SPN 8.04 Review: Supernatural meets The Blair Witch Project

Hello my fellow Supernatural Junkies. Tonight’s episode of Supernatural was unconventional (even for this show), and I didn’t really care for it. Thus, I don’t have a whole lot to say about it. Bitten certainly won’t top my list of favorite SPN episodes, but it wasn’t the worst either (Bugs still holds that distinction). There was no development on the season long mytharc or on the Boys’ relationship, but I’m ok with that for now. If we were 12 or 13 episodes into the season and did an episode like this, I would be pretty pissed. But this episode came early enough that it’s alright that it didn’t deal with major story arcs and didn’t feature a whole lot of the Winchesters. There are, however, a few things I want to point out.

This is not the first time that Supernatural has played with the form of the show. One thing I’ve always appreciated about Supernatural is their willingness to experiment with storytelling. It keeps things interesting and it allows for some artistic freedom.  Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I must say that I have never liked films shot on handheld cams or that “found footage” crap. I hated The Blair Witch Project and I actively avoided Chronicle and all of those Paranormal Activity movies. I am just not a fan of that style of film making. That being said, “Ghostfacers” from season 3 was shot almost exactly like this episode, but I actually enjoyed “Ghostfacers.” After thinking about it for a little bit, I’ve concluded that I liked “Ghostfacers” better because I enjoyed those characters much more. They were interesting and at times downright funny. I was much more engaged in that story and more invested in those character outcomes. I cannot say the same for “Bitten.” It wasn’t the acting. The actors did just fine. It was how shallow, boring, and generic the characters were. I didn’t care about Michael and Kate’s lovefest. I didn’t care that Brian was jealous. I just didn’t care about them at all. And if I’m going to watch an episode in which the Winchesters are almost totally absent, I want the characters to be much more interesting than these kids were.

When speaking about superheroes and supervillains, my father always says that heroes were heroes long before they became super and likewise villains were always villains. Receiving the power simply revealed what they were already. That’s something this episode touched on. Brian wanted to be bitten because he wanted to feel power. He wanted to get the girl. He wanted to be the big man. He wanted to step out of his friend’s shadow. He was jealous, insecure and angry before he got bitten. The bite didn’t change that. It simply amplified those feelings which resulted in him killing the only real friend he had. Supernatural has kind of dealt with this concept before, but it was in such a controversial episode (yes, I’m looking at you Amy in “The Girl Next Door”) that I think people lost the message. A clearer illustration of this point is Gordon Walker from “Fresh Blood” back in season 3. When Dean tried to reason with Gordon after he got turned into a vampire, Gordon responded, “No. I’m a monster.” I don’t think even he knew just how true those words were. The truth is, Gordon was a monster long before he got turned into a vampire. He killed because he liked it. If he saved a few people in the process, that was fine. But he was really in it for the thrill of the kill. Getting turned into a vampire simply gave him an excuse to do what came naturally to him. People are what they are. And the power doesn’t change that.

Supernatural has never been a show to shy away from the grey areas, and there was a pretty big one here. On the one hand, Kate is a monster. She’s a werewolf. And if history has taught us anything on Supernatural, she’s going to kill someone. Or maybe even a bunch of someones before a hunter stops her. On the other hand, one of the lessons from “Bloodlust” in S2 was that just because something isn’t human doesn’t necessarily mean that its evil i.e. Lenore. At the end of that episode, Dean began to question whether he’d been killing things that didn’t deserve killing simply because they weren’t human. He ponders that here too. Dean is a guy that, historically, doesn’t deal in shades of grey and he also adheres to a very strict code. Dean’s code says that as long as you aren’t killing humans, you’re not evil and he’s gonna let you be. That’s the conclusion he reached here. Technically, Kate is a monster and somewhere down the road, she may kill someone. But right here, right now she hadn’t killed anyone. So they let her go. I think there are valid arguments both for going after her to kill her now and for letting her go and try to survive on animals. But in this instance, I think the Boys made the right call.

Well, that’s pretty much it folks. Like I said before, this episode won’t top my list of must-rewatch. But I appreciate Supernatural’s willingness to experiment with form and push the envelope. I’m REALLY looking forward to getting back into some Purgatory stuff next week. And I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen when Sam meets Benny. So until next time Junkies, peace, love, and joy to all.

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The Problem(s) with Revolution

Since Revolution is on a break this week to make room for the final Presidential debate, I thought I’d take this time to write my thoughts about the show thus far. Let me start off by saying that I really want to like this show. The premise is quite compelling. The world has essentially returned to the dark ages because all the power has gone out. Not just electricity either. Batteries too. Nothing requiring power works. People have had to learn how to grow their own food and make due with arrows, swords, knives, and crossbows for weapons. The world is controlled by various militias that keep the peace but also scare the crap out of all the civilians. It’s promising. So, I am really having a hard time with how terrible this show has been thus far. In my view, there are a few things wrong that Revolution needs to fix if they want to keep me.

First, the show has major writing problems. The pace is entirely too slow. I find myself looking at the clock about 15 minutes into the episode and being disappointed that it’s only 15 mins into the episode. Revolution is not pulling me into its story. It’s not engaging me. I rarely get up to go to the bathroom during a show, because I don’t want to miss anything. That’s not the case with Revolution. That’s disturbing coming from from Eric Kripke and JJ Abrams. I am obviously a Supernatural junkie, so I know that Kripke is capable of better than what’s going on with Revolution. I know that he is capable of telling an engaging, coherent story that will leave me desperate for the next episode. I was discussing this problem with a friend of mine, and she suggested that Revolution just needs to find its legs. To a certain extent, I think that’s true. In the beginning, especially with genre shows, you have to take some time to establish the rules of the universe and the character relationships. However, if the characters are engaging, then that set-up doesn’t feel laborious. The writing for most of these characters is weak at best. I kind of like Zak Orth’s Aaron because he’s slightly (very slightly) amusing. But the other characters are mostly forgettable. Giancarlo Esposito and Billy Burke seem to get the best stuff. Or maybe they’re just making lemonade out of lemons. I was also a liking Anna Lise Phillips’s Maggie Foster, but TPTB decided that the only interesting female character needed to die in the 2nd or 3rd episode. Bad call guys because Charlie is most certainly not an engaging character. As a matter of fact, she is annoying and much more immature than someone of her age would be after having gone through the blackout and its aftermath. Not only that. She’s actively stupid. I’m still trying to figure out what her aversion is to following simple instructions. Miles tells her they need to do A to get Danny back, so she goes and does B because, well, she’s stupid. Then of course she has to sit down and cry about it. Or if she’s not crying, she’s yelling at Miles as if it’s somehow his fault. And they’ve also had a few moments where she’s supposed to be the voice of moral superiority over Miles, but the truth is, she comes off less morally superior and more bratty; talking about things way above her pay grade. There is absolutely nothing redeeming about her character at this point. And if TPTB don’t figure out how to write their lead better, they are going to lose this viewer. Because few things bother me more than stupid female leads on genre shows.

Second, this show has casting issues. Casting is just as important as writing is on a show. The actors need to embody their characters and they need to have presence on the screen. Revolution’s casting has been spotty at best. Billy Burke is a fantastic casting choice. He brings depth to Miles Matheson. He is a man with a past that he regrets and consequences that he can see played out daily.  He plays Miles as a man that believed he was doing a good thing, but in the end it all went very wrong. But most importantly, he keeps me engaged the entire time he’s onscreen. The same is true of Giancarlo Esposito’s Captain Tom Neville. I don’t think Giancarlo Esposito has ever been in anything where he asn’t been amazing. Revolution is no exception. He plays Neville with the kind of dark ruthlessness I would imagine a person needs to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. He understands that a smile can be much more sinister than a scowl. He is cold and cruel. And I just want to pause here for a moment to point out something Revolution has (I think) been trying to make clear through Neville. People are what they are, and circumstances only reveal what’s already inside a person. In Neville’s case, prior to the blackout he was a violent, vicious, sadistic man, but he never showed that to the world because it wasn’t socially acceptable. He didn’t think he could get away with it. After the blackout, however, he was free to let that out. It was socially acceptable. Not only that, it was encouraged. I think Danny nailed it when he told Neville that he (Neville) didn’t join the militia because he wanted a better life. He joined the militia because he likes killing. Zak Orth and David Lyons do a solid enough job with Aaron and Sebastian Monroe respectively. Revolution’s primary casting problem is Tracy Spiridakos as Charlie. Much of the problem with Charlie has to do with the writing as I mentioned above. But the casting is also an issue. Spiridakos does not command the screen. And she always looks like she’s not entirely sure of what’s going on at any given moment. It’s as if she knows she should be thinking something, but she’s got nothing going on in her head. There are no subtleties or nuances to her performance, and it’s as if she’s just regurgitating the lines she learned for this week. And watching her cry for the umpteenth time during an episode makes me have very bad thoughts.

Finally, the filming on Revolution has been, for the most part, horrible. They have gone totally overboard with the shaky cam. It is simply beyond ridiculous. At one point, I was watching 3 characters having a conversation, and I was so distracted by the camera movement that I yelled at my tv in frustration. There is absolutely no reason, NONE, that the camera should look like there’s an earthquake going on while the characters are standing stationary having a conversation. It completely takes me out of the plot action. And since I’m already kind of bored by the story and annoyed by the characters, I have a hard time getting back into it. Shaky cam is lazy filmmaking. STOP IT! In case it’s unclear, I hate, hate, HATE shaky cam.

So, that’s where I am with Revolution right now. I really want to like this series because, as I said, it has an interesting premise. Not only that, there aren’t all that many genre shows on network tv. But if they don’t figure out how to fix this writing and stop it with the shaky cam, I’m just not going to be able to stick with it.

SPN 8.03 Review: It’ll Rip Your Heart Out…Literally

 

I had to watch this episode twice before I could really form an opinion about it. The conclusion I reached is, it was ok. I liked it. Didn’t love it. But it was a solid showing. We stepped back from the mythology a bit to focus on Sam and Dean’s relationship, and I’m glad we did. And let me just get this out of the way. I tend to like the MOTW episodes, but I am SO over people eating human hearts. These same writers did this last season in ‘Shut Up, Dr. Phil’ with the hearts in the cupcakes, and I wasn’t a fan of it then either. That’s just unnecessarily gross.

I will say that Jensen Ackles is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. He’s much more confident behind the camera, and that’s even more impressive when you consider that he had so much more time in front of the camera this go round. He made some very cool choices with the lighting and tone of several scenes. I especially liked the way the scene was shot when the Boys were reading all the letters to Betsy. I also enjoyed the brief scene between Jensen and his dad Alan Ackles. That one made me chuckle. It would be nice to have him come back at some point. At any rate, the MOTW was kind of bland, but the development of the Boys relationship pretty much made up for that.The primary achievement of this episode was to give us a more in-depth look at each character’s motivations this season.

On the one hand, Sam has come to the realization that there really is a life outside of hunting. Sam has always wanted normal, but he just resigned himself to the fact that was something he could never have. He basically decided that he only had one option and that was hunting. However, at the end of S7, when he had no one and nothing left, he discovered a new world. A world in which he was able to have a place to call home. A place where he was able to have love and peace. A place where he was able to have normal. And unlike Dean back in S6, Sam allowed himself to truly be in the moment and experience that life. For nearly a decade, Sam has literally carried the weight of the world on his shoulders. He’s also carried massive amounts of guilt from the consequences of his bad decisions. He never really saw any end but death, and even that wasn’t going to be pretty. With Amelia, though, he was able to see a real life. Now, he can see a light at the end of the tunnel. He can see other avenues to explore. He’s not locked into the hunting life. After having experienced that, how could he not continue to not only want it for himself, but actively pursue it?

On the other hand, Dean has also come to a realization. He’s realized that he’s a warrior and what he does matters. For the last couple seasons, Dean has been wallowing in despair and grief because he didn’t feel like anything he did mattered anymore. He felt like he wasn’t making a difference, and no matter how many times he saved the world it was never going to be enough. Then he went to Purgatory. He got a concentrated dose of evil-hunting, and it made him realize that’s why he’s on earth. It may not be pretty and it may not be all fun, but it’s who he is. He even said so much in this episode. He belongs on the road, with his brother, hunting evil and saving people. That realization is part of why Dean is having such a hard time wrapping his head around Sam’s desire to leave. When Dean left hunting to be with Lisa and Ben, he never really left. He knew that his brother was in the cage. He knew that Bobby was still out there. Additionally, he was mourning the loss of his brother. He always kind of had one foot in hunting even when he was supposed to be out. He never really allowed himself to try and really be happy in the normal life. So when he looks at normal, he views it as claustrophobic and painful. It’s not something to be desired for people like himself and Sam. It’s something to be desired for people who aren’t warriors. Dean doesn’t seem to understand that Sam doesn’t view himself as a warrior. Dean is a hunter because he chooses to be, not because he has to be. Sam was always a hunter because he had to be, not because he chose to be. Dean comes off as being condescending toward Sam for looking into college and so forth because Dean has always needed hunting and he believes Sam needs it too. He cannot fathom someone going through the things they’ve gone through and not having hunting in his bones. Also, Dean is remembering what it felt like when he walked away from hunting, and he can’t see that Sam’s situation is completely different from his own.

On the upside, at least Sam and Dean are being honest with each other. It’s both refreshing and sad at the same time. It’s refreshing because in times past they never would’ve been as upfront as they are being now. They would have sugar-coated what they had to say or just not talked about it at all. It’s sad because of just how brutally frank they’re being with each other. Sam flat out said that he’s walking away after they find Kevin and close the gates. Dean said, and still firmly believes, that Sam is gonna get back in the grove and not walk away. This is a conversation that needs to happen, but the lack of compassion on the part of both of them is sad given how much they love each other. It also emphasizes the point that although they’re talking, they are most certainly not communicating. Neither is able to grasp the other’s reasons for doing what he’s doing. And as difficult as it is to watch the Boys fight, this shows a great deal of character growth and development. They’re actually having the serious, difficult conversations that they need to have but that they tried to avoid in seasons past. Yes, we’re sort of back to S1 in character motivations, but at the same time, we’re not. Both of these guys have matured and their decisions/motivations now aren’t reactions to someone else’s decisions for them. These guys are making these choices now because this is what they want.

Well, that’s pretty much it from me. I’d love to hear what y’all think. Did you laugh at Dean’s face when the chubby runner was drinking that nasty-looking green health drink? I admit, I was making pretty much that same face too.

SPN 8.02 Review: You Can’t Buy the Word of God at Costco

 

This season of Supernatural has really hit the ground running, and I am very excited to see where Carver and Co. take us this year. I was surprised that this second episode dealt so much with the season-long mytharc because historically SPN’s second episode doesn’t really do that. I’m also pleased that Dabb and Loflin found their groove again. I was beginning to think they’d lost it last season, but this episode restored my faith in them. The writing was solid and all the pieces came together to create a very entertaining episode. A few of my thoughts:

1. Dean Winchester 2.0, you are one scary dude. I imagine surviving Purgatory would take its toll on a man. But this Dean Winchester is certainly not the man we’ve known for the last couple of seasons. This Dean Winchester is much more feral and reminiscent of Soulless Sam. That’s not to say that Dean is soulless, but he is much more willing to accept collateral damage than he was in times past. He’s also much less patient during interrogations and his people skills are very rusty. I understand he had to be that way in Purgatory, but the question now is how well is that going to serve him topside? You can’t treat people (even slimy ones like Clem) the way that you treat monsters. One thing that is also evident is how the hunting life has dulled Sam and Dean to death. Of course death affects them. But at the same time, they have what they consider acceptable losses. It sucks and they do carry those losses around with them, but at the same time they know that losing one to save a thousand is an acceptable risk. Dean was willing to make that sacrifice. Kevin was not. Speaking of Kevin…

2. Kevin’s decision to run off on the Winchesters is bugging me. I understand he was upset that Dean was about to kill his mom. That’s totally understandable. But first of all, that wasn’t his mom anymore. Secondly, leaving the Boys is not the smartest thing for him to do at this point. Actually, it’s a very dangerous thing to do. It show’s Kevin’s naivety and emotionalism. It’s not just Crowley that’s after him. Now there are all manner of other monsters/gods/demons/creepy crawlies that know he’s a prophet and they will be after him too. I assume he figures he can take care of himself because he learned a few tricks to protect himself from demons, but he doesn’t really know what’s out there. Also, what makes Kevin think that Dean is gonna toss him to the side when he’s of no further use? Because Crowley said so? And Crowley has been so honest with Kevin up to this point right? Dean is the one who came to look for Kevin in the first place. And Dean went looking for him not because he (Dean) knew about the tablet, but because he felt like Kevin was his responsibility and it was just the right thing to do.

3. Oh Castiel. You look so much worse for wear. And you broke my heart a little bit too. This episode finally gave us a little glimpse of what happened to Cas in Purgatory, and it doesn’t look pretty. I figured when Cas disappeared at the end of last season, it was to protect Dean. And Cas’s reasoning makes sense. In addition to wanting to protect Dean, though, Cas feels like he has to atone for his sins. Not just against humanity as a whole, but against Dean in particular. I said at the end of last season that Cas needed Dean to forgive him, and I think Dean has done that. I loved the conversation between Dean and Cas by the river. Basically what that conversation said was that whatever happened in the past is the past. All is forgiven. Of course, the ending put a lot of questions in my head. The major one is this: What if Dean and Cas were trying to go through the portal together, but the portal pushed Cas back into Purgatory and sucked Dean through? I don’t think Dean willingly left Cas. Especially not after promising not to. When Dean Winchester makes you a promise, he keeps it.

4. I think I might have a bit of a girl-crush on Mrs. Tran. She was absolutely awesome. And let me just say, she got that tattoo like a boss! And I laughed out loud when she clocked Crowley. I really like her character and I’m glad that TPTB decided not to kill her off. She is a wonderful addition to the Supernatural universe, and I hope that she shows up again.

I loved this episode, and season 8 is off to a fantastic start. There are enough questions answered that I don’t get overly frustrated. But for every question answered, there’s another one presented. I love the fact that I honestly have no idea where the show is headed. It’s exciting!

SPN Season 8 Premiere: My Thoughts

 

Now THAT is what I call a season premiere! Sweet merciful awesome! I was a little (ok, A LOT) bummed that SPN wasn’t coming back until October, but this was very much worth the wait. It looks like Jeremy Carver and Co. have some really great things in store for us this season. But before I get ahead of myself, here are my thoughts (this might get a little long b/c I LOVED the premiere):

1. Holy goodness, Dean Winchester! For the last couple of seasons, Dean has been floundering. He’s been wallowing in depression and despair; drinking so much that I got cirrhosis just watching; and carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. He lacked focus and purpose. Losing Cas and Bobby just made the situation worse. It seems like Purgatory has cured Dean of what ailed him. The Dean Winchester we saw last night was clear about who he is and why he’s here. He’s found his purpose again. That’s not to say that whatever happened in Purgatory isn’t having a profound effect on him. I wasn’t at all surprised that Dean grew to basically like Purgatory. He’s always had a lot of darkness in him, but he works very hard to keep that in check. When he went to Hell, he gave in to those darker natures and tortured other souls. This situation is kind of the same. He’s in a hostile environment and he’s got to do what he’s got to do to survive. He had to nurture that darkness that makes him such a skilled hunter topside in order to survive down there. Unlike Hell, however, Dean doesn’t feel guilty about killing things in Purgatory. He not only feels justified, he feels good about it. However, I think total reintegration into society is going to be difficult for him. He doesn’t have to continually be on alert the way he was in Purgatory, and it’s going to take some time for him to smooth out the rough edges he developed down there. Just as an aside, Jensen Ackles did a fantastic job of conveying Dean’s PTSD. He was jittery and on edge throughout the whole episode. Ackles is such a master of non-verbal communication.

2. I am very intrigued by the Dean/Benny relationship. On the one hand, I can totally see Dean looking at Benny as a comrade in arms. Dean was all alone in Purgatory and Benny stepped in to have his back. But on the other hand, Dean should know from experience that monsters/demons never change their colors. They are what they are. Aside from that, I kind of liked Benny. I don’t trust him very much, but he does look like he’ll be an interesting addition to the Winchester universe. Could he be Dean’s Ruby? I’m looking forward to watching this storyline unfold. I want to find out how exactly Dean’s relationship with Benny developed and how it’s going to affect his relationship with Sam. Speaking of Sam…

3. There are a lot of folks who are pretty upset with how Sam was characterized in this episode. But I think Sam made a reasonable choice that was completely in character for him. Sam has always wanted a normal life. I think he wanted it even more than Dean because he (Sam) never had it. Back in Season 5, Sam kind of reluctantly accepted the fact that he was never going to have normal, but at least he still had his family. At the end of S7, Sam had absolutely no one. Dean and Cas disappeared. Bobby was dead. Crowley took Kevin. Ellen and Jo are dead. Rufus is dead. He had absolutely no one and nothing. One of the things S7 made abundantly clear is that Dean kept going for Sam, and Sam kept going for Dean. Dean was gone. Why would Sam keep going? For all he knew, Dean and Cas died when Dick exploded. If they were in Heaven, was he supposed to pull them back? Where was he to start? Who was he to call? How was he to know that non-monsters could even end up in Purgatory? Was he supposed to just drive himself insane (again) grasping at straws? Sam was alone, lost, scared, and filled with grief. If he had kept hunting in that state, he would not have lasted very long. Hitting that dog and finding someone to help him find his center again saved Sam. I don’t think he would’ve survived otherwise. And after all the sacrifices he’s made and the loss that he’s endured, I don’t begrudge him some happiness.

4. In addition to a different Dean and Sam, we also got a different Crowley. He was much more cold than we’ve seen him in seasons past. He was so nonchalant about snapping Kevin’s girlfriend’s neck. Furthermore, Crowley’s got a lot at stake here. It’s very personal. Not only are Kevin and the Winchesters trying to wipe out all demons from the Earth; Kevin bested Crowley. Crowley cannot let that go unanswered. Since the stakes are so high for him this season, I have a feeling we’re going to see a much darker, more sinister Crowley than we’ve seen in seasons past.

5. The only thing that kind of didn’t sit exactly right was Amelia. I didn’t exactly get a warm fuzzy for her. After Sam hit the dog, he brought it to the vet and he was obviously distressed. Admittedly, his reaction wasn’t exactly in proportion to the situation, but he was going through a lot at the time. I understand Amelia not wanting him yelling at her nurse, but I didn’t like the way she spoke to Sam at all. She came off as snarky and abrasive. If she were trying to challenge him a bit, she did a pretty poor job of it. I would like to explore Sam’s relationship with Amelia, and find out why he left the way he did. But I absolutely do not want their relationship to be front and center of the season. Nor do I want Amelia to be poorly written. I’ll give her a few episodes before I pass final judgment, but as of right now, things aren’t looking too good in that department.

That being said, I loved pretty much everything about this episode.  It was a fantastic season opener. It set up some interesting character relationships and a few storylines that can be very meaty over the course of the season. It also set up a season long goal, and I’ve found SPN works best when they have one goal for the season. I’ve always liked Jeremy Carver’s episodes because he has a very firm grasp on Sam and Dean’s voices, and he does a great job of combining drama and humor. For all of the emotionally heavy parts, we got some pretty good chuckles (you’re going to your safety school. ha!) and a few awwws (yes, I said awww when Sam ordered Dean a burger). Some folks are concerned that if they find the tablet and banish demons forever it will be the end of the series. I don’t think that’s the case at all because, c’mon. When has anything ever gone exactly according to plan for these guys?