Sunday, 8 January 2012

Review - Supernatural 7.11 "Adventures in Babysitting"


Warning contains spoilers...
I'm not gonna quit. It's not even an option. I'm not gonna walk out on my brother. 
And we’re back….though, it appears, not everyone made it through the hiatus alive….. 

I always think there’s a lot of pressure on the mid-season premiere. Supernatural generally gives us a rip-snorted of an episode as the mid-season finale, often with a cliff-hanger, usually with something that rips our heart out and makes us scream no, or makes us gasp out loud, or cry buckets of tears. We are then left to our own devices for 4-6 weeks to ponder the outcomes and feed each others frenzy. As we get closer to S-day we start counting down and I mean that literally. We rewatch the last episode. We hungrily keep an eye out for clips, spoilers, anything that will give us a tiny hint of what to expect. We discuss and theorise possible outcomes, motivations, arc directions. By the time the episode actually airs, the excitement is palatable; as well it should be, because we love this show and every moment without it is a nightmare. But I think this level of anticipation, this build up, often leaves us feeling a bit flat. 

I’ll be honest and say, traditionally, the mid-season premieres have not been the strongest episodes of the season. But what they do, particularly in the later seasons, is bridge the gap between the first half and the second half of the season and show us where our characters are and how they are dealing, or more specifically, not dealing with what ever tragedy just befell them. They give us a sense of where we go next and set up questions that will take us through the next 10 or so episodes. If we look at them from this angle, they do their job well. All this sounds like maybe I didn’t enjoy Adventures In Babysitting….but, I did. For me, Adventures In Babysitting acted as a character piece, allowing us to, once again, witness the diverse nature of grief experienced by Sam and Dean. It also acted as a preamble for the remainder of the season by setting up some intriguing mystery and it stayed purposefully obtuse about the loss of Bobby and what his final decision was, stay or go, allowing for the possibility of something powerful to be revealed at a later date. It may have been a bit of a weak MOTW episode, but if you think for a minute Adventures In Babysitting was all about the Vetala, then you weren’t paying attention.
I liked how the passage of time was demonstrated after the loss of Bobby. Okay, before I go any further let’s talk about Bobby. As I said earlier, I feel like the writers are being purposefully obtuse as to whether Bobby chose to stay or go. We didn’t see Bobby answer the Reaper, we didn’t see the end result at the hospital, we didn’t see his body burned by the boys, a funeral, burial, cremation, nothing. For all we know he’s still in a coma in hospital, as per Dean in In My Time Of Dying, except that both the boys alluded to his death, specifically Sam saying he passed away, so we’ve got to assume he never made it through that final flat line. But by not discussing it in detail, by not giving us a clear cut answer it keeps us engaged with Bobby and his storyline, because we’re left wondering what he decided and how will this impact the arc moving forward. We’re left to imagine and discuss the possibly options and outcomes. It leaves us with a glimmer of hope that maybe we might see him again in some form, and hope can be a hard thing to come by on Supernatural so we hang-on to it like it’s a life preserver! But most importantly, it leaves us intrigued by the possibility of a crack in the door. I thought that was smart writing, manipulative sure, but smart writing. Of course we also had the mystery of the disappearing beer. Was that Bobby, looking after that idjit Dean from beyond? Making sure he didn’t go the route of the senior Winchester and get lost in a mire of alcohol and grief induced revenge? Well only time will tell….

As devastating as the loss of Bobby is to me, somewhere inside I feel like it’s a loss we had to have, because the nature of death in Supernatural was starting to lose meaning. It had almost become a gag. You die, so what, they’ll bring you back later. Death was beginning to no longer have the impact that it had when the boys lost John. I feel like we're being shaken out of our complacency, that we're being given a wake-up call. Real death still happens on this show and it still has a significant impact and a death this large is going to reverberate through the boy’s lives and somehow change them. It’s for this reason alone, that I have sort of come to a place of peace with the loss of Bobby (also because I’m still in denial), because if his death has an importance to the season arc or is imperative to the development of Sam and Dean, individually or collectively, then, as dead Ash said when he came back, I’m cool with it. Having said that, in my heart of hearts of course I hope it’s not forever, but I no longer feel cocky about that assumption.
Okay, back to the boys. Sam and Dean have always dealt with grief differently but somehow, they seem to have come to a place where they now share one aspect of their processing, they internalise. As they’ve got older and encountered more and more crap, they’ve turned less to each other to unload. A lot of this comes from the breakdown of trust they’ve experienced through their various transgressions and lies. You can’t expect them to just open up, not when there’s been so much water under the bridge. Once upon a time, Sam would have tried to make Dean talk, but not anymore, he knows it’s futile, he knows his brother wades through denial like no one else. Once upon a time Sam may have tried to open up about his feelings, but now Sam’s dealing with a whole other problem inside his head. Seeing them sitting on the couch in silence, experiencing their own grief personally and yet together was powerful. Jensen and Jared need only look at each other to show the well of emotion their characters are feeling or show Sam and Dean’s isolation even though they’re sitting next to the person they love most in the world. I got the sense from those looks that each wanted to reach out, but neither no longer knows how. There was a tragedy to that scene that just floored me.
Three weeks in, as they moved through their grief they both took different paths which I felt was totally appropriate to how they would react. Sam chose to follow a case that related back to Bobby. The kid of one of Bobby’s hunter friends needed help. Sam chose to go that route; I’m sure thinking that if he could save this one life it would give some kind of meaning to everything. Restore some kind of balance. Dean chose to bury it all deep as usual and angrily pursue revenge, focusing on the numbers Bobby gave them with his dying breath and continue the search Dick Roman. In having a separate focus, they went their separate ways. This would usually freak me out! But though they weren’t working together, they never actually felt apart. They kept in contact, didn’t cut the other out, ensured the other knew what was going on. Sam told his brother he could do with his help. Dean dropped everything when he realised Sam was in trouble. They weren’t working the same case, but they were still working together. Somehow, this felt like a step forward. It felt like they were leaning on each other just a little.
As Sam went in search of the missing dad, Dean went in search of the silent Frank, only to find that the conspiracy nut had gone even further off the grid due to helping Sam and Dean with their Leviathan problem. Dean’s interactions with Frank reveal some things about Dean and his grieving. He doesn’t want to talk about Bobby, getting openly hostile when Frank tries to share stories. He appears even more torn than usual about living the life, but he resolutely will not leave his brother. That and revenge seem to be the only things moving him forward right now. He's so bottled up it's explosive. He’s operating on fumes. He’s tired. When he finally crashes out, Frank lets him sleep for 36 hours. When he wakes up, Dean gets some advice from Frank about how to keep going. I’m not so sure it was what Dean needed to hear quite frankly. Frank essentially told him to either quit or fake it. Wake up everyday and slap a smile on your face because that’s what you do because it’s your job. You’re alive. Be a professional. To quote T. S. Eliot, “Put on a face to meet the faces that you meet.” Read: bury your pain. The last thing Dean needs to be told is to bury his pain. He’s already a master at that. And I mean, look at Frank, the man is obviously buckets of crazy, and as we find out, after finding his wife and children butchered in his home, he’s been burying his pain like a dog with a bone ever since. No, Dean needs to get it out, somehow, and I think he will and I think when it happens, it’ll be violent.
When Dean finally gets the message from Sam and realises Sam’s working on old information, he leaves Frank to continue the surveillance of the mysterious field owned by Dick Roman enterprises and hot foots it to find his brother. In doing so, he meets Krissy, the daughter of the missing hunter. Personally, I adore any interaction Dean has with kids. I love the way he speaks to them. He susses Krissy out almost instantly as a tough brat of a hunter and talks to her accordingly. He talks to her like she’s got a brain. She calls him a dweeb. During their conversation we also get to hear a story from when Dean was hunting and Sam was at Stanford. I may or may not have geeked out a little over this! I love nothing more than hearing about the brother's lives before we met them. Of course this also gave Dean the chance to tell Krissy she could go to Stanford too. Become a hunter/paediatrician. He’s a good man Dean Winchester, with a great big heart and I love it when we get to see this side of him.
Of course, Sam’s case of Krissy and her missing father, directly mirrored the lives of Sam and Dean. Murdered mother, father driven by revenge, kid dragged along for the ride. By saving Krissy’s father and then by saving Krissy from the brother’s fate of living the life, the Winchester brothers finally got something they desperately needed. They got a win. Lord knows they need a win every now and then.
As the episode comes to a close we have the two brothers, alone in the car. They discuss how good it is to finally walk away from a case feeling like they've made a difference. Dean asks Sam how he's doing. Sam openly admits, once again that he’s not doing great, but says he just wants to work, saying to his brother, “Should I even ask?” Of course, Dean answers, “I’m fine.” and adds he also just wants to work, after all, they are professionals. Sammy knows it's a heap of crap, frowns at his brother, turns up the music and swings around to try and sleep off the recent attack. Then as his little brother rests beside him, Dean takes Frank’s advice and practices smiling….  Though his eyes are filling with tears, Dean practices smiling…. He’s going to fake it. That's how he'll be able to keep going, by faking it, by putting on a smile. In this moment, Dean’s true level of grief and despair is revealed. This scene. This scene was amazing. To be honest, I burst into tears. Great big wracking sobs. Jensen Ackles is just…I don’t know, I can’t even put it into words. Why these two guys don’t get the kind of kudos their far less talented peers receive is one of life’s great aggravating mysteries. 

Adventures In Babysitting was in absolutely no way the best episode of the season, I think we’re all honest enough to say that, but it offered us a lot to think about and I feel like that was it’s job. It set up the mystery of what the Leviathan were doing in the field. It made us question what was the fate of Bobby, by keeping that information hidden and having that beer strangely disappear. And it proliferated the scenes with engaging characters such as crazy Frank and fiesty Krissy, which helped us see how the brothers are doing both individually and as a pair. Through conversations and actions, tragic and heroic, we saw Sam and Dean’s inner struggles as they process their grief. Sam always seems to be doing better, but his eyes and their sadness reveal his struggle with in. Dean is in a deep pit of anger and despair, but he's going to try harder to hide it. I want nothing more in this world than for Sam to be whole again. I want nothing more in this world than for Dean to find his spark. I want them to come through this and be better for it. And that's what I hope will happen, because though I feel like the worst is yet to come, I felt like some small progress may have been made here and this is why Adventures In Babysitting worked for me. 

There’s been a lot of talk about the show no longer having hope, but I don’t see that, because I choose to see the Winchester brothers as the hope. As long as they keep getting up and fighting the good fight. As long as they keep battling evil and not letting the supernatural S.O.B.s push them around. As long as they stick together through everything, even when they're mad with each other, then as I see it, there’s hope. Because they do keep getting up and fighting the good fight. They do keep choosing their own paths. They do stick together. Maybe they sometimes forget why, maybe they sometimes can’t stand the pain of it, but they do keep doing it and in a way, that shows they still have hope. It shows that somewhere inside them, they still believe that they can win. They still believe that good can triumph over evil. They still believe that what they’re doing means something. They still believe in each other. And this gives me hope. They give me hope. And that’s all I need.

Well, there you have it....I'm nothing if not optimistic, though some may say delusional...feel free to tell me in the comments.

But one thing you should know, I'm on this journey with the Winchester brothers until the end, thick and thin, good and bad, I joined this ride a long time ago and I'm sticking with them.

I'm pretty excited about next week's episode. It looks interesting....and hot! Here's a preview! 

See you next week...and thanks for reading! -Amy

19 comments:

  1. Reading your review almost made me want to cry again. The two of them, together but alone, wanting to reach out but not knowing how...For a show about two kickass guys and a muscle car they sure know how to tear my heart out.

    I found it interesting that Sam and Dean seemed to have reversed roles a bit here, with Dean being obsessed with revenge and Sam wanting to move on with their lives. And that Sam seems to have accepted their roles as hunters while Dean is now the one struggling with the job. I'm looking forward to seeing where the writers take that.

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  2. Thanks for the comment, and yes agree! They've been moving towards this swap for a while now and it seems to be becoming more pronounced, but I still feel in my gut, that no matter what Dean says or thinks he wants, somewhere deep inside him he loves the life and he'll find away to get back there. I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of their journey!

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  3. You know what I loved about this episode Amy? I loved the Leviathans. We have had many, many, many, bad guys end games plots. YED, Lilith, Lucifer, Cas/Crowley. But with all those plots the right hand didnt know what the left hand was doing.
    The demons didn't completely understand the importance of Sam. No one really knew what Lilith was up too - and to the same degree the other demons didnt know what Ruby was up too. Not all of them agreed with Lucifer's plan.
    What I love is how the Leviathans are like a well oiled army or society, they all have their job and place and they all seem to know what the end game is - or at least to a degree. It makes them much scarier than just the normal face eating stuff.

    Anyway I really enjoyed this episode, I love watching the character stuff. Its good to see Dean having to deal with the grief of Bobby... I almost want to watch Everyone Loves a Clown so I can compare the different ways the boys deal... but that clown still freaks the hell out of me.

    Awesome review like always. Cant wait for next week.

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  4. Thanks for commenting Kara! I agree with you that clown is scary...oh wait...the Leviathans are awesome (and that clown is scary). I love how organised they are, that they seem to understand society and humanity enough to position themselves in areas that give them the most power and access to what they need. They really are a well oiled machine and I can't wait to see what their end game is. Also, clowns are just creepy. That is all.

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  5. Loved your review!

    Like you i enjoyed more the characters moments in this episode than the case but since the case wasn't the point of the episode, i must say it was a good episode.
    I'm loving the journey that the writers are doing with Dean...yeah he has no hope right now, yeah he's depressed and the only thing that makes him go on is revenge and not wanting to leave his brother alone, but we can't expect that after everything he went through he could be the same Dean we met in season 1. The characters development is one of the things i have always appreciated in this show. They are not afraid to change the characters (maintaining them the sames however deep down), to make them do things unpolitically correct, to show them being vulnerable and weak. They are humans and this is why i love them so much, expecially Dean. I'm looking forward to see where they are taking Dean. My theory is that for now on he will try to fake happiness until it will happen something to him that will make him fall down definitly. And right now could be everything because he's really on the verge.

    I loved how they presented to us both Frank and Krissy in this episode. Frank is crazy but at the same time is pretty lucid to understand Dean's state of mind and give to him an advice (good or bad i don't know, we will see). Krissy was representing Dean expecially but even Sam at that age. Her conversations with Dean were funny but at the same time made us see that good and loveable part of Dean that we don't see often (like you said).

    And don't make me talk about the final scene...that 'smile' broke me in little pieces. Poor Dean.

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  6. Thanks for your comment Jess. I totally agree, where they have taken these characters is what keeps me coming back. Sam and Dean will never been who they were because they've been through to much, I only hope that they can find a way to be at peace who they've become and the reality of their existence. I think this is where we're going with there being more focus on the two lead characters and their relationship. I love it, can't wait to see what comes next!

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  7. Yeah, i hope too that they will come at peace of what they are and what they have become. They will never have a normal life. Sam understood that in the first seasons, Dean understood that in season 6. But that doesn't mean they can't be happy of what they are doing like saving people. The problem right now is that they have lost Cass few months ago and Bobby recently. So obviously they need time to see things on a different perspective. And i can see various breakdowns coming before finding their way. But it's okay. Until they are continuing to write a good journey for these characters i don't mind watching angst or happiness...i seriously love this show!

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  8. Amy, what a great review. Once I was able to focus on the words and look away from the beauty of Jensen, your words had me in tears all over again (thanks alot, I had just recovered from friday nite, but it's all good). I absolutely agree with you on so many levels, but the one thing that you said that stands out to me the most, the one thing we need to embrace
    is that th "boys are the hope". Great Job!

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  9. France_SPN

    I always like read you Amy. It's good to read a review of a fan, it often reflects how I feel. How I missed the beginning of the episode, read you made ​​me realize some things.

    I loved seeing Frank and Krissy. Frank is not so crazy that he wants to prove it's a facade and Krissy succed to smile Dean. I liked the interaction of Dean and Krissy and I would like to see her again.

    I am also in denial for the death of Bobby because I'm not ready for that.

    Jensen was great in the final scene, with a smile instead of tears knowing well that a good fit of sobbing would make him more good.

    Look forward to next week

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  10. "I choose to see the Winchester brothers as the hope"

    That right there? Sums it up for me too. Thanks for writing such a positive article. :)

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  11. Try again! Either u are writing more awesomely(if that is possible)I found myself clinging to each word! The anticipation thing may well be why I felt flat after the ep???..And did Dean freeze in the kill???AND I dont really feel that the boys soooo very talented skills are being fully used by the writers...And the writers really need to give equal creen time to the boys..I know there are more Deangals(and I love him too)..but tis only fair in my humble opinion:D
    Does any of this make sense::DD

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  12. Ya know, I rarely read reviews of episodes written by fans, because I don't like to be swayed by others' anger, frustration or left-field interpretation of a show I love. That said, I whole-heartedly agree with what you have written here, Amy. Of course, I come at it from a Sam-girl perspective, but what you have said is spot on about the way I feel about this episode.

    A wonderful, balanced viewpoint, expressed concisely and honestly.

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  13. Unfortunately I don't have time to comment as thoroughly as I would like on this, but I have to take the time to say: excellent, EXCELLENT review. You accurately summed up all my feelings on the episode and expressed them far more coherently than I have any hope of doing. IMO, every single Supernatural fan should be forced to read this. The negativity surrounding this episodes in some circles is shocking and quite depressing if I'm honest, it's great to read an articulate, well-thought out review that highlights the many good points this episode has.

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  14. Great job Amy, and thank you for going into details. Layers are important to the show and the characters. Thank you for pointing out things others fail to see or appreciate. This is one of a better mid-season-after-a-hiatus premier.

    I think the placement of Death's Door and Babysitting is good. Having experienced the sadness from Death's Door, and then we went into hiatus, now that we are back.... I feel like my emotion has been automatically adjusted. But still very sad about Bobby, and the last shot of Dean does not help! I think the Bobby story is wide open.. in Supernatural fashion, we will see loose ends being wrapped up -- a cemetery scene, or flatline or burning of a body etc.. -- but with Bobby, it's wide open. I strongly believe the disappearing beer was Bobby's doing, I think he still has a role to play in fighting the Leviathans.

    I think Frank injected some good elements.. and I kinda buy his attitude, you gotta put on a smile even if you have to fake it. I love Jensen Ackles in the last shot.. I was just speechless.. that was so awesome.. How good is this man?!

    Thanks Amy. I'll stop now, or I'll keep talking.. I better go write my review now..

    Awesome stuff Amy!

    -tiny-

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  15. I think you broke down this episode how it was meant to be a seen. I found many significant moments throughout his episode. Definitely a character piece in my eyes & probably one of my favorite eps this season... Strong performances buy the cast & especially, young Maddy. Jensen stole my heart in the final scene. -Deanie_24

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  16. I've already read so many negaive reviews that when I accidentally ran across yours, I was really pleased. It's so nice to read some positive thoughts about the episode and not just 'damning with faint praise' like some have done. You have reinforced my own positive view of the episode and and shown me what was important in the characters of the brothers. The best thing was raising my spirits by such a postive outlook,and making me smile while reading your thoughts

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  17. Amy, another beautiful review! It's so hard to read long reviews, especially when we write long reviews! But you hit on so many other points that are reasons to love what the ep was about, even if certain aspects fell a tiny bit short...and we both answer things similarly in a different way. so much love for the boys, I know they'll make it through, but I'm always afraid I just won't do them justice. thanks Amy :D

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  18. That was a great review, thanks. I too have been on the Winchester ride since the beginning and I will not get off until the Impala (let's bring her back!) comes to a full stop.

    That one scene at the end had me tearing up big time. I've been thinking this for a long time now, please someone out there, give Jensen Ackles a meaty movie role, and not in some schloky horror movie like "Valentine's Day Massacre", something good. After "Frontierland" I was thinking western, but now that I've seen him as a fed with a Fedora, wow, yeah a gangster movie would be very nice. Sorry, that was a little fan girlish even for me!

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