I know it was called ‘Paint it Black’, but this episode felt more gray than anything. There were some things I liked very much, and others that left me scratching my head.
I’m always jarred by the episodes that bounce back and forth between story lines, and this one gave me a bit of whiplash. Every time we returned from a commercial I didn’t know if we’d be following Crowley and Rowena or Sam and Dean. I enjoy Crowley and Rowena (and enjoyed her snarky showdown with Teryl Rothery, especially the creative hamster ending). I liked realizing that Olivette was talking about the Men of Letters before the reveal, and I liked that it ties the Crowley and Rowena storyline back into the Winchesters’ directly. (And oh how I loved Rowena’s exasperated “Perpetually the Winchesters.”) Story of my life, Ruth Connell!
I’m still fascinated by the complicated relationship between Crowley and Rowena, and Mark Sheppard and Ruth Connell continue to knock it out of the park whenever they’re onscreen together. Watching two essentially evil manipulative characters interact and trying to figure out if they give a damn about each other or are just experiencing a twisted pride at each other’s feats of badness is intriguing. We got a few more tidbits of information here – Interesting that the grand coven held it against Rowena that she had Crowley. Is that why she resented him so much? Or why she abandoned him?
Not sure how I feel about suddenly finding out that there are Men of Letters bunkers all over the world. Fandom as a whole didn’t take kindly to that bit of canon retcon. The bunker is special to us, Show! Why dilute that specialness?
I was also a bit confused as to why Rowena was so utterly clueless about what the Men of Letters had done to the covens and to the community of witches. Am I forgetting something? She’s been waiting for her chance to get back at Olivette; surely she’s been paying attention to the last centuries of history. Hmmm. More gray.
I think my main problem with the episode, other than the minor whiplash, was that there just weren’t enough Winchesters. Instead we got lots and lots of backstory in 16th Century Italy. The best part of this was it gave Jerry Wanek a chance to construct some kickass sets.
Other than that, I’m not sure why we needed the multiple soft focus romantic flashbacks of the young nun-to-be and her Fabio…err, Piero?… with his longer-than-Sam’s tresses. I would have preferred more Winchesters.
My Tumblr dash:
Does anyone care about this nun’s back story?
No, I didn’t think so.
In fact, her backstory didn’t even create any sense of empathy for the wounded young woman. Artist dude never led her on or took advantage of her, so she just came off as sort of crazy. Body parts in a painting, ouch. Mostly I just didn’t care. By the third flashback, I may have screamed OH COME ON to my poor television.
I did like the other nun – she was smart and savvy and just a little bit snarky. And I rather liked her matter-of-fact explanation for what led to her ‘calling’, which applies pretty well to all sorts of ways that people deal with problematic pasts. Dean could certainly relate.
The confession scene was a highlight of the episode, mostly because I’m convinced that Jensen Ackles can sell me on just about anything and make me tear up. Wisely filmed in close-up, because Ackles can tell you more about what Dean’s feeling with his face than with any dialogue, it was heartbreaking to see Dean’s despair and hopelessness. Now that he’s essentially given up hope, he realizes there are so many things he would have wanted if he’d had more time. Ouch.
The dialogue itself took a turn for the vague and confusing near the end of his speech.
“There’s people. Feelings. That I want to experience differently, or maybe for the first time.”
I’m fairly certain the writers weren’t being intentionally vague to enable anyone who ships Dean with anyone or anything to find validation in that statement, but that’s what happened. Ship Wincest? He’s talking about Sam. Destiel? He’s talking about Cas. Dean/Gina (who the hell is Gina?)? He’s talking about her, whoever the hell she is. It was vague enough that you could take it virtually any direction you wanted, but it certainly sounded like Dean wanted to explore something he hasn’t had a chance to. I’ll leave it at that. Make of it what you will.
I did love that Sam got to save Dean – because he was smart enough to read the damn journal. Dean is shutting him out again, and this time Sam’s not having it. He goes against Dean’s ‘order’ and does what he thinks is best – and he’s right! (Also, how hot is it that he can read ancient Latin? HOT). Smart and competent Sam two episodes in a row! Now if we could get some more Sam pov I’d really be a happy camper.
The other scene that worked well was the last scene of Dean and Sam in the car. I’m always grateful for a Broment, and this was a good one.
Dean’s still hurting, Sam’s driving, and he teases Dean into admitting he owes Sam a thank you. I love the way they’re both smiling at each other, teasing each other with open affection like it’s Season One all over again for a few minutes. I love Dean’s acknowledgement and his gratitude, and I love that Sam doesn’t need to hear it said explicitly to understand it for what it is.
Sam: Is this you thanking me for not doing what you told me to do?
And then Sam gets serious, telling Dean that he’s right there if Dean wants to talk. God, how I loved Sam in that moment.
Sam: I’m your brother. And if you ever need to talk about anything with anybody, you’ve got someone right here next to you.
Oh Sammy. Thank you for that.
Also, mad props for best use of signage ever.
So there were some good moments, but I also found myself a bit confused. Why is Dean talking about dying? The Mark isn’t going to kill him. Is he thinking of killing himself to protect Sam? At first I thought the suicides in this episode were a tie-in, but then there was a murder thrown in too, so I’m not sure.
And why is Dean so dead set against Sam researching how to get rid of the Mark? Is it just that he can’t stand the cycle of repeatedly trying and failing? He wants to hunt and keep busy because he can’t stand the feeling of banging their heads against a wall trying? Why does Sam feel like he has to hide from Dean that he is, in fact, still trying? It made sense when Dean made the deal back in S3 and Sam was going to die if Dean tried to break it, but it doesn’t make as much sense now.
Many fans shared my confusion, and there were lots of inspired hypotheses flying around twitter after the episode. Is the mark messing with Dean’s head, so that he’s vacillating wildly between wanting to keep going and being hopeless about it or wanting to die to protect Sam? Did killing Cain do something to him? Was some of Cain’s darkness absorbed into Dean (thanks for that one, bookdal)? Did Cain even die? Aaaaah! I’m pulling my hair out here, Show, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. It will depend on the outcome, I suppose.
The episode title was even confusing, in part because we didn’t get any Rolling Stones, damn it! Paint it Black almost seems like a better title for next week’s episode, considering the epic preview. I try to remain as unspoiled as possible, but woah, that preview gave a helluva lot away. Not sure why they do that – imagine the impact if we didn’t know all that was coming?!
What did you think of the episode? Enlighten me!
And with that, I’m off to SeaCon. Follow us for live tweets and photos and con coverage!
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