Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. John Winchester has anger issues…
“Art of Dying” was yet another not bad Monster of the Week episode, but it really didn’t do a lot for character advancement or plot movement. It felt like filler, designed to stall until the big midseason finale where we finally get to see Samuel Campbell and the showdown with the Akrida. It also felt out of place compared to “Legend of a Mind.” I got the impression this one should have followed “Masters of War.” After all, John wasn’t angry last week and Mary mentions concern about what happened two hunts later?
I’ll start with what I liked first. I had a huge “HITG!” moment (Hey, it’s that guy!) when Mary’s Aunt Tracy was first seen. I’m not sure why it took me a few minutes considering I watched all 8 seasons of Arrow. It’s Lyla Michaels! It must have been the hair. The actress, Audrey Marie Anderson, really sold the trauma of a former hunter being dragged back into the life based on a horrific decision she made years ago. She's a hunter living with the guilt of her choices and suffering the consequences of her actions. As we’ve learned from Supernatural, bad choices tend to bite you in the ass.
The hunters funeral scene was powerful and to me the most moving scene in this series so far. The choice of music, “Joan of Arc” by Judy Collins was an inspired choice that delivered a huge emotional punch. That music coupled with the somber visuals of prepping the body, moving it onto the pyre and performing the salt and burn. We’ve seen plenty of hunter funerals before, but nothing quite like this. This made me feel something for the loss of this hunter that we barely knew, which is pretty remarkable considering I’ve felt less for salt and burns of people that had far more screen time in Supernatural! The whole ritual has become so cliche. Only one has moved me more and that was from the Supernatural series finale (Sam and Miracle, still weeping!). It goes to show, do something different than it has been done before and it’s a whole new experience.
I also thought it was cute that Carlos was so speechless over meeting Anton and eventually getting a date. I hope this means there is relationship potential and not a quick fling. After all, the guy knows about monsters, so there’s no shock over acclimating someone new to the life. It’s interesting, they also had a love interest for Latika last week. With Mary and John’s bond deepening, is there a reason that everyone needs to be in a relationship? That young love is possible for hunters? Or, is it one of those setups where these love interests are killed and it sends a character into a spiral fueled by heartbreak and revenge? It’ll probably go nowhere, but I just found it curious.
As for the rest, Nightsky and Nate Winchester have summed it all up for me. What stood out for me was the sloppy things. I’m still wondering why Mary didn’t cut off the head. How did the body disintegrate but not the arm when the ghost stopped possessing the dead monster? So Mac, an angry spirit, goes off and will eventually become an…angry spirit? I’m not sure I understand the upside of him getting away. It was a tame twist, especially when he was won over by Latika’s pacifism. Meh.
There’s also the talk of Mary leaving hunting again. I see why she wants to do it, but surely after this week she realizes one can never truly leave it. Maybe. There’s that whole “consequences for your actions” thing. Has Mary done anything in her life of hunting to put herself in that category? We know her decisions eventually curse her sons, but she isn’t there yet. Is something here supposed to change? Is this foreshadowing or lessons learned? Or is leaving hunting the wrong choice and puts her family in jeopardy? Yep, no idea.
The Art of Dying
Once I saw that the title of this week’s episode came from an obscure George Harrison song, I went off on a little tangent to see if episode titles might be providing clues. In my last review I was pretty stoked about a particular favorite song of mine, “Legend of a Mind,” being used as an episode title, even though that is a little known track by The Moody Blues. Either the writers/producers of this show are fans of psychedelic deep album tracks, or they mean something when put together. After all, these are all really cool songs, but most of them are not on heavy rotation on classic rock stations. Or any rotation. Why these songs? “The Art of Dying” by George Harrison is especially intriguing given its about reincarnation. Why was this chosen as the title of the episode?
Digging into some classic rock history, George Harrison drew inspiration for this song (and a lot of his work on his All Things Must Pass album) by finding spiritual enlightenment through Hindu beliefs. It’s known that when George started his spiritual journey, The Beatles were taking loads of LSD and drawing inspiration from Timothy Leary’s The Psychedelic Experience. If you remember my previous review, that was the book from last week’s episode title analysis, “Legend of a Mind.”
But let’s drop the influences of The Tibetan Book of the Dead and dig into “The Art of Dying” itself. In Hindu teachings, a soul is born, dies, and is reborn again (samsara). This keeps going repeatedly until the soul reaches moksha, which is the state of self-realization, self-actualization and self-knowledge. The soul is liberated of the cycle and rebirth ends, thus giving the soul freedom to move on. The bondage to this vicious circle of life and death is considered to be a cycle of suffering. It’s only when you break free from things holding you down that you are able to find true peace.
In order to reach moksha, one needs to live their full life. Some may consider that a state of perfection, but others think its more unleashing someone’s full potential. Moksha is ruled by the law of karma, which is by definition, “the sum of a person's actions in this and previous states of existence, viewed as deciding their fate in future existences.” In other words, there are consequences to people’s actions, and it will affect them in determining the next life.
Yes, I know that is a very oversimplified version of Hinduism when it comes to reincarnation, but there are plenty of great online resources that dig into this further if you have the time or interest. The point here is it seems to me these characters are going through phases of personal awakening. This week, the focus was Latika embracing her Hindu beliefs her use of meditation to find her inner peace. At the end, she even taught John how to embrace that. Mary had her epiphany last week (we think), Carlos the week before, and Latika and John this week. Is this their journey to end the cycle of suffering? Yeah, I might be stretching, but by looking at these titles I’m starting to think that the use of eastern mysticism might be leading to something. Either that or someone just really loves The Psychedelic Experience.
Everything about this season so far seems like a do-over. This isn’t the original John and Mary story, it can’t be since John is hunting now, so it seems that they have been given a chance to grow from their past mistakes. Digging into the heart of their issues now instead of letting them evolve into the pain and consequences of actions suffered by the John and Mary we knew. Could this be some sort of a reincarnation scenario? Maybe not true reincarnation in a Hindu sense, but something along that vein. Is Dean there as an observer to help them along, like a guardian angel of some sorts, or perhaps this is Dean’s reincarnation scenario? Or is this John’s? Mary’s? Henry’s? Samuel's?
I’m wondering if when Mary finds Samuel, he’ll confess he made a deal with the Akrida to set possibilities in motion so that Mary doesn’t die being burned on the ceiling. Remember how Samuel came back in season six in Supernatural and made a deal that Mary would be brought back? Could this be Samuel going back to his younger self and trying to change the past? Or maybe the Akrida told him what would happen in the future? Something here just seems fishy.
I do concede that I also might be reading way too much into song titles. Every single one of these songs has something in common, they embrace the hippie and psychedelic culture. I could be looking for clues and possibilities where there are none. Perhaps we should be taking what we see at face value, which if we did, man it would be boring. I’m having more fun running with the song title clues.
I did this quick analysis of the these of the songs used as episode titles and came up with basic themes:
“Teach Your Children” - Learning to be yourself, forging your own identity
“You’re Lost Little Girl” - Finding yourself
"Masters of War” - Lashing out, anger
“Legend of a Mind” - Rebirth
“The Art of Dying” - Being your truest self, breaking the cycle
So where is all this going? Not really sure, but striving for a self-actualized state and breaking free from the past is not outside the realm of possibility. The question is, why? Maybe the mid-season finale will give us some answers.
Overall grade, a C+. Not bad, but not very exciting either. At this point, I'm spitballing for answers. Anything goes.
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