Supernatural Tackles the Ghost in the Machine – 10.13
Drive-by review — I liked it! I liked how old school the episode was, with the brothers working together to solve a MotW case and the entire episode spooling out with one reveal after another. We had EMF meters, rockstar aliases, ghosts, and baby roaring off down the street. It was suitably old school SPN creepy and scary and at times disgusting, which often seemed to be the case in the early seasons.
The whole ‘ghost in the machine’ thing has always been a bit terrifying, from way back in 2001 A Space Odyssey to Stephen King to that 90s classic anime. Who hasn’t looked askance at their GPS or Siri every now and then and wondered if it was messing with you? I swear, she just sounds judgmental at times. Especially on the fifteenth “recalculating…”
The best sci fi/horror scares you because it pulls for some of those primal things we’re all a little afraid of, and this episode did a good job of that. It wasn’t terribly original in that sense, but it didn’t have to be – many reiterations of that same theme work just fine. I missed this, but smarter fans than me picked up on the fact that it was episode 10.13, and that may have been an homage to the X Files (1013 was the creator’s production company) and its classic episode “Kill Switch” about a homicidal internet ghost. Damn, I loved that show. And so did many of the cast and crew and writers of Supernatural.
I also loved the reference to Lawnmower Man, which left a big impact on me when I saw it – both terrifying and tragic. Show remembered its own canon as far as ghosts and their tendency to go dark and seek revenge too, which I always appreciate. Thanks, Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder!
Another thing I loved about this episode was that Sam got to be smart again. I mean, we know he’s smart, but sometimes Show doesn’t let us see it enough. This time Sam shows off his sexy tech savvy, figures out what’s going on with the ghost and that his widow is the key to stopping him, and instantly figures out what to do when Dean’s frantic 911 text comes in. (Also, I am ridiculously enamored of every single little Winchester procedure the brothers know by heart.) Sam’s smart enough and quick enough to save Dean and the girl, which makes me happy.
Actually I’d love both boys to be smart at the same time in an episode – Dean was a little dumbed down at times, which makes for some nice brotherly ribbing but doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. Really, Dean doesn’t know Siri/Trini? Or anything about the internet? He’s done too much research for that to be the case. I mean, my dad knows about the internet!
Not sure why Dean eating so sloppily that spaghetti was falling out of his mouth either (other than Ackles is good at on-camera eating and can make it quite funny). I’m assuming we’re supposed to realize that despite Dean’s best efforts, his demonic appetites are coming back – food and sex certainly. I’m not sure he needed to eat that way for me to get it, though I do appreciate Sam’s incredulous looks.
The teenagers who so callously left that man to die were exaggerated, but that’s a horror movie trope that is probably appropriate here. Hashtag this and that – even my students don’t say that in conversation! And I don’t pretend to understand whether or not ghosts are still stuck in the veil or can now ‘move on’. Though if that could have implications for bringing Kevin back, I’m all for it! Those are relatively minor quibbles though. There was a lot more that I liked.
The directing by John Showalter and the cinematography and special effects were particularly noteworthy. The boys in their long coats strolling down that suburban street – what a striking shot. They looked so out of place in suburbia, and yet I was struck by what a beautiful image they made. Apparently that shot had some VFX, though I couldn’t say how. The VFX of the car going off the bridge was masterful, and that shot was also quite beautiful.
Know what else was beautiful? The fact that my favorite Show used my current favorite song. I actually jumped up and stared incredulously for a minute, yelling “OMG is that? Is it? OMG it is!!” I couldn’t resist a tweet to Hozier, who has absolutely no chance of seeing it amidst his hundreds of thousands of followers.
“@Hozier Congrats on being part of the canon of the best show on earth. #Supernatural #TakeMeToChurch”
I’m not sure what’s up with using such current music on SPN, and if it’s a choice between current and classic, I’d rather the Show stick with classic. But I can’t deny being thrilled to hear that song last night.
The best thing about this episode for me was that Sam and Dean are actually talking to each other. They’re not hiding, they’re not lying, they’re not stubbornly refusing to speak to each other. They’re being honest, and even though they might not agree, they’re talking about it. This in itself is miraculous, considering how the brothers have [not] communicated in the past. They’ve both been through so much, and they seem done with judging each other and all about supporting each other – and even thanking each other. I get the feeling both Sam and Dean have done a helluva lot of thinking while they’ve been between cases. They’re not on the same page exactly, but they seem committed to getting through this – whatever it is – together.
The last scenes were amazing. Dean talking to the ghost [but really to himself] was heartbreaking, and Ackles sold it as always. Why do these actors not have multiple awards? Seriously.
“The blood fuels the rage. You have 2 choices. You can keep killing, and become something you don’t recognize. Or you can move on, because that’s the only thing that will give you peace.”
Kudos to the guest actors playing both the husband and the wife, who managed to break my heart as they came to terms with letting go. I could empathize totally with the wife — we’ve all wanted to hang onto someone we love that desperately, that we’d take any part of them. Some of the best fanfic I’ve read deals with the same dilemma, and this episode was well done as the wife talked about her reluctance to let go. The parallel was not lost on me that once again it’s the person who is loved and loves most who can break the spell and pull the other back from the darkness. It’s Cain and Collette all over again. What does this mean for Sam and Dean?
The themes of peace and forgiveness remain front and center. “I’ve found my peace,” Dean tells Sam in the car. “My peace is helping people. Working cases. That’s all I want to do.”
Dean defines peace as hunting, the thing that has always defined Dean. The way he’s trying to make up for the hurt he’s caused along the way (and doesn’t that break my damn heart…)
Sam tries to talk him out of it. “Nothing is guaranteed, but you can’t just stop fighting.” [aka, Sam articulates the theme of Supernatural once again]. Cas, too, hasn’t given up, and is apparently out there following leads. And still talking to Sam every day apparently, which I find entirely heartwarming.
Dean doesn’t see it as giving up, although he’s always had a tougher time holding onto hope than Sam. That doesn’t work for him; he ends up waking up each day and trying to hang onto it and then crashing down in disappointment when it doesn’t work. Dean needs to feel like he has some control; like he’s not at the whim of someone else figuring out how to save him. He’s a doer, always has been. It’s how he copes.
Dean: “So I’m gonna fight it, until I can’t fight it anymore. And when all is said and done, I’ll go down swinging.”
The camera turns then to Sam’s face, and my heart stopped with how much pain and fear there is there.
I wanted, in that moment, so badly to tell Jared what an amazing bit of acting that was. I could feel it, every bit of it. I could feel what it was like to sit across from the person you love and feel like they’re giving up. It was heartbreaking. And yet, I can also sense, beneath the hurt and fear, the determination that Sam Winchester has always had. He’s going to do this, I think to myself. Come hell or high water, he’s going to save his brother.
Right??? Somebody tell me that’s right!
Next week’s episode looks amazing, btw. I can hardly wait!
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