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Action Ackles Returns with The Bad Seed

October 27, 2015
WB/The CW

WB/The CW

Last week’s episode was eagerly anticipated in large part due to the fact that once again Jensen Ackles was directing; just like the cast and crew rally around one of their own, the fandom rallies around too, everyone rooting for Jensen to succeed. It wasn’t one of my favorite episodes on first viewing, but now that I’ve rewatched it (and listened to Jensen’s directing insights about it at Chicon, which will be up here soon in my meet and greet report), I like it more. I definitely think he can count it as a directing success. There was a lot of talking and not as much action as usual, but he made the most of what action there was, and for the most part, the exposition wasn’t too heavy handed. And hey, at least the boys are all talking to each other!

It’s no secret that I love Rowena with a passion, so I was happy to have her back in this episode. Jensen was also thrilled to be working with her, since she’s apparently quite creative and not afraid to take risks with her acting. I think that comes through in her passionate performance, when she really goes for it, no holds barred. That’s how Rowena would be, I think, so the actress portraying her has to be willing to take risks and ‘go there’ too. I’m quite fascinated with Rowena as a character; she can be a contradiction. On the one hand, she seems to be truly wanting her son dead. On the other hand, she clearly has a longing to belong, whether it’s to be family again with Fergus, or trying to recreate a coven (a mega coven, no less…) or to convince the Winchesters that ‘we’re a team, aren’t we?’

Sam and Dean: NO.

Ackles directs Connell

Ackles directs Connell

She throws a temper tantrum like a two year old whose feelings are hurt when she’s rejected, which seems to pull up some old (very very very old) abandonment issues. We’ve only had clues to Rowena’s backstory so far, but I’d love to fill in some blanks. I think it must be verrrrry interesting.

Ruth Connell in a blonde wig tossing around Jensen Ackles in a Hawaiian tourist shirt and hat – you can’t get much better than that. I also love that she calls Sam ‘Samuel’ in that lilting accent. Mmmm. Rowena may be “evil”, but she’s an emotional woman – she’s empathic in a way, sensing what others feel (and often using it against them). She senses Dean’s emotional pain right away.

“Your eyes…so burdened…”

Way to hit the nail on the head, Rowena.

Dean looks away, caught out.

I forgot to ask where Jensen got that shirt. Lou Bollo maybe?

11.03 ja

My other favorite “villain” – Mark Sheppard would protest if he heard me call him that – is Crowley. And what an interesting situation Crowley finds himself in during this episode. Having lured the child Amara to join him in Hell (where he creepily asks her to call him Uncle Crowley and brings her strange presents while he awkwardly plies her for information), Crowley soon gets more than he bargained for as she proves herself anything but childlike. They have some fascinating conversations about God and the history of the universe, and then Amara proceeds to eat every soul she can get her hands on, utterly heedless of their fear. Or their desire to live, for that matter. Her lack of remorse is chilling, and it doesn’t bode well for the Winchesters. (Kudos to that young actress, she was amazing!)

But for now, I was highly amused at Crowley continually being bested by a young girl. Or something that looks like one.

Action Ackles in action

Action Ackles in action

I also laughed out loud when Dean kept trying to call Crowley. You can only reach the King of Hell by cell phone? I wonder if he has Verizon…

Perhaps what makes me so fond of Crowley and Rowena is the same thing; both have a vulnerability to them, something that talented actors like Connell and Sheppard can bring out. They both, at their core, want to be loved and accepted and admired. They both are wounded people who have been abandoned and rejected, and it’s left them vulnerable. No matter how much damage they wield (and they wield a lot), it doesn’t actually fill up that hole inside that’s still there. And so they make mistakes, and show weird little inexplicable bits of mercy, and have lingering (and also inexplicable) fondness for the Winchesters. Perhaps they see the bond between Sam and Dean and both hate seeing it out of envy, and are drawn to it, out of longing. Not that I think for a minute that it would trump their self interest, because that’s primary. Nobody else put them first, so damn it, they’re going to do it themselves, forever! But you see it in Rowena’s almost sad level of trying to talk witches into joining her mega coven, and in Crowley wanting to be bff’s with Dean or wanting Amara to call him Uncle. Yes, of course there’s self interest involved in both those cases, but the actors play it with an emotional undercurrent that makes it all the more fascinating. One note villains these two will never be.

WB/The CW

WB/The CW

The same goes for Metatron, by the way, who was mentioned too many times for him not to be making a reappearance soon. Metatron is truly a villain, but he also has an edge of vulnerability. In one of our interviews with the amazing Curtis Armstrong here, he spoke about playing that sense of humanity in Metatron as he and Cas roadtripped on the way to collect his grace. There was a while there that Metatron really did want to be friends; that he did want to be accepted. For all his bluster about taking over and having power, he has never wanted to be alone in it. He’s wanted followers, admiration. Acceptance. Even friendship. Over waffles.

None of these characters knows how to go about getting it, and all of them are fascinated by the Winchesters and Castiel and the sense of belongingness that’s elusive for them. I’m excited to see where we go with all of them!

The sense of family, team free will style, was back in this episode, which I liked a lot. Cas wrapped in a blanket, safe (more or less) at the bunker.

WB/the CW

WB/the CW

Dean back to calling him ‘buddy’ and dropping to his knees to make sure Cas was okay at the first sign that he might not be. The Winchesters researching together, occasionally tossing snarky comments back and forth, but never with malice behind them; in fact, the opposite. Sam bringing Dean beers. Dean calling Sam ‘mom’. It felt good. Familiar.

I asked Jensen in the Chicon meet and greet about what was one of my favorite scenes in the episode – an angel and a demon walk into a bar…

I absolutely loved that scene. How slowly it played out, with us thinking they’re going to fight, and then the slow realization that OMG no, they’re not. They’re going to scheme. Together. Together! It was beautifully done. Jensen apparently had to do quite a bit of directing, since those actors were pretty green – but also pretty talented. They kept wanting to jump into dialogue too soon, but he made sure to build up the suspense so that the twist, when it came, would have a real effect. And it did! (More details on that scene and Jensen’s experience directing coming up soon in the meet and greet report!)

I also loved the restaurant scene where Rowena meets with the two witches and they all get attacked by a surprise!Demon waiter. The moment when the chaos ends and the demon waiter turns to see one lone woman still sitting in her chair, table long gone and flown halfway across the room, bloody body on the floor, was priceless. That actress did a bang up job with just her expression! I laughed out loud, which was a nice example of that mix of funny and oh-so-not that Supernatural does so well. And Director Ackles pulled that one off flawlessly too.

This episode also saw the return of badass Sam and Dean. The interrogation scene with the surviving witch was off the charts hot, with Sam and Dean in their fed suits talking her into cooperating (in what was clearly in her best interest). “And I have a fake badge” Wink. *fans self*

11.03 gif wink

When Dean slid off that table where he’d been looming over her, tossing her purse behind his back to Sam, who caught it seamlessly, I just about slid off MY chair too.

In sync Winchesters and badass Dean and competent Sam in one shot? Guh.

11.03 gif fbi

There was also that delicious scene with Rowena and Dean in the dungeon, when Sam goes to look for Cas. Dean sits down and puts his feet up, crossing his boots and deliberately knocking Rowena’s bag onto the floor. You can see that it catches her off guard, a clear power play. And damn, Ackles pulls it off. Dean Winchester is intimidating even when he’s the good guy. Of course, Connell is definitely up to the challenge of showing how Rowena recovers and gives as good as she gets. Her comeback, digging into Dean where he’s most vulnerable – his guilt – was spot on. And that little smirk as she gleefully announces, “Your turn”, as though they were playing the most sadistic of childhood games. Made me shiver.

WB/The CW

WB/The CW

I thought Director Jensen pulled off the Cas chase scene well too. And Misha got to roll around growling and in pain a lot, and then Collins and Ackles got to throw down once again as we finally got to the action scenes.

And then we got Dean doing some Cas comforting, and Misha’s pretty blue eyes making a reappearance, so yay!

WB/The CW

WB/The CW

Ackles directs Ackles

Ackles directs Ackles

A little Cas comfort

A little Cas comfort

I enjoyed the episode a lot more on rewatch, especially after hearing Jensen’s insights about directing. It was definitely exposition heavy, and there was some dialogue that was clunky, but there were also things I really liked. I love little real life shout outs, especially when they’re subtle. Café Elta, named for Danneel. Louden Swain playing in the background. It makes Show seem even more like the family that it is often referred to as being.

Oh, one thing keeps niggling at me. Laurena and I talked about it at the con, in fact, because it struck her too. That moment when Dean is trying to find Cas – and keep him from killing someone – and he passes a young woman in the alley. He stops and gives her a flirty “Hey…” (to which she rightly retorts “Get a life!”). I loved her response, but it’s one of those times that it seemed totally out of character for Dean to actually pause to flirt with some random stranger. Really? When someone’s life is on the line and Cas might do something he’ll have a hard time coming back from? Yes yes, we know that Dean is back, and part of that might be his predilection for flirting, but now? No way. I don’t buy it.

That same problem has happened before in other episodes. Dean’s a flirt, we get it. But he’s not an idiot. And he definitely cares more about saving people, especially people he cares a lot about, than about slowing down to flirt with strangers. Small issue, but it annoyed me.

In the end, what worked best for me in this episode was that dialogue that there was so much of. Dean and Sam reconnecting with Cas, getting back on the same team. The brothers clearly together and on the same team too, working seamlessly and united in their goals. The best line in the episode, imho, was Dean’s response to Rowena trying to brew trouble between him and Sam in the car. He’s clearly surprised when he finds out Sam tried to make a deal with Rowena to kill Crowley in return for getting the mark off his arm. But he doesn’t lash out, he doesn’t blame, he doesn’t clam up and say nothing. Instead, he says what needs to be said – his response is for Sam, not for Rowena.

“Sam knows my point. Key word? Secrets.”

That said so much with so little, and Ackles put a ton of emotion behind it. Padalecki was perfect in that moment, with both his attempt at an explanation, and also his expression as he hears what his brother is saying. Again, so much conveyed not with words, but with nonverbals.

WB/The CW

WB/The CW

WB/The CW

WB/The CW

I know that some people interpreted that little bit of conversation as the brothers continuing to keep secrets, instead of turning that new leaf that Sam was vaguely talking about a few episodes ago. But that’s not how I saw it. I saw it as progress toward that goal. Dean doesn’t let it go, and he doesn’t deflect. Neither does Sam, despite his silence. Dean instead puts it out there, the elephant always in the room with the Winchesters. Secrets are what always come between them. I’m hoping that Dean was speaking to himself, as well as to Sam. To me, that was a moment that worked, and that got me incredibly excited about the rest of the season. That was the Winchesters, the brothers I fell in love with so many years ago.

To say that I’m excited about the next episode is really not adequate, guys. Someone better be here to pick me back up when I hyperventilate and keel over from sheer joy on Wednesday. Stay tuned!

Stay tuned for more from Chicon too – excerpts from Jensen’s meet and greet will be up soon, and lots more pictures and coverage from everyone at Chicon!

–Lynn
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19 Comments leave one →
  1. Kem permalink
    October 27, 2015 3:30 pm

    I actually love your review, I just wanna point out that the weak spots you mention are not by any chance Jensen’s mistakes. They are the result of poor writing by Bucklemming duo and I think Jensen deserves to be praised even more for managing to make something good out of their script.

  2. October 27, 2015 3:47 pm

    Please pardon the thumb typing and inevitable errors since I’m writing this by phone over lunch.🙂

    I don’t have a lot to add. I suspect if I get to rewatch this one I will appreciate it more. That always seems to happen. But a few things I needed to mention specifically:

    1. Jared somehow managed to pull off two of the clumsiest pieces of dialogue I’ve heard anywhere. There are easily a dozen better ways to ask the witch to locate Rowena without blurting out the Websters definition of scrying. I recognize that not everyone is going to be up on the term, but he gave the full definition. Weird. Also “witch killing bulllets” while accurate, seemed like an odd way to say it. Also, I’m assuming that means an actual magic bullet made of iron.

    2. I did “aaaaaawwwww” out loud at the Cafe Elta reference. Very sweet Mr. Director.

    3. I like the ambiguity of the secrets conversation. That could go a few ways, and I like that there are options and that it isn’t clear which one the writers will take.

    4. Yes, bring on Wednesday! We’ve had three episodes of set up for the season, it’s time to see how a “brothers” episode will go now. (That said, I’m trying to keep my expectations in check.)

    Glad to hear that ChiCon was so great! I look forward to your report!

    • October 28, 2015 9:57 am

      They showed Sam making the “witch killing bullets” the end of last season for Rowena. They are hollow tipped bullets filled with the witch killing brew, like the kind the used in ‘Mans Best Friend With Benefits’. And unsuccessfully tried to use in two other episodes (Shut up Dr Phil & About a Boy). Although since Rowena is so powerful, you gotta wonder if they’ll actually work on her.

      • October 28, 2015 3:36 pm

        Good recall on that! I wasn’t so much questioning their ability to come up with such a thing (the Devils trap bullet worked after all) as much as I was commenting on the clunky dialogue. Although now that you mention it, those haven’t really haven’t worked so well in the past.

        I’m not surprised that I didn’t recall it from Dr. Phil since that was another episode with a lot of potential that floundered at the hands of this team of writers. I feel a bit icky dumping on the writers so much because, to quote Chuck, “Writing is hard.” But that team really doesn’t have a great track record and most of the issues seem to come from a disconnect between what they think is funny and what fans think is appropriate to the episodes.

        I wonder if TPTB give Jensen the subpar scripts to direct because they know all of us will support the episode because of his efforts.

      • Alyndra permalink
        October 28, 2015 8:20 pm

        I was just wishing we could see what Jensen does with an episode by different writers (Weekend at Bobby’s was awesome, but it’s been the same duo ever since) but it occurred to me that he’s probably too much of a team player to just direct the best-written episodes for the show!

    • AEAM permalink
      May 6, 2016 11:43 am

      Totally agree about the clunky dialogue. Yuk.

      And YES, it crossed my mind about TPTB assigning Jensen ‘weaker’ episodes to direct.

  3. chantalclaire permalink
    October 27, 2015 3:56 pm

    Great recap. It was like you read my thoughts. Dean hitting on the girl also stuck out for me as odd. The conversation in the car with Rowena only serving to show how in sync the brothers truly are this season. They answered together before and after Rowena’s attempt to sow discord, she didn’t succeed in breaking their newly patched foundation.
    I have to rewatch the episode as well since it was heavy on exposition and my short attention span tends to find other things to do; even if the episode is top notch. ( I was working on an experimental painting project at the time so….my fault). These exposition episodes are very important as they act as bridges and maps to the rest of the season. Jensen did a great job at filling in the “other” parts with humor, action and great timing from his actors.
    I would love to be able to sit down and pick “director” Jensen’s brain. I’ve been offered the chance to direct my first play so I’m always curious about other directors process.
    Ruth Connell surpassed herself in this ep. Rowena was the power hungry spoiled brat witch we’ve come to love. She reminds me of the socially inept students I see who try to gain friendship by manipulating or bullying others. Her desperate need to have a better coven than the one that rejected her, her promises of rewards and positions of power all remind me of those sad, angry, lonely kids. “Your turn” was my favorite line delivery. So mean spirited.

    Crowley’s desperate attempt at building a relationship with Amara was at times funny and pitiful. Just like his time with Demon Dean, he is completely over his head. He won’t be able to keep a leash on this “family” any better than he did with Dean or Rowena for that fact.

    I’ll stop now because I could go on and on. Looking forward to hearing about your meet and greet from ChiCon. Take care and be well. C

    • October 27, 2015 4:07 pm

      Just throwing it out there, but could the flirting scene have been Dean trying to nonchalantly walk down a dark alley and not scare off the random woman walking by? Or was the actress a cameo? Should we have known her? It was odd and I like to think it had a purpose. But I’ve been disappointed before.

      • Alyndra permalink
        October 27, 2015 4:51 pm

        … Maybe he was thinking (briefly) of asking if she’d seen anything weird or strange? As you would, if you’re looking for your psychotic friend and meet a stranger in a dark alley, of course? It was a very quick interaction, I went and rewatched it to see if it could be just Dean awkwardly covering for why he was skulking through alleys himself, but I dunno that that quite fits either.

      • October 28, 2015 3:45 pm

        Excellent point! I know when I’m tracking down my psychotic angel friends I try to solicit help from beautiful people. Especially in dark alleys. That’s just common sense.

      • Alyndra permalink
        October 28, 2015 8:29 pm

        “…I try to solicit help from beautiful people…”

        Well, if they’re the Winchesters, you’re in luck!

  4. Alyndra permalink
    October 27, 2015 4:14 pm

    I’m so fascinated by your observations about our villians’ vulnerabilities and longing to belong! I think it articulates a theme of the episode really well, and I also think it makes me like it a bit better, because I felt asked to sympathize a bit too much with the bad guys in this episode (and was mostly why I wasn’t as enthused about the angel/demon scene, too.) But I’m well aware that sympathizing with deliciously evil characters is popular with a lot of other fans!

    I LOVED how badass Sam and Dean were, and how much on the same page they (and Cas!) were too! The “disguises” made me crack up laughing, and that purse snatch is seriously tempting me to finally figure out how to GIF so I can post it EVERYWHERE.

    For the record, I am also completely willing to believe that Dean has law enforcement departments all over the country on his speed dial. (The … complicated … relationship between the Winchesters and the law is a longstanding fascination of mine, and I squee every time I see little bits of it in episodes!)

    P.S. How excited for Baby am I? THERE ARE NOT WORDS. 💗

  5. October 27, 2015 4:41 pm

    Excellent review. I really liked this episode – and right from the get-go. I think it’s because there is so much world-building here. Jensen had mentioned it was an “exposition heavy” episode before it had aired so I think I was pre-biased for that data dump. Still, I’m a person that LIKES the world information so I have a bias towards that.

    If you haven’t read Allison’s review at WFB on “Natural Order” in this episode, I think you’d like it. I think she’s captured some of the grand picture that I relate to. It was, in some ways, an ambitious episode. And there in lies my personal conflict — I think it’s marvelous and I’ve heard many say it didn’t accomplish much. And I’m wondering – am I seeing too much? Why doesn’t everyone love this like me???? *sorry, I’ll stop whining now*

    Anyway, I agree with all the hits and misses of the episode as you’ve pointed them out with one exception: the Cas chase scene. It just didn’t really “land” for me. He was lurching so slowly, seemed to me like that woman could have been far away by the time he got to where she was hiding. Once in the warehouse, I thought the tension was great. And the fight scene was very well done. It was just the scenes with only Cas and the girl that I was sort of …meh …on.

    Last comment: Rowena is fiesty when stuck in a corner. She came out swinging when Dean threatened her with Crowley. It’s like the adrenaline rush of a threat really puts her at the top of her game. I liked that insight.

  6. anafraserlallybroch permalink
    October 27, 2015 4:45 pm

    Reblogged this on Ana Fraser Lallybroch Blog.

  7. Dawn permalink
    October 27, 2015 6:28 pm

    Great review. Maybe I need to rewatch the episode because I thought it was just okay. I wish Jensen wouldn’t get stuck with a Buckner & Ross-Leming episode. I think they are the worst writers on the sfaff. I cringe when I see that they’ve written an episode.

    I think Jensen did a great job directing. I’m looking forward to hearing what else he had say about this experience. I wish we would have had more Sam & Dean together. The stuff we had was great but I wanted more. Dean is finally free of the Mark . I feel like they (or we) haven’t had a chance to take it in. We’ve been told that this season is going to feel more like the early years of the Show. So far it hasn’t for me, but overall I’ve enjoyed the first three episodes.

    I can’t wait for “Baby” because I think (hope, pray) that it will be packed with a lot of great brother moments.

    • October 27, 2015 7:01 pm

      Can I encourage you to please rewatch? I know you don’t know me but so many dismissed this episode and I think there is so much to the scenes. It’s got excellent lighting, some really snappy dialog (snarky Sam is great), and we learn so much about Amara as an entity.

      Perhaps you could just close your eyes/ears for the FortuneNookie and random girl moments?

    • October 28, 2015 10:56 am

      I don’t often read reviews, let alone comment, but I was so excited by the first two episodes this season, and then was sorely disappointed with The Bad Seed. I think Action Ackles did a great job with, as has been said, a real clunker as far as the writing went. Some snappy dialogue, and I think the actors did amazing with what they had to work with, but I agree that the flirt in the alley was out of character for in-hunt mode Dean, and why were they even searching for Cas?? Didn’t Sam have him pinpointed with GPS? But then they park the Impala and go in separate directions? (Leaving Baby unlocked, I might add!!). I also found the demon/angel scene a complete what the hell?/who cares? moment. I see it is setting up for some kind of alliance, but it could have been written so much better. It only served to show discontent in the lower ranks. Maybe fleshing out the characters of these two in a few scenes would have served better.
      And yes! So excited for “Baby”! This episode I cant possibly be disppointed in!

  8. Devonaire permalink
    October 27, 2015 9:16 pm

    I love all of this!! As for the “Dean flirting” scene: I choose to believe that when Dean said “Hey”, his next words were going to be, “Have you seen my friend? 6 feet tall, brown hair, ice blue eyes?” The girl, however, did what any hot chick walking alone would do. She blew him off at the first word and kept walking. Dean, knowing this, didn’t pursue her to ask his question. I cant accept the idea of Dean pausing his frantic search just to flirt.

  9. October 28, 2015 12:15 am

    I really liked this ep, and I think this writing duo does some good stuff. They add a lot of character moments that don’t necessarily further the action of the story, but are interesting in themselves. I think the thing with girl in the alley was to show us that although Dean didn’t stop, or even really slow down in his mission, he just couldn’t help acknowledging that she was hot. Whether that worked for you or not, I think that was the thinking behind it. As far as the witch-killing bullet, it’s been established that they fill those bullets with special witch-killing brew, one of the only things that can really kill a witch.

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