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Wait, Is That Eileen?? Supernatural 12.21

May 18, 2017

The past week has been a whirlwind, much of it Supernatural-related, and now I’m writing this from family vacation, so my review of last week’s episode is influenced by the context in which I watched the show and the fact that right now my feet are up and it’s a sunny spring day in San Francisco. And that’s probably a good thing, because – like the majority of Supernatural fans – I had a lot of issues with last week’s episode.

I did, however, have a good time the night I watched it anyway. That’s because the book release party for my new book, Family Don’t End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How Supernatural Has Changed Lives, happened the night before at The Study Hollywood in LA. It was an amazing, inspiring, emotional night, where actors and writers and producers and fans all came together to celebrate this amazing show that we all love. The next night, a group of us gathered in our hotel room to watch the episode together. It was the first time most of us had watched together an episode of the show that made us friends, so it felt very special. We ordered Grub Hub, shared some delicious nachos, and waited with a mix of anticipation and trepidation for the show to begin. Literally sitting on the edge of our seats (on the hotel beds…)

The cold open began and someone said, in a rather strangled voice, “Wait, is that…is that Eileen??” Someone else yelled NOOOOO as we all held our breath and just gaped. I think I had a hand over my mouth in shock. Onscreen, we get one glimpse of Eileen’s terrified face as she flees from something invisible, the sound muted as we watch in horror as she’s torn apart by hellhounds, her body tossed around like a rag doll. It was upsetting and disappointing that the first deaf character in Supernatural had been killed. But it was so much more than that. Eileen was killed by something she couldn’t SEE, so she couldn’t compensate, in a sequence with no sound, as though taunting her for her deafness, which was hard to stomach. I suppose you could also look at it as Eileen was such a kickass hunter that the only thing that could possibly take her out was something she couldn’t see, precisely because she WAS so good at compensating. Most of us had the first knee jerk reaction though, hence the putting aside the nachos temporarily.

Maybe the most upsetting thing was the fact that Eileen, a beloved character played by a beloved actress (the incredibly talented and downright awesome Shoshannah Stern) had been killed off in the opening sequence where we usually see a nameless character meet their demise, as though she didn’t matter to us at all. She had not a single line, and we got no lead up to her death at all – just WHAM, that character you love? Gone. The only words Eileen gets to “say” are read later in the episode by Sam, in a letter.

Or maybe it’s that problematic letter that left the worst taste in our mouths. A letter that for some inexplicable reason has Eileen, one of the most badass fearless hunters we’ve ever had on the show, apologize for being targeted by the BMoL with “I hate to sound all girly” as though that were a synonym for weak and frightened. What?? Equating “girly” with weak and frightened was awful enough – but honestly the letter didn’t sound like it was written by Eileen at all. I can’t imagine her saying that, let alone apologizing for it. Eileen had no voice in so many ways in this episode, and even her words in the letter didn’t sound like her at all.

She didn’t even get a Hunter’s funeral, which she richly richly deserved.

All these things were running through our minds as we sat watching the opening scene. Someone in the room (probably my friend Krista) found her voice eventually and just exclaimed “Oh hell no.”

That is not the way to start an episode, Supernatural.

I understand that people will die on Supernatural – lots and lots of people. I am not someone who does not expect the Show to kill people. It always has, it always will. Sam and Dean could not be the tragic heroes they are without horror and loss and tragedy surrounding them week after week, year after year. Those are the horrific circumstances that have made the Winchesters who they are; it’s why we relate to them so strongly, and why their “always keep fighting” message is so powerful. They need to be surrounded by tragedy and isolated, Team Free Will against the world.

I want to have female characters on the show, and that means female characters will die. I want to have characters who are people of color and who are queer and who are deaf and who are everything else that we humans are, and that means those characters will sometimes die too. I get that. But not like this. Give me an episode, or even part of an episode, where we get the lead up to what’s happening with Eileen, don’t just recap it in a letter. Have enough understanding of your fan base that you know when a character will be more useful to the story line alive, instead of used for a temporary increase in urgency that won’t last past an episode. That was the problem with Charlie’s death too, another multi-faceted, fascinating, relatable character created by Robbie Thompson. What a waste, to not keep these amazing characters played by these amazing actresses, around. Few people can create the kind of character that Thompson did, and we were so lucky to have them on Supernatural. Even with Thompson gone (sobbing forever), at least we could have the strong female characters he created, that were representative for so many fans! But no.

The other thing that made Eileen’s death harder to swallow was that it came on the heels of very difficult losses last week, when two characters who were women of color, fan favorites and kickass hunters (Tasha and Alicia Banes) were killed off (well, mostly). The one-two combination was tough for the fandom to take. Unfortunately, there were some other problems with the episode as well – not the least of those that it crammed in everything but the kitchen sink into a single episode, which means nothing gets thoroughly explained and many things seem to happen in fast motion. We had Sam and Dean’s story line, but we also had Mary and the BMoL, and we also had Crowley and Lucifer.This is not necessarily the writers’ fault, since they often seem to be given the task of setting up all the story lines for the finale punch in a single episode for some reason. But that was definitely too much for 42 minutes!

I’ll get to what I actually did like, especially about the Winchesters’ segments in a moment, but I had issues with both of the other story lines too. The episode was titled ‘There’s Something About Mary’, so hers was a major story line. I know that at this point we’re supposed to be following along on a redemption arc for Mary, sympathizing with her as that disgusting Lady Toni and company try to brainwash her into losing her sense of self and becoming a heartless killing machine like Mr. Ketch (and I suppose Lady Toni herself – why did they show us her being a “loving mum” in the first few episodes??) There are all these strange mixed messages about motherhood this season, as though having a child and loving the child/children makes being a cold and horrible person okay, or at least forgiveable. I’ve been concerned for months that when the inevitable redemption arc for Mary came, I would be so far down the opposite end of the caring-about-Mary continuum that I wouldn’t be able to get back. I didn’t feel nearly as horrified on her behalf as I should have when Mary broke down and tried to kill herself to save her sons. Even that line didn’t hit me with the impact it should have – we just haven’t SEEN enough of Mary caring about her sons, so it was hard to buy it. It’s not Sam Smith’s acting, either – she’s doing a great job. But the Show hasn’t made me care enough about Mary. She’s been so cold all along that seeing her be cold and heartless in the last scene didn’t seem like the shock it should have been.

(Though it’s entirely possible Mary is just playing along and biding her time – she knows she’s got a few days before her sons die. I have to say, however, just the thought of rolling that kind of dice with MY CHILDREN makes me sick to my stomach. I’d be a horrible double agent. Just sayin). I’ve had a few days to think about it, and I’m leaning toward Mary is in fact faking it. The whole progression from captured to doubt about what’s real and what isn’t to suddenly 100% brainwashed was dizzyingly fast – perhaps too fast. Why would Ketch have been so certain of Mary’s loyalty to the BMoL so quickly, to put a gun in her hand and take her straight to her sons? Maybe we’re not supposed to swallow that after all. I’m hoping.

Samantha Smith wasn’t the only one who brought some great acting to the episode. David Haydn-Jones once again did a good job of showing us Ketch’s lingering feelings for Mary, which again make him vulnerable. When I’m having a moment of feeling for Ketch, who just murdered Eileen with a hellhound, you KNOW things have gone off the rails in a big way! He’s so skilled with those small things, tone and nonverbals, like leaning in to Mary when she comes to him for comfort (seemingly anyway), or the genuine regret in his voice when he tries to reassure her that it will be over soon. Those little touches make the character interesting, even if we also hate him. (Look for my fascinating chat with David here tomorrow, about Mr. Ketch and working on Supernatural)

The theme of free will versus being controlled like a puppet also played out with Crowley and Lucifer. I love the character of Crowley, I love Mark Sheppard, and I have very much enjoyed Mark Pellegrino’s portrayal of Lucifer. But I’ve been frustrated by Crowley’s seeming cluelessness and carelessness when it comes to Lucifer. Why didn’t he put him back in the Cage? Why isn’t he more worried about his not-so-loyal minions working to free Lucifer instead? In this episode, what should have been an epic confrontation scene between the two of them just didn’t have the gravitas it should have. In fact, more than one online comment referred to this sequence as akin to a Scooby Doo episode. The comedic aspect was darkly amusing as Crowley starts to unknowingly imitate Lucifer, but then it didn’t work as well to transition to what should have been a fingernail biting scene, with even the music being off. Suddenly everything was overly dramatic, and I couldn’t quite take it seriously. Someone in the room kept asking “What the hell is this?” as the scene played out, with the rest of us scratching our heads and saying “I guess this is where Crowley dies. But probably not forever.”

Clearly not. In our hotel room, there were some jokes in bad taste about Crowley now being a rat and hey, who was that hamster witch and what would their ship name be (Crolivette?)

While we’re talking about Lucifer, what was that last scene?? I for real thought it was some kind of music video outtake, thinking for some reason that was Jensen climbing that hill. Someone else in the room exclaimed “What is this, The Lion King?” And someone online immediately (and hysterically) commented that it looked like Lucifer was trying to sell us Cialis. Pretty sure that’s not what Show was going for.

I had a few other issues too. Ketch and the BMoL deciding to entomb the Winchesters in the bunker instead of just, oh you know, shooting them?? WHAT THE HELL?? That made absolutely no sense. It was like the sort of thing that happens with cartoon villains, but not usually on Supernatural. And while we’re at it, why oh why would the Winchesters bring Toni back there?? They know the BMoL have keys and they know it was compromised – it makes no sense. And I really do not like it when my Show makes no sense. This fandom knows when you’re throwing in plot points to get from A to B even when they don’t add up, Show.

There were some things I liked. As someone in the room pointed out, the episode did not lose my attention the entire time. I was not bored, though sometimes that lack of boredom was more incredulity than anything. But the acting and the directing, and yes, some of the writing too, certainly kept me watching. I thought all the actors did a great job with what they were given – Jared especially brought a lot of emotion with his portrayal of Sam’s reaction to Eileen’s death. In almost no time and with almost no lines, Jared was able to show us the depth of Sam’s grief over losing Eileen, which I so appreciated. Jensen didn’t have lines about it either, but his expression of grief and later his clear concern for Sam’s grief were right there on his face.

I loved Sam and Dean being smart, finding the bug in the bunker and then setting up Lady Toni and capturing her. How satisfying was it when Sam had his gun pointed at her? Very.

I also loved the fight scene, which was masterfully choreographed and executed. Dean sliding to his knees to take out Ketch’s gun? OMG someone give me a cold drink. Dean shooting one of the BMoL from behind his back??? Um, can I have another cold drink?

No, colder. And larger. Ahem.

Sam getting the jump on Lady Bevel and keeping the upper hand while looking like a total badass? Again, so damn satisfying. And requiring even more cold drinks.

And I will always love Sam and Dean doing that wordless communication thing that I love so much (and so did Charlie, and goddammit, now I’m crying again…). They worked together like a well oiled machine and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Jared and Jensen also sold Sam and Dean’s shock and heartbreak at being betrayed by their own mother, again with the devastated looks on their faces more than anything, though I was wishing we actually had a bit more of that. I suppose we’ll get more next episode. I’m already stocking up on tissues.

Here’s the thing, though. The reason why the night was a fun one after all. The episode ended, and four long time huge fans of Supernatural sat there open mouthed for a few long seconds. Then someone threw something across the room (possibly a nacho). Then someone else said something colorful. Then someone read some reactions on Twitter that made everyone crack up. The next hour was spent dissecting the episode, sharing our mutual upset, and laughing over the internet’s bad jokes. We had more nachos, we lamented the very bad decision not to have wine. And we got through it. By the end of the evening, the whole night didn’t feel so dark. Being there with the friends I’ve made through this show was a reminder that it’s not just the Show we love – it’s the fandom.

So I’m here to stay. I have it on good authority that the next episode will be one that requires lots of tissues, but in the way I appreciate from Supernatural. I’m fairly certain there will be moments that will be meaningful for me, even if they leave my living room strewn with tissues.

So here’s to 12.22 (and may we all survive 12.23)!

–Lynn
If you haven’t read our new book, Family Don’t
End With Blood: Cast and Fans on How
Supernatural Has Changed Lives, check it out
at the amazon link on this page!

14 Comments leave one →
  1. May 18, 2017 1:57 am

    Like most people in the fandom I was utterly pissed off by this ep. What they’ve done this season with killing off minorities is inexcusable. Billie, the Alpha Vamp, Dagon, Alicia and Tasha Banes and finally Eileen…frankly, as far as I’m concerned it veers scarily towards a bunch of -isms I don’t want to think about in relation to Supernatural. Doing that over and over as they have this season is lazy, cheap writing; I could name a dozen fanfic writers off the top of my head (as could most of us) who could produce the same levels of angst and drama without killing any of these characters. I am so very disappointed in the writing this season (also disappointed by the fact that Bobby/Jim Beaver wasn’t on this season [unless he shows up in the finale] – which would be the first season ever he hasn’t been in). Nancy Won, Jenny Klein and Robbie Thompson have never been so missed.

    • Diana permalink
      May 18, 2017 7:38 am

      I doubt very seriously racism/discrimination has anything at all to do with this!
      I agree though, this past season has been terrible. It’s not what got people to start watching and loving it 12 seasons ago…Jared said in a tv interview that the show was going to leave the Heaven/hell, Angel/demon crap behind and go back to its supernatural beginning, and that is what he wanted also….well it hasn’t!

      • May 18, 2017 10:05 pm

        Not intentionally, no. But when you kill three women of colour and a deaf woman off inside of three weeks, on top of killing two other people of colour elsewhere in the season, that’s HIGHLY problematic. Especially when three of those characters – Billie, Alicia Banes and Eileen – are much loved characters (though it would be problematic even if they weren’t beloved characters). It speaks of the unconscious bias that that writers’ room seems to have and they need to be called out on it. They don’t see an issue with it because they don’t see the need for diversity and representation that a great many of us do, because they ARE represented – by all the other white dudes that are on the show.

    • magichappening permalink
      May 18, 2017 11:03 am

      The buck stops with Andrew Dabb.

  2. May 18, 2017 4:17 am

    While on the one hand, there’s something tragic in how even diehard fans struggled to enjoy this episode…on the other there is definitely this sense of solidarity across the fandom. It feels like all of us, the various character fans and shippers and everyone else were brought together to agree, the show can do better than this! And hopefully it will.

    Also, thank you for articulating my issues with the Mary storyline so well, the telling vs showing, the difficult I’ve been having caring. Sam Smith has been doing a great, nuanced job portraying the character — but that character has been so frustrating. We’re supposed to sympathize with Mary now, but it feels like up until this point, the show was actively trying to make us *stop* sympathizing with her.

    A lot of us started the season primed to love Mary, from everything we’d seen of her before. But then everything we had seen — the Mary whose ghost sacrificed herself for her boys as they’ve sacrificed for each other, the Mary who was raised a hunter but strove to get out and make her own life like Sam, the Mary who bargained with a demon to bring back a loved one like Dean, the Mary who so vividly dreamed of children that she knew she would be singing Hey Jude instead of a lullaby before she even gave birth — that Mary was just gone, with no hint of where she went.

    But this new, tougher, driven Mary we maybe could have loved as well, except we were never given a reason to. We can feel sorry for her, perhaps. Or maybe we’re supposed to respect her badassedly killing monsters? But the Winchesters have always been about more than that — they save people as much as hunt things (but Asa Fox is the only innocent we’ve actually seen Mary save) and they care about family (but Mary would rather hunt with Ketch than with her sons, even after they’ve joined the BMOL).

    I want to like Mary. And I hope she survives the finale; I would like to get a chance to like her. But I don’t understand why the show has made it so difficult.

  3. Cottoneyedjo permalink
    May 18, 2017 4:21 am

    I think the coming season will be the finale. It makes me sad, but Jared and Jensen are not our slaves, except in some possibly well read fan Fics.
    Perhaps the point of Mary’s portrayal this season. At some point adult kids are loved but must be released

    • debbab permalink
      May 18, 2017 12:35 pm

      Feeling the same way about the end of show. Move to 8pm hit the ratings hard. Story line a bit off in too many directions. Fandom not pleased with the choice of characters being ganked for the plot line. I will watch as long as there are episodes to watch, because I always find something good- acting, scenery, lighting,set design, etc. Not surprised at this episode when you look at the writing team- they usually disappoint, but they also had to fill with as many threads as possible leading up to finales. Same type of episode last year. Left many of us feeling the same way before the finale. This year, 2 finales-one for each arc and a new beginning. Crowley and the rat-new sitcom ? just kidding. Will Lady B come forward and disarm Ketch for the sake of her son? and perhaps his? Then the parallels would continue.

  4. Krista permalink
    May 18, 2017 10:39 am

    I’m pretty sure I didn’t say “hell”…

  5. magichappening permalink
    May 18, 2017 11:00 am

    Thank you again for this, Lynn. Agree that the brother scenes were so very good and that the episode was not boring in the slightest!

    But also agree so so much about Eileen. WTF was that???? Disrespectful AF. Definite echoes of Charlie. And totally agree with the comment about the Tasha Barnes episode shambles, too. WTF WAS THAT – every single last female character died in that episode and the male characters just waltzed away. #RIP Eileen #AliciaBanes(kinda) #RIPTashaBanes and #RIPBillie (for the hell of it)

    Don’t get me wrong. I f**king love the Winchesters and Supernatural (and if you try and kill either I will come for you!) and I adore Jensen and Jared – plus, I also really like the male twin in that episode, too. But that does not mean the outcome of the Twigs/Tasha episode was any less of a disgrace.

    I thought the scene in this latest episode between Sam Smith and wotisface, Ketch, was really good. SS killed it (tho I don’t understand why she didn’t shoot Ketch then herself when she got the gun off him…) I like the Mary storyline, overall, and am interested in the redemption arc. The negative reaction to her choices, compared to those of Crowley and Castiel, reminds me of something I saw on Twitter:

    Apologies in advance: Crowley/Mark Sheppard and Lucifer/Mark Pellegrino need to be written out. They have overstayed their welcome.

    I feel somewhat similarly about Castiel – Misha is awesome, but it often feels like the writers scrambling to find storylines to justify his continue presence on the show. Tho Castiel’s saving grace (no pun intended) is that he is an honorary Winchester.

    So much agreement about the bizarro music vid out-take ending. Ha!

    Agree about the entombing vs. shooting AND the Toni Bevell-to-bunker plot point (plus why didn’t Bevell simply use snipers at the the setup location where she was captured?) No sense was made. Clunky writing to get pieces to where they wanted on a chessboard. Supernatural is better than that.

    And finally: agree about fight/shoot-out in bunker. Very Cool. Yowzah!

    Roll on, next week!

  6. Caroll permalink
    May 18, 2017 5:17 pm

    Absolutely!!!! Well said… as always…
    We miss you in Rome! I got a glimpse of your new book & I hope to see you in Toronto! I really need to get my copy. Getting ready to watch the final episodes tomorrow morning.
    Cheers!
    Caroll

  7. May 18, 2017 5:55 pm

    I agree with this review 100%.

    This season has been a disappointment. I’ve tried to remain positive, but it’s hard to ignore lazy/sloppy writing. I don’t understand why Buckner and Ross-Leming keep killing off the strong female characters written by Robbie Thompson. It’s inexcusable.

    Eileen deserved a better way to go out. Why would she be in the Carolinas if she was heading to Kansas to stay with Sam and Dean? It doesn’t make any sense. She would have flown to NY or Chicago and took another flight from there to Kansas. I liked her. If they wanted to kill off an hunter we knew then they should have killed Garth or Claire. I have nothing against Garth but it would have been sad to see him go and he hasn’t been around so it would have worked for me. Or they could have killed Claire because most fans don’t like her but it would have had an emotional impact on Sam, Dean, Jodie, Alex, and even Cas.

    The shootout in the bunker was cool, but why didn’t Sam and Dean take out Ketch and Toni? They had no problem killing the other guys so this aspect of it didn’t work for me. It screamed “we’re just keeping these two alive because we need them for the story we want to tell in the next two episodes.”

    The Show has been lacking in the thing that made most of us fall in love with it. The character development/exploration. This really hit me when I read Jim Beaver’s chapter of “Family Don’t End With Blood.” I can’t put my finger on a single episode this season that deals with how are characters are dealing with their circumstances. As you pointed out Mary has certainly been a victim of this because I don’t know anyone who likes her storyline. Her return has had so much potential, but we don’t really know how she feels about seeing her baby Sammy all grown up. How she’s feels about everything Sam and Dean have gone through as a result of her deal with YED. They could have done a flashback episode having the boys fill her in on some of the details instead of having her go off alone to read John’s journal.

    I wasn’t a fan of the myth arc for S11 but at least we got some great episodes like – Baby, Just My Imagination, Into the Mystic, Safe House, Red Meat, and Don’t Call Me Shurley. All these had great character moments.

    The SPN fanbase doesn’t need 41 minutes of action. We appreciate the quiet beats that allow our characters to talk, feel, and grow. Sometimes less is more.

    I also wish that they’d just let the characters go that have lived past their shelf life and stop killing other characters that had so much potential to fill in when Jared and Jensen need time off that would fit more organically.

    I hope TPTB can learn from their mistakes this season and right the ship. I know a lot of people that are very frustrated with how this season has played out.

  8. May 18, 2017 8:08 pm

    I assume that Eileen was killed by the BMOL in the worst way they could think of as payback for killing one of their people. They could have simply shot her in the head, but that easy death opportunity was passed up by Mick, later resulting in them having to eliminate Mick for not following protocol, therefore Eileen’s death had to be escalated to horrific to set a reminder precedent to others.

    The power shifting between Crowley and Lucifer could be thanks to Rowena, who was the spellcaster who lassoed Lucifer for Crowley. I could see her being VERY happy to tether the two of them together while the power teeter totters between them. It tortures both of them very effectively which gives her vengeance on both. Alternatively, Crowley could have planned it in order to follow Lucifer to his son.

    Mary confused about reality with her cut hand, eloquent.

    I think that the upcoming two-hour finale will determine how terrible this episode was written because (I hope) the premise for everything that happened will surely be revealed to us.

  9. May 22, 2017 9:35 am

    Reblogged this on SUPERNATURAL AND OTHER SHOWS.

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