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When going into an episode and knowing you're about to watch a ghost story involving a beloved character who is now struggling in the ghost world, fighting to communicate with the outside world, wanting to help and be part of the team when the team won't admit he's there, the possibilities are endless in the way to approach the story.  Writers Eugenie Leming Ross and Brad Buckner did pretty well.  The premise is certainly perfect.  Taking a ghost to a haunted house loaded with ghosts.  

I liked "Of Grave Importance" and the episode had some redeeming qualities.  There are issues though.  When writing a review, how critical and nitpicky do I wish to get about an episode that really was never intended to be a blockbuster, large sweeping tale?  My process had me going back to prior seasons, finding a basis for comparison.  That's when it hit me.  This was season seven's "Playthings."  Even the location where this was filmed (and/or studio set) is the same.  So I'm changing it up this week.  I'm going to throughout this review compare "Of Grave Importance" with season two's "Playthings."  What makes them so similar yet so different?  

When I first saw "Playthings," I was pretty underwhelmed.  The same can be said about "Of Grave Importance."  I easily get what both episodes intended, character exposition through one very scary backdrop.  Neither really wowed me with their intent.  Both were slow at points and didn't flow perfectly.  "Playthings" has one unfair advantage over "Of Grave Importance" though.  That episode has grown on me over time.  I've only had two watches of "Of Grave Importance," and it's been the same okay reaction both times.  

"Playthings" for those that don't remember happens after the events of "Croatoan" and "Hunted" in season two.  Sam is not in a good place.  He's dealing with the guilt of Ava being taken, her fiance killed, and he's facing down his unknown and very scary destiny.  All it takes is one innocent to be killed on his watch and Sam falls apart.  He gets drunk and in his state makes Dean promise to kill him when the time is right.  Poor Dean is left to wrestle with that promise for a few more episodes.  Oh, and there's the Sam Winchester slo-mo water rescue.  He does save a child, and damn does he look great doing it.  

"Of Grave Importance" may be Bobby's story, but it's Dean's as well.  Dean doesn't get a redeeming water rescue, but he does get a long overdue shower scene.  There's even a towel shot, although it's through a foggy mirror (rats!).  Hey, we'll take what we can get.

What's missing from "Of Grave Importance" that "Playthings" has is quite easy.  Humor.  Sam and Dean are mistaken for a gay couple.  Sam - "Well, you are kind of butch.  They probably think you're over compensating."  Dean puts Sam in a nice embarrassing situation when he tells Susan his little bro is a doll lover and wants to see them.  Sam gets drunk (which is actually a very emotional scene), but Dean won't let him live down his hungover state the next morning as Sam's praying to the porcelain God.  Dean - "You know, there's a really good hangover remedy, it's a greasy pork sandwich served up in a dirty ashtray."  Then there's when they find Rose in the attic in her immobile state.  Dean - "You know, she could be faking."  Sam - "Yeah, what do you wanna do, poke her with a stick?  (Dean nods).  Dude you are not gonna poke her with a stick!"

"Of Grave Importance" made me chuckle over the fact that Bobby, Dean, and Sam all slept with Annie in a "foxhole" situation.  Then I really died laughing when I read Tim the Enchanter's observation that Annie had to die because she slept with Sam.  Other than that though, that subtle humor and brotherly ribbing that dominated the first few seasons has long been gone.  Looking back at this episode reminds me how much I miss it.   Penalizing "Of Grave Importance" for something that's been missing for a while isn't fair, but it is glaring upon comparison.

"Playthings" also had a much creepier ghost story.  It was the tone of the story telling back then.  It is slower, a lot more suspenseful in it's plotting, and you really were worried about the danger the family was in.  The reveal that Maggie is a ghost is pretty cool.  "Of Grave Importance" didn't quite have that "gotcha" and the scenes were too scattered and thrown together to build any type of suspense.  For example, the shower scene did not have to be cut back and forth between the teenagers going into the house.  Those scenes would have worked much better from a scare standpoint independent of each other.  The back and forth ruined the intent of the shower scene (no, that's not wet Dean in a towel).  It took away a lot of the emotional impact when learning Bobby was there.   

However, "Of Grave Importance" has a far more charming ghost story.  We get to see life through the ghost perspective, and it's great that Bobby has a friend on the other side that he has some real chemistry with.  "Of Grave Importance" has a very compelling philosophical predicament.  Sam and Dean again are faced with a damning moral dilemma.  Putting this ghost to rest isn't so straight forward.  It isn't natural, but at the same time, they owe Bobby his chance to play out his decision.  It's not meant to last forever as we learned through the deteriorating ghosts in the house.  But it's long enough.  How long until Bobby can rest?  

I love Annie, far more than Susan in "Playthings."  My husband easily figured out what a lot of others did, she reminds us of Ellen.  Spunky, level headed, smart, and you can't hate any woman that slept with BOTH Winchesters.  If anything, she's a huge target for insane fan girl jealousy.  She manages to work her way through the ghost world, finding an ally in Victoria, and accepting in devastating fashion that it's her time.  The scene where she sees her corpse is gorgeous.  She could never take her eyes off her body and the camera stayed with her for a good long while, sharing every heartbreaking emotion rushing through her stunned glare as she accepts her fate.  Such scenes are so rare these days.  Most of the shots aren't slowed down anymore to capture that essential moment, especially with a guest character.  I'm more moved by that scene than any others in the episode.

"Of Grave Importance" has one big drawback.  The ghost story has a lot of holes in it.  I didn't notice a lot of plot inconsistencies in "Playthings."  I just didn't like the dolls all that much.  Here's a list of what I found in "Of Grave Importance." 
  • Why can't a reaper visit the house?  How were the ghosts stranded?  
  • How did Victoria manage to show herself to Sam and Dean?  
  • Why didn't Van Ness kill Sam and Dean after Victoria?  Why go with them?
  • In "The Slice Girls" Dean speculated that Bobby was in the flask.  So why didn't it dawn on Sam then that the flask wasn't around?  The writers of this story wrote that episode too, so they had to know that happened.  Garth even raised the issue that Bobby was haunting the flask in the last episode.  Why was Sam so defiant he checked last week and then only realized this week the flask wasn't around?  He's not that slow.  There's so much poor continuity in the writing.  They have to know we fans keep track of this stuff!
  • What happened that made Bobby visible to Sam and Dean at the end?  Did Van Ness make him more powerful, or did Bobby already reach that on his own? 

All that's left to compare is the endings.  "Playthings" isn't as depressing.  Susan and Tyler are able to move on, bittersweetly though without Rose, Sam gets a hero hug, but he doesn't let Dean forget about his promise.  Then it all fades with the very creepy ending of Rose and Maggie as children playing upstairs.  It's classic "Supernatural."    

"Of Grave Importance" is crushing.  Is it in a good way? Sure.  When the case is over Dean can't hold back.  What Bobby did isn't natural.  I don't think Dean is wrong in feeling that way, but his attitude in this episode is a big turn around from the prior episodes.  I assume it means he's had time to think about it.  He even said at the restaurant, "Even though I wish we could see him again doesn't mean we should."  The problem is, Dean's attitude shift took a lot of us by surprise.  We were given the impression from the last few episodes that he was really hoping Bobby was around.  I don't like how we weren't able to see him go through the process of getting from point A to point B.  That's the kind of character exposition that's been missing a lot in these packed and unfocused scripts of late.   


Look at "Playthings."  We got to see a how Sam's mindset progressed in that three weeks between that episode and "Hunted."  He's spent all that time searching and then out of the blue takes a job from Ellen.  Dean's surprised by this: 

Dean:  I just figured after Ava there'd be, uh, you know, more angst and droopy music and staring out the rainy windows, and, yeah, I'll shut up now.
Sam:  Look. I'm the one who told her to go back home. Now her fiancé's dead and some demon has taken her off to God knows where. You know? But we've been looking for a month now, and we've got nothing. So I'm not giving up on her, but I'm not going to let other people die either. We've got to save as many people as we can.
Dean:  Wow. That attitude is just way too healthy for me, and I'm officially uncomfortable now. Thank you.

See, just a few lines to explain how they've gotten to this place.  That's what is missing for Dean in "Of Grave Importance."  As for Sam, he tries to be optimistic, but at the same time he isn't very convincing.  To be honest, we didn't get much from Sam at all this episode.  He didn't even eat his taco.  He's back to internalizing I guess.  I know he's a pragmatist, so he probably knows this isn't right.  I hate guessing though.  Again, just a few more lines.  Both brothers obviously have a lot to absorb and think about.  In the meantime though, they have a ghost in their backseat.  

So what did we learn from this exercise?  I'm not sure really.  I don't think I proved that one episode is better than the other, just that both took different approaches that worked in some ways and failed in others.  I think "Playthings" is more streamlined in story and focused.  I think it's no secret that many of the scripts in season seven haven't been that focused.  Are they worse though? Not necessarily.  The stories and situations are more complex.  For those though that see an episode like "Of Grave Importance" and like it, but can't quite figure out what was missing, sometimes it helps to compare it with an episode of similar vein.  

Sam and Dean are very different now for sure.  They aren't as close.  They're burned out, aren't enjoying the job much and aren't relying on each other for emotional support.  Some love that creative direction, some don't.  Just like some loved the idea of Sam and Dean having a roadhouse and support network to go to for help in season two and some hated it.  I think that a lot of us just want the brothers to be brothers again, and an episode like "Playthings" reminds us what that's like.  In terms of family drama though, dealing with a family member that they've painfully lost once and will likely lose again, "Of Grave Importance" wins hands down.  You pick which scenarios you prefer.  

Overall grade of "Of Grave Importance," a B-.  The ghost story is great, but the episode was really light on character exposition and scare factor.  It's also pretty light for this far into the season, but at this point, Bobby is back and my happiness over that will get me by.  



# Ginger 2012-04-24 08:23
Very interesting review, Alice, and a nice take comparing the episode to Playthings. There was also the ghost hiding bodies in Ghostfacers, Cole learning to move things and two hunters as ghosts in Death Takes a Holiday. All better episodes than this one.

But the fact is, and I agree with you, the scariest, most eerie thing in the episode was the very idea of GhostBobby lurking over the boys' shoulders 24/7. I don't think that was the intent of the episode, but that is just creepy as hell and makes Bobby creepy as hell.

I've made comments about the episode on other reviews here, and I'm not going to repeat myself. I was entertained for an hour, so I call that decent TV, but that's to do more with the J2s than the episode itself.

If I were to judge this episode by past SPN standards, I would be sorely disappointed in the really ridiculous and very elementary problems with this episode, and the whole season, really, and I am a very casual TV watcher (but an avid SPN fan). Unfortunately the elementary mistakes are even more glaring this season than last season, and I thought that season was a train wreck.

For me, the problems of writing, consistency, pacing, plotting, chaotic characterizatio n, all of it, are harming the brothers' characters worse this year than last, and you touched on that in the review. Of course we viewers know that Bobby moved a sword JUST AN EPISODE AGO, a book SIX EPISODES AGO, and swigged beer not that many episodes ago. Why don't the writers remember that? Why doesn't the showrunner remember that?

Of course we viewers know that both Sam and Dean have been to Heaven and Hell, and so does Bobby. Why does Bobby tell Annie he doesn't know what's lies beyond?

A reaper always shows up when a person dies. Is there a no reaper trespassing sign on this one house allowing a ghost can usurp a reaper's role (and Death's, for that fact, because reapers work for Death).

The show has literally beat viewers over the head that Dean WANTED Bobby back and Sam trying to make Dean accept that he was gone. show...really.. .the roles are reversed and we get a silly exposition speech from Sam in the middle of an emotional scene explaining why he had not been able to contact Bobby previously.

The bottom line for me is that, while there have been some very decent episodes if taken on an individual basis, when canon is trashed or there are glaring inconsistencies within the season and even within an individual episode, all investment in the story flies out the window.

There's really no nice way of saying this, so I'll just blurt it out, and I don't mean to be out of line in saying this. Is there any leadership on this show? It's past the time for somebody to take a firm hand, and I'm hoping Carver will do that.

I am at the point of just watching each episode this season to see if I'm entertained. If the weekly writer doesn't know what the hell is going on, there is no point in me trying to keep track of storyline or where the two main characters are at any given time.

Rant over. Let me just heap some praise on the J2s, because I know their jobs have to be unduly hard this season because of whatever it is that is going on behind the scenes. There are silver linings to dark clouds, after all, so thank God the Js are so talented. They keep me invested and hanging in there waiting for better times.
# Gerry 2012-04-24 23:02
I didn't find many plot holes in the story. Bobby does know there is heaven and hell; what he doesn't know is what happens when you are stranded on earth and get your bones burned. It may be you go where you were originally supposed to and it may be you actually cease to exist. They don't know. It's especially interesting for Bobby because he refused to go with his reaper.

The haunted house story has embedded within it that the normal death process is not at work. Whatever mojo Whitman had allowed that house to trap spirits. We didn't get the background, but the premise is not new. The house is a trap and supernatural forces are at work.

I think Dean has been shown moving through the stages of grief since Bobby died. Both he and Sam thought they wanted Bobby back at any cost at first. By last episode, Dean was less attached to the idea of the ghost--Sam talked him out of it rather easily because he was ready to accept his desire for the ghost was really an expression of grief. At the beginning of this episode, he's ready to say he may want to see Bobby, but that doesn't mean he should. Rationally, Dean knows staying behind as a ghost is not a good thing. He had his own moment with a reaper. He's dealt with his grief enough to start being rational.

Bobby says in this episode that it takes him an enormous amount of energy to move things and he blacks out afterward. He can't just move things on demand when he wants. In order to do that, he has to find the Zen state. The story didn't say Bobby had never moved anything, but that he wanted to crack the code of how to interact at will, so he wasn't so frustrated and didn't black out.

Since the haunted house was a place where the veil between the spirit world and the living world is very thin, as Bobby gets stronger, he is able to be seen by Sam and Dean. His part of the story is cracking the code and he does. Victoria had already learned how to interact with the living, which is why she can appear to Sam and Dean and pick up things. She's been a ghost a long time.

For me, the core of the story is all about grief and letting go, from both Sam and Dean's perspective and also from Bobby's. It's about the cost of staying behind--will Bobby pay with the price with his soul? Will Sam and Dean have to hunt him, perhaps to destroy him completely, not send him to heaven? Bobby's made a huge choice, different from the one Dean was going to make and the one everyone counseled Cole to make. I don't blame Dean for being terrified he will have to hunt Bobby. I'm terrified he may have to hunt Bobby.

I love that the writers are following through on the dodging the reaper issue with consequences. I don't think there's any comparison at all with Playthings. I found that episode alright, but light. This one is exploring deep territory.
Mimi Rosen
# Mimi Rosen 2012-04-24 12:20
Have I missed something? Bobby tells Annie he tried to help the boys out once by knocking a book off the table.... I took this to mean that Bobby is not the one who slid the sword back to Dean in Party on Garth. It may also mean he's not the one who shifted the papers in Slice Girls. Judging from Bobby's lack of ghost skills initially in this epi, something or someone else must have been helping Dean and Sam. For me, this was the biggest news from this episode.
# digyd 2012-04-24 13:00
Bobby also said he was knocked out for a long time after doing that, so I took it to mean that he did in fact still have something to learn about how to do this right.
# rmoats8621 2012-04-25 02:54
How about the sigil that appeared on the ceiling in "The Repo Man"? Bobby doesn't mention that he did that.... I would think that would have come up in his conversation with Annie. Could there be another player on the board that we don't know about yet? I guess it could be a possibility that needs to be taken into consideration.
# digyd 2012-04-24 12:59
So you're comparing this to Playthings, which was season 2 and neither Sam nor Dean had been hardened by time in hell yet. They were absolutely more playful then, but death didn't seem to go into overdrive in their lives until after that, no?

I'm just making excuses, I know it. I just think there is something to be said for time, children (at least where Dean is concerned) and the relentless pressure by their lives rubbing away some of that youthful joviality we love so much. I am hoping that will come back somehow, but I think it should be factored in. And I agree the writers don't act like they are remembering nearly as much as we are. But I guess I'm still in wait-and-see mode, so with each episode I can sit back and just take it for what it is.

I need to ponder this comparison to Playthings though. I could see the comparison to In My Time of Dying and even a little of Faith, but Playthings? Well, ok, same house and yeah there was a ghost but...I don't know about this. I didn't find that one as creepy. Well, ok. dolls are creepy by nature as far as I am concerned, but that was about it. In Of Grave Importance, that banshee-like chick? I didn't see that coming until I saw her coming and that was genuine creep factor for me. And now that I think of it, ok, you can ask the same question of Playthings as you do of OGI - where is the reaper in this scenario? I can guess the girl said no, but are we to assume the grandmother did too? Because whatever we assume for that, I think we have to assume for OGI.

I don't know. I will think about it, but right now I think this comparison is a bit of a stretch for me. It seems like it would have been fairer yet produced the same questions if it had been judged all by itself. But I think it makes perfect sense to use a barometer. I just don't know if Playthings would qualify.
# Alice 2012-04-24 16:16
I have an easy explanation why I chose "Playthings." I wanted to pick an earlier season ghost story, but one that was not a series classic like "In My Time of Dying" or "Faith." After all, that wouldn't make the comparison fair, since "Of Grave Importance" is hardly a series classic. I needed something mediocre. Pentadactyl put it best, it was a location-centri c ghost story, so it seemed to fit.

I also like the contrasts. "Playthings" had a lot more humor. It wasn't a great ghost story, but it had it's moments. "Of Grave Importance" went for a more sympathetic play on ghosts, but it wasn't a great ghost story either. Different styles for sure, but my main purpose was showing how similar themed stories are approached in earlier seasons compared to now. Food for thought. I also do believe I acknowledged in the review that Sam and Dean are indeed very different now.

Why compare with an earlier episode? It sounded like something fun to do rather than give a standard review for an average episode, especially when 4 other reviews have been published like that before mine on this site. I hate being repetitive!
# digyd 2012-04-24 16:39
Well thank you for very much for not wanting to be repetitive. I DO appreciate that and always will. Food for thought? Yep. And that's why I'm still thinking on it.

But making these kinds of comparisons in the first place is part of the fun of this. I may not get to where you are with this particular comparison, but I will defend to the death your right to compare it! :P
# Thisoldbag58 2012-04-24 18:02
Great review! I enjoyed the comparison to the prior episode as it made me really think about something that has been bothering me this season (and I have really enjoyed this season!). But I notice what I have not enjoyed are the cut aways showing 2 different actions instead of focusing on one for longer and then switching to the next. This irritates me in 'The Girl Next Door' cutting between past and present way too often, and also in 'The Slice Girls'. Almost as if someone wants to be too "artsy" with the camera work but forgot that too much can impede the flow of the story (plus makes fast-forwarding thru one to see the part you want to see- but that might be just me.)
Thanks for making me think about it deeper.
# BagginsDVM 2012-04-24 21:13
Intriguing idea to compare episodes with 5 years time between them! It did remind me how much I miss the humor & playful kidding between the brothers of those early seasons. Yet, I can't expect things to be the same; there is simple passage of time as the brothers age & mature, not to mention the misery they've both endured over those 5 years, that has forever changed their relationship. I do think they've grown closer & more comfortable with each other again. They seem back in tune with each other on hunts. Just the way they discussed the case while Dean was in the shower & Sam in the other room, door open between them, was evidence of that for me.

Dean's seemingly abrupt change of mind regarding Bobby's presence certainly could have been better shown with an additional scene or two of dialogue with Sam. I think the main catalyst, however, was the undeniable visual & audible proof of Bobby appearing before them. Both boys had to have known the flask was the key, especially once Garth pointed it out. I think both wanted Bobby to still be there, but wanting & then actually having, can be very different things. After Dean's experiences, especially as Death for a day, he knows nothing good comes of trying to change the "natural order" (although does that go along with the idea of destiny? In which case, our Team Free Will would be opposed to the natural order. OK, maybe I'm over thinking this...).

I am confused by the lack of reapers for the victims in the house. I can't imagine that Van Nuss would be powerful enough to fend off reapers & keep those souls trapped there. The guys were able to eliminate him easily enough by burning his bones. I think Bobby did absorb some of his power, enough to make himself manifest to the boys.

There's a lot to fit into these next episodes, if the Leviathan issue is to be resolved by the end of the season. I am fascinated to see where the writers go with GhostBobby, and whether that will be wrapped up yet this season. I love Jim & want him to stick around, but I don't want Bobby to remain a ghost.
# MisterGlass 2012-04-24 21:52
Thanks Alice for the review and the comparison.

Humor. I do so miss it.

"Playthings" to me was a solid MOtW episode, with some real mystery and suspense, mixed with brotherly fussing. This episode lacked the mystery, the suspense, and the emotion.

I know "show, don't tell" is a little worn out as a story mantra, but I feel like that's what the dialogue between Bobby and the boys was there at the end. It was rushed exposition, and surely could have been spread into the next episode. And as you said Dean's response was such an about face from his previous attitude; even Sam, who struggled against the 'unnatural' label for so long, acted oddly.

The only genuine emotion in this episode was when Annie saw her own body. She was a fair one-off character, and you are right, very Ellen-esque, almost to the point of becoming indistinct by comparison. However, I did enjoy what she provided.

As for mystery and suspense, things felt a little obvious, and the only people we would worry about are already dead in the first ten minutes. The fate of the ghosts could have been explored in more detail, as their breakdowns and isolation were horrible. The Haunting 101 was interesting, but I couldn't help but compare it to Sam and Dean's experience in "Death Takes a Holiday", which was more entertaining.

Reaper immediately came to mind for me, too. Also, why didn't Bobby just go through the wall to find the bodies? If he didn't know yet that they were in there, there was no reason he needed to find a door. He would only have needed to find it afterward.

Does the composition of the shots seem awfully straightforward in this episode? It felt almost documentary-lik e, and that did not help the suspense.

I hope I'm not complaining too much. I'm just confused by this one. It felt muddled.
Pragmatic Dreamer
# Pragmatic Dreamer 2012-04-24 22:24
Hi Alice,

Thanks for the review. Very intriguing to compare it to an episode from an earlier season. I likey!

I had the same observation about the boys and their opinion reversals.

In the case of Dean, I was really bothered. It seems to me it was a case of getting what you wished for, but really wishing it wasn't that at all!

I'll explain. I think Dean's hunter instincts (he's a very intuitive guy) were always telling him that the weird happenings were GhostBobby's doing. But he was scared to believe it. His heart really wanted another moment with Bobby. But if Bobby was back, it had to be as a ghost and that wouldn't be good news for anyone.

I think his comment at the beginning "Just because we want to see him, doesn't mean we should" kind of summed it up. Without clear proof, he was torn on the issue, not sure what outcome he really wanted. But seeing GhostBobby in the NotFlesh, decided it for him. As much as he was thrilled to see him, it was still against the natural order. He has finally learned the lesson that choosing the supernatural carries a heavy burden and an exorbitant cost. It's huge character development, but in keeping with Dean. He's been warning others against it, since just before he went to Hell himself. (I'll admit he doesn't listen to that advice himself. Although, he hasn't done any mega self-sacrifice since his experience as Death in AIS. He doesn't like anyone taking big risks for him. It's the guilt thing again)

Sam's switcheroo bothered me more. Canon suggests he's always been more open to the possible benefits or advantages of the supernatural. But I'm not sure his comment "Maybe we could make it work" was totally optimistic. I think he might have been saying it to convince both himself and Dean that maybe the situation had a bright side. (Kind of like when you've cut yourself really, really badly -- bone & tendon glistening - and you keep telling yourself it's really just a slight flesh wound!) I think he was also uncomfortable with the reality of GhostBobby.

But I found his reversal too sudden. For so many episodes he had been trying to talk Dean out of it being GhostBobby and now he's embracing the idea. There needed to be more hesitation or even one brief line. "I'm worried to but..."

As for no Reapers, maybe under certain circumstances if you're killed violently or unexpectedly, a Reaper can't get to you. So your soul is trapped and creates the vengeful spirit. (Not very pleasant, since an innocent victim gets victimized again. ) Not a strong hypothesis but it is possible.

One last thought.. I think the boys are still as close as Playthings and still rely on each other emotionally,but how that is expressed has changed. I do really miss the humour and the easy camaraderie of the joking and teasing. I think if the boys engaged in some of that now it might help ease the burden they're carrying, at least for a little while. But I do see them reaching out to each other - tacos on the hood, (I think Sam didn't eat because he was scared about spilling taco sauce on his shirt!), sharing foxhole experiences!!

I really wish we'd met Annie when she was alive. She was a great character, and a wonderful negative to Bobby. She lived a solitary life and welcomed the peace death might bring her. She pointed out he had the love of the boys gave him something to hold on to in life and death.

I do sometimes wonder about the continuity. In my mind's eye, there's a book of past episodes in the Writers Room and it's kind of like a Bible that gets consulted frequently. Maybe they're just lapsed scribes?

I'm finding my curiousity quite piqued by all these echoes of episodes past. Makes me wonder what episode the cliffhanger finale might echo - possessed Bobby (a twist on John in DT), someone going back to Hell or being transformed or save at a terrible cost? Hmmmmm


Pragmatic Dreamer
Pragmatic Dreamer
# Pragmatic Dreamer 2012-04-24 22:28
Oops . I made a typo. I meant to say in Dean's case I WAS NOT really bothered. (Naughty abbreviations.! )
# MetamorphicRocks 2012-04-24 23:18
Very interesting review, Alice. I liked this episode; I thought the story was pretty original in terms of seeing what happens to a ghost from the ghost's perspective. I also like that this storyline has the potential to give us some emotional depth in terms of how Sam, Dean and Bobby are all relating to each other.

I completely agree with you that the cutting back and forth between the shower scene and the teenagers made that scene have much less emotional impact. They seem to be doing that frequently in many episodes this season.

Just to continue the comparison of this episode with "Playthings" for another moment, I was curious about how long each pivotal scene (Sam drunk in the motel room and the shower scene with Bobby) lasted, and this is what I came up with:

The "Playthings" scene was roughly 2 min. 30 sec long. That means we, as viewers, were in that room with Sam and Dean during that emotional moment between the two of them that entire time.

By contrast, in the shower scene, we got approximately 18-20 seconds of Dean and Sam being surprised by the writing on the bathroom mirror and then a cut to the teenagers. Then we got roughly 25-27 seconds more with surprised Sam and Dean until another cut before returning to the boys for approximately 20 more seconds when they realize Bobby is with them.

As you stated Alice, all those cuts lessened the emotional impact of that scene. I'm curious to know why we used to get these longer emotional scenes (not just between the boys, but the boys with other characters, and other characters even without the boys) and now it seems that frequently we get alot of those cuts that really disturb the emotion of the scenes.

Thinking back to a film class I took in college, though I don't remember much about what was stated regarding editing, I do remember it was said that it should be seamless; that is, it should enhance the moment but you shouldn't notice it (or something like that).

Does anyone know if the SPN editors/group of editors are the same ones from previous seasons? Things seem faster and choppier now, but maybe that is just a conscious choice on their part. I prefer it the old way, though.
# Ginger 2012-04-25 06:52
I, too, had taken notice of the rapid back and forth cuts. It's even more noticeable that the boys are on-screen or the action scenes are only seconds long when you're FF'g to pick up certain points in an episode...and it has been going on all season long. Good follow-up to Alice's point.
# Alice 2012-04-25 13:47
This is EXACTLY the thing I've noticed in an article I'm currently writing (which I'm not sure when I'll finish). They took a lot more time in the past to draw out emotional scenes, slowing the action down and giving the scene enough time to play out with the greatest emotional impact. Season seven, with the exception of a few, most notably the warehouse scene in "Hello Cruel World," hasn't been doing these long scenes.

One example I cite in the article is the ending scene in "Malleus Maleficarum" between Dean and Ruby took 4 minutes to play out and was very artfully done. In the ending talk of "Shut Up Dr. Phil," Sam was only given 1:23 to share his frustrations. It was choppy and rushed. This is one major reason why emotional impact has been missing this season.

I don't think they got new editors. I do remember reading how Eric Kripke used to live in the editing room in post production. Showrunner sets the tone. I'm speculating that Sera Gamble is playing that role now, and she isn't so concerned about drawing out emotional scenes anymore. In the past two seasons, she's been more focused on packing in as much story as possible.

Granted, I honestly don't know if Sera Gamble is totally to blame. Maybe she doesn't spend much time in the editing room anymore. Or maybe she never did. I don't know. Let's use this perspective for at least the second half of season seven. Imagine you're at a job that you've reached total burnout on and can't wait to leave. I can, because I've gone through job burnout. Would you be putting in as much careful attention to detail? Again, I don't know if that's the case, but that's certainly a plausible scenario. Something has changed, that's for sure.
# Bevie 2012-04-25 14:56
Thanks Alice.

I think you have finally hit on the real reason I'm so fond of seasons 1-3. The emotional scenes have been cut off much too soon or intersected with other scenes back and forth and not giving them time to register the emotional impact. Why? That was one of the reasons this show was so superior to others.

If I had to choose between Playthings and Of Grave Importance I would definitely like the latter but always pick Playthings to watch to grab my emotion meter. The scene with drunk Sam was exceptional and heart wrenching.

How I wish the creators and editors would keep this site on their radar! Just little tweaks could improve the episodes so much more. Jensen and Jared have proved they are capable of heart rending emotional scenes without going over the top and if edited right, we would be seeing that. And those scenes were pure gold and still are on re-watch!
# Ginger 2012-04-25 17:46
In the past two seasons, she's been more focused on packing in as much story as possible.

As you say, Alice, less is best, and several fans have mentioned this on boards I've read. I have found the mytharc episodes to be very crowded -- too crowded -- to do justice to the various things going on. From the synopsis of 7.22 that has come out, it sounds like it is going to be really crowded, too. Besides Sam and Dean, there's Dick Roman, Bobby, Cas, the Alpha, and Crowley and something about three keys. We heard before that the teenage Asian prophet was supposed to be in three episodes, and that would make him have to be in 7.22 any way it's looked at.

As the season has progressed, I've really felt like the extra episode this year was totally wasted on Becky. It's that plotting and pacing problem rearing it's head again.
# rmoats8621 2012-04-25 02:57
Alice, this was a great article. All the points that you brought up are correct, at least in my opinion. Let's hope that next year we'll have more continuity between the episodes and not so many gaps where we, the fans, are having to fill in all the plot holes with a lot of guessing....
# Sylvie 2012-04-25 09:18
That was a very interesting read. I liked "Playthings" when it was first aired and I go back to it quite often, so I enjoyed your comparisons to both.

I'm of the same mind as everybody else here, the emotional impact of some of these scenes in season 7 is being skewered with this continual back and forth camera work. Thanks to MetamorphicRock s for timing the shower scene from "Of Grave Importance" to the hotel scene between Sam & Dean in "Playthings". That scene had such an emotional impact, and the shower scene should have had as well. This is what is missing this season. The editing seems a little choppy.

Also continuity. These are the same writers from "Slice Girls", and yet the deal with the flask has fallen flat. And really both brothers are intelligent enough to have figured out it was the bloody flask anyway, why did it take so long? Yeah, yeah, okay, I understand the writers had to drag it along, but it was pretty easy to put two and two together.

From reading back it sounds like I didn't like this episode, but that would be wrong, I did like it. I agree with your grade, a B-. I enjoy a good ghost story and I thought Van Ness was a pretty nasty one at that. Maybe he had some sort of way to hold the reapers at bay? Obviously Annie never got to see hers, otherwise she would have never stuck around. Speaking of, I very much enjoyed Annie, she reminded me of Ellen (how I miss her).

So onto Friday. From the preview, it looks like it's going to be quite enjoyable and move the Leviathan story along.
# olivia1972 2012-04-26 14:54
spot on review alice. i really appreciate them. i, too, missmissMISS the brotherly interaction, love, humor, angst and deep emotional connection of the past. it is sad to say, i don't even look forward to the show anymore -- and i have great respect for the cast & crew. i feel so beyond disappointed with this season and the lack of continuity on all fronts. it is hard to know why the show has "progressed" the way it has without being directly involved. i do wish sara the very best and am holding out hope that jeremy carver can revive the show's heart : the brother's complex, yet powerful relationship. (really, i don't even get the feeling sam & dean even like each other anymore. they don't seem to have a believable emotional investment in each other -- save the uber-excellent episode: hello cruel world) so i will give season 8 a try, but i have no hope for anything interesting or authentic to transpire from now 'til the end of the season. p.s. it would behoove the creative team to read all of your reviews from the past 2 years! i truly believe it could help them ...