Me: Dean, haven’t we talked about building those walls? Keeping those you love at arm’s length, being emotionally unavailable? It will result in your worst fear, you will be all alone. Those walls will crumble on you.
Dean: Yeah, well how about this wall?
(Scene of gruesome violence involving one very large brick wall…)
Yeah, I’m still trying to wrap my head around this one. A lot was thrown at us, both emotionally and plot wise. When I first saw “The Rupture,” I was just so happy that there was a proper tone, brilliant directing and solid dialogue compared to the episodes before that I just glossed over some bothering details and took it all in with delight. As a matter of fact, this is some of the best directing I’ve seen in a long time on this show. But now that I’ve had a chance to absorb it and compare with what we’ve seen in the first two episodes, things get a little fuzzy.
I’ve been an insanely busy person lately (it’s marching band season), so I sat down and watched “Raising Hell” and “The Rupture” back to back on the CW site since “Supernatural” is pre-empted in my market for high school football for all of October. So since I missed a review for “Raising Hell,” you’ll be getting my colorful commentary about the first three episodes overall and then “The Rupture.”
The Trilogy Overall
I like that they at least tried a three parter. I guess technically it’s a four parter is you count last season’s finale, but for sakes of this review we’ll just go with “trilogy.” This situation/standoff should not have been wrapped up in a neat bow in one episode, but as has been the case for a while, the execution was clunky. It felt like three different sets of writers wrote it. The flow was choppy and the premise wasn’t all that believable. In this hour of social media, word of what was happening in that town would have gotten out very quickly. The real FBI would have been there in two hours, not two days. What happened to those possessed town people who went back into the zone? All the dead people that were left behind? Someone is going to notice they didn’t die from a benzene leak by the knife and hatchet wounds present.
But I’m not going to spend much time on plot holes. That has been well covered in other reviews on this site. The big issue with the three episodes together is the sluggish pacing given the set time frame. It felt like it was going on for three weeks, not a day or two. If you’re going to do a trilogy, staying in one place and focusing on character drama is not a good idea if you want to sell the real-time aspects. Was Jack Bauer in one spot during “24” every hour? No. Did it move slowly? No. There must be non-stop action with overlapping moving parts and high stakes to make what’s happening believable in a supposed short time frame. Otherwise we just sit there and notice the glaring plot holes.
The best “Supernatural” example of a real time thriller I can offer is season two’s “Nightshifter.” That was a high energy, nail-biting standoff perfect in every way. It was also only one episode. Could you have taken that for three? It would have felt like one very long night and taken away the power of the story. Now, it you did “Nightshifter” in three parts with one hour focusing on the before (like maybe a week before) and one focusing on the after (a couple of days after the fall out) now you’ve got your story!
Only “The Rupture” truly tried to shift this plot from becoming bloated and boring. I do wonder why “Raising Hell”’ was even necessary. 90 percent of it was a story that didn’t need to be told. We didn’t need to see a farcical drama involving silly ghosts with which we have zero engagement. Why was so much time spent on them? Was I quaking over the fact that they had a dastardly plan to break through the barrier? Not one quiver. I didn’t care. No one cared. The Kevin return made no sense whatsoever, but I hold out hope that it will be important for later. However, I did see a couple parts of value in “Raising Hell.” First was the established point that God has been weakened and he and Amara weren’t on good terms. That will be important for later. Second was this scene:
Castiel: You're angry.
Dean: Yes, I am angry. At everything. All of it.
Castiel: All of it?
Dean: This mess, all the messes. It turns out that we're just hamsters running in a wheel our whole lives. What do we have to show for it, huh? Tell me you don't feel conned. God's been lying to you, Cas, forever. You bought into the biggest scam in history.
Castiel: Even if we didn't know that all of the challenges that we face were born of Chuck's machinations, how would we describe it all? We'd call it "life." Because that's precisely what life is. It's an obstacle course, and maybe Chuck designed the obstacles, but we ran our own race. We made our own moves. And mostly, we did well with that.
Dean: Did we? I'll tell you what we do know. Nothing about our lives is real. Everything that we've lost, everything that we are is because of Chuck. So maybe you can stick your head back in the sand, maybe you can pretend that we actually had a choice. I can't.
Castiel: Dean. You asked, "What about all of this is real?" We are.
I don’t think Dean is as angry as he is scared. He gets very frustrated and jumpy when a situation happens where he’s not in control. He’s placing all the blame on Chuck and cannot see the bigger picture. But yeah, I’ll get more into Dean and his behavior soon.
Looking at “The Rupture,” it was easily the best of the three and the most gorgeous visually. It marked the sorely needed return of Charles Beeson as director, someone who directed one of my favorite episodes, “The French Mistake.” It also moved the fastest so I stayed interested the whole hour, adding credibility to this already illogical premise. Robert Berens delivered a complex and layered gem here, which is no small feat considering the shaky story that he was tasked to conclude.
Anytime that a guest star returns, they are prime targets for death. That’s something we’ve grown to expect, so much to the point that deaths on “Supernatural” have lost most of their emotional punch. Ketch’s death was a prime example of that. He went out in a redeeming moment, but we all knew this was going to happen eventually. It’s kind of a shame it was too easy after all he went through to survive. And what was the point of Ardat and Belphagor's rivalry just to kill them both off so easily? Yeah, right, I'm hitting those plot holes again.
While Rowena’s demise was also not surprising, but, weren’t those scenes with Sam and Rowena gorgeous? Yeah, it played out like a by-the-book greek tragedy, but there was so much vivid imagery. No, better yet, the back and forth between them was like a dramatic ballet, tension slowly building and building until the tragic act is done and the heroine fulfills her bittersweet prophecy. It’s so hard yet so fascinating to watch. Ruth and Jared just killed this. After all, everything Rowena had done was with exaggerated flare so it was fitting she go out that way. Sam and Rowena's bond was profound and now that it is broken Sam will never be the same. It goes to show that after 15 years, these no win situations can still really hurt.
I do noodle which sort of prophecy Rowena was fulfilling other than what Death told her, but I wonder If she saw more in that Grimoire and didn’t say anything. She was staring at that one page rather intently. After all, sacrifice was not Rowena’s thing. But hey, she had a good run and went out a hero. She certainly got a much better ending that most others (Crowley anyone?).
One thing that the trilogy well established, all of these guys are raw and not in a good place. I was reminded in one of our comments that time line wise we are only about a week or so after Mary’s death and an even shorter time for Jack. It’s super hard to remember that when you’ve gone a whole summer and there wasn’t anything in the scripts to remind you. Sam, Dean and Castiel haven’t had any time to process their losses, so no wonder they’re so discombobulated by the end of “The Rupture.” Each is feeling the impact in their own private way and the three don’t know how to talk about it with each other.
Going back to the conversation above from “Raising Hell” especially shows what a dark place Dean is in. He has lost hope while Castiel, and Sam from the season premiere, believe that they still can make a difference. I don’t think Dean’s true problem, though, is that he’s struggling with what is real. It goes back to the control thing. He can’t prevent bad things from happening and that goes against everything in his nature. Think about it. His go to mode every time a big bad comes along is that “they will kill it.” No questions asked or how they are going to do it, just that they’ll figure it out. He wants to go out swinging. So it makes sense that he thinks Castiel screwed up with Belphagor. He didn’t see the demon as a threat he couldn’t handle. Chuck scares him though and add his grief over losing Mary and he’s been pushed too far.
Dean acting out when he’s in a dark place is nothing new. Remember how he was with Sam near the end of season five? I still weep over his tongue lashing to Sam in “Point of No Return,” but Sam didn’t waver. Ditto with “The Prisoner.” Dean may have been under the influence of the Mark of Cain at that time, but verbal abuse and pushing loved ones away was still his go to mode. So yeah, turning on Castiel right now does fit his character. The blame isn’t warranted, but Dean can’t fight his natural instinct to go it alone when he’s at his low points.
However, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed with Dean this time. Don’t get me wrong, the portrayal of Dean’s grief and anger this time has been stunning and so well done (once again, amazing work from Jensen), but we have been here before. I like to see characters evolve, not fall back on the same old patterns. But hey, it is what it is. Dean is so lost in his grief he can’t see how much Sam and Castiel are hurting too. That last scene between Dean and Sam was hard to watch. Sam is clearly shaken and Dean cannot offer any emotional support or much needed empathy. If he does, he might have to face his own pain and anguish as well.
My heart ached in writhing agony when Sam was sitting in his room, inconsolable. That one look on his face said everything, reflecting 15 years of losses taking its grand toll. He didn’t have to say a word. I just wanted to smack Dean for not noticing or being able to connect. He dropped the bomb about Ketch and tried to sell what happened as a victory and that only made it worse. Geez Dean, empathy please? Sam knows better and has a God wound to prove it, one he hasn’t been able to explain to Dean or Castiel. Those visions are only going to continue to get worse and we do have to wonder how he’s going to handle more burden. Still, I don’t see Sam going evil at this point. I think as times get more desperate, he will learn to harness whatever power he has for good. You know, making that difference. But getting him to embrace that could very well become a deep divide between he and Dean, as it has before.
That raises the question, just how stable is Sam right now? He has dealt with his losses of both Mary and Jack by jumping into crisis mode, which is something he has always done before. Now he has to add to his long list of guilt losing Rowena and I don’t think he’ll be at all happy to find Castiel has left. With Chuck gone for now that means there is a likely lull in the action. It all has to hit him, right? Why do I feel like he’s going to jump into MOTW mode to avoid the elephant in the room. That’s only happened just about every season now.
After this episode though, the one I’m most worried about is Castiel. Everything he has every held dear has slipped away. What is left for him? I guess I really didn’t think about it because he’s always just…there. But yeah, finding out about Chuck has to be a huge blow for an angel. They exist to serve God! To see Chuck kill the one person that meant more to him than anything in his long lifetime, well, yeah, that had to shatter everything he’d ever believed in. Yet he tried to maintain his belief that he was doing good (see above dialogue), but Dean just made it too impossible to stay. He’s in no place to help Dean and Sam through their predicaments right now.
It’s really sad that he actually made the right call this time with Belphagor and didn’t get any acknowledgment from Dean or Sam for it. He knows all too well what happens with someone is corrupted with too much power. See season seven. He knew the threat would have been catastrophic. But yes, I’m sure he also wasn’t going to let someone using Jack’s body unleash wrath on the world. He couldn’t bear it, which is why it likely took every ounce of his strength to smite Belphagor and burn Jack’s body. I’m just sad he didn’t stick around to talk with Sam. I get that he couldn’t take Dean’s abuse anymore, but doesn’t he still owe something to Sam? He didn’t even say goodbye. Perhaps he knows that Sam will forgive him, but still it has to hurt him somewhat. I think that just shows how bad he’s suffering as well. Which leads me to…
When Castiel left, suddenly I saw the new CW spinoff idea (hey, they’ve been trying to spinoff lots of other shows recently). “Warrior Angel.” The premise is much like the original “Incredible Hulk” TV show, where Bruce Banner wanders from town to town helping people along the way in his quest to heal himself. Each episode ends with the sad song as Castiel is seen walking away in bittersweet victory, helping the victims of the week yet there’s still no solution to his own predicament. I could probably write the first season already! Fine, I could if it was 10 episodes. I always though the spinoff should feature Castiel. He’s the strongest character outside of Sam and Dean. You know who would write it better? Ben Edlund. You reading this CW and Mr. Edlund? Call me! :)
Overall grade: A-. Overall grade of the opening trilogy, C+. Actually, there are so many great shots in “The Rupture” that as soon as full screen caps are available, I might do a visual review. It has earned one. 17 left. Let’s make it count show.
Read more of Alice's insights on Supernatural! Reviews on every episode of the series are on Alice's Writer's Page and in WFB's Episode Guides!