I’m one of those people that absolutely loathed season nine’s “Bad Boys.” I thought it was contrived, manipulative, and a totally unnecessary piece of trash. When I found out that there would be another story involving the same teenage Dean, written by the same writer Adam Glass, my expectations fell right into the gutter. Turns out that may be a good thing with “About A Boy,” because I had a blast watching it.
No, this wasn’t another “Mystery Spot” or “The French Mistake,” but it had entertainment value. Looking at the structure you wouldn’t see it. The episode is a formulaic, paint by numbers kind of story. There’s plot contrivances, predictability, heavy handedness at times (common Adam Glass traits) yet for some reason I didn’t care. I was actually entertained. For one, it was a light, fun script. That %&$# Taylor Swift song has been in my head all freaking day and no wonder Dean likes it. That’s rather bouncy number. The opening song was really good too, fitting the mood of Dean desperately digging for answers in his room in solitude. Thanks to Shazam (the best app ever!) I know that song now is “Ashes the Rain and I” by The James Gang. That’s a pretty obscure song and the app had it identified in no time!
I really loved Dean as a teenager this time. Not only did Dylan Everett, the kid that played Dean, do so much better this time around, but I swear I was watching the real Dean. I didn’t get that vibe at all in “Bad Boys.” His lines were funny, his lingo perfect, and mannerisms ideal. It’s probably because this time we were getting the current day Dean in a teenage boy. Turns out that makes a huge difference. I’m also the mother of a 13 year old boy and yes, I so get the puberty pain. The taste in music is genuinely off (not Taylor Swift but he loves Carly Rae Jepsen), his voice is cracking and there is that lack of control over the male anatomy. Young Dean sold it and Sam’s freaked out looks were priceless as well.
But it wasn’t just the teen version of Dean. It was also nice to see a spark in Dean instead of the mopey, complacent guy we’ve gotten recently. I enjoyed seeing it. I really loved seeing Dean bond with a normal lady in a bar, sharing nothing but drinks and war stories. Not a lot of flirting, just good old fashioned sharing pain, the way spending time in dive bars should be. I really love that they were able to carry Tina perfectly into a teenage girl. Wise for her years, yet she now gets a new start. The twist that they couldn’t change her back and she decided that was okay was clever. Yes, the thought of second chances when your life turned out a mess is definitely making lemons out of lemonade. Why not when you’re an admitted crappy adult?
There were some LOL moments too, like teenage Dean trying to drive the Impala and pushing the seat up, smashing Sam’s long legs into the dashboard. Way to use your super tall actor as a humor device! Dean had some great zingers too, something we haven’t seen in a long time. Sam: “I’m too big to fit in that.” Dean: “First time you ever had to say that, huh?” Bwah! I was actually amused too over the kid eating witches who figured out that thanks to Amber Alert and milk cartons it was better to kidnap low life adults that no one would miss and turn then into children. That’s one way of beating the system! And yes, I do believe that’s the first time we’ve seen an evil witch thrown into a large oven and burned alive. Creepy and fun. I like something different.
I’m even impressed that it tied in to one of the season arcs, aka Rowena, even if I don’t care for Rowena. I’ll take continuity any way I can get it these days. Seems that her own coven isn’t pleased with her either. I’m still trying to figure out why Rowena surfaced after all this time. All we know now is there was unpleasantness with the grand coven. Yep, need more. So are Sam and Dean going to use this little encounter as a way to go after Rowena now because they’ve got nothing better to do? Yep, still not caring all that much.
I laughed at the end. I admit it. It was a shallow attempt spark a laugh and dammit I fell right into it. First I laughed at the bad joke about the grand coven being an 80’s hair metal band. “You know, a lot of hairspray, a lot of eye shadow, a lot of keytar…” Then after Sam’s affirming speech and Dean’s “I’m back baby,” we get Sam’s horrified looks and Dean’s “it’s not bad” smirk to Taylor Swift. It’s classic “Supernatural”, except that Dean is now channeling his inner teenage girl. I’m not sure if Kripke would approve, but The Scorpions didn’t work after “Bugs” either.
Dean’s predicament was the real fascinating humdinger for me. By going back to his 14 year old self, he didn’t have the Mark of Cain. So, if he stays a teenager, no more Mark. Of course we knew that Dean would switch back from his 14 year old self and get the Mark of Cain again, but the question is (and no, don’t say I can’t live without Jensen as your answer), would Dean have been better off as a 14 year old, able to start life over? Sure he’d been younger than Sam, triggering a lot of “son” jokes, he wouldn’t be able to drink legally for seven years even if he had a brand new liver, but would he have been better off? It’s a very interesting notion. Dean was willing to do it, but quickly found that his 14 year old self doesn’t have the ability to fight the bad guys and rescue his “little” brother from peril.
I get that Dean made that decision to grab the hex bag, become an adult and rescue Sam. Geez, we’ve only seen that roughly 200 times now. We get it. Naturally it’s the Dean Winchester thing to do. That’s where the high predictability factor comes in. I would have been more interested if Sam wasn’t in the room and Dean made that choice for Tina, not Sam. That would have been a bigger stretch in character. It would prove that Sam isn’t the only being on the planet that Dean is devoted to. I for once would love to see again Dean striving to be the hero, going with the notion that saving people is all that matters. It’s another missed opportunity that instead of going for bigger character growth, Adam Glass decided to energize the fan girl squee. Sorry Mr. Glass, I’m about squeed out.
So yeah, not bad at all. It beats me throwing superlatives at my TV all while chucking piece of foam at it like it were bricks. That was most of the first half of the season. I give “About A Boy” a B.
The Red Headed Monster
If you’re wondering about the title of this section, this was the name of my old personal blog. I used the blog to often speak my mind. “About a Boy” did expose one glaring problem with this season, and it just wouldn’t be me if my inner monster didn’t say something. Sam Winchester is in desperate need of a plot (please skip to the end not if you’re not interested and thank you for taking the tour).
In this episode, it hit you pretty much with a sledgehammer. What in the world do you do with Sam Winchester? His value in this ep proved nothing more than comic relief. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely howled at the bit of Dean pulling the seat up so far Sam’s knees were in his chest. Great gag! But again Sam was relegated to supporting player. That’s okay for a few episodes, but a whole season now? Given Dean’s headspace right now that supportive role is important, but is that the best they can do with his character? Sam’s pep talk at the beginning of the episode was good, but it all kind of fell flat from there.
I’m perplexed honestly. Why can’t these writers write for Sam? One of my favorite shows on TV right now is “The 100” (check out my reviews on our sister site TV For The Rest of Us. It’s the best written show on The CW). In last week’s episode, under a dizzying action adventure plot, they managed to run with no less than four significant character arcs and give those characters far more growth in a few short scenes than Sam has had all season now. They manage to run four plots at once brilliantly week in and week out. I don’t understand how “Supernatural” struggles with more than one. Is it lack of quality in the writers, or is there a true belief in that room that they’ve taken characterization as far as they can go? Usually when shows hit that point with a character, they kill off that character as a sweeps ploy. And when I mean kill off, I mean stay dead. Obviously, that can’t happen with Sam or Dean, but is no plot a better alternative?
How many times can Sam being knocked out or Sam being disabled by the bad guy (aka tied up) happen? Surely we’ve long passed a quota. I know someone has a count through the series and it has to be ridiculous. He’s the epic damsel in distress, and to quote Njspnfan from one of our recent threads, “It’s pathetic – Sam should just wear a protective helmet and drool bucket for the rest of the season.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the NFL won’t even tolerate this many knocks to the head!
So how does Sam get a plot? The common ploy used throughout the series is forcing a tense situation like Sam keeps a horrible secret from Dean or Dean keeps a horrible secret from Sam. It’s a very popular throwback. I suppose if one thing is good, that isn’t happening this year. The trouble is, nothing is happening this year. I love in the most recent episodes seeing Dean struggle with the Mark of Cain, but Sam’s supportive brother act has gone very stale. Why don’t they steal from other shows like “The Vampire Diaries” and Sam become a gate keeper for the other side, struggling with that while helping Dean juggle his issues (yes, bad example, but it sounds better than what we’re getting.) Character angst speaks volumes guys, but extreme character angst (one of Edlund’s greatest strengths) really makes a character come alive.
I’m afraid Ben Edlund was the last of the great Sam Winchester character writers (I weep when I think how much I miss him). This week didn’t even have Castiel and Crowley to deal with, but they still weren’t able to do much for one of the two leads. Before I spark a Sam vs. Dean war, I do recall issuing similar complaints about Dean in season eight. I’ve said this so many times it’s probably lost all meaning, but why can’t your two lead characters both get strong plots?
At least Sam did get a nice speech this week. “Look, man, do I wish the Mark was gone, yes of course, absolutely I do, but I wanted you back. Now here you are and you didn’t hulk out so I’ll take the win. As for the rest of it, the Mark, everything else, we’ll figure it out. We always do.” It was nice, sentimental, and it will be forgotten by next week. Why? Because we’re twisting to “Shake it Off.”
So, what do you think? Are the nice speeches and awkward faces working for you, or are you hoping for more? Or is Dean’s arc satisfaction enough?
Since I’m also the moderator of this site, I’m going to save myself some trouble and state the rules up front. I’m imploring good, civil behavior right now. Respect others, keep your arguments constructive, don’t attack others for their views, NO Sam vs. Dean (aka no building up Sam by knocking Dean and vice versa), and don’t repeat your same point over and over again. Once or twice is acceptable, but beyond that people just might not want to put up with your misery (even if that misery is very justified).
Thank you, now feel free to debate!