(I promise, not a lot of negativity here.)  

I actually find the serviceable, average episode to be the hardest to write reviews for.  There really isn’t much to say.  It didn’t suck.  It wasn’t “Bugs” (that was my Twitter review for the week).  I laughed a few times.  I scratched my head a few times.  I didn’t reach for the TV brick.  Oh, but there were some lessons this week.  What did I learn? 

I learned that James Marsters is a God and Charisma Carpenter rocks when she’s pissed off.  I learned Sam on a health kick is fun, as is Dean’s disturbance over it.  I learned how much fun it is to watch a victim of a witch attack have a proper (and funny) meltdown, something we don’t see a lot of on this show given the weird shit that happens to people.  I learned Sam and Dean make the oddest marriage counselors on the planet, but that was the point.  They are the last people to be giving couples advice, which makes the fact that it worked even funnier.  And I learned after seeing it for like the hundredth time, estranged brothers at the end of the episode is cliche.   

“Look Dean, it’s fine.  You can unload.  That’s kind of what I’m here for.”  Dean ignores Sam’s plea and gets in the car.  Shot of Sam frustrated.  



Rewind, “Bedtime Stories,” episode 5, season three.  “Is that what you want me to do Dean, just let you go?”  Dean ignores his plea and walks away.  Shot of Sam frustrated. 



Okay, there is a difference between those two scenes.  Sam’s hair is much shorter back then. 

Episodes like this are supposed to be a breath of fresh air after some really intense events of the first four episodes.  It was.  I liked.  It would have been perfect if we’ve had four episodes of intense kick ass action before it.  Where are the fighting, determined Winchesters of old?  That topic came up quite a bit this weekend at the Salute to Supernatural convention in Chicago.  I spent a good chunk of the weekend discussing the show with a variety of fans.  We all had some pretty strong opinions. 

“Dean is not an alcoholic,” a passionate fan who’s been watching the show since the pilot, told me when a random discussion between us broke out in the lobby.  She really wants Dean to go back to the days are being a leader, being someone who won’t take this crap.  “That’s the real Dean Winchester,” she said.  

Drinking has always been Dean’s crutch, so why is it different now?  Is it because he’s doing it at the laptop early in the morning while Sam is out jogging?  “Somebody better be chasing you,” Dean tells Sam after he comes in from a run, proving his sense of humor is still in tact.  Sam can tell something’s wrong.  After all, they’re together 24/7.  He should know when something’s eating at his brother.  

Sam:  What’s going on with you?
Dean:  We have had this conversation Sam.
Sam:  No we haven’t.  You see, to do that, we’d have to sort of...speak.  



I asked people why they thought Sam notices Dean's drinking now since Dean’s pattern of heavy drinking goes all the way back to season four.  Several claimed that it’s worse now.  He has to notice.  Okay, but he did that in season four too when flashbacks of Hell hit Dean.  His symptoms then were heavy drinking and nightmares.  Just like with season four, Dean wouldn’t talk about it either.  Where’s Sam’s call to Bobby?  “He’s acting...different.  I don’t know what it is.”  I’m assuming that all happened off camera.  

I loved season four.  It’s my favorite season narrowly over season two.  As much as I loved it, I don’t need to re-live season four.  Why are we wasting time revisiting these circles when there’s Leviathan scum out there to be ganked?  Speaking of Leviathan scum...

“I hate how someone else had to save Sam and Dean,” another blogger told me during an intense discussion in the hotel room over pizza.  She doesn't understand why Sam and Dean can't figure out a way to disable or kill the bad guys on their own.  They're the heroes in this story.  I normally agree with that point but in this case, I thought Don’s cool entrance and his bottomless pit suggestion was freaking awesome.  I didn’t mind the fact that a Leviathan appeared and didn’t take too much from the plot this week, but is isolation really good for Sam and Dean right now?  This ties in to what me, Mo Ryan, and Lynn and Kathy from Fangasm discussed the prior evening. 

Why are the brothers so isolated?  Is that good or bad?  If they can’t save themselves, then who else is there other than Bobby?  Castiel is gone, so is everyone else.  Who else do the brothers have? 

Mo certainly had an opinion, and this is what she wrote in her weekly Supernatural article.  â€œWhy must the boys pay that cost? No one has ever explained that adequately to me. The life they live is hard enough, must they be deprived of friendship and companionship and even fun enemies, for the most part? Having a number of recurring characters stick around wouldn't exactly take the focus away from the brothers. In any case, the show feels like something of a wasteland these days. So many good characters are gone, and I don't think the payoffs we've had have nearly matched what the show lost. Damn it, I even miss Bobby's house (the loss of which, again, barely rated a mention.)”



Should Sam and Dean be fighting and killing things on their own, or should they have help? I'd prefer the same balance they've always had before, but is that really the problem?  I think the big problem right now is we’re all itching for some fight to come from Sam and Dean.  They haven’t exactly been the kick ass hunters of old.  Even with personal hang ups in the past, they’ve taken out that aggression on some evil.  Remember Dean’s line about outbursts of violence and alcoholism?  We’re only one for two in that category.  Coming back to stab Amy, that was hardly a pissed off Dean Winchester going after the eerie menace.  New “Zen” Sam too is lacking a certain fire he had before.  

Are Sam and Dean cowering because they are losing their support network? Is taking away everything from them a good thing?  Is this a rabbit hole we want to go down?  In that both those discussions, we all realized something is missing.  Hope and personal victories.  They’re just going through the motions.  It’s kind of like watching a couple of guys go through career burnout.  They can’t win and they can't do it alone.  If going it alone was intense, fun, compelling, thrilling, interesting, so be it.  As of right now, it’s not.  I keep throwing Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid in the writers’ faces (hey, they said it first).  That’s how you do outlaws going at it alone.  I laughed, I cried, I died over the pretty.  These days, I’m just dying over the pretty (another silver lining there folks).  

I guess the point is, if you’re going to have the boys come up with clever, reckless ways to save themselves (Dean with the phoenix ash in “Mommy Dearest” comes to mind), I still don’t see how isolation from everything will work.  If you recall, even in “Mommy Dearest,” to get to that showdown in the diner, Bobby and Castiel were there to help.  If that support network goes away, they’re bound to be helped by random happy accidents.  How many of those can we take and will they be more interesting than rich supporting characters of old?  I don’t know, we’ll have to wait and see but I for one love rich supporting characters.  



“Why didn’t Sam and Dean kill Don and Maggie, like Dean killed Amy?”  I actually heard that one a lot.  The answer seemed pretty straight forward to me.  They had a captured Leviathan in their hands.  That was an opportunity that couldn’t be wasted.  They also didn’t have much time.  If the circumstances were different, who knows. but it’s not the first time they’ve let someone go.  I thought it was great that they had their priorities in line this time.    

“What happened to the promise that they’d go back to season one?”  Another fan asked me after watching this episode.  She loves the monster of the week concept and wants it all the time.  Sure, she knows they’ve been through a lot and there’s no way they can be that Sam and Dean from season one, but what’s wrong with the fighting brothers going back and boldly taking on a different monster with each adventure?  Who needs a sweeping mytharc?  

I love mytharcs myself, and if one thing “Supernatural” has done extremely well is blend the monsters of the weeks with the mytharcs.  I brought up seasons two and four in our talk.  There was a looming mytharc woven in between those monster of the week escapades.  Both story lines coexisted and progressed very well side by side.  It’s only episode five, so it’s impossible to say how that’s going in season seven, but back in seasons one through five there was a constant.  Whether it be mytharc, monster of the week, or both, Sam and Dean used to smile more.  They used to have more fun.  They used to get mad.  They used to have heart. 

There, I said that word again.  What do I mean when I say the show is missing it’s heart?  My dear friend Lynn brought up of all episodes, “Heart.”  That was a very sad, very tragic episode.  We loved it.  Why?  Because we hurt when they did.  We deeply felt every bit of sadness on that screen.  So far in season seven, the only time I can say that’s happened in that incredible warehouse scene in “Hello Cruel World.”  



Sure, every single scene can’t be like that and I certainly can’t say it’s been totally missing.  But there’s some great setup here for them to work with.  Sam’s hallucinating about Lucifer and should be teetering more on a uneven edge, while Dean’s wrestling with his own fears and this big “secret” (I promise not to harp on the fact that another big secret between the brothers is a ludicrous idea).  If you’re going to bring up these issues, whether fans like it or not, run with it.  Go big or go home.  Do it with mytharc or monster of the week, or both.  I’m not picky.  

I know, perhaps I need to be patient.  It is after all only episode 5.  With the exception of season five (yes, the Paris Hilton one) I absolutely love all of the episode 5’s.  “Bloody Mary,” “Simon Said,” “Bedtime Stories,” “Monster Movie,” and even “Live Free and Twihard” evoke a pang in my heart when I think of them.  Here, my favorite moment ends up being a big laugh over a chick rightfully freaking out over hearts in her cupcakes.  Way to ruin another food that I love show!  So there’s another win here.  

   

All in all, this weekend turned out to be several fantastic sessions of TV group therapy.  I came back home with a new appreciation for my show, and a warm feeling that fans really still care.  They see trouble, but they’re not about to abandon ship.  Maybe I need to just take what I’m given and enjoy it.  To be honest though, if I did that, I’d be as boring as Sam and Dean are right now.  I rave when I have occasion to rave, I rant when I have occasion to rant.  I’m an equal opportunity fan and what do you know, so is the rest of this fandom.  I love being part of this.    

So, what’s the most valuable lesson to come out of “Shut Up Dr. Phil?”  James Marsters is a God and Charisma Carpenter rocks when she’s pissed off.  Score one for the guest stars.  Now it’s Sam and Dean’s turn.