Oh, “Red Sky at Morning.” This episode has not gone down in history too kindly. It’s often referenced when someone needs an example of how bad filler is done or just when someone needs a good laugh. Even Chuck made a joke about it in season four. It’s…hideous. Although, compared to some of the really bad episodes of later seasons, it’s actually acceptable. That’s pretty scary.
There were a couple of issues right off the bat with this one. First, the character of Bela Talbot. She was a product of a meddling female executive at the top of The CW at the time, Dawn Ostroff, that wanted to turn her network into a girl power niche catering mostly to females 18-24. It was kind of a strange plan since The CW’s two biggest shows were Smallville and Supernatural, which had a high male demographic, not to mention females in the 25-52 age range. But Gossip Girl became her pet project and suddenly Supernatural had two new female co-stars.
The second issue was the writer of this episode was Laurence Andries, a guy that turned in one script for Eric Kripke and that was it for him. I remember Kripke calling this a spec script and it really showed. Had this writer never seen this show before? Sure, the MOTW premise wasn’t horrible. There are plenty of mysterious urban legends involving the sea. A ghost ship legend is actually in the ball park of what Sam and Dean do. But the dialogue, the setup, the smug ass Bela, the really off characterization, ugh. So much of it was cringeworthy. Still, it wasn't a total loss, which is something, but it's bad enough.
MOTW - A Ghost Ship?
It didn’t take long for this episode to feel strange. I thought it was a little weird that Sam and Dean would interrogate an old woman that lost her niece to a ghost ship (her words) and she would spend that conversation flirting with Sam instead of actually grieving or feeling sad for her freaking niece. Then, Bela has the Impala towed, and they end up talking to her first instead of rushing off to rescue Baby? Not to mention, she’s as arrogant as hell. What is meant to be a light hearted moment just turns into a mass fandom outcry of why the hell is this woman on our TV.
There’s more investigation, more cringe worthy conversation with Bela, Sam and Dean can’t save the victim with the huge target on his back, Sam feels guilty, blah, blah, blah, Hand of Glory? Ewww…
So, there’s the setup to steal the Hand of Glory during a black tie event? You realize that typical Sam and Dean would sneak in while everyone is at the event rather than dressing up in tuxes and attending with Bela?? They’re pros at that. They could have easily overtaken one guard. But no, Sam has to take one for the team by getting manhandled by a cougar that should be flipping grieving for her niece? She called him Adonis? How did Kripke approve this script?
(We're all with you on this one Sam)
Back to Bela and Dean, and I’m still wondering why they went with her plan. This can’t end well. As we all clearly remember, this is the chick that has screwed them over multiple times not to mention berated them endlessly. THIS ISN’T RIGHT. Okay, fine, the plot. Bela and Dean get by the guard and steal the hand, and Dean gets screwed over again. Bela stole the hand. WHY DID THEY TRUST HER?? Worse, she sees the damn ship and wants them to help her? AND THEY DO?? Back when I did reviews at this time, I had a foam brick called the TV brick. I would throw it at my TV when stupid stuff happened. I wished I had a whole collection of bricks during this one. It was a lot of getting up and retrieving said brick from the floor just to throw it again in exasperation.
(Okay, this tux shot wasn't that bad, even it if was absurd)
So, once I’ve calmed down, I do have to admit, I did enjoy the scene in the graveyard. It was raining, Winchesters were hotly getting wet, Sam was latinating in a perfect way, and the VFX between the two ghost brothers fighting one another was wicked. So well done. I only wish Bela had died before that happened. Also, did Sam say “Castiel” in his spell? Wow, maybe Mr. Andries was a visionary after all. Bela also played nice and gave them some money for the help. Sadly, this means she’ll be back and the Winchesters will keep trusting her. Dumb, dumb.
The episode ended as it started, Sam and Dean arguing in the car. I liked those chats. Both of those scenes really showed the angst that is growing in Sam over Dean’s deal, and it flowed nicely after an unhinged Sam shot the crossroads demon the episode before. Dean didn’t care what he was doing to Sam as long as he lived. Kind of weird given all the grief Dean felt over John’s deal the season before, but at least they’ve been consistently running with that this season. For some reason, Dean thinks that Sam is stronger and can handle it. The sacrifice is worth it. Oh Dean, wait until season four. Delusional thinking to alleviate guilt - The Winchester Way!
Thoughts About Bela
While Ruby worked for me, given her whole mysterious demon vibe, Bela was just a bad idea. It’s a shame too because Lauren Cohan is an amazing actor. She did the best she could with the crap she was given. The trouble was, her character was woefully miswritten and she never turned into a sympathetic character. She was just plain annoying. Trying to shove a romantic connection between her and Dean, aka in contrast to Sam and Ruby, it just didn’t work. It backfired spectacularly.
With “Red Sky at Morning” we really didn’t know much about her yet. She appeared once already in “Bad Day at Black Rock” and she didn’t come out smelling like a rose. She one upped the boys rather easily and even shot Sam! Given the over protective fandom, that pretty much sealed her fate by the time this episode came around. Still, there was still enough time here to turn her character around and make her more redemptive. Sadly, that didn’t happen.
The biggest tragedy about Bela’s character is that we didn’t find out her true story, the real reason why she did what she did, until the last five minutes of “Time on My Side,” her last episode. The clues weren’t there in season three leading up to that reveal. She was just made annoying. Sure, she accumulated a lot of occult objects and knew how to communicate with spirits, but not once did we get hints that she was trying to beat a demon deal. A demon deal that she made as a young girl to kill her sexually abusive father and ignorant mother. She had ten years. We had no other reason to believe that she did what she did other than for profit, which isn't very appealing.
Now, I get that was a wicked reveal, but because those clues and sympathetic character moments weren’t planted through the season, she never got past being an annoyance to the Winchesters or the audience. Her trust issues make sense now, that a sense of goodness and fair play was lost on her because of her trauma, but her actions didn’t make any sense until that point. As I said earlier, she was woefully miswritten. I’m sure that some crafty fans here could point out a few clues, but honestly was anyone interested in reading that deeply into a recurring character that was not likable? I wasn’t.
Thoughts About Sam
You know, looking at season three, suddenly Sam’s actions in season ten made more sense. Sam was supposed to save his brother and didn’t. He wasn’t going to make that mistake again! But I did like the slow unhinging that happened in season three, especially in the early episodes. It was his turn to go through what Dean did last season with John’s sacrifice. I know the intended arc didn’t play out due to the writer’s strike, but by the time they got to “Mystery Spot,” that didn’t matter. Sam was unraveling on the inside, and this episode gave us those clues that became far more apparent in “Mystery Spot” and led to his desperate actions in season four. It’s quite brilliant when you look at it, and long overdue given his character neglect from the first two seasons.
Thoughts About Dean
("Don't objectify me." That's so hard Dean.)
He isn’t giving away a lot, probably because the pressure is off. He’s written himself off at this point. He won’t listen to Sam, because if he tries to back out of the deal, Sam is dead. He would never be able to live with that. So yeah, he’s going to take this money and have fun in Atlantic City. Except he wasn’t really having fun at the end, was he? I think he knew exactly the emotional torture Sam was going through, but he had to keep up that bravado. There was too much at stake and he couldn’t handle another Sam death. Of course that bravado unravels by the end of the season, but his actions right now make perfect sense. Except dressing up in a tux for Bela. Sure, it was eye candy for fans, but it just wasn’t right.
Overall grade, a D. The scene at the graveyard saved it from being a colossal disaster and the Sam and Dean character development, while unpleasant to watch, was spot on. Coming up next…wow, season eight! I start with the season opener, “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” which was Jeremy Carver’s grand return to Supernatural. That will be favorable. I’m still trying to figure out what was happening in my life at that time that made me miss that review. Ah well, this will be a win for all of you about 9 1/2 years too late.