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.