Such a brilliant premise, such well shot scenes, such a powerful ending…such a huge waste of a golden opportunity Sigh, another season twelve dud.
When I see episodes like “First Blood” where a tense situation is afoot, I often ask, “WWED?” What’s that you ask? "What would Edlund do?" of course! He would have ratcheted the urgency and tension up to 11 with this premise and left us emotional wrecks by the end. Andrew Dabb’s attempt at this type of story fell way short, turning what could have been a explosive situation into a paint by numbers affair. To say I’m disappointed is an understatement, especially when this was the best premise to come along in a while.
The whole thing got off to a great start. Sam and Dean were quickly whisked away, whereabouts unknown, and put into a dire situation from which there was no escape. Castiel and Mary were left shell shocked, totally lost over what to do next. The speech by the warden of the facility was chilling and brilliant. The way the scene was shot and edited, the back and forth between him addressing Dean and Sam individually was riveting. The various cuts and swipes back and forth between each brother while they each remained solemn and silent delivered a very powerful message - they were screwed.
Yet after one small montage showing a few signs that cabin fever was starting to set in, then boom, they went straight to the death ploy. Wait, what? 17 minutes in? What about the slowly deteriorating situation where the paint literally starts peeling off the walls in Sam and Dean’s minds? Where was the true crazy and Winchesters falling apart in their own unique ways? Where was the angst and frustration over their dire situation? Where was them facing their inner demons? Where was the evidence that such a desperate plan was needed and the boys were truly at a breaking point? All we got was Castiel and Mary in a bar lamenting that it had been six weeks and Castiel was feeling useless. Surely it must take longer than six weeks to break the Winchesters. Instead, Sam and Dean just calmly walked out of the facility.
I wouldn’t call the episode a total waste. There were some good bits. I loved the British Men of Letters in this. Mick sending correspondence from an old fashioned typewriter is a nice quirk. I really loved him listening to The Specials “Ghost Town.” Fantastic song from my youth! His pitch scenes were ideal and I enjoyed seeing how poorly their recruiting drive is going. Getting Sam and Dean on board is indeed very important. Mr. Ketch again was great, even if he was one grenade launcher short of something exciting. He’s well dressed! Him and Mick standing in the shadows and offering help via a satellite feed is not exactly my idea of action. I wondered if the budget was slashed for this one.
Mary’s story also made great sense to me in that she’s established herself as a hunter. She wasn’t exactly going crazy over the loss of Sam and Dean either but then again, she hasn’t fully connected with them yet. She was filling the void with hunting because that’s what she can do. Crowley wasn’t exactly crying in his umbrella drink either. We only got one short scene with the King of Hell but it was classic Crowley. He’s not lifting a finger because he knows that Sam and Dean would find a way out of their mess on their own. They always do. It also probably ties into the fact that now that Lucifer has been contained, he doesn’t need them anymore. At least Mary and Crowley’s behavior in this episode was consistent with the rest of the season, which is more than what I can say about the others.
The best part of the episode was the final five minutes. Honestly, when you look at the character dynamics in that scene, finaIly we have a big break through for Castiel. He’s just be wandering around the earth for a while now with purpose lost and now he’s gone and done something that according to Billie anyway, has cosmic ramifications. He’s never been fond of the Winchester constant act of self sacrifice and it’s great to see him do something drastic about it, especially when this could result in some dire consequences for him. Castiel is ready to take a fall for those that have done nothing but protect the world in a way he can’t. Finally, a spark in our lost angel. I also think that they’re setting him up for a massive fall. Anyone know if Misha’s contract is up this year? Anyway, I’m fearful for Castiel. I can’t say that about anyone else right now.
As for Billie dying, I'm okay with it. I was getting irritated with her showing up all the time just to hover and threaten Winchesters. I had really, really hoped that by now she would have been given a storyline or a purpose other than she doesn't like that Winchesters have violated the natural order. Duh, we know that, and even God was okay with that. I adore Lisa Berry and what she brought to the role but in the end, the writers didn't give her a good enough material to stick around. Her death brings up more possibilities.
Other than that, poor writing watered this episode down to nothing more than a barely watchable tale. The dialogue was clunky and in key moments didn’t deliver the wow factor. Where was smart ass Dean Winchester? He usually doesn’t sit silent. He delivers wisecracking lines when he’s in tough situations. We got the one bit with him on the walkie talkie and that’s it. The back and forth between Mary and Castiel was often off and boring, and Sam and Dean’s reveal of the truth to the feds about the president being possessed by Lucifer fell very flat. By the time the “We’re the guys that save the world” punchline came along, let’s just say it was a left field ending to a very awkward scene. It wasn’t a bad line, just ill placed. Only the British Men of Letters got the truly best lines.
Why didn’t the chase in the woods and the showdown with the feds work? First the pacing was glacial and lacked any sort of danger feel where the stakes should have been high and time was short. Couldn’t Sam and Dean have revealed that they had a midnight deadline earlier and had to hurry things up? Second was Sam and Dean’s demeanor. Since they were under deadline, how about a little desperation? No, they were deadpan, calm, and unanimated. It was just another day at the office. Given their isolation, they should have been outright out of their minds by now and crazy to fight. There was no catchy dialogue, the cuts to the slow and uneventful scenes with Mary and Castiel hurt the pace even worse, and the outcome was way too predictable. Probably because these ended up being the stupidest feds ever.
Come on, this is a maximum security facility guarded by the military that holds suspected terror suspects that threaten national security and no one is outside guarding as Sam and Dean casually walk out the door? What if an innocent hiker stumbles onto the place? No sensors or alarms? Also, that was a pretty small crew in pursuit. Where were the helicopters and bloodhounds? I know, the place wasn’t supposed to exist but still, they don’t know how to do an effective manhunt? It’s what happens when you keep prisoners. Also, how does the British Men of Letters have access to a thermal imaging satellite but the US government doesn’t? Especially for a facility keeping rogue prisoners? Details like this have always been a problem with a Dabb script and nothing changed here. When details are sloppy, the story loses credibility.
The Red Headed Monster
It turns out that the recent season of “Sherlock” is having an impact on why this episode, and season twelve, has failed to deliver in such a massive way. Overall, I really enjoyed season four of “Sherlock.” It wasn’t the best season and the last episode, which felt like a series finale, had it’s plot holes and wasn’t the most satisfying conclusion. However, it did take on a major mystery that has defined the entire series, what makes Sherlock Holmes tick. A repressed childhood trauma made him reject people and relationships and withdraw into his private world of solving mysteries to escape the pain. When that revelation hit, when Sherlock realized what had happened, I was in tears (same with the Molly Hooper scene). After seeing that, I’m left wondering, where else could they go with Sherlock’s character at this point? Sure, they could dedicate future episodes to just him and Watson solving crimes, and many people would love watching that, but that would stray from the true premise of the series, the mystery of the lead character himself.
In these later seasons of “Supernatural,” I often ask, “Where can they possibly take the characters of Sam and Dean?” I haven’t been left in tears over them in a while. It seems that anything they’ve been put through, they just shrug it off and move on. It doesn’t seem to matter how dire the circumstance, there’s no lasting trauma, no backlash, no lessons learned. They just move on. That’s ridiculous. Sam and Dean are so wooden and superhuman anymore that their mere existence has lost credibility. We’re not seeing the true people underneath and understanding what makes them tick. The whole notion that they’re heroes and they plug on no matter what, they find a way no matter what the problem, has become, and dare I say it, boring. They’re like Sherlock Holmes solving crimes just because that’s what he does. It’s taken away the urgency of what they do. It’s taken away the high stakes. It’s taken away the passion of the characters and showing us what truly matters to them.
I’m trying very hard to avoid comparisons to the past, but when I see episodes like “Nightshifter,” where everyone was on edge, or even “When the Levee Breaks,” which showed in a spectacular way an imprisoned Sam slowly falling apart and wrestling with inner demons while Dean painfully waited it out with Bobby, this latest interpretation is nothing short of underwhelming. I get that the focus is more on “personal stories” and each writer needs to put their own spin on a script, but season twelve is leaving me cold. What’s really happening is the writing has characters casually going through the motions without digging into the emotional layers underneath. What’s so interesting about seeing Mary alone in a diner or alone on a hunt? We get it, she’s trying to adjust. We need forward motion.
Don’t get me wrong, introducing Mary has been an interesting twist, but since she, Sam and Dean still have yet to make an emotional connection, the whole setup is as dry as toast. They just exist. These aren’t compelling stories. They’re filler. We aren’t seeing the layers underneath that make up the complexity of the characters. They’re one dimensional and it kills me to see that they’ve become that way.
This entire episode, much like the season, is a textbook example of lazy writing, but this one comes from “Supernatural’s” most veteran writer and showrunner. Suddenly, the sluggish pacing of this season makes sense. When your top guy is lacking spark or inspiration, it’s going to trickle down to the show overall. We are seeing this is every script now, no matter what the talent level of the writer is, and it’s making these episodes extremely hard to watch with any sort of engagement.
I get it, the show isn’t the same, but it feels like episodes are being made because they HAVE TO make them instead of they WANT TO make them. I’m not talking about the actors, I’m talking about the writers and producers. What’s wrong with giving us something fast paced and interesting? What’s wrong with leaving us emotional wrecks once in a while? There are stories that demand action and there are stories that demand character studies with emotional depth. I’m okay with a blend of both. Instead, no matter what the story, we’ve been getting a lot of blah. “Supernatural” just got a 13th season, and I’m wondering how in the world they can continue to stretch this out farther. Creatively, the brick wall has been hit. So far the proof in the writing is they have nowhere else to go.
Overall grade, a C-. Even on the re-watch I was disengaged and disinterested with the whole thing until the final five minutes. Castiel killing Billie saved it from total failure. So tell me, how would you add some spark to the show? Any fanfics out there yet that have attempted to rewrite the prison scenes and show the emotional toll on Sam and Dean? Anyone else out there practice WWED? Or, feel free to tell me it’s just me and why. In the meantime, I’m going back to watch “Sherlock” episodes to remind me what good character drama is all about.