Saturday, January 18, 2014

Review - Supernatural 9.10 "Road Trip"

The Sweet, Sweet Agony of Supernatural...

The opening scene of “Road Trip”… I’d played that out in my head. I’d imagined that hunter’s burial. I’d imagined Dean’s pain. I’d had 6 week’s to ponder it and ponder it I did.

When we finally got to see that moment, it was even more emotional than I thought it could be. Because, the pyre. I looked at that pyre and I thought; Dean had to cut ever piece of that wood. Filled with grief and anger, he had to go out and chop wood to honour Kevin. Every swing of the axe filled with more anguish and fury. Dean would have been emotionally destroyed, exhausted, broken, in agony over the events that just unfolded and yet he had to find the strength to cut all that wood. Then he had to place each and every log into position. Carry Kevin’s body from the bunker. Place it in the structure. Pour fuel on it and watch it burn. Hear it. Smell it.

And all of this, he did alone.

I thought about this scene a lot. The scene we didn’t see.

I loved the opening of “Road Trip”. It grabbed me by the throat and tore at my heart as only Supernatural and Dean Winchester can do. The sheer devastation. The violent outburst in the bunker. The confusion and rage and deep, aching sadness that comes along with the realisation that someone you care for is gone forever…and there is nothing you can do about it. Helplessness.

Of course Dean had the added emotion of knowing that he was partly to blame for this horrible turn of events, because this is one death that he may well have been able to stop. He didn’t place the offending hand on Kevin and burn him from the inside out, but he might have been able to prevent that happening. If he’d told Kevin the truth, if he’d got Kevin to a safe place when he realised he didn’t know who the angel was that had taken hold of his brother… 

And all of this, every last bit of this torment, anger, regret was etched into Dean’s face and weighted in his body. It was in every action. All to Bob Seger’s “Famous Final Scene”. What made this scene even more powerful as it played out in front of our tear filled eyes was the lack of sound effects. The silence. Just music. As Dean tore up the bunker, all we heard was music. Magnificent. Crushing. Heartbreaking. Perfect.

Supernatural was back with bang…the kind of bang only our show can deliver. The kind that you feel for days.

During “Road Trip” I cried, I laughed, I yelled at my TV, at one point I literally stood up and watched what was unfolding from a standing position in the middle of my lounge room, with my fists balled into my face. There was a moment where it all got too much for me to actually stay seated! I’d spent the day in rapturous anticipation. As the US started watching, I felt my phone buzzing on my desk as various tweets came through. Then Jared started live tweeting (along with just about the whole cast and crew). Buzz buzz buzz! It was torture. Knowing that most of my friends had already watched it. Desperately trying not to crack and look at twitter! I raced home. Threw some food at my dog and put on the episode. I didn’t even get out of my work clothes! I was just that desperate. Oh Supernatural. Only for you.

As much as I’d enjoyed that Gadreel/Sam storyline, I was ready to have it end. I was ready to get Sam back. I felt the same with Soulless Sam. I loved him. Then I didn’t. I needed Sam back in the world. I need his balance.

I sure wasn’t ready to hear Dean say to get the angel out of his brother he was prepared to end Sam, but I understood it. He didn’t want his brother walking around out there either being suppressed or totally burnt away by the halo. A Sam shell. He’d rather Sam be dead, because that’s how Sam would want it. It takes a while for Dean to get to places sometimes… We saw this with Soulless Sam too, that moment when Sam was in the panic room and you saw the realisation drift across Dean’s face that he might have to kill Sam if there was not another option. Thankfully there’s always another option! Surprisingly it comes in the shape of Death or this time, the King of Hell!

Ah Crowley, how I love you so. Mark Sheppard is a treasure. Pure and simple. I think we’re incredibly blessed to have him. The way Crowley knows every button to push. He can get at Dean in a second by talking about Sam. He can get at Castiel in a second by just being annoyingly funny! Cas has never been great at understanding the subtleties of humour! Plus flirty Crowley is charmingly infuriating. But what was so beautiful about Crowley in this episode was the lingering results of the trials and the indication that he’s still being affected a little by his humanity. Not just in his interactions with Sam, whilst inside Sam (it got crowded in Sam!) but also his statement to Abaddon that he knows that the way to win the battle for Hell is via hearts and minds, that the demon’s have a choice. Not through the fear tactics of Abaddon (gosh I love her too), but in ways that appeal to the demon’s selfish needs. I think this is something Crowley has always understood, but I feel like there was another layer to how he said it in this episode. He has a different understanding now with his pesky humanity still hanging around. One thing I did wonder about was all the exposition around Castiel and his season plight. Is this something that Crowley is going to use against Cas? The stolen grace issue? Or is it purely of interest to Crowley, as in many ways him and Cas are dealing with similar issues in getting in touch with their human sides.

Castiel never gives up on humanity and that’s something I’ve always loved about him. He has made catastrophic errors of judgement but like he said, everything he did he did for the right reason. That’s not an excuse and he knows it, but I think this is why he can understand Sam and Dean so well and I think it’s also part of the reason he’s so drawn to them, because he sees in them this need to always do the right thing. Even though they so often fail, they keep trying. It’s the most human of traits and one that Castiel, regardless of his angelicness, has always had.

The interactions between Cas and Dean in “Road Trip” were a tour de force of nuanced performances from both Misha and Jensen. A lovely recognition of the friendship and understanding between the characters. I like Dean and Cas’ friendship a lot, when it’s represented as it was in this episode. There has been a lot of water under the bridge for them both, but they’re still able to maintain a friendship and you can see a genuine affection between them. The scene where Dean asked how Cas was doing was particularly moving. It was even instilled with the tiniest bit of humour, which we so often manage to do in our darkest moments. Andrew Dabb’s script was spot on.

I’ve admitted before that I’m not particularly interested in the angel war. I think this is because we don’t really get to see any of it and we aren’t given long enough to engage with any of the characters introduced, except Metatron and Gadreel. Metatron is a manipulator that manipulates and the fact that Gadreel doesn’t see he’s being used shows that the angel is a dumbass! I have the distinct feeling these killings are being requested of Gadreel as more than just a show of faith. There is a reason to them. Whether it’s as simple as just getting rid of possible enemies as Metatron positions himself to take over as God, or whether there is some other more nefarious reason, I’m not sure. But there’s more to it and Gadreel is an idiot to go along with the megalomaniacal angel who is determined to be in control of the BIG story.

Gadreel. Let me just say straight up, Jared has done a spectacular job with this character and continued to do so in “Road Trip”. I didn’t even see Sam when we saw Gadreel. Not once.

There was something in Gadreel that seemed intrinsically good when we first met him, I had such high hopes and even as he fell under Metatron’s spell, you could see that what he was doing did not sit right with him. But things seemed to have changed. I think the killing of Abner took Gadreel to a different place. He killed a friend. For no reason he knew of other than to remain in Metatron’s good graces so that he could finally clear his name and retake his place in Heaven. There is such a selfish, arrogance in the angels, it’s just… I really don’t like them. It’s hilarious that Supernatural has totally changed my take on angels! I like demons way better! Maybe Gadreel will still get his redemption arc…but at this stage, I really don't care.

When we finally got Gadreel bound in that chair I think his true nature came out and it was nasty. Damaged. Full of anger and threats and hatred. I mean, what the hell. He was busted. He could just bug out and go back to his old vessel (which ended up happening), what was the point of hanging on to Sam at that stage. He was being poked at and prodded with pointy objects. Why was that in his best interest? Other than he’s simply an arrogant ass. Probably that. I kept thinking, just get out of Sam, why are you keeping him now, the jigs up, why go through this, just out of spite and general nastiness? Did I miss something, because once caught, I couldn’t see the point of hanging around in Sam any longer. He could jump Tahmoh Penkett’s character again (does he have a name?) and still be incognito. Get out you winged dick! Though I guess he thought being in Sam might have protected him from Dean (yeah right!) and it did make for one of the best scenes the show has ever done, so from that aspect alone, I’m glad Gadreel dug his nasty assed angel heels in.

Yes this is the scene I stood up in. Gosh, the torture of Gadreel/Sam was horrific. I was with Dean, I couldn’t watch. Jensen throughout this episode was beyond amazing with how he demonstrated to us Dean’s emotional state. I felt everything Dean felt. Everything. Every look on Jensen’s face, every movement of his body, the tone of his voice…it all hurt. When Dean had to leave the room as Sam screamed… *wibble to infinity and beyond* 

Dean’s eyes were full of tears as he asked Castiel to humour him and tell Dean how he was doing. Man, he’s a powerful actor is our Mr Ackles. He makes me feel all the feels. Wonderful ones and hurty ones.

The moment Crowley went into Sam is when I jumped to my feet. I just couldn’t sit for a moment longer! I was yelling and screaming and my fist were squished into my face and my goodness it was wonderful. 

I think Crowley likes Moose; I actually think he quite likes Squirrel too. Not that he’d ever admit to either, but I think he has a begrudging respect for the Winchesters. I loved the moments between Crowley and Sam in Sam’s head, (or body I guess), particularly when Crowley told Sam that Kevin’s death was not his fault. There was a level of trust between them in that moment that I think goes back to their connection during the trials. How could that not change at least a little something in their relationship. They saw each other raw and broken down. Oh my gosh, it’s just all so delicious! And Sam kicked serious ass when he pinned Gadreel to the dreamland bunker floor and told him to get the hell out. Sam can be as bad as his badass brother when he wants to be.

Okay, let’s talk about Sam and Dean and that final scene. 

As difficult as I found this scene to watch, I also found it immensely satisfying. I didn’t expect Sam to be full of anger, more hurt and disappointed and that’s what we got. I didn’t expect Dean to apologise, because saving Sam is something he’s never going to stop wanting to do, that’s so ingrained in him anything else would have felt wrong, so that’s what we got. Plus a little space and distance is probably what Sam needs as he continues to heal. Their faces though. Oh my poor boys. Jensen and Jared killed that scene…and me. In that moment, Castiel watching the brothers as their sorrow unfolded, represented us. Watching helplessly as two people we all love, ache and hurt more than words can express.

I liked the moment where Dean owned that it was who he was to save Sam if there was any way to do so. That it’s not in him to let Sam die. If he had apologised, it would have felt in genuine. Because regardless of the overall outcome and regardless of his self loathing and regardless of how Crowley’s words have finally taken root inside him and regardless of how he now thinks Sam looks at him, his brother was standing upright in front of him, living and breathing and that’s all Dean wants, even if Dean thinks he can no longer be around Sam to enjoy that, it doesn’t matter, Sam’s got another chance to live his life.

When Dean said he was poison and had to go, oh the agony. I think he expected Sam to stop him. I wanted Sam to stop him so bad. So, so bad. But Sam was in no place emotionally to do that. It reminded me of the end of “Good God Y’all” when Sam left because he felt he was a danger to Dean and Dean let him go. Sam looked surprised. In “Road Trip” you saw that same surprise cross Dean’s heartbroken face as Sam told him he wouldn’t stop him leaving. Oh…boys… ACK!

But what I think was really going on was that Sam was disappointed that Dean said he was going to leave and go after Gadreel alone because…Dean wasn’t considering Sam. He simply decided that he was not worth being around, that Sam would be safer, better off without Dean and that any retribution was on him and he would to do it alone. Once again he didn’t give Sam the choice. Dean chose the brother's course. I think that’s why Sam let him go…

And therein lies the rub.

I’ve always felt that Sam was only ready to die because he believed there was no other way. He asked, in his own head to the Dean side of himself, what’s the plan? When it became clear there wasn’t a plan, Sam faced death and realised he was ready, if this was his path, he was cool with it. He didn’t want anyone else to be hurt because of him. No more resurrections. That was supposed to be his ending. It was his decision. And Dean took that from him. And more people died.

Not that I don’t understand, Dean's actions. I do. It’s who Dean is and that’s a big part of what makes me love him so much. If it was Dean lying in that hospital bed and it was Sam making that decision, I have a feeling it would have gone the same way. We’ve seen Sam go to extreme lengths for Dean too. Sam may be quieter in the ways he shows his need for Dean, but that need is most definitely there. It shows itself in his need for Dean’s acceptance and approval and this right here is the big problem.

How Sam sees Dean seeing him is not how Dean sees himself seeing Sam. Does that make sense? That’s why Dean looked shocked at Sam’s reaction at the end of “Sacrifice”. He knows he’s kicked Sam when he’s down, but he didn’t have any idea he was making Sam feel like he was a great big disappointment, because that’s not how Dean sees his brother. He loves Sam. There have been things Sam has done that have disappointed Dean (and visa versa) but that does not mean that Sam is a disappointment to Dean or that Dean doesn’t believe in Sam. He does. I think Dean is proud of Sam and who he’s become. You can see it in him. But Sam does feel like he’s a disappointment and when Dean makes decision on his behalf, that just compounds things. He feels like Dean doesn’t trust him, doesn't believe he is capable and I don’t think Dean will ever come to understand this, because somewhere inside, he still thinks the sun shines out of his little brother.

“But don’t go thinking that’s the problem because it’s not”

Cryptic much? But I think that Sam’s parting shot was about all of this. People dying around Dean is not the problem. Walking away is not going to solve what the problem is. For Sam, I think it’s about Dean not respecting who Sam is and not respecting Sam’s choices. Consistently. It’s not the lying; it’s the lack of trust. Sam sees it as a lack of belief in him, even if that’s not where it’s coming from, from Dean’s perspective. 


I think this is what we’re going to be looking at in the brother’s relationship as we move forward into the season. Dean’s inability to let go, to allow Sam to grow up. Essentially, his inability to let Sam make choices that are good for Sam, which might not be good for Dean. “Sometimes you got to do what's best for you, even if it's gonna hurt the ones you love.” That’s what Dean did. He knew Sam wasn’t going to be happy, but the alternative was unacceptable to Dean and who Dean is. 

Of course…I could be way off base.

I feel like this is the last big hurdle for the brothers and if they can jump it, they will settle into a good place. Carver has said that he wants the brothers to react like the mature men that they are. That they’re not 22 and 26 anymore. That they have grown and matured and that has to be reflected in their relationship.

He brought them to a place where they admitted to having different views on their futures. Allowing one to want something different from the other is not a bad thing. It’s interesting. It doesn’t mean they want to be apart. It means they’re different. They’re different men and having different needs is important to creating their own individual stories with each other. We shouldn’t be scared of that.

He brought them to a place where they committed to one another. They chose each other over everything else that’s ever been important to them and in doing so, they opened up and told each other how they both feel in a way they’d never done before.

If Carver can have them finally talk out the bigger issues... Of how Sam feels Dean treats/sees him and find a way to have Dean change enough to allow Sam to be the grown man he is and make life choices for himself that might not always be in Dean’s best interest, (emotionally speaking) and find a way to allow Sam to accept who Dean is at his core, that Dean will always fight for Sam no matter what and that his brother really, truly loves and believes in him and that maybe some of the self doubt is coming from within rather than without. Perception. Right now neither fully accepts who the other is, or maybe wants to be. If we can ever get them to that point…oh man. Can you imagine? Rainbows and Unicorns and Winchesters, oh my! Confetti, it’s a parade! As a friend said to me the other day, I'm writing fan fiction again aren't I.

I’m hoping this where we’re heading (not the rainbows and unicorns bit...though...). As much as the ending to “Road Trip” hurt, it felt like it could be the beginning of a something that may get the brothers to where we all want them to be. On the same page. Fighting side by side. Respecting each other. Caring for each other. Being Sam and Dean.

It’s okay, you can snicker at me. I will always see this show with hope in my heart, because that’s what the Winchesters always manage to give me. Hope. No matter what.

Look at how gorgeous this scene was. Kudos to Bob Singer and Serge LaDouceur for their wonderful work.

“Road Trip”; it was ouchy, but in the very best way. I'm busting to see where we go next and praying to any deity we’ve ever met that our gorgeous Winchester boys have a bloody good talk and start to try to understand each other…both of them. I need them reunited. Stat!

One good thing though… Sam went home. Sam. Went. Home.

*tiny voice* Sam went home. 

Sorry this was so late. I’ll try better next week!

Postscript: Just looking back at my screencaps...sad and self tortured Dean is a thing of beauty. GAH. you were.