Sunday, 17 February 2013

Review - Supernatural 8.14 "Trial and Error"

After last week’s episode, I had an epiphany. The last few episodes – in particular, “As Time Goes By” and “Everybody Hates Hitler” made me realise I missed something I wasn’t even aware I was missing… I missed Sam and Dean.
Sure, they were there every week fighting the good fight and invariably each other, like they had been since season 1, but that something, that lightning in a bottle, that connection they had with each other that made me connect with them……
I knew it wasn’t the same, that’s ok, it shouldn’t be the same, they're different men now, but I didn’t realise how much it wasn’t the same, I didn't realise how far they’d moved away from what made me love them in the first place.
Then…all of a sudden, there they were again, cautiously, slowly making their way back to each other and back to me, reminding me why I fell in love with this show in the first place and in doing so, making my heart beat and melt simultaneously. 
I was so used to seeing them frown, I'd forgotten what it was like to see them smile and laugh. It was then I realised I’d been missing them terribly. I’d been missing Sam and Dean.
This probably seems weird coming from me, me who always champions the brothers and it’s true, I’ve never doubted their love and dedication to each other and I never will, it’s just…it was hard to see it sometimes, in amongst the anger, hurt and pain.
Then I had a second epiphany and all of a sudden, the second half of this season – post hiatus – brought into focus the first half of this season.

I know a lot of fans have struggled with many aspects of the first 10 episodes of season 8. I haven’t necessarily shared those views, though I understand a lot of them. I didn’t have issues around Sam’s flashbacks. Their incongruity seemed purposeful to me. I felt like we weren’t supposed to understand them; that they were supposed to feel off, because they represented an ideal that in the end didn’t exist. I didn’t have issues around Dean and his post Purgatory personality, or how quickly he recovered. If he felt it was pure, I couldn’t see why he would be tortured by the experience. I understood his misunderstanding of what went down with Cass and the misconception that he left his friend behind, because that’s Dean…good or bad, like it or not, that’s who he is, it’s not the first time he’s worn guilt for something he’s not been responsible for. I was ok with Dean’s friendship with Benny, though I’m pretty suspicious of it now – not Benny as such but who flung Benny into Dean’s path, because how did Benny know that spell, let along about the portal, but beyond that, I enjoyed that friendship. But it ran its course and when Dean walked away, I was cool with it. That relationship was never supposed to exist outside of Purgatory. They were never supposed to contact each other in the living world. I didn’t have issues with Sam giving up ‘the life’, who could blame him after everything he’s been through, not me that’s for sure…the not searching for Dean, as shocking as that was, made some sense to me when looking at it inline with their past experiences, though I do agree that a little explainer would’ve been nice, not a great big scene, just a little one…even now…just to put it to rest…but I’ll be fine without it. I moved past Sam suggesting Dean hunt alone and Dean’s outburst under the influence of the spectre. I just kept looking to the future, because I assumed we were going somewhere, I assumed there was a reason for all of this. Then everything exploded in “Citizen Fang” followed up by “Torn and Frayed” and…it all started to make sense…

Last week, as we experienced for the first time in a long time a harmonious Sam and Dean, I realised maybe this was Carver’s plan all along; his genius in action before our eyes.
In season 6 and 7 the brothers were all over the place. They were struggling with soullessness and then trust, with depression, with craziness, with friends betraying them, with friends dying in front of them…damn it, they even lost the car! Jeremy wrote for “Supernatural” during the heydays of seasons 3 – 5. I wonder what he thought when he came back and saw what Sam and Dean had become? Maybe this is where his plan took root. How could he bring the heart and soul of “Supernatural” back to the show, how could he reunite the Winchesters in a realistic and meaningful way. How could he make it worth something to us and to them.
After being apart and living opposing lives for a year, the brothers would be in different places emotionally. So reunite them, but explore that. Put obstacles in their path, which pull them in different directions, which essentially end up pulling them apart. Make them hit rock bottom. Bring them to a place where they no longer know whether they want to be together and then force them to make a choice. Make them choose between the other people in their lives or each other. Make them choose between walking away from their brother and everything that’s always been important to them or recommitting to each other and their ongoing quest. Then when they choose to move forward together, bring in the new mythology about the Winchesters. Introduce mythology that allows Sam to connect to hunting on a level he hasn’t in the past. Allows him to have a purpose in the hunt, other than out of duty to his brother. Allows Sam to find some happiness and through his happiness, see Dean gain some comfort and equilibrium. Put the focus squarely back on the origins of the show - family and legacy - and in doing so, bring the show back to its roots. Bring back the heart and the soul.
Then back all this up with an episode where the brothers actually speak to each other, tell each other their dreams. Dean’s is to see Sam happy, Sam’s is to be happy but with Dean by his side. Let the brothers see what they still mean to each other and that this is a journey they can make together. Reconfirm that bond, that love… and make the fan’s hearts explode with joy.
Whether this is what the plan was all along or not, whether you see it like this or not this is certainly how it’s worked for me. I feel like I’ve been taken on a journey of rediscovery along with the Winchester brothers…a journey to remind us of the love, a journey to patch up all our broken hearts, that will let us move forward with hope and I like it.

Which brings me to “Trial and Error”. 

My twitter was going CRAZY after this episode. I of course, was at work! But everyone was tweeting me about how I was going to love it. Then my emails lit up with comments on the Spolier-lite preview…which I didn’t read (the willpower that took). Then my friend Hazel texted me a message all in CAPS, yelling at me to get home and watch it! Geesh. I was a wreck driving home…yelling at all the cars in front of me, “MOVE IT I HAVE SUPERNATURAL TO WATCH!” 

I popped it on…then after Kevin’s scenes and the title, there was Dean caressing his new Zeppelin vinyl, smoothing out the weapons on the wall…pulling the photo of Mary out of his wallet “Hey mom”…o-oh…lump in my throat…but it wasn’t until Sam was alone in Dean’s room and looked around, saw the photo, looked over his shoulder at where Dean had walked out, and smiled…and then looked back at Dean’s perfectly made bed…with its one pillow. Yep…I burst into tears! Ugly crying. Ok…I’ve been a little emotionally wobbly in recent months but that moment – both Dean’s pride in his room and Sam’s obvious understanding and how touched and happy he looked for his brother…yep tears…I may be welling up a little at the thought of it! I even loved Sam’s bratty and playful gum wrapper toss. Little bastard! I giggled. Brother shenanigans…how I’ve missed thee. Warm and fuzzies abound. I cried at least three times in this episode. Happy cries. Big happy Winchestery cries. It’s been a while.
So every one of you who tweeted me…yes you were right, I loved this episode. It felt like such a wonderful continuation of the work that started at the very end of “Torn and Frayed” and then tentatively continued in “LARP and the Real Girl” and has been making little steps, little bits of character progression each week to get us here, which is way better than where we were!

This trials thing is equal parts exciting and troubling. I don’t like what completing that trial did to Sam’s head and then his arm, which seemed to glow like Cass glowed when he took away Sam’s crazy, or when Dean carried Benny in his arm. I’m assuming Kevin’s nosebleeds and whatnot are because he’s read the trials – that connecting with the trials in any way, either physically or intellectually, causes something unpleasant to happen to you…unless Kevin was just in need of vitamins, but I thought, after the affect the trial had on Sam, it was more likely a physical side-effect of getting this close to God’s message and the endgame. Closing the gates of Hell was always going to come at a price. It's whether the price will be too high to pay that will be interesting.

For Sam to be the one who completes God’s little obstacle course has arc symmetry. He’s Lucifer’s vessel, he unlocked the cage initially, he’s been plagued by his dark destiny since season 1. This is his chance to put all of that to rest, atone – to himself, because I think it’s only Sam who needs to forgive Sam. Demons have been manipulating Sam since he was a child. Time for payback. No only that, this trial ended up giving him the opportunity to do something he wasn't able to do in season 3, he saved his brother from a Hellhound. It was such nice story continuity. 

Regardless of who is ultimately responsible for finishing the trials, this is a journey for both the brothers to take. I’m expecting Sam and Dean to work these trials together – with Sam being the one to deliver the final blow. The brothers are going to have to have each other's backs now more than ever, to keep each other safe. It was pure happenstance that Sam ended up being the one that killed the Hellhound – not through any will of his own, but because he was there and that bitch needed putting down before she ate his brother! But I like the way it turned out. I have a sneaking suspicion Dean will be involved in working out what’s happening with Cass and Heaven. Once again…arc symmetry, being as what their Biblical destinies were and also, recognising Dean’s relationship with Castiel. I like this. I think I like this a lot. To have them reconnect with these destinies in season 8 is genius.
Then there were the speeches that the brothers both gave, which were awesome and representative of where they’re both at.

Dean, having seen Sam struggle and have a reinvigorated desire for a safe life, wants to see that for his brother. That’s Dean’s happy ending, Sam’s happiness. Dean has always been cavalier with his own life. I think that’s equal parts heroism and self-loathing. At his heart, he still doubts his own worth, but at his heart he also has Sam’s heart. Sam is his most perfect expression of love. He wants the best for his brother. Who doesn’t? Okay, most of us aren’t willing to toss our lives away, but we all understand wanting happiness for those we love the most. Dean’s speech made me cry. I cried at his sentiment for Sam and how much love was on show, but also at how sad it made me for Dean, that he can be so damn awesome but just not see it, that he can really think of himself as a "grunt"…which I think has been reinforced by Henry and the Men of Letters thing. Dean sees himself as the “ape” hunter where as Sam is the MoL. Dean not recognising his epic strategic skill…Sam’s right the dude’s a hunter savant! And then Sam’s broken-hearted face, he simply looked shattered for his brother. It was an great speech, I love Dean’s unabashed heroism, I love what Dean wants for Sam…but I wish he also wanted something for himself. I don't think he has a death wish per se, just that he's fatalistic and dying bloody is the only future he sees.

Sam, well he needs to be believed in again, because I’m not sure he believes in himself and I’m not sure he has for a long time now. So much has happened to Sam to shake him to his core. And I do believe that Dean believes in Sam, but most of their heart to hearts in recent memory have been angry ones…it’s been a long time since they spoke to each other so open and honestly…and POSITIVELY! I absolutely adored that Sam said he’d lead Dean to the light at the end of the tunnel. Damn Sam Winchester, that was the perfect thing to say. That’s all Dean really needs to hear, that Sam does want him by his side. That they are in this together and that no matter what the outcome and even if Sam does walk away from hunting, he still wants Dean there, part of his life. I hope Dean had his ears on. He needs to hear his brother and take that into his heart. Maybe Sam's words will help him see that going out guns blazing is not the only option.
I don’t know about these boys, but I sure as hell needed those speeches. Oh and yes…I cried during Sam’s speech too. The brother scenes had me three for three!

One of the other aspects of “Trial and Error” I really enjoyed was the continuity with past seasons. The “THEN” was fantastic! It went back to season 2 and “Crossroads Blues”. We saw Crowley and his huge hound from season 5’s “The Devil You Know”. Then we brought Crowley and his deals into the present story. Plus I seriously love Hellhounds and I totally dug seeing them. How cool was that? Great effect. Awesome goopy blood goo all over Sam too! I was yelling…KEEP YOUR MOUTH CLOSED! Gross. Demon hound blood in your mouth, ick. Not as bad as old lady zombie spit though... 

Seeing the nasty dogs through the glasses was very cool as well…and hot. Hot. Those glasses were hot. Very, hot. Did I mention how hot the glasses were? Also flirty chick and caught-on-the-back-foot Dean and kissing and meat jokes and kissing...just sayin’. Oh and Aussie shout out to the Divinyls “I Touch Myself”! Rock on Chrissy Amphlett! Legend.
I like where all this is going. The tablets, the Men of Letters and the supernatural mother load, the reinvigoration of the bro's relationship, the trials, the links to Heaven and Hell. I get a sense that there’s a clear plan in place for the rest of the season, like all these elements that are running concurrent are going to connect...because it already feels like that’s beginning to happen.

Season 8 has been consistent and well structured. It feels like it's been a well fought and rewarding battle to get us to where we are now. There’s this awesome momentum building as we hit the back straight. It’s not been since season 5 that I’ve felt this anxious build towards the season endgame. Having season 9 locked and loaded so early in the piece, will also allow the creative team time to plan out the strategy for the end of this season into the new season, which is incredibly exciting.
“Trial and Error” was another classic “Supernatural” episode. That's 3 in a row where I've gone...oh yeah baby!

Not only that, the brothers are talking, they’re expressing their love for each other, they’re offering trust and support to each other. This makes me optimistic and happy. These are the guys I’ve been waiting to see. These are the guys I’ve been in love with for 8 years.
Welcome back boys…now behave yourselves and let’s never speak of that other stuff again!

Thanks for reading. See you soon.
- sweetondean

sweetondean is Chief Editor and writer for The Winchester Family Business

For all the latest Supernatural info and article links, follow The Winchester Family Business on Twitter at @WinFamBusiness


  1. I have an issue with the brotherly relationship supposedly being back to good when Sam has yet to admit to any of his mistakes, wrong doings and his jealousy over Benny. dean has accepted blame and said he was jealous, but yet Sam has not. Dean has acknowledged that Sam made a sacrifice and supported Sam over it, yet there has not been anything reicporcal from Sam. Dean has accepted blame where he is not to blame. so, It looks like the show is saying it was all Dean's fault and now that he's accepted that, the brothers can move on. It shouldn't work that way. It needs to be a two-way street. So, until Sam owns up to his actions in Season 8, including in 8.09, the relationship will not be fixed.

    1. For you.

      I believe you said exactly the same thing on my LARP and the Real Girl review.

      It smacks of Sam hate and brother hate on either side is not welcome here.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Lets try this again without the typing errors.

      There is no Sam hate, I just want a balanced story. To have Dean accept the blame for it all doesn't fix the relationship. If both parties are wrong and/or have made mistakes, then both parties need to own up to those mistakes, that is all.

  2. I don't understand why Sam is always the one to get the mytharc storyline and Dean is only in a supporting role (or is a punching bag). This would have been the perfect opportunity to have Dean have a role in the mytharc, instead of just being a supporting player.

    Even if Dean does help with the angel tablets, it will still be Castiel's storyline and again Dean is just in a supporting role.

  3. Beautiful review. I'm one of those people who don't care which brother does the trials, because in the end it's both their story and each of them has an important part in it.

    You wrote:

    'For Sam to be the one who completes God’s little obstacle course has arc symmetry. He’s Lucifer’s vessel, he unlocked the cage initially, he’s been plagued by his dark destiny since season 1. This is his chance to put all of that to rest, atone – to himself, because I think it’s only Sam who needs to forgive Sam. Demons have been manipulating Sam since he was a child. Time for payback. No only that, this trial ended up giving him the opportunity to do something he wasn't able to do in season 3, he saved his brother from a Hellhound. It was such nice story continuity. For Sam to be the one who completes God’s little obstacle course has arc symmetry. He’s Lucifer’s vessel, he unlocked the cage initially, he’s been plagued by his dark destiny since season 1. This is his chance to put all of that to rest, atone – to himself, because I think it’s only Sam who needs to forgive Sam. Demons have been manipulating Sam since he was a child. Time for payback. No only that, this trial ended up giving him the opportunity to do something he wasn't able to do in season 3, he saved his brother from a Hellhound. It was such nice story continuity.'

    And that's an interesting view on this topic. Especially what you write about Sam saving Dean from a Hellhound, it's a nice thought.

    I'm so grateful for what we have right now. I can't think of a better place for them (and us) to be after all the dark things they have gone through. They are back, they are both more than alright, they have a home, they have their car, they love each other, they want the task, and they want to do it together.

    Thnak you for the review.