The thing that defined those early seasons of Supernatural was it’s horror roots. It was pitched as a horror show (at least partially), and it was presented as a horror show. It was effective, too; those early Supernatural episodes have a deep, dark heaviness to them that lends a lot more danger and stomach-twisting tension that some of the later episodes. They would eventually move out of the horror genre and push it into straight fantasy and turn up the campiness, but would on rare occasion dial up that creepiness again.
But for this twelfth season of Supernatural, it feels less like a callback than a return to form. These first few hours have had a lot of that deep, dark scariness, culminating in this forty minute long horror movie. The close up on that busted up baby doll was one of the scariest things I’ve seen all year, and they do a good job of not tipping whether that is an actual baby, or a baby doll. Obviously, we all know that having an actual dead baby would be too much even for basic cable such as the CW, but it’s lifelike and grimy enough to give someone pause, which it very much did for me.
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I’m not a big fan of how Robert Singer directed this episode.
Every show has it’s “House Style” in the way that they direct and write. An episode of Supernatural always feels like an episode of Supernatural; it does certain things in each episode, and, more importantly, does not do others. They don’t do Star Wars-style wipe cut transitions, for example, nor do they do irony cuts (or at least not very often). They also don’t do weird zoom in close ups that fade out and fade in to something else, nor do they puncture comedic scenes with silly music like an Avengers movie.
Those two things are very specific because, as you’ve probably guessed, those two things happened in the episode. The music thing happened a few times, actually, the most notable being when Cas and Crowley are trying to talk to one another, and one keeps looking through the truck to talk and the other goes over the hood. It’s a cute little gag, one that would be a lot more effective if there wasn’t this silly music over it. We get that it’s supposed to be funny; we don’t need Rainer Wolfcastle telling us what the joke is. The weird cut happened twice; once when Mary was talking on the phone, trying to find records (the only reason they did this cut was to hand wave how Mary got that woman to talk in the first place), and when Rowena and Cas and Crowley met up. Neither were necessary, and both were noticeably out of place.
Singer directing this episode and my having problems with it are kind of perfect, because it dovetails with my thoughts on his and Andrew Dabb’s tenure as show runners. I think that they are both shooting for something much more ambitious that their predecessors, maybe as much as Kripke or even more. The episodes have a fresher, livelier feel to them, almost like letting a fan make the show; Dabb and Singer have been around for a long, long time, and they clearly know what they’re doing, and what kind of show they want to make.
But I think that ambition gets them in trouble, and that weird music and weird directing choices pulls me out of the episode. It’s only the third episode, so my complaints are more than a little ludicrous, not to mention that I happen to love the way Supernatural feels right now, but I do want to mention it in case it becomes a thing down the road. I don’t think it will, but if it does, I want to look smart, instead of like the dumb ass that I really am.
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Oh look, Sam Winchester is right about something again.
Of course Mary was throwing herself into hunting. SHE WAS DEAD FOR THIRTY YEARS, DEAN. She doesn’t know how to use a cell phone, or a computer; she probably doesn’t even know how to work automatic car seats! If you sat her in a Toyota Solara, she would not know how to turn on the seat warmers.
Jesus Christ; the woman is a time traveller, and she’s stuck here! But Dean, good ole’ Dean, learning zero lessons, just wants them to have “one good thing”. I mean, it’s consistent with his character, but DAMN!!! LEARN SOMETHING PLEASE.
Perhaps listen to Sam, who spent literal eons in The Cage with Lucifer being tortured; hell, listen to your own instincts, from when you crawled out of the grave yourself! People who undergo trauma and who want to jump back into work are not healthy people (usual disclaimer: this is blanket statement, meant for the TV show only); they are empty inside, and are hoping, desperately, that it will fill them up again. But it doesn’t; they need time to think, and talk through their issues. But Dean doesn’t want to see it, so he doesn’t.
It’s not that Dean doesn’t understand trauma, or how to heal it; it’s that he wants to shortcut it, even though he knows he can’t. He’s racing, from one thing to the next, hoping that the next time he looks in his rearview mirror, it’ll all be fine and dandy. But it never is. It never, ever is.
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I think it’s interesting that they have decided, at least so far, to hand wave Sam’s damage from the torture in the first two episodes. He was badly, badly tortured, and even though Castiel healed his wounds, the psychological damage is here to stay.
Or, at least, it should be. Sam should be badly struggling with all of this, his mother’s return included. He, even more than Dean, will feel the brunt of his mother leaving, because he never knew her; the word ‘mom’ still falls from his mouth like an accident.
I hope they explore this more. Supernatural has a lot of room to go deep with the Winchester boys, but sometimes they pull up so they can focus on other characters. I like Castiel a lot, and his relationship with Mary is really fascinating to me, but I want Sam to struggle, and I want Sam to grow. I want more from Sam than a few B plots, because Sam is dope and has been given short shrift in the plot department a lot since season 6. Don’t @ me.
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A very solid episode of Supernatural. If this is the floor for the season, then they’re going to be in really good shape.
Mary wants to hunt, Sam is reluctant, and Lucifer is still a stupid gullible idiot in tonight’s Supernatural.