Episodes like “Hibbing 911” are hard to look at too critically. The intent is light fun and filler before we get to the meaty stuff and as far as filler goes, I liked it. Once in a while you’ve got to change it up and give the lead characters a rest, and this worked well with that mission in mind. However, it’s episodes like this that expose glaring issues with the overall season arc, and despite trying to gloss them over on filler weeks like this, it is awfully hard to ignore.
When the story spotlight fades from the main characters (they do need a rest at times), the key requirement is to have your guest characters pick up the slack and give you something entertaining. I’m not sure who thought to put together Sheriff Jody and the one-timer Sheriff Donna, but it was inspired. Those two on the screen really are great together and have a very odd chemistry. I wouldn’t mind seeing those two together again. They really know how to carry their scenes.
The fun part for me was Donna finally learning that monsters are real. I enjoy that with most any character, but she was lucky enough to have Jody, Sam and Dean guide her through that. I love that she didn’t get too freaked out and trusted Jody enough to confide in her. She went with the flow nicely and while I totally predicted that she would get a kill, it was still fun to watch her do it, blood spatter on her face and all. I get that since Donna is the one we knew the least writer Jenny Klein would try to feature her character more than others, but I could have done without the annoying ex-husband pushing the already done in “The Purge” weight issue. That really fell flat for me. I wish she was the one that told the jerk off instead of Jody, but hey, I know his antics were a red herring to keep us guessing – except we weren’t. The sheriff from the beginning had a neon sign flashing, “I’M THE MOTW.” I can only assume that now that Donna has cut off a vamp’s head, she’ll have no trouble with Doug.
I’m glad to see Jody is trying with Alex. She’s never had to deal with a teenager before, and as a mother of a teenager, they’re different. I did smile over Donna’s very sound advice and Alex would find her way. After all, Jody did. We all do eventually. Yep, these are the little character nuggets that make characters like Jody and Donna relatable. We like that. Jody was again great with the guys too. Hugs for them both, and the offer of an ear for Dean. It was nice and that’s why I love her so.
The bad part of the episode was the pacing. It was slow. Snails pace, turtle instead of hare, you get my drift. When it was half over I looked at my husband and said, “There’s still a half an episode left? It feels like I’ve been watching this for two hours.” He agreed. That slow pacing is what keeps this episode in mediocre territory. The dialogue wasn’t all that snappy either and it was lacking the really funny moments, which is strange because I think Jenny Klein is one of the better writers for dialogue. Oh well, fleshing out different characters for one episode is not the easiest exercise for a writer.
The other bad part of the episode was the MOTW story. Vampires? Really? I had hoped for something way better when we saw that guy eaten away. Couldn’t it have been a Wendigo hybrid of some kind? Anything would have been better. I’ve never liked the vampire lore in “Supernatural” (this coming from an avid watcher of “The Vampire Diaries” and “The Originals”) but I’m pretty sure this took prior vampire lore and trashed it all to hell. They’re cannibals too? The previous ruthless sheriff suddenly has a conscience? Hasn’t Jody seen enough vampires after her encounter with Alex and family? A disappointing outcome, despite a few good headwhacks.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Sam and Dean. After all, they were there. Apologies up front, but I can’t explore this topic without letting some strong feelings come through. Obviously, their saga this week was a small, minor blip setup for next week’s midseason finale, but what else is there between the two right now other than the Mark of Cain? That’s the only game in town and it’s pretty boring. Dean has gone through the Men of Letters archive and found nothing, but I was more thrilled we got to see a scene in the MOL bunker. I’ve been missing that lately. Sam never told Jody that he found Dean? Geez, not cool. That triggered visions in my head of Jody showing up at the bunker while Sam was there alone with a basket of baked goods and an ear for sympathy. That made me smile. Sometimes the fan fiction writes itself. If that did happen though, that really makes Sam a thoughtless bastard. I don’t want to think of Sam that way either. Oh, what’s happened to you Sam?
However, our issue is with Dean. If anyone read the TV Fanatic roundtable that I’m part of every week, behold this quote when I was asked about the MOC in last week’s installment:
Will Sam and Dean attempt to deal with the Mark of Cain anytime soon?
Alice: …we really don’t have a good idea of what this whole Mark of Cain thing is doing to Dean…As to whether they’ll attempt to deal with it, I say it comes up in the midseason finale. Then it stops being an issue again until the end of the season, just like Sam’s Lucifer hallucinations in season seven. Dean will deal with it by grabbing that arm! The writers have this horrible habit of writing themselves into a corner with no graceful way out.
Yes, I’m boasting. Guess what happened this week? I knew because this whole arc has been so damned predictable. They’re stalling and resorting to the same tactics they’ve used for seasons now. It’s so predictable it’s become a parody of itself. Dean lies to Sam, grabs arm to tell us he’s lying. It’s not different than Sam in season seven grabbing that hand scar after telling Dean everything was just peachy. Or Sam hiding the fact he was coughing up blood in season eight. I’m sorry to say this, but these types of ruts signal the warning signs that if the writers are so out of ideas, perhaps it’s time to start plotting end game. Or get new writers. At some point, my inner “at least they’re still on my TV each week” mantra really starts to lose all reason.
I know, I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but this storyline is listless. There’s no life to it and I’m experiencing a lot of disappointment with a premise that had so much promise. I’m watching so many other TV shows, especially on The CW, that are running with storylines full throttle this early into the season. Even The Flash, which is a season one show mainly finding its footing at this stage, is telling far more compelling stories. There’s no reason that a show in its tenth season can’t go with that pace and purpose. It’s not like you’re going to break it or anything. I get that Jared and Jensen need time off, but working in an interesting, non-cliched twist to a main arc in a filler week is not rocket science. Heck, just read some fan fiction for examples.
As I’ve said before, I’m frustrated with the concept that if one main character gets the meaty arc, the other becomes wallpaper. I’m no happier with Sam hand wringing over what Dean might do than I was with Dean hand wringing over what Sam might do in prior seasons. Is that honestly what the other gets to do? I’ve constantly expressed this criticism and I’ll keep doing it until it actually happens (or the show ends), give Sam and Dean both a strong, simultaneous story line. It can be done. See seasons two, three, four and five. I want to care what happens to both guys, and right now watching them go through the motions is not all that entertaining.
I’m probably serving no purpose railing against failures in main character development in a filler episode that otherwise had entertainment value, but the Mark of Cain is the elephant in the room and deserves it’s due. We need to see it’s harsh impact on BOTH Sam and Dean. Or, what about the angel war? Yes, it can be interesting, it just needs to be written right. What about the new twist with Crowley? His character has been a grossly underutilized this season. Perhaps during the break we can go into some exercises about world building and how to arc a mythology well for an entire season, but that’s not something I can go into this week. I’ll just sum it up it simpler terms; Jody and Donna good, Mark of Cain bad.
Anyone notice that this is the exact same place they filmed “The Real Ghostbusters?” Even the meeting hall was the same. I loved that episode. It makes me smile.
Yes, I noticed that nifty new Android phone that Sam had, complete with all its easy to use built-in keyboard and mapping features. Nice large screen, huh? That’s a bonus though, because it gave Android a chance to air one of the best commercials I’ve seen in a while, the caravan of people in the Winnebago jamming in synch to “Whoomp, There It Is!” So thrilled to see that advertisement during “Supernatural.” We’re relevant.
Because the episode took place in Hibbing, Minnesota, there were apparently a lot of Bob Dylan references around. Did anyone catch them? Yeah, I didn’t either, but then again I wasn’t looking too hard. I’ll pick it up on a re-watch. If you caught any, do share.
I’m not bothering with a grade on this one. I did like it, but it’s hard to watch when I’m itching for some mytharc action. I’m certain I’ll appreciate “Hibbing 911” more when I’m sitting down re-watching the season as a whole, hopefully with the knowledge that a lot of my fears were addressed by season end. Hey, a girl can dream, right?