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Toreador (World of Darkness)
Once again we are given a lesson in why genre shows are the best shows out there; what other show would have the temerity to mock itself and the fandom that supports it while deepening, darkening and propelling the storyline forward, ever forward.
"They do know we're brothers, right?"
Some highlights for me:
  • Laundry, after 78 episodes we finally see the boys doing laundry; awesome. 
  • The RED Inn; someone makes a point of writing about the color red this season"¦I'm wondering"¦.
  • Sound crew, last week you had me in stitches over the well timed 'ding' of the microwave as the screen faded to black; this week you did it with the cawing of the crow as the Impala roars up the road, thank you.
  • The fandom moments came fast and furious: Tattoos, crying men, memorizing all the facts of the boys; I believe I'm not alone in loving this following exchange:
Sam: "As in Sam/Dean, together."
Dean: "Like together-together?"
Sam: "Yeah."
Dean: "They do know we're brothers, right?"
Sam: "Doesn't seem to matter."
Dean: Oh, come on that "“ that's just sick."
Amen, Dean and Sam; I agree.
Free Will vs. Destiny
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." [Romans 8:28 NIV]
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done"¦" [Genesis 50: 20 NIV]
I included the two scriptural verses because I believe the writers are blending their own perception of real biblical tenets: God gave us free will, God's will ultimately will be done, God will take our choices and mold them to ultimately accomplish his purpose.
You can do what you want with that, my purpose isn't to give a Bible study, but I see this in the writing and thus I'm calling it like I see it.
Was it destiny or free will? I don't know. God is all-knowing. God knew Dean would run. God knew the bridge would be out. God knew Dean would ask for help.  God knew that Castiel would give that help. God knew that the Toreador Inn was the "RED" Inn. God knew Sam would burn the hex bags. According to Castiel that which the prophet has written cannot be unwritten; it shall come to pass and yet what happened here?
I believe Kripke and Co. have an understanding of how prophets of the Old Testament saw far into the distance when they made their prophecies"¦such long distance "˜sight' can distort what is seen -- or as Dean said "He might be wrong about the details."
To imagine what I mean take a look at mountains in the distance"¦or if you live in the plains, look up some pictures or better yet, hold your thumb up to the moon at night. What appear to be two objects side by side of similar size is a distortion caused by distance "“ and likely other things of a physics nature. In other words, things are not always what they seem. I think Kripke and Co. were hinting at that when they had Dean seeing stars. Did he see stars? Yes, he did. Did you imagine swirling stars over his head? Did you imagine a night sky filled with stars? Anyone figure out it was going to be star-shaped dangling earrings? 
What did Dean learn?
  • There is destiny, and you cannot hide from it.
  • When you come to the end and you ask for help, it is there.
"Well, it frustrates me when you'd rather hide than fight." Dean has a point, Sam, it's not running it is picking your battles. But tell me, Dean, what battle are you picking, when will you be ready to fight Lilith, what are you doing to get ready for that battle? I'm not saying it's wrong to have a plan but you haven't given any indication of a plan to meet Lilith"¦you have been running. And here Dean stopped.
Go back and watch Long Distance Caller and Time is on My Side; two examples of how Dean and Sam split on a job and went their separate ways, each to nearly devastating effect. In both cases Dean fell back on pillars in his life, Dad and the Colt. Here, Dean gave in to Sam, he stopped running and found a way to stand and fight. Standing and fighting are things Dean does believe in, remember his speech in NRFTW or how about his confident statement last week, minus all the emotional baggage, when he told Sam that he does believe in dealing with that which is right in front of him. Here Dean's stand is more compelling because it propels the character into new ground; here Dean found a way to stand and fight because he did what he so rarely does; he asked for help, divine help no less.
Actions speak more loudly than words and Dean showed in his actions that he will never leave Sam; it's a pity Sam doesn't have that much faith in Dean to realize it.
What did Sam learn?
  • "Sam, you gotta know it's wrong."
I love you, Sam, I do, but you are one stubborn cuss; just like your dad. 
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?" [Luke 6: 41 NIV]
Sam accuses Dean of running/hiding; he's running/hiding as well; they both do it through rationalization: Dean, "It's not hiding; it's picking your battles." Sam, "Dean's not "“ he's not Dean lately"¦he needs help." 
The circle is tightening, Sam, time is running out. Pam and now Chuck have gotten in Sam's face, gently sure but they called him out. Sam even had an angry spirit back in After School Special proclaim him evil as Lilith did here. Sam, there is free will and there is destiny; perhaps your destiny is to stop being "˜pushed' by demons and utilize your free will; the Sam who scored a 174 on the LSATs knew that. 
I love that Jared had Sam struggle to find his LSAT score, that slight hesitation showed just how far Sam has traveled.
"I am the prophet, Chuck!" 
That got me exploding with laughter and not at the absurdity of it but just that it's a fabulously delivered line. I don't know if the intent was to lighten the confrontation with Lilith but the more I watch, the more I believe it was. Here's why:
My first viewing left me disappointed with the anticlimatic feel as Lilith escaped the woman's body. After hearing Castiel give Dean the necessary information and then watch Dean "˜convince' [strong arm] Chuck into helping, it was a bit overdone. We'd heard how to save the day twice now before watching it; no surprises here. After processing a bit, and watching several more times "“ research, I'm dedicated "“
I believe the scene was intentionally made anticlimactic for two purposes; first, it's not the climax of the episode; second, it's not the climax of Lilith's story; she'll be back.
Castiel's and Dean's scene was critical for moving both Dean and Castiel forward in their development; I've already touched on Dean so I'll give Castiel a line or two. Castiel is embracing free will. It's Castiel who told Dean that what the prophet had written will come to pass and yet here he gives Dean the necessary information to alter the prophecy "“ and truth be told, we saw the flashes of the prophecy that Chuck saw. What he saw is what happened; perhaps Chuck in his humanness "˜filled in the blanks.'
As Dean said, it's an interesting exercise and we could go on and on and on "“ a la, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
I now greatly appreciate what I first dismissed as a superfluous scene, Dean convincing Chuck to join him. Having watched it again [and again and again and again then one more time], I've discovered it is, in fact, brilliant and that without it, this episode would be missing one of its tent poles: free will vs. destiny.  Or in the words of Chuck, the Prophet: "I didn't write this."
A Little Meta Fun:
Why did I title this Toreador (World of Darkness), simply because there are no coincidences in the world of Supernatural as written by Kripke & Co. Type Toreador into your search engine and you'll get a wikipedia page with the aforementioned title. A quick scan brings up some familiar phrases [role playing, vampires and daevas to mention a few], click on the White Wolf Game Studios link and you find a treasure trove of Supernatural familiars"¦including LARP; no doubt these are some of the sites our beloved writers search.
Then again, perhaps all the writers meant was that each [Dean and Sam] is a bull fighter and each is a bull, stubborn, deadly and doomed to destroy the other"¦but that's too depressing, so I'll go with wikipedia.


# Alice 2009-04-06 21:26
What a great review elle2! I apologize, I read this when it first posted, but I’m only now getting the time for a coherent reply. Heck, it took me three days to get my own review to blogcritics (which they’re still sitting on), so replies suffered greatly.

I couldn’t agree more with so many things! Ha! I’ve written in so many reviews how the color red is being heavily used this season, yet I missed that one. Good catch. As for the slash, my review (when published) touches on my own deep pleasure over their reaction. Take that slash fans!

It’s so interesting how Sam and Dean continue to take separate paths in what is essentially the same goal, stopping the apocalypse. It’s like Sam said during their fight in Time is On My Side, “We’re trying to do the same thing here.” Both would rather throw themselves in harm’s way and protect the other rather than work this together. It’s interesting especially how Sam could open up to Chuck, but not Dean. Sure, Chuck had the unique perspective he had to have, but still, the brothers are still worlds apart and it’s sad. Compelling, but sad.

You’re so right, Dean did learn that he can’t hide from destiny. In the end, he was pushed into the battle, but he could have left Sam on his own. He went to Castiel for help, and got it. That’s likely the confidence booster he needed going forward. He won’t be backing down from the battles so easily.

Oh Sam, he’s still so delusional. He can’t stop because of what Chuck suggested, he loves that power and sense of control. As long as the only person being harmed is himself, Sam will continue. He’s too blind right now to see there will likely be consequences for his actions. Pamela tells him it’s wrong, Chuck tells him its wrong, but he still can’t listen. His blind sense of vengeance in the end means he’s not stopping anytime soon.

Great points about free will vs. destiny. Amazing how Kripke and company can take such biblical concepts and twist it to fit their universe. The basic concepts are there though, and I think they’ll continue to push that fine line.

All in all, another fantastic episode! I need a break though, or my head is going to explode! Thanks again for another great viewpoint.
# elle2 2009-04-06 22:13
Hey, Alice,

I thought the whole Chuck/Sam talk where Sam opened to Chuck similar (and yet soooo different) to the talk Dean had with Gordon in Bloodlust: he told Gordon he couldn't talk to 'Sammy' about his grief/pain/loss for his father and that he had a hole so deep inside him nothing filled it, which Gordon told him to fill with anger it would make him a better fighter. Not too long after Sam and Dean argue [huh, our boys fight?] in the parking lot and Sam accurately throws Dean's words back at him: You've got a hole so big inside of you...but you can't just fill it up with anything or's been a while and I don't have the dialogue accurately presented but what I loved in that scene is that it accurately showed Dean how very well Sam does know him.

Here, we're not there yet 'cause Dean doesn't know about the blood sucking thing but he's got Sam pinned, Sam's working with Ruby, hiding things, chasing Lilith and hell bent [hopefully not hell] on doing whatever needs to be done. Dean knows Sam is off the reservation, he's still so lost himself that he cannot rein Sam in and truly help him [hey, I've got an idea "Call Bobby, he's great help you idjit!"]

This season has just been amazing at how it has not only ramped up the mytharc but has also given the boys relationship new breath and life by perversely infusing so much separation, loss, distrust and pain. It works and is working because they've given both brothers traumatic, life altering, immense circumstances as the backdrop for the massive changes in their relationship... true to Kripke's early premise and statements: This is a show about family, the love of two brothers...the demons, the ghosts, the supernatural 'stuff' is all backdrop to the drama, family, love, loyalty...awesome.

You? You?? YOU??? missed the RED? I thought of you right away.

Zachariah is right, it is how you look at it.

Hurry up blogcritics, I gotta get over there and give you a read and a proper comment.
# Teller 2009-04-12 22:38
I love love love stories that are painful to watch/read. That sounds sadistic but its not (really). When stories get that reaction from their audience, it means they've done the BIG things right: characterizatio n and storyline. Supernatural is one of the best (maybe the best, at least in television) in terms of characterizatio n. The progression is beautiful. Show made us fall in love with and care for Sam and Dean and then it started twisting and turning, shaping the characters into new situations that changed them so much but still left enough of the old, that we remember what used to be and it hurts so good.

Sometimes I feel like I can't finish the series, that I should just quite now. Not because it's bad but because I know it's going to be painful and I don't know if I can handle it.

One more thing: even though the brothers are worlds apart, the Js are still so together (not like that) and in sync that their chemistry still catches on screen and whenever they fight I feel like it means something, I can feel it through the t.v. Sometimes I think their connection gets taken for granted, but I was watching a Prison Break rerun (I know, I know, but it was the only thing on) and I just laughed. Purcell and Miller need to take brother lessons from Jensen and Jared. Maybe their show wouldn't have gotten canceled. :D
# elle2 2009-04-13 07:20
Hi, Teller,

I agree, it is painful to watch but in a good way, you know? I know some people are so upset the brothers seem so far apart and have changed so dramatically but that's what -- to me -- makes this show stand above the rest; big events lead to big changes.

Season one was the show finding its way and was quite formulaic and would have become cheesy had it translated into Season two. However, with that said Season 1 is a place I go to get a lot of what makes the boys who they are today. I have an article I'm working on about "Game Changers" as I call them, episodes that changed the way of things not only for the show but for the boys, so I won't spoil that future article here but what I love is that Kripke doesn't pull punches.

When Kripke has big events occur, he has big fallouts and that's what Season four has been about, Dean went to hell for 40 years, Sam tried to kill himself and make a deal [that we saw coming based on family history] but for Sam there was no deal [also a thread for another article, hee] so Sam had to suffer and come to grips with the reality of his situation as did Dean and both had to do it separately, without their weak spot or their strength. Major events in our boys' lives [yeah, I call them our boys].

So here we are, still with Kripke keeping to what he's always said this story is, love, loyalty; the two brothers, all with a backdrop of demons and urban legends and lore...this season it's the apocalypse but to me that makes sense, the backdrop is huge as is the family drama; I hold tight to what Kripke has said, and I've already written here, this is a story about family, love, loyalty...all the rest is simply windowdressing, backdrop.

The tension between the boys this season is huge but so is the backdrop...the payoff will be awesome [and no, not in THAT WAY :roll:: ;-) ;-) ;-)

Rock on Season 4!
# Elle 2009-04-13 17:19
Teller, you're absolutely right - the show is painful to watch. And I agree, it means it's been done really well. The shows that twist me up in knots are the ones that I'm very emotionally invested in. Sometimes I too want to look away, but you just can't because it's sooooo good. Supernatural is the only show that, week after week, finds me standing in front of the television, shifting my weight from leg to leg (occasionally bouncing), wringing my hands and holding my breath - and I love it. The relationship between Sam and Dean has always been on the best parts of the show, but more, it's the way that relationship evolves and the way the characters change as a result of that relationship. Everything the brothers do and where they are right now, is all a direct result of a reaction to their relationship to each other (i.e. Sam started using his powers to get to Lilith for revenge/get back his brother; Dean went to Hell in exchange for Sam's life = reaction). I can't wait to see where we end up in 4 episodes (besides, you know, DYING OF ANXIETY as we wait for season 5 to begin).
# elle2 2009-04-15 08:30
Hi, Elle,

I love your description of yourself: "...finds me standing in front of the television, shifting my weight from leg to leg (occasionally bouncing), wringing my hands and holding my breath"

That's so me! I love knowing that there's this 'band' of us out there all angsting and loving the show. We're in good company.

I'm spending a lot of time going through S1 and S2 right now and it's amazing to see how much of what was said and done then is reflected in this season; the mark of great writing.

Four more eps. sheesh, they're gonna be awesome and then the countdown begins to Sept (or gag, Oct)

# Elle 2009-04-15 11:49
Hi Elle2,
I recently started re-watching (for about the 80th time) the adventure of our boys (hehe) from the beginning, as I am getting my mom into it (and she is HOOKED). You're 100% right - there are so many things from the early seasons that have come into play. I love watching Home, now understanding what Mary was apologizing for. Part the appeal of this show, at least for me, is the continuity; I really appreciate the clever writing and obviously well thought-out, planned story lines that are oh-so-good to enjoy/suffer through.
When Supernatural goes off the air (after the hyperventilatin g, and passing through the 5 stages of grief) I think we're all going to need some sort of support group.