Monday, 25 February 2013

Review - Supernatural 8.15 "Man's Best Friend with Benefits"

As far as I’m concerned, a not so great episode of “Supernatural” is still better than pretty much anything else on TV. Even episodes that don’t totally pop my cork have some redeeming qualities. I’ll always find something to enjoy. Always. I love this damn show, possibly to a fault.

So “Man’s Best Friend with Benefits” while being far from a great episode of “Supernatural” still had stuff I found enjoyable. To be honest, I was expecting it to be the most horrific hour of television ever produced in the history of forever, going by some of the feedback I was seeing out there in the fandom…but I gotta say, I didn’t mind it at all.

I’m also happy to cut the producers of this show some slack. They’ve turned out a bunch of stellar episodes this season. Season 8 has been consistently strong and since “Citizen Fang”, has been building on that strength to where we found ourselves at the end of “Trial and Error”, with new and interesting mythology and 4 corker episodes back to back. But a TV show, hell a TV network is a hungry beast. It needs constant feeding and care and it never, ever, ever stops, like ever. This I know. Turning out a new hour-long episode of television, every couple of weeks is mind blowing. Making every one of those episodes golden is just impossible. In fact, if that was happening, I’d suggest a bit of soul selling had gone on and at the end of season 10, a whole bunch of TV writers and producers would be about to face the Hellhounds!

I remember going to see Joss Whedon at the Sydney Opera House and how he said that while making Buffy and Angel, every so often they had to let one through that they knew was sub-par, because the show must go on and they had to get on to the next episode. So there were times where they went; you know, they’re going to hate it and we’re going to get flack for it, but oh well, on to the next story. Hey, nothing and no-one is perfect, not even Whedon apparently.

So I’ll give it to you that chances are this was probably one of those episodes. That chances are TPTB looked at it and thought; we have to let it go, moving right along…what’s up next. There’s always at least one a season. 1 out of 23 ain’t bad.

But to be perfectly honest, I still had a giggle, there were a couple of pretty funny scenes, I liked the bro moments and Dean looked unbelievably hot... That in itself kept me glued to the screen.

Let’s get the squick factor out of the way.

I do think it probably wasn’t the smartest move to make an episode about a familiar who took the shape of a dog and had an intimate relationship with her witch master. It probably played better in the writer’s room than it did on the screen. But at no time did I feel grossed out by it. I figure a familiar is neither human nor animal…and when Portia looked like a woman, she was a woman as far as I’m concerned. There was never any indication that anything inappropriate was going on when she was in the shape of a Doberman. She could have removed that collar though…but then again, I know a girl who wears a dog collar as jewellery…

I could’ve done without the extended make-out scene, but that’s purely because the only people I’m interested in seeing make-out on “Supernatural” are the brothers. Wait. Ok, let me rephrase that!!!! I’m only interested in seeing Sam and Dean having sexy scenes with guest stars not 2 guest stars having a sexy scene together… unless something gruesome happens to them while their at ‘it’. Did I clear that up? Phew! So basically…a bit of a kiss and the vision would have sufficed, not because she was a dog a little while before, but because, like I said…I don’t care. Now if it was a scene with one of the brothers (specifically Dean) then the show can do a 43-minute sex scene for all I care! It would be gripping! Anyway, I digress. I think it was probably unwise subject matter for an episode, considering the taboo nature of it, but I wasn’t fazed by how it played out. I think seeing as they opened that door and chose to handle it, they handled it quite well, all things considered.

One thing I did like is that James and Portia high tailed it out of there (no pun intended). I feel like there’s a growing army of supernatural beings or people with connections to the supernatural that either owe or support Sam and Dean. It’s like this world is being built around them, peppered with critters and people who may be able to lend a hand if the situation arises. I like this a lot. James and Portia may never be seen again, but there’s something to be said to knowing that they’re out there and that the brothers are not alone in this world. If they need a witch, they know one. Aaron and his Golem, James and Portia, Charlie, Kate the werewolf, the Trans, Garth, Lee and Krissy Champers, even Benny and of course, somewhere Cass… The rebuilding of the Winchester’s Universe this season has been excellent.

Another thing that I liked was that once again, we were dealing with the concept of manipulation and control. James was unknowingly being controlled by Spencer. This has been a continuing theme of the season, people being forced to do things against their will. Okay, James wasn’t actually committing the murders, but Spencer was controlling his mind and making him think he was doing it. Then by giving a direct order to his familiar Philippe, Spencer manufactured information that led people to incorrectly perceive what was happening. This plays in to this season’s themes around manipulation, control and perception. It plays into Castiel and Naomi and whatever is going on up in Heaven…which I believe we’ll revisit immediately after the mini-hiatus. I think it’ll also play into Benny and Purgatory and how he knew how to get Dean out. It may even play into Crowley and the tablets, because, I’m never 100% sure of what Crowley’s up to! I like that we keep touching on this thread. Who’s holding the strings?

Ok, on to Sam and Dean.

It’s no surprise that the trials are going to be an ongoing issue between the brothers. Dean’s going to feel crappy about not being able to kill the Hellhound and he’ll worry about Sam’s safety and wellbeing and Sam’s going to be equal parts self doubt and standing firm telling Dean he’s fine, as the trials continue to take a physical toll on him. This is the way it always goes with the brothers. Le sigh.

I thought it was an excellent pick up from Sam, that it wasn’t Sam that Dean was having difficulty trusting, it’s just that Dean really only trusts himself. Dean spent his formative years looking after Sam and being a leader to his little brother. He was raised by his dad to take control. I mean, he obviously has control issues – look how he is with the car! Not only that, his trust in those he loves has been shaken over the last few years. He’s said that he has a hard time trusting anyone and he’s felt let down by just about everyone in his life. So Dean questioning Sam is nothing to do with Sam it’s all to do with Dean and who he is and how his brain works. The guy is never going to be comfortable with delegating…he’s spent his entire life doing.

It took a long time for Dean to come to the party when it came to Sam’s plan to let in Lucifer and stop the Apocalypse, but he got there in the end. I’m sure it’ll take a bit to get his head around Sam doing the trials too. Dean is forever adjusting his mind to Sam being a man who makes his own decisions and not just Dean's little brother. Mostly these days, he does better than he used to, but you can tell it’s always going to be a struggle for him because he’ll always want to protect Sam, it’s who Dean is.

It was very telling that Dean said nothing after Sam’s point about trust. Sam essentially nailed it and Dean had no comeback. It was a really good call on Sam’s behalf. Nice insight. Though initially I thought this scene came out of left field, I like how it ended up playing out.

The memory flashbacks on behalf of Spencer felt a little clunky, I think mostly because that scene was so rushed. But I got to thinking about them afterwards. These were scenes specifically important to the season’s arc of closing the gates of Hell. When facing their worst memories – geesh, it could have been so many things, they’ve lost so many people, but Sam remembered falling into the pit and then the perpetual burning, all the pain and horror of Hell. Dean remembered Hell too. He remembered the torture, crying out for his brother, but not only that, he remembered his mother being burnt on the ceiling by the demon that started it all; the reason they’ve been in this fight since they were children. The two things that have caused both brothers infinite pain…demons and Hell, the two things they’re currently trying to lockup for eternity. These are the brother’s worst memories prompted by Spencer's magic. It sure makes the whole thing real personal.

I’ve always thought Dean probably saw something that fateful night back when he was four. He intimated as much to the kid in “Dead in the Water” (and I feel like he said it one other time too…but I can’t for the life of me think when). Anyway, whether he actually saw Mary on the ceiling or not, he’d certainly have built his own image in his mind of what that would've looked like after thinking about it for so many years.

Which brings us to the brothers in the car. I love a good driving-the-Impala speech. This time around, it was something we’ve heard before; the brothers are better together, hanging together, working together, having each other’s back, it’s how they’ve got through and made it this far. They’re facing another horrifically difficult task and they need to face it together. Dean trusts that his brother can get it done, he has to, he needs to support him, like he said, it’s too important not too. As long as Sam’s sure he’s good, Dean will back his play.

[Cough cough blood].

To be honest, if I was Sam I’d probably sit on the coughing up blood thing until I knew if it was something ongoing. I don’t think I’d turn around to Dean and go, “Oh crap I’m coughing up blood!” So I’m giving Sammy a pass on not coming clean. I’d rather he didn't hide it, because they both know that lying and keeping secrets from each other, never goes well. They’ve both told whoppers, hidden huge secrets. When has that ever been a good thing? 

But, I totally understand why Sam doesn’t instantly want to tell Dean. If you’re not sure what it is, or how bad it is, don’t worry your loved one unnecessarily, especially after he’s just given you the… I trust and believe in you speech! Also, he doesn't want Dean to try to take over the trials, because that would just put Dean in harms way and who would wish that on their brother. But if it gets real bad, please tell him, if only to share your burden Sam, don’t shoulder it alone…hanging together is how you get through this…right? Anddddd somehow I ended up talking directly to Sam!

I really don’t want to get on the lies/angry response rollercoaster again. I’ve done that ride.

Look, like I said, this was not the best episode by any stretch of the imagination. Brad Buckner & Eugenie Ross-Leming are probably, no, are the weakest of the “Supernatural” writers. The secondary characters were pretty bland. There were moments in the script that made me frown and go, “huh?” Like Dean’s cat allergy…okay, sure, maybe it’s just never come up before, or he developed a cat allergy after the Veritas episode, or maybe we’ve just never seen him that close to cats before...but I'm stretching. I raised my eyebrows at how cool the brothers seemed with running into the bedroom to gank a chained up James. I thought the guy who played Spencer was simply awful and I had no interest in his war with James at the end. Dean would absolutely know what a familiar is, that was dumb and after saying Dean was a genius at lore the week before, well that was uneven writing. I don’t think either of the boys would’ve told Portia it was hot when she got upset with them, whether they thought it was hot or not. And if they used that witch killing spell of Bobby’s again, it would have been nice to reference the chicken's feet being chilled this time, for a bit of continuity. Actually, I think the show should just avoid witches from now on…

But, I think that scene where Portia comes into the motel as a dog and Sam rubs her belly and then tells Dean that she didn’t track any mud into the room is one of the funniest damn things! I’m sorry, maybe I have a 13-year-old boy’s sense of humour…or Dean Winchester’s sense of humour…but that was funny. 

And I didn't mind Dean’s rather awkward response to finding out that Portia and James were “intimate”. I love awkward Dean and I loved that Sam left him out in the wind. And the fact that Dean was pondering the ‘mechanics’ of James and Portia’s relationship. Well, of course he did. And Portia gave him nothing. Good for her. Dean was seriously cute… Though show, please stop using him for comic relief, he's smarter and better than that and he certainly would get, pretty quickly, what Portia was talking about when she said her and James were intimate. Come on. Dean is pretty cluey.

And did I mention how hot Dean looked. He was extra pretty or something, I dunno…and that scene where he’s walking down the stairs into the witch bar…the man has made me a legs gal (preferably bandy legs) and Jared’s throaty, chesty voice was kinda sexy…(hope he got better quick).

There you go. When it comes to this show, I simply adore it; I can’t help it. Even when it’s patchy and faulty, I can still find stuff to dig, if for no other reason than having the Winchester brothers on my screen. So yeah, regardless of the questionable hook and a sense that we took a step backwards in the characterisations of Sam and Dean, I found things to enjoy and think about in “Man’s Best Friend with Benefits” because it’s “Supernatural” and like I said, a not so great episode of “Supernatural” is still better than pretty much anything else on TV…for me anyways.

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

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

Monday, 11 February 2013

Review - Supernatural 8.13 "Everybody Hates Hilter"

The epicness of “Supernatural” has always been its heart and in recent seasons, that heart has been inconsistent. We’ve had episodes that have seemed to capture that feeling that won us all over in the beginning, but not as often as most of us would like. The perpetual struggles of the brothers, their destinies, quests, losses and misfortunes have more often than not, put that lovely heart, that ‘SamandDeanness’ in the back of the picture, somewhere behind the season mythology and the brother’s latest butting-of-the-heads crisis.

This doesn’t mean I haven’t dug plenty of episodes, I have. There’s still been plenty to enjoy. It also doesn’t mean I’ve ever doubted the brother’s bond or their love – when push shoves, they always have each other’s back and always will. They will always been the most important person to each other. But it sometimes felt like something was missing. That special something, that lightning in a bottle that made us all fall in love with Sam and Dean in the first place and as much as I’ve been thoroughly enjoying season 8 and as much as I also enjoyed seasons 6 and 7…that little bit of something-something that these two glorious brothers have, has not been as evident week in, week out, as I think most of us would like. Excuse me for speaking on your behalf, but I think a lot of fans missed a bit of epic broness, the fondness, or basically, a bit of warmth.

In the end, it didn’t take much to bring back something many fans feared might be gone forever…it didn’t take much to bring back that heart and warmth.... Just some quiet moments, some beautiful characterisations and a script by Ben Edlund.

When Sam said “Son of a bitch” and Dean called Sam “Little brother” I knew things were going to be good right there... From that moment I started smiling and I didn’t stop.....

I completely loved “Everybody Hates Hitler”. It made me happy. Not in the way that the LARPing episode did, which was simply geeky fun, but in a deeper, more familiar way. This episode was about the core themes of “Supernatural”. It was about family and legacy. Family and legacy have been the absolute guts of the story of the Winchesters ever since the beginning and to bring it front and centre once again, felt like an incredibly important turning point. It brought up so many familiar feelings for me. Everything about this episode hit the right notes.

It was a neat story. It was fun and funny. It had action, pathos and whack-a-doo comedy – as only Edlund seems to be able to juggle. It had great secondary characters – Hal Linden for heaven’s sake! It expanded on the newly introduced “Men of Letters” concept in a totally engaging and intriguing way. It had MOTW mythology rooted in reality and not everyone died at the end! Which means, that all the goodies and the baddies could make a comeback somewhere down the track! I love that! It’s always such a drag when they bring something neat into an episode and everything gets ganked and you think, well darn…they were kinda cool, I would’ve liked to see them again! I’m glad the Thule is still out there somewhere and that Sam and Dean now know about them and I’m glad that the Judah Initiative is still alive and kicking, because Aaron and his Golem are beyond awesome. This season the “Supernatural” Universe seems to be expanding and after the claustrophobic and dour vibe of season 7, I think that’s a great thing. But the best thing of all…”Everybody Hates Hitler” had some lovely Sam and Dean moments.

Oh the new Batcave, it’s so pretty. How wonderful was the brother’s reactions to the MoL lair? Both Sam and Dean were perfection. Sam completely geeked over the possibilities of all that information and what it could mean to them as Hunters, Dean geeked out over the power-shower and the boys-toys! Bless them both. The brothers were so great throughout this whole episode. Edlund really knows how to write them as individuals and as a duo.

I love this new place for Sam. It’s like he finally sees how he fits. He’s never felt complete at ease with the path of being Hunter, not all the time. He's half looked for something else, whether it was college, or a different life away from the Family Business. Whatever it was, something seemed to be missing for Sam. Now it’s like he has that final piece of his own puzzle. This legacy of research and knowledge, things that he’s interested in and enjoys, understanding and information which will only enhance his and his brother’s epic hunting skills. A sense of belonging. He looked like a kid in a candy shop. All those books, all that choice.

Dean at first, not seeing how anything from pre-1958 could possibly be of relevance, goes straight into creature comforts mode. He is nothing if not someone who enjoys the pleasures of life! The space, the shower, the dead-guy robe and slippers, not to mention the cool swords and he put in a mini-fridge to hold his beers! But as soon as he saw how the information in the MoL library led to a current case, he snapped straight into Hunter mode and was onboard. You could tell then, that though this joint is never going to hold the same kind of joys for him as it does for Sam, he understands its importance.

I love how Sam went off all dressed in his academic outfit! His jumper. His…what were they, Hushpuppies or something? He’s the hottest researcher ever! He was so quick to figure out the book thing and then he knew the library codes! Of course he did! And the way Dean pointed to him with pride like, "That's my brother!" I loved Sam so much in this episode.

I loved Dean and his getting flustered when he totally misread Aaron on their first meeting – thinking he was being followed and then realising he was being hit on! Hee. “Why you following me gingerbread?” I loved that line! Of course he was right he was being followed! Oh awkward Dean how I heart you. And look at him…I mean, who the hell wouldn’t hit on Dean Winchester quite frankly. Damn.

I also adored the entire conversation the brothers had outside the bar. A handful of words between them and they had a plan down pat. Wow, it’s like they’re a team or something! They were so on the same page in this episode, my Winchester brother loving heart runneth over. Little looks, little nods...they were connected and working as one.

Then there was Aaron and his Golem. A hilarious odd couple. I think these two are my favourite guest characters for a long time. As much as Aaron was snarky he was also nicely rounded out. There was a lot of depth to his character. You instantly liked him. You empathised with him. You understood his plight. The Golem could have been one dimensional, but instead he turned out to be incredibly human. When Aaron decided to accept his grandfather’s legacy, the Golem looked almost proud of him.

Aaron was also used nicely to show how others might see the brothers. I’ve noticed that a couple of times this season. I mean we’re used to what they do right? But to others, what must they look like? “What do you two just break in wherever you go?” Well, yeah they do. And what was one of my favourite moments of the episode, when Aaron was watching the brothers burn the Necromancer corpse. “Oh my God, these guys are psychopaths”. Ha! Sam and Dean were merrily chatting away as they poured the gasoline in the newly dug grave. So blasé about the whole thing, dropping the flame in and then the pièce de résistance, Sam warms his hands over the burning body! Oh my gosh I screamed with laughter! That was brilliance. I wonder if it was inscript?

One thing that really jumped out at me in this episode was that you can tell Ben Edlund is not only a damn fine writer; he’s an experienced writer. I loved his light touch with the family legacy parallel between Aaron and his grandfather leaving the J.I. legacy to him and the brothers discovering, via their grandfather, their “Men of Letters” legacy. For a change we didn’t have something like this dropped on us like an anvil from a great height! It was nicely integrated into the story, subtle – that’s experienced writing for you. The other thing I loved that Ben did was referencing Cass and Kevin. We go for episodes with characters that are key to the storylines of the season, not even getting a mention. All it took was a couple of lines to note that Kevin was doing ok, but didn’t have any answers, Garth said hi, and Cass wasn't answering the boy's prayers and we tied everything in. Once again – that’s experienced writing for you.

Did you also all notice the music choices? At the beginning of the episode the song playing in the MoL batcave was “Get Thee Behind Me Satan” and at the end it was “On the Sunny Side of the Street.” I mean…Sam’s been haunted by this horrific destiny of being Satan’s vessel and everything that came before and after that revelation…and now, here he is…a new beginning…a new place in his world. Something that makes total sense to him… Get thee behind me Satan indeed! I was IN LOVE with that song playing. Then finishing the episode with “On the Sunny Side of the Street”. The perfection. If that’s not a positive omen for where we’re going, I don’t know what is.

Then there was the closing scene. Dean can see how into this new legacy business Sam is, as he makes a catalogue entry from their latest case, and he can see it makes Sam happy. After all his inner turmoil about not wanting to hunt, wanting something else, Sam looks happy, he looks content. “So what, Aaron’s a J.I. and you’re a Man of Letters now, is that it” [Sam simply smiles to himself] “Good.” Man, I loved this. It makes Dean happy to see his brother happy. It’s been a while. They both sit there in silence, completely comfortable with each other, Sam writing up some research, Dean happily sitting with his brother, feet up on the table. Yes. Yes. Yes. It makes me all wibbly just thinking about it. I sighed out a great big sigh of pure joy.

I also have to mention Jensen and his comic timing…again. The guy is just damn funny. And for someone with a completely beautiful face…he has an amazing range of facial expressions! I always appreciate his commitment to a gag too. Like the sword…the look on his face just as he’s going in for that big swing and Sam turns around. He also delivered some cracking lines. Man, he’s wonderful…just…look…don’t start me ok...

I hope Sam and Dean keep the discovery of the MoL batcave to themselves at least for a little bit. The fewer people who know about the place; the less chance of any nasty coming in and trying to access its secrets. Besides that…I want the boys to have their own space. Geeze…they haven’t had a real home since Mary died. Sure there was Bobby’s and Rufus’ but nowhere actually theirs…that they could call their own. This “Men of Letters” secret hideaway is all theirs, their inheritance. I like it.

It’ll be interesting to see how far we go with this MoL thing. What this means for future stories – in say season 9 and 10 (yessss!). Say the boys end up closing the gates of Hell and all the demons are banished to the pit for eternity (I don’t think that’s very likely), the brothers now have enough information on hand to fight all kinds of other evil S.O.Bs. Or is there going to be some blowback from finding this place and not ditching the key as the old guy advised? Something that means they end up having to close it down forever or puts them both in jeopardy (for something completely different). Wherever it’s going, I’m excited. This feels fresh and big and like it has some legs and I have a feeling the rest of this season is going to be a corker!

This episode and last week's episode "As Time Goes By" nailed it because they were centred on what this show has always been about, Family and Family Legacy.

By bringing the story back to the heart of the show, it returned the heart to the show.

I think maybe there might be a bit of genius in the beginning of this season. Pulling the brothers so far apart that they weren't sure they wanted to be together any longer and then forcing them to make a choice - other people or each other. Of course, they chose each other, they chose family. Then bringing in this strong family storyline, making the brothers focus on family again. Bringing in the MoL, which gives Sam a clearer place in the Winchester/Campbell legacy. Giving him a reason to stay with hunting, outside of his sense of commitment to Dean. Allowing him to find some happiness - and through his happiness, Dean to find happiness, because that's who Dean is.

Edlund is a genius...and I have a sneaking suspicion Carver is too.

I look at all the new information and mythology that was delivered in the last two episodes with hopeful optimism. That it's an exciting new direction, that we’re on a good path and that the heart and warmth that was in “Everybody Hates Hitler” will continue to shine through future episodes. I know the brothers haven’t had it out, I know they haven’t discussed their recent issues, or any issues really. Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Maybe they both just figure…ah hell, we’re in a good place now, why raise up old crap. I don’t really care, I’m just going to go with the flow and move forward with Sam and Dean, because that’s what they seem to be doing and I like it. I’ll watch and hope that this newfound harmony lasts and that if the brothers do clash again, they clash over issues that aren’t personal to them. I understand the need for conflict in drama. But there’s conflict and there’s conflict. It doesn’t always have to be about the brothers being at each other’s throats.

Sam’s right, they could use a break, so could we, maybe we all finally got one…at least for a couple of weeks…because you know, three weeks in a row a lot of us have been feeling pretty good right? And as "Supernatural" fans we know what that means right? We’re due to have our hearts ripped out right?! (Sorry...but I bet you were all thinking it too)!

But until then, here’s to Sam and Dean’s new digs, happy brothers, drinking scotch, power-showers, dead-guy robes, feeling comfortable around each other and a little bit of a break…

"Everybody Hates Hitler" made me realise I missed something I wasn't even aware I was missing - Sam and Dean. This episode was so cool. My favourite of the season.

(I have no reason for this cap...I just like that shirt and stuff...)

Thanks for reading…see you next time.

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

Monday, 4 February 2013

Review - Supernatural 8.12 "As Time Goes By"

I love the time travel episodes. Love them. I love that through them we’ve found out Mary was a hunter, that she made the deal with the YED that sealed Sam’s fate, that the vessel thing was in the bloodline of the brothers…I love that stuff. I love that we can go forward whilst going back to flesh out the story that we thought we knew, add more layers to it and discover new things to over think! So guess what? Pop me into the camp that dug “As Time Goes By”. 

Sure, it wasn’t perfect. When you take on something as monumental as revealing the true nature of why these boys ended up with the destiny they did, when you boldy tackle the history of a family we all feel we know so well - 8 seasons in to a series – well some things are bound to get lost in the wash. And yes, I felt the mythology bumps in the road and had to side step a couple of plot holes as I careened towards the end of this episode and I acknowledge that, but did it impact my enjoyment of the story? No. As much as I like to delve into the mythology, I'm willing to overlook things if I think it will benefit the overall story, if I think that it enhances what we know. It's about moving the story forward as much as recognising history.  "As Time Goes By" had me sucked in from the first moment and in the end, I was very excited by where we landed. Very excited.

How epic was the 'THEN". Epic!

Anyhoo… So John Winchester was supposed to grow up as one of the ‘Men of Letters’ (not in love with that name btw, it’s a big naff), but instead, he became a Hunter. I’m kinda glad he did…I think Hunters are way hotter!

It’s hard to equate Henry Winchester to John, talk about chalk and cheese. Henry’s so stiff and formal, while John…well I guess we didn’t really get to know John that well, only through the hearts and minds and memories of his sons.

We still basically know nothing about John, only that his dad disappeared when he was a kid and he carried that hurt with him, which he told his boys, because clearly they knew that John grew up feeling abandoned and angry. This of course doesn’t mean John didn’t have a father figure in his life, in fact we have to assume he did, because a father figure was referenced for John in 4.03 “In The Beginning”. At some stage, John moved from Normal, Illinois to Lawrence, Kansas…so maybe his mum remarried or something. But, we still don’t know. I hope now that we’ve opened up this door, we can open up another to more of the Winchester history…I definitely want to know more. I reckon I could go for a good tie-in novel that fleshed this out a bit maybe? But I digress…

When we first started hearing about this episode, I wondered how Henry Winchester could be a time traveller, what must he be in order to be able to do that, because we knew John came to hunting through the loss of Mary. I also started to think, how much sense it makes for both sides of the boy’s family to be somehow linked to the supernatural, to somehow both have a connection to the family business. Especially off what Cupid said about John and Mary being a priority match up and what the Archangel Michael said about the vessel thing being in the bloodline. All of a sudden it made perfect sense that the Winchester line must have some role in this whole epic tale beyond which we already knew. I started to wonder if they were like “Watchers” or something. Not too far off I guess. The Winchester legacy is being the keepers of all the supernatural secrets. They were the ones with the knowledge, knowledge they only shared with a few Hunters. I guess when the ‘Men of Letters’ got decimated by Abaddon, Hunters had to learn to find their own way without the help of some elite group of bookworms. Hunters became the bookworms as well as the warriors. That’s pretty neat. And seeing as for the longest time, Sam and Dean knew very few hunters and certainly knew nothing of any kind of Hunter network, it’s not surprising that the memory of the ‘MoL’ was lost – Hunters not being the chattiest of folk.

I love that the Winchesters were the brains and the Campbells were the brawn. I love that, because it’s Sam and Dean (though they both have brains and brawn really). Sam’s all let’s find out what we need I’m going to look it up, Dean’s all tell me what I need so I can go stab it in the face. Even in this episode, when Dean used the comic-book chick’s computer, he handed it straight to Sam (while Dean gave the chick the silent how you doin’! Bless his flirty heart).

It’s interesting that Sam wanted to go to college and leave hunting, making him more like the Winchesters than he could ever have known, hungry for knowledge, with a love of books. He’s been likened to John because of his focus on the job above all else. Dean called him out on it in “Jump the Shark”, when he said Sam was more like John than Dean would ever be, but little did they know, he was like a Winchester of the past. Maybe that makes Dean more like Mary and the Campbells. Being the caretaker, the “mother” in the family, raising Sam, making sure his family was looked after, being the peacemaker between his brother and father when they butted heads, being happy to do the fighting and let someone else do the research. There was definitely a picture being painted of the two families that splashed more colour onto the boys in this episode. Even I feel like I have a little better understanding of the brothers and their place in their families, through this reveal of new history.

I found “As Time Goes By” emotionally engaging. I was a tad teary at the end I have to say…not for Henry, but just for the overwhelming loss of everyone in the brother’s family – on both sides. I also found myself wishing this episode were longer. We were given so much information about the legacy, about Abaddon, about Knights of Hell, about the ‘MoL’ and their super-double-triple-secret batcave… that we didn’t have time to find out more about Henry and he didn’t have time to find out more about his grandsons or his son. I wished they’d had an opportunity to talk. I really wanted them all to sit down and have a good natter!

I get that Sam and Dean were not in a caring and sharing mood though. I mean those guys keep getting royally screwed (and not in the good way that means we get shirtless episodes). I get why they didn’t trust Henry, not just because he popped out of their closet, but also because of the history they’d been told. They thought he was a deadbeat. Dean, in particular was falling in line with what his father told him about his grandfather and was being ultra-protective of his dad and his memory. At first I thought this was a little bull-headed, even for Dean. But when I watched the episode again, it didn’t come across like that at all. I felt him defending the memory of a man, that sometimes he couldn’t even defend himself. All those feelings coming to the surface again. Like he said, he’s read John’s journal more times than Henry could imagine and it hurts every time. There was a lot of pain being relived here. All he could do was back his dad. I get that. Also…Henry called them apes! Well screw you very much buddy! Ooo that sounded like I didn't like Henry. I quite liked him...but don't call the boys apes 'k?

And the brothers backed each other. They really felt like a team in this episode. Moving as one, conscious of each other. After their wonderful LARPing moment last week, which showed that they were both willing to try to make an effort to put the anger behind them, I was hopeful we’d see them in a better place and for me, we did. They felt pretty solid. I appreciated that Sam never chastised Dean when he was berating Henry, it smacked of solidarity. When Dean stormed out, Sam quietly allowed Henry the time he needed to learn about his son, through his son's own words. I liked that. I think Sam would've been feeling just as conflicted as Dean was, Sam's feelings for John are equalily as confused, it's just Sam has less bluster about these things. Sam was strong, calm and Zen to Dean’s tense and angry.

At one point I was thinking, hey guys, tell Henry about all the stuff you know about Lucifer and the angels and the like! Then I thought, well, really, if I were the vessels of the Apocalypse…would I share that information? “Hey grandad, so this one time, I was like, Lucifer’s vessel and you know, he was in me for a bit and…” yeah probably not! They’ve learnt to keep their secrets close. There’s a hell of a lot those brothers know that they’ve never shared with another soul. I did appreciate Dean big upping them when he was trying to prevent Henry from jumping back through time though… “We stopped the Apocalypse!” Yes you did! Shout it loud and proud baby! Funny that Henry didn’t say…”Hang on! You stopped the what now?”

Beyond all the conflict though, Dean worked with Henry. Dean and Henry nutted out a plan that would not only save Sam…as Dean made it perfectly clear, that was going to be the endgame no matter what…but if they pulled it off, it would stop Abaddon forever. Their plan was simple and it worked and it was family working together. It was the Winchester family brains and brawn, coming together to win the day – even though it was at the loss of one of them. And in his final moments, Henry saw the men that his grandsons were and in doing so, got a glimpse of who his son must have been.

I was so worried that this would be another lump of guilt for Dean to drag around, that he’d think he was partly responsible for his father not having a father, but I was happy to see they didn’t go that way. Instead we got the brothers talking, sharing their feelings about what just happened, what they’d just learnt. Sam seeing some sense in the whole thing, Dean seeing more dead. Even though it was a sad scene, it wasn’t, because they were together, being who they’ve always been and being it side by side. Boy-howdy, I loved that scene. It packed the emotional wallop I’ve been pining for.

This new layer to the Winchester mythology, this legacy business, this secret batcave joint that they now have the fancy key to, all the knowledge inside…man, this feels like it opens up a whole lot of story. I’ve been wondering if that’s where they end up stashing those damn tablets. My first thought was, oh there will be clues to help with decoding the tablets and then I thought, hang-on, impenetrable supernatural Fort Knox…what better place to pop the tablets to keep the demon's and angel’s grubby mitts off them. I’ve always kind of thought that the comeuppance of using the tablets would be so great that they wouldn't be able to use them…maybe they lock them up forever…like the Arc of the Covenant or something? Anyway, I’m craptastic at theories, so I’ll just say I’m really looking forward to seeing this secret lair of the ‘Men of Letters’.

What this show always does best is family. When the show focuses on the story behind these boys, when it focuses on the strength and importance of family, this is where it really flies. “As Time Goes By” was all about family. It was about Sam and Dean finding out about their roots. It was about them putting to rest something that haunted their dad. In “As Time Goes By” I felt a little closure somehow, like both Sam and Dean have come to a place within their hearts where they can understand John better. But not only that, in finding out about their family, they were left with a better understanding of themselves and why they were thrust into this life. I think this was especially important for Sam, who's always felt like he didn't belong. I don’t know about you, but I felt hope, the most hope I’ve felt for a long time. As Sam and Dean stood over their grandfather’s grave…in my heart I felt this little tingling of hope that maybe they'll be able to put the anger and conflict from the first half of this season behind them and move forward into this new chapter together as brothers, as family. I mean, they’re Winchesters…and as long as they’re alive there’s always hope right?

I’m excited to see where this takes us.

And just because I hate leaving you on such a deep thought…please enjoy these caps.

Thanks for reading
- 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