You know, on the first watch, “Rock Never Dies” wasn’t so bad. No, it wasn’t very exciting. I remember when it was half over I thought, “There’s still 30 minutes left of this?” Pacing was glacial to say the least. But honestly, three things made it a watchable episode for me. First, I’m still loving Crowley and Castiel together. I believe that those two have more value together than apart. Second, I really loved Rick Springfield as Lucifer. I’m not sure I wanted to see him be the permanent Lucifer going forward, but for the stint he did have he did a great job. Third, I loved the setting of Los Angeles. The fact that it was Crowley’s town was so perfect, especially after I’ve visited the so called City of Angels a few times. People would easily make demon deals in that town! The stock shots of LA seemed a little over the top and a time waster, but hotels like that do serve cucumber water and people are very much into their veggie smoothies and yoga. I’m with Sam and Dean, veggie infused water isn’t half bad!
Beyond that though, it gets messy. Uncomfortably messy. There were plot holes and attempts at humor that fell flat, but overall it ended up being a stern slap in the face to the idea of fandom, one that probably hit too close to home given “Supernatural’s” avid fans. For those that didn’t notice the insult, it was slow and lackluster at best. For those that did notice, we’re left wondering exactly what are the writers trying to tell us? It isn’t a celebration of fan loyalty and devotion, that’s for sure.
The Underlying Message
Robert Berens wrote a very fluid script for “Rock Never Dies.” It was carefully constructed, had some great dialogue, and intended to deliver a strong message. He managed to blend cynicism against the Hollywood establishment, work in some humor, definitely drive home some horror, all while carrying on the season’s mythology. That’s quite a bit more than what other scripts have done this year. But in the end, a pointed message was delivered and as a fan, I haven’t felt this disenfranchised and just plain insulted since season seven’s “Time For A Wedding” (penned by none other than current showrunner Andrew Dabb).
I’ve always believed that the characters are mouthpieces for the writers. Eric Kripke did this notoriously with the character Chuck, essentially bringing him, the creator, into the story. Andrew Dabb took the goodwill that Kripke created with the fan meta in episodes like “Monster at the End of This Book” and “The Real Ghostbusters” and twisted it in “Season Seven: Time For A Wedding.” Instead of fans being portrayed as nuts but well meaning in the end, Dabb turned average fan Becky into a desperate psycho, using a spell to force Sam to marry her. It was appalling and it clearly delivered a message about how he felt about excessive fans. His view wasn’t any where near as endearing as Kripke’s. I’m still bitter to this day about that message!
I’m not sure what Robert Berens’ intent was with “Rock Never Dies” and what he was trying to say through Lucifer, but I was left with a bitter feeling at the end of it. That stuns me too, because Berens is good with the fans. Was he as a writer just following direction or was this sentiment all his own? Was he possibly joking? I’m left to believe if Lucifer’s words about worshipping celebrities was a back handed swipe at the legions of “Supernatural” fans that obsess over this show. These words didn’t exactly sound like a Arch Angel that was looking for a little worship:
Don't you get it? This is all meaningless. Heaven. Hell. This world. If it ever meant anything that moment is passed. Nothing down here except hopeless distraction addicts. So full of emptiness, so desperate to fill up the void. They don't mind being served another stale rerun of a rerun of a rerun. You know what my plan is? I don't have one. I'm just going to keep smashing Daddy's already broken toys, and making you watch.
I know the fan that carved Vince’s name on her chest was a bit excessive and she was mind controlled into that act, but when it was all over she made no apologies. She was obsessed with Vince and had been since she was very young and didn’t regret the act. She was even eager to get to his show while in the hospital. She obviously represented the extreme crazy of fandom. There are “Supernatural” fans that attend every convention, blow thousands of dollars on photo ops with the actors, and spend lifetimes on boards obsessing about the show’s episodes and the actors (I’m definitely guilty of the latter). Was the behavior being mocked? It doesn’t seem too far a stretch when the words “hopeless distraction addicts” is mentioned. “So full of emptiness, so desperate to fill up the void,” hits a little too close to home.
To give Berens the benefit of the doubt though, he did take a swipe at those that feed the machine as well, namely the producers, publicists, and actors themselves who tried to milk a phenomenon that is long past it’s prime. Their shallow behavior contributed to their downfall and to include them as part of this message seemed appropriate, even if the whole message was heavy handed. That leads me to believe that the intent could be tongue in cheek as well. The whole system was mocked, not just the fans.
I’ll admit, it could just be me and oversensitivity after being a fan so long. My love affair with “Supernatural” waned long ago, but there have been times where I saw a spark and that was enough to keep me around. But after this week I’m left to wonder, what do the writers think of me as a fan? Was the message that it’s their story and they shall do as they please? Were they trying to tell me that I’m shallow for sticking with the show so loyally? Were they telling me to stop taking it so seriously? Was it basically the equivalent of William Shatner telling Star Trek fans (jokingly) to “get a life?” I could speculate for a lifetime over intent, but if this episode was the equivalent of the Shatner joke, I wasn’t exactly laughing.
Luckily, the message veered back on course at the end, putting into strong perspective the real mess of Lucifer loose on the world. He’s broken, without purpose, and more dangerous than ever now that he doesn’t have a plan. He’s just going to kill at random. The look on Sam’s face told the whole message, he feels responsible for all the mayhem that’s been caused. It does make me wonder if he’s going to allow himself to be possessed again, that is assuming Lucifer will even let him.
At this point, looking beyond the pointed messages, I can’t help but ask, where is all this going? What the hell is happening here? Normally I can see patterns, direction, intent, but at this point in the season I’ve got nothing. Is there any reason we should be excited about the midseason finale, aka another showdown with whiny, fan hating Lucifer? The episode synopsis for 12.08 is ludicrous! This setup was hardly the kick we needed in what has been a lackluster season. I would wonder how they would defeat Lucifer, but then I remember how they’ve defeated him before. Team freewill will find a way. They always do. Is that a journey we want to see, again?
The Red Headed Monster
For the record, I didn’t care that much for the previous episode either, “Celebrating the Life of Asa Fox.” The character moments were good and I loved the return of Jody and Mary, but the plot was weak. Overall, it was a tame outing and after a string of tame to plain bad outings, I couldn’t even come up with a remotely good or insightful review. I skipped it. But this week, it’s hard to not address the elephant in the room. The monster has been chomping at the bit! We are coming upon a midseason finale this week and all I can say is that season 12 part one can be dismissed as a train wreck. I’ve never said that about this show before and as a long time fan I’m worried.
Then again, worried isn't the right word. Apathetic is better. I can’t find myself caring too much either. The focus has become on the smaller, more personal stories, but I find myself being less engaged and farther away from connection with the characters. It feels like a bad parody of what the show once used to be. I feel more connected right now to Castiel and Crowley than anyone but that’s only mildly. Based on the stories we’ve gotten so far, everyone seems to be limping along, not caring what happens. There’s no passion, no urgency, no originality. It’s bland and quite frankly I can no longer say that this show is just as fun to watch as any show out there. It’s a chore now.
Bottom line, “Supernatural” seems to be in a creative rut right now. The question is, and has been for some time, how long can this be sustained? It really seems like TPTB are artificially churning out episodes to be sold in syndication so “Supernatural” can remain a money machine. After this week, I’m wondering if that’s the sole objective of the writing team, produce anything for the sake of it. I got the impression at Comic Con that Robert Singer, who was brought out of retirement for this season, was tired and ready to sell mildly serviceable stories. So far, it doesn’t look like bringing him back has brought any benefit, but it could be his worth is more behind the scenes. As for Andrew Dabb and Robert Berens, they leave me with the feeling they’re doing whatever they can to get by. Andrew Dabb told us at Comic Con that taking over “Supernatural” was like he was being given the keys to the Lamborghini and he was told not to crash the car. From what we’ve seen so far, he’s not only crashed it, he’s blown it up into something unrecognizable.
This whole idea of keeping the show going until they hit 300 episodes seems ill conceived at this rate. It’s an artificial number that has no meaning and a task overwhelming a tired and uninspired writing team. Jensen Ackles just had twins today (congrats Jensen and Danneel!) and Jared and Gen have a third child on the way. How long can this continue for them? How long can the guys stand to be away from their families? I get that everyone on the set is family to them, but even families have to move on. They all have relationships that have profoundly affected them forever, but the show was never intended to last forever.
Now, more than ever, seems like the time to set an end game so we all can be given a chance to go through a proper goodbye instead of just quitting out of frustration. That’s what “The Vampire Diaries” is getting right now. It’s tough for me to see my beloved show sink this low. I’m really close to walking away, but then again I’m one very stubborn fan. However, after this episode now I believe I’m contributing to the problem with my blind loyalty. The show should just be watched not obsessed over. I need to go out and get that life. It’s impossible to watch the show with any sort of scrutiny anymore. There isn’t much substance left. The question I continue to struggle with, “Is ‘Supernatural’ worth it anymore?”
Overall grade, oh man, I have no idea. We’re flirting with the C- to D territory. It all depends how the episode is perceived. That fact that overall this wasn’t a bad script saves it from an F (unlike “Season Seven: Time for a Wedding”) as well as Rick Springfield’s performance, but I accept that each fan will see what happened differently. I feel insulted, but at the same time I’m not engaged enough to be hopping mad about it. Just disappointed. I just feel like the creative team is dragging themselves to the finish line, wanting desperately for this to be over. As a fan, I’m left wondering who’s going to give up first.