Monday, November 24, 2008

Heaven and Hell

I just realized I haven't posted my thoughts on the last episode of Supernatural (until January 15 *sob*).

It wasn't my favorite episode. There were three things that bothered me:

1. Anna

I guess it was the actress. When she was interacting one-on-one with Jensen, she was fine. But when she was talking to the group, every time, she was, like, fakely overwrought. High voice, jolting speech, physical affectations meant to portray emotion that really didn't.

2. The "Battle"

The word "clumsy" came into my head during the angel/demon battle. I don't know if it was the blocking, or the lack of budget, or maybe rushed filming. It just didn't seem as smooth and convincing as their scenes usually are.

3. Sam at the end

Once again, Jensen Ackles is not only knocking the ball out of the park, but out of the friggin' state. His revelation wasn't at all surprising, it was what I gleaned from the hints they gave us and non-show mythology about hell. But they had a couple of shots where Dean wasn't on camera, and Sam was just nodding sillily. I'm not criticizing Jared's acting or anything, and what else would someone be able to do while hearing such things? But keep him soft focus in the background, let us absorb Dean's pain.

And I know I'm not the first to say this, but GOD, Sam, just put your hand on his shoulder! You don't have to go full-blown hug, but he needs a touch, he needs to know you understand, you're not disgusted or think less of him, and despite what he says about you not being able to do anything, that touch can ease his pain, just a little.

I blame the directing.

Okay, so what did I like?

a. The Sex

Not the actual sex, though that was fine--no, it was the fact of it that I love. A lot of the reviews and recaps and opinions I've been reading seem to be missing the complexity of it. Yes, Sam is sleeping with a demon and Dean's sleeping with an angel, but to say that puts them on opposite sides is very oversimplistic. Sam is sleeping with a demon who is trying to do some good, who is stopping demons and helping Sam exorcise them from people without killing the host. She probably has murkier motivations than that, but at this point, all we know is that the other minions of hell consider her an enemy, or at least an antagonist.

And sure, Dean slept with an angel, but he slept with a fallen angel, one who committed the cardinal sin of angels, and who fought them to stay alive and free, and who wanted to experience all the good and bad of humanity. There's all kinds of gray from both sides, which I think puts the boys squarely in the middle, with each other, working together.

b. The Bobby stuff

I loved how they handled the need for Bobby without the availability of Jim Beaver, and in fact, I think it is more believable that Bobby would be on the road and the boys on their own with this, instead of Bobby riding in to save the day. Again. I adore Bobby and could never have too much of him, but this was handled just right.

Plus, if he'd been here, we wouldn't have " Hedonism in a banana hammock and a trucker cap."

c. Dean going to Ruby's rescue

I don't think he fully trusts her, but when Uriel attacks, Dean is the one who goes to her rescue. Even more interesting is that Sam doesn't. Sam either thinks Ruby can handle herself, doesn't see her as a woman in need of protection/defense, or is ambivalent in his feelings for her. Either way, I love it.

d. The mythology

I know I talk about this every week, but I LOVELOVELOVE the way they are handling the angel/demon/God/Lucifer stuff. There are so few absolutes, and it brings up timeless questions about what constitutes good and evil, the ends justifying the means, etc. None of it is exactly fresh ground--much has probably been similarly addressed in other shows and movies (like Constantine, maybe?). But the characters and the relationship dynamics make it unique.

I think that pretty much covers it. I would be despairing right now over the far-too-long break, but I have the comfort of a Gold Package to Salute to Supernatural to keep it at bay!


MaryF said...

Let's see if I can put this into words (yes, I'm a writer, but...) I think the sex would have been so much more poignant if they'd played up Dean's angst about hell sooner. I think it could have been as much a plea for redemption as a love scene. Also, from Anna's POV, she longed for humanity as an angel, but forgot about that longing the longer she was human, right? So now, having sex with Dean was (okay, I want to say a dream come true, but that would be for a lot of us) having sex with Dean was a fulfillment of that humanity. I'm not explaining this well at all. I'm just thinking the scene could have been more poignant.

But there was no chemistry between them. How could anyone not have chemistry with Jensen Ackles? Also, the cuts in the scene were even more distancing, you know?

I liked the battle, though I wondered why the angels didn't just smite the demons outright. Why tell them to leave?

And I wish Sam had shown some kind of concern to Ruby. Maybe he doesn't see her as more than a sex partner, but I'd hope he'd have some kind of tenderness for her based on that. I mean, look at him and Madison, and he didn't even know her that long.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

I see what you're saying, and I agree they could have gone that route, but I have a very different perspective on what they were doing.

I don't think they were going for poignancy with the sex scene. First, Anna is a fallen angel, so there's no redemption to be had, and if there was anything Dean would see as pure enough to redeem wouldn't be sex. LOL I think it was more comfort and connection than anything bigger.

Also, I never got the impression Anna was a virgin. In fact, the way she said "Sex." after chocolate cake gave me the definite impression that she had had it. She didn't need fulfillment of humanity, because she'd been living it for 20-something years. The problem was that she was going to have to give it up, and she didn't want to go back to her other existence.

I agree there wasn't much chemistry, but that's not really controllable, I guess. It goes way beyond an actor's looks and ability. :) And I guess the cuts were distancing--while I watched, I couldn't find anything at all wrong with the scene or the way it was filmed, but it didn't have the same impact on me that Sam's scene the week before did.

Maybe demons can only smite humans. Maybe they preferred not to fight Alistair outright and risk attention and collateral damage, or maybe they knew he was powerful enough to kill them, and they can't afford to lose more angels.

I didn't mean to imply (if you were inferring and not just jumping off) that I don't think Sam cares about Ruby. They did have a reaction shot of him when Uriel tossed Ruby against the wall. But she IS a demon with her own capabilities, and Sam probably figured if he ran to her, it left Anna vulnerable. Sam doesn't go running to Dean's side every time he gets thrown against a wall. LOL And he loves Dean more than anyone. Plus, things were a little fractured. They had multiple threats in the room, and Sam was between them and Anna.

Also, Sam not rushing to help Ruby doesn't negate the tenderness in his voice every time he sees her. I'd say his feelings for her are complicated.

MaryF said...

My comment about Sam not feeling tenderness for Ruby was just my own observation. I wanted him to go to her when she was cut up.

I like the idea that Anna didn't want to give up sex, and I did think she'd had sex before, that she was more celebrating least, if they'd played that out it might have been more touching.

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Something was definitely missing, but like I said, Anna wasn't all that great an actress, so maybe the fault was all hers. :)

Melissa Bradley said...

I was jealous of Anna. :) I mean if you can only have sex one more time...however, I thought the whole Titanic steamed window hand thing was awful. They could have done something else to show climax.

I thought the fight was a little lame. I mean I wanted Uriel to just crush those demons, but I loved Alasdair, though. Call me twisted but his torture scene with Ruby was great. Nothing had to be shown because it was all implied with their voices and expressions. I did like the look Sam gave Ruby when she came in with the demons and he saw the blood on her.

I wanted Sam to show a little more affection to Dean when he confessed to what he'd done in Hell. A shoulder touch, like you were saying, Natalie. I was crying with Dean.

I did not like Anna as an actress either. I thought she was pushing too hard. Even with Dean she was a little much. I thought I was just projecting because she got be with Dean. LOL

I want more Pamela. I know what Castiel did to her, but she is the best smartass.

I'm glad I was directed here by your blog post because I was wondering why your comments about Supernatural had not appeared. I don't wanna wait til Jan 15, I'm whining I know, but...

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

Thanks for trekking over here, Melissa! :)

Yeah, I hated the window thing, too. My daughter called it cliche, and she's hardly seen any sex scenes, ever! LOL

I wonder if Alistair was obliterated by the angel or if we'll see him again. He's scary.

How could I have forgotten to put Pamela on the list of things I loved? She is SO awesome! I hope we get more of her, too.

Ava Quinn said...

There was a lot that I really liked about the episode, especially Pamela. She is an awesome character.

I also agree that I don't think the actress that played Anna portrayed her in a very believable way for the tone of the show.

The thing that struck me in this episode is that yet again, in the end, Sam has the good idea and takes the lead. In my limited experience with the show, Dean comes across as the ultimate soldier, while Sam is the creative thinker/fighter. Sam is coming across as the "general", while Dean is better at following orders.

In the beginning of the show, Dean took the lead in most hunts because he was gung-ho on killing the monsters, and had dad's journal to instruct him how to do it. Now, without an instruction booklet of sorts, he knows he wants to do something, but isn't really formulating plans to get it done. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, but if they pit the brothers against each other, as many are speculating they will, Sam has that advantage over Dean. Even if they don't go there, Castiel said that he was supposed to follow Dean's orders as a test. Dean came to a decision, but Sam did most of the offering of solutions. Dean essentially said you're not destroying the town, but it was Sam who came up with solutions. If Dean is supposed to lead an angel army, as the scene with Castiel hinted, at this point I don't see him as able to take on the role. Not much in the show thus far has shown that he'd be ready for a powerful leadership position.

Just for clarification purposes, before you blast me Natalie, I'm not a Dean hater. I actually am leaning more towards him than Sam this season for the first time. :)

Natalie J. Damschroder said...

No way am I going to blast you! You're making me look really good!

At the end of last season, I said the dynamics between the brothers were going to change. Up to the time Dean went to hell, he took the lead because he's the older brother, he'd been hunting longer, that was the role he'd always had. But we saw with "Mystery Spot" what Sam could do when on his own, and then he had four additional months of being "in charge." At the end of season 3, he was trying to assert his plans and opinions and Dean wouldn't let him, just did the "I'm the boss you shut up" thing. I was dead certain their roles would shift, even before Kripke said their relationship would be very different.

Dean has always been the "good soldier" type in relation to his father, so that's nothing different. Sam went to college and was going to be a lawyer, so logic and planning are his strength. Plus, Dean has been out of the game and is coming from behind AND playing in the dark. Not to mention, he's plagued and distracted by his memories of hell, so it makes sense that he'd follow Sammy's lead on a lot of things.

I don't care what the fans say, I personally don't think they are going to pit Sam on the side of bad against Dean on the side of good. They've really laid off even the hint of that lately. Also, I disagree that Dean was resurrected to lead an angel army. Castiel said the angels were already out there fighting, and they've gone through stuff like this before. Dean was resurrected as a tool, not a leader. His test was about choices, I think, though they haven't told us whether he passed or failed yet. And they were prepared to kill him to get to the ends they needed (punishing Anna and keeping her from the demons), so they aren't looking at him like a possible leader.

Still, I'm fully with you on all the changes in brotherly dynamics. It will be interesting to see if they shift again. I think they will trend back toward center and maybe even already are.