Page 3 of 3Production Notes
Overall, I loved this episode. I was glad to see Lisa and Ben still alive at the end, although forever off-limits, and the situation also provided a vital glimpse into Castiel. Sera Gamble writes great emotion, and I always know her scripts will leave a genuine grief behind.
I'll get my issues out of the way first, as always. The one thing about the script by Sera Gamble that troubled me, as it did Sam, was Dean having Castiel erase Lisa's and Ben's memories of him. Iâ€™ve already noted the apparent assumption that their ignorance would keep them safe is a fallacy, since anyone who understands what they mean to Dean would still be inclined to use them against him whether the two of them remembered him or not. I also had to wonder just how many things Castiel needed to launder to erase Dean from their lives, given heâ€™d lived with them for a year; did the angel alter all the photos we saw earlier in the season, clean up the mess from the demonsâ€™ home invasion, and resurrect Matt? And is Castielâ€™s memory rewrite any more secure than the wall Death put in Samâ€™s mind?
I had to smile for the historical revision that had Lovecraft finishing the manuscript for The Haunter of the Dark on the night of his death; the short story was actually written in November 1935 and published in the magazine Weird Tales in December 1936. And since Lovecraft, who suffered from intestinal cancer, actually entered the hospital on March 10, 1937, where he died on March 15, that dinner party would have been sparsely attended! Ah, but we already know the Supernatural universe is a dimension away from ours, so Lovecraftâ€™s life was obviously different there â€¦ :) I was a little bothered that Dean, with all his love of horror stories, didn't know anything about Lovecraft, but I understand that, in order to convey his biographical information to the audience, one of our heroes would need to be filled in, and he was the least bookish of the three. This at least wasn't quite as egregious as making him not recognize references to characters from Dracula back in Monster Movie!
I thoroughly enjoyed almost every minute of John Showalterâ€™s direction. The one bit that felt off was the incredibly lackadaisical attitude of the demons guarding Lisa and Ben in the abandoned foundry: their slow, pretty much one-at-a-time response to the sounds of Dean attacking outside the door of the room marked them as certifiable idiots. Okay, they maybe knew about the ace-in-the-hole demon occupying Lisa â€“ but that wouldn't have made them not care about their own existence. If I were a demon guarding Dean's Precious, I'd be a lot faster to charge in groups of force if I heard Dean-like noises indicating an assault!
I loved the blocking and camera work on the phone conversation between Dean and Crowley. On Crowley's end, the demon did all the moving; on Dean's end, the camera was in motion, pivoting around Dean to give us glimpses of Bobby and Sam. It was a neat difference that also reinforced their respective roles: Crowley was the one in charge, the mover of the situation, while Dean was the one caught in it and looking for an out. That was delicious! I also enjoyed the use of the nighttime junkyard in their summoning of Balthazar; it was imaginative and visually striking, and I have a weakness for crane shots. I laughed when Balthy showed up standing on a car! In the hospital scene between Castiel and Dean, I was struck by the shot of Dean's face framed under Castiel's arm as the angel healed Lisa; that was an unexpected camera angle that just did something quietly powerful for the scene.
All the performances in this were golden. Cindy Sampson had a great turn as demon-Lisa; that was such a vicious, evil departure from the character we've come to know, and she really sold it. The scene at the end, when Lisa no longer remembered Dean, was also perfect; we saw all the innate decency we knew from the character extended to a stranger, which made that farewell all the harder to watch. I've loved everything we saw of Lisa, and Cindy was a big part of that. I never once questioned the reality of this woman or her relationship with Dean, and I will miss her every bit as much as Dean does. Nicholas Elias did a great job as Ben, a brave kid up against unimaginable horror and fear. He had the spunk we remembered from his younger self in The Kids Are Alright, but also a more mature awareness of the threat that made this situation a much harder one for him to deal with. His interaction with Jensen Ackles' Dean while he was held hostage by demon-Lisa and in dealing with the aftermath of Lisa's stabbing immediately made me think of similar scenes happening in the past between John and Dean, with a boy forced to take on hideous responsibility and discovering it was much worse than any expectations he'd had of what it would be like to hunt like his Dad. I'm going to miss Ben, too.
Sebastian RochÃ© continued to delight as Balthazar. Balthazar joining the Winchesters despite himself because he saw them as necessary to his own survival was a treat. I love the snark Sebastian brought to every scene, especially his momentarily injured, put-upon look when Sam said they didn't buy that his cooperation was due to any shred of decency, and the immediate flip to an acknowledgment that they were right. Beautifully written and wonderfully brought to life! The same is true of Mark Sheppard's continuing star turn as Crowley; dyed-in-the-wool evil has never been this funny while also being frightening.
I thoroughly enjoyed Ellie Visyak as brought to life by Kim Ulrich back in Like A Virgin, and remarked at the time that I'd love to see her past with Bobby fleshed out. I was delighted to see that happen here! She and Jim Beaver made a great pair. For a totally different reason, I laughed out loud at Bobby's line to her saying, You're not exactly from Milwaukee, are you? Ellie might not be, but I am!
As we understand more and more about what's been going on with Castiel all season, Misha Collins has brought the angel's anguish to life. Here, we saw him dealing with another price of his chosen course of action as his friendship with Dean fractured even more and he had more cause to regret and rethink his partnership with Crowley. His frustration at being unable to push Crowley into either releasing Lisa and Ben or even promising their safety was palpable. Even better, however, was his very quiet acknowledgment at the end that he just wanted to fix what he could; that was heartbreaking.
This episode belonged to Jensen Ackles. I remain amazed at the depth of genuine pain he conveys through Dean. The intensity of all of Dean's emotions makes him riveting to watch. His comic timing makes the funny things absolutely hilarious, but it's always the pain I feel and remember the most. I grieve for Dean giving up Lisa and Ben and all they represented for him â€“ and that's because of the life Jensen brings to him. I also continue to be very happy with the way Jared Padalecki is delivering Sam with his soul back. Watching him during every scene he shared with Dean, Sam's concern for his brother just leaped off the screen.
The art department cracked me up with the job they did on the Lovecraft collector's apartment. Miskatonic University lives â€“ and a very familiar tiger and moon velvet painting somehow turned up on the wall!
The episode had perfect music choices, as I've come to expect. During the home invasion, Ben was listening to â€œLoudest Alarmâ€ by Scars On 45: I'm glad I never turned to you / to hold me back / Well you must be living with a four-leaf clover / The number seven running all the way through you / And as I wait to feel another day older / I will be praying, praying for a chance to prove â€¦ And I couldn't imagine a more appropriate song to play behind Castiel's confrontation with Crowley than The Undisputed Truth's â€œSmiling Faces Sometimes:â€ Smiling faces sometimes pretend to be your friend / Smiling faces show no traces of the evil that lurks within / smiling faces sometimes / They don't tell the truth / Tell lies and I got proof / Beware, beware of the handshake / That hides the snake / Beware of the pat on the back / It just might hold you back. There's Crowley in a nutshell! The scary part was that it also spoke to what Castiel has become.
Next up: my review of the season finale, in another few days. But I'll say this straight up: I think the finale was only part three of a four-part chapter in the current story. We don't know how that chapter really ends yet, and I won't judge it as complete until I've seen 7.01.
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