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by Jessy Krupa

23 Nov 2015

"Plush", the first  true stand-alone episode of this season, is stuffed with horror movie cliches and filler.

Has anyone noticed how misleading Supernatural‘s recent promos are? Advertisements for “Plush” made it look like one of the series’ sillier episodes, with the brothers spouting puns and chasing a giant bunny rabbit. Instead, what we got was a disturbingly dark (even by Supernatural‘s standards) hodgepodge of ideas lifted from other horror movies.

It opened with a stereotypically lazy husband (Kirt Purdy) finding himself brutally stabbed by a stranger wearing a plush rabbit head. Since this happened in Sheriff Donna’s (Brianna Buckmaster) district (you might remember her from last season’s “The Purge” and “Hibbing 911” episodes), she called Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles). This is where the writing starts to get iffy: since the suspect’s mask won’t come off and he doesn’t respond to any questions, the brothers manage identify him due to his college T-shirt and a “Kylie forever” tattoo on his wrist. But first, the rabbit guy nearly strangles Dean (Jensen Ackles). As odd as this is, it doesn’t stop the brothers from making Bugs Bunny and Who Framed Roger Rabbit? references.

Kylie (Megan Peta Hill) tells the Winchesters that the man in the bunny mask is her boyfriend, who’s been acting strangely ever since he tried the mask on in a thrift shop (similar to the plot of both The Mask and a book in the Goosebumps series.) Before they can warn Donna, the man attacks her and her Deputy, Doug (Brendan Taylor), who’s forced to kill him. As he dies, the mysterious bunny head falls off.

Sam and Dean salt and burn the head, believing it to be inhabited by a vengeful ghost. But the same ghost has other costumes to try on. His next victim is a coach (Bruce Blain), who is almost kettle-belled to death by a girl (Cate Sproule) in a high school mascot costume. After Dean’s shotgun of salt frees her, the ghost jumps into a clown suit.

The “previously on” at the beginning of the episode warned us that Sam (like most sensible people) doesn’t like clowns. (Just a joke! Please don’t write angry comments, clown fans.) This was a big build-up to nothing much, as Sam quickly disarms and dispatches the ghost in a hospital elevator, to reveal an elderly man who’d donned the costume to entertain his granddaughter; unfortunately, the ghost is dispatched only after the man slits the throat of the aforementioned coach. 

Eventually, the brothers tracked all of the costumes and murders to a “children’s performer” named Chester accused of “inappropriate actions” with children. (You can draw your own Nightmare On Elm Street comparisons here.) After a vengeful father and coach killed him and made it look like a suicide, his ghost wanted revenge. After the brothers set the last costume, a caribou-like creature that was referred to as a deer, ablaze, the ghost vanishes.  Only the last few minutes of the episode focus on the main storyline of the season, as Sam reveals to Dean that he has been praying to God for help and confirming that his visions are of The Cage in Hell where Sam was trapped for months between seasons five and six. Dean, however, is his usual dismissive self, wondering why God would intervene now when he didn’t bother during the apocalypse of season five.

The only non-misleading aspect of the promos was to let us know that we were in for a stand-alone episode (the only one so far that hasn’t featured Castiel [Misha Collins], Crowley [Mark A. Sheppard], or Amara [Samantha Isler]), but it certainly wasn’t as fun as the promos suggested. It was nice to see Sheriff Donna again (some fans are currently lobbying for her to star in a spin-off with several other notable female characters), who offers a light-hearted and welcome female presence to a very male-dominated series, but other than her reluctant relationship with the deputy that shares the same name as her ex-husband, she wasn’t given much to do. Even the main plot of the episode went somewhat unresolved; we’re left wondering if Chester was innocent or not.

Following a break for Thanksgiving, Supernatural seemingly will continue the theme of silliness, with an episode featuring imaginary friends materializing and going on a rampage. Here’s hoping it’s more successful that this episode.

by Jessy Krupa

13 Nov 2015

“Our Little World ” offers bizarre family dynamics that lead to the revelation of major plot points (and a great Castiel moment).

More often than not on Supernatural, if you see a “regular person”, chances are that his or her life is about to be ruined. Tonight’s episode opened with yet another scene like this, as a teenage girl (Dani Alvarado) found her soul sucked out by Amara (Yasmeene Ball) seconds after she complained about how horrible life is with her mother.

Back at Crowley’s headquarters, which feature tablet-carrying demons and beautifully decorated table lamps, we’re treated to Crowley (Mark Sheppard) giving Amara a stern talking-to. Apparently, his goons have had to find and kill all of her soulless victims, and he wants it to stop. This leads to a lot of half-baked references to parenting that seem to be intended as a spoof of stereotypical father-daughter relationships on TV. (At some point later on in the episode, while he’s supposed to be listening to reports from his minions, he’s actually reading a book with a chapter entitled: “Why She Fights: Understanding Your Rebellious Teen”.) But unlike most family dramas, Crowley’s answer is to push her around with his telekinetic powers and assign a demon to keep guard outside of her room; an approach certainly not in any decent parenting manual. Regardless, Amara has grown into a new woman, one who refuses to eat human souls and has a growing interest in life on earth.

Meanwhile, Sam and Dean are investigating the death of last week’s tragic innocent, Len (Jared Gertner), the soulless yet conscientious prisoner. Dean (Jensen Ackles) soon turns his attentions to Castiel (Misha Collins), who has spending way too much time watching garbage TV while recuperating back home at the Winchester bunker. It’s not all a waste of time, however; Castiel pauses and rewinds a local newscast when he notices Metatron (Curtis Armstrong) filming a local news story.

After declaring himself God at the end of season nine, only to lost his powers completely last season, Metatron has been living what he calls “a pitiable excuse” of a human life, which, appropriately for the pop-culture obsessed former scribe of God, is a direct rip-off of the movie Nightcrawler: filming violent stabbings, accidents, and the like, and selling the footage to local TV news stations. Being human has somehow made him even more of a monster, as he’s willing to let a man bleed to death in order to get a good story (and steal his wallet). As he’s in the midst of picking the poor man’s pocket, a seemingly renewed Castiel is there to save the day. In possibly the best moment of the season, Castiel announces that he’s found the demon tablet that Metatron has been hiding (under his mattress, apparently), and beats him to a bloody pulp. Metatron’s cockiness finally gave way to pleading, as he eventually revealed this season’s big reveal: Amara is God’s sister.

Sam and Dean also received some valuable information, as a trapped demon sent to kill a soulless teen told them about Crowley and Amara’s partnership, which allows the brothers to figure out the location of their secret demon headquarters where she’s being held. A more experienced Supernatural viewer might wonder why the brothers had such an easy time breaking into this demon-filled place and getting into Amara’s room, but I guess this helps narrow down the episode into a manageable 42 minutes. Sam’s (Jared Padalecki) debilitating visions of “The Cage” cracking apart in Hell, however, were truly surprising.

Unfortunately, the rest of the episode was a lot more predictable, as Crowley declared that his “bromance” with Dean was over, and threatened to kill him. Amara finally unleashed her powers upon Crowley, and forced him to allow her and Dean to leave safely. Amara continues to be fascinated by Dean, whom she sees as the epitome of “the sweet triumph and the even sweeter folly” that is God’s creation. As she walks the streets to the tune of “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon”, we’re left wondering: has she changed for the better or does she need to be killed? We’re not likely to find out soon, as next week’s episode deals with a rather unlikely monster-of-the-week: a six-foot tall rabbit.

Despite the familiar beats in this episode, it’s nice to see Supernatural finally making some progress this season. There’s been a lot of repetition in the subplots (Castiel’s weakness, an ancient woman with vast power, battling angels), but it looks as though things are heading into fresh directions. As we near a short Thanksgiving break and the upcoming winter hiatus, this episode offers enough intriguing possibilities that should keep Supernatural fans on the edge of their seats.

by Jessy Krupa

6 Nov 2015

"Thin Lizzie" goes  through the motions, with a mixed bag of false leads, soul searching, and a lot of Darkness.

Tonight’s installment started in the way that countless horror movies (and episodes of Supernatural) have started: two nervous teenagers being hacked to death in a room so dark that you can scarcely see what happened.

As it so happens, they were staying in the former home of accused ax-murderer Lizzie Borden, which has been turned into a hotel/tourist trap. (Yes, there actually is such a place in Fall River, Massachusetts. It has free Wi-Fi, and is rumored to be haunted.) Dean (Jensen Ackles) and a particularly excited Sam (Jared Padalecki) are soon at the scene, looking into whether or not this was the doing of a vengeful spirit. (Long-time viewers might remember that Sam is a true crime fan or as Dean puts it, has a “creepy serial-killer fetish”.) Their investigation leads into the best part of the episode, when the Winchesters show how the haunted house is a hoax, rigged up with hidden speakers, flickering light bulbs, and an EMF machine in the basement. This is especially unexpected, considering it’s an actual business that the series is fictionalizing here.

by Jessy Krupa

3 Nov 2015

Weird camera angles , hybrid monsters, and a brotherly sing-along leads us to some interesting plot developments when Supernatural puts Baby in the driver's seat.

Some of Supernatural‘s most beloved episodes are called “stand-alone”, meaning that the emphasis is on a generalized plot full of humorous moments, but otherwise unrelated to the rest of the season’s events. But unlike season three’s “Mystery Spot” or season ten’s “Fan Fiction”, “Baby” also offered us some hints as to what we should expect later on this season.

The episode began with a clip from the season five finale, “Swan Song”, in which Chuck the prophet (Rob Benedict) described just how much the Winchester brothers’ 1967 Chevy Impala means to them. Many fans of the show believe that Chuck was actually God in disguise, so his brief inclusion in this episode could mean something big.

But first there was some fun to be had, as viewers were treated an entire episode from the point of view of the Impala, lovingly referred to by Dean’s as “Baby” and dubbed the “Metallicar” by fans of the show. Sam and Dean washed the car to the tune of Bread’s “Guitar Man”, which disappointingly wasn’t the sort of sudsy scene that Ackles joked about in Entertainment Weekly last month (he implied the boys would be shirtless). Apparently, this was a moment of brotherly bonding and brief plot development, rather than the sort of moment thing fans can use to make GIFs.

Deciding to go on a road trip in search of the diner-loving Metatron (Curtis Armstrong), the brothers stop at a sleazy-looking roadhouse for what Dean considers a good time (usually beer and casual sex). Surprisingly, it’s Sam who wakes up in the backseat with a half-dressed waitress, named Piper (Megan Kaptein), in search of her hairpin. I’m pretty sure the last one night stand on Supernatural resulted in Dean killing his murderous, rapidly aging, half-monster daughter, but as of yet, Piper seems innocuous. Her departure does inspire Sam and Dean to sing along with Bob Seger’s “Night Moves” and discuss how the hunter lifestyle makes them lousy at long-term relationships.

However, thinking that the entire episode was going to be all sweetness and light (or brews and babes) is a mistake. Sam finds himself talking to a younger version of his father (Matt Cohen, previously seen when Dean time-traveled back in season five) in a vision/dream. John Winchester doesn’t offer much in heavenly guidance, but knows about The Darkness and tells Sam that, “God helps those who help themselves”.

In “Form and Void”, Sam was helped by a Biblical quote from the reaper Billie (Lisa Barry)? Following his dream, Sam entertains the thought that his vision was a message from God (perhaps meaning that Billie was God, too?), but Dean surprisingly counters this theory with the fact that the quote in question doesn’t actually appear in the Bible (it’s Aesop), and that Dean also frequently dreams about their dead father. 

The rest of the episode devotes itself to the usual “monster of the week” plot. In this case, it’s a deputy (Teach Grant) who is actually a “nachzehrer”, a ghoul/vampire hybrid (or “ghoul-pire” as Dean dubs it). Oddly, the episode does include a scene in which a valet, Jessie (Danyella Angel) takes the Impala for a joyride. While this scene appears to be just an excuse to shoehorn selfie-taking and an MIA song into a Supernatural episode, Jessie’s friend (Catherine Jack) ends up unable to find her purse; it’s the missing purse that ends up helping save the day. (Of course, I thought at least one of these women would turn out to be another monster of some sort, but no.)

Eventually, the brothers split up to investigate/fight these creatures, leading up to a darkly funny scene in which Dean slaughters “Deputy Dumbass” (Teach Grant) while Castiel (Misha Collins) calls to discuss both how to kill said monster and the complexities of Netflix, leaving Dean with a decapitated yet angry head stored in an old-fashioned cooler.

Sam arrives with Lily (Sarah-Jane Redmond), a local woman he has rescued, and the three have to actually drive to a convenience store to get pre-1983 pennies, because copper coins kill ghoul-pires and nobody carries any loose change anymore. (That just may be the strangest sentence I’ve ever written.) Most viewers likely expected what happened next, as Lily ditches Sam, overpowers and handcuffs Dean, and repairs the head nachzehrer who turned her into a monster minion.

All of this leads to a semi-controversial scene amongst viewers: Dean uses the waitress’ hairpin to break out of a pair of handcuffs, and kills Deputy Ghoul-pire by using pennies from the joyrider’s purse, thus magically curing Lily and anyone else who’d been turned. Whether you think this is clever way to tie in all of the elements of the episode or a poorly written way to quickly resolve the plot likely depends on whether or not you own any official Supernatural merchandise. Like the rest of the episode, it was silly and gimmicky, but it works on its own level. That might be a fairly accurate description of the series as a whole.

Season arc thoughts

There is an increasingly popular theory that this season will end with the death of Sam Winchester, meaning that his soul would be trapped/destroyed in “The Empty”, with which the reaper threatened the brothers. Given Supernatural‘s prestige and ratings, it seems unlikely either actor will be written out of the show anytime soon. What is more likely is the departure of one of the beloved secondary character. There seems to be a lot less screen time of Castiel lately, and Crowley’s tumultuous partnership with the Darkness is unlikely to end well. Next week’s episode is unlikely to offer any answers, as the previews seem to point to another stand-alone episode, in which the brothers investigate the ghost of Lizzie Borden.

by Jessy Krupa

23 Oct 2015

"The Bad Seed " explores all the characters we love and hate as Season 11 really kicks off.

Amara (Gracyn Shinyei) is resetting the bar for creepy little girls on Supernatural.

Because of its two-part premiere, Supernatural‘s third episode could be considered its first “normal” episode of the season. With most of the busywork of tying up last season’s loose ends behind them, this episode gave the show the chance to explore more of its characters’ personalities and the season’s arc.

The episode opens with heartless, evil, and eerily delightful witch Rowena (Ruth Connell) attempting to recruit other witches to her “Mega Coven”; her plans fall on disinterested ears. After furiously turning the other witches into dust, she moves on to two younger witches, who had to be reminded that she holds the mysterious power of “The Book of the Damned” before they showed any interest. However, just as it seems she might have new recruits, one of her son Crowley’s (Mark A. Sheppard) goons barge in and attack them, leaving her alone again. One could come to the conclusion that all the outcast witch really wants is to be included, as she seems happy to be captured by Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) later in the episode. Lest one thinks she’s gone soft, she eventually escapes from them, too.

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