Thank you Ben Edlund! If anyone could take on the task of pulling the fandom out of its soulless blue funk right now, it’s the veteran writer with the warped sense of humor. Hmm, did I say warped? More like blissfully deranged. Whatever it is, he’s got us pegged.
“Clap Your Hands If You Believe” made me as happy as a…um…happy as uh…a pig in shoes, until the somber ending that is. It was a slap in the face reminder for those of us lulled into a false sense of security that things still aren’t right. Then again, Ben Edlund has never been what we call an optimist. Who can forget how totally screwed the brothers were at the end of “Nightshifter,” Sam’s vicious slaughter of Brady at the end of “The Devil You Know,” the brothers being screwed over by Bela at the end of “Bad Day At Black Rock,” Sam’s painful detox and Dean’s despair at the end of “My Bloody Valentine” and what a heaping mess Dean was at the end of Edlund’s best episode to date, “On The Head of a Pin.” However, this for all intents and purposes is a screwball comedy episode. Just ask Jeremy Carver, do those end well either?
There I go jumping ahead though. The fact remains, we needed a good laugh. We needed to see soulless Sam as a funny jerk, not an irritating one. We needed some Dean angst that didn’t sway the way of undeniable horror. Plus, you just can’t go wrong with a spoof of “The X-Files” especially since “Supernatural’s” tone was built by a few prominent people involved with that show. I would expect nothing less than perfect in that regard and we got it.
So, where do I begin? So much goodness in one episode. When I was interviewing the cast and producers at Comic Con in July, Ben Edlund had apparently just pitched the ideas of fairies that week. Eric Kripke couldn’t wait to tell us about it. He loved the idea. I’m not sure how fairies and leprechauns evolved into Dean experiencing an alien encounter, but I love it. The entire abduction sequence, from Dean’s capture to his return to the motel, is top notch humor. So often these things look great on paper and don’t translate well to the screen. Most of the credit for pulling this off (other than the script) falls on director John Showalter and Jared and Jensen themselves. It’s all about capturing the perfect moment.
I just love how every bit of this episode was put together. The strife for Dean starts when he investigates the crop circles and a chase pursues. That might seem standard but he calls Sam during the chase. Since Sam is an uncaring soulless jerk that’s having beers in a bar while tailing their suspect and hitting on waitresses, now there’s a setup for some great comedy. He’s finding Dean’s ordeal more amusing than jarring, especially when Dean shouts “Close encounter!” into the phone. “You better run man. I think the fourth kind is a butt thing.” Dean still finds time in that moment to coach his wayward brother. “Empathy Sam! Empathy!” Dean disappears in the beam of light and Sam has another beer. Yep, I’m watching another Edlund classic.
It just gets better there, like the entire Sam scene at the alien hunters camp. He’s over his brother’s abduction, for he’s had a whole half hour to take it in. Soulless Sam now gets to carry on his investigation without a filter. “So you’ve been hunting UFO’s for three decades and you have zero data and no workable leads. Have you considered the possibility that you suck at hunting UFO’s?” There is also an opportunity to get friendly with a hippie chick, for you know, it’s not like there are any leads on Dean at that time. You knew what was going to happen when Dean returned later that evening. I died over Sam and hippie chick’s happy reaction that Dean was brought back while they’re naked in bed, coupled with Dean’s very bothered reaction. Again, the expressions sell this wacked out scenario perfectly.
Hippie chick: What was it like?
Dean: They were grabby, incandescent douchebags. Goodnight.
Hippie chick: Too soon.
Oh they’re killing me! But then it gets better, for Sam at his brother’s request earlier is pretending to care. He even brings Dean whiskey and touches his leg in support. “Safe room.” Ha! Did he watch too much Oprah that afternoon? However, the most hysterical part was Dean’s recollection of the ordeal, how it went from being deeply shaken to pride. “I had a close encounter Sam and I won.” He also needed a shower. The next day Dean takes it upon himself to coach his clueless brother on the idea of not having sex with a chick while his brother has been abducted by aliens. The entire dialogue (which can be found in Robin’s recap of the episode) is every bit as wacky as can be imagined.
However, in revisiting my list of Top Ten Supernatural’s funniest moments there’s a new entrant. Dean’s showdown with Tinkerbell becomes an instant classic. As he stares into the golden ball of light in front of him, coupled with David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” as brilliantly timed background music (how did this show afford that?), Dean engages in a brawl with the bouncy pixie. His quick thinking results in a hilarious trapping of the creature in the microwave. There’s an explosion, Dean giving a growl of triumph and the perfect off screen “ping” to cap a gruesome demise by microwave (the second time in this show’s history that’s happened). The entire way that scene was shot was exquisite. Considering the VFX that had to be worked in, Jensen still had us believing a tiny fairy with nipples was right in front of him. Even the aftermath, with Sam’s deadpan “I’m not supposed to laugh, right?” is too damn good for words.
So, what else can you to do an already howling audience? Why of course throw Sam and Dean into what was essentially a tea party talking about fairies. It doesn’t get more absurd than that, especially with tactless little brother around. Actually, Dean screaming “Fight the fairies!” in public while being hauled away tops the absurdity list. However, the tea party was good enough to find out Dean was singled out because the fairies only want first born sons and it gave Sam the information he needed to defeat the Leprechaun. You have to admit, it’s pretty funny that Sam had to endure quite a beating before it sank in that it was the non-violent way, pouring a round of a salt pellet on the floor, that would allow him to reverse the spell. You should have done that earlier indeed. It would have also spared Dean his own trouncing by the red cap fairy.
Even better is the return of the lines! So much goodness this time and mostly from Sam. A definite role reversal indeed. Let’s go through several of them:
– Sam: What, are flying saucers not insane enough for you? Ok, If you wanna add glitter to that glue you’re sniffing that’s fine but don’t dump your wackadoo all over us. We’d rather not step in it. The only thing you’re missing is a couple dozen cats, sister.
– Sam: You know Jiminy, I was on my own for a whole year. I did fine without you.
Dean: I don’t want to know your definition of fine.
– Dean: I was abducted by aliens and you were banging Patchouli.
Sam: I didn’t think she smelled that bad.
– Sam: So you’re saying suffering is a good thing.
Dean: I’m saying it’s the only game in town.
– Dean (staring into the fairy light): Nipples?
– Sam: You were the one who Pizza Rolled Tinkerbell. I’m just doing the math.
– Sam: Dean, did you service Oberon, King of the Fairies?
– Sam: It looks like Sedona, Arizona took a crap in here.
– Dean: It’s on me. I feel like I’ve got the crazy on me!
Sam: No, you did sit in some glitter though.
Dean: It makes me want to believe in UFO’s again.
– Dean: Fight the fairies! You fight those fairies! Fight the fairies!
I’m sure if you haven’t seen the episode and are reading this, a major “WTF?” is spinning in your head right now. In other words, Ben Edlund delivered another one for the ages. I was hooked through it all until the end scene. I should have been excited over the brotherly chat over beers on the Impala, but any excitement was quickly killed when Sam refused the beer. He was drinking them left and right when alone earlier but can’t have one with his brother. I suppose from a critical viewpoint that move is brilliant. It shows us things are not good between them still and they are not connecting. As a fan though, it’s just another depressing reminder over how much I miss these two being there for each other. Sure it’s possible that means when the connection happens it’ll result in a bigger reward for us, but for right now it’s a bit deflating. It also confirms my theory that Sam was lying to Dean in the ending scene last week. You don’t know how much I wanted to be wrong about that. It’s looking more like that’s the case though so now we’ve got to wait and see what Sam’s true motives are. I know, waiting is hard.
Overall grade, an A-, points taken for the last scene. Was it executed well, absolutely, but after all the heaviness this season I didn’t need a mood killer. I’m still rating “Weekend at Bobby’s” as the best of the season.
More Season Six Analysis
We had our candid “chat” last week, and I was ready to leave the issue of season six and it’s creative direction alone. However, it’s pretty darned hard to avoid especially now that we’ve gotten Soulless Sam, the Ben Edlund version. He’s quite different than the Soulless Sam by the other writers.
There in lies the problem before this episode. Characterization. The idea is intriguing but the execution, not so much. Ben Edlund managed to capitalize on “Supernatural’s” version of Pinocchio in the best possible way. Soulless Sam can be very funny and entertaining. I would expect nothing less of a writer of his stature. Last week’s version of Sam though pissed me off. The week before got a bit weary. The two weeks before were jaw dropping and compelling (not to mention heart crushing). This notion of “what will Sam do next” can be embraced as a fascinating situation or inconsistent characterization. So far, I find fans that have given input are split down the middle. Even I’m not entirely sure which way to fall.
As I said in my rant of frustration last week (and yes, I feel better now thanks for asking), the heart of this show has always been the brotherly bond. It’s what makes it special and unique. With Sam’s soul gone, the soul of the brother’s relationship is as well. I’m not saying that the choice to mess with that dynamic was a poor one, for I usually applaud risk taking, but I see now why I was so upset last week and not so much this week. If you’re going to take such a risk it must be done right. Brian Truitt of USA Today said this on Twitter after “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” aired and I can’t think of a more perfect analysis. “I think Edlund can write soulless Sam as entertaining. In other hands, not so much.”
Soulless Sam is an intriguing idea that’s grown a bit weary. It’s also an extremely risky move. Like it or not, fans come to this show with expectations. It is the sixth season. How many stewed over the entire Summer Hellatus envisioning that Sam would come back an emotional wreck over his ordeal and Dean would have to be there to pick up the pieces? How about the others that were hoping for that return to the season one basics, two brothers in it together fighting this new upswing in monster activity? What about those that decided not to expect anything and see what we were given? Come on, even the last group had hopes for the brotherly bond to return by now.
I keep remembering Sam’s words in “Family Matters.” “You’re stuck with the soulless guy.” Then I remembered (and re-read) an article I wrote back in July where I defended all the creative decisions thus far, like Ruby, Sam in season four and Dean in season five, not to mention “Swan Song.” There was frustration over what was happening back then and it resulted in something, so we are being asked to trust again. Sure many fans are holding out hope that we’ll get the old Sam back soon or the brothers connecting, but until then we’re stuck with the soulless guy, just like Dean. So how does a fan, especially one that’s emotionally involved, accept this new Sam each week? Ben Edlund helped us by making him funny. The next two episodes two are supposed to be dramatic showdowns that address the issue and might also be a great diversion for what we’re missing. We might also be in for a case of “be careful what you wish for.” What happens when (I’m also still going with if) Sam gets his soul back? It might not be pretty.
I highly recommend those struggling with this season read (or re-read) Reality Check: Showrunners Want To Listen To Their Fans But Can’t. I had to remind myself that patience is a virtue. Let’s see how it all plays out. That’s the very least we can do.