Gee, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these things, huh?  While some might think that a reviewer taking time off from reviews means displeasure with a show, that couldn’t be the farthest from the truth.  There have been some circumstances in my personal life recently that have limited my time to the bare basics, aka admin duties.  Also, I’ve been devoting more time at TV For The Rest of Us to get that site moving beyond the three shows we were featuring last season.  So yeah, something had to give.

But, enough of that.  There’s an episode to review, and I have to admit I liked “Dog Dean Afternoon.”  I had intense reservations going into this episode (I was sharing the cautiously hopeful outlook with sweetondean).  When going into an episode with low expectations, the pressure is kind of off to perform.  As long as it wasn’t “Mannequin 3: The Reckoning,” we were good.  In that aspect, the episode lived up and was even better than that.  I usually like coming out of an episode thinking “Hey, that was kind of fun,” rather than a mytharc heavy episode that plays too hard and fast with the rules of canon (I’m talking to you “I’m No Angel”).

Before I go any further though, I realize that my lack of doing reviews hasn’t given you all a good idea of my season nine mindset.  Why don’t I get that out of the way now?  It’s off to a very solid start.  No, it’s not the barn burner like season four, but the thought of the first five episodes of season seven still give me the heebeegeebees, so season nine is doing fine.  So far it’s right on and they seem like they’re building up to something big.   

With that out of the way, what did I like about “Dog Dean Afternoon?”  For one, it was just the brothers on the road this week.  I’m not saying I need that each and every week, and I do love the supporting characters, but once in a while going back to basics is needed.  They were loose and it looked like they enjoyed being back on the road.  I also loved the lighter dialogue between them, something we traditionally get with road episodes, but it hasn’t always been good.  It worked here.  The scenario was a bit screwball, but it was believable, at least for the “Supernatural” universe.  I wondered how Dean would end up with the task of playing Doctor Doolittle, and him taking the glass from Sam, who assumed this role would be his, made sense.  I like how he just gave the simple excuse that Sam’s last effort (aka the trials) was a bit overwhelming.  Sam didn’t object.  It’s one of those things that we fans tend to overanalyze, so I’m praising the subtlety of how it was handled and shall talk about it no more. 

The case of the week didn’t have a procedural feel for once.  Perhaps it’s because we haven’t had a real procedural “case of the week” episode yet this season, so maybe it didn’t seem tired.  Or maybe it’s because the FBI guys time was minimized and the antagonist was not your run of the mill foe.  He mirrored Doc Benton in “Time Is On My Side.”  A normal guy who turned to something very freakish and dark to cheat death.  That theme is perfect for this season though, because it parallels Dean’s act in the season premiere with Sam and Ezekiel.  Because of that setup, you better believe Zeke had to make an appearance.  Boy, did he! 

For the record, I love the Sam/Ezekiel storyline.  I have no issues with how it’s played out so far.  I really loved how Zeke’s appearance was framed in this episode, and commend Jared for switching gears like that.  To go from a guy gurgling over heavy blood loss from a slashed throat to an angel healing his vessel, then back to one very confused guy with blood all over him, it was pretty awesome to watch.  Despite how many times we’ve seen Zeke appear to heal over the last few weeks, I was still in awe over the scene.  I felt like the chef watching it all from behind.  “What the hell was that?” 

So far, Ezekiel’s appearances just in time for the quick save may seem contrived, but they are happening for a purpose.  There will be fallout.  It’s foreshadowing with a capital F.  We can already see the wheels starting to fall off the wagon.  The fact that Ezekiel fell unconscious after healing Sam, thus leaving Sam to remember the chef wondering what he is, that ties in perfectly with Dean’s comment at the end of the episode about what bad things can happen when one loses control of an situation.  I saw the lightbulb in Dean’s head pop on when he realized the parallel and yes, I thought he was almost ready to tell Sam about Ezekiel.   Dean has to know he can’t keep this up much longer.  Given Sam’s pensive mood over what’s happening to him, we know he’s starting to put all the pieces together. 

The question has been raised a lot, what’s going to happen when Sam finds out?  I’m not speculating a reaction, but let’s look at this thing another way from face value.  Ezekiel, because he keeps popping up and interfering, is now weaker than ever.  In the meantime, Sam is getting stronger.  While it’s hard to know if Sam’s strong enough, the question now is, can Ezekiel even leave Sam?  He’s able to take over, but not for long.  If you’re a vessel carrying a dying angel, what exactly does that mean?  What will happen if the angel dies while inside?  Does it eventually have negative effects?  I’ve never believed that Ezekiel getting stronger inside Sam would be a problem.  This is after all Lucifer’s vessel, and Luci was a powerful archangel.  But weaker, that’s a new twist. 

Despite all that drama, the bulk of the episode was really about Dean talking to animals to solve a bizarre case.  Did that work?  Yes.  I was amused, especially Dean playing fetch with Sam’s balled up piece of paper and yelling at the mailman.  They didn’t go overboard with the gag though, even with Dean ogling the female poodle!  My favorite part BTW was the sheer joy on Dean’s face when he was able to cruise in the Impala with his head out the window.  Dog spell or not, joy coming from Dean makes me happy!  I also loved Sam having to give the yorkie a belly rub.  He should have been enjoying that more!  He is after all the dog lover of the two.  We knew the dog was loving it (gay or not, that yorkie had taste).

The pacing of the ep was even and consistent, though the story itself ran on the slow side.  That made it feel like a filler ep, but sometimes it’s okay to slow down and take things casually on some weeks.  I spent most of last week too focused on the “wtf?” aspects of the story (I still liked it though) and the first three weeks were some “in your face” intense drama and action.  This week’s plot wasn’t anywhere near as exhausting, or exasperating, and I’ll take weeks like that.  It was a pretty good story.  Considering how appalled I was over time wasters like “Shut Up Dr. Phil” and “Fallen Idols,” I wasn’t doing a “ruh roh” after this one (yes, I laughed hard when Dean said that).   

Here’s some other stray thoughts:

-        I’m also hoping that this experience will get Dean over his dislike of dogs.  It helps to be in on the universal animal language!  To be honest, I thought some writers got Dean’s dislike of dogs very wrong (cough “Man’s Best Friend With Benefits” cough).  I see this is as a character exaggeration that writers Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder have corrected.  Considering all the cats were eaten, I guess they didn’t get to fix that Dean cat allergy mistake though.  Oh well, baby steps. 

-        This is the first script back for these writers since they came back to the show after leaving in season six.  I noticed the parallels between their other episodes.  The eating of human parts calls back to “You Can’t Handle The Truth,” and Dean frantically trying to wake Sam goes back to the very, very awful, “Mannequin 3” episode. Except that part was good. 

-        It’s been said by many, even Jared on his Twitter, that the animal voices were cheesy.  I don’t argue, but they didn’t bother me too much either.  It worked enough to move the plots along. Plus, bad animal voice or not, who didn’t love the criticism of their choices in classic rock?

Overall grade, oh, we’ll say a B.  It gives our overactive and over-analytical brains a rest, but does just enough to set us up for the weeks to come too.    Thank you show for not raising my blood pressure this week.  That’s the way a filler episode is supposed to work.