Oh boys, youâ€™re killing me! I do admit, like the other reviewers here at this site, I wasnâ€™t sure what to expect from â€œThe Slice Girls.â€ It looked like more irrelevant filler to me. Boy was I wrong. Itâ€™s one of the better Sam/Dean character studies to come from â€œSupernaturalâ€ in a while. The last two seasons anyway. It perfectly blended the MOTW story with the struggles Sam and Dean are facing. That truly hasnâ€™t been done well in recent memory.
I got a little something different out of this episode than others. Thereâ€™s no doubt that Sam and Dean are both in very bad places. But what I saw in the entire drama of â€œThe Slice Girlsâ€ was Dean slowly coming out of his funk and on the road to recovery, while Sam is headed for a dramatic, really horrible crash and burn. How so? The signs are all there.
Dean - On The Road To Healing
No, Deanâ€™s not back to old form. Not by a long shot. Heâ€™s got a lot more of a journey to get there. However, his behavior is more of a guy whoâ€™s trying to put things together more than avoid them.
Whenever someone close to anyone dies, one reaction is to take stock of ones life. Evaluate, see where you stand in this universe. Dean has always seen himself as a nasty killer, someone who shoots first and asks questions later. Heâ€™s been losing too much though. He told Frank heâ€™s only hunting because he isnâ€™t leaving his brother alone. Heâ€™s grinning and bearing it for Samâ€™s sake.
Whatever his motivations for hunting, that isnâ€™t going to stop Dean from looking at his place in this world. He told Eliot Ness he isnâ€™t sure why he does this anymore. That means heâ€™s questioning what heâ€™s doing, rather than blinding following. In â€œThe Slice Girlsâ€ he right away acknowledged that drinking out of Bobbyâ€™s flask was grief therapy. It is! Itâ€™s not unhealthy either. Heâ€™s keeping a connection to Bobby and going on in his memory. Heâ€™s accepted his death and slowly moving on.
The most encouraging sign that Dean is trying to find himself again is he went out to a bar to pick up women. When was the last time heâ€™s done that? He came close in â€œDefending Your Lifeâ€ but that wasnâ€™t intentional. I still remember him not feeling it all the way back to â€œMy Bloody Valentine.â€ He certainly wasnâ€™t doing it in season six when he was pining for Lisa and Ben. Something inside him has clicked that he does need to get out again and have some fun. Good for him!
Speaking of good for him, I did delight in FINALLY seeing Dean have a raucous and rough sex scene. It only took seven seasons! Talk about sheer joy for a fangirl (not to mention the very first time weâ€™ve gotten full view shirtless from Dean), but itâ€™s nice to see that not only Sam likes it rough. Looking beyond that fun though (after several re-watches), this is a great step forward for Dean.
I think Dean wants to have fun again, or at least loosen up a little. Even at the coronerâ€™s when he started making small talk about the great benefits package with being a Fed, it was a clear cut sign of Dean trying to get back to his old ways. Heâ€™s tired of the weight of the world weighing down on him. Since revenge canâ€™t be in the cards right now (and it so will be someday), he might as well try to be loose. Yes, some of that also can be attributed to him not caring right now, but itâ€™s progress.
Deanâ€™s instincts arenâ€™t all bad either. He picked up on the weird signs at Lydiaâ€™s pretty quick. He got into the case, taking on surveillance and following the Amazon women to their home base. He even tried to navigate Bobbyâ€™s files, having defend to his brother in the process that â€œaccidents happen.â€ The smile on his face as he replayed the night in his head was pure, classic Dean. There you are!
Yes, there is the big issue in the end when he didnâ€™t kill Emma. That was not wrong. After all, monster or not, she was his kid. Thatâ€™s Dean remembering his humanity. He was right to give her a chance, and I think that if she did attack him, he would have pulled that trigger. That was the last resort to him though. He wasnâ€™t there yet.
I do believe this situation was separate from the other times that Dean has frozen recently and not gone for the kill. Itâ€™s very true his head is not entirely in the game yet. Heâ€™s got a way to go before finding his old self. But in Emmaâ€™s case, this was not Amy Pond. She hadnâ€™t killed yet. There was still that glimmer of hope. The fact that Dean is drawing those lines is a very good thing.
I always remember Dean telling Sam in â€œJus In Belloâ€ if thatâ€™s the way they fight wars he didnâ€™t want to win. Dean has always drawn a line in acting human, and I think here he was doing the same. With Amy, she was a monster who killed and would probably do so again. She crossed that humanity line. Itâ€™s the same reason he let her son live, because he hadnâ€™t crossed that line yet. He was giving Emma that same benefit of the doubt. Yes, that benefit was influenced by the fact she was his kid, but thatâ€™s okay.
What I found most troubling about Deanâ€™s behavior is that heâ€™s totally clueless over whatâ€™s happening to Sam. Heâ€™s so lost in his own grief, lack of enthusiasm for hunting, and trying to find himself that heâ€™s not picking up on the warning signs about his brother. Oh man there are plenty.
Sam - It All Starts Now
This episode will be a marker in terms of Samâ€™s crumbling. Sure, there have been the little signs, Leviathan Sam giving us a good picture of whatâ€™s in his head in â€œSlash Fiction,â€ Bobby and Samâ€™s talk in â€œHow To Win Friends and Influence Monsters,â€ and Sam grabbing his hand in â€œDeathâ€™s Door.â€ Those have just been tiny breadcrumbs though given to fans thatâ€™ve been waiting patiently for the inevitable breakdown. In â€œThe Slice Girlsâ€ I do believe we got a whole slice of bread this time! (I know, weak metaphor).
Itâ€™s very, very interesting that Sam is the one driving the car this week. That has been used in the past to symbolize that Samâ€™s been put in a take charge situation. The most notable episode I can think of that used this symbolism is â€œOn The Head of A Pin.â€ In both cases, Dean was too despondent and tired to care. Thereâ€™s a big difference between Sam in that episode though and Sam in this one. In OTHOAP (oh yes, Iâ€™m acronyming it!) Sam was building his power and confidence, albeit channeling some really dark forces. He took on the role of caretaker for both of them because he had too. He didnâ€™t think Dean was strong enough.
In â€œThe Slice Girlsâ€ Sam finds himself in the same position, but this time heâ€™s just about spent all that inner strength he has. Heâ€™s fighting inner dark forces instead of embracing them. The extra responsibility is forcing him out of his very strict self maintenance window. Caring for himself is hard enough, but having to cover Deanâ€™s back now is proving to be too much for him. We are just starting to learn what happens when things start to spill out of that umbrella of crazy heâ€™s got going.
Sam desperately needs hunting. He desperately needs his brother to be by his side, both with their heads fully in the game. Itâ€™s the only true reality he has left. If anything else strays or seeps away from that structure, that thread heâ€™s hanging onto will snap. Just look at the opening scene. Sam is driving, heâ€™s going very fast and heâ€™s clearly focused forward. Pinpoint. I do love the symbolism too of Samâ€™s fast driving. Itâ€™s foreshadowing that heâ€™s careening out of control, and when he does crash heâ€™s going to crash hard.
Even at the coronerâ€™s when Dean tries to have his fun, Sam clearly wants to focus on the case. This also mirrors his coronerâ€™s visit in â€œAdventures In Babysittingâ€ when Sam just glared at the vampire joke. His pinpoint focus isnâ€™t allowing even light moments.
These are not a good signs.
Another bad sign? Throughout the case Sam is anxious, agitated, and not very trusting with Dean. Heâ€™s not happy that Dean bails to go to a bar. He thinks Deanâ€™s obsessing over being dumped by Lydia rather than following an instinct. He uses the word â€œobsessedâ€ multiple times and tries to disguise his bitterness with snark. I love how Dean at the university called him out on that with his comment, â€œI think youâ€™re enjoying this a little more than you need to.â€
Sam tries to stay all business with the case but we get to see through some of his cracks. Heâ€™s agitated when trying to talk with Dean on the phone about the new facts of the case. When the facts of the Amazon women surface, he takes a moment to lecture Dean about â€œrolling the diceâ€ on a one night stand. Sure, Dean probably had that coming, but Sam in the past has usually been calmer and more forgiving of Deanâ€™s mistakes.
The scene that gets me the most though is when theyâ€™re in the motel room and the papers magically move. Samâ€™s on board at first, even hopeful, getting out the EMF reader. Once he figures out though that EMF is everywhere, theyâ€™re near power lines, and the window is open thatâ€™s enough doubt for his to shut it down. Dean goes with the flask theory but Sam wonâ€™t even entertain the idea.
Sam: Concentrate on something else.
Sam: Because itâ€™s not Bobby.
Dean: It could be.
Sam: No it couldnâ€™t be.
Dean: Why not?
Sam: Because we want it to be.
Sam: Because itâ€™s not Bobby.
Dean: It could be.
Sam: No it couldnâ€™t be.
Dean: Why not?
Sam: Because we want it to be.
If Sam frantically rushing back to save Dean (after an unfortunate encounter with the blonde detective whoâ€™s really an Amazon that breaks his phone), doesnâ€™t raise red flags, I donâ€™t know what will. Heâ€™s driving very fast, passing slower cars, running red lights, etc. His body language says it all. If he lost Dean, he loses everything. Nothing else matters. He also doesnâ€™t have confidence in Dean right now to pull that trigger. That feeling that Deanâ€™s head isnâ€™t in the game has been the elephant in the room that Sam hasnâ€™t wanted to bring up for the last few episodes. Heâ€™s expressed his disappointment instead through attitude and clever remarks (Dick Roman anyone?).
The back and forth in the motel room is all nonverbal, but it speaks volumes (damn I love it when they do that!) Dean is already talking with Emma when Sam arrives, holding the gun on her but not firing. Sam gives Dean a minute outside, but he sees Dean continues to talk, giving Emma the shot to walk away. He crashes in with his gun pointed, giving Dean one more chance to pull the trigger. When Dean doesnâ€™t, especially after Emma gives a false plea, Sam doesnâ€™t hesitate in shooting her. No more opportunities. Dean is stunned. Sam remains strong. Dean is saddened, Sam cannot understand why Dean couldn't do it. Dean is not happy, even if he knows it was right. Yes, I love interpreting the volumes that are spoken with all that nonverbal language.
The fallout all happens in the car. This closing scene absolutely breaks my heart. If this doesnâ€™t paint a complete picture of Sam and Deanâ€™s varying mental states right now, nothing will. Samâ€™s driving again, and driving very fast. Heâ€™s not speaking until Dean pushes the issue. Sam is clearly angry and frustrated. How can he giving Amy the benefit of the doubt not count but Dean giving Emma that chance be allowed? Sam knows the answer is â€œkill the monster.â€ Did Dean?
Dean said he would have, Sam didnâ€™t believe he would. Who do you believe? I believe Dean actually. He would have done the right thing if he was pushed. Sam has good reason to believe Dean wouldnâ€™t though. Samâ€™s been doing all the kills lately, watching Dean freeze during the action. Samâ€™s â€œshe wasnâ€™t yoursâ€ speech mirrors Deanâ€™s speech to Sam of â€œit wasnâ€™t youâ€ after the tragic events in â€œUnforgiven.â€ Too much grey area to consider in a short span of time. The on the spot decisions arenâ€™t always easy.
Sam finally makes his reservations known. â€œBobby was right. Your headâ€™s not in it man. When Cas died you were wobbly but now...â€ Yeah, what about now? Dean says, â€œYouâ€™re just screwed up as I am, just bigger.â€ That couldnâ€™t be farthest from the truth. Sam is way more screwed up than Dean. Dean just canâ€™t see it right now. When he eventually does, itâ€™s not going to be pretty.
â€œDonâ€™t get killed.â€ Samâ€™s plea is simple and heartfelt and not what Dean wants to hear. Dean claims heâ€™ll do what he can. â€œIt means Iâ€™ll do what I can. You can shut up about it.â€ That correlates with his statement that theyâ€™ll get the Amazon women when they surface next time, â€œ...if we live that long.â€ Does Dean want to die? I think heâ€™s accepted that he can at any moment, just like Bobby, and heâ€™s too tired to fight it. Something will get him eventually. That makes him passive, but probably not suicidal.
So, to sucker punch us one more time, the closing closeup on Sam shows in heart breaking fashion Samâ€™s current place. Heâ€™s really scared. Without Dean, he has no chance. Stone number one is beginning to crumble. Yes, I got weepy.
The Bigger Picture
What did I take away from â€œThe Slice Girls?â€ Iâ€™m not so worried about Dean and my stomach is in knots for Sam. Whatâ€™s even worse is Dean doesnâ€™t even see how bad Sam is crumbling. Chances are that WHEN (oh yeah, the signs are there) Sam has his big crash, itâ€™s going to take Dean by surprise. I do wonder how heâ€™ll deal with it.
Whatâ€™s bothersome though is Sam and Dean are dealing with their grief in different ways and not in tune with how the other is really hurting. At this point, theyâ€™d die for each other, but theyâ€™re not close to being on the same page.
The Other Stuff
In focusing on the character study, I didnâ€™t really paint a good picture of what I thought of the episode overall. As I said before I really liked it the melting of the MOTW while finally moving forward the character arcs a little, but this episode was lacking some fun. Oh yes, there was the bombastic sex scene brilliantly mixed with the gruesome and very gory murder (those Amazon women have some flair) but that could only lift the episode so far. I really felt the struggle of both Sam and Dean this time, and as emotionally compelling as their struggles are, theyâ€™re also completely depressing. Iâ€™m still looking for something uplifting, something thatâ€™s going to give these guys hope and a purpose. Seeing where their characters are going though, I doubt that will happen anytime soon.
The car they had, if anyone is interested, is a 1971 Buick Riveria. Itâ€™s known for itâ€™s â€œboat tailâ€ back end. That car sticks out worse than the Impala! It always floors me that Dean thinks he can get away with sneaky surveillance in a car like that.
This episode marked the directorial debut of Jerry Wanek, long time co-producer for â€œSupernatural.â€ His claims to fame have been the often outrageous and wildly creative set designs. He is the master of the tacky motel rooms. I think he did an outstanding job with â€œThe Slice Girlsâ€ going for some very fun angles with the camera. He had fun with extreme closeups for sure as Dean and Lydia were connecting in the bar. Hereâ€™s a few of my favorite shots though:
Overall grade of â€œThe Slice Girls,â€ a B. A vast improvement over Eugenie Ross Leming and Brad Bucknerâ€™s prior stinky scripts of â€œShut Up Dr. Philâ€ and â€œRoute 666.â€ All I want to see now before things get really heavy is Sam get beat up by some clowns. Yeah, Iâ€™m sick like that.