Oh show, why did you have to go and do that? Things were going so well. The brothers were working through their issues, they finally had that old bond back, the excitement was up to eleven, plots made logical sense...What happened?
As I thought about the words to convey how disheartened "The Girl Next Door" left me, a couple of past moments popped into my head. First was a conversation that happened two years ago in Chicago between me, Mo Ryan, and Lynn and Kathy from Fangasm. We had a lively talk about how Supernatural appeals to us because it is a smart show, one that attracts audiences that want to think, love to analyze, and are enamored by the complex themes of normal guys dealing in flawed ways with those blurring lines between right and wrong. Fans can be nitpicky and overly opinionated at times, but all in all, this show was brilliant in the way it stretched itself with the mythology and the character dilemmas without becoming cliche. And everyone looked good doing it. This was my inner fan at her most content. I call this Point A.
The second moment comes from Jensen at the Salute to Supernatural convention in Vancouver just this past August. He was surprised that anyone thought that things were going to end well for Sam and Dean. This little downer, coupled with my overall disappointment with characterization in season six, pushed me into Point B territory. I wasn't ready to go there yet. There was still too much of a great ride left but I had to wonder, is this what all the time invested is leading toward? Will things just continue to get worse and worse and worse until our heroes just up and die? I dismissed that negative inner voice. No way they would go there.
After a very promising first two episodes of season seven where I thought the show could head in the Point A direction after last season's dour noir, this episode took everything into a sudden, sharp turn toward Point B. Not only are things not going to end well for Sam and Dean, I'm actually thinking they might end up killing each other before the monster gets them.
I know the names Butch and Sundance (including my interview with Jared at Comic Con) have been mentioned a few times. You all do realize that at the end to Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (spoiler alert!), they were blown away by the Bolivian Army? What made Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid enjoyable was the story before their demise. They were brazen, cocky, fearless, and shared plenty of good times, action, and fun squabbles before it all fell apart. All it takes is one look at "The Girl Next Door" to easily conclude this ain't no Butch and Sundance. Not remotely close.
Most of It Wasn't a Disaster
I'll digress for a few paragraphs though since "The Girl Next Door" for the most part is an average episode and not entirely offensive. There were things that I loved. First is the awesome return of Colin Ford, who every time I see him on the screen gets more mature with his acting. Once again, he's brilliant as young Sam and the resemblance is even more striking. He's blossoming very well and I see huge things for him in his future. He even mastered the Sam puppy dog eyes this time! Those flashback scenes with Amy, seeing Sam's place in the world at 15 or 16, I loved every second of it. Sam's had so few allies or friends in this world. It was an endearing backstory, especially when Amy killed her own mother to save Sam.
The Leviathan continue to be delightful menaces as well. They're quite persistent, aren't they? I would have laughed at that "everything tastes better with cheese" line if they used it earlier in the episode when it was appropriate. After the shock of the scene before, a great villainous line ends up being completely wasted.
The director, the second time effort for Jensen Ackles, did a great job with the material he was given. There were several interesting shots in there where he did his craft proud. It wasn't a clean script by a long shot, but he managed the multiple choppy scenes very well. I see huge things for him in the future.
Finally, there was one laugh out loud moment for me. An unwitting Sam comes back to his motel room, opens the door and "Bam!" He gets punched and knocked over. Then we see who's on the other side. His very livid brother. "Howdi Sam." The angle in which that shot was done, seeing it as a bystander from the outside, was just awesome. And funny.
Let The Rant Begin...
As for everything else, I thought I was in one of Sam's hallucinations. Actually, I knew I wasn't, because his hallucinations are far more thought out and organized than this.
If I wanted a contrived, messy brotherly drama, I would have been fine with seeing an episode of Dean pining over an unconscious Sam in Montana during that glossed over three weeks after the hospital rescue. Sure it's been done before, but if we're reverting backward, that sounds like more fun. How about at least a scene of Dean getting sad seeing an ad for raincoats during one of those telenovelas? I'm so thrilled to see Castiel not become an afterthought (yes, that's sarcasm).
But that's not me coming close to hitting the sore spot. Remember last week's episode, when Sam thinks he's telling the real Dean, "I'm doing the best I can?" Remember how that Dean mocks him for being messed up anyway? Then it all turns out to be a hallucination. The real Dean comes along and talks Sam down from the ledge so to speak. As we see from Sam's little check-out moment this week, what Dean showed him seems to be helping. Score a small win for the crazy brother.
Then why, oh freaking for the love of Chuck why, does the real Dean stomp on that win and decide to act like last week's fake Dean? Sam was completely honest with him. Sure he snuck, off, but he explained it. In a way, I think he snuck off to protect Amy in fear that Dean would kill her. Sam gets a reasonable story from Amy, shows her some mercy being the sensitive soul that he is, and then he comes clean with Dean. He pleads with Dean to trust him, claiming he and Amy both are managing their issues. Dean agrees to trust Sam and... kills Amy anyway. Um, what? IN FRONT OF HER KID? HUH????
Dean in his righteousness even gives Amy the same "The other shoe will drop" line that he said to Bobby about Sam earlier before skewering her and taunting her orphaned son. Doesn't he realize he set a probable loose cannon out into the world? I get it. Dean can't trust Sam. It isn't anything Sam can earn anymore either. They have a lot of bad history on their side. No matter what they do, the worst always happens whether it's either's fault or not. But how does Dean suddenly decide to go back to his "If it's a monster we kill it" attitude from season one because it's that simple? After Sam reminds him that nothing in their lives is simple? Right, Sam is nuts and doesn't know what he's saying (yes, that's sarcasm again).
I'm still digging for the logic. Could this be Dean projecting on Amy what he really wants to do to Sam but can't? Is this Dean being cruel and callous to Amy's son because he's still smarting over the loss of Ben? Is Dean going back to his black and white thinking because he knows that messing with those grey lines has gotten him nowhere? Or is this a total character assassination by the writers because they're desperate to drum up more Sam and Dean conflict or make Dean look like a total dick for fun? Sam being crackers isn't enough of a tension driver? How about Dean betray Sam by having him institutionalized? That's off the wall too but hey, it makes more sense.
The issue here is nothing we've seen so far has led up to explaining why Dean did what he did. Without any kind of background, just a perceived random act, how are we as fans supposed to make the logical leap that Dean would act that way? When something like that happens out of the blue, we're left to assume it's grossly out of character. There could be a good reason why Dean made that choice. What the Hell was it? That one scene obliterates so much character growth that's been achieved in six seasons and ends up being more of a point of contention rather than buzz over a shocking moment. It's sloppy and poor execution and the writers know better.
Maybe I just have to accept this is the new version of the brother's renewed bond. They both are completely messed up and can't help the other one deal. It uh, um...oh it's just not satisfying. How can we go from that wonderful scene in the warehouse last week to this? I assume it's meant to show that Dean is crumbling too. Is it possible Dean is the real time bomb? I'm hoping like mad future episodes will hash all that out better but in the meantime, I'm putting "The Girl Next Door" in terms of the brotherly relationship in the "Major Fail" category.
(Deep breath...happy place...happy place)
If my sour mood wasn't bad enough, next week's episode, judging by the stills, looks like a ripoff of Star Trek: The Next Generation's "Encounter at Farpoint." I'm keeping an open mind though. I still have hopes of those happier days of Point A. I'm not ready for Point B. A girl can dream, can't she?