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.