The Morning After
That was cute! Supernatural’s “The Scorpion and the Frog” was the comedic repose before the intensity of Jack, Mary and the fate of the world hanging in the balance returns in next week’s mid-season finale. Written by Meredith Glynn, whose last episode “The Big Empty” was unanimously praised by The Winchester Family Business reviewers (and most fans from what I saw) is on a roll with popular, well written stories.
Characters, Characters Everywhere… again!
The success of this week’s heist adventure was due largely to its intriguing characters played perfectly by equally intriguing actors.
I was mesmerized by Barthamus. I knew I had seen and liked the actor before (David Cubitt) but I couldn’t place why I recognized him, so I intently watched and listened to his every move (SPNFamily helped me out by remembering him as Detective Lee Scanlon from Medium). Bart was fascinating! So much like Crowley – fast wit, snarky, intelligent, conniving deal maker, deadly but charming. Even his appearance reminded me of Crowley. I was very conflicted when Bart was killed. His character was well constructed and Cubitt’s delivery was spot-on but it felt disloyal to like him that much! If the show couldn’t keep Crowley, they didn’t get to construct Crowley 2.0! Still, I really liked Bart and wanted to see more of him! It’s fabulous to be that invested in a character so quickly.
Shrike was also a fascinating character. Played by Richard Brake who was in Game of Thrones and too many other shows to mention, his mystery ensnared me. Obviously intelligent, dangerous and multi-layered, he was a worthy adversary to the brothers. Sam battled with Shrike’s cunning while Dean was tested via physical entrapments reminiscent of Indiana Jones.
Smash and Grab were equally interesting. Uniquely skilled with distinct personas, it was fun to have their personalities and complexities slowly revealed. Just like Bart was a Crowley wanna-be, Smash, aka Alice, is Charlie 2.0 - rebellious, on her own, resourceful, wears graphic tees, the best at her craft, a little sis to Dean who shares a passion for vintage soda, complete with a send-off at a bus station. Since she can “open any safe built by man”, there is no doubt she will return in the future. Again, loved her character but I hate feeling disloyal to Charlie! Where do you come out on these characters’ introductions?
“The Scorpion and the Frog”’s alluring web was also spun around its slick, witty one-liners and well-executed comedic situations. Some of my favorites:
Pain in the Pitchfork… and the halo
This is on you, hand puppet.
Dean: Yeah, we’re real Twinsies
How many of you thought of Jensen’s twins with that line? Wonderful!
The story was a nice dose of classic Supernatural because it revolved around Sam and Dean (just Sam and Dean) and showcased truly basic personality traits of both brothers.
At their first meeting (that of couse included pie for Dean, another trite but true love of Dean's), Bart established that the brothers' jobs would be determined by their base reputations (this will be important later).
Dean: When a demon tells us to jump, we don't ask how high. We just ice their ass.Bart: How very "Dean" of you. Sam, do me a favor. You're the smart one. Look into that.
It was comforting and easy to see the brothers play their traditional roles. It’s always a treat to see Dean’s hilarious, not-such-a-tough-guy-after-all inner child that is usually only exposed when he is under a spell, such as in “Yellow Fever” or “Dog Dean Afternoon”. The prolonged scene where he was terrified to stick his hand in the stone boar’s mouth (was that a boar?) because it might contain big, scary spiders gave us a new Supernatural classic laugh out loud moment!
Alice: I think you’re supposed to put your paw in there.Dean: … there could be anything in there. Anything, right? There could be spiders. There could be the spiny blade things. Snakes. Spiders.
I truly enjoyed the episodic pause on that scene that let Jensen's comedy breathe and wash over the audience. The anticipation of the moment was half the fun, as we all pictured scenes of Indiana Jones’ beetles, Dune (“put your hand in the box”), and similar genre references that Supernatural writers knew we would understand.
Sam’s intellect was also showcased. Wow, that guy’s smart! He passed the test of basilisk fang (who else thought Harry Potter?) versus gorgon tooth and came up with the solution of using Shrike as a human dart board.
Amid all these wonderful mythological puzzles and character battles, there were two flaws that marred the perfection of the episode. First, Sam would have grabbed for that spell parchment immediately. He wouldn’t have stood there like an inert statue only moved to action when Dean recognized that the spell (that Sam wanted to begin with) was going up in smoke. He also wouldn’t have fanned the flames by blowing on them! The intricate set up of the story deserved more than an unbelievable, rushed closure.
Also, there was that line. You may have noticed it. It hijacked my enjoyment of the entire episode. Lest I let it do the same to my review, I’m leaving it for last. Let’s look at the rest of the script first!
Dean: You know, I probably don't have to tell you this, but working for demons is not a smart idea.Alice: You're working for demons.Dean: Yeah, well, I don't really have a choice.Alice: Same.
Dean: Why'd you cottontail?Alice: You think I wanna be here? Like I have a choice?Sam: You made a deal.Alice: Wow! You think?Sam: You sold your soul.Alice: And if I could take it back, I would. But Sorry Charlie. I can't. So here I am.
When first meeting Bart, Sam asked Dean,
Sam: what if he's telling the truth?
Bart: Put it another way -- take the deal, or I give the spell to Asmodeus. I made a copy of your half, obviously. Did I neglect to mention that he's looking for your boy, too? But here's the thing -- I don't trust him. Of course, I don't trust you either, but I trust him less, so you get dibs.
All Asmodeus asks is when he shows his traitor face, you give us a call.
Sam: Jack is out there, in the world, and he's alone and he's scared and he's dangerous.
If you’re brother’s too stupid to do his part, then that’s on him.
We haven’t heard this thread too often this year, so it’s interesting that Sam was categorized as “the smart one” only to have Grab later wonder if Sam was stupid and have Smash be surprised that Sam thinks. Ideas on the reason for this emphasis?
Right and Good
The first 5 minutes of the show alone included so many utterances of “right”, I decided not to double the size of this review by repeating them all here! Dean’s “Good with Crazy”, and knows it’s “never a good sign” when doors don’t have locks, and feels “good” about saving Alice, who is going to be “good” now that her ordeal is over.
One possible purpose of the dialog constantly commenting on who’s right (or not), and what’s good (or not) is to foreshadow the ultimate question of who’s right about Jack, and whether or not he’s good. Will he take after his father or his mother? Is he a “chip off the old block” or the harbinger of paradise?
Luther: It make you feel good, whoring yourselves out to pure evil? Because that's what he is. What he did to me, my little boy.Sam: What are you talking about?Luther: My son…. You're on the wrong side of this, boys. You gotta ask yourselves if you can live with that.
The Scorpion and the Frog – Animals and the Title Thread
Bart: …the only thing that can actually open it is the blood of a man who's been to Hell and back. Tell me, Dean, do you know any men like that?
Maybe also because the trials purged Sam, maybe he has no Hell blood?
That helped open my mind, but the turning point began when the Assistant Director of Supernatural, Kevin Parks, later engaged in our conversation. He respected our concern enough to reply that Sam had also been to Hell and “could have done this as well as Dean.” It is rare to have a relationship like that between any show’s team and its fans, and I’m truly thankful for his affirmation.
Several other fans also replied and a new, consistent interpretation began to emerge:
Sam was never CONDEMNED to hell. He has been there, but not under its terms. Maybe that's the difference.maybe the difference is that Dean was INTENTIONALLY sent to Hell due to the deal he made. He HAD to be there….
maybe it is just about the one who made a deal.
I'd argue he wasn't sent there like dean though. Swan song he jumped into the cage, and taxi driver he went there voluntarily.
It was very curious that the “Then” segment chose to repeat Ketch saying,
Did it ever occur to you, Dean, that I might actually be one of the good guys?
We speculated last week that Ketch is a conflicted character, entrenched in his evil ways but actually wanting to be liked by the good guys. Like Sam, he may have thought he was doing good work eradicating monsters for the BMoL. “Alex” defended Arthur saying he was loyal to a fault. Were these hints for a Ketch redemption arc?