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Friday, 16 of April of 2021

DVD First Watch: Supernatural – Season 2, Disc 4

Looks like Mr. Okey-dokey is… okey-dokey.”

"Dean" and Jo

It's always the quiet ones.

Call this disc “Supernatural‘s Greatest Hits – REMIXED.”

One of the challenges of Supernatural faces is keeping itself from getting stale. While there are lots of myths and legends and folklore to explore from all sorts of cultures, it’s a challenge to make these things unique episode to episode, to differentiate between whatever the episode’s big bad is from the previous episode and the next episode.

At the same time, the show has demonstrated extreme creativity, so I found it a little odd when it revisited shapeshifters. And then issues of faith. And then possessions. And then Dean and Sam pulling pranks on each other.

Then I got over it because the episodes on this disc, despite initially seeming like retreads, provide not only nice variations on previous episode, but they also further larger concerns of this season, which is what makes the episodes rewarding (I mean aside from the fact they’re all good episodes).

“Nightshifter” – “Is that community theater or are you naturally like this?

In the last post, I explained how much of a sucker I am for disappearing town stories. If there’s one thing I enjoy more than that, it’s a heist story. I love heist capers. Really. Can’t get enough of them. So I grooved on the cold open, assuming that we were in for some sort of weird ghost bank thing. But I was pleasantly surprised by the episode going where it did. (Plus, you know, the episode title left me in stitches.)

So while the shapeshifter stuff is great (how brilliant was it that it pretended to be a corpse? I mean, those shifters are clever bastards), and I really liked how Ronald was incorporated into the story (though I felt like his death, while well-played, gets glossed over a bit by the end), what I really relished was the presence of the FBI. I mean, yes, the FBI showing up during a bank job/hostage situation is SOP for such narratives, but that Henriksen is there for Sam and Dean specifically was just the right twist that the episode needed.

When I talked about the roadhouse opening up the series in particular ways, it’s here with the FBI (and, by extension, “The Usual Suspects”) that the dangers that surround hunting, as a profession, move beyond just getting killed by demons. The mundane world that doesn’t know about all this stuff, that wouldn’t even dream the stuff that Dean and Sam face off against, is now a threat. And a threat that, frankly, can more easily reach them should the show choose to focus on this more.

Which, frankly, isn’t necessary for this part of Superantural‘s world to be satisfying. Unlike, say, Burn Notice where’s Michael’s activities are located in a single city where the police force would start to notice and should’ve been a larger presence in that series, Supernatural is a road show and a rural show (though it is shifting to more urban locales this season). This makes the law’s ability to keep tabs on Sam and Dean more a challenge, and thus its presence less overt.

Of course, an episode on the next disc takes place in a prison, so I assume it comes back in some fashion.

“Houses of the Holy” – “Okay, ecstasy boy. Maybe we’ll get you some glow sticks and a nice Dr. Seuss hat.

So this episode is kind of a weak spot in the disc for me. There’s nothing particularly bad about this episode, but it doesn’t have the same flair or energy that the other episodes on the disc (or in this season, really) have. Which, again, isn’t a bad thing — the episode is a very somber one, and rightfully so. But even on a somber level, it’s not as engaging as I would have liked.

But the episode does some important work nonetheless. The discussion of faith is one that the show should explore more, and I suspect that it does. Knowing the broad strokes of the series going forward (angels, Lucifer, war in heaven, etc.), I found that the episode lays groundwork for those forward plot movements, even if they weren’t thinking that far ahead when they did the episode.

Part of the low energy, however, comes from the fact that I don’t think Padalecki or Ackles seem all that comfortable with the dialog. It’s a hard thing to convincingly sell these kinds of dialectical arguments, and neither of them seem completely at home with it, or the beats they’re required to play as a result. And the script could be part of the larger problem: Dean’s comfort with questioning by the episode’s end doesn’t feel completely earned to me or convincing.

But it’s an important conversation for the show to have. Dean’s rational “If I can see it (and can kill it)” approach to things does seem odd in this world of the supernatural where fantastic things do happen. Even if the supernatural elements are “magical”, there’s a “science” behind them (salt, holding circles, etc). There are clear rules, essentially. Angels perhaps disrupt those rules.

In the end, however, I think the episode sides pretty firmly with Sam’s approach (believing in angels). Not just because it has Dean kind of become more open by the end of the episode, but because Dean’s resistance just doesn’t make that much sense. If there’s a hell, it stands to reason there’s a heaven (though this logic is kind of faulty). And while it may be above their pay grade to deal with such issues, it does contribute to the season’s moral graying as the issues of right and wrong, and what/who are okay to kill.

“Born Under a Bad Sign” – “Sam’s still my meat puppet.

When I said I wanted Evil!Sam, I wanted an actual Evil!Sam, not Sam possessed by Meg’s old demon, but this was good too.

I felt like something was off since there hadn’t been much/enough build up to Sam’s descent in to Crazy Murder Town for this episode not to be a sort of bait-and-switch, and the mark on his skin sealed the deal (as it were) for me that it wasn’t Sam, nor was it Azazel’s doing. I was, however, surprised at the return of Meg’s demon (or do I call it Meg?), so it gave the episode a little more weight than it otherwise would have had, I think.

Which isn’t to say that the episode isn’t a doozie for the characters, because it is. Regardless of if he’s possessed or not, Sam represents a real a threat to Dean and others (poor Jo, who only shows up to be tied up and be bait), and the presence of Meg’s demon only brings the situation into stark(er) relief.

I add the ‘-er’ since the season has made clear that Dean has no intention of ever killing Sam if he goes for the evulz. It’s getting a little old, at this point, that they’re not offering some variation on this stand-off. While, yes, Sam being possessed is a variation, the interplay between the two isn’t one, and we come to roughly the same conclusions we came to before.

On the other hand, I’m not sure I want any more of Evil!Sam. Padalecki isn’t exactly great at playing bad. Part of this is just a script issue of deciding to do the exact opposite of Sam in general (bigger, hammier moments), but Padalecki doesn’t seem all that great at selling these moments either. I can see and feel him trying to play the scene as opposed to just playing it, and it gets distracting.

I’m all for the return of Bobby though. Dude’s a badass, and I love it. Holy water in the beer is great stuff.

“Tall Tales” – “But she was a classy chick. She was a grad student. Anthropology and folklore. We were talking about ghost stories.

I don’t have too much to say about this episode beyond just really enjoying it. I appreciate the shifts in subjectivity as Sam and Dean recount their story to Bobby (who, like I said above, I really adore — “You guys are breaking my heart. Can we please just leave?!”) from the differing appearance of the grad student to Sam’s string of “blah blah blah”s to their wrestling on the bed (oh, the fics that must’ve launched).

But it’s also a much needed fun episode after the intensity of the rest of the disc. Slow-dancing aliens and Dean getting beaten up by gorgeous women in lingerie, well, you just don’t get much better than that. I appreciated the clever use of a trickster as a way to make their prank wars new again but to also explain all the weird occurrence going on in the college town (towns that are often ripe with tall tales).

Earlier thoughts on disc 1disc 2, disc 3.

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