Thoughts on 9×08: Between a Rock and a Hard Place
She is the Police
Sherriff Mills is always a welcome addition – she brings some of the dry, sardonic wit of Ellen and Bobby and because of her newness to the supernatural world, her wide-eyed wonder as the boys toss out possible explanations is fun too.
Safety Pins and Tape
The battery that can’t hold a charge. While this episode focused on Dean’s virgin/not-a-virgin antics in that hilarious look-at-me way quite a bit, underneath it was really all about Sam and Zeke. Before the focus really narrows to this, we start with teasers of Sam’s state of being: sound asleep over breakfast, yawning and explaining to Dean that he can’t quite seem to get to full power.
Despite his low reserves, Sam is at his brother’s side throughout the integration of the church and invites himself and Dean to join the rehymenation declaration gang. While it is true that the reaction of the ladies to Dean’s are exceptional, Sam’s embarrassment and/or exasperation with his brother was a sight to behold in and of itself. Hat’s off for the communicative throat clearing and tip-top non-verbal eye discussion in the sharing circle.
We’ve been waiting for weeks now to find out what is going to be the outcome of Zeke’s backdoor possession and it’s been somewhat of a rollercoaster. For a while Sam was energized and feeling better than he had in sometime – he was jogging, up early, reading – enjoying life and feeling himself again. This episode we witnessed something else, a new side effect. Sam is tired, constantly just not quite rested enough. As though he got sleep, but maybe fell short of the needed hours or he missed a meal. So he’s okay enough but no longer one hundred percent and feeling rejuvenated.
Vesta tried to steal Sam’s liver – and really, would pass up a healthy looking morsel like a Winchester if that was your preferred delicacy? – only to find he was “safety pins and tape” inside. In so many ways, this reminded me of when Famine touched Dean although this is not a figurative dead inside so much as a literal. Poor Sam broke my heart as he sadly suggested this is who he was – that is wasn’t so much a side effect of anything, be it demonic curse or angelic trials – he was just wrong, plain and simple. This has been Sam’s burden his entire life, the idea of not being normal, that there is something wrong with him and he had final reached a place in his life where this wasn’t haunting his every step. Until now. Thought we know the truth, until it is revealed this will continue to weigh on his every thought and action.
Truthfully, given the way Sam’s energy levels have gone from high to low and the increasing darkness/threat in Zeke’s emotional blackmail warnings to Dean about not telling Sam, I’m am fully convinced of angel’s malicious intent. In the beginning he restored Sam and made Sam feel good so that Dean would see physical results of their pact and be inclined to listen to Zeke – this is the same reason he healed Cas along the way, though there is likely a master plan for him too – and now he is using Sam as an energy reserve as well as an inside man, so to speak. Zeke = badness.
Sticky Boom Fun
Another full, rounded week for Dean: he joined a church and rediscovered his virginity, only to lose it to one of his porn fantasies and, sadly, he added another stone to the burgeoning load of guilt on the “Lies and Misdirection I’ve Told My Brother” ship he’s still steering.
Most of Dean’s time this week was spent making the audience cackle in glee over the things coming out of his mouth, in particular the now infamous “sex is sticky” scene which I don’t think will ever get old. We also had Dean’s hook up – which was the first we’ve seen in a while and, as funny as the scene was, it was also good to see Dean enjoying life again. It feels a bit like a broken record to comment on how enjoyable this season has been so far, but it truly has been and one of the reasons is that though it hasn’t lost the Supernatural edge it also maintains a lighter quality that the earlier days had – this season seems to have struck the balance very well.
Dean wasn’t all fun and games this episode though. After his, well, fun and games, he was victim to Vesta and left to lead the group of kidnappees, in particular one who was determine to kill Honor and offer her up to spare their lives being as she had, horror of horrors, a sprained ankle and was toast anyways. Dean was pretty badass in this moment, never one for tolerating a bully and certainly not killing for killings sake either.
Ultimately, the ending was the best and worst part of this episode. Best because it was acted and written so beautifully and very revealing of all the characters mindsets and where things might be heading. Worst, because it was so difficult to watch. For Dean it is very clear that he struggling more and more with keeping from Sam what really happened after the Trials and about Zeke – especially given how Sam is putting problem on his own being. The choice that Dean has is an impossible one: reveal the truth and potentially have Sam die or keep the secret to have Sam live. I hope that when the truth does come out, Sam understands Dean was truly between a rock and the hard place in this decision.
Odds and Ends
Supernatural has played with gods and demi-gods to varied degrees of successes and failures before, but I think over all this time it worked okay. The goddess herself was never the focus of the episode, there wasn’t an extreme build up of Vesta as a goddess – in fact it was more a passing mention, including the slaying part (literally as Sam and Jodi are running out the door) so there was no opportunity for a letdown. She was well used in terms of the church setting to harvest virgins and in the reveal of Sam’s internal deficiencies, the first major exposure to Sam himself that not everything is hunky-dory since the trials.
All around enjoyable. This episode hit on nearly every emotion, from hilarious to heart-breaking, with good secondary characters and a well paced plot. Once again the episode was independent but still managed to feed the over-arching season storyline significantly and it brought us a new classic Supernatural moment that will be referenced for years to come. Season nine is nearly to the mid-season hiatus (!) and the season is holding strong – this episode was definitely no exception.