him doubt Dean could do the tasks they had to do.

    But to me, the two most important parts of the season were Sam realizing Dean was right, but feeling cut off from him due to his own disgust at himself. In season 5, Dean processed all that Sam had done, but realized Sam’s many strengths were the most important part of him and therefore being able to love all of him. For me, that is what stopped the Apocalypse, the way heaven and hell together couldn’t break the bond.

    This season, I’m unhappy with the writers not feeling Sam’s emotional state after losing Dean was necessary to show. I’m unhappy with Dean analyzing his issues with Amelia, but Sam not analyzing his with Benny, so I feel your pain. I don’t think Sam’s journey in the first 10 eps was well told.

    But I only have to ignore a half season to accept the reboot. Not every season.

  • shamangrrl

    My biggest issue is that he [Carver] hasn’t found his own footing. He’s found the same-old-same-old footing. By making Sam answer to nothing, by making Dean responsible for Sam’s mistakes, for ignoring everything he either wrote or allowed onscreen, for forcing the brothers together without resolving the issues he, as showrunner, introduced. It’s different-season-same-sh!t, lather-rinse-repeat. The brother bond is the biggest myth on the show. S1 – Sam didn’t want to be with Dean, he was driven by revenge. Sam didn’t seem to like or respect Dean. S2 – Sam started to see Dean as an actual person and the brother bond formed. This is the only season where I really felt Sam loved Dean (still didn’t necessarily like or respect him, though). S3 – Introduction of Ruby, and the nascent brother bond stopped developing. S4 – Sam was happy Dean was back from Hell, but his belief that Dean was weak, broken, helpless, coarse, needy, messy, unintelligent and basically worthless became entrenched. Brother bond is broken and never to return.
    And with this season, I honestly don’t believe that Sam loves Dean. And Dean has been regressed as well. In the first 10 episodes, it seems that Dean was embracing himself and his talents, moving beyond his crippling self-doubt and self-hatred, and that he was actually seeing Sam. And Sam has been portrayed over the past 5 seasons as frequently unlikable and unheroic. It was good growth to see Dean moving beyond putting Sam on a pedestal. That’s gone. Dean is once more taking responsibility for things that aren’t his fault, his only happiness seems to come when Sam is happy, and he’s back to “Sammy is the Most. Important. Thing. In. My. Life.” And it’s one-sided, as it’s always been. So, I don’t see this abrupt revision as something new. I see it as a return to something old, and frankly, unlamented, in my case.

  • Gerry

    Hi Shamangrrl! I’m sorry to hear this last episode didn’t work for you. I hear you with many of your complaints.

    I’m still waiting for Sam to deal with some of his choices this year, too–that’s definitely niggles in the back of my enjoyment, that we still have to deal with Benny. In my mind, we still have to deal with what Amelia really meant, too, though I am not anxious for her to return to the story the way I am Benny.

    I know what you mean by jarring. I don’t know why the writers didn’t go with perception as shaping Sam’s story line instead of the love triangle. Perception fits so well. And how can you have both brothers airing old issues and only one brother deal with them?

    So yes, I have to do some sweeping away of the first half of the season to really enjoy where we are now. I’ve decided to do that and give the new vision a chance, because so much feels exciting right now. Jeremy Carver did need to reboot the show, so maybe the first half was him finding his way with a few wrong turns and he’s now found his footing.

  • shamangrrl

    I do like the look of the new set – however, too many Initiatives/Super-sekrit Societies/etc are being introduced. Stop it. I feel like I’ve been dropped into an episode of Alias. Also, I can’t say I’m too happy with Sam having access to all this knowledge and power, seemingly without any checks and balances in place. Sam+Power never ends well, and since he’s never learned his lessons with regard to his own culpability in his life (Did he tell Dean that the last MoL wanted him to lock the repository away?), I just can’t get all happy, despite the gleam in Dean’s eye. And yes, the reboot has been too jarring. Having to pretty much jetison the first 10ish episodes of the season goes a bit beyond suspension of disbelief and trusting the author. With the total retrofit of the season, it feels as if the writers had no plan, and are just throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. After a good start, I’m not feeling this season, at all.