(This review was originally posted on Blogcritics.org in 2008. It is no longer on that site. A copy of the first page of the review and all the original comments can be found here. I'm reposting here to preserve the history of my SPN reviews.)
Be careful what you wish for! It’s dark comedy done Supernatural style and with anything using this genre, the side splitting laughter usually comes with a dark and cynical sentiment by the end. Dark enough to even make a teddy bear want to blow his brains out.
Despite the sinister territory, the execution of “Wishful Thinking” is perfect. It’s a slower-paced yet very entertaining episode that felt familiar, probably because it’s written by the wacky yet brilliant veteran writer Ben Edlund. Robert Singer is the director, adding to the comfortable flow and feel of the Winchester’s latest mind-boggling adventure.
This week’s locale is postcard perfect and the breathtaking scenery managed to greatly enhance this bizarre episode. I was told this is the same place where Men In Trees was filmed (the fictional town of Elmo). One Google search later and the name of the actual town is Squamish, British Columbia. Here it’s Concrete, Washington. What, they couldn’t use Elmo? No matter, for Squamish is going on my places to visit list.
Clearly the tortured soul of the week title goes to Dean, whose recollections of Hell are coming back to haunt him. He can no longer hide his misery from Sam, although Sam was tipped off by the angel Uriel last week and reminded Dean of that a few times. Dean is coming apart at the seams and his only refuge comes from a surreal encounter with a giant stuffed animal, fighting serious issues with a sandwich gone bad, and taking on Superman.
By the end, the lesson learned turns quite depressing. Call it the Tao of Winchester if you may, but the notion that “People are people because they’re miserable bastards because they never get what they really want,” and “People get what they want, they get crazy,” made me want to join that suicidal teddy bear in his cloud of misery. The ending was far from happy and all those involved were still as broken as when the mystery began.
How Many Times Can You Kill A Winchester?
For all you trivia buffs, this episode has a strange link to classics “In My Time of Dying”, “All Hell Breaks Loose Parts 1 and 2”, “Mystery Spot” and “No Rest For The Wicked”. How? A Winchester dies. Sam dies, again, this time after being struck down by the sudden appearance of a cloud and a dead on lightening strike. Didn’t I tell Kripke that this show is done killing Winchesters? The special effects for that scene are awesome, equally comparing with Dean being cut down by a car and a desk in “Mystery Spot”. Given the trimming of the VFX budget this year, we’ve learned to appreciate bits like that more.
Thanks to the ever popular paranormal reset button, Sam is brought back by a loveable loser who sees the error of his ways. I enjoy seeing a villain of the week who’s just an ordinary guy that unwittingly creates a situation because his life sucks. Ted Raimi, who’s been in just about everything by looking at his imdb page, brought some wonderful depth to this week’s foe. It’s a nice change of pace from the constant exorcising of demons and blowing away culprits in bloody ways.
So if you had a wish, what would you wish for? Considering Dean already gotten his answer in “What Is And What Should Never Be”, the footlong Italian sub with jalapeno seemed like the wiser choice. We see a horny teen exploit his power of invisibility by staking out a ladies locker room, a nerdy loser score the affections of the most gorgeous woman in town, a local man win the lottery, a bullied kid gain superhuman strength, and a set of parents choosing Bali over their child’s welfare. The absolute wish kicker though comes from a little girl, uncovered when Sam and Dean are forced to unravel a mystery of “Bigfoot”, who drinks Amaretto and Irish Cream and like Dean has a thing for busty Asian beauties. Yep, her teddy bear has come to life.
Sam and Dean get to the truth posing as “Teddy Bear Doctors” and their reactions over seeing a talking, life sized and loaded with despair stuffed toy are priceless. Once again Jensen and Jared both prove how gifted they are for comedy, for their befuddled reactions take something absurd on paper and turn it into full blown audience hysterics. I’d react the same way if I saw a giant teddy bear shouting, “Close the freaking door!”
Oh, but it didn’t end there. As the little girl so aptly explains, the bear is “…ouch in the head sad, says weird stuff and smells like the bus.” When the bear laments over his purpose (“Tea parties? Is that all there is?), I had to cease typing up this part of the review for a while because my vision was clouded by tears from laughter and my sides ached. I’m still laughing.
The fact that the culprit turns to be a wishing well is almost glossed over because we’re too busy dying over Sam and Dean’s discussion over the implications of wasting a teddy bear. “He’s not the core problem here,” Sam says. You think? One lollipop disease later Sam and Dean responsibly convince the girl to go stay with a neighbor because her parents wished themselves to Bali. Yes, that scene is every bit as absurd as it sounds, and I love it.
If Wishes Were Trees, Trees Would Be Falling
It’s not all fun and games though, with the funniest yet most tragic story coming from teddy himself. He leaves a farewell note on a chalk board and puts a shotgun to his mouth. Okay, we saw it coming when the camera panned behind the bipolar bear, but the staging of the scene was hysterical nonetheless, as fluff flies instead of blood spatter when the gun goes off. The bear lives, left to shout “Why????” Because Ben Edlund is twisted, that’s why. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
An ancient coin in a fountain at a local Chinese restaurant is the culprit and it’s cursed, spelling doom for this town. The wishes turn bad and everything begins to unravel. Dean pukes his guts up over the ecoli-laced sandwich, invisible pervert kid gets hit by the Impala because Dean didn’t see him, mega strong kid goes on a ‘roid rage of destruction, and the guy who started it all has a mindless robot for a hot girlfriend that smothers him with obedience.
This madcap adventure uncovered some brokenness in the Winchester brothers as well. One stunning moment comes from Sam, who’s challenged by Dean to make his own wish at the well. Dean reminds him he could go back to the way life was before this all started, back to law school and the white picket fence. Sam refuses, wisely mentioning that he’s not that person anymore and they can’t go back to their old lives. He does tell his true wish though, and it’s cold and chilling. “Lilith’s head on a plate. Bloody.” Whoa.
Sam’s changed outlook from a chance at a safe and normal life to revenge is eerily similar to John Winchester’s, who couldn’t have a normal life without Mary. There are many out there that have questioned whether Sam’s character is really turning dark and if that little statement doesn’t confirm how much he is, then he really is all about lollipops and candy canes.
Dean’s issues aren’t any prettier. First, he and Sam get stuck in an Office Space Chotchkie’s hell, complete with irritating waiter and his obnoxious flair. Yep, written by Ben Edlund, whose pokes at pop culture are always in your face. Dean slams multiple shots, but cut him some slack because I would do the same thing with a waiter like that let alone the Hell thing hanging over my head. Later, Dean awakes from a nightmare and chugs more whiskey, skirting Sam’s questions about the bad dreams and increased drinking. I find it interesting since this week I pulled out my season one DVDs and saw the same scene only reversed in “Bloody Mary.” They’re definitely brothers.
Also suffering is the loser who put the coin into the well and started the spell, Wes, but he refuses to see the harm even when Sam and Dean show him proof of its curse. When Wes asks Sam “Why can’t we just get what we want?” and Sam bluntly replies “Because that’s life Wes,” my heart crumbles. I’m not sure why, probably because both men are so miserable and nothing here will change that. The chemistry between Ted Raimi and Jared Padalecki in this scene is awesome.
Wes sees the writing on the wall though as the girl he wished “would love him more than anything”, Hope, does so yet becomes fearful over not pleasing him, loves him more than life and more than herself. After seeing Sam struck down in front of him, Wes discovers that Hope wants him so bad that she wished for Sam’s death to save their love. He tenderly kisses her and takes the coin out of the fountain to fix what he did to her. When she doesn’t remember who he is and leaves, my heart couldn’t help be crushed for the poor guy.
The sad exchange at the end between Wes and newly revived Sam was a prime example of how this show can kill you with laughter one second and then deep pity the next. Wes hands Sam the coin, knowing he did the right thing yet gave up his chance at happiness, and poor Sam had to relate. Sam had to turn away the life he always wanted for the greater good, resigned now that he’ll never get it back. He’s not necessarily a better person for it either. Wes learns that same lesson, and it’s tough for Sam to see.
What’s even harder to see is the end, which is a complete shout out to “Children Shouldn’t Play With Dead Things.” After getting one last laugh over Audrey’s solemn parents with sunburned faces and her holding the now normal Teddy Bear with the back of its head blown out and taped shut, Dean tragically confesses to Sam he remembers everything from Hell. He’s clearly traumatized but he refuses talk about it. Talking won’t make it better. Dean tells Sam he would never understand, and he can’t make him understand.
The words from this scene were nothing until Jensen Ackles got hold of them, working his incredible talent to make Dean’s trauma very raw and painful. We are blessed with another week where we can bow to Jensen’s greatness. I found his delivery in this scene ten times more powerful than CSPWDT. Again, I switch from tears of laughter to tears of heartbreak. Damn you show!
That mirrors in eerie ways what Sam said at the end of “Metamorphosis” over his demon blood. Sounds like both Winchesters are carrying heavy burdens inside and don’t want to share. They need a family intervention, now! It’s my theory that Dean gradually began to remember and it all came back to him after Lilith’s confrontation at the end of “Yellow Fever”. So essentially he didn’t lie to Sam in “Lazarus Rising”. This issue is far from done and again I sense it’s a setup for episodes to come.
The Misc Stuff
The working title of Sam’s fake book is Supernatural? Awesome! If anything, that scene made me really hungry for some good Chinese food.
Sam and Dean present strangest covers yet. They’re florists? Nah, Teddy Bear doctors is stranger.
Wes believes that Sam and Dean have it easy because of their good looks. Ha! How many times has Sam been laid in three years? Once as far as we know. Dean spends more time with Sam than hot chicks, so he’s not exactly doing great either, even if he has new found virginity. Besides, they’re better looking when angsty and tortured.
“Kneel before Todd!” A Superman 2 reference! The kid that plays the poor bullied Todd is great, as is the girl that plays Audrey. She took the reality of screwed up teddy bear better than anyone could. It’s great when kids are allowed to shine on this show.
Despite the sad ending, I give this episode the grade of an A. I’m a sucker for dark comedy, and it’s well done here. Next week is the first part of a big sweeps two-parter, “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” I have two clips to share in the next article, along with more fan announcements.