“No Exit” isn’t one of my favorites. I’m putting that out there right now. This episode was so…off. I think it’s because season two was on such a roll. The previous episode revisited Sam’s arc, and it’s not pretty. I mean, he is, but the situation isn’t. Couple that with the exciting premiere, then John dying, then Dean off the rails…to go from everything that happened before to this just didn’t work. I get the intention and on paper it looked good, but something about this episode threw off a perfectly good rhythm.
A History Lesson
This episode is Sam lite, but with good reason. For those who don’t know that reason (all two of you) let me retell the infamous Jared story. Jared was supposed to only miss one day shooting because of wrist surgery (as I mentioned in my prior reviews, he broke his wrist shooting “Bloodlust”). It didn’t work out that way. Here are my notes from Jared’s breakfast panel about the incident in my con report from Chicago back in 2010:
To make a long story longer, Jared had surgery performed on his wrist and they knocked him out to do it. Couple that with all the painkillers he was on he showed up to the set the next day very loopy. He even fell down some stairs. So they sent him to his trailer to sleep. A few hours later they woke him up and told him he was done for the day. He went home, woke up a few hours later and he had no clue where he was or how he got there. Needless to say, the combination of the drugs and the surgery really messed him up, so when he went back to have the cast and pins removed he refused to be knocked out and watched the whole thing. He thought it was pretty cool.
Dean and Jo
So yeah, I get it, take the opportunity to develop the Dean and Jo story more, since she was kind of supposed to be the love interest. Dig into Jo’s character a bit more and share her motivations. I get Ellen’s point of view too, Jo is all she’s got left and she doesn’t want her baby girl to get killed. A scared mother will likely pull the authoritarian card. So then, where did it go wrong?
This was one of the first lessons the writers learned about trying to introduce a love interest. When you have chemistry as strong as Jared and Jensen, chemistry so powerful it pushes the entire series to a new level, it’s really hard to mess with that. Dean and Jo just didn’t have any spark between them. Their dialogue was often clunky and fell flat. Their attempts at flirting were really off, making us wonder if Dean was supposed to be a love interest or big brother? Jo also came across as a hot headed brat in this episode, which really turned me off. She’s cooler than that. Dean nailed the issue in this piece of dialogue:
Jo: You know, I've had it up to here with your crap.
Dean: Excuse me?
Jo: Your chauvinist crap. You think women can't do the job.
Dean: Sweetheart, this ain't gender studies. Women can do the job fine. Amateurs can't. You have no experience. What you do have is a bunch of half-baked romantic notions that some barflies put in your head.
Just FYI, that line triggered a whole essay back in 2009 by one of our writers on this site arguing that Dean Winchester is a Feminist. Check it out sometime!
Anyway, yeah, a half cocked whiner with some repressed anger issues that jumped into a life of hunting with romantic notions instead of any real skill. They did that years later with Claire Novak and it didn’t work out there either! It goes to show this series often struggled with female characters. They could have at least given Jo some good lines. Then Jo lashes out at Dean in the end because of something John did? Like Dean knew and it was his fault? Yeah, her annoying factor shot up to 10 which is no way to develop a character.
Plus, why would you try to promote bonding between two children of hunters, both talking about their past relationships with their late fathers, while hunting such a vile serial killer? It wasn’t the right case. It didn’t set the right mood, or have the right parallel.
Another issue is bottom line, I hate serial killer stories. They’ve never sit right with me. However, if they’re going to do a serial killer, it would help if the story made some sense or had a creep factor going. This did not have that. What was H.H. Holmes’ motivation? Kill people. Okay. Ectoplasm is not creepy, it’s gross. I know it meant to show Holmes was a pissed off spirit, but why? They never showed why. It looked like he was horny. I never felt the sense of danger they were in. I wasn’t freaked at all when Jo and Dean were climbing around in the walls. Holmes turned out to be some whiny grey colored perverted ghost in tattered clothing. He never got to utter any dialogue. I’m still not sold on the solution either, concreting the ghost in for all eternity? What, until they bust through the concrete and let him out again? But hey, by that time, I had lost investment in the story and didn’t care. I was just glad to see Sam again.
I did like that they tried to parallel this next generation of hunters with the tactics of the prior generation, aka Jo being bait for Holmes. Oh wait, when John did that with Jo’s Dad, it got him killed. Yeah, maybe that was a crappy idea. Oh well, it all worked out I guess. That backstory I guess will be important for later, in a far better episode. I’m not sure I understood why Ellen suddenly didn’t trust Winchesters. Wasn’t she the one that called John and then offered support for Dean and Sam? So now Winchesters can’t be trusted? Does she know Sam and Dean? I thought I should noodle that for a while, but since that all changed later, I stopped trying.
Actually, the only part I truly liked was at the end with a pissed off Ellen in the car, and Dean plays “Cold as Ice.”
Overall grade a C-. This is in a tie for “Everybody Loves a Clown” for the weakest episode of the season. But hey, the season finds its pacing again after this and keeps going strong all the way to the end. I can’t wait to get to the rest of it.