Page 1 of 2Why don’t I start with something positive? After all, whether I like it or not, this was actually one of Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming’s better scripts. “O’Brother Where Art Thou?” was a big improvement over last year’s “The Things We Left Behind.” There, I said it.
Still, I'm not sure what my true feelings are. It wasn't a brilliant hour. In the end, it left me cold. Maybe because when I look at the predicaments that both Sam and Dean were left, I'm not on the edge of my seat blown away. I'm trying to process how freaking depressing the whole thing was. How unfair. How no matter what these guys do, the universe is screwing them with their pants on. Again. There are only so many distressed looks and single man tears I can take.
The same problem that plagues Brad and Eugenie scripts in general really hurt this episode. The dialogue was awful. The pacing was atrocious. The plotting once again inspired more “WTF” reactions than actual awe. But it wasn’t a total train wreck (were there any train whistles in this one?) Luckily the acting delivered, Rowena very wasn’t annoying, and the direction was gorgeous. I just wish that there was better material to work with.
The Good PartsWhat did work was strangely the plot. No, the plotting of the episode itself was a bit of a mess, causing very choppy movement from one scene to another, but what we were given did actually flow and fit with the mythology of the season. Go figure. I did buy Amara’s frustration with not being able to find God and that whole theme of “Where is God?” played out beautifully, especially with the constant shots of religious symbols through the episode (great job Mr. Singer).
Amara’s alienation is something I was hoping we’d get to see and I even speculated on it a few reviews back. From her perspective, she should be amazed how people could worship her brother when he is isn’t around to hear prayers or help people out. Yeah, get in line sister. She’s resorted to lashing out against his worshippers in order to get his attention. Still, he doesn’t come. I loved the deep questions of why believe in a God that isn’t here for us and insists on letting us suffer. The concept of faith was completely lost on Amara and no wonder. Dean had to spell it out for her.
“Some people find comfort in that. Golden rule, brother’s keeper. It is his universe.”
I’m also impressed with arranging the meeting of Sam and Lucifer in the Limbo section of Hell. By Sam not going to the actual cage, the story doesn’t get bogged down with the continuity questions of “Where is Michael/Adam?” It’s not time to address those questions right now because the episode is already loaded. For the record, I think Adam died and is in Heaven because his vessel burned away by the holy fire in “Swan Song.” After all, Jimmy died there too after Castiel exploded.
The VFX of the cage was very cool, with the warding symbols and surrounding fire. Using the “Book of the Damned” was perfect and it’s the only plausible explanation to pull off this meeting between Sam and Lucifer. After all, that wasn’t around in season six when access to the cage literally involved an act of Death, so turns out the introduction of that book was a clever way to go in a certain direction with mythology that was bound by prior canon.
I also really liked Crowley and Rowena in this one too. They seemed to be a lot more comfortable together, especially when Sam and Lucifer were talking. They’ve forgotten about killing each other right now, making the relationship easier. I really loved Crowley playing cordial host with Lucifer, offering insincere compliments, and Luci playing along, even though it’s so clear how much they both hate each other. So well done.
Which brings me to the grand return of Mark Pellegrino, and it was oh so grand. There is no greater villain in the history of this show than Lucifer, and Pellegrino deserves all the credit. Yes, he was given the best lines in this episode, but it’s all about delivery and he was amazing. He really scared me in his attempt to manipulate Sam, using the “word of God” to get Sam to offer himself as a vessel. Quote of the episode goes to Luci:
“You have been working with Crowley. You passed certifiable three off-ramps ago.”
The Not So Good PartsIf you notice, “O’Brother Where Art Thou?” had a crap load of character interaction. The big talk between Dean and Amara, the big showdown between Lucifer and Sam, Crowley and Rowena reuniting, and the numerous little side chats. Sam and Rowena, Dean and Sam, Crowley and Sam, Amara and the religious nut, Amara and the Priest, Dean and the hotdog vendor (I’m kidding). Anyway, in order to pull off this much character interaction in one episode, a very key component needs to be executed well. DIALOGUE. It has to be interesting. It has to move. It has to reveal something that entices the audience enough, but doesn’t confuse the crap out of them. THAT is where this episode had its most spectacular failure.
Think about it, why oh why would you allow such a dialogue/exposition heavy script to a pair of writers that notoriously struggle with words on a page? Okay, they struggle with everything, but conversations are their absolute worst area. Its best to just leave blank pages and let these very skilled actors use facial acting do their jobs. Because the dialogue was so bad, the pacing immensely suffered too. There were a lot of long boring conversations that went nowhere. This is a midseason finale and expectation is a brisk and dramatic action thriller. It’s especially expected when the previous hour, “Arrow,” delivered that in spades. If it wasn’t for the great actors and director, this wouldn’t have been any better than bad community theater.
There were also several elements that played out too cryptically, so much so that instead of being excited about what’s to come, I’m scratching my head and feeling more lost than anxious. For one, what did Rowena do? Did she intentionally cause the warding to fail, or did she notice something was wrong and got her and Crowley out of there pronto. You know what would help me decide what happened one way or another? Some better clues. Writers usually leave them. Maybe Rowena was laughing over what she was being told by Sam, Dean and Crowley? Or looking at the symbols earlier? Nope, just not working for me. I’m only left to wildly speculate, so here’s something out of left field. I think of all the times that Sam has treated her poorly, he had a double cross coming.
Going back to the very poor dialogue, or the poor handling of Sam’s character in general, why would Sam be such a dick to Crowley when he’s there with him in Hell, after Crowley did this huge favor for him? Sam’s a little more diplomatic than that and usually keeps his feelings to himself. Second, Rowena is a very, very powerful witch. The chains again? He should be building allies not alienating them. Chains and blatant mistrust isn’t going to work every single time she’s needed, which seems to be a lot. This is the third time he’s gone to Rowena. Oh Sam, you had to know that was going to bite you. I think it did. Sam is just not this arrogant. But that’s an issue that found it’s roots last season, so perhaps Brad and Eugenie were actually following canon. It’s poor canon, but nonetheless, it’s what we were given.