I actually watched The Winchesters on the Tuesday it aired. The entire season, I’ve been watching online the next day. Why watch live this time? Simple, I’m a sucker for Tom Welling.
I’ve only met Tom Welling once. I was in the final Smallville press room at Comic Con. He never showed up at Comic Con…until that year. All of us were stunned when he walked into the press room, something he hadn’t done in the years prior, but he spent all his time in the video line. Those of us at the print press tables weren’t surprised, but still disappointed. My press table did get one moment of glory, though, since we wrapped up late, getting a chance to tell Tom “thanks for everything” in a cordial message on the way out. Considering Craig at K-Site TV, someone who started his whole site because of Smallville, only got to interview Tom once, that day, tells you how rare a Tom Welling interview was.
Because of all that, Tom has been a bit of an enigma to me. Of course, naturally, he’s showing up for many cons these days, so meeting him is a lot easier, but the mystique is still there for us old timers. Anyway, I’m only sharing this story because when I found out Tom had been cast for The Winchesters, I thought it was a pretty big deal. My inner Smallville fan girl was having a bit of a freak out. Was I disappointed by the small amount of time we got with Samuel? Not at all. I was stoked for all of it, especially when he got to play hero.
So yes, I’m leading with a strange Tom Welling anecdote rather than jumping into the review. That shows the faint impact the episode had on me. What did I think of “Reflections?” Overall it was a mixed bag. I was really excited to see Samuel and Gil McKinney return as Henry Winchester. I also think my fixation on Tom Welling ended up being more exciting that the actual episode. It was a confirmation of sensation I’ve had all season, something is missing.
Why am I not feeling the threat of the Akrida? Maybe because of the VFX they are too much like the Leviathan? Campy instead of scary? Where is the nefarious and ominous tone in the storytelling? Why am I yawning at the “epic” love story of John and Mary instead of swooning? Why do I watch this ensemble of heroes and keep thinking that this is a live action reboot of Scooby Doo? Why am I waiting for the real heroes to show up and tell these kids to go back to hunter school and let the real professionals handle things? That’s my wish for the return of Samuel, giving these kids the direction and leadership they sorely need. Or Millie, or Ada or somebody! Even pulling in Henry as a ghost every week would be more effective. It’s the adventures of Ghost Hunter! Fine, Ghost Men of Letters!
The series still isn’t firing on all cylinders. The script elements were there for this to be an amazing episode this time, but the execution fell flat in many key areas. The appearance of Henry for example should have been the mind blowing, ‘it’ moment. It wasn’t, and I don’t fault Gil McKinney one bit. He brought everything to the table. I know that Nightsky mentioned this in her review in awesome detail, but where the f** was Millie when Henry showed up? When I watched this scene the first time, all I kept thinking during the intended emotional parts was “Mary is certainly taking her sweet time getting Millie. Did she stop in the bathroom first?” Millie should have been there the whole time, crying over Henry and John speaking. That would have delivered the much needed emotional impact missing from the scene. I’m still at a loss as to why this scene didn’t deliver, and I think the answer is what’s been plaguing the show all season. The production isn’t strong. It blows chunks actually.
The shoestring budget is certainly showing with this show. I suspect that this production doesn’t have a second unit. That means there aren’t a lot of night shoots, which is a detriment when you’re trying to sell a creepy monster story. The monsters and scary scenes have been too well lit, which takes away from the creep factor needed for this kind of story. I’m also suspecting that this show doesn’t have an in-house VFX team like Supernatural did, which is why the visual effects seem really cheesy and low budget. The editing isn’t doing much to draw out the emotional impact of a scene either, assuming that they were given something to work with from the direction. The pacing is scatter shot and not effective at the critical points when trying to sell the impact of a story. Slow it down for the emotional moments, pick it up for the action. Given the heavy themes of this series, emotional impact is essential. It’s not working.
Like everyone else, I see issues with Meg as an actress, but I like to think it’s fixable. It’s nothing that a strong director or acting coach can’t draw out of her. Her co-stars should help too. We’ve been saying this since the latter years of Supernatural, the reasons that show worked was because there were two amazing lead actors that could spin crap into gold, and there was a lot of crap. These actors aren’t that experienced. They need better scripts and better directors that can work with them to bring out their best. Supernatural did have an in-house director (Kim Manners, Phil Sgriccia). Kim Manners especially set the tone early on for others to follow. Richard Speight Jr. is a good director, but how experienced is he with working with young actors? He had it pretty good with Supernatural. It was a well oiled machine. But it might not also be fair to expect your guest director to fix your series problems, something not possible given tight budgets and schedules.
I look at times where things work, wondering why that can’t be done all of the time. The scene between Millie and Ada was golden! They really sold the moment and made me feel for their predicament. Two adults having a frank conversation about the challenges of parenting while trying to save the world was so relatable! I think that’s part of the problem with the Scooby gang, I can’t relate to them. I don’t feel their pain. Carlos’ rant about the “band" breaking up once they defeat the Akrida seemed out of left field. It was awkward and so misplaced. I didn’t get it. I definitely didn’t feel it.
The whole episode reminded me of why I hated the Supernatural episode “Freaks and Geeks.” The kids were so pretentious, so out of place in the hunting world, it was unwatchable. At least the experienced generation, aka Sam and Dean, bailed out the mess this episode was and gave these kids a reality check. I wish Millie, Ada or Samuel were the leads at this point, because the Scooby gang seems to out of their element. They’re the pretentious kids trying to play grownups and failing. Sam and Dean were older when they started. Now I see what a huge difference that made. It would have been a different story if they were 16 and 20.
The flagship series started as Sam and Dean against the rest of the world, on their own moving from town to town, using nothing but their own devices. That is the spirit of the franchise. Normal people rising up against the evils of the world. I don’t get that feeling with this group. They all feel entitled to me or part of some hunting royalty, especially Mary. Sam and Dean had to be quick on their feet and do a ton of research, and they had the internet at their disposal! The fact that Latika has quick answers for everything is just too convenient. In this episode, they needed to figure out how to work the Ostium. Instead of digging in, reading and deciphering Henry’s notes they went with the easy fix, summon Henry! Like they couldn’t have led with that? You think Ada, with all her powers, would have known how to do a seance or figured out what happened to the Men of Letters long before now. After all, they worked closely for all those years. The MOL disappeared 15 years ago. She only found the office in Michigan now?
I really do like Ada though and I think she’s underutilized. Ada’s plant spell to find the location of the Akrida was really cool. Like Bobby Singer “No Rest for the Wicked” cool. I also liked what was revealed about the Ostium. It wasn’t really killing demons or the Akrida, it was just transporting them to where they came from. You know, angel sigil in a box. The fact that Henry was hiding a rock from the Akrida’s world where the Jasmine was planted next to the garage was a nice reveal. It was really setup for a purpose. I did wonder though, are the Akrida aliens? Or are they from a parallel universe? Another dimension? Or is there some mystical place like the empty or Purgatory where they live? It does seem to take a step away from the original series rule that there were no such things as aliens. Where is their world exactly? It seems to me the Scooby gang would want to know that.
I do think that Drake Rodger is doing an amazing job as John. He’s definitely channeling that character perfectly and we see so much of Sam and Dean in him. When he told the story about Henry’s music box, it was incredible. The tie back to the “As Time Goes By” episode was a nice touch. The problem is, his character is not working with the ensemble. Put him together with Mary or any of the others and the chemistry is either slightly there or not at all. I didn’t feel much with the John and Mary kiss at all. It was spur of the moment, a “we’re dead so let’s kiss” thing. Will this mean they’ll shrug it off and move on or is this the start of something big? It doesn’t feel like the epic love story it’s supposed to be, which is how John and Mary were sold in the flagship series.
The use of the song “Can’t Find My Way Home” in this episode seems to be metaphorical for where this series is right now. What was considered to be “potential” in episode 1 is now alarming by episode 7. This show only has 13 episodes to sell its story and unfortunately in these days of peak TV, there’s not a lot of runway for ramp up time. There are only 6 episodes left to sell this! I know, it’s not fair. Look at episode 7 with Supernatural. It was “Hookman” and the episode after that was “Bugs.” Both were notoriously bad episodes and by the end of “Bugs” many people questioned where it was all going. Luckily, it all came together in episode 9, “Home,” and the show found its stride after that. Supernatural had 22 episodes to sell itself in its first season though. If The Winchesters pulls it all together by episode 9, unfortunately that might be too late.
I’ll hand wave plot holes. I’ll hand wave some scenes that from a writing or acting perspective just don’t land right. No show is perfect. I cannot hand wave a series falling short on too many levels where the errors are blatant everywhere in every episode. That’s too much. I want to like this show, but they’re making it so hard! Supernatural lasted as long at it did not because the production was flawless, or the stories were mind blowing (okay, the first five seasons they were), it’s because of the rare chemistry of the leads. This show clearly doesn’t have that chemistry but very few shows do. That doesn’t mean that the show is doomed for failure, it’s just means that the rest of the production areas need to step up and cover for the weak spots. Acting, writing, directing, editing, cinematography, music and score, visual and special effects, it all needs to gel in harmony. In the case of The Winchesters, that is not happening.
I know in my previous reviews I was pursuing episode titles, but “Reflections” seems to be a stop for me. That would be the Supreme’s song “Reflections,” and that’s about a woman lamenting over a lost love. This is the first Supremes song to jump into psychedelic pop, which does fit with the psychedelic themes from all the other song titles, but that’s really the only connection.
Of course, the song is also addressing how things in life change, and that’s on point for The Winchesters. Things are certainly changing for these characters. But yeah, that’s all I got. Nothing deep from me this week. There is this one lyric from the song that could apply…if you look at it sideways:
Oh, I'm all alone now
No love to shield me
Trapped in a world
That's a distorted reality
Distorted reality theory? Anyone want to jump on that? I’ll ponder it more, but that’s the only clue I’m taking from this week.
I hated that they used the “Americana” theme in this episode. You really have to be pulling some heartstrings to use that. They didn’t.
I know that Samuel Campbell isn’t bald. I don’t give a damn. It’s Tom Welling, that is all. I don’t want to see him bald. I’ll just throw the distorted reality line out there for anyone that challenges that. Either that or the alopecia will kick in next year.
Overall grade, C-. Overall grade of the series so far, C-. Time to do better show.
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