Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Review of "Supernatural" 8.02 "What's Up, Tiger Mommy?"

I’ve got to say, I Ioved this episode. I really loved it.

I can’t remember the last time “Supernatural” got me so over emotional. I mean, outside of the overtly emotional episodes of course, where I cry like a baby! “What’s Up, Tiger Mommy?” probably was not meant to affect me the way it did. I’m not sure if it was that final scene, the tension leading up to that scene, or all the reveals in Purgatory that gave me so many feels, but I was so emotional at the end of this episode, I felt like I could burst in to tears. I think maybe part of it was, that I feel like some of the work done in this episode is some of the best I’ve seen in the series, or at least that I’ve seen for some time. I’m specifically talking about the Purgatory scenes and how they look and feel. I’m talking about the performances, John Showalter’s direction and the overall tone of those scenes, both visual and dramatic. I felt strangely overwhelmed at the end of this episode. It made me all teary!

I’m not saying it was perfect, but what’s perfect anyway, except maybe Sam’s hair :). It was written by Dabb and Loflin and these guys are hit and miss. When they nail it, they nail it, when they don’t; the result is alarmingly out of whack with where the tone of the show and the characters should be. But, I have to say this was one of their better outings. I don’t trust them to write mythology or big character episodes, but they did a solid job on this one. There were a couple of early moments representative of the wobbliness of their work, little patches of awkwardness as they tried to juggle the drama and humour, but as a whole and specifically the back end, this episode blew my socks right off and was the best work they’ve done for a while and certainly the best work they’ve done while expanding the myth-arc of a season. By the end, I was electrified with anticipation and a good amount of dread, as to how these parallel stories are going to play out and how this season will unfold.

In revealing the boy’s stories of their year apart, “What’s Up, Tiger Mommy?” focused on Dean’s flashbacks, but for me, I found I was struck by Sam’s mysterious behaviour. I feel like I get Dean, kind of get where Dean is coming from. We know he fell in with Benny, we know he hunted, we know he embraced the darkness within him that was unleashed by Alastair in Hell, which in the past, he’s admitted to not entirely disliking and we know he found Cass. The big mystery is how Benny and Dean’s relationship developed, what impact that had on Dean, what happened with Cass and why Dean left Purgatory without his wingman….now known as Hot Wings! I’m also intrigued to see if this house of cards will at some point collapse around Dean’s ears and what the fallout will be. You’ve got to assume it will and I’m nervously waiting for that to happen. But Sam?  He’s so mysterioso to me!

First off, he seems strangely accepting of this reinvigorated, yet hard-edged Dean. There were a couple of times I expected him to have a bit of a go at Dean, be Dean’s moral compass, but he didn’t and he wasn’t. He seems to be rolling with the punches a little more than usual. I’m not sure if this is detachment because of his year out and he wants to be somewhere else and is only doing the job out of loyalty to his brother, or whether his experience with Lucifer and his wall break have changed him. Either way, there’s something about it I like. These are two grown men, who are remarkably different and I feel like they should give each other a bit of space sometimes to be whoever they are and not be at each other constantly to meet the other’s personal expectations. It feels to me like a mature step forward to allow each other to breathe and learn, without the bitching at each other, which has gone on in the past, in particular over the last few years. I feel like Sam’s watching and thinking, “Let’s just let Dean find his feet.” Giving his brother the space he needs to reintegrate into the world. In particular I saw this in the interrogation scene. Sam did call out to Dean a couple of times and I’m sure if it looked like the guy was actually about to have his throat slit, he would have been up in a flash, but I think he was letting it go to see where it went and trusting Dean to rein himself in. I thought that was kind of cool. I liked that at the end of the scene he just said, “Come on” with a little gruff in the voice, but he didn’t go “What the hell Dean?” There was no calling Dean out on his behaviour (which was scary), no chastising. I really liked that. I liked it a lot actually. Weird music cue out of that scene though...kind of popped the mood…just sayin’.

I also thought part of his reason for giving Dean a bit of a breathing space might be that he recognises that Dean’s current modus operandi is born out of trauma, sort of like his own detachment and he’s hoping that time back in the land of humanity and time with his brother will start to soften Dean’s razor sharp edges. We’ve seen them both go through similar journeys, as they try and cope with their experiences in Hell. I would think this would give them both a bit of patience with each other. I’m also wondering if Sam sees a little of his soulless self in Dean and is sympathetic and understanding because of it. It looks to me like he’s watching, maybe waiting, to see where this new Dean leads. Actually, it’s probably a blessed relief for Sam to have his brother not miserable and drinking the whole time! He was worried about Dean’s alcohol consumption last season, maybe Sam sees this Dean as the lesser of two evils, so to speak. I’d prefer to hang out with this Dean that’s for sure.

I was interested in the reverse exorcism. Sam’s a smart dude, super smart (really good at maths apparently), but somewhere in me, I’m flummoxed by him suddenly pulling this one out of his tight little butt. Saying stuff backwards is hard! When Dean questioned him, obviously also wondering where on earth that came from, Sam just blew it off and said, he simply said the exorcism backwards. Now, this could be that he’d, just never thought of it before or rather that the writers never thought of it before, but my overly suspicious brain instantly equated it to my feelings that there’s a lot more to Sam’s year than he’s currently letting on and that his year is going to be a bigger surprise than whatever happened with Dean and Cass. I mean, why else would it have been brought up in the script? He could have just said it and we could have all moved on, but it was specifically referred to and questioned by Dean, which made me all the more suss. Surely Sam didn’t spend a year, just sitting on the couch watching The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills with his girlfriend! I’m really interested in Sam’s year and what he’s not saying. I’m digging the rebirth of smart Sam too, with the computer jargon last week, the snappy mathematical calculation and reverse exorcism this week. Very cool. I love it when these guys show their smarts. I also loved the scene where Dean pointed out the Demons surrounding Mrs Tran’s house. So old school.

The other thing I thought was interesting about Sam was that when Kevin was trying to talk Dean into going and checking on his mum, Sam wasn’t saying, “Dean we should”, in fact he was barely saying anything at all. He said “He’s got a point, Dean” and when Dean flashed him a look he smirked and went back to his newspaper. He just let that conversation go and only came on board once Dean had succumbed to Kevin’s insistence. I guess these guys are used to the life and death situations by now and these days, look to the bigger picture…what with them stoping the world from jumping off a cliff every year! Let’s face it, they’ve lost a lot of people and this could definitely leave them hardened. I wasn’t surprised on Dean’s stance, because where Dean is now, his empathy level is pretty low and he’s been forced into becoming more of a big picture guy over the last couple of seasons. Also, he was making sense, everything Dean said made perfect sense, but I was surprised Sam didn’t pipe up. Which once again, makes me wonder what happened to him during his year off that left him so detached. Is it simply the trauma of losing Dean? Is it simply, he just doesn’t want to be there, so he’s letting his brother drive the bus? Or is it something else?

Dean in Purgatory is absolutely terrifying, but I love it. Man, I’m loving Purgatory Dean…and not just for the reasons you think! If I remove myself from my passion for the character and all the feels I get when he’s hurting, I’m thrilled by this characterisation and how Jensen is playing him. Like I said earlier, I think the scenes in Purgatory may be some of the best work the show has ever done, both visually and in context to the story being slowly revealed.

The scene where Dean found Cass was breathtaking and may become one of my favourite scenes ever. I loved every aspect of it. How it was shot. Every frame looked like art, like a painting. The opening with Castiel by the river, the terrain and how Dean came in from the side. The wide shot, then the great close-ups of the actors, which gave the scene and the dialogue a more compelling and personal feeling. The camera movements, everything just a little swimmy and off kilter. The swoop from across the river showing how the three were standing. Dean on one side, Cass on the other and Benny in the middle. Benny in between Dean and Cass. Then of course there were the performances. We all know Jensen and Misha are good at what they do, but that scene, that interaction between Dean and Cass was one of their finest moments. Jensen’s Dean literally went through a myriad of emotions in those couple of minutes. Joyous, confident, confused, angry, hurt, accepting, focused, determined. I swear to God, I stopped breathing. If they weren’t taking about Leviathan and monsters and were talking about criminals and murderers, these two would be getting awards up the wazoo for this kind of work. But alas… I went back and watched this scene over and over and over to capture all the nuances.

Misha’s Castiel looked haunted, terrified and trapped and when Dean said he wasn’t leaving without him and Cass simply said, “I understand” I got the distinct impression Cass was sad about that. The look on his face to me, looked like he thought, “I know you won’t leave me, so for your own good, I’m going to have to leave you.” It was a look of sad resignation. That he knew and understood, that he’d have to make that tough decision because his friend was too loyal to. That Cass would take the sacrifice on himself. Go back and look at that expression and the sadness there. It made me instantly feel like the reason Cass didn’t get out with Dean is that he somehow forced Dean to leave without him, took it on himself to stay or die in order for Dean to leave, because he knew Dean wouldn’t leave if Cass wasn’t with him. But then we had the final scene….

I couldn’t help but think of Dean’s words, “He, just let go.” Of course, we have no idea of the context of that scene. We have no idea whether that’s when Dean escaped Purgatory, or whether Angels can’t travel through the portal, or whether Cass’ hand simply slipped Dean’s grasp, or whether this is something to do with Dean’s “Something happened to him down there” line, or whether that scene is totally unrelated to Dean’s exit altogether. We have no clue. But of course, we’re supposed to think, this is the moment Castiel was left behind and it may well be. If this is the case, I pray that Dean did not leave Cass behind on purpose. I’m not sure I could cope and I’m not sure, when the dust settles, Dean could cope. I would really hate that, like, a lot! It would make me too sad. I need the reason to not be directly Dean’s fault, though he obviously feels guilty about it, which makes me go, eeep! But ugh, if he chose Benny over Cass and ugh, if he purposely left Castiel behind… I should also probably tell you, I trimmed that scene out of the episode and went through it frame by frame watching their hands…it made my tummy hurt a little… just sayin’.

Benny. Benny, Benny, Benny. Who got bad vibes when Benny confronted Cass? I sure did. I wondered how long Dean and Benny had been together before they found the Angel, because they already seemed close and Benny seemed downright protective. I didn’t like him questioning Cass and I’m glad Dean jumped to the Angel’s defence. I’m also happy that when Benny suggested they leave, Dean didn’t even hesitate to disregard him. Dean’s affection for Cass is clear. The hug was warm and full of relief and happiness. I’d say their present situation has definitely allowed Dean to let bygones be bygones. Benny was suspicious and wary of Cass from the jump and I’m suspicious and wary of Benny. I’m worried that whatever happened between Castiel and Dean in Purgatory is a direct result of Benny’s interference/manipulation and that Dean, for some reason, rolled with it. I can’t picture that right now, but time will tell. Stupid time always making us wait…

The other Purgatory scene that was breathtaking I touched on earlier. The intercutting between the interrogation scene in the present and Dean’s interrogation of the monster in Purgatory was masterfully done. I loved the shots of Dean speaking directly to the camera from the monster’s point of view. I loved the brutality of this scene and it’s mirroring in the present day. I loved how Dean seemed to lose himself to the moment and the memory. There was a feeling that he actually lost his anchor in our world for a minute. That he may no longer have a handle on his anger. He’s always been explosive, but he’s always been able to manage that. Then again, he didn’t lose control, he just used what he thought was the best tactic to get the information they needed. Dean seems to have taken the path of least resistance when it comes to his feelings towards torture. We know he owned up to enjoying some aspects of it in Hell and to me it looks like he’s embraced those in Purgatory, or rather, gave over to them out of need, accepted them and this part of himself as a necessity. He certainly didn’t look like it was bothering him none. I’m wondering how long it will before these feelings come back and bite him in the ass again. The scene was beautifully crafted both technically and in performance. Jensen is doing some of the best work I’ve ever seen from him.

I’ll be honest. Purgatory Dean makes me uncomfortable and this isn’t from an, I love Dean place, this is just, this character, no matter who he is, makes me uncomfortable. He’s uncomfortable to watch. He’s not what I’m used to. He puts me on edge. But I’m in love with it. He’s so damn interesting.

I liked that Dean was willing to kill Mrs Tran in order to kill Crowley. I’m sorry Mrs Tran, no offense, but that would’ve been fine with me. Crowley is a danger to the whole world. I didn’t see Dean as being unsympathetic. He warned Kevin that his mum was bait and Crowley was just waiting for Kevin to show up. He warned Mrs Tran that coming with them was dangerous. He even tried to ensure they were both protected, by insisting, with a little bit too much glee, that they get the tattoo. He asked Mrs Tran if she was sure when she offered her soul, saying it was a big call. He told both of them all the dangers that they faced if they tagged along and then allowed them to make their own choices. I might also note, Sam seemed to be onboard as well, even though he questioned whether Dean would actually kill Mrs Tran. Personally, if that would have stopped Crowley trying to get her son, I think Mrs Tran would have been onboard with that plan too.

From the outside, or first watch, it may appear ruthless, but I think, in hindsight, it’s more about focus. There’s a big picture at play here and it’s important. The brother’s put their lives on the line every single day. If the people around them are aware of the risks and yet still make the choice to stay and fight, they can’t blame the Winchesters for the outcome. I like that Dean has got to this place and Sam, either through complacency or agreement, seems not very far behind. Of course, it just took one snide, manipulative and well placed comment from Crowley to get Dean thinking that he does indeed toss people aside, bloodied. I liked that Sam tried to support his brother there. It’s not true, I don’t believe Dean does toss people aside, but it is true that many perish in his presence. Nature of the gig though…and I don’t see that as entirely his fault.

For me, this interplay with Dean and Purgatory and the mystery surrounding Sam, as well as the interesting dynamic between the brothers as they hold back the truth and each relearn what it’s like to live this life and live it together, was the meat and potatoes of this episode. It’s what held my interest; it’s what I’ve been tossing around in my head ever since I watched it. The rest of the plot, the characters, no matter how awesome, seemed like the padding to the real story. The brothers.

I like Mrs Tran, she was ballsy and I loved the foreshadowing used in relation to her soul. I thought the scene where she talked to the brothers about what it would be like to lose her soul was great. I really appreciated them sitting and staying with her. I really appreciated their honesty.

Kevin was ok. I like the character, but I have a feeling he’s going to be an, in small doses kind of guy for me. He was an idiot to listen to the master manipulator, Crowley and bug out on the boys, but I also get why he did it. He was scared and he was protecting his mum. He acted out of emotion. It was dumbass, but I understand. I’m assuming he still has an Archangel tethered to him right? I mean they can’t all be dead. We never met them all.

Crowley was fun to watch as usual. I wonder why he doesn’t just kill the brothers though, other than for the obvious reason that we wouldn’t have a show if he did! But really, they are so in his face and so in his way and so annoying, wouldn’t he just snap their necks? I’m starting to get a bit confused by this! I loved that we finally saw his eyes. Red. Seems the King of Hell is just a Crossroads Demon after all huh? He can big-up himself all he likes, but he’s still got those telltale red eyes. I totally dug the red smoke too. I checked with Adam Williams, the “Supernatural” VFX co-ordinator as to where the idea for the red smoke came from and he said it was in the script. Nice touch.

I liked the new Angel, Samandiriel. His dominion is imagination and visualisation. Helping us to transform our own lives, thereby transforming the world around us as a result. Interesting! Of course, it was the kid from “Bugs”, which was neat. I love seeing the kids from early episodes all grow’d up! I would be very happy to see Samandiriel again. I always feel like we should hang on to the Angels that aren’t complete dicks, because they are few and far between! I really liked what he said about Cass…having too much heart, it mirrored what Dean said in “Reading Is Fundamental” when talking about the Angels and their inability to care, “Seems like when they try, it just... breaks them apart”.

Ok, I’m going to stop, because this has got crazy long. I could go on and on about this episode and about where Sam and Dean are. I feel like I really only scratched the surface!

Oh one last thing, I think my favourite moment of all was when Dean went through the metal detector, not because he had all those weapons, but because of how he put his hands over the Winchester family jewels! Something tells me Dean would need more than a measly metal detector to have any impact in that department ;). Bless his cotton socks.

I’m loving the feeling I’m getting from the first two episodes of “Supernatural” season 8. I love the classic rock, that Baby is back, that the drama is balanced with plenty of humour, that we have demons and the blood phone and exorcisms and all these throwbacks to the earlier seasons and that the brothers feel front and centre, at least to me. The show is looking damn fine. I think the first two episodes were super strong and I’m totally jazzed, if somewhat terrified, for what lies ahead.

What did you think of the episode? Let me know your favourite bits and what you think went down with Cass in Purgatory.

Thanks for reading!

sweetondean is a writer and Chief Editor for The Winchester Family Business