Sunday, October 21, 2012

Review of "Supernatural" 8.03 "Heartache"

You know what I love about this show? Everything. The end. No, really…well that, but really, I love how we all come at this show differently. I love how we all see different things, feel different things. Sometimes some of us don’t like an episode that others really dig. I think that’s kind of great, because I think that this demonstrates that “Supernatural” has many layers and as individuals we experience these layers, this story from different angels, just like life itself.

I enjoyed “Heartache”, even if it left me with one! I loved the dynamic between the brothers. I’m really digging that so far this season. Even though they’re at odds, I’m enjoying watching them work through it. I can’t remember the last time they spoke so honestly to each other. It’s been a couple of seasons! I heard this episode called a filler, but I felt it was far from that. “Heartache” focused on the other arc of the season, not the mythology arc about the Word of God and the gates of Hell, but the arc running concurrent to that one, the one that’s been the centre of this show from the very beginning, the one we all care about, sometimes a little too much. For me, “Heartache” was all about Sam and Dean’s arc, the monster story and the title, being a metaphor for where the brothers are, both as individuals and as partners.

I like a story that unravels slowly. I’ve never been someone who needs all the answers right now. In life yes, but not in books or movies or TV. I like the sense that I’m not sure how this is going to play, what’s going to happen next. I love being left with the urge that I just have to turn the page. “Supernatural” season 8 makes me want to turn the page like a crazy woman! For the first time in a while, I feel like I have absolutely no clue as to how this whole Sam and Dean thing is going to pan out. I mean, Sam’s obviously not going to walk away. Say, even if he does for an episode or two, he won’t walk away forever; the obvious reason being this is a show about two hunting brothers! Something’s going to have to bring him back into the fold, make him happy to be riding shotgun with Dean again. But I have no idea what. I don’t want something horrible to happen to him or anyone he cares for, to force him back into the life, I want him to get there by his own volition, because he wants to be there, wants to be fighting alongside Dean. But I just can’t see how that’s going to happen and it’s driving me crazy! And by the way, I love it!

The brothers are in very different headspaces from each other right now and both have got to where they are because of the experiences, of not just the last year, but the last seven years.

Let’s talk about Dean…because, well…you know why! Dean! I love post Purgatory Dean, both in his flights of fury and his zealous and overly enthusiastic approach to the job. I love that he has a spark back under his pretty backside. Of course he broke my heart in this episode. He may have been all perky, but we all see right through you Dean. We see his fear of being alone. His fear of being abandoned. His comments to Sam in the car; “Things are really coming together man, you and me, it’s all good…..I know where I’m at my best, right here, driving down crazy street, next to you” made me literally say out loud, to no one in particular, “Oh Dean….” Ouch. My Dean-lovin’ heart. I just felt so damn sad for him. There’s no place he’d rather be and no person he’d rather be with than Sam and Sam just ain’t feelin’ it. Which makes me want to weep for both of them.

I mean, for the first time in a long, long time, Dean actually seems reasonably happy. He looks great (redundant comment), he's off the booze or at least off slamming down all the booze in the world, I bet he's as fit as a fiddle after chasing monsters around Purgatory for a year. He feels good. He feels happy to be back in the game. All he needs is his brother back on board. Wibble.

You know what he reminded me of? Do you ever get overly enthusiastic about something because you really want a friend to enjoy it? Or you want them to feel good when it looks like they’re feeling bad? So you’re all up and positive and jazzed to try and get them up and positive and jazzed too. That’s what it looked like Dean was doing to me. Not that I think he doesn’t believe what he’s saying or doesn’t genuinely feel this verve for life, but I think he’s over compensating, because he can see, Sam doesn’t feel the same way.

One thing about Dean that impressed me (apart from everything) was that he never lost his cool with Sam. He got sarcastic, poking his brother for walking away from the family business and he gave Sam a bitchface at the farmer’s market that rivalled anything the younger Winchester had thrown his way over the years, but he never got narky with Sam. I think, partly because he doesn’t believe Sam can or will give up the life and partly because he thinks if he just lets this play itself out, Sam will come around to Dean’s way of thinking. Dean would never consider walking away from Sam. Even when Dean briefly entertained the idea while with Lisa, it didn’t take much for Dean to hit the road again with his brother. Even when he was so depressed he could barely face each day, he stayed in the game because of his brother. Dean’s never been very good at understanding that people may feel a bit different about a situation than he does, so if he feels that him and Sam are back on track, he’s assuming that Sam will eventually feel the same way too. Dean's in denial. I’m calling it, Dean-ial.

If Sam left hunting, Dean would see it as Sam walking away from him. Even though I'm sure Sam wouldn't be removing himself from Dean's life, Dean would see it as his brother leaving HIM, not leaving hunting. I thought Sam’s comment “Maybe you don’t need me. Maybe you’re at your best hacking and slicing your way through all the world’s crap alone, not having to explain yourself to anybody” was one of two things; 1. Sam trying to talk himself into that being a realistic option and 2. WHAT? Really…if there’s one thing we know about Dean, he does not want to be on his own. Sam found that out right back in season one when Dean said, “I can’t do this alone” “Yes you can” “Yeah…well I don’t want to.” When Dean said he couldn’t do this alone I never thought he meant hunting, I always thought, Dean couldn’t do this alone, emotionally. He can’t. He needs Sam, not just because he loves him but because Sam keeps Dean grounded, Sam is his touch stone, Sam is the one person who understands Dean and understands everything Dean’s been through. Sam keeps Dean human. And visa versa because Sam without Dean has not been a pretty picture in the past. There’s a reason these two were soul mates in Heaven.

I have a feeling Sam without Dean in his “happy” gap year, was not entirely what he’s making it out to be. If you’re truly happy, you don’t slip away to some old cabin spasmodically, to do whatever amongst the ghosts of those you love and you sure don’t slide out in the middle of the night on a girl that you see in golden, glowing tones in your memory. But I can see how, after a year out, Sam might find being his brother’s sole connection to this world, a lot of pressure. I can see how Sam could feel trapped by not only the life, but also Dean’s expectations of who they are and the need for his brother to be as an integral part of his life as he has been for the last seven years. Let’s face it their relationship is a tad on the co-dependent side. Which I personally love! Oh dear… I don’t think this means Sam loves Dean any less. The fact that he’s by his brother’s side, even though he doesn’t want to be doing the job, is evidence of this and speaks volumes.

The way Sam is dealing with Dean, I'm wondering if it stems from fear. That his disconnection is reflective of the trauma he went through after being left alone in that lab. I’m wondering if Sam is too scared to go down this road again with Dean. That losing his brother was so traumatic, that the very real fear that Dean could “die” again, is making him keep Dean at arms length. He’s obviously happy his brother is alive, he obviously loves Dean enough and is loyal enough to see this last case through, but he seems disconnected and I’m reading that as an side affect of the trauma of losing his brother and not wanting to get hurt to that level ever again. He’s watched his brother die over and over. Enough. His panicked reaction to hitting the dog, his panicked reaction to trying to find Amelia in his flashback scene. He’s scared. He’s scared of losing the people he loves and he’s scared of ending up alone. Kinda like Dean really… Right now, I see Sam as full of fear and if we ever get to see him immediately after the disappearance of Dean, which I really hope we do at some stage, I think we’ll see how bad it was for him and have a greater understanding and empathy for the Sam of the last three episodes.

I get how Sam and Dean have got to the place that we find them now as individuals. How they’ve sort of both come full circle. I heard someone on a podcast I listen to call this repetitive story telling, blaming eight seasons and running out of plot for revisiting something initially raised in the very first episode. But I disagree and I think this is overly simplistic analysis. This theme of Sam and Dean’s different perspective on their lives and their jobs has always been an ongoing theme and has never gone away. It’s at the centre of who they are and what makes them and their relationship so interesting.

It’s no surprise to me that Sam would revisit this “normal life” mindset when left alone. He hasn’t really had time to do that in the past. He was searching for the YED while dealing with visions, he was trying to save his brother, he was under the spell of the Demon Ruby and her blood, he was facing his destiny of being Lucifer’s vessel and wondering how to save the world, he was soulless, he was broken….then….he was alone. With everything and everyone stripped away from him, no wonder he had a good, long look at where he’s been and what he wants. No wonder he decided he didn’t want any of that, because who would! He had time to think and I think, he realised, those things that he wanted, way back when, he still wanted them, because seriously, that’s better than being tortured in Hell! He just hadn’t had a moment to draw breath and consider it before now. Sam’s always wanted to be normal. Yet he had demon blood dripped into his mouth and demons manipulating his life and he was born to be Lucifer’s partner in the Apocalypse and he fought his way, alongside his brother, out of each and every one of these things and came through the other side, but only after paying a price too painful to bear, losing Dean. That’s why he snapped at Dean about free will in the season opener. Sam is fighting his destiny one more time. Sam is trying to be who he always wanted to be. I think somewhere inside him, he probably knows he’s fighting a losing battle. I never believed the Sam who said all he wanted was Lilith’s head on a plate, bloody. This Sam who wants to be normal, feels like Sam to me.

Dean of course, had a similar experience with Purgatory. When we first met Dean, he was gung-ho about hunting, but as time went on and sacrifice upon sacrifice piled up around his ears, Dean lost his mojo. He’s always wanted family and when he lost his, he tried to find solace with another, only to discover that hunting and his brother were the only things that would ever make him whole. But he struggled through the following years, as Sam and Dean were tested over and over, as they tried to find their place together through all the soullessness and the broken wall and all the other horrors put upon them. I think this is a big reason why Dean drowned so many of his sorrows in the bottle. Yes, he lost Bobby, yes he lost Cass, yes he lost all those that fell before them, but the greatest loss was his brother. From the time Dean went to Hell, nothing was ever quite the same. They never really found their footing again, because so much crap was being constantly flung at them. Then Dean has his year in Purgatory and the experience is pure, it’s a rush, it’s what he does really well, it’s what he can be proud of, it’s simple and black and white and it reignites all those feelings as to why he loves doing the job, including all those feelings about fighting next to Sam. So Dean came out of Purgatory reinvigorated, except this time it’s different, because now he’s doing the job for himself, not out of loyalty to a dead father, but because it’s what he enjoys and it’s what he’s good at and it’s where he wants to be. Thank the Lord! Because I really love this Dean. I hope depressed Dean is gone for all time!

In my opinion, the brothers coming full circle to closer to where they were when we first met them is self awareness, not repetitive story telling or lack of character growth. It’s maturity. It’s only as we grow and mature that we begin to accept ourselves and who we are, even if it’s at odds with who we think we should be or others expect us to be. Sometimes we find that who we are now is closer to who we were when we were younger, but fought against out of expectations from family or society, or out of a belief that we’re supposed to live a certain way. As you get older, those things seem to clear to a better understanding and acceptance of yourself and what makes you happy. I think this is what happened to Sam and Dean. When faced with this time apart to assess their lives as individuals and with no expectations weighing them down, they came back to whom they’ve always really been. A warrior who loves the hunt. A boy who just wants to be normal. Of course, it could also be that without each other keeping the other grounded and in touch with the reality of the Winchester’s world they both reverted to a life that seemed more simple, easier to understand, before all the nightmares of their destinies began to change who they were! Either way, I like it. I feel like this show has really grown up.

I think it’s ok for Sam to pine for a different life. I think he’d not be Sam if he didn’t want more than hacking and slicing through a world of crap. I don't think having a dream of a normal life and enjoying hunting with his brother need to be two opposing positions that can only bring him sadness. Wanting more is human and what Sam is experiencing is probably the first simple human desire he's had the luxury of entertaining for a long time. But I think it’s unrealistic to believe that a normal life can ever be an option for him. He’s Sam Winchester. How he didn’t get hunted down during his “gap” year is baffling! Not only that, he’s just not safe to be around. Dean discovered that the hard way with Lisa. There is no getting out and those around you are in danger because of it. Dean will be there to pick up the pieces when his brother realises this. Man, these poor guys.

One thing I’d like to note and if I could point it out to Sam I would, when Sam was in the throws of the job, he was digging it. He was in to the research. You could see an ember of enthusiasm sparking up as he accessed medical files and whatnot. He may have said, “You want me on board, I’m on board” but it looked more than that to me and I wondered if Dean saw that too and that’s also a part of why he’s holding back and just seeing how this all plays out with his little brother. Dean's a smart cooke. He understands his brother even when they seem worlds apart. Sam’s lack of connection with wanting this life, in my opinion, is not about the work, but about what the work has cost.

All this brother commentary, their back and forth, which was surprisingly honest, was juxtaposed with the case of Brick Holmes and his wife Betsy. Brick was ancient Mayan warrior whose only reason for living was combat, who found his life’s purpose through battle, who couldn’t bear the thought of carrying on the fight without his partner in life, who had made sacrifice after sacrifice to survive, who was so tired he just wanted out. Of course everything here relates directly to Sam and Dean, what they’ve been through and where they find themselves now. Both have been exhausted by sacrifice, both have been so tired they want out, Dean is now invigorated by the combat, but that will not sustain him alone because he can’t face doing it without Sam. Sam is tired of the sacrifices, of being tied to a destiny he wants escape and he just wants to be out.

You know the brothers being at odds about their future and Dean’s response to Sam not looking for him is going to go boom at some point. It’s bound to get worse before it gets better. Angst! I see angst in our future!

I should also mention a couple of things. Jensen directed this episode, as we all know. I always get excited when his name pops up with that director’s credit. I feel weirdly proud of him. Actually, it’s not weird at all, I am proud of him. He’s talented and watching those talents blossom and grow, both in his acting and his directing is a pure joy. His Dean was just wonderful in “Heartache”. Gosh I enjoyed Jensen’s performance. He did a good job directing this episode too. I don’t think you can pick between him and the veterans who work on this show, which says a lot, seeing as this was only his third time in the chair. I noted that he made some interesting composition choices, which for me, seems to be becoming a bit of a trademark. They should just give him the premiere episode next season; I reckon he’s up to it.

I loved seeing Jensen’s daddy, Alan Ackles in the show. I liked his cop a lot. About time a cop gave some sass back to those smart mouthed Winchesters! I couldn’t help but think, that withering look Papa Ackles’ character gave Dean was probably a look Jensen was on the receiving end of numerous occasions when he was growing up! Having Alan in that scene, made it all the more fun.

I’m still enjoying the mystery that is Sam. I was expecting more flashbacks, but I kind of enjoyed just noodling around in Sam’s head instead. Sam’s always been so thoughtful, as in, he’s a thinker, so to me it seems kind of appropriate that he appears to be really thinking things through and we are experiencing that process and not necessarily seeing purely actions indicating his position. It’s almost like; he’s not figured it out yet, so we have to wait too and we're riding the brainwave with him. I thought his flashback was interestingly over romanticised. Apart from his obvious panic in the moment he thought Amelia and then Riot had disappeared, it was all happy and glowy and golden. I guess we have a tendency to up the happy on happy memories. By the way, I don’t think for a minute he’d never had a birthday cake, just that he was relieved to find Amelia and was touched by her surprise cake. I mean, who doesn’t like surprise cake! I’m still waiting to like her more than I do. She kind of spoke to him like he was Riot! Sit. Eat. (Roll over). Well, she is a vet. I guess we’ve not seen much of her so I’ll be quiet now until we do!

The closing scene with the brothers in the car, Dean not wanting to hear Sam, Sam trying to make Dean listen….owwwwwwww. How can this show hurt so much! You know what though, wistful memory, sweet smile, teary puppy-eyes aside…Sam walked out on his normal life in the middle of the night with a car full of weapons and headed to a cabin where he thought no-one would be….. Why?

And, I love having my Dean back.

Oh blimey! I’ve gone long again. Suffice to say, I enjoyed "Heartache". I enjoyed the brother’s interaction. I’m loving the mature and honest dialogue (even though they still both have secrets). I thought the monster was kind of cool and Betsy was kind of sad. I like that Sam is still with Dean, out of loyalty and love, to finish this one last job (yeah right Sam), I LOVE that Dean is bad-assed and happy and didn’t have booze in his hand once. I loved how healthy the boys both looked! Can anyone say hiatus tan? I think JC may have to tell the Js to stay out of the sun a bit before a new season kicks off! It looked like Sam and Dean had been to the beach! Ok…now I’m thinking about Sam and Dean in board shorts frolicking in the surf so it’s time to bug out!

One more thing about Dean….Dean and the strippers “Smell that?” “You’re gross.” Oh Lordy, that was nearly as awesome as when he covered the Winchester family jewels with his hands as he went through the metal detector in last week’s episode. I missed rowdy Dean….. Oh and by the way, I’ve been to that strip club. Wait. On the location tour! On the location tour!

Oh and… Dean got an app! BLESS!

Alrighty, let me know your thoughts. 

Thanks for reading!

sweetondean is Chief Editor and writer for The Winchester Family Business