I don’t know how they do it, but Supernatural's writers put so much material into each episode that I end up taking nine to ten pages of notes during my first viewing. I took nine pages of notes last week; this week, I took ten. Seriously, how am I supposed to write a review with that much material and not an essay? Synthesis out the window, I say! Get yourselves a cup of Joe, it’s going to be a lovely but lengthy read. The Winchester brothers certainly deserve it.
The main question from season five’s premiere (and from most of season four) is how are Dean and Sam going to successfully fight off demons and ultimately Lucifer in the midst of the current turmoil their relationship is in. On the one hand, Dean can’t trust Sam, Sam having chosen a demon over Dean once before. Never mind that Sam did it for good reasons (to prevent the Apocalypse, or so he thought), quite expertly manipulated by Ruby; that betrayal created a world of hurt that colours Dean’s relationship with Sam.
Sam: You don’t want me going out there.
Dean: I didn’t say that.
Sam: Around demons.
Dean: I didn’t say that!
Sam: Fine, then let’s go.
On the other hand, Sam is going to want to make it up to Dean, and I’m pretty sure there are going to be quite a few temperamental moments like the one in this episode, where Dean pushes Sam too far and Sam, wanting (almost depending on) Dean’s approval, will snap at his older brother.
Sam: Because you think that (…) after everything (that happened), I haven’t learned my lessons?
Dean: Well, have you?
Sam, pushing his brother into a wall: If you actually think I… (walks off with a shake of his head)
Both have valid reasons to feel the way they do, but I have to admit Sam’s reaction seems to be the more mature of the two, asking Dean to set aside their differences and act like professionals. It’s also nice that he’s retaining his humanity, not becoming bitter, cynical or mistrustful and, most importantly, not losing faith. He still wants to fix things with Dean, instead of giving up because his older brother is being such a hardhead (as usual). Every death bothers him; while it can become emotionally taxing, it means he’s still human – and still at risk of falling back into his demon blood habit.
Sam’s wanting to be nice is what makes him weak – it might even make him want to drink more demon blood so as not to kill the people who are possessed. So the sooner he realises the extent of his power, the sooner they can start getting over it and become all chummy and nice again.
Which makes me wonder what would have happened had Dean not walked in on Sam literally shaking from the blood spilt before him. Never mind that it wasn’t actual demon blood; the important thing is that Sam thought it was demon blood. Sam has repeated many times that he feels helpless – except when he was able to get rid of demons without killing the host, high on demon blood, of course. Just imagine what would have happened if Jo really had been possessed, and Ellen knew Sam could save her, pending a little demon blood. The sad part is that Sam seems to not remember what Ruby confirmed — that he has it in him to lay on his mojo without the demon blood.
Methinks this is going to be an emotionally harsh season not just for Sam and Dean but also for the fans, judging by the various blog posts, fan forums, and discussion boards. How many of you felt like reaching into the screen, shaking the brothers senseless while screaming, “Get your act together, boys! I can't take this any more!”
Since that can’t be done perhaps, dare I say the decision the boys made at the end of the episode is the best one; separated, they might be able to work on fighting demons better, but also, they might be work on dealing with their emotions better. In other words, maybe Dean can finally start getting over what Sam did. Had Sam stayed… they proved that in current conditions, they are not the best fighting duo anymore; imagine if Batman and Robin had a fight like that, then went off to face Joker. The latter would have such a field day! And no, I refuse to go into the debate of who is Batman and who is Robin in Supernatural, only to concede that Jensen and Jared in tights is hilarious enough a thought for me to consider contacting The CW.
And I have to admit that, in Sam’s position, I would also be torn and quite tempted to drink demon blood again.
The beginning of the episode was a great way to continue the reflection on the meaning of faith. Often I find that people think that faith is blind devotion; however, is that truly the case? Sam thought he was helping out the good side, but he was blinded by his own desire to help – and look what happened to him.
War: Good intentions. Quick slide to hell, buddy boy.
Dean — well, we all know I love Dean, but he doesn’t have any faith in God. He’s the leader of the crowd arguing that because of the terrible things happening in the world, either there is no God, or God doesn’t care (and therefore, by definition, He isn’t ‘God’). Neither does Zachariah have any faith in God, since he has taken it upon himself to fulfill prophecies and take care of the Apocalypse. I won’t go into that again, since I have made my feelings about Zachariah very clear.
Which begs the question: does anyone in this show have faith?
Surprisingly, yes — the confused angel-boy with the remarkably clean off-white trench coat does. Despite his level of uncertainty in what is right and what is wrong, despite with his continuous questioning of what he should or shouldn’t do, and despite his rebellion against the other angels, it seems that Castiel might be the one character on Supernatural who has the most faith. After all, isn’t he the only one who, now that everything has gone really wrong, decides to find God?
Castiel: Yes. He isn’t in heaven. He has to be somewhere.
Dean [wryly]: Try New Mexico. I hear He’s on a tortilla.
Cas [after a moment’s thought and the most hilarious expression on his face]: No, He’s not on any flatbread.
Dean’s opinion about God is all the more ironic in that in all these years, had Dean wanted to find God, he could have done it himself with the amulet he had been wearing most of his life – i.e. since Sam gave it to him on Christmas a long time ago, an amulet that means so much to him that he barely if ever takes it off.
Dean [giving the amulet to Castiel]: Don’t lose it. [Rolls his shoulders uncomfortably.] Great. Now I feel naked.
It’s interesting that the amulet went from Bobby to John Winchester to Sam to Dean. If this amulet was meant to help find God, is there a reason why John gave it to Sam, considering the warning he had given Dean?
Speaking of the amulet, I have to mention yet again that this cast is absolutely brilliant. Jensen Ackles’ facial expression when he looks down at the amulet? Priceless.
It was nice to see Rufus, Jo, and Ellen again. Especially Rufus, since just hearing Steven Williams’ voice takes me back about 10 years, to when he portrayed X on The X-Files (no, not the X of the title, but… just go watch the series, okay?). As a die-hard X-Files fan, it is understandable that this was one of my favourite exchanges from this episode:
Soldier boy: So… You think that all of this is coming from out of space?
Dean: This isn’t The X-Files, pal.
Speaking of The X-files, I think Mulder would have had quite a fit at this line:
Roger [still in shock]: My wife’s eyes turned black. Came at me with a brick. Kind of makes you embrace the paranormal.
Which brings me to a couple of interesting points I’d like to mention, honed through years of watching people make fun of Mulder and once again brought to light while watching people disbelieve Sam and Dean.
First of all, most people see the world in black and white. Something exists or doesn’t.
Second, most people feel the urge to make a decision about things they have no way of being able to decide on. They oftentimes refuse to believe in anything they can’t explain, dismissing it out of hand, unable to admit that perhaps they don’t see it or don’t understand it because of the limitations of their own minds rather than the existence of said thing. So much for the advances in the scientific process.
Third, people tend to make these decisions based on their own experience only, limiting the world and its vast array of experiences and opinions to their own. Again, so much for the advances in the scientific process.
And fourth, not many seem to be able to accept that perhaps they can’t understand something, and that all they can hope is to understand it better and better through years of research, reading, and experience.
How can any person who hasn’t spent hours upon hours, if not their entire lives, studying the universe and various theories describing it, mathematical and other, decide if aliens exist or not? And why can’t people accept that they don’t have the knowledge to answer that question and keep looking?
A direct consequence of the above is that people often act out without seeing the whole picture, often bolstered by fear, and without thinking things through. In this episode, Sam, Dean, and Ellen start seeing early on that something isn’t quite right. Because they are hunters and because of their experience, they have learned to look for the truth rather than just getting rid of whatever they are hunting. Remember the episode with the ‘vegetarian’ vampires?
Unfortunately, Sam, Dean, and Ellen are the minority, and their efforts to make others see the truth are undermined by Roger, a.k.a. War. This situation is applicable in the world today, where big powers are at work trying to convince us of things that aren’t true. (Tobacco doesn’t kill! Fast food isn’t unhealthy! There is no climate change!) I guess these big powers are counting on us reacting to our fears rather than taking the time to seek the truth. If we were to develop the capacity to see truth, rather than to see the truth that we are meant to believe, what a difference it would make.
Sam: I know who you are. There aren’t any demons in town, are there?
War: Nope. Just frightened people, ripping each other’s throats out. I really haven’t had to do too much, take out a bridge here, lay in a little hallucination there, sit back, pop some corn, watch the show. Frankly, you’re all really vicious little animals, Sam.
Sam: No. You’re doing this.War: Please. Last week, this was Mayberry. Now these people are stabbing each other's children.
Sam: Because you made them see demons.
War: Honestly, people don’t need a reason to kill each other … You think I’m a monster. I’m Jell-O shots at a party. I just remove inhibitions.
So is it the responsibility of the horrible things that happened on War, on the people who acted on this false information, or on both? I don’t think a clear cut answer can be given. Can War be blamed for the actions of others? After all, had they investigated the truth of what was happening, maybe they would have figured out that something was wrong and not killed each other. Then again, most of these people had never even imagined that demons were real, and acted out of fear and self-preservation. And if people don’t have the information they need to make an informed decision, and – just to push this a little bit further – if people don’t know how to look for the information they need to see the truth, can they really be fully blamed?
What about Sam killing two innocent teenagers? War made him see them as demons, yes, and he was being attacked by them, but first of all, had Sam examined himself and realised the truth of what Ruby had said, i.e. that he could get rid of demons without killing the host, wouldn’t he have noticed immediately that something was wrong while trying to exorcise the teens? And what about the lack of ‘special effects’ when he killed the teenagers with Ruby’s knife – shouldn’t a hunter as experienced as him notice that the knife didn’t have a paranormal effect while killing the teens? But while Sam had started looking for the truth but hadn’t found it yet, he didn’t see the signs (i.e. the ‘malfunctioning’ knife, and the fact that the blood was human, not demon) – so is he at fault?
What an interesting dilemma: had Sam not acted, i.e. not killed the teenagers, he would have been killed. Can you imagine how ridiculous it would have been had Sam tried to consult with the two boys who are attacking him?
Imaginary Sam: So tell me. Are you guys really demons?
Which begs the question: do you take the time to think with your head to potentially avoid making a mistake and at the same time, risk your life, or do you act because there is so little time, and risk making a huge mistake?
And now, after putting it off for as long as I could (i.e. five pages' worth), I must talk about the episode’s ending.
What is going on, with this terrible, horrible ending? Did someone forget to send the writing team a memo about torture being illegal? Erik Kripke, I need to have a word with you. I cannot believe this happened; I didn’t see it coming. I saw fighting and mistrust and perhaps a temporary separation (à la bunking at Bobby’s for awhile), but not this.
And I think my heart broke a little when Dean offered Sam the Impala. The love is there, somewhere under the hurt, the ego, and the mess.
Sam: The problem is me, and how far I’ll go. There’s something in me… It scares the hell out of me, Dean. In the last couple of days, I caught another glimpse of it…
Dean: So what are you saying?
Sam: I’m in no shape to be hunting. I need to step back because I’m dangerous. Maybe it’s best we just go our separate ways.
Dean: Well, I think you’re right.
Sam [shocked]: I was expecting a bit of a fight.
Dean: Truth is, I spend more time worrying about you than about doing the job right. I just… I can’t afford that, you know? Not now.
Sam: I’m sorry, Dean.
Dean: I know you are, Sam.
It’s funny, because when the conversation started, I was actually a little impressed with Sam’s insight. I really thought it would be the beginning of the healing process, that perhaps the worst was over, and that we would be treated to a couple of fights in the next episodes and eventually, slowly, things would get back to normal.
I guess I was wrong about that.
But this is not what I’m going to email Eric Kirpke, Sera Gamble, and other writers about. What I really want to know is if they meant for Supernatural to be so deep, or did it just happen? And do I need to get a bigger pot of coffee so as to be able to write up ten pages of notes in a review in less than 24 hours?
More of my favourite lines:
Dean [watching Bobby slumped in his wheelchair]: We gotta cheer him up. Maybe I’ll give him a backrub.
Dean [after a particularly virulent verbal attack from Bobby]: At least he’s talking now.
Bobby: I heard that.
Castiel: Your plan, to kill Lucifer…
Dean: Yeah, you want to help?
Castiel: No. It’s foolish, it can’t be done.
Dean: Oh, well, thanks for the support.
Bobby [to a leaving Cas]: When you find God, tell him to send legs.
Solider boy: Takes one to know one. Where did you serve?
Solider boy: Seriously.
Dean: Seriously. Hell.
Ellen: My daughter might be an idiot, but she’s not stupid.
Dean: The whole thing is off.
Ellen: What’s your instinct?
Dean: My instinct? My instinct is to call Bobby and ask for help. Or Sam.
Ellen: Well tough. All you got is me and all I got is you, so let’s figure it out.
Dean [a little put off]: All right.
Sam: So who are you?
Roger, a.k.a. War: Here’s a hint. I was in Germany, then in Germany, then in the Middle East, I was in Darfur when my beeper went off, I’m waiting to hook up with my siblings, I’ve got three.
Rufus: Did you figure this out by yourself, genius?
Dean [after recovering War’s ring]: So. Pit stop at mount doom?
- The X-ray of Bobby’s ribcage exposing Castiel’s handiwork.
- Castiel calling the boys on a cell phone.
- Roger, a.k.a. War, has a great taste in cars. That Mustang? In that colour? Wow.
- Jensen Ackles’ face when, after Castiel tells him about the pendant, he looks down and back up.
- Misha Collin’s expression when he tells Jensen that God isn’t on a flatbread.
- The writers, for some great lines, as always, but especially for sharing information succinctly:
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Sam: What happened?
Ellen: There used to be 20 of us.