|yourlibrarian (yourlibrarian) wrote in mind_over_meta,|
@ 2009-11-21 19:35:00
SPN 5.10 - A sign of hope
Ben Edlund, at this rate you're looking like the only writer who is giving us something worth watching. It was hardly a flawless episode but any half-decent episode would have looked good after the last few, What's perhaps most important is that given what little of substance actually happened in it (plotwise) Edlund managed to distract us with some pretty memorable character moments. I’m afraid I wasn’t the least bit surprised about Ellen and Jo dying because given the show’s track record we could hardly have expected them to finish off the season (in fact, I think a lot of people were surprised when they survived 5.02). What’s more, since both Sam and Dean’s deaths at this point would be completely meaningless, the show has written itself into a corner. There isn’t much drama left for exposing either to physical danger – we’ve been told both will be brought back if they should die again (which begs the question why Sam and Dean would have allowed Ellen and Jo to go on the hunt with them in the first place since they’d be the only ones at risk).
But given all that, I thought that Edlund’s script for Abandon All Hope and AT and SF’s performances gave Ellen and Jo a worthy sendoff. What I’m sad about is that this episode showed not only how much more we could have gotten from those characters if the writers had bothered to write it, but also in that great scene anchored all the way through by "Oye Como Va", what it might have been like to see the Winchesters really developing some outside ties across the seasons. The scene was oddly familiar in a way because I’ve seen its like so often in fanfic and it’s depressing to see that it could have been great on screen as well.
I. Maybe they can wear purple shirts when they're brought back just to be killed off
While Sam Ferris has always made Ellen memorable as a warm and tough character, as well as a believable mother, I think Tal as Jo was rather shaky in S2. I always found her performance rather stilted. But she shone brightly here in an episode that asked her to do a number of different things – be the classic victim, be a hunter, be an appealing love interest, and be a daughter. She impressed me with the way she made this Jo older, wiser, and demonstrating that warmth and toughness we’ve always seen in Ellen. Her best scenes were with her mother, and the two made them believable and compelling. That they could make me feel grief after I’ve become so jaded over the way this show deals with its characters says a lot about what they brought to the screen. Jo and Ellen, we never knew you well enough and that's an incredible shame.
II. So this leaves us where?
It's a good thing that I was made to care so much that we were losing these two characters because on the whole the episode didn't do that much. It seems to me that season five is suffering from some of the same problems as S3, in that Sam and Dean have been placed in very reactive roles. In S3, while the demon war was ostensibly the focus of the season, even the writers seemed to forget about it for stretches. The real issue for most viewers was whether Dean could be kept from the pit and what was happening to both as that outcome loomed ever closer. The season could have been one where Sam and Dean were on the hunt for a solution but by and large we saw little of what Sam (and Bobby) were up to in their attempts and the only possible answer seemed to lie with Ruby, which, in a way, made the season more about what Ruby's role was and whether she could be trusted than about what Sam and Dean were doing.
By comparison, though, S3 was clear-cut compared to S5. I mean, what are Sam and Dean's motivations here? The apocalypse has begun, they want Lucifer dead but don't know how to do it, or if that's really going to be any kind of long-term solution, and the only thing we know for sure is that both want to resist becoming vessels. That ends up putting most of the season's action in the hands of others. And a good example of that is this episode.
We've been given this idea that the Colt will kill Lucifer as early as 5.04 (which I never bought) but weren't told how that would stop anything. This episode suggests that the apocalypse can only be completed if the four horsemen are brought forth. Yet we already ran into War, who has apparently in his own words, been around for a while. Does Death have to be summoned through demon deaths? Or would the deaths of humans do? Would Lucifer's death somehow impede the joining of all four horsemen? We're apparently two down at this point. Also, once Dean was within arm's reach of Lucifer and essentially helpless, why did Lucifer not kill him? Does he not realize Dean might be Michael's vessel?
I'll buy that he didn't kill him straight off the bat because he wants Sam to say yes, and maybe realizes nothing could cement Sam's enmity faster than killing Dean. Or maybe he knows that Dean would simply be brought back by Zachariah or other angels. so there wouldn't be any reason to bother. Either way, this goes back to my earlier point that there's no drama there without any risk to either of the Winchesters. What's more as new threats are raised we have them granted mysterious talismans through no effort of their own (such as the rib sigils or being handed the Colt). This season, Sam and Dean have been reduced to tokens who are being moved about a board by other individuals with no power to make things happen, only to resist things. I'm not suggesting that there's something unheroic about resistance but it is an undramatic strategy for a show which has, so far, been built mostly on action with some sporadic character development thrown in. And I think many of us would agree that what character development has gone on in S5 has been all over the map.
What's worse, the underpinning of the entire show, that these two care about one another immensely and that they are sharing the most important relationship of their lives, is an element adrift this season. There's nothing there right now for an audience to cling to, any more than a clear plot direction for Sam and Dean.
III. For heroes, you guys are pretty lame
While I quite enjoyed meeting Crowley, who is my favorite demon so far, I find it rather easy to buy into his perspective of Sam and Dean as complete idiots who have no idea what they're doing and have little with which to carry out a plan if they had it.
1) In S4 we are made aware that angels can be killed with angel killing swords. As recently as 5.01 we see Castiel use one to rescue Sam and Dean who seem mysteriously uncurious about a device which presumably neither has seen before (unless Castiel happened to be flashing it around at the hospital afterwards). I can tell you real hunters, upon seeing an incredibly powerful weapon killing incredibly powerful foes, who REMAIN A THREAT TO THEM would be all over that thing. So…what? Does no one involved realize an archangel might be more likely to be killed with an angel-killing sword WHICH THEY ALREADY HAVE IN THEIR POSESSION than the Colt which was created by a human to kill demons, creatures we know are less powerful than angels?
2) What's more this "hunt for the Colt" (talk about another plot angle that lacked drama with its quick and improbable resolution) didn't make a lot of sense. Since Ruby showed Bobby how to fix the gun and he and Dean were making bullets for it, couldn’t they have just built a new Colt? Clearly the ability exists to make new bullets for it since Crowley did so. Why is the original Colt even needed? For that matter, once Lucifer is not killed by the first shot from the Colt why is Dean not pumping bullet after bullet into him while Sam stabs him repeatedly with Ruby's knife? Even human beings survive single gunshot wounds, but generally not a whole ammo clip with added stab wounds. If you were the one standing there with one mission in your life right now, wouldn't you be unloading into him with everything you had?
3) I am going to assume that what plan existed about the march into Carthage was that Castiel would teleport Sam and Dean close enough to Lucifer for them to take their shot. But the question then is why didn't they just do that? Why were Ellen and Jo needed (other than to set up a death scene?). Because I have to assume that Castiel has always been able to locate Lucifer's whereabouts, otherwise how did Castiel know where Sam and Dean were once he freed himself? Thanks to their ribs he can’t locate them and it’s not like he knew about the farm. I’m going to have to guess that Castiel has always been able to see Lucifer though, and thus went to where he was, assuming (correctly) that Sam and Dean would somehow be there. So why not teleport them in and out to start with? And at the very least, if Castiel's there primarily to provide the safety net of an instant getaway, why would any of them separate upon arrival? Why is everyone looking to Dean to make decisions when clearly he's making pretty lousy ones?
4) I was rather annoyed by two pauses for dramatic effect in the way the boys stopped running to look back at the explosion, and Dean’s pause in shooting the Colt. Or for that matter, walking right up to Lucifer to shoot it. Nothing like giving him time to take it out of his hand! For that matter, speaking of effect, Lucifer really needs to dig with a shovel? He couldn’t wave a hand to empty and dig a hole? Not a terribly impressive lord of the underworld.
5) Going back to the Crowley scene, once Sam and Dean break in (1) Where does Jo disappear to? (And you can be sure Ellen was around somewhere) and (2) Sam and Dean had time to spray paint a rug unnoticed but they mess up in not straightening it out?
6) I don’t know what to make of Dean's hitting on Jo. My feeling is that scene was inserted largely to demonstrate how she’s grown up and how neither is in the same place. I think there’s still an attraction there but that Jo doesn’t really see Dean in the same way anymore. At the same time, I think it’s also meant to show how Dean’s not the same guy either. He decided for himself before that Jo should be off limits. Now, right after he basically tells Sam he still doesn’t trust him, he decides to hit on Jo. There’s definitely shades of 2014 Dean there.
IV. Nice to see you back
Speaking of Edlund’s other episode this season, I liked how he drew that bit of continuity from The End, in Bobby takng everyone’s photo. We haven’t seen him do it before but maybe he did back in 2.12. What I failed to understand though was why at the end they were burning the photo. Isn’t he point of photos to preserve people and moments? With Ellen and Jo gone, what are we supposed to deduce about them destroying their final image? Why bother to take the photo in the first place?
The one thing that did strike me about that scene was how much Jo reminded me of Mary in that photo and she also died by fire. Perhaps that was the point of seeing her image consumed by it even if she wasn’t wearing white. (If I were a blonde connected to the Winchesters, I'd have a good fire insurance policy in place). But it's something that makes sense as a directorial decision, not as a character moment.
Another piece of continuity was Castiel undoing the screws in the pipe to free himself, a callback to what Uriel did in Edlund's S4 episode, Pin. In fact, I’d expected water to put the fire out rather than it knocking Meg into the circle. I hadn’t realized that a fire circle could be broken the same way a salt one is, I thought the fire had to be put out.
V. Lasting Impact
There were two important issues brought out in this episode which matter in the canon:
1) So the demons think they’re going to heaven. Apparently Earth is not what they were after. That actually makes more sense, since one would think with a concerted effort they could have taken over sooner otherwise – there were certainly enough of them roaming around up here.
2) Dean has nothing to say to Sam. I thought that little moment regarding their last words was pretty effective in showing that their earlier scene over Bobby's desk was them papering over a much deeper continuing problem.
1) I really liked the score for this episode. I don’t always notice it but I did this time.
2) That Crowley is quite a shot. I hope that Mark Sheppard didn’t come aboard just for this one scene and that we’ll be seeing more of Crowley later on.
3) I’m not clear where the opening segment with Crowley and the piggy banker (heh) fit into things, other than to suggest that Crowley is a crossroads demon and to simply give Castiel the opportunity to find him. I did find it rather satisfying to see the show follow through on its own premise, that of deals having to be sealed with a kiss, since they got very delicate about that issue with Bela, not to mention John and Azazel. But I'm also going to assume it was another way of tying in the show's apocalypse with current events.
4) I am curious about angel and demon teleportation abilities. Clearly since Castiel can follow Crowley, Lucifer could have followed Sam and Dean had he wanted to. Which means that teleportation isn’t really any sort of escape among demons and angels.
5) I also liked the touch about the Enochian wards being brought back – presumably it was something meant to keep Lucifer out, though I have to wonder if they would actually work with an archangel.
6) I loved the juxtaposition of the Adult Videos sign with the “Anti-God is Anti-American” sign.
7) That scene with all the Reapers standing around was awesome (and very City of Angels) but why are they all old men?
8) Boy it’s like they live in a video game world, always some convenient bags of rock salt around. Lucky for them they ended up in a hardware store and not a dentist's office.
9) Lucifer’s conversation with Castiel echoes his discussion with Sam – draw similarities with the other person and encourage them to find common ground. I notice there’s no talk of bringing Castiel back from the dead though, and Lucifer’s attitude didn’t suggest he’d been the one responsible for doing it the first time.