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.

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