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Wednesday, 25 July 2012

SUPERNATURAL FLASHBACK - SURVIVING THE HIATUS ONE SEASON AT A TIME - SEASON 3



The thing about season 3 is, I always wonder what those other 6 episodes would’ve looked like. You know the one’s we missed out on seeing. I mean, had there not been the writer’s strike and we ended up getting the full 22-episode season, what more of the story would’ve been revealed? Did the creative team have it all planned out, partly written? How many of those ideas were fleshed out in coming episodes or utilised in later seasons, or are there some that couldn’t be reworked and were shelved or simply shoved into a draw somewhere? Sure, there would’ve been a couple of fillers in amongst the 6, but what more would we have seen of the over-all arc? What more of Dean’s plight, his desperation. What more of Sam’s struggle, his sadness as he coped with Dean’s impending death. How many more beautifully penned conversations would there have been as the boys bantered the problem back and forth. Would we have found out more about Bela, about Ruby, about Lilith? What would season 3 have looked like had it been a full season. Gosh, how I’d love to know. How I would love to see those episodes.

Still, for a season that was cut 6 episodes short, it doesn’t feel at all rushed. I look at the list of titles and I’m baffled by the strength of every single one of them…well except the season opener which is a bit of a disappointment, and maybe the ghost ship episode, but the rest of season 3 is super strong. I also realised that I must watch season 3 a lot, because I found that I was spouting dialogue left and right! I know a shocking amount of dialogue by heart! Makes me laugh…


Season 3 is kind of hard to watch. There’s this overwhelming sense of dread hanging over the whole thing, that kicks off right from the get go and never lets up. Even in the episodes not specifically about Dean going to Hell, that darkness is still dancing around the corners of the storyline. There’s a building sense of panic and hopelessness in both the brothers as they get closer and closer to the end of Dean’s year. They fight it right up until the very last second. At times they’re at odds as to how to do it, but in the end they stand side by side as brothers to face the inevitable. They’re there for each other to the very end. Sam never gives up trying to save Dean. Which got me to thinking. Off the back of a lot of what came out of Comic-Con there were questions around why doesn’t Sam ever get the chance to save Dean? But watching seasons 1, 2 and 3 with a more analytical eye than usual, it seems to me, he’s always trying to save Dean. If you look at my last two season write-ups, both the episodes I chose to focus on are about Sam trying to save Dean. Sure, he’s not always successful, but then, the only time Dean truly saved Sam successfully was when he made a deal and threw himself to the dogs, literally. Sam, to save his brother and the whole of humanity, threw himself to the Devil, literally. It seems to me these boys are even in both their successful and failed attempts to save each other. Saving each other is what they’re always doing in some way or another. Sam saving a dying Dean in “Faith”, Dean trying to save Sam from falling into darkness, Sam trying to save Dean from the Reaper, Dean saving Sam by selling his soul, Sam trying to save Dean from his deal, Dean trying to save Sam from Ruby, Sam trying to save Dean from throwing it all away for the Angels, Dean trying to save Sam’s soul….it goes on and on and on, season after season. They’re even-stevens in my eyes. I simply don’t get the argument. They are each other’s greatest strength and each other’s Achilles heel and season 3 is an excellent example of both.


The other thing about season 3 that got me really excited was; it’s when Jeremy Carver first came on board. I love all 4 episodes that he wrote for Season 3, but particularly I love the interactions he wrote between the brothers. Admittedly, this was a season where they were facing being ripped apart for eternity, but the depth of their conversations, their resonance and how Carver captured their relationship, their chemistry, well damn, it got me so excited for him being our Showrunner for season 8. Because he gets these guys, he gets their relationship and he gets how important it is. He gets their ups and downs, their anger, their humour, their love. He just seems to understand the Winchester brother’s dynamic. As we head towards season 8, hearing Carver talk about how the brother’s relationship is the heart and soul of this show and central to the story, and then watching the episodes that he’s written with that ticking away in the back of my mind, well it makes me all tingly with optimism.


I actually found this season the toughest to pick an episode to focus on. First off I thought I’d do “No Rest For The Wicked”, but I think Nicole may have taken me out and beaten me up if I focused on another doomed Dean heartbreaker! Though…what a season finale. It has one of my favourite brother moments of all time. That whole speech at Bobby’s before they head off to try and kill Lilith, when Dean says, “We take this knife, and we go after Lilith our way. The way dad taught us to. And if we go down, then we go down swinging. What do you think?” and Sam responds, “I think you totally should have been jamming "Eye of the Tiger" right there.” Gah! Brilliant response! As was Dean’s “Oh bite me. I totally rehearsed that speech too.” I love that whole conversation. This is a close to perfect finale and don’t even start me on the boys singing “Wanted Dead or Alive” in the Impala, the fear on Dean’s face, he’s so damn scared.

I love how Dean can see behind the veil and sees the demon behind the human they’re wearing. I love that we’re given a hint of the possibility of Sam having some kind of power we’re yet to see. That Dean is being so stoic, trying to remain strong for his brother and for himself as his time ticks away. I love the pet murdering Lilith kid, by far my favourite Lilith and one of my all time favourite big bads. That kid who plays her is creepy! I love what Dean says to Sam as the clock strikes midnight. He apologises, “I'm sorry. I mean this is all my fault, I know that” and then as his brother asks him, what he’s supposed to do, Dean says, “Keep fighting. Take care of my wheels. Sam, remember what dad taught you... ok? And remember what I taught you.” Sam simply nods. His eyes brimming with tears. In that moment, he looks like a little boy, listening to his big brother. Kills me. Kills me every time. Then of course we have to watch Dean ripped to shreds as Sam cries out for it to stop and Sam cradling his dead brother as we hear Dean’s screams for Sam from Hell. Yep. Thank you Mr Kripke for the torture…sweet, sweet, wonderful torture. Plus this episode gave us “Family don’t end with blood” a very important quote.

But I started at the end, which is weird!


I love the moment in “Fresh Blood” where Sam rips off Gordon’s head. Actually I wasn’t going to say that, even though I really do (grrrr Gordon), what I was going to say was, I love the moment in “Fresh Blood” when Sam asks Dean to drop the, I’m not afraid to die act, “'Cause... just 'cause.” That gets through to Dean. I think this is the moment where Dean registers what his decision is doing to Sam. I mean, I’m sure he knew, but having his brother stand before him and ask him to just stop, just ‘cause, shifts something in Dean and that tough act of his pretty much stops from that point on. Then we get to see Dean showing Sam how to fix the Impala, preparing Sam for a future without him…. “..that's my job, right? Show my little brother the ropes.” A-wah!

In “Dream a Little Dream of Me” we not only find out Bobby’s tragic back-story, but we see a different side to Dean and different side to his desperation. We see his dream of a life with Lisa and Ben, or rather, the perfect life that he thinks they represent and we see him face his demon self, the one that he knows he’ll become when he goes to Hell. The anger spills out. The anger of having so much thrust upon him, of having so much responsibility and we finally see him start to aim some fury and blame at his father for all of the past, for what he’s going through now and for the future he faces. “I didn't deserve what he put on me. And I don't deserve to go to Hell!” He’s in his own head, facing himself and discovering some home truths. Man I love that whole scene. Then, he finally admits to Sam, that he wants to live and Sam vows to find a way. I also see this as the start of Dean looking to Bobby as a father figure. There is something in their interactions in this episode, which telegraphs their deeper relationship to come.


“Mystery Spot” is a funny one for me, because though I totally dig this episode, the more I watch it, the more powerful it becomes. I remember at first I simply saw it as a “Groundhog Day” kind of thing. It was smart and very funny. But as I’ve watched it more and more, it’s become really rather painful. It’s painful to watch Dean die over and over and it’s painful to watch Sam have to deal with that day in day out for 100 days, slowly but surely getting more and more despondent as he tries to figure out the mystery and save his brother’s life (again). For me the worst death isn’t actually the one at the end, but the one at the beginning, where Dean grabs at Sammy’s jacket and hangs on with a fistful as he looks into his brother’s panicked eyes, sputters and dies. Man….that scene is agony. For some reason I find that one far more painful than the one at the end which is final…sort of. One thing I have to say for Dean Winchester though, he’s one seriously pretty dead guy. Even when he’s hit by a car, he’s still pretty! Had to be said…sorry. 


Of course we also see how Sam deals with Dean’s death, something that’s somewhat of a prophecy as to how he really fares not far into the future. He becomes driven, robotic, single-minded. Without Dean by his side, he loses his Sammyness and is consumed by revenge. These two really are two halves of the one whole. Plus we have the Trickster’s conversation with Sam. Later in “Changing Channels” we find out that the Trickster is the Archangel Gabriel. In that episode, he wants the boys to play their rolls – that of Lucifer and Michael. Having that information when you go back and watch “Mystery Spot” adds a whole other layer to what the Trickster is saying to Sam. You’ve got to figure Gabriel/Trickster knows what’s going on, knows what Sam’s future truly holds. This was the last episode shot before the writer’s strike, but it was “Jus in Bello” that aired before the show went into the strike hiatus.

“Jus in Bello” is an all-time favourite of mine. It’s penned by Ms Gamble and I love everything about it. I love that they’re trapped. It’s one of those confined space, no escape scenarios that I dig. I love Henriksen. I love the other police officers and Nancy the virgin. “Nobody kill any virgins!” Gold. But the thing I love most about this episode is the genius plan! Dean’s idea to unlock the doors, let the demons in and fight (like men in tights) sounded a bit fool hardy, until they played the tape of Sam speaking an exorcism over the PA system. I think this is one of the best plans the show has ever seen. And I love that it was Dean who came up with it. We always think of Sam as the brains of the unit, but Dean is smart and resourceful and I love nothing more than seeing his mind in action…amongst other things.


An episode that’s grown on me is “Long-Distance Call”. I remember not being particularly taken by this one on the 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc. watch, but now…I love it. The dialogue between the brothers is beautiful. All through this episode Dean’s fa├žade peels away in layers, revealing the frantic terror beneath. All through this episode Sam is trying to be realistic, but gentle with his brother. He can see his brother’s unravelling and though he must be feeling the same way, he manages to remain calm and clear headed. Even if it’s not what Dean wants to hear, Sam tells him what he needs to hear. The final scene between the boys, where Dean admits to Sam he’s scared and that the hope that it was dad on the phone was simply the last act of a desperate man, has to be one of the most poignant interchanges the brothers have ever had. Honest, raw and tragic…and yet it ends in a joke…

DEAN - “Deep revelation, having a real moment here, that's what you come back with? And me?”
SAM – “Uh...do you want a poem?”
DEAN – “The moment's gone.”

It’s the perfect smile moment to get us through the pain and it was written by Mr Carver….which brings me to the season 3 episode I chose to look at more closely:

A VERY SUPERNATURAL CHRISTMAS


Yeah, who doesn’t love this one? Well, if you don’t you’re a Grinch! This has become my compulsory Christmas viewing. I watch it every Christmas Eve and usually again Christmas Day (along with "Elf" – "you sit on a throne of lies!"). If I’m away for Christmas, I pack it to come with me. Last Christmas my Twitter pals and I did a rewatch together and had people from all over the world joining in to enjoy this episode with us, as we all watched as one, online. I simply love “A Very Supernatural Christmas”.

"A Very Supernatural Christmas" was written by Jeremy Carver, but the initial idea came from the mind of Eric Kripke. Kripke says he'd always wanted to do a holiday episode, but it had to be the most bloody and violent holiday episode ever! It had to have an Evil Santa. Of course it did! Kripke and the creative team came up with the teaser pretty early on because they all knew what they wanted to do…drag Santa UP the chimney! He says the scene where Evil Santa drags the father down the stairs in a sack as the kid looks on, and then turns around and eats one of the kid’s cookies, was one of the times his family rang him to ask, “What’s wrong with you?” Kripke also says he was obsessed with getting that Special Presentation opener because he remembered it from when he was a kid. It was on NBC. It took the production crew ages to track it down as no-one knew who owned it, who owned the music, how they could get permission to use it, but Kripke made them preserve until the piece was found and approved. It turns out; this is his favourite part of the episode. He also said they all wanted the boys to kill someone or something with a Christmas tree, but it had to be fully decorated! It’s those little details that make this episode so perfect and so deliciously twisted. And then thankfully, the idea was handed over to Jeremy Carver to pen and he worked some kind of Christmas miracle writing magic and created what is one of the most original and touching episodes of the series.

Though, the flashbacks to young Sam and Dean were not in the original script. They had to add in a few pages for timing and it was Ben Edlund’s idea to include the flashbacks to the dark, dank, festiveless motel room that was the Christmas home to the young Winchesters. Can you imagine this episode without them?

Part of the power of “A Very Supernatural Christmas” comes from the juxtaposition of the opulence and warmth of Christmas in all the homes the Winchesters visit, as opposed to their own situation both now and in the past. Nothing has changed. They’re still holed up in a grungy motel room with only each other.


In the flashbacks, we see young Sam’s desperate need to believe in his father, his need to believe that John would make it home to his sons for Christmas and we see Dean’s desperate need to try and make it right for Sam. He ends up sharing with Sam the family secret, telling Sam that their dad is a superhero and when John doesn’t make it back for Christmas day, rather than see the crushing disappointment on his little brother’s face, he nicks some presents from down the street and fakes it. He covers for John and tells Sam that his father came in the middle of the night and dropped the gifts off for him. Of course, Dean didn’t know the stolen presents were chick presents! But the thought was there. The need to protect his little brother from the truth, that they were left alone on Christmas day and the need to try and give his little brother some form of normalcy, a little happiness in his life. Dean was 12 years old. Poor little guy. Of course, Sam sees through it, sees what Dean is doing, knows that Dean must be equally as shattered. Sam’s a smart and empathetic kid even at 8. So he gives Dean the gift that Uncle Bobby had given him to give to John. He gives Dean the amulet. You get a great understanding of what these kids went through in this episode. Sure we saw a similar scene in “Something Wicked”, but this is Christmas for Heaven’s sake. These kids are alone, older and wiser and tragically, a little more jaded.


I wish that the amulet had stayed just as a gift from Sammy to Dean. I was so disappointed when it became something else. When it become some tool to find God. Its strength and power was in what it represented to Dean. That moment when he became the one his little brother looked up to over his father. It was the first thing Dean ripped from the Shapeshifter’s neck in “Skin”. It was the first thing Sam gave Dean back when Dean returned from Hell in “Lazarus Rising”. It represented so much of their relationship and giving it this extra duty, this extra reason for being, reduced its significance for me. Sure, I bawled my eyes out when Dean dropped that amulet in the bin. I was deeply shocked by that. But I recovered, because for me, the amulet had lost some of its shine, it no longer simply represented a young boy’s love and thanks. It no longer simply represented Sam and Dean. I think that was a huge mistake.


In the present, Sam and Dean are trying to solve a pesky husband dragged up the chimney case, complete with festive jumper wearing Pagan Gods with plastic covered furniture and an excess of Christmas paraphernalia! But what is really happening is that they’re both struggling with Dean’s deal. Dean has only one Christmas left. It’s making him reminisce about Christmas’ past and romanticise the Christmas’ that they did spend with their father. Sam won’t have a bar of it because his memories are very different. But what’s really happening is that Sam and Dean are both desperately hanging on. Dean to his one last chance, Sam to not wanting to opening acknowledge the last of anything. It’s painful to watch them grapple back and forth, neither quite reading the other right. Until they have that conversation…

SAM - “I mean, I just, I don’t get it. You haven’t talked about Christmas in years.”
DEAN – “Well yeah, this is my last year.”
SAM – “I know. That’s why I can’t.”
DEAN – “What do you mean?”
SAM – “I mean I can’t just sit around, drinking eggnog, pretending everything’s okay. When I know next Christmas you’ll be dead. I just can’t.”

All the pennies drop.


You know, the scene where Sam throws Christmas for Dean makes me cry my eyes out every time. But as gorgeous and heart-wrenching as this act is, this isn't what moves me the most. It’s not so much the fact that Sam did this for his big brother, doing for Dean what Dean did for him as a child, even though it must have hurt him to face the moment and I adore Sam so much for doing this for Dean, I mean, he bought fishing floats and air-fresheners to decorate the tree, he even made eggnog, I mean the look on Dean’s face says it all, but as gorgeous and heart-wrenching as this act is, it’s the gift giving that kills me. 

Here are these two guys, they save the world, save strangers and yet they have so little. They have only their clothes, weapons, car and each other. But look how happy they both are to simply give each other the most mundane of gifts. Wrapped in brown paper and the comics section and bought from some gas mart down the street. They both snuck out independently of each other and bought what little they could get in the boondocks, with the 5 bucks they have to their name. Each wanting to surprise the other with a Christmas present. I always, always sob my way through this scene, partly because it’s so lovely but mostly because they break my heart. They just break my heart. In this moment, with all that lies ahead of them, with all that hangs over them, these simple gifts, this simple act of love, what each will do for each other in even the smallest way, this tiny moment of joy written on both their faces, it makes my heart explode in every which direction. I love this episode. I love this scene. This scene and this scene alone makes me want to run around cheering that Jeremy Carver is back in the fold. I pray he writes more moments like this.

There’s so much fun in “A Very Supernatural Christmas”. It’s gory and ridiculous and tongue in cheek. But it’s the mirrored moments between the brothers in the past and in the present that pack the emotional punch.

Season 3 is full of those moments. I don’t think I sufficently noticed the depth of the interactions and conversations between the brothers before, or how Dean’s deal affects them both is such different ways, well I did, but not to the level I did during this rewatch. As I said at the very beginning, they may be each other’s Achilles heel, but they’re also each other’s greatest strength and season 3 might be the best example of both of these parts of their relationship. For now. Because who knows where this story will go…..


I have to tell you all something. I am so enjoying doing this project. It’s a butt-load of work, I really had no idea when I took it on, but it’s made me look at the seasons in a slightly different light and it’s made me appreciate this show even more. As fans we all know how special this show is. We have all fallen in love with it for our own reasons. But for me, re-watching the episodes with a view to writing up the season, well it’s made me fall head over heels in love with the show all over again and it’s made me even more head over heels in love with the Winchester brothers, their spirit, their souls and their bond. It just confirms to me that, no matter what, I’ll hang in there with them because, no matter what, I still believe in them, I still believe in what they represent to me and what they represent to each other and I still believe in this show. It makes me profoundly happy and reaches into my heart in a way that no other show ever has and I doubt ever will.

Wow, sappy ending was sappy! 
Anyhoo… Let me know what your thoughts on season 3 are. Do you love “Bad Day At Black Rock” best? Or like me, do you adore the episodes with all the deep and tortured emotion!

Coming soon: Season 4. Crikey!

Thanks for reading!
-Amy

Saturday, 14 July 2012

SUPERNATURAL FLASHBACK - SURVIVING THE HIATUS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON 2.


As I was approaching season 2 I started to have a crisis. There are a number of season 2 episodes that are absolute favourites of mine, ones that I watch over and over, so I thought I was going to have a tricky time deciding which to write up. As it turned out….not so much.

Season 2 is an interesting one because, though I think it has one of the strongest narratives in the series, I’m not in love with the whole psychic children storyline. I didn’t like Max and I’m not that fond of season 1‘s “Nightmare”. I should feel sorry for Max, but I don’t, I’m not sure why. Intellectually yes, emotionally no. I think there’s something in the performance that doesn’t gel with me. Maybe if Max was cast differently or written differently, I don’t know. So the whole psychic children plot got off to a rocky start for me and never completely recovered. The odd thing is; I like the concept in relation to Sam. It’s powerful to think that this family, this family haunted by what turns out to be a demon, who have spent so many years hunting down evil in search of that demon, are now faced with the situation of having someone they love affected by the Demon to the degree that Sam is. Affected on a cellular level. It’s so desperately tragic and desperately sad. For Sam it colours everything moving forward and influences how he sees himself and at times, his actions. For Dean, he’s faced with the fact that the person he loves most, is intrinsically linked to the thing he hates most and boy does he struggle with it. The conflict they both feel, once the secret is finally revealed, is so deep that it permanently scars them, raising its ugly head time and again. In many ways, it shapes their relationship, for good and bad and as we later discover; it shapes their destiny. Of course, they don’t find out the true essence of Sam’s connection to the Demon for some time. Well, Sam finds out at the end of season 2 but Dean not until season 4 and they don’t understand what it all means until season 5, where we also learn Dean’s destiny is tied to Sam’s. Of course it is! Yet what’s happening to Sam and the questions that raises, hangs over the brother’s heads and season 2 like a black cloud. Of course.... John knew something was amiss.


Ah, John. My feelings towards John Winchester are a complex beast. There was a long period of time when I was so damn angry at him for what he did to these boys, the secret he kept and in particular, what he whispered into Dean’s ear. To put that on your son? To not explain to him the nature of what it is he may have to deal with? To just tell him, “Oh and FYI you might have to kill your little brother one day, you know, the one you raised and love more than any other human being on the face of the Earth…” Ok, I’m being a tad facetious, but I was so very angry with him for the longest time. I’ve come to a much more, shall we say, balanced place now when it comes to John Winchester. I think I’ve taken a similar journey to Sam in that regard. I don’t agree with a lot of what he did, I doubt we know half of it, but I have an understanding as to why he chose that path and I know that he was forced into an unfathomable situation and did the best he could. I think reading John’s journal really helped me with that. There’s a lot of tortured grief in that journal. So much love for Mary. So much anger and sorrow peppered with sweet moments where he talks about his children. I may not agree with the road he took, vengeance is a cruel master, but I can, in some way, grasp it. It’s interesting how Sam and Dean have arrived at different places when it comes to their father. Sam, who was so hostile in his memories of how he was raised, has come to accept and understand his dad, as beautifully illustrated in the scene from season 5’s “The Song Remains The Same” when he pours his heart out to the young John Winchester. It’s one of my favourite scenes of the entire series; powerful and understated it’s exactly what Supernatural does best. Dean, who idolised his father, moved to a place of anger, confusion and disappointment and I think a lot of that came from what John put on Dean at the beginning of season 2 and later, in the realisation of what John had put on him his entire life. Then John sacrificed his own life for his Dean’s. It was a selfless act by a father who felt he had no other choice, but what a burden for his boy to carry, a crushing secret and guilt that ate him up from the inside out. How fascinating was it when the brothers were asked the name of the shifter baby in season 6’s “Two And A Half Men”? Dean said Bobby and Sam said John. That was an incredibly telling moment. As we’ve watched them grow and mature over the years, I think the best and worst of John Winchester can be seen in both his sons through their personalities and actions. They’ve followed in his footsteps, to Hell and back, literally. But more recently, I feel we've seen that both brothers have settled in a much healthier place when it comes to their father, as I guess, have I. I feel love for him because he was the boy’s dad. I’m devastated for them when he dies because I know both of their hearts are broken and I’m moved when, briefly, they get to see him again as he breaks out of Hell, because I know they so desperately needed that. Of course, in reality, all of this comes from my love for Sam and Dean and wanting to protect them from so much pain. Anyway, as you can see, like his sons, I have a complex relationship with John Winchester and I’m always reminded of this when I watch season 1 but particularly season 2.


Phew, so now that’s out of my system, moving right along! As I said earlier there are a number of season 2 episodes that are absolute favourites. “Croatoan” for example. Wow, “Croatoan”! This becomes a profoundly important episode later in the series when we discover the true nature of the croatoan virus, what its purpose is and why Sam’s immune, but what I love about “Croatoan” is that tight, trapped, isolated feeling. I feel the same way about “Jus In Bello” and “...And Then There Were None.” It’s that confined space, no escape scenario and how people react to it. “Croatoan” is particularly disturbing because the brothers, on lock-down, don’t know what’s happening or why, just that somehow it’s connected to demons and its infecting humans. I find the moment when Dean shoots the mother who’s contracted the virus, incredibly confronting. He just steps forward and BANG. Shocks the hell out of me every time. Of course Dean’s in a pretty bad place by this stage, off the back of learning from the Crossroads Demon that as he suspected, John traded his soul to save Dean’s life. When everyone thinks Sam gets infected by the demon virus, it’s almost like it’s a relief for Dean to be able to just, hang-up the towel. His brother is going to die, so Dean’s going to check out along with him. He no longer has to face the burden of responsibility he feels for his dad’s death and the possibility of having to kill his brother. I love the scene where Sam pleads for Dean to leave and Dean says, “I'm tired, Sam. I'm tired of this job, this life . . . this weight on my shoulders, man. I'm tired of it.” This weight. You can almost feel the crush. This moment between Sam and Dean makes me ache. Then suddenly, everything is alright and they’re called outside, but Dean’s already shown his hand, leading to the revelation of what their dad said in the moments before he died. Ugh. The audience becomes privy to the knowledge that this virus was a test on Sam’s immunity to it. Such manipulation. This family has been pushed and pulled every which way by these evil bastards. “Croatoan” is so good. And what a cliff-hanger “Dean what did he tell you?” ROLL CREDITS! Noooooooo!

Then there’s “What Is And What Should Never Be” where we get to see Dean experience what a normal life would mean for him, even though it’s through the influence of a Djinn. In amongst all the joy of seeing Dean mow the lawn for the first time and eat a sandwich at his mum’s table, there’s so much sadness because the happy scenes amplify what he doesn’t have, what Sam doesn’t have and what they both sacrifice every day. Then in amongst this supposedly ideal world, he doesn’t get along with the one person who means the most. Sam and Dean are not close in the Djinn’s alternative Universe. I’ve always wondered about that, because if the Djinn were creating a perfect existence for a victim you think he’d dot the i’s and cross the t’s! But as Dean said, the Djinn just granted the wish that Mary never died and the family never took to the life. I love the scene where Dean talks to John’s grave and asks why, even though he already knows, “Why is it my job to save these people? Why do I have to be some kind of hero?” Because that’s who he is. He may think it’s just his job, but saving people, being a hero is who Dean is, it’s who Sam is and both brothers would have made the same decision in this false world, to choose strangers lives over their own happiness. I also love the scene at the end between Sam and Dean where Sam says in so many words, that he’s glad they have each other and that they’re the brothers that they are. He’s so gentle with Dean. It’s a truly heart wrenching moment. I want to wrap my arms around them both.


Oh heys, I think I’m coming to the conclusion I really love season 2! “Born Under A Bad Sign”, “Houses Of The Holy” with an awesome reference to the Archangel Michael, “Nightshifter”, “Heart”, what I think is the creepiest episode of the series “Playthings”. Dolls and a creepy ghost kid and that final scene with the little girl ghosts singing and skipping. Geesh. Insert shiver down the spine here! I never watch that one before bed. Of course it’s also got the painful moment where a drunk Sam begs Dean to kill him. Both brothers are in a pretty shocking emotional state in season 2. Season 2 also introduced my most hated character. Gordon. Oh man, that guy pushes my buttons! And let’s not forget “All Hell Breaks Loose Parts One and Two” which bookend season 2. It all starts with John's deal and ends with Dean's. I always watch parts one and two as a double, because I can never walk away with Sam dead and Dean screaming his name. I always tear up at the beginning of part two as Dean talks to his dead brother. I think of how Kim Manners created a closed set and used blacks to camouflage essential crew and how he himself disappeared into a corner to give Jensen the environment he needed to get to the heart of Dean’s sadness. I think of how Jared said he played as dead as he possibly could because he wanted to help Jensen and Jensen knew he only had a couple of takes in him and I pretty much cry every time when Dean says, “It's like I had one job... I had one job... And I screwed it up. I blew it. And for that, I'm sorry. I guess that's what I do. I let down the people I love.” Even typing it hurts. But for me one of the saddest moments is when Dean shoves Bobby away. There’s such devastation in that action. Bobby’s face and Dean’s sad, broken apology just rips right through me. I always find myself thinking about the scene between the two parts. The scene we don’t see. The one where Bobby comes back to find Sam dead and Dean still clinging to his brother. The one where Bobby has to gently pull Dean away. The one where the two men, in shock, carry the fallen Sam into one of the buildings and tenderly set him down on a bed. It’s powerful stuff when a story can make you fill in the gaps like that. What would have happened had Sam killed Jake? Don’t you always ponder that question? I assume Azazel et al would have found another way to get the brothers to the end game, but if Jake had died…. no dead Sam, no deal, no Hell, no broken seals, no Lilith, no Apocalypse? Could all that pain and so much loss have been prevented if Sam had not shown Jake mercy in that moment? Or what if Dean and Bobby had arrived just 30 seconds earlier? A gal could go crazy thinking like this! But I can never ever not think a whole alternative scenario through after watching the season 2 finale; its outcome had such an impact.

But, none of these wonderful episodes are the episode I chose to look at more closely (believe it or not) because as soon as I put in that first disc, I knew what it would be….

IN MY TIME OF DYING


Ask me on any given day which is my favourite opening episode and I will give you a different answer, but it’s always going to be either, “In My Time Of Dying” or “Lazarus Rising.” Right at this moment, I’m passionately in love with “In My Time Of Dying”. I’ve watched this episode more times than I can count. It’s in my top 5, probably sitting in 3rd or 4th position I guess, though I can never figure that out, it’s like 3 episodes tie for 3rd! I love the introduction of Tessa the Reaper, the notion of how angry spirits are born, Sam fighting desperately to find a way to help his dying brother (I’m sensing a theme here between my season 1 and 2 favourites!), the appearance of the Yellow Eyed Demon in the shape of Fred Lehne and Dean in drawstring pants, a tight white t-shirt and bare-feet. Sorry to bring the tone down so early in the piece, but I mean, how often do we get these boys in a single layer! My apologies; back to the serious subject matter at hand.

“In My Time Of Dying” picks up exactly where “Devil’s Trap” left off, with the three Winchester men, injured in the crushed Impala and Bad Moon Rising playing on the radio. Sam is the only one who wakes up. I’m always haunted by Sam screaming out Dean’s name…yes I may have a little thing for when they scream each other’s name out, pretty sure I’m not the only one. You can feel the fear and confusion that Sam must be experiencing in that moment, not knowing if his entire family is going to live or die. “In My Time Of Dying” is one of only two episodes in which we see the brother’s taken off to hospital by medical personnel, the other being season 7’s “The Girl Next Door” when Dean had to call 911 because Sam’s out cold and a monster broke Dean’s leg. This time around, I assume it’s the poor truck driver who calls for help after he awakens from demon possession to find he’s caused a horrific accident.


What grabs me the most about “In My Time Of Dying” is Sam’s unwavering faith in his brother, that his brother will find a way to recover, or Sam will find a way for him, there is no other option in Sam’s eyes, he will not give up on Dean and he won’t let Dean give up on himself. Though this story is primarily about Dean, I always feel this is also Sam’s episode, because it’s Sam who is the link between the living and the dead for his brother. His belief in Dean and his strength in the face of his world crumbling around him always hits me in the gut. When Dean ‘wakes up’ to wander the halls of the hospital trying to make sense of what has happened to him, the first person he calls out for is Sam and as much as John is injured, Sam is solely focused on Dean. Whose heart doesn’t break as Sam stands over his comatose sibling and says, “Dean, you've got to hold on. You can't go, man, not now. We were just starting to be brothers again.” They’ve just found their way back to each other, how can Sam let go now. This is the episode that signals the end of the dream of a reunited family and the beginning of Sam and Dean’s journey together as simply Sam and Dean.

One of my favourite scenes is when Sam goes and sees Bobby to retrieve The Colt from the wreck of the Impala. The conversation they are having sounds like it’s about the car, but the conversation Sam is really having is about Dean. “Listen to me, Bobby. If there's only one working part, that's enough. We're not just going to give up on...” Of course, Bobby gets it. Bobby wouldn’t give up either, we know that now.

I love the way the connection between the brothers is demonstrated. You can see that Sam can genuinely sense that Dean is there, somewhere and I don’t put it down to him being a psychic wonder, I put it down to them being so in tune with each other. I’m sure if the shoe were on the other foot, Dean would be sensing Sam left and right. Such relief washes over them both when Sam arrives with the Talking Board and they’re finally able to communicate. They share a moment of happiness there, albeit, brief. Even faced with the news that there’s a Reaper hot on his brother’s heels, Sam doesn’t give up on Dean. “No. No, no, no, um, there's gotta be a way ….There's gotta be a way.”


If you listen to the commentary for this episode you’ll hear, Jensen, Jared and director Kim Manners discuss how they did this scene and other scenes where Dean is in the shot we see, but not in the shot from Sam’s point of view. Basically, Jensen had to leap in and out of shot very quickly, because if you notice, Kim used a lot of 360 degree camera movements in the episode. Swirling around from Dean looking at Sam, to Sam looking at nothing. Swirling around from Dean talking to Sam to Sam looking down an empty hallway. Timing was everything. This technique gives an interesting fluidity to the scenes. This is a beautifully shot and beautifully lit episode. For example, in the scene where Dean confronts Tessa, she’s lit half in light and half in darkness, like a Reaper represents both. It’s also like she’s coming out of the shadows, being revealed to Dean in her true essence. I love the lighting in that scene, it adds to the power of Dean’s realisation as he gasps and shudders under her touch. You know Dean was going to go with her right? If the demon smoke hadn’t hitched a ride with Tessa, I’m absolutely sure Dean was about to say yes to the Reaper, because what other option did he have? You can see it on his face. “So what’s it going to be?” Man, we’ve heard that somewhere recently huh? Just as a trivial aside, have you ever noticed how dirty Jensen’s feet are in this episode? If you haven’t, look next time you watch the scene with the Talking Board (or just look at the shot above). 


I find one of the sadder aspects of “In My Time Of Dying” is that even though Dean is in the state he’s in; he’s still trying to be the peacekeeper. His father and brother are at each other’s throat. Sam doesn’t understand why his dad is focusing on the Demon and The Colt rather than on his son, John, as we now know, clearly has other ways to help Dean on his mind. Even when he’s in his ghost form, Dean is trying to stop them fighting, trying to keep everyone together. When he comes to, he’s still doing it as his father and brother start to bicker over his bed. This is how it must have been for him before Sam went to Stanford. This is how it must have always been for Dean. No wonder he turned into the caregiver he became. His job has always been looking out for his brother, looking out for his family, holding them together, even teetering on death he’s trying to hold everyone together. Breaks my damn heart.


But I guess it’s the final moments of “In My Time Of Dying” that pack the biggest punch. We find out that John does, in fact, know the truth about Sam, he’s known for a while, as is revealed by the Yellow Eyed Demon. We are left wondering what on earth this secret about Sam is, as is John’s eldest son when his father whispers in his ear. The scene leading up to this moment is such a moving one. Even though Sam is hell bent on arguing, John softly asks him if they could not fight, something that stops Sam in his tracks. I’m always saddened by the fact that Sam never got his moment with his dad, he went off to get his old man a cup of caffeine. I remember reading that Jared initially thought that Sam should have made more of this moment, that he should have said something or made some gesture towards John as he left the room, but in not doing anything, in not acknowledging that this would be the last time Sam would see his father alive, in just going “Yeah. Yeah, sure” the moment is more powerful and tragic. When John starts saying nice things to Dean, telling him he’s proud, apologising for how he raised him, Dean gets scared. It’s a tender scene between father and son, but it’s heartbreaking to think that these words and sentiments are so foreign to Dean, that he’s instantly frightened and knows that something must wrong. Then John leans in and whispers in his son’s ear and horror and confusion pass over Dean’s face as his father gently smiles and walks away. Hallway. Sam. Coffee cup. Silent scream. CPR. Flat line. Time of death 10.41am. I still cry when John Winchester dies, but I‘m crying for his boys. I’m so desperately sad that they had to go through this final scene all over again six years later, this time with Bobby.


John’s choice to give his life for Dean’s, to make a deal with the Devil so to speak, is a decision that has catastrophic ramifications, because it’s with this single act that the whole kit and caboodle kicks off. This is where it starts for the Winchester brothers. This is where the seeds of their future decisions are sown. By the end of the season, Dean has sold his soul to save Sam's life. Like father, like son. It goes on and on. The brothers spend the coming years following in their father’s footsteps, sacrificing their lives and doing deals with devils. Well I guess everything really started with Mary in 1973 and her deal with the Yellow Eyed Demon, but this moment, this choice by John in “In My Time Of Dying” is where it began for Sam and Dean. Kripke says in the season 2 companion: “From the moment John made his decision to sacrifice his life for Dean, that was the first major transgression the Winchester family had in terms of disobeying the natural order of things. There’s an epic thematic of the show which is you don’t play God and you don’t mess with the natural order, because only bad things can result. The Winchester family put themselves on a very dangerous path.” As we now know, 7 seasons down the track, the natural order of things is very important and it can’t be taken for granted. The brothers have disregarded it over and over and look where it’s got them. Only now are we seeing that they’re finally starting to learn the lesson that you don’t play with such things. Somehow, I still don’t think that would stop them when it comes to each other. I love that it all started here. Damn, Supernatural rocks!

So that’s it for season 2! It’s not my favourite season from an arc point of view, but it’s probably the season that contains my highest number of favourite episodes. Make sense of that if you can!

What’s your favourite season 2 episode?

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back soon with season 3!

-Amy

Saturday, 7 July 2012

SUPERNATURAL FLASHBACK - SURVIVING THE HIATUS ONE SEASON AT A TIME. SEASON 1



Preamble…

So is it October yet? No? Damn.

Every looooooooong hiatus I do my annual (sometimes biannual) series rewatch. Usually I rewatch the current season first and then go back to the Pilot and start watching the series from the beginning. Weirdly, for some reason this hiatus I’m finding myself rewatching the series from the beginning whilst rewatching season 7 at the same time. Interesting to say the least. And not at all confusing!

I didn’t start writing reviews for Supernatural until season 5, even though I started watching it when the “Pilot” first went to air. I didn’t connect with the fandom until sometime around the end of season 4 and then wasn’t brave enough to start writing until at some point during season 5, when my friends encouraged me after getting tired of my overly long comments on their blogs! So you see, though I have revisited many of the earlier episodes in one form or another, I’ve never really written one up. Which got me to thinking….this would be a good hiatus project! Writing up my favourite episode from each season. A project that will keep me busy until I head of for Vancon! (Yay)!

So here we go, sweetondean’s inaugural Supernatural Flashback – Surviving the Hiatus one season at a time.

Season 1

Watching season 1 is interesting. I mean, of course I watch random episodes all the time, but I find the whole season rewatch is always illuminating, no matter how many times I do it. I’m struck by how damn good the show was from the outset, but I’m also struck by how much it’s improved. There’s a butt-load of exposition in the scripts of the early season 1 episodes and to be honest, it’s not always delivered well. Do you remember Kripke talking about the exposition in the “Pilot” at last year’s Paley panel? I was rolling around laughing as he described the boys telling each other things that they both would obviously already know. He’s right; it’s clunky but a necessary evil in a new show, especially one with a big back-story like Supernatural has. Still… sometimes I wince. People have a lot of nostalgia for the brother’s relationship in the first season and while I love it, it’s what hooked me in after-all, give me the later incarnations of Winchester love any day. Sure, they’re getting on better (mostly) and larking around and pranking each other in the early seasons, but the depth of their relationship now is something I find beautiful and touching. That they still, after everything they’ve put each other through, love each other to the (dysfunctional) level that they do, is what keeps me as engaged as I am. Even if it’s not always on display, it’s there and it’s rich and mature. The other thing I always notice is how far Jensen and Jared have come as actors, particularly, at the risk of offending the Jared girls, Jared. On occasion Jared is a tad, umm hammy, in the early episodes. But he gets noticeably better by the middle of the season when he seems to settle into Sam and of course now, he rocks the screen. Sam, himself has changed out of sight, thankfully, because I find him a little irritating in those first episodes. I still love him of course, but he bugs me somewhat. His bitch-facing is epic. Also, he’s a bit Whiney McWhines-A-Lot or maybe I should say, combative. At least that's how it comes across for me, though I know some see it differently. I acknowledge that he's been through a lot and 
is struggling with grief and of course he was written that way, to be the foil to Dean's eagerness for the life, but sometimes his tone grates on me, probably because I know who he is now and how epic he became and consequently, I'm always really happy to get to the episodes where he seemed to settle into his existence a little more (as much as he did at that point) and became more reasoning, more the Sam we love. Dean is kind of Dean. He was always awesome in my eyes (as if you couldn’t guess - though I adore both the boys). Yeah, sure he’s way more carefree in season 1, even in the face of the desperation he must be feeling with his father MIA, but hey, that’s to be expected, let’s face it, he’s older and wiser now and he's been through a lot in the last 6 years. But even in the early episodes he still has that tendency towards being a bit morose and a definite tendency towards martyrdom and self-loathing that has led him down so many a dark path. Also, he can still flirt with the hot chick, even when facing death. 

Which segues me nicely into my favourite episode of season 1….

FAITH 


People who know me know that “Faith” isn’t just my favourite season 1 episode; it’s pretty much my favourite episode. Well not pretty much, it is. Which is a little baffling to me because I’m someone who prefers the later seasons to the earlier seasons. So for me to have an episode from season 1 as my all time favourite is kind of weird.

So why “Faith”? Why this episode? Why does this one resonate with me to the level it does? Why is this the episode that I turn to when I’ve had a crappy day or feel sick or just can’t decide which to watch? I think it’s because, for me, it’s when the whole enchilada came together.

When I look at season 1, I pinpoint 3 specific episodes where I believe the elements that Kripke was trying to bring together, form a perfect storm. “Skin” is when I feel the Sam and Dean characters started to be fully realised. “Home” is where the mythology really kicked in. We also saw a new side of Dean, a chink in his cocky armour and we get a great big dose of foreshadowing in regards to Sam, that doesn’t become understood until season 4. 


Then there’s “Faith”. “Faith” is an important episode. With “Faith”, all of a sudden the show felt big. It established a world beyond the ghosts, monsters and demons. It didn’t feel like a simple, little horror show anymore. We started talking about the after-life. The Grim Reaper became a reality and by introducing the concept of the Reaper we were introduced to the possibility of a world beyond which the boys had previously dealt. It also posed the question, if there’s a Reaper and an afterlife, is there then a God? A Heaven? The Reapers, of course, became a theme much visited throughout later seasons. It was the first time we saw the boys faced with the moral conundrum of choosing one life, knowing it would adversely affect another. Previously, good and evil, live or die had been a little more cut and dried, but not in “Faith”. We got to see a binding spell, something the brothers would use later themselves on the Reaper’s boss, Death. We saw Sam step up and take the big brother role for the first time, calling the shots. We saw how far the brothers would go for each other, because even though Sam didn’t know how Roy was saving lives, I often wonder if he’d have taken that route anyway to save Dean and of course we see a Dean that we get to know very well, a Dean who puts himself a long way down the list of his own life’s priorities. There are shots of Famine and Angels amongst the boy’s research, plus there’s the “A young man with an important purpose. A job to do. And it isn’t finished” line from Roy which foreshadows Dean’s roll in the future. There’s a lot going on, much of which you can’t catch until well into later seasons. The genius of Eric Kripke and his 5-year plan and beyond. 

I love how Faith starts. I love the set up. Grabbing weapons. Rushing into the house. Rescuing the kids from the cupboard. Sam getting grabbed. Dean shooting the stun gun and sending Sammy out with the kids and then Dean’s (kinda) fatal mistake of shooting the Rawhead whilst lying in water. Zap! Dead Dean. The beginning of this episode freaks me out every damn time.

They are strong brother moments in ‘Faith” all of which reveal and reinforce who we know the Winchesters to become. Dean’s legendary bravado covering his fear, which we see again and again, especially in season 3 when facing Hell. Dean questioning Roy why him, a question he repeated in season 4 when saved by Castiel. His penchant for self sacrifice, dying in someone else’s place as we saw him do for his brother in season 2 and then attempt to do for the world in season 5 before Sam stepped in. Sam’s laser focus on the task at hand, this time on not allowing his brother to die, which we saw again in season 3 when he was saving his brother from Hell and then in season 4 when he believed he was charged with stopping Lilith. When Dean struggles with allowing Layla to die, it’s Sam, who reminds him that’s not their choice to make. When Dean finds out that Marshall Hall died when Dean was healed, it’s Sam who reminds him, Marshall would have died anyway, if not for Dean then for someone else. The brothers make a great team in “Faith”, supporting each other ever step of the way, even when faced with a myriad of difficult circumstances and decisions. And I think that’s what is really highlighted in their relationship here, that they’re a team. “Faith” doesn’t feel like big brother, little brother. Then there’s the look Dean gives Sam at end of the episode when he realises Sam has organised for Layla to visit Dean to say goodbye. Kablamo! It makes my heart explode.

In fact, this whole episode makes my heart explode. 

I think “Faith” may have started my love affair with Sera Gamble’s words. She wrote this one with her writing partner in season 1, Raelle Tucker. I’ve always loved how Sera has written both the boys, never once being a fan who saw her favouring one brother over the other. I’ve always loved how she’s written their interactions and relationship and “Faith” is one of the episodes where I think their relationship is perfectly displayed. 

It’s beautifully shot. “Faith” has a lovely, grungy, blue tint throughout. A muted pallet, which captures the tone of the story and the environment in which it’s set. I miss the colour grade they used on season 1, that washed out look. I often wonder why the director Allan Kroeker never did another episode? Maybe he was too busy directing every other show under the sun, but still. “Faith” also has possibly the best music cue of the series with (Don’t Fear) The Reaper. That scene, with the old man being healed intercut with the young woman being chased down by the Reaper is simply stunning.

I’m not alone on loving this episode. Creator, Eric Kripke has said that “Faith” is a favourite. In the Season One Companion he’s quoted; "It's when I first realised what the show was capable of. Here's this episode about: Is there a god? What's meant to be? And is there free will? And is your life worth the cost of someone else's life? It's a metaphysical and moral study of the boys' universe.” 

Kripke aside, I know “Faith” is a top five episode for many a fan, but honestly if I could wrap my arms around “Faith” and give it a great big kiss I would! It’s helped me through so many bummer days and crappy feelings. It’s like an old friend. Familiar, warm and understanding. The kind of friend where I know what they’re going to say before they say it! And I haven’t even mentioned how fantastic Dean’s freckles are in “Faith”, especially on Bluray, or the hoody, or sick Dean needing special cuddles or any of that superficial stuff, like Sammy’s puppy eyes, because that’s obviously so beneath me…. No, honestly though…if you haven’t watched this episode on Bluray you are missing out! Hot Deanfinition freckles….the very best kind. 


So, that’s it, “Faith”. It means a hell of a lot to me. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it!

Next week it’s on to season 2. It’s a toss up between 3 episodes! Hopefully my continued rewatch will help me clarify which one I’ll write about.

What’s your favourite season 1 episode? Let me know in the comments.

Hiatus is hell so keep the faith (no pun intended).

Thanks for reading!

-Amy