It's Thanksgiving Day here in the US. I'm sure several of you are thinking, "There's no way Alice would stoop to something so lame as doing an 'I'm thankful for' article.' So overdone!" Yeah, well this is the mark of a desperate and totally stuffed woman who had to do something themed for the day.
So here it is, the things I'm thankful for. It's not a comprehensive list. Just some off the cuff ramblings of a tired mind that's coasting from daylong exposure to oven fumes.
Death's pale flag is not advanced there - An Epitaph for Ellen And Jo
"Hang her an epitaph upon her tomb
and sing it to her bones"
Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing
This week our favourite tv-show suffered a great loss. A mother died protecting her daughter. A daughter died protecting a pair of brothers, and thus trying to alter the course of a potentially horrific fate at least a little. Two ordinary women did something extraordinary. They saved lives. And, perhaps more importantly, they defended what they deemed necessary at that point in their short lives.
There was hardly anything else to do, was there? They were trapped by Evil forcing them into a decisive moment that made them act selflessly. I was amazed at how those women grew in that seemingly forlorn instant. Strangely, though they knew they would die, in a terrible manner, they still managed to create a moment of hope born out of the undying love for each other. And that, probably, touched me more than I expected possible.
Ellen was the incredible woman we've encountered in season two, gutsy and tender, a kind of mother to Sam and Dean - she seemed more vulnerable, but still the kind of woman to inspire respect, trust and affection.
I have another great one to share today (but hey, isn't everything here great? ). No, this one is really good, honest. Faellie sent this to me a week and a half ago and I finally have the right occasion to share it. Enjoy her indepth and well written analysis on the roles of tactics and strategies in Supernatural. This can also be found at http://shopstewardess.livejournal.com/. Please, if sharing, link to this or Faellie's livejournal site.
This article explores the different roles that tactics and strategies play in the Supernatural world, and suggests that while the Winchesters are expert tacticians, it's their problems with strategy that have been causing their troubles, both personally and with the apocalypse.
OK, once again starting at the beginning with the definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary, tactics is â€œthe art of deploying military, air, or naval forces in order of battle, and of planning and executing military manoeuvres in actual contact with an enemyâ€. Strategy is "the planning and direction of the larger military movements and overall operations of a campaign" and "the art or skill or careful planning towards an advantage or a desired end." So tactics is about fighting the battle that's immediately in front of you, strategy is about putting together a series of steps with an overall goal in mind. In Winchester terms, it's the monster of the week (tactics) and the season's story arc (strategy).
After recapping "Changing Channels," anything is easy. This one wasnâ€™t half bad, once I got around to it. Blame Chicago. So letâ€™s go through â€œThe Real Ghostbusters.â€™
ANY episode that starts with a racing Impala wins with me. Especially when Dean is driving. This episode if judged alone on opener and closer would get an A. Oh, but there's the stuff in between so no cigar. Both Sam and Dean look really worried. Dean parks, they jump out of the car and huh? Dean spots three other black 67 Impalas next to him. He's a little freaked. Iâ€™m in paradise. Sam doesn't care and tells him to come on.
I can’t, I won’t; it’s just not in me. Sure, I’ll be sad *and oh, how I am* by Ellen’s and Jo’s deaths. I’ll be worried about Sam’s fate, to be Lucifer’s vessel or not, by how far Castiel will lose his abilities and what impact that has on the character, how the leadership role that Dean has been slowly but surely accepting will weigh on the character, whether Bobby will ever regain the ability to walk (I’m betting no) but I will not abandon all hope.
Once again Supernatural redeems a character that was conceived with great intentions, miswritten along the way and finally ends up really, really well. When we first met Jo in ELAC she was flirty, funny and confident in her world. Fine. No problem. Trying to take her out of that world and make her a hunter didn’t work too well in No Exit. Something didn’t translate with her younger sister persona and inexperience thus Jo the experiment didn’t work. A shame. They did a decent job of growing her a bit by the time BUABS but she finally came into her own in AAH. Even in GGY Jo was still immature, frightened and lost at the thought of her mother being possessed, turning to Rufus, her surrogate father figure at the time, for encouragement. As Jo was more of a prop for Ellen in GGY she wasn’t given a fair turn, although she fought well and I’ll grant her that.
In Abandon All Hope the writers let her go with a bang. She was strong, confident and in control from the beginning. She played the helpless damsel in distress at Crowley’s mansion which morphed quickly to hunter as she, still in slinky black dress, pulls out a set of wire cutters to no doubt disable the electricity and anything else with wires. Watching, and enjoying, her mother match Castiel shot for shot (or was it Castiel matching Ellen?) and then her excellent cold shoulder to Dean was to me a lot of fun. It showed a nuance to Jo that had been lacking in Season 2. This Jo is aware of her sexuality and also very aware that she can choose who and where and when and that the game of catch me if you can is a lot more fun that here I am, come and get me. I liked how she got Dean right where she wanted him and then left him with a laugh and the confidence of someone who knows who she is.
Confidence can kill you though and that’s where Jo proved her mettle and proved to be her downfall. With Dean flattened by a hell hound Jo turns and wades full on into the fray, brave to be sure and she can handle a shotgun. As so often happens when someone wades directly into the middle of a fight though, someone gets hurt. In this case, with ripping claws of hell hounds everywhere those hurts are fatal.
Kudos to Alona Tal for bringing Jo’s shock such realism. Her face and her eyes and the slump of her body convey all that she’s not given words for, agony, shock, disbelief and a detachment from reality. She’s aware of what’s happening but from a distance. Finally, given a chance to regroup a bit she comes into the fullness of the character, everything Jo has wanted to be and told us she wanted to be in No Exit, she wanted to hunt. She wanted to do it for her father, to make him proud. Jo, you did. Thank you, Ben Edlund, for giving this character a full arc, even if most of it occurred in this episode, and allowing her to be all grown up and fully realized; Jo was a hunter and she died a hunter’s death. While I hated that Bobby and Sam and Dean burned the picture (the small sentimentalist in me wanted them to always have that memory) I recognize what they were doing was having a funeral the only way they could.
Jo and Dean
There was a lot said in those small moments between Dean and Jo. I’m fairly certain at Bobby’s the most Dean was looking for was a little roll in the hay with Jo, nothing more, nothing less. That’s just me seeing Dean as Dean, nothing bad, it’s who he is. However, much more was said in that last moment between the two of them and Dean’s final gaze as Jo’s image burned away in the fireplace. Dean has truly experienced the loss of Jo, as his friend, his little sister and as someone who quite possibly he could have loved. That just might be me reading too much into things but that final kiss on the lips wasn’t lustful or even passion filled but more of a deep love that is saying goodbye.
Since I’m planning an article on Ellen I won’t spend much time here other than to say that Samantha Ferris knocked it out of the park. Truly. Many of you who’ve read my stuff these last few months have heard that I lost my beloved German Shepherd, RJ. He died on July 7th when I chose to put him to sleep to end his suffering and give him dignity and kindness. Even as I type this the tears spring to my eyes. On that very same day (evening actually) a litter of ten German Shepherd puppies was born and I got first pick of the black and red males. My new friend, Jobe, came home on September 2nd and today he is just two days shy of being twenty weeks old. What does that have to do with Samantha Ferris? I’ll tell you.
That scene with Ellen and Jo, as Ellen tells the fading Jo that she’ll always love her and then realizes Jo is dead is exactly how it was with RJ and me. I was petting him and telling him how much I loved him and what a good boy he was as he slipped away and when he was gone I told him again that he was my good boy, my very good boy. I felt the agony of Ellen as that scene played out and it breaks my heart open anew just to write this. So, I’m done now - Ellen, I’ll miss you forever in the future. Samantha, you’ve got loads of talent for bringing a character to life. I hope you get lots and lots of opportunities in the future to bring someone else to life.
Sam facing off with Lucifer:
It’s interesting to note how quickly and easily Lucifer sows doubt and deceit. It’s fabulous to watch how effortlessly Jared conveys Sam’s conflict between knowing he is his own person and yet fearing he’s fated to become something else. I suppose for Sam the torment is that he’s tried to escape fate (hunting) by running away to Stamford only to have it all come crashing back on him. Perhaps that was why he was so fearful that he’d go ‘darkside’ because he wasn’t able to escape hunting in the first place and thus he accepted his ‘destiny’ without much of a fight, while Dean constantly maintained that he doesn’t believe in destiny.
I wonder how much Sam was acting the part of conflicted Sam and how much is actual conflict of mind as he stood and stoked his fire against Lucifer. Sam by now knows that Dean has his back no matter what, so what was Lucifer doing with his taunts, and was Sam truly taking the bait or was he playing a masterful hustle as he did back in The Curious Case of Dean Winchester?
I love that Sam has finally come to the point in his character growth that he is no longer accepting his destiny; we’ve come a long way from Hunted when he tells Dean that he accepts his destiny whatever it is. Now, Sam is saying no. I do have a mind. I do have a choice and my choice is no, no, NO. Keep it up Sam. Although, I can figure out what six months means (May sweeps) so we’ll have to watch, wait and see.
Dean and Sam, back in sync
The Hardy Boys are together again, fully in sync and comfortable. Thank you, Eric, thank you, Sera, thank you, Jeremy, thank you, Ben, thank you all the writers.
As they faced off with Crowley they were comfortable in each other. Sam and Dean held equal ground with Crowley and it was Sam who coldly raised the Colt and pulled the trigger without a glance to Dean, without hesitation. It was a move we’ve seen Dean do before and it was one worthy of the new relationship the brothers have. They’re together in the plan.
Even better was the scene at Bobby’s as Dean and Sam strategize for their date with Lucifer. Dean clearly has been stepping up into the role of leader as he’s gathered data and background to ascertain Lucifer is in Carthage, MO. There’s a bit of a slip into big brother mode as he suggests that Sam remain behind but it’s quickly brushed aside by Sam who in essence reiterates what Dean said in The End and even farther back in Dead Man’s Blood --- “We’re stronger together.” It’s Sam who echoes Dean’s sentiment from No Rest for the Wicked when he says, “Haven’t we learned anything?” Good for you, Sam. You clearly have learned a thing or two. A testament to Dean’s acceptance of Sam’s stature as equal in this partnership is that he offers very little resistance other than a snarky comment that’s more for his own benefit to calm his nerves than it is to inflict harm.
Even their banter at the beginning of that scene as Dean teases Sam about finally doubting demons is back to the brotherly jabs and teasing from seasons’ past. There is no rancor there and Sam recognizes it as he thanks Dean (sarcastically) for his continued support while simultaneously raising his beer to clink the bottle with Dean. The brothers are all right. That alone is reason to keep a handle on hope.
Dean may have been knocked out during Sam’s verbal confrontation with Lucifer but I’m not concerned for a moment that there are any secrets about that time. Once Dean got a few aspirin in and the cobwebs out, I’m sure Sam filled him in on all that transpired. The brothers are sharing what’s going on and it shows by how together they are in what they do and say. No secrets are best.
Behind the scenes
I give kudos to Phil Sgriccia for shooting the scene between Sam and Lucifer, after Dean is knocked out, in such a way as to maintain the continuity of Dean’s presence. Unlike On The Head of a Pin where there was no way to tell if Jensen was still on set (and he likely wasn’t) during Sam’s face off with Alistair, here there’s no doubt that Jensen, or perhaps a stand in was present. I like that for it keeps the flow of the surroundings strong. I don’t need for Jensen to be lying on the cold ground while the scene plays out but it maintains the overall feel by giving us those shots back down to Dean as Sam worries for his brother and faces off with Lucifer. Thanks, Phil.
The music was superb here. Again, I’m not the big classic rock fan so the choices for music mean very little to me other than I’m glad they were there. The original scores, however, really drew me in. The few notes on the piano, haunting and unsettling are a wonderful backdrop for Lucifer. Slow yet jarring set an overall disquieting feel. Then the fast-paced, somewhat evocative of a Moroccan/Indian sense in the hardware store as Sam and Dean gather the supplies and build the bombs with Ellen lent the urgency to the situation that was necessary. Another great job by the music folks.
I really wasn’t surprised that the Colt couldn’t kill the devil. First of all because it’s only mid-season and if you kill Lucifer off now, what do you do for the last twelve episodes? Why I’m really not surprised is because we learned back in OTHOAP that the only thing that can kill an angel is another angel - and that really cool knife thingy that Uriel used - and apparently Cas got back from Anna. Plus, it’s really nice not to have Sam and Dean holding the weapon that can kill their big, bad, enemy right now, because like weapons on a bungee cord, we’d be wondering why they didn’t aim better.
Crowley was excellent. I really like the idea that similar to the angels, not everyone is on board with the big plan. It makes for the opportunity to see him again and that also puts him in the category of potential wild card, like Gabriel.
Bobby continues to amaze and the continuity from The Curious Case of Dean Winchester to Abandon All Hope is appreciated. From Dean telling Bobby that he needs him and can’t do it without him to Bobby telling Dean -"That’s why I’m here, boy." That’s right, Bobby, that is why you’re here. I wasn’t worried about Bobby dying in this episode because I’d read an interview Jim Beaver did a few weeks back where he stated that he’d gotten the call that he’d be in Episode 14. Hey, that’s all he said so it’s not like I know anything about the plot of that episode, I’ve been pretty good at staying off the spoilery stuff this season.
Also, I like how Rachel Miner has improved on her playing of Meg from Sympathy for the Devil. She’s no Nicki, but no one is, she’s her own actress and I like her as Meg. There’s enough of the Meg I’ve come to know, perhaps not as nuanced as before but that also makes sense as time has passed and I would assume that demons change as do humans. Clearly Meg is under Lucifer’s charms and that in itself is interesting because I wonder will she continue to be a thorn in the Winchester’s sides or will she pull a Crowley as she learns that like the demons on the Carthage battlefield (appropriately adorned with cannons) that she is just â€¦ well, cannon fodder. More goodness for the second half of the season.
All in all, Abandon All Hope earns a Damn You, Kripke, from me - stated with all the fondness I do hold for the creator of the series. It’s a long wait for the back side of the season but I’m all right with that. Patience is a virtue and I’m game to practice some. In the meantime there’s Thanksgiving to prepare for, Christmas to ready for (and to be enjoyed), a puppy to continue in obedience class, and much, much more.
I’ll have some other comments that I’ll feed throughout upcoming articles on Bobby, Ellen and The Road So Far of Season 5 but I’ll be eagerly looking forward to your thoughts.
You know, there are advantages to a Hellatus. This is the time where we can kick back a little and do some fun stuff. While I'm still feverishly trying to catch up with my TWO missing recaps, I thought that this great list that Randal sent me would be an ideal way to kick start some of that fun. He has a top thirteen list!
One Night Stands
Rule number one: always get the audience's attention.
Instead of tossing out a top ten list of episodes or stuff already nicely covered by Alice (Top Ten Villains, Unsung Heroes) or elle2 (I Wonder What They're Doing Now), I present to you, for your edification (or a handy target for your slings and electrons), something not really that exciting and new, a sinking virtual Love Boat, if you will.
But don't worry; itâ€™s not one more top ten list.
It's a top *thirteen* list!
Why a baker's dozen? At the end of every December when I write up the Albums I Dig roll for my crappy blog, I always include thirteen, primarily because that's a spooky number and rock and/or roll is the devil's music, right? Assuming he doesn't get offed before the season finale, I'm sure we'll have a chance to ask The Prince Of Darkness if he prefers Leonard Cohen. Furthermore, I'm lazy and it takes effort to whittle off another three, and I figured why not recycle such a brilliant plan here, this time for those unsung cogs in the well-oiled machine that is Supernatural: the one-and-dones!
Evil Steeler Terry Bradshaw once said of himself, "you can lose with me, but you can't win without me." I assume the 952 Hall of Famers on defense might differ (I can't hear their protests over all my sour grapes), but the point is clear: supporting casts have an impact on episode quality. For our purposes today, the only requirement is that the character had at least a few lines and never appeared in more than one episode. That's it. I'm not concerned with advancement of plot (though that would naturally improve their chances for recognition, duh); whether he or she or it portrayed a character that was likable or demanded a volley of rotten tomatoes; or whether the episode itself is counted among the pantheon of all-timers, merely whether the character's performance sticks in the craw like peanut butter.
So how did eight weeks become nine? I have no idea. January 14th was the date for Supernatural to return â€“ that is until last night. Now, Supernatural is returning on January 21st. I hope someone, somewhere, sometime (soon) will correct that error and go back to the January 14th return date. There, Iâ€™m sure thatâ€™s done it and weâ€™ll all soon be notified that that was simply a horrible tease by someone (my moneyâ€™s on Eric Kripke) just to torment us. (It worked)
Oh, well, eight weeks, nine weeks, 56 days or 63, weâ€™ll have to knuckle down and bear the brunt of it. Really, what choice do we have? None.
Week one I know wonâ€™t be too bad, thatâ€™s because my other shows, NCIS (both of them) and Criminal Minds are all showing brand new episodes next week. Phew. One week down. The next couple of weeks I intend to focus on actually writing and sending Christmas cards this year as well as finally finishing peeling the wallpaper border from my living room and perhaps even painting that area. Sure, Iâ€™m sure that will get done. Iâ€™ve only been procrastinating since LAST November on that. Sheesh.
We're in for a doozy folks. It's another Ben Edlund epic and the one that takes us into the 8 week Winter "Hellatus." So, do you think they're gonna hold back? I hope not. I'm already prepping my loudest "Damn You Kripke!" yet.
As a bonus, Warner Brothers sent another clip yesterday. This one I'm sure has been circluating around (I know Michael Ausiello posted it) but if anyone wants to watch it here, you can now.
So, be here at 10:00 ish (or for you International folks, after downloading and viewing) and we can start Hellatus together. I've got a ton of great things lined up, starting with the full recap to "The Real Ghostbusters" (yeah, it's really late) and I'm sure "Abandon All Hope..." shortly after that. Happy episode day!