Category Archives: Supernatural

Book Review: Supernatural: The Unholy Cause by Joe Schreiber

As all Supernatural fans know (or as all fans of any TV show, for that matter), hiatuses can be quite difficult to get through, especially when Kripke is at the helm and cliffhangers are regular occurrences. Distractions are essential. Some fans take to screencapping all episodes with such minutia that flipping through them fast enough makes it feel like one is watching said episode (Jess, I just might be talking about you). Some fans manage to find things to distract them, rediscovering old classics like books, board games and life in general (remember that, guys?).

I still think that reading is the best way of spending one’s summer (especially when there is a nice tree involved) and so I like to spend my hiatus reading. And so it probably comes to no surprise that reading tie-ins to my favorite shows takes up a good part of my summer reading time.

The latest book installment is Supernatural: The Unholy Cause. It starts as a monster-of-the-week but quickly ties in with the overarching Supernatural mythology. While one doesn’t need to read this book to get any vital information about the series, I strongly recommend it to those of you who like plunging into the psychoanalysis of the Winchester brothers and that of everyone’s favorite angel in a trench coat, i.e. Castiel. As you all well know, books allow for the author to share information with the reader that can’t be shared though the media of television, however amazing its team is.

Warning: spoilers about both the book and the show’s Season 5 ahead!

The story takes place sometime in the beginning of Season Five, after Sam has broken the final seal releasing Lucifer from hell but before Castiel loses hope in God. I didn’t find any other indication as to when the story takes place. An unusual incident at a civil war re-enactment ends the life of one of the participants despite the use of props on the battlefield, and brings the Winchester brothers back to Ilchester, Maryland, where St-Mary’s convent is situates. Careful Supernatural viewers, of course, know that the convent is the location where Sam broke the last seal.

It seems that Joe Schreiber is a respectful fan of the series, as he faithfully bring to life characters that have become beloved to legions of fans. One can almost hear Dean’s voice dripping with sarcasm and see Sam’s eye rolling. We can also imagine Dean’s expression when he presents himself and Sam as Agents Townes & Van Zandt and when the Sheriff, recognizing the names, locks them up. What’s more, one can now smell the stench defining some of the scenes, brought to life by some great writing, which adds to the sights the author describes.

While we are given interesting insight into both Winchester brothers throughout the book, the topic of their well-being and mental framework has been so hashed in review after review as well as on fan forum after fan forum that what we were given in the book serves more to add to what we already knew rather than bringing forth new insights.

For example, the realism of the civil war reenactment camp puzzles the brothers. The one thing they have always wanted is a normal home, with a mother and a father, where they could have played soccer and grown up normally. It truly baffles them to see grown men willingly give up comforts the brothers dream of to come to such a place. Why would these people, lucky enough to have homes and a family and various comforts the boys dream of having willingly give them up to live like this?

As previously mentioned, this is a topic we have already seen portrayed in the show numerous times. However, there is one Supernatural character we have yet to have more insight in: Castiel. And let me tell you, fans: you are going to love it. Amongst others (can’t spoil this book too much, now, can I!), we find out just how distraught Castiel was at losing his ability to heal after being banned from heaven. As always, Castiel makes for quite an entrance by appearing at the camp’s clinic, where the civil war reenactment participants are faking various injuries. Castiel puts his hands on them and thinks that he is healing them – that is, until the Winchester brothers define the meaning of “reenactment camp” for him.

This relatively short scene makes fans realize just how devastating it must have been for Castiel to lose his ability to heal, and how strongly that defined him. And it makes me wonder if, just like Dean, Castiel is being meticulously deconstructed only to be rebuilt stronger than before. Who knows? Maybe a promotion will be in order, since Zachariah was recently killed.

If you are a Supernatural fan, this book will make a great addition to your collection. And even if you are not a fan but are curious as to what the show is about, pick up the book; while there are many details you might not pick up on, the story is presented in such fashion that you will know enough to understand the story while at the same time introducing you to some great characters and a fascinating storyline that will give you plenty to talk about with fellow fans.

First published here on Blogcritics.

Halloween on Sahar’s Blog: Fans’ Real Love for The X-Files, Fringe, and Supernatural

Let’s be honest: while fans love the scare factor in The X-Files, the real reason that they keep coming has nothing to do with the paranormal.  The keep coming for the same two reasons fans of Fringe and Supernatural return: the relationship between the main characters and the deeper concepts each show touches on.

In The X-Files, one only has to look at Dana Scully’s journey from Season 1 through Season 9 to generate some pretty heated conversations.  Did she end up vulnerable and broken?  Or on the contrary, is she stronger than before by the end of Season 9?

There is also the quality of the relationship between her and Fox Mulder; while the budding romance was one thing that kept fans going, the respect they gave each other’s opinions and views–even when eye rolling seemed imminent–is a vital lesson we should all learn in an increasingly multi-cultural world.  There is also a lot to be learned in the major obstacle the two agents faced: the perceived dichotomy between their points of view.

Fringe was mostly about the theme of perception–i.e. how you perceive the world can greatly influence the way you live in it–which in turn influences the way we understand the concept of good versus evil, another theme that was touched upon throughout the series’ five seasons.  But there are a great many other themes that are discussed, one of my favorites being grief and detachment.

One of the main themes in Supernatural of course is that of family, both biological and chosen.  Another one is the underhanded criticism of the hypocrisy in our society.  And, of course, there are the ongoing discussions about good versus evil, as well as the real meaning of religious icons and lore.  And you thought it was just about two pretty faces.

I’ll let you mull on all of this as you watch The X-Files, Fringe, and/or Supernatural on this the official “scare-fest” day of the year.

Halloween on Sahar’s Blog: Ten Scariest Supernatural Episodes from Seasons 1 and 2

Tomorrow’s Halloween! And because it’s happening on a Saturday, this really is the best weekend of the year to binge watch some of the scariest television I know of (or perhaps dared watch?) Three series make an appearance on this blog year after year: The X-Files, Fringe, and Supernatural. This week’s regularly scheduled posts will be joined by three extra, special Halloween posts, each rounding up the scariest episodes of these three shows.

Of the three posts, this one was definitely the hardest to write. I have to confess: I don’t quite know why I keep setting unattainable goals for myself. I mean, The X-Files was not only made of scary episodes and Fringe only had three years (if even) of non-mythology episodes to choose from, making the previous two posts (here and here) quite easy to write.

But picking only a handful of scary episodes out of 10 full seasons of Supernatural featuring pretty much only scary episodes? Not the easiest of feats! Some websites might have been able to achieve this feat, but I just couldn’t, at least not with a full re-watch and I’m already booked with my re-watch of The X-Files for the related Facebook project.

So I decided to keep this run-through of scary, Halloween-worthy Supernatural episodes just to five episodes each in Season 1 and Season 2. I expect that, of all three lists, this one will generate the most controversy (with the Fringe one generating the least!) But hey, there is always Halloween 2017!

My top five each Halloween-worthy Supernatural episodes from Seasons 1 and 2 are:

Pilot (1 x 01): Bleeding women pinned to the ceiling bursting into flames and ghosts: just like with The X-Files and Fringe, this is a pilot that really set things up well for the remained of the series.

Bloody Mary (1 x 05): Ever tried to invoke Bloody Mary on a dare when you were a child? This episode will make you wonder if, unbeknownst to you, you did actually unleash something evil after all.

Skin (1 x 06): I’m on the fence between finding the whole shapeshifting special effect cool of completely disgusting. Either way, the thought of a shapeshifter is terrifying enough without the creepiness of the overall episode.

Home (1 x 09): Ghost stories are always fun to watch on Halloween, but there is something particularly poignant about this episode, which takes Sam and Dean back to their own house where their mother was killed in a particularly gruesome way (refer to the description of the Pilot episode).

Asylum (1 x 10): Asylums are pretty creepy places already; imagine one haunted by a ghost that fills its victims with such rage that they end up killing others, including loved ones, and you have quite the potent Halloween cocktail.

Everybody Loves a Clown (2 x 02): I personally blame Stephen King and Ronald McDonald for clowns’ creepy factor. Whatever the case may be, a killer clown that haunts the town a circus is visiting—a clown that can’t be seen by everyone to boot—might make you wonder how sarcastic the writers were when they penned the title to this episode.

Crossroad Blues (2 x 08): We have the dubious pleasure of meeting hellhounds in this episode. Oh, did I mention that they are invisible hellhounds? So not only you are being attacked by a pack of gigantic, feral dogs, but they are invisible. Delightful.

No Exit (2 x 06): The ghost of America’s first serial murder haunts the location where he was executed.

Croatoan (2 x 09): A demonic virus infects the inhabitants of a small town is making them increasing violent.

Roadkill (2 x 16): Two ghosts who have been haunting the same stretch of highway for some 15 years give a whole new meaning to the word “roadkill”.

TV Review: Supernatural, Season 5, Episode 16: Dark Side of the Moon

Supernatural continues its meticulous deconstruction of Dean in the 16th episode of its fifth season, “Dark Side of the Moon”. The episode’s plot is relatively simple: Sam and Dean are killed by hunters angry at Sam starting the Apocalypse.

In Heaven, Sam and Dean are told by Castiel to look for Joshua, an angel who talks to God. Meanwhile, the brothers have to dodge Zachariah, whose powers of persuasion are much stronger on his turf, and who hasn’t given up on forcing Dean’s hand at saying yes to Michael. While in Heaven, Sam and Dean cross paths with some familiar faces: Ash and Pamela, who help them attain Joshua’s presence. Unfortunately, the message from God is grim; Sam and Dean return to earth with Dean a little more broken than before.

The concept of heaven developed as a sort of replay of one’s “greatest hits” in the form of memories and happy places. As Ash explains it, there isn’t one heaven; it’s more like a collection of billions of little heavens, like Disneyland. It’s an interesting yet depressing construct – that we, social beings at heart, are meant to live out eternity alone in our little worlds. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the individualistic society we live in, and perhaps the billions of souls who lived and died in less individualistic societies in the past have a ‘shared heaven’.

The first scene of Dean was heart-wrenching, as we see him go back to 1996, when things were so much simpler (well, relatively so). He was still Sam’s awesome older brother who sneaked him away from their father to light some firecrackers for the 4th of July. Superimpose that nostalgic moment with Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” (the second time this song was featured on Supernatural) and you got yourself quite a tear-jerker not even five minutes into the episode.

As soon as Dean grasps where he is, his first concern is, of course, Sam. Castiel, communicating with him through the Impala’s radio (which of course would be part of Dean’s heaven), guides him by identifying Dean’s path through heaven, his ‘access mundi’, is the actual road he’s on. I’m assuming again that no one was surprised by this, what with his love of cars and the countless time he spent on the road?

Sam’s conception of heaven is slightly different, as Dean finds him at what Sam describes his ‘first real Thanksgiving’ when he was 11 years old. Needless to say, this provides an opportunity for Dean to make fun of his brother (“Wait, so playing footsie with brace face in there, that’s a trophy moment for you?”).

Realising that they are in heaven confuses Sam:

Sam: How are we in Heaven? … You I get. Sure. But me? Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’ve done a few things…?
Dean: You thought you were doing the right thing.
Sam: Last I checked, it wasn’t the road to heaven that was paved with good intentions.

The conception of heaven is intimately connected to the conception of the meaning of life on this earth. Is it a ‘reward’ for the good things we have done on earth? If so, there are very few who are going to make it to the penthouse suite. Or is heaven the next phase of our development as spiritual beings? If it’s the next phase of our spiritual development, wouldn’t everyone be headed to a better place, each of which would depend on ourselves, since “heaven and hell are conditions within our own beings”?

Whatever the nature of the Heaven they are in, the brothers quickly realise that something is wrong when everything suddenly starts shaking, the lights in the house go out, and a bright light – reminiscent of the light used by the aliens in The X-Files – pours from the windows to search the inside of the house. Castiel, communicating through a TV, tells the boys about Zachariah pursuing them and tells them how to get to Joshua and, most importantly, why:

Castiel: You think maybe, just maybe, we should find out what the hell God has been saying?
Dean: Wow. Touchy.

What with Dean’s past comments regarding God, I wasn’t sure which way the rest of the conversation would go; needless to say, I (and probably a couple of fans out there) was a little surprised at Dean’s willingness to fulfill Castiel’s request without a single quip or negative comment.

I have been wondering for awhile if the meticulous deconstruction of Dean is being done to tear away the veils that are keeping him – and, by proxy, Sam – from becoming the two people they need to be to fight the Apocalypse.

Dean finds a road in the closet in the form of a car track, complete with loop the loop. He and Sam are transported into yet another memory, that of a four-year-old Dean wearing a “I Wuv Hugz” T-shirt playing in his bedroom – yet another glimpse into what could have been. Of course Dean can’t help but stay a little longer in this memory (“Sam. Please. One minute”), during which he remembers a particularly difficult time in John and Mary’s relationship. This offers Sam insight into his brother’s psyche (“I just never realised how long you’ve been cleaning up Dad’s messes.”).

And we also find out that perhaps the reason why Dean loves pie so much isn’t only because it tastes so good (how I love me some pie), but rather because of a powerful emotional connection which we had guessed before, but never really had proof of (“You are my little angel. How about some pie?”).

It’s all the more interesting that this is the first time either we the audience or the Winchester brothers realise that Mary and John didn’t have the perfect marriage the latter insisted they had:

Sam: Dad always said they had the perfect marriage.
Dean: It wasn’t perfect until after she died.

It’s as if once we don’t have something any more that we can see beyond its limitations. I wonder if this episode – i.e. John moving out for a couple of days – was right before Mary’s death, and if this in any way influenced John in his quest for Azazel.

The contrast between Dean’s ‘greatest hits’ with the ones from Sam is rather jarring. The boys find themselves at Flagstaff, in a cabin of sorts where Sam hid away at some point in their young lives. Apparently he ran away under Dean’s watch, and the latter spent two weeks looking all over for him. Sam’s happiness at remembering the joy he felt at Flagstaff isn’t easy for Dean to bear. It becomes even harder for Dean once they step into Sam’s next memory: the night when Sam left Dean and their father for college, an event that ranks pretty low in Dean’s life:

Dean: This is your idea of heaven? Wow. This is like one of the worse nights of my life.

While I’m tempted to accuse Sam of being self-centered as I have in the past, it begs to be mentioned that Dean doesn’t make it easy on his younger brother to see things from his perspective. And as is clearly shown by the look of guilt on Sam’s face, he doesn’t feel proud of himself once he realises what Flagstaff means to Dean. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised that once Sam really dies, Flagstaff will not be part of his ‘greatest hits’ anymore.

And so, while Sam is, to some extent, self-centered, he definitely isn’t either uncaring or devoid of guilt. It also begs to be mentioned that Sam’s version of Heaven might have angered Dean because he took it personally, and had he been less self-centered – yes, I said it! – Dean would have realised that while Sam’s departure was hard for him, it wasn’t because of him; it was because of Sam’s own limitations and difficulties dealing with the life John had chosen for them. It doesn’t mean Sam doesn’t love either his brother or his father; for are these moments ‘greatest hits’ for Sam because he is turning away from his family, or rather because he is turning away from the heavy responsibility of being a hunter, as well as starting the Apocalypse?

Unfortunately (or fortunately?), their discussion is interrupted by none other than Zachariah, from which the brothers can’t run away from – until the timely intervention of none other than Ash. Back at the roadhouse – Ash’s slice of heaven – the boys meet up with Pamela. Together they come up with a plan to get Sam and Dean to the Garden, where they will be able to meet with Joshua.

Before the plan is put together, we do find out something interesting — that Sam and Dean have been in heaven before. Ash says, “This ain’t the first time you’ve been here! I mean you boys die more than anyone I have ever met. … You don’t remember. God, angels must have Windexed your brains.”

Even more interesting is that not only hasn’t Ash found either Mary or John Winchester, but that even equipped with a ‘Heaven scanner’, he has never heard about Ellen and Jo coming arriving in Heaven. I wonder why.

At the ‘Roadhouse’, Dean had this interesting exchange with Pamela:

Pamela: I know Michael wants to take you out for a test drive. … what happens if you play ball with him? Worse case.
Dean: A lot of people die.
Pamela: And then they come here! Is that really so bad? Look. Maybe you don’t have to fight it so hard. It’s all I’m trying to say.

I have had more than a bit of a hard time with this exchange. Pamela does have a point, in that those who are going to die in the fight between Michael and Lucifer are headed to a better place. However, does this give a good reason for Dean to say yes to Michael without looking for another way out?

Then again, by not saying yes, Dean is allowing demons to run the Earth, and ultimately, the very same people he doesn’t want killed were he to say yes to Michael are suffering. Doesn’t it make more sense to say yes now that Lucifer is in a body that can’t contain him for much longer, have Michael and Lucifer battle it out and end the suffering of all the people caught in the Apocalypse? I know that were I given the choice, I would gladly die in the crossfire of the battle between Michael and Lucifer if I knew Michael was most probably going to win and this win ensures that those of us who are still alive can live happily ever after.

The boys’ meeting with Joshua was fascinating. I don’t know if it’s a sign of my personal limitations regarding my understanding of concepts such as faith, free will, and detachment, but I have yet to understand fully the reasons behind many things.

First off, why is Joshua’s Garden yet another concept in Heaven centered on the individual? (“You see what you want here.”) Just like humans are social beings that are meant to live together, shouldn’t Heaven be about being together and continuing our spiritual development through social interactions? After all, no one has been able to develop spiritual qualities in a cave! I guess that, yet again, it depends on one’s perception of the meaning of life in the first place.

Second, Joshua tells the boys that God is walking the Earth. Is He using as a vessel? If so, who is it?

Third, God’s message was rather harsh. He already knows everything (duh) and apparently wants the boys to back off and let things run their course. To top it off, God doesn’t want to intervene, because “He doesn’t think it’s His problem.”

Needless to say, Dean isn’t very happy with this, and it leads him deeper into his crisis of faith:

Joshua: Magic amulet or not, you won’t be able to find Him.
Dean: But He can stop it. He could stop all of it.
Joshua: I suppose He could. But He won’t. …
Dean: So He’s just going to sit back and watch the world burn?
Joshua: I know how important this was to you, Dean. I’m sorry.
Dean: Forget it. Just another dead beat dad with a bunch of excuses. Well I’m used to that. I’ll muddle through.
Joshua: Except you don’t know if you can this time. You can’t kill the devil. And you’re losing faith: in yourself, your brother, and now this. God was your last hope. I just… I wish I could tell you something different.

Why is Dean’s faith being so meticulously being taken apart? Is it because there really is no hope, and we should expect season six to be about the self-destruction of Lucifer? Or is it rather because to better strengthen his faith, Dean’s must be first taken apart?

Keeping in mind his fight with Sam, all of this makes me wonder why Dean threw the amulet in the garbage can (and I do hope Sam fished it out). Is it because of the God connection, or because he realised that Sam’s heaven is a place without his family?

Even worse than Dean’s crisis of faith was the shattering of Castiel’s faith in God as he is denied once again. His swearing at Him was absolutely heartbreaking and, to be honest, more so than Dean’s hopelessness. Why is this happening? Is Castiel’s faith, like Dean’s, being broken only to be rebuilt, stronger than ever? It reminds me yet again of another quote: “Thou beholdest how the tempestuous winds of tests have caused the steadfast in faith to tremble, and how the breath of trials hath stirred up those whose hearts had been firmly established…” Is Castiel only trembling at the moment? Will he be able to cling, despite a momentary wavering, to his faith? And what will be his reward if he does manage to remain steadfast? “Blessed are the steadfastly enduring, they that are patient under ills and hardships, who lament not over anything that befalleth them, and who tread the path of resignation…”

Which brings us back to the biggest question of this episode: why doesn’t God want to intervene? Each time I think about this question, I can’t help but think of why a parent wouldn’t intervene if his kids were fighting – and a real fight, involving punches, broken noses, and torn ligaments.

This in turn brings us back to what we believe in. If we believe that there is such a thing as an all-Loving God, then there must be a loving reason, however mysterious it might be, why all of this is happening. If this is the case, perhaps God knows that were He to intervene, it would only serve to delay the Apocalypse. Perhaps He could get rid of Lucifer permanently, but as we have seen, what with Zachariah’s attitude problem for one, the problems are a lot deeper than Lucifer being a bad boy. It’s about pettiness, greed, avarice – it’s about expurgating the real reason why Lucifer fell in the first place.

Which brings us back to free will. If God takes care of this mess, what’s the point of having given us free will? It would be like the parent teaching a child to walk – what’s the point of teaching it to walk in the hallways of the house if the parent is going to keep it in his arms once outside? While the parent would be doing so to protect the child, it would only be doing him a disservice. Better let the child fall a couple of times and learn how to walk rather than remain dependent for the rest of his life.

Being a spoiler junkie, I heard a little while ago that this episode was going to be about the brothers going to Heaven. I couldn’t help but chuckle at what I thought was the inevitable embarrassing scene of Dean being in a strip club or something to that effect, reminiscent of Anna’s crashing of his dream in “The Song remains the Same” (5×13). The fact that nowhere in Dean’s heaven do we see sign a sign of anything remotely connected to naked women is telling in itself, and demonstrates yet again that his macho side is, for the most part, a carefully constructed veneer.

Why are the writers revisiting a concept that has been visited so many times before? Is it only to kill time, or are they building up (or rather, breaking down) to something that depends on this meticulous deconstruction? Or are they taking advantage of the fact that their audience has built such a strong emotional connection with the show’s characters that they can delve deeper and deeper into such themes?

After an awesome five-year run, I choose to trust the writing and production team of Supernatural and eagerly await to see where this deconstruction is taking us.

First published on Blogcritics.

TV Review: Supernatural, Season 5, Episode 14: My Bloody Valentine

Supernatural’s last episode before its six-week hiatus was nothing short of underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong; the episode was, in itself, fantastic. It wasn’t just a filler; it brought in another Apocalypse-related figure, i.e. our second Horseman of the Apocalypse, Famine. However, only die-hard fans will be left wanting more, and anxiously counting down the days leading up to the next new episode (mark March 24 on your calendar, everyone!).

In “My Bloody Valentine” (a nod to Jensen Ackles’ movie of the same name), the Winchester brothers visit a small town to investigating a gruesome double murder, as a couple end up a great date by eating each other up. Yes, you read that right. Upon further investigation, the brothers, with the help of Castiel, figure out that Cupid might have been a little too enthusiastic with his arrow, infusing said couple with a little too much love for one another. Speaking of which, congratulations, Supernatural team — this is the first episode that managed to gross me out.

But it soon comes to light that Cupid (who isn’t as cute as Valentine’s Day cards portray him to be, by the way) isn’t the one at fault, but rather another Horseman of the Apocalypse has ridden into town: Famine. And this one is far nastier, in many senses, than War: a creepy, weak old man with an irritatingly high-pitched voice (excellent casting choice, by the way), he imbues the air with hunger — for food, for love, for sex, for attention, for drugs — and, once the people literally overdose on whatever it is that they hunger, Famine feeds on their souls. Delightful.

I’m sure that all die-hard fans freaked out as soon as they heard Famine was in town; I immediately started looking for signs that Sam’s thirst was starting to pipe up again, and it did. I won’t say unfortunately, because if it weren’t for Sam’s high on demon blood, I don’t think Dean and Castiel would have gotten out of this alive.

Castiel also felt the effect of Famine’s influence, as Jimmy’s hunger for red meat makes Castiel eat White Castle burgers like there is no tomorrow, which makes him lose focus on his mission to get to Famine. It was rather amusing watching Castiel be so human; I don’t think I’ll ever be able to drive by a White Castle without remembering his grin while eating a burger and his proclamation that “this… this makes me happy!”

Character development was heavy throughout the episode. First there was Castiel, who turned out to be less impassive than we would have ever thought him to be. Seeing him on the floor of the diner, eating red meat raw, just like the other patrons at the diner had been eating away at food, was rather tough. If an angel can fall prey to Famine, it really doesn’t bode well.

Another interesting character development was that of Sam; although knowing Dean is still a little sensitive over the whole demon blood thing, he doesn’t wait too long before admitting to Dean that he is hungering for demon blood. It also bodes well that Dean didn’t flip out. The tying down of Sam ‘real good’ without any big drama was also indicative of the maturity in the relationship between the two brothers.

Of course the most interesting character development was Dean’s. More specifically, his reaction – or rather, non-reaction – to Famine was curious:

Dean: So this your trick? Making people cuckoo for cocoa puffs?

Famine: Doesn’t take much. Hardly a push. Ah, America, all you can eat, all the time, consume, consume, consume, a swarm of locusts in stretch pants. Yet you’re all still starving because hunger doesn’t just come from the body, but it also comes from the soul!

Dean: Funny, it doesn’t seem to be coming from mine.

Famine: Yes, I noticed that. Have you wondered why that is? How you could even walk in my presence?

Dean: I’d like to think it’s because of my strength in character.

Famine: I disagree [touches Dean]. Yes, I see. That’s one deep dark nothing you got there, Dean. Can’t fill it. Can’t. Not with food, or drink. Not even with sex!

Dean: You’re so full of crap.

Famine: Oh, you can smirk, and joke, and lie to your brother, lie to yourself, but not to me! I can see inside you, Dean. And I can see how broken you are, how defeated, you can’t win, and you know it, but you just keep fighting, just keep going through the motions. You’re not hungry, Dean, because inside, you’re already dead.

Trust a Horseman of the Apocalypse to make the worst of any situation. Although I think that in this case, he did us all a favour. After all, we have known for some time that Dean is being meticulously broken into a million pieces, but his charming nature and cocky attitude helped him fool himself and those around him (although Sam, especially with his newfound maturity, has probably not been fooled at all, especially since he asked Dean, “Are we going to talk about what’s been up with you lately or not?”). Dean has known for awhile that he is in a dark place, and that it was only getting worse, but like a frog in a slowly heated pot of water, he was staying there as it was suffocating him to death. Perhaps Famine making him face the facts head on is exactly the jolt that Dean needs to get out of his funk.

It isn’t surprising that, after everything that happened, Dean has been left feeling hollow and empty. From having the responsibility of raising a younger brother thrust at him from a young age while not having the stability of a home or the loving presence of a mother, to never feeling good enough for a father devastated by his beloved wife’s death, it almost feels like Dean has been carrying around this ‘deep dark nothing’ for quite some time. And while he was able to deny it (more or less) for quite some time and, more specifically, for the last five years, Famine seems to have forced Dean into facing the reality that, however hard he has tried, nothing has filled that deep dark pit of despair.

On a related side note, did anyone else wonder how long Sam had been standing there, how much he heard of what Famine said to Dean, and if he is going to bring it up post-hiatus, in episode 15? I certainly hope so, because Sam and Dean – however cliché and ridiculous it might sound – well, they complete each other, in that they each have strengths that the other lacks, and, as mentioned in previous reviews, they work best when they work together. So perhaps the healing of both – and, ultimately, a successful face-off with Lucifer – would depend on each helping the other to heal.

The ending was quite interesting for many reasons, and is the cliff-hanger that will leave die-hard fans salivating but leave newcomers shrugging with mild indifference. Dean and Castiel are guarding Sam while he goes yet again through demon blood detox, but this time, Dean doesn’t have anger to shield him from the pain of hearing his brother suffering. Castiel senses Dean’s anguish – or did he just notice the bottle of whiskey Dean is downing like water? – but after his encounter with Famine, Dean is left to face his hollowness which, however fantastic he is, neither Castiel nor anyone or anything else can fill. He steps out for some time to think; the anguish becomes all the more palpable, Dean puts away the bottle of whiskey and raises his eyes in supplication: “Please… I can’t… I need some help. Please.”

The fan forums went CRAZY. So crazy that my computer couldn’t keep up. It was insane. And while most people assumed this meant Dean had finally accepted that there is a God and that He is going to help, a relative few mentioned that they thought Dean was actually asking John and Mary Winchester for help.

Whoever Dean was asking help from, this moment had obviously been planned for the last two seasons by the Supernatural team. The meticulous deconstruction of Dean Winchester’s wall of self-preservation has been going on for awhile, and while it’s hard to watch (crazy how much of an emotional connection one can make with a fictional character, isn’t it?), it’s an essential part of the plot.

I don’t know if Dean is ready yet to turn to God, quite honestly, and I don’t know if the Supernatural team is ready and willing to take the risk of turning Dean into a religious, God-oriented character. After all, much of the fascination with Dean is his internal battle between objectively knowing that there is a God and yet subjectively bringing up every single argument in the book against His very existence. And I don’t think that, come the end of the hiatus, Dean is suddenty going to be a believer; it wouldn’t make any sense with regard to some of the strongly worded comments he has made about God in the last four and a half years. However, it will definitely make Dean open to considering other approaches to dealing with the situation, including looking for other angels to join the battle or, perhaps, joining Castiel in finding God. Last season ended with Lucifer coming out of hell; perhaps this season will end with God coming down to earth.

And as described below, I have more than one reason to think that God coming down to earth is the inevitable conclusion of season five.

Initially, I thought, like everyone else, that Famine was just another Horseman of the Apocalypse. His portrayal was really creepy – the idea of the helpless yet powerful old man is one that has recently made the rounds in a series of cartoons depicting powerful world bankers amidst the recession, making the character more apt than ever. Is Famine really an agent of destruction, foretelling the apocalypse, or is he something else? The question bodes a little theological discussion. There are two references in the Bible to the horsemen that I know of.

The first one is in Revelation 6:2-8, and starts like this: “And I saw, and behold a white horse: and he that sat on him had a bow; and a crown was given unto him: and he wen forth conquering, and to conquer”. This implies that War is the second Horseman, not the first one, and Famine is the third one, not the second one. The fourth one is Death, and the first one (the one referred to in the citation above) is interpreted as either Pestilence, Evil (in the form of the Antichrist) or as something altogether different, i.e. Righteousness, Christ Himself or The Holy Spirit (theologians explain the contrast between this ‘good’ horseman and the other three evil ones as the advance of the gospel preceding and foretelling the Apocalypse).

The second reference is in Zechariah 6:2-3: “In the first chariot were red horses; and in the second chariot black horses; And in the third chariot white horses: and in the fourth chariot grisled and bay horses”. This seems to be the order that the horsemen in Supernatural have appeared, which (if they are sticking to Scripture) would imply that they are not, in fact horsemen. For the horsemen that Zechariah sees are sentries rather than agents of destruction: “the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.”

Could it be, then, that rather than to bode the apocalypse, the Supernatural team is telling us that God is coming? Ooh, exciting!

And on a less spiritual level, I wonder what kind of car the next two Horsemen are going to drive? And what is a ‘grisled and bay’ car going to look like?

All in all, “My Bloody Valentine” was a great episode, albeit perhaps not the best choice just before a six-week hiatus. The question at the end of the episode will keep fans wondering if, upon the return of the show, Dean will continue breaking apart, or if he will be like a phoenix rising from the ashes of his former self to be stronger than ever. In a way, Sam has been through that himself, sinking into demon blood addiction after Dean’s death at the end of season three, and he has come back stronger than he used to be. Many fans have been grumbling about how odd it is that Sam and Dean’s relationship seems to have switched in the last season; while before, Dean would be leading the charge, he had been taking a backseat throughout season five.

A visit on various fan forums seems to indicate that the fans are quite divided about the turn that season five has taken. After “My Bloody Valentine” aired, even more have been grumbling that if the price to pay to have a season six is to be strung along for many more episodes before the Lucifer vs. Winchesters showdown, it just might not be worth it.

I beg to differ. The level of storytelling has reached a new height; so has the level of character development. The pieces are being placed on the chessboard one by one, and we are given clues from which, if we were patient enough, we could probably predict what is going to happen in the next couple of episodes. After all, what is going on does make perfect sense, and while many fans were left confused at the seeming 180 degrees both Winchesters have made in the last year and a half, it seems to me that this very reversal makes them all the more realistic. I challenged a couple such fans to think of where they were a year ago today. A few didn’t remember, but a couple happened to be avid journal writers. And after poring over last year’s entries, they came to realise just how much they had changed in the span of one year. And nothing close to what happened to the Winchesters happened to them. Only then did they realise that yes, people can change a lot in the relatively short span of a year.

And to those fans who are complaining that ‘nothing is happening’, I’d like to share another thought: a lot is still happening, but the nature of what is happening has changed. There are fewer quips and one-liners because Dean is, as Famine mentioned, empty. He is going to have to fill up again before we see that again. There are still supernatural occurrences that the boys are fighting (true to the beginning of the season, when Dean tells Sam that they should go down fighting, taking down as many of these things as they can on their way out). And Sam’s strength is coming from his overcoming some hard things, namely his addiction to demon blood.

My advice to Supernatural fans? Stop telling the team where to go, and appreciate where we are being taken. It’s far more intricate than any of us realises, and I’m certain that if we could get a Scripture expert involved in this discussion, it could lead us to some very interesting answers.

In the meanwhile, a couple of nods need to be given out. First, to the Supernatural team, who has quite the way of giving their own nod to many holidays, like Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and Christmas, without quite going too deep into it. I like the fact that they are treating their audience like intelligent beings that do not need to be crumb-fed every bit of information.

Second, although we have come to expect it of them, it still begs to mentioned that both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki were awesome, the former for his heartbreaking scene at the end, and the latter for his seamless transition from maturing, level-headed little brother to demon blood-hungry Sasquatch.

First published here on Blogcritics.

TV Review: Supernatural, Season 5, Episode 18: Point of No Return

For an episode with a doomsday-sounding title, “Point of No Return” was quite uplifting, giving hope to fans that things are turning, but for the better. The title is all the more apt that this is Supernatural’s 100th episode. Jeremy Carver, who wrote it, did an awesome job (as always), and I’m happy he didn’t go cheesy by awkwardly bringing back beloved characters like Papa Winchester or Ellen/Jo (like they did in the series finale of The X-Files). The dialog and action in this episode were fast-paced and to the point, packing a lot into 40 minutes. The direction enhanced the script and the acting, as usual, topped it off beautifully. However not having the Impala star in this episode was a big mistake; that car is the most under appreciated character on Supernatural.

Three main themes were covered in this episode, all of which are intricately linked: faith, hope, and family.

The episode opened up with Zachariah drinking his sorrows away in a bar, a scene which was awesome for so many reasons. First was this gem of an exchange, made all the more priceless because of its flawless delivery:

Stewart: Earhquake?
Zachariah: Nah. My Boss.

Then was the whole irony of Zachariah commiserating about “pig filthy humans” with, well, a pig filthy human.

Then there is the continuing discussion around Zachariah. For one, how can he be an angel, a “servant of Heaven”, if he doesn’t even like humans? At the beginning of this episode, a short clip from “Dark Side of the Moon” reminds us of why he is still on the job. And so, while “work is worship” (especially for an angel), it definitely isn’t anymore for Zachariah. Taking care of Dean and Sam has become a matter of pride, and as we know, pride is oftentimes the downfall of many a great man (or angel). Which is why, despite the fact that he had been “employee of the month for every month for ever” and was being given another chance by God to redeem himself, the combination of his arrogance before humans (which, despite their flaws, are still God’s creatures) and his wounded pride – one feeding into the other in a downward spiral – was bound to get him exactly where he went.

It’s also interesting to point out that while he was supposedly on God’s side, Zachariah was far more dangerous than Lucifer, as he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Ironically enough, the reasons for Lucifer’s downfall and Zachariah’s demise are intimately related – which made Zachariah’s demise inevitable.

What a contrast with Pastor Gideon in last week’s “99 Problems”, who was humble enough to admit to his parish that he didn’t have the words to comfort Dylan’s parents, as well as to see beyond his love to his daughter to see that she wasn’t herself anymore. This also gives us insight into Dean being able to kill Leah in last week’s episode and being able to kill Zachariah in this week’s episode; for all the lack of hope and desperation, Dean has become an empty channel for God’s Will to flow through. Isn’t that the essence of being a servant of God?

While Zachariah’s demise was inevitable, I didn’t know how the writers were going to go about doing it. I was expecting God to get rid of him, either by killing him or stripping him of his powers and authority (just like Zachariah seemed to have been expecting, too), but I’m glad I’m not on the writing team because this was so much better: at the end, Zachariah set himself up for being killed by a filthy pig human.

Oh, the irony.

It’s all the more interesting that if Zachariah hadn’t had such a huge ego, i.e. if he was, like Pastor Gideon, a true servant of God, he would have accepted Dean’s offer and sacrificed himself for the greater good. But his self-importance, arrogance, and disdain for humans got the better of him.

Zachariah left us with one last fascinating question. In the Beautiful Room, he told Dean that this is exactly how God told him how it would “play out”. If Supernatural’s God is based on the Bible, then He is the All-Knowing, which would mean He knew what was going to happen. This implies that God knew what was going to happen, i.e. that Zachariah’s ego was going to get him killed. Did God want this to happen? Or is He simply testing his sons? Or is it because God gave us the gift of free will, He can’t swoop in and intercede as His whim, and like a parent who knows he must let his child walk alone at the risk of falling, God watched in agony as Zachariah’s ego finally got the best of him?

The meticulous breaking apart of Dean in the last couple of episodes climaxes in the second scene when, alone in a motel room so similar to the ones we have seen him and Sam stay at in the last five years, he packs the little that he owns, his leather jacket, his father’s gun, the keys to the Impala, placing on top of them a handwritten letter (we don’t know to whom, but I’m guessing the intended recipient is Sam). He then closes the box and addresses it to Bobby. But, in the first of many reversed role scenes in this episode, Sam appears, and, with the helps of a furious Castiel, brings Dean back to Bobby’s.

As those closest to him attempt to treat him delicately, Dean hides behind a wall of anger by continually provoking them. He sends out some pretty nasty shots, too, which I found understandable but still extremely shocking. He starts at the motel by attacking Sam (“All you’ve ever done is run away!”). It’s already a pretty low blow, but the next one is even worse when Dean taunts Sam: “Just remember. You’re not all hopped up on demon blood this time”. Both comments are way below the belt, all the more that Sam’s mistakes were lessons he has learned from (“And it was a mistake! Every single time!”), and therefore not in vain.

Back at Bobby’s, Dean attacks the rest of the group: “Eight months of turning pages and screwed pooches, but tonight, tonight’s when the magic happens.” The worst, though, was delivered in response to Bobby’s genuine concern: “You’re not my father”. It was Dean’s worst moment in the last five years, and he knows it; his avoiding Sam’s accusing glance is ample proof of that. Again, Dean of all people knows that the relationship between him and Bobby is more of a father-son one than he ever had with John, which, again, begs the same question mentioned above.

I have been arguing that Dean’s meticulous deconstruction is only to enable the writers to build him up again. Dean’s anger is his last defence to protect the tiny kernel of hope he still holds deep inside. His anger is also a sign that he doesn’t want to not believe. I would even argue that his wanting to say yes to Michael is not because he doesn’t believe; in fact, it implies that he does believe in something: Michael. In the words of Amatu’l-Bahá Rúhíyyih Khánum: “To walk where there is no path/To breath where there is no air/To see where there is no light/This is Faith”.

One of the veils blinding Dean from believing is guilt: “Think of the number of people we got killed, Sam.” Not only do I think Sam is right (it’s not their fault), I find that Dean’s guilt is actually rather insulting to the memory of those who died fighting. Dean needs to figure out a way to balance fulfilling his responsibilities while not being buried under the weight of guilt. Sam is much more mature with this; he is obviously shaken by each death, but he deals with it and carries on. Sam’s maturity makes Dean’s doubt all the more puzzling.

Dean is so caught up in his guilt that it’s making him miss out on the best ally he has: Sam. Those of you who have read my reviews for a long time know how harsh I used to be with Sam, and how I have come to appreciate his newfound maturity. And I think that at the end of the episode Dean finally realises that his fears are outdated, and that the faithful, loyal, and strong brother he always wanted has been beside him for a couple of months now and isn’t going anywhere.

The fact that deep down Dean still believes has been proven twice: in last week’s episode when Dean was able to kill Leah and again this week when he was able to kill Zachariah. After all, we had been told previously that only an angel could kill an angel. So either the rules have changed,  Zachariah isn’t an angel anymore, or Dean is acquiring angel-like virtues.

This is Supernatural’s current big question: how did he do it? The camera zoomed in on Dean’s eyes while Zachariah was bleeding out, and we saw a flash in them. Does it mean Dean has acquired angel-like powers? Or perhaps it’s symbolic, that although Dean is still human, he has become more of a servant of God than Zachariah has been in awhile, and in a way, the torch has been passed to him.

All this makes the character development in this season all the more interesting. Dean has been beaten down so low that he knows he can’t do it alone. Despite the fact that he was able to kill Leah and Zachariah, he still needs Sam and others to continue fighting. If Dean remains true to himself, as he has up to now, he’s going to realise that there is something else that has helped him all along to remain a true servant, i.e. his faith in God, the very same faith he has been denying for so long.

The role reversal has come to an end as Dean’s hope is finally rekindled. And kudos must be given to Sam for dealing with this delicate situation in a way he certainly wouldn’t have been able to a mere year ago.

Sam’s actions as the more responsible brother included him tracking Dean down to the motel and staying at Dean’s bedside, waiting for him to regain consciousness after being beaten up by Castiel – two things Dean had up to now done regularly. The best reversed-role moment was  when Sam lets Dean out of Bobby’s safe room to help rescue Adam. Sam demonstrates yet again his newfound level of maturity when he doesn’t let Dean goad an angry reaction out of him with “You know if tables were turned, I’d let you rot in here. Hell, I have let you rot in here.”

How did it come to this? While Sam understanding and accepting his past mistakes is an essential part of it, what really made a difference this time is that Sam was able to set aside his anger. I was especially impressed with Sam’s relatively calm answer to Dean’s taunting “You’re not all hopped up on demon blood”. And come to think, Sam hasn’t been angry in the last couple of weeks, as if Dean’s weakness brought out the best in his little brother. So the “point of no return” could also be with regard to Sam’s self-perceived role as a responsible adult who is just as capable as his older brother of making a difference.

Sam’s unconditional faith in his brother is what saved the day. He was the only one who still believed in Dean’s strength, so much so that he turned to him to help getting Adam back from Zachariah, despite everyone else, Castiel, Bobby and even Dean thinking it’s a bad idea. It might seem like blind faith to some, but I think that Sam’s newfound maturity has also given him the clarity to see Dean for who he really is, rather than who he’s pretending to be.

One of the most poignant scenes in this season is the emotionally charged one between Sam and Dean right after Dean tells Zachariah to summon Michael. Sam looked so shocked, hurt, and disappointed; Dean looked upset, weak, broken. Sam looks away, as if in anger and disgust and something flickers on Dean’s face – he’s hesitating. Sam looks back to his brother and holds his gaze, as if begging him, yet again holding out hope; Dean’s face relaxes, he smiles and winks at Sam. All of this without a single word.

Ah, Jared and Jensen. You guys rock.

Dean had previously apologized for his behaviour towards Sam, but I don’t think it was ever as sincere as when he told him, “I don’t know if it’s being a big brother, or what, but to me you’ve always been this snot-nosed kid I’ve had to keep on the straight and narrow. I think we both know that that’s not you anymore. I mean hell, if you’re grown up enough to find faith in me, the least I can do is return the favour.” The bond between the two has not only survived, but thrived; it’s yet again them against the world. Dean might not fully believe in God yet but he believes in his relationship with Sam again, which makes me hope for some great Winchester brother moments again (like in season one’s “Hell House”).

But the question of Sam’s hope remains. He mentioned in “99 Problems” that he didn’t think God cared anymore, that the only thing keeping him going is Dean. While it’s touching and adorable, it’s also dangerous in that Dean is a fallible human. What was Sam going to do had Dean not been able to find hope again?

I would love to have a couple of Sam-centric episodes, as the question of Sam’s hope continues to tickle my fancy. Does he really believe what he told Paul in “99 Problems”, or was it a defense mechanism of sorts? Is his only source of hope his desire for redemption? And what about Sam’s faith? Sam has always been the brother with the most faith – at least, in appearance. But it is the true, strong kind of faith? Does he only believe in Dean? Or does he, too, believe in God?

The concept of family is, of course, not as simple as “Mommy, Daddy and the kids”, most certainly not in Supernatural. The exploration of this concept started right from the pilot and has gradually expanded from blood connections to those we choose to call family, namely through Bobby, Adam, and Castiel.

Bobby gave Dean the most important lesson of all: real loyalty to your family means carrying on even when it’s the last thing you want to do. It was heartbreaking to hear Bobby admit that the thought of suicide is a constant one, even more so that the only reason he has yet to do it is Dean: “That’s the round I mean to put through my skull. Every morning, I look at it. I think, ‘Maybe today is the day I’ll flip the lights out.’ But I don’t do it. I never do it. You know why? Because I promised you I wouldn’t give up!” What a slap in Dean’s face, whose anger had just made him tell Bobby, “You’re not my father”.

Is Bobby more of a father to the Winchester brothers than John was? While many fans are still bitterly angry at John for having put his sons through so much, I don’t think a parent’s worth is judged by what they did as much as the reasons why they did it. Is John a worse father than the rich one who buys a huge house for his family, only to never be home, cheat on his wife, and disparage his children when they do not make the father look good?

It’s probably going to be easier for Adam to accept that John was a good father to him once he knows the truth about the Winchesters and he realises that John’s absence was an attempt to not infect his third son’s life with the “Winchester Curse”. It’s interesting how Sam and Dean long for his stable life as much as he longs for theirs, at their father’s side what with the grass being greener on the other side and all.

Dean and Sam taught Adam an important lesson too when they attempted to rescue him. The three might not have known each other for long, but the two older Winchester brothers have proven that they do consider Adam as family by their actions, all the more so that, at the end of the episode, Sam and Dean look devastated when they lose Adam. Blood in itself doesn’t make for family, but the way people of the same bloodline treat one another does.

How terrible for Sam and Dean to find and lose Adam twice. I wish he had stayed on this time, especially since he likes cheeseburgers and beer just like Dean does and, most importantly, he has the same attitude as the eldest Winchester, which promises some awesome brother moments.

We can only guess at what happened to Adam. The fact that the Beautiful Room and everything in it simply disappeared leads me to think that Adam was taken by Michael and is not dead.

While he isn’t related to any of them or didn’t take the place of a family figure – heck, he isn’t even human – Castiel’s relationship with the Winchesters, and particularly with Dean, makes him as much family in my opinion as Adam. Castiel’s entrance in this episode was reminiscent of Dean’s in previous episodes and his anger came in sharp contrast to Sam’s calm. Not that any of us can blame him, really. After all, the poor angel has been through a lot. He has already killed many of his brothers (angels), has been banished from Heaven, and can’t find God.

No wonder he snapped and beat the living daylights out of Dean.

Can his faith be rekindled, after witnessing Dean giving up? His anger was epic and his disdain palpable. I found it interesting that despite this, Castiel was still willing to sacrifice himself during his last fight scene. It seems like Castiel’s faith in Dean is in the same state as Dean’s faith in God: thoroughly battered, denied but still there, albeit really small. Since Castiel’s crisis of faith deepened because of Dean’s defeatism it could be that Dean’s newfound hope is going to help Castiel continue his search for an answer. Perhaps a Castiel-centric episode is due.

Redemption was one of the many underlying themes in this episode. Zachariah sought it when God gave him a second change, but his arrogance made him lose it. It makes me wonder if God’s purpose was to give Zachariah a second chance at shedding his arrogance, not at convincing the Winchesters to say yes.

Despite his newfound maturity, Sam’s need for redemption is still present. One of Sam’s strengths is that he doesn’t have the ego that Zachariah had, and most importantly, that he has learned from the mistakes he previously made. Hopefully he will be able to seek real redemption this time.

Dean is probably in need of some redemption himself, after having seriously hurt those closest to him. But I have the impression that Sam has already fully forgiven him and that Bobby will too – after a good talking to, of course. As for Castiel… the fury of the angel was something to behold, but since he hasn’t quite lost himself yet, perhaps there is a chance that will work out as well.

This episode highlights yet again the main weakness of Lucifer’s camp, this time by contrasting it with the ever increasing consolidation of the ranks of the Winchesters’ side. The lack of unity within Lucifer’s camp and also within the company of God’s angels is going to be their downfall, whereas the increasing unity in the other camp is going to be the cornerstone of their victory. Perhaps this episode marks the point of no return because the boys are not only more mature and more united, but also and especially because the opposite side is breaking into factions and that this is the first time the Winchesters use this to their advantage.

TV Review: Supernatural Season 5, Episode 17: 99 Problems

Oh. My. God.

Those were the words that rang in my head over and over as the closing credits of Supernatural’s episode “99 Problems” rolled on my screen. What a poignant ending. If he wasn’t already, this is probably the episode that forever endeared Dean Winchester to all Supernatural fans.


Dean is frantically driving the Impala, carrying an injured Sam away from a horde of demons. It looks like they are in the clear when suddenly they are faced with a flaming truck blocking the road. The demons break into the car and are about to drag the Winchesters out when suddenly other people arrive. They spray the demons with holy water from a fire truck and start what seems to be an exorcism ritual over a loudspeaker. One of them approaches and warns them that it’s the Apocalypse.

Needless to say, the brothers are shocked. They show the man, Rob, and his friends the contents of the trunk of the Impala to convince them they are on the same side. Their saviours take the Winchesters back to town, in Blue Haven (Minnesota), heavily barricaded by both physical obstacles (cement blocks) and demon-specific ones (demon traps). They enter a church where the Reverend is performing a triple wedding (apparently, the town has had eight weddings so far that week) and where all the guests are openly carrying shotguns. After the ceremony is over, the Reverend spends some time with the Winchester brothers and takes them to the church basement, where the townsfolk (including children) are making various demon-fighting weapons.

When the brothers meet Reverend Gideon’s daughter, Leah, they realise that she is a prophet, and she is the one who has been receiving messages and guidance from the angels to help fight the Apocalypse. A little concerned by this unusual turn of events, Sam leaves a message for Castiel on his voicemail (“I left him a message. I think.”). On the one hand, the brothers are concerned that the angels are using the townsfolk to do their dirty work, but as Dean puts it, as least they are “running to the exits in orderly fashion.”

The church bell rings and the bartender, Paul, tells the brothers it means Leah has had a vision. There is going to be another attack, and a team is put together, led by the Reverend and assisted by the brothers. The team defeats the demons (in a great fighting sequence) and the brothers can’t help but appreciate the fact that they are not alone (“I guess that’s what it’s like.” “What?” “Having backup.”).

But things immediately start taking a turn for the worse when Dylan, a local teenager, is killed while under the Winchesters’ supervision. At the funeral service, Dylan’s parents, Rob and Jane, blame the brothers for the death. While the Reverend struggles for words, Leah has a vision and predicts that Dylan and all the others who have passed on will come back when the dead rise come Judgment Day. Leah tells the townsfolk that they are the chosen ones, and if they follow the angels’ commandments, they will be given Paradise on Earth.

These new commandments preclude gambling, drinking, and pre-marital sex (“Dean, they basically just outlawed 90 percent of your personality!”). Dean tells Sam that it’s not their call to decide if this situation is acceptable or not. It seems like more of Dean’s I-don’t-care attitude, but he then goes to talk to Leah, and we realize that Dean desperately wants to believe what Leah is saying – even at the expense of his lifestyle. She tells him that while things will get very bad, their ultimate victory is inevitable. Dean admits that being chosen feels like a curse, and Leah points out: “Must be hard, being the vessel of Heaven and having no hope”

Meanwhile, Sam is at the bar with Paul for a now illegal drink. Paul is not comfortable with the new religious fervour that has gripped the town; he believes in being authentic, and not praying to a God he doesn’t believe in just because it’s the Apocalypse. Sam admits for the first time that he thinks God stopped caring.

When Sam joins Dean back at the motel, he informs him that the communications towers have been shut down, isolating the town from the rest of the world. Sam wonders if the angels are having their fun, but Dean doesn’t want to pursue the conversation. Despite the curfew, he goes for a walk.

The Reverend and some townspeople – including Jane – follow an upset Leah to Paul’s bar. The angels have told Leah that they can’t go to Paradise because there are still some people who are disobeying the commandments. They want to destroy all the alcohol and have Paul leave town, but he refuses. Dean, hearing the commotion, walks in on them and helps the Reverend try to keep tempers down. Amidst more commotion, Jane shoots Paul dead, claiming, “No one is going to stop me from seeing my son again.”

Back at the motel, Castiel appears to Sam. Castiel is so drunk he can barely stand straight. Sam brings Castiel up to speed on the situation in Blue Haven, and Castiel shocks Sam by revealing that Leah is not a prophet.

Dean comes back to the motel the next morning, covered in Paul’s blood, surprised to see Castiel (“Where the hell have you been?” “On a bender.”). He sets matters straight: Leah is the Whore of Babylon, who rises when Lucifer walks the earth: “And she shall come, bearing false prophecy. This creature has the power to take a human form and read minds.” The real Leah has probably been dead for months; the demons are under her control and the exorcisms fake. And the reason why Leah is doing this is to lure the people into performing acts – like Jane killing Paul – that will send them to hell. The way to kill Leah is to drive a stake made of a cypress tree from Babylon into her. But this has to be done by a true warrior of God, and what with Castiel rebelling against Heaven, Sam going demon-blood crazy (“Sam, of course, is an abomination”) and Dean losing hope, the only true warrior at hand is Reverend Gideon.

At the church, Jane is seeking comfort from Leah, and her father is deeply troubled by what she is telling Jane. He is even more troubled when, at church, Leah tells the congregation that there are a couple more sinners left in the community that need to be taken care of, i.e. burned alive. When the Reverend tries to stop her, Leah threatens to expose him as a sinner too.

A bewildered Reverend Gideon has his world spun on its axis when, after Castiel brings him to the motel room using his power (thus convincing him he’s an angel), he is told who Leah really is. As the small band prepares to go face Leah, Dean gives Castiel aspirin to help him with his hangover; Castiel admits that he doesn’t know how Dean handles having a deadbeat Dad.

Under Leah’s supervision, the ‘good’ townsfolk are herding the ‘bad’ ones into a basement closet, including kids. But when Leah tells them to burn them alive, Jane and Rob realise that something is wrong. Leah heads over to Gideon’s office and is ambushed by the foursome. But Gideon wavers as ‘Leah’ begs her father not to hurt her, which gives her enough time to overcome Castiel, Gideon, and the Winchesters. Leah runs back to the basement where she turns the townspeople against Gideon by claiming he’s a demon. A fight ensues and Leah straddles Dean. As she is choking the life out of him, he reaches for the stake and runs it through her. To everyone’s surprise, including Leah’s, it kills her; Dean somehow still qualifies as God’s warrior.

Back at the motel, while Sam tends to a bleeding Gideon and Castiel is lying on one of the beds, still a little fuzzy from Leah’s attack, Dean takes the Impala and leaves. He drives all night and arrives the next morning at Lisa’s house. She asks him if he’s alright, and he admits that he’s not. He tells her that he wanted her to know that when he does picture himself happy, it’s with her and Ben. She’s shaken by this admission, and realises that Dean is about to do something stupid. She begs him not to do whatever he’s thinking of doing, and he tells her that he has to before leaving.

Michael Shanks guest starred in this episode (to the joy of SG1 fans, Pip in particular). He was, as always, quite fantastic and although it’s probably not quite doable, I’d love to see him in another episode of Supernatural.

The title of the episode, of course, has to do both with the episode number (which is, you guessed it, 99), as well as a reference to Jay Z’s song, “99 Problems” (although the chorus would have to be reworked somewhat to suit this episode).

When the Winchesters first walked into Blue Haven, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the future Dean saw earlier in the season, in the episode “The End” (504). The visual reminder of what could be makes the march toward a bad ending seem all the more inevitable. Thank you, Julie Siege, for toying so with my emotions so.

I think I have been watching and analyzing way too many episodes of Fringe lately, because I couldn’t help but wonder if the church’s address (number 9160) has anything to do with, well, anything. It was just so prominent and stood out. I of course thought of the Bible. But where to look? Since I’m no Bible expert (I read it and have yet to understand 1% of it), so I’d love to hear from someone who is. J.J. Abrams, I blame you for messing with my head. I shudder to think of the consequences had I also been a Lost fan.

Castiel provided for sombre levity in a way that both suited the hopelessness of the character and that of the situation while staying true to the acerbic wit and humour of the series. First was his voicemail message (“You have reached the voicemail of…” “I don’t understand. Why do you want me to say my name?”). Then, of course, there was Drunk!Castiel whose drunken desperation is a poignant contrast to his previous seemingly unshakable faith in God. Misha Collins’ performance, enhanced by that of Jared Padalecki as a surprised yet still in control Sam and that of Jensen Ackles, as a not-quite-hopeless-but-getting-there Dean made the scene between the three of them (when Dean comes back to the motel to find Castiel there) priceless.

TV Review: Supernatural, Season 5, Episode 16: Dark Side of the Moon

Supernatural continues its meticulous deconstruction of Dean in the 16th episode of its fifth season, “Dark Side of the Moon”. The episode’s plot is relatively simple: Sam and Dean are killed by hunters angry at Sam starting the Apocalypse.

In Heaven, Sam and Dean are told by Castiel to look for Joshua, an angel who talks to God. Meanwhile, the brothers have to dodge Zachariah, whose powers of persuasion are much stronger on his turf, and who hasn’t given up on forcing Dean’s hand at saying yes to Michael. While in Heaven, Sam and Dean cross paths with some familiar faces: Ash and Pamela, who help them attain Joshua’s presence. Unfortunately, the message from God is grim; Sam and Dean return to earth with Dean a little more broken than before.

The concept of heaven developed as a sort of replay of one’s “greatest hits” in the form of memories and happy places. As Ash explains it, there isn’t one heaven; it’s more like a collection of billions of little heavens, like Disneyland. It’s an interesting yet depressing construct – that we, social beings at heart, are meant to live out eternity alone in our little worlds. Perhaps it’s a reflection of the individualistic society we live in, and perhaps the billions of souls who lived and died in less individualistic societies in the past have a ‘shared heaven’.

The first scene of Dean was heart-wrenching, as we see him go back to 1996, when things were so much simpler (well, relatively so). He was still Sam’s awesome older brother who sneaked him away from their father to light some firecrackers for the 4th of July. Superimpose that nostalgic moment with Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” (the second time this song was featured on Supernatural) and you got yourself quite a tear-jerker not even five minutes into the episode.

As soon as Dean grasps where he is, his first concern is, of course, Sam. Castiel, communicating with him through the Impala’s radio (which of course would be part of Dean’s heaven), guides him by identifying Dean’s path through heaven, his ‘access mundi’, is the actual road he’s on. I’m assuming again that no one was surprised by this, what with his love of cars and the countless time he spent on the road?


Sam’s conception of heaven is slightly different, as Dean finds him at what Sam describes his ‘first real Thanksgiving’ when he was 11 years old. Needless to say, this provides an opportunity for Dean to make fun of his brother (“Wait, so playing footsie with brace face in there, that’s a trophy moment for you?”).

Realising that they are in heaven confuses Sam:

Sam: How are we in Heaven? … You I get. Sure. But me? Maybe you haven’t noticed, but I’ve done a few things…?Dean: You thought you were doing the right thing.

Sam: Last I checked, it wasn’t the road to heaven that was paved with good intentions.

The conception of heaven is intimately connected to the conception of the meaning of life on this earth. Is it a ‘reward’ for the good things we have done on earth? If so, there are very few who are going to make it to the penthouse suite. Or is heaven the next phase of our development as spiritual beings? If it’s the next phase of our spiritual development, wouldn’t everyone be headed to a better place, each of which would depend on ourselves, since “heaven and hell are conditions within our own beings”?


Whatever the nature of the Heaven they are in, the brothers quickly realise that something is wrong when everything suddenly starts shaking, the lights in the house go out, and a bright light – reminiscent of the light used by the aliens in The X-Files – pours from the windows to search the inside of the house. Castiel, communicating through a TV, tells the boys about Zachariah pursuing them and tells them how to get to Joshua and, most importantly, why:

Castiel: You think maybe, just maybe, we should find out what the hell God has been saying?
Dean: Wow. Touchy.

What with Dean’s past comments regarding God, I wasn’t sure which way the rest of the conversation would go; needless to say, I (and probably a couple of fans out there) was a little surprised at Dean’s willingness to fulfill Castiel’s request without a single quip or negative comment.

I have been wondering for awhile if the meticulous deconstruction of Dean is being done to tear away the veils that are keeping him – and, by proxy, Sam – from becoming the two people they need to be to fight the Apocalypse.


Dean finds a road in the closet in the form of a car track, complete with loop the loop. He and Sam are transported into yet another memory, that of a four-year-old Dean wearing a “I Wuv Hugz” T-shirt playing in his bedroom – yet another glimpse into what could have been. Of course Dean can’t help but stay a little longer in this memory (“Sam. Please. One minute”), during which he remembers a particularly difficult time in John and Mary’s relationship. This offers Sam insight into his brother’s psyche (“I just never realised how long you’ve been cleaning up Dad’s messes.”).

And we also find out that perhaps the reason why Dean loves pie so much isn’t only because it tastes so good (how I love me some pie), but rather because of a powerful emotional connection which we had guessed before, but never really had proof of (“You are my little angel. How about some pie?”).

It’s all the more interesting that this is the first time either we the audience or the Winchester brothers realise that Mary and John didn’t have the perfect marriage the latter insisted they had:

Sam: Dad always said they had the perfect marriage.
Dean: It wasn’t perfect until after she died.

It’s as if once we don’t have something any more that we can see beyond its limitations. I wonder if this episode – i.e. John moving out for a couple of days – was right before Mary’s death, and if this in any way influenced John in his quest for Azazel.


The contrast between Dean’s ‘greatest hits’ with the ones from Sam is rather jarring. The boys find themselves at Flagstaff, in a cabin of sorts where Sam hid away at some point in their young lives. Apparently he ran away under Dean’s watch, and the latter spent two weeks looking all over for him. Sam’s happiness at remembering the joy he felt at Flagstaff isn’t easy for Dean to bear. It becomes even harder for Dean once they step into Sam’s next memory: the night when Sam left Dean and their father for college, an event that ranks pretty low in Dean’s life (“This is your idea of heaven? Wow. This is like one of the worse nights of my life.”).

While I’m tempted to accuse Sam of being self-centered as I have in the past, it begs to be mentioned that Dean doesn’t make it easy on his younger brother to see things from his perspective. And as is clearly shown by the look of guilt on Sam’s face, he doesn’t feel proud of himself once he realises what Flagstaff means to Dean. Quite honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised that once Sam really dies, Flagstaff will not be part of his ‘greatest hits’ anymore.

And so, while Sam is, to some extent, self-centered, he definitely isn’t either uncaring or devoid of guilt. It also begs to be mentioned that Sam’s version of Heaven might have angered Dean because he took it personally, and had he been less self-centered – yes, I said it! – Dean would have realised that while Sam’s departure was hard for him, it wasn’t because of him; it was because of Sam’s own limitations and difficulties dealing with the life John had chosen for them. It doesn’t mean Sam doesn’t love either his brother or his father; for are these moments ‘greatest hits’ for Sam because he is turning away from his family, or rather because he is turning away from the heavy responsibility of being a hunter, as well as starting the Apocalypse?

Unfortunately (or fortunately?), their discussion is interrupted by none other than Zachariah, from which the brothers can’t run away from – until the timely intervention of none other than Ash. Back at the roadhouse – Ash’s slice of heaven – the boys meet up with Pamela. Together they come up with a plan to get Sam and Dean to the Garden, where they will be able to meet with Joshua.

Before the plan is put together, we do find out something interesting — that Sam and Dean have been in heaven before. Ash says, “This ain’t the first time you’ve been here! I mean you boys die more than anyone I have ever met. … You don’t remember. God, angels must have Windexed your brains.”

Even more interesting is that not only hasn’t Ash found either Mary or John Winchester, but that even equipped with a ‘Heaven scanner’, he has never heard about Ellen and Jo coming arriving in Heaven. I wonder why.

At the ‘Roadhouse’, Dean had this interesting exchange with Pamela:

Pamela: I know Michael wants to take you out for a test drive. … what happens if you play ball with him? Worse case.
Dean: A lot of people die.
Pamela: And then they come here! Is that really so bad? Look. Maybe you don’t have to fight it so hard. It’s all I’m trying to say.

I have had more than a bit of a hard time with this exchange. Pamela does have a point, in that those who are going to die in the fight between Michael and Lucifer are headed to a better place. However, does this give a good reason for Dean to say yes to Michael without looking for another way out?

Then again, by not saying yes, Dean is allowing demons to run the Earth, and ultimately, the very same people he doesn’t want killed were he to say yes to Michael are suffering. Doesn’t it make more sense to say yes now that Lucifer is in a body that can’t contain him for much longer, have Michael and Lucifer battle it out and end the suffering of all the people caught in the Apocalypse? I know that were I given the choice, I would gladly die in the crossfire of the battle between Michael and Lucifer if I knew Michael was most probably going to win and this win ensures that those of us who are still alive can live happily ever after.


The boys’ meeting with Joshua was fascinating. I don’t know if it’s a sign of my personal limitations regarding my understanding of concepts such as faith, free will, and detachment, but I have yet to understand fully the reasons behind many things.

First off, why is Joshua’s Garden yet another concept in Heaven centered on the individual? (“You see what you want here.”) Just like humans are social beings that are meant to live together, shouldn’t Heaven be about being together and continuing our spiritual development through social interactions? After all, no one has been able to develop spiritual qualities in a cave! I guess that, yet again, it depends on one’s perception of the meaning of life in the first place.

Second, Joshua tells the boys that God is walking the Earth. Is He using as a vessel? If so, who is it?

Third, God’s message was rather harsh. He already knows everything (duh) and apparently wants the boys to back off and let things run their course. To top it off, God doesn’t want to intervene, because “He doesn’t think it’s His problem.”

Needless to say, Dean isn’t very happy with this, and it leads him deeper into his crisis of faith:

Joshua: Magic amulet or not, you won’t be able to find Him.
Dean: But He can stop it. He could stop all of it.
Joshua: I suppose He could. But He won’t. …
Dean: So He’s just going to sit back and watch the world burn?
Joshua: I know how important this was to you, Dean. I’m sorry.
Dean: Forget it. Just another dead beat dad with a bunch of excuses. Well I’m used to that. I’ll muddle through.
Joshua: Except you don’t know if you can this time. You can’t kill the devil. And you’re losing faith: in yourself, your brother, and now this. God was your last hope. I just… I wish I could tell you something different.

Why is Dean’s faith being so meticulously being taken apart? Is it because there really is no hope, and we should expect season six to be about the self-destruction of Lucifer? Or is it rather because to better strengthen his faith, Dean’s must be first taken apart?

Keeping in mind his fight with Sam, all of this makes me wonder why Dean threw the amulet in the garbage can (and I do hope Sam fished it out). Is it because of the God connection, or because he realised that Sam’s heaven is a place without his family?


Even worse than Dean’s crisis of faith was the shattering of Castiel’s faith in God as he is denied once again. His swearing at Him was absolutely heartbreaking and, to be honest, more so than Dean’s hopelessness. Why is this happening? Is Castiel’s faith, like Dean’s, being broken only to be rebuilt, stronger than ever? It reminds me yet again of another quote: “Thou beholdest how the tempestuous winds of tests have caused the steadfast in faith to tremble, and how the breath of trials hath stirred up those whose hearts had been firmly established…” Is Castiel only trembling at the moment? Will he be able to cling, despite a momentary wavering, to his faith? And what will be his reward if he does manage to remain steadfast? “Blessed are the steadfastly enduring, they that are patient under ills and hardships, who lament not over anything that befalleth them, and who tread the path of resignation…”

Which brings us back to the biggest question of this episode: why doesn’t God want to intervene? Each time I think about this question, I can’t help but think of why a parent wouldn’t intervene if his kids were fighting – and a real fight, involving punches, broken noses, and torn ligaments.

This in turn brings us back to what we believe in. If we believe that there is such a thing as an all-Loving God, then there must be a loving reason, however mysterious it might be, why all of this is happening. If this is the case, perhaps God knows that were He to intervene, it would only serve to delay the Apocalypse. Perhaps He could get rid of Lucifer permanently, but as we have seen, what with Zachariah’s attitude problem for one, the problems are a lot deeper than Lucifer being a bad boy. It’s about pettiness, greed, avarice – it’s about expurgating the real reason why Lucifer fell in the first place.

Which brings us back to free will. If God takes care of this mess, what’s the point of having given us free will? It would be like the parent teaching a child to walk – what’s the point of teaching it to walk in the hallways of the house if the parent is going to keep it in his arms once outside? While the parent would be doing so to protect the child, it would only be doing him a disservice. Better let the child fall a couple of times and learn how to walk rather than remain dependent for the rest of his life.

Being a spoiler junkie, I heard a little while ago that this episode was going to be about the brothers going to Heaven. I couldn’t help but chuckle at what I thought was the inevitable embarrassing scene of Dean being in a strip club or something to that effect, reminiscent of Anna’s crashing of his dream in “The Song remains the Same” (5×13). The fact that nowhere in Dean’s heaven do we see sign a sign of anything remotely connected to naked women is telling in itself, and demonstrates yet again that his macho-ness is, for the most part, a carefully constructed veneer.

Why are the writers revisiting a concept that has been visited so many times before? Is it only to kill time, or are they building up (or rather, breaking down) to something that depends on this meticulous deconstruction? Or are they taking advantage of the fact that their audience has built such a strong emotional connection with the show’s characters that they can delve deeper and deeper into such themes?

After an awesome five-year run, I choose to trust the writing and production team of Supernatural and eagerly await to see where this deconstruction is taking us.

TV Review: Supernatural, Season 5, Episode 15: Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid

This week, Supernatural, next week, Fringe; the spring 2010 hellatus is finally over and the last stretch before the end of this TV season has started. Hurrah!

Supernatural is back in fine form, with yet another well-written episode. It made me laugh, it grossed me out, and it made me want to reach into the screen and hug someone (this time it was Bobby) — all the usual ingredients of a great episode. Of course, this episode only being indirectly related to the Apocalypse – we witness the consequences of the Third Horseman’s arrival, the one on the pale horse, without ever seeing him – it was bound to cause quite a stir on fan forums.

But more on that later.

There was a lot of nostalgia in this episode, as if we are made to regret the past, when things were a lot simpler (ah, season one’s innocent looking Sam and Dean). “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” is the title of a great 1982 film noir/comedy starring Steve Martin; the episode starts with a heavy B-movie feel. Don’t you miss those? I sometimes do. And in yet another nostalgia-inducing moment, the episode’s first scene is a “Thriller”-worthy one; unfortunately, no one was wearing a red leather jacket, nor was there any dancing involved.

Zut alors, as the French say.

And so a gory, zombie-worthy bloodbath kicked off the episode. The first zombie went after the man who killed him in the first place, which is already pretty atypical; don’t zombies usually just go after fresh human flesh, regardless of whose it is?

And that’s not all; other than that revenge killing, it turns out that he and the rest of the zombies are, well, quite humane, and haven’t even attempted a gory, flesh-eating rampage on the town. And on top of that, the murdering zombie, having exacted vigilante justice, didn’t even get arrested.

So what are Sam and Dean to do? On the one hand, they have a town filled with zombies, who we know need to feed on human flesh. They are so hooked on the stuff that nothing else can usually assuage their hunger.

On the other hand, they are faced with a town filled with people who have been reunited with their recently deceased loved ones. Granted they are not quite as alive as before and sport a delicate overall grey tinge; but they are still the people that they used to be, with the memories intact. And so, broken families are put back together, including the father who gets to see his grown children, the son returned to his parents, and the wife that is returned to Bobby.

Yes, Bobby’s wife is also part of the living dead. Who was killed by him after she was possessed by a demon, and who was cremated and who is back, sporting no more than the telltale grey tinge.

This puts the Winchester brothers in quite a bind, one they have experienced before. Do you guys remember the episode “Bloodlust,” the one with the ‘vegetarian’ vampires who thankfully don’t sparkle in the sun? The same ethical dilemma posed itself in “Bloodlust” as it does in “Dead Men don’t Wear Plaid” — are vampires and zombies always monsters? Or can they choose to lead a life that makes them less monstrous? The vampires from “Bloodlust” certainly have been able to; why not the zombies? They might be able to overcome their human flesh lust and become ‘vegetarian,’ no?

By the same token, are humans destined to always be led by their lower, animal nature? Will they be able to band together and help the Winchester brothers fight off the Apocalypse? Or is there a possibility that, as a race, we are going to be able to channel these lower instincts so as to make our higher, spiritual nature shine through as bright as Edward Cullen in the midday sun?

It’s a question that the zombies themselves are wondering about:

Dean: So you are, in fact, a dead guy.
Clay: I don’t know what I am.

And then:

Clay: I can’t believe you were going to shoot me.
Dean: You’re a zombie.
Clay: I’m a taxpayer.

It’s a very interesting discussion on the meaning of what makes a person a person. We have made great strides in the last couple of decades in our understanding that a human being is a human whatever his size, shape, colour, etc (hopefully sooner rather than later prejudices and racism are also going to take a permanent hit). But there are still many areas in which we are uncertain. While we thankfully don’t have to deal with zombies, there are two other situations we do have to deal with and which are strikingly similar to this fictional situation.

On the one hand, we have spiritually dead people, who, while rare, are still terrifying. I’m thinking of sociopathic serial killers, who express no regret at what they did. Are these people humans? Should they be shot as unceremoniously as Dean was planning with Clay?

Then there is the situation, still fictional but potentially achievable, when humans are cryogenically frozen. Are they still humans when they come out of it? If so, why? If not, why not? If souls are always in a state of motion and never of stagnation, does an extended stay in the cooler make the souls of these people better or worse? Or does the cryogenic freezing also freeze up their souls in time?

Certainly not easy questions to answer, are they? Perhaps this is an omen of what is to come — that nothing is either black nor white, but everything is of a shade of grey.

At least in “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid” the shades of grey became obviously black after five days, when all the zombies ‘turned,’ feeding on their loved ones to satisfy their insatiable lust for human flesh.

It gave way to yet another interesting question: was it worth it, having the five days with their loved ones only to have them transform into zombies and consequently have to kill them?

Sam: At least you got to spend five days with her.
Bobby: Yeah. Which makes things about a thousand times worse. She was the love of my life. How many times do I have to kill her?

The mother whose five- or six-year-old son returned saw him attack and kill his own father, then had to let Sam shoot him (in a very poignant and extremely well done scene). After the townspeople are told the truth, they all realise that their loved ones are going to die again. Thankfully, at least none of them had to do it themselves, but it’s still quite difficult.

And what about Bobby?

For five days, his wife was back. Karen Singer seems like a lovely lady and, to Dean’s delight, she bakes the most amazing pies (of which he certainly had his fill). Bobby, whose guilt at having to kill his possessed wife has never been dealt with, is stuck in a bind: does he kill her again, knowing that she is a zombie? Or does he let her be, even at the cost of his own life?

Dean is so worried that Bobby will not be able to kill Karen were she to turn – which she does, inevitably – that he sneaks back into the house even after he was banned from it. But she turns, and Bobby shoots her, and yet another part of him dies.

In itself, Bobby having to kill Karen again because of supernatural forces is pretty horrible; matters are made worse when Karen, on her deathbed, tells Bobby two things. First, that she remembers how she died the first time, and that he had to promise her to do it again before she turns. And second, that The Horseman didn’t simply raise the dead in this town by coincidence. Nay, rather The Horseman wanted Karen to give Bobby a message: they know that Bobby has been helping the boys, that he is the reason why Sam hasn’t said yes to Lucifer, and this is his punishment and a message at the same time. After all, Karen could be brought back again and again and again, enough times for Bobby to either go mad or stop helping Sam and Dean, both of which would isolate the boys even more.

The fighting is getting dirtier and dirtier, is it not?

This latest turn is quite shocking, to be honest. I never would have thought that the writers were going to so thoroughly isolate Sam and Dean by going for their one constant and solid source of support, Bobby. First his legs; now his spirits. It’s even worse than just killing him off. And Bobby is far from okay, which is the more scary that he is one of the big reasons why the boys have yet to accept Lucifer and Michael’s offers.

This was yet again a great character development episode. Before the episode began, we were treated to a recap, in which Dean’s breaking apart at the end of “My Bloody Valentine” and his turning towards the God he had been adamantly denying all this time was put at the forefront. As a small reminder, that came on the heels of Sam’s most recent demon blood relapse; granted, it was certainly not his fault and he did everything he could under the circumstances to fight it, but it was still a blow to the boys. They only have two constant sources of support left, what with the death of Ellen and Jo: Castiel and Bobby.

And so, one of their last two solid rocks of support has been shaken to his core; what is going to happen now?

Again, as pessimism brews on various fan forums, I can’t help but be quite excited at the recent turn that Supernatural has taken.

First off was the fact highlighted in “Abandon All Hope” that the demons are disunited; there is nothing better than disunity within enemy lines to help one find a weakness, exploit it and, ultimately, defeat the enemy. Then there is the fact that Sam and Dean are more and more isolated; they have no one to turn to other than God, whom Dean has been denying all these years and yet to who he finally turned to in “My Bloody Valentine.” And now there is the fact that they are being further pushed into that very corner by Lucifer’s low blow of getting under Bobby’s skin in this episode. It makes me worry about what they are going to do to Castiel.

Another slightly off topic comment I’d like to finish off this review with has to do with something Karen Singer told Dean:

Karen: He’s my husband. My job is to bring him peace, not pain.

I disagree with her view of marriage. It is not her job to bring him peace, nor is it his job to bring her peace; rather, it’s both their jobs to create a household of peace, which implies communication, consultation, and openness. Granted, the circumstances in this episode were extraordinary to say the least, but I just had to put it out there.

After having spent some time on various fan forums the day after the episode originally aired, I once again raise my voice in defence of the recent direction Supernatural has taken. While the momentum towards the final confrontation between the Winchesters and Lucifer has definitely wound down since a sixth season has been announced, it doesn’t make this show any less fascinating to watch. Yes, there is a lot less speed, but it makes for some great character development. I have also been reading about the Apocalypse and Armageddon as described in the Bible and I’m sorry to say this guys, but it doesn’t just happen like that, du jour au lendemain (yes, more French). I have the impression that there is more to these latest episodes than just pulling the inevitable out, and hope to have an answer for you all either before the end of season five, or perhaps as a summer project while we await the return of Supernatural.

But I have to admit I love the fact that there has been so much more character development in the last couple of episodes, and am convinced this is going to make the show’s finale so much more poignant, whenever it is.

And now, I’m off to listen to “Thriller,” probably on a continuous loop, for at least the remainder of today and most of tomorrow.

Some great lines:

Dean: You gave yourself your own nickname? You can’t do that.
Digger: Who died and made you queen?

Sheriff: What did you say your jurisdiction was?
Dean: Our jurisdiction is wherever the United States government sends us.

Dean: Who is that?
Bobby: Karen, my wife.
Dean: Your new wife?
Bobby: My dead wife.

Dean: Awesome. Another horseman. Must be Thursday.

Sam: Yeah. I’m going to regret this.

TV Review: Supernatural, Season 5, Episode 13: The Song Remains the Same

If fan forums can be trusted – and if you choose yours carefully, they can be – this was one of the most anticipated episodes of the season to date, even more so than the season’s premiere. Spoilers had come out a couple of weeks ago regarding billing in this episode, and we knew the actors who had played young John and Mary Winchester were back, making fans guess that this episode would be a flashback or a time travel episode.

The former guess won as Sam and Dean traveled back to 1978 to save their parents from Anna. Yes, Anna the angel, you read that right. Nice Anna, whose huge eyes related a strong sense of innocence, so much so that when she contacted Dean in the middle of an erotic dream, he wasn’t very happy about it:

Dean: I was just, uh, working on a case.
Anna: So this is what you dream about.
Dean: This is awkward.

It was rather heart-wrenching to watch Dean wake up from his dream, as we saw that he doesn’t seem to dream restfully anymore. While in the initial seasons of Supernatural, he would sleep, well, like a normal person, under some sheets, in his sleeping attire, he has been spotted numerous times the last two seasons sleeping fully dressed on top of said sheets – and this time, it looked like he had been sitting on the side of the bed when he simply fell back, asleep.

And not without reason, as it soon comes to light that Anna, of all people, isn’t up to any good this time around. She escaped from the prison in which they put her upstairs (the concept of a prison in heaven is quite a novel one to me, I must admit) with only one intention: to get rid of Sam.

Fortunately, Castiel didn’t allow the boys to meet Anna as she requested when she visited Dean in the above mentioned dream, and quickly reports back her real intentions to the Winchester brothers:

Dean: Really? Anna?
Castiel: It’s true.
Dean: So she’s gone all Glenn Close, huh? That’s awesome.
Castiel: Who’s Glenn Close?
Dean: No one. Just this psycho bitch who likes to boil rabbits.
Sam: So, the… the plan to kill me… would it actually stop Satan?
Dean: No, Sam, come on.
Sam: Cas, what do you think? Does Anna have a point?
Castiel: No. She’s a… “Glenn Close.”

Castiel has, fortunately, a plan: to find Anna and kill her. But soon he realizes that Anna has gone back in the past. She knew he wouldn’t leave the boys unprotected, and that she wouldn’t possibly be able to kill Sam; and so she went back to 1978, before the Winchester brothers were born, to kill John and Mary Winchester.

What has the world come to, that angels are resorting yet again to killing each other.

Obviously, both Sam and Dean insist on accompanying Castiel. Dean, true to himself and yet adorably naive, wants to not only save his parents from Anna, but give his mother a warning about her own future.

I guess Dean hasn’t learned his lesson from the last time he went into the past, but this wish to take advantage of the opportunity and attempt yet again to save his mother’s life is true to his character, and I wouldn’t have expected anything less.

Time traveling isn’t easy, even for angels, and especially with  passengers.

Dean: So, what? You’re like a DeLorean without enough plutonium.
Castiel: I don’t understand that reference.

Sam and Dean insisting on coming with him weakens Castiel considerably, and he collapses on arrival in 1978. The boys set him up in a honeymoon suite (with what money, I don’t know) and set off on their own to save their parents.

The question is, how? After all, this isn’t your typical situation, and the Winchester brothers are quite aware of that:

Dean: What are we going to tell them?
Sam: The truth?
Dean: What, we are going to tell them that their sons have come back from the future to save them from an angel that’s gone Terminator? Those movies haven’t even come out yet!

Thankfully, Dean and Mary have a past (oh, the various layers of implication of this word in the current context is enough to make anyone’s head explode), and Dean manages to also take advantage of the fact that John is curious about Mary’s side of the family, whom he hasn’t met many of.

I wonder why.

This is the first time since Mary’s death that the four Winchesters were together in the same room again. It must have been quite the emotional turmoil for Sam to live through, seeing his mother for the first time, and Jared played this scene amazingly well. A lesser actor could easily have overplayed it and ruined the moment, but he didn’t – yet another proof of how great an actor he is.

The situation was filled with minefields, and Sam, emotional from meeting his mother, stepped right on one:

Sam, to Mary: You’re so beautiful.
Dean: He means that in a non-weird, wholesome, family kind of a way.

Thankfully, Dean has always been quick, and, having already met both Mary and John, was a little less emotional and a little more functional. It was quite amusing, listening to him explaining things to John, about how Sam’s emotional reaction is because Mary is the spitting image of their mother and that Mary’s dad was pretty much like a grandpa to them – it was absolutely wonderful.

Did anyone else realize here that the chances that Mary was pregnant were high? After all, people were dressed pretty lightly, which implied that it was either late spring or early fall – both of which were less than nine months away from Dean’s birthday – January 1979.

While Dean and Sam try to explain things to Mary, Anna, impersonating John’s previous boss, lures John, desperate to have his job back, to the garage, where she is waiting for him. The boys and Mary arrive right on time and send Anna away with the help of the angel banishing sigil (that thing really comes in handy, doesn’t it) drawn by Sam.

Unfortunately, this means that the secret Mary had been desperate to his from John is out, and, understandably, he is furious. As the four speed towards what we recognize as Mary’s parents’ house, John struggles with his feelings:

John: Not another word. Out of any of you. Or so help me God, I will turn this car around.
Dean: Wow. Awkward family road trip.
Sam: No kidding.

The house has been in Mary’s family for the longest time and consequently is ready for action, filled with guns, salt, demon traps, iron ornaments, and holy water. However, it’s not ready to face an angel, the existence of which Mary wasn’t even aware of until Dean and Sam told her about Anna. And so the three of them set to work, readying the house. John is initially left out of things, as he has no experience, but as he himself puts it, he’s still useful, as he cuts his palm to draw the angel-banishing sigil.

Waiting for Anna to appear gives John time to ask some questions, but also for Sam to get some highly unusual yet probably quite effective therapy, which will probably help him in letting go of some more of that anger he has:

John: How long have you known about this hunting stuff?
Sam: Pretty much forever. My Dad raised me in it.
John: You’re serious? … What kind of irresponsible bastard let’s a child anywhere near? You know, you could have been killed! … The number it must have done on your head. Your father was supposed to protect you.
Sam: He was trying. He died trying. Believe me, I used to be mad at him. I used to hate the guy. But now, I get it. He was just doing the best he could. And he was trying to keep it together in this impossible situation. See, my Mom, she was amazing, beautiful, and she was the love of his life, and she got killed, and I think he would have gone crazy if he hadn’t done something. Truth it, my Dad died before I got to tell him that I understand why he did what he did. And I forgive him for what it did to us, and I just… I love him.

Understanding is the first step to forgiveness, and forgiveness is essential to contentment, and being content means that one doesn’t feel angry at things. Which, in the context of this show, is a place we’d definitely love to see Sam get at and stay at, as it implies that Sam would be the safest he has ever been from saying yes to Lucifer.

The most shocking and touching moment, though, happened between Dean and Mary. The former asked the latter for an explanation now that they had a minute. Not knowing how to break it to her, Dean blurts out: “I’m your son,” then proceeds to convince her of the truth of his statement by telling her things that, while she hasn’t done yet, she probably can recognize as things she would do. The most striking one:

Dean: Instead of a lullaby, you would sing “Hey Jude.” That’s your favourite Beatles song.

Straight after one shock, poor Mary had to face another: Sam realised that the best way of dealing with this entire situation – perhaps a little selfishly so – is for Mary to leave John, so that he and Dean would never even exist, downplaying this situation:

Dean: There’s a big difference between dying and never being born. And trust me, we’re okay with that.

I don’t agree with Dean on this. Let’s say for the sake of argument that Mary wasn’t pregnant. If she did choose to leave John or if she choose to go on a 100% effective birth control method, she would knowingly be keeping Dean and Sam from existing. After having met them, and knowing how real they are, wouldn’t doing something that would keep them from existing be akin to killing them? I think that if Mary did walk away, knowing that it would basically annihilate the existence of Dean and Sam, it would be akin to killing them.

(And please, do not make this into an argument for or against birth control and/or abortion – this argument is solely for Mary’s situation had she not already been pregnant with Dean.)

But fortunately, Mary loves John too much, and Dean has already been conceived. (“It’s too late. I’m pregnant.”) Did anyone else smile at that moment with the thought that there were two Deans in that room at the same time?

Trust Anna and Uriel to ruin the moment with a sudden appearance, during which John is incapacitated and Sam is killed. John is given the chance to save Mary by a surprise appearance from a character central to the storyline but who has yet to grace our screens: Michael.

Yes, that Michael, who promptly (and quite easily) kills Anna, sends Uriel away, and puts Mary into temporary sleep to have a few minutes with Dean. No wonder Dean has so many issues. I wonder what that whole Michael-putting-Mary-to-sleep thing did to him in her womb.

The conversation between Dean and Michael was another absolutely fascinating moment in this episode, and I agree with Michael when he says, “Well, I’d say that this conversation is long overdue.” Kudos, by the way, to Matt Cohen for his amazing channeling of both John and Michael, two very different characters, in the same episode.

The main topic of the episode, reflected primarily through the conversation between Dean and Michael, was that of free will, referred to again and again in Supernatural’s last season, ever since the Winchester brothers learned about being Lucifer and Michael’s vessels. We are confirmed in information we already knew: that Dean is Michael’s True Vessel but that, like Lucifer, he could use other vessels. We also find out that the reason why Dean is Michael’s vessel isn’t as simple as Sam being Lucifer’s, but rather that Dean has always been Michael’s vessel because of his bloodline, which descends from that of Cain and Abel, the irony of which cannot escape any Supernatural fan. This is probably why Sam is Lucifer’s vessel, because he’s the younger brother of the same bloodline.

And the situation between Michael and Lucifer isn’t black and white either. It’s not that Michael wants to kill Lucifer, but rather, that Michael has to kill him because of what Lucifer did:

Michael: Lucifer defied Our Father, and he betrayed me, but still, I don’t want this any more than you would want to kill Sam. You know my brother… I practically raised him. I took care of him in a way most people can’t ever understand, and I still love him. But I am going to kill him, because it is right. And I have to. …

Dean: And you are just going to do whatever God says?
Michael: Yes. Because I am a good son.
Dean: Well trust me, pal, take it from someone who knows, that is a dead end street.

The parallels are intriguing. John had asked Dean to kill Sam back in the premiere of season two were things to go wrong; God seems to have asked the same thing of Michael. Does this imply that, if a mere human like Dean was able to work it out without having to obey his father, that an archangel would be able to figure something else out, perhaps by once again trapping Lucifer in hell, rather than killing him?

Too bad Michael isn’t willing to listen to this particular mere human:

Michael: And you think you know better than my Father? One unimportant little man? What makes you think you get to choose?
Dean: Because I gotta believe that I can choose what I do with my unimportant little life.
Michael: You’re wrong. You know how I know? Think of a million random acts of chance that let John and Mary be born, to meet, to fall in love, to have the two of you. Think of the million random choices that you make and yet how each and every one of them brings you closer to your destiny. Do you know why that is? Because it’s not random. It’s not chance. It’s a plan that is playing itself out perfectly. Free will is an illusion, Dean. That’s why you are going to say yes.

The concepts of destiny and free will are really fascinating. If destiny means that our future is basically decided for us, then why have free will? And is there a conception of destiny that can co-exist with that of free will? I think there is. While I certainly am no philosopher, I have come to realise that perhaps ‘destiny’ is what, by token of who we are, is waiting for us to happen. It’s not that God said so, but rather that God knows us so well, that He knows what is going to happen at the end. I would compare it to attentive parents of a toddler; while the toddler has free will to, say, choose between playing with cubes and playing with balls, his parents know that he prefers the cubes. The toddler chose, out of his free will, to play with the cubes, but the parents knew that the ‘destiny’ of the toddler was to play with the cubes because they know him so well. A little simplistic, I know, but also a logical reflection of the possible relationship we would have with an all-knowing parent, i.e. God.

But the way Michael presented it to Dean made him realize that there might not be any other alternative. And Michael makes the pill even harder to swallow when he promises to wipe Mary and John’s memories clear of them; the devastation on his face as he realises that, after everything, Mary is still going to walk into that nursery on that fateful night, is heart-breaking.

On a side note, does the fact that Michael wiped Mary’s memory of information that could have saved her life make Michael an accomplice of sorts to Mary’s murder? And how is it destiny, when Michael clearly meddled, thus sending Mary to her death?

Their talk finished, Michael sends Sam then Dean back ‘home’, where Castiel, not in the best of shape, joins them soon after. And Sam, aware of his own weaknesses that once before made him choose to walk down a terrible path, is also aware of perhaps the one weakness that might make them break whatever promise they have made to each other: “And what if you could save Mom? What would you say?”

The episode finishes with a scene from either December 1978 or January 1979, as a heavily pregnant Mary and John are standing in a ready baby room. Mary purchased a little ceramic angel that is resting above the crib, telling John that she doesn’t understand why she felt like she had to purchase it. The last line of that scene is Mary talking to a still unborn Dean, telling him “angels are watching over you” – which, sometime in the last couple of years, Dean told Sam was not only what their Mom would tell them as she tucked them in at night, but that it was the last thing she ever said to him before that fateful night she died.

Now there are a couple of things I’d like to have clarified. First of all, how were the “angels don’t enter” sigils smudged? Does this mean that while the sigils keep the angels away, they don’t keep their powers out? If so, that kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it?

Second, what’s with the Winchester bloodline that makes them Michael’s chosen vessels, able to withstand his ‘use’ of their body as a vessel without long-term harm? Does this mean that the Winchester side of the family is somehow more involved that the Campbell family (i.e. Mary’s family)?

And third of all, if it’s a bloodline, why doesn’t Michael take Sam as a vessel? I know Sam isn’t Michael’s true vessel, but he’s a Winchester, which means that Michael can use him. It’s a plan that makes perfect sense. If Michael takes Sam as a vessel, not only will Sam be safe from a ‘takeover’ by Lucifer, but Michel-in-Sam could take on Lucifer-in-Nick, and that would be the end of it (especially since Nick is quite literally falling apart, giving Michael-in-Sam quite the advantage). This plan makes even more sense since it’s not going to affect Sam in the long term, as Michael doesn’t “leave behind a drooling mess” when he’s done.

Not to leave you with heavy thoughts, here are some great lines from this episode:

Dean: We should stick around, buy some stock from Microsoft.

Dean: What do I look like, Dr. Angel, Medicine Woman?

Dean: All of a sudden, you really remind me of my Dad.

Dean: Six degrees of Heaven Bacon.

Sam: They all say we say yes.
Dean: I know. It’s getting annoying.