Episode five already? Wow, time is flying toward September, er October, er we really don’t know. Just to keep everyone in the loop about the latest controversy, we don’t know exactly what date Supernatural will be back in the fall. Initial reports had it the same week as when all the other CW shows premiere, the first week of September. Then, TV Guide reported last week the date for Smallville and Supernatural was actually TBA. Now Spoilerfix and The Futon Critic have it listed tentatively as October 2nd. To throw even more accelerant onto the confusion, Jared Padalecki said recently they are going to start filming early, on July 2nd. But, speculation is that’s because of the potential SAG strike and many shows are going back early and not because of an earlier premiere date. So who knows? My conclusion, it’s an agonizing wait no matter what.
Not that I’m taking credit by any means because of my rant against the CW from last week, but did anyone else notice no Gossip Girl promos this week? There was the popup for 90210 early in the episode, and one for Stylista later, and the plenty of commercials for all the teen shows (plus one for Reaper), but nothing sat in my bottom right hand corner of the ‘CW’ logo. I suppose that earns some sort of mention. Uh, thanks CW?
This week we get ‘Bedtime Stories, and this is the first episode I’ve had the pleasure to review that was written by Cathryn Humphris (I don’t count ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me’ since that was a collaboration). I recently read in an interview with Cathryn that the idea for fairy tales came from Ben Edlund. A dark and twisted take on fairy tales. Yep, that sounds like Ben Edlund. Cathryn wrote one of my favorite all time episodes, season two’s ‘Born Under A Bad Sign’, so she’s earned good favor with me. This episode was no exception either, and one of the season’s best IMHO.
This episode is Sam focused, so it instantly sparked my interest. As much as I love Dean, I find Sam’s mysterious and dark nature to be more intriguing and elusive, but also more perplexing for analysis. It’s a reviewer’s blessing and curse! Episodes that try to peel back his layers usually result in something a bit more disturbing and intense (see ‘Mystery Spot’ if you’re not sure what I mean). He’s a very dark individual compared to Dean, who maybe realistic in his pessimistic view of the world, but refuses to let it ruin his good nature. Sam, he’s the proverbial wet blanket.
Cue the music, which has a music box feel with just the right amount of sharp notes to tell you right away that another sacred institution is about to be ruined. There are three big guys, brothers, at a construction scene, a growling creature and the trademark blood spatter. The third one even snorted like a pig and hid behind cinder blocks for those of you that missed we are dealing with a ‘Three Little Pigs’ scenario. It’s those little details that makes this show so twisted and fun.
I’m not sure about anyone else, but I loved in these early season episodes all the fights between Sam and Dean in the Impala. This was exactly where they should be airing their grievances, among family. I still wish for more scenes like in ‘Tall Tales’ where they take out their frustrations by wrestling one another, but I digress. Sam was incredibly frustrated and angsty from the word go in this episode. He cleared states the reason why, because even if it means that he might die, he can’t sit back and do nothing or Dean dies. Dean forbids him to consider the idea of confronting the Crossroads Demon with the colt, even pulling the ‘I’m older’ card. Sorry Sam, but I’m the oldest too, and he’s got you there. Nothing trumps the first born card.
Sam’s bitchfaces were classic in this conversation, and we could feel every bit of his intense frustration. After four episodes he finally has something to go on, but Dean orders him to let it go, which is a perfect setup for the theme of this episode, letting loved ones go. Sam gets a few in-your-face reminders that losing someone important is painful but part of life, but true to his nature, he can’t accept it. We get a big reminder of that as early as the next scene, when the brothers talk to the lone survivor of the attack. ‘He killed my brothers. How would you feel?’ ‘I can’t imagine anything worse.’ Oh Sam, you’re already breaking my heart, and we are in the first five minutes. The look Dean gave him in response was telling as well, as if he was saying nothing is worse. Dean has a little experience in this category, so in the look of despair category, he wins.
As what usually happens with this show, the pace and tone changes quickly, and it moves to humor. I’ve seen this episode several times, and I still laugh my fool head off at Sam’s drawing of the attacker. I’ll be at work, pounding my head against a desk, and will instantly cheer up with a memory with that picture. I swear it needs to be wallpaper on my computer desktop. ‘It’s a work in progress.’ Ha! Another great thing? They’re detectives Plant and Page. You can’t go wrong with those names, because ‘Zeppelin Rules!’ Best aliases of the season.
The pacing of this episode is great from the word go, and we waste no time going to the next story, Hansel and Gretel. I loved watching that sweet little old lady wield a butcher knife and carve that guy to bits with deep utter joy. While I’m sure that looked great in a script, all the credit there goes to the casting. Best homicidal granny ever! The woman survives and Sam and Dean get to interview yet another horrified victim. I got the impression this was hitting a little to close to home for Sam, judging by his empathetic look. In season one or two I wouldn’t give that look a second thought, but in season three that Sam has long been absent.
Sam takes a pretty big jump with his fairy tale conclusion, but we’ll just chalk it up to him being smart. For the record, I was raised on the Brothers Grimm versions of fairy tales because my mother is British and the Brits don’t like to sugar coat anything. I adored Sam’s observance that these original stories of horror were sanitized into ‘Disney flicks and bedtime stories.’ So true! When I read the watered down versions of these stories later, I was appalled. Granny was eaten in Red Riding Hood, okay!
So how did Dean get six hours of library duty? Isn’t that usually Sam’s thing? I know that happened in season one’s ‘Provenance’, but I think that was because Sam got to hit on a hot chick. Here, well, forget it, I’m nitpicking. I’ve forgotten all about it anyway because they come across the frog and Dean gets the funniest quote of the episode, ‘There’s no way I’m kissing that damn frog.’ He knows that story!
I did have a hard time though with Sam figuring out the Cinderella scenario so quickly. You see a mouse and a pumpkin on the porch in the fall and quickly go into this strange house with guns pointed? Yikes, I better think twice come Halloween time. I’m with Dean, ‘could you be more gay?’ That statement raised tons of controversy, but come on, that’s typical Dean. How else would he have berated Sam for his weird knowledge of these tales? It’s not like Sam had a normal childhood and got these stories when Daddy Winchester was tucking him in.
They’re right though and the stepmother went nuts, beating and handcuffing her stepdaughter. Of course Sam gets some more flak from Dean. ‘Who knows, maybe you’ll find your fairy godmother.’ Anyone care to speculate what Sam’s fairy godmother would look like? I’m thinking the lady at the DMV in Reaper, horns and all. Dean sees the mysterious little girl, who leaves behind an apple. ‘Fairy tale boy’ knows it’s from Snow White, and that they’re dealing with someone in a deep sleep. Onto the hospital, where through some simple investigating and an off comment by a gossipy nurse, and they find the girl, who is now a grown coma patient with the same long black hair. Oh, and she’s the doctor’s daughter. Oh, and she was poisoned. Oh, and she had a stepmother. Yep, if I heard nothing but fairy tales while in a coma, I’d go homicidal. He’s reading the Brothers Grimm version of ‘Red Riding Hood’, so naturally we get to see the soon to be eaten granny.
Now, the real drama begins, and man does Jared sell it. After seeing the mauled and dead grandmother in the ER (take a good look Dean, this is you at the end of the season ‘“ still sobbing!), Sam gets to use his ‘puppy dog eyes of doom’ to get through to the doctor while Dean goes after ‘the big bad wolf’ to save Red Riding Hood. Even Dean thought that sounded strange. I think Dean got the better end of the deal, because emotionally this next scene tore Sam apart while Dean got to kick ass.
Dr. Garrison was pretty accepting of what Sam had to say, despite the fact that Sam had about ten seconds to convince him that his daughter’s spirit is killing people with fairy tales and watching with pleasure like the true angry ghost she is. He should have told him his brother was off hunting the big bad wolf, just to add to the weirdness. ‘So you’ve seen her too,’ the doctor says. Busted!
He calls out to his daughter, and Callie appears in little girl form to confirm what Sam was saying, she was poisoned by her wicked stepmother. As a result, poor Sam can only stand and watch the gut wrenching emotional scene as Dr. Garrison tells his daughter to let go, and that he’s letting go. She dies, and the doctor has lost the only person left in his life. He’s all alone now. Sam is painfully forced to contemplate that this is what will happen to him. Instead of letting go though, his pain and agony give him all the more reason to prevent it.
Even Dean hoped Sam had learned from this, and we get a scene that ranks high as one of the most memorable brotherly moments. ‘You know what he said, it’s some good advice.’ Sam looks at Dean as if he’s been slapped in the face. ‘Is that what you want me to do Dean? Just let you go?’ Sam’s terse delivery, his deep rooted frustration with Dean for holding him back from saving him, his desperation over the idea of losing the only person he has left in the world, it all bursts through with that one line. Dean sees he doesn’t get it and walks away, in a heartbreaking attempt to show Sam he’s letting go, he’s moving on. That final shot of the scene, a despondent Sam standing there alone, is a very haunting picture of what’s to come. Yes, I’m emotional now.
Given what we just saw, the next scene makes tons of sense. Sam is going to confront the Crossroads Demon anyway, sneaking out while Dean is asleep (nice shot of the full moon outside, and then in the picture by the way). He holds onto the wooden box in the middle of the crossroads, thinks about if he’s doing the right thing, and then puts it in the ground, attentively moving the dirt around it. That’s a sharp contrast to Dean’s desperate and hurried visit the last time. I won’t dwell too much on the fact that the Crossroads Demon (Sandra McCoy) happens to be at the time Jared’s real life girlfriend (they announced a few weeks ago the engagement and relationship was off), except to say that she’s so tiny compared to him! That was a lot of man to hold onto. She’d get completely lost in a hug.
The crossroads scene is the conclusion of Sam’s story from ‘Sin City’. ‘Do you even want to break the deal?’ The demon comes out and says what the Father last week hinted, isn’t he tired of cleaning up Dean’s messes? Isn’t he tired of being bossed around? Of course he’s tired of taking Dean’s orders, which is why he’s there. The scene at the hospital was his breaking point, and it’s time to take matters into his own hands.
The questions raised from last week are explored deeper here. Is Dean helping or hurting Sam? Is he saving Sam from a dark destiny, or preventing him from living the life he wants to live? As for Sam, does the idea of saving Dean mean that he must lose himself? Can Sam ever let go, or must he always cling to this notion that he must look out for his brother? Will Dean’s death give him some relief of a burden? It’s still amazing to me all the unresolved questions this episode left behind. I’m forgiving though since there’s a strike to blame, so I’ll reserve further judgment until next season.
This question has nagged me the entire season, and I’m still not sure I have an answer. Why did Sam kill the Crossroads Demon? Part of the reason was that in his mind he was taking control of the situation and no longer seeking permission. Another part was from those words hanging from Ruby, “You need to go against that gentle nature of yours.” Also, he’s starting to ask himself how would Dean react and trying to be more like him, which hints to us (rightfully so from what we saw the rest of the season) that he’s losing his sense of self. Sam’s identity has been unraveling ever since he came back from the great beyond, and here it took a sharp turn downward.
Ultimately though, I think his decision was a snap one, as everything inside hit him at once and he got pissed off. All the frustration, the anger, the fear, the confusion, it all exploded in that last second as he raised the colt and fired. He refused in the next episode to apologize for it too, which tells us that he has no regrets on his actions, no matter what the reason. The old Sam would second guess such decisions, like he did at the end of Sin City. A very different Sam Winchester came out of this one, and he’s scary if you ask me.
I give this episode a grade of an A, and it easily made my top five list for the best of the season. Next week, the polar opposite, the worst episode of the season, ‘Red Sky At Morning.’ It’s so bad I’m not doing a straight forward episode review. I’ve got something more fun in mind. Until next week!