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05 May 2018 @ 03:22 am
Supernatural 13.21  
...or "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Beat the Devil"

This is a chewy episode for me. I wasn't as furious with it as many. I tend to like the writer Bob Berens' weightiness, the lethality of his world and the way he constructs an episode. He is NOT, however, a humorist. And I wish to pieces he stop trying.

A few things Berens is known for (or should be, if we're paying attention to what he gravitates towards) are: blood, gore, creating and writing for interesting female characters, and some serious Sam whump. Me likey.

He also gives us that rare creature in the SPN wilds: the Sam POV. Starting an episode with an acutal Sam dream? Are we dreaming?

No, but how heart-clenching is it that Sam dreams about everyone being safe and sound in the bunker, eating pizza! Because we know—WE KNOW—Sam has been struggling with maintaining optimism this season. When he lets himself think about it … he fears, he doubts. But obviously, Sam's subconscious is still wearing those hopeful, rose-colored glasses.

And btw, I ship Dean/his appetite. All his appetites. (My Dean is a hedonist. He loves creature comforts. Clearly, Sam's subconscious agrees.)

SPN prides itself on its black humor and mixing it with horror. But wow, is the comedy in this episode sophomoric. I cannot, for love nor money, see Rowena and Gabe picking that particular moment to get it on. Show, don't dumb down for us. Trust your audience. Don't go for the cheap yuks. (The Dumbing Down of the Show has been a thing for me, this season especially. Dabb, especially.)

Okay, so, Castiel.

Let's just get this out of the way. Cas, dude, you're a dick. In that kitchen scene? With your royal We's and Ours'? Check yourself, buddy. I get the whole warrior thing and Heaven's in a pickle so you've gotta get Jack back, but pushing Sam's buttons like that, leaning on Sam's penchant for guilt and big-picture, 'Greater Good' protocol, that's just shitty. And the fact Dean stands back there and agrees with Cas? Fun, great choice, guys. (The framing of the scene works faboo for the situation, though, with Sam sitting on one side, Dean and Cas standing over him on the other. Smart staging.)

On to Lucifer. The music cue, “Cat's in the Cradle”, is a bit on-the-nose. I far prefer a less broad, slap-sticky performance from Pellegrino, but he gets there eventually. When he stops pulling faces and reins in his shtick, he's so much more ominous.

Yeah, it's hot when Cas slices Lucifer's throat to get the grace flowing. (I do like me some bad-ass Cas, just not so much when it's used against Sam or Dean.) And yeah, the continuous grace-dripping is a very cool effect. Leaving Rowena alone with Lucifer, welllll, it's not that I don't think she can handle him, but he's such a murderous psycho, he'd kill her in an instant. Which he very nearly does.

I'm glad Rowena gets a jag of conscience and hangs around, after she inadvertently boots Luci into Apocaworld. I think it would've worked better to have left out the monologuing when she's on her way out the door—showing not telling—but finally, finally, one of Sam's decisions isn't punished on the show. Trusting Rowena is paying off, so I won't complain too much!

Once the Winchesters and their resident angels get on The Road, the episode improves, but some of the dialogue is a little … weird. It just doesn't seem like Dean to make note of Sam feeling “lighter, happier, more energetic”. Nor does it sound like Sam to spell out the plan before heading into the tunnel; that would be Dean, all the way.

But OMG, THAT UNDERGROUND SET. It is so friggin' creepy. Dank, claustrophobic, perfect for the ambush … cool as hell. The feral vampires are excellent too. Now, while I wasn't spoiled, there had been a lot of talk among some of my fandom buds predicting that Sam would die before season's end, so when it happened, I wasn't totally surprised. (And I suspect Sam's death will be a catalyst for a baaaaad decision on Dean's part very, very shortly.) It's a glorious death, though! The arterial spray? The wild vampires dragging Sam off down the tunnel, like a six-and-a-half-foot tall ragdoll? Dean's mortified face? DELICIOUSLY GRIM.

Then, after barely looking for Sam down the tunnel, asshole Cas pipes up again and convinces Dean to leave without Sam. Yeah, let me repeat that: CONVINCES DEAN TO LEAVE WITHOUT HIS BABY BROTHER. This seems to be the biggest bone of contention about the episode, split down shipping lines, unsurprisingly. I might be able to buy Cas unable to find Sam—the blood trail drying up, the tunnels a labyrinth—but Dean leaving without Sam? Yeah, no.

Dead!Sam is beautiful. Beautifully sad, eerily believable, I'm almost sorry he gasped back to life. (Okay, I kid. Really, I do.) His angular profile, the way the light gleams off his open, sightless eyes? Kill me now. And the scene that follows between Sam and Lucifer is simply masterful, punctuated by Sam's fearless, furious “What … do you … WANT?!” Pellegrino finally brings the devious, terrifying villain back. And it rocks.

The Travelling Willburys continue towards the rebel camp: Dean, shell-shocked and devastated; Gabriel generally useless except to drop the camp's angel warding (big whoop), and Cas looking constipated. They intercept a wandering band of rebels that happens to include Mary Winchester. Dean's eyes well with tears and goddammit, so did mine. Jensen Ackles, you brilliant monster.

Jack is angered they left Sam behind—thank you, Jack—and Dean shakes off his shock and readies to go back to the tunnel, when the absolute worst scene occurs, and by “worst” I mean the most fantastically devastating for me. Yep, worse than Sam's murder.

Sam stumbles into the camp, and his family's joy is immediately crushed by the fact he is leading Lucifer to the rebels. Themegalosaurus said it best, over on the ol' tumblr machine:

Sam (dreaming): and then Mom will say, “Sam, I always knew you would save me,” and I’ll see in her eyes how happy she is, and how proud
Sam (reality): drags himself into camp with Lucifer behind him, so heavy with shame he can barely meet people’s eyes


Is it next week yet?
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: 'Blood for You' - The Builders and the Butchers
So, pit stop at Mount Doom?: Jesslyryk on May 5th, 2018 08:37 am (UTC)
Hear, hear! I really hope Castiel gets called out at some point for his obliviousness. And Sam PoV, yay! Jared was perfection in that scene with Lucifer. <3__<3

THAT END. So very brutal. I think I might be able to appreciate the episode a little more if there's a worthy payoff next week. *crosses everything*
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffin: pic#124540152quickreaver on May 5th, 2018 04:09 pm (UTC)
Yeah, next week's episode (shit, ALL the episodes from here on out) will put everything in context.

One of Cas' most interesting circumstances as a character is the tug-o-war for him between humanity and angelkind. I'd love to see that revived, thereby making Cas interesting again. Because right now? He's little more than a pain in the ass.

Edited at 2018-05-05 04:10 pm (UTC)
Syl's DarkPlace: acccount iconsylsdarkplace on May 6th, 2018 12:13 pm (UTC)
Agreed. Cas is useless at best; an active detriment at worst.

Cas has once again become Sam's friend more in word than in deed. The scene in the kitchen was infuriating. I know there are those who will say that that's how family is. They take sides and pressure each other to get what they want, but I hate Dean standing behind Cas letting him do the dirty work but visibly supporting him in it. (As an aside, however, I loved that Sam came up with a plan. At least Sam was given the smarts in this ep.)

I don't know of anyone who hasn't criticized Cas convincing Dean to leave the tunnel without even confirming Sam's death. Ridiculously OOC for Dean. After everything that Cas has done, Dean trusted his judgment regarding Sam's life? Really?

Constipation face is Castiel's default expression. Some folks have resting bitchface. Cas has constipation face.
cuddyclothes: Curves Cause Troublecuddyclothes on May 5th, 2018 07:09 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this interesting review! I tend to agree with all of it. Except that I found it funny, decidely excluding Gabriel sliding into somebody else's - Castiel's - crotch and then just staying there. I completely enjoyed Gabe and Rowena getting it on. They have a nice chemistry (I think Rowena could have chemistry with anyone, actually. Sexy minx). The tunnel scene was excellent!

And I agree wholeheartedly with Dean not going after his brother. The guy would jump into the pit of hell if he could! I don't see why they didn't film a scene where Dean runs after them and it leads nowhere, or into an empty cavern. Because that death was AWESOME.

It's interesting to me that when Sam dies, Dean becomes catatonic and uncaring. When Dean dies, Sam goes completely darkside.

By now Cas is just there now to speak lines that could have been assigned to anybody: "Where?" "Why?" "Do you think that's a good idea" etc. I don't ship anybody but I live Cas. Still, saying he looks constipated is the perfect description.
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffin: pic#124540152quickreaver on May 5th, 2018 09:47 pm (UTC)
Yep, Rowena is my favorite current secondary character, without question. She's simply a hoot!

I'm not altogether certain why they didn't have Dean run off after the vamps and unsuccessfully find Sam -- unless it HAD to be that way for Other Plot Reasons. To set up Dean's emotional arc leading into the finale, is my guess (so what the show has Dean do makes sense.) I also suspect there's more going on with Cas than we've seen.

While I absolutely love it when Berens writes Sam (because he just does it the way I like, I can't help it, my bad), I'm still wondering if Sam has an arc. He still seems to be the character they're using to set up everyone else's arcs. Rowena's, Dean's, even Lucifer's to some degree. Does he actually have one of his own? Maybe it's just to have a relationship with Mary, even though I don't think Mary shares that desire. Such a simple, little thing.

It's interesting to me that when Sam dies, Dean becomes catatonic and uncaring. When Dean dies, Sam goes completely darkside. I shouldn't find this sexy, should I? Fact is: they both keep each other human.

Syl's DarkPlace: acccount iconsylsdarkplace on May 6th, 2018 12:18 pm (UTC)
I also suspect there's more going on with Cas than we've seen.

I suspect that they brought Naomi -- of all the angels -- back for a reason and that all that dialoging between her and Cas was a reminder to us for a reason possible called foreshadowing. Or was it a red herring? Thoughts?
gidgetgal9: Sam in bed from distancegidgetgal9 on May 6th, 2018 12:34 am (UTC)
I did a lot of hand waving just to have Sam's POV and the lovely stuff you mentioned above. I am worried about the next episode keeping momentium just because the episode set up for the finale in the past hasn't always gone well but I am excited to see how this all ends.
roxymissrose: Dean and Samroxymissrose on May 6th, 2018 04:41 am (UTC)
The Travelling Willburys heh-heh-heh!

I agree with every word of this. That whole tunnel sequence was brilliant--from the first moment when I rolled my eyes(oh great--creepy cliché tunnel, whatev), to the last moment in the tunnel that I could barely see because I was crying (and before that where I was jumping and screaming because *scary*!!). Both the boys killed this ep--they should be very proud of their work.
There's a scientific explanation for that: Boys - brothershugemind on May 8th, 2018 09:28 pm (UTC)
*nods* I agree with a lot of this. Sam's subconsciousness focusing on Dean and his appetite is <3.

I'm really interested in seeing why Billie told Rowena that nobody would probably like what happens if she killed Sam. So Sam's going to do something big. However, I'm actively not trying to think why Billie would be meeting Dean soon. *meep*

Is it Thursday yet?
septembers_coda: Sam writesseptembers_coda on May 25th, 2018 06:11 pm (UTC)
I just watched this episode. I haven't watched the finale yet, but part of my motivation to even finish this disappointing season is to read this kind of commentary and add my own, so I really appreciate this review. And I agree. Some of the filming and affects, and Jared's performances, are the best things about S13. Totally agree with all you said about those things here. I love, LOVED dead Sam's return to life--set, performance, make-up, everything. And loved virtually nothing else... (ETA: actually, Jensen's performance, as usual, is also amazing. The OPT appears, ON COMMAND at the exact right moment no less. He's a genius, and Sam Smith was really good in that scene too.)

Two other things I agree with: WTF Cas, and Berens ain't as funny as he thinks he is. SOPHOMORIC, yes. Not just the really, really lame dick jokes (I mean, c'mon)... but when we hear Gabriel and Rowena's thoughts? I'd have to check with our local canon experts, but I think that might be the first time that 1970s-style atrocity has occurred on our show. The tone was just so off-putting and the whole thing was kind of a waste of time. I have often loved Berens episodes, but when he's bad, he's REALLY bad.

And Cas. Just... why is he even HERE this season? And this from a long-time, devoted Cas fan. Yeah, not only is he a dick, but... could the writers perhaps pick a character and go with it? Honestly, I think the silly shenanigans they've gotten up to with Cas are because of two things: 1) they're all outta ideas for him, but can't kill him off (for good) because he's a fan favorite, and 2) Misha is bored. And you wouldn't like Misha when he's bored. ;-) This was the following episode, (wasn't it? I dunno, deifintely not keeping track) but... that random, unexplained, appearance of evil!Cas of Apocoworld getting killed by (questionably) good!Cas? OH FUCKING PLEASE. I mean, they gave this new character like 2 minutes to develop... and switched to torturing Charlie from Ketch why, just because we like her better/she's a girl and we'll hate seeing her tortured more? and why are those two characters there, too? Just... writers... ugh, what can I even say.

I see from the lead-in that you were not a fan of the finale, which helps me lower my expectations... I feel like we like and dislike a lot of the same things, so I will look forward to coming back to commiserate with you. :-D

Edited at 2018-05-25 06:14 pm (UTC)
The indefatigable Mrs. Griffinquickreaver on May 25th, 2018 06:19 pm (UTC)
I was woefully disappointed by the finale, for multiple reasons. Lower your taste and expectations going in, is all I'll spoil! ;)