10×18 I wonder how long it’ll be until someone notices that library is fucked…

Episode summary: Charlie’s about with a spooky book. Cas and Metatron bond over defecation then have an angelic slap fight in a library ending in Cas retrieving his grace. Everyone has a glorious beer together, and everything goes well until DAMN IT SAMMY. Written by Robbie Thompson.

I thought this episode was ‘totes not butt’. I take issue with the personal-fandoms box ticking in Robbie’s writing sometimes, and I did with some general things in this episode too, but overall this felt like it had a good amount of yang to ying, so to speak. It didn’t feel bogged down with ‘FEEL THE GRAVITY OF THE SITUATION’ like some other episodes do. Without wishing to sound reductionist, a lot of episodes tend towards depressive outlooks. They tell us as the viewer to focus on the massive negative thing at hand at the cost of all other things, resulting in us rarely seeing any every day positives, eg. smiling clerks at the Gas ‘n’ Sips, music on the radio that doesn’t feed into the depressive narrative, domestic situations that aren’t laden with double meaning. The inclusion of the last scene in this episode especially (everyone just having a damn beer!) gave the arc of the series so much breathing room, I’m really amazed. It did more to relieve the tension than a silly filler would have, I think. Hats off to Robbie for that.

Cas getting his grace back and blowing up the damn library shelves in the process… yes please. Add that to my list of ‘awesome moments in which angels are angels’, because I was into it. It was visually interesting, it conveyed that Cas is still very much ‘Other’, and it was bad ass. Yes all over.

While I’m on that scene, I took personal pleasure in Cas having to go on a scavenger hunt of sorts. Sweet revenge. The fact that Cas actually did things of purpose, and of his own volition this episode was a real plus for me. And at the risk of making myself a stereotype, I did find myself skipping to his and Metatron’s bits on my rewatch.

The directing in this episode was pretty good. I really enjoyed the way the Damn It Sammy moment was edited into the domestic scene. It had great pace and was the right swing of emotion that you’d want from that sort of contrast. Also, there were moments in scenes where the family who were chasing Charlie (name escapes me) were shot from low down that really really reminded me of Breaking Bad’s style. I’m not sure it fit seamlessly with how SPN generally looks, but I did appreciate how interesting it was.

So, onto things that I’m not so hot on about this episode…

Light things first, that I hope we get an explanation for: Cas’ wings. Why were they burned? He was the only angel that didn’t technically fall. Maybe it’s a symptom of underused grace…? Clutching at straws, I know. xD I just had high hopes of him being the last angel able to really function typically, wings and all.

The family chasing Charlie… meh? I don’t know why, I just was pretty bored with them. There wasn’t any sort of charisma or intrigue there, it just felt like another band of angry demons/angels/monsters/etc, which is something that’s been done to death, especially recently.

The clues in the scavenger hunt scene were great – I loved the idea of it being Metatron’s favourite books. Calling back to core aspects of a character we’ve not really seen in a while – fab. The thing that could have packed more punch though, was a line that more people would be able to shout at Cas to get.. if that makes sense. Maybe I’m not well read enough, who knows, but I feel like if the answer to Cas’ clue had been more easily accessible to the audience, the line before he nommed the grace would have had more punch.

Charlie… I love you. I do. I love Felicia Day, and I really like that we have a female character who is allowed to be feminine in a non-stereotypical sense. Charlie is needed. However, the fears I had after watching the promo kind of carried on for the episode. A lot of the things Charlie brought to the table in this episode really rang of a deus ex machina. On a simpler level than that, her lines felt very stiff in places – almost as if the audience were to brainstorm things that they wanted addressing in the scene, wrote those questions on a bit of paper, and stuffed her pockets with them for her to pose when there was a lull. I understand the need for characters to sometimes fill this role, especially when trying to neaten up some confusing ends about who knows what and where they stand, but her lines nearly across the board were very on the nose, at least to my ears.

Similarly, I don’t think I needed to hear another ‘hunters lives are hard’ speech. I said elsewhere that I thought this was turning Charlie into a Mary Sue, but after thinking about it, it’s really turning the boys into Mary Sues. They’re the ones who are constantly being portrayed by newbies to the hunting scene as perfect (in their own way), and after ten years of watching them both do their thing, I feel like hearing these sort of speeches from newer characters is A. redundant, and B. irritating. The viewer is aware that hunters have it tough – they’ve been through a lot of stuff, including lots of ‘hunters have it tough’ sub plots with the bros over the past several years. These speeches, I feel, only serve to cheapen that. I realise that this speech was probably intended as a realisation for Charlie about herself and her own situation as a hunter, but I feel like it could have been framed as such in a much better way. For example, reference happenings in Oz to show us where you’ve come from and your understanding of ‘the life’. We know the boys’ version of events inside and out, so hearing generic ‘such tough, so sad, wow’ speeches doesn’t add anything. At least, in my opinion.

On a lighter note, I could have done with a little less mental imagery of Metatron pooping.

Or visual imagery of him nearly pooping, in honesty.

Ew.

In all, I really enjoyed this episode. It had lots of stuff that I was actually interested in going on. Cas did more than pumped gas and we were given a solid theme (to build on, writers, please!) for his next arc. Sam felt like Sam, which is excellent. Dean was doing his thing and had some interesting turns. Charlie was… present, but has a relationship with Cas now, which is fantastic. And Metatron got smacked in the face. Awesome.

I give this episode: 3 particularly satisfying Metatron face punches.

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(10×17) Agency and angels that are angelic again

Episode summary: Sam and Cas and everyone in the usual roster of characters are stumped. Better call Bobby. (also Rowena and Crowley are there) (Written by Andrew Dabb)

After not watching last week (disinterest, mostly), I was down with this episode in a pretty good way. I can’t lie, I was initially REALLY SCARED about Bobby coming back, considering the characterisation’s been a bit everywhere this season, but as always he was a solid rock of much needed sense. I feel like he was the right person to go to, his viewpoint really gave Sam (and Cas, to a lesser extent) some extra perspective on how everything they’re doing fits together.

The thing that made me happiest – the angel gender swap. Hurray! Further confirms that I just like to see angels doing angelic things. Pissing around with human ass knife fights and getting flung into popcorn, I can do without at this point. Looping about in the sky as grace and jumping around bodies? Not having a readable mind as anything other than colours? I’m down with it.

Side note: Can we keep the psychic guy? I loved him. xD

Dean’s demon eyes in the mirror were perfect. I was scared it would be overplayed and have too much focus put on it when I was it in the promo, but that one flash was so effective. Hell yes. The red shirt is still too on the nose for me, though. I know there are themes and arcs tied with clothes, but just seeing the red shirt is a spoiler at this point.

The continuity in this episode was quasi-orgasmic. I thought we’d heard the last of Crowley’s human blood kick. Thank god it had some consequence (though it was boring as hell to watch the Game of Thrones wannabe arc that was the consequence.. can’t win ’em all).

Thank God everyone told Crowley he’s been shit lately. Whether or not it’ll change, I don’t know, but it felt very cathartic.

I didn’t pick up much about the directing this week, but I think that’s because I didn’t feel taken out of the show by anything. Thinking back though, there were some great shorts (heaven’s corridor, the slow mo, etc). Kudos, first time director whose name escapes me but I will promptly google!

The less than shiny, but still cool in places:

Rowena was fine, I still feel like the arc let Ruth down (I’m not interested in the Game of Thrones wannabe bullshit), but she’s doing a great job given that that’s the case.

Heaven’s corridor.. I’m so torn on. xD When I saw it my initial reaction was ‘!! AWESOME OH MAN LOOK’, but then I remembered the sort of organic, trippy way that the links between heaven were portrayed in season 5, and that made me a little less easy with the retcon. What happened to the ‘road’? It changed for everyone, and I would have liked to have seen how Bobby navigated it.

Cas did some stuff! I still feel like everything’s a bit weird and disconnected with him – probably because there’s not been a peep from him since he got the blade, so I don’t have much context for why he’s at the place he’s at right now, but I appreciated that he got to take Metatron’s grace alongside a few mini-stunts. Side note: Someone please put some dubstep on that slow motion jump, I will cry laughing.

Metatron is such a dweeb I just have no idea if I find him hilarious or annoying. Main take away from his scenes: Name calling – it’s not just for 3rd graders, and angels in heaven keep the physical keys to the physical iron bar prison for the guy who fucked everything up about 5 feet from his physical cell. disappointed flop I think this point and the last point were more issues with the season than this episode though.

I liked this episode, it encouraged me to give next week a go. I feel a little heartened by the whole thing, though I still feel disconnected from the characters because of how iffy they’ve been for the past season and a half.

I give this episode: 10 feet of carpet string and a satisfyingly terrified Metatron. Thank you, Andrew Dabb!

10×15 – ‘Why was this Cole?’ and the return of some awesome directing

Episode summary: Cole is back! Apparently he’s easy to run into. There’s a gross looking worm involved, the plot allows breathing room for us to access more human themes beyond the monster of the week (particularly mental health, suicide and support) and there’s an intelligent construction of character. I’m just not sure it was the right one. (Written by Jenny Klein. Directed by John Badham)

I finally watched it! And I feel like I have to eat my hat somewhat, this episode was a lot better than I expected, due to the writing (of this discrete episode – I’ll explain in a bit), the directing AND the sensible VFX. I’m so used to poking at those things either solo or in concert for being inappropriate or unskilled, and I am totally pumped that all of them came together so well.

I’d also like to link to /r/fandomnatural’s discussion on this episode, since there’s a tonne of great discussion going on there.

Good things first!

This MoTW episode felt more like season 5. The monster was gross (thanks, VFX!), and that grossness was enhanced by the directing (that one shot of the thing getting into Cole’s mouth with the light behind? JESUS. I rewound and grabbed my housemate to say ‘look at this!’). I’ll admit, the description of the episode had me saying how disinterested I was, but even so, I’m glad I watched it even if just to know that they are still capable of being Supernatural as I love it.

I have to include a shout out and a high five to the practical effects (BLOOD THAT LOOKS GOOD!! Be still my beating heart, I was ecstatic). I knew that well done, icky blood shots had been lacking recently, but I don’t think I realised how much they had been lacking.

In a similar vein, can we just keep director John Badham please? I want him to do everything from now on.

There was a roundness to Cole’s character that I don’t think I felt in previous encounters with him. I should note here that this doesn’t mean that I think Cole is a rounded and interesting character – one episode can only do so much – but he acted in a way that showed he had other concerns in his life, and pulled him away from being one track ‘fuck the Winchesters, Dean killed my Dad’ kinda guy. He had relationships outside of being hung up on that, he made contact with other characters, he took the initiative to go places alone, and he collaborated with other characters (namely Dean – I’m thinking that ‘I have an idea to make this work, tie me down’, rather than having Dean orchestrate the entire thing). Within this episode, I think Cole was the most compelling and relateable character we’ve experienced in a while. That said, I still have very low levels of interest in him, and if we don’t see him again, I’d be fine with that.

Also, did he steal Benny’s shirt?

And, the not so great.

I have to leapfrog from talking about Cole in this episode to the stuff that I feel like needs a look at, though. I don’t have any huge complaints about the episode, but it does raise a big old question in my mind, and…

I can’t keep it in. I need to ask. Are they incapable of writing Cas and Crowley in the way that they wrote Cole this episode? Like I said: Initiative, collaboration, communication, a (not totally Saturday morning cartoon level) life outside of their main objective.

Example: When was the last time we saw Crowley outside of his Dracula dungeon (which I talked about here), or caring about anything tangible? ‘But he’s paranoid about ruling, and he liked spending time with Dean’, I hear you say. Did he? Because his actions are never anything out of the snarky norm, and he’s really holed up to himself, being used as what I can only describe as a cardboard box in which the character of Rowena can be stored to be wheeled out as a big bad later on. It’s naff. Cas is the same. I’ll tone how I feel about this down as far as possible, because Cas is pretty much the reason I watch, but with how unskilled the handling of him has been, I feel like the Cas I know hasn’t been in the series since about season 8.

I feel like this episode could have had a lot more bang if you’d have transplanted him into Cole’s place. There’s a wonderful, complex friendship between the boys and him, and I thought that it was suffocating under piles of unskilled scripts that assassinate Cas. Now that I see Cole, a new character, written more carefully and interestingly than a character with depth and an actor with serious range that we know… It’s increasingly difficult not to be actually angry about it. And I don’t want to feel that way; it’s a TV show. xD

Writers, please have a come to Jesus meeting on this, because on a season size playing field you’re not doing yourselves or the show justice if this episode’s portrayal of Cole is anything to go by. This episode went to show that you are more than capable of interlacing complex, already established characters with what the boys are up to, and it reads with real flow, and gives the whole thing a nice depth. It wasn’t the acting that carried it, it was the writing and directing. Conversely, good acting from Mark and Misha will not carry the sub par characters you’re currently handing them.

One last thing to mention – for all that I’m praising this episode, I wasn’t particularly interested in it. It was a good watch, well put together, visually interesting and all that. But I don’t feel like I got anything particularly out of it, or even really registered ‘hey, Winchesters, I can connect with these characters’, because I couldn’t. That’s a symptom of the wider season though, not just this episode. I did like that in some scenes Cole allowed for temporally recent callbacks to the overarching plot, even though this was a MoTW, but there was a little bit of bang missing. I wish I could say what without being a broken record on established secondary characters that I’d love to see get Bobby-ish (coughCAScough).

My rating for this episode is: Half a chocolate birthday cake.

(10×14) A leap in the right direction

Episode summary: Dean’s going to do the thing (kill Cain), everyone’s a bit scared of it, but Dean pulls through and doesn’t go crazy. Cas is also around because he fancies it this week, and takes the opportunity to look intense. Cain (possibly) dies in a wonderfully choreographed fist fight, and mature writing reigns beautifully. (Written by Robert Berens)

I just got finished watching the episode, and I feel like it was a big hit and lots of little misses.

Don’t get me wrong, I really, really enjoyed this episode. I enjoyed the maturity of the script and a good amount of the directing execution. Cain is the strongest character we’ve had in a good while, and I’m glad they killed him before he became an Abaddon type of generic big bad (though I’ve spied that perhaps he’s not dead so… hm).

However, I feel like I’m not on the same page as the characters anymore. There are a few reasons I can think of for this.

Firstly, sticking with main leads – Dean’s admission to Sam that he was scared of death, while really valid, needed a little more looking at. There’s an unspoken subtext if you’re digging for it – this time is different, he might turn into a demon, etc etc. While there are plenty of fantastic instances of subtlety in this episode, I didn’t think this was one of them, and it would have made the situation a little more rounded to draw out why this time was different. Dean’s died, what, 800+ times (counting Mystery Spot)? Accessing the general population’s reservation about death doesn’t apply to Dean, so this conversation was lacked a lot of the character it could have had. That’s the first instance in which I feel like I couldn’t access the characters.

Second instance of this – the most prominent, to me – was Crowley’s lack of bite and how Rowena’s reaction to this was framed as coming from a place of questionable motive. She is right. By all counts, she is insanely right. Our view of hell in the past has been actual punishment and torture (Dean hanging from hooks in the final scene of season 3; that brilliantly conceived waiting line towards the end of season 6). Now, without wishing to sound cruel for the sake of being cruel, we’re faced with a cliche Dracula’s lair castle sort of setting, presumably in a basement somewhere, which apparently holds business meetings and has a.. throne..? I get that Crowley is the king of hell, but he rose there because he was a business man. This is shown in every demon at high level under the sun wearing suits, the negotiations such as seen in the episode, etc etc. But to have that alongside what boils down to the power trip of having a throne and being a royal doesn’t gel well. Crowley has lost all of his teeth, and has become irrelevant to the plot as a whole. Rowena says exactly what I had been thinking, which is lovely to hear, but since moments earlier she was framed as manipulative and unreasonable, and indeed has motivation based in what I can only assume is an attempt and producing an SPN Game of Thrones (no, thank you), I feel that my (I think reasonable) opinion of Crowley’s toothlessness has been swatted away. This did feel like a case of being spoon fed what those producing the show want to tell me is the better/more reasonable/more entertaining story, rather than what I actually read from the situation. Does that make sense? I hope it does. I also realise that there’s a huge margin for this to be intended and for me to have read this incorrectly, but as of first watch, that’s what I got from it.

Cas suffers a similar fate, more so in this episode than at any point in his recent appearances, I feel. We’re told that losing him would be ‘especially painful’ for Dean, which.. I’m sure it would, but to be blunt, it’s almost as if they’re barely allowed to speak to each other anymore. Perhaps it’s for fear of upsetting the less stable fans in the fandom (not shippers in general – I’d say the majority are reasonable). The interactions that made their relationship uncategorisably intense, such as the I-can-see-inside-you/I-know-I-can’t-hide-my-feelings-on-this staring, the one on one chats at pivotal and private moments (season 4, second episode, final scene)… they’re nowhere to be found in recent supernatural. Though everyone is apparently kept in the loop via phones, Cas has no visible relationship maintenance with the Winchesters, nor the audience as a result. After disappearing inexplicably following his previous appearance, the audience wasn’t even clued in on him finding Cain until last episode. As a viewer, even though I know he’s off being useful, his appearance once in a blue moon to say two inconsequential lines a scene is hard to feel compassion for. Dean handing the blade to him instead of Crowley (a plot point that I love) had unspoken significance, and that was perfect, but there needs to be a balance of spoken and unspoken significance. Friendship is a verb, and all that. SPN usually has all the subtlety of a kipper slap to the face, and this episode was beautiful in that it included so much subtle stuff that let me access my previous knowledge of the characters. But it was so full of subtlety that explicit relationships fell by the wayside.

I’d hope that in future episodes they take this growth towards a more adult method of storytelling and perfect it. This was a leap in the right direction, but it needs a few steps back and to the side to make it just right.

Onto more specific things that were awesome:

Crowley’s appearance in the room with Cain! It’s been so long since we saw supernatural creatures phase in and out creatively, without over the top VFX, that I’d forgotten it could be so effective. Thank you thank you thank you to whoever came up with that. I enjoyed it so much more than recent VFX (Good Charlie/Bad Charlie ghost), and even stopped the episode and rewound it a few seconds to make sure that my viewing partner had spotted it. Excellent.

Cain’s initial introduction was so intense, but again, in an adult way. If any of you have seen Birdman… you’ll get what I mean. The usual approach to the introduction of a big bad is BANG HERE IS INTIMIDATION AND POWER. This was quiet, controlled, left time to wonder and connect the dots without guiding us to conclusions too much. The blocking was gorgeous, A+ to the director. My only (picky) comment is that I would have ended it on silence after Cain disappeared into the cell. Having said that, the rest of the scene didn’t take anything away, and was well paced and mature. Thank you for that, Supernatural! I was tempted to draw parallels with Breaking Bad direction and writing.

Cas’ demon torture was delicious. I feel like a psychopath saying that, but drawing him away from the comic relief in a controlled, angellicly believable manner was wonderful. I especially loved the point of the blade to the eye. I only wish we had a chance to see Cas go a little further with that at times. Not in a stab-happy way, but in a controlled, intellegently choreographed interrogation. That may be too much to ask with writing time constraints, but hey, a girl can dream. It was done in On The Head Of A Pin, and I’d love to see that sort of thing brought back.

And the not so great…

The music.

The music, oh man, the music.

I feel awful for picking the music out, because I know that if can be difficult (especially on the CW with the type of vibe shows have on that channel) to really match what’s available to what you’re trying to do, but… The best way that I can describe my issue with how it sounds is by describing it as a Kidz Bop version of the score it should be. There’s also no finesse in which the music is used. I remember both myself and my viewing partner remarking that the music left leading for something neither of us felt for the characters in that situation. It was attempting to do what the writing was not giving us at that point, in a sort of ‘this is the mood you should have, just ignore the dialogue and acting and the run up to this scene. Feel this’. We both agreed that tactful silence would be wonderfully employed in this episode, but there were no real moments where that opportunity was taken.

Also, the words ‘Don’t let Cain die to fucking Flamenco’ were uttered. I can’t really add much more to that point, to be honest. xD

Part of me wishes that Cas had been taken out harder by Cain. He can take it, Cain wanted him to buzz off – why not rough him up? It would have been an extra few seconds, but it would have added some spice to his presence in the scene.

Also, Cain can flick Cas away with his mind-bullets, but Sam can hold those doors closed against his power about 3 seconds later? Just a little thing, I don’t care that much in the grand scheme, but just something to mention.

And a bigger thing to finish. Crowley’s arc feels tagged on, in much the same way that Cas and Claire did. This is perhaps a symptom of the plot being ‘extended’ for another season, rather than.. having a plot for another season be a thing. This was a mainly nicely executed, mature and plot driven episode. Crowley’s interactions with Rowena feel like in episode filler so as to stretch it all out. I mentioned it once before, but it feels like an attempt at Game of Thrones, which is not something I feel like is welcome in Supernatural. I would like to see something more substantial from that plot that better ties to the main plot. It’s a shame, because both Ruth and Mark are wonderful at what they do, and this isn’t giving them great material.

I give this episode: an 8.5 in terms of recent SPN. Compared to other series and so forth, strong 6 light 7. Thank you, Berens!

(10×13) “It’s in the wi-fi!!”

Episode summary: Guy who died in a car crash wearing plaid becomes a vengeful spirit and is stopped by woman in trench coat. Totally unrelated to the MoC storyline in which Dean is not a giant bisexual.

Honestly, I’ve got nothing for this one. I won’t be persuaded, this was worse than the racist truck. There were no redeeming aspects of this episode.

I give this episode: One glazed stare into the void of disappointment.

(10×12) Witchy MOTW that would be right at home in season 4 or 5

Episode summary: Hansel and a very German witch are luring in kids. Though, apparently it makes more sense to turn adults into kids than go after actual kids. Red tape, I imagine. Dean becomes a 14 year old again at the hands of these two and the most solid filler in a season and a bit ensues. (Written by Adam Glass)

Little late to the party this week, but man, I loved this episode! I should quickly clarify, seasons 4 and 5 were my favourites, so my title is meant as high praise.

As always, awesome things first.

From the beginning, the way the bunker was shot was better than I remember it ever being done. Dean’s room had a real sense of place to it, and having him boxed down beside his bed with the huge book gave the feel of it being a safe place. This is the first time I remember it being shot as such – I know back in season 8 when he was praying for Cas to come back, the emphasis was very much on how it was an empty space, and in my mind that had never been changed back to a home. Until this episode, that is. A+ to the director for the blocking on the scene in Dean’s room. 🙂

The bad guys in this were well rounded, not too over the top, but dramatic enough to be interesting. The plot departed just enough from Hansel and Gretel to be a good fit for the Supernatural universe, and there was even a (fantastically handled!) callback to the overarching plot with Rowena and the witch knowing of each other. Excellent on so many levels.

Dylan (young Dean, right?) is an awesome actor. He was so dead on with the way Jensen plays Dean, right up to facial expressions. It was right on the money. I don’t have anything other than praise for his performance, right down to the way he held the flashlight and the gun. Awesome all around.

It’s been a day or so since I watched, so I may be remembering wrongly, but did we get a little more location shooting out of this episode? The (non-VFX!) shot of the Impala speeding down the highway added so much. I was really surprised at how effective just seeing a shot of the car traveling during the day was.

I also liked that I didn’t feel like this episode was pitched downwards. I say that in the sense that often when there are childish themes in recent seasons – such as the story from Greek classics involving Zeus et al. – it felt like it bordered on pantomime. Without atmosphere, over the top deliveries, odd and meaningless blocking, etc. This was handled really well in this episode, and everything felt handled in a nicely adult way (the witch’s German accent was a little much, but I think it’s allowed in this case). I wish I could quantify that better, but I can’t!

And the negatives, but not so negatives in all honesty – this episode was really strong.

The lack of Cas kind of weighs heavily on me at some points. When I see a well rounded episode like this, I feel a little cheated that he’s still floating around inexplicably without any ties to a strong plotline. Including Cas in some filler with the boys, a la Hunteri Heroici, would give him a real boost. At the moment, he’s really not much more than a loose end, and I know the writers would love to keep him in the loop more. Letting him stick around for some filler would be a great way to get some of the team free will action back in play, without having to involve Cas in constantly heavy plots about how he fucked up (like Dean’s extremely heavy baggage of being unable to forgive himself, that’s only now starting to resolve). In the same way that you wouldn’t want someone to wallow in wrongdoings in reality, his character needs something other than big moral quests to keep him afloat. That doesn’t mean heavy-handed joke lines (‘Emoticons’), it just means giving him a rounded life. I feel like Cas really needs a hand in staying relevant from episodes like these.

And last but not least, I laughed harder than I should have done at ‘squeeze the bag’. smirks and hangs head in shame.

I give this episode: A solid 8 slices of pink cake and a speeding Impala.

(10×11) In which Dean begins to adjust (?!)

Episode summary: Charlie’s back from Oz, evil twins (sort of) become a thing, and Dean begins to possibly internalise what everyone’s been telling him.

Right, good things first!

Dean’s attempts to deal with the MoC this episode were very fun. They had the right tone (not too slapstick, fairly subdued in terms of CRANK UP THAT COMEDY MUSIC SO THEY KNOW IT’S A BIG JOKE, BOWWW-WA-DADA-BOWWW), were nicely spaced, and made sense in their context. Big thumbs up on that, I loved it. Similarly, there was a nice continuing undertone of having the MoC affect Dean, and it being consistently acknowledged, with even a slight pay off at the end in that another person’s getting involved and actually made a tiny bit of an in-way into Dean’s psyche that Sam seemingly can’t touch anymore because bro-feels and about 8 seasons of trying to address the same issue Dean has with himself.

Slightly related aside: Thank you, Robbie Thompson, for giving making this gif possible. It will come in very handy for GISHWHES.

kale2

Some of the more obvious pieces of VFX were done a lot better than they have been. I’m thinking particularly of the side of the Impala shot. That didn’t feel anywhere near as fake or forced in as it has done in the past – hurray!

I like that Cas got two phone calls. This feels almost silly to have picked up on, but I feel like there’s a slot dedicated at the start of episodes to being like ‘LOOK CAS IS STILL IN THE STORY OKAY now we shall move on with the story without him’. It actually felt like characters keeping each other in the loop, rather than for the placation of viewers. Generally, things for placation seem to stand out like a sore thumb. Working it in a little more naturally like this was lovely. Though I’m always going to root for Cas in an on-screen Bobby-esque role.

I think they’re making attempts to shoot from more interesting angles and get some variation in movement, especially in the bunker and when doing Jensen’s reaction shots. Things that come to mind are the fact that we’ve had a shift from Dean looking/poking at the mark to paying more attention to the hand he beat the crap out of Charlie with. Having that shift in actual movements being representative of Dean’s mental progression, without really alluding to it explicitly, was excellent. And that silent shuffling back after said beating and silent lingering pause was exactly what was called for. It could have easily come off heavy handed with a different director, but it really hit the mark.

Onto the things I wasn’t so hot for.

The VFX. I’m guessing that we got a boost in budget when the CW realised that SPN was a cult thing that turned some sort of profit, we hit season 10, Bill Shatner liked the show.. something happened. Now the VFX are starting to gear up way too hard with not enough pay off. Example: Wizard coming through the mirror. I get that he had to get there, but nothing about it was elegant and it felt kind of… I don’t want to say obvious, because the mirror idea suited the character. But the way it was handled made the focus the VFX, not what was actually happening. It felt like an RPG. Same goes for ‘dark Charlie’ lifting and doing a ghost thing back into ‘good Charlie’. It just felt… cheap? Which I know it won’t have been. xD I know that VFX are something that can be used to great effect, but in terms of skill and keeping you in the realm of suspended disbelief, I think masking them a little more would /really/ pay off. Think early seasons. Think Sam slicing into the hellhound in season 8 and getting covered in ick. That’s the sort of stuff that really feels.. well, good.

The idea of good vs bad aspects of self was too on the nose, especially directly following Cas’ ‘little monster in all of us’ bit last episode. I don’t really know what to say about it other than I feel like it was too much. (which sucks, because I’d love to justify it, but.. ahh!)

Some of the dialogue was a little clunky, but I’ve really come to expect it at this point. I don’t feel like I need to point out certain instances – we all know what sounds natural.

And, biggest for last, Robbie, PLEASE stop shoe horning in recent pop culture. There’s a large part of tumblr and the extended fandom that on the first watch will love this and take to twitter to tell you that you’re great for it. Understandable. However, the problem with these kinds of references are that firstly, they date the episode something rotten, secondly, they take you out of the SPN universe and cause some issues with suspension of belief, and thirdly, why would the characters on screen be into these things? Dean’s all about that rock and roll. Sam’s probably not been into a cinema since Stanford. Charlie has been trapped in Oz. I get that it’s fun to make shout outs to things that you like, but subtlety is key with very current references, otherwise you’re running face first into the issues above.

Steps down from her soapbox and feels like scum for being harsh

I give this episode: 2 stolen cars and a bloody fist bump