Sunday, 31 March 2013

Review: Supernatural 8.18 "Freaks and Geeks"

Off the back of what was a cracker of a mythology episode, this week’s “Supernatural” was a filler (not that there's anything wrong with that). But that didn’t stop the script giving plenty of nods to the past.

It’s something that’s been so very enjoyable in season 8, an acknowledgment of and continuity with the history of the show. We kicked off the “Then” with John Winchester’s voiceover, explaining vampire lore, way back from the season 1 episode “Dead Man’s Blood” and then got a flashback to “Supernatural’s” greatest vampire hits. We got a nod to the Campbell family recipe cure. We got a nod to the Leviathan of last season. We revisited the themes of whether vengeance constitutes justice, what really makes a monster – is it being an actual monster or just being monstrous in your actions and of course, that old chestnut, can a hunter really have a normal life.

These things took what could have been a bit of an average filler, to something a little more interesting. Weaving a thread of this show’s history and themes through an episode always makes me happy.

I said in my preview that I wasn’t much of a fan of Krissy, not that I disliked her, just that I wasn’t as enamoured with her as many people seemed to be. I found her a tad more enjoyable in “Freaks and Geeks”. She was still dripping with ‘tude, but really, who could blame her with her dad being killed and all. I know a couple of brothers who’ve been pretty eaten up and vengeful after the loss of a loved one. In fact, when they first met Krissy, the Winchesters were fresh off watching Bobby die and Dean, in particular, was hell bent on catching and ganking the Leviathan that did it. So, I thought Krissy’s slightly more pronounced hard edge, with a smattering of vulnerability was appropriate.

In true “Supernatural” orphan style, she connected with people of similar experience and built a new family unit. Once again, another universal theme of the show was touched on. Family don’t end with blood, as a wise, curmudgeony, cap-wearing fellow once reminded us.

What I didn’t totally get was Victor’s evil plan. He lost his family to a wendigo and consequently, became a hunter; first to track down the thing that took his life from him and then tracking down other nasties to make sure no-one else would have to go through his pain. This is essentially every hunter’s story. Offering the kids training and closure in a safe haven, was not too much of a head scratcher, though, producing angry, kill or be killed kids, is not exactly ideal parenting. But here’s where I go…err. I didn’t completely get onboard with the whole, in cahoots with the vampire in order to create a hunter master race thing. Yeah ok, he was having new vamps made to be easy kills for the kids, which Victor then misled them to believe were the vampires that killed their families. But what was the next stage of this plan? Krissy was supposed to gank the girl vampire and then all 3 kids would've, supposedly, got their revenge. So what was next? Would Victor kill the vampire he was working with and train the kids to kill something new? And he killed the 3 kid’s families to simply build a batch of new super-dooper hunters? A tad extreme don’t you think? But then, I guess Victor was a few tools short of a kit. That was made pretty clear from the outset! Maybe his plan was never supposed to make sense to us, because there’s no sense in and nothing to be gain by vengeance.

Old Victor gave me the heebs and made me feel hinkey right from the get go. He made me all uncomfortable and skin crawly. He might as well have had a captioned arrow following him around ever scene, pointing at him and saying "Bad guy". Maybe it was because this actor played the shtriga in “Something Wicked” or maybe it was that sweater…maybe Dean’s right on the sweater thing. Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, even sometimes as a human with the outward appearance of meaning well. I always enjoy it when “Supernatural” toys with what makes something truly a monster. Some humans are just as bad, if not worse than monsters. Both Sam and Dean have learnt this and still struggle with it with it. Victor was a monster, a creepy sweater.

Dean’s interaction with Krissy was one of the more enjoyable aspects of “Freaks and Geeks”. They were thrown together in “Adventures in Babysitting” when Krissy’s dad and Sam fell foul of the vetala. That time around, they managed to snark each other out pretty nicely as Dean tried to give Krissy a bit of career counselling and Krissy would hear nothing of it. This time around, their previous connection opened a door for Dean to get Krissy to listen to him and trust in what he was telling her.

Dean with kids is one of my favourite things. He has a way with them. Maybe it’s because he predominantly spent time with his younger brother whilst growing up, maybe it’s because he raised Sam and so has developed a parental vibe about him. Whatever it is, he’s great with the kids, seemingly getting them and being able to talk to them on a level they respect. Equal parts authoritarian, understanding and cool. Actually, it probably helps that he’s cool, it drips off him…even though we all know deep down he’s a dweeb. Dean is someone it’d be hard not to listen to.

Talking Krissy down from killing Victor and making her realise that was not a path she wanted to take, was a nice moment. She wouldn’t want to be crossing that line. Sam and Dean crossed it years ago, we’ve seen them kill humans when they’ve absolutely had to, but hopefully Krissy need never go there. It may have felt like some kind of justice but it would've ended up feeling like empty, angry vengeance and that would've smarted later. The Winchesters can attest to how vengeance may feel great initially, but in the long run, doesn’t change much. They’re still full of hurt, they're still hunting; Krissy would be too. It was a lesson in doing the right thing over what feels right in the moment. Doing what is right over exacting revenge. Something that has been learnt by the Winchesters as they've travelled their very bumpy road. Though, I have a sneaking suspicion that had Victor not done the deed for them, the brothers would've been paying him a return visit to permanently take him out of the picture. Because, how could you not trust him to do that again? But better two grown men than a teenage girl...

I do think there was an opportunity lost in not discussing with Krissy and the kids, or even Victor how the brothers were raised in line with how these kids were being raised and how it screwed with their heads. It would've been any eye opener for Krissy, Aiden and Josephine to hear the Winchester’s story (not the whole story of course) and a nice nod to the brother's history together. It could have acted as a cautionary tale and if they wanted to get the kids out of hunting, giving them the straight-up on the cost of the "life" could have helped. Sure, the brothers really never had any choice in the matter, not simply because of John but because of their destinies, something was going to come and tap them on the shoulder eventurally, but these kids did have a choice. I would've liked to have seen that scene and was a little disappointed we didn't go there.

The theme of wanting a normal life ran thick through this episode. Victor, outwardly, was trying to give the kids a normal life, a safe and solid start, whilst training them to be killers on the side (!!). It didn’t pan out, because Victor was not who he seemed to be, but beyond that, because, can the life of a hunter ever be normal?

Sam is still hopeful; he still wants that chance and still sees a future where that might be a possibility. Maybe with kids, maybe not. I think Sam sees these trials and closing Hell’s gates as his best shot, his and Dean’s best shot, because then, maybe the world would be a safer place. Maybe they wouldn’t need to be on the road all the time, hunting. Maybe one or both of them could leave the "life", settle down and risk bringing kids into this world. Maybe hunting could become a side job, not an all consuming calling. I think this dream is propelling Sam forward and has helped him re-embrace hunting (something he was super squirrelly about at the beginning of the season), because he can see a goal, the light at the end of the tunnel, for both of them. Of course, even if the brothers close Hell’s gates, there will be other monsters; there will always be other monsters... But dreams are a good thing.

We saw what happened to Dean in season 7 when he felt there was no hope. He became a sad, shadow of himself. We’ve seen Sam become an impassioned (not in a good way) hunter, becoming fuelled by desperation and anger when he felt that was his only option. I prefer this Sam, one who still has hope for a brighter future. One who can see more than hunting in this world. One who looks for the positive in a situation. One who can help keep his brother grounded. It feels more like the Sam I feel in love with. Similarly, I like that Dean has rediscovered his mojo and now appears to be mostly ok with hunting (as in not bemoaning about it to anyone who will listen), because the Dean I fell in love with, loved the family business and saw purpose and value in what he did. These two balance each other. I see them as the yin to each other's yang.

I really like that Sam still has this dream, even if that’s all it is. I think it’s what keeps Sam, Sam; empathetic, resilient and thoughtful, because he has hope and hope are important. He's always been a far more positive person than Dean. I guess having a dream for a better future can do that for a guy. I hope that never changes.

This glimmer of hope has given this season a less oppressively dark feel. Season 8 seems lighter in tone, which is a blessed relief quite frankly!

Of course...the placement of this episode could be looked on as prophetic. Here we had another lesson on how humans and monsters don't mix. A hunter working with and trusting a vampire. Victor, of course, had a nefarious agenda, but still...a hunter working with and trusting a vampire... "Supernatural" rarely shows us these things for no reason.

I’ll say this for Adam Glass, he’s got better. He’s delivered far stronger episodes this season. He seems more disciplined in his characterisations. But what I’ll also say about Adam is that his episodes tend to have a nice build and then wrap up in a frenzy. My analogy, whilst discussing this with a friend was, it’s like he’s great at foreplay and then comes too quick! I think this episode suffered a little from that. I also thought the Hell’s gates scene at the end felt a tad cobbled on and was there to make a point that we’d already got a handle on… 'Real' life for a hunter possible/impossible? If they close the gates, will the kids be able to have a 'real' life, will the brothers be able to have a 'real' life. "Maybe they won't be the only ones." Yeah, yeah, we get it Mr Glass, no need to whack us over the head with it. Actually I thought it was pretty funny when Sam said, "What do they have to do with any of that?" Because I was thinking the the same thing! But all in all, I thought Adam Glass wrote a nice filler here, with some good dialogue and enjoyable moments, managing to stay true to many of the themes of the shows and possibly foreshadowing trouble coming down the line for a monster/hunter relationship. It was a filler, but it didn't take me out of the overall arc of the season.

Plus the boys were working well together and I'm just happy that they're at the place they're at!

I particularly dug the brother’s scene in the car, at the top of the episode. Man, they love to chat in that car! It was cool that they were checking in on each other and it was adorable to see Sam try to get Dean to acknowledge that Cass has hurt his feelings! For the tiniest moment, I thought Dean was going to say something deep, but noooooo, silly me! What was I thinking?! “Why don’t I go and get some herbal tea and you can find some Cowboy Junkies on the dial and we can just talk it out!” “Eat me, Dean!” Bahaha! Bless Sam and the tenacity he shows in forever persevering with trying to get his brother to talk about his feelings! And, did Dean yell out “Nay!” Nay? He must have been hanging with those LARPers again!

Also…both the guys looked glorious in this episode. It was one of those, pause, rewind, play, pause, rewind, play episodes…. *sigh*

Oh and when Dean took Aiden's gun away... Guh!

That's it! Next week, it’s back to the big arc and the trials (eeeeep) and a returning character… Benny, I’m talking about Benny!

Let me know what you thought of the episode. Thanks for reading!

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

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