What a concept! A horror show, in which one of its main characters accurately states “Everyday of our lives is Halloween,” opts to do a Halloween themed episode. Considering the Halloween season is a disastrous time in the Winchester family history, why not dress up the fact that this year isn’t proving to be any better for the brothers?
“It’s The Great Pumpkin, Sam Winchester” paid a fitting homage to the “teenage slice and dice” horror flicks of the 1980’s. You know, those countless films in which Halloween urban legends were depicted via standard horrifying gore (like razor blades in the candy) and enough campy teenage kills during bad parties that made us wonder how a town didn’t notice the sudden drop in the teenage population. Maybe the hope this year was that by following that formula, this week’s Supernatural episode could confuse enough channel flippers into thinking they were watching Halloween (insert your terrible horror movie here).
Oh, but we knew it was a Supernatural episode. Plenty of the same elements with which we’ve grown familiar are there. Sam and Dean again play FBI agents with the rock and roll names. This week Agent Seeger (as in Bob), and Agents Geddy and Lee (lead singer of Rush for those who aren’t educated in such things) were accept by unsuspecting authorities without question. That’s the second shout-out to Rush this week by the way, for their popular song “Tom Sawyer” played an important role in the crucial scene of Monday’s Chuck and it was awesome.
The MO starts the same as well. Suspicious kill, hex bag, investigate the lore, give Sam a few minutes of his usual lecturing mode to educate us on said lore, and of course, they talk to the witnesses. It wasn’t until the angels showed up that this episode took a different turn.
If this episode will be remembered for anything, it will be the stunning exorcism scene near the end in which Sam pushes his abilities to new agonizing limits to rid the world of Samhain, all while Dean watches with the most heart-crushing look of sadness and concern. Sure, having Castiel and new angel in this episode was a major bonus, and it’s great to see just how un-fluffy they are, but they were there only observers, which kind of weakened their presence.
Smite The Town
In comparison of this holiday themed episode to last year’s extraordinary “A Very Supernatural Christmas”, this one fell short. The writing was average and the dialogue standard. However, this was written by a new writer, Julie Siege, and considering some of the crap other new writers have put out in the history of this show, this was an acceptable effort. Also average here was the directing. Charles Besson has done other episodes before, but they weren’t exactly classics (“Playthings”, “Sin City”). His style isn’t bad, but he didn’t offer anything exceptional either.
The villains didn’t do much for me, nor did the generic teenagers that were this week’s red shirts. One thing that did work very well though was the kid astronaut, whose hysterical look of revenge at a candy-less Dean resulted in peril for the Impala via an egging. Also, a Supernatural episode can do no wrong these days when angels are involved, and this week was no different. Uriel especially made an impression, depicting without a doubt that angels are not fluffy creatures with wings. When Castiel comes across as the compassionate one, you know Uriel is a major baddie.
The acting is what pushed “It’s The Great Pumpkin…” into the ‘great’ column. Misha Collins again excited us over his firm yet compassionate Castiel, and Robert Wisdom introduced the ill tempered Uriel in a fashion that left a frightening and powerful impression. However, what made this episode was yet again the incredible and evenly divided moments of ‘wow’ coming from the leads themselves. I tend to remember the acting performances more when Jared and Jensen are given equal material and allowed to feed off one another. In this setup, the results are always spectacular.
Jared Padalecki especially was given some great material to work with this week, as poor Sam’s first encounter with angels didn’t exactly go well. Jensen Ackles continued his amazing run this season as Dean was given his first major test from above. Watching both of them react in very different ways to this ‘test’ left a stunning impression. That’s a pretty big feat since both these guys constantly amaze us every week.
Sam’s first introduction to Castiel was adorable, like he was meeting a boyhood idol, but that excitement quickly turned to disillusionment when the plan to ‘smite’ the town was revealed. In what to me is a very mind blowing scene, a crushed Sam begins to question all those years of faith, while Dean tells him these angels are two jerks and he should keep believing. Dean? His bible and prayer scene from last week was really him. Atheist no more I’d say. The fact that this little heart to heart happened in the Impala too only made the scene perfect.
Then we got what I’m ranking high as a top ten brotherly moment, the climactic scene in the mausoleum. There was no dialogue in that scene at all, allowing both Jared and Jensen to use their amazing gifts of expression and facial acting to translate the intense toll of the fight far better than words could ever convey.
Despite his own declaration not to do so and Dean’s instructions, Sam had no choice but to use his abilities against the higher pay grade demon Samhain. The knife didn’t work, he couldn’t win the physical fight, and Samhain’s plan the rise the dead was already in motion. Sam for the first time had to use his abilities on a higher level demon, and Jared sold Sam’s brutal struggle perfectly. We watched with baited breath as Sam’s usual stuff only slowed the demon, forcing him to dig deeper. While Sam fought, his face twisting in all sorts of ways, looking like he was going to lose the fight any second, a helpless Dean stood in the background, forced to watch the outcome with the rest of us.
Dean’s reaction is different this time and again Jensen just kills us. He isn’t mad. He’s heart broken. It’s tearing him apart to not only see his brother go through the struggle and not be able to help, but that Sam’s powers can no longer be denied, whether either one of them wants it or not. Sam is quaking now, pushing himself so hard that it brings on an intense headache and nosebleed, but he doesn’t stop. Finally, black smoke pours from the demon, and it cascades to the ground. At the end a near broken Sam stares at a saddened and shocked Dean, both bothered by what happened, but at the same time, resigning themselves to the fact it was necessary. How do these guys keep managing to blow us away like that with just simple looks?
One of the weak spots of the script was the ending. The problem wasn’t the scenes with the angels, which were great, but the order. The breakdown was great, Uriel talking with Sam and Castiel with Dean, but I think it would have been more powerful if the last shot featured an unsettled Sam taking in the threat from a wrathful Uriel rather than Dean getting his heart to heart from Castiel. Sam’s talk left a far more urgent impression.
I loved how Castiel has grown attached enough to Dean to talk honestly about his doubts. That’s why Misha is so brilliant in this role. Any guy that can generate enough sympathy for an all powerful angel to where we want to give him a hug, he’s done his job well. As for Uriel putting the fear of God into Sam, calling him out on his use of the demon powers he hates near the anniversary of his mother’s and girlfriend’s deaths (who died by the hand of that demon), we felt for Sam and his no win situation. Chances are further plot reveals are going to show Sam continue to skate along that fine line, because it’s now harder to tell right from wrong.
All in all, this episode created more questions than answers, and clearly was meant as a vehicle to unfold plot elements for future episodes. I don’t mind, for the possibilities created are fascinating. Just what role will Dean have to play for the angels in the coming months? Why was he chosen? What did happen to him in Hell? What about Sam? Did his ordeal in exorcising Samhain unleash more of the darkness inside of him? Will his disillusionment with the angels and his increasing power push him toward taking another path, one that he thinks is right but turns out wrong?
Moments Worthy of Mention
Dean staring at the mask at the school. That triggered something! As with last week, first Lilith hints Dean remembers everything, and now the angels. He’s holding it back, and somehow he’s supposed to remember. It’s likely a post traumatic stress thing. When, that happens, I suspect it isn’t going to be pretty.
Dean Winchester, a large bag of candy, and a stake out in the Impala is not a good idea.
There’s a reason why Castiel didn’t shake Sam’s hand. He’s still not familiar with human customs (after all, it has been 2,000 years), so he didn’t understand what Sam was doing. Once he took Sam’s hand then gripped it, I took that to be a sign of respect. I think Castiel believes Sam is worth saving, but it’s clear he’s leaving that task up to Dean. The end conversation with Dean fueled a lot of that reasoning.
There was quite a bit of nitpicking on the boards about the use of Samhain, who in Celtic lore is not a demon, and on the mispronunciation of the name. Some again, as with “Malleus Maleficarum” weren’t too happy with the depiction of witches. I’m not educated in such forms of the occult I’ll admit, but I’m not familiar with most of the bible either yet I know there’s discrepancies there too. The approach of this show has always been “mythology in a blender”. They research various legends, put it all together, select bits here and there and something else results. For anyone that expected a true depiction of the Pagan and Wiccan lore, disappointment was bound to happen. For those that took offense, time to watch a new show. For those of us that tune in each week for entertainment, we are very happy.
Overall, my grade on this one is a B+, only because of the weaker writing and directing. I give the acting an A. Next week looks like we’re in for something different. As this show has constantly proven, different works.