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Thoughts on "Supernatural": 8x18: Freaks and Geeks - by Elle

Like a good drama should, Supernatural has always been fairly adept at knowing when to break with the heavy episodes and when to keep us wringing our hands and searching for the anti-anxiety meds for weeks on end. Some have undoubtedly felt frustrated this season with the pacing, it's perhaps a little too slow on the reveals at times and following the dramatic cliffhangers of last week Freaks and Geeks might have only added to that frustration. In my opinion however, the episode was just right and came at the right moment - a pausing breathe in the wake of some very interesting twists. 

As far as filler episodes go, they tend to lean a few ways: awful, awesome or just meh. For me, this one was pretty awesome. It featured some excellent characters, a good plot and clever script and an interesting MoTW to boot. So let's take a closer look at Freaks and Geeks and what made it so enjoyable to watch.

Welcome to Sunnydale

We open on a blatantly fake make-out session in Conway Springs, Kansas. I say this because we know Krissy is a hunter so either her partner is a vamp or they're luring someone. Sure enough, this is a trap. Aiden leaves the car and when Krissy is grabbed from outside the others get him from behind, leaving him headless. Aiden cries in relief and the Junior Buffy Squad looks bad ass. I'll apologize right now, because there are about a thousand more Buffy references - it's not the vampire thing, it's the high school hunting squad thing.

Next we see Sam and Dean who've come across a vampire story in the paper. Dean offers to let Sam take a break, to which Sam takes offence and suggests Dean is the one who needs a break from the emotional damage Cas did. Naturally, as we and Sam would expect, this shuts Dean right up. Dean says he'll go "get some herbal tea and you can find some cowboy junkies on the dial." Likely, this was Sam's intention. This was a good moment between the two and it tells us a lot about the state of their relationship. First, as we know from last week, things about Sam are still open and honest, but it's not as heavy a plot point as it could be at this point. I'm sure it will be in the future otherwise I don't see why it would be such a pointed element so often; but at this juncture Sam isn't well, they're both concerned and have discussed it, but they can't do anything about it so they might as well keep moving forward as best they can.

Second, Dean has obviously discussed in detail his encounter with Castiel and he and Sam must have come to a decision either not to go after him directly at this time or to not go after him period. The same can be said for Naomi and her desire to see the Winchester(s) dead. Regardless of whether we the viewer are privy to it, this all suggests the boys have discussed and made decisions about these issues, at least as far as handling them for the time being. It gives reassures me about the future directions of the seasons major storylines in that lack of dangling-plot point kind of way.

Lady Killer Murders

Boy, that sheriff is one creative guy with a name like that. The FBI routine gives the boys access to the security footage which tips Dean off to Krissy's involvement, where he promptly shuts down the Sheriff Department's investigation into the murders. It's interesting just how pissed Dean is to find out she's hunting - considering when he was her age his kill list was probably quite extensive.
Krissy and her fake ID are able to get Aiden and Josephine into a motel room with some cash where the gang is using some interesting tech as they track another vampire. Here I can't help but reference BTVS again with all the one liners being tossed out by the teens - "good luck kisses" gets a response of "punch you in the throat instead" - yes, these kids would fit well at Sunnydale High. The laptop, headcams and mobile coms are a lot different from Sam and Dean's hunting ways - but the boys still manage to track Krissy to her room. I love that it's as simple as the human factor here: Dean just bribed the clerk with more money.

Josephine and Aiden end up in a room with a girl tied to a bed and a vampire, Sam and Dean crash the party while the vampire goes out the window towards a blue van. Krissy heads after the vampire and shoots it with dart filled with dead man's blood (Sam and Dean must steal this idea - as clever as rock salt in the gun). By the time Dean gets there the van is nowhere to be seen and Krissy has no idea what van he's referring too. From this moment, if it already didn't, the entire operation feels off: complete sincere rather than sinister, the vampire swears it didn't kill Josephine's family, though she offs him anyways. As Krissy was explaining to Dean how her dad did quit the life but then a vampire came in and ripped his throat out, I kept wondering why would it just leave you alone? For a clever girl, Krissy overlooked a critical piece of evidence in that.

From here of course, we get to meet Victor, the Giles to the Club Slayer. Victor is set up in a beautiful house and actually met the Winchesters once in Spokane on a rugaru job. Victor Rogers (oh, you writers, such clever names). Like the headmaster of school Creepy-Bad-Touch, Victor encourages Aiden to clean his room, Josephine to get on with studying for her trig test in the morning and expects a full hunt report from Krissy in the morning. He all but pats their heads as they go by. Victor couldn't possibly be a bad guy. He's all about the balanced approach: normal by day, hunters by night, because the next generation has to be better.
The thing is that in theory not everything Victor was saying was wrong. Quite often those psycho cults don't start on a totally wacked out principle. Hunters who were able to live normally, be educated, etc. just like other warriors in the world, for example the military, could be trained better and have better resources. Just not the way Victor was going about it. Sam even seemed to respond to what Victor was selling, and I think it was because it was a balanced life that didn't require closing the door on one in order to live the other making for a much more plausible existence once you know what goes bump in the night. While Sam wasn't arguing in favour of Victor, he certainly didn't seem too upset by it where as Dean couldn't get behind it at all. It is interesting to see how far they've each come from their initial view points on the life back in season one.

Sam stays to "look after the Brady Bunch" while Dean tries to buy time to figure out what do about Victor by hunting the vampire nest themselves. The next morning at the house, Sam is swept up in a flurry of morning activity as the kids eat breakfast and rush off for school. I enjoy this part of the episode a lot because although Sam never says much, it speaks a great deal to Sam's headspace at the moment - particularly coming off his last conversation with Meg. He and Victor have a whole conversation about Victor's family being killed by a wendigo. Victor says that the kids don't have to live like Sam and Dean, they can have real lives. Maybe this is the perfect end, perfect retirement for Sam. Not a hunter anymore but running a halfway house of sorts, settled into a semi-normal life and giving kids who have been drawn into the life a way to keep their normal lives too. I don't believe either Sam or Dean could ever fully and completely leave hunting, barring amnesia or a coma. They could step out physically though and guide the next generation. What does happen to all those kids who know how their families really died, who are old enough to comprehend and figure out what they've seen, or at least research it (particularly in today's internet world) but young enough to be placed in foster care or the like? They could become dangerous X factors like Gordon in the future without guidance. Victor's idea isn't all that insane, though I'm not advocating starting so young and certainly not suggesting murdering people's families just to draw them into the life. Something to consider.

While Sam bonds with Captain Crazy, the victim from the motel tells Dean that the vampire Jimmy Day wouldn't do something like this - and that he just came back from Afghanistan. She also mentions the blue van and a guy with a hoodie who asked the girl directions and then she woke up in hotel tied up with Jimmy crying saying he was sorry and he seemed scared.

Back at the house, Victor pulls kids out of school saying he's found the vampire that killed Krissy's dad. A female vamp of which Victor handily has security footage, police files, a police sketch and the vamp is wearing dad's necklace. For as clever as these kids are, none of them question how Victor figured out it was her? I know she has the necklace but that could have been bought and pawned a million times, who knows. Furthermore, what evidence did Victor serve up to these guys to prove the same nest did in their families? Note to self: be more suspicious of everyone. Sam does actually start to question the surveillance picture because it lacks a time stamp but is cut off; he relays this concern to Dean who says they shouldn't trust someone in a sweater. Despite this warning, after the kids have gone Sam points out the blue van outside the house to Victor and the two naturally head out to investigate. Was I really the only one yelling at Sam to run and/or shoot Victor at this point? I wondered if Sam would get vamp'd out this time around. No dice on that one, sadly. Naturally, the bad guy is the human factor: Victor. Poor Sam.

"Hunting isn't always about killing"

While Sam was being betrayed by Victor and his pet vampire, Dean has tracked Hoodie's hideaway to Conway Springs Lodge where he finds the girl from the surveillance photos, the supposed vampire who killed Krissy's dad - yet she's a newly turned vampire yet to taste human blood. Krissy and the Scooby Gang turn up guns a blazing eager to kill the girl. What I enjoyed about this episode in particular, and what I worried about after seeing the promo, was that despite their training and gear, Krissy and the kids were still too green for Dean and Sam. Aiden may be able to pick pockets and run his mouth like an old pro but don't aim a gun on Dean unless you want him to snatch it kid. That was a great moment. Dean talking to Krissy is almost like talking to young Dean, back when a monster was a monster, black and white, plain and simple. Krissy, Aiden and Josephine don't understand why they should care about the girl vampire even if she isn't the one who killed Krissy's father. She's still a monster, after all. Only she isn't in Dean's eyes and he manages to talk down the blood hungry mob of teens:  "Let's not be so blood thirsty anyone will do."

Stronger, Faster, Smarter - Not a person, a monster

Someone should do a count of how many times, collectively, the Winchesters have awoken tied to a chair by a nut. One tiny nitpick about this scene, and really it's the downfall of most bad guys: what the hell were you waiting for?! Why did Victor wait for Sam to regain consciousness before he started trashing the room? It would have been easier to have Hoodie kill Sam and get the room trashed long ago - the waiting thing makes plans so much easier to foil. Not that I'm complaining, but do they train for that in bad guy classes? Victor has well and truly lost it by this point, explaining that the kids'll come in to find Sam dead by vampire which will motivate them more. After that whole Leviathan thing - and it was good to have a reference back to that and to see some fall out at the small scale level - Victor is at war and it's necessary to create soldiers to survive.

There are two exceptional moments here: Sam's complete non-reaction to being tied up and told he's going to be killed by a crazed hunter (who ironically had ranted about hunters off their rockers recently) and a vampire helper. Sam just takes it all in like: "Huh. I thought it was Dean's turn to be kidnapped. Oh well."

The second part is when Dean and the kids come in to find Sam tied to a chair, Victor holding a gun with a vampire standing shoulder to shoulder with him and he launches into a "don't trust the Winchesters" speech. While this is amusing because so beyond believability at this point, it also drives home his desperation which is a sad thing to witness. Krissy pieces things together more quickly this time, and of course hoodie starts bragging about having killed their families. Victor admits to having scouted the families to pick the perfect soldiers and believes "his" kids can forgive him. Hoodie gets hold of Aiden and Victor thinks he's won, but his kids actually know more than him and shoot the vampire, leaving Krissy holding a gun to Victor's head.  This final moment was done very well - I didn't know whether Krissy would shoot Victor or not, and after she called him a monster I wasn't surprised she pulled the trigger. I was surprised there weren't bullets - nice fake out. I did wonder about letting him live though, because what is to say Victor won't move somewhere and do this all over again with new kids? Of course he solved that problem for all of us by shooting himself.

This was a very dark episode in many ways. Victor was a man who'd lost everything he loved in a war and was desperately trying to create an army capable of fighting that war. To create that army he found the perfect potential soldiers and cost them what they loved so they would not only be willing to fight, but so he could once again be a father figure. And ultimately this desperation left him as alone as when the first time around, only now it'd cost him two families. And the second wasn't dead; they'd left him - which may have been something even worse for his broken mind. Victor was a bad man, no doubt, but at the very end I felt sorry for him.

Close the Gates

In the end, we close on a slightly happier note with Krissy getting her dad's necklace back and the vampire girl being saved. Sam steps out and let's Dean and Krissy have a moment. I think it made sense for Krissy to stay with Aiden and Josephine - she told Dean they'd found a life together and that was true. Though Victor wasn't around anymore they'd still been through a lot together, not just the hunting but the betrayal of their mentor. It seems to be a better decision to leave Krissy with her pseudo-family who knows all, than force her into a situation where nobody understands what's really gone on. Especially after witnessing the aftereffects of loneliness and a hunter's knowledge first hand in Victor. Plus, Garth will pop in every now and again to check on them. Hand's up if you want to see that. Aiden, who has a major crush on Krissy, can't get Dean out the door fast enough. Dean pulls him aside for what Aiden thinks is the typically "I'll kill you if you hurt her" speech but Dean says Krissy will do that. I laughed out loud when Aiden locked the door behind Dean. These kids were all excellent characters and once I wouldn't mind seeing from time to time, they had great chemistry with each other and the Winchesters and brought some interesting new dynamics to the hunter lifestyle.

Sam thinks it's good that the kids have each other, but Dean isn't entirely certain about the situation and is only more motivated to close the gates of hell ASAP. He's convinced that these kids are hunters regardless, and there is only one way out of that lifestyle, except maybe with the gates closed they can have a chance at a normal life. We end on Sam saying to himself maybe the kids won't be the only ones with this chance, leaving me feeling more and more skeptical about where we're heading as the season ends. 

Final thoughts

Overall, I loved this episode. It had a strong premise, quick moving plot, truly excellent dialogue and in fact some good carry forward from the discussions and events of last week. Krissy is an excellent character, strong and witty but also youthful enough to still learn a thing or two and the same goes for Aiden and Josephine. As fillers go it was pretty good and actually managed to address some more pressing issues to the boys - like that normal life thing. Freaks and Geeks gave Sam a look into the future he didn't want and reinforced even stronger than before that he can either have a normal life or he can be a hunter, but cannot be both. Looking at Victor, particularly toward the end, he saw a man so consumed by the "war" he couldn't see beyond it for anything, and Sam doesn't want to be that man, ever. Nor does he want that for his brother. Sam and Dean walked away both even more highly motivated to close the gates. This week despite being a filler episode the show closed on a note of subtle but mounting intensity that will have this viewer tensely crossing off calendar days until next Wednesday.


# Ginger 2013-04-02 11:03
Sadly, I didn't enjoy this episode as much as you did. It wasn't as bad as I expected, and given the season, that is a compliment...I guess. While the premise could have been good, I found it flat and without purpose. At the end of it, I was left feeling sorry for Jimmy Day, a war hero and an innocent that will now spend his time fighting 24/7 in Purgatory.

What the episode left me with is wishing that the show would make up it's mind. Either the Winchesters are top-shelf hunters, or any civilian, adolescent, or idiot can do it. Either hunting is something heroic and valorous, or it's something miserable that nobody should ever do. Since the writers have pounded fans over the head for years now that it's a miserable job that leaves you miserable and the end goal is to find a normal life, the Winchesters are looking pretty pathetic in not just quitting and letting other hunters to it. I'm sure Crowley, Naomi, and Cas would all be happy not to have them mucking up their plans.
# Ale 2013-04-02 12:23
I don't know, Ginger, for me it's more realistic for them to be conflicted. Maybe because I'm conflicted myself, so I can relate. Sometimes I love my job, sometimes I hate it and sometimes I wish I was doing something else. And I don't have as near a hard, extreme job as Sam and Dean!

I feel it's highly believable to have those conflicted feelings when you do something that demands so much from
you - everything, in fact. It can be elating when you see you saved someone, but when you fail, or when the cost is too high (like loosing everybody you love or never having the chance to have something/someo ne for yourself), you may feel, I don't know, I little tired, perhaps, and think you have given enough.

And I think anyone can TRY to be a hunter - it's a free world. You can try anything you want. But be really good at something is another story. And I believe the show made it clear in these 8 years (and in this episode too), that Sam and Dean are top-shelf hunters. NO other hunter accomplished what they did. No even close. (I mean, the Apocalypse! for one). Maybe other hunters can kill vampires, wendigos or ghosts, or other vanilla hunts. But is up to the Winchesters to close the gates of Hell. :-)
# Ginger 2013-04-02 15:46
The thing for me is that I don't view the show the same as real life. It's TV and, as such, I want to believe that there is a hero journey taking place. One season of questioning was okay. Two years, even, as I enjoyed seeing Dean fall slide to the bottom with alcohol and drugs. That was okay. IMO, it's now time for the writers to pick a side.

I also say if 15 and 16-year-olds can survive year after year while good and experienced hunters die, the supposed heroes journey is pretty weak. For instance, I would have much rather seen Ian Tracey (Lee Chambers) using his retirement to take in orphaned kids and training them in the simple aspects of hunting, rather than have him killed off and his daughter playing at being Dean Winchester. There's many interesting ways that that story could have gone, and I would have liked to see the conflict between experienced hunters, instead of a guy who either was a hunter or had learned everything the Winchesters had learned, even over the course of the series, in a few months or a couple of years (hacking security cameras, for instance. Dean learned that from Frank just a couple of seasons ago. Or the use of dead man's blood. We saw the brothers learn about that in S2).

The other thing for me, too, is that we already know Sam is never going to get that normal life unless they write him out of the show or the show ends. So why keep harping on and on over this non-plot? It's just never going to happen, unless it's at the end of the show. To me, it's the writers teasing on something they are not going to cannot possibly deliver on until the very end, while giving away the very end way too early.

I did see where Glass tried very hard to bring up experience -vs- inexperience. I thought it was done in a pretty weak way, considering Dean was holding a gun and didn't take a shot at Victor when he put the gun down. I know it's the 'we don't kill humans,' but Dean has killed humans before (Howard in Plucky's and Jeffrey in Repo Man), which Glass must not have watched.

And then there was the harping on not hunting for revenge to Krissy, but in 8.01, Dean says to Sam:

I can't believe what I'm hearing. Sam, we have an opportunity to wipe the slate clean. We take Kevin to the tablet, he tells us the spell, we send every demon back to hell – forever. Every single bastard that destroyed our lives, killed our mother, killed Jess. And you're not sure?

That sounds a lot like revenge to me, so I'm assuming Glass didn't watch that episode either.

I know I am in the minority about this episode, and I am glad others enjoyed it. I haven't hated the season, but I wished the writers would step up their game, make themselves aware of past canon, and I wished there was more attention paid to plotting and pacing this season.
# Ale 2013-04-02 16:58
Ginger, I understand what you're saying. Of course, you're right, it's a tv show, and the writers are free to write the story they want to, and maybe they need to make it a little bit more linear. I don't know.

To tell you the truth, I'm not a fan of sci-fi, fantasy shows. I have a difficult to relate when there is too much fantasy involved. But, it's weird, although this show has got A LOT of fantasy (monsters, demons, angels, spells), I can relate with the characters because their problems, feelings, reactions, emotions, doubts and all rings so true, so human, SO REAL to me. It's a fantasy world very much grounded in the real world, and that is what is so appealing to me. Does it make sense?

Because of that, it doesn't bother me that they don't set one line of thinking and keep it until the end. They usually don't kill humans, but they had to face such and such situations, and they weren't able to put aside their emotions of the moment, so they killed a human. But now they are rethinking it an decided it is not right. It is this learning process, this journey that I love to watch. They make mistakes, try again, get it right or not this time, and try to equate his wishes and feelings with his job according to what they experienced so far (normal life, kids, girlfriend with danger, fear and loss). I'm interested in what they are learning along the way, what they experiencing, how all of this will influence their decision to keep on hunting, retire and have a normal life, of maybe both at the end. After all, we change over the years, our life experiences shape us.
# Ginger 2013-04-02 21:14
I'm not a big fan of sci-fi either. My knowledge of them extends to Buffy and SPN. I do think, however, that the writers are making the show too linear. Adam Glass, for instance, in Adventures in Babysitting had to sideline the brothers while Krissy made the kill. He had Sam tied up and Dean standing around immobilized. He did the same thing here -- Sam tied up and Dean standing with a gun in his hand and doing nothing.

What I'm actually thinking, besides having an aversion to watching straight TV's Most Annoying Teens on my screen is that I think the MotW episodes this season have been written by taking the lowest road possible. Perhaps there is supposed to be two kinds of stories going on -- the MotW and the mytharc. If so, then the monsters in the MotW are being shown as kind of stupid (how about that vamp snarking at the kids while Victor is telling them how complicated his side of the story is). Perhaps half-bright MotW is the writers new view of mundane monsters, so that characters like Krissy, Garth, and Charlie can take them out, meanwhile, what the brothers are doing is a whole upped game.

In viewing the season as a whole story, which is what I do, that doesn't hold up, though.

I have been very disappointed in this season, but I haven't hated it by any means. I think it's been just mediocre, with the writing, plotting and pacing bringing it down to that level. The J's performances, of course, saves it all and keeps me watching. I actually think JA has done some of his finest work this year.
# E 2013-04-02 21:28
One of the main inconsistencies that this ep really brought to life for me is that the wont kill Victor, the human monster and well past help, but they'll kill helpless, terrified victims held hostage in a demon with narry a second thought. I have real problems with that logic. Oh, and Ginger, if it makes you feel any better, I didn't like the ep either. :eek:
# debbab 2013-04-02 12:52
Waiting for Taxidriver to pick up the central arc, at first I was put off by this filler. i watched a second time and realized it was a solid episode that showed the hearts and minds of where the Winchesters are at this point mostly thru subtlety, humor and yes the occasional reminder spoken out loud of Sam's desire for normalcy and Dean's POV that you choose hunting or normalcy, not both. The writers are true to the characters. Given that Jared's still healing from the broken rib,it was understandable that the physicality of the episode was mostly the kids. It also tied in many threads from past seasons w/clever writing. I heard most of the humorous dialogue btwn S/D on the second viewing. The episode also drove home, how special the brothers are that they can differentiate a kill as necessary or not and how much they have grown up, not kids,and how they are the ones to close those gates. Loved the Krissy/Dean dynamic. Sam/Victor interesting POV. Sam so awkward at the normal breakfast table. So, I grew to really like this dark episode that was laced with subtle humor, recurring themes, and wisdom of experienced hunters. Do not think either character was pushed aside, just given some breath to show their hearts/minds. "Eat me Dean" shows the love and back to D/S being who they are.