SAMMY! GAH! NO! Weren’t you told growing up how bad it is to scratch itches? Scratching opens up old wounds and create whole new ones.
I’m as stunned as many of you are, for I certainly didn’t expect a crack in Sam’s wall that soon. If you recall back when “You Can’t Handle The Truth”aired, I campaigned for a well deserved Sam Winchester beating at the hands of his brother. Once that scene happened though, “be careful what you wish for” rang so very true. No one was laughing after that brutal scene. Lately, my mantra has been “tear down the wall.” Yikes, I need to shut up now before I kill the boy.
Oh dear, once again Sam can’t catch a break. One of the many things I love about “Supernatural” is their ability to take something typical and make it atypical. Take something ordinary and make it extraordinary. For example, look the flashback episode concept. It’s nothing new and often overdone. There have been very few flashback episodes that I have deemed classics. The best one that comes to mind is the season two opener of The West Wing, “In The Shadow of Two Gunmen.”Other than that they’re cliche and a cheap way to build backstory without enhancing the present story.
In “Unforgiven” though none of that is true. This is flashback done perfect. Sam’s vivid memories of ill acts done by his “RoboSam” counterpart are in black and white and jarring. Scenes are jagged and sometimes come in quick flashes, other times longer periods, but they aren’t fluid by any means. We are seeing them as Sam remembers them and no wonder Sam’s reaction every time is disconcerting and fearful. It isn’t just Sam’s traumatic memory of the monster he’d become. It’s his unstable mind accessing memories that were meant to be hidden. The pain is far worse than someone going through typical “Day of Our Lives” amnesia.
So what was superior about this episode? Storytelling for one. This is how to unfold a MOTW story. It’s even, kept me interested the entire hour, is deeply emotional and full of angst, and keeps me guessing right up to the shocking and unexpected end. This is the best paced episode of the season, just ahead of another Dabb and Loflin script, “Weekend at Bobby’s.” The guest acting again is excellent and their characters come with real depth, especially Roy and Brenna. They carry wounds almost as deep as that wall inside Sam’s head.
This episode was shot by first time Supernatural director David Barrett, and man did he bring something to this material. He has quite a pedigree though, including being the Executive Producer for “Moonlight” and has shot episodes for several genre shows like “The Vampire Diaries,” “Nikita,” “Life on Mars,” and “Smallville.” He delivers a gem with this complex script, using the camera wisely to wrangle in the most emotional impact out of this layered tale. The reactions had to be timed perfect, especially Sam’s frantic behavior after each troubling flashback. The tone of the entire episode matched Sam’s edginess which believe me can be tricky when an gripping yet complicated MOTW story revolves around it.
Jared Padalecki, as he has done all season long, took an acting challenge and delivered with brilliance. Sure he got to play RoboSam again, a character he had to invent from scratch at the beginning of this season, but this time he had to constantly switch between the two characters. Ask Nina Dobrev of “The Vampire Diaries”, who’s had to do a dual role constantly this season, it’s work. On top of that the regular Sam was on pins and needles the entire episode, each memory eating away at his already fragile psyche. The gradual decline from unaware hunter “catching up” on the latest Mel Gibson gossip to the “drooling mess” seizing on the floor unfolded with gut wrenching precision and timing. And the ending shot of Sam burning alive in Hell, I haven’t felt prickly spine shivers like that since Dean was chained up in Hell screaming for his brother in “No Rest For The Wicked.” Yikes, these guys know how to press buttons.
“You’re afraid I’ll stroll down memory lane and I’ll kick this wall in my head so hard Hell comes flooding through, right? And then all of a sudden I’m some drooling mess on the floor.”
Dean was right, for once those words of Sam’s EXACTLY happened, it was no joke. Despite the fascinating story and a Monster of The Week that is surprising and unpredictable (a rarity this season), “Unforgiven” is a character based drama. It’s main purpose is to prove under no uncertain terms that newly restored Sam Winchester has some stability issues. Point definitely taken.
No doubt about it, even in this latest development, Sam Winchester remains universally screwed. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t. What makes Sam one of the unforgiven? One of those lost souls that pays for his past and becomes a slave to the future? That’s been Sam’s story his whole life. He tried to run, wanted a life with Jessica, and he ends up getting her killed. No, he didn’t do the killing but that’s the problem, he was involved. He caused it by association. That starts his quest for revenge that got him in deeper and deeper, a quest for good that ended up with more collateral damage than anything. The most stinging line of this entire episode, and one reflective of Sam’s entire life, comes from the monster he created in Roy. ”You killed one monster and you made so many more.” Lilith comes to mind. He killed the beast and started the apocalypse. How many more died? He defeated Lucifer and came back soulless, damaging lives wherever he went. Now he has to pay for that with an unrelenting wall. He can’t win.
I caught those two lines in the script, the two lines that blurred the line between RoboSam and Sam. When Sam is talking to Brenna in her house about Roy, he tells her “I’m sure he died a hero.” It’s no happy accident that RoboSam ends up telling Roy before shooting him, “You’re a hero.” They both used the same line for the same purpose, false comfort. No wonder Sam thinks RoboSam was him.
“I’ve got a freaking soul now and it won’t let me just walk away.”
Is it possible out of this no win scenario, Sam saw death as the better option? He at least goes out with a clear conscience? Doing nothing will only continue to eat him up inside, stir up that long growing guilt that has hampered him throughout the years. Making things right is good for the soul, right? Um, this is Sam Winchester we’re talking about, the man that constantly lives in the no win scenario. In being universally screwed, making things right means scratching at the wall. Sam’s life has been so filled with unfair cruelties like this, how should this circumstance be different?
He tries because that’s who he is. He’s got to make things better, or much like his Dad who sacrificed all for the cause, he’ll go insane. The trouble is, he will go insane doing what’s right. As he finds out the hard way, there’s no easy way to fix what’s already been damaged. He saves Brenna this time, but she can’t forgive the actions of the past. Sam ends up feeling worse in the end and accepts Dean was right. They shouldn’t have come there. That’s likely what weakened his defenses, allowing the wall to crack. I think we’ve found Sam’s character struggle for the rest of this season, trying to balance between that rock and that hard place. What’s going to get him first, overwhelming guilt or the memories of Hell?
Dean’s role here becomes essential, despite the fact he didn’t have a lot of screen time in this episode. Poor Dean, his uphill battle fell back on him and everything he exactly feared came true. He couldn’t stop Sam from scratching that wall, digging where he shouldn’t. Isn’t that often the case with the younger Winchester, though? He does things his own way only to find out the hard way big brother is right? I get it though, holding back your memories, denying who you are, is a bitter pill to swallow.
Dean did at least agree to help Sam remember in the end rather than fight his attempts, but it didn’t matter, the same result happened anyway. Sam couldn’t fight back the memories from Hell. Will Dean come to accept there’s no fighting the tide? I can’t wait for next week to get here, hoping we get some hint of what went through Dean’s head as he watched his brother seize on the floor. How will he address his fears of what he might have to do when/if the whole wall comes crashing down? Has Dean been working on Plan B? I wouldn’t mind seeing the process of him working that through. The way I see it, Dean is the only one that can save Sam from himself.
Speaking of souls, how about this favorable portrayal of Samuel? He’s starting to make more sense to me. “It’s not the way I’m used to doing things.” He does have morals and his little talk about Mary reinforced how she is his entire world. “My God son you’re about as cold as they come, you know that?” A great line, but what clicked when he saw it meant nothing to Sam? I wonder if this was the case that turned Samuel against Sam, made him decide his grandsons weren’t worthy of Mary’s memory. Probably because they were raised by Mary’s husband who he didn’t trust. My question is has Samuel always backed away from morally sticky situations or is he this way because he’s still out of sorts over being brought back?
It’s fascinating to see something addressed that I’ve often wondered, what happens if Sam and Dean had to go back to a town after a hunt? Dean is right, there are always messes. They really do leave scars that cannot be healed so easily.
Bristol, Rhode Island. ”Where Memories Are Made.” Ha! Good one! Add that town to the list of places that’ll make the brothers cringe upon mention.
“I’m going to go hit the poop deck.” Yes, I’ve been in plenty tacky places like that, but I’ve never see that used before! I still think another writer’s challenge is going on, much like last year’s who could outgross the other. They’re finding creative ways to work in “poop.”
“Sex rehab. You’ve heard of plushies, right?” Still to this day, “Plushies and Furries” is the most disturbing CSI episode I’ve ever seen.
One small question was answered, although it wasn’t a surprising answer. This confirms that RoboSam definitely used victims as bait. He did it with the baby in “Two and a Half Men.” No doubt now when going back and watching that episode.
They found the arachne in the same place that the showdown scene in “Born Under A Bad Sign” took place, when possessed Sam shoots Dean. It is perfect for a sea side town.
Anyone notice that portions of the creepy score was the same one used a few times in the early part of season one? For some reason, it didn’t feel dated. It was better!
“Unforgiven” clearly gets an A from me easily. It was a complete 40 minutes of breath taking television and ties “Weekend At Bobby’s” as my favorite episode of the season. It’s easily the most emotional episode we’ve had in season six, something that has been sorely missing. Most of all, it blended all the right things perfectly. Now, all I need to figure out is what the hell next week is all about. Impala possession has me interested!