Posted in Reviews

Altered Carbon Review

As with all of my reviews, there are spoilers, but with this series in particular, I’m going to try to keep most of the spoilers very light.  This television series is can be considered both cyber punk and detective noir, so while spoiling some of the cyberpunk aspects is inevitable, there’s no need to spoil the murder mystery aspect of the series.

First of all, I have recommended this series to a great many people on my Facebook account, but I did mention to my mother that she would probably hate it.  Cyberpunk isn’t for everyone.  In talking about this series, knowing a little bit about cyberpunk is helpful.  Cyberpunk is science fiction set in a dystopian future in an ultra-urban setting, usually with a great divide between the wealthy and the poor causing an inevitable underground oppositional movement, cyberpunk is almost always violent, and has technology that enhances humans in one degree or another.  Bladerunner is one of the best known examples of cyberpunk in film, although there are tons of others.

Altered Carbon hits all of these cyberpunk qualifications, and hits them hard.  I’m not always a fan of cyberpunk because of the dark dystopic future and the ultra violence.  When humans are enhanced with technology, the options for violence can become extreme which is not always appealing to me, but Altered Carbon, while definitely being violent, has so much more going on that the violence didn’t overwhelm me.

In the Altered Carbon future, humans are backed up on discs called “stacks’ that can be removed from one body and placed into another.  They call bodies “sleeves” and the series opens on Takeshi Kovacs being “resleeved” after being killed decades prior.  Since human consciousness can be stored on disc, humans can “needle cast” to other worlds, where their consciousness is sent to another planet and then sleeved in a body.  This allows for quick travel between worlds, especially for the authorities.

Takeshi Kovacs (pronounced Ko-vach) was serving a very long sentence for his crimes, but this sentence was interrupted when an obscenely wealthy man named Laurens Bancroft (portrayed by James Purefoy) basically purchases him to solve the crime of his own murder.  The police think it was suicide, but Bancroft refuses to accept this.  In return for working for Bancroft, Kovacs will get a full pardon and a large sum of money.  This murder mystery takes us through the entire 10 episode series.

First of all, Joel Kinnaman as Takeshi Kovacs is wonderful.  The camera loves him and he brings heart and humor to the role.  Kovacs isn’t always likable and has many hard edges, especially in the first few episodes, but as his history is told and the story moves forward, much of his dislikable behavior makes a lot of sense.  He’s the type of character that isn’t really hard hearted, he’s broken hearted and so he has developed an attitude to keep people at bay.  Kinnaman is likable even in the moments when Kovacs isn’t and this helped me stay interested.

One of the fun things about the show is that one actor can play many different characters.  Actor Matt Biedel gets to play Abuela, a Hispanic grandmother as well as a Russian killer called Dimi the Twin, and a drugged out violent criminal brought into the police station.  His portrayal of Abuela is fantastic, and watching him in this role you really believe that he is Kristin Ortega’s grandmother simply in the sleeve of a very scary man.  The moments between Ortega and Abuela towards the end of the episode are funny but also poignant – Abuela brought me to tears.  Then, in the next episode, he portrays a loathsome underworld figure so well that you forget entirely that he was ever Abuela.  (Yes, I know abuela means grandmother, but she wasn’t given any other name in the series or on IMDB.)

Matt Biedel wasn’t even one of the main actors in the cast, but he still brought depth and life to several characters.  Many of the actors in Altered Carbon get the opportunity to portray different characters, and Martha Higareda, who mainly portrays Kristin Ortega, has one of the best moments in the series when she gets to portray someone else for a little while.  Her performance is amazing and it is the acting that really brings the concept of different people inhabiting a “sleeve” to life.  These actors make the sci-fi concepts real and believable.

One of the other aspects of the series that impresses is the setting.  The series is simply gorgeous.  Bay City is very much a dark and dystopic futuristic city, with the Golden Gate Bridge covered with container dwellings – who needs a bridge when you have flying cars?  In this world, the rich live in tall structures high about the city, and these buildings that soar above the clouds are breathtakingly beautiful.  Since it took me an episode or two to warm up to Kovacs, the gorgeous setting kept me not only interested but riveted.  I normally watch television while scrolling through my phone or laptop, but with Altered Carbon, I simply watched, even upon second viewing.

While I’m sure much of the acting was with a green screen as backdrop, the setting comes alive in a believable way that doesn’t look like CGI.  The city below is dark with buildings crowding out the sun which contrasts the rich who live above in beautiful, idyllic surroundings.

One of my favorite characters in the show is Poe, an AI who runs the hotel where Kovacs stays during his investigation.  The hotel has an Edgar Alan Poe theme and he brings much humor to the often dry and grumpy Kovacs.  Chris Conner is wonderful as Poe and I really hope that season two will have him returning.  Honestly, I could watch a show that was just about the adventures of Poe – Conner’s character was that fun.

As stacks can be put into different sleeves, there are several characters who portray Kovacs in addition to Kinnaman.  Credited as “Stronghold Kovacs,” Will Yun Lee is Kovacs in many of the flashbacks and is Kovacs’ original sleeve.  The scenes with Lee and Dichen Lachman, as his sister Reileen Kawahara, are some of the best in the series.  Lee shows us Kovacs’ heart by showing us his past, and he brings so much depth and emotion to the role that you cannot help but care for him.  At one point, Quellcrist Falconer (Renee Elise Goldberry) tells him that he is only pretending to be one of the monsters, and the flashbacks show this to be true.  My hope for season two is a lot more Lee – he was truly fantastic.

The way the series ends, it is entirely possible to have season two with an entirely new cast of characters, something I hope they do.  Although, Kinnaman was so great in the role, it’d be wonderful if they figured out a way to bring him back in the same sleeve, although if they handed the Kovacs role over to Lee, that would be wonderful, too.  I would love to see more of Lee’s Kovacs in the future – he knocked me out he was so good. There are many worlds in this universe to inhabit and many different things to explore.

After finding out that the series was also a book, I read Altered Carbon the book, and the series was better.  I almost never like a series better than the book, but the series made a lot of improvement upon the book.  They took the concepts and characters and built upon it in a way that I really enjoyed.  I tried reading the second novel in the Kovacs trilogy, but quit halfway through, as it wasn’t even close to as good as the first book.  My hope is that season two takes a departure from the books and has another noir-type mystery to tell, instead of the war story/artifact hunt that was the second book.

I will say that this series has lots of violence, including violence against women and violence against sex workers.  There was one episode centered on Kovacs going into a simulated torture scenario, but luckily the amount of torture scenes was low as the episode included flashbacks to Kovacs’ past much more than they showed the torture aspect of things.  So be forwarned about the violence in advance.  That said, between the exceptional story, acting, and special effects, this series definitely is an A.



Posted in Reviews

Hulu Sucks

If there is a perfect metaphor for 2017, it’s the new Hulu interface – it’s new, improved, and crappier than it has ever been.  Laughably crappy.  Crappy enough, people are scratching their heads and wondering, “How did this even happen?”  It looks like a much less user friendly version of Amazon’s service, if you removed everything good from Amazon’s User Interface.

Needless to say, I truly hate it.  After several MONTHS of trying to get used to it, today, I just canceled my $11.99 subscription to Hulu.  I tried once before but they lured me back with a free month, but honestly, even free I wouldn’t bother using Hulu at this point.

First of all, everything takes longer for no real explicable reason.  You have to sign in to your name once Hulu boots up, then you are given a pretty menu that is mostly a pain in the ass to navigate.  The old interface would show the movies or shows that Hulu was highlighting that month, and I often found new shows to watch that way.  This new model gives you an uninteresting list of titles.

If you watch a television series, navigating to the show’s page to pick a season and then pick an episode is about a 5 minute affair.  It takes for ever, and half the time we just would quit and watch Netflix or Amazon instead.  See, if you click on the series title, it will just take you straight to an episode, not the actual show’s page.  Finding the actual show’s page is unintuitive as hell, and after trying to figure it out pretty much every time we use the service, and the ensuing frustrations of fast forwarding or rewinding or pausing or a myriad of other things, we might 50% of the time make it to the show’s page.

At which point I hate everyone who helped make this User Interface so much that I can’t see straight.

But wait, it gets better.  No matter how many times you take a show out of your watch list, Hulu will still put it in your Autoplay.  Dream LLC is a fucking horrible show, disgusting to watch, and ugly to look at.  I watched one single episode, hated it and tried to move on with my life.  But will Hulu let me?  No.  Instead it tries to force that show down my throat every single chance it gets.

And don’t bother to tell me I can turn Autoplay off.  I already know that.  However, then getting to the next episode of Adventure Time takes 20 years to navigate to and choose an episode from, and when the episodes are only around 12 minutes long it rapidly becomes not worth it to have Autoplay off.  Much of the new User Interface results in choices between two shitty options.  You know what system was better by about a 1000 times?  Their old one.

Forget about fast forwarding or rewinding with any accuracy whatsoever.  The old Hulu’s FF and Rewind were clunky in comparison to Netflix, but at least you could get to kind of the right spot.  With Hulu’s new UI, unless you know the minute and second you are navigating to, you have to blindly guess how many minutes to go in either direction.  It’s also SO SLOW.

It’s as if they designed the new User Interface to cause as many viewers as possible to rage quit as often as possible.

I honestly cannot believe they managed to approve this “upgrade” and think it was in any way a good idea.  Hulu went from beating Netflix in watchability and viewing choices to being a complete waste of time.

Posted in Reviews

Supernatural Season 11 Review

Spoilers abound for all of the season, so reader beware.

Season 11 was a bit of a mixed bag for me.  The episodes I like, I really intensely love but there are a few episodes that simply left me bored or meh.  That said, this season has two episodes that are easily within my top 10 favorite episodes, if not the top 5.  One of these episodes is called “Baby” and the entire thing is just pitch perfect.

Baby is Dean’s name for the Impala, who is the third character in the show who rarely gets an episode from her point of view.  While Sam’s tenacity saved the world and caged the devil, it was memories of the Impala that helped him do it – the Impala is as iconic to this show and the Mystery Machine is to Scooby Doo, so hell yeah, bring on an episode from her point of view.

This episode has a lot of mundane things I just love.  First of all, this episode shows the brothers bonding, laughing, and interacting in a way we don’t normally see.  If you think about the sheer number of places they drive, they spend a huge amount of time in the Impala and because driving cross country is mostly boring, we rarely see this aspect of their lives for long.  This episode gave us a little glimpse of that togetherness and the fun they have together.  It was a joy and relief to see an episode where the brothers get along well, laugh together, and even sing along to the radio.

I could honestly go scene by scene with the episode to tell you why it’s brilliant, but I’ll hit the highlights for me, personally.  Sam having a one-night stand in the Impala and Dean’s pride – and musical humor – is just delightfully funny.  Sam tells Dean he tried to give the woman his number.

Sam: I tried to give her my number. You know what she said?

Dean: ‘We got tonight; who needs tomorrow?’

Sam: Is everything a Bob Seger song to you?

Dean: Yes.

This is exchange followed by the conversation the brothers have in the car really make this episode shine.  For an action horror series like Supernatural, there aren’t a lot of slow moments of conversation, so when they happen, I really enjoy them.  Not finding a hotel (maybe not having money?) the brothers are sleeping in their car with Sam in the backseat and Dean in the front seat.  Sam wakes up, talks about his dream of their father, and the ensuing scene is just wonderful.  It’s just them, sitting in Baby, having a heart to heart and I can’t say enough good things about it.

This episode also has one of the funnier sequences of the series when Dean has to deal with killing “Deputy Dumbass” the were-pyre they are hunting.  Dean is having a phone conversation with Castiel, trying to determine what type of monster they are hunting, when the Deputy attacks Dean.  The fight scene is filmed from the inside of the car – Baby’s perspective – which allows for hilarity.  Castiel’s voice misheard through Dean’s phone as Dean shoots, beheads, and otherwise damages the were-pyre – Dean finds out beheading doesn’t work when the severed head on the windshield continues to growl at him.  This whole sequence is incredibly funny and wonderful.

This episode also sees all three of our main characters – Baby, Dean, and Sam – return home injured and limping, as even Baby got involved in the were-pyre fight.  I honestly think this might be my all time favorite episode of Supernatural, but then “Fan Fiction” and “Don’t Call Me Shurley” are also contenders for that title.

One of the best aspects of this season is that the brothers are on the same side, and Castiel is around during the beginning of the season and on the same side as the brothers.  I love it when our heroes are actually working together.  Their ability to work together so smoothly was what drew me into the show in the first place, so it’s nice to see a return to them functioning as a unit.  I didn’t mind season 10 having Sam working to cure Dean behind his back, because that was still working on the same side, even if Dean didn’t know about it.  Seasons 6-8 where it was brother fighting brother and angsty-drama all the time was wearying, to say the least.

To hit one of the down notes of the season, ugh, Lucifer.  Fucking again.  They killed off Raphael and Gabriel, both archangels, can’t we manage to stab this fucker with an angel blade already?  But no, instead Castiel says “yes” like a total moron and we’re stuck with Lucifer as Castiel, which is a bit more entertaining simply because Misha Collins makes such a more interesting Lucifer, but can we be real?  Lucifer is written as a sociopathic 5 year old complete with tantrums.  LUCIFER IS BORING.  I don’t care that Daddy hurt his feelings, after millennia, get the fuck over it and stop whining and exploding people.  Dick.

While Misha does an excellent job with Lucifer, I still hate the storylines with Lucifer for the most part, although because they are working towards the same purpose, Lucifer is a bit more fun this season, but barely.  Also, making Crowley Lucifer’s “dog” is just gross.  I know he’s the devil and all, but come one, really?  Why on earth do demons have this devotion to Lucifer?  He’s shown no leadership, absolutely detests demons, and generally is a sociopathic 5 year having a permanent temper tantrum, so what gives demonkind?  Just that stupid?  If he’s this charismatic leader that people fall in love with, I’d really like that aspect of him shown, because otherwise, he’s just BORING.  A walking bag of hate isn’t really that interesting to me and Lucifer’s daddy-issues have long stopped being interesting.

It helps that Misha Collins is clearly having fun as Lucifer, so that does get me to enjoy him a bit more as a character, but still, let’s kill Lucifer and never speak of him again, ok, Supernatural writers?

One of the episodes where Misha Collins is playing Lucifer who is pretending to be Castiel is called “The Vessel” and it is another really great episode.  Dean is sent back in time to retrieve a Hand of God, which they hope can defeat Amarra/The Darkness.  He’s sent back in time to the Bluefin, a submarine in World War II.  Lucifer, being an archangel, has the power to send Dean back in time, but due to the warding on the ship he can’t actually get on the ship himself.

This is one of the few episodes I really enjoyed Lucifer, because he’s pretty funny.  Lucifer walking down the steps of the bunker soaking wet always makes me laugh, in part because Lucifer looks so annoyed and pissed off about it.  Lucifer is interesting in the episode because he’s acting like a warrior of god and like an ally to the Winchesters, instead of being his usual petulant, whiny-baby self.  It’s a refreshing change for a boring and tired character.

This episode isn’t really about Lucifer, though.

Dean: Captain James Dearborn, my name is Dean Winchester and I am on a mission from the future, the details of which I am not a liberty to discuss. But know this: within the hour, a German destroyer will find and attack this submarine and you will go down.  [This line doesn’t seem like much, but in the context of episode itself, it’s powerful as a punch to the gut.]

It’s barely about the Winchesters and is instead about Delphine, the Woman of Letters who is transporting the Hand of God via submarine after stealing it from the Thule, the evil Nazi Necromancers.

Delphine: You save this ship, get us to the surface, and then what? The power of God will consume you, and you’ll have merely brought the weapon closer to the Nazis’ grasp. We are supposed to die, let us do it with a purpose.

Delphine warns Dean of the dangers and then takes the task on herself, sacrificing herself and the submarine to take out the Nazi Thule ship.  How badass is Delphine?

At the end of this episode – which never fails to bring a tear to my eye, because of the bravery and commitment of the soldiers and Delphine in the past – Dean tells Sam that he wasn’t really a part of things, he was just a witness.

This is the type of episode that I really love, simply because even the throwaway characters aren’t two-dimensional.  I’d watch a show just about Delphine, or many of the characters on the submarine.  This was just such a great and well written episode all around and it’s one that I love to watch, even though it seems to be more about the WWII action than the Winchesters, which is just fine by me, considering how well it was done.  This episode and “Baby” are excellent examples of why so many people are devoted to this show – they are just brilliantly written and unbelievably entertaining.

“Don’t Call Me Shurley” sees the return of Chuck/God as well as Metatron.  First of all, Rob Benedict who portrays Chuck/God, I could watch just type.  He’s magic on screen and this episode was a revelation of Rob Benedict’s true talent.  HOW IS HE NOT IN EVERYTHING ALL OF THE TIME?  He seamlessly moves from Chuck to God and back again, and then he tops it all off by singing a song that blows all the doors off the episode.  I know writing God must be a difficult task, but more Rob Benedict, please.  Dude is ridiculously talented, so if you don’t want to write an all powerful being, simply have him hanging out and playing guitar, because holy fucking cow is he wonderful at it.

Metatron is portrayed by Curtis Armstrong, an actor who has been in practically everything, but is best known as Booger front he “Revenge of the Nerds” although I always think of him as his “Moonlighting” character Herbert Viola.  As a bad guy, Metatron was obnoxious and devious and killed Dean once, so you know, hated Metatron.  However in this episode, Curtis Armstrong shows what a brilliant fucking actor he is by making us feel sympathy and even a little love for Metatron.  Armstrong and Benedict are what make this episode probably my all-time favorite episode.

First of all, this episode confirmed what most of us thought after the season 5 finale – Chuck is actually God.  This episode reveals Chuck being God, but it’s the interplay and history between God and Metatron that really infused this episode with such life and character.  I could watch God and Metatron sit in this bar and talk writing all day.

Metatron: You know, I was a crappy, terrible god. My work was pretty much a lame, half-assed rewrite of your greatest hits. But at least I was never a coward. [God throws him through the front doors of the bar with a flick of his finger.  Metatron walks back in, smiling.] There he is. That’s the guy I know, the guy I love. I remember the first time I saw you. All the angels were terrified, but I wasn’t. The feeling of your light was… was just beyond measure. And then the unthinkable. You picked me to help you with your tablets.

Chuck: You were just the closest angel to the door when I walked into the room. There’s nothing special about you, Metatron. Not then… not now. Now… I’ve been called many things — absentee father, wrathful monster. But, coward… I am not hiding. I am just done watching my experiments’ failures.

Metatron: You mean your failures, Chuck.

The way he spits out the name “Chuck” like an epithet is wonderful.  Chuck’s words deeply wound Metatron.  Armstrong plays the craziness and cunning of Metatron expertly, and he even shows the broken heartedness all of the angels felt when god left.  Armstrong does restrained tears so very well in this episode that it breaks your heart.  Later on in the episode, when Metatron says that he doesn’t care if he was “the angel closest to the door” he can barely say the words without crying – Metatron the clever and awful enemy who killed Dean once, has me broken-hearted and in tears this episode.

Metatron even tells god that all of his previous bad behavior was a sad attempt to get attention from Chuck.

This episode is just brilliant.

Metatron:  No, look. I know I’m a disappointment, but you’re wrong about humanity. They are your greatest creation because they’re better than you are. Yeah, sure, they’re weak and they cheat and steal and… destroy and disappoint. But they also give and create and they sing and dance and love. And above all, they never give up. But you do.

At the end of the episode, Chuck sings “Dink’s Song” aka “Fare Thee Well” and the first several times I watched this episode, I just sobbed through the whole song.

One o’ dese days, an’ it won’t be long,
Call my name an’ I’ll be gone.
Fare thee well, O Honey, fare thee well.

I’m not a Christian, but the idea of the Christian God of Supernatural being gone is a terrifying prospect just the same.

From this episode on, everyone seems to be on the same side – Lucifer and God hash out some things, although Lucy’s still a dick; Rowena and Crowley join the fight; even Billie helps out.  However, what defeats the Darkness/Amarra in the end isn’t a weapon, but rather it’s love, forgiveness, and family.

I’ve spent a lot of time gushing about the great episodes this season, but I haven’t even gotten to how awesome Jody Mills is this season.  You know I can’t write a review without a huge heaping spoonful of love for Kim Rhodes and her expert portrayal of Jody Mills.  We pop back into her life and see how things are going with her, Claire, and Alex in an episode that I really enjoyed, although for the love of God Claire is such a bitch it’s painful to watch her sometimes.  Can we please either write her as less of a dumbass OR less of bitch?  The combo of bitchy dumbass is really grating, although her cuddling the Grumpy Cat stuffed cat the Castiel bought for her at “The Hot Topical” is a cute moment.

Anyway, Jody is amazing as always and watching her care for her two wards is really awesome, including a discussion of STD’s at dinner, which was funny.  Jody is a great mom, but that isn’t what defines her as a person.

Jody: ‘Kay, well, um. I may have definitely seen birth control pills in your backpack.

Sam: Oh, we’re going there.

Dean: Okay.

Alex: Oh my god.

Jody: Hey, if we can’t talk about it, we shouldn’t be doing it, right? Right?  [Right on, sister!!!  I absolutely agree!]

Dean: What?

The bonding between the women is awesome and in the end Alex offering to sacrifice herself for Claire (prompting Claire to tell the vamps that their intel is wrong, Alex hates her) and Jody is just wonderful.  Katherine Ramdeen as Alex is a great character full of complexities, but really she just wants to live her life without monsters.  Good luck with that, Alex.

“Just My Imagination” is another fun episode that has me laughing hysterically, especially in the beginning of the episode.  Sam’s imaginary friend from childhood shows up and needs help.  The whole opening sequence with Sam waking up and finding an offering of all of his favorite foods from childhood (marshmallow nachos, for one) and then discovering his long ago friend is priceless.  Adding Dean to the mix, “Are you having a stroke?  Do you smell toast?” adds to the overall hilarity.

Season 11 clearly has a lot of really good episodes and excellent writing.  That said, lots of boring Lucifer crap happens throughout the season, but that is why we have fast forward.

Overall I give the season a B – lots of Lucifer boringness brings the season down, and while this season has several just completely wonderful episodes, it also has a couple of meh ones, too.

This season is one where my respect for Sam grows by leaps and bounds.  He addresses the craziness of them rescuing each other at the expense of the world.  He tries really hard all of the time to do the right thing, but the road to perdition is paved with good intentions.  Sam and Dean working well together makes this season a good one, but Sam does a lot of impressive things on his own this season and it’s fun to watch him grow and change over the course of the show.

The superstars of this season are Rob Benedict and Curtis Armstrong, though.  They give the mythology a weight, history, and emotional resonance that really makes the larger conflict more believable.  I know Curtis Armstrong has no problem being called “Booger” by most people, but he is so amazingly talented as Metatron that I simply can’t write him off as just “Booger” or just a character actor.  He’s a fucking powerhouse of awesome.

I’ve complaints about the God/Amarra storyline, but it didn’t bother and I didn’t feel like it went “too big” or jumped the shark.  Amarra was an interesting bad guy, in part because while she was pissed and powerful, she also was innocent and naive in many ways, too.  I enjoyed her storyline and the overall arc of the season.  I’m also glad that – unlike the Lucifer storylines – this one was finished up in the season.

Posted in Reviews

Supernatural Season 10 Review

Spoilers for all seasons abound, so don’t read if you don’t want to be spoiled.

Season 10 has some really excellent episodes throughout, and overall I really enjoyed all of them with a few exceptions.  The first few episodes deal with Dean having become not only a demon but a friend of Crowley’s.  He’s ditched the bunker so Sam has been searching for him for several months.

They introduce Cole as this seeming badass who is after Dean and while he could certainly kick my ass, he’s not that impressive when compared to the Winchesters.  Anyway, he nabs Sam easily enough (to be fair, Sam’s injured so only has one arm working), he’s simply no match for Dean.  Demon Dean shows coldness throughout the beginning episodes, but nothing too dark, although he and Crowley have a disturbing conversation about “what they did to those triplets” and I just hope to Goddess they are talking kinky sex and not, as Kevin would say, “sex torture dungeon” types of things.  With demons, so many things seem to overlap hideously.  Dean ordering for Crowley is pretty funny.

Dean: Two shots here, and he’ll have something fancy with your tiniest umbrella.

The scene where a basically one-armed Sam is in the bar with handcuffs to bring Dean back, Dean who has mostly always kicked Sam’s ass (except for that one time when Sam was on demon blood) when Sam wasn’t injured and Dean wasn’t a demon.  This shows that Sam isn’t really thinking clearly about this issue.  I know they make a big deal about Sam going all “dark side” to find Dean, but honestly, they’ve caught and tortured demons for way less, so him doing so to find Dean and Crowley didn’t seem out of character.

Also, no pity for Lester – that dude not only jumped at the idea of killing his wife, he wanted to watch.  That sicko can go to Crowley’s hell, the sooner the better. (Also, for anyone keeping track of Stargate bingo – Lester is portrayed by David Nykl, aka Dr. Radek Zelenka from Stargate Atlantis.)  Anyway, none of this struck me as really out of character for Sam (“Mystery Spot” for example) as he’s proven without Dean he’s a bit of a wild card, which is really dramatic when the person in question happens to be a Taurus.

Anyway, right before Sam gets Dean back, Demon Dean kicks Cole’s ass.  Kind of a lot.  Cole says that he learned “everything” but can’t even land a blow.  Jensen Ackles, as always, rocks as Demon Dean, even joking about Cole’s threat to shoot Sam. “Did you miss?” Demon Dean says jovially.  Very good fight scene, but I’m not that impressed with Cole.  Like, good job for dedication to your vengeance cause and all, but maybe next time just shoot first instead of talking so much.  Wallowing in your revenge only snatches it away from you.

Meanwhile, Sam and Crowley are fun to watch – Sam tries to threaten Crowley’s life, but it doesn’t really take..

Sam: This doesn’t make us square. If I see you again…
Crowley: Oh stop it Samantha, nobody likes a tease.

Sam taking Demon Dean home is a great relief even if Demon Dean is chilling.  This leads to Sam using the demon cure to restore Dean.  This episode has a lot of back and forth between Demon Dean and Sam, but what’s fun is Crowley saving Castiel.  Castiel won’t steal the grace of another angel, so Crowley does it for him, because he figures Castiel will help the Winchesters make Dean no longer a demon.

Crowley: Why can’t you people just sit on clouds and play harps like you’re supposed to?

Castiel with renewed grace is always an excellent visual as he glows angel white.  Him rescuing Sam from an escaped Demon Dean (Jared Padalecki is great here, especially the relief on Sam’s face at seeing Castiel has arrived) has the visual of Castiel with blue angel eyes and Dean with black demon eyes, and that has become a gif I’ve seen pretty much every where – no surprise there, it is a really well-done scene.  This ends the demon Dean portion of things, and gets us on to the meat of the season, including the 200th episode of the show.

Dean: Ugh, theater kids. Great.

Sam: What? I was a theater kid.

Dean: Barely. You did Our Town, which was cool. But then you did that crappy musical.

Sam: Oklahoma? Hugh Jackman got cast off of Oklahoma.

Dean: You ran tech, Wolverine.

Sam: Shut up.

“Fan Fiction” is the 200th episode of the series and I cannot gush about it enough.  I was dubious about it when I first heard the premise, but it really worked (if you forget entirely that they are dealing with teenagers at a school who would probably be way more supervised than that, but I am not going to nitpick a fucking fantastic episode.)  First of all, the music really is great.  Some of it funny, mostly sweet.  And these singers simply break your heart when they sing “Carry On My Wayward Son.”  I’ve said a few times that I originally thought of “Supernatural” as “pretty boys hunt monsters on the WB” until I was channel surfing and caught the song playing as the “road so far” from season two’s finale – I stopped for the song and stayed for the show.  The song starts off with “Mary Winchester” singing and by the time “Bobby” is getting up from his wheelchair, I’m in tears.

By 200 episodes, fans of the show are pretty invested in the characters, their backstories, and the mythology.  “Fan Fiction” plays on that in a fun way in the beginning that has you laughing, but by the end has you in tears for the loss they’ve had on their journey.  The music was excellent, and “A Single Man Tear” is both funny in a self mocking way and touching.  Well-done episode all around and a great gift to long time fans.  The expressions on Sam and Dean’s faces when they walk in and see a production of their life is priceless.   Dean blurting out, “There’s no singing in Supernatural” is hilarious.    Maeve (portrayed by Joy Regullano) was particularly fun.

Maeve is what Daria would be if she really cared about things.  When people are being taken by Calliope during the show, she calls for the understudies to get into hair and make-up.  She’s pretty unflappable, in that monotone, non-impressed way.  It was a great 200th episode, but I’ve gushed enough about it.  (Although, seriously, where are the parents???)

This season introduces one of my personal favorite villains of all time, Rowena.  Rowena is evil to the core and completely self-interested, manipulative, and all around bad.  She is also hilarious and crazy powerful.  She rescues two prostitutes who were forced into working for demons and simply kills the demon with a hex bag.  Meanwhile, Dean hooks up with someone from a dating site (Sam mocks Dean for his screen name, Impala67) and it turns out that she is working for a demon.  Sex for souls, basically.  It turns out that Dean isn’t really the ideal customer for that type of trade.  Just as the Winchesters have their sites on Rowena, Cole shows up and she gets away.

Dean and Cole fight again, and Dean who is not a demon still easily kicks Cole’s butt.  The fight scene is as good as the last one, but has a lot more heart to it.  Cole talking about his father begging for his life and Dean replying “It’s a monster’s trick,” was just horrifying and sad to me, because it means lots of monsters have begged Dean for their life.  His childhood must have been pretty scarring.  Anyway, Cole moves on with renewed perspective.

Season 10 has plot arcs that serve as book ends for episodes, but there are many stand alone episodes, something the series does really well.  I actually prefer the monster of the week episodes, and there are plenty of them this season.  One of my favorites is “Ask Jeeves” where throughout the course of the episode, Dean manages to pick up every weapon in the game/movie Clue.  It’s a fun and funny episode with excellent guest characters.  They do weave in a bit about the Mark of Cain as the episode’s bookends, but the rest of the episode is primarily funny.

Dean encountering Hansel and a witch that turns him into young Dean is another fun episode that has the return of Dylan Everett as a young Dean.  “About a Boy” is somewhat fun, simply because of the interaction between adult Sam and teenage Dean.  Also, bench seats are a real problem – I have short legs and I’ve put people’s knees around their ears before.  This is a good monster of the week episode even though there is Mark of Cain angst.

One of my favorite episodes, naturally, is “Hibbing 911” where Sheriff Jody Mills and Sheriff Donna Hanscum meet.  I love this episode so much and wanted immediately a spin-off with these two women.  #Wayward #WaywardAF  I clearly wasn’t alone.  One of the nice things about this episode is it shows the dynamic of female friendship really well.  Jody gets tired of Donna’s ex bringing up her weight, “You are SO not fat, by the way” is one of those moments.  These two work so well off of each other, and Jody needs someone who calls her Jodio.

Just Kim Rhodes body language alone in this episode is praise worthy, but what really shines through to me is that finally there is a heroic, kick-ass, adult woman who is a complicated and complex character.  Jody enjoys church but didn’t join their chastity group because she doesn’t make promises she can’t keep.  Jody lost both her son and husband in one night, but still manages to be sheriff, an elected position.  That alone is heroically impressive, but then she takes in Alex and later Claire.  Her life has tragedy, but where the Winchesters tend to become more closed off, Jody just opens her arms wider and her home even more in the wake of tragedy.

Jody Mills is great in this episode, where she is at a Sheriff’s retreat and pretty irked about having to go.  She calls Sam and Dean in to check out what might be a case and they ask after Alex.  She first tells them that Alex is captain of the cheerleading squad as a joke, but when Sam says, “Really?”  Jody replies that Alex is smoking pot under the bleachers but at least she isn’t luring men to their death anymore.  Jody is realistic about Alex’s reaction to 8 years of trauma and is prepared to grade on a curve.

Jody and Donna start off as a sort of odd couple, but by the end they are friends and it really does happen organically in the story in a really nice way.  By the end, Jody has offered to answer any questions about the supernatural Donna has, which is cool.  Also, I just love their exchanges, such as this one:

Jody: You okay?

Donna: Yeah, other than feeling like I wanna hurl. I just chopped off a vampire’s head.

Jody: You were great at that. [Kim Rhodes says this line in a such a wonderful, supportive, happy way that it’s a lot better than it looks]

Donna: Thanks.

Now as much as I love Jody and Donna, I really have to work to like Claire, because as written, she’s been pretty awful.  I know we are all supposed to freak out that Dean killed everyone at the end of her return episode, but these men were just hanging out downstairs while one of them tried to rape Claire.  I’m good with Dean killing all of them.  Randy, who has been “like a father” to Claire is willing to pay off his debts with her, as if he owned her or she were a commodity.  That dude can die and I won’t cry.  Sam and Castiel really overreact here.

Claire is just unpleasant, pretty much all around.  Finding out later in the season that her mom’s been kidnapped gives her some sympathy, but mostly she is just attitude and anger and bad hair and it’s annoying to watch her.  I’m hoping that they make her less of an intolerable jerk in the future.  The interaction between Castiel and the Winchesters is excellent in these episodes, but Claire’s dialogue is just sullen and hateful and bleh.

The return of Charlie Bradbury from Oz happens early on in the season, and it’s great episode.  I love Felicia Day as Charlie, and we get more of her than usual this season which is so great but then she dies and it’s awful.  Her death seems to be used as motivation for Dean to go dark side and kill all of the Steins, but honestly, I think he’d have done that regardless.  Anyway, Charlie died off camera, and while many hated that, I don’t think I could have handled her death scene.  She was too likable and too fun and too much of a straight shooter with the brothers for it to be anything other than a huge loss.  She could call them on their crap in a way no other character has ever been able to.

That said, Charlie died the way she lived, by choosing her direction.  She chooses to save Dean.  Dean tells her to give the Steins whatever they want, but having just figured out the Book of the Damned code she says, “I can’t do that, Dean.”  Her smashing her keyboard in the sink is devastating because it’s Charlie’s suicide, metaphorically speaking, and removes any bargaining chip she may have had for her life.  Charlie chose a heroes death, but I don’t have to like it.  She was a great character that deserved better than to die so Dean’s character could go dark side.  [Getting a little bit ‘women in refrigerators’ here, writers, so quit it]

And all of my favorite lines go to Rowena.  She’s an awful, evil, manipulative witch, but she is just so good at being awful.  Oh, and also a bad mother.

Crowley: You said, you’d be back in a flash and then you disappeared, I was eight-years-old, eight!

Rowena: Oh now, you’re being dramatic.

Crowley: I didn’t even have a father!

Rowena: Of course you had a father. You were just conceived during a winter solstice orgy, and it’s not like I was taking names.

She also has no problem with being evil.  She takes pride in it.

Dean: Rowena, what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this? I’m sorry did I say nice girl? I meant evil skank.

Rowena: You say that like it’s an insult. Nice girls, they’re pathetic. Here’s to ‘evil skanks.’

“Inside Man” sees the return of Bobby Singer in one of the more fun episodes of the season.  Bobby breaks out of his heaven and to distract the angels, opens the backdoors to all of the other Bobby Singers’ heavens creating one of my favorite lines EVER:

Angel: The Bobbys are fighting back. All hands, we need all hands. They’re surly, I repeat the Bobbys are surly.

“The Bobby’s are surly” has to be one of the best lines and this episode is full of that type of clever writing.  We have a throwaway character, Oliver, a psychic that Castiel and Sam go to in order to communicate with Bobby in heaven.

Castiel: I’m an angel.

Oliver: That-no, you can’t be.

Castiel: Why not?

Oliver: Because I’m an atheist.

Sam: Not anymore.

There was so much fun stuff in this episode but one of the visuals I always rewind when watching the episode is Castiel jumping through heaven’s gateway – the special effects are marvelous and Castiel really is so unbelievably cool sometimes – this is certainly one of those times.  A team-up between Sam and Castiel isn’t unheard of, but tends to be rarer that the Destiel team-ups (clearly) but this was a really fun one.

Although, I have to say that sometimes it bothers me that they steal cars.  Sam tends to steal kind of crappy cars and I always think that someone with a crappy car probably doesn’t have a whole lot of ways to replace the crappy car or get to work, so I hope they return the cars sometimes with a full tank of gas and maybe a better working carburetor (since they tend to steal older cars) or demon-proofing or something like that to offset what must be a really bad day for someone who is probably struggling to get by.  Sam stole a truck this season that reminded me of my own, but this isn’t the first time I’ve noticed this car thievery as being somewhat problematic.

While Charlie’s death was awful, the other death I hated this season was the death of Death.  First of all, never in a million years EVEN WITH THE STUPID MARK OF CAIN do I believe Dean Winchester will agree to a deal if it involves killing Sam.  He’s completely incapable of doing it.  Famously incapable of doing it.  He can’t even deal with it when someone else kills Sam, so it is incomprehensibly unbelievable to me that any writer of this show thought this was a good idea.  Were they high?  Or just wanted to get home early?

Death saying that if Dean doesn’t kill Sam that he will, probably wasn’t smart on Death’s part because of course that means Dean has to kill him.  I liked this Death a lot.  This episode just had my mouth hanging open at the stupidity of it.  It was very melodramatic and all, but completely unbelievable.  The best part about the season finale was that they played the “Fan Fiction” version of the “Carry On My Wayward Son” for the first bit, before they rolled into the classic rock edition.  Like seriously, the best thing about this episode was “the road so far.”

Season finale episodes are important, and this season’s finale was stupid.  It destroyed any suspension of disbelief I might have had completely.  I thought it meant the entire season sucked, but honestly, this was a really good season, with tons of stand alone stories that were fun.  The Mark of Cain histrionics got really tiresome really quickly, but I did enjoy seeing Sam working to save Dean for a change of pace.  Overall I’d like to give the season an A, but the season finale and the tiresomeness of the Mark of Cain and Claire Novak make it a B.

Posted in Reviews

Supernatural Season 9

Supernatural season 9 – spoilers for season 1-12 might be included below, so you’ve been warned.

Season 9 of Supernatural starts off with Dean compounding his bad decision making of the season 8 finale by making a slew of bad decisions.  Why?  To save Sam, of course.  ::sigh::

Normally, I’m almost totally on Dean’s side of things.  This show has always done an excellent job of showing that both brothers have valid arguments, but this season Dean makes a few bad decisions that fuck up Sam’s life, and then Sam pretty much is pissed for the rest of the season.  Kind of justifiably so.  Most of the early episodes, Sam is possessed by an angel – Dean tricked Sam into saying yes to the possession so Sam wouldn’t die.

Most of the episodes this season are entirely enjoyable.  “Slumber Party” features a return of Charlie Bradbury, introduces a really bitchy Dorothy from Oz in an episode that  introduces Sam and Dean to the garage in the bunker.  This was a fun episode, complete with a Becky reference.

Yes, I’m ignoring Castiel’s struggles right now because it’s so depressing.  He struggles all the way to the bunker and then Dean kicks him out.  I’ve never been so pissed at Dean and a show in my entire life.  Dean says they are family, but when push comes to shove, he’ll feed Cas to the sharks?  Dick move.  Then the episode where Castiel is working at the gas station, with the horrible boss woman who doesn’t know how to say the word babysit?  Just awful.  The entire time Sam is possessed by the angel, Dean is a dick to Castiel for the most part, and it is soul crushing to watch.

Props to Misha Collins for breaking my heart this season as he tries to navigate life as a human.  He does a wonderful job of trying to simply live as a human being, and then as trying to navigate life among the fallen angels.  Castiel’s arc this season is a wonderful arc of redemption – although, man, angels are fickle as hell.  I prefer Castiel and the Winchesters to be working together, from the bunker, preferably, but this season does provide a wider context for Castiel.  However, during the first part of the season it’s heartbreaking to watch, and it really makes me want to kick Dean.

“Dog Dean Afternoon” has the brothers trying to solve a murder but the only witness is a dog.  What do to do?  Drink a potion to mind meld with a dog, of course.  As Dean starts exhibiting dog traits, hilarity ensues.  This is a pretty fun episode and a good monster of the week story.  I thoroughly enjoy Dean barking at the mailman and playing fetch, unwittingly, with Sam.

“Bad Boys” gives us a glimpse into Dean’s past and is a good solid episode that shows that Dean maybe didn’t always want to be a hunter.  The flashbacks to Dean’s life away from hunting, even if it is only for a few short months, shows that he could have found a decent place for himself outside of the world of hunting, if he’d been given the choice.

The actor who plays the young Dean in this episode, Dylan Everett, is simply phenomenal.  He has the mannerisms and complexity of Dean down.  Also, the end of the episode, where Dean wants to go to this dance with a girl he likes, but he chooses to leave with his dad because of Sam, the emotions that play over his face – bitterness, resignation, brotherly love for Sam, and a flash of humor – this kid breaks your heart.  He was/is a wonderful Dean and I kind of hope they keep doing flashbacks with him – he was a great Dean.

“Rock and a Hard Place” has the return of Jodi Mills.  Sam and Dean join a chastity group – need I say more?  This was a great episode all around, but one of my favorite parts (aside from Dean explaining why he has chosen chastity) is Jodi Mills punching the virgin in the nose to get her blood for the weapon.  “Wipe your nose, dear.”  Just pitch perfect.

As we near the end of the first half, lots of story arc things happen, but mostly the angel possessing Sam kills Kevin, causing Dean to fall into a self pity spiral.  He goes off to hunt by himself, and Sam basically says don’t let the door hit you on your way out, dude.  Sam’s anger is justified, Kevin’s dead and Dean’s gone.  While I normally do not like episodes where the brothers are at odds and not working together, “First Born” shows Crowley and Dean teaming up to find the first blade.  This pairing is always fun to watch and what makes this even better is Timothy Omundson, an actor I adore, playing Cain.

Omundson is believable as a retired monster and is unnervingly scary in more than a few instances.  I only wish Cain could have been around as a villain for a little bit longer – he was an interesting character with a great actor portraying him.  This is a pivotal episode as it brings on the Mark of Cain story arc, one that grows tiresome pretty quickly.

Sam and Dean eventually pair up again as they both look into a case involving Garth.  Dean tries to shake Sam a couple of times, but Sam doesn’t fall for it.  Resolving Garth’s storyline with what seems to be a pretty happy ending was nice.  They agree to keep working together, but Sam points out that everything that has gone wrong between them has been because they are family.  He doesn’t really say “We aren’t brothers anymore” but it amounts to being the same.  He also tells Dean that he wouldn’t have done the same thing in return if their roles had been reversed.  This comes into play in a few episodes after the fact.  Dean does throw this back at Sam a few times, showing that it did hurt him.

I’ve over analyzed this show, and  in season 10 Charlie basically says Sam got pissed and said something he didn’t mean and Sam agrees that yep, that’s what happened.  During season 9 Dean betrays Sam pretty horrifically, but even when Sam points out that he has nightmares of killing Kevin, Dean is not very apologetic.  Have a legitimate complaint and being told it doesn’t matter would piss anyone off, so I can see things playing out this way as a realistic reaction, but that conversation between Charlie and Sam helped clarify a lot of what seemed to be a pretty cold hearted Sam.  We also see that Sam not only lied, but is more than willing to go to the same extreme measures to save Dean that Dean has gone through to save Sam.

Crowley addicted to human blood is somewhat entertaining if only for lines like “You don’t know what it’s like to be human!”  Crowley being on the same side as the boys creates a fun dynamic through the season.  Dean killing Abaddon is pretty violently horrific, but since she was an almost unkillable demon, probably needed to be.  Having one of the big bad guys dead is nice, but it does seem to make Dean more easily controlled by the Mark, which kind of makes him a bit of a controlling jerkwad.

Another episode that is heartbreaking and yet somehow inspiring is “Captives” where they find out Linda Tran, the always fantastic Lauren Tom, is still alive.  They set about rescuing her and what stands out to me about this episode is how strong a character Linda Tran is.  She has this fierce resilience that puts both Winchesters to shame.  Sam finds her and manages to get locked up with her.  She is working on unlocking the electronic door and she gives two deliveries of the same line “you will take me to my son.”

The first delivery of this line is full of hope and the beautiful joy that suffuses her face as she says it tells the story of how she’s survived this long.  She’s survived this long for Kevin.  To see him again.  When Sam stops her and without telling her, he communicates that Kevin isn’t alive, she gives this choked sound of grief, and her face changes to angry and determined for the second delivery of “you will take me to my son,” this second one bitten out defiantly.  If all that’s left of her son is a box of ashes, she’s taking it.

How badass is she?  She’s lost her husband, then her son, AFTER being held captive by demons, and still she is going to get out of there.  Also, we should remember that last season this woman single handedly bagged a demon on her own.  I’d watch “Mrs. Tran, Demon Killer” as a television show, because this woman is mother fucking heroic as all get-out and Lauren Tom knocks each performance out of the ball park.

Speaking of heroic as all get-out, Jodi Mills shows up again in “Alex Annie Alexis Ann” as she kills a vampire in her police station.  There is a young human that the vampires kidnapped and adopted, and then used as a lure to make hunting easier.  This episode alone could have been a great back door pilot for a Jodi Mills series, although I am glad that they waited until later and are including a lot more characters.  #Wayward  She is such a fully realized character, one that is willing to call Sam and Dean for help, but is completely unwilling to allow them to kill a young woman who has “vampire Stockholm syndrome.”  Two towering experts are telling her she is wrong and she basically tells them that they will have to go through her to hurt Alex.  She’s just great.

Jodi’s power is her empathy.  Damage recognizes damage, and through losing both her son and husband, Jodi is damaged.  Even while being beaten up by the mama vamp, she is empathizing with the woman.  They both have lost children, and Jodi recognizes that the reason Alex was kidnapped was because of this loss.  Jodi proves that she was right about Alex not being evil when Alex saves her life, and she ends up taking her in.  The scene at the end of this episode with Jodi and Alex is amazingly touching.  Jodi tells Alex that whatever she wants from her, she’ll give it, in such a simple offer to help that it’s amazing.  Alex shows that she isn’t really the angry, sullen girl, but actually rather sweet when not in constant fear for her life.  Perfect episode, with such well drawn characters – exactly what a backdoor pilot should be.

But no.  We get “Bloodlines” as a backdoor pilot.  It’s awful, and I hated it.  The end.  I could fill up an entire blog post with why this episode as a back door pilot sucked, but we’ll sum up with this – I didn’t care about any of the characters.  At all.  It was a hot mess of an episode.

The ending of this season is a good one, with a lot of rough moments that show the tenderness and caring between our friends and allies.  Dean telling Cas that he believes that Castiel had nothing to do with the angel suicides because Castiel just gave up his angel army for one man is a great moment.  Considering the brotherly moment between Sam and Dean seconds before this was Dean telling Sam that it was a dictatorship, Dean needed to be nice to someone to offset the dickhead balance some.

Also, by simply broadcasting Metatron’s words so that the other angels heard that Metatron was indeed an evil plotter, Castiel didn’t have to fight anyone, AND the angels get to be back up in heaven.  Dean dying wasn’t so great, but it did allow for Sam to say that he lied when he said he’d be ok with it prompting a typical Dean line of “Well, ain’t that a bitch.”  Sam shows this is more than true as he tries to conjure up Crowley.  Meanwhile, Crowley is while reviving Dean, but because of the Mark of Cain he wakes up all demon-eyed and evil.  Not bad at all.

Unlike season 8, this was a solidly good season.  While I think that Dean’s arrogance and self-absorption this season are a little difficult to take, it was within his character.  Other than the backdoor pilot, this season doesn’t have any episodes that are god-awful or that should be skipped, so I’m giving it a A-/B+

Posted in Reviews

Supernatural Season 8

Spoilers abound for all seasons, so read with caution.  Also, season 8 review is super long.

This fucking season – this fucking show.  This season is what I refer to as the “Voyager” season.  When it’s good, it is absolutely great, but when it’s bad, it’s the worst thing ever.  Never have I continued watching a show where I’ve literally yelled at the television, “Oh, FUCK you!!” as much as I have screamed that this season.  However, this season also has some really awesome parts to it, these moments are so unbelievably awesome that it keeps the Supernatural faith going.  But sometimes, barely.

Let’s start with the beginning of the season, as we resolve the Dean in Purgatory storyline.  I love the character of Benny, and Ty Olsson brings a deep, soulful, and romantic Benny to life so well, it’s impressive what a fantastic actor he is.  Also, if I were rich, I’d hire him to just read to me with Benny’s accent.  This man talks and I swoon.  Love, love, love Benny, but much of the plot lines surrounding him are pretty much a game of “kick the friendly vampire” as Sam and Dean’s dysfunction swallows everyone in their path.

Dean returns from Purgatory, a land where he is fighting for survival pretty much all of the time, and he’s more than little PTSD-y with it.  There is a definite parallel between coming home from war – including having a suicidal war buddy who comes back with you (Benny) – during this season as Dean has to adjust to the real world again.  He even has flashbacks and other symptoms popping up.  Not that the Winchesters aren’t PTSD on legs most of the time, but this season is much more symbolic of a war veteran returning home.

During the first several episodes, I alternate between wanting to beat the crap out of Sam and wanting to beat the crap out of Dean.  These fucking guys.  Sam quit hunting and didn’t even search for Dean, and Dean takes this incredibly personally and tortures Sam with it pretty much every episode.  This seemed completely out of character for Sam and it isn’t until season 10 when he tells Charlie that he doesn’t want to hunt without his brother, that he can’t hunt without his brother that this plot line even made sense to me.

If they’d established that aspect of Sam early on, this wouldn’t have come across as character assassination, but it came off that way anyway.  However, with the season 10 patchwork line in the mix, yeah, Sam didn’t have Bobby, Castiel, Ruby, Dean, or basically anyone else to help him out, so he wandered.  Ok, fine.  I still think it’s stupid, but whatever.

Sam meets and eventually falls for the incredibly dislikable Amelia.  I’m not one of the fan girls that hates anyone the brothers happen to fall in love with, but her?  Really Sam?  Her?  She’s a damaged psyche in pants, but that’s what draws Sam and her together, their mutual fucked-uppedness seems to be the cementing force in their relationship.  She’s hostile and not very nice most of the time, but the rest of the time, she’s just a hot mess of confusion.

This isn’t love, it’s mutual dependency – love takes some understanding, and none of the women Sam has loved have ever really understood everything about him because he doesn’t tell them.  Love without understanding who the other person is eventually fails under the weight of romantic ideations being placed on a fantasy rather than on who the person actually is.

That said, I do like that Amelia gave Sam a normal life, including a birthday cake in a pretty park area.  That made me like her a little bit, but the rest of the time she is just damage personified.  Their ending sees Sam making a choice between life as a hunter and life as a “normal” person, and he chooses the hunter life.  Dean tells him that when he chooses to make it stick and honestly, Sam really does.  His angst about hunter vs human is gone and he really does continue in the life in a happy and productive way.  After he chooses to end things with Amelia, he does become a hunter and even embraces it.  After 8 years of him angsting over this (and after a year has gone by) Sam is now 30-31 years old, so it’s time to decide a direction.

Dean and Sam fight and angst at each other most of the early episodes.  Dean’s mad about Sam deserting him in Purgatory.  Sam’s mad about Benny, which I find inexplicable.  He wants to kill Benny with a furor that seems insane and completely unreasonable.  This dynamic makes all of the Wincest slash fiction make some sense to me.  Sam’s mad that Dean has bonded with Benny during his time away.  He let Lenore live when he found out she was a vegetarian, but somehow Benny deserves to die without hearing explanations? Again, feels like a bit of mild character assassination.  Sam takes time and thinks things through, but with Benny he is both blind-lover jealous of Benny and still holding resentment for Dean’s killing of Amy, the kitsune.

Meanwhile, instead of explaining his loyalty to Benny to Sam, Dean just tells Sam to trust him.  Basically, Dean’s so much more interested in Sam’s BLIND trust of him because he’s motherfucking DEAN, instead of giving Sam details that it is sincerely stupid.  STUPID.  How about in “Citizen Fang” – an episode where both brothers are complete assholes for some reason – Dean doesn’t tell Sam that he didn’t even get the story from Benny, but from a third party.  This might have made Sam’s hate-rage fire cool down a bit, but no, why provide concrete examples of your reasoning when you can yell “trust me” really loud.

I hated the episode “Citizen Fang” and Benny is the only good thing about that entire episode.  He behaves like a rational human being, whereas the hunters are too busy being mired in their own dysfunction to tell their ass from a hole in the ground.

Meanwhile, can we talk about Dean’s attitude towards Sam falling in love?  Dude never says her name until he’s forced to do so by Sam.  Furthermore, he belittles the entire relationship constantly as Sam ditching him for “some girl” because apparently, girls are throwaway items in this universe.  I love Dean, but by the third time he says “some girl” with such contempt, I want to kick him in the nuts.  If anyone had treated Lisa that way, he’d be pissed.  However, this is another aspect of Dean’s character that makes both Wincest and the Destiel stories more than little plausible.  Both brothers act like jealous lovers the first several episodes of this season, and Dean’s chemistry and love for Sam, Benny, and Castiel eclipses any love he’s ever had for a woman.

Lauren Tom as Linda Tran is a wonderful addition to the cast and Linda Tran is such a badass the entire time she is on screen.  She’s thrown to the supernatural world and tries to find her place in it while also protecting her son.  I love her and the episode “What’s Up, Tiger Mommy?” shows how she and Kevin Tran (Osric Chau) have the perfect mother-son banter.  She’s a character we don’t see much of outside of being Kevin’s mother, but the writing of her and Lauren Tom’s performance make her so much more than most shows’ one note mother figure.

Kevin is a wonderful part of this season and I adore him.  His character arc this season is both tragic and heroic.  Crowley captures him and tortures him and he escapes.  I’m not sure why they have him on some weird house boat but whatever.  Kevin loses his sanity a little and becomes a weird recluse who only eats hotdogs, but he manages to figure out how to close the gates of hell.  He also manages to conquer his fear of Crowley.  When Crowley tries to fool him with a fake setting and a fake Sam and Dean, it doesn’t work.  Not only doesn’t it work, but Crowley can’t even really scare Kevin anymore.  Kevin knows Crowley is going to kill him, so he even arranges a last meal for himself.  Quite the clever ducky, our Kevin.

The best thing about season 8 and probably all of the seasons that come after it is The Bunker.  My love for the Bunker is infinite.  It is a heavily warded, hidden fortress, that contains a library of weirdness for their research purposes.  I want one, like right now.  The bunker was a genius idea and wonderfully executed, except for one small complaint – even in season 10 they are still finding out things about the bunker, which is cool and pretty humorous, but I would think the very first thing you’d do in a place like that is go through each and every room.  Just to make sure the perimeter is secure, but they find the library, kitchen, beds, and bathroom and are content to stop exploring.  Sometimes their lack of curiosity is maddening.

“I like this bunker.  It’s orderly.” Castiel

The Bunker is so freaking awesome, it bumps this back up a full letter grade.  While I’m not a fan of the Men of Letters storyline as it plays out in season 12, the Men of Letters bunker is everything they could need from a Batcave.  It has a garage for vehicles, a dungeon for demons, tons of books and files, plus a room for Dean, Sam, Castiel, and Kevin and probably room for a lot more.  When Kevin disappears Dean mentions that they should have taken him to the bunker – ya think?  That was one of the times I yelled curse words at the screen.  NOT taking him to the bunker was so fucking stupid.

Dean’s reaction to the bunker is hilarious.  He listens to the old-timey music, wears a dead guy’s robe, and eventually decorates his room.  It’s fabulous to see Dean have a place to call his own.  He even cooks what must have been a very tasty burger, seeing as Sam the Salad Eater took the burger with him when they had to leave rather than leave it behind.

The rest of the season, now that Dean and Sam have pledged their love and devotion to each other anew (sigh, so stupid) is the trials to close the gates of hell.  Dean is going to do  it, but of course it ends up being Sam.  Anyone who has watched this show knows that the doors to hell will never be shut because Dean is incapable of sacrificing Sam.  Dean would rather burn the world down and lose people they once saved for NOTHING rather than lose Sam.  As soon as the trials started, I was disgusted because we all know how this will end.

Dean at the very end of the season realizing that the trials would kill Sam (he keeps getting progressively sicker, and we all know God likes a sacrifice in this show – like Dean is not just a professional hunter here, he’s a professional Denyer of the Obvious, and it makes me want to kick him) is not a surprise to anyone other than Dean.  Even Sam responds with “So??” when Dean tells him about it.  Everyone, including Sam, knows it means his death, so of course Dean stops it.

And this part of this episode shows the brilliance and frustration of the show: while rolling my eyes at Dean’s denial, stupidity, and utter selfishness and inability to look at a Greater Good scenario if the sacrifice is his, the following scene between a dying, crying Sam while Dean begs him to NOT close the gates of hell is amazing.  Jared Padalecki breaks your heart and Jensen Ackles is pitch perfect, too.  So while I’m intensely hating the stupid decision making that seems to be more about what is needed plot wise than character wise (although, Dean is kind of a wang about Sammy) I’m loving the scene that stems from it.

One of the things my husband and I did a lot of in season 8 is pausing the show and bitching about it.  “If I were writing it…” was something I said a lot as we tried to figure out different ways to get the characters to the same place without the stupid decision making.  However, what the entire show boils down to is these two brothers would rather destroy the world than lose each other.  There are some episodes where this makes them almost the bad guys – if you didn’t actually close the gates of hell, what did Sarah die for?  What did Tommy die for?  What did Kevin almost drive himself mad for?  What did you kill Benny for?  People are wasted in the process of getting to this point and then they just stop, because yikes, if Sam dies that would be a totally different thing.

Fuck you, Dean.  And fuck you, Sam for not just doing it anyway.  I will say after seeing up through season 12 and shifting my point of view from it being about two brothers who save people, to two people who are cripplingly co-dependent and happen to shoot things a lot, did help.  Also, Sam’s not as obvious about it as Dean is but he also can’t really function without Dean.  So be it, writers.  I honestly can’t tell if this dysfunction is written into the script or just thrown in for some angsty moments, but I will say it pretty much does hold true to the characters.

Also, the whole reason Sam does the trials is mostly pride.  He thinks that Dean doesn’t think Sam can actually do it and meanwhile, Dean’s just not able to watch the guy die, but neither one of them actually seems to be listening to the other one.

But again, the rest of this episode is freaking phenomenal.  The end of the season gives the entire season another bump in letter grade – the angels falling.  I was raised Catholic and there is a lot of angel iconography in Catholicism, so this might just have been me, but I started sobbing instantly.  Angels in this series might be dicks, but most of them just want to be told what to do.  Seeing them fall to the earth like meteors streaking across the sky was devastating.  I think I stopped crying long enough to hyperventilate or maybe have a panic attack.  This was a devastating moment, and when Dean says, “The angels.  They’re falling,” the devastation I feel is on his face – Jensen Ackles really rocks as an actor.

Castiel had more presence this season, even if he was only back to himself in the last few episodes.  Dean being pissed at him has Castiel wanting to win his favor.  He goes to a convenient store and creates a Castiel-style mess, while getting Dean’s favorite porn.  His temper snaps when the cashier says they’re out of pie.  Dean loves pie, and in order to get Dean to stop being mad at him, pie really is required.

Castiel: “You don’t understand.  I need pie”

Metatron: “Put the virgin down, Castiel.”

This brings us to one of the better villains of the series, who eventually becomes a bit of a savior, he’s a complex guy, Metatron.  Played by the always fun Curtis Armstrong, who every one knows from “Moonlighting,” 😉

Metatron is why the angels fell.  The Winchesters in their fruitless journey to close the hell gates tell Metatron to get involved, and while I’m very happy he saved Kevin, considering he kills Kevin the next season, it’s a wash.  I’m going to say that much of this bad guy is on the Winchesters as well.  “Get involved!  Wait, no not like that….”  Again, at the end of this season my husband asked me if I thought they were intentionally trying to make the Winchesters the bad guys, and I don’t think so?  But I’m not sure.

Anyway, this time around, I saw that the room number to Metatron’s hotel room is 366, which is maybe some foreshadowing.  366 isn’t 666 (Lucifer is boring), but it still sets off a little alarm bell.  Metatron loves stories, and hey, who can blame him?  He decides that since there is a power vacuum in heaven with the archangels either dead or in the cage, he might as well takeover.  All of the energy they’ve put into deciphering the tablets is wasted against Metatron who knows the contents of all of them.  Pro-tip, when the friendly guy starts talking about killing people, maybe he’s not on the side of the angels.

This episode points out two interesting things about humans – we write and enjoy stories, and each author is god to a tiny, but specific, universe and we make things the same everywhere.  The sameness of the Biggersons makes Castiel invisible to the angels.  They know he is at a Biggersons, but he keeps switching from one to the next to the next, so they can’t get to him because the sameness is confusing.

Naomi is terrifying, and Amanda Tapping on the show gets me Stargate Bingo (so many actors have been in both.)  Naomi is on the side of heaven, no doubt in my mind, but it does make heaven seem like a terrifying place to be.  What exactly is heaven’s agenda if it requires such dark tactics?  Anyway, Naomi and Crowley have a history of some sort, as he knows how to push her buttons.  Apparently, never call her a bureaucrat – she’ll melt your eyes out.  However, being on the side of heaven means she’s temporarily on the side of the Winchesters in later episodes.  She’s the one that tips Dean off about the trials killing his obviously dying brother.  She was fun to have on the show as a bad guy and I really enjoyed it.

While I’m not going to go episode by episode, one episode, “Remember the Titians” stands out, not just because it has Prometheus in it, but because Prometheus falls in love with the dumbest woman in the entire universe.  This was a good episode with the exception of this character – who always looked as if she badly needed a hairbrush to tidy messy hair.  Basically everything she does is stupid and counter-productive.  She gets Prometheus killed because of her sheer stupidity, and honestly, every time she is on screen it is a waste of time to even watch.  How does this woman raise a child?  Hell, how does she even dress herself in the mornings?  Ugh.

Charlie Bradbury returns in “LARP and the Real Girl” and “Pac-Man Fever” deepening her bond and ties to the Winchesters.  Charlie is always fun and delightful and these episodes are no exception.

I really thought the episode “Bitten” was a back-door pilot as the found footage episode revolves around three college roommates and barely has the Winchesters in it at all.  This isn’t a bad pilot episode of something, but it didn’t really feel like a Supernatural episode so much.

“As Time Goes By” highlights how much Dean needs counseling for his daddy issues, and their paternal grandfather time travels from 1958 to 2013, and bursts out of their closet door.  Dean spends most of the episode being incredibly hostile to his grandfather, who was assumed to have walked out on his family.  After kicking the man all episode for something that was clearly not his fault, when Henry Winchester tries to go back in time to fix it, Dean stops him.  Why?  To save Sam!  Bleh.

“Everyone Hates Hitler” came out before Nazis started being a political debate again, so they are excellent bad guys to root against.  Also, the addition of a golem to the mythos and the Judah Initiative was really good world building.  I really enjoyed this episode and the new characters it introduced.

Mostly, Supernatural is still completely watchable and enjoyable, but the writing felt uneven and the character making stupid decision was incredibly frustrating.  Supernatural works the best – is the most enjoyable – when the brothers are working together and pulling in the same direction.  This season didn’t have that dynamic for well over half the time.

Overall, I give the season a B – B is for Bunker.  This season had really good episodes along with a few boring ones, but between the bunker and angels falling it makes up for a lot of the flaws.


























Posted in Reviews

Supernatural Season 7

Spoilers abound, read with caution.

This season is not as bad as I remember, but I remember it as awful for the following reasons:  Castiel is gone from episode 2 until 17, then doesn’t show up again until the last three episodes.  So in the entire season only 5 episodes have Castiel in them and one of those episodes is him walking into a lake in the very beginning and then disappearing until 15 episodes later.  Baby, the Impala, is taken out of the show because the Leviathans are tracking them.

So right off the bat this season takes away the iconic car and one of the favorite characters for pretty much the entire fucking season.  Almost an entire season without the Impala?  Whoever thought of this – BAD idea.  It’s like having Dr. Who without his Tardis – and I know, the third Doctor spent much of his time grounded on earth because the Tardis was disabled, but the Tardis was still there, it wasn’t stowed somewhere off camera.  The shows has had three main characters since season one Sam, Dean, and Baby, so the entire season felt as if it was lacking, because it was.

Last but certainly not least, after leaning heavily all season on the steady presence of Bobby Singer, they kill him off.  The episodes where he is shot and then dodges his reaper are two very well written episodes, but I’m not going to be happy about killing off Bobby. No Castiel, no Impala, and no Bobby.  Seriously???  Fuck you, season 7, I’m taking a full letter grade off your score for this.

Castiel as god is pretty interesting – he goes after the KKK, Westboro Baptist, and for some reason, New Age motivational speakers.  We hear about much of this as Dean works on the Impala.  Most of this is pretty funny, albeit terrifying, especially when in desperation they summon Death.  I love Death, he’s always fun and somewhat funny.  “Annoying little protozoa, aren’t they?” he says of the Winchesters and Bobby.

Fun first couple of episodes, including Jodie Mills getting an appendectomy.  She happens to see “Dr. Monsterface” eat someone and calls Bobby for help.  Great appearance, as usual.  This is also the season where a heavily drugged Dean falls out of his hospital bed and tells Bobby, “A monster broke my leg” with such a hilarious delivery, it’s hard not to laugh.

The other problem with the beginning of this season is the plotline about Amy, Sam’s kitsune friend.  Honestly, Dean really had no reason to kill her, and I found the whole storyline to be annoying.  It’s one of those situations where they have Dean do something fairly stupid and indefensible to set up other storylines.  Amy was killing dirtbag criminals in order to save her son, and honestly, when the police and coroner are ok with the murders, you know the bad guys in question should not really be out in the world in the first place.

But Dean kills her, because how else will he angst and drink and be a huge damaged dill hole, otherwise?  I feel like the whole reason for killing Amy was to set up the Osiris episode because honestly, she didn’t deserve to die.  I’m normally on the side of kill, kill, blood the makes the grass grow, but even I thought this was a stupid thing to do.  It’s as stupid as Sam having his panties in a bunch all of season 8 about Benny the vampire – it’s poorly manufactured conflict between the brothers and it’s wearying to watch and more than little stupid.  Amy the kitsune was a good character played by the always amazing Jewel Staite, and I would have loved to have her around more, but alas, much of the writing is about giving the boys angst, so here we are stuck with a stupid plot lines for what seems like forever, but is really only a few episodes.

This season also deals with the wall in Sam’s mind crumbling.  I think this showcases how impressive Sam is in many ways, but I’m really tired of Lucifer.  He’s in the cage and we still have to deal with his boring, obnoxious ass?  Fucking great, but that’s why I have a fast forward button.  But seriously, Supernatural, enough Lucifer already.  HE’S SO BORING.  Anyway, lots of Lucifer and this diminishes the impressiveness of Sam, but other than one episode where Lucifer is somewhat helpful in solving the case, the rest of the time he is just a loud dick.  I know he tortured Sam, but does he have to torture the audience as well?  I really hate Lucifer episodes and this season doesn’t help that improve.

This season has many good episodes, but as a fan of the Buffy & Angel franchise, I have to say “Shut Up, Dr. Phil” is one of the highlights of the season.  It pairs up James Marsters (Spike) with Charisma Carpenter (Cordelia) and they are simply phenomenal as feuding witches having some marital problems.  As with all of the witch episodes, the killings are gross and brutal, but the by-play between the two witches is funny as hell.  I also like the reaction one of the victims – conveniently saved by Sam and Dean – has to being cursed.  “They were hearts in my cupcakes.  HEARTS IN MY CUPCAKES!!!  That’s never happened before.”  This episode was really wonderful all around.  Hope those witches come back for a future episode or two.  We need a spin-off of the witches – their chemistry was too phenomenal to be wasted.

“Season Seven, Time for a Wedding” is another episode I really enjoy.  From the introduction of DJ Qualls as Garth, to the return of Crowley & Becky, I liked this episode.  This episode does turn Becky into a bit of a bad guy, but since she didn’t actually rape Sam (because they were waiting for sex for some crazy reason) I’m going to go with it being funny.  This is also the last episode where Becky shows up at all, but considering most episodes that have her in them make fans the butt of jokes, probably best that way.  Seeing Sam head over heels in love with someone who knows about hunting is funny as hell.  I found it to be a fun episode although I’ve read really negative reviews of it.

“Time After Time,” “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie” and “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo” are wonderful episodes that are among my favorite.  Charlie Bradbury is one of the all time best characters written in Supernatural and my only regret with her is that she has not yet been brought back from the dead.  I’m holding out hope for it, though.

However, while I hate the death of Bobby, the episode before his death, “How to Win Friends and Influence Monsters” is one of the best ones of the season, and has some of the best quotes.

Sam: You think the world wants to end?

Dean: I think that if we didn’t take its belt and all its pens away each year that, yeah, the whole enchilada woulda offed itself already.

Dean stoned is pretty funny and well worth the price of admission.  This episode also really shows how much Bobby takes care of both of the Winchesters.  He has a private “check-in” with both of the boys about how they are doing.

“Come on, now. You tried to hang it up and be a person with Lisa and Ben. And now here you are with a mean old coot and a van full of guns. That ain’t person behavior, son.”

Once they actually do bring Castiel back, he’s a little crazy and refuses to fight, however, he also has some really great quotes.

Castiel: “I don’t fight any more. I watch the bees.”

“Do we need a cat? Doesn’t this place feel one species short?”  [Yes, they absolutely need a cat – they have a bunker now, give them a cat!]

“I see now. It’s a punishment resurrection. It’s worse every time.”

Also, the progression of the Meg/Castiel relationship is interesting, and it’s sad they killed off Meg before exploring it further, although I do understand why she was killed off.

This season has a lot of really good episodes, but also a lot of just dumb plotlines and inexplicable things throughout.  Overall this season is a C – a C that could easily have been made a B if they hadn’t taken Castiel and Baby out of the majority of the episodes.