Thoughts on Defending Your Life

What to say about this episode? So far, I've enjoyed season seven but this episode felt a little lacklustre. I didn't think the monster of the week was incredibly strong, but it wasn't awful either. Admittedly, there were higher expectations for this episode as the notion of a trial of Dean's guilt had immense potential, especially coming off last week's debate about the merits of Dean actions with regard to Amy. 
 
Let's get to what worked and what didn't work (a whole lot). 
 
Sam the Defender


 
From a characterization perspective, this episode was an excellent one for Sam. When we see Sam at the front of this episode, he is still using the hand/wound trick to keep Lucifer at bay and he's moving through life despite the hallucinations he may or may not still be having from time to time. Sam really takes control in this episode and becomes a fantastic lead investigator on this case, especially where Dean's heart really isn't in it at all. 
 
The thank-you from Sam to Dean didn't sit well with me. For one thing, this comment seemed out of place and a poor set up for later having Amy as a witness in Dean's trial. For another, Dean looked a bit sick at the entire exchange and against this was quite a blatant set up to suggest that this lie of omission was going to come back and bite him sooner rather than later. Supernatural is generally a little subtler than this, but I felt here that the viewers were being hit over the head redundantly, especially given that this particular incident was just last week's episode and that we had a recap in the Then segment. 
 
I like to see Sam taking the lead on this investigation right from the start - he seems to be doing well, all things considered. From the get-go Sam seems back to the Sammy we know and love. He's clearly concerned about his brother but also focused on the case at hand, demonstrating strength, control and leadership. It was good of him to call Dean out on the drinking, though he didn't have time to pursue it fully. I wonder if this will be an issue in future between them. Of the two brothers, Dean is often more susceptible to the human ailments such as guilt and grief because he doesn't deal with either in a healthy, constructive manner. 
 
Objection


 
The entire trial is really where this episode falls down for me - maybe that's because I'm predisposed to law and court procedures through my current education, but I felt this was not well executed. For one thing, while I did not expect Osiris' questioning of the witnesses to be fair but just meant to laden Dean with another layer of guilt, I did expect his questions to be a bit more hard-hitting with holes in his logic a little smaller than one could drive a truck through, as they were. 
 
Sam as Dean's lawyer wasn't unexpected, given Sam's aspirations back at the beginning of season one. His line to Dean about The Good Wife was clever (it's a good show) but that was about it for decent writing in the trial portion of the episode. 
 
In this viewer's opinion the cross examination of Dean by Sam was not done well, to say the least. I did not find Sam's arguments compelling because although they had legitimate basis they were not fleshed out nearly to the extent they would need to be to convince Dean he is not guilty for something like Sam returning to the hunter lifestyle or Jo's death. Dean's immediate acquiescence to Sam's questions and all around agreement did not feel true to the character. I suppose the argument could be made that Dean was merely trying to convince Osiris that Dean himself believed his own innocence of these accusations, but as Osiris can see “into the heart” of the “defendant” that argument does not fly for me. 
 
Another disappointing piece about this trial was that despite the set up for it, Amy's death was never revealed to Sam. Dean knows Amy is the third witness and won't have her called - he doesn't want Sam to know about it and he knows there is no way to “justify” that one because he did directly kill Amy and then proceeded to lie by omission to Sam (not that I'm condemning Dean, just stating the facts - personally I believe it was necessary to kill Amy). I feel like there could have been some interesting character development and more emotional punch from a reveal, but it was skimmed over and never addressed properly - this was far from a neatly tied bow sealing the Amy issue. 
 
Ghostly Assassin 


 
It was great to see Alona Tal reprising the role of Jo Harvelle. She played it well here, the reluctant witness who tried to absolve Dean of some guilt, both in “court” and before she killed him. The discussion with Dean, like many things in this episode, had potential that was never fully reached. The conversation danced around vague ideas of guilt and the hunter lifestyle and about how Dead didn't want to be alone but it felt superficial and surface-level to me. The one moment from this exchange that I enjoyed, aside from the teasing about Jo's crush on Dean, was when Jo took the lighter and Dean flashed back to putting the trigger in her hand at the hardware store back in Abandon All Hope. Jo putting her hand against Dean's cheek as he closed his eyes felt like a very real moment between the two. Beyond that there was not a whole lot about the motel confessional that worked. 
 
The Band-Aid Solution
 
Finally, Osiris was terrible. Nothing about the actor who played him here, I didn't mind the actor, however I did find that the Osiris character was not as powerful or intimidating as he should have been. The material he had was not particularly compelling. His court room was uninspiring. The fact that he had to literally sneak up and physically take his victims from the parking lot felt mundane - any old ghoul could be at work here. Nor was his death particularly special, but rather felt like a rehash of the pagan gods killed in A Very Supernatural Christmas although that episode as a whole was a great one. Osiris could have been so much more than he was. 
 
Guilt-Free
 
As many emotional episodes end - the boys by a body of water, the Impala and a beer. Sam admits that he doesn't feel guilty anymore - feels that he paid his dues in Hell - Sam is in a healthy frame of mind, he's accepting that his past is his past and the only thing to do is to move forward. It's good to see Sam so happy and healthy for a change (barring a hallucination or two).
 
Final Thoughts
 
This episode was mediocre to me. It had the hallmarks of a classic Supernatural episode: emotional punches, revisits from beloved past characters, a (potentially) interesting bad-guy-of-the-week. Unfortunately though I think the ingredients of a great episode were all there, they weren't mixed nearly as well as they should have been. A couple things worked for me, such as Sam's character arc throughout the episode; though overall Defending Your Life was a sub-standard so-so. 
 
What did you think? 
 

Comments  

Sharon
# Sharon 2011-10-15 11:31
I think there Sam is not human or he still souless or he is made of stone I haven t quite worked it out yet? He will be wearing a kaftan and playing bongos next he is so laid bac so disturbling ok.I cant quite understand how we got from the Sam in episode 2 to Zen Sam in the space of two episodes.

All in all I didnt think it was to bad although I agree the trial was abit of a missed oppotunity.
elle
# elle 2011-10-15 12:11
As genuine as Sam's discussion with Dean felt, I'm thinking that can't be the end of it for Sam's storyline with regard to his feelings about hell et.al. As Jas points out below, this would feel inconsistent all around.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2011-10-15 11:32
I think this will remain one of my favourite episodes of the show. It comes as a summary of the whole seasons before and serves as an omen for things to come.

And it hurts. For me, some of my fave episodes have been those I feel the most emotionally attached to and triggered by. There are some minor things I didn’t approve of (like Osiris coming across far too American, for my taste, despite his outward appearance), but as a whole this episode was disturbing and fantastically acted.

“I’m 90 % crap.” This pretty much sums it up how Dean has felt for a long time now. Despite his watchful eye on Sam (and his fear of his brother turning into another kind of monster this time, a fear he and we, as viewers, have grown accustomed to), this is basically how Dean has been regarding himself. Osiris was right about one thing: “people want to be judged.” Most of us do. We judge others (the neighbour who hasn’t mown is lawn for a while, the girl wearing far too tight jeans, the guy who tries to come on too heavily, etc. etc. etc.), but most severely we judge ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I have experienced myself judging me, as a person and my deeds, with a much stricter eye than I would ever assess others. Sometimes, depending on my personal emotional state, I find little mercy. It’s a hard, painful view of what I believe I have done wrong in my life or what I feel guilty about.

With Dean it’s very much in the same neighbourhood. Whatever he has done – and this goes back many, many years - had remained with him and tainted his view of himself with a dark colour. I’ve spoken about this in various articles written for this site – his pile of guilt has been constantly increasing, and I believe by now, deep down in his soul, he probably desires to die. Perhaps to be punished for it. The last few episodes already made me think about Dean’s state of mind, but this in particular showed how deeply depressed this adorable man is. His smile doesn’t reach his eyes any longer. It’s not real. He hasn’t felt a true moment of happiness or relief in a long time. His jokes are forced. He doesn’t even believe them anymore, and he hasn’t stopped drinking – which is not helpful in the dealing-with-gu ilt department.

For me, to see Dean like this is unimaginably heart-breaking. He has become a shadow of himself. No wonder. He hasn’t been able to forgive himself. I believe Dean thinks himself to be the true monster here. Not Sam, not the ghosts he hunts, but himself, the man who had to betray his own sense of honour a couple of times, and mostly when he found pleasure in torturing souls in hell. He hasn’t spoken of it, and I’m sure, his mind was taken off it various times, because he had to focus on other issues (like saving his brother, or the world for that matter), but the guilt – increased massively with those deeds – kept festering. The cup runneth over. It’s more than Dean can bear, and he is in a place so dark that he’s incapable of seeing the light that is also there. He can’t see his beautiful traits, what he is aware of (and even more after his trial, I’d say) are his defects (or, well, what he deems to be defects).

It saddens me even more than this beautiful man (inside and out) has managed to sadden me before. It doesn’t help that Sam seems to be in a better place. Though I can’t believe it. With all my experience in the science of the human psyche, I can only say that coming to terms with a life of torment and trauma doesn’t work as smoothly as Sam claims. I can’t say at this point whether he was giving Dean an act (the way this scene was shot suggests that it was meant to be real). But if Sam has indeed come to terms and doesn’t feel guilty anymore, for me this would be completely and utterly inconsistent with his psyche. And I hope the writers don’t stray from their usual psychologically continuous path.

For me the tone of this season is very clear now – it’s a lot about Dean’s soul, the soul he in all likelihood believes lost in all the “crap” that he trusts to be. I hope all those who complained about Dean not having a story will shut up now.

It can’t get any deeper than that. Dean’s story is there, massively, bearing down on him (and on me, as a viewer). Oh, my dear Winchester…. As much as we, as the ones looking on, would like him to finally see the beauty of his warm, compassionate, gentle soul, it is only he (respectively the writers) who can cross that invisible borderline… and see that the positive traits in his soul outweigh by far the negative ones.

oh, dear... Jas
elle
# elle 2011-10-15 12:02
Nice comments, Jas. Thanks for sharing. All the reasons and history you outline about Dean (and Sam as well) were reasons I expected more from the episode. The acting was great, it usually is, I suppose it was the writing that really bogged me down on this one. I am fan of Dean and a chance to finally deal fully with his self-inflicted guilt is one I'd love to see - I really thought it would be addressed in this episode in an emotional way, but I don't think it was. Everything you looked at in your comment was what I was hoping to see in the episode but it just felt...forced and/or not delved into deeply enough for me. Maybe future episodes will discuss these things further and in hindsight this will prove to be a good set up episode. Maybe you should write for them, Jas! I think you have a much better feel for Dean's character and suffering than the writers did in this particular episode.

When I think to the way Dean's confession about torturing souls in Hell was done so heart-wrenching ly beautiful...I guess that's the calibre that I was looking for here and for me, there just wasn't the emotional connect I expected for this episode, given the subject matter.

As I said, perhaps my expectations were too high and in a few months it will seem like a better episode, but for now, it's just not a favourite.

Thanks for your comments, Jas! I always love to read what you think.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2011-10-15 12:12
Thanks, Elle! As I watched this episode, the reduced manner of Jensen's acting and expressing Dean's emotional state felt very authentic to me.

Since Dean has grown more wary about his own emotions, I think, he also adapted a more introverted way of dealing with what ails him.
Afflicted as he is, he surely has a lot of problems in terms of how to express what he feels and who to show that - he feels he needs to (still) protect Sam, to hide his deep regrets and guilt...

I think it's impossible to resolve Dean's issues in one episode. I believe this was a build up to coming dealings with it all. I guess to stock up on Kleenex. I will, surely.
Thanks, dear.
Bevie
# Bevie 2011-10-15 15:40
That was beautiful Jas. Thank you.

That's what I was hoping for in this episode. That Sam could show Dean how wrong he is in hating himself and that he has such a beautiful soul after all. I was disappointed in Sam's defense as I couldn't see that happening at all. Dean is a beautiful man inside and out and Dear God I wish someone would realize it and try to convince him to believe even a little of it!

His depression is beginning to depress me and I long to see a happy smile on his face and hear some laughter again. Just remembering to bring him pie would cheer him up a bit I'm sure. :roll:

Remembering Dean in the first 3 seasons makes me long for that Dean again. Not this one wishing for death and drinking himself to dim all the pain he is carrying. I have to weep for him almost every episode lately. :cry:

I want to hug him and make it all better. :sigh:
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2011-10-15 17:19
Oh, Bevie, I reckon we need to start a "Get-Dean-Some- Pie" campaign ;-) ...

I find it also painful to watch, the torment in his eyes, the anguish in his soul... And yet it seems to be some kind of unspoken law of nature that the worst things often happen to the best people. :sad:

Love, Jas
saltwatergal
# saltwatergal 2011-10-16 17:48
Yes Jas your comments are spot on.. and Bevie something you just said rang a bell for me. I agree that Sam's resolution of his mental state seems out of place... too soon most comments are observing.. and I have to agree. I am now sure that its not just our Sammy in there because of the pie! When Sam came back from the convenience mart with cake instead of pie I thought "what the hell?" You know those writers wouldn't just throw that in there as filler! Start looking for more evidence. I think you guys who noticed that Sam is far too in control are on to something. It took a half a season last year for me to finally put to rest why I was so unhappy and unsettled by how Sam acted around Dean. Like when he refused the Impala saying his new car was set up the way he liked it..wow that was a knife in my heart. Another disturbing and uncharacteristi c Sammy moment was the cool and distant hug the brothers shared when Dean sees Sam for the first time since he took Lucy to the pit. you would have expected a lot more emotion on Sam's part. TPTB said they were leaving us Easter eggs and I suspect that what we find so disturbing here will also be explained and answers will be forthcoming as we proceed. Keep the Faith! One of the constants on this show is that everything ties in eventually. For me I want to know more about Amy's son. Dean hasn't seen the last of him and I am wondering if and when that door opens again if there isn't some unexpected entanglement there as well. Since I am musing about the yung'ns...I want to ask if "mind wiping" is foolproof and permanent? I have visions of Ben, who obviously looked up to Dean, would follow in the life somehow and later surface. Of course we would need SNL to continue for many seasons. I'm in!
NoLieFe
# NoLieFe 2011-10-18 10:34
So beautiful contribution !You put the words on what I feel. You make me happy and so sad : I had tears in my eyes at the end of your comment !
Thank you, Thanks a lot.
MisterGlass
# MisterGlass 2011-10-15 11:45
To be frank, I didn't care for it.

I did like the final moments in Jo and Dean's conversation, because it seemed sincere, said something about Dean, and the actors did nice work. I am also interested in the idea that Sam finally feels that he has been punished enough to stop feeling guilty. I wish Dean could find a little absolution.

However, the lack of subtlety in the rest of the episode shocked me. References to Amy were, as you said, heavy handed. Dean's drinking has always been in the background, but this sudden leap to the front of the action was not handled with much delicacy. Neither was Dean's reluctance to get involved in this investigation. Dean has never been one to let a monster get away with killing, unless the person in question made a deal with a demon. He may have liked the Trickster's antics in his first episode, but he was more than willing to kill him to save lives. Further, his whining tone seemed excessive, and his comment about "not being one to judge", pushes the idea of hypocrisy past ironic and into silly.

The trial portion did nothing to improve my opinion. I have enjoyed the actor who played Osiris in other roles, and do not fault him, but the set-up was campy. And there was no logic to a victim remembering hieroglyphs and not pointing out the giant Egyptian statuary. It was enough to jar my suspension of disbelief.

This had the potential to be interesting and introspective, but did not end up very deep.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2011-10-15 11:51
I think you are very lucky to have never met a truly depressive person or have been in that dark pit yourself. I can't see any whining here... the man is exhausted and shattered and, as a whole, not well...
MisterGlass
# MisterGlass 2011-10-15 12:34
I agree that he is exhausted and shattered, and very much unwell. But in the past Dean has resorted to apathy and bitter sarcasm, and his tone with Sam before the trial struck an off note with me. I grant that Dean's responses are highly variable, and that he is disturbed. At the end of the trial, and with Jo, he seemed much more like Dean. I agree with your comment above on the poignancy of the "90% crap" line, and that Dean is ready to stop fighting, even if that means dying. He could have stopped Jo if he wanted to, but did not.

I know that you are a trained professional, but I would rather you did not draw conclusions about my past experiences from my response to an episode that I think could have been better constructed.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2011-10-15 12:38
My sincere apologies.
MisterGlass
# MisterGlass 2011-10-15 12:42
Accepted, and no hard feelings.
elle
# elle 2011-10-15 12:07
MisterGlass:

Thanks for your thoughts!

I didn't think Dean was whining in this episode, I do believe he is struggling with some serious issues. Given that, I don't believe it was handled well in this episode, which as I've stated was where my primary concerns about this episode as a whole stem from. I love Dean and generally the guilt (I feel like that word has been used far too much recently now) he lays upon himself and witnessing his self-torment is quite heart-wrenching . However, that wasn't the case with this installment of SPN. The only time I truly felt it was believable here were in the moments with Jo.

I agree the conversation about judgement felt a little to deliberate and foreshadow-y for my liking - and not in a particularly clever way.
Jasminka
# Jasminka 2011-10-15 12:17
Dear, I was addressing MisterGlass's comment here, sorry if you felt that it was aimed at you :-)
elle
# elle 2011-10-15 12:37
No worries, Jas! My reply was for MisterGlass too.
MisterGlass
# MisterGlass 2011-10-15 12:46
Maybe the handling is the real reason I see it as whining. The guilt weighing him down has been crushing him steadily over the course of the show, and it is heartbreaking to me in most episodes. You're right, in the conversation with Jo it is much more affecting than in the rest of the episode.

I forgot to say it above, but nice article.
Anna S
# Anna S 2011-10-15 11:46
I fully agree that it was kind of an half-assed episode, especially as I watched it back-to-back with the ridiculously action-packed latest episode of The Vampire Diaries. The set-up was decent and it was great to see Alona Tal again, but none of the scenes really did anything for me, neither in terms of suspense nor emotional value. That's a shame, especially considering that by bringing Jo back, all the potential was there. The highlight was to see Sam being a lawyer, which was mildly funny, but it wasn't much. This episode wasn't cringingly bad like Bugs or Mannequin 3, it was just anemic and meh all the way through, like a flat EKG. Too bad, the season got off to such a great start! Hope it'll get back on track next week!
elle
# elle 2011-10-15 12:09
Hi Anna,

My feeling was like yours - not the worst episode ever, but certainly far from the best. I think "meh" is exactly the word for it.

Every season has at least one of these episodes though and given the great start to the season in the first three episodes, I anticipate we'll be back on the road next week with some great material.
Amara
# Amara 2011-10-15 12:11
I found this episode mediocre, mostly because there were several huge plot holes/plot problems. The big ones my sister and I spotted while watching were:

1. Corn-field/murd erer guy: they pick him up on the way out to the apple orchard, and then...have to drive back to their hotel to talk to him? Why couldn't they speak to him in the car? They were already at the orchard. Why the hell go back to the hotel?

2. Sam being called as a witness against Dean. First of all, Sam may have died, but so far as we're aware he's not a ghost. I thought the whole thing was Osirius compelling ghosts, or at least dead people, to testify against Dean. And then how exactly would Osirius have compelled Sam to hunt Dean down? Some of Sam's deaths may have been Dean's fault by association/out side circumstances, but not a single one of Sam's deaths is *directly* Dean's fault, even though the reverse isn't true.

3. Jo. First of all, Jo DID NOT DIE IN AN EXPLOSION. Jo died from her hell hound injuries. It really, really pissed me off that they screwed this up, because think how interesting it would have been for Jo to call hell hounds up on Dean, and how terrified Dean would have been. In addition: how exactly was Dean standing in a salt circle going to save him? Jo was setting up an explosion that would blow up the whole room. The entire impact of her destroying the circle was lost, because he would have died whether or not he stayed in the salt. The only way he could have saved himself was by running.

4. On the subject of hell hounds...Sam and Dean here about a man getting ripped apart by dogs that no one else could see/hear and they DIDN'T immediately think of hell hounds? I mean, all it would have taken was a two-second mention. It just seemed really implausible that hell hounds didn't occur to them.

5. It's a pretty minor thing, but--Sam leaves the barn, goes immediately to the bar, and then turns right around and goes back to the barn. Couldn't he have just confirmed with the lady of the phone that Dean had been in the bar, and that his phone had been found on the ground, and wait for Dean and Osirius to show up? I just snorted with laughter when Osirius congratulated Sam on finding them, because really? Not that hard.

What really bothered me though wasn't the plot holes, but the wasted potential. Think of all the interesting people they could have called (**John Winchester**) and didn't. As interesting as it was to have Sam testify against Dean, it didn't quite make sense and it seemed like a waste of a witness--Osiriu s knows that Sam will do everything in his power to convince Dean of his innocence. I would have made the trial about three times longer and called more witnesses and cut out the crap with the murderer guy and the awkward flirting in the bar. This episode annoyed me mostly because it was a great idea that was executed really poorly.
alysha
# alysha 2011-10-15 12:32
I liked the episode, but would place it at the bottom of the list for season 7 at this moment. I think many of the problems and weaknesses of this episode that all of you have posted come down to budget. My god they spent so little on this! The court room was sparse and cheesy! Then there was likely the overly used "Watchmen" set for the street scenes. The only really pretty thing was the end scene. Also, having Alona Tal do all the work was cheaper than calling any other witnesses. :( Lack of budget is sad.
Kat Jack
# Kat Jack 2011-10-15 12:36
Hi y'all, I am in agreement with the idea that so many potentially great moments were not seized upon. The thank you could have been so subtle compared to the blatant, "Thanks Man!" Development between Jo and Dean was danced around but never really fleshed out until the touch on the cheek which was perfect! Lack luster monster for sure.
MiggyMom53
# MiggyMom53 2011-10-15 12:37
Thanks for this review. Usually I wait until I've seen the episode a couple more times before coming to a judgement but today the TV is taken up by the grand-kids. So far although I liked the episode I felt it was rushed too much. Some of the flashbacks could have been replaced with real meat.
I was disappointed with the questions posed to Sam especially, while it is true the reason Dean brought Sam back in the pilot was selfish they must both realize by now that it was all planned and manipulated from before they were born, and Jess would have died either way.
What Osiris should have been asking was how Sam felt about Dean losing his faith in his brother. How he felt when Dean broke those rules that only Sam was supposed to follow, like sacrificing his brother for the good of the many instead of believing that the two of them together could figure it out if they worked together. Or, about how Dean could walk away from his brother's time in hell for a whole year to live a life he firmly told his brother he was selfish for wanting.
The fact that the event chosen was easily defendable feels like the whole point of Dean's faith was brushed over. This surprised me a bit as the episode began with Sam seemingly upbeat about his brother's new found trust. What this tells me, however, is that the other shoe will eventually drop. Sam will discover the truth and my heart will break.
I don't say that right and wrong have been answered with what Dean did to Amy, but the real issue is that Dean lied after insisting Sam follow his made up rules about keeping secrets. That he said he had faith when he didn't and this is the one thing Sam has always wanted from his family, the reason he made many of his choices right or wrong, to prove he was worthy of that faith.
In truth, although I know there have been comments made about Dean's story being lost in Sam's story, the fact is this whole story from day 1 is Dean's. He is the harbinger of all that Sam has done. His choices have directly impacted Sam's, his lack of faith especially so.
Still, this is TV and in 40 minutes the story they can tell is limited and we must use our imagination to fill in the holes. I actually enjoy doing that, I don't need all the answers. In fact, I will never believe that Chuck is God until they tell me; it would be disappointing.
I do like the place Sam is heading, feeling trusted, redeemed after so long trying to do the right thing and screwing it up. But I dread the day when he realizes he was wrong...again.
All in all I still enjoyed the episode, I actually liked that Osiris was somewhat downplayed as it better matches the mythology. I would like to know what Sam said to the Rabbi, but I can imagine.
Apologies for going on.
purplehairedwonder
# purplehairedwonder 2011-10-15 12:56
I'm still processing the episode, but I think my expectations were too high going in. The idea was incredible and I expected something to delve more deeply into Dean's issues. Instead we got a second set-up episode in two weeks. I'm going to hold off total judgment for it until we get some payoff for it, though--I've learned my lesson after last season to reserve judgment for hindsight.

It occurred to me that this episode might be serving a similar function to "Dark Side of the Moon" in the sense that we're getting a lot of Dean's issues out in the open, but it was more for Sam's benefit to really see how low his brother is at the moment than for Dean to get any closure. Sam's been so knee-deep in his own crap that he simply hasn't been able to look out for his brother--not his fault, just a fact. But now that he seems to be coming up for air, it's a chance for him to really see how much Dean is struggling as well. He knows Dean's drinking too much and feels horrible about Cas, but here Sam's getting an indication about just how far back Dean's guilt issues go. And that, I think, is really important since Sam's going to have to be the one to pull Dean out of it--just as he did in "Point of No Return." I'm not expecting a two episode turnaround, of course, but the pattern strikes me as similar.
rmoats8621
# rmoats8621 2011-10-15 14:05
I liked this episode.

With that being said, I totally agree with you. I think this episode, while being implied that it's about Dean, is really about Sam. It's kind of a wake up call to let him in on how bad Dean is faring. It's a set up for the rest of us. This season is going to be about Dean getting his soul back from despair and getting himself whole with Sam's (and probably Bobby's) help. Dean is in such a deep dark crevice that it's going to take every trick and tactic in the book to bring him back and it's not going to be easy. As for this episode, I'm glad it wasn't tied up so neatly because if it was then it would have been so phony.

Don't get me wrong. Sam's got lots of issues too. Humpty Dumpty isn't quite back together again, but he's much better off than Dean. And he's right about one thing. He has paid for all of his wrongs. The now more fully together Sam rightly realized that. The one back in Season 7...gosh I forgot the episode....anyw ay, he wasn't all together. He still had that wall up and couldn't remember the hell part. Now, Sam does remember and rightly comes to best conclusion. He still has a way to go in his journey, but I think he will be there when needed for Dean.

Now, as for the writing, I had some problems with it, but we also don't know how much was left on the cutting room floor. Bob Singer is a great director and maybe somethings were sacrificed to advance the story along. We don't know. However, I do believe that it will be addressed soon in another episode. This is going to be a long ride for all of us through Dean's guilt ridden psyche and it's going to be bumpy too. The cast and crew were excellent as always and it was great to see Alona Tal/Jo again. I've always felt that the Jo/Ellen storyline was one of those missed opportunities on Supernatural. It had such potential that never got realized.
Sweet
# Sweet 2011-10-15 14:02
Sam has been knee-deep in Dean's crap for so long that we never get Sam's emotional reactions to things anymore. It's beyond ridiculous that Sam is okay with a combination of 180 years of torture, the actions of Soulless Sam, all that came before that, and he is managing it all with self-harming, done so discreetly that you barely notice it if you're not paying attention. Sam takes care of Dean, not the reverse. Maybe Dean should stop wallowing in self-pity for once and see things from someone else's point of view. I didn't even see Dean empathizing much with Sam at all during his heaviest hallucinations, just bitching about what a pain they were - for him! Dean being the "weaker" brother heading for a breakdown generally is code for: we forgot to write Sam a story this season again - oh, look, Dean feels bad about something again! Poor Dean! It's barely watchable to me at this point and I don't sympathize with Dean at all anymore. Dude, suck it up so your brother can have some feelings himself!

I was, however, happy that Sam wasn't buried in the background in this episode, like in so many Dean episodes of the past. So, that I will praise. I was expecting the Trial to be the whole episode, also, barring that we saw ghost-Jo setting up the explosion in one of the previews. This episode wasn't the emotion-fest, pity-a-thon for Dean that I thought it was going to be. In fact, I was shocked by how much of a drunk jerk Dean came across as to me. OTOH, as in TGND, I really felt like I needed some more solid, emotional interaction between Sam and Dean for true emotional fulfillment from it. I agree that this episode was neither terrible nor great, but could have been better with more finely tuned writing.
Bevie
# Bevie 2011-10-15 15:02
My feelings before I read the posts.

The trial should have been the centre of the episode IMO and taken up at least 3/4 of the time. I was hoping it would help to uncover Dean's guilt feelings and bring into the open, so Sam realizes
what is really hurting his brother. I was hoping that Sam would be able to, and a little more assuredly, defend his brother much better than he did. I have a feeling he still doesn't understand whats going on with him. Pointing to cake instead of pie and thinking that is OK.LOL! :-?

Love Jo and loved her scene with Dean in the motel room. Still grieving here for her and her wonderful mom. Wish the PTB hadn't killed them off, however dramatic that was. :cry:
Ginger
# Ginger 2011-10-15 15:51
I have no problems with the episode and liked it a lot. I agree that the MotW and the trial were not strong points, but since that story was there mostly for exposition in setting Dean's story, it didn't bother me one bit.

I feel; first, that Dean couldn’t make the switch from feeling guilt and remorse all in one episode and; secondly, that Sam is handling his stubborn brother just right…by steadfastly showing faith in him and by gently calling him out on his issues. Dean always has to think about things for a while and come to his own decision. Right now he thinks he is 90% crap and doesn’t know who he is because Sam is handling his own head problems that Dean can’t fix. Without his role of ‘protecting Sam,’ Dean has to re-define himself as a person. That will take some time.

I feel like what we are seeing re: Sam and Dean is the difference between feeling one has paid their dues for mistakes made by serving taking their punishment. Sam made mistakes and served his time in Hell. He can now move on.

Dean went to Hell for Sam and turned into a monster there (a torturer). His issue isn’t one of feeling any redemption for what he did. Dean’s issue is remorse and guilt for betraying his values (ethics and morals)…somet hing that goes against everything Dean is. Sam can only guide Dean in resolving this issue, but he can’t fix it. I think that is exactly what Sam will do over the course of the season. Why?

Soulless Sam was Sam. The soullessness part was everything dark in Sam (and all humans, really); the darkness, the self-righteousn ess, the ruthlessness, and the arrogance. He lacked empathy (his soul) and the worst of human nature came out. The good part of that story is that Sam knows the difference now…he has experienced both the good and the bad of human nature. Dean, although he doesn’t need to be, hasn’t experienced that black and white resolution. Instead, he is living with something all humans live with…feeling remorse and guilt even if things or circumstances were beyond their control or dictated by circumstance. I think this episode showed that (and, oh my, how depressed our beautiful Winchester is).

Let’s not forget that everything in the Winchesters lives has been dictated by powers beyond their control….demo ns, angels, fate. Neither really have any reason to feel guilty about anything. But they can be remorseful, just as a human is remorseful because he/she didn’t handle a situation perhaps in the best possible way.

I just really liked this episode (but I’ve mindwiped S6, so maybe that makes it easier). Dean never has been able to keep a secret from Sam for very long, so I’m sure he’ll be fessing up to that pretty quickly.

Anyway, both brothers having a story, Sam being proactive, Impala bonding along the roadside, crappy motel room, classic rock, a woman hitting on Dean, Sam looking out for Dean and taking charge, an okay monster, the brothers winning one for a change. Most of all, a renewed feeling of wanting to see where the story goes from here. Hey, that’s enough to keep me a happy camper.

And can I just mention that this episode really gave JA a chance to showcase his natural talent every way. Every line was hit, every facial movement and all his body language were a pleasure to watch.

Sorry for the length here.
Bevie
# Bevie 2011-10-15 18:41
Great post Ginger! So very true. Both about the brothers and JA. :-)
Marilyn
# Marilyn 2011-10-15 16:38
Elle, thank you for another insightful article. :-) I am not sure if I was disappointed in the episode solely by some of the points you mentioned or because I was expecting so much more.

I was glad to see that Jo put a tiny chink in that load of guilt and pain Dean has been carrying for so long. Not to mention the fact that he has never particularly felt that his life was worth something.

The harshness of his judgements of himself, his depression, and his guilt are things many people can relate to. I am so eager for Dean to have some healing this season, even though Jensen plays angsty Dean so well.

I am very happy that Sam has found inner peace and feels he has served his time. As he says, he can get on with his life.

I, too, found the portrayal of Osiris to be namby-pamby and too "hip." I expected more of an Egyptian god. The set of the courtroom was not up to the usual SPN standards, although the statues were cool. Probably budget constraints as someone else mentioned.

From the promo, I don't think next week is going to deal with any darker issues, it looks like a lighter episode. Of course, I could be totally wrong. SPN is good at throwing curveballs. I just hope they spend some more time getting Dean in a better place.
Marilyn
# Marilyn 2011-10-15 19:55
Did anyone else notice the sad, but also funny, :sigh: scene where Dean had to give himself a pep talk before meeting the bartender? How low he has fallen.
pazzy
# pazzy 2011-10-15 21:05
sorry for my english totally agree - a series of weak although the idea is cool in my opinion the actors playing shitty - remember season 6
subwoofer
# subwoofer 2011-10-16 07:10
Wow. Well, this episode did do something, it set Dean up to be "the other shoe". Sam, for all his psychosis, seems to be a picture of mental health, while Dean seems to be on the brink of a meltdown. Funny that, I've er... experienced crap BITD and from all looks, Deano was handling stuff okay, that is to say, his personality doesn't come across as the type to feel "guilt". Now all Dean's demons are coming home to roost.

The highlight of this episode for me was Dean's reunion with Jo "I was a Hunter, I know all the tricks." And Dean just stood there and took it- bugged the hell outta me. The set up was all the other guy's running hell bent for leather from their own personal demons that were sent to kill them. Osiris- good idea, Egyptian God, but the guy that starred, first of all, I think he was one of the baddies from Iron Man, second of all, it sounded like he had the accent wrong, and his powers were extremely limited. He even drops sand everywhere. From the leviathan episodes to this. There was so much potential, this feels like they skipped out.