Supernatural is on a roll. Once again, I was swept along by this week’s episode, the hour going by way too quickly – and that’s exactly how I like it. Adam Glass’ script and Misha Collins’ directing were a heady combination, with the rest of the stellar cast and crew all bringing their A game for the first-time director.
When we spoke to Misha at VegasCon, the first thing we asked him about directing was, “So, do you have the bug now?”
More on his answer when we get the interview posted, but suffice it to say, our instincts about that were correct. And no wonder – he did an amazing job. I love Supernatural when it slows itself down enough that I can savor the beauty of each scene (and each character), taking in all the little glimpses of the boys’ surroundings that bring meaning to the scene and the story. Sometimes, due to the need to pack a lot of story into 42 minutes and the demands of editing an ambitious show down to that time limit, things get a bit choppy or feel a bit rushed. This episode didn’t – it lingered visually in a way that allowed me as a viewer to linger emotionally, absorbing the impact of everything that happened. It reminded me of the iconic scene of Sam dropping the coffee cup when John is dying, or the one of Dean leaning against the Impala, caught by a lens flare. Those are the moments you never forget, because they carry so much meaning. This episode was beautiful, right down to Serge Ladouceur’s unique take on the play of light and dark (nobody can show us a scene lit by flashlight like Serge) and the VFX effects were gorgeous. Misha and Serge together, along with the actors, did a great job of showing instead of telling, which made the episode even more powerful.
Take the scene where Dean is shooting pool while Crowley goads him into taking up the first blade again. (I may have watched this scene more than once. Okay, a lot more than once). It’s unhurried, full of tension, as Dean’s addiction and his ambivalence battle for control just under the surface. That the scene takes place over a ‘game’ is perfect, as Crowley and Dean parry, both knowing this is a different sort of competition. Misha doesn’t rush it, lets it play out in real time so we can feel the tension just as the characters do. (And damn, there was a lot of tension. I might have a bit of a competence kink, because Dean racking up the balls with his freaking elbows? Yeah. Hot. Also, Ackles slowly running his hand up his pool cue should be illegal. Didn’t he do the same damn thing in a scene from Dark Angel??) Let’s have a little trip down memory lane to when Ackles was Alec instead of Dean…
Tumblr gave those moments a lot of coverage, along with a fabulous thank you to Misha for the close-ups of Dean drinking beer after beer. I believe the caption was “Nobody gives better bottle than Dean.” I have to concur. And once again thank you, Misha, for all those incredible shots.
Glass deserves thanks too, for an episode that felt important on several levels. I liked the flashbacks to Henry and Josie, and was invested in their story because of their later relationship to Sam and Dean. Both actors have a lot of charisma, and they worked well together – even with their limited backstory, I felt for Josie. Alaina Huffman conveyed a lot of angsty longing in just a few looks and awkward bits of conversation. Though the woman-sacrifices-herself-for-desperate-love-of-a-man scenario isn’t my favorite, she made it seem real, if ill advised and tragic. And kudos to both the director and Jerry Wanek’s set dec team, because that (apparently real life) deserted convent was WAY creepy.
I usually hate Sam and Dean going their separate ways, and I admit that I groaned when Sam tried to get Dean to go along and he refused, but the separation worked this time – and it gave us so much information about where the boys are at emotionally. Sam is still angry and waiting for an apology from Dean, I have no doubt, but he’s also back to behaving like a concerned brother. No matter what, the brothers are attuned to each other, and Sam knows there’s something very wrong. He wants Dean to back him up, and he (mostly) keeps him in the loop, but it wasn’t all about hunting — there was more than one worried glance in Dean’s direction. It’s Sam who attempts communication this time, calmly and genuinely; it’s Dean who rebuffs him.
And that right there says a lot about Dean Winchester’s mental state. He’s still angry and clearly depressed, which often makes someone push away the very person who could help them most and who they most want to care about them (but won’t admit). That may be why he sends Sam off to hunt on his own even after Sam asks him to come along – he’s still thinking that Sam doesn’t care, so damn it, he’s trying not to care so much either. That’s partly why he hesitates before picking up his phone when he knows it’s Sam too. But it’s more than that. Dean seems to be in that dark place where someone starts to not care about anything that isn’t the thing they’re craving. Where they want to be left alone to just indulge in whatever it is they’re addicted to. Where they can’t think about or concentrate on anything else. Maybe it’s the Mark itself, hardening Dean, making him colder. Maybe he’s even a little scared to hunt with Sam, after experiencing the bloodlust that came with picking up the blade and knowing what Cain did to Abel – maybe it’s Dean’s well-established protective streak taken in a different direction. Whatever it is, Dean is changing. And that scares the hell out of me.
Kudos to Ackles for showing us Dean’s struggle in a million different ways – his shaky hand, the way he contemplates Crowley’s words, the single-mindedness with which he tries to escape with alcohol. And kudos to Collins for taking his time and capturing every one of those small tells, letting the full of impact of what’s happening to Dean come through. I’m not sure there’s anything Dean Winchester values more than keeping his precious ‘control’, and it’s unraveling right before our eyes, in agonizing detail. Dean has always been vulnerable to falling into the role of killer (after John’s death, in Hell, in Purgatory), and that has always simultaneously galvanized and scared him. Now, as he’s pulled in that direction again, his struggle is difficult to watch (and wonderful to watch, since thankfully this is fiction). I am loving having a story arc that I’m thoroughly fascinated by – I hate having to wait three weeks to find out what impact the Mark of Cain will have on Dean, and how that will play out. And that’s a great feeling, being on the edge of my seat every time there’s a mini-hiatus. Like the old days!
I admit I was a bit confused about Dean trekking off to a bar (though I’m glad he did, because that scene is awesome). Did he steal a car to get there? Sam had the Impala, so he clearly didn’t drive his own. And was that bar in the same town that Sam was working the job? It seemed to be, so I’m assuming that Dean was being a good hunting partner (and big brother) after all, making sure he was close by if Sam needed him. Don’t disabuse me of this notion.
Crowley and Dean in the bar was my favorite part of the entire episode. What a dance those two are doing! Crowley offers Dean some empathy, addict to addict, saying he knows what it’s like and encouraging Dean to embrace it. (As Crowley has apparently re-embraced his own addiction, to human blood. Why, we don’t know, but I’m intrigued). The parallels to Ruby are pretty clear at this point, but not so heavy handed that they pinged me. Crowley has his own way of manipulating Dean. He knows just how to needle Dean, just how close to the line to go in order to goad him forward, just how much skewed affection to infuse into his taunts to keep Dean from walking away. There’s a charge to their banter that’s just this side of sexual, and Crowley knows how to walk that line, how far to push Dean with aspersions of masculinity and comments that teasingly sexualize his love for Sam and his twisted partnership with Crowley alike.
Crowley: “You’re lying to Sam like he’s your wife. I guess that makes me your mistress.”
Perfect Crowley line is perfect.
(At this point, Misha tweeted: “Which of course makes Cas very jealous”. We love you, Misha.)
I loved Sam in this week’s episode too. Sam being on his own lets us see him more clearly sometimes, as just Sam instead of Dean’s little brother – and this week I really liked what we got to see. (Other than Sam’s hair, which was very sixties and possibly gelled into submission).
Even with the unfortunate hair, Sam was strikingly gorgeous in his FBI suit, and he pinged my competence kink too by having the recorded exorcism on his phone. Nothing hotter than a smart Winchester! (Unless it’s a hot Winchester who’s also man enough to step up and call someone on it when a guy treats a waitress like crap in a local bar. Sam Winchester isn’t the kind of man who lets that stuff go, and damn, that just makes him 100 times hotter).
I also enjoyed Sam’s interactions with Julia Wilkinson, the former nun (who Adam Glass named after our fellow fangirl and awesome admin of the Superwiki, Jules – same last name! Can you say reciprocal relationship, anyone?) Their dialogue was poignant and meaningful, giving us insight into both Sister Julia’s regrets and Sam’s smarts, determination, and capacity for empathy. Empathic Sam is something I’ve been craving, and Glass gives us that here. I loved Sam in this episode, and that felt really good.
I admit to being a bit confused about the whole creating a demon army from stolen souls thing. Why have we always needed crossroads deals if demons could just take souls when they wanted to? Then again, this is a Knight of Hell, and we don’t really know exactly how she’s doing it, so I’ll let that one go and wait for more intel. I was also a little iffy about why the people whose souls Abaddon stole became so disturbed, and in some cases downright murderous, since Sam without his soul wasn’t just a mess of unbridled id without rationality. I’m assuming it’s because the process happened differently, and that also explains why these stolen souls could ease back into their own bodies without the agony that Sam felt (of course, his soul was damaged as well, so there’s that).
The scene where Sam releases the souls from their glowing bottles was beautiful (and totally reminded me of one of the best pieces of fanfic I’ve ever read, The Firefly That Loved Metallica. If you read fanfic, or just appreciate good writing, go find it.) The special effects were perfect, and Sam’s expression of wonder as he watches them float upward and head toward their soulless bodies was equally perfect. Jared’s acting, Misha’s directing, Glass’s script – whatever it was, it came together beautifully. I got a little choked up just thinking about how miraculous it is that Sam Winchester, who has been through so much, can still find beauty in such a moment. He looks almost childlike, naïve, and I found myself hoping that it heals something for him, makes up for some of the things he still feels guilty about. Sam knows what it’s like to be soulless, and for those five people, he helped them become whole.
The question for the remaining episodes of Season 9 is, how dark will Dean go? Will Dean giving in to his addiction be what it takes for him to understand how Sam felt back in Season 4, when he was the addict going down a dark road? Will watching Dean succumb and trying to pull him back be what it takes for Sam to understand how Dean felt in Season 4, watching Sam be taken over?
Perhaps it will take the brothers being pulled apart for both of them to understand each other and see each other clearly, not as they were when they left Stanford in Season 1, but as they are now — two men who have endured almost a decade of tragedy and struggle since then, who’ve been changed in the process, and yet two men whose love for each other is what has saved the world time and time again, and still burns brighter than just about anything. At this point, I think it’s about understanding even more than it’s about forgiveness. My fingers are still crossed. The Winchesters are at separate tables, but their gaze is on each other.
Meanwhile, there was a flurry of network promotion around this episode the likes of which we’ve rarely seen – where the hell was all this for the past nine years?? Misha worked his butt off doing interviews seemingly everywhere, then sat down for a Facebook chat to answer fan questions (the more unusual they were, the more likely they were to be answered, unsurprisingly).
He then live tweeted both coasts’ broadcasts. The poor guy must need a month to recuperate!
Favorite Misha tweet:
Fan: Was it easier or harder to work with Jensen and Jared when you were directing as opposed to acting with them?
Misha: There never has been nor will there ever be an environment in which it is easy to work with Jared and Jensen.
Considering the pies in the face he had to endure from his costars, he might have a point.
This review would be remiss if it didn’t mention the promo for the next new episode, which unfortunately is 3 weeks away. I think the promo had a lot of interesting stuff in it, but frankly I got stuck on “Dean Winchester is naked in the shower” and forgot the rest. One clever fan immediately coined the term #showerhellatus on twitter to reflect just how difficult it’s going to be for us all to wait for April 15. Luckily, fandom will help us pass the time. Almost instantaneously, there were screencaps on twitter (Thanks @amyinsydney) and gifs up on Tumblr. I love you, fandom.
What did you think of this episode and Misha’s directing? Let us know in the comments!
Read more of our interviews with Misha,
Jensen and Jared, and more of our fangirl
adventures, in ‘Fangasm: Supernatural Fangirls’
by clicking the link at the top of the page