I’ve re-watched “The Great Escapist” about ten times in between Wednesday night and the writing of this review.  I can’t get enough of it.  In terms of writing, acting, directing, and production, this episode offers so much!  This is plain and simple, the “Supernatural” I used to remember.  The “Supernatural” that I could dig into every week and marvel over the story, creative elements, and acting that brought many tears to my eye, as well as making me gasp and laugh.  I want to hug this episode and never let it go.  

Season eight overall, while an improvement over season seven, has struggled quite a bit with consistency.  It’s not a well written season by far.  So when a gem like “The Great Escapist” comes along, one that actually matches my ideals when it comes to crafting a story, my excitement level hits the stratosphere.  In other words, I’m so effin happy! 

I’m taking a different approach with my review this week.  My breakdown is going to be a bit more technical in nature.  I’m going to point out some examples of why this episode was superior in terms of writing, directing, acting, etc.  Just because I’m feeling punchy!
 
The Writing

As I’ve said in my reviews many times before, I put a high emphasis on writing.  That is the core fabric needed to take guys that look pretty and make them look pretty good.  Let me take several paragraphs to explain what Ben Edlund is better than any other writer on this team, and in television in general.   

1.  He knows his characters.  

Ben Edlund does have an advantage over everyone else in that he’s been involved with the show since season two.  He’s created many of these characters that have dotted the “Supernatural” landscape.  He’s the one responsible for introducing Crowley.  His scripts have given multi-layered dimensions to Castiel that no other writer has dared to even venture.  Edlund even admitted in a special panel saluting his career at Comic Con last July that his favorite character to write for is Castiel.  Ben also created Kevin Tran.  Now Metatron can be added to the list.  

So, is it any surprise that when these characters meet in conflict in an Edlund script, that major fireworks emerge?  In “The Great Escapist,” the partnership between Crowley and Castiel from season six comes into play in a big way.  Crowley knows Castiel very well by now, even better than Naomi.  So it doesn’t shock me when Crowley is able to figure out where Castiel hid the tablet.  It actually makes me smile!  He’s quite the crafty devil.  

The best interaction between these secondary characters happens with Kevin and Crowley later in the episode.  Crowley thinks he’s on a winning streak, and having the angel tablet means everything, but Kevin knows that without him, these tablets are useless.  He’s no longer scared of Crowley, and knows that he holds the advantage.  Seeing Kevin confront Crowley this time with a cool demeanor, the satisfied smile, our little prophet has oh so grown from his high pressure days as an honor student when he was first introduced.  The way the power play unfolded between these two is nothing short of brilliant.      

2.  He knows his audience.  

Most important, and only writer Robbie Thompson has been putting this much care into his scripts as well, Edlund asks himself with introducing new elements, “What sort of questions will the fans ask?”  He knows us.  How he gets to know us is anyone’s guess, but he does.  

Ben Edlund gives his audience credit.  He knows how smart fans are.  Sure, I was a little confused in the beginning as to how Crowley could have captured Kevin, and why Sam and Dean were acting so weird.  I waited though, knowing there was a reveal coming, even if the answer to the former came later when Crowley revealed to Castiel that he bought himself an angel in Ion.  We all know the boat wasn’t angel proofed.  Only an angel could have gotten to Kevin.  Did Crowley say that?  No, but it wasn’t hard to figure out.  In other words, we got clues.  This is in stark contrast to something like how Sam was easily able to find Bobby in “Taxi Driver.”  We weren’t given any such clue.  There was no rhyme or reason why Sam could just walk into Hell and come across Bobby so easily.  We were left guessing how in the world we jumped from point A to point B.  

Another question I read among fans was, why was Sam able to find the symbol of Metatron so easily?  Edlund covers that with a perfect twist, Sam in his state is starting to remember old obscure things in such vivid detail.  With that piece of information, suddenly it isn’t far fetched that Sam could find a symbol in a book from a course in Stanford that he took 10+ years ago.  

3.  He writes amazing dialogue.  

Okay, this isn’t a skill that comes naturally to all writers.  Dialogue is hard.  Snappy, witty, fast paced dialogue is super hard.  Phrases like, “It’s as if we’re in every Biggerson’s at once, trapped in a quantum superposition,” comes from a mad creative genius who can somehow tie a fictional cheesy family restaurant he invented in season three with a clever trick by Castiel to avoid capture from other angels. I can assure, there are very few writers that would make such a leap.  sweetondean already addressed the brilliance of, “When you create stories, you become gods of tiny, intricate dimensions unto themselves.” Just add me to the pool of people that think that’s one of the best Edlund lines ever, and that comes from a very, very long history of incredible lines. 

Forget the clever stuff though.  Edlund isn’t beyond fart jokes either.  I’m sure he was cackling when he wrote out the line, “You rode a farty donkey.”  Remember, he was the catalyst behind season seven’s “Dick” jokes as well.  He’s got something for everyone. 

Most of all though, he uses dialogue to contribute to the fast pacing of his episodes.  A lot happens in an Edlund episode usually.  Without sharp, very entertaining, yet meaningful dialogue, a very busy script doesn’t blend together well at all.  It comes across as choppy and ill conceived (we know which episodes had that problem).  That didn’t happen in this episode, but it’s hard to realize that unless you give it multiple viewings.  It’s easy on the first couple of views to get lost in complex plot points.   

4.  He knows this show’s history

Ben Edlund used to be one of Eric Kripke’s closest advisors.  That’s because he’s never forgot what this show is really all about.  It’s about family, that’s for sure.  But its also about free will and the consequences of using that free will.  That’s a subject that has always fascinated Edlund the most.  

Edlund is a big picture kind of guy.  He’s determined to make sure that what ever microcosm of a story he’s creating blends well with the overall arc and theme.  In this case, there are struggles on multiple fronts.  There’s the fight between Naomi and Castiel.  Doesn’t it make sense that the angel that ends up on the side of Crowley, the one that betrays Castiel and Naomi, is an angel who’s disillusioned by Heaven’s control over angels?  Free will has consequences.  Beings don’t always choose the greater cause, they choose the path of least resistance.  Free will can be a dangerous thing.  

For anyone that throws at me the one continuity error of the Grand Canyon (which I’m calling an innocent mistake), I can show you hundreds of examples where Edlund ties actions and emotions of characters perfectly from one story to the next. He shows, he doesn’t tell.  He runs on continuity and respect for the “Supernatural” universe, not catch phrases and cliches.  He knows when to be subtle, and when to completely shock us.  This type of writing is pure instinct, and it’s done by someone who completely knows his craft.  

5. He really, really, really gets Sam and Dean. 

Most of all though, Ben Edlund gets Sam and Dean.  For every line he gives them, he knows what their motivations are, what their history is, and how to cleanly bridge any new circumstances with past history.  


In the history of “Supernatural,” only two writers have really got Sam Winchester.  One is now gone, Sera Gamble.  The other is Ben Edlund.  Most writers approach Sam as close to the vest, inward projecting, withdrawn and often somber.  He doesn’t interact with people much.  No, that’s Dean’s job.  After all, that’s the way he is.  It takes a real skill to bring out what’s buried deep inside of Sam, yet not have the moments seem  wildly out of character.  When moments like that do happen, they’re gems.  The first episode I can recall this ever happening is “Mystery Spot.”  Another great episode where we got to see the real Sam inside was “When The Levee Breaks.”  In terms of Sam’s character exposure, “The Great Escapist” now joins those episodes.

Edlund ran with premise, which is something that hasn’t been happening a lot this season.  There’s been plenty of missed opportunities.  Sam is no doubt sick.  What happens if you put him in a delirious state?  He gets very emotional.  He’s letting all that stirs inside him surface.  What’s even better though, is since he’s changing because of the trials, he’s now having moments of extreme clarity.  When you put all that together, it’s the open Sam I’ve always wanted to see! 

Sam really wasn’t out of character though.  We were just getting a rare look inside, seeing who he really is.  Remember how Sam in his delirium was light and funny?  That’s happened before if you recall when he was drugged up in “Sam, Interrupted.”  Canon also dictates, Sam is a happy drunk.  So yes, in his state, a farty donkey is going to be funny!  But it wasn’t just that.  He got really excited over the discovery of the symbol and was eager to go find Metatron, when it sounded like a mere whim to Dean.  He cackled over his memory of Dean with the gassy donkey.  He got teary over the memory of knowing even as a young child that something wasn’t right with him, that somehow he knew he was infected with demon blood.  He was completely livid when Metatron talked about reading stories of humanity’s suffering all those years and did nothing about it.  This is Sam in the extreme.  It’s a rare treat.  

As for Dean, he’s responsible for keeping Sam together.  There is no doubt the trials are a two man job.  If Dean wasn’t there with quick thinking and tons of ice, Sam would be dead.  But it’s more.  Dean needed to work the case because Sam was clearly in no shape.  For those of us fan girls though that live on brotherly moments, he was needed for emotional support as well.  All Dean needed to do was listen, to be there when Sam tearfully admitted the trials are purifying him.  He only made one comment, a heartfelt “It wasn’t your fault.”  This moment between them is subtle, but oh so perfect.  They don’t need tons of words or an over-exposition of dialogue.  They just need to be there for each other.  That’s what’s carried them this far.  

The Directing and Acting

I’m heaping lots of praise on our director of the week, Robert Duncan McNeill.  He has this incredible knack for bringing out the best in the actors he works with.  This is actually his second “Supernatural” appearance, but that was a long while ago.  He directed season one’s “Skin.”  He’s been kind of busy in between, most notably being the in-house director and co-producer for “Chuck” for five seasons.  He’s also worked on numerous other shows, knows how to get the most from actors since he’s one himself.  He played Lt. Tom Paris on “Star Trek: Voyager.”  

McNeill did some fascinating shots that we normally don’t see on “Supernatural,” and each had an extraordinary impact on the story.  Let’s take Castiel jumping from Biggerson’s to Biggerson’s.  It starts off at a wide angle, so we can see what’s going on behind Castiel.  He doesn’t change in any of the shots.  It’s the same tortured, weary, blank expression as he flips from place to place.  With each flip, even when there’s a break in the action for the scene between Ion and Naomi, the camera moves closer and closer toward Castiel, until we get the closeup of Cass‘ solemn face and weary eyes.  It really adds an emotional element that wouldn’t have been there before if they had just shown Castiel moving from place to place.  

When a script calls for one of the leads to start “resonating,” one does wonder how that can be pulled off visually.  The choice to distort the field of vision as well works!  I love getting the opportunity to see what was happening from Sam’s eyes, as opposed to just watching him give off weird faces.  

In the scene with Crowley, Castiel and Ion in Crowley’s office, you may have noticed everyone is shot at an off angle.  It’s a classic trick, but it’s really effective here.  It can be interpreted many different ways, but I see it reflecting Castiel’s skewed frame of mind right now.  The angel was in some peril.  

I will confess, and for very shallow reasons, my favorite sequence of shots came from  Sam’s quite jarring ice bath scene.  It starts with a close up of Sam underwater, immersed in a thick layer of ice.  That visual right there tells under no uncertain terms how bad Sam really is right now.  Then he pops out of the water, startled and completely freaked out.  That’s when the angle backs away from outside of the bathroom, showing Dean standing by to assist, but letting Sam wildly flail until he’s out of the tub.  Then, we’re back in the bathroom after Sam is calmer (and Dean so awesomely hands him a towel).  It’s masterful, and it really adds something to see all those perspectives rather than Sam just hopping out of a tub.  

Another effective, and very emotional scene was poor Kevin Tran’s video, and his emotionally fired reaction to the idea of his own death.  It went from livid anger back to restrained bitterness, then a tinge of regret.  Brilliantly scripted, acted, and directed.

Since we’re on the topic of emotional scenes, there are times when it’s just best to let your greatest asset, the incredible chemistry between the two lead actors, work their magic.  Here the approach was simple, a tight shot on the boys, running purely on reaction.  We haven’t had a scene this strong between the brothers since the “stone number one” speech in “Hello Cruel World.”  Hmm, guess who wrote that? 


Even Metatron got his chance to shine, and we get to see his sincerity from Dean’s POV.  “It’s your choice, and that’s what this has all been about.  The choices your kind make.  But you’re going to have to weigh that choice.  Ask yourself, what is it going to take to do this, and what will the world be like after it’s done.” 

In closing, but certainly not least in any way, there’s the angle from the backseat of the Impala.  This shot isn’t used much, and I remember how it really added something when Phil Sgriccia did it in “Like A Virgin.”  It’s great here too.  We’re in the back seat, on the next great journey with the boys.  It’s exciting.  “But we’re heading somewhere, the end.”  It’s so wonderful we get to go along for the ride. 



The Loose Ends

There’s just one issue that’s bothering me that I wanted to get out in the open, so excuse the small break in the format so I can get this off my chest.  I’m telling you right now, Sam is going through a literal transformation.  He is being physically cleansed of the demon blood.  The evidence is all right there. 

Ever since Sam fell into that pit at the end of season five, the status of his demon blood has been very murky.  The creative minds probably felt that they had gotten enough mileage out of that story, and decided that it shouldn’t even be addressed.  The point is though, the demon blood has always been there.  It’s still a fabric that makes up this man, and he still feels that evil inside him.  This isn’t the excess demon blood that he drank to be powerful in seasons four and five.  This is the taint of his blood that happened when he was a baby and has plagued him his whole life.  The part of him that he’s never been able to shake, no matter how much he wanted to be normal.  It’s the part of him that’s alienated him from the world, and with relationships with others.  

There’s no way Sam would get weepy over a figurative transformation.  For him, it has to be real.  He knows he’s changing, and given Castiel’s comment in “Goodbye Stranger,” it’s happening at a sub-molecular level.  He feels different, and he seems to be very in tune by this point in the trials to what’s happening to him.  I’m hoping we’ll find out more in the final two episodes, but I’ll bet the farm he’s coughing up demon blood. 

For the episode, my overall grade, an A+.  The first one I’ve given this season.  This episode kicked up the stakes, so let’s hope the remaining episodes of the season run with this amazing momentum they’ve been given.


 

Comments  

novi
# novi 2013-05-06 02:45
Good job, Alice, thank you! Your analysis of Mr Edlund's writing had all I've wanted for a long time - it was so detail-oriented . And what a marvellous actor Jared is when he's given good staff to work with! I'm ashamed to say but I was one of those who considered Sam as a cold and rational person driven by duty only. But when we've seen Sam's inner self, his boyishness, his passion and his pain vowen beautifully together... how are we supposed to survive the finale, I ask you? Those promo-photos of ep23 were scary.
KG_SPN
# KG_SPN 2013-05-06 03:30
Great review Alice. I love reading about the technical aspects of the episode; particularly as I hadn't noticed a few of them. I will eagerly watch again with fresh eyes...

Did Ben Edlund have fewer scripts this year? If so, I wonder why... he definitely is the one who knows Sam & Dean the best. If I had my way, all the season 9 episodes would be written by him and Robbie Thompson ;-)

I wasn't worried about the Grand Canyon reference, even if it was a mistake, it can be explained as Dean simply not remembering. I lived in Penang as a child (from 9-12 years old) and I don't remember every trip we did... and my memory of those things we did do is distorted. Also, couldn't Dean have meant 'I've never been to the Grand Canyon since we've been on the road together'. It's not a big deal in my view.

Thanks for the great insights :-)
KELLY
# KELLY 2013-05-06 18:01
KG_SPN, Yeah, Edlund only had 3 this year. :cry: Blood Brother, Everybody Hates Hilter and this one. I think he's had 4 every season since S4, so that does make me sad but he hasn't left the show after 7 seasons (he has 2 more seasons than Kripke. I think Gamble was the only one there from the beginning and now he's equaled her), so I'm counting my blessings.
njspnfan
# njspnfan 2013-05-06 08:00
Wonderful review, Alice. I've also watched the episode again 8 or 10 times; what a well written, directed, and acted episode; Osric and Jared in particular were outstanding.

On the comments in Sweetondean's review, I posited a theory about the Grand Canyon "error". Sam and Dean have had their memories wiped/altered on more than one occasion. In this episode, Crowley mentioned he didn't want to do that to Kevin again because it's dangerous. What if, as part of these trials Sam is remembering things as they actually happened, seeing "thru the cracks" as it were? This would tie in the theme of perception in S8.
SecretWillow
# SecretWillow 2013-05-06 08:52
I don't have any brilliant theories or ideas to add, (really wish I did), but Alice, your Loose Ends section at the end brought me to tears. I can't pinpoint why exactly, it just spoke to me on a personal level. Others have mentioned the coughing up demon blood angle before, but for some reason this hit me much differently. I got such a chill reading that. Just wanted to say thank you.
st50
# st50 2013-05-06 09:13
Thanks Alice!
This is a fabulous review on a fantastic episode. It's been a really iffy season for me, but FINALLY SPN feels right.

As I mentioned on sweetondean's review, the Galahad scene didn't surprise me in the least. This is Sam as I've always thought of him. Not the cold, withdrawn, almost antisocial intellectual, but a deeply caring, deeply damaged soul. He's the one the held on to his faith in humanity and in god far longer than anyone else who'd seen what he'd seen could have. It made absolute sense to me that he'd have felt the evil inside himself - and known there was more to his freakishness than just the family business - from a very early age.

What surprised me is that it's been SO LONG since we've had a glimpse of him. Yes, since Hello Cruel World.
Such a shame they can't write this well for Sam and Dean more often.

Edlund should give a writers-room workshop over the summer. ;-)

He's got it all. Plot and dialogue, and the ability to pull it all together. Combine his work with these actors and a talented director, and it's pure gold. Every time.

I don't know if they can keep it going for the last 2 episodes, but I'm sure hoping they can. At least I'd be able to rewatch the last half of the season!
Amyh
# Amyh 2013-05-06 15:49
Quote:
Thanks Alice!
This is a fabulous review on a fantastic episode. It's been a really iffy season for me, but FINALLY SPN feels right.

As I mentioned on sweetondean's review, the Galahad scene didn't surprise me in the least. This is Sam as I've always thought of him. Not the cold, withdrawn, almost antisocial intellectual, but a deeply caring, deeply damaged soul. He's the one the held on to his faith in humanity and in god far longer than anyone else who'd seen what he'd seen could have. It made absolute sense to me that he'd have felt the evil inside himself - and known there was more to his freakishness than just the family business - from a very early age.

What surprised me is that it's been SO LONG since we've had a glimpse of him. Yes, since Hello Cruel World.
Such a shame they can't write this well for Sam and Dean more often.

Edlund should give a writers-room workshop over the summer. ;-)

He's got it all. Plot and dialogue, and the ability to pull it all together. Combine his work with these actors and a talented director, and it's pure gold. Every time.

I don't know if they can keep it going for the last 2 episodes, but I'm sure hoping they can. At least I'd be able to rewatch the last half of the season!
THis. Every word you have said St50. Though on a curious note for me Sam thnking what he did about himself...I always figured this is something that would alwasy be revealed in Season 4 or 5. Simpply because it is such a truth to Sams coire. So when Sam spoke those words, through tears I said "Finally" "Finally it came out.

This was Sam opening his heart...his very soul to Dean. It spoke so much to how deeply Sam trusts Dean. No other person...excert perhaps Sarah Blake(provenanc e) has gooten to see his soul and even then Sarah only got to see a shard.

Edlund has his favorites but he is one of a fewspecial writers who writ4es to the heart and soul of every charector...not just his favorites. Edlund's ability to show each charectors truth elevates the story and the series.
LEAH
# LEAH 2013-05-06 17:55
Hi Amyh & st50, I completely agree with you both. This is how I have always seen Sam as well. There have been many comments through the seasons about how he never felt normal or felt he was a freak and this little scene has done more to define Sam than any in recent memory. And so brilliantly acted by Jared. I was so happy when I saw that (you know what I mean :-) ) scene, finally a peek into what Sam is and has been thinking!!
debbab
# debbab 2013-05-06 20:27
I agree that it was time to see inside Sam's tortured being. It was watching the layers of an onion shed. We have seen Dean display his feelings of worthlessness, but finally Sam explodes. Great writing that fit into the arc, blasts from the pasts, and JP blew it out of the park.
Gwen
# Gwen 2013-05-06 18:48
Quote:
Though on a curious note for me Sam thnking what he did about himself...I always figured this is something that would alwasy be revealed in Season 4 or 5. Simpply because it is such a truth to Sams coire. So when Sam spoke those words, through tears I said "Finally" "Finally it came out.
Years ago on another message board my friends and I used to speculate about whether deep down, not even on a conscious level, Sam had always known since he was a small child that something was wrong with him, something was different about him. And this was why he felt a freak during his childhood rather than it being just because of the family business, always moving schools etc. Also, deep down, why he always felt the outsider in his family, 'the blond chick in The Munsters'. We hoped and hoped that we would hear Sam say something like that about himself and his childhood. Finally, with this episode, we got our wish. :lol:

It was SO good to hear Sam talk, to get a peek into his heart and mind. It is indeed a rare treat. Edlund really does get Sam Winchester. I wish we could have more of it. I miss Sera Gamble's writing. I loved the way she wrote Sam.

I loved this episode but especially the brother moments. I love any amount of Hurt!Sick!Sam and Protective!Dean so this was episode heaven for me. Wet!Sam was a rather delicious moment too.

I am so pleased they've picked up on the demon blood storyline again. It kind of got lost along the way these past few seasons which is a shame because it is central to who Sam is, how he feels about himself and how he relates to other people and the world around him.

I also think Sam is being physically cleansed and that the blood he's coughing up is demon blood. I love the idea that Sam might get to be normal at last, to finally be saved. But with the finale coming up I worry what will actually happen to him.

Everybody was fabulous in this episode but especially Jared and Osric. Sam's Sir Galahad scene ripped my heart apart.

Thanks for a great review, Alice.
KELLY
# KELLY 2013-05-06 18:59
Gwen, I agree. I've always felt he had larger issues, even as a child, than simple being a hunter. That he felt something was wrong with him. And that is why he was in such denial about the visions and then why he hid the visions from Dean, even though Dean never seem to have a problem with other psychics. Long before they knew about YED. This was just confirmation of long held beliefs for me too.
KELLY
# KELLY 2013-05-06 18:12
Quote:
As I mentioned on sweetondean's review, the Galahad scene didn't surprise me in the least. This is Sam as I've always thought of him. Not the cold, withdrawn, almost antisocial intellectual, but a deeply caring, deeply damaged soul. He's the one the held on to his faith in humanity and in god far longer than anyone else who'd seen what he'd seen could have. It made absolute sense to me that he'd have felt the evil inside himself - and known there was more to his freakishness than just the family business - from a very early age.

Edlund should give a writers-room workshop over the summer. ;-)
AMEN!!!!! To both of these and everything else you said too, but especially these two things. I didn't resolve my issues with the first half of the season, but it did help to see the real Sam again. I really missed this guy. The other writers do pretty well with Dean most of the time(although still have issues), but Sam I sometimes feel like they have been listening to Dean girls. Not necessarily Sam haters just that Sam doesn't love Dean as much as Dean loves him. Or that he always runs away. ETC. Instead of really seeing the flawed, but incredible and extremely interesting person he is.
love2boys
# love2boys 2013-05-06 13:52
That was wonderful, Alice! Every point brought out clearly.

I have never cared for the "discussions" comparing S&D, because I never believed Sam was cold and driven. I think he still has things to tell us, though! I thought he was so hurt inside that he just couldn't get his most important words outside. I have experienced that feeling myself.

I love Dean as caregiver, as well. Yes, I think he is bad@ss as ever. But I do not believe that caregiver, as part of a personality, or as a role he includes in his life, is "regressing." It is one of many roles that rounds him as a person/character.

Ben Edlund is my favorite writer. I agree, Sera Gamble is my second favorite. I miss Sera as a writer, especially since BE cannot write all of the episodes!

Your review was wonderful. I really enjoyed it. Thanks.
Sylvie
# Sylvie 2013-05-06 15:28
Great review Alice. I can't stop watching this episode over and over and over. My DVR is full of other things (well alright, every episode of SPN season 8) but I can't help myself, my finger keeps going back to the restart button. Ben Edlund is so freaking amazing, there aren't enough adjectives in the English language for the guy! :-) Seeing this beautiful episode really made me miss Sera Gamble though, and for the very reason that you stated. I wish things had turned out differently and we still had her magic on the show. But, oh well, I'll try not to dwell on it too much.

The directing was stupendous. I loved every little bit of it, from the close-ups on Cass to the camera on Sam's face when he is resonating. I hope Robert Duncan McNeill doesn't stay away so long next time! :D And what to say about the acting. OMG, everyone was on their A game with this episode. Osric Chau brought me to tears with his video clip. And of course, Mr. Jared Padalecki, just WOW. :cry:

Quote:
Since we’re on the topic of emotional scenes, there are times when it’s just best to let your greatest asset, the incredible chemistry between the two lead actors, work their magic. Here the approach was simple, a tight shot on the boys, running purely on reaction. We haven’t had a scene this strong between the brothers since the “stone number one” speech in “Hello Cruel World.” Hmm, guess who wrote that?
Thank you Alice, and Amen.

A++ for me on this one.
paladinteacher
# paladinteacher 2013-05-06 16:45
I've been lurking for a while, and I loved this episode so much that I just had to comment. I have watched it over and over since last week as well. The moments between Sam and Dean are so spot-on. You are right about how great Ben Edlund is at writing for the brothers.

One thing that I noticed is how many times the fake demon Dean said, "Awesome." A call back to "Bitten," when the three friends said that Dean couldn't have been an FBI agent because he said, "Awesome," too much. And at the end, Dean asked Sam if he said "awesome" too much, and Sam said, "No. No, no, no,no."

Also wondering if Sam calling "Dr. Scowly-Scowl" a "Scooby-Doo villain" is a reference to Edlund's days on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Last thought, about the title, "The Great Escapist." It obviously can refer to Kevin getting away from Crowley; Cas getting away from Naomi, then Crowley; and Metatron getting away from it all (heaven, angels, the real world), but way back in Season 1 (I'm thinking it was the Pilot) didn't Sam and Dean use either the names of the main characters in the movie The Great Escape, or leave a coded message that referred to the movie? It was when one or the both of them had been arrested and one of them was able to get out of the sheriff's office using that code.

So many layers, so deftly handled.
debbab
# debbab 2013-05-06 20:23
Was it when they were arrested for murder and it was a shapeshifter? I can remember Jensen doing the Blue Steel look for the mug shot.It was a Steve McQueen movie that Dean referenced when they were brought in for questioning and the public defender slips Sam, Dean's note. She then covers for them by giving Hendrickson(may be?) the wrong name of the burial spot so they can salt and burn and make their escape. It some ways Sam escaped into his childhood for a while as well and truly wants to escape his demon blood.
KG_SPN
# KG_SPN 2013-05-06 20:37
Quote:
way back in Season 1 (I'm thinking it was the Pilot) didn't Sam and Dean use either the names of the main characters in the movie The Great Escape, or leave a coded message that referred to the movie?
I believe it was season 2's The Usual Suspects. Dean was arrested for murder and they were being held in separate rooms. They told identical stories and used code from The Great Escape (Hilts was one of the characters) before Sam escaped. It ended up being one of the detectives who was killing witnesses because they might've implicated him in a drug heist.

I really loved that episode (particularly the escape) because we got to see just how well Sam and Dean really know one another... and there was insight to their plan of action for when they get separated :-)
Ginger
# Ginger 2013-05-06 17:05
That was certainly a glowing review. I liked the episode okay and think it was probably the second best one of the season. I would probably give it a B+.

I wasn't going to comment on this board about the episode, but I think I want to add a little different perspective given all the praise that's been poured upon it.

You see, as talented as he is and; yes, I agree that he is THE writer for the show, I felt like Edlund probably spent a couple of days on the script, maybe revised it a little on a third try, and called it good.

He lost me when Dean carried in a prepared tray with plate, napkin, and water glass. I get that Dean has always cared for Sam, and I get that Dean prepares food for Sam, but the Dean I know would have carried in a bowl with a spoon stuck in it and a water bottle, not a prepared maid's tray.

Edlund lost me again at the Grand Canyon remark, and not because it was yet another trashing of canon, but because I thought it was a real lost opportunity.

I felt that Sam could have remembered some small incident that the fans didn't know about from the brothers' past; something that would have added to the Winchester backstory and to the brothers' bond; something like remembering an incident that showed why Dean was afraid of rats...perhaps the boys being along and going off to explore something at Sam's insistence and encountering something that caused Dean to be afraid of rats. Something that Sam would recall as his fault and express his regret to Dean for it.

Or how about something that told the audience that every time Sam looks back to his childhood, he sees Dean there, caring for him, protecting him, teaching him new things.

Instead of screwing up an important piece of canon at a critical time for Dean, I think this approach would have somewhat corrected Sam's early season behavior and given the fans something they are always interested in -- how the Winchesters were raised.

I also did not like Edlunds 'writers are God' comment. What hubris, especially with the incoherent storytelling this season, the poor plotting, the bad pacing, and the really bad characterizatio n of the Winchesters. Writers are not God unless they can sell the story, and they haven't sold this season's story to me at all. The mytharc is weak, to be wrapped up in two final episodes, the Winchesters story has been confusing all season, and show canon has been trashed at every opportunity.

I will re-state that I didn't hate this episode. I just thought it wasn't up to Edlund's usual quality. I get that he lost interest in the two Winchesters years ago, but if anyone could save this season, I thought that it would be Ben. What the episode did do very nicely is arrange all of the players and set the stage for the final run, and that was well done.

I fully expect absolutely no one to agree with me, but just take it as a different perspective on the episode, which may or may not be driven by a terribly disappointing season.
LEAH
# LEAH 2013-05-06 18:27
Just a small thing Ginger, but Sam is really sick and until the well-stocked bunker I am not sure Dean would have had access to the amenities he had on Sam's tray. Although I don't see what is so special about a plate, napkin, and glass. But that's just me. :-)
Ginger
# Ginger 2013-05-06 19:04
The issue for me is the lack of understanding about blue collar workers. A bowl of stew with a spoon stuck in it is much more within the parameters of Dean's characterizatio n than a nicely prepared food tray, and I don't think their fancy new digs would change that.
LEAH
# LEAH 2013-05-06 21:36
Being blue collar myself and having blue collar parents and grandparents, I was often brought food on a tray, with a napkin, when I was sick. I think it was more about transporting the food to me than anything else. I don't see it as that OOC but I understand that you do.
KG_SPN
# KG_SPN 2013-05-06 21:48
I just think Dean is delighted by all these things that they've never had before. He is like a big kid in a candy store... and it's not the first time we've seen Dean like that ;-)
Amyh
# Amyh 2013-05-07 12:47
Quote:
I just think Dean is delighted by all these things that they've never had before. He is like a big kid in a candy store... and it's not the first time we've seen Dean like that ;-)
Personally i think it speaks to Dean having a sense of permancy. Feeling the Bunker is his home. He's personalizing things; he's making it HIS. THis isn't some motel where you pull food out of a take out bag (thy do include napkins) and try not to wonder what the room would look like under a black light. which includes the drinking glasses....so yeah, in a notel youd drink out of a water bottle.

But HOME you make things look a little nicer..... You know the drinking glasses are clean. .... I just think this is part of showing how Dean sees the Bunker as home. And i'll bet Sam never finds dirty socks in the sink (callback to HellHouse).

Dean is easpeically guided in all thinks by his memories of Mary. And i'lll bet anything that that simple tray layout made him feel connected to Mary.
Sharon
# Sharon 2013-05-06 17:26
No disrespect Ginger and with full knowledge of the whole 'not looking for ' Dean decision that will haunt Sam within the fandom but I would rather Sam remembers a farty donkey which by definition is a small incident we didnt know about then something he did that was his fault from their childhood . Wether it was retcon cannon or done on purpose makes no difference this wasnt about faulting Sam but allowing the audience a rare glimpse into his world and how he has been affected by an act when he was 6 mths old and that he has painfully carried with him all his life.

Ben Edlund achieved that for Sam and for that he gets my thanks .
Ginger
# Ginger 2013-05-06 20:53
Your's is a valid perspective; however, for me, it never bothered me that Sam didn't look for Dean. It does bother me a lot when canon is trashed. What the Grand Canyon comment did was solidify the re-writing of the Winchesters' entire backstory that has been going on throughout this entire season and which was established beginning with the Pilot.

Sam and Dean's upbringing, John training them as warriors while keeping them away from both civilians and other hunters, is now no longer unique, but seems to be an ordinary hunters upbringing. Victor was raised the same way and, according to him, many others were too. Krissy sure was, until her Dad gave up hunting for the 'normal' life that Sam and Dean now seek, and it was that normal life that got him killed.

There was no reason for Dean to be upset that John took Adam to a baseball game for his 16th birthday (Jump the Shark), because John took Sam and Dean on at least one family vacation to the Grand Canyon -- something Dean always wanted to see and had, apparently, forgotten that he already had. You know, that information was given to us in a very emotional episode for Dean, but with that one comment and the stroke of Edlund's pen, all meaning was sweep away from it. And who knew that John cooked special recipes for the boys?

Sam's amazing computer skills are no longer all that special. Krissy is now every bit as good on a computer as Sam, and Charlie is better.

Apparently, hunting isn't all that special of a job. Not only can teens do it, but Garth is a good enough to be elevated to Bobby 2.0 and train and lead other hunters, and Charlie has a good start on becoming a hunter.

Kevin is smarter than both Sam and Dean. He outwitted Crowley, something the brothers have never been able to do. In fact, they are usually two steps behind Crowley.

Nobody knows who Sam and Dean Winchester are, outside of being a couple of hunters in a small community of hunters (Dean’s recent phone call to Kyle looking for Garth, and he apparently had called several hunters from his comment that nobody knows anything about where Garth is or what he was hunting). None of the Winchester accomplishments have ever been recognized (well, Charlie, because she read some online books. Victor, in fact, barely remembered them, but sure knew about the Apocalypse.

The road trip premise of the show is changed to the Yale bunker, a place that was secret and held all artifacts supernatural for a thousand years before the brothers started inviting any random person they meet into it.

The Impala is no longer a character in the show. What fan these days would come up with the name “Metallicar† for the Impala?

The classic music is almost non-existent, replaced by some modern stuff that I never heard of and strings and violins.

I have no problem with Sam being the sole Winchester to do the trials and if the purpose is to purify him, at least that is a reason for another 'what's wrong with Sam' story. However, Sam’s demon blood was a defining characteristic of Sam’s very character, of the choices he has made and the actions he has taken over the course of his life and the show. Who will Sam be after this, or the more worrisome question is what characteristics will replace that very important part of Sam's entire history?

I have no problem with Dean caring for and giving Sam emotional support, but I very much do have a problem with that being his only storyline. Caring for Sam, giving him support, having empathy for other people is a Dean characteris tic...not a storyline. It is not compelling. It is not interesting. It is not dramatic. The only thing that it does is take away half of what Dean's character was.

Dean's very reason for hunting was stated in Wendigo. It was to hunt and kill evil to save other families from going through what the Winchesters went through. Now his sole purpose, as stated by Carver himself, is revenge. Revenge is now a good thing, contrary to what the show has always shown and stated (as late as the Krissy episode this season).

The other thing that Sam’s demon blood, which was a defining characteristic of Sam’s very foundation, of the choices he has made and the actions he has taken over the course of his life and the show, is being cleansed through purification. Who will Sam be after this?

The other thing that playing up Dean's caregiving and empathy characteristic does is to take away all feeling of the dark and dangerous Dean that was first established in the Pilot when Dean was introduced in the shadows and was more connected to the supernatural world than the normal world. It was both of these sides that made Dean an interesting, compelling, and unique character. We are now left with a character that is nothing more than a TV trope male placed in a feminine role with a 30-year-old child, a 26-year-old step-sister, and a 16-year-old little sister.

I said that I agreed with Alice that Edlund was a brilliant writer. What I didn't say was that his brilliance did something in this episode that I never thought I would say. This episode made me hate what has happened to a show that I used to hardly be able to wait through a week for. This episode made me wish I had never started watching the thing eight years ago (and I never missed one live episode in the whole eight years).

I'm not even going to finish out this season. I'm done. I'll read a couple of reviews next season and, if there is anything that interests me, I might watch an episode here or there, but I just don't do soaps.
KG_SPN
# KG_SPN 2013-05-06 21:29
Quote:
Sam and Dean's upbringing, John training them as warriors while keeping them away from both civilians and other hunters, is now no longer unique, but seems to be an ordinary hunters upbringing. Victor was raised the same way and, according to him, many others were too. Krissy sure was, until her Dad gave up hunting...
Wow...

I could address almost everything you've spoken about here with an alternative point of view... but I'll just concentrate on a couple of things, including the quote above. It was revealed in season 2, when Sam and Dean first went to the Roadhouse, that there was a whole community of hunters out there. Most of them kept to themselves, but it was clear that there were others living the life. We just know more about Sam and Dean's life because that's the story that our Show is focused on.

Jo didn't grow up on the road like Sam and Dean did, but she was brought up in the life... knowing about the Supernatural; just the same as Krissy was in later seasons. So, I really don't think anything introduced in season 8 is new to that concept at all. Victor is just like one of those hunters hanging out at the roadhouse... and we got to learn more about him this season.

I also don't believe the Grand Canyon was put in to re-write the boy's history. It was probably just a simple error (unless it's got something to do with memory wipes and was deliberately placed in as part of the 'perceptions' theme). Even the best writers are human; and mistakes sometimes happen.

For me, I can reconcile it anyhow. How much do we really remember about our childhood? I lived in Penang from ages 9-12 and this is a massive cultural difference to living in Australia. So you'd think I'd remember it pretty clearly, but there's a lot I don't remember. And, when I went back there as an adult (with my parents keeping me company), I was astonished about how much my memory was triggered. Just like Dean saying, 'I can barely remember it'.

Also, how do we know that they were on holiday? John may have been on a case and dragged them along. Just sayin' ;-)

Anyhow, I'm truly sorry you are so disillusioned with the show that you wish you'd never watched it. I hope you can find another show to be passionate about :-)
Ginger
# Ginger 2013-05-07 00:08
We all have different perspectives and every perspective is valid if they are based on canon. Canon is only what has been shown or stated in the series and leaves no room for viewer reconciliation or character psychoanalysis. But let me address two of your points without any intention of arguing either side, but only to further clarify my points.

Absolutely, there were always other hunters and; yes, Jo was raised in the life, as was Krissy. Jo was not kept isolated from the hunting community and civilians, as Sam and Dean were. We don't know whether Krissy was or not. We do know from Sam many times over that the Winchesters moved so much, they were outsiders to 'normal' people, and from Bloodlust we know that John kept them away from most hunters:

DEAN
You seem to know a lot about our family.

GORDON
Word travels fast. You know how hunters talk.

DEAN
No, we don't, actually.

The reason for this established isolation was an explanation for how and why the brothers' bond formed -- that Sam and Dean only had each other to depend on.

This season we get Victor's narrative which completely takes away any uniqueness of the way Sam and Dean were raised and the foundation for the brothers' bond:

VICTOR

But you know what I realized, Sam, is that these kids, they don't have to live it the way we have. You know, crappy hotel rooms, always moving, no family, no life. It's not the only way.

On the second point, it doesn't matter if John was on a case, took the boys on holiday to the Grand Canyon, or if Sam and Dean rode donkeys down the canyon all by themselves when they were 8 and 4. The Dean Winchester who was deeply hurt because John took the time to take Adam to a baseball game would most certainly remember a trip to the Grand Canyon. But that was not previous canyon. From the Croatoan cliffhanger:

DEAN
I don't know, man. I just think maybe we ought to . . . go to the Grand Canyon.

SAM
What?

DEAN
Yeah, you know, all this driving back and forth across country, you know I've never been to the Grand Canyon? Or we could go to T.J. Or Hollywood, see if we can bang Lindsey Lohan.

There was a seven episode build-up to Sam and the viewers finding out what John had whispered into Dean's ear in 'In My Time of Dying', and we didn't find out until the eighth one (Hunted) when Dean told Sam the secret that had been eating at him since John's death.

How could a writer as good as Edlund forget these kinds of things? What he was doing, IMO and as most of the writers of the show are doing these days, is inserting their own catch phrases, idiosyncrasies, cleverness (or humor, if you will), and personal preferences into the episodes and characters (i.e., Edlund's farty donkey joke and Adam Glass' kid obsession).


The different perspectives aren't really worth discussing, though. It's not a test with one correct answer. The only point of importance that I wished to make is to dispute Edlund's claim that writers become God because they create a story. I say writers are a far cry from being Godlike, because they have to sell their story. Neither Carver nor Edlund have sold their "mature" Winchesters story or their "emotional arc" stories for neither Sam or Dean with any great deal of success this season.

What did Sam learn from his Amelia story that had any effect on the brothers? Humility? No. A sense of accountability? No. Accepting responsibility for his own actions? Not that I have seen.

What exactly is Dean's emotional arc? Losing a good friend? That's been done. Supporting his brother? That's been done to death? Has Dean learned to trust? Has Dean shed any guilt or his overpowering sense of responsibility? Has Dean connected to anyone? Not for himself -- only for them?
KG_SPN
# KG_SPN 2013-05-07 00:27
I think we'll just have to agree to disagree :-)

There is absolutely no need for you to recite huge amounts of the script to me... because I've watched every season several times over :lol:

I was simply pointing out a different viewpoint to yours. Also you might like to read the latest post by Pragmatic Dreamer about Winchester Memories... for another point of view.

Everyone takes something different out of the show; I've personally really enjoyed season 8 & I think it's much better than season 7 (and slightly ahead of season 6)... but, either way, I'm sticking with this show until the bitter end. But that's just me :D

As I said earlier, I hope you find another show that satisfies you better than Supernatural. Cheers!
Sylvie
# Sylvie 2013-05-07 07:56
Quote:
I'm sticking with this show until the bitter end. But that's just me
Absolutely KG, I agree with you, and I'm sticking with the show also! ;-)
Amyh
# Amyh 2013-05-07 13:01
Your's is a valid perspective; however, for me, it never bothered me that Sam didn't look for Dean. It does bother me a lot when canon is trashed. What the Grand Canyon comment did was solidify the re-writing of the Winchesters' entire backstory that has been going on throughout this entire season and which was established beginning with the Pilot.

So....in your opinion a single line about the Grand canon holds far more weight then the writers trashing Sam's cahrector by having him NOT look for Dean and then they couldn't give him enough respect to SHOW his story instead showing Ameilas POV and then having Dean tell Sam no matter what he thought or felt when he lost his beeloved brother after every other loss it would never be and never was good enough.
Elisa
# Elisa 2013-05-06 17:37
Totally with you on everything, Alice!
And yes! Finally someone to express the theory I've had for a while too; that the trials are cleansing Sam of the demon blood!
Lovely review.
KELLY
# KELLY 2013-05-06 18:50
Alice, LOVED THE REVIEW!!!!! EVERY. SINGLE. WORD. I agree completely and totally and don't have much to add to that except prior to this season I would have added Carver to the list of people who got Sam (along with Cathryn Humphris from earlier seasons), but in the one episode he's written so far this season, well....... But Sam in MS was great, so was the Sam in aVSC, and FTBYaM actually has some amazing Sam scenes as well as PoNR. Maybe the finale will....

But totally and completely agree with everything you wrote in this review. It was my first A+ of the season as well. Not that there haven't been other great episodes but this one was spectacular for all the reason you listed. And I am definitely on board with this director coming back OFTEN.
LEAH
# LEAH 2013-05-06 21:00
Alice, I am not a very technical or detail oriented watcher but I love to read things from this perspective. I know I loved this episode. It is one of my favorites of the series. It had all of the things I love. Brother moments that were subtle and touching. Those are the most affecting to me. Less talk, more of them watching each other and reacting. You said in a review awhile ago that they sometimes don't let the moments play out in the rush to get to the next scene (sorry, can't remember the exact words). I loved how this episode did not feel rushed but still had a million things to say. Sam's Sir Galahad scene was breathtaking and may be one of my most favorite Jared moments ever. On so many levels.

The acting by Jared, Jensen and Osric was outstanding.

Can't wait to find out how to cure a demon and which one will it be. Hoping for an Adam "cure" but who knows?

Great review and episode!
Nate
# Nate 2013-05-07 12:13
Alice,
This was my most fun review to read of yours. When you are this happy about the show, it comes right through the computer screen into my (and readers) Supernatural-lo ving soul. Nothing more to comment about this episode other than to agree it was perfection, and my favorite Jared performance ever. Thank you for the enthusiastic review.
I am curious to know your feelings on a few things. I know you're busy, so a short response is OK if I ramble on too long here :)
Season 8 for me has been a big step up from Seasons 6 and 7. You commented Season 8 is an improvement over Season 7, but struggled quite a bit with consistency. My thoughts are the season’s consistency did not take a bump until episode 15. Your reviews of eps before that have talked about issues you had here and there, but overall I have loved this season compared to 6 and 7.
If we compare these 3 post-Kripke seasons, I rate them 8, 6, 7 (knowing 8 has 2 eps left). Season 6 started off a bit slow. I was OK with that as it was a post-apocalypse world turned upside down. I thought “Appointment in Samarra” was actually a strong episode, but then the Campbell's use was a major disappointment. I actually found Mark Campbell to be the most interesting, and he barely spoke and was killed quickly. But there was no reaction to Mark's death, no reaction later to Christian’s demon-ness and death, and the rest of the Campbells story (lack of story) was just so blah. I loved the Soulless Sam, Jared was again in top form there, and I think it went on just the right amount of time before it overstayed its welcome. Then Sam was back, the wall was up, the Mother story was a lame mess, and I still don't know what the Alpha/Mother story was all about. The Season wandered all over the place, but came to a strong wrap up (The Man Who Would Be King, thank you again Ben). Season 7 started REALLY strong with 2 awesome episodes, and then was all over the place. The devastation that was supposed to be Sam’s call collapsing was wasted, and here one minute and gone the next. Cass’s warning of how awful it would be was way off the mark I guess. I wanted more on that. The Leviathans had so much potential, but seemed to disappear for huge chunks of the season. We got a strong end where it seemed like the writers said "OK, we NEED to wrap this up, what's good?" Dick Roman was really excellent in the last episodes. The whole idea that the plan for the Leviathans was to fatten up America so they could feed was an interesting commentary on America that was never fully realized (I wish in Season 8 there was a mention of a food recall as so much was already tainted!). There were IMO some underrated eps (The Mentalists, Adventures in Babysitting), but the season seemed to break down, then rebuild and end on a higher note. Overall enjoyment of the storyline was low, and they killed Bobby.
Season 8, there were some problems, and most people are still not recovered from “Man's Best Friend with Benefits" but as I read over the episode list from Season 8, the interest in the story (for me) was higher from the start, the overall writing was higher (even BB & ER-L gave good in "A Little Slice of Kevin"). Purgatory, PTSD Dean, Flashbacks, Tablets, to me it was all working very well. I'd say the first bump was "Best Friend." Following that with "Remember the Titians" was a mini-fail because ZEUS was featured? That should have been a 2-parter if ZEUS was involved?!?! It's like using Jesus or Mohammed as a character! But “Goodbye Stranger” got us back on track--only to have "Freaks & Geeks" slow the train down again. Then "Taxi Driver and it's GREAT/bad highs and lows again was a head scratcher. The last 2 eps have put the train on full blast. I would say with a few hiccups toward the last part of Season 8, those are far less bumps than we had in Seasons 6 and 7, and the overall story has been far more entertaining. PLUS, we have Charlie, Garth, Naomi, Kevin, Mrs. Tran, and BENNY in our universe, as well as bad-ass Crowley. We got nothing close to these excellent additions in Season 6 or 7 (Charlie was a highlight of S7). AND the Men of Letters. For the first time in many seasons, the Winchester world is filling up again, they are catching a break as you mentioned in the review of “As Time Goes By.”
I know the TV world is grueling—the last few seasons have seen a similar loss of way heading into the final stretch. Maybe let Ben Edlund write or fix all episodes 15-19 next season? They seem to be where bumps occur.
Amruta Karve
# Amruta Karve 2013-05-09 12:05
Quote:
I will confess, and for very shallow reasons, my favorite sequence of shots came from Sam’s quite jarring ice bath scene. It starts with a close up of Sam underwater, immersed in a thick layer of ice. That visual right there tells under no uncertain terms how bad Sam really is right now. Then he pops out of the water, startled and completely freaked out. That’s when the angle backs away from outside of the bathroom, showing Dean standing by to assist, but letting Sam wildly flail until he’s out of the tub. Then, we’re back in the bathroom after Sam is calmer (and Dean so awesomely hands him a towel). It’s masterful, and it really adds something to see all those perspectives rather than Sam just hopping out of a tub.
True that! Loved that! My favourite scene!
Great review Alice! It really was great episode.... and some great directing! And of course some great writing. I agree with all your paragraphs of explaining why Mr. Edlund is such a great writer. He really knows the show to its core. Dean got to throw things around in anger..... He had never done that. I was so shocked! But then he never had a home before where he could do it. It was so sad as well, seeing him angry, frustrated, regretting and helpless.
Alice, million thanks for mentioning that iced bathtub scene.... It was so awesome scene. It felt so different watching it in Supernatural. I don't know why, I just loved that scene so much. Sam was like a baby telling Dean to back off.. :lol:
I was hoping sweetondean will mention it and others..... but nobody did. And then u did.... I was so happy and greatful. Direction of this episode was really different and nice. Mr. McNeil rocked it!