SAMMY!  GAH!  NO!  Weren’t you told growing up how bad it is to scratch itches? Scratching opens up old wounds and create whole new ones.    

I’m as stunned as many of you are, for I certainly didn’t expect a crack in Sam’s wall that soon.  If you recall back when “You Can’t Handle The Truth”aired, I campaigned for a well deserved Sam Winchester beating at the hands of his brother.  Once that scene happened though, “be careful what you wish for” rang so very true.  No one was laughing after that brutal scene.  Lately, my mantra has been “tear down the wall.” Yikes, I need to shut up now before I kill the boy.    

Oh dear, once again Sam can’t catch a break.  One of the many things I love about “Supernatural” is their ability to take something typical and make it atypical.  Take something ordinary and make it extraordinary.  For example, look the flashback episode concept.  It’s nothing new and often overdone.  There have been very few flashback episodes that I have deemed classics.  The best one that comes to mind is the season two opener of The West Wing, “In The Shadow of Two Gunmen.”Other than that they’re cliche and a cheap way to build backstory without enhancing the present story.  

In “Unforgiven” though none of that is true.  This is flashback done perfect.  Sam’s vivid memories of ill acts done by his “RoboSam” counterpart are in black and white and jarring.  Scenes are jagged and sometimes come in quick flashes, other times longer periods, but they aren’t fluid by any means.  We are seeing them as Sam remembers them and no wonder Sam’s reaction every time is disconcerting and fearful.  It isn’t just Sam’s traumatic memory of the monster he’d become.  It’s his unstable mind accessing memories that were meant to be hidden.  The pain is far worse than someone going through typical  “Day of Our Lives” amnesia.

 
 
So what was superior about this episode?  Storytelling for one.  This is how to unfold a MOTW story.  It’s even, kept me interested the entire hour, is deeply emotional and full of angst, and keeps me guessing right up to the shocking and unexpected end. This is the best paced episode of the season, just ahead of another Dabb and Loflin script, “Weekend at Bobby’s.”  The guest acting again is excellent and their characters come with real depth, especially Roy and Brenna.  They carry wounds almost as deep as that wall inside Sam’s head.   

This episode was shot by first time Supernatural director David Barrett, and man did he bring something to this material.  He has quite a pedigree though, including being the Executive Producer for “Moonlight” and has shot episodes for several genre shows like “The Vampire Diaries,” “Nikita,” “Life on Mars,” and “Smallville.”  He delivers a gem with this complex script, using the camera wisely to wrangle in the most emotional impact out of this layered tale.  The reactions had to be timed perfect, especially Sam’s frantic behavior after each troubling flashback.  The tone of the entire episode matched Sam’s edginess which believe me can be tricky when an gripping yet complicated MOTW story revolves around it.  

Jared Padalecki, as he has done all season long, took an acting challenge and delivered with brilliance.  Sure he got to play RoboSam again, a character he had to invent from scratch at the beginning of this season, but this time he had to constantly switch between the two characters.  Ask Nina Dobrev of “The Vampire Diaries”, who’s had to do a dual role constantly this season, it’s work.  On top of that the regular Sam was on pins and needles the entire episode, each memory eating away at his already fragile psyche.  The gradual decline from unaware hunter “catching up” on the latest Mel Gibson gossip to the “drooling mess” seizing on the floor unfolded with gut wrenching precision and timing.  And the ending shot of Sam burning alive in Hell, I haven’t felt prickly spine shivers like that since Dean was chained up in Hell screaming for his brother in “No Rest For The Wicked.”  Yikes, these guys know how to press buttons. 

“You’re afraid I’ll stroll down memory lane and I’ll kick this wall in my head so hard Hell comes flooding through, right?  And then all of a sudden I’m some drooling mess on the floor.”  

Dean was right, for once those words of Sam’s EXACTLY happened, it was no joke. Despite the fascinating story and a Monster of The Week that is surprising and unpredictable (a rarity this season), “Unforgiven” is a character based drama.  It’s main purpose is to prove under no uncertain terms that newly restored Sam Winchester has some stability issues.  Point definitely taken.     

No doubt about it, even in this latest development, Sam Winchester remains universally screwed.  Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.  What makes Sam one of the unforgiven?  One of those lost souls that pays for his past and becomes a slave to the future?  That’s been Sam’s story his whole life.  He tried to run, wanted a life with Jessica, and he ends up getting her killed.  No, he didn’t do the killing but that’s the problem, he was involved.  He caused it by association.  That starts his quest for revenge that got him in deeper and deeper, a quest for good that ended up with more collateral damage than anything.  The most stinging line of this entire episode, and one reflective of Sam’s entire life, comes from the monster he created in Roy.  ”You killed one monster and you made so many more.”  Lilith comes to mind. He killed the beast and started the apocalypse.  How many more died?  He defeated Lucifer and came back soulless, damaging lives wherever he went.  Now he has to pay for that with an unrelenting wall.  He can’t win. 

  
 
Dean tries to help Sam by telling him it wasn’t him.  Sam insists otherwise.  Why?  I suspect Sam realizes he’s lost a major battle to that monster that’s always been inside him.  The one he’s fought hard his entire life to control.  RoboSam is himself at his worst, the Sam that lusts, the Sam that wants to conquer without humanity interfering with the equation, the Sam that doesn’t want to care about family.  That one line, “Family just slows you down,” reveals why Sam didn’t look up Dean for a year.  It wasn’t so Dean could have a life.  It’s so Dean wouldn’t stop him from becoming the best hunter he could be.  RoboSam had already figured out by this time that Samuel wouldn’t stop him, no matter what his feelings are about him. That’s likely why they maintained the working relationship for so long.  It’s interesting how the focus while RoboSam was coldly shooting the arachne victims was on Samuel and his disgust over the violent and merciless act.  He didn’t like it, but no one was stopping RoboSam from doing his job. 

I caught those two lines in the script, the two lines that blurred the line between RoboSam and Sam.  When Sam is talking to Brenna in her house about Roy, he tells her “I’m sure he died a hero.”  It’s no happy accident that RoboSam ends up telling Roy before shooting him, “You’re a hero.”  They both used the same line for the same purpose, false comfort.  No wonder Sam thinks RoboSam was him.  

“I’ve got a freaking soul now and it won’t let me just walk away.”

Is it possible out of this no win scenario, Sam saw death as the better option?  He at least goes out with a clear conscience?  Doing nothing will only continue to eat him up inside, stir up that long growing guilt that has hampered him throughout the years. Making things right is good for the soul, right?  Um, this is Sam Winchester we’re talking about, the man that constantly lives in the no win scenario.  In being universally screwed, making things right means scratching at the wall.  Sam’s life has been so filled with unfair cruelties like this, how should this circumstance be different?  

He tries because that’s who he is.  He’s got to make things better, or much like his Dad who sacrificed all for the cause, he’ll go insane.  The trouble is, he will go insane doing what’s right.  As he finds out the hard way, there’s no easy way to fix what’s already been damaged.  He saves Brenna this time, but she can’t forgive the actions of the past.  Sam ends up feeling worse in the end and accepts Dean was right.  They shouldn’t have come there.  That’s likely what weakened his defenses, allowing the wall to crack.  I think we’ve found Sam’s character struggle for the rest of this season, trying to balance between that rock and that hard place.  What’s going to get him first, overwhelming guilt or the memories of Hell?

 
 
Dean’s role here becomes essential, despite the fact he didn’t have a lot of screen time in this episode.  Poor Dean, his uphill battle fell back on him and everything he exactly feared came true.  He couldn’t stop Sam from scratching that wall, digging where he shouldn’t. Isn’t that often the case with the younger Winchester, though?  He does things his own way only to find out the hard way big brother is right?  I get it though, holding back your memories, denying who you are, is a bitter pill to swallow.  

Dean did at least agree to help Sam remember in the end rather than fight his attempts, but it didn’t matter, the same result happened anyway.  Sam couldn’t fight back the memories from Hell.  Will Dean come to accept there’s no fighting the tide?  I can’t wait for next week to get here, hoping we get some hint of what went through Dean’s head as he watched his brother seize on the floor.  How will he address his fears of what he might have to do when/if the whole wall comes crashing down?  Has Dean been working on Plan B?  I wouldn’t mind seeing the process of him working that through.  The way I see it, Dean is the only one that can save Sam from himself.  

Speaking of souls, how about this favorable portrayal of Samuel?  He’s starting to make more sense to me.  “It’s not the way I’m used to doing things.” He does have morals and his little talk about Mary reinforced how she is his entire world.  “My God son you’re about as cold as they come, you know that?” A great line, but what clicked when he saw it meant nothing to Sam?  I wonder if this was the case that turned Samuel against Sam, made him decide his grandsons weren’t worthy of Mary’s memory.  Probably because they were raised by Mary’s husband who he didn’t trust. My question is has Samuel always backed away from morally sticky situations or is he this way because he’s still out of sorts over being brought back?  

Other

It’s fascinating to see something addressed that I’ve often wondered, what happens if Sam and Dean had to go back to a town after a hunt?  Dean is right, there are always messes.  They really do leave scars that cannot be healed so easily.  

Bristol, Rhode Island.  ”Where Memories Are Made.” Ha!  Good one!  Add that town to the list of places that’ll make the brothers cringe upon mention.  

“I’m going to go hit the poop deck.” Yes, I’ve been in plenty tacky places like that, but I’ve never see that used before!  I still think another writer’s challenge is going on, much like last year’s who could outgross the other.  They’re finding creative ways to work in “poop.”  

“Sex rehab.  You’ve heard of plushies, right?”  Still to this day, “Plushies and Furries” is the most disturbing CSI episode I’ve ever seen.

One small question was answered, although it wasn’t a surprising answer.  This confirms that RoboSam definitely used victims as bait.  He did it with the baby in “Two and a Half Men.”  No doubt now when going back and watching that episode. 

They found the arachne in the same place that the showdown scene in “Born Under A Bad Sign” took place, when possessed Sam shoots Dean.  It is perfect for a sea side town.   

Anyone notice that portions of the creepy score was the same one used a few times in the early part of season one?  For some reason, it didn’t feel dated.  It was better!

“Unforgiven” clearly gets an A from me easily.  It was a complete 40 minutes of breath taking television and ties "Weekend At Bobby's" as my favorite episode of the season.  It’s easily the most emotional episode we’ve had in season six, something that has been sorely missing.  Most of all, it blended all the right things perfectly. Now, all I need to figure out is what the hell next week is all about.  Impala possession has me interested!

Comments  

Louisa
# Louisa 2011-02-13 15:17
*Dean’s role here becomes essential, despite the fact he didn’t have a lot of screen time in this episode. *

Or anything to do but wring his hands over Sam. I'm still hoping for more. I found this to be a waste of an hour, and found that Jared's facial tics continually detracted from what was going on. It seems he's back to his usual default of facepulling = acting.
Melanie
# Melanie 2011-02-13 15:26
Alice, I'm on the same page with you - all points. I thought this episode was one of the strongest of the season. Jared is just knocking my socks off. I had one small complaint, which I mentioned in my reply to Elle2's review -- I didn't quite buy Brenna (thanks, I didn't remember her name) helping Sam so much so easily. Robo!Sam wouldn't have inspired that sort of trust and while the puppy eyes are a superpower I still couldn't quite hand wave it. . . . .
Otherwise I entirely loved the episode. My poor Sammy - I sure hope he comes out the other side of this.
AlisonH
# AlisonH 2011-02-13 15:26
An excellent, gripping episode that had me on the edge of my seat throughout.Jare d was incredible and the flashbacks were some of the best I've seen in any series.Kudos to the director for pacing the episode so well and the writers for giving us that very unexpected ending :D

BTW, the creepy score made me instantly think of 'Phantom Traveller'.I thought it fit this episode perfectly.

I did LOL twice, at the 'Poop Deck' sign and when Dean described Sam's height to Nicole's friend as "Yay high" while holding his hand about a foot higher than his own head.Yes, Jared is TALL and I love the fact that the writers joke about it, too :lol:
Melanie
# Melanie 2011-02-13 15:29
Hmm I just tried to post a comment and it disappeared.
Alice, I am completely on the same page with you regarding this awesome episode. Jared is just knocking my socks off. I talked a little more about it in response to Elle2's review, so I won't repeat it here. My poor Sammy. I sure hope he comes out of this OK.
Alice
# Alice 2011-02-13 16:07
No worries, your previous comment made it through. I guess there was just a slight delay with the server. I knew you and I would be on the same page! I don't know, I think puppy Sam has a secret power over women. Then again, so does RoboSam come to think of it! It's weird.
purplehairedwonder
# purplehairedwonder 2011-02-13 15:41
First thing, I really hope next episode picks up right where this episode ends because I'm dying to know what Dean does and how Sam ends up coming back to himself. The ending terrified me!

My hope is that Sam sees this experience as a warning: He can't set everything right no matter how hard he tries, no matter how much he scratches the wall, no matter how much guilt he takes on himself. Brenna wouldn't hear his apology--which was obviously painful for him--and there are undoubtedly other people Robo!Sam interacted with that will have the same issue. The best he can do now both for his own sanity (guilt-wise and for keeping the wall up) is fix things in the present rather than dwell on the past. Yeah, Sam is a dweller, we know this, but I really feel like his expression on Brenna's porch and when he told Dean he was right was something of light bulb moment.

Interesting insight about John sacrificing all for the cause--we're constantly being shown/told how Sam is very much John's son. Not to mention, John also went to Hell and came back and helped set things right (stalled Azazel enough so Dean could shoot him in AHBL2) before moving on to wherever he is now. I do wonder what other parallels might appear now.

I think you're exactly right that Dean's the only one who can save Sam from himself, both in terms of taking too much on himself and when it comes to dealing with the memories that are slipping through the cracks. Now that Sam's going to have some reference for how bad the Hell memories are, maybe he'll have more respect for the wall. I don't think it means nothing that, according to Ash in "Dark Side of the Moon," the boys are soul mates. Sam's soul is damaged, so it makes sense that it's Dean that can be the one to help him heal. No matter the angst, I don't think the boys are falling away from each other again so I think even just Dean's presence will be good for Sam's well-being. Dean's the only person on the planet--probabl y--that really gets what Sam is remembering, so it has to be him. And I think our protective big brother is up to the task.

And finally, I actually don't think this was a particularly favorably portrayal of Samuel. Allowing evil to happen is just as bad as doing it yourself, and that's exactly what was going on here. Samuel may not have liked what Robo!Sam was doing, but he didn't make any effort to stop it or suggest another alternative. It just made him passive and every bit as unlikable as earlier in the season for me.

Phew, that just kept going. Pardon my ramblings :)
LordAniline
# LordAniline 2011-02-13 15:47
Jared did fantastic as always, convincing as heck to go from I can't remember but I'm trying really hard and I'm really sorry, to I look totally hot shooting people and beating up a guy.

I'm not sure why but I find it too funny that soulless Sam "really got around" with the ladies and Dean being impressed. Sam looked like he just want to sink into the floor.
Calcifera
# Calcifera 2011-02-13 17:13
Thanks for the awesome review! I agree that this was a great character-drive n episode. Supernatural is so riveting it always passes in the blink of an eye for me (except for the tortuously long commercials I have to sit through).

Jared just blows me away! I feel so awful for Sammy ( :sad: ) and I can't wait to see where the story leads next week.
Sablegreen
# Sablegreen 2011-02-13 18:33
Good Review, Alice. Good thing we know Sam is okay. He's back working the job next week.
nancyL
# nancyL 2011-02-13 19:03
Alice, obviously Sera and Co read your articles. :lol:
This episode was fun.

I liked the contrast of Sammy with the Soulless One. It just makes the Soulless One seem even colder against the genuine article.

Dean even though he won't, owes Sam a huge 'I told you so'. :sad:

Let us not forget that Gramps never met hunter!John. He would probably had pissed his pants if he had. Alice, maybe you can put that plot into an article, a meeting of John and Gramps (hello return of JDM :lol: ).

Places never to mention again;
Cold Oaks, South Dakota; Broward County, Florida;and now Bristol, Rhode Island.

Next week: possessed Impala. :D :D
nancyL
# nancyL 2011-02-13 19:38
I just saw this at the wikipedia listing for Supernatural's season 6 episodes.

The description for epi 16 "...And then there were none', has this little tidbit:

'Samuel and Bobby get into a heated fight about how to handle the case.'

Finally a meeting of Bobby (the father figure we love) and Gramps (the father figure that Dean wants to kill).
Cannot wait until March 4. :lol:
lianne
# lianne 2011-02-13 19:40
Dean doesn't really have any other role this season except to worry about Sam, does he? I guess when you're primarily a fan of Sam then it probably doesn't matter much that Dean is only around to support Sam, but as a fan of Dean as well I guess I'd like the brothers to have EQUALLY important storylines.

I guess with the wall coming down and glimpse of hell, the show will delve more into Sam's hell trauma. And that's great although it's too bad that the one storyline Dean had that was unique to him is diminished because Sam's time in hell is being portrayed as so much worse.

I wonder if the writers have any intention of giving Dean an actual story of his own this season?

I don't know.. I guess I'm just really disappointed with how the writers are treating Dean this season. But I see others who liked the episode so that's cool.
LordAniline
# LordAniline 2011-02-13 19:53
*shrug* After having to tolerate a very diminished role of Sam for season 4 and 5, it's only just that we finally get some Sam POV. Why not allow others to have their crumbs?

Personally I want focus on the brother team, that uncredited third character of the show. However given how huge a sacrifice Sam made in Swan Song, the fall out cannot be ignored because it will cheat Dean's character too.
lianne
# lianne 2011-02-14 10:15
Sam still had the main mytharc role in season 4! The only difference was that it was the FIRST time that Dean also became important to the mytharc, after 3 seasons of only being the brother of "the chosen one." Sam still had his struggle with his powers, his relationship with Ruby, his addiction to demon blood, his revenge on Lilith. He wasn't relegated to just worrying about Dean and that's it.

Season 5 was about Sam's big redemption arc. Dean's arc was dropped altogether as Adam replaced him as Michael's vessel. Sam saved the world! Dean watched from the ground.

The only thing that would make it EQUAL is if we had a season of Dean with some kind of special powers that he had to cope with and then at the end of the arc DEAN gets to save the world while Sam watches from the ground.

Let Sam have the "supportive brother" role for a change. If that role is good enough for Dean, then it should be good enough for Sam. And we'd still have the brothers' relationship at the core of the show, only this time the focus would be on Dean's mytharc role, not Sam's.
LordAniline
# LordAniline 2011-02-15 22:32
Dean has had a very clear and distinct storyling throughout the whole series. Dean's role in the story has always been the everyman, the normal guy fighting things that no one could imagine in their worst nightmare and doing it as a full human. So if you're looking for him to suddenly sprout angel wings or have a supernatural destiny will likley be continually dissapointment.

Reminds me of Lucy Lawless advocating for her character Xena to be human and not a demigod, because as human her character is awesome with a capital "A". As a demigod then all the awesomeness will be diminished and a cop out.
lianne
# lianne 2011-02-17 17:12
Well Dean has been to HELL and back and he was supposed to be the true vessel for Michael, until he was replaced by Adam.

As a "full human" Dean got his butt kicked by Samifer, while not fully-human Sam got to save the world. It would have been nice if "everyman" Dean was allowed to actively participate in the defeat of Lucifer, but that's not the way it turned out.

Bobby can represent the everyman if that role is crucial to the story. But this story is about TWO brothers who BOTH deserve to be treated equally within the mytharc.

Dean deserves to have a defined arc outside of merely being the supporter of Sam. Let Dean remain human, that's fine, but give him some kind of unique individual other than as brother to Sam.

That's all I'm asking for. I really don't understand why some fans are so resistant to Dean having something that is unique about him?
Mstngsali1
# Mstngsali1 2011-02-13 19:55
I absolutely agree with you Alice. It is tied for my favorite of the season as well. Hubby even liked it! When the sheriff showed up, Hubby exclaimed, "Holy Crap!". Made me totally snicker.

I am reasonably sure that Sam is going to recover from this episode of "don't pick at the wall". After all, he's in next week's promo and it would be hard to finish the season with Sam as a drooling lump. Hopefully, he will listen to Dean (yeah, right) and stop picking. But, as we all know, Sam will stop for a bit and then start right back at the scratching because he's Sam. He does what he does because it's what he thinks is right, no matter the price.
Marisol
# Marisol 2011-02-13 20:11
Great review. I wish I could agree with you! This episode left me cold. It was a rehashing of what we already knew about Samless. It didn't explore very much new territory, just punctuated how very much of a monster he was until Dean found a way to get his soul back into him, and how very important it was that he be saved from Hell. The problem is that we already knew he was awful, so nothing new there. We knew his soul needed to be rescued--so, old hat. We know he'll want to make amends, it's who he is, who they both are, that's why Dean understands.

Stylistically, it was good, but I thought that the flashbacks led nowhere new. I did love the peek behind the wall because maybe that means that that storyline will wrap up sooner rather than later. I hope so, please. I just love this show, but to me, this episode was one of the worst. I thought it was a huge step back from Samarra and Virgin.
Robin Vogel
# Robin Vogel 2011-02-14 09:27
This episode showed the re-souled Sam what he had done while soulless. It's safe for him to assume that he did similar terrible things in many towns, so there's no further need for him to backtrack anymore. Aside from making him feel worse, it will only scratch the wall in his mind and risk his life. So this episode took that major step--forcing Sam to realize who he was when soulless and prevent going on any further cases that might have similar results to Bristol, RI.
Alice
# Alice 2011-02-13 20:56
You see, I don't get where we didn't learn anything. What was the expectation? In a 22 episode per season drama, it's not all about reveals and plot growth. Otherwise you get Heroes, which went for the shocking reveal every episode. After a while, it got old and the twists ludicrous.

Every once in a while, a character focused story has to be done. You all do remember a classic called What Is And What Should Never Be, right? That was pure character exposition. Same here. Of course we didn't learn anything new about RoboSam, but Sam did. He saw what he suspected all along, he in that time did some very horrible things. The drama and outright horror of him remembering all that and facing these people again, not to mention battling that wall inside, it was just incredible.

For me, such a story wouldn't matter if it's Sam or Dean. It's character growth, it's drama at it's finest. Of course we don't want to see this every week but for a season that's been so devoid of emotional stories, this was a delight to see. Especially when it was so perfectly done.
Julia G
# Julia G 2011-02-14 02:22
I agree completely.

This episode was about character development. We knew how awful roboSam was, Dean knew, but not Sam. I'm SO grateful we were shown the effect of Sam finding out, instead of simply being told.

In addition of showcasing the new brother dynamic, I also think that we were meant to see how fragile Sam's wall truly is. I never thought it could be shattered by topside memories, but apparently it can be. Sam, being the man he is, would want to make amends for the things that his ''robo" self did, but we can't have him on an atonement mission for the rest of the season. I think that maybe this glimpse into his Hell was jarring enough to convince Sam that there's nothing he could have done to prevent what happened on earth while he was suffering in the Cage. Or maybe it will scare him enough to stop scratching the wall, and we'll see him start to move on.
Richard
# Richard 2011-02-14 21:10
Well said! *applause*
oliviaskye
# oliviaskye 2011-02-13 20:58
thank you LordAniline, i completely agree!
After having to tolerate a very diminished role of Sam for season 4 and 5, it's only just that we finally get some Sam POV.

i really am very appreciative that they offered up a sam pov episode. i really, really enjoyed this episode -- it was extremely well done -- from the acting, to the writing, to the use of sound and music, to the superb directing, editing and cinematography. well done! the first half of the season felt so uneven to me, but since coming back in feb. i've felt the show has regained its excellent standards.

great review, too, alice! your writing and insights are terrific. (loved last weeks' fan-girl vs. tv critic!) it's so fun to know how much opportunity thins has opened up for you. :-)

was shocked by the ending -- did NOT see that coming ...
Brynhild
# Brynhild 2011-02-13 21:05
The ones who foud that this episode "led nowhere" seem to think that this episode was about RoboSam, but it wasn't: it was about SAM, and his struggle to get a grip on himself. The guy has amnesia, and amnesiia eat away at you, steal your personality, your story, at what essentially you are. You have to fix this thing, if you want to be whole again.

What is tragic in this episode is that Sam come to understand that the very thing that can make him whole again, is just the thing that can destroy him. That, and the fact that, quoting Dean, "no matter how many people I save, that (the ill deeds he did) doesn't change". That actions and choices have consequences, and those consequences cannot always be controlled or fixed or repaired (and this was the lesson at the end of AIS). You just have to face them and carry their weight.

Dean, in the end, had to face them and carry their weight. He couldn't go back to hell and make amend for what he did. Maybe what Sam has to learn is just that, and Dean is the one who can teach him that. Sam was scared of himself since season one, and he hoped that his sacrifice in Swan Song could redeem him. Now he's searching again redemption for what his soulles self did. But maybe you can't always find redemption, sometimes you can only ask for forgiveness.
purplehairedwonder
# purplehairedwonder 2011-02-13 21:26
I think this is exactly it. Rewatching the scene and especially Sam's face in the scene, I feel like a light bulb went off in Sam's mind when Brenna shut the door on him without turning around. He goes so far as to tell Dean he was right--and how often does that happen?

I think especially with him now very aware of what Dean's been trying to protect him from (intellectually he knew he'd been to hell, that the memories would be horrendous; he knew what four months had done to Dean, but knowing and *knowing* are very different. When Sam comes to again, he'll *know* what's lurking behind the wall and how it'll affect him) that he'll back off. There's plenty he can do in the present to make amends for the guilt he's feeling. Especially after this, I don't think Dean's going to let him take any trips down memory lane anyway, so all that's left is to work to make things better in the here and now.
Alice
# Alice 2011-02-13 22:45
Yuri, Appointment In Samarra. We are an acronym filled fandom!

I so agree with everything said here. I'm fascinated at the possibilities that this complicated situation with "the wall" will take both Sam and Dean this season, especially when the Mother of All stuff starts to come forth. I really think Dean is going to be vital.

Sam has never been good with forgiveness. He lives through actions. It might be a good lesson to learn.
Richard Dagneau
# Richard Dagneau 2011-02-13 21:48
I totally agree, Alice. This is my favorite episode this season. I was on the edge of my seat this whole episode, and then that ending blew me away. Glad to see others recognize just how taut and suspenseful the ep was. People who say "nothing happened"? I don't know what show they were watching.
Yvonne
# Yvonne 2011-02-13 21:50
Loved the ep.
Loved the review.

If I go into detailed love, this would run on WAY to long. AGreeing with all the love above and a here are a few points that jump to mind.

  • RoboSam is an ass. An animal focused on survival, the hunt, and (apparently) sex. But holy smokes he's hot. Especially in B&W. Melt me. Is that bad?


  • Special props to the effects department. They're good!! Sam in hell had me all shakey. (wait, had?) And the trip down to the cage was trippy. Go team!


  • Jared's performance was fantastic, but Jenen did a wicked good job. He put's so much into such little moments.


  • Maybe I'm the only one (maybe I read into it) but kudos to the chic who played Brenna. I thought she did a good job of reacting to a Sam who was no longer RoboSam. "There's somethig different bout this dude" came through her performance. Nice.


Ok, all done loving out loud. For now. I may be back later. ;-)
Jaspala
# Jaspala 2011-02-14 08:19
what can I say, Yvonne? I agree with all of your points... ;-)
Love, Jas
gunznammo2
# gunznammo2 2011-02-13 22:52
Alice, this review was so eye-opening and put everything in proper perspective for me. What troubled me most was that I believed that Sam was again, reverting to his Season 4 ways - sneaking away against his (and Deans') better judgment. I loved how you made it all make sense. Our boys sure can't catch a break, can they?
Marisol
# Marisol 2011-02-13 23:00
I agree with you, Alice, that we can't have shocking reveals every episode. That's not my problem with this episode. What I saw in this episode was just more of the first half of the season. The character focus wasn't there for me and I don't think it even comes close to "What is and Should Never Be". I get the point of these episodes, I just do not see it in this one. Sorry, I didn't feel an emotional connect here.

One of the great things about Supernatural is that it's a show that grows so much when viewed over the course of a season --or six (or seven). So, I may come back at the end of the season and love this episode, but until then, it will stay on my poop deck list.
Jaspala
# Jaspala 2011-02-14 08:18
Yes, the end was shocking Alice, but it was only a crack. Should the wall ever come down entirely, well, it would be so much worse.

I agree very much with your praise for this episode.

It was one of the best of this season. I’m a big fan of the usage of black and white as a stylistic device, and this was done wonderfully. I noticed David Barrett from another show I really liked, Moonlight, and was curious about how he would deliver this episode. I was hooked every minute, didn’t dare to look away, because I could have missed an important moment.

The acting was phenomenal, indeed! I can only imagine the fun Jared must have had filming this, as he loves to challenge his own acting abilities, and he did the most admirable job here, being the central character in Unforgiven.

You know, perhaps Sam can’t win (and he probably should have read the fine print of his karma credit plan), but I still believe that he can be forgiven. I know that many fans can’t even allow this thought to take form, but this is the hope I live on in my life. That everyone can be forgiven if there are deeply, honestly sorry. I can’t say that I have mastered the art of forgiveness entirely, yet, but I’m working on it.

Great stuff, Alice! Cheers! Jas
Karen
# Karen 2011-02-14 09:06
Hi Alice
Once again enjoyed your review.
I have to admit I didn’t love this episode but I did like it and it did hold my interest through out the whole episode.
I also liked the way they did the flashbacks, going to black and white and having the distorted and detailed moments.
I have to say I do understand Samuel a little better now. However I did notices he never really tried to stop Sam when he was beating on the Officer or when he shot the Spiders victims. Was it because he was afraid of Sam or because he agreed with him?
I was hoping they would reveal how Sam and Samuel crossed paths, for some reason it has held my curiosity since the season premiere.
And I thought for sure when Sam received the anonymous text that it was going to be Samuel setting him up. I was really surprised to find it was the Sheriff that was behind it all.

I agree that this episode was meant to focus on the character growth of both Sam and Dean. As I wrote in Elle2’s review with Sam so determine to fix all that he had done while being soulless, he needed to realize just how fragile and dangerous this wall of his actually was. He needed to learn for himself as I don’t think Dean’s warning were enough for him. I believe he felt that Dean was embellishing the dangers a bit because he was being overly protective.
And Dean needed to let Sam make his own decisions and let him learn for himself the dangers he was putting himself in.
And kudos to Jared, he was fantastic portraying both soulless and soulful Sam.
Robin Vogel
# Robin Vogel 2011-02-14 09:17
Like you, I give this episode an "A", Alice, but I'm shocked at how many fans don't seem to like it at all! I loved the script, direction and acting, I thought the entire ep superb in every way.

They included the scene of Castiel telling Dean, "You should just have killed your brother outright." I was thinking about that and meant to mention it in my own critique. This wall IS going to kill Sam, but SLOWLY, painfully, and Dean is going to have to stand around and watch it happen. Like he couldn't bear to live without his brother after he died in season 2, Dean had to bring him back from hell, consequences be damned.

I wonder, when Sam died that first time, was he in heaven, at peace, happy? Perhaps Dean should have unselfishly followed his own advice and just let what was dead stay dead.

Right about now, Sam probably wishes it, too, and I wouldn't be surprised if Sam tries to commit suicide because he can't take what LIFE has turned into now.

So sad--for both brothers.

Love,
Robin
Richard
# Richard 2011-02-14 21:16
I've been concerned about the suicide angle as well. Anyone else who had been thru what Sam has been thru would be on 24hr suicide watch. It's possible (remotely but possible) that Sam doesn't want to heed warnings about the wall because he wants to die. I sure hope not.
LordAniline
# LordAniline 2011-02-14 22:20
Robin, it was heavily implied that Sam went to heaven the first time he died. Dean at the time didn't believe in God or heaven so he didn't realize that he was stealing Sam from heaven.

If Dean did knew Sam was in heaven, would he let it be? Very difficult to say because Sam is more of a son than a brother to Dean and for a parent to lose a child in unbearable, which I wonder if the writers were trying to convey with Samuel grieving over Mary.
Suze
# Suze 2011-02-14 09:48
The Monochrome Meanie and Ol' Puppy Dawg Eyes in alternate bites! Oooh, win/win for me ...

I like the way we're galloping into Told-You-Not-To -Do-That-Now-Th ere's-Hell-To-P ay territory with no messing around. I was a fan of the Soulessness Saga but it was dragged out a bit ( someone obviously wanted to go into hellatus with a bang ... ) So I'm well chuffed we've hit the ground running with the inevetable angst-fest. Bet you what you like Sam doesn't end up mad or dead though, call me a dewy optamist but a corpse/dribblin g mass of mentalosity just wouldn't pull in the viewers in quite the same way ...
Ginger
# Ginger 2011-02-14 09:56
Interesting review, and I appreciate your analysis, although I am not sure I am clear on the message.

I agree that this was a character-based episode and necessary to set up the rest of Sam's story for the season, but let me put this in my own words and see if I am interpreting what you are saying correctly.

I agree that RoboSam is a big part of Sam, and always has been. Through Sam's story (the guilt -vs- the memories of Hell), Sera is again addressing the question of destiny -vs-fate and, if I get what you are saying about Sam, Sera is saying that there is no fate; only destiny. Or probably more correctly, that destiny and fate are the same thing in Sam's case, because he has been unable to escape his destiny in the past no matter how he tried and with all good intentions?

If that is the message (the story arc for the season), perhaps that is why I found the episode boring and uninformative to the audience. I reject the idea that humanity has to be resigned and learn to 'suck it up.' I also question whether a well-establishe d show based on what started out to be a celebration of humanity is suddenly changed in a veiled 'noir' sort of way. Maybe that's why I'm not getting the message.

I agree with your view on the flashbacks. I actually really like flashbacks, and I loved these B&W ones...thought they were exceedingly well done.

I think Jared has done a wonderful job with RoboSam, but in this one episode, I felt he overacted on the RealSam part. Just my view, of course, but the puppy-eyes were a little too much for me.

And for the "Dean is the only person who can save Sam" part...well, this has been my biggest complaint of the season.

At first I thought Dean's role was a constrast to show what it is to be human (Dean and Soulless Sam), but this episode showed that was not the case.

If the point of Dean's story is that, like Sam, he has to learn to give up his dream of a wife, kid, and normal life, then picking the Lisa/Ben route was the weakest way in the planet of storytelling to do that, especially since it was weakly presented through the characters. (Not to mention, how depressing is it that giving up hope and dreams is the statement for humanity?)

If the point is that Dean is kicked to the curb by Lisa because Sam needs Dean's help (has to learn to let go of his life-long dream), then, really? Again? Very weak and exceedingly boring.

This is not a Dean -vs- Sam thing and I don't even want to go there. I saw the Lucky comparison for both Sam and Dean in the episode. This is simply an explanation of why I did not care for the message I got in this character-based story, however necessary it was for Sam's development. Although it was much better than IKWYDLS, for sure.

(Oh, God, I'm afraid this is a very long post. Sorry for that.)
Alice
# Alice 2011-02-14 21:49
There's no such thing as too long a post! I set a maximum of 10,000 words for these comments so there's plenty of space for a post like this and longer. I agree, your point is definitely not a Dean vs Sam thing!

I don't think Sera is really saying anything definitive, especially taking the side in destiny vs fate, just that it seems that no matter what Sam does, he's screwed. It could be a destiny thing if you remember Castiel's words all roads lead to the same destination. I just wonder what destination Sam is headed for. Dean too. My point is just that once again it's a no-win situation and how in the world does he balance that? Honest, I don't even know how he gets up in the morning. It seems his only motivation to save people, set things right. Now doing that is even a detriment.

Now, I'm not saying Dean's ONLY role is to save Sam, but that is a role he'll have to play. I'd like to see him do more than that, be leader against the Mother of All uprising perhaps. Maybe in saving the world, he can save his brother too. Sure, that's a bunch of what if's right now but I don't think that door is closed.

That's true, in the first half of the season Dean was supposed to show that human side but it seems roles are changing the second half. I'm not sure what yet. Dean has to find his own balance between being a hunter and giving up the dream of having a family. He'll always have regret but I'm hoping he'll grow more comfortable with himself and what he must do. Maybe this week will give some more answers about that struggle.

So I guess, in other words, there's plenty of season left and the path isn't clear. Whether that's good or bad each viewer will have to decide for themselves.
sonia mary
# sonia mary 2011-02-14 10:19
melhor de jared maravilhoso desepenho simplemente lindo . eu odiei robõ sam . amei sammy . ele foi 10 me apavorei com sam na gaiola. sam esta mesmo ferrado como sempre não há paz para estes meninos sempre tentando fazer o bem mas acaba de alguma maneira virando merda
magichappening
# magichappening 2011-02-14 14:37
Unforgiven. I guess the clue was in the title, wasn’t it.

Well, I did not enjoy that episode at ALL. Not that it was not a good episode. I mean, my heart nearly stopped when Sam had the seizure at the end, and Jared just gets better and better, doesn’t he? That scene in the jail with the Sherriff’s wife was brilliant. But, dear Lord that was a bleak episode! Talk about nihilism to the nth degree. Even the sex was hollow and bitter.

I can’t decide if I am more horrified at what Sam did when he had no soul, or the fact that Sam is forced to remember and feel responsible for what he did when he had no soul, or that the wall is crashing fast and he is remembering Lucifer and the cage in Hell. I guess that third trumps everything, but the empty, bloodthirsty, soulless hunter’s memories chilled MY soul. Talk about a bad trip. Helped by the odd hallucinogenic camera angles (thank you, Ardeospina! Am now seeing stuff like that on rewatches).

While the argument can be made that Sam has caused monsters to be made through his actions, he has also saved dozens of people over his lifetime through various hunts. And yes he has killed and he did start the Apocalypse (aided and abetted by Azazel, Dean, Ruby, Lilith, Lucifer, Uriel, Zachariah, Castiel etc. etc.), but he also ended it. Thereby saving 6 billion lives, or thereabouts.

When it comes to taking the blame for what his ‘body’ did without a soul, I don’t know. Castiel is an angel and he betrayed Sam, Dean and humankind to trigger an Apocalypse. Samuel has a soul and he knowingly betrayed his grandsons to the King of Hell (rather than thinking he was doing the right thing like Sam did when he killed Lilith). I am not a Sam girl, but I don’t think anyone’s hands are clean, and Sam Winchester has also done tremendous good in his life.

Speaking of Samuel, I agree that his attitude to Sam is becoming more understandable, but do also agree completely with purplehairedwon der’s summary: “Allowing evil to happen is just as bad as doing it yourself, and that's exactly what was going on here. Samuel may not have liked what Robo!Sam was doing, but he didn't make any effort to stop it or suggest another alternative”. He did not lift a finger to prevent Soulless Sam from doing anything. And let’s not forget Samuel continued to hunt with Soulless Sam even when he saw what he was capable of.

When Dean made the same discovery, he became Soulless Sam’s ‘conscience†™, saved Samuel’s life and locked Soulless Sam up rather than have him be a danger to others (thereby saving Sam from even more guilt and self-blame).

This was definitely a Sam-centric episode (and although I am a DeanGirl, I had no problem with that) and Jared really brought his A Game. Jensen had little to do, but a couple of key moments e.g. Dean’s frustration and fear when Sam is starting to realise he did some ‘bad stuff’ were well done. I also agree Alice that the Sherriff and his wife were really good, and brought a degree of sympathy and pathos to their storyline. Although as good as they were, I think the Deputy and the husband of the first cougar were equally as bad!

Oh and a theory about the wall: Everyone keeps talking about ‘scratching†™ the wall. One does not scratch a wall. One scratches a mosquito bite etc. No one uses the words knocking down or knocking on, or kicking down or cracking or breaking as if it were inanimate, but always the word ‘scratching†™. Almost as if the wall is organic, alive. I wonder if somehow, the wall becomes assimilated/abs orbed into Sam like a transplanted organ because of who and what he is, and becomes unexpectedly strong and permanent. Perhaps Dean helps him work through this, rather than needs to save him?

I do hope that there is something slightly lighter next week, at least within the confines of the Supernatural world anyway. The preview bodes well :)
Richard
# Richard 2011-02-14 21:26
Well put, Magic. Yours is the first review from someone who didn't like the ep that I could get. I like your theory about the Wall- I guess we'll see what happens.
Dan
# Dan 2011-02-14 18:10
Great review, thanks Alice. I was actually disappointed in this episode. The creature was interesting, even though I knew it was some kind of spider when I saw the webbing. I liked the flashbacks; you're right, they were done in a very interesting way. The thing I really disliked was the constant foreshadowing of Sam "scratching the wall." Every scene with Dean it seemed to be copy and paste, "Don't scratch the wall." "Don't worry I won't." "I'm serious Sam." "I have to Dean!" Then after 3 episodes or more of Dean trying to find a way to get back Sam's soul, dealing with Death (which was very cool), having it put back in him, 2 episodes later he remembers what happens? What was that wall made of Death? Construction paper? The mind works in very strange ways. I liked the way he would notice something, or when he was touched by that woman, suddenly a memory would pop in his head. But After 2 jobs? Are the writers really that strapped for time? Plus what has "Mother" been doing during this? I thought maybe the seizure and vegetable Sam would come at least next season. Is Michael and Lucifer gonna pop out of Sam too? Just in the nick of time while fighting Mother? It all seems a bit rushed. I liked Robosam, but I can see what you meant how it might have gone a little long. Anyway, keep up the great work :)
Karen 2
# Karen 2 2011-02-15 09:37
I found this to be as dull as a dull day in Dullsville and badly acted to boot. Someone needs to tell Jared that gurning isn't acting. I switched over to Fringe halfway through and won't be watching live for the rest of this season.
Junkerin
# Junkerin 2011-02-16 08:30
Hi Alice
Maybe the writers are listening to you so please, please be careful what you wish for. :-)
You see Sam realy dark, his anger and rage is gone (at least for now)
Sometimes you must learn to akcept things you can´t change.
Tim the Enchanter
# Tim the Enchanter 2011-02-16 17:41
I’d be a wee bit like you, Alice, in that I wanted a peek behind the wall (I didn’t need the beatdown though.... ) I just wanted confirmation as to where Sams soul was because there were so many theories floating around; heaven, hell, stuck in the amulet (?) etc.

To be honest, as soon as I saw the fire my first reaction was ‘Is that Purgatory?’ In a (sick, twisted) way, it makes sense to me. Fire, the great purifier, cleansing Sam of his ‘sins’ before a decision is made on his soul (though I do admit, there are about 40 reasons I can think of as to why that theory is crap!)

However, now that the show has confirmed that Sam wasn’t anyplace nice and sunny (though it was hot!), there’s no need to be showing me any more of it, ok? 6 seconds of hell was more than enough. I’ll let my 'Timagination' (see what I did there? I’m so witty!) take over now, thanks very much. I’ve seen hell twice now and I know the score, no more breaking The 10 Commandments for me. The ending left me numb and more than a little shaken (and bursting with anticipation).

Rather selfishly, I enjoyed that it was a Sam-centric episode. I know I shouldn’t endorse such a thing but Dean has had a few now, Bobby had one, Castiel (kinda) had one so Sam was due one. (It also means there’s only one guy left that an entire episode can be centred on... Go, Papa John! Cue ratings going through the roof!)

I love that it was a character driven episode. The majority of the action we’ve seen before; decapitation, jail cells, hook-ups, co-ordinates etc etc but this time it was like we saw them all with fresh eyes. We finally got a glimpse as to what motivates Sam, what drives him to do what he does (that pesky soul) and we can relate to him more for that. Think of what we would have thought about Sam in this episode if it was shown from Dean’s POV (probably Sam = dickhead!) What Sam did was stupid, stubborn, selfish, inordinately risky and in the end, pointless. It achieved nothing bar more heartache but because we saw the reasons why he did what he did, we don’t think about that because we’re more concerned with the who, as opposed to the what.

To be honest, if future ‘minimum story, maximum character development’ episodes are as gripping as this one, the next 9 episodes can show Sam and Dean writing about their feelings in their respective diaries and I’ll be happy!

Magichappening brought up a very good point; nobody’s hands are clean in this story. Everyone has muddied them. Yet Sam seems intent on trying to get clean (He can’t fecking let things go! Wonder if they do Herpexia for the mind?) Maybe because he feels he’s either (a) much dirtier than everyone else or (b) was born dirty therefore he feels he needs to make the effort to get clean, be pure. Perhaps Sam is thinking about his next (and hopefully final) death and wants to have as few obstacles as possible in the way between himself and the pearly white gates (and after both he and Dean experienced hell, who can blame him!)

In relation to the constant fail of Sam’s life, it’s the reason I like him. He doesn’t know how to give up. It’s the reason I wasn’t as cut up about Sam going to hell as I am him reliving hell (yes, I’ve already acknowledged I’m sick in the head...) Sam won against Lucifer. The prize might have sucked but he still won. However, now we realise that even though he won it all, it’s looking inevitable that he’s going to lose it all.

I don’t know much about Theodore Roosevelt but I love his ‘Not the critic’ speech because it could be written for the boys. "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, if he wins knows the triumph of high achievement, and who, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

One thing the boys souls will never be is cold and timid. It’s the reason hell couldn’t crush Dean. It’s the reason Sam’s soul, despite decades in the Pit, was still glowing when Death took it out of his bag.

I wondered a bit about Sam’s ‘It will or it won’t’ attitude in relation to the wall falling. I think Sam believes in destiny, in fate, now. If it’s fate for the wall to fall then maybe he believes nothing will prevent it. Will he accept this or will he fight it? Last time he was fighting for his death, this time he’s fighting for his life. (How cool!) How he’s going to cope with that in the coming weeks is going to be interesting.

In terms of the execution of the episode, I (still) don’t fully understand what film noir is but all I could think of while watching this was ‘L.A Confidential, L.A Confidential’ (a classic...) Don’t trust who you think you can trust because you don’t know anyone. It’s always the last person you suspect etc. The acting was amazing. I know they had the black and white to differentiate Soulless Sam and Souled Up Sam but I don’t think they even needed it, such was the difference between the two characters. (If I wasn’t typing right now, Mr Padalecki, I’d be applauding)

The memories didn’t need to make sense; they were as disjointed as bedamned, just as Sam himself if right now. At this moment, he’s still a whole lot of different pieces shoved back into one (fine) body. It feels like these pieces haven’t been given time to settle into their rightful place yet.

Samuel and his (various) comments make much more sense now and his personality is also taking shape. He doesn’t know what Sam is. And I’m sure he would find the fact that he’s related to someone he would have difficulty in equating as human, a little disconcerting. It also shows why he somewhat deferred to Sam in Two and a Half Men. I imagine a bit of Samuel is scared poopless of Sam. Might also explain why he had no ‘last words’ for Sam in Caged Heat.


On an aside, it’s good to finally know why John brings home a new toilet every day. I thought it was just a fetish thing but it turns out he’s just ultra hygienic! (Hygiene is such a turn on...)
Alice
# Alice 2011-02-16 19:49
Tim, have I told you how much I love you? Yeah, I'm sure a few times. I just can't say it better than that. You won me at Teddy Roosevelt. One of our wiser US Presidents, that's for sure!