Friday, 7 December 2018

Supernatural S14E8 - a review (with spoilers)

“Byzantium”

On tonight’s episode of “Jack the Nephilim” – a cross between a teenage drama and a soap-opera – Jack dies. Dean, Sam and Castiel grieve and drink and then decide to find a way to bring him back, because that’s what they do. They enlist the help of Lily Sunder, who once upon a time gave up her soul for a whole load of angel magic in order to avenge her daughter’s death and who, I assume, knows pretty much all there is to know about angels. They hope that she can find something that might help bring Jack back in the angel tablet translated by Kevin many seasons ago. However, when that plan falls through, Lily, who has changed quite a bit since the last time we saw her, growing old and white, provides them with another solution. She offers to give her angel magic – that draws power from a human soul, by the way – to Jack in order to cure him and bring him back to life. Apparently, as long as he uses it only to sustain himself, it won’t cost him much and he won’t even miss the piece of his soul that will be used.
It definitely sounds like something that could potentially backfire in the future (not that the writers of the show think that far ahead) – and yet Dean seems to be the only one who questions the wisdom of this plan and its possible ramifications for Jack and his soul. However, his protests are swiftly and vociferously overridden by Castiel (“Don’t you think Jack should decide for himself?”) and then Sam (“Because, for me, not doing this – that – that would be like letting him die all over again!). Of course, there’s also a price. Lily is ready to give them her magic to save Jack in exchange for a ticket to Heaven that Dean and Sam must provide her with so that she can reunite with her daughter there. This proves tricky, because her choices alone determine whether she goes up or down and no one can change that. So when she understands that she will go to Hell, considering that she killed a bunch of angels, she takes the deal off the table – until Dean appeals to her humanity and pleads with her not to make them go through what she herself went through when losing a child. It turns out that one selfless act can sway the scales of justice in one’s favour and Lily ends up in Heaven.
I enjoyed the whole sequence with Dean, Sam, Lily and Anubis. It is always a pleasure to watch Jensen and Jared and I liked the other actors and their interaction with them too. But! I would have appreciated it even more if the whole thing didn’t revolve around Jack. It could have been a case (does anyone still remember those?) or Michael-related. By the way, speaking about Michael – it seems that Dean’s blurry vision lasted only one episode just like his Michael flashbacks. I wonder if the writers who work on the show even read each other scripts, because they often seem so disconnected and missing important pieces and nuances that it seems more than likely that they don’t. If I worked with a team of writers, I would make sure that I knew exactly what they wrote and what precisely they wanted to convey and how to tie it in with the bigger picture. My theory about shaman and his connection to Michael fell through. I knew that I was giving the writers of the show more credit for mystery-building than they deserve – they obviously can’t see beyond their own individual episodes and miss all the varied possibilities, little connections and clues that could be sprinkled and threaded throughout the whole season, which once again proves my theory that there is no real interaction or understanding between them and that the story they are telling is not, in fact, a finely-woven tapestry one wishes it to be. I mean, if it were a book, such specific wording would definitely mean something, but on this show it was just a fluke. I must confess that I'm used to a more refined, subtle, and layered narrative. However, I don't think that it is unreasonable to expect a well-crafted story even on a show. 
Much to my chagrin, the other plotline was likewise Jack-centered and way too soapy and sappy for my liking. It took place in Heaven, where Castiel repaired to in order to pull Jack’s soul back into his body for Lily’s spell to work. There Jack was pursued by The Empty that wanted to claim him and take him where he actually belongs as half-angel. In order to save Jack, Castiel makes a deal with The Empty and offers himself in his stead. He says that he will go willingly as long as Jack goes home and expects to be taken right away as he reassures Jack that he made peace with his decision and that he is fine. However, The Empty has no intentions to take him now: “I want you to suffer. I want you to go back to your normal life and then forget about this and forget about me. And then, when you finally give yourself permission to be happy and let the sun shine on your face, that’s when I’ll come. That’s when I’ll come to drag you to nothing.” Castiel accepts the deal but tells Jack not to tell Dean and Sam so that they didn’t worry. Having technically saved Heaven from The Empty, Castiel gets rewarded by learning the possible location of Michael.
I must mention a moment that just about broke my heart. It was just after Jack died and Dean called Mary to tell her about what happened but had to leave a message on her voicemail with a resigned look on his face that pretty much confirmed that she continues to be unavailable. “Anyway, to tell you the truth, it would really be nice to hear your voice. If you could, uh, just call us back.” I just bet she doesn’t call them back often and they rarely get to hear her voice. And that’s just not right.
I feel more and more discouraged with each new episode, most of which I find mind-numbingly boring. I no longer believe that Sam and Dean will reclaim their position as the main leads of the show or that they will have any interesting episodes and storylines this season that won't involve Jack and his never-ending troubles, trials and tribulations. I also have a strong feeling that this could be the last one, because the showrunner is deliberately sabotaging the show with his inexpert management of the story, lazy attitude that results in countless plotholes and inconsistencies, and his complete lack of interest in the main characters. I also seriously consider giving up on the show... but I know that I can't. 

Friday, 30 November 2018

Supernatural S14E7 - a review (with spoilers)


“Unhuman Nature”

First of all, I want to congratulate the showrunner and co for pissing off 99% of the viewership, who absolutely don’t want to see Lucifer back in any way, shape or form. I remember how they told us before the start of the season that Lucifer was 100% dead. However, it later turned out that his vessel wasn’t. Here’s a loophole none of us foresaw! And do you know why? Because it doesn’t make any sense! I still can’t figure out how Nick managed to be alive after being shot in the head – and that’s among other awful things that his body and mind had undergone throughout his possession. I’m assuming that when Crowley found Lucifer’s vessel it was damaged beyond repair. However, enterprising as he was, he somehow managed to patch it up with the help of his expert demons at Demon Science Department (that obviously must exist in Hell) in order to put Lucifer back inside and under his control. But I’m pretty sure that the actual vessel – the dead body that was apparently reanimated and brought back to life – was no longer meant to be able to survive without the archangel inhabiting and sustaining it through his grace/power. I seriously doubt that Crowley or his demons cared for the well-being or – well – being – of the human this body once belonged to.
By all accounts, Nick should have died when Dean and Michael killed Lucifer, putting an end to this long-winding storyline once and for all – instead of basically nullifying Dean’s sacrifice and spitting in all our faces by keeping him alive and open to the possibility of another – bigger – greater – possession. I must confess that unlike a lot of people in this fandom I was never a fan of Lucifer. I always found him supremely boring and I think he has long overstayed his welcome on the show. I’m angry, outraged, disappointed and discouraged that he is once again in the picture and that he is getting a major villain story arc again – a story arc that by all rights should be Michael’s – a story arc that we were promised before this trainwreck of the season began. Andrew Dabb’s unaccountable fascination with Lucifer/Nick character and storyline, that he continually forces upon us, is criminal, unforgiving and simply disrespectful to Jensen Ackles, for one, whose Michael!Dean should be the major Big Bad of the season as was originally implied.
I knew as soon as I saw the clips before the start of the episode that it would be another episode of “Jack and Nick” rather than “Supernatural”. I almost turned it off – that’s how much I didn’t care about it. Nick was on a killing spree. Jack was growing worse by the second. It all looked remarkably like a soap-opera to me (again!). Especially the scene at the hospital. Such drama! Dean, Sam and Castiel appeared to be nothing more than extras on their own show – just a bit of a background noise and a pretty picture to go with it. As I watched Nick track down people connected with his wife and child’s murder and slowly but surely descending into madness and blood fever, I was literally bored out of my mind and thought that the episode couldn’t come to an end soon enough. I will say this: the scenes where he showed his complete mental breakdown manifested by his craving to commit murder and wash himself in blood without impunity were chilling and gut-wrenching and scary and I would have been touched and impressed if I cared for Nick or Lucifer at this point. But this particular storyline is way past its shelf life and I wish that people who write the show were brave enough to face the truth and finally acknowledge that the time has come to let it go and move on and, hopefully, come up with something new – or else look for a new job – not connected with writing. Unsurprisingly, when at the end of the episode that black gooey substance shaped itself into a black skeletal body with unmistakable Lucifer-red eyes (in answer to Nick’s teary prayers to come and deliver him from pain and remorse and grant him sweet oblivion as he murders instead), I was royally pissed and I know that I wasn’t the only one. I do not want Lucifer back.
I enjoyed Dean and Jack’s short but fun time together. I thought that maybe Dean wasn’t the only one who was atoning (not that I think that he should) for being rough on Jack in the beginning. I mean, according to Sam that was why Jack’s swiftly deteriorating condition hit him particularly hard. I was somewhat skeptical of Sam’s reasoning at first but, remembering Dean’s extreme tendency to blame himself for pretty much everything, decided that it was not so unlikely after all. But maybe Jack, in his turn, was also atoning for saying that Dean didn’t matter by spending this time with him and telling him all those nice things? I wonder if I can go so far as to chalk up Jack’s infamous outburst to youthful exuberance and extreme guilt at having failed to kill Michael when he had the chance. I’m still on the fence about that. I see logic behind Jack’s deteriorating condition and if the writers of the show thought things through and followed their own logic they would see that this is exactly what would be happening to Nick right now without Lucifer possessing him and keeping his body together with his supernatural support. My main complaint in this instance is that we spend way too much time on Jack and his drama, while reducing the main characters to second fiddles or – as the gushiest part of the fandom likes to call them – his three dads.
Michael is presumably still out there – but there have been no mention of him or his activity lately – no more victims of his traps among hunters that are supposed to have been set all over the place – nothing apocalyptic or even pre-apocalyptic. So how are we supposed to take him seriously as a threat to this world – as an archangel who reduced his own world to dust – if there are no further instances of his power or malicious intent? Of course, there’s the fact that Dean (finally!) experienced some funny stuff a few times during the episode. I wish it had been another flashback, though. But! I guess that must be somehow connected with Michael, right? So! Is he still possessing Dean but lying low and biding his time before something mega huge happens? I mean, sure, Andrew Dabb said in one of the interviews that Michael was definitely out of Dean. But then again, that’s the same person who said that Lucifer was 100% dead and not coming back. Or – wait – could it be that we all just assumed that Lucifer wasn’t coming back, because a) we wanted him to be gone for good and b) because we were told that he was dead – when, in fact, Dabb didn’t actually mean to imply that Lucifer wasn’t coming back just because he was dead? Let’s face it, what are the chances of what is dead (especially if it has wings) to stay dead on this show?
Lastly, I probably don’t have to tell anyone that you just don’t trust a Russian shaman. Period. However, his wording at the end of the episode, when Castiel called him after Jack got worse, caught my attention. He mentioned “trial and error” and “victory through experimentation” that sounded extremely familiar. In fact, wasn’t it Michael’s philosophy while he was experimenting with monsters before he finally had a breakthrough? I actually half expected to find Sergei sitting there with him. Or could he be possessed by him at that moment? His smug reply that Castiel could try [but fail] to find him also gave me pause. Was he more than just a human, albeit a shaman, and as such impossible to find? So what if the spell and the grace that he gave Castiel for Jack will work and will work well, but not in the way they expect? What if Michael is somehow behind it? After all, we know that he experimented with his grace while enhancing the monsters’ abilities. So what if he wants to turn Jack into another one of his monsters?

Friday, 23 November 2018

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - my emotional review (with some spoilers)


The first thing that you should keep in mind when watching “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald” is that it is just the beginning of the story – a bloom that has not yet blossomed into a flower – just like its many characters that have only started to reveal themselves but have not yet unleashed their full potential. This way you will save yourself from the disappointment and dissatisfaction of having no answers or explanations for some of the shenanigans that take place in the second film. I have already seen it three times and with each time I fell more and more in love with it. I would recommend everyone – especially those of you who didn’t like it – to watch it at least one more time. It is definitely worth it, if only for the sheer epic-ness, beauty, scale and magic that it is. And the pace! It is a wild ride indeed. I imagine that what it would feel like to ride one of those creatures from Newt’s suitcase. I honestly feel like I’m back in the good old Harry Potter days of scavenging for clues, tugging at hidden threads and weaving them into theories. There are so many possibilities to consider and they are all so very exciting! One could write thick volumes based on those alone - and that's saying something. The game is on again! If you know J.K. Rowling, you know that nothing is ever what it seems when it comes to her creations – whether by book or film – and that there are definitely answers and explanations waiting for you at the end. Your patience will be rewarded – never fear! Jo always has a plan as well as a mind-blowing revelation or ten up her sleeve. I cannot way for those! In the meantime, I’m going to re-watch all the trailers and catch up on all the interviews that I’ve missed while trying to avoid spoilers. I distanced myself so much from everything surrounding the new film that when I watched it for the first time I understood that I was completely unprepared for it. I was shocked and confused and couldn’t quite tell whether I liked it or not. However, I know better now. I am a fan and I can’t wait to know the whole story. I can’t wait to see more of all these new characters: Newt, Tina, Jacob, Queenie, Theseus, Leta (?), Nagini, Credence, Yusuf. I want to get to know them better and I hope that the next parts will provide me with many an opportunity to do so. However, my biggest wish is to see more of Dumbledore and to learn more about Grindelwald and… Aurelius?

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Supernatural S14E6 - a review (with spoilers)

“Optimism”

I can’t say that I didn’t enjoy this episode per se, but it left me feeling quite empty and disconnected. I liked the directing and the acting choices, but story-wise I just wasn’t touched by anything taking place there. The strongest emotional reaction that I experienced throughout the whole episode – that of utmost indignation and offence – was when Jack called Dean 'an old man' – and that’s saying something. The episode didn’t keep me on the edge of my seat and it didn’t make me particularly emotionally involved. I think the main problem was that I couldn’t get rid of the impression that I was watching a teenage drama about a young nephilim who is navigating the many pitfalls of first contact with a girl – and that’s not the show I signed up for.

It was quite comedic to a point, but being an episode of "Supernatural" it was bound to give us several poignant moments and an ending that… well…didn’t shock exactly – I mean this situation with Jack was bound to come to a head at some point – but definitely left us wondering. In my case, I was wondering why the show decided to completely ignore Castiel’s powers of detection that something is wrong with a mere touch. How come that during all their hunting time together he didn’t once offer to heal Jack only to discover that it was more serious than a mere cough? In fact, why did he not offer to do so in the first place instead of going to make him some chicken soup? In order for the writers to blow the whole thing up into a huge drama that would then take central stage? It struck me as incongruous in the beginning of the season and it continues to be mind-boggling. I’m sure that chicken soup would not be the first thing an angel would think of when confronted with a person who is showing signs of sickness. So why did the writers choose to create this entirely artificial and unnecessary drama with Jack when they could be putting a little bit more thought and spend a little bit more time exploring Dean’s post-possession ordeal and actual Michael storyline instead? 

As a result of such gross story mismanagement, the main leads are being pushed further and further into the background, becoming nothing but supporting characters at best, especially Dean and Castiel, while Jack’s story is taking more and more screen time, acquring priority above all else. It's incredible that we still didn’t get a single fully-fledged scene with Dean and Castiel this season! I miss their interaction. I miss Team Free Will. So what is going on? Why did Jack become so important all of a sudden? I have to confess that even when he was a fully-charged nephilim he didn’t make much of an impression on me or, in fact, an impact on the show. I wonder if the writers deluded themselves into thinking that without his powers (that have never been truly explored or shown to their full capacity to begin with) he has more potential as an interesting character. I'm afraid they fail spectacularly at making characters interesting this season. But what show is this anyway? Jack the Nephilim? He is cute, sure, if you're a teenage girl, but let's be real, how many teenage girls still watch "Supernatural"? There are a few, I grant you that, but I think I'm not mistaken when I say that general audience that is drawn to the show nowadays is a little bit older than that. I really think the show needs to grow-up and mature. However, that doesn't mean that I want to see any more of Mary and Bobby's romantic escapades. That's not what I meant by grown-up and mature. In fact, if there should be any romance at all on the show - and that's a big 'if' - maybe - just maybe - it should revolve around the main characters to make us care about it at all?

By the way, Dean and Jack shared an important conversation about Michael at the start and in the end of the episode and it didn’t occur to anyone to give us another Michael flashback? Seriously?!!

I constantly question the logic behind the writers’ decisions this season. I really don’t understand what was the point of bringing back such well-beloved and much-missed characters as Bobbie and Charlie, stripping them off all those traits that endeared them to us in the first place and then keep drumming it into our heads that these are different people that have no connection and no shared past with the boys. I get that. I do. Thank you very much. I just don’t understand why we need them back like that. What exactly is the show trying to achieve here? Just imagine getting back some of the people that you loved, considered family, and couldn’t save – and now they’re back – only it’s not really them – and they don’t give a damn about you. Why do that? I mean, other than make life even more painful and miserable for Sam and Dean, of course, by reminding them over and over again of everything that they’ve lost and telling them that just because it’s there, right in front of them, it doesn’t mean that they got it back. I just don’t understand where the show is going with all of that if they only succeed in making these characters quite unendearing. If I didn’t know better (which I don’t), I’d say that the current showrunner is trying to kill the show. He is certainly trying to bury Dean alive within the bunker walls.

Honestly, I don’t know where the show is going with him either these days and whether there is any logical explanation behind the writers’ decisions when it comes to him anymore. I personally have a feeling that the showrunner just doesn’t like him very much. He makes it pretty obvious who his favourites are. It is very frustrating. I guess he just can’t handle Dean at full power and that's why he decided to strip him off everything that made him who and what he was, turning him into a barely visible shadow of his former self. He even took him out for two episodes at the start of the season ,apparently so that he could establish Sam as the leader, and once that was done, he took away what promised to be an exciting storyline from him and pushed him into the sidelines. At least that's how it looked to me and you will be hard pressed to convince me otherwise.

However, I was reflecting on Dean’s current position – I mean, utter withdrawal from everything and everyone and complete submission to Sam’s authority – and I think I found a logical explanation – whether it’s the same one that the writers are using remains to be seen. Of course, it all goes back to Dean saying 'yes' to Michael. This one little word led to Michael taking over his body and creating an army of monsters with enhanced abilities that is virtually impossible to defeat in order to set traps for hunters all over the place and eventually take over his world. He feels the horrible weight of responsibility for his split-moment decision and keeps blaming himself for everything that happened afterwards. He feels that he can’t trust himself to make decisions anymore, because the results are catastrophic. So now he keeps to himself, he doesn’t take an active part in life (possibly afraid to do even more harm), he doesn’t talk to anyone but the people he knows, he doesn’t go on hunts (unless badgered into it by powerless nephilims who need to prove themselves) and relegates all the decision-making to his brother. How long will it last? Well, it depends on the writers, of course. However, I’m thinking - hoping – expecting – that something will happen (hopefully sooner than later) to make Dean assume a more active role on the show and maybe even take back the helm.

I noticed that they included the little bit about Dean being on an overnight run at Bobby and Mary’s place. I wonder if they are trying to make up for showing Mary so uncaring towards him before by telling us that they are actually interacting behind the screen. Well, if you say so… Also, while I liked to get a glimpse into the apocalyptic world and how it unravelled once Michael and Lucifer started their war, I didn't really feel anything for this other Charlie and I found Sam clinging onto her and pleading with her so desperately not to leave quite pathetic, especially because she kept distancing herself from him by repeating over and over again that she wasn't their Charlie. But really, why should she stay and hunt (something that she doesn't like doing according to her own admission) if she can go out there and try to live a normal life? I just don't know... I have so many conflicting thoughts and emotions this season, including but not limited to all these au!people and their purpose. Cannon fodder, perhaps? Is this why the writers don't even try to create some kind of meaningful bond or emotional attachment between them and the boys? Or is it just bad writing? I also feel that I'm becoming more and more unhappy with the show. I'm actually dreading each new episode.

So, as you can see, I’m not feeling very optimistic about "Supernatural" right now. It's just falling apart at the seams, because its very foundation - that which is integral and irreplaceable - is being destroyed by clumsy attempts at a change. If you have a formula that works and that has been working successfully for fourteen years, maybe it's unwise to change it. If I remember correctly, attempts have been made to do that before, and they all ended in disaster. Unfortunately, this time it might very well be the last one.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Supernatural S14E5 - a review (with spoilers)


“Nightmare Logic”

I have very conflicting feelings and worrisome thoughts about the latest episode and about the direction the show is taking in regards to its main characters. Sam is obviously cracking under the strain of leading and teaching a bunch of hunters from the apocalyptic world, losing his confidence faster than gaining it, neglecting to eat and sleep and telling Dean not to worry about him. I think I might have snorted at that. Have you met your brother, Sam? Hell will freeze over before he stops worrying or taking care of you. Dean, in the meantime, seems to have been shunned by the writers to the sidelines – almost as though he has done something wrong and they decided to punish him for it. He looks more and more like a ghost roaming the halls of the bunker for all the recognition that he gets from the other hunters – or his own mother. However, just as promised, he is there for Sam. He supports him with words of encouragement when he needs to hear them, rationalizes with him and gets him on the right track when things go south for one of the hunters, defends and praises him when his leadership skills are questioned by cranky old fools and so on, while recovering from his post-possession ordeal inside his own head – and when his brother doesn’t need him, he keeps quietly to himself. The only person who seems to care about what Dean is actually going through is naturally Sam. His mother doesn’t seem to care one way or another.

I was actually surprised when we didn’t get a single Mary/Dean scene or even a mention that a conversation regarding his ordeal and what he was going through now had taken place at some point. So until we do, I will continue to assume that it never had. Instead we got a scene between Mary and Sam after Bobby decided to chew him out for allowing Maggie to go on a hunt solo. I think this particular misstep as a leader on Sam’s part was devised deliberately in order to give Mary an opportunity to talk to Sam about her “boy troubles”. Mary started the conversation by praising Sam for growing into his leadership shoes, which he had been born to fill according to her (personally, I find his leadership stint forced and unconvincing), before talking his ears off about Bobby. I couldn’t care less about Bobby and Mary together or otherwise. But, apparently, Bobby’s trials and tribulations are more important to Mary than Dean’s, because she has obviously set her sights on him and she is determined to get him whatever it takes, running after him and whatnot. Frankly, I cannot believe that we determinedly continue to perpetuate the notion that a woman absolutely must have a man in her life – and that a man can and will come before her children.

So instead of giving us at least one Mary/Dean bonding moment, where Mary would actually show her concern for Dean, we were subjected to more of Bobby’s drama in the form of his dead son whose death he blames himself for. I was tempted to ask Bobby whether he had been that much of a dick to him too when that djinn-induced manifestation started beating the hell out of him. Have I mentioned how much I dislike this version of Bobby? He is irritable, quarrelsome, unpleasant, opinionated, superior, critical, judgmental, vitriolic, and just plain boring. He has no filter between his brain and mouth and has a habit of rushing off without warning anyone of his intentions; on one occasion this left Dean, who was counting on him, without a backup, and put Mary in danger, because she ran after him like a silly schoolgirl with a crush on her cranky old professor, on the other. I really, really, really don’t care about Mary and Bobby and their budding romance. I find it boring and out of place, especially considering that it takes up so much screen time and turns the show into some sort of soap.

I found Dean calm, patient, supportive, understanding, reflective, and introspective in this episode. It was through his conversation with Sasha that we got a glimpse into his own on-going parent-related struggles and how he is dealing or trying to deal with them from day to day. “Let it go,” he said. Later, upon reflection, I wondered whether his outward calmness was in fact defeat and resignation. He has been trying to let go a lot of things lately, including, I assume, his father’s expectations and his mother’s indifference among other things. His calm fa├žade, that he seemed to maintain so well throughout the episode, was once again shattered into pieces when he was brought face to face with another of Michael’s traps – this time in the form of a djinn with enhanced abilities – that the latter had set up all over the place while using Dean. Now djinns can bring forth people’s worst nightmares just by touching them – but when the djinn touches Dean, he sees or experiences something that frightens him a lot and even makes him choke on air. Of course, I'm not the only one who wonders what it was and why he kept repeating “you… you…” as though he couldn't believe whatever it was that he was seeing. I was disappointed that we didn’t get another Michael flashback.

In the end of the episode Mary and Bobby go away to some cabin, ostensibly because Bobby needs to recover. After all, we don’t have a rogue archangel on the loose, who set up traps all over the place to catch hunters like flies, and we obviously don’t need such an experienced hunter as Mary around. I remember that her attitude was quite different back in S13 – but, of course, she didn’t have a man back then to play house with. I really thought that when Bobby took Sam aside to take back what he had said before about him as a leader that we would finally (finally!) get that scene between Mary and Dean that I was so waiting for and that would serve as proof that she cares and worries about him too – but no. Dean had to be the one to hug her and tell her to go and be happy. It was as though their roles were reversed and he was the parent here, telling his child to go and make her own way in life. He was letting go. And you know what? I don’t really think that Dean would have confided in her anyway. I just don’t think that she has earned his trust or that he truly sees her as someone he can talk to about what is troubling him.

But he is visibly troubled as he sees Mary and Bobby off. It is clear that there is something on his mind. He is waiting for the right moment to talk to Sam. We learn in the course of their conversation that Dean had been trying to move on after what happened while he was being possessed by Michael and that he had almost succeeded. Almost. Sam instantly reassures Dean that they will find a way to track Michael down and kill him. Dean says that he hopes that Sam is right, feeling resigned and defeated, but trying for his brother’s sake to cling to that bit of hope. In the end of the day Sam and Dean have no one but each other to rely on. I was shocked that not one hunter greeted Sam when they brought Maggie back home. Not one of them even looked at him or nodded in acknowledgement or clapped him on the back to show that they were happy to see him too. No one said, "Hey, Chief! Glad you're back." At that moment, when Sam and Dean stood to the side, while the rest of them gathered around Maggie laughing and cheering, they looked like complete strangers in their own home. Isolated. Alone. Invisible. Unappreciated and unwanted by everyone – including the writers who seem determined to make them and their stories less important than other characters’. I have an unpleasant feeling that they are slowly but surely being erased… and that’s what’s troubling me about the direction in which this season seems to be going.

In the past whenever new characters were introduced into the story, they always had some form of interaction or connection with the boys – they became part of their lives in some way or another for however long they were present there. But now all the new characters (bland and colourless and way too many of them) exist parallel to them, as though separated by an invisible wall. I’m sure I’m not imagining it. I mean, even Maggie, who was sent on a hunt by Sam, was guided through the process by Mary and Bobby! There simply is no connection or interaction or growing bond of any kind between Sam and Dean and the new characters anymore. So far they are a nameless mass of annoying flies that buzz around without any use or purpose - just extraneous baggage that the show doesn't need - unless the writers have plans for them that don't involve the main leads. Dean is banished to the sidelines; presumably still hiding in his room most of the time, he barely knows anyone and no one seems to want to go to the trouble of getting to know him. These hunters have basically invaded his home and they don't even have the common decency to do that? Sam is said to be their leader (we are constantly reminded of that fact through other characters, which doesn't necessarily make it true or even remotely believable if the writers have to go out of their way to convince us of that), but his job as such seems to be limited to giving them pointers, sending them on cases and getting their reports without any personal sort of interaction involved. There is no spending time together after working a case - there is no working a case together either, which would have, I imagine, brought them closer together and would have given them an opportunity to get to know each other better. I don’t want to sound paranoid but it almost feels as though the writers are preparing us for the time when there will be no Sam and Dean around – as though they will be exiting at the end of the season, leaving the next generation of freshly-minted hunters in the bunker to continue their work…

Saturday, 3 November 2018

Supernatural S14E4 - a review (with spoilers)


“Mint Condition”

“Mint Condition” proved to be an extremely enjoyable episode with its focus solely on the brothers and it was heartwarming to watch. It felt like a tribute to their fans and was the breather that I needed after the first three episodes of the season. We heard the words that we wanted to hear and saw the exchanges that we wanted to see and addressed those issues that had to be addressed. I thought that both Sam and Dean were at their cutest tonight and there were so many precious brotherly moments to savour: serious, teasing, light-hearted, endearing. Dean teasing Sam about his clean-shaven face and comparing it to dolphin’s belly. Sam finding a case that he knew would lure Dean out of his room. Dean trying to find out why Sam hates Halloween and then making it his mission to celebrate it right next year by doing matching outfits and probably having a lot of candy. Dean admitting that he doesn’t feel comfortable with the house full of strangers and feeling useless now that dark!Kaia is in the wind with her spear. Sam telling Dean that he did the right thing and that no one blames him for what happened after he said “yes” to Michael, because he did it for Sam, Jack, his family. Dean admitting that he will never be over what happened to him but that he is grateful to Sam for providing him with a win and saying that he is ready to get out of his room and be there for Sam. Dean lying on his tummy with his cute socks on, eating pizza and watching his favourite horror movies that he knows by heart. Dean and Sam wearing their dorky outfits. Dean wearing glasses and switching mugs with Sam. Sam and Dean teaming up with Sam(antha) and Dirk respectively and solving the case/tackling the monster together. Dean having the time of his life (“I went toe-to-toe with David freaking Yaeger!”) and getting to feel like a kid again. Dean hanging out and geeking out with a fellow horror movie fan without having his tastes questioned and quoting his favourite parts without being treated to exasperated eyerolls. Dean calling Sam "Chief" at the end with what I thought was a definite note of serious intent in his voice despite a teasing edge to it. Truly, I want to thank Davy Perez from the bottom of my heart for giving us such a fun yet important episode that provided us with light-hearted and heartfelt brotherly moments and other unforgettable gems.

Friday, 26 October 2018

Supernatural S14E3 - a review (with spoilers)

“The Scar”

The episode starts with a much-needed brotherly scene between Sam and Dean in which Dean in a very typical manner (that just screams Dean) reacts to Sam’s beard, providing pretty much the only light-hearted moment of the episode. At first, from the dramatic way he is talking about it, you imagine that Dean means something a lot more sinister, considering that he has been very recently possessed by an archangel, until Sam makes a face and says in exasperation, “Dean, it’s just a beard”. I loved that short but fun scene.
Of course, the tone changes almost immediately. Sam wants to ask if Dean is okay. Dean forestalls his queries by telling him that he doesn’t have to do that. Michael is gone. He doesn’t remember anything. He’s good. He’s just really, really happy to be… home… Except that it doesn’t look like home anymore, does it? Poor Dean. I feel for him. I wouldn’t want to come back to a place I consider home and instead of comfort and familiarity find it packed with strangers who don’t give a damn about you and make you feel like a stranger yourself.
His reaction to Sam’s new appellation is, of course, expected and hilarious. “Chief?” His offended facial expression says it all. Seriously, Sammy?! But he doesn’t say anything else. It looks like he’s barely holding it together. It’s obvious that he’s trying to act like his usual self, teasing his younger brother and all that, but you can see the strain and the pain in his eyes, you can hear it in his heavy sigh, it’s all too much. He wants to get away. He wants to be alone.
Jack slips out of the crowd and greets Dean – all innocence and genuine surprise. “Is that really you?” he asks with a childish smile and when Dean nods and exhales a painful “Yeah” (are those tears in his eyes?) he turns to Sam to confirm his words. Sam nods too. You wouldn’t even think, would you, that only five minutes ago Jack was saying that Dean doesn’t matter and that he must die if that means getting rid of Michael.
Castiel rushes forward next. As if on cue the music grows louder and becomes so romantic I almost expected them to jump into each other’s arms. However, they just look at each other, quite longingly (if you ask me), obviously restraining themselves from doing more, and it is Jack who gets to hug Dean instead. I’m not much of a shipper – but I’m not blind either. That scene filled with heavy sighs and tentative smiles and meaningful looks and unspoken words? It is a scene right out of a romantic novel. Instantly Jane Austen quotes began to pop up in my head.
“Had you seen his look, his manner, had you heard his voice at that moment!” I mean, seriously, isn’t it a perfect description of the aforementioned scene? Or this one: “If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” Or how about the quote that I think accurately describes the show’s treatment of what is known as “destiel”: “It was every day implied, but never professedly declared. Sometimes I thought it had been – but it never was.” Personally, I think that it should be a truth universally acknowledged that if you can apply a Jane Austen quote to a scene, it must be true love.
However, I do have to wonder just how much of that scene was actually written out in the script and how much of it was the actors’ choice. If it were any other show, I would probably commend the writer’s way of underlining the (clearly present) romantic element of the scene. But, as far as I know, the show in question has never openly acknowledged this particular aspect of Dean and Castiel’s relationship – even though they never fail to remark on it in one way or another. The most recent mention was, memorably and explicitly enough, in the first episode of the season. So what is it? Why not cross that line? The show, after all, had no problem labeling that nanosecond connection and instant bond that sprang between Claire and Kaia as “first love”. So why not acknowledge and finally label the original bond – the profound one? It was curious to observe Sam’s expression in both scenes. It definitely reflected my own thoughts and reactions.
Dean takes the very first opportunity to leave, once again assuring Sam and the others (note the return of romantic notes as he looks and points at Castiel even though the latter is not shown) that he is “still okay”. He enters his room, looking around, familiarizing himself with his surroundings. Thankfully, his room is still his own. He starts shedding the clothes that Michael had put on him but, of course, it’s not just the clothes that he wants to shed. We see that he is not okay. “Dean, how is he really?” asks Castiel in the meantime, his expression worried, returning Sam’s focus from Nick (he actually starts asking about him the moment Dean is gone) back to his brother (where it should be!). “Why would Michael just give up his vessel like that?” “Why was Michael helping monsters?” Sam has no answers to any of that.
Dean is in a white tee, looking in the mirror when he notices a scar on his upper arm. He has no idea where it came from. The question is what could have hurt Michael like that? In order to find out Dean asks Castiel to get into his head and jolt his memory. But it is only when Castiel touches his scar that Dean sees a spear that managed to wound Michael and a hooded figure wielding it. “Dean, who was that?” asks Castiel. Dean identifies the figure as “the thing that killed Kaia in the Bad Place.” They call Jody. It turns out that three headless bodies with similar wounds were found in her area.
Dean, Sam and Castiel are getting ready to go when Jack shows up and asks them if they are leaving. Dean and Sam tell him that Kaia’s killer is in Sioux Falls and that he, she or it can hurt Michael. Jack intends to go with them. Castiel tells him that it might not be the best idea. Dean says that it’s not going to happen. Sam suggests that maybe Jack needs a little bit more training. Jack begins to bristle – another hissy fit alert. Dean is not the one to beat about the bush and tells it as it is – “C'mon, kid. Look at you. You're barely 100 pounds soaking wet” – there’s really no time for mollycoddling – and instantly gets reproachful looks from Castiel and Sam, which, of course, prompt him to apologize to Jack who storms off half-way through Dean’s saying that he didn’t mean to be a dick. Personally, I don’t see why Dean gets to be called a dick for being straightforward and yet it is all right for Jack to tell that Dean doesn’t matter and must die.
Dean is impatient to hit the road and when Castiel is delayed by the arrival of a rescued girl, who has been hexed by a witch, they decide that he should stay behind after he fails to heal her right away. Sam isn’t happy about it but prompted by Castiel he follows Dean. Dean’s face is set in a determined frown and his lips are pursed as his whole attention is focused on the road. Sam is watching the hand of the speedometer moving towards eighty, looking mildly concerned. His mind is struggling with questions they have no answers to. Moreover, he desperately needs to talk to his brother. “You said you let Michael in. Then, bang, you’re back in a blink. But for me you were gone for weeks. I didn’t know if you were alive. I just need you to talk to me, to slow down, so I can catch up.” But Dean – quite understandably – isn’t ready to talk about what happened to him – or slow down. He needs time to come to terms with the consequences of his choice and he needs to move as fast as he can so as not to go out of his mind dwelling on it.
I must say I really missed these brotherly moments in the car, even though all they do is argue, which is, when I think about it, kind of their thing.
Dean, Sam and Jody follow the trail, find the heads missing from the bodies that turn out to be vampires (with enhanced abilities) and discover (after a swift fight) that Michael’s attacker is Kaia’s doppelganger from the other world. She manages to overpower them and escape. Dean is determined to find her and get the answers out of her. He is quite obsessed. Sam tries to reason with him. He thinks that these vampires were hunting her because Michael sent them to finish what he started. Dean says that it doesn’t change the plan. He is focused, tense, intense, angry. Sam watches him, unable to do anything. He tells Jody that Dean is working something out and that he is doing it alone and believes that Dean isn’t ready for this case. Jody seems to understand Dean’s motive better. “Maybe he needs it,” she says. She is also the only one in this episode who tells him that he has nothing to apologize for. They finally catch up with Kaia at some abandoned hut and Dean knocks her out with the barrel of a gun – now earning shocked looks from Sam and Jody. Personally, I thought that it was a just payback. I mean, she did the same, didn’t she, using his shock at seeing her face to overpower him not so long ago?
Afterwards, we witness a long scene most of which is dedicated to verbal abuse of Dean. Just what he needs right now. Let’s kick him while he’s down. Boy, do they like to tell him that he is worthless and weak on this show, or what? At this point Dean just wants to get his hands on the other Kaia’s weapon, because, apparently, it’s the only thing that can hurt Michael. He has already worked himself up in a terrible rage. Robert Berens, in particular, seems to have a penchant for portraying Dean as completely unbalanced and ready to do whatever it takes to get what he wants. Remember “The Bad Place” where he had Dean point a gun in Kaia’s face and scream his head off for her to get into the car? That’s right. His job. By the way, he didn’t fail to mention this scene, that shocked and horrified everyone at the time, in this episode – I suppose as another point against Dean. I just love it when writers commit what I call “character murder” in order to show other characters in a better – more sympathetic – light. Well, of course, we know where this particular writer’s sympathies lie.
Finally, after all the talking and putting-Dean-down, we see a flashback of Michael!Dean fighting with Kaia – and it was riveting and beautiful to watch. Dean, however, could not stand the pain of remembering it. His eyes were growing more and more haunted, until they looked completely dead, hopeless. Now we know that Michael wants the spear, because he knows that it can hurt him. I wonder if that is why he left Dean’s body in the first place (and we know that to be true because the show-runner said as much in a recent interview) – because he discovered that he is not invincible when possessing his vessel. So where is he? What is he up to? How does he command his army of monsters without a body? Is he possessing someone else? Is he looking for a way to enhance his true vessel so that it can withstand the spear’s power? Or, perhaps, he has learnt that Lucifer’s vessel was patched up and rebooted by Crowley’s expert demons and decided that Nick (who is conveniently AWOL at this point) would serve him better now that he knows that he can be hurt while wearing Dean? Dear Lord, I hope not.
In the meantime, back at the bunker, Jack has solved the case of the cursed girl and brought her back to life after witnessing her death when the reverse spell didn’t work. We know that after he wasn’t taken on a hunt, he decided to leave the bunker (again), penning a letter and all that, but something about that girl stopped him and he changed his mind, instead keeping vigil at her bedside and listening to her tale of woe, which included her running away from her mother and its consequences – a powerful lesson for a runaway-wannabe here – while Castiel and the hunter from the au!world were working on the spell. Is it just me or is the show putting more and more focus on Jack with each new episode? Is it gradually becoming his show? Well, if this is the case, I suggest the show-runner and co adjust their focus. Supernatural is not about Jack.
Castiel is all impressed by how Jack solved the case (looking and talking about it like a proud father with tears of joy shining in his eyes). He tells Jack that he has proven that he has the mind and the heart of a hunter and that they should all go on a hunting trip together. He also, bizarrely enough, feels that he hasn’t been there for Jack and apologizes for that. Personally, I think it’s utter bull. He was there for him as much as anyone could be under the circumstances, while Jack was thinking only about himself. But… something is not right. Jack is not well. But what is it? What’s happening to him now? The consequences of the witch’s curse he helped to lift? Or, perhaps, something to do with his now human body? Well, whatever it is, I’m sure the writers will think it more important than Dean’s trauma or Dean and Sam's storyline and spend a lot of time exploring it. However, I would seriously question putting in charge of such a long-running show someone who cares so little about its iconic main characters.
Dean finally breaks down on their way home. He is ready to talk. “You were right,” he says to his brother. “I didn’t want to look at it, what Michael used me for. I just wanted to race ahead, you know, skip to the end of the story, the part where I get the weapon and I take out the bad guy – the part where I kill Michael. … You know, I said yes to him because I thought… It was stupid. I was stupid. … I don’t remember most of what Michael did with me because I was underwater, drowning, and that I remember. I felt every second of it – clawing, fighting for air. I thought I could make it out, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t strong enough. And now he’s gone and he’s out there putting an army of monsters together and he’s hurting people. And it’s all on me, man. I said yes.” It is heartbreaking to watch. Of course, it is not unexpected that Dean blames himself for everything that happened. Sam is gazing at him, his eyes filled with tears. I wish Sam could be a little bit more vocal in his comfort, reminding Dean that he did what he did in order to save him, Jack, and the rest of the world. But all we got from him was, “Dean, you did what you had to do.” “It’s my fault,” says Dean in the end – and there is nothing but silence to greet his words. Sam lets him think that it is so. Dean is on his own.
I wish the episode would end there – with such a poignant scene – but no. Dean and Sam are not the main characters or the main focus of the show any more. The last scene belongs to Jack. He is sitting in his room and coughing up blood.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Supernatural s14e2 - a review (with spoilers)

“Gods and Monsters”

Sam and Dean Winchester are the quintessence of “Supernatural” – they were the beginning and they will be the end and there is no point denying it – there is simply no “Supernatural” without them or the actors who play them. However, this season the creators of the show are changing not only the established lore (silver no longer has any effect on werewolves – or anything but decapitation, for that matter, seems to work), but also the very status quo of the show. At least that was the impression that I got as I watched this episode. Do you know why? Well, mainly, because there was so precious little of Sam or Dean in this episode.
Of course, as much as it upsets and pains me to say it, I didn’t expect to be seeing much of Jensen in this episode. However, plot-wise it’s understandable. Dean, currently being possessed by the archangel Michael, is mostly unavailable. Though he did make a nanosecond appearance in the mirror as he attempted to give his possessor an unsuccessful boot – and, of course, he appeared at the end of the episode with some very surprising news indeed. Michael still making his way into the show as the Big Bad with a Plan – despite the writers’ recent announcement (that seems to contradict all their previous statements) that he is not in fact the major Big Bad of the season – would not be taking central stage at this point, of course. But what about Sam? Where did he go? Why was there so little of him? Why was he practically pushed aside (after taking charge so successfully last episode) to make way for other characters and their stories?
Well, I can tell you why. It wasn’t so much a “Supernatural” episode, after all, as an episode of “Dr Phil” on “Supernatural” and Sam just wasn’t part of – er – “the main action”, I suppose. You see, he was off looking for Michael!Dean with Mary and Bobby – but that, I’m afraid, isn’t as interesting or important as following the emotional journey of Nick and Jack, guided with varying degrees of success by Castiel, Angel of the Lord, who could not take part in the search and was obliged to take on the “babysitting duty”, because “his angelic presence would be sensed by Michael, thereby nullifying their hopes of a sneak attack”. Well, he didn’t seem too pleased about that. From a punching bag last week to a nanny/shrink this week there isn’t much of an upgrade for him on this Jack-and-Nick drama hour – though both put him through an emotional wringer all right, throwing into his face that he didn’t understand what they were going through when he was trying to comfort them. Like father, like son…
But let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
At the end of last episode Michael finally found the type of monster he could work with on creating a better world – whatever that is in his understanding – someone whose want he finds simple, pure and clean. I’m still not sure what exactly he is trying to accomplish and I’m afraid the writers don’t have much of a clue either. Personally, I suspect that they never truly planned to have Michael possess Dean for very long and figured that they didn’t really need to think it all the way through, details and all, because they knew that they would be dropping this particular storyline soon enough. In any case, this episode opens with a truly sinister scene: in an abandoned church, which, for all its ruin and decay, provides a beautiful background, Michael is experimenting on vampires. He mixes their blood with his grace – and .discards his failed experiments with chilling calm of scientific detachment. Again, he is disappointed. He is not an easy man to please. His movements are unhurried and precise and his expression is amused and morbidly expectant as he twirls his weapon of choice while selecting his next victim.
This time around the bunker seems to house only Bobby, Mary, Sam, Castiel, Jack and Nick. Sam finds Michael’s bloody trail (the trail that Michael left entirely on purpose for him to find) and together with Bobby and Mary they take off. Bobby looks more like a bumbling old fool than anything else in this iteration with a serious case of foot-in-mouth disease. (Mary obviously finds it endearing, judging by the way she smiles playfully at him and claps him on the shoulder in the morgue later on.) Castiel reluctantly stays behind – he doesn’t really have much of a choice. Jack is lost without his powers and Nick is a mess and they both need supervision. Something in Castiel’s voice when he says this gives Sam a pause. He is once again playing devil’s advocate when he tells Castiel with that piteous look on his face that it isn’t Nick’s fault and that Nick deserves a shot at rebuilding his life now that he isn’t possessed anymore. I’m sure it will come back to bite him later. Oh. Wait. It already did. Jack doesn’t object when they don’t invite him to join them on their search and says that he wants to improve. However, by improving he means researching how long it takes archangel grace to replenish. Very productive.
Nick is seeing flashbacks of Lucifer’s many killings while possessing him before Castiel brings him some nourishment and they have a heart-to-heart chat – once Castiel can finally make himself look him in the eye. After Castiel tells Nick that his family was murdered, which prompted him to say “yes” to Lucifer, Nick decides to find out who did it. He becomes a man possessed. No pun intended. And is it even considered pun in this case? However, his initial search proves fruitless and when Castiel tries to comfort him and puts a hand on his shoulder – he snaps – like in “he snaps his fingers just like Lucifer did when smiting someone”. He says that he doesn’t know why he did it when Castiel asks him about it. Or does he? There was a look about him that screamed Lucifer. So who is it? What is it? A dangerous side-effect after a prolong exposure to archangel’s possession? Or is it Lucifer himself? Is he still lurking there somewhere, biding his time, waiting to be unleashed? Or is he merely playing us all and there is no Nick to speak of? This is all extremely troubling and confusing and I don’t like it, especially considering the shocking events that took place at the end of the episode.
Jack continues to wallow in self-pity, repeating over and over again that without his grace he has nothing left. Castiel tells him about his own experience as a human and makes some very good points about patience and persistence (using Sam and Dean’s example), past and future, and which one is more important in defining his purposefulness. “What did you have left?” asks Jack when Castiel tells him how hopeless and useless he felt after he lost his wings and grace. “I had Sam and Dean,” replies Castiel simply. “But I had something else that was extremely helpful. I had myself. Just the basic me. As Dean would say without all the bells and whistles.” I understand the importance of such talks and I think Castiel did a very good job there, but it all made it look like family drama rather than a sci-fi/fantasy show “Supernatural” is supposed to be. In the end, Castiel’s pep talk results in Jack seeking his maternal grandparents.
Michael/Dean tuxedo/mirror scene is powerful and poignant and, on a very shallow note, so very, very pretty. I actually jumped when Michael smashed the glass. His voice is low, threatening and enthralling at the same time. He is once again on a prowl, looking for a new, a better monster to recruit – someone who can be improved – werewolves seem to fit the bill. Vampires, apparently, were just a test material. His cruel humour and cold amusement make him even more frightening than before. What is he going to do next? You just don’t know. His smile is as sharp as glass and at any moment there will be that look in his eyes that will freeze your blood. He doesn’t like playing games and gets bored when others do. His attitude is casually suave when dealing with women and carelessly calculated when dealing with men. His goal is becoming more defined as he seeks an audience with the leader of a werewolf pack. “Why be the hunted when you can be the hunter?” he asks him in the end. And isn’t it an interesting choice of phrase, considering that he is possessing one?
But we still don’t know what he’s planning until he pays a visit to Lydia – the vampire who told Sam, Mary and Bobby where to find him. He knows that she was talking with them even though she tries to deny it. “Why do you think I dumped your brothers and sisters in plain sight?” he asks her. “Why do you think I let you escape? Rule №1: you can’t have a trap without bait,” he tells her. “That brings us to Rule №2, which says once the trap has been sprung, you don’t need the bait anymore.” But what is the actual trap? Is it the werewolf ambush or Dean who claims that Michael “just left”? What is going on? Is Dean the equivalent of the Trojan horse? I mean just earlier Michael showed no intentions of wishing to leave the building whatsoever, telling Dean that he owned him and that he should hang on and just enjoy the ride. Well, it was a pretty short ride if he truly left! But did he really? He didn’t, by any chance, invite himself inside Nick to help him take his revenge? (I suppose he would consider wanting revenge pure enough.) I really hope not. I don’t think that it would make much sense. Nick wasn’t even Lucifer’s true vessel. Surely Michael is the strongest when he is wearing Dean?
Jack meets his mother’s parents. It is a touching scene but smacks too much of a soap opera. Castiel is not happy that Jack left the bunker. Jack tells Castiel, “I never knew my mother. I thought the next best thing might be for me to meet the only real family that I have left.” Castiel is visibly hurt by his words. “That is not – ” he all but growls but stops himself before he can say something he might regret. Instead, he controls his emotions and asks Jack if it helped. Jack then tells him about his visit and that he just couldn’t tell them that she died. “I suppose there are worse ways to be human than to be kind,” remarks Castiel.
Funnily enough, Jack’s kindness disappears as abruptly as Nick snapped his fingers in true Lucifer fashion when Castiel tells him that Sam and the others might have found Michael. “So they’re going to try and kill him?” Jack asks all business-like. “No,” replies Castiel, frowning at him; perhaps, wondering about the sudden change. “The plan is to subdue him using angel cuffs and spell work and to get Michael out of Dean.” “And if he doesn’t leave?” demands Jack. “Then they’ll try to drive him out.” “And if that doesn’t work? ... Michael has to be stopped!” Jack's face looks almost savage, showing no sympathy. “I know,” says Castiel patiently, “and he will be, after Dean is – ” “Dean doesn’t matter,” says Jack, cutting Castiel off and scolding him for focusing "so much on saving Dean" – and just like that all my sympathy and partiality for him is gone. It shouldn’t have come as a shock, really, after he all but admitted that he doesn’t consider them his family, but it still did. I’m sorry, Jack. But you’re wrong. Dean matters. Castiel is shocked by Jack’s “Dean has to die” tirade so much that he is rendered speechless - but his stricken expression says it all. “Do you think he’d want it any other way?” Jack throws at Castiel in the end. Castiel doesn't reply. He knows the answer to that. Well, of course not! We all know that Dean would sacrifice himself if he had to. But here’s the thing, Jack: it’s not your call to make. It's not up to you to decide who to sacrifice for the greater good. Dean, Sam, Castiel, they all had their share of “I’m going to sacrifice myself” moments and it was up to their family – their real family – to try and find a way not to let that happen by whatever means possible.
So… at the end of this episode there are two burning questions that I want answers to: “Is it Dean or is it Michael?” and “Is it Nick or is it Lucifer?”

I will say this: it wasn't a bad episode altogether (I enjoyed Castiel scenes and Michael!Dean scenes a great deal) and it was definitely much better than the premiere, which, I think, was one of the worst in the history of the show. But here's the thing that's bugging me: I don't understand why we should be spending so much time on Jack and Nick. Why are they taking up so much screen time? Why do we get to see more of them than the main characters? Why are their stories and emotional tribulations more important that Sam and Dean's? I didn't sign up for "Jack and Nick" show, and as far as secondary characters go, they are definitely not the characters I would wish to spend more time with than strictly necessary. I will give the writers points for one thing though (if it was their intention, of course): the whole episode was heavy on building up sympathy for both Jack and Nick - and then, in a rather shocking turn of events, they pretty much smashed it all with a few blows of an ax, both literally and figuratively.

Friday, 12 October 2018

Supernatural s14e1: a review (with spoilers)

“Stranger In A Strange Land”

There was so precious little I liked about this episode, I think I’ll start with that. I really liked the very first shot of Sam, alone, struggling with grief, intent on the mission ahead, driving Impala along a dark, deserted, rain-washed road, a classic rock tune blaring from the radio until he softly switches it off; it’s too painful to listen to without Dean not steering the wheel by his side, drumming and humming along, maybe even cracking a joke or two. It was a very poignant and powerful visual – a lighter shade of blue on the horizon as a hint of hope, perhaps? – a perfect setting… for about a second... We later find out that his errand turned out to be a bust.
The next scene is Michael scene and it is riveting. I have never had any doubts about Jensen’s acting skills and yet I was not prepared for how different it would be to look at his face and see no trace of Dean anywhere. Michael is cold, calm and collected. He shows no emotions. He has no emotions. He smiles but he is not amused. He is in no hurry. He takes his time. He has a question and he seeks the answer that will not disappoint, that will gratify, that will serve his purpose. But what is his purpose? A better world. Well, that’s what he says. But is it truly? “What do you want?” he asks. But what do you want, Michael? His scenes, however short and episodic, are phenomenal. I could watch the whole episode just of Michael asking different people what they want.
And then comes the title card and it is… so very disappointing. It looks like something a five-year-old would have patched up with minimum skills and resources: splotchy and clumsy and so very unrealistic.
Then the first glimpse of the bunker and it is a scene of much activity, all very business- and military-like. But Dean’s absence feels like a void and it seems that the writer is trying to fill it with other hunters – but mostly with Bobby and his old man’s ramblings and lectures. It doesn’t work. I have to confess that I found him annoying and unsympathetic in this episode. “Life is a little different when you can’t just zap people around, eh?” he tells Jack, who is struggling with the loss of his powers, that have never been truly explored or delved into on the show. Jack, lost and hurt, is lying at his feet after he has knocked him down and told him with a chuckle to “watch for that left”. There were so many things that one could say to Jack on that occasion, I thought; so many parallels that one could make about people who lost certain physical abilities due to disease or in an accident and had to learn to live and deal with it – instead of a bunch of commonplace nothings.
Mary is often hovering uncertainly over Sam as though on the brink of breaking into a mother mode, but after two seasons, during one of which she was actively distancing herself from her sons, it doesn’t come easily or naturally. Their interaction is hollow and strained, filled with Mary’s platitudes and empty promises, and it’s almost as though Sam wants to say “don’t bother on my account now”. Of course, without his brother by his side nothing looks right anymore. Dean must be here. But he isn’t.
Almost as though it is inevitable, we are introduced to another King of Hell wannabe – or, to be more precise, another Crowley wannabe – another copycat demon who uses fancy lingo and silly endearments that sound off and has a penchant for unnecessary drama. I suppose it would be too much to ask to bring in another Queen of Hell for a change. Personally, I think Rowena would have been a much better choice, not to mention that it would be a rather interesting turn of events. However, instead we are subjected to this demon’s popinjay ways and long-winded prattle and it is boring as hell and just as trite and it wastes precious screen time. I thought back in S12 that Crowley had outlived his usefulness as a character, that he had become too soft to return to his more nefarious ways, but looking at these poor substitutes and their failed attempts to emulate him I wish he were back.
Mary is once again hovering uncertainly in the doorway when Sam and Jack are having a conversation about strength and faith that she interrupts in order to tell Sam that “he’s awake”. Jack is visibly disappointed and hurt when Sam leaves. The “he” in question comes as a shock. It is incredible, unbelievable. Mary says that she can barely look at “him” and hastily retreats (I wonder what happened to that badass hunter that she was so persistently shown to be throughout the last two seasons), leaving Sam on his own to take care of – wait for it – Lucifer’s vessel! Miraculously, after all this time, the man – Nick – Lucifer was possessing is alive. I must say that this was an unexpected turn of events that I thoroughly failed to appreciate. I hoped never to see Lucifer or his vessel ever again. I thought that Dean’s sacrifice put an end to that long-winding saga. Alas, no. Apparently, “the archangel blades were meant to kill the archangel inside and not the person they possess…” Is it just me or does it sound a little too far-fetched – and extremely convenient? Just another gimmick. It rather reminded me of that cock-an-bull story that Arthur Ketch was spinning last season about his twin brother Alexander. Of course, that, at least, was later confirmed to be untrue.
Sam steels himself before entering the room and you can see a whole range of emotions playing across his face. It seems to be a recurring theme recently, isn’t it? Last season Sam had to take care of Gabriel – the archangel who killed his brother over and over and over again to teach him a lesson – and this season he has to take care of the vessel of the archangel who possessed him, tortured his soul in hell and, in the end, forced his brother to say “yes” to Michael in order to defeat him once and for all. “I’m glad Lucifer is dead,” says Sam through a lump in his throat. “Me too,” replies Nick. I hope it’s true; otherwise Dean’s sacrifice was all for naught, wasn’t it? A real slap in the face, if you ask me. When Sam finally leaves the room, you can see how much it took of him to be inside that room with Nick.
However, he doesn’t get a break for the very next moment he receives a call from this week’s king-of-hell-wannabe who wants to make a deal with him in order to become one (what a bewildering concept!) and who took Castiel hostage in order to have some leverage during the negotiations. Sam instantly assembles a team, knowing full well that it’s a trap, comprising himself, Mary, Bobby, Jack, and, bizarrely enough, out of all the seasoned hunters in the bunker… Maggie? I was pleased that (despite the inevitable danger) Sam showed Jack that he had faith in him not only through empty words but through his own actions by allowing him to join them. But why take Maggie? I do not recall her being a hunter in the first place – and at the start of the episode she could barely handle staring at blood. What a strange decision on the writer’s part – to put another young and wide-eyed girl in harm’s way!
The fight that ensued was quite brutal and for a while it seemed that our side was going to lose. I’m sorry to say that Castiel had very little to do throughout the episode. He somehow managed to miss the fact that he walked into a demon-infested bar, was then instantly overpowered, beaten up and, finally, forced to impersonate a trussed-up turkey, while the others fought all around him. At one point Mary gives Maggie an angel blade with the help of which she later saves Mary’s hide. And yet, for whatever reason, no one thought to teach Jack to use something other than his fists in order to defend himself, considering how badly he was doing. Is this another bone carelessly thrown into the “girl power” camp? I’ve noticed that it has become this writer’s staple to make the girls look stronger by deliberately making the boys look weaker.
I appreciated Castiel's speech - self-deprecating ("To be fair, we've all got punched in the face"), sympathetic, encouraging and rallying - to Jack after the fight when he felt even more useless than before and believed that without his powers he had nothing: "You've got your family. And we are going to find Dean. And we are going to beat Michael. And we are going to do it together. Because that's what we do." I think it is something Dean would say if he were there and I want to believe that Castiel learned it from him. 
It was a right decision to end the episode with another Michael scene. He might be cruel and calculating but he is also enigmatic and mesmerizing and it is simply fascinating to watch him move and hear him talk.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this show needs writers who know how to craft stories instead of going at them with a butcher knife. I don't usually do this but I have to say one more thing: Andrew Dabb has to go. His writing is lazy and incompetent, it is devoid of imagination, consistency, subtlety and finesse, and he is simply an awful storyteller.