Now that’s how you do a monster story!
If there’s one big strength to season six, it’s that Supernatural is managing to mix it up every week. Sure the experiments haven’t always worked, but at least they’ve been trying. Coming off of last week’s howler, I found no issue moving into this tragic, good ole fashioned creep fest. The two actually seem to blend well. After all, this is often what the Winchester’s lives are like, a roller coaster of extreme predicaments. When the latest predicament mixes Star Trek lore with an X-Files feel, it wins.
This is easily one of the best paced episodes of the season. It’s flow and intensely creepy drama kept me grossly involved (not to mention breathless) the entire hour. I couldn’t believe it was over so quickly. This season has been plagued with choppy writing but not here. I definitely appreciate Brett Matthews’ ability to get the plot exposition done in the first eight minutes and move to the action in enough time to give such a thrilling hour. In other episodes this season too much time has been spent routinely unfolding the mundane details of the case.
Yeah, I know, parasite in the head is really Wrath of Khan: The Redux but Supernatural has always thrived at taking something that’s been done before and making it their own. In the case of “And Then There Were None,” it becomes the perfect opportunity for the characters to revisit lingering personal wounds while stalking the monster that lurks in the dark. As we’ve learned before, hunters leave plenty of messes behind. Some of those messes tend not to stay in the town that ends up in their rear view mirrors. They get even bigger when allowed to fester a while.
It’s incredible how a standoff in a locked cannery with a new creature that no one knows anything about becomes such entertaining group therapy. Sam and Dean have a chance to take up their lingering issue of betrayal with Grandpa. Gwen has a chance to see Samuel’s true colors, just seconds before joining the death pool that is. Rufus and Bobby end up going to a place that they’ve long avoided before now, Omaha. It’s even a chance for Sam and Dean to explore some of their own lingering brotherly issues, but it’s done so subtly and maturely that it ends up bringing not so much drama as intense relief. One wonders how all of that could be done satisfactorily in an hour, but it happens.
Score a big one for Ardeospina, who in her speculation over “Like A Virgin” called it that Mother of All could be Eve. Granted, we don’t know if she really is or is merely using the name, but since “Winning” has been a big theme in the entertainment papers this week, score one for her. I loved Eve’s conversation with the trucker. It’s a chance to learn right away where she’s coming from. She’s ready to conquer this world and feels she can do so simply because she hasn’t abandoned her creations, unlike our Chuck, I mean God. It makes her feel better, feel worthy of rule. “Your father made you and then abandoned you, so you pray. You see signs and there’s nothing. The truth is, your apocalypse came and went and you didn’t even notice. A mother would never abandon her children like he did.”
I really applaud how this episode finally addressed Jesus, a name that was ignored throughout the entire apocalyptic arc. “You do know that Jesus was just a man?” It’s about time we heard the show’s stance on that. In other words, Christianity is not exactly right. Given the references in the past to things like the “lesser known translation of Revelations” I’d say that reveal is consistent. Sure it’s bound to piss a lot of people off too, but Supernatural has never shyed away from these sort of controversies.
It’s so nice to see the boys back in Ohio and Sandusky nonetheless! As someone who’s caravanned to that town enough times to get rained on and frozen at Cedar Point, I easily go with the notion that it’s the starting point for a new circle of Hell of earth. I do have a question though. Are Sam, Dean, Bobby, Rufus, and Samuel the only keen hunters on earth? Given the blatant warning signs, I would have expected a freaking hunters convention. I let that nitpick slide though for without the proper players, we don’t get the airing of dirty laundry with guns anxiously pointed at one another and suspicious glares galore that made this story exceptional.
Dean shooting Gwen happens mostly for shock value and I must say it works. I gasped. She was always the most expendable of the recurring characters and given the fates of her other two cousins in Campbellhood, her demise was inevitable. Coming from Dean like that though, even if he is possessed by the Khan worm, a wow is all I can muster. That makes other deaths less shocking by comparison, but I did yelp when Sam ganks Samuel. Did not see that coming. I also didn’t see Bobby being the one to kill Rufus, but by that time we knew that Rufus’ survival prospects weren’t looking too good.
This episode becomes the chance to expand in a full hour a comment made by Bobby all the way back in season three’s “No Rest For The Wicked.” You all know which one I’m talking about, “Family don’t end with blood.” It’s clear there’s some unfinished business between Sam, Dean and Samuel. It’s also fascinating that when this showdown does finally happen, Bobby is there. It’s only fitting since he is essentially Sam and Dean’s father. When Bobby and Samuel meet, there’s a clear understanding of Samuel’s warped idea of family. He shuns Bobby for being his grandsons’ so called father, like he didn’t earn that right because he wasn’t blood. I can see now why Samuel hunted with Sam, Gwen, Christian, and Mark. Because they were blood. That meant something to him, but they never became his family. Maybe because they didn’t adore him or honor him like Mary did. RoboSam just plain sickened him, and he wasn’t about to find out what Sam was like if he had his soul back. Sam hadn’t earned that kind of loyalty.
I’m actually haunted by the whole drama over Sam shooting Samuel. Sam clearly experiences deep remorse over the act. He feels guilty and is stunned that he did it. What’s interesting about Sam’s kill as opposed to Dean’s and Bobby’s is that Sam wasn’t possessed. Samuel was, but is that why Sam pulled the trigger? I’m not sure Sam really knew why he put that bullet in his grandfather’s head. He swore he’d do that earlier, but I don’t think he intended on that to happen. I wonder if the worm managed to affect those with a connection to the possessed. Sam certainly had a deeper one to Samuel than Dean just because they spent that year together. It forced those it possessed to kill those they cared about, what if it also worked in reverse?
Then there’s the next scene, where a literally restrained Sam (both physically and emotionally) has a chance to ponder over what he’s done. He tells Dean he didn’t know the man, didn’t feel anything for him and what he remembered about him wasn’t good. Yet he’s bothered with a question burning inside. “I just can’t help but think what would mom say?” Dean, who is very wise above his years in this episode, has the perfect answer and one that Sam needs to hear. “She’d say just because you’re blood doesn’t make you family. You’ve gotta earn that.”
You’ve gotta earn that. You mean when a worried Sam sternly warns Samuel not to hurt Dean after he killed Gwen? When Bobby exclaims “Thank God” when Sam is found safe after he was separated from them? That’s concern that the brothers and Samuel never shared. No, they only shared blood. By the final showdown, we know there’s only one person that fits that definition in the Winchester world. Bobby.
After Bobby kills Rufus and they tape him to that chair, that entire scene is gut wrenching. Sure, possessed Bobby shares the dastardly plan that Mother of All wants to have monsters take over the earth, but that isn’t anything surprising (although MAJOR kudos to Jim Beaver for making possessed Bobby so eerie). What makes this scene so effective is that Sam and Dean have a tough choice to make. Killing the creature means killing Bobby. Together they know what Bobby would want them to do and there was no heated discussion over the choice. It KILLS them to do it but they did. My heart dropped into my stomach when Dean forced himself to electrocute Bobby and a distraught Sam turned away, unable to watch. When it was over Sam and Dean rushed to Bobby’s side, both frantic over the fact he wasn’t breathing, and we learn under no uncertain terms that’s what earning it means. They are truly family. Like we had any doubt. Still, it’s good to get these reminders. It’s rewarding that despite all the losses and heartache, they have each other.
Sure it’s all got to end with an emotional graveyard scene. Poor Bobby, you have to wonder how he’s feeling, the guilt of knowing that his friend Rufus went to the grave unable to forgive him. That makes Dean’s speech that much more important. I know he says it for Bobby’s benefit, but I think it has a far greater impact on Sam. It is the ultimate declaration that in their little family unit, all is forgiven no matter what.
Dean: I mean at the end of the day you two are family. Life’s short, and ours is shorter than most. We going to spend it wringing our hands? Something’s going to get us, eventually, and when my guts get ripped out just so you two know, we’re good. Blanket apology for all the crap anyone’s done all the way around.
Sam: Some of us pulled a lot of crap Dean.
Dean: Well, clean slate.
I’ve never found a speech on this show to be more refreshing. Just when I think I couldn’t love Dean more he pulls this. He is indeed back to being the wiser older brother, the one fully responsible for his family. I think back to the end “Sympathy For The Devil,” the first episode of season five, where Dean gives Sam a very different speech. The one where he can’t forgive and doesn’t think he can ever trust Sam again. You know the lingering resentment from Sam’s betrayal has hung like a dark cloud for a while and it even made a full blown comeback with RoboSam’s actions with the vampires. For all that to FINALLY be behind them, it’s a whole new ballgame. I’m ecstatic. Okay, weepy ecstatic. Damn you show!
I do come out of this with dissatisfaction in two areas, but that feeling doesn’t necessarily come from just this episode. The Campbell story line was disposed of a little too quickly and neatly. It’s almost like TPTB realized that this arc didn’t work out like they had hoped and it was time to deep six it before any more time was wasted. Gwen and Samuel’s deaths, while not surprising, still leave me feeling the entire Campbell story was a waste. Why even bring Grandpa back from the dead? I don’t think we ever really got to know him or what kind of a hunter he was. Why he was so important to Crowley’s plan? Where was he before this all happened? Perhaps Grandpa was nothing more than a red herring like Crowley turned out to be. Too bad, because the potential there was excellent. Sure the execution ended up being lousy and I don’t think he’ll be missed, but an awful lot of time was spent on Samuel just to have this quick dismissal.
Second, I know that this show has a long history of killing all it’s recurring characters and none stung more than The Trickster/Gabriel, but Rufus dying really hurts too. I mean, do they all have to die? Sure we know no one stays dead on this show, but most do and their deaths sometimes feel pointless. I’ll really miss Rufus for he added something different every time he was on the screen. In the grumpiness department, he made Bobby look like a cub scout.
I do appreciate how they managed to work in some humor during this intense ordeal. I laughed over the shot of these four butch hunters checking their ears at once for goo. I also giggled over Rufus checking Dean’s ear after he woke up. “You could at least buy me a drink first.” You have to admit too, even though it also cringeworthy, cutting Samuel’s skull with a cranial saw only to have him wake up and go nuts evokes more laughs that screams.
I finish this review with a grade and a quote. My grade is an A. A well crafted good old fashioned horror story with the perfect blend of character drama thrown in. The quote, well, it’s comes from one of my sister’s favorite songs. It ended up being this lyric, not William Shatner’s shout of “Khan!” that ended up ringing in my head after watching this episode. “On with the body count!” Enjoy the six week Hellatus everyone, because the rest of the season is gonna be bumpy.