And that folks, is how we do a mid-season finale Supernatural style! Drama, visual effects, emotional impact and some serious new-level, edge of the cliff moments at the end that left this viewer breathless and excited.
Locations and Visuals
Supernatural has had some beautiful locations in past episodes and has never been short on cinematography – “The Bad Place” only adds to that list. The episode features some beautiful locations and incredible shots, not the least of which is the final confrontation on the boat between the angels and the boys. I’ll discuss more of this scene in detail later – since it was such an incredible scene – but the location and cinematography alone can’t be overlooked. On the water brought a whole new level of trapped, it was dark and isolated with the thrumming power of the angels surrounding the boat trying to break the sigils. Yes, this had the intended impact.
There were several great shots – the studio and dreamwalking, offering various artistic features through Derek’s paintings – and let’s not forget the final moments and that breathtaking overhead shot we were left on. I am constantly amazed by Supernatural and the ability of this show to create such a breadth and dichotomy of distinct, unique worlds without becoming cartoonish. These worlds deliver dark, ominous atmospheres in their own unique flavour and never disappoint.
Some of the amazing cinematography was simply the landscape and new ways of featuring the driving between locations, demonstrating the beautiful locations and interesting sceneries from eagle-eye perspectives. One of the other eye-catching moments was brief but interesting and featured the Impala prominently in front of some colourful graffiti.
Finally, the last moments of “The Bad Place”, which offered a mere though captivating glimpse of this new, yet to be explored world Sam and Dean dropped into. The overhead to reveal the scale of the potential threats they will face, the edge of the white, icy foliage against the rest of the dark landscape with the incredible smallness of the Winchester brother’s figures moving across it all. Strong, cinematic and memorable.
So Jack has returned. It’s been a few weeks without our favourite Nephilim and his return was not only welcome but interesting. This Jack was confident, sure and determined in his mission. That said, Jack maintains the essence of who he is in his innocence and his sweetness even as he tries to blend and interact. Where last week had more obvious humour, this week offered some subtle fun in watching Jack, he delivered some great lines as he tried to act “normal”:
“I like... cocaine.”
“Okay, Suite Life. Well, I don't know why you're really here, but you're gonna have to find a new day one buddy, 'cause that's not really my thing.”
One of the highlights of this episode was watching Jack interact with other characters on his own, without the crutch of Sam, Dean or Castiel now that he’s acclimatized – somewhat – to humanity.
Beyond his independence, Jack has clearly found some balance in himself and who he is. The conversation with Sam and Dean in the Impala is very revealing of how far Jack has come:
“I was scared. I was upset. But why would I look for him? He's nothing to me. You. Castiel -- you're my family.”
Jack is absolute in his statements about his family and relationship to Lucifer. There is no wavering, no uncertainty. Where early in the season Jack was unsure and questioning – here is a young man who has found his footing. This is reinforced again when the angels try and convince Jack he belongs with them in his true “home” and his only response is “I am home.”
Again, there is no hesitation, no interest, no questioning. Jack knows where he belongs. Jack has developed well this season so far and that has included figuring out who he is as a person. Now that that equilibrium has been found, I look forward to watching Jack come into his own as a powerful entity.
Opening the Door
The primary plot this week was strong because it was simple and straightforward: Jack was trying to open the door to get Mary, and the boys were on his trail, and all the circumstances that befall them herein. Attached to this were some solid and interesting guest characters used to move the plot forward, starting with Derek and moving onto Kaia, both dreamwalkers. Often our throwaway victims are just that – we meet them, they die and they become nothing much beyond a headline to attract Sam and Dean to the scene. In this case, Derek (played very affably and smoothly by Nathaniel Arcund) was a very intriguing character and the audience, along with Jack, spent a brief but significant time in his studio. Enough for Jack to see what he needed and to be lead to Kaia, another charming new character.
The encounter with Jack and Derek was just “off” enough that is was plausible Jack could have killed Derek – by accident of course. But in his new-found sense of self and thereby in his determination of a mission, Jack presented somewhat darker or more forceful in tone and manner – though never evil. This stems from his continued learning of human interaction and an expectation that if you need someone to do something – they should do it; if there is a good reason you need them to do it. This was the same with Kaia although he found a better approach with her later on.
Kaia had a unique personality – snarky, though gentle, and clearly smart - she should fit right in with the hunter community. This introduction was also one marked by interesting visuals that took its time revealing Kaia’s face to viewers, focusing instead on Kaia tearing up the Styrofoam cup, her face hidden by her hair and various unique angles that showed aspects of Kaia as she spoke – all sarcasm and wit – without actually showing Kaia. I am curious to know what Jack showed her in their time in the car – and what exactly her “bad place” encompasses.
If there is one place the plot falls down in this episode it was with Kaia’s kidnapping and the angels. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I don’t fully understand how the angels expect to “force” Jack to do anything for them, given the power that he has. That’s the same flaw in the kidnapping plan with Kaia; if Jack is so powerful then how could they stop him from taking her back?
But these are small issues in the angel plot. My biggest “really?!” moment in the episode came when, out of no where and motivated by nothing, the head kidnapper promptly began explaining to Kaia the history of how she came to be in their custody:
“We want Jack…The Son of Lucifer…We tracked him to Derek, but the artist was uncooperative. We tortured him. Eventually, he told us where Jack was headed -- to you. Then we killed him. Due diligence covering our tracks, yet the Winchesters got involved anyway, as they do. So we needed a new strategy. We needed bait.”
Umm….thanks for filling in the gaps? Yeah, I’m not sure why this was shoehorned this way and though it was rough, it didn’t ultimately detract anything either. Similarly, Patience’s plot loosely (make that, very loosely) connected – if a little shoehorned. The character is interesting though and I look forward to future development. On the Patience storyline, it is unfortunate that they went the route of Dad excommunicating her as she states someone will die if she doesn’t get involved; though it’s hard to say this is out of character with what we’ve seen given what we know of Missouri’s relationship with her son. If nothing else we were able to see Jody again, always a welcome face. The ominous prediction is especially intriguing in light of Sam and Dean being cast to a different dimension – Patience has my attention!
Mom is alive. Sam is shocked and Dean is horrified. We’ve been working toward this for a while: the audience has known all along that Mary is alive and trapped while Dean has been in denial. For this viewer, it wasn’t a question of whether Dean would be upset – just what reaction he would have to his guilt (because let’s face it, guilt was a given for Dean here). Dean’s reaction was shown in a few degrees and both were perfect: the editing in the scene after Jack gives both brothers a glimpse of Mary, as the sound fades away and understanding dawns on Dean – this was so powerful. Later, Kaia says she won’t help the boys and Jack. Sam is disappointed but willing to try something else – Dean, well not so much. This might be a short and passing moment that Dean will later apologize for, but the depth of darkness we see here is something striking. The expressions on Jensen’s face say so much in these few seconds as he gestures with the gun. This is a visceral and dark response to guilt that now drives his need to get Mary back at any expense:
“We get Mom back, no matter what. Remember?”
The final moments of this episode were the best, easily. They were pulse pounding, intense and overwhelming. Everything in the decrepit shipwreck was just right: the sigils being overpowered, the angels outside coordinating their attack, Jack with Kaia trying to focus and Sam and Dean shouting as everything closes in and time runs out. Finally, the flashing and screams. Then, the last minute with Jack and Mary – and let’s not forget Sam and Dean in what can only be described as Jurassic Park: Apocalypse. Wow.
Phenomenal mid-season finale. A rare occasion where all the elements come together in just the right way – everything that the first half of the season has been leading to – and delivers perfectly.
So, where are the boys? Is this the beginning of bouncing between worlds? What will Michael and Jack make of one another? Will Batman be able to save the day in time? Tune in next year to find out! And share your thoughts below!
(Images courtesy of HomeOfTheNutty.com)