Director Richard Speight Jr. Helms a Wild Ride in Supernatural’s War of the Worlds

There was a new Supernatural episode last week even though in the US that day was the Thanksgiving holiday, which meant I was at a big family gathering and not in charge of what was going to be watched at 8 pm. Lucky for me, I have really considerate family members, because most of us ended up watching my favorite Show. However, I couldn’t exactly tell people not to make a sound (which is how I like to watch Supernatural. I mean, I make a lot of sounds, but the rest of the family should be quiet. What?) I kindly said “oh no, please feel free to keep chatting” when asked, even though I might have been gritting my teeth.

But it turns out that the episode was engaging enough that everyone ended up watching instead of chatting – thanks, I think, to Richard Speight Jr.’s directing. I’ve loved every episode Richard has directed, especially the last two, and especially especially ‘Just My Imagination’.  ‘War of the Worlds’, is not going to go down in history as one of my favorites, but thanks to Richard’s directing there was never a dull moment and I definitely wasn’t bored. It’s just that my favorite episodes have an emotional arc for the Winchesters, some of the brother moments I live for, some psychological insights into the main characters who I care about – something that grabs me and reminds me why I love this show. This episode didn’t have those things, but what it did have is excitement and surprises and reveals and some pretty epic fight scenes. Speight made sure all of that came through and kept me riveted.

We start out with strikingly beautiful images, which were so serene they didn’t look like they belonged on Supernatural. But it’s only Michael invading Lucifer’s brain to see what Earth is all about. Michael is not nice at all, which should be no surprise because angels on Supernatural are just about the most deplorable beings ever. Except for Castiel, who (as is pointed out in this episode) is truly a renegade. This fact about angels was quite confusing to the extended family members who decided to watch with me.

Michael locks Lucifer in an iron maiden and brutally tortures him, Lucifer screaming plaintively.

Family: Uh, I thought you said that guy Michael was an angel.

Me: Oh yeah, he is. Typical.

Family: Typical? And who’s that poor guy screaming and bleeding?

Me: Lucifer.

Family: Wait, the Devil? An angel is torturing the devil??

Me (silently) This was such a bad idea…

Honestly, though, they weren’t wrong. I like the actor who plays Michael (Christian Keyes), but the character? Shudder. Anyone who can make me feel for Lucifer is doing a fabulous job of being evil, considering Lucifer is pretty damn good at being evil too. So kudos to Keyes, but ouch. And to Mark Pellegrino for those plaintive wails that made me cringe, even though I’m well aware that Lucifer has done worse himself. I will say that this scene and many others were absolutely gorgeous – true works of art from Jerry Wanek, Serge Ladouceur, Jose Manzano and Richard Speight Jr. How can something so awful look so pretty?

Next time we see Michael and Lucifer, Michael extracts some of Lucifer’s grace, leaving him even more helpless (played up nicely by Lucifer in a plain white tee shirt). That’s probably a good move if Lucifer is going to stick around a little – powering him down to put him and Cas and the Winchesters on a more equal footing. It leaves his narcissism and menacing personality intact without a way to really pull it off, which is pretty interesting.

Michael is pretty interesting too, and replaces Lucifer in the being scary department.

So Michael has a plan to get out of the dismal AU and onto that Earth that looked so pretty in Lucifer’s head – and someone to help him carry it out. A prophet…

Door opens, Osric Chau walks in.

Me: OMG KEVIN!!!!!!!!!!

Family (after jumping about a foot): Who the hell is Kevin and why are we so excited??

Because it’s Kevin! I knew Osric was coming back, but the reality of having him back on the Show was just really awesome. The Kevin of the AU is a bit different – sort of like Kevin on speed – which gives Osric a chance to create a new character while still also being smart and kinda adorable like the Kevin we knew and loved so much. Gotta say, I love the AU for its potential to bring back some of my favorite people.

Lucky for Lucifer, Kevin does manage to open a rift back to Earth. Look at him, all pleased with himself. Oh Osric Chau, it’s so nice to have you back on my television screen for Supernatural.

Lucifer has the presence of mind to leap through the portal before Michael can. Oops. He lands on a city street, where everyone mistakes him for a homeless guy. Mark Pellegrino’s comedy skills were well used as Lucifer attempts to zap people and nothing happens except they look at him with a bit of pity.

Lucifer: I’m Lucifer!

Jaded woman: Oh honey, you’re not Lucifer. My ex husband is Lucifer.

Zap!
Huh…

I laughed, but I hope Show isn’t going to try to actually have a redemption arc for Lucifer. After what he did to Sam, that ain’t happening here. I can find him amusing and still hate him for what he’s done in the past that’s unforgiveable, so let’s keep that line in the sand, okay Show?

Asmodeus was also back in this episode. And what’s he doing? Well he’s torturing someone, what else? I think I may have traumatized my poor family with this episode – there was more torture than usual, and nobody was appreciating it much.  I’m wondering if the episode’s writers were in a really bad mood and just wanted to get some graphic torturing in repeatedly. They are not the fandom’s favorite writers, so maybe there’s some subconscious quid pro quo going on. At any rate, Asmodeus also gets in on the torturing. In this case, of the hapless motel clerk at the place where the Winchesters have recently stayed. That guy ends up dead, and that made me sad.

Ouch

Family: What the hell, did they just stab that poor guy?

Yep. Family Supernatural viewing party. Very bad idea.

Lucifer’s story line intersects with Castiel’s eventually. Cas has gone out on his own in search of Jack, feeling responsible for him – and refusing Dean’s attempt to go with him. Dean sends him off with “Don’t do anything stupid,” which is Winchester for don’t come back dead. Cas meets with an angel, who of course betrays him because that’s what angels do – and I’m back to explaining why angels are dicks to my confused extended family.

We do get some interesting information about where the angels are in all this – they’re apparently going extinct and want Jack to make more of them. That’s a twist I didn’t see coming! Castiel refuses, rightly accusing them of just wanting to use Jack. The angels decide to take Cas with them to try to get to Jack, which gives Misha Collins a chance to show off some fighting skills. He claims not to have them, but the stunt coordinators say otherwise. At any rate, it looked good – so congrats to Misha and director Richard and stunt coordinators Rob Hayter and Kirk Jaques, who are kicking ass this season!

Lucifer arrives in the nick of time and scares the angels off by making his eyes go red, which is just about all he has juice enough to do. There follows the Luci and Cas show, which amuses me even when I don’t want it to. Misha and Mark have good comedy timing together, Lucifer cajoling Cas and trying to get him to team up against Michael (who is now Lucifer’s number one enemy) and Cas basically eyerolling his way through most of the conversation. Kudos to their acting and to Speight’s directing – those scenes really worked.

Cas insists he has to call Sam and Dean and run it by them, which causes Lucifer to bang his head on the table and complain about how whiny the Winchesters are. He cuts off Castiel’s conversation with Dean, and Cas covers with predictable awkwardness, but it’s enough to have Dean worried – which may eventually be important.

Unfortunately Asmodeus is able to sense Lucifer coming through the rift, and he isn’t nearly as fooled by Luci’s red eyes as the angels were. Cas and Lucifer end up in hell, locked up and looking pretty miserable about it.

I’m not entirely sold on Asmodeus (Jeffrey Vincent Parise) yet. There’s an inevitable comparison to Mark Sheppard, and I loved Crowley so much that it’s difficult to accept a ‘replacement’. At one point, Dean gets a call (on his array of FBI etc cell phones that remind me of Bobby Singer and made me get all nostalgic) and the caller describes the guy who took the motel clerk as ‘an evil Colonel Sanders’. I laughed, but that’s just it – that’s who he seems like to me. And that makes it hard to take him seriously sometimes. I admit to laughing out loud when the demons all talk about “the Jack” though. Nice touch. And another gorgeous set.

So that’s story line number one. Story line number two is the Winchesters, who didn’t get quite enough screen time in this episode to make me happy. Or enough brother moments, which would have made me happier still. The episodes I’ve really loved this season are ones that let me SEE the Winchesters caring about each other and being honest with each other, and not in fragments. And let me HEAR it too. The ones that explore where they are emotionally and psychologically and take their stories forward. We do get a few small moments – Dean bringing Sam coffee, and trying to reassure Sam that they’ll find Jack, but not enough for me. I do have to give Ross-Leming and Buckner credit though – they often get the episodes that move the story forward in a multitude of ways, which must be challenging to write and challenging to direct. Richard Speight had to tie together multiple story lines, repeated dramatic reveals, and follow an impressive number of characters and make it all appear like seamless storytelling. I’m kind of in awe of his ability to do that with all that happened in this episode.

Anyway, the Winchesters start to investigate a case that involves witches since they’re stuck at the bunker otherwise, and I have my second OMG scream of the night – because the guy who’s killing witches? Is Mr. Ketch!

David Haydn-Jones is a talented actor and a fun guy, but I didn’t exactly jump up and down about the return of the character like I did when Kevin Tran returned. The whole British Men of Letters thing didn’t do much for me, and frankly I was glad to see them go. It was a surprise to see Ketch return, but not necessarily a good one. Come to think of it, this episode was heavily skewed toward the ‘bad guys’. Maybe that’s why it was both exciting and suspenseful but also a bit depressing. The return of Kevin made me squeeful, but the return of Ketch did not.

My reaction is nothing compared to Dean’s, though. Luckily for the Winchesters, a witch named Daniela seeks them out and together they hatch a plan to smoke out Ketch. It works like a charm, and I did yell YES when Dean put a dart in Mr. Ketch’s neck and he fell over. The look on Dean’s face as he looks down at Ketch literally gave me goosebumps –so much hate and disdain there. Ackles can express so much with a look, give us such a glimpse into Dean’s emotions. Kudos to Speight for the direction there as well.

Kudos also to Farrah Aviva for making Daniela, in the brief time we had with her, a character whose guts and resourcefulness we respect. She not only swallowed her pride to find the Winchesters, but she sat there cool as a cucumber as bait to get Ketch to attack. I love that Sam, consistent with everything we know and love about him, immediately makes sure she’s okay and helps her up once Ketch is immobilized.

Tweet @FarrahAviva

Most of the time we spend with the Winchesters in this episode is in interrogating Ketch. Which means that the family members gathered around watching with me groaned out loud, because yep, that means more torture. And more of the special effects magic that Supernatural is so good at – so good that it turns your stomach to look at someone whose face has been pulverized.

Pretty sure the extended family members who didn’t know about my Supernatural obsession are looking at me a little funny now.

The best part of all this interrogation stuff is Dean’s absolute refusal to believe his story of being Alexander instead of Arthur, no matter how much proof Ketch has been careful to plant.

Ketch: I’m his twin.

Dean: Do I look stupid to you?

Me: Hell no. Damn, is it hot in here?

Family: Ummm….no.

Ketch: Is that a trick question?

And I loved Sam’s incredulous “you expect us to believe you have an evil twin?”

I swear it’s still hot in here. I mean, look at them. Do they look dangerous, or what?

I thought the thing that gave Ketch away was his inability not to confess to his admiration of Arthur, which is exactly how Arthur himself would feel. I thought maybe that’s what Sam was trying to suss out when he sat down for a chat with him.

Sam: You admire him, maybe wanted to be like him…

But confusingly, nothing really came out of that conversation. Sam let Ketch wander around in chains eating a sandwich, which made me think he believed him after all. Honestly? I don’t know. Which is annoying.

I do like the consistency of Sam’s empathy always being a part of his decision making. Both Sam and Dean go by their gut, but Sam is more likely to be influenced by his willingness to give even the “monsters” the benefit of the doubt. It’s both a trait I like and a trait that worries me at times – one of the reasons I loathe all the BMoL is their brutal torture of Sam himself. That wasn’t Ketch directly, but I would certainly understand if Sam didn’t give a flying f—k if Ketch was hungry or had to pee. It’s not Sam’s nature though. He’s incredibly forgiving. And Jared Padalecki shows that in so many subtle ways – a look, a gesture, a tone of voice.

Dean, on the other hand, has not a particle of either trust or forgiveness for Ketch.

He won’t give Ketch the satisfaction of knowing that Mary is in the AU, responding to Ketch’s question about her with “she’s fine.” Look at that face. Pure determination. Pure ‘screw you.’

 

I do like that, in keeping with the theme of the season, Sam and Dean don’t get angry at each other for their difference of opinion as to how to handle Ketch. They disagree, they make some compromises, they TALK about it.

I like that.

Sam and Dean leave Ketch behind in the bunker (in chains, which Sam never advocates taking off – there are limits to that empathy!) and track Cas by his phone to the darkened bar where he had been with Lucifer. We get a nice flashlight lit scene, and then Dean announces “There’s nobody here”. I don’t know if he really thought that or if it was a ploy – I kinda want it to be a ploy because otherwise it felt a little like dumbing the Winchesters down and I am NEVER going to like that. At any rate, the demons attack and there’s an epic fight scene – more kudos for Speight, the actors and stunt coordinator Rob Hayter. My favorite moment was Dean’s face as he looks over and sees that Sam is about to be stabbed and he can’t do anything about it, immobilized by a demon – there’s so much anguish in his expression that just that brief moment becomes powerful. I may have screamed NOOOOO at that point, much to the dismay of the rest of the family who were still hanging in there watching.

But then Ketch of all people shows up and helps them prevail.

Afterwards, Ketch asks an odd question.

Ketch: What’s become of your angel?

Dean: I’m not sure. But I am sure about you, Arthur.

As soon as he says that, raising his gun, Sam moves to his brother’s side. It’s the little things.

Dean has followed his gut this whole time, and Ketch finally admits that yes, it’s him. He forced Rowena to give him one of those special hex bags that bring you back from the dead, which he used and now needs another one.

Dean: Rowena’s dead.

Ketch: Is she?

Me: Squee, give me all the Rowena back!

Family: Who’s Rowena? Is that Irish?

Ketch tries one more time to convince the Winchesters to trust him.

Ketch: Did it ever occur to you that I’m one of the good guys?

Dean: (with deadly intent) No. Not even once.

Me: (unfortunately out loud) DAMN Dean, mm mm mm…

Family: Ahem. We’re right here…

Ketch manages to escape, and it turns out Dean’s gut was very very right. He goes right back to Asmodeus, clearly the hunter who’s working with them. Asmodeus answers Castiel’s phone and, impersonating Cas, claims he tried to call but couldn’t get a signal (what network do these people use anyway?)

We end with Lucifer and Castiel jailed up in hell and Dean and Sam no closer to finding Jack than they were before. Which was kind of a depressing way to end. So, good things? Kevin is back and Show is talking about Rowena again, gearing up for her return too. Not so good things? Lucifer isn’t in the AU anymore, Michael is a scary sonofabitch, Asmodeus is creepy as hell, Ketch isn’t dead, and Castiel is locked up.

Oh, and Jack is still missing.

Kudos to Speight for setting all that up in one episode and in such a riveting way – now let me see how Sam and Dean are doing with all this in the upcoming episodes, okay, Show?

And a special kudos to Jose Manzano for his first time as camera operator – here with director Richard Speight Jr, David Haydn Jones, Jeffrey Vincent Parise and camera operator Brad Creasser. It’s all about SPNFamily.

Tweet @jwmanzano

Thanks as always to @kayb625 for the pretty pretty caps!

–Lynn
Looking for Supernatural holiday gifts? Check out
Family Don’t End With Blood, the book actually
written by Jared, Jensen, Misha and many more!

Just click the link here for more details:

http://amzn.to/2q8KKXh

 

7 thoughts on “Director Richard Speight Jr. Helms a Wild Ride in Supernatural’s War of the Worlds

  • Lynn, your comments about your family watching with you are hilarious! I agree that a lot happened in this episode and Richard did a fantastic job of moving it along and bringing it together. Story-wise not happy about Lucifer being back here, and Ketch being back – and especially with Cas being locked-up (we JUST got him back!) but overall I see how this episode is providing a lot of fuel for the overall story arc. I love that the boys are talking more dispite some disagreements!! So far so great…I hope that continues!!

  • Theay say “clear” if really nobody is there waiting in the dark for them. Deans: there is nobody here” is a sign for Sam and to lure them out.

  • I share your pain in trying to watch with family members. My sister kept insisting on flipping back and forth between some schmaltzy holiday movie (and it wasn’t the Bramble Cottage one that David Hadyn-Jones was in) and the show. She also kept mixing up Ketch and Asmodeus thinking that they were brothers. Ugh. I also missed Lucifer popping thru the dimensional portal so I was massively confused when he showed up in our boys world. I ended up watching the entire episode again later when I went to bed.

    Of all the episodes they’ve done, its one of the most brutal, torture filled, complex (read confusing) ones to show on Thanksgiving.

  • Your review really captured my feelings about the episode. I hate to admit, when I saw the writers’ names at the beginning my heart sank, but the episode was not quite as bad as I feared. I just didn’t see why they were trying to cram so much into one episode. Even for an obsessive fan like me, it was a bit difficult to keep up with at times. But the scenes between Cas and Lucifer and the boys and Ketch rescued it a bit…and of course the implied return of Rowena! I have never believed she’s really dead. Thanks for another very entertaining recap!

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