Friday, February 10, 2012

Catching up on Supernatural Season 7: Episode 11, 12 & 13

I know it's been a while since I last posted, but I've been dealing with an injured foot and other things. (I also went to my second Supernatural convention last week, and it was awesome.) At any rate, I'd like to catch up by recapping the last three episodes.

Episode 11 - Adventures in Babysitting

In this episode, Sam and Dean deal (and refused to deal, respectively) with the fallout from Bobby's death, and hunt a pair of vampire-like creatures called Vitala. The creatures (who are in the fine tradition of Hot Monsters of the Week) have kidnap a hunter, and his teenage daughter seeks out Bobby's help and ends up enlisting the Winchesters. This episode was kind of "meh" for me, honestly. The plot isn't very complex, and the stakes never feel very high. One thing I did enjoy was seeing the boys interact with a female who wasn't an adult--who was too young, in other words, to be into them. The biggest take away was Frank Deveraux coming into his own as part of the Winchester's support team. Unsurprisingly, the writers are having to dull Deveraux's initial rough edges just a little to make him tolerable as a recurring character. (When he calls you an idiot, he means it.) I'm not crazy about Frank's "smile even when your heart is breaking"advice to Dean, but by the end of he episode, Dean sure seems to be taking it.

Episode 12 - Time after Time

After the "meh" of "Adventures in Babysitting," this episode is pure joy. Dean gets sent back in time tot he 1940's by Chronos, the god of Time (who is killing people, because apparently that's what the gods of antiquity do.) He meets Eliot Ness, and lots of sharp suits, Untouchables references, hero worship and fish-out-of-water gags ensue. Of course, in the end, Sam is able to get Dean back, with help from a message Dean cleverly leaves carved inside the house where Sam's staying.

I should mention that Ness was played by Nicholas Lea, of X-Files fame, who it was wonderful to see again on Supernatural and Once Upon a Time in the same week. My very favorite part, though, was seeing Sheriff Jodie Mills step forward to help Sam. Have I mentioned that I love Sheriff Mills? Have I mentioned that Kim Rhodes knows several forms of stage combat, and needs to be given something to do other than mop? If Jodie and Frank are the two new sidekicks, I can deal with that. My only question is: which one's Cas and which one's Bobby?

Episode 13 - Slice Girls

This is the one I don't really want to talk about. It's an easy candidate for the both the worst-written and most sexist episode of Supernatural ever. Dean has a one-night stand with a woman who turns out to be an Amazon. In this version, the historical Amazons were turned into monsters by the goddess Harmonia. They grow to adulthood quickly, and have "no use for men" except for breeding--which, of course, means that the men they breed with turn up dead, because women with no long-term use for men are evil, right? Apparently women should be willing to be used however a man sees fit (long or short term), but prepared to be cast off, but also be torn up enough over being cast off to feed the guy's ego. Normally, I wouldn't complain about any episode where Jensen takes his shirt off, but the tone of this one is just ugly. There's also no surprise at all to the reveal that it's the Amazon daughters who do the killing--unless, in this case, they get offed by their uncles before they get the chance.

Supernatural, ease up on the appropriation of mythology, and also on the conventionally attractive sex-pot white-chick villains.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Season 7, Episode 10: Death's Door

I know—once again, there's nothing quite like waiting until just hours before the next episode to review a prior episode. But this time, can you blame me? “Death's Door”, the last episode of Supernatural before holiday hiatus, was one of the most powerful hours of television I've seen. It takes time to properly mull over.

In the episode, a dying Bobby Singer, trapped within his own mind, flees a Grim Reaper. He's knows his time is limited, but he has to get back into his body just long enough to give important information to Sam and Dean. The deceased hunter Rufus is in his mind with him. Rufus explains to Bobby that “the only way out is though”--he has to go through his worst memories to get back to his body. In this way, we learn that Bobby and his late wife had a heartbreaking argument about raising children just days before she was possessed by a demon, and that Bobby killed his own father to defend his mother when he himself was just a child

There are just two things that bother me about this widely-loved episode.

The first has to do with Rufus. I love Rufus as much as anyone, but I always had a problem with the way he went out. In Season Six's “...And Then There Were None,” Rufus tells Bobby that he will never forgive him for what went wrong on their hunt in Omaha. (Bobby Singer's Guide to Hunting indicates that Bobby was responsible for the death of Rufus's daughter.) This angry assertion is jarring, because it runs counter to the jovial banter that the two had been enjoying. Moments later, Bobby, who is possess at the time by a parasitic monster dubbed the Khan Worm, murders Rufus.

It felt like the subtext of Rufus's death was that Rufus doesn't have a right to his opinion about Bobby, This becomes even more uncomfortable when you consider the racial dynamics involved,. Race is also why—as happy as I was to see Rufus again—I cringed to see him bending over backwards to help the person' who's body killed him. Don't get me wrong, Rufus is a great character—funny when need be, badass when need be, as all the best Supernatural characters are. That's part of why he deserved a better story arc. And while I love the fact that he's a Black Jewish redneck, I feel like the show asks us to laugh at that, as if there weren't probably people who were all of the above (okay, at least two of the above.) I'm not even sure how Bobby is able to interact with him, since Rufus's spirit has moved on and they never discussed Rufus's near-death experience in life.

My other complaint is with the way Dean Winchester is being written at the moment. This is not a complaint about Jensen—he will always make the most of whatever he's given. But the losses have been mounting up for Dean—Lisa and Ben, Castiel, even the Impala. If he was ever going to break down, I would think it would be now. We have seen him cry before, and those have been some of Supernatural's most moving moments, in large part because of their rarity. Bobby has earned Dean's tears, but what do we get in “Death's Door”? Dean punching the wall when a guy tries to talk to him about organ donation. Let's face it, at this point, Dean punching a wall is just another day in the office...and this is not another day in the office.

Worst of all, when Sam tries to get Dean to talk about how he's feeling, Dean shuts him down. This leaves Sam hanging, with no one to talk to about what he's going through. I actually felt sorry for Sam, and that's not something I could have foreseen ever happening at the end of Season Four.

None of these concerns, however, dull the overall power of the episode Bobby is able to face his own demons, and revives long enough to give Sam and Dean a series of numbers that will prove a key to the Leviathans' plans. I can't imagine any Supernatural fan who didn't tear up as Bobby confronted his projection of his father, challenging the idea that he breaks everything he touches. 'I adopted two boys, and they turned out great. They turned out heroes.” Sam and Dean also have some hilarious walk-ons, bickering with each other about the relative merits of different action heroes and movie foods.

As “Death's Door” winds down, the darkness encroaching on the landscape of Bobby's mind mirrors the shutting down of his body, in a poignant metaphor about the death that comes to all of us. The Reaper who's been hounding him asks him if he wants to stay or to move on, but you get the idea that it's the equivalent of last call at a bar: “you don't have to go home, but you can't stay here.” As Bobby's memories fade, his last pleasant memory is of Sam and Dean, at home with him on a rare night of relaxation.

We're left not knowing how Bobby answered the Reaper's question. Presumably we'll find out soon enough. The show tends to bring back whoever they want, whenever they want, but as several friends of mine have stated, Bobby's departure feels more final. I honestly think that would be a good decision for the show; but if that happens, I still believe that Castiel needs to come back, or someone else needs to step in to help the Winchesters with their formidable foe. Castiel needs to come back at least once, in any case, for closure's sake.

If this is, in fact, Bobby Singer's final call, he is sure to live on in the hearts of Supernatural fans. Thank you, Jim Beaver, for years of top-notch acting (even though I still expect flashbacks), and thank you Bobby for all that you did for our boys.