No, you didn’t see it? Oh, there are clues. If you squint. Remember all the way back in “Supernatural” season three when Sam was frantic over saving Dean and ultimately couldn’t? Remember four months later in season four, after drowning his sorrows in booze for a chunk of the summer, he’s teamed up with Ruby and channelling his inner darkside for some demon smoking mojo? Remember how Dean at this time, at the end of season three anyway, accepted his fate?
Welcome “Supernatural” Season Ten: The Redux.
The similarities are noticeable. Okay, there is one HUGE difference. Seasons three and four were exciting, well plotted, gave us lots of little tasty nuggets along the way to feast on, satisfying our appetites for most of the season. The MOTW adventures moved at a brisk pace all while shockingly tying into the season arc. “The Things They Carried” was well plotted, brought back the old school horror that this show used to have, but honestly, it could have played out in about 15 minutes. I spent a lot of my hour, as I have most of the last two seasons, on my laptop reading emails, checking twitter for comments, and what do you know, I didn’t miss a beat. Gee, I miss those days of the totally engrossing hour.
At least this episode had a few scenes that had me holding my breath. I’m not sure why it worked, but Dean electrocuting Cole was pretty damned intense. Overall, I really like Cole. It was a bit contrived that the MOTW just happened to be Cole’s best friend, but I did like the military link. It made sense why Cole would be involved. Obviously he’s still trying to get a handle on this whole supernatural/monsters are real thing, but I still wish to see him be a hunter. Soldiers make the perfect hunters, and anyone who can keep begging for an electrocution like that has the badass criteria that’s so required in the job description. Then again I don’t want to see Cole hunt either, because that means his wife and kid would have to die.
I liked the mystery in this one too. The Khan Worm on steroids! It’s evolved! Sometimes you just have to figure out how to kill the monster despite not knowing what you’re up against. I love that the electrocution didn’t work and Dean and Cole were able to work on a solution together. Dean and Cole together make a damn good team. I’m very pleased the experience brought closure to Cole over Dean killing his dad. He finally accepted that it probably wasn’t his dadan thank goodness that’s over. So, this goes two ways for Cole. He lives with this acceptance and moves on, or his family skewers in a demon fueled fire and he has a new occupation.
Dean is clearly in “I want to work” mode, no doubt reeling from his recent ordeal with Cain. Sure, we didn’t see the ramifications much. There was hope that he’d be edgy, uptight, experiencing some very bad signs that he’s done something awful, or anything that would push his arc further. Unfortunately, we’ve got a complacent Dean who’s decided to give up and in Castiel’s words, “wait for the inevitable blast wave.” That seems to be a favorite fallback for these writers for both Sam and Dean in a hopeless situation. I don’t know why some of his worry couldn’t have come out during his experience with Cole. That seems like it would have been the best time.
Yes, there were the parallels between Cole fighting his monster within and Dean fighting his. Luckily it wasn’t too heavy handed, but it got there at times. They both are tough, and Cole’s triumph seems to give hope that Dean will come out on top of his own monster within struggle. But how about this, Cole and Kit’s friendship, aka the parallel to Sam and Dean’s relationship, suffered a big blow when Sam had to kill Kit. So if Dean comes out on top, does this mean Sam doesn’t? Or does that mean Sam is going to be the one to kill Dean? Which outcome do you think was the foreshadowing? Perhaps both? You see, I’m thinking they’re setting up Sam for a fall, not Dean.
I know, I did kind of leave you all hanging earlier in the review in regards to Sam. So what clues are out there? There’s the obvious one, he’s clearly not giving up the hunt for a solution to the Mark of Cain. Seriously though, Sam’s idea of digging into the Mark of Cain is still relegated to online searches? Even I’ve exhausted searches for complex subjects on Google in one afternoon. If the MOL doesn’t have it, or online, why isn’t he in some dank archive, or better yet the old hidden library at the Campbell family compound, spending sleepless nights poring over information? Online is just a fudging waste of time and he knows it. I think Sammy is desperate.
It’s the little things though and as usual with Sam you have to watch closely since he internalizes everything. The frustration at the beginning when he was given 10 minutes to get ready to go on the road with Dean when he was clearly in the middle of “secret” research. The abandoned search on his phone in the car and the bitter silence as Dean gave him the “don’t bother the ugly end is inevitable” speech. We know that silence is Sam speak for, ‘I’M NOT LISTENING, LA, LA, LA, LA…” but the frustration and despair on his face told the inner story. He’s angry and frantic and barely holding it together. The end is the most obvious though. Not being able to save Kit, that ate away on his already raw mentality of not being able to save Dean. He fears something horrible is going to happen to his brother. There have been lots of situations where Sam hasn’t been able to save someone, but this one hit him hard. Something ain’t right with the boy.
Then there’s the history of the entire show. This episode reminded me a lot of season three’s “Bedtime Stories.” Sam was pretty unhinged in that one, the frustration of being unable to save Dean eating away at him. While Dean casually hinted to Sam that he let him go, Sam bitterly replied, “Is that what you want me to do Dean? Just let you go?” He wasn’t going to do that then, and he isn’t going to do that now. The only thing missing here was Sam didn’t go and kill a crossroads demon at the end out of frustration. Given the very drawn out plot lines this season, we’ll likely see something like that around episode 21 and 22. Next season (I jest! Or do I?).
Need more evidence? Look at your present day writing team. They’ll all about the shoutouts and parallels to seasons prior. After all, it’s clever, right? Ooh, ooh, let’s do what season three Sam was supposed to do, but wasn’t able to because of the writer’s strike. Except, we’ll drag this out over two 23 episode seasons because we are out of material! People won’t see it coming! Actually, as weak as the plotting and lack clues are, especially the growing number of filler episodes we’ve been getting, we probably won’t.
As far as Dean is concerned, Sam will never stop. He will always fight, always find a way to save his brother or die trying. He will do this at great sacrifice to his well being. Dean is the same way with Sam. The more desperate he gets, the more dangerous things he will do. We got that message in episode 1 of this season! We’ve been speculating on the Discussion Page that perhaps Sam will turn to dark magic. Whatever he does, it’ll be stupid, reckless, very risky and dammit, I hope awesome. Please TPTB, make it awesome. Throw this longtime but incredibly bored fan a bone.
The Red Headed Monster
There’s been a lot of talk of “Supernatural” catering more to the younger viewers now but most of the youngsters I know (I am the mother of two teenagers) have very short attention spans. How is this agonizingly slow pace keeping them interested? How are character based stories winning them over? I swear they’re fast forwarding through most of it and sharing squee on Twitter because it’s more fun. Please honestly, anyone under 17 please give me the finer details of what you saw in this episode other than “Sam and Dean killed a monster and Cole was there cause he’s cool.” I’m a very focused adult and that’s all I can say about it.
Filler episodes have become more of the norm over recent seasons and it’s just hard to get excited about a filler episode. It takes away the idea of “appointment television.” Last night’s series low ratings seemed to indicate that, although in fairness “Supernatural went against a massive, hot monster in “Empire.” Heck, if I was caught up with that show, I would have watched it live too.
Remember back season four? It was a brilliant and slow build up to the ultimate revelation that Sam’s powers were pushing him into some very dangerous territory. The clues were all there, fed to us in one very enticing trail of breadcrumbs (hmm, breadcrumbs…). In season ten, watch Sam crinkle his lips and forehead! Watch him silently do nothing while Dean lectures him! That’s going to push him over the edge and he’ll do something awful to save Dean! As for Dean, we’ll watch him go darkside and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. I get that it’s hard to be original anymore considering the extraordinary amount of ground the series has already covered, but it can be done.
All of S10 has had the right idea on paper. Dean is in peril (since the demon thing didn’t work out) and Sam grows frantic trying to save him. But the execution and engagement factor has just been horrible. There’s no meat in these MOTW plots or season long story arcs, save for the previous “The Executioner’s Song” and this episode failed to capitalize on the momentum from that. We certainly aren’t getting enticing nuances that something is up and building toward a mind blowing finish. If anything big happens to either Sam or Dean at this point, episode 16 and counting, it’s going to come across as random. I have a feeling they’re going to pull a “surprise” on us in one episode and then tell us that was the clever plan all along. It’ll be Carver’s episode too, because the weight of pulling everything together always seems to fall on him.
I keep going back and forth on the grade for this one, but since I like Cole and I’m feeling charitable, I give “The Things They Carried” a B-. That could easily be a C+ tomorrow or next week, but I’ll stick with the slightly higher grade for now. Next episode, more filler. Next week, I decide it might be time to catch up on “Empire”. It may not be sci-fi, but it’s showing everyone what appointment television is all about.