Action Ackles Returns with The Bad Seed
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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*
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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