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TV Review: Supernatural – “Sympathy for the Devil”

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It’s finally here! A bittersweet moment perhaps, as this season might be its last, but still an awesome one: after months of waiting, Supernatural’s fifth season has finally premiered!

I haven’t anticipated a premiere this much. What will Lucifer’s rising bring forth? What will the Apocalypse look like? Who will survive, who will die? Will the Winchester brothers’ relationship survive Sam’s betrayal?

It’s almost a relief that, in the midst of answering these heavy questions, Supernatural writers allow for the characters to stay true to themselves, keeping some of the show’s characteristic levity.

Chuck: Oh, God [pulls the tooth out of his hair]. Is that a molar? Do I have a molar in my hair? [priceless expression of exhaustion, pressure and disgust]. This has been a really stressful day.

Lines like these are part of the reason why this overly improbable show is so real. Other reasons include the ethical, moral, and religious dilemmas the show tackles, eerily similar to those our society is currently facing.

And of course, it has to do in large part with the awesomeness of the cast.

The season kicks off with a great recap, featuring a mix of important moments the fans are by now intimately aware of as well as providing enough background for the recently initiated (welcome, by the way). The music, as always, was great, although it wasn’t as amazing as Jen Titus’ "O Death" used in the season five promo. The first scenes were disconcerting enough to set the mood for season five perfectly: we are going somewhere, but we aren’t quite certain where. And what’s with the Harry Potter-like apparition of the Winchester brothers from the nunnery to the plane?

A note to the production crew: I love the new title screen, with the blood spurting out then lazily settling over the title. A little bit of a bad omen, I admit, but brilliantly delivered.

I’d also like to take the opportunity to thank the writers for acknowledging all us fans (some crazier than others) by creating Becky. I died of laughter during her two scenes, the top moment being the 15 seconds it took Becky to step up to Sam with a startled Dean looking on (priceless expression), put her hand on his chest and run it up, only to snap a merciless NO! at Sam when he asks her to stop touching him.

Sam, uncomfortable: Becky, you can quit touching me.
Becky: No!

I kind of hope Becky will become a recurring character, even if the chances are quite slim. Plus, she probably would end up annoying us, which would be a shame, since there aren’t many characters that I outright hate.

I don’t think there are going to be many characters that I am going to hate in the upcoming season, even Lucifer (case in point: the title of the episode is "Sympathy for the Devil"). However, there is one character that I just can’t stand — Zachariah.

Oh, Zachariah. How do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

There is a certain smugness to him that I tend not to associate with angels. I can understand that between the Apocalypse, rogue angels, and an absent Boss, he might be under a little bit of pressure to deliver. But certainly an angel doesn’t act in such ways, however high the pressure might be. Quite the contrary; doesn’t an angel exist because of their capacity to remain firm and steadfast under pressure?

Instead, Zachariah seems to be sinking deeper and deeper into an authoritarian mode in which he orders and everyone obeys. He is also quite  adept at blurring the line between being funny and blasphemous; remember how he offered 72 virgins or sluts to Dean in season four’s finale?

Which makes me wonder whose side is Zachariah really on. I don’t think he’s on God’s side. Neither do I think he’s on Lucifer’s side. Rather, I think Zachariah is caught in the same discourse both Dean and Sam themselves were caught in previously, one that John Winchester also was caught in, a discourse colored and enhanced by an inflated ego, one that blinds the person to the point that the means, however terrible they are, are justified by the end the person is hoping to achieve.

In short, Zachariah is trying to do his job as an angel, i.e. to protect, guide and nurture humanity, but because of his arrogance, he has decided to do it in his own way rather than doing whatever God told him to do. This arrogance is portrayed most profoundly by the following, simple exchange:

Dean: You bastards jumpstarted Judgment Day.
Zachariah: We didn’t start anything. We let it happen.

Is there a difference between doing something and letting it happen? From a concrete point of view, there is; Ruby let Lucifer out by manipulating Sam into breaking the last seal, while Zachariah didn’t do anything. And, to be fair, Zachariah might not even have been able to stop Lucifer from being freed. But it certainly doesn’t justify the means.

There is also the small matter of Zachariah announcing that "God has left the building." Someone with faith wouldn’t see God as having left; quite the contrary, someone with faith wouldn’t ever think that way. Remember the following story?

One night, a man had a dream in which he was walking along the beach with God. Across the sky, scenes from his life flashed; and for each scene, the man noticed two sets of footprints in the sand. One belonged to him, the other belonged to God. Having arrived at the last scene of his life, the man looked back at the footprints in the sand and noticed that many times, at the very lowest and saddest times in his life, there was only one set of footprints in the sand. He asked God why He hadn’t been there during the most difficult times of his life, to which God responded: “During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”

From the poem "This Is Faith" by Amatu'l-Baha Ruhiyyih Khanum:

To say: "God, I believe" when others deny,
"I hear" when there is no answer,
"I see" though naught is seen –
This is Faith.

That’s the essence of faith, from which angels are born. While Anna and Castiel, in different ways, have faith, it’s something that Zachariah certainly doesn’t have, be it a temporary lapse in judgment or a permanent one. It’s going to be something Lucifer will most certainly take advantage of.

Speaking of angels — gotta love the not so subtle segue — what’s with Dean being Michael’s Sword? According to literature, the sword was used by Michael in his original fight against Satan. It’s quite the honor, since Michael is referred to as one – if not the – greatest angel in various religious writings, including those of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Which makes me wonder: why was Dean chosen? And why was Nick chosen by Lucifer?

So many questions, and only one season of Supernatural left — at least, only one season that will be addressing these questions. Amongst other things, I’m really looking forward to the first encounter between the boys and Lucifer; it’s bound to be quite interesting, seeing that Lucifer owes both Sam and Dean, and that having Lucifer in their debt could on the one hand be the key to their survival or, on the other hand, be a reason for Lucifer to put the boys’ death on top of his to-do list.

Here are a couple more of my favorite lines from the episode:

Chuck, explaining what happened to Castiel: He exploded. Like a water balloon of Chunky Soup.

Dean, surprised at Sam’s lack of craving for demon blood: Supernatural methadone.

Sam: Becky, you can quite touching me.
Becky: No.

Dean, looking at Michael’s picture: That kid’s tough? Looks like Cate Blanchett!

Dean, hand on his chest in pain: What, did you brand us with it?

Castiel, matter of fact: No, I carved it on your ribs.

Nick, after ‘Sarah’ tells him she’s an angel named Lucifer: Sure. Okay. Would you do me a favor, Satan, and remind me to quit drinking before bed?

And my favorite line of this episode:

Dean, in the storage unit, coming face to face with Zachariah: Oh, thank God the angels are here.

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About Sahar

  • http://www.riddledphantasms.com R.P.M.

    I think it’s pretty amazing that Jason Ackles (sp) was able to go from Smallville and that cult following to Supernatural, which has its own cult following. I can’t say I’ve been a diehard follower of Supernatural, but the several shows I have seen, esp. the one where I did see him make the deal with the devil is kind of cool. Do you think the shows were better before on the now defunct WB?

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    The show started on a very solid foundation and has built itself just as solidly season after season. I didn’t notice a change in the quality of the writing, the filming, the acting or the directing; the entire series makes sense in that the plot doesn’t get yanked back and forth (as it unfortunately did in some shows). Which is why, although I would terribly miss the Winchester brothers, I hope that the producers don’t make the mistake of pulling out the show for too long just for the sake of not pulling the plug. Look what that did for The X-files (how I miss Mulder and Scully…)

  • http://th3tvobsessed.blogspot.com/ TV Obsessed

    Not as good as the season premiere, but this episode was killer. I loved the story with War making everyone fight each other, and the progression (or regression) of the Dean-Sam relationship. Full review of the episode on my blog.

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    Hey TV Obsessed – this is the review of the season premiere – I’m still working on the second episode 😉

  • http://writer.fitzhome.com Fitz

    The fact that it’s now the brothers vs. the Devil and the forces of Heaven is great. Not only is the action top notch – but Dean’s sarcasm absolutely rocks. This is a fun show that I will be sorry to see leave the air at the end of this season. Great review!

  • http://saharsblog.wordpress.com Sahar

    Thank you for your comment, Fitz! I’m glad you enjoyed the review, too. Did you hear the rumors fueled by comments from Eric Kripke that there might be a Season 6? Check it out. I just hope that they aren’t just doing it for the money, but rather because they have more stories to tell!