Hellatus is Over! Supernatural 10.10 The Hunter Games
I was already in an amped up Supernatural state thanks to the San Francisco convention last weekend, so to say I was excited about the mid season premiere was an understatement. We had a big family pizza party with lots of cousins and aunts and uncles joining us, which was awesome until about 8:49 pm, when I started to hyperventilate a little. Luckily everyone cleared out shortly thereafter, possibly because someone asked “wait, is there a new Supernatural on tonight?” and I answered much too loudly, “YES!!!”
I watched the episode with my daughter, and once again, we both enjoyed the episode despite a few minor quibbles. Yay! So here are Ten Things I Liked About Episode 10.10.
And a few little things I didn’t. Let me explain about the inclusion of those few things. My relationship with Show is complicated, but that’s not a bad thing. I enjoy the hell out of watching just about every single episode (only two in the history of the Show have annoyed me so much that I didn’t want to rewatch them immediately, or perhaps ever). I always find things to love in an episode, and I generally end up bouncing up and down and squeeful about how Supernatural is still the goddamn Best Show Ever. Which it is.
That doesn’t mean I don’t find things to quibble with, or sometimes wish canon would veer off in a different direction than it does. Supernatural isn’t perfect to me – it’s real. I adore its ridiculously talented, passionate, motivated — and imperfect — cast and crew, writers and producers. They’re human, and that means they have the heart and soul to pour into this crazy wonderful little Show we all love. Humans aren’t perfect, and neither are shows. But everyone cares about this thing they’re creating, and everyone is all in trying to make it the best damn Show they can. I can’t even put into words how much I appreciate that, or how much I value it. If, in a review here, or on a roundtable discussion elsewhere, I combine my squee and respect and appreciation with some wishing and complaining, that doesn’t mean I don’t care. It means I do. Just like my editor or my beta cares enough to point out when things I write aren’t perfect, and ways I might make things better. Sometimes I choose to ignore that, and sometimes my editor or my beta is wrong (shhh, don’t tell them!). I’d be the first to say that my ideas for the Show are probably wrong too sometimes – or at the very least impractical for television or misaligned with where the keepers of the Show’s official canon want to go. And I’ll be the first to shrug and say oh well, my ideas weren’t that good anyway, and send kudos to the creative team who ended up taking me somewhere I didn’t even know I wanted to go. I trust them enough to know I’ll never quit this Show, and enough to enjoy the ride every week, wherever they take me.
This week was no exception. I enjoyed the hell out of that 42 minute rollercoaster. In the 24 hours since, and in a day of chatting with my daughter and other fans about the episode, I’ve got some quibbles. But for the most part? There was a lot to love, and I’m just damn glad my Show is back!
Ten Things I loved:
1. The ‘Road So Far’ set to Electric Light Orchestra’s Long Black Road. I don’t really know the song, but it seemed so perfect. “You gotta get up in the morning, take your heavy load. And you gotta keep goin’ down the long black road.” In both Jensen and Jared’s meet and greets at SFCon this past weekend, they talked about the theme of the Show being “try”. The Winchesters keep trying, and they don’t give up on each other, no matter what. It’s a message that has drawn many of us to the Show, full of personal meaning. That song seemed to echo those sentiments, so it rang extra true to me. Also, the montage of scenes was awesome!
2. The cast and crew showing off their amazing talent (again). Congrats to John Badham for brilliant directing, and Brad Creasser for taking over as DP while Serge Ladouceur was prepping the next episode. Together they created scenes that were breathtakingly gorgeous and packed an emotional punch that left me breathless multiple times. The shots of the MoL bunker were particularly beautiful.
Badham and Creasser really brought us inside the bunker with the boys, let us feel how long those hallways are, giving us a real feel for how large it is. It doesn’t feel like a set at all, even when you’re standing in it — it feels like an actual bunker. I loved the scene of Dean and Sam walking and talking, following the turns of the hallways (Also, bowlegs!). I loved the scene of Cas and Sam running through the same hallways, terrified of what’s happening to Dean. The use of lighting was spectacular throughout – Serge must have been proud. He even tweeted out the credit to Brad.
The VFX guys deserve a shout out for this episode too, which was heavy with visual effects. Not a single one came off cheesy or artificial looking – instead they fit seamlessly into the narrative and looked like they were happening right before our eyes. Rowena’s traveling “sight” was particularly well done, and so very very creepy.
And then there’s the acting. The four regulars were all stellar, and all had a chance to shine. Guest actors Ruthie Connell and Curtis Armstrong were no less stellar, and Kathryn Love Newton brought some humanity to a character who doesn’t always come across as very sympathetic.
3. Castiel. I loved his concern for Claire, and his inability to let it go. One of the things I’ve quibbled with in the past is that we didn’t get to see Cas be human for very long, which was a shame. I thoroughly enjoyed that story line, and wanted to see so much more of his struggle to deal with the emotions and the mortality of being a man. That said, I’m glad he’s BAMF!Cas again, but has retained some of that humanity and emotionality. It’s clear he feels both guilty and responsible for Claire, but his essential awkwardness (which I also love) keeps getting in his way. I really felt for him, when she kept refusing to stay with him or to allow him to try to keep her safe. It’s a bit of a mirror for Sam and Dean, and Dean’s constant longing to keep Sam safe, and Sam’s chafing against that or refusal to let him.
Cas doesn’t know how to convince Claire that Randy was bad for her, that he didn’t really care about her. She doesn’t want to listen, especially now that he’s gone and she’s grieving another father figure – this one murdered at the hands of a man that Cas calls friend. No wonder she keeps pushing him away. I had been bothered before that the issue of Castiel looking just like her dead father wasn’t acknowledged in the Show, so I was thrilled that it was touched on in this episode. Imagine how impossible that would be, to have to look at someone wearing your dead father’s body, but is not him. I loved that Claire told him that straight out, and that Cas seemed to listen and try to understand.
I also like where Cas is right now. He’s a quirky angel again. I laughed out loud when he said he’d text Dean the phone number, and Misha nailed his quiet admission, “I like texting.” I didn’t even need the “emoticons” added on; just the idea that Cas would enjoy something as humanly simple as texting made me happy. He sometimes struggles with face-to-face communication, so I can totally see texting as something he’d enjoy. Just like the Winchesters, Castiel is a character who many of us relate to strongly. His idiosyncrasies are an important and appealing part of who he is, and I love that Dean and Sam accept him and love him and respect him for the journey he’s been on and who he’s become.
He’s awkward but honest when he tries to convince Dean to talk to Claire:
“I thought there would be a connection, one extremely messed-up human to another.”
It’s true, but it’s not what most people would say. Dean’s half smile says he gets it, that he knows Cas and appreciates him for who he is and how he relates, even when it’s awkward.
I like that the awkwardness that we’ve come to expect in the character is back. On the other hand, I love that he’s Castiel again – an angel with at least some (borrowed) juice. When he burst into the bunker and questioned what the hell the Winchesters were doing, and when he swept in to blow away the door to get to Dean, I was reminded just how badass the character was originally written. I liked seeing some of that return, even if it is temporary right now. He’s torn between his loyalty to the Winchesters and to the angels, but willing to go out on a limb and risk bringing Metatron if it’s the only way to help Dean. However, he draws the line where he has to, which I liked.
He’s not a pushover for either the brothers or the angels, but is trying to find his own way and do the right thing. Making it up to Claire is part of that attempt to make things right.
Another problem I’ve had with this season and last is that Castiel’s story line was not always well integrated with the Winchesters’ arc. This week jam packed a lot into one episode, but the story lines meshed organically, which is something I’ve been wanting to see.
Cas (Misha) got one of my favorite lines in the episode. When Claire accuses Dean of being a monster, Cas considers for a moment, and then responds, “It’s possible that there is a little monster in all of us.” He’s defending Dean, but it goes deeper than that. Castiel, originally an angel who looked at the question of right/wrong and good/bad in concrete, black and white terms, has grown a lot over the years. His understanding of what it means to be a ‘monster’ is much more nuanced now, as is Sam and Dean’s. As is ours — all of us who watch the Show and confront those moral questions along with it.
4. Everything about Crowley and his mummy. I have loved the character of Crowley from the get go, and have felt sympathetic toward him when there was no reason to (except maybe that Mark Sheppard is hard not to like). The glimpses we got of Crowley’s humanity – in the church with Sam, in his interaction with his son, and in his bromancing escapades with Dean – have made me like the character even more. Maybe it’s the psychologist in me, but hearing stories of his horrific childhood have now solidified that liking into actual caring about Crowley, which I realize is a foolish and dangerous thing, because hello, demon! Nevertheless, there it is.
So I feel rather terrified for him, watching Rowena spin her brilliantly diabolical web of deceit that’s sure to leave Crowley gutted. As much as he’s trying to fight it, and clearly knows intellectually that he cannot trust her, that wounded little boy still longing for his mother’s love keeps breaking through. It’s a real thing, I’ve seen it too often in real people, and it’s breaking my heart.
I both love it and hate it when Show is smart enough to get things right. Sometimes they’re so right it hurts.
Of course a lot of the credit goes to Connell and Sheppard, who play this relationship like virtuosos. I hate Rowena but I can’t help but admire her intellect and persistence and her amazing acting ability (the character’s as well as the actress!) Also I could listen to her accent for days. Months even.
Who else could give us dialogue gems like this?
Rowena: “Darling, what can I do?”
Crowley: “Not a thing, you evil bitch.”
Rowena: “Not a thing, you evil bitch…mother.”
Sheppard shows us just enough of his vulnerability to make us want to warn him about his ‘mummy’ – more than once, I found myself yelling at the television set. “No, no, don’t believe her!” I’m terrified of where this is going, and I can’t wait to find out.
5. Metatron. I adore Curtis Armstrong, who is sweet and smart and adorable. But wow, do I hate Metatron – which I suppose means Curtis is a damn good actor. He taunts Sam, gleeful at what’s happened to Dean.
“He’s gone nuclear! Total foaming-at-the-mouth, balls out maniac. That’s fantastic!”
Sam’s hatred is palpable then, and he gets right to the point when he puts it into words.
“Buddy, I don’t care what happens to you. You killed my brother.”
I love that Sam and Dean both use terms of endearment with Metatron, to highlight just how much they hate him. It amps the creepy and scary factor up by about a million.
And then Metatron taunts Dean. Oh, does he taunt Dean. I can feel Dean’s hatred of Metatron right through my television screen – it seeped out like a physical thing, leaving all the air in the room charged. I swear my hair was standing on end when Dean walked into the dungeon to confront him, standing there in the shadows looking as dark as I’ve ever seen him. I was literally scared. Terrified even.
Dean taunts Metatron right back, using another term of endearment that came across so intensely frightening that it gave me goosebumps.
“You’re going to tell me everything. All of it. And it’s not going to cost me a damn dime, Slugger.”
I don’t know how Metatron didn’t have a heart attack on the spot.
Except that of course that was Metatron’s plan all along. Goad him, get him angry, push him further toward the dark side. It’s the same game Crowley played last year, pushing Dean toward being a demon. Metatron is even better at it though, a master of manipulation. He hits Dean right where it hurts, reminding him of how low he’s already sunk, making a joke of the morality of the formerly “righteous man”.
Accusing him of violating Sam and letting an angel possess him – the thing that came between Sam and Dean so profoundly last season that it almost ripped them apart forever. Dean still carries that guilt, and you can see how much Metatron’s accusations get to him.
You can feel the rage coming off Dean in waves, can feel the darkness sinking in and taking hold. Dean finally gets to confront Metatron with all the horrors he inflicted – “killing Kevin using my brother’s hands”. “Killing me.”
The scene was played as so intense, it left me breathless. What breath I did have was used up with me gasping and jumping up and down and yelling “Sam, Cas, OMG, run faster, OMG OMG OMG!”
Those scenes produced a strange emotional mix, part adrenaline rush, part terror, and part ‘this probably shouldn’t be so hot, should it?’
As much as I hate Metatron, the character’s complexity makes me relish him as a villain too. One of my favorite lines:
“Ain’t life a bitch? Nebbishy little guy, me, always sticking it to the lunkhead jocks.”
It’s true, and it’s part of Metatron’s appeal. But I still hate him.
Random other good things of note:
6. I love that William Shatner was the one live tweeting the episode, along with Osric Chau.
7. I love that they dedicated the episode to Matt Riley, who the SPNFamily recently lost.
8. Trivia tidbit from editor Nicole Baer: At one pt, we had Crowley strutting his stuff to “Staying Alive” in his opening dream sequence. Now that I would pay to see!
9. Even Robbie Thompson agrees that we need more wet hair Sam. Like, a lot more.
Fandom wholeheartedly approves of wet!Sam.
So that’s a whole lot of good. There were a few things that niggled at me, though they didn’t significantly get in the way of my enjoyment. But let me get them out of the way so I can finish talking about what I loved, okay?
1. It’s one of those things that’s probably a necessary way to move the story along and ratchet up the dramatic tension (which Show does so well and which I greatly appreciate), but every time Sam let Dean go off somewhere alone I wanted to say, “Really, Sam? You’re so worried about him and you know he’s unstable as hell, but you’re gonna let him go off and meet up with Claire? Hell, you’re even gonna let him go off to make a sandwich?” I think if I were Sam, I’d be stuck to my brother like glue.
2. Claire’s abrupt change of heart didn’t work for my daughter at all. She’s not a fan of the character in general, but softened a bit when Claire was being honest with Cas about how hard it was to be around him and why. We see her take up with some not-very-nice people (once again) and then back away from letting them kill Dean at the last minute. We see Cas trying to get through to her, but her pushing him away. And then suddenly Cas responds to her “longing” for him (odd choice of words, since I have a hard time believing that she was), and Claire is suddenly looking at him with affection and randomly saying she likes him better with a tie. Huh?
All the reality of the previous scenes of the two of them, which rang so true, were erased way too quickly. We didn’t see enough of Claire’s journey for that about face to be believable. However, at least they didn’t have her hop happily into the backseat. I just wish they’d let her stay angry and hurt for a while, like most people would have.
Okay, back to what I loved about this episode.
10. Sam and Dean, and where they are now. I saved this for last because it makes me so happy. Jensen has told me twice now that Sam wants to be there for Dean this season. That Sam and Dean are in this together. That Sam is determined to save his brother, and basically isn’t going to let anything stop him. I think we’re starting to see that now, and it feels so damn good after all of the estrangement between the brothers last year.
Neither brother is running from the other, at least for now. Sam is there for Dean, physically and emotionally. Physically, he’s there to pull his brother back from killing Metatron, wrestling him away and across the room, and then holding him there with one hand on Dean’s shoulder. It’s enough to ground Dean, to begin to calm him.
Emotionally he’s there for Dean too, sitting down with him even after Dean has lost it, bringing him a beer and encouraging him to talk. He’s not judging, he’s there to help. And Dean feels it. He responds by – miracle of miracles – talking openly to his brother. He admits how dark it is where he’s gone, that he couldn’t stop, that he shouldn’t have done what he did.
Dean looks hopeless, and it breaks my heart. Sam listens, without blame. He feels like the big brother almost, there to console Dean and tell him they’re gonna get through this. It’s clear he believes in Dean, more than Dean himself does right now. Maybe you’re strong enough to do this, he says, even if we can’t get rid of the mark. It will take a powerful force to remove the mark, but if anyone can do it, maybe it’s Dean.
“Maybe part of that great power is you,” Sam says gently. And Dean wants to believe it, you can see it on his face. Sam has always looked up to Dean and thought him more capable than Dean himself has ever believed. Sam, with his hope and his faith and his belief in his brother, is Dean’s rock right now. And that gives me some hope.
Cain had Collette, but Dean has Sam. And he has Cas too.
I was so caught up in that scene that I didn’t realize my face was wet until the moment was broken by the ringing phone. Bad timing, Claire!
One of the things I quibbled with recently is the lack of Sam POV in the Show. Last year, I never felt like I knew what was going on in Sam’s head – what was he thinking? Feeling? His actions didn’t make sense to me sometimes because they seemed to come out of nowhere. This episode gave us some lovely glimpses into Sam’s headspace – what he’s thinking about, how determined he is, how frightened he is. And most of all, how much he cares about his brother.
I think Jared and Jensen summed it up in their meet and greets this past weekend:
Jared: Everyone wants a Dean to their Sam.
Jensen: The brothers both have big scars, but the moral of the show is “Never give up, keep fighting for each other.”
With a little help from their friends, I think the Winchesters are doing just that.
Is it Tuesday yet??
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