Somehow, the gap between this and the last episode felt simultaneously long and short. Maybe because there has been a lot to process about the show recently or maybe because this season has at times, felt like different seasons meshed together. This episode in particular did not feel gelled with many of the other episodes season seven has brought us to date. It was visceral, dark and despairing and all around, pretty decent, if somewhat depressing.
This episode was full of some beautiful shots and on occasion some odd editing choices. We opened one a particularly gruesome teaser scene involving murder and dismemberment. Fading out and leaving the handless, footless corpse in our view amidst the red blood splatter was a pretty bold image.
Some of the shots in this episode and the lighting were fabulous. First, let me thank whatever deity gave us a shirtless Jensen in this episode (the tattoo!). Yum. Second, while I was drooling over him, some of the lighting in the bedroom scene gave some breathtakingly beautiful casts to the contours of Jensen's face. The moonlight effect was soft and Dean looked vulnerable and remarkably young (but still legal!) in some of those frames.
The editing of cutting between the love scene and the gruesome murder was an interesting choice and I liked it. There was a contrast of soft and hard between these two scenes and it was notably well cut together (like Lydia throwing Dean against the wall, cut to victim being thrown through the wall). A favourite shot here was the black and white shot of the body with the red blood.
Now, the weirdest choices in this episode were the super-close up shots on the eyes and lips of Dean and Lydia in the bar. I don't know if this was an attempt at intensity, to create a "spark" or "connection" between them but I just found it strange and distracting. Why were these such jarring close ups? I took nothing from this effect, and it really served to pull me out of the story more than anything. That was my one gripe in an otherwise visually pleasing episode.
There isn't actually a whole lot to this episode plot: we have some Amazonian tribe who breeds with successful men and produce children overnight. Said children are then sent out to murder their fathers as part of their initiation. These creatures are all female, human in visage and have a taste for man-flesh. Naturally, Dean fathers one of these creatures who return to kill him. Like I said - not an elaborate plot by any means but I think this episode was really about the characters. Despite the small plot the episode was decently paced over all and kept the story moving along well. I liked the story of this episode too - not complicated but it had an emotional hook for our characters.
Try as I might through IMDb I could not track down the name of this actor, nevertheless, I really enjoyed this guy. His character did not really do much but I appreciate the laid back but helpful attitude. Particularly when he helped Sam out with lady-detective. The coroners on this show tend to be a colourful cast, and I especially enjoyed our young ME this time around.
Head Amazon Chick
Again, no name to be found yet on this actress but the character was enjoyable if only for the over-the-top evilness about her. This character read so cartoonishly evil that she circled back around from ridiculous to ridiculously entertaining. She had the threatening demeanor, the dark hair (which looked to me like a wig at times) and dress, the cult-like speeches about the tribe. Despite the fact that this character was almost silly, I don't think she detracted from the episode in anyway but rather walked the line quite well.
We didn't really see much of this one, she poked up to aggravate our boys and was put down pretty easily. As a character she didn't do much for me and really only served to get our focal characters from point A to point B.
Hey, it's Aunt Jenna from TVD! Well, this was another kind of blah character for me, but maybe it's because I'm not too fond of Sara Canning. Lydia felt pretty one note to me and she was conspicuously strange when Dean came over to get the flask. Lydia was an okay plot device, but wasn't an especially strong one-episode character. I liked the coroner better.
Okay, here we get to some real drama. Emma, played by Alexia Faust, is actually a season one Supernatural alum - she was our very own Missy Bender way back when. This means she's tried to kill Dean twice. That aside, I did enjoy Emma's character. She was shown as hesitantly engaging in some of the rituals with the rest of the new recruits and left some niggling doubt about whether or not she was truly bad or genuine in her plea for help. She played it just right when talking to Dean, I think tears would have been too much to convince him. And showing up with her suitcase was kind of a nice touch. Like Dean though, I wasn't surprised to find she'd come to kill him and I'm glad that Dean wasn't blinded by her claims of wanting help such that he left himself open to murder and dismemberment.
Mayor Wilkins a.k.a. Giant Snake from BTVS! I do love seeing Buffy alum on Supernatural. Harry Groener was great in this role. He wasn't going to work for free, but the academic curiosity and joy at the study material was great to watch. He was a frustrating comic foil for the brothers. And I like to think that having him present the data on the carvings to them in a university lecture hall on a slide was a slight nod to Buffy...but them I'm partial to see those everywhere.
Main Cast: Those Winchester Boys
Here we get to the real heart of this episode, as I felt The Slice Girls functioned as a kind of character study for the boys and a good one at that, at least for Dean because I'm still not believing Sam's perfectly fine mental state.
Sam and Dean seem exhausted and in large, frustrated at each other or life in general. Dean is clearly spiralling further into depression, or something akin to that, and Sam is just irritated with the situation at hand. He was remarkably well together this episode, given his supposedly unravelling mental state and hallucinations in general. The boys go off to investigate this so-called serial killer which Dean reads as unlikely to be in their field while Sam is positive it is, confirmed by the "not human" tissue between one of the victims teeth.
Dean is despondent. That much is clear. I don't know if he's trying to get through things using Frank's advice or not. He seemed pretty half-hearted in his attempts to woo Lydia and I think that sleeping with her was kind of a bonus, like his goal was more to drink and not think than pick up a woman at the bar.
Dean was also not especially engaged by the investigation at first, which is odd. Usually Dean's MO involves throwing himself into work but that wasn't his approach this time as he was very unwilling to see a case at all. I'm not sure why that it, only that is shows how disengaged Dean is at this point.
Dean was very attached to that flask, wasn't he? And I have to say that I don't understand why Sam didn't understand this. It truly isn't uncommon to hold onto mementos of a loved one after they pass - Dean certainly has a history of this: his dad's jacket (among other things), Cas' coat and now Bobby's flask. Maybe Sam was more concerned that Dean was drinking rather than confused by the flask itself. I like that he has Bobby's flask and I thought it was touching how concerned he was about getting it back. He was almost reverent when explaining to Lydia the value of it and why he needed it. Bobby's presence was very much felt in this episode.
On that note, let's talk about the spirit in the room. First we have the beer and now the paper that they desperately needed turns up at just the right moment. The first and only spark of any life in Dean was witnessed when he was trying to convince Sam maybe Bobby had something to do with the papers moving. He let it go but I'm convinced that Bobby is still around and helping his boys.
It was great to have Bobby mentioned so much in this episode and to see his books. I appreciate learning what the boys did with his body (burned) though of course it leaves us to wonder how it could be Bobby's spirit giving aid. I also find it interesting that the boys continue to use present tense when referring to Bobby. It's a peculiar thing and I leave the theorizing on this to those who do it so well, but perhaps this speaks to the altered timeline thing as well? Probably just making something of nothing here, but it's worth thinking about.
Okay, time to address the final bits of this episode: Dean versus Emma. I knew this set up was coming, in light of the recap including the Amy thing, and I don't really get why Sam was pissed with Dean over this. Dean didn't say Emma should live, and I don't think he was going to let her walk. I just don't know if he could pull the trigger himself and I get that. Sam couldn't kill Amy because he was connected to her in some way and while Dean wasn't friends with Emma, it was still his daughter in a technical sense and there was a connection of some kind. So he couldn't kill her - he never said Sam shouldn't have killed her, so I'm not sure was the big deal was there. Do I think Dean was entertaining letting her walk? Maybe but I think he knew she had to die and didn't object or intervene when Sam pulled that trigger. And had she gone at Sam, I've no doubt Dean would have shot her point blank.
Dean promises Sam to do his best to not get killed. And he wasn't all that convincing in this promise. Oh boy, are we an unhappy soul right now. Maybe Cas' return will snap Dean out of this funk? Please, I hope so. Suicidal Dean? Not so fun.
Sam gives me trouble in this episode for a number of reasons, but primarily because he felt like season three Sam in many ways, or maybe season four Sam to some extent: strong and stable, pre-Hell fire and brimstone, focused on the hunt but not robotically so and teasing his brother while showing concern. Hmm. I'm not saying I don't like this Sam, it just doesn't make sense. But let's set that aside for a minute and consider the episode context only.
We had the epitome of hunter in Sam: did the research to find the case, tracked down a professor for the deep mythology stuff, kicked a little Amazonian ass and put down the threat to his brother. Sam was in tiptop investigative form on this case.
I appreciate that the concern for Dean was demonstrable by the somewhat worried glances as Dean drank from the flask, but that there wasn't comment on it. I also appreciate the teasing manner he approached Dean for bits of this episode with.
Admittedly, I was confused by his absolute unwillingness to consider Bobby (or something) helped them on this case. He was very much convicted in this and almost harsh in shooting down Dean's hope. Again, I'm not saying it was crossing a line or that he was mean, per se, I just think he tends to employ a gentler approach with Dean on these heartfelt matters.
Turning to the end conversation: Sam's anger at Dean, as I said, was confusing. Maybe he was just mad because he felt Dean took a reckless risk with his own life, which I get. He's got to be frustrated with his listless brother after all these months but why he was compared it with Amy the way he did and as angry as he was over that aspect of what took place (that Dean couldn't kill Emma) was just bizarre.
I am very much looking forward to the breakdown of this character in a few episodes, because I feel like we might actually get to the real Sam under all...this...whatever it is. Again, not saying I don't like this Sam nor am I really criticizing anything he's done or said (the comparison with the Amy situation is fair) just that he seems out of character or just plain off in some respects. (I will say: the fact that this was so comparable with the Amy thing makes me wonder if the writers have a mapped out over all plan for the season, or if this was coincidental and conveniently planned as this episode was being written, rather than back when the Amy drama was unfolding. It feels almost like the detailed touches of plot links from the golden era of Supernatural).
Little brother Sam was good to see here when Sam asked Dean not to get killed. Again, reminiscent of season three but the vulnerability and sort of deflated way Sam expressed it did feel more like the Sam who belongs in season seven (fed up with Dean, not ready to lose anyone else, etc) than many other points in this episode.
Not a bad episode, overall. It clipped along well, character development was a good focal point and we ended on a note of disharmony which somehow seems about right for this point in this season, because we are geared up for a change in atmosphere and shake up in the boys lives sooner rather than later. Best episode? No, but I'll watch it again for sure.
What did you think, fellow viewers?