Things aren’t what they appear and trust is a tricky game: such were the lessons in this week’s episode of Supernatural. A reasonably well delivered episode, “The Scorpion and the Frog” had highs and lows and was certainly nothing quite like I expected going in.
The episode opening was a little bit of a change up in setting, given that we were in a museum in England and witnessing a demon-on-demon betrayal as the instigating incident this time around. So, Bart offers viewers a few things, but proof that not everyone is happy with Asmodeus being the primary thing. We’ve seen this before of course, when demons helped Lucifer escape, so it makes sense. But where will it lead this time?
This was also done much better than I anticipated in terms of set up: as I’m not a spoiler girl, I knew the bare basics of this episode and could not put together a scenario where Sam and Dean would make a deal for a locator spell when we’ve seen them perform spells themselves. But of course -this is a particular Nephilim spell. Too convenient to survive the storyline fortunately, but provided a decent reason for the boys to get to where they needed to go.
So, let’s talk about Bart. This viewer is glad he was a one-hit wonder. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy this character per se; Bart certainly added interest as a pseudo-antagonist. However I couldn’t tell if he was a deliberate callback to Crowley in his mannerism, if Bart was choosing to behave that way for the reaction of the brothers or if this just sort of happened:
“Sam, do me a favour. You’re the smart one. Look into that.”
It wasn’t a dead-replication, so once was fine but recurring would be too much of a bad mimicry of a great character.
This week’s episode was titled after the age-old adage that details the story of a frog being convinced, despite his better judgement, to give a scorpion a ride across the river. Half way into the ride, the scorpion stings the frog and as they go down the frog asks the scorpion why he would do this, since now they will both die – and of course the famous response is: “it’s just my nature.”
Like the frog, Sam and Dean know going in that the demon Bart will undoubtedly screw them in some form or another. So the bones of this plot wasn’t unique unto the Supernatural world. That said, a few elements helped this story stay interesting.
Luther was an interesting target of the heist in question. It was implied he was a bad guy, which made stealing from him less of a moral dilemma. But then, his hatred for demons – and the later reveal of his backstory added another level of grey. Like the question that Ketch posed to Dean last week, Luther ended on a curiously pointed note:
“You’re on the wrong side of this boys.”
Again, there is a recurring theme emerging that perhaps black and white is less clear than Sam and Dean are being led to believe here, or will see in upcoming encounters, and these are the things they need to ask. Furthermore, Luther might be another example of a character doing the so-called “wrong thing” for the “right reasons” – something we’ll see again with people crossing over from the apocalyptic world?
So that is what did work about this heist storyline. What was a little…meh?
Well, some stuff was just a touch too goofy. The entire atmosphere was played darker, more malevolent – especially on Luther’s property – and the bits about blood-divining rod and Dean’s unwillingness to stick his hand in the blood-letting lionhead were a bit overdone. Let me be clear, it’s not that these weren’t funny and certainly not to say Jensen isn’t funny, but the moment’s themselves were out of place over all in the episode to me.
Speaking of blood – let’s talk about that elephant in the room: why was Dean the man from Hell v. Sam?
“…the only thing that can actually open it is the blood of a man who's been to Hell and back. Tell me, Dean, do you know any men like that?”
I won’t say too much about this – it’s been debated to death already and I try not to get involved in these “hot button” topics. That said, it caught my attention as well and this was my immediate thought:
- Dean was tortured on the Rack in Hell and then rescued from “perdition”
- Sam was in the Cage with Lucifer – which while located in Hell, is not the same thing – you cannot become a demon in the Cage (as far as I know?)
But what about the other trips to Hell? Rescuing Bobby, for example. Walking into Hell is not a “damned soul” and probably doesn’t count. Much like walking through prison on a tour doesn’t amount to having served time there.
Regardless of where you land on this, let’s agree that both the boys have suffered at Hell’s hands.
I will say that I was a bit disappointed they went to the trouble of including a flashback to such an intense and powerful collection of moments in season three and four, only to have the payoff be the divining rod-blood trope.
There were a few other things about this operation that were questionable, but the big glaring thing to me is the end when Bart burns and Sam and Dean have such a long reaction time before – oh yes, we should grab that parchment! And then…does Sam really BLOW on the paper to attempt to put the flames out? No. Just no. He’s not that stupid. Come on guys.
The Winchester Two
Sam and Dean were in sync this entire episode and it was wonderful. Whatever else there was in “Scorpion/Frog”, watching the brothers operate at top Winchester performance was the pinnacle. They communicated unspoken, they finished each others sentences, they agreed on all plans of actions and they had a perfect check-in moment at the end.
Sam had some good moments through the episode. I enjoyed watching him interact with Luther, introducing himself, all nervous-like at the gate, presenting the knife and later educating on the gorgon tooth. And of course the idea to use Luther – taking full advantage of his immortality – to exhaust the poison darts and bypass the supernatural security system in the vault room.
This was also a visually interesting episode, a few beautiful shots outside the house and of the Impala that caught my attention – not to mention the great “car chase” moment of Dean driving backwards and spinning so Sam can shoot out the tires of Luther’s truck: “You wanna handle this?” “On it.” Not only a fun action shot, but a perfect example of brother synchronicity.
The big moment of course is toward the end, at their show down with Bart. Completely without discussing it Sam and Dean opted to burn the bones rather than get the locator spell, recognizing how evil and manipulative Bart was – it’s in his nature, after all. And later, though they ultimately didn’t get the spell they did get to save Alice. When they discuss this later, the conversation takes a refreshing change of pace with Dean motivating Sam, recognizing Sam as the one feeling a little lost:
“Yeah, not really.”
“Not exactly the best day, you know?”
“Well, it's not the worst. We did save somebody. That felt good.”
“Yeah, it did. But back to square one with Jack.”
“We'll figure something else out. And if that doesn't work, then we'll move on to next, and then whatever's after that. We just keep working, 'cause it's what we do.”
“It feels really good to hear you talk like that again.”
I’ve seen comments that Sam’s feelings have been largely ignored so far, so I am glad to see this exchange not just for the brother’s relationship but for Sam especially. A positive end going on an interesting penultimate mid-season finale.
Good episode overall – the sort we want to see ahead of mid-finale we know will be an emotional doozy. The episode didn’t offer much in the way of surprises, after all Sam and Dean state outright that they know Bart will betray them in some way and that they plan to kill him first. So it isn’t the outcome that stuns, but how they get there. Most of the side characters were throwaways. Alice was sweet enough and kind of fun – we could have been more invested of course if we knew the terms of her deal, maybe it was incredibly selfish - where as “Grab” was fairly bland in my opinion. Luther, as I’ve said was the most interesting of the guest characters.
If nothing else this episode reaffirms the balance between Sam and Dean, and underlines a few more of the hints that have begun to be laid in recent weeks about the black and white, and nothing appearing as it seems.
What did you think? Was Luther’s comment a warning of things to come? Thoughts on Bart?