One day, you wake up from a deep sleep. You check your phone, roll your eyes at the time, and sleepily get out of bed. You kick the dirty clothes off your feet as you wade through them, and you arrive at your bedroom door.
You’ve just come from something immeasurably wonderful and mystical, and are headed to something practical and rewarding. All you have to do is open the door, and pass through. So you do; you open the door, and you go through. You never think about it; you will never even notice. It’s just what you had to do to open the door. Not good, and not bad. Just necessary.
Welcome to tonight’s Supernatural.
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The problem with a 20+ episode order is that you have a seemingly infinite amount of space to fill. Your main story probably takes 13 episodes to properly play out, leaving anywhere from seven to 11 episodes to fill up. One approach is the slow-burn the story, or to fill it with twists and turns and reversals and all sorts of sleight of hand. The other approach, the more common approach, is to do what The X-Files did so well, which is to use the episodic nature of the show to delve into the thematic, without worrying about the story being told.
Supernatural, at it’s best, does that same thing. It’s a break from the A plot season-long thematic arc, and an opportunity to explore something unique. If done correctly, you create something like “The French Mistake”; if you do it wrong, you get “Route 666”. Most of the time, as with most things, it falls in-between. But this is the first time, in all my years of being involved in Supernatural that an episode has been 100% on the line between good and bad.
It’s kind of a revelation, actually. I almost want to bump the grade just for being so average. There is nothing good, and nothing bad, and it moves the plot along, except when it doesn’t. I’m not even talking about the good canceling out the bad or vice versa; if you were to hook this episode up to an EKG, it’d be a flat line.
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This episode was both clear on what it wanted to do and wandering in the forest on how to make it interesting. Of course Lucifer!Cas was allowing Crowley to escape. Of course the Shawn Harley moments, where he peers around corners and argues with dudes who are about to die, were a misdirect. When things are this predictable, and average, and vanilla, you start noticing details that usually don’t matter. How, for example, did Crowley get the staff out of the box? If he could just magic it to him, why didn’t he do so before? There wasn’t anything in the garage to prevent him from doing so; no protection spells, or sigils. How, as well, did Gunner Lawless get behind Duke, if the only entrance was the same place that Dean came through?
The relationship of master-slave of Lucifer!Cas and Crowley was utilized to the bare minimum. There was plenty of space to mine, and they did just enough before they let Crowley walk free. Crowley always walks free. What happened to the human blood in him? Wasn’t he being humanized? Why has that plot point been iced? I get that he’s a kinder, gentler Crowley; but hell, Cas himself grew gentler, and he didn’t require a magic demon-cleansing spell.
Also, what the hell happened to Rio? She disappeared for the episode’s climax; what was the point of getting her involved with Sam, and bringing her in at key moments, if you ultimately just shelve her? Did we really spend that much time with someone who was just an exposition mule?
I mean, whatever.
Jared and Jensen were the best parts, and they made an unremarkable episode bearable. The look Sam gives as a tequila-sloshwed Dean struggles to his feet is priceless. Jensen killed it with his child-like desires at the wrestling match. Jared’s line read about Dean describing their jobs was absolutely perfect.
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This is the most functional episode of TV ever made. It marches towards it’s conclusion with inevitability, and gets there in a believable fashion. But that’s about at all it did.
It’s a long season. They can’t all be home runs.
Sam and Dean investigate professional wrestlers, Crowley licks a floor, and Cas is, well, still not Cas in tonight’s Supernatural.