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Recap: "After School Special"

Once in a while, it's beneficial to look backward before going forward. Sure "After School Special" isn't embroiled with the presence of angels and Ruby leading Sam toward the darkside, but it is welcome look back at Sam and Dean's history. Thanks to crisp plotting that mixes all the elements of horror, drama, action, and comedy perfectly while giving thought provoking character studies, this episode is a big winner.
 
It's taken me a while to wrap my hands around this one since there's plenty to examine. That instantly earns kudos for Andrew Dabb and Daniel Loflin, the writers of this episode, for I love being challenged to think.   Also worth noting is a brilliant first time Supernatural appearance for director Adam Kane (credits previously are Pushing Daises and Heroes). He offers a few new tricks that add huge depth to the unfolding of this very busy story.  

Recap: "Criss Angel Is A Douchebag"

Just about any opinion of Supernatural these days is unpopular, so I'll state up front I loved "Criss Angel Is A Douchebag." Not just for the title either. This episode excelled in all areas; the writing, the directing, the acting. What puts it above others is though the superb guest acting. Who knew a magic themed episode could be so gut wrenching?
 
Yes, the story showed another slap-you-upside-the-head parallel between Sam and Dean and the guests of the week. While such parallels are heavy handed at times, this week's managed to give the season plot a huge push forward. 
 
BTW, considering the word is used so much it even made it to the title, I should share the official definition of "douchebag" according to the Urban Dictionary. "Someone who has surpassed the level of jerk and asshole, however not yet reached fucker or motherfucker." I'm sure everyone's grateful for that clarification! 
 
The writer is newcomer Julie Siege, whose previous effort was the decent "It's The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester." She turned out a better script this time. The director is Robert Singer, who has a knack for bringing out the emotional elements of the story. He again excelled in this one. The guest actors are the fantastic Barry Bostwick, John Rubenstein, and Richard Libertini, plus a surprise guest I'll mention later.   

Who Is The Real Sam Winchester?

For Sam fans, as promised, I'm taking on the common concerns many have voiced over the younger Winchester brother recently. I've been struggling with this analysis for a week now, unsure how to capture my views into coherent thought. Then I saw "Criss Angel Is A Douchebag" and all the pieces fell in place. Poor Sammy!

First, the ground rules. Any analysis of Sam's character will not come at the expense of Dean. This isn't pitting one brother against the other. Second, I won't be blasting the writers, Kripke, directors, casting, etc. I'm going off what we've been given, and will avoid comments that harp on supposedly lazy writing.

This works simply: I list a common complaint in bold and then give my analysis.

Read more: Who Is The Real Sam Winchester?

Review: "Malleus Maleficarum"

Sure, it was a repeat, but weren't we all a little excited on Thursday to go to the TV Guide and see our beloved show Supernatural listed in the lineup again? I got a little emotional, and I didn't even care what episode was on. The CW played a cruel joke on us for six weeks, and I'm glad it's over.

The episode chosen for repeat viewing was "Malleus Maleficarum", a graphically gross tale about shallow suburbanites who unwittingly sold their souls to the devil via witchcraft all in hopes of getting a better mortgage rate. The writer of this episode was Ben Edlund, who makes my short list of writers whose warped mind I most want to emulate when writing my own stuff. This wasn't his best script (that honor belongs to season two's "Nightshifter"), but I still enjoyed his unconventional view of witches and demons, and he delivered plenty of drama for the Winchester boys. There was one element in particular that made this episode stand out from others, but first let's cover the other stuff.

Read more: Review: "Malleus Maleficarum"

Recap: "Sex and Violence"

Wow..whoa...erm...geez...I guess that's one approach to family therapy.
 
From the word go, in the previews nonetheless, the message is this is gonna be an angry one. Another clue, the title, "Sex and Violence." There's definitely that.   
 
I didn't get to see this one live, much to my dismay. While traveling I kept looking at the clock once it approached 9pm, frowning, wondering if I could convince some bar owner in the sticks to put it on for me. The next day I downloaded the episode from iTunes and luckily I was busy at the New York Comic Con that day, for it took five hours over the slow but free wireless connection. That evening the hubby and I huddled by the laptop and watched with anticipation.
 
Once we picked our jaws up off the floor, we watched it again. 
 
This week's theme is not uncommon in the history of man. Underneath sex and violence lays mistrust, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and restlessness. Put it in the Supernatural universe though and the results are downright explosive. Cathryn Humphries is no stranger to depicting the Winchester brotherly strife in her scripts and again she went deep and raw. Unlike her brilliant "Metamorphosis," she didn't need obvious parallels, finding the perfect antagonist to screw with needy men and bitter brothers.  

In Memory Of Kim Manners, Supernatural Executive Producer And Director

Kim Manners, Executive Producer and Director for Supernatural, as well as long time Producer and Director for The X-Files, died on Sunday evening after a battle with lung cancer.  Below is the official statement and reaction from Eric Kripke. 
 
"Supernatural" executive producer & director Kim Manners passed away last night in Los Angeles, following a battle with cancer.  Below please find a statement from "Supernatural" creator & executive producer Eric Kripke: 
 
Everyone at 'Supernatural' is walking around in a daze, shocked and absolutely devastated.  Kim was a brilliant director; more than that, he was a mentor and friend.  He was one of the patriarchs of the family, and we miss him desperately.  He gave so much to 'Supernatural,' and everything we do on the show, now and forever, is in memory of him. 

When I first started watching Supernatural, little did I know that I was reuniting with a director whose work I'd been watching most of my adult life.  Something about the episodes he directed seemed very familiar, and one quick visit to IMDB told me why.  His fingerprints were all over a wide variety of shows.  He directed 52 episodes and was a producer for one of my favorite programs, The X-Files.  It's funny how when I watched TV back then, I like many others only paid attention to Mulder and Scully, and cursed the name of creator Chris Carter when the mythology ran amuck.  I seemed to gloss over the other names in the credits.  

Apparently I did a ton of glossing over.  One of the first TV shows I ever got into was 21 Jump StreetHe directed nine of those episodes.  The hubby and I are avid fans of Star Trek: The Next Generation.  I was stunned to find his name under the directing credits for the episode "When The Bough Breaks."  I remember being forced to watch the awful The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. at my friend's house one evening, complaining how that was an hour of my life I'd never get back.  Kim Manners even did seven episodes of that.  Hey, a man's gotta work.   

Kim Manners always got the call for the season finales and season openers of Supernatural, his name tied to landmark episodes like "Devil's Trap," "In My Time of Dying," "All Hell Breaks Loose Part II," "No Rest For The Wicked," and one of his last episodes, "Lazarus Rising."  He was known for taking episodes and at pitch perfect moments giving them intensity, heart, sensitivity, humor, and using every possible element at his disposal to deliver a story that kept viewers deeply involved from beginning to end.  Sure a director usually can pull that off here and there, but when Kim Manners managed to do that each time in a medium where there's no time or budget for perfection, his record is stunning. 

He had a gift for telling the story by filming the maximum emotional impact, using unique camera angles and close-ups and setting the perfect mood so that more came from the characters than just the lines on the page.  Two scenes of perfection that instantly come to mind are Dean's somber vigil over Sam in "All Hell Breaks Loose Part II" and the closing act of "Mystery Spot."   

He had the distinction of helming one of the most controversial episodes in television history, the disturbing tale of inbreeding in The X-Files' "Home."  It bothered people so much it was banned from FOX after it aired.  He also proved his ingenious ability to rehash the Groundhog Day premise, directing The X-Files' "Monday" and Supernatural's "Mystery Spot," both considered to be among each series' best.  He was also the director for both parts of the final X-Files episode "The Truth," and we all knew his name was etched on Supernatural's finale as well.  We can't fathom anyone else taking that spot behind the camera when that time comes.  

He also knew how to seamlessly unfold the plot and keep audiences engaged even with the weakest of scripts.  Many forget that he was there when Supernatural was finding its footing, drawing the short end and being forced to direct what many consider to be the worst episode of the series, "Bugs."  However, "Bugs" also provided some of the most amusing behind the scenes stories, some told by Mr. Manners himself.  
 
"They bring in six hundred bees, or however many bees, and I was like 'Oh my god, I can't wait to see the dailies!` But you watch the dailies and you can't tell there's one bee in that room - they just don't read on camera or they were too sluggish. (...) And you just start laughing because you put your crew in a room with hundreds of bees and then you can't even tell if there are any bees on camera. It's a bizarre job sometimes."  

Bizarre job indeed.  The fact is he could do it all.  One of his first directing gigs was Charlie's Angels.  His name is also attached to two Baywatch episodes as well.  Given the fact he was largely responsible for pulling off the very steamy Sam/Madison sex scene in Supernatural's "Heart,"he obviously had plenty of gratuitous experience to draw from.  He could do complex scenes like that as well as action, suspense, horror, comedy, romance, scifi, and mystery, cementing his reputation as one of the most versatile television directors in history. 

Lucky for him he also had several outstanding actors at his disposal and knew how to work their strengths.  Just look at a few of those that have been on the other side of his cameras.  Robert Wagner, Stephanie Powers, Jaclyn Smith, Cheryl Ladd, Johnny Depp, Brian Keith, Fred Dryer, Gerald McRaney, Jameson Parker, Patrick Stewart, David Hasselhoff, Michael Chiklis, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, and Mitch Pileggi.  Throw in two young actors by the name of Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki, both growing substantially from his years of brilliance, and I have my TV dream list.  It was likely his too.   

The last episode he directed for Supernatural was the stunning "Metamorphosis."  Like others I wondered why the show's top director was missing from the credits for upcoming episodes, but none of us knew he was ill.  We thought he was taking a break; after all he'd earned it after his storied career.  The announcement of his passing crushed us all, and we are having a hard time picturing the show without him.  

To the family of Kim Manners and everyone who were close to him not only at Supernatural but at other shows as well, you all have my deepest sympathies.  As Eric Kripke so eloquently said, everything done on the show now and forever is in memory of him.  The same can be said for television in general.  A brilliance like his will be sorely missed.     




 

Recap: "Family Remains"

Bonus! This recap covers the Sam scenes the CW forgot to show! You know, the ones that gave Sam some action and a plot. I even get to reveal the alternate ending!
 
While "Family Remains" was a decent filler episode, there just wasn't enough to it where deep analysis on my part is required. It's just some good ole slasher fun. Plus, several of these scenes were so dark I couldn't make out what was happening.  So, forgive the fewer and very dark screen caps. 

Read more: Recap: "Family Remains"

Review: The Kids Are Alright

Reviewing episodes after seeing the rest of the season creates an interesting challenge. I try to judge the episode on its merits alone as if I was watching for the first time, but I can't avoid recalling post episode subplots that cleanly tie into the one up for review. "The Kids Are Alright" is one of those episodes. It sets the framework for Dean's season three character development, yet also carries over the sentiments first revealed in "What Is and What Should Never Be". So, forgive me, but this episode is going to be judged on how it bridges the gap between that stellar season two episode and the latter part of season three. It's a key piece to Dean's intense personal struggle, the one he tries to hide from the surface, but one that also defines him.   

Before I start plowing through this better than average episode (a huge improvement over the season premiere), I would like to take time to honor this episode's writer, Sera Gamble. I like profiling writers as many of you have noticed from my previous reviews and somehow I've overlooked the show's head writer. As a writer myself I've learned throughout the years how to appreciate the precision and careful crafting that goes into creating a work of art such as a script. There's way more to it than meets the eye, and with a television script in particular, every word counts. There are only 40 minutes to tell the story, thus so much needs to be said with so little. 

Sera Gamble is a master of her craft, and has consistently provided one gem after another that upon deconstruction gives us so much to ponder. Her strengths lie in the character development and bringing out the raw emotional elements of the relationship between the brothers. She wrote the tear-jerkers like "Faith" and "Heart", stories that exposed deep inner layers like this episode, "Houses of The Holy" and "Dream A Little Dream of Me", and explored deep character dilemmas in "Salvation", "Bloodlust" and "Time Is On My Side". Remember though, this is also the evil woman that killed Sam Winchester and made him kill his lover after his first hot night of passion in a while, so torture and despair isn't lost on her either. Come to think of it, she came up with the mellon baller to the eye socket too. Seems like she relishes in putting Sam through the ringer. It's all done in love though, I'm sure. 
 

Read more: Review: The Kids Are Alright

Review: The Magnificent Seven

Reviewing "The Magnificent Seven" is weird since I'm going from something unbelievable like the finale last week to this episode, easily one of the worst of the season.  Last week I marveled at the awesomeness of the Kripster for his flawless script in "No Rest For The Wicked", and now I get to ask what the hell he was thinking for this season three premiere.   I forgave him for this misstep a while ago though since nobody is perfect but still, it pains me to be so harsh. I suppose there are pitfalls to being a critic. Forgive me Master Kripke.
Before I go on, I want to send a huge thank you to everyone that sent a "Damn You Kripke!" in honor of last week's still jaw dropping finale (Dean!). The response was far greater than I expected, and it just goes to show how great this fandom is. I love you guys!

Read more: Review: The Magnificent Seven