Sunday, November 20, 2011

Supernatural Season 7 Episode 9: How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters

After an uneven and widely disliked episode last week, Supernatural returned to form this week with “How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters.”

At the start of the episode, we're reminded of how hard Sam and Dean's lives are in the Leviathan era. We see them trying to get power to an abandoned building (a foreclosed house?) where they and Bobby are squatting. Apparently, not only have they had to put aside their beloved Impala and their rock-star nommes de guerre, but since they they can't use credit cards either, they've had to abandon even the marginal comforts of roadside hotels. Dean is complaining bitterly about this, and says that if the world is going down for the count a third time then maybe it's supposed to end.

Bobby and Sam have other things on their mind, though: they've all come to New Jersey to follow up on mysterious killings that may be the work of the mythical Jersey Devil. Local authorities are blaming a rogue bear, but they're not fooling our heroes: bears don't have opposable thumbs with which to hang people in trees. The plan is to suit up the next day to eliminate all the human-adjacent possibilities.

The next day, they meet the local Chief Ranger (yes, who's name is Rick) at a Biggerson's restaurant. He seems disturbingly blasé about the whole thing, including the fact that his own deputy is missing They also encounter an inexplicably hostile waiter, who had me cackling by referring to Dean as a “Ken Doll” and Bobby as a “creepy uncle.” Dean orders the turducken sandwich special—the TDK Slammer--and acts like he's found a new best friend.

Later, the hunters go into the woods. They reminisce about Bobby's time as a more traditional hunter before his wife's death, and about the hunting trips that he took the Sam and Dean on when they were little. This walk down memory lane is interrupted, however, when they come across the half-eaten body of the deputy ranger. The chief ranger comes along, and is still shockingly indifferent...until he, too, gets dragged away by a monster that was hiding in the shadows. Bobby manages to shoot it out of the trees, but too late to save Ranger Rick.

The creature Bobby has killed is not the Jersey Devil but gray-skinned, glassy-eyed human. What ensues, back at the hunters' crash pad, is one of the grosses autopsy scenes ever on the show. Perhaps on any show. The organs are swimming in gray muck, the adrenal glads are bigger than the kidneys (that's bad, if you didn't know) and the stomach is so full of gruesome stuff that I was waiting for someone to pull out a license plate. Dean, inexplicably, is hungry even in the midst of all of this, so the other two reluctantly accompany him back to Biggersons.

While at Biggerson's, however, Sam finally makes the connection between the TDK Slammer and the strange way that Dean and others have been acting. Sure enough, back at the ranch, the sandwich passes it's expiration date in grand fashion...just as Dean is admitting to feeling better than he has in months.

From there, we learn that the Leviathans engineered the TDK Slammer to induce complacency in the masses. The few folks that went all 28-Days-Later on it were the failures of the experiment. The angry waiter that the hunters encountered hulks out, only to be snapped up by the research team before he can hurt anybody. Richard Roman, the Big Daddy Leviathan, is coming into town, so all the turduckens have to be in a row.

The hunters trail a meat truck from Biggerson's to the research facility in time to see the waiter being dragged inside. As the sun rises, they stake the place out, and see Roman arrive. This is where Bobby educates the boys about Roman's impeccable GOP credentials—a free-market-lovin', gun-totin' member of the 1%, this guy.

Bobby splits off from Sam and Dean, only to get caught and brought to the boss. Pontificating in true true comic-book-villain-who-thinks-you're-gonna-die style. Roman says that he's certain that Sam and Dean will come to rescue Bobby. Bobby insists that they're too smart for that, knowing full well that they're not.

Sure enough, Sam and Dean hijack a janitorial truck that's just shown up, and bust in with industrial cleaners blazing. If I were a Leviathan, I'd try to keep my one weakness far away, but that's just me. At any rate, they manage to distract everyone just long enough for Bobby to get away with valuable information, even though Roman seems to be less vulnerable to borax than the others. Roman continues shooting at Bobby as the boys bring around the van, but Bobby dives in and it seems, for a second at least, that all is well. As the episode ends, however, Bobby is unresponsive.

This episode was a great one for Bobby Singer fans (which is all of us, right?), and packs a lot of emotional punch. Not only are there the stories of long-ago hunting trips, but Bobby also gets a one-on-one heart-to-heart with both Sam and Dean. I particularly enjoy his talk with Dean, where he tells dean to find a reason, “whether it's love or money or a $10 bet,” to get his head in the game, or he'll get himself killed. “If you die before me, I'll kill you,” he says. It's such a classic Bobby line, tender and funny and curmudgeonly all at once, and it's the kind of thing that Jim Beaver does so well.

The script even hints at the possibility of a Bobby-less world toward the end. “I've run my race,” Bobby tells Roman. “Could die worse.”

To get right down to the nitty-gritty: I really don't think that Bobby is going to die. It would be a bad decision for the show, both commercially and artistically. The goodwill of the fans has already been taxed to the limit with the loss of Castiel. Besides, Sam and Dean can't face the challenges of the Leviathans without help, and Bobby's all they've got right now. Jodie or even (ugh) Garth might work as a fourth wheel, but there are no close allies waiting in the wings.

You just don't off half your principal cast less than halfway through a season—not if you want another season. Two actors just can't sustain our emotional investment in a storyline that complex, super-talented though they may be. I'm assuming that the powers-at-be at the show do want an eighth season...that may not be a safe assumption. If we loose Bobby, however, I predict that they won't get one.

The next episode, “Death's Door”, will air on December 2, and appears to be all about Bobby's fight for life. I think it would be particularly poignant if it was just about that—nothing magical or supernatural at all. But that's unlikely—between Supernatural and Grimms, hospitals are pretty dangerous places to be in Horror Television Land. A friend of mine foresaw that if “something happened to Bobby,” we'd finally get to see some emotion from Dan. I'd like that a lot, but that can happen without The Worst Coming to Pass.

This also the perfect opportunity for Castiel to reappear from the blue and heal Bobby. Yeah. I'm not the only one who would be in favor of that.

Happy Thanksgiving to those of you who observe it. Until we meet again, have good food, party and shop responsibly, and enjoy the company of family, whether blood kin or chosen.

And just say “no” to the turducken.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Supernatural Season 7 Episode 8: Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!

Okay, I'll admit: I knew, very generally, what this episode was going to be about, but I didn't see it coming.

“Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!” begins, we see Dean chatting up a cocktail waitress at a strip club. He's confiding in her about his hypothetical friend, whose hypothetical brother had been going crazy for a while, then took a turn for the better. Then they took their hypothetical annual vacation to Las Vegas, and the hypothetical brother hied of on his own to go camping. Wow, Dean! That stinks. I hope she can give you some advice to pass onto your...ooh, I see what's going on.

As Dean is spinning his tale of woe, however, he gets a text from Sam, telling him to report to a location a few blocks away, and wear a suit. It's a wedding chapel, and Sam hands him a boutonnière as soon as he steps in the door. (Pink is for loyalty? I've never heard that Sammy, but if you say so.) It turns out that Sam has had a whirlwind (as in, almost literally getting engaged over lunch) romance with...Becky?!?!

Yup. That's right. Becky, the obsessed fangirl of the Supernatural books by Chuck Shurley, prophet of God. Becky, who had delusions of being romantically involved with Sam and can't seem to keep from sexually harassing him. Becky, who doesn't seem to know how to be alone, and dated Chuck for a time.

Needless to say, Dean doesn't think this adds up. In a game effort to be supportive, he does buy the happy couple a waffle iron, but it's the most skeptical waffle iron ever.

Dean soon has bigger fish to fry anyway. Two people in town have gotten their fondest desires, only to die in accidents soon afterwards. Could it be a crossroads demon? That's usually a ten year time-frame. Maybe it's a witch! Either way, Dean's concerned that Becky is next. With Sam working the case with Becky (I can't believe I had to write that), Dean calls Bobby. Bobby can't make it, but sends in a local hunter named Garth as backup.

Becky takes Sam to her 10-year high school reunion, mainly to show off to the people who bullied her back when. She also introduces Sam to her friend Guy...who is also her supplier for the love potion she's secretly using. Becky continues to dose Sam, but it seems to wear off more quickly each time. When the potion leaks out into her purse, she hits Sam over the head (with the waffle iron!), drags him to a cabin owned by her parents, and ties him up.

By this time, Dean and Garth have a break in the case. They meet a very surprised new CEO, who reports that CEO-ing is not his dream, but boy, is the Missuz happy. They save said Missuz from a falling chandelier moments later, and she finally cops to a deal with a crossroads demon. Cut back to Becky, and...oh, wait! Guy is also the crossroads demon, and is offering her an unheard-of twenty-five year deal to have her husband without having to use the potion.

Some of the scenes that pass between Sam and Becky are too painfully awkward to relate. Suffice it to say that thank God, their marriage is, consummated. (I did have to laugh, and give the girl props, when she admitted that she'd imagined tying Sam up “in a different context.”) She returns to cabin after Guy's offer, and Sam tells her, “you're better than this.”

Sam's argument must have persuaded Becky, because she helps trap Guy so that Sam, Dean and Garth can confront him. He admits that he made a bunch of deals around town, then had another demon kill the clients so he could collect early. After that demon is dispatched, Crowley shows up, looking better in a beard than he has any right to. He explains that he's been keeping the demons off the Winchesters' backs so that they could hunt Leviathans, and will continue to do so if they hand over Guy. After all, who will want to make a crossroads deal if they hear that Hell doesn't hold up it's end?

Unsurprisingly, the hunters give Guy to Crowley. The episode ends with the Rosen-Winchester marriage annulled, the remaining crossroads deals broken, and Sam and Dean parting ways with Garth.

There are a lot of problems with this episode.

First of all, there was some icky gender stuff. I know, I know...I love the show, but it was ever thus. It was just particularly obvious this time. The two men who made deals with Guy were asking something for themselves: one won the lottery, and the other went pro as a baseball player. Both of the deals offered to women—Becky and the CEO's wife—had to do with relationships. Women want things, money and fame-type things, for themselves too, I promise.

Just in case there wasn't enough gender-fail, the writers made sure to work in some racism and ableism. After Dean saves her, Garth tells the CEO's frightened wife that he's going to send her to a “triracial paraplegic sniper”. This is clearly an attempt to milk disability and race for humor. Is the idea of a multiracial sniper who ends up paraplegic, but is still a badass, really so unthinkable? (ETA: the more I think about it, i would watch the hell out of that show.)

I should say something about Becky calling Guy a “Wiccan” early in the episode. It feels kind of beside the point, since he's actually a demon, but the writers should realize that Wicca is an actual religion. It's true that there are people who try things—like love spells—that are wrong by the lights of that religion; but for those who believe in magic, it's a morally neutral tool, no more inherently evil than a gun.

It seems like the only people we see using magic on Supernatural are “witches” (who are always bad) or hunters. Just once, I'd like to see good witches...or just ordinary people, practicing earth-based faith and using magic for protection, healing and blessing. Then again, if the show's going to get it wrong, perhaps erasure is better.

Then there's the fan issue. You know I had to go there. I know that this episode is about the unethical actions of one person, but it's hard not to feel an undercurrent of contempt for the fans. Many Supernatural fans have in common with Becky that we like to look at pretty boys while enjoying well-crafted, scary, action packed stories. And yes, some of us are shy, geeky, formerly-picked-on or unlucky in love. None of that means that we confuse fantasy for reality, or are willing to hurt anyone. What we are is worth millions of dollars to the show, in ad revenue, retail, and convention profits.

What no one online has asked so far, at least that I have seen, is how Becky even knew that Sam and Dean were alive. As far as the American news-viewing public was concerned, they'd been gunned down a few weeks ago after going on a killing spree. That isn't addressed or even acknowledged. Either Chuck is still writing or Becky doesn't watch the news, but neither of those thing were established. This plot hole is big enough to drive the Impala through.

There are a few good things about this episode. It addresses the issue of consent; Becky realizes that if she really loves Sam, she'll take his "no" for an answer. There's also a somewhat hollow nod to the idea that there's someone out there for everyone. (It's true! Sam says so!) Unfortunately, all of this is buried under the hot mess.

Hopefully next week's episode will be better. If they are really hunting the Jersey Devil, it could potentially be the most awesomely X-Files flavored episode since “Clap Your Hands if You Believe”. For the long term, though, I will say this: if Garth joints Sam, Dean and Bobby while an actress trained in four kinds of stage combat is left to keep mopping the floor, I won't be happy.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Once Upon a Time, Season 1 Episode 3 - Snow Falls

The third episode of Once Upon a Time may be my favorite so far. It's certainly my favorite with regard to the fairy-tale sequences. In “Snow Falls”, we get to see how Snow White and Prince Charming met. In Storybrooke, he emerges from his coma to become a player in the action, but things quickly take a heartbreaking turn.

Henry convinces Emma to ask his teacher, to read to John Doe, a coma patient at the local hospital. John Doe is Prince Charming, Henry explains, and he needs Snow White to help him remember who he is. Emma relays Henry's request to Mary Margaret, claiming that if nothing happens, it will disabuse Henry of his fantasies.

I still can't get a read on where Emma stands on the whole “everyone here is really a fairy tale character” idea. It seems like one moment, she's reassuring Henry that she believes him, and the next minute, she's reassuring someone else that she doesn't. Either way, she wants to see what happens between Mary Margaret and John Doe, too.

What happens is that John Doe least long enough to reach out and grab Mary Margaret;s arm. Needless to say, Mayor Regina (a.k.a. The Wicked Queen) is very nervous about this news. That's why the audience gets nervous too when John Doe is missing the next morning.

In flashbacks, we see Prince Charming through the woods in a carriage with his fiancee, who is appropriately shallow and selfish enough to allow the audience to root against her. His family jewels (no, really) are stolen by a hooded highway robber, who turns out to be...Snow White! He recognizes her from the "wanted" poster and everything....apparently “Snow White” passes for a bandit name in Never-Never Land. At any rate, she makes off with the goods, and he returns later and captures her. There was n heirloom ring among the things that she stole, and he of course needs it for Unlikeable Fiancee.

At this point, Snow White is not yet keeping house with dwarves (although they do get a shout-out), but rather using dangerous, ugly bridge trolls as fences. They get the ring back, with some mutual life-saving and bittersweet bonding. Meanwhile, I snicker every time Charming (whose name, it turns out, is James) says “jewels”. The flashbacks end with Snow White and Prince James Charming returning to their respective lives, at least for the moment.

I kind of enjoyed the kick-butt outlaw Snow White that we saw in this week's episode. The only thing is, if the name “Snow White” is supposed to indicate innocence, robbery doesn't seem very...well, snow-white. It's almost as if Ginnifer Goodwin is playing two different characters. While Snow is cynical about love, Mary Margaret speaks longingly to her Obligatory Mr. Wrong about marriage and family. Yes, she goes on one bad date, if only to prove to us that she's not a nun, but that there's only one right person for her.

The story that Snow tells Charming helps to bridge the gap between Outlaw Snow White and the one we're more familiar with. Apparently she was driven into the forest and took up a life of crime when the Wicked Queen offered a reward for cutting out her heart. This was in retaliation for for Snow ruining her life. Only a huntsman got close to the prize, though, and he couldn't do it. My money says that the Huntsman is now the sheriff in Storybrooke.

I'm guessing that as the pre-Curse storyline unfolds, it will be Prince Charming's love that breaks through Snow White's understandable cynicism, and for which she now pines. If nothing else, seeing Goodwin and Dallas together again showed me that I wasn't imagining things during the pilot: they have tremendous chemistry. What I'm still curious about is how Snow White ruined Regina's life. She even admits to Charming that she did, although she doesn't say much else. The writers are still teasing us with this information.

Back in Storybrooke, security cameras reveal that John Doe wandered off his own, but wandered off into the forest. This is better than abduction by mayoral minions, but still far from ideal. The sheriff, with Henry, Emma and Mary Margaret in tow, find him collapsed by a creek. Mary Margaret revives him with a kiss, bringing things full circle rather nicely from the kiss-of-life that appeared in the pilot episode.

With John Doe safely back in the hospital, Emma, Henry and Mary Margaret are relieved and hopeful...until the Regina produces an estranged spouse for him from thin air. Mary Margaret looks on devastated as he hugs the woman uncomfortably. Emma confronts Regina, telling her that nothing about this adds up. “What do you think I did?” Regina asks her. “Cast a spell on her?” Well, now that you mention it...

It's a testament to both the writing and the acting on the show that this episode's final twist really does have quite an emotional impact. Once Upon a Time has me invested. I look forward to learning more of what happened before, and seeing what happens in Storybrooke as well.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Supernatural Season 7 Episode 7: The Mentalists

This week's episode of Supernatural took place in the real-life town of Lily Dale, New York, which actually does have the world's highest per capita concentration of mediums. As the story begins, Dean comes into town in a “borrowed” car, to investigate the deaths of two high-profile psychics. He runs into Sam in the local diner, Good Graces, and they agree to put their differences aside long enough to work the case.

This is the sort of “monster-of-the-week” story that the show thrived on in it's first and second season, before things got all Book of Revelations. Most fans will cop to missing this sort of stand-alone episode, even if they also enjoy the great cosmic story arcs. In “The Mentalists”, the psychics (two of which die after the Winchesters show up) are being hunted by the ghost of a Lily Dale founder, Margaret Fox, who gives them visions of their deaths before, well, causing them. In life, she was overlooked in favor of her less gifted but flashier sister, Kate. Margaret, in turn, is in the thrall of a local shop owner who is bitter because his predictions are just too punk rock for the paying public.

Also in keeping with earlier seasons, there is a conventionally hot damsel in distress. Melanie Goldman is the granddaughter of one of Margaret's victims, but ends up as a target herself. Perhaps she's aware of how much being involved with Sam lowers your chances of making it through the episode, because she takes a shine to Dean instead. “I wish I'd met you on a better week,” she tells him, as they part without so much as a kiss. “I wish I had better weeks,” he replies.

There are some great moments in this episode. At one point, the curator of the city museum relays a message from Ellen Harvelle to Dean: he had better open up about what's bothering him of she will kick his tail personally. Even after death, Ellen's just awesome. Then there is the Whedonverse shout-out, when the shop owner describes a pendent as an “Orb of Thessaly”. Presumably this is a a play on “Orb of Thesulah”, a magical device from Buffy and Angel. After all, this is the same show that brought us the Serenity Valley Convalescence Home. And Let's not forget the affirmation that the waiter from Good Graces gives Dean, free with his meal: he is a “virile manifestation of the Divine”. Dean girls like myself will, at this point, be both cackling at Dean's discomfort and thinking “Well, I really can't argue with that.”

There may even have been an allusion to something happening in real life. In tracking down the buyer of an ash wood altar, Sam bursts in upon a New-Agey lamaze class. I can't help but wondering if this was inspired by Jared Padalecki's recent announcement that he and his wife Genevieve are expecting their first child. For those late to the party, the happy parents-to-be are requesting that fans make donations to St. Jude's Hospital instead of sending them presents.

Toward the end of “The Mentalists”, Sam and Dean finally discuss the dead kitsune demon in the room. It as about time, too...this particular storyline neither could nor should last much longer. It didn't drag on for too long, though, and I like the way that it was resolved. Without admitting that Dean was right, Sam concedes that he might have killed Amy too if he hadn't known her. And without admitting that he was wrong, Dean admits that Cas's betrayal and Sam's dangerous, delusional behavior may have figured into his decision at the time. Poll the home audience next time, guys—we could have told you all of this!

One of the most intriguing parts of Friday nights' viewing was the teaser for the next episode. I knew there was going to be a wedding, but my money was on Bobby and Jodie. Apparently the groom is...Sam? And I'm not sure who the bride is, except that it's NOT Jodie (that would just be odd) and some fans online seem to think that it's a character who's been on the show before. We'll see! Just wondering which alias they're registered under.

Friday, November 4, 2011

One Upon a Time, Season 1 Episode 2: The Thing You Love Most

It's only two episodes in, but I'm really digging Once Upon a Time.

In “Everything you Ever Loved”, the battle of wills between Emma and Regina continues. Just as interestingly, we see in flashbacks how Regina came into possession of, and prepared, the evil spell she cast.

One of the most notable scenes was the most awesome woman-against-woman magical battles I've ever seen. When Regina goes to steal the curse from her friend Maleficent, another evil sorceress, the two fling each other around in a fashion that would make Gandalf and Saruman proud. (It's worth mentioning that here too, Maleficent is the witch from the Sleeping Beauty story.) It's both jarring and poignant when, after such a violent confrontation, Regina says, “I can't kill you. You're my only friend.”

That fight is far from the only badass moment in this episode. In one scene, Emma cuts a huge branch off of Regina's prized apple tree, to prove her determination to stay in town. (How do you like them apples?) Between the “soft violence” in things like Gossip Girl and the passivity in things like Twilight , it's rare these days to see a female character do something so tangible and last without involving a gun. (Not that Emma doesn't know how to use those, as we saw in the pilot.)

To make a long short: in our world, Regina manages to get Emma locked up again, this time by framing her for stealing records from Henry's therapist. The therapist, Jiminy Cricket, may be conscience personified, but Regina still has him under her thumb. Ms. Blanchard (who, you will remember, is Snow White) bails her out. This happens after Henry shows her pages torn from the back of Regina's storybook, which explain the events of the curse and Emma's birth, and they form an alliance. (In one of his few believably kid-like moments, Henry dubs their plan to break the curse “Operation Cobra”. It's perfect, you see, because it has nothing to do with fairy tales!) Regina tricks Emma into seemingly disavowing Henry's beliefs where he can hear her, but by the end of the episode, they had smoothed things over.

Back in the land of fairy tales, we see Regina steal the curse from Maleficent and then gather the ingredients—and helpers—that she needs. The recipe for the spell includes locks of hair from “those with the darkest souls”, so you can imagine the motley crew she assembles. In spite of also including the heart of Regina's prized childhood pony, the spell fizzles. She makes a bargain with Rumpelstiltskin, who explains that the spell must include the heart of the thing she loves most. Soon after, we learn that the kindly old man in Regina's retinue, who seemed like a servant, is actually her father. She murders him, just moments after he warns her that some power is too dark to mess with. This turn of events both raises the moral stakes of the story and gives Lana Parrilla a chance to add lots of nuance to her character.

There are other things worth noting about this episode. The visuals of the flashbacks? Are still awful. These scenes may be filmed for 3D viewing, but they look cartooney and terrible, even though those parts of the story are enjoyable. Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad) is entertaining as the magic mirror. The show is also trying to drum up some kind of flirtatiousness between Emma and Sheriff Graham, but so far, they don't work together quite as well as Snow White and Charming.

The two memorable themes in this episode are the idea that the hero never believes that they are the hero at first, and that power has a price. Once Upon a Time has gotten me interested enough that I look forward to seeing what happens next.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Supernatural Season 7 Episode 6: Slash Fiction

What's exactly twice as good as an hour of TV with characters played by Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki? An hour where they each play two characters!

Okay, just kidding. Sort of. I doubt that J & J got any extra screen time out of the premise of this week's episode, “Slash Fiction”, but they did get an opportunity to demonstrate their acting chops by playing murderous doppelgangers of Sam and Dean.

As the episode opens, the Winchesters are back in Whitefish with Bobby. Chet, the Leviathan that they've captured, is awake but still not fully powered up. That doesn't keep him from being immune from all the normal tricks—holy water, silver and so on. He tells them to turn on the news, and that's when they find out that two Leviathans who look just like Sam and Dean have committed a brutal bank robbery and multiple murder. It turns out that Leviathans don't need to eat someone to take their form—the DNA from the hair left in a shower drain will do. (Um, eww.) The FBI manhunt for the boys had ended with their reported deaths (greatly exaggerated), but now it's back on.

Bobby sends them to see Frank Deveraux, and old...well, "friend" is a misnomer. He's “a jackass and a lunatic” whose life Bobby saved. Frank doesn't even believe in the supernatural, but his skills are useful at the moment. His advice seemingly strips away everything that makes Sam and Dean who they are--no rock n' roll aliases, pay for everything in cash, and drive a less conspicuous car. Fortunately, they don't live this way for long before figuring out that their Leviathan selves are retracing their path from the time that Sam left Stanford with Dean.

Back on the home front, Sheriff Jodie Mills shows up to thank Bobby for saving her life. She sees some things that need doing around the cabin, so she stays for a while. Bobby tells her to just disregard the newly decapitated monster in the basement. That actually DOESN'T turn out to be the last of ole Chet, and personally, I would think that would be the time to ask your company to leave. It's a good thing Bobby doesn't think like me, though, because thanks to Jodie's mopping, he learns that sodium bicarbonate (a.k.a. Borax) has roughly the same effect on Leviathans as flaming race car fuel.

Bobby calls Dean and shares this discovery, telling him to decapitate the Leviathans and bury the head separately for good measure. This is handy, because he and Sam have just been arrested and separated, and can assume that their Leviathan-twins are on their way to eat them. Sure enough, the doppelgangers show up and each confront the opposite brother. We've learned by then that Leviathans absorb people's memories when they take their form, so naturally, Leviathan!Dean takes this opportunity to enlighten Sam about what happened to Amy. Sam is still reeling from this when the real Dean bursts in to save him.

When all the shoutin' is over, the one surviving local policeman has agreed to declare the Winchesters dead again. We then see that the FBI has been infiltrated by Leviathans. We also finally get to meet the shadowy Leviathan Boss that the others have alluded to, who is masquerading as a wealthy and powerful man named Richard Roman. Crowley comes along (Hi Crowley! Good to have you back!) and tries to make an alliance, but Tricky Dick isn't havin' it.

The episode closes on the brothers, and Dean is demanding o know what's bothering Sam. Yeah, I know—I was tempted to scream at the television at this point. Sam tells Dean that he knows all about Amy, and storms off. *YAWN* This story arc needed to conclude about now, but let's be honest: of all possible conclusions, this may be the least interesting. I wanted my fistfight.

This was a fun episode. In one scene, The Leviathan!Winchesters rag on the real ones in hilarious fashion. Of Sam's diet, Levithan!Sam says “It's like eating self-righteousness!” Moments later, they do an homage to Pulp Fiction...minus the profanity. (This caused me to muse about whether top-tier profanity would feel out-of-character. I guess we'll find out if there's a movie.) The real Sam and Dean get in on the pop culture fun, too, when Dean lip-syncs to Air Supply while Sam looks on in horror. (Come on! We've heard Jensen for-real sing, and it was good. Let's have it again!)

Thee new characters were fun, too. Kevin McNalley was a joy as Frank Deveraux: caustic, abusive, and totally convinced that he's hilarious. He's the kind of recurring character the show could use right now. And James Patrick Stuart exuded menace and power as Richard Roman. “[Demons are] less than humans, and they're not good for much until you dip them in garlic sauce.” Brr!

Of course, I will never complain about seeing Sheriff Mills back on the case. Maybe I should raise my eyebrow about strong professional woman volunteering to do housework for someone else, but honestly, it's good see someone taking care of Bobby for a change. More important is the epic kiss that Bobby plants on her when he realizes that she's helped him find the Leviathans' weakness. They've been circling each other since at least last season, and have a believable, likable dynamic. It was just sad that Bobby tried to pretend it hadn't happened when she left. I wouldn't mind seeing more between them, provided it didn't end with her dying in his arms or something equally ridiculous.

I think we all know that Sam will be back, and soon. We've been down this road before, and these splits never last more than an episode or two. Sure enough, the promo for next week's episode, “The Mentalists”, shows the brothers working together. But I'm way more intrigued by the title of the following episode: “Season Seven, Time for a Wedding!”

Friday, October 28, 2011

Supernatural Season 7 Episode 5: Shut up Dr. Phil

Okay, yeah, yeah, I know--there's just nothing like posting a recap an while *next* episode of something is on. But I don't want to break my record of recapping each ep of Supernatural just yet. So I'm gonna give it a whirl.

Last week, Charisma Carpenter and James Marsters guest starred as Maggie and Don Stark, wealthy witches in the midst of some serious marital trouble. Sam and Dean first came on the case because of the deaths of beloved people in town...people who were all connected to Don. You can add cupcakes to the list of things that Supernatural fans now hesitate to eat (see cheese, nacho), and nail guns have joined garbage disposals on the list of things household items we are afraid of. (I had to look away during that scene, BTW. I have a nail gun squick. I literally had nightmares anyway.)

Long story short, the Winchesters let the Starks go...ostensibly due to lack of chilled chicken feet (long story), but in reality because they got their well-sculpted tails handed to them. Seeing as how Don and Maggie have both killed innocent people, this feels kind of unfair, in light of what happened to Amy. Don does save them from Maggie's last attempt on them, though, and they drive away with a knocked-out Leviathan in the backseat thanks to him as well.

This episode has some great moments. Marsters and Carpenter are always a treat. Watching them bicker about their hundred years of history in one scene will give Joss Whedon fans pleasant flashbacks to the Spike/Angel/Darla/Drusilla quartet. It's even funnier to see this happening in the foreground while Dean is pinned in a doorway by swarming bees in the background. And responding to "a thing" with "You a golf club, or a waffle iron" will probably become, well, a thing among Supernatural fans. (If it doesn't, it should.)

There was one thing that bugged me, though. Did anyone else notice that we probably had the first even named lesbian (or bisexual female) character on Supernatural...and she died?
I'm referring to Maggie's friend Sue. There seems to be more than just girl-power solidarity to her support of Maggie. There's something couple-y about the way she refers to "we" when talking to Maggie, reminds her that she has people who love her. Don even tells Sue at one point, "I know you'd be glad to have me out of the way."

It's hard not to notice that Supernatural's sexuality issues are just as bad as it's issues around gender and race. There's never been a major character (such as another hunter) who just happened to be gay, never been a gay person or couple who needed Sam and Dean's help. The only time homosexuality ever comes up, it's male, and it's played for laughs For example, there was th Ghostfacers intern with the awkward crush (who died, ahem), and the couple cosplaying the Winchesters at the comic book convention. Okay, there have also been jokes about Dean and Cas, and I will at least give those credit for being less mean-spirited.

Now, I'm all for having good-natured fun with 'shippers. But if you don't even mention male homosexuality when it's not a joke, your show's open to the accusation that it's view of that segment of the population is less than well-rounded. Gay and bisexual women have been completely off the radar until last week, and if that's the best the writers can do, perhaps it was better that way. As creative as the writers on Supernatural are, they should be able to show more imagination with regard to something that actually exists.

What would I rather have seen, you may be wondering? Well, have Don kill someone other than Sue to establish his villainy. Or don't code sue as being attracted to Maggie. OR (just wait, Im'a blow your mind) have Don's assistant, the one who was not sleeping with him, be not-sleeping-with-him because she prefers women. See? That wasn't hard at all.

Other random observations.

1) It always bugs me to see Dean hassling Sam about taking care of his health. We'd never seem Sam jogging before...this is a new thing. I think we all know that an ideal hunter's endurance and condition would be hard to maintain with constant travel and crappy food. But I digress. You'd think that Dean would be relieved that Sam was motivated enough to exercise, and was doing something that helps clear the mind, considering that he was worried about Sammy going crazy so recently. But of course, he was just taking his own horrible guilt burden out on his brother.

2) Dean continues to refuse to talk. ("Shut up Dr. Phil" is clearly addressed to Sam by both Dean and the Starks.) Considering what he's hiding, that's probably a good call. I'm actually quite the Dean girl, but emotions have always been one area where he and I have parted company. Remember that episode with the wraith at the asylum, where he told Sam just to cram his feelings down inside? I could have hit him. This is never a good plan. It kind of took me by surprise, too, because I had at times thought of Dean as a heart-on-his-sleeve kind of guy. But last week, I figured it out. Dean is in touch with his emotions, he just doesn't wan to be. More importantly, he doesn't want anyone else in touch with them. If the audience always knows what Dean is feeling, it's because Jensen is such an amazingly talented and subtle actor.

Well, at any rate, enjoy "Slash Fiction". I've set my DVR and am heading to a Halloween party, and with any luck, I'll be recapping it and the pilot of Grimms this weekend". "Slash Fiction" looks like kind of a retro/grindhouse/Tarantino thing going on. With a title like that, I'm dying of curiosity.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pilot Episode - Once Upon a Time

Yikes! Where has the weekend gone? I know that I still need to recap this last episode of Supernatural...but I just got done watching Once Upon a Time, so it's what's on my brain-pan right now.

I've been looking forward to this one, as well as Grimm, which premiers later this week. Fairy tales are big right now. Not only did we just recently see a movie re-imagining of Red Riding Hood, but Universal, Relativity and Disney all have Snow White movies on deck in the next two years. Sci-fi/fantasy/horror writers such as Catherynne Valente (The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making) have also drawn on European folklore traditions for inspiration. The ticket to making these familiar stories fresh and interesting is to put a new twist on it: make it darker than usual (or as dark as it was originally), throw in contemporary or anachronistic elements, or have a female lead who is stronger and more well-rounded than she is in other versions. So far, Once Upon a Time does a little of all of this.

The story opens on the wedding of Snow White and Prince Charming. The Evil Queen interrupts, promising that she will take away everything that matters to them and to everyone in attendance. She begrudges them a happy ending to their story, and their misery is her happy ending.

In our own time and place, we meet see blond, beautiful Emma Swan. We learn that it's her birthday (28th, we find out later) and that she has no family or friends. She also turns out to be a hard-bitten bail bondsperson who's not afraid to get rough if she has to.

Alone in her lonely apartment after a capture, Emma wishes on a lonely birthday cupcake of loneliness. A waifish little boy knocks at her door, claiming to be the child she gave up for adoption. She can tell when anyone's lying, or at least claims to be able to, and has a hard time believing him. But since kids on TV are always craftier than adults, he's able to manipulate her into taking him back to his hometown, Storybrooke, herself. Henry—the little boy—tells her that the town is frozen in time, and full of exiled storybook characters who don't remember who they are. He also says that his adoptive mother (who happens to be Mayor) is evil. She doesn't seem so bad to Emma at first, but she is, of course, really the Evil Queen, appropriately named Regina.

The show continues to alternate between present events and the fairy tale events that went before. Snow White becomes pregnant and continues to live in terror of the Queen's threat. The creepy Rumpelstiltskin, a prisoner in the castle, is consulted because he can see the future. He predicts that the Queen will succeed into sending everyone someplace terrible, but that the baby, if she can be spared, will be the one to break the curse after twenty-eight years. (The baby is Emma, naturally—her name is the price for his services.) All that can be done is to build a magical wardrobe that will protect one person, and only one, from the curse. The plan is for that to be Snow White, but she delivers right as the curse falls, and the Emma is placed in the wardrobe alone.

In present-day Storybrooke, Emma heads out of town, only to be crash her car when startled by a wolf (ahem). She ends up in jail, but is released when she offers to help find Henry, who has run off again. The credit card he used on the site where he found Emma leads them to Henry's teacher, Mrs. Blanchard...who is actually Snow White. The kindly lady explains to Emma how lonely Henry is, and advises her to search for him in his “castle”. Sure enough, she finds him in a castle-shaped treehouse. He tells Emma that she's the one who's fated to save the town, and asks her to stay just a week. She initially declines, explaining that she can't be the one he's hoping for, but changes her mind when Regina protests too much in warning her off. At the end of the episode, we see that Rumpelstiltskin is still behind the scenes, pulling the strings, and Henry smiles as the clock on the town square starts moving again.

The one thing that bothered me about this episode was the way adoption was depicted. Too often, adoption is only on TV or in movies in a negative way, as something that all parties angst about and which often leaves children worse off. I know that there are narrative reasons for this---stories aren't interesting without emotion and conflict, after all. But these stories feed to easily into the society's ideas that adoptive families are “less than” biological families. It's also problematic that Regina is a single mother, even though the Evil Queen is married in the fairy tales. Henry does admit that Emma only did what she thought was right, though...and hey: if he'd been happy, he may have never noticed what was going on in Storybrooke.

There was a lot that I enjoyed about the show. The writing, pacing and acting were good, and all served to draw the viewer in. The writers left themselves plenty of mystery to work with. The aesthetics were good, too, even if some of the obviously-3D special effects were off-putting.

One of the things I liked best was the idea of a female Chosen One. That's not something you see very fact, Willow is the only example that really jumps to mind, and that was a baby. Regina, too, promises to be an interesting, well-drawn character. A teaser for next week's episode indicates she may have good reason to be grumpy with Snow White. Imagine that!

As a reluctant romantic, I have to admit that I enjoyed the relationship between Snow White and Prince Charming. Josh Dallas and Ginnifer Goodwin have great chemistry, conveying both strong devotion and strong attraction. I was devastated when the prince was gravely injured by attackers while putting his daughter in the wardrobe. If he died, after all, he won't be waiting for Snow White when the curse was lifted. At the end of the episode, however, we see that he's in the Storybrooke hospital on life support.

In the pilot episode of Once Upon a Time, Henry tells Emma that stories are true “because you believe them”. Later, Snow White explains the psychological and emotional importance of stories. Neither of these ideas is surprising in a project as “meta” as this one. It's why they get done, and why I'll keep watching. Grimm, which, as I mentioned, premiers later this week, is a fairy-tale inspired police drama, and promises to be an even darker take on these beloved tales.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Supernatural Season 7 Episode 4: Defending Your Life

As “Defending Your Life” opens, the Winchesters are taking a break from their Leviathan hunt to investigate a mysterious death. The victim appears to have been run over by a car...indoors, and several stories off the ground. Their research reveals that the dead man was a recovering alcoholic, who had joined Alcoholics Anonymous after being causing a car accident which killed a ten-year-old girl. It's not long until another strange death follows: a former dogfight-operator-turned-animal-welfare-activist, killed by a dog. Both victims have traces of distinctive red dirt on them.

In tracking the source of this dirt, Sam and Dean run across a frantic old man. He tells them that he'd just been released from prison, after serving thirty years from murder, only to be put on “trial “ in a nearby barn, by a mysterious judge who sicced the ghosts of his victims on him. Leaving the man in a circle of protective salt in their room, Sam searches for the barn where the “trial” took place. Dean cases out the bar from which the man was snatched, and engages in a classic Dean flirtation with the bartender, only to be abducted himself upon leaving.

Fortunately, Sam ends up at the same place where Dean is taken—the barn the old man mentioned. They find out that they are up against Osiris, an Egyptian god who judges the guilty by the weight on their souls. Dean's the one on trial—not surprising, since he's still floundering under the terrible secret of Amy's death. Sam persuades Osiris to let him dust off his pre-law degree and defend his brother. Two prosecution witnesses are called: a ghostly Jo Harvelle and...Sam. Sam manages to shoot down Osiris's contention that Dean is responsible for Jo's death, and for getting him back into hunting. Dean jumps at the god's offer to forgo the third witness against him, who is sure to be Amy, but is convicted nonetheless.

The brothers eave the barn knowing that based on the pattern of the previous deaths, Jo's ghost will be coming for Dean. It's already too late for the old man they were trying to help, who was slain by the ghosts chasing him when he broke the salt circle.

Bobby does research and reports that Osiris can't be killed, but can be put on ice, more or less, for centuries by being stabbed with a ram's horn. This leads the episode's most comically awkward lines. “Apparently Jewish people blow through them once a year,” Sam says. It's called a shofar, Sam, and yes, it's used at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Sam breaks into a local synagogue to steal one, but the rabbi gives it to him instead. (Apparently asking to be armed against an Egyptian god was not a tough sell there. Imagine that.) Jo's reluctant ghost has a bittersweet exchange with Dean, but Sam vanquishes Osiris before she has a chance to dispatch him. As the brothers leave town, Sam explains that he is no longer troubled by guilt, because he believes that by going to Hell, he paid his dues for all the wrong he did.

This episode was interesting to me because it dealt with one of the gods of antiquity. In the first two seasons, Supernatural drew on different cultures for Monsters of the Week such as wendigos, tulpas and djinn. Since introducing angels in Season Four, however, the shows seems more committed to Judeo-Christian cosmology, and things have gotten more muddled. Take this week, for instance: was the Egyptian judge of the dead going to send Dean to the Christian Heaven? Because he's been there before. I'm so confused.

In my opinion, the hottest mess of all was “Hammer of the Gods”, in Season Five. Why are the gods of antiquity cannibalistic? Is it because there was once human sacrifice? If so, this is not explained. If not, it makes a sort of sense with Kali and perhaps even Odin, but much less sense with the likes of Mercury and Baldur. Speaking of Kali, she would probably make a light snack of the Christian Devil. She certainly wouldn't need two white American boys to take care of her. And did none of the other gods notice that “Loki” never chowed down with them? Or did he?

I realize that accuracy is often sacrificed in the interest of narrative tension. Certainly nothing on Supernatural is further from what people actually believe than how the angels act. At the same time, the Judeo-Christian elements are so familiar to modern, Western viewers that it's easy to forget that the things from outside that tradition are things people believed and believe in. The Norse, Hellenic and Egyptian gods are still followed by reconstructionists and neo-pagans...and their respective numbers are dwarfed by almost a billion people who worship the Hindu pantheon. So for “Defending your Life”, those of us who are familiar with the mythology must forget for a moment that Osiris only judged people who are already dead.

Don't get me wrong: there was a lot about this episode that I liked. Faran Tahir did a wonderful job as Osiris. The whole concept of people being judged on how they felt about their wrongs, regardless of whether slate was clean, was very poignant, especially with respect to the witnesses against Dean. It was also fun to see Sam tap into his law background again.

Dean is still carrying around the secret of Amy's death at the end of the episode. I don't think the center can hold there. He and Sam lie to each other all the time, but it also always comes out. (You'd think they'd figure that out.) At any rate, I look forward to that being resolved, eventually. Amy and Sam deserve for the truth to be known, and Dean, in light of all the good he's done, deserves to be unburdened. Well, that and...we haven't had a good old-fashioned Winchester fist-fight in a while.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Supernatural Season 7 Episode 3: The Girl Next Door

Last week's episode left the Winchester brothers in an ambulance headed into trouble. At the beginning of “The Girl Next Door”, several problems are solved at once as Bobby Singer shows up to rescue Sam and Dean. They get away, much to the frustration of Dr. Monsterface (not to be confused with Dr. Sexy.). With Bobby's place in ruins, they hole up in a hunting cabin in Whitefish, Montana. Three weeks later, Dean is almost ready to get out of his cast (?!?), and Sam's hallucinations appear to at least be manageable. Sam heads into town for a routine grocery run, and his credit card activity tips off the Leviathans to his location. (See? You KNEW credit card companies were evil.)

More importantly, Sam comes across a monster MO he's seen before. Several local criminals have been killed with ice picks to the head, and found with chunks of gray matter missing. Sam scarpers off alone, leaving a note, and gets a motel room in town. Dean is alarmed but not Bobby.

In flashbacks, we see Sam in his early teens, helping Dean and their dad track a similar monster—a Kitsune. which can be killed by being stabbed through the heart. In the course of this hunt, he makes a connection with Amy, a girl his age. She takes him home to patch up his minor injuries after he saves her from some toughs, and they end up sharing Sam's first kiss. They learn that they both had to relocate a lot and have often felt like freaks. Sam hides in a closet when Amy's mom comes home, and it quickly becomes clear that she's not only a crappy parent, but also the sweetbread-gobbling monster that the Winchesters have been hunting. Sam is caught trying to sneak away, and Amy kills her own mother to save him. Amy begs him to run off and start a new life with her, but he explains that he can't, telling her to skip town and promising to take care of the body.

In present-day Whitefish, it doesn't take Sam long to find Amy. He keeps her from attacking another lowlife, only to get knocked out and wake up in her home. Amy explains that she has a normal life now, complete with a mortgage, and even became a mortician to satisfy her, er, dietary requirements. She shows him her son sleeping in another room, and explains that the only reason she killed was because he had recently gotten very sick and needed the fresh stuff. When she promises not to kill again, Sam leaves her unharmed.

Dean is waiting for Sam when he returns to his hotel room, and is none to happy, especially since Sam took the Impala. Sam tells Dean everything, and Dean maintains that Amy will kill again. Eventually Sam seems to have persuaded Dean to trust
him, even if he doesn't trust Amy. On the way out of town, however, Dean tracks down Amy and kills her. He tells her son to go find someplace to go and never to hurt anyone unless he wants the same fate. As the episode ends, we see that the Leviathans have arrived in Whitefish. (On a related note, I may never eat nachos with cheese again.)

The first thing I want to remark on is Jewel Staite's guest turn as Amy. As a devout Joss Whedon fan, it was great to see her. She is, if possible, even prettier now than she was as the fresh-faced, sex-positive, terminally cheerful mechanic Kaylee in
Firefly. This role was very, very different, though, and gave her a chance to demonstrate her range. I'll confess, when I learned she would play an old friend of Sam's, I was hoping for a “Screw this! I'm gonna live!” moment. (Whedonites will understand.) Alas, none of that was to be. I was sorry to see the episode end the way it did, and less than thrilled with Dean.

A friend of mine suggested that there may be more to Amy's story than just what was shown in “The Girl Next Door”, because it wasn't like Dean to knowingly leave a young child without a mother. I'm less convinced that Dean didn't mean to do what he did, but once again, my mind swirls with speculation. What if Dean missed Amy's heart, and she's not dead? What if the lore is wrong, and neither she nor her mother are dead? What if her mother committed the killings, and Amy was only trying to cover for her? (We never actually saw her killing anyone, just following.) The writers on Supernatural tend to bring back anyone they want to.

We all know that the death of female characters is a cliché' on
Supernatural by now. Sure, almost anyone is fair game, but even Misha Collins jokes about the poor odds for the ladies. I was disappointed that this time was no exception. However, I still have to acknowledge the strange respect that Dean showed Amy, as seen in the way he caught her as she died rather than letting her fall. When interacting with her and her son, he was clearly agonized and conflicted about what he was doing. He's also clearly lost faith in Sam's judgment as a hunter, which I think will matter later on.

Not long ago, Clarissa at TV Over Mind blogged about the things she wanted to see in Season 7. I'm totally with her...well, on #1 most of all, but also on the idea of
fewer character deaths and more recurring characters. The three hunters have been effectively on their own for a while. With Castiel seemingly gone for good, the show could us new folks to act as ballast. I hope we either see Amy again or that her death becomes an issue between Sam and Dean. Either way, Whedon fans have gust appearances by Charisma Carpenter and James Marsters (both of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel) to look forward to.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Supernatural Season 7 Episode 2: Hello Cruel World

After a strong start out of the gate, Supernatural spend this episode laying the groundwork for this season's conflicts. The questions it raised are almost more important than what actually happened.

Since that does matter what happened however, in brief: the Leviathans make The Vessel Formerly Known As Castiel wade into a municipal reservoir. From there, they go out and and take over various people, preying on humans as all good Supernatural monsters do. One of them, posing as a surgeon, has the bad fortune to cross paths with sheriff Jodie Mills, who quickly figures out that something's wrong, and involves Bobby Singer. In the meantime, Sam's hallucinations continue to mess with his sense of reality. By the time the episode is done, Bobby is missing and the brothers are in an ambulance--Dean with a broken leg and Sam still tripping hard. What the ambulance crew doesn't know (but the brothers do) is that there's a nest of Leviathans waiting at the hospital where they're headed.

First, I have to say that it's always good to see Sheriff Mills. She once again proves to be a tough cookie in this episode, pulling a couple of badass moves even though she's recovering from surgery. (I think “Doctor Monsterface” is going to become one of my favorite epithets of the show.) The odds are against women in the world of Supernatural, so I really hope she sees the other side of this one. (Okay, in fairness, it's a dangerous world for everyone, but it seems to be particularly so for women.)

For the second week in a row, the show suggests that we've seen the end of Castiel. I honestly think that shot of his trench coat floating in the reservoir was intended to make people cry. Bobby directly addresses the potential emotional impact of this loss on Dean—but of course, Dean won't talk about it, because he's Dean.

In thinking over the possibilities, I realized what I wanted
least: For Castiel to com back in another vessel-- female, white, thin, conventionally hot—and finally hook up with Dean. For the Destiel 'shippers, that would seem to be a cheap solution to the subtext created by the actors and played on mercilessly by the writers. For everyone else, it would cheapen the friendship itself. If another actor must be cast as Cas, what would be poignant would be for Dean to be so happy that his friend, his angel was okay that he paid no attention to the vessel. Whether you 'ship Dean and Cas or not, it's easy to see the poetry of a friendship between a mortal and an angel who ended decades of torment for him and saved him from the fate of becoming a demon. “I'm the one who gripped you tight and raised you from perdition.”

Hello Cruel World” caused me to question once again to question Dean's wisdom in getting Death to get Sam's soul back. It really bothered me at the time, because once Sam found out the risks, he didn't accept them. (I'm still not clear on what was animating Sam if his soul was absent, but then, I haven't seen all of Season Six.) I mean, sure, it's terrible to think of Sam in the Cage—but he had told Dean to leave him there. The only way I can think to excuse overriding Soulless Sam's wishes is that he is a danger to innocent people, as we find out from flashbacks from his year with the Campbells. In fairness, though, the worst thing he did—attacking Bobby—he did to prevent a charred mess of a soul being forced on him. At one point, Castiel told Dean that if he'd wanted to kill Sam, he should have done it outright. As awful as that would have been, it was an option—and it's on that Dean considers in “Hello Cruel World”.

The friend that I watched
Supernatural with last night suggested that perhaps Sam is still in Hell---that the writers, if they wished, could use that idea to reboot entire parts of the storyline, if they wanted to. I don't think they're going to do that—I think we see too much from Dean's POV for that to be what's happening. But I suspect that something similar may be going on. It could be that Sam's soul really is back on Earth, but that Lucifer really is there with him. I don't think he's free from this cage, or he'd be out doing his thing the way he did in Season Five; but I think it's possible that some part of him got grafted onto Sam's soul in the process of extracting it, allowing him to interact with Sam and only Sam. Yes, I know, it would be a very Harry Potter turn of events, but it wouldn't be the only parallel between Sam and Harry. It also seems like one of the few ways that anything could be done about what's going on.

At the same time, there are plenty of other irons to fry and fish in the fire. For one thing, how is Dean going to hunt with a broken leg? The brothers have come back from the dead plenty of times, but I believe this is the most serious non-lethal physical injury that either of them has had in several seasons. Hopefully Bobby is still out there, because they are going to need help, both in the short and long term.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Supernatural Season 7 Episode 1: Meet the New Boss

On Friday, the Winchester brothers returned, after last season's dramatic finale left their audience facing a long summer. The brothers' angel ally, Castiel (also a fan favorite and slash darling) used all sorts of questionable mojo to become God, taking the place of an absent heavenly Father. He unsuccessfully demands worship from Sam, Dean and Bobby, but gives up when he sees that it wouldn't be sincere, sparing their lives and leaving.

Castiel's next order of business is to start destroying hypocritical religious leaders and hate groups like the KKK, leaving Dean wondering if this new God is really such a bad thing. In the meantime, Sam is having intermittent hallucinations of the time he spent in Hell, thanks to Castiel's decision last season to break down the wall protecting him from those memories. Eventually, Castiel's body count grows too high for the taste of the hunters, but they have no weapon that would work against God. However, back in Season Five, Death himself told Dean that he (Death) would reap God eventually. Crowley, the King of Hell, has been forced into a compromise by Castiel and is only too happy to give the hunters the spell they need to bind Death.

The hunters break into a home to get the final item for the spell and, for some reason, decide to conduct the spell on the premises, in front of the terrified homeowners. Death shows up, bound, and everything seems to be going well until Castiel shows up and frees him with a snap of his fingers. Death explains that Cas's vessel is breaking down under the power of the Leviathans—ancient beasts absorbed from Purgatory. Placated with pickle chips (no, really), Death arranges an eclipse during which the portal to Purgatory can be reopened. After committing a massacre at a senatorial campaign office, Castiel is finally ready to come to the brothers for help, even if preventing disaster will mean sacrificing his life.

At the time of the eclipse, the Purgatory is reopened again, something returns to it. After going down for the count again for a second, Cas appears to be okay. That is until the Leviathans, speaking in Castiel's voice but referring to themselves in the plural, take over, claiming that Cas is dead and throwing Dean and Bobby across the room. In the meantime, Sam is having his worst hallucination yet: Lucifer, telling him that he's still in Hell and that being free was the hallucination. The episode ends with Leviathan!Cas menacing Dean and Bobby and Sam's condition unknown.

I call this a very strong start to the season. The most exciting thing, to me, is that this season, Supernatural appears to be going Lovecraft. ”Old Ones”, as Death refers to the Leviathans, evokes the Great Old Ones from H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulu mythos. Lovecraft came up several times in the last few episodes of Season Six. The web is already buzzing about this connection. If I know anything about Supernatural (and I feel like I do), Lovecraft is likely to be cited as someone who found out about the Old ones somehow, and wrote about them as if they were fiction.

This episode held a lot of treats for fans. There was sort of wry, relevant humor that you would expect—jokes about anime porn and trench coats on tortillas. It was wonderful to see Mark Pellegrino back as Lucifer, as he's always creepy and effective. Also a thrill was Julian Richings as Death. (Can I say just how much I love the fact that Death has a weakness for junk food?) Mark Shepherd, who plays Crowley, is a joy in pretty much everything he does (which is a lot). It was amusing to see Crowley living in a trailer park after having whined about the loss of his mansion is Season Five. When summoned by the hunters, Crowley even seemed to pout for a second about the possibility that they might not want to conspire with him.

And then, of course, there's Castiel. Oh, Misha Collins. I saw you give a panel at a convention this summer, and understand why you are a fan favorite. You may be the Supernatural actor that I'd most like to have a beer with—although Jim Beaver is growing on me, just based on his Twitter account. Unsurprisingly, Misha made us feel sympathy for Castiel in the premier, in spite of everything he'd done. He'd only been trying to make things better, but—to use a metaphor Dean would appreciate—it reminded me of someone trying to cobble together a couple of unrelated car parts to replace a missing car engine. It might work for a little while, but in the end, it's just not an engine. Death had it right: an angel is not up to playing God.

Is our sweet Castiel, whom we'd seen through so much for three seasons, really gone for good? I sincerely hope not. We already know that Misha won't be in every episode this season. Hopefully Castiel is still in there and can take back the reins at some point, like Sam did at the end of Season Five, and be redeemed. Either way, Leviathan!Cas will make a great Big Bad, if that's what he's going to be. Misha turned in a unsettling performance, very different from Castiel

From the look of the preview, the next episode focuses on Sam's Devil-adjacent problems. I predict that Dean and Bobby will have to make a quick getaway at the beginning of the next episode, with an almost-incapacitated Sam in tow, or that the Leviathan!Cas will just walk away, sparing them yet again for no obvious reason. Either way, I, or many others, will be tuned in, watching eagerly.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Starting up again, putting out the hat's been a while, hasn't it? Two years almost.

With the leaves turning in the Northern Hemisphere and Fall TV returning, I've decided to start blogging again. Hopefully I'll be able to do so pretty consistently. It will be mainly TV recaps and (hopefully) movie reviews, with occasional commentary on entertainment news and reposts of things I found interesting. The shows I will be focusing on include
  • Supernatural (my new obsession this year)
  • Castle
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • NBC Thursday Night Comedy - Community, Parks and Recreations, and The Office.
  • Fairy tale reboots - Grimms and Once Upon a Time.
  • Modern Family
  • Anything older that I end up re-watching on DVD--hopefully including Gilmore Girls, Carnivale and Defying Gravity.
I do have a day job and a career as a fiction writer, so I may occasionally have to lump several episodes of one thing together in one post. The older shows, in particular, are likely to be written about a season or half-season at a time. I hope to make my posts stand out by incorporating concepts from social justice movements, literary criticism, psychology, and comparative religion. I hope to post at least twice a week. Assume that there is a spoiler alert on everything--in the case of TV shows both for the episode(s) in question and anything that came before it.

I'll be installing a PayPal button. This is because I think my time, and my words, are worth something. Other bloggers doing this kind of writing don't have PayPal buttons, and that's fine. I'm just making a different choice. You are more than welcome to read if you can't or just don't wish to pay; but if you want to throw contribute monetarily, that's greatly appreciated. In fact, page hits, friendly comments, word of mouth, retweets--just your time and attention--it's all appreciated.

I'd also like to say a word about my commenting policy. I am perfectly open to having mature, good-faith differences of opinion in this space. You don't have to like what I like, or share all my political opinions either. But comments that are just intended to stir up trouble or play devil's advocate, or which include bigoted words and ideas, will be deleted. (By by "bigoted", I'm referring to racism, sexism, transphobia, sizeism, sectarianism, classism, and similar things.) This is not censorship, as I am not the government. This is my playground, and you have the whole rest of the world in which to say whatever you want.

If you are also a blogger, please don't drop your links in comments. Message me and we can talk about promoting each other. I'm also very open to doing guest posts on group blogs.

Well, that's about it! Pull up a chair, make yourself some coffee. This should be fun.