There's a challenge in reviewing an episode like "Party On, Garth." Much like the guest hunter himself, it's lovable, goofy, rough around the edges, downright embarrassing at times, but grows on you. This episode wasn't perfect by any means, and it's not exactly the lighter fare we're expecting to see this late in the season.
Of course, anything I have to say about the episode must be separated from the last four minutes, which is it's own entity. In order to depict my super excitement over that ending, which ranks up there with "Lazarus Rising" and "Nightshifter" for me, why don't I share a couple of my reaction tweets:
@WinFamBusiness: BEST ENDING EVER!!!!
@WinFamBusiness: Shh, don't tell the west coast (the spoiler). Luckily, they can't see me jumping around my living room. :)
So it's a coin flip on where to start first, the review of the ending or the review on the rest of the episode? Let's get the happiness out of the way first.
OMG, OMG, OMG!!! IT'S BOBBY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I so missed him!!! Yes, I was one of those gullible fans (there were probably a million of us) that honestly believed Jim Beaver was filming an abominable snowman movie. After all, he tweeted pictures! He came to the Burbank con talking about frozen toilet seats and sending warnings to never work on an abominable snowman movie. We in the crowd felt his pain. He deserves a freaking academy award.
I have to admit, it wasn't just the antics of Jim Beaver that had me not thinking we'd actually see Bobby. It took from episode 7.02 to 7.17 to bring back Castiel, so I didn't think they would use this fluff episode to reveal the source of the strange things that have been happening since Bobby died. They so did! I figured the subject would come up again (a la "The Slice Girls") and Sam and Dean could ride off in their AMC Pacer (that's another topic) both set in their disagreement over what's been happening.
I couldn't breathe at first. Poor Bobby, standing there dejected, next to the old flask that Dean absentmindedly left behind. He so misses his boys and wants to be a part of their lives, but the frustration is growing now. Dean can't see him. Sam has tried to contact him and hasn't been successful, although my suspicions are because Dean had to the flask in his possession so Bobby wasn't around at those times. Then again, Sam would have figured that out after the conversation in "The Slice Girls," right?
Then it's nothing but waterworks for me when Bobby stands there with face lit up when Dean returns for the flask, thinking Dean had seen him. It's so crushing to think Bobby's really there helping while Sam and Dean are at odds over whether he's really there or not. Once upon a time these boys used to be so open minded about things like spirits. Garth certainly was. Is it years of bitter disappointment that have driven them to this point? I don't like this skeptical Sam and Dean. But that's another analysis.
Dean walks away and Bobby is clearly frustrated. Is this perhaps what drives ghosts to malevolence? This opens up all sorts of theories, starting with why can't Sam and Dean see Bobby? Especially Dean. I'm sure that's something that will be answered in the next episode, but I've got nothing. Dean wants to believe, even if Sam doesn't. That should be enough to see him, shouldn't it?
It's honestly hard to not let the excitement of a great ending the skew the rest of the episode. I was so happy come 10:00 on Friday that the skepticism I had about the rest was quickly overlooked. After a few days though and few rewatches, the issues became glaring again.
Whenever I see Adam Glass as the writer, I have deep reservations. I remember Elle2 in the review of his first episode, "Two and A Half Men" commenting how odd it was that Adam Glass was on this writing team. She was familiar with his previous work on the procedural drama "Cold Case." He writes like a procedural writer on this show, which is a problem. Too much focus is given to story and not enough to characterization. I keep holding him to his one and only win in the script department, last season's "Mommy Dearest." That was the perfect balance of fun, emotional moments, drama, action, and a great mytharc story. It had the dinger ending too. This could have been "Mommy Dearest." It should have been "Mommy Dearest." It wasn't.
Most critically are in agreement (at least from the reviews I've read) that the episode was weak. Was it enjoyable though? Sure. I didn't hate it. I like Garth, but honest, I've never found humor that thrives on the awkwardness of people funny. That's why I'm lukewarm on "The Office." Perhaps it's all those memories of being bullied as an awkward child, but that could be just me. Maybe that's why I like Garth more than most other guests, because he has a ton of heart underneath that strangeness. DJ Qualls has really developed this character nicely in the two appearances. Supernatural needs fun loving goofballs. I do want to see more of Garth next season.
Garth is a perfect compliment to Sam and Dean. He's far more relaxed about things, and determined to enjoy life more. I for one support his way of thinking that end of each grueling day should involve a hot tub! His motel room is hilarious, as is his old 1977 Ford Ranchero. To think, that wood grain was considered a luxury upgrade in the day!
He's also more intuitive too, which I do wonder is the norm for less experienced hunters. They're still open minded about things. Garth spotted clues much quicker, like figuring out that Baxter had a secret son working at the plant as well as Bobby haunting the flask. It actually saddens me that Sam and Dean don't pick up on things like that so quickly anymore. They don't seem to be as open minded as earlier seasons, especially season one. But again, that's another topic.
I'm giving Mr. Fizzles a pass. It's mildly amusing and a worthwhile attempt, even though the intent is the humorous equivalent of watching a train wreck. It's supposed to be strange. It certainly got people talking! Even though Dean is there to show in his sarcastic way how absolutely ridiculous Mr. Fizzles is, it worked. I would have been a little happier though if the girl, who is old enough to tell the difference, would have said "I'm not three you know." It's my guess CW standards and practices couldn't make her younger though considering she had some "adult" drink.
Adam Glass in his many scripts has proven one clear thing, he doesn't get Sam and Dean. The brotherly dialogue again was flat, scenes together often too short, and together they were almost mechanical most of the time. What does it take to get these two to open up to each other? In defense of Glass, that has been a season long problem though. Even the talk about Bobby is missing something. Maybe because we've heard the lines before. Sam doesn't believe it's true, Dean wants to believe it. They end the whole thing at a impasse. It's quite frustrating to watch all that rehashed, especially when it frustrated us the first go around in "The Slice Girls."
Glass' strengths usually lie in laying out the MOTW story, and I really liked the whole Shojo story line. It's a different kind of monster. I still chuckle my ass off over Sam and Dean consulting their weekly "expert" at the back of a Japanese steakhouse. That chef is awesome. He acts completely normal the entire time like none of this was at all bizarre. I love it when characters are good sports like that. I didn't care for any of the other characters though, like everyone at the brewery. There's no personality in any of them, but there's only so much time to introduce.
If we recall from other episodes, like "99 Problems", Sam is a happy drunk. The same can be said about Dean (the very few times he's actually gotten drunk). If anyone needed to be lighthearted and happy this episode, it's Sam. My God, the guy just went through a horrific ordeal which he admitted at the beginning he's still recovering from. The whole thing took it's toll on Dean too. Would a few more extended scenes of those two letting loose and having drunken fun killed us? Instead we got a very short (yet very amusing) inebriated chat between the brothers in the office, but two long weak Friday The 13th themed scenes and the other traditional story telling elements that chewed a lot of time that didn't need to be chewed.
Here's one thing that could have happened. How about Dean bitching at Sam over getting them of all things an AMC Pacer to drive? Those cars are more shameful than Pintos! Not a Chevette though. Sure, I loved seeing big guys in a little car again, but Dean has standards. Remember when the brothers used to harp on one another like that? I should also be impressed that last weeks intense drama got a mention, but man, why can't they talk about that more? A few lines and done. I'm never happy when they brush something under a rug like that, especially something huge like the issue of Sam's sanity. There are ways to work that into the conversation, like perhaps Sam's sanity issues being a reason why he won't believe Bobby is there.
This is where the focus of the episode is lost. Did they want it to be horror, crime procedural, drama, or comedy? There are ways to blend all three seamlessly (it's happened plenty of times before) but it was poorly done here. This episode never clearly figured out what it wanted to be.
The Episode Is Only Part of The Problem
I'm just going to warn now, a rant is coming. For those choosing to read this, please don't take this to mean I hate the show. I don't, but there are growing frustrations that I just need to get out. If you are happy with everything you're seeing in this episode and this season, please continue your bliss and bounce on down to the last paragraph where I give this episode a letter grade. I am not here to ruin anyone's fun, but I have a critical thinking side that won't shut up. I accept this voice is not for everyone. Also do not to take the opinions of mine to be reflective of all the writers and the overall message on this site. I'm honestly just one reviewer. When it's all over, we can go back to joining hands and singing "Carry On Wayward Son."
I know many people are just happy with regular episodes every week and don't want to look at the big picture. I so wish that could be me. It's habit I know, but I've been trained now to look at an episode from two sides, how it works individually and how it works in the overall scheme of things. Considering I watched and wrote about in detail seasons 1 - 5 with careful study, noticing all the nuances of how a season was built under the Eric Kripke era, seasons six and so far seven remain big disappointments.
Yes, the tone of season seven is overall better compared to six, but it does sincerely frustrate me that the writers/producers are clinging onto such desperate filler with episode 18. This is supposed to be the heart of the action! Even season six was cruising at full throttle at this point. Garth was introduced during a perfect time in 7.08, "Seven 7: Time For A Wedding." Heck, it was Garth that saved that episode from being a complete disaster. Now is just not the time for his antics though. I'd rather see this in episode 8.03 or something like that.
Other CW genre shows like "The Vampire Diaries" and "Nikita" are in the thick of their season arcs now and they're amazing. This was 37 minutes of filler and 4 minutes tacked onto the end of addressing something that's been lingering since the end of episode 7.10. That's not embracing the crucial part of the season. Episode 18 in season four was "Monster At The End of This Book," an epic story that introduced a crucial part of the mythology. In season five, it was "Point of No Return," another epic adventure that really moved the angel arc forward and gave us some of the best character bonding moments ever. Even last season's "Frontierland" is a crucial arc story, given the lighthearted premise. It was everything you would expect from a classic Supernatural episode. Yes, I'm expecting more at this stage of the season.
I wrote this as a comment in one of Elle's recent articles, and this will be further explored in mini hiatus article, but I do have serious concerns that "Supernatural" is going too procedural in a lot of its stories. As a result, it's affecting what used to make this show distinctive. Procedurals are not known for strong character development and I swear I don't know Sam and Dean anymore. The story is now taking precedence, and the character dynamics are a very distant second. That's the polar opposite of the approach of the first five seasons. Character dynamics were usually on the same level as the story. Sure, that last minute of Bobby was all heart and the emotional return of a beloved character, but that came after 40 minutes of by the book story telling.
I have a new challenge for next season (yes, there will be one). Can we please NOT have Sam and Dean be FBI agents anymore in the suits? Can we not get the standard interrogation scene of the witnesses? Can we not get a coroner's visit every week? Can a story be drummed up in the season eight premiere where the FBI has finally figured out that these guys have been going around pretending to be FBI agents all these years and alert everyone? Remember the first few seasons when they got info by just talking to people as regular guys?
The FBI thing has become a crutch now and it's killing the tone of this show. These by the book investigation scenes are getting way too routine and taking up way to much time. As a result, emotional and fun scenes, the scenes that give this show it's identity, are being cut (if they existed at all). If that rule is in place, maybe it'll challenge the writers to stray from their creative rut and try to mix it up every week.
I'm not saying I'm against MOTW plots. Heavens no. I love MOTW plots. But look at MOTW plots in seasons two - four compared to six and seven. They were far less structured in the earlier seasons and rarely followed the same MO. I swear I'm watching "Sam and Dean Winchester: FBI Investigators" every week now.
Sure, a lot of my frustration stems from last week, when major issues were dealt with too quickly and then we get this time wasting filler again the next week. It's just crappy story building. It's also kind of lazy. They keep saying that these episodes are now for the fans, but it's really hard as a fan to get into stories that are just a shell of what used to entertain us. Most fans are smarter than being entertained each week by cute gimmicks. Where's the fun, where's the emotion, where's the action? Where's the Impala??
Sam and Dean are distant and aloof, they aren't enjoying themselves, and they're not doing this with any conviction where they believe they're making a difference. They're going through the motions and doing it because they don't know what else to do. I feel like that Sam and Dean anymore are really projections of the writing team, because they too just seem to be going through the motions each and every week and aren't working together very well (Excluding one Mr. Ben Edlund).
Okay, deep breath, done. Thank you.
Overall grade of "Party On, Garth" is a C+. An A+ for the ending. It's not that what we got wasn't acceptable, but once again, the theme is missed opportunities. Now let's finally move this Bobby story line forward! I can't wait.