Sunday, 16 October 2011

Review: Supernatural 7.04 "Defending Your Life"

Warning - contains spoilers and possible unpopular opinions

.....I'm 90% crap. I get rid of that what then?

This week's Supernatural, Defending Your Life was one of those episodes I found I had to watch a few times to get a handle on it. It's not that I didn't enjoy it, I did. At one point I literally found myself sitting on the edge of my seat. Like literally. I was pulled into the story. But then, I would be wouldn't I. I'm highly invested in the character of Dean Winchester and very concerned about his slide down the slippery slope of what appears to be depression. I analyse and over analyse every single little thing he does. It wasn't that I wasn't engaged, it was just....I wasn't sure how to feel and I wasn't sure why I felt so conflicted. One part of me wanted to hug Dean, hold him tight and gently dab away those tears that were threatening to engulf him and the other part of me wanted to give him a good shaking. When he stood outside the bar and said "You're Dean Winchester" I yelled out YES YOU ARE! But then, this behaviour is nothing new. He's been wracked with self doubt and loathing and on very shaky ground for a while and he's always felt guilty for things that were beyond his control. Or as I prefer to call it, responsible. He's felt responsible ever since John handed him baby Sam and said "Take your brother outside as fast as you can! Don't look back." From that moment, he's felt responsible for just about everything. He shoulders everything. So if it wasn't the characterisation of Dean that troubled me and it certainly wasn't Sam and it wasn't the story as a whole, what was it? I came to the realisation it was something bigger, something that started chewing away at the corners of my brain last week and well, now I feel like I just have to get it off my chest. So what's my problem? Well I'm glad you asked.

Ok, here's the rub. The one thing I've always loved about Supernatural is the writing. Whenever someone says to me, why do you love that show so much, the first thing I say is, it's beautifully written. It's always been consistent. It's always had amazing attention to detail. It's always been focused. It's always had fantastic follow through, where the regular viewer can remember back to season 2 why this event in season 5 is so pivotal. Supernatural has always blown my socks off when it comes to the writing. This week's episode by Adam Glass and last week's episode by Dabb and Loflin were in my opinion, flawed scripts. All of these writers are highly gifted and have delivered powerful episodes in the past, so it's not that they're new and it's not that they don't get it, but their scripts for the last two episodes, while still involving, were in my opinion, simply not up to their usual high standard. Both The Girl Next Door and Defending Your Life felt like they had way too much squeezed into them to get through in 42 minutes and consequently they came across as inconsistent and a bit thin. I didn't go into this last week because I felt the character developments were far more interesting and the pop culture references were a lot of fun, but pop culture references a good script does not make. The stories are solid, the dialogue still pops but because they're trying to get so many different points across, they're not hitting all the notes. Both these scripts felt unfocused, that they lack discipline and that kinda breaks my heart. 

I had high hopes for Defending Your Life, I thought, great, let's get into it with Dean, let's see where his head space is, let's dig down into all that guilt of his. I was hoping, like many of us, he'd realise he feels guilt for a lot of things that aren't his fault. I was hoping we'd look into why he feels this way, where does this heartbreaking lack of self esteem come from (I blame John), why does he feel he has to take on the weight of the world. I was hoping we'd see how he really thinks and maybe see him coming to terms with some of the stuff he feels responsible for, including his time in Hell. This was a great opportunity to delve into that a bit more and tie it through to Sam's Hell arc. I was hoping that we'd come out the other side with him, if not accepting that he's not responsible for every terrible thing that has happened to the Winchesters and everyone they've known over the last six years, he'd at least be thinking about it and on the way to mending his broken heart. I was hoping he would learn something...... Apparently not....and that irritates me. It irritates me because Dean is a highly thoughtful and intelligent guy and I don't believe he wouldn't take some of that on board. Maybe he has, maybe that's yet to be seen, maybe when he said to Sam he gave a good argument that means he was listening and as always, I'll give this show a great big dollop of the benefit of the doubt but I feel like there's been a decision made to push Dean's character a certain way this season and to get to a dramatic point everything else is being thrown to the hellhounds to service his story arc. This was supposed to be an episode about Dean's guilt. He was supposed to be defending his life and according to Sera, reaching a turning point and yet the whole trial was short to the point of being inconsequential. We barely scratched the surface of what's going on in that deep well of emotion that's Dean Winchester and I sure as hell saw no turning point. There was too much set up. It was all sizzle and no sausage. It's not a problem with the story or the concept for this particular episode, I loved both of these. Dean feels guilt, the case was tried and sentenced regardless of the evidence because he truly feels that guilt, I'm on board with that, but this script tried to do too damn much and in doing so, didn't do enough. I would've liked to have seen more of the trial. More of Sam defending his big brother. More of Dean defending himself. I feel like this was an opportunity lost for character growth for Dean and growth for Sam and Dean in their relationship. Tell me something, why was Jo sent to kill Dean? It was ascertained that she didn't hold him responsible for her death and though Dean felt sad, he said he also didn't feel responsible. Sure this was probably lip service to get him out of a sticky wicket, but it was evidence heard and I thought, well argued. Now if Amy came to stab him through the heart while Sam was off trying to kill Osiris....that would've made more sense. Jo being dispatched to do the deed didn't make much sense to me.

There was the perfect opportunity during the trial to get the Amy issue out in the open. Why oh why didn't that happen! What a bombshell. We could've had the whole thing play out in front of the judge. We could've seen Dean give evidence as to why he chose to kill Amy and get a better understanding of his motivation. We could've seen the brothers going head to head as Osiris sat on watching in amusement. We could've seen Dean try to rationalise it with Sam. We could've had an apology for the lying. Maybe we could've even moved on. THAT would've been brilliant. That would've been drama. But no. Now the lie is going to fester. The lie will get bigger. Sam's going to find out like he always does. There's going to be a big blow up. They'll probably split up or punch each other out or... GAH! To be honest, I think this is why I'm being so harsh on the writing, because I don't like the direction that this plot point is taking the brother's relationship. I don't want this fight between the brothers to eventuate. I don't want it to infinity and beyond! I thought we were done with that crap and yet now it appears that we'll be doubling back on that old, well-worn path. Aren't there other stories to tell for these two? These guys are way more interesting than that. They don't have to be at each other’s throats all the time. They love each other for Heaven's sake. Drama schmama. There are other ways to create a gripping dramatic arc than sibling conflict and surely there's another story for Dean? It feels lazy. This is what I don't like from the Amy incident, the secret. It adds to the drama yes, it adds ammunition to Dean's current state of imbalance yes, but we know where it's going and it ain't nowhere good. And though I understand wanting to add juice to the story, to be frank, I'm sick to death of this kind of juice. Ever since Dean went to Hell the brother's have been on opposite sides of the playing field. I appreciate they're not the same as each other, they are vastly different human beings who look at situations in a different way, this is what makes them and their relationship so compelling and Lord knows I'm not one of those fans who wants them to be all bitch/jerk again, I get that they're men, not only grown up men, but deeply damaged men. They've seen a lot of shit ladies and gentlemen; they are never going to be who they once were okay? And I'm cool with it. But why do they always have to have something threatening to pull them apart? LET THEM BE BROTHERS. This conflict feels contrived and repetitive. Supernatural writers are better than that. Supernatural is better than that. But more importantly, we deserve better than that. I always say Supernatural never rests on its laurels...I really hope there's no laurel resting going on here.

Ok. It's off my chest.  I may have worked something through there. A little therapeutic outpouring. Apparently I don't like this liar, liar pants on fire storyline, like, A LOT! But maybe it's essential to where the mid season arc is going. Maybe it's essential to Dean and his relationship with Sam. Maybe it's going to bring them through to a better place. Maybe that's a pig flying past my window. *sigh* Onwards and upwards. I won't ever lose faith in this show so I'm quite sure this is just a blip and I still think it's one of the best written shows on TV, even when it's not as good as it could be.

If I remove my writers hat and close my over critical eye (it's the right one in case you're wondering, it gives me no end of bother), and put the whole Amy-lie thing out of my mind, like I said at the beginning of this review, I did enjoy this episode. I loved the whole idea of weighing your guilty heart against a feather. It played nicely into where Dean's head is at right now....just not enough. I enjoyed kicking off with a hunt, the EMF, the burning the bones. I think the boys are looking particularly spiffing in their suits this season. They must have laid down a bit on their fake credit cards for those styling duds. Dean flirting with the bartender was very enjoyable and kinda horny. I've missed flirty Dean. He's so damn hot. Sorry just had to say that. I even quite liked his little pep talk to himself outside. It's obviously been awhile. That was pretty endearing. I'm glad Sam's coming to terms with who he is and where he's been. I agree with him, he's paid his dues. As my friend Kara pointed out, in most cases Sam's a victim. He didn't choose to have demon blood dripped in his mouth, to get the psychic visions, to be Azazel's golden child, for Dean to sell his soul for him. Ok, the Ruby thing was poor judgement, but he didn't mean to raise Lucifer and he did everything in his power to stop him to the point of giving up his life to save the world. Then he was punished in Hell for way too many years. He's done his time. He's dealing with his special brand of crazy and he's moving on and feeling alrighty. Yay Sam! One less angsty brother is a step in the right direction. I'm sure he's not past the worst of it; I giggled when he said he saw Lucifer while brushing his teeth, but it's a solid start. I do wish when he told Dean that he feels like he's paid his dues, he made a point of also letting Dean know that Dean's paid his dues too. Because Dean has, over and over, just like Sam. He may not have been tortured for 100 or so years by Lucifer and Michael, but he has been tortured by his life and all he's sacrificed and lost. Both the brothers have paid their dues. 

I also liked that Sam was determined to save Dean. I dug what he said in the court about Dean's level of culpability in how Sam's life turned out let alone all the other things Dean feels bad about. I thought Sam was pretty great, not much of a lawyer but a pretty good brother. I was soundly criticised last week for my take on Sam, which personally I think was pretty balanced, but people will read things how they want. I guess when it comes to Sam I sometimes scratch my head at how he goes about making his choices. I believe he's a very bright boy with a heart of gold, but he seems to make colossal errors of judgement for someone who's a bit of a brainiac. This is maybe why, like Dean, I appear to judge him harshly. As Bobby once said, we're tough on the kid. But don't think for a minute I don't love him. Yes I'm a Dean girl, this blog isn't called sweetonsam after all, but this doesn't mean I'm one-eyed about the brothers. I calls it as I sees it and I've kicked Dean's butt around the page just as many times as I've kicked Sam's. And by the way, I LOVE his sidies!

I thoroughly enjoyed having Jo in this episode. She's a character I'm very fond of. I cried and cried when she and Ellen died. I still do. I'm not one of those people who felt like her and Dean would make a good couple, I could never see Jo that way, but I felt a strong connection between them. Their shared history and their daddy issues bonded them. I've always thought she crushed on Dean (who the hell doesn't) as opposed to it being reciprocal, but there was true affection between them and I always enjoyed that. This is something that shone through in Defending Your Life, that affection. Both scenes were lovely, the one in the court where Jo did everything she could to have Dean's back and then the one with Jo and Dean in the hotel. Particularly the second one. It was a beautiful moment, a highlight of the episode. I just hope Dean heard Jo and took in some of what she said. Her tender touch and how Dean pushed his cheek into her hand with his eyes closed.....superb.

Which brings me to Jensen. This guy's become such gifted actor. The emotion he can display and bring forth in his audience, or at least in me, feels real and true and more often than not, devastating. He can convey so much with that beautiful face of his. He can convey so much with his eyes. He kills me. His Dean just kills me over and over. But oh, it's such an exquisite death. Death by Dean. Let that be how I go out. And what about Dean. Poor Dean. 90% crap? Oh honey, I don't think so. That was beyond tragic. I may have made a sad gurgling noise when he said that. I went pretty extensively into how I see Dean's current psychological state last week, so I won't do it again here. I'm just worried that his guilt is starting to define him. That his suck it up and soldier on attitude is slowly but surely being eroded and I don't want to see that. I hope we don't see him go any lower. It's just too sad. I'm pouting as I write this. I want to see him come to terms, mend and grow. That will be some good character development. I really want him to start feeling better about himself and sometime soon. I'm tired of him being everybody's whipping boy, including his own. He's filled with so much remorse and self loathing that it's becoming perplexing because he's so gosh darn wonderful. And he's got this terrible saviour complex, which is not helping any. But in the past he's said to Sam, we can't save everyone, so why doesn't he believe that now? Where's that common sense gone? He seems to have been mired in this dark and horrible place for such a long time and I think I'm ready for him to come back into the light. A couple of seasons of him being all overly angsty is enough. I don't mind a bit of angst, it's what makes him so precious and so Dean, but I need him to kick some supernatural butt and well, get laid! He was almost there. He nearly got his end away. Stupid Egyptian God with his bad timing. Another reason to stab Osiris with a ram's horn! It's tough being a hero....

So how did I feel about Defending Your Life? You know, I just watched it one more time just to make sure I wasn't over reacting, that I wasn't being overly harsh and I don't think I am. It was 22 minutes before we got to the actual trial, that's over half way through the episode. Sizzle. No sausage. I was a little more accepting of it's flaws the fourth watch through, but I feel the same way. It was a good story, some nice dialogue but an opportunity missed. This was a filler episode in every sense of the word but one that not only didn't propel the story forward but didn't really propel the characters forward, except maybe a couple of baby steps for Sam. But strangely, even with this criticism, I really did enjoyed it, because of the characters and because of the performances and because even when Supernatural isn't hitting its stride, it's still better than most of the other shows out there and obviously, I love it to pieces. After all, you're always hardest on the ones you love.

Next week is the magical, mystical, Whedonesque fest with Charisma Carpenter and James Marsters guest starring. I'll probably review 7.05 and 7.06 together the following week, because next weekend I will be at Chicago con! I think I might be way too busy hugging Jensen to think about writing a review! Upon my return home, I'll also be doing a detailed report on Chicon including the Jensen Q&A which I'm lucky enough to be attending this time round. So stay tuned for both those things and in the mean time, here's next week's promo.

Thanks for reading, I appreciate your support and don't forget to comment! I love comments! - Amy

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Review: Supernatural 7.03 "The Girl Next Door"

Warning – Contains spoilers!
But people.... They are who they are. No matter how hard you try. You are what you are.
The Girl Next Door may have been episode 3 of season 7 but it sort of felt like something else. Something older. Of days gone by, of hiding out, of researching, of balancing the heartbreak and the humour, of honest to goodness monsters, of inner demons and real demons, of Sam and Dean, talking, trying to trust, trying to be brothers. They may still be failing somewhat miserably, but at least they’re still trying! This felt kinda like the Supernatural I fell in love with. Not that I haven’t loved every single season, I have and I loved the dark and twisty turn it took when things went to hell in a hand-basket…literally. But why did I fall in love with Supernatural? Sam and Dean. I fell in love with these two struggling, dysfunctional brothers who above everything else, love each other. The Girl Next Door had so many shades of why I first fell in love with Supernatural. It felt old, but new. It felt familiar but still fresh. It felt like Supernatural, especially when everything went pear-shaped.....
Hey look, Bobby isn’t dead! No surprise there and he arrives just in time to pick a drug addled and totally adorable Dean up off the floor. I was super worried that the missing Bobby would turn out to be Levianthanised, but I don’t think he has been, because he’s being way too reasonable and really, he could have just eaten Sam and Dean at anytime, that is, if that’s the boss’ plan for them. But where was Bobby? It was totally glossed over. That was sort of annoying. Dean said he thought he was dead, Bobby looked at him like he was an idjit, said he wasn’t, yet, and then they high tailed it out of there. I understand they didn’t have time to stop and natter, but I would’ve definitely asked him where the hell he was when his house burnt down. Even if he said, I’ll tell you about it later, at least ask! He was also very chirpy for a guy who’d just lost everything. I have to admit this got my spidey senses tingling, but I’m assuming he was just so happy to find the boys alive that he wasn’t thinking of anything else. Bobby is totally awesome. The way he came in and scooped Dean up, gave him a little pat on the cheek (also got my spidey senses tingling…I’m so suspicious), goes and grabs Sam, commandeers an ambulance and beetles off to stash the boys in Montana! Bobby to the rescue! And he continues to be the voice of reason. Trying to accept Sam, letting Sam heal in his own time, trying to talk Dean down, make him see sense and trust that his overgrown brother knows what’s what.  He’s so calm. I love that he stashed copies of his books….Bobby Singer, paranoid bastard. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Bobby in the opening episodes of season 7. I’m pretty sure he’s not a Leviathan, like, 90% sure. 
And what about the Leviathan? Man they’re organised. I’m definitely starting to believe that the Boss is going to be possessing the Jimmy vessel, because the Leviathan seem to have a lot of knowledge about the Winchesters. I’m assuming that’s knowledge that went into Jimmy’s brain when Cas was living inside him, unless Cas is still inside him; just subdued. The Leviathan know things. They’re set up in fraud centres, hospitals, using cell phones, reading the paper while enjoying a cappuccino! They’re fitting right in! It's like a great holiday with an all you can eat buffet. They know about the boy’s credit card scams, so they must know their fake names. How long until they suss out all their alias' and then their phone numbers and track them that way? How many are there? A lot of black goo came out of Cas, I wonder how many Leviathan that equates to? I’m enjoying the Leviathan; they feel like a genuine threat. The unknown.
So Sam. I like where Sam got to in this episode. He seems to be closer to coming to a place of peace with his craptastic life. He’s dealing with the whole freak word, he says he’s managing his hallucinations, or at least he’s trying to, but a couple of things bothered me. I was disturbed that he lit out on Dean to go in search of Amy. Bobby was gone, Dean was laid up with a broken leg and God knows how affected by pain-meds. Sam took the car and left a note like some teenage kid. He left Dean alone, immobile, unprotected and vehicle less. That seemed poorly thought out to me. If a Leviathan had rocked up to the cabin, Dean would’ve been dinner. On top of this, Sam wants to be trusted, he wants his brother to have faith in him, but once again he’s sneaking around, ducking out while Dean’s asleep. We’ve seen this before and it never ends well. How can he ask for Dean’s trust if he doesn’t trust Dean enough to tell him what’s going on? Takes two to tango. But having said that, I understand why he did it, he had a good idea what Dean's response would be and he didn't want to hear it. He wanted the opportunity to see if he could fix this on his own and in his head space, showing that he's capable of doing this would be important to him. But you can’t asked to be treated one way while you behave another. Of course Dean was going to flip his lid. He’s beside himself with worry about Sam and Sam doing this ain’t helping none. I would've popped him one in the nose too quite frankly!

The other thing that bothered me was Sam’s choice to let Amy go seemed all too easy. But I guess that brain of his isn’t working properly right now. Yes, they had a history and Amy saved his life once upon a time and she obviously made a profound mark on young Sam, maybe molding a lot of how he approached this work as a hunter in later years, but she’d killed, more than once, and it looked like she was about to kill that drunk driver guy when Sam nabbed her in the park. Sure, she only killed because her son got sick and needed fresh meat, but killing is killing and what if he got sick again? I’m not convinced Sam was right when he said to Dean “Put me or you in her position, we’d probably do the same thing.” Dean was ready to put his brother down when he thought Sam’s future was to be a soulless killing machine. So maybe they would, maybe they wouldn’t, but regardless, I just kept coming back to, what if her kid gets sick again, then she’d kill, good intentions or otherwise, she’d have no choice. I don’t know, I guess I thought Sam’s logic was flawed, but then he’s always been driven by empathy and that’s a very large part of why we love him so much. His heart. I’d also say he’s probably feeling even more empathetic to people like Amy than usual, given his current situation and fuzzy, freaky headspace. He wanted to believe in her. He wanted to believe she could stay true to her promise, because if she can overcome the monster inside her, maybe Sam can overcome this monster inside him. This whole, Amy unfinished business thing, reminded me of Something Wicked from season 1, where John sent Dean to clean up a mess which was the outcome of when he hesitated as a kid. Dean felt responsible and needed to fix it. People had died because of him. Now people had died because of Sam. That probably should have rung bigger alarm bells than it did..... Oh and Sam’s first kiss was with a monster?! So that’s where that started! The boy has a type!

Dean….you break my heart. But before I get to THAT scene, let’s start with the fun stuff! Dean in the hospital. ADORABLE! I love it when Dean is like a little boy. The noise he made when he hit the floor and realised he’s in a cast, the half stoned “Hey look, a monster broke my leg”, the look on his face when Bobby patted him on the cheek. Awww-worthy the lot of it. Then of course we have him watching Mexican tele-novellas while he recuperates. Hilarious! Dean and his soaps! The man is such a contradiction. There’s this Dean, then there’s the Dean that killed Amy. I believe Dean is in the throws of a major crisis. A breakdown. He’s at tipping point and it’s been a long time coming. I said this in last week’s review, but now it seems even more obvious. He’s regressed. He’s not trusting Sam, panicking about every little thing his brother does, driving him crazier by constantly asking him how he’s doing, buggy Bobby with his mania and then outright lying to Sam’s face. I hated that lie. The whole thing’s hard to watch, but I get it. This is a man whose trust in himself and those around him, has been severely battered and bruised. First his brother. For several years now, Sam has wandered into dark territory, then he was all soulless and just when Dean thinks he has him back and they’re starting to find their footing, BAM, down comes Sam’s Hell wall. Now, once again, Dean doesn’t know whether his brother is telling him the whole truth. He’s worried sick about Sam. He’s worried Sam will never get better, that this dropping out, screaming at no-one Sam is here forever. I think he feels that he’s losing his brother again and maybe this time for good. Dean is all about Sam, for good or bad. Without him, he falters. I’m sure he feels a level of responsibility. If he’d said yes to Michael, maybe this would never have happened, maybe Sam wouldn’t have needed to throw himself into the pit. I don’t doubt that’s crossed Dean’s mind. Then add to the mix Castiel. Cas was his friend. He tried to help Cas but his friend didn’t listen, he went down the wrong path and it set them against each other. Dean felt absolutely betrayed and though in the end, the only way to save the world was to save Cas, his friend ultimately died. He died and in doing so let an unkillable evil loose. Dean couldn’t get through to Cas and now they have the Leviathan. Not only has Dean’s trust in his own judgement and his faith in those around him been rocked, but more profoundly, his faith in his ability to protect those he loves, and that’s at the very core of who Dean is. He couldn’t protect Sam and he couldn’t protect Cas. What use is he? So he regresses back to a Dean where things were easier for him, where things were black and white. 

I get why he killed Amy. This is what that father of his trained him to do. She was a monster and yeah, he was right, chances are she’d kill again. He couldn’t take that risk. Sam took that risk and now there were bodies. In Dean’s mind, if an Angel can put a foot wrong then there’s no doubt a monster can. He couldn’t let her go. But on first watch, wow, it was so brutal. I was shocked. Shocked. I felt horrible afterwards. Horrible that Dean did that. I didn’t like it. When I watched it again, without the jaw-dropping horror of the moment, I saw it slightly differently. Yes, it was just as brutal, but when he said sorry to her I believed him and then he gently catches her as she falls, and lays her on the bed. On the second watch through, with my shock gone, I saw remorse or maybe regret that he had to do this thing. I saw his surprise when he saw her son at the door, the son he chose not to kill. I also saw pain on his face when he looked back at the son rushing to his dead mother’s side. He knows that feeling. A monster killed his mother. To that kid, Dean’s the monster. This is going to eat him up. That he lied to Sam, that he killed Amy and that he left her son an orphan. That’d be guilt, with a massive side order of guilt for Mr Winchester please. I know this whole thing left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. Some fans were saying it was completely out of character for Dean, but I disagree. It's not the first time he's made the tough decision to take down a monster that wasn't outwardly evil. It’s just we haven’t seen this side of Dean’s character for a while. He's grown into someone who’s developed the ability to see the greys in life. But remember, deep down, he thinks he’s a killer. He told Veritas that’s all he is. We know it’s not true, but Dean's never put much stock in himself. He’s reverted to this Dean because everything he knows and believes and trusted is once again being pulled out from under him. He’s in a very bad place. Black and white is easier. Black and white was how he was trained to think. He’s been pulled this way and that by demons, Angels and the Devil himself. He's a hunter. Monster bad, kill monster. It's easier and it's probably the one thing in his life that makes sense, the one thing he can hold on to. And you know what, he’s right, he couldn't just walk away. But there’s got to be fallout from his choice to kill Amy. You don’t do something like that and walk away scot-free. Guilt, pills, booze, lies, he’s heading for a crash and I assume that’s going to kick off next week’s episode. Is the killing of Amy, Dean’s big secret that the producer’s have spoken about in regards to the brother’s relationship? My main concern is that this act will put the brothers at loggerheads again. I don’t want that. No more. Not again. Enough. I feel like we've flogged that dead horse. They can have conflict; they've always had that, but let them be brothers. I need them to be brothers. I need them to be Sam and Dean.
Whew, I better wrap this up! 
Of course I’m not going anywhere without mentioning Jensen. As we all know, he directed The Girl Next Door. He’s showing a real knack for interesting camera angles. The escape sequence in the hospital was particularly well staged. I liked his shot choice for Dean stumbling around on crutches, it added to the morphine-induced vibe and the POV shot towards Bobby with the gurney was also pretty cool. The sweeping shots down the hospital halls, the way the camera never stopped moving or the actors constantly moved past the camera, the cuts, it all added to the feeling that Bobby and Dean were in a race to get the hell out of there. I thought this hospital escape sequence was really tense and kind of awesome. This episode would’ve been more difficult to direct than Weekend At Bobby’s. There were a lot more scenes, more locations, more cast, and flashbacks to deal with. It was a busier story, more detailed script and Dean was in it a lot! Jensen did an awesome job! I hope he never goes behind the camera permanently, because to deny us the joy of watching him would be a crime against humanity, but I do hope he gets the chance to direct some more. He’s good at it.
The Girl Next Door may not have rocketed along at the breakneck speed of episode 1 and 2 of season 7, but it felt like a nice breather from that frenetic pace. Essentially it was a monster of the week episode that also did the job of propelling along the main storyline and setting up issues that are going to play out in the first half of the season. The Leviathan were there, but not all consuming. I liked that. Colin Ford as young Sam was uncanny as usual. He’s absolutely perfect casting. And though I don’t think this was Dabb and Loflin’s best script, it was still pretty juicy, full of wonderful throwaway lines, blissfully needed lighter moments and tongue in cheek references (check out SuperWiki for a list). Season 7 is really shaping up. Every week I’m gagging for the next episode, though next week, I think my heart might break in two….
Oh and one more thing…pie. Dear God Sam PIE! When are you going to remember the pie! Maybe that can be the very last shot of the series….Sam finally remembers the pie. The End.
On that note, I’ll leave you with the promo for 7.04 Defending Your Life and some wise word’s from Sam’s young friend Amy…. “All the coolest people are freaks.” Amen Padaleski.
See you next week and thanks for reading! – Amy (not the dead monster one)

P.S. don't forget to comment!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Sam and Dean Spudchester….an excellent adventure!

Today Jensen and Jared’s bodyguard, Clif Kosterman (@bodyguard4JandJ) tweeted a shot of Sam and Dean Mr Potato Heads.

MY Sam and Dean Mr Potato Heads! Or Sam and Dean Spudchester as I christened them.

I had them especially made. A set for myself and a set for Jensen and Jared, which I posted to Vancouver to the Supernatural production offices.

But how did the Spudchester project come about?

Well, you see, I collect Mr Potato Heads. The character kind. Like Luke Frywalker, Optimash Prime, Tony Starch, Taters of the Lost Ark…you get the picture…no….well here’s a picture!

Earlier this year I did a promo shoot where I had to have a puppet created of one of the characters in the show. My Art Director suggested someone up in Brisbane (I’m in Sydney) to do the work. She did the most amazing job. The wardrobe was identical to the character’s right down to the tiniest details. This got me thinking…..

For a long time I’d wanted a Sam & Dean Potato Head to add to my collection. I’d looked around at different dolls clothes and tried to think of ways to create them but always hit a dead end. It’s just, I can’t sew! Now all of a sudden I had someone in my professional circle that specialised in making tiny little clothes! So I contacted her, Beck is her name, and asked if she’d be interested in a special personal project for me, I wanted a set of customised Mr Potato Heads. When she stopped laughing she said sure, send through the details. So I sent through these shots of Sam and Dean with an explainer, as I assumed she’d have no idea who they were.

WRONG! She and her husband are massive fans of Supernatural! She was instantly on board and not just because her husband thought it was the most awesome idea ever.

First step was to source 4 Mr Potato Heads, which proved easier than we thought! Beck’s local K-Mart happened to stock them, so I sent off the money and she went and bought 4. I wonder if the checkout chick looked at her weird?

Next stop was getting the wardrobe right! I’d been pretty specific around what I wanted the Spudchesters to wear but being as the clothes were so tiny, the material had to be very fine, this caused a couple of problems. The jeans were the first hurdle, they couldn’t be real denim, but denim looking material, but it was how to get them on that caused the headache. Mr Potato Head has no legs! So after a bit of chat back and forth, Beck essentially made a skirt that she stitched down the centre to give the appearance of legs!

Dean’s t-shirt and over shirt and Sam little blue plaid shirt and jacket weren’t too much of a problem, though Beck had to go find a scrap of the specific blue plaid for me because I insisted it be blue and she didn’t have any on hand!

Then came Dean’s jacket. Problem. Leather is too thick to sew so small. The hunt was on for something that would work. We talked through different ideas but Beck kept coming up empty. At one point it looked like it was going to have to be brown material, but I just couldn’t have that! So I went out one weekend to scout around. After an exhaustive search of various op shops and material stores, I settled on a cushion cover! It was brown pleather; very thin…would it work….could it work? I popped it in the post and sent it off to Beck with my fingers crossed. Success! The pleather cushion cover was perfect.

Next hurdle? The hair! I raised the fact that I didn’t think they could be bald, really, no way right? I’d looked at a brown woolly material for Dean’s hair and knew that it would work. But Sam’s hair? I mean Sam’s hair had to be epic!

First thought was really thick wool….nah, that didn’t look right. Then I had an idea for a dolls wig. So I searched online and looked through hundreds of dolls wigs but couldn’t find anything that was right. They were too long, or two small or two curly. I got in touch with Beck again and told her I was thinking about dolls hair for Sam but wasn’t having much luck, so off she went in search of the perfect doll. Apparently there are a lot of naked Barbies in Brisbane by the way! Disappointment. No luck on the dolls hair, so we were back to the wool idea again. But then, at the last moment, when we had just about given up hope, Beck came across an old wig. A real one. A real one big enough to supply hair for 2 Sams. She attached it as an experiment and sent me a shot. After I stopped screaming with laughter I was sold! It was a little light, but had some great gold brown tones that we both agreed could pass for Sam’s hair, plus it was long enough to stick behind his potato ears!

Of course, Dean had to have an amulet, so I ordered a couple of those and then the Spudchesters were pretty much done, except for one very important thing. Weapons. Dean had to have a silver gun and Sam had to have a demon killing knife. Do you have any idea how many tiny weapons are available on eBay? After pages and pages and stores and stores I came across a place in Hong Kong that supplied exact replica weapons 1/6 of the actual size. I discovered the normal, GI Joe style weapons, were 1/8 of the actual size, which was too small for Mr Potato Head’s hands. So the 1/6 discovery was a real moment! Then I found they stocked a cool silver gun and a knife that really did look like Ruby’s knife! I felt triumphant! So I ordered 2 of each and awaited their arrival.

In the meantime, Beck posted down to me 4 fully clothed Spudchesters that were just awaiting amulets and weapons!

When the mail arrived from Hong Kong, oh my goodness, I couldn’t believe how perfect the little gun and knife was. But getting them to stick to the Spudchester’s hands didn’t prove as easy as I thought! After quite a bit of super glue and a period of time where I was also stuck to Sam Spudchester, I managed to get the weapons in place.

There they stood, the completed Spudchesters, in my kitchen, grinning at me like crazy. I can’t even tell you how happy I was. They had taken around 4 months from my initial concept to completion. The only thing left to do was send them off to Vancouver, so I gently packed them up, addressed them to Jensen and Jared, c/- Clif and sent them to the Supernatural set with the following note….

And today, the tweet with my Spudchesters! First a duck nation photo with the Spuds lurking in the background and then their very own photo. I was so happy to see they got there safe and sound! I really hope everyone got a kick out of them.

My set of Spudchesters will be coming with me to Chicago Con to be signed by the boys; on the back of their jackets is what I’m thinking. If I can, I will also try and get them into my J&J sandwich shot.

So that was Sam and Dean Spudchester’s excellent adventure. A trip down the coast of Australia and half way across the world. But it’s not over yet. Stay tuned for the next chapter, when my Spudchesters come face to face with their real life doppelgangers! I seriously can’t wait!

The Spuds did indeed come to Chicago and they did indeed have an excellent adventure!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Sam and Dean: The epic love story of two brothers....

There are some episodes, some moments that remind me of what Sam and Dean mean to each other.

That they're the one thing in their crazy lives, that they can always trust will be there.

Through bad times and worse, it always comes back to this, back to them, to the brothers, to Sam and Dean.

They may fight, they may lose hope, but somehow they'll always find their way home. Home to each other.

This's what I love about Supernatural. Above everything else it's this. It's Sam and Dean. It's their bond. It's how in the end, they will always choose one another.

When Dean tried to bring Sam back from the brink of madness in this week's episode, this was one of those moments that reminded me, no matter what has come before, this story is about their journey.

...This is different. Right? Then the crap that’s tearing at your walnut? I’m different. Right? ...I am your flesh-and-blood brother, okay? I’m the only one who can legitimately kick your ass in real time. You got away. We got you out, Sammy. Believe in that! Believe me, okay? You gotta believe me. You gotta make it stone number one and build on it....

They're unbroken, unalterable. They're each others touchstone. The one constant in each others lives.

They're soulmates. They keep each other human.

For me, this is the very heart and the very soul of Supernatural. Their story. The story of Sam and Dean. The epic love story of two brothers who will never, ever give up on each other and it's why I'll never, ever give up on them. It's why, no matter what, I'm on this road until the very end. It's Sam and Dean.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Review: Supernatural 7.02 "Hello, Cruel World"

WARNING! Episode spoilers!

You know, after... everything. All these years, all that we’ve been through...

How much can these guys lose? Seriously. How much can they lose and keep caring about getting up in the morning? Things keep getting worse and worse. How much can they lose and keep caring about, well, caring.

I should give you fair warning; I really kind of loved this episode…..

Anyone who’s a regular reader of my reviews would know how I feel about Ben Edlund. He’s my favourite writer on Supernatural. I work in TV in a creative field so I look to other creatives for inspiration. Ben Edlund inspires me. I wish I was just the tiniest bit as talented a writer as he is. I wish my brain worked just a little bit like his. That I could formulate the kind of ideas he does. He makes me want to be better, write better, write more, think outside of the proverbial box. Look at the episodes he has written, The Man Who Would Be King, The French Mistake, The End, Abandon All Hope, On The Head Of A Pin, Monster Movie, Wishful Thinking, Ghostfacers, and that’s just few. Look at those episodes. The diversity of the ideas there. The powerful and the ridiculous. The mythology and meta. He can make us laugh, laugh at ourselves and he can make us cry and cry. I even have one of the lines from The End tattooed on my arm for goodness sake, “We keep each other human”. I love that line, for what it says about Dean, about the brothers, but also just for the sentiment of it. Like I said, he’s an inspiration to me. Consequently, I tend to get irrationally excited by the prospect of a new Edlund script. The guy is at the top of his game.

So it appears we’re still on that rollercoaster. Still soaring to dizzying heights and plummeting back to earth with our hearts in our mouths. Still hanging on to that safety bar and riding it out, as Sam put it. Hello, Cruel World was one hell of a ride. So much packed into 43 minutes and it isn’t over, because once again…..CLIFFHANGER! It’s like 7.01 – 7.03 are one big episode. Hells you can probably throw 6.22 into the mix for a lark. Of course I’m yet to see 7.03 but, well, we’ve got to assume we’re going to be kicking off at Sioux Falls Generally Terrifying Hospital right? I love this, I love this perpetual cliffhanger!

Cas is gone. Is he? Is he really? There was no big white light Angel flash and without that, I just don’t believe he’s gone for good. Anyway, no one ever really dies in Supernatural. But like I’ve said in the past, as much as I love Misha and Castiel, I’m good to go with finishing the Angel storyline. This wasn’t quite the ending I was expecting though. I was expecting something a little more epic, which is another reason I doubt that our journey with Cas is over. Though part of me liked that he just walked into the water and melted away, or whatever happened to him. That there was no drawn out storyline, death or goodbyes. That trench coat washing ashore, wow, that was like a punch in the gut. The way Dean looked at it, nearly cracking, carefully folding it, carrying it off with him. Damn. I teared up. Of course me being me and all practical and the like, I also wondered if Dean hung it out to dry when he got home. But seriously, I wonder if he hung it out? Then did he fold it up and put it somewhere, maybe pop it in that lock box of his? Or, is it hanging on a hook by Bobby’s front door. Oh man, that’d be sad. Oh God, I just had a thought, did it go up in flames in Bobby’s place? Boooo. Hopefully Dean threw it in the boot of the Impala then. Sorry, I digress! Cas is gone, or is he? I say not. He'll be back, in some form or another.

I’m loving the Leviathan. I love that they went through the water pipes. How do you stop something that can do that? They can travel anywhere. I guess that’s the point. I love that they’re black goo filled shapeshifting bodysnatchers. I love me a good shapeshifter. I totally love their horrible mouth and that they eat people! It feels like good ole fashioned monster territory, except that they’re ancient, God’s first test drive with creation. Ooopsy. I also really love that they're a bit lost. They're trying to find their feet and do it right, whatever their 'it' might be. They're smart and they're learning. They have knowledge they gained from being inside Cas, they knew Bobby's name, how troubling is that, what else do they know? More troubling, apparently they have a boss. Hmmmm. A boss. Because of all this Butch and Sundance chat, in my mind this mysterious boss wears a white straw hat! I’ve seen a bit of speculation over who this boss might be. Is it something we’ve already met or something new? I’m hoping for new. I know there’s chat around the possibility that Cas is the boss, or at least his Jimmy vessel, but, geeze I hope not. Cas isn't going to go all evil, his last foray into evil was a bit of an accident after all. So, even if it was just a vessel thing, I'm still not keen on this idea, at least for any length of time. Though seeing Misha relishing that role could be fun. But, nah. I don't really want a not-Cas walking around in a Jimmy suit. Plus, I don’t think Dean’s heart could take it if his buddy came back from the dead as the new big bad, even though it wouldn't really be Castiel. The Leviathan are great. A real challenge. Something different but something familiar. They're exciting. And they can be anyone....

I’m loving Lucifer, yes, yes; I think I have a bit of a crush on him. So he’s obviously a projection of Sam’s mind and he is a nasty piece of work, but still, he’s a lot of fun. His snarky humour, his manipulative lies, his charm. He's the perfect Devil. He’s kind of awesome. I know we won’t get the wonderful Mark Pellegrino for long, so I’m just going to enjoy him while I can. Sam’s a tough guy. He’s already started to sort through the real and not real situation in his addled brain. He’ll get on top of this. Even though Luci is still around, Sam now knows he’s a figment of his own subconscious. I’m happy that Sam’s experience in Hell hasn’t been brushed under the rug. Sometimes Supernatural can drop things like a hot potato if they prove to be a bit tricky. I’m pleased Sam’s Hell doesn’t fall into that category. I’m also glad that Dean is sharing his Hell experience with his brother. No one could possibly understand but the two of them. I like that this is being explored. Having said that, I don’t want Sam stumbling around, his puppy dog eyes filled with unshed tears, dealing with this trauma by silently field stripping his weapon for the rest of the season and I don’t want him relying on self-harm in order to ascertain what’s real and what’s not. I get why Dean went this route though. Every memory, every poignant or otherwise moment the brothers have shared is also in Sam’s brain and so in Lucifer’s brain. The only way to make Sam understand reality was to bring him back to reality with something they shared post Hell, post the pit. The mundane of real, actual pain. Yes, it was about identifying which pain is real and which is not but it was also about identifying something that could only have happened above ground, together. A new shared experience. Only Dean could do this, only Dean can get through to Sam like this. Dean's been the only constant in Sam's life. Clever Dean.

What about Dean? Struggling under the weight of it all. I read in one of the interviews with Sera and Bob, that Dean has an epiphany of sorts soon. I hope that epiphany comes in the shape of realising that he’s important too. I’m pretty sure that’s not it though. But seriously, looking after people and putting yourself at the bottom of the heap, needs wise, becomes exhausting after a while. You can only soldier on for so long and Dean’s been soldiering on for years now. He’s due a break. I don’t mean a holiday in the sun, though I’m sure he’d enjoy that, I mean he’s due a psychotic break! He’s very wobbly on his feet, everything is getting pulled out from under him, he’s got nothing to hang on to. Since the day his mum was torched on the ceiling, one thing after another has been stripped away. Loss after loss. It sucks ass. Both the brothers have suffered this, but Dean being Dean has shouldered the load. When Bobby asked how he was and Dean said, “Who cares?” it was ‘that’ Dean that we see every now and again. The Dean who didn’t think he deserved saving way back in Faith, “Why? Why me? Out of all the sick people, why save me?” The Dean who didn’t think that God should pay any attention to him in Are You There, God? It’s Me, Dean Winchester “Because why me? If there is a God out there, why would he give a crap about me?” ‘That’ Dean, the Dean that deep down inside still thinks he’s worthless (I blame John) or at least, not worth worrying about. “Who cares?” We hadn’t seen ‘that’ Dean for a while and yet there he was again. Thank Heaven’s for Bobby. Thank Heaven's for Bobby understanding that he just has to be there.

I think their little “couple’s yoga” moment in the kitchen was one of my favourite moments ever, not just for Bobby and Dean, but in Supernatural, ever. Bobby’s “Idjit”. Dean’s half smirk. Dean needs this man to care for him. He may be heading into his mid thirties, but he needs someone to care for him like his daddy should have all those years ago. I love you Bobby Singer for being that man, I really, really do. And I love you Ben Edlund for writing that scene, I really, really do.

Which, I guess, brings me to, where’s Bobby? Well, I’m sure he’s fine (I’ve seen the stills from 7.03) and I’m sure he isn’t full of a Leviathan. I hope. Because that would be so intensely annoying I’d be forced to send hate mail! Bobby’s house on the other hand…. So no more books, no more safe place, no more home away from the Impala, no more panic room…though that was reinforced iron with titanium doors and whatnot, maybe that survived the Leviathan attack? Maybe that’s where Bobby is hiding out, underground in the panic room? I really hope Bobby hears Dean’s plaintive words on his voice mail. “You cannot be in that crater back there. I can’t... If you’re gone, I swear, I am going to strap my Beautiful Mind brother into the car and I’m gonna drive us off the pier. You asked me how I was doing? Well not good! Now you said you’d be here. Where are you?” I want Bobby to listen to that, Dean's cry for help. I want them to talk about it. I want Dean to acknowledge it and I bet you, he doesn’t. All I know, or assume, is that next week, it’ll be Bobby to the rescue! Someone’s got to get those boys of ours out of Sioux Falls Generally Terrifying Hospital!

And once again, the performances this week were remarkable. Every member of the cast is doing extraordinary work. Every word, every emotion believable and heartbreaking. I should also mention Guy Bee, who directed this one. This episode had a lot of special effects and action set pieces but it was also filled with powerful, poignant moments and every aspect of this was handled beautifully. The pacing was really nice. The episode rocketed along, but the moments that needed room to breathe were given that space. As the stakes got higher and higher, so did my blood pressure! It was chaotic and frantic and everyone was so screwed. Also, the lighting was spectacular, go have another look at the Bobby’s kitchen scenes, it’s gorgeous. Oh and thank you Guy for all the stunning Dean close-ups. 

I really did love Hello, Cruel World. The more I think about it, the more I love it. Such a lot happened, I've only touched on it here. There was so much brotherly goodness. That trust feels like it's back again, that support. Like we've turned a corner and are heading back towards the kind of relationship we all fell in love with. And I’m just so in to this perpetual cliffhanger. I mean it’s a killer, but I’m a Supernatural fan, I’m used to pain! Season 7 has had a rollicking start. We’ve got a creepy, mysterious, scary monster with a silent waiting to pounce boss, the brothers sharing and caring for each other, Sam in peril, Dean trying to save him, Bobby trying to save everyone, everyone in deep shit, Dean's got a broken leg, Sam's out cold, they had to call an ambulance! Yay! Is it next week yet?

Thanks for reading….see you for The Girl Next Door, directed by Mr Ackles! 

Don’t forget, if you feel like commenting….go for it – Amy.