Created on Saturday, 23 February 2013 14:22
Last Updated on Sunday, 09 June 2013 22:44
Written by Alice Jester
Are you all familiar with the opening scene of the film Office Space
? That’s the one where there’s a traffic jam on the road and nothing is moving. The lead character zips left into a lane that doesn’t move, then right into another lane that doesn’t move, and then back again to get the same result. While all this is going on, an old man in a walker on the sidewalk is outpacing everyone and very far ahead.
Using that scene as my metaphor, I just described the most of the episode “Man’s Best Friend With Benefits.” Save for the last ten minutes, it was outpaced by an old man in a walker. As much as I’ve told myself to be diplomatic, I just can’t say this any other way. This episode sucked.
But hey, I do confess that perhaps my disappointment strays toward the bitter side. And trust me when I say “stray” is putting it mildly. I do accept that filler episodes happen. It’s par for the course. But, I was very disappointed anyway. Wildly inconsistent episodes from week to week is a season six and seven ploy. We’ve waited patiently over two years to get out of these ruts.
I mean come on, everything was finally starting to progress with the boys toward lollipops and candy canes, money and honey, health and wealth, every day is ice-cream sundae. Okay, maybe not that far, but Sam and Dean were talking again! They got a new home! Good things were happening to them. Sure, this whole God trial thing has cause a bit of a wrinkle, but geez, it’s not like they’re trying to stop the Apocalypse again, right?
No, what Sam and Dean are trying to do is to take something personal, their lifelong battles with demons and Hell, and close the door on that forever so that no one else has to suffer the way they have. Sounds like the perfect moment for solidarity, brothers in arms, all-we-have-is each-other mantras. Then why were we trotting down the well worn and horribly rutted path of trust issues again?
It’s not that Sam and Dean don’t have trust issues. They do. It’s just by season eight, Sam and Dean well know this about each other and have learned to work through it. That’s what happens when you’re grownups. The last few weeks especially we’ve moved beyond all that, but it’s obvious Eugenie Ross-Leming and Brad Buckner forgot to read all the other scripts since their last episode, “A Little Slice of Kevin.” Heck, given their take on witches, they must have forgotten to watch all the episodes since season three.
Of course Dean only trusts himself. Do you blame him? He’s been let down a lot in his life. That’s only come up, I don’t know, a thousand times over the course of the last several seasons. I didn’t need to hear Sam say it, especially through a thinly veiled conversation about how to kill a witch. It screams contrived drama, exactly the stuff writers have been moving away from recently. By the way, I’m extremely disappointed that the info about killing a witch and the witches spells didn’t come from the new Men of Letters lair. I would have liked to have seen a payoff from Sam spending all those hours pouring through books. Heck, why wasn’t any bit of this episode in the new home? I highly suspect this script was mostly written before all the recent events, and retro fitted hastily with the developments of only last week.
An interesting point I read in one of the reviews on this episode on another site (forgive me for not remembering which one), was that given the fact that this is episode 164 or something like that, is there any reason that when reuniting with an old friend, they didn’t actually use an old friend that we’ve seen before? These phantom old friends that end up being new to us really take away from the audience connection with the story, mainly because we’re in the dark in terms of background. We end up not caring for this guy and his predicament, nor being sold on the bond between James, Sam and Dean because the history means nothing to us.
I didn’t hate James and Portia, but witch lore has never gone over well in this show. I never watched shows like “Charmed” and there have been no familiars in “The Vampire Diaries” (but there should be), so this was a new concept to me. It’s my understanding that ideally Portia should have stayed a dog and her vocabulary limited to “woof” so adding the human side was definitely more interesting. She had spunk, and she was a really pretty girl and dog. But honestly, she had a sexual relationship with her master? For shame show, for shame. If they were really going to go there, they could of at least put her in bed with Sam. He loves dogs. (It's a joke people!)
As for Dean, I had issues with how they chose to do his character this week. He at times seemed too clueless and slow to the take. He didn’t know what a familiar was? Really? How many times has he dealt with witches, or even watched TV? The worst part of it though was how he didn’t catch on that Portia and James were having a sexual relationship and Sam had to spell it out. Catching those sort of things is something Dean is very quick to spot. It was in character for Dean to ask Portia later about how a girl/dog gets intimate with a man like James, but just the way the whole scene played out, he looked like a simple minded buffoon. I know some people love awkward Dean, but it just didn’t work for me this time. Maybe because I just didn’t feel the chemistry between him and Portia. Or perhaps Jensen was cringing over the bad dialogue like I was.
The worst travesty about the episode though was it was just plain boring. Everything was flat. Do you know how detrimental a boring episode is on The CW? Sleep deprivation from daily life kicks in and next thing I know I’m waking up screaming to the noises of super bad 10 pm programming from my local affiliate that I would have otherwise turned off after the episode (this is often called news in some places). Trust me, you really don’t want to see the crap my local affiliate puts on at 10 pm. It’s too nightmarish for words.
When I re-watched the episode on iTunes, there were 42 minutes clocked. It wasn’t until the 32 minute mark that something interesting happened. Astral projection. The show has used this one other time, in “Death Takes A Holiday.” Except it wasn’t really quite the same thing. Not being a real expert on my astral projection dynamics I’ll spare the nitpicking, but I am a little surprised this hasn’t been used more. It’s a really neat trick. I sort of liked the trick that Spencer the bad witch did on Sam and Dean, taking them to their unhappy places, but even that didn’t go over exactly right. Perhaps it was too rushed, or we never saw the ramifications. Dean said it affected him at the end, but I’m more of a show, don’t tell person. Given the sluggish pace of the entire episode, it could have been worked in. Otherwise, there was little purpose for it.
The most significant part is the ending scene, so let’s go there. Dean puts his faith in Sam, as he really should have in the beginning, and Sam tells him he’s okay just a second before he starts coughing up blood yet hiding it from Dean. You know what would have been a better ending? Dean sees the blood, is horrified, and Sam replies, “It’s only a flesh wound.” Oh right, we’ve reverted back to trust issues.
Either way, if Dean sees the blood he has a bad feeling about all this, and if he doesn’t see the blood he has a bad feeling about all this. Dean’s not stupid, even if this episode did everything in it’s power to make him look that way. What worries me about this setup is that we’re in store for another “Why didn’t you tell me the truth?” conflict. The last thing this show needs right now is that beaten to death horse. The ending was much better last week. Sam suffers, looks at Dean with a reassurance he can do this, and Dean’s troubled reaction tells us under no uncertain terms, “Holy mother of Chuck, we are in some serious s***!” That’s the season eight Winchester way. They are beyond the lies. The truth is what’s going to get them this time.
I will mention something I did like and that's James and Portia lived. Sam and Dean's network of contacts and allies continues to grow, thus carrying on the theme of this season of universe rebuilding. Considering all that they've lost before, this is my favorite part of season eight. I'm not saying I'd love to see James and Portia again, but if I did, I wouldn't be upset. They are people of power and could really contribute to this whole Men of Letters network that seems to be in it's infancy. Now Sam and Dean can cross witch and familiar off the needs list.
All in all, I know many weren’t bothered by this episode. I know very few found it great, but several found it acceptable. However, when writers in their attempts to drive character arcs forward end up driving it backward instead, I get furious. It happens with season one shows as well as season eight shows. Filler maybe a norm, but filler doesn’t have to be careless. “Criss Angel is a Douchebag” comes to mind as how filler could be done. That episode, which relegated Sam and Dean to supporting players much like this one, at least sent Sam into Ruby’s grip and delivered some fascinating internal dialogue. The plot went forward, even if it was a tiny push. This episode in its blatant character backtracking took out my shoulder because I was too busy throwing TV bricks at the set while watching.
As a matter of fact, why don’t I give my ratings in terms of TV bricks? This was a four brick worthy episode. “Hammer of the Gods” is a five brick ep, so it wasn’t that bad, but it was bad enough, especially given the timing. But hey, I'll just scratch this off the rewatch list and move on. It's the best thing I can do. Let‘s hope next week’s filler is less polarizing.