Review: Supernatural: “Advanced Thanatology” (13.05)


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[lots o’ spoilers ahead]


Imagine that you live like a mayfly, growing up in a violent life where people die young and nasty, repeatedly told you are nothing but a blunt tool in the service of other, better folk. Expecting to go out bloody and savage at a young age, unmourned, forgotten almost as soon as you die. Expecting … hoping at some point … that at least it won’t last forever and someday, very soon, you will find peace, even if it’s the peace of oblivion. You are surrounded by people who do all sorts of horrific things to live another day, but you? You’re ready to go pretty much any time.

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Now imagine that you are suddenly faced with being dragged, kicking and screaming, out of obscurity, held up into the light, made the light, the barrier, the firewall between Light and Dark, Firewall with a capital ‘F.’ And you start to realize, as you cheat – no, are cheated of – death over and over that your life may eventually end bloody, but it’s going to be a long time. Maybe even geologically speaking. Even to the point where you could outlive the angels, and certainly the demons, you previously thought immortal. That you are too important to die, that you have been given what you’ve seen so many others commit murder, betrayal and far worse to gain just a taste of.

And you even begin to suspect, after so many years of neglect and abuse, that the universe didn’t do this to hurt you. It did it out of love, this making you immortal. And not just immortal – eternal.

Imagine this new truth is dropped on you like a neutron bomb a moment after you thought you’d finally discovered the perfect way to commit suicide.

You wouldn’t feel blessed. You’d feel cursed. You’d feel like Dean Winchester near the end of this episode.

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I’m not sure yet if this is a top favorite, but I think I can consider “Advanced Thanatology” a favorite of the episodes so far this season and a genuinely entertaining, thought-provoking, re-watchable one. The episode does a very good job of staying on topic in terms of its central concept. There is Dean, who is profoundly, fundamentally, clinically depressed, trying to party his depression away. There is a young boy Dean tries to save who is snatched from life young and terrified. As in season one’s “Faith,” Dean tries to switch places with the boy, but is simply told that’s not the way things are. Dean’s life is important. The boy’s is just done. There is the loss of his devoted, down-to-earth mother (movingly played by Alisen Down, who was also in season eight’s “Trial and Error”). There is the sinister creepiness of the insane doctor, evoking pretty heavily both Dean’s fears about shrinks last week and the mad scientist doc of season one’s “Asylum.”

I think that’s what makes this central conflict so complex. It’s not just a case of a person who is not allowed to die, or who has become immortal and bored with it. It’s a case of someone who lives in a universe where life is short and hard, a prize taken away before anyone has had enough of it. This person assumes, especially since he is not important enough for second chances or extensions, that his life will be especially short and hard. As Dean puts it this week, “It doesn’t matter. I don’t matter.”

And then, like some lost scion of royalty in a fairy tale, this person is raised from the gutter of human life, by beings who represent eternal concepts, and given a place on Mount Olympus, in the ninth sphere of Paradise, the Empyrean, and told that he can’t die because he is far, far too important to die. Without him, the universe would be toast. And to emphasize this (perhaps just to placate him and give him motivation to continue on), they include his beloved brother in the blessing, a brother for whom he would (and has) died. And then they even bring back his best friend.

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This is not a curse, to be singled out, spotlighted, in such a way. It just feels like one to Dean Winchester. Since the climactic scene with Billie is from Dean’s POV, it does indeed seem as though she is cruel in dangling the possibility of death – of many deaths – in front of him, before snatching it away. It’s subtle, but if you mind the signs in the story, especially when Dean glances up after Billie mentions the “shelf” of his deaths (a clever and evocative image of a very esoteric concept), that entire library of Ws is devoted just to him. In addition, two of the “deaths” Billie mentions have already happened to him or been avoided, and the third is in the very next episode. It begs the question of whether, depending on Dean’s choices, any of these deaths will ever prove truly final.

One macabrely amusing moment is when Jessica the panicked red-headed Reaper enters the W archive and blurts out, “Dean Winchester is in the Veil!” Clearly, this is a DEFCON-1 moment for Reapers at this point. Dean has become such an accomplished shaman and psychopomp (not to mention slayer of Reapers and other angels) that not only does he treat his spirit walk as an ordinary event, but his mere presence in their realm terrifies Reapers. Hence the phrase, “advanced thanatology.” It’s also notable that we will soon see that there are people who dreamwalk between worlds pretty often, yet the only time Death gets concerned is when Dean Winchester does it.

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Back when I was about twenty, I read a book called Once a Warrior King by David Donovan. It’s a memoir by a young first lieutenant who served as an advisor in a remote part of Vietnam during the War. Through an unfortunate and unforeseeable sequence of events, Donovan abruptly found himself the highest political authority in that area, with the power of life and death over everyone there. People bowed to him, fought him, admired him and reviled him as if he were the most important person in that region. He discovered that unlike many of his comrades, his job involved as much the impossible task of helping the people he served and improving their lives in a war zone as it did blowing up the enemy.

Around the time I read the book, I was elected to the captain’s position on a college rescue squad that was the second busiest ambulance squad in the state. I found myself going to EMS meetings where I represented the emergency care options of 14,000 people in five towns, as well as transport for a regional neonatal care unit. ER directors twice my age, sometimes grudgingly, treated me as an equal. It was a shock to the system. As one alumnus member bluntly told me, I had wanted a grownup’s job, so it was time to grow up and do it.

A few years later, when I was in Peace Corps in Cameroon, one of my farmers came to me one day and asked if I would intercede for him in a local dispute to our village’s de facto “mayor,” as I was his “patron.” I agreed, though I didn’t think my influence would do much good. To my surprise, the mayor greeted me warmly and readily agreed to my farmer’s request. I had lived in Boubara for a year and a half at that point, and had somehow remained blissfully aware until then that not only was I fairly high up in the village, but I was apparently among the top four officials out of six thousand people.

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Were these revelations ego boosts? To a certain extent, though I always felt they were undeserved ones. The position atop a pyramid feels pretty precarious. As far as I was concerned, the position, not the person, was important. Leadership is ultimately about service. If you’re all about the gold crown, you’re missing the point.

These roles also came with huge responsibilities and major real-world consequences, for many people, if/when I screwed up – and I worried a lot about screwing up. I made fully as many enemies as I did friends, simply as a matter of course. They, too, came with the job. I’m sure not everyone I knew during that time think I served well. I’d like to think that some people did, though.

C.S. Lewis puts it brilliantly in his fifth Narnia book, The Horse and His Boy:

For this is what it means to be a king: to be first in every desperate attack and last in every desperate retreat, and when there’s hunger in the land (as must be now and then in bad years) to wear finer clothes and laugh louder over a scantier meal than any man in your land.

Dean has always been acutely aware of the rough side of this equation. He’s taken many blows and won many enemies in his determination to hold by his unique motto: “Saving people, Hunting things: The Family Business.” What he has not understood up to this point is why the fact he came up with that idea makes him more than a rather filthy-minded footsoldier in the endless war between Light and Dark.

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I think that Billie is trying to make a point. And as reluctant as he still is to acknowledge that, I think Dean is finally beginning to understand what she means, what Chuck meant, what Amara meant. Jensen Ackles does a really nice job with this as he deadpans a polite “Hmm” every so often as Billie drops bomb after mindblowing bomb of cosmic revelation about his position in the SPNverse. Dean no longer bows to Death. These two are now equals, bargaining with almost amiable hostility over the fate of a hundred souls. It’s even possible that Death now bows to Dean, or soon will.

I’ll admit it. I like Billie. I just thought her previous motivation made her look stupid and petty. So, I was happy to see her promotion rectified that. She’s a worthy successor to the previous Death.

Problem is, Dean is still human and that kind of thing will break your mind. He’s not all right at the end (“I’m pretty far from okay”), by any means, but he does now have the tools to keep going once he sees Castiel at the phone booth, an embodiment of at least one of his prayers answered against all odds. What shape he’ll be in for the rest of the season is a whole other story.

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Sam’s had a fair amount of growth in the past few seasons, so it’s interesting to see how he fields what is basically part two (after this week) of trying to talk his brother off the ledge. His performance on that score last week was less than edifying. Not only did he try to bully Dean into group therapy, but he did so on a highly risky case when the two of them needed to be at their most alert and clear-headed. That case turned out to involve an MOTW that has done Dean considerable psychological and social damage in the past. And on top of that, Sam insisted on bringing Jack along. Not his finest hour. This week, he seems to be trying reverse psychology by indulging all of Dean’s favorite quirks, including his paranoia about crazy shrinks, though Dean sees him coming a mile away.

The episode doesn’t spell it out, but it’s gotta hurt Sam’s heart just a little when he hears Dean parrot back to him the cruel speech he served Dean at the end of “The Purge” years ago, about how Dean thought he was doing good, helping, making a difference, but really wasn’t. We see Sam grimace when Dean echoes this speech, clearly having taken it to heart and been wounded near to death with the slow-acting poison of it.

Sam can try to make up for all this with two-word apologies like “I’m sorry” (season four) and “I lied” (season nine), or more elaborate groveling like his speech about trusting the LoL in the penultimate (I don’t care what J2 say about that word; I love using it – penultimate, penultimate, penultimate) episode of last season. It won’t change the fact that more often over the years, he has spoken venom and anger, sometimes even hate, and that his brother is more emotionally primed to register abuse, anyway.

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While the sequence of Sam pampering/kissing up to Dean is amusing (and Dean passed out on the floor with his tie on his head and a big, pink bra around his neck is a hoot), I’m not sure Sam even knows what to do to make it up to his brother, let alone help Dean heal and become well. It’s a long, uphill battle, to be sure, and it is by no means all Sam’s fault that Dean is this way. John (and Mary’s death, it must be said) had a big hand in it, as well as all the self-inflicted wounds Dean has incurred along the way. It’s certainly going to take a lot more than “bullets, bacon and booze,” even “a lot of booze,” for Dean to pull out of this flat spin.

Admittedly, Sam does have a point about Dean’s “bossiness.” For all his poor self-esteem, Dean has frequently stepped into the role of King with effortless grace and arrogance, literally as if he were born to it. This is played for laughs for a bit in this episode with lines like “What happened to you being nice to me?” and “You are forgiven.” And when Dean is well, relatively speaking, it’s a constitutional monarchy with all of TFW getting a say.

But when things get ugly, shit goes down, and Dean’s mental health goes to a dark, dark place, it becomes, as he himself puts it in season nine, “not a democracy. This is a dictatorship.” And that’s when Dean makes unilateral decisions, such as killing himself to make a spirit walk from which he does not intend to return, simply to rescue Sam from a few angry ghosts that the two of them could probably banish a different way. At those times, Dean’s recklessness (“insouciance” as 2014!Apocalypse Castiel once put it) tips over into self-destructive and suicidal behavior that needs, at the very least, a gentle restraining hand on the arm, as Jody did to Dean in “Patience.”

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Finally, this was a properly satisfying MOTW this week. I’m glad the show is once again remembering that it’s supposed to be horror, not paranormal romance. Yeah, it went off into mytharc in the third act, but the first two acts did have a real Hunt that was actively resolved.

That doctor was extremely creepy (notice how he simply tosses Sam aside and goes after Dean, his preferred type of victim?). As unsympathetic as I found Evan (Doomed Teaser Kid), who was composed of unadulterated idiot, I found his death properly chilling. In fact, all of the scenes in the haunted house (a series of sets the show has used many times before, with all sorts of different lighting) were straight-up horror, no chaser, and the twist of the angry, confused ghosts coming after the Brothers after the doc was ganked was disturbing, regardless of our knowing the Brothers would (somehow) get out of it alive.

Shawn’s fate was also horrific and sad. He and Evan didn’t intend to trespass on such deadly territory, but then, innocence and ignorance are not always an effective defense against the dark. His poor mother is left with her lifelong grief, (undeserved) guilt, lots of questions and a dead body, with “closure” being a mocking concept, all underscored by a classic Steppenwolf song about second chances. Shawn and Evan’s slightly wiser friend Mike will live on, also plagued with guilt he doesn’t deserve.
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The drill evokes trepanning (on top of lobotomy), a brutally ancient way to deal with both head trauma and depression. The plague masks were also a nice twist. The episode does mention their origin, though some more elaboration seems in order. The bird-like plague mask in the episode dates in design at least to the 17th century (medical historians consider it an early kind of HAZMAT suit), but was intended to deal with a much-older problem – the Black Death, which has tormented Eurasia and North Africa periodically since the 14th century. The Black Death had such a high body count and was so traumatic for the cultures who suffered under it that it contributes elements to most of our horror tales today.

The Black Death tended to kill off medical personnel from physicians to nuns and monks at a much higher rate than the population they treated, which was equally demoralizing for the healers and the patients. The masks were intended to protect physicians from the plague (though their historical efficacy is a matter of great debate), but they also tended to scare the hell out of the patients. It’s probably not much of a surprise that the horrific bird-demons of Hieronymous Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights bear a striking resemblance to these later plague masks.

In this MOTW’s case, the crazy doctor also appears to use the mask to highlight his evil intentions and hide his identity, much like the killers in slasher flicks like Friday the 13th, Halloween and My Bloody Valentine. It’s pretty effective in making what was once a human (and is still a human soul) seem eerily inhuman and alien. All in all, an effective recycling of concepts (like the house full of captive ghosts from season seven’s “Of Grave Importance” or the sinister ghost shrink from “Asylum”) from both greater and lesser episodes.


Next: Tombstone: A puzzling case with ties to the Old West gives Dean a chance to indulge his Inner Texas Ranger.


You can find my live recap of “Advanced Thanatology” here.


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Review: Supernatural: “The Big Empty” (13.04)


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. Want more of my recaps and reviews? Check out The Supernatural Codex: Season 1, out on Kindle and in print.


[lots o’ spoilers ahead]


This isn’t one of my favorites of the season, though it did have a character (Mia the grief counselor) I rather liked and would like to see again. The counselor was played by the doomed fake psychic from “The Mentalists,” something the show’s writers obviously remembered. There was a fairly extended injoke near the beginning about how Mia Vallens could possibly be a medium who was accidentally (or intentionally) calling back vengeful, troubled spirits from beyond the grave. In “The Mentalists,” Rukiya Bernard played a fake medium named Camille who got killed by a ghost that had been summoned by a vengeful medium.

I quite liked Bernard in “The Mentalists” and found her very personable. So, I was bummed when the character got killed off and happy to see her again here. I was also glad that she didn’t get killed off this time, which means she could recur (although the actress does have a recurring role on Van Helsing, so there’s that wrinkle). We may not see her again on this show, but she might pop up in Wayward Sisters.

Now, I also thought Mia was an absolutely terrible family counselor, but more on that in a minute. In general, her heart was in the right place and when the chips were down, she preferred to die rather than hurt anyone in her new life (something Dean very much noticed). She took the job to help people and used her talent as a Shapeshifter in a benign way – not to mess with people, but to give them closure.

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This is a radical departure from the Shapeshifters we’ve seen in the past, but it makes sense we’d only meet the psychopaths. Shapeshifters with anything remotely close to normal in psychology would keep a very low profile to avoid Hunters. It would take an unusual circumstance to flush one out, as we see here.

Mia had a somewhat different background than other Shapeshifters we’ve met. The parent Shapeshifter was her mother, rather than a passing and malicious male Shapeshifter impersonating her mother’s husband or partner and blowing up her relationship (what seems to be the root cause of your average psychopathic Shapeshifter’s Daddy-tried-to-kill-me-with-a-shovel issues). This may have contributed to her more stable personality. She only briefly mentions her mother, but the tone is one of love and trust.

The male Shapeshifter who is her ex and stalker is the more common type we see. One interesting clue about their ugly relationship right after the reveal of her MOTW nature is that her alibi for the first murder is that she was volunteering at a battered women’s shelter.

If you think about it, Shapeshifters are among the most human of the monster species. They don’t eat people, or need to. They are essentially human, aside from their ability (and need) to shapeshift. They can blend into society. It therefore makes sense that they would have relationships very close to those of ordinary humans. It’s just that the way they breed and their inability to stop shifting as babies and children tend to create a fractured atmosphere of fear and hatred in the parental figures who are supposed to be nurturing them and bonding with them.

Mia’s method of using her ability to help her patients was a bit “Eh, okay, I guess.” It felt like a ripoff of season three’s “Long Distance Caller,” which already was an uneven episode. Didn’t help that once again, whoever edited the beginning recap gave away the MOTW right off the bat. That was a bit annoying.

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Also odd is that the juxtaposition of good PoC girl vs evil white boy was repeated from last week’s “Patience.” Then again, why complain? Season one had its fair share of cute, rich white girls being menaced by white male MOTWs – “Hookman,” “Skin,” even “Dead in the Water.” There are worse patterns than one that repeatedly presents non-cliched, heroic Women of Color with their own stories.

As for the evil Shapeshifter, he was marginally less annoying than the Wraith from last week, so there’s that. Of course, once we knew the MOTW was a shapeshifter, it was easy to pick him out as the one person around the good counselor who didn’t quite fit in. Though the red herring about the Asian assistant who had five cats and looked a bit like the second male victim impersonated in “Skin” was cute. And there was a really cool gross-out moment as Jensen Ackles (having some fun playing a monster character for the first time in a while) ripped his own face off.

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But damn, is Mia a terrible therapist. Granted, she doesn’t get a whole lot of info from the Brothers and Jack before they find out she’s a Shapeshifter, but what was up with coming down on Dean like a hammer, while totally letting Sam off the hook? I get that Jack comes across as sincere and not contributing (at least, not consciously) to the toxic dynamic between Sam and Dean, except as a point of conflict, but there was a lot more going wrong between those three than Dean’s anger.

Look, Dean is a powder keg. Granted, Dean is always volatile, but he’s clearly ill, clearly grieving, and other characters have not dealt with it nearly as much as they probably should, considering how much pain he’s in. And as even just his conversation this week makes clear, he has some major trust issues regarding psychiatry, which means stepping lightly would be much more professional and therapeutic than verbally rapping his knuckles with a ruler.

It’s not just that his view of shrinks comes from television and movies (hence his reference to Hannibal Lecter this week). In the past, he’s been tortured by the ghost of a mad scientist psychiatrist who experimented on his patients. And then there was the Brothers’ first Wraith (especially fresh in Dean’s mind after last week’s episode), who was a psychiatric nurse. For Dean, shrinks equal monsters and while Mia turns out to be a good person, she doesn’t exactly break that streak.

And yes, he’s angry, but he has ample reason to be. There’s no way he couldn’t be angry under the circumstances. There’s no way he would be feeling any other way about Jack, and his attempt to bring himself closure by saying Mary is dead and trying to move on makes sense. In light of the facts, it’s even rational, if cold and hard.

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And I get that Dean is intended to be the one who is speaking brutal, even unkind, truths about what is going on, while Sam “keeps the faith,” as Dean puts it at the end of the episode. But again, that doesn’t let Sam off the hook for how he’s coming across. There’s a lot more going on with Sam emotionally than just trying to cover up his own grief by trying to raise Jack. What he’s doing is every bit as toxic as Dean’s rage.

The thing is that Sam spends almost all of “The Big Empty” trying to manipulate events, and people, to follow the script he wants. Neither Dean nor Jack wants Jack to go on a Hunt at the beginning of the episode. Sam ignores what they want, cajoles and lies (or at least tarts up) about how Dean feels to Jack and vice versa, to get them out on the road together. And then, once he does, he tries to bully Dean into parenting Jack – not just helping Sam parent Jack, but doing it all himself. And all of this, even Sam has to admit, is to “help” Jack regain his ability to reopen the portal that leads to the alt-SPNverse and rescue their mother.

Why? Because Sam didn’t take his many chances last season to bond with her (aside from hanging out with her for a bit at the LoL Quonset Hut). Sure, I get that Sam didn’t have a good template growing up to create a mother-son bond (Dean and Mary’s bond was pretty unique), and that Mary was being distant. But last season, not only was Sam holding his mother at arm’s length, but he was trying to get Dean to do it, too, all under the excuse of giving her “some space.” Sam doesn’t seem to be comfortable with emotion or closeness unless he is the one in control, pulling the strings, arm’s length while making others take all the emotional risks. And boy, does he pull some strings in this episode.

Unsurprisingly, Dean digs in his heels and fights back, saying he never signed on for that and he’s not going to do it now. He says he won’t interfere with Sam if he wants to parent Jack, but Sam’s doing that one alone.

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Even Jack questions Sam on the same point. This is really saying something, since Jack is trying to be as agreeable as possible. Jack even tells Dean about wanting to help Sam in his plan to get Mary back. Even at this point, we can see the seed of that obsession germinating. In an early sign that he’s warming to Jack, Dean warns him, “Sam’s plans don’t always work out.” Boy, doesn’t Dean know it, too.

Yet, Sam just keeps on going with it and not once does Mia (the therapist) ever call him out on his manipulation, even though he’s causing both Dean and Jack pain, and even putting Jack at risk. In fact, so clueless and self-absorbed is Sam portrayed this week that he walks into a situation, when he knows a dangerous Shapeshifter is on the roam, with his weapon stowed simply because he heard Dean’s voice and assumes it’s Dean. Of course, it’s not Dean; it’s the Shapeshifter. And Jack is forced to use his power to save Sam.

Also, the things Sam complains about Dean being “mean” to Jack about are not necessarily things Jack doesn’t want to do. The dramatic irony here seems to be that Sam is projecting his own issues with John onto Jack, while Dean wants nothing to do with the kid, yet Jack identifies with Dean a lot more than he does with Sam.

Sam tells Jack near the beginning that Dean will appreciate Jack making the effort to help. Jack is eager to do so, but he has no clue what to do on a Hunt. It’s lampshaded that he can’t even read an EMF meter and it’s no surprise he can’t read people at all. He’s cute and friendly and good for a climactic deus ex machina save, but the rest of the time, he’s flat-out useless on a Hunt and needs to be babysat.

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So, it makes sense for Dean to have Jack dig the grave for their first MOTW suspect. Maybe not all by himself, but Jack is young and strong, and doesn’t seem to mind. That he can do and pretty well. Plus, the clearly stated orders Sam claims Jack doesn’t like, Jack actually appreciates. As I said previously, Jack gravitates toward Dean for a reason: Dean doesn’t lie to him. Jack says repeatedly that he is confused and bothered by lies. This is a big deal for him.

Jack is actually more bothered by how Sam keeps snowing him and talking around the issues that worry him rather than just being honest, than he is by Dean’s hostility. Remember that Jack is just a baby. He doesn’t get complexity, yet. Sam’s attempts to reassure him may actually scare him more than Dean’s gruffness. At least with Dean, Jack always knows where he stands. So, when Dean compliments him at the end of the episode, Jack is happy. He knows it’s real and he knows it’s hard-won. Dean wouldn’t just say that unless he felt it.

More ominous is Jack’s admission to his fake-mom that he is himself lying. He says he pretends to have feelings, to “feel bad,” about hurting people. This confirms Dean’s concerns (though Dean never finds out) that Jack is not quite the cheerful, kindly innocent he claims to be.

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On the other hand, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, character-wise, for Jack. Jack says he doesn’t feel bad, while feeling bad. His powers come out when he feels threatened, but also when people he cares about are threatened. Despite his sometimes-robotic-by-way-of-the-Boy-Scouts demeanor, Jack shows a lot of emotions and cheerful, apparently benign, interest in the world.

Thing is, he’s a baby. And yeah, he talked to his mom in the womb, but clearly, he doesn’t remember a whole lot about it if the only real memories he has of her come from that video she made for him. So, how is Jack learning about these human emotions he’s faking? Why isn’t he acting more like, say, Lucifer or Michael? Indifferent and cold?

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Speaking of gee, that sure didn’t make much sense, what the heck was going on with Castiel’s storyline this week? Was that canon crackfic or what? Misha Collins sure had fun, I’ll give him that (even if some of it felt like cheap soundstage filler).

But whoo, how many problems popped up here? On the one hand, okay, cool, we finally saw the Empty and found out where angels and demons go when they die. And we had another hint or two about where Chuck and Amara came from. And the show got its obligatory pop culture reference in (to a 2003 neo-noir indie comedy) with the title.

But what is up with this new being? Is it a god? If it’s awake and talking in a way that Castiel can understand, doesn’t that mean it’s been awake in the past? How did Chuck’s creations affect it, or Chuck’s disputes with his sister? Is the Empty where Amara was trapped for billions of years? Is the Empty entity really older and more powerful than Chuck and Amara? If so, why has Chuck been able to bring Castiel back over and over and over again? Why did he say he could bring back the dead archangels Gabriel and Raphael, but that it would take some extra time and work? What about Reapers? How does the Empty figure in with the multiverse concept we now have going on? And why does the Empty, a philosophically scary concept to be sure, sound just like every other superpowered blowhard the show has had over the past 13 seasons?

I mean, great, Castiel’s back now. Awesome. But a lot of questions were left unanswered (did the Empty entity come back with Castiel? Is it possible for other dead angels and demons to come back from the Empty now?) and there’s no sign as of yet that even half of them will get answered.

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Next: Advanced Thanatology: The Brothers encounter an extremely violent ghost, which leads them to a surprise reunion with an old frenemy.


You can find my live recap of “The Big Empty” here.


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Whispers, Spoilers & Speculation Corner: 01/08/18: The New Year’s Edition


Happy New Year Everyone!


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The print version is also up, though the cover’s needing a little tweaking right now. I’ll be putting up corrections for the cover in the next day or so. Everything else looks good.

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Supernatural (Thursday nights, 8pm, CW)
By Paula R. Stiles

Apologies for the delay, but there was basically nothing on the spoilers chart to report until late this past week. Now, with the new year, we’re cranking things back up.

Check out my Patreon page. Help me keep this column going, pay Heather, and help me do my Supernatural reviews.

My reviews of “The Rising Son” (13.02) and “Patience” (13.03) are now up, with more to come. My live recap for episode 13.09 is also up.

The show will return from Christmas hiatus on January 18.

Season 13 titles so far: “Lost and Found” (13.01), synopsis and photos, promo, preview, sneak peeks, and Shaving People, Punting Things, as well as live recap and review; “The Rising Son” (13.02) synopsis and photos and promo; “Patience” (the first spinoff set-up episode) (13.03) synopsis; “The Big Empty” (13.04) synopsis, promo and official photos; “Advanced Thanatology” (13.05) synopsis, photos and promo; “Tombstone” (13.06) synopsis, promo and photos; “War of the Worlds” (13.07) synopsis photos, sneak peek and promo; “The Scorpion and the Frog” (13.08) synopsis, photos, promo and sneak peek; “The Bad Place” (13.09) (airing December 7) synopsis, photos, sneak peeks and promo; Christmas Break; “Wayward Sisters” (13.10, backdoor pilot for the spinoff, airs January 18), synopsis, photos, interviews and first promo, second promo and related tweets; “Breakdown” (13.11) synopsis, this is supposed to be Donna-heavy; “Various & Sundry Villains” (13.12) (previously called “The Midnight Train” and originally, the title was “Stakes on a Train”) Rowena returns; “Devil’s Bargain” (13.13), written by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, introducing Danneel Ackles as a faith healer named Sister Jo who is blackmailed by Lucifer, set photos here; “Only the Best Intentions” (13.14) Jack, alt-Michael, alt-Bobby and Mary all return; “A Most Holy Man” (13.15); “ScoobyNatural” (13.16, cartoon episode, appears in March), “The Thing” (13.17); “Bring ’em Back Alive” (13.18).

The debate about what Donna-centric episode 13.11 will be called and what it’s about has been resolved. The synopsis is up:

SUPERNATURAL
“Breakdown” – (8:00-9:00 p.m. ET) (Content Rating TBD) (HDTV)

TIME TO RETURN THE FAVOR – Donna (guest star Briana Buckmaster) calls Sam (Jared Padalecki) and Dean (Jensen Ackles) for help after her niece, Wendy (guest star Sarah Dugdale), goes missing. The three hunters discover Wendy was kidnapped by a man who sells human parts to monsters in a grotesque online auction and race to save her before it is too late. Amyn Kaderali directed the episode written by Davy Perez (#1311). Original airdate 1/25/2018.

Alexander Calvert gave an interview to Elle in which he talked about the fandom’s reaction to him, convention life, and the Instagram account he and his girlfriend have up for his very fluffy and adorable cat, The Lord Tyrion.

Set info is coming out about episode 13.14 (“Only the Best Intentions”), which began filming on January 2. Christian Keys (alt-Michael) tweeted a photo of himself with Calvert as they went back to filming in the new year (Calvert also tweeted about filming in a forest). This indicates alt-Michael and Jack will be in 13.14 and interacting in the same scene. It appears that alt-Bobby will also be in this episode, since Jim Beaver tweeted a first-look selfie the next day and mentioned filming with Samantha Smith (Mary) in mud (reportedly in Belcarra Park in Port Moody). She responded in the same thread by showing her alt-verse costume on the floor. Hmmm, could it be our alt-world cast are now in the SPNverse as of 13.14? Or in the Bad Place? Or do they get back in this episode, since there’s filming in the quarry that’s the alt-verse set this week?

Danneel and her husband will be opening up their new brewery, The Family Business, for … uh … business in Dripping Springs, TX on my birthday. And I’ll be stuck up here. Oh, well.

CW head Mark Pedowitz has re-upped his contract with the network. He also issued his annual “This show isn’t going anywhere until the leads hang it up” announcement. While he was cagey in a recent interview about making it official (because they’re not ready to announce show renewals), it’s highly doubtful the show won’t get a 14th season – and a full one, at that – unless Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles don’t want to return.

Supernatural alumnus Sterling K. Brown (Gordon Walker) won a Golden Globe award this week for best actor in his latest role in series This Is Us. He’d previously won an Emmy last fall for the same role.

Richard Speight Jr. has a new interview out about directing the show.

Warner Bros has announced details about the upcoming Wayward Sisters spin-off. As we already know, it will star Kim Rhodes (Jody Mills) and the rumor that Briana Buckmaster (Donna Hanscum) is in it was confirmed. Also starring will be Kathryn Newton (Claire Novak) and Alex Jones (Katherine Ramdeen), as well as new lead character Patience Turner (played by Clark Backo). Another new character, Kaia (Yadira Guevar-Prip), has been added to the main cast list. Kaia’s “gift” will be the ability to spirit travel.

The spin-off premise and new characters will be introduced via several episodes in season 13. Patience will be introduced in “Patience” (13.03), which also brings back season one character Missouri Moseley (who is Patience’s estranged grandmother and from whom Patience has inherited her psychic gift). The actual backdoor pilot will be “Wayward Sisters” (13.10).

Star Kim Rhodes told EW that there’s a good in-SPNverse reason why the show will be set in a single location (Sioux Falls) instead of moving around. Rhymes with “Hellmouth,” I’ll bet. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion it’s to do with the rip between universes in that crappy old boat from 12.09.

There’s a new promo out for the spin-off that’s Claire-centric.

Season 12 is out on Amazon.

The count for Supernatural calendars for 2018 is now five: a charity calendar called If I Could Tell You: The Women of Supernatural that is sadly no longer available, two large calendars out on July 1, one mini calendar on September 1, and a Creation Entertainment calendar that came out on December 1 (also no longer available).

The show is currently averaging a 0.6 in the demo, putting it second on the network and even with last season. Between this and the resurgence of Riverdale, the CW is the only broadcast network that has not dropped in average demo since last season.

The show had a repeat last week that came in at 0.2/1 in the demo (0.246 in the unrounded overnights) and 1.03 million in audience in the overnights. It was preempted by holiday programming during Christmas week.


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Review: Supernatural: “Patience” (13.03)


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. Want more of my recaps and reviews? Check out The Supernatural Codex: Season 1, out on Kindle and in print.


[lots o’ spoilers ahead]


While this episode was by no means perfect, I’m happy to report my relief when I first watched it that it was not half as boring as the previous one, albeit it ran a trifle long in some spots (it was only about two minutes over the usual time, but some of that dragged a bit). I was also pleased to find, despite some serious flaws in the character’s central conflict, that I rather liked Patience and the actress who played her. This was a very good thing. After “Rising Son,” I was beginning to wonder if it was time to hang it up with this show.

I was also happy to discover that even though this was the first of the lead-up episodes to the backdoor pilot for the new spin-off, Wayward Sisters, it had a fair bit of conflict and action involving Sam and Dean, who each had a storyline this week. Last season suffered greatly from Sam and Dean: Guest Stars in Their Own Show Syndrome. So far this season, that’s been greatly alleviated, at least for Jensen Ackles, who’s not fielding any newborns at home this year.

The funniest (and most reassuring in terms of how the new show will go over with fans) thing is that everyone has a different favorite. They like Claire, but they hate Patience. They like Kaia, but they hate Alex. They think Jody and Donna should be Hunting, but just together and not with any younger charges. Nobody can agree except that a lot of fans have already picked a favorite, if only in relation to at least one other character they feel shouldn’t be on the show. This indicates that fans in general have already got past the initial phase of accepting the overall concept of a group of women Hunting together and mentoring each other. They just can’t agree on which characters they think should be in that group. Considering most fans can’t really agree on liking Sam, Dean, Castiel, Crowley, and so on, even after 13 seasons, that’s a good sign for Wayward Sisters, not bad.

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Which is not to say the episode (or even the new show’s franchise concept so far) lacks flaws. Missouri Moseley returns in this one. Remember her? Season one? Kripke-penned “Home”? Let me refresh your memory – she was an African American psychic who fawned over Sam a lot and smacked Dean upside the head for … uh … reasons. Or something. That Missouri.

Now, obviously, there was some unfinished business between her and the Brothers, so you could say she had a reason to come back. Was this addressed? Nope. Sam doesn’t even see Missouri this time round. He’s too busy babysitting Jack for more than a quick phone call, and he and Dean have a fight over just sending Jody to deal with it before Dean goes off to help her. Dean gets no apology or even acknowledgement of any kind from her about her previous treatment of him (though she does commiserate with him on his “recent losses,” which she senses in his mind, so there’s that). In fact, when he makes the logical protest to her staying behind (while there’s a psychic-eating monster on the loose), Missouri’s Inner Bitch comes roaring out. Consider those loose ends still dangling.

Anyway, she’s only there to introduce a younger, prettier psychic, her granddaughter Patience. God forbid the CW have an older, gifted female (let alone an older female PoC) character as a main lead. I didn’t love the way Missouri was fridged to jumpstart the title character’s story.

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It bothered me that not only were the two PoC female leads for Wayward Sisters introduced very late in the day, but they were introduced in a fundamentally different way from that of Claire and Alex, who were introduced as victims of the supernatural (like Sam, Dean, Jody and Donna), rather than as essentially supernatural beings (like Patience and Kaia). Also, the CW has an extremely poor track record with PoC female characters with powers, wherein they end up powerful handmaidens to white girls. Bonnie from The Vampire Diaries fairly leaps to mind here.

Not helping is the way Patience’s father, James, is portrayed. It’s one thing to be introduced to the supernatural world in a traumatic way. A lot of people will go straight to denial, initially, as the show has demonstrated many times. But James was raised in the Life. He knows the supernatural exists. Hell, he can even work divination magic. He just wants to stick his head in the sand, even if it gets his mother and daughter killed.

The thing is that if you read between the lines (and remember how Missouri was introduced almost 12 seasons ago), there’s plenty of reason for James to resent his mother. Missouri dragged him along with her on down the road to Hunting supernatural things and it seems pretty clear that it traumatized him. The catalyst for their final estrangement may have been Missouri’s cocky miscalculation about the fate of his wife (Patience’s mother), but it’s clear a lot of bad things happened before that.

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But the writing wants us to believe that James is the bad guy here. Since the episode never addresses the stark contrast in how Missouri treated Sam (with powers) and Dean (no powers as far she could see) in season one, it neatly avoids addressing the pretty stark contrast between Missouri’s treatment of James her son (no apparent powers) and Patience her granddaughter (practically a Mary Sue). Missouri is a bigot when it comes to plain, old, ordinary humans. It’s therefore a tad difficult to believe the episode’s portrayal of James – a man old enough to have a teenage daughter and successful enough to be raising her in a safe, nurturing, upper-middle-class environment – as too immature to forgive his saintly mother.

It doesn’t help that the episode is wildly inconsistent in portraying Missouri and Patience’s talents. Dean tells Jody that Missouri can read objects, but what we actually see her do, for the most part, is read minds to a limited extent and foretell the future in blurry images. That’s not reading the past from objects, Show. Reading objects is a different ESP talent.

Also, we’re apparently supposed to get the idea from that that she is able to foretell her and the MOTW’s futures enough to determine that she can’t escape the MOTW, at least not without endangering her family (she specifically sees James, but then talks about Patience to him). How is this even possible when you have two new variables – Dean and Jody – in the equation? That smacks of overly convenient writing. You’d think Missouri would have learned from the mistake she made in predicting the fate of James’ wife/Patience’s mom that her powers are not infallible, but nope.

In addition, the family member who ends up in immediate danger is Patience, not James. Patience is threatened by the MOTW immediately after he kills her grandmother. It seems he was able to kill Missouri, and then zip past Dean and Jody to attack Patience before they could even contact James. I call shenanigans on that timing.

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In fact, I call shenanigans on that whole MOTW, but let’s finish talking about Patience’s powers, first. Patience initially has a dream that warns her of both her grandmother’s death and the MOTW’s attack on her later at the school. This dream seems to be a mix of literal precognition (the attack) and metaphor (her grandmother’s ghost warning her). Okay, this is a dream we’re talking about, so a little funky logic is acceptable.

But then, after she’s captured, Patience has a prolonged waking vision of her father, Jody and then Dean being killed, which allows her to warn each of them about the MOTW’s attack. But this is a different kind of precog from what she previously showed and all three types are different from what Missouri had.

This may seem like nitpicking, but if you look at how Sam’s precog was shown in the first two seasons, it’s very consistent and that’s pretty important to the story. He has quick flashes, usually of something fatal happening, accompanied by nasty headaches. If he acts on them, he is usually able to stop the event from happening, though something else bad may happen, instead. Sometimes, he has dreams. Less often, he has waking visions. But they are always the same kind of thing.

Precog and even telepathy are shown similarly for other characters such as Psykids like Ava (in “Hunted”) and Andy (sending Dean a vision in “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 1”), and even Chuck in “The Monster at the End of This Book.” We also have a clear origin for these visions. The Psykids apparently get theirs from Azazel, while Chuck gets them from the angels. Yes, I know we later find out Chuck is God, but his conversation with Zachariah at the end of that episode makes it clear the angels are sending him visions. Maybe they’re even sending them to the Psykids. Who knows? But the point is that these visions of the future don’t just pop up out of nowhere.

Missouri and Patience’s visions do, which means they’re much more malleable and “magical” in the sense of being overly convenient writing divorced from the logic of the worldbuilding. The characters don’t have these visions because the visions make sense in the context of the story. They have them just to move the story along.

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Now let’s check out the MOTW. Unfortunately, whoever made up the recap spoiled the crap out of the MOTW “surprise” (admittedly, that cat came right out of the bag in the teaser, anyway), which is that the MOTW was a Wraith. I don’t think a Wraith was the right MOTW for what the episode wanted to do and the actor they got was definitely not right to convey what they wanted. Or maybe he was, which kinda makes it worse.

Now, the Wraith’s targeting psychics was fine, as far as it went. We know Wraiths like to feed on a specific kind of human, often a “soft” target that can’t fight back very well. And therein lies the problem. The Wraith we first met in “Sam, Interrupted” in season five was working at a psych hospital, targeting patients. If they weren’t psychotic when they came in, they sure were by the time the Wraith was ready to feed on them. The Wraith possessed a toxin, spread via touch, that made people psychotic. This particular Wraith actually enjoyed the taste of brains under extreme psychological distress and played an Angel of Mercy to get them. Subsequent mentions of them followed a similar pattern.

Aside from targeting those who generally can’t fight back very well (psychics, who are otherwise ordinary humans), the Wraith in “Patience” follows none of these rules. He doesn’t bother to poison or weaken his targets. He simply attacks them and overpowers them.

He doesn’t treat them as food, either. The actor who plays the Wraith plays feeding as a straight-up sexual serial-killing thing, which is not how the Wraith in “Sam, Interrupted” acted. The Wraith in “Patience” attacks women, specifically, and creeps all over them. The Wraith in “Sam, Interrupted” attacked different types of people, which actually made it scarier because it was hard to see a pattern at first, let alone who could be the Wraith. You couldn’t see it coming.

In “Patience,” we know right away. There’s no mystery about it whatsoever, especially since there is no attempt to give any backstory to the MOTW aside from where he got his predilection for psychic brains. It’s all very CW. In a bad way.

And it also means that the Wraith is way overpowered for this type of MOTW. I can see him taking out James, maybe even Jody, if he got lucky. But Dean? On top of the other two? Nope. Not the organized and well-armed way they came in.

Now, if the writers had used an MOTW that was known for being fast and strong, I might buy that. A Vampire or a Shapeshifter or a Djinn I could see. Or if they’d argued that this was the Alpha Wraith, maybe. But as it was, I didn’t buy this particular MOTW, or his ability to fight and evade and take down healthy human prey.

Hell, even Patience was able to break off the Wraith’s stinger (the way Dean did in “Sam, Interrupted,” albeit while barely able to stay upright due to being poisoned). Not exactly an intimidating monster. I just didn’t buy that he could take Dean at full strength, let alone Dean on top of Jody and James. And if the MOTW wasn’t that dangerous, that makes Patience’s precog flashes rather silly and unnecessary to the plot.

I got the impression that we were supposed to have the usual balance of opinions between Sam and Dean this week, where Sam was on one side and Dean on the other, and we were supposed to see both sides as having merit. Which was sort of true if you squinted, but only because the writing kept Telling us Dean’s judgement was off, while actually Showing something a bit different.

For a start, not only is Dean in character for telling Patience at the end to grab as much Normal as she can, but he’s right. Hunting never ends well for the Hunter. As Dean has put it many different ways in the past, “it ends bloody or sad … you’re covered in blood until you’re covered in your own blood.”

So, when Jody tells Patience that Dean’s wrong and that if Patience wants to get into the Life and use her “gift,” she can call her, I just want to suggest that Jody first tell Patience why she lived alone in a big, old, empty house before she took in Claire and Alex. Gee, whatever happened to her husband and son? Patience deserves to hear that story before she makes her decision.

Yes, the supernatural world is the real world on this show. Yes, once you become aware of it, you see it everywhere. Even worse, it becomes aware of you. But step into the shadows, engage too closely, and your projected lifespan drops like a stone.

Dean’s not wrong (neither is James, really). It’s just very hard to get away from the supernatural world once you get plunged into it.

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Then there’s Sam’s “training” of Jack. Points, at least, for the show having Sam remember that he used to be psychic, too … sort of. Sam talks about being different when he was younger and worrying about having a “darkness” inside him, that Dean and Castiel helped him fight it, so there’s that. But then Sam proceeds (as he always has) to make it All About Sam and try to push Jack into learning more about his powers, even though it’s really obvious that Jack is afraid to use them.

Now, Jack does mention Dean saying he’s evil, but he also brings up the reasons why Dean feels that way and agrees with them. He did kill his mother by being born. He has hurt people. He has lost control of his powers. He even mentions feeling Asmodeus in his mind, pushing him and coopting his powers, during his attempt to raise the Shedim the previous episode. But what Sam mostly latches onto (as he very belatedly decides to stop pushing Jack) is that Jack is afraid of Dean (despite being physically invulnerable), not that Sam is doing pretty much the same thing to Jack that Asmodeus did and for equally selfish reasons – and that this bothers Jack a whole lot.

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When Dean gets back, the hints throughout the episode that all is not well with him (such as Jody holding him back when he starts to ream James out for lying to Patience) come to a head. Sam calls Dean on being so harsh to Jack and threatening him (even though Dean’s been very upfront about that, so it should hardly be a surprise to Sam).

To the writers’ credit, they do have Dean finally calling Sam out right back on Sam’s less-than-altruistic motives for getting Jack to learn how to control his powers, saying that Sam doesn’t really care about Jack. He just wants to use Jack’s powers to get Mary back, using Jack as “an interdimensional can opener.” And there isn’t a whole in this episode that contradicts Dean on that point.

Dean would never come out and say this, but Sam’s example of himself as a person Dean saved in spite of Sam’s being a “freak” is also a poor one – Sam hurt a lot of people because Dean didn’t kill him. Not that the angels and demons would have allowed Sam to stay dead, but still.

In the end, Dean can’t hold back. His barely leashed pain and rage pour out as he yells that he “can’t even look at the kid” because he blames Jack directly for losing Mary and Castiel.

Unfortunately, he does that as Jack is listening nearby (which seems uncharacteristically dumb). This accidentally sparks Jack’s powers as Jack spontaneously tries to do something “good” and also reaches out to his foster daddy, Castiel. In the process, Castiel wakes up someplace dark and weird.

But that’s for next time.

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Next: The Big Empty: While trying to figure out who is killing a grief counselor’s patients, the Brothers and Jack end up in family therapy. Meanwhile, Castiel wakes up somewhere dark and strange.


You can find my live recap of “Patience” here.


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Review: Supernatural: “The Rising Son” (13.02)


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee. Want more of my recaps and reviews? Check out The Supernatural Codex: Season 1, out on Kindle and in print.


[lots o’ spoilers ahead]


I have a confession to make – yes, I was very busy this past fall, but the main reason I have been putting off reviewing this episode is that it was boring. Very, very boring. And on top of the previous episode (the season premiere, no less), I just couldn’t hack rewatching boring one more time, at least for a while.

Well, I’ve rewatched it now, so let’s buckle down and get to it. I’d like to review everything for this season up to this point before the show returns on January 18.

This was not a good episode. If anything, it was worse than the previous week, a bit like the Nepotism Duo’s take on the same themes Dabb had introduced. Yikes.

The pacing dragged and there was an endless amount of infodumpy dialogue that damned near put me to sleep. When one of the most intriguing parts is a scene you never got to see (Dean hallucinating sheep on the road), there’s a problem.

As usual with these two writers, the episode was overstuffed with characters and ideas, none of them developed beyond the thinnest of surface levels. Questionable racial overtones popped up in the one loyal demon having an African American host and acting in a servile manner (as if the writers watched Get Out and completely missed the point of the film) toward the new YED, but also in giving alt-Michael an African-American vessel. I’m all for diversity, but someone clearly didn’t think through the Unfortunate Implications involved in that casting (coughJefferson and Sally Hemingscoughcough) or just plain forgot all about the Very Important Bloodlines storyline from the first five seasons. And I don’t mean that terrible backdoor pilot.

Someone in the comments here (I think it was Eva) suggested that alt-Michael is using one of alt-Raphael’s vessels, which would be cool, if true. I doubt these writers are that subtle, but it would be fun if alt-Michael isn’t really alt-Michael but alt-Raphael or even an angel who got souped up the way Godstiel did. That would actually make him look pretty clever and devious. This storyline desperately needs some kind of twist. After all, if alt-Michael is looking for archangel grace (oops, that’s a bit later on), why not hunt down alt-Gabriel or bring in alt-Raphael? Where are they?

I also was suspicious of Lucifer not recognizing alt-Michael (or the angel squad not recognizing Lucifer). Angels and archangels are supposed to be able to recognize each other, just as angels and demons can see true demon faces. Being in an alternate timeline shouldn’t change that. But the writing was so messy that it was really hard to tell if this was a red herring or just a plothole.

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I wanted to be impressed by alt-Michael, but something was off with him. Granted, the clumsy fist-fight between archangels didn’t help with either his or Lucifer’s gravitas. Who even thought that was a good idea? But I dunno. He just felt one-dimensional.

Speaking of archangels, what was up with Lucifer wandering around barren dunes with Mary in tow, complaining that she couldn’t keep up? He’s an angel. He still has wings. He can pick her up and fly all over the world multiple times in an eyeblink. I get that he was trying to stay under the radar a bit, but come on. Even that didn’t work out for him, or Mary.

I can’t even with what they did to poor Mary. She encounters a single human, who happens to be a male Hunter, who claims wimminfolk can’t be Hunters and he hasn’t seen a woman in who knows when. So, what does he immediately try to do? Rape her at gunpoint. And is she able to defend herself, this woman who was actually doing just fine on her own against all sorts of humans and creatures all last year? Nope. She needs Lucifer to come in and save the day by … punching the guy through the torso from behind. Eugh. I can’t believe this script was half-written by a woman.

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But hey, this is also a script that demands Dean get yet another kickass fight in which he senses the demon behind him, thrashes it good and hard, but can’t land the final blow, so he needs to get saved by Sam who … stabs the demon from behind. I sense a theme.

Look, I get it. Jared Padalecki is in his thirties now and has suffered some pretty brutal injuries on set over the years. I don’t blame him for wanting to dial it back on the stunts. But the way the writers are choosing to write around this is not cutting it. Sam needs to be doing his own stuff, not stealing Dean’s wins at the last minute. Not even Dean getting the next demon with the thrown angel sword made that less annoying. It’s bad writing. Give Sam fights (or other important work) Padalecki can do without hurting himself. Leave Dean’s fights alone.

There’s this general trend of obviousness and over-explaining in the episode of things that need a little mystery, while enormous plotholes are left alone, reminiscent of other winners from this duo like the best-forgotten Ghost!Bobby-centric episode, “Of Grave Importance.” For example, why are we suddenly shown a demon like Asmodeus teleporting away, when before, a demon would just walk out of frame or smoke off whenever other characters turned their backs? Why are we now shown archangels, who can fly at the speed of light (or faster), as slow-arcing fireballs, when showing the look on the face of a human, and putting the sound of wings on the soundtrack as an angel flew off, was effective enough?

What’s with the stupid fistfight between two beings who can incinerate half the planet between them? We suddenly have the budget to show angels flying and demons teleporting, but we don’t have any money left over for some decent FX and fight choreography between two archangels?

I suppose we have to talk about the new YED, AKA the latest attempt to spit on both Azazel and Crowley’s memories with the fans simultaneously. Even Dean calls Asmodeus Colonel Sanders a few episodes later, but the fandom was way ahead of him.

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Asmodeus (and, for that matter, Lucifer) is an obvious attempt to replace the departed Crowley. Now mind you, lots of characters have come and gone on this show. It is on its 13th season, after all. And I get that some sort of bad blood behind the scenes precipitated Crowley’s abrupt departure and Mark Sheppard’s absence from this past season’s gag reel. The character had been around a long time, probably well past his sell-by date. As I’d been telling people for years, he was as expendable as the rest of the supporting cast (except for Castiel because they already tried writing him out and it didn’t go well).

But the way they wrote him out and then completely ignored the character came off as simultaneously clumsy and mean-spirited. He had a lot of fans, Show. Respect that.

Adding to this, Asmodeus plain sucks as a character, let alone a major villain. He’s one-note and that one note grates. His powers don’t make sense. His motivation doesn’t make sense (I get he’s pretending to be Lucifer’s lackey to gain power and rule Hell, but why raise the Shedim?). And he lacks charm. Plus, constantly having him played by other actors reduces the audience investment in the main actor (Jeffrey Vincent Parise) and his performance. It’s a thankless task, poor guy.

The worst part is that if they hadn’t killed Crowley off, he’d be doing what Asmodeus is currently doing. Hell, he already did that poisonous father figure storyline twice – once with Kevin and once with Amara. Mark Sheppard even claimed at a con that Dabb had wanted to get rid of Crowley for a while, presumably because the character was played out, yet here we have a brand-new character and he’s got the same old tired storyline. He’s so freakin’ one-dimensional that he twirls (well … strokes) his mustache. I mean, come on.

Not to mention, what’s the deal with trying to spy on the Brothers by impersonating (not even possessing) other people? Why then leave just two demons from Central Casting to deal with the Brothers when it’s later shown he could just choke them out? Why would he even think Jack already had some kind of emotional connection to Team Free Will? It all makes him look weak and stupid, to the point where Sam has to be written like an idiot to build up this new baddie. Dean, at least, doesn’t trust the overly friendly bartender, even if he never finds out about her human doppleganger’s murder.

No wonder this new YED/Princes of Hell storyline doesn’t work (in stark contrast to the Knights of Hell/Mark of Cain plot, which did). The original YED, Azazel, was largely an unknown. He was creepy, unique, mysterious, fanatical. Even after we learned his agenda, we never learned much about him. He never lost his mystery.

The new YEDs are painfully overexplained, with too much Tell and not much Show. Why are we shown Asmodeus with shapeshifting powers and scars on his host body? Why would a demon even need shapeshifting powers when it can possess someone at will (so why cut the bartender’s throat or impersonate a Prophet when you can possess them?). How the hell does a creature consisting of black smoke manifest scars on the human it’s possessing? Speaking of which, why are the allegedly demonic Shedim solid monsters? Folks, that stuff belongs on the Makes No Sense shelf, not in an episode. It adds nothing to the show and contradicts previous canon.

And what’s the deal with the Shedim, who are about as scary as Care Bears? Why not – oh, I dunno – rewatch “Shadow” from season one and bring back the Daevas? They were scary. Ah, but that would involve having to set that very stupid scene in the middle of some random field in anything but broad, freakin’ daylight. Because nothing says “scary,” especially on this show, like making it look as though Keith Szarabajka’s about to race through the fields shouting, “If you dig it, they will come!”

Speaking of Szarabajka, while I’m thrilled to have him back (love me some 80s Equalizer nostalgia), what the hell was going on with Donatello? I can sort of see Dean not really reacting to Donatello’s revelation that Amara sucked out his soul a year past. As Sam points out to Jack, Dean’s not firing on all cylinders mentally right now. Already emotionally overloaded, he may just be rolling with the idea that if Donatello’s okay with his current situation, and isn’t hurting anyone (the Mr. Rogers reference), then that situation’s dealt with for the moment. Triage and all that.

Also, Dean is feeling lost after Chuck apparently ignored his prayer and has never felt comfortable with using his relationship with Amara, who is every bit as volatile and unpredictable as he is. He’s not likely to call on her if Chuck didn’t answer, even if it’s entirely possible she’d be more likely to show up.

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But what’s going on with Sam? Sam’s had no soul in the past. He knows what it’s like. It’s always bothered him, seeing other people without souls. Yet here he is, shrugging off Donatello’s lack of soul as if it’s not a big deal. What do they mostly talk about when Sam is fooled by the fake “Donatello” (Asmodeus in disguise)? Jack, of course. Yet, Sam never twigs that maybe this obsession with Jack and his burgeoning superpowers is just a tad odd for a man who has no one else to talk with about the fact that he’s missing his soul, especially the only two people who might be able to help him get it back (not like Amara would miss it).

It’s funny that I’ve been seeing all these complaints about Dean being “mean” and “whiny” and cruel to puir Jack, but nothing about how Sam is way too calm about all this. In fact, I’m not terribly surprised that Jack is choosing to look up to Dean. Dean’s the only one being honest with him. It’s also possible that Jack imprinted on Dean a bit via his imprinting on Castiel (who is obsessed with Dean). Weirdly enough, Jack may only really feel safe with Dean. Look at how Dean was the only one who noticed he was repeatedly stabbing himself. Jack is desperately seeking boundaries, control, over his powers (not really to expand them) and only Dean offers those boundaries.

Dean’s promise at the end of the episode probably was intended to be reassuring on some level. It was exactly the promise Dean was begging to exact from Sam and Castiel when he had the MoC. Jack may be in a similar position (losing control to darkness and not wanting to hurt innocents, but also unable to die), so Dean offers him the only reassurance he thinks would be helpful. If Jack does go dark (as he fears), Dean will be the one who takes care of it. If Jack doesn’t go dark, well, Dean’s not going to let anyone else kill Jack but himself. So, if Jack turns out to be good, Dean’s got his back.

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This is, of course, leaving aside all the stuff about how this is a perfectly natural reaction from Dean, and completely in character. Why wouldn’t Dean feel this way? From his perspective, Jack had a direct hand in Kelly and Castiel basically marching to their deaths (Jack may not have meant to, but they were definitely brainwashed to some extent). Jack also created the rift that took away or helped destroy Mary, Castiel and Crowley. Everything Dean has heard that’s remotely reliable indicates Jack will be a willing tool of his father, Lucifer, in wrecking the world (again), since that’s what he was created to be. Why wouldn’t Dean want to destroy Jack?

Dean’s grief-fueled madness, and Sam’s reaction to it, is also problematic for Sam’s characterization. Sam “reassures” Jack in an avuncular tone that Dean just has his wires crossed and doesn’t really want to kill Jack. Um … first of all, it’s painfully obvious that killing Jack is precisely what Dean does want to do, considering that’s the first action he goes for after his prayer to Chuck apparently fails. If Jack weren’t covered with thick plot armor – sorry, invulnerable to angel blades – he’d be dead, already.

Second, the way Sam frames it, in an almost jovial voice, makes it clear that if it comes down to Dean or Jack, Jack’s screwed as far as Sam is concerned. He won’t protect Jack if it really comes to it.

Now, Jack’s just a baby. How else can he be anything but freaked out by that lack of reassurance? No wonder he clings to Dean’s brutal honesty. At least, if he can win Dean’s affection and loyalty, he’ll know it’s real.

In fact, Sam sounds indistinguishable in his “concern” for Jack from Asmodeus or the angels. He only seems to want Jack around for Jack’s powers (showing a lot of rather creepy interest in them) and what those powers can do for him and Dean.

The thing is that Alexander Calvert (Jack) actually has a reasonably high amount of chemistry with both Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles. Their characters’ adoption of Jack and attempts to raise Jack work because there’s actual affection there. That kind of chemistry doesn’t just happen, so I can see why the show would want to keep him around.

Alas, as a written character, Jack is a hot mess and he’s not fitting into the storyline at all well. He’s ridiculously overpowered and in his current state is an obvious deus ex machina. Adding to the suspension-of-disbelief carnage, convenient new powers pop up every week, aiding the writers a little too much in getting out of self-inflicted plot corners, to the point of making the situation a whole lot less scary than it could be. They need to power him down. They also need to play out this Lucifer baby-daddy-from-Hell storyline and move on.

The only actually interesting thing about the writing for this kid is that the Brothers are trying to raise him. Dean’s had parenting experience. Sam has almost none. So, it makes sense Sam is only able to relate to Jack as the young man he appears to be, whereas Dean understands better that Jack is just a baby. A super-powered baby, but still … just a child. Who needs a lot of guidance.

I can understand giving him a bit of power so he has enough plot armor to survive around the Brothers (unlike poor Kevin), but he’s got way too much right now and it kills the story tension. I mean, come on, that Impala ride to the rescue in Act Four was painfully slow. And I get that Jack is young, but the ruse to get him to let the Shedim out was so obvious it made him look stupid. Let’s stop doing that, Show.

One thing I will say is that the season began to improve considerably after this episode. “Rising Son” even looks a bit better in retrospect, mainly because some storylines that seemed to be going in a really annoying direction (and probably would have in earlier seasons) progressed or resolved better after this episode than I expected. But that doesn’t actually make it a good episode in its own right.

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Next: Patience: We probably didn’t need Missouri Moseley to return at this point. But she does, in an episode that introduces one of the last two main characters for the upcoming spin-off, Wayward Sisters.


You can find my live recap of “Rising Son” here.


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Whispers, Spoilers & Speculation Corner: 12/25/17: The Christmas Edition


Happy Holidays Everyone!


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The print version is also up, though the cover’s needing a little tweaking right now. I’ll be putting up corrections for the cover in the next day or so. Everything else looks good.

You can also check out my latest anthology story, “Light a Candle, Curse the Darkness,” in Arkham Detective Agency: A Lovecraftian-Noir Tribute to C.J. Henderson.

Heather will be on hiatus for a bit. We’ll let you know when she comes back.

You can access previous spoilers columns at Innsmouth Free Press here.


Supernatural (Thursday nights, 8pm, CW)
By Paula R. Stiles

Check out my Patreon page. Help me keep this column going, pay Heather, and start doing Supernatural reviews again.

The show will return from Christmas hiatus on January 18.

My live recap for episode 13.09 is up. During the Christmas Hellatus, I’ll be catching up on my reviews for this season. Hope everyone will be rewatching “A Very Supernatural Christmas” from season three. I do that every year on or around Christmas.

Season 13 titles so far: “Lost and Found” (13.01), synopsis and photos, promo, preview, sneak peeks, and Shaving People, Punting Things, as well as live recap and review; “The Rising Son” (13.02) synopsis and photos and promo; “Patience” (the first spinoff set-up episode) (13.03) synopsis; “The Big Empty” (13.04) synopsis, promo and official photos; “Advanced Thanatology” (13.05) synopsis, photos and promo; “Tombstone” (13.06) synopsis, promo and photos; “War of the Worlds” (13.07) synopsis photos, sneak peek and promo; “The Scorpion and the Frog” (13.08) synopsis, photos, promo and sneak peek; “The Bad Place” (13.09) (airing December 7) synopsis, photos, sneak peeks and promo; Christmas Break; “Wayward Sisters” (13.10, backdoor pilot for the spinoff, airs January 18), synopsis, photos, interviews and promo; “Various & Sundry Villains” (13.11) (previously called “The Midnight Train” and originally, the title was “Stakes on a Train,” though there also appears to have been a switch of episodes between 13.11 and 13.12), this or the next one (depending on which is the real 13.11) is supposed to be Donna-heavy; “Breakdown” (13.12) Rowena returns; “Devil’s Bargain” (13.13), written by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, introducing Danneel Ackles as a faith healer named Sister Jo who is blackmailed by Lucifer, set photos here; “Only the Best Intentions” (13.14); “A Most Holy Man” (13.15); “ScoobyNatural” (13.16, cartoon episode, appears in March), “The Thing” (13.17); “Bring ’em Back Alive” (13.18).

Andrew Dabb claimed to TV Line that Dean’s conversation with Billie this season would have a follow-up down the road. Not really holding my breath, but hey, Dean’s storyline has lasted longer this season so far than last season. So, there’s that.

13.11 is supposed to be Donna-centric.

Danneel Ackles posted her first two set photos, one with her husband and one (rather character-spoilery) with Misha Collins.

A Shaving People Punting Things video came out with an extended blooper reel of Jared Padalecki and Jensen Ackles pranking Alexander Calvert (and Misha Collins, though Collins is kind of in on the pranks).

Warner Bros has announced details about the upcoming Wayward Sisters spin-off. As we already know, it will star Kim Rhodes (Jody Mills) and the rumor that Briana Buckmaster (Donna Hanscum) is in it was confirmed. Also starring will be Kathryn Newton (Claire Novak) and Alex Jones (Katherine Ramdeen), as well as new character Patience Turner (played by Clark Backo). Another new character, Kaia (Yadira Guevar-Prip), has been added to the main cast list. Kaia’s “gift” will be the ability to spirit travel.

The spin-off premise and new characters will be introduced via several episodes in season 13. Patience will be introduced in “Patience” (13.03), which also brings back season one character Missouri Moseley (who is Patience’s estranged grandmother and from whom Patience has inherited her psychic gift). The actual backdoor pilot will be “Wayward Sisters” (13.10).

Star Kim Rhodes told EW that there’s a good in-SPNverse reason why the show will be set in a single location (Sioux Falls) instead of moving around. Rhymes with “Hellmouth,” I’ll bet. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion it’s to do with the rip between universes in that crappy old boat from 12.09.

Season 12 is out on Amazon.

The count for Supernatural calendars for 2018 is now five: a charity calendar called If I Could Tell You: The Women of Supernatural that is sadly no longer available, two large calendars out on July 1, one mini calendar on September 1, and a Creation Entertainment calendar that came out on December 1 (also no longer available).

The show’s ratings for the winter finale (13.09) remained steady in the demo at 0.6/2 and up 10 thousand to 1.74 million in audience. The episode (got a 0.540 in the overnights and half-hours of 0.553 and 0.526, respectively.

The show had a repeat last week that came in at 0.2/1 in the demo (0.208 in the overnights) and 870 thousand in audience.

The Live+7 ratings for “The Scorpion and the Frog” (13.08) rose from 0.6 to 1.0 in the demo and from 1.746 to 2.829 million, while Christmas finale “The Bad Place” (13.09) rose from 0.5 to 1.0 and from 1.702 to 2.629 million.


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The Official “The Bad Place” (13.09 – pre-Christmas finale) Live Recap Thread


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through  Amazon. The print version is also up, though the cover’s needing a little tweaking right now. I’ve ordered a copy for a final galley proof to make any changes that don’t show up online (KDP doesn’t let you do that before the book goes live because KDP works for Satan).

Anyhoo, we start off with a standard recap of the season so far with some very lame generic guitar music. It’s pretty boring. This is the Nepotism Duo on again tonight, so I’m expecting to be bored and hoping not to be (too) offended. But I’m trying to keep my expectations low.

Cut to Now and a blonde white girl necking with a stereotypically long-haired Native American guy (oops, so much for avoiding offense; I can see this going ugly in a hurry), as they discuss his latest painting, her needing to go to work, and his latest client.

It turns out said client is Jack.

After the woman leaves, Jack starts asking the guy about his ability to dreamwalk to other worlds (basically, spirit travel). Jack makes it sound unique, never mind that Dean spirit travels rather frequently and as late as a few episodes ago.

But nope, the Nep Duo are in full-on white condescension mode and have Jack go on and on about the guy’s abilities in that Mystical Native American New Age stuff that many Native Americans actually quite hate.

Jack adds insult to injury by offering the guy money. Anyhoo, the guy is two months behind in his rent, so he agrees to go looking, but it goes poorly. The place he goes to is nasty and when he tries to back out, Jack uses his power to make the guy (Derek) stay and hurts him a whole lot.

Derek’s girlfriend comes home to find him dead with his eyes burned out.

Cue title cards.

Cut to Dean leaving a message with Patience, who has a conversation with her father about how she’s ignoring Dean. Sam, meanwhile, has been talking to “Castiel” (because the Nep Duo really do believe the Brothers are stupid enough to fall for low-rent Asmodeus’ trickery) and getting nothing. Then Jodie calls them and tells them about Doomed Teaser Stereotypical Native American Guy. She says Derek’s girlfriend saw Jack beforehand.

Dean recognizes Grody Alt-SPN World in one of Derek’s paintings.

In the car, Dean points out that it appears Jack has gone rogue for real and maybe they need to talk to a tribal leader to get more info. Sam deflects by saying they should talk to a young girl, another dreamwalker named Kaia, whom Derek had been corresponding with, instead. Because hey, why be culturally sensitive or leave innocents out of the fray, am I right?

Kaia, meanwhile, is in a drug support group and she has a creep for a counselor who keeps pushing her. She says that she only takes speed to keep from sleeping. The counselor continues not to get it. Yay for undercutting that whole pro-getting help message your cast is trying to send in their off-set hours, Nep Duo. Nice job. [/sarcasm]

Anyhoo, 30 seconds later, she meets Jack. Gee, I wonder if he will help her get out of the treatment center?

So, Jack cuts right to the chase and says he’s a “friend of Derek,” that she’s the most powerful dreamwalker ever, and he can get her out of stir (why do these characters always have to be the BESTEST, MOSTEST of their kind ever?). This reinforces my apprehension that the show is choosing to add on two new Wayward Sisters who are not only WoCs (fine with that) but also ridiculously overpowered with magical talents (not so fine with that). So far, it seems they will be getting the Walking Plot Device treatment that Bonnie on The Vampire Diaries got, which is not good. I’m all for the CW beginning to write young women better like … right now.

So, just as Kaia is following Jack out (I did like the way the actress played that one, so points to her for that), we see the Impala drive up. Sam infodumps to Dean – as they get out of the car – that Kaia is an orphan. She never knew Daddy and Mom died when she was 12 (what is this show’s creepy obsession with having girl characters hit the streets in their preteens?). An aunt took her in, but died of cancer. So, Kaia’s been on her own ever since because, like, this country doesn’t have any kind of foster care system, or anything. [rolls eyes]

Also, I don’t quite know why Sam is As You Know, Dean-ing as they get out of the car when they had an entire trip to get up to speed on Kaia.

So, Kaia’s jailbreak is not entirely without incident. As they’re walking out, they encounter her jerk of a counselor. Jack rather forcefully puts him to sleep and then literally busts through a locked emergency door that, oddly enough, doesn’t sound an alarm. As he puts it to Kaia, “You’re not the only one with powers.”

Kaia chooses to respond to this, once they’re outside, by casually saying sayonara and then punching him in the face and running away when he objects (and grabs her arm). This strikes me as a really stupid thing to do with someone you’ve just seen act extremely powerful and lowers my estimation of her after my previous lukewarm response. Especially since the only reason she gets away from him is because the Brothers bust out through the same door at that moment and grab Jack.

Talking ensues in which Jack explains that he left Derek alive and that he found Derek after doing research and experimenting with his powers – he can travel between worlds, but he can’t navigate very well. They both traveled to Grody Alt-SPN World, where Jack saw Mary being tortured in a sort of Iron Maiden device and yelling for help, but Derek wasn’t quite strong enough to let Jack go there and rescue her.

After Jack shows the Brothers what he saw, he and Sam have a clinical infodumpy conversation in the background while a shocked Dean has his entire season’s purpose realigned – now that he knows for sure she’s alive and in trouble, he’s gonna save Mom.

Meanwhile, Kaia, a girl who supposedly has been on her own for years, promptly gets kidnapped by angels in a dodgy old station wagon while hitchhiking. [sigh] The stupid is strong with this character.

I really hate these incessant Riverdale and Dynasty commercials.

Back to Patience, who is having Yet Another Vision of Jodie (in the middle of traffic, no less) dying, and of the Brothers someplace dark. Nothing really new there, then, but it’s enough to get her off her tail and trying to contact Dean.

Over to Kaia, tied up in a warehouse and being Evil Overlord Monologued by the angels about how they tortured and killed Derek (lest the Brothers get involved because surely, that wouldn’t alert Sam and Dean – oh, wait), that he’s the son of Lucifer, and that they’re using Kaia as bait.

Remember when angels weren’t stupid? I kinda miss those days. The wings bit, too.

Driving this home (literally, in fact), the Brothers are in the Impala with Jack in the backseat, trying to find Kaia. Dean is now obsessed with rescuing Mary and says that Sam was right. Sam at least has enough motherwit to admit that he was willing to bust open worlds on “hope” rather than certainty, but they’re both on the same page about going to get her.

Jack … is moping that they thought he killed Derek. Even though his incidental and accidental body count is actually rather high. Am quite tired of this. Suck it up, Jack. You’re a killer. Move on.

Sam starts to waffle, but Dean cuts straight to the point – they thought Jack went to find Lucifer. Jack protests that Lucifer means nothing to him and that TFW are his family (Dean agrees, including Mary in the circle). Watch out for those foreshadowing anvils, folks. They’re awfully dense this season.

Welp, the plot still needs to move along. Jack gets a message through Angel Radio that they have Kaia.

Chez Patience, she’s packing and leaving. Her dad, rather than leave the door open, gives her the John speech and tells her not to come back if she leaves because reasons. Ugh. What is it with the writing this week? So formulaic and nonsensical.

Meanwhile, Kaia is giving a rather boring speech to the woman angel about how she’s not good bait. She’s not a blonde white girl and no one will come for her because “I don’t matter.” The angel agrees with her, but says that the Winchesters think she matters, so they’ll come, the angels will kill them, and the angels will kill Jack. Because that’s worked out so well for them so far.

The Brothers and Jack show up, having grabbed the male angel. To get the ball rolling, the male angel improbably gets loose from Dean and there’s a fight. Jack, in excruciatingly slow motion (that’s a really dull effect, Show. Just saying), tosses the woman angel through a glass window, then forces the male angel, who is trying to stab Dean (Sam got knocked out, or something), to stab himself. Meanwhile, the woman angel somehow gets away.

So, Maia, inexplicably, doesn’t respond especially well to any of this. She actually wants to run off again (because that worked out so well for *her*) and calls them all “insane.”

“Yeah, well, the whole world’s insane. Get used to it,” Dean tells her. Go Dean.

Sam then goes the Savior route, saying that Kaia can help them save Mary. Kaia doesn’t want to help them, even though (as Dean points out to her) they just saved her life. Kaia is really bad at this whole reciprocity thing.

Kaia then tries the Pity route, saying that she only ever goes to one place in her dreams – The Bad Place (this is an obvious, but very spoilery reference to a certain current show). She says she comes back with scars and she doesn’t want to help them.

Dean (a guy who has seen and done far, far worse things than Kaia could even imagine) does what the audience wanted him to do all along – pulls out his gun, and tells her to get in the car. I cheer a little because as much as the show wants me to sympathize with Kaia, she’s irritating the hell out of me with her “Me, first” whining.

Anyhoo, in the car, Sam tries to talk to Dean about this new obsession of his and Dean shuts him down with Hey, you said you wanted Mom back, too. In the back, Jack asks Kaia to let him show her what he and Derek say. She reluctantly agrees and then has her world rocked.

But before we can find out if she’s on board with all this, yet, or not, the Impala nearly gets sideswiped by the old station wagon. It’s the surviving angel. A car chase ensues.

The Impala arrives at a rotting old barge on a dock for some random reason. Dean gets out and opens the trunk for a bag. He tosses it at the others and tells them to get on the boat while he plays rearguard.

The angel arrives in her, uh, station wagon.

She gets out and reiterates her intent to get Jack so he can make new babies for angels (mind you, the angels still have no plan how to deal with Jack and his powers – like, at all). Then reinforcements show up. In other crappy cars.

Dean bails and runs into the boat. The Brothers make angel sigils and the angels start blasting them from the outside. Kaia finally steps up and says she can help Jack send the four of them to another world.

BTW, we’ve got new incidental music, y’all. Don’t think we had any classic rock at all this week. Guess Jack’s FX cost too much.

So, Jack and Kaia go to the Bad Place and Jack starts showing her how to go somewhere else. He sees other worlds, then Grody Alt-SPN World and Mary. Dean yells at Jack to hurry up, but Kaia is losing the direction. She screams as her face glows. The angels are all blasted to dust and all four of TFW 2.0 vanish, leaving behind a glowing rift (I’m sure this won’t create any future problems).

Muting the Riverdale ad because ugh.

At her house, Jody is calling Sam and leaving him a message to call her. She’s worried. The doorbell rings and it’s Patience. Patience says she “had a vision,” but rather than tell Jody what it is (that Jody died. Again), she just says that “something bad is coming.”

Pan over the rotting barge (apparently, the angels are really dead) to a roadside in daytime, with Kaia lying unconscious. Then we see Mary in her cage in Grody Alt-SPN World looking down at Jack waking up on the floor. Then Dean and Sam wake up in The Bad Place and walk (unknowingly) through a Godzilla footprint while something large screeches and stomps in the near distance.

Credits. Obviously.


Like this column? You can help keep it going by contributing monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), making a one-time donation through Paypal, or buying us a coffee.


Whispers, Spoilers & Speculation Corner: 12/07/17: The Pre-Hellatus Edition


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

My collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle. The Kindle version is available through  Amazon. The print version is also up, though the cover’s needing a little tweaking right now. I’ve ordered a copy for a final galley proof to make any changes that don’t show up online (KDP doesn’t let you do that before the book goes live because KDP works for Satan).

You can also check out my latest anthology story, “Light a Candle, Curse the Darkness,” in Arkham Detective Agency: A Lovecraftian-Noir Tribute to C.J. Henderson.

Heather will be on hiatus for a bit. We’ll let you know when she comes back.

You can access previous spoilers columns at Innsmouth Free Press here.


Supernatural (Thursday nights, 8pm, CW)
By Paula R. Stiles

Check out my Patreon page. Help me keep this column going, pay Heather, and start doing Supernatural reviews again.

The show will return from Christmas hiatus on January 18.

My live recap for episode 13.07 is up. I will be doing the next one at 8pm Friday (tomorrow) night, EST. During the Christmas Hellatus (which starts after tonight), I’ll be catching up on my reviews for this season.

Season 13 titles so far: “Lost and Found” (13.01), synopsis and photos, promo, preview, sneak peeks, and Shaving People, Punting Things, as well as live recap and review; “The Rising Son” (13.02) synopsis and photos and promo; “Patience” (the first spinoff set-up episode) (13.03) synopsis; “The Big Empty” (13.04) synopsis, promo and official photos; “Advanced Thanatology” (13.05) synopsis, photos and promo; “Tombstone” (13.06) synopsis, promo and photos; “War of the Worlds” (13.07) synopsis photos, sneak peek and promo; “The Scorpion and the Frog” (13.08) synopsis, photos, promo and sneak peek; “The Bad Place” (13.09) (airing December 7) synopsis, photos, sneak peeks and promo; Christmas Break; “Wayward Sisters” (13.10, backdoor pilot for the spinoff, airs January 18), photos; “Various & Sundry Villains” (13.11) (previously called “The Midnight Train” and originally, the title was “Stakes on a Train,” though there also appears to have been a switch of episodes between 13.11 and 13.12); “Breakdown” (13.12) Rowena returns; “Devil’s Bargain” (13.13) written by Brad Buckner and Eugenie Ross-Leming, introducing Danneel Ackles as a faith healer blackmailed by Lucifer; “Only the Best Intentions” (13.14); “A Most Holy Man” (13.15); “ScoobyNatural” (13.16, cartoon episode, appears in March), “The Thing” (13.17); “Bring ’em Back Alive” (13.18).

Photos, two sneak peeks and a promo are up for this week’s “The Bad Place” (13.09). It’s the last episode of the year, as the show is out for Christmas until January 18.

Alexander Calvert gave a brief interview about how the question of whether or not Jack is evil or good will be (temporarily) answered tonight. [Sigh] I am so over this stupid storyline. The final Wayward Sister, Kaia, will be introduced this week (she looks pretty dire). There’s also a cliffhanger. I know. I was shocked, too.

There are some photos up from the backdoor pilot for the spin-off, “Wayward Sisters” (13.10).

For some odd reason, there was a flurry of casting and character return news last Friday. The biggest is that Danneel Ackles, Jensen Ackles’ wife, has been cast in a recurring role starting with episode 13.13. Fandom predictably imploded over this, since the poor woman has been the target of much resentment from the more overly invested saltgunners for years. Personally, I liked her in Ten-Inch Hero and think she had good on-screen chemistry with her then-future-husband. Also, making it a family affair means her husband still seems invested in the show and settling in for more of the long haul. This makes it good news for the show getting a few more seasons. So, I’m looking forward to it. My only big concern about it is that the character is being created by the Nepotism Duo, but I guess we’ll see.

In other news, Ruth Connell was spotted on-set recently in costume, confirming rumors that Rowena will be back in 13.12.

A Shaving People Punting Things video has been promised for noon tomorrow PST.

Warner Bros has announced details about the upcoming Wayward Sisters spin-off. As we already know, it will star Kim Rhodes (Jody Mills) and the rumor that Briana Buckmaster (Donna Hanscum) is in it was confirmed. Also starring will be Kathryn Newton (Claire Novak) and Alex Jones (Katherine Ramdeen), as well as new character Patience Turner (played by Clark Backo). Another new character, Kaia (Yadira Guevar-Prip), has been added to the main cast list. Kaia’s “gift” will be the ability to spirit travel.

The spin-off premise and new characters will be introduced via several episodes in season 13. Patience will be introduced in “Patience” (13.03), which also brings back season one character Missouri Moseley (who is Patience’s estranged grandmother and from whom Patience has inherited her psychic gift). The actual backdoor pilot will be “Wayward Sisters” (13.10).

Star Kim Rhodes told EW that there’s a good in-SPNverse reason why the show will be set in a single location (Sioux Falls) instead of moving around. Rhymes with “Hellmouth,” I’ll bet.

Season 12 is out on Amazon.

The count for Supernatural calendars for 2018 is now five: a charity calendar called If I Could Tell You: The Women of Supernatural that still has a few left from its campaign (I got it today; it’s quite nice and sturdy, despite the post office’s attempts to crumple it into a rolled-up ball in my mailbox), two large calendars out on July 1, two mini calendars on September 1, and a Creation Entertainment calendar that comes out on December 1.

The show’s ratings last week rose again from the zombie turkey apocalypse of Thanksgiving to a 0.6/2 and 1.73 million in audience. The show (got a 0.537 in the overnights and half-hours of 0.573 and 0.502, respectively.

No ratings news for the previous week, but Thanksgiving Week had a huge leap for Live+7, with “War of the Worlds” (13.07) rising a whopping 167% in demo to a 0.8 and 98% from 1.241 to 2.452 million in audience (Arrow had a similar rise, though its audience remained below Supernatural. Still a bit anemic for the show’s usual delayed numbers but quite respectable for the CW, especially over a holiday weekend.


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The Official “The Scorpion and the Frog” (13.08) Live Recap Thread


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I’ll also be simul-recapping on Wayward Children.

Sorry about the big delay, but I had a book event last night and lots of errands today. FYI, The Supernatural Codex: Season 1, my collection of recaps and reviews from Innsmouth Free Press (plus some extras) is out on Kindle and will very soon be out in print, too. Check it out.

Anyhoo, we start off with a standard, no-rock recap of the season so far.

Cut to Now in Cambridge, England, at “7:45 pm on a Friday.” A young woman with a red suit jacket and a smug smile enters the Cambridge Museum (there are several, but the show doesn’t say which one this is) and goes down to one of the archival labs, where she enters by busting in the door (after the key card number doesn’t work). She extracts two leafs of manuscript (looks like Greek) after examining them and puts them in her alligator skin (faux?) satchel.

It’s at that point she’s rousted by a puzzled guard. She then opens her mouth and out smokes a demon. As she calmly collapses, it immediately goes into the hapless guard, who goes outside into the alley and meets up with a man in a nice suit and coat. The demon gives the man the satchel, wondering aloud how Asmodeus will reward them. The man responds by killing the demon and the poor guard he’s wearing with an angel blade.

Then the man gets on the phone and calls one Dean Winchester. He tells Dean he has something Dean might like.

Cue title cards.

Cut to Dean cleaning a gun, which never fails to be hot. Sam comes in and suggests the gun is plenty clean, indicating that something is on Dean’s mind. Sam hasn’t been able to find either Ketch or Kevin – sorry, Jack. This missing persons are what’s on Dean’s mind.

The phone rings. It’s Teaser Killer Guy making his Teaser Call. He wants to talk about Jack having gone off on his own. Sam quickly susses out and sotta voce’s to Dean that it’s a demon. Dean rolls his eyes at Sam. Since when are these things not about demons, Sam?

The demon gives them a time and address of a cafe (a public place) and the Brothers discuss the wisdom of coming as they head there. Sam thinks it’s worth a shot. Dean figures it’s risky. They’re probably both right.

Dean says that since Crowley died, he’s “sworn off demons.” It’s just not worth it and dealing with them never ends well. Sam suggests that they at least “hear him out,” to which Dean replies, “all right, and then we kill him.”

Inside, they find a guy who looks like Crowley-lite and head over to his table. Cue the sneak peek. The demon introduces himself as “Barthamus – Bart’s fine.”

Bart: The Famous Winchesters.
Dean: Some Random Demon.

Bart and Dean exchange banter, then Bart gives them one of the manuscript leaves. He says it’s half of a finding spell for a Naphil and also tries to bribe Dean with pie. Sam asks him what he’s about. Bart says he became the new head CRD after Crowley became King of Hell (a hint that the CRD we saw in season two really was Crowley). He says he wants to do a deal with the Brothers (not their souls) for the other manuscript leaf. Dean points out that the Brothers generally just kill demons like Bart, so Bart calls Sam “the smart one” and suggests he have a look at the manuscript to see if it’s real. Then he leaves. I’m a bit weary of demons calling Dean stupid, especially when Dean is calling them out on their game. Calling Sam the smarter brother doesn’t make Sam look good, either, considering the number of times a demon did that to butter up Sam’s ego (at least Sam doesn’t seem to fall for it this time). It feels more like a lazy writer insert than organic.

Anyhoo, Sam is a little shocked when Dean just goes ahead and eats the pie.

Cut to Sam finishing up his analysis and Dean asking him how it went. Sam is surprised to say that it went pretty well. He says it’s Ancient Hittite and that it appears that King Solomon created it so that he could “stalk his girlfriend” (as Dean put it), the Queen of Sheba, who turns out to have been a naphil. Dean points out that dealings with demons never go well with them.

Sam then says that this is true, but that Jack is out there and he needs them. And they ought to take the risk on his behalf (damn, Sam, I actually bought that and I’m not even missing Jack very much), so Dean agrees.

Bart is waiting in what looks like Oliver Queen’s office-dungeon (but with windows), with two nervous associates. He assures them the Brothers will be there. When Sam and Dean arrive, Bart introduces the two as Smash (a safe cracker) and Grab (a demon who is an expert on “supernatural security”).

Dean perks up when he realizes this is a heist. Didn’t know the Brothers quite as well as you thought, eh, Bart? Should’ve led with that.

The target is a man named Luther Shrike. He collects “rare supernatural objects,” as well as something that Bart owns. Bart admits that he can’t get in himself because he needs the blood of a person who has been to Hell and back – literally. Then he pointedly looks at Dean. I could have sworn Sam had been there, too (not just in the Cage, which isn’t the Pit – what Bart may really have meant – but in the execrable “Taxi Driver”), but this is straight-up ignored in favor of targeting Dean and our seeing some flashbacks to Dean’s time there.

Dean says fine, take some blood, but Bart says that he actually needs it still inside Dean. But he also needs the Brothers’ expertise at handling “curve balls.”

Sam’s the one who says no when Bart won’t say what the object is he’s looking for. Bart saying Luther is human, but a very bad man, doesn’t budge the Winchesters on the subject. But Bart says he’ll give Asmodeus the spell if they won’t cooperate, which brings Sam up short.

The Brothers go off to consult. Dean says a double-cross from Bart is a sure thing. Sam agrees, but says they need to play along to keep the spell out of Asmodeus’ hands. And then, once they get it, they’ll double-cross Bart first and kill him. Dean likes that plan, so they come back and agree to Bart’s terms.

Bart’s positively gleeful about the plan, saying Luther will never see them coming.

Cut to Luther hearing that Bart is coming from a demon minion of Asmodeus. The demon asks that Luther give Asmodeus a heads-up once Bart & Co. show up. Luther responds by leading the demon into a devil’s trap and exorcising it, saying he doesn’t need a demon’s help to defend his own house.

Cut to outside Luther’s house as the Brothers arrive. Sam is driving and tells the gate security camera he’s there about an artifact he’d emailed Luther about (and giving a false name).

Dean is hiding in the back of the Impala with Smash under a blanket. Dean’s head is down by her feet. This precipitates a crack based on the famous line near the end of Ocean’s 11 (“Ted Nugent called. He wants his shirt back”): “Hey, Winona, the 90s called. They want their shoes back.”

Anyhoo, Sam is allowed in and drives up the crappy dirt road a bit before stopping and saying “Clear.” Out gets a nervous Smash and a calm Dean. The Brothers exchange a quick “Don’t get dead” then Dean and Smash disappear into the woods to the sound of thunder and rain while Sam drives up to the house. He rings the bell and the door opens on a foyer with a devil’s trap. Luther calls from another room and Sam enters it.

Dean and Smash go into a shed where Dean makes a spell in the dirt. While she waits, Smash drinks from a can. Dean recognizes it as an energy drink (“Nerve Damage”) he used to practically live on as a kid and gets nostalgic. They bond a little when she offers him a can, but she gets grumpy again when he probes her reasons for working for Bart.

Dean finishes the spell, which is to summon in Grab. Grab admits that he doesn’t know where the vault they’re looking for is, but Dean’s blood will lead them to it. Grab then says a spell in Latin (basically, it says, “Infernal blood, show the way”). Nothing happens at first, but then Dean’s flashlight hand gets a mind of its own and drags him after it. Smash and Grab follow.

Inside, Luther offers Sam some homemade gin, which Sam downs with a grimace. Luther shows Sam a basilisk’s fang (a test, maybe?), but Sam says it’s actually a gorgon’s tooth (that basilisk fangs are hollow). Sam says he’d love to see more of Luther’s collection, but Luther just wants to stick to business.

So, Sam shows him the artifact he brought. It’s Ruby’s spork.

Outside, Dean is leading Grab and Smash through a sort of park. They arrive at a cellar door with no lock. As Dean puts it, no lock is “never a good sign.” With a grumpy sigh, Smash opens up the door, but Grab won’t go in. Dean and Smash have to go in without him. Inside, there’s a door with a lion’s head on it. Smash tells him he has to put his hand in the lion’s mouth.

Upstairs, Luther is on to Sam and says he’s with Bart. For a practiced liar, Sam sure does stutter. But Bart has it wrong that Sam is a demon and goes after him with the Spork. Luther gets a shotgun and Sam goes for the Spork, but when he stabs Luther, Luther doesn’t die. Oops. Luther knocks him out.

Downstairs, Dean is dithering over sticking his hand in. Once he finally does it, a mechanism grabs his hand and gets a drop of blood. The door opens, but when an exasperated Smash enters, Dean saves her from a poison dart. As they try to figure out what to do next, Luther stabs Grab and comes down after them.

A freaked-out Smash knees Luther and flees up the stairs. Dean puts a lot of bullets into Luther, but Luther just keeps coming, after admitting that Sam is still alive last he saw him. Sam shows up and warns Dean that Luther is immortal (well…on the property, anyway). Dean punches Luther and knocks him out.

Dean interrogates Luther, but Luther won’t talk, so Dean puts a strip of duct tape over his mouth and the Brothers put their heads together over how to get to the vault. After some babbling that he only ever watched Entrapment, and that was because he had a crush on Catherine Zeta Jones, Sam gets an idea he calls “crazy.”

“I’m good with crazy,” Dean says.

It turns out that Sam wants to put Luther’s situational immortality to their own use. They tie Luther to a chair and shove him through all the traps. He gets darted and the Brothers are able to walk in behind him. Dean is quite impressed.

Smash shows back up, after having fled out to the gate and encountered Bart, who calls her “Alice” and reminds her of her deal. The Brothers note she sold her soul. She says that as long as she does jobs for Bart, he doesn’t collect. The Brothers offer to help, but she doesn’t think they can (honey, did you forget how Dean found the vault?).

So, she cracks the safe and they get the trunk, but Luther has escaped. He comes after them in a pickup. Dean backs up and Sam shoots out Bart’s tires. Once they get him out, he tells them his story. His son was dying and he traded his soul to save him. But his son drowned a few years later, anyway. Once he got down to Hell, Luther negotiated a new deal. Oh, and he found some new leverage – he found Bart’s bones. That’s what’s in the trunk when they open it up.

His infodumping task done, Luther gets beheaded from behind by Bart. He’s off the grounds, you see.

Bart says that Luther was two centuries old and then tells the Brothers to hand over the goods. Dean’s not thrilled, but lets Sam make the decision and Sam says no, the deal’s off. Bart asks if they’re stupid and Dean says no, “We just don’t like you.”

Bart then grabs Smash and threatens to kill her. The Brothers are forced to stand by as Bart takes possession of the trunk and, for added cruelty, insists Smash get in with it. But as she approaches the trunk, she sees that Dean has dropped his lighter in there. She picks it up and lights up Bart’s bones before he can react. Unfortunately, though Sam is able to go after the other half of the spell when Bart drops it, it burns before he can put it out (you just stomp the fire out – oh, never mind).

So, the Brothers see Smash – sorry, Alice – off on a bus, after she thanks Dean for saving her life and soul. Dean tells her to “stay weird” (he called her that earlier) and she sticks her tongue out at him.

Back at the Bunker, Sam is depressed that they lost the second half of the spell. Dean says that at least they saved someone and that they will find another way. Well … also, they kept the entire spell out of Asmodeus’ hands and didn’t Bart say he made copies? But that doesn’t get mentioned.

Anyhoo, they clink glasses over it.

Credits.


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Whispers, Spoilers & Speculation Corner: 11/30/17


We need your help!

Contribute monthly via Patreon (which includes perks), make a one-time donation through Paypal, or buy us a coffee.

Paula’s collected recaps and reviews of season one, which first appeared on Innsmouth Free Press, are now up (with a few extras) on Kindle as The Supernatural Codex: Season 1, with the print version to be available in the next few days. The Kindle version is currently free through December 1 on Amazon.

You can also check out her latest anthology story, “Light a Candle, Curse the Darkness,” in Arkham Detective Agency: A Lovecraftian-Noir Tribute to C.J. Henderson.

Heather will be on hiatus for a bit. We’ll let you know when she comes back.

You can access previous spoilers columns at Innsmouth Free Press here.


Supernatural (Thursday nights, 8pm, CW)
By Paula R. Stiles

Check out my Patreon page. Help me keep this column going, pay Heather, and start doing Supernatural reviews again.

The show goes on Christmas Hellatus after the December 7 episode will return on January 18 with the Wayward Sisters backdoor pilot.

My live recap for episode 13.07 is up. I will be doing the next one at 8pm Friday (tomorrow) night, EST.

Apologies for getting behind on my reviews. I have been busy preparing two books for publication before Christmas, a cookbook my mom created years ago of recipes from various members of our family and the long-promised collection of Supernatural: Season One reviews. Both will come out in Kindle and print.

Season 13 titles so far: “Lost and Found” (13.01), synopsis and photos, promo, preview, sneak peeks, and Shaving People, Punting Things, as well as live recap and review; “The Rising Son” (13.02) synopsis and photos and promo; “Patience” (the first spinoff set-up episode) (13.03) synopsis; “The Big Empty” (13.04) synopsis, promo and official photos; “Advanced Thanatology” (13.05) synopsis, photos and promo; “Tombstone” (13.06) synopsis, promo and photos; “War of the Worlds” (13.07) synopsis photos, sneak peek and promo; “The Scorpion and the Frog” (13.08) synopsis, photos, promo and sneak peek; “The Bad Place” (13.09) (airing December 7) synopsis; Christmas Break; “Wayward Sisters” (13.10, backdoor pilot for the spinoff, airs January 18); “Various & Sundry Villains” (13.11) (previously called “The Midnight Train” and originally, the title was “Stakes on a Train,” though there also appears to have been a switch of episodes between 13.11 and 13.12) ; “Breakdown” (13.12); “Devil’s Bargain” (13.13); “Only the Best Intentions” (13.14); “A Most Holy Man” (13.15); “ScoobyNatural” (13.16, cartoon episode, appears in March), “The Thing” (13.17); “Bring ’em Back Alive” (13.18).

Photos, sneak peek and a promo are up for this week’s “The Scorpion and the Frog” (13.08).

Warner Bros has announced details about the upcoming Wayward Sisters spin-off. As we already know, it will star Kim Rhodes (Jody Mills) and the rumor that Briana Buckmaster (Donna Hanscum) is in it was confirmed. Also starring will be Kathryn Newton (Claire Novak) and Alex Jones (Katherine Ramdeen), as well as new character Patience Turner (played by Clark Backo). Another new character, Kaia (Yadira Guevar-Prip), has been added to the main cast list. Kaia’s “gift” will be the ability to spirit travel.

The spin-off premise and new characters will be introduced via several episodes in season 13. Patience will be introduced in “Patience” (13.03), which also brings back season one character Missouri Moseley (who is Patience’s estranged grandmother and from whom Patience has inherited her psychic gift). The actual backdoor pilot will be “Wayward Sisters” (13.10).

Star Kim Rhodes told EW that there’s a good in-SPNverse reason why the show will be set in a single location (Sioux Falls) instead of moving around. Rhymes with “Hellmouth,” I’ll bet.

Season 12 is out on Amazon.

The count for Supernatural calendars for 2018 is now five: a charity calendar called If I Could Tell You: The Women of Supernatural that just ended its campaign, two large calendars out on July 1, two mini calendars on September 1, and a Creation Entertainment calendar that comes out on December 1.

The show’s ratings last week were predictably awful. It got a 0.3/1 and 1.24 million in audience, easily an all-time low for an original episode. If it makes anybody feel any better, Arrow did even worse. The show (got a 0.334 in the overnight and half-hours of 0.347 and 0.321.

Ratings news was rosier for Live+7, where “Advanced Thanatology” (13.05) rose from 1.706 to 2.707 million in audience.


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Blog for scifi writer and medieval historian Paula R. Stiles