Opening with a rock montage recap of the season so far actually had me feeling pretty good about how the first episode back would shake down. All our favourite players were on the board in the recap and reminded us exactly where we left off, as well as the storylines that are still hanging. The special nod to Sam's Lucifer hallucinations makes me thinking the payoff there will be coming sooner rather than later (or never). Turns out, this montage was just about the best part of the episode. And it wasn't even the greatest montage sequence in Supernatural history, so that's saying something.
Suggestive opening, truck stop, friendly waitress. Creepy neon signs. Is he a hunter or a john? She is some kind of snake creature? Have we seen this before? I'm trying to recall, but I think this is the first teaser in a truck stop and given that the show focuses on the back roads of Middle America, I'm surprised we haven't visited this particular type of supernatural crime scene before.
Week One - Week Two - Week Three
Okay, so after the teaser we are still wondering about the fate of Bobby Singer. Despite the agony of waiting, still, the scene was well done. There is something powerful about time passing without dialogue in films and movies - when done right you can feel the heavy weight of the emotions and the intensity of the characters in a few short minutes. And Supernatural did it right here. I'm glad it wasn't simply lost time and a flash title reading "three weeks later" because instead we get to see that the boys have been going steady and witness the wear and tear on them over the weeks, particularly Dean.
Then we get to week three, and finally have some dialogue. Based on his exchanges with Sam, it looks like Dean has been going at these numbers steady without allowing another thought to take root in his head. By now we know this is his pretty standard MO for grief - work, work, work and don't think. It's likely that Sam has been working too, but from the way he referred to Dean's constant, round the clock analysis and pursuit of meaning in the numbers, it makes me wonder what else he's been up to and how he's dealt with his own grief these weeks gone by.
Dean's anger and refusal to make phone calls regarding Bobby had me thinking Bobby was still alive. I wondered if, being as for the first quarter of the episode we had no vocalization of his actual death, Bobby was simply in a coma and/or his spirit was wondering around. Of course, that disappearing beer has been speculated about a lot in the last week, and I'm not counting Bobby out just yet.
Another familiar face is on the board for this episode- Frank, played by the always delightful Kevin McNally. Frank, though an enjoyable character, kind of felt like a substitute for Bobby in this episode, and I didn't like that air that surrounded his appearance. Used as a tool to lessen the absence of a beloved character. Let's let the characters be their own people, okay?
After a quippy exchange (Gwyneth Paltrow the leviathan?) and some bloodletting (during which time, I could only think of the many diseases Dean and Frank could have passed between them by sharing that knife) we get to brass tacks - Frank has worked out the numbers and their significance.
Let's talk numbers
As an avid fan of Lost, numbers thrown out mysteriously (such as seen repeatedly in a dream or, say scrawled by a dying man) pique my interests because there are endless possibilities "“ codes, coordinates, bank information, IP address - as I said, endless.
Okay, so in this case the mystery didn't live long, but they are crucial nonetheless: the numbers are coordinates to a property in Wisconsin purchased by a company involved with Dick Roman. I have to admit, I'm somewhat let down that these were coordinates. I did hypothesize that's what they were when Bobby gave them to Sam, but are we honestly expected to believe it took the better part of four weeks to work out that's what the numbers were because a digit was missing? Sorry, that doesn't really work for me and smells slightly of contrived suspense building. Thank goodness we didn't see the "what are the numbers?" drama played out over several episodes. Small favours, I suppose. All that fuss over researching the numbers, I expected more.
The numbers did give us a great moment though: Dean in a tech service uniform - can we pause a moment and enjoy that image? Dean's great costumes - the writers and wardrobe department must have a hoot with Jensen Ackles. And watching Dean navigate the cherry picker was a good moment of comic relief too.
Am I the only one who thought the MOTW was weak? This was really just filler in the, well, filler episode. Sam goes to investigate the disappearance of an acquaintance of Bobby's, he has the wrong intel and Dean can't correct him in time because he's sleeping off three plus weeks of exhaustion.
Poor Sammy is grieving but working through it in his Sam way. His comment to Dean, "nice to get this girls dad back home to her," lets us know where is head is at though. According to his research, the Vetala are "maladjusted loner types" but that's not quite true "“ they hunt in groups and the pair gets a jump on him in the parking lot (during the overhead shot of unconscious Sam and the girls, I couldn't help thinking what a pain he'd be to transport unconsciously, given his ginormousness).
Given that Sam's data indicated these critters are loners, I don't know why he knew to play "Sally" by detailing the kills of her "sisters". I mean, okay yes, in this case (as far as Sam knows anyways) it's a pair - but that could be a one off. And it doesn't presume the two have any affection for one another. Sorry, I'm poking holes where it doesn't really matter, but this storyline was so thin there isn't much to consider about it.
Okay, despite the problems with this episode there is one exchange that worked for me. It's clear that Bobby's death has given Dean back a purpose and he has, for lack of a better phrase, renewed passion for the hunt where he was just going through the motions before. But his anger and reckless disregard for self are a risk to himself and those around him (i.e. missing a phone call from Sam because he's too exhausted to function thereby leading Sam to act on bad intel which Dean could have corrected and spared Sam another kidnapping).
Frank offers Dean some words of wisdom, after revealing his own sad history: "make yourself smile - because you're alive and it's your job - do it right with a smile or don't do it." In other words, do it right or don't bother. A good reminder in any area of life, but especially for a hunter like Dean.
"I'm a fun guy, I'm actually awesome"
Chrissie the kid, I can't help but like her. Usually snotty, all-knowing child actors get on my nerves but Supernatural, once again, is right on the money with the casting of the young actor. That said, I also felt Dean's exasperation with her and the situation. What was interesting in their exchange is the mention of one of Dean's solo hunts while Sammy was away at college - actually, I enjoyed the entire conversation between Dean and the girl - he was connecting with her pretty well and by the end it was clear they shared a mutual affection.
One thing about the final action moment- did Dean freeze up, was he panicking, or was he just horrified because he felt unable to act? That weird moment before Chrissie stabbed the evil chick didn't really work for me because it was unclear and out of character. In fact, it felt like it was from another show entirely, with the close up on nervous darty eyes as the seemingly innocent child victim calls our heroes name in terror. Yay. This is Supernatural not CSI Miami guys.
Young Chrissie swoops in and saves the day after nearly ruining the whole thing by getting snatched. Or maybe that was her plan all along. I do think too little time passed between Dean entering and Chrissie following, given she had to pick the lock, but maybe I'm just being semantic on that point. Either way, I did like that she killed Sally and did it with sass.
Sam and Dean both know they aren't "okay" but they just want to keep going. Okay, that's not exactly news worthy - you always do. So, that didn't work great about this exchange for me. I also thought Sam abruptly turning over to sleep was off, but I suppose he'd had some blood loss so I won't be too hard on that.
What did work was the very final minute: Dean practicing smiling with the music playing and the passing lights casting shadows on his face. It was a beautiful shot and conveyed his new attitude a lot better than the almost exposition-esque chit chat between the brothers seconds before it (seriously, it was like the writer going "the brothers are sad but still doing their jobs, okay? You guys get that? I know I've said it about 15 times but just so you know").
Filler, filler, filler. Overall this episode was sort of okay. It felt forced in many places, and had a number of let downs including the handling of Bobby's death. If they wanted to do a more tepid episode coming off the emotional, dramatic episode 10 then maybe a better approach would have been Bobby in a coma, the boys take the case (filler) and it ends with a phone call from the hospital "“ have next week open with the montage of the boys researching the field or making funeral arrangements, or something.
Not the strongest start to 2012. I won't even go into the whole thing about Bobby's death at this point mainly because I don't believe he's really dead, not even for a second. Perhaps we'll have Crowley course correct this death, or maybe when Cas returns he'll pull a second resurrection out of his bag of tricks - however it happens, I know without a doubt Bobby will be back.