Quite honestly I have no idea where this season’s heading. And at this stage in the show, that’s by no means a bad thing.
Allow me to introduce myself: Wren Collins, shit-stirrer and Vivisecting Supernatural creator. Geek Girl Rising has kindly invited me to come review for her, so I’m afraid you’re stuck with me for the forseeable future. For those unfamiliar with my methods: I’m ship-neutral, have zero patience with wanky fans, and find the Winchester relationship insanely compelling. And from what we’ve seen, I think I’m going to enjoy Season Eleven.
First, we have Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Run Through The Jungle playing over the recap. (Rowena’s stage-whispered ‘Don’t tell your brother what we’re doing’ is sublime). Honestly, I was expecting something more emotional for the recap music, perhaps a little sentimental, accompanied by clips of the ‘Sammy, close your eyes’ scene- and I’m sure I would have wallowed in that.
But the first thing that struck me about the recap was the total lack of sentimentality, which is key. Supernatural does emotion extraordinarily well, mind- but this is in part because of the way it usually holds back from it. If anything, the CCR music cue over the recap was playful, almost but not quite mocking. And menacing too, the second time around. A lovely, complicated, charismatic choice.
Then we’re plunged straight into Dean’s vision, which is all tattered, murky-grey mist. What a gorgeous shot of Emily Swallow. This will continue to haunt Dean throughout the episode, being revealed in bits and peices, like a dream recollected a fragment at a time.
Then we cut back to Sam in the Impala, who is then knocked out for the sixty-eighth time in the show. (And I literally mean sixty-eighth. Take a look.) When he comes to, he finds Dean a mile away, lying in a field of wildflowers. (Clearly this season is radical. Dean Winchester and wildflowers? Carver’s crossing a line.)
Anyway, this all leads to one of our signiature Tortured Winchester Closeups, only this one is particularly nice- you see how the light hits Dean’s iris just so?
The look of the whole episode is lovely, dramatic and noir. It isn’t realistic in the slightest. Why should it be? And the shadowiness is interrupted by these scenes, sunlit like Crossroad Blues or Lazarus Rising: not a realistic look either. It’s almost sinister, actually- all these deserted roads under the stark light, and the contrast it poses to the rushing violet depths of Dean’s vision. There’s a dreamlike feel.
But at the same time there’s an odd something to the episode that stops it being too heavy: it’s funny. The Run Through The Jungle cue? The Magic Mike reference? Little touches of humour. Dean monologuing and automatically getting into the useless Impala before remembering. ‘You were just gonna let me get in there?’
Sam shrugs. ‘You were on a roll.’
And meanwhile we have Cas’s plotline. The approach isn’t linear with him, either- we already know that this episode is something else. No-one knows for sure what’s really happened. Anyway- for me, Cas’s storyline started declining in interest sometime around Season Nine. I understand that he has a devoted fandom of his own and blah blah, but I personally didn’t enjoy the sickly treatment of his character that went on for a while. Sure, I love his deadpan moments- I think Hunteri Heroici is hilarious. But the snot-rocket conversation in Reichenbach made me want to puke.
This is starting to change. Somewhere around Season Ten, I began to find the Cas bits compelling again. The grace-recovery scene in Book Of The Damned was a definite high point- thrilling- and this episode continues in that vein. I’m enjoying Zombie Mutt Cas. That phone call- ‘It might be some time before we meet again’- ouch. Misha nails it.
I’d be interested to hear you guys’ thoughts on our new lady cop. Jenna, I believe? The actress has incredibly piercing blue eyes. And the fact that she wasn’t set up soley as a love interest was nice. The scene where Dean stitched her up was businesslike, matter-of-fact. Not that I have a problem with the boys having love interests- JA and Emily Swallow’s chemistry was electric- but there’s a time and a place.
The whole thing feels almost post-apocalyptic in a way that the show hasn’t been for a long time. I’ve heard people compare it to Jus In Bello, Croatoan- but this is, of course, on a far larger scale. The nearest we’ve got to it in the past would probably be The End in terms of scope. I was cynical about the Darkness. Now I’m thinking it’s the best thing that could have happened; something to give the Winchester snowglobe a bit of a shake.
Crowley has an incredibly entertaining storyline. The woman who played him had all of Mark’s mannerisms down- even the cadence of her voice. I’ve officially forgiven Carver for the awful Mummy-Doesn’t-Love-Me speech in Brother’s Keeper. The fact that this show can do a swinging, horny, menopausal King of Hell, in a serious context, and get away with it is what sets it apart. I mean, you can’t exactly see Vampire Diaries going for that.
Unfortunately- and this is my one itch- it looks like we’re stuck with the Heavenly beaurocracy (and the Hellish one, for that matter). Angel politics have worn out their welcome. Fortunately it looks like they’re only popping back up so that Cas can get needles poked into his skull next episode, so thank God for small mercies.
The Winchester relationship seems to be on the verge of a breakthrough, though, and when it comes down to it? That’s what I’m watching for. With a show like this- with everyone waiting for news of renewal- there’s always going to be an improvisational element with the external plot. Let’s face it, if it’s the plot you watch for you’re probably not much of a fan (though the Cage reference- whether or not it’ll come to fruition- was chilling). But the Sam-Dean arc, that’s tracked. In Season Nine, we saw the tearing down of their relationship. Something clearly had to give. In Season Ten, with the demon Dean arc, it gave. And now they’re trying to rebuild things. The show is so clever here: we want them to be joined at the hips. Their symbiosis is basically crack to me. I was practically cheering at the end of Brother’s Keeper- like, screw the world, but these guys get to be together? Bring it.
And that’s what Sam and Dean themselves are starting to rebel against. That’s what’ll form the real internal arc this season. This is what made the final scene with the brothers so effective; Sam sitting in the dark, shakily lying to Dean that he’s fine, waiting to die, and Dean not having a clue.
And one last thing. I understand that fans feel protective of characters- hey, the show wouldn’t work if we didn’t. But let’s face it: there would be no show if it weren’t for the awful terrible things that happen to Sam and Dean and Cas. Or no show worth watching. Conflict is what creates drama, so it strikes me as pretty silly to crap all over the show because Sam appears to be burning his neck with marshmallows in the Form & Void promo (though don’t quote me on that one.)
When it comes down to it, we do not own these characters. We can love them and write fanfiction about them and gif them left, right and centre, but they don’t belong to us. So yeah, we can criticise, and yeah, we can praise, but nothing gives us the right to be indignant when the show takes a route we don’t like.
Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts, both on what you’d like to see in this series of posts (there’ll be one for each episode) and on the ep itself.
Read my Vivisecting Supernatural series at https://cobwebqueen.wordpress.com/tag/vivisecting-supernatural/.