Boy, did I get an interesting one for what turns out to be the only season three episode I have left to review. "Jus In Bello" is a highly buzzed episode from seasoned writer Sera Gamble, and it ended up being one of the highest rated of the season. As much great action, drama, and character display this episode had though, it wasn't flawless.
This was the only episode to feature both Ruby and Bela. Sadly, both were more irritating than normal. Sam was very dark and moody, and this episode gave us the worst ending of the series (okay, maybe tied with "Bugs"). Despite all this, Agent Henriksen proved to be a kick ass hunter and it was Dean Winchester's finest hour, thrilling us to the point where we overlooked most of the problems.
Let The Recap Begin
Our heroes enter a nice hotel room in Monument, Colorado (wasn't it boring?) and right off the bat we get smug, irritating Bela getting the best of the boys. That's boring, too. The only redemption is Dean didn't take her crap, giving tough talk on the phone, letting us know right away he would be feisty in this one. Cold-hearted bitch calls the Feds on our known fugitives (they're wanted by the FBI for those who don't remember "Nightshifter" and "Folsom Prison Blues") and we are treated to the dramatic entrance of Agent Henriksen. The pan up from the floor via Sam and Dean's viewpoint is a really cool visual, and all of a sudden, I realized that I've never spread the love for director Phil Sgriccia, who's done numerous great episodes for this show. There's phenomenal directing throughout this episode, so the man is about to get his due.
This episode is supercharged from the word go, and what better way to start than with Henriksen at the local jail hyping up how dangerous the Winchesters are, all while insulting the local sheriff. That's not quite how Verbal Kint did it in film The Usual Suspects when spinning the legend of Keyser Soze, but hey, we know his arrogance comes back to bite him. For my tastes, this scene was a little too over the top, but the point was made.
In come our hot yet perilous felons in chains (yes, I'm drooling, too), Dean wisecracking and confident, Sam somber and withdrawn. In many ways the sharp contrast in moods works, but sometimes it comes across as heavy-handed. Dean acknowledges meek Nancy, and we know they've got tender scenes coming. Too bad they don't involve Dean nailing her. An episode can't happen without a comical brotherly moment, so those two getting tangled up in chains does the trick. I could watch that for a whole episode, especially if wrestling is involved. They assess the situation, and it looks bad. Those two together in chains however, look great.
We find out that Henriksen has a bigger prick than himself for a boss, and it's Peter Deluise! Yes, I watched 21 Jump Street, even when Johnny Depp was on. How many of us were rewinding and freezing the frame to get a good look at the Sam and Dean "wanted" posters on the wall? They're wanted, alright.
It's Henriksen's time to gloat and by changing the angle of the shot, Phil Sgriccia turns an ordinary hero/antagonist exchange into something memorable. Dean is in the foreground, wisecracking some great lines in response to Henriksen's taunts (Cialis!), while Sam is directly behind him in the background, speaking only with his tortured facial expressions. Dean keeps up the faÃ§ade, even with maximum security prison threats, but Sam's face shows he's cracking a bit. That is until Henriksen insults their dad with an uncalled for sexual abuse reference. Sam all of a sudden straightens up, taking a stand behind a defiant Dean, communicating with only his eyes he has Dean's back. When great directing and acting collide, awesome things happen.
This part gets me every time. Intensity with a capital "I". I jump out of my skin when Dean is suddenly shot (great visual effects, the blood spray on the wall), and then somehow in chains Sam restrains the shooter with bullets flying while reciting a rushed exorcism from memory. He did pay attention in class! Dean wrenches in pain on the bed, and the demon flees before Sam can finish, leaving one dead cop. Uh oh! Mayberry PD comes in with guns held high, and Sam and Dean have some quick explaining to do before they end up like dead guy on the floor.
Henriksen wants them out now, but there's no response from the chopper, and we find out Reidy is this week's red shirt because everyone outside is dead, except one big bad demon. Mayberry PD freaks out, because the phones are dead and the lights go out, but Henriksen is too calm, so something's wrong with him. He's even sweet on Nancy. Yep, he's possessed.
Aww, Sam checks out Dean's wound. "Don't be such a wuss." He sure sucks at nursing. This is the second time Dean has taken a slug in that shoulder, so I'm wondering if it's made of rubber. After some more Henriksen grandstanding, which didn't serve a purpose, Sam begs timid Nancy for a towel. For Sam, using her close proximity as a way to grab her and take the rosary, that's pretty cruel. Asking might have worked, especially if Dean flashed those irresistible green eyes her way.
Dean's impressed that they're targets. "I think it's because we're so awesome." You certainly are! Sera must have written that just for us fans. I'm disappointed when he finds out the real reason later. Silly lying Sam! The sheriff comes in, taking matters into his own hands, and I'm with Sam and Dean, it's safer in the cell. It's Henriksen, though, who's possessed, and we again see Winchester quick thinking in action, complete with holy water in the toilet thanks to Nancy's rosary. Sam does his Latinating, demon goes away, and Dean gets to give one huge "I told you so."
"I shot the sheriff", a dazed Henriksen says, in which Dean replies, "but you didn't shoot the deputy." Boo hiss, Sera! No soup for you! That did trigger a fantastic Sam bitchface, though. Sam relates to Henriksen's possession ("That's what it feels like. Now you know."), his first acknowledgment of his own ordeal since "Born Under A Bad Sign." I love continuity, but boy, did that take long enough.
Off go the chains, super hero Deano springs into action, and we see how awesome he really is from now until the end of the standoff. After Nancy patches his wound with loving care (come on Dean, give her a kiss or something), how many of us were screaming as he ran to the Impala? Don't do it! Black, electric clouds of doom storm in, and he runs like the wind with supplies in hand. "They're coming!" The jail is pelted on the outside, while everyone grimly waits on the inside. The jail holds, and the demons go for plan B.
We get the big anti-possession tattoo reveal on the brother's chests, and fanfic writers die everywhere because now it's canon. Again Sam laments over his possession, answering Henriksen's question about when they got the tattoos. "Not soon enough." I'll say! Sera Gamble admitted the idea of tats floated around since "Born Under Bad Sign", so she took her opportunity to work it in after a suggestion from Ben Edlund. Awesome.
Now my favorite scene of the episode. Dean lists all the things that are real, and Bigfoot is a hoax. Wanna bet? I want an episode now where they have to hunt Bigfoot. Henriksen's life isn't rewarding. His job is boring and sucks, he has nothing to go home to, and a string of angry ex-wives. Dean's got it pretty good in comparison, and all he has is Sam. "Can you win?" Henriksen asks Dean. "Honestly, I think the world's gonna end bloody, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't fight. We have choices and I choose to go down swinging." Why can't they hunt together from now on? Oh yeah, bad ending.
Ruby appears thanks to Barney Fife breaking the salt line, announcing there are at least thirty demons out there. Sam wants her help, but Dean is less than impressed to see her. Honestly, I'm not impressed either. I usually like Ruby, but she's so annoying here. She tells Dean that Sam is being stalked by the new head demon wannabe, while revealing that Sam knew, bitches about the colt, calls the boys stupid, and brings up the whole ridiculous virgin sacrifice thing. I never bought her solution was legit (Self-sacrifice? Please...) but instead was a test for Sam and his failing moral compass.
I didn't think it was possible, but I fell more in love with Dean while he drilled some sense into Sam. He wasn't about to listen to Ruby, for there is a human rulebook to follow and a virgin to save. "If that's how you win wars, then I don't wanna win." Right on! I can't comment much on this scene since I'm standing with fist in the air in solidarity, ready to fight for the cause.
Ruby is bitchy again after hearing Dean's plan to let the demons in and fight, and I'm yelling "just leave already!" Dean, Sam, and Henriksen each take an entrance, guns loaded and salt lines and traps broken. Three loud bangs and the action begins. Here's the great directing again, using jarring images of rock salt shots, hand to hand combat, and holy water flying to keep us on the edge during the whole intense skirmish. Well edited too, and this episode earned Supernatural an Emmy nomination in sound editing. Well deserved!
Ah, but the fight, and sadly the episode, starts going South from here. The holy water runs out and Sam and Dean are cornered, so"¦ up against the wall they go. Is that all demons know how to do? Isn't there a cooler way to disable them? These demons have a full bag of tricks up their sleeves, use them. Choke the brothers with the mind or levitate them, anything else.
At least Dean's plan is clever, having Nancy and the deputy hide outside and salt the doors and windows, trapping the demons inside so Henriksen can play the taped exorcism. Hmm, Sam's voice Latinating over the loudspeaker "” it's these simple pieces of joy that get me the most. One demon gets out though and leaves Nancy alone, off to send warning. Not good. The vortex of black smoke and burst of fire as the demons are all mass exorcised is really freaking cool. Fantastic special effects is the perfect formula to end any thrilling montage.
Henriksen comes up with his lie, and now we have the late Sam and Dean Winchester. How many times does Dean get to die in official capacity? You'd think they wouldn't buy the lie this time, but whatever, the fugitive moniker is now gone. They can get back to only worrying about getting killed by demons. Things are looking up!
We knew there wasn't going to be a happy ending just because of the time left. The preferred use of creepy kids is back. A cute little girl comes in, and after flashing her freakish white eyes everyone is toast. "One's really tall and one's really cute." Oh come on, they're both cute! How about, "One's very pretty and one's knock em' dead gorgeous"? I know, little girl, but it's Lilith after all.
This part ruins the whole episode for me. It's the main reason why "Jus In Bello" isn't ranked among the greatest episodes, or even best for this season. This episode was originally aired with a repeat of "Nightshifter", which has the best ending of the series. This is a bitter disappointment.
For one, why kill Henriksen and Nancy? It was pointless. There are other ways to show Lilith's power. Henriksen would have been a great hunter, even if we never saw him again, and no one should die a virgin, not with Dean around anyway. I can also see Sam taking Ruby's harsh guilt trip, but Dean, especially after his strong behavior at the jail? He should have kicked her ass out, literally, and convinced Sam not to buy her crap. Instead they sat there and took it before fading to black. Boo hiss!
This is the ending we went into a long hiatus with? It wasted the triumphant return of classic Dean Winchester, with new found confidence making him better than ever. He acted as a leader now outside of his father's shadow, had a more pessimistic outlook yet still remembered there were rules of decency to follow, and he used his old school street fighting ways in attack, becoming again everyone's romantic hero. We swooned. He should have left the jail with a newly horny Nancy under his arm and headed for the back seat of the Impala to set that girl right. That would have been the perfect ending.
This episode earns a B+ from me. An A+ for Dean, an A for Agent Henriksen, but ticks downward for Bela, Ruby, and that really bad ending. Even Sam was off, but after "Mystery Spot" he should have been, so I forgave him.
Is it September 18 yet?