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The Price of Passion – Supernatural 8.15

February 23, 2013

The problem with a string of amazing episodes like the last few Supernatural ones is that, inevitably, sooner or later one comes along that doesn’t quite live up to your (admittedly heightened) expectations.

‘Man’s Best Friend With Benefits’ had a snazzy title, but most of what came after that had me scratching my head. To my disappointment, I didn’t reach for the box of tissues that I’d strategically placed close at hand even once. Though I did contemplate offering one to poor bleeding-from-the-mouth Sam at the end.

Why the disappointment? It’s part and parcel of being a fan, really. Being a fan is all about passion, and for the most part, that’s a very good thing. Being passionate about something makes you feel alive, engages your mind and your emotions and your body (hey, we’re talking about Jensen, Jared and Misha here…). It’s healthy to care about something, whether we’re screaming in joy or gnashing our teeth in frustration. If there’s one thing that Supernatural fans have never been accused of, it’s that they don’t care. Oh, we care. A lot. Sometimes, though, all that passion sets the bar pretty damn high for the thing you care about. When other shows have a meh episode, I shrug and change the channel or skip ahead on the DVR. When SPN has a meh episode, it’s a lot harder to let it go. That’s the price of passion – when it’s good, it’s very good. But when it’s not, it freaking hurts. It’s like the difference between an acquaintance turning out to be sort of a jerk and your best friend (who you depend on to always be there for you) letting you down. The first is annoying; the second is devastating. Passionate fans are buoyed by the Show’s success and proud of its quality. We feel good when it’s good. We quoted some pretty interesting research in Fandom At The Crossroads about the way fans’ emotions are inextricably linked to the things they fan. If their favorite sports teams win, the fans’ endorphins rise just as high as the actual players. The same thing happens to me when SPN is amazing – it’s a high, and that’s addictive. But you know what they say about withdrawal. No wonder sports fans have been known to hurl insults (among other things) after a loss – SPN fans take to the internet to do the same.

Some of what made this week’s episode feel like a let down was simply its proximity to last week’s. Last week I was on the edge of my seat for most of the episode, screaming at the television and then searching frantically for that box of tissues. This week the only time I addressed the tv was to ask it incredulously, “Wait, why is she suddenly wearing a negligee?” Hey, I can understand that having your partner chained to a bed can be a turn-on, but probably not when you’re in the midst of trying to figure out if he’s a murderer. Not exactly the sort of thing that puts you in the mood. But whatever, to each his own. As usual, it wasn’t the MOTW stuff that really caught my attention — but even if I’m watching for Sam and Dean and Cas, most of the time I do manage to at least care about the other characters. This time, that was a struggle. The guest actress did a good job with Portia, but the whole subservient-woman-of-color-in-a-collar-calling-a-white-man-master distracted from her performance. I didn’t particularly care whether James lived or died, and the Winchesters didn’t seem to care much either.

There were some good moments. Sam getting adorably flustered trying to convince Dean to allow a stray dog to spend the night, and Dean acquiescing easily once she’s a beautiful woman, did make me laugh. What was Dean actually agreeing to there? Obviously the writers are reading too much fanfic. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to be reading much of the good stuff, or they’d be a little more familiar with familiars – and more importantly, they’d know that Dean was familiar with familiars! Which brings me to my biggest problem with this episode. Last week, Sam pronounced Dean a genius (kicking off a round of embarrassing squeeing in my house). This week, Dean’s never heard of a familiar and can’t quite seem to figure out what the word ‘intimate’ means. What?? Who was that guy? Surely that can’t be the man Sam called the best hunter out there and a genius to boot.

The last scene, on the surface at least, was right up my alley. The brothers talking about what was really going on between them. Dean voicing his realization that they made it through the repeated traumas of their lives by “hanging together”. He says it outright: “I trust you Sammy.” The problem with that speech was that the root of Dean’s struggle to come to that trust seemed to be his questioning Sam’s actual ability to do the trials. Dean’s reluctance being a result of his protectiveness of Sam, which seemed to be the explanation in the previous episode, makes sense to me – Dean doesn’t want Sam to die. But the last episode made it clear that Sam is more than competent, and clear that Dean knows it. Dean’s reasoning this time didn’t ring true, or seem consistent with last week’s progress. Sam’s conclusion that Dean can only trust himself didn’t quite ring true either. Perhaps Sam doesn’t want to remember Dean’s speech about trusting Benny (and I can’t blame him). But the boys’ seemed to come to a better understanding of each other in the last episode than they’ve had in a while, so their inability to ‘get’ each other here is puzzling. I did find it in character that Sam would hide the toll the trials are taking on him from Dean. He wants to keep Dean’s trust, and he never wants to be a burden, as I imagine he might have felt at times during their childhood, as Dean took care of his little brother when he was just a kid himself.

One step forward, two steps back, Show. I guess that’s how it goes. And if this were any other show, I’d be fine with that. But I know how good you can be, and I know what it feels like when you are. I admit it, I’m addicted to that feeling. So c’mon Show, gimme!

22 Comments leave one →
  1. February 23, 2013 12:59 am

    I had exactly the same issues with the show, to a T. And the same chuckles! I thought it was a real shift in the reasoning the boys gave for wanting to do the trials and to the detriment of the story. I can buy Dean thinking there is always a price to be paid for attaining a goal and so far it’s been one of their lives, so let it be him rather than Sam, since Sam envisions a different future for himself. Last week, he was as sure he would die in the end as Sam; it wasn’t about competence, it was about fate.

    And Sam’s issue was a determination to show Dean not only that there can be a future (free will!), but that he deserves one. Sam wanted to show Dean that his vision of himself is inaccurate and not at all the way Sam sees him. What happened to that?

    Suddenly, Dean doubts Sam’s ability to do the trials themselves and Sam decides Dean never trusts anyone but himself, even though he trusted Sam to take the lead in Swan Song and he trusted Benny when Sam wouldn’t. I do like the way how the show came back after hiatus, but the issues from the first half of the season do niggle when those elements get mentioned.

    Another niggle is when Sam wanted Dean to consider letting what’shishnameWitch go even if he was guilty of the murders because they cut Benny and Kate slack. First of all, Sam did not cut Benny slack–he was so determined to kill him, he left Dean unconscious and handcuffed to a radiator. Secondly, Kate and Benny were not guilty of any murders–they were let off being ganked for being born a monster. If Benny had killed the people he was accused of eating, Dean was prepared to kill him–Benny was convinced of that.

    So what was with Sam wanting to spare the witchcop if he had done the murders? And neither of the boys being concerned about discovering such a large number of witches operating in Detroit?

    Despite the cute opening scene when Sam tries to talk into keeping the dog and talks himself into a threesome instead, I thought this episode was one big disappointment.

    • spnfans permalink
      February 23, 2013 1:27 am

      Being a fan is tough, yo🙂 I do know my expectations are extremely high, but Show has proven time and again that it can go there. Going from the high of last week’s ep to this week’s inconsistency has left me with a bit of whiplash – not the kind of roller coaster ride I wanted, Show! I think I’ll just keep chuckling over the almost-threesome scene…. lol

  2. bjxmas permalink
    February 23, 2013 1:01 am

    I admire your restraint in reviewing the episode while pointing out why we were disappointed. I’ve always thought my expectations are so high that it’s no wonder I sometimes feel that momentary initial disappointment. Normally when that happens things look better the second time around. I realize what good stuff they gave me and quit moaning about what I expected that wasn’t delivered on. Not the case here, the second viewing just made me miss the magic of the last few episodes even more. And the last few episodes were quite spectacular, showing that they can deliver on the promise and exceed all expectations when the right writers are penning the scripts!

    For me the bottom line was when I realized that this eppie came off as a Charmed episode, not the gritty, dark & deep excellance that we expect from Kripke’s gem of a show. I wish Kripke had been involved at the point this script was greenlighted to say, “Not happening, no Harry Potter theatrics with moving chess pieces and finger zapping. That’s not Supernatural and how the boys do things. Make it gritty and real, throw in a chainsaw or something raw and brutal. And of course, make the brothers’ conversations heartfelt and meaningful!” That’s the show I expect when I tune into Supernatural, not the mess that Jensen and Jared did their very best to make work. The Js can’t work miracles. Give them a great script or a so-so script and they can elevate it to even greater heights, but don’t expect them to salvage something that just doesn’t ring true for the Winchesters.

    Sadly next weeks episode leaves me with very low expectations. Maybe they’ll surprise me…I sincerely hope so. I just feel so deflated, that the writers set up this awesome arc and we were steamrolling along and someone just pulled the rug out from under us. So many balls in the air and so much potential. I’m hoping our great writers have grand plans and this is simply a bump in the road.

    It is an emotional experience being a Supernatural fan. I love the highs, love the excitement of not knowing where they will take us, but certain that it will be an epic ride, so a low like this hurts…but I’m loyal and I’ll be with them regardless. It would just be nice to recapture that feeling from last week and live in that universe of incredible highs.

    On a strictly personal note, I hate that they basically character-assassinated Dean by making him appear a dog hater. As a dog lover, I get those not as enthused as me and Dean certainly never had the means to own a dog in his youth, but to say he hates dogs is a big negative for me. It’s sort of a litmus test with me when judging a person’s character…much like if they like Supernatural! lol It’s the little things that tell you what’s important to a person!

    These writers used to write the one-off episode, but they are now writing more per season and I have to wonder if they are present in the writers room, interacting and exploring the whole story of the Winchesters, or if they are simply writing stories and inserting Sam and Dean into them. Because that’s what their scripts feel like instead of coming organically from the Winchesters.

    B.J.

    • spnfans permalink
      February 23, 2013 1:30 am

      In the first draft of this post, I expressed my dismay over Dean suddenly not liking dogs too. I just….why? It’s a bit of a litmus test for character for me too, and I didn’t appreciate my favorite fictional character of all time failing it! I think I’ll choose to put it down to the explanation above – hellhound ptsd which would never last if Dean had the opportunity to own a real dog.

      I’m with you in the loyalty – sticking with this Show til the end! Hopefully the highs will keep outnumbering the lows. *crosses fingers*

  3. February 23, 2013 1:18 am

    B.J., I cut Dean slack on the dog issue because he was torn apart by a hell hound. He has good reason to have a negative emotional response to dogs. In my head canon, if Dean had to accept living with a dog for some reason, he would complain bitterly and then soon be slipping the mutt treats under the table. Once he views someone or something as family, that’s that. But I think it’s realistic he has a jaundiced view right now.

    • bjxmas permalink
      February 23, 2013 1:25 am

      I love your head canon, I totally agree! And if they had used it as a means to discuss his view of hellhounds and dogs in general, like our great writers would have, then I would have loved the discussion and the emotional depth of his distaste. Instead it was played for laughs and loses all respectibility and truth for the character. *sigh* Just another reason to be disappointed!

  4. Nightsky permalink
    February 23, 2013 3:05 am

    I agree with your review title. There is a price for passion. We have been on a roller coaster of emotions this whole season. Several of S8’s episodes have been excellent stand-alone stories that had us spell-bound. Several were solid, very good episodes but left us confused as to how they fit in with the overall story. Others were masterpieces of both the brothers’ stories and a myth arc we could follow and care about deeply. This episode, though, was none of those things. It was just bad. I also wrote a long comment earlier in the season about bringing expectations to our viewing experience each Wednesday night. At the time, I was referring to wanting, needing, to have Sam and Dean talk, keeping the brothers in character, and having a myth arc that we cared about and could follow. I don’t believe this episode failed because it disappointed heightened expectations (since we were pretty much all deliriously happy with the last several episodes!). I was actually bored watching this show. Bored! I thought the timing dragged, the writing was out of character and the bromance moments were insincere. It is not that I was not frustrated with this episode (as I had been for so many weeks earlier in the year). No, what I was feeling was embarrassment for the show! I kept thinking things like how could Dean even tolerate being in a whole room full of witches?? He hates witches! During the controversial sex scene, I was just confused, and exclaimed out loud,, “why are they doing this? I don’t remember any previous sex scenes with guest stars. Why do we care if it isn’t Sam or Dean??”

    I think the bottom line is that the writing did not suspend disbelief for me. I never got into the story enough to forget reality and accept the universe they were showing me. That says a lot after totally buying into “LARPing”, and Purgatory flashbacks and angels being tortured. I was grateful to another fan who compared this to “Time for a Wedding” because it reminded me that this might not be the worst episode of the series. In my opinion, though, it’s certainly on the list!
    I compliment you on the “glass-half-full” approach you took in your review. I love Supernatural and will chalk this one up to You Can’t Win Them All. So, Please, Please, let’s get back to the Show we love!

    • spnfans permalink
      February 23, 2013 8:40 pm

      I’m still boggled that even Jared and Jensen, with their actual chemistry, couldn’t sell the bromance moments as sincere in this episode! I think you hit the nail on the head, I couldn’t suspend disbelief, and that made the 42 minutes fall flat for me. Also, Time For a Wedding? What’s that? I don’t remember an episode with that title… lalalalala I can’t hear you….🙂

  5. trina permalink
    February 23, 2013 3:14 am

    Usually if I don’t care about the MOTW I can still look at the brothers and find some enjoyment. Not even close with this episode (except the already mentioned familiar on the bed scene). There is such a huge difference between “I don’t want you to do it because I don’t want you to get hurt” and “I don’t want you to do it because I think you are weak and will mess it up”. Dean’s line “It will be too late for me to step in” was ridiculously condescending; and his reason for “trusting” Sam, that this mission is to important not to, doesn’t really make any sense. Please let this be a one ep hiccup, and not the characterizations they are going with now.

    • spnfans permalink
      February 23, 2013 8:40 pm

      Please let The Powers That Be listen to you!!🙂

  6. Sue Ashworth permalink
    February 23, 2013 4:07 am

    *sigh* It wasn’t great. There were some pluses – They actually let Dean find the spell the witch was using. I liked the concept of of familiars, but I really wasn’t keen on the show overall this week. Every so often they do have a dud, and this, I fear, was one.

    It wasn’t just the script, which really wasn’t a good one, IMO, it was the direction. To me it seemed jarring, with odd ‘artsy’ camera angles that didn’t work for me. I can only suspend disbelief if I care, and frankly, I didn’t care. It won’t stop me watching, but if the powers that be take my advice it should be to make the current crop of writers sit down and watch the show from the Pilot all the way through to Swan Song. They seem to need it.

    • spnfans permalink
      February 23, 2013 8:41 pm

      Imho, the Powers that Be should *always* take your advice! And you’re right, some of them do seem to need it.🙂

  7. February 23, 2013 4:44 am

    Nightsky: “During the controversial sex scene, I was just confused, and exclaimed out loud,, “why are they doing this? I don’t remember any previous sex scenes with guest stars. Why do we care if it isn’t Sam or Dean??”” EXACTLY! Don’t ever be making us watch sex that doesn’t have one of the boys in it, writers! (Except for the brief make-out scene with Charley and her faery — that was ok.)

    Re dogs, I just kept thinking how I know Jensen is a dog lover so it was sad they they didn’t let Dean be one. I think I took it more as, not so much that Dean hated dogs (but this is from my one-time viewing, I might be misremembering), so much as that he didn’t like dog-smell in his car or his bed. Then again, he did have a couple of run-ins with yorkies ….

    It made me quite sad that Sam lied to Dean about being ok, in the last scene. I understand why he did, but still. Why do they even bother pretending to be honest with one another?

    • spnfans permalink
      February 23, 2013 8:42 pm

      I think most of us thought what Dean disliked was dog smell in the Impala, not DOGS. Perhaps we need to explain that to the writers….

  8. annielicious14 permalink
    February 23, 2013 2:59 pm

    This is Season 8’s “Bugs” episode!🙂

    • spnfans permalink
      February 23, 2013 8:42 pm

      Let’s hope there’s only one this season!🙂

  9. Connie permalink
    February 23, 2013 6:54 pm

    LG:”Don’t ever be making us watch sex that doesn’t have one of the boys in it, writers! ” Exactly!!
    “The guest actress did a good job with Portia, but the whole subservient-woman-of-color-in-a-collar-calling-a-white-man-master distracted from her performance.”
    That bothered me to know end and I wanted to see if anyone else caught that. Not sure how that came out the writers’ room.

    • spnfans permalink
      February 23, 2013 8:43 pm

      It definitely bothered me, enough to throw me out of the episode all together. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine how something *didn’t* strike the writers that way….

  10. bjxmas permalink
    February 24, 2013 12:14 am

    Concerning Dean’s dislike of dogs, a friend just reminded me of Mystery Spot where Dean may get mauled by a dog but he’s the one to approach the dog all nice and friendly! Yeah, I’ll buy into that Dean wouldn’t like dogs in his car because of the smell and how protective he is of the leather and just Baby in general. I agree with jair95 that getting mauled and dragged to Hell by hellhounds might cause some unease…but the whole Dean hates dogs is just wrong and bad writing unless it is used to examine his feelings and get to the root cause of his ill will. It wasn’t. The entire episode was written as another show and Sam and Dean were simply shoe-horned in. Even Jensen and Jared couldn’t make me believe or care, which tells me that it was hopeless as a script.

    I’m actually one of the few that likes Route 666 because the brother moments in there and the revelation about Dean falling for a girl and being hurt in the break-up were pretty awesome and I loved Metallicar doing stunts on an icy road. Not to mention a fav quote, “I’m in the middle of nowhere with a killer truck up my ass!” Dean sounded like Dean and Sam sounded like Sam! All I ever want is my Sam and Dean! Some of the other stuff was annoying but not a deal breaker. Give me good insight into what’s going on with the boys and I can forgive a lot.

    Actually, just give me one or two moments, a look, a revealing or quirky line that screams out original, and I can rewatch and enjoy an episode. Here I’d be hard-pressed to find much if anything to bring me back for more.

    B.J.

    • spnfans permalink
      March 1, 2013 3:58 am

      I’m with you – that’s all I need to enjoy an episode. But every now and then, I can’t find even that much. Luckily it really is only every now and then.

  11. magichappening permalink
    February 27, 2013 1:43 am

    Fanatic …fan…fandom. Yup, passion is definitely a huge part of the job description for a fan and the Supernatural fandom? Has it in spades. Lukewarm, we are not. So when a lukewarm episode comes up in the rotation, we make our feelings heard. Passionately.

    I have loved Season 8 (I’m one of the few who liked ‘Bitten’) and we have been especially lucky with the last few episodes firing on all cylinders. And not just as single episodes. But as a story arc tied securely, cleverly into the mythology of the show …with gathering momentum, steam building, the tension mounting, hinting at a grander canvas even beyond this season… and then?

    Flatline…

    On another site, someone made the excellent point that one of the issues they had with a mediocre episode being let slip by is the time wasted that COULD have been used to tell the season’s key stories as they deserve to be told. There are so many threads that have been begun: Cas and Naomi, Dean and Benny, maybe Sam and Amelia, Kevin and the tablets and the closing of Hell…

    I agree there were ‘some good moments, like Sam getting adorably flustered trying to convince Dean to allow a stray dog to spend the night’. However, the lack of continuity in where the brothers were in their own relationship was, to quote Dean, ‘bush league’. As you’ve pointed out, last week Dean was a ‘genius’ and this week somehow lacks both technical knowledge (the definition of a ‘familiar’) and basic English skills (the implication of ‘intimate’).‘Lacklustre, man’.

    I do think that it is not unexpected that Sam would hide the toll the trials are taking on him from Dean. And I think Dean would do the same. And don’t get me started on why every single injury/ illness/wound/condition/bodily ailment that has ever affected a human being in the history of forever can all lead to the single symptom of coughing up blood (when it has progressed to ‘serious’) in Hollywood-land… I’m choosing to believe that Supernatural has done its research properly and Sam actually does have a trials-related RESPIRATORY system condition…*sticks fingers in ears* la,la,la, can’t hear you!

    I think there can be very little doubt this episode was written to be placed before last week’s episode and for some reason Carver changed his mind. This would have been bad enough with a well-written, interesting episode, but with its sub-standard characterisation and unconvincing, plodding storytelling, the lumpy squareness of this episode, trying to fit into a round hole was, unfortunately, glaringly obvious. (I wonder if it was shot in the order it has been shown in? I kind of want to hope not, otherwise WHY did someone not put their hand up and say um, guys, you know LAST week…)

    Oh, well. Tis done. For me, the show’s report card this week reads, ‘can do better’. Onwards and upwards🙂

    • spnfans permalink
      March 1, 2013 4:00 am

      I like the way you think🙂 Onwards and upwards indeed!

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