I did something I normally don't do before writing my weekly review. I went and read other people's reviews. I honestly wanted to see if I was missing something, if my reservations about the tired pacing, lackluster tension, and absence of originality in this episode were unfounded. I even watched the episode right away after the first airing on Friday night just so I could confirm that I did indeed miss something. Sadly, the impact from the second watch was no better than the first.
I'm sorry, I tried. I wanted to love this episode so much, especially coming off strong two weeks. I wanted to give this the benefit of the doubt, since it did check all the boxes (which turned out to be a problem). I just couldn't love "There Will Be Blood." I couldn't really like it either, but I think the status falls just below the line of like, still far from hate.
Don't get me wrong, "There Will Be Blood' wasn't a total waste. There were some great individual scenes and parts. The problem was, they didn't come together great as a whole, which has really been a struggle for many of the episodes this season. Why don't I start with what worked?
I swear I saw a hint of the old show when Sam and Dean were on the bench with the tainted corn syrup affected vegetable man, who mindlessly sucked in more poison with his giant slurpee and his Plucky Pennywhistle's t-shirt. Sam and Dean casually talked to each other about the case on the Biggersons bench with this guy in the middle while getting his blood in a painful yet non-resistant way. The cop firing off his siren to the beat of "Why Can't We Be Friends" was a nice touch. That's exactly the type of quirky fun the show used to have with various scenes in more serious episodes. Remember the poking Rose with a stick line in "Playthings?" Castiel and Meg in "Caged Heat?" It's like those. Oh and yes, you can draw blood from a hand vein. It's not ideal, but because I have small veins, it's happened to me lots of times.
I also loved what the additive did to the vampires and the entire dramatic showdown between Leviathan Edgar and the Alpha Vamp. At least these two characters were given some very meaty dialogue. The Leviathan don't want to just take out humans, they aren't tolerant of their own Purgatory brethren as well. I'm very happy the show decided to show that twist in the Leviathan plan. The monster deaths are quicker and more gruesome, showing just how much the Leviathan loathe their comrades in eternity.
The best part about the twist though was the golden opportunity to bring back the Alpha Vamp. I loved every scene the he was in and his return was a true delight. He was actually far more entertaining than in the episode then when he was captured last season in "Family Matters." When he's in control, he can be downright chilling, but he's not stupid either. He saw that Sam and Dean were right pretty quickly, and it didn't take much to convince him to play ball. I did love the "See you next season," line myself, even if it was a blatant attempt at meta by the writers. Dean's, "I'm looking forward to it," was equally as amusing.
Also, I love the latest developments with Bobby, even if I've had reservations in general about the ghost story line. He's angry, unstable, very smart and well versed in ghost lore, and yes, a very serious threat. He's also been helpful, even if I'm still trying to figure out how he could have popped in to that house and then back into the car again (I believe that's been brought up enough in other reviews, so I won't dwell). I can easily see a tearful moment coming of Sam and Dean burning the flask. What choice do they have? Possessing the maid is taking things too far. I've said it before and I'll say it again, this just isn't going to end well.
Finally, and by far the best part, there's plenty of amazing eye candy from a cinematography perspective. There were some truly gorgeous shots, and most of them came from the Alpha Vamp's mansion. Guy Bee and Serge Ladoucer really went for broke and they came out with a visual masterpiece. The framing, the tricks of the light, the camera angles, just gorgeous and very effective. Jerry Wanek and his team also deserve major kudos for set decoration. I could devote a whole review just to that, but why don't a share a few visual gems instead. The pictures speak way louder than words.
What Didn't Connect
All the markers were in place. This episode at a very basic level did exactly what it was supposed to do, setup what was needed to take us into the climactic season finale. That's the problem though, it was executed at a basic level. It was almost if each scene was written, a check box was ticked, and they moved onto the next one. I swear I was watching a live action manufacturing pick list. There was no urgency, no gut punching "humanity hanging in the balance" feeling. I was missing the butterflies.
This is season seven, and I suppose that Sam and Dean aren't going to attack saving the world again with the same intensity. But I felt far more intensity even with the recent "The Girl With The Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo" than this episode. How were those different? Pacing and flow for one. "Girl" was so fluid from scene to scene and grasped my attention from beginning to end. It was also very clever. "There Will Be Blood" was a bunch of scenes pieced to together that accomplished a purpose, but didn't quite capture the magic when put together. Robbie Thompson, the writer "Girl," brings to the table a gift for sharper dialogue and top notch pacing, something that has always been a clear weakness for writers Dabb and Loflin. The latter tends to fill their space with bad jokes, pandering shout outs, and toilet humor. That works for a "Plucky Pennywhistle's Magical Menagerie," but not an episode with more serious undertones.
Characterization is also an issue. Sam and Dean were different in this episode. At first I thought they were out of character, but now it's conceivable they could really in character and they've been mostly out of character this season. Either way, it's an inconsistency. For example, Sam's urgent pleas to the Alpha Vamp and his agitated behavior through the entire search for him had me wondering why he's acting that way. Sure, that could actually be the Sam of old, but season seven Sam has been calm and handling with practically little emotion everything that comes his way. That's actually a criticism of mine about S7 Sam, but still, to have him acting very differently from the rest of the season stands out.
Dean was better, back to drinking whiskey and whining about having to eat healthy food (radishes Sam, really?), but he was actually less about going through the motions for once and more about catching the bad guys. Again, it was nice to see this side of Dean, but this has been the farthest thing from season seven Dean. He just can't be acting this way overnight when he hasn't all season. However, I will admit to watching Dean's new custom leather jacket more than his behavioral quirks. (Yum!)
As for the rest of it, what a mess. The poor victimized girl Emily didn't attract me to the story. It felt too, yes you know the word that's coming, procedural. Like I was watching "Supernatural: SVU." Again, she served a purpose to the story, but this is episode 22. The action and intensity should be amped up to 11 at this point. Her drama just seemed to drag everything down and take away valuable time that could go toward the action or brotherly tension. Remember the days when Sam and Dean could smell a double cross? You know, the days when they were smarter? I also get the outrage about the young boy captured by the Alpha Vamp, but it just felt off given the context of everything else happening. It didn't seem necessary.
Also, the big menace that will take down the world is high fructose corn syrup? Oh please. Can't the Leviathan do better than that? Remember just two years ago, when the threat of the Croatoan virus being released into the world had us on the edge of our seats in "Two Minutes til Midnight?" Death sending chills up our spines by just one cold stare, let alone eating pizza with Dean? Tell me, were you feeling the same way when watching a bunch of sloths gaze incoherently at the slurpee machine?
The issue once again is emotional disconnect. It's not that the brothers aren't working well together, they are. I certainly don't expect them to get all weepy and start shedding the long missing single man tears either. But they aren't emotionally invested in anything. They aren't even effectively dealing with Bobby or trying to talk to him rationally like they normally would. They're all about freaking out over angry spirit stuff, having random worried talks that are too short to go anywhere, and putting him away when it suits them. The conversations about Bobby are lacking tension and urgency. I did see a hint of something firing at the end when they realized Bobby was gone, but that was ruined by Crowley getting stuck in a high tech Devil's Trap (which was really cool by the way. I want one in my basement). It's again trying to do too much and not slowing down the story for impact at the right moments.
In the random notes department, car of the week (and it looks like the be the last freaking damned one!) is a 1969 Plymouth GTX, in very awful salmon coral color. No, that car doesn't stand out at all (sarcasm). Come on, the Impala is more subtle! The Impala is FINALLY back next episode. Writers, don't ever, ever take her away again.
Facing the End of Season Seven
Not to sound negative or anything, but I really am looking forward to season seven being over. You can tell the writers are fatigued, since Sam and Dean are going into this home stretch pretty lackluster after being burned out and low key all season. The fandom mood in many instances is sour too. I know I'm tired! I just think we need a long, hard deep breath and a long summer to regroup.
When I do my season seven in depth look this summer hellatus, I'm going to dig into exactly what point it looks like the writers started phoning it in. It was clearly far longer than when this episode was constructed. For every great episode we've gotten, like last week's Ben Edlund offering, it's countered with something thin and lackluster, like this one. Again, it wasn't horrible, but it's not the kind of episode you'd expect for a lead in to the season finale. I know there's a lot of resentment when I do comparisons with other shows (yes "Nikita" and "The Vampire Diaires" have rocked it), but just look at episodes from prior seasons that have lead into the finales for "Supernatural." Most have done better. I should also note that where the writing has lacked, the production and acting have never been better. That has been most of season seven's saving grace.
I'll tell you though the biggest reason why I'm very looking forward to the season finale. Because hopefully this will finally mean the end of the dick jokes. Enough! It was funny for a couple of episodes but now, it just wreaks of desperation by writers that are showing some extreme fatigue as they drag themselves to the finish line.
Overall grade of "There Will Be Blood," a C. Cinematography, direction, and set decoration though, an A+. Easily the best of the season. Only one more guys. Let's hope it's a great one.