After spending most of the hour of â€œLive Free and Twihardâ€ at the edge of my seat, clutching onto a pillow with my jaw hanging open, when it was all over I looked at my husband after a few minutes of stunned silence and finally mustered a sentence. â€œHow am I going to review that?â€ It is definitely a one of a kind, out of the box episode. Itâ€™s also this show continuing to push boundaries and I couldnâ€™t be happier.
Hereâ€™s a confession, I donâ€™t watch much horror. I actually hate most horror films, unless theyâ€™re a thriller like Poltergeist or a brilliant spoof like Shaun of The Dead. â€œLive Free and Twihardâ€ goes for the extreme type of horror that this show has always aspired but has been bound by the limits of television. No limits here. Granted my ability to compare how terrifying this episode is relation to most horror films is limited, but I can honestly say this scared the crap out of me and left me quite bothered by the end of it. I havenâ€™t felt this way after a â€œSupernaturalâ€ episode since â€œBloody Maryâ€ and compared to â€œLive Free and Twihardâ€ that episode now looks like a low budget amateur piece.
Not too long ago, I watched â€œThe Magnificent Seven.â€ Thatâ€™s when I realized how much the production value of â€œSupernaturalâ€ has dramatically increased since that time. The stories are more complex, the pacing faster, the acting more layered, and every aspect of the production from set decoration to lighting to editing to direction goes for something different each time the Winchesters face their weekly struggle. Shows evolve, characters evolve (for better or worse), but most shows go into a form of autopilot after several seasons. Thatâ€™s not happening here by any stretch of the imagination.
Sam and Dean have faced impossible circumstances before. I didnâ€™t think it could have gotten much worse for them than the events in â€œSwan Songâ€ but once again Iâ€™m proven wrong. What could be worse than facing Lucifer and Armageddon? Easy, having your own brother willingly watch you turn into a hideous monster out of curiosity and the desire for information. The person youâ€™ve relied on your entire life to cover your back, help keep you out of harms way. Sadly, Dean has to go through a terrifying ordeal to finally see the truth about Sam and it ends up being Samuel, not Sam, that comes through for him.
If a show is going to re-invent itself, bringing in new blood helps. This week, this very frightening script came from new writer to â€œSupernaturalâ€ and Whedon alum Brett Matthews (Firefly, Angel, Buffy The Vampire Slayer). It was shot by seasoned director but also new to the show Rod Hardy. These two guys really ran with it, bringing something completely new and avant garde. The vampire story starts out as an innocent spoof. The whole Twilight craze has young girls throwing themselves at real vampires. They all learn though vampire life isnâ€™t all romance and passion. As the lead vamp Boris notes, this is the best time to be a vampire in six hundred years. â€œDracula, Ann Rice, please. These stupid little brats are so horny theyâ€™ve re-invented us as prince charming with a Volvo.â€
As soon as Dean has his first encounter with Boris though, this little spoof on the emo vampire culture turns very dark. The first major sucker punch comes from Sam watching Dean turn with the curiosity of a scientist watching a lab rat (more on that a little later). The real terror though comes from seeing the life of a vampire through Deanâ€™s eyes. His experiences add a richness to something weâ€™ve seen before, probably because itâ€™s a character whom weâ€™re so emotionally invested and Jensen really nails his performance. Like the others heâ€™s sensitive to light, hears clocks ticking too loud, can smell humans in a way that makes him crave their blood, and can hear hearts beating so loud it drives him mad. Of course he instantly knows something isnâ€™t right when he hears Samâ€™s heartbeat. Itâ€™s steady and not freaked out at all. That right there makes Deanâ€™s situation more frightening.
The creep fest carries on in perfect swing when Dean bails from the motel room to say goodbye to Lisa. This adds another deep heartbreak to Deanâ€™s situation. He wants to say goodbye, he wants to thank her properly, but heâ€™s already too far gone. He ends up scaring her and Ben so badly because of his desire to feed that chances are heâ€™s irreparably ruined his relationship with them. That makes Samâ€™s actions that much more unforgivable, for heâ€™s sacrificed his brotherâ€™s happiness too for his own curiosity. Sam doesnâ€™t care about the consequences anymore, just the end result.
Then thereâ€™s Deanâ€™s time in the nest, which he can easily find and get into since heâ€™s one of them. This entire sequence is a nail biter and perfectly executed from beginning to end. Itâ€™s creepy, eerie, trippy, and a trite homoerotic, which never really plays comfortably around Dean. The master plan is dastardly, recruiting people by luring them through attraction. People desire romance and that desire ends up being a one way trip to an eternity connected to the alpha, following his orders mindlessly. Their job eventually becomes bringing others into the fold. The part when all the vampires, including Dean, collapse and are psychically connected to the alpha is mind-blowing.
One thing these vamps didnâ€™t count on though is Dean is one scary mofo when vamped up. He takes out the entire nest single handedly, including the guy that turned him. The choice to not show Dean take out Boris is a brilliant move, for we have already seen how lethal Dean is with the others. The discovery of him by Sam and Samuel in his unhinged yet controlled state, his foot resting on Borisâ€™ head, makes Deanâ€™s altered condition that much more powerful and dramatic, not to mention that much more alarming.
Also scary and dramatic, Deanâ€™s entire process changing from vamp back to normal. What a spectacular scene! Once he got through the projectile vomiting of black gunk, seeing Dean go through that freakish transformation is one of the most gut wrenching things Iâ€™ve ever seen on this show. Bravo to Jensen Ackles for pulling off such an intense moment. Eventually Dean collapses and his entire time as a vampire is played backward in his mind. It all ends in the alley where he was turned and he vividly sees the truth. Sam is not only watching him turn, heâ€™s smirking. Oh Dean, what have you done to deserve this?
As for Sam, I tried people, I tried. In four season six reviews Iâ€™ve come up with good ways to defend Sam Winchester and understand his actions. I speculated he had PTSD, that he didnâ€™t know the baby was bait, that heâ€™s shaken from his time in Hell but now I give up. No more benefit of the doubt, the guy is truly without scruples. Of all people to watch and be turned into a vampire without any concern, he did that to Dean? Dean? How Sam got that way makes for some really great speculation, but the fact is hereâ€™s there. His conversation with Samuel lets us know in a veiled way that heâ€™ll do whatever it takes and sacrifice whoever to get there. Heâ€™s been eager to get to the vampire alpha and putting Dean in harms way got them that access. He knew there was a cure and hope for Dean recovering, but thereâ€™s no longer a human cost analysis in his decisions. Dean went through a horrific experience to get that info and all Sam wanted to know was what it was like in the nest. He didnâ€™t even want Dean to take the cure until he found out what it was like inside even though his brother was clearly suffering. Iâ€™m not sure if his actions can be redeemed anymore and it does sadden me to say that. Iâ€™m not giving up, but man, how can what heâ€™s doing be justified?
This is where Iâ€™ve got to give huge kudos to Jared Padalecki. What heâ€™s doing with Sam this season is not easy for any actor. Itâ€™s counter intuitive, taking a long established character that had such big heart and redeemable qualities and play him so cold and morally bankrupt. Heâ€™s had to reinvent his character yet still show some glimpses of familiar. Itâ€™s quite incredible what heâ€™s been able to pull off so far. Sure, itâ€™s very unsettling to fans but if anything that proves heâ€™s doing his job right.
If thereâ€™s one bonus to this heart crushing development in the family drama, Samuel isnâ€™t the baddie we thought he is. Someone has to be looking out for Dean and luckily Grandpa comes through. Samuel had his doubts about Dean, but this situation if anything erased them. Dean seems to have shaken off whatever rust he accumulated in his year out of the game and now that Samuel is starting to see Samâ€™s true colors, maybe welcoming his other grandson into the fold isnâ€™t such a bad idea. More coming on that though, but itâ€™s nice to see Grandpa in a different light.
Iâ€™m also in awe over Dean managing to hold onto the knowledge that Sam turned on him without walking away or going off in a major confrontation. Granted thatâ€™s coming next week, but Dean is trying to be smart about it. He wants to believe it isnâ€™t Sam, but something or someone else. He knows the real Sam wouldnâ€™t act like this. I canâ€™t wait to see what heâ€™s going to do and find out about this unimaginable betrayal.
â€œLive Free and Twihardâ€ isnâ€™t flawless, for the front part of the story is slow and the spoof of the current vampire craze doesnâ€™t really succeed. From the second Dean steps into the alley though, everything takes off and is pitch perfect. The episode left me utterly speechless and drained, which alone tells me it had something special. My overall grade is an A-, an A+ from the point Dean is turned. Now Iâ€™m looking forward to next week, hoping that Dean gives Sam the ass kicking that is so deserved.