Supernatural’s Blade Runners Cuts Deep (And that’s a good thing)
I went into this episode cautiously, because these two writers’ efforts don’t always work well for me. But I try to always be open minded about this Show, and it paid off – because this time Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner penned a kickass episode that I LOVED! The dialogue, the plot, the characters, the progression, all worked for me. And Serge Ladouceur’s directing was spot on. What a pleasure to sit down and write a review full of squee (though also full of plenty of trepidation – this is Supernatural, after all!)
This season has been tough for actors and fans alike, and as we near the end, I know that some fans have felt like it’s been too much for them. As Jensen Ackles recently said in a Zap2It interview:
“There’s always been a camaraderie between the two brothers, and to have that basically shattered this season, it’s been difficult to look at the pieces of what it used to be… at the very least, they had each other. So to now sever that bond that seemed to be so strong has been really hard. It’s been dark in Dean’s world for a while, and I’m hoping that someone will open up a window soon.”
I think a lot of us are right there with him. Open the damn window, for godsakes! Luckily, he also said that “emotionally the story lines are going to start to come to a head here in the next (last) three episodes,” so there’s hope for the end of the season.
Showrunner Jeremy Carver, in a Give Me My Remote interview, also acknowledged how dark and difficult this season has been:
“I think we’re all constantly surprised at the ways …that the boys can find ways to argue with each other. And I think over the last couple of years, the hits they’ve taken at each other have been a bit more personal, and a bit more deeply felt, deeply wounding. But the moments they’ve come together have felt that much more rewarding as well if you think of the last year. We all love the brothers, and we all love that the brothers love each other.”
Carver also ended on a hopeful note: “And most importantly, how do the brothers find a way to repair their ruptured bond? There’s a lot on the plate, and it all gets dealt with one way or the other.”
I sure hope so! I don’t know how much more of this my poor heart can take!
This episode, ultimately, left me hopeful as well. There were a few random things that I wanted to mention first, before we get to the important stuff – some that I liked, some that I didn’t. The use of Snooki as a crossroads demon fell a bit flat, largely because it only would have worked if everyone and their brother didn’t already know that she’d be there. It would have been funny to watch the Winchesters’ reaction if it was one we shared, but as it is, we were in on the joke too soon and so it wasn’t funny. Also, acting is not Snooki’s forte – but I give her points for giving it a good shot and being a good sport.
Then there was Dr. Mackleroy, a minor guest character, but one that I kinda liked. One of the things I love about Dean Winchester is that he appreciates a variety of types of people. He doesn’t just appreciate stereotypically gorgeous twenty-something women (though he clearly appreciates them too). There’s something about Dean and a slightly older woman that totally works for me, though (let’s not analyze the Freudian implications of that too closely, okay?) Dean’s response to Dr. Mackleroy’s overt appreciation of him was adorable, as he first looks confused, then a bit flustered. She makes no secret of her interest in him, with her flirty response of “Compel me, what might that involve…” and her insistence that only Dean can have her business card. Dean looks after her with some consideration as she walks away, and Sam’s reaction to the whole thing made it even better – he looks so uncomfortable as he becomes an accidental voyeur to his brother and the doctor’s innuendo-filled exchange, which I have to believe has happened to Sam in all sorts of ways over the years. Hehe.
I found the little glimpses into the brothers’ grandfather interesting too, and I hope Show doesn’t drop the implications. Magnus was Henry’s mentor, and Henry snuck off to visit him even after he’d been banished. Apparently Henry Winchester was quite the wild one, according to Magnus. Hmmm. I’m intrigued.
I also have to give huge props to director Serge Ladouceur, who made this episode breathtakingly beautiful and so damn powerful. The scene in the park, with the brothers in dark suits and the park lit so eerily beautiful, was gorgeous – Dean puffing out a visible breath in the night chill was such a nice touch, infusing the scene with a bit of realism that anchored the viewer in the moment. And as always, Serge’s close ups were perfect.
Kudos to the VFX team too – Crowley’s red smoke was so damn cool, and the door to Magnus’ house that opened up in the middle of the field was amazing. You guys rock!
Let’s talk about Crowley before we get to Sam and Dean, shall we? Because Mark Sheppard stole every scene he was in, and that’s really saying something when you’re acting with Ackles and Padalecki! Crowley lounging with the boys drinking scotch and reading porn was especially priceless.
Sheppard is so good that you’re never entirely sure whether Crowley is being genuine or it’s all an elaborate and well-acted con – or both. In this episode, I think we got both, at times impossibly intertwined. Crowley’s addiction was certainly real, and I couldn’t help but feel for him as he’s overwhelmed by human emotions that he hasn’t felt in centuries. I have to admit, I wondered whether Crowley would turn out to be in bed with a woman or a man, because I think the character could go either way, but oh well. Lola was swiftly dispatched, and we see that even when Crowley seems entirely helpless, he never actually is. It’s a good reminder, for both the viewer and the Winchesters.
This episode will always be memorable for me because it gave me Lou Reed’s “Heroin” as the perfect music cue for Crowley’s addiction. I actually started screaming when the song started, because I couldn’t quite believe that my favorite Show was using one of my all time favorite artist’s music – I mean, holy crap, it was effing Lou Reed! I think I may have told everyone in the house that my Show is the most awesome show in the history of awesome and OMG can they all hear how awesome it is? (That cleared the house out pretty quickly, gotta say…) Good job, Show!
It’s a bit ironic that the brothers have to stage an intervention to get Crowley back to the less human and more ruthless King of Hell that they need him to be, and I hope that Show doesn’t take away all his humanity. It makes him a more nuanced character, and one that just about everyone loves, even if we don’t want to. What is more hysterical than Crowley knocking over a candy machine, and Dean and Sam’s exasperated reactions?
I actually think that Crowley’s feeling of a bond with Sam is also genuine – they really did share a “mo” in that church, and Crowley seems fascinated by that. I laughed out loud when we saw that Dean is categorized on Crowley’s phone as “Not Moose.” That says so much with so little. Crowley’s attempts to ingratiate himself with Sam and his too-long looks and musings on matching tattoos were a bit heartbreaking, as Sam understandably rebuffs him at every turn. I can’t help but wonder if Crowley would have turned on them in the end if Sam had thrown him a bone with just a “good job” or a “thank you”. (Probably not, but I can’t help but wonder). Nevertheless, Crowley seems genuinely sad when he says that he wanted to be “on their team” and laments that he can’t trust Sam.
So I liked the Crowley parts very much, and kudos to the writers for giving him some excellent lines to chew on. Now let’s get to the brothers, shall we?
I haven’t said this for a while, but DAMN, I love what happened with Sam and Dean in this episode!
Once again, we have Sam swooping in to save Dean (okay, it didn’t go so well, but still, he was trying!) And that gave us the line that made me squee at my television set:
Sam: “Take me to my brother.”
Mmm. Not only do I get all tingly when Sam takes control like that, but Sam calling Dean his brother has now become something wonderful. It’s funny how important a word can become when you aren’t certain you’ll hear it anymore, isn’t it?
I swear, if Sam saving Dean isn’t the way this season ends, I’ll be bitterly disappointed. It will be the perfect contrast to the lingering wound I feel from Sam not saving Dean from Purgatory (and that I think Sam feels too). And for Dean, it will prove to him the thing he never really believes – that he is loved, and worthy of love. That sense of security could allow him to let go of a tiny bit of his dependence fear, so he can see his brother more clearly and understand Sam’s own hurts and insecurities.
Fingers crossed, Jeremy Carver.
This episode also brought us a great side character in Magnus, who fascinated me even with the relatively small amount of time he had onscreen. He was creepy and sad at the same time, like one of those classic Star Trek characters who created a ‘utopia’ for himself only to find that he was lonely living in luxurious isolation – and perfectly willing to enslave others to remedy that. (Shallow observation: hey, I can’t exactly fault him for wanting to add Dean Winchester to his collection. I mean, who wouldn’t be tempted?)
Also I’m a little bit grateful to Magnus for giving me Dean chained to a pillar.
Which fandom, with its amazing artistic and creative talent, can always make even that much hotter.
The next scene was pure vintage Supernatural, which is always a good thing in my book. Sam tries to save Dean, ends up tied to a post (as often happens to the Winchesters). Bad guy threatens Sammy, Dean goes big brother ballistic. He actually growled when Magnus cut Sam’s beautiful face, while I was screaming Nooooo, not that face!!! Dean growling when somebody touches his Sammy? Pretty much the best thing ever.
The last scene, when Dean reacts to the Impala being keyed by Abbadon’s demons, was one of the most emotional of the episode. (It also gave us Winchesters thrown up against the Impala wearing friggen’ thigh holsters, which… GUH). But it was ultimately a serious scene. Dean’s attachment to his “baby” is often played for comedic effect, but it’s clear that, for Dean (and to some extent for Sam too), the Impala is much more than a car. It’s the brothers’ link to their father and their past, it’s the only permanent home they’ve ever had. And the Show is very aware of this – they often use the Impala to symbolize what’s happening with the Winchesters, especially Dean. In “The End”, the Impala is discarded and left to rust, evoking Future!Dean’s disconnection from his past and his emotions. In “In My Time of Dying” as Dean seems too broken to fix, the Impala does as well – and Sam accepts neither of their fates. And in the time Dean lived with Lisa, trying to be something he wasn’t, the Impala had to be literally covered up so that Dean could try to forget who he really was.
In “Blade Runners,” Dean reacts to the violation of the Impala by something evil with despair, almost agony. So did I, because it seems to mirror Dean’s own violation, as the (evil?) forces attached to the Mark of Cain violate him as well. Dean values the Impala far more than he values himself, so his reaction is to the marking of his baby. My reaction is also to Dean’s complete dismissal of his own worth, his acceptance of the violation that comes with the Mark because he doesn’t care about himself, only what he “has to do.” But both of us were devastated.
Supernatural wouldn’t be Supernatural without lots of parallels, including Magnus’ threat to sap Dean’s will and take away his autonomy, which I’m hoping was a deliberate nod to what Sam has endured more than once. And Crowley’s addiction is set up as a mirror for Dean to become addicted too – to the power of the Mark and the First Blade. Dean’s first “hit” overwhelmed him, which Ackles made achingly clear as Dean gasped and shook when the blade was forced into his hand. (That scene probably should not have been as hot as it was either, but come on, a chained and restrained Dean, open mouthed, head thrown back, gasping and….okay, never mind) Although Dean became overwhelmed and dropped the blade, we saw a glimpse of the future hinted at in Magnus’ ominous words – “Next time it’ll be easier. You’ll get used to the feelings, even welcome them.”
When Dean takes up the blade again, voluntarily this time, he seems to absorb its power more easily, wielding it with a bloodthirsty zeal and looking like he’s literally been turned into someone else (and isn’t that exactly what addiction does to someone?) Dean was effing SCARY in that moment. He looks at Crowley and Sam as though he’s not even sure who they are – and even worse, as if he’s not sure whether or not he should kill them. His hand twitches when he tries to let go of the blade as much as Crowley’s foot was when going through withdrawal. He is, as Crowley so aptly puts it, “quite the killing machine.” *shudders*
The other clear parallel is to Sam’s addiction to demon blood in season four, and the lure of the power that gave him. Dean took on the Mark to do something he feels he “has to do” – Sam did the same thing with Ruby. We all know how that turned out, so there’s a terrible sense of foreboding hanging over the rest of this season. How far will Dean go, and who will be there to keep him from going over the edge? It was Dean who came to stand beside Sam after he killed Lilith, the brothers hanging onto each other literally and figuratively to face what came next. Will Sam do the same for Dean?
I think we got a glimpse of the hopeful answer in “Blade Runners.” It’s Sam who calls Dean back from the brink, when it looks like the Dean Winchester we know has already been buried beneath the effects of the Mark and isn’t coming back. It’s Sam who softly calls his brother’s name, using a voice that seems to echo from their childhood and evoke a time when there was so much love between them it could save the world. Sam who finally, in desperation, yells “Dean!” and gets through to his brother.
“Drop the knife,” he urges, and it sounds like Dean in the church urging Sam to “Let it go.”
That moment was masterfully played by both Ackles and Padalecki, as Dean slowly comes out of the dark place he’s in at the sound of Sam’s voice. It’s like he’s waking up, his eyes darting around the room, like he’s somewhere else and trying to find a beacon that will show him the way out. He’s seeking Sam, and when his eyes meet his brother’s, his expression softens. Dean’s been conditioned to respond to Sam’s voice from the time they were kids and Dean was acting as his parent. It’s instinctive for him to hear Sam. And so he drops the blade.
That moment gave me so much hope for the rest of the season and for the Show I love. I know some fans have given up, because it’s hard to wait for the brothers to find their way back to each other, believe me, I know. But it was so clear from that scene that all the love they have is still there. It may be buried under hurts and accusations and lies and anger, but it’s there. I think Sam knows it – and it will be up to him to prove it to Dean. After all, it was love that let Cain put down the First Blade too.
Fandom, as always, can express the overwhelming emotion that Supernatural can evoke in all of us. I might have needed some of those ever-present tissues for this vid, which traces all the reasons why Dean Winchester is “worthy” of the Mark of Cain. If only Dean could ever believe that he’s worthy of something so much more important – love.
Next week, we get to enjoy Misha Collins’ directorial debut. We’re excited for that, after chatting with Misha about directing last weekend at the Vegas Supernatural convention (interview coming up soon!) And hopefully we get to see Cas stage an intervention of his own for the brothers. As Ackles put it in his Zap2It interview:
“Dean’s had to do the same thing for Cas in the past, so I feel like it’s only right for Cas to want the same thing and do what he can to not only salvage Dean as a person but also to salvage Dean and Sam as brothers. At this point, part of Cas’ mission is to help these two brothers in not only what they mean to the bigger picture, but what they mean to each other.”
What did you think of ‘Blade Runners’? Comment below!
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