Supernatural Season 9

  • A Deeper Look at Season Nine Sam Winchester, Part 2

    A “Gadreel free” Sam now gets to deal with the aftermath of his possession.  Well, at least we think he deals.  We don’t really know.  The only times Sam truly expresses anything is to say some awful things to Dean, which makes him look like a heartless, unsympathetic dick because we as viewers are left to guess what’s causing such outbursts.  He also storms off to his room a lot.  It’s rather frustrating to watch when you’re constantly expecting emotional movement in the traumatic aftermath of a major ordeal involving one of the two main characters in the show.  As a consolation prize we did get one Sam POV episode, written by the only writer left that gets Sam Winchester.  

    (Miss part one?  It can be found here:

  • Ardeospina's Review of "Supernatural" 9.08: Let's Talk About Dean and Suzy


    I want to talk about "Rock And A Hard Place."  Specifically, I want to talk about the things I found hugely problematic. But before I do that, I want to make it clear that these are my opinions and my interpretations of what we were presented on the show. If you don't agree with my interpretation, that's fine. If you enjoyed the episode, that's fine. We are all entitled to our own opinions and interpretations of the material the show presents to us.

    I was extremely disappointed with this episode. There are some horribly shady things Dean does, some consent issues, and lazy stereotyping of women. It's even more disappointing coming from a female writer, someone you would think could be more nuanced in her treatment of women in the episode. Even the villain, Vesta, who was grossly misrepresented historically in this episode, was a woman-hater.
  • Fan Video of the Week: Supernatural Reflections "Don't Call Me Shurley"

    Even if time has gone by, I have still mixed feelings about writing this article. "Don't Call Me Shurley" was a magnificent episode. If you ask me, it was the finale on which this season should have ended. After that we found out that Thompson was leaving Supernatural, which hit me pretty hard. He was on a roll in season 11, writing the best episodes he has ever written.

  • Fan Video of the Week: Supernatural Reflections "First Blood"


    "Place me behind prison walls - walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground. There is a possibility that in some way or another I may be able to escape. But stand me on that floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of that circle? No. Never." — Karl G. Maeser

    How the Winchesters got into this situation was controversial but it was a juicy idea. I loved 2.19 "Folsom Prison Blues"and thought if "First Blood" was as well executed, we would have a grand old time. As it turned out, it was good but it could have been better. It would have been great if it would have lasted like two episodes.

    My chosen word for this fan vid article is, of course, "prison" so I checked up on a few episodes where our boys have been in prison or jail. Also, I might have chosen the weirdest song about prisons as a fan video but it works.

  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.03 - "I'm No Angel"

    The third episode takes the threads of the young season and blends them into a complex and emotional story. On one hand, we have Castiel coping with being rendered human, and on the other we have the brothers dealing with the fall out from the fallen angels while trying to find their former angel friend. Each of these threads ends up wound tightly together to make the whole, and yet when we examine them closer as separate plies, we can find the hidden layers and insights that the surface fabric only hints at.
  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.04- "Slumber Party"

    Supernaturalnever shies away from the meta-fictional---and “Slumber Party” takes that tradition to new heights. Ever since the Tulpa hunt in “Hell House,” the acknowledgment that Supernatural is indeed fiction has been toyed with and brought to the forefront. It is a tongue in cheek addition and an open discussion on the nature of story. It allows for the fourth wall to not only be addressed, but smashed. We've seen them go from a mock horror film to the Carver Edlund books to an alternate reality with the show being a TV show titled Supernaturalstarring Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. It is an element that laces through the series as a recurring thread---and every so often we see it take center stage as it does here.  
  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.05- "Dog Dean Afternoon"

    No other show tackles the wacky and tongue in cheek the way Supernatural does. We've had talking suicidal teddy bears, alternate realities where the show is a show, microwaved fairies, and an angel turned into a toy. We've had drawings of children come to horrific life---and unicorns with rainbows. Supernatural takes risks that allow it to explore both genre and story in innovative ways. It also allows for it to poke a little fun at itself all the while bringing us in on the joke, too. “Dog Dean Afternoon” is yet another example of this tradition.
  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.06- "Heaven Can't Wait"

    So far, season nine has been about the human condition. Supernatural has explored it in various and powerful methods throughout its history, but in this episode it is a vibrant thread. Normally, we explore this through Sam and Dean themselves---but the show takes advantage of the supernatural characters available to them---here a former angel and a nearly cured demon---to reveal some significant truths about ourselves. Why do we want to fit in? What is our purpose? Who are we? Why do we want to be forgiven or to forgive? This episode yields a gripping story that makes us think and feel deeply about our human existence.

    First, let's examine Castiel.

    At the beginning of the season, we watched him be expunged from the Garden and become the new Adam. It was a gradual and painful process that showed him moving from a celestial being to a fragile human being. As the season has progressed over time, we've seen this be explored deeper. Castiel has ended up homeless. He has had to lose all vestiges of his former angelic self, little by little. And yet, he is still on the run from his angelic family. He has also been cast out of the Bunker to make his own way in the world. Castiel has truly taken on the mantle of the new Adam in this episode in so many ways.

    Castiel's foray into everyday human life beings most humbly. He is no longer an angel, no longer a wavelength of celestial intent. He is now a sales associate, working in a menial job for low pay doing rather unskilled labor. It is rock bottom from where and what he used to be in every sense of the word. He is an ordinary man trying to make his way the best he can. Much like Adam had to learn how to take care of himself after the expulsion from Eden, Castiel has had to learn how to take care of himself.

    There is a quiet dignity in the way he goes about his menial tasks. Castiel takes pride in what he does. He sees a value here in wiping the fountain machines and filling the coffee makers. The former angel finds joy in helping the customers that walk through the door to purchase items---or as he fervently tells the woman purchasing lotto tickets, “Good luck.” Castiel wants to do a good job. He wants to do this right.

    In many ways, Castiel sees this as he did his stay in Purgatory. He is atoning for his sins and mistakes. He is trying to make up for what he's done---and the list is rather long. He worked with Crowley behind Sam and Dean's back. He lied about Sam's soul. He took on too much pride when he took the souls of Purgatory and released the Leviathan. His latest transgression in trusting Metatron has left him severely punished---and so he sees this as an opportunity to perhaps set things somewhat right. As limited as he currently is, it's all he can do to show his remorse---and to ask for forgiveness.

    Here, he has acquired employment and is wise enough to keep his real name secret. Here he is known as Steve---and Steve is a very quiet and dependable guy who shows up to work and works hard on any task given to him with little complaint. But Steve is just a persona, a mask to the world to hide who he really is.

    Castiel has also tried to become more human in his behaviors---illustrated best by his aping of his co-workers with the coffee stirring stick. He may be human, and he may be shedding his angelic nature at a rapid rate, but he still remembers who and what he once was. There's a childlike quality to his actions here---and we can tell that there's something not right by how he acts. He is passing as human and is certainly trying to cope as one---but is he really human?

    The former angel's not completely unaware in his new life. He catches wind of a mysterious disappearance---and it's not the first one locally. Not sure how to proceed and understandably not ready to handle it on his own, he calls Dean about what he's read in the news. There is a case in town---a case for a hunter.

    Castiel assumes, however, that once he's handed it off to Dean, he can go back to his humble existence cleaning and signing inventory forms and taking care of customers. Dean shows up to rock that boat, and with his appearance we see Castiel transition some.

    Dean has long embraced that he is not normal by any stretch of the imagination and tries to convince Castiel that this simple existence is not the answer. After all, Castiel is a “hunter in training” and so he convinces him to join in on the case. Castiel reluctantly agrees, even though he feels he won't be of any help there without his powers. Dean scoffs, telling him, “I've never had any powers.”

    This statement is a critical truth Castiel must hear. Dean has always been human---despite the advantages he's had through his knowledge of the supernatural world---and has had to navigate his surroundings with a human's limitations. Castiel has always known the world as an angel, with all that entails. To be so heavily limited---and to have fallen so far on the totem pole---has been nothing short of a shock. But what Dean's really saying here is that even if Castiel isn't angelic anymore, it doesn't mean he isn't useful. After all, Castiel had told Dean, “There's more to humanity than survival, you look for purpose.” He does have a purpose---and Dean is trying to tell him that it's more than simply wiping down counters.

    Turns out that Dean was right. Castiel recognizes the terrible crime scene from one he has seen up in Heaven. The angel is a dangerous one, continuing his Heavenly work here on earth. He is a Rit Zien, and as such, he is a “Hand of Mercy,” taking pain and suffering away. Unlike up in Heaven, however, when a battle is finished and those that are mortally wounded need to be relieved of their pain, Ephraim is instead killing humans that are dealing with human suffering be it the extremes of suicidal thoughts or the sting of being dumped publicly in front of the whole school. Ephraim does not discriminate between pain. He senses it, hones in on it, and destroys its source totally.

    Ephraim stands in strong contrast to Castiel here. He is unemotional, frightening, and lacks understanding of the human world he has been thrust into. He only has sense of duty and of his role in the Heavenly system. Anything else is beyond his grasp. The human condition is beyond him certainly as he tells Castiel, “I won’t stop until I wash the world clean of all suffering.”

    Ephraim is, in many ways, what the angels were like during the early portions of season 4---including Castiel. They were blind to their roles and duties, followed orders nearly without question, and had no regard for what their actions had on the humans caught in their crossfires. Ephraim, being the special class of angel that he is, is doubly hit by all that humanity has to offer and it is an overload that frays all his nerves, making him ratchet up his “merciful” kills if only to ease his own pain.

    It couldn't be any different than Castiel's experience here. He thinks he may have a date with an ordinary woman. This time she seems to be just a human being---a single mother who happens to be his employer. She is desperate to go out on a date, and as she exasperatedly tells him about how hard it is to find any nice men to meet, Castiel assumes she must mean him. He readily agrees to meet her at her house for dinner at 7PM---but when he arrives he finds that he is not the date---he's the babysitter.

    It sets up one of the most powerful scenes exploring the human condition that Castiel has had to endure so far. He is left alone with the wailing child, unsure of what to do or how to handle the situation. He is barely holding it together himself, after all. He may have convinced the grateful boss that he was staying late for inventory---or she may have just accepted it rather than wanting to deal with it of course---but the truth is he is still very much homeless and struggling. Castiel still doesn't have any idea what it all means or where he should go next or what he should really do. And really, who among us can really say with total certainty that we are doing precisely what we're meant to be it in career or otherwise?

    But Castiel seems to do surprisingly well with the baby. He pleads for her to stop crying, and almost as if some human instinct is kicking in, he picks her up, cradling her close. In his gravelly voice, he sings her a lullaby, and the lyrics are striking for who he was and who he's become. He sings softly, “Look at what's happened to me, I can't believe it myself; Suddenly I'm up on top of the world, Should've been somebody else. Believe it or not, I'm walkin' on air, I never thought I could feel so free; Flyin' away on a wing and a pray'r, Who could it be? Believe it or not, it's just me.”

    It is a poignant moment for Castiel---a turning point in many ways. As he sits down to hold the baby close, he tells her softly,” Nobody told you, nobody explained, you're just shoved out kicking and screaming into this human life without any idea of why any of it feels the way it feels or why this confusion feels like it's a hairsbreadth from terror or pain. You know, just when you think you do understand, it'll turn out you're wrong. You didn't understand anything at all.” In many ways, we see in this moment Castiel have a major epiphany. It is the very epiphany he was trying to grasp as an angel for years. He finally is beginning to understand what it means to be human, how hard it is, and how tenuous this life really and truly is.

    In so many ways, this scene teaches us, too, about our how human experience. It is a simple moment, captured in its quiet. It is a man and a baby, sitting together. There is nothing more beautiful. As we let the dialogue flow over us, however, we absorb those words, and realize their truths. It may be a metaphor for Castiel's own casting from Heaven, it may be a metaphor for the numerous angels cast out alongside him, but in reality it is a metaphor for us as a species. We are thrust into this world left to find our own way. We're left often to find it after failing miserably many times. Castiel certainly has done that as an angel---and yet he could never quite understand why or how to learn from it.

    As Ephraim comes, Castiel also shows that he is willing to stand his ground to protect another human life. The baby has a fever, explaining her crying. To the Rit Zien, this matters not. It is pain, and therefore he will stop it---but not now. Instead, he is there for Castiel. Castiel's pain as a human being is great and like a beacon to an angel like Ephraim. He is drawn to it like a moth to a flame, and he will end Castiel's suffering.

    He asks Castiel point blank if he'd rather live as an angel or as a man---showing his clear inability to understand what Castiel is starting to grasp here. We want to live even with the struggles and the suffering because there is a value in life---there is a reason o get up in the morning. There is beauty and splendor around us, even in the mundane. There is hope and love. Humans may suffer every day on so many different levels, but we have learned to be resilient, to bounce back, to keep fighting.

    It is poignant that Ephraim's first victims were those that wanted to commit suicide. Some people do choose to end their lives tragically. These two threads in this story contrast one another, showing us the deepest despair as we watch the man at the beginning hold a gun to his own head---and yet the hope when he decides to put it back down. If anything, it tells us that there is a reason to keep fighting, that hope is there somewhere if we're willing to look.

    In the other storyline of the episode, we see the human condition explored in Crowley. While not human, it is also apparent that his near cure has had lingering effects.

    Unlike Castiel, Crowley was once human before. It's not new to him. He knows of the difficulties, the struggles, the pain that comes with being a human being. In many ways, it's what makes demons so effective against humans when they are topside. They know the triggers, the buttons to push on people to make them suffer even more than they ordinarily would. Because they were once human, they know more than other creatures about what hurts the most. And because they're not able to find relief as humans can---mostly forgiveness---it is why they lash out so violently.

    Also, unlike Castiel, none of Crowley's sins as a demon have roots in good intentions. He did his deeds with cruel intent---and much of what he has done is categorized as clearly unforgivable. Some we know---such as his manipulation of Castiel in season 6 or his killing those that the Winchesters had saved, like Sarah, or the various crossroad deals he's made. Others we don't know about. His crimes are a long litany of sin and misdeed and suffering. He did all of these things on purpose with the full awareness that they were wrong. He did these things for his own selfish gain and for his own purposes. Crowley is an evil being bent on committing atrocities.

    But what happened in that church has changed so much of his view of those deeds.

    Crowley may have had a brush with becoming mortal, but it doesn't mean he won't be difficult when hard pressed to help Sam and Kevin with the difficult translations of the Angel Tablet, however.

    Crowley has become more bark and less bite, though. He is lippy and witty and as sarcastic as ever---especially when confronted with Sam. In many ways, even though the Third Trial has long ceased, it must seem like he's still in the midst of it, especially when Sam comes in alone. There's a lot of bravado in Crowley's behavior then, as he tells Sam off or throws the crumpled piece of paper in the nonplussed Winchester's face. Crowley isn't happy, but what is he really hiding? There's more here than surliness at being chained in the Men of Letter's dungeon.

    Just how much did that near cure effect the King of Hell?

    We start to get an inkling to that in this episode clearly. Crowley has a few buttons that can be pushed. He demands a phone call---one that requires a little blood. He wishes to speak with Abaddon, to try and get her to somehow accept him as Hell's ruler, even if he really can't match his words with deeds. Sam and Kevin don't want to give into his demands, knowing that if they do this now they'll have to give into other demands later on.

    But what choice do they have? As Dean pointed out, it's not like Crowley's being kept around for his wit. He is known to be fluent in several languages---which makes sense as a Crossroad's Demon, he'd have to know various languages to make his contracts with his victims after all. He's not doing anything in the Men of Letter's Bunker except stewing, so why not making him earn his keep so to speak?

    And so, they allow his call---and in it they get the greatest gift they could have hoped for. Crowley has been angry with them for holding him captive and a reluctant ally as he was with the Wicked Witch, but now he has real reason to help the Winchesters. As expected, Abaddon is not willing to yield to him---and she goes on to do something far worse. She is tearing up his contracts and collecting early. As they say, the enemy of my enemy is my friend---and that is certainly becoming the case for Crowley here.

    Crowley is a liar, make no mistake, but he has an odd code of ethics. His integrity is very important to him---after all he did tell Gus the Crossroads demon that “This is Hell, we have something called integrity!” He may find loopholes in his contracts as he did with Bobby's, but they're written into the fine print, allowing him to circumvent the deal on the surface. To break the binding contract, however, is sacrosanct to Crowley. It is crossing a line that should not be crossed ever.

    Is this strange integrity perhaps the kernel the near cure is latching onto?

    It incenses him that Abaddon is destroying his hard work to build Hell over time. She may have doubled projections, but he sees it as folly for growth down the road. After all, who will deal with Hell if they're not going to get their ten long years of fame, fortune, or love? It's the fire that Sam and Dean have been trying to light under Crowley since they brought him to the Bunker and demanded names.

    Once the phone call has ended, Crowley is more than willing to read the translated script. Knowing how he honors his contracts, we have little reason to doubt his prognosis about their efforts to reverse Metatron's spell. He tells them soberly, “It's irreversible. The spell can't be undone. The new world order---we're stuck with it.” There's no deception in his face or words. Crowley isn't even crowing here. He's simply stating the facts, honoring his word.

    So, if that is the case, then did Metatron omit something or is there a separate spell that can be done to reopen Heaven?

    Crowley's reluctant help, here, isn't the shocking element in his part of the story. He tells Sam about the blood for the phone call, “I've had yours stuck in here---can't fault me for wanting a little variety,” and that he wants the prophet's instead. We see Kevin give in and provide it---but later when Sam is putting away the syringes, he notices in a panic that one is missing.

    Just what could the King of Hell want with Kevin's blood? Is he making another call to a demon still sympathetic to him? Or is there something else going on?

    As Sam rushes to the doorway, he sees Crowley injecting the blood into himself, a euphoric expression crossing the demon's face. Could it be that he wants to sustain the near cure, the shred of humanity that emerged when he was facing becoming mortal again? Crowley asked Sam, in “Sacrifice” how to find forgiveness, and Sam answered by holding up a syringe of his blood and asked, “How about we start with this? ”

    Crowley isn't nearly as bare or vulnerable as he was in “Sacrifice” by any means, and yet he seems to be teetering on the edge of great change. As much as we saw his human state affect Castiel, could it be that we're seeing a sliver of humanity wedge it's way deep into Crowley, making him irrevocably different? Could it be that Crowley had hoped to become mortal again---to have a second chance at life and to do it right this time?

    We all look for second chances, too---especially when we make a mistake. We call for “do-overs” as children, as if we can erase mistakes and sins. To be on the threshold of that for Crowley has to be worse than torture. He may have to examine his sins in detail---and with little else to do there are probably some ugly ones he is delving deeply in to---but what really seems to bother him is that he wasn't cured.

    What does it say about the human condition? Each of us know our flaws and faults. Some of us try to bury them and ignore them. Some of us examine them closely, picking at them until they are raw and bleeding. Some of us are numb to them unless we're exposed to their ugly truths. For Crowley, he certainly has had his exposed to his, and they sting and hurt. He has told the Winchesters, “Honestly, boys. What are you gonna do to me that I don't do to myself just for kicks every Friday night?” And yet, he was so close to salvation, so close to being redeemed on some level---only to be stopped just short of the goal line.

    In our lives, we sometimes feel this pain, too. We may have wronged someone, made amends, and yet carry the weight of our guilt as we struggle to let it go. Crowley injecting Kevin's blood here is a physical manifestation of his trying to let go, even if he knows soon he'll be ripping his wounds raw again soon. Crowley wants to let go, but can't---not on his own.

    In a weird way, his wanting this so badly rather than just letting the near cure fade and be buried under his demonic nature to be reabsorbed, shows us that we are all seeking the same thing. In so many ways, we all desire to find forgiveness, to find peace. Sometimes we find it, but mostly we find it in fleeting moments that pass all too soon as it will here for Crowley.

    Perhaps Crowley injecting Kevin's blood here is also a cry for help---to guide him on the path to forgiveness and redemption.

    Isn't that what really what we're all looking for?

    Ashton Holmes brings the chilling Ephraim to life. He is off-putting in his body language and stoic in his facial expressions, instantly making us take notice of his presence. There's a relentlessness about him, and it frightens us all in how he carries himself. We can tell that there's something not quite right with Ephraim just in the way Holmes portrays him, especially when the angel arrives at the school to kill the upset teen girl after her break up. While we're appalled by his actions, we can hear a sincerity in the way Holmes delivers his lines that speaks to the angel's firm belief that he's doing the right thing. There's also a sense of misguided mercy in his interactions with his victims---seen most in his conversation with Castiel. The angel tells Castiel that he was drawn by his pain, and the way Holmes speaks these lines makes us want to for a moment agree with him even though we know he's merely misunderstanding what it means to be human. Ephraim may have only appeared in this single episode, but Holmes made him a force on screen.

    Alainia Huffman appears briefly, and yet she steals the scene with her charisma here. She is vicious and frightening here, even though she's only shown taunting Crowley. Huffman makes the performance look fun and easy as she delivers her lines. It's clear that Abaddon's gaining the upper-hand in taking over Hell---especially with Crowley MIA outside the Bunker. The amusement in Huffman's voice sells us on her triumph. We can hear the delight in her tone as she tells Crowley that she's undoing all his deals and making Hell a chaos force to be reckoned with. It may have been a brief appearance, but it was a fun one as always. If anything, it makes us eager to see what the newly minted Queen of Hell will do next!

    Osric Chau keeps growing as an actor as Kevin and this episode is no different. He has great chemistry with Mark Sheppard, but the addition of Jared Padalecki to the scenes made them stronger. Chau shows Kevin's steel well, and yet we can sense in his performance here that the prophet is relying heavily on Sam's presence to keep his composure. It's in how Chau has Kevin stand by Sam or glance at the younger Winchester. His angry outburst about Crowley wanting to make a call to Abaddon is understandable, and Chau makes us feel deeply for the prophet's predicament. After all, his mother is dead because of the demon and now he has to give something to get something. Chau has become a bit more subtle in his performances, too, allowing for nuances in Kevin's character to emerge. He's become a much more rounded character, easily connecting with us and the other characters in the room. We can sense that Chau is really starting to know just who Kevin is in this new scheme---post the failed attempt at closing the Hell Gates. We see him pair well with Padalecki's Sam when they're researching as a bond seems to develop between the two characters over the difficult translation task. It gives the character a warmth and humanity that makes him a great addition to the Supernaturalfabric.

    Mark Sheppard has shown a lot of different sides to Crowley this season and this episode builds on that well. He is still the snarky and manipulative character we've come to know, but there's a difference in him now that shows through Sheppard's acting. He's a bit less cocky. Sheppard shows us on many levels that Crowley's bad attitude is largely an act in many ways, that he knows he's caught in the Winchester's clutches, and that he's lost. Yet, that doesn't mean he won't get something for something, and we see Crowley hold fast to his demands to talk to Abaddon. After the call, we see Sheppard show Crowley's anger well in the tight gestures and determined facial expressions. He may be the King of Hell---or soon to be former King---but he has integrity that shows in how he carries himself oddly. Sheppard shows us how much Crowley has changed when he injects Kevin's blood---the euphoria that crosses his face tells of something profound about the demon. We're left to wonder if he's more changed than he's let on by the near cure or if there's something else at work here. If anything, Sheppard will be able to expand Crowley's character---taking us along for the ride.

    Misha Collins continues to explore Castiel's human experience with an earnest performance here. We connect on many levels with the former angel in this episode as he struggles to fit in, to earn his keep, and to perhaps find love. There's a sincerity in his portrayal that makes us empathetic to his situation. As more of the angel he once was falls away, Collins wisely keeps enough of Castiel's quirks around to keep him familiar in his new mortal state. It's even more endearing when we see him try to interact socially, only to be awkward as he is when he apes his co-workers with the stirring stick or his genuine care for his work. Castiel has been humbled greatly by what has happened since Metatron stole his grace---and that humility is an undercurrent in the performance Collins gives here. When Castiel and Dean visit the latest crime scene, we feel the tragedy in his pose as he bends over the Impala, head bowed low and stance clearly communicating his defeat. Collins sells us on this without saying a word, and when we see his face, we see the anguish in his facial expression. Collins has his best scene, however, when he's babysitting. There's a warmth in his attempts to soothe the baby—all the while trying to come to grips with his own human emotions. Collins makes Castiel's gravely voice oddly soft---all while keeping the voice we know well. It's a heartfelt moment all in how Collins presents Castiel here, and its impact grips us long after viewing. When Ephraim comes, we see Castiel move to defend the baby, but it is the former angel he's there for. Collins shows Castiel's ingenuity in his subtle actions with the rose as he makes a blood sigil in an attempt to banish the angel of mercy. After Dean drops him off at his job, we see Castiel move about the space with a bit of trepidation---as if it is lacking something. Collins puts a lot in that last expression we see, and we're left to wonder if there's something more for the former angel than cleaning the restroom or microwaving nachos.

    Jensen Ackles has always had a physical element to his acting---and in this episode we see how well that works to his advantage. His gesturing and facial expressions tell us how Dean is processing any given moment---be it an amused smile at Castiel's predicament, a hand to cover his nose at the disgust found at the crime scene, or the encouragement to the former angel about his “date,” by giving a soft slap to the chest. Ackles makes Dean come to life this way. We also sense in his body language that Dean is running from the situation with Sam and Zeke, and while it's not brought up in this episode explicitly, we can sense it in how Ackles has Dean leave the Bunker in a hurry, his lines delivered with haste to convince Padalecki's Sam to stay and work with Kevin on the tablet. Ackles has great chemistry with Collins, and it showed here, especially in the scene at the school yard when Dean encounters a grief-stricken Castiel. There's a considerate tone in his voice and his posture shifts to show us that Dean is concerned about his friend. Ackles always seems to know just what tenor to take in a scene to convey to us just what needs to be told at that point in the story---and this episode was no exception---be it on the case, helping a friend get ready for a date, or showing amusement.

    Jared Padalecki builds on his chemistry with Mark Sheppard in this episode. As we see Sam confront Crowley, we see his steel and his resolve in just how Padalecki carries himself. There's a subtle amusement in these moments, too, evidenced by facial expressions and vocal tones---as if Sam finds having Crowley strung up funny on many levels. But Padalecki also gets to establish a better chemistry with Chau's Kevin, and they make quite the team on screen. Just as Chau made Kevin glance at Sam for reassurance, we see that returned by Sam in Padalecki's performance here. He makes sure to be that presence in the room, the buffer between Kevin and Crowley. Seemingly without trying, Padalecki makes himself look even bigger in these scenes, making Sam a bit more intimidating, too. We also see his great panic at the end, punctuated by his astonishment at Crowley's actions---all without a word being said. Padalecki's best scene in this episode was when he taunts Crowley about his humanity. The way he delivers, “Our last encounter, with Abaddon, she was pretty terrifying, scarier than you've been in years,” is done with punch.

    Best Lines of the Week:

    Dean: I'm just saying, we're not keeping him chained up for the one-liners.

    Kevin: Twenty-four. Don't worry, we've got all of them.

    Kevin: In another words a perfect excuse to bail on our research.

    Sam: Like it or not, there's still a little part of you that's not a douche.

    Dean: Yeah. I mean, my dates usually end when I run out of singles , but, uh, yeah. Yeah, that's something that humans do.

    Dean: I said that there was room for improvement!

    Dean: Wow. So you went from fighting Heavenly battles to nuking taquitos.

    Next week the Winchesters go on an old fashioned ghost hunt---what other ghost will dredge up?

  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.07- "Bad Boys"

    From the very start, Supernatural has taken the art of the ghost story and elevated it to something more profound. The series may have started as a horror show, but it is the depth they place in their ghost episodes that take it to the next level. Instead of just focusing in on the thrills and chills, Supernatural wisely shows us a personal story encased in that of a vengeful spirit. It's what makes their brand of ghost story unique. They're scary, yes, but the ghosts are never the caricature that we often see in the horror trope. They're more than that---they're undeniably human in their motivations and pain.

    Supernatural also shows us the metaphorical ghost quite often alongside, allowing for the study of either Sam or Dean or both, adding another rich layer to the story. We learn some truth about the brothers, something about their past or their future, and it not only adds something deeper to the story, it makes the story bend around the Winchesters in a way that makes them the center of it. Here, we are studying Dean---and his metaphorical ghost shows us a side of him that is rarely if ever glimpsed.

    “Bad Boys” tells both ghost stories extremely well, giving us insights into the human condition and that of Sam and Dean.

    Let's start with the ghost story first.

    Sam and Dean are in the Bunker when a phone call comes---Sam answers, telling the caller that there is no “D-Dog” there. Before he can hang up, Dean yanks the phone away and greets someone named Sonny. He tells them they'll be there soon, and Sam looks confused as to why his brother's so eager to help this man he's never even heard of. Dean says of Sonny, “He's good people.” It turns out that there's something supernatural harassing a boy's home owned by him---and it happens to be a place that Dean stayed at for a couple months after being caught stealing food.

    The brothers make their way to the farm and there they meet Sonny, who tells them, “I never believed any of this mumbo jumbo stuff you boys are into, but something ain't right. Well just, things started happening. You know, lights started flickering on and off, strange scratching sounds coming from inside the walls, windows and doors slamming.” It would seem that Sonny's called them in on a relatively easy hunt---a simple ghost hunt. But Sam and Dean should know better than that. Even though they've dug up the suspected spirit and properly salted and burned him, another victim is killed. It would seem there's much more going on here than they thought.

    As they work the case, Dean encounters a little boy named Timmy. He doesn't seem to have much besides his action figure---a gift from his mother. The boy is there because he kept running from child protective services, and Sonny was the only one who could take him in. He is small and timid---but most of all sad. It makes him a target for bullies, and the other boys staying under Sonny's roof find him an easy target to tease.

    Sam and Dean can't seem to figure out just who is haunting the farm after their first failed attempt to stop the ghost attacks. As Dean gets closer to Timmy, however, it becomes obvious that the little boy is somehow at the center of things. It doesn't escape Dean that the bullies big taunt is “weirdo,” and he immediately puts a stop to their behavior---and that in itself is a clue. Timmy was there when the farm hand was run over by the tractor, he declared Ruth to be a warden, and one of the boys is brutally mauled by the lawn mower when he tries to pull out Ruth's missing rosary.

    But the boy seems too innocent to be the culprit. He is sad and a bit lonely, yes, but it just doesn't seem to be his doing. He doesn't seem malicious when these events take place. Instead, he is sadder every time one does occur, and as we see a shadowy and disfigured hand grasp his shoulder after the mower incident, we know there's something with Timmy that's actually doing these terrible things.

    But who could be the spirit haunting this child?

    As Sam searches the barn, he comes across some crude childlike drawings of a burning car and a woman trapped inside thrusting a little boy out---one that looks a lot like Timmy. The crayon drawings tell a tragic story---complete with the last drawing of what appears to be a ghostly figure. It's apparent then that the ghost haunting Sonny's farm isn't connected to the farm as Ruth had suspected---it is Timmy's mother protecting her child as she had done in her final moments alive.

    It is here where Supernaturalelevates the simple ghost story to something more. Instead of being simply a vengeful or evil creature bent on destruction and gore, the ghost here is a twisted version of a mother's love, tainted by the confusion her violent death has inflicted upon her. The death she endured was gruesome and painful---but what was unthinkable to her was leaving her son behind.

    Timmy tells Sam that, “I cried for my mom and she came.” It is here that we see the human story blossom to its full potential. Both mother and son are simply human souls hurting. It is understandable that a scared little boy would want nothing more than his mother---and it is heartbreaking that even in death that she would come to her son's aid, only to be tainted and twisted into something angry and violent.

    Supernatural makes us feel for both mother and son deeply---and while we know it must end with her spirit being vanquished, we are drawn in by the sadness and human story that surrounds this end. Normally, Sam and Dean will dig up the body and burn it---as they did with their earlier suspected spirit's body. It'll put an end to the vengeful spirit. If that doesn't work, something that is keeping them attached must be destroyed. It's the only way to truly get them to go.

    And so, the action figure that Timmy so proudly displayed to Dean in their first encounter must be burnt. With a cry, the little boy protests, and as the figure melts, we see instead of one vanquished spirit a much angrier one. Timmy's mother instead turns her wrath on Sam and Dean, seeing them now as the threat to her son. They, much like the others that have hurt her son, must be eliminated at all costs.

    If the action figure was not what kept Timmy's mother anchored here, that means that Timmy is the anchor. More specifically, it is his mother's love for him that is keeping her tethered to this world. It is as if that final act expressing her unconditional love for her son has become her curse---and in turn has inflicted great pain on her son, too.

    Timmy was grieving his mother when he called to her---as so many orphaned children may do. We see the grieving process in him through this episode as he struggles to let her go all the while she is lingering with him. In many ways, his mother is grieving, too---and rather than looking sad or being timid, she has become vicious and lashes out in her grief.

    It is this aspect that turns a Supernatural ghost story into something reflective of ourselves and how we deal with loss.

    Sam and Dean can't possibly kill Timmy, anchor that he may be. After all, he's still a child and an innocent in all of this. He did nothing but cry for his mother---he didn't ask for her to be a vengeful spirit that takes out any perceived threat. So what can they do about her?

    Earlier, as Dean was trying to piece together what had happened on Sonny's farm, he shakes Timmy's hand. The little boy is wary and hesitant, his handshake timid. And so Dean takes a moment to teach him the proper way to shake hands, giving the little boy a boost in confidence. It's a gift Timmy needed most, and it is the very thing they'll have to rely on here to stop his mother.

    Timmy pleads with both Winchesters telling them, “I can't stop her,” and he is helpless as he watches his mother appear and attack both Sam and Dean for burning her gift to her son. She appears horribly burned and angry, too far gone to be reached. She will not stop until the threat has been removed, and then she will wait to do it again.

    In many ways, Timmy's mother is forced to live the loop of her final moment in agonized pain. She died to save him, and now she is doomed to save him from everything that causes him pain. It is an excruciating existence, and it will only become all the more tragic if she is not released from this painful prison. Supernatural has always given its ghosts a motivation that makes them real and human under the vengeful anger. This is no different and its moving in its climax.

    As Timmy stands helplessly watching Sam and Dean be pinned against the wall and choked by his mother, Dean manages to tell him “Kung-fu grip,” the very same term he used with the handshake. It gives the little boy the strength to do what he must, what he could not do after the car crash. He must let his mother go for both of their sanity. He tells her, “Mommy stop it. Stop hurting people!”

    At first it seems to only incense his mother as she turns to face him, her marred face twisted into a mask of anger. But as she confronts her son, we see in a flash the burned flesh fleck away into ash, revealing the beautiful woman that was once underneath. Mother and son are reunited in a poignant moment.

    She smiles gently at the little boy, her arms outstretched for a hug that Timmy can never return. In that moment, we see the beautiful love that had been previously tarnished by her anger revealed. His mother doesn't say anything here, and yet we can see her tell her son one last “I love you” before she disappears.

    This is what makes a Supernatural ghost story so powerful and moving. It's what takes them from being simple horror fare into something deep and meaningful. This type of ghost story gives us a chance to examine the grief of the living left behind all the while giving us that supernatural twist. It also makes us question the after life and what it all means. Are we to become like her, or are we destined to move on from this realm after?

    At the same time, Sam learns that he and Dean aren't all that different after all. This case was brought to them by Sonny, a man that Dean knows and trusts---and someone Sam has never heard of before. They are only taking this case out of Dean's loyalty. From the very first moment that Sam learns that the story he was told about Dean being lost on a hunt was nothing but a lie, he becomes curious. He thirsts to know about this previously unknown period in his brother's life. What he discovers is equally beautiful and heartbreaking---and it gives him insight into his brother in ways nothing else ever truly has.

    This is the metaphorical ghost---and with it we learn about a small sliver of Dean's past.

    Sam is eager to connect with this unknown snapshot in his brother's life---but Dean is here to reclaim it. After all, he was told to lie to Sam about this period, and he tells Sam nonchalantly, “The story became the story. I was sixteen.” In many ways, Dean had buried this portion of his life under everything else he's been through and had allowed the made up truth become the real truth. Now that he is going back to Sonny's, Dean can finally take back this moment in time and recapture what it meant to him.

    Sam is, as always, focused on the case, but he can't help himself as he walks around the small farm house, taking it all in. As his gaze sweeps the rooms, we can almost see him cataloging it in his head, trying to picture it as it would have been when Dean had stayed there all those years ago. And when he finds the bed his brother would have slept on---complete with a protective pentagram etched into its surface, he has to confirm it by ripping the masking tape names away until he gets to his brother's, written in Sharpie marker.

    These may be the physical remnants of Dean's presence, but as we watch Sam discover them, we can almost see the ghost of a younger Dean carving the symbol into the bedpost, staking his small claim and protecting himself from the evil he knows is lurking just outside the farm's walls. It is a small window into this secret time in Dean's life---and it of course leaves Sam and us wanting to learn more about this metaphorical ghost.

    Of course Sam has to ask Dean why this place was so terrible that his brother had to hide it from him---and true to Dean's nature he is brief and not forthcoming in his response. He simply tells him, “Nobody bad touched me, nobody burned me with their smokes or beat me with a metal hanger. I call that a win.”

    It leaves Sam little choice but to do a side investigation---a second ghost hunt to discover more.

    The farm house is warm and inviting, even with its age showing. It beckons to the boys that take up residence in its walls. As much as Sam is encountering the ghost of a young Dean, Dean is remembering what he had here. Every nook and cranny he encounters dredges up a new memory. The house is like a time capsule for Dean---and he is opening it to reclaim the long forgotten moments he experienced here so long ago. It is with a sense of wonder that we see him recall little things from his stay here. Little by little, Dean is uncovering that truth so long buried under the lie.

    In “After School Special,” we saw Sam encounter a teacher that had been his mentor once upon a time. It is fitting that someone in education would do this for the bookish Sam---evidenced by his picking up The Marvelous Land of Oz at the beginning of the episode. For Dean, that mentor would have to be someone more his style, someone he could truly connect with.

    Sonny is an ex-con and had served fifteen years in prison for his crimes. And yet, here he is making society a better place by taking in these wayward boys, teaching them discipline and taking them under his wing. He never claims to be better than the boys, never talks down to them, and never seems to berate them for anything they've done. Instead, he's patient and encouraging. Because of his background, this approach not only breaks through a young Dean's hardened shell, it starts to melt it, showing us the real Dean we all know is there underneath.

    Sam is often the one cited for wanting out of the life, to put hunting behind him, and to do what he wants with his life. He left to go to Stanford and had planned on attending law school, after all. He had ambitions beyond getting Azazel or hunting the next creature. It was something he was never shy about, and it has often been a bone of contention between the two brothers.

    Just as much, we've been shown that Dean was often the one that wanted to be a hunter, would always choose it, and that he actually enjoyed it. He's the one that has no problem defending their father or their life. He's the one that follows the orders without arguing. Dean is “the good son” who will do whatever his father tells him, even if it means never looking at doing something else with his life.

    But as we learn of Dean's crime that landed him at Sonny's, we know the truth. Dean may have lost the money in a card game---or maybe not, we don't know---but he most certainly was stealing food for a reason. Certainly, Sonny knows that Dean was hungry---but it's really for Sam that a young Dean risked getting caught making off with a five finger discount. He was desperate, and so he did what he had to do. It's the first clue to the true Dean underneath the bravado.

    As we watch a young Dean slowly open up to Sonny, we also see the hunter become a boy again. Dean has often shunned school, looked away from a future outside of hunting. It was pointless to try since they moved around so much. Certainly by the time we see Dean in “After School Special,” we see that he has given up---and it won't be long after that when Dean will drop out entirely. By then, Dean had accepted that hunting was all he'd ever do.

    But as he starts to put roots down here, we learn that not only was Dean starting to spread his wings a little, he was embracing his intelligence.

    Dean often plays stupid or downplays his smarts. On one hand it's easier to outwit his opponent if they already think he's stupid---on the other hand, Dean has always believed Sam to be smarter than he is. He's never had the ambition to apply himself to learning or to school. Often, researching for the cases can make him restless. But make no mistake, Dean Winchester is highly intelligent. We know because we've seen him outwit so many adversaries with his clever schemes.

    Sam learns this as he walks in the footsteps of the young Dean, encountering a Hall of Fame in the halfway house that proudly displays his brother's wrestling trophy---and surprisingly a number of academic ribbons. His brother had obviously flourished here in school in a way he never did while hunting with their father.

    Dean was exploring, in this brief moment of time, his own potential. He was branching out, allowing himself to see what he could do if he applied himself. It is no surprise to us or to Sam that Dean actually did quite well in school. That's the not the surprise. The surprise is that Dean would, given what we know about him. What we learn here, as the metaphorical ghost continues to unravel, is that Dean can truly be anything he wants to be---and that like his brother, he may have wanted more than “the life,” even beyond what we saw in his year with Lisa and Ben---one that ended in disaster.

    Dean remembers this, too, as we see Sonny treat a young Dean to a nice meal. It is a bittersweet memory for the elder Winchester. He is with a father-like figure, telling him all about the good the young Dean is accomplishing with school and sports---that he's really turned his life around after that first shaky and cocky encounter. And then Sonny tells the boy that he is proud of him, and we see the slight glimpse of pain flicker across the young Dean's face. It's something he so rarely hears from his real father after all---something he didn't get to truly hear until just before John sold his soul for him.

    We also see Dean explore young love with a girl that visited the farm. Her name is Robin, and in their encounters we see Dean start to question his place in life. It's apparent that no one's bothered to really ask him what he really wants to do with his life---and as he talks about being a mechanic or a rock star, we can see that Dean has dreams---ones he often ignores to do his job. They're simple dreams, one lofty and a castle in the air, the other practical and real. But they're his dreams---and he's actually taking the moment to acknowledge them.

    Throughout the series, Dean has often been portrayed as being nothing short of a player---especially in the early seasons, but here he is earnest and sweet in his courting of Robin. He makes promises that most teenage boys make about it lasting forever and that he won't leave. Dean seems to want to do this, as he has with his school work: the right way. This isn't about some quick fling. And while it may not be actual love, it's apparent that he cares for this girl.

    This is most apparent as we see him dress up for the upcoming dance---one he'll never actually get to attend. Just as he's ready to go meet his date, Sonny comes to tell him the bad news. John has returned and it is time for Dean to leave this sanctuary behind. It is time for him to go back to the hunt. He looks crushed by this news---but hopeful as Sonny extends the offer to stay.

    We watch as Dean hover between his family and Sonny, but the second he glances out the window and sees his little brother---someone he hasn't seen in two months---we know the decision has been made. Dean will sacrifice everything he's built here and return to Sam. It's no contest, not even a question. As much as he was enjoying this brief respite from the endless death and darkness, Dean knows he must go back.

    But the choice isn't as simple or as cut and dried as it appears. Certainly John would have put up a fight to take Dean with---and it's likely that he would have won. It's easy to say that Dean does this here out of obligation, because his father has ordered him to protect Sam, that it is his job. That's the simple answer. That's the surface answer that we see in the mask Dean wears so well---of the obedient and good son.

    In reality, however, Dean chooses to go back of his own accord---not out of obligation to John, but out of love for Sam. Like Dean's other actions in life, this one too was motivated out of love. The bravado he wears so often hides this---but here we've seen a crack expose this truth bare. Dean may defend their father---even as he does to Sam as they drive up to Sonny's, but he knows that his reason for returning to the family business really wasn't about their father. Not really. It was about Sam, and no matter what he couldn't walk away from him.

    It's easy for Sam to understand this, even if Dean doesn't share this with him. He knows their father well enough to know that Dean was made to leave. And yet he also knows that his brother chose to come back---and why. Once he's alone with his brother, Sam says what he feels must be said after all these years. He tells Dean, “Dean, thank you---for always being there. For always having my back. I know it hasn’t always been easy.”

    It is an honest confession, a simple thank you with only the most necessary of words. Sam learned much about his brother that he's always suspected and tried to encourage---that of learning and applying himself outside of hunting---but to have it confirmed has only enriched his understanding and love for his brother. It's shown him another layer to Dean, giving him a brief window hidden by the guarded nature. As close as he and Dean are, Sam is still always finding new things out about his brother.

    For Dean, visiting Sonny's farm was healing. The metaphorical ghost here allowed him to reclaim a piece of his past---one that hasn't been tarnished by Hell or the Apocalypse. It allowed Dean to remember the good. It gave him back another piece of his true self---one that he won't have to hide from his brother any longer. Most of all, he learned that it is okay to be himself, Dean Winchester, the man---not just Dean Winchester the Hunter.

    Dean, typically shy around emotional confrontations, responds, “I don't know what the hell you're talking about.” It's not brushing aside Sam's thank you by any means. Instead, it is Dean simply telling his brother what he already knows: that he loves him no matter what, and if anything what he said in that church in “Sacrifice” is the truth.

    There really is nothing he'd put in front of Sam---ever.

    Sarah Desjardins played the sweet and innocent young Robin and connected beautifully with Everett's version of young Dean. She may be there with her mother to give out guitar lessons, but we can sense that she's as lost as he is, trying to find her way in the world. It's all there in her body language, especially when she asks a young Dean what he'd like to do with his life. Desjardins makes Robin seem nervous when she admits that she'd like to be a photographer, as if he may laugh at her and it is this that makes her instantly likeable. She makes Robin question Dean's experience with girls---and yet we can sense in her portrayal that Robin isn't as experienced perhaps as she'd like Dean to think. There's a shyness about her that makes her a girl next door type and it makes her endearing. As we see her question if Dean will stay, we sense that she doesn't buy Dean's answer in the firm tone she takes when she says, “Yeah, says you.” We can sense here that Desjardins is conveying Robin's hopes for something with Dean and the heartbreak that she knows that it will not last. She was a good counterpoint to Everett's young Dean, giving an earnest performance that made both better.

    Erin Karpluk plays the adult version of Robin, Dean's long lost love interest. In her first encounter with the now adult Dean, we see her brush him aside, acting indifferent and confused about who he exactly was---and yet we can sense that perhaps she's not as forgetful as she leads on. It's in how she refuses to look too long at him or the stiff way she stands. Karpluk made Robin sweet and down to earth in her portrayal, making it easy to see why Dean would be attracted to her all those years ago. She also shows us that Robin's confused about why Dean would be back after all this time, cautious to say much or interact with him after he stood her up all those years ago. When the actual hunt starts to infringe upon the halfway house, we see Robin hesitantly trust Dean in the way Karpluk carries herself, nervous and unsure. We can sense that at any time she will freak out---evidenced by her wide eyes and near hyperventilating. And so, we're not surprised when she runs from the salt circle. Karpluk also shows us that she's not just frightened by this ghost, but she's a little unnerved by who Dean is---until afterward. We see her accept him as she sees Dean hug Timmy, and Karpluk makes it clear by the softening of her facial expression. In the closing scene with Robin and Dean, Karpluk shows that while Robin may not totally understand, she gets that Dean had to go with his father. The way she says the line, “I always thought that I'd hate being in the same little town my whole life, taking over the diner like dad always wanted, but I don't. I love it,” shows this well. In some ways, it's Robin giving them both closure for what happened all those years ago.

    Sean Michael Kyer plays the timid and frightened little boy Timmy with skill. He is subtle and never over the top in his performance here---and because of that we connect easily with the boy. Kyer makes Timmy unnerving in the beginning as we see him stare out the window or when he comes upon Dean in the barn---but as we see him open up to Dean, we see Kyer show the real Timmy. He's a frightened and lonely little boy who just needs someone to care about him. When we see the other boys bully Timmy, we feel our hearts break, not just for the situation, but in the way Kyer cowers against the house, almost as if he's trying to make Timmy as small as possible. He connects well with Ackles, especially in the hand shaking scene. Kyer takes Timmy from being unsure and hesitant to firm---and we see this seed bear fruit when it comes time for Timmy to tell his mother's spirit to leave. Because he is still a child, there is an innocence about him, and yet we can sense the sadness and tragedy that envelops him in just his facial expressions and body language. What breaks our hearts the most however, is when Timmy throws himself into Dean's arms after it is over. Kyer gave us a tight performance overall, making us care about Timmy on so many levels.

    Blake Gibbons gave us Sonny, a good mentor and friend to Dean when he needed it most. Gibbons played the character with a down to earth nature and warmth that instantly made him connect with a young Dean and the viewer in turn. He put a great deal of patience into the character, shown best in his body language and gentle manner of speaking to all the boys in his care. Gibbons made Sonny seem trustworthy and respectable---despite the ex-con past we're told about. There's a great humility in Sonny, too. Gibbons shows Sonny's trust and faith in Dean, too, when he lets them handle the case, especially in the line “I never believed any of this mumbo jumbo stuff you boys are into, but something ain't right.” His best scene with Everett's young Dean was at the diner, telling him how proud he was of the boy, and we could sense that he saw a kindred spirit in Dean then and there, just in how he talked to Dean and how his body language conveyed a sense of openness. Gibbons is wise to never make Sonny overbearing, too. In the end, he is embracing of not only Dean, the boy he once knew, but of the man he's become and of Sam. Gibbons made Sonny not only likeable, but welcome in his portrayal here.

    Dylan Everett gives a brilliant performance as a young Dean Winchester. He captured the body language, facial expressions, and vocal tones of Ackles well, and translated them to the younger version of Dean he portrayed. We could clearly see flashes of the adult we've come to know here. He starts out amused and a bit indifferent by the circumstances Dean finds himself in—taunting the cop for instance. While Everett gives young Dean the same cockiness, he also shows us the vulnerability that hides underneath that mask. It's brought forward little by little, especially when young Dean is talking with Sonny and later Robin. When Sonny tells a young Dean that he is proud of him for his grades and his sporting accomplishments, Everett subtly shows us how happy and sad that made Dean. It's all in his facial expression here. Little by little, the tough exterior that Dean spent building is falling away---and the real man we know is growing is exposed for us to see. Everett shows that true intelligence and passion in a young Dean best when he talks to Robin about cars. And yet we hear the heartbreak in his voice when he delivers the line, “Cars are freaking cool as hell. Fixing them is like a puzzle, and the best part is when you're done, they leave, and you're not responsible for them anymore.” Everett shows us a young Dean's anguish at having to choose between Sonny's offer to stay and going back to his father---but he also shows that joy upon seeing a young Sam in the backseat, waiting for him, too. He captured the complexities of Dean extremely well in his portrayal, giving us a depth and richness in his performance full of all the nuances we've come to know in the adult version. And yet, Everett also gives us a sense of innocence, something that makes his portrayal all the more heartbreaking. He grasped the character well and told us this moving story with a subtlety that drew us in just with the way he carried himself throughout.

    Jensen Ackles showed in this episode why his character Dean is so often paired with children. His chemistry with Kyer's Timmy was gripping and moving on many levels. Ackles always makes the tough Dean gentle when it comes to children---and yet he never once patronizes Timmy. Instead, he always makes Dean talk on their level, connecting with them. It's an endearing quality that Ackles brings out in Dean, and we saw it here in spades---from Dean teaching Timmy how to shake hands to his standing up to Timmy's bullies. Ackles makes Dean seem like a mentor in these moments, knowing that it's best not to push. In his scenes with Robin, we see Dean act flustered and eager. He is excited to see his old flame, and yet when she claims to not know him we see the flash of hurt in his hurried exit from the diner. Ackles also subtly shows the regret that Robin now knows just what Dean does---all the while doing everything he must in order to save her from the ghost. With Padalecki's Sam, Ackles shows us how Dean has not only accepted the decision he made here all those years ago, he has embraced it completely. The way he delivers the last line, “I don't know what the hell you're talking about,” tells us so much---from the way Dean would have it no other way to him subtly saying “I love you” to Sam right there. Ackles gave us a window into the often masked Dean here, and he showed us on so many levels the complex man he really is.

    Jared Padaelecki showed us the curious side of Sam this week as he got a glimpse of his older brother's life---a portion he knew nothing about. It shows in his eager questioning about this period of time, in his confusion about Dean's abrupt exit from the diner Robin owns---and in his concern as he sees how this place is clearly dredging up memories for his brother. We see this curiosity best in the scene where Sam finds Dean's old bed, peeling the stickers away to reveal his brother's name. There's sadness on Padalecki's face as Sam questions Sonny about Dean's wrestling awards and academic ribbons---and without even saying a word we can see it etched on Padalecki's face that Sam knows just what his brother gave up in order to stay with him and their dad. There's a flicker of grief, too, shown in his open and soft expression. We can sense that he's mourning this lost time, this chance that Dean let go---and while Dean may not openly do so, Sam will and we see this in how Padalecki delivers Sam's lines about Dean's time at Sonny's or in how he looks around the farm with awe. When Sam tells Dean thank you, we can hear all the gratitude in Padalecki's tone. Most of all, we can hear Sam's love for his brother, too.

    Best Lines of the Week:

    Sam: Dean, thank you — for always being there. For always having my back. I know it hasn’t always been easy.

    Dean: Nobody bad touched me, nobody burned me with their smokes or beat me with a metal hanger. I call that a win.

    Dean: I guess we didn’t know everything we thought we did at 16.

    Sam: I am everybody.

    Next week it looks like the boys will try to “rehymenate” themselves---as if that's how it works!

  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.09- "Holy Terror"

    The Garden of Eden has played a beautiful backdrop to the season storylines---and in “Holy Terror,” we realize that it has been the epicenter for which all the stories revolve around elegantly. The Garden and the Fall have been laced throughout the episodes leading up to this one in very particular ways. Supernatural wisely uses this trope further to link these storylines together to form a complete tapestry. While each story seemed to be its own separate piece, it has become apparent that they are all linked by this one common theme: The Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man.
  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.10- "Road Trip"

    The first half of season nine explored Castiel's experience as the new Adam, the fall of angels from Heaven, and the aftermath of the Trials---particularly that of Dean allowing Gadreel to possess his brother, Sam. We watched each of these stories reflect or weave around a particular center---the Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man. It became both metaphor and literal in the tapestry of the story. “Holy Terror” exposed the serpents invading the various Gardens while “Road Trip” explores the consequences of their invasion---particularly that of Gadreel's possession of Sam.

    Consequences. It's a loaded word. For every action, there is an equal reaction. That is the lesson we learn in “Road Trip” explicitly.
  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.11- "First Born"

    “Stretching back to Cain and Abel. It's in your blood, your father's blood, your family's blood.” ---Michael, “The Song Remains the Same”

    Supernatural has explicitly laced Biblical lore through its mythology since season four---and season nine has shaped itself around that of Genesis. The Garden of Eden and the Fall of Man was a focal point for the story surrounding the fall of the angels, Castiel's stint as a human, and the serpents let into the various Gardens such as Gadreel's possession of Sam and intrusion into the MOL Bunker. As we transition into the back half of the season, we're watching the story unfold around the aftermath of the serpent's infection. In “First Born,” we are given yet another Biblical story---also from Genesis and after the Fall of Man---for the show to use as framework: that of Cain and Abel and the First Murder.

    First, let's examine the Biblical story.
  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.13- "The Purge"

    “The Purge” is aptly named. This episode is all about purging---both physically and emotionally. In some ways, both are tied together. In other ways, both are metaphors for one another. Purging is a process we all go through at some point in our lives---be it physically purging our bodies or living spaces or be it emotionally as we shed bad habits or trim fat from relationships. It can be a healthy thing that gives us a chance at rebirth---a leaner and meaner version of us that can now face the world from a stronger place. Supernatural explores that thoroughly here---although for Sam and Dean this is clearly only the beginning of the painful process.

    So, what does it mean to “purge?”
  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.14- "Captives"

    Everyone in “Captives” was held hostage at some point. This took physical form---restraints, holding cells, and locked doors. People were handcuffed or tied. Some were chained. Others were bound to the physical plane while being a spirit. In truth, however, everyone was held captive by the same thing in the end: grief. Each character seemed to experience it in some form and in their own way. It permeated the text of this episode, giving us glimpses into various stories and character motivations. It's what made “Captives” engaging and intriguing.

    Grief is a strange condition. Everybody grieves differently---and grieves different things. We grieve loved ones. We grieve lost opportunities. We grieve for what could have been. We grieve for what will never be. We grieve the end of relationships. There's no real wrong way to grieve, either. Some cry and seclude themselves. Others shout and scream in anger. We grieve each loss differently, too. One loss may make us cry while another makes us angry. Grief is something we all experience, and we all experience it differently---which is okay.

    Let's look at how “Captives” captured grief.
  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.15- "#Thinman"

    When we are immersed in a complex situation, it can be difficult to see it clearly sometimes. We can find it overwhelming. It can be easy to get caught up in the details---and thus make it harder to see the solution. Sometimes, helping someone else with a similar problem can help us to see our own that much clearer. Kevin told Sam and Dean that their fighting was stupid---but it isn't until they see what has happened between Ed and Harry that they can see what has happened in their own relationship with fresh eyes.

    “#Thinman” builds its story on meta-fictional parallels. We see this best in the reintroduction of Ed Zeddmore and Harry Spangler, aka the Ghostfacers. Their storyline, within the episode, mirrors that of Sam and Dean's on many levels. By examining these parallels, we can see the true story unmasked. By following Ed and Harry's story, we can see several differences between what happens with them and what is happening with Sam and Dean.

    Let's examine these meta-fictional parallels.
  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.16- "Blade Runners"

    As winter comes to a slow close here in Minnesota, we start to see layers fall away little by little. As people shed coats, gloves, hats, and heavy boots, we see them revealed once more. Each layer exposes just a little bit more. It's easier to see a smile or to know who's been under the bulky winter gear all season long. In many ways, Supernaturalfollows this concept. It's shown wonderfully in “Blade Runners.” Each layer builds up to make the full picture. As we strip the layers away, though, we can see how each one shapes the story and its characters. It allows us to get to the heart of it---and see what's really there.

    Let's examine our first layer: the First Blade---and the search for it.
  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.17- "Mother's Little Helper"

    There is a quote that captures a sliver of the human experience: “Everybody you meet is fighting a battle of which you know nothing about.” We all have struggles. Some of them are the stresses of every day life. Some are catastrophic, such as a chronic illness. Sometimes it is easy for us to become wrapped up in our problems that we forget that others are facing their own battles---even those we love. We might think we know a bit about it, but we don't---not really. Sometimes we need to hear the story or to experience something similar to truly understand. In “Mother's Little Helper,” we see several battles play out. It also gives Sam and Dean a chance to taste each other's battles in a bit of a role reversal---helping them to recognize one another in new ways.

    Let's look at some of these battles.
  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.19- "Alex Annie Alexis Ann""

    Recently, a New York Times article discussed Supernatural's longevity. They cited everything from Sam's hair to Netflix and syndication deals to the loyalty of fans to the brothers themselves as the reasons for the show's long running success. All of these things are crucial for why the show has endured as long as it has, but another reason can be found in the stand alone episodes they put forth each season. These stand alones allow for new or casual viewers to jump in and have a completed story while adding in moments that touch on the overall season storyline for the loyal viewer. Some are simple stand alone monster hunts, others are metaphors for the over-arching season mythology, and some highlight guest stars. “Alex Annie Alexis Ann” does all of those things---spotlighting the lovable Jody Mills for one---and yet it does something else that elevates it as a standalone. It adds in a layer of potential foreshadowing for the brothers and for Dean's fate surrounding the Mark of Cain. It's this that makes this episode showcase why Supernatural has endured for so long---and will continue to do so.

    First, let's examine the case itself.
  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.20- "Bloodlines"

    Whenever a show reaches a certain number of seasons, builds up enough fan interest, or is a hit, the notion of a spin-off is always considered. It seems like a natural progression---to allow for the story to go in directions the original show can't or won't and for viewers to stay in that same world for just a little longer. There's been numerous spin-offs of various television properties. Some have had more success than others---such as Fraiser, the spin off from Cheersor Angel,the spin-off from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer. Supernatural has reached this milestone in its existence, and so we see a potential spin-off launched in episode twenty of season nine: “Bloodlines.”

    This may have been an episode of Supernatural, but it certainly had its own feel. “Bloodlines” adapted the Supernatural world to its own story---taking it places that may never be seen on its parent show. All of these things have potential. “Bloodlines” wisely also shows us that it's not going to try and be Supernatural. Instead, we see “Bloodlines” draw upon some similarities to Supernatural while shaping the story around its setting: Chicago. As rural and back-road as its parent show can be, “Bloodlines” appears that it will take the urban route----thus playing up the urban in its genre: urban fantasy.

    First, let's look at the similarities that “Bloodlines” drew from Supernatural---in order to wisely ground it.
  • Far Away Eyes' Review: "Supernatural" 9.21- "King of the Damned "

    In the back half of season nine, episode titles have had great significance. Some have literal meaning---as seen in “#Thinman” or “Meta Fiction.” Others have elements of metaphor like “Captives,” speaking to the emotion of grief or “The Purge,” about cutting out the bad and building upon the good. Some connect to a character---as seen with Cain in “First Born.” Episode titles can reveal much about the story to unfold. In many ways, it is a clue unto itself, cluing the viewer into what they might expect. We see this element in the title “King of the Damned.” In it, we watch the war for Hell's throne come to a head---and end with a coronation of sorts. In it, we see a victor---and yet we wonder if the cure may become worse than the disease.

    First, let's look at the players in the fight for Hell's throne.