Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wake Me When The War Is Over: Supernatural Review, Episode 9x14, "Captives"

It's an odd feeling when an episode simultaneously has me on the edge of my seat and deeply irritated at the same time. I almost feel like reviewing it would spoil the pleasure because on rewatching there was fatty gristle in the tasty stew.  How's that for a metaphor?

"Captives" is directed by set designer Jerry Wanek and written by Robert Berens.  It cuts back and forth seamlessly between two plotlines.  It is also a showcase for Wanek's amazing, beautiful bunker sets. It's fast-paced, but "Captives" has clutter that 42 minutes can't afford. Kind of like Season 9 itself.  The A-story is so well written and acted that I wish the B story didn't exist, no matter how good the writing is.

THEN: Kevin's story up to and including his untimely death, including Mama Tran.  Kevin says, "you killed my mother" to Crowley, who messes with the prophet's head by intimating she might be alive. It ends with Sam telling Dean that Dean only saved him because Dean didn’t want to be alone. Then Sam tells Dean that in his place, Sam wouldn’t have saved Dean.

NOW: Dean is lying on his bed, headphones, listening to "Lonely Is The Night." He didn't want to be alone, but now he is more alone than ever.  But lights flicker, things buzz, there's a ghost!  Dean calls out for Sam, who whips out of his room and, when he can't find his brother, grabs an iron sword.  They might not be speaking to each other, but they will defend each other to the death.  And even better, we get this!

SPN_914 Sam run
Could Sam be dressed like this for the entire episode? No? Damn.

The bunker being haunted is such a cool concept!  The VFX team also does an amazing job with the ghost effects.  Dean shoots it with rock salt, and says casually, "Yep. Bunker's haunted."

It's haunted by KEVIN TRAN!! (Osric Chau), who lets them know by beeping the coffeemaker.  Hee.  Alone with the coffeemaker, Dean makes a speech in which he actually uses the words "my fault."  But before we can savor that delicious moment, Kevin appears with a crack about Dean's self-pity.

 I was so happy to see Kevin again!  Spirits are trapped in the veil now that Heaven is closed.  Which brings up an interesting thought: how many thousands are there?  And if Hell had been boarded up, would we have then been overrun with bad souls?

Kevin wants the Winchesters to find his mom.  He learned from another spirit that she is still alive (yay!).  Since "Candy" is bound to where she died, a few miles away from the storage facility where she was kept captive by Crowley, along with Mama Tran and someone named "Jerome" who is never mentioned again.  Sam and Dean put up radios, lights, and just to be safe, the coffeemaker.  The brothers' scenes under the trestle have a nice old time feel, with Sam snarking at Dean. There are several role reversals in this episode, including (spoiler alert!) Dean being the one hit over the head and being tied up!  Thank you, Robert Berens!

"Candy" shows up via the radio, and does an exposition dump about Crowley, storage units, blah blah. And now for the fatty gristle: the Angel War.  The angel war didn't work in Season 6 and works EVEN LESS NOW!  WHY IS IT EVEN IN THE SHOW?  DON'T WE HAVE ENOUGH SUBPLOTS TO SINK A DAMN WHALING BOAT? Are the creatives even interested, or is the war considered a necessary evil?  Pardon the pun.  It's boring, slows up the hunt for Metatron and Gadreel.  Which is the interesting part of the angel story.  I need Metatron on my screen.

SPN_914 Cas Bart stare
Two angels having a staring contest. 

Bartholomew (Adam Harrington) captures Castiel, and brings him to Buddy Boyle's church.  Which is an enormous building with scripture written in huge metal letters.  It doesn't make sense that Boyle would have such a Scientology-level base, but whatever. Misha Collins conveys his conflicting emotions subtly, and Adam Harrington, despite the limitations of his role, manages several levels of friendliness/rage/control freak. 

Bart and Cas were garrison buddies and now they've switched positions.  Bartholomew is, as he was when we first met him, a B-movie cult leader with gleaming teeth.  I sat there thinking, "no, don't join him, you have an addiction to being a dumbass whenever there's a larger plan!"  (Crowley, anyone?). Bart wants Cas to join him in one of those "kill them all/you don't lose without bloodshed blah blah".  Then he takes Castiel to see the last of the "Penitents", pacifist angels, being tortured.

 SPN_914 Torture porn  
What is it with this show and slicing torsos?

We have the now de rigeur torture porn.   By now Bartholomew has gone completely Mein Fuhrer.  He orders Castiel to kill the Penitent, but ends up killing the angel himself.  Don't worry, the show stopped worrying about vessels several seasons ago.  Sam's demon blood route is looking mighty  good at this point.

 SPN_914 Crazy Eyes 2  
Crazy eyes alert!

“Angels fighting angels has to stop somewhere. It might as well stop with me,” Cas says.  Please, please, please let it be so.  Cas starts to leave.  Bartholomew tries to kill Castiel, but Castiel goes BAMF and kills him instead. Farewell, we hardly knew ye, but who gives a shit?

 SPN_914 Bart kill  
Don't piss off the nerd angel

Only: Cas has followers now!  KNOCK IT OFF!  THIS STUFF STOPPED WORKING AFTER SEASON FIVE!  There was Malachi versus Bartholomew for one episode, and now Cas has apostles.  I have a bad feeling about this.  As in this is going to take up more episode time.

Back to the good part.  The Winchesters find--Castle Storage!  I love Castle Storage, it's like Biggerson's.  Smooth creamy consistency.  Two bespectacled nerds work there.  There are storage lockers rented to "D.Webster."  Dean admires Crowley's in-joke, as do I. One of the bespectacled nerds, Del (James Immekus), says he'll take Dean to the storage locker.  Big mistake.  They go to a storage locker filled with stuff. Del clocks Dean unconscious. Sam finds the right storage locker, and finds Mama Tran!  Kudos to the show for making the actress look like she has spent more than a month in a storage locker.

SPN_914 Mama Tran

She screams when the storage door rolls open, expecting one of her tormentors to appear.  But it's Sam, who unties her.  Dell locks the door with his remote.  Lauren Tom and Jared Padalecki take the show to a whole new level in their scenes together.  She's certain Kevin is with the Winchesters.  The emotions playing across Sam's face are heartbreaking, guilt at what happened and knowing the pain she'll feel when he tells her that her son is dead.  She brushes aside Sam to disable the door, saying she'd learned from Kevin's projects.  Sam puts his hand on her hand, and they look at each other.  The moment is beautifully tragic.  Rather than breaking down, Tiger Mommy turns her fury toward disabling the lock.

Meanwhile Dean has been tied up.  He wakes to find that Del has slit the throat of his lookalike coworker to place a phone call to Crowley.

SPN_914 Dell
 Can we agree that Jensen Ackles's legs look particularly delectable?

Del's an intern who hates his sucky job, "hosing down the floors, emptying the sugar bowls".  Yes! For once, a show admits that captives have to go to the bathroom!  This is actually a big deal to me.  No shows I can think of allow for the idea that captives can be...messy.  It's these little touches that help ground "Supernatural" in reality.

Since Crowley has disappeared, Del is furious.  He isn't allowed to kill.  "I have my demon needs!" he storms. Dean implies that Crowley has been hanging with the Winchesters.  This sends Del over the edge.  He tosses the bowl aside, saying "I quit!" and gleefully cuts Dean's throat.  Before Del can deliver the big stab, Sam grabs him and gives Mama Tran the demon knife.  Stonefaced, she kills him.

Back at the bunker, mother and son have a tearful reunion.  Kudos again for letting Lauren Tom look like hammered crap.  She finds his father's ring, the object he is bound to, and takes it with her.  Dean says to enjoy her time with Kevin: “the uninterrupted twenty-four seven, no escape, quality time.”  Before they leave, Kevin gives them the variation on the speech that has been done so many times in so many movies and TV shows it's grown moss on the side that doesn't face the sun.  "Stop fighting.  Get over it."  He's going home with his mom, and he's a ghost.  He makes them promise to get along.  They grudgingly promise.

SPN_914 advice  
"I'm dead, so I know stuff."

It takes a lot more than a lecture on love by a dead guy to get the boys over this latest crisis. Especially because, oh, SAM IS STARING AT THE GUY HE KILLED BECAUSE OF HIS BROTHER'S ACTIONS.  Dean turns around to see--

SPN_914 Sam leave  

 Sam goes to the door of his room, hesitates, then goes in.  We exit on the same image on which we entered.  Dean, alone, listening to the same music on his headphones.  Jerome is presumably rotting in the storage locker.

On the one hand, I want to see Kevin again.  But on the other, I thought of how they let the air out of the tires after Bobby's heartbreaking death by bringing him back. And back. And back. It's like he never left!  But what if Kevin leads all of the spirits out of the veil and they attack Metatron?  That would be so cool!  Are you listening, writers?  Isn't that better than an angel war?



Oh, forget it.  Can you bring back Crowley?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Proving I'm Not A Cultural Troglodyte - Or Maybe I Am

One of my resolutions this year is to write more personal entries in this thing.  I thought I would start out with an impossibly long entry about recent movies, tv and books.  Woo-hoo! (DISCLAIMER: I GO TO MUSEUMS AND CONCERTS, I SWEAR!)


We saw "Dallas Buyer's Club."  So incredibly sad...we both knew we would cry like babies, and we did.  Matthew McCounaghey was astounding.  He conveyed so much with his eyes, and his body moved like a wary snake, curving and curling.  Jared Leto was more or less a standard character (bitchy drag queen to camp up the proceedings).  He brought more to it than was in the role.  Jennifer Garner's character was woefully unwritten.  She mostly sat around with sad face until there was the obligatory "stick it to the man" scene.

As for TV:

"Breaking Bad" - we're in the second half of Season Two and it is fucking amazing in every conceivable way.  I'm glad we're watching it the way we are: having watched the last eight episodes and then going back to the beginning.  Even though there are fewer surprises, there are still surprises aplenty, and knowing what's going to happen gives some of the drama extra heft.  The writing, acting and directing never cease to be top-notch. I'm wondering if it slows down S3-4 before it picks up again.

"The Walking Dead" - I love this show.  Because it's zombies and Carl and Michonne and Daryl and zombies and it's not the Governor and Andrea.  The last episode "Claimed" had me on the edge of my couch.  (Although Abraham's hair reminds me of "I Love Lucy".)  I have to DVR it and watch it after Jeff goes to bed.  This makes it extra fun because I'm sitting alone in the dark, and I can zip through the commercials.  I have a wild hope that Lizzie will throw baby Judith to a walker and Carol shoots Lizzie in the head.  The way Andrew Lincoln says "Korrl" never fails to crack me up.  Check out these "Previously On The Walking Dead" videos because they're funny as fuck.  I'm twelve.

"The Big Bang Theory" - one of the three shows I appointment watch, if you include TWD.  The other, of course, is "Supernatural".  Jeff and I gasped when Sheldon and Amy kissed.  With it being on every channel all of the time, we watch one episode a day several days a week. From the way my husband gets upset when Sheldon encounters Evil Wil Wheaton, I suspect Jeff identifies with Sheldon.  Oh God, I hope not.  He didn't like watching "Monk" because I'd be snickering and saying, "That's like you."

"The Crazy Ones" - I was enjoying this a lot, but now every episode has a Very Special Moment between Robin Williams and Sarah Michelle Gellar.  "You're the reason I'm alive" or some shit.  Also, James Volk is really funny, but Hamish Linklater (who is also hilarious) is getting a lot of the best material.  So it's off the DVR.

RIP "The Michael J. Fox Show".  But honestly, the Parkinsons seriously wrecked Fox's comic timing.  The rest of the show was funny in a meh kind of way.

I don't watch any scripted dramas, which is probably my loss.  I went through my syndicated "NCIS" phase but lost interest.  I watch old movies instead.  God bless you, TCM.  And the Sundance channel, now that the Independent Film Channel has COMMERCIALS!  GODDAMN YOU! DIE DIE DIE.

"Supernatural" - this is my major guilty pleasure.  I really love it and can't wait for each episode.  Even though I know it's not as good as it used to be, it doesn't have the "House" Best Show on TV to Complete and Utter Shit trajectory that made me so insane.  I also love writing the reviews because they're fun, but I worry that I'm wasting my time.  And when I find myself pondering the similar emotional journeys of Gadreel and Sam, that's when it becomes worrisome.

"Hoarding: Buried Alive" - my other guilty pleasure.  I love watching people living in garbage and freaking out when it has to be thrown away.  I feel their pain.  Don't ask.  I only admit to having a bag from the Container Store that says "Happiness is an organized closet" and I feel ashamed by an inanimate object.


Finished Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby, a gift from a friend.  It's a memoir of an obsessive football fan in love with Arsenal, one of Britain's worst teams.  As a woman married to a Mets fans, I understand.  Even though I don't know nearly as much about football as my friend,  the parts about being a crazed fan hit the mark.  I'm hoping my husband reads the book.  There's one section that I can't find where Hornby talks about not going to parties, dinners, family events because of football.  It's so perfect.  Recently we were talking about an event in June.  I wanted to check when the finale of SPN S9 was, first!  (May)

Then I picked up The Most of S.J. Perelman. The binding came off my copy years ago, and then I found another 1950s hardcover in our laundry room!  S.J. Perelman is one of the greatest comic writers in the US.  As a kid, my older sister would read it to me.  I never really "got" Robert Benchley, he seemed so tame. Besides, how can you not worship a writer who names a butler Strabismus?  So I've been giggling my way through it, even though I'm supposed to be reading The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  Which was lent to me by my mother and has thus become the source of ceaseless nagging.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

Suck It Up: Supernatural Review, Episode 9x13, "The Purge"

“I saved your hide back there. And I saved your hide at that church. And the hospital. I may not think things all the way through, but what I do I do because it’s the right thing. I’d do it again.” Oh, Dean. 

Finally, in "The Purge," Sam gets his brother to talk honestly about his motives for saving Sam and how screwed up they are.  It ain't pretty.  And the amount of meta it is going to kick off on the interwebs is mind-boggling.  BUT WHO CARES?

Sam in workout gear!  Dean making out with a bag of sweet potatoes!  Eating contests!  Secondary characters that aren't killed off.  This comic standalone episode was not a nail-biter, unless you were sitting in front of your set, stomach growling because you've given up fat, carbs and sugar.  Instead it was goofy, loose-limbed fun, with a tiny bit of social commentary on our obsession with diet and fitness. I laughed my ass off, as did my husband, who hates this show.

It gives one a whole new perspective to watch with another person who isn't invested in the Winchesters' epic story, who doesn't expect brilliance to explode off the screen.  Instead, he wants entertainment, and he covers his eyes when it gets gory.  "Can I look yet?"  Hee.  He gets entertained, and he knows the brothers are having a long-ass conversation at the end which means nothing to him.  As refreshing as a glass of lemon seltzer. Written by Eric Charmelo and Nicole Snyder, directed by Phil Sgriccia, this episode had good mouth feel and undertones of chocolate.   The hostility and hurt Dean feels toward Sam is threaded nicely through the major story, with just the faintest whiff of stale bourbon breath.

THEN: Repeat of conversation where Sam says they're all business now.  Etc. Serious faces. Fans screaming the feels! The feels!

NOW: A hot dog eating contest.  Some of the reviews have said, in effect, "Bzuh? Professional eating contests?"  I live near Coney Island, folks, I know professional eating contests.  It looks like the skinny guy is going to win (in real life the skinny people always win--it's like Kenyans at the NYC marathon).* But his obese opponent beats him, and Fat Guy celebrates in his car, scarfing yet another hot dog.  But wait! What's in the back seat?  The Sucker of DOOM and Instant Weight Loss!  Fat Guy loses 250 pounds of ugly fat in 30 seconds.

SPN_913 Oprah
Oprah Winfrey and her 67 pounds of fat approve!

At the bunker, Dean has been sitting up drinking all night.  His liver is in the next room, sobbing quietly.  Sam asks if Dean is upset because of their previous conversation, and Dean says, "don't flatter yourself."  Really, Dean?  You might as well be in a bathrobe, scarfing chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and watching old episodes of "Law And Order: SVU". 

Sam has found a case.  Two people have been sucked to death, Fat Guy and a woman working out to get thin for her wedding.  But when she weighs herself, the scale says 180.  That is, until the Fat Sucker of DOOM gets hold of her!  She writhes on the scale, and the numbers go down from 180 to 74 pounds.  She'd get a full body tuck after that, but she's dead.

Pet peeve: the scale says she weighs 180, but the actress can't be more than 135.  A friend of mine who is 200 pounds can never get jobs for 200 pound characters because she's "too fat."  Ah, television. 

Anyway, the boys discover a big disgusting sucker scar on the deceased. After interviewing with Sheriff Donna (who overdoes the Fargo accent but whatever) and eating sugar-covered doughnuts, Dean finds the Canyon Valley Spa.  Don't ask me how, okay?

SPN_913 Dean sugar doughnut
Dean Winchester: hunter, hunk, compulsive eater

SPN_913 Fit couple
Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley touting their home exercise machine?

The airy, open spa building is in a spectacular location, snow-capped, lush, really amazing.  It's run by a married couple, Larry and Maritza. 

Remember Corey a few eps back?  There were posters and life-size cut-outs all around his dressing room.  Does the actor get to keep those?  Did these actors get to keep their cut-outs?  I digress.

Sam and Dean interview for jobs as personal trainers by the Fittest Couple In The Known Universe.  Dean goes into hilarious over-eager beaver mode, saying “Personal training brothers. Kind of like Hans and Franz, but less German."  When that fails to go over, Dean yells, "Kicking ass and taking names!"  So of course he's put on kitchen duty, while Sam improvises as a yoga instructor.  Can I have am AMEN for whoever thought to put Jared Padalecki in workout wear?
SPN_913 Sam yoga
It's not yoga.  They are bowing to Jared Padalecki's body perfection.

Too bad he's such a crappy instructor, all of the class gives him the side eye when they leave.  And not in a good way. Dean has to wear a hairnet and stand in front of blown up photos of fruit and quinoa.  When a spa resident asks him what something off camera is, he looks at it and says, "It's a pancake made of tofu."  (paraphrasing: the joke was better than that.)  Ummm, pancakes. Barf, tofu.

SPN_913 Dean hell
Dean is trapped in his own personal hell...fruits and veggies.  Heh.

Sheriff Donna comes in for a spa day, and is put in a room for a "cupping session."  Maritza heats glass jars and puts them on Donna's back, as Donna dozes happily, face downward.  And then Maritza's eyes turn white.  She gives Donna the most disgusting liposuction ever!  It's the Fat Sucker of DOOM!

SPN_913 Fat monster
Is that a kielbasa in your mouth or are you just glad to see me?

In the kitchen, Dean is given the job of dishing out bright orange pudding for the guests.  PUDDING! It makes a yucky "skwush" when he drops a spoonful into a container.  Still, it tastes good, so Dean pockets a container to enjoy later.  He sneaks into a storeroom to chow down.  When he tries to get up, he staggers, then falls over.  He calls Sam, but the only words he can manage are: "Sweet potatoes."  When Sam finds him, he says he's ready to go, but as soon as Sam leaves, Dean falls back down and starts making out with the bag of sweet potatoes.   With tongue.

SPN_013 Dean sweet potatoes
Poor Dean really needs a cheeseburger.

Sam finds the recipe, and the "supplements" the spa puts in the pudding.  His brother and the sweet potatoes have broken up.  Dean looks at the bottle. Dean: These aren’t supplements, they’re roofies. Sam: How do you know what roofies look like? Dean: How do you not know? You think I want to end up in a hotel bathtub with my kidneys carved out in Chechnya?

Larry discovers the Winchesters are hunters.  He tells his wife to dispose of the evidence.  She goes to a fridge filled with containers of human fat in savory blood sauce.  But she can't help herself.  Her big Sucker Tongue shoots into the container, and bam! Sam and Dean have their killer.  Except they don't.

Maritza: I'm a pishtaco.
Dean: A fish taco?

She lives on human fat.  "I'm not a monster, I'm a parasite!" she protests to the brothers.  Yeah, like that'll help. Exactly like last week and the week before, Maritza fell in love with Larry in Peru and returned with him to the States.  The spa allows her to feed and clients to lose weight.  Win-win, right? she asks. But wait!  She is not the Fat Sucker of DOOM.  She is the Fat Sucker of MODERATION!  That isn't scary, is it?  Actually, it's kind of depressing.  Is the hidden message of this episode that eating too much of anything--hot dogs, pudding, human fat--will kill you?  Her brother Alonzo has been put on a low-fat diet.  His cravings have gotten the better of him, so he's binging.  Larry goes to throw Alonzo out.  Bad move, Larry.

SPN_913 Suck it
"Suck it!"

Next thing you know, Larry's on the kitchen floor, his neck suctioned open and spouting blood.  Maritza has informed the brothers that Alonzo's in the basement, so they grab a couple of flashlights and go parasite hunting.  I had a hard time following the layout of the basement, because after a bunch of storage closets it seemed to open up into a cozy den with fine wood paneling. Sam is doing the flashlight and knife thing until a cabinet is pushed over on him, and Alonzo appears on top. The dialogue goes something like "MWUAUUAHAHHA."  Sam and Alonzo get into a big old-fashioned Supernatural dust-up, with Sam crashing through the wall.  Alonzo has Sam pinned, and his big sucker comes out--the mouth one, not the other one--but Dean saves the day by slicing through the sucker.  Alonzo is killed instantly, and his sucker rolls up like one of those dried up dead worms you find on the sidewalk after a rainstorm.  Except way more gross.

Aftermath: Maritza is mourning the loss of her husband and brother.  Dean's all for ganking her, but like Garth's wife, she's a friendly monster, so she gets to live!  One weird thing: the way she said "monster" sounded familiar, and then it struck me that Ellie in Season 8's "Trial and Error" said it exactly the same way.  That has nothing to do with anything, sorry.  Maritza gets a one-way ticket to Peru.

Back at the bunker, Dean and Sam have The Talk That Will Be The Source of Fan Crazy and A Metric Ton of Meta until after the Olympics.

SPN_913 Sam truth
Dean: You know Sam, I saved your hide back there. I saved your hide at that church — in the hospital. I may not think things all the way through but when I do, it’s because it’s the right thing. I’d do it again.
Sam: And that is the problem. You think you’re my savior, my brother, the hero. You swoop in and even when you mess up you think what you’re doing is worth it because you’ve convinced yourself you’re doing more good than bad... but you’re not. Kevin’s dead, Crowley’s in the wind, we’re no closer to beating this angel thing, please tell me, what is the upside to me being alive?
Dean: Are you kidding me? You and me, fighting the good fight together.
Sam: Just once be honest with me, you didn’t save me for me. You did it for you.
Dean: What are you talking about?
Sam: I was ready to die, I was ready. I should have died. But you, you didn’t want to be alone. That’s what this boils down to, you can’t stand the thought of being alone. I’ll give you this much, you are certainly willing do the sacrifice, as long as you’re not the one being hurt.
Dean: Alright, you want to be honest, if the situation was reversed, and I was dying, you’d do the same thing.
Sam: No Dean, I wouldn’t. Same circumstances, I wouldn’t. I’m heading to bed.

SPN_913 Dean hurt

Dean is absolutely destroyed.  His worldview has been broken to pieces.  But it's about time.  Earlier, Sam asked, what if a hunter had found Sam when he was possessed by Gadreel?  Dean shrugged that off.  But Sam is talking to Dean as one adult to another.  At the end of Season 8, when Dean told Sam he would die if he finished the trials, Sam said, "So?"  As he has said repeatedly, he was ready and willing to die.  More than anything, he sounds exhausted. 

But Dean can't bear to lose Sam. This conversation was overdue.  The writing was excellent, and the two actors played it beautifully. Now I'm going to read all of those reviews that say "Whyeee, Supernatural, why did you tear my heart out of my chest and kick it around the parking lot like a soccer ball???" 

I wasn't heartbroken.  I was relieved.  And intrigued.  This takes the brothers' relationship to another level, which has been sorely needed for some time. This is not "manufactured conflict."  The two characters have gone in different directions since Season (ugh) 7.  Sam is telling Dean, in no uncertain terms, who he is and what he wants.  Dean is forced to look past his knee-jerk defenses and emotional neediness and deal with the consequences.  I hope that "dealing" doesn't mean more drinking.

The show is off for two weeks because of the Winter Olympics in Russia.  If you want disgusting, look at their drinking water.

* Kenyans have won the NYC Marathon several times.  I looked it up.