Friday, March 22, 2013

Review - Supernatural 8.16 "Remember the Titans"

I’m usually not as big a fan of the Monster of the Week episodes as I am of the mythology episodes. I love the mythology of this show and I’ve been more excited by the myth arc this season than I have for a couple of seasons. Not that there aren’t great MOTW episodes, there’s been some corkers, but you know, I just kind of dig getting into the big arc during the season, especially the back end of the season. I tend to dig the MOTW episodes more on rewatch, after the season, when I’m semi-relaxed, when I’m not waiting for the next big disaster to befall the boys!

I’ve also not been particularly enamoured with the gods episodes and there’s been quite a few! Apart from the Pagan gods the Carrigans, who were as delightfully nutty as fruitcake, they’ve all been pretty bland. Chronos, Osiris, Veritas, Leshii, the plethora of gods in “Hammer of the Gods”. Meh. I understand they’re weakened because they no longer have the strength of devotion as the wind beneath their wings, but still, meh.

So, colour me pleasantly surprised by this week’s “Remember the Titans”. It was a solid hour of “Supernatural” with a good story, zippy dialogue, nice pacing, gods who I would’ve been cool seeing again, subtly handled parallels in themes, nice throwback references and some awesome brother interaction. In fact Dan Loflin’s tight script and the brother’s banter elevated this one beyond a simple MOTW episode, which I found thoroughly engaging.

To be honest, I’m gods illiterate. I studied modern history. Ancient history, well I’ve pretty much learnt that from watching TV. Geesh…I really need to read more…if only I had time around watching TV. So I had to Google Prometheus and Artemis to get their back-story (and yes I did just use the term back-story in reference to Greek mythology). I knew who Zeus was. Are you proud? Not that I think this episode was so much about these gods as it was about the parallels they reflected in the Winchester’s lives. The themes of “Supernatural” were well represented in this episode.

We had Prometheus, cursed to a life of torment because he chose to help humanity, for which he died over and over. We had Prometheus’ son, destined to live a cursed life because of the choices of his father. We had Artemis, exhibiting freewill and choosing to do what was right over following a father she no longer had faith in. And we had Prometheus declaring that nothing was worthwhile unless you have your family. If he couldn’t save his son, what was the point of saving the world?

I must admit I got a bit antsy watching the conversation between Sam and Prometheus unfold. Was this simply recognition of what the brothers have done for each other in the past and once again reinforcing the central theme of family, or was this foreshadowing of what will happen in the future. We know these trials are taking one hell of a toll on Sam and we’ve got to assume it’s only going to get worse. Will Dean end up putting his life on the line to save Sam from the outcome of the trials? Or will it be Sam that realises none of this is worth it if he can’t save Dean? Is the cost of closing the gates of Hell simply going to be too high for the Winchester brothers?

This is something I’ve enjoyed this season, especially in these recent episodes, recognising the themes of “Supernatural” and honouring them via parallels within the story. We saw it clearly here and clearly with Adam and his Golem, but it’s been something the show has touched on again and again in season 8. Family has become a strong focus once more. Through the MoL legacy, the legacy of the Judah Initiative and now Prometheus and his son, we see the importance of family as a theme in “Supernatural”, which reinforces the importance of family to Sam and Dean and Sam and Dean to each other. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this theme has been revisited so strongly since Sam and Dean decided to recommit to each other and their mission at the end of “Torn and Frayed”. I definitely feel like this season, we’re reigniting this central theme of the show.

The other thing the show’s touched on this season, is allowing the brothers to remember. Little references have been cropping up to past cases. Like here in “Remember the Titans” we heard about Bobby and his wife, Bobby and the woodchipper and then Bobby and Rufus as referenced by Sam. I’ll admit it’s not been consistent and sometimes poorly used – as in hurtful, irrational rants that I wish we never had to hear, but it’s certainly been more prevalent this season than in recent years and I’m appreciating the continuity to the larger story.

But the MOTW and gods aside, it was the banter and interaction between the brothers, which was the heart and soul of “Remember the Titans”…of course.

Sam’s coughing up more blood and he looks scared. I totally get why he’s not talking about it. I think it’s a bunch of stuff…he’s scared because he doesn’t know what’s going on and he’s feeling shaken by it, he doesn’t want to worry Dean or risk Dean wanting to take over the trials which would then put Dean in danger, he wants to prove to himself and his brother he can do this, and the big thing, he doesn’t know what lies ahead…there’d be so much bubbling away inside of him…all rising from fear of the unknown.

Dean to his credit, can see something is going on, sees Sam is being “cagey”, that he’s “hurting” but he isn’t pushing his brother, isn’t showing any displays of anger, isn’t adding to his brother’s anxiety. Instead, he’s keeping an eye on Sam, giving him a pep talk when needed and keeping his own fears to himself. I don’t think Dean thinks Sam’s not capable of performing the trials I think he’s worried that Sam’s not capable of surviving the trials and that’s a big difference. Sam knows Dean knows something’s up and it’s got to help, at least a little, to not have his brother on his case about it. Sam’s asked for Dean to believe in him and Dean, for the time being at least, is giving that belief to Sam, even if he’s harbouring his own doubts internally.

When Prometheus died (presumably taking Zeus with him…really?), it obviously impacted Sam. The blood thing, the arm thing, all of this would be weighing on his mind. If an immortal like Prometheus who at one point saved the whole of humanity can die, maybe Sam is being foolhardy to think he’ll make it through these trials? It was almost like he was thinking out loud or finally saying what he’d been thinking. Dean of course would hear none of it, but back at the bunker, behind closed doors…

“Cass, you got your ears on? Listen, you know I’m not one for praying ’cause in my book it’s the… it’s the same as begging. But this is about Sam, so I need you to hear me. We are going into this deal blind, and I don’t know what’s ahead or what it’s going to bring for Sam. Now he’s covering pretty good, but I know that he is hurting. And this one was supposed to be on me. So for all that we’ve been through... I’m asking you, you keep a lookout for my little brother, okay?"

I must admit Dean's prayer made me ugly cry. A lot. It was raw and everything I love about Dean, because everything I love about Dean is in his heart and in his heart is Sam. This was Dean at his most vulnerable. Shutting the door and praying to a friend, a friend he’s been through a lot with. I know Cass has hurt Sam in the past, but I at least feel like he has genuine remorse for his past actions and I think Dean can see that too. I also think Cass and Dean probably 'fixed' a lot of their friendship during their time in Purgatory together, fighting side by side. Look at how Dean was when he finally found Cass by the river, relieved and happy that Cass was ok. But beyond all that and the not knowing what's going on with Cass and whether he can be trusted, which Dean obviously hopes he can, what’s left to do? Who else could possibly help? If there’s just a chance, wouldn’t you take it?

Dean doesn’t pray often. Dean prayed in “The Monster at the End of this Book” when Sam was about to face off with Lilith, he prayed at the end of “My Bloody Valentine” when Sam was detoxing after killing Famine…and he prayed now, because he doesn’t know what else to do. Dean prays for Sam. The brothers are once again alone in this fight, it’s on them, specifically it’s on Sam and I think Dean’s feeling that isolation and he’s scared for his brother, scared he’s not going to make it. They have no clue what they’re facing, what’s coming next, what it will cost. So Dean prayed to someone he’s had faith in in the past, eliciting a little hope from the air. I really don’t know how anyone could think Dean doesn’t love Sam with all his heart. I know a lot of fans doubt it, but me, never for one second. Vica versa by the way. Even in their anger their love is apparent. No-one pisses you off more than the people you love the most. We tend to hold those people to a higher standard.

I thought the prayer was awesome. A highlight of the season. It spoke to Dean’s heart. It made me feel equal parts terrified and hopeful. I’m hopeful Castiel will help in someway. I’m hopeful neither brother will have to die, or disappear to parts unknown. But I'm terrified of what lies ahead.

I was interested to read that Dan Loflin was on set when they did this scene and Jensen and him worked a few kinks out of the dialogue before they shot it. I’d love to know what those kinks were. What was changed, what Jensen saw in the original words that didn’t feel true to Dean. Jensen nailed it. They guy is a master at conveying emotion. He monologues so beautifully. I kid you not on my crying. It really hit me hard. 

I liked that the brothers were back to having their brains about them this week. Sam was all over the mythology, which Dean recalled, knew what a Titan was, knew Prometheus stole fire, but didn’t have the details and Sam filled in all the gaps in his Sammy way.

I absolutely loved that Sam in this ep. I loved that he picked up on Artemis feeling conflicted about Prometheus. That was Smart Sam. Smart and focused Sam. I love Smart Sam! The whole “trash talking” scene was fantastic. I loved how Sam just kept on going and Dean’s face was perfection…his “Yep, good Sammy doing great!” was freakin’ hilarious! I have so much love for this scene. (Hee these screencaps work ridiculously well together!)

In fact there were a bunch fab moments, like when Sam and Dean discussed whether there was a case or not, as on the other side of the window their John Doe got up and walked away!

The Jason Bourne line was one of the best lines of dialogue ever! “Who do we know that has Jason Bourne fighting skills, dies a lot and has a history with violent women?” Dean: “I don’t know. You?” Gold!

Dean geeking out over being a legacy and the silent stares of confusion that followed. I’m so happy Dean is embracing the MoL within. I was very pleased to see that and I’m so glad we returned to the bunker, even if they took people there, I’m loving the boys having that base (just hide the cars guys)!

I…errr…appreciated Dean’s bravado up against Zeus “Don’t be that guy”. I love tough Dean (yeah, yeah...I know). The “Let’s roll”… Damn!

I really liked that Dean wrapped his arm around Hayley. I thought that was a nice moment. It reminded me of a couple of similar moments, like in “The Mentalists” when he held Melanie after her friend was killed, or even way back in “Scarecrow” when he held Emily when her aunt and uncle were killed.

I liked Sam offering to help shelter the kid from a sad situation and take him for ice-cream – poor kid, already exposed to way too much…kind of like Sam and Dean at his age…

It was a good move to have Daniel Loflin and Andrew Dabb start writing independently of each other. Loflin did such a nice job with “Remember the Titans”. The funny and the tragic were well-balanced and little moments like the zombie believing sheriff added charm. I’d also like to say welcome back to Steve Boyum who hasn’t directed an episode since “Swan Song”. The construction on this one was excellent, I hope he sticks around again. And to top it off, both the Js were in killer form. They bounced off each other with grace and ease. A total pleasure to watch...err, obvious statement is obvious!

"Remember the Titans" may not have been the best filler episode, but it was certainly an enjoyable one.

So now we wait! Until the 20th…. Booooo! When I have a feeling this season is going to explode! In the meantime, I’m off to Vegascon! So the next thing from me will probably be my write up on Jensen’s Q&A! (Squee!) For those of you off to Vegascon, see you there! For those of you not, I’ll see you back here soon with photos and stuff!

As always, thanks for reading!

sweetondean is Chief editor for The Winchester Family Business. For all the latest Supernatural info and article links, follow The Winchester Family Business on Twitter at @WinFamBusiness