Friday, September 18, 2009

War, What Is It Good For? Episode Titles, Apparently.

Supernatural: Good God, Y'all
Season 5, Episode 2

One of the things that oftentimes annoys me in television is overuse of character angst. My wife would tell you that main character angst is the reason she refuses to watch Alias and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (though she has no problem with angsty Winchester brothers, hmmm). Yes, angsty characters can be annoying, but when the drama is EARNED, when it makes sense for the characters to be "whiny," as my wife would say, then I will accept it. That's part of the reason why I could readily accept watching the two aforementioned television shows. Sydney Bristow was obnoxious but her fiance had just been killed by the man she thought of as a surrogate father and her boss. And Buffy? Well, she did die a couple of times and there was that whole "having sex with Angel turns him into an evil dude" thing. So, it makes sense for those characters.

At the end of last week's episode we had a dramatic quasi-"breakup" between Dean and Sam. They were going to hunt together still but Dean admitted that he doesn't trust Sam anymore. In my last review I admitted that I didn't buy Dean's seeming to forgive and then reject his brother; I'm happy to say that after tonight's episode the producers have sold me on the Winchester rift in an organic way. Although I fear some fans will be upset by the outcome of tonight's episode, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

First things first, it appears as if Bobby's confidence that he would walk again from last episode was not because of determination on his behalf. No, the first thing he says upon seeing Castiel is a demand for angelic healing. I'm not sure I like this turn at all. Bobby is a determined motherfrakker. Everything we've seen of his character for the last five seasons tells me that he wouldn't rely on an angel (or anyone else, for that matter) for assistance in getting back on his feet. Of course Bobby likely knows that no other power will get him walking again and this is his form of despair, but it's depressing to see him like this. Bobby is usually a rock. I'd expect Bobby to man-up and prepare in any way that he can for the oncoming apocalypse. It's hard to watch Bobby in this state, as one of my favorite characters and a proxy father figure for the boys you want him to be back to full health, if not for himself then for Dean and Sam.

On the surface this episode seems like a diversion from the main plot line of the season. In some respects is absolutely is, Lucifer is not seen and though Castiel is positive God is responsible for his revival (and Dean and Sam's teleportation away from Lucifer) he has not met him yet. But, there are just so many things that are set up in this episode that it cannot truly be considered a standalone.

Cas indicates that the only prudent way to stop Lucifer is to find God. Apparently the only way to find God is use an amulet that burns when in His presence. Just where is this amulet that Cas needs? Right around Dean Winchester's neck. That's right, the amulet that Sammy gave to Dean. Ok, ok, what?! Look, I know during the flashback where Sam gives Dean the amulet it's said that the amulet was special, but what? This reveal just came completely out of nowhere. There was literally no buildup to it in the least. I don't recall during season four anyone even looking at that damn amulet, let alone a reference to it by any of the myriad angels in the season. Maybe I'm missing something, but this really felt like deus ex machina, a way to artificially make Dean even more important than he already is.

One thing I did like about this whole scene was Cas calling Dean on cell phone. Because of the sigils that Cas carved on the boys' ribcages not even he can find them. It's a funny scene but it speaks volumes, the writers realized that having an angel on the boys side was too big of a "get out of jail free" card. So now Cas can't magically find and save Dean and Sam. Which of course leads us to the main plot of the episode.

Rufus (Badass Laureate Steven Williams, beloved by me for his turn as 'X' on The X-Files) calls Bobby on a satellite phone with a cry for help. The phone disconnects before Bobby can get the whole story, but we get to hear some important stuff. A town in Colorado is overrun with demons and Rufus desperately needs help. You can surely see where this is going.

So this town is out in the middle of nowhere, there is no cell phone reception and it looks like the entire town is caught in the middle of this demon showdown. No cell phones means that Castiel isn't going to save the boys at the last minute. Between Rufus showing up in the pre-title sequence and the re-introduction of long gone guest stars, this episode felt like a veritable reunion episode. Yes, tonight marks the return of Ellen and Jo Harvelle, both of whom haven't been seen since season two. Personally, I was excited to see Jo back. And she's hunting with her mother! It's like the anti-Winchesters! I sincerely hope that we get to see more of these two during this season. I loved the arc with the Roadhouse in season two and I always enjoy stories where the boys meet up with other hunters.

It turns out that there are no demons in town, just one sadistic horseman: War (Titus Welliver, who just so happened to guest star as an eco-terrorist in my favorite standalone X-Files episode). War's coming is straight out of the Book of Revelation. Of course, like any modern horseman should, War rides a sweet-ass red Ford Mustang. War has been using a ring to make the townsfolk believe that demons are among them so that they will begin to...well...war with each other.

After figuring this all out the boys stop War by cutting his ring (fingers and all) right off.

For those playing along at home, the correct answer to "when should we have known there were no demons in town," was when Sam used the demon killing knife on a couple of "demons" in the convenience store and there wasn't a light show. I noticed that something was up, but Sammy didn't because he was too busy being a demon blood junkie. Yes, God may have given Sam "demon blood methadone" in the last episode but he's clearly not past the cravings. Dean and Sam have a sit down at the end where Sam admits that he's not doing any better, he doesn't trust himself anymore than Dean trusts him and he needs to find his own way. Dean agrees without a fight, which takes Sam aback. But Dean offers Sam the Impala. That act alone speaks volumes. Dean is protective of two things: his brother and his car. By offering his car to Sam he is telling Sam that he does still sort of trust him and he expects to see him again. Sam denying the car is a way of signaling to Dean he won't be around for a while.

Last week I complained about the Sam/Dean rift. But with Sam admitting that he needs help and he's endangering Dean there is a reason for the angst and drama. It makes the final scene in last week's premiere infinitely better in retrospect. These boys have been through hell (literally, in Deans case) and this was bound to happen. The only question is how long? The Winchesters always seem to have these break-up spats, so how long will this one last?


Arindana said...

Great review!

I think there needs to be a rift between the boys because a) it's not happened on this scale, except perhaps near the end of season 4, b) it is follows classic story writing dealing with antagonism and c) they need to explore who they are without one another. I think I'm one of the few people who thinks this is a good thing. I see most (ladies) people crying out at the injustice of this. But really, it can't always be one big happy. That makes for poor writing no matter what our desires.

But I do have to say I felt Dean was harsh on Sam. I felt he was pulling the holier-than-thou crap again. Dean has conveniently forgotten that he went to Hell and was torturing souls and was starting to LIKE it and could easily have an addiction there. Sam is now going through the same thing sorta but Dean isn't making the connection. Ah well... I guess that is quite a normal thing to do. We only see ourselves and not always others.

Jim said...

Dean is probably being harsh as much out of betrayal as anything else. It isn't just that Sam went down the wrong path. It's that he chose it over his brother. Everything he did in hell, Dean did in the absence of his brother. Sam made his mistakes in spite of his.

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