Whenever we get down to the last set of episodes for a season, expectations are extremely high. We want something that thrills us, excites us, makes us laugh, cry, gives us some extraordinary canon to debate, shocks us to the core, but overall delivers something that we enjoy. I can honestly say, after two watches, and several attempts to look at the sunny side of things, I just couldnâ€™t enjoy â€œClip Show.â€ It did get much better on the second viewing, which I didnâ€™t watch until three days later, but it still wasnâ€™t enough for me. Heavens no, it didnâ€™t suck, and it wasnâ€™t a total disaster, but somethingâ€™s been bothering me for a while now about this whole trial story line, one that didnâ€™t improve with the events of this episode. And by episode 22, itâ€™s a travesty that the elephant in the room hasnâ€™t been discussed.
Part of my disappointment with this episode is one that has come before with a script involving Andrew Dabb following a Ben Edlund outing. Mr. Edlund leaves a lot of breadcrumbs in his stories, setting up extraordinary possibilities for other writers to run wild. Andrew Dabb, just like he did with â€œThe Girl Next Doorâ€ and â€œThere Will Be Bloodâ€ (both of those with Dan Loflin), decided breadcrumbs were too messy, and did his own thing, not even trying to use what Edlund gave him. This is why Andrew Dabb should never, ever be allowed to write an episode after Ben Edlund (we can discuss the gaps between â€œEverybody Hates Hitlerâ€ and â€œTrial and Errorâ€ at another time).
I could nitpick a lot, like Edlund showing how weak and sick Sam really was, while Dabb went for the â€œtell, donâ€™t show,â€ mentality and had Sam spell out to Dean what was wrong with him (sounded like he was pregnant). But honestly, we donâ€™t need to waste a lot of time on the setup episode for the grand finale dealing with Samâ€™s health. Enough time has been spent on this. Edlund however did a great job of showing Samâ€™s unstable emotional state, something that should have very much played into this weekâ€™s tragic, high stakes story line. Instead, we got the same old Sam, just paler looking, and the obligatory coughing up blood scene. That really took away from the emotional possibilities this story had. By the time Sam was having doubts at the end, I should have felt every bit of agony that was weighing on his fragile psyche. I wasnâ€™t.
Before I go into the real issue with the storytelling, why I donâ€™t say what I loved about the episode first? That way, happy fans can skim through the rest, living well in your much deserved bliss.
Castiel in the bunker made me so happy. He was smiling! â€œI like this bunker. Itâ€™s orderly.â€ Sam confesses that Dean is getting ready to change all that, wanting to bring in a ping pong table. Enter Castiel not knowing much about ping pong! He showed genuine concern for Sam, and I liked how the almighty angel struggled in that one moment with knowing that he couldnâ€™t help his friend. Dean, even though he was mad, was still concerned enough for Castiel that he ordered him to stay behind and get better. He cares I tell you! Thereâ€™s nothing Castiel can do to get Dean to hate him so much that he casts him out in his hour of need.
But you wonâ€™t get a better scene than watching an angel try to buy supplies for his human friends in a grocery store. He even remembered the copy of Busty Asian Beauties! Good thing he remembered too that humans need toilet paper. But I died over the store being out of pie. Dean just canâ€™t catch a break, and to think thatâ€™s the one thing that pushes this warrior angel to the edge. â€œYou donâ€™t understand, I need pie!â€
Andrew Dabb isnâ€™t afraid to introduce bold new directions in canon and mythology. In the past, they often come across as a head-scratchers, or not sitting right with die hard fans. For example, thereâ€™s the reverse exorcism in â€œWhatâ€™s Up, Tiger Mommy?â€ I found that to be borderline careless, and many fans soundly debated why that would never work. The idea of an exorcism that cures demons though is quite intriguing to say the least, but I wonder how a cured demon possessing a human works in the end. Itâ€™s usually details like this that are glossed over when these bold leaps in canon are done, and theyâ€™re usually never brought up again, making me wonder why Dabb would go there in the first place other than it's fun.
Once I get past that though, the way the curing ritual was done, the whole process put into it is very fascinating. I bought it as feasible and very clever. The whole scene with Sam and Dean listening to the exorcism tape, woven in with the flashbacks, was stunning. Just the discovery of the dungeon alone takes Sam and Dean to new directions with demons, one that Iâ€™d love to see used in the future. Iâ€™m dying now to see Sam try one of these exorcisms, and Iâ€™d even love to see Sam and Dean in the future carry on this work.
As for Abaddon, I didnâ€™t think Iâ€™d like the idea of her coming back, but her reaction about Crowley, â€œThe salesman?â€, was too awesome. Iâ€™ve been waiting for someone to come along to really challenge Crowley, especially since Meg was easily disposed (Boo!). Abaddon is an original Knight of Hell and a very dangerous threat. Oh the possibilities!
And farewell Jenny Klein! The fact that she met her demise was a clever inside joke between Andrew Dabb and writing assistant Jenny Klein. Iâ€™m sure Dabb relished in the idea of getting to bump that character off, and doing it with a rather unfortunate oven mishap.
My Real Problem With The Trials
In â€œThe Great Escapist,â€ a question was FINALLY asked by Metatron, one that should have been asked the second Sam and Dean took on these trials to close the gates of Hell. â€œYouâ€™re gonna have to weigh that choice. Ask yourself what is it gonna take to do this and what will the world be like once itâ€™s done?â€ In other words, why arenâ€™t the boys discussing possible ramifications? Why are they jumping into these trials feet first, when theyâ€™ve usually been very cautious about things in the past? Why arenâ€™t Monster of the Week cases being used to explore the unintended consequences of pursuing this course? Where are the parallels that really open up this philosophically powerful issue for debate?
What are Sam and Deanâ€™s real motivation for the trials other than they believe that with no demons, there will be no torment of humans on earth? Theirs is a quest enthusiastically taken on by two men who have been scarred by these beings. Locking all demons out is their answer. Yet as this episode showed, a priest back in 1958 had another answer. Whoâ€™s right? Isnâ€™t it better to try and save those innocent souls than lock them out of earth, doomed to an eternity of torment? Even Sam and Dean got the extremely rare opportunity at second chances, freed from their times in Hell. Why canâ€™t other souls be given that chance? Will closing the gates also mean that no one will ever be able to enter Hell once they die? Wonâ€™t that wreak some horrible havoc on the natural order? Where do the bad souls go? Do they remain ghosts on earth, making life even more impossible for hunters like Sam and Dean? Why havenâ€™t Sam and Dean wondered this?
On the flip side, Metatron has come to Castiel with a similar quest. Do the angel trials and close the gates of Heaven. After all, the chaos caused by the demise of the archangels requires a remedy of drastic action. Lock them all up together, make them sort out their differences. Hereâ€™s a motivation I can stand behind. However, what are those consequences? Does this mean that no one will be able to get into Heaven either? I know itâ€™s been said a few times on this site before, but what gives Sam, Dean, and Castiel the right to banish every human to a life of â€œNo Hell below us, above us only sky?â€ Does the alternate reality of â€œThe French Mistakeâ€ becomes the actual reality?
Why did God choose Metatron to write these instruction manuals anyway? What purpose was behind giving humans the power to pull these â€œgreat levers?â€ Was it to protect humanity from destruction, or was it for God to once again administer one of his tests? Iâ€™m sure if that question was posed to Dean, he wouldnâ€™t care what the answer is. As long as demons, and probably angels, are free from the earth, heâ€™s happy to going back to his life of free will. Is that why God did this though? To make Dean Winchester happy? If this show has taught us one thing, itâ€™s that there are always consequences to actions, no matter what the intent. In the end, I see this whole thing as being an â€œout of the frying pan, into the fire,â€ type scenario. Iâ€™m stunned Sam and Dean donâ€™t see it after all theyâ€™ve been through.
These are exactly the type of questions at least Castiel could have raised in the bunker. Yeah, heâ€™s got his own doubts right now, and is going through the whole mind control thing, so heâ€™s not exactly himself. But I keep thinking back to â€œTwo Minutes Til Midnight,â€ when Sam told Castiel of his plan to say yes to Lucifer and jump into the pit. Castiel was the first one to tell him itâ€™s a plan with merit. I miss that about Castiel. The weakened being that was still in the fold, still fighting for the underdog. This season heâ€™s a crusader taking on Heaven alone, and making a ton of mistakes doing it. Or is he? We really donâ€™t know at this point. All I know is I wish he at least had Meg by his side. They would have been the most unlikely pair to take on the universe, no? Sorry, I digress.
There was a parallel in â€œClip Show,â€ but it really failed in looking at that bigger picture of the season long arc. This series has never been afraid to bring forth issues that put our heroes narrowly walking along the thin line of right and wrong. Itâ€™s usually when these issues are explored that the show goes into extraordinary territory. This script was the chance, using Crowleyâ€™s evil intimidation tactics, to expand on the whole quandary of why are they really doing this. What is driving Sam and Dean to push themselves and what do they hope to truly get from it? Is it revenge, or a chance at a new life? I need to know that theyâ€™ve considered the welfare of the world at large as well, and not their own desires. This inability to hit issues hard, opting for busier scripts, more shout outs and character callbacks, is where seasons six, seven and eight have really failed in the writing.
A major theme of this episode is unintended consequences, which is perfect given how far Sam and Dean are in the trials. Thereâ€™s the priest who conducted the experiments, believing he could cure a demon, and get a second chance on earth as a righteous being. Back in 1958 Hell got wind of this, and thatâ€™s why Abaddon came to earth. This couldnâ€™t continue. She began killing anyone associated with this cause, including the Men of Letters. Chances are she was determined to find the MOL hide out so she could destroy any info about the curing ritual. One manâ€™s passion and belief stirred up a whole mess of trouble for people he didnâ€™t even know.
As you can see here, what seemed like an act of salvation led to an act of destruction. So thereâ€™s the parallel. Sam and Dean are doing the trials, intent on closing the gates of Hell, but Crowley isnâ€™t taking that lying down. Heâ€™s going to destroy all the good that Sam and Dean have done. Unintended consequences. People that they saved are now dying because of them. Thatâ€™s all fine and good, but Sam having doubts was tied more into Crowleyâ€™s threat than the bigger picture that he should have been exploring all along. No doubt Sam is sick and tired, and the trials are wearing him very thin, but wouldnâ€™t have there been more emotional payoff if he was forced to consider what life would be like if the gates of Hell were closed? A little something else to weigh on that already tired mind? I donâ€™t buy that heâ€™s sacrificed so much of his health and well being these last few months just to give up because of a death of yet another acquaintance in his life. The stakes need to be higher.
Sarah said something to Sam that made me take pause. Heâ€™s more focused now. Heâ€™s grown up. That was a sweet sentiment (although girlfriend is so wrong about the hair), but what did that have to do with Samâ€™s role in changing the entire order of things? That heâ€™s grown up enough to do it? Oh, the conversations these two could have had if given time. I wish that the encounter with Sarah could have happened much sooner in the episode, so Samâ€™s doubts about the trials could have been raised through Sarah. She could have asked him the questions that havenâ€™t been asked so far, like what happens to the natural order if Hell is closed. What is he hoping to get from all this? What is the point?
Just think about it. Sam has learned since his first encounter with Sarah that heâ€™s an abomination, tainted with demon blood. Heâ€™s no different than the Nephilim that Castiel killed. They didnâ€™t ask to be that way. It was forced upon them. They just want to live their lives, but these angels and demons wonâ€™t leave them alone though. The unintended consequence of accepting these trials is Sam gets his chance to be pure, be rid of the demon blood thatâ€™s curse him his entire life. His is a greater quest than what that quick conversation with Sarah ended up reflecting. It minimized Samâ€™s truly great purpose in all this. It kind of made Sarahâ€™s return pointless.
The sloppy pacing and plotting of the episode really ruined some amazing opportunities. Remember Pamela's stern warning to Sam on her deathbed in â€œDeath Takes A Holiday?â€ That! Sam needed something that powerful to raise those doubts. Crowleyâ€™s monologuing just wasnâ€™t enough.
Bottom line, no one is thinking this through, and the writers have chosen not to explore it either. Itâ€™s kind of a mess. By episode 22, thatâ€™s kind of pissing me off. Iâ€™m desperately seeking any form of symmetry in the storytelling that doesnâ€™t come from a guy named Edlund.
Bottom line, Iâ€™m giving â€œClip Showâ€ a B-. There were some great elements in there, but it didnâ€™t come together. At this stage in the game the right questions still arenâ€™t being asked. All the delicious ramifications and philosophical impacts arenâ€™t being explored, and now Iâ€™m very worried that the season finale isnâ€™t going to be able in 42 minutes to adequately answer all the questions that have been lingering from these season eight episodes. Plus, any scene that makes Sam and Dean look completely incompetent like leaving a Knight of Hell alone to easily escape earns a major ding in my book.