(Editor's Note:  I’m going to send apologies up front.  I know that many of you come here for Nightsky’s “Threads” on Friday and expect a very upbeat spin on things.  Unfortunately, her review must be deferred to next week so you get my two cents first. I don’t like playing the curmudgeon, but “The Spear” just didn’t leave things sitting right with me.  So this will be pretty critical.) 

Aww man, things were going so well.  The last few weeks were really promising and we were going into the midsession finale with tons of momentum!  Figured that the creative wind would go out of the sails at the wrong time.

I don’t get the struggles this show has with midseason finales.  The purpose of a mid season finale is to go into the weeks long winter break with a little amped up excitement, all ending with a mini cliffie that makes you excited and/or devastated for the upcoming second half of the season.  No matter what the outcome, you should by dying for those off weeks to get over so that answers can be given. 

In going through the midseason finales we’ve had in recent years, none of them have remotely generated that excitement.  I had to go back to season six’s “Appointment in Samarra” to find an episode where I HAD to know what happened next.  Each year has gotten progressively worse and more depressing, although I will concede that “The Spear” was an improvement over the absolutely horrible “The Bad Place” from last season.  But that is just not saying a lot. 

I can’t explain it.  Everything felt…off.  Lackluster.  Scattered and dull.  I couldn’t get into it.  Maybe it was my constant fear of Garth being killed (an SPN trademark when bringing back long absent guests).  Maybe it was my constant fear of the guys getting screwed over…again (which they were).  Or maybe it was my constant questioning of things like, how can Michael be giving up all this grace?  It’s not unlimited!  Did we learn nothing from Gabriel?  Anyway, when it was all over, and we got that final snap of the fingers I was…underwhelmed. 

I mean, come on!  The last two episodes were a such breath of fresh air.  I get that it’s probably difficult follow up an epic episode like “Byzantium,” aka season 14’s version of “Who We Are,” but this was the best they could do?  Was stagnant plotting and blatantly falling back to pod people characterization really necessary? 

It’s Not All Bad

Let me get some positive items out of the way before I get into the heavy critique.  First off, welcome back Garth.  Glad you aren’t dead.  For the record, I never, ever, never, never, never, ever, never approved of the choice of making him a werewolf.  “Sharp Teeth” falls easily on my all time most hated episode list.  He was such a goofy, fun character!  Why give him that burden?  Despite me being happy to see him, doesn’t he (and Sam) know that angels have super hearing?  Or that they’re likely lurking around the corner?  Why call Sam all the time when the angels are within earshot?  On the plus side, having a super amped up monster with Michael grace in their possession might work to their advantage, right?  A specimen to study?  Anyone know if D.J. Qualls is supposed to be in more episodes?    

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I did appreciate some of the creative choices in this episode.   I love the full circle return to Kansas City.  If you remember, that was the city leveled by the apocalypse in the season five classic, “The End.”  It is fitting that it was the town that Michael first leveled in the alt universe.  It does support the whole, “All roads lead to the same destination” mantra that Castiel first told us back in season four. 

I enjoyed the return of subtle touches that have been missing for a while.  There were more light hearted moments; a call back to the early days.  Keep those coming!  I loved Jack and Castiel’s heart to heart over sugared cereal.  Fine, it got hokey in places, but it was still cute.  It gave Castiel something to do.  There was also a shoutout to Mr. Kripke, master of season three’s “A Very Supernatural Christmas,” via happy Christmas music playing while absolutely horrifying gore happened.  That so defines this show!  I was happy too to see Ketch back in a comical moment, although he didn’t need to apologize to these guys.  They should have been grateful he did something!  Count me as one of the ones that’s thrilled that horrible, hair brained magic exorcism egg is melted.  That was the stupidest prop ever.  And I’m stunned, but I loved the whole “Ode to Joy” slo-mo montage.  It was perfect bravado just before a totally doomed mission.  It’s a great homage to Garth.  BTW, you all left him in the trunk! 

But yeah, beyond that everything stops working.  For this portion of the critique, characterization, I required a little assistance.  I have no choice.  Unleash the monster! 

The Red Headed Monster

Seasons Greetings everyone!  Ahem.  Dear Mr. Berens; QUIT TRASHING OUR MAIN CHARACTERS FOR THE SAKE OF PLOT!!

What has happened to Dean?  How can this be the same Dean that calmly took Jack out for a drive and then fishing a few weeks ago?  He was so zen.  Remember when Dean used to be the good guy?  When he wouldn’t lie and screw over someone else just because his pride was wounded.  He put his own personal need for revenge over someone else’s safety and well being? 

I hated Dean in this episode.  Here he was, once again, so anxious and eager for revenge that he just jumped into the fight without any sort of precaution or planning, putting everyone in danger.  Why isn’t he tapping into that zen type knowledge of Michael that he should have?  Why isn’t he questioning every move that Michael makes and exercising caution.  WHY IS HE LYING TO PEOPLE FOR THE WRONG REASON? 

What he did to Kaia just sickens me.  Wouldn’t bringing Kaia along be a better plan?  She is the master of the spear and had a much better chance succeeding in a fight.  After all, she wounded Michael before.  Did Dean really promise Kaia they’ll take her to the other world even though he knew that Jack didn’t have his powers, the very powers needed to open the rift? When Michael took back possession of Dean in the end, part of me felt like he got what he deserved.  I should NOT be feeling that way about the hero at the end of an episode.

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Then there’s poor Jack.  I’m getting very, very tired of how they keep pussy footing around with his destiny.  I love his character and his innocence.  This week’s reveal that he taught himself to pick a lock watching videos on the Internet was pretty damn awesome.  But Michael wanting Jack to hang around because he’ll be powerful someday is just more of the “Jack is special” talk with no action.  Move on already!  Even a small sign like Jack knocking Michael down with a TK toss in defiance would have been good.  We need movement forward!  Plus, Michael has never shown any interest in him before.  Why now?  Didn’t he want to kill him in the alt world?  I did find Jack’s mention of his “uncle in the cage” interesting though.  A throw away line or a door open?  We’ll have to see. 

Castiel once again was just…there.  Oh boy, let’s watch him get beat bloody...again...by another angel…again.  Why are angels fist fighting?  No, I don’t want a repeat of the asinine high wire act from last season’s finale but why is beating up Castiel entertainment?  It’s useless plot filler.  When is he actually going to put up a fight?  Badass angel, remember? 

The absolute worst part though?  I haven’t said anything all season, maybe because I’ve been trying to be a kinder, gentler monster who exercises patience, but what the hell have they done with Sam? More repeats of dull cliches; knock Sam down and he gets back up again.  He never gives up.  Always keep fighting.  That’s all good and dandy but how does that actually move his character forward again?  We’re once again left with pod Sam, doing what everyone thinks he should do and being pretty wallpaper in the background.  Look at him, he’s a Winchester!  See him fall to the ground like wet cement!  Good times!  Nope, doesn’t make sense to me and it ruins what little progress he’s made recently.

I mean seriously, is Sam’s only purpose to coordinate resources so he can toss the weapon to Dean?  Mother may I?  Does he not get his kill?  Does he not get his moment of revenge?  Oh boy, let’s watch Sam get knocked out again just so Dean can play hero.  Ugh.  On a side, note, I’m certain that someone somewhere keeps a running total on how many times Sam has been knocked out in the series.  I’m guessing it’s close to 300. :)  He seriously should have no brain matter left.  But I’ve said that so much it’s lost all meaning. 

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(Breathe, breathe, breathe…)  Oh, it felt good to get out.  I’m good for the year now and will pass on the rest.  Happy Holidays! 

Plotting Issues

For a show running this long, I don’t think any plot twist can “shock” us anymore, but does it have to be so damned predictable?  How many of us called that Michael left open a way to get back into Dean?  I’m guessing 95 percent. 4 percent didn’t think it was worth speculation and 1 percent didn’t see it coming.  Yeah, I made that statistic up, but that was the feel I got after all the speculations I read. 

I’m really angry that they’re back to dumbing down the plotting.  If the outcome was so obvious to us, how did Sam, Castiel and Jack not see it coming?  Think about it, all of these guys have been possessed by an archangel and Jack is part archangel.  Wouldn’t they have remembered that when you’re possessed by an angel, they know everything you know?  They can predict your every move?  Team Freewill needs to go in smarter than this.  All they did was follow the same old plan, humans using typical human tactics on powerful angels, and they got the same old predictable result.  That’s just lazy writing.  Also lazy, the quest for weapons that will "kill" the big bad in the middle of the season.  It's been done lots.  Guess what?  It's failed just about every time too.  For example, it happened in the season five classic "Abandon All Hope."  But guess what?  That had everything this episode didn't.    

While I loved that Dean acknowledged to Castiel that he gets how he and Sam felt after being possessed by Lucifer, it ended up being a throw away line, something said while pod Dean was having one of his anxious fits.  It just didn't fit where it was delivered.  Also, wouldn’t Dean and Castiel have realized that once they found Kaia and no bad guys were there to great them, that coming back with the spear was part of the grand plan?  Dean was too blinded by revenge to care?  Michael’s reason for possessing Dean again didn’t make any sense to me either.  How is Dean not going to fight back now?  Is he underestimating Dean or is Dean really gone?  I sincerely doubt the latter, unless Jensen just ends up playing Michael until the end of the series. Oh yes, the fan revolt would be vicious.  So yeah, we’ll go back to angels underestimating the Winchesters.  It’s been done before! 

I could go on but that's enough to get the point across.  The episode fell short.  Overall grade, a D+.  It’s a lower mark than normal since this was a midseason finale.  This was a huge disappointment after such a strong buildup.  It doesn’t get me excited about what’s to come.  But hey, I’ve been left like this the last eight years so what’s another.  I’ll be back January 17th, my skepticism fully restored, but I’ll be back.