Richard Speight, Jr.’s birthday was on September 4th and in his honor, I’m writing a review of one of his best episodes. This is my favorite Supernatural episode and it’s a treat to get to write about it.
The Road So Far
African Dream Root was ingested by the boys and dreamscape hijinks ensued to save Bobby from a deadly sleep. Sam and Dean are having a hard time, emotionally, as they think about Dean’s not-so-distant future trip to Hell. Bela Talbot steals the Colt.
Sam wakes up to “Heat of the Moment,” breakfast is ordered, the boys break into the Mystery Spot, the owner shoots Dean with a shotgun, Sam wakes up to “Heat of the Moment,” breakfast is ordered, Dean is hit by a car, Sam wakes up to “Heat of the Moment,” breakfast is ordered, Dean is crushed by a falling desk, Sam wakes up to “Heat of the Moment,” breakfast is ordered, Dean chokes on sausage, Sam wakes up…shower fall, bad tacos, faulty razor, ax, archery, dog, Trickster, and it’s Wednesday – “Back in Time” plays on the radio, Dean’s dead again, Sam hunts The Trickster, sews up his wound, keeps motel room neat, finds Trickster, Sam wakes up to “Back In Time,” hugging, and departure.
This episode is perfection. I have watched it too many times to count and could watch it again this moment and love it all over again. Time-looping is a popular subject in fiction and it’s easy to see why. It’s just so fantastic to see someone dealing with the same thing over and over, with some little variation that just adds to the fun. I’ll list as many examples as I can think of, at the end, but for now…I’ll dive into “Mystery Spot.”
I’m getting teary just thinking about what I want to write about this one. The humor and emotional feels are so unfalteringly well done. I must give a shout-out to Jeremy Carver because he wrote this one. Amazing! Every scene and every word is just outstanding.
Jared gives us a heartbreaking performance and Jensen is also splendid. When the time starts a-looping, Sam goes from bemused, to frustrated, to sad, then he's anguished, bereft, numb, furious, murderous, and then – sweet relief! Dean is back and Sam gives him a monster of a hug. It’s a perfect moment and it’s even better to know that the hug was improvised. Jared and Jensen knew that after all the horror that Sam experienced for those nine months or so, that he would need a hug. Oh guys, I just can’t love Jared and Jensen, or Sam and Dean, any more than I do at that moment. Aw heck, now I need to find the tissues.
Okay, moving on. It’s such a treat to spend a long time in that motel room watching Sam and Dean’s morning routine and then it’s also marvelous to spend time in the diner. I loved Doris, the waitress, and her puzzled reactions to Sam and Dean. It’s also great to watch Sam try to explain to Dean what is happening and to watch Dean try to comprehend. I love the way that he treats Sam, here. He isn’t laughing at him (not much, anyway) and he sincerely sees Sam’s pain and he’s trying to figure it all out to get his baby brother out of this nightmare. When I rewatch this one, I focus on Jared’s and Jensen’s facial expressions when they are in that diner as time keeps repeating. Jared is selling Sam’s desperation to stop the looping (and Dean’s repeated deaths) and Jensen is switching his characterization of Dean from comedy to empathy like a master ninja actor. Amazing, I tell you.
As I’ve said many times before in comments, my favorite death is when Sam and Dean are fighting over the ax. I just love the way that the camera is on the owner of the place while off-screen, Dean is trying to get the ax away from Sam. “Give it, no…you give it,” then splat goes the blood all over him. It just makes me laugh, every time.
Sam finally figures out what is happening to him when he corners the man that he believes is behind all of it, based on a different flavor of syrup. The Trickster finally reveals his true face and Sam is threatening to kill him while a wary Dean looks on. The Trickster says that he’s trying to show Sam that he can’t save Dean and it’s been lots of fun for him. Poor Sam. He thought that they had killed The Trickster once before, but now here he is, messing with them again. I’m not sure of The Trickster’s motives, here. Is he really trying to help, or is it just the games of a bored supernatural being? I’m not sure what help that was, anyway. Sam might have internalized some truths about himself and Dean’s fate, but it’s hard to see how that helps, much. Sam might be more resolved to find a way to save Dean, or he’s more mentally prepared to lose him…my Magic Eight Ball says it’s murky, at this point.
It’s tragic the way that Sam wakes up Wednesday morning – so happy that it’s not Tuesday and that “Heat of the Moment” isn’t playing on the radio. He’s not happy for very long, though. Who else sobs when Sam is holding Dean on the ground after he’s been shot (again) and Sam’s saying that he’s supposed to wake up? Show of hands, people. Mine is up, so you know.
The montage of Sam on a hunting spree is dreadful, in an utterly grand way. Sam's demeanor is icy as he pulls a bullet out of his flesh and hunts for The Trickster. His motel room is always very neat and Sam's driven with the need to find his foe. He’s alienated himself from Bobby and anyone who might care about him. He’s super cold and reminds me of a future incarnation that he will be inhabiting. After watching that sequence, it’s such a relief when he finds The Trickster and begs him to bring Dean back. Deadly calm Sam is gone, as Sammy pleads for it to be Wednesday, once again. Just put him back to when he had hope, Trickster, I can’t stand much more of this. It’s sad to see that Sam would just go ahead and skewer Bobby, but hopefully Sam’s sure that Bobby really wasn’t there. In the long pause afterwards, Sam may have his doubts.
After The Trickster pontificates some more on why Sam should let Dean go because Dean is his weakness, Sam and Dean are back in that motel room and Sam wants nothing more than to get out of that room, post haste. He does take the time to give that much needed bro-hug, then he gives one look back to the unmade bed that tells us that he has a lot that he has to think about and to process. Here’s some bonus quotes from the episode because there are so many great ones:
Sam: Man, I had a weird dream.
Dean: Yeah? Clowns or midgets?
Dean: You don't know everything.
Sam: Yeah. I do.
Dean & Sam: Yeah, right. Nice guess.
Sam: It wasn't a guess.
Dean & Sam: Right, you're a mind reader. Cut it out, Sam. Sam... You think you're being funny but you're being really really childish! Sam Winchester wears makeup. Sam Winchester cries his way through sex. Sam Winchester keeps a ruler by the bed and every morning when he wakes up he—
Dean & Sam: Okay, enough!
Trickster: True. But that don't mean I should. Sam, there's a lesson here that I've been trying to drill into that freakish Cro-Magnon skull of yours.
Sam: Lesson? What lesson?
Trickster: This obsession to save Dean? The way you two keep sacrificing yourselves for each other? Nothing good comes out of it. Just blood and pain. Dean's your weakness. And the bad guys know it, too. It's gonna be the death of you, Sam. Sometimes you just gotta let people go.
Richard Speight, Jr. was excellent as The Trickster. I hope he had a happy birthday, last week. I love every appearance of his on Supernatural. I also just watched his new pilot on Amazon. It’s called Skyward, and he plays the Sheriff dad of a pre-teen girl who is obsessed with finding aliens. It seems like a very good series for children and I left a positive review on Amazon. I wish him the best of luck in having the show being ordered to series. I do like him better clean-shaven, though. He has a thick mustache and beard on that show. I’ve never understood the appeal of that much facial hair. I want to see my man’s face, darn it! I cajoled my husband into shaving off the mustache that he had when we met, but it did take me about three years, or so.
12:01 PM (1990) – This short story by Richard A. Lupoff was adapted into a short film and was part of a 30-minute movie anthology. I was blown away and have never forgotten how this story disturbed me. Kurtwood Smith stars as a man trapped in a time-loop that repeats every hour. In the story, it's called a time-bounce. This film is haunting and very sad as the man struggles to find a way to stop his endless loop. Kurtwood Smith gives an extraordinary performance - his anquish is palatable and mesmerizing. I’ve thought about what I could do in an hour for eternity. I couldn’t drive very far, or accomplish too much. I think the limited amount of time, combined with seeing the same people, saying and doing the same thing - over and over…that would drive me mad. This film can be found on YouTube, please check it out. The author of this story thinks that the next film stole his idea and he’s never gotten over it, by the way.
Groundhog Day (1993) – I don’t think that I know anyone who doesn’t like this movie. Well, maybe not Mr. Lupoff. Bill Murray and Andie McDowell are wonderful in it, anyways.
Life after Life (2013) by Kate Atkinson – Ursula is born and dies - over and over in this excellent novel. I love the way that Ursula starts to remember parts of her previous trips through life and starts adjusting how she lives to improve her situation. That's one unlucky girl, though. Death seems to be determined to nab her, but time always resets and she's born, once again.
Replay (1986) by Ken Grimwood – I really need to re-read this one because it’s been a long time, but I still have my paperback copy and I remember loving this book a lot. Jeff has a fatal heart attack, but instead of dying, is transported back in time to his college days where he gets a do-over. He keeps his memories and he makes the best of his new life, but…the loop happens again and again. This is a well-written and emotional tale.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014) – Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt are fun together in this science fiction and time-looping film. I don’t watch that many movies anymore, as too many of them seem to be all sound and fury, but little substance. This one, however, has an engaging, twisty plot and skillful actors playing great characters. The scenes of Tom's character dying again and again in that alien attack are such fun.
Looper (2012) – Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt star in this film about a group of hired killers who travel through time. When the looper’s timeline is done, they must close the loop by killing their retired older self. This film is a little complicated, but after watching it twice…mostly I understood it. It’s fascinating, though, and Gordon-Levitt is very good as the lead.
The X-Files (1999) “Monday” – This is a fantastic episode and I love seeing how Mulder and Scully react to living the same day over and over.
Stargate SG-1 (2000) “Window of Opportunity” – This is an episode that I can, and do, watch over and over. Richard Dean Anderson and his co-stars are hilarious as they try to find a way to help McNeil find the cause of the looping.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2001) “Life Serial” – Buffy is being tormented by three nerds as she is forced to try to accomplish the same goal many times. Sarah Michelle Gellar is amazing in this episode. She usually is amazing, but she is especially funny, here.
Fringe (2010) “White Tulip” – Fringe is one of my favorite shows and has so many different aspects to it. Anything can happen on this series and usually does. In this episode, an astrophysicist is playing with time for his own ends, but the real drama is between Walter and Peter. I love those two, and their unique father-son relationship.
Xena: Warrior Princess (1997) “Been There, Done That” – When I was trying to convince my daughter to watch episodes of Xena with me, this is the episode that I picked to share with her. It’s such fun and Lucy Lawless really gets to shine. I think my favorite moment was when Xena is explaining what is going on to Joxer and Gabrielle and we pan over to them…and she’s got them tied up and gagged. She was tired of their constant questions and getting in the way. I wonder if Sam tried that? Sadly, my daughter hasn’t had the time to watch another episode with me.
That’s a wrap on time-looping. What do you all think of this wonderful episode featuring Mr. Speight? You love it, right? I thought so.
Til next time,